Well, I'm back after another long absence. Raise your hand if you're surprised. No hands in the air? Yeah, I didn't expect there to be. You know the drill: I had a crisis, shut everything down, ran away until I felt better, and came back, shamefaced but determined not to pull the same stunt again.
Anyway, you're not here for my personal woes, you're here for writing! Presumably. I don't know if anyone's still around, actually, but if I shout into the void, perhaps the void will shout back a welcome.
So. You may be wondering what's with this post's title. Well, it references both my recent mental state and also the states of two of my wips: Chronicles of Mourra and Wonderland.
Guess what! The plans I had for both? Shattered. On purpose. I picked up both wips, threw them at a metaphorical wall (aka my debilitating writer's block), shuffled through the pieces, picked up the shiniest, prettiest fragments, got a new frame and some glue, and made two different mosaics.
This extended metaphor is getting away from me, so let me speak plainly. Neither of these wips were working for me, so I took what I liked best of them and made something new. Wow, that sounds way easier than it actually was. In reality this took me literal months and serious angst to do.
Let's jump right into it, shall we?
Chronicles of Mourra
Wow, sometimes I'm mad stubborn. Maybe tenacious is a better word? Pigheaded? Willfully blind? Either way, you'd think after ten years of trying and failing to make a story work I would give up and try something really and truly new with it.
Ok, so I got there eventually. Three weeks or so ago, I was driving to the airport, watching a landscape of olive groves and desert scrub and a packed highway whizz by while suffering the worst allergy-related congestion, and I was thinking about fairy tales. And then, given that I was in a setting reminiscent of CofM, I also started thinking about my wip.
This eventually led me to realize that my favourite parts of CofM, the parts I thought worth salvaging, the parts that kept me from trashing the entire thing completely, were 1) the characters and 2) an alphabetical glossary/encyclopedia I put together featuring the creatures, places, and notable people of the world.
Yeah, my favourite part wasn't the plot. I hated the plot. I was in denial about hating the plot. I thought if I just tweaked the plot, added new elements to it, I'd finally find a way to make it something I loved. Nope. Turns out the entire plot is just not something I'm interested in writing at all. Not anymore.
Well, except for this one core thing: a mother willing to do absolutely anything for her son, and the people who help her because they love them both.
Ultimately, I figured out that what I actually want to write is:
So I came up with a whole new, refreshing, dare I say exciting plot! I will introduce the new and improved CofM soon, so keep an eye on this space/your email for that.
Ok, so I liked the idea of an Alice in Wonderland retelling as I'd imagined it, but...I didn't actually wanna write it? Much like CofM, I came up with the idea of this retelling years and years ago and it never went anywhere.
Turns out that's for a good reason: I really don't personally enjoy writing big, overarching, complex plots where the fate of the world/kingdom/country rests on the shoulders of a handful of people.
(I do like reading it. But that's a kind of epic I don't have the inclination to dive into, and it can only be done well if you're committed to it. Newsflash: I am not. It overwhelms me.)
What I do like writing, what I've been successful at writing, are stories that are character-driven and character focused! (Rivener is my only completed novel for a reason! How did I not realize this sooner???)
Anyway, cue my latest emotional breakdown and a lot (a lot) of anger and despair and resentment about pretty much...everything...as well as the realization that another thing that made Rivener successful is that I wrote it while channeling Big Feelings™ into it.
Self-reflection complete, I decided to throw various self-imposed restrictions to the wind and write something that was purely and 100%, no holds barred (ok, lies, some holds barred) for me.
Which is how Oracle wip was born. Like CofM 2.0, I am taking bits of pieces of the original idea and doing something different. Like, really different. I've actually never wrote something like this before. I'm excited for it! Bit nervous about sharing it too, but whatever, I'mma power through.
So Wonderland is now Oracle, and it is no longer an Alice in Wonderland retelling. It does still have...little callbacks to Caroll's stories though? I think for the most part it's not enough for anyone to pick up on unless you're really looking for it, but it does bring me joy, and it facilitated this new plot, so I'm going with it.
It also has the most unhinged characters I've written to date. Everyone is sort of awful, but in a fun way! Like CofM 2.0, stay tuned for more about it. This post is already long as heck.
My memory's terrible, because it wasn't until I was perusing my own blog that I remembered one of my goals for this year was to write my Rivener AU. Nope, that's not happening, unless something changes! Which it might! Who knows! Certainly not I!
Also, Glitch wip is still stalled and not going anywhere. My other goals are also...no longer my goals. I shoulda known better than to aim for them because that's almost a sure-fire way to guarantee I won't do them. Me? Keeping promises to myself? Not letting myself down? HAH.
Ok, so it's only June. Who knows what the rest of the year will hold for me.
