Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nitri's Interview

Hello everyone, and welcome to today's post, where I am entertaining a very special guest. Meet Nitri! *Nitri walks on, grinning widely and winking at all the girls* Yes yes, Nitri, very good, now just sit down for a moment and then we'll get on with the questions. 
(He's got a Jageran . . .ehem, sort of Arabic . . .accent)
Can't we get on with them now?
No, we cannot. I have to do an introduction.
Didn't you just do that?
Partially. I'm not done yet; now stop trying to out-sass me. I invented your sass. Anyway, Nitri has obligingly shown up to answer all the questions you wonderful people have asked. Actually, he's been waiting in agony for this day to come for over a week. He's been more than happy to get an approved opportunity to brag.
I'm not bragging, I only state facts.
I'm not buying it since you're a certified liar. 
Oh come on, Annie - can I call you that? - stop being . . .
NEVER call me Annie; I will put you on board even more boats!
*raises hands* Okay, nevermind then.
Good. Anyway, back to business . . .the questions!
Finally! Ooh, a picture of me!
*rolls eyes*

"Nitri Sketch" by Annika S. 

What kind of knife do you use? Have you ever cut yourself? (Would you even admit it if you had?)
*takes out a knife from its sheathe and holds it out for examination* My knives are very special; very rare.They are Jageran fighting knives, a matching set, crafted by best smith in Jager, using the finest steel the nation had to offer. As you can see, the double-edged blades are unlike those found in any other nation of the known world, with a double curve tapering to a needle-sharp point. There are no cross guards because only a useless knife fighter would need them, and Jagerans are the best knife fighters in the known world. And see here, how the hilt and pommel are made of quality bronze? These knives are coveted by every man who knows about them. I cannot tell you how difficult it has been to hang on to these exquisite blades, defending them from all sorts of murderers and thieves!
May I point out that you are a thief, Nitri?
*starts flipping the knife into the air and catching it* Details. And for the last part of that question, I must admit to cutting myself a few times when I first started. But I pushed through the pain to learn this skill, and now, as you can see, I have no problem catching them by the hilts. Obviously, yes, I have admitted to it. My honor is nothing if I lose my reputation for honesty.
I am offended by your distrust, Annie . . .Annika. You have wounded me to the depths of my soul!

Watch it, mister. Now how about this interesting question: would you ever buy an elephant? What about a panther? If so, how much would you consider a decent price?
Elephants? Panthers? What are you talking about!?
Elephants are large animals, gray with lots of wrinkly skin, which are as big as houses. They're got long tusks and can be used for work and riding, if they're trained properly. Panthers are huge black cats, about three feet high, with wicked claws and teeth. They're both very dangerous animals. 
But you can train them, you say?
Yes, if you get them as babies and know what you're doing.
Ah, I see. Well, I must say that the idea of having a panther, as you call it, to assist me in ruling my subjects is a very appealing one, despite the apparent risk to life and limb. After all, that risk could be turned onto others, couldn't it? Like an attack dog, but scarier? I wouldn't have much use for an elephant, though. As for price, I wouldn't pay it! I'm a king; I don't have to pay.
And just how would you go about that?
Well, I'd get close to the seller, make him think I'm preparing to buy. Then, I don't know what I'd do. *shrugs* Either grab the beast and run, get Tyv to hold him, or have Tyv cause a distraction - there are really any number of ways to go about it. I don't really plan these things out, you know.

Oh, trust me, I know. Here's a similar question to the last one. Would you ever buy a cat?
A cat? What would I want a cat for?
Well, they can catch mice - 
And eat my food, and get fur all over my nice black coat!
That thing hasn't been "nice" for three years, but I presume the answer, then, is no?
No! And if I did get a cat, I would steal it, obviously. But as I said, no point . . . *whispers* unless I ate it.

