Friday, September 30, 2011

A Legend of Epic Proportions

I am posting a day late for Margo Lerwill's I AM LEGEND blogfest where we are invited to talk about with is EPIC LEGEND about our WIPs.I thought I was posting on time and then I remembered that today is not the 29th, it is the 30th. Sigh. Hopefully I'm not too late to enter the contest to win either a copy of Donald Maass’s The Fire in Fiction or George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons.

I'm excited to talk about the EPIC PROPORTIONS of my WIP. What was, several months ago just a single planned novel has blossomed into something far greater. Instead, I am writing a saga of stories meant to resemble the ancient mythic cycles.

It begins in the days of early history when Men all lived together with the Gods in four great cities on an island in the center of the world. It follows Men through the centuries as they are spread across the world, chased away from their paradise home by a terrible enemy. Cities are built and destroyed, civilizations rise and fall, heroes are born and then die. The saga will cover hundreds of years. And it in the end it will all lead to an EPIC CONFLICT.

But this isn't just a story about men. In the tradition of ancient mythology, it's a saga about Gods and Men, about their relations with each other and how they shape the world together. In my world, gods are not just in the background. They are characters in the story whose actions affect everything around them.

And in the midst of a world still being shaped, where cataclysmic events wreak havoc upon men and men rain destruction upon each other, the gods themselves are on their own quest. They seek the prime mover, the increate, the source of all things.

But there is an EPIC VILLAIN standing in the way. Erresuma was born out of the death of chaos, I said, but that's not entirely true. There was one being of pure chaos who refused to die, even as his world condensed and exploded, he clung to life, refusing to be reborn as he was meant to be. He lingered on, barely alive at first, he slumbered in the center of the world until the day that he awoke to find that everything he had known was dead and gone and in its place a world of light and order. And as he raged against this new world he vowed to destroy it and return it to the chaos that he loved.

My goals are certainly ambitious on an EPIC scale. Like Tolkien, I want to create a world with a whole mythology. What he called mythopoeia. I want my readers to be able to feel the depth and history of the world. Right now the working title of my saga is The Apotheosis Cycle. And by that you can glean a bit of where the stories in the cycle will be going. Hopefully the finished product will be as EPIC as I envision it in my head.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pushing Too Hard

I don't know what happened. One morning I just sat down and opened up my blog dashboard and my brain shut down. Have I been pushing myself too hard? Getting involved in too many things? Joining too many blogfests and challenges? Probably. It feels like the creative center of my brain just shut down. Probably from overwork. I feel like I haven't accomplished much. But when I think about it rationally, I realize that for the past several months I've been enjoying a spurt of creativity greater than any I've experienced so far in my life. Then one day it just gave out on me.

I closed down my dashboard and I've barely looked at it since. I missed Alex's blogfest. (Sorry, Alex!) And I failed to return interview questions by the date my interview was supposed to be posted. (My apologies, E.R.!) But I desperately needed to walk away for a little while. I have barely read a blog or thought about blogging for over a week and, honestly, it felt good. In hindsight I see that I was running on fumes for the first part of this month, barely getting by, not receiving the inspiration I've grown accustomed to. If I even so much as thought about my stories my brain would slow to a sluggish crawl.

I realize what a real danger pushing yourself too hard can be. Unfortunately, it's a tendency of mine. I've been pressuring my brain to come up with new ideas, new material. I've been attempting to create an entire world in my mind. I've been demanding much of my creativity, but not feeding it enough. It finally said, enough is enough.

I think this is why it's so important for writers to continually read as well. Reading feeds our creative brain. The more story it soaks up the more it understands and can produce. And thus it's important to give it a steady stream of new material. New stories, new ideas, new techniques to take in and process and add to your author's toolbox.

