I'm not here. I'm just a figment of your imagination.

On Writing and Worldbuilding: Volume I by Timothy Hickson

Writing advice tends to be full of ‘rules’ and ‘tips’ which are either too broad to be helpful or outright wrong. In On Writing and Worldbuilding, we will discuss specific and applicable ideas to consider, from effective methods of delivering exposition and foreshadowing, to how communication, commerce, and control play into the fall of an empire.

ON WRITING
Part I: Prologues
Part II: The First Chapter
Part III: The Exposition Problem
Part IV: Foreshadowing
Part V: Villain Motivation
Part VI: Hero-Villain Relationships
Part VII: Final Battles
Part VIII: The Chosen One
Part IX: Hard Magic Systems
Part X: Soft Magic Systems
Part XI: Magic Systems and Storytelling

ON WORLDBUILDING
Part XII: Polytheistic Religions
Part XIII: Hidden Magical Worlds
Part XIV: How Empires Rise
Part XV: How Empires Work
Part XVI: How Empires Fall

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
Part XVII: How I Plan a Novel
Dozens of sidenotes and extra thoughts on all these wonderful stories

REVIEW

An excellent fantasy writing resource

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I am an aspiring fantasy writer and world-building is definitely something I struggle with. On some aspects I do a bit too much of it to the point of getting distracted from the story, and on other aspects I do too little when I needed to do more. Not only does this book ground me on the important parts of world-building, but also explain their purpose and how to best apply them. Reading this is also a reminder to me to check out the author’s YouTube channel (“Hello Future Me”) more often as he excels in explaining things with some depth and clarity much like in this book (and also I’m curious about what might come in the next volume). I highly recommend this for aspiring fantasy writers.

*This book was read and reviewed (in Amazon & Goodreads) in December 2019 as part of my participation in the 2019 Indiecember Challenge. Sorry for the late post.

100 Things Successful People Do: Little Exercises for Successful Living: 100 self help rules for life by Nigel Cumberland

YOUR GUIDE TO CREATING A SUCCESSFUL LIFE
This is your guide to realizing your dreams, from the large and audacious to the small and mundane.

100 Things Successful People Do is packed with great ideas for working smart and living well, all carefully chosen to help you achieve any kind of success you can imagine. You will discover the habits that are common to successful people and find out how to use them in your own life.

Every chapter features a new idea that will help you get closer to your goals. Mixing simple descriptions with activities and exercises, you will learn the optimal mindset and habits you need to succeed in work and life.

100 Things Successful People Do is your guide to successful living.

REVIEW

A wonderful guide to a good life

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve become suspicious of various life advice because when I was young, I was given a lot of them and grew up realizing they were actually quite ignorant and narrowminded. So I trust my own learning experiences and try to think of their own perspectives and situation when listening to others’ advice and check whether it really helps my situation not. Long story short, I’m not fond of self-help books, unless if they talk about a craft I’m interested in learning (such as writing). But when my sister got this book, I decided to get a copy myself and found time to read it. I’m happy to say I’ve learned some of these already, based on my own life experiences, and agree on others, which I’ve yet to apply in my own life. There’s nothing in here that I would completely disagree with it. The best thing I like about this book is its inclusion of how to put each advice into action. Overall, this is great guide to live a fulfilling life and I hope to achieve habits of maybe 70% of these before I die. (I’m setting realistic goals here lol 100% is too overwhelming, don’t judge me.)

*This book was read and reviewed (in Amazon & Goodreads) in December 2019. Sorry for the late post.

Dear Midnight by Zack Grey

Dear Midnight is a poetic love letter to the darkest moments. A hello to the moon. A break from the idea that love can only be found in the daylight.

______________________

we are a
generation of
almost lovers,
gazing with
gleaming eyes
at the moon,
knowing she empathizes
with our same hearts
always missing each other
by nothing more
than those few minutes
that separate darkness
from daylight.

REVIEW

A precious story in love poems

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A beautiful flow of romantic poetry in shades of love and loss. My favorites were the little touches of symmetry like when he says “you taste like regret and i love how familiar it is” and then later, “you taste like love and i regret how familiar it is”, and the added drama of strikethrough texts, among other things. This is truly and excellent collection.

*This book was read and reviewed (in Amazon & Goodreads) in December 2019. Sorry for the late post.

Singapore Fling (Carpe Diem Chronicles, #2) by Maida Malby

Their one torrid weekend tryst is not nearly enough. They want more.

French-Filipina Maddie Duvall should be living it up at her challenging new job in glamorous Singapore. But two months after her wild weekend with US Air Force officer Aidan Ryan, she’s still yearning for him. She craves the passion only he can ignite in her.

Aidan’s job takes him around the world, yet he can’t get Maddie out of his mind. When he returns to his assignment in Singapore, he seeks her out with a proposition she can’t turn down.

