Archive for April, 2011

A-Z Day 26: Zamm

Zamm is one of the characters in my novel URTH.

Zamm also happens to be my real life cousin. You may have read about her in my previous post on Past life Readings.

Yes, she’s the same Zamm who gave me a Past Life Reading using her tarot cards.

Ate Zamm(Ate, pronounced Ah-te, is a Filipino term used to refer to an elder sister, or one whom you consider an elder sister),  and I grew up together in the same house, along with our other cousins. My childhood memories are fuzzy, but I’m almost sure that she baby-sat me on days when my Grandma and aunts were too busy with chores.

with ate zamm eleazar and rec A Z Day 26: ZammAte Zamm with her arm around me, and my other cousins Ely and Ric

Although we grew up together, Ate Zamm and I never really bonded, until I had immigrated to the US and she had moved to New Zealand.  It was very strange, but in some ways the distance brought us closer together.

Thanks to Skype, and hours of conversations, we discovered that we had the same interests in business, photography, arts, language, the metaphysical and the mysterious.

Ate Zamm is the eldest cousin in my mother’s side of the family, and she’s also the most talented and the prettiest. She is amazing painter (you can see her paintings HERE)  and tarot reader, and also has the voice of an angel (she had a music album out in the Philippines way back when).

zammerly album A Z Day 26: Zamm

I’d like to think that because of our shared interests, we’re the most similar among all the cousins—but I certainly don’t have her beauty, my voice sounds like croak next to her soprano,  and while I can draw, my sketches are doodles compared to her paintings. Anyway, I’m just happy we’re related. J

So how did my talented cousin come to be in my book?

When I first started writing my fantasy novel URTH, I needed advice on what tarot cards would symbolize particular events in my main character’s life.  Naturally, she was the one I bugged for information.

The tarot reader in my story was supposed to appear only in one scene, but she had other ideas. She became one of the most interesting characters in my book, and as such needed an equally impressive name. Zamm was the perfect monicker, and so with my cousin’s permission, I used her name, and some of her traits, as a basis for my character.

zamm 1024x971 A Z Day 26: Zamm

Much like my cousin Ate Zamm, my character Zamm breaks the Psychic stereotype. There is nothing scary or contrived about her, and she certainly doesn’t read the cards and announce your impending death.  On the contrary, she is a source of information and wise advice.

Zamm the character has green frizzy hair, and she has a bit of a fondness for furry creatures (bunnies in particular). She also happens to be a druid; and she owns a shop called Z.A.P.S (short for Zamm’s Amazing Psychic Shop).

Zamm befriends the heroes of my story. She becomes an elder sister figure whom the kids look up to.  Will, Finn, and Taylor hang out at her shop all the time.  Sometimes the children help her around the shop, but most of the time they just like to eat biscuits and drink tea, and listen to Zamm’s stories. They also like to ask Zamm all sorts of random questions, and Zamm, being  a walking encyclopedia and a lover of trivia, eagerly answers them.

Although she doesn’t know that she does, Zamm helps Will, Finn and Taylor in their quest to save the Otherworld of Urth, and their own world of Earth in the process.

While it started out that art  imitated life in the form of my character Zamm, it seems that life has begun to imitate art.

When I first created Zamm the Character, my cousin Ate Zamm hadn’t yet established where she wanted to proceed with her tarot reading skills. Now, like my character, Ate Zamm has her own Tarot Shop.

ate zamm in front of her shop A Z Day 26: Zamm

If you ever find yourself in Wellington, New Zealand, be sure to check out her shop on Plimmer Place.

tarot zamm sign1 A Z Day 26: Zamm

Her tarot readings are not only bound to amaze you, they’re also bound to give you some great insight into your own personality or the path you need to take.

inside tarot zamm A Z Day 26: Zamm

Aside from the great reading, you’ll get to meet the wonderful person who inspired my one of my favorite characters in Urth.

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And that’s the end of the A-Z Blogfest! It has been one crazy ride. I am thankful for all the online friends and followers I’ve made. I hope to keep you all informed and entertained in my succeeding posts. icon smile A Z Day 26: Zamm

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A-Z Day 25: Yellow Symbolisms

In her book Symbols * Images * Codes: The Secret Language of Meaning in Film, TV, Games, and Visual Media, author Pamela Jaye Smith discusses the symbolism of Color.

She writes:
Humans perceive only a small portion of the light in the universe. Our visible spectrum is limited to the rainbow of colors but does not include ultraviolet, infrared, and the myriad of other wavelengths. Different wavelengths affect our brains in different ways, a fact that is no doubt the basis for the ritual and subliminal use of color by most cultures throughout time.

The day-night quality of our earthly existence may be the reason we often assign goodness (sunshine, visibility, comfort) to white and evil (darkness, secrecy, danger) to black. Vampires reverse this, and sci fi stories speculate how a two-sun system or other arrangement might affect psychology, sociology and religion.

Colors describe emotions: She’s blue, he’s green with envy, they saw red, a black mood, purple with rage.

Whether by psychological affinity or astonishingly strong coincidence, colors have taken on character…
…Yellow symbolizes sunlight, warmth, awareness, lassitude, bright intelligence and cowardice.

yellow rose 800 A Z Day 25: Yellow Symbolisms

In media, colors can be used to signal specific moods for characters, elicit certain reactions from the audience, emphasize a shift in emotions or situations, or to show contrast between characters and/or situations.  In the Sixth Sense, for example, red often meant “undead nearby, beware!”

According to Pamela Jaye Smith, we can use colors to add depth to our own writing. We can do this by including emotionally descriptive words (grim gray, bouncy yellow, monkish brown), or by linking colors with other senses (piercing yellow, screaming orange).

yellow sun A Z Day 25: Yellow Symbolisms

Factmonster.com lists down several interesting facts about the color yellow.

