SS: Palace in the Sky

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Palace in the Sky

I laid in bed staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep. The bright full moon shone through the narrow gap in the curtains and landed on my face. Above me hung several models of airplanes, ships and spaceships. My grandmother would always buy me one to work on over the summer holiday after thirteen years I had a decent collection. Yet as I laid awake, looking at the memories hanging above me, I cringed inside. This would be the first summer without my grandmother, and without a model to build.

It happened several weeks ago; I was still in school when my mom received the news. Since then it was a whirlwind of activity; the funeral, visitors, and the cleanup at my grandmother’s cottage. It felt odd arriving and hot having her be there waiting for me. No cookies on the table, or a new model waiting for me to create. The cottage felt quiet, cold, and dead. My mom busied herself with organizing my grandmother’s possessions. She created piles to be donated, piles to be thrown out, and piles to keep. The longer my mom spent going through the belongings, the more heartbroken she became. I found hers several times crying over a dress or photograph. It was depressing, and even I couldn’t hold back tears when my mom got so emotional. I hoped when my father arrived that weekend, he would help. You know bring my mom back down to earth and make her smile again.

Instead, they fought.

I don’t remember them fighting before – maybe when I wasn’t around they did, but never like this. They disagreed, but always seemed so reasonable in front of me. My mom wanted to keep the cottage, she grew up in there… I grew up in there – but dad said it was too much of an expense and that it would be easier to sell the place. The next argument was about moving into the cottage full-time, selling their small city loft for something with space. Again dad shot down the suggestion, claiming he couldn’t work from home and the commute was too much. That’s when the fighting began, the yelling, screaming… of how dad didn’t understand what mom was going through.

It made staying in the cottage unbearable. They ruined it for me. This place was my summer escape, where I learned to swim, climb trees, catch fireflies. It was a place full of laughter… now all I wanted to do was cry. My parent’s voices rose again from downstairs, they shouted insults back at each other. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Pushing the covers off, I ran to the closet and grabbed my red coat and threw it over my white nightdress. I moved to the bedside table and opened the lower door where an old oil lantern hid. Grandmother taught me how to use it and left it there for me to use whenever I had a nightmare. I hadn’t had one for the past two summers, but she kept it there just the same. Slipping on a pair of boots, I pulled open the curtains and lifted the window pane open to crawl out. I was on the second floor, but a lattice full of vines grew right next to my window. I reached over and grabbed the wooden lattice frame and climbed down.

The kitchen light was still on and shadows of my parents moved back and forth. I hunkered down on my hands and knees to crawl under the windowsill without them noticing me. Clear of the obstacle, I pushed myself up and ran the rest of the way across the grassy green field to the old, twisted oak tree that grew on the hill just at the corner of the property.

There, I hung the lantern on the metal hook that grandmother fixed in the trunk. I reached up on my tip toes and impressed myself by growing high enough to hook the lantern with no additional aid. I hurried to the other side of the trunk where several nailed pieces of wood created a ladder up to the branches. A few planks of wood created benches between branches the further up, but I climbed even higher, to the tallest branch where I could pop my head up above the canopy and see the entire sky full of stars.

I was away from the fighting, the yelling and crying. I was alone, and it was quiet. Grandmother brought me out here on warm summer nights like this. We would climb the tree and gaze at the stars. She’ll tell me stories about the constellations; funny stories, sad stories, lessons learned and passed down. I searched for the constellations I knew, the bear, the dragon, and finally the north star – the brightest star of them all. The moon was large and full, and it filled me with a yearning to see my grandmother again.

Before I knew it, tears streamed down my face. I brushed them away, grandmother was a happy person, crying won’t bring her back, and I knew she’d want me to keep smiling – like her. But at this moment it was so hard. I missed her so much that I couldn’t hold back any longer.

Gazing up at the stars, and the few clouds passing by, I tried to brighten myself up by telling the story of the Palace in the Sky. Grandmother told it throughout the summers. I never grew tired of it. When she took me out here to the tree, she’d tell it again, and point in the distance to a bunch of clouds and say that’s where you look if you want to see the palace.

But there was a trick. The palace didn’t just appear to anyone. One had to be worthy. The palace only appeared to those with pure hearts, of loyalty, bravery, and justice in their souls. I would hold my breath and stare in the sky, wishing I would be lucky to see it. Grandmother would laugh and say I’m too young for them to judge. Another year perhaps – or two. She always ended it off with my youth and gave me hope that next summer I’d see it.

I shifted my gaze towards the direction my grandmother pointed at all those years before. I didn’t expect to see anything; I felt too heartbroken to see such a magical display. Through tear-filled eyes I saw clouds shift and circle around each other. More clouds appeared, or the smaller clouds grew larger. I don’t know how it happened, but the clouds took shape. At first I thought it was a storm in the making. Sudden rain storms were common out in the country, but it didn’t frighten me away. Instead, I kept my eyes locked on the numerous clouds all swirling together. A spire shot forth, then another, followed by a domed roof and large arched doorway.

