Thursday, March 31, 2016

My March Highlights



  So March was a little bit of a crazy month, which is weird for me. Generally my January/February/March consists of seasonal depression and a lot of being holed up in my bedroom having an existential crisis because going outside entails being in a climate where the air hurts my face and the only reason to leave the warm house is forced labor with cattle. Creatures I despise. 

  In any case, this is the first March of my teenage life that the above has not come to pass, or at least hasn't seemed to. It's been a thoroughly enjoyable month with tons of things to keep me busy and focused. Some of which I'll tell you about below, since I'm going to jump fully on the blogging bandwagon and share some monthly highlights with you guys. 

  LIFE IN GENERAL

  Well, the beginning of the month our homeschool group had it's annual Medieval Feast. My family was the royal family and I was a princess. Yay. :P It was a lot of fun though. We ate traditional fare and had dancing and our homeschool band performed live as did our choir (which I am part of). There was also some sword fighting that I would have loved to join in, but as princess it probably wouldn't have been proper. 

Myself and boyfriend, Jonathan, with his mom photobombing. 

  After that there was my local Christian camp's All Girls Winter Camp, a weekend with a cooking theme. Lord help me. I know zilch about cooking and though I be a counselor and oldest of five, I am the worst with kids (and don't entirely enjoy it all the time) so it was a rather stressful weekend herding children around while also trying to bake. My worst skill after math. Still, I enjoy my camp and have a lot of fun when there, even if it's cooking themed.

  I had a double date that Sunday with one of my oldest friends and her boyfriend, who is blind. We were playing UNO and he actually won twice, simply memorizing his hand. It was pretty impressive. Not for us though. We lost UNO to a blind guy. :P

  I got to go see my awesome cousins in the city for Abby's seventeenth birthday too this month, that was a good day. They are some of my best friends and I am always thankful of their company.

  My biggest thing was probably my family's roadtrip to California this past week and a bit. We went to SeaWorld, Disneyland, the beach and the Grand Canyon all in ten days. It was a lot. I got sick as well. All of that can be read about in my last post here. As awesome as the sights were and as fun as it was and as much as there was a lack of cows I was missing home and I'm happy to be back. There really is no place like home. 

My siblings and I at Laguna Beach

  Other than that the month was full of my usual; my daily chores feeding our 300 cows, floor hockey, youth group, as much horsebackriding as possible, trying to draw, trying to read, write, etc.

  WRITING STUFF

  I participated in Go Teen Writers "300 for 30" Challenge this month and while my vacation kind of sucked the wind out of my sails for a while there, I did manage to get in about 10,000 words for my WIP Faithless which you can read about under my "About My Writing" header, here.

  That was the project I worked on this month, since I've finished the first draft of my novel(la) The Sorceress and the Squid in February I needed something new and I've had the makings of this story in my head for a little while now. I wanted to get it down. So I did, getting into my sixth chapter by month's end, which I was pretty happy with. I hope to finish the first draft in the next three months (hopefully less) before summer starts and I have no time for writing since I'll be at summer camp for two months. It will be a feat for me, especially as the months get busier and busier, but I will try!

  I also did a fair bit of editing in The Sorceress and the Squid (which can also be found on my "About My Writing" page). It currently stands at 18 chapters and 55,000 words and I am working on the 14th one currently. So far the editing/rewriting process hasn't been too bad, since it's a shorter story. However, the ending got a little messed up so I'm going to have fun with fixing that one. Wish me luck!

  (I will also be debuting the first chapter of The Sorceress and the Squid on my next Writing Wednesday, so stay tuned for that!)

  BLOGGING LIFE

  I've had this blog up for awhile but haven't been seriously pursuing it as a platform until this year. Thus, I'm really new to blogging and stumbling madly along the way. However, I think I'm beginning to pick up some of the tricks of the trade. I've really enjoyed tapping into the great wide world of young writers that are out there, and interacting with them. I hope to do more of that this month because y'all are awesome and I love getting to know you and your projects in turn! It's so exciting to have this whole network to tap into, right at your fingertips. 

