Posted in Disability, Life Stuff

Does Your Life Trump Your Brand?

Leaves_IMG_5274

Hello, dear readers, and welcome!

Recently, something occurred to me — or, more accurately, it hit me in the face, as revelations have a tendency to do. Not too long ago I had a day where I woke up and…I could tell that my depression was hitting me hard.

Everyone who has depression (or any disorder/disease) has different difficulties. Though diseases and disorders have symptoms, they don’t manifest the same for everyone; we are all unique, even in the things we might not want to be unique in.

That day looked for me like a day where I felt worthless, unsuccessful, like I was never going to get anywhere, like I shouldn’t even get out of bed — I was tired, irritable, among other things. It’s hard accurately describe these feelings on a scale that fits the reality of them, but let’s just say I couldn’t wait until things were bright again.

It wasn’t the best day, but I try to look at the positive in every negative situation, and adapt or learn from there; I also try to make the best of those bad days when I have them, doing things I know will help, even if only a little bit. In this situation, the positive was that I noticed something had been covertly bothering me.

Several days before this episode, I had finished (“finished”) setting up my blog, purchasing one of the WordPress plans. Afterwards I was assaulted by a slew of emails: ways to make money with your site; ways to drive traffic to your site; ways to improve your brand–

Ugh.

…”Brand”.

I hate the term “brand”. But before you roll your eyes and tell me I was born in the wrong century, please let me explain why.

What does “brand” actually mean? Thanks to the handy Merriam-Webster dictionary, I can tell you just that. Leaving out the connotations linked to swords and charred wood — and the verb, which is similar to the below — we have:


brand

noun

a(1): a mark made by burning with a hot iron to attest manufacture or quality or to designate ownership(2): a printed mark made for similar purposes : TRADEMARK
b(1): a mark put on criminals with a hot iron(2): a mark of disgrace : STIGMA the brand of poverty
4a: a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer : MAKEb: a characteristic or distinctive kind a lively brand of theaterc: BRAND NAME sense 2

5: a tool used to produce a brand


So, what does this tell us? I’m one of those people who believe the meanings of words both do and don’t change over time. You could say that, even when the meaning changes, a part of the word’s power doesn’t. So, even if the meaning shifts, part of the old power is still there, linking to the new.

Brand. Our first definition of the word (above) tells us about a mark to designate ownership — such as a cattle brand. This can be the mark of a criminal, too, and in the past it was common to mark slaves (unfortunately, I’m sure it still is). This can also translate to a mark of disgrace.

What about the other definition: “goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer“?

Businesses sell goods. Businesses have brands. So, if a person has a “brand”, does that mean they have a business? Is that all it means?

It would be nice if that was the only connotation, but so often anymore “brand” refers to the person themselves.

JK Rowling is a “brand”. James Patterson is a “brand”. Stephen King is a “brand”. Etcetera, and so on and so forth…

But if a person is a brand, instead of a business being a brand, then how does that change other people’s view of the person — and their view of themselves? Surely they are no longer a human being with a life, if they are being likened to a business producing products — and therefore everything they do is considered a product.

The person no longer has a life of their own, but something for others to consume…and eventually transform as they like, whether online or in person.

My recent grapple with depression was no coincidence, I think, though I don’t believe my frustration was the only cause for it. Still, the more emails piled in, the more I worried if I was doing enough — or if I was doing everything right.When the slightest decision you make for yourself, for your own life, can affect your “brand”, you begin to feel as though you can’t make any right decisions at all.

Why does it feel like when I focus on my “brand” — on myself as a company producing products or services — that I feel more like a slave to the whims and expectations of (unseen) others?

Hmmm, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Now, I’m not saying wanting to build a good business is bad, or that wanting to reach out to others is bad. I like writing blog posts and sharing with other people, and I hope these posts inspire you. But I do think we have the tendency to stretch ourselves too thin, and to try and make ourselves into something we are not.

I recently posted the prologue of Shadows of Past Pages, book 1 in the Kieros Chronicle, which I will be sharing here on my blog. This was right after I received all of these emails about promotion and numbers and — brand, brand, brand, brand!

Here too I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, like I would never be doing enough.

Was one chapter every two weeks satisfactory? Could I keep up with that? Did I need to post every week instead? What if I needed a break? Would my readers be angry with me? Would they come back? Was I going to put all this work into posting and have it be all for naught?

I begun to lose sight of why I decided to post chapters in the first place: to challenge myself to finish the story.

I enjoyed putting together the chapter and illustration and posting it, but I feared I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Not only is NaNoWriMo around the corner, but I have been experiencing difficulties with my migraines more than normal lately. I’d posted about InkTober, and hadn’t shared any drawings — hadn’t even been able to draw as much as I would like. It all seemed like too much, and I was just ready to call it quits.

I told my mother as much, and she said: “Well, just get your chapters posted when you can.”

