The Most Dangerous Game

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”  – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I’m going to do my best to put this into words, despite my suspicions of their inadequacy to convey what I’m feeling.

We’re told as artists, from reliable sources, not to take things personally. Yet the act of being an author, or musician, or painter, is quite tied to our intimacies and close relationships. Any career that deals, even a little bit, with reputation is by default a career of duality. The self is suddenly shifted from a thing of sole possession, to a commodity to be bought and sold.

Don’t kid yourself—as an author, you are your writing. That simple truth is the reason why many authors choose to publish under pen names. It protects them. It shields them from some of the inherent pitfalls of this industry. In retrospect, I wish I’d used my pen as a true pen, instead of a novelty leftover from when I was a girl who once dreamt of being an author.

Why?

Because—just like in Son of Ereubus, nothing is what I thought it would be. I don’t feel like I thought I would. I am not reacting as I thought I would, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.  Blogging only goes so far. “Getting over it” only goes so far. “Holding your head up” only shuts out so much.

I mentioned, months ago, that everything was changing for me. Part of that change includes  sudden interest in my life, attention from people with whom I’ve tried desperately over the years to rekindle relationships—with whom I’ve tried to start friendships with, in some cases. It’s a double-edged sword. I am both grateful and heartbroken: Grateful because the support has been overwhelming; heartbroken, because it has nothing at all to do with me as a person.

I am now the equivalent of my accomplishments. This isn’t universally true—of course–there are some folks who have been in my life and been by my side since long before any of my dreams started to appear even remotely possible. This post isn’t about them.

So, with all of that in mind, let’s talk about relationships for a moment.

Brutal honesty, while honorable in some circles, is simply cruel in others. Siblings, parents, close friends and spouses often bear the brunt of our less-civilized selves, in part because we know they love us and that they aren’t going anywhere … when in truth, they should be granted only the best of what we are as human beings. They deserve our highest respect and deepest consideration. Yet, we seem to reserve those things for veritable strangers … people we want to impress or from whom we have something to gain.

We are not immune to this as storytellers.

Our fellow authors deserve nothing from us but the kindest regard and the sincerest empathy. Instead, we’re often consumed with jealousy or simply too absorbed in our own pursuits to realize how our actions affect our peers in publishing. It all stems back to this childish competition mode that a good majority of writers fall into … as if one person’s triumph has anything at all to do with yours.

Seriously, as a whole, authors can be the most self-serving assholes on the planet. I’ve watched writers tear each other apart, disregard favors, back-stab and sabotage till they’ve flat run out of ideas. Then they wait till opportunity knocks. If you don’t have any clue what I’m talking about, then good for you. But, read on anyway because if you stay on this career path, you will eventually understand me. It might take moving up the food chain a few notches. The darkness of human nature, in some ways, seems at its most raw and excitable in the creative world. Maybe this is because we deal with the soul on a daily basis. I genuinely don’t know. And religious authors are not exempt from this untoward behavior. They just do a better job of hiding their nastiness.

Not all authors are this way (yet those who are, are unavoidable). Some of us will genuinely do anything and everything we can to help out other people. We want to see others succeed because we remember what it was like to feel the all-mighty Power of Suck. Hell, I’ve given shards of my soul away for the benefit of others, and you know what … it was worth it. I’d do it over again in a heart beat. The problem though, is that a great portion of up-and-coming authors are downright selfish. Pure and simple. A great many mid-level authors, who’ve been in the game for years are even worse. They’re not just egocentric, they’re ravenous and exhausted from treading proverbial water. They’re tired of being the sum total of their achievements to their friends and family, and especially strangers, and some are out for blood.

And in a way, it reminds me of the 1932 film ‘The Most Dangerous Game.’ Why? Well, here’s the plot (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Famous big game hunter and author Bob Rainsford  swims to a small, lush island, the sole survivor of a shipwreck. There, he becomes the guest of Russian Count Zaroff, a fellow hunting enthusiast. Zaroff remarks that Bob’s misfortune is not uncommon; in fact, four people from the previous sinking are still staying with him: Eve Trowbridge, her brother Martin, and two sailors.

That night, Zaroff introduces Bob to the Trowbridges and reveals his obsession with hunting. During one of his hunts, a Cape buffaloinflicted a head wound on him. He eventually became bored of the sport, to his great consternation, until he discovered “the most dangerous game” on his island. Bob asks if he means tigers, but Zaroff denies it. Later, Eve shares her suspicions of Zaroff’s intentions with the newcomer. The count took each sailor to see his trophy room, on different days, and both have mysteriously disappeared. She believes their host is responsible, but Bob is unconvinced.

Then Martin vanishes as well. In their search for him, Bob and Eve end up in Zaroff’s trophy room, where they find a man’s head mounted on the wall. Then, Zaroff and his men appear, carrying Martin’s body. Zaroff expects Bob to view the matter like him and is gravely disappointed when Bob calls him a madman.

He decides that, as Bob refuses to be a fellow hunter, he must be the next prey. If Bob can stay alive until sunrise, Zaroff promises him and Eve their freedom. However, he has never lost the game of what he calls “outdoor chess”. Eve decides to go with Bob.

Eventually, they are trapped by a waterfall. While Bob is being attacked by a hunting dog, Zaroff shoots, and the young man falls into the water. Zaroff takes Eve back to his fortress, to enjoy his prize. However, the dog was shot, not Bob. Bob fights first Zaroff, then his henchmen, killing them. As Bob and Eve speed away in a motor boat, a not-quite-dead Zaroff tries to shoot them, but he succumbs to his wounds and falls out of the window where below are his hunting dogs, it is assumed that the dogs kill him for good.

Head on a wall anyone? There are days when this plot certainly seems to do a damn good job hemming up the publishing industry. And it certainly sums up what it means in this current climate to be an author in general. Whether it’s by fellow scribes, or old friends, we’re hunted once we’ve joined the game … one way or another. We can deny it all we like. But, we’re in this for better or worse. We agreed to this. Didn’t we? This most dangerous game?

 

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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.

The Biggest Lie of Them All

“I grew up in a place where everybody was a storyteller, but nobody wrote. It was that kind of Celtic, storytelling tradition: everybody would have a story at the pub or at parties, even at the clubs and raves.”  Irvine Welsh

It’s visceral, isn’t it? This calling that we’ve entered into?

