0

U is for Uh, Slight Change in Plans…

Hi, lovelies!

I was going to post a chapter of Paper Wings today, but then there was a slight change in plans. :P Something awesome happened that made me decide to do something a little different – the cover for Fearless arrived! :D If you guys recall, Fearless was the short(-ish?) historical fiction story I wrote a few weeks ago, set during the French Revolution. I’ve been waiting with bated breath for my incredibly talented friend Tali to create the cover so that I could begin posting the story, and I must say she has not disappointed! :D (Seriously, I think she can read my mind. That cover was exactly what I had imagined it would be.) So of course I had to go back and do a major edit of Fearless in the face of such amazingness, and I do believe that the story now ready for public consumption! ;)

Fearless is written in three parts, titled very simply: “Dawn”, “Terror”, and “Fearless”. The blurb is as follows:

It is 1792. The French Revolution has dominated for the past three years, and fear rules over all. The only laws: trust no one, and stay alive. From within the turmoil emerge two children. Simone Morency and Henri Toussaint – one a French thief, one an English imposter – at first do not know what to make of the situation that has thrust them together. But during a time when comfort, hope, friendship, and courage are few and far between, they discover it in the most unlikely of sources: each other.

Don’t forget to take a look at part 1 right here - parts 2 and 3 will be posted over the coming weeks. ;) Hope you guys enjoy! xx

love,
Topaz

12

T is for Trying Day…

Hey guys,

Today was a bit of a trying day for me, mostly because I didn’t sleep at all last night. (Well, I did sleep, but it was around 2:30 AM-ish so only about four hours. Not so wonderful, I have to say.) I’ve tried quite a few of the insomnia remedies that you all so kindly recommended and some of them seem to be working very well… except, for some reason, yesterday, and I have no idea why that is. I was tossing and turning until around midnight, then I got up and wrote some music for a couple of hours because it was pretty obvious that sleep was being contrary and did not intend to grace me with its presence. ;) So although I was on the verge of falling asleep in class pretty much all day, at least I did manage to get some work done!

Anyway, I did some totally unfocused, random writing in the afternoon - something I haven’t done in way too long, what with FH and Paper Wings and all that. I hadn’t really realised how much I’d missed that, so I think I’m going to block out some time in my writing schedule just to branch out and make mistakes without worrying about whether anyone is going to read them. And speaking of Paper Wings, there’ll be either a new chapter of that or a song snippet featured tomorrow – I haven’t decided yet – so do be sure to keep an eye out for that.

Also, don’t forget to take a look at the new writing commissions page on my Tumblr – if you’d like to support my writing and music (and at the same time receive a personalised piece of writing from me!), that’s the way to do it. ;)

Hope your day went a bit better than mine, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow!

love,
Topaz

7

S is for Sacré Bleu!

Hey, lovelies!

I’m sorry. I couldn’t help using that title. Seriously, I’ve been wanting to write that since the A to Z Challenge began. :D (By the way, for those of you who haven’t heard to expression, it’s basically French for oh my God!)

SO MANY THINGS happened today, mostly writing-related – I’m quite excited! :D Firstly, a flash fiction story I wrote awhile back, Oblivion, was featured on this awesome literary e-magazine called Neon Ink. As you guys might remember, I also won a Scholastic Art & Writing regional gold medal for the same piece, so that’s pretty cool. ;) Click here to check it out on the Neon Ink website – it’s also in the running for the “Best of Month” award for April, so I’ll let you all know when voting is open for that.

Also, I did a guest post on readers, writers, and killer psychopaths over at My Little Book Blog a couple of days ago. ;) I haven’t done a guest post in awhile, and it was so much fun writing it – plus, Lizzy runs a pretty amazing blog and it was such an honour to be featured! You can read the post right here; don’t forget to comment and let me know what you think. :)

And finally, I’ve opened up to writing commissions on Tumblr! As some of you may know, I used to do unofficial commissions, but I decided to stop when things got a bit too busy for me to keep up. However, now I think I’m ready to do commissions again; I’d like to earn some extra cash for Frozen Hearts and Falling Star, and it seems the logical way do so is, well, writing! ;) I’ll be doing short and long fiction, poetry, and songs - both original and fandom-related. All of the information is on my Tumblr - if you’re interested in a piece of writing, please do read over the rules and such, and then email me at topazwinters@gmail.com!