I replied that she didn’t understand — that I had to keep a schedule if I wanted to get anywhere, that I needed new content regularly, that I had to engage.

You know, brand stuff.

She looked at me, a bit miffed, and said: “You’re too hard on yourself. I don’t think anyone has that high of expectations for you — and if they do, they have a problem.”

She’s right. I am too hard on myself. I have ridiculous expectations.

But she was also right about something else.

Her words were wonderful thing to hear, because she was giving me permission — not an excuse, not an admission of defeat, but permission — to have a life rather than a brand. To take my time. To do what I can, when I can do it. To be my best self, in all of the special ways that make me me–

To make decisions for my life, rather than trying to make myself into some sort of production machine.

They say humans can only focus on a few things at once, and do them well.So, if you focus so much on that “brand” you’re trying to build, what is going to fall to the wayside? Your family? Your friends? Your dreams? As much as we would like to be able to have it all, I’m not sure it’s possible — and even if it is, I’m not sure the sliver of “everything” you can have is even worth it.

I like to take a walk in the mornings, if I’m feeling up to it. The photo above is of leaves I noticed on the side of the road when walking the other day — one of the first cool mornings of autumn! If I had been focusing so much on my “brand”, would I only have taken that photo to put in this post? Would I have been plotting out ideas for posts, sharing, marketing, etc. during my walk, instead of just enjoying it? What would I have missed out on?

What have I learned?

I think I would rather have a life than a brand, to echo Tim Tebow in his new book “This Is The Day” (which is actually quite good, if you’re looking for a read).

I can’t keep up with the demands required to be “successful” in these terms, and I don’t want to try. I spent years self-publishing, overworking, and though I’m proud of the books I produced, I also look back and realize how much I killed myself in that time — I even reached a point where I couldn’t write for over a year. I want to do things on my own terms.

If having a life instead of a brand means sharing posts less often, or taking my time, or having to try and fail and try again, then I’m up for it. If I blog for a year and nothing comes of it, then so be it. I’d rather be building a life, even if it’s not what others think it should look like. I’d rather be doing my best to help others, as well as taking care of myself, than worrying about what a successful blog is supposed to look like.

So what if I’m not “successful” (whatever that is)? If it’s not my own definition of success, which looks like chasing what is really important to me, then I don’t want it. Those numbers and likes and shares and whatever else are great, but not if they make me into a person-company or glorified slave to some overbearing expectations of what is “supposed to be”.

So, I’m going to try and do this the right way: one post at a time, one moment at a time. I’ve decided I won’t be blogging in November because I want to put all of my effort into NaNo. I plan to continue posting Kieros Chronicle, but without a schedule.

I’m going to do the best I can to build a life instead of a brand.


What things about modern business or social sharing frustrate you? How do you balance life and business?


To anyone doing NaNoWriMo, I hope you have a great month! I’ll be cheering you on as I type out my own story. If you’re looking for some tips and haven’t checked out my NaNo post, you can link to it here.

Best of luck! 

Alexandra~


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Posted in Challenges, Writing Tips

Four Tips For NaNoWriMo 2018 (And Then Some) ~

Hello, dears readers, and welcome.

Ah, it’s getting to be that time of year. Autumn (Aki — or 秋, to make further use of my studies) is finally in the air, which here in Florida means the breeze is somewhat cool at certain points during the day, and there’s Pumpkin Spice drinks everywhere. Halloween is approaching, and I still need to watch some movies. And I have to stop myself from buying every bat I see (I love bats, in case you were wondering).

There’s one thing about autumn (秋) that I love more than anything, though–

NaNoWriMo…also known as National Novel Writing Month.

Started back in 1999, NaNo is a month-long writing challenge that spans the whole of November. The challenge is to write 50K (50,000 words) of a novel you’ve been dreaming to write — write alongside people from all over the world (pun intended)! It’s plenty of fun, and if you haven’t tried it, I recommend giving it a go at least once if you’re interested in writing, even if you have no desire to publish.

This will be my 9th year doing NaNo (almost to 10!), and I’m very excited. Every year on my old blog I wrote a post with tips for NaNo, and this year is no different. So sit back, relax, and prepare for some advice!

(And after you read this year’s tips, take a look at the bottom of the page for links to previous year’s tips.)


Tip #1: Don’t Edit!

*cue music from NaNoWriMo: The MusicalTrack Name: “Cannot Edit”*

My #1 writing rule (which I will get further into at some point) is this: first drafts are never last drafts.

Before this scares you, please wait a moment. This is actually a good thing!

In her book Bird By Bird, well-known amazing lady Anne Lamott calls the first draft the “shitty first draft” (pardon my words), and she’s exactly right. The first draft of a novel is almost always…well, if not awful, definitely not something you could shop to a publisher.

But that’s okay. Because the first draft is where you let your imagination run wild and run all over the sandbox of your mind. It doesn’t have to be perfect, because it’s play.

