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Book Two Moodboards

I made these moodboards a few weeks ago. It's my first time trying my hand at it. I've already posted these in various places, but I thought I'd archive them here as well. First, we have our main character, Jane Roberts. Next is an older version of Jane. Hmm. I wonder if that's relevant? Underneath, is Jenny Parker, Jane's best friend. And lastly, but never least, Chaz Parker, Jane's leading man. I'm sure you can see some repeating elements, things connecting the different characters. Hopefully, once you've read Book Two, you'll be able to figure out all of the references. Just a note that most of these images do not belong to me.








The Weight Has Lifted

So, Book Three is going really well. I’m actually excited about writing again. With the weight of my Book Two worries lifted, I think I’m finally fully connected to writing for myself again. For the love of it. Which I’ve been struggling to do for over a year.

I really lost myself during Book Two. And I love that book; I truly do. I poured my heart and soul into it. Turned all of my childhood pain into words. But I put so much pressure on myself to get everything perfect. I was scared of messing something up. Of not representing my thoughts well enough. Or people not liking what I had to say.

And the book still isn’t out, so I don’t really know if I did well in the eyes of the readers. But I do feel like I did well by my own self. Both my younger and older self. I said what I needed to in that book. I represented my true self. And from what feedback I have gotten so far, it seems like that came across well. I’m sure I’ll panic again when the book is actually released, but for now, I feel at peace with Book Two. I’ve moved on.

It’s weird. With the cover delayed by having to switch to a new artist, I’ve had to start Book Three before Book Two is even out. I want to talk about how Book Three is a new arc in Jane’s story. But there is only so much I can say about why that is. I want to talk about important new characters and seeing old characters in different lights, stronger roles. But again, that gives something away.

I guess all I can say is that I’m relieved. I’m riding the wind of inspiration, jumping between different chapters and scenes. I don’t expect this rush of excitement and confidence to last through all of Book Three. I’m sure I’ll run into issues and frustrations. I’ll have new battles with self-doubt. But maybe, just maybe, I can hold onto my passion for telling stories - and not let the fear take it away this time.

Maybe.

Writer Questions

Another set of questions from Tumblr. Answering those questions about Jane from Magic Inc. In other news, I had an event on Saturday. Which was scary (as always) and disappointing in that Book Two could not be done in time. But I got to see some friends and fellow authors. And of course, my favorite local book store owner, Leana.

1. What was the first element of your OC that you remember considering?

Since Jane is based on me, it’s hard to remember what exactly began to distinguish her as a character apart from me. The best I can figure is when I decided on her powers. I became fascinated with elemental magic from the faeries on Neopets. (This is also why I spell faerie this way.) I felt drawn to Air powers. Jane’s powers deepened and expanded when I began writing her into my first Harry Potter fanfiction series (as Val).

2. Did you design them with any other characters from their universe in mind?

No, Jane was the beginning. But as I remember it, Jenny’s character was the next to really develop. Strangely enough, Chaz’s character was one of the last Parkers to come into being. If I had followed the progression exactly to my original daydreams, Jane wouldn’t have met Chaz until almost the very end of Book One. But this made no sense to me when I was planning out the series as actual novels.

I suppose he could’ve already been in college. And then, Jane certainly would’ve been in love with Dominic the whole book. Which is closer to my original idea/my reality. This was one of the few big changes I made to my original imaginings of this world. I just couldn’t leave Chaz out of the first book. And that really wouldn’t have made sense with things I figured out about the story later on.

3. How did you choose their name?

The name Jane came to me from two different places. One, is the name of Wendy’s daughter in Peter Pan. The other, was Hermione Granger’s original middle name. (I’m not sure if J.K. Rowling changed her mind or if the original interview just made a typo of Jean.) I first gave Jane her name during her cameo in Hate You, Hate Me - my Draco/Hermione fanfiction. When I wrote Jane in fanfiction, she was always Hermione’s little sister.

