Monday, December 17, 2012

Magic on Monday: Have Yourself a Gothic Little Christmas by Christine Locke

MoreenBlackthorne/shutterstock
As Michel Faber notes in an excellent article, although Dickens' A Christmas Carol is by no means a "gothic novel," strickly speaking, it certainly "...concentrates on what excites his imagination most: death, grotesquery, poverty, indignity, death, clownish pranks, death, dancing and food. Oh, and did I mention death?"

Sure, some may find it strange, or even sacreligious, to so prominently feature death and ghostly hauntings in a Christmas story, yet, I think not so much.  Sometimes we highlight positives by juxtaposing them with negatives: through dwelling on the horror of Marley's wretched afterlife, we are able to share the joy of Scrooge's life and continuing ability to alter his fate.  Dickens--as he always does so well--compels us to think about the social consequences of the wretched poverty of one family.  Then, he allows us to share in their joy and in the joy of the giver who relieves that suffering. 

We celebrate Christmas, a holiday all about giving precious, needed gifts to loved ones and to those in need, at the winter solstice, when nights are cold and food is growing scarce in nature.  The cozy cottage on the Christmas card is cozy because the snow is driving outside the window.  Happy birds flock to birdfeeders because food is scarce elsewhere.  Evergreen indoors and out reminds us that spring, and a time of plenty, will come again--and, in the meantime, we treasure what we have and share what we can.

So I tend to think that Christmas has a special place in gothic--or almost gothic--literature.  I'm saving a portrayal of Christmas at Mallace Mansion for the final book in the Trilogy.  But I ended In Time with a description of holiday sharing with Carin.

Carin opened the door wide and was happy for the deep red wool sweater over her skirt and blouse as the blast of cold wind rushed through the entry.  On the sideboard, vases of flowers and leaves and fresh greenery spread their scent through the house and candle flames guttered in surprise at the gust.  Charlotte pulled the lapels of her heavy fur up over her ears as best she could with one free hand.
            “Carin, Happy Thanksgiving!  So wonderful to see you, sweetheart!”
            “Please come in!”  Carin grinned and brought Charlotte and Bobby into the house as quickly as she could.
With Carin, the reclusive role of the Mallace family heir opens to welcome others and and build a new sense of community.  In The Legacy Series, this is best portrayed with holiday parties, and I think it has to do with an almost natural paradox between the lack and longing of the gothic hero/heroine and the portrayal of holiday bounty and generosity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writers On Wednesday: Guest Post by Leanne Dyck

I'm starting a new feature here on Christine Locke Books: Writers On Wednesday, where I will showcase a writer, indie published or otherwise, who will share her/his thoughts regarding the inspiration for writing.  We all have special places within ourselves that feed our writing, and, especially when we get stuck, exploring them can be helpful to other writers, as well as ourselves.

My first featured author, Leanne Dyck, draws inspiration from handcrafts.  Her novella, The Sweater Curse, is available here.  Many thanks to Leanne for her interesting post!


I reside in ideas
I craft with dreams

Why do I knit?

Ask a dozen knitters this question and you may receive a dozen answers. For me, knitting is less about the mastery of craft and more about the celebration of creation. My request is not, ‘teach me to knit that’ but rather ‘allow me to express myself’.

What do I knit?

Sweaters. I have knit other things but I always return to sweater. They are my canvas.

Why do I write?

Due to shyness and other limitations, it has, at times, been difficult for me to express myself verbally. Looking for a solution, I found writing. It set me free. It became part of me. Now I look at a blank page like a child would look at a sandbox. It’s a fun place to leave my tracks.

What do I write?

I write flash fiction, short stories, novellas and novels. My only constraint on genre is that I prefer fiction. Beyond that I feel free to explore.

Why do I write about knitting?

I’m proud to be a member of the knitting community. When I was lost they found me and gently nudged me in the right direction.

Knowing that knitters are diverse, strong and talented, it upsets me that non-knitters have only been given a limited view of our community. I’d like to broaden this view.

What have I written about knitting?

I began my knitwear design career in August 2002. During my career, I self-published over twenty hand knitting patterns. Knitters from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel and Japan purchased these patterns. I closed my design business in January 2011 and now share these patterns, for free, on my blog (http://sweatercursed.blogspot.com)

Decadent Publishing released my knitting-themed novella as an ebook in January 2011.

Blurb:  Aspiring knitwear designer Gwen Bjarnson is stuck in Purgatory. To escape, she must re-examine her life, journey through her past and right a wrong. But which wrong?

Young and in love, she works to establish her career, except fate has different plans. One rash act and she loses everything. Never resting, always seeking, and yearning for what she can no longer have, Gwen faces the truth:  if she remains, others are destined to die.

How will she solve the mystery before it is too late?

Reviewers said,

‘Stitch by colorful stitch, Leanne Dyck knits a tale of intrigue’ –Laurie Buchanan

‘Leanne Dyck has crafted a tale as exotic and existential as Danish author Isak Dinesen’s’ –Lou Allen

‘I found myself totally engrossed’-Deborah Warner

‘I found it very difficult to put this book down once I started it, because the voice of lovely Gwen Bjarnson, already dead at the start of this book, drew me in immediately.’ –Holly Robinson

Buoyed up by these comments, I set to work to transform this novella into a novel. I’m currently working on revisions. To follow my author journey, please log on to my blog ((http://sweatercursed.blogspot.com)


Monday, December 10, 2012

#TagItTuesday Party: Help An Author Today by Christine Locke

We authors know that activity on our amazon pages helps, and we know that not enough of our readers understand this!  Before I was an author, I had no idea what power that tiny little "like" button truly held.  So, in the spirit of #AuthorSupport and reader education, here's a little mini-tag party of some of my recent favorites.  I'm including my new book at the end of the list.

Hit the "like" button for those that appeal to you & then scroll down and tag away.  After you help others, you'll get the chance to help yourself....

To Light the Path by Heather Sutherlin

Possessed by Kira Saito

The Sweater Curse by Leanne Dyke

Temptation's Heat by Michelle Zink

In Time by Christine Locke

That's the spirit!  Now that you've made the day of a few of my favorites, feel free to leave your novel and/or one of your favorites in the comments.  And, hey--spread the word!



