Guest Post: Remember Me? The Triumphant Return of Kitty

While I continue working on a project I’m writing under a different name (long story), here is a guest post. Over the years, I’ve had guest posts from some fabulous writers. But this is the first time, I’ve been coerced into invited an individual who is neither a writer nor a humanitarian. I don’t know what she is, really. A self-proclaimed megalomaniac? A deceptively adorable individual with a cupcake and an evil plan? A—

Okay, enough of L. Marie’s inane babbling. If the Incredibles can return to the silver screen, then of course, I can return to this blog—pitiful platform though it may be.

Where have I been? you might ask. I know I haven’t been seen since my photo showed up in this blog post. Not that I had a choice—L. Marie stuck her phone in my face without even asking if I wanted my photo taken.

I’ve hijacked this blog to explain what I’ve been up to: mainly hiring lackeys to enact my plan for world domination. As for lackeys, you take what you can get. And the pickings are slim. Look at them.

You can’t get good help these days, especially when your budget is low. But I think I can make something out of this crew. I don’t mean to brag, but people have remarked on how good I am as a leader.

Good? Hmmph. The fools! They underestimate my genius!

“Why don’t you make something of your life? Why turn to evil?” I’m often asked. To which I reply with silence. I don’t have to answer every silly question. Just know that the world will once again cower in fear when I unleash my lackeys.

Sure, they look friendly.

   

Apple Blossom (photo at right) was not available on the day the lackey group photo above was taken.

Some of them look downright helpless and foolish.

But a smile can hide an unlikely villain. With the right person to train him or her, a smile can be as deadly as a blade.

I’m suddenly reminded of what the Mandarin, a man I greatly admire, said in Iron Man 3, “You’ll never see me coming.” And that’s why—

L. Marie here, having wrested control of this blog once more. Please ignore what you just read. The police have been called, though Kitty unfortunately escaped with some of my loose change. Oh well. I’m fairly certain we’ve seen the last of her.

Maybe.

Sir Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin photo from flickeringmyth.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Shopkins, Shopkins Cutie Car and Lemony Limes Shoppie doll were manufactured by Moose Toys. Hello Kitty was made for McDonald’s by Sanrio. LOL baby by MGA Entertainment.

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Making Friends with Failure: Guest Post by Sarah Aronson

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, today on the blog is a guest post written by the marvelous Sarah Aronson, author of the Wish List series, published by Scholastic, and other books. (Check out her website for a list of her books.) If you have read this blog in the last year or so, you will remember Sarah from this post and this one. And now, take it away Sarah!

If you know me in real life, you know I love a good graduation speech. This is partly because I grew up in academia, so I’ve heard a lot of them.

Two favorites were John Irving reading a work-in-progress, and Millicent Fenwick’s message to the Rutgers College Class of 1983: Be careful who you marry. (Great advice that was largely unappreciated.)

 

But mostly, like many writers and artists, I love a great perseverance story—a story that details someone overcoming years of rejection and failure and self-loathing, to finally get a lucky break and succeed.

This year, my favorite message of perseverance comes from Abby Wambach at Barnard College. (Note: she was the inspiration for Parker in Beyond Lucky—so in general—I’m a BIG FAN!)

   

She said,

Here’s something the best athletes understand, but seems like a hard concept for non-athletes to grasp. Non-athletes don’t know what to do with the gift of failure. So they hide it, pretend it never happened, reject it outright—and they end up wasting it. Listen: Failure is not something to be ashamed of. It’s something to be POWERED by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel.

You can read the whole speech here.

I like how she puts this. Failure is a gift. Not something to fear. That’s because when we fail, we learn. We make connections. We grow. And thus, we should feel good about it. We should celebrate our failures. We don’t have to feel alone. And yet, we need to talk about it all the time.

Social media is packed with threads on perseverance and the struggle to succeed. Most of these messages are pragmatic. And hopeful. Successful creators offer the struggling artist hope: if you keep failing, someday, you will succeed.

For what it’s worth, I’ve written many times about my writing journey, my tangle (or perhaps tango) with failure and success. I have shared the moments when I hit rock bottom, when I promised myself I would find another path. I have shared how I challenged myself to write without expectations—to write for writing’s sake alone.

