Monday, 23 November 2015

Beware of what you read...

I don't normally have dreams and if I do, I don't usually remember them. But, I guess, it's hard not to remember a dream in which you were preparing to depart from this world into the next one, your family around you, fussing about what you should take with yourself. It didn't help matters that the dream was extremely colourful and detailed. I remember that in the dream my mother was helping me to pack my bag as though I was going on a trip, though the knowledge of my true destination hung – unspoken – in the air. I remember two brightly-burning candles blowing and twisting in the wind that seemed to be confined to the bell jars they were in. I remember packing my favourite books and other stuff that I thought I might need or might not imagine my 'life' without. My grandmother was there too – an ominous sign, because she is dead. 

I woke up disoriented, panicked and scared. No surprise there, right? It took me a few minutes to calm down and realize that it had just been a really creepy dream, albeit of high-resolution quality. It didn't take me long to figure out what had caused it but the unpleasant feeling didn't leave me for a while. I was sitting upright in bed, blinking and rubbing my eyes as the deep steely-blue sky was gradually lightening outside. I started recalling a jumble of lines from CATCHING FIRE that I had been reading on the eve, having seen the final film of the series earlier in the day. Katniss resolved to die in the arena in order to save Peeta's life; she was mentally saying her good-byes over and over again, preparing herself for the inevitable final act of sacrifice: “Since I don't plan on making it back alive a second time... This time I don't have even the slightest hope of return... I'd actually figured out what I wanted my last words to my loved ones to be... It's my dying wish... I do my best, thinking of them one by one, releasing them like birds from protective cages inside me, locking the doors against their return...” 

If that wasn't enough to effect the pattern of my thoughts and turn them into a nightmare, just before falling asleep, I was also listening to the chapter from HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE dealing with horcruxes, their purpose and Lord Voldemort's life-long ambition to avoid death at all costs. Dumbledore and Harry's discussion must have seeped into my open, unprotected mind, relaxed by sleep, twisting and tangling my thoughts and playing tricks with my subconsciousness, making me the main character of a story and sending me off on a quest... However, my granny disappeared before the end and the dream dissolved before I could be whisked away. I think entirely too much. My brain is always working and buzzing with thoughts. Before reading and listening, I was reworking a piece of my own writing into a first-person narrative, influenced by the powerful narration of THE HUNGER GAMES books, where a certain grandma (based, I admit, on my late one) and interrupted sleep played a central part in the short scene that I had written.

I wanted it to be tense, terse and gritty but then I realized that as much as I want it to have an impact on readers like a punch to the gut it just doesn't belong in the fairyland world that I've created. I don't imagine that I will be trying it again but here's what I've written:

I yawn and feel my eyes fall shut even as grandma's snores start rumbling again across the room. They become so loud the windows begin to rattle in their frames and as there is no wind there can be only one explanation for that. It's been a long day - Throne Room Days are always the longest - and I'm tired of playing the same game over and over again. For the last two hours or so I was trying to focus my wandering attention on the chapter assigned for my today's after-dinner perusal. But I had to stop every quarter of an hour and shout "Grandma!" - about the only thing that has the power to stop her snores. Even if it is only for five minutes. Here they go again. I grit my teeth and shut the book. The History of the Upper Kingdom. Did I tell you? I am the High Lady of the Upper Kingdom - a magic kingdom ruled by women but currently plunged into loneliness and gloom by a certain curse - and it is my duty to know the history of my kingdom and my people by heart. But not today. I shut the book and put it on my lap but it slips down and disappears out of sight. Woo, my trusted friend and wolf, stirs on the rug at the foot of my armchair, ready to pick it up. I tell him "No". Not out loud, though. But through a secret mind bond that we share. I can't stand the rolls of my grandma's thunderous snores any more. "Grandma!" I shout. She stops mid-rumble, chokes slightly, opens her eyes and clears her throat. Out of the corner of my eye I relish the sight of her startled gaze. I pretend that I had not spoken. I do not stir. I stare into the fire as though hypnotised. Avoiding eye contact and conversation is the best policy. Sure enough, the next moment she goes back to sleep and I sigh and relax because it is so very quiet. The fire is blazing in the grate now and I feel so snug and warm, cocooned in my shawl. I can't resist the pull any more. I yawn, snuggle deep into my armchair, close my eyes and doze off...   

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week # 14

Place you wish we'd explored in the series but didn't?


