Sorry Honey, I Forgot Our Blogoversary . . .

SO, I figured out that my blog’s anniversary was August 13th . . . and then I worked a 65 hour week and didn’t think about it at all.*

So I’m doing a belated Blogoversary post for myself. That means I will use an inordinate amount of gifs and jibber about nothing for at least a page; you have been warned.

I’ve been blogging for a bit now, but I’ve only been consistent for about a year. In that time, I’ve made some awesome friends, and had a lot of fun getting some words out there. More importantly, I feel like the writing connection with others (and the helpful feedback) has made me a better writer, and made me a more efficient writer.

I answered a lot of the “Why do you blog” questions on this tag from blogger Victoria Grace, so I’ll skip that. Also, you probably have heard more random facts about me than you ever needed! So I’ll skip that too. Instead, I think I’ll write a bit about my past year in blogging, and where I see myself going.

As most of you probably know, I had my debut novel scheduled for August publication.

Unfortunately, it’s already September (yes, I’m screaming), and I have yet to hear back from my publishers on a new, concrete date. They haven’t done something terrible like close down or drop my book, they’ve just pushed everything back in their schedule because: LIFE HAPPENS. No one knows this better than me, but it doesn’t make it easy. In fact, it’s made my last couple months rougher mentally than I would like.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to stay positive and work on the many writing projects (new and old) that I have. I’ve also kept myself reading – because my love of reading is what got me writing, and it’s still my favorite pastime. It’s also good to get other people’s’ words and ideas flowing through your head, just like it’s good to have conversations with various people and not always be stuck in your own brain!

A Few Things I’ve Been Working on Between Last August and Now:

Promoting:

Knight of the Blue Surcoat, my delayed but still debut novel – an Arthurian historical fantasy adventure starring King Arthur’s daughter Melora. More about it here.

Editing:

The Last Coffee Shop (TLCS)- A snarky, post-apocalyptic adventure novel that involves a barista, a bounty hunter, a dancing thief, and a lot of aliens. Read more about it here.

Drafting:

Red as Blood – A genderbent Snow White retelling set in the same “world” as TLCS, just a decade or so later. It involves high fashion, corruption, food service, and quirky, damaged characters. More about that here, and in my current series of Beautiful People posts. September’s entry will be up soon!

Reading:

Scads of research books for a planned Japanese folktale retelling, and a few for an epic fantasy idea that I’ve been tossing around.

ARCS – as many as I can get to, for my day job as a bookseller. Standouts include Vassa in the NightBlood for Blood, and Patchinko.

Most recent reads: Tokyo Ghoul Volume 8 (<3t_t KEN!) and Malice by Keigo Higashino (Japanese mystery).

Learning:

Korean, and lots of other things – to be continued below . . .

Cooking:

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my random kitchen projects. Kimchi-in-everything has been the theme. I’ve progressed to a proper kimchi storage container, so I can make as much kimchi jjigae (김치찌개) as I want!! Other things, such as Korean BBQ, fresh tuna sushi, Thai curries, the usual pies and scones, and many other things happened in my kitchen between work and other work.

Watching:

Obviously, I haven’t had much time to watch anything. However, I did finish the Korean Comedy/Horror/Drama “Let’s Fight, Ghost!” and it was hilarious (and actually a little creepy at times). I also started watching PinocchioCity Hunter, and a big-budget Chinese drama called Ice Fantasy. If you’re interested in hearing more about my tv watching habits, check out this post. AND PEOPLE – if you aren’t watching W: Two Worlds, you should! Not only do we get Lee Jong Suk being a fabulous action hero, it’s a reality-bending drama about being sucked into/out of a manhwa (만화 – Korean comics) and it has a rather Christopher Nolan-esque/postmodern feel about it that is pretty unique.

Oh, and Lee Jong Suk = reasons to watch anything. No, I’m completely unbiased.

ANYHOW.

The last movie I saw was Suicide Squad – and I had very mixed feelings about it. It felt like two different movies competing with each other, and I thought that it would have been better off as a goofy heist-style movie. Everything from the message to the storytelling was muddled (and I seem to be in the 1% who thought the Joker was in there too much – and I’d thought he was the main villain from the trailers . . .). And honestly, the villain (Tia Dalma 2.0, supermodel edition) was completely underwhelming. That being said, the main cast was good and parts of it were very fun/funny – and there were some excellent soundtrack choices.

I’m really looking forward to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemMiss Peregrine’s wasn’t my favorite book – I found it rather boring, and the romance was really the only unnerving thing about it, but the movie looks pretty cool. And of course I’m excited about Fantastic Beasts! It looks like breath of cinematic fresh air.

Listening to:

Other than the usual, I’ve really been liking Korean rockers F.T. Island‘s mixture of pop-punk and excellent vocals/instrumentals. Other notable current favorites include BØRNS (Michigan Native!), For the Foxes, EXO and B.A.P‘s dance-y recent offerings, The Unlikely Candidates, and Icelandic rockers Kaleo.

Also in music, I compiled an ultimate Last Coffee Shop Playlist (around 100 tracks) that gives you a great audio picture of the novel – and it includes a lot of the songs I listened to while writing TLCS as well.

Work:

Err, that. Back in February, I took on a second job at a new craft brewery, in addition to working part-time as a bookstore manager/head book-buyer, writing reviews for a women’s mag, and my own personal writing/reading work . . . so, yes. Anyhow, it’s been fun, but I think the crazy work fest might be over for the year.

Travel:

Besides travelling to Nashville and back in three days, I’ve been to Pensacola (for a day, but well, it was a good day), Gulf Shores, Chicago (4 times!), Traverse City, Harbor Springs, and all that jazz. I manage to clock a lot of road hours for someone who is rarely away from work, 😛

Life:

I GOT A NEPHEW!!! I already had a niece (and she’s one of the most precious, sweet, and mild-mannered little angels ever), but as of the end of June, I have a nephew too. He’s adorable and cuddly, and I got to go see him way too briefly in July.

So you remember I was learning Korean?

Well, last fall, after some serious contemplation/soul-searching/finance-shuffling, etc, I decided I’d be interested in putting some of my savings toward a few more college courses (I have some credits, but that’s all). I’ve always wanted to travel, travel write, and make it to East Asia. Not to mention, my passion for Asian History has had me reading courses worth of books for years. SOooo, I thought, well, a degree in East Asian Studies? Worth it? Maybe a foray into International Relations, or a certificate for teaching ESL? My number one goal has always (and probably will always be) to be a published author, but that travelling/teaching/exploring side is loud too. I want to write, in other places. So this meandering paragraph just means, I’m going back to school, as long as I can afford it . . . At least I’ll have a whole class of people to practice Korean with!!

Related to this – readers might remember how my sister and I had to leave our rental and ended up back with our parents? Well, I’m going to move (at least till December) down to Grand Rapids, and commute to my bookstore job in between. So I can’t see the craziness letting up any time soon, but it will probably be a bit more organized now. *Gulp*

And while I’m on the subject of school, I’m attending a college that really is quite a nontraditional place for an adult student – and it feels like I’m in class with high schoolers – I feel so awkward and out of place. So there’s that. I thought about doing a series about what it feels like to go back to school at 27 (on a small enough campus to where you can feel it). So that might be a thing . . . It’s amazing how isolated you can feel when you’re surrounded by thousands of people. Don’t get me wrong, I love being by myself, but trading in 65hr work weeks for 65hr work-and-school weeks is kind of lonely, you know? But I know that I have you guys to talk to! (And believe me, it’s comforting)

So that’s it – that’s all there is in a nutshell. Happy Belated Blogoversary to me! (Also, happy 추석 to my Korean friends out there!)

(I love Lurch’s dancing because we can all do better – sorry Lurch)

If you blog, when’s your blogoversary? Have you ever thought about going back to school after leaving it? Would you read a series about going back to school as an adult student?

What have you been up to this September? Conversation is delightful ;P

*I didn’t forget my beloved Bigbang’s anniversary though (August 19th). Priorities, priorities . . .

