A Writing Journey

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Book Review: The City of Brass

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. A fantasy story about a young woman? Please. And she gets swept into the magical world, having to survive by her wits? Yes. Not the typical European-style magical world. Even better. 

I wanted to love this book. The premise was great, the plot is actually pretty intriguing, the characters well developed (especially the morally conflicted Ali). Even the secondary characters shine – from the servant who tries to help the main character, to the prince and even the princess gets a moment near the end of the book in which we understand her more fully. There were a lot of reasons why I wanted this book to be exceptional.

Unfortunately, despite the good points, it did not live up to my hopes. Despite an overall writing style that is concise and functional, the descriptions were too much. The same buildings and places were described multiple times from different characters perspectives – but with the exact same voice, the exact same flowery language, and the exact same result: skipped.

The plot was fairly unpredictable – until secrets started being revealed. Then I could see exactly where the story was going, and it lost some of it’s allure. Now this is a point that isn’t necessarily bad – sometimes it is fun to be proven right. However compared with the other points, it was a bit of a disappointment. And I will add, some of the “historical” plot points were a little confusing when it came to a certain group of people. Maybe I missed something, but it seems like if everyone hates one group, there isn’t a real reason for conflict over their treatment.

I really enjoyed getting a bit of non-European fantasy. I think if this book were marketed as a YA novel my expectations would have been different, and they would have been met. So if you are looking for a book for the fantasy-loving teen in your life, this is definitely one to consider. And I recommend reading it even if you aren’t a teen, just adjust your expectations.

Writing, Reading, and the Future of my Blog

Happy Sunday, friends!

Well, I didn’t quite hit my goal of a page a day this week, but I did write more than I have in months! It feels good knowing that I can pick back up with just a little will-power.

Other than writing, I have been reading more again. I’m about 3/4 done with “Within the Sanctuary of Wings” by Marie Brennan. Just like her previous books in this serious, I have been totally captivated. I will have a  full review when I finish the book.

In the meantime, I’m trying to come up with some good blog posts for here. I was thinking about doing a full story, chapter by chapter, but I also want to get back to some of my early style posts, talking about elements of fantasy or inspiration and things like that. I would like to know what you think – are there specific things that you think would be beneficial or are there things you have questions about? Let me know and I will work on answering your questions!

Adventure well,


Coming Back to Life

There is a lovely blogger at fibijeeves who has inspired me. We had a brief conversation about getting out of writer’s block, and so I am trying to do more writing again. I’ve been busy working at my other blog, Simply Stitched, and of course busy with the big wide world and everything life throws at a person.

But I am coming back. I want to write here, I want to breathe the written word again, I want to live like I used to live: immersed in stories and language and adventure. So here I am, ready to get back out there, ready to reinvest in myself, ready to go questing once again.

Adventure Well,


Editor for Hire

As you know, I am a writer. You may not know that I also edit work (and not just my own). I have edited both fiction and non-fiction for friends and family members. I am now opening that opportunity up to you, my blogging buddies!

Proofreading consists of checking for typos and formatting issues. (That’s errors such as misspellings, lonely words, and accuracy with page numbers and table of contents.) Proofreading is most helpful for a fully finished draft that has gone through many revisions and is about to be sent in for consideration (or in the case of articles and papers, turned in). Proofreading should be your last step.

Copy editing is for checking grammar, syntax, capitalization and punctuation, missed words, repeated words, using the best word for the job, tenses, and other language errors. This step is for when you have your story completed and are ready to get your hands dirty with polishing it.

Content editing is the most involved step, and the first one you should take with an editor. This is when we look at what parts of your story (article, paper, blog post, etc.) need to be revised and rewritten, if the plot is well-developed, if there are discrepancies to be fixed, if your characters believable, and if your story flows well.


Proofreading $10.00/ 10,000 words

Copy editing $11.00/ 10,000 words

Content editing $12.00/ 10,000 words

Proofreading and copy editing $19.00/ 10,000 words

Proofreading and content editing $20.00/ 10,000 words

Copy editing and content editing $21.00/ 10,000 words

Proofreading, copy editing, and content editing $30.00/ 10,000 words

Basic Guidelines:

If you are hiring for proofreading, I expect a polished and complete piece of writing. I will work with up to 100,000 words at this point.

I will edit first 1,500 words for free. You can look to see if you like the style and way I edit, and we can continue from there at the above rates. Email me at emilyramos402@gmail.com




Serial Saturday – Onaemi 7

In my thoughts, I conjured that city, where there was a special place for me. I imagined a city of pink stone like the one’s Auntie had taken me too when she was trying to find my home. Pink stone and dirt streets that were wreathed in bright green summer garlands. There would be other Whisper children, playing and exploring and learning and so eager to welcome me into their home. My former guardians had said that I might go to the Citadel, but I wondered now if that was such a good idea. After all, they’d made it sound as if I had to pass tests to be allowed there, but Soliri was promising me a special place of my own. That he’d killed them and taken me I’d not forgotten, but perhaps they had been the evil ones.

