1. a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight,amount, etc.
2. something used to produce equilibrium; counterpoise.
3. mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior,judgment, etc.
4. a state of bodily equilibrium: He lost his balance and fell down the stairs.
verb (used with object), balanced, balancing.
18. to bring to or hold in equilibrium; poise: to balance a book on one's head.
19. to arrange, adjust, or proportion the parts of symmetrically.
Source: Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/balance)
People seem to scoff at the term "resolutions" quite a bit nowadays. As if they're a joke, a trifle. But there's reasons people grip onto the idea of resolutions at the end of another year. They want to be better. And that is always an admirable goal. This is a year when I truly embraced the resolution. Not resolutions to chat about and then throw out the door as soon as the clock strikes midnight in the new year because they can't be maintained. But realistic resolutions. Ones to live by. To live a healthier existence and thus be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, editor and writer. To sleep more. To not take on SO much all at once. To find balance. These may seem like a lot, but it's really not. I believe it just requires some serenity and a few moments to take stock, slow down, and realize what should be priority.
Balance. It's a word underused and under-appreciated. And yet, there's quite a few literary thoughts on balance that don't see eye to eye:
“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.” -Anaïs Nin
(Perhaps a tad dramatic, eh? I like to think I can obtain balance and create something great without great terror or instability.)
And on the flip side, we have:
“Without balance, a life is no longer worth the effort.” -Olen Steinhauer
(Again, this one seems a bit over the top.)
Personally, my favorite is Ellen's. She's always spot-on with her observations:
“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.” -Ellen DeGeneres
Yep, right on, per the usual.
Balance can play different roles in life, but my personal imbalance comes from several years of running myself ragged trying to keep up with life's demands and ones I've put upon myself. I've suffered from guilt while writing my own books or spending time with my son or husband because I needed to do work, and I've felt guilty for working when I felt I should be devoting more time to my family. So I'm working on ridding myself of that guilt and taking on only what I can reasonably handle.
Over the years, I've found I can obtain balance best by incorporating a number of past-times and activities into my life:
-Experiences v. stuff
-Afternoons soaking in sunlight and fresh breezes (will have to wait for spring, I suppose)
As 2016 takes hold, I wish you all a balanced journey, and I will be working toward bringing a steady and guilt-free equilibrium to my world. And that includes spending more time writing what I love, connecting with readers, and finishing projects.
I was on my way home from my son's little soccer class tonight when we passed a house shining with the soft glow of the season. And lit up on the side of the house was the word "Believe."
Around this time of year belief plays a large role in movies and books—whether it surrounds believing in Santa Clause or faith—and in our interactions with our children as we strive to create one more magical Christmas where it's plausible an Elf sitting on your shelf truly flies or that Santa is truly watching.
My son has a logical little mind, and there's a part of me that thinks this might be his last Christmas believing. He asks questions and points out implausibilities on a regular basis. When asked if he thinks magic exists, he'll usually answer in the negative. But he is buying the Elf on the Shelf bit this year, at least I think he is. There's also the chance he's just playing along with Mommy's madness.
Belief recently played a role in an interaction I had with him at bed time, but this one was a little different than Santa Clause and elves. I was folding laundry while he ran around the upstairs giggling insanely as small children do when he came up to me with a blanket wrapped around his head like a bonnet and said in a high-pitched voice, "Hi, I'm Amy." I laughed and played along, although I had been surprised by his choice of names since I didn't know of anyone with the name Amy that he might know. Of course, there could be someone at school with the name, or maybe he'd heard it on TV, so I shrugged off my wonder.
A little later, after we'd read a story and had laid down to talk for a few moments before I left him for sleep, he said in the same high-pitched voice, "I'm still Amy." So I said, "Can I have [Son's name] back now?"
And his response was the catalyst for the next few minutes when he said, "[Son's name] isn't here right now."
Now, there must be at least a dozen creepy movies where a child is possessed and says something along the lines of what he had said. Of course, I just laughed and told him he was silly. He then turned to the side, whispered something, and turned to look at me announcing he was himself again with a thrilled little grin. But then he continued to turn to his side every minute or so and whisper to his new friend, "Amy." So I asked more about her, and he explained she comes from the mirror, and when I asked if she was invisible, he said, "no, she's like a ghost." He then told me she would come back through other people. Umm, like possession? I thought, feeling my skin crawl as my son wove his tale.
