Posts tagged “writing

Work-in-Progress Teaser: BETWEEN THE DEMON AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA

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My inspiration for Khalid – my novel’s anti-hero

I am very proud of my current progress on writing Between the Demon and the Deep Blue Sea and I’m grateful for the support of my critique partners and friends, who have had a chance to read some of it. Although, I haven’t begun revising the novel – I’m currently still in the drafting phase (and even that is more of a skeleton draft) – I am excited to share a teaser from the opening chapter.

The winter chill bit into her skin, but Shay valiantly ignored the discomfort as she navigated her way through shadows and moonlight. The heels of her borrowed six-inch stilettos clicked on the pavement. There were no security cameras in the empty parking lot. The lighting dim. And the only other residents nearby were two rooms down, with the curtains drawn.

The Casablanca Motel, located in the part of Vancouver that would never make it into travel brochures, made the perfect hiding spot. Officially, it was a roadside retreat for the desperate, weary traveler. Unofficially, the motel offered its clients services of the check in, make out, and check out variety. The oh-so-romantic decor included an overflowing green garbage bin. Nearby, a rat enjoyed the seedy ambience as it nibbled delicately on a fuzzy, half-eaten slice of pepperoni pizza from Peppito’s Pizzeria…or so the cardboard container claimed. She was sure that Peppito — whoever he was — would love to know that his clientele had expanded to the four-legged variety.

Deciding that it was better to give the rodent and his dinner some privacy, Shay focused on room 409. Her target was in that room. According to the file that she had received from River Cameron, her best friend and boss, the werewolf she was tracking currently went by the name of Ambrose Bellwood. The very active Mr. Bellwood was accused of identity fraud, grand theft auto, money laundering, drug trafficking…and the list went on. Apparently, if one lived as long as werewolves did, you could really diversify your personal portfolio. But it wasn’t until recently, when Bellwood added murder to his repertoire during his escape from police custody, that someone in charge decided enough was enough and the city’s enforcers had been called to deal with the problem. It wasn’t unusual. The Enforcers Academy had more manpower and better resources to deal nonhuman threats, but working for the police meant that they were basically doing this for free. But as River claimed, occasional charity work was good publicity for the Academy.

As an enforcer, Shay had been tasked with the job of hauling Bellwood’s ass back to jail for a much needed time out — okay, so the official job description may have varied a bit in phrasing, but the sentiment was the same.

It was too bad the order hadn’t said dead or alive. A kill order would have saved Shay at least twenty-four hours of surveillance time, not to mention she could have avoided having to squish her feet into heels that were a size too small. The back of her ankles stung with every step. Shay was going to have an angry set of blisters by the time this job was over. Unfortunately, her orders were to bring in Bellwood alive because her contact in the RCMP wanted him to roll over and tattle on his accomplices. That, of course, meant finding a way to get close to him.

It had been River’s idea that the easiest way to get close to him was to play on his weakness for scantily dressed females….hence, the blink-and-it-might-disappear dress and medieval torture devices on her feet.

Shay bent one leg to massage her ankle before continuing the rest of the way to Bellwood’s room. When she was less than a foot away from the door, she paused. Like the rest of the motel, the door needed to be doused in bleach. It was marked with fingerprints and a rainbow of stains. Shay curled her nose at the thought of having to touch her knuckles to the incognito petri dish, but steeled herself to knock.

River needs to give me a raise.

She pulled her hand away from the door after knocking thrice. Absently, she rubbed the back of her dirtied appendage on the ridiculously expensive scrap of cloth she was wearing. The red silk rasped against her skin.

Shay barely managed to get the look of disgust off her face before the door swung open. Bellwood stood on the other side, wearing an unbuttoned white dress shirt and black pants. Both looked expensive.

Well, well, well, I guess crime pays after all.

Shay is such an easy character to write. Her voice comes naturally, but other characters – Khalid, and even River, who both make appearances later – are a bit harder to write. The story is written in third person, but I’m playing it safe and writing most of the novel from Shay’s focal point. I have drafted a chapter – just one – from Khalid’s perspective and it was a difficult transition because I still don’t know him very well as a character.

Which brings me to the question – how well do you actually need to know your characters before you start writing a story? 

I never know my characters until I start putting words to paper, but they begin to flesh out as the plot develops. Of course, this may or may not be the best method for writing.

Hope you enjoyed the teaser,

Rika Ashton (aka The Tentative Writer)


In The Land of Olympians

greek-chill-apollo-3

Not exactly what Apollo looks like in my novel, but it was such a cool pick I had to share. Photo credit goes to whoever is responsible for creating the picture.