 

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Top 10 Things that Books Have Made Me Want to Learn or Do

Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

So this week’s TTT is a chance to go back and do a Top 10 that you missed. I have missed A LOT of the recent Top 10’s, but the one I felt the most need to participate in was just a couple of weeks ago. “The Top 10 Things that Books Made Me Want to Learn or Do” is a topic that I haven’t written as much about, and as a writer*, there are a ton of things I have attempted or wanted to attempt because of books!! The difficult part was narrowing it down to just ten 😛

So – without further ado:

The Top 10 Things that Books have Made Me Want to Learn or Do:

  1. Forge a sword

If you’ve ever read a fantasy novel, you probably have read about that pivotal blade for the hero, or magical smith character. I have been fascinated by swordsmithing ever since I was little. The first book that made me think about it though? That’s tough. I’d probably go with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Aragorn’s sword is reforged from the shards of Narsil, a legendary blade of his ancestors. And it’s Aragorn’s remade blade Andúril that marks him as the “true king.” Now that, is a sword.

2. Become a samurai.
Maybe this is obvious, but Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” is one of my favorite movies.

Since I am A. Not Japanese, and B. Live in the 21st Century, the viability of this one is . . . err, nonexistent. But everything I read about these fascinating warriors always made me want to be them. In particular, Chris Bradford’s Young Samurai series sealed the deal. (After all, it’s about gaijin samurai).

3. Archery.

This is one that I actually went out and did. While I’m not a crack shot or anything (especially with my bad eyes), I’m not terrible. And I still love archery. It’s therapeutic. And I can blame Roger Lancelyn Green’s Adventures of Robin Hood for this one! (With LOTR’s Legolas in a close second)

4. Celtic-style Illumination

Illumination^^

I don’t recall when I discovered the children’s picture book Marguerite Makes a Book, but I was probably about six or seven. Anyhow, Marguerite is a young girl with an illuminator for a father. Marguerite dreams of illuminating a manuscript, and when her father needs help finishing a book for a noble lady’s birthday, it’s Marguerite who comes to his aid. I still love this book, and I have spent many an hour practicing calligraphy and illuminating bookmarks and other things!

5. Riding in a horse race

While I did take horseback riding lessons for a few years (and I went to a horse camp), and I do enjoy the occasional trail ride, I have yet to race a horse (or own one). I’m not really the jockey build (or height). But between Black BeautyMisty of Chincoteague, and Walter Farley’s novels, owning a horse and racing it was something I always wanted to do. Still, I did learn to take care of a horse and ride one because of books!

6. Knit a sweater.

There isn’t a single, specific book that made me want to do this. Rather, it was an idea that grew after reading enough historical fiction. So many of the heroines were skilled in weaving, crocheting, or knitting, that I was determined to figure it out. After a few failed attempts, I finally got the hang of it, and I’ve knit more than one sweater now, and designed my own patterns! It’s a skill that I’m really glad I worked at developing. A recent-ish book that really made me want to knit would be Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. It’s the hero, not the heroine, who is the expert knitter of this fun little fairytale retelling. It is also, to date, the only book I’ve read where the villain was dispatched via knitting needle!

7. Go on an epic journey by foot, horse, ship, and/or wagon.

I still haven’t achieved this one 🙂 And I could name off at least a dozen books that made me want to do this. The HobbitLittle House on the Prairie, and The Hero and the Crown are just two of many, many others.

8. Get some beehives and become a beekeeper

I haven’t done this – yet! But I plan on having some hives someday (if I ever land somewhere permanently, that is). I have helped a beekeeper do their rounds, and studied bees and the homeopathic uses of honey. My fascination with the subject is pretty old, but one of the primary factors was Chalice by Robin McKinley. The Secret Life of Bees probably helped too 🙂

9. Go to a masquerade ball.

Err, doesn’t everyone want to do this? I love the idea of a fancy dress ball – but everyone knows that a masquerade is the most exciting (or frightening) type of costume party. So many things are revealed when your face is concealed, and all that jazz. Notable examples would be The Phantom of the Opera and Much Ado About Nothing, but there are a lot more!

10. Become an archivist in a crazy library.

To be honest, I’m halfway there. Every befuddled-looking, dusty person in lumpy clothes – a staple in fantasy novels, is a little (lot) like me. The library in the Abhorsen series, the library in The Thirteenth Tale, the library in Harry Potter, the Archives in the Kingkiller Chronicles – those are the places I want to go/live in the most. Maybe this will be my ultimate bucket list item?

THAT WAS HARD. There are so many things that books have made me want to do, or convinced me to learn. It’s one of the reasons I love books so much, to be honest.

*In the list of things I have learned/am learning how to do because of writing books – we can add learning Korean, dance tutorials, writing with my left hand, and living without modern conveniences, to name a few!

So – what sort of things have books made you want to do or made you do?

5 Reasons that Vassa In the Night NEEDS to be on Your Fall TBR List (ARC Review)

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have been INSANELY busy all summer. It’s left me little time to read, and no time to blog – but I finally managed to squeeze in some reading time, and now I have to tell you all about it 😛

JUST LOOK AT IT – So Pretty

First things first – a huge thank you to ABA Whitebox and TOR/Macmillan for the ARC – this advance copy was provided for free as a bookseller promotion, and this is an unsolicited, unpaid, and 100% honest review 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I have a lifelong obsession with fairytales. Whether it was Disney, a dusty copy of Grimms, Ella Enchanted, a folktale collection I found at the library, or Once Upon a Time, I’ve given them all a shot. However, for all of the fairy tales and folktales out there (and there are thousands), only a handful ever seem to make it into novels. So when I saw the synopsis of Vassa in the Night, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. (Official Synopsis Below)

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won t be playing fair .

Basically, Vassa in the Night is a modern reimagining of Vassilissa the Beautiful (there are a lot of Vassilissa stories out there), set in Brooklyn, NYC.
And before you point out how many fairytale/folktale retellings are out there, scroll down for my

Top 5 Reasons to Read Vassa in the Night:

  1. The Prose is beautiful.

    There are sentences that my writer’s brain was wishing I’d come up with. And Sarah Porter’s “stage-setting” and descriptive writing roots you immediately – just read the first couple paragraphs and you’ll see what I mean:

People live here on purpose; that’s what I’ve heard. They even cross the country deliberately and move into the neighborhoods near the river, and suddenly their shoes are cuter than they are, and very possibly smarter and more articulate as well, and their lives are covered in sequins and they tell themselves they’ve arrived. They put on tiny feathered hats and go to parties in warehouses; they drink on rooftops at sunset. It’s a destination and everyone piles up and congratulates themselves on having made it all the way here from some wherever or other. To them this is practically an enchanted kingdom. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not the part where I live.

Not that there isn’t any magic around here. If you’re dumb enough to look in the wrong places, you’ll stumble right into it. It’s the stumbling out again that might become an issue. The best thing you can do is ignore it. Cross the street. Don’t make eye contact—if by some remote chance you encounter something with eyes.

(Excerpt from Chapter 1, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter)

Porter takes her time in setting the scene, enveloping you in a fantastical, yet familiar version of Brooklyn. Her writing has its own sort of magic, and it will immerse you in the world of the story in no time.

2. Creativity!

Baba Yaga as a demented shopkeeper? Yes, please. Vassilissa as a purple-haired teen from a blended family? Works for me. Demented, bodiless hands for sidekicks? Sure. Another world on the fringe of our own, populated by characters that Lewis Carroll would envy. SOLD. This is definitely one of the more inventive YA novels I’ve read, and I couldn’t wait to see where it would take me next. I also loved seeing how Porter worked elements from the Vassilissa story into the book.

3. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.

There’s a healthy dose of sarcasm, usually provided by Vassa herself, and a borderline-hysterics sort of humor that balances the macabre setting and rather dark subject matter (i.e., severed heads and gruesome, fairytale style deaths) The side characters and bizarre situations also provide a lot of humor. Erg (Vassa’s “doll), in particular, is a source of hilarious one liners and dry observations.

4. Reality checks.

I love how Vassa in the Night doesn’t have a “perfect” ending. Everything isn’t resolved or tied up neatly. More importantly, throughout the book, we don’t forget that Vassa is a young girl plunged into a world far beyond her comfort zone. None of her problems are magically solved, and she has to work for a resolution. Vassa’s relationships with Erg, her stepsisters, school peers, and missing/late parents are all extremely important, and she has to deal with them in “real-world” ways to grow as a character, and accomplish her goals. And hey – if Baba Yaga was real, I could definitely see her setting up a sinister convenience store chain in NYC. And getting away with it.

5. VASSA.

She’s everything I love in a heroine – smart, funny, snarky, empathetic, and believable. Despite her tough lot in life, she is determined and stubborn, and she refuses to give up when it matters the most. Also of note, though Vassa is obviously our heroine, she doesn’t fall into the stereotypical chosen-one mode at all. Her character growth and arc were well done and satisfying.

