Monday, October 24, 2011

MonsterFest: Apep, Enemy of Ra

The month of October is MonsterFest brought to you by Sommer Leigh and today I'm going to post about the mythological monster that is the inspiration for the Big Bad in my fantasy universe.

Apep is the serpent god of Egyptian mythology. Though you might have heard of him by his Greek name, Apophis. (Any Stargate fans out there?) He was an embodiment of darkness and chaos, the enemy of light and order. Apep was a prominent figure in the cosmology of ancient Egypt but was a deity whom people worshiped against rather than worshiped.

It was believed that Apep lived in Duat, the Egyptian underworld and that every night he would attack the sun barque carrying the god Re and his party in an effort to swallow the sun. Some stories said that he waiting just over the western mountains and would attack the sun as it set. Others, including the Amduat or Book of the Underworld, said that Apep waited for Re in the Tenth Hour of the Night to swallow him up before dawn. Apep had a hypnotizing stare that he used on Re and his entourage while damming up the river that the sun barque traveled on with his coils. Yet Re had many defenders with him to help fight off Apep, including the god Set, and so everyday they managed to defeat Apep once again so that the sun could rise in the morning.

Though it seemed to the Egyptians that sometimes Apep could escape from Duat and attack Re during the day and even sometimes succeeded in swallowing him for a few minutes before Re's defenders cut him free. That was how they explained eclipses of the sun. Other natural phenomenon such as earthquakes and storms were also explained as times when Apep got the upperhand in his battles with Re.

In order to aid Re and the other gods in their daily battles with Apep, Egyptians priests would engage in certain rituals such as the annual Banishing of Apep. During this ritual an effigy of Apep was made and imbued with all of the evil of the land. It would then be beaten, crushed, smeared with mud and burned. There was also a text called The Book of Overthrowing Apep which gave instructions for the spells and rituals that would help defeat Apep each day.

Apep was viewed as a very powerful god and earned some awesome titles such as World Encircler, Evil Lizard, the Serpent of Rebirth (since no matter how many times he was defeated, he always came back to life), and my personal favorite Eater-Up of Souls (he was thought to devour the souls of men who traveled in Duat).

Thus Apep is the model for the creature of chaos who, along with his family, will be the primary villains in my fantasy saga. Pretty good inspiration, don't you think?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Feeling Lonely in the Blogosphere

You ever have those times when you're feeling down about something and you know that your feelings aren't really logical or fair but knowing that doesn't make them go away either and you just feel like if you don't get it off your chest you'll scream? It's like this, I know what I'm about to say might not go over well. But if blogs aren't for revealing all your dirty secrets to the point that no one likes you anymore then what are they for, I ask you? So here goes...

I'm sick to death of YA.

And when I say that I don't mean I'm sick of reading it, because I'm not sure if I ever have read any. I don't even know where YA starts and stops. But I'm sick of it being... just... everywhere.

Some days it feels like all anyone in the blogosphere writes is YA and they're constantly talking about it and praising it and acting like it's the best thing since the advent of civilization.

And I get it, you know? My logical mind totally gets it. But every time I click on a blog post that's just going on and on about YA this and YA that... I just feel like I'm on the outside and I'll never fit in.

Because YA, to me, is somewhat lower on the totem of important things than, say, ceiling fans and laundry baskets to pick a couple of random things in the room around me that I could definitely live without.

I'm pretty sure I never really read YA. At least, not in the "I'm going to read the crap out of this book because it's YA and YA is awesome" sense. When I was a teen I pretty much just jumped right into the adult section. Man, I remember clearing out the Shakespeare section of the library after my first encounter with Romeo and Juliet in Freshman year of High School. (I also remember accidentally picking up a somewhat risque romance novel set in 18th century France that my mother would definitely not have approved of but that's another story.)

So I guess while I can acknowledge it intellectually part of me doesn't understand why everyone is obsessed with the doings of obnoxious teens. I mean, I wasn't, not even as a teen. I preferred to read about adults. And another part of me can't quite wrap my mind around why so many adults want to both read and write about teens as their chosen career. Seriously? Don't you want to leave that awful decade behind you just a little?

