Learning Korean (and Other Things)

I started learning Korean last month.

Being the cheap sort of person I am, I looked around at all the options and said something along the lines of “Flamin’ heck, I can’t afford that!

Fortunately for me, I stumbled upon a website that was offering Korean lessons for free. More, they were good lessons, starting with building blocks of grammar and sensible advice. Lessons taught in a way that made a lot of sense to me. Printable PDFs and workbooks to go along with ’em.

대박!

Because I had the whole month off, it was easy to slip into a good study regime of a couple hours per day. Between writing out flash cards, making copious notes, and watching a truly massive amount of Korean T.V., I began to get a reasonable grasp on the basics of Korean.

The only thing that was lacking, as far as I was concerned, was the opportunity of conversing aloud in Korean. Now, there are a lot of Korean itinerants and permanent citizens around where I live, but I couldn’t see myself walking up to any of them and saying: “안녕하세요! 너는 한국어를 말해요?” (Also, I’m not entirely sure I’ve got that right, so I wouldn’t say it anyway.)

It seemed important to begin speaking aloud (and giving someone who actually knows what the words should sound like the chance to laugh at my bad pronunciation) but no one was offering classroom or even personal lessons.

And then, through a serendipitous set of circumstances, it became possible for me to join classroom setting Korean lessons.

I hadn’t really told many people that I was studying, but I was unexpectedly visiting a friend I don’t often get to see, and mentioned it to her (along with some reccs for my favourite KDramas, of course). The next day, she sent me a text.

V__C255I read it and thought “Oh yeah, when I’ve studied enough, I’ll be confident to go to this and practise speaking aloud. I wonder when it starts?” Checked the date. Their first lesson was that night. Ah. But I was working that night and also desperately nervous.

Despite my desperate nervousness, it was a good opportunity, a free course, and it meant that if I could learn well enough, I’d be able to use my lessons in a ministry setting–aka, effectively using this for God.

So I plucked up my courage and asked my boss if I could have the afternoon off if I could get someone to take my shift. He, lovely boy that he is, said yes: which would have been well and good, if only someone would take it. Which they wouldn’t. So off I went to work, very despondent at missing my first Korean lesson–only to be called to the service desk an hour into my shift. The 2IC (another lovely boy) had seen my fervent–aka whingey–plea on the work group chat, and had arranged for someone to finish my shift so that I could get off in time to make it to the first lesson.

And just like that, I was off to my first classroom Korean lesson (during which I was too nervous and off-balance and mumbly to actually do much talking, but that’s a problem for another day…)

Here’s the thing.

I’ve been learning Korean for about a month and a half now. Want to know what I’ve learned in that time?

1. English is mad and bad and dangerous to know. Seriously, English is one crazy, mixed up, impossible language. Anyone learning English from another language is a flamin’ genius. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated how clever you have to be to go from another language to English, where the rules are always changing, there are always exceptions to those rules, and even the speakers thereof have frequent arguments about who is right or wrong when it comes to the application of those rules. In my time studying Korean, I have gained a huge respect for those whose second language is English, no matter how broken.

2. Learning to speak another language is an insanely humbling thing to do. I don’t know if it’s everyone, or if it’s particularly writers, who have such a grasp on words as a way of life, or just particularly me, having prided myself for so many years upon my vocabulary, but having to leave all that behind and start new is very hard. Instead of having the world at the tip of your tongue, instead of being sure of your expertise in that one thing, you’re flailing wildly for the smallest scrap of understanding and comprehension. More, you know that to others, you will appear exactly as you’ve often thought of newcomers to the English language: foreign, hard to understand, and slightly embarrassing to be around. People will talk to you like you’re a baby, and you will feel like a kid playing dress-up in clothes that aren’t yours and really don’t fit very well. You’ll feel like a fraud. And if you’re anything like me, you will find it painfully hard to open your mouth and force yourself to speak in a language that you feel you’re a pretender to. It’s another thing that has given me a huge respect for people who learn English as a second language. They must have felt like that all along, and I never knew.

3. Korean grammar cheats, too. Seriously, I love this language. From what I’ve read, the Hangul form of Korean was formed when one of their leaders decided that they should have their own written system distinct from Japanese/Chinese/etc. and made it up. Just, yanno, made it up. 

Screenshot (149)

Taken from my lessons (follow the link back for more)

They formed rules about how the syllables should work, too (aka, each syllable is always formed in the consonant/vowel, consonant/vowel/consonant, or consonant/vowel/consonant/consonant format). The first letter of a syllable is always a consonant. Except, yanno, when one of those pesky words doesn’t actually start with a consonant. So then you have to work out a ‘null’ symbol so that the rules can stay true. And I won’t even go into the complicated usage of particles, because I’m already going overboard with the length of this post. Suffice it to say that Hangul is the kind of written language I probably would have come up with, quirky fixes and all.