Hope your week is going amazing so far, everybody. xx

love,
Topaz

12

R is for Rejection and Other Paths to Success

Hey guys!

We’re sorry, but we are not able to accept your submission at this time… Hands up if you’ve ever seen that phrase before!

What, only me? Oh. Never mind then. *awkwardly slinks off into a corner*

I’m kidding. ;) I think every single writer out there has felt the sinking dread of reading those words - or, if they haven’t, then they will sometime soon. It may or may not be the most dreaded phrase in every writer’s existence (except for “writer’s block,” of course). Rejected. Cut off. Face it: you weren’t good enough to please them. Time to go crawl into bed and eat chocolate ice cream and sob over really old romance films and never write again.

Or not.

One thing I’ve found it really, really hard to learn: rejection is not actually the end of the world. And yes, you did read that right. Now, don’t get me wrong – yeah, it sucks. Yeah, you’re probably going to be down in the dumps about it.

But that doesn’t mean you stop writing. It doesn’t mean you give up on yourself and decide to become an accountant because you have zero talent whatsoever and you’ll never be able to please anybody. Whether you’re submitting your work to a literary magazine, or to an anthology, or to a publishing house – whatever it is, you have to remember that this is one person’s opinion of your work. (Sometimes more than that, but you know, around the vicinity of one person.) So basically, that means there’s about 7 billion other people in the world who could potentially fall in love with your writing. Are you seriously going to let one person set you off the path of your dream?

I didn’t think so.

I’m going to tell you right now that you are going to be rejected one of these days – if you haven’t been already. It’s part of life. Heck, Stephen King was rejected. C.S. Lewis was rejected. Dan Brown was rejected. Beatrix Potter was rejected. Own it. Be proud of it. You’re among the greats, and one of these days you’re going to join the ranks of the legends!

So here’s what you do: you let yourself be rejected. You remind yourself that it’s okay to fail sometimes, and that doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person – or a terrible writer. You take half an hour to stew and kick stuff around and punch pillows and consider sending a furious email insisting that there must be some mistake. (Don’t actually do it, though. That could be awkward.)

And then guess what you do?

That’s right: you sit down at your computer, and you write some more.

love,
Topaz

10

Q is for Quotable Quotes

Happy Easter, everyone!

Okay, so it’s not technically Easter yet (roughly an hour to go, Singapore time!), but since I won’t be posting tomorrow anyway I thought I’d just say it right now. ;) I hope you’re all having a lovely and relaxing weekend so far - I, for one, spent most of today writing and editing FH, so I’m pretty happy over here! All my homework is done as well, so I’ll probably be spending tomorrow the same way… I love writing weekends. :D

However, there’s one unfortunate problem: since it is a writing weekend, I don’t actually have a song snippet on hand to share with you guys (plus, what kind of song would start with a Q?!). So I’ll just do that next week instead, along with chapter 10 of Paper Wings. Sorry about that, lovelies! xx

Something you should know about me: I really, really like quotes. I suppose one could say that I’m a bit of a collector – although I don’t actively search out quotes, when I do find one that really speaks to me I always, always jot it down in one of my notebooks. Quotes tend to inspire ideas in both my writing and songwriting as well, so that’s another plus. ;)

So today I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you – the ones that occupy the foremost pages in my notebooks, the ones that have stuck with me the longest, and the ones that inspire me – in hopes that they’ll do the same for all of you. :)

This first quote is actually a lyric from my favourite song in the entire world: The Scientist, by Coldplay. It’s a reminder, I suppose, to take time and recognise how amazing you are once in awhile. (Because you are, by the way. Amazing, that is. In case you didn’t realise.)

