Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab



Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Fiction Friday: What are your main character’s weaknesses?


It's Fiction Friday, the meme for writer-bloggers! For those who are taking part, share a snippet on your work and link-up. Support each other, and if the blogger asks, give them constructive criticism! If you don't have anything to share this time, answer this week's question:

What are your main character’s weaknesses?


To see past and future questions for the next few months and find out more about this feature, visit the main About Fiction Friday post. 
Note: I'm posting chapters of a fantasy short story for the next few Fiction Fridays, but there will be a little delay because of some pretty major changes in my life these past few weeks. Bear with me!

Ashana Lian .

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

How To Start A Blog - 5 Easy Steps



SO YOU WANT TO JOIN THE FAMILY!!! Good for you! (You're crazy. o_O I'm kidding. =] )

Setting up a blog is very straightforward. Setting up a awesome super-duper-amazing fantastic blog is harder, and even now my blog constantly undergoes a ton of improvements. But to start...

1. What's your reason?

Blogging is FUN. Whether the blog is going to be personal and wacky, or focussed and professional, always remember your goal is to share in the blogging fun and bring that same excitement to your readers. The moment a blog dies or becomes inactive is because, for whatever reason, it's stopped being fun.

If you're creating a professional blog, the steps you'll take will be different to a personal blog - like mine. I'm devoted to fantasy so it's my main blog focus. I also found a way to bring in other stuff I liked - fantasy events like comic cons, games, books, movies, and so on.

What you choose to blog about will help you decide what platform to choose - so do that first!

2. Choose Your Platform

Because a blog is free to start and extremely common in this day and age, there are literally HUNDREDS of blogging platforms to choose from. There are three platforms that are without a doubt the most common, run by massive companies.

The PROS of choosing one of these is that there's loads of support to be found online, and if there is a glitch it will probably be resolved quickly. Also it's less likely these huge companies like Google (who run Blogger) will close down, which means that in theory, your content (blog posts, pictures, videos, anything you share on your blog) should be protected. (I would back it up anyway though... just in case.)

The CONS is there's only so much personalisation they will allow you. Also knowledge of basic HTML will go a long way; it's tedious but it bumps up your blog post from average to stunning. Also, Blogger can do some weird things to my images when I try to upload them.

Wordpress 

Wp is the king of blogging. It is devoted solely to bloggers, so the choice there is better! There are countless themes and layout and it's a great tool to run a website as well.

Tumblr

The home of the fandoms of the universe. Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and a bulletin feed like Twitter - imagine Twitter if it had unlimited characters in a post. The thing about Tumblrs is they all pretty much look the same and I think it's harder to achieve individuality, but it's perfect for a private geeky little world.

Blogger

As you can see - I'm a Blogger Blogger! Reason being, back when I didn't know much about blogs, Blogger was the first that came up in a Google search. Of course, that is because Blogger is owned by Google. This is perfect if you already have a Google account. Your login is the same for all Google applications and you can link your content across accounts.



3. Design

What do you want your blog to look like? In terms of COLOUR, I picked purple (my favourite colour) and blue because it felt it gave a humbleness and mellowness to my fantasy blog.

In terms of LAYOUT, I like sidebars but they can make a blog look cluttered. A very popular layout right now is having the post in the middle of the page and no sidebars. Yes, it is getting a bit overdone. But the reason it's such a hit is because it makes your blog look neat and clean.

In terms of IMAGES, what banner will you use? An image from Google? Will your draw or create it yourself? Keep in mind, if you are using somebody else's image you must credit them. Actually, I'm pretty sure if you use somebody's images without their written permission it's copyright infringement. But - like downloading music for free - people do it so often that it's one of those crimes nobody 'cares about', loosely speaking. Well, I'm just sayin'. If you can get permission, get it. At the very least, credit the creator or artist, if you must be a cyber-thief. e_e

4. Write Content

NOW WE'RE GETTING TO THE GOOD BIT!! What will you write about? Will it be a book blog? A lifestyle blog? Fashion? Music? Travel?

As you already know, mine looks at fantasy in different medias, mainly books. From time to time I also write about other things my readers will find interesting or my personal ditherings/hardly-accomplishments, especially if it affects the sort of books I'll be reading or if I can blog more often or less often.

Stuck? Talk about your problems. Sit down and get it all off your chest. Don't worry about how it sounds. You honestly will not fucking believe the popularity of various rambly, angsty blogs. (Even me - I've come across some pretty amazing life blogs, and all those bloggers do is complain.)

5. Share Your First Blog Post! Congrats!

One thing YOU MUST REMEMBER - your blog post may not be terribly popular at first... unless you're already a celebrity or talking about it via other social media like Goodreads (eg. book blogs), Pinterest (eg. cooking blogs), Twitter (eg. lifestyle blogs), Youtube (eg. music blogs) or anywhere else people might genuinely be interested in what you have to say.

Keep at it. Your network will grow - as long as you put the effort in. There's lots of ways to make blogger-friends, like blog-hops, awards and all that jazz. So get involved!

You'll find out pretty quickly if blogging is the thing for you or not. If it's for you, you'll become addicted like the rest of us. And if not, you'll get bored.


~ Blogging Etiquette ~

Promoting your blog in the comments of other blogs.

Some bloggers don't mind this, others dislike it. Personally, I don't do it at all because I feel like it's spamming. But I do do it on blogs that have Discus (which is a commenting widget) because I don't want an account with Discus, but if I comment without an account it appears as 'anonymous' - then the blogger can't find me if they want to respond.



My Number One Blogging Tips

1. Think up a catchy title - always a winner! My other blogs have great titles, but not this one because  'A Fantasy Writer's Blog' will come up higher in a Google search if any of the keywords are entered.

2. Post regularly - set a day to post weekly, fortnightly or whenever suits you, but stick to it so your readers know when to come back.

3. Pretty images - unsplash.com is fantastic because the image are royalty-free, which means you can do whatever you want with them. I take pictures of the books I own and mess about with it on befunky, my favourite free picture editing website.

4. 'Other posts you might like' - I put a short list of these at the end of my posts (when I remember. :3) first because it keeps your readers interested, and also sometimes old blog posts that are relevant now or particularly good get lost in the passage of time. O_O

5. Sidebar - get it right. Not too many widgets, not too little. And for the love of cake, not too wide.

6. Swearing? - I don't shy away from swearing when there is simply no other word that will do, but I do find over-the-top excessive profanity makes me lose interest. As my blog is aimed at adults, it's not a big deal - this is my blog and my space. But what about you? Know what your values are and uphold them on your blog. If the reader doesn't like you they simply won't read your blog, so be yourself.

7. Give your reader what they expect - it what they came for. Don't let them click away to another blog. Make your readers laugh. Brighten their day. c:


Ashana Lian .

Click Here for other Writerly Tools & Tips.

This post was for Allison and Emily - I hope you girls found this useful!
For the already-bloggers out there; do you have any tips? Share in the comments!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Fiction Friday: Does your main character have any siblings? Tell us about them.


It's Fiction Friday, the meme for writer-bloggers! For those who are taking part, share a snippet on your work and link-up. Support each other, and if the blogger asks, give them constructive criticism! If you don't have anything to share this time, answer this week's question:

Does your main character have any siblings? (Tell us about them.)


To see past and future questions for the next few months and find out more about this feature, visit the main About Fiction Friday post. 
Note: I'm posting chapters of a fantasy short story for the next few Fiction Fridays, but there will be a little delay because of some pretty major changes in my life these past few weeks. Bear with me!


Ashana Lian .

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

YA Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven & It's Incredible Similarities to The Fault In Our Stars


Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin
Published: 2015
Genre: Young-Adult Contemporary (non-fantasy.)

Blurb:
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Just a reminder, my reviews are not spoiler-free.


I wouldn’t normally write about this on my blog, but I thought it was important because I’ve previously mentioned on this blog that I have had... some... problems. Mentally.

