Wednesday, 5 October 2022

"Almendra: A Fairy-Tale" makes a surprising come-back :D

I have published (quite on spur of the moment) the very story that began my long-lasting relationship with the Upper Kingdom and its High Ladies. Also, my first attempt at fantasy. I didn't have a book cover, of course, so I used one of my old sketches of Almendra. I know it's not an ideal solution, but that's the only one I have for the moment. I might come up with a better cover later on. I'm not even sure why I've decided to re-publish this story after so many years. I was just overwhelmed by the need to do so. I bet I'm the only one who publishes books just like that... Do I dare to urge you to give it a try? Why, yes, I do! I bet you've never read anything of the kind! 

Almendra, the High Lady of The Upper Kingdom, is doomed. Many years ago, in a fit of rage and broken heart, her mother banished all the men from the country and plunged it into unhappiness, loneliness and gloom. For many years Almendra’s only companions were her old Nanny and her faithful friend Woo, the wolf. Now Almendra faces a daunting task of going to The Land of Men and getting rid of the curse. But she doesn’t know the way and she has never seen a man in her life.

In comes Joannah Nibbler-Pincher, a girl with a tambourine, a bag of sad songs and a thick black choker that hides the mystery of her painful past. She and Almendra become best friends and Joannah takes it upon herself to take the High Lady and her unconventional family to The Land of Men, where Almendra intends to find love that, according to a fate line left by her mother, will have the power to restore The Upper Kingdom to all its former glory. But it’s a long way to The Land of Men and the outcome of the journey will change Almendra forever.

Sunday, 25 September 2022

blog entry #8

In the beginning I never questioned my vocation as a writer. I always knew that I wanted to be one, because I’ve always been writing and I could never imagine my life without it. Unfortunately, I’m no longer sure that being a recognised author is my destiny. I doubt that I’ll ever see my books in bookstores. Which is why I keep asking myself whether I’m actually any good at one thing I’ve dedicated all my life to. It doesn’t seem like it or I would have already written something worthy of being published. I just feel depressed and also bitter, because there are all these authors who are much younger than me who seem to have more talent or luck or both as they show their books in all these shiny and glossy editions and I guess they must have written something really great to have so many editions of their debut novels, while I’m still muddling my way through my first original idea twenty years hence… Is it time to admit that I’m just not a good writer? Is it time to give up and do something else? I just don’t have any hope left. I thought I was improving as a writer, but maybe I was just fooling myself. I guess you either have it or you don’t and it only takes one book to prove it. I’ve written more than a dozen – but where are they and how many people know about them?

Saturday, 30 July 2022

blog entry #7

Today I’d like to touch upon my attitude to sex in fantasy novels. I’ve seen it discussed on Twitter recently and, while I haven’t participated in the discussion myself, I’ve been thinking about it now that I’m starting writing the second novel in my “Highland Court Chronicles” and debating whether I should include some sexy times or not. Cassandra Clare’s fantasy novels have a great deal of romance (sometimes way too much for my taste) as well as intimate scenes of different levels of hotness or spiciness or whatever you wish to call it between her characters. Personally, I don’t mind sex scenes as much as I mind romance. I’m just not a fan of romance in general. If I wanted romance, I would read romantic novels. Yet there’s no denying that when we’re talking about YA fantasy novels, for example, which is my preferred fantasy genre, romance is an integral part of their storylines, because their coming-of-age characters not only fight epic battles but also discover who they are and who they want to be with along the way, which leads them to romance (in different stages of development) as characters explore their relationship, which, at some point, must lead them towards exploring each other’s bodies. So how much of that exploration should there be on the pages and how far should we allow the characters to go? As a writer, I’m still figuring that part out. I suppose much depends on the character and how far they’re ready or willing to go with their chosen one. As a reader, I don’t have any problem with sex in fantasy books and I don’t really care how much of it the characters are having. I have a different problem – a notion stuck in my head that interferes with my perception of what I think should be in a published book without turning it into fanfiction. I have this fixed idea that once things become too explicit, which usually involves calling different sexual acts by their actual names, it all moves into fanfiction territory. To my knowledge, there’s no censorship in fanfiction, but I’m pretty sure that there must be some kind of censorship when it comes to fantasy novels that are destined to find their place on the bookshelves of bookshops around the world. Could it be that my idea has been cemented by the fact that in traditionally published books that I’ve previously read the actual intimate process is usually wrapped in poetic words and vague analogies, neatly drawing a sheet or a curtain or mist of darkness over the characters’ bodies before it has a chance to become too anatomical? I’m so used to that type of depiction of sex scenes in established fantasy books that anything more explicit instantly makes me wonder whether I’m reading an actual book or fanfiction. In the past, I didn’t have any inclination to put too much romance or sex in my fantasy books, but, having read Cassandra Clare’s books, I got a feeling that I might need to consider making my characters a little bit more romantic and sensual with each other. I assume that readers like to follow the development of a romantic relationship between the main characters (who have already been through so much) and it seems foolish not to explore it with all its discoveries and struggles and whatever consequences such explorations could potentially lead to. However, if my characters do end up having sex at some point, I don’t want to cross that line that will turn my novel into a fanfic. So is it just me? Is my notion based on an entirely mistaken misconception? Does anyone feel that way too?

Saturday, 23 July 2022

blog entry #6

I’m currently editing two books: my Ukrainian-language YA fantasy novel set in Edwardian era and my English-language fantasy novel set in Regency England. From time to time I dip my toes into my next fantasy novel. I’ve already got three drafts of the first chapter, one of which I’ve completely forgotten about. I’ve also been getting deeper and deeper into the Shadow World of Cassandra Clare’s creation. I’ve finally finished “The Mortal Instruments” series, which left me wanting more, which is funny, considering that there are six books in the series and the final one is simply enormous! I’ve also started reading “The Infernal Devices” series from the same universe, though set in Victorian England. Mainly, I wanted to know more about Magnus Bane and his connection to Jem, Will, and Tessa, who have been mentioned on and off throughout “The Mortal Instruments” series. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself greatly enjoying the series. I guess I should have known that books taking place in the 19th century England would instantly win over my heart along with Jem, Tessa, Will, Charlotte, Henry, Sophie, and – yes – Gideon and Gabriel Lightwood. These two have some delightfully hilarious moments in the third book. And, obviously, I’m always giddily happy to see Magnus and learn more about his past. However, I’ve also been learning a lot about writing along the way. Truly, I think you can learn a great deal about writing the kind of books that readers will love and obsess over from Cassandra Clare – incidentally, these are exactly the kind of books that I want to write. I think that she has proven that her stories and characters have the power to conquer readers’ hearts and stay with them for years to come. I love that there are several big series within the series and that most of the books are connected through these beloved characters that appear here and there. I know that there is no exact formula to how to write a successful book series – you never really know what will work and what won’t – but I also know that there are certain elements that work (it’s almost like magic or alchemy) and she seems to have mastered the art of creating stories that make her books appealing even when you’re certain that you don’t like them. In the end, you can’t help it – you’re magnetically and magically drawn to them by powers that are beyond your control. I used to have a love/hate relationship with “The Mortal Instruments” when they first appeared. But a few months ago I was struck by a sudden feeling of nostalgia and decided to finish reading the series. Now I feel that I can’t get enough of these books and these characters and this world, so familiar, that they inhabit. Here are some of the elements that I’ve mentioned: intriguing characters (for example, bad boys with sharp blades and soft hearts and badass girls); sacred covenants, friendships, forbidden relationships, heartbreak, secrets of the past, family drama, lurking darkness, love, danger, betrayal, loss, high stakes, magic, feelings, so many feelings – not to mention extremely shippable characters and a very distinct world that you just want to explore. I haven’t felt like that about a book for a long time now. I definitely want to implement some of these elements within my own “Highland Court Chronicles” next, because this is the type of series – a whole book universe – that I’ve always wanted to create.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

blog entry #5

It’s only my fifth blog entry and I’m already losing momentum and any interest in keeping it up. I mean, what’s even the point, right? Here I am, baring my heart and soul and no one gives a shit. Anyway, I’ve completed another book this week. So go me! It might very well be my tenth full-length novel, give or take. Though, at this point, I’m pretty certain that it’ll be my tenth failed attempt at getting published. I’m going to give it a try, of course. I’m nothing if not a masochist, who likes to have her hopes and dreams dashed by perfect strangers with their stupid rejections. That’s why there’s no excitement or elation or hope that I used to have once upon a time upon finishing a new book. It’s quite sad, really. I can hardly convince myself that this is it – the novel that will finally make me famous – not after all these years. On the other hand, there’s a definite feeling of accomplishment that I’ve written another novel. I love writing and that’s what ultimately keeps me going despite rejections and failures. I’ve already started editing the first chapter and it’s all red. I must say that nothing wakes my inner perfectionist like editing, turning it into a never-ending process – my personal writing hell. Eventually, I will have to put my foot down and tell myself to stop and be happy with what I have already done. I’m looking forward to going back and rereading everything that I’ve written. It took me over a year to finish this book and I barely remember most of it, apart from a few parts that stand out quite vividly in my memory. For a while there I struggled with the ending, because the ending that I had been planning to write just didn’t work, and that’s when I had an idea for a continuation of the story. It was so vivid that I didn’t have any trouble writing it down. It was quite fun too and I hope that I’ll get to write it at some point. It’s just that once I finish editing this novel, there’s another novel (another continuation) that’s been waiting in the wings for far too long, so I’ll be working on that next. However, all these books and book ideas belong to the same universe and it’s pretty exciting to see how many different stories it provides me with. I can’t wait to write them all. If nothing else, writing for the sake of writing, writing because there are stories in my head that must be told, is what makes me happy indeed. So I’m off to the editing land now, because the sooner I finish working on this novel, the sooner I’ll be able to start working on a new one!