The Atrium
Actually, it's the place that we've dipped our feet into - three times at least, each time on less than pleasant occasions - but ever so slightly... I'm talking about the Ministry of Magic. I just find it fascinating and I'd love to spend more time there. It's such a complex place; it has so many levels and layers, visible and hidden; secret rooms and rooms full of information and fantastic knowledge to explore. I'd love J.K. Rowling to write at least one book about Harry, Ron and Hermione's adventures at the Ministry of Magic once they start working there. I'm pretty sure that it would provide soil just as fertile as Hogwarts for mystery, intrigue, plots and adventures. In fact, I want to read such story so much, I sometimes think of actually taking it into my own hands and writing a canon-based fanfic that would take place at the Ministry of Magic and tell the trio's first adventure there as its employees. I wouldn't mind co-authoring the story with someone too, so if anyone feels up to it, drop me a line!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

My Pitch Wars Bio

I've decided to take part in Pitch Wars this year. Here's my mentee-wannabe bio:

Hi! My name is Farida Mestek. I live in Ukraine, Odessa. My native language is Russian but I prefer to write in English. I also teach English. I love reading, writing, drawing and watching and re-watching my favourite TV-shows. I also love animals, especially the talking ones. I have a collie dog, Phoebe, who thinks that she is a human being; I think that she might very well be the spiritual reincarnation of my grandma. 

I'm somewhat old-fashioned when it comes to writing. I love slow beginnings. I love to get shown around and introduced to the main characters before deciding whether I want to follow them on their journey. I mostly write books set in Regency England and in the fantasy world of my own creation. I tend to brood for a long time on my stories before I start writing them. For me writing a book is like looking into a crystal ball. I must take my time to penetrate the swirling mist in order to see... 

I love when characters come and tell me their stories — some of them take to haunting the back of my mind if I prove hesitant or reluctant to work on them — but more often than not I find myself following them around, hoping to get a glimpse into their private thoughts and eavesdropping on their conversations. I'm also not above riffling through their private papers — anything to get the story! 

I'm passionate about books, movies and TV-shows and when it comes to my favourite ones I can read and watch them over and over again. I never get tired of them. I'm a bit of a nerd. I have an absolute lifelong obsession with Harry Potter and I'm afraid that I'm overly enthusiastic about it for my age — but there's nothing I can do about it. My favourite authors are J.K. Rowling and Jane Austen. I'm a huge Star Trek and Doctor Who fan too. I love magic, fantasy and science fiction. But I also love history and different historical periods and settings. I love the fashions and the manners of the bygone days.

I've been working on the YA Fantasy novel that I've submitted for Pitch Wars for several years now, but it has a much longer history, because my acquaintance with its world and characters began more than ten years ago. In fact, my family and friends know the characters so well they talk about them as though they are quite real and you can often hear their names mentioned in my house. I'll go with Dumbledore's famous words here: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" Why, indeed? 

I've been rewriting, revising and polishing it a for number of times and I'm afraid that I can go on forever. In fact, I feel that it has come to the point where it needs an intervention from without. I cannot overstate what an amazing and incredible opportunity Pitch Wars is. I solemnly swear that if I get picked by a mentor I'll do my very-very-very best. I want it to be the best book I can possibly write!

You can learn about other participants of this year's Pitch Wars HERE.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week #13

Favourite ship?

There are a lot of excellent pairings in the Harry Potter universe, aren't there, and among my favourite traditional and canon ships are Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione and Lily/James. However, the first pairing that came to my mind was Arthur and Molly Weasley. I think they are just perfect. I'd like to post one of the funniest, cutest, most embarrassing, private and my personal favourite moments that feature the two. 

"What do you like me to call you when we're alone together?"
Even by the dim light of the lantern Harry could tell that Mrs Weasley had turned bright red; he himself felt suddenly warm around the ears and neck, and hastily gulped soup, clattering his spoon as loudly as he could against the bowl.
"Mollywobbles," whispered a mortified Mrs Weasley into the crack at the edge of the door.
"Correct," said Mr Weasley. "Now you can let me in."

Aren't they just adorable?

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My writing projects, part 3: a regency romance

my regency heroine
Another project I have been working off and on for a number of years. The idea came to me when I was finishing writing “Margaret's Rematch” and the plan was to start working on it next. Well, I started and I did work on it for a while but then another (more exciting) project interfered and this one was put on hold. I remember going back to it over and over again but something always made me abandon it in the end. I started writing it from the heroine's point of view and discovered that she was so unmanageable as the protagonist I could not deal with her. 

