On “The Traveler” and Finding Your Place in the World…

Hi guys! I have some thoughts for you today. And they are related to my new book, The Traveler!

I am so excited to release this book to the world, but also a little nervous. Because what if people don’t understand the themes and messages? This book asks some questions that are very important to me, personally. And while I nudge the reader in a direction, I don’t necessarily give easy answers. Because many of these issues have no easy answers. What I hope is that I have created a safe space to work through these questions and imagine different answers in a world that is similar to ours, and yet different enough.

What in the world am I talking about? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. (wink, wink) But one thing that I can say is that it looks at finding your place in a world that is very divided.

A long, long time ago, when the world was less interconnected, and before the internet existed, people used to live fairly cohesive lives. I feel like it was more common to grow up in one place, to feel ties to a single community, and it must have been nice to have something of a cohesive identity.

Now people have a real identity and a virtual identity. The internet has connected us to people across the world. And cultures are infusing with one another. None of that is necessarily bad. But does it ever make you feel a little bit fractured? Does it ever make you wonder exactly where you belong? Or is that just me?

I have moved around my whole life and have lived in four different countries. And while there are parts of that I absolutely love, sometimes it also makes me feel like a very small cog in a very large clock. Where exactly, do I belong? More than anything, I have learned that where I live doesn’t matter as much as the person I choose to be. And if any of this resonates with you at all, then you just might like The Traveler.

You know what other book you might like? Two Lives, Three Choices by K.L.+Pierce! 

This is another book that deals with themes of identity, belonging, and choosing to fight for what we believe in. It is a sci-fi book with some fantastical elements and a lot of heart. I dare you to read this story and follow Krysta’s journey without looking into your own soul!

K.L.+Pierce and I figured out our books had a lot of common elements in them and so we decided to team up! Her revised release is coming out September 15th and we will be doing some joint giveaways! That means you can enter to win both of these books for free! What better way to beat the back-to-school blues?

If you are looking to learn more about The Traveler before it comes out, I have good news! Some of my amazing author friends have agreed to host me on their blog. Keep your eyes peeled for a character interview, a character profile, an author interview, and a discussion on themes…

“The Traveler” Cover Reveal!

It’s here, guys! It’s finally time! “The Traveler” will be released in less than three weeks! This story is very near and dear to my heart because it deals with inter-cultural questions. If you don’t know, I was born and raised in another country before moving to the U.S. as a teenager. (Don’t worry, this isn’t a political treatise, I promise!)

But you didn’t come here to listen to my dramatic and super complicated life story. You came here to see my shiny new cover! So, without further ado, I present…

Isn’t it beautiful? I am so excited to see it on a paperback, which will be happening very soon!

What’s this multicultural, multilayered book about, you ask? Read on…

Anissa Robson is becoming an adult in a society she never really identified with. Forced to choose her career path, she becomes an apprentice to a young, headstrong politician who seems to stand for everything she disagrees with. The dreams she has refused to report grow more alluring to her as she becomes disillusioned with her job. But the lines between reality and her dreamland begin to blur and cross over, launching her onto a path she would never have chosen for herself. Is the government medicating dreamers to protect them? Or to hide something from them? 

It is a crossworlds fantasy adventure with intercultural themes.

Be sure to join me on September 15th for the official launch! You’ll want to be there to learn about my upcoming giveaways!

Signing out for now…

E.B. Dawson

Stories Outside the Norm

For one wild moment, let’s all remember that stories can be told many different ways!

I understand that when someone finds a system that works and sells books and engages readers, there’s good reason to copy that system.

My dad and I were watching an old movie a few months ago and he made a comment about the acting–how it was a little over the top. And I shared this sudden realization with him: “This was in the first days of film. Up until this point theater acting was the norm and you had to do “big” acting so everyone in the audience could be engaged.”

It’s interesting to think how acting has evolved. Because the camera can get up close, actors can convey emotions with great subtlety.

I think the writing industry needs to evolve as well, not only forward but backward. I think filmmaking has made huge bounds forward in finding creative ways to tell stories and I think books can learn from that. But I also think it’s appropriate to go backward sometimes. What do I mean by that?

What about fables? What about analogies? What about stories that are not meant to be realistic, but archetypal? What about myths or legends? In elementary school and middle school, we used to read folklore and mythology from countries around the world and I loved how different they were. They used so many different literary devices to tell the story. I would love to see some of that come back.