It’s no wonder we take things like criticisms, rules, guidelines, reviews, and the like, so seriously. I posted a link on my FB page several days ago that led to a post written by a good friend of mine over at The Lit Lab. The heart of the post was centered around the lies we’ve allowed ourselves to believe about writing and about being a professional author (you can find that post here). Reading that inspired list led me to start thinking…what lies have we told ourselves, or allowed ourselves to believe, about what it means to BE an author—a storyteller?

*You can’t develop your voice as an author until you’ve written for years and nothing that you write prior to your first published work will be worth holding onto.

Um…shall I list all of the famous works of literature that were the author’s firsts? I’d rather not, since it would take me more room than a single post on WordPress allows. This is utter bullshit, I don’t care if an agent (or any other authoritative figure) has told you otherwise. Think of it like this: Not everyone needs to date around before finding the one they’re destined to spend their life with. Some do. Others know the moment they meet them. Some authors spend years in silence, never penning a thing, then suddenly they find their voice and set off writing like their keyboards are on fire.

*All advice from reputable sources (agents, publishers, editors, critique group members, alpha & beta readers), is good advice.

Need I mention again, Tolkien’s advice to Lewis to nix Father Christmas from the Chronicles of Narnia? Even as I type that it sounds like good advice doesn’t it? Except for all of those children who listed it as their favorite part of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. And the fact that Lewis, in his heart, knew that Father Christmas couldn’t be cut from the story.

*You MUST know everything about the craft of writing, in order to be a good storyteller.

Have you never been to a bar before? Have you never sat around a campfire and heard Uncle Whoever retell his childhood escapades in such a way that has the whole crowd dying with laughter? Have you never been to summer camp and been huddled beneath your sleeping bag in dread terror while some counselor (me), or fellow camper (also me) told you the scariest story you’ve ever heard? Do you live under a rock? Storytelling, to some folks, is second nature. I think I can safely say that I’m one of them. You likely are as well, but haven’t gathered the guts to state that you believe that for the record. And before you go there, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn the basics. All I’m saying, is that the first guy or gal who told a story, likely didn’t know the parts of the story by what would become their “proper” names. Those are merely formalities. Imagine it like two people who speak different languages, meeting and falling in love. Sure, there might be a little fumbling around in the beginning, but eventually you develop your own method of communication and everything else falls into place. If it’s meant to be, you don’t have WORK at it that hard. It. Just. Is.

*In order to be a great author, you have to be able to write outstanding queries.

I’m sorry, I can hardly type from the tears I’m shedding in laughter over this one. I’ve read this on more than one agent’s blog, and a couple of publishers, but ironically, I’ve never seen it on an author’s blog. Wonder why? Gee…hmmm….give me a second. ‘Cause it’s…you guessed it….total shit. Some of us, just aren’t short-winded. Period. Yes, it’s a fault. Yes, it sucks. YES, it means it’ll take longer to get someone’s attention if you’re in that category and you’re unpublished. Does it mean you won’t ever be successful or famous? No. Not at all. And frankly, I have no idea where this idea came from. Queries and novels are not the same thing for a reason, and the pervasive idea that if you can’t sum up your novel in 300 words or less, then you don’t know what it’s about, is LUDICROUS. And I don’t mean the band.

Seriously, this one is one of the worst bits of writing “truth” I’ve read. It’s terribly discouraging and does nothing but make writing a query harder for those of us who struggle with writing them in the first place. So, do yourself (and me) a favor and don’t spread that horse manure. If you only knew the number of NYT bestselling authors who hired a ghost writer to write their queries for them…(how do I know this? Because I know a handful of ghost writers who have written them for NYT bestselling authors).

*The difference between authors and writers, is that authors have been traditionally published.

I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. Really? I’ve read that one on writers’ sites. Shame on you! You ought to know better. Do you think that because you are published that you have the right to make others feel less worthy than you? No, writers are folks who write. Period. This encompasses everything from obituaries and classified ads, to text books and personal weblogs. Authors, tell stories. That’s all. That’s the distinction. Check out Webster if you don’t believe me. Now, I will give you the caveat that in order to be an author, you do have to have actually *finished* a novel, short story, or novella. Publication has nothing to do with it. That’s merely recognition for having done something, it doesn’t have any bearing on whether you’ve actually done the thing or not. If you’re still “researching” that first novel, and have been for the last ten years, then you’re still a writer. Only when you’re done do you get to call yourself an author. Even if your cat is the only sentient being to set eyes on it after that.

I think even Donald Maass may have stated that in one of his many manifestos on how to be a bestselling author.

How ’bout I’ll just settle for being an author, and let the cards fall where they may. Hm? K. Thanks.

*But, the biggest lie of them all is this: As an author, I am worth the value that others place on my work.

Nothing, nothing, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve told myself this one. I’m willing to bet that at some point in your writing life, you will too. There are two kinds of authors: Those who’ve bought the bullshit, and those who will. Not a single one of us is exempt from taking a reviewer too seriously, or a crit partner, or an agent, or an editor. Not a single one of us is exempt from wondering, at some dark moment, has this all been worth it? Not a single one of us is exempt from feeling, in a moment of weakness, like our hold on the English language is a tad more tenuous than we’d suspected.

Truth is, we’re all learning, and no work is perfect. No work is without its quirks. No author is free of them either, but isn’t that what makes our calling so great? No other profession in the world is quite like it. Some might come close, but they’ll never reach the heights that being an author will show you. You’ll never take another path and reach a higher summit.

Whatever lies you believe…don’t believe the biggest of them all. At the very least, do yourself, and the rest of us who will (or already do) love your writing, and your characters, and your worlds, do us the favor of having faith in your natural instincts.

Requiem

“If man were immortal he could be perfectly sure of seeing the day when everything in which he had trusted should betray his trust, and, in short, of coming eventually to hopeless misery.  He would break down, at last, as every good fortune, as every dynasty, as every civilization does.  In place of this we have death.”
~Charles Sanders Peirce

I can vividly remember sitting at the conference room table, on my lunch break, beginning the journal that would eventually serve as my plot book for Fable. About a month later, towards Halloween, I sat down with my laptop and without any thought to when I would finish it or if it would be published or even if anyone other than myself would ever read it, I began to write. I’d realized, through the most sundry conversation in the world, that I had to either step out in faith that I had talent enough to do what my heart wanted, or give up and walk away. No more talking about being a writer, no more saying that one day I’ll get around to it. That was 3 1/2 years ago. On March 30, 2010 I was offered a publishing contract on Fable, which will tentatively launch sometime in November/December of this year.

