Sunday, June 24, 2012

You have reached The Bearded Scribe; please leave your message after the Beep.

Hello Beardies,

I will be out of town until Thursday... a wedding to attend in a sunny locale :)

Until then, Happy Scribing!

P.S.  Beep :)

P.S.S.  A very Happy Birthday to Sara Cleveland, the newest member of The Bearded Scribe team :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Spotlight: The Last Unicorn (The Graphic Novel) by Peter S. Beagle

Good day to you, Beardies, and welcome back!

It is my great pleasure to present my first post for The Bearded Scribe. First, a huge thanks to Joshua and the rest of the crew for having me, and to all you Beardies for taking the time to follow the blog. Second, on to the goodies:

“Whimsical. Lyrical. Poignant. Deeply moving. Adapted for the first time from the acclaimed and beloved novel by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn is a tale for any age about the wonders of magic, the power of love, and the tragedy of loss. A unicorn, alone in her enchanted wood, discovers that she may be the last of her kind. Reluctant at first, she sets out on a journey to find her fellow unicorns, even if it means facing the terrifying anger of the Red Bull and malignant evil of the king who wields the Bull’s power.”

For my first foray into the realm of graphic novels, I settled on a winner. Having grown up terrified, yet allured, by the Rankin and Bass animated production of The Last Unicorn, I steered clear of the novel, not sure what to expect, until the 40th Anniversary Edition was released by Roc in 2008. I discovered that I had been missing out on an exquisite tale, but that’s another review for another day. Suffice it to say that the graphic version, published in 2011 by IDW Publishing, is as lush and beautiful as the original story. The artists Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon worked wonders translating the poetic beauty and depth of emotion of Beagle’s prose into each panel and page of their artwork.

Artwork by Renae De Liz

Being a reluctant fan of the animated production, I was pleased that many of the characters and flavor of the backgrounds often closely echoed the artwork featured in the film. At the same time, the illustrations remained different and original enough to keep me from feeling cheated. While I might have finished this book in a few hours, it took me several weeks because I found myself lingering on the panels, soaking up each delicious detail. Artwork of this caliber is not something to be rushed through, after all. The eye wants to dive into the layers of imagery and savor for a while.

Artwork by Renae De Liz

Just as impressive is how Peter B. Gillis managed to select the phrases, both exposition and dialog, from the original novel that best enhanced the artwork and managed to move the story along in a clear fashion, without sacrificing Beagle’s poetry of language. The story’s allegorical symbolism and wry humor remain intact as well. Even small details from the novel, those jewels glittering darkly at the periphery, like a spider weeping over reality, are faithfully captured here.

Fans of the classic fantasy novel will be hard-pressed not to find enjoyment in this delight for the eyes, this feast for the imagination.


Thanks for stopping by,  Beardies. Until next time, read, write, live, love!

*** The Last Unicorn (2011) by Peter S. Beagle, adapted by Peter B. Gillis; Illustrated by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon. Available online, at your local bookstore, or your local library. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Spotlight: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

***I selected this post to be featured on Book Review Blogs.***
***Please visit the site and vote for my blog!***

Hello, Beardies!

Welcome, once more, to Book Spotlight, wherein I tell you about the books I love as a writer, and as a reader!

What a lot of people don’t realize about librarianship is how much it involves waiting. Librarians are constantly planning for the future. The book you checked out today is due in three weeks. The programs I am planning right now won’t happen until September. Very soon, I will get a package from VOYA with a new set of reviews to write—those reviews will go to my editor by late August, but there’s a chance I won’t see them in print until December! See what I mean about always planning and waiting? The worst wait, though, is always for the next book in a series! I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but I cannot make the writing and publishing process faster (more’s the pity).

Today’s Book Spotlight is born of my impatience with the waiting game. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is the first book in a trilogy, but if I wait to tell you about it until all the books are published, I’ll go crazy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Joshua Hernandez: Prize In Hand

Good Afternoon Beardies :)

As you know, a contest was held on The Bearded Scribe to win an autographed copy of Michael Scott's The Enchantress.  Its winner, Joshua Hernandez, was announced to all of you the moment the contest ended, and his prize was shortly on its way.

Upon notifying Joshua of the win, I asked him--if at all possible--to send me some pictures of himself holding his prize to post on the blog. Well, Beardies, here they are in all their awesomeness, and many thanks to Joshua for obliging me with such great detailed shots of the book and the marvelous autograph inside!

Joshua Hernandez: Prize In Hand
Some VERY awesome shots of The Enchantress in all its glory!

Many thanks again to all who participated in the contest!  Keep your eye out for future contests here on The Bearded Scribe!

Happy Scribing!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Author Spotlight: Michael Scott (Complete with Interview)

Good Evening Beardies :)

Many of you have probably began to wonder if my interview with Michael Scott was ever going to appear.  Some of you have even contacted me in query.  But fear not; the wait is over!

Organizing the contest, as well as seriously contemplating what questions to ask Michael, have both been a blast for me, and I can't thank him enough for the opportunity and assistance with arranging and promoting the contest.  Because of his busy schedule with The Enchantress book-signing tour--not to mention out of sheer gratitude and respect--I wanted to give him ample time to chew on the questions a bit before answering.

The wait was well worth it!  The answers are phenomenal, and I know all of you are going to enjoy them as much as I did.  But you're going to have to wait just a bit longer, as I want to introduce Michael to all of you first...

About Michael Scott.
(taken directly from Michael's website; Mr. Scott owns all copyrights.)
Irish-born Michael Scott began writing over twenty-five years ago, and is one of Ireland's most successful and prolific authors, with one hundred titles to his credit, spanning a variety of genres, including Fantasy, Science Fiction and Folklore. He writes for both adults and young adults and is published in thirty-eight countries, in over twenty languages.
He is considered one of the authorities on the folklore of the Celtic lands and is credited with the resurgence of interest in the subject in the mid-1980s. His collections, Irish Folk & Fairy Tales, Irish Myths & Legends and Irish Ghosts & Hauntings have remained continuously in print for the past twenty years and are now included amongst the definitive and most-quoted works on the subject.

