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Character Interview- Veto Youngwane

Back in May, I decided to conduct some character interviews in order to help me flesh out my characters for Mage. Naturally the first character I interviewed was the title character, Mage himself. Today I’m going to interview Veto, his fellow spy and teammate.


Hello, Veto. Thanks so much for joining me today.
No problem.

So you are one of the main supporting characters in this story. What was your first impression of Mage when you two met?
What do you mean “supporting character?”

Uh, well you’re not the main character…
Says you.

Well I am the author… so yeah.
If you say so.

Sooooo… first impression of Mage?
He was irritable when I first met him. Didn’t like my poking around in his stuff or picking his pockets. He threatened me with a wrench. I knew we were going to be good friends right away.

So you could tell that you were going to be friends from him threatening you?
We had too much in common to not become friends.

Really? At first glance you two seem pretty different.
It is true, I’m charming and handsome and he’s… well him. But it’s what’s inside that counts you know?

How magnanimous. 
Thank you.

So what’s inside both of you that you have in common?
In all seriousness, we have the same core values.

Being?
Family.

So Mage said he was a spy to protect his sister, even though it meant his work kept him away from her. Do you also have trouble balancing family life with your work?
That’s a boring question. You should ask me about my amazing skills. For example, most teams of spies are sent out in groups of three. And the team mates are usually skilled in different areas of combat. I’ve been specializing in marksmanship and stealth, and I’ve got to say-

I think you’re dodging my question.
Of course I am. Now, as I was saying, I am pretty glitching amazing at my particular niche.

Mage also dodged my question about family and spy work.
Weird. It’s like we’re spies who keep secrets to protect people we care about.

Ah. Point taken.
Good. ‘Cause like I said, it was a boring question.

How about this one. If you could do anything, if you weren’t a spy, what would you want to do?
Is this a “how would you like to make a living” question or an “if you could do anything, no consequences, no strings attached” question?

Either. 
Well, I haven’t given a lot of thought to what other sorts of things I’d do to make a living. I’m only 15, so under the normal or ideal circumstances I wouldn’t really have to worry about that sort of thing just yet. I do actually enjoy my work as a spy, but I don’t think I’d chose it. I don’t know, maybe I’d be a street performer. Put my natural charm and good looks to work.

And if you could do anything at all?
No consequences?

Sure. No consequences.
I’d probably want to be a burglar.

Really?
I enjoy the challenge. I don’t think I really want to take people’s property, but I like the thrill of sneaking into a secure place and taking something without being detected. I’m good at it. It’s fun.

Alright, last question, let’s say you’re bummed.
Sure. Totally bummed.

What would one do if they wanted to try and cheer you up?
Hmmm… good question. I think, ultimately, if I was actually bummed out, I would just want to be taken seriously. I joke around a lot, but if I’m actually showing that I’m upset, then I’m probably really upset. The best thing to do would be to not make light of the situation.

That is good to know. Thank you again for meeting with me. 
Sure. Hey, off the record, I want to talk to you about this “supporting” character thing….

 

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Book Review: The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Well it’s the first Friday of the month, which means it’s time for another review! That’s the working schedule I have going on at the moment. I’ll be doing primarily book reviews, but there might be the occasional movie review as well. If you’d like to see reviews more or less often please let me know! I’d love to hear from you, reader!

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The Heir Chronicles: Book 4

This month I’m reviewing The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima. Some of you will remember, last month I reviewed the first three books in this series. I did them all together like that because I had read them all before a while ago and had just re-read them. These next two books in the series I’m reading for the first time.

Like my last couple of reviews, I’m actually overlapping the content with my reviews at Urban-Fantasy.com once more. I will say, this book felt like a “Part 1” of a spin-off series more so than a “Book 4.” The ending of the book wasn’t satisfying to me. It left too many unanswered questions. I also had some mixed feelings on the main characters a bit; one of them I liked, the other not as much. But that’s not to say others wouldn’t find them enjoyable. Because the ending of the book left with so many things unanswered, I feel like it’s hard to give a full review until I finish the story.

I’ll say, I did not enjoy this spin-off as much as the first three books. Perhaps my expectations were high because I enjoyed the others so much. Perhaps I don’t like zombies. (Yeah, there were magical zombies.) Perhaps there was just a smidge more of teenaged angst than I would have liked. There was a lot of teenaged angst. Am I sorry I read it? No. It was an enjoyable read and I was entertained. It just didn’t live up to the expectations the previous books set for me.

If you would like a break down of the synopsis, or a more in depth look at the main characters, I cover that more in my review at Urban-Fantasy.com. Check it out!

