What makes a likeable hero

I was recently introduced to the Writing Excuses podcast. (“Fifteen minutes, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart!”) Always in the market for more tricks about building likeable protagonists, I picked out that particular episode.

This is my current recipe for a likeable protagonist:

  • Something interesting about the person themselves, whether it be a hobby, a personality flaw, color-changing eyes, etc.
  • A goal that the character wants very, very much
  • A need that the character has that they may not know about

This has served me well in my own books. It even works for unlikeable protagonists–people will follow a jerk as long as they have a strong goal. It’s why The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is so fascinating–watching Bogart try to steal ALL THE GOLD is riveting, even though we despise him for it. (Also, “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”)

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In the podcast, they pointed out a few more important ingredients that I’d never thought of:

  • Accountability
  • Responsibility
  • Stakes

They mentioned that you may have a character who is an assassin. They go out and kill people as part of their job. Yet they’re never held accountable for it–never brought to trial in whatever fantasy world they move in.

Responsibility is another big one. A character needs to have responsibilities, even if it’s something as small as feeding their cat. The character needs human connections, responsibilities, things to care about. This is a great way to make the reader to care about them, too. “They have to look after their disabled little brother? Awww!”

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Last, we have the stakes. The character has to stand to lose something if they fail to accomplish their goal. James Scott Bell says that it always has to be death–either emotional death (the romantic couple break up!), professional death (if the young lawyer loses this case, he’ll be disbarred!) or physical death (he’ll be sleeping with the fishes).

In the podcast, they mentioned that in a lot of new authors’ manuscripts, the hero is the least interesting character. To my chagrin, here they dissected Harry Potter. They pointed out that Hermione has a very strong, clear goal (good grades). What’s Harry’s goal? Darned if I know. Same with Bella from Twilight (hey, if we knock one, we gotta knock the other).

So that’s my food for thought about likeable heroes. Heck, it works for an unlikeable character like Katniss. She’s not exactly somebody you’d want to friend on Facebook, but she’s got what it takes to break the Hunger Games, and that’s why we follow her adventures.

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I’ve started dabbling in the world of video book reviews. Here’s my review of the Dragon and the Scholar Saga by H.L. Burke (dragon romance!)

Why we need more frontiers in Christian spec-fic

I was listening to this interview with author Chris Fox. I’ve posted his advice on this blog before–I’m a bit of a fangirl. Anyway, when asked about why his first book did so well, he talked about frontiers.

Interviewer Hank: So tell me where the idea came from for No Such Thing As Werewolves, what’s the story about and how did this idea hatch for you?

Chris Fox: So the basic premise is that legends of mythical creatures have a grain of truth–they come from the distant past. And I tied that in with a science fiction approach, where I wanted there to be a reason why something like a werewolf could exist–a reason why moonlight would cause it to change, the reason why they’d be vulnerable to silver. So I started researching all that stuff, and in the process, really got into genetics and anthropology.

So I invented a culture that is currently something that mankind doesn’t know about. My version of Atlantis, I guess you might say. It used to exist, but has since disappeared. All of a sudden, traces of this culture are returning. It’s heralding a big change in the world–there’s an apocalypse coming. These werewolves are back, and people aren’t sure why. So our main character is an anthropologist trying to tie all these things together.

Hank: What is it about the idea of a distant past, and the idea of these creatures and civilizations that are so enchanting? What do you think it is that appeals to us?

CF: I think it has to do with frontiers. If you look back to when dime novels were popular, people loved reading about the wild west, because it was still an unknown frontier. They could learn about something. The idea that we don’t know everything there is to know about mankind, and that there is this great looming mystery, is very exciting to us. It sort of bores a lot of us to think that we know all there is to know about where we come from as a species and what exists in the world.

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Frontier Skies by JoeyJazz

I’ve been musing about this for a few days now. The books I’ve really enjoyed have all had some kind of frontier in them–whether it was really interesting world-building, or a cool magic system, or characters with deep, world-shattering secrets. I seriously enjoyed the Expanse books because of all the mysteries lurking out in space. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much my favorite thing about space opera–the mysteries. The frontiers.

