I am now working on the last book in the Secret Doorway Tales series, The Battle of Dusk and Dawn. The outline is done (finished a couple of weeks ago) and I am now working on the first draft. made it up to chapter 4 so far. Things are going smoothly, things are going well. I'm excited about this story!
Anyway, that's just an update from me, and pretty much what's been going on with me right now.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
I was reading a review on a retail site for a historical novel and the review was generally positive but the reader had very serious issues with the historical details in the book. In other words, the creative license the writer took went over the line in the opinion of this particular reader.
So, creative license. When is it too much? Or is it ever too much? When writing genres such as science fiction or fantasy I think one can get away with an outrageous amount because the nature of those genres are such that many things are open to the imagination. You are dealing with things that don't exist so you have more leeway. When it comes to historical fiction, another genre I love to read, I don't think you have as much license because the setting is history, which can be researched and verified by others. Especially when you encounter a reader of the genre that is either somewhat or very knowledgable about the time period you are writing about.
This brings me to an example I recently found in my most recent book. It's a kid's book so there are a host of things one must tread carefully with. Now to be honest, I really wonder if this is true creative license because this was a mistake that I just realized I made. It involves the different words for "bathroom". Now, in the book I used the word "privy". Just yesterday it ocurred to me that a privy, at least the definition I am using, is an outhouse - a bathroom that stands unattached and outside of the main house or main building. The bathrooms in the story, technically, are not privies, as they are inside the fortress.
So, I have a bit of a dilemma. I have thought of using the word "toilet" or "latrine". Latrine is an older word, I believe, that children may not be familiar with. I'm not opposed to looking up words while reading if you don't know them. That's how you expand your vocabulary. However, not all readers appreciate having to do this. Also, latrine seems to me to be a cruder, rougher word. George R. R Martin uses this word in his ASoIaF series and those books ain't for kids! Then I thought about using the word "toilet" but this word sounds too modern for the story, I think. The story is set in modern times but the children go to a fantasy world that is anything but modern. In this world it seems to me that the word "toilet" is inappropriate. So what does one do? Should I keep "privy" even though it is technically inaccurate and claim creative license or is it even true creative license? Should I use a more accurate word even if it seems strange to me? Things to think about.
at 9:35 PM
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Art by Ted Nasmith
I ask this question because I love both and always have. I've encountered many people who dislike or simply hate science fiction and fantasy entertainment, yet it has seemed to gain an increasing part of the entertainment market. This makes me happy. So I ask the question, why? Well, science fiction and fantasy are excellent framing devices for important and even controversial ideas.
Why do I personally enjoy science fiction and fantasy? Because of the otherworldly elements. The fantastic elements in each genre are what fascinate me. They take you to imaginative places that are very different from our real world, include characters with powers and abilities that are impossible or improbable in this world and yet through the fantastic they can explore issues we face and deal with every bit as effectively as shows that more closely reflect the real world. Star Trek did this through nearly all of its incarnations, my favorites being TNG, TOS and DS9. They also examine timeless storytelling tropes and archetypes we recognize and gravitate towards which can serve to uplift and inspire heroism in ourselves. The story can teach us important things about our own culture and even make us examine morality and ethics. They make us examine culture, society and Self, if we allow them to. The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire and Star Wars are a few that come to my mind. One, Star Wars, deals with simple and clear Good and Bad, Light and Dark sides, while the other two deal with these same issues but are further along on the continuum between Black and White and gray areas. It is obvious that Martin's work deals with lots of gray area issues but there are still identifiable heroes and peoples with good qualities in his ASoIaF series. Many people mistake Tolkien's work as simple. It is simple in ways and yet very complex. It is a gross misunderstanding of his work that has caused this problem and is an issue for another post. I find that I learn things from all three stories.
One unfortunate thing I've encountered are people who seem to have moral issues with fantasy or science fiction. They explain their dislike of them in moral terms - and in turn judge those who do love the genres as being bad or immoral or intellectually stunted. I really have encountered this. Not very often, but I have dealt with it and it is baffling. often it comes from people who are extremely rigid in their views of anything they deem out of the ordinary. The sad thing about it is that many of the issues raised in the very stories they despise could teach them much about how to think differently, how to embrace the other and to examine the world around them.