If you want to write a good story (and especially if you want to publish) you’re going to write more than one draft, from scratch. It’s just the way it is. You get to know more about your story and your world the more you write. But that doesn’t mean the first draft isn’t important, or that you should worry about having to rewrite it. It’s actually all part of the fun.

This leads to my tip: don’t edit during NaNo, because you’re going to rewrite everything anyway. And even if you’re just writing for fun (in which case you don’t have to worry about multiple drafts), it’s best not to edit, because it’s wonderfully easy to get stuck writing the same thing over and over again, and never get any further with the story.

If you’re unsatisfied with what you wrote last, keep going anyway, because you can fix it in the next draft. You can write notes on what you’d like to do differently next time if you want, but keep going. Forward momentum is key during NaNo. Worry more about having fun than that fun being perfect.

(Now there are some people who write a chapter they hate, and can’t go forward no matter what they try because they’re dissatisfied. In this case it may be a good idea to write that chapter you hated over again — saving your word count from the “dud draft”, and adding it to your overall. People aren’t cookie-cutter, so advice doesn’t work for everyone. The important thing to remember, I believe, is that you want to keep going and finish the story. If you need to tweak things a bit to get there, then fine — but don’t stop your forward momentum!)


Tip #2: You’re Not A Loser!

I love NaNo, but everywhere you turn you see “50K” flashing in your face, and sometimes this can be disheartening…especially if it’s halfway through the month, and you’re still at 10K or less.

Yes, the flashy goal of NaNo is to reach that 50K, what is (loosely) considered a novel. It’s a good accomplishment, and it’s worth being proud of. But what if your story is over at less than 50K? What if you only get halfway through the project? Or less than halfway? Does that make you a loser?

You know what is really worth being proud of, even more than reaching 50K?

Perseverance.

I have not reached 50K every year I did NaNo, though I used to feel like I had to. The first year I “lost” was difficult for me (you can read about it here). I’m a perfectionist, so I always want everything to be orderly and amazing. I expect far too much of myself. You might be like that, too. But there’s a difference between challenging yourself and holding yourself to an impossible standard.

Is it possible for you to reach 50K? Yes, it is. It may not be during NaNo because of whatever reason, but you can finish your story. That doesn’t mean the work you put in during NaNo isn’t worth something, though.

I recently met a young girl who quit NaNo last year because she didn’t get very far, and work got in the way. When I encouraged her to try again, I said she’d win even if she only reached a few thousand words. She looked at me like I’d grown an extra head.

But it’s true–

Writing is the real goal of NaNo.

Trying something new. Working and continuing to work. Believing in what you have to say. Because this is what “real” writers do — write when they don’t feel like it, when they’re under pressure, when everything seems to be going wrong or you have no time. If you keep pushing forward, you’re being a real writer, even if you only write ten words a day.

50K is great, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that it’s the ultimate goal.

If you’re working and persevering — no matter how many words you write, or how sloppy a chapter is, or how trite the dialogue seems — then you’re winning.

Reaching 50K is just a bonus.


NaNo-2018-Writer-Badge


Tip #3: Love That Story!

As I mentioned above, the first draft of a novel is the equivalent of a sandbox. There might be hidden toys or coins or old candy wrappers somewhere in the sand. You don’t know–

But it’s your job to find out what’s there…and what to do with it.

Can you build a novel out of old junk? Sure you can. Writers recycle ideas all of the time, and that’s not a bad thing; we humans love to put a new spin on things. But you might find that if you polish that old junk, it will turn into something beautiful…even something new once you add a few flourishes.

Chances are, you chose whatever story you’re working on for a reason. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, because it (and the story) are unique to you. In my experience, we tend to write about things that are personally important to us, or things that we personally like. So embrace your likes and passions, no matter how strange they may seem to someone else.

It’s your story, after all.

I’ve switched ideas (I tend to do this) and am working on a sci-fi novel. It’s a product of my complicated relationship with technology and science, born from several of my favorite shows and characters. The story is very close to my heart, though someone else would probably laugh about it.

But who cares?

This is my story to cherish and love, just as your story is yours to cherish and love.

So be loving to your story during November, and be loving to yourself. Remember why it’s important to you, why it matters.

Unless you let them, no one can take that away from you.


Tip #4: Take Care (Of Yourself)!

Who here tends to forget to eat, sleep, and stop working?

*raises hand*

Hopefully I’m not the only weirdo out there. But if I am, oh well. I’d love to not to be in good company, because none of the above things are particularly desirable. I’m hoping you don’t need this bit of advice, and can move on to the bottom of the post.

But just in case I’m not the only weirdo, I’ll give you a (probably) much-needed reminder (which I am also giving myself):

Writing is great. Goals are great. Challenges are great.

But remember to take care of yourself during NaNo. 

You can’t finish that novel — or write another one — if you don’t care for yourself. Your body is only made to take so much. Overwriting can be damaging to your arms, back, etc., so remember to stretch, to take breaks, to take days off if you need to (don’t look at me like that; your health is more important).

