Behind The Convention Table

by Lee French

It’s 9:54 on a Saturday morning. I’m standing in front of a table laden with books. A third of the books have my name on the cover. Another third have the name of the guy sitting behind the table, Jeff. The rest are anthologies and books by our friends. In the midst of all these tomes of assorted size and thickness resting in stands, on a bookshelf, or lying flat, we keep a pet dragon. Dwago the clockwork dragon is our mascot and conversation piece.

Dwago, performing a quality control test by taste.

Jeff notices the time before I do because I’m straightening books. I like my table tidy. Everything else in my life is messy and I don’t care. The table, though, must be tidy or everyone will die in horrible, screeching agony.

He puts on his hat. I notice and mumble something about hat time. We wear embellished hats. It’s a thing we do to make us easier to remember and recognize in these venues.

A voice from above, or maybe the other side of the room, announces the doors are open. It’s 10am.

I keep straightening. I can stop any time, I swear. As I shift the books, I choose one title to deliberately leave askew. It’s a book that, for reasons beyond the ken of mere mortals, gets little to no attention at conventions. Maybe it’s the color scheme, or maybe it whispers darkness into the ear of anyone who dares to glance at its cover with the intent to read it.

People filter through the room. Some wear t-shirts announcing their fandom of choice. Others wander in costume. Still others seem slightly dazed and a bit confused about how they wound up inside a fantasy and science fiction convention. Like they tripped and accidentally paid admission, or were forced at lightsaber-point.

Passersby drift past without looking at our table. Or they take a quick look and jerk their head away. Don’t make eye contact with the wild authors. They might scent the money in your wallet and try to talk to you about books.

Jeff sits. He has knee problems bad enough that he needs a cane to walk. I stand, sit, even kneel on my chair, because staying still drives me bananas. There’s a banana in my bag. I brought it to have for lunch with a granola bar, a room-temperature stick of string cheese, and whatever random pre-packaged thing I snagged from the stash for my kids’ lunchboxes. Sometimes I get Pirate Booty. Other times, I get a second granola bar or a pouch of applesauce.

Someone approaches our table with a big smile. “Books! I love books!”

“We have lots of books!” One of us says. It’s usually Jeff. He’s more of a people-person than me and quicker on the verbal draw.

He unfurls our basic spiel and susses out their preferences while I watch for other unwary souls lured by our array of colors and clever titles.

The customer buys a book or two. I handle the money. Jeff continues to pay attention to the person who may dump our books onto a giant To Be Read pile unless we continue to make an impression. Jeff is better at that than me.

We talk to the people at the next table on both sides, and across from us, and any other authors we can find. The jokes flow freely. Everyone wants to know how everyone else is doing. Does attendance seem lower this year? Sales? How was your drive? Did you do this other show? How was it? Wasn’t that other show horrible? Can you believe that guy at WhateverCon did that thing? Did you hear about this anthology? What are you doing for dinner tonight?

Everyone wants to talk about politics, and no one wants to talk about politics.

Something bad happens, because something bad always happens. It doesn’t stop the convention or destroy any merchandise, but everyone grumbles about it for the rest of the show. Until we start saying we think they built this hotel on a Hellmouth. Or maybe it’s designed so if you walk the hallways in a particular order, you summon an elder god.

“Hey,” another person says, “didn’t I see you at WhateverCon?”

“Yes,” we say. This is what we do more weekends than not. If you think we were there, we were there.

We sign books as we sell them. On request, we personalize them with the person’s name. There are a lot of ways to spell a lot of different names. I manage to mess up someone’s name and laugh as I tell them there’s a reason I type my books. It’s called crappy handwriting.

Between customers, I get onto the floor and pull out back stock from the plastic bins hidden by our tablecloth. Jeff can’t do this because of his knees. He also has no sense of graphic design and no ability to lay out the table so it looks nice with 30+ books across it. That’s my job.

I replace sold books and straighten the rest. I can stop anytime.

We take turns getting up during the lulls to walk around, use the bathroom, refill water bottles, or eat. Sometimes we sit and chat about our various in-process projects, bounce ideas off each other, or crack jokes. Working a table by myself is one long, boring stretch punctuated with short flurries of excitement. Working a table with Jeff is a collection of in-jokes and writing ideas punctuated by short flurries of excitement.

“I love books, but I have too many!”

We smile and nod, pretending like no one has ever said that to us before.

Time flows in fits and starts. I check my phone–it’s noon, which explains why I’m hungry. The next time I check, it’s three in the afternoon. Then it’s 3:15. 3:31. 3:37. 3:42. 3:45. 3:50. This day will never end. Suddenly, it’s five. An hour to go.

“Which book is your favorite?”

We both cringe inside. There are over thirty books on the table, and they cover multiple subgenres. Just because I like book A the best doesn’t mean a random person reads superhero fiction. Instead of answering, I pretend the question is the same as asking which child is my favorite and ask what they like to read. We don’t have any werewolf cyberpunk romance, but that author across the room does, and they’re awesome, so go talk to them.

Behind their back, we snigger about the idea of werewolf cyberpunk romance. Five minutes later, we both have ideas for writing a werewolf cyberpunk romance, but won’t because we each have five thousand other ideas in our respective queues already.

Ten minutes to go. I yawn. This is hard work and I’m hungry.

“What do you like to read?” Jeff asks a customer who apparently has no idea the room closes at six.


“We have some of that.” Jeff proceeds to deliver the quickie pitch for every series on the table. The room closes halfway through, but he keeps going. I keep smiling and pointing at the books he can’t reach. We all keep talking.

Five minutes after six, the person buys a book. They walk away. We take off our hats and feel ten pounds lighter. I say something surly or snarky because I can finally stop being a salesperson. Jeff laughs. The people at the nearby tables laugh.

We hide everything that’s easy to walk off with. Some folks cover their wares with tablecloths, but our setup makes that impractical.

I don’t straighten the books.

That’s a lie, because I nudge one. I can stop anytime.

Dragon in one hand and cashbox in the other, we go forage for dinner. Because we have to do this all over again tomorrow.

Lee French has written a bunch of fantasy and science fiction stories and routinely sells them at conventions, fairs, and festivals. Her next convention is Miyakocon in Salem, WA, and her latest book is Darkside Seattle: Mechanic, which released yesterday, January 30. Find all her work here.

The Hero as Social Justice Warrior

Do you write what you preach? 

Are fiction authors supposed to promote their personal values? Or is the story supposed to be a self-contained entity with its own political views and separate from the author’s? Must (or should) the author reveal personal positions on every social and political issues undergoing discussion in the public arena? Or is the story just a story and everything political is thrown to the wind for the sake of the story?

The writer is supposedly imbued with a welter of imagination, able to leap tall plots in a single bound, about to stop dastardly antagonists with bare hands (obviously, on a keyboard). So it should go beyond the “write what you know” –shouldn’t it? It is the mark of a true author if he/she can make you believe he/she knows what he/she is writing about.

