Friday, January 29, 2021

Rizkaland Readalong: Water Princess, Fire Prince Part 3 - The Mountain


First off, if you missed part 1, you can check it out here.

Second off, if you don't have your own copy of Water Princess, Fire Prince, you can nab it today only free on Kindle!

Third off, there's a giveaway at the end, so do stick around!

Let's get into it.

Clara has arrived at the Mountain, and eventually finds Andrew hunting in "her" clearing and challenges him to a duel. He loses until her mask gets knocked off, revealing that she's a girl, and she's not happy that he's her Fire Prince. They then spend a night together rescuing Jasmine and Karlos from a cliff. After a few more days of not knowing what next to do, Andrew has a dream about Alphego, and he and Clara then begin having alternating dreams that gives them riddles and challenges that get them through a system of caves.

Things of note:
Clara and Jill Anna chose to "summon" the Fire Prince with mistletoe muffins, because it's said, if you sleep with one under you pillow, you will meet the person you'll marry over the course of the next day.
There are five challenges. The first and last are puzzles. The second involves finding a lever, and third and fourth involve letting someone take a more dangerous route ahead of the rest of the party. (The first also involves rock climbing).
Clara and Andrew quickly realize that they have ... connections. I.e. - remember Rhoda's cousin that Kath was teasing her about at the start of the book? Yup, that's Andrew. What a weird coinkydink.
His mom was also in the circus with her parents. 
It is in this section that we learn about the trauma that shaped both of them as people - her, falling from a trapeze when she was four, giving her an intense fear of falling - and failing - and he reveals a truth about the accident where they lost his mother: They never found her body because she vanished into thin air before the crash even happened. Weird.
Clara and Andrew make an agreement pretty much from the start that they aren't going to rush their relationship, and this section sees them gradually opening up to each other + learning to trust and depend on each other. Clara isn't quite ready to call it love by the end of this section, but ... shippyshipship, anyone?
This is also the part where we find out that Jill Anna likes Jakob. And also that he harbors secret feelings for her as well. Ahhhhh, forbidden love...
Laura makes another appearance in this section. This time she comes from a wedding and mentions a Lucy.
Here we also find out an interesting tidbit about Jill Anna's past - she's a Bug Child. As in, she was given immunity to a poisonous beetle as a kid, and now it's her job to seek out and kill these beetles. 
For some weird reason, that I cannot understand, before she lost her mask, Andrew thought that Clara was a giraffe. Why he thought this, even though she was so very short--


Favorite scenes/other stuff in this part:
Fun fact! The "our adventurers must face a series of challenges before reaching their goal, and each challenge seems tailored to the talents/weaknesses/whathaveyou of one or another adventurer" happens to be one of my favorite fantasy tropes, and I'm honestly kiiiinda sad that this is the closest I've come to it 'cause, with seven adventurers that make it into the Mountain, and only five challenges, I kinda missed some of them? (Mostly I missed Abraham, but ... there was only so much mountain.) Still, this was one of my favorite parts of the book to write.

Clara and Andrew do establish some recurring inside jokes between them, such as "I see" (Which actually gets a revisit in LaM!) and Dihydrogen monixide (which may get a revisit, for though it hasn't happened yet, I do have an entire section of the book left to write.)

I get a lot of people complaining about how Clara initially dislikes Andrew for no reason ... and that's kinda the point? She was so upset by the fact that she was in this fated romance with a guy she'd not met, that she was prepared to find every reason to dislike him from the start. She didn't go into the relationship looking for the positives, she went in looking for the negatives. And Andrew, being the shy, nonconfrontational boi that he is, does the exact thing that disarms her - he steps back and gives her space to figure herself out. And, honestly, given where things end, I think they're in shape to continue a trend of trust and interdependence as the rest of the book goes. 'Twould be a shame if something were to happen to ... derail that.

Andrew's attraction to Clara is a bit more of a "oh, pretty girl, and apparently she's supposed to be mine?" He'd never really given much thought to romance until this point, and so he's mostly just stumbling through just trying to make the most of the situation he's been thrust into. He's attracted to her, but she also scares him. But, from that first night, he gets to see a softer side of her, and, well ... the way to his heart is through the kids that he cares about, and the fact that their first team project was "rescue Jasmine and Karlos" was intentional.