“That’s a specific genre,” you say. Pish posh. Realism isn’t a genre, it’s a technique used across genres. What is realism, you ask? Boiled down it’s a writing style that tries to capture the nature of reality and make the reader feel as if he/she is experiencing or witnessing everything. Everything must be “realistic.” Characters must always respond in a way that a real person would. The personal lives of characters are often painted in detail so that the reader understands the choices they make. Because realism started as a reaction to the more “romantic” stories, realism is often characterized by a grim tone, as in, “There are no happily ever afters, this is what life is really like.” This is the type of storytelling dominating our film and book industry. Some people think it is the only way to tell stories. And if you have ever found yourself watching an old movie and thinking, “She would never be that calm in real life,” it is because most of us have come to believe that realism is the only way to tell meaningful stories.

I beg to differ.

What’s so bad about realism? Nothing. It is engaging. The audience can relate to the characters on a personal level because the emotions and struggles and circumstances are so close to what we experience in real life. When done right, stories told with realism are powerful. But I also think it’s a bit overrated.

I think it’s okay to have characters and plots that aren’t necessarily trying to portray reality. I think it’s okay to have characters who are different from anyone you’ve ever known and don’t respond to situations the way most people do. I’ll give you an example.

If any genre has remained immune to the realism obsession, it is arguably fantasy and for good reason. Fantasy already deals with elements outside of reality. I remember when they adapted “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” back in 2005. I heard an interview about how they had added certain scenes and conversations between the children because “C.S. Lewis didn’t really know how real children would behave.”

That made me so mad. When I watched the movie it was easy to see which scenes they were talking about. They were mostly arguments. Susan tries to convince Peter to listen to the wolves and leave Narnia when they are halfway to Aslan. And then later on Peter tries to send the other three home before the big battle, to keep them safe. Is it realistic? Yeah, somewhat. Clearly, the screenwriters thought to themselves: “These kids have been thrust into a foreign land with real dangers. The brother is the oldest and is responsible for them in the absence of their parents. Would he really just let them all fight in a battle without trying to protect them?”

But that’s not the point of the story! The point of the story isn’t, “If I were in their shoes, what would I do?” The point of the story is that these four ordinary kids got swept up in something extraordinary, and they didn’t make normal decisions. They became something MORE than what they were. They became MORE than children. And that’s why children love the story! I didn’t love the story because I thought, “That’s super realistic,” but because it inspired me to be braver than I was and take on greater responsibilities!

“That’s just fantasy,” you say. No. It doesn’t have to be. I don’t think all stories have to reflect reality to the last detail. I think it’s okay to skip over parts. I think it’s okay to make things simplistic sometimes. I think it’s okay to make characters slightly unrealistic so that we can contrast them with reality.

Granted, it is easy to play around with these elements in speculative fiction. But I challenge all writers everywhere to incorporate creative elements into their writing. A great example of thinking outside the box is “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver. She writes in great detail about this family with four daughters and their reactions and mishaps as they try to adjust to living in Africa. But part way through the book you start realizing that the family isn’t just a family, but an archetype for the political state of the nation. You slowly watch this family grow up and go their separate ways. At the same time, you watch the politics of the nation progress, and you can’t help noticing the similarities and differences.

What do you guys think? Do you know what I’m talking about or did none of that make sense?

Do you have any great examples of current fiction that experiments with storytelling elements?

Exciting Book Stuff!

Well, I promised some great things this summer and I’m not going to let you down!

First off let’s get real. I just moved to California and I am in the process of adjusting to a new job. So I may not be as present on social media etc. I promise to prioritize my writing, but I’ll need a little grace.

Second. I am working on The Traveler. In fact, it is getting close! I have a shiny new cover ready to reveal later this summer. I have a few scenes to tweak and threads to tie up. It’s going to be beautiful. In the meantime I am compiling a list of ARC readers. Some of you know who you are, but if you want to jump on the bandwagon, shoot me an e-mail!

Finally! Out of Darkness has a book trailer! I am by no means an expert at this, but I am quite pleased by how it turned out. It gives quite a few hints about plot and establishes the tone and aesthetic. I hope you guys enjoy it!

There’s more…(drumroll please)…Logan has a theme song!

