Lights flash, cameras hum. Murmurs join the shuffling of paper on clipboards, as a red light blinks in the corner of the screen. The Aut...

    Lights flash, cameras hum. Murmurs join the shuffling of paper on clipboards, as a red light blinks in the corner of the screen. The Author settles into one of the two high-backed leather armchairs. A make-up team flutters about her, applying a dash of blush, spraying a puff of rose perfume, then bouncing her curls one last time.

    "Send them in," calls the producer, from behind the camera's vision. 

    The Author sucks in a breath, smooths down her skirt.

    Character shuffles in and raises a brow. "Was all this really necessary?"

    She rises; extends a hand. "Character. Pleasure to finally meet you. Why don't you have a seat?"

    I'm a sucker for character interviews. I don't always write them down, but in the early stages of my writing process, I always at least chat to my characters in my head. I let them talk, and talk, and talk. I scribble down notes in my mental clipboard. I probe and ask and inquire.

    In celebration of the final few days of NaNoWriMo prep, I've been switching things up in my blog series, "Questions to Ask When...". The last two weeks have been all about characters! So if you'd like to dig deeper into your character's mind, and roast them over the coals in an interview, here are some questions just for you:

1) Let's start with the basics. What's your name, age, occupation?

2) Who are you closest to at the moment? Who are you angriest with? Why?

3) How do you feel talking to me? Are you nervous, excited? Are you even going to answer these questions?

4) What's your biggest secret? (Sssh I promise not to tell. Whisper it to me.)

5) Where are you living? Who are you living with? Why? Do you want to live somewhere else? What is your favourite part of your house, and your least favourite? Can you describe it to me?

6) How would you describe the inner workings of your mind? Is it dark, chaotic, bright, organized? Are you afraid of someone seeing it one day?

7) If you learned someone close to you died, what would be your first reaction? Your first emotion, your second? Have you ever lost someone close to you? Can you walk me through that experience?

8) What is your greatest strength? Has this changed over time?

9) What is your greatest weakness? Has this changed over time?

10) How would you describe yourself in three words? In one? In six words? How would your mother describe you? Your father, friends, siblings, romantic love?

11) What's your biggest fear? Why?

12) What is your greatest desire/dream? Do you feel it's possible to achieve it, or not? Why/why not?

13) Would you break under torture? How long do you think you would last? Totally not planning on using this in a story. What a preposterous idea.

14) Describe an average day for you. Do you enjoy it? Do you work for money, so you can feed your family, or for fun?

15) Do you fear death? Why/why not? Do you believe in an afterlife? Re-incarnation? That there's nothing left after death? What has shaped your beliefs on that?

16) Do you believe in angels/demons/spirits? Why or why not?

17) If you were in a house on fire, and you could either go into a burning room and possibly save someone, (but there's no guarantee either of you will live), or you could run straight out and live, what would you do?

18) How do you feel about your appearance? Who do you compare yourself to, looks-wise? Who was the first person to call you "beautiful/handsome" and the first person to call you "ugly"?

19) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why? Does it remind you of someone or a memory? When did you learn about this place, and who/what told you about it?

20) Would you rather go out to a night-long celebration, or stay at home?

21) What are your thoughts on money? Is it something to throw away, cling onto, or detrimental to society?

22) What are five things you believe about yourself?

23) If you could give the younger version of you a piece of advice, what would you say? Do you think your younger self would follow the advice?

24) Would you ever kill? In what kind of situation? Do you think you would forever live with guilt, or would you get over it quickly?

25) The most important question of them all: what's your favourite food?

    I hope these questions will really help you get to know your characters better! Let the interviews begin!

    Quick announcement: at this stage I am seriously considering creating a work-book based on this blog series, with some sweet bonuses. Thanks to those of you who pushed me to think harder about the idea. I'll keep you posted as it progresses!

