Reading is an escape. We love to curl up with a book and a cup of tea as the rain pelts down (common enough around here!) and leave the world behind. A good book draws you in like a fuzzy blanket, wraps you up, and makes you never want to leave.
But then, it happens. The author slips up, and something snaps you right out of the world.
For me, it was a horse. Apparently, the horse was greeting a nearby person in a barn with a whinny. It kicked me so far out, I stopped reading.
Horses whinny to call to another animal at a distance. It’s LOUD. They don’t whinny to greet; they nicker. A simple word choice, and I was jarred.
If we, as authors, state a fact that is glaringly incorrect, we risk ruining that deep connection our reader had with the story. While being accurate is best across the board, here are four particular areas to pay close attention to!
I mention this first because while many people write it, but few truly know the topic!
There are more than just facts to know about any representation of military bodies in novels; there’s an entire culture. It’s how people talk, walk, sleep, and breathe. If you have not lived the life, you need someone who has lived it to read the sections relating to military affairs and check it for authenticity. Military novels (historical, contemporary, and SciFi) have a huge audience. Even if the reader has not been directly involved in the military, they probably have read enough military fiction to know what to expect and recognize when it goes awry.
If you set your fiction novel in a real place, get out the map and get it right. Anyone who has visited or lived in your setting will immediately recognize if you fudge a street name or a distance between two landmarks. Never been there yourself? Google maps or local newspapers can go a long way to add authenticity, but get a local to read it too!
There’s a lingo to every profession. I’m a veterinarian, and I talk to vets differently than I do other people. They know what I mean when I say a patient ‘smiles.’ Or if I write COHAT as a recommendation.
A plumber uses different slang for their tools than a carpenter does. A chef called that vegetable ‘shrooms.’ Don’t give a surgeon painted nails (you’re not supposed to have nail polish!!), and don’t let a hunter have a pistol in Canada. There are exceptions, but you’d better explain!
We have to be careful we don’t get so into our vocabulary that we lose the reader, but a detail or two can cinch up a character perfectly, just as incorrect use can jar the reader.
4. Body language.
It’s not just for humans. Humans are probably the hardest because they lie, but it takes an excellent con to lie with their body language. Discrepancies between body and voice add fabulous subtext, but it has to be done right. Be conscious of what the body language is saying. People tend not even to be able to explain what they know about body language, but we all pick up on it subconsciously. Use it!
And don’t forget animals. A cat who narrows its eyes before striking rings untrue; cats have wide eyes when stressed. Narrowed eyes are a kitty smile!
Animals do not often lie, although sometimes it happens!
There will be moments when you have something that appears ‘wrong’ on first pass. A dog may wag its tail while growling. Maybe it’s just happy to attack! But if there is a discrepancy, it has to be explained at some point. Larry Correia was once taken to task by a reader who pointed out that Hind helicopters could not hover in the manner he described. Before he could reply, the reader wrote back, “Never mind. Magic Orc pilot,” and the matter was closed (Correia’s orcs had specialties they were essentially supernatural with; that orc’s was the helicopter.) An explanation will diffuse the ire. Leave it out, and your readers will have every right to call you on your ‘mistake’!
What else have you noticed an author getting wrong that threw you out of the story?
Writing is a personal affair, which is a strange thing to say about something you publicly share. But ask the writer, how easy is it to show what you have written? How long did your work hide away, unacknowledged, before it got to be viewed by even a single, trusted individual?
It’s extremely hard to bring writing out into the light of day. Why?
Because the writing is a piece of the author.
Even if we don’t recognize it formally, everything we write ties into us. Some aspects of our private lives slip through onto that page and are now on display. It could be something we’ve experienced or something we believe. It might be our dreams or fears or perhaps our greatest aspiration. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was suspected of creating the amazing Sherlock Holmes as a wishlist for himself, although he was also based on someone Sir Arthur knew.
I do not often use people I know as inspiration for characters (although Cuuks from a novella of mine is a notable exception). For me, the characters are usually aspects of myself brought to extremes. Gensiana is my optimism. Cairon is my introverted-ness. Loni is my lusting side. Arnika is the loving aspect of a wife. Lania is my warrior. Akara is my faith.
