Beautiful Books #1—Dash's NaNoWriMo Project

Salutations, fair readers! So, I kind of disappeared from the blog after the end of September. I had all these plans to bring you...

Salutations, fair readers!

So, I kind of disappeared from the blog after the end of September. I had all these plans to bring you posts about Wizard World and my cosplays (I'll get to those posts, eventually...) but I got swept up in the craziness of life, college, and NaNoWriMo. But, never fear, I have returned with a bunch of posts planned including this, the first in these Beautiful Books posts! 

Now, you maybe wondering, what exactly is Beautiful Books? It's a writerly blog linkup event created by the glorious Sky and Cait that focuses on NaNoWriMo books. They also run the Beautiful People writerly linkup during the rest of the year as well. I really should've done these posts weeks ago but, like I said, college has been kicking my butt.

But, now that I have a little time over Thanksgiving break, I can finally participate in this awesome linkup! So, without further ado, let's get onto the questions!
1.) How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I came up with the idea for this novel when I was reading about the Sturmhond, the dashing and hilarious "privateer" in Leigh Bardugo's Siege and Storm, about a month ago. I have been obsessed with pirate stories ever since I first saw Captain Hook waltz onto the deck of the Jolly Roger in the Disney adaption of Peter Pan. Reading about Sturmhond got me to thinking about two things: 

1.) Why were their no badass, and totally amoral, lady captains in any of the pirate stories I came across? 
 2.) That I had always wanted to write about a flying pirate ship and hadn't done it yet.

 From there, the crew of my ship, the Skylark, slowly sprang to life in my imagination. However, it was only thanks to my co-blogger, Ace, that a plot came into fruition. If not for her, my pirates would probably still be a kernel of an idea right now.

2.) Why are you excited to write this novel?

Because it has PIRATES!!! And not just any pirates, but SKY PIRATES!!!

A pirate's life (sans the scurvy) for me!

Okay, that's part of it, but I'm really excited because it's my first real attempt at writing a fantasy adventure story with a ton of world building. It's also got everything I love to see in fiction—dragons, magic, cunning royals, masked balls, lovable anti-heroes, swashbuckling, LGBT romances, daring heists, and harebrained escapes. I basically decided to write the story I've always wanted to see in the bookstore, and there's not a lot that's more exciting than that.

3.) What is your novel about, and what is the title?

No, wait! I can do this! 

It's about a country called Morovia, which exists in a world where anyone can do magic—provided they take the time to study it and have some talent in the field. In this country, however, the study of magic is closely regulated by the 13 Magus Guilds (the most prestigious and exclusive of which is the Summoner's Guild). Every five years, a month-long festival is held in the capital city and the Summoners hold a competition to allow a new apprentice into their Guild. This competition is known as the Summoner's Trials.

About a month before the next Trials is scheduled to start, an 18-year-old Enchanter (a magus who can weave magic into objects) named Ari, who has secretly been teaching herself multiple types of magic, decides to leave her sleepy port town and an unfulfilling apprenticeship behind to take part in the competition. She stows away on a ship bound for the capital, only to discover that it's a mistral, a sleek sky-faring vessel, run by a crew of colorful pirates. Their captain, the larger-than-life Margo Drake, offers Ari a deal—she can team up with the crew for several jobs around the capital in exchange for Margo sponsoring her in the Trials, or she can walk the plank and fall to her doom. Ari decides to save her own skin, and she and the pirates get into a ton of mischief during the rest of the story.

As for the title, at the moment it's called The Cloud Chasers, which is a somewhat mean-spirited term in this universe for a Skyer (AKA: a sky sailor...or, in this case, a sky pirate). Air travel is only just beginning to be taken seriously by the world at large, so now there's a race amongst countless engineers and businessmen to see who can capitalize on it the most. Before now, people who were trying to make a living off of air travel were said to be off "wasting their time chasing clouds".

4.) Sum up your characters in one word each. (Feel free to add pictures!)

*rolls up sleeves* Challenge accepted! I present to you, the major characters of The Cloud Chasers...with pictures and gifs!

Ariadne "Ari" Elwin (The Protagonist)—Driven

Ari's usual getup, this is precisely how she looks when we first meet her in Wintersea.:

Captain Margo Drake (The Pirate)—Cunning


Uriah Hale (The First Mate)—Loyal

Uriah Hale, the smart-mouthed first mate of the Skylark who is incredibly loyal to Margo.:

Pim Maynard (Ari's Magic Tutor)—Surprising

 Dr. Lenora Kingsley (The Ship's Physician)—Passionate

Dr. Lenora Kingsley, the resident physician of the Skylark and a decorated veteran of the Morovian Army.:

Annabel Cook (The Ship's Mechanic)—Brilliant

Annabel Cook, the Skylark's incredibly friendly and curious mechanic who spends her off-hours inventing and tinkering with clever new devices and vessels for the crew.:

Yannick "Yanni" Davis (The Ship's Cook)—Humorous

Yannick "Yanni" Davis, the Skylark's cheerful cook who is a surprisingly adept swordsman. He has a fairly obvious crush on Lenora and has a penchant for singing shanties.:


Jocelyn Hampstead ("The Muscle" of the Crew)—No-Nonsense

Dr. Minerva Delamere (An Inventor that Margo funds)—Eccentric

Cobash (Margo's Pet Dragon)—Puppy

There are loads of other central characters—other crew members, royalty, and competitors in the Trials—but they haven't totally emerged from my imagination yet. I'm really not the type of writer who plans every single character in advance.

5.) Which character(s) do you think will be your favorite to write? Tell us about them!
So far, it appears that Margo, Uriah, and Pim are my favorites. Margo is a larger-than-life and very witty character and her banter with Uriah (who has a very dry sense of humor) is so much fun to write! Their relationship is very much like Mal and Zoe's in Firefly, but with a touch more snark.

Okay, probably the same amount of snark.

Pim is also a blast because (despite his accent, which is a bit of a challenge to write) he's very witty, flamboyant, and INCREDIBLY flirtatious. Watching him try to catch Uriah's attention (the poor guy has trouble processing any kind of flirting directed towards him) is hilarious for me to write. It's honestly pure schadenfreude, and I love every second of it.

6.) What is your protagonist's goal, and what stands in the way?

Sorry, I thought you meant GOOOOAAALLL!!!!
Ari's goal, for most of the book, is to win the Summoner's Trials so she can join their Guild. To Ari, becoming a Summoner means that no doors to a spectacular magical education and a life of excitement would be closed to her. However, her relationship with Margo and her attachment to crew of the Skylark stand in her way of this (not to mention, the other competitors stand in her way as well). This becomes a problem, because Ari has always been very ambitious and wants to see her goals realized.

7.) Where is your novel set? (Show us pictures if you have them!)

The flag of the kingdom of Morovia.:

Flag designed by: Yours truly, Dash Graci

It's set in the kingdom of Morovia, a country of my own invention which is inspired primarily by the UK during the Victorian Era (but with somewhat looser morals). Morovia's a beautiful and powerful country with a rich culture and history. However, there's also a dark side to that history—the most prominent example being how King Malliath's army conquered the country on their southern border and slaughtered said country's royal family about 75 years prior to the start of the story.

Yeah, Malliath was kind of a jerk.

The book primarily takes place in two distinct locations—Margo's ship, the Skylark, and the capital city of Olveos. The actual design for the Skylark hasn't been finalized yet. However, I like this design the best because it still sort of looks like a pirate ship.

As for Olveos is sort of reminiscent of Kingsbury from the Howl's Moving Castle. It's gorgeous, with a ton of greenery and fabulous architecture that gets even more beautiful as you get closer to the city's center. However, there's also a lot of shadier neighborhoods that surround the edge of the city.

8.) What is the most important relationship your main character has?

Ari's most important relationship is definitely with Margo. They evolve so much over the course of the book from reluctant associates, to genuine friends...and, later on, committed romantic partners. Their relationship is so much fun for me to write because it's so multi-layered and their development has a really juicy trajectory.

9.) How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Ari changes a lot over the course of the novel! She starts off being as a very scrappy and stubborn girl who wants to see her dreams realized to the point of almost being a selfish loner. She's also very book-smart and magically gifted, but she's also a little naïve to how the rest of the world beyond her little town operates. After she teams up with the pirates and competes in the Trials, she obviously becomes a lot more grounded and street-wise but she also learns the value of having a loyal group of people around her and how love often means putting others before your own self-interests.

10.) What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?

Here's what you should take away from this book...

• Dragons make great pets, as well as great weather gauges.

• Smart people occasionally make really stupid decisions.

• Never leave your ship's mechanic unattended for longer than an hour, or she will most likely blow up the engine room in the name of scientific discovery.

• Always tip your weapons smith, otherwise your sword will bust in half the next time you're in a fight.
• It's not wise to insult a pirate...or a dragon...or a queen...or a deity. Actually, try not to insult anyone or you'll end up dead.

• Pirates are awesome, when they're not trying to steal your stuff or throw you overboard.

In all seriousness, all I want is for my readers to come away with a sense that following your dreams and having a healthy sense of wonder, curiosity, and adventure shouldn't be pushed to the wayside by the tribulations of life. And, on a totally selfish note, I want them to walk away demanding the sequel because I have a very fun ending planned for this book (I'm evil like that)!

That wraps up this post for me. Now, if you all will excuse me, I have to get back to work on my novel and hammer out some scenes of swashbuckling right now.

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