I blinked, whipped the tears away and looked again. The palace kept its shape – it wasn’t my imagination. It formed just under the full moon, the light of which shown over the palace as it solidified in front of me. Maybe it was my imagination… or maybe it was my grandmother’s story come to life.

I climbed to my feet, waved my hands at the palace’s doors. The Palace in the Sky showed itself. A smile crossed my face as I yelled up the greeting that would grant me entrance.

“The earth greets the sky with open arms, I greet the sky with an open heart.”

Book Review: Rising of the Shield Hero

cover_1_engThe Rising of the Shield Hero

By Aneko Yusagi

“Naofumi Iwatakni, an uncharismatic Otaku who spends his days on games and manga suddenly finds himself summons to a parallel universe! He discovers he is one of four heroes equipped with legendary weapons and tasked with saving the world from its prophesied destruction. As the Shield Hero, the weakest of the heroes, all is not as it seems. Naomi is soon alone, penniless and betrayed. With no one to turn to, and nowhere to run, he is left with only his shield. Now, Naomi must rise to become the legendary Shield Hero and save the world!”

I stumbled upon this book quite by accident at my local Chapters. I had a gift card from christmas to use up and while looking in the fantasy section I found this very colourful manga looking book. It caught me off guard, not expecting such a book in the fantasy novel area. At first I thought it was a mistake and a full manga novel, but it turns out to be a written novel with a dozen or so manga pages inside. I was hooked instantly! The back cover was just the frosting.

The story is all written in first person from the perspective of Naofumi, starting with a brief look at his life before being transported to this alternate reality. We learn he’s an otaku, how he likes having fun, goes to college but spends all of his time on manga and games. In games he tends to lean towards the jack-of-all trades, more about making money than fighting all the bosses. He is also very practical and when he doesn’t have the money to spend on manga and the like, he goes to the library to read manga there. That’s where he stumbles upon and odd book called “The Record of the Four Holy Weapons”, and went into detail about four destined warriors spent to a realm to fight the waves of destruction that came. There were the Sword, Spear, Bow, and Shield. He began to read the book, considering it all fantasy and enjoying the first bit when it talked about the first three heroes and their personalities. There was also a princess who played and toyed with the heroes, causing them to fight amongst themselves. Naofumi instantly dislikes her but to his surprise there was no information on the shield hero – the pages were blank.

That is when he is transported to this magical realm. The next moment he is on an altar with three other guys around his age. And on his arm is the Shield. The monks/priests, whoever did the summoning takes the group to the King for further details and clarifications.

Now at this moment, I found it odd how everyone just shrugged and followed the priests. There were a few questions from the others but when the priests ask them to save them from destruction only Naofumi agrees to hear them out while the others began to nitpick about rewards. Seriously, if this happened to me I would be freaking out a whole lot more and asking several questions about how to get back.

Anyways, onto the story. So they meet the king who tells them their destiny and the waves of destruction that wrecks this world. They happen once a month and in the meantime they are to level up (as they all start at level 1) in order to prepare. Here we also start to learn the mechanics of this realm, which is very much like a video game. In each of their vision there are menu items to the corners that they can focus on and open, reading up on their own stats and weapons, as well as the world and anything else they come across. The other three accept the King’s propose, as does Naofumi and all are given a shared quarter to rest until the set out the next morning with guides that the King will provide.

It’s the only time the four heroes are together for a reasonable length of time. We learn that not only are they from another reality, but all are from different realities, they are all Otakus, and all besides Naofumi have played games similar to this. They understand the mechanics better and tell Naofumi how weak the Shield class is once he reaches the higher levels. They also discover another difference amongst them, how previous to their transportation, all the others besides Naofumi had been in some accident, that they were about to die before arriving here. It was enough to put distance between Naofumi and the others. They gave him some advice, but not a lot, coveting their own knowledge for themselves. The bitterness Naofumi has grows at that moment.

The next day, the King has the guides pick their hero, and nobody wants the Shield hero. Unable to go on the offence, Naofumi complains and a young woman offers to go with him. Naofumi is grateful as it means he can protect her while she handles the monsters. All seems to work out that first day, the woman – Myne – take shim to an armoury, upgrades their armour and weapons and discovers that he can’t even hold a sword in battle, only the shield. Disappointed, Myne takes him out to the fields to beat up on the lowest monsters, that he can only punch – but their bites don’t inflict damage due to the shield.  It was a slow first day, the two find a tavern to sleep in, Myne asking for two rooms where Naofumi falls asleep in one right after supper. The next morning he finds himself robbed, of his chainmail, the remains of his silver, only his shield and underclothes remain. He is instantly captured by city guards and taken to the palace where Myne betrays Naofumi by claiming he attacked her sexually in the night.

Nobody believes Naofumi, the girl plays the victim quite well and there the Spear hero Motoyasa is wearing his chainmail. Unfortunately, he asked to be sent back if nobody wants him, but that is impossible. The only way they can get a new Shield hero is if all the heroes die and they have to summon a new group. Everyone is quiet at this, but Naofumi is outraged at the injustice. Being the Shield hero, they cannot lock him up as he is the legendary hero, but the entire town has heard the story and for the rest of the month before the first wave, they judge him. Myne joins Motoyasa’s group, leaving Naofumi on his own. Nobody will join him, and he becomes more bitter inside.

