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. ^_^

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…

Fire and Water (Sunset Serenade)

One of the most beautiful and inspiring sights I’ve witnessed in my life was during an anime convention called Midoricon. It takes place at Maumee Bay State Park in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. While the sunsets are always lovely, this past Septemeber, the setting sun provided a show that eclipsed anything that came before it.

(September 10, 2016)

Additional shots:

The Ocean Calls My Name

Moonlight gracing the night-darkened waters. Waves lapping lazily at the sandy shores. I walked along the edge of the ocean and discovered a magic that I’d never known before. How precious these moments are! When life becomes a burden, I only need to take a deep breath and remember. There is so much more to this world…

(Ocean City, MD September 14, 2o16)

Moonlight Sonata

What sight is more romantic, more enduring than this lovely lady of the night, who drifts through clouds and pours her silver light upon the shadowed world? She inspires lovers and poets, sets the mind to dream. Who would deny the chance to capture her beauty, though, no mere picture could ever compare?

(Photos were taken during the Super Moon on July 31, 2015)

Writing Exercise: Waxing Poetic

For this exercise, we’re going to play with poetry. Whether or not you enjoy it, you’ve probably had to write a poem or two at some point in your life. (most likely in school) Poetry is a beautiful way to express yourself, and there are many ways to do it. You can write in rhyme or in free verse, stick to rigid forms or not. You can write about any topic. Poetry is a little more forgiving in terms of structure than stories. Punctuation plays a slightly different role, (Some poems don’t even use it.) and you don’t have to adhere to the usual subject/verb tradition. (Your piece can actually be more effective when straying from the expected.)

Appreciation for poetry is subjective. I’ll tell you that right away, so if you resist trying your hand at it because you don’t think you can measure up to the masters, quit worrying. I can’t promise you fame and accolades for your poetic endeavors, but there is likely to be someone, somewhere whose understanding will resonate with your words. Or, even better, write it for yourself. Just like any other form of writing it can be therapeutic for your soul.

We’re going to do something very simple that my class did for the Poetry Workshop. Everyone in the class chose a word or phrase, then we had to make a poem using all the words. Believe me when I say that this was a case of “easier said than done”. Our list consisted of twenty-one words, and they weren’t exactly cohesive. Observe.

fracas

grace

daydream

moon

fork

fire

paranormal

honeyfuggle

breathe me to life

honesty

la bella vita

surreal

the sea

warrior

crucible

Jesus

confounding

no pain, no gain

exhaust

acorn woodpecker

flaming marshmallows

Just for the record, according to Merriam-Webster.com:

honeyfuggle: transitive verb

  1. 1chiefly dialectal: deceive,cheat,cozen: to obtain by cheating or deception: finagle

  2. 2chiefly dialectal: flatter,cajole,blandish

            1. intransitive verb
  1. chiefly dialectal: to ingratiate or seek to ingratiate oneself so as to cheat or deceive

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to write a poem inspired by (and using) this list of words. Additionally, you can find another way to create a list such as asking friends or random strangers on social media. I take no responsibility for the list you end up with if you choose the second option. It is amazing to see what your mind can do when faced with something like this. The words can be strangely inspirational since they are probably not words we would choose ourselves on a regular basis.

For my piece, I somehow settled on the leanan sidhe as my focal point. (I have no clue how that happened.) For those who aren’t familiar with these amazing creatures, I’ll introduce you with this beautiful description found at:

http://mysticwicks.com/showthread.php?170031-Leanan-Sidhe-Folklore-of-the-Week

Leanan Sidhe is often quoted as meaning “the fairy mistress” or the “fairy sweetheart”. She is a the famous Celtic muse with such a dark and unearthly beauty that her lover was often distraught with longing and suffering for her absence. In legend, the Leanan Sidhe often takes an artist for a lover, hence the title “the fairy sweetheart”. It is said that her lover gives her the vital depth of emotion that she craves and she in turn inspires his genius.

He is the artist, who lost without his inspiration, unable to create his works of art and compositions of song, suffers in a deep depression and sometimes commits suicide or gives up his creative work in despair. Yet an artist who has lost the connection to his muse has failed to honor and nurture the gift he has been given. The role of the artist in the loss of his muse is not often considered or understood. The self destructive nature of many inspired artists probably lent itself to the misconception that she was evil and dangerous. Evil is not darkness, for darkness she is, and she can also be dangerous and destructive. When her gift is honored and nurtured, she shines as a luminous light in the darkness. For those who understand her true nature, who do not idolize or fear her, she is a sliver of moonlight in the blackest night.”

Pop over and read the full piece. Beautifully done.

This combination of words and inspiration lead to the following poem, which… Well, you can tell which words I found a little tricky to include.

Leanan Sidhe

She spawned amidst the fracas of apocalyptic grace and madness,

Stole the hearts of kings and peasants just to sip their tears of sadness;

She danced within a daydream and whispered to the moon,

Ate daintily at every meal with silver fork and spoon.

She gazed with eyes that rivaled fire, a paranormal spark,

Used ruby lips to honeyfuggle comely artists after dark.

She listened to their quiet pleas and took them in her arms

Smiled softly as they prayed to her, “Breathe me to life once more!”

She welcomed all their desperate words, her honesty unquestioned,

Bestowed her magic charms upon their every grand intention.

She lived la bella vita, spun a never-ending dream,

Rode on waves of surreal pleasures like the rolling of the sea.

She was warrior and saint, and the fount of inspiration,

Nursed many a quickening poet through the birth of his creation.

She braved the tragedy of changing times, a crucible of ages,

Awakened to the modern world of glass and concrete cages.

She wears a golden effigy of Jesus on his cross, and

Stumbles through confounding days; empty-eyed and lost.

She listens to novel motivators; “No pain, no gain!” they shout, and

Recalls the price her lovers paid to bring success about.

She steals through wooded landscapes when the memories exhaust her,

Takes comfort in the laughing cry of a wayward acorn woodpecker.

She comes across a campsite, flaming marshmallows ablaze

Mirroring the spark of power she once held in ancient days.

Feel free to share your poems or questions in the comments.