A.G.R. Rosewood – The Face Stealer

For my 50st blog, I decided I’d do something special. Here is the first chapter of the first book in my children’s series, called The Face Stealer. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Chapter 1: A Halloween Dream

“Can you see anything yet?” I asked my little brother Levi.
“No. Jamie, I don’t even know what I’m looking for! This is so boring.”
“I thought you wanted to see a real-live Halloween monster?”
To me, Halloween was the most special day of the year. After all, it was the day people would turn into monsters… And monsters would turn into people. I had been waiting all year for it. Me and my family had moved to this town called Borington – well, maybe that was not its real name – exactly eleven months ago, a month after the infamous Halloween night. The other kids at school loved to talk about it, but I hadn’t been there to see it. This year would be different. This year, I lived right next to the Poachers’ Forest, where everyone said all the fun always happened. If something sinister was going to appear, I would know it. However, since staring out of the window for hours was really boring, I had put Levi on the look-out. In the meantime, I slaughtered some virtual monsters on my computer.
Levi yawned loudly. I grumbled. Not yet… I thought to myself. Couldn’t he even stay awake for one night only?
“Jamie, I’m tired. This isn’t fun at all,” Levi complained.
I glanced at the alarm clock. 11:58pm, the red glowing numbers showed. Almost time. Almost midnight. Almost Halloween.
I put my controller aside and rapidly climbed on top of our bunk bed. Jamie was sitting crouched near the skylight. His breath had left marks on the glass, as a draught came through the window.
“Move it,” I commanded, pushing Levi aside. “I want to watch.”
Levi gave me a sluggish look. He nudged the sleep out of his eyes. I suspected he hadn’t been awake all evening, even though I had told him to do so. What if the monster had passed by while Levi had been drowsing of?
“So… Does that mean something is going to happen?” Levi asked me.
I nodded. “And I am the one with the first-rate seats.”
I could feel my heart throbbing as I looked at the alarm clock. 12 o’clock. Were the stories true or were my classmates just messing with me? I had to know.
Levi whacked me aside with his elbow. “This is my bed. I deserve the first-rate seat.”
We both pressed our noses up against the window, side by side. I could still feel the spot where Levi had hit me. He was surprisingly strong for a six-year old and angering him definitely wasn’t fun. I wanted to take revenge, but I knew that if he started yelling, mum and dad would be here in a second. Then the fun would be over forever…
BOOM!
A deafening bang echoed through the Poachers” Forest. Was it the sound of thunder or was it something less ordinary? I could think of a million things it could have been, but it was for sure that it was real. Levi had covered his ears with his hands to protect them from the noise. A group of winged creatures glided past, lit by nothing but the moon.
“Are those bats?” Levi asked.
I chuckled, even though my blood had run cold. “No, you moron, they were just birds. But something must have scared them…”
Levi frowned. “Are you deaf? They were freaked out because of that explosion!”
“Or because of something else…” I mumbled. “Look over there.”
A hunched figure was standing in the shade near the end of the street, close to the edge of the forest. His back was turned to us, but I could tell something was off. He was very tall and thin, with snow-white skin and a head as round as a bowling ball. A black mantle adorned his pointy shoulders and covered arms that almost reached his feet.
When the person turned around, I was sure about it: that creature was not human! He did not have eyes or ears. He lacked a nose and a mouth. His face was perfectly smooth, as if it was an egg instead of a head.
As soon as I realised what I saw, I crawled back and dragged Levi along. You shouldn’t let it see you, the little voice in the back of my head told me.
“What are you doing?” Levi asked, clearly annoyed.
“We have to hide,” I whispered.
“Why? It’s just a person in a costume…”
No matter what Levi thought it was, I was sure something was not right. I pressed his head down, into the mattress.
“Jamie!” he squeaked.
“Stay down!” I murmured, as I pressed my back against the wall.
Levi laughed quietly. “Do you really think it’s real? It doesn’t even have eyes. It’s not like it can see us.”
“Then be quiet!” I hissed.
Levi raised his head and made a face as if he thought I was stupid. “Does it have ears?”
“No, it doesn’t…” I sighed.
“Then stop freaking out. You’re not a bird, are you?”
I glanced through the window again, watching the figure walk slowly across the street. His head was tilted slightly, as if he were looking for something – if he could see anything at all.
Levi wrestled me until I loosened my grip on the back of his head. Immediately, he whizzed down the ladder. I quickly shut the curtains and followed him. There were two important questions left for me. Firstly, where was my moronic brother going? Secondly, what could a creature without face possibly be looking for?
Quietly, Levi opened the door to our bedroom and sneaked outside. He tiptoed across the hallway.
“Where are you going?” I asked softly. “Mum and dad cannot know we are still awake!”
Levi pointed at the stairs. “Downstairs,” he answered. “I want to see it.”
“It could just be someone who’s trying to scare us…” I said with trembling voice.
Levi did not listen. He crept down the stairs without thinking. I had to go after him. Sometimes, Levi was not just a moron. At those times, he was just an idiot. Like now. As I liked to think, Levi was the brave one when it came to the two of us. I was the one with the brains.
Downstairs, Levi opened all curtains and lit all lamps in the room. The situation was even worse than I thought… The faceless monster was standing in our own front yard! It was so close it could smash the windows with ease, especially with those monstrous arms.
I held my breath. Levi was standing face to face with something that came directly from my nightmares.
This had been my idea. Why had I been so stupid? Borington, no way. This was Creepsville.
“Stay away from that window,” I whispered. “We don’t know if this is a prank. What if it is dangerous?”
Levi shrugged and turned towards me. “Isn’t that part of the fun of monster hunting?”
The creature disappeared. Just now, it had been standing right in front of us. In the one second Levi turned around, it was gone. Where could it be hiding?
I ran across the room, looking out of every single window. Gone. It was gone. My stomach turned in my belly. Something bad was about to happen. This was not possible. No prankster was this good…
I heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Levi and I both leapt in the air out of fright. This was worse than the monster…

