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Category Archives: Writing Journey

My Last Letter To Thom

Dear Thom,

Can you believe it? It has been over five years since we started–five years of telling and retelling, imagining and reimagining–and in a little over a month’s time, your story will finally be released to the world. It took us awhile, huh? Time sure flies. You’re even an adult now, and boy do we need to catch up!

So, how’s life in Daysprings? Is Daysprings still the warm and welcoming village I last remembered it to be? How’s Haratio and the girls? Tiger is all grown-up now–is she more like Seanna or Catry? How are the Eklaysians? Oh, and do you still write to Mika? Did you manage to find out who his uncle is? Even though we worked on the book last year, we never really talked about these things. I didn’t even ask about your love life! Yes, I should know. And if you don’t intend to tell me, I’ll just ask her instead. But, all these surface questions aside, how are you…really?

I’m fine–if you’re curious about me. Life in my world isn’t as magical or as adventurous as yours. I have a pretty interesting day job, which can get rather busy at times. As it eats most of my creativity, I’ve not spoken to Robb in months–he seems to be OK with that. I do plan to write the second installment of his story this year though–after your story reaches the masses. And that will be soon… very soon. Wow, isn’t that a little nerve-wrecking?

Honestly, I’m kind of nervous about what people will say about the work we’ve created. So far, the early reviewers have been kind. But… it seems not many are willing to give your tale a shot. It’s unconventional after all. Still, I think we can both agree that the number of books sold isn’t as important as the people who read your story. So let’s just hope that The Slave Prince touches lives instead. That is why we wrote it in the first place, right? And no matter what happens, we’ve done good.

With May 29th around the corner, it saddens me that our journey will soon come to an end. Even though we’ll still be friends, we won’t be seeing much of each other any longer. No more late night conversations. No more coffee breaks. We’ll part ways–recalling our history only when we gaze into a starry night sky. If it is possible, I don’t want us to be like that. But only time will tell if we can continue to work on your story. And until the unknown future comes to past, I wish you all the best in life.

May you go on more great adventures, Thom. May magic beckon you to live more heroic tales. May you never forget who you are. And may you always believe in the power within you. You’re a prince, Thom. A true prince–the Majestas Regia will always remind you of your story.

It has been a pleasure, meeting, knowing, and working with you, Thom. Let’s not forget what we’ve created together. And let’s continue to do great things until the very end.

Yours forever, Jeyna.

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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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How Do You NOT Give Up?

How do you keep going without burning out? How do you stay inspired during dry spells? Where does your determination come from? Have you ever thought of giving up? How do you not give up?

Familiar questions–questions you might have asked, received, or pondered upon. And, important questions too, especially when it comes to our dreams and passions. We all know success comes from not giving up. But sometimes… well…

So, how do we not give up? Personally, I…

#1 Don’t Focus On The Negative

Constructive criticism is great for improving my skill, but outright negative comments aren’t. Comments that are hurtful and mean have the ability to destroy my hopes and dreams. And, because I can’t tell people what they can and cannot say, the only thing I can do is ignore them–turning away from those negative words and focusing on the encouraging ones instead.

Focusing on the positive helps to keep the wheels turning. I often find myself returning to positive words whenever I doubt my abilities and strengths. I would read an old comment or book review and my day would be instantly brightened. Words are powerful. The ones we choose to listen to dictates our path. So don’t focus on the negative. Start focusing on the positive instead.

#2 Set Achievable Goals

‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough,’ that’s what they always say. But not all of my dreams have to scare me. Not all of my goals have to be star-high. I need achievable goals too. They sharpen my skills and take me one step closer to my bigger dreams. If all I’m focusing on is the end and not the path before me, I might just trip and never get back up again.

What are achievable goals? They’re not what I plan to achieve in my lifetime. Achievable goals are the books I plan to write before 2020, the number of chin-ups I aim to complete by the end of the year, and the amount of savings in my bank account for my next big trip. They’re small–far from scary–but they bring me closer to my dreams, one step at a time.