We passed three nights in that small town. I pretended, all that time, that I was his daughter, and mute. It was easier for me to listen, and to daydream, if I did not have to speak to anyone. Not that I had much chance. Soliri rented out a private room and brought all my meals there. I missed Flier’s company, but I knew she was happy and well in the stables. I was true to my word and did not try to run away or tell anyone that Soliri had taken me away from someone else, not so much because of the threat of death hanging over me than because I’d been with him for weeks, and thought perhaps he might become something similar to what Auntie had been to me.

Even as I thought such thoughts I knew they would not be. He was taking me to a special place.

He was away much of the time we were in the town. He would leave and bring back sacks of provisions. From this I inferred that we would not stop in another town before we reached the coast. I was at once disappointed and relieved, for it meant we would travel more safely, but I enjoyed the luxury of the inn. I wondered, distantly, why I could hear the whispers of the dead wood that made up the place. I heard trees often, but wood was killed trees. Perhaps it was only that I was a Whisper, and the planks and panels were like ghosts that were not magicked into silence.

When at last we left, it was with laden saddlebags. Flier was not pleased to go back out into the snow, but she greeted me with affection nonetheless. Soliri was taciturn and Flier did not try to greet him as he saddled her. The three of us rode out onto the snowy road, but quickly turned from the worn path to break our own ground through frozen over snow. South and west we went. The little town disappeared over a rise. We were on our way.

Writing as Meditation

I’m sure you’ve heard of mindfulness, the craze that is sweeping popular health advice. If you haven’t here is a brief explanation: mindfulness is supposed to help you be less stressed by letting you experience your life in the moment and not worry about things like bills, planning the future, or other such things.* One way that is suggested to be more mindful is to meditate, that is: sit quietly, let thoughts come and go but don’t try to hold on to them OR be so focused on a single thing (like breathing, sewing, painting, etc) that everything else falls away.

For me, writing is meditation. When I can really get in the flow, nothing else matters. There are no dinners to be cooked, no laundry to be folded, no worries about paying for classes or stress about finding full-time work. There is only the story, only words.

That is mindfulness of the best sort. I’m not trying to escape anything, not trying to ignore important things. I am doing something important to me that rejuvenates me and will allow me to tackle those difficult issues a little easier.

So if someone suggests that you ought to meditate, or that you need to be mindful, take a look at your life and see if you are already doing those things. I know that for myself, trying to fit in time to meditate might take away my writing time, and if it did I would be sitting stressed about not writing. Being in the moment requires not worrying about the things you would rather be doing. I know we can’t always be writing (or running, or creating, or whatever it is you want to always be doing) but if doing it creates peace for you, don’t worry about fitting in an extra thing that is supposed to ease your mind. You’re already doing it.

*While it is important to live in the moment sometimes, it is also important to buckle down and deal with the crap that is stressing you out. Something I think many proponents of mindfulness forget.

When the Writing Bug Strikes

I’ve always said, summer is my time to write. In the past 2.5 days, I have revised over half of my novel. Admittedly, it’s mostly reading through, tweaking, adding some additional scenes, and correcting typos. But it’s still a long process.

Authors always seem to say that one must write every day, or accomplish nothing. While I agree that one must be involved in their story every day, that doesn’t have to mean writing. On days when I’m not writing, even the deep dark months of winter, I am thinking about my novel, how to make it better, how to go about getting it published. And if not this novel, my other ideas that litter the surfaces of my desk, the pockets of my purse, the floor under my bed.

So here is my advice: think about writing every day. Think about your plot, about your characters, your maps and mysteries. And when the writing bug strikes, write. Write as if you have days left to live. Write as though there is nothing else you have to do. If writing is what your life is about, make everything in your life be about writing.

When is the best time for you to write?

Writing Isn’t Romantic

“If I only had time I would write my book.”

“I would love to spend all my time writing, gathering ideas, editing.”

“Someday, I’ll write too.”

There has always been something unsettling about how people say these things (and things like this). It goes past the unspoken assumption that unpublished authors are lazy (they have lots of time, ie no jobs), it goes past the assumption that writing is easy, that anyone can sit down and write a book whenever they want to (because let’s face it, not everyone is that driven).

No, it has something to do with that quiet suggestion at the edge of these statements that there is something beautiful, romantic, about the “writer’s lifestyle.”

Well, let me put this out there: there isn’t a “writer’s lifestyle.” Maybe there was once, but no more. We go about our lives, working full-time jobs, part time jobs, going to school, raising families, and so much more. No two writers are the same. And there is nothing romantic about being a writer.

Let’s put it this way: when we write, we strive to create realistic worlds where realistic things (ie coincidence) don’t happen. We fight our plot at every turn, pouring our life into a single work, letting it bleed us dry until we have nothing left – and then when we fill up we do it again. Sounds romantic and beautiful, right?

