“This isn’t even my final form!”

post by: Ava Reiss

I was walking through a national park once under a hot afternoon sun.  Before I knew it, I was ahead of my family.  (for those of you who don’t know me as well, I tend to be a speed walker without even realizing it)

There was a lilting voice calling out from a chestnut vendor around a bend.  I went ahead to visit her and to sit and wait.  I ended up speaking with her for a good twenty minutes or so as the rest of my people meandered along.  

The elderly woman was wise.  I could tell because when she spoke, she imparted advice without making it seem like she was lecturing.  It was a conversational flow as if I were her equal and I was free to choose to listen to her words or completely disregard them.  I on the other hand felt the need to impress her with my youthful, “yeah I know’s” and “I’ve done that’s.”  

I cannot remember most of the conversation, but something that she said really stuck with me.  
“A human being is many things and most of those things cannot be seen or understood without minutes, hours, years, if at all.  It is not our duty to show and tell to the world all that we are, because not all of us is for others to comprehend.  A lot is for ourselves to be happy with who we are.  I have no doubt you are a young lady with many talents.  One day you will see that you do not have to prove yourself to anyone else but you.  You need only to present the talents at a time when they are needed.  It is prudent to keep most of yourself hidden.  Sometimes, when you burn too brightly, not only do you burn out, but you will burn others around you too.”
That was the gist of it.  As you can see, that day remains with me.

In other words, keep your “final form” until the right moment.

This is not a sponsored post. Tune in September 17th for our next post, by Ticana Zhu.

Ava Steals Ticana’s Blog Idea

Post by: Ava Reiss

I confess. I stole this week’s blog post idea from Ticana Zhu. I, on the other hand, aren’t as bashful when it comes to sitting down with my characters for tea. I delight in the opportunity to indulge in make believe. My left brain has been overworked, and I’ve been feeling removed from that colored realm of creativity. Anything zany is welcomed graciously.

For those who missed Ticana Zhu’s post two weeks ago, she was struggling with writer’s block. In an attempt to assuage it, she “interviewed” her characters, to get into their heads. I too, have been feeling a bit distant from my fictitious realm. As any writer who works and writes on the side would know, it can be a struggle to get back into the zone. I’m sure Ticana’s not the first writer to interview her characters. In fact, I hope she’s not. I think it’s a brilliant method to re-engage. Hence, I’m utilizing the technique as well!

A= Ava Reiss
M= Meliora

A: G’mornin’ Meliora, how do you like Earth?

M: What’s Earth?

A: Oh, haha, it’s a planet kinda like yours.

M: You mean, we’re not on Ima right now?

A: No, I’m afraid not.

M: [frowns] Oh. I see. [wrings her hands] Could you please tell me how to return? I’m the sovereign of the kingdom Priletoria on Ima. We’re nearing important negotiations and I shouldn’t be absent.

A: I’d be glad to help, but first, could you answer a few questions for me.

M: [lets out small sigh, responds politely, smoothing her powdery blue gown] If I must be so obliged.

A: Great! You mentioned being the sovereign of a place called Priletoria. Does that mean you’re Queen?

M: [nodding softly] Yes, I am a Queen. [Eyes grow sad] But I didn’t wish to become one so soon. I’ve lost my father and… my mother… I think.

A: What do you mean “you think?”

M: [sucks in large breath] Well, I’m afraid she’s gone missing. I pray for her safe return, but there’s not knowing… Please could we change the subject?

A: Of course! What’s your favorite thing about Ima?

M: [beaming sweetly] Priletoria, of course. It’s got forests far in the north, and plains as far as the eyes can see. On the eastern border by the ocean, there’s tall mountains covered in the freshest snow. The best thing of all? My palace borders the kingdom Carpecillero, home to my dearest friend, Jedrek.

A: Oh? Is he a love interest?

M: [lowers her head with a large smile] He is my spouse and King.

A: I see! How long have you known him?
M: Since before we could walk. We share the same birthday. I born one year before.

A: Congratulations! Are most relationships like yours on Ima?