But really this isn't about YA,  it's all about one very simple thing: I feel lonely in the blogosphere.

I came here to meet and mingle with people who are passionate about the same thing I am passionate about: writing stories. And I have. I've met tons of you and you're all fantastic.

But sometimes just the commonality of "we're all writers here" isn't quite enough. Sometimes I really want to find and get to know people who are passionate about Fantasy. And I have. The Patform Building Campaign gave me a list of dozens of writers who consider themselves writers of fantasy. But I go through those lists most of them end up being writers who write YA Fantasy which... I have very little interest in. And then another large percentage of them end up being writers of Urban Fantasy or some kind of Paranormal fiction. (Or both at the same time!) Which again I have very little interest in. Another group of them will be writers who categorize themselves as writers of "Science Fiction and Fantasy" but all the evidence points to them being mostly Sci Fi writers.

And I don't have anything against these writers. Obviously all of these subgenres share a connection. But Urban Fantasy and Paranormal and anything YA... I just can't even feel a good spark of interest in. I like Sci Fi, but it's not a genre I could ever be passionate enough to write in.

I have to admit that actually I am looking for people who are passionate about Epic Fantasy, or Imaginary World Fantasy. And even more specifically I am hoping to find other people who have a deep love for sub-creation and mythopoeia. Basically, I desperately want to find other people like me. Because I feel very much alone with my passion for a certain type of Fantasy. And that scares me. Sometimes it makes the little voices in my head say, "Maybe you are the only one. Maybe your stories will never sell."

My rational brain knows that can't be true. The Lord of the Rings wouldn't be the most popular Fantasy novel ever if that was true. But doubts have an awful way of sticking with you no matter what your rational brain says.

But besides all of that, there is just a part of every person that wants to befriend others who are like them, who think the same ways and love the same things. Sometimes the broad categories aren't enough. "Writing" isn't enough. "Fiction" isn't enough. "Fantasy" isn't even enough anymore. I crave the fellowship of people like me, who have a deep love and abiding passion for mythopoeic (literally: myth making, fantasy that attempts to create whole mythologies and is influenced by our real world mythologies) sub-creation (a deeper kind of worldbuilding) for adults.

Is it too much to ask?

Perhaps it is. Perhaps the writing blogosphere will always be mostly YA writers. But at least this little rant has helped to relieve some of the oppressiveness of the loneliness.

I hope all of you YA lovers can forgive me.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay it Forward... or Backward? or Sideways?

Considering the number of participants and the fact that this badge is probably all over your dashboard, I doubt have have to explain what this particular blogfest is about. But, let's be honest here, three blogs out of the 200+ blogs that I'm following is an impossible choice to make. It really boggles my mind. So what I've decided to do is recommend the three most useful blogs I follow from professionals in the publishing business. These blogs have changed the way I view everything about publishing. They've given me so much knowledge and insight and helped me to really see a clear path forward. They've helped me immensely so I hope they help you.

If you read just one blog about the publishing industry and all the changes going on, read the blog of Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Every Thursday she writes a post in a series called The Business Rusch and it is, quite seriously, the best thing since sliced bread.

From her most recent post:

In this blog over the past few years, I’ve been detailing the changes as they’ve occurred. I’ve been trying to impart my knowledge as a former (and current) publisher, an award-winning book-and-magazine editor, and a bestselling writer to all you folks as the changes occurred so that you would have the information you need for the choices that you have to make.

Read through her articles and you will learn so much about the history and current state of the publishing industry that it will boggle your mind. This fantastic lady knows what she's talking about, she's been in the industry and seen in from many sides for decades. She's not just a writer who managed to get a few published books, she's a professional who has built a career in publishing. She's a smart and savvy businesswoman.

Ms. Rusch emphasized that the industry is radically different than it used to be. It used to be that there was only one path to getting published. One size fits all. Now there are many paths and every writer has to choose the one which is right for them. But you can't make that choice unless you understand your options, understand the business. She encouraged writers to learn about the publishing business so that they can take their careers in their own hands and make the right choices for themselves.

