Welcome to the World of Stardust Black

Hey there! ^_^ My name is Kyira, and I would love to welcome you to the blog for Stardust Black: it is my own little piece of (alternate) reality on the web. What I’ll be doing here is presenting a crazy collage of fun and (hopefully) interesting things to entertain and inspire my readers including – but not limited to – the following:

1. An inside look at the completion and self-publication of my first book. Not only will I offer glimpses into the worlds of the Ascension Universe with beautiful artwork (by  Tsukiyo Tensei – http://tsukiy0.deviantart.com/  and Mai Lynn (https://www.instagram.com/tinywingscraftshop/), but I will be sharing tips and tricks I’ve gathered in regards to writing, self-publishing, and marketing.

2. Adventures! Conventions, concerts, crafts, food, festivals, and fun… Everyone needs a little adventure in their life, and almost anything can be an adventure. Whether you’re tackling a new hobby or flying across the ocean, the right perspective can make it feel like the most exciting thing in the world.

3. Anime, manga, and gaming! What more is there to say?  ^_^

4. Photography. There are few things I enjoy more than taking pictures, and I’m working on improving my skills.

5. Reviews. Books, movies, anime, and more. Coming up soon will be a review of the second Wizarding World crate from Loot Crate! You can check out the first one here.

That is just a little glimpse into what I have planned for the upcoming months. Thank you for stopping by! Remember to check back soon or… You could simply sign up and make sure that you never miss a post. ^_^

Advertisements

After the Storm: Rainbows and Flowers

You can’t have rainbows (or flowers) without the rain.

Recently, I wrote a  post about depression, and while I have a lot more to say on the subject, I thought it would be nice to shift the focus for a moment and reflect on something a little more light-hearted. The following are some photographs that I’ve taken over the years of, like the title said, rainbows and flowers.

For the moment, let us think of them as a light at the end of the tunnel, a spark of hope in a day that may be otherwise dark. Depression can be consuming, but it ebbs and flows like an endless tide along the shores of our life. Sometimes, the tides are high and other times they retract and allow us a reprieve. Allow these photographs to remind you that depression is not forever. Depression is not you. Even if the waters are high right now, the time will pass, and you will survive.

IMG_4185_zps97c211f7IMG_4192_zps6902aa69IMG_4195_zps9d4c563aDSCN6229DSCN718820160510_110656

And just because…

20140831_191409

Anime Review: Kamisama Kiss

You have to be careful when you’re dealing with strangers, especially if you’re a homeless high school girl in Japan. Nanami Momozono learns this lesson the hard way when she “saves” a mysterious man one night while lamenting about her deadbeat father and the lack of a roof over her head. While he does graciously offer her his home, which he has abandoned, he fails to mention that it’s a shrine inhabited by two will-o’-the-wisp children and a temperamental yōkai familiar named Tomoe. With nowhere else to go, Nanami decides to accept the offer and soon discovers that, along with her new dwelling, she has acquired the status of a land god with all of the expectations that come with the job.

Kamisama Hajimemashita (or Kamisama Kiss) follows Nanami’s adventure as she learns to juggle divine duties with the demands of high school. Along the way, she runs into a lot of quirky characters, and most of them continue to pop up now and again throughout the episodes. There are a couple subplots running in the series that give an interesting look at a few of them. Of course, Tomoe is a consistent fixture as he tries to contend with this “human god” whom he is (reluctantly… or not?) bound to serve.

The story doesn’t stray far from what you would expect from a shoujo-style anime, but it is still an adorable addition to the genre. The plot contains very subtle hints at some older anime, most notably Inuyasha and Yu Yu Hakusho (I’ll explain later.), yet Kamisama Kiss remains very much its own story. If you are a fan of this type of anime, I would definitely recommend giving it a try. I finished all twenty-five available subtitled episodes (at funimation.com) within a week and would watch it again if the opportunity came along. While there has been much talk among the fanbase about a third season, there appears to be no set release date. (There are OVAs: Kamisama Hajimemashita: Kako-hen and Kamisama, Shiawase ni Naru that are said to wrap things up nicely, but I have yet to watch them myself.)

