Harperpages

The blog of author Harper Alexander


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Tournament of Eden: Meet Koun

This is Koun of Clan Dakith, from my upcoming YA fantasy The Tournament of Eden

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A Few Book Announcements

Alright, I guess it’s time to post an update on where I am with the current books I said I’d have done by now, as well as tentatively announce my next project(s).

I currently have about 500 out of 700 pages for The Tournament of Eden, which isn’t reflected in my progress bar because I’m hand-writing this book and only update the word count when I’ve typed something up and can accurately DO  a word count. And I’m WAY behind on typing everything up. For awhile, I was really good about writing and then typing what I had written before writing again, but once that started to slip it all went downhill from there. But I do have 500 out of 700 pages done (and that’s hand-written pages, so the book isn’t actually going to be 700 pages long when in computer-format. My guess is more like 400 or 500.)

I’m about halfway done with Crooked Bird, but since that’s a shorter book I anticipate it will be quite easy to finish once I’m not concentrating so heavily on Eden. I do expect to have both finished and (hopefully) released by summer.

Which brings us to plans for the summer. I was planning on getting the Breathtaker sequels out of the way soon anyway, but especially in light of the sudden mermaid craze that I have accidentally secretly anticipated and jumped on board with… Those are definitely going to be a go for this summer. (And what better books to write for summer than beachy mermaid books?!) So you can expect more updates and progress on those as soon as Eden and Crooked are complete.


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Favorite Authors

Since I’m currently taking a break from my own writing, I thought it would be fun to share a list of my favorite authors / authors who have inspired me.  They are:

Tamora Pierce. (She’s what got me into reading/writing fantasy, back when I was 11 or so.  I was totally addicted to her books for years, and will gladly read all of her new releases even now, simply because she has something that got me hooked, even though I’ve since moved on style-wise.)

Tanith Lee.  (Looking at her bibliography, you’ll quickly see she has a lot of unusual, rather obscure stuff.  If you’ve read any of it, you probably know it can get extremely dark/explicit.  However, I got to know Tanith Lee’s work through her Young Adult Fantasy endeavor known as the Claidi Journals.  This was around the same time as I was into Tamora Pierce, so I was excited to find another YA fantasy adventure and branch out slightly.  Imagine my disappointment when I loved the Claidi Journals, looked up Tanith Lee, and found that all the rest of her stuff was dark and mature and not at all like what I’d excitedly come to know her by.  Oh well.  But the Claidi Journals will always hold a huge special place in my heart.  They’re odd, but there’s something about them… I was hugely influenced by certain things about those books.)

Cornelia Funke.  (A German writer, who writes lots of different children’s fantasy stories that get translated into lots of languages.  I fell particularly in love with Inkheart. To be honest, I have not enjoyed any of her other work nearly as much, including Inkheart’s sequels, but Inkheart itself was wonderful.  Wonderful.  This is the book that opened my mind to the beauty of metaphors.  And the idea that modern fantasy could still be cool/beautiful.)

Patrick Rothfuss. (The Name of the Wind blew me away (no pun intended), even though to this day I can’t put my finger on why.  I’m on the next book in the series right now, and while I’m enjoying it equally as much, I still can’t say exactly why it’s so special.  Something about his storytelling, about the events that come about and fit together…  I just love it.  He’s a definite favorite.)

Dawn Cook.  (A little more obscure under this particular pen name, but in my opinion she is underappreciated.  The four books in her ‘Truth’ series are some of the most beloved on my shelf, and will be forever.  She writes a beautiful, beautiful story, with characters like I’ve never felt for before, and description that paints the most incredible picture.  These books make me ache.)

Sherwood Smith.  (I have only actually read her book ‘Crown Duel’, another YA fantasy, but it’s another all-time favorite.  One of those where the last half is way better than the first, but totally had me glued to the setting and inspired where creating my own settings was concerned.  Love the characters and the intrigue.)

Robin McKinley. (It’s been awhile since I’ve read her work, and I’d like to read more than I have, but ‘The Hero and the Crown‘ was a book that convinced me my journey into fantasy was definitely going to be a lifelong love affair.  While I don’t remember the book clearly, there are little bits that I can put my finger on inspiring me throughout my writing career.)