4. The versatility of the English language. I didn’t really realise it until I began learning Korean, but the English language is so versatile. You can form sentences in so many different ways, with the words in so many different places, and still get your meaning across in the way you want to get it across. It could be because I’m still such a beginner in Korean, but so far I’ve found it incredibly restrictive: there seems to be only one way of saying things, and one way of writing them. That isn’t a problem, per se: just as when I learned about structure in poetry (thanks, Harriet!), the prohibitive structure of it doesn’t mean beauty is impossible. It simply means working within the rules to make the beauty, and that, ultimately, is a test of how good a writer you are.

5. Oh yeah, and I also learned stuff like Korean sentence structure, Korean grammar, random useful words and particles, and various rules that make Korean work. I’ve  gained enough comprehension to be able to understand about 30 percent of a KDrama with the subbies off, and can speak and write in simple–very simple–sentences. I also know how to say “Wanna die”, “What the heck”, and “Awesome”, along with other slightly slangy things.

6. The insanely long words. Dudes. Korean words can be so long! This is frustrating for me because I’m still sounding things out while running my finger along the bottom of the word like a little kid. I get to the end of the word at last, and I’ve forgotten how the whole thing fits together.

All in all, just as with my writing, there are moments when I have the depressed feeling that I’ll never be able to do it, and that I’ll have to give up in ignominy. Fortunately, those moments are balanced out by the flying feeling that I get every so often when I learn some new bit that connects several other bits together and makes a wonderful big whole of comprehension in my mind. Those are the moments I love, because I know that, just like my dream of being an author, it’s a dream that is achievable for me.

화이팅!

Fantasy Romance Sale!

fantasy romance 2

From fairy tale romance to fantasy romance, there are 15+ books here (labelled with a handy ‘heat level’ star guide) for $1.99 and under. (Also, there are some GORGEOUS covers which I’m not supposed to judge by but *mumblemumble*I do*mumblemuble*)

That’s all I have to say.

As you were.

I’m off to write some words now…oh yeah, and upload stuff to Wattpad.

So keep your eye out for another blog post, stat…

Favourite Authors: NICHOLAS FISK

Screenshot (45)

I actually started writing this blog post quite a while ago, but it never got finished because I didn’t find myself as eloquent as I would have liked to be. I’m resurrecting it now because I learned just a few days ago that Nicholas Fisk has died. The news made me sad for a couple of reasons (and no disrespect intended to his family, who have many more–and far more important–reasons to grieve).

The first of those reasons is purely selfish: a reader’s reaction. That hollow, sad feeling that there will be no more books. I’m very well aware that there are, and will be, many more books; but they won’t be books like that. The Nicholas Fisk books are now a finite, fixed number. And that’s a real shame, because there are very few people who can write with the kind of clarity, simplicity, and at the same time incredible depth that Nicholas Fisk managed.

My second reason is even more regretful: it’s a writer’s reaction. There are only about ten authors who have really influenced me in terms of style, content, or characterisation; and Nicholas Fisk is one of those. Quite a few of those influencers have also died in the last few years, without me ever having the chance to meet them, shake them by the hand, and tell them how much I learnt from their writing, and how much I enjoyed their art. I didn’t even get the chance to write to them and tell them that. My fault, of course, but you don’t expect your heroes to die. I regret that I never took the opportunity to write and tell them each how much they’ve meant to me.

Nicholas Fisk’s books are, ostensibly, children’s books. Sci-fi, too, which I very rarely read unless I’m immediately caught by the idea or the characters. The main characters are children, and although the subjects can range from simple to quite complex, the writing is never such as to either condescend or confuse. The adult characters are drawn with the kind of nuance that you don’t notice as a child but very much appreciate as an adult. One and all, the characters are complete, real people. The bad guys are complex, detailed, and sometimes not so much bad as on the other side. The protagonists see them as bad because they’re on the opposite side of the fence. Sometimes that realisation is made by the characters, other times, not.

I can’t now remember which Nicholas Fisk book I first read: it was either A RAG, A BONE, AND A HANK OF HAIR; BACKLASH; or MINDBENDERS. Each of them was a revelation for me, and I hold special memories from each. A RAG, A BONE, AND A HANK OF HAIR appalled and horrified me, and at the same time fascinated me. I was thinking about it for months after I first read it, and I knew it was a book that I would love forever. I don’t want to say too much more, because Spoilers, Sweetie. BACKLASH was amazing in a totally different way: the character I remember most was a mechanical princess who had no idea of pain, or growing up, or humanity. She wanted a little mechanical baby, and I remember one of the characters worrying about that at the end, because the princess was beginning to learn, and he wondered how it would affect her when she realised her ‘baby’ would never grow, or learn, or develop. MINDBENDERS was just weird, and cool, and fascinating. Because, you know, when you’re ten, ants could take over the world.