M: [shaking head slowly] I cannot say. I can, however, vouch that the people of my planet love peaceful, simple ways. I can’t say the same for Jema.

A: What’s a Jema?

M: Jema is a smaller planet in our solar system. It’s not far from Ima and we trade often.

A: What are the biggest differences between Ima and Jema?

M: Jema uses electric carriages, while we choose to use horses and carts. We value nature more. Jema also houses a school of sorcery. Magic has long been banned on Ima, due to a tattered past with it. Most of all, Jema has a kingdom called Seu. Not much is known of it, and it hides behind multiple walls. All nations on Ima are open and sharing. [looks around anxiously] Please, I truly must be returning home.

A: I see you take responsibility quite seriously.

M: [a hand to her chest] My duty to my kingdom is important to me.

A: More important than seeing your mother again?

M: [appearing distraught]

A: I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have said that.

M: [meekly] I’m not certain how to answer that question…

A: [feeling regretful] Thank you for your time. You may return now.

M: [appearing alarmed] How?

A: Close your eyes, and picture yourself home. [smiles]

M: [takes advice. Fades from view]

If you’ve enjoyed the interview with Meliora, make sure you check out her book, Fall of Ima. It’s available here on Amazon. Below is the synopsis:

Meliora lives on the Earth-like planet of Ima where days are idyllic and worries never last. Tension enters the north continent as her father, the King of a prominent sovereignty passes away. Her mother is left with the crown, but shows no interest in ruling. In desperation to find a cure for the hereditary disease that took her husband, Queen Vesper travels off-planet to study sorcery. Magic had long been banned on Ima, leaving desperate questions in her wake. To make matters worse, soon after her departure, Queen Vesper ceases communication. The lone successor to the throne is teenage Meliora, who feels shy of the task. With her best friend, Jedrek by her side, she musters the strength to lead. Meliora’s reign is short lived as the previous Queen returns after years of silence. Though once close, the woman now wielding magic isn’t the mother she remembers. Includes pen and ink illustrations of scenes by Ava Reiss.

This is not a sponsored post. Check out our next post on August 20th.

Tea with Rosi and Summer

Post by: Ticana Zhu

I’ve been having writer’s block. Like, really bad writer’s block. The usual tricks weren’t kicking it. I went for long walks, a few late night drives. I found new tunes that were inspirational. I ate healthy and took naps. I even picked up a few books, but my heart wasn’t into reading. This rarely happens. I knew I needed to step outside my comfort zone.

In trying to find ways to summon the imagination, I wondered what kids did. I considered that my characters were, in ways, imaginary friends. I thought about a typical tea party girls played with imaginary friends, and felt a spark of inspiration. Embarrassment quickly followed. How silly would I feel if I set out a cup of tea across from me? Wasn’t I too old for those games?

Yet, maybe I could do it all in my head. Maybe if imagined sitting down across my from character(s), I could interview them with a list of questions. It would allow me to consider their responses. Thus, helping me re-immerse into their worlds.

Below are two interviews- in my head- with Rose (Rosi) Tian and Princess Summer.

T= Ticana
R= Rosi
S= Summer

T: Good morning Rosi, how are you liking your tea?

R: It’s nice, but I prefer chicha morada. (smiles apologetically, and takes a sip)

T: I’m sorry, it’s all I have in my humble home. Tell me about where you live?

R: For the moment, I live in Shonds, on Mars. (her eyes gaze wistfully to the sky)

T: Is it cold there? How do you stay warm?

R: It’s not so bad. There are biodomes deep in the crust. The districts are interconnected and climate controlled. (Rosi’s eyes spark as she speaks endearingly)

T: You seem to love Mars a lot. How does it compare to Earth?

R: (eyes drooping) I miss Earth a lot. It’s hard for me to come back to visit. There’s lots of sad memories here.

T: Would you like to share?

R: No. (appears to shut down)

T: That’s okay. Why do you live on Mars?

R: (reserved) my job.

T: (waiting for Rosi to say more. When she doesn’t) What do you do?”

R: (Eyes cold) If I told you, I’d have to kill you.