Kristen Britain. (I’m a horse-lover, so I bought her Green Rider series mainly to get a horse and fantasy fix at the same time, but she totally inspired me in the way she used a simple writing style but enough imagination in the setting and events themselves to make the reading experience magical and beautiful. Until then, I had not really thought such could be achieved.  I always thought simple writing would translate as just that, and always come across rather flat and boring, and that to make it beautiful you had to use prose and fancy words. Glad she’s shown me otherwise.)

Lauren DeStefano. (I have just read her debut novel, Wither, so she is the newest face on my list of favorite/inspiring authors.  As I’ve said, ‘modern’ stuff tends to rub me the wrong way, so I was pleasantly surprised – pleasantly blown away – when I read Wither.  The way she wrote totally enchanted me.  I loved the setting simply because she put so much character into everything, and for this reason she is an instant huge inspiration to me as I’m launching my ‘contemporary’ debut as an author. I will go back to this book (and eagerly devour future volumes) whenever I need inspiration on this front.)

While it’s debatable whether or not he’s a favorite, I’m going to go ahead and mention Neil Gaiman as well.  His book ‘Neverwhere’ really did something for me, and is one I also find inspiring in many indistinguishable ways.  I don’t know.  Something about it.  The ideas, the daring ‘different’ tone about it…  Love it.

A couple other books themselves I should mention:

The Book Thief.  (Not my typical genre, but the way the author writes is extraordinary.  I would have read this book just to savor his metaphor usage.  In the notes he writes regarding the book, I remember him saying something along the lines of believing that there should be a gem on every page.  I love that, and he accomplishes that splendidly.)

Ella Enchanted.  (Yes, a girly Cinderella story.  But quaint and charming and somehow so special. Another that has stuck with me, forever.)

I may have forgotten some, but this covers the basics.


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The ‘Book a Month’ Project

As I sit here trying to figure out precisely what I would like the main focus of this ‘writer’s blog’ to center around, the obvious occurs to me: I have recently undertaken the challenge/project of writing a book a month.  I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out if I want to think of this (and if I want other people to think of this) as a writer’s blog, a reader’s blog, a self-publishing blog, or a general literary blog.  I like (and have things to say and share) in all of these categories, but it’s nice to have a constant.  Something everything else accumulates around.

I started thinking about other blogs – how people like to follow other people’s unique journeys of one sort or another, how the most successful blogs seem to be those where someone undertakes some interesting or never-before-seen challenge.  And I realized, quite un-eloquently: duh.  I turned to my mother, sitting in the next room just waiting to be a consultant (read: a source of affirmation) and promptly informed her of the ditz she had birthed for not identifying, amid the search for blog-worthy content, the potential of the fact that I have in fact just undertaken the unique, arduous task of writing a book a month.  “I mean, be honest,” I said, “How many people do you know who are writing a book a month?”

And, being the source of affirmation I have come to count on, she confirmed it: “Wellll – no one, I guess.”  And there you have it.  My unique undertaking to add to the subscription pool.

Here’s how it works.  Basically, as stated, I write a book a month.  Thus far it has only been going on for two whole months, but – so far, so good.  I was inspired to try this following a rather life-changing loss of a source of stability I had been counting on for my future, wherein I found myself asking: what am I going to do?  With myself, my life, my career…  As any aspiring writer can attest to, an aspiring writer does not typically pay the bills with their aspirations.  While it is our dream to turn our passion into a career, it is a hard, hard market to get a good break in, and even if you have what it takes, it is often painstaking.  You have to do something else along the way.

And that’s exactly what I had been doing.  ‘Doing something else’ while I kind of wrote on the side.  Compared to most people, even many writers I know, I wrote a lot, but it was still at more of a ‘hobby’ level as far as time and attention went, because frankly other things were paying the bills.  And there were advantages to only spending so much time and attention on writing.  It meant that whenever I did write, I was totally eager to, and there was all this pent-up creativity just waiting to be unleashed onto that paper.

But I started thinking to myself: what if I actually put as much time, attention, and effort into this as I would academic assignments or work?  What if I actually treated it like a job, and set goals and deadlines for myself?

I knew that such a clause had the potential to kill creativity and see me quickly burnt out, but the idea intrigued me.  It certainly couldn’t hurt to try, and I was interested to find out if I could actually do it, and what kind of results it would produce.  So I decided to go ahead with it.  If it totally killed my creativity, I would cut back and loosen my expectations, but in the meantime I would surely at least make some decent progress.

