My real name is…

I am home from the hospital in time for Christmas and will be back to normal  activities, including blogging, soon. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
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Regarding pen names

All y’all know me as Alma Alexander. Easy. Alliterative. But it was not always so. My maiden name and first author byline was Alma Hromic.

But back in the day when “The Secrets of Jin-shei” was first published, I got a call from my agent with a deal-breaker issue. The publishers didn’t want to put the book out under my maiden name, because “it was too difficult to spell, say, or remember”.

Granted, that’s been an issue ever since I waded into the English-speaking world. The English language mind cannot seem to get itself around the fact that two consonants such as H and R can follow one another. They keep on helpfully introducing a vowel between the two when they write it down, even if I am SPELLING IT FOR THEM AT THE TIME.  Spellcheck tosses its cookies and offers up “chronic” or “chromic” as alternatives. Other people equally helpfully assume that the H in front must be silent when pronounced. It isn’t.

I’m not the only who has ever faced this, of course. At LitHub, Emily Temple gives us

An Incomplete Guide to Proper Literary Name-Dropping

starting with Vladimir Nabokov, J.M. Coetzee, and Ayn Rand (It’s pronounced “ine,” like “eye” with an “n” at the end.)

Read the whole article at LitHub HERE

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How to choose a book

If you are still searching hard for gifts, I’d like to remind you there is only one indispensable present for any occasion.

While there are hundreds of wonderful reads out there waiting to be discovered, I have a few suggestions involving… surprise… my own books. If you don’t know them, let me help you decide which ones might be of interest to you and your gift recipients.

If you  loved Harry Potter… try my Worldweavers series (Gift of the Unmage, Spellspam, Cybermage, Dawn of Magic). It’s the story of a girl who couldn’t do magic, then grew up to be the greatest mage her world had ever known.

If you loved Jo Walton’s “My Other Children”, . try “Midnight at Spanish Gardens”

If you love Guy Gavriel Kay… try “The Secrets of Jin Shei”, “Embers of Heaven”, or my newest, “Empress”.

If you love Cassandra Clare or Suzanne Collins, try The Were Chronicles (Random, Wolf, Shifter)

if you Loved John Scalzi’s “Red Shirts”, try “AbductiCon” in which time-traveling androids kidnap a hotel full of Science fiction fans and take them for a loop around rge moon.

You can get further information and links to sales points on all of my books by going to “My Books” in the top menu under the header.

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Something is wrong

The uniqueness of story

You hear all kinds of numbers for the plot lines available to authors — 27, 10, 7, 3, 2, 1.

Those who favor two – “Someone leaves town/Someone comes to town” — have a point.

But personally I believe that there is really only one : “Something is wrong”.

If you take ANY book and distill it down into its smallest component parts you are going to get down to that last, eventually, because in their purest essence all stories have this in common – they revolve around a character with a problem (i.e. “something is wrong”) and the story then complicates and convolutes itself around that skeleton of a plot and fleshes it out… differently. Every time.

There have always been demands that every story be “unique”. Presumably that means that it’s  possible to foresee any single part of the development in advance of its actual occurrence or the authors of such works are “wasting their precious time”.

This circles back to the other discussion, the one about what readers and writers owe each other.

I realize, and appreciate, that I must tell a good story to keep a reader interested. I try to do this. If blogosphere commentary alone is anything to go by, I am not succeeding with everyone – in fact, if you haven’t got someone who absolutely hates and despises your book you probably haven’t been read by enough people to make a statistically significant readership quorum.

Take my own work. When it comes to “The Secrets of Jin-shei”, comments have ranged from:

“Go out there and get this book. And I mean NOW.”
“Graceful and lyrical”
“My favorite book, ever!”

…through

“Okay. (but) Not worth keeping.”

…all the way to

“Feminist claptrap”
“Anti-feminist diatribe”
“Falls into all the old traps, and I threw it against the wall”

You cannot please all of the people all of the time.

Those who see the story as “feminist” see only that there’s a book out there with not just one but a BUNCH of female protags (shock! horror!).

