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Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab

Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Reading Slumps Provoke Writer’s Block?! ...THISISRIDICULOUS

This week’s post is literally gonna be like three paragraphs long. I’m exhausted and a little stressed out. It feels like every three months I’m having to contact my university about something and it seems as though, again, I am switching courses. As it’s September in a couple of days, I kindaaa need to have it wrapped up quickly. Only replace ‘kinda’ with ‘SERIOUSLY’, and add in some little anguished emoticons that represent me lying on the floor bawling.

Hey, I might as well share something I suddenly realised last night, about why I haven’t been able to write for months. Aside from being pushed for time that is. I’m certain it’s because I haven’t been reading. At first I thought, ‘Nahh that’s dumb’, but now I’m convinced. When I read the work of others, I feel inspired and motivated to complete my own work. I remember all of the things I wanted to say and share in my creations. I’m slowly realising that without that drive, the way I approach writing my novel is completely different, almost like a chore. I really feel like something’s wrong with me when my endless well of creativity seems to just... disappear.

Since I finished reading The School for Good and Evil: The Last Ever After last week, my novel’s popped back up in my head and I’ve been turning it over and over in my mind, trying to figure out where I ran it into a ditch. I’m still struggling with the motivation to read, but I’m not to fussed about it right now. I honestly have a hundred other things to be worrying about, like what I’m going to have for lunch tomorrow.

Ashana Lian .

P.S. I like my old long posts, but short posts are such a relief right now :3

Thursday, 20 August 2015

"Are You Single?" – Book Buying Requirements

My first question is - is your cover beautiful? If yes, let me adore you.

My second is - is your blurb wonderful? If yes, let me marvel you.

My third is - does your cover and blurb accurately represent you? If yes, there is no limit to my fangirl praise.

But after that - ARE YOU PART OF A SERIES? Because if you are... I’m sorry, book. I’m having doubts that we can make this relationship work. O_O

I can’t help it. I want to experience so many different authors that I leave myself with little time to read more of the authors I do like. Even if I end up with the second book in a series, so much time has passed between me reading the first and second books that I struggle to remember the details and, regrettably, I think that does alter my reading experience. As in, clues dropped along the way will take longer to fall into place because I have to remember what they had to do with the story in the first place. If I really can’t remember the first book, I consult Wikipedia. Recaptains is a great blog dedicated to solving this particular bookish problem, but I haven’t had an opportunity to use it yet.

One incredible historical fantasy book that springs to mind – I’m pretty sure it’s a standalone – is Uprising: Heirs of the Demon King by Sarah Cawkwell (I never got to do a proper review because I was so behind on reviews that eventually I had to stop my schedule). The cover could be better, but the blurb was great and it turned out to be an even better read than I hoped. I was anguished to reach the end but also glad that the story tied together coherently, leaving only those few nagging little issues that linger in your mind after the book was closed.

I wish there were more books like Uprising that I could bounce between without feeling guilty that I’m abandoning a series!

Still, despite my bouncing around, I have two mammoth fantasy series’ I want to read – the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett and The Wheel Of Time series by Robert Jordan. Also Brandon Sanderson; his books make up a few shorter series’ but the books themselves are still incredibly in-depth. I’d like to dedicate a chunk of time to these complex fantasy series and read them back to back, but we’d be talking several months... maybe longer.

Knowing me, even assuming that I’d never get bored reading the series, I’d want to throw in something different to read just for the variety.

Ashana Lian .

P.S. I sometimes find myself aggravated when a perfectly capable one-book story (usually YA) suddenly spawns a second and third book. Unless I loved that one book and I felt the cliff-hanger was just too much to deal with (The Falconer, omg).

How do you choose the book your buy/loan and read? Aside from genre, are you picky about book length, standalones vs series or that type of thing? I’m curious. Do share.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Anime: Kuroko no Basuke and Heroic Video Game Structure

Image: Ign

It’s been SO LONG since I’ve watched such a great anime that I couldn’t possibly NOT talk about it. Even though it’s not strictly fantasy. Still, it brings up an interesting point that is fantasy relevant.

Kuroko no Basuke, aka. Kuroko’s Basketball, aka. The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays, is an anime about a team of prodigy basketball players at Teikō middle school, so revered that other/lesser teams call them the Generation of Miracles. After a winning streak at middle school level, the players go on to different high schools whose teams will compete against each other.

Kuroko, a less than average player with a pretty special skill, joins the fairly new team at Seirin high school instead of a school with a long-standing team. Even though Seirin basketball team has no success to speak of, they strive to become the best basketball team in Japan and go head to head with formidable teams, each including a Generation of Miracles player who enhances the team (or not, LOL) with their unique ability. Okay soo.

The following two paragraphs contains some major spoilers. You have been warned.


[SPOILER]KnB is like some CRAZYYY super intense superhero basketball. Even if you don’t have any particular interest in basketball, it’s as fun as heck to watch and you'll probably end up with the burning desire to watch a real basketball match, like every other person ever to watch this anime. HONESTLY. It uses the structure I enjoy in anime, even in manga and fantasy books – there’s a team of opponents who reveal themselves one by one, each one with an increasingly powerful ability, each one just a little bit harder to defeat.

I thought each GoM ability was great and extremely fun to watch. Kise has the ability to copy another player’s style or technique – the “level up” version of this is the Perfect Copy, which even allows him to copy the GoM. Midorima is able to score a basket from standing anywhere on the court (called Projectile Three), and never misses. Aomine possesses breakneck speed and a unique style of being able to shoot a basket from any angle (called Formless Shot) – but when facing a challenging opponent, The Zone is initiated (which is at such a deadly pace and strength that it’s often dangerous for other players to attempt to face him). Murasakibara’s incredible height grants him an impenetrable defence style – if he becomes agitated, he uses a special move called Thor’s Hammer when he's on the offense. The captain of the original Teikō team, Akashi, uses a technique called the Emperor’s Eye, which allows him to predict another player’s next move by analysing all of their possible moves – he then moves himself in a disarming way that makes the player lose their balance and fall off of their feet.[END OF SPOILER]

What did I tell you. This is Superhero Basketball.

Image: Kurokonobasketextragame
The extent to which basketball is glamorised – from players and the ball actually becoming invisible, to the paths of light that appear when a special move is performed, it would make ANYBODY love basketball. It emphasises skills and abilities that could realistically be performed (like, by a human being XD) and gives fans an artistic view of basketball, somehow.

Now I’ve finished watching all three seasons, what it made me think about was the ending and how the stakes kept raising when you thought they couldn’t go any higher.


[SPOILER]When Seirin faced Kise and Kaijō high school in the semi-finals of the tournament, I was surprised at first. He was the very first GoM that Seirin faced and somehow that gave an impression of him being the weakest, right?

Well, no. Even putting aside that Kise has continued to train and improve in speed and strength, his newfound ability to copy the special abilities of other GoM players makes him the perfect ‘sub-boss’, as it were – they have to draw together their knowledge of everything they’ve learned about the GoM thus far. Only then are they allowed to face the final boss – Akashi.

In The Legend of Zelda, you fight a ‘phantom ganon’ in the very first temple you complete, which is like a ‘fake’ Ganon and nowhere near as powerful as the real deal. Then you go through the remaining four temples – Fire, Water, Shadow and Spirit. When you have banished the ‘evil’ from all of them, you get Link over to the now-evil Hyrule Castle to face Ganon – but before you can face him, you have to bring down a force field by entering five chambers that correspond to each of the temples – then, finally, you can face the real Ganon.[END OF SPOILER]


The more I thought about it, the more I realise how common that setup is. You do a bunch of stuff, then right before the end you have to demonstrate all the stuff you learnt. There’s something quite satisfying about being able to tie together all loose ends in that way – and also feeling like all that work wasn’t for nothing. If you hadn’t done it, you wouldn’t be able to reach the end. Nothing was wasted.

Finally, that got me thinking about my fantasy novel (Karalan). The structure is completely warped, and I dunno how exactly I’m going to fix it, but thinking about KnB and LoZ I know that the games, anime and books I enjoy most have that anticipation of the next opponent or adventure. That's what compels you to keep watching, reading or playing. So I think that's a good place to start.

Ashana Lian.

P.S. I went absolutely crazy over Aomine Daiki. There has never been a more perfect character in an anime. I dare you to prove me wrong. I DARE UUU ._.

P.P.S. Btw, Kuroko special abilities are among the best, but there just wasn’t enough time to go into it here... so go watch the anime!!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Fame or Respect?: Measuring A Writer's Success

When I was young, I didn’t think I could pursue a career in the arts because it didn’t ‘help people’. Doctors and scientists and so on seemed like professions with more value – until I realised the necessity of being able to express yourself creatively a stress becomes our number one problem. Beautiful artwork, dance, theatre, literature and music can make us feel elated and inspired in a very unique way, so those who value and appreciate art will respect artists.

This era has seen a surge in indie artists becoming successful and so the question of ‘if’ I could, somehow, remotely help people through my art became the question of ‘how’ I could do it. I wonder about my authorly goals more often than I used to.

What do I want to achieve with my writing?

There was an excellent post on The Novel Project Chronicles about whether it is better to have your book critically acclaimed or popular. Would I prefer my book to be known only to fans of the fantasy genre but highly respected, like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K Jemisin, or Across The Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn?

Or would I prefer my book to become staggeringly popular, like The Fault In Our Stars by John Green or The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North? As in, read by thousands of people not even part of my target audience, and straight off the back of it comes a movie deal, official merchandise, a rise in the popularity of previously published books, and then probably a mobile app, t-shirts and a McDonalds promo figurine inside every Happy Meal? Okay, I’m exaggerating. Slightly.

The last two aren’t fantasy books, of course. Naturally. That doesn’t happen to fantasy books very often. Harry Potter – a children’s book. Game of Thrones – first published twenty years ago. They are both incredible series’ and in my opinion their success is well deserved, but many other fantastic fantasy books fall by the wayside. I hear people complain about it, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

I would rather be critically acclaimed than popular.

Putting aside for one minute my irrational fear of fame (the idea of being in a viral video unintentionally makes me freeze up in terror), my goal is to become a remarkable fantasy writer and I think that the best judges of that will be dedicated fantasy fans. To me, it means more to have a quiet little family who understand and respect not only fantasy but the institute of writing. I always did prefer underground fandoms, and I think that the fact that fantasy has always been obscure and eclectic is one of the most appealing things about it.

Sometimes, you do want your favourite author to get a bit more recognition, though.

Still, when you put a book in front of people who aren’t the intended target audience, it provokes polarised reactions like you get with Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey... which makes the book all the more popular.

Writers who hope to get popular are often the ones who are building a business around their writing, like my sister. As the main source of income, success is the goal. But then you have the writers who hope to get massively popular, with the goal of never having to work again. But writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and most of the writer-bloggers that I follow are also avid readers who do not take writing lightly or as a lottery gamble. They want to contribute something worthwhile to the world of literature, which they love. I wonder if they would prefer critical acclaim too.

But then I think – isn’t wanting to be critically acclaimed counterproductive to my aim? Surely, the point of creating art, aside from the love of it – is for the art to be shown to the world?

Ashana Lian .

The dream of fame is a primary appeal to many writers - would you prefer critical acclaim or massively popularity?

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Remember Me?: Reading, Writing & Blogging Slumps

Wow. HOW I have missed this lonely purple thing. Hi again, blog. *hug*

Recap Of... Last Five Months =/

Yesterday was this blog's SECOND anniversary. Second! Where did the time go? Oh, yes...

1. Four months working full time
2. Sleeping
3. Drawing
4. Learning how to use Photoshop
5. Tidying my room (I bought this gorgeous magazine binder!)
6. Oh, on that note ^ I created an instagram.
7. Repeatedly buying Mac & Cheese from EAT (it has jalapenos and breadcrumbs on the top omg)
8. Revamping my wardrobe with clothes that actually fit/suit me
9. Thinking up a name for my sister's fantasy publishing company
10. Eating FAR too many Pot Noodles. (I'm not even joking here, we're talking 20 + over four months)
11. Bought another notebook and more pens O_O
12. Finally replaced my watch from North Cyprus! AT LAST. I own time again
13. Sold like, half of my possessions on eBay
14. My mum insisted on putting up brand new curtains. They're cream with red flowers.
15. Going through the biggest reading slump ever *cry*
16. But rereading my favourite mangas and comics *whoo!*
17. Kept having amazing dreams and new fantasy novel ideas, but was too stressed about work to actually write my novel in the entire four months I worked there wahhh :'(
18. Making some important decisions about the career I seriously want to pursue
19. Figuring out some vital things about maintaining my dreads... I know for certain I need a better moisturiser
20. I developed an irrational fear of burglars
21. I went crazy looking for the power lead for my Nintendo 64
22. I found it and happily played The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask for weeks
23. FINALLY figured out how to take a screenshot on my Samsung Ace 4... it's really not the best phone in the world
24. After months of wishing for great summer weather in London, I’m enjoying most of it from inside e_e

And the fun didn't stop there, but I'm going to, lol.

