I came of age as the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Tiananmen Square seemed as though it might work out. Years later I’m still hopeful, although the last four years has been a test of that hope. The trouble is, despite all the hope of my youth, things haven’t substantially changed much. There may be more awareness of the problems the world faces, or at least more coverage on the evening news. Unless there is change though, awareness is not enough. Problems need solutions.
So in my stories, you’ll find hope, you’ll find multiple points of view, and you’ll find solutions. They may not be perfect. In fact, expect they will cause as much mischief as they solve (at least at first). Characters in the books may rail against these solutions, defy them, or wholeheartedly support them. One thing you can count on, they will reflect the real world in some way, good or bad, but seldom, if ever, indifferent.
I know this year has been weird for some, devastating for others, and the holidays are about as far from ‘normal’ as possible. Whether you stayed home like us or travelled to be with loved ones this year, I hope you are safe and content. While you’re being thankful this year, keep in mind those who are not as fortunate, those who defend our country, far from their homes and loved ones, and those who have no home at all. This is also the perfect time to recognize the marginalized people whose tribulations shaped the development of our nation. Slavery is a blot on our conscience, and the land the United States is built on was not our ancestor’s land to take. We wouldn’t have the bounty and blessings we enjoy today without either, but celebrating without acknowledging them has always felt hollow to me. So it’s a conflicted holiday for me for more than one reason. Hold your loved ones close. This world is fleeting, and in the end, all of us end up as memories in the minds of those we leave behind. Make those memories special for as many people as you can. Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving!!!
I’m not as good at the tech side of things as I’d like to be. Setting up an email campaign has been frustrating for example. The good news is, I can still learn (and find better ways to do what I was trying to do without help). That may be a singular strength for me, I learn but I also ask for help. The only thing that beats being able to do something yourself is finding someone who can do that thing so well, I can get back to my main priority… Writing. So that’s where I’m at as Nanowrimo comes to a close, finding ways to automate and concentrate my efforts on writing this far more ambitious book two!
I’d been writing for almost a year with nothing worthwhile to show for it. My work was in a vacuum, with no craft input to speak of, and only rejections from every magazine I submitted to reinforce that I wasn’t good enough. I had self-published two short stories on Amazon, but neither of them sold much at all. Looking back they weren’t well written, and I had no idea how to promote them, so it was no surprise they didn’t sell. Still, when all your validation is negative reinforcement, it’s hard to keep putting in the time. That time is the only means to get better though, and I’d just about given up on even figuring out what I was doing wrong.
Fortunately, I’m stubborn. I kept reading, I kept writing, and I looked for some positive reinforcement. Two things changed the trajectory I was on at the time. First, I found KBoards.com, a site for Kindle readers and authors. On KBoards, I found a post by Hugh Howey, an author I’d never heard of before. And a FB post I almost didn’t answer.
The KBoards post was about how been in almost the same place I was at the time. The parts that stuck with me were when he found his tribe and when he realized he was on the right path. KBoards was that place for me at that moment. My tribe was there, doing what I was doing, maybe better than I was, but that just meant I had room to grow. Despite what were failures in my mind up until then, the path I was on was still the right one for me.
The second event right after that, was that I tried to find more of my tribe, this time on FB. I joined a lot of writers groups on FB, but didn’t feel that same connection I had before. Then I answered a post for a critique group that wanted new members. The critique group consistently tore apart the best work I sent them. They even got exasperated that I wasn’t learning from the torn apart work I’d submitted before.
The one thing they didn’t do was kick me out, or tell me to give up. So I learned. With agonizing slowness, perhaps, I fixed the things I didn’t know I needed to work on. Each critique cycle, I worked on my dialogue, the tags and the thoughts between speaking, showing versus telling, and writing visceral scenes that drew readers in and held onto them page by page. Eventually, they didn’t tear apart everything I wrote. Although I still have plenty they do tear apart, that’s what critique groups are for, in part.
So here I am today, still learning, but certain I’m on the right path and among the people who can show me the right way. I’ve also sorted my voice from all the words I’ve put on the page, and learned to listen to that voice and my instincts as I write. Otherwise, the book I’ve written would still be unfinished, and the one I’m working on now might never be done. I didn’t give up, and if you are considering the same thing, I’d beg you to reconsider. The world needs art, humans need stories, and readers need what you have to share. At the very least, I’m glad I didn’t walk away from all that.
