Turkish Delight

I live half a world away from Britain and never imagined that I would finally get to eat Turkish Delight.  Decades after reading The Chronicles of Narnia, I had a vivid imagination of what Turkish delight would be.

What did I imagine?

Toffee-tasting, nutty chocolate so delicious a person couldn’t put it down.

What was it?

A strange thick gel, like really thick jello with a subdued taste surrounding by a thin layer of chocolate.

So that was a disappointment, but the regency romances I love mentioned treacle.  That was yummy!  Now I just have to find a place that sells marzipan…

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Writing an Epic Fantasy

For three years I’ve had an enormous idea in my head.  Those writers out there probably know the kind I’m talking about.  It’s a huge plot that seems beyond my capacity to do well.  I want to give it justice.

I want to write something epic.  I’m not just talking ‘epic fantasy’.  I mean an epic story.  One that is larger than life, that keeps you reading around the clock .  Any genre can have that epic quality, although fantasy seems to do it best.

They say when the student is ready, the master will appear.  I just finished reading Jessica Shirvington’s Embrace series, having no idea that they would fit my idea of ‘epic’.  Having lost sleep because of the intensity of that series, I started comparing it to The Lord of the Rings and The Deed of Paksennarion.  This is what I’ve discovered.

1) Scope: Epic stories have larger than life evil.  When the good characters come up against the evil in battle, a win seems impossible. The reader is eagerly devouring pages to figure out how the characters will not only survive, but defeat evil.

2) Suffering:  Epic novels break the reader’s heart. The heroes lose loved ones. They suffer horrendous losses.  Authors build up close connections only so that they can be torn apart.  They build up the dreams of a character only to destroy them.  Only after the characters are in the deepest pit of despair does the author let them crawl back out, dirty, worn, and so frail that a win seems unlikely.

3) Detail:  The back story is built up, sometimes across several novels until a larger-than-life final outcome finishes the series.  There is an interweaving of supporting characters that give the series a ‘grand’ feel.  Along with the ‘big evil’, there are the ‘little evils’ and good characters that make mistakes. The setting is detailed. The characters are well-considered.

4) Plot:  The story, although plotted to be grand, doesn’t ‘feel’ like it is. Build the ‘win’ into the story early on.  If a character has a power that will ultimately defeat the evil, it needs to be seen early in the novels. Otherwise, it comes off as a cheat.

Often a powerful character will ‘help’: Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Gird in The Deed of Paksennarion, the Angel Maker in the Embrace series.  If a powerful character will help, they should be a mentor from the beginning. There should be a cost to that help.  If an author pulls out an “I WIN” card after every battle and it doesn’t take anything away from the hero, the story won’t come across as epic.  It will be ‘just another’ story.

5) The characters feel ‘real’. When a character falls, it makes sense.  They make mistakes, but the mistakes aren’t the silly kind that remind a reader that an author is ‘manipulating their emotional strings’.  (That is my one criticism of the Embrace series.  The first book felt a bit forced when Violet ‘runs to Phoenix’.  For her to be THAT bothered by a logical lie fell flat.  That said, I aspire to write a series with as much emotional power as this one.)

I’m sure there are more, but to me, those are the truly important elements to an epic novel.

I’m fortunate to have a strong local writer’s group.  After talking to them a few weeks back, I was issued a challenge to get going.  By the next writer’s group, I’m going to have the first pages to my epic series complete.  I’ve decided to allow this to be a slow process, not to rush, but to test my writing boundaries and truly make it larger than life.  Hopefully in a few years, I’ll be able to share the outcome!

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Motivation

I haven’t written in over a week.  Something happened and whoosh, the energy just drained out of my projects.  So what could a writer who has no motivation possibly say about motivation?

Over the course of the last few months a couple of members in my online writer’s group have lost spouses.  I’ve never met them in person and yet it profoundly affected me. They are people I talk with and root for. And somehow their pain hit close to home.

I wondered if what I was doing was what I should be doing. I started questioning my direction and what I really wanted out of life.  Then I caught the flu.  Not enough to be hospital sick, but enough to be lazy sick.

So I stopped.

I stopped writing, but I didn’t stop thinking.  I didn’t stop planning.  I didn’t stop making goals.

When I first decided I needed to step back into writing, that’s where I started–with the to-do list and the goals for next year.

I know without a doubt that I can write 60,000 words in a month. That’s 2,000 words a day. Easy with weekend catch-up.  But I pull myself in SO many directions.  I want to write in too many genres in too many series with too many pen names.  Then there’s editing and cover creation.  And each hour has always seemed precious, so I feel guilty if I’m not busy.

I guess it’s not that I’m not motivated.  It’s that I want to find and focus on the thing that drives me most.  I need to find my most passionate passion and FOCUS and sometimes that requires distance–stopping and stepping back.

http://www.amazon.com/First-Love-Dark-Visions-Book-ebook/dp/B00637KAOA/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1414971879&sr=8-10&keywords=jeanette+raleigh

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How to lose your audience in 3…2…1

The first rule of writing is easy.  Don’t bore your readers.  If a writer is tortured trying to think of the proper words when writing, the reader probably is, too.  Most writers learn that immediately upon entering into serious authorship.

But there are other things, maybe tiny, maybe invisible to the author, but huge and vital to the reader. Are you writing to a Christian market?  Swear words will turn much of the readership away.  Are you too far outside the market? Again, you may end up losing readers.  For example, today I read a review of one of my own stories that said I went too much into the psyche of a story that was supposed to be a fun adventure.  And I have to agree that the story took a strange philosophical turn, even though at the time, it was completely invisible to me. (I am grateful for that review.  The reviewer also had some nice things to say and I received another piece of valuable information to help me be a better writer. You can find it here..).  http://mjjoachim.blogspot.com/2014/10/book-review-zombie-cowboy-two-step-by.html

There is also the dreaded political and/or moral issues.