Eventually he knows that he needs someone to fight the monsters for him, the simple ones in the field are too much, but he uses them allowing them to bite him and hide them under his cloak to use as intimidation tactics against the townspeople who try to give him a rotten deal on loot. He gathers a few coins from the few monsters he can take care of, and is then met by a slave trader who offers him three miserable demi-humans, all weak, ill or having some deformity. He picks the little girl – a girl who reminds him of Myne and his hatred for her. She’s the cheapest, but also coughs and looks battered. Still, he needs someone and the slave contract magic would prevent her from betraying him. With the spell on her, he takes her immediately to the armour to get her a sword and some basic armour and forces her into battle. The girl is frightened and has night terrors but Naofumi needs her to make it to the first wave. He gives her medicine he made, food, and shelter even. He doesn’t rebuke her – only when she refuses to fight. The demi-human is a racoon humanoid, named Raphtalia, and she begins to grow attached to Naofumi, finding a good master in him and giving her a strength to fight.

I’ll end my synopsis there, this is really only the first half of the book and there is more on the story with Naofumi, Motoyasa, Myne and Raphtalia. I will say that I’m glad the ending was happy, and that the bitterness and hatred Naofumi feels for the majority of the book is cleared away by Raphtalia’s respect and I will call it love. But I don’t want to give too much away, it’s a great ending.

I really enjoyed this book, it was light-beat, easy to read and a lot of fun. It only took me four days at the most to get through it. The book looks large, but the lettering is larger than most fantasy novels and is double spaced. I’m not sure if that’s typical for these type of books or not. There were a few issues that I found that could just be due to translation, but mostly what made it such a simple read was that it was all direct and to the point. There was no long drawn out explanation for scenery, or history. We are expected just to pick things up and go with it – which can be typical for any fantasy story. But I felt that with this one in particular it was even more condensed than usual. I had no problem following the course of events, but I did miss some of the long-winded expositions, or maybe I felt something was missing because they weren’t there. Either way, the story still has an emotional tie behind it – which is all you need to connect the readers.

This is a first book in a series, and the author included the first two chapters in the next book at the end. I am extremely excited to find the next book and hope to find it soon. For anyone looking for a light, fast-paced fantasy story with a manga twist – this will be a great read of you!

Updates & New Ideas

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So, my down time this past week has been more productive than I originally imagined it would be. Face it – I seriously though I’d end up on the couch watching Netflix for eight hours straight. Thankfully, i’ve but that distraction aside and kept up with the habits i’ve forced myself into.

Morning Writing. Every morning, after breakfast I sit at my kitchen table and write. Well try to write something. Lately it’s been outlining a new novel idea. I’ve been working on character sheets, races, history, coat-of-arms for the royal families – a whole bunch of tidbits and bits of information that I may use for the story. Mostly this research and background information is just to get my head wrapped around this new world I’m creating. I still have a way to go with it, like my magic system that I don’t know what to do with yet, and the main history. Don’t get me wrong I have a brief summed up history of the world, but I need to flesh it out – because as it turned out it’s now a major plot twist at the end.

I’m actually quite happy with my outline. I struggled with it all week, but the ending came and to my surprise a plot twist I didn’t even seen coming. I just hope it stays in the story once I start writing it out.

You see, this story started as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast… those characters are still there, but suddenly the mysterious Empress I’ve created in the background thrusted her way onto the main stage. Now I feel my story is more “Into the Woods” or “Once Upon A Time” feeling then that of a particular fairy tale I started. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, defiantly more original. At least I hope. I also added dragon-born from Dungeons and Dragons… less face it dragons are always better – especially if they talk, and are more humanoid.

This story may be finished, but I now have to consider a series to try to defeat this dragons that are approaching this country. I may have created something much larger than anticipated! I’m still enjoying it though and I can’t wait to see what other Fairy Tale characters I can throw in.

So, that’s one update for me. I’ve also found tutorials on making fantasy maps in Photoshop – so you know that’s my next project. Making the map of this world. I’ll be sure to show it to you all when it’s done.

Another project on the go is my Shop-Hop quilt I started a couple of years ago… maybe even longer? I had 15 blocks I collected from 15 different quilt stores around my area. I finally found material to use in the quilt and finish the top once and for all. Working on something different is a nice change of pace, it gives my head a rest from planing a novel and worrying  about edits that are due back soon. I find quilting relaxing and am looking forward to finishing this quilt off to start another.

I think that’s all. Happy Friday everyone!

PS. My weight loss challenge. Well, it’s been a few weeks and I’m proud to say I’ve lost 9 lbs so far. I have gone up a bit one week, but on average i’ve been loosing  1 – 1.5 lbs a week. A fair start but of course after all this chocolate from Valentines I may have to rethink my calorie intake.

