“You should be a writer or something…”

writing spirals and character sketches

I write epic emails and I used to do it a lot more than I used to. I recently sent my best friend an email describing my recent adventures and discoveries and she commented that “You should be a writer or something.” She was teasing of course because she knows I’m a writer and is one of the few people who has read a majority of my fantasy book manuscripts. Those manuscripts may never be published, but I already have my number one fan in her, so I’m okay with that.

Even so, what she said struck a chord that had started to twang a bit yesterday. I’d finished up all my writing work and was feeling very proud of myself and happy. I thought to myself that I’d finally found my stride with writing work, college work and everything else I have to balance and that maybe, just maybe I could start writing in a fantasy book again. For the past several months, I’ve been so fried at the end of the day from work and college writing that I can barely string two words together in a sentence and even when I do that, it’s full of typos. A bit frustrating for a once-avid writer of fantasy novels…

I’ve never been a quitter though so I’m at least going to get back to writing in this blog more regularly. I do have a quite a few followers and I feel like I’m letting them down when I don’t post something. Plus, I do like writing in my own voice about whatever I want, even if it’s all rambling nonsense. 😉

On this day before my 38th birthday, I shall now embark on a month-long daily blog post adventure and catch up on the days I’ve missed by re-blogging some older posts that have come to mind over the past couple days. After all, there are newer readers of my blog that don’t know about my resident hummingbirds and my affinity for saving small orange salamanders from the road…

Featured image is of my hand written books from middle and high school and my character sketches.

Jumping from the Height of Luxury

The palace architecture resembled that of King's Chapel in Boston, only magnified 100x!

The palace architecture resembled that of King’s Chapel in Boston, only magnified 100 times!

I had a dream last night that I was in a grand palace. The palace was far too big for my tastes. Grand hallways of polished marble stretched on forever, fine artwork decorated the walls and the furniture was too luxurious and fancy to sit upon. I don’t remember why I was there but I do know Jazzmin was with me and we were both feeling rather lost.

I encountered some former friends while I explored the palace and after talking with them I just wanted out of the place. The friends had moved on with their lives and left me behind but now that they saw me again, they felt the need to brag about how happy they were. How in love they were, how wonderful their lives were, how they had everything they ever wanted. I was wearing jean shorts and a tank top while they were dressed in expensive designer clothes. My yellow mutt and I felt horribly out of place.

I was upset that my former friends were so obviously fulfilled without me in their lives. All I’d ever done was be kind to them and try to give helpful advice and they’d snubbed me for the “love of their life.” They’d tossed me like a dirty rag because I’m the weird girl who spends most of her time writing, walking her dog, listening to birds and watching butterflies. They were much more “fulfilled” spending every conceivable moment with their beloved. I didn’t care how happy they appeared to be because I was certain their words were lies and their whole demeanor just a well-rehearsed performance.

In my efforts to get away from these former friends, Jazz and I became separated. This was horrible for me because Jazz is always stuck to me like my shadow. Somehow one of my ex friends had lured her away from me and I was desperate to find her. I finally found my way out onto a balcony and gulped in the fresh air like a fish gulps in water after being on dry land too long. The luxury and grandeur of the place was suffocating to me and I wanted out!

While standing on the vine-covered balcony, I heard Jazzmin barking above and to the left of me. I looked to find her on a higher nearby balcony poking her head through the marble railing with her tail wagging happily. She was obviously very eager to get to me despite the offer of treats from the person on the balcony with her. As anxious as I was to be reunited with Jazz, I was afraid she was going to try and jump to get to me. No matter how much she loved me, I didn’t think even Jazz could leap that far.

So I shouted at her to wait, that I’d find her. Too late. Jazzmin leapt through the railing across the open expanse and poof! my dream created a balcony between the two of us for her to safely land upon. I was so relieved! She then made the last jump to me and I hugged her and praised her as her tail happily whipped back and forth and she rubbed her head against mine. We both wanted out of that place but had no desire to go back inside.

Looking below me I realized the balcony was now much lower than before so I swung my legs over and jumped down. Jazz squeezed through the railings and hopped down to me and we took off running through the lush, emerald-colored garden overflowing with fountains, flowers and topiaries. I didn’t need those former friends or that grand palace to make me happy. I knew in my dream, as I do in real life, what real love feels like. Genuine kindness, caring and love are luxuries and treasures far greater than all the money in the world.

What Makes a Writer

writing spirals and character sketches

What makes a writer? What makes me a writer? Good question. My answer? There are all these amazing ideas that pop into my head at all hours of the day and night that demand to be written. It’s been happening since I was 12 years old. I’d just finished reading A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony and I felt inspired to create my own fantasy world. So I did just that. I created a magical world called Zindar which I later renamed to Aindar and for the next 15 years I wrote books that took place in that world.