 

5 Writing Challenges I want to try

So, I like Pinterest. I like it quite a bit. I go there to get creative ideas for all sorts of things: craft projects, cheap romantic dates ideas, cooking recipes. I also use it for story prompts and ideas. Occasionally, I’ve even found a few writing challenges I’d like to try someday. Maybe they will show up in my Quarterly Writing Goals in the future.

Here is a list of 5 Writing challenges I’d like to try someday:

1. Use lyrics of favorite song as a basis for short story.

I got the idea from this Pin graphic:

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I think that this would be a super fun writing exercise and I always like listening to music while I write.

2. The 30 day flash fiction challenge.

This one would be daunting. Flash Fiction doesn’t come easily to me. At the same time, whenever I write it I can tell that it is stretching me as a writer and forcing me to become better. I know I’d probably make a ton of crappy pieces during a flash fiction challenge, but there might be a couple of gems in there too.

3. Expand on a real life story and tell how the paper got it wrong.

This would be fun I think. Especially as a fiction writer. So many times, especially in an urban fantasy genre, there is a big magical catastrophe, but a real world explanation for what people saw. It would be interesting to write the story the other way around.

4. Another 30 day challenge: 30 Days to Think like a Writer.

I found this on Pinterest, but it led me to the darcypattison.com blog Fiction Notes. Among other cool looking challenges, this one involves writing 750 words each day for a month. The cool thing about this particular challenge is that there is a list of what to write about for each day.

For example, on day 14 the task is to write a bunch of titles. These would be titles of stories you might want to write. I like this as a way to get creative juice flowing. It also creates a list that you can come back and refer to on days when your muse takes a vacation.

5. NaNoWriMo

Otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. This takes place in November. I do need to clarify, I have actually tried this challenge before. Twice. This time I actually want to WIN NaNo. Winning means actually completing the challenge of 50k words of a first draft during the month of November. My first year I got 11,561 words. Eh, not terrible, but not great. Last year I got 32,137 words. That’s even closer.

Maybe this is my year, guys! Maybe I’ll crack 50k this year. This time I’m going to put more planning and preparation into it. I’ll also be working on Rouge, the sequel to Mage, since I’ve finished the first draft of Mage already.

 

I do tend to get overly ambitious when it comes to hobby projects like this, but it’s fun to dream big about goals.

Is “Said” Dead?

So anyone who has spent anytime browsing the writer’s side of Pinterest will have come across several pins related to the use of the word “said” as a dialogue tag. Many of them have the catchy slogan “Said is dead” followed by a plethora of other dialogue tags one could use instead.

For example: muttered, exclaimed, cried, hissed, answered, crowed, retorted, sighed, asked, replied, groaned, laughed, squawked, etc.

The idea behind it is to add variety to the dialogue. Having “said” as the only dialogue tag makes the writing sound flat and the rhythm of the words doesn’t flow.

“I’d like a cookie,” he said.
“Well, we are out of cookies,” she said.
“Can you make some more?” he said.
“Make them yourself!” she said.

It sounds like one of those books kids learn to read with. Unless you are actually writing for that age group, it’s probably not the feel you’re going for. I know I’m not. But there is something to be said for not using the word “said” at all.

“I’d like a cookie,” he whined.
“Well, we are out of cookies,” she retorted.
“Can you make some more?” he begged.
“Make them yourself!” she snapped.

I will grant you, this particular snippet of dialogue is a bit choppy regardless of what dialogue tag is used. But hopefully the point I’m making here isn’t lost completely. Just using “said” gets old fast, but never using said can also get repetitive in its own way.

So how to utilize this information in my own writing? When I look at what I’ve written thus far I notice that I use a mix of both “said” and other dialogue tags.

“Ow,” Mage muttered. “Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot.” He bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut, wishing the burning would stop. Over by the door, Net pulled his cap lower on his head, if that were possible, then walked over to Mage.
“Sorry, kid,” he said softly, pulling out a thin blade, he shoved it into the binders between Mage’s wrists to speed up the loosening process. “This is still the most efficient way to get you out, especially if we don’t have time to disarm electric traps.”
“There aren’t any,” Mage groaned. “You could have asked.”
“This is still faster,” Net said. The binds gave way and Mage’s hands were free. “See? Thirty seconds and four locks picked.” He pulled the shackles off of Mage’s ankles. Across the room, Aubade was helping Durgan out of his. “Even Aubade can’t pick locks that fast.” She made a face at him that said, ‘Bet I could.’
Mage blew on his wrists. They were red and angry where the cuffs had been.
“Must be a better way,” he mused. “Hey you know, if you had a hologram device, you could-“
“Guards!” Net hissed, covering Mage’s mouth, cutting him off. “Aubade the door!”

