ANNOUNCING: The Dying of the Light

PEOPLE!

IT’S ALLLLLLIIIIIIIIIVVVVVE!

And that’s no accidental Frankenstein reference, either.

DyingOfLight_CVR_SML

The Dying of the Light (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #3) is a monster of a book in more ways than one. It clocks in at 156k words of story and about 550 pages, give or take a “loc” on Kindle. The book has been in the making for over 20 years; it sat untouched in a box for 15 years; it required one complete rewrite from scratch and several partial rewrites; my getting started on it took a stern talking-to from none other than Bernard Schaffer (more on *that* another time); and from first rewrite to PUBLISH took 16 months.

This book ate my lunch and my brain. It is the most challenging and cantankerous novel I have ever written.

It was all worth it.

Special thanks go to Bernard for the butt-kicking; Josh Unruh, Becca Campbell, and my mom for the beta-reading; and Jessie Sanders, my editor (hire her!). Without them, this book wouldn’t have happened.
: )

But enough about the pre-pub stuff! You see the lovely cover art up there, by the longsuffering and brilliantly talented Steven Novak (hire him!). Here is the story:

Rafe Skelleran is losing his mind. Weird nightmares ruin his sleep and dog his waking hours. Even the booze doesn’t help anymore. And the worst part of going crazy is he doesn’t even know why it’s happening.

In the midst of his descent into madness, a woman shows up on his doorstep, all curves and feisty foreign accent. This dream girl is real enough, but her babble about ancient wars and lurking enemies is the stuff of fantasies. Her rantings gain the weight of reality when an enemy arrives with an arsenal of otherworldly powers and tries to murder Rafe. Fleeing the destruction of his home, blood on his hands, Rafe realizes that if he wants to get out of this alive, he’s going to have to stick with a woman who’s possibly crazier than he is.

Besides, she knows about his dreams. She knows the green-eyed crone whose nightly pleas are driving Rafe insane. She says the old woman is real and that she can take Rafe to her. And Rafe can’t pass up the chance to find out the truth.

Hijacked to a strange world where he is surrounded by powerful, dangerous allies, Rafe soon realizes he’s no safer with these people than he was on his own. Every time he turns around, someone insists he’s not who he thinks he is. Every time he turns around, someone wants him dead. On the run with what seems the least of many evils, Rafe doesn’t have a single person in this strange land he can trust.

Even worse, he feels a dormant, volatile power knocking from within, urging him to let his magic loose. He must unlock it before facing his darkest enemy, for without it he can’t possibly survive. It’s that or accept an allegiance that will give him the worlds…if he’s willing to sell the last little bit of himself he has left.

So there you have it, my lovelies! The Dying of the Light, ready and waiting for your reading and reviewing! Click, buy, and enjoy!

The Dying of the Light is available at Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), iTunes, Scribd, Kobo, Inktera, Tolino, and Oyster.
(If you don’t see links or can’t find the book through a search at those vendors, check back with the vendors soon. The book will show up there in the next few days.)

#AMEDITING CHICKEN

No real blog post for you today, my beauties. Because:

This could be an Editwock.

This could be an Editwock.

As one is wont to say on Twitter, I #amediting. Feast your peepers:

  • I’m on the FINAL EDIT!!!!! of The Dying of the Light (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #3) (formerly known as Legacy, formerly known as Legend’s Heir), my epic fantasy story of Rafe Skelleran (formerly known as Esau Skelleran, formerly known as James Moore, formerly known as Travis).
    This book has been through a lot. It will be glad to get away from me. Projected pub date: JUNE 30.
  •  

  • Tomorrow, I plan to submit my short story “Requiem for the Milk of Wisdom” to the Author Strong short story contest. It needs a final once-over, then I’ll be ready to let it fly from the nest. Hopefully it will return home with a contest win under its belt. Or at least an olive branch.

I’m also helping prep for this weekend’s celebration of my grandparents’ 75th wedding anniversary. BANGERANG. A lovely occasion to honor lovely people alongside many other lovely people. I’m looking forward to all the hoopla, but it most def makes for a busy week!

And so, instead of watching Agents of SHIELD and folding laundry as I had planned, I shall now away to bed.

Toodles!

The Game of Thrones: Everyone you love must die.

My thoughts about the Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale, as posted on Twitter and collected here:

I haven’t watched Game of Thrones since hearing about the Sansa-Ramsay debacle warned me off. (I plan to catch up in July.)