Do you interview your characters as a way of getting to know them? Or do you use some other method? Tell me about it! Any title suggestions for the work-book? ;)
Good luck with your writing, and have an excellent day! <3 

    We're stepping out of the box today, all. We're being edgy; one of a kind. Why? Well, in addition to all my previous sentences s...

    We're stepping out of the box today, all. We're being edgy; one of a kind. Why? Well, in addition to all my previous sentences starting with 'w', I've decided to branch out my "Questions to Ask When..." series! For all past posts in this blog series, I've focused on questions to ask when world-building, but in prep for NaNo, I thought it might be nice to give you a list of questions to develop your characters!

    Never fear; I will continue doing these kinds of posts for world-building in the future as well, but this one and next week's will revolve around characters. The theme for this week's? Backstory!

    Backstory is crucial for characters. Unless your story starts the moment they're born, your character will have lived many years already. Figuring the ups and downs of their past will give you deep insight into who they are as a person. So let's get to some questions you can ask about them!

1) Where were they born? In a hospital, a home, elsewhere? Who delivered them; a midwife, a doctor, a relative? Were there any complications? Did their mother survive? Who was present to witness their birth?

2) What name were they first given? Who choose it for them, and why? How, and why, has their name changed over time?

3) How has their living situation changed from when they were born economically, socially, and geographically? In other words, has their family gained or lost a fortune? Has someone close to them died? Have they moved house?

4) What occupations did their parents have when they were born? Did it ever change as they grew older? How has this influenced the way they think about the world, and what they were trained in?

5) At what age did they begin school, or training? Did they ever learn to read or write? Why or why not? How high can they count, and which languages were they taught?

6) Who was their first childhood friend? Where did they meet? What is their happiest memory of them, and their worst? Are they still friends? Why or why not?

7) Did they have any childhood enemies? What caused the tension between them if they can remember? Are they now friends, or still enemies?

8) How did their parents' ethnicity influence what kind of culture they grew up in? Did this cause them to feel "different" from others their age, or did they not care? Which culture would they consider themselves to be a part of, then and now?

9) What kind of religious beliefs did their parents hold? Did they teach these to them from birth? Were there any ceremonies they made the character take part in, to initiate them into the religion, with or without their permission?

10) How many siblings did they have? Did they fight often; what about? Which sibling are they closest to, and why?

11) What is their fondest childhood memory? Who or what is in it? Is this memory accurate, or a lie they have told themselves?

12) If they could name the worst moment of their life, what would it be? How has that changed them as a person? How has it changed how they see the world, themselves, and others?

13) What sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures do they associate with their childhood, or teen years? 

14) If they were to make a timeline with their key life events, which ones would they list? Which ones would they leave out? Why?

15) Have they ever moved house, city, or country? What led to this change? Which place do they consider their "home"? Do they view this move or its cause with bitterness, hope, something else?

16) How would they describe themselves as a child? How would their family, friends, describe them? 

17) What's the hardest lesson they had to learn growing up? Who or what taught it to them?

18) What kind of friends did they have? Were they a "good" or "bad" influence? How did they change them? How long did they remain friends? Did they spend more time at their friends' house than their own?

19) Which occupations did your character want to be in growing up? Is this the same as what they wish to be, or are in, now? What inspired them to want this career?

20) Did they face any kind of bullying or abuse? How has this altered them? Does this still affect them today, and how?

21) Are there any aspects of their past they keep secret from those around them? Why? Or are they very open about their past?

22) What role have the arts (literature, music, dance, etc.) had in their life? Have they given them a sense of belonging, of wonder, or do they not connect with them at all? How have their culture's arts impacted them?

23) Did they live near extended family? How did this shape their family environment? Are any of their relatives near their age? Is there any relative they despise, or one they couldn't imagine living without?

24) What was the stupidest thing they did growing up? Did they break any laws, pull a prank, disappoint a parent?

25) Would they rather go back and relive their childhood, or do they never wish to return to it? Why?

