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.

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.

I want to set realistic goals, but at the same time, challenge myself. I also want a clear list from which I can refer to at the start of 2021 to see what I have achieved and what I have failed to accomplish. Aside from that, I want to include in my list those that I have failed and keep doing so yearly until I achieve them (unless if they don’t make sense to be redone). And for those that I have achieved, I should either keep it or increase it – although, this only applies to countable goals (like how many books to read).

Now that I have set some ground rules, here are my goals…

2020 Reading Goals

  • Read 50 Books. I thought 50 books would be more or less easy for me, but I actually just barely made it last year. So this year, I’m gonna maintain this goal and hopefully, it’s easier this time around.
  • Beta read 3 WIPs. Last year from September to mid-November, I beta read 2 projects completely, and the first part of another project. More or less, I had a good experience, and so I hope to do the same this year. I’m doing the second part of that project now, signed up for another one just recently which will start soon, and will be looking for a third one once I’m done with that. (FYI, WIP stands for Work In Progress. Also, FYI stands for For Your Information. 😜)
  • Read 5 books published in 2020. I haven’t yet decided which books these are, but I’ll definitely be checking out books that are set to release this year and see what catches my interest.
  • Read 5 indie books published in 2020. I know some indie authors who will be releasing books this year, so I’m excited about those.
  • Read 5 books that won Goodreads Choice Awards in 2019. I expect these “award-winning” books to be excellent, so I’m going to be checking out that list for anything that interests me. And also to update myself as I may be slightly outdated.
  • Read 5 books from my Scribbler subscription boxes. I have been subscribed to Scribbler since mid last year but have yet to read any of the books that came with the boxes. I have a library of books on my iPad so I usually default to that for reading choices. Now, that I have my TBR cleared, I’m gonna check out those Scribbler books. (Scribbler is a monthly subscription box that comes with a book and writerly goodies. Check out their website here.)
  • Read 12 dark fantasy or horror books. My current project, tentatively called “Claire of the Corpses” is a dark fantasy (and horror, if I can help it) story. So naturally, I would like to read books from the same genre, maybe after I finish the draft, while I let it breathe. (I actually did “finish” the draft during NaNoWriMo last year, but I skipped several scenes and so I intend to fill them all up before going into revisions.)
  • Read the books I should have read last year. I talk about them in my last post, and this shall be the year I finally complete that list. 🤞

2020 Writing Goals

  • Complete COTC draft by March. COTC stands for “Claire of the Corpses” which is the tentative title for my current WIP.
  • Finalize TMM revised outline in April (Camp NaNoWriMo). This is my WIP for my 2018 NaNoWriMo project and this outline needs a huge overhaul! Before I even start writing one word of (well, a brand new) draft, I want to produce a cohesive outline that flows well. TMM stands for “The Moonseeker’s Medallion”, though recently I’ve changed the title to “Davathad” (which means “war” in my fictional language). Both these titles are tentative.
  • Finish COTC revisions in July (Camp NaNoWriMo). Hopefully, I can complete the draft in March so I can use Camp NaNoWriMo in July to do the revisions. I don’t want to start revisions right after completing the draft, as I may be too close to it to objectively correct mistakes, find plot holes, etc.
  • Brainstorm an outline for “New Project” in October (Preptober). I want to use NaNoWriMo to work on new ideas. This is the time to set aside anything I’m currently working on and focus on the ideas I have put on hold. I’m not sure if this is a good idea, jumping from one project to another, but depending on the actual progress of TMM and COTC by that time, I may just have to work on one of them for Nano and skip this step.
  • Draft 50K words of “New Project” in November (NaNoWriMo). I do intend to win NaNo again this year.
  • Write 12 new poems. I actually wish to join NaPoWriMo in April, but since last year I wasn’t even able to write 12 poems, I’ll just repeat that goal until I’m able to do it. (Okay, actually that’s a lie, I did write more than 12 poems but some of them are depressing and are about actual people that I don’t want to share them. I guess the goal is really to write and post 12 new poems.) Then, I can think about participating in NaPoWriMo. (NaPoWriMo is National Poetry Writing Month, which is in April. Check out their website here.)

2020 Blogging Goals

  • Post every Sunday. Definitely maintain a consistent posting schedule. Starting today.
  • Post at least 1 poem per month. This will tie in nicely to my 12 poems goal, although I’m hoping for more than 12 poems. I also want to write more haiku and free verse poems this year.
  • Review Witcher books. Witcher is constantly on my mind after having just watched the show. The Witcher books were the books I read after I’ve finished rereading the A Song of Ice And Fire books, like, five times that I had to tell myself to go find another book. Witcher 3 is my favorite video game of all time and I’ve spent more than 300 hours on it. This franchise is quite valuable to me so I thought it should reflect a little bit on my blog by reviewing the books.
  • Post reviews of the books I read for Indiecember 2019. I’m either gonna just repost the ones I posted on Amazon/Goodreads, or write about them a little bit more for this blog.
  • Create a WIP updates page to track my WIP progress publicly. It just makes me feel more accountable and motivate me to work on them more.

Aside from the above, I’ve decided to include some personal goals as well. Typical personal goals are financial goals and fitness goals. So I’m gonna go ahead and give those a shot:

2020 Financial Goals

  • Increase my Savings ratio by 1%. What the hell am I talking about? I’m talking about the “50-30-20 Rule”, which corresponds to Needs-Wants-Savings. Basically, it means that 50% of your spending should go to Needs (such as rent, bills, etc), 30% on Wants (shopping, entertainment, etc.), and 20% on savings or financial goals (like savings, investments, retirement plans, etc.). I began tracking my expenses in June of last year when I just started my new job, and based on that, my ratio is approximately 49-31-20. Which means Needs is 49%, Wants is 31%, and Savings is 20%. It’s unlikely my Needs will change, so I guess I’d like to transfer that 1% from Wants to Savings this year.

2020 Fitness Goals

  • Do plank pose for at least two minutes every day. I’m taking inspiration from my colleague on this as she does it and recommends it. I tried to do it in December but didn’t really do it daily. So I’ll do this goal for 2020 and if I can do it consistently, then maybe I can think about better fitness goals in 2021. I generally don’t like to exercise 😅 so I don’t want to overwhelm myself with fitness goals this year.

 

Do you think these goals are feasible? Am I challenging myself a little too much? Or maybe, it’s not enough and I need to challenge myself more?

 

I mentioned my 2019 goals in this post and it’s now time to check if I achieved them.

Reading Goals in 2019:

Why did I not read those 4 other books? It probably was because the other indie books from the Indiecember prize pack arrived and… I got distracted by them 😅

Writing Goals

  • Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo – ACHIEVED
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo – ACHIEVED
  • 12 Poems – PARTIALLY ACHIEVED 😓 I only did 10 new poems in 2019:

Blogging Goals for 2019:

  • Although, I said in the post that I don’t have any blogging goals, but I did say in this other post that I will be blogging on Sundays starting in September. However, I did not do that consistently so this one will have to be a FAIL. Sigh.

I’m hoping to finalize my 2020 goals this weekend and will be posting them soon.

Did you also have reading, writing, and blogging goals in 2019? Did you achieve any of them?