The Fictorians

Moments That Make Me Love Being An Author

28 July 2014 | No Comments » | fictorians

A guest post by Ramon Terrell.

To be honest, there are many things and many moments that make me love what I do and what I am. There are aspects of being an author that are great, such as the freedom to set up my own schedule, or work from any location in the world. It’s an excuse to research topics I find interesting, as well as go to the movies or play video games as an educational experience on top of entertainment.

Being an author is one of the most rewarding endeavors I have ever engaged in, and though it is hard work, just as with any profession, the rewards so far outweigh the difficult times that they are as easily forgotten as a cold once you’re healthy and running again.

But moments are something different. Unlike aspects of a profession that are a constant, moments are something that are fleeting, and often powerful. Sometimes moments can be inspirational, or enlightening, or even life-changing.

One powerful moment that I will never forget, was actually shared by an amazing fantasy author by the name of Tracy Hickman. (If you haven’t watched the video, do yourself a favor and watch it.) The story he imparted was the stuff of legend among our craft, and will leave you struggling not to shed a tear.

Now, while I don’t have a story, or moment, nearly as powerful as Tracy’s, I do have a few in my little newbie writer’s box. One such memory was the day a reader told me that my battle scenes reminded him of R A Salvatore’s. To say that I am a huge Salvatore fanboy would be the biggest understatement of the decade, so to have a reader tell me that anything of mine reminded him of my favorite author, was both humbling and, quite frankly, arm pump inducing. (I may have shouted a couple “YEAH’s!” in the privacy of my home)

Another moment that made me sit back and bask in my love of being an author was when a reader recently told me that he was a huge Terry Brooks fan, and that he really enjoyed my most recent epic fantasy novel, Unleashed. I can’t begin to describe what it feels like as a relatively new author to have someone mention your work alongside the work of the legends of your genre. And while I do not consider myself a Terry Brooks, or an R A Salvatore, that a fan would think of me in relation to them was an amazing and humbling feeling.

Of all the special moments I’ve had that make me love what I do, two come strongest to mind. First was when a reader chuckled and said she was pleasantly surprised at how strong and powerful my female characters are, and that it seemed to her that they were more powerful than the guys, without it being heavy-handed or forced.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love powerful female characters. A well written powerful female character that uses her strengths to greatest effect is something I never get tired of, and I think this reflects in my work.

The second moment was one that touched me deeply, though she may not have realized it. It was a simply thing, a simple unconscious gesture that really made my day, and made me love being an author.

I was talking to a reader who had just purchased Revenire, the final book in the Hunter’s Moon vampire series. After I signed the book, she told me she couldn’t wait to jump into it, then she smiled and held the book to her chest and wrapped her arms around it.

You see, when we hold something to our chest in a hug-like gesture, it is us holding something close to our heart. We don’t hold things of little value close to the heart. You don’t hold a bottle or castor oil, or a pair of smelly socks to your chest and wrap your arms around them. You don’t hold a can of cola or a bag of fries (maybe some do) close to your heart. But what you do hold close to the heart is something you value.

We hold great memories and feelings close to the heart. We hold all that is positive and welcome, and joy inducing close to our hearts. So for that reader to wrap her arms around that book and hold it against her chest, close to her heart, that was a silent way of saying that she felt that book was going to give her great joy, great entertainment, and great memories. I was honored and (again) humbled, and to be frank, thought it was pretty doggone cool.

So for me, aside from constantly being humbled, (grin) moments like these, when a reader expresses their love for my work, and the subtle gestures they make when interacting with one of my books, to expressing the enjoyment and inspiration they’ve gained from them, are the things that make me love what I do, and serve as a constant reminder of how blessed I am to be able to touch people in such a profound way.

Guest Writer Bio: R. J. Terrell was instantly a lover of fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow. When not writing, he enjoys reading, videogames, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.

Connect with me at:
RJ Terrell on Facebook
@RJTerrell on Twitter
R. J. Terrel on Goodreads

 

Those Writerly Moments

25 July 2014 | No Comments » | fictorians

A guest post by David Farland.

I love being a writer. In fact, I love it so much that it has probably spoiled me. I’m not sure that I’m even fit for a regular 9-5 job.

I’ve been asked to tell about some of my own writerly moments, those times when I just love my job. Here are a few:

Fun Writing Days. About five years ago I was at Cabo San Lucas on a writing retreat. I’d awakened just before dawn, and walked out on the beach to write as the sun rose—a ball of molten silver with magenta highlights, rising above a purple mist. The wind was perfectly still as the sun ascended above the ocean, and I got into the writing groove. I got lost in a scene, writing as fast as I could until the beach warmed enough so that the iguanas began to come out to sun on a nearby wall, then I went into my room and just kept writing until the sun went down. I love it on days like that, where you get lost in the work.