Favorite Quotes:

   “I think you’re going to wear a groove into the floor,” Andrew observed, the third day they’d been stuck there. He was so tired of watching and hearing her, he was willing to take her snap.
  “Maybe that’s the way out,” she informed him, whirling around and leaning against the wall. “Wear a hole in the ground until we fall through. I mean, do you have anything better for me to do?”
  “Ah, maybe sit down and give your legs a break,” Andrew suggested. “Wearing grooves has to be a tiring business.”
  She shrugged. “I’m bored right now. Moving makes me less so.”

  Here, at last, were answers, a way into the Mountain. A thrill of excitement ran through Clara, and without thinking, she threw her arms around the Fire Prince’s chest.
  He drew back, raising both hands uncomfortably. Realizing whom she was hugging, she drew back as well, folding her arms over her chest. “That was an ‘I’m glad we’re finally headed somewhere,’ hug, not an ‘I like you’ hug, by the way,” she pointed out.
  “Ah. Thanks for the … clarification.”

“So,” she continued, as he pulled out a package of beef jerky, “how’d a guy like you end up with the choice position of Fire Prince?” she asked, “beyond the obvious fact that you have matches.”
   Andrew shrugged. “I’m still not sure. We were on a road trip, I was getting the car packed, and then there was a forest fire, and then I was here. I didn’t want to come here and be the Fire Prince if that’s what you’re asking. So, what about you? How’d you get to be the Water Princess? Beyond the obvious fact that you can fight.”
  She snorted again, clearly amused by his decision to imitate her phrasing. “I froze to death,” she answered.
  Andrew blinked. “Um … you…”
  “Really?” asked Karlos.

Behind the Scenes:

The scene where Clara and Andrew meet and duel for the first time was probably my most prewritten scene (aka, I wrote it ahead of time to help pin down the feel of the characters, conflicts, and goals of the book) in Water Princess, Fire Prince. It went through a number of changes to pin down exactly how I wanted them to meet and it's actually the reason Clara became classics-obsessed and started quoting everywhere. 

I stole the dihydrogen monoxide joke from my english workbook. #shameless

The scene where Clara becomes self-aware and comments on them being in a book is based on something I, myself, said, one day when I passed my younger siblings watching some sort of cheesy CGI movie. I don't remember what the movie was, only that I knew, then and there, that Clara would have to comment on movie magic at some point in the book.

Clara being in a circus was inspired by a real-life family that my mother read about at some point and told me about. I don't remember much about said family, except that they would take their kid with them onto the trapeze and toss her between themselves. Her being terrified of falling happened after a RP I let her play in, where she and Andrew got to go watch the circus due to some weird time funkiness, and she was freaking out. When I asked her why, later, she told me about the fall.

Andrew has resting frown-face. Like, straight-up. A lot of people comment on him being stern, scary, always frowning (not necessarily in this book, but Clara does mention it when she observes him asleep), but that's his face.

Also ... this is a thing. I don't know why people let me get away with it, but it's one of my favorite comparisons and contrasts between Robin and Clara.

Discussion Questions

(Every question you answer in the comments below is an entry to win one of the Rizkaland Legends in paperback, or all four - for a total of five winners. Giveaway is U.S. only. Don't forget, you could also win a copy of LaM by preordering the kindle edition!)

1. What are some of your favorite fantasy tropes?
2. If you're an ardent Clarand shipper ... at what moment do you think the ship sailed?
3. What's your favorite "old wives' tale" regarding romance (or any such stuff)?
4. Do you like it when characters lean on the fourth wall?
5. Any favorite quotes?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Rizkaland Readalong: Water Princess, Fire Prince Part 2 - The Fire


First off, if you missed part 1, you can check it out here.

Second off, if you don't have your own copy of Water Princess, Fire Prince, you can nab it today only free on Kindle!

Third off, there's a giveaway at the end, so do stick around!

Let's get into it.