#3 Make & Execute Plans

To get somewhere, I need a plan. Setting achievable goals is part of making a plan, but it doesn’t complete the equation. I need to execute my plans too. Perhaps this is one of the most challenging parts when it comes to chasing my dreams. Execution requires me to be disciplined, diligent, and persistent. But sometimes, I’m just too lazy. So how do I counteract this laziness? I choose to do it anyway.

I’ll be honest, some of my blog posts are written at the very last minute–this one included. Despite having an idea on what I intend to write, I just don’t feel like doing it. But instead of calling in sick–giving a lame excuse as to why I missed this week’s post–I do it anyway. I carve out time to write. And by doing so, I don’t give myself any excuses–I stay disciplined and on track all the time.

#4 Celebrate Every Milestone

It’s easy to overlook small accomplishments at the desire to accomplish greater things. But if all I focused on was what I could’ve achieved, instead of what I’ve already achieved, I’m not motivating myself. Contrary, I’m discrediting my efforts for the what if’s and could have’s. And instead of acknowledging my hard work, I’m putting myself down.

I am my own biggest critic. And what I say to myself matters–my own words are as powerful, if not more, than the words of others. So it’s important to give myself credit where credit is due. I may not be able to say I’ve finished the race, but I can celebrate the journey. It is the little accomplishments that will keep me going–the little accomplishments that make the end worth pursuing.

#5 Know My Reason

I’ve written about this before–perhaps one too many times–and I’ll reiterate. Knowing why I write is the key to never giving up. I can religiously practice the four points above, but if I don’t know why I write, I won’t get far. This applies to all areas of my life too–areas where dreams and goals are present. If there’s no reason as to why I’m doing what I’m doing, what I’m doing will merely become a hobby. And as you know, hobbies are ever changing.

So, why do you do what you do? What is your reason? If you want to know my reason, I wrote a post solely about it here. I can guarantee you, that if you have a strong reason for your dreams, you will never give up. In fact, it becomes almost impossible–giving up is no longer an option.

If you’re on the brink of giving up, don’t lose hope just yet. There’s a way to stay motivated, driven, and passionate. You may have gone off the road, but getting back on track isn’t impossible. Remember, your dreams are worth chasing. They’re achievable. So don’t stop believing in them. And don’t ever stop believing in yourself.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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The One Time I’m Never Good Enough

The one time I’m never good enough… is when I write.

“But, you’re a writer,” you say.

Exactly. I’m a writer. Yet, I feel like I’m never good enough and never going to be good enough when I write. No matter what people say–no matter the reviews I receive–I find it difficult to believe their words. It’s not that I think they’re lying. It’s just that I can’t see what they see. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this to fish for compliments. I don’t need compliments. More often than not, I have no idea how to respond and react to compliments. The only thing I can say is ‘thank you’. And though I might add a few exclamation marks and a heart emoji, I’m not actually jumping with joy. I might smile, but only for a while. Because the glimmer of hope, that I’m finally good enough, often vanishes within minutes.

Why is this? Shouldn’t I be proud of what I’ve accomplished? Shouldn’t I be confident with what I bring to the table?

No, I shouldn’t. In fact, I can’t. Because in this field, I will always be my own worst critic.

I know I cannot please everyone. I know I cannot produce flawless pieces of work. I know not all my ideas will be good. Yet, in every occasion, I wish I was better. And, I often tell myself that I can do better. But when I compare my work with the more established authors around me, I find myself falling short every time–as though I can never be good enough. And honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be. Still, in the tug-of-war of finding the worth in my work, I do not stop writing.

It’s strange, isn’t it? Not all my stories will be worth reading. Not all my characters will be loved. Not all my worlds will be captivating. And, most certainly, not all my plots will be exciting. But… I’ll still write them. I will invest my time and money into my creations, well aware they’re flawed. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because the only time I’m good enough… is when I accept my abilities and my flaws.