In some creative writing classes I took many years ago, especially as I got older, these kinds of stories were not encouraged. They were looked down on as childish, as not being real literature. Do you think kids in school are taught English and Great Literature by reading science fiction or fantasy? Not a chance! It's unfortunate because I think there are so many science fiction and fantasy stories have a lot to say about important themes and can say them just as potently as the Great American Novel or the Great Russian Classic. Farenheit 451, Animal Farm, Ender's Game, Dune, The Lord of the Rings, 1984, A Wrinkle In Time, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, A Scanner Darkly, The Divine Invasion, there are so many excellent works out there that I can't name them all here; I know there are many that I am missing. My point is that in the minds of some people entire genres should be dismissed out of hand as infantile, childish entertainment when in many cases the very opposite is true..
So why? After all, important themes can be explored in more so-called realistic genres and often are with great skill but I think that Otherness of science fiction and fantasy is what draws me to it. The real world on paper with its drudgery, its horrors and sameness does not capture my imagination and attention the same way science fiction and fantasy do. Mind bending, imagination and things that cannot or should not exist do exist which can remove one from the real world and we find another world to escape to. Why should we want to escape? Is it necessary? No and is mostly a matter of style and taste in entertainment but in the escape I think that important issues can be explored without the feeling that one is being preached at or converted or beaten over the head - though it must be said in the hands of less skillful creators this problem is still evident - You can explore unpopular, sticky, controversial issues, even things that may be forbidden by society in such a way that are far enough removed to engage the reader/viewer long enough that he or she may be willing to think about issues that conflict with his own beliefs and attitudes. An excellent article somewhat related to this issue was written by author Bryan Schmidt.
Does this always work? No it doesn't but I do think that this is the key strength of science fiction and fantasy. Besides that, elements of the Other appeals to those of us who love things that are different, mystical, mysterious, original, out of the ordinary or even those attracted to fringe ideas, unpopular ideas or the radical, whether radically liberal or conservative. I think certain personality types can be drawn to these genres for that reason.
So that is why science fiction and why fantasy. Ok, not a work of great intellect but that's my humble opinion. What do you think, readers? Do you enjoy one of these two genres or both? Why? What are your reasons for why you like science fiction and or fantasy?
at 1:48 PM
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Book cover for The Mountain King! Still undergoing some tweaking! This was made with stock photo art and some of my own design work The real heavy lifting goes to the artist H. Marynka. You can find her stuff on Dreamstine.
Thank God for great artists and photographers!
Update: This is the final cover.
Thank God for great artists and photographers!
Update: This is the final cover.
at 1:19 PM
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Here are a few sample chapters from The Mountain King. I'm also putting the sample up on my website. Please be aware that the story is still in the editing phase so the final book may be slightly different than the sample chapters! Samples may have errors. Be aware that this is not the finished product! Enjoy!
THE MOUNTAIN KING
A Secret Doorway Tale: Book 5
By V.A. Jeffrey
Bookcover design by V.A. Jeffrey
Copy right 2012
The old walnut tree, long healed of the miserable disease of worms and webs stood tall and proud. It's expansive branches were cloaked in new spring leaves, providing shade for its yard and the next. It waved its branches slightly but no one saw or noticed. A light breeze blew through its leaves but that wasn't the only thing rustling its leaves. The neighborhood children were playing in its branches and it was ever watchful of them. Especially over one child in particular for it was she who rid it and its kin in the surrounding woods of the perstilences they had endured for years.
“Higher! Higher!” Taunted Sam.
“I can't climb that high!” Complained Sarah. She had finally made it up the trunk to the first section of lower branches. Her brother Sam was nearly at the top of the tree and he was rocking back and forth on a large branch as if riding a rocking horse.
“You're not supposed to be up here anyway. You're too little.” He warned.
“No I'm not!” She protested.
“Whatever. Come on , Anne and Jamie, hurry up! I can see the whole forest from up here!” Sam urged. Jamie was making his way deftly up towards the highest branches. Anne followed behind. She was pretty good at climbing trees but she had never climbed this high. Still, the height did not frighten her. She had stood on trees far taller than this.
Sam was right. They really could see the forest and the tops of all the houses from their lofty position. She managed to get close to Sam and Jamie. Sarah, far below, fussed at them indignantly for leaving her behind.
