Welcome back to another Monday of writer’s links here on No Wasted Ink. This week I’ve been surfing articles about the life of a writer, editing and general writing techniques. Check out the article about writing across country on a train. It would be a real treat for any writer.
Book Name: The Crystal Cave
Author: Mary Stewart
First Published: 1970
Lady Mary Stewart was born in Sunderland, England, the daughter of a vicar. She graduated from Durham University in 1938 with full honors in English. While she hoped to become a university professor, due to World War II, jobs were very scarce and she shifted gears, got a teaching certificate and taught primary school instead. After the war ended, she went on to earn a master’s degree and was hired as a lecturer of English Language and Literature at the Durham University.
It was during her years lecturing at Durham where she met a fellow lecturer, a young Scot who spoke of Geology, by the name of Frederick Stewart. They married within three months of their meeting at a VE Day dance in 1945. When she was 30, Lady Stewart had an ectopic pregnancy that was undiscovered for many weeks and damaged her. She lost the child and was not able to have any further children.
In 1956, her husband became a professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Edinburgh University in Scotland. Instead of continuing to teach, Mary Stewart decided to submit a novel to publisher Hodder & Stoughton. They accepted her book and it was an immediate success. She continued to write in many genres such as romantic suspense, poetry, and her famous Merlin Series which is a mix of fantasy and historical fiction.
Mary Stewart was a popular best-selling author throughout the 1950s through the 1980s. Her novel The Moonspiners was made into a Disney movie. After T.H. White produced his book The Sword in the Stone, Arthurian legends became popular. Mary Stewart soon after published The Crystal Cave and it was a huge hit. In the 1990’s it was adapted into a BBC TV series called Merlin of the Crystal Cave and starred Robert Powell as Ambrosius.
In 1974, Frederick Stewart was knighted and Mary became Lady Stewart, although she did not often use the title. She and her husband lived happily in both Edinburgh and Loch Awe, Scotland and were avid gardeners and shared a love for nature. He passed on in 2001. Mary followed him in 2014.
“The gods only go with you if you put yourself in their path. And that takes courage.”
― Mary Stewart, The Crystal Cave
Arthurian legends normally are told via the perspective of King Arthur. The Crystal Cave takes a departure from this trend by following the life of Merlin the Wizard or as he is called in this tale, Myrddin Emrys.
Myrddin begins his story when he is six years old and follows him until he is a young man. The Romans have departed Britain and it is now divided into many smaller kingdoms, loosely united under a High King. Myrddin is the son of a Welsh princess who declines to name his sire. He is small for his age and often neglected. He also has clairvoyant visions. This second sight causes him to be called as “the son of a devil”. He is educated by a hermit named Galapas who teaches him how to use his psychic talents and creates in him a young man of many intellectual talents in a age when brawn and fighting with a sword is more prized. Eventually, Myrddin finds his way to the court of Ambrosius Aurelianus of Brittany. Ambrosius wishes to invade Britain and become its High King. With him is his brother and heir, Uther.
When it is revealed that Myrddin is Ambrosius bastard son, he must leave the court. He returns to his home, only to discover that his teacher Galapas has been killed. He is captured by Vortigern, the usurper king of Britain. The usurper is building a fort, but the land is unstable at the chosen location and the walls tumble on a regular basis. Due to his education, Myrddin realizes that the walls fall because of a series of caves that are directly beneath the fort, but he informs Vortigern that the problem is due to dragons living in the ground. Soon after this, Amrosius invades and defeats Vortigern.
Myrddin uses his engineering talents to rebuild Stonehenge, but while doing so, he has visions of his father’s death. When a comet appears and Ambrosius dies, his half brother Uther Pendragon takes the throne.
I stumbled onto Mary Stewart’s Merlin books in college. I loved Sword in the Stone and later Mists of Avalon, so another series of books about King Arthur and his knights was very welcome. I was surprised to learn that The Crystal Cave followed the original story of Merlin instead of Arthur. Stewart did an amazing amount of historical research to bring her novels into line with the original legends. She created a more organic and natural Merlin, an educated man, than wizard. The bringing in of psychic arts and druid religion gave the stories just enough of a fantasy touch to set them apart. It is a classic tale that has stood the test of time. If you love Arthurian legend, this is a series for you.
