The Finding and Forging of Fellowship
Realm Makers Blog Voyagers - you are in the right place, even if the post below might not immediately confirm that...
My son is a high school wrestler. As a former basketball player, it has been quite an experience watching his wrestling career unfold. Here is some of what I've learned.
Wrestlers work really, really hard, because wrestling is really, really hard work. Also, while a wrestler is on a team, when he is on the mat, he is all alone. There's no teammate to pass to, no sub waiting to come in, it's just you and your opponent. Further, despite all the hard work, except for rare wrestling-friendly schools, wrestling usually operates in the shadow of basketball, the winter season glory sport. On a Friday night the basketball game might be packed, but generally its just parents and the occasional girlfriend at the wrestling meet.
Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, wrestling teams can often develop a special closeness, a fellowship of suffering, if you will. They might wrestle alone, but the other guys in the room understand all that you carry because they carry it to. The fact that their larger community barely notices them becomes a badge of honor and their toughness is a garment they wear with pride, and if the outsider doesn't understand, it's all right, because the team does.
Maybe it is stretching it to say writing is like this, but in some ways it is. One way is that it is generally a very solitary venture. To do it, we normally have to find and protect time away from other things, distractions and people. Another similarity is the hard work. To be sure, the grueling physical aspects of wrestling don't translate to writing, but the very basic fact that if you want to do it well, you will need to be disciplined and persistent certainly does. Many people want to write a novel, few people do. Even fewer write a good one, since that requires lots of editing, revising, accepting critical feedback and so forth, (not to mention the hard work of actually trying to sell and promote a book). So it is no surprise that many who are interested in writing fall by the wayside along the way.
A notable difference between the writer and the wrestler is the absence of the team. Wrestlers train and compete together, but most writers are generally alone. They may have supportive friends and family, but there's a limit to what a friend or family member can truly understand about the task if they don't do it themselves. Consequently, a writer can feel very isolated trying to create their stories, as well as trying to sell and promote them. Finding fellowship with others who understand, then, can be all that much more rewarding.
Perhaps this helps to explain some of the magic of the inaugural Realm Makers Conference last year. A host of established and aspiring speculative fiction writers converged for two days in St. Louis, and right from the start, there was a tangible excitement in the room. I think part of that was a collective sense of, I am surrounded by people who understand both my passion for and my pursuit of writing. At least, that would be part of my read of how the conference came together so well and was enjoyed so much.
On a personal note, this experience was highlighted for me by the chance to meet Kathy Tyers. I'm a relative old-timer in the Christian speculative fiction world - my first fantasy novel, Beyond the Summerland was published ten years ago, at a time when Christian publishing was fairly gunshy of the genre and before the explosion of Indie publishing. Let's just say the landscape at the time was pretty bare for new Christian fantasy, especially fantasy not geared toward young kids.
Having said that, there are some notable authors still active in Christian publishing who have been at it longer, and Kathy is one of them. In fact, her Firebird books were initially published in the late 80s. In many ways she stands with Stephen Lawhead as a pioneer of a new era of Christian speculative fiction between the publications of LOTR and Narnia in the middle of the 20th century and the more recent proliferation of titles. And, for my part, being able to meet and talk to her was the real highlight of the conference - and it certainly helped that she's humble and gracious despite her success.
In short, it can be very difficult to find and forge real fellowship with other writers, and while convening for a couple days for a conference may not satisfy all of our desire to be part of a community that understands our passions and pursuits, it can sure help.
Breaking the Cycle
There's an inertia that can set in when something like semi-regular blogging gets set aside for something pressing. In my case, it was the final push to finish my novel The Colder Moon before my 12/31/13 deadline. All my available time was poured into making my deadline (which I did, by the way, with a couple days to spare).
The problem was that not only had I set aside my blogging schedule, but I had set aside a bunch of other things too, and suddenly they were calling to me. The next thing I knew, I was well out of the routine of posting on Sundays, midweek and on Friday - a schedule I had worked to establish in an attempt to be more consistent at putting content on my site.
And that's where the inertia came in. Something bigger than the physical effort of sitting down to type up a post, something more than finding the half hour I might need to put it together. An invisible something sitting between me and this thing I knew I ought to do, and the longer I didn't do it, the easier it got to keep on ignoring it.
I finally decided that I could move past the impasse by blogging about the impasse, so here it is. I'm blogging about not blogging, which will hopefully help me to get blogging again.
To make sure that this post isn't entirely useless, though, I'll say a word about one of the things I've been working on and then I'll look forward at something special I'm planning for my blog.