“Just stay where you are Sarah. It's too dangerous for someone small like you!” Anne called down. “You might fall.” The boys began teasing her. Their voices receded into white noise as Anne surveyed the sight below. She could see the wide spray of daffodils in her backyard, little yellow paint daubs from her vantage point. The koi fish pond gurgled happily in its little corner of the yard. The scales of the brightly colored fish sparkled in the sunlight. She turned and her eyes caught movement in the field of wildflowers across the way. Someone was trying to get into the shed! It was Jordan, one of the popular fifth graders from school. He had an old stool and he was standing on it, climbing through the broken window. Suddenly the stool rocked off its legs and he slipped and fell inside! Anne looked around to see if anyone saw this incident and began to climb down. In her rush to move to the branches below she slipped and fell.
“Ahhh, woah!” She cried and unwittingly let go, feeling herself in freefall. She saw nothing but whirring leaves, branches and streaking sunlight in her panic. She heard the other kids screaming and then she felt her body abruptly hit something. It wasn't quite hard but not soft. Her eyes were closed.
“Did you just see that?”
“I saw it!”
“Me too!” The other kids began scrambling down. Anne was breathing hard, feeling herself itch with perspiration and adrenaline. She'd landed into a nest of branches, twigs and leaves.
“What happened?” She asked in slight daze.
“The tree! It liked. . .moved!” Said Sam, his face flushed with excitement and relief.
“Yeah. It twisted its branches and caught you before you fell all the way down!” Said Jamie. Suddenly the tree trembled and deftly lowered her to the ground. The other kids gasped.
“It's. . . alive!” “Sooooo cool!” They all gathered around her, gazing up at the old walnut tree in wonder.
“Thanks.” She whispered. It trembled again and the other kids backed away when it rumbled something low and incomprehensible.
“Whaa?” Said Jamie. Anne knew what it meant.
“Thanks?!?” Exclaimed Sam. “I've lived in this house my whole life and I've never seen that tree move by itself. How did it do that?”
“Do you like trees Sam?” She asked.
“Take care of them and they will take care of you. They might even talk to you.” As the other kids began speculating on how and why a tree would move and talk of its own accord Anne glanced over towards the field in the woods.
“I'll be right back!” She said, climbing over the gate and towards the field. As sure as the sun, the shed was standing there with its old green door, locked, the window had long since been shattered. And there was no sign of Jordan.
Who does he think he is? That's MY special place! She thought vehemently. She was throwing shoes in the closet and slamming clothes away in drawers. She stalked across her room and looked out the window. She couldn't see the field from here which made her even angrier.The shed wasn't a place for jokers and dumb kids who only cared about fart jokes, burping and picking on other kids! It wasn't a place for kids who didn't take anything seriously. It was special. It was dangerous. Besides, what did he know? Beside Lady Grey's visitation at school what made him think the shed was a portal? Why does he even care about it? Who told him he could go to Other Land anyway? She shrieked mentally.
“Anne?” Are you cleaning your room?” Called dad. This pulled her out of her spiraling angry thoughts.
“Ok. Sounds like a tornado up there!”
“No! No tornado!” She finished straightening her room, albeit with slightly less zeal than before. After she stuffed the last pair of slippers in the closet she hopped on the bed, thinking of what to do next. She thought of the times he and his friends teased her, of the time they had mocked Great Grandfather Aldy – and were stricken with boils for it. She wondered how that had gone. Ever since winter break Jordan had been rather – changed. More solemn. What if he gets hurt out there by himself in Other Land? She didn't think he or the rest of them looked like the type to read books unless forced to and one thing you needed to do was know what you were getting in to, which meant you needed to read. Books were a guide for her. Even so, there was no guarantee of safety. She decided that she would have to find out what he knew. After all, he might need her help. Suddenly, she didn't feel so jealous. Only a little worried. She didn't like him but she'd met some dangerous creatures in Other Land and though she had a ring and a hammer and Zi to help her she often just survived nasty scrapes. It was settled then. She would have to devise some way to question him and see what he knew. Without his friends around. It would have to be the library. The library was guaranteed to scare away his friends. Anne went to her nightstand and got out a notebook and pen. She wrote:
jordan. meet me at the library alone!!
after school – very important!!!
She put extra exclamation marks in for emphasis. She would be waiting for him tomorrow. He must know something about the fairy world, but what?
