Writing Journey

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.

__________________________________________________________________________


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!

Original Works

Cave of Dreams [12 Genre Months]

It began with a curse, passed down from one generation onto the next–a curse many of his ancestors called a gift. Yet, in the mind of this boy king, he was condemned–condemned by the boy in the mirror. For unlike his father and the kings who ruled before him, he loathed his reflection.

What he saw, even in his human state, was a beast. His deep-set eyes hung tired from the fear of death. His youthful grin lost in the kingdoms he had conquered. His sword-wielding arm stained by the blood of his enemies. Never was he just a boy–always, he was a monster hungry for the next victory, the next throne, the next war. What a miracle it would be, if he stopped swinging blades for a day. And, a miracle it was.

“This will be my last battle,” he said.

Sheathing his double-edged sword, he strolled to his steed with his royal army behind him.

“This will ruin your empire,” his advisor replied. “This will ruin you, your majesty.”

“I’m already ruined.”

“You are more victorious than the kings before you. And, you can do so much more.”

“This isn’t me. Before I lose myself again, I must do this.”

During the battle at Vita, while his men pillaged the kingdom, he heard of the Cave of Dreams. Some of the citizens of Vita had braved the beast within in order to flee the war. Alas, no one knew what became of the courageous few. But as Vita crumbled to ashes, the folklore reached his ears–what seemed like a myth was hope.

“Your majesty-”

“I am a monster. I have no control over this body and what it becomes.”

“You are a warrior–a king–not a monster. What will our kingdom become if this beast takes your gift?”

“Gift?” He chuckled.

Arguing with any of the men in his royal court was a futile endeavour. They were the first to reap the harvest of war and would say anything to stop him. Deciding he had wasted enough time with the pointless debate, he excused his advisor and mounted his horse. Reining his stallion East, the journey began.

The Cave of Dreams nestled within the Eastern volcanic range, by the foot of the tallest mountain in the snow-capped massif. From the ruins of Vita, he rode through the pine-dense timberland, crossed pebble-shored rivers, edged around slippery cliffs, before reaching the valleys of the mounts. The tallest of the mounts rose at the head of the range–the colossal grey rock was both daunting and magnificent. But unlike its siblings lined behind it–all birthed from the same phenomenon–it homed the gift only bestowed upon the first born: the cave.

From above the valley, the cave was invisible to the human eye. But as the entourage descended into the first basin, stirring with a bone-chilling breeze, the cave made its presence known. Its mouth, as wide as his kingdom’s iron gate, opened to an unwelcoming darkness. No sound escaped its cracking lip. Nothing living grew within. If he was a common boy, who had never faced death, he would’ve rode by without hesitation. Unfortunately, he was a king–owning a list of enemies before he even became a man.

Dismounting his steed, he strode to the mouth of the cave. But as his men lit their torches, ready to go before him, he had the strangest thought. It wasn’t his own–or at least, it didn’t feel like his own.

Taking a blazing torch, he said, “I’m going alone.” The captain of his army parted his lips, but before the soldier could insist, he repeated, “I’m going alone.”

His men knew not to challenge him. Retreating to their horses–possibly wondering if his nine year-old brother could fill his shoes should he never return–he turned his back toward them. Then, with determination to break the curse, he pushed forward.

He had no fear. He had seen darkness far more consuming than the one before him. He had swam in silence far more lifeless than the hollow engulfing him. He lost his soul at the age of twelve, when the weight of the crown was placed upon his fragile shoulders. And though he had feared death for the past three years, he didn’t fear it anymore. With each step he took, he set his eyes on salvation. But, how many steps were there? The walk down the burrow felt like an endless journey. The entrance of the cave had long vanished–only blackness surrounded him. When he finally spoke, as a question to himself, he found the answer.

“When does this end?” he murmured.

“It ends… when you want it to end,” a deep voice echoed.

“Are you the beast?” he asked the disembodied voice.     

“I am… what you want me to be.”

“Then grant me a wish, as the people say you will do.”

“What do you wish for?”

“I wish to be human.”

“Human? You look human.”

“I am not. There’s a curse upon my family–the men who wear the crown become monsters on the battlefield.”

“Then… take off the crown.”

“I can’t–I will only be passing the curse to my brother.”

“I will grant your wish, if you take off the crown.”

“You will break the curse?”

“Yes.”

“Very well.”