So, while thinking about this, I had a thought about why Christian spec-fic doesn’t do so well. I mean, why haven’t the Christian arena produced a Brandon Sanderson, the way the Mormon arena has?

Christians think we have all the answers. Therefore we have no frontiers.

The trouble is, the Bible is FULL of frontiers. Tons of unanswered questions and unknowable mysteries. Just read Ezekiel 1 and struggle as the poor prophet tried very hard to describe a 10-dimensional lifeform. Why do the cherubim carry their life inside fiery wheels? We can’t understand it.

But because Christians have some knowledge–for instance, about Jesus and the Gospel–we think we know it all.

It’s like my son asking for a carpentry kit. I expressed doubts about his skill with hammers, saws, etc. (he’s nine). I pointed out that we live in an apartment, and he really needs a garage to work in. But he confidently assured me that he knows exactly how to hammer everything together. He just needs some wood, and he’ll make a playhouse.

He doesn’t know how much he doesn’t know.

Well, us Christians are like that. We have a tiny bit of knowledge about a couple of mysteries. So we make ALL the frontiers be about those few mysteries that we have solved. No questions are allowed to go unanswered. Everything is spelled out, hammered home, and wrapped up in a nice tidy package.

As Chris says up there, it bores us to know all the answers. It also makes for boring storytelling. I mean, it’s fine if you’re writing a murder mystery and you’re revealing how the killer dunnit. But for a fantasy story, or a science fiction, which by their very nature deal in big sweeping questions that might not have answers–that’s trickier. We don’t like leaving questions unanswered. Heaven forbid that we leave any doubts in the reader’s mind, right?

Yet, doubts and questions are what fuel the imagination. What’s Pluto like? we wonder. What might live at the bottom of the ocean? What’s down there that’s big enough to swallow a ten foot shark whole? Is there a tenth planet that orbits perpendicular to the solar system’s elliptical?

Finding out the answers to these things would be totally rad. They’d also lead to more questions.

I wish Christian writers would get more comfortable with asking questions, but not necessarily answering them.

Three sentences deeper (learning to write like a pro)

In trying to up my writing game, I’ve been studying the authors I admire the most. One of these is Mary Stewart.

magnifying-glass

She was a romantic suspense author whose first book was published in 1955. All of her books have lush, wonderful prose, and suspense that builds and builds to an electrifying climax. Some of her books are kind of odd and experimental (like the telepathic heroine in The Ivy Tree). But all of them involve a lonely girl, a hot guy, a mystery, and ruthless bad guys. They’re such fun.

Anyway, I was reading one of my favorites again, Madam, Will You Talk, to study her writing. They had a lot higher standards back then. Mostly, I’m noticing that where I would stop talking about a subject, Stewart goes three or four sentences deeper. Here’s an example, describing a kid named David:

His face, which in the slight courtesies of small talk betrayed humor and a quick intelligence at work, seemed almost to become older. Some implacable burden almost visibly dropped on his shoulders. One was conscious, in spite of the sensitive youth of his mouth, and the childish thin wrists and hands, of something here that could meet and challenge a quite adult destiny on its own grounds, strength for strength. The burden, whatever it was, was quite obviously recognized and accepted. There had been some hardening process at work, and recently. Not a pleasant process, I thought, looking at the withdrawn profile bent over the absurd dog, and feeling suddenly angry.

If I was writing this, it would go something like this:

His face, which in the slight courtesies of small talk betrayed humor and a quick intelligence at work, seemed almost to become older. Some implacable burden almost visibly dropped on his shoulders. There had been some hardening process at work, and recently. Not a pleasant process, I thought, looking at the withdrawn profile bent over the absurd dog, and feeling suddenly angry.

It would be quite readable, as both plot and character description, but we lose this part:

One was conscious, in spite of the sensitive youth of his mouth, and the childish thin wrists and hands, of something here that could meet and challenge a quite adult destiny on its own grounds, strength for strength. The burden, whatever it was, was quite obviously recognized and accepted.

