6 Things that Inspire me to Write

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Hey there, friends. To celebrate my recent writing resurrection, I thought I’d share 6 things that inspire me to write. These are all types of entertainment or pieces of media, but those titles sounded really clunky so… ‘Things’.

In no particular order….

Welcome To Night Vale – a podcast by Night Vale Presents

This podcast, guys. THIS PODCAST. No matter what kind of mood I’m in when I start listening to it, by the end I’m feeling happy and creative. This sci-fi comedy looks at so many things in our world with such a unique perspective that it helps me to do the same. It takes my conceptions, puts them in a jar, and shakes them around until everything looks a little different.. and usually, a bit more menacing. It’s a great creepy podcast with wonderful characters and moral lessons and even love stories and human interest pieces. Seriously, check it out wherever you listen to podcasts. I like Podbay.fm myself.

“Perforated Heart” by Eric Bogosian

This book is about an author who finds himself reading his old journals from the late 70’s while recuperating from heart surgery. We as readers are immersed in his experiences of New York in the 1970’s with flashes back to his older and more jaded self. There is so much self discovery and observation in this book that I find it very inspiring. And of course, the topics that he covers as an author himself. I might do a proper review on it at some point, but for now just take my recommendation and put it on your TBR!

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith

Mostly, I’m talking about the intro on this one. If you haven’t read this book I really recommend it. The book itself is fantastic, but the intro sets the stage so beautifully. It explains the author’s situation, it shows the passion for writing and the way the story took hold of him and what it did to his life. Sometimes, I’ll just read the intro to this book. It only takes a few minutes. But in that time, I’ll be reminded of the pressing need to put pen to paper, fingers to keys, to get a story out there.

Reading about obsession can make one obsessed.

Do you believe that?

I do.

The Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke

Mostly the second one, but they’re all fantastic. What inspires me is both the focus on the world and the element of fiction writing. I love the way the writing literally comes to life in these stories–and the problems they cause for the unwitting authors.

The Sims

Say what you will, but playing the Sims.. well, making the Sims and their homes, is a creative act. You’re essentially developing a character in a visual medium. You can choose their personality traits and craft their physical appearance, choose various outfits, and design their homes. Plus, the music is very soothing and makes me feel creative.

The Lord of the Rings soundtrack

I mean, have you heard it?

Seriously. check this out if you need something epic and beautiful to listen to.

What sort of things inspire you?

Drop it in the comments! I’m always looking for more media to inspire me!

Writing update

Hey there, fam!

Today I wanted to update on what’s going on with me, writing wise. I thought about this the other day when chatting with a friend on Wattpad.. she said, “If you ever post anything, I’ll be sure to read it!” And I was like.. oh. My username is AuthorJoNarayan. And I’ve not posted anything.

Yikes, that’s embarrassing.

Yeah, I’m writing. But where’s the proof? Outside of checking my computer and notebooks., you wouldn’t know. That’s my bad. I got into a bit of a funk there, if you’ve read any of my recent posts you’ll have heard about it. But Thursday I broke through my block and I wrote over a thousand words on the short story I’m working on. Friday, I wrote even more. Now I’m revved up and ready to go!

I feel like I’ve been dragging my feet a bit because I’m not as passionate about the characters in this story… it’s a sort of prequel/back story to my novel, but it is all about one of the supporting characters. And honestly, I don’t know a lot about him. He’s kind of flat. Which is part of why I’m writing this (the other part is to tell people about my world and to hone my craft).

Let me set the scene for you:

In my novel, the main character Dana gets caught up in a secret society called The Order of the Hunt. The second in command (Will) is a psychic and his powers are.. impressive. But he fades into the background because he’s quiet and is more subtle in his use of power. I love writing about Dana, so I have zero issues working on that story.

Now in this short story, I’m exploring how Will discovered and developed his powers. Then, how he himself was inducted into the Order and the dangerous problems which arose from that. There are new and more dangerous demons in this story, along with a lot of information about the Order itself that I hadn’t ever bothered to develop. It just.. wasn’t relevant to my main novel.

This matters because..?

Developing all this will help to make the world so much more rich and real. I know this, which is why I’m pushing through. Now that I’ve got the fire again, I plan on getting this short story finished before too long. Of course, it’s just the first draft. I have no idea how many times I will revise it before presenting to others.. but I really want to get something out there. So I’m dedicating extra time and energy to make this happen.

