On Fantasy Book Maps – WU Redirect

Hello blog, my long-lost friend. I haven’t posted here in a while. Though I’ve continued to post a monthly essay over at WU. I hope some of you have been reading over there. 

Maps have been on my mind lately. It’s been brought to my attention that none of my old maps are broad enough to encompass the area of my entire story. So last Saturday I dove in, and spent more time than I care to admit on a fantasy mapmaking website called Inkarnate, making the map you see here. It’s not complete, and it’s far from perfect, but since I have pretty much zero visual arts aptitude, I’m fairly pleased with it. 

The experience made me realize how much I love maps, and how much they have to do with my writing journey, so I wrote about it for my Writer Unboxed contribution this month. I hope you’ll stop by and read, and maybe even let me know how you feel about maps, book maps, and mapmaking. 

Thanks for reading and for your support. Wishing all of my American friends a blessed Thanksgiving!

Finding Mr. Raymond (Writer Unboxed Redirect)

lotr-ballantine-set-jan-17I”m up on Writer Unboxed (always an honor!) with an essay that starts out with a search in the name of gratitude. If you’ve ever read any of my bios, I always mention how my writing journey began with my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Raymond. Well, we (my wife and I) went looking for Mr. Raymond in order to express my gratitude. I share how it turned out in the post, but it’s turned into a pretty cool life lesson. In response, several of the people I’ve shared the story with were inspired to reach out to a former teacher or mentor of their own. How knows? Maybe you’ll be inspired, too. And, as Mr. Raymond says, “we never know the impact we have on those we encounter each day, even those we meet just for a moment.”

I hope you get a chance to stop by and read the essay, and maybe join the conversation. But in any case, know that every small act of kindness you offer your fellows this week has the potential of resonating impact. Be kind, and pass it on.

Review of Author In Progress

author-in-progress-coverFirst, An Admission: I’ll come clean up front. This is a review of a book for which I am a contributor. Is that weird? Hope not.

In fairness, I’m one of fifty-four contributors. And fifty-plus of the others are best-selling authors, editors, teachers, or well-known publishing industry leaders, and no few are many of those things. Me? No, none of those (yet!). Yeah, I ended up in excellent company. How’d I get so lucky? (I pose the question rhetorically here, but the roots of my answer can actually be found in my essay in the book, Community Comfort).

The Book Itself: I’ve said from the very beginning that there is nothing like this book available. Most writing and publishing books are fairly segmented and/or focused on a particular aspect of the writing journey, or on the business of publishing. The scope of Author In Progress (AIP) is uniquely unprecedented. It covers everything from one’s first ideas and tentative steps into writing fiction, all the way through being published, and beyond.

AIP’s breakdown is easy to understand and follow. The parts are: Prepare; Write; Invite: Improve; Rewrite; Persevere; and Release. The segments beautifully correspond with the steps of most writing journeys (including mine), which allows one to home in on their own special interests and needs. But I must say, reading the book from front to back provides the best overview of the entire journey from conception to publication that I’ve seen. It’s one of those craft books you’ll want to keep close-to-hand in your work space. I’ve already reread certain essays that motivate or inspire me in a specific way. It’s very handy that way.

I’ve read Writer Unboxed almost daily for about eight years now, and I’ve got to say—boy-oh-boy did the contributors step up for AIP. Every single essay is strong—among the strongest ever offered by each individual contributor. I have a few favorites, but I’m not going to single them out, because each reader will find their own favorites. And because they’re all so wonderful.

If Only I’d Known! My wife and I were just talking about the days after I finished my first draft, in June of ‘09. “Man, remember how clueless you were?” she said, laughing. At the time she asked, “Now what?” I shrugged. “Send it to someone to read, I guess.” (My sister Marsha turned out to be the poor “someone” to struggle through—Thanks, Marsh!)

At the time I’d read almost nothing about the craft of writing fiction or the publishing industry. When writers mentioned the need to rewrite, I honestly had no idea what they were talking about. Did they mean actually writing the same story all over again? I couldn’t imagine it then. I honestly had no idea what I was in for. And it was a struggle. I’m not just talking about finding my way to getting a manuscript in shape, and finding my way through the submissions process. It was a struggle coming to terms with everything that being an artist who wants to make their work public entails. It’s about so much more than the work itself, or the industry. It’s about you, the artist.

Over the years, through all the sleepless nights, the days of allowing self-doubt to creep in and usurp my work time, I’ve often thought, “If only I’d known then what I know now.” I think the best gift AIP offers to someone new to writing is that knowledge—the awareness that you don’t just sit down and write till “The End,” send it in, and wait for the praise and paychecks to arrive. AIP demonstrates, better than any resource I know of, that the writer’s journey is more about the transformation of the writer than anything else. And I’m so pleased and proud to be a part of offering that gift to those just beginning the climb.