When I say wrote books, I literally mean I hand wrote books. I started out writing cursive pencil in five subject college-ruled spiral notebooks. Eventually I graduated to pen and printing. Then I took a keyboarding class in 9th grade and my parents bought me a Hewlett-Packard word processor and I began typing away at last! The first book I ever typed out was Spark of Beginnings which is now Dawn of Allies. I’ve rewritten that book at least three times since its creation and I’m still not satisfied with it. My first and still my biggest fan is my best friend Crystal and she will get a signed, gold-embossed, personally engraved first editions of every book I ever publish.

As I continued to write in my Aindar books, my Hands of Magic series, my characters aged and had children and I realized I had a lot to keep track of. I needed to remember what they looked like, the magic they possessed, what age they would be in each book, where they came from, who they married, etc. I knew there was no way I could track that all in my head so I started using Excel to create spreadsheets. I would also trace Marvel comic books and transform those heroes into the characters in my book. Those were my favorite visual references to work on. I’ve also traced models in fashion catalogues and from pictures printed off the internet. It’s not exactly fancy or high-tech but it works for me. I can’t freehand draw recognizable things like humans and animals no matter how vivid they are in my mind.

I used to sketch my castle and building layouts on paper but then I discovered a 3D home design program that allowed me to build my locations in a wonderfully interactive way. I built everything from small homes to a sprawling castle to an entire city. I could literally walk through the 3D renderings of my locations and get a feel for my surroundings. I spent countless hours creating visual representations of my world and loved every minute of it!

Layout of one of my buildings

Layout of one of my buildings

3D view inside that building

3D view inside that building

I’m not just writing, I’m creating whole worlds with the words I type out. I’m sure every writer knows what it feels like to breathe life and emotions into their characters. I remember being asked as a teenager what my chosen career was and when I’d say “I’m a writer” I’d usually receive a rather pitying look. What a silly notion to believe that I could make a worthwhile living as a writer. I imagine all artists experience this whether they’re writers, painters, dancers, actors or musicians. Non-creative people looking at us as though we’re insane while they hope that we have some sort of “backup plan” that will actually make us money. It’s understandable I suppose, but not entirely fair. We’re all entitled to our dreams and we all have the right to pursue our bliss.

My oldest daughter Jordan has inherited my talent for writing and she’s far better at it at 10 years old than I was at 12. She’s currently reading A Spell for Chameleon. She’s a very talented artist, flute-player and all around smart, clever little girl. I will never discourage her from writing, drawing, making music, painting and whatever else creative she wants to do. My goal is to show her that yes, it’s possible to make it as an artist. While it takes hard work, it’s the best kind of work because it brings fulfillment to your soul, spirit and heart. Never stop creating!

P.S. – I added more to the Unbroken Flames excerpt on Corbin Creations. The ideas never stop coming…

Mentors and Memories

Poised and ready to go!

Poised and ready to go!

I suppose not everyone needs a mentor, but I do. That wise and trusted counselor or teacher, as defined by the dictionary app on my phone. My most beloved mentor was my father. He always believed in me and my abilities as a writer. Whenever I’d visit my parents’ house he’d ask “How’s your writing coming? Submit to any publishers yet?” To which I’d usually say no and then feel bad because I was letting him down, though he never told me anything of the sort.

I have made attempts to submit my manuscripts to publishers, I imagine all aspiring authors have. I also imagine all aspiring authors are familiar with those generic rejection letters mailed back in the SASE we happily provide in the hopes of good news. Compared to many authors I’ve made relatively few attempts to get my books published. I admit that I’m easily discouraged which is not a useful attribute for an aspiring author. I’m not afraid to admit that I do require encouragement to keep my forward momentum going. Everyone needs help at some point in their lives.

Along with my father, I had another amazing mentor in my high school English teacher named Derek Hulse. He and I shared a kinship and love of writing and reading. Like my father, Derek was a great storyteller and I never got tired of listening to him. I was brave enough to let him read the first book I ever typed (then it was called Spark of Beginnings but it’s transformed into Dawn of Allies) and he gave me useful advice and insight into my writing style. He told me all about “willing suspension of disbelief” by explaining how silly it was that no one recognized Superman when he was wearing those Clark Kent glasses. I can still remember him demonstrating by removing his own glasses and I recall it making me laugh.

