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July Updates

Hey all,

I realise I didn’t write my Wednesday Book Review yesterday. I apologise for that. Instead I have been working on revamping my personal website: Nthato Morakabi.com

Here are the updates I’ve made so far:

Book Reviews

While this blog has been going strong with book reviews (okay kinda strong), I’ve been neglecting to update my personal website and it’s book reviews. My last review on it was Tales from Alternate Earths, on October 27, 2016. It’s almost been a whole year. So during the course of this week I will be updating as necessary.

Author Spotlight

I’m still taking book review requests. I’ve been contacted by a few authors so you’ll be seeing more of those books in future reviews. This includes David Meredith’s second book Aaru, J.T Lawrence’s two books Why You Were Taken and The Memory of Water. I was quite pleased to see these books in our local chain bookstore Exclusive Books. Really exciting to see Janita and her books grow!

Author Spotlight is an opportunity to acknowledge the amazing authors out there whose books I had been privileged to read.

Gamecca – Independent Game Developer Interviews

It’s been two years now since I started doing interviews with both local and international Indie Game developers. I’ll be cataloging every interview, studio and game in a new section of my personal website. Not a gaming blog at all, just an opportunity to thank and show off the talented game devs out there.

Gamecca Indie Game Developer Interviews

I’ve also been contemplating a separate game blog. Who knows. Maybe one day.

Writing

You may have noticed I’ve been sort of consistent now with my Friday Fiction. I’ve also been writing on Wattpad under a different pseudonym entering various writing challenges. I’m not participating in Camp NaNo this month but I am working on a number of stories.

Seeing all my writer friends and acquaintances making a name for themselves has been an inspiration.

Nothing else major is happening so far. I guess only the future will reveal itself. Until then, let’s all continue to push the limits of our capabilities.


Remember you can sign up to my SPAM-free monthly Newsletter for all updates here: Nthato Morakabi.com.

Hypocritical

Hypocritical,

These thoughts critical,

To my growth, spiritual

Yet daily I lack the strength and conviction to remain biblical.

Yet Prayers,

On barred heavenly layers,

My heart joining nay-sayers,

I’m disease ridden, call the CDC, I’m just an NPC among real players.

*

Hypocritical,

These thoughts heretical,

I’m at a stage critical,

Falling within pyres and hell’s fires where grace is my only miracle.

Daily invocation,

Sins of a generation,

Lost. I’m in a state of desolation,

No hope just trying to grope the rope leading to salvation.

*

“For by grace you been saved,”

Yet by sin I am enslaved.

Actions so despicable.

I am… Hypocritical.

 

 

The Dead Tell No Tales

Like leaves, green in morning spring,

Decayed flesh rises from watery ring,

The early bird catching the worm,

Maggots in eyes wriggle and squirm.

*

The dead tell no tales,

The Devil in the details,

Slashed throats tell no lies,

The Saint in the widow’s cries.

*

As darkness descends, it stalks the night,

Stars illuminating the victims plight,

Winter’s cold breath with gleaming steel,

Plunging through skin with religious zeal.


Been discovering and reading interesting horrors from authors Ramsey Campbell and Tom Piccirilli among others. Have you read something that inspired your writing?

 

You’re Definitely a Writer

I always thought being a writer meant spending the day working on books and short stories. Maybe editing, occasionally writing blog posts about your upcoming work and of course the usual social media thing.

Well I’m a writer by profession… a Technical Writer. I write those help documents and blog posts you see on websites that help you figure out how a program or system works. Like the support page on Mail chimp or an online FAQ.

This opened up my world; there’s a whole world open to writers.

My Writing Styles

I write for perhaps 12-13 hours a day, 9 of which are at work, the other 3-4 is spent on personal work or writing for Gamecca. While fatigue may seep in I found it doesn’t happen often. The reason is simple; I don’t write in the same style all day.

