Utopian/Dystopian Worlds

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So, surprisingly enough this topic came to light while in discussion with my dad and my boyfriend’s dad. I’m not sure entirely how we got onto the subject, but I’m sure we were talking about the rising cost of hydro, gas and government both here and across the border in the US. Anyways, the topic turned to the future and perspectives we had towards it. Mostly towards the decline of knowledge in certain life-skills. For example how many people today actually know how the electrical grid works? Or the water treatment plants or sewage? What would happen if we lost that knowledge all together? Now, I may be more optimistic in certain areas – humans to me are adaptable. Even if we lost knowledge in a particular area, I feel that the human mind will find an alternative solution to achieve the same goal. It may take time – but I think it is possible.

The discussion continued on other areas as my dad began to talk about how he felt the world should move in – basically into more self-reliant smaller communities. They turned to me – the writer – and said I should write a book on that. Great… write a book on a self-reliant city where there are little to no problems – that’s not dystopian. Of course it’s closer to a Utopian, for which I know little about in the fictional world. Yet – their ideas did make me think and by that evening I jotted a few of them down.

Do I have a plot – NOPE!

Do I have any characters – NOPE!

Do I have a crises, or an issue to explore/exploit – NOPE!

I get what they mean. Hollywood has defiantly gone the way of dystopian lately, from the Hunger Games to Mad Max: Fury Road. All dark, depressing and showing a negative outlook with a few heroes that push the hope of a change or something different forward. I get those moves and books and I get why they are so popular at the moment. I also think the fad is on the decline and we may get a different outlook in the new future – I’m only guessing here. Anyways, their ideas that day did resonate with me and I began to wonder if there was a story in there at all.

My typically pet peeve about these dystopian novels is how there is a wall of some kind that keeps the character inside their surroundings. Just go and get out and explore the world around you! Of course by the sounds of the discussion we had such an idea wouldn’t fit for them. I’ll just have to save that for something else.

So… here’s my world so far. I picture it like a circle with three zones. The external are the agriculture fields, the producers of the food. There’ll be greenhouses and natural sources of water. The next zone will be manufacturing plants, water treatment and the like. The final zone would be the core where the city’s government, education and medical facilities are located. I don’t like the idea of getting rid of technology, there are enough minds out there that if something did happen with electricity and the internet, a new infrastructure should emerge with a new wave of technology that would fit with the needs of this new futuristic world.  Travel between countries will be limited, gas is highly expensive and out of reach for several, making these cities more close-knit. Population should be reasonable to support their needs. (This is the one issue that was brought up – that cities are too populated and can’t become self-reliant because of that). That could be an issue for the book – the population of the city is getting too high and something needs to be done. But the more I think about it, the more I feel there would be an underground, another zone below the city – perhaps living in the remnants of the old world that has mostly been forgotten as the city rose and was built on top of it. So, all together there are four zones now within this ‘utopian’ city, and only one issue I can foresee that could be a conflict.

But then again – who says there needs to be a conflict in the utopian? There are other stories where conflict happens between people, I could make a love story with this city in the back ground – but I don’t do well writing romances… I’m still spit-balling ideas around. What I have thought about is the idea of travelling convoy’s. Of a certain type of people who move from city to city in this futuristic world making trade. As much as travel is limited, it’s not impossible, and there would be some cities with deals with others and have to transfer goods from place to place. Having these nomads be there makes some sense – unless robots take over which I doubt I will have in my future world. ;-P

Having a character as part of this convoy nomad group may be the view-point I need to examine this new world, as she travels from community to community to see the differences across a country. I’m not sure if that idea would work, but it’s a start. Or, if anything start the story from someone within the community and switch to the nomad later on? Finding a conflict, or theme for this genre is difficult for me and it may not be my speciality. I’m still wanting to accept the challenge, but I obviously need to think about the world I’m creating and what my characters think of it.

I have gone online and found several other books written either in dystopian style or utopian style. I need to read them and see their ideas before I get carried away with this one. If any of you have a utopian or dystopian novel that would be good to research and read let me know and I’ll add it to my list.

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Visual Novels – To write one or not….