It’s “Just” A Game

I do not claim to be a hard-core gamer, as that’d simply be untrue. However, I can appreciate a nice game now and for. For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed Dragon Age and its sequels, just like I indulged in Guild Wars 2 (about 800 hours over the course of a year and a half is not that much, though). Many people love games, as they allow them to play out a story and feel like they actually can influence what happens – others use these games to vent, rage and unleash the stress of daily life. To be honest, I do not just play fantasy games. I also adored the The Sims series, strangely for reasons close to the ones I mentioned before. I like storytelling.
One could claim that a game is just that: a game. They think video games are about nothing but aggression and killing virtual opponents. Well, while some games are like that, just as many are not. Shooters are not the only genre in the virtual world. Some games tell actual in-depth stories in the same way a book would tell them. The only difference in that case is that the player is involved.
What I’d like to say is that I think that games have become a valuable means of storytelling. While they are different from books and movies, it doesn’t mean that they are worth any less. They are a new medium – one that may be more compelling to its audience than any other one. In games like Dragon Age, the player can actually influence the outcome of the story by making choices, which is something not often seen in books – most likely never in movies. I know that books like that are out there, but they seem to be for kids only. Don’t get me wrong, I am the kind of person who loves children’s books, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get it. Gaming has become a hype because it is so varied. There is something out there for everyone. The fact that some of these stories allow us to change their outcome often makes them more interesting, at least to me. Just like children, adults like this ability. They like feeling powerful. Not all of us want to read about a dumb hero wandering into a deserted building, only to find out it’s a trap and get killed. We want to fight back. We want to change his fate. That is the power of games.
As the world keeps advancing, new mediums of storytelling become available. I believe we should use them to their fullest instead of bashing them. “Just” games? I don’t think so.