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Six Sentences on Sunday: Transcendence in Gothic Literature by Christine Locke

Characters in the gothic novel often attempt--with or without success--to escape what binds or confines them.   Often, the gothic mansion physically represents the family curse or legend or inheritance that imprisions them, but this is not necessarily so.  Think of The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe, in which the owner of the house dies as his house falls around him while our narrator makes a near and daring escape from the tumbling manor.  Or Jane Eyre, in which Jane and Mr. Rochester are free to begin life together when fire dooms not only Mrs. Rochester but the gothic manse as well. 

In The Legacy Series, Carin Mallace is both trapped and liberated by the inheritance of the mansion.  You could argue either way: by inheriting Mallace Estate and its Legacy, she and her mother are safe from the dangers she spent her childhood fleeing.  However, Carin must stay within the mansion most of the time to fulfil the requirements of the Legacy.  Whether or not Carin will escape and whether or not the mansion will survive or transform remains to be seen (we'll just have to wait for Book 3), but there are some clues to be found in the texts of Books 1 & 2.
 Here's a little taste of In Time:

She felt her shoes against the stones, felt each stone underneath her feet, the weight of her body on earth.  When she breathed the air, she felt her connection with that, too.  The autumn chill crept around and above her, far above her, inside her when she breathed it in.  The gentle gusts blew past her body and through her clothes and hair; the current defined the edges of her height, the width of her shoulders, the angles of the roofline of the mansion looming behind her.  Carin pictured breezes flying above the roof, above the oak branches’ topmost tips, afar over the mountains and up into the clouds and beyond them.  Standing on the gravel, she was rooted and free at the same time, grounded and in flight, complete yet undone.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Temptation of Angels Review by Christine Locke

Not What You Expect: Better!

A Temptation of Angels
by
Michelle Zink

I already loved Ms. Zink's writing, so I knew I'd enjoy this story, but I had no idea how much.
I was delighted to find that Ms. Zink cleverly subverts all the normal expectations for YA paranormal stories. I don't know if she's planning to tell us any more about Helen and Griffin. It might be nice. But it's also unnecessary, since their story is wrapped up in one volume. Now who has the guts to do that these days? [spoiler alert!!] Not to mention that the "love triangle" is really more of a possibility than an actual triangle, and only serves to highlight fidelity and the beauty of commitment here. The superpowers are more like home-schooled powers of observation and deduction, and hey, the bad guys are the fallen angels and the good guys are good angels! Again, refreshing, unexpected, a creative addition in a genre that can be a little same-old, same-old, no matter how much we all love it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Just hit the "Save and Publish" button for In Time! Whoo-hoo!

It's in review, and will soon be live (I hope...)!

Six months is a little longer than I'd hoped, but if I can keep up this pace, the final book in The Legacy series will be out in June.  I promise to see if I can step it up a little bit, though.

I'm so excited to be finished with the editing and on to the next project: Out of Place, the final chapter in Carin's story.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thinking on Thursday: Writing Christmas by Christine Locke

I suppose there are two Christmas novels for me:  A Christmas Carol and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Both capture two elements of the Christmas story well: what it is to be lost, and what it is to be filled with wonder and, thereby, saved.
If you celebrate Christmas, what are your favorite Christmas stories?  And if you celebrate another holiday, what fictional works capture it best for you?

Have you ever written Christmas or another major holiday into your own stories?  I'm including Halloween and Thanksgiving in In Time, which is in the final stages of revision (finally!).  And my planning for the last book of The Legacy Series includes Christmas and perhaps another holiday.  I'm fining the holidays packed with activities that pull me away from writing, and yet nonetheless inspiring.  Often a hymn, decorative display, or a child's trusting request give me pause as I find myself building a story around the experience.  As often as the holidays pull me away from writing, they draw me back to it again with inspiration. 

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!"
Charles Dickens

Monday, November 19, 2012

Magic on Monday: Cut from In Time by Christine Locke

Here's a chapter that did not make the final cut into the new novel.  I decided it adds nothing to the action of the plot.  However, I do like the chapter.  And, it gives you a taste of the magic, mystery and menace of the new book...so, here you go!

October 21, 1988
The soft evening air rustled around rough corners at Mallace Mansion, where Carin, wrapped in an old jacket, rocked to and fro on the verandah, watching the light alter through the oak boughs.  Fall florals mingled with the aged aroma of tumbled leaves, many-colored and glowing in the evening sun.  All about the mansion, they fluttered gold, ochre, and russet, to the ground, as if the oaks were elegant ladies shedding bright evening dresses before a long winter sleep. 
Behind her, the great door to the mansion stood open.  Carin loved the autumn temperature in Eureka Springs and kept the windows and doors open as much as she wished, which was almost all the time.  The arched hall, warmed by the last of the day’s sunlit gusts, felt still but not yet cold.  The night chill crept in behind her brother, the warm autumn afternoon.  Deep within the house, in the parlor and a certain bedroom, embers stirred under andirons, flickering to life and catching at bits of newspaper, but Carin thought nothing of this.
Her brown hair swung loose behind her, brushed over the back of her rocker.  Beneath the ruffle of the gown she wore, her bare feet stretched toe to heel, toe to heel, moving her body in the chair.  Only thin thong sandals protected her feet from the gathering chill; Carin did not feel it.  Her slight but graceful form hid under the copious jacket.  When the sun’s setting glow struck Carin’s face, she closed her deep almond eyes to enjoy its warmth.  At one time, Carin would have carried a small tape player with her, sitting with headphones covering her ears.  But now she heard the tiny rustle of every fallen leaf; the soft scurrying of the squirrel she knew accompanied the swish of his tail.  The wind played music in the trees—her trees—and she no longer wanted the recording of others, the battery-powered canned crooning would never soothe her now.

