Once again, and gratefully, I’m sharing excellent writing advice from author Connie J. Jasperson. It’s very timely. I’m about to settle down, first, as a beta reader for a writer-friend’s work-in-progress, and then to make final (I hope) edits to my own WIP, Waterspell Book 4. Connie’s advice on how to show characters’ emotional states will be fresh in my mind as I undertake to help both my friend and myself Do Our Jobs Better.
Most authors who have been in writing groups for any length of time become adept at writing emotions on a surface level. We bandage our wounded egos and work at showing our characters’ inner demons. We spend hours writing and rewriting, forcing words into facial expressions. Happiness, anger, spite – all the emotions get a […]
Here’s excellent writing advice from author Connie J. Jasperson. I’m pleased to reblog her post, as follows, and I invite you to follow Connie at conniejjasperson.com.
You have probably heard of the literary rule known as Chekhov’s Gun, which says nothing should appear in the scene that has no use. If a rifle is important enough to be shown hanging on the wall, someone had better fire it, or it should be removed from the setting. Firing Chekhov’s gun brings us […]
My next steps include looking into the usefulness of these things:
• The Fussy Librarian
• Blog tours
• Goodreads Giveaways
• Amazon advertising
• Written Word Media
I know who I’ll ask for new reviews to augment the glowing reviews that Waterspell received upon the books’ initial publication. The circle I move in, these days, is much changed from the social circle that I knew before my husband’s death in 2012. Now, I number among my friends many anti-fascist activists, folks I got to know after November 2016. Most of them didn’t even know I was a many-times published author; it wasn’t what drew us together. Now, gradually, I’m revealing my past life and enlisting the support of those who are willing to help me recover something of it.
Am I dreaming, thinking I can relaunch a 10-year-old fantasy series? Possibly. But I’m making final edits to Waterspell Book 4, preparing for a 2022 release. And the audiobooks are slowly coming together, after my wonderfully talented narrator endured a major upheaval in his own world. It took him away from the work for six months—disruptive, yes, but not as damaging to a career as was my own dark, nine-year period of grief and neglect. If nothing else goes too badly wrong, the audiobooks should be released in 2022, along with Book 4.
I’m thinking those two events could be and should be enough to spark new interest in the original trilogy. If I will get out there and promote, dammit. It’s no secret that promotion takes money, and I’m prepared to pay, within reason, for advertising. Here’s what I plan for my first sponsored Facebook post:
“Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Charlotte Brontë.” From award-winning author Deborah J. Lightfoot, an unforgettable epic fantasy that readers call “extraordinary, enthralling, completely unpredictable.” Think “Jane Eyre meets a sorcerer.” Coming in 2022, Book 4 of Waterspell will complete the series. Print & ebooks available. Audiobooks in progress. www.waterspell.net
Amazon advertising and BookBub being completely new to me, I’ll need to discover how they may or may not fit into the budget. But at least I’ve got a little ready cash to spend on a new promotional push. The 2020 Pandemic Year not only gave me time and opportunity to pursue audiobooks and to write Book 4, it saved me money. I went nowhere and cooked meals at home. Everything I didn’t spend on travel and restaurants is now earmarked for book promotion.
I hope to Drisha this plan of mine will get these four books in front of the readers who will most enjoy them. At this point, it’s readership I want—not fortune so much, just a tiny bit of fame to validate the years I’ve spent obsessing over this story of mine.
For good or ill, I mostly ignore Goodreads. The interface is maddeningly clunky. It resists all efforts to correct or update book details. The simple act of uploading a new cover creates multitudes of “new editions” which are no such thing. Edits are not saved immediately, making the person behind the editing wonder whether they stuck at all.
I write this while waiting the minimum 15 minutes to see whether the new Waterspell paperback covers got uploaded correctly (inevitably showing as “new editions,” creating a vastness of editions at Goodreads when there are, in fact, only the three editions in the real world: Paperback, Kindle, and other ebook).
The multiplied editions don’t annoy me nearly as much, however, as Goodreads’ insistence on changing the books’ titles. They are properly titled Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock, Waterspell Book 2: The Wysard, and Waterspell Book 3: The Wisewoman. In Goodreads’ infinite wisdom, however, the books are shown with their subtitles first, and the actual title—Waterspell—in parentheses. I frown at them taking such liberties with my books, but there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it.
My antipathy toward the Goodreads interface keeps me from participating widely on that platform, which undoubtedly redounds to my disadvantage. I know it’s popular with avid readers, and I should reach out to connect with fantasy fans who spend time there. But egads, Goodreads! Why in this age of technological marvels does your interface feel 20 years old? Has it grown too huge and bloated to revamp? Are we stuck forever with this wallowing mess of a website?