Without contemplation, he lifted the gold, ruby-encrusted crown off his head and placed it on the uneven ground.

“Good. Now,” the voice said, “wake up.”

He opened his eyes. The bright light, streaming through the window of his doctor’s office, blinded him for a second.

“How do you feel?” his doctor asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied, blinking his eyes into focus. “Am I supposed to be a different person?”

“Hypnotherapy doesn’t reflect immediately after a session. Let’s see how your week goes before we give it another try.”

“Sure. I can do that.”

His doctor grinned, before swiftly scribbling on a page in a leather-bound book.

“What are you writing?” he asked.

“You said, you can do that.”

“Is that… odd?”

His doctor merely smiled. “I’ll see you next week. Same time?”

“Sure, doc. I can do that too.”

____________________________________________________________________

12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

Learn | Window | Brussels

One window remained. The only window un-shattered. Our last window to freedom.

“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” I asked, as skepticism settled.

“We’re almost there,” Marie answered – too confidently for someone without a map.

“I think we’re lost,” I stated.

“We’re not.”

Marie tapped on her compass, signalling we were still heading north. North was what we were told to follow – go north and you’ll find the castle. But after three hours of trekking the Hallerbos, my doubts could no longer be silence. What was I thinking? Could we be walking into a German trap? Should we turn back? I hesitated to suggest.

“Marie…”

Marie hissed. “Believe, Camille. We cannot lose hope now.”

Hope – hope started this mad venture. It had us believing the whispers of a butcher, whose family had successfully fled to the United Kingdom. He claimed that they escaped through a magical window of an ancient castle, nestled within the Halle Forest. But as fictitious as it sounded, many believed him. And to add truth to his fairy-tale, those who left for Hallerbos never returned.

The skeptics theorised that the Germans had caught those who attempted escape. But the believers clutched at the promise of freedom. As Marie and I hoped to flee the war, we believed the story too. So, we packed our bags and traveled from Brussels to Hallerbos.

To some of the older Belgian folks, Hallerbos was known as a mystical forest. During a specific time of the year, bluebell flowers would carpet the terrain. In such great numbers, the deep blue and purple flora was said to be magical – it could bring forth or shadow what lay on the forest ground. But before the seasonal bluebells could lead us to the castle, it brought us the soldiers.  

“Down,” I whispered, tugging Marie to her knees.

I couldn’t see the armed men in their field-grey uniforms, but I could hear them. Their foreign chatter traveled between the tall, scrawny trees. And as their voices rose in decibels, my heart pounded deafeningly in competition.

“Where are they?” Marie mouthed.

In reply to her question, I snapped my head in all cardinal directions. But in hope of glimpsing the enemy first, I saw no one – not even a silhouette. With the disembodied voices and the trudging of footsteps growing louder every second, I froze in fear. And then, as though they had heard my racing heart, the soldiers halted their conversations.

Instantly, I lay flat on my stomach. I cupped my hands over my mouth and lowered my head. I prayed to be unseen. I wished for peaceful silence. Unfortunately, the crunching of dry leaves and broken twigs persisted. They drew nearer until eventually, I could sense the enemy’s presence. I could feel their movement. And I knew, they would soon find me. But like a child, I believed that if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me too. What a naive notion it was, until the encircling bluebells rustled.

The flowers shifted, as though someone was moving through them. Stiff as a log, the bluebells brushed against my body. At that moment, I expected a painful jab from the end of a rifle. But as I waited, nothing happened. Did they not see me? With courageous curiosity, I turned my head to peek. And to my surprise, there was no soldier hovering above me. Cautiously pushing myself into a seated position, while I scanned the dense timberland, I heard no voice and saw no man.

Still, something odd was occurring. The bluebells continued to rustle with the sound of heavy footsteps. The flora parted, creating multiple trails that slithered away from where I sat. Then, after what felt like an eternity of the strange phenomenon, silence cloaked the Hallerbos.

“Marie,” I whispered.

Marie remained on her stomach, stifling what sounded like sobs.

Marie,” I repeated.

As I moved in to comfort her, a peculiar shadow caught my eye. It had emerged up ahead, veiled by a ghostly fog. It didn’t outline a castle, but was large enough to be what we were looking for.

“Marie,” I said. “I think… we found it.”

Marie peered up – cheeks wet with tears. As I pointed toward the silhouette, she turned her head and gasped.

“We… we found it,” Marie chimed. “Let’s go – the window is on the first floor.”

