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New Release: MORE GHOSTS and GHOULIES

Just in time for Halloween, WDM Publishing has released my latest Deb Logan short story collection! MORE GHOSTS AND GHOULIES continues the tradition of spooky fun for younger readers I started with GHOSTS AND GHOULIES. Grab your copy now and be ready for the spookiest night of the year!

MORE GHOSTS AND GHOULIESmoregg-2x3
By Deb Logan

Audience: Juvenile | Paranormal | Short Story Collection

Another volume of spooky, supernatural stories for younger readers. This collection of five short stories includes two Dani Erickson tales (“Family Daze” and “Challenging Daze”), two flash stories (“Rush!” and “On Guard”), and an urban fantasy tale (“Terrors”).

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Electronic Edition Publication Date: October 2016
Buy Now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

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The Joys (You Heard Me!) of Revision

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. I’m revising a novel, The Eye of Kog, by which I mean going about it in the same way most other authors do. It’s an incredible feeling: I’m running with “joy” in my title today but I think the best word might be “stunned”. Thought I’d ruminate on why, and see if anyone else has the same feeling.

Not Writing Anymore!

Astonished1That’s the first thing, the breaking of a habit that leaves me feeling as if I’m constantly stumbling forward against a vanished resistance. I was writing this thing for so long. If you work on several WiPs simultaneously, you may not get this, but I dropped my “other” tale long ago. Every day walking around not hearing the first of half of anything my lovely wife says, every time I miss my turn driving to the store because I’m distracted, every half-hour before sleep, every night: the tale, the chapter I was on, where the characters were and what was going to happen next.

Sure, I knew the tale in the sense of the big picture. I knew it intimately in fact: I have for decades. But I don’t outline, or character-map- there’s no bridge between in-the-head and on-the-paper, just a big leap across that space. It’s a little like having seen Star Wars twenty times: you know it, right? But now you have to sit down and replicate the screenplay, shot by shot.

Anyway, that was an intense level of involvement, and I couldn’t believe how long I went on with it.

Two years.

Of Long Standing

Yes, I was writing The Eye of Kog at that pace for nearly two solid years, and I can prove it. Whenever my author friends and I finish a chapter, we lob it up on our mutual comment Lecturing2board over at Write Stuff Extreme, and then exchange feedback on each others’ work. If you don’t do this, start. Seriously, not one word to me, not one shaken finger about outlining or note-taking or anything. Get a beta group. Don’t make me come over there.

So my first post on the board for EK is dated July 14th 2014. I went back to start my revision and could not believe my eyes. Like Treaman’s party when they first sight the lost city of Oncario, I knew it had to be 2015, at most. Two years? All that time… but this was not a short tale like Fencing Reputation. And it involved several characters whose history I did not know as well as those in Judgement’s Happy2Tale. I bet many of you have felt this, the sense of re-acquaintance with things you wrote, characters introduced, action described. Like a chore you forgot you had done, you walk in and your heart shouts “bonus! winning!”

And then there’s the cousin of that feeling, with the same exultation and none of the recognition.

Really? I Wrote THAT!

I know other authors have felt this way because they’ve told me. Maybe it happens more often when you write longer books, I’m not sure. But there’s that paragraph, the section of 1k or 2k or more that is not yours. It’s just in your book. You know? Oh it’s part of the book alright– carries the plot forward, develops the character, balances dialogue with action. But no way I could have written this.

Usually, I feel that way because it’s good: and when I look at the posting date, more often than not it came out right away, on the next day after the chapter before it. Or even on the same day. That’s really hard for me to do, because I’m a day-job dilettante and can never count on steady time to write. Where did this burst of creativity come from? Too hard to figure out. Much easier for me to assume someone snuck in and tapped on my keyboard while I wasn’t looking. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Thanks, whoever you were, for stopping by. Come again.

The Dragon of Perfect

Bumps along the way, though? Oh hell yes.

Thinking1The Perfect Dragon rears her ugly head– well wait, it’s a gorgeous scaly head, the acme of draconic beauty, I’m sure, but the beholder’s eye in this case is mine, and she’s trying to consume me, so… ugly. She rears her head chiefly in two places. One, in the tiny cramped space within her cave, over wording. The other high in the sky as she flies and flames, at the level of chapters.

Different readers trip on different phrases, and you can’t say yes to everyone. I’m so proud of my grammar, my syntax (whatever the hell that is) my idioms and voice and tense-choices. Anyone, absolutely anyone points out a problem and the Dragon Perfect starts to growl and hiss. Did I mention how defensive I am? See, I ALREADY went over the wording. A lot, man! I re-read my chapters out loud, I swap adjectives, I Astonished1bounce out the present-tense verbs that snuck in when I wasn’t looking. And who does anyone else think they are, to post a comment (private board) telling me the way I wrote it was– I can hardly say it– wrong?

