Thursday, 4 December 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week #10

Favourite magical pet?

Ah! Too many to name. But I will try)) So... if I were looking for a magical pet, I would seriously consider an Owl, a Phoenix, a Crup, a Puffskein or a Pygmy Puff. But the first that always comes to mind when I think about magical pets and that always makes me go squee is definitely a Niffler. Unfortunately, it would be totally disastrous  to keep one as an actual pet unless I lived in a cave or under the ground. We first encountered these creatures in GoF during Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures lesson and I immediately fell in love with them, because they are totally cute and useful too (if you're looking for treasure)! Here's their description from Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander:

M.O.M. Classification: XXX
The Niffler is a British beast. Fluffy, black and long-snouted, this burrowing creature has a predilection for anything glittery. Nifflers are often kept by goblins to burrow deep into the earth for treasure. Though the Niffler is gentle and even affectionate, it can be destructive to belongings and should never be kept in a house. Nifflers live in lairs up to twenty feet below the surface and produce six to eight young in a litter. (The picture is take from The Harry Potter Lexicon)

Just look at it! What a cutie))

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week #9

How do you feel about the HP film cast? Any that don't fit with the image you had?

I think the debate about HP film casting can be an endless one, especially for those who read the books before they saw the movies. I consider it quite lucky that I saw the first movie before reading the first book and, therefore, had a fixed image of the main trio as well as the other characters that we meet in the first movie and book in my mind. Of course, one can constantly argue the fact that in the movies Harry's eyes are not green, his hair doesn't stick out all over the place, Ron isn't lanky and gangly and Hermione's hair isn't bushy enough or at all. However, these are minor quibbles that I can let go, because I do love the main trio and the main cast and I can enjoy watching the movies without getting all riled up about it - it's the script, the dialogues and the often misinterpreted actions of the characters that bother me more at this point.

But it's the casting choice for the GoF that particularly angers me and that I can't reconcile with the images of the characters that I'd had established in my mind long before seeing the movie. 

First of all, it's the casting of Madame Maxime. This is the one that gets me every time, because I think the actress, who played her (no matter how great and excellent she is as an actress) just didn't fit the description in the book and was a far cry from what I'd expected to see when I imagined a handsome half-giantess. 

"As she stepped into the light flooding the Entrance Hall, she was revealed to have a handsome, olive-skinned face, large, black, liquid-looking eyes and a rather beaky nose. Her hair was drawn back in a shining knob at the base of her neck. She was dressed from head to foot in black satin, and many magnificent opals gleamed at her throat and on her thick fingers." (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter Fifteen). 

To tell the truth, I imagined Madame Maxime to look something like Montserrat Caballe and I was very disappointed when she turned out to look completely different in the movie. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I believe the she looks more the part than the actress that they chose.

Also, Victor Krum. "Victor Krum was thin, dark and sallow-skinned, with a large curved nose and thick black eyebrows. He looked like an overgrown bird of prey." (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter Eight).

For me, he always looked more like this guy than the actual actor who played him. Once again, the casting didn't fit the bill, at least, as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week

As it is free week I've decided to have some fun and share with whoever is reading my posts my old attempt at writing a-Rita-Skeeter-type of article about Ginny in Witch Weekly Magazine, under the section 'Fashion Flops'. Here it goes:

Miss Ginevra Weasley, 19, shocked the gathered witches and wizards as she struck a pose at the Ministry of Magic Annual Charity Ball in  an offensively extravagant gown and a matchless Pygmy Puff-style clutch. "It looked like she made it herself," said one of the guests of honour, outraged by such a ghastly display.

Many of you, of course, remember her as the girl who captured Harry Potter's heart, breaking hundreds of other hopeful and, undoubtedly, more deserving hearts in the process. And, by the looks of it, she isn't going to stop there, if her recent fashion antics are anything to go by.

"I don't know who she's fooling," said Pansy Parkinson, who was also in attendance, "but if she was going for class, then she shouldn't have purchased what looked like a multicoloured knitted rag from a Muggle second-hand shop. But then again, the Weasleys have always been notoriously poor and I sincerely hope that she'll benefit from this ball. After all, its purpose is charity."

Meanwhile, the staff of our magazine wonders what Harry Potter himself thinks of his girlfriend's abysmal lack of style and is deeply concerned whether it will not damage his public image. We believe and we are sure that our readers and fervent admirers of Mr. Potter will agree that he deserves a more suitable candidate for his heart than a flighty Quidditch player.

So what do you, guys, think? I mean to say, I'm pretty sure that wizarding newspapers and magazines wouldn't pass up a chance to write some scathing articles about Ginny.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Курс "Як видати книгу" у Львові

На минулих вихідних (1-2 листопада) я відвідала курс «Як видати книгу», що проходив у Львові від організації Центр літературної освіти. Незважаючи на те, що я пишу переважно англійською мовою, іноді мені кортить написати щось рідною - українською - мовою. Мені здається, що українська мова якнайкраще підходить для чарівних, магічних, феєричних, загадкових та казкових жанрів літератури — тобто, саме для таких жанрів, яким я надаю перевагу у своїх мріях, творах, казках та (майбутніх) романах. 