T: (chills down my spine, giggling nervously) Well, I wouldn’t want that. Umm… well, I hear you’re well traveled. What are some of the places you’ve been, and where’s your favorite?

R: (easing) Jupiter and Palettia. There’s nothing more rejuvenating that Jupiter’s deep cloud hotsprings. There’s a chemical reaction that helps people who’ve been altered to survive extraterrestrial conditions. Palettia is a planet filled with good people and great times. I have many joyous memories. It’s like a second home to me.

T: Are these places I can visit?

R: (shaking her head) Not unless you get a body alteration, but you need a DNA test to confirm you’re viable for one. Only a small percentage of the Earth’s population is. Humans of Earth’s evolution have made them poorly equipped to leave the planet. Besides, Earth’s a silent planet. You can just leave without permission of the local systems’ government.

T: What’s a silent planet? What’s the local systems’ government.

R: A silent planet is one where the inhabitants wish for their descendants to be oblivious to life elsewhere. Haven’t you asked yourself why humanity on Earth can’t pinpoint their origin? It was by design. There’s many reasons why a culture would wish to do this. Earth in particular was done by peoples who wished to lead a simpler life. The local systems’ government is just that. They’re a republic made up of local solar systems.

T: You keep referencing humans of Earth. Are there human’s elsewhere?

R: (tender smile, as if pitying me) Of course. Humans are just one of many sentient species across the universe.

T: Universe? There’s life in other galaxies?

R: (nods curtly) definitely.

T: Well, what about-?

R: (a device on her wrist beeps, she interrupts) I need to go. (She pulls open my window and hops into my backyard. A craft appears from thin air and Rosi jumps in. Before I could comprehend what I just witnessed, she disappears into the clouds.)

T: Bye?

(Later that day)

T: (bowing deeply) welcome to my humble abode, Princess Summer.

S: (long robes cascading behind her, she fingers my book shelf) These are strange-looking scrolls.

T: They’re called books. Would her majesty like some tea?

S: (beaming sweetly) Jasmine please.

T: (pouring a cup) Would the Princess like a seat?

S: (stares at my kitchen chair with a back. glances at me questioningly)

T: (I make the motion to sit, but not lowering my bottom on the seat. It would be rude to sit before a royal)

S: (slides uncertainly into the chair) This… is a strange cup. (she pokes at the handle on my British-inspired tea cup.)

T: I understand times are different now. You’re from the Xia Dynasty, about four thousand years before mine. What do you do during your days?

S: (gingerly lifted the tea cup to her lips. She blows gently, and sips slowly. Delicately, she sets the cup back down). I practice calligraphy and spend time with my sisters. (her eyes glaze) They’ve married and moved away though.

T: Oh? How wonderful. Do you have a love interest?

S: (appears nervous) I do. But we’ve been separated. There are dangerous people around me.

T: (gulps) I’m sorry to hear. How are they dangerous?

S: (eyes deep and woeful) They wish to take the Empire from my father. I was supposed to marry into the family overseeing a troublesome territory. The union was supposed to ease the strain of political relationships. But… (her eyes cast to the side) My entourage was attacked during the journey. I can’t go home. If I do, it’ll be seen as a betrayal.

T: Is your love interest the man you were supposed to marry?

S: (cheeks deepen in color, appears ashamed). No. He is a friend of my brother’s. But I know I can never be with him. I know my father will try once again to resolve conflict. In doing so, he will need me to marry.

T: It must be difficult. How do you deal with it?

S: (lips smile, but eyes do not) I accept my fate. Personal happiness must be sacrificed for the greater good.

T: But what if you’re given a path that allows you to choose?

S: (eyes danced briefly with hope) I’ll say this to you because you are in a time not my own. If I should be given the choice to select my own destiny, I would take it, no matter how difficult the path. (the light leaves her eyes) But such is not the case for young women like me.

T: But… you never know…

S: It’s true, many things are uncertain. Perhaps I have yet to see what my fate brings. (smiles uneasily)

T: Is there anything else you’d like to share today?

S: Find a beautiful reason to live, and hold onto it. (sips her tea. Then pushes the saucer to me) It’s been a wonderful visit, but I’m afraid I must take leave. A princess has many duties.