Down, Dragon. Every sentence can take one more read-through, where’s the harm. I have spent half an hour in the cave over a single paragraph, and when the smoke cleared I realized my lunging, clawing adversary was my reflection in a mirror. Back-space, tap-tap, fixed. Yeah, more often than not, they were right. Hey, almost like, like they were trying to help me when they posted it.

But up in the air, that’s harder. This is the part of revision where you have to entertain the notion that your chapters are in the wrong order. Or that there are too many. Dragon Perfect swoops in with a full head of steam against such offenders and again it’s Katie bar the door because my Defensive Shield is set to eleven. MY wonderful opus? Rearrange, clarify or even (gaspity-gasp) cut? Don’t you know that’s a three-letter word around here?

Jealous1Long and short, I usually fend off such suggestions. You have to stick up for your work and my brave beta-readers, as loyal as they were, couldn’t possibly hold the themes, the minor characters, the long breaks between visits, in their memory over the course of twenty-four months with clarity. I’m the guy who’s been walking around with this in his head for two years. I have to trust my judgment (inside joke!) on this one. So yeah, those themes, threads, added characters, and chapters pretty much stayed where they were.

One thing, though, I never expected and it even knocked out Dragon Perfect this time.

Add a chapter, my readers said.

And I was like– crazy beta-readers say whaaat?

Add a chapter. Maybe two.

The Creation Unlooked For

To coin Tolkien’s phrase, I could never have expected the result of feedback would be to Horrified2make my chronicles even longer. Maybe deep down I don’t have enough faith in my tales? But my good friends got to the heart of it. I just hate villains, is all. And I don’t show them much: I hint at them, feint and fake and mention them, or have folks find evidence of their passing, stuff like that. This is epic fantasy, it’s not like they have redeeming qualities!

But the reasons piled up, and I bet other authors know the feeling. Something kindles inside, you start to see possibilities. Nobody shows every second of a hero’s life– when they use the bathroom for instance, though I do show a prince and his squires seeking them. There’s a lot of mindless destruction and bad-doings my villains indulge in, before they finally get theirs. Plenty of stuff to draw on. I’m thinking now about how to advance the plot, increase the tension, improve the tale. AND, by the bye, give you all another much-needed glimpse of a powerful character doing what he does, well worst.

Thoughtful2So again, calm down Dragon. I got this.

Revising is a peculiar joy, with twinges of doubt, wonder and regret flavoring it. Maybe letting go of my daughter’s hand on her wedding day will be a bit like it. I might never think the tale is ready. Pretty certain I’m not. But here it goes all the same.

Have you experienced the joys of revision? Did you read something and wish it had another run before you bought it?

Judgement’s Tale Climax: “Clash of Wills” is Now Available

Created with Nokia RefocusEven when I knew him, I didn’t know his story.

Once I knew the story, I never dreamed I’d chronicle it.

Now I can hardly imagine doing anything else with my spare time (I know, a fantasy writer for sure if he thinks THAT exists). But now at the release of this fourth volume, the novel I originally envisioned in Judgement’s Tale will be before the readers. Rest? Heck no, that’s for the weary- I can’t wait for the engine to crank up again so I can move the world along.

Clash of Wills: It All Comes Together

It’s a little hard to discuss the book itself because so much has happened in the preceding volumes. Solemn Judgement has carefully studied a couple of problems in his newly-adopted home while staying at the Sages Guild of Conar. One involves a young knight who kneels at the foot of the Hopelord’s statue constantly, and the mortal LoHI_JT_CoW_webdanger Judgement stubbornly believes him to be in. His other puzzle involves a forbidden book, a mystic time-scrying mirror, the ancient sage it drove mad, and a threat to the entire Lands of Hope. Meanwhile, his tutor Natasha has sanctioned him from further study, her friend the actor Alendic spends his every moment teasing the youth, and the patient Elvish Sage Cedrith  can only guess the depths of Judgement’s ambition or the danger he’s courting. In this story, they band together to rescue a comrade and face an ancient foe beyond their worst imaginings.

Meanwhile the Woodsman Treaman has begun to unlock the secrets of navigating the cursed Percentalion and befriended the young dragon Hallah. But his adventuring party falls into a worse escapade than ever before, a series of calamities which leaves them by turns wounded, naked, and finally imprisoned with priceless treasure in the face of a hellstorm of Chaos.

LoH_kg_1_map northern lands

But is it Ever Really Over?

Yes, it’s all starting to heat up in the northern kingdoms of the Lands of Hope. The draft I wrote up several years ago, coming after nearly thirty years of observation and note-taking, Clash of Wills will be in front of you. And the tale is not done. I’m working hard on The Eye of Kog, in which we’ll see the final confrontation involving Judgement, Treaman, prince Gareth, the Chosen Wanderer Renan Altrindur, young Anteris the scribe and many more. Never fear, dear readers, I wouldn’t leave you hanging- for long! Look for more of this epic tale later this year.