I think it’s been 15 minutes. Now I shall log in again and see if any of my edits stuck, or if I must try, try, try again. <sigh>
This is the best definition of “literary fantasy” I’ve come across. The definer, Emily Temple, also lists and briefly describes recommended books in the genre. Of course, I must add the Waterspell series to the list, as it closely fits her definition:
“For the purposes of this list, I am using it [the term ‘literary fantasy’] to mean works of fantasy that prioritize sentence-level craft and/or complex thematic structures, and/or that play with expectations and fantasy tropes, and/or that focus on characters and interiority as primary goals of the work. I don’t just mean ‘well-written fantasy’ or ‘literary novels that have magic in them,’ though both kinds of books can be found here. What I mean is books that relate to and pull from the conventions of both genres: fantasy and literary fiction. This means there might be dragons, and there might be a hero’s journey, and there might be some lyrical descriptions, and there might be some family conflict. There is also some crossover with SF and literary SF, of course.” —Emily Temple
I spent much of the 2021 Memorial Day weekend attending (virtually) ConQuesT 52, the annual SF and fantasy convention presented by the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. The many interesting panel discussions included Neurodiversity in Star Trek; Trials and Tribulations of Running an Interstellar Space Station; Being Creative in 2020: Building Community, Visibility, and Audience in a Virtual World; and my personal favorite, “Food in Fantasy.”
That one got me thinking about the many ways in which food comes to the fore in Waterspell, starting with Carin’s near-starvation on her long journey as she’s forced to beg or steal what food she can, but survives mostly on the rabbits she kills and the roots and berries she forages. Then the housekeeper Myra enters Carin’s life, feeding her better than she’s eaten in years. In Myra’s kitchen, around the trestle table, we learn much about the resident warlock and his small household.
Finding, cooking, and eating food provide endless opportunities for character development and story progression. Seeing the warlock throw down a glass of something alcoholic during tense moments, or when he needs time to think, gives us a glimpse of the inner man. Watching the characters gather for a meal, listening to their dinner-table talk, we catch the nuances in their phrasing and read meaning in their pauses. I’m hard-pressed to imagine how the story could have developed without meal breaks providing opportunities for the characters to reveal their hidden sides and crack open one other’s emotional shells from time to time.
Foods and beverages also lend themselves to writing that touches all the senses. Not only “How does it taste?” (tart, sweet, salty, bitter … ) or “How does it smell?” (spicy, burnt, savory, fruity, gamy … ) but “How does it feel in the mouth?” Is it crunchy or creamy, chewy or tender, slimy, sparkling, wet, dry, or maybe still moving? What does it sound like as it cooks over an open fire? Is the pot bubbling, the meat sizzling? What does it look like? Colorful fruits and vegetables, pastries, breads and sauces? Brown gravies and browner meats? Or does the food look as gray as a dungeon’s walls, or as green as a cup of poison? When writing about food, a writer can pull out all the descriptive stops, for it’s a sure bet that food has significance for every reader.
The ConQuesT panelists discussed the close ties between food and culture: how rice may call to mind one cultural tradition, for instance, while potatoes evoke another, and haggis another. The work of Brian Hayden was mentioned, particularly his book The Power of Feasts, which explores the practice of feasting from prehistoric to modern times, revealing patterns and links to other aspects of culture such as food, personal identity, power, and politics.
Speaking of personal identity, the panelists commented on the ways in which foods and beverages can become character hooks: Star Trek’s Captain Picard likes “Tea. Earl Gray. Hot.” Counselor Deanna Troi craves chocolate. My own Waterspell warlock drinks dhera, occasionally to excess.
I enjoyed this year’s virtual ConQuesT and appreciated the chance to attend the panel discussions without needing to travel to KC. To learn more about ConQuesT—Kansas City’s original Science Fiction Convention held annually on Memorial Day Weekend—and the convention’s sponsor, Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, please visit their website. Scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up for their email list. I signed up and look forward to getting more involved. Maybe next year, I’ll be in KC on Memorial Day.
Recently I listened to the audiobook (all 51 hours) of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, beautifully narrated by Davina Porter. Of course I’d read the series years ago when it was a New York Times bestseller, but listening to the audiobook version was even better for getting totally caught up in the story.
With great interest, then, I paid my $10 for this Profs and Pints Online program: “The Women of King Arthur Legends,” presented by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, former instructors at The Ohio State University and co-founders of the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic.
Their talk is well worth $10. I highly recommend it. I had fun comparing and contrasting the women of Bradley’s historical fantasy with the women of Cleto and Warman’s folkloric interpretations. Their overview of the traditions and legends surrounding the women deepened my appreciation for what Bradley accomplished in her wonderful retelling.
“Morgan Le Fay, Queen Guinevere, The Lady of the Lake, Elaine. Each of these women play crucial roles in the rise and fall of King Arthur, Britain’s greatest legendary hero. But they’re almost always presented as enigmatic, ambiguous forces in the story.