Reviewing for Dummies

I am sorry, but I’ll admit beforehand that this is not really a guide as to how to review anything. I am not a reviewer myself, so it would be strange for me to try to do so. Instead, I would like to note something about reviews, which may sound a little harsh, but I don’t read them. Ever.
To be honest, I haven’t read many books, at least not adult literature. I am a children’s writer. I know this is terrible, as every writer should probably start at the highest level and dial back from there, but I can’t. I generally don’t like it. Therefore, I’ve almost never heard of the books that are touched upon in reviews, no matter how popular they are. In fact, doing so would probably negatively affect my view of a book I haven’t even given a try yet. If the reviewer is negative, I will be intrigued, but there is no way I am going to read something that is completely bashed by multiple people.
Of course, there are some great reviewers out there, who know how to be critic without being overly harsh. They are witty and interesting, and even more important, they know their audience. Most people aren’t inclined to read about a book they’ve never heard about. I like reviews about Harry Potter – which I loved – or about Twilight – which I hated – because I already have an opinion about them. Popular book reviews do draw my attention, mainly because everyone has a different opinion about the same book. In the case of not-so-wellknown works, chances are that opinions are not going to vary much. I like depth. If it isn’t in there, then reading the review isn’t worth it to me.
Blogs about reviewing aren’t necessarily bad. However, I am getting the feeling that most of those start out as writers’ blogs, until their creators gradually start to slip up as they find out there isn’t that much to write about. That isn’t true. Writing is everywhere! Of course, writers and other people’s books are connected, as those books are what we strive to create – or absolutely not to create.
In the end, I am a liar and do think I have some tips: don’t overdo it, be creative, be relatable. The last one may sound like horrible advice, as the creative mind isn’t always relatable, but at least pick a subject that is relatable. Something that people can think about on their own. Maybe they will pick up that book that you criticized, just because some just criticism can stimulate them to come up with ideas of their own. Get your readers to read. Some people, like me, don’t do it enough.

The Mighty Pen

I’ll be leaving on a second vacation on August 1st. Yes, I know I may be spoiled, especially seeing as I am not really looking forward to it. I won’t be able to write a thing for a week for the second time in two weeks – which may be the most confusing sentence ever. The point is that last time, it turned out that my laptop did not save any of my writings. It was all lost, maybe due to failure of Google Drive or of the laptop itself – I have no idea, all I know is that I did use Control + S. I probably won’t be taking my laptop this time, as it would be completely useless.

However, this leaves room for the mighty old pen and paper. Some writers say that every great novel should be written on actual paper with an actual pen. It is said to stimulate the creative mind to actually hold something. I am not sure how much of that is true, but it definitely is a nice theory. Sometimes it just feels good to actually see your creations on paper, almost like it could be an actual book. Still, I can see the drawbacks to it. Personally, my hand writing is horrible. I generally cannot decipher what I have written the day before unless I can remember what it is supposed to say. While I would like to applaud the professors who have to read my disastrous hand writing, I don’t think I should do the same to myself. I do like writing on paper, but afterwards I still would have to type it over. Also, I am too messy of a person to be trusted with important documents on a vacation – and yes, to me my stories are very important documents. Every time I lose what I have written, I just want to give up. I like my first drafts most and am not going to write that first draft a second time.

I am sorry for the rant, but I was wondering if there are any writers out there who still do it the old-fashioned way. Who still uses the mighty pen and paper?

Picture-perfect; Pictures in (Children’s) Literature

For the youngest children and the early readers, there is an abundance of picture books – the kind of book where pictures take up entire pages. They love them, as the images help them to create a picture of the scene in their own mind. However, as these children grow older, the pictures in their stories disappear, mainly because they want to feel “grown up” and not go back to the “childish” style of actual picture books. When I was a child, I thought this was a shame. I actually loved the pictures in my books, no matter what they looked like (black-and-white or coloured). Sadly, those books weren’t ever available, at least not for my age range. Sure, I loved reading and I would generally be content with the plain old written novel, but something often was lacking. I wanted to know what the characters looked like. I wanted to know where they were. Children’s books never went into detail, although that detail was exactly what I wanted, and still want nowadays. I believe that novels should start containing some pictures again, if only for the small group of people like me.

To be honest, I do not like comics. I also do not enjoy graphic novels. For my literature courses, I’ve had to read Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which I thought was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen. Not because the story was bad – it was a welcome change in the depiction of war novels – but because I absolutely hated the (sometimes gruesome) art. Some books do not need pictures – not if they involve torture, murder or piles of burning mice. The same goes for comic books; to me, they are too picture-heavy and often too over-the-top. I do want to read an actual book, not a comic. I just wish that book would sometimes contain a simple pictures.

Maybe it is just me, but I actually do not enjoy having to think up a character’s looks by myself. To me, whatever I think of is not right. It is not what the author had in mind when they wrote it. It may sound pretentious, but I like the idea of actually looking into the author’s mind. Of course, this does not really work this way, as the author most likely is not the person to provide the pictures. Still, as far as I know they typically have at least some say in what the product is going to look like in the end. If the author agrees, I will agree that it is right.

Now, I have a question. Would anyone else like some visuals in their literature?