I know that, having read her blog obsessively for some months now, I certainly feel better armed to faces all the choices and challenges ahead. I can't possibly recommend it highly enough.

My second recommendation, which easily matches my first for usefulness, is the blog of Dean Wesley Smith. He's another industry professional: best selling author, former editor, former publisher. Dean is actually Kristine's husband and it's a wonder that their house doesn't burst into flames from too much collected sense. He writes a few insanely useful series on his blog: New World of Publishing, How to Think Like a Publisher, and Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. Killing the Sacred Cows is probably my favorite because one could just as easily call it "Debunking the Logical Fallacies of Publishing" and I'm like Spock in my love of logic.

His point is that there's been a lot of faulty thinking perpetuated by the publishing industry over the years, most of which is beneficial to publishers but dangerous to authors. Dean, despite having worked as an editor and publisher, has his loyalty firmly with the writer and so he actively works to help us overcome these illogical ways of thinking that publishing has ground into the writer, hoping to help us step up and take control of our own writing careers, to be smart businesspeople with our writing. I guess he's developed a bit of a reputation as a reactionary in some circles, but as I read his posts I can detect nothing but solid knowledge and experience, good sense, and reasonable advice.

He's a defendant of and advocate for writers everywhere, wanting us to get the most out of our careers that we can, and I appreciate that.

Finally, I recommend the blog of Robin Sullivan, Write to Publish. Robin is another savvy businesswoman. In this case, she was successful in other fields first before becoming a publisher and publicist for her author husband, Micheal J. Sullivan. She worked hard to make him successful in the arena of self-publishing first, but now she runs a small press called Ridan Publishing. I like Robin because she recognizes the worth in multiple paths to publishing success. She's not a self-publishing only advocate, or a small press only advocate, or a traditional publishing only advocate. She works in all those arenas (having secured a nice 6 figure deal for her husband's self published books with a major publisher) and has success in all those arenas.

Her blog offers a lot of practical information and tips. She monitors the market and the industry and often posts her findings in hard numbers. She also offers great tips to authors from how to pick a title, whether to use a pen name, to branding, to how to use social media to increase your author presence and much more. It's definitely a valuable resource for writers.

I really hope that some of you will explore these blogs and get as much out of them as I have. It's because of them that I feel confident about my future as an author, that I know how I want to create my career. Good luck and happy reading!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Rule of Three Blogfest, Week 2: The Lady

This week's entry came in at 595 words and falls under the prompt "One of the characters is revealed to be not who he or she is."

Week One can be found here.

The Lady

“What now?” asked Khrusostom as he slung the strap of his lute case over his shoulder.

Bulsara shrugged. “I guess we’ll have to find the Lady.”

Khrusostom eyed him skeptically. “Tell me she’s actually an acquaintance of yours and not just someone you’ve spotted with a heaving bosom.”

“Neither. But I’m beginning to wonder why she set me up to this.”

Khrusostom bowed his head. “Lead the way.”

Bulsara cocked his hat and approached the nearest doorway. When a young woman answered he leaned into the doorway close to her and started speaking in intimate tones. When he returned to Khrusostom he pointed across the town to the north.

“That way.”

Dawn was peaking over the skyline when they managed to huff and puff their way up to the imposing facade of a great grey house on the edge of the Assart forest. Bulsara raised a fist and banged on the door, to tired to put on his charm. A serving man in a coat with its buttons askew answered.

“I’m here,” Bulsara panted, “to see the lady of the house. We met yesterday and she requested some music.” He brandished Khrusostom’s lute case. “Bloody woman, why does she live so far from the town?”
The serving man showed them a small chamber kept for visiting bards. His tone made it clear he didn’t approve of anyone coming to the Lady’s home at such an ungodly hour.

“Well, it’s her fault I haven’t got a bed in the Inn so stuff it, Stuffy,” Bulsara muttered.

Khrusostom smiled. “My partner is irrational from fatigue. Tell the Lady that we are grateful for the room and that we await her pleasure on the morrow.”