So I decided to make the hero deal with her instead and began writing from his POV. Then I thought that it would be very authentic to write it as an epistolary novel and I was really enjoying it for a while. The only problem was that the story was too one-sided and my hero seemed to be so much obsessed with my heroine he could talk of little else. I don't remember what happened and why I stopped working on it altogether but I have a vague recollection that I was afraid to write a very important but poignant scene between the two of them.

my regency hero
Luckily, before I put it on hold again, I wrote down the summary of the whole thing, so that now that I've started working on it again, I have most of the plot, the characters, the relationships and the interaction figured out. I began working on it on Monday and I intend to work alternatively on my fantasy novel and on my regency romance every other week.

Here are my sketches of them; my attempt to put on paper how I imagined them to look.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

My writing projects, part 2: a fantasy novel

This project has been haunting me for over ten years now. It started with a long poem that transformed into a fairy-tale the size of a novella. I was meticulously working on it throughout my university years, dreaming of getting published and becoming the next J.K. Rowling. He-he-he. I was so na├»ve! Then, after failing to find an agent, I abandoned it for many years. I took it out about five years ago. I revised it but didn't change anything much and published it with the help of a small publishing house. It proved to be a complete disaster. I doubt that a single copy was actually ever sold. I gave a lot of e-copies away though but never heard back from people who promised to give me feedback. 



In the end I decided to take it down and rework it into a novel. You can read more about my decision HERE. At first I was working on two novels that stemmed from the same idea but went in two completely different directions at the same time. However, one of the ideas proved more viable and resilient than the other and several years ago I made a conscious decision to concentrate exclusively on it. I was writing it for two years. I was revising it over and over again, then put it away to stew. I have been submitting it to agents for the last year – so far with no success. At the moment, having distanced myself from it for six months, I'm back to revising it again. You can read more about the original story HERE and the new one HERE.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

My writing projects, part 1: a fairy-tale

In one of my previous posts I promised to discuss in more detail those writing projects of mine that I've presently decided to concentrate on. The first project that I've completed but still have to revise and polish before it is ready for submission is a fairy-tale for children about a little but naughty star that I have a very soft spot for. Her name is Stella and she's very cute and curious with great love of knowledge, a rebellious streak and a penchant for trouble that she terms 'adventure'. In comparison with my other projects it is very short and it is rather shocking that it took me so long to finish it. 

Like most of my projects the fairy-tale was written a long time ago in English and in the course of many years it has been revised and rewritten over and over again. Last year, after attending a conference for writers on writing and publishing in L'viv, I decided to translate my fairy-tale into Ukrainian and try publishing it in my own country for a change. Well, like I said, that part took much longer than I had expected but it's almost done now – to use a film industry lingo it's in post-production stage – and I'm going to submit it in October when the publishing house of my choice opens its submission window again.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week #12

Favorite Lupin Moment?

I decided to go with the scene that might not be an obvious choice but that speaks volumes about Lupin and his character. It is not particularly fun but it is an important scene and I love it as much as any other scene with Lupin in it. It takes place in Chapter Sixteen of Half-Blood Prince - 'A Very Frosty Christmas'. 

Lupin's manner is quiet, mild and ironic for the most part. It's here that he famously says that “It comes down to whether or not you trust Dumbledore's judgement. I do; therefore, I trust Severus.” in answer to Harry's suspicions and accusations. 

However, he grows grave and bitter when he explains what he'd been doing for the Order of the Phoenix: “I've been living among my fellows, my equals,” said Lupin. “Werewolves,” he added, at Harry's look of incomprehension. “Nearly all of them are on Voldemort's side. Dumbledore wanted a spy and here I was... ready-made.” 

It is also here that he reveals for the first time the circumstances under which he became a werewolf: “It was Greyback who bit me. … My father had offended him. I did not know, for a very long time, the identity of the werewolf who had attacked me; I even felt pity for him, thinking that he had had no control, knowing by then how it felt to transform.” 

Lupin tells Harry that he hasn't been successful in his mission of talking them into joining Dumbledore but it is shortly followed by a funny exchange that cracks me up every time: 

“I cannot pretend that my particular brand of reasoned argument is making much headway against Greyback's insistence that we werewolves deserve blood, that we ought to revenge ourselves on normal people.” 

“But you are normal!” said Harry fiercely. “You've just got a – a problem – ” 

Lupin burst out laughing. 

“Sometimes you remind me a lot of James. He called it my 'furry little problem' in company. Many people were under the impression that I owned a badly behaved rabbit.”

And also the part where Harry is trying to find out if Lupin has ever heard of someone called the Half-Blood Prince and Lupin replies: "Is this a title you're thinking of adopting? I should have thought being the 'Chosen One' would be enough." Oooh, it makes me smile)) He is such a delightful character!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week #11

If you could change one thing in book one, what would it be?