The ones who want to pick holes in the social fabric can only see that, for instance, one character was made Chancellor… and then nothing about her work as Chancellor was referred to in the book ever again; or that another character was the classic screaming-memie angsty psychotic fem-bitch who chooses to rule alone without a man and that I therefore made her OF COURSE go mad because I apparently wanted to make a point that women needed a man to make them whole, and and and and…

Man, I didn’t know I  packed so much subtext into that story.

But the point is, this subtest (counterplot if you like) is the thing that the reader brings to the story. This subtext may or may not have anything to do with the story being told. Of course it would have been fascinating to explore the character’s Chancellorship – but this book was plenty long enough as it was, and *it wasn’t just that character’s story*. Etcetera. I wrote the story that I was told, not, perhaps, the story that that particular reader wanted to read. I cannot be apologetic about that.

But coming back to the uniqueness of the tale – I actually stumbled onto the whole idea of nushu, the secret language of the Chinese women on the concept of which my story was based, and I wrote a historical fantasy or alternative history based on that idea. There didn’t seem to be many books with that as the plot bunny around – but less than two years after mine came out, hello, here they all  came – anyone heard of “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”?

I promise you this – pick up the two books and read them side by side and although they are based on the same idea – i.e. NOT UNIQUE – they could not be more different. Boil down their plots to the distillate, and nushu – or, as I renamed it, jin-ashu – and the bonds it forged between women of a certain geographical and temporal locale are there in both books, and if you rendered the plots of both books into a single sentence, you’d probably find it hard to differentiate between the two of them.

How much more prevalent this is when you look at genre?

Mills and Boons and Harlequin books made a business out of the non-uniqueness of their plots and stories – they had a fricking TEMPLATE which their authors got and were supposed to adhere rigidly to. But even leaving that aside completely, ALL romance shares a certain set of genre requirements.

In a romance, and this defines it, the two protagonists have to be together on practically every page – and if they are not in an actual physical clinch then they must be quarelling with each other, hating each other, thinking obsessively about each other. A happy ending was mandatory (perhaps certain more modern lines have a bit of wiggle room on this, but you could NOT have a self-respecting romance novel where He and She did not end up together happily ever after. Just how unique is ANYONE’s romance? Utterly, I’d say – no two relationships are the same – but when you reduce it to a plot of a novel, it remains Boy Meets Girl, whatever dressing up you apply to the basic mannequin.

In fantasy, my own beloved, things are even more dire, because you have a limited number of tropes which define fantasy – and by definition no fantasy book is truly unique. It is the details that the writer puts in that make it so, the world that is being built, the interaction of the characters. “Lord of the Rings” is emphatically not the same book as Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Tigana” or “A song for Arbonne”; neither of those books bear much resemblance to the work of Kate Eliot, Glenda Larke, or J K Rowling.

But scratch them all hard enough, and the same tropes will bleed out, silvery and scintillating fantasy blood, for it is of quests we speak (personal or chasing after magic rings), and of insurmountable troubles, and often of battles and deaths and mourning, and transcendent love, and betrayal, and pity, and of building up and tearing down, learning to fly and tumbling from the sky, finding one’s own gifts or a place in one’s world, sometimes over dead bodies of those one loved or through tragedy stark enough to drain a human being and leave him or her a creature of stone and poison and ice and fury.

But still, whatever drama we the writers throw at our hapless heroes to make our stories “unique”, it all boils down to that same simple sentence that encapsulates the Plot: SOMETHING IS WRONG.

I’ve seen genre books (SF and fantasy) juxtaposed with so-called literary or mainstream fiction by describing the former as stories where strong and normal and (relatively) well-adjusted people take on broken circumstances, and the latter where broken people deal with ordinary circumstances.

I suppose that, too, is one way of breaking down plot – but once again, even on that basis, there is no such thing as a unique story.  The last certified original idea was seen fleeing for the hills back when humans first started telling stories.

There is no such thing as an original story – for everything is a circle, things that HAVE happened will happen again; things that ARE happening have happened before; human life is human life, and THAT is what our fiction is based on. It has to be. We know no other yardstick.

What I, the writer, owe you, the reader, is a GOOD story, not one that has never been told before. I cannot promise that, or deliver it. And if you come into this relationship seeking that, then we will both wind up disappointed.

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Quote of the Day

Douglas Adams Ideas poster ~~~~~
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Your favorite quote?

