Music is unique. It directly affects our brains, changing the release of chemicals and controlling mood, learning, behaviour. It's strangely universal.
And it makes writing better. Here are 3 ways music can be used in narration!
1. Character development:
Your favourite song tells a lot about you. Look at the huge spectrum music runs; from the hard core metal to melancholic, to classical to blues. A jazz fan might be more laid back, or more willing to improvise. An old school rock and roller might be stuck in the past. A teenager is more likely to go for hard rock, something with lots of screaming (unless he's actually head of the local marching band…)
The type of music a character prefers or listens to in the course of the story is another characteristic to expand on their personality. Don't dismiss it, or you'll miss the opportunity for depth with a few lines of text.
Consider the difference between a club filled with head-banging rock versus a country song.
Music sets the stage, lending details you now don't have to specify. Even the little details, like the elevator music being bland or the hold music being an outdated radio station no one actually voluntarily listens to, tells you about the building you are in or the company you are calling.
So, choose your music deliberately, and remember our world is filled with music. We must not forget the sense of hearing when making descriptions. But when is your world completely silent? How many songs do you hear in a day? Coffee shops, malls, dentists, car radio, at home, headphones when waiting for a bus, or riding a bus, or walking, or running, church, on websites/computer…
Even in other eras, consider the music. Folk songs, working songs, hymns…
3. Set the Mood:
Even if you're not showing a setting, music sets a mood. Who can forget the ominous organ music playing in the storm! Mystery! Intrigue! Suspense!
Don't be overt, but you can alter the mindset of your reader my choosing an appropriate song. It's more powerful if it's specific. Avoid 'a sad song'. Say George Jones singing with a harmonica background "He stopped loving her today." It gives you a kick to the gizzard!
But it's not just in the writing that music can make an appearance. I use music all the time to drive my writing as well!
Everyone is different, but if you have not tried these yet, I highly recommend them! They are great tricks to combat writer's block too!
Here are 6 ideas on how to use music to help YOU write better and more often!
1. Take a song and write new lyrics. This is a very traditional thing to do, to repurpose music to new lyrics. It's a tool for poetry, since you'll find it guiding the structure for you.
2. Listen to different things while writing: with lyrics, without, familiar, unfamiliar. If you match the music to the mood you are trying to put into the scene, you may find something that drives the scene (and the story) onwards.
3. Try to sing your work: If you think of your prose AS a song, you'll hear the beats and flow of it. If it's jarring, then find something that smooths it out.
4. Block out noise: Using music can keep focus on the page and not in the surroundings. Headphones may help make a coffee shop a prime writing environment (unless you want to listen to the people chatting nearby for inspiration too!)
5. Playlists for each story. I do this. They are in order. Since the characters develop, I will find a song that seems to match them in a moment, and I put that song there in the list. I also write out the lyrics to solidify my ideas. Sometimes the song adds depth I didn't know I had. I listen to these songs when writing, but also in between since it kick-starts my thinking about stories.
6. As a prompt: Use an instrumental piece or just use the title as a prompt, then listen, and write. Piano music is another great prompt for the emotion it evokes!
Second book blues? Maybe a little. It’s hard in COVID-19. We’re so lucky on Vancouver Island to have so little of the disease, but the precautions are still in place, and we’re still abiding by them so there will be no gathering, no library launch, no celebratory cake (not even my homemade version!) This release is going to be like a dud firework; a bit of spark, but not as much as excitement.
So let’s have a fun list of small things that changed the course of history. Many of these are just legends, but still amusing!
A crack in history
Safety glass was invented by accident; the French chemist dropped his flask containing cellulose nitrate and discovered that, while the flask did break, it didn’t shatter. Thus followed a staple of our automatic industry.
Waterloo and the pain in the a**
It’s rumoured that Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo due to acute hemorrhoids. He couldn’t ride to supervise the soldiers, and since the doctors had lost his leeches, he ended up on an overdose instead. So much for such a small (but so incredibly painful) thing!
Didn’t see it coming
A last-minute roster change meant the lookout on the Titanic ended up without binoculars as he was missing the key for the locker where they were stored! Some believe that the iceberg could have been seen at a greater distance if the lookout had had access to those binoculars. The ship might not have crashed at all!