It takes us deeper into David’s character. Beyond his looks and his secrets, we have a sense that this is one tough kid.

That’s one thing I love about old books. They take us beyond the superficial description of a person, into observations about their character and problems. As a writer, this is one height that I aspire to.

In an interview with Mary Stewart, she says this about the book, which I found funny:

RT: Yes. They’re very involving books, which is a measure of the effectiveness with which you have created that world.

MS: Well, actually this is, if I may say so, the storyteller’s skill that one is either born with or one isn’t. I remember someone writing to me about my very first book, the thriller Madam, Will You Talk?. She told me that she’d taken it up to read in bed. Then at three in the morning, she wrote me a complaint. I’d come to a point in the book where I’d actually brought my exhausted heroine and her hero together, and they’d had an absolutely smashing meal, which I described in detail. She said, I had to go down to the kitchen and make myself bacon and eggs. So, I thought, well, that’s a tribute, anyway.

When I used to write everything longhand, my hand wrote a lot slower than my brain worked. I’d still be forming letters, while my brain would be chewing on the next thing to say, and how to say it. For some reason, this led to long, rambling passages as I thought deeply about scenes and characters.

Now I write on the keyboard. I can type almost as quickly as I think. Rather than this leading to introspection, I flit from topic to topic. There’s no reason to linger on each thought. With longhand, I was stuck with my writing speed, and therefore took each thought a little deeper.

I don’t know if other people are as flighty as I am. Usually I only have ten or twenty minutes at a time to write, so I’m trying to pound out as much of the story as possible. My efficiency goes up, but my depth goes down. Thank goodness for revisions–you’re forced to linger over various passages, playing with the language, thinking of how to make them go deeper.

To my amusement, Mary Stewart complained about the same thing in her interview:

RT: Do you write your books out in longhand, or do you use a typewriter?

MS: I’ve gone through different stages–I used an ordinary portable for my first books, and that wrecked my wrist. I had a very bad time with it. Then I wrote longhand, but that’s slow, and you go nearly mad because your brain is miles ahead of your hand.

When I got to about the fifth or sixth book–The Ivy Tree, I think it was–I got an electric typewriter. It frightened me to death at first, but I got used to it eventually. I used to do the whole thing myself, including five carbon copies, and it nearly killed me. Then I got a dictating machine, and I sent the tapes to a professional typist. I think that must alter your style a little because you can be longer winded. When you’re writing something, you skip bits. I dictate with all the punctuation, but it isn’t finished.

Once I’ve got the typed copy back, I then work on it. What I do is lay the typed sheets out. I have this beautiful paper, the sort that the chap wanted in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and couldn’t get anymore. It’s lovely to write on. I do the corrections in longhand, but I can also just mark places with a star. I then dictate it through, putting the bits in as I go, which saves a tremendous amount of work. Then I get it typed back again. I do about four drafts for a book, so it’s still a lot of laborious work.

The rest of her interview is available here.

So yeah, I hope that someday I write with one quarter of her skill.

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Why abstinence (from Facebook) is great

Every so often I do a goal assessment and figure out how I’m doing on stuff. That sounds totally organized, but it’s not.

School started Monday. If anything kicks my butt into gear regarding organization, it’s school. Not only am I homeschooling my oldest four, but I’m watching another child for the first three weeks of August. He’s also doing school with us. That means that if I want to get anything accomplished, I’ve got to watch my time management. I’m talking micro-managing-Rollercoaster-Tycoon levels of management.

As always, when I’m accessing how I spend my time, I keep track of everything I do over a couple of days. The self-help books say to write things down. I just stay aware of what I’m doing in the bits and pieces of extra time I have–nursing the baby, folding laundry, waiting for people to do their math, playtime after lunch when the kids are occupied, etc.

Guess what I do in those bits of time!

I read Facebook.

funny-Facebook-people-Fry-meme

Exclusively. If there’s a blog linked on Facebook, I’ll read it. If there’s news on Facebook, I’ll read it. If there’s a video on Facebook, I’ll watch it. Facebook Facebook Facebook. I’d check it when I woke up in the morning and the last thing at night.