I can't wait to get my hands on the new cover!
That's a tricky one. I think that the first book is perfect in every way. It has a magical effect on you, doesn't it? The moment I opened it, I knew I wouldn't be able to put it down. Ever. I will never forget reading it for the first time and I think I can say that  I've never read anything like that before or after - nothing that effected me in such a way and made me a lifelong convert. It is pure joy of magic, adventure and unstoppable imagination, liberally sprinkled with J.K. Rowling's wicked sense of humour.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Can no one appreciate a slowly unfolding story any more?

Can no one appreciate a slowly unfolding story any more? Does the author have to rush the readers into the action without inviting them in first and acquainting them with the characters over a cup of tea? Personally, as a reader, I prefer a slow introduction. I want to know the characters. I need to make sure that I'm invested in their fate before I follow them on their journey. I hope I am not the only one who feels the same way about it. I find that such books are the ones that stay with you forever – the ones you return to again and again. 

I don't buy this ridiculous notion, that seems to be the order of the day, that the readers must be plunged into action from the word go. You must hook them with your first line, paragraph, page and chapter. But what happens afterwards? How many times have I picked up a book to be hooked by the first line, paragraph, page and chapter only to see the story fall apart by the second, swiftly disintegrating into trivial and boring... 

And are adverbs really so evil they are considered the enemies of modern prose? And what is wrong with wordy, flowery speech? Do we all have to write like some robots? The less words – the better? I admit there are certain genres that benefit from such rules but what of fairy-tales and fantasies – doesn't such a language make them more mysterious and poetic? I don't know. I feel like giving up... 

It is very depressing to think that my book might never reach the reader because I love a slow introduction into the story, an intimate acquaintance with its characters first, that (in my private opinion) must be what ultimately hooks the reader, and a certain amount of adverbs.

Monday, 8 June 2015

I'm losing faith...

I think I've started writing less. Much less. I don't know when it started happening but I was looking through stuff that I was working on just several years ago the other day and I was astonished by the amount of writing I did back then. I started writing what I thought was my first actual 'novel' (which was actually just a novella) back at the university. I was so naive back then! I remember working on it, plotting it out, writing and rewriting, thinking that I had a solid thing there, that it would surely get published to major praise and mass adoration. I believe that all newbie writers go through this))

Well... looking at it now, I see just how inconsistent, illogical and ridden with plot holes it is. I want to believe that I've learned my lesson. I didn't write for some time after that, because it was only in 2009 that I finally had the courage to write 'Margaret's Rematch". After I finished it (a year later), I wrote a novella, another novel and huge chunks of two novels that I later abandoned. These two novels are the ones that I've been writing on and off ever since. Last year I finished writing my YA fantasy novel that originated from my very first not really a novel thing. It's longer than anything I've ever written but with all that I do believe that I've started writing less.

I wonder why. I have a lot of different ideas but I often lack inspiration or will to actually write. I want to but I can't make myself. Is it because I'm more busy than ever with work, sport, drawing? Is it because I'm getting old or is it because I'm tired and disillusioned with the idea that I will ever get published? What is robbing me of my wish and will to proceed? Don't get me wrong, I keep going, because no matter how little I write, I can't really do without it, but I don't feel that inspiration, that lightness, that feeling that dreams do come true. I'm losing faith and I'm afraid that unless my latest novel gets published I won't get it back.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Summer writing plans

I haven't been blogging nor writing as much as I intended or wanted to at the start of the year but it's summer now, which means that I have more free time and I'm ready to rectify that! I have lots of writing plans and ideas (as always) but I'm going to concentrate on three main things: a fairy-tale, a fantasy novel, and a regency romance. I've started doing bits of writing here and there but in order to make my work more efficient I will probably have to come up with some sort of schedule. We'll see. I'll talk about my projects in more detail later; I think that they all merit to have separate posts dedicated to them.

Also, I intend to keep drawing and painting. Perhaps, it's not as important for me as writing (I can't live without writing!), but it's certainly takes the second place. I'd been taking a course in fashion illustration for two months and I loved it. Now I just have to learn to implement it in my writing somehow - it can't be hard, because most of my characters are females and they really love wearing pretty things and setting trends)) I'm thinking about making character sketches, maybe even postcards and calendars. I need to do something if I don't want to lose the skills I've acquired.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Writer's Voice 2015

Title: ALMENDRA'S JOURNEY

Genre: YA Fantasy

Word count: 80,000

Query:

Fifteen years ago Almendra's magic kingdom - the Upper Kingdom - was attacked by the shawlweavers. Her mother was dethroned and sent into the Halls of Eternity, her people were slaughtered and those who managed to survive fled never to return; its magic was gone. At a great cost the shawlweavers were repelled. Almendra, her granny and her wolf friend and guardian were the only ones who remained behind. In their retreat, the shawlweavers left behind a curse that isolated the Upper Kingdom from the rest of the realm.