Happy B-day… or D-Day?
Supposedly, German commander Field Marshal Erwin Rommel left France to attend his wife’s birthday, smoothing the path for the Allies on D-Day. One birthday someone regretted attending!
A Mars Rover once went MIA on NASA because (as they discovered) the two teams working on it were using different units. Suddenly, the tiny difference between centimetres and inches mattered way too much.
When one door opens…
In ancient times, the Ottoman Empire was founded after the Turks took Constantinople. How? Someone left a gate open. Whoops.
On a roll…
The modern stethoscope was invented by a male physician who, because of current societal expectation, could not press his ear to a woman patient’s chest to check her heart. He rolled up paper and used it to listen, diagnosing her heart disease! Now it’s a vital tool for all physicians.
Finding the right direction
Albert Einstein was inspired by a compass he was given when ill in bed. It fascinated him and instilled in him a deep curiousity as to the working things. That worked out for the best!
So, no matter how small a thing feels, there is always great potential!
It's available now; the newest installment in the world of Espar! Join the next generation of DragonKeepers!
The ebooks are up at the below links. Thanks to the deals by Island Blue Print, I should have the print copies for locals mid-June. And as a bonus, we now have an amazing map of the World of Taint courtesy of Astra Crompton. Espar's only one corner of it, but it's exciting to see it finally put together!
If you'd like a copy directly from me, send me a note (Contact page is HERE) and I'll put one aside! Otherwise, the links are below. For a universal ebook link click HERE
A promise that brings war...
When the king was killed by his advisor, only the DragonKeeper knew the truth. She was exiled and, without her support, the Kingdom of Espar fell to the Lionian Sovereignty.
Fifty years later, Cairon Mirk is the DragonKeeper, and he has little sympathy for the Esparans who abandoned his grandmother. But an oath remains, that he will defend the line of the Kings of Espar. When he stumbles across Danoron Galanth and his sister Gensiana, helping the Heirs of Espar enrages the Sovereignty and brings a bounty onto the heads of dragons. To save his dragon family, Cairon must abandon his isolated life and do battle with the invincible Lionian Sovereignty.
But the Sovereignty does not act alone. Traitors hide among the Esparan rebels. New weapons are raised against the dragons, able to burn even a silver's scale. And an enemy of the past has come to end both Cairon's reign as Dragonkeeper and his life.
I admit; I am a bit obsessed with dragons. Right now, everyone's talking about unicorns, and I don't care. Where are the dragons? That's what interests me!
I find it fascinating that almost every culture the world-over has myths about dragons. Many are huge snakes only, but you can go back through ancient written history and find these stories all over the globe and call it a dragon. Off the top of my head, there's been Apep (Egyptian), Ladon, Python, Typhon (all Greek, plus unnamed ones…), Lindworm (Germanic), Fafnir (Scandinavian), Wyrms and Wyverns (English), Long (Chinese, possibly also Vietnamese), the Leviathan (Biblical-Jewish), Naga (Indonesian), Tiamat (Babylonian), Bahamut (Arabian), Tarasque (French)… And those are just the ones I know! There are thousands out there, named or unnamed, that share the giant reptilian /dragon style.
Why does the world have myths about dragons? Perhaps that would be a good topic for a short story. The 2002 movie 'Reign of Fire' supposed that dragons existed and hibernated between killing sprees! But the main two theories I have heard are 1. We're scared of snakes, so big snakes make a lot of sense as monsters or 2. Ancients saw fossils and drew conclusions.
I think the former is more likely. We, like monkeys, have a reasonably instinctual fear of snakes. Kids often have a fear of snakes even if they live in areas without many snakes. Monkeys who have never seen a snake before, never been exposed to another monkey's reaction to a snake, will still react with fear when they see one. It's a strange genetic memory we do not understand.
Not everyone is scared of snakes (about 40%), but it's enough to make snakes great monsters. And then imagine the thing could fly! Many eastern dragons have no wings but fly.
I'm less convinced that a dinosaur (or other) fossil would universally make dragon myths. Some parts of the world are very fossil-poor. And even if they found a bone or two, they would lack the skills to dig up enough to have any idea what the creature was. There's not enough in those bones for me to believe the whole world would create a myth.