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars.*
A lush and inventive modern folktale for readers looking for something a little darker and less romantic than the majority of the fairytale retellings out there. A strong heroine, crazy strangeness, and beautiful prose help Vassa in the Night stand out as one of my favorite YA reads of 2016.
*Here are my minor quibbles (which are really only relevant after you’ve read the book:
  1. Was there a point to the whole story about Vassa’s dad (other than showing his extreme immaturity and selfishness)?
  2. I felt that “The Rules” (governing the magical world/characters) could have been fleshed out a little more. Obviously, like Erg, Babs had rules she was following – otherwise, she might have stopped Vassa more effectively at times. It makes it a bit harder to suspend your disbelief if you don’t know the rules that the world operates by.
  3. Babs defeat was slightly underwhelming. It was fairytale-esque, but (see #2) I felt like it would have worked a bit better if we knew how/why she was defeated.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter will be released in Hardcover on September 20th, 2016.

Do you plan on reading Vassa in the Night? Why or why not? Have you read Vassilissa the Beautiful or any of the Vassilissa stories?

 

Beautiful People June: Meet “The Doctor”

IT’S BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE TIME! (No, you don’t have to be as excited as I am)

If you’re scratching your head in confusion – BP is a monthly writing meme run by Cait @ Paper Fury and Skye @ Further Up and Further In, and you can read all about it HERE.

Last month, I featured Mollie, one of the Seven Sisters of Henpecked Bar and Grill (Red as Blood) and I decided to continue that theme this month as well. This time around, I’m featuring Doctor Marjorie Pierce, the owner and manager of Henpecked, and the oldest Sister. Just for a recap, here’s her bio and reference pic again:

NICKNAME: THE DOCTOR.

Yes, otherwise known as Doc, or just Boss. While she isn’t a Timelord, Doc is a medical practitioner. Despite her healing tendencies, she’s a vicious warrior in her own right. And you’d have to be a strong personality to have all of the Sisters submit to your rule (a loving dictatorship). She’s a motherly figure, though she never had any children of her own (though there are rumors of a scandalous, tragic love affair in her youth . . .)

Age: A lady never tells – but she’s north of 40 and south of 60

Height: 127 cm  Species: Human

Weakness: Orphans of any species

Weapon of Choice: Bola

Likes: Feeding People, Sharpening weapons. Being Needed.

Dislikes: Whining and Complaining. Inefficiency.

Favorite Food: Fried Chicken and Biscuits with Gravy and Strong, Black Coffee – and Chocolate Cake. She’s not a health nut . . .

Marjorie is the first person to meet Sull in the narrative, and she (presumably) takes a shine to the battered, skinny boy with haunted eyes and too pretty of a face. He needs food.

As Marjorie is the oldest major character, I thought it would be interesting (and helpful) to explore her childhood a bit, since it’s something she never talks about to the other sisters, though it obviously shaped her life.

 

  1. What is her first childhood memory?

Marjorie’s parents were tenant farmers, and her mother was the farmer’s midwife. They all lived with Marjorie’s two younger sisters and grandmother in a longhouse with the other tenant farmers, so Marjorie’s first memories are of lots of noise and people. It was like having a very, very, large family.

2. What were their best and worst childhood experiences

Best: When Marjorie turned twelve, she had her official Welcoming Day. It signified that she was an adult, and fully capable of taking on an occupation like the other tenant farmers. However, what Marjorie liked about it was how she was finally the center of attention, and how her parents managed to make her a real fruit pie, and an almost-new dress that made her really feel like an adult. She felt loved, appreciated, and happy, and she often wishes she could go back to that moment.

Worst: A rival warlord took over the plantation where Marjorie and her family lived. In the chaos, her entire family was killed. Coming back and finding everyone dead or gone was the worst moment of her life.

3. What was their childhood home like?

The tenant farmers lived in a series of longhouses – which are exactly what they sound like – long buildings with almost zero privacy. Families would put up rough curtains between sections, and sleep in a small space on shared pallets. The average number of occupants in each house was around 20, with families that often included grandparents or great-grandparents. The farmers worked long hours, with plantation duties in addition to their other jobs (such as mechanics, android supervisors, medics, etc.) Though many of the farm chores were done by mechanicals and robots, human workers were needed to run things.

4. What’s something that scared them as child?

As a child, Marjorie was frightened of the alien warlord who (basically) owned her parent’s as indentured servants. Though she never really saw the warlord, or his wife (who actually supervised and ran the entire estate), Marjorie heard too many stories about what happened to tenants who broke the rules.

5. Who did they look up to most?

Marjorie had a good relationship with both of her parents and her grandmother, but she looked up to her mother most. Marjorie remembers her mother as a loving, giving, and genteel but capable woman, who never raised her voice above a yell, but was (almost) always obeyed.

6. Favourite and least favourite childhood foods?

Favorite: Other than fried chicken and chocolate cake, Marjorie always loved anything with fresh fruit. Fresh fruit that wasn’t synthetic was a rare luxury that her hardworking parents could hardly afford.

Least Favorite: Slurry. Slurry was the all-purpose name given to the “leftover soup” fed to the tenant farmers twice each day. Morning’s offerings were usually grainy and bland, while evening slurry often had strange, unidentifiable chunks in it. It was so bad that Marjorie never speaks about it, to anyone.

7. If they had their childhood again, would they change anything?

Marjorie would change a lot of things. She’d help her parents more, and daydream less. She would pay more attention, and she would have found a way to get her parents out. That’s what she tells herself, anyway.

8. What kind of child were they? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?

Marjorie was distracted and flighty. She was curious about the world around her, and frequently disrespectful of her elders. Despite this, she was very caring, and she was devoted to her younger sisters.

9. What was their relationship to their parents and siblings like?

Marjorie loved her whole family, but she felt like they were always disapproving of her, and that she couldn’t be as good as them. Her father was very quiet and stern, and they rarely had conversations, but he silently gave up everything to make his family’s lot a little better. Marjorie’s grandmother and mother were two in a long line of midwife/healers, and they imparted a great reverence for life to Marjorie. They taught her everything they knew, and encouraged her apprenticeships with the other longhouses’ healers. Marjorie’s little sisters were twins, and four years younger, so Marjorie frequently had the care of them. Since their parents were normally working, it was up to Marjorie to feed, bathe, and watch over her sisters on a daily basis. Marjorie resented it at times, but it also made her incredibly close to them.

10. What did they want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?

Marjorie wanted to study medicine off-planet, though she knew her parents could never afford such a thing. She always dreamed of running away, becoming a famous doctor, and coming back with lots of money to redeem her indentured family.

Due to the traumatic events in #2, Marjorie’s interests turned from healing to revenge. She was thirteen when the rival warlord wiped out the plantation, and she fled for the neighboring plantation. There, she convinced the tenant farmers to take her in as one of theirs, and she enrolled in the warlord’s guard. Through cunning, knowledge of anatomy and herbals, and determination (and aided by her small stature), Marjorie developed a reputation as a capable assassin. She finally caught the attention of the Matron (formal title of the warlord’s wife), and after many successful missions, her indentured servitude was lifted, and she was formally employed. Having achieved this goal, Marjorie set to undermining and destroying the warlord who had wiped out her family. She did eventually receive her medical training, and become a renowned doctor, but the planet she left behind never knew her as anything resembling a healer.

Well – that was darker than anticipated. That’s what I get for writing a book about a bunch of assassins-turned-restaurateurs taking in a troubled runaway . . .

Did you do BP this month (or do you plan to?) – if so, leave your link in the comments so I can go read it 🙂

What do you think about Doctor Pierce? Does she sound like an interesting character to you? Anything else you’d like to know about her/like clarified?

Thanks for reading!!

 

 

6 Reasons You Need to Read Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani

First off – A huge thank you to Intisar Khanani for allowing me to read an advance copy of Memories of Ash! This was a free copy provided in exchange for an honest review – which in no way affected my review 🙂

 

Memories of Ash, the sequel to Sunbolt came out a couple days ago- have you ordered your copy yet? If you haven’t read Sunbolt, don’t worry – it’s quite short, and very good – so fix that first 🙂 You can also click through above to read my review of Sunbolt, and to get an idea of the story.