Today I was in the middleof a series I was AVIDLY interested in.  I started reading the series on Sunday and planned to go all the way to the end.  The story had a great plot, interesting characters, but around page 200 in BOOK 4 I stopped reading with the decision that it wasn’t worth seeing where the story went to continue.  Furthermore, I have determined never to read the author again.

What happened?

I have a rule.  Heroes don’t torture other beings.  It’s simple and succinct.  I can handle lots of gray areas and foibles, but I am so disgusted by what I see as ‘softening’ the public with ‘torture is justified’ messages that I will turn off the television or close a book indefinitely if the issue rears its ugly head.

Maybe the author won’t lose many readers.  Maybe she will.  Sometimes its an invisible thing that sets the reader off.  In this case, I would have been okay if one of the ‘questionably evil’ sidekicks had done the torture, because I as a reader have not established whether those sidekicks are ‘good’ or ‘evil’. But not the established ‘good guy’.

So I guess my second point is Don’t make your good character do something so evil that they suddenly end up in the ‘evil’ category, especially if you’re still treating them as the hero and the good guy.

It seems like it should be easy to keep an audience.  I mean, if they picked up books 1 through 3, they’ll probably go right to the end, right?  But that’s not always the case.  And sometimes, it’s the little things (or the things you think that are little) that will get you.

 

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Legislating Morality & the Movie Belle

I’m about to write a political blog. I just finished watching the movie Belle and the percolation of a few years of thinking about legislating morality and why I found the term troublesome rose to the surface.  After watching Belle, it occurred to me why I dislike the term.  Legislation must be moral.   It must account for and protect the WEAKEST member of society. Not increase the power of the strongest.

I have such a mixture of political beliefs that it doesn’t make sense for me to affiliate myself with either party.  At the base of my beliefs is this.  That all people, young and old, should be free unto the point that they take away someone else’s freedom.  Those who would take away another’s freedom should be punished fully to the extent that they have done so, regardless of their class or position in society.

In my world view, the judge guilty of corruption is guilty of treason against the American public.

But back to the movie, the writer’s of that movie spoke so clearly to the very soul of my beliefs that I wanted to share.  I apologize in advance if I missed any words.  This was done by pausing the movie and writing down the words as the actors spoke them.

From the movie Belle

“Laws that allow us to diminish the humanity of anybody are not laws. They are frameworks for crime. And quite frankly I really do not care if you are an individual without character or conscience, but a land whose laws sanction, not control, the barbarous among its citizens, that is a country whose hope is lost.”

Those words made me weep, not for the woman in the movie, but for the loss of our own hope, for the ‘frameworks for crime” that now sanction the barbarous acts of our own citizens, for the loss of my own naivete that somehow the world would be different when I grew up, that somehow my generation would get it right, only to find out that the cards were stacked from the beginning and that corruption permeates the whole of our society, and we are in a steady decline.

Few are the voices speaking out against the atrocities committed in this modern world  and those voices are so seldom heard. I’m tired of television shows where the supposed ‘good guys’ justify torture.  I’m tired of turning on the news and hearing another lame excuse for removing another right of American citizens.

I’m weary of violence perpetrated from those who have sworn to protect and serve. Those who take an oath of office, whether it is a member of congress, a judge, a police officer, or the president himself, those men and women should be the pride of the nation, the best of the best, the least corrupt and the most morally responsible. And when they make laws or enforce laws, it should be in defense of the weakest member of society.

That’s all I have for today.  I think I need a nap.

 

 

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Planning the Next Book

I had it all figured out.  I was just putting the finishing touches on Book 3 of a middle-grade fantasy that I write under a pen name and after that I was going to write the sequel to Fate’s Dark Glass, followed by Death Grip, the sequel to Death Knell, and then Book 3 of Lost Love. And then FINALLY FINALLY I could start the epic fantasy that’s been itching to be written.

But suddenly I had the Book 4 plot flashing through my head on the middle-grade fiction, and everything is shifting.   Why not write the Epic Fantasy if I REALLY want to write it?  Well, it has a lot to do with consistency and marketing.  Right now, the paranormal werewolf series and the kid’s series are selling.  The fantasy?  Not so much.

I sort of surprised myself because I actually love the middle grade storyline I’m doing enough that I may end up with a dozen books before the end of next year. It may very well completely shift my schedule, which I suppose is the best thing about not having a contract.

So, the plan is to drop Death Grip until next year, continue with the sequel to Fate’s Glass and Book 4.

What is the bottom line to all this?  It relates to ‘art’ for its own sake and ‘commercial art’.  I don’t consider that I’m selling out by pushing a project back because another project is getting attention.  I love writing, but what I’ve recently discovered…I also love selling what I write.   I love seeing the reviews and having someone say that they stayed up all night to read something I wrote.  That’s awesome!

So I’m going to write what people enjoy (and what I enjoy writing).  You won’t see a book on famous baseball players from me.  And definitely not a literary fiction work with elegant prose.  But it does mean my epic fantasy will have to wait…at least for a little while.

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2 NEW Kindle Releases: Fate’s Dark Glass & First Love-

Book 1 of the Dark Visions series is free!  It’s a romantic fantasy.

http://www.amazon.com/First-Love-Dark-Visions-Book-ebook/dp/B00637KAOA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407195141&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+visions+first+love

And for my When Were & Howl Fans, Ali has a series of her own.  She’s sharing the spotlight with Kay, the witch from Werewolf Wedding.  I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

http://www.amazon.com/Fates-Dark-Glass-When-Wanderers-ebook/dp/B00ME5RGEC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1407194885&sr=8-3&keywords=fate%27s+dark+glass

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