That is absolutely disgusting and barbaric! Remind me never to let you get near a cat. But on the topic of stealing, what sort of things do you like to steal in particular?
Oh, lot's of things. *begins tossing knife again* I steal useful things, like bread and money and fabric. But what I really like to steal are things that are just fun to have. Like colorful beads, or a Jageran turban, And of course, this captains' coat. I stole it from a Mejoran ship when I was fifteen. Snuck right into the captain's quarters, then had to duel the fellow to make my escape! It was hard, and I doubt anyone else could have managed it. But it was worth it, because now everyone can see how important I am.
Explain that.
Well, length of coattails is a sign of how rich someone is, right? These coattails are nice and long, so I have high rank. Everyone knows that.

Actually, not everyone does. Have you ever been caught?
*Holds hand to chest importantly* Well I'm known amongst all the ladies as being very hard to catch -
I think this question refers to the Town Guard.
Oh, you're no fun. *sigh* I have never been inside their filthy hole of a prison. I have, however, heroically escaped their clutches several times.
Yes. Heroically. Several times they have nearly beaten me, even tied my hands behind my back once! But I have always fought my way free before they can drag me away to be tossed into the jail. I'm smarter than them, see? *taps temple* Not to mention a better fighter! They should know better by now than to try to catch me, the Street King of Bemark!

You'd think, wouldn't you? Now here's a different sort of question. Do you collect anything in particular? Like keys or rings or something of the like?
Well I do like spices. They're not particularly useful for trading, but they smell good. Sometimes I sprinkle some on my coat, or mix a little with water and rub it on my skin. It makes the girls swoon. *winks*

I'm sure. Ooh, a good one: Why did you  pick Tyv to 'protect'?
Tyv? My right hand man?
Yes, there's only one Tyv in Bemark.
Well I came across him when I was fifteen, and Tyv was just thirteen. At first I was going to go take his steals away, because he's Kampene, and Kampenes and Jagerans don't get along. But then Jasp and Trint attacked him first and I decided to save his little hide, to get him indebted to me. It worked, but I realized that he didn't have a Kampene accent and seemed completely clueless that he and I should be mortal enemies. I made a . . .ehem . . .deal with him - he was a good thief, fast, and though he wasn't the best knife fighter back then he had potential. He also had nerve. I figured that under my influence he'd make a good second in command. I was right, except he still needs to loosen up a little. He's so uptight. Oh, and he's now taller than me thanks to his Kampene genes, which is not on. Can you believe it? My right hand man is taller than me! I've forbidden him from growing any more.

Good luck with that - he's still got a few years left to get even taller, whereas you're just about done. Last question, and a warning: you're not going to like it. What do you wish you were able to forget?
*silence**clutches his knife hilts*
You have to answer.
I won't. *clutches knives tighter*
Do it. 
At least a hint? The readers will love it. It will add to your mystery.
 . . .
Come on. Everyone loves a tragic hero.
They do?
*nods vigorously* Yes, they do. They absolutely love tragic heroes. It will make you swoon-worthy. Girls fangirling all over you.
 . . .Just a hint, then. *releases knives*
*sighs in relief**nods encouragingly*
I wish I could forget my family.
 . . .
 . . .
That all you're willing to say? 
Clammed up for the rest of the night?

Well, I guess that's it! Sorry to leave it off on that note, but I had to save that question for last. I knew Nitri would clam up after he heard it. Honestly, we're lucky he didn't pull his knives and throw them at me. 
More character interviews may be coming in the future! Sorry that there wasn't a regular post this week - NaNoWriMo and school have made things hectic. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Character Interview: Ask Nitri

Most of my writing-related focus has been on my Shadows & Light project. In fact, I've written so much about it on this blog that you could nearly not even notice that I have another project in the works called Taken. This one is my first original novel idea, and is the one I've made the most progress on. I have a full rough draft with minimal revision. It's been put on hold for NaNoWriMo to give me time to write out the first draft for Shadows & Light, but really, Taken deserves some more attention.
I've been wanting to do a character interview, and since most of you probably know a lot about my Shadows & Light characters anyway from previous posts, the focus is changing to Taken for a couple weeks. Today I present you with Nitri, a secondary character (though he'd like to think he is the main character) in Taken. Below is a short blurb about him, and a few pictures and quotes to help you guys get a better feel for him (if you want to get a really good look at him, he's got his own board here. *looks over shoulder* Yes I know, Nitri, you're very special. We all know it. Now be quiet.). Ask whatever you want; I'm sure Nitri will be more than happy to boast. He's already starting.

