Monday, 30 December 2013

Reading Resolutions

2013 is almost done and it’s that time for resolutions for the New Year! I am both going to make separate blog about writing and reading resolutions. This one is going to be about reading. But first, before I begin, it might be interesting to have a small conclusion about 2013 in books:

  •  I have read 47 books this year, 20 more than last year
  •   The best book I’ve read was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  •    I started 10 new series and finished one of them. Out of those series, there is one I’m not going to continue and another I’m not yet certain about.
  • The books with the prettiest cover I bought this year are Green Rider series by Kirsten Britain, The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and the 10 year anniversary edition of Eragon by Christopher Paolini.
Here you can find all the books I read last year!

The resolutions:
  •    Read 55 books
  •   Buy less books and keep track of how many books I buy
  •   Finish more series
  •    Read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien in English. I have read the series almost ten years ago in Dutch.
  •   Read more about mythology, which includes reading The Kalevala.
  • Try to keep the to-read list to a minimum. I have 334 books on my Goodreads to-read list which is a bit overwhelming. I’m going to try to bring to remove the books I’m not super eager to read and keep it at around 100 or less.
  •   Read more indie/self-published books.  Now that I have a Kindle, it is easier to get my hands on self-published books. I haven’t read any of them so far, though I have a couple on my Kindle that are waiting to be read.

These resolutions shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. The 55 books will depend a bit of how much time I have besides school and writing. Although I consider reading a part of the writer’s job.
I hope to get the writing resolutions blog up soon as well, but right now I’m studying for exams. It will be up at the latest at the end of January! Happy New Year everyone! May there be a lot of reading and writing waiting for you in 2014.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

On Writing Confidence

Writing a story and getting it out in the world requires confidence. A lot of writers – if not every – sometimes have moments were they lack that confidence. You think your writing absolutely sucks and that no one will ever want to read your book. Moments like that are very humbling and every writer should have them every now and then, even the very best. Being overly confident will make you arrogant but having no confidence at all will lead you nowhere. 

I am not a very confident person. I doubt a lot and I know how unhappy that can make me. My inner critic is a fierce monster that I haven’t been able to tame. The fear of not being good enough and the bouts of ‘my writing sucks’ can be severe enough to ruin my day. Sometimes I even question why I am putting so much effort in it. Why would I make myself feel horrible by trying over and over again? There are times that I have no answer for this and when it is really very bad (which luckily doesn’t occur that often) I might even end up curling in my bed and cry. I am never going to be able to make my dream come through, is what spooks through my mind then. There is no one around to cheer me up and tell me my writing isn’t as horrible as I think. The only ones who can get me out of this writing slump are the characters. They refuse to leave me alone and demand that I spend time with them and continue telling their story. I love them for that, though they aren’t always very convincing. 

But if I stop writing, what else will I do? I am only as passionate about reading but that does not offer me the creative outlet that I need. I cannot make anything of my own with only reading. I need to pick up those words and group them into sentences that eventually become a story. The prospect that I have to severely cut back on writing time very soon because of upcoming exams makes me sad. And this proves me that I meant to write. 

One time you might feel like we can write as good as or even better than, our favourite authors. Yet some time later, you might feel like your writing is worthless crap. It is far harder to get out of that, but remember why you are writing and think about what you would do if you weren’t writing. If you like the possible substitute of writing more, you might want to consider if you are truly passionate about telling a story with words. Without passion, you will get through the hard days and the less fun aspects of writing.

Hold on to the magic of writing and never give up. The journey is very difficult and perhaps dangerous for your sanity, but I heard the rewards make it all worth it. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Writing Descriptions

Descriptions are an important part of the story. They help to create the atmosphere and, especially in fantasy and science fiction, they add to the world building. But how much should a writer describe and how much should be left to the imagination of the reader? 