The Challenge of Continuity
The biggest thing that has occupied me since mid-January is a massive continuity edit of books 2 and 3 of The Wandering. I've mentioned this elsewhere, I think, but one of the things that has changed in my writing process since I wrote The Binding of the Blade is that I plan in less detail. I have pretty definite ideas about story arcs, but I trust myself more to figure things out as I go.
I definitely haven't quite embraced the Stephen King method of starting with a premise and no idea where it goes and just launching into it, but I do think his discussion in On Writing about going back through a book after you've figured out certain things and removing stuff that doesn't fit and adding things that do makes sense. So, when I finished The Colder Moon, I decided that a massive continuity edit of both The Lesser Sun (book 2) and The Colder Moon (book 3) was in order. I took out things that I found that would cause continuity problems and then added some things earlier to correspond with decisions made later in the writing process.
I think this was important, but it was surprisingly time consuming. The two books together are about 800 of my pages long, or about 300,000 words all told, and it was quite a task to comb through it. I'm glad I did, and I think the series is the better for it, but this became one of the issues that delayed my return to blogging.
To those of you who have started The Wandering by picking up The Darker Road and giving it a read, by the way, I really do think you have a bit of a wild ride ahead of you. I hope you'll like it.
A Summer with Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles
The thing I'm planning for the blog that I'm excited to announce, is that I intend to do a series of blogs on Ray Bradbury's Sci-Fi classic, The Martian Chronicles. Because it is a collection of short stories, as much or more than it is a novel, it lends itself to being read & discussed in weekly chunks perhaps better than most books. You - the reader - can read a story or two a week, come read my blog on the story for that week, post any comments or questions you have about it, and then come back the next week and do it all over again. I see it as a chance to have a kind of online book club this summer, a chance to discuss a classic with some other speculative fiction fans.
So, I'm giving you some notice, intrepid readers. Get your copy of The Martian Chronicles. I recommend owning it, personally, but if you want to hedge your bets or if you're on a tight budget, reserve your copy from the library and stay tuned. As we get closer to the summer, I'll post more details on the reading schedule and we'll dive in. I look forward to reading the book with you.
It’s time for my Midweek Recommendation, in which I commend to your attention books or music or movies or anything I find worth recommending.
It’s a real pleasure for my midweek recommendation this week to commend to you a book by a former student and current friend of mine, Joe Bubenik. And, not only am I going to commend to you his Christmas book, “Believer,” but I’m going to interview him here so you can learn a bit about him and the book.
Joe came to Westminster Christian Academy where I teach as a transfer, midway through high school, and fortunately for me, he ended up in my class. The following year, I didn’t teach him, but as I helped supervise our chapel program, I was able to work with him some as he was a part of our chapel band. I have to say, we’ve had some really talented kids serve our school in that way over the years, but having Joe play guitar and sing up front was always a pleasure.
Anyway, on to the interview!
Q – Joe, for those who only know me as an author, what can you tell them about what it was like to suffer through a class I taught?
A – I wouldn't say that I suffered through your class. I had just transferred from a school where I had had some bad experiences with teachers, so sitting under your tutelage was never difficult. I'm assuming I was a perfect student and was a joy in every single class period.
Q. – Wow, I definitely remember that day, for sure, but I’d forgotten you were in my room when it happened. That was quite a day – part of our enduring bond, perhaps? (And yes, Joe, you were always a joy!) At any rate, having just celebrated your 10th reunion, what else do you remember about life back then?
A. – Its odd to think back on those days. In some ways, a lot of things are the same: I was dating my wife then, I live in the same house as I bought it from my parents. Inversely, I'm married and have three children now. I also own 2 minivans.
Q – So, why did you decide to write a book? And what led you to the realization you wanted to try?
A – I have wanted to write this particular book for 6 or 7 years, but I didn't really pursue it until last year. I'm not sure what pushed me over the edge into actually creating my own story.
Q – I’ve also felt the compulsive aspects of writing, but with several kids of your own, when and how did you find the time to write?
A – It is definitely difficult to find time to write. My three kids are 3 and a half, 21 months, and 5 months, so they need a lot of attention. But I find myself writing a sentence here, a paragraph there. I'll write on my lunch break or early Saturday morning before my wife and kids are up. At this point, I don't know how else I'd get it done if I didn't take the small opportunities I have. Hopefully I'll be able to solely focus on writing one day.
Q – I don’t write on my phone, but I feel much the same way. All books are written one word at a time. Changing gears a bit, there are a lot of Christmas stories in the world, what drew you to add your own?