Despite the imperfections and horrendous mistakes, I’ve learned to accept what I can do in every season of my life. Yes, I’m not good enough at writing–I’ll never be good enough in my lifetime–but I can do my best. I may not achieve great success, win awards, and have my works widely read, but I can strive to be better. I won’t see myself as a good writer–only decent at most–and I’m OK with that. Because being good enough isn’t reflected in my work–being good enough is loving myself and the shortcomings of being me.

So, if you’re like me and you feel you’ll never be good enough at your art, don’t beat yourself up. You’re already good enough when you’re chasing your dreams and working on your craft. It’s the perseverance that counts in life, not your popularity score. Even if you’re your own worst critic, you can still choose to be good enough at being you. We can always strive for perfection in our work, but we must also strive to love our imperfections too.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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Mapping My Universe ft. John Robin

One of the most enjoyable phases, during the production of The Slave Prince, was having two maps cartograph-ed by my author friend, John Robin. Now, if you’re an author, having your fictional world realised on paper is an amazing feeling. It takes the publishing experience to a whole new, fantastical level. It makes your work feel legit, as though it’s ready to play with the big boys! So truly, I am very grateful for the work John has done. And today, I’m giving him the spotlight.

Having worked with him, I believe John can give great insight on world building from a writer/cartographer standpoint. As a writer himself – authoring A Thousand Roads – he is able to approach this facet of ‘creation’ from a unique perspective. So whether you’re a writer, an artist, both, or neither, what he has to say will certainly make an interesting read. But… before we get to the Q&A, let’s take a look at what he has done for the realm of The Slave Prince.

FROM DOODLE TO ART
*Click image to enlarge*

CHATTING WITH JOHN ROBIN

Me: So John, let’s start with how you begin mapping a universe?

John: This is actually the hardest part for me. I always need a starting point. Usually, when it is my own world, I will begin one map by expanding another, or drawing beyond the boundaries of others where I have been curious about what lay beyond them. I just need a starting point, then my pen tells me where to go.

I find it much easier to draw someone else’s fantasy universe because I can always ask for a sketch. In your case, with The Slave Prince, the two sketches you provided me were excellent because I was able to begin translating your vision into something produced by my own hand.

Me: Do you incorporate your own imagination into the maps?

John: Absolutely. Most of the flourishes that end up in the final map are discoveries that happen in the process of doing. For instance, the forest south of Alpenwhist on the kingdom map wasn’t in the plan, but our work developing the world map beforehand reminded me there are woods south of Alpenwhist. So, I drew the woods. I didn’t expect there to be so many details in the forest, but the process of drawing revealed surprises, as it always does for me when trees are involved.

I cannot explain how this happens. It’s a bit like writing a book I suppose: one might see many plot points, but there are the surprises that come a few paragraphs from when you write them, and they radically change the story. Aragorn in Lord of the Rings was a character like this, apparently – just walked into the story, but what an important player to the whole trilogy! This is much like how I’d describe my imagination at play when I draw a map. Be it my universe or someone else’s, the map is a drawing and it has a life and a story, much like a book. The lines are the storytellers, and I am their obedient scribe.

Me: What do you find challenging in each project?

John: The hardest part for me is usually the final touches, especially the labeling. I prefer to write my own labels in a styled script by hand, but as I learned in our work together, these don’t translate well in a smaller map on page. I learned a lot about incorporating fonts and spaces in Photoshop after the drawing was complete. However, I do want to develop my own fonts based on my handwritten letters for future. It was liberating working on the second map (Alpenwhist kingdom map) knowing I could draw it without placing any labels. In the case of the world map, which I drew first, I wrote in all the labels by hand, then had to meticulously erase every one to replace them with a font. The advantage of this was that the space for the label was created. What this taught me was to leave space for labels on future maps, and hopefully begin my own carefully crafted letters for future use.

