Guest Post from Clark Burbidge on Advice to Budding Authors

Guest Post from Clark Burbidge – His advice to budding authors and what he’s learnt from writing!

Clark Burbidge was born and raised in the high mountain valleys of the Rockies. He earned an MBA from the University of Southern California and a BS from the University of Utah. Clark and his wife, Leah, live near Salt Lake City, Utah, where they enjoy their blended family of ten children and nine grandchildren.

Clark’s award-winning works include the Star Passage series, Giants in the Land trilogy, the acclaimed Christmas book,
A Piece of Silver: A Story of Christ
and a nonfiction work, Living in the Family Blender: 10 Principles of a Successful Blended Family.

What is your best advice for aspiring novelists (based off your own experience or what advice you’ve been given by other writers!)

  1. Just write. You will get better over time.
  2. Test your writing against both fan-type readers as well as editor-type readers.
  3. o to a bookstore, pick out books in your chosen genre, look at the acknowledgements, and write them down. These are people who have supported the kind of book you want to write. Read those books and figure out what they liked about it. Then, give them a call or text. You will be surprised how often you hear back. Most authors are very approachable, but their gatekeepers can be difficult. Persevere.
  4. Do not be intimidated by big agent companies. If they say no, that’s fine. Try to learn from each interaction.
  5. You will get turned down. Remember, you just need one person that likes it, not a dozen.
  6. Good editors will make lots of corrections, but never try to steal your voice. Edits have always made my books better and helped me learn a lot about myself. Those who try to steal your voice and make your work into theirs are not editors.

What did writing your books teach you?

  1. How to be patient with the process. It takes a long time.
  2. How to learn from those who make comments or provide critical advice and behumble.
  3. Your book needs to catch the imagination of strangers to sell. Anyone can sell to their family and friends.
  4. When you are looking for a publisher, you must remember that anyone can print a book, but a publisher should do so much more. Look for those extras.
  5. Love what you do.

Clark is with us today mainly to promote his newest book, Star Passage
buy links: Amazon | B&N | Bookshop

Mike Hernandez and the Coleman twins return, but just when the friends think they have the Star of Passage, it’s riddles, and Orion’s Belt figured out, they discover a new relic.

All of Tim and Martie’s rules are tossed aside when Tocho, a member of the Native American Shoshoni tribe which roamed the Rocky Mountains, knocks on Callie and Courtney’s Astoria, Oregon door with the mysterious Star of Hope. The new relic has the shocking ability to transport the teens forward in time, where cartels and gangs are a rising threat and technology has advanced so far that computer viruses affect humans. As Mike, Callie, Courtney, and Tocho struggle to remain free of the virus, they also have to dodge the shadowy Trackers, those wicked souls who are doomed to haunt history and desire the relics to free themselves from their eternal prison.

The teens find themselves racing to save a possible future, but can they change it for the better?

You can find out more about Clark on a number of platforms including

Guest Post from Mojgan Azar

In A Lullaby in the Desert, one woman’s fight to freedom plunges her into humanity’s depths
Mojgan Azar

What if by questioning injustice and standing up for the oppressed, your words
were met with threats, captivity, and execution? Would you still stand up?

Imagine being born without rights. From bicycle bans and compulsory clothing to
mandatory beliefs, what’s worse than being born in a society where your gender alone is a crime? Millions of women are held captive, whether behind bars or behind barriers, for what they believe, what they wear, and what they say. They are suffering at this very moment. Some, like Susan, decided they wouldn’t take being held in the grip of a society’s invisible hands any longer. Some, like Susan, decided to stand up despite the possibility of paying with their lives.

A Lullaby in the Desert isn’t just Susan’s story; it’s the chorus of millions of women, their voices carrying forcefully over the empty sands. Their silent melody can be heard from Iran to Syria, from Indonesia to Morocco. Indeed, their voices ring all over the world.
Slavery as we read about it in the history books may be fading into the past, but another kind of slavery lives in the present and threatens to persist into the future if we choose to ignore it.

Some use fear as a weapon to keep others down, forcing entire societies into silence. In some countries, those in power would prefer to destroy the identities of millions of innocent people so long as their grip on power remains intact.

What they don’t know is that fear won’t stop someone who has nothing to lose. In A
Lullaby in the Desert, Susan finds herself homeless, penniless, and alone in Iraq, a country on the brink of disaster. When standing on the edge of the abyss, Susan stepped forward, just like the other refugees beside her taking this journey to the point of no return. They all had the same goal: freedom.

Freedom is their fundamental right, their dream, their destination. Like the so many others, Susan’s freedom was stolen from her, the shackles thrown over her, covering her body, pushing her down. For Susan, the forces of evil and slavery could be easily seen in the black flags of the Islamic States of Iraq and al-Sham, who some call ISIS, covering her life in a shadow. However, for millions of women, those dark forces are not so obvious, but they are deadly nonetheless.

Since 2014, ISIS killed and enslaved thousands of women in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq. The world watched as the numbers of the dead ticked by on their televisions, seeing digits instead of faces, not knowing the tragedies those women have faced and continue to face, even at this very moment.

For a long time, I wondered how I could speak for those who could not, for those who had already died, for those who were still enslaved. When the idea first entered my mind, I had to take a step back. Even the thought of telling the world of our plight made me shudder as I remembered my own trauma that began from my earliest days. I remembered the nine-year-old girls sold for fifty dollars in the street to marry strange old men, I remembered a singer assassinated for speaking up about people’s rights, I remembered seeing a woman shot in the head because she wanted to be free. Shame on me if I remained silent.

