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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Inspiration From Authors

I don't read nearly as much fiction as I used to before I began writing my own stories. Mostly, I read massive amounts of non-fiction across myriad topics. But that doesn't mean I don't read fiction at all, which is where this post comes in.

A few months back, someone recommended the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I hesitated at first, because I didn't really care to read anymore stories about vampires. Nevertheless, after reading the introduction blurb to the first book in the series - A Discovery of Witches - I gave it a go. And I was hooked! This wasn't your typical "easy" read. In fact, I know readers who won't read it because it is a veritable tome of history and depth (which put them off it), in addition to the fascinating characters and marvelous plot. I quickly ordered the next two books and immersed myself in the world of All Souls.

Why have I been inspired as well as entertained? Not because the author's first attempt at fiction became an overnight bestseller. Not because the trilogy was picked up and made into an online series for streaming. All within seven years from when book one was published, mind you. No, I have no illusions that something similar would happen for me. I'm realistic. No, it was because I felt like Harkness stayed true to herself, to the story she heard within her that wanted to be revealed. Each of the three books is distinctively unique from the others, not just a continuation of the story; the tone and style of each one is quite different. That was inspirational. It returned me to the reasons I was writing my own book series - because they were the stories that wanted to be told through me, in my own way. If an agent and/or publisher picks my books up, great. If not, that's fine, too, I can self-publish. As my younger brother says, "it's all gouda."

My problem? I was getting bogged down by the intimidating rise of multitudes of "book coaches" and related services coming out of the woodwork online and via podcasts who were saying writers have to do this and that and the other thing - including all the media platform complexities - if they ever want to sell their work. Well, you know what? I would love to sell my work, but that's not why I write. I'm lucky in that I don't need to earn a living from what I write; I can write because it's both something I enjoy and feel compelled to do. Anything that happens with the books after the manuscript is complete is simply icing on the cake.

The concrete result of this inspiration? I promptly finished up my own first book in my series, sent it out to solicit agent representation, and began serious work on the second book. I'm enthused again and having loads of fun writing and researching! All thanks to author Deborah Harkness.

Monday, July 2, 2018

When characters surprise you

So, while I'm shopping around for an agent who might be interested in the first book of my series, I became caught up in the excitement of starting the second book. However, as I began writing, my protagonist surprised me by demanding that some of her past and her beliefs be quite different than I had originally conceived! This has sent me on a research intensive because I want to get to know her in more depth and understand what drives her before I get too far into the manuscript.

Part of my research into her belief system involves Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th Century Abbess in Germany. Who knew?!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Wanting what is best for everyone

Don't most of us want what is best for everyone? Especially the basics? Aren't we all Americans? Don't we simply seek these things in different ways?

In his book Tribe, about the complexities of veterans returning home from war, the author Sebastian Junger (a journalist who has spent years reporting on the front lines) speaks of many compelling aspects including "how do you make veterans feel that they are returning to a cohesive society that was worth fighting for in the first place?" He cites the destructive behavior of our politics as one that damages veterans and says, for instance:

"The most alarming rhetoric comes out of the dispute between liberals and conservatives, and it's a dangerous waste of time because they're both right."

Take that in for a minute. Really. Why do we continue to obsess about our differences instead of focusing on our core similarities in order to reach a resolution?

From Junger's perspective, we are living "in a society that is basically at war with itself" and that "people speak with incredible contempt" about whatever is relegated to the so-called other side. And, he says that "it's a level of contempt that is usually reserved for enemies in wartime, except that now it's applied to our fellow citizens."

How tragic is that?

He goes on to say that "unlike criticism, contempt is particularly toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the speaker."

We truly need to understand that what we're doing and saying is destructive for all of us, for our country. Criticize if you must. Disagree on how to achieve what is best for everyone. But can we please stop heaping contempt upon those who think differently?

I'm not preaching. I'm at fault, too. I'm begging for all of us to be less divisive and more constructive in our conversation and behavior.

I want what's best for the greater good. Don't you?
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