Of the Arbour is nearly finished!

I just finished writing the final major plotty scene in the OF THE ARBOUR rewrite last night, and have only a few loose threads to wrap up before it’s finished and it can go out to beta readers for editing. While this is always an exciting occasion, I’ve been considering fantasy tropes a lot lately, and how they tie into my stories.

Unlike other novels, I went into OF THE ARBOUR, and especially the rewrite, purposefully using typical fantasy tropes. But in order to make it more fun for me and for the reader, I spun them on their heads. Under normal circumstances, these are all things that I detest reading about, but by (in my opinion) warping them and making them more relatable, they no longer remain those hated tropes we see entirely too often.

TROPES USED IN THE ARBOUR:

  1. The farmboy: Sage is everything the farmboy trope demands: he is thrust into a scenario he didn’t ask for, and bumbles along like a ball in a pinball machine. He’s a nobody who ends up the hero, but by no choice of his own. Now, I don’t actually dislike the farmboy trope because it’s a relatable character, unlike heroes who just somehow know what to do. I find that readers can get more attached to a character who is just as confused as they are. While Sage is good at fighting and often wins his battles, he does so out of skill and not luck, and when he loses, he loses hard. He hates doing anything noteworthy and tries to shy away from others as often as possible, making him a less than ideal hero. In fact, he’s straight up terrible at being the hero.
  2. The prophet/prophecy: Prophecy is one of my most hated aspects of fantasy, followed very closely by the love triangle. It seems like such a cop out to me to have everything prophesied to win or lose, regardless of a character’s choices or skills. So, in this instance, a prophecy is foreseen at the beginning of the novel, when the aforementioned prophet is 20 and doesn’t even know they’re a prophet. Fast-forward 5 years, and a friend who studies prophets is starting to see connections, and yet the “prophet” bungles things so spectacularly that having foreseen this part of the plot doesn’t actually change anything: they’re so thick about it all, so in denial, that even having foreseen a problem and having someone realize it, it doesn’t make a difference in the end. Everything they tried to prevent turns out exactly how it was foreseen, and what work they did was for naught.
  3. The love triangle: Love triangles are a thing I detest nearly as much as prophecy. When I think of a series that has both of these heinous crimes, I think of Wheel of Time, though I love the series despite this. With the Arbour, there is technically a love triangle, but it gets turned on its head: while someone is pursuing Sage, he’s pining after a lost loved one who died a year previous. By the time his emotions are sorted out for the one who died, the pursuer has admitted feelings and they’re both able to move forward. So it’s still technically a triangle, just one of the participants is dead.
  4. The dashing hero: Sage is not your typical fantasy hero. He is riddled with anxieties and issues, and while I imagine he’s handsome and others in the story say as much, he’s got severe body image problems that stem from a bad childhood and adolescence, as well as disfiguring scars and a limp. He’s a cranky, sarcastic, cynical, and oftentimes cruel insomniac that masks his insecurities with teasing and ill humour. But when he’s happy, he’s a delight. He just has to work for it.
  5. The villain: One thing I always try to steer away from is the typical villain who is evil for the sake of being evil. With this rewrite especially, I tried to make it so the antagonist was the antagonist purely because he was not the protagonist. I am a firm believer in the anti-hero concept, because it’s very rare than a person is truly evil. Unless somebody is personifying Hitler, I’m just not into it.

Fantasy tropes are there for a reason – they were tried and true in the past, though more and more people veer away from them. With this rewrite, I dove in feet first, but I’m having a lot of fun turning them around and twisting them so they aren’t your typical overused ideas.

This is the most fun I’ve had with a rewrite. I can’t wait to be finished and send it off to beta readers, so I can get more feedback.

Soon soon soon 😀

Rewrite comparison: Of the Arbour

As you all may or may not know, I wrote a book several years ago that I’m rewriting, called OF THE ARBOUR. While I still liked the plot and the characters, the writing was juvenile and sloppy, and desperately needed honing. Hence, rewrite!

The rewrite very closely follows the same plot as the original, with added characters and new subplots, and a much darker, more tense and miserable tone. I’m on the penultimate or penultimate penultimate, depending on how much I write chapter of the rewrite, and as I reread it and check back at the original for important plot points and bits I still like, I can’t help but be amazed at the difference a few years has had on my writing style and skill.

The original and the rewrite both start the exact same way: Sage, the main character, and Cain, an anti-hero, are sparring for the grandmaster of the Arbour as a final exam for their second-last year at the school. In both scenes, Cain is winning via superior skill and strength, and Sage is forced to defend instead of attack and ultimately loses the fight.

But the difference astounds even me.

