15 Questions About Preparing for NaNoWriMo

Okay, so I found out about this really cool thing called Beautiful Books, and I figured I’d give it a shot. If you aren’t already aware of Beautiful Books, you can check them out through the awesome button they provided above. Pretty much, it boils down to a questionnaire that revolves around NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is this event in November where you’re challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you’ve been following my blog, you know full well that I’ve spent a lot of time preparing for the start of the event, November 1st. Pretty much, Beautiful Books is going to be set up as a series of three questionnaires: one for prepping in October, one for writing during November, and another one for revising in December. I figured this would be a good way for me to talk about Brave Albion with a little more focus, since I tend to have a habit of rambling about my process. I know, I know, I’m working on it. Also, thanks goes to Allie for making me aware of Beautiful Books through her blog, Little Birdie Books. Be sure to give her website a look and see what book she has planned for NaNoWriMo this year. Here’s a hint: it’s got ghosts.

The Questions

What came first: characters or plot idea? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

That’s a really good question, because the answer is a little hazy. Sometimes I’m a plotter, sometimes I’m not. I know, I know, that doesn’t help very much. As far as character or plots, I guess you can say both. I had a basic idea of who I wanted for a character from the beginning. It started with these two words that I developed into my character, Áine. And since I knew that Áine’s great struggle was the fact that she loved to read, but had to keep it a secret, I knew a little bit about the plot. I like to have a general outline, but most of my planning is just character development. I figure that if the character is strong enough, they’ll let me know where the plot should go. We’ll see if I know my characters well enough starting in November.

Do you have a title and/or a “back-cover-blurb”?

Yes, I do have a title. I’m always referring to the story as the world of “Brave Albion” (thus my username & the name of this blog), but the first book is going to be titled Brave Historia. And I do have a back-cover-blurb, but it’ll probably change a few dozen times before I release the first novel. Here’s what I have so far:

Áine loves to read. Her remarkable memory has allowed her to remember every word she’s ever read. But it’s dangerous to love books in a world where only the nobility are allowed to own them and any other literate person is forced to become a Librarian: bookhunters tasked with tracking down the rarest novels known as historias. As the daughter of a Librarian, she knows full well the dangers of someone finding out that she can read.

But one day, as her father delivers a strange, untitled historia on what appears to be a routine assignment, she suddenly loses hours of her time in an instant. All just after reading the book’s first few lines.Áine’s curiosity sets her on a path of secrets and riddles, shady allegiances and ancient stories. A path where nothing is as it seems. With the help of her kleptomaniac brother she’ll set out to discover the truth: of the book, the nature of magic, and herself.

What wordcount are you aiming for when your novel is finished?

50,000 words isn’t too much of a challenge, and considering the relatively small size of novels with that many words, I’m aiming for close to 100,000. Give or take a few thousand. The story will be finished when it wants to be finished. It may be 80,000 words; it may be 150,000 words (please god, no). We’ll just have to see when it’s finished, now won’t we?

Sum up your novel in 3 sentences.

Girl who loves to read is forbidden by the nobility.

Girl starts having weird things happen after reading an old book.

Girl gets in a lot of trouble and tries to fix everything.

Sum up your characters in one word each.

Áine ~ curious

Devlin ~ kleptomaniac

Allister ~ enigmatic

Lord Caladon ~ gracious

Lord Remington ~ intelligent

Mar ~ determined

Aislin ~ liar

Which character are you most excited to write? Tell us about them!

It’s Áine, of course! I’ve spent the last month trying to get to know this girl, and trust me, it wasn’t easy. It was a week before I could even get to the point where I could hear her talk. To me, she’s become the very representation of bravery. She’s a dreamer, which is a dangerous thing in a world like her own. She lives in a world where the ability to read is a crime in and of itself. Where you have to earn the right to literacy. And as if in anticipation of this, in knowing how precious each word truly was, she has the uncanny ability to remember everything she’s ever read. Like a mental library, she can browse all the books she’s ever laid eyes on. This mental library is her safe haven; it’s the place where she can dream and question without fear of losing her freedom. But what is freedom if you can’t dream and question?

What about your villain? Who is he, what is his goal?

The villain is a little more complicated; in the beginning she’s her own villain. Sure, the system that makes the nobility the only people allowed to own books is a villain. The empire who enforces it may seem the villain. But the first book isn’t about any of that. It’s about who she is, and about taking responsibility for your actions. She is her own worse enemy, and if she can’t conquer her own fears, she has no hope of conquering any terrible villain. Not that she won’t have some people to act as antagonists. Lord Remington is one of those antagonists, but I wouldn’t necessarily call him a villain.

What is your protagonist’s goal? And what stands in the way?