  My current blogging stats are as follows;

  1300 pageviews (as of today)
  3 followers (a quaint little number, but treasured!)
  24 posts (as of now)

  I'd really like to grow all these numbers over the next month. I have lots of new ideas for posts and hope to be more interactive, cause I'm kind of bad about that, but does anyone have any tried and true blogging tips to share? I would be most grateful.

  READING LIFE (or lack thereof)

  Since I've gotten more heavily into writing my reading life has definitely suffered, which is terrible because reading is key to writing well and I've been failing in this department for awhile....too long. I'm hoping to do better this year, though so far I have not been. It's so hard when all of your hobbies demand so much time! 

  In any case, the two books I did read this month were the last two of George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (the last two published ones anyways, impatiently waiting for the next). I read the last one on vacation during our long drives - instead of writing, which I should have been doing for the challenge. I procrastinate on whatever it is I should be doing cause I'm cool like that. 

  Though I do not necessarily recommend the series due to some pretty graphic and intense content, the plot and characters are all-around fantastic and using your own personal discernment, these books are enjoyable. The mysteries of the magic and politics of complicated and well-built fictional realms are pretty phenomenal and I am excited for the conclusion. 

  GOALS FOR APRIL

  I've got a few of them, since I didn't do as well as I liked last month, and seeding season/summer are fast approaching and my time is wearing thin.
  I want to... 
  •   Participate in Go Teen Writers April Challenge, which is a choose-your-own kind of thing. I have elected to try the categories "edit five chapters a week" and "write 100 words a day". 
  •   Polish up my entry for an essay contest to win a young horse from a local equestrian event.
  •   Try to get through the second draft of The Sorceress and the Squid and halfway through the first draft of Faithless.
  •    Read at least one book (I know, setting the bar real low, too many things to do!)
  •    Double my amount of followers (surely that's doable). 
  •    Do some plotting for my summer/fall WIP, The Snow Dragon.
  •    Survive and maintain a life and still ride as much as possible while doing all these things!
  Hopefully some of these goals can be met this month. I know there's some that won't be, but I'm going to sincerely try!

  Well, that about wraps up my March. It was hectic, but fun-filled, and a little productive even. Hopefully April will be even better!

  How was your March? Anything exciting happen? Do you have any goals for April? Let me know below!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Creating Names for Fantasy Characters - A How-To


  So, my family is currently in Irvine, California for a trip to Disneyland and other such exciting attractions.

  And what am I doing writing a blog post when I should be vacationing you ask?

  Well, the answer to that is an unpleasant one. Basically, in short, got food poisoning, puked all day on our eighteen hour car ride, still nauseous today and wasn't able to go out on the first day of Disneyland exploration. Life currently sucks.

  So here I am in the lonely hotel room, smelling the tropical-ness outside and seeing the sun going down and being depressed knowing I am missing the fireworks show. Le sigh.

  Oh well, I did get to go to SeaWorld yesterday, which had some very cool things to see. Among them being this tree...

  I mean, how cool is that, right? I wanted to climb it so bad but it had a fence around it and I feel like the blue-shirted SeaWorld people might not be very happy with me.

  Yes, I am a sheltered Albertan who never sees trees that aren't spruce, pine, birch, elm or ash.

  Yes, I am also talking about how cool a tree was when I was just at SeaWorld. Other things were cool too. But the tree though...

  In any case, that's been taking up my past few days, trees and puking and sea creatures and cramped hotel rooms full of seven people. Before that it was doing all the farmwork to get ready to go on this trip. As such, I have been falling behind on the March challenge, but I plan to use my nights and days like today where I am ill to catch up. Hopefully. Pray for me.

  So, blog post topic is...yes, fantasy names and how to come up with them. Some of my secrets for fantasy naming. 