OF THE ARBOUR ORIGINAL

Glittering sparks flew as metal screeched against metal, flashing in the dark and echoing painfully in the shadowy cavern. The swords flew apart and their wielders leaped back at each other, swinging and slamming their heavy steel weapons together, causing the blades to scream once more. Their feet shuffled against the rocky floor, hopping off small boulders and the sliding walls of the cavern, their wild, seemingly aimless swings always hitting their mark with natural ease.

Both fighters were male and both tall. They jumped away from each other, lips lifted in silent snarls. The taller of the two had long black curls that brushed shoulders covered in thin cotton, a uniform that moved and breathed freely. He emitted a low roar as he pushed his feet off a flat rock nearby and propelled himself at his foe with a wild slash. His opponent was a slightly shorter blonde with painfully messy hair. His dark blue eyes flashed as the brunette’s blade barely missed the top of his head, and in a split second he rocketed forward, his long sword clasped tightly in his hand as he jabbed forward at his enemy’s feet. The brunette just leaped in time, twisting his body in the air so he landed facing the blonde, who was back on his feet, his blade held defensively. His teeth were bared in a dark sneer, his breathing coming heavily as the black-haired one growled, tossing his sword from his right hand to his left and yanking it in a slash across the blonde’s chest. He barely stepped back in time, swishing his own sword up to slap his enemy’s away, causing the hard metal to screech together.

The young blonde calmed his panting, his pale peach skin flushed with the excitement and adrenaline of the battle. He hated that he was panting and heaving, and that his face was red as the new sun, whereas his foe’s flesh—a dark, olive hue that matched his tangled black hair—never seemed to change from that same shade.

The dark-haired man hesitated. His mouth opened somewhat as he gasped for air, and his gaunt cheeks filled with breath, giving them a rounded shape for a split second, then he exhaled sharply, trying to conserve his energy. His narrowed brown eyes sparkled with the pump of the battle, egging his fellow warrior on, taunting him.

His foe caught the taunt with open arms and grunted as he hefted his sword, thrusting the sharp, slanted tip at his dark rival, his cobalt eyes bright in the dank, dim grotto. The brunette man dodged in time, and the apex of the blade tore the front of his simple white robes, somehow managing to miss the flesh. The skin was left intact.

The blonde launched backward, forcing a few metres between himself and his antagonist. He flexed his fingers on the circular hilt of his sword, lifting his free hand to brush dirt from his long, straight nose. He examined a tear in his own plain white robes that he hadn’t even noticed he sustained—a small bit of crimson was soaking the simple material of his attire, turning a deep vermillion as it spread into the fibres of the clothes. Furious that he had been injured and the brunette man hadn’t, his sky eyes flicked back to his enemy, who was standing calmly fifteen metres away, his brown eyes small and evil in the darkness. The blonde snarled and leaped forward, bringing his sword down in a malicious arc, slamming the blade onto his foe’s. Their faces were centimetres apart, both pushing against each other as hard as they could, muscles straining beneath the flimsy cotton of their robes.

“Enough!”

OF THE ARBOUR REWRITE

He was exhausted.

His muscles trembled when he moved, shuffling back and scraping his feet on sharp rock. Lifting his arms was a challenge, but he had no choice—he had to keep going. When it came, and steel crashed against steel, he felt the vibration in his very bones. They seemed to grind together in his hands where he gripped the smooth leather hilt; but he felt no pain in his flesh, where the skin had grown thick and tough with practice. He knew his soles bled—he had seen the smears of brownish red on the stone floor—but he felt nothing. Aside from hot streaks of salt where the sweat slid down his temples and his chest, his flesh was numb; the pain he felt was etched into his bones, coursed through his muscles with each movement.

But he had to continue. What small part of his mind that wasn’t overwhelmed by his exhaustion knew that he had no choice but to keep going.

The crash came again and again. His breath was loud in his ears, and sweat stung his eyes; he blinked it away and pushed back, giving himself even a fraction of a second to catch his breath.

Cain’s cheeks were flushed mottled scarlet, and his curls were plastered to his skull with sweat. Sage could have smiled, if he had more energy. It came as something of a small relief to know that Cain was just as worn out as he.

The reprieve was brief. Eyes narrowed, sword hilt clenched in both hands, Cain let out a guttural roar and pushed forward off the rocky floor. Sage only had a moment to react, and then their swords were once more locked together. One more step back; another swing and block; and the screech of metallic song that made his ears ring.

As he danced around Cain’s attacks, blocking almost mindlessly, he wondered how long they had been at this. Sunshine streamed in dusty beams through the open mouth of the cave. Sage’s sword met Cain’s once more, and when he shoved it away he hopped backwards several steps, both in an effort to dodge Cain’s relentless blows and to better see the sun.

An hour at least since they began the fight. An hour of the most brutal training of his life.