But apparently several major characters kicked the bucket last Sunday. (DO NOT TELL ME WHO, OR YOU’LL BE THE NEXT CASUALTY.) And from what I gather, everyone is shocked and dismayed?

My only question is…

guy

Do you remember the Red Wedding? Do remember Ned Stark? Have you not realized that if you come to love a GoT character, IT MEANS THAT PERSON IS GOING TO DIE?

So, this show clearly hates women. No question. And though I plan to satisfy my curiosity about the rest of this season, I probably won’t be watching any more after that. We’ll see. But that aside….

The unexpected death of GoT chars shouldn’t exist. EVERY DEATH of GoT chars should be expected. IF YOU LOVE THEM, THEY WILL DIE. It’s a given. I haven’t even read the books, and I know this. I pretty much assume already that Cersei and Melisandre will be the only ones left standing in the end, because they’re the ones I hate the most. So clearly they’re the only ones the writers are gonna leave alive.

Because in the Game of Thrones, everyone you love must die. #theme

P.S. Just caught some spoilers from last night. And you know what? I’m neither surprised nor shocked. I have no emotional response to these spoilers at all. My only reaction is, “Well, OF COURSE that happened. It was always going to happen. Just a matter of when.”

In the meantime, not having seen the latest episodes, I’m rooting for the White Walkers.

original

Movies, books, and hobbits

Hile, my beloved inklings. I hope this finds you in fine fettle and pie.

This is yet another post that has gestated long in my Drafts folder. Its conception occurred when I watched the first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and then read John Scalzi’s review of the same. Since that all happened a few minutes ago, I won’t go into review mode concerning that movie specifically. Instead, here are a few thoughts about Jackson’s Hobbit films, Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and, in brief, my position on books vs. movie versions.

Jackson’s Hobbit Movies

I love them. Unabashedly. Radagast is ridiculous and drives me a little batty (bird poop? really?). I wanted the Beorn scene to go more like the book (dwarves arriving two and three at a time). I might be forgetting my appendices and Silmarillion, but I’m not entirely sure what Galadriel and Legolas are doing in this trilogy. The Tauriel-Kili romance seems gratuitous and far-fetched.

But Radagast isn’t there for me. He’s there to make the kids laugh. The Beorn scene as Jackson filmed it makes far more sense in the movie than would Tolkien’s far, far slower (dragging?) approach. Galadriel makes a great addition for showing us the grave, behind-the-scenes power struggle of Good vs. Evil (as opposed to the more light-hearted material we get from Bilbo and the dwarves). Legolas…well, what would a Middle-Earth movie be without our resident surfing elf, he of the subtly snarky facial expressions?

And I adore Tauriel. She’s a hero, she’s vulnerable, she’s conflicted, desperate, determined, passionate, soft, and unyielding. She’s a female character with power and influence over the course of the story, which is something Tolkien missed the boat on. Another good reason for including Galadriel as well. Two female characters with agency aren’t nearly enough, but they’re better than none.

Side note: Seeing Galadriel’s story brought to the big screen would be FABULOUS. BRING IT, JACKSON.

So, although I admit that Jackson’s movies do have their issues — both internally and from a Tolkien-canon standpoint — I still enjoy the heck out of them. Besides, Martin Freeman is the utterly perfect Bilbo, Richard Armitage is brilliant, and Benedict Cumberbatch is exactly the Smaug I’ve always pictured. It just doesn’t get any better.

Side Note II: Jackson’s trilogy is so superior to the 1977 Hobbit, it’s barely worth mentioning, but for one element. The 1977 version of Gollum terrified me at age 9 to the point that I refused to watch the movie again until I was 16. And since then, that 1977 Gollum has remained the creepiest version of the character that I’ve ever seen. I adore Andy Serkis’s performance, but that animated Gollum from 38 years ago will always be my monster in the closet.

Tolkien’s The Hobbit

I didn’t read the book — or any of Tolkien’s works, for that matter — until I was in my mid-teens. Likely, this “delay” came about partially because I was scared of Gollum and didn’t want him in my head any more than necessary. But part of the reason was that I picked the book up at age 12, found the style of writing dull, and put it down again after reading the first page. Looking back, I find this peculiar, as I maintained an advanced reading level throughout my childhood. Why I didn’t “get” Tolkien back then is a mystery to me. When I picked up LotR a couple of years later, I enjoyed it thoroughly. So I don’t know what my deal was with Hobbit.