When I close my eyes I feel no pain because I cannot see anything around me. But my
beliefs remain, my story remains. I had to stand in front of my trauma, confront it, release it, because I didn’t choose this life but this is what I know.

When I decided to write Lullaby, one thing pushed me forward: the pain. Pain may stop some, may slow some down, may force some down a different path. For me, I allowed it to open my eyes. Everything I see fills me with responsibility, to women everywhere, even from different places and different backgrounds. I don’t want other humans to suffer what I’ve suffered.

I’ve always believed that we are alive for others. We exist for each other. We can’t survive alone. We all look up at the stars and wish we could be in space, looking down at the earth. However, the moment we were really up there, smothered in cold and dark, we’d realize how alone we felt, and we’d wish to be back among humanity.

Just like those places between the stars, our earth would be frozen and empty, sad and lonely, if people live without regard for those with less than them, those with a different belief, a different gender, a different ability.

Yes, you read that right: it’s our earth. They’ve separated us, they’ve painted us with identities and made us into “us” and “them.” They’ve made some of us human and some of us less than human.

Well I have something to say to “them:” they’ve underestimated women everywhere for far too long. It hurts to be seen as less than someone else, but our world was built on pain and struggle. It was also built on hope. We women have given birth to the leaders, the teachers, the world changers. A Lullaby in the Desert shows that just like Susan, we need to reject the idea of being weak that is imposed on us, and instead be ready to be strong. They should never underestimate us.

About the Author

MOJGAN AZAR was born in Iran and lived most of her adult life in Iraq. She was living in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014 when the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham swept through the area, displacing millions and trapping Mojgan in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Her harrowing experiences have inspired her writings, and for the first time she is making that story known to the world.

AmazonAuthor Page
Goodreads
Website

About the novel

In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham swept through the Middle East, threatening the lives of women, children, and millions of people already clinging to life after decades of conflict. This is the incredible story of Susan, an Iranian woman caught in the middle of that war, trapped not only by the terrorists at her doorstep but also by her nationality, her gender, and her innocence. This is a haunting account of war and desperation, taking the reader on a journey through one woman’s fight for freedom.

Purchase this novel from a range of reputable retailers:

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Guest Post: Sophie Whittemore on ‘Writing an LGBT+ Found Family’

A Guest Post with Sophie Whittemore, “Writing an LGBT+ Found Family”

Family isn’t necessarily just the bonds formed by blood. A found family is a connection through shared experience.

And having that shared experience is a strong tie in the LGBT+ community.

And this, the concept of an LGBT+ found family, was what I wanted to explore with my punk fantasy mystery novel Catch Lili Too (Book 1 of the Gamin Immortals Series). The book’s main character, the asexual siren detective Lili, finds herself slowly building a queer found family of her own. Together, the cast of living, reanimated, and immortal beings help each other past internal struggles and external battles against the living (and the dead). And that family bond draws them tight, even when the world (and a rampant string of supernatural killings) threatens to tear them apart.

A found family isn’t bound by just one definition. There are also intersections of identity based on race, religion, ability, gender, and more. The LGBT+ found family is one that is built of a shared experience of being a part of the LGBT+ community, and all the wonderful rainbows of identity that might follow.

Especially considering that young people might end up in the street for coming out or otherwise disowned later in life, the found family becomes an incredibly integral part of the LGBT+ experience (though not all LGBT+ people find it so easy to gain a found family as this varies by whether or not being LGBT+ is legal in their respective geographies).

However, in fiction, one’s bonds with the character aren’t limited to geography. One can travel the world through the pages of a book. And an LGBT+ found family can be presented for someone who never knew that was a possibility.

Even if someone lives in a place that isn’t accepting of who they are…

They should still be told they are accepted, even if it’s through a book.

Often, we see the found family literary trope presented as ragtag groups of superheroes or a team of misfits in heist films. However, it’s important that, through fiction, LGBT+ people can see themselves represented as having a found family and being in an environment that is accepting and understanding of their experiences. Fiction gives them the validation and acceptance that they might not know exists otherwise.

Coming out and joining the LGBT+ community, reckoning with my gender and sexuality, wasn’t an easy process. I am so incredibly grateful I had amazing, understanding friends along the way. And honestly, when I was in the closet and didn’t have the vocabulary to say what I felt and understood about myself, watching media was the only way I knew how to make sense of myself. The main characters in Catch Lili Too have their own coming-out and coming-of-age experiences (yes, even immortals and undead young adults manage to have those too), and it was important that they not be alone in it.

I remember reading a book about a knight who presents as a different gender in a fantasy novel and thinking “this feels right” when I read it. I remember reading fantasy novels where the hero feels like they don’t fit quite right into society, like an outcast for things beyond their control. I remember thinking if they can accept themselves, so can I. So, I wanted Catch Lili Too to also have that, to show people they aren’t alone.

I know there’s no one book or movie or video game that can perfectly encapsulate a person’s life experience. However, I want to continue writing about LGBT+ found families in fiction because I want young LGBT+ and questioning kids and adults and all people to read fantasy and think:

That’s me.
And if that character is accepted…
Then I can be too.

About the Author

Sophie Whittemore is a Dartmouth Film/Digital Arts major with a mom from Indonesia and a dad from Minnesota. They’re known for their Gamin Immortal series (Catch Lili Too) and Legends of Rahasia series, specifically, the viral publication Priestess for the Blind God. Their writing career kicked off with the whimsical Impetus Rising collection, published at age 17.