The Merlin Series
The Crystal Cave (1970)
The Hollow Hills (1973)
The Last Enchantment (1979)
The Wicked Day (1983)
The Prince and the Pilgrim (1995)
I’ve had editing on my mind this week as I’ve been surfing the net. My selections this week reflect this ideology. There are lots of great ideas to draw from to help you gain a better perspective on what to do when your rough draft is completed. Enjoy!
Marketing a novel starts with, “What does a reader want?” They are after a strong story, engaging characters, no errors, and an eye-catching cover. Ok we’ve all heard this before. But there is one more key thing that most fans want – an author they can identify with. Think about your favorite author. Have you ever wanted to meet her/him? Wanted to find out why they made those choices in their book plot? Ever wanted to know what they do for fun? It’s the same whether its movie stars, political candidates, or authors. The public wants to get to know them, maybe even be their friend. In a sense, we need to sell ourselves as much as our product. This means we must interact directly with the scifi public, not from behind a website.
In one respect we, as scifi authors, are lucky. If you count scifi, gaming, anime, comic, furry, horror, and fantasy conventions you have literally thousands of shows of all sizes, shapes, and genres. We can participate in a different convention every weekend. While they can be draining, they can also give you that surge of positive fan energy to move you on with your next work. Convention success requires getting attention, sharing, helpfulness, measuring success/failure, and repetitiveness.
Conventions are like casinos with all the blinking, flashing lights. It makes getting attention difficult. The key is getting people to talk to you. You have to find a method that works for you. I’ve used any number of gambits here, but the one that works consistently is apparel – t-shirt slogans, costumes, football hats, diaper bags. What do these have to do with writing? Nothing, but they give you an inside track into what interests those potential customers. Use that strike up a conversation. Once you are talking half the battle is over.
As our goal is to sell books, our instinct is to launch immediately into our elevator pitch. In the words of Robin Williams, “Buzz – thanks for playing.” No one wants to be sold to. Sharing takes practice in spending more time listening than talking. Remember the reader wants to be friends. They want to be able to brag to their buddies that they know this great author. In the course of any convention I’ll spend 3/4ths of my time talking about anything but my products.
Karma for the win. Even if you don’t subscribe, remember people run the convention that you are attending. People run the conventions you haven’t found yet. Being helpful, with no attempt for immediate gain (no one likes a brown-nose), does pay off huge in the long run. People share your name as a good vendor. They help you get into other events or with problems you have. Going the other way, it takes no time at all to get a bad reputation and shut out of potential marketing / sales avenues.
Everyone has his or her own niche. A show that works for one person may not work for another. You want to be ruthless about those things that work and don’t work for you. That means measuring and math. Was your net higher at this show? Even with a slight loss, was the convention worth it in exposure or contacts made. You must clamp down on the downside outliers and exploit the upside to be successful.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. If I had one piece of advice, that is it. Again, think about it from a reader’s perspective. The worst thing that could happen is to get a great first book in a series and never hear about that author again. One show and you are noticed as something different but probably not many sales. Two shows and you are interesting – maybe there is something to this author. Your third repeat of a show, with new product each time, and you are someone that isn’t going away. You can be trusted.
Face to face marketing isn’t easy, especially for authors who are introverted as a class, but the payoffs are huge. Yes, online marketing is great, but it has a half-life of about three milliseconds. It doesn’t make that lasting impression that sharing about the time at a major convention a stool collapsed out from under you, signing their purchase with a personal touch about something you’ve talked about, or sharing about their book project can have. These things last in reader’s minds for years. The efforts are worth it and build the strongest fan base. Remember that this business is a marathon, not a sprint.
A father of three, consummate gamer and loving husband, Thomas Gondolfi claims to be a Renaissance man and certified flirt. Raised as a military brat, he spent the first twenty years of his life moving to a new place every few years giving him a unique perspective on most regions of the United States.
Educated as an electrical engineer and working in high tech for over twenty years, Tom has also worked as a cook, motel manager, most phases of home construction, volunteer firefighter for eight years, and even as the personal caregiver to a quadriplegic.