Nice collage, pretty collage . . .

Taken Chapter 1, Scene 2, by Annika S.

Taken Chapter 1, Scene 1, by Annika S.

Nitri is an orphan but no longer a child at age eighteen. As you may notice during the interview, his supposed adulthood doesn't improve his maturity in the least. He is a pro joker, making light of any and every situation (it annoys poor Tyv no end). Nitri also takes risks without caution, throwing himself without thought into any kind of dangerous situation just for kicks. One of his favorite pastimes is escaping from the Town Guard by the skin of his teeth after successfully stealing some flashy (but probably useless) merchandise. He's got a habit of tossing his knife into the air and then catching it, repeatedly, without even glancing at it. Thank goodness he's gotten quite good at it or he would have lost a hand by now. Nitri lives in Erober, but is originally from Jager and he is shamelessly proud of the fact (he came to Erober because of a shipwreck, which also killed his entire family - but he has never told anyone about it and good luck trying to get him to open up). He makes a living off of thievery, threats, and blackmail; every other lowlife in the town's slums is petrified of Nitri because of how ruthless he is in getting what he wants. He calls himself the king of the Quarantine (the slum sector of Bemark) since he does, in effect, rule the lawless. Since he took Tyv under his "protection" his effectiveness in ruling others has only increased, now that he has a backup fighter.
Some other facts: Nitri is a expert knife-fighter but has other difficulties due to being deaf in his left ear. He is vain and almost never takes off the black captain's coat he stole hmm. . .let's see, three years ago (*gag* Gross.) His main rivals are a pair of thieves/murderers named Jasp and Trint, and the Town Guard, some members of which can now recognize him by sight because of how often he slips away from them.
So that is some basic stuff about him. Nitri is already talking his head off about all his greatest achievements; he obviously can't wait to get his chance to spread his fame. I'm sure he'll be more than willing to answer nearly any questions. Ask away!

Questions now closed - interview posted here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beautiful Books Linkup #2: How's the Writing Going?

This is off-schedule, but I've got another post scheduled for Tuesday. So, since this was ready and not really a usual post, I'm just publishing it now.
It is the second post in the Beautiful Books linkup series. This is November's post, all about actual writing. I suggest that if you haven't yet done this, do it. It really gets you thinking about your novel, your characters, your writing, process, etc. Even if you don't want to publicly answer some questions due to spoilers, at least write the answers somewhere private. Now, let the interrogation commence!

1. Be honest. How is your writing going?
So far, pretty well. I'm actually ahead of the NaNo goals. Yesterday I didn't make my daily goal, but I'd been writing for a couple hours and I was far enough ahead that it didn't matter. I also had more important things going on, so I couldn't spend too much time staring at my laptop.

2. What's your first sentence/paragraph?
"Mara turned away from the lunch lady who’d refused to make eye contact with her, and scanned the cafeteria for a place to sit. Across the way, Ace and his friends were laughing. Loneliness stabbed at Mara’s gut." (Yes, this is the writing font I'm using. I hate Calibri and Arial. Also, this paragraph needs serious revision.). 

3. Do you have a book cover and/or pictures that reflect your book?
I found the basic b&w picture of the silhouette on Pinterest (I have no idea who to credit) and then added the color and text myself using a mixture of Paint and Pixlr Express.
I'm rather proud of this cover, because it's a second draft. The first one was black and white and boring. I've also got a few other pictures which capture the spirit of the book, though what they depict isn't completely accurate. These, also, are from Pinterest, and again, I have no idea who to credit for them.
Mara first discovering how to use magic.
This one makes me think of Mara and Gabriel.
Mara, using magic for her own ends.
I'm actually writing a scene soon based on this picture.
Inspiration for my resolution scene.
4. Do you have pictures of each of your characters? If not, describe them to us!
Mara Harrod:
Mara - Minus the birthmark.

My sketch of Mara from the first half of Shadows & Light
My sketch of Mara from the second half. 
Ace/Julian Harrod:
Ace in his Mage gear.

