A happy place is defined as somewhere a person only has to think about to feel happy and relaxed. Happiness can be found in the rain, on top of a mountain, hiking in the woods, watching a movie with a loved one, sitting in the warm sun in your yard reading a book, or where ever one feels most at home. It can be a physical place, or can be part of your mind maze. Being able to locate that happy place can do wonders to your mental and physical states.
As a writer, inspiration can be found anywhere. For me, my inspiration flourishes when I am sitting near a lake, with sand in my toes, and enjoying the crashing of waves. Birds are singing around me, the wind rustles the leaves, and the sun is beating down on my back.
I've camped at the same lake since I was a baby. I've only missed it twice in my life. I have introduced my husband, my own baby (her first time at the lake was at four months old), and numerous friends. I want to share this little slice of paradise to anyone who is near and dear to me, hopefully, it will also bring happiness to them.
When I found writing, I spent my days on the beach with a notebook in hand, and scribbling down anything that came to mind. The beach is where my stand-alone work-in-progress (Faery Tale) came into fruition and the setting of the Haven occurred. The beach is where scenes throughout The Egyptian Heir popped into my head and when I started to run out of space because I wrote too much on my two-week camping trip, I would write in the margins in my super tiny print. I could disappear for hours in my stories on this beach. When the sun set, I'd drift back into reality as I couldn't even read my own writing in the darkness.
Finding a place that you can just remember and it brings a smile to your face is beyond anything our regular dredge of a life could bring on. Whether you're physically in your happy place, or just have flashes of your favourite spots, it can relax you when things aren't going as planned. Sitting on my little embankment in front of the water and writing, brings on more imagination and a rush of words that I didn't even fathom could be possible. I am more fond of my work after a writing session on the beach; I'm more calm and relaxed near my crashing waves. I'm so glad to have a happy place that encourages me to keep on trudging along.
What is your happy place? Leave a comment.
Names are the essence of who a person or character are. It is their first source of identity and individuality. Bonds and relationships rely on names to solidify the connection people make in everyday life. It is the way in which someone remembers who you are, it gets someone’s attention, and it influences the way we show respect.
At the start of writing, I didn’t consider using interesting or thought-provoking names. I never understood the importance of a name given to a character. Now that I’ve written many stories, I’ve learned that the name is going to be attached to emotional baggage and can draw anger, sadness, or happiness when I read or hear it. It wasn’t until I wrote more of my fantasy books (hopefully, I’ll be able to share those in the future), that I delved into names and why they shouldn’t be chosen willy-nilly, but have a true meaning (whether for the character, or the author).
To create unique and meaningful names, I had to find a way to grasp something from thin air, and build it together. I’ve looked a little into linguistics, focusing on names and language development, but when it boils down to it, names have to be appeasing to the eye but still be easy to read and say.
I eventually found a way that gets me something different every time and it’s fun! I used to ask friends and family to assist, but it wasn’t random enough. So, now, how I make names is I determine the length I’m wanting (this is probably a mood thing, over anything else), find a number randomizer (put at 26 [I’m an English speaker]), and basically hit submit until I get the number of letters I want. Once I have my letters, I play scrabble until something rolls off the tongue.
I have to be able to say the name aloud without struggling with pronunciation. I’ve read books that it’s difficult to tell how the author wanted names to be said. There shouldn’t be confusion like that. Readability is the most important when writing. I get some neat names!
My favourite name through this process is, Jardimec, from my work-in-progress Faery Tale. It just rolls off the tongue, and it’s fun to yell or softly whisper.
What I have to remember, as a writer, is a name doesn’t need to be unique to be fascinating. Sometimes, just the story on how the name came to be is the most interesting part. Such as, when I started writing The Egyptian Heir, I was actually walking and doing my paper route (again, 13-years-old at that point). I walked by a fountain. For some reason, that fountain resonated with me. I used to speed swim and am a fish in the water. I reached out, touched it, and the Waters were created. Many characters’ names have changed during the many years from the start of my journey into writing, but the Waters’ family name has never changed.
Never forget that a name holds power!
