Monday, 23 November 2015

Beware of what you read...

I don't normally have dreams and if I do, I don't usually remember them. But, I guess, it's hard not to remember a dream in which you were preparing to depart from this world into the next one, your family around you, fussing about what you should take with yourself. It didn't help matters that the dream was extremely colourful and detailed. I remember that in the dream my mother was helping me to pack my bag as though I was going on a trip, though the knowledge of my true destination hung – unspoken – in the air. I remember two brightly-burning candles blowing and twisting in the wind that seemed to be confined to the bell jars they were in. I remember packing my favourite books and other stuff that I thought I might need or might not imagine my 'life' without. My grandmother was there too – an ominous sign, because she is dead. 

I woke up disoriented, panicked and scared. No surprise there, right? It took me a few minutes to calm down and realize that it had just been a really creepy dream, albeit of high-resolution quality. It didn't take me long to figure out what had caused it but the unpleasant feeling didn't leave me for a while. I was sitting upright in bed, blinking and rubbing my eyes as the deep steely-blue sky was gradually lightening outside. I started recalling a jumble of lines from CATCHING FIRE that I had been reading on the eve, having seen the final film of the series earlier in the day. Katniss resolved to die in the arena in order to save Peeta's life; she was mentally saying her good-byes over and over again, preparing herself for the inevitable final act of sacrifice: “Since I don't plan on making it back alive a second time... This time I don't have even the slightest hope of return... I'd actually figured out what I wanted my last words to my loved ones to be... It's my dying wish... I do my best, thinking of them one by one, releasing them like birds from protective cages inside me, locking the doors against their return...” 

If that wasn't enough to effect the pattern of my thoughts and turn them into a nightmare, just before falling asleep, I was also listening to the chapter from HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE dealing with horcruxes, their purpose and Lord Voldemort's life-long ambition to avoid death at all costs. Dumbledore and Harry's discussion must have seeped into my open, unprotected mind, relaxed by sleep, twisting and tangling my thoughts and playing tricks with my subconsciousness, making me the main character of a story and sending me off on a quest... However, my granny disappeared before the end and the dream dissolved before I could be whisked away. I think entirely too much. My brain is always working and buzzing with thoughts. Before reading and listening, I was reworking a piece of my own writing into a first-person narrative, influenced by the powerful narration of THE HUNGER GAMES books, where a certain grandma (based, I admit, on my late one) and interrupted sleep played a central part in the short scene that I had written.

I wanted it to be tense, terse and gritty but then I realized that as much as I want it to have an impact on readers like a punch to the gut it just doesn't belong in the fairyland world that I've created. I don't imagine that I will be trying it again but here's what I've written:

I yawn and feel my eyes fall shut even as grandma's snores start rumbling again across the room. They become so loud the windows begin to rattle in their frames and as there is no wind there can be only one explanation for that. It's been a long day - Throne Room Days are always the longest - and I'm tired of playing the same game over and over again. For the last two hours or so I was trying to focus my wandering attention on the chapter assigned for my today's after-dinner perusal. But I had to stop every quarter of an hour and shout "Grandma!" - about the only thing that has the power to stop her snores. Even if it is only for five minutes. Here they go again. I grit my teeth and shut the book. The History of the Upper Kingdom. Did I tell you? I am the High Lady of the Upper Kingdom - a magic kingdom ruled by women but currently plunged into loneliness and gloom by a certain curse - and it is my duty to know the history of my kingdom and my people by heart. But not today. I shut the book and put it on my lap but it slips down and disappears out of sight. Woo, my trusted friend and wolf, stirs on the rug at the foot of my armchair, ready to pick it up. I tell him "No". Not out loud, though. But through a secret mind bond that we share. I can't stand the rolls of my grandma's thunderous snores any more. "Grandma!" I shout. She stops mid-rumble, chokes slightly, opens her eyes and clears her throat. Out of the corner of my eye I relish the sight of her startled gaze. I pretend that I had not spoken. I do not stir. I stare into the fire as though hypnotised. Avoiding eye contact and conversation is the best policy. Sure enough, the next moment she goes back to sleep and I sigh and relax because it is so very quiet. The fire is blazing in the grate now and I feel so snug and warm, cocooned in my shawl. I can't resist the pull any more. I yawn, snuggle deep into my armchair, close my eyes and doze off...   

