#WIPJoy : Things to see, things to eat, and lines to break your heart

Happy Monday! (If such a thing exists.)

I decided to do one blog post for this week’s #WIPJoy prompts! Let’s dive right in.

4. Things to see in your WIP (aesthetics welcome!)

Me with my claymore, aka one of my favorite swords.

Swords. Lots and lots of swords and daggers and knives… I have an addiction, no lie.

Also dresses—I try to keep the descriptions few and not too detailed, but enough to satisfy the people like me who like to know what pretty dresses the female protag is lucky enough to wear. And the guys get a couple chances to shine as well.

Castles. I love castles! That’s part of why I love writing medieval fantasy: I get castles. Also swords… *cough*

Trees…so many trees. Fact: Monparth’s aesthetics are loosely inspired by Maine thanks to the four and a half months I lived there last year. When I try to think of what sorts of plants or trees might be in a scene, I think about what trees I saw in Maine. When there’s a few scenes near the coast of a sea, I picture roughly Maine’s coast.

Now…have some character aesthetic/mood boards!

5. A song for your WIP

I’ve admittedly been on a hip-hop kick since watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, so that’s mostly what’s been on my mind lately. So, my three top picks for songs for book two of this fantasy duology:

Hide by Juice WRLD, Seezyn

“Think I met my soul mate, Yeah, I know it. When it gets dark outside, In you I confide, You help me face my demons, I won’t hide.”

Superheroes by The Script

“All the hurt, all the lies, All the tears that they cry. When the moment is just right, You see fire in their eyes. ‘Cause he’s stronger than you know, A heart of steel starts to grow.”

Home by Machine Gun Kelly et all

“How did all my dreams turn to nightmares, how did I lose it when I was right there? Now I’m so far that it feels like it’s all gone to pieces, Tell me why the world never fights fair. I’m trying to find Home: A place where I can go, To take this off my shoulders. Someone take me home.”

6. What would your MC’s loved ones say they smell like?

Regulus…let’s be honest, he tends to smell like a guy and probably like his horse. But on his better days, he probably smells of leather and linen and pine.

Adelaide likes lavender, so Regulus tends to associate her with lavender.

7. Foods your characters eat.

This is a medieval world, so they eat a lot of roasted, boiled, and salted food. Monparth has a coast, and the characters are wealthy, so they eat a variety of meat and fish. For their traveling, I decided to have them mostly eat dried venison jerky because it was the easiest way to get them food. But they also eat fruits, rabbit, and fish while traveling.

Adelaide’s favorite food is nalotavi, a flaky chocolate pastry from Khastalland that is inspired by babka and baklava.

8. If your WIP was a hug, what would that hug feel like?

Hmmmm. I think one of those really tight long hugs where you’re trying to hold each other together and communicate all the comfort and understanding you can’t put into words. The kind where you won’t let go because you can feel the other person trying to keep it together and you want to give them time to decide if they’re ready to fall apart or to square their shoulders and move on, and you’re waiting to see if you’re going to need to sit with them while they cry or stand next to them while they face the world head on.

9/10. A line with deep emotion.

Hmmm. I’m going to pick a couple, since “deep emotion” is vague. Good emotion? Negative emotion? How about one of each?

“That’s why I’m not leaving you again. We need each other. Just like you and your sister and your father and mother all need each other. Just like Drez and I need each other.”

And…from the most emotional scene I’ve ever written:

She howled her pain out of her and into the air until her throat was so raw she couldn’t make a sound, and then she pounded her fists against the floor.

That’s all for this week’s installment of #WIPJoy!

Until next time,
Selina

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#WIPJoy: What I love about my book-in-progress

Happy February!

Over on my Instagram, I’m participating in the #WIPJoy challenge, hosted by Bethany Jennings and SD Grimm. But I wanted to talk a bit more about today’s prompt, things I love about my work-in-progress, than really works on that platform. I also decided to combine it with tomorrow’s prompt on introducing my MCs. So I decided to write a blog post!

First, some information on my WIP.