In Egypt and Burma, yellow signifies mourning.

In Spain, executioners once wore yellow.

In India, yellow is the symbol for a merchant or farmer.

In tenth-century France, the doors of traitors and criminals were painted yellow.

Hindus in India wear yellow to celebrate the festival of spring.

If someone is said to have a “yellow streak,” that person is considered a coward.

In Japan during the War of Dynasty in 1357, each warrior wore a yellow chrysanthemum as a pledge of courage.

yellow ribbon is a sign of support for soldiers at the front.

Yellow is a symbol of jealousy and deceit.

In the Middle Ages, actors portraying the dead in a play wore yellow.

To holistic healers, yellow is the color of peace.

Yellow has good visibility and is often used as a color of warning. It is also a symbol for quarantine, an area marked off because of danger.

Yellow journalism” refers to irresponsible and alarmist reporting.

What other things/themes might the color yellow symbolize? Do you see how the color yellow might be used as a symbol in your own writing?

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A-Z Day 24: Xena

Xena: Warrior Princess was one of my favorite TV shows growing up.

Xena lucy lawless 2882383 800 1010 A Z Day 24: Xena

Played by Lucy Lawless, Xena is a fictional character who first appeared as an outlaw in the 90’s TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. She appears in a few more episodes of Hercules, eventually becoming one of the good guys—and also gaining a lot of fans in the process.

hercxenacast A Z Day 24: Xena

A spinoff series was subsequently produced, and Xena: Warrior Princess, ran for six seasons (1995-2001).

Here’s a brief summary of the plot from wikipedia:

Xena, haunted by her past (as a warlord), determines to end her warrior ways. As she stripped off her armor and weaponry and buried them in the dirt, she saw a group of village girls attacked by a band of warriors. Among the girls is a young woman named Gabrielle (played by Renée O’Connor). Xena saves the girls, leaving Gabrielle in awe of the Warrior Princess’ abilities. Gabrielle begs to be Xena’s traveling companion, and over time, Gabrielle becomes Xena’s dearest friend.

Friendships were the most important thing to me when I was in High School, so I loved goofy Gabrielle’s relationship with tough gal Xena. Gabrielle was constantly causing trouble, as I remember, and always in distress, but she brought out Xena’s maternal instincts and was a loyal and true friend.

Xena and Gabrielle A Z Day 24: Xena

I also enjoyed the mythological and fantasy elements shown throughout the series, as well as the theme presented for each episode.

xena battles monster A Z Day 24: Xena

Xena was no damsel in distress, in fact, she did all the saving in a brave, kick-ass way.  She stood up for the rights of innocent folk and overcame the most difficult of obstacles. (And she had awesome fighting skills).

Xena was the kind of woman other women wished they could be– strong, independent and powerful. I was a shy kid, and watching Xena outwit and outmaneuver guys twice her size, and battle scary  monsters made me want to be just as strong and tough.

It’s no wonder that some people have written books based on her character.

how xena changed our lives book  300x300 A Z Day 24: Xena

life lessons from xena book A Z Day 24: Xena

battle on A Z Day 24: Xena

all i need to know i learend from xena A Z Day 24: Xena

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A-Z Day 23: Writer’s Day

I attended my first ever SCBWI Writers’ Day two Saturdays ago, on April 16, 2011.

I was nervous and excited. SCBWI events always rock, so I had no doubt it would be a blast; but events like these are three times better with a friend around, and I didn’t know if I’d meet anyone I knew.

My fears vanished as soon as I entered the school grounds. The first people I met were two of my wonderful groupmates from last year’s Working Writer’s Retreat – Claire di Liscia Bard and Kristen Kittscher.  We chatted for awhile and caught up on each other’s writings while waiting for the registration tables to open.

I also had the pleasure of meeting YA author Lisa Gail Green. I follow her blog , and she follows mine, and it was great  to meet her in person.

After getting our nametags, Lisa and I headed to the registration booth where they gave us an SCBWI blue bag and a folder containing our schedule for the day, along with various other materials.

I didn’t eat breakfast so I was happy to discover that the organizers were providing coffee, tea and snacks for the whole day. I grazed on donuts and pastries and drank my fill of tea as I chatted with people Lisa and other people I met through last year’s Working Writer’s Retreat, like organizers Edie Pagliasotti and and Marilyn Morton, Eloise  Freeman and even Stephanie Dreyer, who also happens to be a member of my writing group TCBWG.

I also browsed through and bought several of the books for sale. I was excited to get them signed by the authors (who also happened to be our speakers for the day).

books for sale A Z Day 23: Writers Day

At 9 am, the program started in earnest. Edie and Claudia, Regional Advisers of the SCBWI-LA, welcomed everybody to Writer’s Day and said a few announcements. They then introduced our first speaker for the day, the beautiful Margaret Miller, editor of Bloomsbury Books.

margaret miller 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

Margaret talked about what to expect before, during and after working with an editor. She took us through her version of the writer’s bill of rights and gave us some valuable information, which we would never get anywhere else. Margaret’s talk roused us all, and she got quite an avalanche of applause when she finished. Questions poured out from all over the floor and she answered them all patiently.

After a fifteen minute break, Newberry award-winning author Susan Patron spoke about “Finding Heart to Unlock the  Story.” She spoke of her writing journey from librarian to Newberry Award winner, and the various lessons she learned along the way. Her speech was so inspiring, it left us all in awe.

susan patron 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

Susan pointed out the Clairbourn School Crest with its motto written in French across the middle:

clairborn motto 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

“Verite Sans Peur” – “Truth Without Fear”.  She smiled and said how apt it was that we writers gathered for Writer’s Day under that logo. “It takes courage to write,” was among the many powerful and thought-provoking words we heard from her that day. She shared so many wonderful “quotables” that I had to struggle to write them all down.