And just as I embarked on a journey then, walking blindly into unknown territory, I am doing so again as I go through the process of negotiating the contract and beginning a relationship with Rhemalda Publishing. It is the death of one part of my life and the birth of another. And even now, before having stepped farther than two feet down this path, I can assure you that it has brought irrevocable change to who I am as an author.

I once had fears that I would never be able to finish Fable; not that I wasn’t motivated but fears that I was unable (in more romantic moments I would have said unworthy). But, the words never stopped coming and within 12 months I’d finished all three books in the first trilogy. And even though there may have been a point in my writing life where I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would be too thrilled about a contract to care about anything else, I still fear being unable. I’ve grown considerably as an author since I wrote or even revised book one, and of course there will be an editor going through the manuscript and hopefully fixing my adverb abuse (wasn’t aware that I had this problem until recently). All that aside, there is this little part of me that feels like I’m standing on the edge of this huge precipice staring into utter nothingness and everything in me wants to cling to the cliff and not leap off. But, I will leap. I owe the book that much.

Sweet Dreams

Last Rites--Yogoro

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion where I get my ideas from. I’ve said loosely that I get most of them from dreams, and perhaps that answer has been thrown out insincerely by others. I was never joking (weird, right?) when I said it. Which can only lead me to one conclusion: I’ve got one hell of a twisted mind to come up with some of the dark, eerie things that wind up taking form in my dreams. Consider the image I chose for this post—welcome to my world.

What brought this on? I had another dream night before last that had me furiously scribbling images before they could flee. The novels of ‘undetermined genre’ that were wrecking the pool table, well, this was one of them. I laughed when I woke up, right after breathing a sigh of relief that I had been in fact dreaming, because I knew it was coming. And all of this got me thinking about things that are truly, deeply, terrifying. What scares me? Well, subtly scares me worse than anything blatant. The moment in the movie where the camera is focused on the main character and pans across something in the background that makes your skin crawl, that has you clutching the arm of your chair going, “Wait, WTF? Did you just see that?”

The trick will be figuring out how to do that in a novel. I’ve never written horror before—and being me, this will of course be dark fantasy and not truly Horror in the purest sense of the genre. Nonetheless, it will be as close to horror as I’ll ever come as an author. Because the images are so random in my head, and trying to string them together right now to tell you a story is impossible, allow me some room to give you a brief glimpse of what I dreamt.

The beginning of the story (and what I saw first in the dream) shows a girl who is either with friends or alone in a car, driving at night, and suddenly wrecks. Nothing is said as to what happened next or how it relates to the rest of the story.

The main character is a man, somewhere in his thirties, a physician. He is playing a game with friends—maybe at a holiday party, or birthday party, something. Somehow this will lead them into a world that feels like a cross between that of Silent Hill/Pan’s Labyrinth & American McGhee’s Alice in Wonderland. There is clear, yet dying goodness beneath all of the dark, otherworldly stuff—flowers choked by weeds, figuratively speaking. He realizes somewhere along the way that they are inside of the girl’s head, where she is trapped by whatever ‘evil’ force rules that world. The main character comes to this conclusion after it is revealed that he is her doctor—she is in a coma at the hospital where he works. At some point the others (those left alive—lol), will have a chance to escape and he will decide to risk his own life and stay behind, to go after her. So, there is a classical fairy tale element here, but much, much darker than anything I’ve ever written. This is not to say that I’m new to these types of images though. I’ve spent years telling these stories—and for some of you reading this on Facebook, who have known me for a while, you may remember me at some point scaring the pants off of you. Sorry about that, by the way.

I’ve always loved horror—movies, novels, the whole nine yards. I’ve always liked the rush and adrenaline that comes with feeling like you’re flirting with death. I guess it’s no different than people who go bungee jumping or cliff diving. I prefer to do so with my imagination. My mother asked me lovingly at lunch the other day, where she went so wrong? (She was kidding—right mom?)

Ah, I’m perfectly sane. Balanced. Just darkly imaginative. My mind is always speeding at ninety to nothing—can’t help it. Wouldn’t want it any other way. So what about you? What frightens you? What makes you leave the light on?

Mad World

Organic

Being a writer is an interesting thing. Some people are awed by it, others are mystified at our persistence. Either way, there is a reason for the stereotypical, ‘misunderstood’ author who wears all black and mopes about. It isn’t a matter of depression or apathy…it’s something deeper than that—more fundamental. There is a well of emotion that accompanies the feeling of ‘creation’ in the way an author feels it. It isn’t the same as painting a picture or writing a song: We mold worlds and out of that mire, we sculpt sentient beings to populate those worlds. Yet, at the end of the day, the paragraph, the page, the story, our characters are still there. It seems perhaps a flighty emotional thing to say, but truly listen for a moment. We fall in love, we fight for truth or justice, or just another day’s breath—we hate, struggle against poverty, injustice, cruelty or we struggle with the inability to come to grips with the guilt of a character’s actions. As an author, we experience in a way—even if it be slight, everything our characters experience. We joke about it, we make light of the journey—mostly to make the path a little less jagged and the rocks a tad smoother.

Often, in the early hours of day—when the mind isn’t aware of things like ‘time’ or ‘place’, these things take on a power of their own. I will never touch Tabor’s face, or trace the lines of his scarred, dragon, skin. I will never hear Ariana or Aubrey sing. I will never taste Bronach’s tears or hold Jullian’s hand. I will never yell at Trinity to stop being so damned self-righteous. I will never walk through the ruins of the Garden of Dedication in Adoria, or brave the Goblin Keep of Koldavere in Avalar. I will never see the suns set in Sedel. I will never tuck Lucan into bed, or read him a bedtime story, or wash his worn, pilled, snoopy pajamas. I will never know the name of Bronach’s lost love because he cannot bear to bring her to mind—so neither can I. There is at least one moment, in every author’s life, where the depth of their grief is profound, and it won’t have anything to do with tangible circumstances. Those events certainly affect writers, as they would most people, but this isn’t what I mean. How do you mourn imaginary things? Places you’ll never tread, landscapes you’ll never truly feel and characters you’ll never touch. It may not have come for you yet—rest easy, friend, for it will. If not now, later. It will come and I want you to be prepared for it. I wasn’t.