More specifically, on Facebook, I scroll through the same statuses, videos and meme pics over and over and over. Every so often somebody would post something new, but not as often as I was looking for it. Oh, and you know this election circus that’s going on? Yeah, I’ve been all stressed out and upset about that.

Truth-Lies-and-Facebook-Memes

My hubby had a couple of weeks where he worked some really late evenings. To keep myself awake while waiting for him, I’d listen to Donna Otto’s podcast Homemakers By Choice. One of the things that Donna suggests is to read Facebook 10 minutes a day. Set a timer. She said that it works just fine for her.

Facebook in 10 minutes a day! I thought. Imagine how much time I’d have for writing!

So I made a deal with myself. Facebook was only for the evenings. If I had time to sit and mess with the internet, then I had the time to write. Period. So any time I picked up my ipod, I was obligated to write a couple of paragraphs.

That was two weeks ago. Today I finished the first draft of my fun little dragon cozy mystery. I immediately dove in to revising the second Malevolent book, Malcontent. And we’re not talking large slabs of time, here. This is ten minutes here and there throughout the day. It helps that I just love these stories.

Only reading Facebook once a day means that everybody’s statuses and jokes are a lot more fun to read. I have time to read everything that was posted over the course of the day, including all the horrendous political news. But you know, it’s a lot easier to take when it’s only a few minutes out of the day.

My stress levels dropped. My daily word count skyrocketed. (A whopping 800 words a day! But since I was previously doing something like 800 words a week, it’s improvement.)

So that’s been my experiment in dialing back my social media consumption. I’d rather produce something of value than fill my brain with dumb meme pics that I won’t remember tomorrow.

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Chronic comparisonitis (writing and homeschooling)

Kids learn by comparison. They learn to walk, and talk, and use a fork by watching their parents. As a child grows older, they learn to read and dress themselves and drink soda (or kombucha) and eat steak (or chitlins) and watch football (or Doctor Who).

This is just how human beings are wired. We learn by comparing ourselves to others. We pit ourselves against other people, against animals, against the environment, against the stars, in our struggle for mastery and knowledge. This is one of our great strengths as a species.

It’s also one of our downfalls.

The Realm Makers writer’s conference is this weekend. It’s been out of the question for me for the past few years, but I still watch wistfully from the sidelines as all my friends get together for what amounts to a retreat. There’s fantastic teaching. There’s costumes. There’s a nerf battle.

It got me thinking about the way we writers compare ourselves to each other. The trouble is, being a writer is like rally racing. You don’t race the other drivers. You race your own best time. On the surface, we know that. But underneath, our nature is urging us to look at other authors’ writing, or their sales, or the size of their Twitter following, and wonder why ours isn’t so good.

Now, if we take it as an opportunity to learn, then comparison is fine. Everybody needs better tools and techniques–its how you grow. But so often we use it to feed our envy and pride.

I’ve been reading a stack of homeschooling books from the 90s in preparation for this school year. Every time I read one, I get monstrously discouraged. Finally I asked my mom about them, since this was the way her generation thought. These books trumpet the same things:

  • Have as many children as humanly possible (the Quiverfull movement)
  • Homeschooling is the Path of Righteousness
  • Mary Pride says that working outside the home is bad (see The Way Home)
  • Embrace the chaos!
  • We’ll make the colleges accept us!
  • Extra-curricular activities!
  • Socialization!
  • Be more! Do more! Check your blood pressure!

homeschooling-zombie-apoc

I grew up in that school of thought, and I don’t like it. Comparing myself to that, I’m the biggest underachiever on the face of the earth. I don’t want as many kids as humanly possible–five is about as many as I can manage. Homeschooling works for our family, but it’s not for everyone. Working outside the home is necessary for survival (especially if you’re a single parent).

Mom pointed out that there were women who killed themselves and their kids because they couldn’t measure up to these teachings. The Quiverfull movement is horrible and is being taken apart for the cult that it is. Too much comparison. Too much groupthink.