Changing Peoples’ Lives. Recently I got a letter from a fan who was ill with a terminal disease. For the past six years he has been hooked to a morphine pump, and he wrote to tell me that he had read my Runelords series many times. He said that he found that when he read my books, they transported him into another world, and he forgot about his pain—to the point where his nurse could turn off the morphine pump for a few hours. I’ve gotten similar letters over the years, and each one touches me anew.

Surprise Paychecks. Everyone knows that writers don’t make a lot of money, right? But every once in a while I’ll get a paycheck that surprises me. A few years ago, we had a nice foreign rights sale to a publisher that came in just before Christmas. An extra $100,000 sure helped add to the holiday cheer.

Helping Other Writers. Four years ago, my novel In the Company of Angels went up for the Whitney Award for Best Novel of the Year. I was invited to attend the awards event, and was given a lifetime achievement award for my work in helping discover and promote new writers. As the spokesman announced the award, he asked members of the audience “Who among you has taken classes from Dave?” Perhaps 20% of the audience rose. He then asked, “How many of you have read articles or books by Dave?” and perhaps another 60% of the audience stood. He then asked, “How many of you have read novels by any of the authors who are standing?” and everyone stood.

It really brought home to me that my work isn’t just about writing. Sometimes it’s about teaching. Some of my students have far surpassed me in reputation. The incident reminded me that each of us is like a stone dropped into a still pool, and our influence reaches out and moves others, touches everyone, in ways that may never be aware of.

I was happy to take home two awards that day—one for my work as a teacher, and one for “Best Novel of the Year.”

Many authors know the thrill of seeing their first book in print, or getting their first great review, or hitting a bestseller list. But there are so many touching moments associated with this job, I don’t think that I could list them all. It’s not something that you can really talk about. It’s something you have to live.

Guest Writer Bio:

David Farland is an award-winning, international best-selling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and he has won over seven awards—including the International Book Award and the Hollywood Book Festival, Grand Prize—for his fantasy thriller Nightingale. He is best known, however, for his New York Times best-selling fantasy series The Runelords, which will soon be made into a graphic novel and, likely, a movie.

Farland has written for major franchises such as Star Wars and The Mummy. He has worked in Hollywood greenlighting movies and doctoring scripts. He has been a movie producer, and he has even lived in China working as a screenwriter for a major fantasy film franchise.

As a writing instructor, Farland has mentored dozens who have gone on to staggering literary success, including such #1 New York Times Bestsellers as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).

Farland judges L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future, the one of the largest worldwide writing competitions for new fantasy and science fiction authors. In the video game industry, he has been both a designer and a scripter and was the co-leader on the design team for StarCraft: Brood War.  He set the Guinness World Record for the largest single-author, single-book signing.

David Farland has been hailed as “The wizard of storytelling” and his work has been called “compelling,” “engrossing,” “powerful,” “profound,” and “ultimately life-changing.”

The Ley-Lines of Creative Inspiration

24 July 2014 | No Comments » | fictorians

A guest post by James A. Owen.

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that Walt Disney was and is a continuing influence on my life and work. It was the scope of his ambition as much as anything else that is so inspiring to me: theme parks, film, animation, publishing, and even his business philosophies… There are so many instances where something he did or influenced became a source for inspiring work of my own that the ley-lines of inspiration that connect me to Disney literally touch every part of my life and career.

I’m one of those people who revels in the documentaries about how he began, and built up his company, and especially those about individual projects like the animated films and especially, Disneyland. The animators he called the Nine Old Men were the core of both his original animated masterpieces, as well as his ventures into theme parks, and a lot of that early work was done at the old Hyperion Studio in Los Angeles – a studio which is no longer there. Instead, what stands on the property is a Gelson’s Supermarket. They have some framed photos of the old studio in the market, where I spent a lot of time a decade ago, buying ginger ale and killing time waiting for my agent to call.

At one point, the manager saw me looking out the windows – again – and gently told me that the original studio was completely gone. That there was nothing left of those buildings. I told him I understood, then asked if the studio buildings had faced Hyperion Avenue just like the market did. He said they had. And I replied, “That’s why I’m here. That’s the view they had when they worked on those films.” And he was astounded. Apparently, no one had ever looked up. A lot of people came there to recognize that geographical location – but I wanted to put myself in the shoes of Walt and the Nine Old Men. I wanted to sit at their desks. And The easiest way to do that, and draw on the same inspiration that they drew upon, was to look up, and see the same hills they saw as they worked.