Are you participating in NaNo? What's one key element of your character's backstory? Any topic you'd love for me to write questions for?
Have fun answering these questions, and have a great day! <3

   We all know what month is coming. No, not just November. National Novel Writing Month. The month where writers go crazy trying to write...

   We all know what month is coming. No, not just November. National Novel Writing Month. The month where writers go crazy trying to write 50,000 words of a story, stay up late or get up early to frantically type, whine about lack of sleep and bad writing, and come together as a community. It's both crazy and amazing.

   For this NaNoWriMo, I'm going to try and write half of the draft of Of Traitors and Tricksters. And yes, I say half, because most of my stories end up being over 100K. But November is already going to be crazy, so we'll see!

   To help me prepare for it, I'm going to be linking up with Beautiful Books, similar to Beautiful People, except it focuses on the story as a whole instead of a character. It's hosted by the wonderful Cait@Paper Fury and Sky@Further Up and Further In.

  To the questions!

1) What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
Of Traitors and Tricksters (OTAT) came to me with a single word: traitor. According to my writing progress/idea journal, the idea came on the 4th of July (interesting timing for all you Americans!), and these were the first few lines entered about it.
Story Idea: About a traitor, who starts the story about to be executed. The opening line is something along the lines of---"The execution papers are all in order."

2) Describe what your novel is about.

Here is a blurb that you can find on the recently updated My Writing page:

Bakari is a traitor. Promised to be healed of a condition that makes even walking difficult, he kills the prince, his master. When he's betrayed and caught with a bloody knife, the royal family sentences him to execution by magic at dawn. Yet as the sun rises, the magicians discover he may be harder to kill than they thought.

       Ebonee is an entertainer. Having fled from a rogue magician gang with her younger sister, she now dances for their food in the palace. But old friends and enemies are not finished with her yet, and want one last favour... A favour that could free her from their clutches forever. All she has to do is perform one tiny trick.

How harmful could it be?

3) What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

Since I am horrible at finding appropriate images, here are some word aesthetics for you:

Red dust + broken leather sandals + sunset setting pyramids aflame + cold limestone and hot hands + bones cracking + bare feet dancing + strings fingering shards of shattered souls + red painted knife + star littered balconies = Of Traitors and Tricksters

4) Introduce us to each of your characters!

Here are the major characters!

Bakari: Traitor, murderer, past servant, loyal son, lover of nights full of stars.
Ebonee: Trickster, dancer, protector, one with swirling feet to pounding drums.
Princess Belili: Sorceress, voice soft as smoke and just as potent, fearful of night.
Prince Raad: Heir, inferno heart of hate, back of his mind whispers hopes of true love.
Danyal: Leader, eyes as sharp as his wit, actions grounded in strong beliefs.
Lapis: Dreamer, dancer, thirst for soft linen and necklaces of precious stones.

5) How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

I let my ideas simmer in my mind (it's already been four months with this one) and over time bits and pieces come together in my mind. I like starting with characters, then questioning them: "Why would they do that? Did someone make them do that, or was it their own decision? What do they fear? What or who do they love?"

Often I find acting out (in private) scenes between characters, conversations they might have, where they're standing, helps me figure out potential scenes. Do I outline? Pssssh. Maybe three beginning scenes, but after that, it's all a mystery!

6) What are you most looking forward to about this novel?


Can I not say that? Uh, probably the characters. I'm loving the way both the MCs and antagonists are shaping up, and there is plenty of conflict to be had between them, so writing the conversations between them should be fun!

7) List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

#1--  Ancient Egyptian inspired, with a magical twist.
#2-- Hot during the day as the sun burns through dust, to reflect off limestone palaces, and cool during the evening, when the desert burns from red to blue.
#3-- Buildings etched with stories of a proud kingdom.