But what you don’t hear is how we lay sleepless at night trying to work our way around the plot holes. What you don’t hear is how we torment ourselves trying to build realistic characters or how we cry ourselves to sleep when we just can’t make the story work. What you don’t hear is the physical and emotional toll writing takes on us – the sore shoulders, the lonely hours when your friends are out, but you need to write, the frustration when well-meaning friends and family unintentionally deride your work, again. What you don’t hear is that it is one of the most taxing sedentary careers.

Because we do put our lives into it. And even though we say we have thick skin, every little criticism is cutting into us. We put our life into that work and someone just wants to tear it down for the sake of tearing something down.

So no, writing isn’t romantic. It’s hard, it hurts, and it doesn’t get easier. You get better, but writing is still hard, and it still hurts.

Two-Faced: Characters with flaws, motives, desires and more

People are complicated. Even when we try to be whole-heartedly one thing (compassionate, hard-working, friendly, cool) other things get in the way. And not necessarily outside things. I’m talking about the things inside, the are counter to what we want and who we want to be. For instance: if you are or want to be cool, maybe you have an “uncool” hobby that you feel you have to keep secret, and then end up snapping at people when they pry. Or you simply have two conflicting desires: stay in town and keep your secure job, friends, and romantic relationship, or travel to a new city, start all over, and remake yourself. That might be an extreme example, but it’s out there.

So if people are this complicated, our characters should be too. Let me take a moment and say: complicated should not mean confusing, not in fiction at least. The character can be confused, but the reader should not be. There should always be a solid reason for what the character decides or does, even if it is only clear in retrospect (using foreshadowing is a big part of this).

Character flaws are a huge part of making a character complex and complicated. A lot of what I read (and am frustrated with) has one of two types of flaws: 1. something superficial that gets lost when the story really heats up. This is annoying because underneath the superficial “flaw” (and it’s usually not even something the character does, but part of the character’s appearance) that character is still the most normal, perfect guy or gal. Nothing conflicting inside them. 2. Anger/temper/quick to make assumptions. This bothers me because, although it is a legitimate flaw, it is overused and oversimplified.

(A quick aside on anger and the characters who, in what I read, most often get this “flaw”: Anger is a secondary emotion. I know, it DOES NOT feel like it. But anger is what happens when we don’t want to feel hurt. Example: you get criticized by someone for a little thing (say, not vaccuming) and you are hurt that they criticized you for it but don’t want them to know you are hurt because that makes you vulnerable and they just “attacked”, so instead you get angry and a fight starts. All of this happens really fast (most of the time) and we don’t even recognize it as happening. And, obviously, there are many different ways that it happens. Okay, so who most often gets saddled with anger? Two character types: big brooding guy and “strong female.” Big brooding guy is probably closer to the anger as secondary sort of effect. He usually has a troubling past which has caused him to shut down and get angry (because he jumps to conclusions about people). “Strong female” is usually an outcast of some sort and has to use her anger to get by in a guy’s world, or to get through to big brooding guy (who is all too often a romantic interest). Anger is important in stories, don’t let it go. But think about how you use it.)

Conflicting desires within one character are a way to bring out their flaws. They want two things (that they can’t have at the same time) and one of them might be something they really shouldn’t want, but do anyway and go for that, even though maybe the other one is helping someone in need. They choose to fulfill a selfish desire. You can, of course, use conflicting desires in many different ways to create, you got it: conflict. And if different characters have conflicting desires but have to work together, that’s pretty great too.

Conflicting motives is a big one too. Maybe our character decides to help that person in need after all, but only because the guy she likes is with her and she wants to impress him with her selflessness. If she does this enough, he will believe that she is selfless and be shocked when she does something selfish.

Internal battles can be difficult to get across in writing, but people always question themselves and who they are and if they are doing the right thing. I’ll use myself as an example here: I know I am a compassionate person, but I also know that I do mean things sometimes. I try not to, but it happens. And so I, like the characters in books, have to balance these conflicting roles that I see myself in. This is called cognitive dissonance and is an awesome tool for writers.

Write on,



I’ve always said that I want to experience as much of the world and life as I can, not only to inform my writing but to become a more whole person. Today I regret ever asking for “as much of life as possible” because I hate the hard times.

This weekend has been very hard. In a recent post I talked about one of my cats who was very ill. On Friday, the vet suggested euthanasia because our sweet girl was not going to get better, and had steadily (and rapidly) gotten worse despite our best efforts. We opted to bring her home with pain meds and sedatives, expecting that she would not survive Friday, let alone Saturday and in to Sunday. And despite the medication, she was suffering. Yesterday afternoon we took her to an emergency pet care facility to say goodbye. It is so unfair that she had to go that way, that she had to be so sick.

I know that my cat is no longer in pain. I know that someday this grief will subside into bittersweet memories.

All of our experiences, good, bad, and in-between teach us things about who we are and what life is. For writers, experiences such as these add depth to our craft, even if they are some of the worst experiences. If there was ever a “bright” side, it would be that. But there isn’t a bright side. Only an understanding side and a devastated side.

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