Without hesitation, Marie rushed ahead. Staying on her tail, I kept the silhouette in sight. As the fog around the structure began to thin, I squinted my eyes in search of the window. How it could take us to safety was no longer a question. All I hoped for, was the sight of the window itself. For if I saw it – the only un-shattered window – I would learn that the story is true… and that my faith had finally saved me.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Learn, window, and Brussels were words given by iamvickiroberts. I chose to build this story around the location, because I don’t think I’ve done something like this before. I guess… it didn’t turn out so bad. And, I discovered the existence of Hallerbos – yes, it’s real, I didn’t make it up.

Now, it’s your turn. You have until the end of January to write a story of your own with the three words given. Oh, and if you’d like me to write a tale set in your country, leave 3 words (one of which being your country) in the comment section below!

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Others

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018! [+World Map Reveal]

This year has been an odd year for me (no pun intended). I’ve learned new things, understood myself better, and grown from daunting and unfamiliar environments. I’ve found myself in transitions, which made the year rather interesting though not entirely eventful. And though I can’t say it has been the best year of my life, I wouldn’t call it dull. So… if I could sum 2017 in two words, it would be, ‘oddly awesome’.

How has 2017 been for you? I’ve come to realise that how our year has been is determined by how we perceive it. It is how we choose to sum it that excites us for the new year. If I’m being honest, most of my 2017 has been ‘awkward’ and ‘uncomfortable’. But, closing the year with those two words doesn’t thrill me for 2018 – oddly, ‘oddly awesome’ does.

So, with 2017 wrapping up, I challenge you to find something positive about the year. It may have been dark and gloomy, but seek out the light and celebrate it. After all, it’s always better to end the year on a high note – hoping for a better year to come.

Now, as the year comes to a close, I have a few awesome announcements to make regarding The Slave Prince.

First, the book has (almost) completed copy editing! Cover design is next and I cannot wait for it to begin. It’s the best part of book production – seeing a new, fancy cover that would soon sit on bookshelves. I’m excited!

Second, the book has a release date! May 29, 2018. Coincidentally, it’s one day before my mum’s birthday. So it’s going to be a celebratory week!

Third, feast your eyes on the map below. This world map was made by John Robin, my super author friend with undeniable talent. And if you think revealing the map is a #spoiler, it isn’t. Because… it’s not the only map in the book! There’ll be a kingdom map too!

With three awesome announcements to end 2017, I definitely have a lot to be thankful about this year. Even though it took some time – waiting for the book to start production – I’m so thankful that things are falling into place. I’m thankful for all who supported my book last year, and have been patiently waiting for its publication. I’m thankful for the team at Inkshares, who’re helping me better the book in every aspect. And I’m thankful for everyone who has continued to encourage me (including you), with a desire to see my book and my writing become a success. Indeed, it has been an oddly awesome 2017.

Looking forward, I believe 2018 is going to be a good year. No matter what happens – whether I find success or don’t – it’s still going to be better than 2017. And I hope… it will be the same for you too – just clutch that light and don’t let go, as you step into a new adventure.

Writing Journey

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.

Writing Journey

Top 5 Email Questions [About Blogging] Answered

I get emails… once in awhile. And they usually contain the same questions. So today, I’ve decided to answer them publicly! If you’ve thought of sending a similar enquiry as the ones below, you don’t have to any longer. But if you still want to drop me a ‘hello’, please do – I love hearing from you.

#1 How Do I Grow My Blog?

SS asked, “What are the ways in which I could gain more readership? I would love people to comment on my work and tell me how I’m doing.”

I answered, “My tip for gaining more readership is simple: visit other blogs, read their content, and leave a comment. The blogosphere is a community, so you have to put yourself out there. Greet others first and introduce yourself. Don’t do it just to promote your blog, but do it to make other bloggers feel ‘read’. In return, most of them will pay your blog a visit.”

This is a question I get asked a lot. In order to give a complete answer, I addressed it in a separate post awhile back. You can read it HERE.

#2 How Do I Sell ‘Stuff’ On My Blog?

LF asked, “You gave me a great idea to sell my music on my blog and I was wondering how I could do that.”

I answered, “I use a platform called Gumroad. I upload my e-books on their platform and they handle the delivery to my buyers. They only take a small cut from the sales as a fee. You can sell your music on Gumroad too.