The light failed in time.  A gathering mist drew strength from the evening dark and cold.  Beyond the property line of Mallace Estate, outside the containment of its gates of heavy iron, a fog gathered, dense and impenetrable at its center.  But the evening darkened, and Carin’s eyes were closed.
Trailing away somewhere below, a car’s red taillights blinked through the gloom, signaling a relieved farewell to steep roads and sudden turns with cliff-like drops characterizing her beautiful, if occasionally treacherous, hometown.  Her candle sputtered, and Carin almost opened her eyes, her lips pursed with slight annoyance.  The light went out, still but for the forlorn apology of its smoky trail.  Carin stayed in her chair, rocking, although she did feel the wet chill on her feet.  The air thickened and threatened rain.  A rumble sounded in the steep hills behind her home.
Perhaps blown by the breezes carrying the storm sounds to her through the parlor’s open windows, the heavy door creaked on its old hinges until it nearly shut.  A frustrated sigh rose and fell beneath the folds of the jacket, which Carin, in spite of herself, grasped more tightly.  Warm smells floated to her from the house—a fire in the parlor, tea brewing in the kitchen.  The grandfather clock struck the hour.  She sat through all eight chimes, rocking to their rhythm now.  The darkness fell with misleading finality; after all, it would endure just until sunrise.  Yet, no more cars escaped to wink “farewell,” and the squirrel now slept warm under his tail in the hole beneath strong oak roots.  Carin’s large eyes opened, adjusting to the dim light as she rose.  She hesitated, not wishing to relinquish her autumn evening.  The increasing cold caused her to doubt she had many of them left this year-- her first year at Mallace Mansion.
On a sudden impulse, Carin ran down the steps and out into the drive.  A few leaves swirled, increasing the chill on her feet as her thin soles crunched the white rocks, the sound crackling startled exclamations in the still air.  The squirrel raised his tail and popped out his nose to sniff in alarm.  Somewhere on the street, the fog shifted to reveal a dark figure, watching, but Carin did not see him.
Carin turned to face the front of the mansion.  She backed a few more steps, searching for something in the aspect looming before her.  Mallace Mansion rose as impressive and foreboding as on the day she first viewed it from her mother’s car, peeking through the gates and the oak trees.  But Carin tried to imagine her home now as a more welcoming place.  She tried to discover it as a visitor might.  She did not know how odd this truly was; unlike every past owner, she was not raised within the walls of Mallace Mansion.  Carin only knew she must welcome her visitors; she did not take that to mean she should never have any.  And she considered that now: visitors.   What brought on this sudden whim, this afterthought of hospitality?  Carin recalled what month it was: Carin remembered Halloween.
The end of the month approached.  Carin considered it with a thrill: trick-or-treat, goblins and ghosts, witches and brew to make sport of what scares you.  But the mansion had done with waiting now.  The door swung wide, pushing against the draft from the back gardens.  It struck the wall behind with force.  Carin’s lips twisted in an amused, if annoyed, smile.  When she spoke, her voice was soft and clear and teasing.  “Alright,” she said, and she laughed, tripping across the stones and up the steps, entering her home.
Carin hurried to the parlor where she knew a warm fire waited for her now.  She assumed no one would be on the street in front of her home; Carin thought no one observed her front door swinging unaided to latch itself and lock against the chilly gloom.  She was wrong.
Coming Soon...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Authorgraph is Awesome! Adding Widgets, by Christine Locke

Recently I tweeted a question to Authorgraph: how do I add a widget?
They emailed directions:
Go to Authorgraph and log in to your account.  Click on your picture and then on "Author Tools" and you will find the code for adding the widget--and it is already tailored to your book!  So neat.  There is even code for you Wordpress people :)
You can see how it looks right here...look to the right :)  Better yet, if you have a copy of Open Door--or even if you don't--send me a request!
Happy Writing!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing on Wednesday: What's YA? by Christine Locke


Young Adult: It’s Sooo 100 Years Ago…And I Love It!
I found myself responding to a writer friend’s complaint that she was blocked with the recommendation she read one of two books: Jane Eyre or Huckleberry Finn.  They are two go-to books from two of my go-to authors.  A few lines from either one can send me powering through a block like Felix Baumgartner smashing the sound barrier.  In fact, I’ve been keeping them both handy, of late.
In Time, the sequel to my YA gothic horror novel Open Door, will be out later this year.  That’s the novel I’m currently revising and the reason Huck sits on my nightstand.  I write Young Adult fiction; I love everything about the genre.  I love the age of the characters, on the verge of life and all its challenges and promises.   I appreciate that my audience’s age requires I avoid gratuitous sexual scenes and abundant profanity.  I never thought either added much to a story.  And the Buffy fan in me loves, loves, loves that YA readers have a hefty appetite for the paranormal.
                My first novel manuscript, completed before “Young Adult” existed as a stand-alone genre, featured new college graduates and definitely possessed paranormal flair.  Like Darius Rucker writing country (“Let Her Cry”) while he was still a-rockin’ (Hootie and the Blowfish), I guess I was YA when YA wasn’t cool.  Yet, what about my go-to novels for writer’s block cure?  What did Charlotte Bronte and Mark Twain write?  They wrote about young people on the verge of life’s toughest challenges and most attractive promises.  Bronte avoided gratuitous explicit content.  Can’t say the same for Twain, but we are less likely to forget the harsh history of life for young people in this country due to his candor.  Both sprinkled paranormal content through their stories, even if both tended to do so by debunking it. (Why, who knew?  That ghost haunting me isn’t a ghost at all: it’s my fiancĂ©’s mad wife rattling about the attic…).  So if my writing has always been paranormal Young Adult, I guess my tastes have, too.  Thanks again, merry mentors, for setting me on the right path.
                But here’s what I love most about YA as a genre: Young Adult novels and Young Adult writers give reading back to young people in a way that was missing for many years.  When I was growing up, there were children’s books and there were adult books.  Then R. L. Stine and J. K. Rowling came along.  Add a dash of Stephenie Meyer and you’ve got a whole generation of young people who have taken ownership of reading again.  It’s just cool to be a part of that.
                I’d love to hear what you think is the best thing about the Young Adult genre.  Why do you love to read it?  Do you think many authors of classic novels were actually YA authors?  Thanks for reading, and thanks stopping by!

photo credit: NemesisINC/shutterstock

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Writing on Wednesday: Setting the Scene for In Time by Christine Locke

What I'm Reading, Listening to, and Watching Right Now

Reading: Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
Here's my most embarrassing revelation for the week....  I may have known about this book at one time, but I don't think so.  How can a person graduate with and MA in Comparative Lit and Not know that Mark Twain wrote a historical novel about the teenage saint?  Especially embarrassing since it was his favorite among his own works.  I did not know that.  There's always something new to learn about your favorite authors.  This has crossover interest for me: my children are studying medieval times this year.

Twain is especially passionate about his subject, Joan of Arc.  Here are a few lines: 
As the years and the decades drifted by, and the spectacle of the marvellous child's meteor flight across the war-firmament of France and its extinction in the smoke-clouds of the stake receded deeper and deeper into the past and grew ever more strange and wonderful and divine and pathetic, I came to comprehend and recognize her at last for what she was--the most noble life that was ever born into this world save only One. --Mark Twain, Joan of Arc


Listening to: "Autumn" 
Open Door was set in summer, which worked well since I was prepping it for publication during the summer.  To set the mood in a different season for In Time, I grabbed a copy of this classical collection off iTunes for not too much.  It does the trick!

