Book Review – Searching for Sadie by Grace – 5 stars

Warning: May contain spoilers, but opening comments are spoiler-free. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book as a mix of serious and light reading. Sadie’s had a rough year and needs to escape, so she heads out to Alaska not far from where her dad lives. She has to adjust to life in her secluded cabin with no electricity or hot water. Sounds insane, right? Trust me, she has her reasons.

What I liked…

I liked how Sadie starts off a little prickly partly because she’s nervous over her decision to go off the grid but mostly because of the shock she had not long ago. I think it really works to see her struggling at first.

I love how Sadie is honest about being attracted to a couple of men, but not being interested beyond that. She needs time alone, but she’s also a woman with eyes so…

I especially love how she’s realistic about what she’s capable of living on her own. She took survival training to help, which she mentions, so it’s not like she just went out to a random island with no preparation. My only question is, how did she access her money? 🤣

What I didn’t like…

While I liked Flip, he came across as a little bland at times. I’m putting this down to personal taste rather than an issue with the book. But if you’re like me, and you prefer male characters with a little (emphasis on little) bite to them, then you’ll probably feel the same.

Final thoughts…

Definitely a self-discovery novel as the title suggests. It’s both light and serious and inspiring.

Writing Ranting – How Realistic Are Your Characters? Part 2

Warning: Spoilers of Zodiac Academy, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and The Dark Artifices ahead.

Disclaimer: I don’t read a lot of LGBTQ+ books purely because I don’t come across that many recommendations from the sources I find new books from. That being said, quite a few books in my preferred genre include LGBTQ+ content either through 1 of many POVs or a character close to the MC. 

We’re in Pride Month, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite LGBTQ+ romances. 

  • Mark and Kieran from The Dark Artifices. This is established pretty early on in thestory so not much of a spoiler. I just adore these two and how they found comfort in one another. The mentions of them cozying up to each other after hunting the skies just warms my heart. 
  • Seth and Caleb from Zodiac Academy. In a series with a lot of enemies to lovers, this friends to lovers is refreshing. It’s also so freaking hot how they tease one another since Caleb is supposedly straight until we start seeing hints of his feelings for Seth. Also, his reasons for holding back don’t come across as “Wait? I’m gay?” it’s more like “He’s my best friend and I’m scared of ruining that.” I just love how it plays out.  
  • Mor and Emerie from ACOTAR. I had very mixed feelings towards Mor in the original ACOTAR trilogy and the way she treated Cass and Az. But now I’m over it, and have read A Court of Silver Flames, I want to see things happen in the next book. 

As a writer, I believe it’s important to be inclusive without forcing characters for the sake of it. However, I have a few characters whose sexual orientation works for their character and the story, not that working for the story is more important. It just comes across as more relevant and realistic based on similar relationships I’ve read in other books. Yes, below is including minor spoilers from various WIPs, but nothing significant story-wise.

  • Cleopatra ends up being torn between the boy she’s grown to love and the girl who holds answers to her past.
  • Marina has a tragic love story when she crosses worlds to be with the girl she loves only to find her gone.
  • Drystan is open to anything in bed but will ultimately choose a woman for a relationship.
  • Esme is occasionally physically attracted to men, but only loves one woman.
  • Killian and Nolan are more than happy to be intimate with each other if a woman is involved. 

Like many aspects of my characters, things with their personalities and preferences evolved with the story and just felt right. 

Writing Ranting – How Realistic Are Your Characters? Part 1

I recently saw a few TikTok posts from the same account about portraying body size and characters of colour in books and related character art. I genuinely appreciated her pointing this out since I have mixed race characters and some who are plus sized. I’ve included a couple of her videos at the bottom.

My reasons for these characters vary from loosely representing people I know, including myself when it comes to weight, and being from various backgrounds that are part of the inspiration for my world.

For example, I have a character who is mixed Egyptian and Persian. Her skin colour seemed obvious once I’d decided her heritage, and any art I commission will reflect this. I’m reluctant to share my inspirational art right now because I don’t own it, but I imagine Jasmine from Aladdin with hints of Cleopatra as the best visual representation of my character.