However, there are plenty of instances where readers get in the way. I mean that in a wholly innocent sense. If writing for a particular category of reader, the writer may shape the story in certain ways to appeal to those readers. Part of that may be, say, to use initials instead of a name or to use a pen name completely to hide the gender of the author. Because a Romance author cannot be a man…in theory. And a hardcore sci-fi author cannot be female…traditionally.

If an author is against guns…would the story be gun-free?

If the author believes in a nation having a strong military and the government protecting its citizens by militarizing city police forces, would that idea be reflected in the author’s latest book? If the author is opposed to abortion, would the character in the story who gets pregnant have an abortion or have the baby and offer it for adoption? It starts to get complicated. Or perhaps it’s very easy. Do your characters act as you would act?

And then there is the marketing question.

If an author writes books in which characters act as he/she would, hold views the author holds, act as the author would act with regard to a whole host of political and social issues, views, and positions, where does that leave the reader? Could that reader like a story enough to buy it and read it even though that reader and the book’s author may have different views on, say, immigration reform? Or do we authors censor ourselves so as to be as mild-mannered as possible and not offend anyone who just might be tempted to buy our book? Do we write so as to not alienate half the potential readership, or do we go forth boldly proclaiming where we stand on this or that issue, and hope or expect that we will be praised for our stance(s)? Tough questions–or non-issues?

Perhaps many writers, authors, dabblers in words, whatever the label, just don’t care about such matters because just writing an interesting story is hard enough and we don’t have time to be concerned about things outside the story. Or are we politely disingenuous, hiding our true nature and our true beliefs and values for the sake of that interesting story, afraid to speak out about something we feel strongly about because we worry about offending fellow authors and potential readers. Compare the statistics of recent voting and decide which half of the book-buying population you will market to.

I don’t believe fiction writers, as a clan, deal much with pushing agendas. Or do we? Or should we? Or…why shouldn’t we? When I’ve written sci-fi and fantasy, I’ve invented political systems which run the spectrum from left to right, not as a reflection of my own view of “how things should be” but only for the sake of plausibility in the story and influence on the plot.

Sure, the literary canon is full of authors who pushed agendas, who wrote dogmatic tales, who gave us strongly-worded suggestions of how we should behave, what we should think, what we should do or stop doing–woven more or less subtly through a fictional narrative that served to entertain us long enough to get the message across. And others wrote to warn us of possible future scenarios we may not wish to experience.

The world of literary imagination is both a safe space and a war zone. Reader beware.

Or are they simply stories which only in hindsight do we see a message or a warning? And if the warning may be too strong, too upsetting, too triggering, then such a book might be moved into the banned book pile. Fearing the ban, authors may self-censor, keep it clean, water it down, set it all in a land of make-believe where nothing is actually meant to be real or serious, certainly not as a commentary on the present political climate, oh no!

And yet, in this present day world of saying the right thing, being politically correct or decidedly not, what is the author’s responsibility…or compulsion? Must a novel follow a political agenda? May a work of fiction illustrate differing views on particular social issues?

Should our protagonists be social justice warriors? 

15 Reasons to Quit Writing

By: David P. Cantrell

It is very presumptuous of me to write about writing. I don’t make a living as a writer, I’d starve if I tried to, but I love (and hate) the process.

I love the rush that comes with ideas unfolding like a map to reveal the path within. Sometimes the words come faster than I can write and they evaporate. Just a wisp of the thought lingers behind to taunt me—I was great, but you weren’t good enough to catch me. And that brings me to what I hate about writing–the self-doubt: I’m not smart enough, people will laugh at me, who cares what I have to say.

My musing got me wondering what others have had to say about the process, which led me to a Goodreads list of 795 quotes about writing. Some of my favorites are set forth below. I hope you enjoy them.

  1. The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. ― Terry Pratchett
  2. 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer Write.
    Write more. Write even more. Write even more than that.
    Write when you don’t want to. Write when you do.
    Write when you have something to say. Write when you don’t.
    Write every day. Keep writing. ― Brian Clark
  3. You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. ― Octavia E. Butler
  4. Anyone who says writing is easy isn’t doing it right. ― Amy Joy
  5. I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. ― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
  6. There is only one thing a writer can write about: what is in front of his senses at the moment of writing… I am a recording instrument… I do not presume to impose “story” “plot” “continuity”… Insofar as I succeed in Direct recording of certain areas of psychic process I may have limited function… I am not an entertainer… ― William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch
  7. Sometimes I scare myself at how easily I slip inside my mind and live vicariously through these characters. ― Teresa Mummert
  8. There are three secrets to writing a novel. Unfortunately nobody knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham
  9. Rules such as “Write what you know,” and “Show, don’t tell,” while doubtlessly grounded in good sense, can be ignored with impunity by any novelist nimble enough to get away with it. There is, in fact, only one rule in writing fiction: Whatever works, works. ― Tom Robbins
  10. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page. ― Jodi Picoul
  11. The only ‘ironclad rules’ in writing fiction are the laws of physics and the principles of grammar, and even those can be bent. ― Val Kovalin
  12. But in the wake of ‘Bullet,’ all the guys wanted to know was, ‘How’s it doing? How’s it selling?’ How to tell them I didn’t give a flying fuck how it was doing in the marketplace, that what I cared about was how it was doing in the reader’s heart? ― Stephen King, Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales
  13. Don’t over edit. Don’t second-guess yourself, or your ideas. Just write. Write every day, and keep at it. Don’t get discouraged with the rejections. Tape them up on your office wall, to remind you of all the hard work you put in when you finally start getting published! It’s all about persistence and passion. And have fun with it. Don’t forget to have fun. ― Heather Grace Stewart
  14. I’ve discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing. ― Anna Quindlen
  15. The writing begins when you’ve finished. Only then do you know what you’re trying to say.” ― Samuel Langhorne Clemens

    You will find all 795 quotes here.

National Novel Writing Month

htb-225-px-for-2016-banner-boxEvery November I participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Around our house it is also referred to as “National Pot Pie Month,” an homage to my culinary efforts during November.

For the last five years I have been a Municipal Liaison for the Olympia, Washington Region. Last year indie author Lee French agreed to be a co-ML with me, which really took the pressure off in regard to small ML duties. We had 165 active novelists at that time and are gaining new wrimos all the time.

The primary goal of participating in NaNoWriMo is to produce a 50,000 word novel in the space of 30 days. That sounds crazy but it can be done–I do it every year. The first draft of Huw the Bard was written from start to finish during November of 2011 as my nano-novel that year.

HOWEVER:  I spent the month of October 2011 outlining the novel. After the first draft was completed, I spent the next three years getting HTB ready for publication, rewriting it through 3 more drafts, having it edited professionally, and finally it was published in March of 2014. Mountains of the Moon was written in 2012, and published 2015.

Many people use the concept of NaNoWriMo to jump-start their noveling career, but there are just as many who spend the month of November writing family histories or memoirs, writing daily blog posts, writing essays, or even working on their dissertations. I know two people who write screenplays during November.