Derek and I kept in touch even after I graduated high school and he came to my house to meet my oldest daughter Jordan when she was only a couple of weeks old. I remember that he always seemed to be smiling and he had such a profound appreciation for life. We fell out of touch eventually which I still regret to this day. When I started writing a new non-fantasy fiction book in winter of 2011, I eagerly emailed him wanting to share. The reply email I got back broke my heart almost as deeply as losing my father. Derek’s wife wrote me back explaining that he’d passed away in May of 2011. I remember crying on my kitchen floor after reading that and it still makes me cry as I write this. I had lost my mentor, friend and the man who had felt like a second father to me.

I am certain that both my father and Derek are still with me in spirit, guiding me, watching over me and sending me signs when I need them. I also have some very close friends that encourage me when I need it, give me counsel when I’m lost and teach me valuable lessons. They’ve all read my writing, either emails or books or both, and they all believe in me even when I might not. When I’m ready to throw in the towel and give up on trying to escape ghost writing anonymity, they throw that towel back in my face or twist it into one of those nasty whip things to get my rear in gear again. Sometimes I need a gentle nudge, sometimes I need a big old shove and they know me well enough by now to act accordingly. I may be an aspiring author but I am an accomplished friend and the love in my life is the best acclaim a rambling girl like me can hope for.

Dawn of Allies – Fantasy Book Excerpt

Hands of Magic Series by JulieAnn Corbin

Book 1 – Dawn of Allies

Chapter One

A Mother’s Wish

“There are those immune to your magic, Son.  You haven’t encountered them yet, but you will.  If by some rare chance one of them is a pretty young woman, then you will have met your match.”

The remnants of those words were constantly running through the mind of the man named Brenderin Waylen.  Though the person who had spoken them was someone he loved more dearly than himself, their consequences never failed to anger him.  The speaker had been his mother, Brialla.  He could still see her fair hair shining in the afternoon sun as she stretched her lean body over his bed, her hands tucking in freshly washed sheets. The sheets had smelled so strongly of the sweet soap she had used it still made his nose itch.

He had been bragging about his latest trespasses into the thoughts of schoolmates and the advantage it gave him in class-for he had always found his mother far more understanding than his strict father-and her response had been those cautionary words about the limits of his magic.  That warning and her subsequent light-hearted conclusion about the proper girl for him, had begun to change the course of his destiny years before her sorrowful death.  Bren had tried to comfort himself with the knowledge that “a pretty young woman” immune to his magical ability to read thoughts could not possibly exist.  In his eighteen years of life he still had yet to meet anyone resistant to his power, despite searching his entire home continent of Kran and its neighboring lands.  Nevertheless, he knew better than to doubt the plans his mother had laid for him with her subtle yet powerful magic.

It had been eight years since his mother’s death from illness and in that time he had grown progressively resentful toward his father, Dyrk Waylen, feeling that the man should have been able to save her.  Dyrk was the town healer and Bren’s belief that the man could work miracles had been shattered by Brialla’s passing.  The shared loss had created a rift between father and son, and Bren had been spending less time home each passing year.  With the distance between himself and what remained of his family, he had started to believe that he had escaped his mother’s idea of a proper destiny.  Life had seemed within the control of his own hands for so long that he was more than a little irritated when his apparent mastery of fate swiftly fled from him.

He had begun to feel the overdue shift in his existence almost a week ago and while he stood on the edge of a small familiar town called Bordres, he frowned.  A change in the wind chilled the air and stirred his long brown leather coat about his legs.   Leaning forward against the wooden staff he used as both weapon and walking stick, a sigh escaped him.  Time was pressing ever heavier upon him, for the north wind promised something much more unwelcome than snow.  His predetermined path loomed and its chill was colder than anything nature could create.

Bren had visited this particular town more times than he could count, but he knew somehow that this visit would not end as it usually did.  Though he had not yet met the girl his mother had suggested for him, there were few pretty young ladies who could resist the allure of his six-foot height, long brown hair, mahogany skin, handsome features and the shadows lurking around his dark eyes.  He never promised more than he was willing to give.  If the girls wanted to toy with the tresses he kept mostly tied back at the nape of his neck or peer into his face trying to discern the color of his eyes, he let them and invited them to further explore whatever else might please them.  In the end, the darkness claimed the man and his lovers without regrets, but he felt that this trip would not conclude nearly as pleasantly if his mother’s magical meddling had its way.

Why must it be a north wind?  The only thing that lay north of his present location were the snow covered mountains of Corlan, the iciest region on the continent of Kran, and within them was only one small settlement that shared the name of the range.  It was a place for those who sought solitude and isolation from the rest of the world and often where they died alone and recluse.  For a man with his magic it could have been ideal for Bren, but the bitter temperatures and constant winter sounded far more intolerable than enduring the petty thoughts of everyone he encountered.  He did not need to hide in a nearly uninhabitable range of mountains. He had perfected the sad art of concealing his soul within walls stronger than any tower of earth.  As held true for Bren’s heart, little escaped Corlan, and he knew that the arrival of its icy air was an ill omen indeed.