Remember to eat well, and sleep. Bring snacks to your desk if you have to (I do). Showers will keep you from feeling too grimy to write, and your (real and imaginary) friends will thank you.

Also, remember to spend time with your family. Carve out a schedule if you must, but don’t ignore people during the month. Not only are family, friends (and your fellow Wrimos) great sources of encouragement, but they can be great sources of inspiration, too.

Also, go to a NaNo event if there’s one near you. Writers aren’t usually serial killers — just the characters in their books.

(I mean: we can be a strange bunch, but we’re usually fun. Go meet someone who loves words as much as you do, and help support them in their writing, too).


I hope you enjoyed the post, and are excited for NaNo to begin. It’s coming soon, so stock up on snacks, pens, paper, and charge up your laptop to get ready to go!

As promised, here are links to my previous NaNo posts. Enjoy!

Alexandra ~


NaNo Prep: Using The Word “No” (2014)

NaNo Prep: Gather Your Inspiration Information (2014)

NaNo Prep: Leave Your Novel Worries Behind (2014)

NaNo Prep: Goodbye To Inhibitions (2014)

NaNo Prep: Remaining Courageous (2014)

Plotting Tips For The Pantser (2014

Why I Still Need NaNo: Writing To Win…Not Win (2015)

To NaNo, With Love — Includes Free Worksheet! (2016)

NaNo Prep: Worldbuilding List — Includes Free Worksheet! (2016)

NaNo 2017 Post — Do It!


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Posted in Adventures In 日本語, Uncategorized

Adventures In 日本語: の, の, の…Yes!

Hello, everyone, and welcome!

(Yes, that is my handwriting, and no it isn’t perfect. But I try…)

I’m super excited to share my first post about learning Japanese ( 日本語, or Nihongo). I’ve been working with the language for a few months now, and I absolutely love it.

I’ve found the Japanese culture fascinating since I was little. My mom would take us to the library as kids, and each week we would pick a different country to study; we would read books, watch videos, and find a recipe for a dish to cook. It was plenty of fun, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I fell in love with Japan immediately.

(I also started watching anime when I was born…probably. My brother is several years older than me, and often had reign of the TV after school. Not that I minded, because I have fond memories of watching anime with him, particularly Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z.)

Throughout my life I’ve continued to watch anime, read manga and light novels, other books, and watch Japanese films. So finally I told myself: “Alexandra, you love this language. Stop being lazy and learn Japanese already. You’ve always wanted to.”

Not that I was trying to be lazy. I’ve set out to learn this language a few times, and nothing ever seemed to work (just like with French and Spanish, unfortunately). But once I decided that I wanted to do this, I started looking for a program that would actually work for my learning type.

I spent years in middle and high-school reciting Spanish words in an attempt to learn them, and it didn’t work for me. I did a fast-track French course in college (which my French tutor, who was actually from France, hated with a passion and cursed every chance she got), and I tried Rosetta Stone, but the staring at pictures while hearing words didn’t quite work for me either.

I needed someone to explain the language to me, or I was never going to understand it. I have to be able to piece things together like a puzzle…but in a natural way.

Eventually, I found the perfect thing: a site called NihongoShark. Created by a student who spent years failing at Japanese before finding an “usual” method that worked for him, it’s been the perfect learning tool for me…and it doesn’t hurt that there’s humor integrated into the lessons.

So…what does all of this have to do with の?

As I said, I’ve only recently started studying. Right now, I’m focusing on grammar, which makes far more sense in Japanese than it does in English I think (but that could be because English likes to break all of its rules…).

Recently I read about の, which sounds (almost) like the English word “no”.

I opened my lesson to see this, which I felt was worth sharing:

“Do you want to study some Japanese? 

の,の,の,の,の!”

Now, の doesn’t mean “no”– that is いいえ, or iie, in Japanese; の is a particle. But, I liked the humor.

It’s good to have levity in language learning, because it can be frustrating at times. I know I get frustrated when I can’t seem to wrap my head around a grammar concept, or remember a word, or write that particular kanji correctly (I’m trying here).

But the important thing is to keep going, and remember why you started in the first place—

To transform that “no” into a resounding はい (hai—yes)!


Are you learning a new language, or growing more fluent in an old one? 

Share your thoughts below!


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Posted in Kieros Chronicle

Kieros Chronicle: Shadows of Past Pages ~Prologue~

Kieros Chronicle Book #1: Shadows of Past Pages

By: Alexandra Lanc


Prologue ~ 

Time halted, hanging on a single question… 

“Well, what do you say?” Those brilliant, gleaming, nearly emotionless eyes were the most terrifying thing she’d ever seen, the voice whispering in her twitching ear was as heated as  the breath that accompanied it.

What should she say? What should she do? 

How had it come to this? 

This wasn’t what she wanted—

…was it? 