Change of Scene, Change of Mind

I have to admit that I fail as a blogger. I know that posting regurarly is one of the most important aspects when it comes to keeping readers interested, which is exactly what I haven’t been doing. The vacation of last week has taken its toll on both me and my writing skills. To me, keeping a steady pace is what makes me go on. However, as soon as that rhythm is broken, writers’ block sets in and I can’t bring myself to start writing again. The same goes with blogging.
Even though I may be complaining about the vacation, I also know that a change of scene is what every writer needs once in a while. While I don’t think it is an actual saying, I would like to say that a change of scene brings an actual change of mind. Sometimes, we need to keep our minds of our work and just do something completely else. In my case, my trip to Austria has been wonderful in that sense – although the backache that set in after only three days completely ruined our walking schedule. Just being in a completely different environment, surrounded by people with lives different than my own, was enough to spark so many ideas. I couldn’t write them down as my laptop apparently refused to save anything, but I certainly had enough time to let them stew in the back of my mind. What came out was unlike anything I had ever thought of, forced out by the nightmares I get when I’m sleeping in an unknown bedroom. I wanted to write a family drama concerning the spirit of a little girl, forgotten by her family as time went on. I don’t think I will ever actually finish it, or even start writing it, as it was meant to be a Young Adult novel, starring a teenager who finds out the secret of her greatgrandmother’s daughter. I do not really enjoy YA, nor overly complicated storylines. However, knowing that it was possible to come up with one was nice.
A story closer related to my actual trip was the one about a family running a hotel in the Alps, based on the little girls I met in the hotel where we were staying. They had to help their parents with tending to the guests and cleaning the rooms, so I wondered how many strange things they must have seen. Not much, probably, but it was fun to wonder about someone else’s life. I came up with the idea of them meeting a Yeti – or whatever similar creature is supposed to be living in the area.
While my ideas may not be of much quality, it was a great sensation to know that I still had it – the power of strange, childlike creativity. It may not be worth much to others, but this is the result of travelling. Every new experience triggers a new idea in the back of the writer’s mind. Try to experience as much as you can. It’s worth it.

Title Trouble

This may not be a problem for those whose works are getting published by a regular publisher, but for those who are not, it may be the cause for some massive headaches: coming up with the perfect title. After all, titles are what draw in readers, together with the cover and the blurb – the latter is not going to be read, though, if the cover and title do not stimulate the reader’s imagination. Earlier, I talked about the importance of a fitting cover. Now it is time to talk about the importance of the right title. How do you come up of that?

The kind of story and it’s genre usually determine what style of title would be fitting. I am only a writer of children’s fiction, so that is what I’ll stick to – plus maybe some YA novels.

Firstly, are you writing a series? If so, what is that series really about? If it is about a character, implementing the character’s name could work. Examples of this are the Harry Potter and the Junie B Jones series. In the case of the former, all titles in the series start with “Harry Potter and the [fill in phrase]”. In the case of the latter, Junie B.’s name is usually used somewhere in the title, although those are not as formulaic. Using a character’s name in a title is a good way to let young readers know to what series a book belongs. However, this does not only work for series; character names in titles often bring the fictional world a little closer to the reader, even when they haven’t read the actual story yet. You could also use a place name instead of a character name; as long as it is important to the story, it can be used.

Secondly, you could use an actual sentence from the story as a title – or at least part of it. Is there any sentence in your work that really stands out? Does it capture the theme of your story? You could tweak it a little if it’s too long. An example of this is To Kill a Mockingbird, which has been derived from the quote: “Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” In other words, don’t kill innocent beings that are only around to sing. The title is not clear by itself, but it still captures the heart of the book in only a few words. Poetic sentences make for nice titles; so do witty ones.

Thirdly, and this is the case for many YA books nowadays, you could use only one word. This is probably the most difficult to do, but it could be really rewarding. Ally Condie’s Matched does this, for example, by using the one word that sums up the main dilemma of the story. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight is another case of a one word title, and while I am not going to judge the story’s value, the series’ titles are great – they all refer to phases of the night and darkness, as befitted for vampires. This might work the same as an entire phrase or sentence, though; is there one word that really captures the essense of your story? Use it.

This may or may not have been useful, but it is something I personally struggle with. Coming up with the right title is important, yet it can also be a lot of fun. In the end, it is also important to enjoy the entire writing process.

