Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Long Journey

How One Book Became an Epic Series: Part I

Nearly thirty years ago, I started writing a fantasy novel. My first version was about two hundred typed pages and I was convinced I'd created a good story.  I packed it up in an envelope and sent it off to a few publishers. Back then, that was the only option for getting a book out.

Now, I'd written it originally on steno pads by hand. Then I'd laboriously typed it up on an electric typewriter as computers were still in their infancy. Somewhere along the way, I did get some of it typed an printed on an IBM mainframe computer at school where I worked. The copy was a dot matrix version on rolls of computer paper. (Only you older readers will know what I mean, I fear.)

My queries to publishers didn't get very far and I still have several vanilla rejection letters lying around. They were form letters with nothing in them to encourage me.

I have a friend who is a professionally published writer and I showed him my manuscript. He liked the story and suggested it needed a rewrite. Soon, we were meeting several times a month, fleshing out characters, descriptions, and action to bring the skeleton of a tale I'd written to new life.

Over the next few years, I wrote and re-wrote, developing Kingdom Beyond the Rim into a full fledged epic fantasy of nearly a thousand double spaced typed pages. By then, the personal computer market had exploded and I had a PC and a laser printer at my disposal, so life and editing had taken a much better turn.

Off wen the manuscript in a cardboard box--still no digital submissions at that time--to potential publishers. Caught in the evil circle of:  "You need an agent to submit a book, but you can't get an agent unless you've published,"  the market was limited.  My book would vanish into the abyss of publisher slush piles for months on end, only to return to me without a dog ear or smudge on a single page. At that point, I surrendered. I still felt I had a book worthy of print, but without a way to get it published, things looked bleak.

Over the next few years. I found myself still writing. As a high school English teacher, I was always creating lessons, worksheets, stories, and all kinds of materials for my students. I used my fantasy character and setting to develop a writing site for my classes to use to learn how to write creatively themselves. Always, in some way or another, Jamus, my main character, and the world of Magiskeep just keep on living.

Then, through the pure fun of playing computer adventure games--most notably Sierra's Quest for Glory series, I joined an on-line message board, The Half-Wittenberg Door, and the Saga of Magiskeep was born anew. .

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Fall of Heroes

And So It Goes

I don't have a long list of famous people I really adore. I'm not a big fan of any sports heroes, rock stars, or movie stars--at least not to the point of swooning over them.  But I have been let down more than once by famous people I've admired over the years. Suffice it to say, my list is short, but I must admit, it has taught me a lot about human nature. 

Very few humans can quite stay up on the narrow pedestal worshippers create for them. I'm sure we've all been disappointed by people in our own lives, but when a high profile person disappoints us, it can be even more significant. Often, fans invest themselves in the hero, live their own dreams through him or her, and then feel a personal loss, when that hero falls. 

I think one of the reasons I like to write is so I can control the characters and the worlds I create, allowing me to decide who wins and loses. 

But the writing world is not reality. Over these last few years, I've been let down more than once by famous people I had grown to admire. 

Lance Armstrong, the former Tour de France winner is one. I learned to understand and enjoy the Tour by rooting for him. I read his book, respected his story of a long and hard recovery from cancer. I listened to endless praise of how hard he worked to prepare for the race, how he used strategy to win, and how his amazing endurance won time and time again in the torturous climbs in the mountains. He was accused over and over of using performance enhancing drugs and always tested clean. I believed in his talent and athleticism. He made me a fan of the Tour. 

Then the truth came out. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour victories because of blood doping. It hurt. I was truly disappointed that someone on my pedestal had fallen so far. 

Tiger Woods was a disappointment of another kind. The world's and my impression of him was taht he was an upstanding gentlemen both on the golf course and off. He was a superstar and I watched gold tournaments just because he was playing. 

Then, he too, fell from grace, proving to be an unfaithful husband. Again, another pedestal had at least partially collapsed. After his personal fall, Woods seemed to have lost the luster on his game as well. I still root for him when he plays and hope he will somehow manage to regain his skill and standing as one of the world's top golfers. But the golfer and man will never be quite the same for me. 

And then, there's Bill Cosby. He was always one of my favorite comedians. I still remember some of his old comedy routines, especially one about a Volkswagen he drove, and cherish the laughter he brought into my life. 

Of all my heroes he has fallen the farthest, mostly because the reason for his fall is so morally reprehensible. He is a villain of the highest degree ruining far more lives than the others. 

Traditions of literature demand the tragic hero must have the tragic flaw which ultimately leads to his/her downfall. Looking at the real world, it's sadly easy to see that tradition holding true as well. 

I think I'll stick to fantasy. At least that way, heroes only fall if I want them to.