We live in a day-and-age that technology is the go-to for convenience. Writing has evolved into something that you do in front of a screen at a desk or relaxing on a comfy couch (or bed, which is what I tend to do on a regular basis). Whatever happened to placing a pen on a piece of paper and feeling each letter coming into fruition?
Even in this digital age, I am drawn to a notebook. Is it because I can review my mistakes? Once a computer saves the latest changes, those are gone forever (I’m not a techie by any means, so I may not know the tricks). I'm someone who likes to look back, review what was originally written, and scribble out or add the right words.
Or, maybe, it's the feeling of crinkling paper as you turn the page? Maybe it's the way my pen glides across the lines, and each letter combines with the next to create a mystical world from my imagination. As a notebook writer, yes, I have a favourite pen that I feel lost without while writing.
Computers are cold and emotionless. It's so hard to write a heart wrenching scene in front of a computer. Your eyes hurt, and your characters are no longer people gallivanting around this mystical world of wonder, but they suddenly become stagnant clicks of the keyboard that carries no life in their world. I tend to struggle when giving descriptions over a computer and have to write it in a notebook just to retrieve the words I’m looking for.
Don’t get me wrong, computers are awesome space savers! The mountains of notebooks I've accumulated over the years have begun to clutter my closet in my office. Computers also make editing easier! As someone who struggles with grammar, spell check is a God Send!
I can admit that I tend to write more on a computer nowadays, because it's so easily loaded up and I have all my reference points available. If I'm experiencing writer's block, I can jump from story to story. Every writer has at least two stories on the go. Since starting to write, I probably have nine that I juggle through with ideas and will eventually complete them.
The reliance on a battery can be annoying, especially when for the life of you, the charger is no where to be found. There’s always the worry that your computer may crash. The devastation of losing over a hundred written pages is insurmountable. The trust for a computer to maintain all your life’s work without losing everything is terrifying. At least with a notebook, it takes a fire or water to destroy that.
When it's hard to focus on something, the one thing that always provides clarity is removing myself from technology and just writing without a thought of grammar, story continuity, or flow. Just write unjudgementally. That is the purest form of writing.
The big debate, computer versus notebook?
My vote is for the simplicity of a notebook! I prefer carrying around a notebook and scribbling any ideas that pop into my head.
Which do you prefer?
The boy swivelled towards her with his long legs that easily reached the floor where Cassy’s toes barely touched without stretching. He leaned in close, giving Cassy a cruel expression.
“What’s your name, new girl?”
Cassy tilted backwards in avoidance to being too close.
A menacing frown helped show his true colours. “Excuse me? I asked you a question."
Cassy's and Zack's first interaction is important. It may seem petty for Cassy to withhold her name. It's only a name, right? Why stir up trouble?
Cassy is the personification of courage. She's set her boundaries and maintained them so no one oversteps them. As a woman, I've allowed myself the discomfort of not expressing my boundaries by giving a man my phone number (whether it was fake or not), just to get them out of my hair. I've avoided speaking my mind in fear of sounding harsh or rude. I have always been mild mannered. Even as an adult, it's hard to allow myself to not feel guilty about telling someone no or I'm not comfortable with something.
I've tolerated a bully because I couldn't stand up for myself. I believed, and was told, that it would eventually end when they got bored. Yet, the only time it ended is when I stood up for myself. I never condone violence, but unfortunately, it took me punching my bully before he backed down. I should have never let it get to a point that I needed to risk my own well being. If I had stood up for myself, and set my boundaries, it would've ended so much sooner.
I've learned through the years, that yes, things do get better, BUT, why should I tolerate it? It doesn't make me happy, and I'm not comfortable. Why does a teenage girl have to tough it out when a person says something inappropriate to her? Why should a teenager have to live in fear for four years because a bully has set their sight on them. Yes, eventually it ends when high school ends, but they shouldn't have to take it.
Writing became a way for me to express feelings, doubts, and experiences. I wrote Cassy as the opposite of me. Cassy understands her boundaries and does not step down when placed in a difficult position. Zack assumes he's entitled to have her name, as though it's a sign of power when he hasn't given her his.