The month of November is when we celebrate the act of creative writing, and encourage every person with an inner author to let that creative energy flow.

Last year, I am worked on a series of mixed genre short-short stories, all of them written during National Novel Writing Month. Altogether I wrote 42 short stories, one of which, View from the Bottom of a Lake, was selected as a finalist in the annual PNWA literary contest. It didn’t win, but hey – I got the honorable mention. That was pretty amazing!

So I am doing it again.

My intention is to write one tale a day, or two or three longer tales a week, many of them set in a Medieval village, but some set in the fantastic future.  Robots, Spaceships, Dragons, Fairies, even Mad Scientists and Crazed Wizards–all will be fair game.


This year there will be no novel in the traditional sense, but hopefully a LOT of short stories will emerge from my fevered mind, things I can use for contests and submissions to magazines and anthologies. For me, writing the first draft of anything  is only the beginning. Once that struggle is out of the way, the real work begins–making it fit for others to read. Getting it through the editing process with Carlie Cullen and Dave Cantrell are tough but necessary steps.  I don’t rush the revisions. I have nothing to lose by taking the time to do it right. Right now, I have three books on the back burner in various stages of dismemberment, but I am setting them aside for NaNoWrMo and in December I will return to getting them through that process.

Delving Into History To Discover The Truth Behind The Vikings Lagertha And Ragnar

Lagertha and Ragnar as depicted in History's 'Vikings'

I know my last blog post was on research when writing. But, here I am again, writing another post on the virtues of research. Actually, to be honest, this one is more about my latest book series, The Truth Behind.

When I started writing TV articles for the Inquisitr, I never thought it would lead me to my next novel. But, thanks to one of History Channel’s shows, Vikings, I have managed to find out an awful lot about a group of people I previously knew very little about. Vikings tells the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, based on a character from Viking lore that may, or may not have existed, Ragnar Lodbrok. Season 1 started with Ragnar and his wife, Lagertha, as farmers. Ragnar, being a typical inquisitive Viking, decides to travel West to raid rather than East and manages to wind up in England. While there he does the normal Viking thing — pillaging and murdering — before returning to Norway with his loot.

 Ragnar and Lagertha as depicted in History's 'Vikings'

Ragnar and Lagertha as depicted in History’s ‘Vikings’ [Image via HISTORY]
By Season 4 of Vikings, Ragnar is a king, having quickly traveled up the ranks because of his adventures in England. His wife, however, has left him thanks to an affair Ragnar had with Aslaug. Yet, their love story still keeps fans of the show swooning. And it is this story that has brought me to researching the sagas as I delve into the real story of Ragnar and Lagertha.

While it seems very likely that Lagertha is not a real person that existed during the Viking era, there is one recorded story about her. This tale comes from book 9 in Saxo Grammaticus’ History of the Danes (you can read this story for free via Sacred Texts). Saxo was a scholar who lived in England. He was tasked with recording the Viking stories up to two hundred years after the actual events. So, if this is the only record we have of Lagertha, it seems likely she doesn’t exist since none of the Viking sagas mention her.

Regardless, for the sake of a great love story, I have been using this one story, along with the many stories about Ragnar (that may or may not be about several men named Ragnar), to formulate the true story of Ragnar and Lagertha rather than the current romanticized one. Along the way I have come across some very interesting facts about the pair. For example:

 Ragnar wears his hairy breeches to protect himself against a dangerous snake

Ragnar wears his hairy breeches to protect himself against a dangerous snake [Image via AngloSaxonNorseAndCeltic]
  • Ragnar’s surname literally translates to hairy or shaggy breeches. This name came about after Ragnar wore shaggy pants in an effort to get past a dangerous viper that breathed venom. In some instances of this story, it is a dragon Ragnar has to pass. In both stories, Ragnar was trying to impress a lady (or her father anyway).
  • Ragnar first met Lagertha in a brothel. But it’s totally not what you think. Ragnar was merely saving a group of women that had been taken hostage by Frø, the king of Sweden, after he killed King Siward. Frø placed these women in a brothel to publicly shame them. Ragnar, a fan of Siward, decided to avenge his friend and rescue the women. During this battle, many of the women in the battle decided to dress in men’s clothing and fight on Ragnar’s side. And so the myth about the shield maiden called Lagertha was born along with the prose below.

“Lagertha, a skilled Amazon, who, though a maiden, had the courage of a man, and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All-marvelled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back betrayed that she was a woman.”

Lagertha on a ship
Lagertha (as the goddess Thorgerd) in battle [Illustration by Jenny Nyström (1895).
  • Ragnar attempted to woo Lagertha after he saw her fighting ability. However, Lagertha was not one to fall at a man’s feet. She made it quite the task to win her hand and Ragnar ended up having to kill a bear and a hound just to reach her house.
  • Lagertha really did love Ragnar though. In fact, many years after they had divorced (Ragnar had taken a fancy to Thora Borgarhjört, the daughter of King Herraud, that resulted in his surname), Lagertha chose to fight for Ragnar once more when he needed support in a civil war. Being the independent woman, she brought 120 ships to his aide.
  • What ever happened during that final battle together is not mentioned. However, the final part of her tale is very revealing in that she returned home and slayed her husband rather than be with him a moment longer. It is unclear why she killed her husband or what happened after this other than she went on to rule independently.
  • It seems likely Lagertha may actually be based on a Norse goddess called Thorgerd. It is also possible Saxo made the story about Lagertha up using his knowledge about the Amazon women from Greek mythology.

My research into Ragnar and Lagertha is far from complete, however, I have already created a page on Goodreads. So, if you are intrigued by the story of Lagertha and Ragnar, why not add The Truth Behind the Vikings: Lagertha and Ragnar to your reading list.

Have you watch History’s Vikings or read any of the Viking sagas? Let us know by commenting below!

The Story So Far

Having recently completed my own writing challenge, namely finishing a series of fantasy books that I set about commencing six years ago, I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect upon the journey. Before you worry that this’ll turn into a mawkish post about what I learned about myself, and the industry, and all the wondrous people I’ve met (I have, but that’s not what I’m blogging about), console yourself with the title of the post. The Story So Far…

One of the difficulties of writing a six book series is deciding what to put into each book with regards the prior events. The problem spirals as the sheer complexity of events expands throughout the epic. Now, not being a vastly successful mainstream author, it’d be unlikely that anyone would pick up my series half way through, although possible. And the books themselves are meant to be a part of a series, not standalone with a common thread/ milieu running through. Yet, given the books came out roughly one a year, I don’t flatter myself that my readers are so obsessed with my work that they remember very last detail from the prior one… I know I don’t!

When I began editing and rewriting sections of book two to cope with the fact it had originally being the last 40% of a mega-volume one (for those that don’t know, Darkness Rising 1 and 2 were originally Dreams of Darkness Rising, and clocked in at Tolstoy length, so was split) I began considering my ‘story so far’ options. Option 1 is some slightly clunky prose between characters where they reminisce and ruminate on recent events to the degree that the reader can catch up. That’d read like…

Emelia smiled wrly at Jem. “It’s funny to think that my latent Wild-magic powers were so successfully manifested at the time you and Hunor sneaked into Lord Ebon-Farr’s rooms, fought that hidden Air-mage, and procured that darned blue crystal that turned out to be part of a prism of power.”