Like Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones, Nicholas Fisk is one of those people who shaped my writing and my reading at a very important time in my life. He’s one of the reasons I’m an author today: his imagination made mine want to grow wings and fly.

Creating Worlds: Making up Montalier

Okay, so technically, Montalier is not a world.

1It’s a country within a world. But creating worlds sounds so much better than making up countries, so I’m running with it. I created Montalier for my novella TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, the first in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy. Besides being the home of one of my favourite characters, Montalier is one of my favourite settings. I don’t think it’s because Montalier is any more developed than my other worlds: rather, I think it’s because TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY was a first on so many levels for me.

  1. The first novella I ever wrote
  2. The first longer form fiction I wrote from a male POV (previously, I’ve only written short stories from male POV)
  3. The beginning of my first complete trilogy (as of now, when THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN is due to be published May 31st)
  4. The first book for which I made up pie proverbs

When you build a world you have to think about so many things.

Is this the coolest map you've ever seen, or what?

Is this the coolest map you’ve ever seen, or what? (And in case you’re wondering, Wyndsor is north-east of Montalier, out of sight along the coast. Avernse also doesn’t appear on this map, but that’s because it was a VERY TINY piece of paper)

Political system. Monetary system. History. Religious system (if any). Etymology of names. Proverbs and historical references. Is it a country or an actual world? A monarchy or a democracy–or perhaps both? What sort of military does your country have? How does it interact with the militia of the surrounding countries? Is this a coastal country, or landlocked? Do you have dragons? (Always have dragons). If you’re travelling from country to country, where exactly are your countries in relation to each other? Do you have a map? (Always have a map. With compass. Trust me, you’ll need it.)

There are many other things to ask and formulate, but one of the things I most enjoy making up is pop culture. Well, not exactly pop culture, but you know what I mean. The catch-phrases people use. The in-jokes. The references to ancient (and not-so-ancient) history. The things you forget you say until someone from another country hears you and wonders what you mean.

With Montalier, it was pies.

Tiny pies. Huge Pies. Pies in between. Pie proverbs. Pie references. Pies everywhere! I love pie, so it was a hugely enjoyable (albeit hunger-inducing) part of my world-building. In fact, when I revisited Montalier for THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN, at least one beta reader asked if there would be more pie proverbs. (Spoilers: no. Sadly, there were no words to spare, as TFCOA already weighs in at a smidge over 50k, which is slightly long for a novella).

As a reader, I have three worlds that I’ve found to be extraordinarily well-written.

The first of those is the world Steven Brust has created for Vlad Taltos, his assassin-on-the-run who manages to escape death and disaster by the skin of his teeth nearly every book, while his side-kick Loiosh is making sarcastic comments in his ear. The world-building there is something really special. It grows over the course of many, many books, but each book is so well-contained and explained that I have very happily read them ALL out of order without feeling more than pleased each time I find something cool that slots into my knowledge base for the next book.

Second: Kate Stradling’s Kingdom of Lenore in KINGDOM OF RUSES  and TOURNAMENT OF RUSES. And guys, I know I’ve raved about this book and this author before, but the world-building here is just so deftly done: there is not a single unnecessary word, and the world is richly imagined and filled out.

My third favourite is the world Patricia Wrede created for THE RAVEN RING. It is rich in sayings, understandings, customs, and magic; and it’s done in an understated and completely immersive way. THE RAVEN RING is another book I’ve already raved about, so just go and read it already. (Incidentally, Patricia Wrede’s blog is probably one of the best blogs a writer can read for world-building–and lots of other–advice, too.)

Writers, what is your favourite part of creating a world? Readers, what is the best world you’ve ever read? Let me know in the comments! Or, yanno, just tell me a really great pie proverb?

Scribbling with Scrivener

I have a new toy! It’s Scrivener, and I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Mostly I’m poking about with it and seeing what it can do (and what it can’t do). Actually, it’s good timing: I’ve just finished and have been prepping PLAYING HEARTS for publication, so I’m free to experiment now that I have some unobstructed time. And by unobstructed I mean free from grueling line and content edits, and trying to decide on which interior graphic works best for the scene breaks.

Now I have a shiny new word count bar that grows with each day I write! I’m actually more excited about that than about the rest of it. It makes it easy to get back to work on the next SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD novella, which should be ready for publication by late April! And in the most stylish way imaginable, thanks to Scrivener.

The experiment begins…

What about you guys? Have you used Scrivener? What do you think? What’s your favourite feature?