From what I’ve gleaned, whatever dialogue tag drives the action forward the best is the one you should use. Sometimes, a short “said” is all that is needed. Sometimes a different word will help convey the tone and direction of the dialogue.

Ultimately though, the main goal is to convey action without drawing the reader out of the story.

2018 Penprints Flash Fiction Dash

So a couple of months ago I stumbled upon a fun looking Flash Fiction Challenge hosted by the Penprints blog. Since it’s been WAY too long since I attempted a flash fiction piece, I thought it would be a good exercise and a fun way to get my creative juices flowing again. It’s been a long time since I worked on a piece of fiction that wasn’t associated with Mage.
After I signed up, I was sent a writing prompt to be the inspiration of my story. Behold. My writing prompt:j-m-jablowski-jpgOoo yes! I like it. Who’s the speaker? Who needs to be told that they are in the dark? Can they not see that it’s dark? If they can’t see why do they need to be told that it’s dark? Sounds cerebral. Sounds like some crazy Sci-fi stuff going on.
Unfortunately, of all the little baby story seeds that can come from this prompt, none of the Sci-fi ones actually germinated. I probably need a break from Sci-fi anyway.
Below is the story I came up with. I hope ya’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂

Different Storms

Eloise desperately turned the knob on the old battery-powered radio. Static. Not even a weather report.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are still in the dark,” came a mock-radio voice from behind her. Eloise ignored her brother, Kay, and adjusted the antenna on the ancient machine before trying the knob again. Old radios could still pick up signals, right?

More static. The power was out. Internet. Phone service. Everything was down. The thunderstorm, which was no doubt the culprit behind this calamity, roared against the small basement window unabashedly.

They were huddled in the basement; Eloise with her two younger siblings, Kay and Alaina. They had no way of knowing how severe the storm would be with everything down as it was. Deciding to play it safe, the three of them had moved to the basement. Eloise eyed the fire in the fireplace, casting out a cozy glow and providing light to half of the room. A fire might not exactly be safe if the storm got too intense either. She shrugged to herself. A source of heat and light was needed right now.

Kay paced back and forth in front of the fireplace. Barely two years younger than Eloise, he was set to graduate from High School in a week.

Alaina was a year younger than Kay, she sat in what seemed to be the darkest corner of the room, using the only flashlight with working batteries to read a book that she’d had her nose in all afternoon.

Eloise tried the dial on the radio a few more times before giving up. To be honest, it wasn’t the storm outside she was worried about, but the one she anticipated happening inside if she didn’t find some distraction.

It was then that Alaina’s flashlight died. Alaina groaned. Resigning herself to the fact that it was now too dark to read where she sat, she got up and moved over by Eloise and Kay.

Kay perked up when he saw her move.

“Hey, you’re done reading! Let’s do something!” Before Alaina could respond, he jumped across the room to a shelf where the family kept the board games and cards. “What can we play with three people?” he asked, running his hand over the different colored boxes.

“I’m not playing,” Alaina said plainly.

“But, there’s nothing else to do,” Kay argued. He grabbed a box of cards and brought it over to the fire. “This is the best way to pass the time.”

“I’m not playing,” Alaina said again before plopping down close to the light. She sprawled out and opened her book again. Lightning flashed. Eloise started counting.

“So you’re going to sit right next to us and ignore us?” Kay demanded.

Alaina shot Kay a look before turning back to her book. Eloise sighed to herself. This is what she had been hoping to avoid. Her two younger siblings were very different. It’s like they spoke different languages sometimes.

“Kay, I’ll play something with you,” Eloise said, trying to placate her brother. “I think you can play rummy with two people.”

A crack of thunder sounded in the distance. The storm was getting closer.

“But a game with three people would be more fun. Wouldn’t it be fun for all of us to do something together? How often are all three of us home together?”

Alaina just kept reading.

“It’s rude to just ignore people,” Kay snapped at her. “Are you going to sit right next to us and not even interact with us?”

Alaina looked up from her book and scowled. Lightning flashed close by, causing the room to be fully illuminated for the briefest moment. For Eloise, it highlighted the hurt and anger on both of her sibling’s faces. Thunder crashed. The storm was right on top of them now.

In answer to Kay’s demand, Alaina picked herself off the floor and stalked back to her dark corner of the room, plopping back into her chair. She shook her flashlight and tried to get it to start again in vain. Instead of reading, she hugged her book to her chest and stared out the basement window.