At bookwitty.com, Véesah Afifi offers:

Alice in Wonderland cover photoChildren…in their innocence can’t fathom the weight of some of the most important quotes they hear in bedtime stories,” Afifi writes. “However, we’re adults now, and it’s time we appreciated some of the most profound quotations in the literature of our youth.”

e.g. “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
– Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

What’s your favorite quote from a beloved children’s book?

See the other quotes at Bookwitty HERE

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A 5-star review of ‘Wolf’, the second book in The Were Chronicles, by L. Bruce Diamond is the kind authors pick for their blurbs. He says, for example, that ‘Wolfis simultaneously frustrating, engrossing, infuriating, and satisfying.”  If a book can stir up that kind of reaction in a discerning reader, the author’s labors in producing it were well worth it.

He was a bit less pleased with ‘Shifter,’ the last book in my series. He gave it four stars,  noting that it was “A somewhat satisfying and slightly frustrating end-piece to an otherwise entertaining shape-changing triptych.”

You can read his and other reviews of ‘Wolf‘ at Amazon HERE

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At  My Modern Met, Sarah Ann Loreth interviews Seattle-based photographer Kindra Nikole about her:

Portraits of Medieval Knights Reimagined as Fearless Women

CursedWightKindraNikole photoPhoto by Kindra Nikole

For her latest series entitled Árísan, Kindra drew inspiration from a visit to Glastonbury, the legendary resting place of Arthur, King of the Britons (aka King Arthur)”, Loreth writes. “The photographer now captures the essence of the ancient castle ruins and imbues its historical setting with new meaning. Although women did not originally take part in battle, Kindra’s images recreate history, imagining round table knights as strong, fearless women adorned in period armor.”

See all her stunning photos at mymodernmet.com HERE

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Quote of the Day

All Men Dream - T.E Lawrence poster

Always dream with your eyes open.

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Girls can. Girls SHOULD

How Thea Winthrop became the world’s greatest wizard

Back in 2002, back when Harry Potter WAS the YA genre – (Number One, and then twenty empty spaces behind it before the next contender), I attended that year’s World Fantasy Convention.

At that time, I had no real interest in paddling in the YA pool. My writing was aimed at an adult readership, not least because of the way I have always used language, rich and lush and peppered with words that might send some readers to a dictionary.

But then I heard Jane Yolen say during a panel discussion that she had never particularly liked the way that the Potter books had treated girls. I missed the rest of the panel because I was sitting in the back with a story flowering in my head. A story as American as Harry Potter was British. A story not about a boy but a GIRL…a girl named Thea Winthrop.

The story became the Worldweavers trilogy, published by HarperCollins.

Spellspam HarperCollins coverThea was a rare thing, a Double Seventh, a seventh child of two seventh children. In her world, her potential was unlimited, and its manifestation eagerly awaited. Except that she…COULDN’T. It wasn’t even that she was BAD at magic, it was that she couldn’t do ANY.

As a final attempt at triggering something, her father sends her back in time to the tender mercies of a shaman from a long vanished tribe, the Anasazi. Cheveyo of the Anasazi awakens something long sleeping in Thea, and introduces her to the world of the Elder Days and ancient magic rooted in Native American lore.

It is this that becomes the first part of the solid bedrock on which Thea learns to take a stand. That took up most of the first book, “The Gift of the Unmage” – that, and this glorious concept of the Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent, a school where untalented children of magical families are warehoused, safely out of the way of their more endowed siblings.

The second part of Thea’s coming of age is her unexpected ability to channel something that looks very like magic through computers. In her world, computers are almost the only thing that is proof against magic – they are practical and rooted in the empirical world, and they have been used to store magic spells because it’s safer than storing them in the classic grimoire books. Magic locked up inside a computer was supposedly tamper proof and escape proof.

Until that stops being the case. In the second book, “Spellspam”, the spam familiar to all of us start bearing real live spells. In the opening scene of that book,  an email offering “The clearest skin you can ever imagine” delivers precisely that – skin that turns TRANSPARENT. (Oh, I had fun with these.) It seems that Thea is no longer the only one who can tamper with magic through computers. There Is Another. And she is roped in to help find that other, and stop them.