Intensely enamored with one another, their relationship takes off. But when Aidan’s mission exposes treachery by someone close to Maddie, lines blur and wires get crossed. Can their growing love survive the intrigue?

REVIEW

Singapore delights in a sexy package with a dash of espionage

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Another steamy installment from Carpe Diem Chronicles, this time with a Singaporean flair in the form of food and locale. The recipe at the end was a nice touch. I currently live in Singapore and remember being hooked to chicken rice as well when I was still new here. Well, aside from food, we have career woman Maddie and military man Aidan and their sexy romance which may or may not be just a fling ;) Another fun read to spice up the senses and palate.

*This book was read and reviewed (in Amazon & Goodreads) in December 2019 as part of my participation in the 2019 Indiecember Challenge. Sorry for the late post.

Allegiance (Deity Rising, #2) by Kilian Grey

Pride must be swallowed.

Duty shall be honored.

Loyalty shall be tested.

Warriors must rise to the challenge.

Faust escaped Lathil’s cruelty, but an even greater weight awaited him when Aris, the Deity of Azure, announced Faust as the High King—the being all deities must follow. Lathil’s Blessed, Relan, recaptured Faust and wants to use Faust’s newfound lineage to his advantage.

High King Faust refuses to give into Relan’s demands for information and is faced with a tough decision—talk or die. Faust uses his magic to bring help to him, only to later realize he’s made a deadly mistake. Many in Windilum hold Faust in contempt for his war against them, forcing him to rely on Ignas’s strict orders for the Guild of Smithery to protect and cover for him.

The Kingdoms of Windilum and Roltan need a trustworthy and strong High King to lead them to victory. But a dark secret looms in the past and Faust feels the line between the past and present have begun to meld. Faust must restore the kingdoms to their rightful rulers while keeping Vasil, the Deity of Carnage, at a distance. He is ready to unite the kingdoms and discard his role as the puppet king, but is Faust willing to die for it?

REVIEW

Action, magic, and gay romance

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Faust’s adventure continues in this new installment, not only physically but sexually and magically as well. This was a fun read, full of action and revelations. It also has loads of characters and their various titles, which confuse the hell out of me, but it’s nothing new from the first book and somehow I’ve gotten used to that. Aside from the intriguing world-building, the character dynamics are totally different from my own life as a straight female, given that almost all the characters here are gay (and those that aren’t are probably bi). Here, Faust starts off injured and meets a new acquaintance in the form of Vas, who has a secret identity and a knowledge of Faust’s past life. Overall, it was an enjoyable read despite the confusion.

*This book was read and reviewed (in Amazon & Goodreads) in December 2019 as part of my participation in the 2019 Indiecember Challenge. Sorry for the late post.

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T. A. Hernandez

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Most Fantastic Show on Earth…

Three years ago, the Ban changed everything, outlawing certain forms of magic and bringing about the rise of powerful crime syndicates. Now, speakeasies in every city sell illegal charms and jinxes, and bootleggers traffic restricted potion ingredients across the country. But even in this changing world, the magic of the circus still acts as a wondrous escape and provides entertainment for all.​

Jake Strickland owns one such circus, inherited after an accident ended his career as a rodeo dragon rider. He also inherited the circus’ financial troubles, but since the show became his, he’s slowly managed to turn it into a profitable business once more. Or at least, that’s what he thought.

When a dangerous mobster comes to collect an old debt, Jake resorts to desperate measures to get the money before a strict deadline. With lives and livelihoods at stake, he battles the clock, his responsibilities to the circus, and a longstanding personal grudge that has festered for years. Can he pay back the mob before it’s too late?

REVIEW

A charming read!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Despite our main character Jake Strickland finding himself in an ugly predicament with the mob, I found this book to be cozy and charming, with likeable characters, wonderful creatures, and fascinating magic. My only gripe is that the title talks about Calico, but is actually mainly about Jake. Jake is not a bad character to follow, though, and I really felt for him struggling to do his best given an impossible situation. Aside from Jake, I also liked Grace Hawkins and the Bruno especially in their support for Jake. The world building is also interesting, and if there were more stories from this world, I would definitely be willing to read them. Overall, Calico Thunder rides again, is quite an enjoyable read!

*This book was read and reviewed (in Amazon & Goodreads) in December 2019 as part of my participation in the 2019 Indiecember Challenge. Sorry for the late post.

Canellian Eye: Prophecy by Caroline Noe

The towering monolith of Erulia’s Prophecy stood for millennia in the watery paradise of Canellia, its warning unheeded.

That time is long past.

In the wake of dying twin suns, this generation faces extinction as the carving crumbles under the onslaught of an Ice Age.

Then, in the depths of despair, a child is born, bearing a singular birthmark: the symbol of their foretold saviour, Jehul’s Eye.

In a bid to find New Canellia, the Chosen youth launch into space, following their Prophet, Quaylan.

But where is he leading them?

Destiny is never simple.