Her ears flattened, her tail twitched, her body shaking with the fright of not knowing the answer to any of these questions. She stumbled back a step, reeling in indecision. 

Moments ago she was dancing, enjoying the rare company grouped throughout the ballroom. A day ago she had sworn a solemn oath, feeling the weight of a pendant settle around her neck. One week ago she had stepped outside the castle walls for the first time, feeling dirt between her toes…

But now—

Now one question threatened to shatter the fragile life she was beginning to create for herself. Now her suspicions and fears were quickly being realized, confirmed. Now she was back to being a prisoner with a choice. 

So what would she choose? 

What could she choose? 

What should she—

She had to say yes, of course, to reach forward and grasp onto her power with both hands. She wanted to understand the extents of her ability, to learn and grow. 

That greedy, hungry desire slithered through her, urging her on, and for a brief moment the heavy red eyes watching her were not so terrifying; the question she had been asked did not seem quite so complicated. Those eyes lost their overwhelming weight, and she felt lighter than air, able to do anything, if only she said yes and—

“Please don’t.” A voice said from behind. 

The grasping hunger abruptly died as a hand landed upon her arm, shattering the spell avarice had put her under. She turned, looking up to meet a pair of familiar amber eyes. 

The careful calm Ikura worked so hard to maintain had fallen away. His ears were flattened against his cobalt hair, his amber eyes narrowed, his top lip pulled back to reveal a hint of fang.

“What he promises will never be given, Reaye.” Ikura said, grasping her arm tighter—not with force, but desperation. “That power will destroy you, just as it did your ancestors…” His lips formed a hard, thin line, as if he were trying to hold himself back from saying more. 

But in his eyes, Reaye saw what he didn’t say.

She saw what else her power would and could do—

She saw the monster she may become, and the fear of it brought tears to her eyes. 

What should she do? 

What should she say? 

What had seemed clear only a moment ago was once more muddled with uncertainty. 

All her life she had felt powerless, and now power was poised, ready at her fingertips, only one ‘yes’ away. She was both afraid of and intrigued by it, but neither fear or intrigue were an answer. 

She needed time to think—a place to think…somewhere safe and so far out of reach. 

Ceinosshe thought, willed, begged, remembering the stories. 

The power she so admired and feared activated in response to her sense of desperation, to that wild and unspoken wish. The ballroom and the Xaera and Ikura and those red eyes all disappeared abruptly as color drained from the world…and Reaye felt herself falling, falling, falling towards the place of her dreams. 

She closed her eyes, willing two words out into the universe: 

I’m sorry.”


Terren breathed in and out, heart racing, fingers clutching tightly at the sheets. For a brief moment she wondered where she was, eyeing the shadowy darkness, trying to discern what those shapes were. But after that moment all became clear, and she found herself once more grounded in reality—

There was her desk, her wardrobe, her lamp.

Here was her room; she hadn’t left it after all.

Terren_Bedhead_Kieros_Chronicle
Terren has bedhead.

Those lingering images were nothing but a dream, as vivid and possible as the dream had seemed. She was safe inside her home, inside her familiar life. She could breathe easily.

The quietness of predawn reached her, and with a glance at her lighted clock, she snuggled deeper into her purple coverlet, fighting off the autumn chill.

But that dream—

She couldn’t leave it sit. She didn’t want to forget it.

Some things were best forgotten, but this wasn’t one of them.

She closed her eyes, and she could see it once more: a gilded, ethereal ballroom clothed in trees, vines, draping velvets, and wrought-iron standing mirrors. A scene from a dark fairytale, a teasing fantasy.

It would make a good ending. I could build a story around it, Terren thought, lips curling, eyes fluttering open. And I do need a project for my life as a Wordsmith. 

Throwing off her coverlet, Terren suppressed a shiver, sitting up slowly in her bed; despite her care, a faint wave of dizziness washed over her, but she rode the wave as best she could. Clicking on the nearby lamp, Terren pulled on her booted slippers before stumbling for her writing desk, words already burning bright inside her mind.

Still, she had to hurry—

There were only a few hours before Aura would arrive, signaling the official start of Rush Day.


Hello, dear readers, and welcome to the beginning of Shadows of Past Pages, the first Kieros Chronicle book. If you’d like to know more about the story and where it came from, check out my Introduction To Kieros Chronicle post. I’m very excited for the story, so thank you for reading it. 

Did you like the Prologue? The first official chapter goes up in 2 weeks, so please check back and enjoy! ありがとうございます! (Thank you!)

I call the doodle above “Terren Has Bedhead”. I’ve been away from drawing (regularly) for a while, so I’ve been trying to get back into it. I also included the Katakana (Japanese) for  Prologue (pororogu orポロローグ) in the drawing (with my iffy handwriting), since I’m trying to use my language-study as often as possible (plus I think it looks cool…but that could just be because I love Japanese, and this story is heavily inspired by anime and manga, not to mention folklore).