This is a difficult question and there really is no right answer for it. Some readers love a lot of description while others get easily bored by it and rather skip it. For me, it all depends on the skill of the writer. Yet I do not want page after page full of descriptions. I often forget it anyway. Some writers describe their characters in elaborate detail, but the most I tend to remember is their hair colour, eye colour and their build or other remarkable details such as a scar or a tattoo. The shape of their eyes, their nose, his large feet or their unusually small ears vanishes from my mind quite quickly, unless it has been repeated a couple of times or the writer put an emphasis on it. I create my own image of a character, building, place, etc. in my mind on the basis of the information I can remember. 

For me, the most important role of description is that it helps to get to know the characters. If you give description from the point of view of one of your characters, you should focus on what the character will see, hear, feel and smell. A character that has not eaten for quite a while, will notice the smell of food before (s)he sees the expensive tableware and the painting of an alien on the wall. The character who loves art will most likely see the painting of the alien first and (s)he shall look at it in more detail than the hungry character. 

Description can also bring your story alive. Often small details have a major impact on convincing the read that the story you are telling is real. In Harry Potter we do not get to see every detail of the shops in Diagon Alley, but J.K. Rowling describes just enough to let the whole street come to life. The best way to make your world come to life, whether if it is a world you build yourself or our word, is to make use of every sense. Too often smell and sound is left out and then you get a flat image. If there is a fire, describe the sounds. How it roars as it destroys everything in its wake or how a dungeon smells of death and decay besides describing how dark and cold it is. You want to make your readers shiver as they plough through the snow with your characters; you want them to smell and taste the freshly baked bread and feel how soft the fur of your monster is. 

Create the atmosphere, point out how expensive his clothes look and how the tiger’s coat looks in the setting sun, but do not describe every drop of rain, every wrinkle in his clothes or every stripe on the tiger’s coat. Leave some room to let the reader build the world in his head. I like to think of the descriptions in stories as the foundations of the reader’s imagination.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Review: Green Rider (Green Rider #1) by Kristen Britain

Title: Green Rider
Series: #1 Green Rider
Publisher: Gollancz
ISBN: 978 0 575 09985 2

 I came across this series when I picked up the fourth book a while ago.  While the summary on the back of the book peaked my interest, the main reason I bought it was because of the gorgeous cover. Only when I arrived home and looked the author up on Goodreads, I learnt that is was part of a series that was not yet completed. The fifth book is scheduled to be released in May 2014. I bought the three preceding books and eagerly started reading the first one.

The first couple of pages made me doubt about Green Rider. The protagonist was a girl at the end of her teenage years. The exact age is not mentioned. I prepared myself for another young adult fantasy book filled with love and typical strong females. I was positively surprised. There was not much love to be found and while Karigan was not a very original character, I really liked her. Her motives were interesting and her spunk is admirable. 

Source: Google Images
Karigan meets quite a lot of characters on her journey and every single one of them is interesting. They really bring the story to life and add a great touch of realism to it, even though it still remains fantasy. Through the secondary characters, Britain adds themes top the story that we deal with in our lives as well. One of the minor characters leads a group that questions monarchy. Living in a country where we still have a king, recently a new one came to the throne; I have question it as well. It made the story that more interesting. I hope this group, and other characters, will get more page time in the next books

The horses in the book were wonderful. Karigan’s horse is one of my favourite characters. Many fantasy writers do not put enough effort in researching horses and their behaviour, Britain did a wonderful job here. While Karrigan’s horse is a special horse, smarter than most, he still felt very real: he showed he was afraid of certain things, he was stubborn and could not keep going without proper food and rest at unbelievable speed for ridiculously long distances. 

What made this book stand out from all the other fantasy books I have read were not the characters, but the skilfully crafted plot. Everything was tied together. How the chain of events started and its outcome, are very ironic actually. A small, seemingly unimportant event can lead to something much bigger and more influential on a higher scale. Also throughout the whole story, a wonderful metaphor is used to reflect on what is happening: a board game.  I absolutely enjoyed this concept and it almost want to make me do something similar in my writing. The board game intrigued me. It is definitely words its name, Intrigue. 

