MOOC's

So I started doing some free online courses through coursera.org.

These are classified as MOOC’s – Massive Open Online Class/Course.

Right now I’m taking a course through the University of Toronto called: Aboriginal Worldviews and Education.

The reason I wanted to take this course, nay, take a course on this topic for a very long time is because I am absolutely ignorant. It’s not something I’m proud of, especially because I am older now and I have gone to University. But I don’t know anything about Aboriginal People and I live in Canada where there is a large population of Aboriginals.

I started getting more and more interested in that particular part of my country’s history with my current job. I came in more contact with Aboriginal people than I ever have and sometimes, when they were trying to make me understand where they were coming from and why they saw things the way they did, I couldn’t really understand. Hell, my goddamn school has a whole ROOM for Aboriginal students. We also have a Prayer Room, but I digress.

I was able to go into the room earlier this month and it’s beautiful. Growing up my mother would sometimes be mistaken for Aboriginal when she is actually from India. With her dark hair and her complexion, she could pass for one and she used that to her full advantage, I am ashamed to say.

When I was in public school, we were not taught about Aboriginal history. Not really. I vaguely remember touching BRIEFLY on the subject in high school, but that is all. In the county where I grew up there was a high school that was on the edge of the local reserve so both Aboriginal student’s and ‘white’ students attended. It was notorious for having fights and stabbings. I don’t know how much of that was true or not as I didn’t attend there and I don’t know anyone who personally went there. This was also in the early to mid nineties in the middle of rural Ontario where tolerance and acceptance was maybe not high on the list of values taught to children.

So when I heard about this course I really wanted to take it so that I could finally learn about the cultures that make up my country. I find it slightly depressing that I know more about other cultures outside my country, like various Asian and Middle-Eastern cultures, but nothing of the wonderful cultures that have been in my country before Europe came.

I’m looking forward to all the things that I will learn!

Posted by Sarah Jayne in Rantings, 0 comments

Interests of days gone by

When I was younger, probably before my mid-twenties, I used to read novels all the time. I always had the most library cards filled up for school and I devoured everything I could find.

I used reading at that time as an escape from my every day life. When I hit my later teens and early twenties I found a few authors that I just couldn’t put down.

I had started reading John Saul when I was in my mid-teens as my mother had a few novels of his. I fell in love with it. I’m not even sure what it was that drew me to Mr. Saul’s work so intensely. I scoured every used bookstore and ordered through Chapters until I had every single novel he had ever published lined up on my bookshelf in chronological order.

Unfortunately, in my late twenties, I lost all of my books. All of my novels, my manga, my textbooks I had kept from University, other educational literature I had enjoyed. I’ve never been able to get back into novels since then.

Two authors I really enjoyed in the Fantasy genre and who have inspired me a lot in my writing, even just the desire to BE a writer, are Guy Gavriel Kay and Neil Gaiman. For Mr. Kay, I first found the Fionavar Tapestry. The fact that it began in a place I was familiar with, CANADA, made it that much more appealing. And he is a Canadian author! YAY! Nothing like supporting my own country’s talent! My ultimate favourite novel by him was Tigana. I LOVED THE HELL OUT OF THAT BOOK. The cover was so beat up and the pages were worn. I never dog-ear them though. But you could tell they had been loved. Unfortunately, those books are gone as well and my mind doesn’t remember all of the story any more. I just know that I loved it. For Mr. Gaiman, my boyfriend at the time read American Gods. I picked it up when he was done with it and was consumed. What an amazing take!

I followed that up with Neverwhere and then Stardust. I have the Coraline movie and I used to own a collection of his short stories.

These two, are also gone into the great black void.

While it pains me to think of these lost pieces of literature I know I can always replace them. It won’t be the same, worn out, over-loved copy that I had read multiple times, but I can just as easily turn them back into that.

I can only hope that I can be considered even 1/16th as great as any of these men. The wonders of twitter have allowed me to follow both Mr Gaiman and Mr Kay so I’m feeling that much more honoured to be in cyberspace contact with them.

Well, back to editing. I can’t even dream of being in the same genre as either of them if I don’t publish my work!

Posted by Sarah Jayne in My Book Stuff, Rantings, 0 comments

Editing HELL

So I took a bit of a break from editing this weekend and spent my time playing video games until I was blue in the face. Video game of choice right now: Tales of Vesperia. The English dub is killing me in certain spots, but that’s alright. Since I can’t get it in the original Japanese with English sub I’ll suffer away until I learn the language properly and THEN I’ll just import the games directly from Japan.