They grew up in Chicago and live a life of thoroughly unexpected adventures and a dash of mayhem: whether that’s making video games or short films, scripting for a webcomic, or writing about all the punk-rock antiheroes we should give another chance (and subsequently blogging about them).

Sophie’s been featured as a Standout in the Daily Herald and makes animated-live action films on the side. Their queer-gamer film “IRL – In Real Life” won in the Freedom & Unity Young Filmmaker Contest (JAMIE KANZLER AWARDS Second Prize; ADULT: Personal Stories, Third Prize) and was a Semifinalist at the NYC Rainbow Cinema Film Festival.

Their prior works include “A Clock’s Work” in a Handersen Publishing magazine, “Blind Man’s Bluff” in Parallel Ink, a Staff Writer for AsAm News (covering the comic book convention was a dream), and numerous articles as an HXCampus Dartmouth Correspondent. Ultimately, Sophie lives life with these ideas: 1) live your truth unapologetically and 2) don’t make bets with supernatural creatures.

You can find more information about Catch Lili Too here.

You can find out more about Sophie on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, GoodReads or on her website.

Guest Post: Katherine Kayne on ‘Choosing a location for your novel’

Katherine Kayne on “Choosing a location for your novel”

As an author, the question I am asked most frequently is how I chose to write about Hawaii. Let me give you the short answer; how could I not?

So few of us on the mainland know much about the islands. Once I began to learn about Hawaii’s past I become enthralled. Let me share a bit more about it; suffice it to say Hawaiian history is complicated. There is more to unpack her than I can explain in this brief essay. But I will give it a shot.

First the geology. Millions of years ago, through a fissure in the earth’s crust, emerged the miracle that is today’s Hawaiian Islands. First Kauai, then Niihau, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kaho‘olawe, Maui until . . . at last . . . the island still being born . . . the big island of Hawaii.

Geographically isolated as well as geologically young, Hawaii possesses perhaps the best climate in the world—not too hot, not too cold, and rarely the victim of violent storms.

Human habitation came late. A mere millennium or so ago, bold navigators set forth from islands thousands of miles to the south to follow the stars. They sought a legend – a rumor – of new lands in the north. Only then were the islands of Hawaii populated.

Old Hawaii was ruled by chiefs and chiefesses called ali‘i. By 1810 the rule of the island chain was consolidated under one man, Kamehameha the Great, later known as King Kamehameha. Once the western notion of a monarchy took hold, Hawaii was ruled by kings, and finally one queen, for eighty years. That is until the islands became caught within the twin coils of international diplomacy and capitalism. In the late 1890s, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by a group of mostly American businessmen, with military backup from the United States. A kingdom was lost.

During the monarchy Hawaii and Hawaiians thrived. A constitution was adopted. Waves of immigrants were welcomed. Education was encouraged and honored. By the mid 1800s, Hawaii was one of the most literate countries in the world. Education was encouraged and honored. This was a particularly stunning achievement given that before 1820, there was no written Hawaiian language. While the impact of the early Calvinist missionaries is debated, one thing is true. In their eagerness to convert the “heathens” to Christianity, the missionaries assembled a method of reading and writing Hawaiian that is the basis for how the language is recorded today. Now a renaissance of the Hawaiian language is in full swing. The written `ōlelo is key to that movement.

Both cattle and horses arrived shortly after the first Europeans. Ranches in Hawaii rapidly became some of the most successful cattle-producing operations in the world, well ahead of Texas, supplying beef for the California gold rush and the U.S. civil war. The granddaddy of them all, Parker Ranch on the Hawaii Island, remains in existence today with hundreds of thousands of acres.

By the turn of the twentieth century Hawaii was a study in contrasts. Cowboys and kahunas, wild pigs and steamships, hula dancers and rickshaws, land barons and mail-order brides made up the stuff and substance of the islands’ colorful history. The rise of the sugar industry gave great fortunes to a few and bypassed the many. Hawaiians today still fight to right the wrongs of that era. Yet despite it all, those times evoke a great nostalgia.

These are the times I write about. Although my stories are pure fiction, I find inspiration in so many wonderful pieces of Hawaiian history. Just as the colors are deeper, the smells sharper, and the sun brighter in Hawaii, the true stories of the people carry richness beyond imagining.

If you (like me) never got over your love for horses…. if you (like me) always prefer the feisty heroine…. if you (like me) crave hunky heroes with senses of humor…. if you (like me) want to believe there may yet be magic in this world, then these stories are for you.

Please, join me. We are never too old to believe in magic, are we?

Aloha!

Katherine Kayne is the author of Bound in Flame, the first in a series about hard-riding Hawaiian suffragettes at the turn of the twentieth century. Her next installment, a prequel novella, Pistols in Paradise will be out this fall! You can check her out and join her newsletter at katherinekayne.com. Yes, there are cocktail recipes!

 

About Bound in Flame

In 1909, Leticia Lili‘uokalani Lang is en route home to Hawai’I when she dives into the ocean to rescue a horse in distress — and changes her life forever. Brilliant and headstrong, Letty is an accomplished horsewoman, among the first female veterinarians, and now: mākāhā, a Gate to the healing fires of the land. Complicating matters is Timothy Rowley, the horse’s owner, who ignites a special flame of his own in Leticia. Can Letty learn to master her power to have a chance at life and love? Or is the danger of the flame too great?

Spotlight with Felicia Watson (and Naiche!)