It was sometime between dusk and dawn, the night air was cold—I could feel it coming from the open flue of the fireplace. I was working on ‘A Thief of Nightshade’. It was one of those sessions where all the effort is in your head and your hands move fluidly over the keyboard and you fight to keep up with your story. And suddenly, as the song I was listening to stopped, I felt it—utter stillness. The scene played on; Jullian woke from his nightmarish captivity to feel the weight of the Fae crown on his head and the overwhelming guilt of realizing that his precious love—the shy girl he’d fallen in love with and married, from our world—had somehow crossed over into Avalar and found him despite all odds. But it had cost her dearly and at that moment, that cost appeared to be her life. And as I watched him pull her into his arms, touch her face, breathe her name, I suddenly understood, in a bizarrely authentic way, what it meant to experience that particular loss. He didn’t believe that she would ever see his world. When she does, he bitterly regrets the price. As authors, we create worlds that are hard for some to even imagine, but it comes at a cost.

I’ve read that most authors experience grief at the end of a story, that a depression ensues that isn’t too unlike mourning a death. But, even that is different. This is the stark realization that our hearts believe in these worlds more than we think. Rationally speaking, we know that what we pen is false—we spend countless hours weaving things in such a way as to convince the reader to buy the lies. And yet, in doing so, somewhere along the way, we bought them too. I suppose that in all good stories, the author has bought them first. How else would we weep at fictional scenes? You could explain the empathy by using the idea of universal humanity, and this may be the case for some readers, but not for us. We are different beings in our own worlds. Changed. And once we emerge, we are never the same.

I’ve said before that writing a novel is like a relationship. If this is true, then the relationship we have with the worlds we create may be likened to a lifetime. And authors have often mused that they have perhaps lived a multitude of lives, and ultimately—those lives are lost to us all the same. Because when that moment comes, the one I am now formally warning you of, it feels like a life has been untimely taken. Most of us have experienced death, the physical feeling that sweeps over you when you remember that you’ll never see that person again—you pick up the phone to dial their number, only to realize with jarring pain, that they aren’t there on the other end. I closed my laptop that night, and whispered into the dark—cold breathed and numb, ‘were it only so.’

For readers, some worlds never die…for authors, those worlds die a thousand deaths. This is just one of many, and I pay the price gladly…but every now and then, I grieve.

Foundations of a Writing Life

This will likely translate to another article for Examiner, but I’m going with the casual side of things for now (for this blog anyway). After being stuck on the last few chapters of ‘Nightshade’, I broke ground. Once I voluntarily walked away from gainful employment back in September, I struggled to overcome depression and heartache and to really write like I once had—with total abandon and dogged perseverance.  I realized today, just like I realized after my first really bad block, that all it takes is the promise of a deadline. An immediate deadline. You see, I sat down in my kitchen this morning and proclaimed to the dogs (I mean this literally), that I wasn’t going to get up until I had the rest of Nightshade plotted.

They laughed.

And yet, I emerged triumphant, despite my own fears and doubts (and those of my hairy companions). 1500 words of plot, fully fleshed out and ready to be written. Tomorrow (or likely the very wee hours of tomorrow), will bring with it an excitement that I haven’t genuinely experienced in over a year. I wrote Icarus (the vampire novel that I’ve been working on and no, that isn’t the title…consider it a nickname) while I was working in the dredges of hell. Ok, that was a tad dramatic, but you’d understand if you worked there. And while I love the characters and their story, it wasn’t the same as Nightshade and the Fable trilogy. It’s a matter of urban vs. epic fantasy. Even though Nightshade is a stand alone piece, the stakes involved are epic indeed. So, the bottom line is that the emotions involved in those works differ from one to the next: Icarus is gritty and harsh—bloody, gruesome, gratuitous sex and violence (and inappropriate humor). Nightshade and Fable, are light and while there are most certainly darker scenes in both (this is me we’re talking about here), they don’t translate the same to me emotionally, as an author.

All of this got me thinking about what it means to be a writer. We’ve discussed writing rituals and how isolating an experience it can be, but those are different things. I am talking about the decision to become more than merely a writer by title, but by practice. You are essentially laying down a foundation for your life as a writer—unknowingly, you are setting a cornerstone into place that will determine how you deal with frustration, sorrow, relationships and ultimately, how you will see your writing in light of publication or lack there of. You’ve got to ask yourself the question, “Am I writing for recognition, or for the craft of it.” This is not the same thing as asking if you wish to be published or not. Don’t confuse the two. The former question is simply clarifying your motives. The answer is the cement of your foundation. It is the thing that glues it all together and not unlike a story, it is what gives you strength while you are still learning and developing. Consider this: If you knew, right now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your work would never be published, would you write it anyway?

Would I? You ask. Without any hesitation, my answer is yes. Yes, a thousand times. When I started, I feared what all new authors fear—not being talented enough. But, I’ve come to learn that while I will always fear not being ‘good enough’, you only lose this battle when you quit. So what if you suck right now? Most authors who write for a living will admit to sucking worse five years ago (assuming they were writing then), than now. Some claim to still suck, though we as readers know better. What was their answer to that question? Agents tell us all the time, that the chances of getting published are akin to winning the lottery. Friends and family ask why we don’t take up something more, profitable? But if you love writing enough and believe in your characters and stories enough, there is no other option but to spend time with them and work on putting down a reasonable resemblance to what we see in our heads.  It may take much, much longer than you expect. It may flow better than you dreamed possible. But you will never know until you begin.

So, lay those foundations. Set a goal, find someone to hold you accountable. I’m always here. Have a great Monday tomorrow!

J.S.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

I can’t tell you the last time I was actually depressed. Its been awhile for sure. While I was  cleaning the house today, I finally realized why I’ve been so sluggish lately. I have been a little under the weather since I left work. But, there is a difference between the blah feelings of fighting off a cold and the tell tale signs of, my good old friend, depression. So, as much as I hate to admit it–I need to.