Clothes Make The Man – Fictional Attire

Back in the time of Renaissance theatre, the clothes worn by a fictional character basically determined his (there were no actual women on stage, just men playing women) personality. Like in the real world, the outfit worn caused the audience to get a certain feeling about the character. For example, a madman would be dressed in rags and strange colours, whereas a king would always wear a mantle. In fact, an actual king without his royal attire would not be viewed as a true king. In plays, this was especially important, as the audience had to work with what they saw on stage. Interiority, the difference between the inside and the outside, was not used. After all, it just would be unclear… Until Shakespeare came along.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet probably was one of the first plays playing with the characters’ outfits, especially those of Prince Hamlet himself. At first, he wears an inky cloak resembling his grief, although he claims that it does not – in fact, nothing material can describe how grief-ridden he is about his father’s death. This is not the clearest example of interiority in the play, though. It becomes even more obvious when Hamlet decides to pretend to be a madman. In order to do so, he appears disheveled in front of his family and the audience, to make them believe he is going crazy. Whether he is actually crazy or not, which might be the play’s main theme, never becomes entirely clear.

What I am trying to say is that a character’s looks basically determine how the character is viewed by the audience, whether it is a play or a book. More often than not, the choice of clothing is a public display of a character’s personality – trying to hide that personality by wearing opposing clothes still counts for this. A writer needs to think of what his or her characters’ looks say about them. Even a short description can completely change the audience’s mental image. For example, a girl in a black leather jacket might come across as a biker at first glance, right up until the moment she puts a flower in her hair. Characters should be like real people; not black and white, not even shades of grey, but colourful.

Prose versus Poetry

I do not intend to start a war between poets and writers of fiction; instead, I would like to tell why I prefer writing fiction over writing poetry. Most of it has to do with my lacking emotional capacities – although that’s an exaggeration – and my refusal to use flowery language, excessive descriptions or actually touching material.

Personally, I am not really an emotional person. While poetry does not have to be emotional, most of its power comes from touching the hearts of its readers. Most of the fun, lighthearted poetry does not have that effect, although there is nothing wrong with that. I do not like writing either of them. I prefer my writing to be fun and adventurous, yet not to be devoid of meaning. Finding that balance is hard. To me, writing is supposed to carry some kind of meaning or message without being obviously blatant about it. Poetry is great for those who are not as blatant as I am. I would not be able to do it right. Either it would come out over the top emotional or completely inane. A great poet knows the difference, whereas I do not.

Also, writing fiction seems to come more naturally to me. There haven’t been many instances in my life where I tried to write poetry, whereas fiction has always been important to me, both in reading and writing. I wanted to tell fun stories that captured the readers’ attention. They had to be clear, to the point and interesting. Poetry can definitely be interesting, but it seldom is as much to the point as I’d like to write. Besides, I prefer longer texts, as slowly giving away pieces of information does not really work in a short text. Poetry is short, in general… And I have to admit, I often won’t read it if it looks too long, as I typically struggle to grasp the sentences. It might be because English is not my mother tongue, making long sentences even harder to understand. I’d like to think I am relatively proficient, but not enough to pull off some beautiful poetry.

All in all, both poetry and prose have their qualities, but I still prefer the bluntness of my children’s books… The reality is that it’s what I can do best, and while experimenting is fun, I’d rather stick to what I know. How sad, I know.

The Necessity of the Internet

Now that I’m lacking an Internet connection for yet another day (I am writing this from another location), I finally realise how important it is to have access to the Internet when trying to write. I need it.

First of all, I like to use Google Docs in order to keep my documents safe. However, I found out that there is only one computer I like to write on. It is a mental thing; while I have access to my files at the moment, I cannot force myself to write, even though I probably should. There is nothing else to do at the moment. From that point of view, having no connection should be good. However, it is not. I will have to go back to my house at some point and write there. For that, I actually need a working connection. How else am I supposed do to my research?

In all honesty, there is not much research for me to do. Still, I like looking up names and myths from all over the world to give me some inspiration. The Internet is a blessing for the aspiring writer. It can provide us with everything we need to come up with that one spectacular idea. On the other hand, it also can be a massive curse, as it brings forth procrastination and distraction. At the moment, the pros outweigh the cons.

I am sorry for the rambling, but I have to use the connection I have at the moment to give this update on my life. Again, the Internet is a curse, as I could have used this time to write… And yet, I cannot do without it.