I saw a post on instagram yesterday that said “You’re a writer. Fucking act like it.” That spoke to me and helped to keep me in gear.
Does anyone else have inspiring quotes that help them keep on track? Share below!

5 articles that pulled me out of my writing slump

Good morning, Fam.

After my mini breakdown a few weeks ago, I have been struggs to func in the writing area. I’ve forced out about 6k on my short story, but I keep stalling because I don’t know enough about what’s going on and I’ve allowed myself to get distracted. My birthday happened during that time and I got several new books along with Animal Crossing for the DS and let me tell you—that’s the perfect way to spend a lunch break (when I usually write). It’s so soothing to go around my little town and help people and pick flowers and peaches.

Anyway.

I was messing around on Twitter looking for a specific article on Writer’s Digest and I came across several that were intriguing enough for me to read them. And these articles kicked my butt and told me to get back in gear. I wanted to share them here in case any of you need the same.

How I Stopped Sabotaging My Writing Goals: Confessions of a Late Bloomer

This article was written by someone who didn’t get published until they were 55–though they’d been writing and dreaming of writing off and on their whole life. She let fear of rejection hold her back. This quote especially struck me:

I had been blessed with a bit of talent. I had been treading water in that same little puddle of talent all my life, and when teachers or bosses or circumstances indicated my ambitions would take a lot more than innate talent I found some other path where the people would praise me and say “good job” and I didn’t have to grapple with my fears.

Andrea Jarrell

In the article, she shares her tips for success. And really, they sound simple. But they are So. Hard.

This is an abbreviated list –check out the article linked in the heading for more in-depth tips.

Becoming a Full-Time Author: 3 Mindset Shifts Every Writer Must Make

In this article author Pagan Malcolm discusses how full-time authorship has it’s pros and cons just like anything else.. but then goes in to some ways you can change your thinking to make it happen sooner.

She talks about how overnight success is not a real thing—every successful author has invested tons of time and effort behind-the-scenes to make their dream a reality. How easy it is to burn out (most of us are working regular jobs too, of course) and a way to avoid it, and how deadlines and schedules really do help more than you’d think.

I know that’s true because I’ve worked with her (she has an author coaching biz) and when I was being held accountable I actually got shit done. Right now? Nope. I gotta build some discipline and jump right back in. hold myself accountable, and share my goals with others so that I’m letting down more than myself if I fail.

Once I had determined that yeah, I needed to kick my butt into gear, I kept reading for some more writing tips because of course I wanted to procrastinate and self-sabotage myself immediately. I found three more articles that were helpful for my current stories/genre:

Adding Dimension to Characters: 10 Sly Character Development Techniques

This one caught my attention because, as many times as I’ve written and rewritten my main WIP over the years.. I didn’t know that much about the background characters. And those are the ones that are featured in the short story I’m working on now! This article goes over several tips to get to know your characters better, including Breaking and Entering (looking through their stuff) and Gossiping (what other characters say about them). They’re some pretty interesting techniques and ones I’m excited to try out!

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing: How to Build Fantastic Worlds

As a fantasy writer of any sort, world building is essential. A lot of people go into depths worth of an epic fantasy.. when that information may not even be needed in the book. That’s why this article suggests developing the characters really well first.. and then following them along and seeing where they end up. You ask questions such as what type of world created this character, and how to covey information about the world in small manageable bites instead of info dumping and boring the reader.

There are more tips in the article which I highly suggest reading. I will definitely be using those tips as my characters interact more and more with another world!

Writing Monsters: What Makes a Monster Scary?

Last but not least… Writing Monsters. With my demon obsession, this one was very useful for me. While my stories aren’t horror based, I do want the demons to kind of freak people out. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be very effective. My characters certainly are wary of them, and I’d like my readers to be as well.

This article goes into 5 different qualities that make people afraid of monsters and how best to use those. You have to consider things like what people are afraid of, how unpredictable they can be, and the disturbing capacity for violence monsters seem to have. In depth info about those topics as well as others can be found in the article link in the heading.

Now that I’ve procrastinated enough…

I want to leave you all with one last tip from me. Everyone goes through slumps. Everyone lets life distract them from their dreams and goals. And that’s okay. But you’ll never be successful if you don’t get back on track. It’s okay to admit that you need help, to reach out to others, and even to hire someone to keep you accountable (if you can afford it). If not, find an accountability buddy and make a pact to keep each other on track.

