Category Archives: The Writing Life

We All Live in Community

After a while, I think I start to sound like a broken record, returning to certain themes over and over again. These themes really motivate me and speak to me as a writer and as a person. One of them is the reality that we all exist in communities. Writing communities, yes, but also families large and small, towns and cities, countries, work environments, and professional groups. And these communities are important ingredients in shaping who we are—and we become. Though it may seem at times like we’re alone, cast adrift on the lonely frontiers of human experience, that’s usually not indicative of our reality.

Writing can feel especially lonely—and that’s one of the reasons we first started this blog four and a half years ago. Has it really been four and a half years? Sometimes it’s hard to believe. In fact, our blog is approaching a big milestone—next week!—which is why I’ve found myself ruminating on the theme of community once again (as I mentioned, I’ve done it before). The milestone in question? Our 1000th post. That’s right, folks. We’ve gone four digits, and there’s no looking back.

There’s going to be a lot going on this month. As you’ve noticed, we’ve got ourselves a new and improved website to make your Fictorians experience more enjoyable—and yes, hopefully more practical. And as usual, we’re going to bring you a wide range of bloggers, all with different perspectives and stories relating to the community theme.

But we’ve got something a little extra to bring you this month, and that’s free stuff. Lots and lots and lots of free stuff. In fact, we have seven prizes to give away every week. You read that correctly. More on that tomorrow, so hurry back for all those juicy details.

Check back all month to hear from the usual suspects as well as guests bloggers like Rachel Anne Nunes (believe me; she’s got a story to tell!), Sherry Peters, and Petra Klarbrunn. Together, our message will be clear: we’re not alone—and neither are you. Stick around, be inspired, and win some prizes. Does it get any better than this?

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, whose third volume, The Law of Radiance, has just been released. He specializes in both hard and soft science fiction and lives in the vicinity of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

July Wrap Up

When I pitched the topic of “inspiration found in the writing life” to the Fictorians and our guests, I was looking forward to tales of childhood heroes and success. We got some of that, but what I didn’t expect was how many would be brutally honest with the painful parts of their lives too. And yet they did, pushing the month from great to amazing. I’m thankful to them for their frankness and for the opportunity I’ve had to learn a great deal about some of my close friends. I know that I’ve found inspiration in their struggles, courage, and strength. Their stories helped put life into perspective, and many of them spoke to me and my experiences. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Early in the month, my good friend Emily Godhand wrote on the importance of sharing personal experience to enhance realism in our stories. In Turing Experiences into Method Acting, she talked about how her description of real world places was significantly improved when she pushed herself out of her comfort zone to actually visit them. More importantly, she showed how she could bring truth to her portrayal of her character’s emotions by being brutally honest with her own pain.
  • I also really enjoyed Scott Eder’s post on A Change in Perspective. It spoke to a part of me that learned a very similar lesson working in a harsh corporate job. Life is short and though our dreams may be fueled by passion, it also takes commitment and courage to realize them. Our world is designed to make us think a certain way, but as writers we have a duty to show others the possibilities that they wouldn’t normally think of. To do so, we must first have the foresight to break out of our own cognitive boxes.
  • It had already been a very emotional month when Lissa Woodbury Jensen sent me her post. Honestly, I had no idea what I was in for. After all, SF&F Saved My Life is quite a title to live up to. She killed it. If you haven’t had a chance to catch that one, you need to.
  • I remember when I almost gave up on my writing career as a late teenager, so I empathized with Kary English’s post On Motivation and the Quest for It. Let’s be honest. Most every writer I’ve spoken to has struggled with self doubt and with the desire to quit. Talking about and sharing our experiences is the only way to diffuse the motivation to keep others writing. Ultimately the punch line of Kary’s post is absolutely right. There’s only two ways to get out of being an aspiring author. Make it or quit. Only you can choose.
  • Kristin Luna’s post on Feeding the Foundation was also a delight! Often, I find myself struggling with what questions I need to ask to measure my own progress, but she provides a good list in her usual entertaining manner. Can you answer all six honestly? Are you happy with those answers, and what will you do to change the ones you don’t like?
  • In order to end on a high note, I reread Jace Killan’s challenge last. Live Deliberately. It sounds simple, but I know it is something that I’ve struggled with in the past. The reminder that life is for those who choose to live is essential.