As for her body size… that’s definitely inspired by my own weight problems. She’s depressed and under pressure and puts on weight when she’s due to emotional stress. Then she’s under a different kind of stress that causes her to lose a lot of weight. Both these instances represent my personal struggles with size, so if anyone has anything to say about her suddenly being slim, then I have a long list of reasons why this is very real. But by the end, her slightly larger size is when she’s more healthy mentally and emotionally.

I’m grateful for social media because I learn what readers really want as well as what I want to portray in my books. I would be mortified if something I’d written was offensive in this way, and while I know I can’t please everyone, I can take realistic representations seriously.

I also plan to use a sensitivity reader, especially in relation to race, to be absolutely sure I don’t use the wrong language when describing my character. I want my characters’ visuals to be clear but also using appropriate wording.

Writing Ranting – Helping Other Writers! Part 2

Writing may come naturally in some ways, but not necessarily in others. One writer might have the ideas for a fun story with a good structure. Another might have a knack for writing dialogue, while another is better at scene-setting or world-building. These are just a few aspects that make a good story. 

Working with others can help share your talents to make one super talent while keeping your stories your own. I would never consider sending anything to an editor or agent without running it by my peers, and in exchange, I help them too. 

Critiquing is a great way to share work with other writers. I found Critique Circle several years ago. I go by Fantasist if you want to find me on there. I’m not particularly active since I’ve finished critiques and betas on one book, and the next isn’t ready for sharing. But I found this website amazingly helpful. Not only learning about writing, but learning about my own style and what kind of writer I want to be.

I’m also on a couple of private writing chat groups and have my own on Discord, which is a bit quiet lately, but mostly because there aren’t that many people on it yet. Feel free to email me or find me on Discord lovefantasy#0367 for more info and an invite.

Sharing your work not only brings writers together, but you can learn so much about writing and what you want from it. I think I’ve learned more about writing from sharing and critiquing than anywhere else. 

Writing and Reading Ranting – Don’t Feel Bad I’ve Not Having Enough Time!

Lately life has been getting to me, and I haven’t had much time or brainpower to write or read. It happens to all of us. I meant to post this yesterday but forgot. 

Instead of huffing and getting frustrated about it, I’ve focussed on short posts for my writing blog which I’ve hashed out while waiting for something or half watching TV after lunch or dinner before getting on with the essentials. It takes less brainpower than writing my novels because I’m just expanding on whatever thoughts crop up on any given week in relation to writing. 

I’m always thinking about my novels or adding notes, but sometimes, sitting down to write at a document can feel daunting when life is weighing on me, so I’ve dialled back in that respect. I did manage to hash out some rough scenes last weekend on my viper WIP and felt pretty good about them. I can never let any WIP sit for long.

As for reading, I’m catching up with my Audible TBR since there are a few good series I’m partway through. I’m currently flipping between Mystic Bayou by Molly Harper and Halven Rising by Jules Barnard which are a group of standalones but follow on from one another through different protagonists. 

So I don’t feel bad for not writing and reading, because I am writing and reading in the ways that I can. And I’m keeping up with my social media posts since they feel good to make. I’m on TikTok as @lovefantasynovels and on Instagram as @emiiadashfire

Writing and Reading Ranting – What’s the Point if You Don’t Follow Through?

A writing and reading rant today since this both annoyed me as a reader but made me think about how I could avoid this as a writer. 

I’m going to start off vague so as not to spoil a recently released best-selling fantasy series. I recently saw a video review of a widely-wanted scene from book 4 of a series that was set up in book 2. I gave up on this series in book 3 so I didn’t read said scene, but I know what it was and how excited readers were over it. 

It fell short apparently, and quite a few reviews had said the same thing.

It’s like any build-up when you plant possibilities in a reader’s head. You need to either dial back the build-up to match a marginally interesting moment or amp it up and have the climactic scene to make it worth it, otherwise, it just feels like a letdown. The same can be said for overdoing a scene that wasn’t set up in any way or was just overdone with no real need to be.