It's been several months since I read something new that was really good, good enough to fire my own imagination. (Though I have to admit, that last rocket boost from Lord Dunsany kept me going a good long time.) Which is probably why my creativity started to sputter and die. But recently the final book in a trilogy that I found quite fascinating finally came out and as soon as my husband was done with it I dived in. And despite its flaws, this book has been like a feast to a starving man for my imagination. Particularly since the plot happens pretty much entirely in Hell and the author spends a fair bit of time world building the various circles and regions therein. This is of interest to me because one of my novels will have large sections devoted to action happening in the underworld of my fantasy realm. I've learned a lot from this author's treatment of a similar type of landscape. The wheels of my creative brain are starting to spin again.

I was even able to open up blogger and write this post without my brain turning to goo. Though, admittedly, I feel way out of the loop now. I'm not even going to try to catch up on most of the blogs I've missed. I'm just going to look ahead and get back into the swing of things going forward. I've got blogfests to prepare for! And I've learned something from this whole experience. Don't push your imagination too hard without giving it regular meals. And take a break when you need to.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

'If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be...'

Today the world wide web is going wild to celebrate the launch of Talli Roland's new book Watching Willow Watts.

About Watching Willow Watts
For Willow Watts, life has settled into a predictably dull routine: days behind the counter at her father's antique shop and nights watching TV, as the pension-aged residents of Britain's Ugliest Village bed down for yet another early night. But everything changes when a YouTube video of Willow's epically embarrassing Marilyn Monroe impersonation gets millions of hits after a viewer spots Marilyn's ghostly image in a frame.

Instantly, Willow's town is overrun with fans flocking to see the 'new Marilyn'. Egged on by the villagers -- whose shops and businesses are cashing in -- Willow embraces her new identity, dying her hair platinum and ramming herself full of cakes to achieve Marilyn's legendary curves.

But when a former flame returns seeking the old Willow, Willow must decide: can she risk her stardom and her village's newfound fortune on love, or is being Marilyn her ticket to happiness?

Watching Willow Watts is available today on Amazon and Amazon UK. Check it out!

For this launch party you get to come as whoever you want to be. After much thought and deliberation, I decided I'd come as Officer Aeryn Sun from the SciFi show Farscape.

You see, I'm not really much of a party person. How are you supposed to dress for these things? Black leather clad and gun wielding, right? (My husband says yes to that, I'm sure.)

Though she has been known to get gussied up on occasion...

Though I think I'll stick with the leather and guns. Aeryn Sun is a trained soldier conditioned to obey orders and bred to eliminate weaknesses, including emotions. However, over the course of the TV series she becomes one of the few good examples of the strong woman character as she makes a stand for what she believes is right and ultimately ends up embracing her roles as wife and mother as well as freedom fighter.

That way I'll be ready to act if there's an armed communist uprising while we're having the party.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Challenge Accepted!

I have a hard time backing down from challenges. I have a competitive nature, you see, but not in the usual way. I don't care about beating others, I care about outdoing myself. So whenever anyone issues me a challenge, I have a hard time turning it down. Even when, intellectually, I know that I should. That competitive part of me gnaws away at my resolve until I give in.

So it is that even though I said to myself, I'm not going to care about getting EXACTLY 200 words for the first Campaigner Challenge... it bothered me. I told myself, I'm not going to fuss too much over word count. I'm going to focus on the story. (I mean, do you have any idea how hard writing a story in 200 words is?) Still, I couldn't let it go. So the following flash fiction piece meets all three of the first Campaigner Challenge criteria, the mandatory and the optional. It begins with "The door swung open" it ends with "The door swung shut" and it is EXACTLY 200 words.

It also ties into the story of my Apotheosis Cycle (see the page above to find out more about that) since I really can't afford to spend time writing side projects these days. It will probably (in slightly longer form) find its way into a short story. Without further ado...

The door swung open silently on well oiled hinges. Sollon ducked into the sanctuary. Crouching just inside the lightless room, he waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the blackness. He crept with obsessive care toward the darkling recesses of the sanctuary. Here was the secret place that the priests refused to let him see. Slowly out of the gloom a shape appeared, a chamber within the chamber, Sollon realized, with doors of pure gold.