I’ve started writing again (after a bit of a hiatus), and I’m beginning to get back to my usual schedule!!! Not going to lie though, it’s been hard and gruelling and I was very tempted to give up on Dagger of the Sun but after having put so much time into it the previous year, I wasn’t ready to let go just yet. Instead, I dove back into the land of the Olympians and it started undergoing some rewrites (apparently, I was a very, very bad writer a year ago and threw similes and metaphors into every chapter like I was a rapper with unlimited atm access.)

I don’t have anything to share yet excerpt wise, but I’me hoping for something juicy by the end of the week – so keep your fingers crossed.

But I can share that I’ve written almost 25, 000 words and have nearly edited all the kinks in the first few chapters that were making it difficult for the story to move forward. I spent most of July and June editing the previous chapters and looking through the infinite versions of chapter four (there are at least 5 very long, very different versions of this chapter) and deciding what parts I wanted to keep from each and trying to consolidate them into one legible chapter.

I will keep you guys posted with more updates soon and thank you to everyone that has stuck by me on the long journey that is DotS. There will be a notable lack of reviews for a while as I’m trying to focus on my writing, but I will eventually have to take a break for some reading and reviewing so I don’t crash and burn.

But for now, that’s all!

Thanks,

Rika Ashton (aka Woman Currently in Writer Mode)


Weekend Wrap Up 1.0

It’s been a HECTIC weekend at the Ashton residence! Hospital visits, end of the year exam panics, and work dramas were just some of the highlights – although I’d have to say that hospital panic was probably the biggest, most unpleasant surprise.

Middle Bro had an appendectomy on Thursday and had an overnight stay. Of course, the crazy fool – I can say that now because it’s been two days and he’s better – actually liked the hospital food and got mildly high on the oxy. (Okay, I kid – and he probably needed the pain killers after the surgery…probably.) Plus, the other crazy fool – this one being my sister (aka Sole Sista – sole because she’s the only one I’ve got) – also likes hospital food so middle bro and her had a roarin’ time.

All this, of course, happened the day after me and Little Bro ditched Middle Bro to go and watch X-Men: Days of the Future Past. But while I was adequately guilt ridden over the whole thing and the soundtrack to Adventure Club’s “Wonder” (feat. The Kite String Tangle) kept playing in my head, Little Bro’s conscience is apparently missing because maintained his normal levels of jerkosity. (Of course, he and Middle Bro could have some dude’s understanding that their sisters are not privy to.)

Then, of course, there are the end of the year exam panics and both Middle Bro and Little Bro are doomed to failure unless I, with my never ending fount of wisdom, aid them in there time of need. (Yeah, basically I’ve been conscripted by my mother to make sure they pass and don’t disgrace the family name – but, since there are limits to the miracles I can perform, I’ll just try and help them pass.)

Of course, exam drama at home means exam drama at work because I am both a teacher and tutor, so all my panicked students are lining up at the gates hoping for a last minute miracle.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

Then, again, with the BC Teacher’s Strike going on it might.

But with all that went on last week, my writing schedule was also kicked a week over…le sigh…but it’s back to the grind Tuesday night. I’m hoping to post some teasers from Dagger of the Sun soon. There’s been little progress on the page yet, since both Chaos and I are squabbling over the format, colour, and aesthetics.

On the other hand, I have been making some headway into all the ARCs I’ve been given, so more reviews are definitely on the way.

I hope your weekend was more relaxing than mine!

Rika Ashton

(aka The Frazzled)


Site Updates: The Chaos Edition

Rika’s in the hermit cave, as of two hours ago, and she’s asked me to post a quick update about what’s happening on the blog. So, in order to keep this real short, here are the highlights:

1. As of a few days ago, we are no longer accepting review requests. (We had fifteen in the past week alone, which when added to the ARCs Rika already had means we have well over twenty books to read and review in the next few weeks alone. We’ll be posting the reviews for some books on this blog and other will go to Romance Reader at Heart: Novel Thoughts and Book Talk – and will later be reblogged here. So stay tuned for those!) We will be open for requests at a later date, but let Rika finish with these books first.

2. Also as of a few days ago, I am trying to talk Rika into recruiting some new reviewers for the blog, so we’ll see how that goes. (Control freak that she is, this is actually going to be a tough negotiation.)

