Sunday, March 29, 2015

Game of Thrones and Writing Advice

Finished Game of Thrones, books 1, 2, 3, 4. Oh my goodness!

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) -- 820 pages.

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2) -- 930 pages.

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3) -- 1220 pages.

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)  -- 870 pages.

Cons: almost 4000 pages of blood, gore, and rape. My eyes are aching.
Pros: 700 new words, notepad is full.
 To say I don't like these books is to say nothing at all. I don't care about the story or the characters. I don't care who's going to sit on the iron throne, who will die, who'll survive. I can't think of a single character whose fate more or less concerns me. But after a bit of rest I will start reading the 5th book, and maybe once in a while I'll be rereading passages from the first four. Just because no other writer has given me as much as George R.R. Martin. He's a genius, and to me he's the best living writer in the world. No one writes like Martin. Sometimes I wonder where he finds all these words from, how he comes up with such descriptions and characteristics, how he produces such terrific dialogue. Truly, GRRM is genius. To me GOT novels are like textbooks, I read them slowly and carefully. And that's one of the first advice on writing I am going to give to aspiring writers, especially to those who are not native speakers. Don't just read a lot, but read carefully, think of the ways the words are used, how the author plays with the nouns and verbs, how sparingly he uses adjectives, how he never says very, a lot, beautiful, big, small... There are other words that are better and don't make your prose look cheap.
If you want to learn to write in English, read George Martin. It doesn't matter that he writes fantasy and your book is set in the 1900s or 3000s. Trust me, it doesn't. You can learn a lot from him: character development, beautiful prose, smart dialogues, showing instead of telling. You can enrich your vocabulary. Just don't be lazy, get a notepad and write down new words and phrases. I have three thick notepads and am filling the 4th. Well, what did you want? To wake up one day with the Oxford Vocabulary miraculously inserted into your brain? But 10% of that vocabulary is in my notepads that I keep handy and go through them during the editing. OK now, don't be tempted to use big, smart words when there's a shorter, simpler word. Always go for simplicity. Short sentences are better than the long ones. And stop describing every item in the room. The last thing your reader needs to know is the color of the leather boots placed under the mahogany wardrobe that is pushed against the creamy wall. Better tell them about the characters.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thank you, Cecile

It was last year when I discovered a most amazing artist, with the most beautiful voice. I mentioned her in a post back in July: My New Muse. She's Cecile Corbel, and since last year I haven't stopped listening to her. Cecile is a French singer, a harpist and a composer. Her songs are filled with Irish traditional themes (and not only), and she sings in English, Irish, Italian, French, Breton, German, and Spanish.
It's obvious I couldn't pass by this blue-eyed red-haired fairy and her beautiful voice. She's meant to inspire authors like me, whose world revolves around witches, flying brooms, and magical potions. As if her beauty and voice were not enough, she also plays the harp and doubles my love for her talent.
Her songs are so beautiful I can't decide which one to feature on my blog post today. Arietty's Song is probably one of her most famous songs, composed for the animated movie "The Secret World of Arietty," written by the great Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle). Arietty is a borrower elf, and she and her family reminded me a lot of the chimney brownies from Hollow. You will have a small glimpse of them in the 5th book. A bit bigger than the food and tea brownies, they live in Hollow's chimneys and for obvious reasons come out only when the hosts of the house are asleep.

But the song that I love the most is My Lullaby, followed with The Land of Bears, Sweet Amaryllis, Mary... alright, I love all of them. Cecile has also covered The Blackbird and The Great Selkie, both of which are featured in Witch Hollow Series, the first in Witch Hollow and the Fountain Riddle, the second in Witch Hollow and the Spider Mistress. It's easy to feature in my books the songs that are already in public domain, but sometimes I want those that are not. For example, Riversong, which is featured in Witch Hollow and the Dryad Princess. The composer, Brunuhville, is just a great guy and gave me the permission to feature his song in my book. For Witch Hollow and the Moon's Daughter I desperately needed My Lullaby. And guess what? Cecile just gave me the permission! Yay!
The Moon's Daughter herself will sing the song, during a rather sad scene. But I won't say more, because in just a month you will find out everything yourself. Many thanks to Cecile Corbel for her generosity. If you are into this type of music, then you should check the shop on her website. Luckily they deliver the CDs to the whole world, so wherever you are, you can order her CDs and enjoy her music.