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Tigers at the zoo enjoying frozen meat popsicles. They were more comfortable than the humans. It was like 110 that day.
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Best part of a hot day at the zoo–the splash pad.

So I look around to see what my generation is talking about in homeschooling. The big deal for us is special needs. Autism, ADHD, Aspergers, everything that can go wrong with a child’s brain. There’s a big move toward simplicity–in learning and living. People still have lots of kids, but it’s not the virtue that it once was. Instead of magazines, there’s blogs and bloggers. Many of the modern homeschoolers were homeschooled as kids, but not all. It’s a movement that has grown beyond Christians and into mainstream. (There’s homeschoolers who … GASP … aren’t Christians!)

So I’ve been grappling with not only comparing myself to others, but the clear outcome of groupthink. I have at my fingertips the thinking of twenty years ago, and the results. All I have to do is look around at my peers. In particular, the adults at Realm Makers who as kids were denied fantasy and science fiction. As backlash, they’re walking around in costume and quoting Star Wars.

I guess what I’m seeing is that life has to be about balance. Protect your kids, but not to the extreme of never letting them glimpse real life. Let them read Narnia, but let them read Harry Potter, too. (As kids fantasy goes, Harry Potter is absolutely benign. Christians scream about it, but nobody ever dissects the weirdness in Madeline L’Engle or the So You Want To Be A Wizard series.)

So I’m going to continue with my simplistic approach to homeschooling. I’m going to read aloud Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, Wheel on the School, and the Magic Thief.

As John Taylor Gatto points out, every teen is taught to drive a car. It’s a hugely complex task that, if done poorly, results in DEATH. But every teen is taught to drive within a couple of weeks, and they will successfully perform it for their whole lives. Why must math or grammar be any different? They’re just tools to perform a task. In real life, if you don’t know the equation to calculate the diameter of a circle, you look it up. But knowing how to look things up, and where, is the trick.

Cover reveal for fantasy steampunk Flare!

Today I’m having Rabia Gale guest post on my blog. I’ve enjoyed her books, but I haven’t read this series yet. However, now that the last book is launching, that’s my cue to read them all. I mean, it’s steampunk fantasy. What’s not to like?

Now, without further ado, here’s Rabia!


Thank you for having me on your blog, Kessie!

I’m delighted to have the chance to introduce my series, The Sunless World. This epic fantasy with a steampunk flavor features a world on the brink of extinction. Centuries ago, the ancient mages saved their word from an imminent threat by plunging it into eternal night. But the mages are long gone and the world is slowing dying without its sun. Veins of luminous quartz provide light and heat, and desperate states vie to control this precious resource.

Enter Rafe Grenfeld, junior diplomat and spy. He’s just learned that a legendary quartz pillar, known as the Tower of Light, actually exists. Determined to claim it for his own country, he begins his search for it. That’s difficult enough, but then lost magic, dark demons, a hostile foe, and an unpredictable ally with her own agenda show up.

The Sunless World series contains many elements that are fascinating to me. I love writing worlds where magic exists alongside more advanced technology, like trains and industrial machinery. I enjoy putting characters, cultures, and whole worlds in tough situations (like losing their sun!) and seeing how human ingenuity copes. And I adored writing from Rafe’s viewpoint, a character who is energetic, competent, and prone to making wisecracks.

Without further ado, I’m happy to share the cover of Flare, Book Two of The Sunless World series, with you!

 

Flare COVER REVEAL

Rafe and Isabella are back

The mages of old saved their world, but left it in eternal darkness. Now it’s time to bring back the light.

After two years of training his magical gifts, Rafe returns home to a land wracked by war. Desperate states struggle to protect their resources of luminous quartz. Magic pulses and earthquakes devastate a world on the brink of extinction.

Rafe’s old enemy Karzov has gathered a band of prodigies obedient to his will. He seeks the power of the ancient mages for an audacious and sinister purpose. It’s up to Rafe and his ally, Isabella, to stop him—and undo the mistakes of the past to put their world right again.

Flare will be out in September 2016!

