Monthly Archives: April 2015

When Spellcheck Quits – I’m a Fantasy Writer

I’m a fantasy writer. Part of my job is digging up cool (unusual) names and making up names for people, places, creatures, plants, and things, but a couple weeks ago I was working on a project and spellcheck up and quit on me.

My initial reaction was: What just happened?

Immediately on its heels was: *falling out of the chair laughing* Spellcheck gave up on me!

I did talk to a few other fantasy authors who told me this has happened to them too around the 140k mark. I have had Word’s spellcheck throw some interesting hissy fits but I have never had it say “You have so many spelling and grammar errors, Word is no longer going to automatically show spellcheck suggestions anymore.”

This is probably the funniest accomplishment I have reached as a writer. Of course, I had to go through the slight inconvenience of manually spellchecking another 18k. But it wasn’t bad enough that I don’t want to ever make spellcheck quit again. ūüėČ I consider it one of those funny quirks of being a fantasy writer and it was funny enough that it actually cheered me up after a week of wrestling with time trials and writer’s block. And now I want to make spellcheck quit again, teeheehee.

I’m a fantasy writer. It’s a lot more fun than even I expect sometimes. ūüėČ

 

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Time Trials

Time, time, all round and yet there are never enough hours in my day.

Who can’t relate to that sentiment? For writers, especially, it seems we have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Life interferes with our carefully laid out schedule. And if you’re anything like me, you feel like an utter failure when the Schedule goes flying out the window because of family, school, illness, the non-writing job, etc. I myself have been struggling to get everything writing-related done because my planned spring break schedule of writing the rest of my web serial and getting ahead on edits with two different books was sunk by the iceberg illness. But when you’re too sick to write coherently, you need to rest and recharge.

The same thing goes for¬†when our other high priorities demand more time than we had originally planned. Writers who are working, parenting, and still managing to write at least one book a year: I applaud you. I especially applaud those parents who choose to push out their writing schedule in order to spend more time with their families. Family, work, and school should not be placed behind writing. We don’t want all the other important areas of our lives to suffer simply so we can succeed in the single area of writing.

What we want and need is balance. That is what gets me through my time trials. No, I’m not working on my book but I am succeeding in X area of my life. For me, it’s usually school. Right now it is not practical for writing fantasy to be the number one priority even though I love it. Giving my all in school is my top priority.¬†I know this and I know and plan for it to move up the priority food chain once I finish my degree because I will have more time for writing. For other writers I know, it’s their day job or raising their families or even spending more time with God that¬†is the¬†higher priority.

But we are not failures for giving the proper priority to things other than writing. Some writers firmly believe that you must write X number of words a day or X number of pages a week or X number of books a year in order to be professional and not an amateur or hobbyist. And they mean well, I’m certain that they do, but the wonderful thing about writing is there is no one way to succeed. What matters is we keep trying and we keep writing even if we go a week or two without writing anything in our book. Some of us write faster than others so 1k a week is a measly output from our perspective but that’s a¬† triumph for others. Some of us are great at outlining and others prefer pantsing it and still others go for a balance between the two. The point is we are all different.

Personally, I believe you are a professional writer when you start publishing, it doesn’t matter whether or not you can make a living on writing. So when the time trials come up and you reach the end of your day or week and you look over your writing¬†to-do list that ended up turning into a “You Wish” list, don’t feel discouraged. Don’t feel like a failure. We only fail when we quit. Priorities change with the needs of the day or the week and our writing time, precious as it is, is often the only thing we can sacrifice in order to meet those pressing needs. This does not mean we are not taking our writing careers seriously. It means we have perspective.

When the time trials grab you and tear up your writing schedule, here are some things that I’ve found helpful:

  • Focus on the most pressing need first. If there’s going to be a break between your pressing needs, use that time to jot down notes for your current writing project, read over your last written work if possible, or simply read someone else’s book and recharge.

 

  • Sit down at the end of the day (or week) and figure out which writing project can be put on the backburner for longer than planned until you finish your most pressing needs, this should leave you with your “must finish by X date” project instead of spreading out over multiple projects and your high priorities.

 

  • Tell yourself it’s okay to move your writing¬†schedule out. It seems simple but if your deadline is self-imposed, not giving yourself any wiggle room can be extremely stressful.