“Being that you’re not allowed to sell anything directly on a free WordPress blog, I customised my bookshop page to look like a store. The ‘buy now’ link leads readers to Gumroad. You can do the same for your blog.”

#3 What Should A New Blogger Do?

BD asked, “Any tips for a newcomer?”

I answered, “I always tell new bloggers the same thing: be yourself, have fun, and visit other blogs in the community – that’s how you slowly build an audience.”

#4 How Does One ‘Copyright’?

DV asked, “Could you please guide me as to how I could make the site copyrighted?”

I answered, “The only copyright you can put on a blog is a copyright statement, like what I do with my posts (the copyright symbol and the year). Unfortunately, that’s as much as you can do on free blog sites.”

#5 Can I Request For Feedback?

AA, EO, AS, RR, RC, SG, and BA asked, “Would you check out my blog and let me know what you think?”

I answered, “Sure!”

I won’t turn down requests to visit your blogs. However, I will decline requests to read your novel. As I’ve been asked a few times, I’d like to explain why.

Reading a novel takes time. And giving constructive feedback takes an even longer time. Hence, I only accept beta reading requests from authors I have personal relationships with. I also only ask for beta reads from people I’m close to. I’m honoured and flattered that you’d like my feedback, but I suggest you do the same. Why? Because…
… you’ll accept blatant truth more easily from those closer to you.
… family and friends who say ‘yes’ will give 100% of their attention to your work.
… you can trust them not to steal from you – I don’t plagiarize, but you don’t know who will.

That being said, if you want me to read a post or story you’ve published on your blog, feel free to ask! I’ll be more than happy to drop by.

Hopefully, I’ve answered some of your outstanding questions. But if you have more, you can drop me an email. As I’ve mentioned, I love reading your emails. Whatever the content may be, a message from you is a gem to me. Wow, that was cheesy… it’s the truth though – I have no reason to lie.

Writing Journey

The 5 Quirks Of A Creative

First and foremost, I’m not claiming these are the 5 general quirks all creative people have. By a creative I mean this creative; me. And I’m sure, even if you have a more analytical mind, you probably share some of these quirks too. I just thought, ‘hey, why not show people how weird I am, and find others who’re like me. I can’t be the only one talking to myself, right?’

If you have any of these quirks, do shout it out in the comment section. Let’s make – what is sometimes considered – weird, normal.

#1 Audible Monologuing

“This pillow smells nice. I’ll put this here, and this here, and this here. Mhmmm, cake. I like cake. No, you cannot eat that. But why? Ugh, I want it so badly. Ah, the moon is round tonight. What am I doing? I shouldn’t close the curtains, it’s not the weekend. Now, for the eggs. Wait, where’s the vanilla extract? Gotta have it ready.”

I talk to myself. I talk to myself aloud. I talk to myself aloud a lot. I’ve talked to myself to a point where I question if I’ve subconsciously vocalised my internal thoughts in public like a mad person. Once, my brother walked past my bedroom and back-paddled to ask, “Are you talking to yourself?” I’ve never scrambled for a reason so desperately before. But I think he knows now – his sister talks to herself.

#2 Thoughtless Shading

There are times where I’m required to be creative, but my brain is full of grey matter. So, I’d grab a piece of paper and a pencil and start shading. I would draw shapes and shade them. I’ll sometimes write random Korean words because they’re shape-y. If I have a colouring book nearby, I might do some colouring. But only using a single colour pencil – adding more than one colour requires creativity, which I have little to spare.

My thoughtless shading is almost a figurative act, of dumping my dull ideas onto paper to make space for livelier ones.

#3 Midnight Role-playing

You know how you’d occasionally have an awesome dream you wish didn’t end? I have those too! Who doesn’t, right? But because I sometimes don’t want these dreams to end – when I’m awakened for no apparent reason – I’d continue them in my head. I wouldn’t return to sleep. I would play out the rest of the story. This isn’t lucid dreaming, guys. This is midnight role-playing, which results in regret – experiencing lethargy for the rest of my day.

#4 Imagining What Will Never Be

I like playing pretend. I may act like an adult, but inside I’m a child. Some days, I pretend I’m a YouTuber. I pretend to be vlogging about my life. I pretend to be live streaming a game. I pretend to be shooting a cooking video, while actually baking a cake. I can do all these in real life. But nope, I’d rather pretend. It’s fun with no real work required.

