Since the pandemic got rolling, creativity of any kind has been a challenge for most. And this writer has been no exception.
While we've all been isolating and altering how we live in different ways, based on how the pandemic is playing out in our respective areas, there has been little peace and quiet within the relative peace and quiet. I found myself limiting my consumption of news reports for a while, not because of a lack of compassion for others, but because of it. In some parts of the world, COVID19 has literally been allowed to run rampant, infecting and killing the most vulnerable in society. As someone who writes about ordinary people, this has been a hard pill to swallow.
So I cocooned, focussed on the home front and those I love, immersing myself in things that could make a difference where I am.
The world issued a collective sigh as the American election wound down. Those of us living to the north especially so. While their new administration is still several months away from being sworn in and things are far from fully settled, I didn't realize how much the politics of a foreign nation impacted how I felt about the world and my place in it, until now.
Here in Canada, we have struggles of our own. The second wave of COVID19 has hit some areas hard and provinces are scrambling to curb the spread as the midwinter holiday season looms on the horizon. I live in the Atlantic bubble and we have been blessed with lower rates of infection than most places. That being said, we also have a large transient work force that regularly travels between here and hot spots, so we can't afford to let down our guard.
Still, as the leaves turned and the cold settled in, I've felt the warmth of hope seeping into my bones again. We've made it this far in 2020 and I've managed to carve out some happiness with my family on our little island, despite everything. I've never been as grateful for the comfort of mundane, domesticity as I have this year.
The morning coffee ritual with my partner and our three critters has done more to sustain me than I can describe. Walking with the dog in our favorite familiar places, drinking in the long sight lines and salt water views afforded along those routes, and watching the seasons change is a blessing each and every time. Puttering around the house with DIY projects has let me "nest" with my partner, and reminded me that I can still create beauty using paint and a little elbow grease.
The stress of 2020, has not helped my writing, at all. For months, I wrote nothing. I was completely dry. I'd sit in front of the computer, waiting for the stories to flow. The silence in my head was deafening. Most of the year was spent tidying older manuscripts as I waited for something to give. I'd had dry spots in the past, but this time, I was more anxious about it. My partner counselled patience. Not my strong point, ever. She insisted that once I was ready, the stories would return, as they always did.
Happily, she was right. (There, I put it in writing, LOL.) But when I thought about it, the creative difficulties this year make perfect sense.
Bringing a story to life for me is a labor of love. The characters are real to me, as real as anyone can be. I feel their struggles, their fears and their joys. I laugh with them, cry with them and stand shoulder to shoulder with them as they face their fears. This year has been hard on everyone. We've all been more fearful, anxious. The changes to our routines, to our family and work situations have been profound. In short, we've had a lot less to give to the creative process. I believe this is why mine shut down for a while. I had to give myself time to create my "new" normal, to walk a while in those shoes, before I was steady enough to wade into the tangled lives of new characters once again.
As this year winds down for me, I'm happy to report that I seem to have turned that corner and am writing new stories again. It was no surprise that my return was in the company of old friends, so to speak.
I'm pleased to share with you Book Seven in the Forgotten Worlds series, Igen.
The hopes, dreams, and ambitions of one generation are not easily passed on to succeeding generations. In the enclosed world of Igen they failed, the people weakened and faltered, staggering to the brink of extinction. Their only hope lay in the arrival of their greatest fear, the Outsiders, but did they come to save or destroy?
The past year has taught me that hope and resilience are intrinsically linked. Igen is a story about letting go of the past to embrace a better future. Not bad advice as we head towards 2021.
According to a 2018 CBC article by Deana Sumanac-Johnson, it's not easy being a fiction writer in Canada. Her article leading up to the Giller Prize awards that year talked about the hard financial realities of being an author. In 2018, earnings were down 27% from three years prior. She writes:
"....tales of financial hardship extend to writers who are established, have published several books and even those who have won major prizes.
When the Writers' Union of Canada recently surveyed its members about their incomes, the results were sobering: an average writer made $9,380 a year from his or her writing. That's 27 per cent less than what writers made three years ago, and a whopping 78 per cent less than they made in 1998."
My own experience bears out this truth, and I have often been asked why I started out writing to "niche" markets, such as the LGBTQ2 community, if it is so hard to be a successful author.
Firstly, being an author is about having stories to tell. Long before I ever sat in front of a keyboard, I told stories to whoever would listen. Sometimes I told funny stories, sometimes poignant ones. Can't help myself. Stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things has long been my passion.
Having grown up in a small, rural community at a time when neither the laws of the land nor public awareness fostered compassion and understanding toward those of us who are "different", I lived a lie for many years, as I neither knew nor believed that any other way was possible.
Then came the internet and my world opened up, as did everyone else's, and I learned I was not alone. The over the past 25 years, the internet has opened my eyes to many things, including the injustices still faced by the LGBTQ2 community world wide.
According to Deborah Dixon, a guest on Angela Ackerman's Writers Helping Writers, there are two main reasons why inclusivity and representation are important.
"Seeing people who look, act, and experience life like them in media makes a person feel included in a society, and it reinforces positive views of themselves and what they can achieve in society. Also, members of other groups, especially majority groups, base their ideas of groups on what they see in the media."
I couldn't agree more. So I write fantasy, urban fantasy, romance, and science fiction stories that include a variety of people, both human and non-human, with different sexual orientations and gender identifications, doing ordinary and extraordinary things.
I will confess that to date, people of color have not been featured on my book covers as often as I would like. I was surprised to discover the reading public is more accepting of supernatural or extraterrestrial cover models. So despite the breakthroughs and progress made in my lifetime, we still have long way to go.
And given the financial realities facing writers, even well established and award winning ones, we all take real risks every time we choose to be inclusive in terms of our stories' characters and story lines. For any writer who themselves have felt unrepresented in society, in the media, or in books, this is as much an act of protest as it is a labor of love.
Inclusive media does influence how a society views itself and its members. And readers who support authors working to ensure all people are represented in books, are vital to the continuation of this good work.
In my last blog post I introduced you to my latest book Dragonae, written as J.L. Crandall.
It's a story about a man who has become an almost invincible warrior, someone who would have been just as happy to follow in his grandfather's footsteps and become a blacksmith. Despite selling his skills and strengths to reasonable leaders, neither he nor their armies could stop the southern legions of from overtaking their lands. He turns his back on war for a time and instead finds himself on another quest: to find the Lady of the Axe.
We shared an audio clip of the first few pages to give you a sampling of the story. Shortly thereafter, my publisher got an audition tape from someone wanting to narrate the story for Audible.
You just have to love serendipity. I'm happy to report that he and my publisher came to an agreement and Dragonae will be coming out as an audio book very soon. The narrator's name is Jeffrey Persson and I think you will agree that his performance adds a new dimension to the story.
Here's a link to a fifteen minute sample.
Hi there, I’m J.L. Crandall, a long time writer you’ve never heard of.
That’s because for the past fifteen years I’ve been publishing under the Prudence MacLeod name. I’m over 70 years old, and I’ve been a reader for at least 66 of those years.
This recent pandemic has forced a lot more isolation than before and I’ve had time to think and get inspired. As a result I’ve sort of returned to my first love - fantasy/sci-fi - in a big way. The next few books I release will be in a slightly different vein from my previous books, so I decided to use my own name on the cover.
For those of you who enjoy my work as Prudence MacLeod, don’t worry, there will be more, lots more, but for now, something new and different.
The first step into this brave new adventure is the story of Duggal, a reluctant warrior who would rather be a blacksmith. However, the gods of fate have decided otherwise. Whether Duggal will become a savior or oppressor is to be decided by another; a woman who will be impossible to find, yet find her he must.
And the time to do so grows short.
To find it on Amazon, click on the cover picture. To check out what my publisher is sharing about this book by clicking here.
My name is Katherine. I've been Pru's other half for 24 years. She has been writing for almost as long as we've been together.
People sometimes ask me what it's like to live with a writer. Well, I can't speak about other writers but living with Pru's vivid imagination has been interesting. She people watches incessantly. Sometimes we might be sitting somewhere, chatting. If there is too long a lull in the conversation her writer's mind will kick in and poof! She's off world in her imagination chasing down a story line. But I can't complain. Before my recent health issues, I was an artisan jeweler and equally prone to flights of fancy. So I get it.
Of course, things aren't as they usually are these days. Here in Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador in particular), we are in self-imposed isolation because both she and I are in a higher risk category for the darned virus-which-shall-not-be-named. While we are somewhat accustomed to a semi-hermit existence over the past year, even we find it quieter than usual.
To help keep our spirits up, we are taking the time to exercise gratitude for the everyday moments of beauty that grace our simple life. This includes taking care of the small critters who frequent our yard. Watching them through the window brings us joy. We thought it might brighten your spirits and give you a small window into Pru's home life.
Click here for the video clip.
I'll be checking in here from time to time to share what we're up to and to offer you a chance to virtually visit with us.
See you soon!
We are living in unusual times, aren't we? Who knew it would take a worldwide pandemic to draw people and countries together in ways we couldn't imagine. Seems life and death situations cause people and countries to reevaluate priorities in the face of an enemy that can kill indiscriminately.
The Forgotten Worlds series are sci-fi stories set in an equally unusual time. Humanity as we know it on this planet is gone and the last remnants of that world have banded with augmented humans (SUVIs) and aliens to create a new society. Floating through the galaxies, they face many difficulties as they struggle to survive.
Unite is the latest installment in this series. The SUVIs and their companions meet a new people and once again find themselves on the defensive. And as usual, they end up learning as much about themselves as they do this new world, its gods and tribes.
“Approaching planet One, Captain.”
“Thank you, Three.” Morthel’s next sentence was lost in the frightened wail of the baby in her arms. Her eyes snapped back to the child for only a moment. “Dammit. Shields!”
The shields went up just as the first salvo hit the ship. Further fire was erratic and scattered as a shielded ship is nearly impossible to target. “Get us on the ground, find a spot where we can inspect for damage.”
As the agile ship dropped toward the planet her captain turned back to the child in her arms. She was quiet once again. “So, you’re another intuitive like Eighteen and Twenty are you. Good to know.”
Morthel turned to Connie and Thirteen, the baby’s parents. “Twenty-One is SUVI, as we know, and I believe she’s a full intuitive. She was fussing because she sensed danger. I was able to distract her for a while, but her sudden cry of alarm clued me in. She’s quiet now, so I’m guessing the immediate danger is past.” She rose and handed the baby back to its mother.
Sometimes, even the littlest ones in the fleet can steal center stage!
On another note, I've been working on some new stories in the fantasy genre and will be posting more about this in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
And of course stay safe! Follow the guidelines of your local public health officials, practice social distancing, wash your hands often and take good care.
Oh, and read books. Lots, and lots of books. <grin>
Writing stories is what I do and love. But writing stories alone, doesn't produce books.
My partner draws a parallel between writing and quilting. She loves gathering fabrics: pre-cuts like squares and strips as well as something she calls "fat quarters". To me they are a collection of pretty bits of cloth. To her, they are are the beginning elements of something larger and far more beautiful. In her mind, she can see them take shape even before she breaks out her rotary cutter and mat.
It's the same for me when I sit to a keyboard. The story flows through me onto the page. I feel it taking shape in my heart. I hear the characters' voices in my head. And my hands do the work of getting it all written down.