T: Of course, thank you for your time.

S: (stands, and walks through a time portal in my wall)

This little dialogue practice helped me get in touch with the identities of my protagonists. Rosi Tian is the lead in Falling from Orbit, a sci-fi YA novel due out at the end of 2020. Princess Summer is the main character in Colors of an Empire, also due out at the end of 2020.

Falling from Orbit synopsis:
Rosi’s excited to learn that her mom’s old friend, Natasha is taking her to Space Camp in California.  When their plane lands in Antarctica instead, Rosi finds her fate in the hands of a questionable woman. Hours later, she is at a Space Camp, but on Mars. Unable to tell her parents the truth, Rosi must keep life on Mars a secret.

The years roll on with Rosi second-guessing Natasha at every turn. The woman gives incomplete answers to all her questions and tells Rosi about the legendary Phoenix respawning the universe. The girl’s doubts double as Natasha places her  in an elite squad, Division Seventeen. There Rosi makes new friends, many who comfort her when she’s forced to fake her death on Earth. As Rosi pieces together Natahsha’s shadowed past, she learns how their fates are tied.

Synopsis for Colors of an Empire:
Summer is daughter to the Emperor’s fourth concubine during the Xia Dynasty. After stumbling upon her half-brother’s corpse, she finds herself faced with dangers she couldn’t begin to understand. As if those troubles weren’t enough, she’s ambushed while traveling to her betrothed’s kingdom. Summer was meant to live in luxury and safety with her new husband, but instead finds herself amongst bandits.

With the aid of her brother from a shared mother, Winter, and friend, Hanming, she navigates her way back home to Zhenxun. Yet once she returns, Summer discovers treachery had been living alongside her in the palace her entire life. It’s not long before she finds herself a target.

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re all as excited as I am to have Rosi and Summer’s stories become available!

This is not a sponsored post. Tune in August 6th for our next post, by Ava Reiss.

“Book Two- Cycles of the Lights”

post by: Ava Reiss

I’ve finally been able to continue editing book two of my Cycles of the Lights series, The Seed of Life. It takes places a couple of decades after the events of book one, Fall of ImaIf you’d read the prologue to book one, you’d know that En and Il are the primeval souls of the universe. They’d fallen in love and wished to unite. However, their non-existential forms prevented interaction. As a result, they balled up their sentience it the core of their essences, and entered the realm of mortals. 

In Fall of Ima we meet En and Il as Meliora and Jedrek. They were able to share many beautiful years together, satisfying their union as En and Il. Unfortunately, some difficulty presented at the end of their lives. (That’s all I’ll say, skirting spoilers!)

In book two, The Seed of Life we meet En and Il again. This time, the story takes on a more sci-fi vibe. We get to know Kameclara, an elite operative of the Intergalactic Military (shortened to IM) of Teroma. She departs on a mission where the operatives aren’t given the details. … But orders are orders!

Along the way, she meets a custodian, Stanten. Something inside the two stirs. They swear they’d never met before. Yet, something seems oddly familiar.

In The Seed of Life, Kameclara and her IM partners need to find an answer to an arcane situation on a far away planet. Meanwhile, the usually cool-headed protagonists contends with wild emotions she can’t control. They seem to kick up whenever Kameclara’s around her new associate, Stanten. Is he going to be a hindrance to her mission? She hopes not. IM operatives never fail their objective.

Yet, as the book continues, Kameclara discovers there’s lots about her world that had been kept hidden. Most notably, a myth every child knew appears to hold roots in fact. Before Kameclara can wrap her head the information, her situation changes expediently. She needs to dance around protecting newfound secrets, and keeping her eye on the mission’s target.

I wrote the first draft of The Seed of Life back in 2014. As a part of my creative process, I often sketch out my characters, or scenarios. Below are early drawings of Kameclara. (Please forgive their roughness. It had been a seven year gap since I’d last drawn ANYTHING.)

If you’d like to read Fall of Ima, it can be found on Amazon (click on Amazon).

This is not a sponsored post. New post on July 16th, where Ticana Zhu chats with her books’ characters.