The Interview.
(as promised)

The Bearded Scribe: At what age did you begin writing?

Michael Scott: I was probably around 18 or 19 when I started doing it seriously. I never set out to be a writer, but I was a great reader, and if you are a reader, then one day you will say, "I think I can do this." That's how every writer I know started. The trick is to stick at it.

The Bearded Scribe: I read somewhere that mythology is one of your first loves; would you say that it was mythology that inspired you to start writing?

Michael Scott: Absolutely. I grew up in Ireland where myth and legend is still very close and very real. When I started my first collection of Irish folklore, back in 1982, there were very few books on Irish folklore in print and most of those were much older books, written in the style and language of the 19th century. I decided that I would do a collection of the classic Irish folktales, written in a modern accessible style. My first three collections, Irish Folk and Fairy Tales, are still in print to this day. Collecting and writing those first stories were my first ventures into print.

The Bearded Scribe: Would you say that growing up in Ireland—with its culture deeply seeded with folklore, mythology, and mysticism—influenced your incorporation of magical elements into your novels?

Michael Scott: I grew up with these magical stories, where the dividing line between this world and the faery realms (which appear as the Shadowrealms in the Flamel series - indeed some of the Shadowrealms, like Tir na nOg are named in honor of the Irish otherworlds.)

The Bearded Scribe: Which Irish myth/story stands out amongst the others as a favorite?

Michael Scott: There are so many, but my all time favorite is The Children of Lir, one of the Sorrows of Irish Storytelling. It is the story of four children, changed into swans by an evil step-mother and doomed to spend nine hundred years as swans before returning to their human form. It was my first young adult novel and remains one of my favorites.

The Bearded Scribe: What is your favorite book? Your favorite fantasy/speculative fiction book?

Michael Scott: Too hard a question. There are so many. I love Huckleberry Finn (the original version, not the new edited version), and I've read it a dozen times at least and find something new in it every time. Growing up I was greatly influenced by people like Andre Norton, Mary Norton, Susan Cooper, H P Lovecraft, Talbot Mundy and Robert E Howard.
The Bearded Scribe: For me, it was Bridge to Terabithia... was there a particular book that hooked you into the fantasy genre?

Michael Scott: That's an easier questions: Tros of Samothrace by Talbot Mundy, a wonderful semi-historical historical novel, woven throughout with fantasy. It was first published in the 1930's and I read the paperback reprints in the late 1970's. Inasmuch as Flamel is a sort of historical fantasy ... well, here are its roots.

The Bearded Scribe: Could you describe your writing process for the readers of The Bearded Scribe?

Michael Scott: For me plotting is everything. Once I have an overall idea for a story, I will then work through it, plotting it down to chapter by chapter level. Once I have that outline, I then write the ending. Once I have my ending i know I can write the story. The practical process involves sitting in a chair about ten hours a day. I work on two screens, with the novel open in one screen (in Word), and my research notes (in Mindmanager and TheBrain) on the second screen.

The Bearded Scribe: As an aspiring fantasy author trying to shop his first manuscript, could you tell me how many agents you sent query letters to before you received a “yes” from one of them? Also, how long did the process take?

Michael Scott: I'm afraid to say that this will depress you. I've published a lot of books, and did not get an agent until I'd sold about 25 or 30 by myself. I sold my very first book by simply contacting a publisher directly. However, the business has changed a lot now and having an agent is almost necessary just to get in the door with a publisher. (If it is consolation, when I went looking for a new agent for the Flamel series, very few were interested. But all it takes is one. And the writing business is all about persistance.)

The Bearded Scribe: Could you tell the readers of The Bearded Scribe more about The Thirteen Hallows, your literary collaboration with Collette Freedman?

Michael Scott: The Thirteen Hallows is based on a novel I wrote many years ago called The Hallows and now long out of print. This is a story based, like so much of my work, on mythology, but a very specific Arthurian legend and the great English hymn -- Jerusalem. Colette and I worked to bring the story up to date, tighten the storyline and improve on the original. We met briefly in LA to discuss the original idea and then worked with Skype and Google docs over the next several months on the story. I then returned to LA for the final work on the manuscript. It sold very quickly and I was thrilled to be published by Tor. They'd published some earlier fantasies of mine a long time ago. we're working on a sequel, called The Hallowed Keepers.

The Bearded Scribe: What about your pen name, Anna Dillon? What is the story behind where and how it came about?

Michael Scott: I had been working on a big historical novel set in Dublin before the first World War. My publishers loved it, but felt that the readers might have difficult accepting that it had been written by a fantasy writer. Also, it featured strong female characters and was seen as a "female" books. (I should add that this was a long time ago, and attitudes have changed.) I choose Anna Dillon, which is a combination of family names. Seasons, the first book, was an immediate success and I went on to write several more books under the Anna Dillon name. For a long time "she" was more popular than I was!

The Bearded Scribe: When you visited Flamel's residence in Paris, was it sort of a writer's “love at first sight” for you? What went through your thoughts upon entering?

Michael Scott: As an historian I'd always known about Nicholas Flamel - he weaves in an out of various aspects of European history and Doctor John Dee (whom I had written about before) was a collector of his work. It was, initially, a curioisty to be sitting in his house, drinking tea and looking around. At that stage, Dee was the hero of the series (it was the Secrets of Doctor Dee), but I knew instinctively that Dee was not right for the hero - he was just a little too dark. I think it was when I remembered that Flamel had been a bookseller (and I was working as a bookseller at that time), that the pieces began to come together. But once the decision was made, everything slotted together so neatly.