But much like piecing a quilt top doesn't produce a finished quilt, writing a story doesn't make a book. I'm a storyteller not a book maker. A book needs editing, rewriting, more editing and more rewriting, a great cover and a publisher who knows what she's doing.
Some writers try to do all of these tasks themselves. They are the brave, multi-talented souls among us and I bow in awe of their greatness! I on the other hand have been fortunate to have some a small team who works with me to bring my stories to market. -
It's can be hard for a writer to give up their "baby" to an editor's critical eye (or in this case eyes as I have more than one editor), especially if that editor comes back and tells me I have an ugly baby that desperately needs a bath. Seriously though, working with editors who know me as an individual has helped as I know they care about me and my stories. It has made it easier to receive feedback telling me I've "betrayed the reader on this page", "almost wasted a perfectly good hero" or that "there's no way she (hero) would ever say that". Yup, my editors don't muck around.
Then once the story has been sanded and polished, it's time for a cover. That can be so difficult. As the writer, you have a feel for your story and how it might be presented to the world. And when you think you've done a great job communicating your vision, the first cover draft appears in your inbox and you're left wondering what the hell happened. Words even from a wordsmith sometimes fall short in adequately describing one's vision. Thankfully my cover artist also cares about me and my stories. :-)
Finally, I have a package ready for my publisher and send it off. She does her bit plugging me into her network and getting my book out to sellers worldwide. By this time of course, I'm already working on other stories. I wait anxiously to see what response my latest offering will elicit. And I mull over my next blog post. My "job" is done while she battles pirate sites that steal her clients' work while promoting new books and authors as best she can.
So the next time you read a story from your favorite author and begin clamoring for the follow-up, know there will be an incubation period so to speak, even if the story is already in their head. It is a team effort all the way.
Now back to my keyboard!
I’ve often been asked which of the characters from my books is my favorite. That’s a tough one. For me, they all are, but there is one who does hold a special place in my heart. She’s part mischief maker and part warrior. She is the Lady Hawk.
What’s so special about her? She’s hard working, intelligent, fierce and protective, yet full of fun. Dr. Rhonda Stockman, veterinarian, accidentally became a were-hawk, and the world hasn’t been the same since.
We first meet her at the end of Vampire’s Lair, book three in the Children of the Wild series where she is about to discover she is not alone:
Bill Walker had finished his morning stroll around the perimeter of the two farms. He grinned to himself as he watched Olla trot back to the castle in wolf form. Once she’d disappeared through the gate he glanced at the sky. The hawk still soared high above.
“Every instinct I’ve got tells me you’re one of them. Are you planning to come down here and talk to me or not?” The bird just lay on the air currents, gazing down at him. “All right tell you what. You folk always come up buck naked when you shift back to human. I know that not everybody is as comfortable that way as Olla and Torvil, so I’ll leave the upper door of the barn open, and I’ll hang a robe on a nail for you. You know, just in case you decide you want to talk.
“I’ll just go for that robe now.” He grinned as he turned away. Bill was fully aware as the bird swept down to perch on a nearby tree to keep an eye on him. He disappeared into the house for a moment then returned carrying a white bathrobe. He carried it to the barn then hung it on a peg just inside the door. He turned back and walked out of the barn.
Bill was startled as the hawk swept from the tree and past his head, nearly knocking his hat off. He spun around to see the bird morph into a naked woman just as it alit. Her bare feet touched the floor and in a single stride she had the robe about her shoulders and was tying the belt loosely about her waist.
Doing his best to remain calm, he watched her step towards him. Swallowing hard, Bill found his voice. “Mornin’, miss. Name’s Bill Walker. Is there anything I can get for you?”
Amber eyes that were slowly turning blue watched him closely. She seemed to shake herself then spoke hesitantly, as though she wasn’t accustomed to human speech anymore. “I’d kill for a cup of coffee.”
“Right this way, ma’am. I’ll put on a fresh pot.” He led her into the farmhouse kitchen then dutifully began to build up a pot of coffee. “You like it strong?”
