Category Archives: General

General stuff.

Lakesdawn Castle’s Future Cover Design???

Hi everyone! My incredible daughter Katie has once again blown my mind with her artistic talent, and I am so excited to share. The MAGIC STONES OF LAKESDAWN CASTLE, likely to be the second book in the Magic Stones Collection, now has an incredible vision for cover art… and here it is!

MSoLC Dream Cover

The image shows 12-year-old best friends Trustan and Veri in one of the book’s most exciting moments as they magically fly to safety through the window of a burning castle. I absolutely love it! Once again, it’s imagination brought to life. I can easily imagine a cover like this lined up on bookshelves beside other middle grade children’s books, and such an exciting, compelling fantasy image would definitely make kids want to pick it up and learn more!

This awesome art will be added to the collection on The Art of Pasaron page here on the website along with images from the middle grade THE MAGIC STONES OF LAKESDAWN CASTLE, THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP, and the young adult The Proving.

What do you guys think? Would this catch the eye of the kids you know? I covet your feedback.

More coming soon!

~Kevin

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The Message in the Music

Hello, all!

It’s been a very long time since I’ve mentioned one of the most critical elements of my fantasy novels, both the young adult-focused THE PROVING and the middle grade THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP and THE MAGIC STONES OF LAKESDAWN CASTLE. That element is the songs! In each book you will find songs called Bard’s Tales playing a crucial role in the plot as characters learn there is much more to ‘the old tales’ than meets the eye (or ear).

Here is a sample. This short Bard’s Tale called “The Price” is featured in all three of my completed fantasy novels and will continue to play a role in the upcoming sequel to THE PROVING and in future books in The Magic Stones collection. While I never formally wrote music to go with these lyrics, I have a distinct vision of how it might one day sound.

THE PRICE

“Farewell, my love,” said the soldier at dawn,

To his love, with tears, as she begged him to stay,

“I may not, I am called, battle rages on,

They oppress us, my love, I will make them pay.”

 

“We are lost,” said the General, in the high noon sun,

On the field, stained red, his men but a few,

Then great Knights, clad in silver, charged as one,

“If the price must be paid, we will pay it, not you.”

 

Years passed, and the soldier, now King of the west,

Saw the verdant moon’s rise, come to claim life anew,

Rode forth, clad in silver, his people at rest,

“If the price must be paid, I will pay it, not you.”

 

I suppose I have Tolkien to blame, but I simply cannot conceive of a fantasy story that does not contain songs! In support of the greater plot arc that wraps around all of my YA and MG books, I’ve written dozens of Bard’s Tales like this one. I will share more soon.

Thanks!

~Kevin

Writing Sparks #3 – Raymond E. Feist and The Riftwar Saga

Here is the third entry in the #WritingSparks series, answering the question “What authors and books sparked you into becoming a writer, or most influenced how you craft stories?”. Part one was an easy choice because Narnia… what more need be said? Part two was a surprise to me (even though I wrote it). Instead of the low-hanging fruit and comfortable security of Tolkien, I ran headlong into Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series. #WritingSparks part three is still stoically non-Hobbit related, for reasons I will say more about later in this series.

Early in my high school career I stumbled upon a book called “Magician: Apprentice” and fell in love. I will admit that I found the beginning underwhelming and perhaps a bit predictable. Then the story took several stunning turns and introduced concepts that I had no idea were even *allowed* in fantasy. I was genuinely stunned and positively tickled. Which is to say, I was SPARKED. Where Eddings has had a huge influence on my writing voice, Feist had an epic impact on my view of just how epic fantasy worldbuilding can become.

Here is #WritingSparks part 3!

1) Author: Raymond E. Feist.

2) Books:  The Riftware Saga: Magician: Apprentice, Magician: Master, Silverthorn, and A Darkness at Sethanon.

3) Thoughts:

So fantasy authors are allowed to break the rules??? Who ever heard of such a thing! Here I am, happily working my way through a traditional D&D-like fantasy novel about a young orphan named Pug (what a name, right?) who discovers he’s destined to be a magician, then all of the sudden I run smack into what feels like a science fiction novel! Portals to another world? An invading army from said other world? Wait… our protagonist Pug is GOING from his home world Midkemia to another planet entirely via one of these portals?!?!