And finally!! For a limited time Out of Darkness is going to be FREE on Amazon this Monday! Now’s your chance to pick up a copy and tell your friends!

Hope you guys have a great week! I’ll check in again before too long!

Indie Author Interview #8 Hannah Heath

Behold, Hannah Heath! The rock; the hard place. Like a wind from Gelderland, she sweeps by, blown far from her homeland in search of glory and honor. We walk in the garden of her turbulence! 
(Who can tell me what movie I stole that from?)
Look guys, it’s Hannah Heath! Up and coming author, sarcastic blogger, and all-around good friend! Hannah was one of the first people I met when I ventured into the scary world of indie publishing. I am so honored to have her on my blog today! Get ready to laugh.

Hello, Hannah! To start things off, if you were a combination of three books (or movies), what would they be and why? 
This question has caused me to instantly forget every book and movie I have ever identified with. Or read/seen, for that matter. *stares at bookshelf* Okay. I think I have it. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, because I make my way through life largely by being sarcastic and attempting not to panic when, in fact, I have no idea what’s going on. Lilo and Stitch: That movie everyone initially thinks is weird, but eventually ends up liking because of (or maybe in spite of) its creative quirkiness, slight morbidity, and odd thoughtfulness. And last but not least: The Martian by Andy Weir. Because there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a bit of brain power, duct tape, potatoes, and a good sense of humor.

I’ve heard your 3 Year Blogging Anniversary is coming up! What made you start blogging and what do you like most about it? 
Yes. I’m so excited! At first, I started blogging purely to get my name out there and start building a writing platform. Honestly, though, I had no concrete plan (I rarely do), which is what made blogging fun. It’s given me a different type of creative outlet. YA Christian speculative fiction doesn’t always lend itself to quoting Batman or spewing sarcastic remarks about terrible cliches in fiction (believe me, I’ve tried), but blogging absolutely does. I love having the extra place to write out all the ideas I can’t quite cram into my current fictional stories.

If you could only be known for one thing as a writer, what would you want it to be? 
I want to be known for telling the truth. I want to be the writer who neither sugarcoats nor exaggerates, but shows the good and bad of life, the pain and the beauty, and, through doing this, gives my readers the desire and the courage to fight their fears.

Tell us more about Skies of Dripping Gold. What was the journey like?
Let me explain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up: I have Lyme disease. I don’t like it and don’t want it. It is physically painful and brings a lot of emotional and spiritual suffering. One of my main struggles is not knowing if (or when) the pain will leave. Before writing the story, I was hurting both physically and spiritually and remember angrily thinking how I wished I could work my way to health rather than having faith in God and his plans. Gabriel’s story of climbing a tower to find healing for his sister just unrolled from there. The idea started from a place of angry desperation, but it ended up helping me into a better mindset.

What are you working on right now?
I’m currently re-writing my YA Christian fantasy novel: The Stump of the Terebinth Tree. It follows two desert elf assassins who struggle to eliminate a demonic sorcerer and have faith in something beyond their own swords. Originally, it was a 400-page mess. Now that I’m re-writing it, it’s a 100-page mess with about 200 pages to go.

How have you seen yourself improve as a writer and what do you still need to work on? 
I have finally learned how to spell the word “separate” correctly on the first try. Took a lifetime of struggle. Aside from that, I like to think that my dialogue, which used to be very stiff, has improved. I credit this to watching, studying, and laughing over numerous Carey Grant comedies. As for what I’m working on improving: Not being so afraid of ruining a story that I freeze up and have a difficult time writing anything at all.

What are three tools that you recommend for indie authors?
Get a whiteboard. A huge one. Seriously. They’re amazing. PicMonkey is great when it comes to creating promotional images…or even book covers. Also: Chocolate. Some people would argue that chocolate is not a tool, but those people would be wrong.

What kind of elements/themes/characters would you like to see more of in fiction?
I’d love to see more YA fiction showing the amazing accomplishments teenagers are capable of, rather than focusing on angst and pettiness. And it would make me very happy to see more well-rounded sick/disabled characters in fiction who are fighting to live well despite their challenges.