Memories of Ash picks up immediately where Sunbolt left off – so some minor spoilers for Sunbolt follow in the synopsis (pinched from Goodreads):

In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

Since I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone I’ll follow the same format as I did with reviewing Sunbolt, and give you 6 reasons why you need to read Memories of Ash, ASAP.

6 Reasons to Read Memories of Ash

  1. The World and Characters.

    If you love fantasy, you know that a fascinating world and colorful characters are extremely important. In the Eleven Kingdoms of Sunbolt and Memories of Ash, Khanani has created a world so vivid and interesting that you won’t want to leave. Her worldbuilding is fabulous, with so many (effortlessly) diverse and multifaceted cultures and places. In Memories of Ash, the Mage School and the magical wastelands (both mentioned in Sunbolt) are the primary new locations explored, and there are a handful of new characters introduced as well. As with Sunbolt, the characters are varied and well-developed, with Hitomi always at center stage (as she should be). Val isn’t forgotten either, and the ramifications of their alliance (friendship) are further explored and complicate the story.*

    2. Hitomi. 

    I know I used her as one of my reasons for reading Sunbolt, but I’ll shamelessly repeat myself: Hitomi is just the sort of strong heroine that we need more of. She isn’t fearless or invincible, but she’ll go to (believably crazy) lengths to save the people she cares about. In spite of this, she won’t trample people or intentionally cause harm (which creates a few moral quandaries to spice up the plot). She’s moral herself, but she isn’t judgemental, and she is both a likable and relatable young woman. And of course, Memories of Ash just made me love her more.

    3. Consistency rules. 

    When I started Memories of Ash (hereafter known as MoA), I was immediately plunged back into the world of Sunbolt. Khanani’s characters, facts, magic systems, locations, and details are so seamless that you don’t feel disconnected at all. With fantasy, this is pivotal to the reader’s experience of the book.  Characters from Sunbolt mixed with new characters, and at the center, Arch Mage Blackflame seems to have an even more complicated scheme than we all realized

    4. The Writing. 

    This is another point I’ve brought up – but Intisar Khanani’s prose is fluid and beautiful to read. She blends humor, intrigue, and just the perfect amount of description. Her plotting and pace are wonderful, with a good mixture of adventure, action, and a few twists. I could immediately visualize all of the different locations, though the descriptions were never long.

    5. Thorny Morality Questions: Met head-on.

    Have you ever watched an adventure film or read a book and thought “where are the consequences?,” or, “do they even care about collateral damage?” Well, morality (interestingly enough) comes up rather often through the course of Memories of Ash. Hitomi is confronted with several pivotal decisions that make her put her own freedom/safety/happiness up against the lives and livelihood of others. And she doesn’t just make these decisions by flipping a coin or shrugging it off with a “ends justify the means” mentality. It’s refreshing to see a character dealing with the real fallout of their decisions, and Hitomi’s struggles just made me more invested in her.

6. It’s BOOK SIZED.

Did you love Sunbolt, but wish it was longer (I did!)? Memories of Ash is book-length, which takes away my only complaint from Sunbolt. A longer novel was definitely worth the wait, as it allowed Khanani to further develop and enrich the fascinating world and characters.

Did I convince you yet? Then what are you waiting for?! Go purchase a copy (you can download it through Kobo, Nook, or Amazon, or ask your local bookstore to order you a physical copy!**)

Have you read/do you plan to read Memories of Ash and/or Sunbolt? Scroll down for more info and a GIVEAWAY!

Footnotes:

*Don’t you just love complicated relationships (in fiction)? And Hitomi and Val’s whole connection is so interesting to me. I can’t wait to read more about Breathers (yeah, I’ll keep bringing this up . . .)

**I’ll be ordering physical copies for the store I work at!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Info:

Title: Memories of Ash

Series: The Sunbolt Chronicles, Book Two

Author: Intisar Khanani (http://booksbyintisar.com)

Cover Designer: Jenny Zemanek (http://www.seedlingsonline.com/index2.php#!/HOME)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: May 30, 2016

Publisher: Purple Monkey Press

Price: US $3.99 (eBook), US $TBD (paperback)

Author Bio:

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.

 

 

Beautiful People: More About Sull (Forgot to post in April)

There was no Beautiful People for April, so I borrowed one of the earlier ones . . . and promptly forgot to post it. So we’ll just pretend it’s still April. Humor me.

Beautiful People is a monthly writing meme hosted and originated by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In

Since I haven’t seen an official BP this month, I decided to nab one of the older ones that ran before I even participated. (Sara Letourneau did this first, and I happily borrowed her idea ;P).

Anyhow, I’m continuing my current trend and featuring my WIP, Red as Blood. I introduced the MC, Sull, in this post, and some of his “supporting cast” hereRed as Blood is a genderbent Snow White story inspired by vintage scifi, Greek Mythology, the high fashion scene, the food service industry, and my love of Korean and Japanese pop culture. *Yes – you read that right – and no, I’m not completely mad, just a little bit strange*

“What do you mean you’re not mad?”

Again, make sure to look back at the previous BP if you want to know more about Sull before we start.

Beautiful People April Freebie: Meet Sull, Part II

1) What is their full name and is there a story behind why they got it?

His *actual* name is Yu Baek Seol (유 백설 – with his surname listed first)

Baek Seol is *basically* the Korean equivalent of Snow White the fairy tale character/heroine of that story. It’s how you see it written out in Korean retellings of Snow White. “Sull” is how that last part is heard by The Sisters.

Story behind the name – Basically, Sull’s mother was obsessed with the story of Snow White, and she wanted a beautiful daughter who was “red as blood, black as ebony, and white as snow.” Sull is all of those things – but he’s a boy. His mother died soon after birthing him, and it never occurred to anyone to give him a different name. So there you go.

2) How old are they, and when were they born?

When the story begins, it’s just after Sull’s sixteenth birthday. Some of the story takes place in flashbacks of the previous year. As for when he was born, I don’t have a timeline figured out (exactly) for the world of Red as Blood, but it’s set centuries after an apocalyptic event took out (most) life on earth (for more on this, see The Last Coffee Shop). But I do know that he was born about 7 years after the TLCS ends.

3) Describe their physical appearance. (Bonus questions: 1. What is their race/nationality/ethnicity? 2. Do you have a picture of them? If so, include it!)

Since Red as Blood is set centuries after an apocalyptic event, all human survivors have dispersed through the galaxy, and become more or less one race/people, especially as defined by the aliens who far outnumber them. So I use “Earth terms” loosely here 😛

That being said, I had a very clear picture of Sull in my head all along (and his parents). His father is of Japanese, Korean, and European descent, and his mother is of Korean and European descent.

As for his appearance, he’s very slight, but with extremely pretty (read: girlish) features – long lashes, silky hair, perfect skin, full lips, etc.

From the beginning, Sull has always looked like a younger combination of Luhan (Chinese singer) and G-Dragon (Korean rapper/singer/songwriter Kwon Ji-yong) to me. So . . . in other words, Sull also resembles L from Death Note. Confused? Well, you know I have pictures (especially if you follow me on Pinterest) – here are three representative ones.

This picture is very Sull to me, lol

+

This is the best genderbent Snow White photo EVER (oh wait, no, that’s just Luhan . . .)

=

No idea who the artist is, but “L” belongs to Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.

4) Describe your character’s personality first in one word, and then elaborate with a few sentences.

 Lost 
1. unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.
synonyms: off course, off track, disoriented, having lost one’s bearings, going around in circles, adrift, at sea, astray

2. denoting something that has been taken away or cannot be recovered.
synonyms: bygone, past, former, one-time, previous, old, olden, departed, vanished, forgotten, consigned to oblivion, extinct, dead, gone

“Lost” might be an obvious choice. Sull isn’t physically lost at the start of the novel, though he is definitely trying to lose himself. Both definitions above are perfect.

5) What theme song(s) fit their personality and story arc?