  As a writer who has mainly written in the fantasy genre all her life, I have gone through many a character in need of a name. I feel like some people think naming a fantasy character is about smashing the keyboard and trying to make something pronounce-able out of the results, but I am here to say - nay! There are better and surer methods of fantasy naming. Five of which I am prepared to divulge below. 

1. Online Name Generators


  Revolutionary, amiright? Not really. This is probably the most obvious of my tips, but also a very effective one. There are some enormous and extensive collections of name generators online and a simple Google search for a specific kind, such as "fantasy", will give you thousands of options for your characters. If you haven't tried it, do. If you have, do again. 

2. Spelling Names Differently


  Another fairly simple point that can be very helpful. Take an ordinary name like, say, Mary. You can twist that in many, many ways. Example; Mari, Meri, Marri, Merri, Marey, etc. However, this method works better on bigger names like maybe, Alexandra; Alixandra, Alyxandraa...

3. Use Names From Other Languages


  I personally favor Celtic, Greek, Arabic and other such names for this method. They are some of the best languages to retrieve fantasy names, or names inspired from them. This is also really helpful if you want to include some symbolism. For instance, if you have a character with an affinity for, say, nature and woods, you can look up "tree" in Arabic and get the result (according to Google anyway), Shajara. Which isn't a bad name in my opinion. Of course this is applicable to anything. One should practice caution in this however and be sure to fully examine their sources. You wouldn't want to mess up and make your character's name a joke in someone else's language.

4. If You Are Making Up Some or All of Your Own Fantasy Language, USE IT!


  I have made up some languages of my own and this is another great way to use symbolism. For example, the MC of my fantasy novel, The Bayalaa Saga, is called Falaroy Rogoth. He is a lord's son born of prophecy and his name, roughly translated in the Ancient Speech means "favored king". Which is both symbolism and foreshadowing for the story's plot and works very well for him. Making up a whole language is obviously pretty hard, but nobody said it had to be whole. Making up just parts, so long as they are consistent and well thought out, is perfectly acceptable as well.

5. Spelling Names/Things Backwards


  My ultimate secret weapon. Okay, it's not much of a secret but it has surprised people in the past with its simplicity and applicability. You can take lots of things and spell it backwards and get something pretty interesting, in most cases. Obviously this doesn't work for every single word, but it works for many. Ocean, for instance, is Neaco spelled backwards. Sea is Aes. Naomi is Imoan. Anything is possible here really. And no one says what you spell backwards can't be tweaked and changed a little to be more presentable. That's very allowed. 

  So, now that you know my secrets to fantasy naming, please don't be intimidated by the task of naming your cast any longer! Take these tips and get naming! 

  Do you have any special tips or tricks for coming up with character names? Tell me about them in the comments!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Concentric Circles - An Exercise for Writers


  So I've been taking a Creative Writing course through my local university this past school year. It has been difficult in some respects but very informative and has certainly helped develop me as a writer. One of the exercises I did for my class was called "Concentric Circles" and is by no means an original idea of my own. However, I figured that my fellow writers might enjoy trying it out to, so here you are! Look at me being all nice and sharing things. You're welcome.

  The object of the exercise is to ask yourself questions about your writing life; from most to least important. You can either do this on a sheet of paper/computer document, or a blank piece of paper using actual circles, going out from the middle like ripples on the water, as shown:

 So once you've either gotten this drawn up or found yourself something to write with, you can begin jotting down these questions in the appropriate circle, starting from the middle and working out:

  Circle #1 - How do I feel when I am immersed in writing?

  Circle #2 - How do I feel about the act or process of writing?

  Circle #3 - How do I feel about myself as a writer?

  Circle #4 - How do I feel about my skills as a writer?

  Circle #5 - How do I feel about my resources (equipment, place, time, editing help)?

  Circle #6 - How do I feel about the support and companionship I have from other writers?