Ohh, and today is Cecile's birthday! Happy birthday, beautiful lady!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Saving my plant

This is what happens when you abandon everything and think only about finishing your book.


She was such a lush, lovely... flower? Bush? Shrub? I don't know what she was, but she looked beautiful, with long, twining stems and bright leaves, flowing out of the pot and spreading all over the desk. And I was taking care of her. The bigger she'd grow, the wider was my smile. Then I let others take care of her while I was busy. And this is what happened :'(
A single stem has survived. I placed her into a jar, to let her grow roots before putting her back into the earth.

Everyone kept telling me she wasn't worth it, she was just an average plant, and I better used the pot for a better flower, but I sent them all to hell. It's a matter of principle. If one stem has survived, then I'll take care of her until she grows back.

So here she is. Small and skinny, but going strong. All I can do now is wait. And not let anyone else touch her again. At least until she grows bigger and stronger.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

WH Book 5 done!

This post might contain minor spoilers for the 5th book of "Witch Hollow" series.

Phew!
I'm just too happy. Also relieved. 90.000 words this time. Book 4 was 110.000. Witch Hollow and the Spider Mistress was the longest in the series; there was a lot going on there. I've been a diligent writer, and have tied up all ends together. But if there's anyone who wants to beta-read to check if I haven't missed any storyline, drop me an email at idblindauthor@gmail.com. There's still time; the book won't be published for another month. Yep, another month. Did you think I was going to publish it today because I said I had finished it? Nope. There's still editing, proofreading, and editing one more time. And then there's the cover. I've sketched it:
I tried to keep the same style. There's a face over the moon, but I'm not sure you can see it. Anyways, it's there. I wonder who it is, ha-ha! ;) Maybe you know already? If you have been alert, you might have noticed there's one similarity in all covers. That one thing is always present. That's because I always knew how the series would end. It was a small hint.

So, what's next for me? I've made a to-do list. Firstly, I plan to go through the first 4 books once again. If you only knew how much I dislike how the first book has come out. But there's nothing I can do; I console myself with the thought that I wasn't sure what I was doing back then. Writing in a third language was already so hard I didn't stop to think if my plot was flowing well. Then I changed the story so many times, I'm not even sure which one I left in the end. Something tells me not the best one :-/ Of one thing I'm sure: I always knew how I was going to end the series. Surely there were things I hadn't predicted, deaths I didn't see coming, but the main story had been in my mind when I was still working on the 1st book. Because I love this song:

Hijo the la Luna (Spanish) means the Moon's Child (or the Moon's Son). In our story, she's the daughter. But what was I talking about? . . . Oh, right, going through the first 4 books once again. At first I thought I'll rewrite them, but now I realize it's just a waste of time. I'll just edit them one more time, to get rid of more adverbs and adjectives (I've begun to hate adverbs! And it has nothing to do with Stephen King, I just hate them. They kill the flow.), will add some links, will improve the paperbacks and move on. Because Witchcraft Academy is waiting for us to explore its dark chambers and solve its ancient mysteries.

Did you know it's 2016 in Witch Hollow and the Moon's Daughter? The book starts on Dec 1, 2016, and ends on Dec 6, 2016. That's what my outlines tell me. Duration: 6 days. Body count: 20 + 1. Excluding non-human bad guys. A friend calls me a butcher. But witch hunts have always been bloody experiences. Just look at the history.

Alright, what was I talking about again? Finishing series. That is such a satisfying feeling. Feels 10 times better than ending a book. But the best is to know you've become a better writer. I know I'm not that clueless girl anymore, the one who used Google translate and thought she could patch up words together, self-publish them, and think herself a writer. Writing in a foreign language means doing everything thrice more than the native speakers. Here's what I've been up to in the last 2.5 years:
1. read 30+ books on writing, structuring, and plotting,
2. read 100+ books by the best writers in the world,
3. published half a million words,
4. wrote twice as much,
5. explored any famous, working, reliable promo site (for tours, promos, and reviews). Now I have two big notepads filled with all the info.
 Photo from memecrunch.com.

I might be tired, just a bit. But after a good sleep I'll grab my broom again :)) If I find some free time, maybe  I'll start that blog on writing in a foreign language at last. A friend asked me to give a lecture on creative writing in English to her students, but I declined. It's too soon; I need more experience. But a blog is fine. Sharing my experience on a blog is harmless. I'll try to find time for that.

As for now, I need to work on my books. And meanwhile, why won't you join me on my Facebook page. I frequently share some interesting info there, regarding witches, Ireland, cookies, and history. Don't be shy, come say hi :)
Also, subscribe to my Mailing List to know when the book comes out and get it for just $0.99 on the first day. Then the price will go up.
Stay well,
Irena

Monday, March 16, 2015

Happy birthday to me

A certain witch is celebrating her birthday today!!!

Image from fotki.com.

As the time goes by, I'm becoming more and more like Winnie, experimenting with potions and reading old spellbooks. As well as looking like her physically, ha-ha!!!
Image from http://winnie-the-witch.com

I've got the striped stockings already, and a scull. And a big pot. All I need now is a black, fluffy cat to keep me a company.


So what do I wish me today? 


A magical typewriter.
The one that would type my thoughts and ideas as I lie in my bed and plot new stories.
Image from www.harhastudios.net.

More hours in a day, so that I can put down more words and publish more books.
Image from windchi.me


Better vocabulary and better writing skills.
Image from paganpages.org


And of course, many faithful readers who love witches as much as I do.
Image from www.dailymail.co.uk


And by the way, I LOVE presents, so if you want to make me happy today, reviewing my books would be a great birthday gift. Here's my page on Amazon, with my books waiting for your reviews: 


And what kind of birthday would it be, if I didn't make a present to my readers?
Here's a chapter from the upcoming "Witch Hollow and the Moon's Daughter" (please keep in mind that it's not edited)