A – I am a huge Christmas nut, so I can definitely attest to the fact of there being many Christmas stories out there. I also know that a lot of them are not very good. I had a story in mind and I wanted it out there. I suppose I'm biased, but I think I've created a story that is really different than other recent Christmas books. There is a large fantasy element to my story. I also really worked to draw lots of previously known holiday characters and items into the book.
Q – Well, tell us a bit about "Believer" and who you think the book would be good fit for?
A – "Believer” is the story of an orphan boy, Francis, who meets a person of legend and is transported to the North Pole. There he learns of danger facing the Christmas season and how he may be able to help. There's action, laughter, danger, and plenty of fun! It's written in 24 chapters so you can, if you'd like, read a chapter a day in December leading up to Christmas.
Q – As a story for children, there a lot of really beautiful illustrations - how did you find your illustrator?
A – This was easy because Jeremy Plemon is a personal friend of mine. We met at church 5 years ago and after I wrote this book, I convinced him that he should do the illustrations. I'm really proud if the way the book turned out, and that had a lot to do with his illustrations. He is a fabulous artist. He worked a long time developing the particular style he wanted to use for this book, and I think it matches the feel of the story perfectly.
Q – The cover says this is book one of the "Yuletide Tales," are there others planned?
A – It wasn't until I was nearly finished with this book that I decided that I didn't want the story to end here. I had purposely made the book shorter so that it wouldn't be overwhelming to read in a month. But in doing so, I limited how much I could tell.
Q – You are a man who loves his beard - do you think you might be related to Santa Claus yourself?
A – I'm not particular sure of my lineage past the early 1900s, but it seems I come from Czechoslovakian heritage. In all my studies, I've not found anything about old St. Nick being from that particular region.
Well, there we have it, folks. The book again is “Believer” by Joe Bubenik. You can check it out at his blog, www.yuletidetales.com, where you will also find a link to buy the book on Amazon. Check it out!
Scavenger Hunt Winners!
So the Scavenger Hunt ended on Friday, and now we have the winners! They are:
The Grand Prize winner: Renee Manning
Congratulations! And thanks to all the authors and readers who participated.
32 Author Scavenger Hunt - Rob Treskillard Interview
Hey Rob, welcome to lbgraham.com. I’m glad that you’re the author I get to interview for the scavenger hunt! Why don’t we start by telling the readers a bit about how we met. Do you want to do the honor? I think you tend to remember the details better.
Well, it all started back in late 2007 when I was browsing fiction on Amazon and ran across your Binding Of The Blade series and thought they looked really cool. Then I read your bio and found out you were from St. Louis, and so I contacted you. After much correspondence, we found out that both of us attended the same, large church ... small world!
Well, we began meeting every few months to share our travails, and now, after six years, we both have new series out ... you with THE WANDERING, and me with THE MERLIN SPIRAL trilogy. It's been quite a journey together!
When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
For me, wanting to become a writer, and realizing that I enjoyed writing were two different things. When I was about 10 I started writing and drawing my own comic books, and learned to love creating these kinds of stories. One Christmas Day, I distinctly remember talking my older cousin’s ear off for two hours going over all of my complicated plots!
Then, around fifteen I began to write poetry and short stories, and this opened up a whole new world for me. One morning I wrote two Haikus for class, and was promptly accused by my English teacher of plagiarizing them! (That mention’s for you, Chip Macgregor!)
But then, sadly, other interests caused my writing to go mostly dormant for the next twenty-five years. And so it wasn’t until 2006 that I finally picked up the pen of a novelist.
What was the most formative event of your writing career that led to the publication of your first books?
There were many events, among them discovering Randy Ingermanson’s excellent Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, but I would probably say that the 2008 ACFW conference would have to take the cake. There, as well as getting advice from other authors, I found out four things:
1. My novel was too big (Oh no!)
So it was back to the drawing board … I had to cut over 50,000 words, including a lot of poetry, rework the opening of the novel, and spiff up my writing.
So, fourteen drafts and four years later, I was very pleased to find out that #4 was indeed true, because BLINK YA Books / Zondervan picked up MERLIN’S BLADE and the two follow on novels.
Tell me a little about your books.
Well, the novels are a completely new take on the Arthurian legends, all stemming from the question “Why would you jab a sword into a stone?” My answer was “What if the stone was the enemy?”
Everything flowed from that! So the concept is that a meteorite crashes to Britain and brings a stone. Everyone who sees it becomes enchanted by it. Merlin, who was partially blinded by wolves years before the book begins, is the only one who is immune, and he has to find a way to save his family, his village, a young Arthur, and eventually all of Britain from the plots of the druids who are using the stone to take their power back.
How do you write? What’s a normal writing day like for you?
When I’m working on a novel, I try to write between 400 and 600 words a day. This involves writing first thing in the morning, and then a little before bed.