If you’re curious about my reference to Inuyasha and Yu Yu Hakusho, look below the picture. The explanation does contain spoilers for the series. You have been warned…

Kamisama Hajimemashite

In the series, the character Tomoe reminds me a lot of Yoko Kurama from Yu Yu Hakusho. We are constantly reminded of how he was originally a wild fox before he became a familiar. As they begin to show flashbacks from his life, we see that during this time he had long white hair and ran around causing a lot of chaos. At his side was his troublesome bandit companion, who he eventually had some as of yet undisclosed issue with. (Kuronue anyone?)

Another similarity to YYH can be seen with this former companion, Akura-ou, and it is also connected to Yoko Kurama. After having his body trapped in the Netherworld, Akura-ou finds a home for his soul in the body of a human, Kirihito, making a promise to apologize to the boy’s mother for an argument prior to his death. (We also see a similar pact in Angel Sanctuary with Nanatsusaya and Sakuya Kira.) Even though Akura-ou continues to plot to get his original body back, we see instances where he shows some humanity towards his host’s mother, not unlike how Kurama comes to care for Shuichi’s mother in Yu Yu Hakusho.

As far as the connection to Inuyasha, it’s fairly simple. In Tomoe’s past, we see that he did have a close relationship with a human woman, and he went to great lengths for her. At one point, he steals the Dragon Lord’s right eye, which is said to give healing and long life, in order to help the ailing Yukiji. We find out later that the eye, now shrunken quite a bit, is inside of Nanami’s body, leading me to wonder if this is another case of reincarnation along the lines of Kikyo and Kagome.

I haven’t read the manga, but I’m hoping a new season will come along to shed some light on this. I want to know exactly happened in Tomoe’s past that brought him to Mikage’s shrine.

Just a Few Words: Depression

Depression is frustrating. When things are going poorly, such as overdue bills, health issues, or family troubles, we come to expect that we’re going to feel down. Most people, when they’re under a lot of stress, experience a period of depression. With clinical depression, it’s a little different. Things can be fine. Your situation might be better than it has been for a long time. You feel positive and capable. You relax.

Then suddenly, the tiniest thing catches your attention. It could be anything. Maybe the cashier at the grocery store looked at you strangely (you think) or no one liked your recent Instagram picture. These things wouldn’t normally bother you so much, but today, that thing caught you off guard and weaseled into your brain. You can’t stop thinking about it.

After a few hours, you start to question other things (everything) in your life. All the positive ideas you had the night before seem foolish, ridiculous even. Your goals in life feel out of reach when. just last week, you genuinely believed you had a solid plan. Failed projects and bad situations from the past loom up in your mind, proving that you’re worthless. Even if you thought you came to terms with these things, you worry about them all over again. How could someone like you ever accomplish anything? It’s crazy to think that someone like you deserves a good life.

The negativity becomes distracting. You can’t focus on the things that you need to get done. The lure of mindless activities draws you away from your responsibilities because it’s easier not to think, and you find some justification for the detour. Sometimes, this little break can help. You binge watch a few hours of your favorite show or pass the time playing a game (my distractions range from Pokemon Alpha Sapphire to writing angst-laden trash to actively staring at anime or the walls).

Other times. Nothing helps. The downward spiral comes fast and hard. Your inability to do what you need to do compounds the problems, which causes an onslaught of crushing guilt and underscores every negative thought you’ve had since the (seemingly pointless) trigger that set you off in the first place. Your thoughts rampage like a herd of angry elephants, stomping out your happiness, your confidence, your hope.

Lazy.

Unlovable.