Her goal – at least, her greatest desire – is to write her own novel. Her own great tale, worthy of the historias all around her. Of course, the very  nature of the world stands against her. If she reveals the fact that she can write (and by default, that she can read), then she risks being pulled away from her family and thrown into a dangerous world with no one to help her. And without the love of those she cares for. Having lost her mother at a young age, she knows all too well the void that is left in the wake of a loved one who can never return. So, in a way, her greatest fear and her greatest desire are in constant struggle with each other.

What inciting incident begins your protagonist’s journey?

Áine has the ability to memorize every word she has ever read. This only seems to work for written words, and not for other things. She doesn’t remember every conversation or every event. Just books. But that all changes the day she reads a particular book her father is delivering to Lord Caladon. Not only can she not remember a single word from the book, but soon after strange things start occurring in her life. She quickly makes a decision that she needs to see that book once more. There’s only one problem: it’s locked away in the well guarded library of Lord Caladon’s manor.

Where is your novel set?

It’s set in the fictional world of Libris. The country is ruled by an Emperor, who keeps the many noble families from destroying each other thanks to his elite Archivists and the system of laws that he developed. In this world there are thousands of ancient, dangerous ruins scattered across the landscape. These ruins are the remnants of a long destroyed Library. A library that had once spanned the area of an entire country. The authors of these ancient books are forgotten, but their stories live on. However, the ability to read is a closely guarded talent; most of the common folk are illiterate, and over the centuries have developed their own myths and legends concerning the nature of these books.

What are three big scenes in your novel that change the game completely?

Girl reads book, but wakes up with no memory of it.

Girl attempts to steal book.

Girl fixes the mess she’s made.

What is the most dynamic relationship your character has? Who else do they come in contact with or become close to during the story?

Well, I’d have to say that there are three really important relationships in the first novel. I can’t vouch for the second one, I haven’t gotten that far. The first important relationship would be the one with her brother. He’s stated as being a bit of a klepto, but he’s a really good kid and Áine’s best friend. Though, they do have their disagreements. Family is family, though. The second one would be the relationship she has with her father. The nature of his job has always been something she’s disliked. He’s the very thing that he is constantly trying to protect her from becoming: a Librarian. In this world Librarians track down books for the nobility, and are usually assigned to a specific House. They got lucky with her father being assigned to Lord Caladon, who is a very kind-hearted man. Her father, Allister, usually just oversees book trades between Lord Caladon and other nobles, traveling far away to pick up whatever historia the noble has purchased. On these trips, he often takes his children with him, so they can have the opportunity to read the book during the trip, before turning it in to Lord Caladon. But, he’s also had to fight to protect some of these books, and has even turned people in for owning them when they shouldn’t. He’s confiscated forgeries from Peddlers and detained people who were found to have a true historia (which is luckily very rare, as most people simply have forged copies, which are useless and not as bad of a crime). Later on in the story, the nature of her father’s work becomes a sore point in their relationship. The third relationship that is important doesn’t come around until midway through the first book. This is Lord Remington. I don’t want to reveal too much about that relationship, but he is the main “antagonist” of the first novel, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy or a villain. That’s all I can say.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

She becomes more sure of herself, more confident in her own abilities and in who she really is. The transformation isn’t anywhere near complete, though. She still has a lot to learn by the end of the first novel, which is why the story will take place over several more.

Do you have an ending in mind, or do you plan to see what happens?

I have an ending in mind. Sort of. At least, I have one in mind for the first novel. The rest of it is still a little up in the air.

What are your hopes and dreams for your book? What impressions are you hoping this novel will leave on your readers and yourself?

I’m hoping that I can get this novel into as many hands as possible. My goal is that through it, I can show people the value of reading; not just in our personal lives, but in our culture. I want to draw young readers towards some of the classics that might otherwise intimidate them, as well.

And, of course, I’d love for this book to sell so I can focus more time and energy on writing the sequels. If someone walks away from this story feeling like their life is richer for it, than I will be pleased.

Alrighty! That’s the basics of it. And with far less rambling than usual. I bet you’re all very proud of me. ^_^ Feel free to drop a message in the comments, contact me through twitter, or whatever. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on it. And thanks again, Allie, for making me aware of Beautiful Books!


Brave Albion Inspirations #1: Tess of the D’Ubervilles

Okay, so I’ve decided to start a series of blog posts about the works that inspired me the most when creating the characters and places in the world of Brave Albion. Since I’ve been mainly talking about characters recently, I figured I’d wrap up that theme today by talking about the character who was my initial inspiration for Áine: Tess Durbeyfield, who was the titular character of Thomas Hardy’s classic novella Tess of the D’Ubervilles.