Dear Followers,

Before I continue - thank you again to those who have stuck around all this time, despite the typos, sudden breaks in posting, and deviation from the main topic of this blog... O_O I really appreciate your support and I'm gonna do my best to be more fun. :3

Review Nightmare

I dug a tiny grave for myself regarding fantasy book reviews. You see, at the beginning of the year I kept reading books and not writing the review straight away. So naturally at this point, I have too many unwritten reviews of books where my memory of them is vague and hazy. There's got to be at least 20, including comics. Trying to tackle this systematically isn't as easy as I hoped because a system for writing about something you can’t remember doesn’t EXIST. Dude. Tough times. =/ I’ll have to play it by ear.

I haven't read an actual novel in months. Lack of time and motivation. It's a big fat annoying reading slump and I don't see myself getting out anytime soon. I know it'll take care of itself eventually, but still... goodbyeee Reading Challenges.

This is a great opportunity to write about the comics and mangas I love most, and I’ve been meaning to do that for a long while now. Oh, I must say – THE LAST SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL BOOK JUST CAME OUT! I am beyond ecstatic – if anything can break my reading slump, it’s got to be that book.

Blogging Nightmare

I dunno what happened. I noticed I hadn't posted in a while, and I thought, 'Hey, maybe I should do something about that.' - and the time kept passing me by and my list of reviews and posts to post got bigger and bigger and I remembered I hadn't posted any fantasy related posts and grew increasingly frustrated until I was actively ignoring my responsibilities and before I knew it - BAM. Five months passed. FIVE MONTHS!!!

It's my own fault. How many times did I tell myself to pre-schedule posts? I have 150 draft posts sitting in Blogger patiently waiting to be seen. Scheduling isn’t HARD. I’m just LAZY.

However, I’m not allowed to call myself that anymore =] I’m doing this awesome thing where I stop procrastinating and do the things I know I’m supposed to. Like practise a language every day, or create a little sketch. It’s so rewarding to see how much you achieve by doing just a little every day. I had to kick myself in the butt a bit to get started, but look, I’m writing this post like I said I would. Many, many months ago. XD See? It works. *grin*

My renewed devotion to fantasy means that I’m preparing a lot of interesting articles for this blog. Post schedule has reverted back to once a week on THURSDAY only. Exciting stuff!


I’m out of a job. Again. =/ I don’t want to do into details, but I’m trying to be forward thinking and optimistic. My eye is firmly fixed on an arts job – an arts administrator would suit me great, I think. If I make sure I take my next step into an arts company, I’ll be heading in the right direction.

I’m going back to university in September. I won’t pretend depression didn’t make some of the past months difficult, but I’m extremely relieved at how much better I’m doing now I’ve sorted out my biggest worries. It sucks on so many levels that I still have to repeat a year of my degree – as I couldn’t complete it the first time for health reasons - but never mind. I really want to finish my degree.

Pulled The Plug... I’m Sorry.  :(

I can no longer give my Reading Challenges on Goodreads or Fiction Friday the attention I want to. Sadly, they’ll be disbanded this year unless somebody nominates to take over (I’m happy to continue creating trophies for challenge winners). Spreading my attention across so many things irrelevant to this blog purpose dilutes the quality of my articles. It’s not worth it.

Using my sketchbook more now. I love felts.

Authorly Goals

My novel, the one with the title that keeps changing, has come to a complete halt. I need to figure out what’s happening with it because I’m not convinced that the story makes the slightest bit of sense. To my readers or to me.

  • Posts on choosing a career in fantasy or literature and how to get started
  • Fantasy tropes and how they can help or hurt the fantasy genre
  • Awesome bookish or fantasy events to look forward to!
  • My pursuits in fantasy illustration and my inspirations
  • And of course, when I can, fantasy reviews for books, comics, manga, anime and movies. Which I KNOW I don’t do enough.


As it turns out, I’m everywhere. Despite my skepticism towards all social media except blogs, I begrudgingly recognise that it is difficult (ie. impossible) to have any sort of career/normal life (lol) without embracing it. Also, I think it’ll be a good idea to watch my progress. Might be fun, right? Or traumatic. Depends, really.

Ashana Lian .
P.S. Thanks for coming back. You guys are NICE PEOPLES.

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