Never had I ever raced back to the bookstore so quickly as when I finished ‘Apprentice’ and needed ‘Master’. The tremendous scope of Feist’s worldbuilding continued to amaze me in the sequel as Pug took a Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors-like path from slavery to being a Black Robed “Great One” magician in the world of Kelewan. And all the while the REAL story, the true arc behind all of the individual character arcs, began to take shape. The amazing things that happened to Pug (Milamber in the sequel, quite the name upgrade!) were a peek through a barely open door when compared to the vast events occurring between these two worlds over the ages. The way Tomas’ adventures and eventual assumption of the Dragon Lord mantle interrelated with Milamber’s journey was oh-so-satisfying. Before you know it, a whole new story arc begins with Silverthorn and Sethanon, bringing us the mysterious awesomeness of Macros and even more details about the history of the Riftwar Saga’s many worlds.

4) Feelings:

Here’s where things get interesting. I read these books right around the time I thought “maybe I’ll be a writer someday”. But as I’ve said before, many of the other fantasy series I’d enjoyed (I’m looking at you, Narnia and Middle Earth) left me feeling like I might not ever succeed. They were not only too incredibly good, they also weren’t really my style. And for some reason I thought that meant I would never be successful.

Eddings’ wonderful work did a lot to help me. The Belgariad gave me a sense of hope that maybe I could write something half-decent one day. But then I read Feist. And for several reasons it was like a breath of fresh air cleansing my (future) writer’s mind. You see – and I am REALLY not bad-mouthing Mr. Feist here because I love the man – the first thing that struck me about “Magician: Apprentice” was its flaws. It wasn’t perfect. I don’t know if there were editing issues or other problems, but I’ll never forget seeing mistakes in the text. And to be honest, I never really loved Pug as a character. In the second book when he became Milamber, I was in awe of his power and of the journey he’d survived and of the sorcerer he was becoming… but I didn’t love him as a character. I liked Tomas a lot more. I also really liked Arutha, the prince whose story came to the forefront in the 3rd and 4th books of the saga. But in general I was not in love with the characters.

The end result of these “problems” with the book and with my relationship with the characters was the opposite of what one might think. I was SO encouraged! I thought, “this is a fantastic book series, and it has flaws!” Apparently it was possible to be a successful author while not producing stories that were absolutely perfect in every regard. You can see how high was the mental hurdle ahead of me. My feelings were of pure discouragement when I would read great things. I have no doubt that this is part of the reason why it took me twenty years to begin writing.

If this feeling resonates with you, please know that it is NOT true. Every writer starts off at pretty much the same place, with a lot to learn and with amazing potential. The key is to start writing! And begin your own learning path as an author.

5) Sparks:

The universe within which “The Proving” young adult trilogy and “The Magic Stones” middle grade collection exists owes a lot to Feist’s Riftwar Saga. The sense of being unfettered, of being able to do exactly what I want with my worldbuilding, is evident in my writing. But just like the Riftwar books, it doesn’t smack you in the face. The varied nature Pasaron’s one-hundred-and-eleven lands is slowly revealed over the course of many stories. If you spend time in a foreign country, you typically focus on the immediate as you negotiate each day. But as time passes, more and more history and background is revealed *through* your daily experiences. Pasaron, like Feist’s Midkemia and Kelewan, are much the same; they are revealed through the characters’ stories, instead of having the stories revealed while focusing on the worlds.

But wait, there’s more! I am to this day absolutely sparked by the way Feist writes BIG scenes. His knack for capturing the truly epic in flowing, well-paced, understandable ways has powerfully shaped how I attempt to do the same. I vividly remember when Pug faced his trials to gain the Black Robe, perched high atop a tower on Kelewan during an otherworldly storm. I probably re-read those passages a dozen times during my first read! So amazing. And in the same book (Magician: Master) the newly-minted Milamber snaps and brings utter devastation to the coliseum during horrific gladiator matches. Feist’s incredible sense of setting and timing, blending just the right amount of action with powerful descriptions, is to me the model for writing epic scenes. In a word, I find Feist’s writing to be cinematic; ready from word one to jump off the page and on to the big screen. Oh, if only these books had been written in today’s world of modern computer effects… what a joy Milamber, Tomas, Arutha, and company would have been in the theater!

Thanks for reading!

~Kevin

#WritingSparks 2 – David Eddings – The Belgariad and the Mallorean

Here is the second entry in the #WritingSparks series, answering the question “What authors and books sparked you into becoming a writer, or most influenced how you craft stories?”. Part one was an easy choice because, like so many other writers and readers out there, I grew up on a steady diet of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books. But now it gets a little more tricky as I move into novels that had a huge influence on me but that not everyone in the world knows.