Sull actually has quite a playlist going. But 삐딱하게(CROOKED) by G-Dragon (again) is Sull’s theme song (and one of the major inspirations for his character as we first encounter him). The sound and feel of the song, the lyrics, and to be honest, the video (link below), all screamed Sull at me. It actually took me awhile to get around to watching the video, and it just solidified what I already suspected – this song is the perfect one song summary, so at least read the lyrics 🙂

(*disclaimer* None of these images, lyrics, etc, belong to me. They are being used as emphasis only, and I am making zero money from this post)

G-Dragon – 삐딱하게(CROOKED) w/English Subs
Lyrics and translation here (popgasa.com)
(Chorus/Refrain)
Nothing ever lasts forever
In the end, you changed
There is no reason, no sincerity
Take away such a thing as love
Tonight, I’ll be crooked
Leave me alone
I was alone anyway
I have no one, everything is meaningless
Take away the sugar-coated comfort
Tonight, I’ll be crooked

I scream and get dizzy
 I vent out of boredom to other couples
 I start fights for no reason like a town gangster
 Sometimes, I purposely shake my leg, crookedly
 The main characters of the movie called this world is you and me
 A lonely island, lost and wandering
 The empty streets are filled with those who are alone
 Unlike my heart, the weather is so damn nice

I used to believe in you alone and I was happy
 But like a joke, I am left alone
 You used to promise me with your pinky finger
 But in the end

(Chorus)

(Bridge)
I’ll put on thick eyeliner, use a whole can of hairspray
 Leather pants, leather jacket with a frown
 I want to hide my pain and become even more crooked
 So you can feel sorry, I’ll spit toward the sky
 You’re scared of my crude words and my rough eyes
 But actually, I’m afraid, I want to go back but I have nowhere to go
 I want to love but no one to love, what am I supposed to do?
 I can’t turn it back

I used to believe in you alone and I was happy
 But like a joke, I am left alone
 You used to promise me with your pinky finger
 But in the end

(Chorus)

Will you not say anything for me tonight?
 I didn’t know being alone would be this hard (I miss you)
 Will you be my friend tonight?
 On this good day, this beautiful day, this day where I miss you
 Tonight, I’ll be crooked

That last bit is pretty darn heartbreaking.

Sull is so full of pent-up anger, but inside, he’s extremely lonely and confused. I’m walking a fine line between a frustrating/annoying character and a really sad one here, and I think that “Crooked” sums him up so well.

As for Sull’s arc, I’ll throw in a few more pivotal songs with lyric snippets to give you the idea (and more links, if you dare . . .):
Red – So Far Away
Lyrics found here: metrolyrics.com
I am right here with you
I couldn't more close
Pretending that I'm in this moment
When I'm only a ghost

I listen to the words you're saying
Words I'm fighting to believe
It's like I'm living from a distance
When you're out of reach



Read more: Red - So Far Away Lyrics | MetroLyrics

If you listen to the song, listen closely to the cry in singer Michael Barnes’ voice. That’s Sull – right there.

MINO – 겁 (Fear) Feat. Taeyang

Translation and Full Lyrics found here: colorcodedlyrics.com

 -- When I didn’t wanna see anything
The reason I forced my eyes to open wide
Is because I was just scared
It’s because I was suddenly scared
When I didn’t wanna say anything
The reason I raised my voice
There is no other reason
It’s because I’m afraid, I’m afraid --

It’s worth clicking through and reading all the lyrics to this song, because it was the other closest contender for the ultimate Sull song.

The Click Five – Don’t Let Me Go

Full lyrics found here: metrolyrics.com

. . . You try so hard to hide your scars
 Always on your guard

Chorus
 Don't, don't let me go
 Don't make me hold on when you're not
 Don't, don't turn away
 What can I say so you won't
 No don't, don't let me go...

This is one that you should definitely listen to for the idea. Again, it’s the way Kyle sings it that is the clincher. It’s such a soft, sad, yet convicted sounding melody, you know?

Linkin Park – Leave Out All the Rest

Full lyrics found here: metrolyrics.com

. . .Don't be afraid
 I've taken my beating
 I've shared what I made

I'm strong on the surface
 Not all the way through
 I've never been perfect
 But neither have you

So if you're asking me
 I want you to know

When my time comes
 Forget the wrong that I've done
 Help me leave behind some
 Reasons to be missed

Don't resent me
 And when you're feeling empty
 Keep me in your memory
 Leave out all the rest, leave out all the rest

If you were listening to the radio seven years ago, there’s a good chance you heard this plaintive yet powerful song. Actually, if you were listening to the radio seven years ago, and had more rock leanings, you might have heard half the songs on this playlist . . .

6) Which one of the seven deadly sins describes your character?

Wrath. Despite his calm, sullen, don’t-talk-to-me demeanor, Sull is filled with rage and hatred against the people and things that happened to him.

7) If they were an element (fire, water, earth, air), which one would they be?

Air. Changeable, unable to be chased or pinned down, unreliable, shapeless and formless yet taking up space. Getting the picture?

8) What is their favourite word?

Err, Free food? Sull doesn’t like many things, but he does like food. And yeah, I know that’s two words^^

9) Who’s one person they really miss? (It could be someone who’s passed away, or someone they’re not close to anymore, or someone who’s moved away.)

Sull’s father. Despite the fact that he also despises the man, he misses the relationship they never had, and what might have been. Also, despite what Sull has been through, he loves his father very, very deep down.

10) What sights, sounds, and smells remind them of that person?

Sights: Clothes, fabrics, rich colors

Sounds: Cameras, shouts, loud music

Smells: Perfumes, essences, and rich, spicy smells.

 

Ask a Writer: Villains vs. Antagonists vs. Antiheroes – What’s the Difference and Does it Matter?

Villains vs Antagonists vs Antiheroes

Copyright – Walt Disney
(More of an Essay than a Blog Post, so be Warned, :P)

As I’ve been rereading The Last Coffee Shop for the first time since I finished the initial draft, I quickly realized something interesting: There is no outright/major villain character in TLCS. Instead, it’s about the heroine dealing with lots of ambiguous antagonists and a hostile world. This is a first for me, as I usually have a distinct villain character, and I love to write them.

And speaking of writing great villains, I read several excellent posts on the subject a month ago, and it set the mental wheels turning. Tracey @ Adventure Awaits had a guest blog post on the 4 Elements of a Good Villain, Victoria Grace @ Wanderer’s Pen wrote two great posts – one on writing good Antiheroes and one on the importance of writing Good Vs Evil. Also, I recently read V. E. Schwab’s Vicious!

All of these posts made for great reading and discussions, and set me thinking – Antihero, Villain, Antagonist – all of those terms are used, sometimes interchangeably, out on the internet. And there are endless debates on the actually “villainy” of plenty of characters, from Loki (Marvel Universe) to Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal) to Saruman the White (Lord of the Rings). And in all of these discussions, there is a lot of confusion. So what’s a writer to do? Well, the best place to start is the dictionary!

I love words and definitions, so we’ll let Merriam Webster take this. According to the dictionary:

Villain:

1:  villein

2:  an uncouth person :  boor

3:  a deliberate scoundrel or criminal

4:  a character in a story or play who opposes the hero

5:  one blamed for a particular evil or difficulty

It’s actually not the most precise word, is it? Going on our modern definition of “villain,” or someone who does “wrong” things and opposes the story’s hero, a better word might be “malefactor.”

Malefactor:

1:  one who commits an offense against the law; especially :  felon

2:  one who does ill toward another

Middle English malefactour, from Latin malefactor, from malefacere- to do evil

A Malefactor – or someone who intentionally causes harm or evil, is what we’re usually meaning when we use the word “villain.”

Examples would be Sauron (LOTR), Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars), Voldemort (HP), Iago (Othello), or the Joker (Batman). These characters may or may not be nuanced, they may be tragic and even sympathetic, but at their root, they cause intentional evil to those around them. In other words, a true villain is a god unto themselves, a person who believes in no higher or more moral/spiritual authority than themselves and their own desires.

And I don’t mean believe in the “I believe chairs are real,” sense. I mean believe in the “believe/am convicted that this entity or idea outside of myself is greater/higher than me, and should be regarded when I make decisions.”

So what is an antagonist?

Antagonist:

one that contends with or opposes another :  adversary, opponent

From antagonize – Greek antagōnizesthai, from anti- +agōnizesthai to struggle, from agōn contest — more at agony

Rather different from a “villain,” isn’t it? Basically, an antagonist is someone who struggles against or opposes someone.

If we’re rewriting Star Wars with Darth Vader as the main character, then Luke and Obi Wan Kenobi are both antagonists. They contend with Vader, and directly oppose his point of view. So while an antagonist can be a villain, not every antagonist is evil.

Which brings us to antiheroes.

Antihero:

a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities

That’s a little vague, so let’s look at the root words – anti, or “against” from Middle English < Latin < Greek, prefix meaning “opposite”

Add this to hero – “man of superhuman strength or physical courage,” from Greek heros demi-god”, originally defender, protector,” from PIE root *ser- to watch over,protect (cf. Latin servare “to save, deliver, preserve, protect;” see observe).