By the gods, how he wanted it to end.

But there was no end. There would be no end until blood stained one of their blades, and Sage had sense enough to know that it couldn’t be his.

Cain’s attacks were relentless. It was all Sage could do to keep his sword up in time to block them. He had no room for attack of his own, but if he couldn’t get past the speed of Cain’s attacks, he had no hope of drawing first blood. Each time he stepped forward, dragging his feet on the gravel and sand, Cain pushed back. They had endured all the same training—they were well matched as sparring partners—but Cain had just enough of a height advantage over Sage to keep any hope of attack at bay.

Master Kelvan had always said that the best offense was a good defence, but this was getting ridiculous. There was no way to win if you were constantly defending, unless you were lucky to accidentally tire out your opponent enough for him to make a vital mistake.

Sage knew Cain would never make any sort of mistake. Cain was tireless; as a child he and his friends assumed that Cain simply evolved past the need for sleep.

“Sage, Cain, you may stop.”


Check that difference. Even rereading such a small portion of the original makes me cringe.

Practice makes permanent. A wise man once told me that. Read and write and practice, and you’ll get better. It’s the only way to improve.

What I was proud of before I’m embarrassed by now, but that is the way of the artist. Without having been proud of it once, I couldn’t have learned and improved.

Fanart? Yes.

To quote my pal CB Archer on his post about fan art:

Contrary to popular belief, no one ever writes books, makes movies, or becomes a musician for fame, power, or money. They all do it for one thing and one thing only:
Fan Art.

I got my first fan art recently and by recently I mean a few months ago but I’m a mook and totally forgot to upload it and gush like another sort of mook.

Contrary to what one might think, it isn’t PURITY fan art, but CHANGELING, unpublished and collecting dust on my hard drive while I write its threequel, I swear. CB himself actually made this art – based on one of the early scenes of CHANGELING in which main character Aisling and her band of merry soldiers gets entangled with bandits bent on assault and robbery.

Aisling and Leir
Aisling and Leir

Bandits Beware!

Aisling (orange) is a pyrophoric mage – meaning she has the innate power to produce and control fire. Leir (blue) is cryonic – meaning she is basically Elsa and can control ice and snow the cold never bothered her anyway.

Tying into this, actually… I was recently writing USURPER, Changeling’s threequel, and I wrote myself into a corner in which I needed lyrics to a ballad. Being completely nonpoetic myself, I commissioned by friend Bethany, a songwriter and poet, to come up with a few lines for me. Inspired by the idea of writing a lament and also the lure of Mars bars Bethany jumped aboard with gusto and wrote not just a few lines, but an entire song – and then decided she wanted to write lyrics to a heroic ballad I had referenced elsewhere in the same chapter.

So, without further ado, one stanza of Winter Song, written by Bethany Sanjenko for USURPER.

When the winter winds came, he put on his boots
He opened the door and tightened his noose
Now he lays in a grave, shallow and cold
No one to have and no one to hold

I’m hella pumped on all this. And according to CB Archer, now I have succeeded!

Also, you should go check out his page and Bethany’s Soundcloud, both linked. His as of yet unpublished book is hysterical, and Bethany is seriously talented.

Blog hop!

Apparently there is a thing called a blog hop, and I have been tagged in it, by the illustrious Elisa Nuckle. I’ve been given four questions to answer about my writing process, so here we go!

And bear with me, because I’m on my phone app and there’s only so much I can do

What am I working on?

I’m currently, because my computer is fried, working on editing by hand Changeling, my magnum opus. This will be round two of edits, then she’ll be doing her rounds of beta readers before the next round of edits. I’m also bringing together the climax of her sequel, Abomination, though that is more difficult now, as it too must be by hand. sigh.

How does my work differ from others from its genre?

Well, it’s unique in that it’s written by me!

ha ha
Continue reading

Updates on the projects

Abomination Changeling comparison

And now, an update on the many projects I’m working on!

Changeling

Now, Changeling has been finished for a long time now, and I’ve already gone through and edited it once. But I’ve just sent out copies to beta readers, so the second round of edits will be starting shortly. I’m also in the process of organizing a photo shoot with an old friend and photographer, and my friend and beta reader Lexi, to start creating a cover for it, so she can be sold online!

Abomination

Abomination, as can be seen from the above picture, has surpassed Changeling, its predecessor, in word count. I always had a hunch this would happen, and now it finally has! I’m actually very excited about this, because it means that ‘Bominatino is getting close to the climax. Plots are being brought together now, and others are being opened for the next in the series, thus far titled Usurper. Though I have had Lexi beta reading ‘Bominatino since I started, I will be going through a round of edits fairly soon, and will need more readers once I begin.

