I think maybe we have kids so we can be reminded of that time we forgot, back when we were children- that phase where every answer was followed by another “why”? Our parents all gave up, just like I did, when it got somewhere around Bill Cosby’s immortal question “why is there air?”. But just this week, my daughter got on the phone with me- during a rare business trip- all in a lather about an ending she had just seen on the TV, one I knew very well and which doesn’t make sense. She’s sixteen now, the pace of “why” has settled down to where I almost miss it. I was rather busy, and this was too tough to answer on the phone. But I promised her I’d talk it through when I got back.
Before that happened, I finished the book I was reading on the train. And I answered a question for myself. WHY was I writing?
Not that I’ve done much recently- things have been quite unsettled but I think the new normal is coming around. And I never stopped feeling the hunger, to get back to this particular story and face its intimidating and alluring heroine again. Once I got started, I never really needed motivation to write- I wasn’t asking why in that sense. But I had honestly lost my compass a bit- this priestess, she’ll throw you for a loop too! And I’m very thankful I decided to read the book I had with me. There are no accidents…
It’s called “Epic” by John Eldredge and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to write, especially any kind of fiction. Fair warning- the author is a religious man and his thesis is rather startling. I’d be sorry if that drove you off by itself- the book is very accessible, and it flies right by even for a moderate-pace reader like myself. But I’ll give you a couple of points from it by way of explanation.
John wasn’t asking why we write, but why we read, or watch, or listen to tales ourselves. His answer was alarmingly simple. We go after these tales because at their heart ALL good stories are showing us elements of OUR story. And our story, of course, is a part of THE story: this is where he gets more spiritual, but as a Catholic that doesn’t bother me a bit.
We feel the thrill of the heroism, the struggle, the romance in tales- and we recognize, deep down, that somewhere something has gone seriously wrong in the tale we’re living through. Who can fail to notice how much suffering, frustration, and yeah, betrayal exists? For us and for the world, I mean. We work for the happy ending- yeah, the happily-ever-after ending, any good person does that. We often don’t feel like it, but our lives are epic! That’s a meaningful word, of course to me- in epic fantasy the likes of which I’m trying to chronicle, things come around, the story means something, lots is at stake and needs to be saved.
It thrilled me and brought me back to really focus on my current tale. THAT’s why I’m writing- because it helps me to chronicle the specific aspects of my world, the characters I’ve come to know, gives me clues about how to bring my own epic life to a happy conclusion.
And we all do this for each other. Probably Eldredge’s best quote is the way we likely feel, at least sometimes, about the story we are starring in:
For most of us, life feels like a movie we’ve arrived at forty-five minutes late. Something important seems to be going on… maybe.
But we’re lost, or behind the plot so often, and here’s the key of all human existence. (Pretty cool claim, huh? When you write epic fantasy you get to go after stuff like this) We cannot find our place in our story- in THE story- by ourselves. So we turn to each other and ask “what’s happened?” We watch romantic TV series, we can’t get enough super-hero movies, we check out the horror titles in the bookstore; and we listen to that crazy uncle who’s never told the truth in his life but man, can he spin a yarn after dinner.
I need an answer; so I read and I listen, and most of all these past five years, I write. And I think it’s a big part of why you read or write too- I can’t wait to see your next part, because when I enjoy it, you’re helping me to get “there” in my own epic tale.
Don’t think so? Hey, free country- but I really recommend this book. It restored my spirits, and that has to be good for me. One more quote from Eldredge- I don’t think anyone can deny that we devour tales (and with fiction tales especially, that begs the question why), or that we have this haunted feeling of being lost. Where else in the alleged-real world can we find THIS kind of answer? Eldredge quoted a fellow named Neil Postman:
In the end, science does not provide the answers most of us require. Its story of our origin and our end is, to say the least, unsatisfactory. To the question, “How did it all begin?”, science answers, “Probably by an accident”. To the question, “How will it all end?”, science answers, “Probably by an accident”. And to many people, the accidental life is not worth living.
Like I said, there are no accidents. It may not matter whether there is a guiding mind behind the cosmos of the alleged-real world. Maybe I’m mistaken, maybe Eldredge is. But that point about the scientific view is dead-on, to tempt the pun. And to not wander around feeling lost on the plot, to live a life with some purpose, is surely better. I’ve remembered that recently- and I will certainly begin to write again soon.
After all- my life is EPIC.
How about you?