Kay’s glared at her for a moment, but Alaina just kept staring into the dark storm. Refusing to talk. Refusing to make eye contact. Kay’s shoulders slumped.

“She doesn’t want to play with me,” he said to Eloise, dropping to sit by her feet. “She never wants to do anything with me.”

Eloise took a deep breath. “She doesn’t want to play a game right now,” she said. “It doesn’t really have anything to do with you.”

“Well maybe I want to do something with her,” Kay mumbled back. Eloise knew he was talking loud enough for Alaina to hear his passive aggressive remarks. She also knew Alaina was too stubborn to acknowledge they were talking about her.

“Alaina probably sees sitting next to us and reading as spending time with us,” Eloise said to Kay. “She enjoys our company, she just doesn’t want to do the same things we are doing.” Eloise picked up the deck of cards and started shuffling.

“No, she hates me,” Kay insisted.

Eloise heard the challenge in his voice. “If you don’t actually hate me, Alaina, you’ll come over here and play cards with us.”

She also heard the response in Alaina’s stubborn silence. “I’m in no mood to play with you right now, and you’ll have more fun without a crabby and bitter player.”

Thunder roared again. The two siblings remained blind to the needs and intentions of the other.

Eloise started dealing cards, a game to fill the uncomfortable distance that had grown between Kay and Alaina. She wanted to bridge the gap, but she knew talking to them right now would be a fruitless discussion. This was not the time. Not while they were all stuck together, trapped in the basement.

There was nothing to do but wait. Be patient and wait for the lights to turn on.

Mage Writing Update

I thought today I would write about the progress I’ve been making on my WIP, Mage. To be honest, I really struggle to make myself work on this. I’ve got the first draft done, but now I know how long it is, and I know some parts are going to have to be added, cut out, or re-written entirely. It’s just overwhelming to look at.

As I’ve mentioned before, my approach to big scary projects is to break them down into smaller pieces. After only getting two chapters into editing, I realized I needed to get more organized before jumping in headlong into this process. One thing that really needed to be worked out was my characters. (They become inconsistent if I don’t reign them in). So one of my goals for the summer was to make character profiles for all my characters so I’d have a blueprint to refer to. Anyone who has been reading my blog for a bit will know I’m a huge fan of utilizing Myers-Briggs personality types when planning characters. I’ve even created a Skillshare Class on the subject. Therefore, I decided to actually take the time and figure out the MBTI for ALL of my major characters, not just the main ones. So far, I’m finding that my characters are pretty diverse in personality, which is good. My main concern at the moment though is the personality of my main character.

My main character, Mage, is classified as an INTP. (Introvert, iNtuitive, Thinker, Perciever.) Here is a brief character summary of an INTP:

  • They tend to live in their heads, always looking for patterns, new ideas and discoveries.
  • They are the absent-minded professor types. They might forget to eat food, but that’s because they are too busy thinking up some scientific breakthrough or solving a philosophical conundrum.
  • They struggle to understand decisions of others that are made on the basis of personal feelings or subjectivity.
  • They can be over critical and sarcastic.

My concern is, I’m an INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeler, Perciever.) And while there are a lot of similarities, there are some big differences. The main one is that my personal decisions and motives are often based on feelings and subjectivity. So it’s odd to realize that my main character would probably struggle to understand me. And I’m going to struggle to not give him too many emotional motivations as I write. I have to actually put thought into the choices he makes. Luckily for me, one of my very good friends is also an INTP. So once I get a bit further in my editing I’m going to have him Alpha/Beta read it. No, he doesn’t have choice.

On the flip side, I have to chuckle to myself when I realize what the MBTIs are for the two main supporting characters, Tyran and Veto. Suddenly it makes sense why they were butting heads so much while I was drafting them.

Veto is an ESFP (Extroverted, Sensor, Feeler, Perciever.) These personalities are entertainers. They like the spot light and making people laugh.

Tyran is an ESTJ (Extroverted, Sensor, Thinker, Judger.) These personalities are often leaders with clear, high, standards, and very little flexibility.

As a writer, I’ve taken these two, along with Mage who a total space cadet, and thrown them into a high-stress situation and told them to work together.

Mwahahaha!

 

… Okay, now back to work.

 

Book Reviews: The Warrior Heir/ The Wizard Heir/ The Dragon Heir

So recently I decided to re-read the Heir Chronicles by Chinda Williams Chima. It’s a Young Adult, Sub-Urban Fantasy series set in Ohio. One of the reasons I chose to do this is because these books are so re-readable. Seriously, the first book especially, I had read twice already and I didn’t remember a whole lot about the book except that I had really enjoyed it.