The Bearded Scribe: Being a direct descendant of Jeanne D'Arc's brother, Jacquemin D'Arc, as well as my birthday being exactly 550 years to the day of when she was wrongfully burned at the stake, I feel an unprecedented connection to her. (Dare I mention that she and I are both lefties?) I am curious... other than for the obvious reasons, what inspired you to use Jeanne as a part of the Flamel series, especially the way in which you did?

Michael Scott: Ok, that now is very impressive! And I do have a short story plotted which includes all the d'Arc siblings, Pierre, Jean and Jacquemin, and, of course, Joan -- I'll tell that story some day soon, I promise. I included Joan because, in the plotting process, I knew I wanted to send the Flamels back to Paris to retrieve the sword. I also wanted to include the wonderful catacombs beneath the city in the story. So, if I have everyone in Paris, then they will need to be protected by the ultimate French warrior: Joan of Arc.

The Bearded Scribe: This question was also asked by one of my Guest Scribes, Elizabeth Norton... are you currently working on any new projects now that the Flamel series is finished?

Michael Scott: Yes, I am writing The Earthlords series right now. It is related, but only vaguely, to the Flamel series. It is a mythic fantasy, a trilogy ... with no cliffhanger endings, I promise.

The Bearded Scribe: I'm not sure of the topic or in what capacity, but would you consider writing a guest post on The Bearded Scribe at some point?

Michael Scott: Yes, of course. Just ask.

The Bearded Scribe: Rumors of a film adaptation of the Flamel series have circulated across the internet... are the rumors true, and are there any current status updates?

Michael Scott: The rumors have always been true. Several huge companies have looked at Flamel and tried to make it work. For various reasons, often to do with the script, it simply has not happened - also the really compressed time frame of the series makes it tricky to shoot. However, now that the series is finished, there is reknewed interest and, fingers crossed, we should know very soon. And this time, I'll write the script, so at least it will vaguely resemble the books.

The Bearded Scribe: As you know, I hosted a contest on my blog and asked the participants to submit questions for this interview... here are some of them that came my way...
Court Ellyn: How did the initial idea for The Enchantress come about? 
Michael Scott: The original idea was to create a series that unified all the world's mythology, based on the simple premise that at the heart of every story is a grain of truth. As I research folklore all over the world, it has become clear to me that so many of the world's myths and legends are incredibly similar, and some are almost identical. So I came up with the idea that I would feature as many of the world's folklore and myths in one story, and populate my world with immortal human characters. The only created characters in the series are Sophie and Josh. 
Joshua Hernandez: I've always wondered where you concocted the idea for auras to have smells? Also, if you had an aura, what would you make your fragrance? 
Michael Scott: Auras or versions of auras turn up in myth across the globe. I added in the element of smell because I wanted to make the characters memorable, and scents are one of the most distinctive and evocative of all the senses. We can all remember smells from our childhood for example. Someone suggested that all the good characters smell "good" and all the villains smell "bad." This is not actually true. All of the characters have taken odors appropriate to their time. I have been told that my aura is green and smells of spearmint. 
Francis Ramos: Now that the Flamel series is done, is there any possibility that you'll make another series related to it? Or maybe a series with one of the characters from the Flamel series as the main character? 
Michael Scott: I am working on a new series now called The Earthlords. It is vaguely related to the Flamel series, but none of the characters from the six books will appear in the new series. However, I am not entirely done with Flamel yet. I have plans for another linked series and some short stories set in the same world. 
Booklover 31 (Name Undisclosed): Did you have a favorite character to write for, and if so, did it change throughout the series? 
Michael Scott: Dee has always been my favorite. Villains are always so much fun to write. However, as the series progressed, Billy and Machiavelli and Scathach, of course, were great fun to write. I always knew how he would "end," so that did not change. I've not been entirely fair to him however. He was a fascinating man, with one of the largest libraries in private hands and probably the basis of Shakespeare's Prospero. 
Miranda Harrison: What was the most challenging part of the series to write? And also, for which character did you have the most difficulty writing? 
Michael Scott: Keeping all six books straight in my head and ensuring the continuity of the series. The notes for this series are huge - bigger than the books themselves. All of the characters presented their own difficulties, but some, like Scathach, for example, tended to take over. So I had to be careful not to give her too much time on the page. I'll give the Shadow her own series eventually. 
Oscar Montepeque: If a film adaptation of the series does come about, how do imagine the script writers and directors will incorporate all the different view points of the characters? What about the “flashbacks” and “memory” sequences experienced by the characters? 
Michael Scott: That is always going to be an issue. The movie is not the book and the book will always be better than the movie. It is now looking like I will do a first pass on the script myself, so I will try and keep it as close to the books as possible, but obviously, something will have to go. (And I am not a fan of flashbacks in movies!) 
Oscar Montepeque: Out of the hundreds of historical figures out there, what made you decide on the ones you did choose? What made them more special than the rest? 
Michael Scott: As I plotted the series, sometimes the locations would suggest the characters (Joan in Paris, for example, or Shakespeare in London.) But this really was a great opportunity for me to include all of my favorite characrers from history. There are so many who simply did not make the final books, (but who may make the short stories!) 
Lynn Volovic Rosin: I was just curious... did you travel to all the wonderful places in the series (i.e., Alcatraz and Notre Dame) in order to mimic them so perfectly within the books? 
Michael Scott: Yes, I have visited, stayed in or lived in all of the places in the books. That was part of the deal I make with you, the reader. Also, by setting it so firmly in the real world, using very real locations, it make the magic and fantasy all the more real.

Vivian Mah: Growing up, had you always wanted to become a writer? Any advice for young writers? 
Michael Scott: No, I never really wanted to become a writer, it sort of happened. However, I was a great reader, and if you are a reader, then sooner or later you decide that you have your own stories to tell. My best advice for young writers is, obviously, to read, read, read and then read some more. But also to learn how to type properly. Do a keyboarding skills course. It will make your writing life so much easier. And get a really comfortable chair, because you will spent a lot of time sitting in it. 
Carlos Escribano: Were the characters of Josh and Sophie inspired by real people? 
Michael Scott: No, they are the only two created characters. However, they are twins, and twin mythology is universal. I generally make it a rule never to base anyone on people I know. I may take elements of people's personalities and incorporate them into the story, but it is never a good idea to write your friends into your work.