Andrew's busy corraling his brothers and organizing a camping trip when he sees a swirling vortex of fire, thinks he hears his youngest brother inside, and runs into it. He emerges in Rizkaland, where he's promptly proclaimed the Fire Prince, much to his annoyance. He's a pretty typical, non-athletic, brainy type, so none of the men are very impressed with him, though Lord Abraham seems to think he can make something of the boy. And Lord Abraham's young son, Karlos, latches onto Andrew as a surrogate younger brother. One day, they get attacked by a kirat, Karlos almost gets caught, Andrew risks himself to free him, and then one of the older men rescues them. Andrew is shaken and decides that it's time for him to own up and be the Fire Prince. They then head Up to meet the Water Princess.

Things of note:
Like Clara, he only gets told about half of his prophecy until after a moment of crisis, but while, for her, it was their reign that was withheld, for him it was the fact that there's a Dragon.
His counterpart to her room of stuff is a cave of weapons, where he has a chat with Laura, the Doorkeeper, which is a mysterious girl who's apparently responsible for bringing him and Clara to this world.
Karlos is Lord Abraham's oldest son, but not his heir, because Rizkan law requires that the heir be the child of the Lord AND Lady, and Karlos' mother died before Abraham became Lord, and thus was never Lady. 
He also gets a pretty sweet sword.
Andrew finds his mysterious stranger a little bit familiar...

Favorite scenes/other stuff in this part:
Every scene with Karlos was awesome, but most notably the one where he gets into Andrew's bag.

The Kirat scene was so thrilling to write, and I really liked how it drew out Andrew's determined nobility that 

I actually plotted Andrew's section to parallel Clara's structurally with a few reversals, though his last two chapters got combined. The major reversal is that his Action chapter happened in #8, while hers was #10. Meanwhile, she had a chat with a mysterious stranger in #10 and she had one #8.

So ... small thing that some people notice in part 1 is Jakob/Essua, but I packed in a number of references to the Patriarchs in this book. Abraham's daughter is named Iska, and he has an older son who isn't his heir due to having a different mother. And then the twelve men of the hunting trip were all each given a name corresponding to one of the twelve sons of Jacob. I didn't get to refer to all of the men (I tried though, and I actually did have names for them all written down on the back of a bulletin), and Rhodan/Reuben is a bit of a stretch, but I didn't want him getting confused with Reuben in the next book, so...

Favorite Quotes:

Yes, Kyle, you may take Josh and Parker for a hike before we leave,” said Andrew, without looking up from the map he was examining. “Just don’t push them off of any cliffs. We don’t have time to call 911 right now.”

“That wasn’t what I was going to ask, Andrew,” said Kyle, with a groan. “I—”

“Well, it happens to be what I just gave you permission to do, unless you want to stay and help me pack up the tent. On second thought…”

“I’ll take them hiking,” Kyle quickly amended, before Andrew could finish the thought.

“People aren’t the only ones to fall through doors, not always.”
Andrew spun around, waving his flashlight’s beam violently until it fell on a girl seated on a rock, dressed in a tank top and jeans, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her hand went up to shield her eyes.
“Didn’t your parents teach you not to shine those things in people’s eyes?” she protested.
Andrew lowered the flashlight, frowning. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” he asked.
“The name’s Laura, though most people call me the Doorkeeper,” she answered. “As for what I’m doing here – well, it’s a room full of powerful weapons from all sorts of worlds. I sorta belong here.”

“You said you’d never held a sword before in your life,” Karlos continued, seemingly oblivious to Andrew’s foul mood, so much like Parker it almost hurt. “I can’t imagine what it would be like if I didn’t have a sword, but I suppose you get used to it.”
“You can’t get used to something if you’ve never experienced anything different,” Andrew pointed out. “You’re just used to it.”

Behind The Scenes
As with Clara, I wrote Andrew to be the opposite of the conventional view of fire, but still 100% fire. He's not angry (as long as you don't hurt someone he cares about) and impulsive. He's more of the hearth. He's warmth and home. But, yeah, if you hurt those he cares about ... watch out.

Those who have followed me for a while know that Andrew was originally not the oldest, but the youngest of his family. If you're new here ... well, now you know. I don't know what I was thinking with that plotline, but eventually, I got it straight and it made the character so much easier to write. Mostly 'cause I myself an oldest child and I very much knew his mentality. 

Also, random thing, in the original draft of the book, Karlos wasn't there at all. He was a character I added for my cousin to play while we were acting out the story in the backyard ('cause letting him play Andrew when I was Clara was ... awkward), and the original draft doesn't have the kid join the party until they reached the Lower Kastle. This cousin also inspired Quintin, who will have a major role in book 4 of the series.