Holidays, reading, and other cool stuff

You may have noticed that my blog schedule has been a bit…off…lately. I say may have because at this point I’m assuming that your entire world doesn’t actually revolve around me (yet. Just wait until I’m rich and famous!) This is because I finally finished PLAYING HEARTS and forced myself to have a week off before doing the Last Edit bits and pieces. Now that I have it back from my fantastic beta reader I have a few more things I need to tweak and a few more spelling errors and continuity snafus to eradicate.

PLAYING HEARTS BOOK COVER-picmonkeyAt first it was kinda hard not to write: I’d wake up and immediately think of how many words I’d have to get done today, only to realise that I wasn’t in fact allowed to write at all. It was really off-putting and not entirely enjoyable, but since I cemented that resolve by also resolving to spend the time I would have been writing, in reading, it wasn’t long before I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

However, it’s back in the saddle again on Monday: I have a ton of work to do before PLAYING HEARTS goes live on the ‘Zon. The final file is due by February 29th, which gives me just enough time to fiddle with it one last time!

So I’ll be back with my (somewhat) regularly scheduled blog posts on Monday and Thursday, and in the mean time don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to get free books and first looks at all my latest scribblings!

Stuff And Things…

So I’ve been tossing up ideas about what I’d like to do for MASQUE’s 1st birthday, and I’ve found a few things that I want to do.

Firstly and most importantly, I’m setting up a giveaway (1x signed pb of MASQUE, 1x rose gold plated masque earrings, 1x Tea-Time necklace by Purple Bird Creations, & 1x I am ALWAYS up to something MASQUE t-shirt).

The giveaway doesn’t start just yet (so don’t go clicking on the collage above–it won’t take you anywhere helpful) but it won’t be long. It will run from January 1st, so keep watching this spot!

Also, bloggers, if you are interested in hosting my giveaway for one day in January, please let me know! I already have a few lovely bloggers who are willing to help out–thanks guys!

Secondly, MASQUE is on a 99c special for the entire month of January, right up until Feb 2nd.

Thirdly, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to release MASQUE in audio as a series of podcasts. I say it occurred (in the past tense) because that was before I knew how much hard work it would be. I spent about half an hour in my car this afternoon (somewhere enclosed,

masque rec 2

My recording equipment…for now

insulated, and with a buffer of soft, sound-swallowing things that won’t echo) and besides heat stroke, I now have a very good idea of what I’ve let myself in for. It is exhausting. Also, my voice sounds horribly Australian. Yeah, yeah, I know: I am Australian. I just didn’t expect to sound quite so okker. My voice is naturally pitched low, which doesn’t really work, either. Listening to the whole thing has given me a pretty good idea of what I need to work on, though, so it’s not all bad. So far in my list of things to remember is:

  1. Pitch voice higher.
  2. SLOW DOWN.
  3. Leave a buffer between paragraphs and–most importantly–between dialogue and prose.
  4. Drink lots of water.
  5. Don’t shuffle around. Like at all.
  6. Do it at night when the neighbours won’t look at me oddly. This will hopefully also help with the heatstroke issue.
  7. It’s gonna take at least 25 minutes for each chapter. Get really comfortable.

I’m sure there will be more, but those are the big ones. My iPad Mini and a set of bluetooth headphones w/mic have proven to give reasonably good results so far, but I’m leaving my options open.

If you want to hear the okker, rasping, uncertain sounds of me attempting my first reading, go ahead. Check it out, you masochist, you. Be warned, however: I’m not just saying this–it’s awful. I can only promise that I’ll try to do better in the real thing!

Also give me a yell out if you’ve done anything similar and have any advice to offer. Your expertise will be appreciated. As will any snide/sarcastic/witty/and/or/clever remarks upon my first foray into recording.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and wish you a similarly wonderful new year!

Your Assistance Is Requested…

Quite a few of you out there on the internets, from the US to Sri Lanka and beyond, were lovely enough to preorder TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY.

Thank you!

Some of you even bought it after it was released.

You have my undying gratitude!1

Now I’m asking even more of you (yeah, I’m greedy like that). In the lead up to Christmas–in fact, in just over a week–I will be running a promotion on TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY concurrently with a preorder promotion on the 2nd novella in the series, FIRE IN THE BLOOD.

I’d love to have at least a couple reviews for TDOF on the Amazons (.au, .com, and/or .uk) by the time that happens.

2nd Shards_FireInTheBloodYou don’t have to have loved it (though of course I’ll love you better if you did 😀 ) and you don’t have to write The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. A short, meaningful review is just as valid as the longest, most praise-laden one out there. I’ll appreciate every one of those words.

And as always, there is always a free copy of either novella for those book bloggers who are looking for the next blog post and want to read and review. Just contact me via the comments or my contact form.

Thanks, guys! And to all my American friends, Happy Thanksgiving!!