“After the tremors began to shake buildings from their foundations, the sky split and the mountain burst.

“Black snow belched from the crater atop the mountain and covered the city in dust. Molten fire and rock came next, and melted everything in its path. We could do nothing but watch the city burn, watch as the river of fire came closer and closer and finally consumed all.

“For countless aeons after I swam in empty blackness, unable to move or speak or do anything but listen to the final cries of my people as they drowned in ash and flame. Until the day you came along, magus,” Mirek Ko’shul, the King of Ghosts, murmured, and his dark eyes fell on Leto, “and the power you carry in your soul, so like my own, woke the curse in all of us.”

The quote above is a story told to the main characters by a ghost of a long dead king, explaining the final days of his people. This is a vital point for them, to solving the mysteries that have plagued them for so long. Continue reading

What do you look for in a book?

IMG_20130709_100632
A portion of my own book collection.

Everyone chooses books for different reasons. It might be that they only read one genre, or prefer dialogue to action, or vice versa. There are many ways to choose a book.

I start with my genres when I’m looking at a book. Being that I work in a bookstore, I’m subject to all sorts of books every day, and I like to think that I read a variety of things, but I still always look for a few certain things to begin with. My favourite genre is fiction, and to break it down, I prefer epic and high fantasy, and historical fiction. Despite the old adage, I do judge a book by its cover, because a cover is like the face of a person: it doesn’t tell you much about the inside, but it helps you choose whether or not you want to keep going. If that makes me terribly shallow, so be it. I have found many books with terrible covers that are decent reads – but I have also found many terrible books with terrible covers that should have warned me. Again, working in a bookstore gives me access to this every day.

I love epic dialogue. Characters who can have banter and arguments back and forth, and build relationships that way. That being said, I do really love action and description. Purple prose isn’t something that’s really enticed me, because it’s so exhausting to read after a while, but I do appreciate colourful settings and thoughtful descriptions. Descriptions help make a character and a story, and a combination of dialogue and description is what really does it for me. If I had to choose, I would probably pick dialogue over description, though, being that I do more of that myself.

I look for strong female characters who don’t behave like childish idiots, and history that has been properly researched. Fantasy that is believable, despite being just that – fantasy. I really dislike most urban fantasy, despite PURITY being technically classed as urban fantasy. If a book has a sassy-looking woman on the cover wearing pleather and holding a sword, I won’t give the book the time of day. It might be the book that changes my life, and I’ll never know. It just looks so silly to me that I can’t even stomach it.

And it probably goes without saying, but I won’t read a book if it isn’t well written. When Fifty Shades of Grey was hot shit last year, many of my friends and family insisted I read it. I wouldn’t, and not because it was filthy erotica, but because I heard it was terribly written. I am a fan of the Game of Thrones HBO show on tv, and upon the urging of a friend I started reading the Song of Ice and Fire books. I seriously dislike Martin’s writing style. I know it’s terrible to like the show more than the books, but oh my god. I’m love the overall story, but the minute and useless details and rambling idiocy and text walls and flashbacks make me want to slit my throat. It’s taken me half a year to read two and a half of the books, and I can read faster than most.

Historical fiction that’s well done, epic fantasy, bold dialogue and beautiful descriptions, and an understanding of good writing. Pretty straightforward, actually.

So how does a book jump off the shelf for you?

The conundrum of being a writer

WRITER’S BLOCK.

There. I said it. And what a phrase it is.

Two simple words shouldn’t be so terrifying. But they are. They really are.

Whenever I want to sit down and write, I’m at a place where I can’t – namely, at work. And vice versa: whenever I have time to sit down and write, I’m unable to do much more than gawk at my computer screen or get wholly distracted by imgur or the newfangled television James set up in my bedroom. Even as I write this post, I’m getting distracted by the Tudors.

Like, three days distracted. I’m sick.

But the thing is, distraction is the only cure. If you sit there and stare at the cursor, waiting for something to happen and damning your brain for suddenly being a sack of shit, nothing will ever come to you. Distraction is the only means.

My best time for inspiration is Tuesdays and Wednesdays at work. Why, you might ask? Well, I might answer, because that is the day the LMPI – import – magazines arrive at the store, and the day I do nothing but sit in the back and price and receive. It’s monotonous and distracting, and because of it my house is littered with handwritten notes for full write-up at a later date.

I’m weathering a bit of a slump right now. It isn’t terrible, and I am powering through it, but it’s a challenge. After not touching ABOMINATION for a while and only working on OF THE ARBOUR, I’ve pretty much switched places, only I’m trudging on the former and now flying through it as I did with OF THE ARBOUR.

Ah, the life of a writer is a troubled one.

What does everyone else do to power through writer’s block?