I have to say, that despite my rational nature and my intact skepticism, there's still a part of me that for a split second thought he was possibly talking to a ghost. I mean, I am a writer after all. Our imaginations some times get the better of us. Plus, he'd been talking about the "people in the mirror" since he was three.
Of course, I was home alone and I texted my husband our creepy little conversation, which he found hilarious. The next morning my husband asked my son about "Amy" and once again he started talking in a high-pitched voice. Then my husband took on the moniker of Christine and the two of them pranced around the family room talking like girls. It made for great entertainment while I sipped my coffee and laughed. I of course should have just asked my silly little creative boy if he was playing pretend or if he thought what he was saying was real. Because his answer the next morning was, pretend, of course! Sillier mommy.
Although only four, my son has inspired a story idea or two, something about the People in the Mirror. I feel a Middle-Grade novel in my blood, but it's still brewing alongside the developing mind of my growing son.
I DO believe that magic can exist in even the skeptic, as long as creativity is allowed to grow. So although my son may not believe in Santa Clause next year, or maybe he will, who knows, I know his imagination isn't lacking in magic.
Is YA Growing Up?
When I was in middle school the most risky, scintillating book we read covertly in the hallways and during study halls was Go Ask Alice. This book about a teenage girl who spirals into drug addiction was about much deeper issues, obviously. But I can remember reading alongside my friends passages filled with cursing and sex. It was horrifying and yet at the same time, exciting to read such gritty, dark stuff. A cursory look at Amazon shows me it's still a bestseller. But I wonder if teens have the same reaction me and my peers had back in the day, or do they possibly read it now for it's true content? Because I've noticed a shift in YA that's more mature and sexual in nature.
Back in my day when I was reading the likes of RL Stine, Christopher Pike, Richie Tankersley Cusick, and LJ Smith, the teens in those books stayed pretty clean. There were no sex scenes, nor were they ever really implied. Pike bordered a little bit more on the risky side of sex, but it was still fairly chaste. Flash forward and as a woman in my thirties, I've read a number of YA books that have sex. Take the House of Night series by Kristin and PC Cast, which even goes so far as to portray oral sex in scenes. I recently read the Goddess Test series by Aimee Carter, and while there's no sex scenes, sex is definitely happening and is heavily implied.
When I wrote Fractured Dream, the first in my epic fantasy series, I did not write directly for any age group. My intention was to just write a high fantasy adventure novel, much like the ones I'd read growing up found in the Fantasy/Sci-fi section of the book store. So when I put one sex scene in it, I assumed it would be marketed for more adult audiences even though I'd increasingly been reading YA books with sex in them.
Once it was out in the market, however, Fractured Dream began to get slotted into the YA category by readers and bloggers. And while there have been a couple of readers I've noticed who thought perhaps the sexual content was more adult than it should be in the YA genre, sex seems to be a more accepted element in YA books overall.
And yet, had I been writing with a strictly teen audience in mind, I would have left that scene out, truthfully. Even despite knowing that I read all sorts of graphic sex scenes as a young reader from books outside the YA genre. When I started writing The Reaper's Daughter I always had a YA audience in mind for it and like the books of my day, it's more Christopher Pike-ish in the sex department.
I do think the change going on in YA of today, however, is an attempt to be realistic. Teens do have sex. They deal in all sorts of situations and to portray them all as virgins or never really addressing sex between young characters is not based in reality. This shift in YA makes writing it a bit more exciting, because there can be a more gritty factor, and that's what I like to do best, write fantasy and paranormal around relationships based in a real context.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS YA GROWING UP?
Perceptions: Teen Witch
I have been redecorating my office as I mentioned in the last post. It's a very positive environment, cleaning out the old and making things new. I now have a space I enjoy, that's bright, airy, and waiting for inspiration to strike within its four walls. But as I was going through old boxes I came across an old notebook. I'm thinking it was probably from eighth grade if I remember correctly. My friend and I passed it between the two of us like a shared diary, sharing secrets and words of support. But we also shared something else. Our sour attitudes toward the clique-y school experience and our deep belief that we were witches.