When Susan finished her speech, the room burst out in an applause that took minutes to die down.

The winners of the SCBWI –LA 7th Annual Scholarship Contest were announced before lunch. The theme this year was “Cinnamon”. Writer Tracy Holtzer won for her piece, and Illustrator Cristina Forshay won for her submission.

The boxed lunch the organizers provided was simply wonderful. I had so much food in the box that I ended up taking it home for next day’s lunch.

packed lunch 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

The organizers also provided great food for the vegetarians and vegans in the group.

vegetarian line 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

Stephanie and I chose a shady spot under a tree for our lunch.  We were joined later on by Kristen and her friend, and all four of us eagerly spoke about all the amazing things we had learned so far.

A loud bell signaled the end of lunch. While the published writers in our group broke off for their own session with Judith Enderle, Stephanie Gordon and Julie Williams, the rest of us piled back into the gym for our own session with author Tony Johnston.

tony johnston 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day


Tony  gave an emotional and heartfelt speech on the importance of capturing emotions on the pages of our work. She gave us poignant examples from her own books, and shared with us the stories behind her own stories.

“Keep alive to everything and a story will find you,” Tony constantly reminded us. She also shared with us some wonderful writing quotes that she had collected over the years.

Rachel Cohn, author of popular YA books (like Nick and Norah’s Playlist), spoke about how to grab teenagers attention from page one.  ”Don’t give readers a chance to walk away,” Rachel reminded us.

rachel cohn 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

Our last speaker was the energetic Bruce Coville, fantasy author and founder of Full Cast Audio. “Fantasy is about building dreams, and life is built on dreams,” Bruce told us. After sharing with us his views on the genre of fantasy, he gave us great tips on how to improve our own fantasy stories.

bruce coville 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

Immediately after Bruce Coville’s wonderful talk, SCBWI-LA Regional Advisers past, present and future gathered in front and spoke a little bit about their experience, and what the SCBWI has meant to them all these years.

RAs past and present 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

Present RA’s Edie  Pagliasotti and Claudia Harrington announced that they would soon be handing over the reins to future RA’s Lee Wind and Sarah Laurenson. As a symbol of their ascent  to the SCBWI-LA “throne”, Claudia gave Sarah a tiara, and Lee a scepter.

newly crowned ra 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

Not to be outdone, Lee presented the outgoing RA’s Edie and Claudia with a gift bag full of trinkets for each of the senses.

gifts for present RAs 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

We gave all the RA’s a big round of applause for their valuable contribution to the SCBWI, and a standing ovation for outgoing RA’s Edie and Claudia.

The whole ceremony made me feel strangely emotional, and I felt extremelylucky to be a part of the SCBWI family.

After the RA presentation, Edie and Claudia, still a bit teary-eyed from a show of everyone’s appreciation for their ten-year service, announced the winner of the Sue Alexander Service and Encouragement (SASE).

We applauded loudly when she called on Lee Wind to accept his award. Surprised, and definitely moved, Lee said a few words about what the SCBWI family means to him.

lee wind 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

Finally, author and Contest organizer Candace Ryan stepped on the podium to  announce the winners of the annual Writer’s Day Contest.  Categories included: Middle Grade; Non-fiction Picture Book; Non-fiction; Picture Book; Young Adult, and Poetry.

candace ryan 1024x768 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

I suddenly remembered that I had sent it the first chapter of my MG novel Urth, as my first ever entry for the Writer’s Day Contest.

While Candace read the blurb (and handed out certificates) for the honorable mention, second place, and first place winners for the Picture Book category, I nervously played with my pen.

I realized I shouldn’t even be nervous. There was no way I would ever win the contest. I began to relax and settled down to cheer the winner for the MG Honorable Mention Award.

Then Candace read the blurb for the 2nd place winner of the MG Award. And I froze.

“Urth opens with a boy at his father’s funeral, and even though the point of view is third person, the author manages to thoroughly create the sensations of Will’s grandmother tapping his knee to cue him to give his speech, the squelching of his shoes in the damp grass as he walks forward, and his efforts to un-crumple the paper and read the words he has written in memory of his dad. But there’s more going on here than a funeral. This story gets off to a strong, surprising start as Will is jerked away to learn that he’s been chosen to save another world, then returned an instant later—winding up in the grave on top of his father’s coffin after a so-called earthquake. Will is an appealing character, and I found myself wanting to know what happens next.”

My fellow Westside Schmoozers and seatmates clapped eagerly when I stood up to receive my certificate. It was the certainly the highlight of my day.

writers day 2011 certificate 1023x792 A Z Day 23: Writers Day

Still giddy from  my award, and grinning from ear to ear, I found my way to the authors’ table to have the books I bought earlier signed. It perfect end to an amazing day.

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A-Z Day 22: Vacation

VACATION

1: a respite or a time of respite from something : intermission

2 a : a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspendedb : a period of exemption from work granted to an employee

3: a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation <had a restful vacation at the beach>

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

beachvacation A Z Day 22: Vacation

I haven’t had a proper vacation since—well, it’s been so long since I’ve had one, I can’t even remember the last time.

Because of the ever falling economy, financial constraints, and a general lack of time, I’ve had to content myself with STAYCATIONS.

staycation (also spelled stay-cationstacation, or staykation; known in the United Kingdom as a stoliday or holistay) is a neologism for a period of time in which an individual or family stays and relaxes at home, or vacations in their own country, possibly taking day trips to area attractions. Staycations achieved popularity in the US during the financial crisis of 2007–2010.[1][2]

Wikipedia

But sometimes, staycations aren’t enough, and the need to get away, to see new sights and experience new things is stronger than the need to save money.