In the process of doing this, a white cube is found that is clearly full of magic but which nobody can figure out how to open. Until Thea does in the third Worldweavers book, Cybermage, and discovers Nikola Tesla, the only human Wizard who could command all four of the elements, Air, Water, Earth, and Fire.

Thea helps Nikola Tesla, who had been tricked into losing his Elemental magic to regain it in the face of attempts of the grasping greedy race called the Alphiri (think High Elves with the souls of Star Trek’s Ferengi) to steal it for themselves. The Alphiri are defeated, Nikola Tesla is redeemed, and Thea finds her place in the world.

That seemed to be the end of it, a nice tidy place to finish, except… that it wasn’t.

Some years later a fourth book would come knocking, demanding to be written, the rest of Thea’s story, taking the whole tale neatly back to its beginnings. “Dawn of Magic” concludes the Worldweavers saga in epic fashion, and is one of my favorites amongst my books, because of the way that the main triad of characters – Thea, Tesla, and Coyote the Trickster who goes by the name of Corey – carry the story.

This book is all about human magic, and what it is, and what it means, and where it hides. There is a luminousness to it, a quiet shine.

Going back to that panel in 2002… I wrote a book about American magic, about an American girl. I wrote that book that Jane Yolen whispered about between the lines in that panel. I wrote a book about the GIRL who had the adventures. And it was good. Girls can. Girls SHOULD.

Thea Winthrop was nobody’s sidekick – she went out and grasped things with her own two hands. She didn’t follow – she sometimes walked beside (one can’t do better than that, with Nikola Tesla), but more often than that, she was in the lead. She did the difficult things that others shied from doing, and lived with the consequences. She could be hurt. She could falter. She could fall. But she had known the bitter taste of defeat once, and she would never go back there again.

The books, when they came out, garnered two very different sets of reviews. On the heels of the fade of the HP phenomenon, some reviewers came up with various iterations of “For those suffering from Harry Potter withdrawal, this is just the ticket”, implying that the books were more of the same HP juggernaut stuff.

Others begged to differ and specifically described the books as wholly original, owing nothing to Harry Potter. Either way, they were hitting SOME sort of target.

Because Thea isn’t (yet?) a household name, you will gather that they didn’t hit the HP bullseye. But for those who found and treasured them, the books seemed to find a very special niche.

Thea Winthrop was the girl who held her own against anybody.

There would be absolutely no problem in the way the Worldweavers books treated girls. They treated them as equals, as worthy, as real. These books treat girls as people. And I’m proud of that.

The essay in full can be read at the Book View Cafe HERE

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At BuzzFeed, Chelsey Pippin offers us

27 Literary Prints To Hang In Your Home Library

“For all the wallspace that isn’t already taken up by bookshelves.”
Books Are Dreams Neil Gaiman wall hangingSee them all at Buzzfeed HERE

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Quote of the Day
Who Won the West? posterIt all depends…

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Do men talk too much?

Jo Eberhardt took a look at her bookshelves and realized to her surprise that only 24% had a female protagonist. At Writer Unboxed, she wrote a thoughtful essay about it entitled

The Problem with Female Protagonists

I’d need to sit down and go through the books in my own library, but I am sure that I’d find similar percentages.

Rather depressing, that.

On the other hand, I’ve done my share of supplying female protagonists to the literary world.

The Secrets Of Jin Shei By Hoshiaka illustrationArtist Hoshiaka at Deviant Art

In my Jin-shei alternative world stories (The Secrets of Jin-shei, Embers of Heaven) there are at least ten strong female characters. (Illustration)

My newest historical fantasy, Empress, has a strong female protagonist (and at least two strong supporting characters of that gender). And my Changer of Days books feature a strong female lead.

My YA Worldweavers series centers on a young girl who grows up to become the greatest mage in the world. And in The Were Chronicles, one of the three books has a front-and-center female protagonist. The others have male protagonists but plenty of strong female support characters. I’m doing my best to balance the books.

In discussing the role of female protagonists, Eberhardt notes that it’s safe to say that the truism about women talking three times as much as men is exactly the opposite of truth. And men dominate the protagonists world.