3. Rika has assured me that she will have a few more short teasers and excerpts from Dagger of the Sun (DOTS) to post soon. So that’s more Kael, Delphyne and Apollo for y’all!

4. We will also be launching the new DOTS page sometime in May/June – more about that later.

5. Rika is also working on the final draft of the DOTS Underworld map, and we will share a picture of this on the new page.

6. Finally, Rika is once again working 3 jobs, so production on the blogging front will slow down a little, but she’s asked me to pick up the slack – and so I shall.

And that’s all for the site updates for now, more to come later when we’ve made some significant headway into our to-do list.

Chaos Ashton 🙂

(aka The Sometimes Blogger)

P.S: For more amazing cat art and an article exposing some shocking truths by Adam Ellis, go here.


Connecting the DOTS

As most of you might already know DOTS (aka Dagger of the Sun) is undergoing some changes. The more time I spend in my fictionalized version of Ancient Greece, the more the world expands – in particular, the Underworld. The Underworld in DOTS is actually a world within a world, and in my version it existed long before Hades claimed it for the dead. And unlike the surface world of mortal Greece, which with the exception of supernatural elements, is mostly true to history – the Underworld is almost 99% a fictionalized landscape. I’m having loads of fun naming places and coming up with groups of people who inhabit the different landscapes of the Underworld.

Best of all, I actually get to stretch my creative muscles a bit and create a map of the Underworld. I actually get to draw! (Or at least I like to call all the chicken scratch I’m throwing on paper “drawing.”)

Of course, not all of the terrain with be revealed in the first book, so I don’t get to draw a complete map…otherwise that would be some major spoilage for book two, but what I do get to include is very detailed.

But I have to say: PLEASE, DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH from this map – I am NOT an artist and therefore, it’s going to be a very amateurish attempt at drawing a map.

However, despite the fact that it will be a very embarrassing attempt, I will still swallow my pride and share on the blog.

And for those of you still not deterred and unafraid of having your eyes bleed, I do have a very bad rough draft.

To make up for my bad mapping skills, I’ll share a teaser from DOTS. This is a scene that happens way later in the novel, and features Bae and Kael. The gentlemen are discussing Bae’s rigorous training schedule for Delphyne.

Ben Hill, my inspiration for Bae.

“Do you think I’m being too hard on her?” Bae asked.

Kael thought about the still-healing cut that he had seen running down the length of Delphyne’s right arm. The fabric of the bandage she’d hastily wrapped around the wound had been soaked through. He had been ready to drive his fist though Bae’s face last night, but had been halted by the words Delphyne had whispered to him in the flickering candlelight of their bedchamber.

“I’m still alive, aren’t I?” She had shrugged, not without flinching. “And as incredible as this may seem at the moment, I do plan to stay that way.”

“I think it’s good for her,” Bae continued, dunking his hands into a basin full of water. He splashed a handful of the water on his face, using the clear liquid to rub away the dirt and sweat of the day’s training session. “But I figured if you’re itching to slit my throat, you might as well get it over with so we can both move on.”

A river of fire. That’s how Delphyne’s wound had looked the night before. A vermilion streak over sun-kissed skin. This morning it had been the finest white line. It was healing. Fast.

So much faster than before.

“No,” said Kael. “I don’t want to slit your throat for hurting my wife.”

Bae looked at him in surprise. 

“I want you to keep training her…until she’s strong enough to slit your throat on her own.”

And there you have it! I had to cut out some parts from the scene – because some things that Kael says are spoilers – but I felt relatively safe uploading this.

Hopefully you enjoyed the little snippet, and now I have to get back to writing! 😀

Rika Ashton

(aka The Mapmaker)


The Taxman Cometh

Found this amazing blog post by Nephele Tempest, agent extraordinaire, just in time for tax season. Even though I’m not even close to being a “seasoned pro,” this is helpful when thinking about the business side of writing – because whether we like to think about it or not, writing has to be more than just a passion if you want to be successful…it also has to be work.

Writing and Rambling

We’re counting down to tax day — April 15th here in the U.S. — which means some folks are scrambling to find their receipts and their statements and all of their various forms to take off to their accountants, while others are playing with tax software or reading through the intimidating tax brochures meant to walk you through filling out the forms yourself.

Writers and taxes have a contentious relationship at best. Writers understand that several aspects of their chosen careers are the very things that raise red flags with the IRS, such as taking a deduction for a home office space, research trips, and other costs of doing business. But that’s no reason to panic.