While I was playing my game and I was in the middle of a battle I heard a character yell: “Cover me while I’m casting!” which surprised me. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much attention before and it made me wonder, if it were real life and magic existed, would people really yell this?

And the answer I came to is: probably.

I mean, why not? How many times do you read in stories or see on television or in movies characters who yell to their comrades in battle to cover them while they do ‘x’ and to cover them while they do ‘y’.

I think I may implement this in my current story. There is a fight scene coming up that I am wholly unhappy with. I wrote it four years ago and didn’t touch it because I just didn’t know what to do to make it better, to make it more realistic.

Depending on what happens, because I can’t remember exactly anymore, I may throw some verbal give and take in there. Might make it more realistic.

But we’ll see. I need to make my way there first!

Posted by Sarah Jayne in My Book Stuff, 0 comments

Smashwords vs KDP

Okay, so as I toil away in editing hell, I’m still torn between these two publishing companies.

Smashwords seems really easy to use, there is a lot of support and guidelines. A few people I have come into contact through this process of whoring myself EVERYTHING (although I’ve met most of them on the twitter) have used or are planning to use Smashwords.

KDP(Kindle Direct Publishing for those who aren’t sure what the hell I’m talking about), once they finally got back to me, also has a lot of support, the FAQs are easy to read and now that I have everything clarified I know exactly what I can and can’t do.

Part of my issue: I’m Canadian. So this means I’m a foreign writer to these two places. Both have made it seem very easy for foreigners like myself to get set up. The tax information is very comprehensive and I SUCK at anything involving numbers so that means a lot.

I’m looking for feedback from other Canadian or non-USA writers that have used these two services to get some idea of what their experiences have been like.

If you could please either comment on this post or e-mail me directly that would be kick-ass! If you want to just read and ignore the question, I suppose that’s cool too. Can’t really stop you.

Just remember, that by doing so, you are making a grown woman cry *sniff*

For shame……….

Posted by Sarah Jayne in My Book Stuff, 2 comments

Editing Woes

One of the major problems I face as I try to become a more ‘professional’ writer and get ready to put my work out there in the big wide world is editing.

I HATE EDITING.

It’s one of the major reasons I would lose points on papers I wrote in school because once I write something, I’m absolutely exhausted from it and I don’t ever want to look at it again.

That’s why it’s taken me 4 years to look at Black & Red and work on editing it. I wrote it in such a flurry and with such passion that I couldn’t touch it again.

Now that I’m working through it again and attempting to dress it up and trim off the useless parts and expand on the parts I glossed over I’m finding how tiring it is.

This is also because I don’t have REAL TIME to work on it. I get up, I get ready, I take my kid to the day home, I drive to work, I work all day, I pick up my kid, I come home and I am deflated. I barely edit during the week when I get home. Most of my editing is done during lunch time at my day job. Not the most ideal situation, but at least I have the proper tools to do it.

(On a side note, don’t EVER use Polaris Office if you want to keep your formatting….I learned this the hard way. Not cool, bro).

It’s hard to have my personal work available at my day job because at times when it’s slow, all I want to do is bring out my story and just devote myself to it. Which would most likely get me in HUGE trouble.

So I don’t.

But I waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaant to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, I actually rolled in to the office way earlier than normal (hey, 10 minutes early is still 10 minutes) so I can justify working away for half an hour.

Another thing about editing: trying not to change a lot of what’s there or adding on things that don’t need to be there. This is why I plan on doing 2 edits before I put my work out there.

Now if only I could decide on who I’m going to publish with………

Posted by Sarah Jayne in My Book Stuff, 0 comments

Inspiration

So a song just came on my iPod that made me think of this topic. It’s called “Spirit Inspiration” by Nothing’s Carved in Stone. The song is the opening theme from the anime Blast of Tempest and I’m not sure if the band that sings it is J-Rock or not as the entire song is in English and I haven’t had time to look them up.

I digress….

When I heard the song it made me think of where I get the inspiration for my stories from. I have touched on this before, but now I want to go more in-depth.

My inspiration definitely comes partially from video games. I learned this as I was playing Tales of Vesperia this weekend. Man, I love RPG’s. I love games where you can swing a sword around and learn special attacks and use magic and you’ve got this quest to go out there in that ‘world’ and find something or someone. These quest-type games were a lot of the drive behind Black and Red. There’s a world, something happens in said world, and now a group of unlucky acquaintances are off to travel this world and discover the reasoning behind what happened. There is magic. There are swords. It’s awesome. Well, to ME it is.