  Circle #7 - How do I feel about how those closest to me respond to me as a writer?

  Circle #8 - How do I feel about publishing my work?

  Circle #9 - How do I feel about the reception of my work once it is published?

  These questions are obviously quite personal and reflective, very handy for considering and thinking about your work and what you really want out of your writing life. I gave short answers since big ones don't really fit in the circles, but here they are below, in case anyone was interested. :P

  Emily's Answer #1 - I don't know as I feel happy or unhappy, I simply feel the story and where it is taking me. I get caught up in my imagination. 

  Emily's Answer #2 - It is an act and process I normally enjoy and am proud of, but it is also one I can find frustrating. 

  Emily's Answer #3 - Sometimes I feel like I'm not one, that I could never be good enough to describe myself as a writer, but that is still how I identify. 

  Emily's Answer #4 - I feel like my skills need improvement and conditioning. I am not as good as I want to be. 

  Emily's Answer #5 - I wish I had more resources, I also need a better time and place for consistent writing and all the editing help I can get. 

  Emily's Answer #6 - It seems that my writing identity bothers some people at certain times, like my parents when I spend a lot of time on the computer, or friends when I put my project ahead of them for a time. Overall though I have been met mostly with approval from family and friends. 

  Emily's Answer #7 - I have a good group of writer friends that I enjoy but I wish we were able to share with each other better, and only one of them is actually serious about their writing whereas the others treat it totally as a hobby. 

  Emily's Answer #8 - I would really like to publish someday, I would like my work read by more than just family and friends and I think I have something to share with the world.

  Emily's Answer #9 - I am somewhat nervous of how my work will be received. I am not entirely sure of the outcome. 

  I really enjoyed doing this exercise and learning a little bit more about myself as a writer. What about you guys? What kinds of exercises do you like to use? Did you like this one? Let me know in the comments!

  PS. To all those in the Go Teen Writer's 300 for 30 Challenge, how is it going? What progress have you made so far? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Writing Wednesday Debut - The Door-Sleeper

  So in keeping with my announcement last week, here is the public debut of my short short story, "The Door-Sleeper" a contemporary fiction piece that tells the story of a guy named Adam as he struggles to cope with his wife's debilitating mental condition as it takes its toll on both him and their marriage.

  I originally wrote this for the Writer's Digest Short Short Story competition, just to see what would happen with it. I didn't, nor did I figure, that I would win anything, but it was fun to try. The best part I think was having the word limit (1500 words) and having to write something within those constraints. It really polished and streamlined my writing and forced me to eliminate all that was unnecessary until I was left with just what I needed. It did wonders for my writing and I would love to try doing something similar in the future to see what results I get.

  Another challenge was writing in the third person, present tense, something I haven't experimented with much. I tried originally writing in the second person, but that proved too difficult and disruptive to the story, in the end I decided on this format.

  In any case, below you may read the story in full. I thought I would share it with everyone just so it could see the light of day.  I hope you enjoy it, let me know what you think in the comments below!