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While exploring more games available through distributors like Steam, I’m finding new styles and indie games that follow a different path then just an action or first person shooter. I’ve explored Visual Novels in the past – though I’ve never thought of them that way. To me they have been ‘Dating Sim Games’, where the main character takes first person view and you as the main character watch/read on as your character make choices that will ultimately decide if you’ll fall in love with the character or not. These seem to be the most common style of visual novels – and the ones I’ve reviewed in the past have all been available as apps for phones and iPad. It only took me a brief search on Steam for me to find several other similar games if not different and more diverse ‘visual novels’ available.

The more I searched, the more I find that there are several indie style visual novels, some I will admit look poorly drawn or animated, but I don’t want to judge a book by it’s cover. Others have a sleek, more professional look if not a bit on the ‘adult’ side of things. At first I was just looking for what’s available, maybe find a sci-fi theme, or paranormal theme visual novel to explore – but those options seem to be rare, many are still romance based where I’m looking for more adventure style and want to stay away from romance. Which made me think how I would go about making my own visual novel.

I began researching that idea. I found software out there that are designed to help you create your own visual novel, including the coding, character art and templates. One of those would be a good starting point, if only to get an idea of what’s involved. But there would be other things I’ll need to consider, music, backgrounds, the story itself. If I want to put this up online and get money for it – copyright becomes an issue.

But that’s further down the line, most important I think would be the story. Given whats available there seems to be two different styles of stories Visual Novels display – a choose your own adventure/ending theme that many of the romance and dating sims fall under, then there is another called ‘Kinetic’ which has a pre-determined ending. Both seem to have their merits and as a writer, both have their challenges. I personally feel I would start with a Kinetic story, just to get the feel and work with the software on a decent cast of characters and visuals. But the choose your own adventure/ending sounds intriguing. I remember reading those books as a child and having a good time – but now as  a writer I can see how challenging such a project would be. Yet, maybe that’s something to consider in the near future.

Basically, after doing some quick research on the topic of visual novels, I feel that this is another avenue writers could choose to follow. I’m not sure about the rest of you but I do visualize my novels in my head – and they are typically anime style. Something like this could really take off for me – if I do it right.  It could be another outlet for my writing, a new platform to find followers or those interested in what I’m writing about. Ideally I’d love to do this the proper way with coders and illustrators and make it perfect, but just starting out I’ll settle with one of the software’s first and see how that goes.

This has definitely taken a hold of my mind and imagination. I will have to sit on this idea myself and think about it, even try to find a story that would fit with this style. In the end, this is something to consider for the near future. If anyone is familiar with Visual Novels, I’d love to hear some feedback,  either on suggested VN to read, or topics to research to help learn more about this industry and what stories are lacking.

Editing & Revisions: Take 2

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As many of you are aware, I’m currently in the process of editing an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Young Adult fiction novel. Wow, what a mouthful. I have sent out my third draft to a handful of people to beta read and paid an Editor I know to do a manuscript evaluation. I’m still waiting for a few of my beta readers to get back to me, but I have received the full manuscript evaluation from the editor. It was a lot to take in and digest! I am now just starting to use my editor notes to go back and fix a number of parts of my novel. Thankfully the overall assessment my editor gave me was positive, she enjoyed the story and at times couldn’t put it down. Great starts, but I need to work on my characters and making them more unique and noticeable, my tone and voice and research a few areas a little deeper from what I’ve put together so far.

Nothing too drastic, but here I am finding myself revising once more. I’m trying to make my main character more strong in her convictions, and decision-making. I’m also trying to make my second main character stronger as well, more confident and in control of the situation. It means I’m revising a lot – but I’m still keeping the basic essence there. Or at least I’m trying.

Besides those two characters, my editor pointed out two of my minor characters not having strong arcs or even necessary to the plot. I agree after she mentioned it – but finding solutions is difficult. I don’t want to kill any of them, one being the love interest the second being a member of the paranormal team. For now, I’ve removed the member from the paranormal team from most of the scenes, she’s mentioned but I’ve decided that there was an incident with another member playing a prank on her and she’s in a huff and not returning to participate in the group for the time being. I’m not sure if this is wise, but I want her to still be around in a support/advisory role when the team needs here – either later in this book or in future books. As for the love interest, I’m making him more of a jerk that my main character has a crush on as a foreshadowing of how incompatible they really are as a couple. I might throw him more into the fray, making injure him or something to make his purpose and arc more substantial than what I have it as now. I’m not sure if it’ll work or not.