Anyway, thank you for your attention, if I've managed to hold it this long. (Mind letting me know that I'm reaching actual human minds?) As ever, happy reading and writing. Hope you're doing better than I am, but if you're not. Well, nothing bad lasts forever. Take care babes.
Hey hi hello and happy new year!
Every December I tell myself I won't bother making resolutions because I rarely meet them, and every January I make them anyway. But! I've decided this time to make 'intentions' rather than 'resolutions'. It feels a bit more flexible, hopeful, and aspirational that way, instead of a commitment I already foresee myself breaking, y'know?
As Hyba noted in her positive productivity post (one of a series of three, I encourage you to read them all!), it's important to treat ourselves with grace and compassion.
So here's a non-exhaustive list of my writerly intentions for this year:
✧.* Chronicles of Mourra
There you have it! These are manageable intentions, I think, but also listing them like this is making me a little anxious, not gonna lie. I calm down when I remember this is supposed to be spread out over a full year, and my main 'goal' is to work towards these things, even if I don't finish them! I need to have something to aim for, at the end of the day.
Have you set resolutions and/or intentions for this year? If so, what are they? Comment below so we can support each other!
Best of luck this year babes, and as ever: happy reading and writing.
It has been...a year. Apparently. As this tumblr post put it:
So anyway, it's December and 2022 is around the corner, which means it's time for my year in review! (Shoutout to Hyba for reminding me this is a thing I can do lol).
I did something similar last year and it was fun to see how much I accomplished or what changes occurred that I just plum forgot about, because I have brain like swiss cheese (full of holes).
For a few years now, I've had this image in my mind of an oracle figure sitting in a dank little cell, and then that same oracle figure on the run, being hunted by pursuers. I think it came about after watching Minority Report (2002) years ago with my dad. These two scenes were the beginning of a story, I could tell, only they were lacking something to truly bring them from the 'spark' stage into 'development' mode.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was talking with my friend Hyba about isekai stories (specifically in webcomics). I have long been a fan of portal and isekai stories, and I love mashing up tropes and adding twists to them. Talking to Hyba got me wanting to dabble in this genre.
For those who don't know and don't want to click on the link, isekai is a Japanese term for a genre of story where a person is transported into another (often fictional) world; sometimes this involves reincarnation. Some of these stories are portal fantasies, however not all isekai stories involve portals.
Some examples of both that I've personally enjoyed include Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, John Carter (2012), Inkworld, InuYasha, and Fushigi Yugi. (The latter two are manga turned animes).
Hello hello hello!
I have something super exciting to share, and that is that...I PRINTED MY BOOK! I've heard about and known of Lulu.com, but I finally kicked myself into gear and sent Rivener (draft 1) to get printed! What actually spurred me to act was that the lovely June shared one of her short stories with me, and I loved it so much I told her I wanted it on my bookshelf, and would she mind if I printed it out? She said yes!
Initially I was just going to do it myself, but then I thought I'd rather have it done with proper book binding, and once I saw how easy it was to do, I decided to do Rivener too!
Yes, that is hardcover! I splurged because why the heck not. I looooooove it. The quality is impeccable, and the only 'issue' is that I didn't know how to format the manuscript for printing, so the chapters don't all begin on their own page. But the affordability (which I just got an email about them changing due to increased demand for their services, so bear that in mind) was well worth it!
I almost teared up, holding my book in my hands. My actual hands. Mindblowing! I'm going to get all my short story collections and my fable printed next!
And now, a word from the author of Muscle Memory...
I’ll be honest, being a Vietnamese American is kind of weird. You know there’s a bunch of others like you, but sometimes you can’t see them? Y Nhi and Vinny are both part of a church youth group. In my head, this is a very real organization, the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement aka TNTT (you can look it up! It’s actually international, but you might encounter the US-based VEYM.net first). I’ve been involved with them since I was in kindergarten. Very instrumental to my development as a person. The general program involves intersecting faith formation and cultural roots, since that’s been fading at an alarming rate.
My friend and fellow author Hyba is not only writing several books in various genres, all intriguing and varied, she is also writing a thesis! It's on the viability of enhanced fiction ebooks (a fancy way of saying ebooks that make use of multimedia). To complete her study, she really needs people to partake in her survey! It's very quick and not at all technical—anyone who reads using a medium other than physical books can participate!
I'd really appreciate if you guys could help her out! Plus, by completing the survey, you get to have a free copy of her incredible thriller novella Apartment. Which is honestly such a bargain, that book is amazing. One day I'll share a proper review of it!
Well, that's all I have for you today! As always, happy reading and writing!