The Bearded Scribe: Is there anything else that you would like to share with The Bearded Scribe's readers that I did not ask you (and you wished I had)?

Michael Scott: I think this is a really exciting time both for writers and readers. This generation of readers have an opportunity (like here) to talk directly with writers. And, writers have an opportunity to listen to their readers and hear what they are saying. I think this dialogue is incredibly positive. And finally, of course, let me thank you for reading the books. Without readers, books are just dead words on a page: it is the readers who bring them alive.

Thank you, Michael, for taking the time out of your busy schedule and book tour to sit down and share your answers with me and the readers of The Bearded Scribe. It has been an honor and a privilege talking with you over the past few weeks, one that I won't soon forget.

Stay tuned for an upcoming, collaborative review of Michael Scott's The Alchemyst written by Elizabeth and myself.  Also, stay tuned for a potential guest post by Michael Scott himself!

More About Michael.
To find out more about Michael Scott, please visit his website.  If you are not doing so already, you can also follow him on Facebook and on Twitter... and be sure to tell him The Bearded Scribe sent you!

To purchase any of the books within The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, simply click on the images above.  To check out Michael's other titles, visit here, there, over here, and don't forget about over there, too!  (Yes.  There are that many!)

Happy Scribing!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Author Spotlight: Cidney Swanson (Complete with Interview)

Hello Beardies,

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth emailed me with the name of an author whom she knew through her work at the library.  Without knowing it, Elizabeth had already corresponded with the author to see if she would be open to an interview for the blog... to which the author graciously agreed.

In conjunction with this upcoming Author Spotlight, Elizabeth wrote a wonderful review of The Ripple Trilogy, authored by our guest today, Cidney Swanson. (For those of you who do not remember Elizabeth's Book Spotlight on The Ripple Trilogy, please check it out as soon as you get a chance.)

A little about Cidney.
(Biography taken from Cidney's Author Page on Amazon and originally provided by Cidney or a representative.)
Cidney Swanson grew up within spitting distance of the central California foothills and learned to drive on the crazy highways linking gold rush ghost towns. She began her first novel at age eight; it started with "Ouch," and she's enjoyed creating painful situations for her characters ever since. Cidney worked as a costume designer, clothing designer, and kitchen gadget salesperson prior to giving it all up for literature. Cidney lives in Oregon's Willamette Valley with her husband, three kids, a dog, and two cats and entirely too much rain.

The Interview.

The Bearded Scribe: You have two blogs—your personal blog and one titled The Writer's Voice—could you tell the readers at The Bearded Scribe a little more about each of them?

Cidney Swanson: I’m a contributor over at The Writer’s Voice, a blog where several young adult authors post. On my own blog, I tend to write a couple of posts a month on something that moves me. Wow. That sounded vague. Here’s another try: when I find myself getting shivers from an experience that has to do with reading or writing, I usually end up blogging about it.

The Bearded Scribe: Would you consider writing a guest post on The Bearded Scribe at some point?

Cidney Swanson: Of course! In addition, you can always request to re-post an earlier post of mine if you think your readers would find it interesting.

The Bearded Scribe: At what age did you begin writing?

Cidney Swanson: I began writing fiction as soon as I learned to write words, right around age seven. I have no idea why. No one in particular encouraged it, but I loved reading and I’m guessing that inspired me.

The Bearded Scribe: What is your favorite book? Your favorite fantasy/speculative fiction book?

Cidney Swanson: Really? Favorite, like, favorite??? I’m totally cheating and answering with more than one title. *grins evilly* 

If I could only have one book for the rest of my life, I would pick Lord of the Rings. My favorite books that I’ve read more recently would be Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races.

The Bearded Scribe: For me, it was Bridge to Terabithia... was there a particular book that hooked you into the fantasy genre?

Cidney Swanson: It was actually Star Trek (the original series) that hooked me into speculative fiction. I read science fiction looking for something similar, but I was often disappointed. Interestingly, when I discovered The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings within twelve months of each other, it felt like “coming home” for me. Those books converted me into a fantasy reader.

The Bearded Scribe: It's funny that you mention The Chronicles of Narnia, actually.  It was what made me realize that there were other great fantasies out there.  Shortly after reading Bridge to Terabithia, a professional acting group visited my elementary school and performed a dramatic adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  After that, I think I was not only hooked, but also the subconscious decision to become a writer had manifested inside my head, even at that young of an age.

Do you only write in the Fantasy genre?

Cidney Swanson: So far, all of the novels I have completed have had fantastical elements to them. I enjoy reading contemporary young adult fiction, but I don’t seem to be driven to write it myself. Unless there is something speculative involved in the writing, I don’t tend to stick with it. That probably won’t change any time soon, given the number of books clamoring (from inside my brain) to be written.

The Bearded Scribe: As an aspiring fantasy author trying to shop his first manuscript, could you tell me how many agents you sent query letters to before you received a “yes” from one of them? Also, how long did the process take?

Cidney Swanson: I am currently un-agented and self-published. But I was looking for an agent once upon a time. Here’s how my process went: I chose two dozen agents that I thought I might work well with. I only received a handful of outright rejections. Most said, “What else have you got?” or “It’s good, but I think this would be tough to market.” That process took about two years. Meanwhile, I wanted to quit my day job and write full time. So, I set aside querying in favor of publishing The Ripple Trilogy myself. That was one year ago. I’m making a living as a writer at this time.

