Tunnel Vision

Writer’s block is the time-worn, well-known bane of writing fiction. Because I most often begin with a full story in my head, I don’t often have writer’s block (although there are moments when I struggle to “move” a character within a scene or between scenes). Where my greatest challenge occurs is within the “tunnel,” something I haven’t often heard writers talk about. (Maybe I’m inventing the idea right now.)
What is the “tunnel”? For me, it’s when I isolate and focus on a scene, a dialogue exchange, a paragraph, a sentence, or sometimes worst of all, a single word, and I worry over that bit of writing until everything else fades away: It’s just me and it, and the entire rest of the chapter/book/story is on hold until I can find my way out.
The “tunnel” usually comes in the guise of trying to find the perfect wording, the perfect description, the perfect collaboration between images, words, and even the sounds they make as they roll off the tongue. Quite impossible really. I can stay inside a tunnel for hours or even days; frankly, it’s frustrating even when I’m pleased with the ultimate result (which is never a predictably certain thing). I want so desperately to tell a good story, not just to tell a story.

At least most tunnels come with light even if the light seems faraway and unpromising. I hope, at the end of all this, what I write genuinely delivers; that it fulfills its promise to the reader. I’ll have gone through a lot of tunnels to get there.

A Dragon in the Backyard…

My first novel, A Place With Dragons, opened with an acknowledgement “To You the Reader,” suggesting that each of us “keep a wary eye on life’s quiet shadows” because we’re apt to “find dragons in the most unexpected places.” Yesterday, I found one…

While putting part of a new fence in place, I spotted a lattice of sparkling of purple on something buried in the mud where I was working. It didn’t look like a rock, and it had the peculiar look of miniature scales. “Ridiculous!” I thought. But, since my daughter is a budding geologist, I guessed it might be fun for me to dig it out and let her determine what it was. I plopped the strange lump of sticky, clay mud inside an old coffee can for her to clean up; a little while later, after applying several baths of water and some scrubbing from an old toothbrush to remove the casket of mud surrounding it, she showed me what it was…a dragon head.

For those of us who might sometimes begin to think the magical reality of other-worldly adventure feels too far away, take heed!… Perhaps we do live in a place with dragons…

#fantasy #fantasybook #highfantasy #dragon #acitywithsevengates #aplacewithdragons #telluricgrand #stevenlovett #crow #wisp #warcrows #cityofrelic #dmp #dragonmoonpress

A Chapter’s Name

As a lifelong reader, I have loved it when an author has decided to give each chapter in a book its own title. Over time, I’ve come to see chapter titles almost as names. They can characterize the tone of a chapter. They can create expectations (which feel wonderful if met). They can, almost like a poetic line, convey a perspective or an emotion the author wants a reader to have. They’re the “children” who populate the “family” of a book. Maybe all of that’s placing too much significance on chapter titles (and sometimes they have little more significance than providing the next numeric designation), but when a chapter title is thoughtful, purposeful, and well-written, it adds another facet to the story. The names of chapters–once a book is put down for a long time before it is read again–have struck me as being like the names of old friends. In a few words, or in one word, they carry fond memories of time once-spent, and a journey once-taken, in another place and sometimes in another world. I hope all of my chapter “names” will eventually do that, too.

Here’s the name of Chapter 8 in A Murder of Crows…

Behind the scenes…

One of the things I enjoy the most, and one of the things that slows down my writing, is making sure the details are genuine; even in high fantasy, I think, this is critical to the believable accessibility of the story and, hopefully, makes it more enjoyable on several levels. Whether describing a newspaper article, a train schedule from Carlisle to Northampton, a bottle of old whiskey, or the finer points of an invented royal crest (hint for the second novel, “a twin of holly leaves on either side of the dropping bell of a snowdrop flower”), I love spending the time it takes to research each of these things. I have this idea in my head that some readers might take a passage out of one of my books and “fact-check” me someday, or that an occasional reader who happens to be schooled in botany will take delicious pleasure in the fact that I’ve properly described the Galanthus nivalis and have even used its historical significance to provide another level of meaning. But even if no one ever does, it’s still one of the things I enjoy most about writing. And I hope I get it right…at least most of the time.

Things Gone Wrong…

Nicolas has finally made it inside the Gate of the Deep, and to his surprise and delight, has run into Adelaide Ashdown… But the circumstances of their brief encounter are troubled. Adelaide cryptically alludes to “things gone wrong”–after Nicolas left, it seems his three friends have been encountering strange hardships; perhaps are even in danger…

Nicolas unexpectedly faces the possibility of his own trial by the Laird of the Gate but for reasons that are unclear to him… And a “rook” of War Crows is being held in the “bilge,” the Gate’s dungeon, awaiting a far more mortal fate…

A writer’s desk…

While a bit of this second book has, and will be, played out while I’m tucked safely in the warmth of our quiet home, sitting at a homemade desk in a small bedroom upstairs…I find my most of my muses huddled around a wood-burning stove out in the shadowed shop behind our house. A fitting place, I think, for Nicolas to come to grips with the Gate of the Deep. The City of Relic’s gatekeep that faces the dreaded fog-banks of the Cold Sea…

The test of good writing…

It was the tradition with A Place With Dragons that I read aloud each chapter to my family as each chapter was finished. I think the greatest test of good writing is the writing’s ability to be read aloud and understood and truly enjoyed by the audience…

This evening I read the first two chapters of A Murder of Crows to my wife and daughter. The chapters passed muster…