And if you want to remain apprised of developments in my chronicling journey, sign up on my website and get a free e-book with two Tales of Hope.

Holiday Happiness- Reunion of Souls is Now on Sale

It’s really quite simple- today the third installment in the Judgement’s Tale epic is on sale and available at Amazon. If you’ve been following the saga of Solemn, Treaman, Cedrith, Natasha and the others this is where the plot thickens. If you haven’t yet started, then the opening chapter Games of Chance is now just 99 cents!

What a great way to use those gift cards you received yesterday- zero clutter, zero carbon emissions, and you never have to feed an e-book or change its box, it’s always there for you when you get a chance to read.

Again, a blessed holiday season to all!

Book Blast! Southwell and Finaughty’s “Doorway to Destiny” is Available Today

Regular readers of this site will recall TC Southwell and Vanessa Finaughty, the South African author-duo who write across the fantasy and sci-fi divide. Today we’re proud to alert our readers that their joint offering Doorway to Destiny is now available. I hope you will take the time to explore the fine work of these two authors, including their latest.

Doorway to DestinyAnthology Description:

This collection of eleven fantasy and science fiction novels and two anthologies will transport you to strange and exciting worlds to share in the tragedies and triumphs of complex yet endearing heroes and heroines. Discover the gripping works of authors TC Southwell and Vanessa Finaughty and be swept away by magical adventures, epic battles and futuristic voyages to unknown universes. Learn how a vengeful assassin reshapes the fate of three kingdoms and share in a quest to discover the origins of mankind, then follow the tale of a young queen’s fight to be free with the aid of a combat cyborg. Two short story anthologies spice up the fare with dragons, sorcerers and magic galore, and a child of another god strives to save his world from mankind’s ravages. When a mortal dark god treads a tragic path as he rises to destroy the Overworld, a brave young girl risks her life to try to change his savage ways. Each hero and heroine takes a definitive step through a doorway to destiny as he or she seeks to right wrongs and save worlds.

 

Doorway to Destiny links

Smashwords
iBooks
Barnes & Noble
Goodreads

Price: 99c for a limited time only

About TC Southwell

TCSouthwell2T. C. Southwell was born in Sri Lanka and moved to the Seychelles when she was a baby. She spent her formative years exploring the islands – mostly alone. Naturally, her imagination flourished and she developed a keen love of other worlds. The family travelled through Europe and Africa and, after the death of her father, settled in South Africa.

T. C. Southwell has written over thirty fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as five screenplays. Her hobbies include motorcycling, horse riding and art, and she is now a full-time writer.

Links

Author website
Author blog
Twitter
Facebook

 

About Vanessa Finaughty

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESVanessa Finaughty is an author of many genres who now focuses on fantasy and science fiction. She’s published 15 books, of which 6 are fantasy. Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’.

Vanessa has always been passionate about books, and knew from a young age that she wanted to write them one day. She loves animals, coffee and the smell of wet grass, and hates liars, sweltering weather and long queues. Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, mythology, aliens and outer space, ancient history, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.

Links

Author website
Author blog
Twitter
Facebook

New Release! Strength of Conviction Now Available

LoHI_JT_SoC_cover_webStrength of Conviction, the second volume in the Judgement’s Tale saga, is available now on Amazon. The tale of Solemn Judgement, Treaman, Anteris, Gareth and the other heroes you first met in Games of Chance now continues.

As an added bonus, starting September 29th through October 1st, Part One Games of Chance will be  completely free. If you haven’t started on the saga, here’s a great opportunity to get all caught up for less than three bucks. I hope you’ll take a moment to pass along this news to someone you know, but I don’t, who likes epic and heroic fantasy.

In the first volume you got acquainted with the good and bad guys; most crucially, a gentle Sage named Cedrith was thrown into Solemn Judgement’s path, probably saving him and the city of Conar from ruin. Now in the second book, you will see the Woodsman Treaman and his encounter with a deadly dragon; Anteris the scribe’s apprentice finds out more about the stiff-necked preacher named Alaetar; and Solemn Judgement seems unable to avoid deeper and deeper trouble even though he’s living in a library! Meet the four-year old Riddy who comes to fear and love The Ash Man. Puzzle through the secrets Conar’s nobles keep, where one knight prays in place at the cathedral while another rides away never to return.

Strength of Conviction

As the central kingdom of the Lands of Hope languishes without rule or reason under a worsening pall of chaos, most Children of Hope stand by and do nothing. The few who would dare are outcasts and strangers, either too high up, or too far inside, or still too young to help. Worse, all their scattered mysteries seem unconnected.

