Books Anne has written or has a chapter in.

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.