Technical Writing:

As you might imagine, Technical writing focuses on a very stringent, grammatically strong, rules based writing. Of using active voice instead of passive. Writing in a professional yet relatable tone. Keeping sentences short and concise. Ensuring vocabulary is not superfluous and confusing. Being consistent in style, tone, and perspective. Writing a logical progression of thought with a intro, body and conclusion format.

Game Journalist Writing:

As enjoyable and illustrious as this may sound, it’s not always fun and games (puns hehe). It’s still a great experience don’t get me wrong. Specifically I write game previews, book reviews, and conduct interviews with independent game developers. It’s a combination of technical writing and my own style and voice.

With previews, I look at upcoming games and write a condensed 250-350 word impression of it. Asking questions like: What is the game about? What view do I have on it? Is there a history to the game or developer? What interesting thing is there to say about the game? Answering these can be easy when the developer has a whole spiel of info. Other times I’m trying to siphon 250 words out of a 25 word brief and that’s never easy.

Interviews are so much easier but longer to compile.

Book Reviews

I do book reviews because its fun. The reading itself can be an enjoyable experience but trying to contain those emotions and thoughts into a concise, fair review? It can be quite a challenge. My book reviews tend to be more about my experience of the book. I think less about the structure of writing compared to when I do technical writing.

Fictional Writing

When I delve into my stories, my mind is so focused on what I’m writing I sometimes neglect that basics of writing. Things like punctuation and structure and superfluous descriptions and  grammar and whatever rules I would normally abide to. It’s a freedom of the rules while also using them as guidelines. Its about tone and style and perspective. About characters and story. Not that I neglect all the rules, but I occasionally break them for the sake of story.

Writing in General

Of course there is so much more to say on all these things. Each one I’ve highlighted can be broken down and explored separately to explain the thought processes they need.

There’s also all types of writing out there, subsections in both fiction and non-fiction. We could all be writers and be writing in completely different categories. The journalist vs the fantasy writer. The mystery writer vs narrative nonfiction writer. The self-help book writer vs the Sci-fi writer.

Suffice to say writing is not just a little box. Just because you’re not writing fiction doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. This gives me comfort. Knowing that the 9 hours I spend at work writing technical documents still counts as writing. As improvement that cascades across all other types of writing I do.

I’ve seen improvement in my writing already and that gives me hope.

Fear and Fervor – A Patreon Fiction

Today’s fiction is an excerpt from this month’s Patreon work. I’ve combined my two favourite genre’s – Romance and Horror – with a dash of Lovecraftian influence. Enjoy!


Up upon the attic’s bare wooden floors, in the bodega of Casa Del Potro, between discarded paint bottles and torn canvas. Therein lies the young male we know only as Eduardo. He sits with his back against the raised mattress, naked save for a pair of dirty boxers. They reveal the stringy black threads of hair covering his legs and arms and have begun to crawl past the navel to his chest. Smudges of paint cover some of his brown skin, and the whites of his hands are lost to a swirling grey rainbow of colour.

He sleeps deeply and soundly. The dark tendrils of oily curled hair tumbled down to his chin like a frayed curtain. Near his bare feet lies a canvas still heavy with wet paint. Each corner holds a random item that keeps the canvas from rolling in. An iron stands in one corner, the severed cord wrapped in dark tape. In another corner is the one half of Eduardo’s wearable Jordan’s, the bottom half yawning with yellow strands of loosening superglue. The foot of an aged table, and one of the three metal stools keep the remaining corners down.

Caressed over canvas is a visage of improbable beauty. Flaxen tresses that divulge in hues of orange and red cascading down the back. Golden braids coil the hem of the snowy dress that sits below the smooth skin of bare shoulders. An elegant face gazes out at the viewer with gleaming emerald orbs that reach into the soul and tug it to the surface. Pert upturned nose sits perfectly on the symmetrical face above thin pursed lips. There is a haunting glare accentuated by her slightly raised brow, as though she notices something behind the viewer. Perhaps she feels the tiny pinpricks of an insect crawling up her leg below the separation of canvas and real life.

Or perhaps her gaze from canvas onto reality bears a truth she wishes not to comprehend. The artist, a living soul, tethered to the encroaching darkness ignorantly rejected as merely death. Only she, the portrait, the art, the creation, has any semblance of what awaits beyond the veil.

There is more to this corporeal existence than we can see. More beyond the ethereal presence that on occasion slinks along our spine with icy tendrils.

I will tell you the story of Eduardo and his paintings for it is a story that must be told. Perhaps it shall restore the madness that rattles my bones like arthritis.

Pray the madness does not pass on to you, for there is no fetter back to this blessed ignorance.


 

What Does Your Story Say?

When I initially began writing, I was purposed to write stories with meaning. Not just fluffy fun tales of over-powered heroes saving damsels in distress, beating the familiar evil villain, and then riding off into the sunset with said damsel. It was too cliched. Too fake. Too fictional.

Hence that amazing quote by Anais Nin on the title of my blog. “Not what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” There could be many reasons why we might not be able to say something, but in our writing we can most certainly elaborate on them. Explore and expound for others to read and comprehend.

I’ve thought about changing that quote a number of times in the past, but I can’t get past the truth it speaks. It guided my tentative steps into serious writing. As fun as writing fan-fiction and ghost stories can be, sometimes I needed to write something with substance. Something concrete, addressing a personal issue or belief. I attempted a lot these in the past, ranging from Christianity to relationships to my greatest fears.

Here’s an excerpt from a piece of writing I labelled The Past:

The Past…

…is like a dark cave, contaminated, murky, fearsome place, one that we cordon off and try to forget about, ignoring the signs all around us that point back to it. But we cannot escape it. We sometimes linger at its entrance, gazing within the dark confines to see what can be seen. Safe enough. Safe enough away from what we know is within its depths. We know of the familiar creature within, one that bares an undeniably resemblance to ourselves, except for its blank dead eyes, dead in trespasses and sins, blinded from the truth willingly.

I was in a dark place for a while.

Self vs Other

These days I seem to be driven by concepts that are ‘out there’ rather than close to me. Removing self from the story and characters to create something outside of me. It’s much easier to ignore introspection. To escape to books and movies and music and art.

I could only hope to recreate those sensations in my readers. However, what I failed to notice, was that each creator of those inspirational  works had their own directive to their creation, a source that guided their work. It not only made them unique, but I as the recipient of their creativity, was able to experience what they experienced much deeper and fuller.

Combining self and these external sources, can create something beautiful. For example:

  • Adele’s soulful musical style was inspired by her own heartbreak, relationships, and a desire to making up for all the lost time through nostalgia and melancholy – yet she was inspired by Amy Winehouse and the album Frank.
  • Masamune Shirow (Masanori Ota) is a qualified oil painter, and creator of Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed. He writes thoughtful post apocalyptic cyberpunk futures with female protagonists – inspired by (and creator of) erotic art.
  • Stephen King’s stories involve the “every day man” thrust into a horror-fueled adventure, with running commentary on abusive, religious mothers (or priests) – the king of horror was inspired by other kings of horror H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s non-linear stories driven by gore and satire, are a manifestation of his creative mind – inspired by old music, where he uses the music to create scenes in his head and bring them to life.

Prolific creative figures who have combined their own experiences with their inspiration to produce amazing works.

When I make a film, I am hoping to reinvent the genre a little bit. I just do it my way. I make my own little Quentin versions of them.

~ Quentin Tarantino

Truth in Fiction

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying every story I write will be an obscured memoir of things I want to say but can’t say. I am saying, however, that there will be elements of ‘my truth’ to each story. Drawing from me and drawing from outside of myself to create. Ultimately sharing my truth in fiction, and still having a great story to tell. Combined with world building and character building, I can fully embrace a character and world without feeling like a stranger in my own story.

Like a ghost in a shell.


What does your writing process entail? How much of yourself do you put into your stories? Is your main character usually you or a version of you, or do you draw other people as your characters? What’s your inspiration?