Treaman the Woodsman struggles to guide his companions through ensorcelled wildlands to safety. The poorest knight in the city prays by Conar’s statue for weeks without ceasing, as though his life LoH_kg_2_map A5depends on it. The young scribe Anteris copies histories for his master by day, dreams of adventure till sunset, and searches the stars by night for the riddle of his future. A noble Conarian heir seeks to join a lost legendary Order, putting his duty before his life. A gentle Elvish sage confronts the greatest of puzzles, the closed door barring the way to friendship with his greatest, and most dangerous pupil.

For Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, is learning that names are indeed important when he shows… Strength of Conviction.

Of Magna Carta and Magnum Opus

In just two weeks, give or take, my greatest chronicling effort to date will start to unroll before the world as Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance hits the internet equivalent of the shelves.

And last week, following rare in-person meetings with my business colleagues in the UK, I took a completely uncharacteristic walkabout in the countryside north of London near the site of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

Think these two events are completely unrelated? How little you know me.

Business and Pleasure

In England this is called a hotel. Anywhere else, a castle.

In England this is called a hotel. Anywhere else, a castle.

Alleged Real World first. I was moping all the way to England for my business trip- no money, no way (I figured) to see any sights in a land of one hundred castles, and– this is the key– no idea where my business meetings were taking place. I  only knew Egham as the town that had my company’s offices, and also MI-6 (the British Secret Service) in it, somewhere. Turns out, Egham is the town next door to Runnymede. As in, the unknown field where King John had to put his Hancock on it eight centuries ago. My boss, unlucky fellow, was with me in the cab on the way in; I shout, “Look, there’s a memorial to the signing of the Magna Carta!”. He’s French, says “what ees thees magna carta?” No escape! I had him for ten minutes, poor devil, on and on about John Lackland and the barons, forced to sign a charter promising not to do naughty things anymore just to scrape up money. And over the years, that backroom deal between two dozen feudal lords somehow came to stand for the immutable rights of every British citizen, and on beyond that to all the rights of man.EuropeGoBargingB

My boss finally escaped the cab, but I was already determined- me, the guy who never exercises anymore, the dope who gets sore the day after playing golf ON THE WII- I was going to have my British sight-seeing vacation on foot. I went on a walkabout through scenic, charming Runnymede, got up close and personal with memorials to that famous signing and others. I walked for MILES. Me! Channeling Lewis and Tolkein, strolling through rural England and ruminating deep thoughts in search of historical markers. And the weather was perfect, I mean just cool enough, no humidity, bright sunshine, and a breeze that blew energy into you. I could have walked across the island. I stopped part-way along, folded my hands and thanked God for saving me from my own torpid idiocy.

So then, how is the signing of the Great Charter in any way similar to the release of another epic fantasy tale? Am I really going to try and convince you that my next book is some kind of milestone of world history?

My answer- it depends which world you mean.

Adventurous Times

In the Lands of Hope, I started watching a time where things were beginning to happen after a long period of peace and prosperity. The Age of Adventure was first signaled around 1992 (ADR, their SavillCt3calendar) with an incredible act of stealth unheard of since the days of the heroes millennia ago (see Three Minutes to Midnight). I spent a lot of time examining things that were going on in late 1995-6 when the curse lying over the Percentalion (the Land of One Hundred Castles in my world) was finally lifted. A band of despised adventurers was a big part of that wondrous deed, you meet them in this tale. So yes, history pivots on the events set down here, and all the other tales I’ve published come later, largely because of them.

But there was another character, just before that time, one everybody knew as The Man in Grey. I saw Solemn Judgement first, even before I saw the Lands of Hope. The image of this grim, erudite, reserved and skillful pariah was always clearly before me, more than thirty years ago. Everywhere that things went wrong, wherever adventurers argued about the best solution while “regular” folk moaned about the good old days, there he was; stalking briefly in and out again, a few words, a few blows, a miracle, and then gone. No hesitation, no explanations, and nobody sorry to see him leave, to resume his mysterious walkabout across an entire continent.UK_Windsor

But he never left my mind. Before I go any further, let me reassure you- my lovely wife is very knowledgeable about all manner of mental problems and keeps a close eye on me. If she ever says I need to put on the looonng sleeved cardigan, I will; just let me out for an hour a day to write some more, because that’s the only way Solemn Judgement leaves me alone.

My entire adult life I have worked in some way to placate him. Like him, every stitch of my clothing is a shade of ash, slate, charcoal or steel. Though much older than he, I feel a kinship now that my hair is coming to match the outfits. But these gestures do little to put him off, year in and year out- in my mind he is always standing there, not saying a word but only looking on me with that serious face that clearly says “what should be done”.