Almendra's only chance to restore her kingdom is to fulfill the fate-line that predicts its rebirth once she finds her true love. Her granny believes that the fate-line refers to Prince Frederick of Lowland Kingdom and orders Almendra to sit and wait for him to come and set them free. However, when an unlikely messenger arrives and tells them that there is no curse, that Prince Frederick has been poisoned and that the only thing that can cure him is magic, Almendra doesn't think twice. She journeys through the realm to save the prince, make him fall in love with her and thus fulfill the fate-line.

Equipped with a special healing potion and wrapped in an enchanted shawl with outstanding powers she is yet to discover, Almendra uncovers an underground town deep underneath the shawlweavers' lair with the surviving remnants of her people and learns that her life and that of her kingdom is even in greater danger because the shawlweavers are unstoppable in their desire to wipe it from the face of the realm for good. Almendra must reach Prince Frederick before she is killed and the shawlweavers' long-awaited plan finally succeeds.

The problem is that Almendra begins to suspect that Prince Frederick is not the one she needs to fulfill the fate-line after all. It's too bad that she has no time to figure out who is as she finds herself on the chopping block for murder.


ALMENDRA'S JOURNEY (first 250 words)

Almendra opened her eyes on the seventh chime of the clock. She quickly sat up, stretched and smiled. Just then the door to her room opened and in entered a large, grey wolf with a tray on his back. 

“Good morning, Woo,” said Almendra, her face splitting into a grin. She pecked the wolf on the nose and took a large mug of hot tea from the tray. Breathing in the familiar scent of mint, she clutched the cup in her hands and raised it into the air like one would a goblet at a feast, her hazel eyes alight with humour. 

“Cheers!” she said loudly and “May today be the day!” before bringing the cup to her lips. 

Woo walked towards the window and drew back the curtains with his teeth – the sky outside was dull grey. Almendra drank her tea and placed it back onto the tray as Woo was leaving the room. 

In one big leap, she bounded out of bed, ran across the carpeted floor and hid behind the screen, her long, brown, fluffy hair flying in her wake. 

Almendra picked up a thick rope, lying in a coil on the floor, with an iron hook on one end, then wound it around a huge wheel it was fixed to on the other end, opened the window and threw the rope down. 

A second later the hook hit the ground with a clunk.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

I have a confession to make: I've been doing much writing - but I haven't been working on my own stuff! Instead, I've had a relapse and written a fanfic! That's always been my guilty writing pleasure. I didn't think that I would ever come to fanfic-writing again but here I am writing away. I want to write two fanfics (maybe that will get it out of my system) and I've almost completed the first one with word count of around 20K. So there... If only it was something of my own, something I could share with the world instead of just a select few. But it's still writing, right? Right?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Having no agent or published books make it seem like I haven't accomplished anything at all writing-wise last year. However, as I sat down to make a new entry in my Writing Diary, I realized that I did accomplish something after all! I've finally completed my YA fantasy novel, after two years of writing, it now stands at about 90K, started plotting out the rest of the series, which will include at least two more books and an assortment of short stories and other stuff, and translated my fairy-tale from English into Ukrainian.

So, it might not be much for someone more prolific than me, of course, but I think it an accomplishment nevertheless, considering that I have very little time for actual writing. At the moment I'm planning on polishing my fairy-tale in order to try and get it published here in Ukraine. After that I want to return to an abandoned novel, set in Regency England, and maybe even post my writing process and progress here on my blog in order to get some feedback as I go along. I think it could be an exciting, if nerve-wrecking experience!

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015 New Year Writing Resolutions

Here are my 2014 New Year Writing Resolutions:

1. To complete my current fantasy novel. UPDATE: done!
2. To revise and polish it. UPDATE: done!
3. To find an agent.
4. To find a publisher.
5. To blog. UPDATE: done!
6. To return to Regency-writing.

And here are my 2015 New Year Writing Resolutions:

1. To revise and polish my current fantasy novel. AGAIN.
2. To plot out the rest of the series and work on its world. METICULOUSLY.
3. To find an agent.
4. To find a publisher.
5. To blog about writing. CONSISTENTLY.
6. To write another Regency-set novel, novella or a script.