What Could Have Been

As I’ve mentioned before, my debut novel I’m With You underwent many changes from inception to publication. The original story I envisioned was vastly different from the final version, and, just for funsies, I thought I’d list some of the things that “could have been” had I kept on along the initial route…

Minor spoilers ahead! You have been warned!

1.) Ciarán did not exist.
Ramus was originally intended to be the narrator, but his role was also different than his final incarnation (see below). I added Ciarán because I wanted to show the main characters through the eyes of a different party, and did not want Ramus’s perspective to paint the narrative. I thought the themes and the lessons would be better portrayed through the eyes and in the voice of a teenager, especially since I was aiming for a YA audience, so Ciarán was created to fill that role. And I’m glad it was his voice that told the story.

2.) Ramus (and Valkyrie) were hit-men.
The original plan had Ramus and Valkyrie serving as hit-men from the same nefarious organization. Ramus is hired to eliminate Remiel by her paranoid grandfather, but Ramus ultimately turns against his employers and decides to save Rem instead, and he recruits Valkyrie to help him get her to safety with some family members across the country. So, there are some similarities, but I nixed the hit-man idea when some other plot elements were changed and new characters were introduced. Also, there would have been a lot more violence and fighting. The Ramus/Valkyrie relationship was mostly the same, however, though instead of being established before their introduction, it would have been over the course of the narrative.

3.) I’m With You was intended to be a trilogy.
Back when I had very lofty ambitions for the layout of the story, I figured it would take about three books to tell the whole tale. However, there were several different sub-plots going on that were eventually discarded. Valkyrie was going to become a “villain” of sorts, and there was an arc that would feature a “world war” type of event… but in the end, it was way too convoluted and confusing and I couldn’t quite scrape up enough plausible detail to weave all the events I wanted together into a cohesive tale. The main story was supposed to be “get Remiel to safety” and as I kept adding more and more, it strayed further and further from the point. After I sliced down the scope of my ideas and shuffled the remaining elements together, I was left with enough content to fit within the pages of a single book. And I’m super glad that it ended up as one novel instead of 3.

4.) Kaz and Kia were originally twins…
…and both were villains. Kia was originally envisioned as an acrobat in a circus, and Kaz, her brother, was still a fire-juggler. They were to be villains in the second main arc of the story, enlisted by the second main antagonist. That is why their names and origins are similar; both got an age-change in the final version, as Kaz is 30 and Kia is 25ish.

5.) Dahlia was the main villain.
She was also known by the moniker “The Boss,” as she ran the organization that the hit-man versions of Ramus and Valkyrie were involved in. Markone also did not exist in the original plan. Dahlia and Valkyrie also would have ended up having a child, though they weren’t in a “relationship” – Valkyrie was more or less forced into a liaison with her. Long story. Obviously, that changed quite a lot.

6.) Most character descriptions were changed.
Camilla originally had black hair and brown eyes, but ended up blonde and blue-eyed. Valkyrie had two-toned hair; brown and red, but he ended up with auburn. Kaz was bald, I believe, and Dahlia was a little older and had red hair. I think the only characters who kept the same exact appearance/physical description were Remiel and Ramus, though Remiel was younger in previous plans.

7.) Mitzi was a minor character.
The original “party” for the story was Ramus, Remiel, Valkyrie, and Camilla – as previously mentioned, Ciarán didn’t exist, Kaz was a villain, and Mitzi was a minor supporting character in what I envisioned to be the second book of the trilogy. She had a very similar temperament, but was employed by a government organization and would end up working against her employer to help the main crew. When the plot shifted around, I decided to include her in the main party because her personality added a bit more balance to the rest of the characters.

Shameless plug: My book tour for my YA novel, I’m With You, is still ongoing! Check it out here: LINK! Plus, the ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 on Amazon Amazon UK. 

 

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Manga Mondays #1: Beauty Pop by Kiyoko Arai

Back in my teenage years, I was a big-time manga collector, and now, in my twenties, I still have shelves full of different volumes and series. While my anime preferences trend more toward the action-based/sci-fi/fantasy/mecha titles, like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Wolf’s Rain, Inuyasha, Attack on Titan, Last Exile, and Cowboy Bebop, my manga tastes stray more toward the “girly” fare. And one such series is Beauty Pop by Kiyoko Arai, which ran from 2003-2008 and was completed at 10 volumes.

I read Beauty Pop quite a few years ago, and all I remember is that it’s about cutting hair and I thought it was hilarious. Also, the lead female was a bit unconventional for a shojo title. But that’s all I’ve got, so it’s time for a reread!

~READING BREAK~

Alright! I initially planned on reading just the first 3 volumes for this post, but ended up powering through all 10 because I got sucked in, just like I did when I read it all those years ago. Beauty Pop follows 1st year high-schooler Kiri Koshiba, a girl with a gift for hair-styling, and her interactions with the S.P., or Scissors Project, a club run by 2nd year Shogo Narumi and his friends Kazuhiko Ochiai and Kei Minami, who are determined to be the top makeover/stylist team in Japan. Naturally, many hair-related hi-jinks ensue.

20170904_084322.jpgOverall, the series has a nice, meandering pace; there are over-arcing stories that run through the course of the series, but also several smaller, more episodic narratives that unfold in conjunction with the major plot-lines, and they are well balanced, so the story never loses the flow. A couple of the side stories kind of fall flat, but overall, the narrative is charming and engaging. The character relationships are also handled exceptionally well; there is as much, if not more, focus on friendship between the main cast (Kiri and her best friend Kanako get a nice subplot, Ochiai and Narumi have a lot going on, and lots of minor characters who encounter the S.P. have interesting and relatable issues to face) than there is on the romance. Typical “real world, growing up” problems are also handled  and touched upon quite a lot, as the characters grapple with decisions that will impact their futures, their relationships with family, their education, and their ties to friends. The more romantic elements are hinted at and briefly explored in the early volumes, but don’t really progress until the last 3, so it isn’t the main draw of the plot. This is not the standard, but the plot of the manga is definitely more focused on the comedy/slice of life/coming of age stories, which is a nice change in tone from more “dramatic” titles in this genre. Plus, the emphasis on hair-styling/makeup is intriguing, as it allows for exploration into personal ideas of beauty and the way society looks at people versus how they should be seen.

For example, in one bit, Kiri gets blamed for something that happens to the S.P. club room after she winds up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and instead of immediately assuming that she did it and getting angry, Narumi asks her about it, she says she didn’t do it, and he believes her. I half expected him to fly off the handle and go on a total rage campaign against her in a fit of manufactured drama, but no – she says she didn’t do it, and he accepts her word. It’s a great way to show how their relationship has grown to that point, and to subvert some familiar tropes of the genre.

Beauty Pop is also more of an ensemble effort than it is focused solely on one character. Some get more page-time than others (Kei, for example, doesn’t get any chapters where he is the main focus, and neither do Iori and Seki) but most of the characters get a fair amount of development and show real growth over the series. This allows for a greater range of stories to be told, as readers glean insight into Narumi’s confrontational relationship with his father, Ochiai’s ambitions clashing with his personal relationships, Kiri’s personal history with hair-styling, Kanako’s struggles to juggle friendship and love, and Billy’s difficulty choosing between duty and family.

Also, the art is great; it isn’t flashy, but the characters all have a unique style, and there isn’t anything too distracting that draws away from the story. All the different hair-styles are also cool to see, as Kiri and Narumi work their magic on a plethora of side-characters.

As I remembered, Kiri is definitely an unconventional shojo heroine, which makes this series stand out from several others. She has a laid-back, generally aloof personality that clashes spectacularly with her high-strung, temperamental counterpart, Narumi. She’s hilarious, a real breath of fresh air, and a good chunk of her story focuses on past trauma and whether she truly wants to be a beautician, and her struggles coming to terms with her dreams and her past. My only quibble with Kiri as the heroine is that, when the inevitable love triangle rears its head, you don’t get much of her perspective, especially in the later volumes. However, on the flip side of that, there is a lot of emphasis put on the two male characters of the triangle, which, at least in my experience with manga, goes a bit against the grain. But, since Kiri’s thoughts on the matter are barely touched upon, the ending doesn’t pack quite enough emotion as I would have hoped for. But in terms of the general “building up” of the romance over the course of the volumes, the progression is subtle for the most part. Narumi’s initial derision for Kiri fades slowly as they learn more about one another and gradually start to work together, but their interactions develop in a way that feels organic and natural. Ochiai’s blossoming crush on Kiri has an impact on his friendship with Narumi, as he mainly struggles with his budding feelings on his own until the triangle reaches a climax, though Kiri and Kanako’s friendship does suffer a minor snag once Ochiai’s motivations become more clear. So, although the triangle is such an overdone trope, it doesn’t feel hastily thrown in; most sides get a fair amount of development, but I wish we could have had more of Kiri’s perspective. I will say, now, as an adult, some of the “romance” comes across as more “stalkery” or “cringey,” but isn’t really presented as such. Then again, maybe I’m just out of touch.

When I first read Beauty Pop as a teenager, I was drawn in by the comedy and the unusual focus on hair-styling and beauty, and now, all these years later, that allure still rings true. I didn’t laugh quite as much as I did, but I was still drawn in by the story and the characters. It’s a light-hearted title that presents familiar tropes in an unconventional and unexpected fashion, breathing new life into a genre that can easily get stale.

Shameless plug: My book tour for my YA novel, I’m With You, is still ongoing! Check it out here: LINK! Plus, the ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) on Amazon Amazon UK. 

I’M WITH YOU on the road…

I’m taking my YA novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour starting TOMORROW!

Here’s the LINK for the tour, if you’d like to keep up with the stops! I wrote up some fun guest posts and there are a couple of interviews, which I hope folks will look forward to reading. And in conjunction with the tour, I’ve got some additional news…

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I’m With You is now only $1.99 in ebook format (down from $4.99) and $9.99 in paperback (down from $12.99)! Check it out if you haven’t yet!

Here’s the Amazon LINK if you’d like to take advantage of the deal!

Summary: When fifteen-year-old Ciarán Morrigan eavesdrops on a conversation between his father and two mysterious strangers, his life–and the life of his little sister, Remiel–is changed forever. After their father makes a startling decision, the Morrigan siblings are forced to flee the only life they’ve ever known and embark on a dangerous adventure across the nation of Empirya. With the help of a disinherited vagabond, a cynical violinist, a fire-juggler with a fierce temper, an aspiring mechanic, and a cheerful librarian, Ciarán and Remiel must fight to escape those who have been hired to hunt them. But will Remiel’s dark secret prevent the Morrigan children from finding a place they can truly call home?

Sunlight

I used to think that sunsets signified “ending.” The final pink-orange slice of daylight to usher in the moon and stars. Relaxing on the porch with a nice drink or an evening latte and watching the sun dip below the horizon after a long, strenuous day or work or school. A time for unwinding and reflecting, appreciation for what has transpired, or relief at the approach of dusk.

20170731_052309Sunrises seem more like “beginnings.” The first glimpse of dawn, a pink-kissed morsel of hope breaching the darkness. The promise of something new, of a fresh start, often accompanied by the whir of a coffee-maker turning on or the crisp turning of newspaper pages. A time for aspirations, for sleepers to wake, for eagerness for the future, and setting down the right foot to progress with the waking day and hopefully accomplish something.

Often, sunsets and sunrises are presented in a “one or the other” type of scenario, but my answer to the “sunset or sunrise?” question has shifted more than once. With my job’s hours, I see both of them most every day. If I work an overnight shift, I come home to the sunrise, but if I work a mid-shift, I come home to the sunset, and both are their own unique experience. I used to think I preferred sunsets, but then I flipped to sunrises, and then flopped back. They each have their high and low points, their pros and cons; sometimes, they are even difficult to distinguish from one another.

I don’t think of sunsets as endings or sunrises as beginnings anymore, but rather, they are simply moments to indulge in; they don’t have to mean anything particularly significant. A sunrise can be an ending, a sunset can be a beginning, or they can just be snippets of beauty along a longer, winding road. If I’m lucky enough to get to watch the sun sink behind the distant mountains or rise and conquer the fallen night, then I just focus on seeing it, and appreciating it for what it is; a beautiful sight.

Maybe we don’t have to be sunset people, or sunrise people. Maybe we can all be both, and enjoy the endings as much as the beginnings, and appreciate their beauty.

This has been my pretentious musing mini-post for the week, stay tuned for a new Game of Thrones inspired post on Friday, all about recruiting new people to join “the Watch.”

Writing Rewind #10: Wings of Fate Chapter 7 Part 1

Whoo boy, we’re getting into the thick of things now! Last time, Heiwa was feeling discouraged about the mission until he met a mysterious girl on the deck of the UNMEI. Determined to help her, Heiwa has the bright idea to hide the girl in his room for the remainder of the mission, but inspection day is looming, which means the secret probably won’t last for long…

Let’s examine Wings of Fate Chapter 7: The Mission Revealed!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe
Green highlight – switch/move

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Poor, poor Heiwa. Naturally, his plans have all gone to shit. But they don’t need to fall apart in such…wordy fashion. Time to take out the shears!

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Good lord, that sentence about Shirotaka in the closet is unbearable. “Brightly pigmented eyes” might be the most cringe-worthy phrase I’ve encountered in this piece thus far, which is saying a lot. Also, a lot can be chopped off and some other things can be reworked to improve the flow.

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Much slimmer, and it still gets the point across.

After the disastrous inspection, Shirotaka is whisked away and Heiwa gets sent to Sector One to meet with Major Tango, where he will presumably be assigned a punishment. But once he gets there, he encounters some trouble in the form of Major Leiter, who seems to be exactly as Daisuke described her. But when he asks for help, she doesn’t appear to be listening…

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Well. Major Leiter has quite a temper. And this passage has quite a few errors to fix!

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Major Leiter’s outburst and Heiwa’s shocked reaction don’t need to be so dense; it can be pared down and reworked to make it less clunky, while still giving insight into the type of person Major Leiter is.

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There – much cleaner! The interaction flows better and doesn’t have so much needless fluff. Honestly, I think half of this entire story is fluff… but regardless, let’s move on…

After his encounter with Major Leiter, a young woman offers to help Heiwa, but Major Tango is late meeting him and he starts to grow worried. Which means it’s time to shoe-horn in a surprise introduction!

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This is another interaction that doesn’t need to take freaking FOREVER TO GET THROUGH. I mean really. Really. Obviously, I intended the reveal of Tango’s identity to be a “super cool” moment, but when it drags on for ages, the moment loses some luster.

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UGH, THE CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS. Hair and eyes don’t need to be so DRAMATIC. Also, women as high-ranking officials shouldn’t be a shock anymore, so Heiwa’s reaction is a tad overblown, but I did write this as a high school freshman, so I’m giving myself some leniency here.

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There; the Tango reveal takes less time and some of the cringiness is gone forever, never to be seen again, while other bits have been reduced and spruced.

So, Major Tango takes Heiwa to his next destination… and do I catch the whiff of a romance subplot?

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WHY. DO. I. SPEND. SO. MUCH. TIME. DESCRIBING. MATTHIAS? WHYYYYYY????? *bangs head on desk* Seriously, he’s a cold dude – it’s obvious by now.  He’s basically the abominable snowman at this point, and we already have a pretty clear picture of his character, so it doesn’t need to be repeated OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

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So, there’s a lot of description to be removed here. And some general rephrasing, as well.

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So there we have it! Chapter 7 is a pretty dense one, so I’m halving it – this time, we get two new major characters, and next time, in Part 2, we finally find out what the mission of the UNMEI is! Over 50,000 words into it and we’re just now getting to the point. It’s been a bumpy ride, and trust me… it’s gonna get bumpier.

SIDENOTE: I’m taking my YA novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour later this month! Details HERE!

A Couple of Announcements…

In lieu of an actual blog post today, I’ve got a couple of future matters to discuss.

The first, is that I’m taking my YA novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour via RABT Book Tours later in August, and for most of September! I’ll be doing interviews, guest posts, etc. on a number of different blogs for about a month.