So an antihero would basically be anyone who does the opposite of the “heroic” actions, or who (like our definition above), lacks the classical attributes of a hero (such as courage, selflessness, integrity, honesty, etc.)

However, in modern literature, this term also encompasses any nonstandard hero (including some characters that might be more properly categorized as villains). An antihero is always the hero/protagonist of their own story, which makes them the exact opposite of an antagonist. However, like antagonists, antiheroes are not necessarily evil.

Okay, now that we’ve looked at the technical differences between these terms, what makes a good villain, antagonist, or antihero? Let’s look at some examples.

In Star Wars, Emperor Palpatine may “believe” in the Jedi, the “Light Side of the Force,” and that those things are real – but he sees them as invalid. For him, whether the Jedi’s morals are right or wrong is unimportant – he is ruled only by himself and his perception of The Force. This makes him a classic villain, or malefactor – someone who sets himself up as the only right, and tramples others in his path.

Granted, Palpatine isn’t the most memorable or chilling villain, so here’s a second example. Wilson Fisk (Netflix Daredevil series) is one of the most terrifying and effective villains I’ve ever encountered. But what makes him such a good villain? Well, for starters, he’s a character, and his story is extremely important to the overall narrative.

(Disclaimer: the scene below is appropriate for all ages, but note that Daredevil is a mature show that isn’t suitable for all audiences)

The voiceover is from an article that reporter Ben Urich was writing about Fisk, challenging Fisk to “step into the light,” and answer for his crimes. But there are a few serious problems.

For starters, Fisk has left no clues behind that will point to him. The atrocities he’s committed, and the terrible people he’s worked with, can’t be traced to him. Also, Fisk believes 100% that he’s right at this part in the narrative. He views himself as a hero, and Matt Murdock (Daredevil) as a villain who would destroy Hell’s Kitchen.

Fisk is convicted about the crime and decay of the city, he loves his girlfriend Vanessa deeply, he has an artistic soul, and his backstory is both tragic and sympathetic. But none of this excuses his behavior. He uses all sorts of criminals and gangs to do his work, keeping his hands “clean,” and there is no moral line he will not cross in his pursuit of his goal. To Fisk, as long as he wins, and reshapes Hell’s Kitchen in his own fashion, he will do anything.

That becomes a major difference between him and Matt, and a defining characteristic of the series. While Daredevil has doubts, trials, moral lines, and dilemmas, Fisk does not. He is a self-proclaimed deity in all but name, and he answers to no one but himself, regardless of who suffers the consequences. By the end of the series, Fisk is a true malefactor – or one who both commits crimes against and hurts others, in pursuit of his own desires.

When you’re writing a villain, whether he/she is the protagonist of your novel, or opposing the hero, you need to make sure that they’re as completely developed as the main character.

If you watched the Daredevil clip above, you’ll notice something very important to a truly terrifying villain: Fisk twists the truth and speaks it back, with an uncanny resemblance to what Ben (the reporter) was saying about him. Fisk is an “angel of light” villain, or someone who sounds/looks/seems good, but has depths of depravity/wickedness that aren’t visible at first. Fisk says all the right things, and in the public eye, does all the right things. He seems like a good man. But there’s a lot more to his character.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re developing your villain’s character:

  1. What do they want most, and how far will they go to get it?
  2. Why do they want it?
  3. How do they view the people around them?
  4. How do their goals influence how they treat the people around them?
  5. What truly puts them in conflict with the hero/protagonist?
  6. Does your character masquerade as (or believe he/she is) one of the good guys? Did they start with good intentions?
  7. Who is their ultimate authority?

Let’s move on to antagonists.

Antagonists are supporting characters that oppose the protagonist and move the story along, usually prodding the main character into action with their alternate viewpoints.

All of the villains mentioned above are antagonists as well, because they oppose the protagonists. Still, there are plenty of antagonists that are either morally superior to the protagonist, or at the very least, not evil. Some examples include the detective L (Death Note), the fairies in the Artemis Fowl series, both Captain America and Iron Man in the Civil War comic arc (Marvel), or Buzz Lightyear in the movie Toy Story.

In The Last Coffee Shop, my protagonist Mads is taken hostage by Luc the bounty hunter, who is the primary antagonist of the book. However clouded Luc’s motives are, he means no harm to Mads – he just gets in the way of her plans. And that’s another major function of the antagonist. They often provide frustration of the MC’s plans or prospects (like Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice).

Still, whether an antagonist is an outright villain or not depends on the story.  In many books and movies, a character who is an antagonist or villain will have a redemptive, positive character arc that results in their joining the hero’s side/making the correct decision. Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Itachi Uchiha (Naruto), or the original T 101 Terminator (Terminator), are all examples of this type of character. And speaking of Naruto, Pain-Nagato is a classic antagonist that fulfills both of these definitions.

(SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers for Naruto Shippuden Season 8, or Chapters 413-453 of the manga from here on)

When you first meet Pain, he’s a godlike figure determined to fix the world by removing all ninja from it. This will kill a lot of people, but presumably stop all wars by doing so. Pain’s motives are good – he wants world peace – but his execution is terrible.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Naruto, I’ll give you some context. Pain-Nagato has been the major antagonist (though the characters didn’t know this) for a loooong time now, sending people after Naruto and wreaking general havoc. However, the action finally comes to a head in a climactic confrontation between Pain-Nagato and the Konoha ninja. By this point in the story, Naruto has lost his mentor/father figure Jiraya (the Pervy Sage mentioned in the clip), and many of his friends to Pain-Nagato and his goons. So Naruto has reasons for revenge, but it’s very interesting how this plays out. Pain-Nagato and Naruto have a one-on-one conversation, and we see if all of Pain’s antagonism will cause Naruto to “fall” by choosing revenge and the normal “ninja route,”or will Naruto be able to find a different path?

Watch this pivotal scene from Naruto Shippuden, and you’ll see what I mean:

“Words of forgiveness come easy. Love does not.” Man, I love that line. But that’s beside the point – do you see how Pain-Nagato baits and plays Naruto, riling him (Naruto) up and egging him on?

(NARUTO SPOILERS END HERE :P)

A good antagonist always causes the Protagonist to move forward in the plot. Whether that means a “fall from grace” or a character progression really depends on the story. But a fully fledged antagonist has their own motives and complete character arc as well – and they are affected by the MC’s arc. (For example, in Naruto, Naruto’s final words and actions not only impact Pain-Nagato, but everyone around them).

For an antagonist to have impact – their choices have to be nearly equal or equal to the importance of those of the MC.

And this brings us to our last definition – The Antihero.

I won’t drone on as long about this character type (and you should definitely read Victoria’s excellent post), because most people are familiar with them. However, I will use two of my favorite examples: Light Yagami (Kira) from Death Note, and Dean Winchester from Supernatural.

These two young men couldn’t be more different, but they’re both antiheroes and (one of the) main protagonists of their respective series. We’ll start with Light.

Light is introduced as a morally upstanding, scholarly, brilliant student. He’s a model son, and he’s very sure of right and wrong. But when he finds the Death Note*, Light suddenly has power to change the world.

 *(The Death Note is a notebook that belongs to a "death god." If it falls into the human world, it belongs to the person who finds it, and any name they write in the note will cause the death of the named person)

Light, with his strong morals, feels that he is the perfect person to hold life and death in his hands, and he quickly begins to “execute” criminals by writing their names in the note.

Now you or I might see problems right off, but hang with me for a minute. Surprisingly, Light makes some very convincing arguments, and he has a lot of charisma. You find yourself hoping he won’t get caught almost as much as you hope he will get caught! However, this kind of godlike power quickly goes to Light’s head.

Image not mine – quotes from Death Note – found here

As detectives close in (particularly the sketchy, eccentric “L”), Light gets more and more corrupted and indiscriminate about the people he kills. And every time he takes a life, he become more immune to his actions. After all, he doesn’t have to actually deal with doing the deed himself. It’s all very neat and removed. So ultimately, though Light believes in right and wrong, and that evil should be punished, he is the ultimate moral authority on his own actions. But he’s still the protagonist of the series, making him an antihero (or a non-conventional hero). You’ll have to read the manga or watch the anime to see what happens, but it’s a very cleverly constructed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Dean Winchester, on the other hand, could not be more different from Light. Dean is rough-edged, violent, under educated, and frequently boorish. He has low tastes, and he is perfectly happy with himself (at least early on). He’s as far from the classic “hero mold” as you can get without having an outright malefactor. So what makes him an antihero? Despite all of the above, Dean frequently makes the moral choice when the going gets tough.