So there’s my beginning of my fourth draft for you. More revisions then edits. I am worried now that I’m working on a fourth draft that after all that my editor has suggested and the more changes I make – that I’m ruining my novel in someway. I don’t know if I’m taking the right suggestions, making the book better and stronger – or really throwing it back down to the quality of my first draft. These doubts are really making this revision session longer. I’m more hesitant with changes, I’m rewriting sentences four or more times and staring at paragraphs wondering if it’s good enough of if I need to move elements around. Part of me thinks by really thinking hard on my sentence structure, vocabulary and scene structure – I’m making a stronger book – but the other part of me is worried that if I go back to my editor I’ll have even more edits/revisions to do.

There’s really no getting around this until I’ve finished going through all the suggestions and the fourth draft. I will then have to consider doing a second manuscript evaluation or just push forward to a copy-edit instead. I really do hope that each draft I create makes the book better in the end.

Review: Shall We Date? Guard Me Sherlock!

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I believe it was sometime last year I did a review on a dating sim game for the iPhone and other mobile devices… Shall We Date? Wizardess. Well… I found a new game from the same group. This time it’s called Guard Me Sherlock and yup you guessed it – it’s all about falling in love with three characters from the Sherlock Franchise.

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Sherlock Holmes. John Watson. James Moriarty.

I was hooked the moment I read the description. Set in modern times – similar to the BBC Sherlock series, there are several other characters that appear as supportive roles. Not only is John Watson there (and possible love interest storyline), but we’ve got Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, George Lestrade, Hercule Poirot, a teenage male Mika Hudson, the villain James Moriarty (the third love interest storyline), Jeremy Cassel, Jack Stillman and Sebastian Moran. I’m not sure if some of these are characters from other detective mysteries, Hercule I know is one – and the original name of the heroine you’re playing is Jane Marple.

I’m already in love with this – even before I get to the case!

 

So similar to the other romantic dating/visual novel games out there, you play the main heroine (choosing a name of your choice) and pick one of the three character and storylines that accompany them. Throughout the story you are given choices that will impact how much of a bond/love grows between you and that character. Depending on your ‘love meter’ by the end you will have an option of different endings to choose from, hopefully your love meter is high enough to get a happy or blissful ending.

There are other quizzes that happens throughout the game, puzzle quizzes, math quizzes, all with a multiple choice answer to choose from. Thankfully these quizzes have nothing to do with the love meter. I managed to get a few right, but felt I got most of the answers wrong here. However, they are fun and really make you think when you least expect it.

Other checkpoints include ‘sweetie points’ which is in a separate part of the game, and a wardrobe/fashion section that you have to purchase items to put on your mannequins in order to proceed to the next chapter.

The game is free, so there is no reason to purchase in-game money. Sweetie point area earns you coins that will buy a lesser article of clothing that may not allow you to get the ‘premium’ story but enough that you can still proceed and not be hung up or stuck in a particular spot.

So I started my first round with Sherlock Holmes – duh! In this case you (the heroine) are an actress performing a play and are receiving threatening notes. A boring case that Sherlock may not take, yet he surprises you by accepting and returning to the theatre with you. Finding the culprit was easy, but just then as they are checking out the stage, a light fixture from above crashes down and almost hits our heroine. Sherlock is there to protect us, and smiles – the case just got interesting.

From that point you move in with him and John at 221B Baker Street as they try to track down the culprit who’s sabotaging the play. Staying in an apartment full of guys can get romantic, and before long you get used to Sherlock’s strange tendencies and quirks as the two of you fall in love. It’s not perfect, but it feels genuine and I seriously staring falling for it myself.  I managed to reach the blissful ending for this one – but unfortunately I haven’t been able to play through the premium route.

I’m now on the James Moriarty case. Surprisingly the case is completely different. This time I’m still an actress but the play is to be set on a Train, owned by James Moriarty who is a huge fan of yours and begins flirting and throwing money at your. You still had gone to Sherlock Holmes about your reservations of the play, the train and not knowing who it was who hired you to perform. I’m currently on chapter 4 (or 5?) and Sherlock and John have reappeared on the train now that my character is already starting to fall in love with Moriarty. I’m very curious to see how this story goes… James Moriarty is a bit obsessed about your character and it makes me a bit uneasy – but it still feels a bit genuine and I won’t know the ending until I reach it.

I’ll be sure to fill you all in on John’s storyline next. But I highly recommend this game if you’re into dating sim apps or interactive visual novels.

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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.