Yes, I did just say we thought we were witches. Now, I know we're not alone. Many high school girls dabble in the occult, drawn to the mysterious, hoping that they'll magically and truly turn a spell. But here's the thing, looking back, I don't remember really believing we ACTUALLY thought we had some sort of power. Looking back, it seemed to me that we played with it and just hoped something cool would happen as a result.
We identified with the movie The Craft, which came out during this time. Not that we were so delusional we thought we could be them, we just had a sense that we could affect things. But I didn't REALLY believe we'd cast that love spell, or talked to that ghost on the Ouija Board, or set fire to a bush by looking at it (most likely the result of my friend tossing a lit cigarette into said bush). Or did I? All these years removed, and I truly believed I had some sort of perspective of my teen years. My perspective, as it turns out, has been completely skewed by years and growth. Because in this notebook my friend and I seriously seemed to think we had some sort of power. I read pages and pages and was enthralled by the girl that I had been. Because I could barely remember her. And I'd been thinking I was still so in touch with her.
Yet, despite all those years of perspective and reason, the older version of that girl is still in love with magic. I don't believe in soul mates anymore, it's a romantic notion I've far grown beyond, but I do believe in long-lasting love. And I know I am most likely not going to find a body of water and be sucked into a far away land, but I stick by my motto that anything is possible, especially if it would be really cool. Though if it does happen my son and my husband need to come with me.
As a result of my mystical exploration in my teen years, I write fantasy and build worlds made of magic. As a result, I still have books filled with spells, recipes for herbal remedies, and lore on the proper use for crystals. These have become the reference guides that sit on my red desk in the room of my own, newly created so that I can continue to perfect the fine art of weaving magic, mayhem, and magic together.
That red notebook went back into a box. Some years from now I hope to go back and read it and feel even more removed from that far-off, distant girl. Personal growth is good and she needed to grow. But I also hope I feel closer to her. I now realize that the distance between years really does make a difference on perspective, although one can still hold dear to the young idealist within, beliefs and dreams and hopes, and move on through time and embrace them in a new and inspiring way. Especially if you're a fantasy writer who once fancied yourself a witch.
Slices of Mommy's Life: Pirate Hearts
When I first started this blog, all I knew was that I needed a platform to showcase my scribblings and to talk about my life as a writer. I started off with essays and short stories I'd written, small slices of my life re-purposed as fiction, although not far-removed from non-fiction. But as an author, my work is in fantasy. So I balanced the two, giving myself an outlet for my creative non-fiction, while also being able to promote and wax author-like on my newest projects and releases. But I've never been a fully focused blog, other than it being about my writing or books. The thing is, though, I feel to really engage with people you have to be willing to put up more, be vulnerable—share. And that's hard for me.
The thing is, promotional items are often the easiest and fastest way to put up content. Meanwhile, I don't want to just throw up any one thing and stamp it on my blog. I don't know if anyone reading is all that interested in my day-to-day life. Some authors write about their lives and I enjoy those, but I somehow don't feel comfortable doing it myself. Probably because I am a fairly private person. I look up to the writers who reveal the nitty-gritty of their lives and are able to help people by sharing painful past experiences. I just can't do that. Again, I'm too private. I'm the person who gets irritated when someone tags me in a Facebook post about future night plans. I don't want everyone to know what I'm doing. So as much as I'd like to be the sharing type, I just somehow can't be. And I just can't write about writing all the time because as much as I love to write and it's my passion outside my family, I have other thoughts.
I guess what I'm trying to say is I've been looking for a way to share something of who I am with my readers and anyone who happens to drop by, but I haven't really known how to except by talking about fairly safe topics. I have in the past shared more moments from my life through my creative non-fiction, but inspiration for those flashes don't hit me as often as I'd like, except for my many amazing moments being a mother. I don't define myself by motherhood, but I am a mom. My son is the brightest color in my world. So while I don't want to become a literary/author blog suddenly turned mommy blog, I do feel I need to share that part of my life in some way since I'm on the threshold of becoming a stay-at-home mom. So I've decided to share Slices of My Mommy Life, a feature that will be my creative flare on moments shared with my son and my family. The first one is short and sweet, but I hope you'll feel I've aptly shares something of my human self.