Conversation with Naiche

Hello everyone! Thanks to Dr. Rosemarie Herbert for hosting me on her lovely blog for the day. I’m Felicia Watson, author of the Lovelace Series, a sci-fi adventure set in the 31st Century. Book One is We Have Met the Enemy and Book Two is the just released Spooky Action at a Distance. In Spooky Action we find the main character of the series, Lt. Naiche Decker, aboard the Uniterrae Defense Corps starship Lovelace, the first real home she’s had since she left her Chiricahua Apache community at age seventeen. With the recent war behind her, she’s looking forward to life as an explorer rather than a soldier. But her latest adventure – exploring a quantum entanglement – proves to be her most dangerous mission yet.

I’ve decided with two books published and a third underway, it’s finally time to sit down and have a heart-to heart with my Main Character. You folks get to listen in. Say hello, Naiche.

Naiche: Hello. I’d say it’s good to meet you, Felicia, but you’re the one who killed off my mother and grandfather, pulled me away from my people, and put me in a brutal war with an alien race. Where I was forced to kill five friends.

Felicia: Uh, yeah, that’s one way to look at it. On the upside, I gave you an interesting life! And also gave you a wonderful CO, Conroy Kennedy, and a Search and Rescue dog, Kayatennae, by your side.

Naiche: Yes, Con is the best friend I’ve ever had and Kay is the greatest dog in the galaxy – but it seems to me you could have given me those minus all the heartache and mayhem.

Felicia: Only if I was writing a picture book for 4-year-olds. And hey, I did show some mercy. I didn’t give you your father’s nose – that has to count for something.

Naiche: Oh, yeah, that makes up for being put through a meat grinder of a life.

spookyacFelicia: In my defense, that’s my job. Moving right along, let’s talk about Spooky Action, where we find that after helping the UDC win the war, you’re going to have a fabulous adventure in deep space. It involves the coolest ship the UDC has ever designed. It’s fast, sleek, and the navigation control actually links directly into the pilot’s brain. Since you’re one of the best pilots in the Corps, I know you’re just itching to get your hands on a ship like that – aren’t you?

Naiche: The ship sounds awesome but what do you mean “fabulous adventure”? Doesn’t it say up there that this is my most dangerous mission yet?

Felicia: You can see that?? Whoops! Anyway, on this mission you’re also going to run into an old friend of yours – Talako Jacoway.

Naiche: Friend?! That jackass? Granted, he sure is good-looking – but so conceited.

Felicia: He’s not really conceited, just…quite confident. And that comes with the territory. Pilots do have a tendency to be a little over-confident. Don’t they?

Naiche: What makes you say that?

Felicia: Oh, no reason. As for Tal, I think ‘jackass’ is pretty harsh. Isn’t it possible that you’ve misjudged him? Like you did with your father?

Naiche: Nah, I learned my lesson there. I know when I’m being unfair to people, now.

Felicia: I’ll guess we’ll see about that.

Naiche: Do you know something I don’t?

Felicia: Always. What part of “omniscient narrator” don’t you understand?

Naiche: If you’re waiting for me to laugh – don’t. How is it you developed me and I’m still funnier that you?

Felicia: I give you all my best lines.

Naiche: You really didn’t save anything for yourself today…. Tell me, what else happens in this book? What is a quantum entanglement, exactly?

Felicia: It’s a stellar phenomenon where the space-time field is in constant flux.

Naiche: How the hell do you navigate through something like that?

Felicia: Good question. One that has stumped the best minds in the UDC – and that’s why there are two ships stuck there, needing rescue. By the Lovelace, specifically. Oh, did I mention that the entanglement is collapsing and if you folks don’t find a way to rescue the 80 people trapped there, they’ll be lost forever? And you have to team up with your nemesis, Jacoway, to do it.

Naiche: Can I read your bio again? Are you sure you’re an author and not a sadist?

Felicia: When it comes to our characters, there’s not much difference.

Naiche: What else happens to me? Alien encounters? Death-defying feats of bravery? Deep emotional connections? Do I get lucky?

Felicia: Yes, yes, yes, and – yes and no.

Naiche: What does that mean?

Felicia: I guess you’ll have to read Spooky Action at a Distance to find out. I hope you’ll all do the same! Good-bye from me and Naiche. And many many thanks to Rosemarie for hosting us here.

Guest Post: Brian Marshall on ‘Reinventing the Gods’

Reinventing the Gods
Brian Marshall

Brian T. Marshall was born in Southern California and graduated from UC Santa Cruz. He currently juggles writing novels with performing in multiple bands. His latest – “Choosing the Dark” – was released last spring.

Today I have Brian here to tell you all about Greek Gods, and how he has incorporated that material into his book, Fleet. Take it away, Brian!

A couple years back I started a novel which wound up being Fleet.

I set out on this journey with two main goals in mind. First-off, I wanted the book to serve as an homage to the Marvel comics I’d grown up with. It had to fun, imaginative, filled with adventure, but never condescend to the reader. Secondly, and even more importantly, it would be a big, fat Thank-You to someone who’d been a huge influence in my life, namely the god known as Hermes.

All right, all right, that may sound bizarre, but bear with me for a moment. To begin with, I was a Virgo, which meant that the planet Mercury (the Latin name for Hermes) had been ascendant at my birth. As a result, I had always displayed a lot of the same traits that defined both god and sign. I’d been a lifelong runner. Was a bit of a brainiac. Had a fussy, obsessive streak which hid a sharp sense of humor. And if you had to choose a role model, who better than some guy with wings on his feet?