Many moons ago (lol), I was talking to my friend Trade about Rivener, and they asked me a fantastic question. I'm paraphrasing here because I don't have my old blog with the record of it, but essentially they asked me what the worst versions of my characters would look like. And I said with Wren, she'd be something like Cormac (my main antagonist). Brutal, unafraid of her own power or using it, and utterly devoid of empathy. I said she'd become like that in an alternate universe where she met Cormac while young and was raised by him and his ideals.
But then...as much as I like angst, I couldn't just leave it at that. I love happy endings! No matter how hard it is to get there! (Sometimes the harder, the better, you know?) Anyway, we ended up talking through what would happen if that version of Wren met Kai, how they'd meet, if he would help her change, and what their story would look like. Ultimately, the world would still be the same—post-apocalyptic, though leaning more towards sci-fi than urban fantasy—but certain events would change, impacting the characters and their development.
Several months passed where I stopped writing almost entirely but didn't stop thinking about this, and after some more recent chats with Trade and Hyba, I decided to scrap my first rewrite of Rivener (which, if you don't know, I'd been sort of attempting to do) and properly pick up this AU.
And now it's an actual thing! I've written 6k for it so far over the past couple days, planned a good chunk of it out, and have the writing bug again (such a good feeling, when you just wanna write and write and write, like an itch). It's going fantastically, if I do say so myself. However...
I was (am still? sorta?) a little nervous to share this version of my story (creatively titled Rivener 2.0) because...this Wren is awful. She does awful things and is complicit in awful things. Internet purity culture has me worried about what the response will be to this character who can lightly be described as ~problematic~. She changes, of course. This story is still about two very damaged people healing, the journey they go through together and because of each other. But it's also a lot darker. Or I delve into the darker aspects more.
Wren is not exactly a villain, but she's not a hero either, not for a long while. She is, in fact, closely aligned with the main villain. Not entirely of her own free will, but...well. Some may think she's irredeemable, which is valid. But I think it's rare that people are truly irredeemable. I do believe everyone has the capacity to change, if they want to, if they decided to, if they commit to it and keep trying and learning and unlearning, if they work hard to not repeat their mistakes or the way they've hurt people, if they apologize by word and action.
I don't think anyone is owed forgiveness, but I believe everyone can earn some sort of...grace? I don't know if that's the word I'm looking for, maybe redemption is closer to the mark. So yeah. Wren will have a pretty significant redemption arc. I hope I can do a good job conveying the complicated person she is, with pretty severe faults but equally admirable qualities and depth to her. Her journey is not easy. She can never erase the things she's done. But I hope you cheer her on as she grows to be a better person, even if she can never fully make up for who she was. I hope you understand where she's coming from, even if it doesn't excuse her actions or beliefs.
Now this AU is not all about Wren, and Kai too is changed from the original story. Firstly. we're meeting him in vastly different circumstances, when he's arguably a much rawer character? In the original, he'd been enslaved to Cormac for a while by the time he met Wren, and a few years before that he was "stock" on a "farm" (for spoiler reasons, I won't explain what that means).
In this AU, he meets Wren having just been removed from the farm. He's less docile, but at heart, still the same sweet, gentle, traumatized Kai of the original. They have a long way to go before they like each other, given who Wren is and how they meet in this AU. She treats him pretty terribly. Not as terribly as she could've, and not as terribly as others, but...oof. They have an uphill battle ahead of them.
Still! I'm really excited to write this story, difficult (in topics and tone) as it is! I get to explore the world a little bit more, flesh out Cormac a lot more, and write some scenes I always wanted to, which didn't end up having a place in the original! I hope you guys will come along with me on this journey!
Have you ever written or read a character who starts out as awful and slowly transforms for the better (or the reverse)? How did it go? Do you think they managed to become sympathetic or appealing to the reader, despite their faults? Do comment below, or drop me an email, and let me know! I'd love to talk about this!
In the meantime, have an excerpt:
Cormac listened quietly to this report, and the only indication of his rage was the wreaths of fog coiling around his feet like cats, which swelled and billowed behind him like a cloud before he hissed out a breath and it quieted to nothing more but tendrils of mist, cold and spreading across the floor. Wren braced herself against the reach and touch of it, felt a grim sort of perverse pleasure at the way Threader flinched, the way the others fidgeted, discomfited.
Stay tuned for P.3 of my writing updates, where I will talk about my Glitch wip! Happy reading and writing!
Hello hello! I've been writing and plotting for Chronicles of Mourra, Rivener 2.0, and the Glitch wip, and it has been going incredibly well, due in huge part to my writing buddies! (You know who you are, and I adore y'all).
I've been meaning to let you guys know how and what I've been doing, and I have SO MUCH to share! Which is why this is only part one of the updates!!!! We shall start with...
Chronicles of Mourra
Since very nearly the beginning of this iteration of CofM (which, if you've been following me for a while, you'll know is one I've been working on for about ten years, though this latest version is about two years old) I've been wanting to incorporate a prophecy into the plot. The question was how. CofM is, at its heart, my exploration of the Chosen One trope, and what's a Chosen One trope without a prophecy? (See: King Arthur, Harry Potter, Heroes of Olympus, the Lord of the Rings, Narnia etc).
Anyway, so I managed to write about 40k without said prophecy actually being developed or incorporated in any way, and it was like a rock in my shoe, very irritating but ignorable with some effort. But finally I sat down (literally, by my local creek), opened my computer, and tackled it. About twenty minutes and 700 words later, I had...something. A good something!
A few days later, after talking it out with my friend Hyba, I ended up creating loads of backstory, character development, and a complexity to the overall plot that I'd been missing until then, and I am so excited. Here's a quick breakdown of what I've developed, somewhat spoiler free!
Given all this behind-the-scenes tinkering, the 40k I'd already written needed some adjustments to reflect these changes or plant the seeds of future events! It took me about a week and a half of on-and-off-again writing (twice in a little virtual session with Hyba), but I managed to get what I'd written to a place I'm very pleased with! Here's an excerpt, a little descriptive piece I'm really fond of:
To Halah, it reminded her of the rare expeditions of her youth, when she’d accompany her grandfather to the mountains, where he would retreat to his dwelling there for quiet contemplation (though it was not very quiet with his granddaughter chattering to him and demanding he tell her stories).
I hope you enjoyed this! Let me know any thoughts you have, or any questions! I love to talk about my stories so I will probably answer any questions you have, although I may skirt around spoilers. Anywho, I hope you're doing well! Do let me know.
Happy reading and writing!
❝ i dreamed about magic and dragons and flying to neverland and i knew if i wanted it hard enough i could go and i dreamed an old, cracking voice softly saying "after thunder, golden showers" and a young, lilting voice singing "and 'round the corner there may wait/a new road or a secret gate/and though i oft have passed them by/a day will come at last when i/shall take the hidden paths that run/west of the moon east of the sun" and there were fireflies i chased laughing in the dark and there was a swarm of mosquitos but they were golden and dancing in the light and they did not bite me and it was magic, magic, and i want it back. ❞
—text in quotations are from j.r.r. tolkien's lord of the rings
Hello hello, it's been really long while. Am I back? I don't know. I still haven't written any more of my books, but I no longer feel like my writing ability and creative drive is locked in a doorless safe buried far underground, encased in cement, out of my reach. So hopefully!
I do have some updates though:
I hope you're all doing well! Comment below and update me on your lives and writing! Ask me questions about my wips! I may not be writing but I'm definitely thinking about my stories all the time. I reply, I promise, just slowly, and I love hearing from you.
Happy reading and writing!
Why yes I am updating at an unprecedented rate but that's not what's important here, what's important here is that I came to a Realization™ and it Explains Everything but has also filled me with Existential Despair (hence the emphasized capitalization for appropriate dramatic effect).
I have struggled throughout my entire writing career to write as much original fiction, with as much joy and consistency, as I write fanfiction. I have struggled throughout my entire writing career to complete my original fiction the way I complete fanfiction (at a frankly insane rate). In the past three months ALONE I wrote 185k words of COMPLETED FANFICTION.
It took me approximately two years—or ten years, depending on how you look at it—to write 40k of my novel.
And today, as I was brushing my teeth, the reason why hit me like an ANVIL.
I am a character driven writer. I don't really care about plot except as a vehicle for character development and relationships! Therefore, fanfiction (which is about the characters more than anything else), is incredibly appealing and fulfilling for me!
Original fiction, on the other hand, requires me to be invested enough in my characters to want to write about them. And unfortunately, as these characters exist in my head and I have not spent [insert egregious amount of time here] hyperfixating and consuming content about them, I simply do. not. care.
(Well, I don't care enough. And nobody else cares enough, which is part two of my problem: I thrive off of engagement the way my body thrives off of oxygen. Hard to get that with OG fiction I am not allowed to post lest it sabotage the potential for publication).
Which means the probability of my completing original fiction or writing with consistency and passion and dedication? SLIM TO NONE.
Cool I'm going to go cry into my pillow now.
But Sumayyah, I hear you saying, why don't you just write fanfiction and then change enough details that it's safe to claim it and market it as original fiction a la Cass!e Cl@re and other authors? And to that I say:
In essence, I'm SCREWED. I would like to rescind the writerly instinct that was given to me. Clearly it was intended purely to torture me with everything I want but cannot have because of the way I Am As A Person.
Welcome to the blog!
Featuring prompt fills, excerpts from my wips, posts about my writing process, and more.