The scary creature that nearly eats them was called a Kirat because I'd been watching too much Reader Rabbit and had Pi-rats stuck in my head. Very glorious, I know.

There's not a lot that I would rewrite on this section, but there is a lot of exposition and sum-up that I think could have been tighter.

Discussion Questions

(Every question you answer in the comments below is an entry to win one of the Rizkaland Legends in paperback, or all four - for a total of five winners. Giveaway is U.S. only.)

1. How would you personify fire?
2. What was your favorite one of the creatures that they encounter/hunt/hunts them?
3. Are you an oldest? Youngest? In the middle? Only child?
4. What's a fantasy world that you find incredibly interesting?
5. Any favorite quotes?

Friday, January 15, 2021

Rizkaland Readalong: Water Princess, Fire Prince - Part 1: The Water

Welcome, one and all, and I'm so glad to have you join us for this adventure through Rizkaland. 

First off, if you don't have the book already, Water Princess, Fire Prince is free TODAY ONLY so you have a chance to pick it up and jump right in.  

Water Princess, Fire Prince started with a crazy random idea I had one evening when I was stepping into my shower, utterly done with my life, and wondered if I closed my eyes long enough, could I maybe open them again to find that I'd transported myself underneath a waterfall in another world where I could be a Waterfall Princess and my life would be so much better.

That never happened, but the idea stayed with me, growing and evolving. The shower turned into a water curtain thing that we have at our local swimming pool, then a water slide in Hawaii, and then it went back to the swimming pool, but this time it involved the diving board. The Waterfall Princess became the Water Princess, and she gained ... a personality. 

I will say, one of the biggest surprises about WPFP's reception by readers is how universally disliked that personality is? I mean, she is pretty opinionated, and she gets pretty prickly in her powerlessness, but it all made sense to me?

Now, it's been about two years since I read the book straight through (not since my overhaul in 2018), so how has the book held up? Let's get into it.

Ze Summary
Why am I trying to be French??? I don't know. Let's keep moving. 

Clara, the daughter of a martial arts instructor and a fencing instructor, falls into another world while diving and is declared the Water Princess. Supposedly, she's supposed to fight a Lady Dragon, but she doesn't trust these people and thus decides to not tell them that she's a tae quon do blackbelt, pretty good with a sword, and not half-bad with a bow. Meanwhile, she befriends her handmaid, Jasmine, a seamstress, Jill Anna, and the Lord's son, Lor'Son Jakob. Slowly, she falls in love with this world, but now she's feeling trapped in her lie and doesn't know how to come clean about the fact that she's actually a decent fighter. Jakob has found out, though, and takes her to visit his sister, who the Lady Dragon had turned into an ice statue. While there, they're attacked by the Lady Dragon's minions, and she's spurred into action. Now that the cat's out of the bag, all that's left is to wait for spring so they can travel Down to meet with the Fire Prince!

*Down being the Rizkan equivalent of South.

Other things of note:
Clara has two friends in our world, and one of them, Kath, has it in her head that Clara likes redheads, and she specifically points out Rhoda's redheaded cousin. (Rhoda being the other friend.) As a result, Clara is determined to not like redheads. I'm sure this won't be at all relevant.
There is a prophecy that says that she's supposed to marry the Fire Prince. She is not keen on this idea.
Jasmine and Jill Anna are sisters, but for some reason, I decided to hold that back until halfway through? I really don't know why I did this, but Jasmine didn't feel the need to tell us about their relationship!
Jill Anna apparently likes a nobleman, but won't tell us who it is.
Clara gets a pretty sweet sword from an elf.
She also has a chat with a woman who may or may not be Amber. 
TBH, I think, reading back, the problem with readers connecting with Clara is that the first couple chapters are kinda rushed? I was trying to cram a lot in. 

Favorite scenes/other stuff in this part:

All of the scenes where Clara quotes, and especially when she uses them to deflect comments.

Whatever anyone might say, I loved writing the chapter where they tried to teach her swordplay, martial arts, and archery, and she just would have nothing of it, and it's one of my favorites to read. Like, she's not malicious about it. She's just spent her whole life boxed in, trying to live up to expectations, and suddenly, she threw a switch in her head and said "Nope, not going to do that. I do not need to be what these people expect of me!" and she just had fun. 