July has been an amazing month filled with inspiration and stories. Which were your favorites? Comment below and let us know!

Would you believe me if I told you that August promises to be even more awesome? We’ve been quiet about this so far, but next month the Fictorians will be reaching an important milestone in our history. Our 1,000th post will go live! In a world where most blogs fail within the first year, we’re very proud of our accomplishment. To celebrate, we are doing two things.

First, the Fictorians website will be getting a face lift! Y’all spoke and we listened. Over the past few months, we’ve been working behind the scenes to make our blog more aesthetically appealing as well as make navigation and usability much friendlier. Tomorrow, our new site design will go live. I hope y’all love it as much as we do.

Second, PRIZES! Most of the Fictorians and many of our friends will be giving away copies of our books. Make sure you keep reading in the next few days and we’ll explain exactly what and how. Exciting times are ahead! See y’all next month.

Good Omens Gone Bad: Why I Shouldn’t Be Writing

A Guest Post by Aaron Michael Ritchey

I recently read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, and it’s about dreams, or more precisely, the following of dreams, the wretched path that narrows, and the splendor of the vision. As you follow your dreams, Paulo writes, it’s important to notice omens along the way.

Omens, as in messages from the gods, or God, or the big bright Whatever in the sky. In pursuing my own writerly dreams, I’ve had omens, I guess, maybe. I’m a hugely dramatic man, and the only omens I care about are either engulfed in flames or splattered with the blood of sacrificial virgins. I want impossible-to-ignore omens, dammit, crows that caw my name, and if I don’t get the cawing, it doesn’t count.

As you can guess, I’m disappointed much of the time. I can easily discount every single omen I’ve been gien on my writer’s journey. And I can point out to you, in exquisite detail, the omens my fellow authors have been given. Sure, the crows caw their name, but not mine.

Let’s talk about my first good omen. My dad had a friend who worked for the Modern Language Associations, you know, the MLA. They were to the English language as the KGB was to communism. Nobody messed with the MLA. My dad gave his friend a story to read, and she loved it and praised my talent. It was an omen. Or was it? She was my dad’s friend. I was sixteen and fragile and she was probably just sparing my feelings. Screw that omen, it doesn’t count.

In high school my stories were chosen to be in the literary magazine. That’s an omen, right? No, I had to vote for my own stories in order to win, and Pat Engelking always beat me. No omen for me!

A year after college, I finished my first novel. I gave it to a friend. He cried reading it. Omen, yeah? No, that first book was so bad that my wife couldn’t read it. And I dedicated it to her! The crows sat in silent scorn in the trees outside my house.

I wrote an epic trilogy after that, and my audience doubled to friends loving my work, but it still doesn’t count. I still wasn’t published.

Then? Eight books later, my lucky thirteenth book I’d written, The Never Prayer, not only was a finalist in a writing contest, but a publisher wanted to publisher it! Omens galore! Hide the virgins, the dagger is thirsty tonight!

I didn’t win the contest, and the publisher went under. As in glug, glug, glug. Going down three times, and coming up twice. No omens.

But my second book, er, fourteenth book, Long Live the Suicide King, found a publisher, and I got a strong Kirkus Review! Not just strong, glowing, put on your sunglasses. That’s GOT to be an omen. Kirkus, son, they don’t mess around.

But I’ve read other books that got glowing Kirkus Reviews, and those books were iffy. Some downright bad. Not. An. Omen.

Elizabeth's Midnight Final smallBut what about my last book I published, Elizabeth’s Midnight? Omens? Another good Kirkus Review (Indie, so it doesn’t count), more good reviews on Amazon (blah, blah, blah), and even fan mail. Am I rich and famous? Am I hanging out with Lady Gaga? Do editors read my work and say, “Sorry, man, I’d like to edit it, but it’s too damn good.”

No. No omens.

So yeah, that’s me. I’m a small-minded, ungrateful, hateful little man. I’ve never had a literary agent. I’ve never been signed on by the big six, or five, or one. I’ve not been chosen by the elite.