Me: What do you enjoy about cartography?

John: Drawing a map tells me the story of a world. Seeing how mountains span, rivers bend, forests arise, coast lines bend and shape, lakes appear on empty page, islands dot the seas – all these things tell me a story. Not just in the shapes. Often I will see a stand of trees and know it has an important history or should have a name. Or, I will label a territory and the story behind it comes to mind just in how the name sounds once I write it down. Drawing maps is what, for me, makes a fantasy world feel truly alive. In fact, when I go to the fantasy section and look for new fantasy books, it’s the maps that I turn to right away and tell me whether I want to enter this new world or not. It was, after all, the map of Wilderland in The Hobbit, on my grandmother’s bookshelf, that I would flip to many nights before I knew how to read, that eventually pulled me to fantasy and my own map-making.

Me: Does cartography help you in your own writing endeavours?

John: Yes! There is a storytelling that augments the narrative form I experience when writing. It sharpens world-building in ways that listing details alone would not do. In a way, drawing a map is a third level of engaging with a fantasy world beyond writing and world-building. A bit like M.C. Escher’s drawing hands, one feeds the other, and the other feeds it, and it circles on and on into deeper levels of imagination.

… 

What did I say – it takes someone who can channel both of his amazing gifts to be able to build worlds from a unique perspective. I’ve found myself trusting John in the decisions he has made for my world and I have no regrets. Thanks again John, for playing such an important role in the production of The Slave Prince! You the man!

I hope this post has given you some insight on cartography and how it can build a fantasy world. I’ve learned a lot from working with John, and I’ve learned some more just from this ‘interview’. If you’d like to know more about John and his works, take a peek below! I’ve included some extras for those who’d like to give this man and his talent a chance.

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MORE ON JOHN ROBIN

John runs a blog at TheEpicFantasyWriter. He’s also the senior editor of Story Perfect Editing Services and founder of Dreamscape Cover DesignsIf you’d like to get in-touch with John on social media, he’s on Twitter and Facebook!

A Thousand Roads 

Release Date: October 31, 2018 (eBook) / January 19, 2019 (Paperback)
Genre: Dark epic fantasy

Disclaimer: this novel is intended for adult readers. It contains sex, violence, coarse language, and dark subject matter.

Azzadul, the god-king, the Lord of Light revered by many. When the darkness corrupted him, he became the Dark Lord, feared the world over. His magic, once a gateway to immortality for his people, delved instead into horrors as he sought ever deeper levels of mastery. Children were stolen from their beds, coveted for his blood-rites. When he vanished, it all ended, and the people of the world tried to forget, to move on…

Jak Fuller has always wanted a home. An orphan born ten years after Azzadul’s disappearance, he has wandered far and wide, trying to forget the memory of a burning woman. When he comes to Fort Lasthall, on the outskirts of the Dark Lord’s former kingdom, he hopes to finally settle into a peaceful life. Instead, he finds himself unnaturally compelled by a dark, terrible voice, a voice that knows him, calls to him. A sense of destiny that fills him with fear.

New powers are rising in the dark places of the world. A master of fire-rites called Talamus the Red, arch-foe of Azzadul, seeks to enslave the world with a magic he has been developing for the many centuries of his life. Ready at last, there is only one weakness in his plan, an obstacle he is determined to destroy: a boy, bound to an old magic that just might resurrect the power of Azzadul.

The very power bound to Jak, before he was even born…

PRE-ORDER JOHN’S DEBUT NOVEL NOW!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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“What if they steal my work?”

One of the biggest fear for someone starting out in their artistic endeavours is the fear of having their work stolen – fear of having their ideas taken without consent, their creations plagiarized and published without credit, their art… no longer theirs. It’s a common emotion – a phase, if I can call it so. And if you’re in this phase right now, know that I’ve been there too.