If you haven’t read this novel, you really need to pick it up. It’s very short, but the main character is unforgettable and has some of the greatest quotes in classic literature. In my humble opinion, that is. During the time of its publication, the story was met with some controversy. In the late nineteenth century, the time when the story takes place, there was this shift in the role of agricultural workers and a crisis in the identity and value of noble bloodlines. The story spoke about these things, and in a way that most of the aristocracy at the time didn’t appreciate. Nevertheless, it’s become one of Hardy’s greatest works in recent years and gives us one of the best female protagonists in the world.

Tess is intelligent, passionate, and strikingly beautiful. But she is anything but a Mary Sue, or a model of perfection. In fact, there are those that believe she was the representation of original sin and the epitome of those who suffer for crimes that are not their own or out of their control. It is true that she is almost mythic in her role within the story. More than once she is referred to by the name of an ancient Greek goddess.

Tess was born to a farm family, long withdrawn from their supposed noble lineage. She works as a milkmaid, and a farmhand. But she isn’t content to this life, the way her parents were. No, her mind has been poisoned by the greatest disease of all. Dreams. And like any good dreamer, she reads and reads, hoping to understand more the nature of her disease, not realizing that books are simply adding to the poison in her veins. She is well-read, with an inquisitive mind. And when she discovers that she has nobility in her blood, she goes to work at the mansion of the D’Ubervilles, of which she is related. Her life is changed and she finds herself around the people her mind has always craved to be around. She is a thinker, a reader, and this is the group for which she was always meant.

In my story, Áine is the daughter of a Librarian. Librarians act as servants to the Emperor, and then to the nobility. As the House Librarian to Lord Caraway, he has the ability to read and is often sent to collect, find, and deliver certain novels. Librarians are discouraged from having children, but Áine and her brother were born before he took on the role. Understanding the beauty of books, he taught his children how to read. But it was his daughter who was the dreamer, and as I said before, books only further the poison of dreams. Infected in her heart and soul, she was addicted to reading, but in a world where that was a right only permitted to nobility and to Librarians.

She has been filling her mind with ideas and histories, stories and dreams, for most of her life. And much like Tess, it has given her an inquisitive mind and a longing heart. Also, much like Tess, she is extremely committed to her family. So, to keep them together, she must constantly hide the symptoms of a dreamer. She has learned never to ask too many questions, never to say words she shouldn’t know, never mention ideas that wouldn’t be natural for a girl of her position. Of course, as the story goes on, Áine differs much from the tale of Tess, but the heart is still there. She goes to live at a manor, she finds herself around nobility, and she discovers that it is nothing like what she may have imagined, though in ways that are very different than the story of Tess.

What great characters and novels inspired and influenced you in your books? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear them. Pick up a copy of Tess of the D’Ubervilles and give it a read sometime, as well. It’s a great story by a very talented writer. As always, thanks for reading.

What Exactly Is Brave Albion? A Brief Description

So, the question remains. What exactly is Brave Albion? Well, it’s the title of the series I’m currently writing, a fantasy story set in a world of magic books called historias. The first book is currently in the works and will be titled Brave Historia. For the reason behind the title, you’ll just have to stick around to find out. Here’s a basic synopsis of Book One in the Brave Albion Chronicles:

Anya loves to read. Her remarkable memory has allowed her to remember every word she’s ever read. But it’s dangerous to love books in a world where only the nobility are allowed to own them and any other literate person is forced to become a Librarian: bookhunters tasked with tracking down the rarest novels known as historias. As the daughter of a Librarian, she knows full well the dangers of someone finding out that she can read.

But one day, as her father delivers a strange, untitled historia on what appears to be a routine assignment, she suddenly loses hours of her time in an instant. All just after reading the book’s first few lines. Anya’s curiosity sets her on a path of secrets and riddles, shady allegiances and ancient stories. A path where nothing is as it seems. With the help of her kleptomaniac brother she’ll set out to discover the truth: of the book, the nature of magic, and herself.

Thanks for reading and I hope that piqued your interest. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and feel free to ask questions. I hope to hear from you.

Story Challenge of the Week

Broken Mirrors

Well, welcome to a new week. Today I start a massive reading binge to catch up. It should be… enjoyable… at least mostly. Pincoffs’ manages to be interesting and immensely boring at the same time. I have to admit that is rather frustrating. However, I have a story challenge for you. You know the rules: I give you a picture and you give me a story of 1000 words or less (at least if you want to post it here) that explains what is happening in the picture. Remember the lesson from last time, stay true to the picture. Let the audience know what is happening in the background of the picture without actually altering any of the picture’s own details. Enjoy:


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Writing Saved My Life

This is my story, and I’m just going to come out and say it. It shouldn’t be shameful. It shouldn’t be something I keep hidden away, or locked in a journal, separate and unidentifiable in comparison to my “internet identity”, which quite frankly, barely even exists.