All of the characters become far more than just one thing, but they were born of me and my life. It’s my heart and soul lovingly arranged on the page. I wish there was a glass case for them to go into so they won’t get dirtied or damaged from being out, but they’re out there, exposed in my writing.
It’s hard to share what you write.
This is why it’s so important to support each other as writers. We’re vulnerable, especially as we start out. A harsh word can break a blooming author. Over time, our skins thicken and criticisms have less pain, more gain. But until then, treat your budding authors as if they are orchids: Be delicate, lest they wilt. Give them just the right amount of food and water to grow and improve.
SoulBurner is here!
Click the image to check out the Amazon page (including kindle) OR click HERE for the full details on my website!
To celebrate, Dragon's Talon is on SALE wherever ebooks are sold. FREE!
Universal link HERE and Amazon HERE
I grew up with these characters, from the inception of a place where dragons lived together, to the development of the threat they faced. Cairon's story in Dragon's Talon was the first full novel I completed and considered done (as opposed to the ones that were completed but needed to be fixed again and again and again). I submitted it to a publisher once in 2011, so that tells you how long it's been in the works! SoulBurner had to follow Dragon's Talon to finish the job of freeing Espar and bring Danoron's plight into contrast with Cairon's.
I've grown a lot since then, and so has the story. Still, I love the characters from surly Cairon to perky Gensiana. The conflict of the sword itself SoulBurner is the main focus of this tale, asking the important question; What will you sacrifice for your people?
Everyone has a story in them, although very few people put it on the page. That’s all you need to be a writer; One Great Tale that you put into words. It doesn’t matter how long it is or the topic or how pretty it is, or isn’t. One Great Tale written makes you a writer.
For those who choose the words to express their story and dream of getting it published, it’s a long haul. You will rework the One Great Tale a hundred times or more. Editing will seem never-ending. Good writers learn and revise, then learn more and revise again. The One Great Tale is polished over years, perhaps decades, until it is absolutely, positively, perfect.
But when it comes out, it will be gorgeous. It will astound people, draw them in. People will sing its praises! You will be an acclaimed author!
And then the readers will look for the next book.
It took decades for that first book to be ready, but the audience is hungry now for the next. They won’t wait decades more. So what happens?
The mistake I see so often is that the second book is written in a few years, at most. It doesn’t get the same attention or polish. The third book is rushed through in a few months. It’s like a television series that carries on long after the fanbase left, grasping at anything to make an episode and ruining the wonder of the initial concept. The ideas are not there. The finesse certainly isn’t. There is no time to make it great.
This is the danger of the One Great Tale.
If you are happy with One Great Tale, please write that beautiful story and share it with the world. I’m not trying to discourage people with this caution! But for me, it’s not enough to make One Great Tale. I want to become a great storyteller and great writer. As I work through drafts, I experiment, explore genres and styles. I write poetry sometimes. I fight with short stories. I submit other pieces. I take out parts. I go to conferences. I do writing exercises. I practice, practice, practice.
Because then, when my fans come looking for the second book, I’m ready to produce something just as good as the first. With practice, that second book will only take months.
I encourage you to put down the One Great Tale when you’ve finished it and not stop there. Pick up a new idea and run with it. Write a snippet or a sequel. Anything that will help you grow.
Then, when you're ready, write the Second Great Tale
I'm not going to say 'look on the brightside.' I'm not going to mention the big C. Nope. I want to leave this year on a positive note, looking ahead gladly and back gratefully. So I put together the top 7 GOOD things to come out of 2020.
1. Second Best in the world.
Canada was officially declared the second-best country in the world by USNews. I'm fond of the fact we were #1 for quality of life and #2 in citizenship (which is "cares about human rights, cares about the environment, gender equality, progressive, religious freedom, respects property rights, trustworthy, well-distributed political power.") Also, they ranked Canada as the most trustworthy country in another report, which makes me proud.
See the entire list here:
2. CO2 emissions went DOWN.
Although we plateaued in 2019, 2020 saw a decrease in Co2 emissions globally. One part due to lockdown measures, but who knows? Maybe the global interest in renewable resources is hitting its stride too. I like the idea of a better future due to using smarter energy resources. It's becoming affordable to be green!
They checked in April, so here's the article:
3. 15 minutes of fame for David Ayres
It was just a nice story: David Ayres was the 42-year-old Zamboni driver emergency goalie who came to the rescue of the Carolina Hurricanes as they battled the Toronto Maple Leafs in February. Although it happened in Toronto, and David was from Toronto, and he was recruited to play against the Leafs, he was good as gold and made eight saves on ten shots. Thanks to his honest efforts, the Hurricanes beat the Leafs 6-3. He was a sensation afterward and truly embodied the spirit of the game and being Canadian.
He's in wikipedia now...
4. Speaking moistly
In another moment of levity, watch Justin Trudeau's speech when he made the error of saying "speaking moistly," a phrase that you could see he instantly regretted. Of course, Canadians ran with it. It became a song and a lip balm!
The… lip balm?
5. The Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building.
NASA recognized the work of a hidden historical contributor to the space program: Mary W. Jackson. Jackson was the first African American female engineer at NASA in 1958 and was instrumental in getting the USA into space as one of their 'human computers' But, like many of the time, she was given no recognition until now. This was the latest move in NASA's attempt at reconciliation with their past, where 'Hidden Figures' went unrecognized for decades because they were female or of a minority. It's a good thing to see.
Check out the press release here:
6. Mutant Enzyme Heralds Breakthrough in Recycling
An enzyme was discovered in 2012 that could breakdown plastic faster than expected degradation (which is freakily slow). So what does humanity do? Optimize it.
Now we can use it to break down plastics in a matter of hours, and the products can be reused for new products! Score another one for science.
Click here for the news!
7. Big finale? Dec 7th 2020.
Marcus Andrew Ronald Lambert, our little rainbow baby, made our family into a family of four. If you're unfamiliar with a 'rainbow baby,' it's the one born after a loss (miscarriage or stillborn). I experienced two miscarriages on our journey to have Marcus. Welcoming him into the family has been a long time coming.
I hope you have other things to be grateful for in 2020. It's those silver linings that I hold to as we advance into 2021. May the New Year bring great prospects and opportunities for us all.
I didn’t think I had time for Newsletters. I also didn’t think I had the interest. But it's part of being an author these days, so I started (little scientist me) to research it. I signed up for several to see what others were doing. I read articles. I investigated platforms and programs. I asked around.
Maybe someone else is thinking about it. Here is what I learned about Newsletters:
1. It’s a connection.
Right now, connecting with people is hard. So maybe a little email sent to you monthly is a bright spot, a new idea, or a thought to share. It’s one more point of contact for people to remember that people are still out there, doing stuff. I liked having that moment of connection.
2. Newsletters are powerful
Newsletters are direct, from-the-source material, unlike many other platforms with filters or algorithms that continuously change and challenge our ability to connect. The message is going right to the person who wants to hear it. That in itself makes it potent.
3. Yes, it’s a way to advertise.
But is that all bad? From the other side, it’s a way to keep up with current developments, maybe even get ahead with pre-release information or covers before publication. It’s a way of generating momentum for a new book or helping people see older ones in a new light. Or maybe there is an event that needs to be shared. It’s all right there. I can be kept in the loop instead of counting on coming across something I may not even know to search for online.
4. Broadening my horizons, or at least my booklist.
Finding a new author, or a new song, or a new idea. By connecting with authors, we learn about their journeys. We get access to resources we never knew. Maybe we can be inspired! And with cross-promotion, we may find another book to read. Not that I have time for more of those… but I can dream.
5. Feedback from the readers!
What do you think of the new cover? What’s the interest in the fantasy world? Should more books follow, or is it time to move on? What do they love? Not love? Who do they root for? All of that is a vital part of getting to know the most important person in the writing field; the reader. A Newsletter is a way of hearing back.
So I'm going ahead.
In setting up my newsletter, I had to decide on some basic things (like the platform, frequency), but the hurdle became the content. I love music so expect some listening recommendations. A fun quote. Sure. But the content, the meat of it. What was I going to do?
I don’t want to be another newsletter about how to write. I am learning, and no doubt there will be some bits about the journey, new covers, release dates, but why would people open MY newsletter?
I decided I want to be a bright spot. I want to be that happy thought for the day or the funny quote. I promise to keep my newsletter upbeat and fun. We all need an excuse to smile.
If you’re interested, sign up here. The first one goes out Dec 1st. And yes, I’ll send you a short story as a bonus on sign up!
It's a tradition, although one I almost skipped this year because of the different set up for the conference. Still, there were gems to be had. Thus, here are ...
Things I learned from SiWC online
1. Video and audio are on the rise!
I knew Audiobooks were on the up and up. I had no idea how powerful video was becoming! With Google now indexing video and audio content, Podcast content shows up on searches and adds to an author's searchability. And now we can link videos to Amazon and websites. YouTube videos show up and bump your ranking up.
I guess this means people will be seeing a bit more of my bedraggled haircut in the weeks to come! I'm hoping to do a 'launch' for Dragon's Talon and a bit of a reading. I already have a reading of 'Someone,' a new short story!. Let's be honest; going audiovisual is an exciting new adventure: a terrifying one, but an exciting one. With modern technology, it's not as tricky as it once was.
I'll see you out there soon!
2. Blogs can tie to Amazon and Goodreads.
Now that I'm present on Goodreads (yay!), I had to do up the author profile. But it took a lecturer pointing out that it was possible to link the blog to the profiles for me to look at it again. I had seen the spot to put the link but failed to make it work. Now I've figured it out! Ok, small victories, but hey, I'll take what I can get.
Want to see more of me on Amazon? Follow here: DLambertauthor
Goodreads? Follow me as the author here: Author page
Or just friend me as a person (but know I'm not great at keeping my lists up to date!)
3. Taking a more in-depth look at the worlds we write, fictional or not
One talk I thoroughly enjoyed was "Decolonizing Fiction" with Erin Roberts. It challenged authors to look at many layers of their writing, even when we were not making a conscious effort towards a statement. Sometimes, even NOT making a statement may be making a statement we are unaware of. We don't see the scaffolding of the world we are accustomed to. It takes effort to see beyond that and make conscious choices about what we are putting out there.
It doesn't have to be big things. It can be simple as the type of stockings someone wears (Nude stockings: are they really nude for everyone? Clearly not!). But we can be active in our writing. We have to be deliberate in the choices we make.
4. Be afraid and do it anyway.
Eileen Cook's final speech spoke right to my heart. I'm getting doubts about the Sands of Nanterac series. It features so many new ideas and concepts, so far removed from the World of Espar and the familiar. I love it, but I don't know how to pitch it. I fear it's not good enough. It doesn't belong.
The thing is, the characters are black. Sort of, at least. They are more alien than just that, but it's based in a desert, and the people are pitch-black skinned. I researched lots of African themes and cultures to build the world and the peoples. I had to; building the world in the environment drove the culture. It makes sense.
What do I do with it? Shelve it? It has a place, I'm sure, in reaching broader adult audiences.
Even with a blue pencil last year with the lovely Cat Rambo, I haven't gotten any requests. Probably because I stopped querying it in 2019 though!! I lost my nerve.
So it's time to face the fear and, as Eileen said, do it anyway.
And that, my friends, is the final motto for SiWC. Be afraid, and do it anyway. Push the limits. You never know what will come of it.
So what project have you held back on?
I have just closed the Zoom window on the closing event of SiWC, and I need to unload.
This conference has been a massive help over the years, starting me on my way as an author instead of just a hobbyist. It is a strange mix of the experienced and the amateurs that fosters inclusivity and support when others would be elitist. It was the push to get me querying and taking my writing more seriously. Many workshops and talks inspired me or taught me how to improve my craft.
So it's a bit strange to say that I leave this conference with mixed feelings. Did I learn things? Absolutely! And I intend to go back over the online content available still to watch talks I could not attend. But I think my trepidation comes from looking ahead and seeing a fog. I'm not sure what I can use or what I can't. I'm at the point where I've learned enough to be on my way, but not enough to know where I am going.
I have two books self-published. The last one fell during COVID shut down, and I fumbled on the release so now I have to backtrack a bit.
I've got one book I passionately feel would work in the traditional publishing industry, and so I'm back to querying it.
So what am I doing? Honestly, I am coming to terms with the idea that I cannot do everything. I am accepting that books will continue to be my passion and outlet for stress. It will be fun. It will not be a career, but that doesn't mean I won't release good solid fun and adventure. And if I make you think a bit, excites you, or scares you a little, then good. Let's have an adventure!
I'm keen to hear from you! In these times of distancing, reach out! There's lots of good to come.
With SoulBurner (Weapons of Espar, Book 2) now in the hands of beta readers, I can finally hunker down to other things. And there's a lot going on!
I expanded my horizons and went to add the books to Goodreads, only to discover I already exist! Come follow me as an author at this LINK! I'm tickled pink that someone added the books but could use some more reviews to keep it alive. If you have a second and use Goodreads, tell me what you thought of Dragon's Voice or Dragon's Talon!
I'm starting up a Newsletter, once monthly, that will include various topics, promos, advanced reader intel, and the occasional snippet. For the first one (which will go out Dec 1st 2020 depending on baby #2 being due) I will be including a free short story in the World of Espar! Sign up HERE for free and get content!
More good stuff!
I got word that SoulBurner's cover is on its way! Stay tuned!
This week's plan:
If anyone is over at SiWC this week, look for me there as well! I will be attending the talks and social events whenever I can squeeze it in around daily life October 23rd to the 25th. Although the conference is pared down quite a bit, there's still lots of good stuff to come out of it online. I'm looking forwards to spending a few days in the world of writing! I hope to see you all there!
Of course, I will have my usual helpers... Levi and Corsair.
It's been a while…
For official news, I have accepted that I will not be making the Nov 2020 release for SoulBurner (Book 2 in Weapons of Espar). One part, that was because I lost two months when things were in lockdown. You would think I would have MORE time, but there was a sharp difference between those who had lockdown without a small child and those who went through lockdown with a small child. I have a small child.
The other part of the decision is that I am due with baby # 2 on Dec 6th, 2020. Thus, I decided SoulBurner will have to wait. Dragon's Talon is still available! Grab book one while you wait!
This blog was inspired by a sewing project and a legacy.
Legacy in a sewing box.
I am first to admit I am no expert seamstress, but one of the first things I got when I moved out was a sewing machine. I know the basics. I can put together a pattern, hem a skirt, and patch the knees of my son's torn pants. All you need for that is thread, a bit of cloth, and the machine.
However, when the kid's stuffed bunny lost his eyes, I had buttons I could sew back on (repeatedly). When I needed red thread, I had it. Elastic? Yep. Donated that to mask-making efforts. Ribbon? Sure. Even had a zipper, a pincushion with industrial pins, and a folded felt heart full of needles of all shapes and descriptions.
For a beginner, I have a ridiculous number of bits and pieces. That is because of Grandma Joan.
She was my grandmother-in-law, and I didn't get to know her for many years before she passed, but she has a legacy in my sewing box. Upon her death, my husband came home with her sewing box, an inheritance that I had never expected.
That golden tin is full, to the brim, with buttons of all shapes and sizes. I have a random assortment of coloured threads. I have more needles than I will ever need, from tiny beading needles to enormous knitting needles. They may be from 1950, but they do the job well. It is a treasure box filled with scraps of just what we need, when we need it.
Beads for an art project on a rainy day; a clasp for a bracelet made of shiny buttons; a sheet of felt for valentine hearts. These little things connect my son to his great-grandmother.
And every time I pull something out to use, I'm reminded of her too. A little bit of her effort and love goes into every project.
I hope I leave a legacy, whatever its form, as heartwarming as that sewing box.
D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.