So I had my protagonist all lined up. But how do you tell a brand-new story about someone who’s been around since forever? You shake things up. Start somewhere unexpected. A homeless guy who’s been arrested, buck-naked and speaking in tongues. When police translators draw a blank, they call in their resident expert, a cranky, misanthropic professor of linguistics who consults with their mystery man. What’s that he’s speaking? Greek, of course. Only it happens to be an archaic form, unused for three-thousand years.

Dr. Patrick adopts the stranger. Decides to teach him English. After navigating a string of red herrings, we finally learn the truth. The Greek gods visited Earth long ago. Tried to shape Man in their image. Were so disgusted by the results that they left their brood behind. But now, thanks to an ancient foe, they’ve been returned against their will, stripped of their memories, even their powers. Recast as humans with imagined pasts that mock their former selves.

Athena, we learn, is a roller derby queen, living in Southern California. Ares, the god of war, heads a private security firm based in Johannesburg.  As for Artemis, the Greek’s bowed huntress, she’s currently living on a wildlife preserve in Crete, while Hephaestus, their smithy, owns a junkyard in the barren hills of North Dakota. For the Greeks, each god was an archetype, embodying an essential truth, so the trick became one of transplanting that essence into the world we now know.

And so we find Hermes plagued by doubt. He’s just a messenger, after all. Ill-prepared for the task that awaits him, setting his siblings free. And yet when he does so, liberating Athena, he immediately grows jealous, relegated to her shadow once more. Ares is a bloated oaf. Artemis a scared and sickly girl who suddenly becomes wild, wanton, under the rays of the moon. And crippled Hephaestus is addicted to drugs, thanks to his tortured dreams, dreams in which he fashions swords for his family, all of them gods.

The more I played around with my cast, the more impressed I became. Because the Greeks had somehow done it, created the Dysfunctional Family, and thereby set the bar, formed the template, for every troubled family since. But it went even further than that. If we accept their premise, that Man was created by God, then we have to ask ourselves, what kind of creator would settle for something as flawed, as imperfect, as mankind? Obviously there could be only one answer. The gods themselves were flawed. And it was this realization, this reckoning, that ultimately drove the book. God and Man had been reunited because it was only through accepting their own faults, and forgiving each other’s, that either race could heal and grow.

A long way from a comic book? Maybe. But the power of myth lies in its breadth, its universality. It can be as simple as a nursery rhyme, a story before bedtime. Or as complex, as imbued with meaning, as the work of Jung or Campbell. For anyone who thinks that a god with wings on his feet seems childish or simplistic, remember this. Complexity and simplicity are allies, not foes. In the one exist the many. And the very same people who codified Reason, who first explained the world we see, gave us their gods as well.

Keen to get your hands on Choosing the Dark? You can purchase a kindle copy from Amazon. Fleet sounds like more your style? Direct link here.

Guest Post: J.W. Golan on ‘The Persistence of Dragons’

The Persistence of Dragons
J.W. Golan

Today I have J.W. Golan here to tell you about the persistence of dragons. I am of course excited about anything related to dragons, and I pretty much drooled when he suggested this as his topic. Take it away, J.W.!

The world of mythology has reserved a special place for dragons. They have persisted across centuries of human myth and legend: from the creation mythos of Babylonia where the dragon Tiamat gave birth to a pantheon of deities; to the dragon Fafnir of Norse lore – recorded in legend thousands of years later. Moreover, in one form or another, dragons have appeared in the legends of nearly every civilization: from the Chinese dragons who were the emissaries of the gods and the embodied spirits of the rivers, lakes and seas; to the feathered snake god Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs – whose forebears dotted the architecture throughout mezoamerica. Across languages, centuries, and continents, dragons have held an important role in human storytelling. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien:

“I desired dragons with a profound desire. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in the neighborhood. But the world that contained even the imagination of Fafnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever the cost of peril.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” The Tolkien Reader)

When certain elements reappear and persist across different cultures and across the centuries of human civilization, it’s usually a strong indicator that the element in question plays an archetypal role in the human consciousness. In other words, our human brains were pre-programmed to identify and anticipate certain archetypal characters or story elements. This is why, when we see these characters or stories on stage, in film or in literature, we instinctively know what we should expect. They form a tie between our shared human psyche and the stories we tell – a tie which was first identified by the Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung in the early 20th century.

But if the dragon forms a similar archetypal role in the human consciousness, then we must ask what role it is that the dragon fulfills and where in our human psyche does the need for that role arise? It’s easy to understand why the human brain would be pre-disposed to identify such roles as the mother and father figure, or the sage and the trickster. It’s easy to understand why we would have a preconceived, biological blueprint for what we should expect from such figures in our stories and lives. These blueprints, after all, help us to navigate the world into which we are born. But what role does the dragon fulfill?

There are two, common threads that underlie the depiction of the dragon throughout each civilization – from ancient times to today. The first, is its reptilian or serpent-like form. The natural human tendency to fear or at the very least respect snakes has been explained many times before. It is a natural fear that any arboreal species should have for one of its principal predators.

But there is another common thread that transcends all retellings of dragon legends – from ancient times to today: a sense of awe. Whether the dragon was feared as it was in Norse and other European mythologies or revered as it was in China or pre-Columbian America, the dragon was depicted as a creature of immense size and power. It was not merely that a dragon was larger than a horse or ox. Far more than that, it evoked a sense of respect and reverence even among those who feared them.