I am a writer. That’s who I show myself as on here and it’s what I spend most of my days working towards being able to eventually support myself doing. But supporting myself by writing isn’t why I started and it’s not why I continue to this very day.

I write because of who I am. And it’s more than just someone in front of a screen, putting up quotes and instructions on the flimsy hope that I’ll get anyone (anyone at all) interested in my stories. Which are beautiful, wonderful, heartbreaking and lovely, if I do say so myself.

I started writing as an escape. My life has never been glamorous, though it wasn’t always terrible. Not until one day when my mother moved me and my younger siblings to a shack in the backwoods full of moldy clothes and rats, so she could switch from being a part time meth addict to a full time one.

Yeah, it was sad. Yeah, it sucked. But something beautiful happened to me there that I wouldn’t trade the world for. I fell in love with writing. I could create worlds that made sense. With characters that could be sad when I couldn’t be, who could be angry about things I had to grit my teeth about, but also could be courageous and capable of love. All the things I lacked in my life and in myself at that time.

I was creating a safe haven, to hide from the things I struggled to cope with. To forget about the known child molesters my mother allowed in the house, the junkies in my living room, or the fact that we gathered loose change from the cushions to buy things to eat at the corner store.

And when my mom was arrested, my sister split from me to live with an aunt, and me and my brother shipped off to another state to be raised by relatives we didn’t know? Writing became the way I came to terms with that. It has cradled me while my mother has been absent, it’s taught me what it means to be a man with my father not around. I’ve questioned, analyzed, and argued all the points in my life that have troubled me through the guise of fiction.

I’ve developed the types friendships I’ve never had the good fortune to have, I’ve felt the loves that have always been fleeting. I’ve questioned what it means to be brave, or good, or trustworthy. I’ve found answers to questions I didn’t know I was seeking, and I’ve sought the family that’s always been lacking.

Writing has saved me.

It saved me at 4am on a Wednesday in April when I was trying to figure out how someone you love could hurt you. It saved me during the long winters, when I was trudging through knee high snow on the way to a gas station, because I owed a man my life and I wasn’t allowed to forget it. It saved me from myself, when after years of lies and hurt and confusion, I’d nearly forgotten how to dream.

To believe that I am good. That I am brave and strong and smart, whether the world sees me as valuable or not. So, you know what? I may never have anyone care about what I’m writing. None of you may ever send me a message, or read my stories, or my novel, or my thoughts. But the reason that upsets me, is because I wish you could.

I wish you could read about these places and these characters, because they’ve saved me from so much and I truly, honestly, with all of my heart and all that I am, believe that means something. And because I know I’m not the only person out there having troubles, struggling to make it by, or who has had a pretty messed up childhood. These characters helped me through those things, amd they’ll continue to do that. I really think they could do that for you, too. If you’d give them – give me – a chance.

I’m gonna be sharing more of my fiction in the future. I was originally going to use this blog as purely a place to talk about the craft of writing, but I’m not going to do that anymore. There may be some of that, but from here on out, I’ll primarily be using this as a platform to showcase my actual writing. Some will be scenes of my upcoming novel, some will be musings on writing itself, and other things will be random short stories, scenes, and even poetry that I write. Once a week, I’ll put out a lesson on some individual aspect of the writing craft. I know the internet is afraid of words, but that’s all I have to offer. I just have to hope someone out there thinks what I offer is worth it.

I’ve gone through homelessness, but I’ll take that before hopelessness, anyday. And I will never, until the day of my death, stop writing the stories that I love. I’m done ranting, I promise.

This story that I’m writing is the cumulative result of my entire life. Every experience, every pain, every hard learned lesson. But it’s full of a thousand dreams, as well. It may appear to be a story about a girl with a remarkable memory in a world of magical books, but it’s more than that.

It’s about family, and loss, and betrayal. It’s about seeking knowledge, and finding solace in fictional worlds. It’s about that night at 4am on a Wednesday morning in April when my heart was breaking, as much as it’s about all the hundreds of other little moments in my life where I needed answers. So, yes, I think you should read it. I really think you’ll enjoy it.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

So it’s that time of year. With less than a month until NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to do something a little different for me. I’m going to post and record my own process as I prepare for my new novel. From character development to worldbuilding, I’m recording the whole ordeal. So keep an eye out and be sure to follow me on Twitter for musings and thoughts concerning the process.

I’ll share all my notes, resources, character profiles, references, and more as I set up and begin my preparations for the annual event. Just to put it in perspective, in case you’re not familiar with the event, NaNoWriMo is a month long writing marathon with the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.

That’s a little bit longer than Ray Bradbury’s classic, Fahrenheit 451, which was around 46,000 words and it’s considerably smaller (only 1/6) than the first Game of Thrones book. When you put it like that, it’s not so bad is it? Keep am eye out for regular updates and feel free to ask me any question you can think of, writing related or not.