Saturday, 18 June 2022

blog entry #4

I think it was two years ago that I finally watched “Peaky Blinders” for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the show and its aesthetics and became so obsessed with it that I watched it several times in a row – then two more times with my mom. I just couldn’t get enough. Unfortunately, even the best shows can’t fully escape the fate of going sour at some point and, as I’m watching the final season of “Peaky Blinders” on Netflix, I’m sorry to say that the spark, the heart, and the soul of the show is quite gone. I’ve seen too many shows in my life to know that it’s a disturbingly common tendency among showrunners to make each new season bigger and darker – until there’s nothing to speak of but darkness and dullness and drudgery of watching something that has become barely palatable, which is exactly what happened to “Peaky Blinders” in the end. Unlike the previous seasons, the sixth season lacks everything from plot to tension that was particularly palpable during the final minutes of the fifth season. Now not only is there no tension, there is no dynamic or action of any kind – apart from some sporadic explosion or other. Mainly, it’s just a rambling, disjointed, and repetitive exposition. There’s no balance between dark and light. There’s no light. Period. No humour. No love. No sense. No brilliance. No wit. The story lost its grip and any meaning. I knew that the sixth season would be difficult to watch for a number of reasons, but I wasn’t prepared to watch something so… dead. Just like Tommy’s eyes. I push myself through each episode of barely tolerable acting and boring conversation between bored to death people that cannot stand each other. Even music is not what it used to be. It’s jarring. Every note rings false: loud and out of tune. All the bonds are broken and no Polly to keep everything and everyone together. Helen McCrory’s terrible loss is too painful. I don’t feel like I’m inside the story anymore. I just don’t feel it. Perhaps, making fascism, nazis, and their sympathizers part of your main storyline wasn’t such a brilliant idea, after all, because any normal person will feel instant rejection and revulsion upon seeing them, and that’s even before they open their mouths and spew out all those horrible things. It’s one thing to watch your protagonist deal with an imaginary antagonist, however repugnant, and it’s quite another matter to watch him rubbing shoulders with actual historic figures, obviously too bored with their lives, who smoke and drink and reminisce about how they made Jews eat grass while drinking coffee, as though it’s something normal. I’m sorry but that’s not the show that I started watching and that’s definitely not the show I want to continue watching. There’s something very wrong there. In the past “Peaky Blinders” had so many iconic scenes and dialogues, but now it’s just one dull scene after another. With two more episodes left to watch I feel like the show is beyond salvation just like Tommy Shelby himself. The only good things so far have been occasional glimpses of Ada’s badassery, even rarer glimpses of Alfie’s idiosyncrasies, and Cillian Murphy’s acting. With one more episode left to watch I feel like it has been a massive waste of my time. Well, I guess the final episode wasn’t as bad as the others. I think it tried to recapture some classic moments of the past, but, generally, the whole season was a massive disappointment and wasn’t worth the wait. Tommy’s story was meandering at best and as for the rest of the characters they didn’t seem to have anything to do at all.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

blog entry #3

Do you know that I started this blog back in 2012? I know it’s a stupid question. Of course, you don’t know that. Why should you? You’re probably wondering who the hell this person is and why the hell they’re rambling on and on about things that no one cares about, right? Well, sheesh, I know that you don’t care, so there’s no need to tell me that. I don’t have any illusions – well – delusions, really, about that anymore. And it’s not like you’re even reading this, so why should I care what you think? You’re not even here. I’m writing to myself. Anyway, I vaguely remember that I started blogging much earlier than that – around the time I started writing “Margaret’s Rematch” for the first time (in order to establish my ‘online presence’), so that was years and years back – and that there had been another blog before that and that it had been way more popular than this one but that I had to abandon it at some point because I messed up my account somehow or other and there was just no going back, which really sucked, because I never regained a rather large number of my followers after that and I always regretted that. I might have taken a prolonged break between the two blogs, I guess. I just don’t remember anymore – water under the bridge and all that. I do remember that there had been quite a few other blogs in between, with various entries dedicated to different subjects that all perished into the void in the end. But I’m glad that I managed to keep this blog running, even after the whole blogging thing became pretty much obsolete. I’m actually sorry that I got rid of all my other ‘side’ blogs, because as I set off down the memory lane here, scrolling all the way back to 2012, I realized how precious all these little memories are. Well, they’re precious to me, obviously – not to anyone else out there. As I’ve said before, I’m no longer holding onto the delusion that I’ll ever become so famous an author readers will scour every nook and cranny of the Internet in search for information about me and – most importantly – my books. I found it interesting to read through some of the older entries that were all about documenting my writing progress, hopes, and dreams, as well as reading excerpts from different writing projects, some of which have become actual books and some of which have been abandoned or forgotten. I envy Cassandra Clare in this respect: she went from a fanfic writer herself to a world-famous, best-selling author with thousands of fanfics about her own characters (not to mention a movie and a TV show!). Anyway, this blog was supposed to record my writing journey and my eventual publishing success and triumphant rise to the author stardom of Cassandra Clare’s caliber. Instead, it became a miserable record of my writing struggles and failures with sporadic mentions of my old and new book-, film- or show-related obsessions in between (or occasional relapse and return to my old fanfic-junkie days). I sometimes think that I’m the worst writer there is in terms of writing success (or its complete lack thereof) rather than in terms of my writing skills. After all, no matter how many times I take up blogging again and no matter what book I’m currently working on, I always end up here: back at square one with nothing to show for it. I guess some things never change.