Of the Norse dragon Fafnir, for example, it was written;

“Now crept the worm down to his place of watering, and the earth shook all about him, and he snorted forth venom on all the way before him as he went.” (The Volsunga Saga)

Or when describing stories of the winged serpent Quetzalcoatl, the Aztecs would relate:

“Quetzalcoatl – he was the wind, the guide and road sweeper of the rain gods, of the masters of the water, of those who brought rain. And when the wind rose, when the dust rumbled, and it cracked and there was a great din, it became dark and the wind blew in many directions, and it thundered; then it was said: ‘He is wrathful.'” (Bernardino de Sahagún, Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain)

Image from https://mandalas.life/get/tibetan-dragon-facing-right/

Similarly, in Far East tradition, the dragons commanded the winds, the rain and the seas. In Tibet, dragons were depicted as the masters of thunder. In all of these instances, the dragon was portrayed as something more than just animal. They were the forces of nature embodied. A dragon was not just something larger than any animal which humans might encounter, they were something beyond the pale of humanity to tame or master. Even in those traditions where an evil dragon might be defeated by a victorious hero, the dragon was never depicted as something which might be subdued and muzzled. Even if it might be defeated, it could never be truly tamed.

So here we are, living in a modern world, with wonders which our ancestors from only a few generations past could never have imagined. And despite all of our technology, we continue to tell each other stories about dragons. Why is this? Why has the mythology of these mystical, magical creatures endured?

Archetypal theory suggests that the reason that certain characters and certain storylines have endured across the ages and across cultures and continents, is that our minds were pre-programmed to expect and embrace these characters and storylines. Our brains were pre-programmed with what a mother or father figure was expected to be, how a child coming to adulthood was expected to behave, or what an elderly sage was expected to embody. The fact that dragons have endured in our modern stories should tell us that our brains were hard-wired to recognize the role of dragons as well.

Perhaps, now more than ever, I would propose that we need to be reminded that there are things in the universe which we cannot tame. Things bigger than our ability to comprehend, and which, even if we might overcome them, we will never fully master. The dragons have been, and remain, all of this. Creatures of awe or reverence. A part of our own consciousness reminding us that the universe is bigger and more wonderous than we could possibly hope to fathom.

Guest Post: Andrew Joyce on ‘Self-Promotion, Self-Confidence & Reflection’

Self-Promotion, Self-Confidence & Reflection

I want to welcome back today author Andrew Joyce. We’ve worked together extensively in the past, including two interviews (2015 & 2016), a spotlight and another guest post! I’ve asked him to talk a bit about his history in terms of promoting his novels and staying true to his own writing self.

My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Rosemarie has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to promote my new book, Mahoney. She thought it might be interesting to any new writers out there if I talked about my journey in general and the publishing business in particular.

I sold one of my first short stories and it was published in an anthology of short fiction entitled The Best of 2011. Since then I have written seven books. Several have become best-sellers on Amazon and two went on to win awards in their genres.

My first book, Yellow Hair, was a 164,000-word historical novel. And in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent, I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing, to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.

So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!

I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer and banged out Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months. I had them as adults in the Old West. Then I sent out query letters to literary agents.

A few weeks later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in the country emailed me. He loved the story and suggested a few changes. They were good suggestions, and I incorporated some of them into the book. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults. The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon (twice) and won the Editor’s Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. And just for the record, the final word count was 79,914.

My readers really enjoyed the book. So I ended up writing two sequels, one of which reached #5 in its category on Amazon. Then I turned my attention to my first novel, the one I couldn’t sell to an agent. I whittled it down from 164,000 words to 132,000 and published it myself. It won Book of the Year from one outfit and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from another.

Okay, now that I’ve conveyed my bona fides, I think I’ll tell you what I’ve learned along the way. It might help you with your writing career or it might not. I hope it does.

The first piece of advice I received from a fellow writer (while I was writing my first novel) was that the process of writing is what’s important. Not the dreams of becoming a best-selling author. Not the certainty that Hollywood would come a-knocking on my door, begging me to let them turn my book into a movie. No, what is important, according to my friend, is the act of creating.

Of course, I did not believe him. I was going to be the next Stephen King, and I was already (figuratively speaking) picking out a tuxedo to wear to the Academy Awards. I was not going to self-publish. I was going to get an agent and get published by one of the Big Five Publishing Houses.

I did everything I had to do. I spent ten hours a day, seven days a week sitting at my computer, writing. When the book was finished, I spent ten hours a day sending out query letters to agents. When the book was rejected because of word count, I wrote another, shorter novel. When it was accepted and published, I spent ten hours a day sending out emails (over 3,000) to book bloggers (each addressed to the blogger by name, and that takes a lot of work) requesting an opportunity to write a Guest Post for the purpose of marketing my book. Then writing the Guest Posts took up another serious chunk of time. To date, I’ve written well over three hundred Guest Posts (another of which can be found right here on The Cosy Dragon). At first, the rate of return was not much. But once I worked with a blogger, they were more apt to respond positively when I came to them for help in marketing my next book.

Side note: Even Stephen King has to market his own books. He puts aside $200,000 of his own money to buy advertising for each book he writes.

Now, ten years later, this is what I can tell you: My friend was right, plain and simple.

My agent and I have since gone our separate ways. His client roster included some of the most famous authors in the world who, combined, sell millions of books a month. Understandably, he was more focused on them than me, so I set out on my own.