Звісно ж, мені було дуже цікаво дізнатися якомога більше про те, як видаються книжки в Україні, як працюють видавництва, як контактувати з видавцями, як проходить процес книговидання, промоутингу, і таке інше. Для мене було несподіванкою дізнатися, що в нашій країні існує хоча б один літературний агент, бо до цього часу я й гадки не мала, що вони в нас взагалі є. Чомусь ніхто ніколи про них нічого не каже і навіть не згадує. Як з'ясувалося, вони все ж таки є, але їх дуже і дуже небагато. Крім того, я дізналася, що видавництва надають перевагу роботі напряму з автором, без посередників (мовляв, таким чином видавництвам легше маніпулювати авторами). 

На відміну від європейської та американської системи книговидання, у нашій країні автор може звертатися безпосередньо до видавництва та видавця, і я вважаю, що в цьому є свої плюси. Але, з іншого боку, я так зрозуміла, що в нашій країні існує зовсім невелика кількість дійсно активних видавництв, які, окрім власного прибутку, також орієнтовані на просування авторів. Але, разом з тим, я зробила для себе декілька чарівних відкриттів. Наприклад, в нас є такі видавництва як «Видавництво Старого Лева» та «Смолоскип». Які гарні назви! 

Мені дуже сподобалось слухати різних спікерів, серед яких були автори, видавці, головні редактори та навіть літературний агент, бо кожен представляв якусь окрему ланку книжкової справи, що надало можливість подивитися на цю 'кухню' з різних боків та дізнатися деякі таємниці різних видавництв. 

Також я познайомилася із авторкою, яка вже надрукувала свою першу книгу (роман-фентезі) і яка планує надрукувати цілу серію книжок. Все, що я почула і побачила, підштовхнуло мене нарешті зважитись та зробити те, про що я дозволяла собі тільки мріяти як про щось примарне та недосяжне — я вирішила почати писати українською мовою. Наразі я вже почала перекладати одну свою невеличку казочку з англійської на українську мову із метою спробувати видати її в Україні. Що ж, побачимо, що з цього вийде!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week

Where would you live as a witch/wizard?

I think that being a witch it would make sense to live among wizards or at least as far away from muggles and their sharp eyes as possible. I just can't imagine what it would be like to be cautious all the time, to watch my every move and conceal my magic so as not to break the Statute of Secrecy or bring about something worse. I mean, what about taking my Crup for a walk or having a couple of Nifflers around? Growing pumpkins the size of a garden shed? Playing an occasional game of Quidditch with my friends?

The Burrow

Luna's house

Shell Cottage
At the same time, I've noticed that most of the wizarding houses that we've encountered throughout the series - The Burrow, Shell Cottage, Luna's house, Grimmauld Place, Malfoy Manor - stand in seclusion and isolation from the wizarding community; some of them not far away from muggle villages or else smack in between muggle houses. Of course, in terms of distance from work and other wizarding dwellings and places it doesn't matter, because there are different means of transportation that will get you anywhere you want in a blink of an eye, but I think it would be extremely lonesome in any of such places unless your family was as large as the Weasleys or you had an imagination as rich and vibrant as Luna's. But even Luna is starved for friends!

Malfoy Manor

So, taking it all into consideration, I think I would prefer to live in a wizarding village like Godric's Hollow or Hogsmeade or, at the very least, not far away from one of them, where I wouldn't have to hide my magic and be near other witches and wizards.

Happy Birthday to me))

warm slippers and a bath-towel))

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week

Quibbler or Daily Prophet?

I have to say Daily Prophet. After all, it is the major wizarding newspaper in England and "it's good to keep up with what's going on in the wizarding world" (Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter One - Owl Post), even if the source of information can be often biased. But isn't it the case with newspapers and other news sources in general, whether it comes from muggle or wizarding world? It did print true stuff when it wasn't under pressure from the Ministry of Magic to keep things quiet and, thankfully, Rita Skeeter is not the only correspondent working there. Ginny Potter worked there as a Quidditch Correspondent and I greatly enjoyed following her reports on Quidditch World Cup that took place this summer in Patagonian desert - just check out Pottermore - it was great. So, on the whole, I believe I would enjoy getting and reading it. I can't find the quote but I think it was Dumbledore who said something along the lines that Daily Prophet is bound to get something right once in a while. Besides, I just can't imagine taking Quibbler seriously and as much as I love Luna I'm so not into Crumple-Horned Snorkacks. However, I would consider it as an alternative source of information (that it actually became for a while) if Daily Prophet continued to print false reports and turn a blind eye on something as important and life-threatening as the return of You-Know-Who.

Monday, 6 October 2014

How do you go about naming seasons and months in a fantasy novel?

This is something that has been on my mind for as long as I have been working on my fantasy novel and I still haven't figured it out. I'm quite sure that I'm far from being original when I say that I want to go with 'moons' instead of 'months'. I understand (or am I wrong in my assumption?) that a lot of authors who write High Fantasy prefer to go with 'moons' and no wonder. I think that 'moon' sounds much more poetic and mysterious than 'month' and, therefore, serves the purpose of furnishing the fantasy world much better. But there are other questions to consider... Should I have four seasons or two seasons? Should I use the established names for them (winter, spring, summer, autumn) or come up with my own? And what about the names of the months? It doesn't matter as far as my novel goes – my characters don't talk about seasons and months - and I think I make it clear that it's set in spring through description. However, as an author I feel it my duty and obligation to know such things.