“Osmanthus and Tea Roses”

post by: Ticana Zhu

Summers for me meant family reunions. More times than not, I’d spend nearly three months in China. For each phase of my childhood, a different scent painted the backdrop.

In my younger years, there was jasmine and gardenia. Little girls or old ladies from the country often sold blooms. Thin wire twisted around the stems, and you could wear them in your hair or clipped to your shirt. Sometimes, they were even tied to a string and you’d have a bracelet. Playful and innocent, just a whiff brings me back to my grandmother’s bedroom.

As I grew taller, and school got harder, chrysanthemum seeped into my world. I had nosebleeds a lot during tween years. My mother often made me consume mung bean soup and chrysanthemum tea. “To lower yang energy in the body.” I soon became a fan of the flower’s flavor. A bit bold, and acquired, but made me feel grown up. Plus, I loved playing with the petals in my glass. Yes, I took my tea in a tall glass. It felt elegant!

Osmanthus and tea roses became my world when I came of age. It was around the time I held adult discussions with my relatives. I’d long known the phrase, “吟诗作画.” It inspired my parents when they selected my Chinese name. Loosely translated, it means “Words of poetry paints.”

Because I was behaving more maturely, my grandfather let me borrow books from his library. My grandfather spoke fluent English. His library included British literary classics that his most of children and grandchildren couldn’t read. Many were from his years studying English at Beijing University. 

I recall one summer, he had smatterings of osmanthus around. His sun-drenched office seemed warm, despite dustiness… and once, a smooshed mouse my cousins and I found under a heavy volume! We screamed and ran away! To this day we couldn’t figure why he left it there!

With volumes tucked under arm, I’d walk back to my uncle and aunt’s where we stayed. The scent of guihua (osmanthus) lingered on pages as I read, curled on the couch. For a few weeks straight that summer, my aunt brought home tea roses from the market. She said they struck her fancy. She placed them in a tinted jar in the living room, catching just the right angle of light from the sun. Beside it, I poured over my grandfather’s books. The fragrances swirled around me as I awakened to my name. Like the books I read and the phrase that inspired my parents, I so wanted to paint with words.

I picked up a pen that summer and made a concerted effort at writing. I didn’t have a tale in mind. Instead, I described the world around me. I wanted to illustrate vivid images, like ancient poets. I wanted to record feelings, transcribed eloquently. 

I refused to show my works to anyone, feeling embarrassed. Innately, I knew my work wasn’t ready. Unbeknownst to me, in picking up our room, my mother stumbled upon a few pages. “You’re only describing colors, and the way things look,” she critiqued.

Fidgeting in awkwardness, I responded, “But paintings only show you what you see,” I alluded to 吟诗作画.

“Writing gives you more (to work with) than paint,” she explained.

My mother handed the pages back to me. For a few days, I thought about her words. Little me came up with a slew questions. What is a painting? Is it just a photograph before the age of photographs? Why do people take photographs? To remember something, right? Why remember? Because it made them feel good?

I asked what made me feel good that summer. It could have been the taste of the homemade dumplings, the feel of the cool stone moon gate in the garden, or the scent of thunderstorms. I realized in that moment, seeing was only one sense. To truly paint with words, one needed to immerse the reader in a world of senses.

I picked up a pen again. This time, before the ink hit the page, I closed my eyes. I imagined myself in a world of gray. A blank canvas. If I were to share my trip to China with my friends back home, how could I illustrate it?

I pictured the pathway between my grandparents and my uncle and aunts. The pebbly parts glistened playfully whenever it rained. Sometimes in a flash storm, water cascaded down steps like a miniature waterfall. The sound reminding of a softer Niagara Falls. What about taste? Should I include the sensational food only locals ate? I could share my favorite recipes. It then struck me it might not be something teens cared about. Then why should I write? For whom should I write?

At a loss on where to start, I squeezed my eyes harder. Clearing my thoughts, I tried to focus on all senses, except sight.

The cicadas buzzed in chorus… The empty page, smooth beneath my fingertips…

Yet… louder than all, the scent of osmanthus and tea roses.