The Sunless World series

The Sunless World BLOG

Quartz: The Sunless World introduces a rich and credible backdrop to the adventures of her characters, with a deadly political mire underlying the bright colours of high society.” – By Rite of Word Reviews

This story is fast, fascinating and highly recommended.” – Amazon.com review

The Sunless World series begins with Quartz (Book One) and Flux (A Sunless World Novel).

About the Author

Rabia Gale Headshot I create weird worlds full of magic and machines, and write characters who are called on to be heroes. I’m fascinated by light and darkness, transformation, and things that fly. Giant squid and space dragons appear in my work—you have been warned!

A native of Pakistan, I now reside in Northern Virginia, where I read, write, doodle, avoid housework, and homeschool my children.

Find me online at:
Website: http://www.rabiagale.com
Newsletter: http://www.rabiagale.com/thank-you/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rabiagalewriter
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rabiagale

Sketches of dinosaurs, dragons, and drakes

In my teens, I took art classes from a terrific teacher named Ron Moore. He taught everything–painting, pastel, wood carving, clay sculpture, you name it, he’d teach it. Anyway, while learning to sculpt animals, we studied anatomy. I learned proportion tricks, what joints did, how shoulders behaved, and on and on. I sculpted animals, cartoon characters, dinosaurs, anything that struck my fancy.

That training still resides in my head. So when a friend suggested that I draw an amargasaurus, this training kicked in.

First off, this is an amargasaurus.

Amargasaurus
Amargasaurus from Wikipedia

Pretty gnarly-looking sauropod.

Mr. Moore always taught me that if I did artwork from another artist’s work, I would copy all their mistakes and make them worse. (Boy, have I seen new artists do that.) So I went hunting for the bones of this sucker.

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Amargasaurus skeleton from Wikipedia

Okay, so, all the spikes are attached to the vertebrae. Notice the way they lay. If he kept his neck straight, they’d more or less lie down. But if he bent his neck, they’d fan out and display whatever skin stretched between them.

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Like this.

So now we have this idea of a dinosaur bending his neck around to show off his frill. He’d have to bow his head a lot. Now we get ideas of what a courtship display might look like.

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They might have danced like this. Ever seen an iguana display his dewlap to attract a mate? It’s pretty funny. Or like that red-capped manakin bird.

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It’s really fun to extrapolate from dinosaur bones. It’s not like anybody can go look at one and disprove my idea, right?

Anyway, the same process applies to building dragons. Here’s a reference sheet in progress for a story I’m writing with little drakes and big dragons.

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Drakes and dragons

As you can see, my drakes are very lizard-like (with pterodactyl wings), while the dragons are the traditional European dragons. Lots of comparative anatomy studies while drawing these, trying to make them work. Well, as well as any six-limbed creature would work. There’s a lot of biological hand-waving when it comes to dragons.

While dragons would be majestic predators, drakes would fly on highly-maneuverable albatross wings, able to pull off midair gyrations like those of a flycatcher.

I suppose I ought to put some kind of a tail fin on them, so they can steer. But then, not all pterosaurs had them, either. What do you guys think?

How bits and pieces add up to a story

I think most writers have bits of old stories collecting dust somewhere. We write snippits and scenes, and hide them away in our notebooks and hard drives, stumbling upon them years later with cries of delight.

“What does this mean?” we exclaim. “What was I thinking? What was the rest of this idea?” And if enough time has gone by, we’ve forgotten what it meant. And it’s up for grabs for incorporating into our current work.

The Spacetime series has been under construction for so many years that it has lots of extra plots lying around. One plot that got cut was the story of Echo. She was Carda’s girlfriend who mysteriously died–come to find out that she was this weird timeline copy of a girl named Alatha. Alatha had had some kind of magical accident that split her into echoes, and each echo had developed its own life.

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Old art of Carda, Xironi, and Ben the time elemental lizard thing.

All that was crammed into book one, The Strider of Chronos. If we had left in all the plots, the poor book would have been a thousand pages long. So I set it aside for a different book. Lo and behold, along comes Magic Weaver. It’s finally time to tell Alatha’s story.

