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.

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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.

Check This Out: The Mercenary Prince

Now on Amazon for $2.99!
LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE:
THE MERCENARY PRINCE

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Delvin Cunningham has left the champions.

Lost to his tribe in the Yagervan Plains, fear and shame have kept the former Mercenary Prince away from his homeland. With his confidence crumbling, he has decided to return and bring closure to his past. Reuniting with his old friends, Delvin’s timing could not be worse as a deadly campaign is brewing within Yagervan’s borders. Dawn Fangs are on the march and these powerful vampires are determined to turn the entire region into a graveyard.

To protect his family, friends, and two homelands, Delvin will have to push his doubt away and become the cunning Mercenary Prince once again.

Art by Jason Pedersen

Art by Jason Pedersen

Please feel free to put this on your ‘To Read’ list on Goodreads by clicking below:

The Mercenary Prince on Goodreads!

Excerpt from The Mercenary Prince

With the hint of a smirk, Selenia quickens her pace and unleashes a barrage of blows on her former student. Each strike and stab is deflected by the sweat-covered champion, his speed increasing to match her every time. At one point, the half-elf leaps forward and is struck in her stomach by his shield, which forces her to flip over his head. The headmistress lands in a crouch and whirls around to block the counterattack, the point of Delvin’s sword gently running along the leather patch over her stomach. Realizing that he is still holding back, Selenia bats his next attack away and delivers a painful kick to his exposed side. The blow knocks him against the fountain and he comes dangerously close to falling into the water.

While rubbing his bruised side, Delvin circles the headmistress who turns to continue facing him. He makes a few feints that she refuses to acknowledge because they are clumsy and pathetically amateurish. The gathered students and teachers shout for more action, all of them believing the brown-haired warrior to be afraid of the legendary woman. None of them realize that his circles have been getting tighter and his fake attacks have caused Selenia to misjudge his distance. It is something she realizes when Delvin makes a quick swing for her hip and their weapons strike closer to their hilts than she expects. The moment the half-elf steps back to gain some space, her former student pushes forward with precise strikes that mirror the onslaught she previously unleashed. Without a shield, the headmistress finds it more difficult to block every attack and has to twist her body away from several attacks. The movements prevent her from throwing a kick or punch, which would probably hit the shield that he has yet to include in his advance.

Selenia eventually catches Delvin’s blade and slides her weapon along its edge to step within his swinging range. The pair push against each other, their muscles straining to gain the upper hand. Every time one of them is about to gain ground, their opponent shifts enough to continue the frustrating stalemate. With a grunt of exertion, Delvin moves his shield in front of the headmistress’s face and blocks her view. Knowing she is expecting him to push forward, the warrior falls onto his back and lets the surprised half-elf’s momentum slam her face into the wooden disc. The back of his head bounces off the ground as he flicks his wrist to deliver an extra shot to Selenia’s chin. She rolls away from him to recover her senses, but Delvin scrambles to keep her in reach and continue his attack as they stand.

“You actually hit me,” Selenia states when she notices that her nose is bleeding. She ducks under her opponent’s swing and aims her hilt for his stomach, the blow only grazing his shirt. “I think you’ve achieved two firsts for this academy, Delvin. Nobody has ever drawn my blood or made me dizzy during a match.”

Want to Dive into the Adventure from the Beginning?

Find all of these exciting adventures by visiting the Amazon Author Page of Charles E. Yallowitz.

So charge up your Kindle and end 2015 with an adventure full of action, humor, old friends, new enemies, grudge matches, tears, ale, and vampires.

I’m giving away a copy of The Mercenary Prince to a commenter! Winner to be announced on January 4, 2016.

author-photoAbout the Author:

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: Legends of Windemere
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Check This Out: The Merchant of Nevra Coil

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

When the mischievous and random Goddess of Chaos gets angry, all of Windemere becomes her plaything.

It all starts with a collection of toys that have taken the populace by storm. People of all races flood the marketplaces to gather figurines of the champions whose adventures are starting to spread across the land. Stemming from the flying city of Nevra Coil, these toys bring with them a terrible curse: Fame. Every town becomes a mob of fans that hound their new idols and the delay is bringing the world closer to the hands of Baron Kernaghan. Perhaps worst of all, the creator of these toys forgot to include a certain exiled deity who is now out to earn herself a figurine.

Who would have thought a bunch of toys could cause so much trouble and lead to the breaking of a champion’s confidence?

