Reading and Writing Ranting Advent Calendar!

Oops, I forgot to post these. The past couple of months have been super busy with more hours and responsibilities at work, a new writing project that I got to 38K for NaNoWriMo, and planning a Christmas camp at work. Luckily, I have some long weekends to relax and spend time with my family over the holidays.

Anyway, onto the calendar. I managed to post them on Instagram every day, so you can check out the Instagram story highlight or my feed as I add more, or scroll down. Unfortunately, the videos don’t work unless you click and go to my Instagram, but the mini book review and writing tip are in the caption.

Killing Characters!

Someone has to die in fantasy fiction, right? But why?

Two main reasons for me are…

1 – To have an effect on another character. 

It could be an inciting incident near the beginning of the book. 

It also works to weaken the character just as they’re close to their goals. 

Or, it could send the character spiralling, and another character is forced to step up and prove themselves.

2 – To remind readers of the stakes.

There are so many god-like characters with seemingly unlimited powers these days. They’re immortal, invicible, and this means they can’t die, so there are no stakes.

Killing off a significant character early on makes it clear that they do have weaknesses, and readers feel that threat better.

Sure, some are resurrected or found in the underworld, which is a whole different story.

I don’t mind when it’s an instant resurrection or when the MC goes on a quest to the underworld to get their loved one. But I hate when a deceased character suddenly pops up out of nowhere. 

I’m currently pondering a character’s death myself. It’s a complicated one in that I could use their POV in this limbo that they’re stuck in, or I could have another character sense them so it’s obvious to readers that they’re not fully dead.

I’ve discussed it with others, and I’m still undecided. But I will make it clear right after the supposed death that the character it not entirely dead. That way, I don’t annoy readers with a random resurrection. 

Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay 

All Alone!

Characters might spend time alone, either before or after significant events. Preparing and processing is important for character motivation and consequential actions. It can also keep throughs out of busy scenes where it might distract from the moment.

Here are a few things I like when reading or writing characters on their own. 

  • Keep it short. Long paragraphs of time alone with their thoughts can be boring.
  • Tie it into something active, like exploring or going through old trinkets that prompt memories for the character to think about. 
  • Practicing something potentially useful is another way to make it active and have the character pause once in a while to remind themselves why they’re doing it. 
  • Make it lead up to something like a significant event that the MC is preparing for. What are they’re hopes and fears for the outcome
  • Or have the MC processing something afterwards. How do they feel about it and what are they going to do next? 
  • Maybe have them talk to a pet or inanimate object or someone they lost in an imaginary conversation. 

So there you have it. Ways for an MC to be alone without boring readers with nothing but thoughts. 

Random Update!

Don’t forget to check out my Reading Ranting for thoughts on reading and book reviews. Feel free to ask about my Writing Ranting Discord group @lovefantasy#0367. Follow me on Instagram and TikTok.

Writing is going really well. I rewrote the intro the Out of Ashes, which is now with a couple of writing friends for fresh eyes. I’m happy with the new opening. It’s a little more dramatic on an emotional perspective, but not too heavy on story points. 

We’ll see what my writerly people say, then I’ll revise it based on their suggestions, and try agents again. So far, no luck. One said they would take a look at my full manuscript in January, but they’re not taking on new clients this year. That was encouraging that they showed interest.

I’m not taking it to heart because a writer never knows what a potential agent might be looking for. You miss the mark by a fraction, and they won’t consider you. I’ve read enough people moaning about not getting an agent to know that it’s a long shot and might take a good while. 

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to self-publish any time soon unless I edit myself (BIG FAT NO NO ON THAT) and smile very sweetly at a couple of graphic designers I know to do a super cheap cover and help me format the book. I wouldn’t feel right asking for that if I couldn’t pay upfront, even if they did offer me friends and family discount. But if I won the lottery, then I’d love to commission a cover and formatting from them as a fully-paying client.

I’ve gone TikTok mad 🤪. It started off as an extension of my Instagram with writing-related reels. It spiralled from there and became a blue-haired steampunk girl cosplay. This is actually super fun for my writing since I have a blue-haired steampunk character. She started off as a secondary character, but as I wrote more of the book, I saw openings for more characterization.  

Here are some recent favourites from my Instagram and TikTok. As you can see, they are quite different, but both are meaningful to me as a writer and avid reader.

The link to this TikTok video looks questionable depending on what app you’re looking at it, but it’s a safe link.

But mostly, it’s fun and has prompted me to put myself out there more. After a rough few years with low self-esteem and serious self-doubt, it’s about time I picked myself up. I used to do all kinds of creative things,and I was good at them, but finding the confidence and brain power to do them has been hard in recent years. 

I’m also doing fun videos on Instagram in relation to reading and writing, which I freaking love doing. I bought a ring light, some cheap props, and new makeup, but apart from that, I don’t need anything. I use TikTok or Instagram’s built-in video editing software or PowerDirector’s free version for more precise editing. I’ve yet to explore Snapchat’s video capabilities, but it’s on my list of things to learn more about in order to make my videos more interesting. And as of October, I’ll be minimising content on this site and posting links to my Instagram and Facebook.

On the personal front, I’ve painted my spare room and closet, died the lower half of my hair turquoise, and am just having a lovely summer break. I still have two weeks off, plus a mini trip planned, just a couple of nights away, but I’m looking forward to the change of scenery.

Featured image from a recent TikTok and Instagram. Yup, that’s me, and I love this video despite struggling with self image for years.

Writing a Series!

Writing a series can boggle a writer’s mind before you get things figured out. If you plan to write multiple standalones with overlapping characters and world-building, then you have more freedom with plots. But if you plan for your series to be one massive story with shorter installments in each book, then you need to think carefully about how to start.

Here’s a quick list of things to consider. See below the list for more thoughts.

  • Plan ahead in plot and world-building.
  • Don’t reveal too much.
  • Don’t hide too much.
  • Multiple POVs can keep things fresh.

Trust me, I’ve drafted a pentalogy, and book 5 was the deciding factor in things that I needed to play on as soon as book 1. I strongly recommend you plan the whole thing, even if book 2 and onwards is more of a rough synopsis or scribbles of world-building that only make sense to you. It helps you see where you want the series to end so you can get the journey right.

Consider carefully what elements you play on in book 1. You don’t want to reveal everything and repeat yourself in the rest of the series. At the same time, you need to hint at things you’ll need for later. Ideas that come out of nowhere can annoy readers depending on how you’ve played the possibilities prior to the reveal. This also helps with keeping things fresh in each book. 

One idea, and hear me out, is to switch protagonist in each book, or at least alternate. My Starlighters saga alternates female protags with their respective love interests as the 2nd MC. I still give the others a POV so readers don’t get disappointed if they fall in love with my 1st protagonist and her love interest, but they take a back seat in book 2 and 4 to give a fresh perspective on the ongoing story. 

I also have alternating minor POV for a couple of short scenes to give a fuller perspective throughout the whole series. You’d be surprised how much a POV switch can spice things up. 

There are so many things to consider when writing a series, but if I’ve learned anything while outlining and drafting multiple series, is that you have to account for future possibilities. 
Image by fotografierende from Pixabay

Everyone Judges a Book by Its Cover!

Writers go on about the first page or chapter of a book being a deal-breaker, and it is as far as the words go, but sometimes, the cover is what catches a reader’s attention before they even check the blurb or read a sample. 

A dull or low-grade cover will put me right off. I can’t help what I feel over an image just as I can’t help what I feel over the first page. The higher the quality and more creative, the better. Of course, I’m mostly referring to fantasy, but the quality applies to any novel in my opinion. 

I don’t mean for big fancy graphics to blind me. Simple can still be eye-catching and creative. I’m talking about smooth images, top quality graphics, and something that relates to the title, which should also relate to the book. The reader should be able to judge the book by its cover and be right.

Below are some top-notch covers on my bookshelf/kindle.

The above covers vary in complexity of imagery, but they express the general ideas in relation to the story based on the blurb and what I read in the book. Also, each one looks professional and well thought-out. 

Simple can be the best if your cover looks graphically pleasing.

When I need a break from actual writing, I like to find inspirational images and music, so I have a collection of character images and cover wishlists. I can’t use them for the book because of copyright on Deviantart, where I find most of my inspirational images. But I would beg them to sell me the images as my book covers. 

Below are some of my wishlist covers. 

Find this image here.
This would be amazing on the cover of Wings of Fire and Fury, book 1 of my pentalogy… when I get around to the next revision. 
Burning
Out of Ashes – This image is perfect in tone and content for my debut novel.
Queen-of-Ice
Blades of Ice and Darkness – This image ticks so many boxes for book 2 of my Starlighters pentalogy. 

With the right graphic designer, I know we would come up with amazing images to each of my novels. Until then, I’ll settle for these inspiring images as my wish covers.


Image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

Work/Life/Writing Balance!

It’s ironic that my last post was about how writing is the same as running a small business, and then I go and do almost nothing writing related this month. Normally, I’d feel bad about that, and the lack of creative outlet would drag my mood down. But it’s done nothing of the sort. I’ve been immersed in my job and loving it.

When your day job gets busy, it’s important to make it a priority. Your writing won’t pay the bills unless you’re an international bestseller with merch and sponsors and the like. Unfortunately, the rest of us need to keep a regular job and find a better balance. 

Here are some things I try to do to make my life easier so I might find more time and energy to get some writing or writing related things done.

  • Don’t eat food that takes long to prepare. That doesn’t mean eat sandwiches or anything from a packet. Check out my Hungry Writer page for quick prep and healthy recipes that can see you through several meals. 
  • Get as many chores done as possible the moment you get a burst of energy. It’s great to keep a list of things to do each day, but if you get ahead of yourself, you could use the time the next day to write.
  • Pick out your clothes the night before or for the whole week on Sunday night. Sounds a over-excessive, but it takes maybe ten minutes to pull out a few outfits and spares you the hassle in the mornings. I usually pick a bag, and everything matches or compliments that colour. 
  • Try going straight to your computer after you’ve eaten. It’s always good to sit and let a meal go down, so use that time to pull up your document and get to writing, even if it’s only half an hour.
  • Limit your procrastination or… and we all know it’s a thing… check your phone apps when you’re doing a number 2. Yup, I said it. 
  • If you have a long drive to work, try audiobooks. I know they can be expensive, but Audiblle has a subscription with one book included every month for around the price of a physical book (country depending). 
  • Even if you’re tired and desperate to get home, try going via the supermarket on your way home if it’s close by. It’ll save you going out again later. 
  • Speaking of shopping, make a strict shopping list in order of the supermarket layout, or in departments if you shop at various supermarkets. It’ll make it easier to see what you need and grab it as you go round.

I do most of this whether work is busy or not, and I find myself more relaxed and with a little more free time here and there. This month, I’ve focussed more on my job as an English language teacher for children both at work and at home. The academy I work for runs a summer camp in July in the mornings. We sing and dance in English, learn a little vocabulary based on the daily topic and make something fun and crafty. It’s a lot of planning in June and switching from evenings to mornings, but with 1 week left, it’s been amazingly fun.

But, this meant that I was super tired and couldn’t manage long at my computer. Even now, I’ve spent all day cleaning because I lacked the energy all week, and I just want to flop on the sofa and watch a film. I’m thinking the Troll Hunters movie for funsies. I’m five years old inside, so I love stuff like that. Or the new Masters of the Universe. I’ll think about it while I make my usual Saturday night pizza.

