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Showing posts from 2015

Time Warps

Warp speed ahead! Alright, I know Star Wars is what's all the rage right now, not Star Trek, but I couldn't think of an appropriate Star Wars term. Maybe something along the lines of, "Someone turn off the hyperdrive!" We seem to be going Ludicrous Speed! Got a little bit of Spaceballs in there to round everything out. No, seriously, when did time fly so quickly? I remember when I was my daughter's age time seemed to slow down around Christmas time. I remember my brother and I having days to inspect, weigh and practically sniff the presents under the tree. Tony always had the dilemma on whether or not to open the largest present first or heighten the anticipation by leaving it last. Me? I was always looking for the books. My 8 year old has been dancing, literally dancing, around the house this week singing about how long Christmas is taking to get here.

I actually thought that when I had the week before Christmas off I'd be able to savor the anticipation a li…

Thankful

The snow is already up to the tops of my boots here in the burbs of Chicago. I have a snowman I can look eye to eye with in my front yard and yet it's not even Thanksgiving yet. Welcome to the Midwest! It should be 50 by Thursday so all the snow will turn to leafy brown sludge rimed with ice in the mornings. However, it's the time of year we all turn our minds to our blessings instead of the irritations of things like the weather.

I find it interesting that every November my Facebook wall explodes with people telling the world what they're thankful for. Every day for the entire month until we get sucked into the wonderful world of Christmas shopping and elbowing people out of the way for the newest creepy Elmo toy. Don't get me started on that elf on the shelf thing. (Shivers) I swear those things are plotting against us when we're not looking.

Back to thankfulness. I decided to not participate in the public declaiming of thanks this year. I have in the past, but f…

Do Your Research

My students had research papers due this week. We'd spent five weeks reading the Walter Dean Myers book Fallen Angels and researching and learning about the Vietnam War. We always do the Vietnam War in October to November because it's a war we so rarely get to it in social studies and it's such an important part of our national history and identity. Anyway, we spent two weeks on the who research process. It's always a struggle.There are always a couple of kids who think because they found the information and copied it it's theirs. Plagiarism is an uphill battle in the classroom. I think we got the point across.

As writers, you'd think that all you do is just make stuff up. Right? Well, kind of. We do make up a lot of stuff. And we have to keep all that made up stuff straight. I actually have a notebook in which I write down definitions and descriptions of the things I've created in my worlds. However, there is a lot of research that needs to happen. We don&…

Banned Books Month--Imagine the Possibilities!

I love Banned Books Month. I spent a class period a week or so ago going through what books have been challenged most throughout the last ten years. A lot of the books are still old stand bys: The Catcher in the Rye, Huck Finn, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The kids were a little shocked at how many of the books they've loved over the last several years have been challenged. They were shocked that in the recent past some communities had hosted book burnings for books like the Harry Potter and Twilight series. They didn't understand what anyone could have thought was so bad about them. They understood why 50 Shades has been challenged, even though it's not intended for them at all. 
That last one got me thinking. Full disclosure, I haven't read any of the Shades books. I'm not a prude, but I was warned that the grammar was so appalling I'd have a seizure before the end of the second chapter. So, in order to avoid an aneurysm I've left those books alone. Ho…

Review of "A Life Without Living"

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I really didn't intend to read A Life Without Living in two days, but I have to admit that I really wanted to see what happened. Let me try and let you know what's going on without giving too much away. Four hundred years before Kattarina betrayed the wrong man. Promised to marry Alessandro, she falls in love with Gio, love at first sight, and they plan to run away. Unfortunately, Alessandro found them out and Kattarina paid with her life. As a member of a powerful magical clan, Alessandro curses both lovers. Kattarina is destined to be reborn after each death while Gio is doomed to roam the world trying to find her and win her away from Alessandro.

In this life, Kattarina is Katie and she's married to Alex--Alessandro in this incarnation. Gio, and his friend Willem, have long been tracking Kate. Unfortunately, every other time they've come this close Alex has discovered them and Kate has once more paid. This time, though, Gio has an ace up his sleeve in the form of Cl…

The Power of Writing

I was asked a few interview questions by the local newspaper this past week in my capacity as an English teacher. One of the questions kind of stuck with me. It centered on the idea of when people study of culture they generally look to the social sciences. Did I believe that was an accurate measure or was literature a clearer look?