Sound exciting?
CLICK HERE TO GRAB IT ON AMAZON FOR $2.99!
ALSO ON GOODREADS!
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There’s more!
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Welcome to Nevra Coil Excerpt

A screeching alarm goes off inside the vessel, signaling for everyone to pay attention to the pilot. Jo flicks a few switches above her head, amplifying her voice so everyone can clearly hear her. “We’re coming to Nevra Coil. Get ready for docking at Inspiration Tower instead of one of the Ring Houses. If you want to see the city then come to the front, but you better not complain while I’m giving the tour. I’ll be going too fast to repeat myself. We’re starting with the bottom, so don’t be scared. There hasn’t been a crash in a month. Two months since a fatality.”

The champions gather around Jo’s chair and watch as the clouds part to reveal the underside of the flying city. The steel gray earth has several narrow tubes of yellow crystal spread along its gleaming surface, the enchanted objects creating a spiral that leads to a red, metal rod. An occasional spark falls from the central pole and dissipates into the clouds, giving the illusion of lightning. Jo has the vessel steadily rise to give everyone a clear view and she taps her ear to silently get her passengers to listen. Beneath the sounds of the ship’s rotors, the champions hear a dull hum whenever they pass close to a crystal. Those with keen eyes can see a sapphire orb that flickers like a flame inside the yellow tube’s core, but the strange object is definitely solid like a rock.

“The flight crystals are designed to push off and ride the waves of the ocean. The outer tube is the reflector and the ice gem is the controller,” Jo explains as they flip around the far side of Nevra Coil. She scowls at the whimpering gypsy and begrudgingly slows the vessel down. “The central rod is what keeps us in a small area as we spin like a very slow top. Without that, we’d be floating all over Windemere’s oceans. You’ll feel the rotation at first, but the awkwardness will pass within a few hours. Before you ask, the system does nothing to the ocean below. We keep ourselves at a great height to prevent that and we turn off the crystals if we have to drop. That’s only in case of severe damage, so they would probably be malfunctioning in such an event anyway. Our backup system is a small army of pedaling stone golems that we activate in the core of Nevra Coil. Let’s get to the real event. Hey! Watch where you’re going, you son of an oil slick!”

The vessel swerves out of the way of a small, windowless craft that is powered by a pedaling gnome. Once their heads stop spinning, the champions get their first look at the city of Nevra Coil. Glistening towers are everywhere with a vast collection of flying devices and beasts moving among them. Several structures are missing pieces, revealing metal beams and hardworking gnomes who are trying to finish the construction. The city is a beautiful creation of metal, stone, and glass with nothing on the earthy ground besides several colonies of orange slimes. The burbling creatures feast on the garbage that falls out of hatches, which are built into the lower floors of every tower. Compared to the enormous buildings, Jo’s vessel feels like a rowboat as it weaves among the chaos. Several times they come close to hitting another ship, their skilled pilot meeting each encounter with a slew of insults and curses. They hover when a claxon goes off and the circular tower ahead opens one of its floors to reveal another ring-shaped ship.

“This is where we would normally dock, but you’re wanted on the one-hundred and eighty-sixth and a half floor of Inspiration Tower,” Jo says while waving to the other ship. She waits for them to leave before rising to the higher sky lanes where there is more space. “If you look to the right, you’ll see the Lizard. It’s used by those of us who don’t have a flying device due to no interest, accidents, revoked license, or whatever else can go wrong. I’ll swing by to give you a better look, but don’t stare directly into the golem’s eye. You never know if it’s going to be friendly or . . . churlish.”

Dipping toward a metallic rail, the ship comes alongside a green-scaled reptile with seats grown into its wide back. A throbbing bubble covers the sitting area, the oily membrane protecting riders from the elements until the transport comes to a stop. Gnomes are comfortably sitting in the chairs, most of them reading notes or sleeping. The creature’s tail is merged with the track to prevent it from falling off while it pulls itself along using powerful front legs. A driver on its head opens a hatch in the top of its long nose to drop in a shovelful of screeching beetles. The Lizard slows down while everyone hears the insects getting crunched in the construct’s mouth. When the strange transport hisses at the ship, Jo pulls away and heads for where a trio of metallic birds are sitting on a windowless tower.

I’m giving away a copy of this book to a commenter! Winner to be announced on September 15.

AND DON’T FORGET!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Click here for the $4.99 Bundle to start your journey into Windemere!

Charles E YallowitzAbout the Author:

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: Legends of Windemere
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.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!

Yahoo Image Search

Yahoo Image Search

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.

