I am pleased to announce two book signings in the Ogden Area coming up. The first is at Burch Creek Mercantile (3920 Washington Blvd) on Saturday, January 28 from 2pm-6pm. I spoke to Dennis and Robert, the owners and managers of Burch Creek and they were excited about trying something new by having an author signing in their store. They have offered other community events in conjunction with South Ogden Days and other local celebrations, but they said they have never had an author signing there. It will be fun to see how this turns out.
I’m excited because they serve some excellent sandwiches. Not to mention they also serve Farr’s Ice Cream. Stop by and see me. Pick up a copy of Moon Flower and a sundae. It will be a fun time.
The next book signing is at Hastings Books (340 E. 525 North, by the Harrisville Wal-Mart) on Saturday, February 25 from 3pm-5pm. This one was fun to arrange, mostly because when I went in to speak to Stacy, the books manager, I noticed eight copies of my first novel, Trust with a Razor, sitting on the shelf behind him. Granted, I would prefer to see the book in the hands of the customers but we’ll see if the signing there can’t help that.
I am rather excited about these signings and about the release of the Convergence Series. I am already working on the next installment.
Which leads me to a realization: I have been so wrapped up with the release of the Convergence Series that I have completely neglected posting any valuable writing advice in my blog. I hope to rectify that today.
I would like to talk about something more practical and concrete, and something that I don’t cover in my monthly classes. I want to talk about this concept of “Write what you know.”
I attended a writer’s conference a number of years ago and I spoke to a number of people that declared themselves to be “LDS authors.” This means that their primary audience is members of the LDS church living in Utah. When I asked them why they didn’t try something new, they recited this old adage. “I write what I know,” they told me.
I’m sorry, but I find this absolute crap.
I can say this because my primary focus is fantasy. I know nothing about what it is to be an elf or a dragon, and yet elves and dragons are primary characters in the Convergence Series. So does that mean that I am not writing something that I don’t know about?
No, it doesn’t.
Because writing is not about what I know now. It is about what I can learn. The reason I was able to understand the elves in my story so well was because I researched them. Yes, I know there are no such things as elves and dragons and it would be very difficult to conduct adequate research. So instead, I read about what other people wrote about them. I read several fantasy novels and read about how elves and dragons are portrayed in fantasy. That way, my depiction of an elf in a fantasy novel was consistent with the general and accepted depictions of elves. My version of a dragon is right in line with other dragons in similar stories. I did not copy characters. I gave personalities to accepted archetypes.
It took research, yes. The same research I used in my first historical novel, Trust with a Razor. This required research, obviously, since the story took place in 1933. I had to try to understand what life was like in Ogden at that time.
So, my question to those people who limit themselves because they don’t know anything else is, “Why don’t you go out and learn something new?”
Yes, I am bit on a soapbox here, but this really frustrated me. I hate to see people limiting their creativity and systematically sabotaging themselves. I asked one person at the conference why she didn’t try science fiction. She read scifi and liked scifi. So why didn’t she take her story of a conflict with a LDS bishop (a leader of an LDS congregation) and one of his parishioners and instead make the bishop the captain of a starship destined for an unknown and glorious port (turning the religious connections into unknown worlds). She became intrigued a bit, but laughed off the idea, saying that she could never do that because she was an LDS author.
So is Orson Scott Card who wrote probably THE definitive science fiction novel of the 20th Century with Ender’s Game.
My point is, don’t be afraid to try something new. Take your plotline and see how it fits in outer space. I will admit my outline for the Convergence Series did not begin in the fantasy world of Cordia. It actually began with an aborted military operation I was part of while serving in the Marines. My idea was to create a fictionalized account of those events. I had all the relevant data: the names, the dates, the personalities involved, the eye-witness accounts, even the classified information surrounding the operations. And THAT was the problem. The entire operation was considered classified and, by law, I could not disclose it in any way, including a fictionalized version. It wasn’t like people could find out everything by piecing together accounts in the newspaper, but because I was part of the operation, any retelling, fictional or otherwise, could be considered as the unlawful disclosure of classified information and I could go to jail.
Consequently, I moved the location of the events from… some undisclosed location… to Cordia, a fantasy world. The personalities changed slightly, the events changed dramatically, but the themes and motivation behind the operation remain intact. I am writing what I know… but I had to learn a bit more to make it work.
So, I will add to the saying. Write what you know… and if you don’t know it, learn it.