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week # 14

Place you wish we'd explored in the series but didn't?

The Atrium
Actually, it's the place that we've dipped our feet into - three times at least, each time on less than pleasant occasions - but ever so slightly... I'm talking about the Ministry of Magic. I just find it fascinating and I'd love to spend more time there. It's such a complex place; it has so many levels and layers, visible and hidden; secret rooms and rooms full of information and fantastic knowledge to explore. I'd love J.K. Rowling to write at least one book about Harry, Ron and Hermione's adventures at the Ministry of Magic once they start working there. I'm pretty sure that it would provide soil just as fertile as Hogwarts for mystery, intrigue, plots and adventures. In fact, I want to read such story so much, I sometimes think of actually taking it into my own hands and writing a canon-based fanfic that would take place at the Ministry of Magic and tell the trio's first adventure there as its employees. I wouldn't mind co-authoring the story with someone too, so if anyone feels up to it, drop me a line!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

My Pitch Wars Bio

I've decided to take part in Pitch Wars this year. Here's my mentee-wannabe bio:

Hi! My name is Farida Mestek. I live in Ukraine, Odessa. My native language is Russian but I prefer to write in English. I also teach English. I love reading, writing, drawing and watching and re-watching my favourite TV-shows. I also love animals, especially the talking ones. I have a collie dog, Phoebe, who thinks that she is a human being; I think that she might very well be the spiritual reincarnation of my grandma. 

I'm somewhat old-fashioned when it comes to writing. I love slow beginnings. I love to get shown around and introduced to the main characters before deciding whether I want to follow them on their journey. I mostly write books set in Regency England and in the fantasy world of my own creation. I tend to brood for a long time on my stories before I start writing them. For me writing a book is like looking into a crystal ball. I must take my time to penetrate the swirling mist in order to see... 

I love when characters come and tell me their stories — some of them take to haunting the back of my mind if I prove hesitant or reluctant to work on them — but more often than not I find myself following them around, hoping to get a glimpse into their private thoughts and eavesdropping on their conversations. I'm also not above riffling through their private papers — anything to get the story! 

I'm passionate about books, movies and TV-shows and when it comes to my favourite ones I can read and watch them over and over again. I never get tired of them. I'm a bit of a nerd. I have an absolute lifelong obsession with Harry Potter and I'm afraid that I'm overly enthusiastic about it for my age — but there's nothing I can do about it. My favourite authors are J.K. Rowling and Jane Austen. I'm a huge Star Trek and Doctor Who fan too. I love magic, fantasy and science fiction. But I also love history and different historical periods and settings. I love the fashions and the manners of the bygone days.

I've been working on the YA Fantasy novel that I've submitted for Pitch Wars for several years now, but it has a much longer history, because my acquaintance with its world and characters began more than ten years ago. In fact, my family and friends know the characters so well they talk about them as though they are quite real and you can often hear their names mentioned in my house. I'll go with Dumbledore's famous words here: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" Why, indeed? 

I've been rewriting, revising and polishing it a for number of times and I'm afraid that I can go on forever. In fact, I feel that it has come to the point where it needs an intervention from without. I cannot overstate what an amazing and incredible opportunity Pitch Wars is. I solemnly swear that if I get picked by a mentor I'll do my very-very-very best. I want it to be the best book I can possibly write!

You can learn about other participants of this year's Pitch Wars HERE.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week #13

Favourite ship?