Tempe Donoghue:

My sketch of Tempe
Gabriel Young:                                         
Gabriel Young

This art isn't mine, but I love it as a representation of Gabriel.

Victoire Delaney:
Victoire Delaney - Ace's Girlfriend & Apprentice
Kendra Earl:
Kendra Earl - Ace's Team Member
As you can see, I've got plenty of imagery. I either drew it or found it on Pinterest. Seriously, if you haven't gotten onto that website yet, go.

5. What scene are you most excited to write?
The midpoint, when Ace clearly betrays Mara. It's going to have so much intense emotion and action! I can't wait.

6. Share a snippet or a scene that you really enjoyed writing.
Warning, this is a rough draft.

The hallways were practically deserted, so Mara had no trouble walking as fast as her legs would carry her. She wiped tears from her eyes as she went, sniffing and not certain of her surroundings because her eyes were so blurred over with tears.
“Mara! Mara!” Ace called out from somewhere behind her. She heard him running towards her, but she didn’t turn to look.
He grabbed her shoulder and spun her around.
“Mara, stop!” He said. If Mara had hoped for brotherly encouragement, she was wrong. His eyes were furious.
“How dare you threaten Victoire!” He said.
“How dare I?” Mara said. “She’s been torturing me for ten years! I think it’s time I stood up for myself!”
Ace leaned back and looked at her with stern disapproval. “See Mara? This is why no one would believe you before. We all knew what was underneath, waiting to come out.”
“Ha! No, no one wants to believe me because you’re all stupid, hopeless, morons, who want me to fail!”
“No one is a moron except for you!” Ace said. “You’re just an idealistic idiot!”
“It’s funny how one minute you think of me as genuinely idealistic, and the next as someone evil who’s hiding their ‘true’ nature!” Mara said. “It’s funny how you switch from one to the other, whichever suits your purposes!”
“I doesn’t matter which one you are because it’s all going to end up the same way!” Ace said.
“Really? And you can tell the future now? You must be going through your apprenticeship must faster than anyone else! So fast, in fact, that you’re better than the Interpreters!”
“Don’t be ridiculous Mara!” Ace said. “This isn’t about you and I; it’s about your threatening Victoire!”
“You know what? You can join your girlfriend in staying as far away from me as possible!”
“Or what? You’ll kill me too?” Ace asked.
“Maybe! With how unpredictable I apparently am I could go on a killing spree!” Mara said mockingly.
Ace gritted his teeth and blue cloud suddenly appeared around him, licking like flames at his body but flying away like smoke. His hand flew up as if to ward her off, his palm facing her and his fingers spread.
Mara stumbled backward, her breath coming fast. Ace was literally coated in magic, and he was aiming at her. Her own twin brother was about to use magic on her.
“Ace. . .” she said, her voice trembling. She backed into the wall, her palms pressed against the cool metal of the lockers. Her legs were shaking. All she could see was that wonderful blue magic, poised to strike her. That dangerous blue magic.
The fury left Ace’s eyes, and the magic dissipated. His hand lowered, but his eyes stayed trained on Mara.

“Don’t threaten Victoire again.” He turned and walked calmly back down the hallway, leaving Mara, still trembling, alone.

7. Now that you're writing, have any of the plot details, or the process itself, turned out to be different from what you planned or imagined?
Mara turned out to be more forgetful than I'd thought. Gabriel is way sweeter than I expected, and Tempe knows how to act, which I hadn't realized. I did end up extending a certain scene, which wasn't in my outline, but made me crush on Gabriel even harder. At the end of it I wanted to throttle Mara and scream "WHY AREN'T YOU IN LOVE WITH THIS BOY!"

8. Is there a character or aspect of your plot that is difficult to write?
I'm having a hard time controlling the escalating conflict between Ace and Mara. It can't be too intense too soon,  but it needs to scare her enough that she's driven to learn magic. It's a fine line to walk, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's gone too far too early.

9. What's your favorite aspect of this novel so far? Favorite character?
I'm loving everything. The relationships, the conflict, the foreshadowing (*evil cackle*). My favorite character is probably Gabriel. I think I'm crushing on him, which isn't good because I shall soon have to do something horrible to him. Poor baby. He's so sweet and sincere. 

