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Who Is Thom?

Thom was raised in a royal household. His parents were the King and Queen of Alpenwhist. For the first fifteen years of his life, Thom had everything he needed. He was granted most of what he wanted. And, he lacked (almost) nothing. He lived as a prince in a grand royal palace. He rode only stallions and dueled with the finest blades. He studied with the best scholars and ate from plates of gold. That was the life of a prince. And as a prince, he did his royal duties and acted princely whenever he made a public appearance. It was second nature to him–being a prince was all Thom knew… until he wasn’t.

Who is Thom? Is he a prince or is he not? Does he have royal blood or is he just an impostor? Who is Thom, really? Thom… is us.

He’s us when we question our identities, when we’ve lost sight of who we are, and when we have no confidence in our abilities. He’s us when we’re unsure of our decisions, when we’re afraid of the future, and when we can’t find a name to call ourselves. He’s us beyond the princely vest, farm boy hat, and beggar cloak. He’s us in, perhaps, a few phases of our lives, when we’re discouraged, doubtful, and hesitant. There’s a Thom in every one of us, and there’s us in the Thom from Alpenwhist.

Though his adventure may be different from ours, what he goes through isn’t foreign. He may not be from this world, but his emotions are reflective of our own. Thom is not a stranger nor is he a friend, but he is certainly someone we know.

Who is Thom? The better question would be, who are we?

As The Slave Prince hits bookshelves next Tuesday, I hope many of you are able to answer that question. I hope you know who you are, what your passion is, and how you want to live your life. But if you don’t know who you are, don’t lose hope. If Thom can discover his identity in such a confusing and troubling time of his life, so can you. He isn’t just a work of fiction–he’s hope that all of us, no matter where we come from and what we’re going through, have a name. We have a name not coined or dictated by others, but a name that truly reflects our inmost being even in the darkest of times. We have an identity we can be proud of–an identity uniquely our own. And when we truly find ourselves, we won’t lose sight again.

Let’s find ourselves, stay true to who we are, and face the unknowns in life unafraid and unashamed. Let’s be the heroes of our own stories, as it is… after all… our birthright.

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Posted by on May 24, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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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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No ‘Proper’ Post This Week — It’s The New Year!

This post has been scheduled in advance, since I’m not around to physically hit publish–as this goes up, I’m likely at my aunt’s place for my yearly family reunion dinner. But wait, isn’t the New Year on January first? Well, yes and no.

If you live in Asia, you might find yourself an extra holiday around January or February. Schools will be on a short break, while most companies close for a few days. After all, it’s the Lunar New Year!

The Lunar New Year is a tradition for East Asians. If you’re not married, you’ll follow your parents back to their hometowns to visit your relatives. You’ll also receive red packets containing money. There’s a reunion dinner, house visitations, and… a lot of sitting around and snacking on festive treats. So, with the excuse of being away, I’ve not written a proper post for today.

For those who’re celebrating the Lunar New Year, I hope you have a great time with your family. For those who’re on holiday because of it, I hope you also have a great time with your family. And for those who wished they had a break but don’t live in Asia, I’ll be back next week with what I hope to be an exciting post (if my schedule goes as plan). So until then, have a great week ahead!

GET SOCIAL WITH ME!

Guess what? I’ll be posting excerpts of The Slave Prince on my Facebook and Twitter timeline leading up to its publication. If you’d like to sample what’s in store, follow me on these two platforms. But… if you’d like to get even more personal, I’m on Instagram! I don’t post much about writing on Instagram but focus more on my other two passions: travel and fitness.

FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2018 in Others

 

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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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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.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2017 in Others

 

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3 Reasons Why You’re Not Finding Success

You’ve been at your craft for a few years, but you still haven’t found success. You’re wondering why it is so, and you’re beginning to question the value of your work. Are you not good enough? Are you doing something wrong? Why is it so difficult to get a big break? Let me tell you why.

#1 You expect to be famous overnight.

So often we dream of becoming an overnight success. We imagine what it would be like to have a video go viral or a scout offering us a million dollar deal. We imagine what could be, and we hope for it to be true. But even though there’s nothing wrong in hoping for great things, we sometimes expect our hope to reflect in reality. And that’s when we fail.

Hoping for rain and expecting rain are two different things – both approaches result differently. Hope keeps our passion alive – it pushes us to persevere and believe in our dreams. But expectation does the opposite – it questions our efforts and discourages us from dreaming. So… you can hope to be famous overnight, but you shouldn’t expect it.

I’ve personally seen people give up on their dreams because their efforts didn’t result in their expectations. It’s disappointing and almost always annoying. Why? Because they’ve barely begun. They think that 3 years into their craft should result in success. And with that expectation, they’re relying on success to keep them motivated. But despite success being a great motivator, it shouldn’t be the only motivator. This leads me to believe they don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing.

#2 You don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

It takes years to find success. I wrote my first novel almost 7 years ago, and I still haven’t found ‘success’. I’m not a millionaire. My recent publishing deals are the result of hustling my personal network. And there’s no way I can survive (let alone feed myself) by merely writing fiction. But, I know why I’m doing what I’m doing. I even wrote a blog post on why I write.

The purpose of my writing is my motivation. I don’t need overnight success. I hope for it, but I’m at peace with the thought of never being famous. It doesn’t bother me, nor does it challenge my efforts, when my hope doesn’t reflect my reality. And I can say all this because my reason redefines my success. Success isn’t fame and money – ‘success’ is something else.

#3 You don’t define your ‘success’.

If you live by the world’s definition of success, which is often money, power, and fame, you may never find it. But if you redefine success to complement your purpose – in life and in your craft – you will find it. And hey, if you wish to keep the world’s definition, by all means do so. But don’t aim for success without knowing your reason. It is your purpose that’ll lead you, motivate you, and bring about the success you hope for.

By default, finding success isn’t difficult. It’s our perspective that makes the quest a challenge. It’s our expectation that makes it ‘one step forward and two steps back’. But if we hope for it and persevere with a purpose, we will find it. It may not be in the form of money and fame, but it’ll be the kind of success that is meaningful, valuable, and personal to us.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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