In my mid-teens, I came across the book at a German bookstore. I wasn’t interested in reading it in German. I wasn’t interested in reading it at all. But I did wonder why the Germans shelved this book in the children’s section. I’d been a child and tried to read it without success. Silly Germans. Imagine my surprise when I followed where curiosity led and discovered that American and British publishers considered this a children’s book, as well! Stuff and nonsense!

So, at age 17? 18? I read The Hobbit, loved it, and admitted that maybe this did qualify as a children’s book. Maybe my 12-year-old self wasn’t as highbrow a reader as she’d considered herself to be.

Books vs. Movies

There is no “books vs. movies.”

It’s apples and oranges. No. Not even that, because film and print are more different from each other than that. If we’re gonna stick with food metaphors: Books are meat and potatoes, and movies are lasagna.

I heartily enjoy meat and potatoes.
I heartily enjoy lasagna.

I can’t like one more than the other. I enjoy each at different times and for different reasons.

Both are food, but their forms are different. They require vastly different ingredients. They require different seasonings and cooking times and cookware and serving dishes. They belong to different cultures. One person will always like lasagna best. Another person will always prefer meat & potatoes. (What’s taters, precious, eh? What’s taters? >>PO-TAY-TOES.) Comparing one dish favorably over the other means stating that one person’s tastebuds and brain are superior to another’s, and that just ain’t gonna fly.

I can’t sit down to a meal of lasagna and complain that there aren’t french fries in it. Well, I can complain — but everyone will peg me as a lunatic or a bumpkin. “Don’t take Courtney out to dinner — she’ll gripe that there isn’t any sushi in the center of her cordon bleu.” I can’t order meat & potatoes and then demand to know what happened to my sausage & ricotta. It doesn’t make any sense to expect the ingredients of one dish to be mixed into another dish.

In the same way, I’ve decided it doesn’t make any sense for me to compare books and movies. Characters that work great onscreen aren’t going to function the same way on paper. Pacing that is comfortable and familiar and readable in a book is going to be deadly dull in a film. Events a writer has time to portray in a 600-page novel just can’t take place in a 140-minute movie.

The recipe for a book won’t translate directly to film. Just as directly translating German to English can result in ridiculousness, so can directly translating a book to a movie. The 1977 Hobbit pretty much tried this, and the result was a cute but not fantastic movie. Watchmen suffered translation problems. (I will say it has more issues than that, though.) From what I’ve heard, The Great Gatsby did, too; I can’t judge because I hated the book and haven’t seen the movie. But I’m sure any one of you can think of great examples where a book-to-film movie flopped because it contained too many book ingredients and not enough movie ingredients.

So I don’t compare books and their movie versions anymore. If it’s a good book, great. If it’s a good movie, great. I take each for what it is and don’t expect the same from either. It makes my mental life easier and allows me to enjoy more of the entertainment available to me. I can’t complain about that.

The world I want to live in

I want to live in a world where I can be unrestrained, passionate, an artist, a writer, a poet, a sci-fi/fantasy/superheroes geek, a quantum physics dabbler, a Jesus-follower, a wife, mother, a daughter, a friend, a sister, a photographer, a foodie, a singer, a collector of ridiculous junk, a lover of everything about the cramazing human body, a tinkerer, a plotpantser, an advocate of even the most difficult truths, a ray of sunshine.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay that in addition to most of those roles, I’ve also been a mentor, a counselor, a mediator of conflicts, an innkeeper, an events organizer, a language instructor, a treasurer, a dollmaker, a carpenter, a construction worker, an archivist, an historian, an editor, a vice president, a genealogist, a hair stylist, a caterer.

I want to live in a world where functioning in all of these ways does *not* mean I’m “indecisive,” “rootless,” “aimless,” “absent-minded,” “careless.”

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be whomever the spirit leads me to be at any given time.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be me.

I want to live.

You can’t be bad at art.

When it comes to art, even personalities that aren’t perfectionist suddenly descend into weird, nit-picky hangups.

“It doesn’t look right.” “It doesn’t look real enough.” The one who never alphabetizes her books will develop a dire need for right angles and even planes. The one who can’t keep his pantry in any semblance of order will agonize over brushstrokes that refuse his attempts at realism. “I can’t make it look the way it does in my head.”

“I can’t.”