Stupid

Disorganized

Worthless

The insults become a self-depreciating mantra. Even if you try to reason against them, you usually won’t win. Often, when this happens, I tell myself that I have people in my life who care about me. My mind tells me it’s only a matter of time until they leave. It’s happened before. I try to focus on the good things. My mind insists that it won’t last. It never does. But, that’s just a part of life, I cry. Everyone goes through hard times…

And they do it without whining like a spoiled child, the thoughts taunt me. You shouldn’t complain. Others have it worse. Your problems are petty. You’re selfish. A waste of time. What would people think if they knew you were wallowing over something so stupid.

My experience isn’t necessarily your experience, but one thing that I have learned from the internet is that there is always someone out there who can relate. Knowing that others have the same thoughts, feelings, problems can make us feel a little better. We’re not alone.

So, as I sit here thinking about what I haven’t gotten done, struggling to get these words down between bouts of Facebook and trying to research information for the post I was originally going to write, I can only hope that these words will reach another person who needs to know they’re not alone. Or maybe, it will reach someone who knows someone and help them understand a little more.

When someone is depressed, they can’t snap out of it. They’re not trying to alienate anyone. Chances are pretty good that they’re in a constant battle with their own mind for control of their feelings, and it’s likely they feel like they’re losing. Be there for them. If they choose to confide in you, listen to them. Realize that the self-defeating talk and behavior isn’t a ploy for attention. Depression twists reality, and it becomes difficult to focus on anything positive.

Most of all, if you suspect that someone close to you is suffering from depression and/or suicidal thoughts, make sure they get help. Slip them a number for a hotline or tell someone that can be trusted. Depression is difficult. It doesn’t have to destroy us.

Call 1-800-273-8255
Lifeline Chat

From the Passenger Seat: Summer Sunset

It has been some time since I’ve taken pictures from the passenger seat. A bought of crushing depression and anxiety left me feeling less than functional, but things seem to have evened out nicely in the last week or two. The wall that kept my muse at bay has crumbled, and I’m looking forward to a plethora of new projects.

I was on my way home from Fayette County last night as the sun set. It made for some striking colors and cloud art. As I took more and more pictures of the sky, I started utilizing the manmade objects in my shots. This isn’t my normal aesthetic, but it seemed to mesh nicely at the time.

My favorite shots would have to be the last ones, taken with the dusk/dawn setting on the camera:

From the Passenger Seat: Wanderlust

Three weeks ago, my best friend and I set out for Saratoga Springs, New York. It was approximately seven and a half hours from where we live. After an amazing weekend and attendance at the Sailor Moon Silver Millennium Ball, we headed back home. As usual, I got taken in by the clouds and the sunset, the towering mountains, and a few other little things along the way.The ride was scenic, though, I think I would like to make the trek again at some point in the summer or fall when the world has a bit more color to it.

Taken: March 12, 2017

Bringing Your Characters to Life

Character development is one of my favorite things about writing, but it can be difficult to write a realistic, three-dimensional character. A balance of strengths and weaknesses is required along with a million details. Aside from physical description, like hair and eye color, you need to decide things such as who their parents are, do they have siblings, and was there some strange accident in their youth that left them with a phobia of rubber bands.

We’re going to explore some ways that you can get to know your characters a little better, get a little deeper inside their heads, and bring them to life. Making this connection can work wonders when you’re writing. You will notice that the character’s speech and actions seem to flow more naturally, and you won’t have to struggle to figure out how they’d react in a situation. Although, you will notice that they start to do things that you didn’t expect. It sounds crazy, but it’s true!

That’s enough introduction. Let’s get into the good stuff…

Astrology

I have always been a huge fan of the stars and find astrology to be fascinating. So, of course, when I started working on Ascension, I made birth charts for all the characters. These were very detailed and included the exact time of birth, all the planets, and the ascendant sign. Now, something like this requires a number of tables, a couple charts, and a lot of other fun stuff, but just the choice of a birth date can have a huge impact and offer a lot of direction in developing your character. A Pisces would be very different from an Aries!