Down Time

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Now that I have two beta readers currently reading my WIP, a possible third on the way AND an editor giving me a manuscript evaluation – it’s time for me to take a break.

I do want to be careful about my break time – my editor could be getting back to me next week so I still want to keep my habit of writing every day up. So in the meantime I have plans – whether they get done or not is something else – but my plan is to work on my blog a bit more, in particular work on some short stories to post. I am also currently working on some research for another Fantasy story – retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Thought the more I work out the characters, settings and plot, the more distant I’m getting from the core story. I may end up with something completely original at the end. I plan to work on this novel come November for NaNoWriMo 2017, but I want to get the basics down, the character’s and their personalities, the settings, I even sketched out a map!

Besides keeping my writing habits up, there are other areas in my life I should also devote some time to.

1. Quilting

I currently have two quilts on the go. One has all the blocks done but I’ve been procrastinating on figuring out the sashing to go between each book, the colours and calculating how much material to buy. Besides that project, there is my grandmother’s quilt that I’m still working on. It is a scrappy quilt made up of several small blocks – so it’s taking a while to get the number of blocks I need.

2. Getting a Job….

Okay, realistically I should be putting this first. I’ve been out of a job since January, spending my time instead on my novel. It’s been a great break away from my previous job to focus on something I love – and I do love writing. I enjoy the mornings when I get up and sit behind my laptop and type away – sure it can be frustrating and there are days my mind won’t focus. But If I can push out 3000 or more words in a day it works. Maybe I need to refocus my career, try to find something new… or maybe this novel will be my breakthrough? It’s a wish, but I know eventually I need to help pay the bills and that may mean a part-time job at a meaningless place.

3. Reading

I have a huge stack of books I haven’t read yet laying all around me. Some are non-fiction, writing reference style books; and others are fiction driven. I enjoy writing my reviews and hope to keep that up.

4. Gaming

What can I say, I love video games. Finding time for one without feeling guilty for not doing something else is difficult and keeps me away at times. I’m currently in the middle of three games; The Force Unleashed, the new Star Ocean for PS4, and Fallout 4. Fallout 4 has been challenging for me – I’ve never played any of those games before so I’m coming in a little blind but I’m enjoying myself and enjoy the games I play. There are other computer games that I also play, Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. But getting on them can be even harder. I will admit its the guilt of spending all afternoon playing one of those games and not writing, or doing something more productive that keeps me away – but I’m still not typically writing (Thanks TV/Netflix).

5. Finally I have to mention TV/Netflix/On Demand.

I’ve been good, since I’ve been off work I’ve focused the first four to five  hours a day working on my novel – in one way or another. I currently write in the kitchen, completely out of view of the TV and living room. There were times where I’d work until 1 or 2 pm if I’m on a roll and don’t feel obviously hungry. However, after lunch it is difficult for me to get back into my writing. Now while I’m waiting for my feedback, I’m setting myself up in front of the TV more in the afternoons. Laptop still on and I’m still working on stuff, but it’s more distracted with the TV on lol.

So I’m winding down a bit, still trying to stay focus on other projects, but nervous about my beta readers and editor. A lot of my future is hanging on this novel and the edits to make after I get the feedback. I have serious plans for it and hope to share it with the world in the near future.

Review: Starship Troopers

bba840c9b22938f7b30957b4c032b383Starship Troopers
Robert A. Heinlein

“Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers are the jet-propelled infantrymen of the future. In a galactic war of untold violence and destruction, they scour the metal-strewn emptiness of space and hunt out The Enemy. But neither the viciousness of their electronic armour nor the bloodthirsty militarism of their training can save them from the grip of loneliness and fear.  Heinlein is an acknowledged master of Science Fiction, a genius who has become spokesman for a whole generation. And his starship trooper John Rico, rising from boyhood dreams to high command in the cosmos, is a hero of the first dimension – and beyond.”

Maybe you’re familiar with the 1997 Starship Troopers, but did you know it was based on a book? Granted I haven’t seen the movie in years, but when I discovered my boyfriend had an old copy – I had to read it. I know how much better books tend to be than the movies, so I expected this book to be quite entertaining, but to my surprise it is nowhere near as cheesy or goofy as the movie portrays it.

It is also curious to note there was a comment at the beginning of the book – not only does it state how the book won a Hugo and science fiction novel of the year 1959, but that since it has been highly controversial to the point where “other writers have written satires in an attempt to discredit it entirely.” That just sounds mean! But I’m now defiantly reading to form my own opinion.

The book is told through John Rico’s eyes as he looks back on his life as a Mobile Infantryman. Throughout the book in a number of flashbacks we get the idea of the world he lives in, how much has changed and the issues of the military. Of course in this futurist world the military has a very different role on the world and the galaxy. It’s quite different and I can understand where the critics come from, however I also think Heinlein’s is making a point of his opinion in this book and he makes some very valid and logical points.