Watching: (sigh) "Murder She Wrote"
Having trouble finding somehting that's interesting enough that I want to keep playing it but not too distracting from the writing.  My fall back is, of course, "Murder She Wrote."  Are there any writers my age who don't stream that one?  Well, maybe you won't admit it, but you KNOW you do! When I was writing Open Door, I loved to stream "Dark Shadows" on Netflix, but they only have so many episodes, so I ran out.  Alas.

Since I'm sharing...I might as well tell you that the best episode, ever, was actually two: "Nan's Ghost," Parts I & II.  A trip to Ireland, an ornate castle, an elegant ghost and hidden treasure...this one has it all!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Magic on Monday: Inspiration by Christine Locke

Writing the second in a series of three novels about magic now....  This is my desk at the moment, so if you'd like clues as to where Carin's story is going, here you go!

Never underestimate the power of the right book to inspire magic in your writing.  We bibliophiles know that our collection of books can give us strength in moments of seeking for that next plot twist or thematic idea.


"I believe in the magic of books. I believe that during certain periods in our lives we are drawn to particular books--whether it's strolling down the aisles of a bookshop with no idea whatsoever of what it is that we want to read and suddenly finding the most perfect, most wonderfully suitable book staring us right in the face. Unblinking. Or a chance meeting with a stranger or friend who recommends a book we would never ordinarily reach for. Books have the ability to find their own way into our lives.” --Cecelia Ahern

I'll say more about one of these books on Wednesday; as for the rest, I'll list them here in case you can't read the titles:
The Language of Flowers, Kate Greenaway
A Moveable Feast, Earnest Hemingway
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim
Clarissa, Samuel Richardson
Vogue Fashion, Linda Watson
The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: The Ingenue by Christine Locke

This week, the gothic novel's ingenue takes center stage.  Sometimes, the (usually young) heroine has a male counterpart, who may or may not be her romantic interest, but will be young and innocent, like she is.

We don't meet Carin's counterpart right away in Open Door.  In fact, if you try to guess who it is after reading a chapter or two, you might be surprised!

For today's Six Sentence Sunday, meet our heroine, Carin, who knows very little about herself and her family--even less than she realizes.

     So they had not mattered to Carin, these quirks of her mother's.  Carin enjoyed a freedom the other kids at her schools did not.  She accepted there was something about her mother she would never understand.  But she failed to grasp, until now, that her mother's secrets were also her secrets.  "Our name isn't White, baby...." 
     Her mother wanted her to take the old photo album in the attic and hide it to protect their secret.

Thanks for stopping by!  As always, happy reading!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tips Tuesday: Build Follower List & Share Your Favorites by Christine Locke


Things I've picked up on my newbie indi-publishing journey this fall:

1.  Instead of tweeting your books more and more often, grow your list of followers.  I could not understand why so many of my twitterfriends who were also writers would tweet their books so often.  I was tempted to do the same, so I even wrote a blog post swearing off the practice.  I still avoid shameless self-promotion on twitter.  However, last time I ran a free book promo on KDP, I did notice something new.  Tweeting the freebie a few times did increase downloads.  The difference?  I now have over 3,000 followers, and the last time I did that my follow list had maybe 900 people.  The best advice I can give for finding quality followers is that although it's fabulous to have other writers follow you (and you should always follow them back!) it's also important to look for potential followers who share interests that might draw them to your book.

2.  Soundtracks are cool!  Sharing your favorite movie and booklists is awesome, too!  Something that writers know about each other but readers don't always know about writers: we are story junkies.  I mean it.  We are glued to the page/tube/AMC ticketbooth, and yeah, we are a little ashamed to admit it.  We can't stop ourselves from figuring out where the story is going and thinking, "Aha! I knew it!"  when we are right and, "Oh, man, my ending was so much better!" when we are wrong.  We might not want to admit what we had streaming on Netflix while we wrote the closing scene to our latest novel, but that kind of information is pretty cool because it gives potential readers a window into our creative process.  And that, in a way, serves the same function as the "suggested items" box on amazon.  After all, if they like your music/video/book playlist, they might like what you wrote, too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Magic on Monday by Christine Locke

“There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.” ― Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic


What's the most important element in a story with magic?

I think many readers would say consistency.  A few might want originiality in magical descriptions, an author who can "make it new."  Or what about making a magical tale educational?  After all, it's been said that J. K. Rowling made Latin cool again; the dead language is on the lips of every child who imitates Hermione's masterful spells.

I get asked to write about how to write stories with magic, and while all of the above are increasingly important, I think the most significant thing an author can remember when writing a story with magic is that, in reality, we read about magic in order to understand ourselves.  We may say that we like paranormal tales because we want to get away from reality, but there's really more to it than that.  After all, going on vacation is not the same as moving to another city.  In the real world, we escape in order to come home.

In my stories, magic is fun and dangerous and exciting, but it's also going to reveal more to the character than they have found in themselves so far.  It's going to challenge them, make them stronger, better, more inspired.  It might be a terrifying journey at times, but it's where they arrive in the end that counts--not unlike life, after all.

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.”  ― J.K. Rowling

Why do you write about magic?  If you have a favorite magical tale, what makes it your favorite?  Is it originality?  Consistency?  Consequences?  Something else?

Happy Monday, all, and happy writing!

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats

Friday, October 5, 2012

Onward!


"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."  ~Sylvia Plath


Two quotes to sum up what I'm feeling this week as I write, proofread and edit, write, proofread and edit, in a cycle that feels much like lather, rinse, repeat.
Lewis reminds me to aim high, and Plath--always good for a reality check--reminds me not to dither-dally in doubt when I edit phrases like "writable about"!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Will return to regular posting soon...

No, I have not abandoned my blog!  I am, however, furiously writing to meet my 2012 deadline to release In Time, the sequel to Open Door.  I will give you a sneak peak of the In Time cover, and I will also need beta readers, so if you are interested in this, by all means let me know!  Back to work for me....

Photo Credit: Ambient Ideas/Shutterstock

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday by Christine Locke

Here's another element of the gothic novel that's odd but fun: the presence of the older, foolish woman.  If the young ingenue gives the reader an example of how one might face life's coming challenges, this character provides the clear example of how not to do it.  Also, given her age, the story tends to show the consequences of making weak, self-interested choices.  Consider your favorite horror story; more of them than you might think contain a character meeting this description.