Well, I got to hop up onto my soapbox for a while. It's an interesting question, isn't it? The literature snob in me, of course has an opinion. A strong one, which I'm sure surprises no one who actually knows me well. We need to remember that history is written by the victors. Generally written by the victors after some judicious pruning. Think about the treatment of World War II in American history books. It's the Greatest Generation--the generation that buckled down, planted victory gardens and won the war over in Europe when France and Britain couldn't go it alone. Those entries completely downplay the fact that the US shrugged it…

Argh! Pirates!

In the last two weeks my publishing company has found and identified two different pirating sites. We've all since rallied together, sent them cease and desist emails and gotten our books taken down, but after a little bit of research I find it's kind of like keeping your finger in the dam to stop the leak. I spent a little bit of time last night typing in my various book titles and seeing what popped up. It was a little distressing to find five different options (that all suspiciously lead to the same log-in screen) that offered free pdfs of my books.

I also found a message thread on a book site in which someone asked if anyone knew if there were a free pdf of Ascent of the Fallen out there since this person really wanted to read it. There were then five or six replies. None of them knew where to find the free copy and a couple of the comments were flattering my author ego. One of them stated that the poster couldn't imagine their life without this book. Another said that…

The Process

Every writer has a slightly different process they use to get the story out of their heads and onto the page. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There is no "one way." Most writers, though do some sort of outlining. I've heard of authors who outline everything! Down to some descriptions or dialogue. When I heard that the first thought I had was, "what's the fun in that?!?"

I prefer broad, rather sweeping outlines. For example, I'm working on "First of the Fallen" right now. "First" is also a prequel to "Ascent of the Fallen." It takes place during the Christianization of Ireland, soon after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire. So, a lot of my notes are historical notes in all caps in parentheses--either questions that I need to know the answers to in order to keep the research strong, or answers to previous questions I'd asked that need to be worked into the narrative.  My actual outline notes are also in all caps u…

Struggling to Remember

I'm finally off for the summer. This was one of the longest years I've had so far in my 18 year career in the classroom. We had a lot of changes to deal with and some stress within the team so it made the year just drag. However, the school year is done and I settled down this morning to continue on FIRST OF THE FALLEN, the prequel to Ascent of the Fallen. I sat down and stared. And stared. And stared...

Wow, am I out of practice! Writing is one of those things you need to keep up with. If you wait a little too long it's just so hard to get back into it. I have all my notes. I know pretty much where I'm supposed to go, but I'm not a really detailed outline type of person. I have notes that say things like "Asmoday shows up to yank Semiazas' chain." That's it. Nothing else. Apparently I had a plan and an idea, but didn't bother to write it down in much detail.

So, I didn't really write anything today, but I reread everything. I got to know t…

Fighting the Good Fight

Life has seriously gotten in the way this past two months and exploded into nasty little bits of rubble over the last week. I've been pretty good about keeping the blog to primarily writing and marketing issues for the last couple of months, but there hasn't been a lot of writing going on these past two months.

Sometimes it works that way. There are weeks when the words are flowing. You can barely keep up and the characters are at your shoulder cheering you one, telling you to type faster. Then there are weeks when you're as a fast as a turtle stampeding through peanut butter. Uphill. Then there are those weeks when there are no words. I've have had a no words week this week.

My daughter's little Catholic school is in jeopardy of closing. So, the parents and the alumni and the staff are closing ranks and trying to beg for one more year. We were told last week. Told we needed 30 more bodies in the seats to stay open. Told we had 10 days in which to find them. I'…

When Stories Take a Twist

So, my latest project was supposed to be another novella and then a short story. I'd just finished up "Shades of the Fallen," a novella that takes place after "Ascent of the Fallen" and the arch angel Nathanial's tragic story was just waiting to be told. We learned a little bit about it in Ascent, but I was sure there would be more to it than just what Nathanial told Rue. I was right.