I’ll be posting a “normal” photo of Terren in the first chapter, so you can see what she looks like without hair all over the place. I’m also working on a cover for this story, which I hope to finish soon. Please look forward to it! 


Hopefully I don’t actually need to say this (and I won’t say it every time, because that would be redundant), but: this is copyrighted material, so please don’t copy/edit/save/etc. without consent from me. Stealing is rude, guys. Not to mention, you know, illegal. 


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Posted in Kieros Chronicle

An Introduction To Kieros Chronicle

Hello, dear readers, and welcome!

Saturday is fast approaching (as is the middle of this month!), and I will admit I am very excited to be posting the first chapter of Kieros Chronicle Book 1, also known as “Shadows of Past Pages” (cover coming soon!).

But before we get to the actual posting, I wanted to tell you a little bit about this series, and what it means to me…

It’s been over ten years since I sat down and wrote the first chapter of (what was then) Shadows of Past Memories, the title the first book had when it was originally published back in 2013. It was only a few days after my older brother was involved in a very severe motorcycle accident, which almost killed him and left him with plenty of recovering to do, not to mention turned our lives upside-down.

I remember clearly the morning I woke up from a strange dream, the story that would eventually become SOPM in my mind. I was finally in a real bed and not at the hospital, waiting and praying. I had actually managed to sleep a little bit since my brother was out of his initial surgeries. At the time, that dream was my lifeline, because it was a story I could cling to and work on — and for me, stories have always made sense when everything else has not, no matter how strange those stories may be. Writing is my way to understand the world.

So I got to typing. And I kept typing — through those months at the hospital, through the time my brother had therapy, for the year+ that he couldn’t walk properly. And somewhere in typing I realized something: I could be a writer after all.

I’ve shared the story of how I decided to become a writer on my former blog several times (here and here), but I’ll give you the short version: I read a book that inspired me to create a world of my own (Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, if you’re wondering). That’s probably not a unique thing for a writer, but after I finished SOPM I felt, for the first time in a while, like I could be that writer for someone else down the road.

So I kept writing, and I vowed that SOPM would be one of my first books published. And finally, after several years of writing and editing, I released it in 2013 as my second published book (Clara Claus, a bestselling Christmas story, was the first). I was over the moon, and I dedicated the tome to my brother.

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But, like so many things in life, this story did not go as I expected…

I self-published for 7 years before closing up shop, so there’s way too much ground to cover in detail, but basically: I doubted myself. Over and over again.

I released the book in 2013, then I felt that it was missing something, and I did an edit, adding quite a few pages of new content and published a new edition (shown above). Some time later I unpublished the story for various reasons. But I could never seem to let the story go, even when I was advised to do just that.

So I kept writing, over and over again. I hashed out SOPM — giving it different names and somewhat different settings — fourteen times. Meaning, I wrote fourteen drafts of this story, from scratch. I wrote a prequel and posted it on Wattpad. I posted the novel to my website for free reading. I gave away ebooks. But nothing seemed to work, and still I doubted myself.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and in this case, that is very true, because it wasn’t until easier this year that I realized something:

I needed to let it go. 

*Cue bad Frozen karaoke*

But seriously, the time had come. I had been working on this story for so long, pushing it so hard, that I had failed to realize something: I was trying to make it into a “success” — something I could query despite the fact that I had already published it, something that was as good as the stories from my idols — instead of loving the story for what it was.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this story. I love it to pieces. It knows me better than I know myself. This is part of why I simply couldn’t let it go for so long. I even wrote a post a few years ago titled “Story, I’m Not Giving Up On You”. I have a definite belief that no one can love a story more than the creator, no matter how great fans are or how invested they are in a world.

But still, I felt something in my soul telling me to step back, to let it go; God was being insistent. It sounded crazy, and I didn’t want to do it. This was in March, after I attended a webinar on querying. And it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I decided to listen…and I started working on another story–

The story I am currently working on, which I will hopefully query next year. We will call it RM. It’s a never-before-published work, and I am very proud of it. I’m sure it would have been years before I finished it if I hadn’t set what is now Kieros Chronicle aside.

But here’s the thing: if I hadn’t done all those rewrites for Kieros — thousands upon thousands of words, because I am many things but brief is not one of them — then I never would have been prepared to write RM, not just when it comes to prose, but in every aspect: plot, character development, theme, not to mention the writing of challenging topics.

If I had given up on Kieros, then I wouldn’t have had the tools necessary to write RM, or the confidence that, even though it’s not one draft and done, I can do this. I can write as much as I need to to find the story lurking underneath — not just a shadow of it, but the real, whole thing.

I say all this to say: I am really grateful for Kieros. And no, I am not ready to give up on it.

Back in March, I thought I would set it aside for good, but my wise friend, whom I call Neko (“cat” in Japanese), looked at me knowingly and said: “Never say never.”

She knows me too well. And, it turns out, so does God (no surprise there).