This week's six-sentence selection showcases the character from Open Door best meeting this description.  I'd like to think of Helen as more powerful and complex than most....

Much to the contrary, Helen did not care to hear anything Carin said.  In the moment that Carin knew this, as her aunt’s eyes darted from Carin to the door, to the group of ladies lingering in the drive and back, up and around the door and into the living room, at Carin again, the young girl knew her aunt resented her being there, at that moment, in that place.
            Helen’s anger had petulance in it, in the way she pursed her pink lips and moved to yank the key from the door, trying to shove it into the pocket of her tight capris, where it bulged, ridiculous.  Helen felt guilty.  Helen felt caught.  Helen was about to do something she knew was wrong, and she did not want Carin watching.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tips Tuesday:Sequel Structure and Branding Klout by Christine Locke

  1. Does this happen to you other writers out there?  You've got the outline and list of scenes for your new novel all ready to go, but upon completing a "manuscript," you find on the first read-through it lacks cohesive structure.  I don't know how it happened with as much planning as I did--or thought I did, but, there you have it.  What to do?  Since readers enjoyed the pacing of Open Door, I went back to it.  I noticed my sequel contains a similar number of chapters, so I made a study of the two.  I went back to my planning notebook and completed a new section, comparing the structure of the two works chapter by chapter.  I found that my novel was not quite as hopeless a mess as I'd once thought.  Smooth out the inconsistencies and perfect the transitions, and it might even be workable.  Not only that, but by doing this I created a new road-map for the revising process: my chapter-by-chapter list of what to fix for better pacing.
  2. I worked for a long time as a retail manager and manager trainer, so the concept of branding is not new to me.  When my little sister described her marketing classes' instruction to think of every Facebook post and tweet as personal "branding," I admit I was thinking, well, duh.  This is the same concept I taught new managers pre-social media age: our personal lives reflect upon our professional ability.  Some found it unjust or unfair that dancing on a bar half-naked might speak poorly to one's capacity for responsible business management.  It may not be fair, but...it is what it is, I'd try to explain.  I wish I'd had Klout back then.  Here's a great little article I found on the subject this week.  Klout is a fantastic tool to help the novice understand the concept of personal branding, which is especially helpful to indie writers who have to "do it all" themselves when it comes to marketing and sales.  If you don't know your Klout score, check it out.  Experiment with what online activities make the score go up or down.  Are your areas of expertise the ones you would expect?  Does Klout think you have "klout" on writing and young adult fiction, or does Klout think you're an expert on half-naked bar dancing?  I'm just saying...these things are good to know.
Photo Credit: Ambient Ideas/Shutterstock

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday by Christine Locke

My favorite element of the gothic novel: the setting is so unique and its description so compelling, it is itself a character in the gothic story.  Even my earliest ideas for Open Door gathered around the notion that Mallace Mansion would be as real and relevant to the tale as Carin herself.  Last time, I shared Matthew standing at the open front door of the mansion, nervous about going in.  Here's another snippet revealing a little more about my favorite character from Open Door:
'You, daughter of my sister's son, are the heir I named: Welcome home.'
Carin could show no surprise.  She could only smile at her friend in tenderness, for Anne smiled back, all burden lifted from her form and from her eyes.  Tears in them glistened as she spoke two final words before diminishing, 'Thank you.'
A mournful agony escaped through the room as the mansion grieved the loss of its former keeper; it reached for her with wooden arms of shelving and raised the floorboards where she vanished, as if seeking her under them.  Carin cried, too, understanding the loss, and instead the arms reached for her, touching her with gentle caresses before moving backward, returning to their fixed forms.
Photo credit: Elena Elisseeva/shutterstock

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tips Tuesday: What Snowflakes & Flowers Can Do For You by Christine Locke

It's already time for another Tips Tuesday! Homeschool has begun in our house, so you KNOW I'll be brief. (Please, God, let me make it through writing and "linking" this post before somebody has another question....)

1.  A few years ago, an online friend mentioned she had written a novel using "the snowflake method."  What's that? I asked.  She sent me a link.
While it would be difficult for me to follow Randy Ingermanson's instructions exactly, I use a personalized form of this method to streamline my own process.  I'm more organized and I produce a manuscript more quickly this way.  And I find that since he begins the process by making me create a "blurb" for my as yet unwritten novel, I have go-to notes and a description ready when it's time to get that book up on KDP.  Very helpful!

2.  I use this book because it was on several lists for homeschooling parents: The Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway.  But this is one that every writer should have on the desk (or kindle) along with Strunk & White.  If the prom date shows up at the door and gives your character yellow roses, it foreshadows jealousy and a loss of love.  But red roses...hmmm...something else, and not what I thought: a deep red rose signifies shame, while rosebuds with moss constitute a confession of love.  You could also say things about your character and setting with the flowers you place in their gardens or in vases around their homes...the possibilities are endless.  There are many versions of this book.  I linked to a kindle edition, above.  I could not find my book on amazon; it is a small edition about the size of Beatrix Potter's books for children: ISBN-10: 0-486-27372-5.

The baby's trying to eat her play dishes, so it must be time for lunch.  Off to the kitchen with me...happy writing, all!


Photo Credit: Ambient Ideas/Shutterstock

Friday, August 24, 2012

Guest Posting...at heathersutherlin.com by Christine Locke


I'm excited my first guest post will be published later today at Heather Sutherlin's blog!  We've all read advice on what to do to be invited to guest post: be knowledgeable about the blog's subject, proofread, know a little something about the interests of the blog's owner, etc.

With Heather's blog, one thing I tried to do was give writing advice to what she described as "young" writers.  Now, you would think this would be easy, since I was one once and I also homeschool four kids who are all, in some sense, young writers.  But what we do during the day in school has more to do with grammar than creative writing.  (Which reminded me how much I would like to incorporate creative writing into our curriculum this year...but that's another post for another blog.)  So this was a bit more of a challenge than I'd expected.

Here's a little taste of what I came up with:

All my kids are writers—well, all the ones over the age of 10.  There’s something about being young and exerting your personal power through words that resonates with a bright, creative soul.  Our oldest crafted realistic fiction peopled with her friends & acquaintances; her sister wrote poetry.  Our older boy wrote a fantasy fiction series set in “Dragon World.”  My younger two girls write realistic tales about young people, one in the vein of Christian fiction and the other creating screenplays for videos she acts out using her dolls and stop-motion techniques.  I can’t wait to see what my youngest two will write!
Heather has asked me to describe my own process for young writers seeking inspiration.   I’d love to help, so here are three goals I strive to meet to make a story original and entertaining.