“And all the stranger that that would then lead to Ebon-Farr’s niece, Lady Orla pursuing us across to Azagunta and capturing us, before flying to Thetoria, fighting a demonic humour, and setting Aldred on a course of investigation that would lead him far away.”

With a flicker of nostalgia, Emelia began to recall all the events that had lead up to that fateful day…


AAaaaarrrggghh! Stop, just stop. No-one talks like that out with TV fantasy series. Yet it’s slightly preferable to the… ‘Story so Far’ info-dump that by book six would run to eight blooming pages!

It was our own literary goddess Alison DeLuca who edited Darkness Rising Book 2, and when faced with the info-dump story so far section I’d written to start the book, she got her virtual red pen, drew a big line through the forty paragraphs, and simply commented ‘we’re writers, we can find better ways of doing it than that.’
Challenge accepted.

Six books, five ‘story so fars’ and because of the plotlines and structure, several disparate groups and POVs , often in ignorance to one another. How to maintain originality…?

Well, here were my top five:

1. The Dream Play (book 3: Secrets)

Emelia, whose dreams are so significant to the plotline, and who through dreaming becomes linked with the main protagonist , Vildor, recants a ‘story so far’ by dreaming she is watching a play.

I know this place. It is a hall of deception, and for this I am glad. For all here wear cloaks of secrets, which wrap around their souls with the strength of iron.

I am seated in the decayed stalls, and before me the first Act has commenced. At my side sits Emebaka. She holds my hand with her own tiny scaled one. Her eyes glitter like diamonds in the winter sun. I make to speak, but she shakes her head. The dream must command my attention. My wayward mind needs order—I need to reflect on all that has passed.

There are children on the stage, stuttering their lines like nervous suitors. The faded backdrop is of the Splintered Isles. A man is taking a sack of gold, and the children are wailing as they are carried off stage.

My father is selling me. To the Eerians.

No more spoilers!!!

2. The Prayer (book 4: Loss)

In this ‘story so far’ the knight, Sir Unhert, offers a prayer for his companion, Aldred. This allows a reflection on their actions, and the second ongoing plotline in the series.

Blessed Torik, hear my prayer.

I have never been a devout man. I placed my faith in the strength of steel and the might of griffons, yet this day I ask for your forgiveness in this matter, and your aid. There is one I hold dear who lies dying before me, every passing day taking more of his vitality away, stolen like a thief in the dark.

And though we are far away from the majestic peaks of Eeria, and your great temples in Coonor, I know that my prayer will carry on the four winds, across the ravines and gullies of the Emerald Mountains, to your omniscient ears.


3.The Crystals (book 5: Broken)

This one was quite random: the crystals, the focus of the quest and the goal of both Vildor and Jem, begin discussing the current situation. I was proud of this one, as it was fairly off the wall, and I think worked well.

That, and more. We must understand if we are to prevail. We must understand if we’re to be whole again—our four primary facets, and our newer darker aspect.

Then I shall go first, sister. For is it not the wind that drives the water, the wind that fuels the fire? I was first to be found, two centuries from when we were cast asunder by the jealousy of a son.

The emperor who bore me, whose blood is barely dry?

Hush, brother, let our sister speak. Let her tell you how she came to be here in this desert of flame.

4. Words (book 6: Redemption)

This was a tiny bit of a cheat, as I used a character from a prior book (Orla’s old flame, Muben) as a storyteller, who learns of the historic events and their precursors by meeting a goddess. Very Greek. I figured by book 6 most readers would just want a recap of key events that are relevant to the finale.

Words. Words as keen as a magnate blade, or as dull as a mace. They can freeze a man’s heart, or ignite his soul. And words… words are all I have.

When I was a young man I craved books. The intricacies of the script held such majesty, such power, that even before I could read them they made my spirit soar. Their wonder became my life, my livelihood, as I slipped the chains of my Eerian masters and took to the infinite roads of Nurolia.

The druids of Artoria, they carry their words on their flesh. Whorls and swirls of ancient scripture cover them like walking parchments. I often wonder if you took the contents of my skull and smeared it across the ground would it leak ink not blood. For words, dancing together in fables and tales, flow through me.

I sit watching as the fire peters out, my audience dwindling back to their farmsteads, I reflect upon one word. Ty Schen—that’s what they call me in Mirioth. It means ‘chronicle.’ They come from miles to hear the stories, the histories, and the legends. Yet once I had another name, one given to me by my late father, in the tongue of my homeland, the Sapphire Isles.

Oh, I know, I’m a tease… leaving you with that excerpt… of a recap! And finally, I used this device in couple of books…

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00032]

5. The Journal (books 2 and 3)

Very similar to the letter idea (which I used in book 4, and turns up in a later book for someone else to read), I used the idea that some of my characters would write a journal as a recap device. It felt less contrived than the joking dialogue method I tried above, and served the purpose in earlier books where the plotline was perhaps easier to realistically summarise from a key character’s point of view.

It feels odd writing this in the pages of Livor’s journal, but it’s what he would have wanted, what he would have told me to do if we had had a chance to speak more in life.

Is there folly in conversing with the dead? Once I would have said so. Once life was simple—you lived life to the full, embracing every moment as if it were your last—and then you died. You died like my mother did, rotted by a wasting disease. You died like my father did, killed by his traitorous servant, a Dark-mage

So now I’m editing the sequel to my sci-fi/ steampunk series, The Nu-Knights, I’m toying with different ideas: files/ dossiers, diaries, confessions… The nature of the series makes it easier to do succinctly, and as a gradual dialogue in the story, so perhaps I’ll not need one for book two.

What about you other authors out there? How do you tackle it? And for the readers, is info-dump a big turn-off, or do you accept that fantasy=massive amount of summarised plot detail in first five pages?

And that length of post, probably needs a summary of its own!!!


The Eerie Places Research For Novels Can Take You

Larundel is a place rife with urban legends and ghost stories [Image: Supplied]

One of my favorite things about writing is the research that naturally goes along with it. While I sometimes stress over just who is watching my Google search history and which search term will be the one that results in the FBI knocking on my door, mostly it is this learning about new things that gets under my skin.

Even when writing zombie apocalypse fiction, the need to know things is always present. For example, did you know that if you are stuck in the midst of the zombie apocalypse without your water purifying tablets or electricity for boiling, you can either use the sun or a very small amount of household bleach to purify dirty water? Neither did I until I was researching Emeline and the Mutants.

If you are in Australia when the zombie apocalypse hits, a crossbow is your best bet
[Image via MorgueFile]
When I was researching Zombie Apocalypse Now!, I had a search history that was filled with weapons used to break through skulls. After all, here in Australia, our gun laws are quite prohibitive and the average person suffering through the zombie apocalypse here would have to be a little more ingenious with their weapons. For the record, I would probably opt for a machete or, in a pinch, a spade. Although, if you can get your hands on one, a crossbow would be the best choice if you can’t obtain a gun. Once again, I worry about the FBI turning up on my doorstep.