 

  • Don’t feel guilty. You are a writer, you love writing, and you want to succeed. When faced with time trials, you always have the hard decision of letting your writing take a lower spot on the priority totem pole in order to meet the more pressing needs or continuing to divide your attention between needs and the want of meeting your writing schedule and having both suffer because of it. Choosing to adjust your writing schedule is hard but in the end it will give you a better book than rushing through and making mistakes that you wouldn’t if you weren’t too stretched out.

 

  • Finally, celebrate the victories no matter how small.¬†Victory sweetens everything even when you¬†still have a lot more to do. It’s also encouraging because you proved to yourself that you still got it and you can still meet your writing¬†goals even if it’s not as many as you had hoped for in the beginning.¬†For example, I have a huge To Do list and I’m behind a bit but I have achieved a victory by finishing the revisions for Tiger’s Paw and now I’m only one editing round away from prepping for publication next month.

What tips or suggestions do you have for fellow writers who are struggling with time trials and juggling priorities?

Book Review Wednesday – Captured

Captured: A Fantasy Romance (White Road Tale Novella Book 1) by Jackie Castle

Amazon Book Description:

He will lose everything if their secret is found out.

When Tarek’s family is taken prisoner by the conniving, self-proclaimed King of Racah, they make a pact to lay low and do whatever is necessary to survive until they can devise an escape plan.

Despite Tarek’s efforts to follow his parent’s orders, he has no choice but to save the Princess from making a life-threatening mistake. And despite his best efforts, he can’t help when he loses his heart to the enchanting and lonely Princess.

Unfortunately, Tarek is in danger of losing much more than just his heart.

Captured is the first of three novellas in the White Road Tales trilogy which also include Stolen and Ransom. All three are prequels to the White Road Chronicles series which include:
Illuminated: Book One
Luminosity: Book Two
Emanate: Book Three

Captured is the first in the prequel trilogy of novellas for Castle’s White Road Chronicles. I have enjoyed Castle’s novels thus far and picked this up when I saw it would give more of the missing backstory to two key characters

Plot – Grade A

Considering this prequel novella follows a completed trilogy, anyone who has read¬†at least¬†the first book,¬†Illuminated,¬†knows the¬†ultimate ending to the novella and its sequels. However, do not let that deter you from¬†checking out this story. Castle did an excellent job of¬†sharing more about the background of Tarek ¬†and his family as well as weaving in Princess’ life before the first novel. The story develops the world of Racah, the dark kingdom beyond what we see through Princess’ eyes in Illuminated and stands up well on its own. The plot is short and woven together with just a few strings left to be picked up in the next novella. Certain throwaway elements in this novella will jump at readers familiar with Castle’s work and trigger an “Oh! I know what that means!!” reaction. I enjoy Easter eggs so it was fun for me. The plot whets one’s appetite for more without giving away noticeable spoilers for the novels if readers haven’t read them yet¬†while also breathing fresh life into the world for those who are already familiar with it.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean read. Language takes place offstage with only the inoffensive “Trollsbreath” being used plainly. There are references to sensuality but they are very discreet even when a girl propositions Tarek and he sees his father with a mistress. There is violence. Several people are killed and blood is described as pooling and staining witnesses’ clothing. However, this did not teeter into being gratuitous since again the focus is more on the characters’ reactions than anything else.

There is a very sweet romance brewing between Tarek and Princess. I liked how he respects her and how he draws her out of her shell. I also liked the way Tarek works to take care of his family even with his father being an absolute boor.

The spiritual side of things is extremely light in this first novella, especially compared to the allegorical nature of the original trilogy. There are mentions of the white trees and the true king. Nothing too overwhelming or in your face about it, which definitely suits this short novella and the characters’ current frame of mind spiritually.

Technical – Grade A-

This was very well edited. There were a few typos¬†and one instance where you’re was used instead of your but nothing too grating. There a few places where the language used was a tad modern for the medieval-esque setting but nothing that truly jerked me out of the setting. The pacing was quick without being rushed. You get a clear picture of characters, especially Tarek and his family, without being overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Secondary and tertiary characters stand out when they need to and are not made of cardboard. The story is able to¬†stand on its own while inviting you to dive further into the world of The White Road Chronicles.