The room of stuff was fun, but - confession here - I didn't originally plot the book with the room of stuff in mind, and so I wound up introducing a lot of stuff there that didn't get a payoff. But Fairly Fun Short Stories was a fun nod to a certain other book of mine. Does this confirm connection to Bookania? I mean, most of my stuff is connected on some level...

Clara gradually growing more and more protective of Jasmine. She definitely adopted the girl as the younger sister she never had and was more than willing to take Jill Anna as the packaged set. 

The fight with the Eir is one of my favorite battles I've written. 

Favorite Quotes:

Oh, please. “Do you really expect me, a young girl, to know how to use a weapon?” she asked. “Besides, where I come from, we barely even use those sorts of weapons anymore.” She paused a moment, then added, “I can throw my shoe at mouse kings, but that’s probably about it.”

“Unfortunately, our problem is a bit bigger than a mouse king,” said Lord Erik, sounding a trifle confused as he narrowed his eyes.

“Really? Because mouse kings can be huge problems, eating all of the sweets and chewing holes in dresses,” said Clara in her best shocked voice, layering in plenty of concern. “What could be worse than that?”

“Oh, Water Princess!” cried Jasmine, as soon as everyone else had left the room. “Are you all right?”

Clara sat up, dropping the pathetic damsel act all at once. “I think so,” she assured the girl. “I only cut myself just hard enough to draw blood. It’ll heal soon.”

“Oh.” The girl looked thoughtful for a moment. “Did it hurt, Water Princess?” she asked. “It must have since you fainted.”

“No worse than cutting one’s finger usually is,” Clara stared at her finger a moment, and then shrugged. “I’m not sure why I fainted. I never have before. Then again, I’ve never cut my finger as a princess before. That might change things.”

“Does it?” asked Jasmine.

“Of course,” Clara answered.

The girl set the box on the table. “But do hurry. Dinner will be starting soon, and if we don’t hurry, all the mistletoe muffins will be gone.”

Clara glanced up from the jewels. “The what? Isn’t mistletoe, like, poisonous?”

“Oh, of course,” the girl admitted. “But not if they’re specially prepared – and don’t ask me how, because that’s something kitchen girls learn, and I’m a lady’s maid.” She was clearly quite proud of her position.

“You learn how to do hair instead?” Clara asked. 

“Time to start believing impossible things. I’ve a ways to go if I’m to catch up to six.”

An uncomfortable scratch rose in the back of her throat, and she felt the unmistakable prick of tears. Swallowing and taking several deep breaths, she squeezed her eyes shut.

“Get ahold of yourself, Clair!” she scolded herself. “Winners don’t cry. Olympic champions don’t cry. A true master is in control of her emotions at all times.”

She lay there, repeating those words for several minutes, and then sat up.

“I’ve got to get back home.”

Behind the Scenes and Other Thoughts
I wrote Clara to be the opposite of what people expect of Water, and yet still personify it. When she likes her path, she goes with the flow, but when something is against her/flares her temper, she's a rushing typhoon that will crash through all boundaries. 

Her becoming a quarter Chinese was a convoluted series of events, plotting wise, that no longer even make sense due to other things that changed in the plotting. But I can't imagine her any other way. 

The term Li'Daughter happened because I forgot how you spell Lady when I was writing my name on a cup for a party. (Because I can never write just my name on a cup). And I didn't like the look of La'Daughter, so I stuck with it. 

The one thing I would change if I could go back and completely rewrite this book is to make it clearer the loyalty that Clara has to the people she cares about and the drive she has to meet their expectations. Because, tbh, that's what drives most of her conflict in this book. 

On the flipside of that, she takes it very hard when her trust is betrayed, which ... will be coming into play. 

Discussion Questions:
(Every question you answer in the comments below is an entry to win one of the Rizkaland Legends in paperback, or all four - for a total of five winners. Giveaway is U.S. only.)

1. How would you personify water?
2. What was your favorite thing that Clara found in the Room of Stuff?
3. What's the weirdest thought you ever had in the shower? (Keep it clean!)
4. How would you react to being torn from your life and being tossed into another world?
5. Any favorite quotes?
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