When I started this blog, I only posted fan fiction. Apart from my love for Harry Potter, I was afraid the blogosphere would rob me of my original ideas. I believed that someone out there would find my work intriguing and make a profit out of them. But after a while, I realised that fan fiction alone wasn’t going to get me anywhere. To improve in my writing and grow as a writer, I needed to take a risk – I needed to share my original works. So, I braved myself. I posted an original story. I awaited feedback, while I hoped no one credited themself for it. And what I thought to be risky behaviour – which was far from risky – changed me as a creator.

If you’re fearful of sharing your original works, you’re boxing yourself from new ideas and fresh perspectives offered freely by your audience. You’re not giving yourself a chance to see your flaws and to improve them. You’re playing it safe. And by ‘safe’ I mean you’re shielding yourself from potential factors that could break you for the better. Because the only risk you’re taking, when you expose yourself to the world, is being forced to see your weaknesses – weaknesses you can overcome. In reality, nobody is going to steal your work. Or at least, the odds of someone actually plagiarizing you is extremely low.

Why do I say so? Allow me to be a little harsh – here are 3 reasons why:

#1 You’re new to your craft. So unless you’re a prodigy, you have a lot to learn. Stealing the work of someone with little experience is the errand of a foolish man. But… what if you have a few years under your belt? More experienced creators care little about internet thieves, knowing that bigger names have been plagiarized before them – it’s the internet.

#2 Ideas are plentiful, creators are few (in comparison). Chances are, you share the same ideas with many others in the world. Originality isn’t that random, seemingly unique idea that popped into your head one night. Originality is how you approach the idea with your pen and paper.

#3 You are one amongst a million others – to be found on the internet isn’t as easy as you think. If appearing on the first page of a Google search result only required one original story, people wouldn’t be investing thousands of dollars in making their businesses stand out on the internet.

Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong to have such a fear. I’ve been there too, remember? But should you keep living in this fear? No.

It’s time you step out of your comfort zone – take a risk! You’ll find yourself becoming a better creator when you stop worrying about what could happen and start focusing on creating itself. Whether you write, paint, design, or compose, choose to express yourself freely rather than live in fear. After all, you didn’t pursue your art to box yourself and limit your abilities.

P.S, if you do find someone stealing your work, take it as a form of flattery. There were a few occasions where I found my work elsewhere without my consent, and when I confronted the parties involved, they were quick to remove my work from their sites. For the most part, I don’t think they had any ill-intentions – they just needed ‘something’ to help their site grow or an ‘example’ to follow.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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I Resolve To Give Up

Giving up – one of the easiest things to do. It takes an effortless decision. It welcomes the peace of mind. It helps us come to terms with our inabilities. And it puts our anxieties to rest. So to give up is what I resolve to do.

In the past years, I’ve given up quite a fair bit. I’ve given up on increasing my kill-death ratio to 1.0 – I’ve resolved to remain a noob in the FPS arena. I’ve given up on building my fitness blog – I’ve resolved to make fitness a personal project. I’ve given up on certain friendships – I’ve resolved to believe some people aren’t meant to be in my life forever. I’ve given up on activities, things, and people. And as strange as this might sound – something you might not hear if not for this post – giving up isn’t a bad thing.

“So… you’re telling me to give up?” you ask.

Yes. I’m telling you to give up. But don’t give up for nothing – give up for something.

For the things that matter, give up your time, resources, and creativity. For the people who matter, give up your plans, ideas, and pride. When it matters, resolve to give up and persevere. How odd – opposing thoughts coming together. But in this context, they’re a perfect match. Choose to give up on the insignificant for the significant.

Ever since I started my book writing adventure, I’ve given up on the disbelief around me. I’ve given up on my pride, my fears, and my insecurities. And though they constantly return with a passion, I’ve persevered. When I make a decision to toss them aside, I replace my restlessness with peace. I come to terms with my imperfections – knowing I’m in constant need of improvement. And the worry of being a success becomes unimportant. When I give up for my craft, I grow.