So I have done it. This is literally his tale, the story of how he came to the Lands and what drives him to be the way he is. Against all odds, against nearly everyone he meets, Judgement is determined to do what is needful. A mighty river of other peoples’ lives flows in one direction, but only he can swim, and chooses to fight the current. Nothing deters him; as he pressed on against undead and demonic foes, so too he bore down on my mind all those years. And as his story finally comes out, Judgement wins, over endless enemies and feckless friends alike. But if I know him, it will merely mean another task, more adventure that needs doing, and then needs telling.

Hoookayy then. What about the connection? You still don’t see it?

More than They Seem

Baht rrRicharhd!-, after oll, I am your brrrothah.

Baht rrRicharhd!-, after oll, I am your brrrothah.

John got in trouble because he was supposed to be a king and was doing such a LOUSY job. Notice there’s no number after his name? Eight centuries and no queen has dared try the most common of English names, there will probably never

Paid for by the US Bar Association. Rough Translation: Thanks for all the jobs

Paid for by the US Bar Association. Rough Translation: Thanks for all the jobs

be another John of England. A few of his barons finally made him sit down and put it in writing before they’d leave him alone- the Great Charter was a private deal, just to stave off immediate rebellion, and only later came to be seen as this mystical guarantee of the rights of every English peasant, and every citizen of the Alleged Real World. Not to mention the whole bad-guy-in-Robin-Hood-thingie, which was a bum rap but too fun to correct. Safe to say the Magna Carta became a much bigger thing with time. But John didn’t give a damn- he was just out for some peace.

And so it is for me. A few heroes, one especially, have been pressing me day and night for thirty years because I’m the guy, the sole chronicler of The Lands of Hope charged to tell their tales. And I’ve sucked at it. William Lack-hand, until recently: it’s no accident I chose July 4th for my first publishing date back in 2011. Writing for me is about shedding chains. With this magnum opus, the work of my lifetime I seriously believe, I’ve made a bargain with the leader of the rebels. His story starts. You can read it for yourself. Perhaps history in later years will make much of this beginning, more than I or Solemn ever intended. Hey, they only made seven copies of the Great Charter, I should be able to beat that! But Judgement takes no notice of what others think of him. Soon now, like John my name will be on it, my debt to him discharged, and perhaps he will leave me be awhile.

Cover Reveal- Games of Chance

If you’ve followed the tour, you’ve seen the cover already. I love the elemental simplicity- a pen and a sword, I wonder if they will come into play at some point. And if you haven’t seen the tour yet… LoHI_JT_GoC_Cover_front

 

The Games of Chance blog ride is in full gallop with original material (only one repeated post in the lot). If you haven’t seen it I have an itinerary here which I will update as the links go live. Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance will be on sale July 4th at Amazon.

Games of Chance Blog Tour Itinerary

LoHI_JT_GoC_Cover_frontIn case you rode in late, here’s an updated list of the sites visited by the blog tour for Judgement’s Tale Part One: Games of Chance in June 2014. This tour preceded the release of Games of Chance on July 4th. It’s a who’s-who of cool fantasy authors and bloggers who are helping shape the internet and the indie publishing world- I’m privileged to have been a guest on these sites.

As they go live I will update the schedule with specific links: check back here if you missed a day or want to revisit a topic from an earlier post.

Ar Aralte! (Hope Forever)

DATE     HOST           TOPIC

6-14-14             Tracy Falbe, Her Ladyship’s Quest

Chapter One Podcast– the first meeting with Solemn Judgement, in the chronicler’s voice

6-15-14             Karen Woodward

Being a Writer: What Does it Take and Where Will it Take You?– advice to writers? Maybe good for a chuckle!

6-16-14             Lori Fitzgerald, White Raven Writing

Introduction to Prince Gareth of Shilar– one of the main characters of the novel makes his debut appearance.

6-17-14            Katharina Gerlach

Introduction to Solemn Judgement– the title character, known to the Lands as the Man in Grey, on his first day an orphan and alien

6-18-14             Susan Stuckey, Kalieri Tales

Author Interview– the one and only for this tour, not for lack of trying!

6-19-14               Day Off, Resting the Tour-Horse

6-20-14             Daniel Marvello, The Vaetra Files

  Magic and Miracles in the Lands of Hope– a view of one background element of the world setting, for the enthusiast

6-21-14              Sher A. Hart, Written Art

An Interview with Solemn Judgement– or as close as anyone can get to such a thing

 6-22-14             Mathew Reuther

An Interview with (not About) Cedrith Fellareon– the tale’s principal guide to the mind of Solemn Judgement discusses his protege

 6-23-14                Matt Graybosch, A Day Job and a Dream

Technology and Despair– the bad guys don’t show mercy, and they’ve got better stuff!