Yahoo Image Search

Yahoo Image Search

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.

Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue Is Live!

LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE:
SLEEPER OF THE WILDWOOD FUGUE
LIVE on Amazon Kindle!

The final champion stirs and reaches out to any who can hear her voice. Yet all who heed her call will disappear into the misty fugue.

Awakening their new ally is only the beginning as Luke, Nyx, and their friends head south to the desert city of Bor’daruk. Hunting for another temple once used to seal Baron Kernaghan, they are unaware that the game of destiny has changed. Out for blood and pain, Stephen is determined to make Luke wish he’d never set out to become a hero.

By the time the sun sets on Bor’daruk, minds will be shattered and the champions’ lives will be changed forever.

Don’t forget to mark it as ‘To Read’ on Goodreads too!

Charles E. Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz

About the Author:

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: Legends of Windemere
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Read the Previous Volumes of Legends of Windemere!!!

BEGINNING OF A HERO

PRODIGY OF RAINBOW TOWER

ALLURE OF THE GYPSIES

FAMILY OF THE TRI-RUNE

THE COMPASS KEY

CURSE OF THE DARK WIND

I’m giving away a copy of Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on April 16.

Happy birthday, Charles!

The Stanton Effect: Invoking Wonder

6a00d83451b64669e2017c3652fef8970b-250wiThank you to L. Marie for asking me to be a part of this guest post series. My name is Charles E. Yallowitz. I run the Legends of Windemere blog and publish books under the same title. I think that covers the “My Name is” requirement.

Charles_author_photo_B&W   23764261

This is about one of the points on Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk. I chose to write about invoking wonder in the reader. As a fantasy author, this is a very important goal whether I focus on it or not. I have to draw readers into a world that doesn’t exist outside of the page, so there is more that I have to say. For example, I can say, “They drive to New York City,” and people will immediately visualize the city with familiar landmarks. You may have to describe some of the area, but people have a pre-existing notion of what you’re talking about. If I say, “They rode into the city of Rodillen,” then nothing very cohesive comes about. This requires that I describe the buildings, people, weather, culture, and whatever else I can slip in without doing a full info dump. This is really just to set the stage too, but it is a piece of invoking wonder since you want to draw readers into your world.

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Maybe it’s because I have to tug harder at a person’s mind to get them to step further out of reality than Earth-based genres, but this is something that I feel should be done with every aspect of a story. The plot must be riveting at most points, the characters should be interesting, and the world has be both unique and recognizable. All of this is a challenge because one never knows the balance, which is where editing and beta readers can be helpful.

A difficulty that I always have is that I visualize a lot of what I’m doing, so I’m in a permanent state of wonder when it comes to my stories. An outside opinion is what helps me find out if that comes across in the finished book. Well not so much the finished book, but the first draft. My point here is that authors do have blinders on whether they realize it or not because they’re more attached to the story. This makes the invocation a little unclear to our own minds. (Note: I have Supernatural on while typing this, so invocation and similar words might be turning up a lot.)

-Supernatural-supernatural-32710241-1024-768Bobby Singer

Touching on a riveting plot, I always think it needs a good amount of both action and character developing downtime. This will prevent things from growing dull while maintaining growth for the characters.

In regards to wonder, you can aim for two things here. The first is making the reader excited that an action scene can happen at any moment, which helps them read through parts that might be slow. By action, I mean everything from car chases to a detailed shopping spree that ends with a canceled credit card. Basically, things that aren’t dialogue and exposition, but still carry the story ahead.

The other thing is that the reader starts to wonder how the characters will change. This might be the strongest area of wonder invocation that I can think of since we’re talking about the vessels that a reader will attach to. Consider several of the questions that go through your mind as you read a story. Will THEY survive their quest? How will THEY change over the course of the story? Can HE/SHE handle being rejected by someone they love? All of these involve wondering about the characters and not the main story. We get curious about these fictional people and think about how they’re going to come out of their adventure. It’s another connection that makes a person mentally plunge into the story.

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Now, everyone will have their own methods and foci when it comes to invoking wonder. I’m only going to list my personal ideas here:
1. Detailed world that touches on as many senses as possible. What does the reader see, hear, and smell? Taste and touch are more situational.
2. Give the characters personality, subplots, and growth that isn’t so straightforward as “hero get stronger.” Knock them down from time to time and show what they’re like when they stand back up. The reader will be curious to see if they can keep going.
3. If your story has magic and monsters, then go wild with the descriptions. Yet always remain consistent. Try not to have a troll look different in every encounter or switch your spell system in every book. Consistency helps create a solid foundation that a reader can work off of to explore your world.

