Friday, October 30, 2009

Were-sirens and Zombie Elves?

Oh my!

Halloween is tomorrow and it's pretty natural for the gruesome side of our imaginative brains to take center stage. So how can we make our love of fantasy fit in with our desire for horror? Why that's simple! Combine them!

Some of the most original novels out there have melded two or more genres. I mean really, what's so unique about plain old elves anymore? They've been done. A lot. But make them zombie elves and you've got a pretty interesting story! Or put a character through hell by making them struggle against the irresistible call of a were-siren! It gives a whole new fear factor to howling at the moon.

What other creatures from fantasy could you combine with horror? Put your thinking caps on class and share!

~Emily White

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Finding Your Voice

Before I continue with today's post, I would just like to announce that yours truly just received the Humane Award from Lydia Sharp. It is such an honor to be recognized by my friends and colleagues. I could not have done it without the support of my husband and two children. In short, you love me! You really love me! :) Was that a cheesy enough acceptance speech?

In all seriousness, in keeping with the tradition of this award, I now pass it on to:

Kim Wollenburg and her blog, The Next 24

Brandi Guthri and her blog, Cursings and Musings


Jai Joshi and her blog, Jai Joshi's Tulsi Tree

Please pick up your award by copying the image to your right.

Now continuing with the topic of my post I thought I would like to talk a little bit about a recent discovery I've made. For those of you who are not aware, I've started editing my novel, Aurumenas. I hope to be finished by the end of the year, so I've to kick my butt into high gear! But before taking on this task, I did a lot of research. I've been immersing myself in fiction of all sorts to find out just what publishers and agents mean by a strong voice.

I think I've discovered the answer, and in so doing, I've found my own voice. And let me tell you, I like it! I was feeling pretty down about my novel before this because I felt it was just a shell of what it could be. I realized that I was merely relaying a certain sequence of events rather than telling a story--not good. In the sections that I've already revised I feel the reader has a real chance to get to know my characters as real people with real emotions and real problems. I now am able to relate to my characters on a much higher level. I get them. And boy does it have me excited!

I've now created a narrator that has my readers' best interests in mind (with a dose of snark here and there). He's going to take care of them and lead them through the story. Sure there will be bumps in the road as the story takes certain turns, but he'll be there to assure them and move them forward. And yes, my narrator is indeed third person omniscient. I tried to fight it, but it's no use. I'm drawn to this style, in reading and in writing. And I get it now.

I think it's easy to forget your narrator(s) when writing in third person. It gets to the point where you think that just relaying certain events is adequate. With first person however, it's easy to remember the narrator because he/she is doing the speaking. But when writing in third person omniscient, your lack of voice becomes jarringly apparent. Without the voice, you just have a bunch of head-popping that ruins the flow of the story. And that was my problem. I've fixed it now and my book is coming along wonderfully.

I look forward to the day when I have the pages of my finished book sitting before me and I can breath a sigh of relief because I know that I told a story, not just events.

~Emily White

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday's Myths--Halloween

Oooh! Scaarrryyy!

Halloween usually invokes images of ghosts, goblins, and vampires. Oh my! But did you know that this part of the year has a deep history that has very little (or nothing) to do with our little cuties dressing up as ballerinas or superheroes?

The word halloween itself derives from the day before a Catholic holiday, hallowmas where the inducted saints of the past year were honored. So, halloween was originally hallow eve. However, the early Christian church created this holiday in order to appease new converts who still wanted to celebrate something during their previously hallowed Samhain.

Samhain was (and for many people, still is) the celtic celebration of Summer's End. It is the transition from light to darkness when the boundaries between the spirit world and the world of the living is rather skewed. Traditions arose of leaving food out for your dead ancestors and lighting a candle in your window to guide them home. You may be familiar with the hispanic celebration of El Dia de los Muertos, the day of the dead, which is a similar celebration where the dead are honored.