Slices of Mommy's Life
He pointed to the old Valentine's Day card from earlier this year that he’d kept in his toy box like a cherished keepsake. I'd chosen the card specifically because his curious little fingers loved lift-the-flap books and the hidden secrets buried beneath. He lifted one paper square, tapping his fingers on the pirates holding pink and red glittery hearts. “Hearts?” he said, his soft, sweet little voice leaving off the “t" as he often did.
"Hearts," I confirmed, glancing over at him sitting beside me on the couch. I stopped working for a moment, putting my laptop aside, and touched the card too, tracing the outline of a small heart with my fingertip. “You’re Mommy’s heart,” I said without much thought, but as the words left my mouth I knew them to be some of the truest words I’d ever spoken.
“Mommy’s heart?” he asked, looking up at me and nestling closer, my lips drawn to his soft, plush little cheek by the serious set to his brow and the inquisitiveness sparkling in his large blue eyes.
“Mommy’s heart,” I whispered and squeezed him that much closer, knowing that while the sentiment was probably lost on him verbally, he'd understood it all the same.
Finishing The Reaper's Daughter
This announcement is long overdue, but I finished the first draft of The Reaper's Daughter at the start of September. I absolutely can't wait to release it, and without totally having confirmed this yet with my
publisher, I'm hoping for a mid-January release. My cover is already complete as well, so that reveal will hopefully be coming soon.
I absolutely love this book, and yet, after spending eight years on writing Fractured Dream and only one on the rough draft of The Reaper's Daughter, is it strange it felt almost anti-climatic? I almost feel as if I cheated. It's more average sized as far as books go, while Fractured Dream is a bit longer. So perhaps that's it. I poured just as much love into this one, but it felt easier to write somehow. The common saying among authors is that the first book is always the hardest and I wholeheartedly agree. Perhaps it's the motivation I possessed writing the second one, it was so much more intense after finally finishing one book. I'm an actual author now, my inner self screams in delight, and the urge to continue weaving all the stories crowding my head make my
fingers go crazy on the keyboard as the "beast-creature ideas," as Ray Bradbury put it, demand to be let out.
I also have an urge to return to the world I built in The Dreamer Saga, to continue Story's story (ha ha). It's definitely a different experience soaring through a book in such a short period of time after toiling away for years with people questioning whether you'd ever actually finish the book. Then wondering if anyone would publish it, should I go indie? Traditional? Self-publish? But here I am a year later with a published book and a publisher behind me and a second book almost ready to go, but the beast-creatures in my head haven't had
their stories completed yet and so to the keyboard I return, a mad woman with a mission: to tell stories.
So here's to getting a book blurb for The Reaper's Daughter soon so that I can share with anyone who likes my writing or is intrigued by the title of this book and what it's about. Stay Tuned for more details.
Never burn your apron.
I've been so busy I've been hard-pressed to get a blog up this week, so I thought I'd run an oldie. I love this essay, or rant, whichever you want to call it. I first ran it in 2012, but I think I actually wrote it in 2007. At any rate, when I posted it a couple of years ago I actually landed a radio interview with these guys who like people who rant. You can check it out here. In the meantime, check out this ode and rant to the restaurant industry.
Never Burn Your Apron
I know you’ve thought about it. I have. But five, 10, 20 years from now, I’m betting if you need it, you don’t have the money to go out and buy another one.
When my little sister was 17, I got her a job as a hostess. Elated that I got to work with her, I thought we would be able to gossip and hangout together even more. She would know who I was talking about when I mentioned Sam, the dreamy bartender who my sister decided upon meeting was a player. It turns out she was right.
In my fantasies, we were this amazingly fun duo. We would party all night and later trade drunken tales of the same nighttime adventure, filling in each other’s missing pieces. But as it turns out, she’s not much a of a people person, she doesn’t have much of a taste for alcohol and she absolutely hated smiling when she didn’t feel like it. In fact, she preferred bussing tables to seating them. Even though she would be covered in other people’s leftover filth, at least she didn’t have to trade false pleasantries.