Whether you’re a new writer who has yet to make any money or a seasoned pro, it’s important to be diligent in your record keeping throughout the year, and to consult with a tax…

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A Special ‘Thank You’ and a Teaser

I’m going to try and keep this post short…mostly because I have to get back to writing, but I thought it might be time for a new teaser from Dagger of the Sun. (And this one will be slightly longer than one line, I promise!)

But first I need to give a special shout out to my critique partners, June Hur and Priscilla Shay, for keeping me motivated through the new draft. I have really high expectations for this novel, but sometimes they don’t always translate well on paper. Yet the advice these ladies have given me makes me want to keep writing…even when I feel like tearing my hair out because none of my characters will do what I want.

It seems silly to say this, because aren’t they just characters? But I dare you to write a novel featuring both Apollo (aka Arrogant Sun God) and Delphyne (aka Madame Huntress Extraordinaire) and see how far you get before you want to throw your computer out the window.

The most surprising part is that Kael, my anti-hero, is the only one doing what he’s told…I think he just really wants me to get this novel published so he can share his magnificence with the world. 😉

And he’s not the only one. I also want to get this novel out there as soon as possible so that I can start on the next one. I even have a title: Throne of the Sun…and yes, the acronym is TOTS because I am awesome. But the acronym for the third novel won’t be as fun – Empire of the Sun…EOTS just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Of course, these are just working titles and might change, but for now I like them and I want to get on with these stories…

But I just remember my promise to keep this post short, so no more ranting today.

If anyone has actually read this far, it’s only because they finally want me to get to the teaser, so here it is:

“Isadora talks to me,” Asclepius had said a moment later, mentioning the Spartan war widow who owned

The late Andy Whitfield, my inspiration for Asclepius.

The late Andy Whitfield, my inspiration for Asclepius.

one of the farms near their home.

“Isadora also talks to her plants.”

But he’d shrugged. “She said it helps them grow.”

Delphyne had slanted her head and narrowed her gaze at him. Then she’d smiled and said, “You like her.”

Although he had reminded himself that grown men didn’t blush, he’d felt heat creeping into his cheeks. “No, I don’t,” he remembered saying.

Delphyne had given him that look – the one with a slow smile and narrow-eyed determination. It was the look she got whenever her mind was running through a series of schemes that were likely to spell trouble for him. He had been intimately acquainted with that look since Delphyne had been ten summers old and had begun smiling again. 

The above teaser, completely unedited, is from chapter four in DOTS…the one chapter that was giving me the most trouble, but I’m done with the new draft and I’ll be sending the chapter to my critique partners soon.

Rika Ashton

(aka The Very Grateful)


A Lesson in Ancient Greek Beauty

Ancient Greek Beauty

So I was writing the new chapters for Dagger of the Sun (DOTS) and it got me thinking about armpit hair.

Yeah, I know…

Gross! 

But it got me thinking about how people in ancient times may have gotten rid of unwanted hair – I know laser treatments weren’t available yet. (No matter what Lynsay Sands would have me believe in her Argeneau series! There is no such thing as an evolved Atlantean civilization in DOTS, so I couldn’t just open up an Ideal Image laser salon on a random Greek street corner.)

So I did what any good scholar would do? I Googled it.

And I found an interesting article about the history of hair removal the NoNo website of all places. But I figured if anyone was going to know there stuff, it would be the experts. Here’s a snippet of what I found:

Ancient Egyptians removed unwanted hair with flint or bronze razors – they even invented a technique similar to waxing called sugaring, which used a sticky paste and a piece of cloth to yank the hair out at the root! Hair removal was very important to the Ancient Egyptians for cultural or perhaps even religious reasons. In Ancient Egypt, both men and women shaved their heads and wore wigs instead of their natural hair. They took it so seriously so long ago, that some Egyptian bronze and flint razors have been dated to over 3000 years ago, and sugaring is thought to date back as far as 3000-4000 BC!

Around that time people also developed the first depilatory creams, which chemically dissolve the hair above the skin. Other depilatories that date from that time dissolved hair above the skin as they still do today, but without the chemical and anatomical knowledge we have. This meant that early depilatories (5000-7000 years ago) were very irritating to the skin, and were probably quite painful. Simpler depilatories included quicklime, arsenic, and starch and more complex versions later on included resin, pitch, animal fats, and even bat’s blood!

In Ancient Greece, it was simply barbaric to have body hair, and people took great pains to remove any hair that would show them to be anything less than civilized. Any beards or unshaven areas besides the head would indicate that you were a lower class or even a slave – an appearance that was avoided if at all possible.