Many traditions that we have during Halloween today originated with Samhain. Bobbing for apples (called dookin' for apples) once reflected the journey across the sea to find the magic apple in the land of Emhain Abhlach in Ireland and Avalon in Britain. And disguising oneself to avoid pranks from the wee folk who came out to play during this time was a tradition during the celtic festival.

I know that this isn't technically a mythological creature, but I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit about this holiday. I hope you enjoyed it!

~Emily White

Friday, October 23, 2009

What's Your Vice?

Okay so maybe this isn't technically a vice, but I've been addicted to watching old seasons of Stargate SG-1, to the detriment of my writing career. I'll admit that it's been a couple weeks since the last time I wrote anything of significance in my novel. Sure, I've written a short story here and there, but my vice has taken precedence over my real writing.

Each morning I wake up and tell myself that I'm going to finish a chapter in Aurumenas and at night I tell myself that tomorrow will be the day. It's getting ridiculous! You would think that because I'm aware of this show getting in the way, I would cut it out of my life completely, but apparently not. Every time I sit down to write in my book, my mind wanders to what the next episode might be about.

So what's your vice? You may not be suffering from it now, but what really gets in the way of your writing when you allow it to?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sense and Sensitivity

We've all been there. When the rejections start piling up (sometimes one right after the other), our inner baby threatens to come out.

Nathan Bransford posted about this in his blog yesterday, but I wanted to touch upon it here.

There's nothing wrong with feeling sensitive about our work, but it's important that we keep our senses. It often may be pretty tempting to hit reply when we receive a rather personal and (we feel) mean rejection letter, but that moment of passion could possibly ruin our career. I certainly hope that every writer is aware that agents tend to converse amongst each other.

I think the best thing that a writer can do is learn to whimper to himself and his spouse, friends, family, but NOT to the professionals! Being sensitive is natural for a writer, but keep your senses! Don't rant to the people who control the success (or lack thereof) of your future.

Any thoughts? Are you a sensitive person or do you take critique and rejections in stride?

~Emily White

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday's Myths--Dragons

I know, I know, I'm a day late, but yesterday was particularly hectic. I'm in the middle of potty training my two year old and let me tell you, it's not fun.

So we touched upon the history of the dragon last Wednesday. There's a lot of evidence the world over to indicate that dragons were once living, breathing creatures that actually caused problems for the local populace. Sure, myth has elevated these animals to magical beings capable of shapeshifting, telepathy, etc., but word-of-mouth stories tend to do that. If we were to believe every tall tale, we would have to accept the fact that there really are mice four feet tall with foam dripping at the mouth, and any man that came home from a fishing trip empty-handed only did so because the big one, with a mind as sharp as any human's, got away.

Not likely.

In the cave painting to the right, a fire-breathing creature is depicted. It doesn't take too much imagination to see that this is probably a dragon. Though it is depicted without wings, this isn't uncommon. The Drake is a particular dragon that is represented this way, as well as the Chinese variety.

Some of the oldest tales in the world talk about brave men going out to fight the local dragon, depending upon the culture. In many eastern cultures, the dragon was (and still is) revered as a noble creature, worthy of worship. This isn't uncommon as well. There are cultures and religions today that revere the cow in much the same way.

It would be silly to think that all dragons were the same, and therefore dangerous. It could have possibly been the case that many were rather docile and offered a bit of protection to a local town from the more vicious variety, as well as other smaller predators. In fact, there are some tales that speak of certain dragons as herbivores and rather friendly.

However, we are typically more familiar with the ones that are hunted and killed by the local heroes. In this mosaic, a group of Ethiopian warriors are shown hunting a rather familiar-looking creature. No, this animal does not look like most representations of the dragon, but it is very likely that the dragon was in actuality a group of animals that we are very familiar with--dinosaurs.
Many paleontologists do concur that the similarities between dinosaurs and dragons are too close to ignore. The theory is that ancient man found the fossilized remains of these creatures and wove tales accordingly. But, their knowledge of the hard scales and other characteristics that would have been impossible to derive from just the fossils, indicates differently.