Then there are days I pretend I’m friends with that famous actor. I pretend we hang out, go to the gym, and… fall in love. I pretend to be stuck in a burning building, only to have him rescue me. I know, it sounds silly. Merely typing this paragraph is embarrassing itself. So if you’re reading this paragraph, know it has required some courage on my end not to delete it.

I like imagining what will never be. It’s an escape from reality, and a form of priceless entertainment. You do it too – don’t lie.

#5 Imagining What Could Have Been

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, I like to imagine what could’ve been. It’s one of the reasons why I love visiting historical sites. The storyteller in me wants to imagine what life could’ve been years ago. I may not know what happened, but I can imagine what could’ve happened. I may not know who was present, but I can imagine who could’ve been present. Still in the past, I like to imagine what my own life could’ve been too.

I don’t regret my life. Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t change the past. However, the could haves make a good story. And as a writer, a good story cannot go untold – at least to myself.

Yes, to some of you I’m weird. But I know, some of you find my quirks relate-able. There are many of us in this world – people of creative and analytical nature – and we’re all unique in our own way. But we do share many similarities. We have common oddities. And it is through this mix and match that we connect – a mix and match that brings us together while being different in nature. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

So the next time someone calls you weird, know you’re not alone. To someone out there, you’re pretty normal. But if normal sounds boring to you, know there’s someone who thinks you’re weird (they just haven’t mentioned it yet). That’s the irony of being uniquely you – you’re both weird and normal at the same time.

Writing Journey

The Story Behind ‘Grace’

My name is Jeyna Lim Sue Chen. It’s the name on my birth certificate and my identity card. And, as you may have noticed, there’s no ‘Grace’ anywhere in it. So, where did ‘Grace’ come from? Why is my name Jeyna Grace on most of my social media platforms? And why the word ‘Grace’? What’s the story? As I’ve been asked quite a number of times, I’ve decided to tell its tale. And it starts… in the beginning.

In the beginning, there was science.

At the start of my authoring career, I learned that names aren’t just names – that names have the power to make or break. They can paint images without adjectives and explanations. And they should be chosen wisely. This is especially so on the cover of a book.

As I’ve discovered, there seems to be an unintentional stereotype on non-English names. There’s this subconscious preconceived notion that people without English names aren’t from English speaking countries. Thus, an English book by a non-English named author isn’t up to par with English books by English named authors. It led me to believe that English names sold better. And having a pen name to distance oneself from a certain background was considered ‘wise’. Hence why I now have one.

However, times have changed. I now hear that publishers are looking for more diversity in their author pool, and having a foreign name increases one’s chances of getting published. But, I don’t know how true that is. And I don’t think it changes anything with existing stereotypes. Still, I believe readers have a varying approach to foreign names – whether positive or negative, it is individual. But back then, I wasn’t taking the risk.

So, how did I come about ‘Grace’?

Before I continue, I need to say that I’m not a fan of The Heroes of Olympus. I’ve heard of the books, and I’ve watched that one Percy Jackson movie, but it’s not something I plan on diving into. It’s just not my genre (anymore). Therefore, my pen name being Jeyna Grace – mirroring a fan pairing of the characters – is completely coincidental. I had no idea it was a ship name. And I only learned about it when readers asked if I were a fan. If you’re wondering the same, I hope this clears things up. Jeyna is my real name after all, and I chose Grace because of faith. Yes, you read correctly.

I chose ‘Grace’ because of faith.

I believe in God. I’m sure some of you don’t, and I’m not here to preach anything to you. However, God is the reason why I chose ‘Grace’. Personally, I don’t believe I can accomplish anything without Him. What I have today – my skill, talent (?), and passion – is because of Him. Many of my stories – on this blog and as books – are inspired by Him. And the novels I have in-store are made possible because of Him (not excluding all those who have supported me – I couldn’t have done it without you too).

Putting ‘Grace’ into my pen name is a reminder to myself that I’m nobody without Him. It keeps me humble. Whenever I look upon the covers of my books, I’m instantly reminded that it is all by His grace. Pride has no place when I reflect on His guidance and blessing in my life. And it is through my belief in grace that I rest in His good and perfect plans.

I guess, the story behind ‘Grace’ is pretty uneventful. I simply wanted to make a good first impression with readers, and I needed to remind myself to stay grounded.