I certainly wouldn’t be in this position if I had continued to query without taking a break to polish and publish. I’ve owned a couple of businesses, so I looked at this very much from a business standpoint asking: how can I achieve my goal of writing for a living? Self-publishing was a very good option for meeting that goal. Now I am about to jump back on the query-go-round with a couple of new manuscripts in hand.

The main problem with the query process is that it moves at the pace of a banana slug. On a very hot day. On an abrasive surface. Agents are under tremendous pressures now with the flux in the publishing industry. Their first responsibility must be to existing clients. They read queries and manuscripts in their free time! (Meaning, when the rest of us would be sipping sweet tea or going to the movies.)

The query process is a very lengthy one made even longer by the fact that it is accomplished during someone’s “non-work” hours. I’d say it is typical to get a first response after 3-6 months. If an agent asks for a couple of chapters, you’ll probably hear back on those in 2-4 months. If they ask for a complete manuscript, allow another month or two. They may request revisions before deciding. This should take you a couple of months. Then they will need a couple of months to get back to you. Are you starting to see a pattern? We’re well over 15 moths at this point from when you first sent something off. Of course everyone’s journey is different, but 15 months before a final answer is probably fairly typical. Unless it is a no, in which case, only 3-6 months would be normal.

The Bearded Scribe: What was your inspiration for The Ripple Trilogy?

Cidney Swanson: I had an image in my mind of a teen girl sitting beside the Merced River (by Yosemite.) As I “gazed” at her, she disappeared. She didn’t notice she had turned invisible. I had to know why (1) she turned invisible and (2) she didn’t even notice it had happened. I mean, wouldn’t you notice if you turned invisible?

The Bearded Scribe: Have you received any optioning rights for film adaptations of the Trilogy?

Cidney Swanson: No. But whenever my daughter asks for an iPhone or other expensive item, I tell her, “Okay, as soon as I get my movie optioned.”

The Bearded Scribe: Are you currently working on any new projects?

Cidney Swanson: Yes. Several. (How coy of me!) But seriously, I have a sci-fi trilogy and a stand-alone about ballet and goblins. I have a couple of other things in the works as well, but they don’t have complete first drafts yet.

The Bearded Scribe: Elizabeth just did a Book Spotlight on The Ripple Trilogy and she focuses on the techniques (or gems) that other writers can take away from reading the specific titles she reviews. Are there any other tips or techniques you would like to share with The Bearded Scribe's readers—especially fellow writers—which they can use in their own writings?

Cidney Swanson: Read, read, read. Put sticky-note flags next to sentences or paragraphs that move you as you are reading. Later, go back and analyze what the writer did. Do exercises where you try to recreate that in your own style. I did an MFA many years ago where my art profs had me copy the masters in drawing and painting. I think writers can do the same thing to great benefit.

The Bearded Scribe: Could you describe your writing process for the readers of The Bearded Scribe?

Cidney Swanson: Sure! I write six days a week, in the mornings when my inner editor is groggy. That way the creative stuff is flowing pretty well. When I approach a new project, I will generally create a loose outline with a very definite “this is what happens at the end” in mind. I find that I need to know which direction I am driving, as it were.

I write out my first drafts at a pace of right around 2000 words/day. Sometimes I’ll hit a 4-5000 word day, and those are great, but many days I struggle to get those 2000 out. I write anyway. Even when it feels like pulling teeth. I’ve found the muse only shows up if I do.

After I’ve completed a first draft, I set it aside for one to two weeks. Then I clean it up a bit and let my editor have a look. My editor does a “big picture” pass over it, suggesting where I need to pick up the pace or describe things more clearly. This is more of the “story development editing” that you may have heard of.

Afterwards, I go into a revisions phase where I am still focused on the big picture: what scenes need to go buh-byes, what additional scenes I need to write. Then I set it aside for another two weeks or so and look it over again, cleaning up obvious errors. If I am still feeling uncertain about the overall story-arc, I may ask that same editor to look it over again.

Once I have a storyline that feels nice and solid, I get to do my two favorite passes through the manuscript! I do one pass looking at each page as a separate unit in completely random order. When I read the single page, I am looking for one bright sparkling bit of something: a moving description or something humorous or a really lovely metaphor or a sentence that I could just dive into and live off for the next six months. Well, those are my goals, anyway. If the page doesn’t have any of the above, I work it and tweak it, asking myself where it needs something really yummy, where that bright bit might fit in. Ah. There. I feel happier just talking about that process.

Lastly, I do a line edit searching for word repetition, misspellings, weak verbs, any adverbs I can get rid of, and so on. That is also deeply fun, for me. After this, it goes to a line editor, and after I fix the line edits, it goes to a copy editor.

You’ll notice I have several weeks of “down-time” when a manuscript is either out of my hands or when I choose not to look at it so that I can come back to it with fresher eyes. During these periods, I work on another manuscript.

The Bearded Scribe: Wow!  Thank you for that!  I am sure my readers are going to love that you were so detailed when describing your process!

Is there anything else that you would like to share with The Bearded Scribe's readers that I did not ask you?

Cidney Swanson: Um. Hmm. If you haven’t read Laini Taylor’s book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you should totally run to your library or bookseller and get a copy. Did I mention that I loved that book? Oh. I already said that?

Seriously, though, thanks so much for spending some time with me. I feel so fortunate to be doing what I love for a living, and that wouldn’t be possible without readers. ¡Gracias!

Thank you, Cidney, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down and share your answers with me and the readers of The Bearded Scribe.  It has been a pleasure conversing with you over the past few weeks, and yours is a talent that deserves spotlighting.