So I’m happy to announce that after years, I finally get to go on a real vacation—meaning one that is far, far away from home, and one that is longer than a weekend.

Thanks to some money saved up over a period of years and very generous help from the best ever friend in the whole wide world Maiko, I’ll be going to England next month.

house of parliament2 A Z Day 22: Vacation

Why England? Well, for one reason, I’ve always wanted to go there. The bigger reason, however, is that I want to walk the roads and streets my own characters from URTH travel in their everyday storybook lives.

Of course, finding funds was only part of the problem. The biggest hurdle was actually planning the trip.  Fortunately, I love organizing anything, so the task wasn’t all that stressful. Well, okay, so it was VERY stressful, but I enjoyed it anyway.

I discovered many useful online sources in the process of planning for my trip to the UK. I’m going to share them here along with a list of steps I took in order to plan my vacation.

HOW TO PLAN YOUR VACATION TO THE UK

1. The first thing to do when planning a trip, is to find out what documents you need for traveling. If you’re a US or Japanese citizen, and you’re only going to the UK for less than three months, then all you need is a passport.

But if you’re a US Greencard holder, aside from your country’s passport, you’ll need to get a UK Visa.

If you wish to expedite your visa process, you can use Passportvisasexpress.com. I’ve used their services, and they’re pretty good.

2. While waiting for your UK Visa (if you need it), you need to do a little reconnaissance on the area you wish to visit. You can’t plan your itinerary unless you know what attraction sites there are in London, for instance, or what activities you can do while you’re there.

Here are some books/websites to help you find out about London  in general.

daytrips 300x300 A Z Day 22: Vacation

Daytrips London by Earl Steinbicker

Rick Steve’s England 2010

http://www.londonurbanadventures.com/

http://www.offtolondon.com/

http://www.londontourist.org/

3. Once you have an idea of the places you wish to visit and the sights you wish to see, and the activities you’d like to do, you can start planning your itinerary.

One very useful online source for planning any trip is Tripit.com

tripit biz s1 A Z Day 22: Vacation

From their website:

TripIt turns chaos into order by making it easy for anyone to:

  • Organize trip details into one master online itinerary — even if arrangements are booked at multiple travel sites
  • Automatically include maps, directions and weather in their master itinerary
  • Have the option to book restaurants, theatre tickets, activities and more right from within the online itinerary
    • Safely access travel plans online, share them, check-in for

Using Tripit.com, you can add all the activities, booking references and whatever other information you might need for the trip. Once you’re done planning your itinerary, you can simply print a copy via the website, or if you have a smartphone—you can easily download the Tripit app and carry a digital copy of it on your phone.

Tripit For Android A Z Day 22: Vacation

4. After planning your itinerary, you need to start looking for proper accommodations. I used booking.com to book all of the hotels I’ll be staying at. With Booking.com, you can use specific categories like price range, hotel type, ratings, even hotel facilities (like internet services, fitness rooms etc), to search for available hotels in whatever area you wish to stay in.

bookingcompng A Z Day 22: Vacation

5. After booking all your accommodations, you can either plan your own trip routes, or book a standard tour with a reliable tour company.  I decided to save myself the headache and booked several pre-planned day tours. Booking pre-planned tours not only saves time (especially if you only have a week or two to explore the UK), it also saves money on transportation.

Booking the tour with a company also allows me to hit up three places in one day with ease.  I had no desire to drive around the UK and wish to avoid hopping from one form of public transportation to another as much as possible.

I booked daytrips to Warwick, Stratford Upon-Avon, Oxford and  Leeds Castle, Dover,  & Canterbury using Premiumtours.com

premium tours coach A Z Day 22: Vacation

They also offered a cheap half a day trip to Windsor Castle, and Runnymede which included a traditional Fish & Chip lunch at a local pub, so I booked that as well.

The most important part of my trip is seeing Stonehenge, as it is where my story unfolds.  Londontoolkit.com has a Special Access Tour that allows tourists to go within the stones after hours.

stonehenge special access 3 A Z Day 22: Vacation

Of course, being a Harry Potter fan, I had to have some kind of Harry Potter tour. Londonwalks.com offers many thematic walking tours around London for as low as 8 gbp. Naturally, I signed up for the Harry Potter walking tour.

6. There might be days where you wish to explore London on your own. In this case, you would need access to public transportation.

Transportdirect.info, much like mapquest or googlemaps, gives you directions from one place to another. However, unlike the other two, Transportdirect.info gives you step by step instructions on how to get from your hotel to the attraction sites. This includes how many miles/minutes you have to walk to the train station, what time the bus/train comes, and your ETA at the station and so on.

Raileurope.com and Londpass.com are two very helpful sites in terms of transporation. These sites allow you to purchase a prepaid travelcard which you can use to pay for your passages in various trains, buses and railway lines throughout the UK.

londonpass2 A Z Day 22: Vacation

The London Pass Travelcard, which you can buy from either webite, not only pays for your underground train/bus/tram/railway fares fora specific number of consecutive days, it also allows you to get into many of the popular tourist attractions sites around London for FREE.

The Oyster card, available on Raileurope.com, is an electronic, prepaid, pay as you go card that calculates the cheapest fare for your journey and caps when a daily limit is reached.  The great thing about the Oyster card is that it never expires and you can easily reload it with more funds.oyster card A Z Day 22: Vacation

I ordered my London pass travelcard and Oyster card from Raileurope.com and (with free shipping) received it within four days.

7. Another thing you have to think about when going there, is how you’re going to keep in touch with your family members back home.

