28 January 2014

Think you got burdens? Try being a Saint.

Sure looks like 2014 is already starting to be a rockin' year!

Better than expected success with The Dream Land trilogy (yes, other people beside my mother bought it, despite almost no promotion aside from social media).

Had my first guest blogger here (Kate Bitters, author of Elmer Left.), and had my first guest blogging experience there (on The Bitter Blog). Both were totally awesome (still a bit tingling from it all).

Now comes the opportunity to introduce my Myrddin Publishing colleague, Joan Hazel, and her newest novel, Burdens of a Saint, the second book in The Guardians series, which involves shape-shifters--and werewolves? (Book 1 is The Last Guardian.)

It may be hard to believe but, in her busy life, Joan Hazel has written three novels that range from paranormal fantasy to contemporary to historical fiction. She's also an accomplished actress and vocalist, and has performed with companies across the eastern United States. 

In her spare time, if there is any, she plays with a colorful cast of characters who live in her head. Currently she resides in DeLand, Florida, with her husband, Ricky, and their two "fur kids"--which I suppose means wolves?

So what is this paranormal novel about? Here's a clip from the back cover of the paperback (also available for Kindle):

Your life will change today...

When Janet Beesinger writes the words in red on her calendar, she has no idea what they mean. But, as a psychic, she knows when the universe gifts you with personal information, you listen.  How was she to know the Universe meant an irritating and sexy shape-shifter who would challenge everything about her life?

Saint Wolfe can feel the gravity of his arrangement with the goddess Hel closing in around him, forcing him to confront his past and the betrayal of the woman he was to marry. Needing to make peace with his past, he returns to New Orleans in search of forgiveness, only to be confronted by his own immortality. His only hope for atonement lies in the hands of a woman claiming to be a psychic. Will she be able to help Saint find salvation before his debt to Hel comes due?

Flipping through its pages, I thought this excerpt was especially provocative:

“Geeze, Mom, get a room!” Eric’s voice broke the silence between Saint and Janet, causing them both to jump back.
“I agree with the kid. Get a room.” Saint looked past the young man to find his older brother standing there. He heard the small whimper escape Janet’s throat before she pushed past everyone and disappeared through the curtains to Princess Ryhinni’s reading room.
“What did you do to my mom?” Eric asked, stepping up to Saint.
“Who? Me?” Saint stammered. “I did nothing to your mother.”
Though the teenager was quite a bit smaller than Saint, he didn’t back down. “Yeah? Then why was she crying?”
“You are the one who blurted out for her to seek shelter,” Saint defended.
“To seek shelter? What are you talking about?” Eric asked.
“You said to get a room, which makes very little sense considering you live here.”
“Whatever, dude. I know she rented that room to you, but don’t think that just because you made us breakfast, you can be my new dad.” Eric said, poking Saint in the chest. “Stay away from my mom.” Eric stormed up the stairs. The ceiling reverberated with each of Eric’s footsteps, culminating in a WHAM.
Saint stared, wide-eyed, at his brother. “What was that all about?”
“You tell me,” Fergus said.
“Was I wrong? Is that not what he meant by 'get a room'?”
“You are too literal, you know that?”
Saint’s brow knitted together. He did know he took things literally. Ghost had accused him of that quite frequently, but language usage changed too rapidly for him to keep up with every little nuance.
Fergus grinned. “He meant you looked like the Big Bad Wolf about to devour Little Red Riding Hood.
“Preposterous!” Saint exclaimed. “She was merely....”
“Merely what?”
“She was merely telling me my fortune.”
Fergus crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the bookshelf. “Is that what you kids are calling it these days?”
Saint adjusted his vest. “Well, I’ve never!”
Fergus grinned widely. “Keep looking at Little Red like that and you will.”

Wolf or Saint?
Where to contact author Joan Hazel:

Website: www.joanhazel.com
Twitter: @guardianwriter

I'm looking forward to the third book in this series! Happy reading! Awooooooo! 

(That last bit was intended to be representative of a wolf's howl. Close? ...Close enough?)

(C) Copyright 2010-2014 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

18 January 2014

Living with the curse...

First, let me thank author Kate Bitters for her guest blog post about the importance of space. Space in the Feng Shui sense, not the outer space/stars and planets/alien invasion sense. Like any job one attempts, it helps to have the right work environment, and artists in general are likely the pickiest when it comes to work space. I know I am; I procrastinate in my writing until I feel comfortable in the space around me.

And speaking of space around me....