This book was very very good. The characters were likeable, the beginning was strong and the ending was poignant. You gather from the blurb that one of the protagonists is suicidal (Theodore Finch) and the other suffers from what I think is post traumatic stress disorder following her sister’s death (Violet Markey).

The beginning was strong and hooked me immediately. Finch was definitely my favourite narrator! I liked pretty much all the characters, even though Violet’s old friends felt very... cliche-esque! (Heh) Niven did a incredible job of making me empathise with both Violet and Finch, without making them sound whiney or overly dramatic. They felt like real people with real problems, which was where the strength of this book came from. It felt as though it could be happening to anyone, anywhere - actually, I have several friend going through some of the issues in this book.

I got a bit bored towards the middle and to be honest, even though Violet's depression made you wanna cut her some slack, it was still very hard to see why Theodore was so eager to be friends with her. Finch, despite his problems, was likeable. Violet, even with her problems, didn't have a huge deal that seemed very alluring to me. She was so dull and shut-off, it was hard to see what Finch saw - then again, maybe he just saw an escape from his own problems and as the story progressed she became something more.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear at the end – not because of the ending but because of Finch's unravelling that led up to it. I recognised many of his thoughts and emotions of ones I've had before, and lately I have already been feeling quite low and miserable, so it really was awful to kind of... reminisce the stages leading up to suicidal feelings. All The Bright Places helped to illustrate that it’s not just terrible circumstances in somebodys life that provokes such awful thoughts. I don't think it’s trying to escape the present. What starts it off is when you don't see the point of waiting for a future that has no prospects.

When I have those feelings, its when a very low point in my life keeps recurring. It’s not the things itself that makes me think, ‘What’s the point?’ – it’s the mere thought that the rest of my life might be exactly like this. It’s debilitating. There was one part of the book when Finch realises he's been staring out of a window and thinks 'How long was I doing that?' That part creeped me out because I've realised I do that a lot when I'm on a downward spiral. It's like losing touch with reality and then time itself does something weird.

But anyway.

It really is a great book and the hype is justified. You’re hearing that officially from moi. =] It’s not normally the sort of book I would pick up but I'm glad I did.  For all my London readers – Jennifer Niven will be at Waterstones Piccadilly promoting this book on the 25th March. I hope you go and support the book and then come back and tell me all about it c: It’s the one and only time I give you permission to spam this post, LOL! Originally I was going to go, which I why I bumped this book up my TBR pile, but it’s brought out such raw feelings in me I no longer have the heart.


Verdict:  ****
(4 Sha's.)



10 Uncanny similarities between All The Bright Places and The Fault In Our Stars

(There will be spoilers e_e )

1. In TFIOS, both Augustus and Hazel have a physical illness. In ATBP, Violet and Finch have a mental illness.

2. All of the protagonists' names relate to nature – Waters, Hazel, Finch, Violet.

3. Both Hazel and Violet have parents who are caring but walk on eggshells.

4. In TFIOS and ATBP, Green and Niven set it up that the boyfriend is the charismatic one who therefore casts the illusion of confidence and strength. In both, the boyfriend dies first.

5. In TFIOS, Augustus’s condition worsens dramatically towards the end of his life, and Hazel notices how awful he looks despite still loving him. In ATBP, Finch’s mental state unravels towards the end of his life, and Violet notices the change in his behaviour and the frequency of his disappearances, and is angry about it, despite still loving him.

6. In both TFIOS and ATBP funerals, Hazel and Violet feel that no-one truly understood Augustus/Theodore and there is a sense in both books that funerals are a sort of facade.

7. Protagonist virgins lose their virginity in both books. (Had To Be Noted.)

8. The person who was dead before the story began – TFIOS it’s Augustus previous girlfriend, in ATBP it’s Violet’s sister – was out made out to be a saint. In fact, both dead girls were not particularly nice people.

9. Both Theodore and Augustus ‘speak’ to their girlfriends from beyond the grave (I don’t know why these books never touch on the grief of a sudden death with no damn paper trail (then again, probably not a good idea to traumatise your teenage readers.)) , Augustus via a posthumous letter, Theodore with the final wandering.