If you’re considering on a non de plume, I suggest finding a reason and a meaning to the name. Your name shouldn’t only appeal to your audience, but should hold value to you. You want a name that speaks to you directly and drives you to keep pursuing your passion. Don’t pick a name just because it sounds cool – you can do that with your characters – but pick a name that paints an image you want to see. Let it empower you in your darkest times. And let it break any stereotypes the world might have upon you.

Original Works

Bottle | Page | Mindful

My story began many years ago, when my people fled from civilization. They boarded great single-masted ships with a hundred oars, rowing themselves to an island I called home. As part of the nescient youth, I didn’t know the reason for their departure. The real cause of history skewed through generations, with many echoing old wives’ tales. However, I did know one thing. Constantly reminded by my mother and grandmothers, I knew to never leave the island.

The island was a beautiful place. We had lush greens, tall shady trees, and peachy beaches. The surrounding prodigious ocean unveiled the sun in the morning, shimmered at noon, and mirrored the universe by night. Our kingdom was magnificent, with wooden walls bound by flowering vines. It stretched across a valley and reached toward the peak of Gloria – the tallest of the three mounts. I loved the island and the sun-kissed people. It was home – a perfect abode. So, I embraced my ignorance. I wasn’t mindful of the past, until I found a glass bottle at the north beach.

I was on my return from a night’s work at sea. The sky was in its traditional hue of grey, gracefully transitioning to blue upon day’s arrival. Hauling my catch, I passed the bedrock by the narrow, sanded pathway leading toward the kingdom. It was there I found a corked, clear glass bottle secured in a crevice. Inside was a crisps, rolled piece of parchment. Mildly curious, I yanked the bottle free and carried on with my day.

As a fisher, my days often ended a couple of hours past noon. I would usually retreat to my wooden house – absent of my family, as their day had only just begun – to sleep till the moon clocked in. That evening however, I decided to stay up past my bedtime. Uncorking the bottle and retrieving the parchment within, I was alike a child eager for an adventure. But to my dismay, there was no treasure map. The parchment was merely a page, seemingly torn from an old diary. And though the writing was in my language, it was nonsensical. There was no message – nothing about it worth my initial excitement. Did someone lodge the bottle in the bedrock as a joke? If it was gifted from across the sea, did a child toss it in a game of make belief? Those were my thoughts.

We ate from the mouths of beasts. ran On fire. from Which the creatures of the sea have not birth. nothing We did meant anything. tangible They said it was. but Not without illusion. the Sky was more real than dreams. fear More elusive than hope. of Those who were ignorant. change Came for mankind.

We found the nest in the west. couldn’t See the light beyond. embrace The hidden jewels within. unity Of the people – we Found our treasure. secluded However, were the many souls. ourselves Beings of detached nature. from Then till now. the Creature ruled. world Was his.

We couldn’t grasps our freedom. didn’t Find the star. believe They kept saying. in Time the creature would free us. acceptance Of fate was reality. so Loss and lost and lose. we Died a many years. indoctrinated Through the imaginations of the truth. our Eyes can no longer see. young And fearless in obscurity.

We cannot live anymore. must Is only a word. arise From darkness is no man’s call. now A broken race without spirit. Leave no one ever said. the Ravings of madness in those words. ways Of the past is the future. of Many, many more. discrimination Is faith. and Acceptance is weakness. learn Not from the creature. to Live is not in light. love, Love, love only the night.

For two days, I left the page crumpled at the corner of my room. Then on the third day, I picked it up. I planned to toss it among the logs, set ablaze in the chilly weather. But before I did, I read it once more. And upon that read, I noticed something odd. The writing remained senseless – a poor attempt at a poetic adventure – but so was the structure. I was no writer, let alone poet, but I was educated. Calling out the repeated errors, I unintentionally uncovered the message in the bottle. It was a message I’ve heard before – a message that costed a young farmer his head.

That very night itself, I returned to the north beach. Along with my fishing nets, I brought the page – nestled in its glass home. I couldn’t share the truth, but I could pass it on. Perhaps another would find it in the bedrock. Perhaps more would uncover history. Perhaps then, we could change the future. But before such a time arrived, I was going to search. There was more to the farmer’s declaration. And I knew, I could never leave the island – not until I’ve read the entire book.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Bottle, page, and mindful were words given by Vela June. There’s some ‘reading between the lines’ for this one, so do share what you’ve discovered – I hope this story isn’t as nonsensical as the message in the bottle.