I got up this morning full of the nothingness of a dream that evaporated in sync with my eyelids creaking open and tried to run down the list of things I had to do or should probably do today, a Saturday. 

Nothing. A blank to-do list. Oh, I could go get some groceries. After all, I like to eat sometimes. I could catch a movie - but that takes two hours of my day. I could write! On what? I'm between projects, at least of new writing. I've been dabbling with two previously written novels, punching them up to meet today's higher standards - my higher standards, now that I have some experience. But nothing already on the list.

Then it hit me, one nanosecond before I swung my head upward and my feet downward to mark the first movement of the day: Benjamin needs to tell Addy something important about a childhood trauma. She needs to know in order to feel sympathy for him, especially when she is giving him hell for what he did just before they met. Her reaction is crucial.

Who is Benjamin? He was a friend of mine, someone I worry about, a buddy whose side I would always take in a dispute. That's why I thought to offer advice. The problem? Benjamin is entirely made-up. A fictional character. And I was worrying about him as though he were a real person living a few miles away. And his wife, Addy, is also fictional but, given the plot line and dramatic arc involved, I have to care a little less about her than Ben.

After a while, I did get up and begin the day. As I perused email to see what had transpired during the night, I continued to agonize over the problem Ben and Addy were negotiating their way through. I couldn't shake it; I was involved whether I wanted to be or not. And this - THIS! - is what made an impression on me. I knew then that, without any doubt, I had about the dullest life possible for any human who is not faced with imminent chaos. My cadre of invented personas have much richer lives than I do.

Apparently, connecting with a fictional character - what some deem a 'character crush' - is a real problem. Studies have been done in this issue. (I can admit to a few crushes on a few movie characters, but not on the actresses who play them. But in books? Why not?)

That certainly made me feel sad. Sure, I can go out and get groceries, or run other errands that connect me with the real world. But I cannot change that real world into something a bit more palatable adventure-wise. I have not made, and am not likely to make, the evening news. Yet stop for a few minutes to ponder the lives of phantoms, protagonists and antagonists, of mere characters in a paper-flat world of vividness and I and my life pale by comparison. And Ben and Addy are only dealing with a domestic issue.

What about my good friend Sebastian Talbot in THE DREAM LAND* trilogy, who seeks the love of his life, Gina Parton, somewhere through a doorway to another world? Now there's some adventure going on! Far above what I muddle through in any given week. I'd expect such a fantastic (although quite plausible!) scenario to overwhelm anything I might schedule in my real life here on Earth. (On Earth: How quaint the phrase, that excites a wretch like me....)

The best I can do is get on with the day job (e.g., inciting youthful imagination and a will to create) or some facsimile of it, and in whatever odd hours may cleave between mundane mobility and gainful employment  make merry in the meadows of the Muses.** That's always been the way. When I am bored in this dimension, I often escape to the next or some other dimension and there make sport. It is so even when the next dimension is not another world but merely a variation on our existing world. Ben and Addy and their problem exist in Seattle, Hawaii, and Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s - as all good stories do!

And sometimes, late at night, when I think I am occupied by something truly important, a random thought will pop into my head that I'm certain must be shared with Iris, the protagonist of A BEAUTIFUL CHILL (coming February 2014; more on this novel next time), something that may help her explain herself to her opposite number, Eric. Then, just as instantly, a ghostly tap on the shoulder reminds me they do not exist. Not really. And I laugh. Just a bit. Any more than that would be awkward; it's hard enough explaining myself to a non-fiction world.

*The Dream Land III recently underwent a slight revision to correct a typo on the back cover and about a dozen minor errors of punctuation and spelling in the interior. I apologize for any inconvenience or lack of enjoyment in the reading.

**Those who follow this blog will understand that whenever I slip blithely into alliteration, I have reached a desperate degree of boredom. All are thus warned to read on with care.

(C) Copyright 2010-2014 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

11 January 2014

The Importance of Space

To start off this new year, I welcome my first ever guest blogger, fellow author Kate Bitters. I've been reading her debut novel Elmer Left. and thoroughly enjoying it. Being something of an old man myself, I could relate....

Here is some advice from Kate about a problem many writers face: space. 

The beginning of last month was chaos.  Boxes everywhere, an overly big (and accident prone) moving truck, piles of clothes and shoes on the floor, a huge gap in my room where a bed should have been...

Moving is tough.  Any kind of environmental change is tough.  When we are surrounded by disorder and newness, it is easy to lose ourselves in the offending space.  It is easy to become discouraged.  Earlier this month, I remember sitting next to a mound of clothing, sorting through it sock-by-sock, and thinking, "Good grief, when did I accumulate so many tank tops?"