I love the Disney Studios in Burbank for much the same reason. Everyone who visits gravitates towards the Michael Graves-designed executive building with the twenty-foot-high seven dwarves that hold up the roof. The interiors are majestic, the floors, immaculate cold marble. It is austere, and serene, and elegant, and it makes me crazy. I much prefer the old animation buildings, with the faded paint, and linoleum floors (some of which do have carpet, now), and outdated windows and doors – because those were the buildings where Walt and the animators worked. Those were the offices he designed. The feel of those spaces is the feel that brought forth incredible works like Sleeping Beauty, and inspired Walt’s original plans for Disneyland.

The same energies I feel in those old studio locations I feel times one thousand with regards to Disneyland itself. Walt Disney World is bigger and grander in every way – but Disneyland was where Walt wandered around reveling in this great thing he was building and bringing into being. I still have the first Disneyland souvenir book my aunt brought to me, with a back cover that announced a newfangled roller-coaster attraction called Space Mountain. I was told they hardly ever lost anyone in space during the course of the ride. I still wonder. There was a photo of the old cemetery caretaker in the Haunted Mansion that is the direct inspiration for my character Ezekiel Higgins in my StarChild graphic novels and the just-completed book Fool’s Hollow. And Disneyland itself was where I first started writing the book my name and reputation are built upon, Here, There Be Dragons.

I had visited the park several times in my childhood – it was the every-other-year vacation destination for our family – and continued to go as often as I could as an adult. I was involved professionally with a number of people at different divisions of the company, but my real passion was the park itself and the resort environment that radiated from it as the years progressed. I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles a decade ago waiting for meetings on the various projects I was working on, and a few overnight stays closer to the different film studios themselves – basically, Hollywood proper – convinced me I didn’t want to spend any more time in that part of the city than was required by law or my agents. I preferred to make the long drive from and back to Anaheim for the meetings that actually occurred, because that meant that I could spend my free time at the parks, or at the Disneyland Hotel, or in the just-completed Downtown Disney.

There was a bookstore in Downtown Disney – now replaced by an Earl of Sandwich – where I could browse all morning, and there were chairs and tables along greenbelts outside where I could spend afternoons working and reading and dreaming. I could wander the waterfall walks at the Disneyland Hotel – now replaced with bigger swimming pools and a Monorail-themed slide – and there were several restaurants where I could grab a quick soda or slice of pizza to eat.

I couldn’t afford to stay at the nicer hotels, not when I was there for weeks at a time, and so I stayed at an inexpensive motel farther down Harbor, a Rodeway Inn (then called the Vagabond) where I had stayed so often the Bangladeshi family who owned it began referring to me as their “beloved customer.” The first time I was there, I hooked my computer up to the phone for internet, and it dialed my provider – in Arizona. The manager had to tell me I’d spent a couple of weeks worth of deposit on three days worth of internet access by way of long-distance charges, but as I was their beloved customer, they were fine with me mailing a check after I got home.

I stayed at the Vagabond so that I had the proximity to Disneyland, and that was where I wrote much of Here, There Be Dragons. That was where I sat, hoping, dreaming, planning. When I had money, I’d spend a day at the park. When I didn’t, I’d sit outside it, by the roses under the monorail track, where I could watch the train come in at the entrance, and dream more, hope more, and then, go back to the greenbelt or bookstore or room 202 at the Vagabond, which they made sure to give me because it had the biggest desk, and work more.

At one point, I had a presentation that required art, and I needed more space to lay it out than I had at the motel. So I got dressed up in my nicest outfit, went over to the conference center at the Disneyland Hotel, consulted the convention schedule – and which rooms were being used – and simply set everything up in one of the empty rooms. If anyone stuck their head in to ask what I was doing, I’d simply answer “I’m working,” then get back to it. No one bothers someone working in really nice clothes who act as if they belong there. I also learned if you tip the cleaning staff, who never get tips for cleaning conference room space, they’ll be more than happy to pop down to the gift shop and grab a soda for you.

I was in a specific chair at the Disneyland Hotel when I got the news that the producer of the Harry Potter films wanted to option my books. (They didn’t make the movie, but that deal was how I got into the Writer’s Guild and got health insurance.) I worked on a specific bench in the conference center to prepare my presentations for what would become my biggest book deal. I bought the issue of the Hollywood Reporter that announced my first movie deal at the newsstand in Downtown Disney. The first time I saw a copy of Here, There Be Dragons in a bookstore was at the now-gone Compass Books. I celebrated signing the contracts and delivery of the first draft of Fool’s Hollow at two separate dinners with friends and family at the Napa Rose restaurant at the Grand Californian Hotel. I made choices about my career in movies while looking at the candle that they keep lit in Walt’s old apartment over the firehouse in Disneyland. I made decisions about my publishing career standing by the public phones outside the restrooms at the Grand Californian. I first thought of doing window displays of my characters while strolling along Main Street, and created what would become my first animatronics exhibit, part of which will be reemerging at the upcoming Salt Lake Comicon, after reading the big book on Disney Imagineering, in which I also drew the first design for my animatronics walkthrough I took to the San Diego Comicon years ago.