And always, always, keep writing.

Book Review: Lanterns in the Sky

Lanterns in the Sky (The Starlight Chronicles Book 1)

P.S. Malcolm – March 5, 2019

(Goodreads) (Amazon)

Blurb:

Everything was normal for Lucy Maisfer until the day a star fell from the sky and knocked her out. Upon waking, she comes face-to-face with Jason Woods, who also happens to be the mysterious new guy in her best friend, Valarie’s, life. 

Then the strange dreams begin, and she learns about the Starlight Princess— who must not under any circumstance be reawakened. Driven to uncover the meaning of it, she finds herself caught up in a strange twist of events that eventually lead to bigger danger than she ever anticipated. Before long, Lucy is forced to make a choice between saving the world, or saving her best friend; only to discover that Valarie cannot be saved… that she has an even darker secret, and that her supposed star-crossed romance with Jason might not be so destined after all…

My Impression:

This book is masterfully written. The prose is cinematic – you can see it playing out in your head and honestly this is just begging to be made into a movie. I’m astounded by Malcolm’s imagery and the level of detail and thought that went into every scene. The book is full of twists and original ideas that I haven’t seen elsewhere. I’m eagerly awaiting the next book!

Notes:

This book (series) is a must read for those who love magic, royalty, and surprises while they’re reading. There’s a budding romance too, but it’s definitely taken a back seat to the action–there’s no time for that with everything that’s going on in this book! If you love Princesses who are strong enough to save themselves, you have GOT to read this book.

Enjoy this? Check out the rest of my book reviews HERE.

What I learned from my writing crisis

Hey, friends.

It’s Saturday again. This time I wanted to share something I’ve been going through the past couple weeks.

Early last week, I had what I’ll call an “existential writing crisis”. It started on Sunday night, but had been brewing for a bit. It reached critical mass on Monday morning and I did a twitter thread ranting about it while I was stuck in traffic. Here’s what happened:

A step back

I read a Writer’s Digest article about villains and I thought back to my story. My villain. Their motives aren’t apparent to the reader. I know them, because I’ve rewritten this story ten times over the past 13 years and I understand pretty much everything about my characters. But I wasn’t showing it. From a reader’s perspective, it didn’t make sense. It was “evil for evil’s sake” which is unrealistic. So I decided that I needed to work more on this character. I needed to step back and figure out how to work it in. I figured I’d delay everything to do with the book until I’d reworked and written this correctly. Surely it couldn’t take that long.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

That’s a joke. You have to compare yourself to others if you’re going to have any gauge of how well you’re doing. The first thing I compared my own writing to was P.S. Malcom’s Lanterns in the Sky. I did this because I know the author, and in my brain anyone I know can’t possibly be as good as ‘famous’ writers. Right?

Wrong. Her imagery is fantastic. Her writing is flawless. But I know she has creative writing degrees, she has a business as a writing coach, and she’s ranked as a best seller on Amazon. So of course she’s amazing. She must be the exception to the rule.

But then…

One of my Facebook friends (from a group, I don’t know them in real life) shared that they were participating in the Wattys, a writing competition on Wattpad. They’re a fan fiction author.

I have to do a disclaimer here: I love fan fiction. Seriously, LOVE it. I couldn’t do it myself, because I’d be worried about messing up the characters or worlds that someone else has created. But there’s a little piece of my mind, a little bias against fan fic authors. Because they didn’t create their characters or worlds. They can’t sell their work. So surely they must be less than. I’m annoyed at myself for even typing that, because I know it isn’t true. But we all have inherent biases we must struggle against, acknowledge, and work to overcome. And that’s one of mine. And it’s completely untrue because I started reading my friend’s story.

And oh my. Oh My. The prose flows like water. The descriptions are perfect–they leave just enough to the imagination. I wasn’t even conscious that I was reading a story.. I was experiencing it. And I know this person. I don’t think they have formal schooling in writing. Suddenly, I was comparing my own writing to theirs.

And I fell short.

I fell so short.

For some background, just imagine this. You’re a storyteller. A writer. You’ve been writing stories since you were 8. You took creative writing 3 times in high school. And you’ve never received negative feedback on your writing. The teacher thought you walked on water. Your parents, your friends, the online communities you shared stories with. No one ever said anything critical. You think you’re hot shit, right?

I did.