By the time the summons of the house’s mistress arrived it was evening and Bulsara was pacing like a caged animal. Bulsara growled and glared as they were guided to a large hall full of well dressed men and women. On an elegant couch a woman in the frilliest and (Bulsara rhymed in his head) silliest dress he had ever seen. She smiled at him through garishly painted lips and uneven teeth and asked for a song.

Bulsara stood immobile and wide eyed before suddenly slipping into his “court minstrel” persona with only slightly less ease than usual. “My Lady!” he cried. “A song I wrote this very moment in praise of your beauty.”

Khrusostom fitted his lute comfortably into his hands and began playing a traditional song from Bulsara’s homeland, which he always sang in these situations. Being sung in a foreign language, his subjects never knew that it was really a husband’s lament at being stuck with an ugly wife. They went through their usual court catalogue for the better part of an hour, but something felt wrong to Khrusostom. Bulsara’s performance was not as smooth as usual and his eyes constantly scanned the crowd. Then it was over.

The Lady praised them and petted them and then sent them away promising another night’s stay and payment in the morning. They slunk back to the little room in the servant’s wing. As the door closed Khrusostom rounded on Bulsara.

“All right, friend,” he said. “Tell me what’s going on here.”

Bulsara gave him a dark look. “That was not the Lady I met. Yet... it must have been.”

There was a light knock on the door. Khrusostom opened it to a slight girl in a simple, blue shift. Her long, golden hair dingy from dust. Bulsara leapt up.


She put a finger to her lips. “Be quiet and follow me.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Study of Fantasy: Beginnings lead to Phantastes

Hey, remember waaaaay back when I posted about doing an in depth reading study of the modern fantasy genre from its beginnings until today? I haven't forgotten, promise. I'm still doing it. Why is it taking me so long?

One word: Phantastes.

Now when I sat down to read up on the history of modern fantasy, I wasn't exactly sure where to begin. Fantasy author, editor and critic Lin Carter, who wrote the book Imaginary Worlds, seemed to think it didn't properly start until William Morris. The History of Fantasy wikipedia (that fount of all knowledge) page included such stories as "A Christmas Carol", "Alice in Wonderland" and practically everything Hans Christian Andersen wrote as the beginnings of fantasy in the modern era. But I was looking for the beginning of fantasy as a recognizable new genre which I don't think those stories do. A Christmas Carol as supernatural elements, true, but I don't believe it is the supernatural that makes fantasy. Alice in Wonderland takes Alice to a fabulous imaginary world full of wonder, but doesn't treat Wonderland like a real place. Hans Christian Andersen, as wonderful as his works are, is clearly writing modern fairy tales, which I maintain is different than fantasy even if subtly so.

Wikipedia also recommended John Ruskin's The King of the Golden River, which I did read. (It wasn't hard, being quite a thin volume.) But this too seemed to follow the fairy tale conventions too closely to be true modern fantasy. Also there was Sara Coleridge's Phatasmion which in 1837 was described as "the first fairytale novel written in English". Definitely intriguing. But I bypassed it for one simple reason: it was very difficult to find. Not online. Online you can find it right here (and I'll probably read it one day) but I don't really like to sit around reading novels off my computer. I wanted it either in book form or on my kindle. So Phantasmion will have to stay on the back burner for a while.

Then there was George MacDonald. Lin Carter obviously considered him a pre-modern fantasy genre writer, a writer of modern fairy tales. However, I decided to start with him for one strong reason: his work was, by the admition of the authors and popular consensus, a huge influence on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, two of the most influential fantasy authors of the 20th century. MacDonald's book Phantastes had the advantage, as well, of being widely considered as the first book of its kind written for adults. So in the end I decided to start my study there.

Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women
by George MacDonald

I'll come right out and say it: this was a hard book to read, and I'm no slouch about reading literature from other centuries. Language wise it's not difficult as some books this old are, and I actually highlighted quite a few quotes from the story in my kindle. It's told in first person point of view and the entirety of the story is about the main character's wanderings through fairy land.

It begins on the main character's 21st birthday, when he comes into possession of his late father's desk. He opens it up with a key and in a little nook he finds a small fairy lady. (Seriously.) This fairy, who is apparently his grandmother according to wikipedia's plot summary though I didn't get that from the text myself, helpfully(?) transports him to fairy land and he spends the rest of the novel wandering around there. 