 ***

The wagon piled with straw rolled away and Larc leaned heavily against one of the low trees, barely noticing the slight breeze that stirred the short brown hair atop her head.  She focused her ice-blue eyes on the poorly made wooden sign before her and could just barely make out the words “Town of Bordres.”  If the sign was any indication of the condition of the town, it held little appeal.  She could just turn away from the town and keep walking down the dusty road in search of her true destination of Tranquil, but she had eaten all of the food she had packed and did not relish the idea of sleeping on the hard ground.  Remembering the coins in the pouch at her waist, she wondered if the town might have an inn with a soft bed where she could spend the night.  She decided to enter and hoped she would not later regret the idea.

Larc’s short height worked to her advantage as she made her way along the street, dodging swiftly around the clumps of people and animals.  She would occasionally peek into open doors or touch the wares the street vendors were shouting so loudly about.  People eyed her diminutive stature and lean build with disdain and frowned at her oversized gray tunic, trousers and boots.  She tried to ignore them, having little concern for what strangers thought of her.

Residents of her former home settlement all lived in small one-level cabins, but this town was almost totally filled with two-story homes and shops.  She wondered why the people needed so much space to live in.  Though she had known that streets in towns outside of her mountain home were more than packed snow, walking on such hard pathways was a new experience to her.  The stones were more abusive than snow and her feet were already sore from even that small amount of walking.  The hard material made every movement louder, horseshoe steps seemed to echo forever and the street amplified the surprising morning bustle of the town.

The noise level made her ears hurt and she was soon forced to dodge into a small alley where the clamor was not quite so overwhelming.  Leaning against the wall as her travel pack, short bow and quiver of arrows pressed into her back, Larc took in a deep breath.  She regretted that action when a strange stench reached her nose. Grimacing, she stood straight and gazed down the debris-filled back street to see a one-story building built behind the two shops that formed the alley.  There seemed to be only men going in and out of the structure and it did not have much light coming from it.  As hard as she stared, she could not discern what the place was.  It was not as neatly built as the rest of the town.  The windows were so dirty she could not see in at all and the only appeal it held was the lack of noise coming from within.  Yet something was definitely drawing her toward it.  Deciding anything was better than facing that street again, she approached the building.

As Larc neared the structure, she began to hear the sounds of low voices talking in hushed tones and the noise of glass hitting glass.  Gripping the straps of her travel pack, she slowed her pace and tried to peer through the heavy door whenever someone went in or out.  When that did her no good, she swiftly stepped through the door behind a man as he entered.  Once inside, she hid off to the side next to the door and gazed around her only to discover to her dismay that the unusual stench had been coming from this building.

Larc’s immediate instinct was to flee but that odd pull within her remained and she stayed where she was to take in her surroundings.  There were lamps hanging on the wall but they were too few in number to do much to light the large room within.  To the right of the entrance there was a long high table with a man standing behind it giving the patrons glasses of some dark liquid.  Smoke filled the air from men using pipes and the din of low conversations seemed to rumble through her head.  Unexplainable gut feeling or not, she began to think that perhaps this building was not the best place for her.

***

Sensing more than hearing the double doors of the tavern open, Bren raised his dark eyes from where they’d been glaring into the drink in his hand. He’d chosen a seat by the large hearth at the back of the building to avoid notice.  Craning his neck up slightly to see over the crowded tables, he frowned as a waif of a person entered the tavern.  The child’s short hair and skinny figure might have fooled most into believing that it was a boy, but as Bren was more perceptive than nearly everyone on Aindar, he knew the truth.  The new arrival was a young woman older than the child she appeared to be, yet still too young to suit his tastes.  Stretching his leather-booted feet up onto the table before him, Bren sat back and waited for the inevitable drama of this stranger’s appearance to unfold.

Making Time for My Writing Passion…

While I am passionate about everything I write, even the blogs and articles I can’t take credit for, my first love in writing will always be fantasy fiction. I started a new fantasy book a couple months ago and while I have tons of ideas for it, I haven’t had the time to work on it much. I’m going to make some time tonight to add a bit more to it. For anyone curious about it, this is what I wrote up as a sample book jacket blurb. To read some of the first chapter, click on the link at the end of the post to go to my Corbin Creations website. Happy reading!

“What happens when a woman whose heart was broken by the death of her beloved father finally does what every man she’s met since tells her to? “Stop crying.” No longer able to express her pain, Vihresa’s tears turn to rage. A rage that hardens her heart and threatens to turn the magic she possesses to darkness. What will come when the fire within finally burns to the surface…”

Unbroken Flames – excerpt