I knew there was something missing in my writing. But I didn’t know what it was or how to achieve it. And now I know. So I decided to buckle down. Get back to basics. Write short stories to practice, get feedback from others, and fine tune my skills before revising my story yet again.

The best thing, though?

The responses I received from the community after I shared that rant on twitter. The validation. The relief. This is normal. This is a part of the writing journey. A rite of passage. It’s what separates those who are passionate about the craft, who care about their readers, from those who don’t.

Yes, my handwriting is atrocious. It’s fine.

The new plan.

I’ve joined a channel on Discord for Fantasy Authors support. They do critique swaps and skill shares. I’ve joined Wattpad and plan on sharing short stories there for feedback. And I’m writing short stories based on the characters in The Wraith. I’ll be sharing these stories so that people can get to know the characters–and I can have more to draw on in the case of my villain. Whenever I post one I’ll share it here as well. I really can’t wait to continue my growth as a writer.

And once I can do my story justice, I’ll begin the process again. Because this story needs telling. It deserves to be told with skill. It deserves an audience.

And this time, I’ll do it right.

The four coolest paranormal creatures, according to me

Hey, fam. It’s July already. You know what that means?
Yep! 3 months until Halloween. Yes.
If you’re like me, you probably obsess over this spooky holiday. It’s definitely my favorite by far, and has been since it surpassed Christmas sometime in middle school. I’ve already started trying to decide what my family will be dressing up as, what about you?

Anyway.

Thinking about all that made me think about my favorite paranormal creatures. You know, the creatures of the night that are generally the antagonists in either really scary or really sexy stories. What’s up with that dichotomy?

Vampires

It’s hard to choose a favorite, but if I did it would probably be vampires. They are what we’re exposed to the most in popular media. These fanged former humans sustain themselves by drinking blood. Depending on the mythology you’re sourcing it on, they may or may not have some of the following traits: sensitive to sunlight, allergic to garlic, unable to cross running water, sleeps in coffins or grave dirt, weakness to fire, weakness or repelled by Christian crosses, ability to hypnotize victims, ability to turn into a bat or other animal, telepathic abilities, and doesn’t age. I’m sure I’ve missed some, but that’s the list of the most popular traits I’ve come across.
Vampires are the subject of a whole genre of romance stories, which highlights people’s obsession with eternal youth and beauty. There’s also something to be said for the strangely sensual thrill people have at the idea of being pursued, and therefore desired, by something mysterious and powerful.

Werewolves

Werewolves are the subject of a simillar vein of love stories as vampires, but they have a bit of a different feel to them. While the vampire stories are often sold as being more elegant and high class, werewolves are seen as being baser, more instinctual creatures. These are typically portrayed as humans who change into wolves or wolf-like creatures by the light of the full moon. In some tales, they have full command of themselves as wolves. Others, they do not.

I’ve got to admit mixed feelings for werewolves. I’m going to blame the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) because, let’s face it. WTF was with that werewolf scene? I was scarred when I saw this as a teenager. And a little turned on. And that really made me question a lot of things. After that I saw Ginger Snaps (2000) and… well.. you get the picture. Werewolves are interesting but honestly terrifying for me. Except the Twilight werewolves. Those Quileute can come over to chill any time.

Mermaid

I’ve always wanted to write a mermaid story, but I’m torn on which type to do. Beautiful, human-like ones like Ariel? Green, scaly, terrifying creatures like the original Little Mermaid story? Something similar to manatees, because that’s what they’d evolve into under ocean conditions? Or would I merge them with Sirens, with their hauntingly beautiful songs?

I tried to write a mermaid story, once. It had a love triangle, other worlds, time travel, and a magical desk. It was loosely inspired by an AFI song called Miss Murder. Needless to say, it was way too convoluted and never got off the ground. I think I got 6,000 words into it before calling it quits. (That’s why you plan out your stories, kids!)

Zombies

Who doesn’t love zombie movies? No one, that’s who. Everyone likes some kind of zombie. Slow shambling ones, undead monsters that will beat you in a race and then eat your face, zombies that can think, zombies that convert others, zombies that climb out of the ground, zombies that are just puppets controlled by an evil master. There are all types. People love the show The Walking Dead as it combines zombies, a post-apocalyptic world, survivalism, and of course meaningful storylines and connections between people. It’s a great show (and comic).

What are your favorites?

Of the people I’ve asked, overwhelmingly I hear that vampires are the favorite. Anyone have others they love? Ones I didn’t cover here? Let me know in the comments!








