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Thursday, February 24, 2011

If You Want to be a Better Writer...

If you want to be a better writer, study ancient and classical literature! It's my firm belief that all the best stories have already been told, and successful writers of the modern age will beg, borrow, and steal from the great classics that have gone before them. Okay, that sounds worse than I intended it to. Let me elaborate. I'm not talking about plagiarism, of course, but I am talking about the usage of themes, techniques, and even plot elements that are timeless and effective. I'm currently teaching Herodotus to my eighth grade students and leading them through the actual text of The Histories. Even though this is my sixth read-through of this work in four years, it still compells me every bit as much as it did when I first read it, and I would say even more so. I told my eighth graders today in class that many authors have borrowed elements from The Histories for their own books, and it just got me thinking about this topic. For example, nobody will ever be able to convince me that Shakespeare did not get the idea for the witches' prophecy in Macbeth from the oracle to Croesus in book I.55 of The Histories. Or how about that Ring of Power in The Lord of the Rings? Also Herodotus. Structure of the city of Minas Tirith in the same work? Check out the layout of Ecbatana as described in... The Histories. I obviously studied the Oracle at Delphi for book 2 of my series (as referenced in many ancient texts). Those are obviously some specific plot points, but imitating the great classics of the Western tradition is much more than that. The works of Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling all brilliantly follow ancient and classical structural patterns. For example, if you want (as these authors of the modern age have done) to write a book that follows the Hero's Journey structure, what better instructor can you find than Homer's Odyssey? And really, the list of works that I could cite goes on and on. Although I would say that I am far from being an expert of ancient and classical literature, I do know that my little bit of study has gone a long ways toward making me a better writer. Perhaps you should consider picking up an old book too!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Six Degrees of J. K. Rowling

I had the very great privilege this evening of meeting someone whose works I have long admired and engaging in conversation with him for several hours. His name is John Granger and his books include, How Harry Cast His Spell, The Deathly Hallows Lectures, and Harry Potter's Bookshelf. I found him to be very, very personable and gracious, as well as almost frighteningly smart! As an upstart young fantasy author, it was so refreshing to talk with someone about topics that I have such a passion for (and no, we didn't JUST talk about Harry Potter all night), such as literary alchemy, and to learn something about new topics, such as ring composition. Mr. Granger is a classical scholar, and so we also found common ground there since I (and my coworker who came with me, along with one of my students and my husband) teach at a classical school. Back when I was in college, I picked up one of John Granger's early works and, reading it, discovered not only the literary genius behind Harry Potter, but also that a work of fantasy need not be pretentiously intellectual in order to be chock-full of depth and meaning. He was the one who instructed me in literary alchemy and made me see how much planning must go into my writing before I actually START writing. Getting in touch with him this year happened by way of one of my students who was writing her thesis on Harry Potter and had contacted him as a source, and getting to actually pick his brain for an evening was just icing on the cake. It was also fun to play "Six Degrees of J. K. Rowling," because he knows Melissa Anelli (of The Leaky Cauldron), and Melissa Anelli knows J. K. Rowling. So there you go! I did it in three degrees, I guess. Lol. Anyhow, it was a good evening and I hope that it enriches my writing. John Granger has also agreed to write a "blurb" for me to put on the back cover of my next book, so that will be my first celebrity endorsement! Yay! I've attached the link to John Granger's blog if anybody is interested:
In the picture, I'm seated holding one of Mr. Granger's books and he's standing behind me holding one of my books.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Online Review and Giveaway! Click on the link to read a review of The Six by a blogger and to get a chance to win FREE signed copies of both The Six and The Oracle! I was very thankful for the opportunity to send my books to this blogger, who has been very kind to me!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wish I Was Writing...