I was tempted to surprise absolutely no one and make #WritingSparks 2 about Tolkien, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. But no… even though Tolkien will definitely make an appearance in this blog series, his books had less of an effect on me as a writer than some others. It may be fair to say that Tolkien was extremely important to me as a *reader*, since his epic tales were some of the first to attract me to fantasy. But after giving it some thought, the writer in me knew there was only one choice for slot number two on the list.

Here is #WritingSparks 2!

1) Author: David Eddings.

2) Books:  The Belgariad series (five books) and the Mallorean series (five books), which I first read between ages 16 and 21.

3) Thoughts:

I will never forget my shock when, after reading “Pawn of Prophecy” – Book one of the Belgariad – I realized that epic, otherworldly fantasy can be (*gasp*)… FUNNY! And lighthearted at times! While still having powerful stakes and drama. Fresh off the heels of lots of Tolkien’s high fantasy, PhD-style stories, I found myself smiling, laughing, and for the first time *relating* to the characters in a personal way as the stories unfolded. As much as I loved Narnia and Lord of the Rings, it was a stretch to see much of myself in the Pevensies or the Bagginses (though the movies of both series delivered relatability in powerful ways). But Garion, the scullery boy nephew of Aunt Pol, growing up on Faldor’s farm and playing with friends and having crushes on girls and getting in trouble? Instantly relatable, and I absolutely loved it.

Eddings’ ability to build real characters, complete with flaws and vices as well as strengths, wowed me as a teenager. No one could tell me that I didn’t *know* Garion, Silk, Belgarath, Polgara, Durnik, and Ce’Nedra. Their conversations were natural and fluid (Eddings truly was a master of dialogue), managing to build each personality over time while also carrying the plot forward without excessive exposition. Eddings’ characters were old friends, not just names on a page, and they were as complex as, well, all the actual humans I encountered in the real world every day. This had a great impact on me. Decades later when I began writing seriously I quickly recognized some of Eddings’ style in in my writing voice.

Reflecting on the two series now, I also see a great deal of Eddings’ influence on how I pursue worldbuilding. I loved the details in Garion’s world; the economics, the politics, the commerce, the foreign relations. I adored the fact that this world not only had a complete known history from its creation forward (like Narnia), but that the vast majority of it could be learned if one read the two series and the companion books “Belgarath the Sorcerer” and “Polgara the Sorceress”. I had the sense Garion’s world was just out there in the ether and that Eddings’ job was to carefully pick which parts of it he would share with readers.

4) Feelings:

Love. Just all the love. Garion’s story is all about personality, not the amazing powers he learns he has, not the world-saving destiny he eventually pursues. It’s all about how an orphan farm-boy with rural, down-to-earth sensibilities survives when he learns he is literally one of the most powerful beings in creation. And it’s a love story, and a parenting story, and a tale of friendships. Is there a greater high than the stunning moment when Garion holds Iron Grip’s sword over his head in it bursts into blue flame, proclaiming him the rightful heir to the Rivan throne? Is there a deeper low than when he instinctively lashes out with the will and the word to teleport a stranger from leech-infested waters to safety… only to watch the man still die in agony? Is anything more funny than when Ce’Nedra learns that she’s destined to marry the scullery boy from Sendaria and, in front of everyone, screams out her shock and horror? Then there was the legitimate, honest sorrow of the gods after Torak is slain. Since when do we mourn the death of the villain??? And it worked. It totally made sense. Even Torak was a real personality, far more than just an evil face in the distance.

I could go on for pages and pages. Tears. Laughter. Anguish. Fear. Pain. It’s all there, and it all felt *real* in the lives of my dear old friends. Wait… I mean, Eddings’ characters.     🙂

I read the entire Belgariad aloud to my kids about ten years ago when the oldest was around 11 years old. It was a great experience for all of us, so much fun, and resulted in many great memories. But I also ran right into a whole new set of feelings that I may have always known but never verbalized.

My favorite people in the two series are not Garion and Ce’Nedra, not Silk or Belgarath, not Mandorallen, even though I adore all of them. No, more than anything I love Polgara and Durnik, especially in later books when we see their relationship grow and their children born. Why? Because I see my mother and father in those two powerful heroes and I absolutely love it. My mother is one of the most powerful people ever! Strong but loving, kind but firm, heroic and smart… Polgara feels like she was cut from my mother’s cloth. And Durnik? What a great fit for my father if he were ever cast in a fantasy movie. My dad has always been the hardest working human being I’ve ever seen, period. Strong, wise, sometimes quiet, always *there*, always striving to make things right in a world of challenges and fears. By the grace of God they are both still around, but they’ve never heard that they are two of my fantasy heroes! Now I’m even more excited to share this post.