Would you rather live in Narnia, the Harry Potter world, or Middle Earth? And where specifically would you take up residence? 
Ah, man. Don’t make me choose! As much as I love C.S. Lewis, it comes down to whether I’d want to eat second breakfast in the Shire or play Quidditch at Hogwarts. Riding a broomstick wins out…But just barely. When I’m not living in Hogwarts I’d like to be training dragons in Romania. I’d make friends with Charlie and then maybe Mrs. Weasley would knit me a sweater. I’ve always wanted one of those.

Don’t you love her? Thanks for doing this interview, Hannah! Keep on writing and spreading hope and joy.
If you want to learn more about Hannah, check out her website: www.hannahheathwriter.com 
Follow her on Twitter: @_HannahHeath
Or go buy her short story: Skies of Dripping Gold

Summer Announcements

Hello. It’s summer. And I am feeling the heat in more ways than one! I am preparing for a move. Thus and therefore, my will to blog is hitting an all-time low. Rather than beat myself over the head, I think I will give myself a break. This does not mean that I will not post over the summer. But my post frequency will probably be slowing down.

You are so sad right now. I can feel it. But it’s going to be okay. I’ll still be around on Twitter and such. And really, wouldn’t you rather I invest quality time in writing The Creation of Jack 3 and revising The Traveler? Yes, you would. Because they are going to be AWESOME!

Now for the good news! My regular blog might not be posting as often, but there are some fun treats coming your way:

-An interview with Hannah Heath (this next Tuesday!) It is snarky and fun! Don’t miss it.

-I am working on a Book Trailer for Out of Darkness!

-If all goes well, I will release a teaser for The Traveler sometime in July!

-And in August, watch for an exciting Cover Reveal!

See? Fun stuff is coming your way this summer. In the meantime, here’s some SciFi inspiration that I’ve been browsing through on Pinterest. They may or may not have anything to do with COJ3. I’m not telling. But they are fun and beautiful anyway!

Have a fantastic summer everyone!

Indie Author Interview #7 K.L. Pierce

I’m excited to introduce my good friend K.L. Pierce! I was gonna have her on the blog sooner, but she asked me to wait until “summer” because she’s a super important college student. Lol. Jk.

Kirsten’s book Two Lives Three Choices is a SciFi allegory with themes of hope and redemption. It has a lot of heart, has a very original plot, and ends with a great hook for book number two. One thing I love about Kirsten is that she is always looking to improve her writing craft and communicating authentic hope and truth through her work! Read my full review of her book here.

When did you start writing Two Lives, Three Choices and how long did it take?

I probably started writing Two Lives Three Choices when I was around 15.  It took about a year to write the first draft.  However, as I was planning on making this into a series, I wanted to make sure I was committed by writing the first draft of the sequel as well.  Between writing, school, and editing Two Lives Three Choices, the grand total is probably around six years.  I’m committing myself to spend at least a couple more years with these characters, so hopefully they don’t get sick of me!

Without giving anything away, what are some of your favorite aspects of this book?

That’s tough, but I’d probably say the deep bonds between the characters.  Krysta’s friends are willing to sacrifice everything for her, and Krysta is willing to make the same sacrifice for them.  The love Krysta has for both her friends and her family is what drives her to grow into the person that she’s meant to become.

How far are you on the sequel and what can we look forward to in this next book?

The story is basically written.  Right now I’m in the editing phase.  Fixing those pesky little typos and figuring out what parts of the story are important and which parts need to be cut out.  I do have a title though: Two Lives Two Destinies.

As the title suggests, we’re going to be focusing on Krysta’s destiny throughout the book.  What exactly is her destiny?  How does her past play a role in that?  Both Etans and King Immanuel have a destiny in mind for her.  Krysta’s trying to figure out what those destinies are, and whether she has any control whatsoever.

I feel like I should know this, but I don’t: is there going to be a third book?

Haha yes there is.  While it’s still Krysta’s story, it’s going to be focusing more on the reactions that a couple characters have to Krysta’s struggles.  Specifically Dion, and another character who I can’t say because, spoilers. 🙂

What does your creative process look like? Has it changed over the years?

I’m a pantser at heart, so my creative process is a bit more free-flowing.  I usually pray before I write, because God is an infinite source of inspiration for me.  Then, I put on some music, and start typing away!  Sometimes I have to start over because it doesn’t feel like the story is going the “right way” or could be improved.  Once I feel like I’m going in the right direction, it’s a journey of discovery for both me and the characters.  There were actually some parts of Two Lives Three Choices that I didn’t know about until I wrote them.  I was like “What?! Cool!  What happens next?” Other times I have scenes that pop into my head and I think “Hmm, wonder if that’ll fit in anywhere.”  Then, five or so chapters later, I realize: “Hey!  That scene is next!”  I basically get the benefits of being a writer and a reader through this process.  It’s fun!