Rachel Tsoumbakos The Ring Of Lost Souls 375

But, the most fun I ever had researching was when I was writing The Ring of Lost Souls. This book is based on a historical location; Larundel. Originally built as a mental institution in the early 20th century, it is now–or at the time of my research–abandoned since the mid-1990’s when the Australian government decided Australia didn’t really need a mental health system. You can read more on the history of Larundel here.

Larundel has been abandoned since the mid-1990s
Larundel is a place rife with urban legends and ghost stories [Image: Supplied]
Not only did I manage to classify watching every episode of Ghost Hunters International as “research” but I also included day trips to Larundel and speaking to local urban explorers as valuable research into my novel.

The Ring of Lost Souls was written in 2011, a time when work had begun on restoring Larundel. However, most of the building were so still dilapidated that to enter them was to seriously risk injury. But even without setting foot inside the buildings, people were able to walk around them and look in the windows to easily get an eerie sense of the place.

But it was the ghost stories and urban legends that piqued my interest the most. The most famous story involved a music box that played mysteriously at nighttime. Rumor had it the music box belonged to a girl who threw herself from the third floor of Larundel. Anyone who has ever been there knows Larundel is only two stories high, but still the story persisted. And so it was included in my story.

Larundel: This street art on the hospital ward of Larundel reminds me of Maisy from 'The Ring of Lost Souls'.
Larundel: This street art on the hospital ward of Larundel reminds me of Maisy from ‘The Ring of Lost Souls’. [Image: Supplied]
Another story perpetuated is the undiscovered morgue at Larundel. A quick Google search will show stories of people who claim they have been to the morgue in Larundel and seen dead bodies left there. Word on the street is that the morgue in the basement of Larundel. I found a picture of a lift in Larundel so clogged with rubbish that you would never even know if there was a basement or not. I also found other pictures of the floor space underneath Larundel that proves there is no room for a basement level. Still, the morgue went into my story too.

As you can see, writing a novel is just not a matter of letting the muse speak, sometimes research can take you in the craziest of places!

Milking the Dragon

Dragon_rearing_up_to_reach_medieval_knight_on_ledgeToday is the day I’m supposed to write a blog post for Myrddin Publishing. I stare at the blank page, wondering what to blog about. I guess I could talk about writing…just set the fingers on the keyboard and let the words flow… Writing is a way of life for me, one that require the ability to become immersed in the story and….

“Ahem.” A knight in shining armor stands at my elbow, looking over my shoulder and tapping his foot.

Pardon me, dear reader. I know it’s rude to interrupt my blog post just when we were getting started, but I have to deal with this—-it’s Hero, the main character from my current work in progress. Characters are like cell phones: they always choose the worst times to communicate their problems.

“Ahem,” he clears his throat again. “You there. Are you the person plotting this book?”

Surprised, I nod my head, wondering where this is going. Usually, my heroes just leave me to the task of writing, and don’t really feel compelled to harass me beyond the occasional ‘Hey, Doofus! You forgot Lord Anselm lost his leg four chapters back, so he’s not going to be able to dance the night away, right?’ So I say to Hero, “I am your author and creator. How may I help you?”

“Well, the Dragon is dead, did you notice?”

Again I nod my head. “Yes, I wrote that scene, and if I do say so myself, you were magnificent.” Heroes require obscene amounts of kudos, or they turn sour.

“Thank you,” he replies, attempting to appear modest and failing. “Well, the thing is, Lady Penelope has thrown herself into wedding preparations.”

“Yes, I did know that.” I smile encouragingly. “I am helping her with designing the dress.”

“Well, I’ve been booted outside. Kicked to the curb. No one needs the groom, apparently until the big day so, heh-heh, here I am… Bored… Looking for something to do…” He glares at me. “Well, really, what sort of author are you? Here we are 32,527 words into your novel, and you’ve already shot the big guns! You wasted the big scene! I mean really, unless this romantic comedy is a novella, you just blew it big time.”

I am shocked that this man who owes his very existence to my creative genius should talk to me thusly. “What are you talking about? I have lots of adventures and deeds of daring-do just waiting to leap off the page, and occupy your idle hands.” See? I can give a dirty look too!

“We-e-ell?” he drawls. “You have 50,000 or so words left, and I hope to heck that you do not intend to spend them on wedding preparations!” He looks at me expectantly. “I have nothing to do! Find me a Quest!”

By golly the man is right. I have timed my big finale rather poorly, and now I have to come up with something new for the man to do. Hmm…maybe trolls … no, too reminiscent of Tolkien. I know – elves! No, still too Tolkienesque. I glare at him. “Well, I can’t work with you staring over my shoulder, so find something to do for a few minutes.”

Good Lord. I should have made him less impatient and given him a few more social graces. “Look, why don’t you sit here, and play a little ‘Dragon Age’ for a while?” I park him in front of the TV and give him the controller.

“What the hell is this?” He looks first at me and then at the controller in his hand. “I am sure this odd-looking thing is quite entertaining, but I don’t find it amusing.”

Sighing, I show him how to turn the thing on, and help him set up a character file. For some reason, he wants to play as a dwarf mage. That takes an hour.

Go figure.

Finally, I can sit down and invent a few more terrifying plot twists to keep this bad boy busy. The trouble is, all I can think of is dragons, but he has already fought one and killed it. Of course, that means he has acquired a certain amount of skill in dragon molesting… heh-heh… but what good is that sort of ability?


I look up, and see Lady Penelope’s mother, Duchess Evillia, standing at my elbow. “Yes?”

“Well, I am sorry to bother you, but we are in desperate need of a certain magical ingredient for my special anti-aging cream.” She looks at me expectantly. “Despite the fact she is intent on marrying that unemployed waster in the tin suit, my daughter’s wedding is a Very Big Deal.”

OMG, she’s capitalizing her words for emphasis. And she’s still staring at me.

“I simply MUST have my beauty cream.”

“And that ingredient is…?” I hope it not a complicated thing because now I have two bored characters nagging the hell out me.

She smiles and says, “Dragon’s Milk.”

How odd, that I never realized until this moment just how malevolent Penelope’s mother looks when she smiles like that. “I’m sure that our dear Hero can get me some since he’s just sitting around pretending to be a dwarf.”

This woman is very likely to be his worst nightmare, and Hero intends to share a castle with her? I suppose he has no choice, now that I think about it, as he has no castle of his own, and Penelope’s father, Duke Benedict, has made him his heir.

Wait a minute…that was against his wife’s wishes, wasn’t it….

Yeah…I guess I could rewrite the original battle scene, just add a bit here, tweak a bit there and subtract the dead dragon part.

Ooh…but he could get singed milking the dragon, and that would probably delay the wedding.

Oh, what the hell—he is a hero isn’t he?