Final Grade – A or 5 stars

Overall, I really¬†enjoyed this prequel. I love it when authors reveal the backstories to novels/characters and further explore the world they’ve created. I’m looking forward to reading more about the lead up to Illuminated. I recommend this¬†book to both fans of Castle’s¬†White Road Chronicles and those looking to dip their toe into a fantasy¬†romance that is family-friendly and¬†leads into a strong¬†Christian¬†allegorical fantasy. ¬†Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Next РStolen: A Fantasy Romance (White Road Tale Novella Book 2) by Jackie Castle

Sacrifice – Authors and Characters

It’s Good Friday. The day we commemorate the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ whose shed blood covers our sins and provides salvation. Sacrifice is one of the theme archetypes in fantasy. Characters sacrifice comfort, home, family, friends, and sometimes themselves in order to achieve the quest and (more often than not) save the world. But is that sacrifice worthwhile?

In fantasy, the theme of sacrifice is very common, almost to the point of becoming a clich√©. But it is also relatable. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NKJV). I have had a character who sacrificed himself because it was part of his character arc and I’ve seen some extremely well-written sacrifice arcs that cover everything from comfort and home to oneself. Because, let’s be honest, how boring would the Hobbit have been if Bilbo Baggins didn’t sacrifice comfort in order to go on an adventure? Or how differently would the Lord of the Rings have been if (Spoilers ahead!)¬†Gandalf hadn’t sacrificed himself to provide the escape from the Balrog or Frodo sacrificing everything to carry the ring to Mordor or Boromir sacrificing himself in his final redemption as he tried to protect Merry and Pippin? And how much more do we love the characters who are willing and ready to lay down their lives for their faith or to protect another character?

But, what we authors need to be mindful of is whether the sacrifice truly fits into the character’s growth (this goes double for if he or she is a main character)? I won’t name any of the books or movies I felt had a contrived sacrifice because we all know that reader opinions vary when it comes to whether a sacrifice was fitting/moving or contrived. But, when considering having your hero or heroine make the ultimate sacrifice take into account whether or not they have to die or only be willing to die. Sacrifice does not always mean that the character making it must die. Willingness to die can be just as poignant. Or perhaps the ultimate sacrifice does not need to be made by your hero or heroine but by someone else. The plucky sidekick who has been the light, joyful reminder of all the good in the world. Or the previous traitor (willing or unwilling) who wants so badly to make amends and maybe protect his/her family or friends. When I try to decide whether a character makes the ultimate sacrifice, I look at his/her growth over the course of the story and whether a sacrificial death will (a) complete the character’s natural redemption/growth arc or (b) is just a way for me to make sure everyone in the world can see how sacrificial and great this character is even though I have other options for both sacrifice participant and type of sacrifice/plot resolution or (c) I have run out of ideas for this character and I’m not even going to consider the other options because they must die. Obviously, option a is the preferred one and leaves more satisfied (if emotionally crushed) readers.

I think part of the reason sacrifice is such a popular theme, in fantasy and especially in fantasy written by Christians is tied to Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. It is a vital part of our beliefs that Jesus Himself carried out the greatest sacrifice once for all the sins of every person in the world, past, present, and future. And our beliefs impact our writing. Look at Tolkien, he did not set out to write the Lord of the Rings as an allegory but his Christian beliefs left an imprint on¬† his characters and their story arcs. And many Christians feel that their fantasy should be allegorical at least to the extent of having a character mirror Christ’s sacrificial death even if it comes across as forced to readers. To each his own.

Another reason I think sacrifice is a popular theme is because authors can relate to it . . . a lot. Authors sacrifice many things ranging from spending all their free time off work working on their writing to cutting back extra pleasures such as going out to eat to save up for¬†a professional editor or even choosing to turn down a high-grade contract due to the publisher wanting content that the author’s Christian conscience cannot agree to writing. Writing is not the career path to take if a person only wants to get rich quick and it will take a while (unless you happen to become an overnight sensation) before you build a big enough fan base and have enough books out to break even and even longer before you earn a profit. But these sacrifices are made because authors love to write.

What we need to remember and what Good Friday and Easter remind us of is the fact that the truest and best sacrifices are motivated out of love. Not the drive to be the best saintly character ever. Not for fame or impressive contracts. True sacrifice is made out of love, it is an expression of love. And the best sacrificial arcs in fantasy and in any fiction are those motivated by love, the truest and purest of love whether it is romantic, familial, philia, or agape.

 

*Note: Due to it being Easter weekend, which is a time for family, the next episode of The Stolen Jewel will be posted on the 12th.