P.S.: What ending did Genna want to know “why” about? The ending of Monty Python and the Holy Grail which her mother and I had finally allowed her to see. We talked about parody and satire, and I said things a bit like I have here. Maybe straight-out medieval virtues don’t exactly “fit” in our story today- Arthur and his knights would probably have to go to jail. But if that’s true, why did we laugh so hard? What was so TRUE about courage, and faith, and even chastity that we can chuckle when it’s made fun of? And more importantly, what ending are we replacing the quest for the Grail with? That might be more analysis than the troupe figured it could stand- the Muppet-master Jim Henson once said of his comedy sketches “When you’re stuck for an ending, you can always blow something up, or if that doesn’t work, throw penguins in the air”. Sometimes the ending is senseless, but it doesn’t make the story worthless- it just means it isn’t truly over yet. If you’re still alive, you know what that feels like.
I’ve published several books and been accepted for many anthologies by other publishers, but I’m still extremely nervous. Today, I submitted a short story (although short is relative, it’s nearly 17K words long) to one of the biggest ongoing writing competitions in the US, and I feel like hiding in a very small space.
Isn’t it weird that I still feel like this despite the many times I’ve published/been published? Every time I put my writing out there, I begin to worry. Will people like it? Will there be readers? Is the story good enough? What if I overlooked anything, missed anything? When I began this journey, I thought the nervousness would get less the more books I have “out there”. But that’s not been the case. Every book worries me again (although I hardly ever tell anyone).
What about you? What worries you? Are you comfortable being in the spotlight?
Posted by Sue
Way back in 1982, a popular author, Phyllis A. Whitney, wrote a book for writers. The title was Guide to Fiction Writing and it was published by The Writer, Inc. (It’s out of print now, but you can pick up a used copy online easy enough.) At the time she wrote this book, she had over 60 novels published, some for adults and some for young adults. Her adult novels were romantic suspense and she sold many copies of them. Her book goes into detail about both her writing methods and technique. I’d like to share with you some bits of writing wisdom from Ms. Whitney over the next several months. Here’s the first installment on writing beginnings:
Probably the best way to start any story…is to show a character with a problem doing something interesting. The more quickly you can make what is happening clear, the more likely you’ll be to draw your reader into your story. The old questions that have always been set down in books on writing are still necessary to consider: Who? What? Where? When? Why? It’s seldom easy to answer all of them quickly and gracefully in those first pages. Long expositions, descriptions, philosophizing, may entertain you, but are unlikely to grip a busy reader today. The reader doesn’t have to know everything right away. Yet he mustn’t be left in a state of confusion either.
In your opening, you will need to establish the immediate problem that faces your main character. You will also make it clear why your character can’t solve this problem easily. Expect to do your beginning over several times. I usually write a first opening in which I explain everything and get it off my chest. Only then can I read it through and decide which parts of the mass of explanation are really needed right now.
Next month some tips on writing middles.
Posted by Debbie Mumford
Dani Erickson is a hereditary demon hunter. The seventh child of a seventh child, she was born to battle the nasty monsters she sees infesting her small Colorado town. With the help of her best friend Allie and her sensei Wick, she’s getting into fighting trim — just in time for her first day of high school.
I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Dani. She and I have some interesting commonalities. We’re both the youngest kids of large families, and both the only girls! However, I only have FIVE older brothers, so no extraordinary demon fighting skills for me *lol* Not to mention that I’m lots more like Allie than I am like Dani. I totally fell for the “act like a girl! We’ve got enough boys in this family” admonition, so it’s been fun watching Dani rebel
I’ve really enjoyed imagining Dani’s world in these two stories, but boy is she going to get in lots of trouble in the novel I have planned. Watch out Dani! The demons are out to get you … literally.
Hah, I knew German administration would throw stones my way when I decided to begin publishing over here too. To put up my eBooks on German eBook retailers sites, I need ISBN numbers which are not provided by the retailers (unlike, say, Smashwords). To get ISBN numbers in Germany, I have to be a) German (check) and b) a publisher. Individuals have to pay 85€ per ISBN (calculate the costs for 8 novels published or soon-to-be-published if you like).
Frustrated with the system, I thought about this long and hard. In the end, I decided to become a publisher. The day before yesterday, I went and registered The Independent Bookworm as a small German publisher. Now, I can publish my own books and others.
For all of us, this is the next step. Up to now, we were a bunch of independently publishing authors, now we’re a publisher with several independent authors. I wonder if/how that will affect the way we work, but I don’t think much will change .
Champagne and chocolate of the virtual kind to everybody!
My Young Adult Fantasy novel “Scotland’s Guardians”, now also available in print, will be free on Amazon from today till Wednesday. That makes 5 full days!
As a reminder, here’s the trailer:
And the cover blurb:
Since Bryanna grows up in Scotland, she is familiar with hobgoblins, selkies and kelpies from the tales of her mother country. But she is very surprised when she starts seeing these creatures one day. Is she hallucinating? Before she can ask her father’s advice, he is kidnapped by a woman whose scent seems awfully familiar. Instead of calling the police, Bryanna follows the kidnapper and lands smack-dab in the middle of the adventure of her life. It’s just as well she knows the old legends and myths well. The world she lands in is murderously dangerous. And even if she survives the journey, she is fated to kill her father.
tell all your friends about it. The more downloads the better. And if I get a review or two, that’s be lovely too. Thank you for sour support.