But this is what I’ve come to understand. When I was failing, talking on and on about how hard it was, I already knew what success felt like. The truth is, most people who write about failure only talk about it after they have succeeded. I rarely see anything about written about failure, while the failing is happening.

This was one of the reasons I wrote The Wish List series. In The Wish List, Isabelle seems to always be on the brink of failure. She does not like to study—because she has some learning issues. She has a hard time concentrating. Just in case that’s not hard enough, she has a high-performing sister. She is the daughter of the biggest failure of all, the worst fairy godmother ever.

  

Because of these books, I have spoken to lots of kids about kindness, determination, gusto, and failure. I’ve told them about my childhood failures (I came late to reading), and about the many drafts I always need to get the stories right. I tell them about the manuscripts that line my desk drawers. About what it feels like to hear no. To not know if YES is ever going to happen.

I will never forget the young reader who waited until everyone else was gone to ask me, “What if I’m not good at anything?”

She came to mind as I read Abby’s motivating speech. I opened up a discussion about failure on Facebook, in preparation for a session on Making Friends with Failure at nErDcamp Kansas.

Very quickly a few things became clear: Failure is not so easy in the present tense. Many of us need to experience a period of mourning—some time to get beyond it. (So if that’s you, don’t feel bad!) More important, fear of failure holds us back. It can keep us from taking risks that would pay off! It keeps us from envisioning greatness—from striving for more.

Although many acknowledged failure and its usefulness, many writers were privately grateful that they did not begin their journeys in this age of social media, where all of us are inundated with distractions that can make us all feel low, worthless, and overlooked.

This is what scares me: in a life surrounded by stories of success, many of us are feeling anxiety. And sadness. We feel out of control. Not safe. We don’t celebrate the process as much as we should.

In Kansas, I shared this feedback. Then I asked the teachers how they approach failure with their students. Right away, I was filled with hope.

Compassionate teachers talked about responding to failure by specifically and meaningfully talking about what went right.

They talked about using humor to quash sadness, but at the same time, knowing that everyone is different. Sometimes, humor doesn’t work. Sometimes we simply need to feel it.

And of course, we talked about the power of community—about how much better we feel about risk taking when we feel supported and safe. Creativity—and great books are born—when TRYING is celebrated—when it is actually rewarded.

Dear writers,
Can we do that?
Can we use humor? Can we embrace sadness? Can we set measurable goals and celebrate them? Can we help each other feel safe?
Can we make friends with failure?

This is what I work to foster in my Highlights retreats and classes at writers.com. I set out to lower the bar, to let writers take risks. I want them to fail gloriously. Because when we do, in fact, only when we do, we succeed.

In those failures, we see seeds. Seeds and glimmers of what will be a foundation for a better draft. A deeper story. A more authentic character.

Take it from Teddy Roosevelt.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Writers, get into the arena. Be curious. Make trouble. Strive for what you want, but along the way, don’t cower, because failure is part of the process. You have to get used to it. If we stick together, we can all embrace it.

L. Marie here. Sarah just released the third book in her Wish List series, Halfway to Happily Ever After.


Book four of the series will debut on January 29, 2019. By the way, a picture book by Sarah, Just like Rube Goldberg, will debut on March 12, 2019.

I’ll be giving away a copy of Halfway to Happily Ever After to a commenter. The winner will be revealed on June 21.

Wish list book covers courtesy of Sarah Aronson. Beyond Lucky cover from Goodreads. Abby Wambach photo from gossipbucket.com. Teddie Roosevelt photo from commons.wikimedia.org. John Irving photo from sites.google.com. Millicent Fenwick photo from greatthoughtstreasury.com. Failure sign from teachertoolkit.me. Failure cartoon from clipartpanda.com. Other failure image from hownottodosocialwork.wordpress.com. Risk-Failure image from brucecoaching.com. Man in egg image from stevenaichison.co.uk. Success-failure image from livingwithtrust.com.