On her last day, two months, two days and 16 hours after she first started, she celebrated her release from the gallows of the food industry by tossing her white polo shirt into a campfire. She watched as the restaurant’s emblem was slowly consumed, thread by thread, while the hungry yellow flames gorged on the fabric, much like restaurant patrons gorged themselves on salads — thinking it was still healthy despite pounds of dressing.
She did what I’ve always wanted to do. No matter how many times I heard a relative, a friend or a parent say: “It’s a skill you’ll always have to fall back on,” I never believed it. Or I just didn't want to.
At the end of the day, you may have money in hand but you have endured slights and degradation. You smell like food and grease; it’s not only on your clothes but it seeps into your pores. Even after you shower, it clings. I once dated a guy who worked in the kitchen of an Italian restaurant. Despite showering and dowsing cologne on himself, he always managed to smell like food. Years later, I think of him whenever I smell a whiff of Italian food and grease.
After 12 hours of being on my feet, I can no longer feel them or they hurt so much I walk around claiming to everyone who is near that I’m the Little Mermaid – and not Disney’s happy version. This is the Hans Christian Anderson version, where with every step she takes, it feels like she’s walking on broken glass.
I may have eaten the buffalo chicken sandwich with fries, but I’m not worried about getting fat. That period between 5 and 9, when I had 10 tables who didn’t think that maybe it would be courteous to say, “Yes, a refill would be nice,” when I asked the first time, had burned those calories. No, these people wait until I’ve come back with their dining partner’s drink and then say, “You know what, maybe I will take a refill.” Nevermind the seven other tables with double the eyes, looking at me expectantly for their food or check.
Or my personal favorite is when I walk up to a table and say: “Hi, my name is Katri-“
“I’ll take a coke,” says the gentleman in his business suit, promptly cutting me off. My smiles tightens, I bite my tongue. Hi to you too, I think. My imagination slips away into a world where I tell him to kiss my ass and to get his own damn coke. But that’s in a perfect world.
Or even better I walk up to a table and say, “Hi. How are you doing today?” But instead of a greeting in return, the two people talking back and forth continue their conversation as if I don’t exist. They don’t look at me, they don’t say hi, or pause in their conversation even. Ten seconds, 20, 50. A minute can seem like a very long time when you’re the elephant in the room and the only one that realizes it. I either stick around until they get some manners and say hi, or I run to the bathroom or to a fellow co-worker to make sure I’m still visible. Am I suddenly Patrick Swayze in “Ghost?” I wave my hand back and forth in front of my face. I can still see it. I turn to the skinny little new girl with the extra tight shirt and the cleavage busting out from the-obviously-not regulation shirt.
“Umm. Did you deliver food to table 45?” I ask breathlessly.
She looks at me with her large, heavily made-up eyes like a 17-year-old struck dumb on her first day on the job. “Where’s table 45?” she asks.
“That one,” I point efficiently and turn.
Hallelujah, I’m alive. Time to return to those people who don’t have any manners.
Now, as I approach the table they’re looking through the menu, quiet, subdued. Could they have possibly realized as their server ran away, that they had been impolite? One of the ladies’ looks at me, “Hi!” she says.
My smile, when it comes, hurts. I am a pro at smiling when I don’t feel it. That’s why I’m good at this job. I have been able to fool my friends, family and lovers for years. Surely, I can fool perfect strangers into giving me their money. It’s not too hard. But I’ll need some sugar when I’m through to counteract the bitters.
“Hi,” I respond. They do not get the pleasure of my name.
At the end, they’ll leave me a decent tip because they realize, if not in some vague, sort of offhanded way, that I am also a human being. God made us all equal did he? I am surely superior because I actually know what that means. Me, the lowly waitress.
Servers, more than bartenders, are bitter. There is a big ‘ol chip on our shoulder that ain’t growing back. Why? Well, there’s a certain culture in the restaurant and the position one holds is equivalent to a social class. As a bartender, you’re more respected. It’s seen as a more prestigious job, a skill. In addition, bar guests tend to be more laid back, they’re chilling, having a drink. Or else they’re regulars, and naturally, you’re then their best friend. Cha-ching.