While we don’t have any control over when we’re born, we have all the control in the world when we’re making a character. If you have a singer who loves the spotlight and lives for the stage, they could easily be a Leo. Charismatic and over the top. At face value, Leos are said to adore attention, but they are also known to be incredible and generous friends.

Explore the different signs and get a feel for them. If you find one that sounds like a good fit for your character, choose a date in that time span, then learn more about the specific sign. I’m not saying that it has to be a perfect match, (due to the vast number of other aspects affecting a birth chart) but it can give you a path to wander along. If your character is a Scorpio in almost every sense but doesn’t have the notorious Scorpio temper, (like, well, me) that’s fine. It’s normal. No one is a perfect stereotype, and that will make them even more life-like. And, if you decide to dig deeper into astrology, you might just realize that your little Scorpion has a particular aspect of planet placement that takes the edge off that sting.

Psychology

A study of the human mind can lead to great insight when we’re creating people. This doesn’t pertain strictly to phobias, trauma, and mental illness. No. You can learn about things such as the “spotlight effect”. If you’ve ever coughed in a quiet room or gone to school with a pimple, then you’re familiar with this one. It’s the belief that everybody is suddenly aware of you, watching you, judging you. Everyone in the hallway sees that pimple, even though it’s the size of a pinhead.

These are things that affect pretty much all of us because it’s wired into our brains. I took several Psychology classes specifically to help me with developing characters. Theory of Personality was a great one. Speaking of that… Go to this site: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test and take the test, answering as your character. You can also find and take the traditional Meyer-Briggs personality test, but I like the one on this site because it gives extensive results. Not only will those results give you a lot of juicy insight to your character’s mind, it will also help you get inside their head as you try to answer the question.

Personality Tests

Just spring-boarding off the last suggestion… Take any personality test as your character. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, sign up on Pottermore and take the sorting quiz as your character. Doing things like this will make you think about them in entirely new ways and learn things about them that you may never have known otherwise.

Roleplay

I am thinking about doing an entire post strictly on the benefits of roleplaying for character development, world-building, and plot development, but for now, I’m just going to add it here with a brief “why it’s a good idea”. Over four years ago, my (best) friend, who I’d recently met at a convention, offered to help me develop my National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) story by roleplaying in the world. It worked well enough, but then we started creating more plots and other characters. I ended up creating some of my most beloved characters through the stories we’ve being weaving, and they have their own book ideas in the works now as well.

The whole process of interactive roleplay allows you to “be” the characters. Again, you have to think like they would, and this helps to figure out how their mind works. By playing with someone else, your character will be faced with situations you don’t anticipate. Unlike when you’re writing alone, you don’t have complete control. Your partner’s characters will do things you never saw coming, react differently than you expected, and it’s much more realistic than having everything mapped out ahead of time. Just like in real life, your character has to learn to roll with the punches, and you get a good feel for who they are by how well they cope.

Some Things to Think About

These are just a few questions to ask yourself about your character to offer additional insight.

1. What is their favorite sandwich?

2. What is their favorite movie?

3. What is their view on religion?

4. What is their best childhood memory? Worst?

5. If faced with a choice to kill in self-defense, would they do it?

6. If someone tried to blackmail them, how would they handle it?

That’s all for now. Hope this helped!

From the Passenger Seat: Into the Storm

From the Passenger Seat: Into the Storm

 This set of pictures was taken during an hour-long drive. The skies started off with brilliant blue skies and white, fluffy clouds, but with the passing of miles, the sky grew darker, the clouds shifted to gray. The rain came down in torrents for a time until it passed. As the clouds began to clear, the contrast of colors struck me. This was the (un)official start of my interest in taking pictures from the passenger seat and resulted in 144 pictures. These are a few of my favorites…

(Taken August 3, 2015)

A Taste of Spring

With the long, cold days winter heavy upon us, I sought out some solace in the photos that I took early last spring when the world was brilliant green and the days were (consistently) warm. The area where I live is rural. You can walk up the road and see cows. As I walked this particular stretch day after day last year, I took pictures, capturing the sky, the wildlife, and the flowers. Now and again, I came across something unique. For the next few days, I’ll be reliving those beautiful spring moments in anticipation of the changing season (which can’t come fast enough).