Image not mine, found here

If there is a child in danger, Dean will risk his life for them. If saving his brother means losing his own life, he’ll do it in a heartbeat. If stopping innocent deaths means doing something horrible like crawling into a ghoul nest or luring monsters to himself, Dean will do it with little hesitation. Even if he makes bad choices, or does terrible things, he is usually driven by his love for his brother (or his friends), and his desire to save others.

In a nutshell: regardless of Dean’s inclinations or motives, when he has to choose between doing the right (non self-serving) thing or walking away, he eventually chooses the right (harder) choice. This is what makes him an antihero – a non-conventional hero who does the right thing when it counts.

The one thing that villains, antagonists, and antiheroes all have in common is a strong, driving motivation, and a completely developed character.

While they may cross over into the same thing, they are distinct, different words. And ultimately, when crafting any character, you have to ensure that they have a complete arc that is pivotal to the story.

This is probably redundant, but I believe you can’t ask it enough: what does your opposing side/force/character want from the world, and how does that put them in the way of your protagonist?

As long as your characters are well-rounded characters first, with motives, stories, and consistency, then it doesn’t matter which role they play. I’m sure you’ll pull them off well 🙂

So what do you think makes a good villain, antagonist, or antihero? Do you think it’s important that we use precise language, or do you not really care about definitions? What are some of your favorite examples of these types of characters?

A Brief Update on Knight of the Blue Surcoat

“Houston – we have a release date”(partially) . . .

Most of you probably know that I have a novel coming out this summer (screams inside every time she writes that)

Okay – maybe it’s not quite like winning an Oscar – BUT IT FEELS LIKE IT
Anyhow, I finally have a month – Knight of the Blue Surcoat is scheduled for release in AUGUST 2016. I’m still waiting to hear back on the exact date, but we are closer. Excuse me while I go off to do an excited dance . . .
B.A.P, everyone

There – now that I’m back – a few details:

  1. Any Advance Reader Copies should be available as soon as the layout is done. If you are a blogger/reviewer and are interested in reading a YA King Arthur retelling in exchange for an honest review, get in touch with me through the comments form. If I’ve already talked to you about this, I’ll contact you with details as soon as I have them. Savvy?
  2. PDF Advance copies are my publisher’s preferred format – just so you know. If this is a problem, make sure to tell me 🙂
  3. If this sounds interesting to you, but you have no idea what I’m talking about – Knight of the Blue Surcoat is a historical adventure fantasy about King Arthur’s daughter.

Here’s the synopsis (again, for some of you):

Being King Arthur’s daughter isn’t easy, but being his only heir is a nightmare. Sixteen-year old Melora has struggled with her role ever since her older brother was trampled to death in a hunting accident. Her father raised her to be a warrior queen, but Melora is too valuable to be allowed to test herself beyond the castle walls. She is trapped, surrounded by suitors who want her kingdom, and suffocated by her parents’ love. She wants to escape, but how can she leave when even the sight of a horse makes her paralyzed with fear?

Prince Orlando is expendable. His arrogant brothers and distant father were thrilled for him (and his prize stallion) to leave tiny Thessaly. Orlando heard tales of Arthur’s court, where men are measured by their worth. He came to prove himself; he didn’t plan on Melora. Her fear of horses is a challenge Orlando is willing to take, but befriending the princess earns him powerful enemies, including the wizard Merlin and Melora’s many suitors.

When Merlin curses Orlando to eternal imprisonment in the Celtic Otherworld, only Melora can save him and break the curse. But first, she’ll have to get on a horse. Melora travels from British shores to the coast of India on a madcap quest to find the keys to unlocking Orlando’s prison. Melora must overcome warriors, outsmart kings, and face her deepest fears if she wants to get Orlando out alive. Even if she can break the curse, will there be anything of Orlando left to save?

Sound like something you’d be interested in? See above ^^

This is a long shot, but I am planning to hold a launch party at the story I work at (in West Michigan), so if anyone reading this is nearby, be advised. For the rest of you, I plan on doing a blog count down and other fun activities as I have time, so stay tuned!!
Just when you thought you’d escape without a Bigbang gif . . .

I couldn’t be more excited, and thanks to everyone who has already shown so much interest and given so much support!!!

Give yourself a hand

 

TTT: Top 10 Books I Love but I Just Haven’t Talked About As Much (with quotes!)

toptentuesday
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

I know for myself (and probably most of you) that there are tons of books I’ve read that I absolutely loved – I just don’t talk about them as much. So naturally, I had to participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (if you don’t know what that is, click here) hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. So let’s get started.

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Mulan = one of the best movies ever.

Top 10 Books I Love (I Just Don’t Talk About Them Much)

  1. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine (first read in 2001)

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This is the cover I have

I love Ella Enchanted, but I actually prefer The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I discovered it in a tiny Northern Michigan bookstore when we were on vacation (15 years ago, *cough, cough*). At the age of twelve, I was obsessed with fantasy and still high off of reading through The Lord of the Rings by myself a couple of times (my dad read it to us when we were little). I was also at that stage when you’ve fallen in love with something (in my case, the feeling that LOTR gave me), and you read ravenously, just trying to find that feeling. This is also around when I discovered Robin McKinley and Patricia Wrede, who have remained lifelong favorites as well. Anyhow, this is a story about the bond between two sisters – one who starts out as the classic “hero,” and the other, who becomes a hero. And it was way before Frozen. ;P

“I put my fingers around the unmarked ring of the spyglass and twisted. The scene became clear. 
Oh no! A hairy brown spider clung to a vine! I couldn't go there!
I'd go to the desert to find a dragon. I began to reset the spyglass, but then I stopped myself. A spider was worse than a dragon?
No.
My first monsters would be spiders, then.” 

2. Dragon’s Milk (The Dragon Chronicles) by Susan Fletcher

“The wild creatures of the earth are as milk for the human spirit; to destroy them is to starve our souls.”

I love these covers <3

While Susan Fletcher is better known for Shadow Spinner (another one of my all time favorites), her Dragon Chronicles were some of the books I reread repeatedly growing up. It’s somewhere between MG and YA, as  I recall. The heroine, Kaeldra, is a gawky, awkward girl who gets thrust into a difficult situation – she basically becomes orphaned Draclings (baby dragons) nanny, in a world where dragons are misunderstood and hated. There are two sequels that take place in the same world, and I remember liking them just as much.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

“We have our clothes, some more splendid than others,—this is our credit; but when a man dies he has only his skin;”

Over a thousand gripping pages (really!), The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic adventure and revenge drama with complex characters and intricate morality. Edmond Dantes is wrongfully imprisoned, and he swears to get the ultimate revenge on the man who put him there. Will Edmond follow his path to the end, or will his convictions and his fear of Heaven stop him before it’s too late? You’ll have to read it to find out. And if you saw that movie, it left out, well, almost the entire book. Another one of my all-time favorite novels, and a definite influence on my writing. On an interesting side note, the nonfiction book The Black Count (about Dumas’ father-an inspiration for a lot of the Count’s adventures) is also well worth the read.

“There are men who have suffered and who have not only gone on living, but even built a new fortune on the ruins of their former happiness. From the depths into which their enemies have plunged them, they have risen again with such vigor and glory that they have dominated their former conquerors and cast them down in their turn.”

4. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

One of the most beautifully written, lyrical fantasies I have ever read. It’s my favorite one of McKillip’s novels, and the one that made me track down her other novels. Sixteen year-old Sybel is given a baby to raise, even though her only companions up to that point were a fantastical menagerie of creatures. This book is gorgeous, magical, and if you haven’t read it, you should. A strong female lead, enduring themes, and amazing prose – this is one of those “so close to perfect it hurts” novels.

“What do you think love is- a thing to startle from the heart like a bird at every shout or blow? You can fly from me, high as you choose into your darkness, but you will see me always beneath you, no matter how far away, with my face turned to you. My heart is in your heart. I gave it to you with my name that night and you are its guardian, to treasure it, or let it whither and die. I do not understand you. I am angry with you. I am hurt and helpless, but nothing will fill the ache of the hollowness in me where your name would echo if I lost you.”

5. Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”

“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

I might have mentioned this book in passing, but I haven’t sung its praises enough. This was the last work Lewis completed, but it started out as one of his earliest projects. Most people know how C. S. Lewis loved Greek Myths and classic literature. Till We Have Faces is the story of Cupid and Psyche told from Psyche’s sister Orual’s perspective. But it isn’t a simple retelling – it’s a complex, dense, thought-provoking, and deeply philosophical novel that thoroughly explores the nature of love itself. Till We Have Faces is nothing you would expect if you’re only familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia – it’s more akin to The Four Loves, or C.S. Lewis’s essays on the power of myths and legends. If I could just take a handful of books to a deserted island, this would be one of them.

“Oh, I can see it happening, age after age, and growing worse the more you reveal your beauty: the son turning his back on the mother and the bride on her groom, stolen away by this everlasting calling, calling, calling of the gods. Taken where we can't follow. It would be far better for us if you were foul and ravening. We'd rather you drank their blood than stole their hearts. We'd rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal.” 

6. Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”

Twelve. Millionaire. Genius. Criminal. Artemis Fowl is all of those things. And Eoin Colfer sells it with the writing equivalent of a cheeky grin and a magician’s sleight of hand. One of my favorite middle grade series ever, Artemis Fowl is laugh out loud funny. The characters are hilarious, the plots are crazy, and at the center are the epic odd couple of Artemis and his loyal butler, Butler. Yes – Butler. Butler is the other best thing about these books.

“That was horrible. Horrible. That poor little guy."
Pex was unrepentant. "Yeah, well, he asked for it. Calling us ... all those things."
But---buried alive! That's like in that horror movie. Y'know -- the one with all the horror."
I think I saw that one. With all the words going up on the screen at the end?"
Yeah, that was it. Tell you the truth, those words kinda ruined it for me.”

7. The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (The Squire’s Tales #3) by Gerald Morris

“I said you lie, knave!” shouted Beaumains, drawing his sword. “And for telling such craven falsehoods, you must die!”
The knight looked plaintively at Roger. “What’s wrong with this fellow?”
He was dropped on his head when he was a baby,” answered Roger.”

This book is hysterical – even if you haven’t read the Arthurian original that it reinterprets (The Kitchen Knight). I loved every book in this series, but this one is a definite stand out. It takes Arthurian story constructs and constants, and turns them completely on their heads, all while keeping the basic story intact. With its witty, sharp-tongued heroine, a dash of faeries, crazy characters, and of course, the aforementioned sense of humor, this is another book I’ve read repeatedly.

8Sorcery & Cecelia: or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

“I am determined to have the headache Thursday, if I have to hit myself with a rock to do it.”

Manners, Magic, and Mayhem

The concept behind this book is positively brilliant: two writers decided to write letters to each other, assuming the characters of Regency girls with magical aptitude. Their letters became this delightful light fantasy novel that mixes Jane Austen with Diana Wynne Jones’ style magic and hilarity. The sequel, The Grand Tour is equally funny, and highly recommended.

“She probably enjoys cutting up everyone's happiness. Not to mention cutting up other parts of people; given her penchant for poisoning people and turning them into beech trees, I fail to see how she has reached thirty without leaving a trail of bodies behind her.” 

9. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

While I’ve mentioned my affection for Pearl’s writing, I doubt I’ve praised this book enough. Dante’s Inferno is a favorite of mine, and this historical novel surrounds the translation of the Inferno made by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Oh, and there’s murder most foul, as well.* But who doesn’t like to watch a group of middle-aged writers solve a murder, all while being terribly literary?

“The force of Dante's poetry resonated most in those who did not confess the Catholic faith, for believers would inevitably have quibbles with Dante's theology. But for those most distant theologically, Dante's faith was so perfect, so unyielding, that a reader found himself compelled by the poetry to take it all to heart.”

10. The Kestrel (Westmark Trilogy #2) by Lloyd Alexander

The dedication in this book: “To those who know they are only human, but strive to be nothing less.”

Lloyd Alexander is another author I’ve touched on at times – with his excellent Prydain Chronicles being one of my favorite MG fantasy series ever. I’ve also named off Westmark in passing. But The Kestrel is one of the first, and best YA novels (that I have read) to deal with the trauma of war and fighting (especially for causes you believe in). Theo, the young printer’s devil from the first book, convincingly transforms into the Kestrel, a fearsome warrior and bogeyman to haunt the enemies dreams. Humanity, hatred, fear, rage- this book covers it all, in a surprisingly slim package. There are touches of Les Miserables and A Tale of Two Cities (two more of my all-time favorite novels), but it’s an easier read. Not convinced? Read this excellent review and see if it changes your mind.

Well, if nothing else, I’ve learned that I need a shelf just for silly fantasy novels (I hadn’t realized what a great favorite they were of mine until I started working on this list!)

Have you read any of these books, or do you intend to?

What are some favorite books that you don’t mention enough?

Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani – COVER REVEAL!!! (+ Release Date, Preorder Info, and More!)

If you’ve followed me (or even just stopped by my blog), you might have noticed how much I loved the fantasy novella Sunbolt, by indie author Intisar Khanani. You can read my review of Sunbolt here. So, naturally, when I heard there was going to be a sequel soon, I was super excited. I have the distinct privilege of participating in a cover reveal today for Memories of Ash, and keep reading for an interview with Intisar Khanani and info on pre-ordering the book!

I’m excited to have Intisar Khanani on the blog today, revealing the cover for her newest novel Memories of Ash. This cover was designed by the amazing Jenny of Seedlings Design Studio. There’s also a Kindle Fire giveaway, so make sure to scroll down to the end of the post to enter.

Describe Memories of Ash in 3 words.

IK: Walk with courage.

What compelled you to write your first book?

IK: I always wanted to write a novel, so my senior year of university I decided I’d better buckle down and try. I chose a fairy tale (The Goose Girl) to give me an over-arching plot and narrative structure, and then went to town with it. I really wrote it as an exercise to test myself, not intending to do anything with it when I finished. But, by the time I finished, I loved my characters so much that I ended up working through over a dozen revisions to take it from “writing exercise” to my debut novel, Thorn.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?

IK: Definitely the world of the Sunbolt Chronicles. Sunbolt follows Hitomi, a street thief with a propensity to play hero when people need saving, and her nemesis, the dark mage who killed her father. Although there is a lot of darkness in Sunbolt, there’s also a lot of light. It’s a real world, in its way, and I love the diversity and vibrancy of the cultures and creatures that populate it. I’d have my choice of living in a tropical island sultanate reminiscent of historic Zanzibar, or among the nomadic desert tribes that eke out an existence alongside the cursed Burnt Lands, to name my two favorite options. Then again, in Memories of Ash, there’s the decaying grandeur of the capitol of a fallen empire that feels a lot like an Istanbul of old, right at the heart of the Eleven Kingdoms. Plus, I wouldn’t mind having shape-shifting friends and charms to keep my bread from burning.

What authors, or books, have influenced you?

IK: As a young duckling, I imprinted on Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley’s earlier works. I read pretty widely, but those are the authors I kept coming back to, especially McKinley’s Damar books. I am also an incorrigible Jane Austen fan, but my books don’t reflect that very much!

What are you reading now?

IK: I just finished “Kingdom of Ruses” by Kate Stradling. In a kingdom where the eternal prince who rules is just a ruse kept up by the prime minister’s family (and most recently, Viola, our heroine), keeping the peace is a delicate thing. Enter a stranger who manages to take the place of the doppelgänger the family uses, and Viola has her hands full.

Your first reaction to the cover in GIF format.

 

And here it is…

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“In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.”

Kobo Pre-order | Apple Store Pre-orderAmazon Pre-order | Barnes & Noble Pre-order | Add it to GoodReads

A Special Treat For Those Who Pre-order…

Not only is the pre-order of Memories of Ash on sale for only 99 cents, but anyone who buys the pre-order will receive a free digital art print of Hitomi by artist Grace Fong. Just email your proof of purchase to moapreorder@gmail.com!

Haven’t read Sunbolt (Book 1) yet? It’s been knocked down to just 99 cents to celebrate the release and is available at most major e-retailers. That’s two fantastic books for less than your morning coffee. And don’t forget to check with your local, independent bookstore to see if they can order Sunbolt for you. (I have a physical copy and it’s beautiful!)

MoA_PreOrder Special

About Intisar Khanani

Khanani_Author_PhotoIntisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.

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