As he approached it, the air thickened around him. His hand paused inches from the golden doors. It had become difficult to breathe. Sweat stung his eyes, but he pushed through the barrier around the naos and flung the doors open.

There lay the statue of the god, robed in cloth of gold, a sun disk above his head. A pulse of energy emanated from the statue threw Sollon onto his back. White hot pain erupted from his spine. The energy of the god coursed over him, sending him tumbling toward the sanctuary’s entrance until he lay sprawled in the outer chamber.

He could not move. He could not speak. He prayed. Re, forgive me, don’t let me die!

The door swung shut.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Example for Insecure Writers

Today I'm posting for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. If you're feeling a little insecure and need a place to commiserate this is the time to do it. If you have been there, done that and now think you can offer some encouragement to your fellow writers this is also the time to do it. To be honest, I thought I would be squarely in the first camp. After all, I'm probably the world's most insecure person. However, I have been inspired by something in real life lately, and I want to share it with you.

My eldest daughter, Luthien Tinuviel, has always been very advanced with her verbal skills. She learned to use complete sentences very early and has just about been driving us crazy ever since. In addition, she has a strong artistic streak. We have large boxes full of all the art she's made over the past few years. Then about 4 years ago with grandma's help she made us a picture book for Christmas. It was all about Dora the Explorer. Luthien dictated and grandma wrote everything down, word for word. Where it lacked coherency it more than made up for it on the "About the Author" page. It goes like this:

My name is "who is the bear?" I read about the three bears book. My real name is Luthien McCabe. I'm 4. I like food, waterfalls, and streams. I like to play a game. I like to build a snowman in wintertime. I like to go to Grandma's house. My family was eaten by really ugly polar bears. They were black and ugly. I tricked you. My family was saved by a beautiful angel with a magic wand. I love you Daddy, Mommy and Maedhros. 

Over the next few years there were a few more books. A book all about princesses. A book called "Me in the Mirror" where her creativity really began to shine. Then she discovered Narnia and became a little obsessed. Her next book was all about her journey to the real Narnia where she played games with Prince Rillian. She wanted to publish it. "You can't publish it, sweetie," I told her. "It's copyrighted. No one else can publish books about Narnia except the C.S. Lewis estate." She had a hard time accepting this since she firmly believed that Narnia is a real place. Why couldn't she write books about a real place? No matter, she moved on.

Luthien and Maedhros drawing together.

The last year has been marked by different attempts to write something she could publish. It was easy while she was writing fanfiction, but eventually she moved on to original works. I struggled with how I could tell her that her childish, barely legible picture books drawn in spiral notebooks were not publishable. But I'm nothing if not straightforward so I just told her. "They're not really good enough to publish." And I fervently prayed that I wasn't discouraging her from writing stories altogether. She kept trying. "Is this one good enough to publish yet?" "Not yet." Eventually she stopped asking, but when I would tell her how much I liked her story she would ruefully comment, "But not good enough to publish." At some point I explained to her that 8 year-olds don't generally get to publish books, especially when they are so sloppy about spelling and punctuation. Even that did not discourage her.

This entire summer she's been filling notebooks with stories. Mostly episodes of the Thundercats with the new Thundercat Leperda and she recently started a He-Man/Thundercats crossover. She doesn't talk about publishing them. She knows she needs to learn and practice. It hasn't dimmed her creative fire. Yesterday she started a new one. She hasn't let me see it yet. She's worried I won't like it because it's too "boyish". I told her I can't wait to see it.

Her determination and her sheer output are putting me to shame. At this point, I'm going to have to get my act together if I want to publish before she does. But like her, I'm not going to let it discourage me. I'm going to take up this challenge and I'm going to keep working and practicing until I have something I can publish. I will be an author!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Miscelaneous Paraphernalia: Upcoming Blogfests and Fall Plans

What a week. As I write this, I sit at the brink of 200 followers, a milestone I never thought to reach this soon. After all, I've only been blogging for 6 1/2 months.So I look at my follower widget and see the number 198 and my brain goes "Woah..." It totally blows my mind, man. Some time ago I said that when I reached 200 followers I wanted to host my first blogfest. I thought at the time that it would take longer, but with the Writers Platform Building Campaign in the works, 200 is just around the corner. I still want to hold a blogfest, whether I feel prepared or not. So look for that coming soon!