Many years ago I actually came up with the list of names of the months/moons for the fantasy book I was working on back then - gradually, after years and years of countless drafts and revision, it transformed into the book I'm currently trying to find an agent for. Also, I've recently discovered the list of names of the months given in Farmers' Almanac I hadn't heard/known about before. How come I hadn't, though?! It was established in 1818! That's my favourite time period as far as novel-writing goes - well, as long as the action doesn't take place in the fantasy world of my own creation, of course! Anyway, it turned out that some of them sound kind of similar to mine, which, I suppose, is hardly surprising, considering that I based my names on certain distinctive characteristics of each month and season. So the question is: should I use the established names or my own? The established ones offer a much broader vision and bigger choice than my own, however, I could work on that. In any case, here are both lists:

Farmers' Almanac
(one version)

The name I came up with
Wolf Moon, Old Moon

White Moon
Snow Moon, Hunger Moon

Stormy Moon
Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Sap Moon, Lenten Moon
Floods on the Run Moon
Seed Moon, Pink Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon, Fish Moon
Sunny Moon
Milk Moon, Flower Moon, Corn Planting Moon
Buds in Bloom Moon
Mead Moon, Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon, Thunder Moon
Flower Moon
Hay Moon, Buck Moon, Thunder Moon
Shower Moon
Corn Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Red Moon, Green Corn Moon, Grain Moon
Harvest Moon
Harvest Moon, Full Corn Moon
Yellow Moon
Hunter's Moon, Blood Moon, Sanguine Moon
Misty Moon
Beaver Moon, Frosty Moon

Rainy Moon
Oak Moon Cold Moon, Long Nights Moon
Cold Moon

I mean, look at all these lovely names! There's enough to choose from without coming up with your own stuff - unless you want to, that is. Then, of course, there is another possibility: to name the moons of the year in honour of female rulers in that fantasy world of mine. But I think I actually tried doing that once and I had to give up in the end, because I found that it was extremely difficult to transform most proper names into the names of the months without them sounding completely ridiculous or awkward.

So what do you do, fellow authors? If you write fantasy that requires name change for seasons and months, how do you go about naming them? Does it even matter in the long run (for readers) what seasons and months are called?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week

Judging by your family, would you be Muggle-born, Half-blood or Pureblood?

To quote Seamus Finnigan: "I'm half and half. Me dad's a Muggle. Mam didn't tell him she was a witch 'til after they were married. Bit of a nasty shock for him." Half-blood that's me :))

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week

Most cringe inducing scene in the series

There are, of course, more than enough scenes of the kind, considering how long the series is, and a great many that have such an effect on me and that I've always had trouble reading - sometimes even skipping completely. However, in my case they all have one thing in common: they're all connected with Harry's moments of failure or stupidity. Unsurprisingly, Harry's most stupid moments that make me cringe happen in my most/least favourite book (according to the number of things that I love and hate about it) - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

But let's start from the beginning. I can never read without cringing how everyone turns against Harry for the first time in PS - that's when he, Hermione and Neville lose 150 points each for getting caught at night after Harry and Hermione had successfully got rid of Norbert but stupidly enough forgot the Invisibility Cloak on top of the Astronomy Tower and poor Neville found himself caught in the drama, because he wanted to warn Harry about Malfoy. In fact, I could never understand why Harry and Hermione felt so ashamed and disgusted with themselves - I mean, they were trying to do they right thing, weren't they? They were helping Hagrid! But, somehow, they felt that they deserved everybody's contempt and hostility. I could never get that. How easy one can fall from grace... Hogwarts students are extremely fickle in their likes and dislikes when it comes to Harry, aren't they?

Another example of what a cringe inducing scene constitutes for me is when Harry inadvertently reveals himself to be a Parselmouth during the Duelling Club in CoS and becomes the main suspect behind the attacks on cats, ghosts and students and a pariah all over again. Even worse for me is the scene in PoA when Harry loses his first ever Quidditch match to Hufflepuff because of the Dementors, falls off his broom and his ever faithful Nimbus Two Thousand gets smashed by Whomping Willow - this is the part that I used to skip until very recently. I just could not get through it. Harry - lost a match?! No way! Grim defeat indeed! Then Ron turning on Harry in GoF, not believing him (!!!) and leaving him to deal with the backlash without his support when he counted on him so much. Most of OotP. Especially, Harry's trip to the Ministry of Magic and its heart-breaking consequences. Ron yelling and leaving in DH... Awful, awful.

And, finally, two scenes that I absolutely hate and that make me cringe the most, because Harry was so incredibly stupid during both of them!  The first is when Harry decides to spy on Malfoy on Hogwarts Express and gets his nose broken.

'Petrificus Totalus!'

Without warning, Malfoy pointed his wand at Harry, who was instantly paralysed. As though in slow motion, he toppled out of a the luggage rack and fell, with an agonising, floor-shaking crash, at Malfoy's feet, the Invisibility Cloak trapped beneath him, his whole body revealed with his legs still curled absurdly into the cramped kneeling position. He couldn't move a muscle; he could only gaze up at Malfoy, who smiled broadly.

He considered Harry for a moment.

'You didn't hear anything I care about, Potter. But while I've got you here...'

And he  stamped, hard, on Harry's face. Harry felt his nose break; blood spurted everywhere.

