05 March 2019

tumble on tuesdays - no.1

Original photo by Nick Morrison via Unsplash

This blog series comes from a special Ask Game for writers on Tumblr from author R. Meisel. Every Tuesday I’ll answer a question from the list – likewise, please share your answers in the comments! 


No. 1 - Favorite Place to Write - My Writing Desk  

I was never the type of person who could write in public or open spaces. People, animals, and scenery distract me easily! I've always had a writing desk (read: sanctuary) in my home that contains my PC, printer, and Wacom tablet; then AAAALLLLLL the office supplies, and the notebooks, binders, loose papers and folders of my notes and research printouts; and lastly, motivational goodies to remind me that I am a writer who can write. Yay!

In America, this writing nook came into being when I was eight or nine years old (circa 1991? 1992?) when Mom got me a nice wooden study desk for my bedroom. I think it was for my birthday, because, being a twin, my brother got one too. Grandpa built them for us, and I have used the same desk ever since. Over the years I would write my signature somewhere inside the pull-out drawer or under the tabletop with a "Kristina was here" or something similar just to chronicle how long I kept the thing. Oh, how my handwriting has evolved!

The desk is pretty small. It's enough to fit a monitor and a tower, and a skinny desk lamp, and that's it. I should probably get rid of it for something with more room, but I feel committed to the thing. It's become my writing heirloom, you know? I don't know if fame or success is in the stars for me, but I like to imagine sometimes that my little wooden desk from the early 90s will be on display somewhere with a plaque commemorating its importance to my writing.

My current writing sanctuary
in my apartment in Kumamoto prefecture.
In Japan, where I've lived since 2016, I had to start from scratch. Bringing things over from the US was going to be めんどくさい (!) so I got a laptop right before leaving, then bought everything else brand new here - printer, artist tablet, office goodies, folders, notebooks, laminator, etc. 

My setup here is so much cooler than back home in America! My desk is a fantastic size, and it has this industrial, modern look to it with its white metal and light blue plate glass. My desk lamp, mouse pad, and mouse all look like they're from the future, too. Plus, Daiso is the most amazing store ever, and that's where I got the majority of my office supplies and decorative knick knacks. I also have extra-special handmade works I got through Etsy (wooden "Writer at Work" sign; paper roses made from the pages of books I love), various Writing Maps, artwork of my character Andresh from The Name and the Key, and photographs of some of my favorite author friends from graduate school. I also have little touches of Japanese culture from shrines for good luck and prosperity (a giant gold daruma doll for wealth, and the boar from Sumiyoshi Shrine for good fortune). 

The problem is, I made my Japanese writing nook - officially my favorite place - much, much better than my American one. I expect I have 2 years and 4 months left of work as an assistant language teacher here, and then I have to return to the US (unless something crazy happens to make me stay, like finding a handsome おじさん to marry), and I won't be able to bring most of this home with me. *Sighs* I will definitely have to ship some of it back because of the uniqueness of the items (and hey, they spark joy!) but I'll be sad kissing the furniture goodbye, that's for certain. 


Readers, what's your favorite place to write?

26 January 2019

Which Book is Brewing?

Writing is definitely part toil and trouble.

After I made the decision to redo The Name and the Key from scratch, I hit some snags, and fixing some of the problems of the book was starting to feel like solving complex mathematical equations - my brain was burnt out and I had no idea how to go about redoing the book. As painful as it was, I decided to just put my series aside altogether for the time being until I could figure out a game plan for the rewrite. Poor Andresh and Lily, (Andresh especially), I'm going to miss you while we're in time out!

Over the years, I've had multiple projects in the works. In terms of books, The Name and the Key, The Step and the Walk, The Eye and the Storm (a trilogy), The Clockwork Prince, Kill it With Fire, and Stolen Fruit (all standalones). I also have an untitled short story set in post-revolutionary France and a graphic novel called Son of the Siren, which combines several fairytales into a single narrative about an illegitimate, half-human prince who unwittingly uses the power of his siren voice to cause great catastrophe to his kingdom. Each of these works has been started, with varying chunks written (and trust me, they will all get written!), but they each take turns getting pushed aside because it's difficult for me to multi-task. I never finish projects unless I fully, single-mindedly commit to them.

This took five billion hours because I suck.
Don't get me started on coloring!
Let's talk about Son of the Siren, because this is what I'm working on now! Except it can't be a graphic novel anymore - at least not by me, anyway, and not anytime soon. It's too difficult! I made a cover, and I made the first page, and it took weeks. And I just don't have the artistic skill (or technical skill, since it's all digital art) to make this happen. So... 

Son of the Siren is now a book! 

And I've been busy with the worldbuilding stages. One of the things I've been doing is designing characters via the Live Portrait Maker by Angela He  (I have the Android apps for male and female character creation). This is just too fun! Then I have been creating the world itself through an online site called Notebook.ai, which is designed for writers, tabletop RPG games, and more. A large chunk of the site is free (enough to make one world), but if you want to add multiple worlds or more details such as weapons, animals, etc., you have to upgrade to a subscription. I'm playing around with it for preliminary stuff, but it's been helpful with creating the family trees for my main characters, getting the base locations in, and more. 

This is Angela He's art that you can customize in-app (and
then I fancied her portrait up in BeFunky).
Behold, the siren of Son of the Siren!
Besides diving into world creation, I have actually written part of the manuscript. But I've hit a snag - I'm writing it in third person limited but I'm not feeling this vibe at all. It also has generic "Epic Fantasy Voice" (which I'm also kind of hating) that seems to pop up whenever I try third-person in fantasy.  I think I've gotten too used to writing in first-person. It's really comfortable for me! As much as I keep trying to third-person this bad boy, I don't think it's working out. First-person allows me to get inside the character's head a lot easier, and it's also less of a challenge for me to give them a distinct voice. Given the subject matter - I'm retelling multiple fairy tales within a fairy tale - combined with first-person POV, whether I intend it or not, this will probably be considered YA

My first book, The Name and the Key, started out very much like a fairy tale and was even supposed to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Then about halfway through the book I took a narrative 180 and the novel splintered (it very much feels like two different books). The fairy tale plots and influences in the novel disappeared as it became more and more about magic, alchemy, gods, and all sorts of esoteric goodness. 

But my brain doesn't let me forget ideas, even if years pass, and somehow I always come back to them and rework them in another way. I have always loved fairytales - they were my introduction to fantasy and have always been among my favorite things, so I always knew I wanted to write my own fairy tale. Concepts that bubbled up in The Name and the Key are reappearing in The Son of the Siren. Images that I've had in my brain for years, from dreams and daydreams, are finally having their moment to shine. 

Fairy Tale of Kings by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis,
1909 (Source).
So far, Son of the Siren is pulling elements from these fairytales (or their classifications), and working them in a single narrative:
  • The Six Swans
  • Rapunzel
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Cinderella
  • The Snow Queen
  • The Armless Maiden
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Donkeyskin
The book follows some of the traditional fairy tale tropes, but also takes some time to spin some of them on their heads. I've been absolutely giddy blueprinting this novel. 

I've heard somewhere that for many writers, their first book isn't the first book they publish. For the longest time I felt really bad about that, because I love my first book so much, and I truly wanted it to be my first book out in the world. However, it's looking like Son of the Siren may be the contender for potential success. I can't predict the future (and I'm really bad about not living in the present), so I can't say anything for certain, but I have a good feeling about this. 


Readers, what book are you brewing?