 The Door-Sleeper by Emily Mundell

  A draft of air dances over his face from the crack between the floor and the door. The breeze, combined with the kink in his neck, brings him to waking. Blinking slowly, Adam rolls over, the warm fleece blanket shifting beneath him, and sees the red numerals of the alarm clock faintly pulsating in the dark bedroom. Four in the morning. Ellie’s arm hangs off the bedside, bathed in the red glow.
  He gets to his feet, dismissing all thoughts of sleep. His right arm is numb as he throws his blankets off into the corner. The soft plop of fabric elicits a gentle sigh from his wife, who shifts a little under the sheets. Adam pauses to watch her, hoping she doesn’t wake. She is beautiful like this, peaceful. Pity fills him, and sadness.
    It is too early, and his head hurts and he is tired from a late night of keeping Ellie in the bed and quiet. It was particularly bad that past night, any of her normal inhibitions had been stolen away by four bottles of beer and she had been unable to calm herself down.
  But being able to calm herself is one of many things she can no longer do, something Adam must do for her. One of the harder things.
  The dark curtains that hang over the window are open, left that way at Ellie’s preference. Even before her illness she did not like being unable to see the sky. For the millionth time Adam wonders if dragging her into the inner city so he could follow his dreams of working at a quality law firm was what brought her down to this state, this state of pain and fear and total dependence. At the very least, he knows it must have contributed. Ellie never liked the city. She hated that you couldn’t jay-walk through the streets, or leave your house unlocked, or step out of your car with the keys inside if you felt like it. She hated the buildings that blocked her view of the sunrise, that trees only grew where humans designated, that her home had no backyard.
  It had never bothered Adam before, but it did now. He looked around at what he’d provided for her - a posh apartment in an expensive high-rise in the best part of town - and found it all worth nothing. Not in comparison of what it had done to her.
  He moves away from the window and heads into the bathroom to count out Ellie’s morning pills. Xanax, Atvian, and a dozen other anti-depressants and anxiety meds line the vanity, plastic bottles all neatly categorized. Adam hates looking at them. They are doing nothing to bring her back.
  It’s been three months since Ellie left the psyche ward and came home. At least, that’s what he’s been told. He isn’t sure he believes them. The woman he brought home on the drizzly day in May is not the same he dropped off in the chill of October.
  He finishes setting out the pills placed in the same pattern as yesterday and the day before. As he puts away the prescription bottles he pauses to grab himself a Tylenol, swallowing it dry.
  The first time he’d given Ellie her pills had been a disaster. She’d fought him, screaming and kicking like a bratty child when he tried to hold her still.
  “I hate you!” she’d shouted, trying to hit him, but he caught her wrist in his hand. Each word drove into him like a knife. “Leave me alone! I don’t want your help!”
  He’d been so upset that he had done just that. Walking out of the room, out of the apartment, even out of the building complex. Down the block and onward until he realized what he’d done in leaving her alone, with all those pills. The doctors had warned him multiple times that she was a suicide risk, as mental health patients often were, but there he was, stupidly storming off and leaving her alone with enough drugs to kill her twice over.
  He had never been so terrified in all his life when he sprinted back to the apartment, envisioning the worst awaiting him. His lungs were burning by the time he managed to get to the building’s elevator. He pushed past a mother and baby and men in business suits as he sped through the halls to their apartment. By then he was praying, begging whatever deity sat in the heavens to save her. When he stumbled inside, he was met with an eerie silence that chilled him to the bone. But then, a soft sound, like sobbing, drew him into the bedroom and around the corner to the bathroom.
  He found her sitting on the toilet, her medication spilled all over the tiles at her feet. Thick, black hair sat in a tousled mess around a white face, framing eyes dark with smeared makeup and sleep circles. Tears were on her cheeks. Tears of anger, and of desperation. Adam knew then that Ellie missed herself as much – perhaps more – than he did.
  Dumbly, he stared at her a long time, as guilt came crashing over him, consuming him.
  “It’s my fault, isn’t it?” he’d asked her. “It’s my fault you’re this way.”
  She never answered his question, but that was all the answer Adam needed.
  Last night he’d come home from a few hours at the office to find her standing on the patio, leaning on the railing with a beer in her hand. Surprise and anger filled him. She knew how much he hated alcohol. After what it had done to his father, he’d sworn off the stuff and Ellie had promised to do the same, for his sake.
  Dropping his things on the table, he slipped out onto the deck at her side, eyeing the brown bottleneck glass in her hand and the two at her feet with suspicion and resentment.
  “What are you doing?” he asked, the liquor burning his nostrils. In the distance a siren was screaming and the air was a hazy yellow. Ellie shrugged, smiling a little, but the smile did not reach her eyes.
  “Maybe there’s a way to reverse this,” she said, but more to herself than to him. “Half the time I feel drunk when I’m sober and normal. Maybe I’ll feel normal for real when I’m drunk.”
  He couldn’t fault her that, as much as seeing her with a beer made him uncomfortable. Her whimsical tone touched his heart. Ellie had always been a somewhat cynical romantic. It was a small glimpse of her old self.
  He’d stood by and watched her drink the whole thing, and then another. Attempting to put aside all of his prejudice as he watched her drop further into the drunkenness she was seeking. He hated to see it, his mind filled only with visions of his father, stumbling around, shaking his fist with a beer in hand, and swearing at the top of his lungs while his mother chased her sons upstairs.
  Ellie did not get drunk the same way that Samuel Walters had. She grew chatty and giggly and dark… very dark. She joked light-heartedly of death, and shadows who kept her up at night. Her voice betrayed no hint of fear or sarcasm, and that was what scared Adam most.
  He let the alcohol run its course, made her brush her teeth and tucked her in. She’d remained awake for hours, alternating between erratic muttering and dead silence.
  Finally she slept, and Adam made himself a bed in front of the door, in case she decided to go wandering in the night. It was a normal thing for him, part of their routine that had been established after he’d awoken one too many times to find her out of bed and gone.
  Adam finishes setting out the pills, looks at himself in the mirror and grimaces at the bags under his eyes, the sickly pastiness of his complexion. Ellie’s illness is taking its toll on him too.
  “Adam?”
  He looks up as the floorboards creak, sees her standing in the doorway in the mirror’s reflection in underwear and a t-shirt. She seems distraught, her hands twitching nervously.
  “You okay?” He turns to face her, seeing that her whole body is trembling.
  “I’m cold.” Adam reaches for her hand, it’s like ice and her lips look blue. Awkwardly he guides her back to the bed and sits her down, wrapping a blanket over her shoulders.
  “Just rest,” he says and she does, looking dejected and hurt. He takes a step back, letting go of her cold hand, and is about to turn away.
  “Are you going to sleep by the door again, Adam?” she asks softly and he stops as pain cuts deep into his heart. He blinks back tears and then comes and climbs in beside her.
  “No,” he whispers into her ear. “I’m staying with you.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Two Days Into the Challenge and Writing Announcement