Read her complete essay at Writer Unboxed HERE

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Of late – or maybe I have just become sensitized to it – you just have to look at any article about the accomplishment of ANY woman and the headline or the photo associated with it is all about the man whose “other half” she is.

Apparently single women don’t achieve anything worth noting, and even married or partnered women don’t do it without their menfolk standing right there taking the credit. One wonders if the achiever would be mentioned, and in which terms, if she happens to be gay and her partner is another woman. This is where things get rather meta.

Either way. Women have been erased from science and history for a very long time. My personal bugbear is always the DNA story and Rosalind Franklin. But there are many.

In an article at Hazlit entitled

The Disappearing Act

Lauren McKeon writes that since she herself has been continually erased by men, she has grown obsessed with remembering the women history forgot.

Lise Meitner, The Mother Of Nuclear Power photoLise Meitner, the mother of nuclear power

McKeon cites, for example, the “most notorious theft of Nobel credit,” by Otto Hahn in 1944. He worked for decades with Lise Meitner studying nuclear fission, but he alone received credit. He didn’t see it as a big deal.

You can read her whole essay at Hazlit HERE

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I received an unexpected honor when I was named to the fourth annual “40 Women To Watch Over 40” list.
Over 40 award winners, 4 head shotsThe award was founded to challenge age stereotypes and raise awareness that “over 40” is in fact when many women come into their most productive era.

Among other things, the award said that I was a “luminous writer who has been flying under the radar for far too long.” Kind words indeed.

You can see my listing HERE (and check out my fellow honorees)

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At The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance offers us

The 200 Happiest Words in Literature

Using the website Mechanical Turk, where anyone can sign up for odd jobs, researchers asked people to rate the happiness quotient of the words they encountered. In the end, they had a huge list of words as ranked by happiness.

The happiest word: Laughter.
Happy Words list illustratiomRead more at The Atlantic HERE

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Quote of the Day

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.” ~ George R.R. Martin

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Author vs Character

Or, this soapbox is not big enough for the both of us

There are three different people involved in any given story at any given time.

There is the writer, who brings to it all of their own preconceived notions, ideological dogmas, cultural prejudices, and all that goes into the baggage that any average living human being carts around with them all their lives.

There is the character through whose agency the story is being told.

And there is the reader.

Let’s leave the reader out of it for a moment, because the things that the readers bring to the story are not remotely in the writer’s bailiwick.

But the character and his or her creator can sometimes square off in epic battles which the reader will never know anything about at all.

An interviewer once asked Patrick Stewart how he could play a gay man in a movie. The heterosexual actor said, somewhat testily, that he had also played a starship captain but nobody had ever asked him how he had approached THAT role.

Starship illustrationBut you could see what the somewhat awkward questioner was getting at. In one sense, anyone can know what it takes to play a starship captain since every beloved starship that ever existed only lives in our minds, our hearts, our imaginations. Starships are non-threatening because they are, currently anyhow, impossible.

 

But playing a gay character on screen could be seen as challenging to a non-gay actor’s image or threatening his personal world view just because it IS possible.

As a real-life issue, as perceived by that interviewer and many like him, an artist – like actor or writer — must approach the possible somehow differently from the things rooted purely in the imaginary realm. The actor or writer is supposed, even expected, to have a personal opinion about about being gay in a manner that would never have been expected when it came to playing imaginary captains of non-existent starships.

Real-life issues have real-life agendas, and are thus subject to heated polemics.

And as every writer knows, it is entirely possible that a character will have strong opinions about such matters.

A character who may (unlike the writer who created him or her) actually BE gay. Or fat. Or black. Or Muslim. Or a Communist. Or simply a foreigner who comes from a place that someone else, reacting to him, may not understand or fears because it is seen as unfamiliar, odd, or strange. Worship a different god, and you’re suspect. Have a relationship with your body and your sexuality which is at odds with what is considered by society to be “the norm”, and you are suspect. Follow a different ideology than your neighbor, and you are suspect. Is it surprising that characters laboring under these burdens would have strong opinions about them, and about the society that created them?

The strongest, the best, characters will not be mealy-mouthed about these things.
They will, or should, be outspoken.