Focus: The Bane of my Writing

I am working on three novels at once. The other is a prequel to one of the novels, written as a collection of short stories. There’s also the Friday Fiction, a number of side novellas, and Wattpad writing competitions. There are also books to read, games to play, social events to attend, and the elusive activity known as sleep.

There’s also a folder full of ideas and stories that have been bubbling since I was in highschool. I have been craving a good horror story and since I haven’t found one, I’ve resorted to that age old writer’s quote “If the book you want to read doesn’t exist, write it.”

All of these have made me aware of something I struggle with when it comes to my writing… focus.

One Story at a Time

You might think this is easy to do. Take one novel  (or idea), write it, edit it, send it off to the publishers and work on the next one while you wait. In truth, it should be. Fortunately/Unfortunately my mind is a single bee in a gargantuan field of flowers. Buzzing with activity. Jumping from one flower to the next to the next to the next. Never satisfied with just the one. Seeing all the potential. All the benefits to reap.

Hence why I’m writing four novels at once. This is my attempt at appeasing my restless mind while being productive. The novels are all different genres, different worlds, and different characters. Each week I focus on one novel. Of course, I end up getting ideas for “that other” novel, or ideas for a new story and have to battle against writing them.

The Solution

I write everything down. I have a multiple notepad .txt files with ideas. Each in their appropriate folders. I don’t want to lose the idea. I also write what I was feeling and what I was trying to achieve with the story. This means I have a reference point to the me now, with the fresh idea as it is now. The me today, won’t be the me next month (or next year) when I revisit the idea and realise I have no idea where I was trying to go with it.

It doesn’t always work. I spend too much time in my head thinking of what I want to do next instead of just doing it. Sometimes all it needs is discipline. And sitting down to write. I’ll keep working on it, and writing.


Do you struggle with focusing on your current WIP? How do you keep writing one story down without losing interest? What inspires to keep going?

 

Doubt – The Writer’s Killer

I was writing. A lot. Too much perhaps. Drowning in an endless sea of fictional stories and characters all crying to see the light of day. Sometimes I was writing for myself. Other times I wrote for my future fans (I can dream). Occasionally I wrote because that’s what I do. There were days when I wrote only a few words and days when I scribbled notes and days when it was entire sections of story. Yet in each of these instances, there was that little sense of discontent that lingered in the dark recesses of my writing. Stalking every thought process. Every idea. Every word.

It didn’t stop me from writing. No. It merely created a sense of doubt to my writing. As though something was wrong with my strong female protagonist, or not enough depth to my wandering male character. The world I built wasn’t rich enough. The plot – not enough sustenance. How my previous works were written by a distinct version of me, in a different mental and emotional state. A literary genius with a fantastic grasp on what he was creating or a bumbling fool trying to sprint through oceans in baggy clothing.

Dissatisfaction rearing its ugly head, telling me “Your writing will never be good enough.” or “Stop this madness, you’re just another sub par writer.” Quit-since-your’re-behind kind of thought process. It can really be crippling.

It would be easier to lower your standards. To pass it off as a hobby for fun and nothing too serious. To give up.

But that is a mistake.

Writing is my passion above all other things. One thing I can claim as my own. That I embrace. To not write would be to die. Not because I have spent so much time and effort and energy into writing and to give up now is foolish. Rather because if I did not write, where would all these stories in my head go. How would I be able to express the feelings that rattle through my bones? To live vicariously through created characters and have the ability to alter their destiny with a couple of letters put together to make logical sense.

Doubt, like hope, can be fickle but powerful. I once wrote this beautiful, meaningful story that resonated with me on so many levels. Doubt snuck in once and I deleted it. I regret it so much, there’s not a time that doesn’t pass when I don’t think about that story. All that potential. Gone. What a waste.

I also, currently, have a story that is brimming with life and potential. I have random bursts of inspiration that mold this story into a masterpiece. Hope spurring it forward to completion because I think it’s a great piece of writing. If only I could have the time and energy and effort to sit through the whole thing and complete it and raise it above the masses like Moses splitting the red sea. Okay maybe that’s pushing it, but that’s what hope does.

I won’t sit here and tell you it’s easy to push doubt away. Or that you can simply manufacture hope on the spur of the moment. It takes sitting down and putting in the effort. To write. To take a break. To enjoy the process and hate it. To take long walks or lie in bed soaking up music or watching your favourite series. To work through your story and write even when it feels like it’s not doing anything.

I know the doubt will pass. I know hope will not be enough. What will remain, however, is every word I have written. So I will continue to write.


How do you deal with doubt in your writing? What has been the most crippling moment in your writing? Have you ever deleted a story and do you regret it?

May Update

Camp NaNo is done and dusted, and while I did not get to the appended 50K mark, I did get to my original 25K goal. So it is both a win and a non-win.

Sadly, my blog and reading suffered quite a bit during NaNo. And also April is practically a public holiday here in South Africa so I was barely at home or barely writing when I was. It was heavy busy, but I do not regret anything. I experienced a lot of great things I wouldn’t trade for an addition 25K words.

May Goals

I always feel like I have the potential to do so much more than I plan for, but do not have the time to do it all. Nonetheless, goals are great for motivation and when I cross off a goal, I feel fantastic.

Reading: I finished two incredible books. The first was Rules of the Game, the third and final book of the Endgame series. So much action. So much drama. So much almost crying. Click the covers for a review. Rules of the game will have a proper review later on the blog but you can read the initial review on Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second book was Eleanor & Park, a YA romance novel that hit me harder than I expected it to. My heart was in my throat the whole time. Beautiful. Click the cover for my Goodreads review.

Next on the list are:

  1. Blood Moon – John David Bethel
  2. Grey Magic – J.T. Lawrence
  3. Why You Were Taken – J.T. Lawrence
  4. Enden – David Kummer

I still have my Brandon Sanderson Mist Born Trilogy to read as well.

Writing:

Innocence: I will be finishing this horror novella this month. There are 10 chapters in total, each about 1500 words or so. It is available for free on Wattpad and you can read chapter 7 later today. To catch up on what has already happened, (and follow me on Wattpad) follow this link -> Wattpad Story – Innocence.

 

A quick synopsis:

The law exists to protect citizens from injustice, violence, and immorality. However, the law itself is also bound to it’s own statutes, and sometimes, the guilty are set free.
Four officers and a young medical student decide to take the law into their own hands, sentencing the known murderer, Marius de Wet, to an illegal Death Penalty within the unused Melville police precinct basement.
If word got out, the repercussions would be insurmountable for the five overseers of the unauthorized execution, and they vow to keep their silence.
But Marius is calling from the grave, seeking justice.
And he will claim his innocence.

Do be warned, it is rated “Mature” due to violence and language.

Last Robot on Earth: I have written about 16,001 words of this. This first arc will probably run up to 25,000 words. Unfortunately I did not write this main character as I was supposed to. Got too caught up in the story to realize he’s way off personality wise. So I’ll be rounding up the first arc and editing the character before moving on with the story.

While it is a Patreon project, I’ll be sharing some of the processes with you. This is one of the novels I will be completing this year.

Dominae Mortem: This is at 10,713 words. I covered two of the four main protagonists that the story revolves around. While I enjoyed the process, it involved so much world building and research that it took longer to write. I still haven’t planned out the other two characters so writing this will be quite a drawn out process.

From a planning perspective, I have the first arc figured out. Basically it is the “who” arc, where you get to know more about both the characters and the world they live in. Each is supposed to end with a “WHAT?!” cliff hanger that will lead into the second arc, “what now?” This will probably cover the first 50-75K mark. It is a Dark Fantasy novel after all so it could get long.

Junk Yard Angel: Ugh don’t even ask haha. This is novel is like that TV series you want to watch, then watch only one episode before moving on to other series. There’s so much potential but I’m too lazy to dig through it. It also has massive amounts of research and plotting to get through. Nonetheless, the novel itself is 8181 words of the introductory arc.

