Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ysabel, Avatar of Fall

Since Monday was the first day of fall, I thought it a good time to profile the character of mine who's linked to the season: Ysabel S'Ivena Lathatilltin, the Avatar of Fall. She's the protagonist of Fifth Season, Book Four of my Season Avatars series.

Ysabel is the daughter of a Challen musician (who used to be a Fallswoman, dedicated to the Challen Goddess of Fall) and a Selathen merchant. Like all Season Avatars, she was born on the first day of fall (in Challen, only Season Avatars are ever born on the first day of a season), but her birthdate was falsified in the official records. The country of Selath was devastated by magic eight hundred years ago (during the time of Seasons' Beginnings) forcing Selathens to flee their country. They still hate magic, which was why Ysabel's mother had to hide her daughter's identity. Ysabel hopes that over time, she will be able to reconcile her people to magic.

As the Avatar of Fall, Ysabel has animal magic. She can bond with all native Challen animals, heal them, and command them to some extent (depending on the type of animal). She has an anilink, an intelligent magical animal companion with whom she can communicate telepathically. Her anilink senses when magical weather storms occur anywhere in Challen so Ysabel and her sister Season Avatars can set the land to rights.

Like her mother, Ysabel has musical talent and plays the piano very well. She's also the most maternally inclined of the Season Avatars, having helped look after her younger siblings. If anything, Ysabel's greatest fault is being too kind. She hates having to euthanize badly injured animals or allowing one to die to feed another. She can also be too trusting of people. To see how she handles the challenges of animals who don't heed her or relatives who are jealous of her, read her story. However, since her book is fourth in the series, I recommend reading the prequel Season's Beginnings, which also provides more details about her long relationship with Kron. The next two books in the series are Scattered Seasons and Chaos Season.

Is there anything else you'd like to know about Ysabel? Feel free to ask in the comments.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dear Writer, You Need to Quit

Are you looking for a "magic bullet" or a guaranteed "ten-step program for success"? If you are, then Dear Writer, You Need to Quit by Becca Syme is not for you. Instead, Syme, an author turned coach, wants to change your mind-set. She doesn't want you to quit writing; instead, she wants to help you quit bad habits that hinder your work.

According to Syme, your productivity can be affected by minor things, even what you do the first thing in the morning. (Spoiler alert: checking e-mail or social media can send you on a chase that can hamper your productivity.) However, being productive doesn't necessarily mean you have to write a book every month. Some authors may be able to manage that, but others need more time to process their stories. Some authors may plan their stories in advance, while others discover it as they write. However, attempting to imitate another author's work methods doesn't guarantee success for you. To put things into perspective, Syme reminds us that there are more than seven million books on Amazon, and the vast majority of them don't get good sales. Even a skilled author needs luck for success.

What should you be looking for when you pick up this book? Uncomfortable truths that can help you grow. So put away the phone (or at least turn off the internet) and check it out.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Storytelling Animal

We authors might like to think our drive to tell stories makes us special. However, humans have been obsessed with telling stories for thousands of years, and this characteristic has shaped our evolution. Jonathan Gottshall discusses this topic in his book The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human.

 Make-believe is an essential part of a young child's development. It's a way of practicing social and problem-solving skills. However, we continue making up stories our entire lives, and they're not always wish-fulfillment fantasies. Our nighttime dreams are more often nightmares instead of pleasant vacations. Stories can bring groups together and establish social norms. On an individual level, our memories aren't exact, but fictional recreations. Even our self-images are fictional versions of ourselves where we're always better than average and the hero of our own stories. People suffering from depression have more realistic images of themselves, but in this book, that's a sign of how important storytelling is to our mental health.

Storytelling has taking many forms during human history. We no longer depend on oral storytelling for our fix. We consume stories through books, video, and games. Even if reading fiction becomes a lost art, we will find ways to tell new stories.

In my Season Avatars series, there's a Goddess who calls Herself the Grandmother of Stories. Although She originated in a quasi-Polynesian culture, She is aware of events happening in other parts of the world. She uses her understanding of human and divine nature to protect Her chosen people and uses storytellers as Her Avatars. Even deities from other cultures respect Her.

Do your own stories reflect the power of human storytelling? If so, how? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

IWSG: A Coffeehouse of One's Own

If September hath thirty days, then save the first Wednesday for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Check out their website or Facebook page for more information.

Thanks to Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martison, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantine for co-hosting this month. The question we're supposed to discuss is If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

Since I'm focused on my current project (working title is Dryad in Doubt, the second book in an urban fantasy trilogy, about 27,500 words long as I write this post), I'm going to use this story for my answer. The heroine of this series is a dryad who lives at the top of Bascom Hill on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus (see picture below for Victoria's tree):

My first thought was to write either on the steps of Bascom Hall (the building in the picture) for inspiration or to write in Memorial Union on campus to be on location. The first floor of the union can be noisy, however, and the steps would be uncomfortable. So I'm going to go with  my favorite coffee house in Madison: Michelangelo's Coffee House.  Although the address is on State Street, they have a back room and back entrance very close to the Concourse Hotel, where WisCon is held. (Yes, I miss not having gone the last couple of years. Maybe next year or 2021.) I've attended readings at Michelangelo's. They not only carry a good selection of tea but also have good vegetarian meals and desserts. I could find a quiet corner to write in and keep myself fortified during the process. When I need a break, I can wander around Madison and scout out scene locations. A shame I don't live in Madison. Anyone want to contribute to a GoFundMe so I can live in Madison until I finish this series? That might make school drop-off and pickup a little inconvenient, so I guess I'll have to write at home and at work (on my lunch hour) instead.

Where do you like to write? Do you have an ideal writing location? Feel free to share it in the comments.

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