I look over at the Hero, who is now bashing my coffee table with my game controller. Oh, yeah, this boy needs to go outside and play in the fresh air. “HEY!!! Hero, I have a task for you! Take this bucket and get some dragon’s milk. It’s a matter of life and death.”

He looks up, wild-eyed and sweaty. “I will in a minute. I just have to get to a place where I can save… Gah!!! No, no, no! I only have one health potion left!”

Well, kind reader, I had intended to write a blog post today, but that’s out. I won’t have time as I have to get the Hero pried loose from the game console and on his way. He has to go and milk the dragon.
Milking the Dragon © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

Three Stories We Keep Reading over and over and over

Throughout the past three years, I have been able to ascertain that there are three stories, types of stories, or story memes retold again and again which nobody is willing to welcome any longer, and henceforth should be exiled to the dustbins of hosiery! Here they are in all of their unspoken glory – and beware the variations, too. Unfortunately, I have written each of them.


The love story. Emotional linkage. Moreover, two young romantics slathering over each other. Worse yet if one of them is of some special, protected category such as ghost, gremlin, zombie, homeboy, vampire, wolfboy, fairy, fairy tale meme, or absent-minded English teacher. It is enough that we recognize that people have this flaw, this need for completion, but must the rest of us read about it? see it splayed open across the grand screen? discuss it through the night on social media-  as though it were a traditional recipe for disaster? Sure, we have the so-called “anti-romance” – but isn’t that just another sheep of another color than black? Let them do what they do in private and leave the rest of us alone, thank you very much.


Variation: The love story set in a dystopian society where good is evil and black is white and everyone is out to get everyone else because that is the way of the world and nobody is better or worse than anyone else and the equal ones are slightly more equal than the others who are not. Often they must play a game to determine who is most equal.

Example. A Beautiful Chill is an example of the oft-repeated cliche of campus unions and reunions where Art & Letters rejoice in unyielding depravity up to the final revelation of emotional slaughter. Woe is me, sayeth the love-lorn Author. (Credit for keeping it real; that is, on Earth and in modern times.)


The discovery of a new world. In this avenue I would add all the doorway, portal, gateway, wardrobe, tunnel, and wormhole stories where one of “us” goes somewhere else and woo-hoo it’s almost like where we came from (or it’s quite different) and aren’t we amazed! And what does our hero/heroine do there? Exploit the darn place to within an inch of its history! Such stories have been foisted upon us usually as warnings of what we have become or shall become if we do not pay attention, pay through the nose, or pay the first-born child of every family in debt to our fanatical financials and lords of leisure! And yet we take no heed and continue to fall into our dubious inheritance. No more! “If it ain’t here, it ain’t real,” quoth one long-lost quotation master. Who should care for a world of pure invention?


Variation: The parallel universe, the time travel story, the dystopian tale – all of them are poor representations of the main theme, us doing whatever me must, all relying on knowledge of our existing set of circumstances in order to make pun of all that we hold close to us and dreary. They mean to trick you. Smoke and mirrors, just smoke and mirrors. Mind not the poor excuse that is what you have now, for life could be far, far worse over there. Be glad you are here.

Example: The Dream Land, a lengthy tome [read ‘trilogy’] ostensibly of interdimensional [read ‘doorway, portal, etc.’] intrigue [read ‘political skulduggery’], alien romance [see above complaint], and world domination in volving two high school science nerds who grow up to become far too dangerous. Too many giant war rabbits for my liking, also. And a comet just for overkill.


The medieval family clash. As a variation on ‘new worlds’ is the ‘old world’ meme. I speak here of our vainglorious return to days of yore. Either said stories are poor recreations of history mismanaged or they are faux pas histories which serve the purpose of greasepainted stages of perversity. Need we more of that? There is good reason those days of yore are done – and none too soon: we who represent the greater good of our species are simply too embarrassed by what we are capable of bestowing upon our peers. We seek atonement, forgiveness, or another round of the merry-go-round. While we may wish to relive the highlights and lowlifes, the sum total of our aspirations is a rousing return to that which never was and cannot be all in the name of trying it again for the better and falling, indeed, crashing from great dragon-borne heights to the fire-pit below!


Variation: The story that hides in a return to mythological creations and through them and their unfolding narrativity seek to impress us with the sheer drudgery of life in those days. Be glad of the life you have now and forget those of long ago. Yet such creatures and the winsome gods and goddesses themselves make for poor judges of our modern tastes. Be not fooled or made a fool!

Example: After Ilium, where the narrative necessarily parallels the standard liturgy yet is viewed through the rose-colored lenses of a neophyte (often called ‘the lucky loser’) for the purpose of excising tears from unwary readers. It’s a quite dubious in the depiction of an infamous battle: the wooden horse and the glimmering walls and the shiny gold.


There is a solution. Seek not for such misguided diversions but instead search out only fair and acceptable solutions to the diversions you crave, for they do exist. Break free and live a life beneath a tree, in the fields of the locust, all barefoot and squishy, with fluffy-bunny clouds overhead and the wind in your hair – like all good little munchkins who have survived remakes of wizard-themed films. And if that fails you, then there likely is little hope; you might as well embrace your day job (night, whatever) with hardy gusto. Good day to you!


I plead guilty, charged or not. I have dabbled in the literary arts and dared sail among the gods and goddesses of my imagination, no matter the fatigue in my wings. I saw the light above the clouds, heard the creak of heavenly gates, and yet, in the end, as imagination faltered, I flew on. And here I am . . . for what it’s worth.

“We are all little stars,” said someone on Twitter yesterday.

Five Websites to Help You Write a Book


You have a wonderful idea for a novel or nonfiction book. This brainwave hit you at a red light or, more probably, at 2 AM when there was nothing you could do about it, and it was like a strand of Christmas lights went off above your head.

The question is: what are you going to do about it?

If you’re like 90% of people out there, you’ll think about your idea and never get to it. Your wonderful, bright, incandescent story will face into obscurity.

I’m not saying every story could or should be written. However, perhaps you have a novel you’d like to share with your friends. Maybe you’d like to write down your memories as a member of the Armed Services or the Peace Corps. These things are important and should be remembered by being put into text.


My first fantasy series was born from the idea of a young girl, her magic typewriter, and a frightening train. As I wrote The Night Watchmen Express and the other books in my series, I was working a full-time job.

The difference between the 90% who will never see their own story in print and those who do is time. We all have 24 hours in the day, and the question is this: what are you going to do with them?

Of course we all have hours that are already delegated to work, parenthood, or other obligations. However, there are moments in the day we can steal for ourselves. Are you going to play Angry Birds? Or are you going to write a story?

When I was teaching full-time, I used to come home and pop dinner in the oven. I’d get my schoolwork done and, when I was done, I sat at the computer and wrote for an hour.

60 minutes every day adds up to a lot of time and, over months of dedication, a lot of words. In fact, I began to love my story so much I dug out more time to work on it by getting up early and putting off bedtime. I just wanted to get the story out, a process much like giving birth.

from freestockphotos

Even if a daily hour is out of your reach, you can accomplish much in 20 minutes. If you only write 500 words a day, at the end of two months you’ll really have something.