Someone fighting in the Russian Red Army may believe heart and soul in the Soviet, and is willing to die for those beliefs in a place like Stalingrad of apocalyptic reputation. A Muslim girl from an immigrant family may be reviled for wearing the hijab to a secular school. The Big Girl in the corner, who gets catcalls along the lines of “hey, Thunder Thighs!” every time she walks into her college cafeteria, might have extremely strong opinions about the people who are doing this, and about the body that she is wearing. That attitude towards her body can be an abysmally low self-esteem, a defiant acceptance of her shape, or a complex psychological elixir which contains both of these things mixed together in explosive proportions.

The point is, these characters will have thoughts and feelings about the circumstances in which they find themselves and the way they present themselves to and interact with their worlds.

They will have opinions. These opinions – and pay attention now, this is important – MAY BE COMPLETELY AND DIAMETRICALLY AT ODDS WITH THOSE OF THEIR CREATOR AUTHOR.

Some authors find it impossible to keep their own ideological opinions in check, and will use stories – and characters – as mouthpieces for their own beliefs, be they faith or ideology. The temptation is there to simply assign villain roles to those characters who happen to disagree with the author.

The trouble with this scenario is that it is painfully obvious that the author is the one on the soapbox, NOT the character, and that the character is either a limp ventriloquist’s dummy or is fighting valiantly against the muzzle bound on him by the author.

The soapbox is not big enough for both of them.

And in the best stories, told in the best manner, it is the AUTHOR who steps back, and leaves the characters to live their lives according to what the characters themselves believe.

This is a hard thing to do, because it requires, literally, carrying somebody else inside your head while you are writing the character who is not-you. The onus is on you to make that character live and breathe and not merely serve as a convenient place to hang the blackest villainy of your world. The best villains are not those who are mindlessly evil, but rather those whose thoughts and feelings you, the reader, can see and feel and understand and even empathize with – without EVER being asked or required to sympathize with them.

In my books, “The Hidden Queen” and “Changer of Days”, I had to portray a bastard prince who who nearly destroys his kingdom because of what he perceives to be the slight given to his mother, whom the King had bedded but not married, because she didn’t have certain powers which the legitimately wedded Queen had. And that, in his mind, would have been the only reason, COULD have been the only reason, that the King had spurned the prince’s mother. The son grew up with a chip on his shoulder, and turned on the bearers of the gift possessed by the Queen but not by his own mother. He swore to destroy them all before they blighted any more lives in the manner in which his own had been blighted.

He was a black villain indeed, and did some deeply, desperately, terrible things. And yet, in the end, I aimed not for implacable hatred in the reader… but for pity. Because they would have understood, in the end, what had driven him. And it would have been very much a reaction along the lines, of, “Well, but what would I have done different if I had been in his shoes…? There but for the Grace of God…”

In a different book, “Embers of Heaven”, I portrayed a pair of star-crossed lovers who had violently opposed ideological and moral values. I gave them both EQUAL STAGE TIME. I took no sides. It was up to the reader, eventually, to figure it out. That’s because neither of those characters was purely right or purely wrong – but acted according to their own lights and their own faith, in the best way they knew how. Again, no black villains. Only real people with real pain.

And I let them ALL speak for themselves. Not an opinion amongst them was something that I had climbed up on the soapbox to expound.

The soapbox was not big enough for the both of us, my character and myself, and I was just the amanuensis, the hand that wrote down the words of the story – but the story did not belong to me. It belonged to its protagonist. The opinions therein are the protagonist’s, not the author’s. It is not the author’s place to reveal their own within the auspices of that story.

I, as the author, have had to learn to listen, have had to learn the art of silence. I have had to learn how to raise a character well, like a mother would raise a well-behaved child, and teach that character all that needs to be known in order for the story to happen. But after that… I step back, and get off the soapbox. If I have opinions on something, you will find them elsewhere. The story I am telling does not belong to me; it is the starship captain (whether or not he is in fact gay) who decides in which direction to take the ship, and which stars to aim for.

All I do is provide the ship. As for the rest… it’s over to you, captain. If the story, if the faith, if the beliefs, if the ideas are strong enough to shine through… they will. I have never in my life written a tale which was meant to “educate” the reader in any kind of overt way, or to be obvious propaganda aimed at changing that reader’s own set of ideas and beliefs.