I’ll write just about anywhere, and can ignore distractions, but my favorite place is in the corner of our living room on a chair that my father bought when I was little. It has nice, thick, cushions with wide, solid oak arms. The thing is almost an antique now, and reminds me a bit of the chair Robert Frost wrote in. And most importantly, it sits between our wood stove and a big picture window looking out over our front acreage.
And to complete the picture, my little white Bichon Fríse, Snowflake, sits on my right, and I have a steaming cup of fenugreek tea to my left.
But … because we live out in the country, I sometimes have long drives and I often use these to plot my novels while listening to Celtic mood music like Lifescapes Scottish Moors.
Who are your books aimed at? If applicable: What are some of the challenges of writing for your audience?
I wrote them for my teenagers, having experienced first hand how hard it is to keep good books in their hands when they read so impossibly fast!
So, with Merlin being eighteen and on the cusp of manhood, he’s at the perfect age for teens to look up to him, yet old enough, I think, for adults to enjoy the read as well.
But I also have Garth as one of the central characters, and he’s thirteen or so, and the younger readers might identify with him.
And for the girl readers, I have Natalenya, who is Merlin’s love interest. And though she is less critical to the action in books 1 and 2, she takes on her greatest role in book 3, so it will be interesting what readers think of that.
The hardest thing for me to write, however, was writing book 1 from Merlin’s perspective, since he’s partially blind. Quite a challenge!
What’s your view on e-books and the new publishing revolution?
Let me just say that I’m glad I entered publishing prior to the day when 99% of books will be e-published only. I know some think the current state of affairs with a mix of both print and digital will continue, but I worry about that a tipping point may happen where the economics don’t make sense any more to make paperbacks and hardbacks. That will be a sad day.
We’re near the end of an era, and the bridge is shaking!
What was your favorite book as a teen?
The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion … thus I am super-excited to have the next Hobbit movie coming out!
What can you tell us about any future releases you have planned?
The trilogy comes to an end in the spring with the release of MERLIN’S NIGHTMARE. But that is *not* the end because I have two more trilogies planned. We’ll see what happens!
Coke or Pepsi?
I liked Classic Coke better growing up, but now … neither … Virgil’s Root Beer!
Soft shell or Hard Shell tacos?
Both, but I like enchiladas even more!
What is the favorite thing you have ever written?
Probably the scene in the middle of book two where Merlin fights his younger sister. In the middle of the fight, Merlin is given a vision that changes the perspective he has about his sister, and this changes the outcome of the fight. I don’t want to give anything away, but it was touching.
Well, Rob, as someone who knew you before you were famous ☺, it’s been a pleasure to watch you persevere until you broke through into print, and I’m excited for what comes next. Any final words?
Sure, first I want to thank you, L.B., for providing a forum in which I could share some of my story. But I know, all you amazing readers on the hunt are probably looking for your next clue, well here it is: "gift of all"
Now that you have your clue you can continue on to Rob’s blog for your next interview and your next clue, just go to http://www.kingarthur.org.uk/feastinghall/32author/
Yes, it is true that the United States will spend today remembering the assassination of JFK, and I suppose that this is appropriate. He was not a just a president but an iconic figure, and his death is a landmark moment in time. And yet, for me, today is the 50th anniversary of something much more important and in many ways, much sadder - the death of C.S. Lewis.
C.S. Lewis is one of the my heroes, in fact, maybe my hero. Like many children, I was entranced by his Chronicles of Narnia books, but as I grew older, it was really his non-fiction that I fell in love with. His way with words when talking about God and the deeper things of life are - in my opinion - almost without equal. He is insightful and profound, and even when I don't entirely agree with him, always a joy to read.
As a teacher, as a believer, as a writer, I am indebted to him in countless ways. He has shaped my imagination and my thinking about God and the Christian life, and I honestly believe his contribution - at least in the English speaking world - to the Christian faith was unparalleled in the twentieth century. No other individual has reached so many people, so well, quite often explaining complex truths in beautiful and memorable ways.
I know that he was older than JFK when he died, so perhaps there's a sense that his death wasn't quite as untimely, but to me, his loss at any age would have been untimely. Had he but had another five or ten years, what other masterpieces might he have written? We'll never know, but I am glad we had him as long as we did, and fifty years later, I miss him as much as ever.
Until we meet at last, Jack, and dine together at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Weekly Goal - Take 3
Well, I knew it would be tough to hit my 20 pages a week goal this week, and I didn't get there. However, I did manage to get 15 done, and I feel pretty good about that. Given the busyness, it wasn't a bad job. What's more, while I haven't managed the 60 I would have needed to be on pace through three weeks, I have written 54, and that's pretty good.