I also get a lot of inspiration from manga, as I’ve said before. I was never that into Western comics when I was younger. That could be because I grew up relatively poor and didn’t have the money to buy comics. It could also be that since I was poor, I didn’t watch a lot of tv so I didn’t watch a lot of the cartoons that were based on the comics like Batman and Superman and the Justice League etc. I discovered these shows and comics when I was much older and my love for manga had already exploded. I read a lot of novels like those by R.L. Stine (for my age group anyway, and some Goosebumps) and I loved the horror aspect of things. That was the driving force behind a lot of my earlier stories, which I no longer have. I have the basics of them locked up in my mind, but that’s it.

Some inspiration comes from music. The beat of it, sometimes the lyrics. An amazing cross between music and anime is the movie Interstella 555 which is a full length anime movie to the music of Daft Punk’s Discovery album. No words. Just the music. It’s frigging epic and I highly recommend it if either one of those things is your cup of tea.

And then, the inspiration for the characters. A lot of that is again built upon the characters of anime and manga, but also built on the people I know. Not so much the physical features, but the attitudes and personalities. Usually the people I dislike get…done away with in my stories 🙂

I’ve always used my writing as a sort of self-therapy and it helped a lot when I was younger. My darkest stories were always written during my darkest times which would be between 13 and 23. Now that things are much better in my life, I have to find a new muse.

Hopefully it’s not hiding somewhere I can’t find 🙂

 

Posted by Sarah Jayne in My Book Stuff, 0 comments

Family Day

Here in Alberta, Canada the coming Monday is a holiday called “Family Day”. Because of this, I won’t be posting much, if anything, until Tuesday the 19th. I am going to be spending all my time with my husband and son 🙂

In the meantime I’m still editing so please look forward to a chapter release! I should be comfortable enough with the finished product to release a chapter in March.

I still need to decide who I’ll publish with….more reading of FAQs for me!

Posted by Sarah Jayne in Rantings, 0 comments

What's in a Name?

People have asked me why I am deciding to publish under my full real name and not a pen name or something else.

Yes, my friends, in real life my name is Sarah Jayne Nantais. Nantais is my married last name and it’s pronounced “Nah-da”. Threw you for a loop with that one, didn’t I?

I thought about being S. Nantais or S.J.Nantais or Sarah Nantais or something else entirely but I just couldn’t do it.

Truth be told, I absolutely despise my middle name. “Jayne” has a lot of history and issues behind it. But it’s still my name and it’s the name I’ve had since I was born. So I decided that I would put my whole name out there to gain some sort of closure and acceptance with that name.

Is it working? Yeah kinda.

As for the names of the characters in my stories and the names of places, I used to have this really old dictionary I bought at a used book store that broke down the roots of words. I mean going back to the Latin, Greek etc of common English words we use everyday. I unfortunately no longer have that book in my possession for various reasons, but I had written down all the ones I had liked. I don’t remember the meanings for all of them any more, but I still use them.

For the characters, I do have a book of baby names that I had bought when I was 18. (Yeah, try not getting strange looks in the bookstore picking that up. It doesn’t help that when I was 18 I looked like I was 9). I try to find names that have interesting meanings and aren’t overly common (HA! As if you couldn’t tell from my last post) and sometimes I will use the internet if I’m looking for a name from a certain culture/country like Japanese, Greek, or Welsh etc. Sometimes I’ll borrow from a manga or anime if I feel the name fits. I just LOVE Japanese names!

After writing out all the names last post I realized a lot of them begin with “K” and I’m honestly not too sure what that’s about. They just worked I guess.

Half of the names I can’t pronounce properly because I’ve never heard them be spoken in real life so I have my own interpretation in my head. But that’s okay. I’m sure a lot of my readers will do the same thing. I remember doing that when I was younger and I would read a name I had never heard of before. It helps keep the personal interpretations of characters more unique, I think.

Tomorrow I have the day off from my day job! Yay! So I might not post because I’ll either be sleeping, chasing my 2.5 year old, or editing. I’ll try to put something up though. I just have to think about what I’d talk about 🙂

Posted by Sarah Jayne in My Book Stuff, 0 comments

Black & Red

Alright! So today I finally get to talk about my story! In this post I’m just going to give a general overview to what the setting is, introduce the main characters and give you a teeny bit of background. This story is one of many, but since it is the one I am aiming to publish in April 2013, I wanted to talk about it first 🙂

Title: Black & Red A Tale of Revenge (not really. It’s really just called Black & Red but that last part sounded cool so I wanted to throw it in :P)

