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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?

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Camp NaNo 2017 – The Beginning of the End

I have a draft folder full of all these ideas I never pushed far enough to publish. I was content with this. Figuring that eventually I would sit down and turn them into novels worth publishing. This was sometime in the future but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years of spawning new drafts on a whim every time is this: if I don’t actually sit down and write, not just have the intention but put in the work, I won’t ever publish. Ever.

So future me will have to thank me for this camp’s ambitious endeavour: writing four novels in four months. Camp is the beginning of it all.

 

Camp NaNo Writing

The four novels (well three and an anthology) are as follows:

Junk Yard Angel – A Steampunk novel

She is a guardian, a saviour… an angel, spending her time in the scrap yards filled with discarded metal parts – fixing the broken with an amazing new technology powered by steam. They call her, the Junk Yard Angel.

However, some know a darker side to her. A murky, questionable past that still haunts her – for demons were once angels too.

Junk Yard Angel Short Stories – A prologue to JYA.

In the growing metropolis of Neandershöhle, a great revolution is on the rise. The Church and the State fight to keep their dogmatic rule and absolute Monarchy over the people, while the people fight for Enlightenment and individual liberty.

A young girl finds purpose in the fragile Age of Enlightenment. She stalks the scrap yards and uses the discarded metal to bring hope to the hopeless.

Yet something within rattles her soul. Whispers dark thoughts, and with the revolution so close at hand, she must choose her destiny wisely or endure the resulting consequences.

Last Robot on Earth – A Dystopian Novel

The world is a ravaged war-torn landscape still carrying the scars of nuclear war. Melted ice-caps have increased water levels, submerging much of the world under water. What little habitable land remains becomes a haven for those who survived the war.

Humans, living under the effect of the radiation, begin to mutate to their environment. Exhibiting bizarre adaptations and abilities.

Roaming uninhibited by the radiation is a single sentient machine. Living among the humans.

Waiting.

Watching.

Preparing.

Dominae Mortem – A Dark Fantasy Novel

Princess Arabella has a secret. Following her mother’s death, she sought the council of the Great Elders on what happens after death. Their answer drives her towards performing one of the Great Sins – suicide. Her premature death sends her to Orcus where she meets Death himself.

Following her defeat of Death, yet unable to reclaim her mother’s lost soul, she returns to the world of the living. The mantle of Death has been passed on to her yet she refuses her responsibilities.

But death is necessary. It calls to her. Summons her to its dark realm… and Fate decides to make a personal call.

The idea here is to write at least 12,500 words per novel between Camp and the next camp in July. That’s about 200,000 words in total (50K per novel although some will probably be much much longer than that eventually).

Thus this camp starts the real journey of becoming a writer. Of not just procrastinating and putting things off. A little ambitious I know, but…

“Ambition… is a great man’s madness.” John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi


Are you participating in Camp Nano? What are writing? If you need a cabin (there’s about 7 spaces left) comment your username and you can join us. Happy writing!

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Marching On: The Muse Lives

It seems that my writing slump has passed, *touch wood*, and a number of ideas and story iterations are coming to the fore. With Camp NaNoWriMo coming up next month, this is a good thing.

Junk Yard Angel

Setting up JYA is quite a mission. There’s a lot of worldbuilding to do, character profiles to outline, and an actual plot to figure out. It’s great to have this amazing budding world at the fore, and a stellar character at the center of it all, but there’s no story to write if there’s no goal to achieve. That’s what I’m working on now through a number of short stories.

The short stories are set before the JYA novel story, which means a richer background to work from. This also allows me to figure out what’s about to happen, why it’s going to happen, and who will be driving it all forward. So far I have written two short stories posted on my Patreon page. If you would like to read (and enjoy) them, please drop by.

Patreon.com/NthatoMorakabi

Here are excerpts from both:

The Botanist

A little after two in the morning, the doorbell chimed.

Klaus raised his head from his work on the counter and glanced at the silhouette at the door. His gas lamp, fixed on the clay pot and scattered paintbrushes among the work tools, created the only light within the room. The person remained in shadow at the doorway. Petite. Slight. A woman perhaps.

“Good morning?” He called to the figure.

“A little early for botany isn’t it, Herr Klaus?” the voice was light. Feathery. A woman indeed.

“A little early for a visit isn’t it. Frau…?”

The woman idly slinked sideways. High shelves lined the walls, more shelves divided the store into flowers, pots and various garden utensils. The air carried lilac, fressia, jasmine, and an underlying waft of fertilizer. Klaus followed her movements behind the silhouetted flora by the sound of rasping cloth across the floor. She was moving towards the furthest edge of the shop. That was where he kept his private collection.

“Prince Clemens speaks highly of you Herr Klaus.” Her voice echoed from the back. Klaus stood quickly from his counter, the stool scraping across the floor with his movements. He swept a hand agitatedly through his thin hair.

“And what does his praise have to do with this visit? Could it not wait ‘til sunrise?”

Der Engel von Garzweiler

As I shuffled out of the church, I could feel the pitying looks of Mother Mary, and the Saints, casting down at me from their perches.  If there was some sort of guardian in Garzweiler, I hoped she would have a less agonizing face – and perhaps, her gaze set on me too.

The air outside the church nipped at my fingers, and cut through the holes of my shoes. Frau Berger from the convent across the road bustled about draping patched coats over some of the street urchins. Their emaciated bodies, enveloped under the woolen layer, would probably not see food for another week. If this Engel showed no benevolence towards the children, then what compassion would she have for me. It was a sobering thought on that long walk down the wide dirt paths towards a safer, warmer, terrain until my duty the following day.  Death awaited the following day with a plate of food and a pocket full of money.

I walked to my grave.

Innocence – a Wattpad novella

I read a “free to use” prompt on Wattpad that inspired this horror novella. The story revolves around four cops and a fledgling doctor giving a known murderer the Death Penalty, but they do it illegally in an unused basement of the police precinct. The murderer swears revenge before he dies and… well you’ll have to read the rest of it to know what happens. I’ll be posting new chapters every Friday as part of my usual Friday Fiction. Chapter 3 goes up tomorrow.

I watched as Marius de Wet was injected with Pentobarbital. He sat calmly through it all, his eyes falling on each of us as though memorizing our faces. There were only four of us within the dim precinct basement when it happened. Five if you count the shaking, greenhorn doctor who administered the lethal injection.

Rudolph, one of the detectives, was on his sixth cigarette by then, filling the room with acrid odor, the same that lined his clothes and drifted from his breath. Without his uniform, you could see how gaunt he was. The black hair looked slick and thin, face long and sallow, all exacerbated by yellowing teeth where one of the front two had a chip. He tapped his sneakered foot incessantly on the grungy cement floor of the basement holding cell, still sticky with Marius’ blood.

Maybe some of ours too.

Read it: wattpad.com/NthatoM

The Last Robot on Earth

Last year July, my close friend Carin Marais, a fellow writer, Patreon, Folklore/Myth virtuoso, and creator of the amazing upcoming novel The Ruon Chronicles, gave me a prompt: the Last Robot on Earth. As her reward I wrote her the story about Tobor, a robot pretending to be human and taking part in a Hunger Games style competition. The idea has evolved quite considerably from that and hatched a completely new series. *Thanks Carin! Swoons.*

Right now I’m in the world building stages of the novel, and it will be slightly different from my usual fantasy/horror but of course with elements of both. Since it was a Patreon inspired prompt, it will be running concurrent with JYA on that end, which means special rewards if you’re a Pledgee.

Not much I can tell you right now except that one of the characters is inspired by John Constantine, the fictional DC comics character, and the story will lean towards a darker, gritty, comic-book style novel. As a comic book fan (and not because of the movies ugh) my idea needs a lot of work so it doesn’t come off as another Marvel’s the X-Men vs Bolivar Trusks’ mutant killing Sentinels (did i just give the plot away? hehe). Nonetheless, I’m loving the world building.

Other Short Stories

There’s so many ideas and stories in the pipelines, and rather than tackle them one at a time (which is the most sane thing to do) I’ll be dabbling around each one as short stories that will eventually culminate into their respective novels/novellas. This means constantly writing and (hopefully) never getting bored. I will obviously keep you updated as things happen.

typing


How’s your writing going? Any exciting projects coming up? Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo next month?

Character Backstory Woes

I made a terrible discovery yesterday. The minor character in my novel who dies in the first chapter (well supposed to anyway…suddenly undecided) has a better backstory than my protagonist. This minor character has a rich beautiful backstory that won’t be part of the novel while my protagonist has nothing interesting at all. I figured it was time for a little Extreme Makeover Novel Edition *cue music

extreme_makeover_home_novel_edition

Meet the Character

Protagonist is a fluffy poodle of wasted potential badly planned and written even worse. He’s been living as an incomplete in the First Drafts Section for over three years with no hope of ever coming to the fore. However, in a dramatic turn of events, he’s found a new home in Second Drafts which is being renewed and refurbished. However, will that be enough?

Back to Basics

We’ll be crafting a new identity for this quagmire oozing latent aptitude to be the a great Protagonist. First we must consider their traits:

letsdoamakeover

  • Who are they: Name. Last name. Nickname. Age. Race. Language. Height. Weight. Imagine them fully fleshed out as a walking, talking real person. If Protagonist is not alive to you, they won’t be alive to readers.
  • What are they: Human? Orc? Pizza-slice animated to life and seeking the purpose of life? Are they working or students or mage or detective? Are they the Chosen One or the stable boy or a passing wind offering fruits of wisdom to strangers? What Protagonist is, defines social life, goals, aspirations, challenges, advantages. Paint the details that specify Protagonist.
  • Past|Present|Future: Who was Protagonist before the start of the novel? Who are they during the course of it? Who will they be at the end of it? Has the “Who” and “What” changed during these transitions? For good or bad? In short, does the wise wandering old mentor turn out to be a random man who found fortune cookies in the dumpster behind the Chinese restaurant. How does that change your character?
  • Choices: Choices made by the protagonist, antagonist, and other characters affect the protagonist in some way. These also after the story being told. Don’t forget that story and character are deeply intertwined like the flavouring of your 2 Minute Noodles and the bottom of your pot/plate/microwave.

After careful application of these concepts, Protagonist should come out shiny and new, with purpose and depth sure to stun readers into swooning stupors of joy.

Backstory Vs Back Story

backstory

One is the history of the character and the other is a story about the character’s back (or a command to tell the story to back-off). Same thing. Whatever. Either way, a character is defined by their history and what’s behind them (see what I did there?), much like we are. Look back (ha more puns) into your own past at a choice or decision you or someone else made that could have changed who you are today.

You can start with a character and who you want them to be, and fit a matching backstory as you see fit. Alternatively you can define the world or history around them and let that define the character.

Protagonist is now ready to delve into the story. You know who they are, what they are and where they come from. You know how they walk and talk, and importantly where they are going. It’s time to match character to story.

Novel Reveal

Following this intense procedure of revamping the character and their backstory, the story may or may not change. What does change, is the revelation about your character that will drive your story forward.

revelation

Junk Yard Angel, which is the novel I am currently working on, has seen some dramatic changes in its story. While keeping the original idea intact, the character improvement has also restructured the sequence of events. This means new characters, new settings, new technology and more importantly, a deeper, richer story to tell. It also added more links to my mind map which have spawned a new idea for the novel: side stories.

Side Stories will be the untold arcs that won’t appear in the novel but will add a profound depth to the world where Junk Yard Angel takes place. Worldbuilding added to much of these untold stories. It’s a really exciting time ahead and I look forward to completing my novel.


Have you realized any profound changes to your novel WIP and had to re-work the characters/world/story? How did it work out for you?

World Building is Overwhelming

steampunkfloatingcity

A deep grumble echoes across the metal and bone cluttered expanse stretching towards the Great Wall and back beyond The Wasteland. The sky above us is grey. Dead. Perhaps, at one time, the choking smog had been nothing more than dark clouds threatening rain. The roar, a warning of the impending thunder. Beyond it, an azure sky where the dormant sun waits to illuminate the world below. Perhaps. The dark silhouette painting an elliptical shadow over the denizens is not a cloud, though it rumbles with a threatening charge. The floating city, ironically named Utopia, belches more tainted pollution into the grimy sky. High-rise buildings atop the metallic furnace stretch towards the sky, scraping the impenetrable heavens – adding to the smog that keeps the sun perpetually at bay.

How long will it continue to defy God’s laws? How long will it keep itself separate? Father watches it pass, grim, soot stained resentment etched into his drooping jowl. We shakes his head once. We journey on.


A story crafted from an image. An image that existed, perhaps inspired, in the mind of an artist. An artist with a world outside of our own who then brought it to life. As writers, we not only create these worlds, parallel to our own or not, but we also craft stories from them. Our characters live in them, plots unwind across their landscape and readers separate fact from fiction long enough to live in them. Whether it’s visiting Diagon Alley for the first time or traversing Middle Earth, perhaps even shopping at a famous boutique in New York, the worlds become real. This is the beauty of world building.

World Building is Overwhelming

Imagine you had to create Earth from scratch. If that thought isn’t daunting enough, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of building Earth.

theworld

The Earth is round. It spins continuously, while also rotating around the Sun. It has a moon. All of these factors affect the Earth massively. They define time-zones, weather, sea levels, adaptation of people and animals, etc. This means you’ll have frozen tundras, scorching desertscapes, teeming forests, unrepressed grasslands, combinations of these… and this is just on land.

Not overwhelmed yet? Okay let’s zoom in further. You have animals adapting to their environment. Can you imagine trying to create all the animals, considering their make, shape, their place on the food chain, and their adaptations (if any) according to their environments. Both for land and sea and sky.

turaffe

No? Okay how about the most complicated of all creatures: people. If you had to create every continent, country, province, city, and suburb, then define each one of their religions, cultures, beliefs, development, living conditions, style of dress, education, family dynamics and how they live in their respective environments (desert people compared to mountain people to city people), you’d go bonkers.

world-day-for-cultural-diversity

And we’ve only skimmed the surface of the intricacies of the world. We haven’t even considered the progress of humanity through ages up the point where you are reading this blog post on an electrical device connected to an invisible entity known as “The Internet”.

The image I used above to write that short little piece takes everything we know and alters it to create an alternate Earth with different technology, different history, and a whole other set of alternatives that change everything we know right now.

Junk Yard Angel World Building

Thankfully we don’t have to recreate a new Earth for every story we write. Can you imagine? No one would want to be a writer! However, for those rare moments when it is necessary, world building can nudge the creative juices in the right direction between the bouts of deep-seated panic and the need to nap.

I’ve been doing a ton of research for my novel Junk Yard Angel. I’m basically constructing my own Earth. I thank the Internet for making this so much easier and being able to have information at my fingertips such as how weather affects the land. I’ve literally been learning about farming because one of the towns is a farming community – using steam technology.

I’ve also been drawing my own maps. It’s such an amazing experience. I’m loving the research and adapting things into this faux unnamed world so similar to ours yet so very different. Although most of it won’t actually be in the novel, it does cement me better into this world I’m creating. Makes me feel like I’m part of it. Makes it real – and I love it.


Have you ever had to build your own world? How was the process for you?

 

JYA Novel – First Drafts and Mind Maps

junkyardangel-anovel

Today I skimmed over my first novel attempt – Junk Yard Angel. Although I’d written this close to 4 years ago, I’m pleasantly surprised by the writing in this first draft. I see a lot of places where improvements can be made and some places I’m going to delete, but there are a lot of pieces I will definitely include in the second draft. It’s a relief to know I was not a completely terrible writer, and that I’ve improved over the years. It can only get better from here right?

Mind Your Novel

Mind maps are like my thing now. They used to be when I was far younger, encouraged by English teachers to use planning, then I stopped when I found the joy of discovery writing, but now I see the value of them once again and have become an official Plantser. Mind maps allow me to contain all my ideas, plots, characters, and general thoughts into one document, divided into pages for each topic.

  • Main Story: Details the overarching theme. Lists all significant plot points and any side arcs.
  • Characters: Lists every character, role, character arcs,growth points and anything else related to the character.
  • World: Maps out the world and the continent/countries. Detailed descriptions for each location. Points out key locations and how they tie in to characters, main story and anything else significant.
    • Also includes details regarding culture, religion, technology, weather, people, economy, fawn, flora, etc etc
  • Technological Advancement: Explains where the world is technologically, and what the current world utilizes in day to day activities.
  • Resources: All links, references, pictures etc used to form the novel.

First things First

I’ve been reading the Mammoth Book of Steampunk for a number of months now. Steampunk is one of those sub-genres that fascinate me. It requires a lot of research to keep it authentic, while inventions need plenty out-of-the-box thinking.

the-mammoth-book-of-steampunk-adventures

For Junk Yard Angel, the first thing I will be tackling is the in-depth research. I’m exploring current trends in technology and wondering how they would work in an alternate Earth where there’s no electricity but steam. How it would have come to fruition. What technology in real life was invented during the pre-electricity era, and what could have propelled those inventions forward had electricity failed.

The story is also set in various locations, which means each place has technology unique to them. Different people and cultures will also have varying needs. Weather and temperature will affect requirements. Weaponry. Living space. Lifestyle. Religion. All of these aspects have to be explored and meted out in order to build a believable living world.

Onward!

I’m genuinely excited. My mind is already creating images and scenery inspiring me forward. Mind maps are starting to shape up. World building is also one of my favourite parts of writing a novel before the real hard work begins.

I hope you continue with me on this journey towards writing my novel.

 

Junk Yard Angel – 2017’s Old-New Novel Goal

White Angel Artwork

White Angel by – JasonChanArt.com

In December 2012, I wrote a short story called Junk Yard Angel, inspired by the beautiful image above by Jason Chan. A year later I attempted my first NaNoWriMo with every intention of writing a Junk Yard Angel novel. The premise was as follows:

In a pre-technology era, the world was moving along fine and at a steady pace when a new technology was introduced. Steam powered contraptions began to appear all over the world, slowly at first but increasing rapidly with time and along with them, junk yards. Now the world relies heavily on this new technology (and the ridding of the old), even more so now as natural disasters seem to be occurring more often than before. And then rumours began to stir among the people, rumours of a saviour of sorts,the girl with the white hair – the Junk Yard Angel.

This was my first foray into the world of Steampunk. An exciting fantasy sub-genre where steam and natural gas are the primary sources of power as opposed to coal and electricity. Although I spent a lot of time on the story, writing 22155 words during NaNo, I felt that my story didn’t become the epic novel my mind had been brewing. The reason? Lack of world details, a weak plot, non-existent character arcs and flat characters. I was just a current firing off with the synapses without any forethought.

giphy

In the time between then and now, I’ve always thought about that novel, my first attempt at intentionally writing a novel and the potential in the idea. Steampunk popped up in other stories as well, including another novel attempt that was a steampunk horror inspired to be the spiritual successor of Junk Yard Angel. I’ve decided, after almost four years of deliberating, to once again attempt to write and finish Junk Yard Angel. This is the main goal for 2017.

Second Attempt Goals

Rather than jump right into writing the novel, I’ve decided to build it all up slowly with proper planning. Looking back, I don’t know how I thought I’d get anything done without a plan in the first place. As much as Pantsing is fun, and you can discover a lot of amazing things along the way, I always hit a brick wall when I do. Every time. This time, I’m going to be intentional and it starts as follows:

  • Build the world

Steampunk may seem like a limiting genre. You can only have a Victorian Era style of characters, clothing, language etc. I think that’s a serious misconception. The world then was not limited to just one area and different cultures would have exprienced the same era with varying results. This is my goal. A new world. My world.

  • Culture Shock

The original novel took place in a lot of areas. I’m not going to throw all those ideas out but build on them. Let’s see how different cultures and people were affected by this amazing technology. This will mean a lot of research and brainstorming. For instance, what if steam technology was introduced to a village where snow fell constantly. What inventions would they build, as opposed to London city folk?

  • A Living World

Details are important. What sort of transportation was being used? Was money important? What did it look like? Did markets exist? In what form? Were there any buildings? What sort? What were they using to build them? What materials were being used for buildings, clothing, weapons, and the world around them. If I cannot see the world where the story takes place, if it is not living in my head, then how can I write it?

  • Endless Possibilities

While there may be people who would frown upon what I’ve written, and would prefer the classic Steampunk renditions as seen in The Golden Compass, Wild Wild West, Treasure Planet, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the like, let’s not forget that Steampunk is a Fantasy genre and therefore anything can happen.


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