Until then here are a few fun blogfests I've signed up for:

Talli Roland is celebrating the launch of her book Watching Willow Watts on September 14th by organizing an 'If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be...' party. Come dressed as that one person you've always admired, longed to impersonate, or just plain envied. Now is your chance to make your superhero, film-star, or Rock God fantasies come true (okay, maybe not all your fantasies...). If you have a blog and you'd like to take part, all you need to do is post a photo of your chosen one (dead or alive) along with an explanation why you've picked that person. Sounds like fun! I still have to decide who I want to be.

Alex J. Cavanaugh's Worst Movies Ever Blogfest! On Monday, September 19, post a list of up to ten of the worst movies you’ve ever had the misfortune to watch. Films that just oozed awfulness and featured plot holes so big you could drive a bus through them. Any genre or year, but only theater and straight to video/DVD titles. (Otherwise we’d all list every movie ever made by the SyFy Channel!) Sign up, grab the button, and on September 19, give us the worst! And be sure to visit others participating in the blogfest.

Margo Lerwill's I AM LEGEND blogfest, to celebrate the one year anniversary of her blog. On September 29, 2011, stand up to say I AM LEGEND and tell us why. One of the participants will win either a copy of Donald Maass's The Fire in Fiction or a hardcover edition of George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons, winner's choice. The winner will be picked at random and announced here on Friday, September 30th, 2011.

And something truly epic: the Rule of Three blogfest, hosted by  Damyanti Biswas, J.C. Martin and Stuart Nager. This blogfest is too awesome to sum up briefly, but essentially our hosts have outlined a Shared World setting: the town of Renaissance. The blogfest participants are invited to create three characters to inhabit the town and each Wednesday in October to post a piece of 500 word flash fiction to introduce each of the characters with the final Wednesday to finalize the story you fashion around the three characters. All genres and styles of writing are welcome. I haven't explained it very well, so go read the post and sign up to support this unique blogfest challenge!

So can you guys believe it's September already? I feel like this year is vanishing under my feet. I wanted to accomplish so much more than I have. Still, I have accomplished more than I have in any other year so that is something. I've spent a lot of time focusing on the big picture in my writing: worldbuilding, outlining story arcs. So much do I enjoy these activities that I am afraid I'll be forever caught up in it and never get the actual stories written. And yet, for the kind of mythopoeia that I want to accomplish with my writing, these things are very necessary.

I've decided not to push and pressure myself too hard. A novel this year was too ambitious. So I have decided instead to write and finish and self publish at least one short story before Christmas. Also, I want to have the worldbuilding and the story arc planning mostly done before the new year.

This is the time of year I need to frantically start sewing if I want to make Halloween costumes (and possibly a little something to wear to the Ren fest in a couple of weeks). My oldest daughter, Luthien, is crazy about Halloween. She likes it even better than Christmas. This year she's been watching Thundercats a lot (we bought a DVD set recently) and has decided that she wants to dress up as WilyKit (one of the Thunder Kittens) and she's decided her younger brother should dress up like a Thundercat too. We figure he'd like Lion-O best. I'm not sure how I'm going to make them Thundercats costumes that will still keep them warm. It gets cold up here that time of year. For those of you interested in sewing (particularly costuming) I'll be launching a second blog where I can chronicle my sewing projects. It is National Sewing Month now, after all.

My other big project for this fall? Finally turning part of our basement into a personal writing room! I'm really excited about that. It can be really hard to write in my house with all the kids and distractions. My husband has promised though to give me time to sneak down into my new writing retreat and do some focused work. (He's wonderful.) It just needs to be cleaned up a bit and painted and then maybe decorated to provide maximum inspiration. Pics when it's done!

So, another other fun blogfests going? What are your plans for the fall?