Hail to the (Editor-In-) Chief: As I mentioned, for this review I’m an inside player. So I’d like to take advantage of my unique perspective, and take a moment to praise the one person whose creative vision, energy, and personal magnetism made AIP the wonderful resource that it is. I’ve often said that Writer Unboxed’s Editorial Director Therese Walsh is the sun in the WU universe. She drew each of us into her orbit, and she provides WU’s warmth and light.

The importance of Therese’s vision for AIP, and her guidance to each of us, and her boundless energy in assembling it into a whole, cannot be discounted. I can only speak for my own experience, but T patiently guided me—through several complete do-overs, then to a transformed and polished version of my third or fourth concept—to what you see in the book. I’m guessing that others struggled less, but that her shepherding was critical to each and every one of us. Talk about a herculean effort!

Therese has done more for writers than anyone I know, and it starts with her personal dedication to empowerment. WU is what it is because of her. And the same goes for Author In Progress. She has my eternal gratitude, and she deserves the gratitude of everyone who appreciates WU and/or this book.

the-contributors-dinner-2016How Appropriate… that I should become a published author with this book. It’s so fitting. WU has made me who I am as a writer. And to be a part of that same journey for even one other writer is a privilege and an honor. In closing, as Mama T would say, Write On!

So, do you have your copy of AIP yet? If not, why not? Click here, and make it happen! (It also makes a fine Christmas gift for the writers in your life.)

Reaching or Digging? Writer Unboxed Redirect

Puppy Gidget's first trip to the beach, she didn't know whether to reach or dig, so she did both.

Puppy Gidget’s first trip to the beach, she didn’t know whether to reach or dig, so she did both.

I’m delighted to have another essay featured on Writer Unboxed today, and I’d love to have your input (here or there). I’ve recently been thinking about High Concept as it relates to the market versus exploring deep themes in my work. (I’ve been focused on the latter, hopefully not too much to the detriment of the former.) Can you think of favorite novels that would rightfully be called High Concept? I’m curious. Please stop by WU and see what it’s all about.

Sorry, I see how long it’s been since I’ve posted here with any regularity. I’m still focused on my current rewrite. But I expect I’ll have a lot to explore once I reach “The End” of that project. Thanks for sticking with me!

F-F-Finally! A New Post! Redirect to F-Word Essay on WU

F-Word 1Hello Blog. Sorry, it’s been a while, I know. But I promise, not without reason. I’ve been f-f-frantically working away on a rewrite of The Severing Son. I’m pleased with what’s developing, but it’s taking a large chunk of my admittedly limited focus and attentions span. But I did manage to write an essay for Writer Unboxed. Which, I always say, is an honor. And also it’s a challenge. No one f-f-phones in a post over on WU. And so, I dug deep, about a subject I have strong and evolving feelings for: the F-Word. Curious? Hope so. Please f-f-feel f-f-free to click on over. (Hint, it’s not the one you might be thinking.)

I do understand that it’s a busy week for most (particularly in the U.S.). In any case, thank you for your support. To my American friends, have a Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s to a safe and productive holiday season!

Flipping Perspectives – Writer Unboxed Redirect

MC-Escher-Hand-with-Reflecting-Sphere-1935The good news? I’ve published an essay (good news if you enjoy my essays, anyway). The better news? I have the honor of having this essay appear on Writer Unboxed. Yes, that’s made it a very good day, indeed. Think I can make things better still? I think I can. If you keep an open mind. You see, it’s all about the way we see things – even our problems. I recently went through the deliberate exercise of changing my outlook on my writerly circumstances, and I challenge you to do the same.

So please head over to WU and start the metamorphosis. And if you’re so moved, I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts, either over there or here if you’d prefer. I hope you end up feeling as changed as I do as we head into summer.

Thank you for your support!

O.P.B. – On Giving Critique: Writer Unboxed Redirect

Portrait of a Man Reading, by Joseph Wright of DerbyI’m so pleased to have contributed an essay to Writer Unboxed. I’ve said repeatedly that I consider it an honor, and I still feel that way. But I’m particularly pleased today because I haven’t read this essay in while ( I often write them and turn them in weeks in advance). When I wrote this one, I’d just finished critiquing a manuscript for a dear friend, who is so brilliantly talented. The experience had fired me on all cylinders, and I think my enthusiasm comes through. It’s sort of a Karmic coincidence that now, as the essay reappears, I’m in the final stages of readying my own WIP for others to read and critique. A wise mentor of mine said that the best thing we writers can do for one another is read and be read. And taking his advice to the next level, that to really stretch ourselves, we need to strive to earnestly offer and receive and process thoughtful critique.

I’d be honored to have you stop by Writer Unboxed and share your experiences with critiquing. Or feel free to do so here. Here’s to reading and being read!