Now, it’s your turn. I challenge you to use this same three words to write a piece of your own. Also, to complete this year’s 3 Words 1 Story collection, I need two more sets of random words. I know, throwing the oddest collection of words into a comment can be quite a challenge. But don’t think too hard – just leave whatever comes to mind. Thank you in advance!

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2017 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Writing Journey

What (The Heck) Is Developmental Editing?

“What does developmental editing entail?”

Perhaps you’ve once asked this question. If not, you’re now probably wondering what it is. So to answer, allow me to share my most recent experience with you.

First and foremost, I’m certain dev editing varies from book to book. However, the approach taken by a dev editor is the same. And from the perspective of The Slave Prince, I’m sure you’ll grasps its function. Let’s get to it!

My dev editor goes by the name of Matt. Matt took two weeks to read my manuscript. After which, he sent me a developmental letter alongside comments on my manuscript. The comments were secondary to the letter, but both addressed key issues in my book. What were they?

#1 Descriptions

Matt told me my novel was sorely lacking in descriptions. And here I thought, I did a pretty decent job! I was wrong. Before my latest rewrite, I failed to picture the named ships. I fell short on the kingdom and palace layouts. I also didn’t establish racial differences, facial features, and physical changes over a 3-year time jump, for my characters. With dev editing, this issue was brought to light. And out of the 6000 words of new material, a chunk went to descriptions.

#2 Characters

When it came to the characters, Matt said their needs and wants weren’t clearly established. I had to reevaluate my protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters. I needed to make it clear in writing – establishing their former desires and the changes that occur. And through this process, I made a major shift in my protagonist’s behaviour. Clear on his goals, he’s now more human than before.

#3 Plot

Matt asserted that one of the key subplots in the book made my protagonist unlikeable. He then suggested an alternative, saving Thom from the hate he would possibly receive from readers. As I struggled with this particular subplot in my earlier edits – somehow knowing it would ruin the book – I’m grateful Matt saw a way to change it without altering it completely. What I once couldn’t resolve, has now found a resolution – what a relief!

#4 Magic

Talk about cliche, Matt stated that the appearance of magic in The Slave Prince was over done. The white tree in a snowy cave reminded him of A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings. He advised me to change the entire scene. And, after much re-imagining, I did. The white tree, rooted in snow, no longer exists in the book – a new, more awesome scene, has taken its place. But don’t worry, this post contains #nospoilers.

#5 Language

Both in dialogue and prose, Matt pointed out that the language I used was sometimes anachronistic. To align the writing to a medieval setting, I was told to remove modern day phrases and words. Idioms such as ‘throwing in the towel’ and words like ‘awkward’ didn’t belong. And so backspaced I went… on all of them.

So, what does developmental editing entail?

I hope these five points helped you understand the fundamentals. Of course, what you’ve just read is merely surface level – what I can share without spoiling the story. There was more in Matt’s dev letter, including additional suggestions on how to add value to the book. And aside from his comments, Matt also worked with me on a rewrite outline to address the present issues. It’s safe to say, developmental editing made The Slave Prince a denser book – it helped build three-dimensional characters, and establish a richer and fuller world.

The next question you’d probably ask is if developmental editing is worth undergoing. Well, if you have a publisher, it’s usually a part of the publishing deal. If you don’t, and are on a tight budget, candid beta readers can sometimes act as dev editors. But if you have the funds, getting a professional dev editor is advisable. You might need to spend 56 hours rewriting – like I did – but you’ll end up with a better book.

Do note, that approaching any form of editing requires a realisation that editors exist to help you. You may be offended by their claims – it’s normal, your book is your baby – but know that their honesty will make it better. And hey, if you don’t like their suggestions, it’s fine! You don’t have to incorporate their ideas – dev editors cannot force you to do anything. But sleeping on their words will definitely help. After all, it’s their job to see things you cannot see and work toward fixing them.

With all that said, I’m excited for my next stage of editing. Matt is currently reading my rewrite. And if he thinks I’ve tackled the issues well, The Slave Prince will enter copy editing! Having gone through copy editing before, with The Battle for Oz, I know what to expect. One can only hope I’ve improved in skill that will result in a swift pass.

Now, to plug my book! If this post has piqued your curiosity, click HERE to learn more about The Slave Prince. Then, consider joining over 300 other readers as they become the first to receive the book before it hits the shelves! That would make you so very cool… in my starry dreamer eyes.