Tom Gondolfi has been writing fiction for over thirty years and doing it professionally for at least fifteen. Most of his short stories have been commissioned for use in gaming products, such as Babylon 5 Wars and Star Fleet Battles. “Toy Wars,” Tom’s first commercially viable novel, was completed almost 20 years ago with a polish just prior to publication in 2013. “An Eighty Percent Solution” is the premiere novel of his cyberpunk “CorpGov Chronicles”. Tom has completed book two, “Thinking Outside the Box,” and book three, “The Bleeding Edge,” with a total of nine books already plotted out for the series.
Based out of Germany, Brian Guthrie is a serial author of science fiction and fantasy. He is currently writing and publishing his Future Worlds series on JukePop Serials. He has plans for another science fiction novel, a bit of historical fiction, and many short stories set in the Future Worlds universe. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.
My name is Brian Guthrie. I’m a husband, father of one, Christian, owner of two cats, lover of all things science-fiction and fantasy, a cosplayer (Trip Tucker, Captain Proton, Luke Skywalker – Jedi Academy era, Captain America Winter Soldier, and Steve Rogers, army class dress), linguist, gamer, and much more. I also spin and eat fire and love to travel (20 countries and counting).
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing as a kid because I wanted a world I could control. I’ve had issues with this most of my life and certain traumatic events during my pre-teen and teenage years exasperated this. At first, it was a form of therapy, of coping. My imagination provided an escape, a place I could go to get away. Eventually, it blossomed into this wonderful thing that gives me ideas.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Last year when I began serial publishing on JukePop Serials.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
This is the blurb for the entire Future Worlds series, which contains four novels: Rise, Fall, Shatter, and Unite
On a shattered world protected from the cold of space by a water shield, the people are dependent on Ancient technology to survive. Now, that network is breaking down and the water on one shell is running out, setting the inhabitants on a path toward war. The search to find answers brings four complete strangers, each struggling with their own inner turmoil, together to prevent the destruction of the world as they know it.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve enjoyed creating this world and filling it with characters for over two decades now. It’s nothing like what it started out as, but the draw is still there: to tell a story that can both entertain and change lives.
Do you have a specific writing style?
If by style you mean voice, then no. I’ve fallen in love with First Person because it creates a limiting factor on POV in a narrative. If by style you mean the actual process of writing, I tend to get bogged down in the behind the scenes preparation and have to just make myself writing. Dramatica helped me a lot with story-boarding.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
I wanted something simple that would stand out. Something that on a book cover would draw the eye. Also, I wanted to give hints into what was going on in the story. Each title for the books gives you a hint into what is coming in that book.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
If I have to pick one, then: Never give up hope, for it will always triumph over fear.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
As this is an entirely made up world, the characters are all fictional. That said, the main characters are modeled after significant people in my life and many of the events, both on a character level and on a grand world-wide level, draw from events in my personal life.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
That is a loaded question. Influence can be good or bad. Authors I have read that helped me in a positive way would be Timothy Zahn, Patrick Rothfuss, Tracy Hickman, and Stephen Lawhead. Zahn always redeems someone in his stories, Rothfuss showed me that a narrative first person story could not only work but be amazing, and Lawhead and Zahn both expanded my world when I was younger beyond the limited Fantasy realm I knew existed. Authors who are a negative influence in that I read them to remind myself what not to do: Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, George R.R. Martin.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
Tracy Hickman. He, literally, taught me in an online writing course he ran for a full year.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Christopher McElfresh, friend from my previous home. He became my sounding board for ideas, sketching out what he saw as he read to help me visualize what I wrote. When the time came for a cover, he was the first one that came to mind. The idea to make it simple to catch the eye was originally his before I came up with the idea for what we actually put on there.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write. Every day. Treat yourself like a professional. What do professionals do? They do what they are professional in. A lot. Get training. Take critical advice and give it a fair shot. And just write. Pretend you’re the reader when you write. Would you believe what you just wrote? Why not? Did I mention write? Every day. You’d be shocked how easy it is to hit 100-300 words in just a few minutes. You’re never going to have that big writing session (although I’ve found mixing writing with 4X turn based strategy games makes for a lot of writing) to just rip off 5000 words. But you can easily squeeze 15 minutes in here or there and write a lot of content. Just look at this paragraph. Shooting from the hip, I spit off 140 words in 5 minutes. Easy.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you. You challenge me to be the best at what I do. I hope I can keep on exceeding your imaginations and taking you to places you couldn’t think of before. Even in a familiar place.
Future Worlds Series. Book 1: Rise
Cover Artist: Chris McElfresh