Paper Crowns and Battle Cries


“It started out as a feeling

Which then grew into a hope

Which then turned into a quiet thought

Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder

Until it was a battle cry

I’ll come back

When you call me

No need to say goodbye

Just because everything’s changing

Doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before

All you can do is try to know who your friends are

As you head off to the war

Pick a star on the dark horizon

And follow the light

You’ll come back when it’s over

No need to say goodbye”

~Regina Specktor (from ‘The Call’)

If you’re going to dream, dream big. If not, don’t waste your time. You’d be better off painting your house, or doing your taxes, or trying to nail jello to the wall.

No, seriously, think about your average kid playing make-believe. Do they do it halfway? Do they adjust their creations to fit with what is likely or plausible? I sure as hell didn’t. Not only did I not account for reality, I’m pretty convinced that I lived life until I was in my mid-twenties under the assumption that magic was, in some way, real. I don’t mean literally, per say. More like that vague feeling that all young people have where they are under the impression that *they* can live forever. That sort of thing. Maybe there really is another world out there. Maybe this isn’t it. Maybe my lost socks are on to something.

There is a point where you lose that blissful ignorance though. For some of us, this moment comes earlier in life than for others. I’m always the last one to know. I was eleven when I found my Easter basket in my mother’s bedroom closet, and I’ll never forget the hit to my gut when I realized that this meant that Santa Clause wasn’t real either. It was a very dark day in my household.

Some of us have that same sort of, innocence, when it comes to being authors. Some of us go on to live eternally through our words. Others, give up and let go of the dream and move on to “adult” things—rational and likely things. As usual, I’m still holding on here. I have no misgivings about reality, don’t mistake me. But, I believe in more than what is probably going to happen. I have to. What good is life without goals, or destinations, or a future to spend time imagining?

Planning and being wise, aren’t bad things. I don’t mean that either. You’ve got to have your head on straight and a game plan. But, if we spend SO much of our efforts working towards specific objectives (uber fame, being J.K. Rowling, etc), then we will lose the magic that makes those things possible in the first place. There are no magic formulas, only magic. This goes back to a comment Anthony made on my ‘Sex and the Art of Author Marketing’ post a week ago or so…all of your extra-writerly stuff has to be done for the right reasons, or else it is purely for naught. I couldn’t agree more with him. This might all sound like common sense, at least it does to me as I type it out, but damn, it certainly doesn’t enter my mind when I start to worry about the pace of my career, or how my books are selling, or how the media/public perceives me.

It’s like the lyrics to the song I posted above…it’s a battle cry that we’ve got to keep on our hearts. This dream, of living our lives as authors, is larger than any set of rules, or fenced perimeter, or glass ceiling. There is marketing to be done. There are details to attend to. But don’t ever, ever lose track of the bigger picture of what you want. Be that child in the yard who is building a castle of sticks and stones, living life as a king or queen…even if your crown is only paper for now.

The gold will come later, I promise…

Unless you give up on it, and file that dream away with other lost things. Socks, for example. Or discarded ideas. Or ambitions.

Where is all of this talk of battle cries coming from? My time on Facebook this past week. That’s where. I hear so many writers talking about absolutes and how “things are,” and “conforming to the industry” and so on. God, it’s like hearing two children in the yard discussing the weight bearing properties of a cardboard box.

Hello, it’s a cardboard box. Chances are, you won’t have it forever.

I won’t be in this place in my career for the rest of my life. So why stress out about what is expected of me right this moment by an ambiguous, man-behind-the-curtain, kind of “Industry”? That’s useless. And for all my day dreaming, I’m still fairly pragmatic at the end of the day. The dreaming makes these things happen, therefore, that’s what I do. A query has never once in the history of the “Industry” sold a book. Period. No, hear me…THE BOOK sold itself once the full was requested, signed, pimped out, or sold directly to the publisher from the writer. I’ve seen stellar queries, that receive one request for novels after another, and yet…the books never get picked up. Know why? Because it was never the query that they were looking for in the first place.  You can argue semantics till you are blue in the face, that the book would never have been picked up had it not been for the query, but you’re missing the forest for the trees. THE BOOK, the story, the make-believe, the magic, is what was signed in the end.

So, that’s where our focus should be. Everything else, will work itself out. How can I say that? Easily, because I still suck at queries. I’ve got five novels under contract, and I can’t write a query letter to save my damn life. I can write them for other people (at gunpoint), but never for my own work. I doubt I’ll ever have that skill.

All I am capable of, is dreaming—of wearing paper crowns and carrying that battle cry like it’s burned onto my heart. That’ll just have to be enough.


16 responses

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Paper Crowns and Battle Cries « Welcome to the Asylum --

  2. It can be very difficult to maintain the belief in magic. All around us, we’re judged and laughed at for holding onto it tightly. That doesn’t mean that we have to be oblivious of reality, but to be able to hold onto dreams becomes harder as we grow older. We become jaded creatures. But to be in the thick of my book, wielding my mighty pen as my MC wields his sword, letting the battle of magic fly, I carry the power and one would be bringing death upon them to cross me the wrong way. Those who have never been wittness to such magic, to such power and feeling as it runs from our fingers to the page can never know how real magic works. To this day I’m convinced my muse must be a magical being, one that has probably plagued the earth long before me, spouting music and silver to vied words to those blessed enough to hear them. Touching other people with his inspiration and wisdom. (and hitting them over the heads with lighning bolts and pots) either way, the ability to see and create magic wouldn’t be mine with out my writing… My world would have be ome dull and gray long ago without it, and for these reasons, I thank God every day for my muse, art, and the love of reading and writing. (not to mention the strog will to shout from the precarious moutains which I climb alone, ‘I can do it!’ as therest watch me from their safety grounds crying back, ‘no you cant’ like hell… I’ll show you for I’m not giving up on my dreams, and regardless of what the rest of the world says, I know magic surrounds me, and I can only pray that As my children grow, they will one day see the magic in me and remember how important it is! What is life without magic but a cold dead world?

  3. Very well put. I love the way you go about kicking ass 🙂

    I think, as authors, sometimes we take ourselves too seriously when it comes to the things so many people tell us are important. We forget to love what are doing. The love of the craft–of that fun imagining things–should be our first goal. All else will fall into place later.

  4. What an awesome idea for a story! All the lost socks in some alternate universe of their own…

    Without dreams, what kind of world would we inhabit? Lovely post.

  5. It’s a shame how many authors, creators, followers of dreams, give into the demands, the so called ‘rules’ of the – as you say -‘Man-behind-the-curtain. I’ve seen it interrupt the flow of ideas from many a writer, and it saddens me. I just want to scream, ‘Quit your sniveling, and just WRITE!’ If the tale is good, great even, then that will sell it! Not the rules you’ve followed to get there.

    Thanks for sharing, J.S.

  6. Beautiful! And I do mean fucking beautiful!

    I am flat-out jealous of your ability to express such common sense so uncommonly well. The load-bearing properties of a cardboard box, indeed!

    As always, thank you!

    • hmmmm….that’s a good question. I see the share button, not sure if I have a “like” button. Blogger is SO much easier to use, lol. Sorry!

  7. I like this post again like I did the first time. Possession of a fuzzy memory is nine points of the law of magic. The other point is somewhere in my sock drawer.

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