Who knew giving up could result in growth? I didn’t. But clocking in hours to hone my skill, subjecting my heart to harsh critiques, and accepting that I’m not great, has led me to this.

When I wrote The Battle for Oz, I thought it was a good book. But as you can see, the amount of copy editing required proved otherwise. The comments on the book weren’t what I expected, and I was quite stubborn toward the changes suggested. However, it has taught me to give up – not on my passion – but on the things holding me back from becoming a better writer.

Two years later, The Slave Prince undergoes copy editing. But in expectation of the same red mess on the manuscript, I find only minute changes. The contrast between the two manuscripts surprised me. Did I really improve? Am I a better writer now? Is The Slave Prince a better book? I dare not say ‘yes’ to those questions, but I’m certain I’m no longer the same author I used to be in 2015. I’ve grown simply by giving up on the things that didn’t matter for the things that did.

So entering the new year, I resolve to give up on a lot more. I resolve to give up on distractions, on my persistent doubt and pride, and on the things holding me back from my passion, my purpose, and my craft. I will give up and continue to persevere, because I know it’ll make me a better writer… and a better person.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Imagination: A Key To Staying Motivated

Motivation is something we need to get by. We need it in all of our decisions – to get up in the morning, to keep pursuing our dreams, to hold a conversation, to even take a shower. Yet, it is one of the hardest things to come by. Unlike inspiration, motivation doesn’t fall from the sky. It doesn’t pop up at random hours of the night. And to an extent, motivation is intentional. So, where do you find motivation? How do you become motivated?

I often blog about the importance of having a ‘reason’ – believing it as a great motivation to keep our goals in sight. I often say that without ‘reason’, it’s hard to keep a dream alive. But I also know that many people don’t have a ‘reason’. And it’s not because they don’t want to have a ‘reason’, it’s because they cannot find a ‘reason’. No matter how hard they try, there’s no reason to leave the bed, to try something new, or to care about anything or anyone. There simply isn’t an answer to the ‘why’s’ in life. And it’s not their fault – it’s not your fault if you don’t have a reason. In fact, it’s okay to not know the reason for your existence. It’s okay to not know ‘why’ this and ‘why’ that. Heck, you’re struggling as it is – to live this seemingly empty life – finding a reason feels like an added burden. However, you shouldn’t stop looking for motivation. Because even without reason, you can stay motivated… with imagination.

Imagination is a powerful source of magic. I say it’s magic because it isn’t bounded by science. Science cannot dictate the extent of imagination, unless you allow it to. You can think up the craziest situations – involving winged cows and one-legged frogs – and nobody can refute because they’re your imaginations. Who is to say they’re wrong? This makes imagination magical – it makes imagination powerful. And though the odds of a wild imagination coming to past may be low, I believe it’s enough – when it comes to magic, a little goes a long way. But, a question still remains: how do you use imagination?

Imagine with me… when you leave the house today, you’ll meet your favourite celebrity who incidentally needs your help to fix a punctured tire. Imagine with me… when you share your short story, a publisher stumbles upon it and says, ‘hey, this person has talent. I should contact them.’ Imagine with me… when you buy yourself a meal, you’ll walk into a tall and handsome man who happens to be a prince from a faraway land. If you just imagine – as crazy as your imaginations may be – your day might be a little less dull. And as an added bonus, you’re now in a world of countless possibilities.

More often than not, imaginations are as impossible as fiction. But when imagination drives you toward something, it opens doors of possibilities. It creates opportunities you never knew existed – it can make things happen. So, if you’re in a spot where all else has failed – when nothing can motivate you – start harnessing the power of imagination. Use the gift you were born with to slay your dragons. Learn to wield its instrumental nature, and you’ll be the warrior you’ve always imagined you could be.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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