I recently reread another popular fantasy series after several years. I won’t say which one, but if you’ve read it, you’ll probably recognise it. It’s not quite a top favourite, but I enjoyed it more the 2nd time and rediscovered a top favourite character (not the protagonist). Anyway, There’s a sort of prophecy where the protagonist has to sacrifice her magic and lifeforce to close the gates to other worlds and send the demon king back to his own world. Mades sense. But when we got to said scene, I’d clearly missed a key detail in that it wasn’t guaranteed that the demon king would be sent home. It was part of a bargain with another group of people who changed their minds at the last minute. I was like… WTF? 

I was prepared for something to go wrong, but not so pathetically. It made the whole prophecy look pointless since the protagonist was relying on an ancient bargain. I went back to see what I’d missed, and it was there, but… lamely pointed out. There was little to no doubt that it was a done deal, and certainly wasn’t established as something she had to worry about. So when the bargain failed, it just fell completely flat.

It became more of a plot device since it had other implications for the character by leaving her with virtually no magic. I can understand the need for it from that perspective, but honestly, there could have been countless other ways to do that with a surprise scene that left people more shocked than disappointed over it. 

On the bright side, it did get me thinking about a prophecy in my own book and how to balance the build-up with the climactic scene. It’s a very different prophecy but is hinted at and built up in a similar way, so I’m going to use this experience to help me think about what would work better or even if I need the prophecy at all. Could I throw in a twist instead? 

Writing Ranting – Why Do I Write? Part Two!

In my previous post, I mentioned a forum post on a writing website where a struggling writer was overwhelmed with their writing projects and hated their job.

Firstly, I get it. I’ve had crappy jobs in the past that suck all my energy so I don’t feel like writing after a long and shitty day. But quitting a job to write creates a whole bunch of others problems.

There’s the pressure to make something of your writing if you have no other income. It forces people to rush a project or get frustrated that it’s not going anywhere. Most writers feel that way at some point but have other income to keep them going.

Patience is key because this whole process can take anything from a year to three or five or ten. Anyone who can publish in less than a year makes me suspicious.

Finding time to write can be hard when you’re working, but that’s pretty much what all writers do until they make money from their books. Then maybe, they can dial back on the regular job to spend more time writing and have a double career. This is my dream.

Here are some ways I help save time so I can write more…

  • I tested out some writing routines to see what times suited my creativity best. Then I keep to it as best I can and don’t let it get me down if I get too busy sometimes.
  • Routines for other things like errands and chores help. I do my washing on the same days, go to the supermarket on the same days. Things like that.
  • I like to write on my lunchbreak when I have my long days at work. I also use small pockets of time to work on things like outlining, character profiles, Pinterest collections or any other ideas for your writing. 
  • Plan meals for several days ahead, including lunches if you take that to work. It helps save time if you know what you have to prepare in advance and makes supermarket trips quicker when you know what you need in advance.
  • If you like to read, try audiobooks for some multitasking. I have a long drive to work and find a good audiobook makes the time fly by. I also listen to help me relax in bed. It’s a lot like meditation.
  • Relaxing is super important. On my long days at work, I watch something fun on YouTube or Netflix on my lunchbreak.

I’m very lucky in that I was working part-time when I started writing, so I had the time to establish my writing style and plan some projects and draft a pentalogy. That pentalogy is shelved for now since it’s a huge project, but I’ve finished a standalone novel (pending publication) and am currently drafting book 1 of a trilogy. 

Last November, I took on some more hours at work, hence the irregular posts the past few months, but I’ve managed to write a lot and mostly keep up with my social media. It is possible to balance a full time job and writing. 

Without so much social media, I’d probably work more on my writing but I love booktok and bookstagram and making silly videos and cosplaying, so I’m not going to give that up. Also, I’m establishing an online presence for when I need it for marketing. A lot of agents prefer authors who can manage their own social media, and if I self publish, I have a platform already established.

This is my hope for my writing, that it’ll be a paid part-time job to balance with my teaching job. But I would never dare think I could turn it into a full-time career. Besides, I love teaching too much to give that up anyway.