Because one day, as I was thinking about where I wanted to go writing-wise, it occurred to me that I had never really gotten past book one of Foxfire Chronicles (Kieros — whatever). I had started book two way back when, after publishing SOPM originally, but I hadn’t finished it because I was caught in doubting myself. And then I realized another thing: there was a reason for this.

I’m sure I’ll rant about this some other time, but to summarize: learning to be a good writer takes time and ridiculous amounts of effort. If you’re not up for that, then you need to quit pursuing publishing (not to be mean, just to be realistic…although if you never intend to publish, that’s another story entirely, and write on). The slogan in the publishing industry is: “Hurry up and wait.”

Writing is not an easy job, my lovelies. I’ve been writing novels for over fifteen years, and I still learn new things every day — after publishing for years. I do believe you can become a Writing Master, but I don’t believe you can ever stop learning new things about writing.

So here’s the truth: my younger self was not capable of finishing the series, or writing what needed to be written. The ideas were there, but the tools and the experience were not, because I simply hadn’t learned enough yet. And I don’t claim to be the best writer there ever was, but I feel I’ve learned enough to at least be capable now.

And so a few months ago, God gave my story back to me and said: “Here, Alexandra. Go right ahead.” 

That’s when I decided to start this blog, something I’d been thinking about for a while. And while RM is currently my priority, as it’s always been my dream to be traditionally published — and I just know this is the story — I also would genuinely like to finish Kieros in my own way, on my own time.

So I decided to include it in this blog, to release one chapter at a time and write more. The first book is nearly complete, but I feel posting will spur me onwards to finish the series. It will take a while, of course, but I’m excited about it. I plan to post a chapter every two weeks.

I’d be most grateful if you’d join me on the journey.

And to all those writers out there: don’t be in such a rush to be great. There’s something to be said for hard work and time. Our society makes it seem like greatness is built overnight, but I think the real success is in continuing forward when your dreams seem like they’re taking forever to manifest. It’s not enough to be a bestseller, or a published author, or to have films and fame…because at the end of the day when it’s just you and your story, you have to be able to be content with finding your own answers.

The first chapter of Kieros Chronicle: Shadows of Past Pages will be published here Saturday, October 13th, 2018! See you then.

Best Wishes,

Alexandra ~


What have you learned about writing from your passion project? Is there a time when you had to set a story aside, and did it return to you? What did you learn from the experience? 


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Thank you very much! ありがとうございます! 

Posted in Challenges

3 Tips For InkTober (Late…)

(I realize October has already started, but I recently switched from another blogging site, so please forgive me…)

Hello, dear readers, and welcome!

It’s October, so are you ready to get your ink on for InkTober?

…what is InkTober?

InkTober is a month-long challenge (much like National Novel Writing Month, which I’ll be diving into in a few weeks). During InkTober, participants create a new ink drawing per day, and share it (either online, or not). It’s that simple. You can find out more at the official website.

I’ve done InkTober for…honestly, I don’t remember how many years. At least a few. So I thought I would share some tips. When it comes to art, it’s different for everyone (like anything), but I can tell you what works for me, at least.

(For anyone interested, in a few weeks I’ll be sharing some NaNoWriMo tips, too. Please look forward to it!)


Tip #1: Set A Realistic Goal

Any challenge comes with its own challenges (no, I’m not trying to be funny), but for me one of the biggest hurdles to cross with any challenge is to not expect too much of myself.

Now, I don’t mean that in a lazy way. Challenges exist to, well, challenge us. But if you’re like me you’re a perfectionist, and if you set the bar too high you’ll either 1) hate yourself when you can’t reach the bar, because you’re human and need things like breaks, food, and sleep; or 2) you’ll kill yourself reaching the bar, and will be out of commission for the next month (which happens to be NaNo, so that’s not an option).

So, do yourself a favor: set a realistic goal. If a drawing per day seems like too much for your schedule (I’ll be honest, I’ve never managed it), then try a drawing per week, or every other day, or three per week. Whatever works for you.

I am working on a manga, so I hope to get at least three pages of it done this InkTober, with some other drawings on the side. I’m not sure my schedule will allow for much more, but I’ll try. I’ll be posting (non-manga) drawings here.

Challenge yourself…but don’t cut off your own feet, okay?


Tip #2: Decide On A Theme

So, you’re going to do InkTober? Great!

Now…what are you going to draw?

You can use this handy prompt list that I filched from the InkTober website to give you some ideas (though I never do), but it’s also good to go in with a plan. (Also, on a note, they have this list in Japanese! I’m not talented enough to read it yet, but seeing it made me happy.)

To come up with a plan, think of what you would most like to draw, and try to be specific. Superheroes? Great. Is there a certain team you’re wanting to ink, like the X-Men or Avengers or Justice League? Want to draw some flowers? Cool. How about you pick a certain color, or flowers that only bloom in the Winter (do those exist?).