8) What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Bakari: Keep his father alive. And...everything stands in the way. I'm not joking.
Ebonee: A peaceful life for herself and her sister. Her past presents a huge obstacle though.

9) How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Well, now you are asking for spoilers. *zips lips shut*

10) What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

Oh dear, it's the dreaded theme question.

The importance of family, and what you will do for them, is a thread that runs through each part of the narrative. As is discovering what defines you and who you are, and the sacrifices you are willing to make to stay true to that, or to become someone else.

As for how I want readers to feel...satisfied, shocked, wide-eyed, and hopefully happy (but considering I have no idea how it will end, we'll have to see about that one).

What are you working on for NaNoWriMo? Which of my characters would you prefer to have tea with? How is your writing going?
Have a wonderful day! <3

    Something very exciting is happening today! Or, I suppose considering time zones, something very exciting is happening tomorrow . Whiche...

    Something very exciting is happening today! Or, I suppose considering time zones, something very exciting is happening tomorrow. Whichever way you'd like to say it, I am excited to review my dear friend Rebekah DeVall's new book today!

    On October 7th "Aveza of the Ercanhelm" is available as both an e-book and paperback! Here's a little bit about Rebekah:

Rebekah DeVall is the author of "When Your Melody Fades" and many more upcoming Christian fantasy books. Find her on Facebook or her blog.

I was super honoured to be given an ARC of this book, and to let you all know what this story is about, here's a blurb for you:

                                     Aveza Kenlin is no classic princess.

A harsh childhood leads her to join the Ercanhelm, the underground religious organization dedicated to removing her stepfather, Hagan, from the throne.

Though she hides her identity from the Ercanhelm for ten years, her missions take her closer to the palace. Rumors of her true identity spread.

If the Ercanhelm discover the truth, they will kill her.

If Hagan discovers her, living within his city, allied with the Ercanhelm, he will kill them all.

Both paths lead to death, yet Aveza cannot speak the truth, plead shelter from one or the other.

How much is she willing to give for the cause? Can the truth set her free?

- Aveza was a really kind and strong narrator. I quickly sympathised with her due to horrible acts done against her. She was always trying to protect others, and while her fear sometimes held her back, she kept trying nevertheless. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say this: I thought her choice at the end was amazing of her, and really made me admire her even more.

- The other characters were realistic, with both strengths and flaws that gave them depth, and I especially liked Falk, Aveza's work partner. (And by work, I mean being part of the Ercanhelm, the rebellion against a wicked king, Hagan.) 

- It was fast-paced! There was never a point when I wanted to put it down, and the battles, and fight scenes, were balanced with dialogue full of all kinds of conflict.

- There is a deep, true message to the story. The characters believe in their cause and always try to honour Ercan, the story's God, with all their actions and thoughts. Eveza turns to Ercan in her times of trouble, even when she struggles with her faith, and learns to trust Him.

- Hagan, the antagonist, is...well, I want to punch him. A lot. While I didn't like him, that's what you want in an antagonist!

- Knut's character arc. I can't explain in full detail because, hello spoilers, but for me it felt a tad jerky. I would have liked it to be a bit smoother, and happen more gradually, but as this is a short book I can understand that some changes need to be more sudden.

- At some points I would have liked the prose to be tweaked to settle me into the world more fully, but I think this is mostly a personal style preference.

- There were a couple points during the book where the names of people, who they were, and their alliances, got muddled in my head, but as I have the world's worst memory (ask my family), I'm going to say this is probably more my fault!

     "Aveza of the Ercanhelm" is an enjoyable read with realistic characters, engaging battle scenes, a heroic main character, and fast-paced chapters. Though I would have liked a smoother character arc for one character, and more elaborate prose, the book has a deep meaning that will get any reader inspired and thinking.

     Overall, four stars!

Do you think you'd like to read "Aveza of the Ercanhelm"? Thoughts on its cover? What are you reading at the moment? Any new releases you're looking forward to?
Have a great day everyone! <3