Depression affects everything. My writing, my social life and most certainly my ability to function on a professional level–not that my writing career is really soaring or anything. Still, getting up and out of bed has a pretty high correlation to productivity. It’s likely the reason I haven’t been sleeping too well lately (though last night wasn’t too bad–which, come to think of it, could have been the cough syrup–Codeine’s good stuff.

I’ve lost weight–not a ton, but enough. My appetite sucks. I look awful; pale, lackluster complexion and dark circles under my eyes. What’s worse, is that I am already on an antidepressant, though it isn’t for depression. It’s for Trigeminal Neuralgia (long story). I think part of it, is that I didn’t see myself here at 28. I thought things would be different by now. I’m not normally this translucent or vulnerable in blog posts, but everyone’s got to confess sometime, right? I suppose this is mine. My heart is broken. And its broken deeper than I thought. I haven’t really written much more than a few paragraphs or a few drafted ideas in nearly two months. I know that my sadness has to do with my lack of really spending time with my passion (articles don’t count for me as writing), but its a vicious cycle. You would think it would be easy enough to sink into another world when I have so staggeringly little interest in this one, but it’s not that simple. When I was in Jr. High, it was…but not now. And there isn’t enough codeine in the world to make that pain go away. There isn’t enough alcohol or Saturday morning cartoons, or pictures of better days or songs on the radio.

I’m not usually a fan of weepy, emotional writing. I grew out of that when I left freshman year in college. But, my guts feel like they’ve been ripped out. And there is just this big hollow place left. I don’t want to hear about God, or how much Jesus loves me. I know all of that. I’m tired of cliche answers. There simply isn’t anything to say. Sometimes life hurts. Period. This is one of those times. Even Christ allowed people to suffer–wasn’t Peter stoned and crucified upside down? Just in case anyone was contemplating telling me how God doesn’t want me to feel this way. I think he’s got  bigger things to deal with than my petty issues. I don’t need to pray for God’s wisdom on what eye shadow I need to wear tomorrow–I’m not one of those people. I was long, long ago. But after getting burnt enough, you realize that religion and holiness have nearly nothing to do with each other.

Is it really darkest before the dawn? I heard that somewhere. I feel a little like Alice, and I keep waiting for a rabbit to follow–for something to change, but it never really will, will it? Childhood is over. My friend and I often lament how things have so changed since we were younger. How did we become so bitter?

Caterpillar: Who are YOU?
Alice: This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.

The Duchess:
I quite agree with you. And the moral of that is: Be what you would seem to be, or if you’d like it put more simply: Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.

Alice: But I don’t want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you can’t help that. We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.
Alice: How do you know I’m mad?
The Cat: You must be. Or you wouldn’t have come here.
Alice: And how do you know that you’re mad?
The Cat: To begin with, a dog’s not mad. You grant that?
Alice: I suppose so,
The Cat: Well, then, you see, a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.

Alice: I’ve had nothing yet, so I can’t take more.
The Hatter: You mean you can’t take less; it’s very easy to take more than nothing.

The White Queen: Can you do addition? What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?
Alice: I don’t know. I lost count.

Alice: And how many hours a day did you do lessons?
The Mock Turtle: Ten hours the first day, nine the next, and so on.
Alice: What a curious plan!
The Gryphon: That’s the reason they’re called lessons, because they lessen from day to day.

So, there it is…my thoughts for the day. If you are here from facebook and feel generous enough to comment, please, please do so at the blog itself. http://www.jschancellor.wordpress.com  (besides, the blog looks cooler)

quotes taken from about.com

Nature’s First Green is Gold

Oak Mountain 2008

Oak Mountain 2008

I am a Fall and Winter child. Nothing touches my soul quite like those two seasons. The yellow, red and orange leaves paired with the chill in the air, somehow inspire me. Maybe it’s the northern girl in me. I’ve spent most of my life in the south, but it’s no different from being born in Ireland and then moving to LA. You’re still Irish.

All of this seasonal chit chat got me thinking about my writing rituals. (You’ve already blogged about this! You scream…yeah, yeah. And I’m blogging about it again.) I have a hard time writing in the summer months. Serious trouble. I don’t know what it is about the heat that bothers me, but it stifles my creative chi. Spring can be just as bad down here, though not as miserable. I like to be cold, near frigid. I love a hot cup of coffee or hot tea (usually the former) and something to munch on. And there are three scents of candles that I burn on a regular basis, regardless of the time of year; mistletoe, harvest wreath and pumpkin spice. Awesome. I also tend to write better late at night.

We have a camping trip planned for next weekend, as long as it doesn’t pour on us. We try to go every year about this time. I need some peace and quiet. I REALLY need some time away from the internet. I love freelance writing, but this has been hard on my fantasy projects. But, I persist. I have been polishing the second book of Fable and I’m really close to being able to wrap it up and start the final edits on book three. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to putting the first trilogy away and starting work on the second. I’ve still got Icarus and Nightshade to finish too, though those both are only a handful of chapters away from being done (first draft anyway–we won’t discuss edits for those yet. It’s always best to shelve a project for at least a month or two before going back and editing.)

Ben, my husband, has had tremendous luck doing his part-time cop stuff this past weekend and he scored a long term part-time  job yesterday. That’s exciting. He loves his job and really enjoys doing stuff on the side. Today and last night he got paid to eat free food and hang out at a football game. I mean, I realize that if the stuff hits the fan, he’s there with taser and gun in hand, but more often than not, nothing happens. We’re getting adjusted to me being at home and I am finding my comfort zone with Demand Studios, as far as how many articles a week I can handle. I put a bid in for a few significant projects, which I realize I am woefully under qualified for, but what is there to lose? I have to start somewhere and I’ve finished over 45 or so articles for Demand Studios, so I have enough of a portfolio now to get some exposure. I also recently put in for Trails.com, which I am more qualified for since I love the outdoors so much. The titles in that arena are much more in my area of expertise. We’ll see how that goes.

So, I am going to spend the rest of the day and this evening, working on my own projects. Maybe that will encourage me to crank out a few more articles for pay tomorrow.

Demand Studios, eHow and all things wonderful

So, after my last cathartic post, I am feeling slightly better. Every now and then you just need to blog and get it out of your system before you can move on and be productive. I guess that was my two minutes of crying and pitching a fit…and now for something completely different.

I’ve been doing pretty well on the article writing. I just recently got my internet hooked up, so this coming week will likely be a little more productive. It’s odd with my husband working 6 days on and 3 days off. My ‘weekend’ changes from one week to the next. But, honestly, its nice because my schedule is now totally wide open and flexible. Yesterday, I didn’t feel much like getting dressed and sitting in the office, so I turned on the tube, made breakfast and worked in my jammies. From bed. Sooo awesome. I don’t recommend it for daily use, but it rocked yesterday. Fresh, cold, organic tomatoes and hot corned beef and potato hash…mmmm. Total comfort food. Not to mention the orange juice that tasted like it was freshly squeezed.

I’ve learned that having what you want comes at a price, and the question you need to ask yourself, is ‘what are you willing to give up?’  I was willing to give up security (clearly), tenure, several shards of my self esteem, a steady paycheck and most definitely my ego. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I would give it all up again in a heart beat, even with all the crying and fit pitching associated with it.

So how do you work from home without losing your sanity? I’ve done some research, and of course some short term trial and error, and here are my two cents.

1. Drink Coffee. Still have breakfast like you normally would. If you used to munch at your desk or sip on a latte while getting your morning started, then do it at your home office. Spend a few moments each morning at rest, waking up. Watch the news, the weather channel, or have quiet time with God, whatever your thing is. I have a friend who watches Good Morning America every morning, religiously.

2. Take a shower, brush your teeth and ‘get dressed’ just like you would if you were going to work outside of your home. Now, this being said, I don’t mean wearing ‘dress’ clothes, but if you’re a woman–put on light make-up, wear a bra, etc. The rule of thumb, if someone were to come to your door, would you be embarrassed? I personally prefer comfy pants and fitted t-shirts or sweaters. But, I make a point to ‘get’ ready each morning like normal.

3. Invest in whatever you need to make your office space comfortable and productive. A really good chair, with padding, etc. I have a huge chair and a half that I have in my office so that when my back and knees start hurting, I can stretch out and still write. I also have a plethora of candles that I love to smell. I made sure to position my desk so that I can look out of the window and see the wood line.

4. Set aside days for stuff like housework and laundry. Don’t try to do this while you’re working. Believe me, its the same with novel writing, you’ll suddenly find that those household chores are FAR more interesting and in dire need of your attention.

5. Don’t work 8 hours straight. Or eight hours a day if you can help it. I’ve read that 5 hours a day is more ideal if you are working at home. There are a myriad of reasons for this, and why you can get away with working less. If you were working at a typical office/cubicle job, and if you’re real with yourself then you’ll admit you did an awful lot of staring at your desk. It’s why I love the movie Office Space. (There will likely be a whole separate blog dedicated to this).

So, I will leave you with this thought…

“I thoroughly disapprove of duels. Should a man challenge me, I would take him forgivingly, lovingly, by the hand to a quiet place and kill him.”  —Mark Twain.

Upward Mobility in a Downward World

So, I’ve done the deed. I turned in a two week notice to my perfectly fine, but absolutely miserable job.  Ask me if I had something lined up. Haha, nope. Not a thing. Not even a shadow of something. But, there are times in your life when you’ve just gotta do what you know is the right thing for you…whether it makes sense to everyone else in your life or not. So, I did.

I knew my husband would be able to pick up some part time gigs, paying three times what I could get paid, as a cop. And I had this vague notion that I might be able to do some freelance writing on the side. When I say vague, I mean microscopic. So, when I read of another blogger’s experience writing full time for Demand Studios, I checked it out. I sent in my resume, a writing sample and prayed. A lot. I’ve read they’re quite picky and it can take awhile to get on board or even hear back with a rejection. But, low and behold, I was accepted. I thought it was too good to be true, but there is something about filling out a W-9 that’s encouraging.

So, I suppose I’ve left security behind for freedom–as my friend put it. Am I freaked out? You bet. But honestly, there is a part of me that has come alive and feels completely renewed with the power of my own future. I control directly how much money I make and where I want to make it. I can write at Starbucks, or on the couch in my pj’s. This blows me away. I realize that there are freelance writers out there who make quadruple what I’ll be making, but by working 25 hours a week, I’ll make more than I make at my current job–so I’ll take the steady work.

And what’s most important to me–my novel writing–will finally be able to take center stage. I’ll still have a schedule. I think this is absolutely pivotal to making it on your own as a freelancer. I’ve always been organized and able to effectively manage my time. All that to say that I’ve never been so excited about something that could very well turn out to kick me in the ass three weeks from now. Hope abounds and my soul feels like its been revived. I know, dramatic much? Sorry, I don’t normally blog about my personal life, but as a writer we are still deeply connected to our every day lives. I’m learning this more and more everyday.

Now, telling my in-laws is a whole other story. I’ll get to that eventually, but hopefully it will be with a few checks in hand to show that I wasn’t completely out of my mind (I say that because my father-in-law does our taxes and will inevitably know if I fail at this). For now i have my own father’s grumbled acknowledgment of what I truly believe was a good decision. And that’s enough to contend with. One day at a time, folks. One day at a time.

As far as that novel writing goes, I am on the last few chapters of my fifth novel and wrapping up the last quarter of my fourth. I’ve been writing both of those on an alternating basis. Interesting endeavor since they are in different tenses. I don’t recommend it. And I owe some of you an apology–I’ve teased some of you for writing/reading about vampires and you have the right to call me a hypocrite because my fifth book is an urban fantasy…about vampires. Oops. I swore I wouldn’t, but what was supposed to be an exercise in first person morphed out of control and 86,000 words later–I have another novel. Who knew?

Some stories are just like that; they come crashing through your front door (or frontal lobe whichever the case) and demand quarter. Other stories have to cultivate for years and age before they can be written and they take every ounce of your soul as payment. I know, Fable is one of those series: Nine books total, only the first three are finished, Fable spans multiple worlds and has a truly epic cast of characters that range from a disgruntled warrior to a voracious pet dragon named Cryx. I will die with this story still on my heart.

Fable was born out of a dream I had when I was eleven. Let me share the beginnings of that dream with you:

The Ereubinians, gifted with the power to steal the human soul, rule Middengard: the realm of Man. In the beginning, Middengard was successful in defending its people, but as the first age of war came to an end, and the Ereubinians conquered the once legendary city of Eidolon, Man began to weaken in their resolve and a fable began to take shape; first in whispers heard at battle’s end, then in legends passed down from one generation to the next. Soon, myth became prayer and an unwavering faith in an unseen realm was born.