The neatest thing about dragons is how they differ. Some have wings. Some blow fire. Some have many heads. Some have horns. Some have magic teeth or bones.
And the 'rules' for dragons are profoundly malleable. Sacrifice a damsel. Cut off its head. Steal its hoard. Brainless monster. Sophisticated riddler.
Dungeons and Dragons were best known for codifying the dragons by colour, and in doing so combined the myths of many cultures. They even have a monster called Tiamat and one Behemoth. They separated the different archetypes into different beasts, even expanding into dragonkin.
Were the dragons of Espar in the World of Taint inspired by D&D? Strangely, no. While I have played D&D, Espar was born before that, and I wanted the dragons to be more animal, less magical. I figured out how they flew and their dragon breath. And I made the colours different breeds, not species, and created an origin for the various breeds. They had more in common with dogs (if dogs had been bred by magical beings).
But that's the wonderful thing about dragons. No matter how you change a dragon, it's probably somewhere in the mythology of the world, and everyone will recognize it as a dragon. It's a myth everyone knows.
Pre-orders are up!
After Sair set up a legacy of dragonkeepers serving the Kings of Espar in "Dragon's Talon," something went very wrong…
Now conquered, Espar has no king. The War of the Pass drove the dragonkeepers into exile, believed to be enemies of the kingdom. Isolated, they devoted their lives to the dragons instead. But now the last dragonkeeper has heard the pleas of the fragmented, dying royal line and must decide if the kingdom is worth saving at all.
"Dragon's Talon" is the first book in the Weapons of Espar duology and is the product of about twenty years of work. It was one of the first stories I completed to some degree of satisfaction! Armed with a much better understanding of writing and publishing, it took its current form over the winter and is now available for pre-order ebooks.
Unfortunately, the paperback is not showing for pre-order yet (I'm working on it). If you'd like a copy, you can message me directly or wait for it to go live on May 31st, 2020 and order it then! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook, and you'll get a reminder as the date draws near!
The book was written when I was tired of the farm boys saving the kingdom because of prophecies. I decided to write my own story, where the hero is a lovable grouch, the girls can hold their own just fine, and the dragons are the ones who need saving. "Dragon's Talon" was the result. It contains some of my favourite characters I have ever written; the king's sister Gensiana, and the current dragonkeeper, Cairon. And of course, has the snarky fairy dragons and the immeasurably patient (and enormous) silver dragon MoonStone.
Their full tale concludes in SoulBurner, which is due out November 2020.
I'm making it official: Dragon's Talon, Book 1 of the Weapons of Espar, will be released on May 31st, 2020. And helping me reach that goal is the awesome work of Fantasia Frog Designs!
I'm most excited by being able to tie the style to Dragon's Voice, another Tale of Espar (although a different series), and the colour scheme suits this book so well! We've got Rodons in the picture this time, tying the two stories together, even though Dragon's Talon takes place about 200 years after Sair's adventures, fifty years after the fall of Espar. It's a story of loyalty, family, hope, and determination. It's also one of the first I ever finished! May 31st, join new characters from Espar and beyond as they come together to free the world from the control of the Lionian Sovereignty.
Considering COVID-19, this will be an online launch!
Check out the official page HERE. It will be updated as pre-orders and distributors become available!
"Did you know there was more to the Oath of the Keepers once?"
Cairon nodded, but then, realizing his grandmother may not have seen, he added, "The second part was to the kingdom and King of Espar, but we don't say that part anymore. There is no king."
Grandmother Kasha's smile seemed sad. "There is, though," she said. "He is just not on his throne. One day, Cairon, a firedrake called WhirlWind may come to you and ask you to help the king's family. I promised that the dragonkeeper would always answer that call, just as your father did. If they call, Cairon, you must help them. Promise me that."
"I promise, Grandmother," Cairon replied.
The old woman rolled onto her back, her vacant stare shifting to the ceiling. "Good boy. Now go back to your games."
*Full excerpt available HERE
It was hard to sort out what to say in this blog right now. It's been crazy recently. We're in a strange lockdown, many businesses forced to close or at least limit people coming in. My job has been deemed 'essential,' so I'm working, but we're at half strength and working restricted hours, so we don't burn out our remaining staff.
I'm looking forwards to the day this ends, and I can write about how things did, or did not, change after COVID-19.
A meme inspired this post. It went something like this: Instead of thinking of self-isolation as punishment, think of it as the greatest demonstration of love humanity has ever performed.
Because what I'm seeing right now is a lot of love out there.
In my area, the kids are hanging hearts in the windows. Our house is up a hill, so we walked down the driveway and drew hearts on the drive with chalk and hung hearts in the trees. Then we walked, husband, wife and son, through the neighbourhood and looked for the hearts.
I'm seeing people diverting their businesses to help selflessly (here's looking at you Sheringham Distillery), offering to drive and deliver (Comb and Collar Grooming!) to people trapped, and supporting the community with information (District of Sooke Emergency Operations Centre).
So this post is going to be about love.
I've been writing someone learning a fantasy-world "English" as their second language, and it's been fascinating to bring to light some lapses in the language. English is silly; we have only one word for love, despite what the thesaurus may say. "Love" and "fondness" are not the same thing. Neither does endearment, devotion, adoration, doting, idolization, or others really capture the definition of "love". Those are aspects of love, but not the whole thing. Yet, we have only one word for love.
When I check the dictionary, there are only three definitions of "love."
1. Deep affection for someone
2. Deep romantic or sexual attachment
3. Like or enjoy very much
In my mind, there are six kinds of love. I'm stealing from Rydans here (something you'll find in the world of Espar), but it ought to show what I mean.
Here are the six versions of love I wish we had words to differentiate.
1. Love for a thing, something you like or enjoy very much. It's a weak emotion, this kind of love. I love my bicycle, for instance. (Tinluv in Rydan)
2. The love of a good friend, someone you are close to and will follow. This comes with loyalty and shared trust. (Faluv in Rydan; the love between follower and leader)
3. A family's love. Close family, a love that you don't always think about, but never wavers. The love of a mother, siblings, or guardian. (Famluv in Rydan)
4. The love of a larger group, like an extended family, or a clan, or even a country. Something you don't know personally, but are bound to and care about. Patriotism. (Claluv in Rydan)
5. Foolish, desperate love. This is the love that blinds people and drives them to do crazy things in passion. It can be manipulative if one-sided (Foluv to the Rydans, and a terrible thing!)
6. Sweet love, true love. A love that is soul-binding. Absolute trust and support. A good marriage or a soul-mate. (Rydan's don't recognize this one! They think it's foluv)
Right now, I have seen so much of number 4. We've come together as a province and as a country. We're sacrificing freedoms and our own desires to protect each other. I am personally at minimal risk of being significantly ill should I get COVID-19. But I know my mother and father are at high risk. I also know my clients consist of a high proportion of elderly. And I know that if I go down, my work family suffers.
So I'm letting go of tinluv, minor things I would like to do, and talking to my family regularly to show my famluv. I'm leading my work-family with deep faluv, and staying isolated with my loving husband. That is how I demonstrate the claluv I have for my community, the province and my country.
The Rydans believe no love is greater than claluv. The greater good for the clan must prevail.
We are not alone. We are in this together. Just look at the hearts in the windows.
When I was fourteen, I heard a remarkable story about a woman who had kept a journal from the age of fourteen. She had lived through World War II, and her journal was filled with the details of her hiding in attics and escaping persecution. And, in 1998, her journal was being transcribed to be gifted to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I thought it was fascinating that a life had been so wholly recorded. So, in May 1998, I started a journal.
I never call it a diary, because diaries are personal and should never be shared. A journal is less about complaints and emotions, more about events and thoughts. At least tat is how I see it. I made the promise I would write every night. Even if I had nothing to say, I would write.
What goes into a journal? For me, it's whatever is on my mind at the end of the day. If I had a big event that day, not surprisingly, it's in there. But sometimes something smaller gets in, simply because it was the most recent thing. A phone call from family. A beautiful pair of slippers. A funny movie. Sometimes short, something long. Sometimes serious, sometimes silly. Anything and everything. And if there's nothing that jumps to mind, it gets "Nothing to say. Good Night."
Recently, I sat down and thought about this practice that is going on its 22nd birthday. I believe it has been profoundly helpful. Here is why:
1. A log of things.
I don't remember everything. When did I first mention a given character? What day did my husband get stuck outside of town and sleep at my parent's house? Sometimes even medical things got into the journal, so I have a record of when my shoulder first hurt, and when my son first spoke. Anything that earned a mention has a date on it, a log.
2. A chance to reflect.
This is part of my routine, a chance to unwind, reflect, and look back at the day. There are times I deliberately do NOT record something, something I feel there is no reason to remember. But usually I can process the day, figure out what mattered and what didn't, and write about it. It's a moment of calm in days that have been too harried. Rough days and difficult emotions lose their power in the words on the page.
3. A prompt for sleep.
My brain knows that, once the journal is out, it's time for sleep. It's become such a routine, it has conditioned me to fall sleep! I may be a bit like Pavlov's dogs, but it's to my benefit. I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow now, instead of staring into space for hours trying to talk my brain into calming down.
4. Better handwriting!
The practice of writing has markedly improved my handwriting. Just looking back at the May 1998 entries proves that! I was one of the last generations to do a lot of my schooling written. But I was taught typing (unlike now when they don't have to teach it; everyone knows how to type). Instead of letting my handwriting atrophy, my journal has kept my writing muscles strong! While this seems trivial, it made a difference when I was looking for work.
5. A means of communication with my mind
Sometimes even I don't know what I think about something. Similar to my 'rant file' (a topic for another day), these entries let me think "out loud", working through something that has been bothering me and helping me find a solution or at least peace with it. It's therapy on a page!
6. A chance to share
I have handed journal entries to my husband. This was particularly helpful when I was working through something. It helped open up a conversation and help him undertand where I was at with something.
And it's fun to flip through to find silly entries to share too! I have the entire West Highland Way trip in my journal. It's hilarious reminiscing about the adventures (and misadventures)!
When I sought counselling after my second miscarriage, the first thing the mental health nurse suggested was a journal. I guess I'm not alone in seeing the benefits. It's a simple thing that takes only a moment.
Don't edit it. Don't overthink. Write what you are thinking, and stop when you're done.
Give it a try. It may surprise you.
Did you find a new author you love? Want to support them? It’s simple: write a review. Better yet, write a few. Or write one and post it in multiple places, at least.
When consumers approach a purchase, they want a quick way to verify it will be worthwhile. Most of us are guilty of scrolling down to check reviews. I hope I’m not alone in always checking both the top positive ones and the top negative ones. It’s a fact that no one can please everyone, so a negative review is not a deal-breaker for me, but I want to see why the consumer was upset. Does it apply to my circumstances? I’m suspicious of anyone with only positive reviews, but sometimes there are so few reviews. We need more voices out there, more opinions!
Now, look at books. It’s easy for famous authors to have vast lists of reviews. But books with small readerships (like emerging authors) struggle to get any reviews. And if no one writes reviews, then buyers will not want to take a chance on it.
Most platforms don’t have many rules for leaving reviews. If you have a profile, you can write a review. Some expect you to have bought the item through them, but most do not. The biggest fish in the pond is Amazon, and that’s where it gets a little complicated.
There were some concerns that Amazon would not allow everyone to write reviews. They do have different standards that are worth knowing. Breaking the rules will see the review removed at the least, but can get the author or the reviewer suspended as well.
1. Authors cannot pay for CUSTOMER reviews, but can for EDITORIAL (professional) reviews.
2. Authors can give out free or discounted copies and request a review, but they cannot demand a review in exchange.
3. Authors cannot limit reviews. Some authors put “I encourage reviews, whether positive or negative” to assure Amazon that they are not soliciting for only good reviews.
4. Friends and family of authors CAN put up reviews, but “individuals who share a household with the author or close friends” cannot. I’m not exactly clear how close is ‘close friend,’ but I’m assuming this means my husband is out since I live with him.
5. Someone must have spent $50 on Amazon within the last12 months to write a review.
The last point was surprising. On the one hand, I understand not wanting people to write reviews for things they have never bought/used, but as Amazon has become such an incredible hub, it worries me that people outside the platform cannot be heard.
Where to find or post book reviews:
Check Goodreads, amazon, google, iBooks and pretty much anywhere the ebook is sold. They all have review options.
Writing a review:
Be honest! As much as I wish to support friends and other writers, I never lie in a review. I don’t want to trick someone into buying something they don’t want, and I don’t want to discredit the author. But don’t expect your review to necessarily reach the author, as many authors do not read reviews. If you want to reach out to the author, try the contact page on their website, their Facebook page, twitter account, Instagram etc.
While adding a review to a book that already has five hundred is a drop in an overflowing bucket, a review to a new author is worth gold! So, if you enjoyed a book, any book, take a moment to find it online wherever you shop and leave a review. It is probably the single-most supporting thing you can do for any new writer.
It's a New Year. The gamer in me appreciates that it's going to be a good year because it's 2020. I'm not going to explain the joke, sorry.
Since launching Dragon's Voice in November, I've been compiling a list of things I wish I had known before publishing. These are the little things that some people may have told me and I forgot, or no one said and I didn't know to ask. So, here are "More Things we Learned" It's a continuation of the "Things we learned today" Blog from October 2019. Read that one HERE first, then come back.
Done? Ok, here's the new stuff.
1. Make sure your word document has "keep lines together" UNCLICKED on the paragraph settings. This means the program will NOT bump your paragraph to the next page to keep it together. That way you won't end up with a huge dead space at the end of the page when the paragraph falls across it. It DOES mean you'll have widows and orphans (a single word or sentence on a page followed by a break like a chapter). Now you have to find those and fix them.
If you fail to do this, correcting it later will mean you will suddenly SHORTEN your book and may have to redo your cover (because the spine is now a different thickness).
2. Don't put a subtitle in Amazon for the paperback. The ebook from Draft2Digital doesn't do subtitles, and now your two items don't match by way of description. No, you can't edit the paperback after it's up. You could edit the ebook, but D2D doesn't do subtitles, so you are stuck. Amazon won't help you by matching them.
I ended up removing Amazon from D2D's distribution and loading the doggone thing myself. It worked, but defeats a bit of the purpose! On the plus side, the ebooks count towards the Amazon total now, and since they payout when I hit a threshold, it may help me reach that threshold sooner and actually get paid. So, maybe a good thing?
3. Make a file for your links. Yes, D2D has a new "universal link" feature, but you'll still want the paperback one, and your website, and your event link and whatever else. If you have a single file with it on, it's easy to click and connect the icons to the page you want. But some links are too long… so I learned about Bitly. It shortens links for you.
4. Sell author copies to sell to family and friends, those who would buy MY book but not really likely to buy a fantasy novel. This means you will not confuse the algorithms online. Apparently, Amazon and such are using your sales to categorize your book (so they know who to show it to in the "you may be interested in" parts. If all my friends buy it, but they are not fantasy readers, then it doesn't show it to the right people.
The downside to this is that these sales do not count towards my rankings or online presence. Pros and cons to that one.
5. I sold 25 books easily. I should have brought in more.
6. Reviews. Please, if you remember only one thing from this, let it be; "support your author with reviews." Online reviews drive sales. They let people know the new book by an unknown person is legitimate. If you have thirty seconds, go write a review. Even if it's not for me, write one for another author you love. It doesn't matter as much to the multi-million sales top-seller with thousands already (but they would probably like to hear from you!), but it is a HUGE thing to an author just starting. You can write reviews on websites, Goodreads, Amazon and more.
I didn't do a good job of setting up reviews. I have to play catch-up now. It's hard to have reviews without having readers. I should have requested reviews from early readers (eARC), but that's a work in progress now.
There you go! Hopefully, someone can learn from my oversights and have a smoother publishing run!
Overall, I was floored by how well Dragon's Voice did. I called the book my "Training wheels book" because I knew it would be a bit wobbly, a stepping stone along the path to publications, but it was smoother and better received than I had ever expected.
If I did my job right, the people who enjoyed Dragon's Voice will be excited to know Dragon's Talon (following Sair's descendant through starting a war) is aiming to be released in May 2020. It'll be going to Beta Readers no later than mid-January.
Happy reading and Happy New Year!
D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.