To read the rest, please visit Heather's blog and share it!  There are many essays by other authors and reviews of books for young readers, as well as tips for writers.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and happy writing!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tips Tuesday: Books to Beat Block by Christine Locke

When I get the sensation that writer's block is about to set in, I pick any title from the reading list for the master's degree in Engaged Humanities and the Creative Life at Pacifica Graduate Institute.  The Institute offers many courses on the work of Joseph Campbell, and they often include his books in their reading assignments.

I was disappointed to see the reading list is no longer offered on their website.  Fortunately, I had already printed a copy.  So I can share a few of my favorites with you here.  Today, I'll share an old but still inspiring one:

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
I first read this back in the 1990's when it was first published, but it was worth a re-reading last winter when I was stuck.  She's very into daily writing in journal form, which can be great for powering your way through block.  On the topic of daily writing, Cameron seems heavily influenced by Writing Down the Bones, another older collection of essays on writing and why and how we write.  I read it for the first time last February at my daughter's hospital bedside (appendicitis--she's fine now).  If you haven't already read this, you should do it now.  I have a copy on my iPad.  I'm sure it's available on kindle as well.
 
Photo Credit: Ambient Ideas/Shutterstock

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tips Tuesday: Online Caution, Blog Traffic Building by Christine Locke





I continue to be astonished by the supportive and informative atmosphere indie publishing writers create for newcomers.  I'm blessed to have found it when I did, and only wish I'd done so sooner.  However, while my enthusiasm is genuine, it's important to remember to be cautious as we put ourselves out there in order to promote our books.

1.  Here's something I did not know about until just recently: the "I can't believe you're in this video" Facebook scam.  This scam made its way around Facebook around this time last year.  I've never seen it there, but I use Facebook only for close friends and family.  Here's a pretty good description.

What's interesting is that I'm seeing this pop up on twitter, with links to Facebook.  The messages seem to come from folks with twitter profiles that make them look like writers with about a thousand followers, people who seem like one of us indies, with pictures & all (not just the egg).  I've gotten a few of these now, from (apparently) different tweeps.  I don't know if these folks wish to perpetrate a scam or if they are unfortunate enough to have had their accounts hacked and used by others for that purpose.  Either way, it's another example of the need to exercise caution online.

2.  To offset that buzz-kill, here's an example of what's great about twitter: other writers figuring out how to help each other and help themselves at the same time.  What's a great way to build blog traffic? Interview an indie author and review their books on your blog.  This is a little different from the "book blogger" sites we all so very desperately want to be reviewed on these days.  To tell you the truth, I have a feeling this may be the next big thing.  Indie writers already band together in groups to cross promote, and this is one of those promotion efforts that rings true rather than coming across as endless "buy-my-book" tweeting. 

Some authors simply make a point of showcasing other indie authors with an interesting interview, but I love it when the blogger reads the book and includes a review.  There's something about a fellow author explaining why they like a book that is powerfully genuine.  Here are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about: blogs by Rebecca Scarberry @scarberryfields, LeeAnne Dyke , and Heather Sutherlin @HeatherSutherli.

Hope you've found something helpful here; I'm off to get back to work--happy writing!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday by Christine Locke



Elena Elisseeva/shutterstock
 As I finish up the sequel to Open Door, I'm remembering the first chapter of that novel, which was actually the last chapter I wrote.  I started the novel with the conversation between Carin and her mother, but feedback from my beta readers let me know the story's spooky description required a more scary, atmospheric introduction.  Thus, we have Matthew entering Mallace Mansion at night, in the cold, in chapter one:

Now, on the veranda, Matthew faced an unprecedented puzzle.  He shook himself again, warding off an odd but familiar sensation, stronger now than he had ever known it to be.  He breathed the uncharacteristically cold December air.  The still freeze had already begun; icy air crept right through his jacket and up the hems of his trousers. Yet he hesitated, not lifting a hand to the knocker.  Matthew stood before an open door.

I'm so grateful to my readers/editors; they help raise my writing to a much higher standard.
How's your writing going this week?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What's Your Favorite Decade for Your Story's Setting? by Christine Locke


Twitter friend @SeanCampbell got me thinking about this with a wistful little tweet today.  My response ("The 80s were AWEsome!") was unthinking.  Then I remembered something: the eighties really are awesome--for writers.  Here's why:

The eighties were modern, but not super-connected.
It's fun when stories play with our hyper-aware information age.  Watching the gals on "Pretty Little Liars" get synchronized texts from the diabolical "A" is an unparalleled thrill.  Yet, there was a magic to waiting by the phone for a call, an agony to the forgotten phone number, and a dread longing for the random "run in" with that high school nemesis that my children will never understand.  They've got Facebook and Foursquare; we had word of mouth and force of habit.  Writers get to remember--and build suspense around--how it used to feel to WAIT for information, for the next move, for the next glimpse of your true love.

The eighties took themselves way too seriously and not seriously enough.
There is so much material here for writers, it's unreal.  Let me take perhaps the lightest and least serious topic that comes to mind: eighties fashion.  You could write whole comedy bits on what we thought was "good hair" alone, not to mention shoulder pads and earrings so large they deformed our ears (although I think those are making a comeback).  It took major time and effort to get that hair 'way up there--take it from one who knows--but did we ever consider what our kids would think of those Polaroids?  Heck, no!  There's lots to play with here for the writer: humor in the lack of foresight--tragedy, too

The eighties may have been the last decade in human history when isolation was truly possible--baring dystopia or disaster.
This is why I set my story, Open Door, in the eighties.  Well, it's one of many reasons.  If the bad guy cut your phone line and drained your fuel tank, you were screwed.  Easy-peasy.  Set your story in the not-so-distant past, and you can isolate those hapless characters faster than the Pevensies get booted off to Uncle's country house.  And then...and THEN...your story can play out with no distractions, nothing but the words, looks, mannerisms we writers so love to observe, steal, toy with and employ to our own ends.  And THAT is why, for me, the eighties ARE awesome!

What's your favorite decade for story settings?
Happy Writing!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tips Tuesday by Christine Locke



Dariush M./shutterstock
 Since I've sworn off directly using my twitter account to market my novel, I'm coming up with some creative alternatives.  I'm certainly not the first to think of these.  Others have had some luck, and I will let you know how my attempts go.  Here are two things I'm trying out this week:

1.  Blogging in character: Carin at Mallace Mansion

I'm going to blog Carin's journal.  In my book, every woman who inherits Mallace Estate keeps  a journal.  These journals are not just for her personal reference.  They serve as guides and histories for future generations.  Since we already know at the end of Open Door that Carin will have a journal, it seems like a good project for a blog.