Guest Post: Charles Yallowitz—Spinning the Vampire Mythos

A big thank you to L. Marie for helping to promote the first book of my newest series, War of Nytefall: Loyalty (see book blurb toward the end). While this takes place in my previous series, Legends of Windemere, it focuses on a world-changing event. Specifically, the emergence of a new breed of vampire called Dawn Fangs. Due to the topic, L. Marie showed me this quote  from Stephen King:

Here’s what vampires shouldn’t be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and work only at night; lovelorn southern gentlemen; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewy eyes. What should they be? Killers, honey. Stone killers who never get enough of that tasty Type-A. Bad boys and girls. Hunters. In other words, Midnight America. Red, white and blue, accent on the red. Those vamps got hijacked by a lot of soft-focus romance.

I both agree and disagree with Stephen King here because I don’t think anyone can really say that a vampire shouldn’t be something. If it works for the story then that’s what they should be in that world. People seem to take their own preferences for vampires and deem them to be the true standard. Look, I prefer my bloodsuckers monstrous and vicious instead of lovey-dovey stalking a high school. That’s just me though. There’s always been a strange seductive aura around vampires, which the romantic series play up more than the monster side of the extensive mythos. Problems come about in any genre when people step up to say that they should ONLY be done this way because that’s gatekeeping and you lose a lot of potential stories when you go down that route.

Edward Cullen from the Twilight series

Now, while my vampire preference is similar to what King talks about, I don’t think his works for every situation. To me, he’s talking about the monster who is terrorizing the heroes and needs to be overcome. Whether it be one or pack, these are the evil and inhuman beasts that lurk in the shadows. If you want a vampire to be the protagonist, then this doesn’t work because they’ll be driven to do evil. Once they begin fighting against their monstrous nature, they start to fall into the previous examples King mentioned. You can’t keep them as the slavering monster or sinister immortal noble that bathes in blood if they’re going to be a good guy. A sacrifice needs to be made to spin the classic monster into something that people can relate to; many times that’s their ferocity.

This is something I had to consider for War of Nytefall because it isn’t a story about mortals fending off vampires. It’s about the rise of a new breed of vampire in a world of magic and the vampire civil war that ensues afterwards. Mortals are merely bystanders, meals, and the occasional agent while the main cast consists entirely of immortal bloodsuckers. I couldn’t make the vampires entirely monstrous because I wanted readers to connect and I felt like such creatures wouldn’t have a complicated war. This required that I design two breeds with one being the Old World vampires and the other being the newer Dawn Fangs, which I’ll explain in brief.

Old World
These are closer to your classic vampires that can’t feed without killing. They can cast spells and hide in cities of darkness. Since this isn’t Earth, I threw out a lot of weaknesses that didn’t make any sense for Windemere. Holy magic is their bane and I went for an older version of the myth where sunlight weakens instead of kills. This is why Old World vampires in Windemere carry night cloaks, which they wear to retain their powers during the day. Doesn’t help against a smite spell to the face, but not much does. These would normally fit into the type that King recommends.

Dawn Fangs
These are the vampires that required a lot of work since they are the “heroes.” They’re still monsters, but they can feed without killing, have pulses, are immune to sunlight, and possess powers beyond that of the Old Worlds. In fact, the civil war is started because the Old World vampires are terrified that the stronger Dawn Fangs are going to wipe them out if they don’t strike first. Because they have these advantages, the Dawn Fangs can exist within mortal society too, but I didn’t want to pursue the “romantic” subplots. Instead, I play with the idea that these powerful monsters have actually become more human (or elf or dwarf or whatever they were before turning) instead of less. They’ve retained their viciousness and show signs that they are fighting to control a bloodlust that dwarfs that of their predecessors. Yet, a part of this is because they might be more at the mercy of their emotions than both mortals and Old Worlds. Even so, I can’t say they fall into the desired category that King describes, but I can say they don’t really fit into the previous ones either.

One thing I’ve learned with vampires is that the type you use depends entirely on the genre and specific story. I think a big issue for vampires recently is that culture has tried to pigeonhole them into one category and it’s caused a big clash between personal preferences. This is something that an author should consider, but not to the point where they make the social conflict the deciding factor of how they portray these monsters. You can, and should, tailor them to your own needs because they should be more than simply “a vampire,” at least if they’re more than the terrifying monster that has to be overcome, which is more plot device than character.