I love writing. I used to hate editing, but now I like it. And I really hate marketing. This kind of marketing is okay because I’m writing. Before I wrote my latest novel, I came to a decision. I was going to write Mahoney for myself. I had a story I wanted to tell and I wanted to tell it in my own way. I didn’t care if the book sold or not. It’s a long story (171,000 words). I was told time and time again that I should make it into a trilogy. But that’s not what I wanted. I ended up doing it my way and it worked out pretty well.

This post has gone on a little bit longer than expected. So, I better wrap it up. Here’s my advice for all you new or aspiring writers:

  • Sit down at your computer and write. Let the words flow. You have to have the fire in the belly. Turn off the TV. Better yet, throw it out the window.
  • Write for yourself. Enjoy the process.
  • If you want, try to get an agent. But do your homework. Learn how to write a killer query letter. And never approach an agent until your book is finished and 110% edited!!!
  • There’s a lot to be said for self-publishing. Here’s an article you should check out.
  • Read, read, and then read some more. Read everything you can get your hands on! Reading to a writer is as medical school is to a doctor, as physical training is to an athlete … as breathing is to life.
  • NEVER, EVER RESPOND TO A NEGATIVE REVIEW. Do so at your own risk.

That’s about it. Good luck in your endeavors.

Andrew Joyce
August, 2019
Gloucester, Massachusetts

About the Author

Andrew Joyce left home at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written seven books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.

Mahoney

In this compelling, richly researched novel, author Andrew Joyce tells a riveting story of adventure, endurance, and hope as the Mahoney clan fights to gain a foothold in America.

In the second year of an Gorta Mhór—the Great Famine—nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney lies on the dirt floor of his small, dark cabin. He has not eaten in five days. His only hope of survival is to get to America, the land of milk and honey. After surviving disease and storms at sea that decimate crew and passengers alike, Devin’s ship limps into New York Harbor three days before Christmas, 1849. Thus starts an epic journey that will take him and his descendants through one hundred and fourteen years of American history, including the Civil War, the Wild West, and the Great Depression.

Guest Post: E Russell Braziel on ‘Writing Historical Fiction: beyond getting the names and places right’

Writing Historical Fiction: beyond getting the names and places right.

History gives us a path to tell our stories, but how we transverse it says a great deal about ourselves as writers.

Historical fiction is a word that carries contradiction. As writers we have the instinct to weave our narratives to our whims. Yet, when writing historical fiction, we must maintain a delicate balance between fiction and fact.

Some of these details are small: a character can’t fire a colt peacemaker before 1873 or make a cellphone call before 1983; however, the greatest challenge for many historical fiction writers is creating the cultural context of the time period with which our stories are set. In this difficult task we face misrepresenting and appropriating a culture and people. Never is this more true than when writing stories about America History and the indigenous tribes whose past on this continent are far greater and longer than our own.

One of the most important details to the story of Kado: Lost Treasure of Kadohadacho was respectfully representing the culture and history of the Caddo people. This is all the more important since the cultural impact of the Caddo people has been erased or destroyed by narratives with heavy bias towards native tribes. The Caddo people were a large nation of ethnically diverse citizens who had a complex economy of goods and trade. They did not fit the historical stereotypes and for that reason they have been pushed to the footnotes of history. Though the story of Kado takes place in a period of decline for the Caddo Nation (caused by violent colonial expansion and disease), it is vital to speak to the rich history of this people.

Therefore, telling the story of a young pioneer in the early 1800’s requires navigating the pitfalls of past narratives. This means that extensive research needed to be undertaken and the story needed to go through many periods of review by members of the Caddo Nation and experts in Caddo culture and history. Two experts in the fields of the Caddos and their homeland played a vital part in telling this story, Phil Cross and Jeffery Girard.

Phil Cross is a Caddo elder, former chairman of the Caddo Culture Club, and expert in all things Caddo. He provided Caddo stories, and invaluable help with the language and background of Caddo culture. This insight was vital in representing the Caddo language both within the book, but also in creating the pronunciation guide that can be found on the official Kados website. His expertise in the Caddo Grass dwellings helped to inform the illustrations of Jean Guillet. These illustrations can be found in the book and on the Kados website. These beautiful images are pivotal in representing the complex society of the Caddo people while debunking stereotypes of natives residing only in impermanent dwellings.

Jeffery Girard is an archaeologist and author of The Caddos and Their Ancestors. He provided a great deal of scientific evidence of the Caddoan culture. He also aided with research and ensured that the descriptions in the book were accurate to his archaeological findings at sites in northwest Louisiana where Kado: Lost Treasure of Kadohadacho takes place.

The additional research and review of Kado by tribal members and experts added a great deal of cultural context to the book. As historical fiction writers we have a responsibility to retain the facts of history, but even more so we have a moral obligation to ensure that our stories do not uphold bias and misrepresentations of the past. All while creating engaging and alluring characters and stories.

In Kado: Lost Treasure of the Kadochadacho we meet 18-year-old Tom Murrell who feels restless after his family moves to the Arkansaw Territory. Upon arriving to his new town, a single arrow nearly strikes Tom. The event causes a great stir as there hasn’t been conflicts with any tribes in the territory.

One such person that stokes the flames of this event is James, a young man that Tom befriends rather begrudgingly as James is known for telling tall tales. Tom makes another friend in Mattie, a smart and honest young woman with an interest in Kado culture. She begins teaching Tom words in the Kado language.