2.  Tweeting in character: @CarinsGriffin

And that leaves Griffin, the noble young man who loves Carin but has not entirely won her at the end of Open Door.  Griffin will be tweeting their story from the beginning--but from his point of view.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tips Tuesday by Christine Locke

Very short post this time, I know, but I have picked up a few worthwhile tidbits this week:

1.  Catherine, Caffeinated

Have you seen this bog?  It's full of excellent "self-printing" advice from an indie writer who doesn't like ebooks and is not afraid to admit it.  Here's a link to all her posts about self-publishing.  Wow!  What a treasure trove!

2.  Paragraphic Designs

These are gorgeous, premade book covers.  Truly some of the most beautiful I've seen.

3.  Wattpad

Have you joined this site yet?  It sounds like a great place to share writing for the YA crowd.  However, if you just need a quick cover to post somewhere like Wattpad or Open Salon, one of the "clubs" to check out is The Book Cover Club.  I linked to an entry there, "Very Basic Bookcovers" --SO helpful if you've never had to figure out how to make a "cover" from a photo.

Happy Writing!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why I will not sell my novel on twitter (or Facebook) by Christine Locke

My twitter feed has become a most strange place.  I wish I could say it was fantastically strange, or weirdly strange, or any other such cursed adverb (you do know that adverbs are cursed, right?) which I might find inspiring.

My twitter feed is for advertising now.  And I'm ashamed to say I added to that endless infomercial.  Now, don't get me wrong: I LOVE and appreciate the company of my fellow writers.  I will not be "unfollowing" anyone who tweets their book.  But I won't be tweeting mine.  Anymore.

I realized the other day just how silly I was.  Here I am, the author of a novel that is perfect for a 14-year-old (or so) girl, tweeting various forms of "buy it!" to people who are...not 14.  Most of my twitter friends are maybe my age, maybe older, maybe younger.  I think I have some of my target audience in there (I sure hope I do!  I really want their perspective!), but I don't think any real 14-year-olds are going to buy my book from a tweet.  If they are on twitter at all.

So, I'm going to tweet about writing. I'm going to tweet about teens I find inspiring.  I'm going to tweet about the Olympics.  But I'm not going to tweet about my book unless I'm asking your advice or venting my author-ly frustrations.  I'll tweet a little to say I've finally finished the new book (when I do...oh, golly...IF I do...), or I'll tweet if I'm giving one away--maybe.  Not even sure about that.

The upshot is this: I'm looking for interaction, not a transaction.

Same goes, all of the above, for Facebook--oh, except I am "friends" with teen girls there.  I'm friends with their mamas, and I guantee they are NOT going to buy my ebook because I used social media to heckle their babies about it. 

So, no matter how tempted I might be, no matter how badly my fingers itch when I watch my amazon rank fall 50,000 places in one day, no matter...I WILL NOT TRY TO SELL MY BOOK ON TWITTER.  Now I'm going to go write that 500 times.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tips Tuesday: Changing Your KDP Details, Author Central Foreign Pages & Kindlegraph by Christine Locke

1.  Did you know you need separate author pages on amazon for the UK, France and Germany?  I didn't!  The "Congratulations!" email that KDP sends you when you first publish with them details this, but you have to scroll down to see these links when you read the email on a cell phone (as I did), so I missed them.  Here are the links to set up your foreign author pages:
https://authorcentral.amazon.de/gp/landing
https://authorcentral.amazon.fr/gp/landing
https://authorcentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/landing



2.  If you cannot change your book's description on KDP, if you have tried to change your book's information without success, if it seems that amazon will not update your book's details, then try doing it through your Author Central account.  I followed KDP's instructions four times with no results until KDP Customer Service said that because I had entered my book's description through Author Central, I would have to make future changes there.  I love KDP and I have long been a fan of amazon.  One tiny change I would recommend that they make, however, is please tell those of us with Author Central pages that we have to make our changes there!



3.  Kindlegraph allows you to digitally autograph books for your kindle readers!  Their introductory video clearly explains the process, and it is very easy to enroll your book.  I've always thought it's a little sad not to be able to ask an author to sign their ebook, and now we can!  You can either use a signature in the sites cursive-looking font, or use your mouse to create and save your own.  We already have virtual book tours through blogs.  This opens up possibilities for virtual book signings....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday by Christine Locke


An idea from a cool site I plan to join: http://www.sixsunday.com/
It's time for another Six Sentence Sunday.  Hope you enjoy these from Open Door, available now on amazon.  Feel free to join up and post six sentences of your own in the comments!  Back to work on the sequel for me....


"...As the tears fell to the table Carin knew more questions stemming from the fear she never named.  Her mother’s unusual actions and notions did not matter, she always told herself, because after all they were safe and happy together.  But they were not together now, and they were neither of them happy.  For the first time in her young life Carin believed she might not be safe.  What led them to this point?  Was her mother reacting to true, living threats in the world around them?"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tips Tuesday: Writing with the Kids Around by Christine Locke

Are you a parent and a writer?  Is your writing still "part-time" or "on the side," in other words, not supported by day care?  If so, how do you find time to write?  Having older children (beta readers!) can be a blessing to a writer of young adult fiction, but what about little ones who still need so much attention?

I started Open Door early in my last pregnancy.  After my daughter, above, was born, there was just no time for writing.  I became terribly discouraged.  Would I ever finish?  Would I still have the same passion for the story when/if I could return to it?

The answer to both questions was yes, but finishing that novel took a little more creative planning than I originally expected.  Here are a few tricks I've learned for writing with (young) kids in the house:

1.  It sounds overly simple, but make a game out of your household chores.  My baby likes to pretend to vacuum with the Swiffer wand while I mop the floors.  She also loves to "help" unload and load the dishwasher.  Having an 18 month old help me makes the chores a little harder to do, but at least I am doing them while she is awake.  And she is having fun being my "big" girl.  My son, 6, can take part on a different level.  He is capable of a whole new range of independent tasks, and he is proud of being asked to do things that his little sister cannot yet accomplish.

2.  A light touch does it with online presence.  Thanks to the miracle of smart phones, I can follow back the real people who are gracious enough to follow me on twitter with just a moment's attention.  I can also do some courtesy retweets, responses, and original tweets without spending an hour at my laptop.  The same goes for Facebook posts and email monitoring.  The key is to take care of these things during downtime--waiting for the coffee to brew or sitting outside my preteen daughter's dance studio.