More About Cidney.
For more information about Cidney, or to read her delightful musings, you can visit her personal blog.  You can also Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

To purchase any of Cidney's titles, simply click on the images above to be redirected.  You won't regret the purchase :)

Happy Scribing,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Movie Spotlight: Snow White and the Huntsman

Good Day Beardies,

Last night Jeremiah and I decided to go to the movies... BUT it wasn't just any movie theatre, it was a Movie Tavern.  The seats were SO comfortable, with small, moveable tables attached to each arm, and the experience alone--movie aside--was quite memorable. And that's not the blue margarita talking :)

On a more serious note, however, we went to the theatre to catch the latest blockbuster film, Snow White and the Huntsman.  After seeing the preview for the film, I felt its inclusion of Charlize Theron made it a must see for me.  Kristen Stewart, on the other hand, I was not too thrilled about, but I decided to suck it up and give her a chance.  As a first for The Bearded Scribe (and, I admit, for me), I've decided to do a Movie Spotlight on the film.

WARNING: Review contains some spoilers.
Plot Summary.
The movie's first scene sets the mood for the entire film: its colors not too vivid, save the stark white snow, the blood-red rose, and the rich black of the marcescent stem upon which it lingered.  We are introduced to the Queen, who sends out a spoken hope to whatever forces there may be, wishing for a daughter with the same fairness and strength as that solitary rose.

The movie is, unfortunately, paced rather quickly after this. It rushes through Snow White's birth, her adolescence wherein her mother dies, her father's second marriage to Ravenna (about whom we, if we weren't already familiar with the story, would know very little), and her father's betrayal and murder.  Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is now Queen, and Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is locked in a lofty prison within a tower of the castle.  Ravenna is old, and in order to maintain her youthful appearance, she must consume the youth of others (a less-than-impressive scene reveals this).  The only one who is capable of Ravenna's destruction is one who is fairer than she (hence her incessant need to ask this very question of her beloved mirror); if she were to consume said person's heart, she would live and stay beautiful forever, no longer needing to drain the youth from others.

Cue Snow White, whom the mirror reveals as being fairer than Ravenna now that she has come of age. Learning this, Ravenna requests her brother to fetch Snow White from her tower prison so that she may eat her heart. Snow White manages to escape, of course. When she is pursued by Ravenna's men, she manages to elude them once more by fleeing into the Dark Forest.

The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is introduced to us a drunkard who is grieving the loss of his wife--one who cannot even win a tavern brawl, yet the Queen has sought him to fetch Snow White from the Dark Forest. He locates Snow White rather quickly (too quick, if you ask me!), and after Snow White pleads with him to help her escape the clutches of Ravenna, he agrees, but not before the rest of the Queen's men catch up to the two of them.  They must then outrun the Queen's men through the Dark Forest.

It is in the Dark Forest that Snow White meets the Seven Dwarves--thankfully named something other than the Disney knockoff.  The Dwarves lead Snow White and the Huntsman into a place called Sanctuary, where the faeries live, but it turns out to be anything but when they are tracked down by the Queen's men.  They manage to escape yet again, this time due to the excellent bowmanship of William (Sam Claflin), the Duke's son and a childhood companion of Snow White.  He has purposefully disguised himself as one of the Queen's men.  (Can we say love triangle? Surely not with Kristen Stewart in the film!)

After they share a kiss, Snow White is poisoned by an apple given to her by William (or at least that is what she thinks).  The real William appears, grief-stricken, and kisses Snow White's cold, dead lips. Her body is then brought to the Duke's castle where a funeral is held; she is brought back to life by a confession of true love and a kiss from the Huntsman. (I guess William was lacking in this department?) Once revived, she convinces the Duke and his army to wage a battle against the evil Queen.

The Good.
I first have to say that the cinematography and the special effects were exceptional. I especially liked the mirror sequences, the scenes in the Sanctuary, as well as the last Dark Forest scene.  And how they managed to shrink Bob Hoskins and the other Dwarves to fit their pint-sized characters is beyond me.  Great Job.  Kristen Stewart did a great job acting the part she was given, but even though she was the title character, her acting was still over-powered by Charlize Theron's.  But that's to be expected, I suppose.

The Bad.
The pacing of the film was too quick in some areas that needed further explanation or development, like the love story between Snow White and the Huntsman... though it was an obvious and expected plot device, given the title, the "love" seemed to come from nowhere.  The end, as well, seemed to fall short.  I am not sure if the writers left it open for a sequel, or if they just ran out of steam.

In other areas that were self-explanatory, it seemed to linger (how many times was it necessary for the audience to revisit the Dark Forest... one that wasn't so dark, in my opinion.

And on that note, the Darkness foreshadowed in the film's cinematography plateaued before ever reaching its expected (my expectations, that is) level.  On this, the Evil Queen lacked conviction, though I wonder if it was Charlize Theron's interpretation or that of the director's?

The Ugly.
The actor selection, in my opinion, was sadly lacking, and it made the film incredulous.  Despite this section's title, I am not saying that Kristen Stewart is ugly.  She's not.  In fact, she has a unique beauty that few ever possess.  BUT, to cast her as the role of Snow White makes no sense at all to me, especially not when she is supposed to be "the fairest one of all."

Compared to Charlize Theron?  Really?

Also, her skin was always dirty in the film, her hair always matted and greasy, and her lips were rarely blood-red.

The actress who played young Snow White shouldn't have been chosen, either.  Her acting was amazing for someone her age, but her appearance did not coincide with the fabled character.  I am pretty sure that Snow White's snow-white skin, blood-red lips, and hair as black as a raven's wing was a constant throughout her life.  The young Snow White in this film had reddish-brown hair and freckles!

The film was enjoyable to watch, but I know if some elements were changed or added, then the film could have been a lot better.  I didn't hate it but I didn't love it, and for this reason I give the film:
3 out of 5 Beards
All-in-all, however, I would say to go watch the film.  It has its moments, and there are enough of them to remedy where it lacks.

Happy Scribing,

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Enchantress Contest WINNER!!

Hello Beardies, Old & New :)

As you all know, I launched a contest on the blog as a prequel to my interview with Michael Scott.  And, the prize, of course, was an Autographed Copy of his latest book, The Enchantress.