After a promising start on my new WiP, I haven’t written a thing in two weeks. After seven years, I no longer live in a house with three cancer survivors.
My mother-in-law Evie, came to live with us after a very bad traffic accident- the hospital where she lived was simply killing her, and my lovely wife (breast cancer, 2003) brought her back here so that she could recover under a watchful eye and some medical competence. Evie did recover, and was a fixture in our lives since then. She attended Genna’s concerts, came out to the mall, the local zoo. Evie’s preferences in television mattered- she loved tennis and game shows, but put up with my daughter’s addiction to nearly any kind of reality competition. I carried the bags, and while they nattered on about which judge was being SO unfair, I could tap out a few paragraphs about Justin, or Solemn or Feldspar.
Evie had skin cancer long before I knew her- smoked for twenty years, stopped for twenty more- and had a bout of colon cancer and lung cancer while she was with us. She also just plain got older. We brought a wheelchair in the back of the car, for times when there would be a lot of walking, and then gradually just whenever there was walking. It was a continuum to me- seems like I was pushing my daughter around age six or seven one day (recovering from leukemia, 2000), then pushing Evie the next. Wherever we went there were backpacks to heft, extra water, Genna’s flute, books to read. You’re a father, a husband, this is what you do. Kept me in shape, frankly- I get sore the day after playing Wii Golf.
But the cancer got ahead of Evie and the doctors put her on hospice care in our home. Her body became gradually incapable- wheelchair every step outside, walker every step inside. I added an oxygen tank to the load on my back (a small one, no pity). But Evie still talked brightly and happily, about tennis, about game shows, about her granddaughter’s career. The noisy bubble of human conversation didn’t abate, it grew. The house became more busy than ever- nurses, aides, therapists all trooped in for visits and checkups. I’d answer the door, point to the stairs, warn about the friendly cats, and sneak back to tap out another paragraph. It was fine, the noise.
The noise has always been fine with me. Five sisters and maybe thirty animals when I was a kid: someone drops by, we call up another, and the next thing you know it’s fourteen for dinner. Boisterous public school as a student, thirteen years teaching, summer camp showing boys how to die onstage en masse- what happened around my home these past few months seemed perfectly natural. Joyous, contentious human clamor is the white noise of my life.
Evie declined towards death last month, and finally stopped speaking. More visitors- nurses came out several times a day, Dorie’s sister arrived to assist with the final hours. I sat with Evie some of the time, listened to the TV we hoped she could still hear. And at the very end, Dorie sent me out of the house, with Genna, to get her away from the scene. I drove my daughter to competitions- Superior ratings in voice and flute. a first place the day Evie died, tears and a medal. Dorie’s brother came out to add to the mix and attend the funeral- her sister had to move into a hotel, how absurd. The pace never dimmed, for another week.
The final interment. The sister returned home. We visited the aquarium as the brother loves turtles: I realized why I was feeling so odd, just walking with my hands in my pockets. Nothing to carry, nothing to push, nothing to do. The next day, I put my brother-in-law on the bus and came back inside my house, with only my lovely wife and my miracle daughter for company.
Genna said it first- “It’s so quiet here now”.
Too quiet to write.
It’s not guilt, I think Evie lived as long as we could manage for her, and I sit here in awe of my lovely wife’s care and effort before that unthinkable gate. I would want her to be my daughter if I were in Evie’s place. But of course, I’d rather not be there: Woody Allen’s call on death is my favorite. How about I stand in my backyard, one day after my last tale of the Lands of Hope publishes (in paper, of course) and I get hit by an asteroid. From behind. A platinum-stuffed asteroid, that stays in the yard and makes my family rich through my efforts. For once. That would be fine.
But I haven’t written because, like Genna and Dorie and frankly even the cats, I’m still adjusting. Just the three of us now. I live in a house with two cancer survivors. And I’ll start writing again soon. As spring comes, and hopefully things get a little noisier.
Posted by Debbie Mumford
It’s here: DRAGONS’ FLIGHT
In this second volume of the Sorcha’s Children series, shifter siblings Brandubh and Morag take flight. Brandubh travels to King Leofric’s court to discover if his destiny lies in the human realm, but his visit is marred by the news that dragons have destroyed a human village. King Leofric charges the dragon-shifter with seeking out and subduing the renegades, but the stakes increase when Brandubh meets a fascinating female dragon … who considers humans vermin to be exterminated.