So to any writers struggling with that work/life/writing balance, don’t let it overwhelm you. If you have a paid job, then you can take your time with the writing and not let it be a burden. 

Writing Ranting – Why Do I Write? Part One!

Because I can’t imagine not writing, and if you ask yourself this too off, then something isn’t right.That doesn’t mean you should stop writing. But maybe it’s time to evaluate how writing fits into your life.

In this post and the next, I’m going to be breaking down two of the most important things a writer needs. Time and the right time. When I say the right time, I mean being in the best mood to make the most of your writing time otherwise you could end up staring at your document with nothing in your head. 

The whole point of this blog is to share my thoughts and experiences with writing in a way that might help others if they’re struggling to find encouragement in their own writing journey. 

I’ve had various writers rant at me about what I should do without considering what I want for my writing. Writers are as different as musicians. Some prefer the modern styles, some the classics, and others like jazz with a wild rhythm of its own. So finding a one-stop-shop for writing advice is impossible.

One particular writer on a forum I saw recently was struggling with their reason for writing and had quit their job twice to write. My first reaction was 😲 but unlike many others on the forum, I didn’t jump on that because that wasn’t the main question. See my next post for thoughts on life/work/writing balance.

For some context, this person was feeling the strain of a long writing process that hadn’t made them any money. They’d shared their work with friends who didn’t sound particularly helpful since they weren’t writers. 

Me being me, couldn’t help but try give this person some perspective on their writing. Here’s what I said, hoping it would help.

I’m sorry you feel this way. I’ve been writing for a while now and I’m still not published, but I keep going because I love writing, and making money is just something I work towards while enjoying the process.

Maybe taking a break would help.

And as for agents, you never know what clicks with an agent. Get critiques and beta readers and a professional editor and try self-publishing.

Or maybe think about if what you’re writing is what you truly want to write. Should you try another genre that you might feel more excited about? Should you try a different style that might have a limited audience, but that you connect with more?

Or, if it’s that much of a struggle, perhaps you should consider whether it’s the career for you. I gave up a career because it didn’t suit me and I wasn’t happy doing it.

Writing isn’t for everyone, but if you’re determined, then there is a way. I hope you find the answer you’re looking for and turn it into something that makes you feel good.

P.S I’ve learned more via my critique partners, giving and receiving crits, than from any advice given out of context.

I sent another post later about the person’s job troubles, but I’ll save that for the next post. 

Reading and Writing Ranting Advent Calendar!

Oops, I forgot to post these. The past couple of months have been super busy with more hours and responsibilities at work, a new writing project that I got to 38K for NaNoWriMo, and planning a Christmas camp at work. Luckily, I have some long weekends to relax and spend time with my family over the holidays.

Anyway, onto the calendar. I managed to post them on Instagram every day, so you can check out the Instagram story highlight or my feed as I add more, or scroll down. Unfortunately, the videos don’t work unless you click and go to my Instagram, but the mini book review and writing tip are in the caption.

Killing Characters!

Someone has to die in fantasy fiction, right? But why?

Two main reasons for me are…

1 – To have an effect on another character. 

It could be an inciting incident near the beginning of the book. 

It also works to weaken the character just as they’re close to their goals. 

Or, it could send the character spiralling, and another character is forced to step up and prove themselves.

2 – To remind readers of the stakes.

There are so many god-like characters with seemingly unlimited powers these days. They’re immortal, invicible, and this means they can’t die, so there are no stakes.

Killing off a significant character early on makes it clear that they do have weaknesses, and readers feel that threat better.

Sure, some are resurrected or found in the underworld, which is a whole different story.

I don’t mind when it’s an instant resurrection or when the MC goes on a quest to the underworld to get their loved one. But I hate when a deceased character suddenly pops up out of nowhere. 

I’m currently pondering a character’s death myself. It’s a complicated one in that I could use their POV in this limbo that they’re stuck in, or I could have another character sense them so it’s obvious to readers that they’re not fully dead.

I’ve discussed it with others, and I’m still undecided. But I will make it clear right after the supposed death that the character it not entirely dead. That way, I don’t annoy readers with a random resurrection. 

Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay