Saturday, June 30, 2012

Freaky Friday: Noppera-bo

A while back I participated in the A-Z Challenge and had so much fun discovering new and interesting spooks and menacing creatures that I thought I would make it a weekly feature on the blog.

Everyone who knows me knows I'm obsessed with the paranormal and horror creatures. I'm currently writing a YA Horror and thought this creature would be the perfect start to Freaky Friday. My main character is haunted by faceless ghosts, an idea that I got from the Noppera-bo.

The Noppera-bo are, in fact, faceless ghosts of Japanese folklore. Though, from behind, they do look  like normal people, the Noppera-bo's distinctive feature is their face, which lacks eyes, a nose or a mouth. Instead they only have smooth skin replacing their human facial features.

People who encounter Noppera-bo do not immediately realize that they are talking to something that is otherworldly, as the creatures are able to create the illusion they have a normal face. A Noppera-bo will wait  for the right moment before causing their faces to disappear, scaring the person they are speaking to. These creatures usually appear in lonely rural settings, although they can appear anywhere as long as the area is deserted. The Noppera-bo's primary purpose is to scare humans.

One famous Noppera-bo story is Lafcadio Hearn's Mujina. In the story, Hearn refers to the creatures as mujina, which is actually a different type of creature altogether (a sort of badger).  The story speaks of a man hurrying up an isolated road when he saw a woman crouching by the moat, all alone and weeping. Fearing that she intended to drown herself, he stopped to offer help. When she dropped her hand and turned around she had no face. The man screamed and ran away, never looking back.

He stopped at a soba-seller standing by the side of the road and went to tell his story to the seller. Once the story was finished, the soba-seller said "Was it anything like this?", stroking his own face where the features disappeared, revealing the same smooth skin creature.

Aren't those creatures fascinating? Every Friday I'll be back with a new and interesting (possibly spooky) creature. Enjoy the weekend.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: Alchemy of Forever

Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams

Synopsis (From Goodreads):Seraphina has been alive since the 1300's, made immortal when the boy she was beginning to love back then, Cyrus, saved her from death with a strange liquid - a method of alchemy that lets them swap bodies with any human being. But now, in modern day America, Sera has decided that she can no longer bear the weight of stealing people's lives so she can keep living on. So she decides to run away from Cyrus and end her stolen existence once and for all. Her plan goes awry when she accidentally takes the body of a dying teenager and feels forced to take over her life. When the lines between Sera and Kailey's identity begin to blur, Sera finds a reason to desire to live once more. But she can't shake the guilt of having taken Kailey's life, even if she was dying. And what if Cyrus finds her?

Seraphina has lived many lives, starting when Cyrus saved her life with a strange liquid. This liquid allows people to swap bodies with any human being. Seraphina doesn't like the idea that she's taking someone else's life just so she can live forever, but she also knows Cyrus won't just let her die. She knows he will force her to take another life just so he can keep her with him forever. Sera decides that she doesn't want to live forever and plans to run away from Cyrus and end her entire existence. Her plans change when she accidentally takes the life of a dying teenager and is forced to take over her life. But how long can Sera pretend to be another girl? And what will happen if Cyrus finds her?

The idea of alchemy and having a price for all 'magic' is what drew me to the story, and it did not let me down. Avery Williams has created an interesting take on immortality and Seraphina is the perfect character to follow during this story. Seraphina is conflicted with the desire to live, but also being forced to take another one's life to be able to do so. She is conflicted with so many emotions that following the story through her eyes makes it compelling to find out what's going to happen next and what is Seraphina going to do, especially when she lands in Kailey's body and feels the added pressure to pretend to be the same daughter to the dead girl's loving parents because she doesn't want them to lose their daughter.

The story was a quick page-turner that leads to a surprising twist, but there were times that I kept wanting something else to happen, although I can see big things happening in the next book and I look forward to seeing what Sera/Kailey will do next. I recommend this to anyone that likes a different kind of paranormal.

Source: hardcover
2012 Debut Author Challenge: #6 of 12

2012 YA Reading Challenge: #18 of 50

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Procrastination or Laziness?

Procrastination, everyone does it. I'm an expert at it, and it comes easy. Just sitting in front of my computer, I can find so many distractions. There's the internet, there's games and then there's social networking. All this right in front of me, all this that I need to push aside to get some work done.

No matter how hard you try, there will always be distractions to keep you from 'wanting' to do the work. You can disconnect the internet (yes, that's a bit drastic), you can lock yourself away and ignore all the family calls (wondering why you've ended up with a dozen voice mails) or chain yourself to the computer desk.

One way to overcome procrastination for me is to set a goal. With having something to work towards, it helps to push me into completing something worthwhile and not say "I'll do it tomorrow".

What about you? Do you ever suffer from bouts of procrastination? What are some tips to overcome the want to put the work off?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Carrier of the Mark

Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

Synopsis (From Goodreads):Their love was meant to be. 

 When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRÍs. 

 But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.

The first thing that drew me to this book was it's cover. It's absolutely stunning and Leigh Fallon has done a good job of creating an equally exciting story. Megan has never been able to call anywhere home. Her and her dad are constantly moving, and moving from America to Ireland is the biggest move of all. But here, Megan finally starts to feel at home, especially when she is drawn to the mysterious Adam. Soon Megan and Adam discover they are meant to be together, but the same power that brought them together could be the same thing that tears them apart and lead to their eventual destruction.

Leigh has created an interesting story with plenty of twists and turns, set in a different place. Ireland already has so many legends and myths, and is the perfect setting for this story. I wasn't a fan of the start of this story (don't get me wrong, the writing is vivid and created a real sense of excitement and tension). It read so similar to many other paranormal romances with a forbidden love and the dark and mysterious boy the main character is drawn to, but once the story took off, it was easy to get swept up in the action and emotions of the story.

Megan and Adam are well-rounded characters that have strong feelings for each other. They don't want to believe that it is only the power within them both that is making them want to be together, and even though Adam would do anything to protect Megan, Megan would still be able to put up a good fight to protect herself. Even the minor characters were fleshed out and had unique personalities of their own.

Overall, the story was interesting and once the action started it was easy to push aside the overused trope of forbidden love and get trapped inside an exciting story. I would recommend this story to any reader who loves paranormal romances or legends that takes place in multicultural settings.

Source: Audible Audiobook
2012 TBR Reading Challenge: #5 of 12
2012 YA Reading Challenge: #17 of 50

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What is a realistic character?

When I read I love to get inside the head of realistic characters. Even when watching movies I sort of have a habit of wanting the main character to mess up, or even get hurt while trying. Yeah, I know. I'm messed up, but if the character can achieve their goal without problem or setback, then they are really dull to watch. This is probably why I prefer superheroes that are trying to hide from the cops rather than working with them.

So what makes a real character?

  • Faults
    Everyone has faults, no one is perfect (even if perfectionism is their fault). Whether it's being a slob to having a phobia, if the character has something that people can relate to, then it's easier for the reader to believe the character and get close to the character.
  • Quirks
    Everyone has some habit, trait or movement that they do (don't shake your head, you know you do). This could be a nervous habit such as biting their lip or cracking their knuckles. One of my quirks is I have a habit of pacing when speaking on the phone. Any phone call, not just upsetting or nervous calls. Sometimes these quirks aren't even noticeable to the character and they are done by the subconscious.
  • Likes/Dislikes
    Everyone has likes and dislikes, whether it's food or music or even teachers at school. Showing the character hates something or is obsessed with a band is just showing they have a personality.
  • Secrets
    Yeah, also something everyone has. Secrets can be little like the $5.00 you stole from your mother's purse when you were 13 to big as in, my father is a serial killer big. Secrets are just a part of life, and sometimes those secrets can cause problems and hurt the character when they are trying to achieve their goal.
  • Lies
    Don't tell me you've never lied. Even if it's a white lie by telling your best friend they don't look fat in that extremely tight top, that's still a lie. If the character never says anything but the truth, then they are either very, very, very honest, or just dull. 
Realistic characters portray traits that everyone has. If they don't, then what will make the reader believe they could be real or even want to follow the story with them.

What makes a realistic character to you?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Does reading help?

I'm a writer, but also an avid reader. Seriously, I have about 500 books sitting on my shelves (yes, some of them have been read) and I love devouring new and interesting stories. It amazes me when I meet someone who says that they want to be a writer, but they don't like reading. I just can't imagine being a writer and not loving to read.

I believe reading helps, not only to show you what's out there and is currently being published, but it also helps with the skills of writing and broadens the language skills of the writer. Yes, reading can even give inspiration and help writer's block. At the moment I'm writing a YA horror and was having a bit of problem bringing the eeriness and scares into the scenes where I know what's coming. Okay, I'm obsessed with horror movies and have read some horror novels (loved R.L. Stine when I was younger), but I didn't know how to make something scary when I knew every single event and surprise that was happening. That's when I had a spur-of-the-moment impulse to read some horror books that I've heard are really creepy (none other than the Ring books by Koji Suzuki) and just the first chapter has really helped give me some ideas as to creating an eerie atmosphere so that my scenes will be super scary (which is exactly what I want).

So, I believe reading is a necessary part of the writing process. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: Struck

Stuck by Jennifer Bosworth

Synopsis (From Goodreads):Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her. Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. 

Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come. 
Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

Jennifer Bosworth has created a rich dystopian society in her début, Struck. Mia is a lightning addict who has not just survived one strike, but countless strikes and she can feel when the storms are coming. Living in a world that has been devastated by a storm and earthquake and with prophecies that another storm was approaching bring the apocalypse, she just wants to stay away from it all and protect her younger brother and mother who is suffering from being stuck in a collapsed building after the earthquake.

When two cults tell her she 'must' join them to fulfil her part of the prophecy (one could destroy the world, one's supposed to save it), she has to decide which side, if any, she'll join. But what will she do when she only wants to stay out of it and stay away from the oncoming storm.

Mia was an intriguing character. She is so closed off because of her scars and afraid that she'll hurt anyone who gets close to her. Her lightning addiction reminded me of an adrenalin addiction and Bosworth created the conflicting emotions that made Mia both strong but also fragile. She was a good character to be inside the head of and follow the story.

The two cults kept the story interesting and there were enough twists and turns to make me want to turn the page. The story was interesting, although I felt that at parts it dragged on and took too long to get to the climax, but that did not make me stop reading. Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who loves good dystopian and strong heroines.

Source: Kindle
2012 Debut Author Challenge: #5 of 12
2012 YA Reading Challenge: #16 of 50

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In the Research Zone

While I'm planning and writing the first draft of my WiP I've managed to put myself in research mode. Research is important, especially since I've only experienced so much and sometimes my characters don't want to do the dull and ordinary and how can I write of an experience if I, myself, haven't experienced it?

Research is especially important to the novel I'm planning on writing after I finish my current WiP. Yeah, I've been over to Japan (where I'm planning to have the novel take place), but I don't call myself an expert. I know it's going to take a lot of reading and even asking people who live there about the culture and family aspects of the country (and I guess even another trip over there if I must).

What sort of research do you do? How do you do your research? Do you think research is necessary?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I know I've been absent for the past few weeks, but I do have a reason. School work has got me bogged down, as well as writing, it doesn't seem like I have much time left for anything else. I really can't wait for the holidays because I've got so many characters screaming to be written.

I think I need to get a better grip of my organisation skills so I can make time for everything I really want to.

And here's a sneak peak of a story I'm in the middle of researching while I'm writing my long-overdue novels:

After an accident that happened on the night of the school dance that Rin doesn't want to think about (yeah, resulting in extensive property damage and a nearly-dead date), she is sent to live with her grandparents in Japan. She doesn't really see eye-to-eye with her grandparents, her grand father hates the fact her mother married an Australian, and her grandmother thinks she's cursed (which she really could be).

When a manga-crazed Otaku (someone fanatic about manga, anime and all things Japanese) approaches her at school with the crazed notion that she is a character in a manga, she thinks he's crazy. But when he shows her one that has a character that really looks like herself wielding a baseball bat, standing over a bloody body, Rin has to track down who is behind the comic as well as who is the person she's going to kill.

Mmm, that's a lot of research. Oh well, that's a good excuse to go overseas. I hope everyone has a good day.

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