10. Have you drawn off of any life experiences or people you know to create your novel and your characters?
Yes, mostly for characters. I have nothing in common with the plot or setting - I don't even know what it is like to go to high school! I don't live in a small town. I haven't been asked to illegally learn magic. I don't have an arrogant twin brother. I don't live in a world where everyone knows at least one thing they will accomplish in life (thank goodness). However,  I have drawn extensively from my family and a little bit from my friends for characters. Gabriel shares some traits with a friend of mine and my sister. Mara shares her procrastination and forgetfulness with my mum (they actually share the same personality type). She gets her ambition and determination from me, as well as her good grades. Tempe also shares some traits with myself (something which scares me). Ambition, long memory (especially for wrongs done), determination, extensive planning, strategic skills, love of being what people don't expect. We differ in that I've got morals. She doesn't. 

11. Do you have a playlist or certain song for your novel and/or characters?
Yep! There are a lot of songs from Nox Arcana, with a smattering of other artists. Each song has been assigned to a scene which it fits best, or which feature predominately a character it fits best. For instance, "Say Something" cover by Pentatonix is assigned to a scene when Gabriel is begging Mara to stop all her badness before she goes too far. He's looking for something to show him that she's redeemable.

12. Let's have some fun for a moment: imagine you are somehow transported to your book's world. Which character are you most likely to be found hanging out with?
Although I'd like to say that I'd be a kind soul and go speak to Mara, it isn't likely. More likely, Gabriel would be his outgoing self and come hang out with shy me, because he's nice like that.

13. How do you keep yourself motivated to finish your daily word count? (Pinterest? Internet breaks? Chocolate?)
I frequently check my facebook writing group to see what other people are up to (seeing large word counts inspires, seeing low ones makes me realize what I've done). I eat Halloween candy. I laugh at the very writer-cliche research and jokes fellow writers post on facebook. And I watch the graph on my NaNoWriMo page change, which is the most motivating thing of all. I also do lots of number calculations to re-estimate my end word count goal (It's gone down by about twenty thousand - I think I'll only have a couple thousand to write after I cross the NaNo goal, so I'm now aiming to finish the whole thing by December 1st). Setting goals and having new ambitions keeps me motivated pretty well.

14. What inspiring quote keeps you writing?
I don't really get a lot out of writing quotes, but I do have one that has stuck with me because it reminds me that I've got no excuse (aside from no time) not to write.
I understand that writer's block is a difficulty for writers. I'm not saying that I think this difficulty is a load of nonsense. Nevertheless, it is not an excuse to give up or put a pause on writing until the "muse" comes back. I believe that writer's block is just something that you have to work to end. I don't want any excuses, from myself or anyone else.

15. How does his book make you feel so far? Are you laughing? Crying? Frustrated?
So far, excited. I just can't wait to finish it and get all of my ideas down on paper. I've also felt immense "awwww!" moments, surprise, and tension as I watch Mara journey. It has also made me hate Ace with a passion. And Victoire. And to some degree, Tempe, because I can see some of my own usually "good" traits being used by her for evil. Maybe that scares me a little. It makes me grateful that I know what my values and beliefs are, thanks to my Lord and His Word.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Epic Relationship Between Music and Writing

Ah, the daunting topic of music and writing. *sighs in satisfaction and leans back comfortably* There are a few different opinions on music and how it can tie in to your writing, so I'll just tell you my own thoughts. I believe that music, as long as you know what works for you and your writing process, can definitely help your writing along in several ways.

Music can inspire you.