Fantastic America is out for editing! While I’m still working on Midwestern Magicians, the march towards publishing the first book in the Magic Unleashed series continues. The process is moving on, and my darling first draft is going off to grow into a mature manuscript. I’ll keep everyone posted about the editing struggle, but I’m pretty excited to have gone from the writing and revision stages to this first round of editing. There were times when I wondered if I’d ever get this far. Looking back, my biggest regret is not finding my way here sooner. Like Pumbaa said, “You gotta put your behind in the past…” or whatever he meant. I’m making progress and learning more than I knew I didn’t know as I go. No complaints here! (Except for the snow and ice outside – the warm fall is gone for now – Iowa weather… Ugh!)
There are miracles fueled by faith, spells fueled by magic, and spirits tethered to the world of the living throughout eternity. Faiths of all kinds can produce miraculous results defending people from dangerous magic and monsters loose in the world. The power of faith has brought a revival to religious institutions around the world, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and shrines have an unprecedented surge in attendance.
There are many kinds of magic in this world, but those people who’s abilities are awakened have no idea how to use them. Relics of the previous magical age reappeared once magic returned as well, how they might shape this new magical age remains to be seen. Learning to use magic may be as dangerous as the monsters appearing around the world since the solstice, but not learning will leave them more vulnerable to the dangers yet to come.
In addition to all this, the ghosts of people long gone or recently departed linger to provide guidance to those left behind. Like most things human, their advice may be tainted by personal bias, misunderstanding, or outright deceit. Magic users, miracle workers, and modern day spiritualists must navigate all these unknowns to adapt to their fast changing world.
Despite news of vaccines and experimental treatments, people close to my family continue to test positive for the virus. I’m generally a stay at home kind of person for other health conditions, but even I like to get out and socialize once in a while. Not so in the past week. My wife, who works in education, sees more students and staff quarantined every day. It’s come as close as people she works with, and people she spends time with outside of work. All week, every little tickle in my throat or odd cough has been suspect. The worry is enough to derail my efforts to write, even when my mind is brimming with possibilities for the story. I’m pushing through as best I can, but paranoia in a pandemic is as dangerous as any other time. Fear vs. Hope – so far, hope wins!
You will notice a new pop up – please take a moment to add your email. I’m sending out the initial copy of Jerry Farmer’s introduction – Bridgewater Bingo through that email link. I will add other ways to send it (all free) as I figure out how! In the meantime, this is my 100th blog post of 2020! Hard to believe I let this sit idle for as long as I did. I also hope you’re enjoying following my writing journey as I still work on Fantastic America and Midwestern Magicians. That also brings up the other purpose of the pop-up on my website, I’ll be transferring to the Fantasy centered version of my site soon – thesorcerersrealm.com – I haven’t figured out all the details there either, but I hope to have everything here moved over there before Christmas (Nanowrimo is still my main focus). Anyway – ad Robert said, TANSTAAFL!
Jerry is terrible, but the story sets up his appearance in Fantastic America. I want to give this story away to encourage readers to follow the novel it accompanies. I’m figuring out how to make it work though! I’ve been watching tutorials and putting together everything I need to make Jerry available. I think I’ve almost got it!
I can almost always guarantee the problem is with me, not the material. Either I feel the words on the page are going in the wrong direction, or the direction they are going is uncomfortable for me to write. No matter which problem is in front of me, my job as a writer is to overcome it. I can write around it, tackle it head on despite my reluctance, or find a way to steer the words elsewhere. I still have a job to do, and the work can’t go on until I fix whatever is wrong, especially if I’m what’s wrong to begin with.
That’s where I am now. Stuck in spot I didn’t expect to be difficult. It’s derailed all my momentum for Nanowrimo, and left me scratching my head about how to proceed. I think a part of it is the funk I’ve been in since hitting the middle of book two. I won’t call it writer’s block because I can still write (look what I’ve done here), but I am stymied over this one chapter. It will not hold me back for long though. That much I’m sure of!