 6-24-14                Robin Lythgoe, The Series that Snuck Up on Me- because all my stories are going to connect eventually

6-25-14                 Peter Cruikshank, Introduction to Treaman the Woodsmanone of the main protagonists revealed, and already fighting for his life

6-26-14                 Karin Gastreich, How to Write about Combat– you could say I struggled with this one…

6-27-14                 Mysti Parker, World Building on the Sly-a familiar topic for me, am I actually getting subtle in my elder years?

6-28-14                  L. Blankenship, Character Interview with Cedrith Fellareon– a major supporting character, talking about anyone other than himself of course

 

Getting to the Third Level of Writing

The writing I love. It’s literature I can’t seem to get along with.

In 10th grade, the final essay question on our test for “Catcher in the Rye” directed our attention to the final passage where Caulfield speaks longingly about his desire to serve as a kind of life-guard for children playing in a meadow- literally, the title of the novel. The question posed to us was “What did Holden REALLY mean?” I wrote a full response arguing simply that he didn’t mean anything- it was a job he had thought of and he really wanted to do that. Because hey, that was a great job! The teacher and I got into a rather furious argument- I know for a fact, she told me exactly what she thought about the true underlying meaning of the speech, but I couldn’t remember one word of it an hour later. Still don’t.

That stuff never meant a thing to me. I still struggle to get there, this third level of writing. Coming up on six years of formally chronicling the Lands of Hope, I begin to see, just dimly, a distant… something. It’s not something I do particularly well, or on purpose. But at least now I think I see it.

One more time, it bears repeating for those who just came in, I’m merely a chronicler. I have less control over what happened in the Lands of Hope than a first-time student driver on an Alpine ski slope with the brakes cut. Make it up? Puhleeze- it happens, I take it down. But no question, I can improve the way I describe it to all of you. You’ve done this yourself, right? The Lands of Hope are like a movie that you’ve seen but your friend hasn’t. There’s a way to describe the thing- concise, evocative, fascinating- you’re working uphill because every picture is worth a thousand of your words. If you get them interested enough to go see it on their own, give yourself a prize.

First level- the Plot

You need to put the events in order, they must lead to something, make sense by the end. Stories with plot weakness simply can’t work; the suspension of disbelief fails and there’s a chance the reader stops, never to start again. When I spot a loose end, or a lovely piece of description that doesn’t point to anything, it’s not fatal but I usually feel disappointed, or a bit impatient. Nowhere is this more of a danger than in epic fantasy- the world-building train so effortlessly becomes a runaway locomotive, taking the reader down a steep siding about magic forces, or the adolescent growth cycle of a gryphacorn, the alignment of the northwestern sky-quadrant… hey, where’d everybody go? Of course, fantasy carries a balancing advantage because you can have the most incredible things happen to sustain the interest level (at least temporarily).

Pretty much everyone does plot- I’ve read a lot of harsh editorials about how all indie pub is garbage, but I couldn’t have been this lucky in the stories I’ve downloaded. Personally, I have a lot of experience with story-telling: I’ve never thought that History was anything else, frankly, and I told those stories to high school students five days a week for thirteen years. I didn’t have any control over what happened in the Alleged Real World either… but I flatter myself that I got pretty good at putting the facts in the right order, having it all make some sense.

Second level- Character

Yeah, we’re going in ascending order here, this is substantially harder than Plot. You have to convey the tale through the vehicle of beings whose lives and choices the reader comes to care about. I bet there is isn’t a bad character on the internet- we authors often don’t introduce or describe them well enough, is all. That’s partly because there’s more wiggle-room: your character doesn’t have to have clear set goals, the conflict can hit them in differing ways, they don’t even have to be protagonists or antagonists in the traditional sense. But in my honest assessment, the biggest problem at this level is that the author assumes too much and shows too little. I’ve read halfway through a book before exclaiming to myself, “oh, really? This guy loves his country? That explains a lot!” or something similar. The patriotism was assumed by the author, but now as a reader I have all the work of thinking back, reconstructing everything that happened from that perspective- and I don’t want to do that, it’s already ruined.

When I try to assess my own craft, I would say again that Character is harder than Plot, but I believe it’s the part I do best. I love and admire the heroes of the Lands, and I believe I can bring a certain depth-perception to describing them within the plot that helps inform, entertain and move the reader. In The Plane of Dreams, the intrepid stealthic Trekelny has taken it upon himself to open a cage in the enemy camp, freeing a wild tiger to roam in the nearby woods. The rest of the party catches up, and when one of them tries to reproach him for it, Trekelny coolly responds “I happen to like cats.” There is an entire story- Three Minutes to Midnight – from nine years earlier in his career to reinforce this one fact. And that’s just an example I can point to in publication. Time and again, I benefit from being able to back up a preference, or a love of something in my characters like that. I could tell you a whole story about it. Don’t challenge me on this- I will bury you.