As mentioned last week, scholars have found official palace records in China of a royal dragon keeper. Why would the emperor assign such a position if this animal were not real? And why would Marco Polo claim to have seen the emperor pulled along by dragons? Any paleontologist knows that if you want to find dinosaur remains, you go to China.

Think of this, tales of dragons have been told since the beginning of civilization, but the term dinosaur was only coined in 1841.


Although, I was late for this particular post, I promise that tomorrow's post will be on time. Don't forget to check in!

~Emily White

Friday, October 16, 2009

Author Review--Liz Penn

For those of you who may have missed it, I hosted my first monthly Tuesday's Trivia where the first person to answer the question correctly wins a blog post all about them. There will be a new Tuesday's Trivia on the second Tuesday of every month.

I'm very happy to report that my first Author Review will be all about a good friend of mine, fellow writer, Liz Penn.

If you haven't visited Liz's blog, Wandering-Quill, I highly suggest you do so today. With three novels under her belt, not to mention short stories, and poems, she has honed her craft to such a degree that she has already developed a fanbase that eagerly awaits any postings of her work on the Writer's Digest Forum.

Liz is currently working on a complete rewrite of her sci-fi, Phoenix Rising while simultaneously writing her fantasy, Half-Soul, novel #5 of a 9 novel series. And if that wasn't enough for one person's plate, she is also trying to find homes for two of her short stories. I have been fortunate enough to read all of these pieces and I am constantly impressed with how Liz is able to portray the human dynamic. Many female authors feel constrained to write about only women, but Liz has shown an uncanny ability to get into the male psyche and articulate the growing friendship of two men in her novel, Phoenix Rising.

As I mentioned earlier, Liz has broadened her writing career to include poetry, of which she has two published, Look to the Horizon and Autumn.

As a sci-fi/fantasy novelist, it should not be surprising that her favorite author and the one who's books inspired her to write is J.R.R. Tolkien, the father of fantasy. Some other favorites include, David Drake (King's Blade series), Jennifer Roberson (Sword Dancer, Karavan series, and Cheysuli Chronicles), and Dean Koontz for his "more urban/contemporary fantasy and some thriller/suspense." She is currently devouring the newest two books in the Sword-Sworn series by Jennifer Roberson.

When asked what she wanted for the future, Liz of course gave off a list that is every writer's dream: "A multi-book deal, six-digit advance, interview on Oprah's book club." But for the more recent future, she's willing to settle for ten publishing credits and an induction to Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

This was such an honor for me to be able to talk about Liz Penn today. I hope you take the opportunity to check out her blog and show her your support.

Don't forget to check out Monday's Myths where we will look deeper into the history of the dragon.

~Emily White

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And the Winner is...


Congratulations! *applause*

Yes, it was indeed the dragon. On his return, Marco Polo told of the great Emperor of China being pulled in a chariot by dragons. In fact, archealogists have recently discovered official palace records of a royal dragon keeper. And if you will notice, the only mythological (?) creature on the Chinese calendar is the dragon. Clearly this animal was considered very real at one point.

I'll go into more detail on this amazing creature on Monday's Myths, but in the meantime, Friday will feature all you've ever wanted to know about the woman behind the Wandering-Quill! Well, at least everything she's willing to tell you. :)

By the way, if you don't know already, Nathan Bransford is hosting his 3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge. Check it out and post your paragraph!

~Emily White

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the first monthly installment of Tuesday's Trivia! A question will be posted on the second Tuesday of every month. The first person to answer it correctly will win...dun, dun, dun! A post all about you--what you're writing, reading, everything about your blog (if you have one), and anything else you think is important.

Now wait no longer! Here is the question *plays Jeopardy theme song*:

When Marco Polo returned from his travels in the far east, what mythological creature did he claim he saw in China?