3.  Think about your story before it's time to write.  I have learned the value of the story summary and outline.  I used to think that truly creative writing should be more free-form, and that may be true.  However, I just won't get a coherent first draft without the summary and outline.  When I have the short summary and outline in place, I will even write a list of scene descriptions.  I do use my precious writing time to do this important pre-work, and it helps the process later on.  But once you have these steps and while you are in the process of writing the story, think about it during the day.  Tell you kids about it, even--the point here is to already have ideas swirling around your mind when you do get that chance to sit down with your ms in progress.

4.  Ask for help.  My husband and I found that in the evening after dinner, he can watch a family movie with the kids while I escape to the office to write.  I'm back in time for bedtime prayers and kisses, and he gets some quality time with all the children, including the (pre) teens.  If this is not a good option for you, do you have a friend or neighbor who is also a writer or is starting a home business who might trade with you for a couple of hours of young child care?

5.  This is the MOST important, and hardest, step for me: when you have time, WRITE!!  If you stay home with kids and they are napping, WRITE!!  (You already did the chores and monitored your online stuff, so no excuses!)  If you've gotten a precious hour with the help of friend or neighbor or spouse, WRITE!!  If you cannot sleep at night and you're going to be awake anyway, WRITE!!  This is, hands down, the absolute biggest challenge for me personally.  There are so many other activities that seem so important.  But I finished a book that is now getting 5 star reviews by forcing myself to write, write, write, whenever those free moments came.  It's still tough, but now that I've done it once, I know I can do it again.

How do you find time to write with young children?  I'd love to hear your tips and thoughts!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday by Christine Locke

Here's a new idea from a friend: six sentence Sunday.  I'll share a brief (guess how long?) excerpt from my first novel, Open Door, as a quick break from my writing streak (almost 1200 words so far today!).  I hope you enjoy it, but it will have the added benefit of reminding me that I have managed to finish one of these projects before...have fun!


"'...Come to them when they are together in this house.  I invite you.  Anne Mallace'
            Matthew called the doctor and closed up the mansion.  He filed papers and made certain inquiries.  Always, in the months that followed, Matthew Thomas kept the final words of Anne Mallace in the breast pocket of his suit.  Through all that would happen, he pondered her requests, and he watched."
Back to the grind for me.  I'm hoping to have the second novel, In Time, out before my children need to get back to school.

Thanks to fellow writer and blogger, Susan Buchanan, for the idea!

Mystery, murder & magic, oh my! by Christine Locke

Joseph Campbell said that if we don't understand the meaning of our cultural symbols, we are doomed to a shallow existence, "like diners going into a restaurant and eating the menu." I always thought the smartest thing anyone other than J. K. Rowling ever said about Harry Potter was that the series is "the greatest evangelistic opportunity the [Christian] church has missed." The reaction of some Christians to Harry Potter is an example of Joseph Campbell's warning, probably the best example I have ever seen.  These two ideas intertwine in my mind whenever someone asks me how I can be a Christian and write about magic, ghosts, and violence.

When writing a work of fiction, symbols are employed.  This is true even when we experience realistic fiction, like, say, a western in which the good guy wears a white hat and the bad guy a black one.  The ability to understand the action of the story depends in part on the ability to process the symbols .  You can watch the whole western and figure out that the guy in the white hat is the one that ought to win, but if you understand symbols employed by the author (because they are symbols frequently employed by that author's culture), you don't need to do that.  You can tune in to the final showdown and pretty much get the point: "Ah! guy in the white hat--brings order to disorder, defends honor and honesty, stands up for the little guy, ought to win!"

Now, does this mean that in our actual life, we think all the good guys and gals need to wear white hats?  Do we send our soldiers to war wearing white wide-brimmed headgear?  Even the suggestion brings a chuckle and a note of concern since, after all, doing so would make our good guys an easy target.  Which speaks to the complexity of "real" life which we can avoid partially in a novel.  In a story, we get to delineate good from bad to the extent that we wish; it's refreshing to do so.  In real life, there are so many shades of grey, even when we try to minimize them.  We have to camouflage our soldiers though we whole-heartedly believe they are on the side of good.  Not to do so puts them in harm's way. 

I can write about ghosts and magic in fiction because the story is not real.  It's not meant to be real.  It's not even meant to be realistic fiction.  I'm employing symbols when I write about magic, or ghosts, or even depictions of violence.  There are many things we experience every day that seem magical, that fill us with a sense of confusion and uncertainty and awe, maybe fear or joy or wonder.  Take, for example, the subject I'm currently exploring with the Legacy series.  My daughters are growing up, entering their teens.  Soon they will be young women.  But there's a part of me, to be honest, that expects to walk downstairs when I finish writing this and find them waking up, aged 9 and 7, asking me what to wear to school today and needing me to comb their hair.  When my child hugs me and has to lean down to do so, I am filled with wonder and sadness.  How can this be so?  Wasn't she just small enough that I could take her in my arms and cradle her?  Wasn't that just yesterday?  Yet, she is beautiful now.  I am proud of what she has become, even if I don't always understand how it can happen so quickly, how her childhood has slipped away from me.  It happened so fast.  I turned around and she was grown.  It was like...magic.

And maybe there's a loved one you lost too early in your life.  I know it happened to me.  And maybe you like to think of that person watching over you, even offering you guidance.  If you believe it is wrong to hold that thought, maybe you dream about them.  Maybe in the dream they come and meet your children, tell you they are proud of you, tell you your problems aren't so bad and you will be OK.  In a work of fiction, that same idea can be represented by the ghost offering guidance, demanding certain levels of performance the way that person did when they were living, requiring something of us that we are able to give, setting them (and in the process, ourselves) free.

There are lots of possibilities for future blog posts here, but, in short, I have always let my children read the books with magic in them because sometimes it is easier to learn about the hardest things in life when we absorb them first through symbols.  I processed the death of a relative I loved very much by weeping over the passing of a magic spider, Charlotte, and I will be ever grateful to E.B. White for employing that lovely, accessible symbol for young children puzzled and terrified by death but longing to understand.  Then I fell down a rabbit hole with a friend name Alice and learned that although the world is an incomprehensible mess I must still accept responsibility for my own actions.  And there were all those trips to Narnia...of course I can write about magic.  I was never going to write about anything else.