This far I’ve been able to go on my own, by chronicling. And it’s made me rather happy, I won’t scruple to deny. Before I was telling these tales, setting my notes and memories to narrative, my brain was tenser, life less settled this past decade. The vocation of teaching gave me such great personal joy I didn’t miss out. But having a new life course, where I teach only as a pinch-hitter, plus the lack of contact with the Lands in other important ways, just made me miss it  more. So the telling has helped me tremendously.

And I think I always knew, I wasn’t getting where the really good, much less great writing went.

My daughter is home-schooled, so I overhear her mother talking to Genna about The Great Gatsby these days. And that’s what really pushed all these thoughts I’m having around the bend: I think to myself, “how could your writing ever be treated like this guy’s?” I say again, I never liked literature. The English teachers in school would gather to one side of the faculty room discussing books, even books I had read, in ways that made me feel stupid. Yet they were so engaged- gushing, really- over the deep meaning of it all. Those books had something I wasn’t noticing, a level of appreciation that maybe I’m not built to “get”, and if so, then I’m a poor guide to describe what it is to you. But a distant, misty glimpse is still something seen.

I call the third level, for now, Theme

It’s another entire strata tying the tale together, like Plot and Character, and I only guess from the clues of others and my inchoate vision, it’s the level that makes everything mean two things at one time. While all the stuff is happening, as the characters are displaying their virtues, vices and quirks, there’s just another THING that it all means. I can joke about it rather easily, even in my ignorance: pull my glasses down my nose, mimic holding a brandy snifter and say, “of course, it’s man’s struggle against himself”. Or nature, or the futility of breathing; or maybe it’s all of those things all the time, I just have no idea. Theme is the word one of my close friends advised me to consider, in the second year of my chronicling (2009). I was drafting my beloved opus, the work closest to my heart- and coincidentally the tale that’s coming out beginning this summer, at long last a trunk novel no longer. Judgement’s Tale means more to me than I can readily say, so it’s fair to describe my state as constantly heightened these days. But my close friend urged me to think of the theme of any longer work like this- what is the one thing it really means, he asked. And I could tell then he was onto something, I knew it. But I also knew that if I made any part of my work beholden to it- if I refused to continue before I answered the question- I would stop altogether, and probably for good.

Looking back, now that the novel is done and I’ve polished it seriously twelve times, I think I have an idea or two about what it means. There are some themes that run through the book. I know it would be better if I had noticed them from the start, worked them in and not settled for just letting things happen or for characters to grow and deepen in (my) ignorance of them. But not to put too fine a point on it, that’s what writers do. Not me. My tales will either have deeper meaning for you, or they won’t. I pray for the former because I’m vain and because no one wants to do something less well than possible. But trying to describe the themes I see to you, as if some exciting movie I’d just seen, that’s where my train stops and I get off. I shall keep my counsel, for a change- but I am eager to hear your feedback around Theme especially, as you discuss the way you analyze tales.

Do you get to the third level in your writing?

 

My Writing Process Blog Tour: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Obscurity

Folks who know me have heard already about the odd spot I occupy. I’m deep enough in to know the e-pub/self-pub indie process, and put several books out there. I’m coming up on three years in the business (anniversary announcement later), and know my way around an Amazon author page, online interview, or Smashwords coupon.

Most important, I have rubbed virtual elbows with terrific, successful and deeply gracious online authors ranging from complete and former strangers (met in the past year) to beta-critiquers (some over five years’ friendship, and already “old” friends in that sense) as well as best-selling “colleagues” I knew back in college (and who’ve had time to become strangers again). I’m the writing equivalent of a rock-band groupie who riffs a little guitar in his basement between concerts, and once in a while gets called up onstage to dance badly in the background during his band’s encore. I dream a lot, but not when I’m asleep!

So yeah- it feels a bit pretentious to be tapped for this writing tour (not once but twice! Thanks Kat and Peter). My keys to writing or publishing success? As if. But provided you have your salt shaker with you, read on. Actually, maybe one of those fifty-pound salt blocks you use for your water purifier, or the cattle herd…

 

1. What am I working on?

My WiP is well known to readers here, the third installment of the Shards of Light series, called “Perilous Embraces”.

Nicknamed The Forever Tale, Sub-Title How to Let Your MC Put You in a Sleeper Hold

I nudge the manuscript forward in moments of clarity, with long gaps between. The main character is without question the most difficult I have ever encountered- she sees the future, for one thing, all the time, so guess what happens to her grip on reality? But the feedback I’ve received on the first two pseudo-chapters has been quite encouraging. I cannot give a time-line for publication yet (this is NOT the anniversary announcement I promised), but I can tell you that fans of Justin and Feldspar, who have already seen a little bit of W’starrah Altieri, are in for a treat. Someday.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

“Differ”, bah, I don’t know or care really. After much thought, I’ll settle for the one word I was most moved to hear from others, to describe my work.