The writing is fast paced and reads very easily. I had no problem getting absorbed into the world. There was just enough description to paint and imagine in my mind while I still had room to use my own imagination to complete it.  While the book left me with some questions, it could easily be a standalone novel. I am curious what will happen in the second part, but unfortunately it has not arrived yet. I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Gift a Book!

The season of gifts is coming up, and hopefully it comes with snow. While Christmas should not be all about gifts, we spend a lot of time picking out the right gift for the people we love. I made it fairly simple for myself: I am going to give a book to everyone.

I believe that there is a book for everyone. It is, however, not always easy to find a book that will get you into reading and of course, reading requires some effort and time. While I do not want to force my love for reading on to someone, I want to make gift giving easy for me this year. A book does not have to be a novel. It can be a non-fiction book as well: a cookbook or a travel guide or a beautiful photography books. A lot of choices!
All my friends and close family know I love reading, but barely anyone gifts me a book. I have gotten a gift card and my boyfriend lets me pick out some books and he pays for it, but it is not the same. I suspect that people are afraid that they will buy me a book that I will not like or have read already. My Goodreads to-read list should be helpful to bypass that problem!

Source: Google Images

The reason I would love to be gifted a book, preferably a novel, is that books hold memories between the pages. Some books hold more memories than others. For example, I can still remember very clearly where I read Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince for the first time, because it was such an unusual location. On my holiday to Helsinki I bought a couple of books and I read one of those while I was there, and every time I see it, it transports me back to that beautiful September afternoon were I was lying in the grass enjoying the sun and reading, more relax than I had been for quite a long time.

If you gift me a book, you will be between its pages for ever. Every time I will pick up that book or just look at it, I will be reminded of you. If I loved the books, I will think a lot about you since I often stand in front of my bookcase looking at those books that gave me a wonderful time. Gift me a book, and you will gift magic.

Sunday, 27 October 2013


Inspiration is not something you can force, though it is a necessary component of the creative process. Knowing what inspires you and exposing yourself to it, can help to get inspiration flowing.

I do not actively look for inspiration but I expose myself quite often to things that I know that can inspire me. Inspiration does not come out of thin air for me. Most of the times when I get an idea, I am deep in thought and creating stories in my mind. Talking with other people about things, they can be very random and have not to be related to any kind of creativity, I get inspired as well.
High on my list of things that inspire me is music. Especially music with sad lyrics. I automatically start building a story around the lyrics or I try to relate to them. Sometimes I marvel at how certain emotions are described. More than once music has helped me to convert a certain emotion more clearly to ink and paper. Sometimes I come across a song that fits extremely well for a certain story/scene/character and I can listen to it over and over again without getting tired of it. But not all music inspired me. I have to like it. I am able to get most inspiration from band I really love.

The beautiful, magical northern lights serve as a great inspiration for me. One day, I hope to see them myself.
source: Google images

Nature is also a great source for ideas. Reading, especially poetry, and writing has taught me to stop rushing and enjoy the simple beauty around me. It does not have to be an incredible landscape from a faraway place. A seemingly dull tree or a bird that you see everywhere can be enough to trigger a flood of inspiration. Especially autumn is a great season for ideas for me. All the colours and the world slowly preparing for the cold and dark winter are very inspirational. The world is changing right before my eyes. It is truly incredible.

Another important thing that inspires me, are my literature classes and reading. While they do not always give me content ideas, they do, however, want me to experiment with language. Writing is not only about telling the story and how you tell it, but also about using language. Sometimes the language part is very difficult for me because I do not write in my first language. I deem myself to be a decent user of English, I know that my vocabulary is sometimes very limited. Luckily there are always dictionaries and the thesaurus to help me resolve that problem.

There are far more things that inspire me, but those mentioned above are the most important ones I can almost always fall back on. To make them work I have to more or less relaxed. They are, lucky for me, also great ways to become relaxed. But sometimes when I am stressed or very worried, it is almost impossible to relax and inspiration stays away. These states of mind do not last long and I do not allow them to meddle with my writing. There is always something to write about, even though it is about grocery shopping or walking to work. Even such simple things can make a great story if told and written well! Who knows where they might lead.