There are a lot of excellent pairings in the Harry Potter universe, aren't there, and among my favourite traditional and canon ships are Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione and Lily/James. However, the first pairing that came to my mind was Arthur and Molly Weasley. I think they are just perfect. I'd like to post one of the funniest, cutest, most embarrassing, private and my personal favourite moments that feature the two. 

"What do you like me to call you when we're alone together?"
Even by the dim light of the lantern Harry could tell that Mrs Weasley had turned bright red; he himself felt suddenly warm around the ears and neck, and hastily gulped soup, clattering his spoon as loudly as he could against the bowl.
"Mollywobbles," whispered a mortified Mrs Weasley into the crack at the edge of the door.
"Correct," said Mr Weasley. "Now you can let me in."

Aren't they just adorable?

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My writing projects, part 3: a regency romance

my regency heroine
Another project I have been working off and on for a number of years. The idea came to me when I was finishing writing “Margaret's Rematch” and the plan was to start working on it next. Well, I started and I did work on it for a while but then another (more exciting) project interfered and this one was put on hold. I remember going back to it over and over again but something always made me abandon it in the end. I started writing it from the heroine's point of view and discovered that she was so unmanageable as the protagonist I could not deal with her. 

So I decided to make the hero deal with her instead and began writing from his POV. Then I thought that it would be very authentic to write it as an epistolary novel and I was really enjoying it for a while. The only problem was that the story was too one-sided and my hero seemed to be so much obsessed with my heroine he could talk of little else. I don't remember what happened and why I stopped working on it altogether but I have a vague recollection that I was afraid to write a very important but poignant scene between the two of them.

my regency hero
Luckily, before I put it on hold again, I wrote down the summary of the whole thing, so that now that I've started working on it again, I have most of the plot, the characters, the relationships and the interaction figured out. I began working on it on Monday and I intend to work alternatively on my fantasy novel and on my regency romance every other week.

Here are my sketches of them; my attempt to put on paper how I imagined them to look.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

My writing projects, part 2: a fantasy novel

This project has been haunting me for over ten years now. It started with a long poem that transformed into a fairy-tale the size of a novella. I was meticulously working on it throughout my university years, dreaming of getting published and becoming the next J.K. Rowling. He-he-he. I was so na├»ve! Then, after failing to find an agent, I abandoned it for many years. I took it out about five years ago. I revised it but didn't change anything much and published it with the help of a small publishing house. It proved to be a complete disaster. I doubt that a single copy was actually ever sold. I gave a lot of e-copies away though but never heard back from people who promised to give me feedback. 

In the end I decided to take it down and rework it into a novel. You can read more about my decision HERE. At first I was working on two novels that stemmed from the same idea but went in two completely different directions at the same time. However, one of the ideas proved more viable and resilient than the other and several years ago I made a conscious decision to concentrate exclusively on it. I was writing it for two years. I was revising it over and over again, then put it away to stew. I have been submitting it to agents for the last year – so far with no success. At the moment, having distanced myself from it for six months, I'm back to revising it again. You can read more about the original story HERE and the new one HERE.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

My writing projects, part 1: a fairy-tale

In one of my previous posts I promised to discuss in more detail those writing projects of mine that I've presently decided to concentrate on. The first project that I've completed but still have to revise and polish before it is ready for submission is a fairy-tale for children about a little but naughty star that I have a very soft spot for. Her name is Stella and she's very cute and curious with great love of knowledge, a rebellious streak and a penchant for trouble that she terms 'adventure'. In comparison with my other projects it is very short and it is rather shocking that it took me so long to finish it. 

Like most of my projects the fairy-tale was written a long time ago in English and in the course of many years it has been revised and rewritten over and over again. Last year, after attending a conference for writers on writing and publishing in L'viv, I decided to translate my fairy-tale into Ukrainian and try publishing it in my own country for a change. Well, like I said, that part took much longer than I had expected but it's almost done now – to use a film industry lingo it's in post-production stage – and I'm going to submit it in October when the publishing house of my choice opens its submission window again.