In the book there is reference to a “History and Moral Philosophy” class everyone has to take in high school – but it’s not necessary to pass. Through these flashbacks on this class we get insights on how the Federal Military formed and why it has withstood time – much longer than those back in the 20th century. In particular only those who serve two years in the Federal Military and leave can vote. They obtain ‘full citizenship’. It’s still all voluntary. But the world is divided between civilians and the Federal military. Over the course of the book we get insights as to why that is. Because those who served understand what takes place, what soldiers of all different areas go through, they are better able to make the big decisions and vote whether to go to war or not.

As Rico says in the book; “If it was my choice I’d never vote to go back into the tube.”

Throughout the book, this History and Moral Philosophy comes into play, as Rico learn more about the hidden meanings behind the lectures he took back in high school, how to truly understand and respect freedom and why he continues to serve throughout everything that happens. It’s hard to put into words but the feeling and opinions Heinlein puts forth is really interesting.

The book is quite easy to read, and has a totally sci-fi classic feel. The armoured suits they battle in sound amazing and I’ve looked through several pieces of artwork and found some great examples of artists renditions of the suites. There’s space travel, bugs – at last they kept that in the movie – and  even other alien species they come up against. For anyone who enjoys the old sci-fi stories had haven’t read this – please do. Don’t go by the movies, this book is serious and has some very interesting points to make.

Endings & Epilogues

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I can’t believe I’m already nearing the end of my revisions. Five weeks and I’m dealing with the last two chapters of my book. I’ve gone back and edited all the other chapters to the best of my capabilities and the suggestions of the web-editor I use. I admit by the end I’m not as happy with the revisions the web-editor is giving me. Still, the end is in sight and with that end comes a new challenge.

It’s one problem to start a book, creating that engaging first chapter – or five – but now I need to figure out how to end the book with just as much punch while wrapping everything up. It doesn’t help that this book is the first in a series I planed back when I first conceived of it’s idea. How can I have a group of Paranormal Investigators and only one book? There’s way too many settings they could investigate, too many characters to have all their stories wrapped up in one book. Another problem I have is that I feel no story is ‘done’, life continues on and so do my characters in my head. They grow, they change, they tackle a new challenge, part of me wants to follow them up all the way until they die!

Of course, I can’t keep writing the book forever, sometime I have to end it. I’ve heard a lot of talks about endings, about how you need to wrap up all the questions you asked at the beginning, well most of them. I have heard them say not to include any new characters at the end – which I did with a past nano novel – and to mirror the starting. I began the last three chapters that way. In the beginning I started with my main heroine, and moved into her connections with ghosts and her friendships/lack of social encounters. By the third chapter I introduced my second main character.

Now that I’m working on the end, I wrapped up the second character’s story first, most of it. A skeptic but leader of the paranormal group, by the end he is faced with seeing a spirit in a flesh body, watching magic and holy water work against it, and see how much the main character’s dreams do come true. His belief system is shaken and is forced to concede that spirits – or some of them – do exist. As much as he’s rocked by this experienced, I had him step back and still take that logical angle of explanation – even though he can’t. I don’t want to lose him as the only ‘skeptic’ on the team, but I want to make sure he learns not to doubt his team members when they do come up with evidence to prove the contrary. If anything by the end of the first book he’s not a true skeptic but someone on the fence. I don’t want him to change from that stance though because he is the rock of their group. If he starts flying off the handle at every small dust or blurb on an audible recorder, the group could really be in trouble.

So I did finish and wrap up his own little plot line, but also put in hints to a future one. I’m not sure if it was the right choice, but I wanted to make sure I put in some snippets that will be revealed or discuss about more in future books.

Now I’m on the last two chapters, all dealing with the main character and her relationship and social encounters and the first ghost she talked to at the beginning. It took my a little while to wrap my head around how to wrap up everything with her. I’m not using my original ending that I’ve done but once again re-writing it. I decide the second last chapter should deal with her roommate and romantic interests. Spoilers – the romantic interest does not work out. I want to leave the audience with that reality and that pain that despite best efforts, our main character lost her chance (or so we think!). But there’s also the roommate, and I wanted to push my main character out of her comfort zone, telling her roommate the truth about everything and having the roommate accept her and even being genuinely curious and concerned for her. My main character started out as a loner, but I wanted to make sure by the end of the book she has friends and a support group to go to when ghosts appear to her. This roommate who she once pushed away I want to become good friends with her, and someone else for my main character to bounce ideas off of in future books.

That leaves the ghost in the library. I don’t intend to do a lot with this, but once more I want to show the change in my character by her tacking the ghost down to talk to it, thank it even for helping her get over her worse fear. But like did with the second character I wanted the ghost to give a warning, a prophecy that spirits will hear about what happened and seek them out, her out in particular. Nothing too ominous but enough to give our main character something to ponder and worry about.

Then there is the last chapter. In all honesty as I type this out the above warning from the ghost could be a perfect end right there. But I have the problem of shutting up when I reach the end. I just can’t stop writing.

That’s when I question Epilogues. Do I put one in, or just leave it as the last chapter instead?