4. In developing their backstory, what elements of the world they live in played the most influential parts?

Jane is basically living in my childhood reality with a twist. The main structure of her story (both before and after the novels begin) comes from my past. (The one difference is her family’s history. Though Christine became more like my own mother than I expected as I wrote her.) Her environment is the county I grew up in, and everyone’s environment has some amount of effect on their childhood. That’s no different with Jane. Her school. The church. The local park. They all play a role in the novels. In terms of the greater world/universe, there were definitely things that I discovered/decided on in some of my other novels that I had to link with Magic Inc. when I began writing. But it’s hard to explain where crossovers and references occur without spoiling anything.

5. Is there any significance behind their hair color?

Jane’s hair is brown like mine. Nothing more complicated than that.

6. Is their any significance behind their eye color?

Again, Jane’s eyes are blue, like mine. However there are some important reasons why certain characters have certain eye colours in my universe. And I’ll leave it at that.

7. Is there any significance behind their height?

I don’t talk about height much in my writing, unless it is especially remarkable one way or the other. One thing I decided on with my original artist was that Jenny was a little bit taller than Jane. I could tell you this had some deep meaning in the way that Jane admires/”looks up to” Jenny. But that’s not true. It just worked out that way. I honestly don’t think about most of my characters' appearances beyond eyes/hair/skin colour. I struggle to describe physical attributes or even see the details of a character’s face in my head.

8. What (if anything) do you relate about their character/story?

Everything.

9. Are they based on you in some way?

I think I’ve answered this enough already! But I’ll just add… Jane is completely me. Her life is a mixture of the things I went through at her age and the things I daydreamed about. Jane loves deeply, feels deeply, and is easily hurt. She is anxious and obsessive. She feels like an outsider and just wants to feel loved and accepted. Our experiences are not exactly the same, but Jane and I are the same at our core. She is me. And that’s what is scary about sharing her with the world.

10. Did you know what the OC’s sexuality would be at the time of their creation?

I knew very little about different sexualities at nine-years-old, attending Catholic school. I just knew I was always falling in love with boys. At this point in my life, I look at sexuality as more of a spectrum. But since this series is based on my childhood/adolescence, and I didn’t really think about this stuff until my 20s, there will probably be little reference to Jane’s sexuality. Some of the other characters will definitely have defined sexualities eventually.

11. What have you found to be most difficult about creating art for your OC?

I don’t really create art for my characters unless you count sims and a couple of recent moodboards. I’m really not artistic. I worked with a great artist for my first cover, and I had a specific idea for what I wanted, but it was very hard to communicate my ideas with my struggle to describe physical things. I was very scared it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but the cover turned out amazing. I’ve had to change artists for my second book, but I’m hoping Book Two’s cover will turn out lovely as well and still feel cohesive with the first book. I did find another wonderful artist, so cross your fingers for me!

12. How far past canon events have you extended their story, if at all?

This is a series, and I have so much planned for the rest of it. Not just books following Jane’s journey, but also lots of side stories. And of course, the Timeline Universe spreads out into so many other stories. I’ll probably never get to write everything I know about this world and the characters, but I consider all of it canon, whether it makes it into book form or not.

13. If you had to narrow it down to 2 things you MUST keep in mind while working with your OC, what would those things be?

Her passion/compassion. And her anxiety.

14. What is something about your OC that can make you laugh?

I’m not sure child!Jane is all that funny, but she does make some cheesy video game jokes/references occasionally.

15. What is something about your OC that can make you cry?

She’s just so vulnerable and easily hurt. And a lot of what happens to her at school is very close to the bullying and isolation I experienced at her age. She loves so deeply and is desperate to feel the return of that love in the same intensity. Which is something i still struggle with all these years later.

16. What is the most recent thing you’ve discovered about your OC?

It’s difficult for me to “discover” more about Jane, since she is my past and I’ve already lived her life. You always learn more about yourself as a person, though. And there are some things I think about differently than I did at Jane’s age. I occasionally go back and forth between making Jane more the me of then or the me of now. But when it comes down to it, I haven’t changed that much over the years. Yeah, there are definitely things I have a better perspective on as an adult. (Thank goodness.) And some things I’m (sadly) more cynical about. But I’m still very much that scared, passionate little girl, looking for love and acceptance.