Slowly, I lifted my eyes. A grin alighted my lips. I took a moment and enjoyed where I sat in the little room, etching it in golden memory. Breathing deep of lovely fragrances, I set my pen to page. I can’t say what I wrote was glorious, or even good at all. Yet, it allowed me to understand why I wrote. It was to record moments that could be easily forgotten in time.

Now, whenever I think of when I started to feel like a writer, the scent of osmanthus and tea roses come to mind. I’m sitting once more in my uncle and aunt’s living room, or my grandfather’s library. Even though the same buildings are gone… and my grandparents have passed. Reunions will always exist for me, because I’ve painted them vividly in my journals.

As Anais Nin wrote, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

Now, I’d like to share other experiences with the world. What new medley of senses could I illustrate, transporting the reader into new worlds?

Thank you for reading! Ticana Zhu will have a new post every third Tuesday of the month. Next post on, Ava Reiss (posting every first Tuesday) chats about her present writing project.
This is not a sponsored post.

“Chibi Enthusiast”

post by: Ava Reiss

My bio states I’m an Author and Illustrator. Recently I’ve added that I’m a Chibi Enthusiast. Since then, I’ve been getting this question: “What actually is a chibi?”

Short answer: something “cute-ified”
Long answer: please refer to wiki.

This leads to another question, “What made you a Chibi Enthusiast?”
That’s an even longer answer…
It started in 2014. While I was working on The Seed of Life
, book two in my Cycles of the Lights series. The main character’s name is Kameclara. I had played around with the spelling, considering Kamiclara, or Kamayclara. However, my husband being a Dragon Ball fan, wanted “Kame.” Nothing against the anime, but I wasn’t too thrilled by the logic. I wanted to be original. However, I did feel the name looked better with an “e.” Hence, it was decided.

Kame means “turtle” in Japanese. On a whim, goofing around with my husband, I made a very crude chibi sketch of Kameclara, with a turtle shell on her back. This image was passed between us numerous times as punchlines, never needing an explanation to elicit a chortle.

Once the novelty of “Turtle-clara” wore thin, I sketched chibis of my other characters. I enjoyed it so much, I went online and offered free chibi drawings to my Facebook friends, for a limited time. I lost count of how many I actually did… It felt like a hundred! They can still be viewed on my facebook page.

After the free promo ended, I thought I was all chibi-ed out. I turned back to writing. A few months later, as I was flipping through my drawing, another spell of inspiration hit. This time, I took up needle and thread. 

Well… I think this photo says loads on what that spell produced…
Ava buried by chibi dolls!

Years passed, and I still draw a chibi every now and then. Mostly, I appreciate other’s chibi-style of art. I’ve been told I should do a graphic novella of all chibi characters. I consider the workload and chuckle nervously. “Perhaps,” is my answer.

For now, chibis serve as a way to unwind. It allows me to stay in my story, even when I’m too stressed to edit. It’s a creative outlet that gives another perspective on my fictional worlds. There’s something charming about Kameclara- a strong, butt-kicking female operative- being illustrated as a cute, bubble-headed cartoon. 

The idea of a chibi graphic novella is appealing to me. However, I’m afraid if I take it on as a formal task, the style will lose its magic to me. For now, I will leave you and my chibi fans with these:

Thank you for reading! Ava hopes to have a new blog post every first Tuesday of the month. Ticana Zhu will be posting on June 18th, elaborating on painting with words.
This is not a sponsored post.

“Mon Petit Prince”

*In the interest of introducing our authors, this post is made outside of the regular schedule. Starting June 4th, 2019, please expect a post every other Tuesday.*

post by: Ticana Zhu

Recently, I was asked which book in my childhood left the largest impact on me. Immediately my mind went to exciting ones like Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville), The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi), The Merlin Effect (T.A. Barron) and Homecoming (Cynthia Voigt). Not to mention the American Girls series. Samantha was my favorite, followed closely by Felicity. (By the time Ivy Ling came around, I felt too old to read the series.) Truthfully, I could go on and on. How does anyone, whose childhood comprised of countless hours of reading, pick just ONE?