Chapter 6
Eric had been sitting on the rooftop for two hours when Uncle Colin climbed up, a basket with snacks in his hand.
“I’ve brought you something to eat.” He put the basket on the crenellation next to Eric. There was just a piece of bread and a bit of white cheese in it, and though Eric’s belly was rumbling, he didn’t take a bite. The last days he never ate anything without sharing it with Electra.
“No wind,” Colin said, looking into distance. “It’s always still before the storm.” He turned to Eric. “How’s your back.”
“Hurting. But I don’t pay much attention to pain any more. It comes and goes. Only…” Eric leaned his elbows on the crenellation and stared into the distance. “The scars remain. And sometimes they tell of things you wished to forget.”
Colin nodded knowingly.
“But I’m not worried about the scars. And my future wife still loves me, despite the amount of welts on my body.”
Uncle Colin smiled. “Sometimes I can’t believe she’s so grown-up. A bride-to-be. It seems like yesterday that I took that little girl in my arms and swore to protect her.” Colin heaved a sigh. “I was so close to the square that day. The day they … the night when they bound Valeria to the log along with Nicolas. Some five minutes. I was late for some five minutes.”
“You still wouldn’t be able to save them.”
“Maybe I wouldn’t. And maybe I would. Valeria,” Colin whispered. “Sweet, beautiful Valeria, with eyes like moonstones.”
“Uncle Colin, Pickering showed me a photo recently. It was taken twenty years ago in Hollow, between the two great oaks, and there were you, your wife, her sisters, Alan, his family, the Nubbles brothers, and many other people.” Eric fixed his eyes on Colin. “And there was also Peter McCormack. He was young, but I recognized him; I am sure it was him sitting behind Valeria and hugging her.”
“Have you told of that photo to anyone?”
Eric shook his head. “Why was Dinah and Dickens’s father hugging Electra’s mother? Why was Peter McCormack in your company?”
Colin raised his eyes at the sky. The torrent had stopped, and fine raindrops were hitting on his face and the rooftop. The rains never totally ceased. They were a reminder that the danger was still close, and intensified whenever something bad happened in the town.
“I think we have a bit of time for one more story.” He leaned over the crenellation and looked down at their garden with willows and rose shrubs, then shut his eyes as if reminiscing about something very old. Then his lips curved into a faint smile, and Eric knew that some of the things that Colin was remembering now were pleasant memories.
“You know I was born and raised on the East Bank of the Sirtalion,” Colin began his story. “My family was not as prejudiced as the rest, and I was allowed to freely pass to the other bank where most of my friends lived. Alan, Shay, and I have been friends since I remember myself. I think I was six years old when we met and befriended each other. But there weren’t three of us, but four. Our fourth friend was Peter McCormack.” Colin smiled when he saw Eric raise eyebrows and gape at him. “Yes, Peter McCormack was our fourth friend. Peter the Jester.” Colin laughed. “It might be hard to imagine, but Peter was a really funny guy and a good friend to us all.
“My family lived on the Maple Street, and our neighbors were the Millers. Mrs. Miller died when her daughter was very young, and my mother developed a deep affection towards the motherless girl. Her name was Caitlin Miller, and she became a frequent guest in our house. My mother had been planning our marriage since we were kids, but I knew I could never marry her for two reasons: I was totally in love with a girl named Andromeda, and Caitlin Miller was desperately in love with my friend Peter McCormack. Sometimes I think how it all would have ended if I didn’t love Meda. Probably differently, but how could I foresee it? I didn’t possess a crystal ball like my wife does, and couldn’t look into the future. When Peter learned about me and Meda, he wanted to meet her. He couldn’t believe I was in love with a witch. Though the enmity between the East and West Banks wasn’t as great as now, it was still considered strange for an Easterner to go out with someone from a witch’s family. I took Peter to the blue castle where he met the woman whom he has been loving for the past twenty years.”
“Valeria,” Eric whispered, and Colin nodded.
“Valeria. It was a love at first sight. Peter couldn’t talk of anything else on our way back home. All he cared for was her face, and her hair, her slender hands, her lively eyes, her soft voice, her gentle smile. Her kindness and her tenderness. And I didn’t know what to say, because I had just broken the heart of a sweet, motherless girl, whose eyes would brighten up each time Peter was around. As mean as it might sound, I wished that Valeria would reject Peter. But no, life had other plans. Next day, Meda told me that Valeria hadn’t stopped talking about Peter since we’d left their castle. The die had been cast, and there was nothing I could do.”
Eric gaped wider. “Electra’s mother was in love with Mr. McCormack?”
“Valeria loved Peter, and Peter would give his life for her. I don’t remember seeing him as happy as he was with Val. He worshipped her, his sun and stars. But Mr. McCormack wouldn’t agree to bring a witch into his house. He chided Peter, demanded that he stopped seeing her. This was leading to constant brawls between father and son. After each of the arguments Peter would go to the tavern and get drunk. None of us could reason with him. Once he got so drunk he punched Shay in the face when we tried to take him home by force. Alan talked to him at least a hundred times, but Peter was not listening.