Exploring the term Occult

Good morning, everyone! I’ve had my chai latte and am fully awake now, so I’d like to talk a little bit about an interest of mine. I’d love to hear your takes on the topic down in the comments!

When people hear the word ‘occult’ there’s a certain image that most conjure: candles and altars, secret societies, witches and demons and malicious things. There’s a lot to be said for that case, as it’s what is portrayed to us in the media and is, in part, what that word can define. I thought there must be more to it than that, so I did a little research.

Let’s define it.

According to Wikipedia, the word occult refers to knowledge of the hidden or paranormal in direct opposition to facts and science. (I’m a huge fan of science, but it doesn’t capture my imagination in quite the same way as magic!) Throughout history the term has been used to refer to several things including: esoteric and arcane teachings, ‘occult sciences’ (astrology, alchemy, natural magic), spiritualism, new age, and the paranormal. In writing, often anything that doesn’t fit into the categories of ‘religion’ or ‘science’ ends up being labelled as occult.


What does that mean for me, a writer who is super interested in the occult? Honestly, I love the image most come up with–the candles, witches, demons, and the works. I’m fascinated by magic. I’ve been writing stories since I was 8, and every single story since I was 12 had some type of magic in it. I’m fairly certain that trend will continue, because I can’t get enough of it. Even most of the books I read are like that–although I love a good Dystopian or Victorian novel as well. Let’s face it. Without magic and fantasy in my life, I would be struggs to func.

Wait, there’s more to it than that.

You’re right. Another aspect of the occult is secret societies. Most people scoff or wave it off as a conspiracy theory that there could be secret societies in the modern digital age, but they exist. I personally know people who have been involved with secret societies in one form or another.. and not all those experiences are beneficial. I have one friend who refuses to speak of the atrocities they endured outside of therapy sessions. I also know others who had a more positive experience.


I don’t normally share this information, but I actually knew people who were involved in a group when I was younger. They had beliefs about the existence of demons, angels, and magic. They insisted on secrecy. They believed themselves separate and better than normal people. In short, they were a cult. A not-so-serious one, but they still had all the makings of one. This group, called The Circle, actually inspired the Order of the Hunt that appears in my upcoming novel The Wraith. (Pssst… Order of the Hunt was the working title for the novel!)





Moving on….

What is considered occult has changed over time, including a definition proposed in the 90’s that had to do with people’s disenchantment with a secular world. While I can sort of agree with that definition, I know that it’s an ever changing term that won’t really be able to be pinned down. And it shouldn’t be. The nature of the occult is shifting and ethereal. It’s mystic energy, foggy nights, full moons, and tarot cards. It’s Wiccans lighting candles in the woods at night, setting out crystals, praying to the goddess. It’s the spiritual feeling college students experience after a long night of partying or studying. It’s the unseen forces of good and evil, of demons and angels and werewolves and other unexplained creatures.

In short, it’s everything not measured by science. It’s where we live.

Book Review: BloodAngel

BloodAngel

Justine Musk – October 4, 2005

(Goodreads) (Amazon)

Blurb:

In downtown Manhattan, a rising young painter is haunted by disturbing dreams…In small-town Minnesota, a teenage orphan struggles with a knowledge beyond his years-and a destiny he wants no part of…In California, young and old, hipsters and hippies, fall under the spell of a wildly charismatic singer whose voice breaks down all barriers-including the ones between heaven and hell.

The fans of Asha are finding one other-and the world is running out of time.

My impression:

The writing style is amazing. I love what the author has done with this story. The writing itself is very choppy and abrupt, which definitely suits the main character, Jess, and the overall mood of the story. Jess is a painter who is recovering from addiction and a traumatic upbringing when she’s thrown head first into the world of magic. The story explores themes of addiction and loss, vengeance and justice, and a modern outlook on love and sacrifice and what they truly mean. Magic, demons, psychic powers, and ancient angelic warriors.. BloodAngel has it all. For those who love Dark Fantasy, this is a must read.

Notes:

The book flows nicely into its sequel Lord of Bones, which goes even deeper into the rabbit hole.. and explores even more taboo themes. Justine Musk has a website that doesn’t appear to be updated any more but her blog is A+ for creatives and feminists. Sometimes I’ll just go into the archives and read a few posts and come out feeling super energized and inspired. I recommend this post in particular.