If your SIM-card based phone (Meaning you’re an AT&T or Tmobile customer) is unlocked, then you can easily buy a SIM card when you get to the UK and have your own number.

uksimcards A Z Day 22: Vacation

There’s no need to worry if your phone is locked. If you’ve been a customer for at least a month, simply call AT&T or Tmobile, let them know you wish to unlock your phone.

When I called Tmobile and asked for an unlock code, they asked for me to first of all, verify my account. Then they asked for my phone’s IMEI number (which you can find at the back of your phone underneath the battery or through the About your phone tab in your smartphone’s settings menu) and email address. They emailed me the Unlock Code along with instructions the following day.

Once you get to the UK, you can buy a SIM card from a vending machine at some of the airport terminals, or at a phone store.

But if you want to get your UK SIM card before you leave for the trip, you can purchase one online through Britishsims.com

8. The very last thing to do is to purchase your roundtrip plane tickets. Make sure you have all the necessary travel documents (ie passport and visa) and the necessary funds before you purchase your plane tickets, as airlines don’t exactly give out easy refunds.

Kayak.com is a great website for finding the lowest airfare. It has a smartphone app as well, and is the only site I actually use to book flights.

2009 11 02 JA   Kayak A Z Day 22: Vacation

Well, there they are– the steps to planning a trip for the UK. It may seem like a lot of hard work, and indeed, it is; but it’s always better to plan ahead.  You can always be flexible and spontaneously rearrange your itinerary once you get there, but if you go there with absolutely no idea of what you want to do–you’ll be wasting valuable time figuring out where to go, instead of actually going there.

I’ve been planning my vacation for about two months now. It’s a lot of hard work but I think it’ll pay off in the end.


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A-Z Day 21: Urth

I’ve been pretty quiet about the story I’ve been working on simply because at the time that I was writing it, I knew that in the revision and editing process, a lot of things about my story would change.

Now that I’ve finished editing my book for the 7th time (actually, hundredth time if I count all the little edits I’ve made while writing the story), and am in the process of querying, I feel more sure about sharing a little about my story with you.

Although my story begins in the modern-day LA, and moves to modern-day England, most of my characters’ adventures take place in the Otherworld of Urth.

In most fantasy novels, a map is necessary in order to navigate the completely new world created by the author.  So in order to help me keep track of my characters, and the plot, I created a map of URTH.

URTH map 1024x834 A Z Day 21: Urth

The map is kind of crude because I didn’t exactly use the latest drawing software. I simply made do with Microsoft word and its various clipart, drawing tools, and art functions.

When I wrote this book, I made sure every single name I used—for characters, objects, places and even the book title itself—has a meaning.

But while the map is helpful, it doesn’t exactly tell you what my story is about. So here’s a little synopsis to explain things further:

Eleven-year old Will is the Sage of the Prophecy, the only human born with the ability to command the six elements.

The problem is, he doesn’t know.

As far as Will is concerned, his biggest challenge is adjusting to a life without his father in the boring town of Amesbury, England, and getting along with his reserved and super religious grandmother.

A series of ominous events that begins with a gnome’s appearance at his father’s funeral, and ends with a narrow escape from two-headed hyenas drives Will into embarking on a quest to decipher the gnome’s mysterious message. Along the way, he befriends Finn, a blind artist who can locate missing things with his mind, and Taylor, a thief who can unlock any door.

Among the trilithons of Stonehenge, the three friends uncover a hidden Gateway into a troubled realm. Ravaged by earthquakes, mudslides, and land pollution, the Otherworld of Urth is in chaos. Behind each disaster is the Gatherer– a powerful Craftmaster, using his power of Darkening to create discord between humans and nature spirits called elementals.

To stop the Gatherer, Will must not only train in martial arts, he must also learn Urth Magic. But before he can master the earth elements, he must go on a quest to find the Map, the Key and the Staff of Power foretold in the prophecy. Without them, Will’s true gift– the Power of Illumination– cannot rise.

Overcome with self-doubt, and still grieving over his father’s death, Will struggles to complete his quest.  But time is running out. Earthquakes continue to ravage the land, and a war is brewing between humans and elementals. Worse, the Gatherer, growing stronger with every new Craft he steals, is getting closer to taking the Talisman of Urth—the ultimate source of the Urth elementals’ powers. Will must remember his father’s lessons and face his fears, before the Otherworld of Urth—and his own world of Earth, is destroyed.

I don’t know if my book has commercial value, or if any agent will think it worth representing,  and any publisher think it worth printing; but I do know that I absolutely love the story I’ve written. It is a story that has taken hold of my imagination, and of my heart.

Whether it gets published or not, I know that I will  continue writing the other books in the series. I have a need to finish the story because I want to know what happens next to Will and his friends. I want to know how they overcome the obstacles in their path, and I want to know if they end up happy—or not.

I need to finish the story, because until all my characters have said their piece, they won’t let me have my peace.

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A-Z Day 20: Thief Archetype

I started the Archetype Series with a discussion on archetypes and Characters, and the archetype most commonly seen in media:

The Hero Archetype

I also explored the following archetypes:

The Bully Archetype

The Mentor Archetype

And now it’s time for another edition of the Archetype Series!

Archetypes

*NOTE: Expect this introduction at every archetype spotlight article. It’s a great way of reminding us what we can gain when we study archetypes.

Just to refresh your memory, let me define archetypes again. An archetype is an original model of a person, ideal example, or a prototype after which others are copied, patterned, or emulated; a symbol universally recognized by all.