Good luck!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday's Myth--Postponed

Unfortunately, today I will not have the opportunity to post Monday's Myths. To make up for this, I'll be posting Tuesday's Trivia tomorrow.

Thanks for your patience!

~Emily White

Friday, October 9, 2009

Point of View

There's a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to point of view. The vast majority of today's writing community will concur that there are two different options, and a rare few out of them will admit to three--first person, third person limited, and second person. If you think about it, it's easy to see why most writers have limited POV to those three areas. This is typically how we speak: I did, he/she did, you did. But in the world of writing there are so many options available to us.

And there is one area that a lot of critiquers particularly seem to abhor: head popping. Oh the horror of head popping! It should never be done! It is the mark of the amateur! Uh, not so much. In fact, head popping (aka Omniscient POV) is precisely the style Tolkein, Lewis, Asimov, King, and a handful of other highly successful and brilliant authors use. So why all the hate? Because most new authors have not yet mastered the art of the omniscient POV, so rather than helping them to perfect it, teachers and mentors will usually suggest that they steer clear of it altogether (In fact, a lot of teachers and mentors don't know enough to teach it anyway). This is a shame. The omniscient POV, when done well, can lure a reader into a story like no other. The reader can know at all times just what is happening and what everyone is feeling because the all-knowing narrator knows these things. This narrator can either be the author himself, or some other outside character that the author has created. This character isn't always in the story, just telling it.

First person point of view seems to be on the rise in popularity. Everywhere I go another author seems to be attempting it. There's nothing wrong with it; it's a good enough POV and it's the best one to use when you want to lead a reader astray. But it is easy for the author to get lulled into a sense that they have brought the reader as close to the story as possible, so they don't have to work as hard. Uh, no. Think about it. Yes, the reader is right in the head of the MC, but every other character must be known outside the point of view person. And it is easy for the reader to be lied to. Reality is only as how the MC sees it. If anything, as a reader I feel very pulled out of the all-encompassing story when I read something in first person. In some stories, that works. In a mystery, for example, the first person POV would be perfect. The reader would have no more information than the MC. In fact, I'm in the process of writing a short story in first person because I plan on pulling a fast one on my MC, and in turn, the readers.

There are quite a few POVs that I just won't get into here right now. Some of them have fallen out of use in modern writing and others are just so difficult that only the most knowledgeable writers would dare attempt them. However, the last point of view that I will talk about is third limited.

A lot like first person, third limited is restricted to one character at a time. A lot of authors choose to have several POV characters in one novel, while others may stick with one (e.g. Harry Potter series). You can't "head pop" in third limited because the narrator is the character of choice, not the all-knowing one. The narrator, therefore, can surmise what the other characters may be thinking or feeling, but it is all speculation based on their actions.

Point of view, like I stated in my previous blog post, I shake my fist at you! is a style. If you see that a writer has used a certain POV rather poorly, direct them to the best resources to perfect their craft. But do not steer them away from their style. We need an end to cookie-cutter novels that are crafted the way "everyone" is doing it. I think we know what kind of novels come out when that happens. ;)

~Emily White

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Shake My Fist at You!

It's hard to believe that anyone might find anything to criticize about our work, but it happens. I imagine a good majority of writers sit in their comfy couches luxuriating in the thought that the person (or people) they had just sent their book to read are laughing in hysterics at the funny moments, weeping in despair when the MC meets a particulary nasty challenge, and absolutely falling in love with each and every character (and secretly wishing to marry the hero). Imagine the shock, then, when the reader comes back and says they just didn't get a certain part.

Ugh. Now the writer has a few options in his/her path. He can either remain calm (I repeat! Remain calm!) and discuss this possible glitch in the path to perfection with the reader, or he can put up his defensive wall and attack the reader for obviously missing the scope of the work. It's not the reader's fault he/she is so stupid and can't pick up obvious things, the public school system has merely failed them.