I'm having one of those evenings where I really feel the itch to write, and I just can't. It's simply not time to begin writing The White Thread. While I CAN work on notes and outlining and ideas, it is virtually impossible for me to begin the serious work of writing the novel until school is out and my life as a teacher is exchanged for my life as an author. (I guess that I am always a little bit of both, but you get the idea.) I get so many incredulous responses from people when I tell them my writing schedule, but the summer months are the only months during which I can truly devote myself to a writing project. Teaching is so all-consuming that it is a rare night that I even have the energy to write a blog before bed, and while I love my characters and my fantasy world, I love my flesh and blood students too much to abandon their education for my own personal writing "itch."

Perhaps the forced writing hiatus is beneficial, however; it imposes a period of deep reflection on my work before forward progress can be made. In that, each step of my story is carefully thought-through before the proverbial pen is put to paper. And that is always a good thing, is it not?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pronunciation Guide, Take 1

Most of the feedback that I receive on my books is very positive (phew!), but it is also commonly coupled with questions regarding pronunciations of names and places. I consciously tried to fashion the names in my series in such a manner as to appear pronouncable to most people because few things are more annoying to me than attempting to read names that look like total and complete gibberish! (That also tends to interrupt the flow of the story and add to an inability to suspend disbelief in the case of fantasy). So, most of my names come from other languages, either as exact words or as derivations from real words, because I figured that even if people didn't know exactly how they are "supposed" to be pronounced, at least they will look pronouncable. Despite all my best efforts, however, I think that many of my names are actually very difficult, so I thought that I would take a couple blogs to put together a rudimentary pronunciation guide for some of the names in my books. (Let me also say, however, that I don't really care how my readers choose to pronounce my names, this is just how I pronounce them in my head.)

Alitheia: a-lih-THEE-yah (the first "a" as in "cat" and a soft "th" as in at the end of "math")

Orodreos: o-row-DRAY-yohs (all long "o"s)

Tellius: TEL-lee-yus

Cadmus: KAD-mus ("a" as in "cat")

Torrin: TOHR-rin (long "o")

Yahto Veli: YAH-toh VEH-lee ("veh" as in "vet," not "vay")

Voitto Vesa: voh-EE-toh VAY-sah (hard "v"s [for all my Latin students] and long "o"s)

Tullin: TUH-lin

Tselloch: TSEH-lahk ("ts" as in "lets" and "lahk" as in "Loch Ness")

Tsellochim: tseh-lah-KEEM

Tsellodrin: tseh-luh-DRIHN (singular), tseh-luh-DREEN (plural)

Any questions on this first batch or any that you want to see me write out? These are all from book 1 so far. I'll include some from book 2 next time. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

$3.99 Kindle Edition!

I guess I'm using this blog post as more of an advertisement, but that's okay sometimes, isn't it? Anyhow, I wanted to announce a HUGE promotion that I am running! For one month, book 1 of The Gateway Chronicles, The Six, is going to be available on Amazon Kindle for just $3.99! If you have a Kindle or a Kindle reading app and you haven't read the first book of my series yet, this is a great opportunity for you to try it out! Tell your friends with Kindles, too! Enjoy!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Have Your Journal On You at All Times!

I was reminded today of the importance of always having my journal on me at all times (or at least near to me). I was sitting on my bed stealing a few minutes of alone time while my kiddos were in front of the TV, re-reading a favorite book, when inspiration struck me. Nothing major, just a minor epiphany about a clever element that I can add to book 3 (something that I can add in that will make all former 8th grade students of mine happy), but it was one of those things that probably would have flitted right back out of my brain if I hadn't written it down at that exact moment. Lucky for me, I keep several journals stashed around the house (and in my work bag, and in my car, and in my desk at school, etc.), and so I had only to reach down, snatch one up, and write as frantically as I could before the moment left me. (On a side note, the vast number of writing journals that I have does make for a difficult process of consolidating notes before the actual process of writing begins, but it's better than losing those precious moments of inspiration!) As I completed my notes, I chuckled to myself and thought how true it was that any person worth their salt in any trade is never without the tools of their trade. Good thing I'm a writer and not an astrophysicist!