Archetypes are scattered everywhere in media. Many writers use archetypes because they provide a guide for the readers to understand the storyline better. As writers, it’s important that we understand the many archetypes out there. Why? Because when we understand the definition and function of an archetype, we may:

  1. tweak the definition to suit our storyline
  2. break the rules of what a particular archetype is supposed to do to spice up our story
  3. apply a particular perspective to the archetype according to the message of our story. For instance, we may have an anarchist Mentor, a feminist Knight or a Freudian Hero

(If you are so inclined and have time at your disposal, might I suggest that you read or re-read my article on Archetypes and Characters?)

Now that you have a good idea of how archetypes can help us writers, let’s get to know the Archetype in today’s spotlight.

The Thief

Thief 707x1024 A Z Day 20: Thief Archetype

Here is what archetype guru Caroline Myss has to say about The Thief Archetype:

Thief (Swindler, Con Artist, Pickpocket, Burglar, Robin Hood)

The Thief is thought of as a nocturnal, hooded figure who slips silently into places and takes what he wants. In the hierarchy of thievery, the most respected is the Jewel Thief, associated with glamour, class, and sophistication.

Caroline Myss also lists down where the Thief Archetype appears in myth and religion, as well as where this archetype appears in modern day films.

Religion/Myth: Raven (Among Northwestern Indians, a helpful thief who stole the moon and sun from the Sky Chief and placed them in the sky); Prometheus (in Greek myth, hero who stole the sacred fire from Zeus and the gods); Autolycus (grandfather of Odysseus renowned as a thief who stole the cattle of Eurytus); the Good Thief (in the New Testament, one of two men who were crucified with Jesus, repented, and asked for forgiveness).

Films: James Caan in Thief; Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroiani in Big Deal on Madonna Street; Jean-Paul Belmondo in The Thief of Paris; Sabu in The Thief of Baghdad (1940); Steven Bauer in Thief of Hearts (shadow); Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; Angelica Huston in The Grifters (shadow).

Thief Functions

The great thing about Caroline Myss, is that she not only defines what the Thief Archetype is, but she also goes on to explain what this archetype’s function is, in its deepest level:

Symbolically, theft can take many forms, including plagiarism, stealing ideas and even affection. Taking what is not yours because you lack the ability to provide for yourself implies the need to learn self-respect. This archetype prods you to learn to generate power from within. As with so many archetypes that initially strike you as completely unrelated to who you are, this archetype should be evaluated from its symbolic meaning. You may never have stolen one thing at the physical level, but you also need to take into consideration your emotional and intellectual arenas.

Thief Types

Caroline Myss also lists down several types of thieves, as they appear in history, and as they are portrayed in the media:

The Good Thief

The Good Thief steals on behalf of others, as in the case of Robin Hood, and appears to be relieved of all wrongdoing because of his benevolent motive to be of service to others, but often that is just a rationalization.

good thief robinhood A Z Day 20: Thief Archetype

The Bank Thief

The Bank Thief maintains a degree of respect because the target is corporate and impersonal and the implication is that the thief has an intelligent and strategic mind.

bank thief real bonnie parker clyde barrow A Z Day 20: Thief ArchetypeBonnie & Clyde

bank thief oceans 12 A Z Day 20: Thief ArchetypeOcean’s Twelve

bank thief the italian job wallpaper 001 A Z Day 20: Thief ArchetypeThe Italian Job


The Street Thief and the Pickpocket

The Street Thief and Pickpocket, on the other hand, rank lowest because they rob ordinary individuals and their methods yield small gain.

street thief 725x1024 A Z Day 20: Thief ArchetypeStreet Thief

pickpocket A Z Day 20: Thief ArchetypePickpocket

I would like to add another particular Thief type that I’ve seen in the media.

The Art Thief

If I were to define this type, I would say that the Art Thief is similar to the Bank Thief, in that his target is also corporate, and he possesses an intelligent mind capable of  cunning strategy. I think, however, that the difference ends there. While the Bank Thief steals for practical, financial reasons, the Art Thief steals for purely impractical and metaphysical reasons. They steal not out of want, but because they crave the mental challenge, and appreciate beauty.

The Thomas Crown Affair poster A Z Day 20: Thief ArchetypeThe Thomas Crown Affair

art thief entrapment A Z Day 20: Thief ArchetypeEntrapment

Thief of Mine

In my own book, I make use of this archetype as well.  One of my characters, is a “Bank Thief” of sorts. Only, instead of stealing into banks and grabbing cash and jewelry, she steals into a particular bookstore to “borrow” books.  And since I’m thinking of turning this book into a series, maybe she’ll eventually steal something more valuable to her than books—perhaps the protagonist’s heart? Or maybe not.

Now that you have been acquainted with the Thief Archetype, look back at your own story. Do you have a Thief character? What type of Thief is she/he? How does this Thief affect your protagonist’s journey?


Additional Links

Caroline Myss’s Gallery of Archetypes

http://spiritlibrary.com/caroline-myss/a-gallery-of-archetypes

A list of movies showing various Thief Archetypes:

http://www.amazon.com/Thief-Heist-Movies-no-order/lm/308LAE89HIDQG

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=56756

A Quiz on you can take to find out what kind of thief you are:

http://www.okcupid.com/quizzy/take

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A-Z Day 19: Stardust

I love watching movies. But there are only a few movies that I would willingly watch more than once.

There is one movie I’ve seen at least five times.

Stardust.

stardust movie   A Z Day 19: Stardust

Based on the books Stardust by Neil Gaman, the movie is an amazing feat of  cinematography, special effects, costume design and stellar acting.  Seasoned stars like Ian Mckellen, Robert Deniro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sienna Miller, Clare Danes, Melanie Hill,  Kate Magowan, and Nathaniel Parker mingle with up and coming stars like Henry Cavill, Ben Barnes, Charlie Cox, and bring to life a story full of adventure, fantasy, romance, suspense and comedy.

lamiastardust A Z Day 19: Stardust

There are so many things I love about this movie– clever one-liners, unexpected twists, awesome special effects, and amazing actors to name a few.  But the thing that really gets me is the story.