'That's from my father. Now, let's see...'

Malfoy dragged the Cloak out from under Harry's immobilised body and threw it over him.

'I don't reckon they'll find you till the train's back in London,' he said quietly. 'See you around, Potter... or not.'

And taking care to tread on Harry's fingers, Malfoy left the compartment.

Honestly, Harry!

And the second - so much worse and thus its cringe inducing factor so much higher - when he uses Snape's Sectumsempra spell on Malfoy later on in the book, almost killing him, and Moaning Myrtle screaming murder at the top of her voice. "Harry, Harry, Harry..." as Gilderoy Lockhart would have said, shaking his head and showing all of his blindingly white teeth. "How in the name of Merlin's pants could you have been so utterly stupid?! You could have bloody well killed him, you complete idiot!" It makes me cringe every single time I brave the part and actually read it. 

'SECTUMSEMPRA!' bellowed Harry from the floor, waving his wand wildly.

Blood spurted from Malfoy's face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backwards and collapsed on to the waterlogged floor with a great splash, his wand falling from his limp hand.

'No - ' gasped Harry.

Slipping and staggering, Harry got to his feet and plunged towards Malfoy, whose face was now shining scarlet, his white hands scrabbling at his blood-soaked chest.

'No - I didn't - '

Harry did not know what he was saying; he fell to his knees beside Malfoy, who was shaking uncontrollably in a pool of his own blood. Moaning Myrtle let out a deafening scream.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week

Best "Dumbledore Moment"

I once again turn to HBP and as I do so I realize that the sixth book has a lot of things that make it my favourite book as well as a great many things that make it my least favourite book in the series, some of which I mentioned in my last week's post and will, no doubt, mention in the next week's post too. Of course, Dumbledore, being my second favourite character in the series after Harry, has a lot of excellent scenes throughout the books that I enjoy reading and rereading, but I'm going to go with the one that takes place in the beginning of HBP - Chapter Three "Will and Won't" - when Dumbledore arrives to take Harry to the Burrow and has a little chat with the Dursleys. In my opinion this part is a real gem and here are some of my all-time favourite Dumbledore moments and quotes: 

There in the doorway stood a tall, thin man with waist-length silver hair and beard.  Half-moon spectacles were perched on his crooked nose and he was wearing a long black travelling cloak and a pointed hat.

'Judging by your look of stunned disbelief, Harry did not warn you that I was coming," said Dumbledore pleasantly. "However, let us assume that you have invited me warmly into your house. It is unwise to linger overlong on doorsteps in these troubled times.'

He stepped smartly over the threshold and closed the front door behind him.

'It is a long time since my last visit,' said Dumbledore, peering down his crooked nose at Uncle Vernon. 'I must say, your agapanthuses are flourishing.'

'Ah, good evening, Harry,' said Dumbledore, looking up at him through his half-moon glasses with a most satisfied expression. 'Excellent, excellent.' These words seemed to rouse Uncle Vernon. It was clear that as far as he was concerned, any man who could look at Harry and say 'excellent' was a man with whom he could never see eye to eye.

He [Dumbledore] drew his wand so rapidly that Harry barely saw it; with a casual flick, the sofa zoomed forwards and knocked the knees out from under all three of the Dursleys so that they collapsed upon it in a heap. Another flick of the wand and the sofa zoomed back to its original position.

'We may as well be comfortable,' said Dumbledore pleasantly.

'I would assume that you were going to offer me refreshment,' Dumbledore said to Uncle Vernon, 'but the evidence so far suggests that that would be optimistic to the point of foolishness.'

A third twitch of the wand and a dusty bottle and five glasses appeared in midair. The bottle tipped and poured a generous measure of honey-coloured liquid into each of the glasses, which then floated to each person in the room.

'Madam Rosmerta's finest, oak-matured mead,' said Dumbledore, raising his glass to Harry, who caught hold of his own and sipped. He had never tasted anything like it before, but enjoyed it immensely. The Dursleys, after quick, scared looks at each other, tried to ignore their glasses completely, a difficult feat, as they were nudging them gently on the sides of their heads. Harry could not suppress a suspicion that Dumbledore was rather enjoying himself.

Dumbledore paused, and although his voice remained light and calm, and he gave no obvious sign of anger, Harry felt a kind of chill emanating from him and noticed that the Dursleyes drew very slightly closer together.

'You did not do as I asked. You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you.'

Both Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon looked around instinctively, as though expecting to see someone other than Dudley squeezed between them.

'And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.'

Ah! I just love this chapter. It has both the humour and the serious and it's so Dumbledore!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week

The least favourite book

Well, that's easy, right? There's no such thing for me when it comes to Harry Potter. Each book is different and full of delicious things, old and new, and I like each one on its own merit. In the same way I probably wouldn't be able to say which book is my favourite, because it's usually the one that I'm reading at the moment. However, I've recently noticed that I started favouring Goblet of Fire above all others, while I used to under-appreciate it in the past. So let's see... The PS is enchanting. The CoS is hilarious. The PoA is grim and a real eye-opener - it's the third book that actually makes you see that everything is interconnected and intricately interwoven and that you have to keep your eyes open for clues in the most unlikely places. The GoF provides a much broader picture of the wizarding world and gives us a real taste of approaching war. The OotP is deliciously long, which is a huge advantage in my books when it comes to Harry Potter. The HBP... Hmm. I love a lot of things about this instalment but, maybe, I actually found the book that I like the least in the series. For example, I hate the fact that all those tools (like fake galleons and the Vanishing Cabinet) that worked so well for Harry and his friends in the fifth book worked so completely against them in this one and I will never forgive Moaning Myrtle for transferring her affections from Harry onto Draco Malfoy. Perhaps, it's irrational, but I always felt the sting. And, of course, Dumbledore's death was awful.