  I am now two days into Go Teen Writers 300 for 30 Challenge and am loving it! Yesterday and today (Tuesday and Wednesday) are the busiest days of my week and because of this challenge I've managed not only to meet my quota but actually write about a chapter and a half of my WIP so far. It's a little bit insane. Thank goodness I found this challenge!

  As proof of my accomplishment, here is a small excerpt of the first chapter of Faithless:

  “Saagar!”
  Larkin’s hand was on her arm, pulling her out of her frenzy. The sights and the sounds in her head stopped suddenly and she found herself curled up in the corner of the room, her face wet with tears.
  “I need you to listen, and to speak,” Larkin said. “I need to hear all that you know about these terrorists who destroyed your city.”
  She was still shaking beneath the rough touch of his hand. “He killed my family, he killed everyone…”
  “Who?” Larkin asked. “Who killed them?”
  The boy who used to throw apples at me, who loved climbing in the mountains, who stole butter-tarts from the kitchen and kissed me under the garden arch. The boy who lied and betrayed us.

  “Damien…” she answered, her voice trembling. “Damien Sparr. My husband.”

  Hopefully that looks intriguing or interesting, at least a little. BUT, that brings me to my writing announcement...

  I've been toying with the idea of posting small bits and pieces of my work for sampling on this blog and have decided to do just that once a month from here on out. So, next Wednesday be on the look out for the debut of my short story The Door-Sleeper which tells the story of a guy named Adam learning to deal with his wife's debilitating mental condition as it takes its toll on both them and their marriage. 

  So what about the rest of you who are doing the challenge? How is it going? How much have you accomplished so far? Let me know below!