Neil Gaman, like the magician he is, has conjured up an exciting story of magnificent proportions.

His recipe for story you want to read and watch over and over again?

A flying ship

fying ship A Z Day 19: Stardust

Pirates who steal lightning from the skies,

pirates A Z Day 19: Stardust

A captain with a reputation-killing secret,

captain shakespeare A Z Day 19: Stardust

Witches who wish to stay young forever,

witches 1024x434 A Z Day 19: Stardust

Two princes battling for a crown,

primus septimusjpg A Z Day 19: Stardust

Six royal ghosts,

Stardust   Ghost of Princes XXL Wallpaper JxHy A Z Day 19: Stardust

And a fallen star who falls in love with a boy learning to be a man.

tristan and yvaine A Z Day 19: Stardust

Here’s a summary of the plot from IMDB

The tiny English village of Wall has a secret. Through a gap in the town’s old stone wall lies the kingdom of Stormhold, a magical realm of spells, unicorns and witches. One day a boy named Tristan Thorn makes a bet with Victoria, the girl of his dreams, that he can bring her back a falling star that lands beyond the wall. So he journeys through the gap into the wall and into the other world, determined to bring back the fallen star in seven days and win Victoria’s hand in marriage. To his surprise, the star in question is not a lump of rock but a plucky celestial princess named Yvaine, who is not at all pleased to be knocked out of the sky and subsequently kidnapped. And a fallen star, it seems, is quite a commodity in Stormhold. Soon Tristan and Yvaine are running from flying pirates, warring princes, and three wicked witches who want to cut Yvaine’s heart out of her chest and eat it in order to restore their eternal youth. To win the bet, Tristan will have to hold his own in a dangerous game of swords and sorcery – but this new world has more surprises in store than he could ever have imagined.

This is definitely one book you have to read again and again, and a  movie you have to watch over and over.

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A-Z Day 18: Renaissance Faire

Whenever March and April come around, I run to BORDERS to buy $40 worth of books. Why?

Well, aside from being a great excuse to buy books, I get four $25 tickets to the Renaissance Faire for FREE!

So every spring, I drag my patient friends to the Renfair in Irwindale. I love going there because I get to go back in time and get a feel for how it was in the medieval/Renaissance period. The costumes are always so colorful and the actors never once falter in their assigned roles. Even the vendors talk with an English accent and say things like “Grammercy, my lady!”

And I get to eat turkey legs and picnic under the trees with my awesome friends.

giant turkey leg lena pix 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireGiant turkey legs

The Renfair is also full of fantasy elements—swords, staffs, magical creatures, potions and what not. Walking around the fairgrounds gives me tons of writing inspiration for my fantasy books.

I could go on and on about how much FUN the Renfair is, but I think in this case, pictures can tell the story better than I can.


AMUSING CHARACTERS

washerwomen 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireWasherwomen exchanging gossip


singing peasants 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FairePeasants singing and having a good time


drunk man 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireA man who had too much to drink


tinkerer 225x300 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireTraveling tinkerer


woman with mugs 225x300 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireA woman with built in mug holders


queen 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireThe queen and her escorts


WONDROUS SIGHTS

glowing mushrooms 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireA dark room full of mushrooms that changed colors every minute


horns 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance Faireblow horns


mask 225x300 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireMasks


door harps 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireDoor harps


colored globes 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance Fairecolored globes


staffs 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireVarious staves


journals 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance Faireleatherbound journals


swords 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance Faireswords


FUN ACTIVITIES


wandmaker 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireShop for your very own wand


belly dancer 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireWatch beautiful belly dancers


shows 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance Fairelisten to the Merry Wives of Windsor


games cannonade 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FairePlay games like Cannonade


bungee jump 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireJump!

eating lunch 300x225 A Z Day 18: Renaissance FaireHave a good time with awesome friends





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A-Z Day 17: On Quitting and Querying

PART 1: QUITTING

Here’s what I say on Quitting—DON’T.

If you’ve recently received a rejection letter (for what will be the 100th time), you may be inclined to just give up your dream of getting published and go back into the cold, dark cave of despair.

Don’t.. Dreams lift us from the dreary life of mediocrity and monotony. Our dreams shape our purpose, and fuel our ambitions. We must never ever give up The Dream no matter how many times life slams us with its reality.

Lauren Kate, author of the bestselling Fallen series, once told me that her advice for aspiring authors would be this: “Never give up. It only takes one person to say YES.”

There is an agent/publisher for us out there. We just haven’t met them yet.

So if you’re feeling down in the dumps about the difficulty of getting published, or about getting tons of rejection letters, here’s what you should do.

  1. Watch this video. It’ll make you laugh, I promise—or at least make you smile (which is just as good for your heart as laughing).                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  2. Now that you know you are not alone in your struggles to get published, the next thing to do is to go to your favorite bookstore, library, or bookshelf, pick up your favorite book (the one that made you want to become a writer) and read it again.
  3. Once you’re all inspired and ready to go, get that query letter out and re-read it. Maybe there are things you can improve on.

And this is where part two of this post comes in.