I was blown away by the amount of traffic the contest generated.  As of the time of writing this, the contest post alone has received 456 views alone!  Of course, many thanks to Michael Scott himself for helping me to promote the contest via Twitter.

There were four ways to submit an entry for the contest: one required, and three optional.  Over the course of the contest, here is the breakdown of the actual number of entries received by each entrant:

Entrant Name
Joshua Hernandez
Courtney (Shortskie)
Scathach Danu
Francis Ramos
Steve Caunce
Oscar Montepeque
Vivian Mah
Carlos Idelfonzo
Carlos Escribano
Lynn Volovic Rosin
Booklover 31
Ferial Abdoel
Meliza G

As the entries came in, I recorded them into the table above, until the contest's closing at midnight (12:00:01AM EST) today, June 10th.  With all the entries in, I input them into an Application (on my iPhone) called Fate Machine™(manually entering in the names for each column).  Once all the names were entered into the App, I simply tapped my screen to watch the wheel of fate spin until landing on the winner.

As proof to all of you who entered, I took a screen shot of my iPhone, so without further ado, here is that screen shot announcing the unmistakable WINNER!

Yes, Joshua Hernandez, you read it correctly... YOU are the WINNER!  I will contact you in order to get the information needed to send you your prize!

Thank you all for participating, and please stay tuned for my interview with Michael Scott, featuring all of your questions!

Congratulations again Joshua Hernandez, and Happy Scribing!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

World Building Series: Characters -- Part II

Hello Beardies!

It has been quite some time since I have posted within the World Building Series, and for this I apologize. I am not sure how many of you actually follow the WBS, but it will be a constant and regular feature on the blog--at least until I run out of topics within the series to discuss.

This post will also link to my post titled Native Americans: Mythical Creatures? in the sense that it is about using an existing idea or representation of something already in existence (in the case of the aforementioned post, it referred to an actual peoples, the Native Americans) as inspiration for a unique creation within your own writings.

This post, however, does not refer to living peoples as inspiration; it instead refers to the worn-out, stereotypic, and now clichéd examples of Races within the Fantasy genre--especially Epic Fantasy, but now even wandering amuck in Urban Fantasy, too.

Too many times I have picked up a new release at the bookstore and, without having to even crack the binding, I can tell you exactly what the characters look like.  When Tolkien--the indisputable Father of Fantasy--released his works, the races within the pages became the model of all fantasy novels to follow.  Unfortunately.  Not that Tolkien's creations aren't worthy of mimicking, because they are, but definitely unfortunate due to the fact that his creations became stagnant when they appeared within the countless works of others.  And most of the time, by default, so did the plots.

How boring would going to the museum be if all the paintings were of Mona Lisa--but the engraved plaque under each of the frames bore the name of a different artist?  Or every time you attended the Symphony the Orchestra played the same piece--but the program cover announced a different title and composer despite the fact?

See my point?

In the case of the latter example, many composers used the works of others as inspiration for their own pieces--and, in listening, you can definitely hear it--but they did not copy the piece note for note.  They borrowed themes.

Do the same for your characters.  Not all fantasy stories have to contain elves, dwarves, fairies, dragons, centaurs--dare I mention vampires and werewolves?--but it is okay to model your own races upon these and create fresh and unique--but still fantastical--creatures.  I know I have, and that was most of the joy I had while writing.

There are plenty of sources of inspiration for original creatures and characters:  mythology, folklore, religion, and even, for example, some of the bizarre but beautiful creatures that inhabit our marvelous planet such as the leafy seadragon (pictured above).

Two of my most treasured sources for creature inspiration--other than the chaos swirling in my head--can be found on my bookshelf.  Both books cover all of the sources above; one is a field-guide, while the other is a glance into the symbology behind the creatures.

You can purchase either one by clicking on the images, or by visiting your local Barnes & Noble.

I plan on continuing this specific topic in future posts, expounding upon how to develop your creatures by borrowing elements from the above-mentioned, and other, sources.

Stay Tuned & Happy Scribing,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury Dies at Ninety-One

Hello Beardies,

Although I am sure most of you may have already heard--myself only hearing of it around 8:00PM today through an email from Elizabeth--but we have experienced another loss in the literary world.

Ray Bradbury, in 1966, with a picture that was part of a school project
to illustrate characters in one of his dramas.
Ray Bradbury--one of speculative fiction's finest and author of titles such as his dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, and fantasy/horror novel, Something Wicked this Way Comes--died Tuesday in Los Angeles at the age of ninety-one.   Read More >>>
I admittedly have only read one Ray Bradbury title: Dandelion Wine. The language was sweet, melodic, mysterious, and I fell in love with the author, never realizing until later on in life that the story was autobiographical.

As my own age creeps toward the higher numbers in life, it saddens me to witness the passing of so many greats... yet, at the same time, witnessing the literary birth of so many others makes me wonder what blogger of the future will be posting on the passing of today's great achievers.

In all honesty, however, artists are immortal.  Though we lose the corporeal vessel which once housed them, their souls live on in the words upon the pages, the notes of a sonata or symphony, or the oil upon the canvas.  And with that thought, I leave you a few of Ray's own words of immortality.

“It was the face of spring, it was the face of summer, it was the warmness of clover breath. Pomegranate glowed in her lips, and the noon sky in her eyes. To touch her face was that always new experience of opening your window one December morning, early, and putting out your hand to the first white cool powdering of snow that had come, silently, with no announcement, in the night. And all of this, this breath-warmness and plum-tenderness was held forever in one miracle of photographic is chemistry which no clock winds could blow upon to change one hour or one second; this fine first cool white snow would never melt, but live a thousand summers.”  --Dandelion Wine

 Magical, isn't it?

May You Rest In Peace, Mr. Bradbury... your words never will...