Currently, I’m calling it The Prince of Shadow and Ash duology, but I’m debating about calling it The Mercenary and the Mage. I’m not sure about the individual titles. Titles are hard! I have a rough draft of book one, and am getting close to the end of the rough draft of book two. (Although the climax is giving me fits, so this is good timing to talk about what I like about this story.) It’s a romance fantasy with (obviously, since there’s a mage) magic! I’m still fiddling with the blurb/synopsis, but here’s a version for book one:

Synopsis

A former mercenary and the illegitimate son of a lord, Regulus Hargreaves is bound by magic to serve an evil sorcerer until he pays off the debt he owes. The daughter of a Monparthian nobleman and a Khastallander common woman, Adelaide Belanger couldn’t hide her mixed ethnic heritage if she wanted to. But she has a more dangerous secret: she’s a mage, possibly the one only left in Monparth after a mysterious threat killed every mage in the kingdom before she was born. When Adelaide meets Regulus, she is fascinated by this man that her fellow nobles treat with disdain. But loving him would mean trusting him with her secret, a secret her parents insist could get her killed. Regulus can hardly believe that someone like Adelaide could see beyond his scarred face and mercenary past. But would she still love him if she knew the truth? When secrets surface and the sorcerer asks the impossible of Regulus, their choices could affect not only each other, but the future of all of Monparth.

So what do I love about this story?

I’m more of a plotter than a character-driven writer, so I started with a plot. But the characters have become what I love most. (Hence why I decided to lump today’s prompt in with tomorrow’s on main characters!)

The hero Regulus might be my favorite part of this story. He’s tough, strong (physically and emotionally resilient), and incredibly selfless. He would do anything to protect the people he cares about. He had a hard childhood with lots of rejection, so his heart is fairly guarded, but once he’s opened his heart, it’s open.

I also love his best friend, Dresden. He’s a bit cocky, but he’s passionate, loyal, pragmatic, and hates injustice. He always has Regulus’ back, and even though Regulus is his lord, he isn’t afraid to tell Regulus when he’s being an idiot. I particularly love him because he doesn’t turn his back on Regulus when Regulus has given up on himself, and he doesn’t let Regulus wallow in self-pity or think that he doesn’t deserve the best.

I honestly struggle with writing female characters. (I know, I know. I’m female. But, it’s the truth.) But I do love Adelaide. She’s complex and sometimes at odds with herself in a way I totally understand. She loves her family deeply and has a close relationship with her mother. She’s the kind of female I want to read about—strong but still feminine. One of the things I love in this story is that Khastallander women have a heritage of teaching their daughters to use throwing knives and daggers to protect themselves. So Adelaide always has at least one blade hidden on her person, and is often seen playing with a knife or dagger. And if someone were to ask her “how do you know how to do that?!” The answer isn’t “my dad wanted sons” or “I have brothers.” But she also does calligraphy and her favorite hobby is sewing her own dresses—something else she learned from her mother. She’s learning to become her own person, and trying to decide if she’s going to continue keep her magic secret like her parents want, or use her gifts.

On that note, I LOVE ADELAIDE’S PARENTS. They. Are. Adorable. I love a married couple that are still flirtatiously in love. They’re imperfect and both can be stubborn—not to mention overly protective of their youngest, Adelaide.

Nolan. Oh, Nolan. Nolan Carrick started as just a foil for Regulus, but he grew into my favorite antagonist I’ve ever written. He is horrible. I honestly hate him more than the sorcerer (the titular Prince of Shadow and Ash). I hadn’t set out to use Regulus and Nolan to highlight differences in confidence and pride, secure masculinity and toxic masculinity, and love and obsession, but that’s what’s happened and I hope I do it well. While the sorcerer is a big-picture, ambiguous threat, Nolan is the more run-of-the-mill evil. And both the sorcerer and Nolan show how power in the hands of those with selfish ambitions hurts those around them, while Regulus and Adelaide demonstrate how the selfless use of power can be used to help.

I also love that there’s a lot about Adelaide and Regulus learning to accept themselves, including their scars (external and internal). They realize that they’re stronger when they don’t rely on only themselves. There’s love and understanding and trying to figure out how to best support each other. They help each other face their demons, whether they are doubts and fears or the story’s villains. And not just Adelaide and Regulus, but Adelaide and her parents and sister, Regulus and his knights—they make each other stronger and help each other survive.

Finally, the magic. This is the first book(s) I’ve written with magic in it, and it is a blast. I’m still working on solidifying my magic system and rules, but I didn’t want something too narrow because it loses it’s fun. The magic is very loosely inspired by the aesthetics of the magic in Skyrim. Magic in this WIP is of two basic types: pure magic, which manifests primarily as blue light, and sorcery or corrupted magic which manifests primarily as green light. Mages are closer to paladins, who use their magic primarily to help, heal and defend. Sorcerers aim to acquire as much power as possible through any means necessary and don’t hesitate to use their magic to hurt innocents. Their greed and cruelty twists their magic into something it was never meant to be, giving them more power but at greater cost.

I could say more about what I love about this story—the armor, the dresses, the dragon-slaying, the fairies in book two, the sword fights and magic battles, the way the characters grow. The way they sometimes break my heart. But this post is more than long enough, haha.

