Monthly Archives: February 2012

Magic Appreciation Tour

Magic Appreciation Tour Badge
Where readers find books
and authors find friends.

Several of our members are taking part in the Magic Appreciation Tour including me. I was amazed at the interesting stories presented there and already ordered a few to read during my Easter holiday. During the tour, authors will exchange blogposts and help each other find readers. The common factor of all stories is the use of magic. Regardless of the sub-genre, if a story has magic in it, it’s eligible. I think this is a great idea.

OK, this time, hardly more than a dozen authors have found the site so far (sign up is still possible) but what I’ve seen is encouraging. I know readers (and I’m a reader too in my spare time) are on the lookout for good books, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. I’m eager to see what else will happen during the tour. I promise, I’ll keep you posted (pun intended).

Where Were You When Your Muse Broke Free?

Tree HouseHave you ever wondered where an author was when s/he made the leap from reader to writer?

Would you believe my very first novel began in a tree house on the slopes of Mt Rainier? It’s true. I kid you not.

Dear Husband’s sister and her hubby were visiting the Pacific Northwest from their home in Colorado and had arranged for a stay in a tree house. They kindly invited DH and me along for the experience.

DLM-Tree HouseThere must have been something magical in that mountain air, because my muse broke free and gifted me with dreams of druids and dragons.

I snuggled in a hammock and imagined characters and plot. Mind you, I didn’t have a clue about story or craft, but ignorance is indeed bliss. If I’d known just how clueless I really was, I’d never have had the courage to begin this journey!

Less than a decade later I’ve published several novels and novellas, had my short fiction included in anthologies, attracted the attention of a NY agent, and started my own publishing company. Not a bad track record…and I’m just getting started.

Of course, the story I dreamed that day in the tree house has never seen the light of day—totally clueless writing rarely does. However, my muse and I have developed an awesome relationship and I’m delighted she decided to come out and play.

So what about you? Where were you when your muse broke free?

Reading to Improve Your Writing

To make your writing sing with authenticity and accuracy, you need to read.  You need to read, read, read.  Not just other fiction, but that’s a good idea too.  I bet you thought I was going to recommend some great writing instructional books by famous writers.  Well, I’m not.  (Not that there aren’t some very good how-to-write books out there, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about.)

Are you an expert on all things? Me neither. What do I do when I have a topic in one of my books that I don’t know anything about? I read. Instead of having to take a trip to the nearest library, like writers had to do twenty years ago, I plop down in front of my computer and search the internet for information.

Sometimes it can take quite a while to sift through all the garbage and commercial entries to find useful information. I’d like to share with you some sources I’ve found that have tons of useful information.

1.  Remember all those how-to make things articles and the predictions for the future that Popular Science has had through the years? Here are  138 years of Popular Science for free browsing.

2.  Want to know when potato chips were invented? Just about everything you want to know about food history is in this site:   Food history A-Z

3.  Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History.  Need I say more?  Three of their sites: Research and Collections,   Explore a Topic, and  Education.

4.  Do you need to know more about the natural world around us?  Communities of Life .  This site holds links to information about plants, biomes, regions, etc.  Very valuable information to give authenticity to your writing,  Many links, a few do not work.

5.  How about Physical Geography? Whether you are making up a world or just want to write intelligently about our own this site has something for you.   The main purpose of Physical Geography is to explain the spatial characteristics of the various natural phenomena associated with the Earth’s hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere.

6.  If you write about death, dying, doctoring, or diseases, this is a useful site, written by a doctor.   How to Kill Your Imaginary Friends  (Don’t you just love that title?)   A writer’s guide to diseases and injuries, and how to use them effectively in fiction  (Go back through the archives to find really good stuff )

7.  Do you write science fiction? Here’s a helpful site on faster than light travel in outer space: Relativity and FTL Travel

8.  Here’s another good article about interstellar space travel. You Can Take It With You by Robert Metzger

9.  And one more space travel site:  Atomic Rockets of the Space Patrol.   This site was mainly intended for science fiction authors who wanted a little scientific accuracy so they can write SF “the way God and Heinlein intended” (Arlan Andrews’s Law). But anybody who is interested can play with the toys contained within, designing their own Planet Rangers Rocketships. It is assumed that the reader has enough knowledge to know the difference between a star and a planet, high school mathematics, and enough skill to use a pocket calculator.