Setting: It’s sort of in medieval times kind of? Think Lord of the Rings and those sort of settings that are common in Fantasy stories, but no elves, dwarves, evil overlord wizards with magic rings etc. It’s that time period when the common clothing is tights and tunics and there are swords everywhere. It’s got a little bit of a cyberpunk taste in that there is basic technology like electricity, radios, running water etc but nothing over the top like computers and cell phones. That’s in a different story. Magic is a strong presence in this world and the principles of magic are built on a system of 5 to represent the 5 elements: Fire, Water, Earth, Air, and Metal. Most magic is made up by combining two or more elements. It is also built upon the Law of Exchange (those who have read Fullmetal Alchemist will know what I mean :P) People who are able to use magic are called “gifted” but there’s no huge discrimination between those who can and those who can’t. The only discrimination is against those born with deep crimson hair. Those born with this hair colour are usually children whose mother’s have died in childbirth. It is rare, as there are advancements in medicine and healing magic, but it does still happen from time to time. These children rarely live to their full potential and when they do, they are either seen as a novelty, or are feared.

It takes place in a single kingdom called “Eikon” which is actually massive in size. Eikon is home to The Institute of Magic which is the only place that one can go to train their magical skills. It’s most often referred to as “The Institute”. The Capital is where the King of Eikon resides and he has The Guild: a grouping of the 5 most powerful sorcerers and sorceresses in all of Eikon. Guild members are identified by a silver talisman they wear that is a sort of optical illusion. It either looks like an abstract linear design, or a chinese-esque dragon.There’s no war and there’s no talk of outside kingdoms and realms. In this story, everything focuses on Eikon alone.

There are some influences of other cultures, mainly Japanese. You will see this in how the characters react by bowing, kneeling in certain occasions, and being overly modest. Other elements of Japan are in the shrines in homes for the dead family members, cremation as opposed to burials, temples and those who run them, how the dead are treated, katana’s being a regular sword-type, some food, words and there are some influences from manga I have read. I don’t want to give too much away 😛

Characters: There are two groups of main characters in this story as it takes place in two separate time frames which then collide. The first group is:

Kalan – She is tall, proud and extremely powerful. She is the daughter of Javier, the most powerful sorcerer in all of Eikon. Javier used to teach at the Institute until Kalan was born. Kalan has red hair as her mother died during childbirth which causes Javier to retire early and raise her. In the first chapter of the book we discover Kalan and her past.

Koen – A tall man with dark features. Quiet, not gifted in the slightest but his senses are sensitive. He is introduced in the first chapter and he lives/serves Kalan.

Alastair – Another tall man (jeez. Everyone is tall!) with long, stringy dark hair. He is very thin, very powerful, and very crazy. He is extremely emotionally unbalanced and will often switch attitudes from that of a child, to that of a blood-thirsty and power-hungry individual. We meet him in about chapter 3 or 4.

The next set of characters are:

Piers – He is descended from Julian. Julian was a powerful sorcerer who grew up with Kalan and was privately tutored by Javier. He graduated from The Institute and served on the Guild. Piers also serves on the Guild and in the beginning of the story he is on a quest to find those descended from the Guild members of Kalan’s time. (ooooo! I just dropped a secret! Did you see it?!)

Aidan – Descendant of Landon. Landon was an arrogant bastard, if I do say so myself. Landon served on the Guild in Kalan’s time. His chief rival was Javier and he held extreme disdain for any one related to him. Aidan and Piers have had a rivalry that extends back to childhood due to their bloodlines. Aidan comes across as self-absorbed and arrogant. He currently serves on the Guild with Piers and is joining him on the search for the descendants.

Vega – Descended from Brann. Brann was a physically overwhelming man who wasn’t extremely gifted like the others on the Guild, but his physical prowess made up for that. Vega has an athletic body and is fairly gifted. She is the second to be found by Piers and Aidan while working in a roadside tea house.

Acacia – Descended from Keion. Keion served on the Guild with Javier, Brann, and Julian. Keion is older than the rest and had been serving on the Guild from the time of the Queen who is in power shortly before Julian joins when it is run by her son. Keion is a grey little man with no self-confidence or self-worth. He is extremely gifted in the healing arts and has made huge advancements in the field and with traditional medicine. He has even written textbooks. But as a man, he was belittled for his talents. Acacia spent one year at the Institute before dropping out from the bullying of her background. She comes across at first as curt, slightly cold, and closed off. She is discovered by Piers and Aidan while traveling as a healer.