Until next time,
Selina

New Year, New Resolutions

Happy New Year’s Eve! 2018 is ending, and a new year with new adventures is nearly upon us. It’s a time of reflection, and a time of looking forward. I haven’t done resolutions in a few years, but I felt like it’d be a good way to prepare myself for a new year that’s pretty different from the last several—mostly because I’m not longer in university. So, I thought for the sake of getting it written down and for accountability purposes, I’d make a blog post with my resolutions/goals/plan for 2019. Don’t worry—it’s considerably shorter than my last post!

Spiritual Resolutions

  • Read my Bible more regularly
  • Attend church more regularly
  • Become a member of my church
  • Join a church small group
  • Read some of my Christian living books

Personal Resolutions

  • Make at least one new IRL friend
  • Be kinder
  • Be braver
  • Exercise regularly
  • Visit RMNP more than once
  • Make time to get out and do things with family members and friends

Writing Resolutions

  • Figure out the end of the Prince of Shadow and Ash sequel
  • Finish writing the sequel
  • Edit Prince at least twice before June
  • Attend a writing conference (hoping to attend Realm Makers!)
  • Read at least two books on writing
  • Post at least once a week on this blog (hopefully on Mondays)

Reading Resolutions

  • Book goal for 2019: 40 books
  • Keep up bookstagram account (@nighttooisbeautiful)
  • Finish The Lunar Chronicles
  • Read at least one new genre
  • Read at least four non-fiction books

Do you do New Year’s resolutions? What are you resolved to do in 2019?

Have a happy New Year!

Until next time,
Selina

3 Ways to Find Creative Inspiration

Where do you get ideas for your writing? How do you stay creative? Where do you look for inspiration when you’re in a creative dry spell?

I find anything can be a source of creative inspiration if you stay open to the possibilities. I’ve gotten ideas from video games, movies, comments people have made, and dreams. But when the ideas aren’t pouring in, here are three ways to get the creative juices flowing.

Psylocke cosplay
Photograph by/of me
  1. Browse artwork online
    There is so much amazing artwork by talented individuals out there! What’s your genre? You want to write steampunk? Look up steampunk artwork and try to figure out what’s going on in a piece. Need a setting? Look up landscapes. Need a character? Type your genre and “character” into Pinterest and see what comes up! Not even sure what you’re looking for? Let DeviantArt or Pinterest pull you into the never-ending whirlpool of the Internet until you’re drowning in inspiration. Imagination often ignites more imagination, so let others inspire you!
    I actually keep inspiration boards on my Pinterest. Character costume inspiration, weapon inspiration, setting/location inspiration, building inspiration… And then if I’m at a loss, I’ll go look at those boards. Sometimes I’ll go looking for something specific—“what might this character dress like?” or “what would this character’s home look like?” Other times I’ll go in without any idea of what I’m looking for, and work backwards—“what kind of character might use that weapon?” or “Why might my characters find themselves in this scene?”
  2. Listen to music
    My go-to focus music when writing is epic instrumental. I love film and video game soundtracks, especially when writing an intense scene or a fight. I can’t concentrate with lyrics while writing, and I also avoid super recognizable soundtracks (if I start picturing the film scene in my head while writing, everything falls apart for me). Plus, throwing on a pair of headphones and cranking epic instrumental music helps drown out the distractions. Here’s some of my favorite Youtube mixes from Pandora Journey for getting in the zone (note: I put these on the background, so I have no idea if all the featured artwork is appropriate):

But when not actively writing, music with lyrics can be awesome for getting ideas. Think about a song you like. Could it apply to one of your characters? Does it spark a plot idea? Why might a character like or dislike that song?

Painting of Thor by me

3. Take a break!
Sometimes the only way to cope with a dry spell is to stop trying to pump from an empty well. Let it fill up again! Do something else you enjoy. Go watch that movie, regardless of what critics say. Go read that book you keep meaning to get to. Binge that TV show. Try a new hobby or pick up an old one. Knit that scarf. Dance in your room while singing into a hairbrush. Make that bracelet. Paint that picture even if you have no idea what you’re doing. Go for a long walk or take a drive out into the country. Tell yourself not to focus on your creative slump. Let yourself think about anything and everything else. Procrastinate a little—or even a lot. Sometimes your brain just needs a break. Don’t feel guilty about doing things you want to do just because it’s not what you think you need to do right this minute. Your story will be waiting when you come back energized from your break.

How about you?
What are your tried-and-true methods to stay creative and keep inspiration coming? Let’s chat!