Thursday, May 31, 2012

Witches' Brew Completed! Do I Smell a Contest?

Hello Beardies,

A few posts ago, I announced that I was cooking up something good for all of you.  After days of planning and getting all my ingredients together, the Witches' Brew is complete.

If you recall my post on May 20th, I announced the release of Michael Scott's The Enchantress, which hit store shelves on May 22nd.  Before closing the post, I--half-jokingly, might I add--announced the following to all of you:
"With any luck, perhaps The Bearded Scribe will someday feature an interview with Michael Scott. If you have specific questions you'd like to see asked, please leave them in the Comment section below."
I was happily surprised the next day when I received a Direct Message on Twitter from Michael saying that he would love to do an interview.  Of course, I slung my cauldron on the fire and begin brewing immediately.

After a few messages back and forth and an email to a publicist at Random House, I finalized the details of my brew...

As a preliminary post to Michael's featured "Author Spotlight" and Interview, I decided to launch a contest.  The prize:  An Autographed copy of The Enchantress.  The winner:  selected at random from the qualifying candidates.

How to Qualify

1. In order to be considered for the prize, the contestant MUST be a registered member of The Bearded Scribe blog.  You can sign-up easily by clicking the "Join this site" link on the left sidebar.  You are then qualified.  Doing the following steps will not be considered an entry until this first step is completed.

Additional Entries

2. Once you are a member of The Bearded Scribe on Blogger/Google Connect (or if you are already), please click the links to the left to Follow The Bearded Scribe on Facebook & Twitter (or simply click the embedded links).  By following you will receive another entry (each) in the contest, but you must show that you are following because of the contest.  Otherwise, I will not be able to track the traffic.

To verify that you are Following due to the contest (or if you already Follow on Twitter and wish to enter), please reply to The Bearded Scribe with the following: "@beardedscribe Please enter me in the #beardedscribecontest-enchantress."  No exceptions will be made to be considered for an entry.

To verify that you are Following due to the contest (or if you already Follow on Facebook), please leave the following comment under the "Witches' Brew Completed" post on the page: "Please enter me in The Bearded Scribe contest to win a copy of The Enchantress."  No exceptions will be made to be considered for an entry.

3. The third and final way to gain another entry into the contest is to leave a comment on this post (on the blog) with a question that you would like to see asked during my interview with Michael Scott

(Note: repeated questions will not be considered qualifications for an entry, so please read through the other questions before submitting your own.)

It does not matter if the usernames for each of the sites match, as each entry will be considered regardless of username, providing, of course, that you are a registered member of the blog.

The contest ends at midnight on June 5th (UPDATE!!! the contest ends at midnight on June 10th), at which point I will place all entries in a randomizer software which will choose the Winner.  Remember, the more entries you have, the greater your chances are of winning.

I am excited to see how many people begin following The Bearded Scribe, and I am very excited to read all of your questions.

Good Luck to All & Happy Scribing!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Year's Reflection

Hello Beardies.

A year ago today I celebrated my 30th birthday--YIKES!--and it was a year ago today that I also vowed to finish my first manuscript and have it published by the time I turned 31.  Well, I accomplished half of it--in a little over three months from that time, nonetheless--but I failed, and have yet, to fulfill the second part of that vow (though not for lack of trying).

Now, as my 31st birthday has arrived and nearly flew by in the blink of an eye, I sit reflecting on the past year, the steps I have taken in order to pursue my writing career, and the steps I still need to take in order to continue that pursuit.

This past February, after sending out a good number of query letters to perspective agents and receiving a slew of rejection letters, I decided that perhaps if I were more connected to those within the writing world, my decision to pursue a career as a writer might be taken more seriously.  And so arose the idea of The Bearded Scribe.

In launching The Bearded Scribe, I hoped to build a community to share not only my love of the Speculative Fiction genre, but also my love of writing it.  Within that community, I hoped to connect to with all types of people from all walks of life--fans and bibliophiles, fellow writers (beginners and published ones alike), even literary agents and publishers.

So, with that said, I open the floor to all of you.  Please leave a comment below to give your feedback on The Bearded Scribe... Please tell me more about yourself and include comments as to what you have enjoyed thus far, and any suggestions as to what you hope to see in the future.  Your feedback is important to me so that I can build the community I hoped for when I launched the blog in February.  I look forward to reading all your comments.

Happy Scribing!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Author Spotlight: Jeremy Laszlo (complete with interview)

Good Evening Beardies, 

A few weeks ago I posted on Twitter that I was looking for Speculative Fiction Authors to interview for the blog and received a reply from tonight's Author Spotlight: Jeremy Laszlo.  Of course, once the reply was received, I did a bit of research and discovered that Jeremy was a self-published fantasy author... not just once, but three times over!  Four, if you count his published book of poetry.

Jeremy Laszlo, At a Glance:

Jeremy grew up in Michigan, but now lives in Southern Louisiana with his wife and children.  Aside from being a husband, father, and writer, Jeremy spent eight years in the Marines, serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, the War on Terrorism, and the humanitarian effort in Liberia. He is also skilled as a welder, carpenter, roofer, electrician, painter, machinist, and--in his own words--"a romantic."

The Interview

The Bearded Scribe: According to your bio, you're a Marine, is that correct?

Jeremy Laszlo: Yes, as the saying goes: Once a Marine, Always a Marine, and I believe it to be true. I do think, and feel, that there is something in common among marines that will eternally bind them to one another. Something that sets them apart from other people, something that those outside the fraternity may not even notice. However, it is not uncommon for one marine to point out another marine in a crowd, having never met each other before, and just know that they are kin.

The Bearded Scribe: What influence, if any, would you say the military experience has had on your writing projects?

Jeremy Laszlo: Besides personal experiences that have found their way into my works, I would say that the determination created within me by the Marine Corps has had much to do with my work. I am a Marine, and will get the job done. That is basically it. I decided to write the story playing out in my head, and wrote it. I decided to self publish said story, and published it. Truth be told, anyone can accomplish anything they really put their mind to, it is just having the will and determination to do it.

The Bearded Scribe: Being located in Louisiana, would you say that the diverse spirituality and folklore of the region has had any influence on your writing?

Jeremy Laszlo: Honestly? No. Were I writing a straight up horror series, I might let local culture influence that. Perhaps even a paranormal romance, or urban fantasy. Though to be honest, entirely too many urban fantasies are written about New Orleans to count. So sadly, for those readers looking for a bit of good ole Louisiana in my books, I am afraid that, for now, I will leave those particular stories to other authors.

The Bearded Scribe: At what age did you begin writing?

Jeremy Laszlo: I learned to write the alphabet sometime around age four, so I suppose from there on it was just learning to develop my voice as a writer, and experience life in a way that would allow me to transcribe to my readers how something felt, tasted, smelled, or looked using only the words I had written.

The Bearded Scribe: What would you say are your strengths as a writer?

Jeremy Laszlo: My biggest strength as a writer is staying awake. I generally write late at night, though honestly my readers have said that I paint a scene very well, allowing them to experience the world I have created both thoroughly and vividly. That's a hell of a compliment, and I'll take it!

The Bearded Scribe: What about weaknesses?

Jeremy Laszlo: Editing is by far my own personal brand of kryptonite. Won't do it. Don't enjoy it. Fortunately for me, there are these people out there that enjoy this particular insanity, and they even go by the title of Editor. It all sounds very professional, and complicated, and as such I try and leave it all to them.

The Bearded Scribe: Which weakness would you say was the hardest to overcome?

Jeremy Laszlo: Editing! Sounds repetitive right? Well at least in my case it is. The first three books have went under the scrutiny of two editiors to date, though no editor can guarentee the complete absence of errors. That being said, even though they are already published, They are again undergoing editing for the third time as I am still unhappy with the current product, though most would not notice. What can I say, I am a bit of a perfectionist.

The Bearded Scribe: Any advice to other writers who are struggling to overcome their own weaknesses?

Jeremy Laszlo: Indeed, ask a professional. At the very least use google extensively. Try not to cut any corners as the final product will suffer. Oh yeah, and once you are done...turn back to page one and start again...double, and triple check everything. Then have a pro do the same.

The Bearded Scribe: What is your favorite book? What about your favorite fantasy/speculative fiction book?

Jeremy Laszlo: To be honest I cannot pick a favorite book that I have read. Though I have read Edgar Allen Poe's works time and time again. Honestly I love getting lost in a story, but find these days I get more immersed while writing than I do while reading. That being said, my favorite book, is whatever I am writing at the time.

The Bearded Scribe: For me, it was Bridge to Terabithia... was there a particular book that hooked you into the fantasy genre?

Jeremy Laszlo: There was, it was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, the first epic fantasy I had ever read. It was a great introduction to fantasy, and hooked me well enough to make reading a life long passion of mine.

The Bearded Scribe: You have three published novels and a book of poetry... could you tell the readers at The Bearded Scribe a little more about each of your works?

Jeremy Laszlo: Sure, though it is not an easy task. Be that as it may, I will start with Clad in Shadow, my collection of poetry. This particular work literally spans decades of my life. Many of the poems in this collection were written while I was a teen or even before that. Most would consider them a fairly dark collection, however I myself consider them a more realistic view of many topics to include alcoholism, society, and even myself. If you want a glimpse within my own mind, this is the window. Within Clad in Shadow you will feel many of my own personal struggles just as I felt them while writing the very poems you will be reading.

The Blood and Brotherhood Saga is the culmination of decades of reading, writing, and wondering what other authors were thinking. With this series I wanted to create a story unlike any other I had ever seen. I wanted everything to have reason and balance. I wanted every action to have consequence. I wanted everything to have a source, everything to have a meaning, and nothing to be left to interpretation. You will not find a single "there just was" theory within my work. Everything happens for a reason. If you want to discover the real reason, just keep reading. Beyond that, I wanted to incorporate all of the different genres I loved to read over the years. Hence you will find elements from many genres to include, but not limited to, fantasy, horror, and even a little romance between the covers of my books.

The Bearded Scribe: What made you decide to self-publish as opposed to traditional publishing?

Jeremy Laszlo: Mainly time. After a brief search for an agent I began leaning towards self publishing. Then, I received an email from a "respected" agency.  One intern had sent it to another intern (accidentally hitting reply all), in which the intern joked about the several hundred mass rejections just sent out without so much as reading a single one of them... Needless to say, I was one among those hundreds, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Traditional publishing is obviously broken, at least in my opinion, and Self publishing is better and easier than ever.

The Bearded Scribe: What would you say are the pros of self-publishing?

Jeremy Laszlo: No interns! Just kidding. Seriously, however, there are tons of great things about self publishing. First off, you don't need anyone's approval. No slush piles for you. Secondly, you get to really connect with your audience in a timely manner. You get out what you put in, as it is all in your hands. From start to finish, the person responsible for your success is you.

The Bearded Scribe: What would you say are the cons, if any?

Jeremy Laszlo: For me all the unknowns would have been considered the cons, at least in the beginning. I did not know how much time was required to promote and market a book. I did not know how much research I would need to do to learn the best methods of publishing and marketing my material. There was so much I did not know when I started, that for a while it was a little overwhelming.

The Bearded Scribe: Are you currently working on any new projects?

Jeremy Laszlo: Too many to count. Currently, I am writing the fourth book in my saga, as well as working on a project with a few other authors. I am hoping to get at least two more books out this year, perhaps more depending on time restraints.

The Bearded Scribe: Do you only write in the Fantasy genre?

Jeremy Laszlo: To be honest, I find it hard to pick a genre that my saga belongs to. As each new book progresses, the series strays further from what one would think is a traditional fantasy read. Personally I love fantasy, but have plans fro several books outside the genre in the future.

The Bearded Scribe: Is there anything that you would like to share with fellow writers and the readers at The Bearded Scribe that I did not ask you?

Jeremy Laszlo: Certainly. I would just like to thank you for the interview, for allowing me to reach your fans, and the opportunity to share a little about myself and my work with them.


If you would like to find out more about Jeremy, you can visit his website where you can find more information about each of his books.  He often has contests and gives away prizes such as amazon kindles or gift cards. Also, you can follow him on Twitter, or you can check out the Blood and Brotherhood Facebook Fan Page where you can follow news about his writing projects and enter to win even more prizes. Beyond that, visit Skulldust Circle, where you can keep up with not only Jeremy, but a group of very talented writers about whom you may be interested in reading.  To purchase any of Jeremy's books, which (for now) are only available in eBook format, simply click on the book covers pictured above.

If you do decide to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Facebook, or if you decide to purchase any of his books, please let him know The Bearded Scribe sent you!

Happy Scribing,

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Spotlight: The Monstrumologist Series by Rick Yancey

***I selected this post to be featured on Book Review Blogs.***
***Please visit the site and vote for my blog!***

Hail and well met, Beardies!

Welcome to the first edition of Book Spotlight, which I’m really excited to write as a regular feature for The Bearded Scribe! As a librarian, I feel that the best writers start as readers, and many times I have heard authors, asked for advice on writing, say something along the lines of “Read as much as you can.” With this in mind, Book Spotlight is a chance for me to tell you about the books that have influenced my writing the most—and sneak a plug in for my all-time favorite reads as well. So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

Today’s Book Spotlight is a three-for-one special: Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist Series. When I’m choosing books for the library, I usually have to go on others’ opinions—reviews, more often than not, or award lists. This series has gotten plenty of good buzz in both places. The first book, The Monstrumologist, bagged a Michael L. Printz Award Honor in 2009, while the second, The Curse of the Wendigo, was named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a Top Ten Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults. With all the starred reviews and hardware piling up around these books, I had to buy them for the library (and read them for myself)!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Witches Brew: Cookin' Up Something Good

"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and, cauldron, bubble."

Good Evening!

I've stepped away from the desk tonight and have retreated to the kitchen... er, cauldron.  I'm cooking up a delicious treat for all my Beardies, but the treat takes certain ingredients and diligent planning.

"Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches' mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg'd i'the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat; and slips of yew
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,--
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For th'ingredients of our cauldron."

Patience, my Beardies, in time.  The fire's a burnin' and the cauldron's a bubblin'!  Check back soon to see what I've brewed!
"Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
By the pricking of my thumbs, 
something wicked this way comes!"

Happily Brewing,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Enchantress: Coming May 22, 2012

Hello Beardies,

I am excited to announce the release of The Enchantress, Michael Scott's sixth and last book in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.  The book, whose cover is just as breathtaking as expected, is available in two days.

A summary of The Enchantress (taken from Wikipedia):
The Enchantress picks up where its predecessor, The Warlock left off. Two of its central characters, the fifteen year old twins, Sophie and Josh Newman, have been re-united after being briefly separated. They now have to choose to either stand by each other's side or to separate for good by allying themselves with either protagonist Nicholas Flamel or antagonist Dr.John Dee. If the twins choose to ally with Dee, the fate of humanity could be doomed as he seeks total world domination now that he has acquired all four swords of power. The choice to ally with Nicholas Flamel and his wife, Perenelle, is not a clear cut choice either, as the Flamel's motives appear to have grown ever more dubious to the twins. The only thing that is clear to the Newman twins, is that they need to choose well and that they need choose fast. Nicholas and Perenelle have only a day left to live, while Dee grows more dangerous by the hour. The welfare of humanity hangs in the balance as all the central characters converge for a show-down on the ancient island of Danu Talis.

Can't wait two days for the release?  Read the first chapter of The Enchantress by Michael Scott:

The Listening Library will also release the unabridged audiobook on May 22nd, whose narrator has not yet been confirmed.

With any luck, perhaps The Bearded Scribe will someday feature an interview with Michael Scott.  If you have specific questions you'd like to see asked, please leave them in the Comment section below.

Happy Scribing,

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Native Files | The Earth has a secret it needs to tell.

Hello Beardies!

Although it is Speculative Fact and not Speculative Fiction, tonight I am so proud to announce the launch of Jeremiah's new blog, The Native Files. It is a blog that has to do with everything Paranormal and Unexplained through the eyes and point of view of the Indigenous Peoples, focusing mainly on the Native Americans.

Jeremiah will be covering such topics as: Bigfoot, Mothman, the Jersey Devil, Ghosts and Spirits, UFOs, Aliens (the list goes on and on, so I will spare you), as well as other lesser known Native American Lore, Myth, and Prophecies.  If you are a fan of the Paranormal, please take the time to click the link above and check out the blog; if you're not a fan of the Paranormal, do it anyway.  (Just kidding! But seriously, check it out!)

You can also follow The Native Files on Facebook & Twitter!

And while you're there, tell him The Bearded Scribe sent you! :)

Happy Scribing,

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Importance of Plotting

"He who fails to plan is planning to fail."
~Winston Churchill

Good Ev'ning Beardies,

I apologize in advance for my lack of posts the last couple of days, but as Steinbeck once said, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Writing stories is much like following a recipe while baking.  There are specific ingredients that need to be acquired and certain steps that need to be followed in order to get the cake to rise properly.  Sometimes experienced chefs can stray from the outlined recipe and create a masterpiece, but they must practice first with following enough of them to the tee in order to warrant the dissension.

Plotting isn't rocket science, but the task is not an easy one either.  When you plot your story, you are in essence deciding on how you will showcase the events to the reader as they unfold.  Think of a play or a movie, and then think of the scenes within either.  What happens in each scene?  Who are the characters in the scene, how do they interact with one another (perhaps they don't), and how do they propel the scene to the next?

A successful plot-line includes specific ingredients that are carefully mixed together: clever and believable characters, masterfully woven dialogue, perfectly placed action, and--in my humble opinion-vivid and streamline description of the characters and their surroundings without overwhelming the character.  And amongst the other ingredients of plotting is one we've all heard about throughout our schooling--writer or not.

The infamous hook.

As much as I love description in fiction, too much of it without reason is a burden the reader will choose not to bear.  Too much description--especially the purely prosaic type--at the forefront of your story will bore your reader, and they will quickly lose interest.  As an author, it is your duty to lure your readers--to tempt them to turn yet another page, and another--into the depths of your book until it is too late for them to turn back ;)  Personally, I like to lead my stories off with a bang, which warrants the reader turning the page to find out what happens next.  Action, however, doesn't have to be a stereotypical high-speed chase or a hostage situation (I'm not saying it can't be, though); action simply means an impetus that alludes to an obstacle or conflict whose theme will perpetuate throughout the plot-line.  How did your character(s) arrive at said obstacle/conflict?  And what drives the reader to turn more pages: How will the character(s) overcome said obstacle/conflict?  Which brings me to the our next ingredient...

Conflict & Side plots.

Once you've hooked your reader--with a strong line and a barbed hook, hopefully--you must increase the tension in your plot by adding yet more conflict.  Additional conflict for your character(s) to overcome may simply be an inner struggle, it may be conflict between characters, or it may be another obstacle to overcome.

With each introduction of conflict, there must come at least a partial resolution; and inversely, with each partial resolution, there must come another, more challenging conflict, building the tension to a major climactic scene.

Of course, however, there should be other happenings in the plot-line aside from the minor and major obstacles.  The other happenings provide a good source of side plots within the plot--family occurrences and interactions, social happenings and responsibilities, romantic intrigues, et cetera--yet none of them should overpower the main conflict within the story.

{Side note: Even though it should still never overpower, introducing another major conflict into the plot-line, which will eventually become main conflicts for subsequent books within a series, allows for some lenience as to how close a sub-plot can come to outshining (or overshadowing) the main conflict of the current story.}


It is often a struggle with most beginner writers to develop an acceptable climax.  A writer may know from the point at which the idea for the story formulates in their head what the outcome of the story may be, but many forget to plot out the details of the actual outcome and the obstacles that lead up to that point.

The pay-off must not be contrived, and the build-up must be believable, set up by the many other events and choices that occurred in the prior pages.  But it's more than just a great showdown scene between the protagonist and antagonist, and it is necessary to take the proper steps so that your audience isn't blindsided by the climax, wondering where it came from or if it were even warranted.


As a writer you must also think of all possible outcomes for the resolution, and you must set up the obstacles ever so cleverly so that the resolution you choose is the only plausible one.  Otherwise, your readers will feel cheated and misled.

Simply throwing "The End" or "They lived happily ever after" just doesn't cut it.


While Superman may seem entirely invincible on the surface, he still has his weaknesses.  It is important to show the strengths and weaknesses of all your characters, creating a multifaceted, true-to-life representation of human in everyday life.

Introducing strong (as in well-written) leading characters during your 'hook' will draw your readers to your characters much more quickly (if not immediately), but in the end, it is the characters themselves and how they respond/solve/fail at overcoming their obstacle(s) that will captivate your audience long after that last page has been turned and read.

I hope this helps your writing process; I know it has helped mine.

Happy Scribing,

P.S.  I always plot on 4"x6" index cards that are ruled on only one side.  I use the ruled side for writing out the scenes, and the blank side for jotting notes, such as characters, POV, scene conflict, and scene resolution (if applicable).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In Loving Memory of Jean Craighead George

Good Evening Beardies,

It is with much sadness and a heavy heart that I bring you news of yet another literary loss.

{2 July 1919 - 15 May 2012}

Even though she is not an author of traditional fantasy, when I was growing up, the three novels mentioned above struck a certain magical spark within me... and for that reason, among several others, I thought it only appropriate for The Bearded Scribe to pay its respects to such a wonderful woman and talented writer.

Of course, I have to give credit to Elizabeth, who--when I told her I was struggling to decide on a topic for today's post--told me about Jean's passing and suggested a Memorial post.  I hadn't yet heard of Jean's death, but Elizabeth (being a librarian) was privy to the information via the listserv at work.

Jean Craighead was born on July 2, 1919 in Washington and raised in a family of naturalist.  Her family often camped in the woods near their home in Washington state, undoubtedly lighting the intellectual fires for the majority of Jean's nature-based novels.  Later on in her life and over the years at her home in Chappaqua, New York, Jean kept more than 170 animals (not including dogs and cats).  To quote her on this topic:
"Most of these wild animals depart in autumn when the sun changes their behaviour and they feel the urge to migrate or go off alone. While they are with us, however, they become characters in my books, articles, and stories."

Jean's stories evoke a sense of her own unity with nature... perhaps that is why I felt such a magical spark when I read them as a child.  I was then and am now a lover of animals and nature, perhaps a bit of a naturalist myself.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the writings of Jean C. George, please visit your local bookstore [or library] and pick up a copy of at least one (if not all) of the three books mentioned above.

May you Rest in Peace, Jean...

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Moms of Speculative Fiction: The Best & The Worst

Happy Mother's Day Beardies!

Belated, of course.

I had all intentions of writing of this post yesterday, in honor of Mother's Day, but I literally worked ALL day at my J.O.B.  Yup--open to close without a single break [no joke!].  If anyone has ever been to a restaurant on Mother's Day, you'll understand why I pretty much crashed in front of the boob-tube when I got home and fell asleep in the chair!

But enough of that.  Let's get to the real reason behind the post: MOM.

There have been some pretty great mums in the realm of Speculative Fiction... and in the realm of the Speculative Fiction sub-genre of Horror, there have been some rather crazy and altogether messed-up ones.  I compiled a list of some the best and some of the worst...


Perhaps my ultimate favorite mother character is that of Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series.  Molly is Martha Stewart on acid, yet a little handier with a broomstick!  Even though Molly is raising seven children on a shoestring budget—even taking Harry in as one of her own—she does it all without missing a beat and with her head held high.  Also, despite being one badass witch, Molly restrains her magical abilities unless circumstances call for it—like when she kills Bellatrix Lestrange in the last book to protect Ginny.

Even though the character of Lily Potter only graces a few pages within the seven Harry Potter books, the legacy of her unconditional love and sacrifice lives on through Harry.  That very motherly sacrifice is why she lands on this list, not to mention being one talented witch as well.

The mother of the Savior of humanity. Check.
A badass woman who will do anything to protect her son, John.  Check.
On a list of great mothers—fantasy or otherwise. Check.
Sarah Connor definitely makes the list.


Margaret White from Stephen King’s Carrie is perhaps one of the worst mothers I can think of to add to this part of the list.  She is a religious zealot with skewed views on sex and sin who resents the conception and birth of her daughter, often physically abusing Carrie and locking her in a “prayer closet” when her telekinetic powers surface.
And who can forget the final knife scene and Carrie’s haunting quote while she telekinetically slows her mother’s heart:
“You gave me darkness instead of love, Momma; now I'm going to give you darkness, so you can join whatever god lives there.”

Although Mommie Dearest isn’t exactly a horror film, the biopic tale of Joan Crawford paints a horrifying picture of a mother (especially Faye Dunaway’s eyebrows)!

And remember Beardies:

As far as stellar role models go, Pamela Vorhees from the original Friday the 13th movie is not one of them, but momma’s boy Jason surely thought she was—following closely in his mother’s footsteps as Camp Crystal Lake’s ruthless killer in subsequent films.

I hope all of you had a great Mother's Day, and until next time... Happy Scribing!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Native Americans: Mythical Creatures???

Good Evening Beardies!

A few days ago I posted that I was doing some research for an upcoming post.  Y'all must have thought I was lying when that post never came.

So, without further ado...

The title of this post may confuse some of you--perhaps all of you--but it has to do with portraying (or should I say wrongly portraying?) a real people within your writing.  Please don't do it.

Why Native Americans you may ask?  Well, for starters, Jeremiah (my partner... my soulmate... my best friend) just happens to be Native American.  Native Americans are also a real people that are often used in the Fantasy genre for mystical reasons and are often portrayed inaccurately or as a stereotype.

Recently, a few books and movies have come onto the market that use the Native American peoples as a basis of their story (I bet you can guess which ones without me even needing to mention them).  Of course, there is nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from the Native Americans.  In fact, this I encourage.  But to color them with vibrant stereotypes that make them seem like a costume or a mythical creature that is no longer in existence is pure ignorance and only perpetuates said stereotype.

The books (and subsequent movies) I speak of are, of course, the Twilight saga.  I am sure it was not Stephenie Meyer's intention to misrepresent the Quieluete Tribe--not only portraying all of them with the stereotypical dark olive skin and the long, dark (straight) hair that we have come to expect (SPOILER:  Native Americans vary in appearance as much as you and I, whatever race you may be), but also associating a completely false legend with their tribe--however, intention or not, the ignorance was ever abundant.  What most people don't realize is that the Quieluete Tribe of the La Push reservation in Washington really does exist.

As do all Native Americans.  There are over 4,000 Native American Tribes to this day!  One of the reasons this post is coming later than I had intended is because I was at the Spring Moon Pow-Wow in Pembroke, North Carolina (home of Jeremiah's tribe, the Lumbee)--and I can tell you firsthand that Native Americans are alive and well!

Not only did Stephenie Meyer misrepresent the actual Quieluete Tribe (instead of drawing on it for inspiration), she completely dehumanized the Tribe by casting it alongside another mythical race of beings: the Vampires.  I applaud her for drawing on the great Native Peoples of this nation for inspiration, but had she created her own race from that information instead of portraying them as a caricature of a [mistakingly] long-dead people that only survives through costumes at Halloween, she would have gained much more of my respect.  (Imagine going to Party City and buying an "African-American" or "Jew" costume!  The nerve and insensitivity one would need to possess in order to do so is beyond my grasp!)

Take the movie Avatar, for instance.  This is the flip-side of the coin.  James Cameron drew a respectful inspiration from Native Americans for the Na'vi (though no formal association has been made, many relate the Avatar story-line to that of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas).  The Na'vi live off and connect with the land--the Great Mother--just as Native Americans still do today.  When they take from the land, they thank--not only Great Mother, but the creature/plant as well.  They are a peaceful people, unless provoked, and help the "visitors," much like the Native Americans did upon the "discovery" of America.  Unfortunately, unlike the Na'vi, the greed of the "visitors" caused MASS annihilation for the Native American peoples--but what we must not forget is that it thankfully did not cause extinction.

My entire point of this blog post is to beg you not to use an actual people as the basis of a race of characters in your own writing.  If you can't resist, however, at least have the common courtesy and be creative enough to not use the actual name of the people you intend to represent.  (Sorry Stephenie!)

I would love any feedback from my readers on fresh and creative character ideas that may or may not be based upon an actual existing people/culture (or ones in other books/movies that you have either enjoyed or disliked for this very reason) as an example for others who may be struggling to develop characters from scratch.

Happy Scribing!

Friday, May 11, 2012

World-Building, Folk Lore, and History...or...Be Patient with the Drunk!

Greetings, Beardies!

I have to confess: I have a character I’d like to lock in an asylum. Maybe you’ve had one too—mine is an old man, often drunk, usually surly, sometimes sad, but generally almost impossible to work with. I sense that he’s important to my story, but he frustrates me beyond belief. This past weekend, in frustration, I walked away from my writing and turned on my favorite Michigan folk music to try to clear my head. As the music played, I heard two songs in a new ways. I started researching the songs, and researching gave me an insight that will affect my writing for a long time. It ties in nicely to last week’s post about Cinco de Mayo and world-building, and I’d like to share it with you. Let me start by telling you about the songs….

“Voices Across the Water,” by Lee Murdock, is a ballad that tells the story of one Mr. Dennis Hale. In 1966, Mr. Hale, age 26, was the sole survivor of the freighter Daniel J. Morrell, which broke up in a storm on Lake Huron. Clad only in a pair of boxers, a pea coat, and a life jacket, Mr. Hale endured twenty-nine hours in a lifeboat in gale-force winds with air and water temperatures hovering just above freezing. Once rescued, he told a priest of several mystical experiences he had while waiting to be rescued. The priest advised him never to speak of these things again. He suffered terrible survivors’ guilt--wondering why he alone of the entire crew survived--and was ridiculed for his mystical experiences in the lifeboat.

The second song, “Requiem for the Mesquite,” also by Lee Murdock, is told from the point of view of a young Coast Guardsman whose first command, the US Coast Guard Cutter Mesquite, ran aground in Lake Superior in December 1989. The Coast Guard meant to salvage the ship, but the Lake Superior winter was too harsh. The elements severely damaged the ship and eventually it was decided to deliberately sink the wreck.

When I read these things, I was dumbfounded. I’m a Michigan girl born and bred; I have a long-standing love affair with all things nautical. The Mesquite wreck even happened in my lifetime—how could I not know about this? Exactly how much MORE is there to learn about and who can teach me? History is too often muddled and too easily forgotten. Likewise, the survivors of tragedies become outcasts. People who remember so much valuable history are sometimes revered, and sometimes scorned, but either way, they’re an invaluable resource.

So what does this have to do with my surly drunk character? Learning about this history made me think about him in a whole new way. It is not my character’s present condition that is important to the story, but his past and his knowledge of history. Suddenly I have an excuse to write battle scenes, an explanation for a cultural norm, a window into an important piece of history, and a plethora of new avenues to explore in my story. The crazy guy is suddenly more exciting and intriguing than frustrating. I’ve decided to give him another chance before I lock him up for a few pages. Obviously, I’m going to need to have patience with him, but I realize now there’s a reason that he is this way, and I’m looking forward to coaxing him to tell me. I wonder what heroic deeds he did, who his friends were, and why he refuses to speak of his past. It’s possible that this character will lead me into a whole new story. I’m looking forward to that possibility!

A character with a tragic, heroic, or unorthodox past certainly has valuable knowledge about your “world,” and that knowledge will make your “world” come even more vividly to life. Tap into it and see where it takes you!

Fair Winds and Happy Scribing!

***Both songs cited in this post are recorded on the album Great Lakes Chronicle by Lee Murdock, copyright 1998 by Depot Recordings. This album is available for purchase on iTunes,, and Lee Murdock's website.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

World Building Series & Cinco de Mayo

Hello Beardies :)

Many people celebrate the Cinco de Mayo holiday (Mexican, Mexican-American, or not), but many do not know the true reason for its observance--nor do many Americans realize they actually have a reason to celebrate it.  It is because of this that I would like to post an educational post--which will also tie into my World Building Series.

Cinco de Mayo is less about margaritas and more about military conflict.

Battle of Puebla
Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico, which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the Mexican Civil War of 1858, and the 1860 Reform Wars. These wars left the Mexican Treasury in ruins and nearly bankrupt.

On July 17, 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years.  In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, at the time ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico that would favor French interests, the Second Mexican Empire.

In late 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving President Benito Juárez and his government into retreat. Moving from Veracruz towards Mexico City, the French army encountered heavy resistance from the Mexicans near Puebla, at the Mexican strongholds of Fort Loreto and Fort Guadalupe.  The French army, led by Napoleon III and 8,000 strong, attacked the much more poorly equipped Mexican army of 4,000. Yet, on May 5, 1862, the Mexicans managed to decisively crush the French army, one which, according to an article in Philadelphia's The Bulletin daily newspaper, was the best army of the time.

At the same time of the French occupation of Mexico, America was fighting its own Civil War, a war in which Napoleon III had a great deal of influence.  What most Americans do not know or realize is that they also owe a lot of gratitude to the Mexican defeat of the French.  It is because of this defeat that Napoleon (who was aiding the Confederacy in hopes the war would divide America, making it an easier target and less of a threat on the French Empire), was unable to deliver much-needed supplies to a struggling Confederacy, which only grew weaker.  The Union was able to defeat the Confederate Army and unite America on account of the Confederacy's weakened state.
{Source: Wikipedia}

Now you know--and knowing is half the battle--but you are probably scratching your head and wondering what any of this has to do with Fantasy, writing, or World Building... right?

Simply this:  Why not create a "holiday" for your "World", one which is celebrated blindly by the world's denizens, and then have one of your characters explain its true origins to another character (or group of characters) as an excuse/outlet to describe the details of an epic battle scene from the past that now has repercussions on current events within the book?

Perhaps it sounds like a stretch to you, but I have an instance in the third book of my Chronicles of Aesiranyn series where another character does exactly that!

Or how about this... what if you were to create a world--an alternate history--in which France won the Battle of Puebla and took control over Mexico?  What if the South won the Civil War because of it? What would the world be like?  What Mexico still be called Mexico, or perhaps some French variation of the word?  Would Napoleon have succeeded in dividing America?

So many other questions arise, each with an answer that provides yet another scenario/possible storyline, and this is just one of many plots along the history of the world!

I am hoping that this post created some inspiration for some notebook scribbles!

Happy Scribbling... er, Scribing,

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