Cassy's world is falling apart, she's lost both parents, moved to a new city, and is dealing with her dysfunctional family. The last thing she will tolerate is a troublesome bully, who thinks he owns the world.
It was important for me that Cassy's character was head strong. She speaks her mind (which gets her into trouble). Even if she wavers throughout The Egyptian Heir with who she is and what she can handle, she tries to hold true to herself.
It is important that no one feels like they are forced to do something they don't want. Whether female, male, LGBTQ+; a child, a teenager, or an adult, know that you have the power over your own boundaries. Never feel obligated to demean yourself for an entitled person.
Everyone has those books that have captured their attention. You were swept up to a point that you forgot you were reading. For many years of my early life, I would only touch a book if it was required for school. It was so difficult to force myself to sit down and read. WELL, that all changed when I found these books. I became engrossed in them, and it encouraged me to continue the reading journey, and they led me down the path to writing.
The Tunnels of Time by Mary Bishop
This was the first book I remember reading through. At this time, I lived in Moose Jaw, SK. I couldn't escape from this book as I could see the references of places and the history of my city. Absolutely amazing! I followed suit when I started to write, and the Egyptian Heir was originally based in Moose Jaw, SK. I changed it around 2014, when it didn't make sense to have a secret agency based out of a smaller city, and less centralized.
I met Mary Bishop in Grade 8, when she visited my class. At that time, I had just started writing, and was too shy to talk to her. However, meeting a local author was quite inspiring and I listened to every word!
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
This was the first multi-book series that I read. I learned a lot about unique writing styles from this book. The writing was clever, and never took itself too seriously. It's something every writer or reader should learn; have fun with the story!
I don't think I'd ever be able to write myself in as a character, but definitely, every character holds some truth to reality, whether its personality (behaviour), or an experience. Every author will insert themselves into the story in some shape or form (it may be quite abstract!).
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K Rowling
The thin man stepped out of the cauldron, staring at Harry....
Lord Voldemort had risen again.
This book was the first young adult book that touched on many dark aspects. This section always gave me chills. I would give up a lot to be able to re-read this book for the first time again. I may be cliched to say that Harry Potter introduced me to the fantastical world of magic, but it's true! As it did for so many! It revolutionized the fantasy world.
Though The Egyptian Heir is more adventure, than fantasy, I have written other stories that broach the world of magic! (Can't wait to share those stories eventually!)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K Rowling
You can't have a list of books without a couple Harry Potters in it. I read the Harry Potters out of order. I began with Goblet of Fire, realized that there were prequels to it, and then read Prisoner of Azkaban because at the time, I couldn't find Philosopher's (Sorcerer's [now own both, because, why not?]) Stone and Chamber of Secrets.
This one got me into Ancient Greek, Egypt, and Roman lore. I also became enthralled in Medieval British, German, French history. All of the minute details within this book are so fascinating and well researched. Small, detailed Easter eggs keep the reader entertained for hours. I love dropping small details in that readers will miss, usually, on the first read.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
This one is controversial (such as it is with every book) as people will either LOVE it or HATE it! Though the plot follows the same plot of some other stories, it captivated me. It kept me engaged. This was the first novel that I read that had an actual language created. I adored the way that the linguistics were used and written. Language has captivated me since starting to write because English is a language of languages, which carries exceptions and strange rules to everything.
Christopher Paolini was the first author I learned about self (indy) publishing. He was an inspiring building block to eventually deciding to self publish.
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer
I, again, started this series in the middle. This is one, that if you aren't sure what's happening, it will quickly become confusing. However, series took me for a brilliant ride! I was enchanted by the clever banter and the well developed world and characters.
This was the story that truly taught me to delve deep into character development. After reading the Artemis Fowl series, I reexamined my characters. They were one dimensional. I needed more growth (in 95 pages from the original story, there's not much development that occurred). As a writer, it's all about the joy to explore their past, present, and future.
As my second introduction to new languages, Artemis Fowl and Eragon helped me to investigate the creation of languages. I've actually followed a similar route (not in The Egyptian Heir, but in another novel, which I will hopefully share soon!) and created a language with a full index.