I decided to set the story in Ireland during the Christianization, after St. Patrick's death. So, I dove into research and decided that it was going to be a nice little twenty page novella. Then, I thought, hmmm... the dark angel Semiazas who we met in Ascent is a very interesting character. I wonder what his story is? What could drive one of the first of the angels, and Simeon's brother, to make a deal with the devil and found the Fallen Isles. Well, then Semiazas's story and Nathanial's started to weave around one another. Then the demon Asmoday stuck his nos…

The Con Scene

Alright, I promised that I'd talk about the convention scene a little bit. So, here it is!

I went to my first convention when I was a junior in high school. It was called Windycon (which, by the way, is still running strong) and it was right up by the Woodfield Mall. I found an ad for it in the back of my dad's Analog magazine and convinced him that he wanted to take Clare and I. Of course, Clare was coming along.

If you've never been to a Con, let me try and paint a picture for you. Here we were, two sixteen year olds with my dad entering what looks like a normal hotel. Until you spy three Klingons strolling through the halls and the bellhops hurrying away with wide eyes. Then SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) aristocracy glides by waving a feathered fan. Long live the queen! Nowadays most Cons take over the entire hotel, to the dismay and entertainment of the hotel staff. There are times though when mundanes are in the hotel too. I remember one wedding party stopp…

Making Your Presence Known

I will say that one of the most difficult things to do as an author is get someone to read the darn book! You've sweated over the prose. Polished the story, sent it off to beta readers and writing groups. You ripped it apart, rewrote it and then sent it off to a bevy of publishers and agents just to watch them toss it up in the air and use it for skeet shooting. After weathering the trials of rejection, resubmit and rejection again you've finally found a publisher. Someone is going to take your baby and do right by him. You get your cover and show the picture to everyone. Your kid gets irritated because your cover takes over her spot in your wallet for a while. You meet your editor and you go a round a three with them poring over every last word. Finally, though, finally, you get to hold that word baby in your hands and it's a wonderful feeling. Mostly because the gestation and labor on a book can be years. Makes that 30-something weeks for a kid a snap.

You think your jou…

Dealing With Rejection

Alright, let's talk this week about one of the awful truths of the publishing industry. Rejection. Yep. It happens to the best of writers--and to the rest of us as well. For example, C.S. Lewis was rejected over 800 times before he finally found a home for his Narnian Chronicles.

I got my first rejection letter when I was 16. It was for my Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel book. (More on that book's odyssey at a later date--when I feel up to it.) It was from TSR, which back then used to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and used to publish original fiction. Now, as most gamers know, TSR publishes only game tie-ins for their Forgotten Realms, D&D and WOTC lines. Ah well. I tried.

I've gotten rejected by all the big names in both publishing and agents. In the 90's when I first starting trying to see my name in print, the big guys were the only game in town. So, I have very nice paper rejections from DAW, Del Rey, Tor, Little Brown and Company, and a host of other imprints. Th…

Why None of My Characters Have Pets...

It's been a long week on the pet front in this house. My fourteen year old beagle-German shepherd mix has been sick and I was really worried that it was the beginning of the end. He's ok, by the way. Well, as ok as a furry old man can be when the temperatures dip below freezing. However, I realized on the way back from the vet yesterday that with one exception, none of my characters have pets.

Robyn, in The Star Circle Trilogy, is the only exception to that. In book one The Shattered Prism, she rescues a kotu, a little squirrel-like critter with Fennic fox like ears. She names him Jeric and the little rodent sticks with her like a cocklebur. None of my other characters in all of my other books don't have any pets which I thought was odd because I love my dogs. Alright, one other character in The Star Circle Trilogy gets turned into a cat, but she wasn't anyone's kitty.

I realized it's because honestly to be a main character in a book your life kind of has to s…

Make Sure Your Slip Isn't Showing!

I love the musical Les Miserable and I've seen it several times in several different theaters from several different vantage points. The first time was when I was in high school and the only seat I could afford was second row in the nosebleeds. I loved every second of it. Years later, same theater. same play, much different seats--fifth row orchestra. It wasn't nearly as magical this time around. When I was back in the nosebleed section I couldn't see the structure of the performance only the story. When I was up close I could see every wire, every microphone and the artificiality of the make up. That was the problem--I could see those behind the scenes details and it ruined the illusion for me. Something to keep in mind for writing.

Every author should think about structure. Whether they're a plotter with meticulous timelines, maps and outlines or a pantser who knows pretty much where things are going, but no clue how to get there, we all need to think about the stru…