Book Blurb
In the wake of the Great Cataclysm, a new predator will emerge within Windemere’s shadow.

For fifty years, Clyde has remained buried while the rest of the vampires have been battling against their enemies. Only Mab believes that her former partner survived his execution and is determined to bring him back to the city of Nyte. Retrieving the vampiric thief is only the beginning as he comes out of the ground stronger, faster, and demonstrating powers that their kind have never witnessed throughout their ancient history. Thrown into the war, Clyde must be careful to hide his true nature while fighting alongside his old friends. Too bad he is having so much fun that keeping his secret might be furthest from his mind.

Will anyone be ready for the rise of the Dawn Fangs?
Grab your copy of War of Nytefall: Loyalty on Amazon!

Author Info
Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.
Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Author photo courtesy of the author. Book cover designed by Alison Hunt. Stephen King photo found at dreadcentral. Vampire trope image from vampires.com. Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen image from fanpop.com.

Guest Post by Phillippe Diederich: Writing from the Heart without Flinching

Today it is my privilege to present this guest post by by Phillippe Diederich, author of Playing for the Devil’s Fire, a young adult novel published by Cinco Puntos Press. This is part of an ongoing blog tour celebrating the release of Playing for the Devil’s Fire. Stayed tuned afterward for the giveaway news.

25330167   phillippediedrichbyselinaroman

I write from the heart. I fall in love with my characters and try and help them navigate the conflicts they encounter. I do not shy away from subject matter, whether it’s poverty, drugs, war or crime because this is reality. And I have something to say about it. That’s why I write.

The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan for more than 14 years, but we don’t experience it the way Afghans do. Imagine having attacks like 9/11 happening every day in different parts of our country, year after year after year. That’s the reality of war.

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It’s the same with crime and drugs and poverty. In Mexico, the drug war has killed more than 100 thousand people in a little more than a decade. Most of the weapons used in this so-called war come from the U.S. And the market for the drugs is the U.S. Whether we like it or not, we are complicit in this war. And yet what we see and hear in the news is statistics, glorified prison escapes, arrests, and major drug busts. We never hear about the individuals who are suffering the consequences of government policies. We never hear about the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters who fight and suffer just to survive another day.

mexico-map

In my novel, Playing for the Devil’s Fire, I wanted to address the problems in Mexico, more specifically, the violence and impunity that happens every day. When I wrote the story, I had to make it as real as I could without going overboard. I did not want to place the narcos as simple bad guys, but as individuals who have families just like their victims. I also didn’t want to glorify them or the violence or create unrealistic scenarios, because I would be doing a disservice to the victims of the violence many Mexicans are living every day.

I don’t believe writers should self-censor, and I don’t think we should hold back when trying to write for teens. I think teens are much smarter than we give them credit for. We shouldn’t sanitize the stories we want to tell.

When I was in the seventh grade I read an incredibly powerful memoir by and African-American. I want to say it was Nigger by Dick Gregory, but I’m not sure. It was a shocking book that dealt with a lot of tough issues. But it showed me a world I knew nothing about. It also showed me the power of the written word. I won’t say that book changed my life, but it did open my eyes to reality in a way no other media did.

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But I must make it clear that I don’t write to shock. I don’t think Playing for the Devil’s Fire is shocking in a gratuitous way. But I do think the reality that Boli, the main character, is living through is as real as what many Mexicans are experiencing. As a matter of fact, I think the horror of the victims of the drug war are going through—especially the people on the sidelines—is much worse.

When I first set out to write Playing for the Devil’s Fire, I had been reading a lot about the drug war and what was happening in Mexico. I love Mexico. I grew up there. So I was truly heartbroken as I lay down that first draft. I wanted to put a face to the statistics. I didn’t think of my audience for the book. Instead, I left it all to Boli. He guided me. Everything I wrote, I got from him—I saw it through his eyes. I was just hitting the keys on the typewriter.

If you read the book, you will find something to like in many of the characters, even in Zopilote and Ximena and Chato and Pepino. They’re only trying to survive as best they can. People are generally good, but greed and the glorification of violence on TV and popular culture can seduce even the best people.