“On the Saint Patrick’s Day we were having a big feast in the Bat Inn. Peter got drunk and in front of everyone proposed to Valeria. He was so drunk he was hardly standing on his feet, and Valeria took him to a side and told him that a drunk proposal wasn’t agreeable to her. Her words angered Peter, and he shouted that he was doing her a favor, and that she was acting like a witch that she was. He said if she were normal his father wouldn’t threaten him and leave him penniless. As he was yelling out insults about Valeria and her family, Shay and I dragged him out and tried to pacify him. Next morning, Peter went to the blue castle, asking Valeria to come out and talk to him. I don’t know if Valeria would come out or no, but after waiting for some time Peter became angry again and broke her window with a pebble. Then he went to the tavern and again got drunk. At that time Caitlin was waiting the tables at the Happy Friend. Her love was not a secret, and Peter couldn’t come up with a better revenge plan. He was too drunk to understand what he was doing, and enamored Caitlin did not resist him.”
Eric rubbed his jaw, frowning and blinking, as if digesting the story he was hearing. He knew all those people, but could he ever suspect what had passed between them? It was a story too complicated and couldn’t possibly have a happy ending. “What happened then?” he asked.
“During those days Nicholas Ainsley came to Hollow. He was a witch-man and quickly made friends with Grindewald’s family. He and Valeria became close and spent a lot of time together. Andromeda and I were happy to see her smiling again; she had been crying too much since Peter had begun his drunken antics. But she was still missing him. It’s not easy to forget someone whom you have loved so dearly. Nicholas, who had fallen in love with Valeria, was doing everything to keep the sorrow away from her. Then Peter at last realized he was losing her and asked me to help him meet Val and make up with her. They had a long conversation and decided to start everything again. Peter talked to his father and announced that he was going to marry Valeria. Mr. McCormack didn’t agree, and Peter threatened to leave his family and live in the blue castle with the witches.
“Then happened something that no one had been expecting. Hearing the news about Peter’s upcoming engagement, Caitlin appeared at the blue castle and announced that she was carrying his child. I thought Peter would kill her. Luckily I managed to pull him back and free Caitlin from his chokehold. Unfortunately, Valeria did not forgive Peter this time.” Colin became silent. For some time he looked into the East, at the town shielded with the night and beaten by the torrents. The rain was becoming stronger, and he pulled the hood over his head “Peter ruined everything himself,” he said, “but he was blaming others. He started a fight with Nicholas. Alan and I hardly split them before they managed to kill each other. Later Peter asked me to leave Andromeda. It was unfriendly that I was still with her, he said, but I loved her, and we were getting married soon. That was the last time that Peter and I talked. After my father’s death, my mother had fallen under the influence of the McCormacks and had begun hating the witches of the West Bank. She had been asking me to stay away from them; sometimes her pleas would become so tiresome that I would give her empty promises just to stop those sickening conversations about an upcoming Witch Hunt. If only I had paid them more attention. But I was too careless, blinded by happiness. After I married Meda, Valeria and Nicholas became engaged. A week after their engagement, Peter married Caitlin. Soon Dickens was born—the child that ruined his life. Peter doesn’t love him, never did. He blames Dickens for his lost dreams, and he blames Caitlin for his lost love. He blames Nicholas for stealing Valeria from him, and he blames me for not standing by his side. He blames anyone but him. He still can’t let the past go. He lives in that past, and every day his wife and son remind him of what he lost. He hates Caitlin, he despises Dickens. When the Hunt began, and Nicholas and Valeria were arrested, I tried to talk to Peter and ask for help. He could have helped them escape, but did nothing. I don’t know if he can ever forgive himself for letting them burn Valeria on the stake.”
“He was there,” Eric said. “He was there and watched her burn.”
Colin looked at him. “Who? Peter?”
“Yes, Peter McCormack. He was on the square that day.”
“How do you know?”
“I have read Amelia Wicker’s diary. He was standing near her, in a black cloak and hood, his face covered with a black cloth. He was a Hunter.”
“Peter a Hunter?” Colin whispered. I never knew. Fifteen years, and I never knew. I wouldn’t believe it.”
“Believe me, Uncle Colin, Peter McCormack was a Hunter. He was on the square, and he watched Valeria and her husband burn. That’s how much he loved her!”
Colin pressed his lips together and shook his head. “He … couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t. He was heartbroken, but he wouldn’t watch them burn her and do nothing.”
“He did. That’s the value of his love,” Eric said with anger. “He let her burn just to slake his pathetic need for revenge. Just like his…”
Daughter.