(Taken May 17, 2016)

Weaving Words: 5 Tips and Tricks for Creative Writing

Words are fun. I have loved them for a long time. I like the way they sound strung into sentences and paragraphs, and I enjoy finding just the right one to bring an idea into being. How many words does a writer have to choose from when the pen touches the paper or fingertips strike the keyboard? I cannot give you an exact number or even a rough estimate of how many words are out there waiting, but I can give you a few ideas on how to find new words and explore new ways to do amazing things with the ones you’ve got. Some of these ideas I’ve picked up in writing books and others are simply things that I have done on my own in order to assist my writing. The writing craft is an ongoing process of practice and skill building, and there is no such thing as a wasted exercise when it comes to wordplay. So here are a few to either get you started or to help expand your horizons.

1. Word building! I have an entire binder filled with loose leaf paper that I use to build my own word bank. I started with verbs. Each page consists of various verbs that can be used when writing about housework: dusting, vacuuming, washing, etc. Another page might have a list of verbs that describe ways of moving: walking, running, sprinting, wandering, etc. Over time, I have built various sections, adding to them when I come across a new word that interests me. So, when I’m writing and get stuck, I can browse through the proper section in my word bank to get some ideas. This system isn’t limited to verbs either. I have a second with lists for every possible shade or reference to each color. Speaking of colors…

2. Color swatches. Personally, I love colors, and in the pocket at the front of my writing binder, I have a collection of paint color swatches that I have gathered a few at a time. Not only can the colors themselves be inspirational but the names of the colors can also nudge your mind into embracing some creative takes on color and descriptions.

3. Writing potpourri. Jots down little writing ideas on scraps of paper and keep them in a jar. When you’re having trouble finding inspiration, all you have to do is pull an idea from the jar and run with it. These ideas can be anything from themes (man loses his hat in the park and ends up a long way from home) or intriguing phrases that flutter into your mind at random moments (on butterfly wings). There are a lot of different ways to play with this idea. You could do a daily challenge where you draw one idea and spend ten to fifteen minutes writing whatever that little scrap of paper inspires you to write (whether it has anything to do with the idea itself or not). You could also pull two or three ideas at once and see if you can find some way to include them all in one piece of poetry or prose.

4. Get involved with National Novel Writing Month. 50,000 words in 30 days! This event takes place every November and provides an amazing amount of writing inspiration. It’s a crazy time of writing abandon that really encourages you to knock out your inner critic and get that rough draft onto paper. There is no time to worry about anything when you only have thirty days to write that novel! (I have yet to complete this myself. Something always goes awry. I did manage 20,000 words this last year.) Details can be found at www.nanowrimo.org . They also sponsor a screenwriting event in April, I believe, so if that is something you enjoy or wanted to try, this could be just the ticket to getting started!

5. An exercise that you can do with a writing friend is: each of you makes a list of words that you really enjoy. I have an affection for words like surreal and opalescent. Exchange lists and then try to write a short story using your friend’s list of words. This can not only introduce you to new words, but it gives you a chance to work with words that you might not consider using. You can challenge each other to use all of the words on the list or see who can use the most. You could also increase the challenge by specifying a genre for the story. The possibilities are endless, and it’s a lot of fun.

Hopefully, these ideas will help inspire you, and maybe you’ll add a few twists to them and come up with some entirely new exercises. No matter what, they can only add to your vocabulary and writing experience.

Sky Flowers (Lighting up the Night)

Fireworks always give me a strange sense of melancholy. I love to watch them, but the experience is always bittersweet. Every year around the Fourth of July, the people who live across the parking lot and up the hill set off a beautiful display. This past year I was able to capture them. The results surprised me. I was so proud of my camera! Not perfect, but these shots struck me…