11/28/13
katabasis_cover_biblio

Guest Post: Joseph Brassey of Mongoliad Fame!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey everyone. As you might know, earlier this year I was commissioned by Kindle Worlds to write in the Foreworld Universe. I jumped at the chance to piggyback onto the universe of The Mongoliad. A universe already created, with an established mystique and resonance. I really enjoyed writing Kingdom of Glass, and it is still one of my favorites. Joseph Brassey was one of the original writers of The Mongoliad series, and today, he talks about his work, as part of the Writing Process blog tour.

What am I working on?
Currently, a contemporary fantasy. After three years of Foreworld Historical Fantasy, I wanted to do something off the wall, completely different, and considerably more supernatural.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a weird question for me to answer, because it’s not a type of comparative thinking that comes naturally to me. “How is your cake different from those of the other bakers?” It posits. “Is it perhaps more moist? Is it’s center perhaps full of nice, creamy chocolate? Or rampaging fire-ants?”

One should always drink *red* wine when eating Rampaging Fire-Ant Cake.

Okay that’s not a perfect analogy. I like to focus on relationships. As such my work tends to be emotion driven rather than concept-driven. I have a tone I’m going for, usually, or an image, a moment, an intersection of passions and ambitions. When you pick up something of mine, you’re more than likely to find something driven by the human element. I cannot promise explanations. I often dislike them, and can seldom conjure up ones that feel emotionally satisfying. I aim to drag my reader through the flurry of events, chasing after the mad, feverish dash of the protagonists and their motives intersecting violently with adversity. Feverishness is important to me. Good writing should induce a drug-like high in its readers, I think. Bloodshed, sex, conversation, scenery, it needs to pop. It needs to sizzle and snap. I like flashy things that go “boom.”

Please, don’t take this as an advisement to roll up my books and smoke them. That won’t do it for you. Well, it might, but you’ll probably get sick.

Why do I write what I do?
Because if I didn’t, I’d be miserable. That’s blunt and simple, but it’s probably the truest answer. The other one is that I’m fascinated by interpersonal interaction. I’m obsessed with exploring the meeting place between reality and personal narrative, where they clash, and what comes about as a consequence. A lot of writers say that it’s about being “grabbed” by an idea. They’re dead on. The idea in question can be anything. Sometimes it’s a character, sometimes it’s a circumstance, sometimes it’s a dynamic. Regardless of the catalyst, the chase has to be worth it. The process is what keeps me doing this, and its function as an outlet for my emotional/mental catharsis. If the seed isn’t robust enough to sustain that role, the idea doesn’t go anywhere.

Good writing should induce a drug-like high in its readers, I think. Bloodshed, sex, conversation, scenery, it needs to pop. It needs to sizzle and snap.

How does your writing process work?
I need clarity of thought and single-minded focus in my brain-space. Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Having a 6-month-old son has broken me of that habit, and I can shift in and out of the work-mode and the Stay-At-Home-Daddy mode as needed. What I can’t do is shift between genres or allow my brain to wander too far afield from the current work. I can only inhabit one fantastical matrix at a time, which means that it’s very hard to write more than one piece of work in a given period. Since having children, a lot of my process has changed, which has been itself a valuable learning experience because I now know that it CAN change, and that the urge to create is stronger than any inconvenience or reshuffling of priorities. These are the things that have stayed constant:

Sometimes writing feels like this.

Writing functions as the mental counterpart to intense exercise in my life (I am a fitness freak): It’s a violent, explosively cathartic, exhausting mental gymnasium where I work my brain and emotions until settled. I let myself slide into a mental state appropriate to the scene. Mood music can help, but it isn’t strictly necessary. On the bad days it’s like chipping away at a chunk of marble with a shovel. It will never be done. I will never find the beautiful face underneath. I chip away anyway. On the good days, it’s fever-pitch, dream-like. I plough through, feel every punch and find myself gritting my teeth with the protagonists, mouthing their lines, experiencing the rush of their story like a physical high. The technical detail of the process is actually hard for me to describe here, because the act of creating for me is less a set of technical specifications and plans and more a matter of balling up my emotional fists and screaming “FUCKING DO IT!” Before repeatedly loosing a savage hail of blows at a hapless page. The steel sings. The eyes burn. Sometimes the hands shake and I feel light-headed. It can be like winning a good fight: A blur of controlled, focused chaos that leaves you with bruises, but feeling like a God. It’s not always a healthy feeling. It is not hard to imagine someone developing a massive ego after doing this for a long time. Coming back down to earth is important.

 The steel sings. The eyes burn. Sometimes the hands shake and I feel light-headed.