10. Both TFIOS and ATBP shatter the stereotypical image we have of those with physical or mental illnesses. Also both have teen protagonists... maybe suggesting that it's in the teenage years that we form these misconceptions, hence aiming the books towards teenagers.


I prefer Hazel over Violet as a protagonist (also, witticisms in TFIOS were very amusing) but if a single character stole the show, it was Theodore Finch. He was an absolute marvel as a character and as a love interest for Violet - which made his passing just so tragic. It's ironic he thought so lowly of himself when I think so highly of him.


Ashana Lian .

P.S. I’ve finally started reading Vicious! It’s is BRILLIANT so far. =D

P.P.S. Happy St. Patrick's Day! (I love Google gifs, they - are -so - CUTE.)


Have you read All The Bright Places? Do you read books on coping with death and mental illnesses, or do you stay away from books that'll make you sad (like me (usually))?

Friday, 13 March 2015

Fiction Friday: Has your main character ever done something they were ashamed of?


It's Fiction Friday, the meme for writer-bloggers! For those who are taking part, share a snippet on your work and link-up. Support each other, and if the blogger asks, give them constructive criticism! If you don't have anything to share this time, answer this week's question:

Has your main character ever done something they were ashamed of?


To see past and future questions for the next few months and find out more about this feature, visit the main About Fiction Friday post.
I'm posting chapters of a fantasy short story for the next few Fiction Fridays, but there will be a little delay because of some pretty major changes in my life these past few weeks. Bear with me!


Ashana Lian .

Friday, 6 March 2015

Fiction Friday: Where is your story set?

It's Fiction Friday, the meme for writer-bloggers! For those who are taking part, share a snippet on your work and link-up. Support each other, and if the blogger asks, give them constructive criticism! If you don't have anything to share this time, answer this week's question:

Where is your story set?


To see past and future questions for the next few months and find out more about this feature, visit the main About Fiction Friday post.
I'm posting chapters of a fantasy short story for the next few Fiction Fridays, but there will be a little delay because of some pretty major changes in my life these past few weeks. Bear with me!


Ashana Lian .

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Stacking The Shelves, Writing My Novel, Landing New Job and Loving New Phone


1. HAUL!
*snort* A book buying ban indeed! I dropped by my old workplace last week and couldn't resist picking up a book or two... precisely two. Then I ordered two online O_O (one of them was Vicious by V.E. Schwab, the first read for the Goodreads TBR Smash reading challenge group) and THEN at some point I miraculously acquired the biggest book I have seen since the original Dance of Dragons edition by George R.R. Martin (and even then, this one may be bigger!) This enormous book was Words of Radiance, written by one of the most highly praised masters of fantasy, Mr. Brandon Sanderson.

HAUL: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, The Tropic of Serpents (A Natural History of Dragons 2) by Marie Brennan, Vicious by V.E. Schwab, and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson.

I'm linking up with Tynga's Stacking The Shelves meme (#148) for the first time ever. Exciiiitiiiinggg!


2. Novel!
I have been working on OOTD/ Karalan's Legacy like a BEAST! I realised at some point that I haven't actually done an in-depth post on what this novel is about, after all this time blogging! So that needs to be on its way soon, along with a story summary (and a pretty infographic...?) on my next novel focus, Brilliance of The Light.They both have Pinterest boards, so check them out because... pictures! =D

3. Neglect!
I know. I am ashamed. >.< I will be making sure I have posts ready, because I did very badly with posting last week! Also, I promised a chapter of The Sorcerer's Secretary and didn't deliver, so you guys get two chapters this coming week. So YAY for the double post, but whoops about the forgetting-in-the-first-place.

4. Interviews!
I'm no longer working at a bookstore. D= Sad times! Now I have to rely solely on YOU GUYS to keep me updated on the latest books and such. But DON'T START YET because my TBR pile is high enough to touch the clouds and wobbling dangerously.

Last week, I had two interviews and then to my surprise and absolute delight, the first one offered me the job two days later. GOODBYE, GRUELLING JOB HUNT! It's exciting, extremely nerve-wracking, and I really hope to settle down in this role so fingers crossed that it'll be the perfect match for me.