For centuries that fable fueled the vitality of the human heart, but eventually the free lands waned and Eidolon’s rule overshadowed the few that subsisted on their own. Finally only one stronghold, Palingard, remained.

As Palingard falls, three individuals will discover that their lives are intertwined, and everything they once thought to be truth will be irrevocably changed…

Ariana, spared in Palingard by her would-be captor, journeys in her father’s last known footsteps only to discover that not only are the legends of Adoria real—she is more a part of them than she could ever imagine.

Garren, High Lord Commander of Eidolon, and sworn enemy of Adoria, must grapple with his suddenly waning faith after he saves the life of a girl in Palingard, and weigh what remains of it against the light he never knew existed.

Michael, sovereign ruler of Adoria, bears the same burden of guardianship as that of his forefathers, but when the divide that has always protected Adoria fails, and an elaborate conspiracy to keep his sister’s existence from him is revealed, he must decide if man’s soul can still be saved – and at what cost.

All I want for Christmas is an agent

n50503723_30999745_267 Writers endure more judgment and criticism than perhaps any other art aside from music. Agents write blogs on the amount of drivel they read in the slush piles, ranting on how many of us they would like to bar from ever buying another laptop, or picking up another pen. Even when one of us has the good fortune to get published, reviews can cut right to the bone. Some of them are purposely written to make the reviewer seem more important than they really are.  So here is my question, does it matter, really? When you read rants from agents about ill-prepared authors or seemingly thin plot-lines and less than stellar characters, does it discourage you from writing?
There are times when it discourages me from submitting. Mostly, I chastise myself for wasting time on the Internet in the first place. But, there are times when the weight grows too heavy and it halts my ambition. That’s when any author needs to take a few days away from the phone and Internet, and recharge.
Receiving tons of rejection doesn’t mean your work is genuis waiting to be discovered, just as being placed on the shelves of Barnes and Noble doesn’t mean it has been. Trends in publishing wax and wane and the personal tastes of burnt out agents, editors and publishers only narrow down the slight venue that makes it to print. This, at the end of the day, means little in relation to your story.
I read a review from a website I am quite fond of, that felt harsh. I won’t go into which author or what book, but what I will say is that it felt like the reviewer wanted the author to follow certain formulas, map out characters in a very specific way and even went so far as to critisize the plot itself. Clearly, he didn’t care for the book…so why make the assumption that it needed to be changed? If you want it to be another book, perhaps you should just…read. another. book.
I don’t know, maybe I am too sensitive, but I hurt for her. She responded far more professionally than I might have been tempted to. She was applauded for accepting criticism so gracefully. I don’t do much of anything gracefully, let alone taking shots like that. I’ve never been accused of playing well with others. (Unless of course those ‘others’ happen to be my characters, that’s a little different)
So what say you? All this makes me want to be a recluse, not that I’m not already…am I alone here?

Long time no speak…

n55716324_35424739_3118I wish I could tell you I’ve come back here to suffer through a writing hang-over with like-minded company. Alas, I have accomplished no such thing. I could give myself a little credit for having forced myself into some edits for book two. That’s worth half a cookie at least. Okay, a crumb. I’ll take what I can get.
This is my favorite time of year. I can’t say for sure if it is the chill in the air, the quiet frosted nights or just my love of the holidays, but for whatever reason, I love this season. I am, for better or worse, a winter girl. Yes, I know it isn’t officially winter yet. Hush, my mind isn’t aware of that. Anything in Georgia that feels below 70 degrees, is winter. Right now it is a frigid 40 something. Wonderful.
With all the banal pleasantries out of the way, let me get down to business. I have found lately that every time I spend more than a few minutes on the blogs and websites of agents, and industry “experts” that my muse all but vanishes. Its an amazing little act, no doubt…but not one I’m very fond of. Like the life that fuels my writing, so these mechanical formulas are like the ever present ‘Old Age’ that slows down youth and carelessness. The joints and bone and sinew have slowed till each stroke of the pen is like an inevitable broken bone or slip or fall. Leaning on the ‘Right Way’ to do things in some cases may be likened to living in a Retirement Community–Assisted Living.
I want to be careless again, near wreck-less in my ventures. Who cares what the market is right now? Who cares about the odds? I certainly wasted no time considering these things when I first started writing…what has changed to make this…creature…so important now?
Nothing. Plain and simple. Yes, query letters are important. Yes, form is important. But, I am letting the directions get in the way of the path.
So, while this little blog is still in fledgling posts, let me ask you. Why do you write? What warms your bones and fuels your muse?

The Devil’s in the details…

I wrote in an earlier blog,
“We musn’t tell them everything. Some things, certainly, but not everything. I mean this as no excuse for poor detail or fractured narrative. What I mean is this; know it, inside and out, every detail: The peoples, long since faded from memory that once thrived where your hero now treads; animals that will never wander in your protagonist’s path and ruins that are too covered with centuries of stories to be seen. Every rock, village, tide and turn. This is the foundation upon which worlds are built. These are the underpinnings of much greater things. Like steel beams in a modern building, it holds…it structures the fabric of your imagination.
Because after all, it is the utterance of a thing that makes it what it is. As an author, you will always (without fail) know more about your worlds than can be shared with your readers. Your acknowledgement of it is enough. If it is strong, it will carry through your prose and filter into the minds of those who dare dive deep enough. Those are the worlds that leave us dreaming long after the last page has been turned. Like the never ending story, some worlds will never die.”

I ran across a link today that caught my attention. http://www.bmarch.atfreeweb.com/Worldbuilding.htm This is a really detailed list of links.

Another link is http://www.sfwa.org/writing/worldbuilding1.htm Which happens to be my favorite.

I’ve heard it said that you can tell when someone is lying when they give too many details. The words sound false to them, so they try to make them believable with more of them. Like the classic rookie that calls out of the office, regaling his boss with all the glorious symptoms of a stomach flu…
As authors, we must resist this urge, just like any ordinary liar. We are, in a sense, professional fibbers. If we give too much away, the reader will know. What we must do is weave just enough to make it nearly tangible.

Woe is the writer who mounts their merit on the masses

M John Harrison: (On World Building)
Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.
Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unneccessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.