Last, but certainly, not least,
Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This series sends you on a whirlwind of emotion. Young Readers should 100% read this series. It is complex in a sense that it touches on a lot of future human problems (overpopulation, and low food supply). I haven't read anything quite like it, but maybe I'm biased because I liked it so much when I was young, and then as an adult, it's a fun, quick read.
It's set in a futuristic world, but uses historical events to build on how humans would moderate each other. This series encouraged me to look at the psychology and sociological aspects of human civilization. Certain circumstances, when writing, there's only a few ways a person would behave. That is something that I've always considered when writing. I don't want it to be beyond ridiculous to the reader that a character did something.
These are the books that have guided me down my path of writing; to learn my writing styles and my interests. Please share with me the books you love and have inspired you to pursue the written word.
Perspective is defined as a way of regarding a point of view. I have always been fascinated by the way a character may perceive a person, or a situation. I try to write with a natural perspective. How would people actually see the world around them. Each character is their own person, and I try to portray those differences whenever a viewpoint is not the main perspective.
I had a friend ask about how I write descriptions. She wondered why I introduced characters with very little detail sometimes. I explained, "Cassy is the main perspective I tried to describe. Whenever you are seeing through her eyes, she is more descriptive. I have found that women tend to be more observant and descriptive than men. Women romanticize a description more, they will visualize a scene or person to fine details. Since the other perspectives are through men's eyes, they are dismissive to minute details or aren't learning any new information, especially if they've already met the person."
Cassy, as the main character, learns information with the audience. As she explores her world and experiences new things, the reader will be opened up to the world around her. This may not be a normal way of writing in a new character, but I have found it interesting and fun to do.
Writers should never worry about the 'traditional' way of writing because it's all about letting your imagination and style thrive. Ensure that you enjoy your work, and if even one person likes the story, it's a success! That is my perspective.
I started writing to get ideas out of my head and onto paper to stop the clutter. Up until 2018, I only wrote for my personal enjoyment. It eased the chaos of incoherent ideas from jumbling around my head, to fully realized stories. In 2018, my path changed as I became more confident and considered allowing people to read my story. It's a scary thing to be a writer and have people read something that's been in your head for so long. Will people like it? Will they hate it? What will they think about my writing or characters? Will they harshly criticize it. I came to realize, that as long as I liked the story, someone out there would like it too. And that, for me, is the most important thing about writing. Sharing the story is so important because if you don't share it, how can somebody else appreciate the world you've created? As long as one person likes the story, that is a success.
So, in 2018, I began looking into Canadian publishing companies.
I knew I wanted to self publish, as that gave me creative control to choose what I wanted for my book. I designed my cover page (Thank goodness for an amazing friend who's a fabulous artist [Rebecca Romphf]), I got to decide on the things I wished to keep in my story, and still had the knowledgeable editors and publishers to assist in bringing The Egyptian Heir to life. I've been told anyone can self publish, and it's true. I fully support anyone who's wanting to get out there through any type of publishing style. One thing I learned through this process though, is you have to put the work in more than traditional publishing. You've got to talk to people and network as much as possible. I do not regret my decision on self publishing. The Egyptian Heir became real exactly how I wanted it to be. My hunt for the right publisher was short, yet, it took me until August 2020 to finally pull the trigger.
I was financially ready for it, I had the support of my husband and family, and I was ready to see this through. Little did I know, I was already a month pregnant with my first child and I was going to begin another journey unlike anything I was prepared for!
My husband and I were ecstatic. We were ready for this big change! My pregnancy went without a hitch. I was lucky to have an uneventful one. I respect anyone who has endured some of the worst morning sickness (or any pregnancy related health issues) of their lives! I couldn't imagine.
The Egyptian Heir's first real steps of publishing began in March, in the last month of the pregnancy. Friesen Press has a nice system for payment plans, which is why I began the journey in August, but truly began the process in March. This was the easiest time throughout the whole process. I had started maternity leave a month early so I wouldn't be waddling around at work. I was big, had a sore hip (the baby's head rested on my pelvic bone and remained there from month 6 to birth), and from a previous injury my right shoulder was hurting. It was time to rest before the newest adventure started. The hard work was starting, though, with the arrival of the suggestions portion of publishing. I was able to decide what I wanted to keep or change based on these suggestions. I spent many hours in this last month of calm pouring through what was necessary to change and important to keep.