But these steps are necessary--the sorting, the putting away, the ordering of toiletries, the creation of a system.  Without these steps, things get shoved aside for later and continue to linger in the backs of our minds.

The very root of Feng Shui (and if you don't buy into any other part of the concept, buy into this...) is the creation of order and the removal of clutter.  The idea is that human beings function best in a clean, ordered, and uncomplicated environment.  Our bodies relax; our minds are put at ease; we are free to concentrate on things outside of our space--higher purposes.  Like writing.

Unfortunately, my writing took a blow this past November (ironic, since it is national novel-writing month).  I had trouble focusing in my new space.  I struggled to carve out an area in which I could write and work and concentrate.  But eventually, it did happen.  I built a desk; I bought a chair; I found homes for all my dishes, sweaters, hair products.  The beast with walls and floors and ceiling began to feel less like a container and more like a home.

My Office
I found my mind relaxing, and then it went beyond relaxation: it started to think creatively again.  I started to see the world in colors and textures, instead of in a Sin City-type black and white (slightly evil, extremely jarring).  My mind was back; my motivation was back.  Words began to flow.  And I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of space.  It might seem like an insignificant factor in our daily productivity and creativity, but our surroundings can have an eerie kind of power over us.  Don't let it take the reins.  It is up to you to tame your space, make it your own, and make it work for you.

Happy organizing ;)

Kate Bitters is a novelist, editor, and ghost writer.  She is putting the finishing touches on her second novel, Ten Thousand Lines, and working on a third.  She resides in the magical and frosty city of Minneapolis, MN.

Twitter: @katebitters

Meanwhile, in a blog far, far away, Kate will be hosting my piece about the names we give story characters: fightforthewrite.blogspot.com. I shall return here forthwith.

(C) Copyright 2010-2014 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

01 January 2014

Behold: a New Year yawns!

Welcome to the first blog post of this new year of 2014 --at least on one particular variety of calendar. The numbers are, as they have always been, rather arbitrary, anyway. I trust you and yours and theirs (and perhaps ours) had a satisfactory year past and are fully recharged and plugged in to the latest of technological socialization media, ready to honor thy corporate sponsors as any good consuming citizen should. Ah, such a turn of hours! We are not amused.

In any case, the first thing to communicate after the obligatory New Year greeting ("Hi, hope your year goes splendidly for you and no bad things happen!"), is the necessity to log into one's blog frequently enough that the blogger does not forget the log-on information. I have succeeded, apparently. Lucky guess. Blessed be the Post-It notes stuck inside the printer unit.

Now, how to begin a new year that is still fresh enough to be full of promise and potential? 

I could outline plans to publish and market the next volume of the Dream Land series. [Ooo, but I did that already! Yes, THE DREAM LAND trilogy is fully mature and available for Kindle and paperback via the great Amazon marketplace.] What more could be needed? I suppose I could start packing on miscellaneous information about the worlds and their cultures and languages, as aids to readers. 

Or I could blog relentlessly about events in the real world. But I am certain you all get far too much of the real world. I have no doubt that from me you expect to get fantasy, or as it is often called, virtual reality. Perhaps I could make the claim that the real world is, in fact, fantasy and vice-versa. It's the vice-verse which ultimately thrills us.

As the new year begins in the spring on Ghoupallesz--as it also did in ancient times on Earth when the zodiac system came to fruition--we can look forward to fertility rituals and fecundity of natural productivity. The start of the baseball season also comes to mind. Three strikes and flying balls. Everyone full of joy of vivre. Certainly there is no winter to be concerned about there.

However, as the planet Ghoupallesz does not tilt to the same degree the Earth does, the seasons are not as varied as they are on Earth in the temperate zones. Hence, the northern latitudes see less change in the summer and temperate zones tend to stay similar across half the year. There is autumn country and there is spring country. Unfortunately for those affected, there is also winter country and in desert areas also some kind of a summerland.

As for the real world (Ye shall know it by thy tax burden!), it remains varied as usual, neither immersed in the depths of a raging winter nor squeaking by with a mild, late autumn sensibility. Spring flourishes ever onward. And I, the humble blogger, shall find worthy topics of breadth and depth and width and height about which to muse rapturously and thusly share them forthwith to all. 

I love the smell of purple prose verbosity in the morning, don't you? 

Until next time, do be sure to make a tally and assure that you have not lost more than a bare minimum of your annual allotment of jelly beans. The seven gods and nine goddesses would not be pleased.

(C) Copyright 2010-2014 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.