“Not too strong, please, Mr. Walker.”
“Bill, call me Bill. Medium brew is my favorite too.” He started the machine then brought mugs, cream and sugar to the table. He sat across the table from her and smiled. “Thanks for dropping in. I was starting to worry you might be a government agent or something.”
That brought a smile to her face. “I was once,” replied the athletic looking woman, “in a manner of speaking. I was a wildlife officer up until a few weeks ago.”
“Oh? What happened? Quit the job?”
“No, you know damn well what happened.”
“Actually, I know what you are, but, not how you managed to get there, or when it happened.”
“Really, so just what am I, Mr. Bill Walker?”
“I imagine the answer to that would be a were-hawk. You know, a human who can change into an animal. Actually we call them non-humans.”
“So, you believe I can change back into the hawk again? Back and forth at will?”
“Convinced of it. I take it this is something new for you.”
“Yes. I was trying to free a hawk from a power line when someone turned the power back on. I felt the jolt of electricity, and the hawk sank it’s beak into my neck at the same time. We fell onto a rock that exploded into a green mist and I passed out from the pain. The next thing I knew I was looking down at the world.
“It took a number of days for me to clear my mind of the hawk’s natural drives.”
The Children of the Wild series began as a bit of a dare. A friend challenged me to do a different take on vampires, so I wrote Immortal Tigress. That was followed by a second prompt, “Okay, now do werewolves different.” I wrote Children of the Wolf, book two in the series. By then I had fallen in love with the characters. Lady Hawk appeared in book three, and by book five she had completely taken over.
But that’s okay of course. I’m happiest writing with my favorite characters sitting on my shoulder.
One of my most popular series is an urban fantasy collection -
The Children of the Goddess - featuring young women who have found their power, and a new purpose.
Meet Penny, the heroine of Book I in the series. Penny faced a lot of emotional abuse as a child, and that will color her attitudes for the rest of her life. In the excerpt below, she has taken the first steps in breaking free of her past and is now a teenager living on the street. But she is not helpless, make no mistake.
“That’s all I’ve got. Things have been slow, and my wife needed medicine…”
“Listen Frank, you know the rules. Five hundred per week and life’s good. Anything less and this place is off the protection list. Who knows what might happen then,” as he finished speaking he swept a display from the counter onto the floor. The old fellow tried to catch what he could, but the big man grabbed him by the collar and pulled him halfway across the counter. Before he could speak, there was a soft voice from behind them.
“Let him go.” The two men spun around to see a teenage girl in baggy clothes setting her backpack on the floor.
“Get out of here kid, while you still can,” snarled one of the men.
“You don’t want to do this.” Penny’s voice was steady as she stepped away from the backpack. “Just leave now and there’s no problem.”
“Stupid brat,” snarled one of the men as he swung a huge hand out to slap her face. His day took a very bad turn at that point.
With a move too fast to follow, she grabbed his wrist in her right hand and drove her left into his elbow, shattering the joint. As he howled in pain the back of his knee was kicked, and as he fell forward, his face was driven into floor, breaking his nose. Before his partner could fully react, a fist crashed into his solar plexus, driving the air from his lungs and rendering him helpless. The door of the store crashed open and the two men were hurled against the shiny car outside, where they fell heavily to the pavement.
“They have guns,” warned the old fellow, as Penny shifted down off combat mode.
“Not anymore.” She smiled as she pulled the two guns from her waist band and put them on the counter. “Maybe you should get rid of those.”
“What are you?” asked the old fellow as he tried to back away from her.
“Hungry,” she replied with a grin. “I was coming in to see if I could get something to eat. I don’t have much, but I have a few dollars. Do you have sub sandwiches?”
And so began her new career, doing what wasn’t ever done for her: defending the weak.
Her name’s Penny, but on the street, they call her Lady Blue.
Have a great day!