Anne had arrived at school earlier than usual, rushing through all her morning ministrations and through breakfast. She hurried along through the wooded path towards school with dad scrambling behind. As she had expected, Jordan and his gang had not yet arrived. As her dad saw her off she walked quickly down the hall, looking for his homeroom. Most of the fourth and fifth grade classes were on the other side of the school and Jordan's homeroom teacher was Ms. Day.
Ms. Day was one of the meanest teachers to ever set foot in any school since the dawn of time, as far as all kids at Linnsworth Elementary school were concerned. Second to her was Mr. Muenster who snidely berated his students for any perceived mistake in class and both of them gave ungodly amounts of homework! Her parents insisted that they were just very strict and expected kids to do their homework and behave in class but Anne didn't believe that. In fact, she suspected that Ms. Day turned into an ogress at midnight. Between Ms. Day's snarling and Mr. Muenster's sarcasm she dreaded entering the fifth grade.
However, that was a worry for a future day. As Anne approached the door to Ms. Day's classroom she could see from the window that the lights were out. A good sign. The halls were rather sparse but she had to hurry. Teachers were arriving and eventually the first bell would be ringing soon and kids would come pouring in. A few were already mingling around the playground. She slowly turned the door knob. It was unlocked. Good! She slipped inside. The room was rather boring looking. Not decorated with art and science projects like Miss Sandy's room was. But she had no time to survey the room's lack of decoration further. She went over to the other side of the room looking for the cubbyholes and was very surprised. They didn't have cubbyholes. She looked around, feeling desperate, glancing at the clock. Each desk had a name written in bold black marker ink on white tape and all of the desks were in perfectly neat rows. She went up and down the rows and finally found one that said: “Jordan.” She lifted up the top and slipped in her note. There was another door leading directly to the playground on the opposite wall. Thinking she'd make an easy escape she went over to it and tried to open it hoping to slip out unnoticed but it was locked. She would have to go through the way she came in and hope that Ms. Day had not yet arrived. Some of the class were already lining up outside the door by the sounds of it. Anne turned on the lights and opened the door to find a small group of fifth graders standing there.
“Wait. . .what?” Said one in surpise.
“What are you doing here?” Questioned one of them imperiously.
“Yeah, what were you doing in there anyway?” Chimed another kid. They nearly towered over her but she remained calm.
“Nothing.” She said.
“You're not supposed to be in there!”
“The light was on and I thought it was Miss Sandy's room.”
“Miss Sandy's class is,” a girl pointed down the hall, “that way!”
“Ok.” She said. She felt someone punch her backpack. She tripped forward but kept going, rolling her eyes. Fifth graders didn't intimidate her anymore but some of them really thought they were bad. She turned around and glared at the girl who punched her backpack. However she quickened her pace when she saw Ms. Day turn the corner and stride down the hall. The theater was just across the hallway and Anne ducked into the theater to find relief from further exposure just as the nosy fifth graders began tattling on her.
“Ms. Day! We saw that third grader come out of your classroom!”
“We don't know her name but she has long, curly brown hair and a blue sweater and she just went that way!” By then Anne was behind the stage and through the exit and on the playground. The first bell had just rang. She was now in a part of the school grounds that she was unfamiliar with. She wandered around the white satellite buildings that surrounded the main school. Soon she heard the theater exit open. Quickly she hid behind one of the satellite buildings. Sure enough it was Ms. Day casting the area with that hard, suspicious black glare she always wore. It was early morning and the shadows among the buildings were long. Anne could see Ms. Day's shadow. It didn't match Ms. Day's shape and it was, in fact, far larger than any morning shadow she had ever seen, grossly misshapen. She hoped Ms. Day would not venture out any closer.
Ms. Day, not seeing anyone went back inside. She wondered what this meant. Did the principal know? Pondering on that she nearly forgot about class! Oh no! Where am I? She thought frantically. She would be late for class and this all because she'd decided to help Jordan! She was beginning to think that this wasn't such a great idea after all. Suddenly a shadow crept over her and around the corner appeared Mr. Barnes, the music teacher.
“Hello there! What are you doing back here?”
“I got lost and I need to get back to Miss Sandy's room but I don't know where it is from here.”