How have you seen yourself grow as an author? What do you still need to work on? And do you have any goals for yourself?

As an author, I have grown in my writing abilities, the ability to use constructive criticism for my benefit, and marketing abilities.  I know where my weak areas are and I have been striving to work on them as I write Two Lives Two Destinies.  While not all criticism is constructive, a lot of the feedback I’ve gotten from reviewers has been very helpful.  Finally, while marketing doesn’t come naturally to me, I am watching other authors, and slowly learning the tricks of the trade.  Still, there is always room for improvement, in all those areas.  My goals are to continue improving on my weak areas.  I still need to work on making sure that all the elements of a good book are there while also being concise.  I have a lot of ideas that flow through my head.  Sometimes it’s a challenge to sort through them all!  But sort through them I shall!

What are three tools you use as an indie author?

I use WordPress for my website and blog, Photoshop for book covers and graphics, and Microsoft Word for writing and editing.

Have you read any good indie books lately?

I’ve been on an indie-book marathon (if such a thing exists), so yes!  Most recently I read Branwen’s Quest by Katelyn Buxton, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I’ve also read Out of Darkness and Into the Void by E.B. Dawson (that name sound familiar?) Disclaimer: I was not in any way prompted to say this!  Go read her books, they’re awesome!  I also have a few other indie books/short stories on my TBR list on Goodreads, so the marathon continues!

What sets your writing apart/What is unique about your story?

I take aspects from different genres, insert my own spin on them, and synthesize something original.  For example, in Two Lives Three Choices, while the protagonists and her friends are around 16 (typical YA novel age), there isn’t as much emphasis on romance.  Instead, there’s more emphasis on familial relationships and friendship.  Another example is, while there are super powers involved (arguably more Sci-Fi), those that have them aren’t going to be saving this world.  My writing blends elements that people are familiar with but shifts the emphasis for a fresh take.

Has your major (computer science) helped you with your writing? 😉

Yeah, it has, although in more subtle ways than you would expect.  When writing programs, my professors strongly emphasize elegance, time efficiency, and space efficiency.  There are many ways to solve a problem, but some ways are better than others.

Writing is similar in a sense.  You can write the same story in a number of ways.  But what makes that story good is how elegant all the aspects of a book are developed.  As well as how much space (e.g. pages or word count) it takes to tell your story.  I’ve started considering my writing under a Computer Scientists eyes, and I think my writing will become stronger because of that.

Thanks so much for answering my questions (and thanks for that unsolicited shout out)! I loved learning a little more about you. If you want to learn even more about Kirsten, go follow her on Twitter: @KLPierceBooks

Or check out her blog/website: http://www.klpiercebooks.com/

Her book is available on Amazon.

“Sure You’ll Help Me…Right off a Cliff…”

“Helpful” seems like it should be a simple concept. But it’s not. It always astounds me how some people use helpfulness to mask their own self-serving agenda. Okay, okay. As human beings, we all have that little monster of selfishness that wants everything to come back to us.

I’ve heard this mantra of writers helping writers all over social media. And a lot of them truly mean what they say. But some people just talk the talk and never follow through. And others follow through with the best intentions but end up doing more harm than good.

So I thought I’d share my Helping Authors Manifesto. It’s in progress, of course. My overall theme is Be Kind and Respectful. This list may grow or change. But for now, my manifesto addresses beta reading, reviewing, and general customer service!

When Beta Reading- I Will Be Honest and Respectful 

If I have agreed to beta read your project, then I will do my best to be helpful to you. I will try not to impose my personal writing style and preferences on you. I will try to leave my prejudices and biases at the door. But I will give honest feedback about plot holes, character development, and story craft issues.

When Reviewing a Book- I Will Show Courtesy 

As a principle, I review the story itself. If there are formatting issues or typos, I like to treat the author how I would like to be treated and give them a chance to fix it. If it really is such a mess that it is distracting and/or the author doesn’t respond to me, I’ll put a comment in my review to be fair to potential readers.