Meanwhile, Morag shows no interest in life among the humans, preferring to live life on the wing. But can she convince the male dragon of her choice that she is the bond mate he has been waiting for? Only time will tell if these dragons will succeed in mating flights.
This is the book I never thought I’d get to write. I was contracted for it with my former publisher, but Sorcha’s Heart and Dragons’ Choice sold so poorly for that press that we decided not to pursue the last two books *sigh* Who would’ve guessed that the series would take off when I Indie published on Amazon? Here’s hoping Dragons’ Flight sells as well as–or better than!–Dragons’ Choice!
Limited Time Offer: I have a 20% off coupon going at Smashwords – now until April 1st!
Coupon Code: FG45K
Epic and heroic fantasy, as cool as they are, do not consist of much that’s new. If you innovate at all in what you write about, you’re either trashed or hailed as an innovator. And then maybe trashed after you turn the other way. People expect heroes with swords, monsters with fire, life with magic, and adventures that save something. I’m cool with all that because in the Land of Hope that’s what I see.
But as Debbie wrote about world-building, there’s a constant struggle to “do” that correctly in the tales themselves. If I can take credit for trying anything a bit differently it was in this: I thought “hey, why not pretend I’m famous already and someone’s written up the Compendium of the Lands“. So I’ve been posting pages here as they appear relevant to the various tales, and as I limp through my draft of the upcoming “Perilous Embraces” I’ve taken the chance to reinforce the book with some more pages.
In this latest batch coming out now you can find information on various subjects:
- A short piece on the Elven race, especially the concept of their Moments which plays a big part in my WiP
- An enormous section on the Astrology of the Lands including the heavenly bodies and their influence over events. You will see some of this in Perilous Embraces and a lot more in Judgement’s Tale my infamous unpublished monsterpiece.
- A section on the Tarot cards and their relation to divination (sort of the common man’s astrology)
- A quick look at the Argens feudal structure (who’s boss of what), which plays into the Shards of Light series but will really become important in a sequel to The Plane of Dreams, called The Test of Fire
- A Brief History of the Lands (which you might have thought I’d have recorded first given my education!)
- And even a treatise on what the bad guys might be like (for after all, the Lands of Despair no man living has seen- or so the legends say)
I hope you enjoy the material. And I do see that people “hit” the pages fairly frequently which is interesting and prompts me to ask you some questions.
If you’ve looked at the Compendium before, did you like what you saw? Did it give you what you were asking for?
Are there subjects you wanted to see more about but didn’t? It’s been thirty years of study, but my observations have been pretty focused on the current day and subjects relevant to the heroes of the tales. If you need me to look at something else, I’m listening!
Do you think it would be useful for me to publish this thing? As I’m adding pages I keep trying to organize them better, but if I e-pubbed it I could inter-link the daylights out of it- so every reference to Argens leads to the description of him in the hero-lists, etc. On the other hand, I could link every such mention in my current books to the Compendium HERE- but I thought that would be too distracting. What’s your opinion?
As for the rest of you who have every right not to touch the silly thing, let me just remind you once again that I don’t write, I chronicle. These pages are just in case you want to try and argue the Lands of Hope are not real.
A press release isn’t hard to write and doesn’t take much time. Also, only a few will ever see the light in a newspaper. Why do I bother writing them in the first place, and how do I go about it?
I think writing press releases is as valid today as it was before the Internet. Sure, there are less printed papers out there, and most of them will not pick up your release, but press release directories are searched by many journalists and even by bloggers. Who knows who might pick up your newsworthy note? And every time id does get picked up, your words will be visible to many, many readers. It’s worth a try, and since it doesn’t cost anything but a little time, I say it’s well worth the effort.
Writing a press release isn’t difficult if you follow the format. In the fist line, set the timeframe for release (FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / FOR RELEASE BEFORE XXXXX / FOR RELEASE AFTER XXXX). Follow it with an enticing headline. The next few paragraphs contain the information about the release’s writer (Contact: Full name, Company Name, Address, Phone, Email, and URL).
The first real paragraph starts with a place name (City, Town or Location Where Story is Relevant) to help the journalist decide if this story is relevant for him. It is followed in the same paragraph with a very short summary that draws the reader in to learn more. Make sure the summary connects to the headline.
The second paragraph answers the questions “Who, What, Where, Why, When”. Keep it short and get to the point. Next, you can fill the body with more information. Make sure it’s relevant to the topic as defined by the headline, succinct, not boring, and current. Add quote from a customer or somebody who can verify your expert status.
In the second to last paragraph include a quotation from yourself and state who you are. Your quotes allow you to insert your opinion and provide more depth to your story. Finish your press release with a final paragraph detailing where to get more information on your website. Last but not least, send it in. There are press release sites where you have to pay for distribution, but there are some free ones too (like these).
That’s all there is. I hope this helps a bit.
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