For me, and this is only for me, my omens come in small packages, and I have the freedom to recognize them as omens, or discount them and be the lead kazoo player in my own pity-party band.

For me, I have to work to believe in my omens. Omen #1? My wife loves my books and is willing to spend money on them. That, my friend, is a bush on fire. She’s a frugal, level-headed sort of woman, and if she didn’t think I could make it, we wouldn’t be spending the benjamins.

Omen #2? My daughters read Elizabeth’s Midnight and loved it. If my wife is frugal with our money, my daughters are even cheaper with their literary praise.

Omen #3? I’ve had fan moments, where actual people, who have read my book, looked at me in wonder. I’ve gotten fanmail. Not a lot, but what I have gotten? Astounding.

The last omen? The only omen that really counts? I WANT TO WRITE BOOKS. I want to write a lot of books. If the good Lord didn’t want me writing, he wouldn’t have given me the desire to create stories. That is the crow cawing my name.

I have been chosen because I am choosing, choosing to write books and get them published, by any means necessary.

Omen enough for me.

 

2Author_Pic_AMR_2014 MediumAbout the Author:

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King. Kirkus Reviews called his latest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, “a transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart.” In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters. Visit his website at www.aaronmritchey.com.

 

A Change in Perspective

A long time ago, at the dawn of the personal computing age, I dreamed of being an author. Toward the end of high school and through college, I wrote a few short stories, started a novel or two, and even wrote the opening scenes of a screenplay. I didn’t get published; Hell, I didn’t even try. I didn’t finish my books or screenplay. And yet I still dreamed of seeing my words, my thoughts, my stories in print and on bookstore shelves.

Life happened. The writing dream faded into the mists, a whim of childhood, replaced by the day-to-day grind. Career. Responsibility. Family. Debt. Promotion. Work more. House. Kids.

And no spare time.

Looking back, though, I realize it wasn’t a lack of time that kept me from pursuing my dream. No, it was a lack of commitment, of passion. Every once in a great while, my wife would ask me about writing, usually when I was grumping about this or that. She’d never forgotten what I wanted to be even though I had. When she broached the subject, I’d cringe and grouse that I’d used up all my words at work. Which, in a way, was true. I’d poured more than my daily allotment of meaningful words into meetings, emails, various technical documents, and random corporate discourse. At least, that’s what I told myself.

Years passed. Within the corporate gearworks, we speculated about our executives and what they would do when they hit forty. If they bought a motorcycle, it meant that they realized they’d reached the highest position they’d ever attain and accepted it. Otherwise, they’d buckle down, work harder, and grasp that next rung on the ladder.

Then I hit forty. Six months later, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. For the next five months, I split my days between being in the office and in the hospital with her, taking conference calls and checking emails from the waiting room to keep my projects on track.

She passed away in May. I left the company the first week in June.

Nothing makes you evaluate Life more than Death. So I did. After being in the corporate world for so long, though, I was trained to think a certain way—to get back into my field, to earn that paycheck, to resume that proverbial climb up the ladder. As I sat at my desk polishing my resume with all the vim and vigor of a sun-dried lemming for that inevitable plunge into the IT job market, I knew there had to be more. I didn’t want to return to a tedious world of cube farms and perimeter-lined offices, meetings scheduled to talk about meetings, and the humdrum slog making software widgets. My mom worked until she received her diagnoses and didn’t get to enjoy her retirement. I still had twenty plus years to grind away. Did I really want to strap on the yoke of the corporate overlords again? Hell no.

I glanced at the crammed bookshelves lining my wall. Fantasy novels. Stories of elves, dwarves, and dragons. Of knights and wizards. Of magic and chaos. Of good versus evil, light versus dark.

And in that moment, I remembered. Long ago, I wanted to be writer. It hit me hard and fast—the inspiration, the direction, the passion. Lost to the dream, I told my wife what I wanted to do. She and the kids supported my decision without hesitation. And so a writer was born.

The fact that I didn’t know how to write a novel really didn’t matter. I would learn thanks to David Farland’s classes and a strong, helpful writing community. But that’s a story for another post.