Friday, 5 September 2014

I started generating ideas for what I hope will be a follow-up book to my recently finished fantasy novel, but I've discovered that it wants to be written in the first person, while the first book is written in the third person. I fear that it might cause a serious problem unless I adapt my ideas to the third person, while they are still in the process of being developed, which is getting more and more difficult the longer I think about the story that is slowly unfolding at the back of my mind. By the way, you can follow my fantasy novel inspiration board on Pinterest.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week

Favourite editions of the books

I'm a bit late to start this whole meme thing, previously having no idea that something like that has been going on, but being a huge Harry Potter fan I decided to do it anyway. This is a Harry Potter meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. Today I have to share my favourite Harry Potter editions.

There are great many covers out there and I like and love many of them (including the mismatched set that I own), but I guess if I ever buy a new edition of the books (something that I'm dying to do), I would go for the covers created by Jonny Duddle for Bloomsbury, because besides the cover art that I love (I have a particularly soft spot for book 1 and 4), the books include the map of Hogwarts in the beginning and other Potter- and J.K. Rowling-related tidbits at the end of each volume.

This is my own faithful set. The first three are adult covers and the rest are children covers. These were the only editions that I could find back then in my country and I've been reading and rereading them ever since I bought them in the early 2000s.

Also, I always wanted to have this anniversary edition, so if anyone knows where I can get it - do tell me! I just love this cover. There's something so sweet and poignant about it. I love the way Harry looks here and I think the colours are lovely.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

I always feel a kind of nervous excitement and I'm all jittery and restless when I finish writing something. For the last two weeks I've been rewriting and expanding an old fairy-tale of mine. I didn't want to start anything new and big that would require massive amounts of research, brainstorming and inspiration right after I completed such a long and laborious work on my fantasy novel but I found that I simply can't NOT write. So I decided to dust off my ideas for fairy-tales and short stories in the meantime. Now that I've finished the fairy-tale, I'm going to attempt writing a romantic short story set in Victorian London, which is something that I've never done before. I also have an idea for a short story set in Regency, so maybe I'll write it down after this one.

I'm afraid that my style is too complicated and old-fashioned for a fairy-tale for children, though. I should have been born in Regency or Victorian eras. I would fit just fine there. I wouldn't even have to curl my hair, because it curls naturally into perfect locks - I kid you not! Anyway... I learned that if I try restraining myself to simple words and short sentences, I start suffering from literary constipation. I do think that it would make for a nice picture book, because the imagery is quite fine, but I'm afraid that if I try finding a publisher for it, I will be asked to make it not as wordy and convoluted, which will definitely kill the spark and render the story dry and uninteresting. On the other hand, maybe they will want me to expand it some more and write a short chaptered book instead? I think I'd love that.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

I believe this stage of revision is complete. He-he. Judging by the time of this blog post I managed to do it by the end of the week. In truth, it's already the 4th in my country :D

Monday, 28 July 2014

This week I'm planning to finish revision, sent off copies of the book to my beta readers and (finally!) start sending out submissions. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: I've gone through 120 pages out of 219 of the book by now. I didn't count on excessive heat and the fact that it seriously impairs my productivity but I still have three days till the end of the week to reach my goal!  I've also sent out my first query for the book. Just now. I'm quite excited about it, of course. It feels like I've never done it before. But it's a new book and a new opportunity!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Is it just me or does writing advice dumbs down books?

Maybe it's just me but when I read writing advice like "cut it short so that the reader's attention doesn't drift" and "make it simple" and "show don't tell" it all sounds to me like "readers are so stupid - you have to spell it out for them or they won't understand". It's like we have to dumb down our books for readers to get them. But isn't it a bit insulting? Don't we underestimate the readers when we do it? And what's wrong with adverbs, anyway? Can't people paint their own picture in their mind of what the character is doing if we use them instead of spelling out everything? They're not stupid. If anything, I think we should make it more challenging. I, for one, love a book that challenges me. I like adverbs. I like passive voice. I like long, complicated sentences. My favourite (world-famous, best-selling, loved, admired, worshipped) authors love them too and their readers and legions of fans don't have problems with any of it, because, in the end, it's The. Story. That. Counts.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Revision progress report

I was on a roll last week. I revised a very big piece and added a number of new pieces too. In fact, I'd written so much I couldn't read out the whole thing to my CP, because we ran out of time. I did stumble eventually at one particular part that I have reservations about, though I was quite happy with it upon writing it. But there's something off about it and I'll have to work on it to find out what exactly, because I can't put my finger on it at the moment, and make it right. A couple of days ago I had a sudden itch to start querying agents with my fantasy novel and the only thing that managed to stop me from rushing unprepared headlong into the process was the necessity to compose a synopsis as it is required by one of the agents on my list I want to query first. Thankfully. I promised myself that I wouldn't rush into anything with this book. This is it. The real thing and I want it to work. I want to make it right. But I do get occasionally fidgety and itchy, because I just want to give it a shot and see how it goes. Will it work? Will it at happen at last? Will I get an agent? Funnily enough, you almost believe in the possibility until you open your mailbox, skim through the email and feel your heart drop to your feet when you see that they will just have to pass on. The good thing is that I did write a synopsis! But my first attempt was quite deplorable and I didn't dare send it off for fear of ruining my chances.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Revision progress report