Here is the link to the upcoming tour if you want to have a peek: LINK! And check out some of the other tours on their sidebar, as well! I’m very excited to kick off the tour in a couple of weeks, and I’ll be posting updates about it as it comes nearer and while it’s going on, so stay tuned!

Other than that, I’ll also be starting a new blog series in September called Manga Mondays. I used to be a pretty big collector and have shelves of manga that I haven’t read in several years, with numerous completed series and a few incomplete series. As a bit of an “experiment,” I’m going to re-read (and, in a sense, re-review) them and see how my perspective has changed now that I’m older.

Some of the series I will be looking at:

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
Godchild by Kaori Yuki
Beauty Pop by Kiyoko Arai
Kingdom Hearts (I&II) by Shiro Amano
Love Com by Aya Nakahara

The first installment is tentatively scheduled for September 4th, 2017, but I haven’t picked a series to start with. Not entirely sure if it will be a weekly post, every other Monday, or on random Mondays – it all depends on how quickly I can read.

So there’s a couple of things to look forward to on the blog! See you on Friday for a new Game of Thrones post!

Changes from Page to Screen: Game of Thrones

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for all 7 seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones, all 5 ASoIaF books, and other related material/speculation.

I know there are sticklers and purists out there who dislike it when significant changes are made to the source material in order to bring a book or series to the screen, and I totally understand that perspective. But, as I see it, that’s why it’s called an adaptation. Sure, there are egregious adaptations out there, like the Percy Jackson movies, but sometimes, the changes made to the story in order to adapt it to a new medium are more of a positive than a negative, like in The Lord of the Rings, or must be made for timing, plot, or casting purposes. Books don’t function entirely the same as films or television shows, which is why such (occasionally drastic) changes between mediums are often necessary.

In the case of HBO’s hit fantasy series Game of Thrones, many changes have been made from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series in order to bring the novels to the small screen. And while some of those choices have understandably struck a nerve with die-hard fans or even caused some outrage, others have worked pleasantly well. And here’s a list of some of the changes I found myself a fan of, and even a few I found myself preferring. And, for reference, I did read the books first, and I LOVE the books and all of the rich detail they include; I’m just not a “one or the other” type of fan, so I don’t demonize the show or the show runners for taking creative liberties.

Here we go…

Aging the Characters Up
One thing that really threw me in the books is how young all of the characters are. For reference, in the books, Arya is about 9 when the story begins, Sansa is 11, and Daenerys is 13. In the books, it’s a realistic choice because of the medieval setting, as once girls hit puberty in those times they were essentially expected to marry and bear children. But, considering the fact that Daenerys gets sold as a bride to Khal Drogo in the first episode, among various other shocking events that occur to other characters, it’s a good thing that the characters were aged up a few years. Reading about heinous things happening to characters who are essentially children is different than seeing it, and might have deterred less die-hard fans. The aging up also works for characters like Robb, who was 14 in the books, as an older Robb leading his own army makes more visual sense.

Axing Lady Stoneheart
I’m going to be honest; I’m not a huge fan of the Lady Stoneheart plot in the books. I don’t dislike it, per se, I just thought Cat dying at the Red Wedding was more fitting and poignant as the end of her character arc, so when she didn’t make her vengeful return in the show, I wasn’t torn up about it. Admittedly, one of my favorite characters is Beric Dondarrion, and since he dies (for good) in order to bring Catelyn back in the books, I am glad it didn’t happen on the show because it means Beric is still around valiantly leading the Brotherhood Without Banners. I do think Lady Stoneheart might have bogged down the plot a bit too much if she had made an appearance on the show, since so many plot-lines have been shifted around, trimmed, and altered to move the story along. At the very least, it does seem as though elements of her character have been given to others – her daughters, especially. Plus, Catelyn’s influence and impact on the other characters is still felt in the series, roughly four seasons later, a testament to her strength as a character. Plus, we can’t be bringing all much-missed characters back from the dead.

Arya and Tywin at Harrenhal (and other interactions)
One of the perks of the TV show is seeing characters meet face-to-face and story-lines intersect, and the show has a couple of these interactions that did not originate in the books, the most prominent being Arya serving as Tywin Lannister’s cup bearer at Harrenhal in season 2. Their banter and discussions and Tywin’s developing fondness for her is a major highlight of that season, and it orchestrates additional tension, since Tywin has no idea that his new cup bearer is the missing daughter of a family in open rebellion against the crown. In the books, Arya has the same general arc, but serves Roose Bolton at Harrenhal instead, which isn’t quite as memorable. Other such interactions include the Hound and Brienne in season 4, Bronn and Jaime from season 5 onward, and, on a different note, the non-book conversation between Robert and Cersei in season 1 where they discuss Lyanna Stark and their marriage. I think that conversation will bear a lot of relevance in this season and the last…

Expanding Bronn
Not much to this one, except Jerome Flynn is excellent as Bronn, inserting a bit of crass humor into his scenes, and I’m glad he’s been around the last couple of seasons instead of shacking up with Lollys at Stokeworth. Unfortunately, that means he’s in the thick of things and will probably die either this season or the next, but I do hope he gets his lady and his holdfast someday.

Sansa Goes North
I think this is a decision that resulted in some pretty severe backlash, and I understand that perspective; especially since Sansa had already suffered plenty before being handed over to the Boltons, where she proceeded to suffer even more – taking her pain to a near obscene level in season 5. I don’t like that Sansa going north and marrying Ramsay meant she needed to endure even more horrendous treatment right as she was beginning to gain new footing and independence, but it also advanced her plot and put her in position to reunite with Jon, reclaim Winterfell, and get her vengeance in season 6. She’s suffered enough, and though it was tough to watch, she couldn’t stay holed up in the Vale on the show or her plot would have lagged behind the others. Besides, if the show had followed the book plot, Ramsay would be torturing poor Jeyne Poole (being purported as Arya Stark) instead (and in far more gruesome fashion), which doesn’t bear as much emotional or narrative weight in the showverse, and wouldn’t have as big of an impact for the viewers.

Reduction and Streamlining of Minor/Supporting Characters and Plot-lines
Although I don’t think the Dorne story-line or the Iron Islands story-line made the transition to the screen quite as smoothly as they could (here’s looking at you, Sand Snakes) if they had thrown even more characters and intricate plot-lines and twists and turns into a story already has a ton of rich detail, or followed the books verbatim, the show could easily go for ten more seasons – which would be a dream for fans, but also a logistical nightmare and unrealistic. It’s a shame that dynamic characters such as Arianne Martell, Victarion Greyjoy, Arys Oakhart, Quentyn Martell, Moqorro, “Aegon Targaryen,” Jon Connington, and Dark Star were omitted, and others, like Doran Martell, Areo Hotah, the Sand Snakes, and Euron Greyjoy got scaled back, but I do think stream-lining the show, and adding a few character traits of absent characters to those already present in the show (Yara getting some of Victarion’s story, for instance, or Jorah inheriting Jon Connington’s greyscale) was ultimately a smart choice. It’s also a shame that characters like Strong Belwas, Edric Storm, the woods witch, Mya Stone, Patchface, etc, got left out of the show entirely, but again, combining characters (Gendry inheriting Edric’s storyline, as an example, and Daario taking on some of Belwas’s role) has been fairly effective thus far and kept the show from getting too bloated.  I know a few folks who are more “casual” viewers who still don’t know the names of the main characters; imagine if they’d gone full tilt and adapted the books word for word! Other choices, like Talisa replacing Jeyne Westerling also worked pretty well from a narrative standpoint, as the character arc and relationship with Robb was a bit more dramatic to witness, and Vargo Hoat would have been entertaining/ridiculous to see, but I think Locke was an acceptable substitute. Do I wish we could have seen more characters/plot-lines? Yes – but I understand why the changes were made.

 

I know it’s a disappointment to many that so much detail was left out of the show, but let’s be real; the show is pretty darn great regardless. Besides – we always have the books! I think it’s safe to say the show and the books might meet the same general ending, but there are still plenty of surprises to be had from the book series that will not be present on the show, and I’m glad we have deeper plot-lines and a developed mythos to look forward to in the books, even if the show spoils some surprises.