This is a classic one. I wrote a post quite awhile ago entitled Seeing the Dawn inspired by this, and it’s still one of my favourite quotes ever. Oscar Wilde is a genius. That is all.

Okay, look me in the eye and tell me that isn’t the most beautiful thing you’ve ever read. See? You can’t. (And not just because this is the Internet and we’re all staring at computer screens instead of interacting with normal human beings. ;) )

Years of experience, and I can safely say that this is probably the truest thing I have ever read.

So we’ve probably established by now that I’m a bit of a poetry fanatic. Robert Frost is basically the best poet in existence by my standards, and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is my favourite of his poems. This is such a bittersweet and beautiful line.

Couldn’t resist throwing in this one. I’m actually really not sorry at all. ;)

Any other quote junkies hiding out there? Please do share some of your favourites with me – I’d love to check them out! Once again, happy Easter everyone, and for those of you who don’t celebrate it – have an amazing weekend. xx

love,
Topaz

6

P is for “Paris”

Hey, lovelies!

Short post today, because it’s late and I’m tired. :P I went to the library for most of the afternoon – got quite a bit of writing and editing on Frozen Hearts done (plus, I ate cheesecake! Always a plus!). On the beta reader I talked about yesterday, I decided to scrap his comments and move on with the process. I think in the long run, it’s more important to just keep going than to try and freak out over the tiny details, you know? It was lovely today to be able to relax and focus on FH, actually – I’m really glad I’ve finally made a decision on that!

This week’s Friday Poetry is entitled Paris. It’s about love and wanderlust, two of my favourite subjects in the world. :D And that is all I’m going to say on the topic – this is a poem unlike my usual ones, so I can’t wait to hear your guys’ thoughts on it. (By the way! I’ve never actually been to any of the places mentioned in this poem, so please do forgive me – and feel free to correct me – if I get any facts wrong! ;) )

love,
Topaz

Paris

In Paris, you told me
as you gazed at me for the first time
there are museums filled with dreams on paper
colours you never imagined could exist
in daring, graceful strokes that swirl effortlessly
into all the answers to the questions
you never thought to ask

I looked at you.
Take me to Paris,
I said.

In New York, you told me
as my tears fell on your cheeks
there are towering buildings that bump
against the lowermost edges of heaven,
and city lights that wink and sparkle
even when the darkest night descends
just to let you know that you are never alone

I looked at you.
Take me to New York,
I said.

In London, you told me
as I wished for a miracle to appear
there are thick silver fogs that envelope
the world in a blanket of cobwebs
and all the magic people have tried so hard
to discover and invent and create
comes to life under the quiet of the fog

I looked at you.
Take me to London,
I said.

In Venice, you told me
as I drove too fast and tried to find escape
there are long winding canals that snake
through the innermost secrets of the city,
and the setting sun sends dying rays of gold
to light the darkest depths of the city on fire

I looked at you.
Take me to Venice,
I said.

and then, two fifteen in the morning
words turned into shards of glass
piercing deep into the places
we thought were safe with each other
and all the things we tried to hide
screamed into the open air

and I ran far
until the stars dried the tears
and the wind soothed the wounds
until I thought I had escaped
everything I didn’t want to face –

but you followed.

In Spain, you said,
as I pushed you away and closed my eyes –
because I did not want to hear about Spain,
did not want to hear about Paris or New York
about London or Venice
did not want to hear about the museums
about the skyscrapers or the fogs or the canals
did not want to hear anything you had to say,

In Spain, you said very quietly
as I tried to delete your apologies from my mind
tried to muster the heart to walk away

In Spain, you said
there are oceans that stretch farther
than the mind can ever hope to fathom
farther than any apology I could give you
and they sing to the world until the end of eternity
and the air always smells of salt and hope

I looked at you
for a very long moment.

Tell me again about Paris,
I said.

7

O is for Oh God, Will This Ever End?!

Hi guys.