The problem with the story is that this is about all you can say for any sort of coherent plot. The rest is incredibly episodic, doesn't have any sort of internal consistency and no driving force or goal. Though there are certain recurring elements. Anodos, the protagonist, finds a marble statue and sings it to life but then she runs off through fairy land and he spends a good part of his time trying to find her again. He has an encounter with his shadow which proceeds to follow him through fairy land and though this shadow is portrayed as a sinister force it is not clear exactly what threat it poses to Anodos. There is also a knight in rusted armor who is apparently Sir Percival but again I missed that in the text. Anodos meets the knight a few times during his wanderings, is saved by him from a malevolent force, finds out that the knight is the one his marble lady truly loves, and ultimately becomes his squire. 

At one point Anodos finds himself in a fairy castle which has no other visible inhabitants. And it is during this interlude that he decides to, and I'm not even exaggerating this, completely recount for his readers a book that Anodos reads in the library of the castle. This story of a man named Cosmo and his magical mirror (Seriously.) is somewhat more interesting that Anodos' adventures, which at this point isn't hard. Eventually Anodos finds that his marble lady has once again become a statue in the castle and he manages to free her with his singing a second time but she runs off again. The most interesting episode of Anodos' wanderings, in my opinion, was hen he randomly encounters two princes who be befriends and joins in their quest to slay three ravaging giants. The two princes are killed in the process however and Anodos ends up wandering again. Then he is captured in a tower by his shadow for no discernible reason and then freed for no discernible reason by the rusty knight. 

While serving the knight Anodos sacrifices his life for no discernible reason and dies, lingering in the realm of fairy land in a state of perfect bliss for a little while and uttering some of the creepiest lines ever written. 

"Ah! my friends," thought I, "how I will tend you, and wait upon you, and haunt you with my love."

Eventually, though, he wakes up in the real world, 21 days having passed and goes back to his life, wiser for the experience.

Needless to say, I found the lack of direction in the plot very tedious, which is why it took me FOREVER to finish reading this book. In hindsight (and after you get to the ending where he's... floating around as some sort of blessed dead waxing eloquent it's much more obvious) that this book really isn't a fairy story, it's more of an allegory of spiritual truth. I get the feeling that if I went back and reread it with this in mind, instead of taking it at face value as a story, I would enjoy it more. The prose is often very beautiful and MacDonald puts some very insightful words into his character's mouth. I've found myself highlighting (such a great kindle feature) many passages in this book.

But is it not rather that art rescues nature from the weary and sated regards of our senses, and the degrading injustice of our anxious everyday life, and, appealing to the imagination, which dwells apart, reveals Nature in some degree as she really is, and as she represents herself to the eye of the child, whose every-day life, fearless and unambitious, meets the true import of the wonder-teeming world around him, and rejoices therein without questioning?

As in all sweetest music, a tinge of sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be deepest joy. Cometh white-robed Sorrow, stooping and wan, and flingeth wide the doors she may not enter. Almost we linger with Sorrow for very love.

The first I knew the delight of being lowly; of saying to myself, "I am what I am, nothing more."

I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood.

In the end I'm glad I read it. It made me realize that the "person finds a secret way from our world into another world" isn't a cliche of the fantasy genre invented for wish fulfillment. It's a direct descendant of the ancient myths and legends where men and women often get taken or go willingly into the Otherworld, the realm of the faerie. This seems so obvious in hindsight, especially since I have read many, many such myths and legends from Celtic tradition, but I honestly had not thought about it from that angle before. As much as I love Narnia (one of the great achievements in fantasy in the 20th century) I was getting a bit fed up with that kind of story, the "portal story" as it's called. But now I think this is rather a problem with some modern versions of the portal story and not with the motif itself. Particularly fantasies where the relationship between our world and the imaginary world is unclear, comprising an incomplete cosmology.

My conclusion is that Phantastes is rather dry as a fantasy novel, but well worth at least one reading, especially if one knows what one's getting into. It's an important stepping stone in the transition between fairy tale and modern fantasy.