Servers, on the other hand, are often treated as if they’re hard of hearing or just too daft to understand the difference between medium rare and well done. What the customer doesn’t realize is that the server has little control over what happens to the food once the order goes in. We can bitch all we like, but if the kitchen is backed up, yelling at the cooks just makes them take longer and do a worse job than they’re already doing.
Once when I worked at a diner chain, there was a cook named Wayne. He used to smoke cigarettes while he fried the food; his grease-stained white t-shirt barely covering his gut, thinning hair covered up by a trucker’s baseball-style cap. He was a complete cliché, but the literal truth. Despite all that, he could be all right some of the time, but when he was pissed at the servers, they better beware. He used to put the plates right down on the flat top grill and let them sit there until they were nice and hot, then he’d throw the food on them. If you didn’t already know better, you’d grab the plate and let out a shriek as you felt your skin sizzle. The bastard would be flicking his ashes on the floor and hiding a smirk behind his stringy brown mustache.
This is what I think of as I fold the freshly washed apron. Despite the sounds and smells of summer that waft in through the open window, my hand shakes with the memories — shakes with a pyromaniac urge. But I stay my hand. This apron has scars. It has been my constant companion when there was no one else. My story is entwined with the apron. To burn it, I know, would be foolhardy, and I’ve come too far for that. Instead, the apron sits deep in a drawer, waiting for when it is needed. I hope that day never comes.
Blog Hop: Writers on Writing
A fellow author from Booktrope asked some of us lady authors to join a blog hop, which I've never really done before. So I thought it would be fun! The following questions are on writing, so if you're interested in where I write, how names are chosen, reading reviews and that sort of thing, read on. Thank you to Tiffany Pitts, author of Double Blind, for letting me be a part of the hop! Additional thanks to Arleen Williams, author of Running Secrets and Biking Uphill for introducing me on her blog.
Where do you like to write?
I have my own office but I spend all day in it working as an editor for an online publication so when it's time to let my creative juices flow I usually end up on my couch in my living room or family room. Although, I do find that when I'm getting tired if I go up to my office at the end of the night I can usually sneak in another hour. Something about the room just wakes me up. I think it's because I already work within the space, so the energy is different, more caffeinated.
Which part of researching your current novel was most interesting?
Well, I'm almost done writing the first draft of my work-in-progress, so I usually save a lot of research and filling in for the second draft. But I had to do some research for the overall characters and it's definitely been the mythology. Death-based mythology to be specific. The book, a paranormal young adult novel called The Reaper's Daughter, threads various death deities within the storyline, and it's been fun learning about the way Death takes shape within different countries and cultures.
How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose them?
I just wrote a guest post on this that's going up soon and will be more in-depth, but names mean a lot to me. The main character in my recently released novel Fractured Dream is named Story Sparks. But in the eight years it took me to write the book, she was only Story for the last year or so. I always knew the name she had previously wasn't the one, and it took a lot of searching and thinking about it until I came up with THE ONE. And it really was perfect for the story once I found it. I search for names that have meaning, names that fit the character's personality or the theme of the book. If I'm not doing that, I'll often find a name I just love if it seems to fit the character. But if the name doesn't fit I don't feel at one with my character, so it's definitely a big part of my writing.
Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to the bad reviews (if you get them)?
I'm a newbie as authors go, with my first book only having been released this past June. So I read reviews and was fairly obsessed with them in the beginning. The awesome reviews are just that: awesome and amazing and wonderful. I'm realizing everyone gets a bad review eventually. Reading is such a subjective experience; what one person might love another person may hate. Any negative reviews have made me more aware of where other people in the market are at, what they like and dislike. And while I'd never change the story in my head to make a minority happy, it is eye opening and it's good to have this awareness as I near finishing up my second book.
What are your favorite books to give as gifts?
I love to give Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, anything by Alice Hoffman and Annie Dillard and of course, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I also just like to tell people about this book or that book I read and get them to try it as well.
That's all folks! Check out the next author taking part in the blog hop!