Anyhoo, back to my point. 

Balancing work and life and writing is hard, and even if you have the time, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll have the energy or brain power.

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay 

Writing Is a Business!

Writing is a business, especially if you plan to self-publish. You need to start thinking like a business owner as well as a writer. Make time for the various writing tasks the way you would at any other job.That’s if you want to make an income from it, otherwise, write however you want. Or write how you want anyway.

I want to publish my work, but I’m very realistic about how I can’t live on my writing. I love my teaching job and have time for writing, too. It’s like I have two jobs but only get paid for one. Most people who work at home or run a small business from home have the luxury of choosing their hours and managing their own time. But for some, managing their own time is a chore.

Here’s some helpful things to think about when structuring your own schedule to help make the most of your writing and grow it like a business.

  • Writing is your main task, so allow blocks of time to get as much done as possible.
  • Allow time for things like planning, researching, and finding inspiration.
  • Use a calendar to plan and remind yourself of tasks. I use different colours for different tasks.
  • If you use social media or blogs to self-promote, think of that as a presentations for potential clients.
  • Investing in things like writing books or courses or writing software is no different from investing in a startup company. There are things you need from day one, and things you can save up for as you make more progress. See my “Writing on a Budget” post for more on that.
  • Critiquing and sharing your work is like a meeting where you all discuss your current projects and help each other make the best of them.
  • Editing can be fun or boring as hell depending on how you approach it. I like to think of it as making sure everyone else is doing their job properly, and if not, you deal with it. I recommend outsourcing to a professional just as some businesses would with aspects out of their skill set.
  • You could think of querying agents as offering your fantastic services.
  • Then you sell your final product to shops for purchase while keeping up with marketing and designing your next products.

Running a small business can seem like a daunting idea until you realise that it’s just structuring what you enjoy into something you can make money from. Just don’t quit your day job.

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay 

Shadows

I once walked in the dark, a shadow of the woman I used to be.

More shadows followed me, fears and unfulfilled desires.

I became the shadows, chasing what I thought I wanted.

Time taught me to let go and stop chasing.

But now you’re my shadow, watching when I no longer want you.

You pushed me over the edge and watched me fall.

But I didn’t hit the ground. 

I flew despite everything.

So you have no right to watch me soar.

This is my flight, not yours.

And my shadows are far below me as the glorious sun warms my wings.

So to you, my darkest shadow, you no longer darken my flight.

For more pieces like this, check out my Embracing Darkness collection.

Vegetable Spanish Tortilla for a Hungry Writer!

This is an adaptation of a great Spanish dish that’s healthy in it’s original form or super healthy this recipe. The Spanish tortilla has a different version depending on what part of Spain you’re in. In Galicia, it’s just eggs, potatoes, and maybe onions.

Here’s a low carb version or a full meal version if you add potatoes. You’ll need…

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tomato
  • Half a red bell pepper
  • Half a small courgette
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

For a more authentic version, you can also add…

  • 1 large potato
  • Half an onion

Method.

  • Cut the vegetables into small slices.
  • If you choose the authentic version, fry the onions first, then add the potatoes. 
  • If you go for my version, fry the peppers for a couple of minutes before adding the courgettes and tomatoes.
  • Whisk the eggs until fluffy and add to the vegetables.
  • Leave for a few minutes until the bottom is solid. I recommend checking this by sliding a fork down the edge. If it comes away from the pan without breaking, then it’s ready to flip.
  • Use a smooth-edged plate to flip the tortilla onto, then slide the uncooked side back into the pan.
  • Leave a few more minutes until the whole tortilla moves as one. Double check the inside since it tends to be a a little on the runny side, which is fine if the rest is cooked.
  • Cut into 4/6 triangles.

I hope you enjoy this variation on a fantastic Spanish dish. He taught me the more authentic version, but adding the vegetables was my addition, also popular in various parts of Spain.