After a few days of coming back to the question, I discovered there was one story in particular that continued to hold meaning for me. I’d overlooked it at first because it didn’t contain the same level of adventure I grew accustomed to partaking. 

Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince is a story that evolves with me. At each stage of life when I’ve divulged in the tale, it holds a variant meaning. The first time I read it, I giggled at a quirky story, believing it was just some gibberish meant to stretch the imagination. I was quite young then. After all, who doesn’t want to fly off an asteroid with a flock of migrating birds? Sounds like fun!

At another time, I felt pessimistic, as it highlighted the worst in people. How could the Little Prince leave his Rose so simply? Why didn’t they work it out? She NEEDS him! Why did she nag him all the time? And the poor lamplighter! The sick-cycle for the alcoholic! The story induced a bit of anxiety. It was around the time I started to come into my own, and delusions of a perfect world were shattering.

Recently, I picked up the thin volume again. This time, with a few more years under my belt. The tale transformed yet again. It became beautiful, describing love in a way I’d missed before. The fox- who I previously believed was a mere a play-fellow- became my new guru… at least for a couple of days! Through his interactions with the Little Prince, I saw the struggle many of us face whilst attempting to connect in our modern world. With apps like Tinder, we’re all just one of many common roses on the bush. When do we stop and select just one to get to know? Will we judge it for its imperfections, like how it demands a screen because it’s drafty? 

Or do we choose to love someone for all the unseen things they share, to better our little corner of the world? (or asteroid) The scent the Rose perfumes on the asteroid was overlooked by the little Prince at first. Could it be representative of love that’s born from sharing a life with someone? They do say that 1+1=3… the sum is greater than the whole… I’ll let you decide.

Then, there’s the serpent in the ending of the the Little Prince. He took him further than any ship could. I’ve felt so many emotions towards the conclusion. Was it romantic that he wished to traverse death to return to his Rose? What if he couldn’t return to his asteroid? Was the Little Prince so far gone, he had only one choice? I’ve also been devastated, believing he would never reunite with his love to share his revelations. 

Antoine leaves his ending open to interpretation. Either that or to torture me! In general, I appreciate happy endings. Or ones resolved with hope. I choose to believe the Little Prince made it back to his asteroid, and that his Rose did not perish without him. My hearts needs it.

Returning to the original question, “Which book in your childhood left the most impact on you?” I see now, the answer should’ve been simple. At age thirteen, I began writing a sci-fi story. It was just bits and pieces here and there. However, the main character’s name is Rose Tian. Tian= sky. The secondary protagonist? A boy without a name at the time, but with light hair and light eyes, much like the Little Prince. They spend most of their time on Mars, but their duty is to patrol the asteroid belt. I’ve never let this story go. It’s constantly turning in the back of my mind. When I started the tale,the Little Prince influences were unconscious, as there are other elements to the story as well. It’s only in looking back did I go, “Hey! I think I see a connection…”

I suppose if the question had been, “Which book left the largest impact on your writing?” I would’ve had an answer right away. Rose Tian, preferring to go by “Rosi” is my defiance to the dependency of the Little Prince’s Rose. She’s mobile of course, and a human, but so much more. Rosi rises against a chaotic childhood lived partially on Mars and becomes a leader, Phoenix. Her counterpart, the boy with light eyes, is Dragon. She loses him in many ways. However, like my preferential ending to the Little Prince, they find their way back together. Sometimes even defying death. (Darn you, serpent!)

It’s my sincerest aspiration that the tropes in my tale evolves with readers, finding relevance through different times. I’m still working on Rose Tian and Kayden Loganberry’s story. Yes, I finally gave him a name. With epic adventures, and psychological thrills, I’m hoping the book will release at the end of 2020.

Thank you for reading! Ticana Zhu will have a new post every third Tuesday of the month. Next post on (June 4th, 2019), Ava Reiss explains why she’s a “Chibi Enthusiast!”
This is not a sponsored post.

“Ball of Light”

post by: Ava Reiss

As an author, I’m often asked, “Why’d you start writing?” or “What was your inspiration?” That question could be answered many ways. Yet I think I’ll defer to a fortune cookie fortune I received in 2014. It felt like kismet.