I know how much work it takes to write a book. In all my reviews I purpose to bring out the best qualities of the work, even if I didn’t like it that much. But I also try to be honest about my reading experience. Technically a review is a personal opinion. But it’s not quite fair that the writer’s career hangs so heavily on the personal opinions of complete strangers. That doesn’t mean I will be dishonest. But there is a way to be tactful and to admit that other people have different taste and may enjoy the book.

Obviously, if I love the book I will praise it to the skies.

I Will Give the Author the Chance to Make it Right 

When dealing with self-published authors I am dealing with people, not corporations. If I have purchased a service and something goes wrong, I will reach out and give the author the chance to provide excellent customer service before resorting to other means (writing a negative review, or a negative post on social media).

What am I talking about? What if I ordered a print book and found the formatting was all off? I could go straight to Amazon and write a bad review. Or I could contact the author and explain the situation. As an author, I want my readers to have a good experience. As an author, I would replace that book for the customer.

It’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “They published it like this, so they need to take the consequences.” I don’t want to have that attitude. I want to have the attitude of, “They are an author just like me and maybe I can help them in this area.”

One time I changed the file for my ebook and published it to KDP. The proof copy showed everything was perfect. But there was an error on Amazon’s part and the proof was wrong! For almost two weeks, my ebook had flaws that I thought had been corrected. I was horrified when I found out. I got the issue straightened out. But I would have loved a kind person to have sent me a quick e-mail saying, “Hey…just wanted to let you know that there were some weird formatting things happening on this page…”

The author may listen, the author may not listen. But I want to be that person for other authors.

I recognize that the indie publishing scene is super lopsided right now. Some indie authors spend hundreds of dollars to make their books as professional as trad pub. Others don’t have those resources, or the knowledge and experience. But I think if we treat each other with courtesy and professionalism we will only benefit!

Don’t Leave Your Readers Stuck in the Middle

I think we all know it’s important to hook your readers early on. But what happens after that? I love stories. When I hear the premise for a story my mind runs off in a million directions, imagining all the possibilities. So it isn’t too hard to hook me. But lately I’ve run into a string of books that nearly lost me another way: the middle got boring.

I don’t think introductions are all that hard. Almost everything is interesting when it is new. Characters can often be more engaging the first time you meet them. Granted, it can be difficult to craft a seamless, engaging, well-balanced beginning. But even just an average one will often do the trick. But I think it is even more telling what you do after your hook your reader. What happens when the newness wears off?

This is probably one of the places where the author’s experience, or inexperience, really shows. This is where I can usually tell if the author is a natural storyteller or not, and if they are using an outline or trailblazing (I don’t like the word “pantser”).

Everybody knows what needs to happen in the opening (hook your reader). Everybody knows what needs to happen in the climax. And the rising action leading up the climax is often the most fun to write: tension, action, drama, suspense etc. But that little stretch of text between the beginning and the rising action is a tricky, tricky spot. It is a literary doldrums. As a reader, the momentum of the beginning will often carry me up to 15-20% (yes, I’ve been reading mostly e-books lately). But I run into the literary doldrums from 20% even up to 75%.

By now you’re all ready for me to give the magic solution, right? Sorry, I don’t have that! But I do have some tips and suggestions. Ready?

Suspense/Tension 

This is perhaps the most obvious solution. You know those books that people can’t put down and they stay up until 3:00 am to finish them? Those authors jump into the rising action right away. They saturate their books with suspense and tension from the beginning. I like these books as much as the next person. But I am also glad this is not the only type of book. A lot of my favorite books are slow-build. The rest of these tips will address slower-pace books.

Subplots 

Repeat that word over and over to yourself. The main plotline has to develop slowly, otherwise, this’ll be a short story or novella. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in the meantime. A recent poll on Twitter surprised me by revealing that most people prefer a slow and steady build rather than a break-neck pace from page one. This gives me hope for humanity 😉 But that doesn’t mean your book needs to be boring. Let the reader go on mini adventures as the BIG adventure slowly brews.

Characters

This is a perfect time to put your characters to work. They’ve been introduced. But don’t wait until the rising action to add depth to them. People will keep reading if they like your characters. This is a perfect time to take some of your minor characters on subplot adventures. You can save the juicy stuff for your MC, if you want, but that leaves plenty for the minor characters.