Everything that happens in Playing for the Devil’s Fire, especially the end, it is not easy. But life is not easy.

I can only write about the reality that I know, the one that tugs at my heart. It’s not that I want people to feel the pain I feel, or about being sentimental. I just want people to join me in condemning the horror that is taking place all around us. If this is not the task of a writer, then what is?

Phillippe Diederich was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in Mexico City and Miami. He is the author of Sofrito and Playing for the Devil’s Fire. He lives in Florida with his wife and three teenage children and their neurotic dog, Toby. Whenever he’s not writing, Diederich is helping with homework, cooking dinner, or fixing the plumbing in the house.

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One of you will win a copy of Playing for the Devil’s Fire simply by commenting below. Winner to be announced on September 19.

Next up on the Blog Tour: Check out an excerpt, review, and guest post at Mom Read It—https://momreadit.wordpress.com on September 13.

Author photo by Selina Roman. Book covers from Goodreads. Mexico map from ezilon.com. Dick Gregory photo from Wikipedia. War quote from geckandfly.com.

Guest Post: Chosen for Greatness

Whoowee! I can relax in this here comfy chair, since Charles Yallowitz is guest posting today. Please take it away, Charles, while I have something cool to drink and put my feet up.

Comfy Chair

Thank you to L. Marie for helping to promote the first book of my fantasy series, Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero. It’s been out since 2013, but I’ve made it permanently free to help get people into the series. All of that is beside the point since I’m here to talk about the Chosen One trope. You know that character destined to destroy an evil villain and has everything handed to him? Well, that’s the lazy way to do it. Let me explain how I did it and use poor Luke Callindor as an example. He’s the half-elven warrior you see on the cover and he’s not nearly as shiny these days.

Authors who use the Chosen One template have to be careful and avoid the trap that has people hating this thing. That trap is having the hero destined to DEFEAT the obstacle. For example, Harry Potter was destined to defeat Voldemort. There is no ambiguity there. His path is to win the fight no matter what. Chosen Ones of this school worked way back when, because people didn’t want their heroes to lose. Times have changed and people don’t always want the victory to be handed to the Chosen One.

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In Legends of Windemere, six champions have been crafted by the Destiny God to face an ancient evil. Not win, but merely face the villain. The god admits that he can only lead them to the final battle and the victory is entirely in their hands. There isn’t even a promise that they will get there in one piece or all of them will survive. In fact, it’s mentioned that the heroes will reach the final battle “in some form” and one of them has to die. So here you have multiple Chosen Ones continuing on with the knowledge that one of them doesn’t have a future beyond the big battle. That’s if they win anyway.

This addition makes the Chosen One trope more like a curse, which is how it should be from some perspectives. Luke Callindor starts the series as a young warrior looking for his first adventure. He takes beatings, nearly dies multiple times, and has his ego brutalized all in the first book. This is before he learns that he is destined for greatness. When that happens, things get even worse for him. Powerful creatures are out to kill and torture him and terrifying powers are offered to him. A Chosen One really shouldn’t step into the role and carry on like it’s a natural thing. They’re simply humans with a great story to tell and a big target on their backsides. Luke has doubts, fears, and comes close to breaking so often that a few readers have dubbed him weak. They haven’t even seen the worst that happens to him.

I think we forget the downside to being hoisted above the crowd when we read or write about Chosen Ones. Those characters are exposed and targeted because the villains always know they’re coming. Loved ones are in danger and those who aren’t chosen may become resentful enough to turn into enemies. There is no flexibility of path and they can’t think too much about the future since they are a pre-written story to some extent. All of this can create some level of anguish or distance for the character. Without that, the heroes are empty and can come off as arrogant.

matrix-bestSo, should the Chosen One trope be retired? No, because it isn’t really any different than being born with natural talent. I’ve met artists like that and it isn’t always pretty. Instead, maybe authors should make it less of an honor and more of a Sword of Damocles. Personally, I don’t think a Chosen One should reach the end of the road without baggage, scars, and being less shiny than they were at the beginning. For example, quality of movies aside, Neo in The Matrix lost a lot before he came to the end. That’s what I’m hoping to do with my champions if they win the final battle. The survivors will not be getting away clean and become symbols that being a Chosen One isn’t as great as one would think.