REVIEW

An endearing set of characters from different worlds; a great start to a series

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The pacing starts off a bit slow as we are introduced to characters of a dying planet. Honestly, it took me a while to care about them. But then, as they try to do their best to resolve issues when things go wrong, and end up in dire circumstances on another planet, I became more and more intrigued by the characters, the plot, and the worldbuilding. There were scenes of suspense, difficult heart-wrenching moments, and sprinkles of hope. A solid beginning to a fascinating series!

*This book was read and reviewed (in Amazon & Goodreads) in December 2019 as part of my participation in the 2019 Indiecember Challenge. Sorry for the late post.

For Nanowrimo last year, I decided to tackle a brand new story from one of the ideas I had that I’ve never really drafted. My WIP at that time was incredibly ambitious – for me, at least – and I’ve decided to put it on hold for this new project. However, because of what I’ve learned from tackling that ambitious WIP, I realize there are things that seem to be holding me back from fully fleshing out my new WIP.

The most significant one, I feel, is the fear of world-building. I felt that this time, I’m not going to start on the world-building until I’ve fleshed out the plot. Yet even when I’ve completed the outline of my story, I still find myself afraid to really focus on the world-building. In the previous WIP, I was engrossed in the world-building and not so much in the story, and as a result, I built a story that would serve the world-building rather than the other way around. It was a mess (and still is, actually). Right now, I’m afraid I’d do the same thing again, even though I have a somewhat solid outline where I can pull out the parts that need world-building – and do only those parts. This is something I’m gonna have to tackle if I’m going to complete the story.

Another thing holding me back is fleshing out other characters. This is another fear borne out of my experience with my previous (still unfinished) WIP. That one had a ton of characters with POVs and some significant ones without POVs. For these characters, I know their character arcs, personalities, and relationships with other characters. And because of that, I have far too many subplots. For the new project, I found myself afraid to even touch the secondary characters’ backstories. I feel very little connection – or none at all – to the characters aside from the protagonist. A few of them would need some backstory – of which I have a general concept, but only in broad strokes – to sort-of explain their relationship or interaction with the main character, and I’m just afraid to flesh them out, afraid I’d end up with a runaway subplot and create random characters or conflict or scenes for that specific subplot, even though I know better now.

The last thing that I feel could be potentially holding me back is my resistance to writing in first person. Objectively speaking, I’m starting to believe that a first-person POV would enhance the storytelling given the character’s internal struggle, but I refrain from doing it for a few reasons. Let me start by saying that this story idea was inspired by depressing things, and I believe at that time, I was really into dark depressing anime. And for some reason when writing this story, I somehow wanted to preserve that kind of depressing tone which I feel works well with it being a dark fantasy. I don’t want it to end up being some kind of self-insert but in a depressing way, with me remembering how I felt back then when this idea came to mind. Or, I might mess up the tone because, at the time of writing it, I’m not really feeling depress-y. Also, the main character is supposed to have a personality different from mine. Would I lose track of her personality and end up inserting mine instead? I don’t know. Well, this issue is really just a thought and it’s not a big deal. I’m quite comfortable with third person limited and will continue to tell the story that way. (I also suspect these are all based on my own misconceptions of what it’s like writing in first person.)

If you are currently writing, is there anything holding you back?

I was planning to post an update of my current progress but decided on this topic instead because there’s really not much to update as of now. I am updating my outline based on the 50K+ words I’ve drafted and have grouped and regrouped the scenes into chapters. The outline is basically for me to check if everything flows well structurally without having to read through everything, but apparently, it’s not easy to summarize a scene (in paragraph or list format) and not that much fun either. I also can’t seem to make up my mind on which scenes should go together in a chapter. Right now, I’m looking at about 35-40 chapters for around 70 scenes. I hope to complete the draft and the updated outline by the end of Feb this year. We’ll see if I can accomplish that.

 

Entangled Lives by Imran Omer

Raza, a poor orphan trapped in the slums of Pakistan, is sent to a strict madrassah where he meets and falls in love with Perveen. They attempt to flee the city to escape their respective fates but fail. Perveen, pregnant, is sent back to her family, and Raza is sent to Afghanistan to fight as a Taliban solider. American journalist, Rachael Brown, travels to Afghanistan to cover the political unrest. When she meets Raza for a brief interview, she sees for the first time the true face of the Taliban: poor and desperate young men with nowhere else to go. As the war unfolds, their paths cross again, and each must decide what they owe the other.

REVIEW

Eye-opening and bittersweet

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The novel follows the heartbreaking story of Raza who lives a life of hardship and sacrifice in Pakistan. Although we do follow a journalist Rachael who has her own struggles, this is very much Raza’s story. His story is quite compelling for me especially that I don’t live and definitely can’t imagine living in the circumstances and environment he lives in. The glimpses of politics, societal dynamics, human interaction, and relationships are eye-opening and thought-provoking for me, albeit depressing. I love that it ends on a sweet note, even though I do wish things had turned out better for both Raza and Rachael.