Reader Gratification 

This isn’t a must, but it’s very pleasant when it’s done successfully. It can be pretty amazing when subplots intersect/interact with the climax. It makes you feel like a mastermind as an author and leaves the reader in awe. But you don’t have to do it that way. You can tie up some of those subplots rather quickly. This is one way to earn reader trust. If you show them you can successfully take them on a “mini-adventure” from start to finish, they’ll be more likely to trust you, and they’ll anticipate the major plot arc. When I’m reading a new author and I hit the literary doldrums, and there are no subplots, I begin to wonder if the climax and resolution will even be worth it. If you successfully execute the full arc of a subplot in the first half of the book, it shows your writing credentials. It can also give your reader a sense of progress (especially for longer books i.e. Dickens style). As a reader, I don’t like the feeling of chipping away and not getting anywhere.

WARNING: These subplots can be tricky, though. They should never be confused for the main plot. If a novice author tackles this wrong, the reader will feel like the main conflict has subsided and wonder why he/she needs to keep reading. Uh oh!! Red alert! Make sure you put in compelling hooks for the big plot arc!!

So those are my thoughts on literary doldrums. What are yours? Have you seen any of your favorite authors use these devices? Do you have any advice to add? Join the conversation below!

 

Indie Author Interview #6 Beth Wangler

Beth and I are clearly going to have a lasting friendship because it was sparked by a mutual love of orange trees and knowledge of smudge pots (google it). I haven’t read as much of her work as I would like to. But her ambition is inspiring (you’ll see what I mean when you read the interview!)

First off, what a great name you have! You must be an intelligent, compassionate, interesting person. 😉 Tell us three fun facts about yourself! 
Three fun facts about myself are as follows: One, my favorite color is yellow.  Two, I love crochet, and have very strong opinions about it being better than knitting (all my friends now know the difference 😉 ).  Three, my first and last name can be interpreted as meaning “House of Sorrow on a Hill,” which I think is very poetic.
(Me: Sounds worthy of Anne of Green Gables!!)

If you had to live in Middle Earth (terrifying thought I know), where would you live and why? 
Ooo, I love this question! I would definitely choose to live in the Shire.  Rivendell and Lothlorien are enchanting, Gondor is stately, and Rohan is rustic, but nothing beats the coziness of the Shire.  Adventures are great, but for everyday life I’d rather have a cozy hole with a fire in the fireplace and a nice cup of tea.

I’ve talked to a lot of writers who dabbled in the craft for a while before fully pursuing it. Was there an epiphany moment for you when the sun shone down on you and butterflies landed on you and you knew you were chosen to be a writer? 
Haha, I don’t know about a moment when the sun shown down on me (I usually hide from the sun.  It likes to burn me).  But there was this:
When I was a child, I would devour books like one drinks water.  One day, when I was somewhere around the age of third grade, I was laying on my bedroom floor consuming the latest literary adventure.  Usually when I read, nothing could pull me out of the book, not without a lot of effort.  This particular occasion was different.  I paused in my reading and had an epiphany that would change my life: I could add books to the world, not just consume them.
I’ve been writing ever since.


Tell us a little bit about your other works (published or in process). 

In 2012, I independently published The Weavers’ Blessing, a fairy tale novella loosely inspired by “Snow White.”  It’s about a princess trying to save herself and her country from the evil king poisoning the land.  In the years following that, I wrote two more fairy tales and published them on my blog.  The second, The Kangraffs’ Curse, is about a runaway prince who has to face his parents in order to save a peaceful kingdom from destruction.  The third, Noemi’s Dragon, is about a princess who will fall prey to a dragon unless she finds her true love by her eighteenth birthday.
Most currently, I’m working on a fantasy series tentatively titled The Firstborn’s Legacy.  This series combines my loves for fantasy, history, and Bible stories in nine novels and some supplementary works in the form of poetry or short stories.  Child of the Kaites, the first novel, is about Raiballeon, who battles fear and world-bending evil spirits as she tries to free her people from slavery.  I publish new chapters on my blog bi-weekly (until the end of the school year, at which time I’ll return to weekly postings).
I’m editing book two, The Steward’s Apprentice, about orphaned Vree who takes up her mentor’s mantle and tries to become the strong leader she thinks she should be while dealing with the surly old Steward, small town bullies, and talking weasels.  I’m nearing the end of drafting The King’s Son, book three, which is roughly the Biblical story of Jonathan and David, but with dragons, fairies, and giants.