More demoralizing, discouraging, and disheartening words probably don’t exist in the art world, whether you’re talking visual arts, writing, music, or performance. Artists in every medium and of every range of experience maintain this mental image of what their art should be — usually in comparison to someone else’s. “I can’t” — because nothing they produce ever measures up to that ideal they’ve carried around probably since childhood.

“They.” What am I talking about? This is a case of “we,” for sure, because I’m one of those artists.

Talking to Yourself

There’s this thing called the Self-Talk Cycle. Maybe you’ve heard of it; I can’t remember who first coined the term. But the Self-Talk Cycle describes:

how you talk to yourself about yourself in your head;
what emotions this engenders in you;
what actions you take based on those emotions;
what you tell yourself about yourself as a result of those actions;
and so forth.

Here’s a visual of what I’m talking about (click to embiggen!):
 

selftalk

 

So, imagine that you consistently tell yourself, “I’m bad at art. I don’t have a creative bone in my body. If I try this, I’m just gonna mess up. Besides, doing art isn’t productive. I shouldn’t waste my time or other people’s time.”

What we say to ourselves about ourselves always leads to feelings. How will you feel as a result of talking to yourself like this about your artist self? Your musician self? Your writer self?
Frustrated.
Overwhelmed.
Guilty for even thinking you could take the time for this.
Disappointed.
Angry with yourself.

What actions will you take as a result of these emotions?
Avoid your art projects.
Ignore your urge to create.
Dam up and wall off the impulses that lead to art, music, writing.
Block relationships with other artists, musicians, writers. Keep them at arm’s length so they don’t remind you of what you’re not doing. Heaven forbid they tempt you to try creating again.

What do you tell yourself about yourself as you take these unpleasant actions?
I’m alone.
I’m not as good an artist as ________, so they wouldn’t want to hang around me anyway.
I’m no good at art, music, writing. There’s no point in trying.
If I try, I’ll just waste people’s time.
I’ll just screw it up again.
I can’t.
I’m bad at art.

This circle is particularly vicious. It has teeth, and if you let it go on long enough, it will tear your spirit to shreds. (I should know.)

Don’t let that happen.

Fight that vicious, spirit-shredding monster with the Truth.

Here’s the Truth

You can’t be bad at art.

You can’t be bad at art.

You can’t be bad at art.

Read this and let it sink in:

Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist
(@Jay_T1313)
(emphasis mine)

…and…

“When we say we are afraid to begin a project, we are actually saying something else: “I am afraid of how I will feel as I continue.” We do not want to start because we do not know that we can continue. It is not the start, it is the finish that troubles us.”

Julia Cameron

Part of the fear of beginning is the fear of being seen as a beginner…a novice or even an “inferior.” (I can’t remember where I originally came across this idea; possibly it’s more Julia Cameron.) Another part of the fear is fear of knowing ourselves. Fear is where the cycle of art-murdering Self-Talk begins. “It’ll never look right. I’ll screw up. I can’t…”

…because I’m afraid.

But you can.

Because you can’t be bad at art.

And you don’t have to let fear rule you.

Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

That little subtitle there is a quote from the Bible, specifically from the Old Testament book of Joshua, Chapter 24. Some might accuse me of taking it out of context (though I really don’t believe that I am), but here’s the crux of it for this post:

You have a choice.

You can choose to be subject to fear.

You can choose to immerse yourself in the negative things you tell yourself about your art.

You can choose to obey your fear of being a beginner again.

You can choose to obey your fear of failure.

You can choose to serve your fear.

Or…

You can choose to be subject to freedom. Because that’s what art is.

You can choose life. Because that’s what art is.

You can choose to immerse yourself in speaking kindness, joy, peace, love, and beauty to yourself about your art.

You can choose the courage it takes to get to know yourself.

You can choose the courage it takes to show the world who you are.

You can choose to serve your art,

following where it leads,

even if it leads you to truths about yourself you didn’t want to know.

You can choose to serve your art,

thereby serving Truth and Life and Joy,

thereby serving Good and Light and Freedom.

Sometimes, following your creativity, following Truth and Light and Freedom, means looking into dark places. This seems a paradox, but it’s one of those universal paradoxes that crop up in our existence every so often.

Look into yourself, delve into the dark places, and find in them the Light.

“I know myself, and I will know myself further. I am brave enough to learn who I am. I am good at art. I feel free and strong in my art. And I am brave enough to show it to the world.”

You are everything you need to be, but you’re not there yet.

Become what you already are.