*** Dandelion Wine (1957), by Ray Bradbury, is published and copyright by Doubleday.  It is available in stores, online, or in your local library.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

World Building, Word Count, and Other Daily Beasts

Hello Beardies :)

A couple nights ago, Elizabeth and I were having one of our infamous, late-night textathons (I am sure she regrets me discovering that she possessed an iPhone, which meant she and I could text for free via iMessage on my iPod).  During our ribbons of various topics of discussion, Elizabeth posed the following question, accompanied by the resulting comments:

Elizabeth: Why do Fantasy writers work in trilogies and series?  Standalone fantasy is a rare duck.  And sometimes I'll even wait until I know a series is complete before reading it.

Having spent about a decade (at least) crafting and perfecting the world in which my own story takes place, I immediately replied:

Joshua: I think it's because fantasy worlds take so much effort for the writer to "build" that they (I can attest) don't often want to abandon that world after just one book. 
Elizabeth: That's my feeling too.  I actually have nothing against trilogies as planned trilogies; it's when I can tell that the only reason for another story is that a series has become a cash cow that I have issues.

This conversation came after a previous discussion of the manuscript for The Son of Drynntorm, for which I have had issues finding an agent mainly due to, I think, its hefty word count.  Elizabeth--many thanks and many debts owed to her--agreed to give the manuscript a read-through a little over a month or so ago, and in doing so, has provided me with some suggestions and insight.  She also called me out (kindly and respectfully, of course) on one particular thing: missing pieces of the puzzle.

The only response I offered was that I edited for word count, taking out scenes that would not be missed as part of the whole story.  They didn't, however, go unnoticed by Elizabeth.  In reading, she could tell where I had edited and thinned for word count.  She admitted to wanting to see the manuscript before the cutting, but I sadly did not save the copy (aside from it being locked inside my head).  She was a bit shocked and saddened that she would not get to read the unedited version--apparently so much that is spawned a little soapbox action, for which I highly commend her.

Today, very much related to the aforementioned discussion, I received an email from Elizabeth--a forwarded response from her discussion about an article that circulated around her group of colleagues from various libraries in the vicinity of her own. But before I share her response to this article, let me first share with you the actual article so you can arrive at your own opinion of the matter.

You don't have to read the article.  (For someone who complains about the length of a novel, he surely spit out an awful amount of words to say the point which he made in the tagline of the piece... all without answering the very questions he posed).  But do click on the link and read the multitude of hilarious comments that are thrown the author's way.  My little treat.

So, I do have to share Elizabeth's response to this article within our own discussion (her emailed response still to follow) because I nearly peed myself.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Elizabeth: And who is this writer? His idea of pleasure reading is a 1000-page book on the oil industry? Someone at least give the poor bugger The Cat in the Hat.
Without further ado, here is the response from her discussion with her colleagues earlier today:

Elizabeth:  So today's debate was about the length of books and how maybe books are getting longer because writers are getting lazier--there was an article about it and it started getting tossed around in a discussion group. I responded thus: 
I'm actually not opposed to long books if they are well-edited and tell a good story or cover a topic that interests me. Some stories simply take longer to tell, and good stories are worth the time. This is especially true of fantasy and other speculative fiction due to world-building. It takes more words to build a world into which the reader can be pulled--words to fire the imagination. Hence, I feel that speculative fiction especially has a pass to be longer than most books, within reason. The bottom line is, a true bibliophile is going to read no matter what, and if a person is looking for short novels, there are plenty of those to be found too.

My apologies for the soapbox moment, but word and page count is really affecting my life right now, so this article and discussion has struck a nerve.

A month or so ago a friend from undergrad asked me to look at his manuscript. Not a favor I'd do for just anyone, but I've always known this man to be a gifted author, so I said yes. I'm currently working through it, and it is awesome. It's 515 pages including appendices, and we have had endless discussions of word count because he's 10000 words over the limit for most publishers. I'm reading this book and would do ANYTHING not to have to find 10000 words to cut when there aren't a dozen wasted words in the book. It's a good story, it's well-written and well-executed, and it deserves to be told and published and in the hands of much better than I. He has already edited for word count, cut entire scenes and chapters, and I can FEEL where that got done. And when I feel it, it makes me sad. I want MORE, not LESS--and definitely not less if it's only less because there will be some readers who will think it's too long and thus not give it the time of day. It insults me as a writer, editor, reviewer, and reader...and as a FRIEND of a person who so richly deserves to be published...that this book is getting ignored because of word count whilst I review books for a professional journal that aren't even half as good.
As I fear this post's own word count might be climbing, I will end it shortly.  But not without first saying this:

Are we really becoming that lazy as a society where word count is a true problem?  Granted, I will agree that some writers are getting a little slack on their lack of cutting unneeded words that do nothing to enhance the story.  I was told by my writing coach that every word must be put there for a reason... if you can't defend its purpose, then get rid of it.  I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I cut out, what I felt, were unneeded words from my own manuscript.  But seriously, folks?  In my eyes, the thicker and heavier the book, the better.  As I received each release of the new Harry Potter books, I stared in awe at each book's thickness and welcomed their heft within my grasp.  A thicker book to me only means a longer read--a longer excursion into a world created for pure entertainment where I can escape from this (apparently) lazy one.

Happy Scribing (despite what the Daily Beast says),

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Spotlight: The Ripple Trilogy by Cidney Swanson

***I selected this post to be featured on Book Review Blogs.***
***Please visit the site and vote for my blog!***

Good Evening, Beardies!

Welcome back to Book Spotlight, wherein I tell you about the books that influence my writing, and sneak in a shameless plug for my all-time favorite reads!

Tonight’s spotlight, The Ripple Trilogy by Cidney Swanson, is proof positive that word-of-mouth marketing is important for writers. I had never heard of this trilogy until my friend and coworker Anna read these books and begged me to get them for the library. This proved difficult, but when Anna interviewed the author for her blog, the day was saved. Three emails later, Cidney Swanson donated a complete set to my library. I’m forever grateful for her generosity and very, very excited to “pay it forward” with a spotlight on these books!

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