Hero Cover FinalCover art by Jason Pedersen

Links
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Grab Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero for Free!

New Charles Author Photo Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. Legends of Windemere is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.

Harry Potter and Voldemort from blog.wordnik.com.
Beginnings of a Hero cover courtesy of the author. Keanu Reeves as Neo from 21stcenturywire.com. Target on back from peacebringer7.wordpress.com. Comfy Chair Shopkins figure photo by L. Marie.

Guest Post: When a Hero Returns Home

slateToday, I’m turning over the floor to a familiar face around here and the blogosphere—the awe-inspiring Charles Yallowitz. Take it away, Charles!

Thank you to L. Marie for hosting this exciting and informative blog post. Well, at least I hope this is entertaining, but I can’t guarantee any of those three things.

The newest volume of Legends of Windemere focuses on one of the heroes, Delvin Cunningham, returning to his homeland. He comes from the Yagervan Plains where people live in nomadic tribes, but he was separated from his family at the age of eight. Left adrift on a chunk of ice in the northern ocean, the child crossed into a neighboring kingdom and has never returned until now. So, what is the point of having a hero return to his home?

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Cover by Jason Pedersen

First of all, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. Legends of Windemere: Allure of the Gypsies involves the heroes visiting Luke Callindor’s hometown. He has been around since the first book and the adventure revealed more about his past. You learn about what drives him to be a hero and what he is running away from. Discovering the origin of a character shows more about them than you would get from seeing only where they are going. It brings an added dimension to their story and makes a character appear more human. After all, most of us have a place in our past that we have to face for good or for bad.

allure-final-cover

Cover by Jason Pedersen

Then there’s Delvin who has almost nothing.

Remember me saying he was separated from his family and never returned? Of course because it was only a paragraph or two ago. Well, this puts him in a position where he is returning to the unknown. This is another version of the hero’s homecoming. Instead of the assurance that loved ones will be there and the area is even remotely familiar, Delvin is practically walking into a foreign land. He remembers his parents and pieces of his culture, but those things could have changed since he’s been away for over a decade. This is a homecoming for a ghost who might as well be an outsider, which changes the dynamic.

The homecoming is no longer about revelation alone, but exploration too. Delvin is seeking his family while wandering a landscape that is practically a faded dream. This creates an emotional distance for the character, which is the opposite of Luke’s close bond to his hometown. Of course there is a desire to reunite, but it comes along with the acknowledgement that rejection or failure are highly likely. This means part of the homecoming for Delvin is about creating a fresh bond that will have an impact on his future and bring a close to his limited past. This can be done in a variety of ways that all depend on the character. If the hero is emotional, then that makes it easy, but a stone-hearted hero would have another hurdle to openly overcome. Yet the homecoming can soften or harden a character.

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When a hero returns to his or her home, it tends to bring their burdens and dangers to their family’s doorstep. This can result in any number of endings, so one has to wonder what the point is. Well, it’s to connect a hero’s past with their present and future. Like humans in the real world, a character should possess these three time periods. They act in the present and look to the future, which are easier compared to having their past appear. The homecoming is possibly the easiest way to bridge the gap. You can even give the hero another goal if the bad guys make an appearance. Other uses are having the hero claim a local relic, gaining a family heirloom, or getting extra training like in several animes.

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Animes like this one

The usage and reasons are only as limited as the author’s imagination.

Check out the results of Delvin’s homecoming in
LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE: THE MERCENARY PRINCE
And visit me at
LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE
@cyallowitz

New Charles Author PhotoCharles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. Legends of Windemere is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.

Thanks, Charles! Now to announce the winner of The Mercenary Prince. That person is Penny O’Neill! Congrats, Penny! Please comment below to confirm.

Louie the Rune Soldier image from nnm.me. Home signs from oocities.org and clker.com.

Guest Post: Mazes, Traps, and Dungeons

Today on the blog is a guest post by the awesomely prolific Charles Yallowitz of the Legends of Windemere blog. Please take it away, Charles.