My beautiful daughter was born April, 2021. Though there were a few scary moments (an issue with the umbilical cord had caused her heart rate to drop drastically whenever I tried to push, and a potential heart problem at the time of her birth [this has since been resolved]) she is a healthy and happy baby who loves snuggles.
Many new parents understand the trials that arrive with a baby. I was sleep deprived, learning to understand what cries meant, and trying to figure out how to keep this little human alive! All of this, combined with midnight editing sessions, made for an interesting six months.
I am fortunate to have my husband there to keep me sane, but also help with the baby as much as he did. In two hour spurts (which was her feeding schedule, literally, on the dot), he walked around and played with her, as I hunkered down to edit, and struggled to stay awake. The baby would be in the bassinet beside me, I would be swaying her and editing at midnight. I must admit, sleep deprivation makes some strange sentence constructs.
Four months of several editing sessions and design decisions produced my novel that I never thought would look so good!
Now, I am published, and my little girl is 8 months old. It has become easier to focus on 'book stuff'. We cuddle and I can finish writing the rest of this trilogy, as well as work on my other books. As I write this, she is sleeping beside me, wanting nothing more than to snuggle and keep warm (Saskatchewan winters, am I right?). It's been a wild journey becoming a mother and fully realized author all within a single year. Though it's been tough and a change in pace, I wouldn't change how we got here for anything! I'm glad I chose to continue with publishing. I know, if I had waited again, it may have never happened.
Do you find it strange that an author was at one time unable to read or write? It is strange to think back to a past me that once looked at letters on a page and just couldn't fathom being able to read that 200 page novel, or write that simple essay for my grade 7 teacher. It's amazing how I struggled so much, and yet, now I find myself enjoying the charm of writing a simple, yet, beautiful sentence. By no means am I a genius with words, and I for sure still struggle with grammatical correctness (I wish to believe that I am not alone in this), but I can find tranquility by writing my ideas on paper.
Reading never came easily for me. It was frustrating and more of a burden than anything. I would do everything I could to avoid reading to prevent my classmates, family, and teachers from finding out that I just... couldn't. I almost failed a couple of grades because of my poor English skills (along with math, though, that continues to be a problem). I vividly remember a time when I was in the older grades, when we would read to our younger student 'buddy', and as we sat in the hallway near the exit doors, all I wanted to do was run away through those doors because I was slow and struggled with the words. My 'buddy' mocked me and asked why I wasn't able to read out loud properly?
I went through speech therapy, my parents got me the Phonics game, and I had a psychologist speak with me. No matter what I tried, I looked at the words on a page, and nothing clicked. Yet, my imagination soared. All of these ideas swirled around in my mind, only needing a way to escape and be put onto paper. So, at 13, that is what I did. I put pen to paper and started to write The Egyptian Heir, and Cassandra Waters entered my life.
I had no intent to go any further than this one short story, but, as I wrote about the magnificent strength of this teenage girl who had to overcome her many personal problems, about a boy who turned from being this awful bully to her protector, and some chilling criminals, I learned that I actually enjoyed writing. My reading skills increased significantly. I was able to complete and truly enjoy the Harry Potter series, the Shadow Children series, and the Inheritance series. My family was amazed as I wouldn't be seen for hours because I was in my room reading or writing. Now, I have my first novel published, with two more to come in this trilogy, and many more stories that I can't wait to share.
Writing has brought me into the magnificent worlds of other authors and I've been able to create my own worlds that I'm finally comfortable enough to share with you. If I can offer any encouragement to my fellow readers by explaining this struggle in my life, it would be that I hope that someone will finally do what they love because everyone deserves to be happy. Who knows, maybe, one day, that will become your passion and way of life. You may struggle and it may be hard, but trust me, it is definitely worth it.
Let your imagination soar, and never be scared to take that leap.