You Know, You Almost Had Me

Indonesia2002Wildlife-LI’m talking to you, Doubt. There you were, lurking about like a bloated but still hungry spider every time I heard, “No” or “I don’t take high fantasy novels.” I fell into your web for a while. But now I want out.

Hold on a minute, Doubt. Someone somewhere is probably asking this question: “What’s high fantasy?” Let’s ask our dear friend, Wikipedia, shall we?

High fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy fiction, defined either by its setting in an imaginary world or by the epic stature of its characters, themes and plot.

Gandalf2Thank you, Wikipedia. Some high fantasy books/series you may have heard of include

• The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
• Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
• The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond Feist
• A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
• Earthsea (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, etc.) by Ursula LeGuin
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
• The Abhorsen series (including Sabriel) by Garth Nix

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Go here for others. Writing a good high fantasy novel, let alone a series, takes a ton of effort that includes research. Yes, these worlds are made up, but the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry still apply. You have to research such things as the anatomy and physiology of animals and which types of plants and trees mix well together, even if you’re making up your own animals and plants. But the people who write these books put in the effort, because they love what they do. I don’t have to tell you this. If you love their books, you love them because their authors loved them first.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it, Doubt? I stopped loving my books and valuing the high fantasy genre because of the few who didn’t value them or the genre or because they valued something I’m not currently writing. Shame on me.

And shame on me for thinking that I should switch to another genre in the belief that a story in that genre will sell or at least get noticed. Okay, Doubt. I’ll give you that round. I’m human. I fear writing a book absolutely no one would want to read.

But you know what, Doubt? Remember the times when I’ve written books that paid $500 on a work-for-hire basis? Though the publishers profited greatly and I didn’t get a cent in royalties, I enjoyed the writing ride.

And that’s what I’d lost sight of, Doubt—the fact that I enjoy the ride, regardless of who else does or whether or not I profit by it. I profit by the fact that I get to visit characters I love. And I love even the characters who do ghastly things. They remind me that I’m not perfect—that I sometimes do ghastly things. And one of the ghastliest things I’ve done recently was to stop writing.

Jordie the Jester (my blog mascot, given to me by Lyn Miller-Lachmann) is handing me a tiny notebook (it’s actually a playing card, but I’d like to think of it as a notebook), which I guess is his way of saying, “Get back to work.” Thanks, Jordie. You always know just what to do.

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Thanks especially to my good friends Sharon Van Zandt and Laura Sibson for coaxing me out of my hiding place and telling me to get back in the saddle and continue writing my series. You are the best! Maybe someday, my readers will thank you too. 🙂

As I end this post, I’m reminded of words spoken by Charles Xavier to Charles Xavier in X-Men: Days of Future Past (you have to see the movie to know why and how): “Please Charles . . . we need you to hope again.” Truer words were never spoken.

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Other good posts on the courage to write or writing past doubt:
http://ellaroutloud.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/tattoos-confessions-guilt-continuing/
http://www.lisaakramer.com/2014/11/09/writing-through-the-frustrations/
http://writeatyourownrisk.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/writing-encouragement-and-poetry/

Spider from divydovy.com. Gandalf from lotr.wikia.com. Book covers from Goodreads.

Hopelessly Devoted

If you’re an Olivia Newton-John fan, you recognized that the title is part of the title of a song she sang on the Grease soundtrack—“Hopelessly Devoted to You.” And perhaps right now, that song is going through your head like it’s going through mine. If that bugs you, I’m sorry. Let’s move on. (Unless you really want to hear the song. Here’s a link to a video.)

A fairweather-fan isn’t exactly brimming with hopeless devotion. More than likely, you know a fair-weather fan or two. They come out in droves when a team is winning and readily buy the T-shirts and bumper stickers. But when a team is in a slump, they’re nowhere to be found.

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That’s why I have to admire fans of the Chicago Cubs. In the past years, when the team failed to bring home a championship, the fans still cheered.

In 2005, when the White Sox won the World Series, a Chicago Cubs fan admitted to me that he still couldn’t cheer for the Sox. After all, he was a Cubs fan. Though a Sox fan, I understood his dedication to the Cubs. I also understood my need to gloat.

Recently author Robin LaFevers wrote an article entitled, “On Discipline, Dedication, and Devotion” for Writer Unboxed. It was kind of her to write it, since I had planned to write this post on the subject. Now I can be lazy and piggyback off what she wrote. Thank you, Robin. You might read Robin’s post here, especially since she explains the difference between discipline, dedication, and devotion to writing.

I can’t help latching on to this quote from that post:

When we are devoted to something, there simply are few things on earth we’d rather do or spend our time with. It’s not just about what you want to say or create, but involves the very act of creating itself.

Lately, I’ve been evaluating whether I’m disciplined, dedicated, or devoted in my writing. If I’m devoted, to what exactly am I devoted? Though I’ve read and loved many kinds of fiction, I’ve generally felt a pull toward fantasy writing. I’ve never been to LeakyCon (the Harry Potter convention), the Discworld convention, or Comic-Con though. Some devoted fans might say I’m not devoted enough to fantasy. (I try to go to the Bristol Renaissance Faire each year, however.)

Those devoted to a team, a person, or to something else they consider dear sometimes test the devotion of others who profess a similar interest. If you’re truly devoted, you’ll hit all of the benchmarks of devotion. This is very true of fantasy fans.

Whenever I mention a love for fantasy, I’m generally asked, “Have you read George R. R. Martin’s series? Tolkien’s books? Tad Williams’s books? Robert Jordan’s/Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time? Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series? Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series? Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind or The Wise Man’s Fear? Harry Potter? [No one ever asks, “Have you read J. K. Rowling’s series?” It’s always, “Have you read Harry Potter?”] Kristin Cashore’s series? Rick Riordan’s series? Any of Jasper Fforde’s series? Anything by Neil Gaiman, Patricia McKillip, Lois McMaster Bujold, George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, or Juliet Marillier?” These are “benchmark” fantasy authors and series. And there are many others, of course (like Raymond Feist, Sharon Shinn, and Garth Nix for example). Though I’ve read books by all of the above (um, I quit at book 7 for Wheel of Time; I’ll probably return to it at some point), I still have to question whether I’m dedicated or devoted in light of Robin’s definition. After all, I’m not just a reader of fantasy. I’m a writer of it.

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I look at a writer like Charles Yallowitz, and I see devotion. He has his Legends of Windemere site and series (two of his books are shown below) and poetry, and already planned several other books in the series. On his blog, he regularly talks about his characters and magic and includes excerpts from his books and character sketches. He writes guest posts for other blogs as well. See? That’s devotion.

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And then there are the participants in the WIPpet Wednesdays, hosted by K. L. Schwengel. Many post excerpts from more than one fantasy novel.

Do I have that level of devotion? If I allow myself to be stopped by rejections, procrastination, or anything else, I can’t say that I do. Take for instance the other day. Instead of continuing to work on the magic system for my novel—a necessary activity—I sat and played Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns. Why? Because I had a moment of self-doubt. Finally, disgusted with myself, I quit procrastinating and returned to the world building. And you know what? I felt better.

That incident prompts me to ask myself: Am I dedicated or devoted to my own series? Or, am I content to be entertained by the hard efforts of other people (like Charles or Lois or J. K. Rowling)? What about you? Are you disciplined, dedicated, or devoted? To what? How do you show it?

Book covers from Goodreads.