Novel Update – We’ve Got a Cover!

Now that we’ve finalized the design for the cover, I’m also excited to announce that there will be ARC’s available very soon.

I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has followed my updates and shown support during each stage of this book. Your encouragement helped me push through and I’m incredibly grateful for all of it.

Over the next week I will be releasing more information about the ARC’s, for those interested in reviewing, but for now I will be sharing that little teaser image and letting you know that the ARC’s provided will be in ebook format.

Here is a little more information:

Target Audience: YA.

Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Romance…

Check out 5th Grade Challenge on Audible!

“Ted, the 5th grade genius and Veronica, his arch-rival, are constantly pranking each other. When the pranks spill over and ignite a grade-wide war, the teachers organize a girls vs. boys competition.”

This is a project I’ve been working on during 2020 with author Jamaal Fridge! I absolutely loved voicing his characters and discussing his work with him. It was so much fun and such a great learning experience as both an actor and an author!

You can find the audiobook on audible and read along!

The Kings Beast Vol. 1 Review

Summary

The Kings Beast by Rei Toma is set in the same world as Toma’s Dawn of the Arcana series in which humans and Ajin live amongst each other. Some Ajin are gifted special abilities and those who are get assigned to serve the princes of the imperial palace as beast-servants.

The Kings Beast follows Rangetsu, as she disguises herself as a man to get close to the prince who her brother once served. She suspects the prince of murdering her twin brother only to find that prince Tenyou is not who she expected him to be.

Review

I was absolutely thrilled to find out that The Kings Beast would be taking place in the same world as Dawn of the Arcana. I can remember getting the first volume of Dawn of the Arcana with my grandparents at this little Coles bookstore at the mall where they live. I was drawn to the cover immediately and ended up finishing the book the same day. I loved the lore created around the world, the artwork and the way that the character’s were introduced.

In The Kings Beast I felt certain moments were rushed, and I feel that this is because there is the assumption that readers of this series have already completed Dawn of the Arcana. I think this quick introduction to “the gifts” that the Ajin possess is fine for those who know this series lies within the same world and who were previously introduced to that, however it could be a bit confusing for those who have never read or heard of Dawn of the Arcana.

Rangestu is perceived as weak in stature, many believing that she is a young boy. Some of the comments made by prince Tenyou remind me of when I played Viola in Twelfth Night back in university (and I played Viola a lot). He comments on her small frame, her boyish voice, her long lashes–those unfamiliar with Twelfth Night could compare this to Mulan when Li Shang is entranced by her while believing she is Ping.

Rangestu has spent years trying to become the best fighter, in order to be considered a good match for the prince whom she believes has killed her twin brother Sogetsu. There is a coldness in her frames, some of which where she is shown putting on a pained smile. She has one goal and that is to avenge her brother’s death.

Personally, I would have liked to see Rangetsu and Tenyou dance around each other a bit before it is revealed that he was not the one who had her brother killed. I like that Tenyou comes to the realization that she’s related to Sogetsu, but it would have been interesting to have that revealed near the end of this first book rather than earlier on. I also enjoyed watching others close to Tenyou, test Rangetsu but I found at times Rangestu was too outspoken for an Ajin.

It is mentioned early on in the book that Ajin are viewed as lower class, and that if they attack or speak out against a human they can be killed, so having Rangestu in the palace being so outspoken seemed a bit off to me. I wish that she had taken the time to try and hide her true intentions, mainly because she has worked so hard to get to this point.

Overall, despite a few small criticisms I enjoyed this first volume and would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy fantasy, shojo and historical manga’s. I would also highly recommend this to those who are familiar with Rei Toma’s work, especially Dawn of the Arcana as it was fun being reintroduced to this world and seeing how things are for different Ajin and human’s living in another region.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4 Stars

Daytime Shooting Star Vol. 8 Review *spoilers*

I recently completed volume 8 of Daytime Shooting Star, and I have to admit the lack of Mr. Shishio definitely improved my reading experience. I like this series a lot but I find that my ratings flop between 4 and 5 star simply because of his character. It’s the scenes where Suzume is feeling completely vulnerable and insecure that I find both frustrating and upsetting, because she’s a kid in her first relationship and this grown man who is not only her teacher but also friends with her uncle is exploiting that.

This volume was fantastic because he wasn’t as present, and the story focused more on Suzume and her relationship with her friends, mother and uncle.

In the last volume I was thrilled when her uncle was furious with Shishio upon finding out about him and Suzume. I applauded.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Mr. Shishio. I like that he contradicts himself. I like that he’s a flawed character…I just don’t like the toxic relationship he has with Suzume. I know that the author Mika Yamamori has also expressed that many of her readers dislike him and I think it’s possibly because we’re seeing how problematic this relationship is.

I felt the same when rereading a favourite series of mine called Papillon by Miwa Ueda, where the leading protagonist Ageha dates her school guidance counsellor. It’s unsettling.