Melissa Thayer, author of The Stories We Don't Tell
Sin City native Melissa Thayer writes fiction that touches upon the timeless truths of the human condition in poignant and thought-provoking ways. She enjoys writing about people and connecting readers with her characters.
She currently lives in Washington with her husband, daughter, and three cats.
THE STORIES WE DON'T TELL is her debut novel.
A friend of mine and I were recently talking about the launch of my debut novel, Fractured Dream. He went on to say that he's never known an author before and began to reminisce:
"I always blanched at my English teachers who talked about symbolism and shite in One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest or Slaughterhouse Five or the Great Gatsby or the Catcher in the Rye. Now I can actually ask the author, what did you mean by that, and you can say, nothing, nothing at all."
He has a point. I remember college discussions breaking down piece by piece various authors and their books. What did they mean by that? What did this object in this scene convey? What did it represent? I took a class, titled Witchcraft, when I was probably in my second year. It was an honors class in which we learned about the European witch trials as well as the original fairytales. And I remember thinking as we discussed phallic symbols (and there were a lot of them), did the writer really mean to pepper their prose with penis-shaped objects or clouds, or what have you, to symbolize masochism? Was there really a thought process behind it all? There very well could have been, but it does seem as if the readers and thinkers who came later perhaps pushed agendas onto whole pargraphs that were merely meant to be description or backdrop to the setting of a scene.
My friend continued to note how he'd gotten into an argument with a teacher in high school over a scene where Randle Patrick McMurphy, the main character in One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest, flicked a low hanging Halloween decoration of a bat with his fingers. and she told his class it symbolized evil and his aversion to it. My friend's comment: "And I'm like wait, 'I see a low hanging something anywhere and I just hit it for no reason. Isn't it possible that it symbolizes nothing?' She would have none of it."
This is not to say that writers don't have agendas, because they most definitely do. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe are just two examples of literature that was also a social commentary on the inhumane treatment of fellow human beings. And these novels helped to change the world. Even fantasy can have overarching elements. I've read before that JRR Tokien's The Lord of The Rings was influenced in part by his dislike of industrialism.
But, sometimes description is just that. Description. I write fantasy, so first and foremost, I write for entertainment, to give people the mode to escape by discovering new worlds, by allowing people to revel in the magic of a new reality. That's not to say there aren't underlying themes, which if you paid enough attention to you could catch: class/racism, environmentalism, religion, cosmology and of course, loyalty, self-discovery, sacrifice, taking responsibility for one's actions and love. I also often assign names to my characters that gives some insight to their personality or inner nature, and in doing so giving more meaning to their presence within the book.
Indeed, context and depth are important elements in my writing. But the rock, Story, my main character, picks up to skip across the water while lost in thought? It's just a rock. And that bat was probably just a bat.
A fellow author and friend gives some insights into the use of symbolism in her own writing. She notes that although she believes a lot of times it happens on a subconscious level, using symbolism can also be a great writing tool. Check it out here at Thayer's Grey Matter.
I can't believe the day is almost here when I'll finally get to see my book on sale and in print. In three days, on Saturday, Fractured Dream (The Dreamer Saga) will go live. But I think it will be most real for me when I hold it in my hands.
Thank you to everyone that helped me get here, and to all those reviewers out there giving my book a presence. Saturday is a day to celebrate, not only it is my son's third birthday, but it's the birth of my book on the market.
Nine years ago the seed of an idea was planted in my head. It took me eight years to finish it, and now almost nine to see the idea come to fruition into a published book. And now it's here. But my desire to be a published author has always existed, from the first scribblings of poetry when I was six, in my hunger for reading, and for the many books begun but never finished. It's been a long journey, and it's not done yet. I've got two more books in this series and another book I'm working on right now, with many more stories knocking around in my head. This time it won't take me eight years. And I can't wait to give them all life. Thanks again to everyone and also to my current and future readers. Those who would criticize reading as a way to escape must never have experienced the beauty of finding comfort, enjoyment and solace in being taken away by an incredible story. Who doesn't need to escape once in a while? Reading is by far one of the most healthy forms of escapism. I I hope I can do for my readers what so many writers have done for me, which is to allow me to escape to new worlds and ideas.
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.