5) Sparks:

Eddings’ impact on my worldbuilding cannot be overstated. When I began writing my YA fantasy book series, I spent many months making sure that I knew (and documented) the history of my new Land as well as many of the day-to-day details about its countries and peoples… including many aspects that I knew might never make it into a book! The Land of Pasaron (featured in the Proving Trilogy (YA) and The Magic Stones collection (MG)) and all of its complex history simply exists. Only after getting a solid handle on what the Land was like did I decide which stories from the timeline I would pick to share with others. This might be why I have never struggle to find book ideas. There is so much that could be told! The hard part is deciding whose stories are really the best before zeroing in to capture the details.

But the sparks are many and varied beyond that. I have not yet read a better cast of characters long-term quest story. There are several that are just as good, but really none are better. But Eddings did this *twice*! The Belgariad is one enormous five book quest across the whole continent where the heroes dwell. Then the Mallorean is another five book quest across the other big continent in that world, places most of them had never seen before. My books are just a bit “quest-y”, if that’s a word, and do have something of a cast of characters approach, and I strive to make them as engaging and fresh as Eddings’ series. Eddings’ use of dialogue is an endless source of inspiration for me, as is the humor he built into so many of his characters. Last but not least, though, was the impact that his author journey had on me. Eddings wrote the Belgariad while working his normal day job, triggered by a simple map that he sketched on a piece of paper one day.  That is such a relatable, real beginning to a huge success story! It gives me hope.

Thanks for reading!

~Kevin

#WritingSparks #1 – C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia

Hello all!

This is the first entry in a series of posts answering the question “What authors sparked you into becoming a writer, or most influenced how you craft stories?”. I have a lot I’d like to share on the subject, and hopefully others will follow with #WritingSparks of their own.

I’m sure that a huge percentage of fantasy authors out there might list some variant of Lewis’ work as being influential, but I really am interested in learning (and sharing) *why* they made such a difference. So without further ado, here is my #WritingSparks number 1.

1) Author: C.S. Lewis.

2) Books:  The Chronicles of Narnia, which I read for the first time around age 8.

3) Thoughts:

I would love to one day get a sense for how many thousands or tens of thousands of authors would list Lewis as one of their influences. I loved his science fiction books beginning with “Out of the Silent Plant” and his wonderful Christian works “The Screwtape Letters” and “Mere Christianity”. But it was The Chronicles of Narnia that stole my heart when I was still a very young reader. A quick search online shows that book one of the Chronicles of Narnia – “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” – sold more than 80 million copies (so far). But for the life of me I can’t help but feel like that number should be larger. Lewis’ works are the first #WritingSpark on my list for good reason.

I remember thinking that “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was very, very simply written, even for a kid as young as myself. But I was blown away with how much STORY Lewis packed in to so very few words. Even the illustrations backed up that thought; the small, black and white drawings that began each chapter were as basic as could be, but I loved them. I studied them. And to this day I remember almost all of them. Additionally, it was clear that there was more to this story than just talking animals and a selfless, powerful lion. I saw the way Lewis created a Christian parable of his own in the first adventure of the Pevensies, and even then I was shocked that something so serious could be made digestible for kids. Looking back on the books now, including having re-read the entire Chronicles to my kids in recent years, my initial thoughts are buttressed. The man did more to paint the fantastic with a sentence than others could do with a page. Stunning.

I know now that Narnia was my introduction to truly epic-scale worldbuilding. Lewis didn’t just create a world for his characters to live in and interact with, he created its entire history from creation to destruction and let the readers experience the journey. We stood with Digory and Polly as Aslan sung the world into being, and we stood with Eustace and Jill while the stars rained down and Father Time brought that same world to its cold, dark end. Then we experienced a series of important adventures that occurred between those two events – the highest and lowest points of Narnia’s history – and eventually went further up and further in a perfect, even more beautiful reality. What could be more epic? That world simply existed, and we readers were given the gift of slipping into it from time to time to view its events through the eyes of a select few children.