Well that was two months ago, now, and the trial has been thus far successful.  I decided to set a quota for myself of 1,700 words a day, which by the end of a given month amounts to a nice, round, book-length 50,000.  Sometimes I write less than 1,700, and sometimes I write way more, and sometimes the book ends up being 60-, 70-, or 80-thousand words, but so long as I reach at least 50,000, I’m perfectly happy to let it be whatever beyond that it aspires to be.

Surprisingly, it’s quite easy to just sit down and write 1,700 words a day.  Except where other engagements are concerned, that number is not an overwhelming amount of words for a writer.  Who knew discipline was all it took?

There are definitely times where it feels as though I’m burning out creative reserves, or where I feel the pressure of plotting and developing things on a schedule.  There are many times I start second-guessing my work, thinking ‘What if I’m pushing it?  What if this is junk?  What if I’m ruining one of my babies or stifling its potential by pushing it through?’  But then I remind myself it’s a first draft, nothing is set in stone, and in the end, when it’s time to edit – if I like it, I keep it; if I don’t, I fix it.  And it all comes together, and no world (mine, or that of the book) falls to pieces.

And, as there’s no high like finishing a book, the gratification is proving enough to spur me on to the next project.  Hopefully, blogging about it will only boost its energy.  There’s nothing like having a sounding board, and a group of followers to be accountable to, to keep something alive and kicking.  And if this project serves to inspire someone else along the way – I will be all the more glad I chose to blog about it!

I would love it if you joined me on this journey.  It is always a pleasure to hear from readers and other writers – and of course, as a writer, it is always the best kind of reward and fulfillment just to have readers.  I will keep you all up-to-date on book progress and ideas, and hopefully we’ll all have some other literary fun along the way!  There’s lots of fun stuff in the literary world to share and discuss these days.

Let the official kick-off of the Book-a-Month project commence!


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You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover

You can’t judge a book by its cover.

While this is wildly true, I have to admit that my reading experience is, in fact, affected by the cover.  This may be my own psychological glitch kind of thing (I would love to know if anyone else finds the same thing), but regardless; if I don’t like the cover, my reading experience suffers.

This may be shallow-minded of me, and may in fact completely wreck my credibility as a true reader/writer.  I feel as though others would be quick to insist that any true reader/writer can appreciate the soul of a book – that it’s all about the essence of the story and dragging the cover into it suggests maybe I’m more fitted to being one of those readers who buys books to put them on the shelf.

But there’s just something about the cover that sticks with me as part of the essence of the book.  It’s not as though it’s a face that someone couldn’t help being born with.  It’s not as though it’s a face that shouldn’t have anything to do with the inner beauty of the thing.  A book was not born with its cover.  The cover is supposed to reflect what’s inside the book.  It’s supposed to be created to draw people in to what’s in that book.  It’s supposed to do as much justice to the book as it can.

I’m the kind of person that loves to run her hands over the cover of a favorite book.  The cover is a cherished part of it, to me.  And if it’s not good – well, I’m not going to want to do that.

The cover does feel like part of the soul of the book to me.  When I read a book, the impression of the cover sticks with me even while my nose is stuck between the pages.  When I think about the book – what comes to mind?  The cover.  When I tell someone about it, what comes to mind?  The cover.  Whether it’s a good book or a bad book, the imprint created for reference in my mind is the cover.  What else are you going to picture when you reference a book?  The white pages?  The black ink?  Perhaps the font?  Maybe the way you pictured the character, or perhaps a place vividly described in the story.  But the fact remains (at least for me) that the cover is one of those things that comes to mind first.

My point being: I am here to confess that the cover of a book not only affects my reading experience, but influences whether or not I even read or buy a book.  It can have a stellar title, and the most gripping blurb on the back flap I’ve ever read – but if that cover doesn’t do it for me, I’m likely to put it back on the shelf and never even give it a chance.  Just because I know that cover will taint my impression.

This seems like a crime shame.  How many good stories am I missing out on?  But for me, at least, it can’t be helped.  Fortunately they seem to change book covers like clothes, these days, to reach a more diverse audience, and so there’s hope for some of these overlooked lovelies to be redeemed.

Am I the only book-lover who feels this way?  Is the only possible explanation that I am not, in fact, a ‘true’ book-lover, or that something traumatic must have happened to me in my childhood to leave me with such a bitter associative outlook?  Please tell me I’m not the only one!