Next time: The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris

Also, check in tomorrow for my second installment of the Rule of Three Blogfest story.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Rule of Three: Week One Entry

Without any ado, here is my entry for the first week of the Rule of Three Blogfest.

The Singer

The note began in the bottom register leaping and bounding in long, luxurious steps to reach the sky. It rang through the smoky Inn drawing all heads in his direction. In the shadows behind him, Bulsara’s partner strummed out a chord on his lute, and Bulsara began singing.

Dear husband, dear husband I’ve baked well thy bread,
I’ve washed out the stains from thy garb
And into them I have poured all of my love
so that nothing shall bring you to harm.

The lady’s eyes had sparkled playfully as she had approached him in the market place of the town of Renaissance that morning. “Bulsara of Farhad, I’ve heard of you. They say you can make a room of hardened men weep with the sweetness of your voice. But can you cause a room full of drunks and gamblers to return home to their wives, and give them the love they deserve? Can you make a man regret his acts and change his nature?”

“An interesting challenge, my lady,” Bulsara had said as he bent low over her hand. “To even attempt to change a man’s nature through one’s own power is a dangerous thing. It should not be attempted.”

Yet husband, oh husband, where are you this night?
Where are thy boots by the door?
What keeps thee away from thy wife and thy child?
Away from thy cottage so poor?

The lady had laughed. “I see, Sir Minstrel. I see that you cannot do it.”

“My lady! You are trying to tempt me with an appeal to my pride. But I have been in this business long enough to ignore such things,” Bulsara had scolded her.

Husband, oh husband remember thy child!
Remember thy wife all alone.
Remember that thou left us here in the night,
alone with thy knife and thy gun.

“What can I offer to entice you,” the lady had teased. “Jewels? Gold? A peacock feather for your hat?”

Bulsara had grinned. “A kiss.”

Dear husband, dear husband, I kept thy bed warm.
I kept thy bed warm til I died.
Though now it is stained with the blood of us both,
who would fain have been by thy side.

Silence descended on the room. There were no tears among his audience. But here and there the brutish faces began to show concern. And one by one, in silence, they left their seats and went out the door. 

“Nicely done,” the lutist said as he packed away his instrument. “Do you think you actually made a difference in them?”

Bulsara shrugged. “My voice can affect their emotions, increase their guilt, inspire them, but it can’t actual change their nature. At least, I don’t think so.”

“I suppose we’ll find out.”

The Innkeeper emerged from the tap room holding a tray full of foaming mugs. He took one look around the room and yelled, “Where are my patrons?”

Bulsara and his partner looked at each other, grabbed their gear and made a run for the door.

“Fantastic!” cried the lutist. “We’ve lost our place again!”


I'll be honest and admit that I had no idea what I was going to do when I sat down to write this... THIS MORNING! Yes, I'm a procrastinator supreme. I've been thinking about what kind of story I might write for a long time, but never had so much as a tiny spark of inspiration. I had also forgotten that there were going to be prompts for each week. Fortunately, I happened to accidentally fit one of them with the above story, that of having a "humorous circumstance". Also, this is the first time I've every written any type of poetry that wasn't for a grade. I don't do poetry. I barely even read it. But I think this came out fairly well, for me anyway.

I think I have some idea now of where I want to take this story in the following weeks, so check back on the 12th, 19th and 26th for the rest of the story.

Edit: I didn't realize we were supposed to post word counts. The above entry is 510 words. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

IWSG: Fears about Originality

Today is the Insecure Writers Support Group! When we flood the world wide web with our pathetic tears. Or hopefully not. Last month I shared about my eight-year-old daughter's inspirational writing habits. (She is, by the way, still at it. Just the other day she received a new diary and did she start writing about boys in it? No, she started writing a story called "The Adventures of Luthien and Dot" about her and her new baby cheetah stuffed toy. It also features some of the Thundercats.) But today, ah today! I am feeling a bit apprehensive myself and I'd like to share a little bit about what's worrying me.