PART 2: QUERYING

Before Querying

  1. Research. Make a list of at least fifty agents (more is better). A person who sends out 200 resumes as a better chance of getting hired than the person who only sends out 10. Make sure these agents represent authors in YOUR GENRE.  Sending a query letter about your sci fi novel to an agent who solely represents cookbooks is a waste of time—and paper.
  2. Rank these agents in order of your preference. Dream agent should be at number 1. Once you’ve done this, make a schedule for sending out queries. You can create a database for these agents containing important information about the agents, which may be useful to your query writing.  Use sonar3 (a free writing software program),  an excel spreadsheet, querytracker.net or all three to sort out your database.
  3. Prepare the tools you will need for querying.
    1. Query letter
    2. Synopsis
    3. Office supplies—envelopes, letterheads, a decent printer, etc & money for stamps if you aren’t querying via email.
  4. Send out at least 5 queries at a time.  Send multiple submissions rather than exclusives. If the agent hasn’t responded within four weeks, assume the worst and move on b sending out your next 5 queries.

Your Query Letter

If you’ve realized that you need to spice up your query letter, or improve on certain areas, but don’t know how—the only thing to do is research.

Here are three of the most helpful books you’ll ever find on writing query letters:

  1. Elana Johnson’s From Query to the Call
  2. Noah Lukeman’s How to Land a Literary Agent
  3. Noah Lukeman’s How to Write A Great Query Letter

Except for Noah Lukeman’s How to Land  a Literary Agent, you can download the other two ebooks for FREE.

After you’ve read all these wonderfully helpful books, here’s what you’ll realize:

Most query letters have a 3-Paragraph Rule (according to Noah Lukeman)

The first Paragraph is the introduction, in which writers should make a personal connection with the agent.

The second paragraph is the Plot Paragraph. This paragraph should offer a short description of the plot and nothing else.

The third paragraph is the author bio, where you list your publication credits, track records, awards, and other information relevant to the book you are querying about.

Since the query letter is about “selling” your story idea to the agent (or publisher), you should spend twice as much time crafting your plot paragraph (yes, that’s the second one) as the rest of the letter.

Elana Johnson, in her book From Query to the Call, lists down  4 elements that  need to be included in the Plot Paragraph of your query.

a.   The Hook

Your hook should:

1. Sum up the novel in one sentence

2. Propel the reader to read the whole letter with interest

b. The Setup

In the setup, you have a few goals:

1. Provide a few details about who your main character is. You’ve hooked the agent to find out more about your main character, so give them what they want.

2. World-building information if pertinent. For fantasy and science fiction, a little taste of the world would go in the setup section of the query. For mystery, horror, thriller or other genres, including the setting here wouldn’t be a bad idea.

3. The catalyst that moves the main character into the conflict. In each of the examples below (which are numbered to go with their hooks from the first part of this section), I’m going to expound on what each sentence brings to the table as far as setup. The same as in writing, what you include in the letter should have a purpose for being there.

c. The Conflict

So you’ve hooked and setup your query letter. Now to the part that everyone wants to read—the conflict. Every novel needs it. In fact, the more conflict, the better. In the query letter, you want to highlight the main conflict, not every single one in every single chapter. You can’t even do that in the synopsis, so don’t try.

Main conflict [meyn kon-flikt]: The central thing that prevents the character from getting what they want. If you didn’t setup what the character wants in the setup, you can do it during the conflict. In the examples section, I’ve included the hook and the setup so you don’t have to go back and find them.

d. The Consequence

The final element you need in your query letter is the consequence. What will happen if the MC doesn’t solve the problem? Doesn’t get what they want? Will evil forces achieve world domination? Will her brother die? Is it a race against time across Antarctica to find the long lost jewel of the Nile? What’s the consequence?

This sample is taken from her own query letter:

Example:

1. Hook: In a world where Thinkers brainwash the population and Rules are not meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces.

Setup: After committing her eighth lame ass crime (walking in the park after dark with a boy, gasp!), Vi is taken to the Green, a group of Thinkers who control the Goodgrounds. She’s found unrehabilitatable (yeah, she doesn’t think it’s a word either) and exiled to the Badlands. Good thing sexy Bad boy Jag Barque will be going too.

Conflict: Dodging Greenies and hovercopters, dealing with absent-father issues, and coming to terms with feelings for an ex-boyfriend—and Jag as a possible new one—leave Vi little time for much else. (she’s got problems. Lots of them.) Which is too damn bad, because she’s more important than she realizes. (Whoa. She’s important? How so?) Vi’s main conflict is that she doesn’t know who and/or what she is. How important she is. But everyone else does. And it’s not something she’s going to like…. This is all established in a mere 42 words.

The final blurb/plot paragraph which includes the 4th element of Consequence looks like this:

In a world where Thinkers brainwash the population and Rules are not meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces. When secrets about her “dead” sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled.

Once you’re done punching up your plot paragraph, along with the other paragraphs, the next thing to do would be to go over your query letter and proofread/edit it with a sharp, critical eye.

When you are satisfied with your query letter’s content, you can proceed with the whole formatting stage. Using a decent printer (Laserjet printers are preferred), print your query letter on a CLEAN, white sheet of copy paper (8.5 x 11, 20 lbs weight, 97+ brightness). Make sure you include an SASE (Self Adressed STAMPED Envelope) along with your query.  Add the proper postage, drop it in the mailbox, and cross your fingers.

If you are emailing your query letter, make sure you still follow the proper format in terms of  margins (1 inch all around), font (times new roman or courier), spacing (single spaced), and paragraph breaks (leave a space between each paragraph).  And just because you’re emailing the agent, doesn’t mean you can drop the formality and be all chummy. It’s always safer to be more formal than to be informal in your approach.

Of course, these are not hard and fast rules. You can always tweak them according to what you feel might give you an advantage. You must first know the rules before you can break them.

If you want to know more about how to write a smashing query letter, check out the transcript of our query workshop HERE.

I hope these little tips have helped. May we never lose hope and may we all become published authors some day!

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