So, I’ve only been able to read 3-4 chapters of your work Child of the Kaites, but I’ve been loving it. Tell us a little bit about it. (General plot, inspiration etc) 
I’m so glad you’ve been loving it!  I love all your comments and feedback.
Child of the Kaites is the first novel in my The Firstborn’s Legacy series.  The whole series of 9 books plus some-odd supplementary pieces is inspired by the history of the world (broad, I know), specifically focusing in on Jewish/Christian/Biblical history.  CotK is inspired by the story of Moses and the Exodus.  At the start of the book, the people of Maraiah have been enslaved for generations.  Now, at last, their deity has heard their prayers for freedom and promises to answer through Raiballeon.  The problem is that Rai, an odd girl to begin with, has been living in exile on a neighboring island.  In exile, Rai resigned herself to life as a storyteller and as the quasi-servant of the family that sheltered her.
Then a person from her past unexpectedly appears, along with an enigmatic stranger.  Their unsettling presence forces Rai to ask herself if she’ll reclaim her calling and possibly die, or reject her purpose and let history forget her name.

What kind of books would you like to see more of? 
I would like to see more hopeful kinds of books.  I’m a middle school teacher, and I’m reminded every day of how many of my students are depressed.  I know it’s commonly viewed as the sign of a good writer to put your characters through all sorts of troubles and make their lives living nightmares.  While I agree that characters should face challenges, just like real people do, I want to see more books that embody hope in the darkest situations.  Our children–and we ourselves–need to be assured that the darkness will end and we don’t need to face our trials alone.  To quote Samwise Gamgee, we need the reminder that “there’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”
(Me: This is why we’re friends!!) 


What is one area you’ve seen yourself grow in as an author? 

I’ve seen myself grow in lots of areas, especially recently.  The areas of growth that most excite me are more behind-the-scenes.  In the past year, I’ve started actually outlining and doing more planning ahead for my stories.  This has helped tremendously, with keeping plots straight, characters consistent, and good ideas from dying.  I’ve also been amazed at how much plotting out my stories helps prevent writer’s block.  Since the beginning of last July, I’ve been writing six days a week with little deviance.  That’s amazing for me!  I never had this much consistency before.  I’m super excited about how much gets done when I write just a little every day.  I’d feared that planning things out would diminish my excitement for my stories, but I’m thrilled to find that I’m just as excited as before–if not more excited now.
For an area of growth you could observe when reading my stories, I think I’ve improved at balancing backstory.  I’m a history teacher at heart (and in reality).  I love inventing complex pasts and cultures, planning everything from clothing to customary greetings to political structures to religions.  It’s hard to hold back on sharing the world I’ve created, but I know I’ve gotten better at not info-dumping.  Of course, I still have a great deal of room for improvement.


What is one area you’d like to improve in and what steps do you plan to take to get there? 

I’d still like to get better about weaving in manageable amounts of worldbuilding, instead of overloading the first few chapters with it.  In addition to that, I really want to get better at writing romances.  Most stories have romantic subplots, and I think these relationships between characters can be incredibly beautiful and deepen stories.  I just find myself caught up in other subplots and the main plot, and usually my romances end up like this: “Oh, this character should like someone.  Well, I guess I’ll shove these two together.  Eh, good enough.  Now, back to the dragons.”
My go-to solution for anything is research.  Right now, that looks like observing how other authors do better jobs at this, reading articles, and paying more attention to the romantic relationships of the people around me.


Have you read any good indie books lately that you’d like to recommend? 

I’m reading Ashley D Hansen’s Ethan right now, which she publishes weekly on her blog.  It’s about Ethan, a secret agent on a mission that may be him beyond his advanced skill level: Working with a partner.  I also loved her The Darkest Hour, a distopian Sleeping Beauty where Aurora just wants to be a chemist and the evil queen has a (maybe) mystical gem.  I’m also reading J.E. Purazzi’s Revelation, a scifi/biopunk novella.  Since I just started, I can’t give a good description of it yet, but I’m loving her writing style and the character and world are intriguing so far 🙂

Thanks for the interview, Beth! I’m excited to read more of your work. Get to know Beth more on her website and follow her on Twitter: @beth_wangler !