“A book should be a ball of light in the reader’s hands.” 

It’s true. Some days when we’re dragged down by a long day, pecking at social media just doesn’t cure the blues. Sometimes we need a dose of the fantastical, something to sweep our minds away from the world of reality. If you’re like me, you love nothing more than the companionship of a good novel. Well-crafted characters share their deepest, darkest secrets. At times even validating less than noble thoughts and desires, but all kept as a cozy secret, between you and the pages. There’s nothing better to act as a lighthouse in the sea of stormy moods after a bad day.

Other times, we read to expand our understanding of the world. Tales act as a foundation in relating to one another. If a friend were to complain about a situation, I may be remiss on what’s truly troubling him or her. In a well-crafted story, an author can illuminate the situation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “This book totally gets what I went through!”

Yet, could I write something so enlightening? What do I consider a “ball of light?” What is my greatest darkness? That question led me to ponder what I feared most. In the end… I discovered, it was “the end”: Death. (sorry, too heavy?)

A Buddhist proverb quickly came to mind: “To live is to suffer.” Perhaps dying wasn’t so bad?

… But what if it isn’t the end? Reincarnation is tossed around in quite a few religions. One could argue it’s a deterrent from being too much of a jerk while alive. If karma was proven to exist, everyone would be a heck of a lot nicer. 

What if death is feared because we aren’t certain if we need to pay the price of our deeds on the other side?

I don’t have answers to any of these questions. I don’t consider myself religious, perhaps a little superstitious. But… the thought of living again and again with consequences and blessings from a previous life (or lives), intrigued me. Could I take the foreboding of mortality and give it some hope, even if it’s merely on pages of a book?

I referred back to my fortune cookie fortune. I held it tenderly in my hand, as I ruminated. Another question arose. This one with comfort, “What if this life isn’t the only one? What if we can bask in the beauty of another existence after this?”

Thus, I started my novel, Fall of Ima, the first in my Cycles of the Lights series. In the prologue, I paid homage to my fortune cookie. I spoke of a sphere of light becoming sentient. In its interactions with the endless womb of darkness, it realized it wanted to become “alive.” En and Il are the protagonist souls, spawned from the primordial sphere of light and the darkness surrounding it. (I know! Very Yin and Yang!)

Over the series, they incarnate through many lives. In Fall of Ima, they’re Meliora and Jedrek, Princess and Prince in neighboring kingdoms. Of course there’s a romance element. However, I would say it’s a subplot. In their meeting other souls, karmic debt is created. Some resolve in the same life… others are deferred to collection in another incarnation.

Fall of Ima also sees the creation of the antagonist for the first three books. A doting mother loses herself in a desperate attempt to find a cure for death. She’s a sympathetic character… and I won’t say more, for the sake of avoiding spoilers!

It’s uncertain whether I achieved adding hope to the bleak thought of death. Yet, Fall of Ima is more than that. It’s a tale of two best-friends-turned-lovers finding their way in a world that demands much of them. Difficult decisions await Meliora and Jedrek around every corner. Set to the backdrop of two fertile, alien (but Earthlike) planets, the reader can discover new worlds. With the advent of sorcery, I hope to set the pace for later books in which the ethereal realm plays an active role.

If anything, I hope Fall of Ima is an enjoyable read. Perhaps that is my favorite light that I search for in a book. I simple wish to partake in an entertaining tale.

Cycles of the Lights was pounded out (all first draft) in four months, starting the summer of 2014. There are twelve books as of now… but even I feel that’s a bit … extreme. It was a wonderful, manic, creative phase. However, I’m looking to consolidate it down to fewer volumes.

If you’d like to check out Fall of Ima, it can be found on Amazon. (click on the word Amazon)

… and don’t forget! Follow me on instagram! @avareissbooks
I’m an illustrator as well, and include select drawings in my novels.

Thank you for reading! Ava will post every first Tuesday of the month. Next post, Ticana Zhu chats about the book which left the greatest impact on her.
This is not a sponsored post.