17. What is your favorite fact about your OC?

I love that Jane still believes in everything. Even though she’s been hurt a lot, she trusts much better than I do now. She reaches out to Chaz because she trusts him completely. And that’s something I’m scared I’ll never be able to do with a romantic interest/partner.

Get to Know the Writer Tag

1. At what age did you start to get serious about writing?

I’m not sure what I would say “serious” means to me. For years, I was very serious about writing fanfiction. But probably what most people would consider “getting serious”, was when I started writing Dreaming in Shadow. I was fourteen, in my first year of high school, and absolutely certain I had discovered the idea that would be my first real novel. Almost fifteen years later, I still haven’t finished Dreaming in Shadow. (For various reasons.) But I’ve never given up on it. It is the first book that really created my universe, even though the story that later became Magic Inc. was much older.

2. What was your first piece of writing about?

I suppose my first piece of writing was a poem I had to write for school. But the first piece of writing I did completely by choice was a short bit of Harry/Hermione fanfiction that was heavily influenced by another writer’s work. It wasn’t very good, as you might imagine. I was only eleven when I wrote it.

3. Do you make media based on your writing?

I practically cannot write without music, so playlists (or soundtracks as I tend to call them) are an essential part of my creative process. I cannot draw for the life of me, but I do enjoy making characters on The Sims 2. They often look pretty similar when it comes to facial features, because I’m not very adventurous with the sliders. But I focus on getting the hair, eyes, makeup, clothes, accessories, and personality points right. Once in a long while, I will make a house or building on the game as well. Making the Parker house was really helpful in writing certain scenes in Magic Inc. I have very recently started making moodboards for my characters. Something I was scared to do because of poor photo editing skills and potential copyright issues. But I’m actually having a lot of fun with it, now that I’ve let myself be free to mess around.

4. What inspired the idea behind your current, most prominent WIP?

Magic Inc. is based on a combination of my childhood experiences with bullying and the fantasy world I built up as an escape from it. The series follows young Jane Roberts, who discovers magic, friendship, and first (unrequited) love in Book One. In Book Two, which is nearly complete, the shy and anxious Jane will face panic attacks and increased bullying. Not to mention the revelation of her true powers and the pain of watching the older boy she believes to be her Soulmate date someone else. All of these things combine to give Jane enough reason to try to see into her future. Which has unexpected consequences.

5. Are there any tropes you hate to see in stories that seem to be popular?

I don’t think that there are any tropes that I absolutely hate. I tend to not be into love triangles, because I’m big on forever soulmates. I also don’t usually like finding second love after a partner’s death, for that same reason. And I’ve mostly grown out of my obsession with love/hate relationships. But I think any trope can be done well by the right author and/or set of circumstances. Honestly, what bothers me more than over-used tropes are people complaining about over-used tropes. Yes, sometimes authors rely too heavily on certain tropes. Sometimes they use love triangles to spice up a bland story line. Sometimes they use instant connections to skip over relationship development. But that doesn’t mean that every story that has a love triangle or instant connection is garbage. (I basically hate the term instalove at this point.) Authors use tropes because it’s what they love to write. If you’re not into certain tropes, that’s totally fine! You don’t have to be. But why do we have to bash authors and other readers for what they like?

6. Are there any tropes that you love to see in stories, but they’re rarely portrayed?

I just love genuine connections between characters. Whether they are a connection that starts from a spark at the moment two characters meet, or builds up over time, or ideally, some combination. I like romance that doesn’t put a big focus on how “hot” the characters are, but instead is based on who they are. If there is an instant connection, I like it to be focused on the energy between two characters, not just the physical attraction. Something that takes time to figure out. I don’t know if any of these things are really tropes. I also enjoy soulmates and forbidden love. And best friends who fall in love. But I don’t think those are rare.

7. Do you prefer stories that focus more on characters or on the plot?

Characters. Always characters. Intricate plots are great, but if I don’t feel connected to the characters, I’m not likely to enjoy a story enough to care.

8. If you had to base a candle off of your protagonist, what would its name and scent be?

I’d probably call Jane’s candle Always Forever (because she craves a forever love), and it would smell like berries and almond cake.