Enjoy this? Check out the rest of my book reviews HERE.

Three reasons Dark Fantasy is beneficial to readers

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Divergent series by Veronica Roth, Blood Angel and Lord of Bones by Justine Musk, and Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.)

Dark Fiction gives readers a safe place to explore difficult themes

Fiction, and fantasy in particular, beckons readers in with a promise of fantastical lands, impossible realities, and alternate universes. Within these wondrous stories, there is always at least one underlying theme. For example, in the Harry Potter series, Harry has to learn to deal with loss. He has to process, grieve, and overcome loss of a potentially happy childhood, friends, people he considered to be family figures, and eventually even his own life and future. The overarching story keeps the reader interested and their emotional investment in the protagonist helps them to experience the loss with him, instead of just reading about it. Because of the fantastical setting, it isn’t as threatening as reading about grief and loss in ‘the real world’ –it’s safer to explore.

A reader can draw strength and guidance from a character’s experiences.

When I read a book, I’m all in. I experience everything as the protagonist, the good and the bad. I expect this is the same for most book lovers, and for good reason. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve drawn on fictional experiences to help in my real life. Whether it be knowledge I absorbed, a moral lesson learned, or even a truth about the world.

In both the Hunger Games trilogy and Divergent series, the protagonists experience what it’s like to live under a corrupt government and learn how to follow your heart and do the right thing (Actually, so did Harry Potter. Boy those books sure get around!). These stories reaffirmed something that was hard for me to believe–those in authority aren’t always right, and don’t know everything. They also taught me that if something is wrong in the world, it’s your duty to work to correct it. Even if you’re young, even if you’re alone and think no one is on your side–there will always be others who undergo the same struggle. It’s always worth standing up for injustice.

In the Hunger Games, Katniss suffers from PTSD after the first book and struggles with Depression in the third. Her struggles with mental illness have made me more empathetic to the struggles that others have. Her memories of living in abject poverty and the class system within her district have informed my views on social equity. And the way she draws strength from those she loves has shown me how to overcome dark places in my life.

In Divergent, Tris experiences segregation of a different sort–separation by ‘types’ of people. Tris declares: “I don’t want to be just one thing. I want to be brave and selfless and intelligent and honest and kind.” (This is also seen at the opening feast in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when the sorting hat questions whether it is right to sort people into different houses). This quote actually made me stop for a moment in reading (which never happens) and think. People cannot be segregated by any imaginary boundaries, for we all are an amalgam of every trait in various levels. When I was younger, like many people, I segregated people in my mind based on labels. Gender, income level, education, skin color, the way they acted or dressed. But as I grew older I realized that these labels were worthless. Fiction can teach us so much, if only we’re open to listening.

A reader can relate, discuss, and share with others to talk about personal issues.

Building off of the safe place that fiction gives us to learn about and experience darker issues, I’d also like to mention the benefits of sharing the stories with others.

The book Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff has several themes–one of which is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Willie, the protagonist, has many reasons for not wanting her pregnancy–she had an affair with a married man, she’s an ambitious college student, and she does not want to be trapped in her small town with a child like her mother was. Willie struggles with her emotions surrounding the embryo and the potential effects on her future while she tries to decide whether to abort. A reader who is undergoing the same struggle, or knows someone who is, can use the character’s experiences and emotions to help put perspective on their own. Do they feel the same way? In what ways and why? Did the character make the right choices, or does the reader have different morals? I firmly believe fiction can be a wonderful tool to encourage critical thinking and self-reflection.

The issue of addiction is explored in Justine Musk’s Blood Angel and its sequel, Lord of Bones. These books specifically helped me to understand and empathize with a friend of mine who confessed to using Heroin. While I hadn’t experienced it myself, I felt that I could somewhat understand the need and the drive to do whatever was necessary to fill the addiction–and how hard it was to stop. My friend had the strength, courage, and resources to get help, unlike some of the characters in these books.

While fiction is a gateway for many things, I strongly believe that dark fantasy specifically is ideal for readers who would benefit from empathy and introspection about difficult circumstances (read: everyone). The suspension of disbelief required to accept the fantasy elements of a story helps the reader to more easily relate to and empathize with the plight of the characters in a story. Dark fantasy’s trend towards the more difficult topics and themes sets the reader up to learn about experiences different to, or perhaps similar to their own. The books can be used to help others to relate to issues that the reader is dealing with in their own life.