There are other ways to kickstart your own creative efforts:

1. Many look to NaNoWriMo as a way to kickstart their projects, and I don’t dispute that. For some it simply doesn’t work, since forced word count in the drive to get to 50K in one month results in a messy manuscript. Still, published and successful authors have started there, and perhaps it will work for you.

2. Another site to nudge you to sit at your desk each day is 750 Words. This website logs your typing and gives you badge at the 750 point. If you do it for 30 months you’ll have 75,000 words, which is a nice length for a novel.

Do be advised however, that this site is no longer free and costs 5$ a month for membership. It might be worth it to you to get your wordcount up daily. However, maybe you can set up your own system with your own rewards (sweet treats after each 10K, a shopping trip at 50K) to make this site unnecessary.

from freestockphotos

3. Are you a ‘Procrastiwriter’? In other words, do you sometimes clean out your sock drawer or organize recipe cards instead of finishing that chapter? Head to Shanan’s blog where she gives you advice – and inspiration – to guide your butt back to that office char.

4. Myrddin’s own Connie Jasperson offers friendly advice in all areas: grammatical, structural, and personal. Reading her blog is like chatting with your favorite aunt or BFF. Replete with gorgeous images and amazing links, Life in the Realm of Fantasy is a must for writers.

5. He’s oh so NSFW, but Chuck Wendig makes you laugh at the same time he’s kicking your behind for not living up to your full potential. A prolific author who’s reached the NY Times bestseller lists, Chuck also has several books for writers that are some of my favorite references.

I’d like to add this final point: smartphones are terrible thieves of time. I don’t condemn you for time spend playing games – Lord knows I’m a game freak when I’m not writing, reading, editing, or being a person – but an hour spent on 2048 is time when you could have created a character, developed an outline, or even completed a flash-fiction piece.

In any case, can you imagine the moment when you finally finish your story and type THE END? I can tell you it’s an incredible feeling.




The Top 10 Reasons to Make a Top 10 List

How to make a Top 10 List in 10 easy steps!

They’re all the rage these days: the lists, the numbers, the numbered lists, and all the advice given out in the form of lists of 10 or 7 or 5 or 3 things you need to know about anything, absolutely anything at all!

Here are the 10 steps to making a Top 10 List:

1. Type the number 1.
2. Type one example of your idea, or whatever you want to make a list about.
3. Add more numbers and more items until you have compiled ten of them.
4. Arrange in order of most important to least important, or, if you wish, put them in reverse order.
5. Go have lunch, or, in the alternative, a drink of your favorite beverage.
6. Review the list; edit, proofread as necessary.
7. Take a nap. In the alternative, daydream.
8. Practice reading your list aloud; if bored, use a voice with a foreign accent or as a beloved cartoon character.
9. Run spellchecker; or, if you choose, start the entire project over from scratch.
10. Sit back and admire your list. If flexible enough, pat yourself on the back.

Seems easy, right? Anyone can do it. The beauty of such lists, of course, is their flexibility. Say it with me: Flex-I-Bil-I-Ty! Stay flexible. Practice flexibilizing. Anticipate changes. Embrace alternatives. Reward yourself for absolutely anything you can. And always count to 10 before and after making such a list.

Lists of 10 are useful for many different things. For example, steps to do something.

To demonstrate (etymology: “to strut like a demon”) the process, I shall construct a list of the 10 steps I go through when I am writing a novel. I choose this topic because it’s one of the few things I actually know how to do.

1. Get idea, write for fun, see where it goes.

Usually it’s something I read, hear about, or a life experience that gives me the idea that something may make a good story, hence I should write a novel about it. For example, AFTER ILIUM began in a Classical Rhetoric class where we studied the Encomium of Helen, a speech in support of Helen being a victim and not a co-conspirator in that Trojan War mess. So I thought: Wouldn’t it be weird (i.e., cool) if a guy named Parris met a woman named Helen today on the way to see the ruins of Troy?

2. If it goes somewhere, keep going, form longer idea.

Like the step states, I write and see if it goes anywhere. A fruitful idea will go and go and never stop until I just plain get tired of typing. A weak idea will usually run out of steam rather quickly; then I’ll dismiss it and get on with my day.

3. Pause to research, write a little.

Eventually I’ll get to a point where I cannot write further without checking some facts, doing some research, making sure I’m on the right track. So I’ll pause in my writing to do that research. I’ll continue writing, of course, but usually in smaller portions and with longer intervals between the writing sessions.

4. Repeat step 3.

Yes, I do repeat that step. Because it’s an important step. I cannot write if I do not know what I’m writing about, so in this stage I am switching back and forth often between the researching and the writing. While writing THE DREAM LAND Book III, which involved a comet’s approach and a planet-wide evacuation plan, I researched spacecraft requirements, life-support systems, astronomy and inhabitable planets, and comets, all rather extensively…and continued to write pages while researching.

5. Write longer portions using research.

After sufficient research has been done and the relevant knowledge incorporated, I’m able to writing in more extended sessions because I now know the details. I still might pause to check some facts. When I wrote A DRY PATCH OF SKIN, my vampire novel, I researched skin diseases and then wrote a scene set in a doctor’s office where the doctor tells my hero what is wrong with him…using the long list of diseases and their symptoms I got from medical texts.

6. Keep going until done.

Now comes the long haul of writing. Writing sprints are helpful. Also helpful is no distractions or disturbances or poor health. On a good day I can write forever. It’s fun and I am reading a new story as quickly as I am typing it out. What happens next? No, don’t tell me, Brain; I want to find out on my own….

7. Edit.

Yes, I usually edit a bit as I go. In fact, each writing session I begin by editing the previous portion of text as a warm-up to the fresh composition. But here, in this step, I do a serious deep edit from start to finish. Much rewriting may occur, including cuts to some “darlings” and additional text added.

8. Research, check everything for technical correctness.

In this step I tend to get a little paranoid, worried that some expert somewhere may read my book and shake his/her head at the facts I present. So I recheck crucial data, facts, and information–just to be sure. Also, sometimes new questions arise in the writing and so I return to research late in the process. This is also where I check for technical consistency. (If the spacecraft is designated V-77 in chapter 23, I need to also call it V-77 in chapter 29, not V-75.)

9. Edit for style.

I check for the voice of characters, vocal quirks, grammar, and so on. I make sure the voice of the narrator is consistent. I play with the wording of key phrases and sentences, choosing the best word(s) for the effect I want. This is a long step involving repeated readings of the same passages.

10. Proofread.

Beyond spellchecker. I read everything with my own eyes several times…and yet I still miss things and, embarrassingly, find them at the last moment while reading a proof copy of the book. A few tips to catch such errors: 1) read aloud; you will hear what your eyes do not see; and 2) read from the last sentence forward to the first sentence, at least within each chapter; forced isolation of the sentence, taken out of the flow, helps pinpoint any flaws in syntax or grammar, as well as checking spelling and punctuation.