9. Are there any authors that have inspired you or your work?

I hesitate to call any authors a direct inspiration now. At this point, I’ve figured out my own style and process. But there are certainly lots of authors and other creators who influenced me endlessly as I was developing my own style. Magic and world-building from J.K. Rowling. Emotional intensity from Ai Yazawa. I made a post about my most influential books here recently. And honestly, just about every piece of art I take in gives me some level of inspiration. It’s so amazing how many stories can touch your heart in some way.

10. Which of your characters do you feel you’ve put most of yourself into?

Jane in Magic Inc. is completely me. Her life is a mixture of the things I went through at her age and the things I daydreamed about. Jane loves deeply, feels deeply, and is easily hurt. She is anxious and obsessive. She feels like an outsider and just wants to feel loved and accepted. Our experiences are not exactly the same, but Jane and I are the same at our core. She is me. And that’s what is scary about sharing her with the world.

Taken from Tumblr. Tagging anyone who hasn't done it and wants to.

Three Years




On this day three years ago, Magic Inc. Book One was published. Today, I finished major edits on Book Two. Onto a last round of proof-reading. And then, formatting. And finally, publishing. Scary.

Inspirational Quotes and Comfort Zones

I think I have an issue with "inspirational" quotes. Sure, some of them are great. Some of them reach straight into your heart and make you feel less alone. Some have the opposite effect. At least for me. I get so upset when I see quotes like, "Nothing ever grows in a comfort zone." Or, "Do things before you're ready." While these quotes must resonate with some people (which is fine), both of these ring false to my experiences. And they've only made me feel even more isolated.

With my anxiety, the world constantly drains me. Any little step out in it is exhausting. It doesn't get better by continuing to go out. If I push myself too hard, I just hit a point in which I am too overwhelmed to function. Anxiety is not always beaten by repeatedly putting yourself into stressful situations. After thirteen years, leaving the house is still just as stressful and draining as it ever was, so I have to make decisions about what's worth the loss of energy. What social things are worth the anxiety. And some things definitely are worth it. There have been times when I really wanted to do something badly enough and gave myself enough time and preparation to really and truly be ready. Did "ready" mean I wasn't scared? No, I was still terrified. But something told me it was the right moment. That I was ready. And I trusted that inner voice, while still respecting my limitations. I made the uncomfortable as close as it could be to comfortable. (Even if that was still "barely tolerable".) And it was draining. And it was worth it, for the most part.

But that doesn't mean the only time you grow is by leaving your comfort zone. If I didn't have a (tiny) safe space in which to do my work, I would never progress. Guess where I do all of my best writing? At home. At my desk. In my safe space. This is where I, through writing, feel like I grow the most as a person. If I kept pushing myself in the traditional ways the world wants me to, I would not only have no energy for writing. I would emotionally crash. I would stay sick and stagnant, just getting by. My work only progresses when I’m feeling safe and well enough to write. To dive into my deep inner world. To bloom in my own garden.

Obviously, I'm not saying don't ever leave your comfort zone. Sometimes it's important to take steps into new things, if they are really what YOU want. And not what others are pressuring you to do. But there is such a thing as being ready. Knowing yourself well enough to know when and where to make tentative steps forward is important. WHEN YOU ARE READY. Because that knowing does exist somewhere deep inside of you. It's usually the doubts and anxieties of the mind that cloud your judgements more than anything else.

I think our culture so heavily favors external success that we forget that growing can also be a quiet, internal experience. Growth is not always about flashy outer success. I think we also tend to glamorize the idea of "the struggle". The "push yourself until you succeed" mindset. Force success. And that does work sometimes. For some people. But to me, that is the extrovert way. And I prefer the introvert way. Where you can grow just as much from facing your inner demons as your external ones.

