Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I once thought the above saying to be one of those things everybody says, but which isn't actually true. I've been proven wrong. After finishing the first draft of Ice Roses, I set it aside to simmer while plunging into a new work in progress, Ethereal. I figured I would let it sit a year before attempting to rewrite it. I printed it all out, put it in a binder, squealed with my friends over the fact that I'd finished an entire novel!, and then went on with my life: homework, outlining Ethereal and writing it out on Sundays. In general, ignoring poor, unloved Ice Roses.

However, last night a whole slew of new ideas about how to expand Ice Roses' world, tweak the plot, and make the story a fantasy EPIC rather than a retelling struck me. At 11:30 at night. When I'd have to get up at 8:00 the next day. Needless to say, I didn't get a whole lot of sleep.

Regardless, I'm now rethinking my decision to let Ice Roses be. Ethereal is still trying to figure out who it is, but Ice Roses' characters are only shining more vibrantly inside my head. Gerda, my main character, especially. Parts of her I hated in the first draft are sinking out of sight, revealing who she truly is and has always been meant to be. Her character arc and even her ending is going to change drastically, but it's all in favour of writing the best story--a story full of meaning and layers, love and loss. A story as true to life as possible, yet with the thrill of something beyond.

I am so excited to immerse myself again in Gerda's world, this time with a new sense of who she is and what she must do. It's been a while in coming. Yet I have a great feeling about this story, and with the helpful feedback of friends and family, I'm pretty certain Gerda and I will go a long way together.

So, my question (or questions) to you, readers, is this: Does absence from a manuscript make your heart grow fonder? Do you ever get the urge to go back to one you've set aside or abandoned completely and see if you can tweak it? How do you feel when you gain insights that may mean you have to redo a story from scratch, or change a character's personality? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Book Review: By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson

By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, #1)

Given the chance to train as a squire, kitchen servant Achan Cham hopes to pull himself out of his pitiful life and become a Kingsguard Knight. When Achan's owner learns of his training, he forces Achan to spar with the Crown Prince--more of a death sentence than an honor. Meanwhile, strange voices in Achan's head cause him to fear he's going mad. While escorting the prince to a council presentation, their convoy is attacked. Achan is wounded and arrested, but escapes from prison--only to discover a secret about himself he never believed possible.
--image and summary from

By Darkness Hid is the first in the Blood of Kings trilogy by Jill Williamson. It is told in dual points of view, chronicling the adventures of Achan Cham, a lowly Stray who dreams of a better life, and Vrell Sparrow, a young noblewoman fleeing from a disastrous match with a despicable prince. Their stories intertwine in very interesting ways throughout the course of the novel.

It is very difficult to find Christian fantasy that has it all: faith, adventure, a dash of mystery and romance. The first book had it all, in varying amounts. While the story it tells has been told before in different ways, I enjoyed the characters and the author's realistic outlook on love. Though the main character, Achan is thwarted time and again and your heart breaks along with him. However, this is only the first book in the trilogy and there is lots of room for his character to grow and come into a happier ending.

Vrell, on the other hand, was just my type of girl--a girl who did what she had to do to survive, without embracing the mindset that often comes with it. She stayed compassionate while also being brave and practical.

One thing I am slightly concerned with are the amount of tropes used--the girl disguised as a boy, the return of the king, etc. However, I definitely still enjoyed it, because those archetypes are still powerful time and again. Well, the return of the king one, at any rate. Personally, I would have hated being in Vrell's position.

The author has put a lot of work into this book, and it shows. She's mapped out her world very well visually, though some of the details included bogged down the pace of the book tremendously. The number of chairs in a given room isn't something I'm usually concerned with. But I loved exploring the various corners of Er'Rets with the characters; I felt as though I were in Skyrim or one such other of my younger sister's fantasy video games--the world was very easy to immerse oneself in.

By Darkness Hid is a wonderful read for those Christians who want fantasy that isn't all abracadabra, and gives insight into how to handle the Christian walk as though it truly were an epic adventure. The characters struggle just like any real person would. That being said, non-Christians may enjoy this series too, if they don't mind the obvious Christian worldview of the story.

All in all, a promising start to a series that I hope will only get better!

Four stars!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Mapping Mayhem

The main genre I read--and write--is fantasy, and one of the things I love most about this genre are maps. Tolkien has me going crazy with his amazing maps for The Lord of the Rings, and even in real life I'm always wondering how certain places received their names and the history behind them.

Now, I never particularly excelled in any geography classes in elementary school, and I'm avoiding them like the plague in university. But one of my favourite past times is to create maps for the books I write.

My current Work-in-progress, Ethereal, relies a lot on its geography. The creepy forest in which the majority of the story takes place is almost a character in and of itself. As well, the political boundaries of the two kingdoms are very important when considering the strife in the background of this retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Because I can't handle just plain romance, I have to throw in war and politics to make everything a wee bit more interesting, and up the stakes so you actually have to wonder if all things will be right in the end. ;) My friends just roll their eyes at me.

Here's a peek at the map I just drew drew for Ethereal. It's not very good, as I only had Paint to work with, but it's enough to help me keep general worldbuilding in mind, as well as remind me to add some cool tidbits into the story.

So tell me, do you create maps for your stories? How important are maps to you when reading a novel?