Now imagine when an agent or publisher "just doesn't get it." How can the world possibly not recognize the awesomeness that is your novel?? It's probably wise at this point to take a step back and reevaluate your darlings.

I, for one, am the queen of defensiveness. I can honestly say that I am shocked and appalled when someone I have asked to read a section of my book comes back and criticizes a certain part of it. Walls come up! Oh the excuses! BUT! After a few minutes of steady breathing, I really think about what the reader had to say. Now that I have calmed down, do I still disagree? If yes, then I move on. There have been many instances where I have agreed with my critiquer. A good writer friend of mine suggested that I scrap my first chapter and start with my MC. I fought this for a while because I believed that important things would be missed if I changed where the novel started. But I did give in, and I'm glad. My new first chapter is far better and the reader has a chance to connect with my MC immediately, rather than slowly but surely.

There are instances, however, where your critiquer(s) will criticize the style of your work, rather than the content. It is extremely important, therefore, to know what your style is and be prepared to defend it. Lots of people confuse style and content. They think they're the same thing. They are not. Style is how you tell your story, content includes things like the plot, your characters, etc. It is not a style to describe one-dimensional characters and a plot that goes nowhere! So get that out of your head right now. Style includes sentence structure (as long as it's grammatically correct), POV, etc. These things should be left alone during a critique. If you write long, flowy sentences, but your critiquer prefers short, choppy ones, it's time to find someone else to critique your book. Those styles do not jive and the critiquer will feel tempted to change your style. There will only be pain in a situation like this.

Writers do tend to freak out (*raises hand*) when they recieve a particulary bad review, but we just need to start looking at them objectively. You'll never improve as an artist if you disregard every negative critique. I'll concur that some of them are ridiculous, but don't ignore the gems out there just because a few bad apples have gotten through. This is advice that I have a hard time living, but it's worth it when I do.

And if you're a critiquer, please, please, please! Stop critiquing style. We writers simultaneously believe that we are the greatest in our generation and just pure crap. Critiquing style will only work to make us even more depressed and it does nothing to improve us as artists.

~Emily White

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday's Myths--The Basilisk

Ah, the basilisk. The most dangerous of all mythological monsters, capable of killing its prey with a look or just its mere presence. And yet today, it often takes a backseat to some of the better known creatures such as the ogre, goblin, and of course, the dragon.

From the Greek word basileus for "little king," the basilisk has grown to become the king of the serpants. Born from a spherical, yolkless egg of a seven year old rooster and hatched by a toad, it is a rare, but highly feared creature of myth.

There are two species of basilisk, both equally terrifying. While one burns everything it approaches, the other is capable of melting the flesh of or turning to stone its victims. And both can only be killed by a glance at their own reflection or the crow of a rooster. It was believed that should a knight attempt to spear a basilisk, the venom would travel up the weapon and kill both the warrior and his horse.
I've actually included the basilisk in my first novel, Tales of Morcah and hope to find another opportunity to use it in a future WIP. It's a fun creature to write about and an easy way to get your MC into a whole lot of trouble.
~Emily White

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Power of Words (Part 4)

This is the last installment of the Power of Words series. I thought it would be appropriate to end it with a discussion on the content we put on the internet.

Gone are the days when only politicians needed to worry about their pasts. With the influx of internet communities, more and more people are learning to regret something they may have posted on a whim, possibly believing that it would stay between them and their closest friends.

Well, sad to say, but your closest friends now include every single person with access to the internet. And it should not surprise us that prospective employers, agents, publishers, etc. now use the internet to determine the character of a potential employee or client. If you choose to post about your drunken orgy weekends, you better be prepared to suffer the consequences. No one wants to put in time and effort working with a person who might prove to be unreliable.

And nowadays the author needs to be sold just as much as his/her novel. Think about how you create likeable characters--this is the same way you should go about your life. Writing is a career, not a hobby, so be careful about anything you put on the internet. You don't want to ruin your career before it even begins.

Don't forget to check in for Monday's Myths!

~Emily White