What I'm suggesting is a balance. Because sometimes you grow from experiences... and sometimes you grow from introspection. From giving yourself a safe place to think things over. To figure yourself out. It doesn't have to be one or the other. I think most of what bothers me about quotes like this is how absolute they tend to sound. Everyone has different experiences, limitations, and things that do and don't work for them. When you distill the human experience down to a sentence or two, you're bound to oversimplify. Which leads you to reach some and alienate others. And maybe I'm in the smaller group of the two. Maybe my viewpoint is so rare that it might as well be nonexistent.

I'm sure I'll still be posting the occasional inspirational quote. And you're welcome to do the same, of course! Maybe we'll relate to each other's, or maybe not. I think it's worth remembering that not everyone's path is the same. And that's okay. Our differences can sometimes be a beautiful thing. But I'll still be here, growing flowers and trees in my comfort zone. Because that matters, too.

7 Most Influential Books

I was tagged by a friend to do a daily Facebook post about a favorite or influential book. I set up seven days of posts on my author page to honor my most influential books and series, and I thought I'd share my answers in a blog post as well. Links lead to Goodreads.

(Little reminder that you can follow me on Goodreads while you're there.)

1. Harry Potter
Let's go for the obvious. Before Harry Potter, I was not a reader. After Harry Potter, I loved reading and writing. Maybe I would've found my way to both eventually. (I always did like making up stories.) But everything fell into place for me the night nine-year-old Valerie couldn't get to sleep and finally picked up the "strange" wizard book her aunt had gifted her for Christmas.

2. The Princess Diaires
It's a little harder for me to go back to this series now compared to other old favorites. But the books were fun and full of pop culture references, and Mia was an inspiring young activist as well as being a reluctant princess. Book Mia was also a vegetarian, and reading these books at 12-13 is what prompted me to become one, myself. Sixteen years later, and I haven't regretted that choice for a moment.

3. The Mediator
Just hearing about this book from Mallory got my imagination dancing. An attractive teenage ghost hanging around in your room? It was from these thoughts that the original concept of my ghost muse, Morgan, was born. And while most of you will not read Spun of Silver for a very long time, suffice it to say, ghost Morgan was life changing. He made me dream of having a real life soulmate. I didn't actually read the the first Mediator book until almost a year later when Tiffany started talking about it. (Well, the fifth book, actually... blame badly designed covers for the three of us thinking Haunted was a standalone.) But this series had a profound impact on my life in so many ways. It was also my most recommended/loaned out book of my high school days.

4. NANA
No, NANA is not a novel series. It's a series of manga (Japanese comics). However, the impact this story had on me and my writing cannot be denied. Characters' lives tangling so beautifully and painfully. The idea that friendship soulmates could be as powerful as romantic ones. And the beautiful artwork. I still often think in Ai Yaazawa's style. And I am still waiting, hoping, praying that she returns to finish this gorgeous story.

5. Twilight
Yes, I know. And no, I don't particularly care. Number 5 on my most influential book list is Twilight. After my panic attacks led to my leaving school, I struggled with a period of depression so bad that I couldn't even bring myself to read. I've always seen stories unfold visually in my head, and that dark period left my head cloudy and disconnected. I could process words, but I couldn't feel them. And that made reading seem pointless. When I was recommended Twilight, I finally found a book I was wrapped enough in to start seeing again. The idea of vampires had always intrigued me, but more than that, I loved the idea of soulmates that was in the Twilight series. No, it's not a perfect story. Some of Edward's more troubling behaviors are a little over-romanticized, even in interviews with Stephenie. (I honestly prefer Carlisle and Esme's love story.) But I love these characters and this world so much. I regret sometimes the popularity this series found, because it led to people to polarize into giggling fangirls and haters. I was neither. But this series was important to me, and I won't hide that fact

6. Guardians of Time
Another recommendation from a friend, this series has time travel and a strong emphasis on soulmates. I read this series around the time I was starting to form solid plans for my The Timeline universe. After playing with the idea of soulmates in my stories for years, they became a main component in my universe as a whole. I've been meaning to reread this series for ages.