Heart.

I have seen this word used a couple of times and I treasure it. I think it means that I have been able to show the reader how admirable these heroes and heroines are, to peek into their lives and empathize, root for them, to curse their mistakes but not their intent, and rejoice with their victories in spite of the costs. Is this rare, does it stand out compared to other authors? Pardon me, but I think that’s a blind alley. How many times is too many to be inspired? If I can show you the situation they faced, and get you to agree with the decisions they made, I succeeded. To me the word “heart” means simply that you read about these heroes and were moved. Just as I was when I first saw them, and have been ever since.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Nit-Pick Department: I don’t “write”, I chronicle and it’s a very important distinction to me, because I saw and studied the Lands of Hope for thirty years before I started to take down the events in story form. This point will also no doubt interest the guys in white coats, when they arrive to fit me out for the lloooong-sleeved cardigan. But putting the Tales of Hope on paper (OK, you know what I mean) has become a vocation for me. As in the Latin, meaning “job you would do for nothing”, I feel called to chronicle these stories and I’m pretty sure that whatever my talents I’m the only guy for the job. But it’s not a job- I have a great one, thanks- it’s what I do by preference, for love of doing it. Which brings me to another Latin word, “amateur” and therein starts a tangled skein of temptation.

4. How does my writing process work?

No better or worse than any other contradiction in terms.                  :: rim-shot ::

The Lands of Hope on DVD is running in my head at all hours, frequently punctuated by the email pinging for work or the sound of my lovely wife saying “did you get that?” I spend every waking moment falling in and out of a daze, but it’s probably not as disorienting or depressing as I make it sound. You get used to the dual-view, after a couple decades… And on an infrequent morning or evening hour I can tap away another paragraph, or maybe just reverse the order of two sentences. I won’t lie- rarely, I enjoy a torrent of productivity, where the manuscript rolls forward during some portion of every waking hour. I write down thousands of words, usually fairly polished, and hardly any work gets done for job or family. But that’s a thin, short sparkler, and well before I can start to feel like a prolific writer, it burns down. I spend a day or so catching up on my life-obligations, and then it’s back to a half hour, a nudge.

Point is, I’m living here. If writers write to live, then yes I’m alive. And well. If they truly had to write to eat, I’d be starving, but I’m far more fortunate than that.

In a moment, the announcement. But first I must play Typhoid Mary and pass along the joy of self-description to three other folks. I’m tempted to escape via honesty, and just say “here are the folks to who influenced me most”, naming Stephen Donaldson, Ursula le Guin and Robert B. Parker. Of course, not one of them knows me from a hole in the wall, none blog that I know of and one of them has already passed from the world. So I’ll have to knuckle down.

How about Tia Nevitt, EPIC-award winning author of The Sevenfold Spell? I interviewed her in ancient times, further back than I dare to go in our archives, so it’s high time we saw her work again.Tia also has one of the coolest blog titles for a guy like me to admire, and I urge you to check it out- Anywhere but here, anywhen but now

Continuing down memory lane, Tracy Falbe is the prolific author of the Rys Rising series and others, another of the first indie/online authors I got to know in this genre and somebody who knows a thing or three about the biz. Check out Her Ladyship’s Quest while we wait for her turn.

And in the sleeper category- no, I mean it, she hasn’t written back yet and could be asleep- I call on Mary B Kaley, evil genius behind the rogue’s asylum at the Writers Extreme critique group and the owner/operator of I am Not an Editor blog, but also a tremendous author in her own right, featuring works of urban fantasy and the dystopian future. {Post-Script: Mary has just sent her regrets, but I’m stubborn and keeping her on the list.  Go to her blog and bug her to publish the story about Asia, which she’s had on the shelf for YEARS- it’s incredible.}

Now for the Funny Thing that Happened

At last (at THE last) my news. There I was writing through another long winter, minding my own business when the darnedest things started to happen. The weather got no warmer, but I’ve been invited WriteOutLoudto speak at a writer’s gathering and I signed a publishing contract, so it might as well be spring!

The invite comes from the Write Out Loud student group at the local university, who are sponsoring their first Reading Gala next month and asked me to speak. I am so jazzed! If you’re from the tri-state area near Newark Delaware, check it out, scheduled for May 9th. The publishing contract- I almost have to go look at the thing every time I think of it, just to convince myself- is quite real, a single sheet of paper that means so much to me I’ll have to blog about it separately. I can say this honestly- being “under contract”, as hilarious as that seems, makes me want to put in my very best effort ever, to promote my upcoming work and the cause of epic/heroic fantasy in general.

For now, I will say only:

This July,

The Man in Grey

approaches.

 

 

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