Right now, my last chapter puts my main and second character together, discussion her position as part of the paranormal team. I want the leader to tell the main character what she’s expected, how she’s to research any information a ghost gives her and not take it on fact alone. I want there to be an attempt from the paranormal group to be legit, to research and make sure their medium is getting truth or spouting fiction. The one purpose behind this ending is to have someone come in with a new case. That whole life continues and moves on and they ghost hunters are back out on another investigation.

The more I think about it, there more I question if I really need to include it. Oh how I love spouting random things out and find my the answer in my own words. Seriously, writing out my concerns can really help me find an answer. Lol.

I’ll keep debating the question and write-up both chapters to see how they turn out. I might surprise myself. But either way, my third draft is near completion. Once that complete I’ll be searching for beta readers and possibly tracking down an editor to help me find all the spots I’ve missed through revisions and the editing process.

It’s been a long month.

Review: Dragonlance Vol. 1

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Volume 1: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

By  Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Dragons.

Creatures of legend. Stories told to children.

But now dragons have returned to Krynn. The darkness of war and destruction threatens to engulf the land.

Then hope appears – a blue crystal staff in the hands of a beautiful barbarian woman. The promise of hope, as fleeting as smoke upon the autumn wind, forces a group of long-time friends into the unlikely roles of heroes.

Knight and barbarian, warrior and half-elf, dwarf and Kender and dark-souled mage; they begin a perilous quest for –

The legendary Dragonlance.

You may have noticed how much of an RPG lover I am. I’ve recently been playing D&D with my boyfriend and his friends, the two of us are hooked on Critical Role and are still working our way through the videos, and then there’s the video and board games that deal had an RPG style to them. Well, despite all those likes I’ve never read any of the D&D books before now. I’m so glad my boyfriend had these DragonLance Chronicle books on hand that I could read whenever I’m ready. I’m happy to announce that I’ve just finished the first volume – Dragons of Autumn Twilight.

I will say this first and foremost – I wasn’t expecting the style that they were written in. Don’t get me wrong, the story is amazing, and the characters all great. I was just a little put off when the POV continued to change between the six plus characters that appear in the pages. After a while I got used to the Third Person Omniscient tone and fell into place with the story. I haven’t read a lot of stories in that style before, and I liked it. It was different and given it’s theme as part of the D&D board game, made sense to get into everyone’s head as such games deal with multiple people playing their own character against each others. Still – I had to laugh as my writing resources always seemed to go against this style.

One to the story. I don’t even know where to begin. We have our group of travellers, all reuniting in their hometown Solace, already I feel like I’m missing a book as old friends reunite. Yet, the start picks up so quickly that you accept their personalities and move on with the story. Tanis – the half elf and Flint the dwarf are the first two we are introduced to. It’s clear Tans is the leader of the group, not to mention one of the oldest given his elven blood line, as with Flint and his age as a dwarf. We are next introduced to Tasslehoff the Kender (not knowing much history of D&D my boyfriend had to explain Kenders to me). I love Tass, he is a bubble of energy and can’t help himself from picking up anything shinny, making him a good thief. There’s Strum a Knight of Solamnia, a lawful good character that can be difficult to deal with. Next came the twins, Caramon the warrior and Raistlin a dark soul mage who wears the red cloak of neutrality. That’s the pre-existing group that gathers in Solace, everyone coming back on a set determined date after five years have passed. There is one missing, the twins’s older sister Kitiara who has gone north to be a hired sword for some other purpose. We don’t get to see her in the book, but Tanis mentions her ever so often, as well indicating a love interest between the two.

But wait, there are more characters to introduce! Besides what sounds like the original crew, we are also introduced to two more members of the party that is added by the end of the first chapter. Two Barbarians Goldmoon and Riverwind. There’s a lot of characters so you get when I mention how often they switch POVs through the chapter. Grateful they start a new paragraph whenever that happens and the transition is smooth. But I have to hand it to the writers to be able to achieve everyone’s viewpoint when necessary and still make a great narrative.

So, the group reconnects at an inn in Solace, but the reunion is short-lived as Goldmoon’s staff becomes a vocal point and can heal others. The group is almost arrested just on that matter but escape in the nick of time. They are chased across the wilderness and learn of a prophecy and how important Goldmoon’s staff is against a coming evil over the land – Dragons.

There’s actually so much that is covered in this one volume, from finding the ancient gods and Goldmoon becoming a cleric for one, to being placed on a new quest to find the leader of man who will stand up and defeat the ancient dark goddess and the dragons.

Besides the main quests that push the characters forward there is a lot of dynamics played out within the group. Raistlin being a focus point. His character has dark tendencies – well not dark but he has this thirst for power to become stronger than his twin brother and the others. There are a number of times he comes out and says that with so much hatred to the group that you’re always wondering if he’ll betray them at some point. It doesn’t help that his twin brother will never leave his side, and his body is frail, weak and after his test for wizardry now having gold skin and hourglass golden eyes. He freaks me out sometimes but surprisingly he’s yet to betray any of the party members. But then again this is only the first book.