Have you related to something in Dark fantasy and used it to grow? Comment below and let’s talk about it!

Creating Culture in The Wraith

Image credit: Freeimages.com

Happy Weekend! How is everyone doing? I’m having a good Saturday morning so far, I had my coffee and then went out to water our flowers and discovered a bird’s nest in one of our plants. That was a surprise!

Today I’d like to discuss..

An important aspect of my books and how I went about creating the culture and world that the demons reside in. I had so much fun coming up with this culture. It isn’t explored a lot in book one, but it’s a huge part of book two. Since book two isn’t finished yet, the culture may evolve some as I explore the world more, but I just wanted to share what sorts of things I think about when creating a fantasy culture.

Firstly, the culture or people themselves needs a name. You also need social structure, and to consider whether their society has a class system or not. If so, how would this affect the individuals in each class, and their relations to one another? Their economy? What sort of social system runs this world, and what languages are spoken? Is there a religion? How do the different gender roles and ages interact with each other? There are also things to consider such as leadership and politics, geography and its effects on the people, and more.

It sounds like a lot, but it’s important to know these things even if they aren’t shown in the book. There’s even more I haven’t covered and probably haven’t thought of myself, but I’d like to share what I have so far about the culture and world of demons in my upcoming book The Wraith.

The world of the Yoruta, more commonly known as demons.

The Yoruta are divided into two types, the Erlaubi and the Rux. These two categories of demons live separately from each other and rarely interact. Their languages are similar enough that they can communicate if needed, but there are misunderstandings. The dialect the Rux speak is called Ruta, and the dialect of the Erlaubi is Yoca.

The Rux demons are what Dana and the Order members are more familiar with. Their power are physical-based and they are often baser demons, reacting in more animalistic fashion to aggressors. Some of them stray into the world of humans in search of sustenance or else on orders to target an individual. The leadership of their region have targeted humans in the past, but the reasons aren’t given to the soldiers. They simply do as they are told.

The region the Rux live in is mostly barren, with small pockets of flourishing nature surrounding an oasis. Their towns are structured around these, with the fortress bordering the largest one. Outside of the borders of the fortress, the Rux have marketplaces, villages, and all of the other makings of civilization. Their economy isn’t doing too great currently and relies on a mixture of coin and the bartering of goods and services. The main occupations are farmers, builders, and weavers. Some also dedicate themselves to maintaining their villages through leadership, cleanup and waste disposal, and healing.

Inside the wall however, is where the real power lies. The ruler, or Daeheru, resides in the fortress along with his advisors and council. There is a barracks on the grounds where soldiers are housed, as well as a farm adjacent the water where crops and livestock are raised for the fortress. The soldiers themselves are used mostly for keeping the peace and enforcing the collection of taxes, however they do occasionally have to put down rebellions.

The succession of power and title of Daeheru (Lord) is passed down either be appointment by the current ruler, or else taken by force. The Daeheru’s power is limited to the region of the Rux –The Erlaubi have their own leadership and laws.

The Erlaubi consider themselves a higher order of demons than their counterparts. They are physically more appealing, to humans at least, and their powers are more mentally based. Because of this, empathy is a common trait and they have more peace than the Rux—their economy is even an approximation of human Socialism. For professions, there are a few that tend their crops and maintain infrastructure but the majority consider themselves to be artists, political ambassadors, or teachers. Hobbies like weaving are common, but are not considered primary professions. The region they reside in contains plentiful water sources and has much more vegetation and animal life, which also makes it so they don’t need to struggle as much as their brethren. This breeds resentment from the few Rux who know anything about the differences between their regions.

Despite their differences, the Rux and the Erlaubi share most cultural values. The staggering majority of Yoruta feel that physical sex is irrelevant- some individuals lay eggs and others fertilize. Elders raise offspring until their adolescent years, at which point the parents take over and teach them about the world and trades. There is very little religion to speak of, and not much prejudice over races or power traits aside from the main division of Rux and Erlaubi.

One thing that all Yoruta have in common is that they are private about their true name. A name is generally made up to use with others, and the polite form of inquiry is some variation of “What can I call you?” This is because knowing the demon’s true name gives power over them—they can be invoked in rituals and spells and weaker ones can even be forced to do the user’s bidding. The sharing of a demon’s true name is a sign of the utmost trust.

That’s all I have so far! I’d love some feedback on what I have so far on this culture. What do you all think? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Comment below!