7. The Truth About Forever
While I did read a few contemporary/realistic books in my youth, I mostly stuck to fantasy and paranormal. I found the idea of most books without fantasy elements to be "boring". (I even read Sarah Dessen's first two books years before and was not impressed.) But enough people on LiveJournal were recommending Sarah Dessen's books to me that I eventually gave in. When I read The Truth About Forever, it was the attention to characters that I found the most compelling. I loved the book so much that I immediately jumped into Sarah's next book, Just Listen, after finishing. These two books made me realize that I found characters to be the most important part of any story, not the plot or lore. I've probably read as many realistic books as fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal in the years since. And you might notice that in my own books that while magic is an important element, it is only really there to serve as the background to a story about characters and emotions.

Video Game Meme

Stolen from Tumblr, because I never get to talk about video games here anymore. Video games have influenced my writing so much, and I want them to be recognized as a total valid way to tell a story. Novels are not inherently better than any other art form. Every medium has it's own magic. Sorry I have to turn everything too serious. This was supposed to be fun.

Favorite game from the last 5 years? ‒ Final Fantasy XV, or maybe Persona 5, but I haven’t finished that yet. Also, Mario Odyssey and Super Mario 3D World? I’m bad a choosing one favorite. (And don’t get me started on all the great remasters!)

Most nostalgic game? ‒ Super Mario RPG. Anything NES/SNES Mario related, but that especially. I cannot accurately tell you how much I love SMRPG without embarrassing myself.

Game that deserves a sequel? ‒ Also Super Mario RPG. At least in terms of what I don’t know we’re getting. I enjoy Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi, but they don’t quite compare.

Game that deserves a remaster? ‒ Also Super Mario RPG. My answers are getting boring, but... I just want something, something SMRPG related. But I’ll add on all the Shadow Hearts games. And Final Fantasy VI, so I can finally play it.

Favorite game series? ‒ Kingdom Hearts.

Favorite genre? ‒ JRPGs.

Least favorite genre? ‒ Shooters.

Favorite song from a game? ‒ I have a lot of video game soundtracks. Eternity ~Memory of Lightwaves~ is probably my most played song, since I used it for Dreaming in Shadow’s soundtrack. Also, Simple and Clean & Passion. And basically anything from Final Fantasy X.

Favorite character from a game? ‒ Yuna from Final Fantasy X.

Favorite ship from a game? ‒ Tidus/Yuna. Or Yuri/Alice from Shadow Hearts.

Favorite voice actor from a game? ‒ I haven’t really thought about this much. Which characters has Crispin Freeman voiced lately? I like Lightning’s voice a lot. (Final Fantasy XIII)

Favorite cutscene?Suteki da Ne. Yuna’s dance. 1,000 Words. Or Sora giving up his heart to free Kairi’s.

Favorite boss? ‒ Ansem at the end of Kingdom Hearts.

First console? ‒ SNES. There’s a really goofy picture of my shocked/blissed face at Christmas.

Current console or consoles? ‒ PS4 & PS3 & PS2 & Switch are all hooked up to my TV right now. I also have the Wii U around to finish a few things. And a charging Vita and 3DS. I almost exclusively play The Sims 2 on my PC, but I do have a Steam account with some games.

Console you want? ‒ I have the modern consoles I want right now, but I would love to have a working SNES, N64, and Genesis some day.

Place from a game that you’d like to visit? ‒ Macalania Woods in Final Fantasy X. Uh, also... Nimbus Land or Star Hill from Super Mario RPG?

Place from a game that you’d like to live in? ‒ Maybe Rose Town from Mario RPG?

Ridiculous crossover that would never happen but would be super fun? ‒ Kingdom Hearts visiting Super Mario RPG world.

Book that would make a good game? ‒ Divergent? I’m not sure. I'm still waiting for a truly great Harry Potter game.

Show/movie that would make a good game? ‒ Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly.

Games you want to play? ‒ Kingdom Hearts 3. And sooo many others!

Have you gotten 100% completion in a game? ‒ I got a Platinum in LEGO Harry Potter 1-4. I came close to getting everything in my original Kingdom Hearts save, which got tragically deleted before I could finally beat Sephiroth. (But let's be honest... that probably wasn't going to happen.)

Have you cried over a game? ‒ Almost every single game with a story?

What power-up or ability would you want in real life? ‒ Yuna’s summons.