10.  What about your alien life forms?  Here’s an article with an interesting take on making up alien animals:   Adapting Earth Animals into Alien Life Forms by S.L. Viehl    This is from a back issue of Vision, an on-line magazine about writing by writers.  Forward Motion  was founded by Holly Lisle and is owned and edited by Lazette Gifford, and has been since 2003.

11.  Maybe you write military fiction or fantasy.  Check out the many subtopics on this site.  I, Clausewitz : A Would-be Conqueror’s Diary
(archery, armybuilding, cavalry, costuming, economics, fantasy swords, gunpowder, military, naval, siege, single combat, strategy, swordsmanship, tactics)

12.  Are you building a new fantasy world?  Here’s some map making information:  Map Making for Fantasy

13.  Need a new language for your world? The Language Construction Kit

14.  Check out this short course on world-building and download a 30-day world-builders guide:  Magical World Builder’s Guide by Stephanie Cottrell Bryant

I know there are many more good research sites out there that I have not mentioned. What are your favorite sites?

Writing About… THEM

I keep “not writing”, and we all know how that feels. There were times, maybe two years ago, when I stopped writing my first novel for such long stretches, it occurred to me that maybe I had stopped for good. Work avoidance, interrupt-mode, outside pressure, garden-variety fear- take your pick. And sometimes I really, truly was not writing. But that’s not the problem right now.

Mostly, as I was composing “Judgement’s Tale”, these were times that I just… waited. I NEVER stopped thinking about him. Seriously, I lose sleep over that guy- and work sometimes suffers, and… wait, what did my wife just say? Until I got that first volume done, I was in a daze whether I was writing or not. And all that time, while I was “not writing”, I could almost feel little bits falling into place. A name, a reaction to an insult, two lines of a song… they would drift past my mind and I’d think “oh yes, that’s part of it”. And after a while the writing would come back.

The next story I’m working on is “Perilous Embraces”, the third installment of the Shards of Light series. It’s heroic fantasy with a flavor of political thriller, focused on the career of a high priestess named W’starrah. Once again I’m “not writing”  but listening and watching as things fall in place.

But this is different; she’s… one of THEM.

Solemn Judgement from “JT” is absolutely one of the driving characters of my lifetime- I’ve been studying him for AT LEAST thirty years. He’s nothing like me, but I know him very, very well. I can show you Judgement through the eyes of others, regular folks who chop wood and copy books- and that’s good because you will never get inside his head on my watch. You don’t want to go there. If there’s a delay in writing about Judgement, it’s just because I never noticed what he was doing at that point in the story. But HIM, I know. It doesn’t take long.

And those other folks, I think I’m pretty good at them too- heroic fantasy has lots of characters with big handles, and the Lands of Hope is no exception. I do the crotchety old geezer, the burly barkeep, the precocious child, the warrior. I’m a fair hand at the intelligent beast, if that’s not boasting, and I relate a fair villain (cliche, but kind of funny too).

And Justin, Trekelny, Feldspar, to a lesser extent I have known and chronicled these heroes informally for years. I could talk about them in my sleep- and according to my lovely wife, I sometimes do.

But W’starrah Altieri? She’s one of… THEM.

I don’t mean just “women”, although that is tougher, and she is abundantly female. W’starrah is a very active, gregarious, sensual yet courageous and heroic woman. She can foresee the future- she knows what’s coming, and no one else around her can. Foresight, confidence, femininity, mysticism… I don’t know who she is. I haven’t been watching or listening to her very long. So the little pieces come out as I walk around “not writing”, but they don’t make as much sense to me. And I’ve written some of the tale- a very little bit- but it’s like pushing a rock uphill. I could tell you what happens, but I can’t make sense of it yet.

Do you find that you have a certain kind of character that’s THEM to you? Or is it a situation that puts you off? Maybe giving background, or conversation? For me, chronicling is ALL about character, and I must admit, W’starrah is still THEM. What about you?

%d bloggers like this: