Books Anne has written or has a chapter in.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Year of the Black Water Dragon

It's a dragon year - such vigorous, exhilarating, unpredictable energy! Do with it what you will...

On one of my favorite author's blogs this question was recently posed: "How do you define success?" The author was feeling adrift in the wake of negative reviews, or no reviews, uncertain sales, and all the typical malais that goes with being  a writer. My response to the post was this:

"If you are surviving on your writing alone, you are successful. If you have readers who've been moved by your work and crave more, you're successful. If you've created stories and characters you're particularly fond of yourself and look forward to engaging them further, you're successful. If you have a fan base that would be lost without you, you are definitely successful! Enjoy your success, and here's to 2012!"
Come to think of it, that's not bad advice for all of us. May your dragons of 2012 always be supplied with a good stack of quills and scrolls!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Are you that woman...?

So, in my small town last week our local newspaper ran a really wonderful feature with color pictures about my publishing company, Kitsune Books, which has meant that suddenly my invisibility cloak has been yanked off. A cashier in the Winn-Dixie says, "hey, you're that woman in the paper" or our waiter at a local seafood restaurant hands my husband the check and says, "Aren't you...we were just reading about you in the paper up at the front desk." The hubs has had quite a few people accost him and say, "Was that your wife we read about?" All well and good. The publicity from the article is great - couldn't buy that kind of coverage - but it has lead to some odd moments as well.

I've gotten a number of calls from people looking for the Kitsune bookstore so they could get the latest Pat Conroy thriller. Sorry, we're not a bookstore and we don't publish him. For those who figure out that I also write books as well as publish them, the question then comes, "Wow, what do you write?" and I say, "Horror." Then comes the awkward moment where they look at me like I might have said I strangle puppies for a living. It doesn't compute.

So then I'm required to explain myself. Really, I'm not a deranged person, I just have a taste for the literary darkside. The real test then comes in trying to differentiate between the kind of horror I like to write and something like Saw IV which is what leaps to the minds of many people when you say the word "horror." I write literary horror (yeah, there's even a Goodreads group for that). I particularly love the kind of terror that's psychological, where frights are implied but not always graphically described, where the reader's mind is forced to conjure up what frightens him or her most rather than making them wade through literal buckets of blood to get to the inevitable conclusion of the book or story.

Case in point. Recently a flash fiction story of mine called "The Real Deal" was accepted for publication in a new horror anthology. Although it's about a serial killer whose karma catches up with him, not a drop of blood was spilled onstage, so to speak. Yet it was deemed spooky enough (and well written, according to the anthology editor) to be chosen for a collection of horrific tales.

So anyway, yeah, I am that woman. Happy to meet you!  ;D

P.S.  Here's a link to the feature that sparked this blog entry:


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Basking in the glow

Christmas came a little early this December, with two glowing reviews for Shaman's Blood. It's always gratifying when a reader totally gets what you were trying to do.  Give these great reviews a read if you're so inclined:

Goodreads review from Julie Witt: REVIEW

The Big Thrill, December issue from ITW:  REVIEW

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day 2011

So here I sit on Thanksgiving Day, not at a table laden with more food than could feed an army of starving velociraptors, but at my computer.

I have a lot to be thankful for, more than I can enumerate. I'm especially thankful for my lifetime companion of 40+ years, safe and comfortable surroundings with an adorable office cat, my daughter safely launched in the career she was meant to be in, more intellectual pursuits than I can handle (and the health and wits to pursue them), a house with no mortgage amid beautiful woodlands in a time/space location relatively safe from fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and so far, even hurricanes. 

Even with its occasional setbacks, life really is good. Now if I could just find a hubcap for my bitchin' red Camaro that would stay on...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The power of publicity

Check out this very cool banner ad my publisher has posted on the Hellnotes review site!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FPA Book Awards

Hearty congratulations to all the Kitsune Books winners from this week's Florida Publishers Association Book Awards!
  • Mary Jane Ryals (Gold, Cookie & Me)
  • Christopher McIlroy (Silver, Here I Am a Writer)
  • K.E.M. Johnston (Silver, Big Boys Don't Spy)
  • Jeannine Hall Gailey (Silver, She Returns to the Floating World)
  • Gianna Russo (Silver, Moonflower)

Friday, November 4, 2011

A small demise

I was reading recently about the demise of punctuation, and in particular, the apostrophe. Who needs 'em anyway, when the written context lets (let's?) you know what is meant, and verbally, of course, it doesn't exist. I mean, you can't hear its use or can only see it.

I concede that in these days of careless texting and Internet posting, a phrase like "the bicyclists fault" is clearly understood, no matter its lack of correctness...or even cases where the apostrophe is used but not needed, as in "how many turkey's do we need" and so on. It's in signage, marketing materials, newspapers and magazines, and ubiquitous across the Internet: the death of the apostrophe.

For a prescriptive grammarian (and aren't we all), this is a migraine of Olympian proportions. I would hope professional writers and editors will at least hold this creeping death at bay in our published books. I, for one,  intend to go to my grave clutching all the little apostrophes (apostrophe's?) I can carry!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hell and High Water launches!

It's here! Book 1 of the North Florida Trilogy:

This is the first volume of a threesome of novels I and my writing partner P. V. LeForge have been working on (and off) for too many years to mention, but now it's done!

Don't have a Kindle? No problem - download Amazon's free app Kindle for PC and read it right on your computer!

The book is located on as well as on Amazon. Download the Kindle, Nook, Sony, iPad, Kobo, and whatever format you want from Smashwords. And yes, you can read it on your PC in several different formats: Kindle, ePub, PDF, HTML and more.

By mid-November 2011, it will be available in trade paperback on Amazon (Black Bay Books, ISBN: 978-0-9624878-6-6).  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What's in the works?

As much as my company, Kitsune Books, would like to take over my life completely and suck up every available moment for its own dark purposes, I have recently been diligent about setting time aside for my own writing. That means I have some projects underway and a few completed.

I've just completed a short story titled "The Real Deal," for a horror fiction anthology I was invited to submit to. Hope they'll like it. Involves a visit to an S&M parlour with unexpected consequences.

A bigger project is a new novel, The Cornerstone, which has been simmering for several years and is now at the bubbling-over stage, where it's writing itself in my head no matter what else I'm doing. Time to get serious about it and bring it to life.  Basic premise: what happens when you try to catch a banshee? The results aren't pretty... maybe even a little messy, and highly unpredictable!

 I've also been hatching another long-term project with my writing partner of many years, P. V. LeForge. Watch for the emergence of Hell and High Water, Book 1 of our North Florida Trilogy series. What genre is it? Who the hell knows...we'll let readers decide, if it matters at all. More on this soon! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Kat Whittaker, winner of the Earth's Book Nook giveaway contest!

Kat wins Books 1 and 2 of my dark urban fantasy novel series (Thin Line Between and Shaman's Blood).

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Preparing a ms. for submission

Excellent advice from JournalStone Acquisitions Editor Joel Kirkpatrick on preparing your ms. for submission. This particular essay focuses on the value of careful in-depth editing (not the same as proofing or copyediting): Read more...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Interview with Heather Powers

Be sure to check out my interview with Heather Powers at Earth's Book Nook:

Comment on the interview and you'll be placed in a drawing to win the set of novels Thin Line Between and Shaman's Blood!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rosemary Beach Writers Conference 2011

Spent most of this past week in beautiful Rosemary Beach, Florida, attending a stellar writers' conference masterminded by prolific south Florida novelist John Dufresne. Teaching master classes along with John were poet Michael Hettich, author/editor Lynne Barrett, and novelist Laura Lee Smith, plus a number of other writers (including myself) rounding out the faculty.

Although a small conference, I must say it was one of the best-run, most precisely organized conferences of this type I've taken part in. Excellent camaraderie, well-paced daily events, and inspirational surroundings: a combo hard to beat. Rosemary Beach is like a postcard from some vaguely European village. Sure, it's all faux Paris or Austria or Milan or Barcelona...or maybe all of those tossed into a blender, but somehow it works. And with the weather cooperating, it was a great place to spend 4 days. I managed to read through several manuscripts while sitting in a shady park serenaded by a troupe of little birds warbling their hearts out.

I think the high points of the conference for me were the late afternoon/evening readings that took place each day after all the classes and discussion panels were done. I heard some amazing literary voices in a wide range of styles, and came away energized and eager to get my own writing back in gear. Completed a flash fiction story and got a good start on my next novel. Also really enjoyed the one-on-one discussions with conference attendees, some published and some not. So many fun moments... not to mention the death-by-chocolate creme brulee that nearly did me in at the tapas bar on the block where my little pensione hotel was located.

So thanks, John and everybody who took part in the conference - it was just what I needed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Musings on Reviews

Book reviews... if you're a writer you have to live with them, like it or not.  My second dark-fantasy novel, Shaman's Blood, is shaping up to be one of those books readers either love or hate. 5 and 4 star reviewers "got" what I tried to do and loved it, while the 1 and 2 star reviewers didn't get it and didn't want to, not one bit.

So it goes. As a writer, while I don't enjoy the bad reviews, on some level I'm still pleased that a lot of people seem to be reading the book. And in this digital age where anyone with access to a computer can create a blog or join a site like Goodreads and call themselves a book reviewer, reviews carry less critical weight than they used to. If you've spent time learning the craft of writing knowledgeable, literate book reviews, you'll be slightly appalled to see that much of what passes for book reviews these days is pretty pitiful. Misunderstanding the plot and rehashing it badly is not a book review.

There are still competent reviewers out there, of course, and when you get one of those, it's like a gift from a dragon's hoard. A skillfully written book review, even an unfavorable one, can reveal things about your writing that are useful in honing your skill. It can help you spot aspects of plotting, character development, tone, diction, and so forth that you may need to work on. And praise for doing something well is golden.

How writers deal with reviews--whether positive or negative, competent or amateurish--is as personal as the books they write. I have a fantasy writer friend who becomes paralyzed when bad reviews surface. She says her muse goes into hibernation and refuses to come out, threatening to never let the author pen another word. Eventually she gets over it, but on some level, her joy of writing her books is lessened.  Another friend of mine who writes M/M mysteries & romances says he never reads his reviews. He doesn't write for reviewers and really doesn't care what they write about him, one way or the other. He writes for himself and his many fans. He's been criticized for having this attitude, but that's how he deals. And it seems to work because he sells a lot of books.

I guess my own attitude toward book reviews falls somewhere in between these two. A really poor review might leave me stunned for the time it took to read it, but unless I feel there's something useful for me to glean from the review, I let go of it and move on. This is especially true if the reviewer is not literate - I allow myself a moment to despise those types of reviews, acknowledging all the while that the so-called reviewer has just as much right to post what they think as anyone else. 

I tend not to read every review I find, but instead just look for trends. If there's something everyone mentions that was a problem for them, I take note. Or if some aspect of the book continually gets high marks, I remember to keep that going. The important thing is not to let reviews sap your writer's creative energy. As my friend says, who are you writing your books for, anyway?

I'm curious to know how other writers deal with reviews. Have you published and gotten reviewed, for better or worse? How did you deal with it, and have the reviews had any effect on your style or creative output?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Writing Weekend

I spend so much time running my small literary press Kitsune Books that I often don't leave time for my own writing ventures, sometimes going months without writing anything of my own (marketing fliers for Kitsune Books authors don't count!). So with the long Labor Day weekend at my disposal, I'm setting this weekend aside for some of my own projects that have been sitting patiently curbside, waiting for a little attention.

I also figured out how to get back into my personal Facebook account, which I'd been locked out of since the new "improved" privacy/security measures went into effect. After about six days of locked-out frustration, I finally figured out that if you click on the "Yes, this is me" button, you won't get back into your account - you'll just go around in a endless loop, always ending back on the "Your account has been temporarily locked" screen. So I finally wised up and clicked on the "No, that wasn't me" button, which then gave me a bunch of nifty ways to prove the account belongs to me. So essentially, I lied and got back in. Go figure.

The point is that I'm no longer distracted by trying to crack the FB ridiculosity code and can focus my full attention on my writing. I have this great notion for a short story (too late for JournalStone's competition, but there's still Absent Willow Review) that's been bubbling for awhile and I think is finally starting to cook. Time to get fully immersed in the wordstream and let the ideas flow. But... wait. Insert real life snake drama out in the yard, where a fat 5 1/2 foot long Diamondback decided to take up residence in the leaf litter around the carport and started challenging me a good 30 feet away when I went out to burn some trash. Bill points out this is a good thing, because there is a gradual trend evolution-wise toward rattlesnakes that don't alarm-rattle as a survival trait. Because normally when a snake rattles at a human, it (the snake) gets shot dead. Those that stay invisible survive. They're the ones you step on without seeing them. This snake was clearly not one of the new breed and did in fact get shot dead. Bill nailed it on the first shot. Not bad for self-professed "old geezer" with questionable eyesight!

But back to my story. Totally lost the thread of what I wanted to write, but was cheered by the knowledge that the Diamondback encounter I'd written for Shaman's Blood was accurate as to the sound of the rattles and the state of excitement of the warning snake. Yeesh.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Facebook FAIL

As some of you may know, I've been locked out of my personal Facebook account since last Friday, which was about the same time a bunch of new security/privacy changes went into effect. I tried to log on, and got a password/identity error screen. Tried resetting password, but every time I tried to log in with the new password, the "temporarily locked out" screen appears.  I've tried every trick I can think of to get past the "temporary locked out" screen, but nothing works. It says that if you click on Okay to indicate this is truly your account, you'll regain access within 24 hours. Obviously it doesn't work, or I'd be logged in by now.  Have sent the FB bug report numerous queries, etc. but no response.

All of which leads me to believe that maybe I can do without Facebook.  I have this nifty blog, I'm on Twitter every day, I have a Goodreads account. I guess that's all I need.  It's all I can keep up with, at any rate!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene and other blowhards

Watching the Weather Channel's frenzied drumbeat countdown to destruction (wait, wasn't that a Megadeth album?).  I truly wish all my friends and colleagues along the U.S. East Coast safe passage through the storm, and hope even more that the media buildup for this hurricane will turn out to be not so much.

As a Florida native, I've lived through so many hurricanes that I've lost count. Most were not as bad as expected (some were outright duds), but a few were so frightening they'll always stay in my memory. Luckily for me as a writer, I'm using those experiences to craft the opening chapter of my next novel. I think the most shocking 'cane I lived through was back when I lived in Panama City around age 8 or 9, and I remember watching my mother fill the bathtub with water in preparation for the approaching storm. The eye came right over us, and I'll never forget how I listened to the howling winds dying down and then all was silent...bright and sunny, but no usual neighborhood sounds of birds, dogs barking, etc. My parents, my sister, the family dog, and I stood around in the front yard gawking up at the sky with its deceptive bright blue eye, which lasted about 10 minutes. Then the breeze started to kick up, which turned into strong winds, and here it came again.  When it was all over, we had 3 pines down in the yard just barely missing the roof, and a live electrical wire snapping across the sidewalk in front of our house. Huge scary excitement for a young kid. And great grist for the storytelling mill.

Hoping Irene will not be as terrible as predictions are trumpeting. But then again, you shouldn't take warnings for granted. We'll see how it plays out over the weekend.  Hunker down!

Friday, August 19, 2011

My interview on Jeannine H. Gailey's blog

The Kitsune Books 2012 lineup of authors and other tasty tidbits are revealed in my interview on Northwest writer Jeannine Hall Gailey's blog.

Check it out HERE!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In the Spooklight!

Plotting some Halloween fun over at the Horror Writers Association website.  Games, giveaways, fiction snippets, ridiculous pix of members in costume, and much more!  Details coming soon...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Is there a Book 3?

I was asked on a forum if there will be a Book 3, to follow Shaman's Blood, in my Wandjina series. Yes indeed, the story continues after Shaman's Blood. I'm working on Book 3 now, mostly getting my timelines sorted out and making sure they mesh. Same kind of thing I did in SB, where basically the same story is told from two points of view - one in the present, and one from a generation or two back.

The last book will complete the tale, at its beginning where the Quinkan became fused to Alice's bloodline. I know what the final scene looks like, but haven't mapped out yet quite how we get there. All in good time. ;D

Monday, August 8, 2011

Amazon's next move?

Seems like everybody wants in on the book publishing action, even little old Amazon. But this article on Amazon Publishing may pull the covers back further on their latest foray in to consolidating the book industry than they'd like:

I'm kind of ambivalent on this. As a publisher, I have to deal with Amazon whether I like it or not. As an author, I have to deal with Amazon whether I like it or not. As a consumer, I buy from them all the time without blinking. The monolith that is Amazon has been good for authors in many ways, opening up avenues for self promotion and having books listed whether they are best sellers or not.

But Amazon's encroaching control over book production, distribution, pricing, and copyright issues should be something to think about and pay attention to, not that we (small presses and their authors) could stop them if we wanted to. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A small, useless rant

Working on ebook conversions today (pawned off the hard one to my buddy Pete!), and in reading over the updated stylebook on Smashwords, I just started to see red. Not an appealing red like the background of this blog, but an honest-to-goodness flushed, fuming red that makes me want to punch something. Normally I'm a very mild mannered, reserved sort of person, but as a publisher of artistic, quality books, this was the last straw.

The SW "stylebook" says, "With ebooks, there is no 'page.' By giving up the control of the printed page, you and your readers gain much more in return."  No, we lose the artistic work done by the people who chose the font, paper color, layout design, illustrations, and page flow that makes that book a joy to look at while reading.

Quoth SW: "Page numbers are irrelevant."  No, actually, Kindle and other readers are now putting page numbers in because readers like them and prefer them when navigating the book.

"A reader should be able to consume your book however works best for them, even if that means they like to read 18 point Helvetica with blue fonts, lime background color, and triple spaced lines...Most readers want your words, not your fancy page layout or exotic type styles."  I'm sorry, but that fancy layout and choice of the perfect font to complement the content and theme of the book contributes to the content in many ways, tangible and intangible. If artistic graphic design and careful layout didn't matter, all books would just be a .txt file with no images or formatting.  And if you can't imagine reading a book that way, take a look at an epub file sometime.

I can't express how angry that last smug statement about readers just wanting the words makes me.  The look of the book and the reading experience the formatting produces are, for me at least, integral parts of the joy of reading books. I'm always subliminally aware of the page designer and typesetter's work when I consume a book, and a skillfully put together book is well worth the price.

I've read that ebooks are now outselling print on Amazon, so obviously they can't be ignored. But this attitude of dumbing everything down to the lowest, cheapest level and thumbing one's nose at skill and artistry just make my blood boil!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New outlet for THIN LINE BETWEEN

Very happy to report that my publisher for Shaman's Blood is now carrying its prequel, Thin Line Between
Here it is: Thin Line Between ebook

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Light Beyond All Shadow arrives!

This morning the mail brought a lovely hardback book I've been anticipating for a couple of years. I can't believe it's been so long since I first answered the call for papers from Dr. Paul Kerry, who was putting together a volume of essays from Tolkien scholars about the submerged aspects of Christianity in Tolkien's works.  I had been wanting to write about the iconography of Middle-earth from the approach of semiotics, and Paul's proposed book started me thinking about how I could shift my research to fit his topic.

I wrote a long, involved essay with copious references that ended up being trimmed by a third, and then tightened again as the book's publisher ran into the wall that is The Tolkien Estate and their copyright issues over quoting from the master's works. That debate was to eat up a couple of years. Some contributors dropped out from frustration, others decided to stay the course. And then, the university publishing the book changed their own publishing/distribution company, and there was more waiting.

I'm happy now that I decided to stick it out because today I have this beautiful book in my hands, and my essay on Tolkien's iconography happily lodged in illustrious company between its pages.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hope the winners are happy!

Well, the Goodreads Giveaway is done!  Hope those 10 people who won a copy of Shaman's Blood enjoy their little prize! (Also hope those 300+ folks who tossed their virtual names in the bag feel moved to go buy a copy)

My publisher actually put a lot of work into the production of the book, with careful and thorough copyedits that helped me catch some last-minute ripple-effect incongruities from an added chapter. Great folks to work with!

That which is unnecessary shall be washed away...

Well, at least that's what it says on one of the cards that shows up the most in my tarot deck. But the saying fits with an ongoing conversation I've been having with authors and agents and a couple of small publishers on Twitter...mainly how the collapse of big-box booksellers may bring about the resurgence of the neighborhood indie bookstore. Would love for it to be true. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

new books!

Woohoo - the box of free author's copies for SHAMAN'S BLOOD came yesterday!  Wow, still loving that cover with the monster serpent on it. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Modern Mythmaking 3

The mythic impulse – what drives our species to think in these terms and put these concepts into stories? A primary reason is to locate ourselves in the universe, to interpret space and the planet we inhabit. Refining that slightly and we have mystical reasons: religious, metaphysical, a sense of awe, a reverence for the mystery of life. On a social level, myths validate established moral orders, and establish codes of behavior. Psychologically, myths help explain how individuals relate to culture and society – they explore what it means to be human. It’s this last function that I think applies most to the artist (writer, sculptor, musician, etc.) as mythmaker.

How does this so-called “mythic impulse” translate into what we write? It’s in the recognition of mortality, confronting the inevitability of death.  It’s in expressing the social order you’re part of (or want to deny), in trying to see more deeply into the “spectacle” of the universe and our own existence within it.

Campbell wrote and lectured on the concept of humanity’s impulse to explain itself in mythic terms, and frequently suggested that in today’s cultures it’s more often the artist who articulates mythic structures and symbols in our lives, assuming a function once relegated mostly to the priestly class of past millennia. As artists, and particularly as writers, we siphon structure and content from the mythic imagination and make it uniquely ours. Is there a progression from the flawed gods of old to dark superheroes like Batman and Optimus Prime? Anyone who thinks myths aren’t relevant to our modern society hasn’t read any Neil Gaiman recently. And maybe that’s another topic all by itself!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

New reviews on Goodreads

Nice advance reviews of Shaman's Blood showing up on Goodreads. Thanks to those who liked it and "got" the story!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Anyone on Goodreads? Check out the Giveaway program offering - you could win a copy of my new novel!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Modern Mythmaking 2

Hard to explain why myths and the process of mythmaking fascinate me so much, but I find they infiltrate and color a lot of my thinking about writing. Legends are interesting to me as well, but not quite to the degree as mythmaking, which I think has a direct hotline to the human psyche.

I would define a legend as a story passed down from the past, that purports to be historical. We often find an actual, verifiable person or event at the root of a legend, which may sometimes be the defining story of a particular culture. This "legendary" character, after being kept alive for centuries or even millennia as part of a culture's collected wisdom, can take on mythic dimensions with deeper significance.

From the Greek mythos, myth is most often defined as a pattern of beliefs that symbolically express the characteristics or prevalent attitudes in a group or culture. It's that word "attitude" that makes the difference to me. Myths are traditional stories through which a culture’s world view or explanation of natural phenomena can be expressed. The emphasis here is on describing and explaining the natural world and by extension, the humans who live in it.

A myth is not quite the same as a legend. Sometimes a myth is loosely based on a real event, but more often it is a story that has been created to teach people about something intangible. Myths based on legends alter the story in ways that model behavior and affect patterns of thought. Which might bring you to ask, what’s the difference between mythology and religion? The quick answer is, not much, but for the purposes of discussion, we can make this distinction. Religion is a system of beliefs and practices regarding a supreme being or supernatural phenomena; it can be a personal set of beliefs or an institution of rituals and rules. The emphasis is on belief in (and one’s relationship to) a specific supreme deity.

Campbell describes religion as a specialized attitude toward myth ... which brings us to the mythic impulse, a concept at the crux of modern mythmaking and a topic I'll save for next time!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Embracing Summer Solstice with hope and bright expectations for the rest of the year.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Modern Mythmaking

While Tolkien was my “hook” into myth, folklore, and the mythic imagination as I was writing my dissertation, my larger interests are in mythology and the ideas of philosopher and visionary Joseph Campbell. Campbell wrote widely about coming to terms with how we tell our own stories and invent our own myths, and especially the signs and symbols we use to define them – in essence, confronting what it means to be human.

Consider the mythic imagination – what is it, who has it, why should we care about it?

Campbell believed that we, as humans in the modern world, re-create the myths and legends of antiquity in our daily lives. He saw this as a way of unlocking or releasing our human potential, whether for personal or public reasons. Human beings have been telling stories for millennia, as spoken tales, art drawn on cave walls, and later written down as text. These stories are called by various names: folktales, fairy stories, legends, fables and parables, myths. It’s a slippery task to identify the differences among these forms – obviously there are a lot of overlaps, with generous dollops of the magical, the supernatural, and the superhuman.

Folktales are usually stories that have been passed down orally from generation to generation. Often we don’t know the original author – some stories, for example, might have been created around the fire by a group instead of a single person. Often there are many versions of any given tale, some very similar while others may have only one or two characters in common and take place in totally different settings. The work of Katharine Briggs is your gateway to British folktales, if you want to dig further. Even more fascinating, at least to me, are the Japanese tales of shapeshifting, such as haunting encounters with the fox wife and the crane wife.

Folktales may have begun life based on a specific event, but they get changed almost every time they are told, even in the mouth of the same runesinger. Typically, the bases of these folkloric events happened so long ago we no longer have a record of what the actual story triggers even were. As time passes, the story loses its tenuous connection to reality so that the message or moral of the story becomes more important than the event from which it sprang. When that happens, it becomes a fable or a parable.

Next: legends and myths. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just confirmed that I'll be critiquing ms. at the Rosemary Beach, FL, writers conference:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where's my road map?

When I write long fiction, I almost always know the beginning and the ending of the novel - in fact, I usually can see those two critical scenes in some detail. Then I like to clearly chart my path from that starting point to the finish line. This road map might look more like numbered short chapter sketches than a hierarchical outline, but my brain works in spatial mode so that I'm always trying to picture the shape of the book, where the energy peaks and falls. I like to know clearly where I'm going, and how I'm going to get there. I allow myself to change things up if I find I've painted myself into a corner somewhere, but usually I'll stick to that road map pretty closely.

I know this doesn't work for everyone, and I really am in awe of writers who can just sit down with an idea and a general destination in mind, letting the story follow its own course. I'm the kind of person who packs for a trip days in advance, using a detailed list made the week before! I want all those details in place before I get on board and buckle up, so to speak. 

Charting the plot of a novel is a bit like that for me, although maybe a little less controlling. But not much. It really helps me to visualize the storyline if I can see how many chapters fall into the beginning of the journey, the complications along the way, and the climax of the literary trip. I like to color-code these chapter sketches according to the energy level - blue for background narrative, purple for setting mood and atmosphere, green for rising action, and red for peak events. That way I can see the entire shape of the book at a glance, which helps me adjust things as I go along.

If I cut sections out, I keep the chapter sketch in place but redlined through, so I can see how that changes the dynamics of the book's ebb and flow. And if I want to use that deleted material somewhere later, I know where it came from in the storyline and what the motivations were.

Working from an outline like this also helps me plant things along the way and keep track of important plot points that I might otherwise forget or not pay off soon enough. It helps me keep continuity (along with many copious lists of people, places, things, etc.) as the book progresses.

I guess the point is that I'm an organized kind of writer who writes best with the road map in front of me. And if this sounds AR, you should see what happens when I write non-fiction pieces requiring a lot of research.  I can wear myself out!  

To outline or not to ....

I got an email asking me if I usually rely on an outline for my longer fiction or if I mostly wing it. Hmm. Being the control freak that I am, that answer's pretty easy. But I'll think about it and give a better answer later this evening.

Monday, June 13, 2011

ebook revolution

I was asked recently if I would have started my publishing company back in 2006 if I'd seen the ebook tsunami coming and all the changes (upheavals) it was going to cause in the standard publishing model.  Hard to some ways it has made things easier - writers can publish their works almost with the push of a button. For publishers still producing works in print, and then configuring them for ebook format, it's a major headache!

And of course, it has revolutionized the self-pubbing arena to the point that old-school snobberies about vanity and subsidy presses are fading fast. In fact, the publishing business model now seems to be a combination of both. Publishers offer both a traditional arm of the business that signs authors, pays them royalties, and produces their books in print and ebooks, while at the same time having a self-pubbing arm for anyone to upload their books.  I'm seeing this more and more, and really do wonder where it's all heading. *bemused*

latest novel update

Shaman's Blood, the followup to Thin Line Between, is scheduled for an early fall release. It's in the final editing stages now. Just saw the rough sketch for the cover - awesome serpent, I must say! More details coming soon.

For those who haven't read Thin Line Between, it's available on Kindle and Smashwords.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Light Beyond All Shadow

Can't believe this anthology is finally going to see the light of day, after working on my part of for a couple of years. That's right, years.  But it looks like all the publisher issues with Fairleigh-Dickinson have been resolved. Saw the proposed cover - gorgeous.