I should say that when I started working on the first chapter in front of me this week, that something strange happened. I suddenly realized that this chapter was going to be about something else entirely. In fact, I suddenly realized that a character I hadn't planned on 'killing' so soon wasn't going to survive the chapter. (Uh oh, here I am again, up to my old tricks, killing people off...)
And, sure enough, this character is now dead and I have to rethink some things going forward. Still, I was strangely sure it was the right move and that the time had come. I wonder what other surprises await me as I push on toward the close of this novel? I guess I'll see in the next six weeks, as that is about how much time I have to get it finished.
This week, if all goes well, I'll finish the second major part of the book and perhaps begin work on the third and final section. I tend to close pretty fast as more and more of the pieces come together, so I remain hopeful that I can meet my December 31st deadline. Again, we shall see!
Have a good week all!
High School Football
It’s time for my Midweek Recommendation, in which I commend to your attention books or music or movies or anything I find worth recommending.
Go watch a high school football game.
That's my midweek recommendation. Now, I know some of you aren't sports fans, so you can feel free to ignore this. For those of you who are, and if it has been a while since you've been to a high school sporting event, you should think about it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that my son, who is a 10th grader, plays for the team of the high school where I teach. (That's NOT him in the picture below; this is just the best pic the right size of a kid from our team...) So, I am not exactly neutral. At the same time, just because I've been pulled to the sidelines to watch more high school football in the last few years than I have ever watched before by my own offspring, doesn't mean I haven't learned some things from the experience that are valid for any casual sports fan.
At any rate, my main point - and maybe my only point - is that if you're like me and you primarily watch pro football, or even major college football, it might be time to go watch some kids play the game again. It can be maddening - shockingly, adolescents on the field can make some bad calls once and a while - but it can also be really exciting and satisfying. They're kids, and win or lose, they leave it all on the field and when they come together, it is something special.
Again, I'm a little biased, not just because my son plays, but because our team just won a District Championship after our second upset win in a row, and now we've advanced to the state quarterfinal. We've never been this far, we're prohibitive underdogs against a perennial football power, but that doesn't matter. After losing both our starting receivers for the season midyear, we've bounced back to go on quite a run. Whatever happens now, this team has done some amazing things.
So again I say to you, find a local team in your area - if you don't have a natural affiliation, invent one - and go cheer some kids on. It may not be poetry in motion, but you might just see a team catch lightning in a bottle and make some magic.
Weekly Goal - Take 2
Well, it is the end of the second week since setting for myself the goal of 20 pages a week. And, for the second week, I ended up with two complete chapters, totaling 19 pages. So, while I technically fell short, I'm pretty pleased that in the last two weeks I've been able to crank out 4 chapters and 38 pages.
(LATE EDIT - Actually, I realized the last scene in the second of the new chapters was missing an important moment, and with that passage added in, I hit the 20 page mark!)
Looking ahead, I can see the week to come will be a challenge. It is already pretty busy, and getting twenty more pages could be tough. Still, so far so good, and if I can keep the pace up for the next seven weeks, I can make my December 31st deadline to finish The Colder Moon.
In other news, I had a good talk with the cover artist who did the cover for The Darker Road, and we had a good time brainstorming possibilities for the cover of The Lesser Sun. It makes me pretty excited just thinking about it, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with. I think his TDR cover was excellent!
At any rate, hope everyone out there who checks in here from time to time had a good week, and may your week to come be good as well...
In lieu of a 'Sunday Reflection,' I am taking a minute to update my progress on my current novel, The Colder Moon. The third book in my new series, The Wandering, it is due to my publisher at the end of December. I've been running a bit behind, but after a pretty good week last week, I sat down and mapped out what I needed to do to finish on time, and essentially, it boiled down to writing about 20 pages per week for nine straight weeks.
Twenty pages a week isn't crazy, but doing it for nine straight weeks could prove a challenge. Still, with the first week of my 9 week challenge coming to a close tonight, I'm glad to say that I basically met my goal. (Technically, I only wrote 19 pages, but as page number 19 was the end of a chapter, I'm wrapping it up and calling it a week.)
Now, I need to do this again each week for the next 8 weeks, and if I can do that, I'll be finished with The Colder Moon. Whether I meet my goal each week or not, I'll try to check back in each Sunday night with an update on my progress, as a kind of public accountability thing. Hopefully the extra motivation of not wanting to have to admit I didn't reach my goal here will help me reach my goal.
And as for you, if you haven't picked up a copy of The Darker Road yet, the first book in The Wandering, what are you waiting for?
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