The basic concept is this: what I do when I write a story is that I create a character to carry it, and then allow that character to develop a personality (which consists of ideas, and thoughts, and feelings, and faith) which is the best possible fit to the story in question. What that character then tells the reader who reads that story… is between the character and the reader.

By the time it gets to this point the writer is – or should be – back in the crowd of listeners, listening to the character speak his mind, and if that writer has done the job properly the writer’s voice and opinions and ideas (whether or not they match that character’s) will never intrude on what the character has to say.

This soapbox is not big enough for the both of us.

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Quote of the Day

Quote FERBER poster

And she wasn’t kidding!

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Day of the Writer

I have coffee, then get up. (Coffee in bed was part of the marriage proposal.) Nothing is done without coffee. Concentrate. it’s the COFFEE.

Hubby always gets breakfast. (yes. I know. I am beyond lucky). So I play on the computer for a half hour while he cooks. First round of email checking, deleting things I know I won’t read or get to, or consider unimportant, leaving things I need to consider.

Leave the computer, have breakfast. Pour another cup of coffee.

Alma Coffee photoGo to my computer. Load Facebook. I need to know what is going on, especially on morning-after-the-night-befores like a Brexit vote, for instance. As it always happens with social media, one thing leads to another. I respond to stuff that interests me. Then people respond to me, needing a response in turn. I glance at the clock on the wall. The minutes are ticking by.

Deal with the rest of the email from yesterday/last night. Check mail. Get a fresh batch in. Deal with those.

I need another cup of coffee.

Look over research notes. there is something I need to know. Google that. Get distracted by side-research. Finally get it under control. Go back to notes.

Then I write a few words, or a few hundred words.

Need another cup of coffee. Glance into FB. Some things need replying to.

At some point, my husband fixes our second daily meal, usually at 6 p.m.

Watch a bit of TV.

Following that, depending on how much TV and what it was we watched, it’s back to the computer and catch up on the news of the day, perhaps write some more but perhaps run out of time.

Around midnight most days, bed.

There’s a fresh batch of emails brewing for me for next morning. And so it goes.

My routine sounds like a classic case of endless procrastination, doesn’t it.

But then one day…

A story grabs me by the throat and wants told nownownow.

Suddenly everything else disappears and I tunnel-vision into writenowwritenowwritenow. I HAVE to write!

Those are the days when THOUSANDS of words happen. I once wrote a 100,000 novel, my most successful, in a little over two months.

But you know what? Those days are only possible because *I already know what to write*. And THAT happened on all those days I was not furiously putting words on screen, but rather thinking about them while I Facebooked and browsed and skimmed email – and drank coffee.

There IS no procrastination. It’s simply the way I write.

~~~~~
I just wrote an essay about loss for Book View Cafe. As is almost always the case, the essay was related to one of my novels, ‘Letters from the Fire’, that was also written during one of my writenowwritenowwritenow moments.

Letters was a much smaller book and was written with a co-author. But from conception to bookstore took less than six months, practically an instant book which was based on current events.

Loss and longing

I tell people that I was born in a country that no longer exists – and it doesn’t, not on the maps, not in atlases, not on globes. It has vanished into history, now.

Novi Sad Bridges photoBut the land that the “country” maps onto, that exists, will always exist. That little piece of earth is where I first opened my eyes to the world, first knew the love of family, first saw the sky and the stars, first told stories, first watched the grand old river flow past ancient shores and underneath iconic bridges… ah, but remember those bridges. They will become important in a moment.

This was the piece of land which held my ancestral spirit and it is the piece of land where my ancestors’ bones are buried.

I did not even know how much that mattered until that piece of land became the target for an unprovoked, undeserved attack, a war waged on the strength of spin and propaganda, something ginned up to achieve a political goal by the greater powers no matter how much was lost by somebody else whose welfare they didn’t care all that much about.

I had left the country once known as Yugoslavia when I was ten years old – and it was still that, then. It was later, during a bloody series of wars of secession, that it disintegrated, and what was left of that country-of-origin was a place called Serbia. And a town called Novi Sad.

Read more at The Book View Cafe HERE

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