4) Feelings:

Oh, where to begin? Are my Narnian feels so deep because of the age I was when I first read? Or is it the connection to my faith? Or is it purely the writing? Most likely a combination, all of the above. I still well with tears when re-reading the final chapter of “The Last Battle”. I still melt a little when I read that Aravis and Shasta (Cor) do indeed get married at the end of “The Horse and His Boy”. What could be more stunning, painful, and beautiful than the last time anyone could say that they had seen Reepicheep the Mouse as his tiny boat crested the stationary wave near Aslan’s Country? Has there been heartache as strong as when Jill’s stubbornness led to Eustace’s fall from the great cliff, or when Digory’s pride led him to strike the bell that awoke Jadis? And what could compare to Aslan’s sacrifice when it comes to pure emotional power? The answer, of course, is his triumphant return the next morning! And I could go on and on. And all accomplished with an incredible economy of words.

5) Sparks:

The combination of thoughts and feelings above had a strange effect on me over the years before I started writing seriously. Lewis’ Narnia books are definitely NOT one of the reasons I started writing fantasy! Surprising? It’s probably just my personality at work. I found the reality of what Lewis’ books meant to me to be too much, too strong, too meaningful. So when I first considered writing books of my own, I felt paralyzed by my inability to craft something that could create that same depth of thought and feeling. But when I did begin to write, there was no greater spark than that kindled by Narnia. I determined to write exciting, fun fantasy stories for children that did more than just entertain. I wanted to deliver important truths based on my Christian faith, the things that God taught me over years of living and learning.

I believe that’s one of the reasons it took me so long to start writing; it wasn’t until I was nearly 40 years old that I’d finally learned lessons worth repeating.

That’s all for now, my friends! But #WritingSparks #2 is coming soon.

~Kevin

#WritingSparks Series – The Writers and Works that Shape Your Writing!

Hello all! Today I’m launching a new blog post series called Writing Sparks (and Twitter #WritingSparks to go along with it) to capture the authors and books that sparked me into becoming a writer. I love the idea of sharing some details about the authors that shaped me, and hopefully this will lead other writers to similarly share their own stories of the works that sparked them into flame. But I want to do more than just list authors and titles. There are dozens of lists like that all over Twitter. I really want to hear the stories behind different writer’s favorite books. What were the thoughts and feelings that made them influential to you? So my plan is to present each of the authors that most powerfully affected me in a five-point post, then to dare other writers to follow suit.

1) The author (and a little bit about them if you’d like).

2) The books or series that most inspired you and when in your life you read them.

3) Thoughts: Critical comments on first read *and* when you look back on the books now.

4) Feelings: How each work made you feel when first read *and* how they make you feel in retrospect now

5) Sparks: What those thoughts and feelings sparked in your writing or your writing motivations.

This sounds like pure fun to me, and I look forward to reading other author’s posts or tweets about their favorites from the distant past to the nearly present. Of course, if this format (or the idea of having to separate thoughts and feelings) sounds like a drag to you, ignore all of that and just share what you’d like! I bet we find we have lots in common, and lots still to learn.

Thanks!

~Kevin

Editing the “Magic”, Preparing for Prime Time!

Greetings, all!

I have several updates to share about THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP, the first of my novels to have a shot at being published. My incredible agent, Lesley Sabga of The Seymour Agency, met with a number of acquisitions editors from major publishers over the past month. She introduced the ideas and concepts in Midnight Keep (and even shared some of the artwork created by KatieJ), and several editors expressed an interest in reading the manuscript!

This is fantastic news, and that’s putting it mildly. After so many years and so many re-writes of multiple books, the process of submission and review by publishers is really the final bridge to cross before making it into the published author promised land.

In preparation for submission, Lesley provided insightful feedback on Midnight Keep that kicked off another editing/re-writing round for me. Those edits are now complete. The revised chapter 1 is now here on the website on THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP page (or you can just click HERE to save time). Some of the changes to chapter 1 are significant, including an early appearance of the mysterious voice Aril hears from the Magic Stones, more conversational tidbits about Bard’s Tales, and new insights into how Aril, Truly, and Brin see their future. If you read the original, take a minute to read the new chapter 1 and feel free to share your feedback!

If you’ve never before read THE MAGIC STONES OF MIDNIGHT KEEP but are a reader of middle grade fantasy (think early Harry Potter books, the Percy Jackson series, Artemis Fowl, Chronicles of Narnia), give me a shout! I love critical feedback and always welcome more, especially as these important last edits are happening. Feel free to leave a comment here, or email me at TheTomeWriter@gmail.com.

Thanks everyone! More to come soon…

~Kevin