I understand that these two manga’s do fall under the umbrella of teen drama’s and forbidden love tropes but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable while breaking down these couples relationships. Suzume is completely crushed at this point in the series and had been working so hard to try to seem more grown up while spending time with Shishio outside of school. She felt so much pressure in the relationship, where his own concern was people finding out that he’s dating his student.

Back when I was in high school I didn’t think twice about this trope. I was eating up the drama. I was the same age as these female leads…now I’m the same age as their male love interests and certain scenes make me feel sick to my stomach. I still love the series, and I still enjoy the leading ladies of these books but I just can’t ship these characters. As a teenager I barely questioned it at all.

This must be what Pretty Little Liar’s fans felt like. I know that when I watched the first season of Riverdale I was pretty grossed out by the whole Archie x Grundy thing.

I have a feeling that I probably rant about this series a lot, and some might say, “Well if you don’t like the Student-Teacher trope then why do you still read it?” but honestly, it’s a good series. The story is compelling, the characters are engaging and the artwork is lovely. I was actually relieved when Mr. Shishio was called out for dating Suzume and acknowledged that what he was doing was wrong. I had hoped he would have called off the relationship before allowing things to escalate. I had hoped that in those moments where the reader gets a glance into his thoughts that he would push back, acknowledge how his behaviour and decide that it would be best to keep Suzume at a distance…but even when he did, he ended up pursuing this relationship with her and that was the point where I was like “Bruh. What the heck are you doing?”

Part of me hopes that they wont magically get back together but at the same time I’m doubtful.

The only series that I’ve read where this type of trope was criticized was Mars, which if I highly recommend, but I will give trigger warnings for various topics of abuse, self-harm and suicide.

I’ve noticed these topics in a lot of 90s shojo series…even ones that are considered comedies, so I always like to give a bit of a warning to anyone who may find these topics unsettling.

Going back to Daytime Shooting Star, as I mentioned before I used to read these tropes all the time. One of my favourite series was Dengeki Daisy, but in it Teru doesn’t get with Kurosaki while she’s still in high school. It is heavily implied that he refuses to acknowledge his feelings for her and won’t date her because of this. There are some other things about this that are clearly problematic and I do plan on rereading the series in the near future, since I own every volume…but it was the fact that he acknowledged that she was a teenage girl and decided not to pursue a relationship that I liked at the time. I believe I was like 17 to 20 when I was reading this series so again, my perspective may change like it did with Papillon.

Daytime Shooting Star has so much to offer. I rated volume 8 a full 5 stars! I just can’t review this series without discussing the problematic relationship between Suzume and Mr. Shishio. It caused her so much anxiety, and then upon the end left her depressed. It hurt seeing her that way and watching her friend encourage her to get with this older man who is clearly has an unfair power dynamic in their relationship.

Mamura, the other love interest in this series is protective of Suzume and I hated how in the last volumes this came across as him finally stepping up to be a rival when it in fact he was straight up calling out his teacher for having an extremely inappropriate relationship with a female student. Mamura is a good friend, and I’m glad that in volume 8 Suzume realizes this. I know that putting the spotlight on his character is meant to show him as a potential love interest but it is clear why most readers rooted for him from the beginning.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and keeping my fingers crossed that Suzume’s ending is a good one…but I’m somewhat doubtful that her and Mamura will end up together as the forbidden love trope tends to be one that really draws audiences in, in terms of drama. Perhaps if they had been college students, and Mr. Shishio was her TA I would feel slightly more comfortable with the relationship…but as of now I’m just glad her uncle put him in his place.

Perhaps that’s the exact feeling I’m waiting for?

We’ve now reached the cover process for my novel and I’ve been finding that this stage has my thoughts going in ever direction, which is why I’ve been making notes and taking my time to really work through what it is I want. Not to my surprise, sitting around staring at images all day doesn’t seem to help me make a decision faster. I contemplate each element of the piece, and try to make a list of questions I have. I’m starting to realize that I don’t just want it to be right, I want it to be perfect. I want whatever I choose to feel like it belongs on my book. I want this cover to be something I’d pull off the shelf myself, something that peaks my interest and makes me want to take it home. I want to be confident when I make that final decision, that this is exactly what I want. I don’t want to be in that state of contemplation, of indecision, of unease…so I’m going over the images again and again, debating on if it really does feel right.

I wonder if this is what it’s like when you’re choosing a wedding dress? Was I this obsessed with picking the perfect prom dress years ago? I had a certain criteria sure, but I think at a certain point I put one on and it was the perfect fit and perhaps that’s the exact feeling I’m waiting for? I’m waiting for that perfect fit.

Still, at this moment in time I’m not sure what I want to do, which frustrates me because I like to give prompt responses. I don’t like to leave anyone hanging. I guess this blog post is also me figuring things out.

I hope I get to the point where I do. Where I can picture holding that book in my hand and go “This is the one.” Until then, I’ll be staring off into space, eating banana bread and enjoying a cup of tea.

Writing Exercise

I’ve started doing little writing exercises, and have doubled down on reading novels in order to improve upon some of my skills.

I find reading helps me understand the areas that I need to work on, because I’m able to see and interact with multiple texts.

With the writing exercises, I’ve been doing little things like picking a word and basing a couple paragraphs around that. I like doing this by hand versus typing it out on the computer because when I’m finished I can go through and highlight the areas I’d like to improve upon. For example, if I notice that I used one of my crutch words, I can underline it and spend some time thinking about alternative words that I can use or if a sentence is pronoun heavy, I can highlight it and find ways to fix that and make the sentence stronger. I find trying to do this on the computer can make it harder for me to stay on task because there are a lot of distractions.

Truthfully, I started writing out a new chapter today and then while breaking for lunch ended up spending an hour browsing books, cleaning products and plants. Me browsing books isn’t anything new, I do this several times a week and just ordered a handful yesterday however, cleaning products? I don’t need any new cleaning products right now. I was just at the store the other day. I bought dish soap. Why do I need to look at fancy, expensive dish soap and contemplate the different scents offered?

I don’t.

That’s why doing these writing exercises is a lot more effective when I do them on random scraps of paper or in one of my journals. Initially I actually went to look for new journals. I have two which are currently unused, but I plan on using them for other things. I’d rather have one that is completely dedicated to me practicing and playing around with different techniques and just…focusing on improving. A journal where I can make mistakes and highlight things and scribble and doodle on. I absolutely adore journals. I think they’re beautiful, and you can use them for so many things but also I find that I can really grasp things when I put them to paper…and I can track my progress, which I find during this pandemic has really helped me keep my sanity.

One thing that I also do with these writing exercises I’ve been doing, is using my current characters. The reason I decided to do this was because it lets me put them into different scenarios and really play around with them. I also get to take the time to think about that character, and how much they’ve grown over the course of the story. Sometimes, I also really enjoy the little scene I’ve put together and decide that its worth incorporating into the actual novel. It keeps me focused and engaged in the world of the story.

If you’d like to try out this writing exercise yourself, its honestly really simple.

  1. Decide what it is you’re going to work on. It could be setting descriptions or creating movement in a scene.
  2. Choose a word as your prompt. It could be potato, plunder, wilt…anything really. Sometimes its fun to grab a dictionary and open up to a random page!
  3. Begin writing. It doesn’t need to be long. It can be a couple of paragraphs, a single page, maybe two. While writing try to keep in mind what your main goal is.
  4. Go through and highlight or underline areas that you need to improve on. This will help you see if you’ve made progress.
  5. If you like, rewrite it or write a new paragraph taking into consideration the things that you’d like to work on.
  6. Compare each version and see how you’ve improved. Be sure to again, highlight or underline what it is you think you can work on and make notes for yourself.
  7. Be kind to yourself. It’s very easy for us to bash ourselves and our work…so if you begin to feel frustrated take time to breathe. Step away for a while, get some fresh air, clear your head…and then start again once you’re in a good head space. These exercises aren’t supposed to make you hate your writing or yourself. They are meant to help you grow, and that takes time. So please be kind to yourself, and do the best you can.

Quick Novel Update!

Today I got to see the mood board that’s being sent off to the cover design team and oh my goodness…I absolutely adore it. I’ve looked at it over and over again. It has the exact feel that I want and there are so many amazing books on it as well!

I’ll share the mood board itself at a later date just because it’s really special to me at the moment…and I kind of want to keep it to myself just a little longer (I hope that’s okay?).

This is so cool. Like I keep asking myself if this is real.

While that’s all being done, I’m jumping back into editing and working on the draft for the sequel. I’ve been trying to take everything I’ve learned from this first book an trying to apply it here. I hope that my efforts pay off.

I know that there’s still so much to do and there is definitely a lot more for me to learn, but I’m going to keep having fun and I cannot wait to for my next set of instructions and to see what the team puts together!

Sold Out!

I’m not sure what happened since lock down but every manga series I’m currently reading is sold out online. Normally when something like this happens it’s because the series is being adapted into an anime.

I tend to buy one or two books in a series at a time, especially when I’m trying it out. So of course to my surprise when a series I haven’t seen anyone else reading is suddenly flying off the shelf, I’m like “Oh no…” because now I have to wait until its back in stock and unfortunately sometimes that can take months, especially if it’s Shojo. Shojo is that genre that tends to get overlooked unless one series in particular is trending, otherwise most sellers don’t pay any attention to it. It sucks for readers but I’ve gotten so used to it that I’ve just learned to jump between multiple manga series while I wait for the next volume. This is just that odd time where literally all of the series I’m currently reading are sold out. I’m sure the pandemic has something to do with the shortage. I know that one company had a warehouse fire and is still recovering from that, so the one series I’m reading is on hiatus until later this year.

Still it’s kind of a bummer because I was finally catching up on all of my reading.

I’ll probably keep checking online to see if the books are in stock yet and if I can order them. If now perhaps I’ll have to start something new…or buy one of the expensive ones that I tend to only purchase when I have gift cards.