On top of that, I also realized that since I had read through the books that two more books had been published in this series. So naturally, I had to read the first three over again before I read the new ones. Here are my thoughts on the first three books before I dive into the next ones.

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Book 1 Synopsis: The Warrior Heir

In some ways, The Warrior Heir is a typical Young Adult fantasy. Set in modern time, sixteen-year-old Jack Swift is just a normal kid living in a small Ohio town. Then one day something weird happens and he comes to realize he’s something MORE. This is actually a pretty decent template for any young adult coming-of-age story because that’s part of what becoming an adult is all about: discovering there is more to the world than just your homeroom class or soccer team.

In this case, Jack discovers he’s a Warrior, a class of magical people with impressive natural fighting abilities. The main problem is that there are two feuding houses of Wizards (a different magical class), the House of the Red Rose and the House of the White Rose. These Wizards use Warriors to settle their disputes in a magical tournament.

Each house sponsors a Warrior in a fight to the death and the winning house rules all the magical guilds until the next tournament. Not surprisingly, Warriors have become rather scarce over the centuries. So Jack goes from hoping he makes the soccer team, to hoping he doesn’t get captured or killed before summer break.

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Synopsis: Wizard Heir

This story starts about two years after the events of the first book and we are following an entirely new character. Seph McCauley is a sixteen year old wizard living in Toronto.

Seph is having some difficulties. He has no idea who his parents were. The sorcerer who was his foster mother has died. On top of that, he has hardly any idea on how to use his wizard powers. The result is that he ends up having a lot of magical accidents, like setting stuff on fire. This causes him to get kicked out of schools a lot.

Seph eventually ends up at a school for “troubled” teen boys, which he then learns is a front to help find young un-trained wizards like himself. The headmaster, Gregory Leicester, turns out to be a wizard as well. He offers to help train Seph, but at a steep cost. It turns out that Leicester, like most wizards in this world, has his own agenda.

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Synopsis: Dragon Heir

This book focuses around the two main supporting characters from the previous book: Jason and Madison. The Covenant, a magical contract that kept the wizards from warring against each other, got stolen, and as a result the magical world is in chaos. War is brewing and all roads lead to the sanctuary of Trinity, OH.

Jason is a seventeen year old wizard, and not a particularly powerful one. He is determined, however, to make a significant mark on the world. He’s desperate to be a part of the upcoming battle, but he feels passed over compared to all of his powerful and talented friends. When Jason makes an attempt at a solo raid on an enemy fortress, he finds a long forgotten cache of magical artifacts. Stealing what he can, he brings them to his allies. One of these stolen pieces, the Dragonheart, seems to be connected to the very source of magic itself. Now the entire wizard world wants it back.

Madison is an elicitor, not a member of the Weir Guilds, but special and powerful none the less. She has the unique ability to draw in magic and dispel it elsewhere. However she has little control over it. When she gets a call from her mother that she’s needed back home, she leaves Trinity, but not before encountering the Dragonheart. Madison has to go back home, leaving behind both her boyfriend, Seph, and the Dragonheart. Can she stay away? It’s dangerous for her to stay in Trinity. It’s also dangerous for her to be outside the Sanctuary.

 

Disclaimer

One thing I feel the need to address is the element of Catholicism in the books. It is referenced throughout the series, but especially in The Wizard Heir because the main character, Seph is portrayed as a practicing Catholic. From a certain perspective it makes sense that Chima would write it this way. The ritual of Catholic prayer that Seph associates with is a nice contrast to the dark magic/pagan rituals of the villain in that book.

The main problem I have is that one of the mentor characters claims that wizardry is compatible with Catholicism. As a Bible-believing Christian and practicing Catholic myself, I can assure any readers that in real life this is not the case. Real-life wizardry is condemned in Scripture. That being said, since this is a work of fiction, there is nothing to prevent us readers from enjoying it as a work of fiction.

My Thoughts

So far I have really enjoyed this series. I have greatly enjoyed Chima’s writing style and I think there is a lot I could learn by studying it. I can also tell that she improved in her craft with each book, but that’s not to say that the earlier books are bad. I really appreciate her development of characters, ESPECIALLY her villains. They are great in a love-to-hate sort of way. Her magical world building is also well done, and the way magic works in her world feels real and tangible. On top of all that, every single book has fun plot twists that you don’t always see coming, but upon re-reading the book I was able to see the foreshadowing. I’m really looking forward to reading the next two books.

I did individual reviews for each book at Urban-Fantasy.com. Check it out here: The Warrior Heir. The Wizard Heir. The Dragon Heir.