Except my husband and I couldn’t figure out how to tell the story in a way that made sense. If a person is split into copies, are the copies alternate realities? Are they good/evil clones? Are they personality aspects?

We tossed around all kinds of ideas. A lot of them were too silly, like, everybody has seen the evil double plot in cartoons.

I decided to try writing Alatha as split into two people, Alatha and Echo. One would be good and one would be evil. Except upon trying to write it, I discovered that good and evil are enmeshed too tightly in the human psyche. The bad one would sometimes do good things and the good would would occasionally do bad things. And what are good and evil in this context, anyway? If the good one knocks out an attacker, was that a bad action?

Also, we wound up having Echo and Esca. This was really confusing and hard to read.

I scrapped that draft and started over. This time, Alatha’s timeline had been cut up. The other bits of her were actually possible futures that had been removed, and were wandering around as ghosts. Finally, I had a plot that worked.

There was another plot that had been cut–Xironi’s robot cat, Esca. Esca was originally supposed to be in the series from the beginning, but I wanted to show where she came from. This meant that Esca had to wait until Xironi got her own book, and they could properly meet.

So Magic Weaver is made up of lots of bits of stories that had to be cut away and saved. If you’ve had stories that you’ve had to set aside, or plots that you couldn’t make work, just put them away for a while. Eventually you’ll find a place for them, if you want to use them badly enough. Sometimes ideas just need a truckload of refining. Alatha/Echo took a lot of brainpower to make work right.

Magic Weaver is available on all retailers here!

Magic Weaver and Saint Death both launch!

I was pleased to see that my friend Mike Duran launched his urban fantasy Saint Death today. So did Magic Weaver–so why not promote them both?

First up, here’s Magic Weaver!

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So far it’s only available at Amazon, but the other retailers will be up in a day or two. This is a young adult contemporary fantasy–technically urban, but it’s less about a gritty city setting and more about friendship and chasing ghosts. You don’t have to have read the other books to enjoy this one. But if you have read the others, it’ll be fun to visit all the characters again. Magic Weaver is on sale for .99 for the rest of the week, so grab it now!

Second, here’s Saint Death, by Mike Duran:

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This is the second book in his urban fantasy series. Unlike Magic Weaver, this IS set in a gritty city setting. If you ever wondered about the secret occult underbelly of Los Angeles, this is the book for you. Also, all the heroes have superpowers that are like all the fun bits of quantum physics.

Two new books! It’s so fun getting to launch books. Especially when I’m excited about my friends’ books, too.

How worry steals your magic

It’s July National Novel Writer’s Month! Props to all my frantic writer peeps who are taking time out of vacation to scribble out random stories.

To get into the creation mood, I’ve been listening to all my brain-food music. One of them is Return to Pooh Corner by Kenny Loggins. I listened to it over and over as a teen while composing tons of crazy fanfics.

You know how listening to music can make those mental connections, and place you right back into a time and place where you last heard it? It also can have really powerful emotional connections. For me, it was like a snapshot of my mental state as a super-creative teen.

I lived in a world of good and evil, fantastic adventure, and heart-tearing drama. This album was some of the backdrop. I lived in Neverland, where once you’ve been there, you can never grow old. This was my land of pure imagination. I didn’t worry about genre or market. With fanfics, you don’t have to worry about that stuff anyway–it’s all built in. My plots were bonkers, but so fun.

floating_island_by_bezduch-d5yft87
Floating Island by Bezduch

But things changed.

I’ve spent the last decade learning to be afraid. Learning to worry. Learning all those dark, negative things that help you survive adulthood–but they cut off your shining Neverland. In its place, I built a narrow, dystopian world of darkness and fear.

dark_fantasy_landscape_concept_by_doppingqnk-d6yal55
Dark fantasy landscape concept by FPesantez

I didn’t realize how far I’ve come until I put on Kenny Loggins and revisited that snapshot of how the inside of my head used to look. I want to go back to being that intense, happy person. I think my kids would like her. So I’ve been trying to be thankful, like Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.