I am so sick and tired of beta readers. I thought that I had acquired all their edits and this was over four days ago, but yay for me, one of the betas (who had only partially finished the manuscript) decided that he wasn’t done yet and now I’m waiting. Again. And it sucks because it’s not as if I don’t value his comments – because I do – but to be perfectly honest, I don’t value them as much as I value getting this operation running again. It’s so frustrating, being stuck in one place and always waiting waiting waiting. But at the same time, this book is important to me and I’m kind of scared, because what if he points something out that would have made it way, way better and I don’t get that comment and then it’s not as good as it could have been… ?

So basically, at this point I have two options: wait some more (even though I don’t know if he’s even going to get the comments back, and if so, when that’ll be), or just get on with editing without the comments. And at the moment I’m kind of leaning towards the latter. I’m seriously frustrated – this hasn’t exactly been my favourite part of the process so far and I was looking forward to moving on from it. :/

So yeah. I’ll let you guys know tomorrow what I decide to do, because I’m still kind of on the fence about it. As you know, we have tomorrow off for Easter so I had scheduled a writing weekend, but I’m postponing the beginning of that until tomorrow because I’m just feeling really restless and not very productive. Quite frankly, there’s no way I’ll be able to write or edit constructively at the moment. I really just need a bubble bath, sweatpants, and possibly dark chocolate.

love,
Topaz

12

N is for Names, Characters and Otherwise

Hey guys!

For today’s A to Z challenge post, I thought I’d talk to you guys about something that I find really, really important in both my own writing and in reading others’: character names. 

For me, at least, characters play a really big part in stories. If I don’t like a book’s character, no way am I going to finish the book. (Actually, if I’m being really harsh and/or I picked up the book because I thought it would be amazing but then it turned out the characters sucked and as a result I’m pissed off at the universe, I probably won’t get further than 30 pages in.) Pathetic, I know. :P

Within the characters themselves, I can be really picky when it comes to names. Sometimes I’m a bit biased – for example, currently I’m reading Anna Dressed in Blood (which is AMAZING so far, by the way!), and the main character’s name is Cas… which happens to be the same nickname of a certain character on a television show I tend to fangirl over a lot. ;) So that name, of course, is pretty awesome. But if there’s a character with an absolutely ridiculous name that I can hardly say without bursting into laugher and/or tears, you can bet I’m not reading a page further. I mean,  I’m going to be spending 300 pages with them, give or take. If the character has a name that I absolutely hate, then I have other books with awesome character names I could be reading instead! ;)

I’m probably even choosier when it comes to writing. Ever noticed that in almost all of my short stories, the main characters are unnamed? Yep, there’s a reason for that. :P I tend to spend hours scouring baby name sites (which, just to clear up any confusion, were made solely for the use of writers, not expecting couples!), and even then I can hardly ever find a name that I believe perfectly fits the characters in the story. So I’ve just stuck with leaving them nameless! ;) With Frozen Hearts, both Rose and Chase are named for very specific reasons – which you will, of course, find out once you read the book! – and Rose’s little brother’s name was changed a few times before I settled on Benjamin.

Actually, I think it runs in the family. True story: me, my parents, and my little sister were still trying to decide on what to name our new puppy in the first five minutes after he got home and was contentedly snoring away, unaware of our turmoil. :P It was ridiculous, especially considering that we’d known he was coming for the past three weeks! (We eventually decided on Hachii, by the way… although sometimes we wonder if it should have been Beethoven, considering how much he loves to sit by the piano and listen to me play!)

So what about you guys? How picky are you in choosing your characters’ names – both in your writing and in books? What’s your dream name – character or otherwise? ;) I’d love to hear what you think!

love,
Topaz

16

M is for Magic

Hi lovelies!

Today I’d like to talk about something that’s elusive, easily missed, and even – as some might think – nonexistent altogether: magic. Personally, I’ve always believed in magic – ever since I was five years old and wishing on every single star I could see out of my bedroom window. Magic has always been a very real part of my life, but the forms it has come in has changed quite a bit over the years.

The thing is, for me magic is so much more than fairies and wizards and sparkly wands – although, I must admit, I’ve always loved the fantastical part of it! ;) But magic can be found in the tiniest nooks and crannies of the universe, the ones that we so often overlook in our rush to get where we need to be, to be the first in every line. Ever heard that old saying “take time to stop and smell the roses”? It’s cliche, sure, but I think it’s the same theory for magic – just slow down and open your eyes, and bam, there it is: hidden in plain sight, all around you.

Magic is so many things that are so easy to overlook. It’s getting a smile from a random stranger on the bus. It’s waking up ten minutes before the alarm clock rings and getting to sleep just that extra few minutes. It’s mix CDs and the people who make them for you. It’s hearing your favourite song playing on the radio. It’s rainy Sunday mornings when there’s nothing to do but laze around and watch really old Disney films. It’s people dropping offhand little compliments about things you were hoping they’d notice. It’s opening up a favourite book, looking up a minute later, and realising that three hours have passed. It’s making a wish at 11:11, right on the dot. It’s watching your puppy chasing his tail until he’s too tired to do anything but flop down in a heap and snore. It’s surprise birthday parties. It’s the people who ask if you’re okay and the people who know when you’re not, even if you say yes.

And you know what the most amazing thing is? That’s only my definition of magic. You might have so many different, wonderful things in your life that you didn’t even know held magic, that you had no idea had that little hidden spark that’s capable of turning your terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day into a beautiful one.

So here’s my challenge for all of you: today, stop and appreciate one piece of magic around you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be mindblowing and miraculous – I believe little magic is just as magical as big magic. And maybe, if you’re feeling like passing it on, why don’t you do something magical for somebody else? Again, it doesn’t have to be a huge thing – it just has to be something that will make their day a little bit brighter.

And then tell me the magic you saw – or the magic you created – in the comments section. I want to hear your stories!

love,
Topaz

13

L is for Long Haul

Hi all!

The fated day arrived at last: yesterday, April 13th, was the deadline for beta reader comments! It’s been a very, very long haul – I sent out the Frozen Hearts manuscript in the beginning of February, and it’s now mid-April (that is, a month and a half after I had hoped to receive feedback). Nevertheless, I’m pretty relieved that this stage of the process is over. It’s been downright nerve-racking sharing this book with people – and while the overall feedback has been quite positive, I kind of prefer working on it by myself rather than with others!

I have to say I’m kind of disappointed with the feedback. :/ The advice that I received was very helpful (and most of it has been implemented already), but out of the seven beta readers, just three finished the entire manuscript. Two finished only partway, and two didn’t even start. So I’m not sure if that’s my fault for choosing the wrong betas, or if this is a normal occurrence, or what… :P Ah, well – it’s all trial-and-error, so next time I’ll probably choose beta readers who can commit to finishing the entire thing on time! ;)

So what’s next? Well, now, I believe, is the final editing process (we’re getting so close to the end I can almost taste it!). I’m going to try and finish implementing beta comments by May 1st - so that includes not only their specific feedback, but also the questions that I found myself asking based on their ideas. Plus I have like eight pamphlets/books/magazine articles/podcasts/other writing-related resources that I’ve downloaded or bought, but never really got around to using – those, I’m going to take a look at and see what I can apply to the book. And finally, I’ll be going through my notebook and finding any and all FH-related notes I’ve made, just to see if they can make it better in any way.

We have a long weekend for Easter – Friday off school! Yay! – so I’ll probably be doing a full-on writing weekend – no studying, no music, just editing and writing. I haven’t done of those in awhile, so it should be lovely (and very productive!).

Hope you all had an amazing weekend. xx

love,
Topaz

4

K is for “Know That We’ve Tried” (or, Paper Wings: Chapter 9)

Hey guys!

Chapter 9 of Paper Wings is up – I actually managed to post it on time for once! Yay! :D In this chapter Tobias is kind of a jerk to his mom, but it all turns out okay in the end, don’t worry ;) And I quite like the way both Tobias’s and Elle’s characters are progressing – as I’m sure you guys remember, I was having some trouble with character development in FH, so it’s lovely to have this as a practise! This chapter is dedicated to my mom, because I LOVE Tobias’s conversation with his mother and it kinda reminds me of mine. ;)

So click here to check it out: chapter 9 of Paper Wings, entitled Know That We’ve Tried!

love,
Topaz

2

J is for Justice

Hey, lovelies!