Thank you to Linda for offering to host a promo/guest blog. Now to get the introduction and promo stuff out of the way. My name is Charles E. Yallowitz and I’m the author behind the Legends of Windemere epic fantasy series, where the latest one is Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. I also just released a 27-page short story for 99 cents called Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, so you can get a quick, cheap taste of me . . . whatever. Let’s move on to the fun!

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One of the big standards of fantasy adventure books are traps and mazes. The latter isn’t as common as the former and I can already hear some people groaning about the topic because they think these are terrible concepts. Dungeon crawling in a book can be tedious and is more action than anything else. You can have part of a book involve a trap-filled ruin, but you need to try to have it be big, essential, and put some character development in there. Most importantly, the heroes need a real reason to be in there. Rescuing a kidnapped ally, finding a cure for a disease of one of the main characters, returning an artifact that could destroy the world, and things that are larger in scale than “find the random, possibly shiny treasure.”

First, mazes are relatively simple in and of themselves. Characters wander and talk while dealing with wrong turns and traps. This can be used for character relationship development, especially if you’ve built up a plot between them that has to be discussed. It helps to draw a crude map of the maze to give yourself a feel for it, though you can also get away without giving exact directions. “Time passes” and chapter breaks can be your friend here.

Second, when working with ancient ruins or dungeons or any trap-filled place, you need to consider a few questions:

  • Is this a place that can be easily accessed?
  • Is this a place that has been lost to the ages and recently found?
  • How fresh are the bodies of failed adventurers? Are there any?

The reason these questions are important revolves around the entrance. If it’s well-known and wide open, then anyone can go in there and you need to make it look that way. If it’s difficult to get to and you want it to feel abandoned, then you need a hidden door or entrance puzzle. These questions also help you figure out the trap types, because some people wonder how a trap resets if several people have sprung it over the years. Easy way to solve this is to put a living threat in the ruins that has the ability and instructions to reset the traps. Gelatinous Cubes are not acceptable.

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This brings us to traps, which are one of the standards of fantasy adventures. Any adventures really. From Indiana Jones running away from a boulder to James Bond in a booby-trapped elevator, traps are nasty surprises that an author can have fun with. In fantasy, you have magic to work with that opens a few interesting doors. Fictional poisons, spells, and monsters can play into this. You have pitfalls, arrow traps, swinging blades, fire traps, water traps, ejection traps, poison gas, boulders, illusions hiding spikes, setting off ghosts, falling into monster-infested pits, electricity traps, eternal sleep traps, explosions, Gelatinous Cubes (the bastards!), force fields, and overly complicated death machines. Just to name a fraction of them. Here are a few general tips if you plan on using traps:

  1. Create the way out before writing. One of the biggest threats to a trap is that the way out is random and ridiculous. It doesn’t have to be clear to you, but have the general idea that a character needs to do a specific action.
  2. Make it believable that the heroes can find and avoid the traps. Ignore if you plan on killing them off with the trap. But then people might realize that when they see they’re on the last page.
  3. Overly complicated traps can have simple answers and probably should. After all, if it’s a terrifying death machine, then people will think big. They might not immediately consider a simple, obvious method like looking for a button.
  4. Make sure the heroes can escape without outside influences and remember why that has to happen. People ask what the point of a trap is if there’s a way out. Here is my answer. A person who makes a trap would design it with an escape in case they fell into it or it was used against them. All you need is one gnome reverse engineering your electric fire pit trap and you’ll find it everywhere.
  5. Please make most of your traps lethal. Spitting darts the size of a fingernail without poison on them isn’t going to scare anyone.
  6. You don’t have to sacrifice a character to demonstrate the danger of a trap. Standing within a room of death or dangling over a shark pit can do wonders for suspense. It also keeps readers on their toes wondering if you’ll really kill a character.

Now, a lot of people don’t like these things in literature because they fall into the cliché category. My suggestion is to do it if it fits the story and ignore the complaints. The important part is that the traps, mazes, and dungeons make sense within the story. So don’t use them as filler and make sure to give them a purpose.

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Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. Legends of Windemere is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.

Thanks, Charles! In honor of the release of Ichabod Brooks and the City of Beasts, I’m giving away two copies. Please comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced June 17.