Then I am finished–at least with the writing! There is certainly another 10 List for publishing a book. Perhaps it has 20 items. I lose count after a while, anyway.

Oh! I almost forgot to give you the Top 10 reasons for making a Top 10 List. Sorry for that slip. That’s probably worthy of a list itself. Well, here they are–but I’m sure you’ll find them quite mundane.

1. People like Top 10 lists.
2. Compartmentalizes information in an easily digestible form.
3. People can count to 10.
4. Counting creates excitement.
5. People are often bored.
6. Counting prevents boredom.
7. People hate boredom.
8. Counting gives people a sense of progression.
9. People like the word ‘top’!
10. At the conclusion of a Top 10 List, people are likely to debate whether the items should be on the list or not.

He also blogs at DeConstruction of the Sekuatean Empire

The Rules of Write Club

There are a lot of people in the world who write. Some of them publish what they write. Good for them, I say. I’ve managed to do that, too.

However, there are plenty of people who write who stop writing. Sometimes they run out of ideas. Sometimes they get distracted by other business. Sometimes they give up, unsure of themselves. Or they doubt anyone would want to read what they write.

I’d like to remind those people, the ones who worry about readers, exactly what the rules of Write Club are.

The first rule of Write Club is always write for yourself.

It’s your idea, after all. Please yourself first. Explore the interesting aspects of the story that has intrigued you enough to want to write it. A famous person whose name I can no longer recall once said “Write the story you want to read.” I follow that advice religiously–without actually writing anything religious. My entry into writing came from my reading; I soon believed I could come up with a better story, so I tried.

Now I’m stuck with it. Stories come into my head, kick off their shoes, prop up their feet on my nice upholstered brain and dare me to write them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I let them stew a bit hoping they will write themselves. My current work-in-progress stewed for a year before it reached a boiling point and had to be written just to get it out of my head and make room for something else.

So go ahead and write the story the way you think is best, the way it suits you. Make it the story you want to read. You’re a decent human being, a fair reader, a nice person, right? So why wouldn’t someone else want to read something that YOU want to read? If you put your heart and soul into it and you’ve gone through all the checklists of revision and editing, who can say it won’t be suitable for others to read? Then you can entertain thoughts of whether others would enjoy reading it.

And if you decide nobody else would like reading it, then…well, then you have some free time to start writing another story. Because…

The second rule of Write Club is never stop writing.

STEPHEN SWARTZ is the author of several Myrddin novels: AFTER ILIUM, THE DREAM LAND (Trilogy) (Book I, Book II, Book III), A BEAUTIFUL CHILL, A DRY PATCH OF SKIN, and AIKO.
More of his twisted sarcasm may be encountered on his “other” blog: DeConstruction of the Sekuatean Empire and follow him on Facebook (Author Stephen Swartz) and Twitter (@StephenSwartz1).

Old Friends, New Friends

I’m an introvert. I admit it. I’d rather sit in a corner reading or trying to write a book or a poem than walk around in a crowd, mingling, small-talking. So as a result, the list of the people I have called friends in my life is quite short. It may be that my definition of  friend” is too limiting: someone to whom I would trust my life, my children, my grandkids, my Larry.

Oh, I have acquaintances, people I go to the movies with,  talk” to on Facebook, sit across from at my reading groups. And those people are important to me. They round out my life. They make the experience worthwhile, fulfilling. But oftentimes, I don’t even know their last names, much less what they think about life, whether they believe in a god or an afterlife, why they had children or didn’t, things like that. I realize it’s not important to know people on that level to enjoy their company, to go jogging with them, eat a meal with them, attend a board meeting with them. It can get really lonely without people around…sometimes. Most of the writers I know – and I know one in particular very well (I’ll get back to her in a moment) – are people who enjoy their own company, who can sit for hours in a room alone, accompanied only by a laptop, a cup of tea,background music, and their imagination. The creative process doesn’t demand aloneness to work, but quiet contemplation, that sitting-in-the-corner-thinking mode of behavior that society usually frowns upon, is exactly what is needed sometimes to come up with that next word, the next line of dialog, the name of that monster you just created that’s trying to take over your story.

But certainly, the people I have called friend have not always been writers.  My very first friends were, of course, my three sisters. We knew everything about each other because of the things we were forced to share. We not only shared a bedroom, we shared a bed, all four of us side-by-side on a double bed. We shared a bathroom, clothes, toothbrushes, boyfriends. But most of all, we shared history. The loss of a father, the lack of enough money, the love of the same mother. We talked late into the night about that Catholic god the priest preached about, whether Daddy was really in heaven as Mother had said and where that might be, exactly what a period is…and we weren’t discussing punctuation. Those particular friends, my sisters, have gone on to their own lives, and regrettably, we are no longer as close, not in proximity nor in relationship, as we used to be. But I know we are true friends and will always be.

As an adult, I have been lucky enough to have at least two true friends. I met these two ladies years apart, one in about 1992, so over twenty years ago, and the other relatively recently, in 2010. I didn’t become friends with the first one immediately.  We were coworkers at the Texas Supreme Court, and we worked for justices who were rather adversarial, one a Democrat, the other a Republican. But we talked and ate lunch together and became acquaintances. Then the justice I worked for left the court, so I had to as well. (That can happen when you work for an elected official.) So this wonderful lady and I began to meet each other for lunch outside the court, to go to plays and movies and protests. We went together on a civil rights tour in a different state. We talked about life and love and death and religion and husbands and politics, things that mattered to both of us. And although I have long since moved away from Austin, she and I continue to be fast friends.
Friend pix
Fast forward to my life now in Tenino, Washington, where I met a woman who became my friend almost instantly. One day after my husband and I had been here a while, I found on the Internet this strange phenomenon called National Novel Writing Month, Nanowrimo for short. I could write a novel in thirty days? Yeah, right. I had been trying for a couple of years to write (and, alas, continue to try to write) a historical fictional without ever getting off, as we say in Texas lingo, high center. So I figured: what the heck, I’ll give it a try. So by email, I contacted the person listed as the regional liaison for this idiotic Nanowrimo. She wrote me back. She was a published author! And she was emailing me!  And she wanted to meet me. Me.  She asked me to come to her house, and we could discuss what happens during the crazy month of November. I thought: she probably lives in a penthouse in Seattle, overlooking the Space Needle.  “Where do you live?” I wrote.  “In Tenino,” came the reply. She lives in Tenino? About two miles from my house? Now I hesitated again. What kind of author lives in Tenino? But hey, she’s published and she wants to meet me.

And so, this wonderful human being, who took me under her wing as an author, who still leads me around by the nose because I’m apt to get lost in this literary maze, became one of the best friends I’ve ever had. And yes, we talk about God and periods (both grammatically and otherwise) and becoming older and children and grandkids and husbands and politics and sex…and writing. Oh my, do we ever talk about writing.
Irene Luvaul is an author and editor for Myrddin Publishing Group