My sister gave me a nicely wrapped box of chocolittes. So happy. c: There's only like, three left. I took this picture with my camera, but MOVE OVER CAMERA! The phooone has arrived.


5. FIRST EVER SMARTPHONE!
OMG. Soo. You guys already know I scrutinise a lot of things... the media... social networking... pessimism from other people... badly written fantasy books... mind-melting technology and technology you can put in your pocket. You get the gist. My family nagged at me for years and years to switch from my beloved Nokia C2-01 to an android phone. NO! I insisted, I LOVE MY PHONE.

But since taking this new job I decided that at last, it is time. My new role encourages networking so I knew I'd need to have easy access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and so on. So I finally got myself a Samsung!

I really wanted a Samsung Alpha because it was very flashy, had great functions, and I don't change my phone as often as other people change their clothes (and well, and their phones) so I knew I'd keep whatever I got for the next several years at least. But Alpha was out of my budget so I scaled right down to a more basic Samsung Galaxy Ace 4. To be honest, I've heard it's a pretty dismal model but for my first smartphone it's more than good enough.

Finally, I am one of you. We are all zombies together. *zoooombiiiie huuuug*


- A Secret Thing. -
I hesitated a long while before writing this because I didn't want to seem ungrateful. I'm not unemployed any longer - I have a bunch of new clothes,  a new phone, new books, and yes, the addition of each thing made me feel temporarily happy. I am grateful for these things, but deep down I'm more unhappy than I've been in months.

Materialistic things don't solve emotional problems. Despite everything, I am more depressed than I have ever been, and I was having such dark thoughts last night I didn't sleep at all. So actually, you're kind of getting the no-sleep-hangover-word-vomit. I'm kinda unhinged right now.

It could be a lot of things. It could be the fear of failure at my new role. It could be uncertainty that I've gone into the right field, or loneliness of feeling/being cut off from my friends, the stress of finding this job and more stress at settling into the new rhythm on my life. But there's something deeper I can't put my finger on, and it's the reason I haven't had a solid night's sleep for two weeks. My days are hectic and exhausting, my diet is pretty bad, by fitness regime is worse (there isn't one), and so it makes me very uncomfortable to say, I've noticed the inklings of feelings and old habits that arrive just before the suicidal feelings, which arrive just before the cutting. I need to do something fast.

First, I'm going to seek professional help. Second, I'm going to make sure I exercise and engage in artistic activity for release, as much as I can. And third, I'm going to try extra hard to stay in touch with friends. This may not work but at least I would have tried.


I Don't Want To Leave You On A Blue Note.
Let me tell you about something EXCITING I just discovered!! On Mark Lawrence's site (he wrote Prince of Thorns) is a brand new Self-Published challenge for bloggers, where bloggers will read 25 self-published books (or as many as they can, although some bloggers are VERY FAST readers), and help to promote debut indie authors if they like it. This is extremely beneficial to the author who may struggle to be seen because gems are drowning in a huge slush pile of crap.

I've massively paraphrased this so please visit Mark Lawrence's Self-Published Author Blogger-challenge blog post to understand the challenge properly. But it's exciting, right?! I really want to get behind this but I'm wondering if I'll have time. You know. New job and all that.

It was only posted yesterday, but already six bloggers have pledged to the challenge. If you're an avid reader and agree that talented indie authors should be heard, sign up! =D

Finally, I'm going to share this absolutely stunning image I found on Pinterest. It's Beautified Disney Villains. In one sense it's kinda shallow, then again it's interesting how the beauty clashes with their innate evil and skewed moral compass, which makes them more complex. I love complex villains. Don't you?

Source: Pinterest

The Jafar one had me. I half-slipped out of my chair.


Ashana Lian .


Questions! What books did you buy/borrow this week? Have you read any of the books I bought/borrowed? And for GOODNESS SAKE how do you manage posting on your blog? I am failing. Failing! Comments are always appreciated - I comment back. :3

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