I love ancient history and mythology. Like, a lot. I'm a little bit obsessed with Ancient Egypt in particular. And thus history and mythology is a huge inspiration for and influence on my writing and my worldbuilding. What worries me is this:

Is it an influence to the point where I am just rehashing history and mythology and not being original at all?

This has been a concern for me for a long time. It's always there under the surface. For some time I thought I had defeated it. But recently I read a book with tips for writing fantasy where the author made the argument that if you are taking names from history and mythology and not making up your own names for your fantasy world, then you are a hack. And thus all the old insecurities reared their ugly heads and yelled, "We're baaack!"

Names are a difficulty for me, I admit. I love names. I appreciate a well turned name, made up or no. But I've never been good at inventing them. I'm no Tolkien. So I've been appropriating names from history and from mythology to use in my world. Akhet, the name of one country in my world, is the Egyptian name for the horizon. Another land is even less inspired, Breizh is simply the Breton language name for Brittany. The island of Palis I adapted from an early name that Tolkien made up but never ultimately used. (Which was an intentional homage to his influence on me.) Character names are no better. Narmer was the name of a very early Egyptian king as was Menes. Sollon is Solon, the Greek politician and philosopher, with the oh-so-clever addition of an L.

But of course names aren't the only problem. I am also concerned that I am following cultures too closely. Since the beginning I intended Akhet to take much from Ancient Egypt. But I intended to pick and choose how much of real Egyptian culture I wanted to use and make up the rest. The problem is that I love almost everything about Egyptian culture and now I'm concerned that Akhet will be little more than an obvious and shallow copy.

Ultimately, am I taking too much from the real world, and not making my world original enough? The thought haunts me. Tolkien is my role model as a worldbuilder and it's clear that he took his inspiration from northern mythology and literature. Yet he took it and somehow made it wholly his. I worry incessantly that I will fall miserably far of this ideal.

So there you have it, ISWG. Any words of encouragement for me?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Awards and Challenges and Blogfests Oh My!

Today is for playing catch up! I've been so out of the blogging loop, just barely hanging on, during the month of September. But now it's October and I think I'm ready to get back into the game!

First things first, even when I dropped off the face of the blogosphere and didn't post for a while, I had a few blog awards come in. That really made my day, coming back and seeing that. Dawn Allen and Kadie Kinney passed the Versatile Blogger Award on to me. And Deniz Bevan gave me the Liebster Award. Thanks, ladies! It really means a lot to me that you enjoy my blog enough to pass an award on to me. (I have this weird feeling that someone else gave me an award too, but I can't for the life of me remember where it was from. If it was you, please remind me!) It's traditional to share seven things about yourself with the Versatile award, but instead I'm going to share this awesome video:

And I'm passing both awards on to everyone in my Fantasy Campaigner group, whose blogs I need to visit more often.

Amanda Leigh Cowley
Leann D. Baldwin
Christine Tyler
Michele Helene
Notes from the Jovian Frontier
Rachel Morgan
J. A. Bennett
Mel Flowler
Stephanie at Word by Word
Heather McCorkle
Roger Eschbacher
Rebecca Ryals Russell
Alberta Ross
Eileen Wiedbrauk
Liz of Home is Where the Cat Is
Andrew Leon
The Golden Eagle
Concrete Pieces of Soul
The Kelworth Files
Ninja Owl
Hektor Karl
A. B. England

The final round of the year for A Round of Words in 80 Days has started this week and I'm giving it another shot. I failed spectacularly last time and learned the truth behind the old saying "Ambition should be made of sterner stuff". I'm going to curb that ambition this time, while still setting myself a goal that will give me a challenge.

My goal is to write everyday. And I don't mean blog posts or challenges or worldbuilding notes or outlines. I mean that I need to write narrative for one of my WIPs everyday. I'm not setting a word goal, because my days are just too unpredictable for that. But if I can manage to first establish writing something everyday for 80 days then hopefully it will become a habit and I can start setting myself word count goals in the future.

That's my hard goal. My soft goal to go along with that is that I would like to complete a short story, have at least a basic outline for all of the stories in my Apotheosis Cycle and finish worldbuilding the lands of Palis and Akhet. But these goals will be the icing on the cake.