This is true whether you're searching for fitting music for a work-in-progress or whether it's happened the other way around and the music inspired a story. 
To inspire, the music can have lyrics or not. What matters is that it leaves an impression on you or makes you feel something as you listen to it. There are songs with lyrics that do this (a few examples for me include "Angel With a Shotgun" by The Cab, "Everybody's Fool" by Evanescence, "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay, "Laura Palmer" by Bastille, "Shatter Me" by Lindsey Stirling, "Say Something" by Christina Aguilera, and "War" by Poets of the Fall), and then there are songs that accomplish this without lyrics ("This is the Future" by Epic North, "Good Morning, Jack" by Gabriel Hudson, and "Heroes May Cry" by Stefano Mocini are a few favorites). Some of the artists on Youtube even accompany their music with neat little videos or pictures which can aid in the plot-bunny creation. 
I was browsing Youtube for new writing music to accompany a character who has a fantasy Middle-East sort of background and came across a song which inspired a full-blooded scene. Its lyrics were in some Arabian language, but it sounded like the kind of music a tribe of Bedouins would sing together at a celebration out in a desert oasis around a campfire. I could picture where all my characters would be, what they would be doing, and I even could picture the character with the Middle-East-ish background singing a certain section of the song and the expression on his face as he did so.
If you are searching for music to create your own little playlist for your WIP, then I'm afraid I can't help you. You know what music will best help you write.

Music can set the tone of your scene.

Do you realize why movies have soundtracks? It's because sometimes setting and dialogue and action can't convey enough emotion to give the movie sufficient punch. The music can make you feel uneasy in a way that a dark room and a scared-looking actress can't. It can make you lean forward in your seat during that fight scene, which would be pretty boring if it was just a bunch of actors banging swords around.
I have no idea who to credit for this. Oh well. I tried.
Now I ask: how often do you feel emotion as you write? Are they the emotions that you want your readers to feel as they read your novel? If you aren't feeling those emotions as you write those words, how are your readers supposed to feel them? Get yourself into the emotion of a scene by finding a song or soundtrack that could be used a background music for that scene if your novel was ever made into a movie. 
I usually use instrumental music, simply because I find that lyrical music can distract me from actually writing ("when I thought that I fought this war alone, you were there by my side on the front lines. . ." whoops, sorry, listening to a song as I write). That being said, lyrical music is sometimes too perfect to pass up as writing music. The lyrics perfectly summarize a scene, and the melody conveys the emotions beautifully. Perfect. As long as it won't distract you, use it!
I've put together an entire album of music in ITunes as a sort of "soundtrack" for my next work-in-progress. I assigned each song to a scene that I thought it fit best with, and then ordered them so that I could "listen" through my book. Each song also has a specifically chosen cover art (I raided Pinterest) which is either a quote summing up the message of a scene, a picture of something happening in that scene, or a picture which conveys the emotions in that scene. I also added parenthesized titles of my own to the original title of the songs, so that I could quickly identify which scene I assigned the song to. Now I have a beautiful musical representation of my novel. Whenever I play it, I instantly become excited and inspired to write that project. 
My "album" for my new WIP, Shadows & Light

Music can act as a tool to end writer's block.

I read it on another blog post about breaking writer's block a while ago. The theory is that your brain will respond to recognized stimuli by automatically shifting into "time to write" mode. If you have a certain song you listen to every time you sit down to write, after a while that song will become a trigger for your writing groove. Having issues with writer's block? Play the song and see if it helps. I have an entire album of music, as mentioned above, which automatically puts me in the swing of writing when I start playing the first track. 

Music can block out distractions.

I don't know about you peeps but sometimes there are too many distractions to seriously focus on writing. Your dad has the TV on, your baby brother is screaming and running around the house in circles, or the Starbucks guy has a voice that sounds like a guy narrating a commercial. Anything can be a distraction (especially fluffy cats prancing into the room, purring, then coming to stomp all over your keyboard and power button - still purring). Obviously, music can't help with the visual distractions (you'll have to figure out a solution to that yourself) but it can block out the audible ones if you've got a good pair of ear buds/sets/phones/whatever. Even if you think the music will just be another distraction, I find that it is easier to block out a single noise than a crowd of them. It's gotten to the point where I don't even think about it; I just open my laptop and plug in my ear buds and turn the volume up loud enough so that the music is all I can hear (don't do that if you have a baby you're supposed to be watching, or you're waiting for the cookies in the oven to finish baking and they'll burn if you don't hear the timer *firetruck sirens wail, getting louder, coming down your street. . .*). I hope not.

What are you habits in regards to listening to music while you write? How has it inspired or helped you?