Troll
4. Foreshadowing. Hints can get a reader to keep going beyond their bedtime and return for a second read through.

To sum up here, I think invoking wonder differs from author to author. This is only what my opinion is and that’s influenced by my genre, reading history, and the specific stories that I want to tell. I’ve had people get absorbed by my books while others give up in the first 10 pages. It’s all personal preference when it comes to this arena.

One thing I do think is necessary for everyone is to go into a story with a clear and positive mind. If you read something with the expectation that you will hate it, then you’ll probably hate it. That wonder will be missing because part of you never wanted to wonder about the story. I’ve done it with books that I was made to read in high school and I still can’t bring myself to read them. This whole thing should be fun and sinking into the story with a sense of wonder is a big part of that.

Thanks, Charles, for such a great post in this series! Other posts can be found here and here.

Want to purchase Curse of the Dark Wind? Click here.

Supernatural photo from fanpop.com. Troll from mata.hari09.free.fr. Jim Beaver as Bobby Singer from pt-br.supernaturalbrasil.wikia.com. Wizard from wallpapersa.blogspot.com. Fantasy book from abstract.desktopnexus.com.

Trash or Treasure?

I’ve got some book winners to announce in just a bit. But first, let me tell you about my Saturday. You’re stuck hearing about it, so you might as well nod your head as if you really wanted to hear about it—or at least part of it. Anyway, I attended an ugly Christmas sweater party at my pastor’s house. It was an eye-opening experience. I wore this little number.

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My phone remained in my purse, however, so I can’t supply photos of the other sweaters. Perhaps that’s for the best. Some industrious individuals threaded Christmas lights through their sweaters in the hope of gaining one of three prizes. The guy who won the “most authentically ugly” prize had pinned Christmas potholders (one with teddy bears in Santa hats) to a sweater. Pretty much everyone voted for him. No one else stood a chance. The winner of the “most crafty” sweater was a person wearing a tree skirt and a sweater with tiny Christmas lights sewn into it. Again, a landslide victory. The third prize was a “Scrooge” prize for the person who refused to wear a Christmas sweater! (Wish I’d thought of that!)

I hadn’t thought to “soup up” my sweater with Christmas lights, believing that it could stand on its own merit. After all, it had gained me several “You’ve come to the right place in that” nods at the party. Yet someone had given me the sweater, which once belonged to her mother-in-law. It’s not the kind of sweater I usually wear, except to events like this. Consequently, it resides at the back of my closet until the next party rolls around.

When I arrived home, intending to take a photo of the sweater to show my sister-in-law, I took a closer look at it. It’s very neatly stitched—not a thread out of place. Granted, it has snowmen and birdhouses. But the snowmen are smiling at least. Perhaps it isn’t quite so bad. Still, I can’t help thinking of this old adage:

One-mans-trash-is-another__quotes-by-English-Proverb-49

And of course, this one:

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The flipside—ugliness—is likewise subjective.

Someone put love and attention into designing that sweater. Someone else liked it enough to buy it. One woman’s treasure . . .

As I thought about the sweater and my response to it, I thought about the characters in my novel. Will someone else besides me treasure them? Or will they be roundly dismissed and labeled as “ugly” or “ludicrous” by others as cavalierly as I judged that sweater?

It gives you something to think about, doesn’t it? If you’ve spent time on Goodreads, you know how subjective and cruel some reviewers can be. Some take pleasure in being vicious, under the mistaken belief that they’ll be perceived as smarter than the author. But a person who really is smarter doesn’t have to put someone else down to prove that.

Someone wise once told me that worrying about what someone may or may not think is a waste of time. A better use of my time is to spend it in a more enjoyable way: continuing to create stories I love about characters I love. That’s the only outcome I can control.

You’ve been patient long enough, so let’s move on to the winners of A Gift of Shadows by Stephanie Stamm and Curse of the Dark Wind by Charles Yallowitz. (See interviews here and here.)

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Thanks to the random number generator, which has earned my love . . .

The winner of a paperback of A Gift of Shadows is . . .

Sue Archer!

The winner of an e-book of A Gift of Shadows is . . .

Celine!

The winner of another e-book of A Gift of Shadows is . . .

Laura Sibson!

The winner of an e-book of Curse of the Dark Wind is . . .

Andra Watkins!

Winners please comment to confirm below. Celine, please provide an email address. E-book winners, please specify which format you need. Thanks again for commenting!