Anyway, wish me luck! I'll be trying to keep my blog actually updated as to my progress at least once a week this time.

And last bit of business: blogfest announcements!

Tomorrow is the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group hosted by the fantastic Alex Cavanaugh. I know a lot of us could use the encouragement.

This week the Rule of Three Blogfest finally kicks off. You can post your first story installment either Wednesday or Thursday. I'll be posting on Thursday due to the IWSG.

Sommer Leigh is holding a month long MonsterFest where you can sign up any day during October to write a post about any type of scary creature from stories. I'll be posting on the 24th about Apep, the serpent god of Egyptian mythology, and how I'm using him as the inspiration and source of the Big Bad in my fantasy world.

And I'm spent. Have a great blogging and writing week!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Caitlin Nicoll in the Spotlight

Today there is a little interview with me over at E.R. King's blog for Blogging Mentor Monday.  The thought of me as a Blogging Mentor when I still feel so new to this is a bit laughable, but I decided to play along anyway. It's my first interview which is very exciting.

To go along with that auspicious event, I've decided to post the very first interview I've given today. I really should have posted it earlier, but well, that's life. Here's Caitlin Nicoll of the blog Logically to answer my questions.

A "semi-accurate photo representation" of Caitlin.
1. Tell us a ridiculous story about yourself. (It doesn't have to be true.)

Back about maybe twelve years ago, I was watching TV with my mother (we had the strangest conversations in front of the TV), and she turned to me and said, "when I die, I want a Viking funeral." She then proceeded to tell me the exact plans she wanted; who was going to shoot the first arrow, where it was going to be located, and so on. At the time I just rolled my eyes and nodded, "Ok, mom." Then about four years ago, under cover of night, with the tide high and one of us on the lookout for staties, my family gave her a posthumous Viking funeral. We even had a teddy bear effigy with a skewer for a sword. After all, a viking needs his sword in Valhalla. Yea, Erik the Red would be proud.

That's very touching and very epic.

2. What genre do you write in and what is it that draws you to that genre?
I write fantasy and science fiction. I don't know what exactly it is that draws me to them. I think it's the chance to create new and amazing things--creatures, countries, cultures, myths, people. I like to create. the bigger, the better. that probably sounds like a weird answer.

Not at all! I suffer from the same urge to create.

3. Tell us a bit about the WIP you are most passionate about.
that would be my fantasy, the Lunatic Fire. Let's see, it has love, war, revenge, jealousy, death, epic battles, vengeful gods, godlike heroes, mortal heroes, fire demons, strange myths, sword fights, awesome powers... basically if the Iliad and the Lord of the Rings had a love child and that child reproduced with the Princess Bride, you would get the Lunatic Fire.

LOTR+Iliad+Princess Bride=Win

4. What's your favorite piece of writing advice?
Read, Read, and read.

Can't go wrong.

5. Traditional or Indie Publishing? And why?
Right now I'm still considering traditional, mostly because I don't really have time to do all the work required for a self-pubbed author to get my book out there. Plus there is an indescribable feeling about holding a physical copy of your work in your hands.

With your name in embossed letters. I agree.

6. Pantser or Plotter? And why?
I'm a little bit of both, but mostly I'm a panster. The majority of my pre-writing plotting is done in my head. I like to have a general idea of where I am going but I usually just let my creativity flow.

Sounds scary. ; )

7. What do you think your strongest writing skill is?
My imagination

Good answer!

8. And your weakest?

I sometimes have no patience for revision or editing. I would rather be doing other things. Oh look, that tree would make an awesome sketch. I feel the sudden urge to draw.

Your drawings are beautiful! Take a look at this example.
What Caitlin did with the paper she won in my giveaway.

9. Do you view writing as more of an art or a craft?
Art. I am an artist after all.

Good point. See above.

10. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?
Elizabeth Taylor. Oh, you mean some living? Maybe Karen Gillan. Yea, definitely her, but only if she kept her accent. We don't exactly look alike, but I think she could pull me off brilliantly. 

Not living is fine too. Everyone should be played by Elizabeth Taylor. 

Thanks for answering my questions, Caitlin!