There’s also the Goldmoond – Riverwind dynamic of their love for one another that is kept being pushed off and tested over the book for one reason or another. They do get the happy ending at the end but I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t had the chance to read these books yet.

In the second half of the volume more characters are added. There’s Tika the barmaid turned fighter, another wizard named Fizban – who’s mystery is never revealed and I’m still upset about that – and a couple of elves from Tanis’s past. Our half elf Tanis is faced with his elven blood and we feel there’s some closure for him on that account, but by then the Dragons have revealed themselves and created a war among all other races on their world Kern. The elves are forced to leave their home for safety, and the group attempts to help them escape by attacking their home base on Pax Tharkas and bringing back their forces. It’s the climax of the book and a good one I don’t want to spoil.

In the end the book is a wonderful adventure. Full of your epic fantasy style characters and quests – I enjoyed it immensely. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read these way back when, and are really into fantasy and adventure – I recommend picking up a copy somewhere. You’ll have a great read on your hands.

Revisions & Edits: EPS

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Well somehow I got past my anxiety over chapter one. I’m still thinking about it and not sure if it’s the right opening but I’ve moved on. I’ve actually finished the first Act of my book, revised it the best I could and to my surprise, sent it out to three friends to beta read for me. I’m not sure if sending out part of a book is good or not, but I wanted to see if my opening was decent enough. Or if my idea in general was good and if I was on the right track. Basically I’m looking for general feedback, if the liked the story, the characters and setting. Nothing more as I’m still struggling with revisions.

I’m now half way through my second act. I’ve moved quicker through these chapters, all together I’m starting Chapter 15 tonight, or tomorrow. They’re small chapters, about 2000 – 3000 words each. I seem to like keeping my chapters in that length for some reason. I’m sure there are area’s where I can put two chapters together, just haven’t decided if I want to do that. I love the energy that comes with the middle part of the book. The characters are more fleshed out – I hope – and we get to see them argue, bicker and make choices that may not be the best and the consequences that come out of it. They are at least coming to life this time around on the page. Though that could just be my own mental perception and not what I’ve written.

I’m defiantly re-writing more than editing once again. I’m still sticking to the plot line, but am changing points of view and descriptions. I’ve had a couple of high energy moments that I’ve tried to shorten the sentence length on to make it a faster pace to go along with the tension, fear and life-threatening situation. I’m not sure if I’m capturing the suspense I want the reader to experience. It may sound more like an adventure than a suspenseful thriller. Maybe that’s a better path to go down? The book has to deal with ghosts and evil spirits, but maybe it doesn’t have to scare my reader out of their seats. I’ll have to get a real editor to help me find a direction to stick to… or maybe a bit of both won’t hurt either.

There’s a lot of second guessing this time around with the story. I’m still enjoying the chapter when I write it, but it takes more energy out of me. I’m trying to stay a head with the grammar mistakes I continue to make, catch them quicker and make the change as I’m working. It’s draining and I find that I can only accomplish one  or one and half chapters before my brain decides it’s enough and I go off and do something else. Have lunch, watch Netflix or play a video game. What happens next is the afternoon slipping away and having no desire to go back and work on another chapter that evening.

I’m not sure if that’s just procrastination, or if the book is no good. That’s when my dark critic inside my head comes to life, filling my mind with doubts and fears. That I’m no good at this, the book will never be finished, nobody will want to read it… blah… blah… blah. It’s tough dealing with that critic, especially now that I’m not working and my dream is hanging on a thread. This may be the only time I have to produce something amazing, to finish a novel, find an agent or publisher and have my dream of being publish finally come true. The more I idle and don’t work and don’t find a new paying job, the more this critic comes at me telling me I’m a failure. I’m lucky I have a boyfriend who cares about me and my dream to let me peruse it… but how long will that last?

So you see, the progress is slow. I’m hoping to hear back from the other two who read the first 6 chapters to let me know their initial thoughts. If I have more people read it, and more feedback, the better the book will become.

Review: In Real Life

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By: Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

“Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massive-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer — a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.”

I stumbled upon this graphic novel quite by accident. I was looking for something else and an Amazon pop up came and suggested this as something I would enjoy – give my past searches and buying history. I’m always looking for new graphic novels and to find one that deals with the virtual world – I was overjoyed. It did take me a while to finally purchase the book, but when it arrived I devoured it that same day.

The story revolves around Anda, an overweight teen who’s a coder, gamer and D&D player. We get the impression early that she’s new to town and like many new teens sticking to the outskirts. Things change when their computer class has a special speaker from Australia who invites girls to join an online MMO game and play as girls and join her guild. The story briefly touches on how many girl gamers don’t play female avatars in the online game world. So by encouraging girls to play girls in a safe online environment as part of this all girl guild, the speaker hopes to encourage future girls to be more confident in the gaming and computing world.