I'm quite happy with my revision progress this week. I've completed revising the second part of the book and I have a much smaller portion left. At the moment I'm writing a completely new scene that I decided to add. I've also decided that my YA Fantasy project will most probably be a trilogy. I have definite titles for the other two books and a number of ideas that I would love to explore, delving deeper into the world that I've created and bringing out the best and the worst. I'm also looking through a list of agents at AgentQuery and I'm astonished by the number of agents who still won't accept email queries. What are the chances of finding an agent? What are the chances of making it big?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Revision progress report

Last week was very productive. I revised more than twenty pages, which is quite a lot for me, going deeper and deeper into the story in more ways than one. So I knew that this week would be slower. I'm also quite busy reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) and I find it hard to put the book down. I think I like it even better than the first one. However, I'm almost finished watching Friends, so soon I'll have one distraction less. We're having a very cold summer this year. I don't want to jinx it, because I don't like heat all that much, but I've closed the window and I'm actually sitting here in a warm cardigan that my mom knitted for me some years ago and that I had no occasion to wear until now! It's awfully grey and windy today and it doesn't look much like Odessa anymore... I also spent the best part of the morning today looking through literary agents on Twitter now that I once again want to try and find representation for Margaret's Rematch.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Revision progress report

I'm back to work on my revision, while it's not too hot and my brain doesn't melt. In fact, I've been working quite a lot these days, changing things, shifting them back and forth and making tons of corrections.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Revision progress report

I had a good writing day yesterday and that's all. How very lame. But I've noticed that my writing blocks always coincide with increasing heat, which, in its turn, quite often coincides with my obsessing over something new. Last May I was sucked into the world of Star Trek. This May I started watching Friends. I've never actually watched all the seasons - just a few episodes here and there. In fact, there are so many TV-shows that I want to re-watch. Oh, and I've watched Maleficent today. It was great. I love this version of the story much better. Angelina Jolie was amazing. I loved her horns and wings and lipstick and her smile and her ring and the whole thing.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Revision progress report

It's moving along, though not as swiftly as last week. Still, I've revised a big piece and added several new pieces. I always add something new (or correct or throw something out) each time I reread the same piece. I can't be trusted with polishing my MS because I will most likely polish it within an inch of its life and there will be nothing left.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Revision progress report

Revision is going apace. The story becomes more dynamic as I cut out on exposition and scatter as much backstory as the books needs all over the place. I like it most of the time. However, I do have occasional moments of doubt and panic when I ask myself who is going to read my novel. It lacks violence, destruction, nudity and multiple deaths that seem to be a requisite for success in the entertainment industry these days, judging by books, TV-shows and films that garner the most readers or viewers. At least, that's the impression that I get when I read about books, TV-shows and films that millions of people are crazy about. I don't know... I often ask myself "Does a book/TV-show/film have to rip your heart out and cause misery to be considered great? Are there people who still want to feel like smiling after reading the book or watching something as opposed to feeling as though they have been punched one too many times and just want to crawl somewhere and die?"

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Revision progress report

"Every day this summer had been the same: the tension, the expectation, the temporary relief, and then mounting tension again... and always, growing more insistent all the time, the question of why nothing had happened yet." 
J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

If you're reading this, then you probably wonder why I've posted a short extract from the fifth Harry Potter books in my revision progress report. Well, that piece perfectly sums up how I felt this week, ever since I found out that I got a spot on the Writer's Voice Competition. I didn't make it to the next round, but it was an exciting week all the same, with an almost tangible sensation of possibility. However,  when I wasn't checking my Twitter feed in hopes of catching a glimpse of my number, I kept myself busy with revision, and I'm happy to report that my main heroine has finally left the castle grounds that she has never left until now and set out on her journey.

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Writer's Voice 2014

I would like to present for your consideration ALMENDRA'S JOURNEY - a fantasy novel aimed at a young adult audience. It is approximately 60,000 words in length and it follows the story of Almendra - the seventeen-year-old High Lady of the Upper Kingdom - once a magical kingdom, ruled only by women, that shall lie in ruin and isolation on top of Mount Neemren until such a time when these words come true:

Once love is settled on this earth and vow is sealed by kiss,
The queen will be again a rose - her country will find peace.

Fifteen years ago, a band of shawlweavers attacked the kingdom in order kill Almendra and her mother, put an end to the race of the High Ladies and take over the land. However, Almendra, her granny and Woo, her wolf guardian, survived the attack. In their retreat, the shawlweavers left behind a curse that isolated the Upper Kingdom from the rest of the realm. In order to get rid of the curse Almendra must fulfill the fate-line that predicts the rebirth of the kingdom once she finds true love. 