The JYA Short Stories – a prequel to the events of the main novel, is going pretty well. I’m enjoying that much better, but of course this is because all the characters are so much fun to write. 6452 words so far broken between five short stories that are all related and linked to each other and to the main novel. I will be releasing this once JYA itself is written.

Portals: This is a secret novel from last years NaNoWriMo – the Science Fantasy Horror Thriller of 33,865 words. It is a convoluted mess but a fascinating convoluted mess. Intertwining time-lines, characters and motivations. This little side project is not important but it’s fun.


What are your goals for May? How well did you do during Camp NaNo if you participated?

Dominae Mortem – Tengu Mythology

In one of my Patreon posts I spoke about exploring the origin of folklore and mythology for my Dominae Mortem novel. The idea is to look at existing spiritual creatures and monsters, and create my own version of how they came to be. Today we look at the Tengu from Japanese mythology:

Tengu are legendary creatures found in Japanese folk religion.  They are also considered a type of god (kami) or yōkai (supernatural being). Although they take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon (Tiangou), the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics.

Tengu are most frequently depicted in the yamabushi’s (yamahoshi’) distinctive costume, which includes a tokin and yuigesa – a pom-pommed sash.

The arc I am working on for Dominae Mortem this Camp NaNo was not planned. I knew the character but not the setting and not what’s supposed to happen. This rolled into a week long research/writing where Google Maps/Images was my best friend.

Creating a realistic location is so much work. Without a plan, I kept writing myself into a couple of impossible situations. And I did what any normal Dark Fantasy author would do… I hurt the protagonist. No one escapes the wrath of dark fantasy. So nothing at all was working according to plan.

However, one thing I knew for certain was that I had to create a Tengu. I had no idea how or who or when. Thankfully, the setting I spent so much time researching told the story I needed. As I pantsed my way through, I created a character who had a specific role and they in-turn decided to alter their destiny.

Here’s an excerpt of the transformation:

*Touma-san. Takeda-san. Naoharu-san. Do not rejoice. Your sacrifice bears many consequences. Until the Shinigami accepts her fate, the curses will remain.

Naoharu the yamahoshi is suddenly thrown into the air. A large brown bird descends from the heavens. A tobi – the Black Kite. Its claws grip Naoharu’s scalp and the bird thrusts its head into the yamahoshi’s open skull. He screeches in fear and pain. Still he lifts into the air, caught in the birds’ claws. The tobi continues to dig its head into Naoharu, pushing through the rotted brain. We watch aghast as its beak pushes out of Naoharu’s nose, stretching the skin until it seems to break. His face begins to simmer in black tendrils, melting the skin as it takes on the shape of the bird. His features transform until he is an amalgamated bird man. The tobi’s body completely sinks into the screaming yamahoshi. The residing maggots skitter out in droves. They dribble down the yamahoshi’s yuigesa as the man crumples forward in the air. We hear the popping crunch of bone. It is like the crack of thunder. Naoharu’s arches his spine as the back of his robes rip. Large black-brown wings sprout from his back. They continue to grow and grow and grow, until they are as tall as the yamahoshi.

This tori-no-otoko, Tengu as we name him, shall be the guardian and prosecutor of the Ōyashiro. The voice rumbles – As for you, Touma-san, the darkness within shall lead you to the Shinigami. Find her. She must accept her destiny.

A single breeze blows through us and Naoharu drops from the air. His enormous wings beat once with a gale of wind and he remains hovering above us. His beady eyes flit about. A bird-like screech claws from his beak as he beats his wings again. He ascends into the heavens and flutters off towards the grand shrine.

*

And off goes Naoharu to become the great myth known as the Tengu. You probably have a lot of questions about the who, what, where etc that lead to this. All shall be revealed in the final novel. Until then, it’s back to the writing. Thanks for dropping by.

Nthato Morakabi

Author | Blogger | Artist | Geek

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