I can’t write to please someone else. It has to be for me. I often read what people are talking about in terms of fictional themes, underlying messages, the importance of symbolism, and sometimes those discussions spark something that has me running off into the proverbial woods again, but it’s still fundamentally for me, a means to explore something that’s eating at the back of my mind, or indulging an obsession that won’t go away, or putting my personal demons on the page so I can pound them until I feel better. Life throws a lot of crap at us. Fiction is the white room where we can go and throw it all on the wall to look at and make sense of. It’s the dream-house where our angels and demons live.

At least, that’s what it is for me.

Joseph Brassey lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, son, and two cats. In his spare time, he trains in, and teaches, medieval martial arts to members of the armed forces. He has lived on both sides of the continental United States and has worked everywhere from a local newspaper to the frameshop of a crafts store to the smoke-belching interior of a house-siding factory with questionable safety policies. His newest novel is Katabasis. Have a look!

11/23/13
JeffWheeler

Guest Post: Bestselling Fantasy Author, Jeff Wheeler

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome readers!
Today I have a wonderful treat for you. The awesome and virtuous Jeff Wheeler, father of the Muirwood epic fantasy series, has visited my blog. Jeff is a truly inspiring human, a champion of goodness, and a brilliant storyteller. And I’m honored to have him here. Please check out his blog to learn more about this hugely successful writer.

Writing is a Solitary Ritual
By Jeff Wheeler

My parents often repeated the proverb that “Insanity is hereditary – you get it from your kids.” I’m not sure if writing is a gene that is part of my DNA or a mental illness, but whatever the case may be, my teenage daughter has started down the journey of being a writer. Watching her crave feedback from friends and family members brings back a lot of memories.

What I don’t have the heart to tell her (for fear of snuffing out the spark) is that writing is very much a solitary ritual. I’ve spent many hours, sometimes driving in my car, sometimes staring out the window, living in the worlds inside my head. As I walk to the café at work, it feels like I often bump into characters from books I’ve not even written yet, asking when their turn will be to surface from my imagination onto the page. Not yet, I have to tell them. Be patient. I’m still writing Book 3 of Mirrowen. You’ll get a turn someday. Maybe after the next Muirwood trilogy is finished.

Then there is the act of writing itself. Sometimes I’m in a hotel room on a business trip. Sometimes it’s on a plane. Most of the time, it’s in my den at home, door closed, white-noise machine hushing in the background to drown out the ambient sounds that invariably distract my concentration. When I’m in the “flow” of the moment, it’s like I’m breathing words onto the page as if an unseen muse sat behind my chair whispering the next line and then the next. Though I’m totally alone yet I feel that I’m inside the world I’m creating.

As I walk to the café at work, it feels like I often bump into characters from books I’ve not even written yet, asking when their turn will be to surface from my imagination onto the page. Not yet, I have to tell them. Be patient.

Then, of course, there is the lonely editing process. Paragraph by paragraph, page by page, I pore over the manuscript, using my instincts to snip a word here or substitute one there. I do very little re-writing afterwards. Even when the comments from my editors arrive, it’s a lonely path, sifting through the proper use of English grammar that still, to this day, baffles me. I’m forever grateful for the English majors whose job it is to know the difference between who’s, whose, and whom.

Then there is the patient (or not so patient) waiting of months from the time the book is finished, edited, arranged, narrated, before my readers even get to see the first words. By then, I’m knee-deep in my next creation, teasing out the conclusion of a trilogy or crafting the plot of a new one.

This sense of aloneness was put into a new light for me. I was recently at a week-long management workshop in Portland, Oregon. Some of the guest speakers included a senior manager at my company who climbed to the top of Mt Everest. He described reaching the summit and seeing a black sky, because he was up beyond the atmosphere. It was like touching a void. Another tale came from a a woman who talked about running the switchbacks of the Grand Canyon. While these feats are done in teams and often with fellow-travelers, the journey is inherently a lonely one. These are experiences that happen not just to the body, but also inside the mind. It reminded me of my experience as a writer and how much of it is mentally pushing myself forward.

There was no crowd to cheer him, no fanfare from his many admirers who did not even know he had finished the book.

The other day, I swapped e-mails with another writer—a peer who jousts with me on the Amazon rankings. He had just finished the final book of his series. There was no crowd to cheer him, no fanfare from his many admirers who did not even know he had finished the book. It was a poignant moment, a shared sense of the solitary rituals we writers experience.

As I watch my daughter intently scribbling more words in her composition book, I have to smile. She’s just starting her journey and living inside her head.

 ~~~

Jeff Wheeler is a writer from 7-10PM on Wednesday nights. The rest of the time, he works for Intel Corporation, is a husband and the father of five kids, and a leader in his local church. He lives in Rocklin, California. When he isn’t listening to books during his commute, he is dreaming up new stories to write. His books can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Jeff-Wheeler/e/B004SBCEK6

More information about how he became a writer is found on his website:
http://www.jeff-wheeler.com/