Going in with specifics will help you keep yourself on track and drawing, because you’ll spend less time wondering what you want to draw. Of course, if you do pick a broader topic, like say Jurassic Park (as opposed to simply Velociraptors), you’ll have plenty to choose from.

I use InkTober to draw my own characters, with a few of my favorites from other media on off days. This year I’ll be focusing on Kieros Chronicle, which you’ll see the first chapter of…Saturday!

Knowing what you want to work on and work with ahead of time makes things just a little easier. Create your own prompt list!


Tip #3: Have Your Supplies Ready

This one might seem obvious, but hear me out.

Make sure you have your supplies on hand so you don’t have to take a trip to the store in the middle of a drawing. There is a list of recommended supplies on the InkTober site, but I’ll share a few of my personal favorites.

Pencils: 

Note: You don’t have to sketch out your work in pencil first, but I do, just for sanity’s sake…and because I like to see how it transforms after inking.

– Plain, cheap pencils you have to sharpen, with cute prints on them. (They actually work well, though sharpening isn’t for everyone. And I like having cute designs on my pencils, like superheroes or leaves or Halloween prints. Good places to look are the Dollar Store, Target, and the bookstore.)

– Bic’s “sparkle” mechanical pencils. (Another inexpensive option, these come in packs and are very easy to find. You can buy them pretty much anywhere. My favorite are the purple ones.)

– Zebra stainless steel mechanical pencils. (These are a bit more expensive, but they’re super light and are refillable. Also fairly easy to find.)

– I also like the Sakura mechanical pencils that come in their “Manga” micron pen set, and Faber-Castelle’s traditional sharpen pencils.

Ink Pens: 

Personally, I prefer Sakura’s micron pens over Copic’s multiliner. I have both, but Sakura is my favorite by far. They’re both good products, though, so either will work just fine.

That being said, you can use pretty much any pen you want, even a normal ballpoint pen. I like the Sakura/Copic because they’re archival quality, but if that doesn’t matter to you, don’t worry about it.

When it comes to colored ink pens, I am a fan of Faber-Castelle over Copic, though both, again, are good. Copic can be pretty pricey, though, and if you’re not used to blending, it may be too big a price to practice on. I personally don’t like the Prismacolor pens because they smell awful (why I also don’t care for Sharpie). I do recommend buying a blend pen for whatever colored pens you choose, though.

If you’re looking for white ink, I recommend Sakura’s gellyroll gel pens, which cover black ink fairly well.

Paper:

I am a personal fan of Canson paper, either the “sketching” paper (which holds up surprisingly well with ink pens), or their comic/manga paper. I sometimes use their mixed media, but it isn’t my favorite for ink.

Pretty much any paper that is closer to 60+lbs is pretty good, I think. But I tend to go pretty heavy on the ink, and I love to do washes, so having heavier paper on hand is good.

 

My other, biggest bit of advice for materials: pick something new to try.

And this is why I say do it now, before InkTober starts. Take your time to look around, and find something new that you want to experiment working with. Trying new things is part of the challenge!

This year, I am trying out Winsor&Newton’s drawing ink. Typically, I don’t do as much color, but I wanted to try using color more, and I like ink wash much better than using ink pens like Copic. Plus, I’m working on a cover for Kieros Chronicle, and I think color would really make it pop. I’ll let you know what I think!

I hope these tips have helped, and that you have a great time doing InkTober! I’ll be posting my work here to the blog, and on my Pinterest. Happy inking!


Do you have any tips for InkTober? Share them below! 


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Posted in Uncategorized

Hello, World!

Before I get this blog fully underway, I want to share a little bit about myself and why I’m here. You can read further about me on the — gasp!About Me page, but here’s a little introduction…

Hi, my name is Alexandra, and I am a writer.

That is the short version.

But longer version is: hello, my name is Alexandra, and I am a writer and so, so many other things. I am an artist. I love reading. I am a student of Japanese. I love anime and manga and a good film. I suffer from chronic migraines. I like helping people, though people can easily get on my nerves.

I love Fantasy novels and shows and films and comics, etc. I love to take walks. I love to stare at the sky. I love a good cartoon. I love Disney. And I certainly don’t plan on “growing up” anytime soon (growing older, sure…growing responsible, sure…but not growing up and forgetting, thank you).

(In case you’re wondering, I am also a major fan of Peter Pan.)

Seven years ago I begun self-publishing, and I closed up shop in early 2018 — after bestsellers, a few full series, and years of work. Right now I’m transitioning and working towards my ultimate goal of being traditionally published (and then some). But in the meantime…

I started this blog as a way for me to share my thoughts, and as a challenge for me to finish my Fantasy novel series, Kieros Chronicle — an updated version of a previously published series — which I will be posting here while I work on other projects for traditional publishing. (The first chapter is live October 13th!)

Here I’ll be writing about my writing journey, sharing artwork and chapters, and writing about language learning (やった! ((Yay!)).

I’d love if if you’d come on this journey with me.

Thank you so much for reading.

Alexandra~