Her granny believes that the fate-line refers to Prince Frederick of Lowland Kingdom and tells Almendra to put on her Throne Room Dress (that weighs no less than a baby elephant) and spend long, boredom-filled hours, day after day, in the Throne Room, waiting for him to come and set them free. However, when an unlikely messenger arrives and tells them that Prince Frederick has been poisoned and that the only thing that can save him is magic, Almendra decides that the time has come to fulfill the fate-line and that she must go to Ombropolis – the capital city of Lowland Kingdom – in order to do it. 

In the company of her wolf guardian and the messenger, she travels through the Realm of Ethelgrad towards her goal, equipped with a healing potion, a number of helpful magical contraptions and wrapped in an enchanted shawl with outstanding powers she is yet to discover. During her journey, Almendra unearths a heart-breaking secret of the past, buried deep under Spiderwood Manor – the shawlweavers' lair; not knowing that her life is in danger, because the plot to destroy the Upper Kingdom and its High Lady is still on, and that Prince Frederick might not be the one after all.

At present ALMENDRA'S JOURNEY is a stand-alone novel, but I'm thinking about the possibility of its sequel - ALMENDRA'S KINGDOM. Also, I have big plans for the Upper Kingdom, its High Ladies and the Realm of Ethelgrad as I intend to write more stories set in this constantly expanding fantasy world of my creation.

Thank you very much for your time. 
Yours sincerely, 
Farida Mestek 


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 on Woo's way out of the room. 

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

Behind the screen, 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.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Revision progress report

I forgot to report my revision progress for two weeks while I was actually busy revising and decided to do it now that I hit a sudden block. I fully blame all the writing advice that I have been exposed to ever since I started following different people on Twitter. It can be quite daunting and doubt-striking for someone who is revising the book in anticipation of submitting it to agents and if you care (though, I'm sure you don't) you can read more of my thoughts on the matter HERE

Anyway, back to revision, I added two new scenes, one of which took me completely by surprise. I often find myself complicating things for my MC on the second thought. "Why should I make things easy for her?" I ask myself. I'm not sure if it's the right attitude but I hope that it adds a bit more action and excitement to the story. I wasn't good at either before I started reworking my longish fairy-tale into a fantasy novel and so I regard it as a challenge to myself as a writer. I think I'm getting better...

Now it's time to get out of my funk and get back to revision! Fine! Fine! I will. Well... after I have sushi with my cousin :-)

Friday, 25 April 2014

Advice on Writing: good in essence but bad for my nerves

As a writer I always find myself either on the brink of elation or depression, while working on a book, and advice on writing, that overflows the Internet, makes me doubt every decision that I've ever made regarding my novel. Instead of helping, it plunges me into an abyss of despair and alienates me from the writing process so completely that I can't look at a word I've written. Maybe that's just me. Maybe my reaction is over-the-top. Maybe my mind is too fragile. I don't know... But I'm being overwhelmed, discouraged and demoralized by all the writing advice that is out there; about how to write your book and how not to write your book; how to begin your book and how not to begin your book, etc..

Especially, the piece of advice about not starting your book with your character waking up or an alarm clock going off. I mean, it seems like such a logical place to start! I would never have thought that there was anything wrong with such a beginning if not for an avalanche of no-no's that I've encountered only this week on Twitter. I know that people who work in the publishing business think that they are helping by pointing out how cliché this or that is, but I also think that there is a huge difference between working in the book business and being a reader and that readers might not mind or might not even notice those things that agents and editors do, simply because they don't care - it doesn't spoil the story for them.

I understand that agents and editors are probably fed up with such a beginning and, maybe, an overwhelming number of authors, whose manuscripts they read on a daily basis, begin in such a way, but the thing is that only a small percentage of books that are published (let alone that are submitted to publishing houses and rejected) actually reach the reader. In this way, readers are not exposed to the horrible waking up routine of the main character in the same way. But does it actually hurt the story? I'm pretty sure that readers don't care whether the book starts in the morning, in the afternoon or at night as long as they like the story, the characters or the world that it opens before them. 

I don't mean to say that agents and editors are wrong, but I just think that they tend to look at the books in a jaded light of a professional, who has seen it all and craves for something new, and that by rejecting certain things that they regard as dreadful clichés, they deprive readers of their chance to decide for themselves and to choose what they like. It is all so very subjective I'm surprised there are any rules at all! How can you tell what will work and what won't? No two people, no matter how alike they are, have the same reaction to the same book.

I, for one, don't have a problem with passive voice or adverbs. I like them. I'm sure that the majority of readers (and by 'readers' I mean people who read for pleasure and entertainment and not as part of their everyday job, that, like any job, can contain an element of boredom) don't mind them either. Don't even notice them most likely. Personally, I'm pretty sure that readers can draw their own pictures in their minds, while reading, and you don't have to shove everything into their face by 'showing' rather than 'telling'. As though their minds are so weak they can't digest adverbs and interpret them in the correct way. I'm surprised that so many people read and love classics! How do we even process the old-fashioned language nowadays? I sometimes think that people within the publishing business tend to underestimate readers and by imposing rules upon writers trap both writers and readers within a publishing matrix none can escape unless they choose to be self-published. The publishing machine decides what to write and what to read and if you don't fall into their strictly categorized routine then you're out.