“”Oh. You're one of Sandy's students? Here, I can get you back to where you need to be.” He said. Mr Barnes always had a sunny disposition. His friendly smile made her troubling thoughts nearly disappear. She was thankful for the kind Mr. Barnes!
Plan A was now launched. Now for the second part. She smiled happily as Mr. Barnes walked her back to her homeroom class as the late bell rang.
- - - - - - -
She waited right outside the back exit from where she could see who was coming and going from the school library. It seemed like an eternity! Then she began wondering if he even knew where it was! Maybe it was a bad idea telling him to meet her there. If his friends showed up, and she would see them coming down the hall, that was a no-go and she would go home and leave him to bumble about in Other Land on his own. She closed her eyes momentarily, thinking about summer break and summer in Other Land when she heard someone approaching. Sure enough it was Jordan and she didn't see his friends. He opened the library door tentatively as if angry bees were on the other side of the door and then he finally went in. Immediately she went inside the school and followed him.
Miss Gail, as usual was busy organizing books to pay them much mind other than a quick hello. Jordan was looking around for his secret person. Anne walked past him and sat at a table near the back. There were a couple of kids browsing but for them and the librarian, the library was empty. She waved at him. Jordan frowned at her giving her. She merely waited, expectantly. He finally seemed to figure out that she was the secret person who wanted to see him and made his way to the table. He flipped the crumpled note on to the table.
“Did you write this?” He asked, giving her a suspicious look.
“Why? What do you want?”
“I saw you go into the shed in the woods on Saturday.” Silence. Then,
“Did you see anything strange in there?”
“Strange like what?” He sounded irritated and began looking around as if he waere ready to go. Anne decided to push him.
“Like what you saw on Level 1 a couple of months ago?” Jordan's eyes widened in surprise. She now had his full attention.
“Well?” She pushed.
“Uh, well, what I. . .wait a minute! How do you know about Level 1?”
“I saw someone mysterious down there in the boiler room. Did you?” She said. He looked around cautiously.
“Yeah. I did.”
“Well, the shed is also like that.”
“It was just an empty, musty old shed.”
“So what made you climb in through the window?”
“I was just curious. I like to climb trees and into empty houses and stuff. Me and my friends always do that. So what?”
“So, in order to find the world behind it you have to unlock the door with a special key. I have a special key to the shed.”
“I don't want to meet anymore creepy old ladies.”
“She's not really an old lady. She can change shape.”
“Like what? What can she change into?”
“In the other world where she lives she's a dragon!”
“A dragon? I don't believe you.” He gave her that suspicious look again. “How do you know that?”
“I've been to the other side. More than once. That's how I know.” Jordan's eyes were as wide as plates now.
“How do you get there? I mean, how do you get a key?” He whispered.
“You have to know one of the creatures who live there. It's dangerous. You shouldn't go by yourself.”
“But the boiler room wasn't locked.”
“I know. Not all of the doorways to the other world are locked. The ones that aren't are even more dangerous because bad things can get out.”
“The principal told me to stay away from there because it was special and dangerous. She said it was like a place where the fabric of two worlds came together but was invisible to most people. She wouldn't explain any further though.”
“She's right. Now really, what made you interested in the shed?”
“I already told you!”
“You're sure you didn't see anything strange?”
“Well,” he looked around and then lowered his voice again. “Once when I was walking home from the store I passed by it and I saw a bright light shining in there.”
“Ok so what was it?”
“It means the fairy world beyond the green door appeared again.”
“Fairy world? What do you mean?”
“It's dangerous.” She warned.
“I'll tell you but only because if you go by yourself without the right information very bad things will happen to you.”
“Ok.” He said eagerly.
“The place is called Other Land. At least that's what I call it. The land of fairy folk. Some of them are good, some of them are inbetween and some of them are evil. You don't want to be caught there alone and unaware of what to expect. . .”
at 10:32 AM
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The Mountain King is coming along very well and I should have a few sample chapters up by this Friday. You'll be able to download the sample or just read them right here on the blog - or the website, take your pick. Look for a mock-up of the book cover this week as well!
Here are a few other pics I've collected on my Pinterest Work-In-Progress board. Some people have posted some wonderful art pics and photos:
Here are a few other pics I've collected on my Pinterest Work-In-Progress board. Some people have posted some wonderful art pics and photos:
at 11:21 AM