Above all, worldbuilding is not technically neccessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isn’t possible, & if it was the results wouldn’t be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilder’s victim, & makes us very afraid.”

I read this earlier today, and had to share it with you. A keen observation, this is. Look at what he says closely. As a reader, it is our job (nay, our pleasure) to fill in some of the blanks. As writers it is our duty to allow all others the freedom to do so.
We musn’t tell them everything. Some things, certainly, but not everything. I mean this as no excuse for poor detail or fractured narrative. What I mean is this; know it, inside and out, every detail: The peoples, long since faded from memory that once thrived where your hero now treads; animals that will never wander in your protagonist’s path and ruins that are too covered with centuries of stories to be seen. Every rock, village, tide and turn. This is the foundation upon which worlds are built. These are the underpinings of much greater things. Like steel beams in a modern building, it holds…it structures the fabric of your imagination.
Because after all, it is the utterance of a thing that makes it what it is. As an author, you will always (without fail) know more about your worlds than can be shared with your readers. Your acknowledgement of it is enough. If it is strong, it will carry through your prose and filter into the minds of those who dare dive deep enough. Those are the worlds that leave us dreaming long after the last page has been turned. Like the never ending story, some worlds will never die.

Madness ensues…

Nathan Bransford asked a really good question yesterday…What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? A myriad of responses flooded in, and much of it sounded like some of the stuff I’ve been told.  In stead of talking about what shouldn’t be done, I thought I would chat a moment about what should. Consider this quote concerning fads:

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.” 
–Ray Bradbury 

How true. How startlingly, frustratingly true. I lightly considered, as I complained about the current trends, changing my next project…or I should say I considered shelving my next project and replacing it with something that would fit the market. To even contemplate setting aside something that warms my soul to make room for something that fills my wallet, is true defeat.

So, in light of such a humbling revelation, I suspect I will get quite a good ways into book four this weekend. Nothing like stark reality to get the ink flowing again…

Some worlds never die

Some worlds will never die. Regardless of how many generations come and go, there are some places that once imagined, will never cease to be.

As a young girl, I read E. R. Eddison’s work, The Worm Ouroboros. It remained a part of my mind long after I had closed the book.
Gro answered and said, “I will not hide it from you, O my Lord the King, that in my sleep about the darkest hour a dream of the night came to my bed and beheld me with a glance so fell that the hairs of my head stood up and pale terror gat hold upon me. And methought the dream smote up the roof above my bed, and the roof yawned to the naked air of the midnight, that laboured with fiery signs, and a bearded star travelling in the houseless dark. And I beheld the roof and the walls one gore of blood. And the dream screeched like the screech-owl, crying, Witchland from thy hand, O King! And therewith the whole world seemed lighted in one flame, and with a shout I awoke sweating from the dream.”

Why is that one of my favorite passages from Ouroboros? I love the imagery. The visceral feel of the world in which Gro lives. It takes me, terrifyingly of course, to another existence. How much fiction have you read lately that can lay claim to that? So much pop fiction frustrates me. Is this a lost art? Is Epic Fantasy losing its readership to paranormal and urban fantasy? Some think so. Quite a bit has been said lately about the decline of book sales in the genre. Is this a passing trend? I personally think so. There is a really good discussion of it here http://aidanmoher.com/blog/?p=230#comment-2057
Epic stories are too much a part of our being. In a commercial, pragmatic world, its nice to fall into a realm that knows nothing of emails, or cell phones, or the wonderless existence of living in polluted, over-crowded cities.
Who hasn’t experienced loss that, even for a second, made you wish for the impossible? Even those who claim they don’t care for fantasy, are drawn to newstories that are seemingly incongruent with reality.
Our daily world is built on the foundation of immediate gratification. We are no more invested in imaginery worlds than we are our own. But, this mindset is relatively new. Like all things, it will change. We’ll find the lost art of letters, and face to face communication. Not to be archaic, but I like things that leave more than a page in your browser history. I am not alone.
So, no. I don’t think Epic Fantasy is dying. The publishing trend may be pulling things in a different direction, but as the pendulum swings it will return again. Some worlds will never die.

Writing isn’t a choice

Whoever told you that it was, must count the description of their ebay bid as writing. I write because I must. This isn’t new or unique to me as an author. I have heard this before and completely agree. Who would choose a career that takes years (usually) to see professional results? Writing often makes us reclusive individuals. I personally have a reputation for never having my cell phone charged, and forget calling the land line…I don’t answer it anyway (those of you who know me, hush).
How many times do you have to decline invitations before others stop inviting you places? How often do you find yourself in the awkwardness of trying to explain what your epic fantasy novel is about, to loved ones who don’t read the genre…if you’re me, the answer is quite often. Its somewhat like trying to explain global warming to a toddler. They don’t understand the world you are describing, let alone the cause and effect aspects of a plot involving creatures they can’t comprehend. It could be entertaining were it not for the uncomfortable silence that always ensues (Followed of course by…’Isn’t that nice, dear. Be sure to send me a signed copy when its published’).
Equally as vexing is the completely errant beliefs of those who have no idea how very little an author makes. No, having a book published doesn’t mean I can quite my day job and buy you a car…or anything else requiring money for that matter.
The odds are the most staggering thing for me. Consider how few books are on the shelves in Barnes and Noble. Now, narrow that down further by cutting everything out but your specific genre. Then, take into account how many authors submit their work on a weekly basis. Lastly, do get yourself a drink to hopefully counter how sobering this realization is. A kind of gut hollowing silence always follows my thoughts of this nature, that reminds me why I write at all…because I must.
I write because I can’t fathom doing anything else with my time. I love the worlds I create, and even more so, the characters that populate them. The good, the bad and the ugly. One of my favorite characters in my current project is the darkest personality I’ve ever written.
I write because it is what fuels my soul. No writer, regardless of how seasoned, can spit out a perfect manuscript upon first draft. There isn’t an agent or editor alive who can predict the future (though same may try), so though you may not be ready as an author now…you may mature in your own voice enough to share your creations with the world. Only you can make that determination.
It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to give up. It is much harder to continue to have faith in your words when others have made judgments that you know are accurate. Try to see what exists beyond the static of a manuscript in need of work…don’t trash it. It may be drivel…now. That has no bearing on what it will be later. Your will determines that.