Terentya – She is descended from Devin, Javier’s closest friend who also served on the Guild. Terentya was found as an infant and is raised by a mercenary band called The Falcons. She is extremely gifted with the sword and when her adoptive parents are killed on the job she receives her father’s sword. She is able to ‘bond’ with her sword and hear it’s ‘voice’. She is the last to be discovered in a small town where her adoptive parents are buried. She is slightly gifted, but as she cannot read she is unable to study spells and the few she knows she has learned by word-of-mouth.

And those are the main characters in this tale.

“That’s all well and good, Sarah,” you say, “but what is the story actually ABOUT?”

Well, I will tell you.

The story is about a sorcerer, Kalan to be precise, who has had everything taken from her. Her mother dies in childbirth, her father is murdered due to jealousy. When she tries to exact revenge on those who murdered her father, she is trapped in an alternate dimension where she is cursed with immortality and a mirror that only shows her home world. She lives there, for two hundred and fifty years, unable to die, not needing to eat or drink to survive in a grand house in a misty wasteland. By accident she casts a spell which pulls Koen from her native world and pulls him to her hell where he is also cursed with immortality. While she is mourning her life in this hell, she is suddenly summoned back to her home world by Alastair, discovered to be descended through a bastard lineage from Landon.

Sensing the shift in her prison, those serving on the Guild in the ‘present’ are concerned. They dispatch Piers and Aidan to find the descendants of the original five who sealed Kalan in her hell: Julian, Devin, Landon, Brann, and Keion. Only one with that bloodline would be able to bring her back; or return her to her hell.

And thus, the adventure begins. After all five are collected it is discovered that none of them returned Kalan to their world. The rest of the book talks about the journey back to the Capital, dealing with the fury of Kalan’s return and dealing with the inner secrets everyone holds.

I plan to put a few chapters up once I’m finished editing them. I’m currently on page 87/375 so it might be soon! This book is planned to be published in April 2013.

I hope you like what you’ve read so far!

(oh yeah, all this information is (c) Sarah Jayne Nantais, 2013. If you try to steal it, I’ll sue your ass 🙂 I’ve got my copyright all done up 😛 So be good!)

Posted by Sarah Jayne in My Book Stuff, 0 comments

My Tools of the Trade

Everyone uses different things when they write. Some people are strictly paper people, never touching a computer or typewriter unless it’s absolutely necessary. Some people can only use electronics and never write anything out on paper.

I do both.

When I was younger (and this was WAY before the days when computers were everywhere and in every home) I strictly used paper and pen. I used to ask for notebooks and pens for Christmas and my birthday because I was always filling them up. One story ‘series’ I wrote when I was 13 was a mish-mash of yellow legal pad paper, lined paper and graph paper because that was all I could get my hands on. It ended up being 120 pages written, double-sided but single spaced.

Unfortunately I have a lost all of my previous work due to unforeseen circumstances (*cough*assholeexboyfriends*cough*) so I’ve had to go off of memory when I try to rewrite them. I remember the core parts of the story, so I suppose that’s all that really matters if I want to write it again.

These days I use both.

I use my laptop:

The majority of my writing is done on this lovely piece of technology these days.

The majority of my writing is done on this lovely piece of technology these days.

And I also use this:

Given to me by my in-laws, it holds character descriptions, maps, story basics and outlines

Given to me by my in-laws, it holds character descriptions, maps, story basics and outlines

I have another coil notebook that I used for previous stories I have written. It holds the same information as well as a list of names for males, females and places so that I can make sure I’m not using the same name in every story I write. The other book doesn’t have quite the same inspirational message though 🙂

I find this useful because when I’m typing furiously away on my laptop if I suddenly forget the colour of one of my characters eyes I can flip to the character description page in this book without having to sift through god knows how much text to find the answer.

It also helps me keep personalities in check, relationships in line, and ages realistic.

Depending on the story, I’ll also draw a little (crude) map of the world my story takes place in. This helps me determine accurate time frames for traveling, weather, culture etc. I’m building worlds here, so I need to make sure I don’t screw up!

Since I write Fantasy-Adventure stories, I find this crucial. Sure, my readers may not be paying as much attention to these details as I am, but I want to make sure it’s believable. I’m sure there’s someone out there in this vast universe who just might pay that much attention to what they read.

What do you use? What do you find useful?

My husband also bought me a Samsung Galaxy Tab that I am looking for a bluetooth keyboard and case for so I can bring it to work in place of my laptop as it will be smaller and easier to tote around everywhere. I NEED a keyboard though. I will NEVER be able to type using the onscreen one. No way.

How about you?

Posted by Sarah Jayne in My Book Stuff, 5 comments
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