While Tom settles into his new home, conflict is on the horizon as a band of renegade Osage plot against the Kado. Tom is pulled into the dispute after witnessing the death of Tiatesun, the spiritual leader of the Kadohadacho tribe. The stakes get dangerously high as the only chance to save his family is for Tom and his new friends to join with six Kado warriors, make sense of the many clues they uncover on their quest, and discover the real Na-Da-cah-ah.

Packed with action and adventure, Kado draws on the rich history of the Caddo people to create a lush and nearly fantastical world.

About the Author

E. Russell (“Rusty”) Braziel is the author of KADO – Lost Treasure of the Kadohadacho. He has been a rock musician, company executive, serial entrepreneur, widely read blogger and is the author of The Domino Effect, bestselling nonfiction book about energy resources.

Born in Caddo country in Northeast Texas, Rusty is the gggg-grandson of John Murrell, patriarch of the Murrell family whose 1818 expedition from Tennessee to a frontier settlement in Arkansas launches the story in Lost Treasure of the Kadohadacho

For over 15 years, Braziel has been a student of the Caddo tribal culture in pre-Columbian and early frontier periods, including the tribe’s history, language and beliefs.

He and his wife Teresa split their time between a homestead in Northeast Texas and grandkids in Houston.

Guest Post: Caitlin Lynagh on ‘The Power of Knowledge’

Lost Frequencies is a forthcoming Sci-Fi Fantasy Release from Caitlin Lynagh. I asked Caitlin to provide a guest post introducing her ideas and inspiration for the book.

Lost Frequencies is the first book in The Soul Prophecies series and is set on the ancient, planet of Iyeeka, many light years from Earth and millions of years before the dawn of mankind. Iyeeka encounters many issues which humanity struggle with today. The story follows Zerren, Ehi, Ahrl and ten other characters as they travel across their dying world to the home of a time-travelling scientist in the search for answers to their problems. Iyeeka is not the place it used to be, changing weather patterns, natural disasters and increasing global temperatures have destroyed entire continents and left the last two continents barely habitable. Water shortages have left the southern regions completely desolate and their fleeing refugees have pushed the northern regions to their limits. Millions have perished over the last few centuries and some Iyeekans have turned to violence in order to survive.

Iyeekans are not a violent species by nature; they lived peacefully for many millennia, choosing to work together from early in their evolution. Their continents are bigger than the continents of Earth, but their oceans are toxic and their lands were filled with many fearsome creatures. The Iyeekans built fences to keep the creatures out of the mainland and confined to the coastal regions. They lived by simple principles and recognised that it was better to work together towards a common goal rather than fight or kill. If an Iyeekan committed a crime they were punished, usually by banishment from their districts or sent out to work in sanitation which meant going to the coast for a period of time. It was rare.

Iyeekans lived in districts near to a supply of freshwater, similar to a village or town on Earth. Every Iyeekan family had a home and the same sized plot of land on which to grow food and bury their dead. They didn’t have a currency and hoarding supplies in any form was frowned upon – those who did were seen to be mentally deranged. All Iyeekans developed some kind of profession or skill and anything that they made or produced would be put into large warehouses where Iyeekans from their district could come and take what they needed and leave what they didn’t need. In this way supplies were shared without the need for trade, money or wars. Since there was plenty of land and all Iyeekans worked together, there was little travel between districts.

Iyeekans lived longer than humans and families were important to them. Younger generations would look after older generations and families would nurse sick relatives back to health. To be married, or ‘unified’ in Iyeekan terms, was a major decision and not one that was taken lightly. They settled with one partner for life, they couldn’t divorce so they chose their partners carefully. Bringing new life into the world for Iyeekans was seen as a great responsibility and honour so having children carried the same amount of importance and care. As a parent it was your duty to care and teach your child how to be a good Iyeekan.

This complacent lifestyle however, became a major downfall of Iyeekan society. Life was so simple and relatively easy for so long that there was no motivation or desire to change, which meant that their technological advances happened at a much slower pace in comparison to Earth. Iyeekans didn’t need to learn anything new and were not as curious as humans. They channelled all their waste into their already toxic oceans which unknowingly increased their toxicity and changed the atmosphere. The changes were gradual and happened over many centuries, and once they realised the error of their ways, it was already too late.

The last of their kind were finally finished off due to bad luck and events outside of their control. Maybe it could have been avoided had their technology been more advanced but during the final, difficult centuries, not many Iyeekans were interested in technology or space travel. Had Iyeekans known about the damage they were causing to their planet earlier, they would have undoubtedly changed their ways and tried preventing their problems.

In this sense Lost Frequencies is a book about having knowledge and foresight. There may be many problems we have here on Earth but having knowledge is our power. Being curious is one of humans’ greatest traits; it could potentially destroy humankind but it could also save us. We have knowledge of a problem here now, so we can fix it.

But we must act on that knowledge…

About Caitlin Lynagh

CAITLIN (27) was born in Cardiff and graduated from Keele University with a BSc in Biology and Geology. Caitlin won a Young Writers’ Award with Outlet Publishing in 2013 and her first two books in The Soul Prophecies series, Anomaly and Lost Frequencies – collectively Another Path, have gained much praise, as well as attention from the science community, trending on Reddit/r/Science for a while. Caitlin now lives in Cumbria, UK, works part-time in a bookshop in Sedbergh and helped organise the Sedbergh Book Town Festival in 2018. She runs several popular blogs, sketches, paints, makes bookish art and enjoys travelling. Caitlin once spent six weeks in the Amazon rainforest studying primates.

Lost Frequencies is released Nov 19th 2019 and is available to pre-order now on eBook and Paperback. You can follow Caitlin Lynagh on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.