From that point on, Anda creates a warrior character and falls in love with the game “Coarsegold”. She befriends another guild member by the name of “Sarge” and is introduced to ‘gold farming’ and being paid in real money to destroy these gold farming avatars. At first Anda doesn’t understand what she is ultimately doing, only that gold farming is bad in the game and wanting to make things fair for other members. It becomes more complicated as the story unfolds and Anda befriends a gold farmer from China. Her eyes and mind are open to an entirely different way of life, where a kid just like herself is playing a gold farmer as a job. She tries to help but only seems to make things worse. I won’t go into any more details, the ending is definitely worth reading.

Besides the story, there is the art. I really enjoyed Jen Wang style and illustrations. It reminds be a little of Scott Pilgrim but unique and different at the same time. It’s also refreshing to see the main character outside the game as being more overweight, and not having it brought up in conversation. It’s just there. There are actually a few different body types we see and I really liked the representation. The avatars were just as good, or even crazier, but that’s the point of these online games – people can make outlandish looking characters and I liked how that was introduced in the game world.

I’m not an online gamer so I had my boyfriend explain gold farming to me. They explain it in the book and Cory Doctorow does a great opening and introduction to it too, but it’s still hard for me to understand the real problem behind it. But it didn’t stop me from enjoying the characters and the book. There’s a political side to the story, but I don’t find it overly cumbersome. The pace is kept up and we are always eager to see Anda log in and find her friend and discover more in Corsegold. I really hop there will be more books in the future, there is a “01” on the spine.

For all those gamer girls out there, please check this one out and enjoy!

Dreams

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Dreams have always been part of my life. From the nightmares of childhood to the fantasy inspiration for characters in my stories and novels. It’s very rare that I don’t wake up and not have some sort of dream, even if it’s one I don’t quite remember. There are some I don’t wish to tell, those are the odd ones, the subconscious ones that make me feel that there’s more to them than ‘just a dream’.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a Pieces, or if my witch of a great-grandmother Turkington, but I believe that dreams hold meaning and can be interpreted for clarification on yourself, your life and others around you. Who knows, maybe it’s because I liked the Joseph story in the old testament as a kid. Either way, if I wake up from a dream that is still vivid in my head I want to find out what it means. I’ll search google and other dream dictionary sites and try to find a meaning behind them.

What has inspired me to write this post is because of by boyfriend. Surprisingly he has not had a dream, or he claims he doesn’t dream much. I found this peculiar and don’t believe him half the time. Then again he is a more analytical thinker and I’ve always been a day dreamer. Still, many mornings he’ll ask me about if I dreamed and I’ll either say – yes – but don’t tell him the details, or if it’s bizarre enough that requires a laugh I’ll tell him the whole things.

A couple of vivid dreams I’ve had in the past included me with a baby (no mine) downtown in a city and having my car stolen right before my eyes. Crazy, I know, but I woke up still feeling that anxiety of having my car stolen. I later I discovered what a few symbols of that dream meant, like the baby could be something I’m nurturing, and the stolen car about not being in control over a situation.

Another dream I actually jotted down the morning after. I’m not sure how much to include as it was a LONG dream, or it felt like it went on forever. I’m still working out what it means because there seemed to be so many symbols to keep track off and some of them seem to contradict the others. I’ll give the basics;

The dream started at a bar with me without shoes, then suddenly we’re leaving and driving down a dirt road towards a farm-house that will be our home. Yes there are at least four or five of us in the vehicle(s). On our way, we see a storm in the distance, it has lightning but looks to be more of a sand storm. In the storm I see a glimpse of a monster. Yes, that’s right I’ve got a Godzilla like monster in my dream.

We reach the farmhouse and for the moment the storm is forgotten as we explore. It’s a large farmhouse with rooms in places that don’t make sense. For starters my room is in a loft in the rafters but in the middle of the rafters, with no railings on either side and a window at one end where I do see the monster again.

It’s hard to describe, I’m scared in the dream but the monster seems more like a giant ant-eater and doesn’t seem to be concerned with us. We go outside to watch it pass and when we return, my room has curled up and I have to find another.

See – weird!

Anyways, the dream continues with me finding another bedroom, one is ripped off – like a museum – and I try to find out if I can use it. I find friends on the second floor in a large bedroom that looks to be out in the open with a kitchen right beside it. I find out there aren’t any other rooms except one and go check this other room out and find two elderly women in the bed (which is also in the middle of the room). Depending on where I stand, the woman come in and out of vision, and there’s a skeleton between them. Inside I know already they’re spirit’s and ghosts and I’m afraid to upset them. Though they seem jovial. One friend steps past me and jumps on the bed – not seeing the women or the skeleton, confirming they are ghosts in my mind. I try to apologize to the ghosts for the friend jumping on them, not caring with the others are thinking. The dream ends around that point, I talk to the ghosts some more about sharing the room with them, but that’s when I woke up.

So you see, that is a messed up dream. Even now, weeks after I experienced it I can still remember it like it just happened. I don’t know if there are hidden meanings in it, or a few scenes to make a story out of. My brain seems to work in odd ways. After dreams like that how can I not think there’s something more to it, that my subconscious is trying to tell me something?

What about you, do you dream? Does your dreams have meanings?