The information was surprisingly useful when it came to crafting my characters – I was also surprised to learn that I wouldn’t really have to change anything about their appearance. (I must have been channeling some Ancient Greek being when I wrote the character descriptions.)

After I found information on that, I started thing about teeth – because, really, what else what there to think about? And, once again, I turned to the Google gods for help. As generous as ever, they answered my prayers and I found a neat article about Ancient Greek oral hygiene:

How do we clean the teeth?  The simplest answer is with the finger.  Either the finger was wrapped with a cotton cloth, and then rubbed over the teeth to clean them, or the finger was dipped in some powdered substance with special properties to clean the teeth.  These tooth powders were the forerunners of our modern toothpaste.  

Or, the branch of a tree whose fragrant essential oils have antiseptic and other therapeutic properties for the teeth and gums could be chewed.  The chewed end would then come to resemble a brush of sorts, whose loose, frayed fibers could be brushed over the teeth to clean them.  

One tree native to Greece and much used by the ancient Greeks that fits these requirements rather nicely is the Laurel (Laurus nobilis), which the Greeks call Daphne.  Its essential oils are antiseptic, and also stimulate blood circulation to the gums, promoting their health and regeneration.  After chewing on the branch, or the leaves, your mouth is cleaned, and left with a fresh, clean scent.

Sometimes fresh, fragrant green herbs were chewed after a meal to cleanse the teeth and mouth and freshen the breath.  These fresh herbs included those of Fennel, Parsleyand Lovage.  Even today, fresh Parsley is often chewed to remove the odor of Garlic.  The seeds of these and other plants, such as the Cardamom, were also chewed to cleanse the mouth and freshen the breath. 

Finally, I also looked up some beauty tips – because it was something I thought my character Delphyne would appreciate after what I put her through in the first few chapters. I found one article in particular enlightening:

Women would start their routine with a bath, before applying a variety of oils and perfume to their skin. Honey and olive oil were used heavily, on their body, hair and in cosmetics for their moisturizing properties. Ancient Greek women wore their hair long and had a preference for it to be golden. This was achieved by using a vinegar solution that bleached the hair in the sun, or a yellow flower dye. Soap, pomades and wax were also used to give the hair shine. To enhance the texture of the hair, Hellenistic women often curled their hair and held it in place with combs. They used different embellishments and veils also. Gold and semi-precious stones were used as were diadems and flowers. A diadem was an ornamental headband primarily worn by the upper classes and royalty, if adorned with gems and gold. Scents were used in the hair and were made my boiling flowers, herbs and spices and mixed with olive oil. In the classical period, women only cut their hair during periods of mourning. Hair played a role as a social communicator and also emphasized class differentiation, as only slaves wore their hair short. 

The last article refers specifically to female beauty routines, but I’m sure that men had some as well. Unfortunately, those articles are harder to find. 😦

But overall, I found all the articles I extremely helpful, and I hope you get a chance to give them a read through in their entirety. (I’ve linked to all of them in the post.)

Rika Ashton

(aka The Researcher)


Writing Research: Sword Fights

The internet does care! I was researching sword fighting techniques, and unashamedly watching Brad Pitt and Eric Bana duke it out in Troy, when I came across this article. It features some great tips for writers for what to do and what not to do when writing sword fight scenes – especially, if like me, you’ve never actually been in one.

Lithicbee

I enjoy fight scenes in movies, whether it is some gun-fu or a long martial arts battle or an awesome sword fight, which got me to thinking about how well I can pull off writing one of these scenes for a story. I would love to write a really cool sword fight, for instance, but I a) have never held a sword much less fought with one, and b) am not really familiar with sword terminology. Of course, as writers, we make stuff up all the time, but it is nice to at least sound like we know what we are talking about. So I turned to my pal Google for some help on the subject, and here is a round-up of what I found.

Martin Turner of martinturner.org.uk had two interesting posts, the first about the difficulties of writing a sword fight and how other writers have handled them…

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Seeing Stars

Hi all,

I’ve had a busy December with my kindergarteners and, despite the occasional classroom brawls, we all managed to survive till Winter Break. 🙂

I’m excited to get back to my daily routine of sleeping in and writing. (More teasers will be posted soon, especially since my critique partners will be unmerciful and nag me to make up for lost time during the break — I CAN’T wait!)

But till then, have a listen to the new song that saved my sanity. “Counting Stars” by One Republic.

Rika Ashton

(aka “Feels like I won a marathon!”)