I mean how can there be any rules in the land where imagination must run wild? I don't talk about technical aspects, such as grammar, punctuation, logic, consistency, etc., because they are of vital importance. I'm talking about the freedom of writing the story in a way that makes perfect sense to the author and the reader, even if it starts with the alarm clock going off and bores agents and editors to death.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Blog Hop: My Writing Process, by Farida Mestek

I was tagged by Courtney J. Hall to participate in “My Writing Process” blog hop. Hop over to her BLOG to read her answers. Here are mine: 

1) What am I working on? At the moment I'm working on a fantasy novel about a seventeen-year-old princess who must bring her abandoned kingdom back from oblivion. I've been working on this particular version of the book for about two years now, reworking it from a novella-length fairy-tale that I originally wrote many years ago, when I didn't know what I was doing. 

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? I think it has quite a lot of differences. It doesn't have any typical fantasy creatures and beings. It doesn't have fights or epic battles, even though the fate of the whole kingdom is at stake, and it's strictly female-centered. In fact, you'll have to squint hard to find a male character there! Also, my heroine is not as clueless as other heroes and heroines in her situation usually are. I don't mean to say that she knows everything – there's plenty for her to learn on her way to her goal – but she knows enough not to blunder abound in the dark, feeling like a fish out of water, which allows her to contribute on equal terms to her companion's store of knowledge. 

3) Why do I write what I do? I always loved magic and I love writing about kingdoms with ancient history, magical castles and manors with underground tunnels; enchantments, potions and magical objects that help (or hinder) my heroine on her journey. 

4) How does my writing process work? I'm a plotter. I must know the beginning and the ending of the book before I start writing and I must know the names of the main characters, because I won't be able to start otherwise. I make a detailed plan of the plot and write it down, because I need to know where the story is going. But I don't plot out every single scene (unless they come already fully-formed into my head), because it's lots of fun to discover and to explore unknown components of the story as I go along, and I love those “A-ha!” moments that simply cannot be planned in advance. I often struggle with the middle of the book, because it's often the least defined part from the outset, but, in return, it supplies me with means and ways that I haven't thought of before. 

I tag Anna Shevchenko – an aspiring writer, a blogger newbie and my critique partner, who lives in Odessa, Ukraine just like me. Visit her BLOG where she posts her newspaper articles in Russian as well as a series of posts on her five favourite things since her childhood in English.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Blog Hop: Meet My Main Character, by Farida Mestek

I liked Debbie Brown's idea about introducing our main characters very much and decided to take part in the blog hop too. So here is my main character. I'd love to know what you think! I haven't shared this version of the story with anyone but my critique partner yet.

What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

The name of my character is Almendra. It means 'almond' in Spanish but - alas! - I can't remember when and why and how I decided that it would be her name. Though, she is quite fictional, she's been a part of my life for such a long time that my family and friends treat her like a real person.

When and where is the story set?

The story is set in the fantasy world of my own creation. I discovered it a long time ago and I've been exploring it ever since. I always thought of it as taking place some time in the latter part of Middle Ages in the world that exists next to ours but is separated by an invisible magical barrier. I also try to incorporate those bits of history that I know of into the story.

What should we know about him/her?

Almendra is seventeen and she is the queen of a once magical and powerful kingdom ruled entirely by women. Her favourite pastimes include reading, dreaming, climbing trees, running races with her best friend Woo (who happens to be a wolf), and driving her granny up the wall.  Despite her lonely life, Almendra is high-spirited and optimistic and greets every new day with a big smile and in high hopes that it will be the one that will change her life forever. Her granny oversees her education and allows Almendra a few hours of repose every day, ostensibly overlooking the fact that she runs races with the wolf, climbs trees like a monkey and brings back twigs, leaves and brambles tangled in her hair, that is so long it sweeps the ground when she walks, because she likes to have a nap on the edge of the cliff.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Fifteen years ago her kingdom was attacked and plunged into ruin and oblivion, its people and magic gone. Almendra, her granny and Woo are the only survivors. The kingdom has become big enough to accommodate just the three of them, so now they live on a small plot of land in the castle (with wood and cliff behind), able to use many of its magical objects but unable to do magic themselves. Almendra's life is extremely isolated and restricted and she spends much of her time bickering with her granny about pretty much anything as a way to relieve her feelings of such unnatural confinement. Her dream is to get out from under her granny's control and to become the mistress of her own fate.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Almendra's personal goal is to find true love, bring back magic, save her kingdom and reunite with her dethroned mother. Hopefully, she will be granted the chance, once she manages to accomplish the first three points.

Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

At the moment the working title is "Almendra's Journey". I'm also contemplating "Almendra's Quest" as an alternative. I'm afraid that you can't read more about it now, because I'm in the process of revising it and I don't want to show it to anyone but my critique partner (who has seen it at its worst) until I'm quite happy with it.

When can we expect the book to be published?

Ah! That is the question, isn't it? I expect it depends on my good fortune. It is my dream to find an agent for it and to have it published by a traditional publisher, so it may take... Oh, I shudder to think about it actually!     

Thank you for stopping by! I would really like to know what you think about Almendra so far!

I'm tagging my critique partner - Anna Shevchenko - who has just begun her blogging experience. I hope you'll visit her blog too, because she needs all the encouragement she can get to proceed. At the moment she's doing short posts about her five favourite things since childhood there. Her blog hop post "Meet My Main Character" will be up on the 15th.