Ah, it’s Friday at last! While I’m always extremely happy to see Fridays come around (and who isn’t?), I’m especially relieved this particular week – it’s been pretty stressful, and it’ll be nice to have a weekend more or less to myself. :) Plus, another very exciting thing: FH beta reader comments are due IN TWO DAYS!!! I’m in dire need of new opinions on the book, considering I’ve pretty much memorised most of it by now, so I really can’t wait to see what everybody thought of it. The feedback from those who have already given me their thoughts has been quite favourable, and I’m slightly-surprised-while-at-the-same-time-insanely-happy about that! ;)

I kind of drew a blank on what to write on for this week’s Friday Poetry – so I decided to phone a friend for a prompt. :D The only guideline I gave him was that it had to begin with J, so after much deliberation, he advised me to write a prompt based around the theme of “justice”.

This is what I came up with – it’s called Symphony, and although it perhaps isn’t based upon a very conventional idea of justice, I kind of like how it turned out. What do you guys think? Don’t forget to let me know in the comments section, and I hope you all had a wonderful Friday! xx

love,
Topaz

Symphony

you deserve to have your voice heard.

– you deserve to have your symphony of sound
gushing from deep within the unassuming silence
that has surrounded you for so long,
through the layers of secrets and shyness that
you cannot bring yourself to break through
and the walls built around yourself that
you have always assumed to be soundproof –

you deserve your song
to echo through the earth and the heavens
and even far, far beyond that

and this much I know: that if the world might listen
to the screaming beaming scheming dreamer
hidden underneath the shell
that binds you to everlasting muteness
it might become just a little bit brighter
through the ray of light you bring to it,

and if all the people rushing obliviously
into empty smiles and crooked promises
might stop for just a single moment and
think to listen to those hiding in the shadows
oh, the things they might hear from the people
whose minds they had always imagined
to be the stillest of all

but you sit, ever hushed, ever watching
and the truths and the lies catch in your throat
just short of careening out of your mind
and tumbling into existence, shattering
the shrieking shouting ignorance that
perpetually surrounds you

and still you say nothing, even as
your symphony sings out its desperate longing
to have some audience beyond the armour
that shields your heart so carefully

and you silence it

and instead
look around at the oblivious world
and, unnoticed, bring out
a battered notebook and a cheap black pen
and bend your head over the flowing blank pages
close your eyes, hear the music
cascading through your soul

and you let the poetry sing for you.

24

I is for Insomnia

Hey guys!

Oh my goodness, I’m so tired. I just got back home from school (9 PM… yay.) because I had a meeting for National History Day - for those of you who haven’t heard, Tanvi and I won first place in our category in the regionals round and we’re going to the nationals round in Washington, D.C. on June 18th! So while that is very exciting and all that jazz, it’s also seriously time-consuming (not to mention stressful). Ah well, just a couple more months and that’ll be done! ;)

A slight problem, though: I’ve been having issues with insomnia lately. :/ I try to get to bed by 11 on school nights (midnight if I have a lot of work to do), but for the past week or so – although I am getting to bed more or less on time – I’m having real trouble actually falling asleep. So that’s another reason why I’m so tired today, even though it’s pretty early. :P

This does happen to me from time to time (I honestly have no idea what brings it on) – for two weeks or so, I randomly lose the ability to fall asleep, and it SUCKS. Especially when exams are just around the corner, and I kind of need to be prepared for that. Plus beta comments for Frozen Hearts are due in three days as well, and it would be nice if I was fully functioning to go through all of those!

Sorry for dumping this on you guys – I’m hoping it’ll pass very very soon, but for now I’m kind of stuck with being up until two in the morning tossing and turning! :P Oh well, maybe I’ll be able to get some writing done – or, at the very least, read a great big stack of books before it’s over. ;)

love,
Topaz