I wanted to be an artist because of the Nine Old Men, and got to meet four of them (Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, and Eric Larson) and because of the book The Illusion of Life that Frank and Ollie co-authored. I wanted to write adventure stories because of the Uncle Scrooge comics written and drawn by Carl Barks, which I read as a child, and found again as a teenager in huge reprint hardcovers that were produced by a publishing imprint in Scottsdale, whose principals became friends of mine through our shared love of comics. Over the love of those same Barks stories, I became friends with SF author Alan Dean Foster, who wrote an introduction for an issue of StarChild early in my career, and another mutual friend went on to become an animator at Pixar, where I will be going to meet with artists this Fall, and extend the Disney-influenced ley-lines even further.

There are places that are important to us, creatively, because of what they inspire. Sometimes, those places are where other creative did great work. Sometimes, it’s those small connections with people that create the points for the ley-lines. I have an old letterhead – my own – with a message on it written to me by master animator Ward Kimball. When I met him, and we shook hands, he smiled and remarked, “You’ve now touched the hand that touched the hand of Walt Disney.” What made that meaningful to me was that Disney died years before I was born – but one small gesture, one brief comment, gave me a connection to him I treasure.

Every book, every place, every film, every artist, every single connection I have to the things and people Walt Disney influenced have had an influence on me, and the work I do and choices I make. That is a powerful thing. Sometimes, you can’t always see where the ley-lines of creative inspiration connect to the things that were, are, or will be the most meaningful in your life – and you can’t always see where you, and the work you do, and the things and people you influence may be creating ley-lines of influence for someone else. But you are. I promise you, if you do anything creative, you are. And that is hugely, HUGELY, important to me: when someone comes to me and says, “I chose this path because YOU inspired me,” that means something, because I have said those words. I have felt the depth of meaning in them. And I know what they really are: an intersection of ley-lines of something awesome, in a connection that won’t ever be broken. And they’re easier to see than you think – just look up. And keep going. That’s it.

Guest Writer Bio: James A. Owen is the author of the bestselling Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, the creator of the critically acclaimed StarChild graphic novel series, and the author of the MythWorld series of novels, the author and illustrator of the forthcoming series Fool’s Hollow, and the author of the nonfiction trilogy called The Meditations. He is also the founder and executive director of Coppervale International, a creative think tank and studio that also publishes magazines and books, and develops and produces television and film projects. He makes his home in Arizona, where he is currently redesigning an entire town. Visit him at heretherebedragons.net and at jamesaowen.com.

 

 

 

Enjoying Your Own Writing

23 July 2014 | No Comments » | Matt Jones

Remember the last time you wrote something really good? I mean REALLY good? Maybe something you set aside for a little while and upon revisiting it you thought, “Did I really write this?” Something that fuels imagination, incites rage, or simply gives you goosebumps. It’s for those moments that I write. To be honest, it’s for those moments that I live for.

But lets step back and look at my life. This month is all about getting a glimpse into the world of our fellow fictorians. For my day job, I’m a Software Engineer. I write code and I love it. I guess it makes sense. During the day I get to write clever algorithm and create new software. At night I get to write clever prose and create new worlds. In both jobs, my favorite moments come when I can look at something I wrote, be it code or prose, and bask in my own brilliance.

Now, I guess there is something that makes those moments so special for me. They happen, but not as often as I would like. I guess one of the problems with writing every day, for a long time, is that you get used to it. You come to learn what to expect with your abilities and you don’t always end up pushing the envelope. In coding it is the well understood, easy to read code usually is always the best. A favorite quotes goes as follows:
“Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it.” –Brian Kernighan

The same goes for writing. You learn what works and what doesn’t. To some degree, writing is taking pieces of a novel and putting them together in the right order to keep the reader entertained. If you make it too clever, or too convoluted, you’ll lose a lot of readers who just want a simple novel. The chances of doing something really amazing sometimes feel few and far between.

But that doesn’t mean it never happens. Sometimes magic strikes, and sometimes I can channel that magic to create pure brilliance on the screen. When I read it later, the magic is still there and it flares to life. And sometimes, I forget all the mistakes I’ve made. I forget the negative criticism I’ve received. I forget all the rejection letters I have. Sometimes I know that I am a writer, and this is why I write.

And that’s why I keep writing.

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