“Is Morgan Le Fay the evil sorceress who plots Arthur’s demise, or is she the good fairy who takes the dying Arthur to the magical isle of Avalon for rest and healing? Is Guinevere an adulterous schemer, or a woman trapped by politics and the limited possibilities for women of her time? The numerous gaps in the traditional materials of these legends allow many different interpretations, some positive or nuanced, and some that hint at more than a little of the misogyny, fear, and contempt women have faced throughout the ages.
“In this talk, Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman will guide you through the complex world of Arthuriana and discuss how these women and their stories have been understood (and misunderstood) from ancient times to modern retellings. Join us for an enchanted night of swords and sorcery, as we explore what these strange and powerful women offer today’s world.”
The recording of their talk, available online, includes recommended readings, both scholarly and popular. Below is a screenshot of part of their list. I was surprised that The Mists of Avalon did not make the Creative side of the list—it’s certainly creative. But perhaps the omission is due to the books being so well known, they need no introduction. In any case, I’ve added several of Cleto and Warman’s recommendations to my personal reading list.
Treat yourself doubly, to this online presentation from Profs & Pints and also to the fabulous audiobook version of Mists. Together they’re an investment of more than 52 hours, but it’s time wonderfully well spent.
For lovers of the written word, good reading vision is a pearl without price. Losing our ability to read, even temporarily, is traumatic for people who Read All The Time. We awake in the morning and read our social media and the news. We sit down to work at our desks and computers, reading and writing on screens or notepads all day. In the evenings we may be back on social media or catching up on email. At bedtime, we have our noses in books, carried away by the power of the written word.
For People of the Book—or for anyone, I suppose, but with particular intensity for People Who Read—eye surgery is terrifying. What if it goes wrong? What if I’m blinded? In allowing a stranger to cut my eyes, have I made the worst mistake of my life?
I recently endured eye surgery, and it has brought me what I dreaded only slightly less than total blindness: I have lost my once-excellent close vision. I had postponed cataract surgery for as long as I possibly could, and when the time came that I must undergo it, the results threw me into a near-panic:
I could no longer see to read.
The surgery took from me my close reading vision and gave me sort-of good distance vision in its stead. Not a fair or advantageous trade, in my world.
Today, I’m in the difficult in-between phase: The surgery is behind me. Thank Godde. My eyes, however, have not yet healed enough that I can go to my optometrist and get the new, post-surgery glasses that will—I hope and trust!—fully restore my reading and computer vision (and correct the astigmatism that blurs my vision at all distances).
Tips for Coping
In hopes of reducing the trauma for other profoundly nearsighted People Who Read, I’ll share what I’ve learned during this ordeal.
1. First and foremost, find a surgeon with good communication skills. My cataract surgeon has a reputation for excellence—both my optometrist and a retina specialist who cleared me for the surgery sang his praises. I, however, cannot recommend him because his communication skills are abysmal. He volunteered no information; he told me nothing of what I could expect before, during, or after the surgery. He did not even tell me what kind of intraocular lens he intended to implant in my eyes. When I asked, he bristled at the question and snappishly said that I was a candidate for only the most basic type, those being fixed monofocal lenses matched to distance vision. From my own research, that is what I had expected to get, but I was taken aback that the surgeon resisted explaining or even discussing my options, or why I had no options.
My first bit of advice to you, therefore, is to find a surgeon who will talk to you.
2. Prepare as well as you can for the extreme imbalance and mental as well as physical strain you will experience after one of your eyes is “corrected” to inflexible, relentless farsightedness, while your “uncorrected” eye remains profoundly nearsighted. During the seven days that elapsed between surgeries on my two eyes, the imbalance kept me in a state bordering on vertigo. I felt queasy and tended to list to port, then to starboard, while walking. I had trouble getting up and down the stairs in my home. I possessed no depth perception and couldn’t tell where I was in space, or where anything else lay. I’d reach for an object and miss it. For seven days I did a lot of napping, because seeing the world through two vastly mismatched eyes made me feel sick.
Astonishingly, at the post-surgery follow-up the day after operating on my left eye, the surgeon said I was OK to drive. Preposterous! And highly irresponsible of him. With the astigmatism in my left eye making everything blurry, the uncorrected 20/400 vision in my right eye making me functionally blind on that side as it overlaid its blurriness on my left side, and with my perpetual vertigo from the imbalance between the two eyes, I was most certainly not OK to drive.
To get myself through that miserable seven days between surgeries, besides sleeping a lot I modified two pairs of my old glasses. On one pair, I taped over the left lens to block out my “corrected” eye so I could see to read with my right eye through my familiar no-line progressive eyeglasses. I modified another pair of old eyeglasses by removing the left lens entirely and taping over the right lens. This helped block out the 20/400 vision of my native right eye so that my brain could focus on seeing with my surgically “corrected” left eye. My right eye is strongly dominant, and during the seven days between surgeries my brain strove mightily to rely primarily on my right eye, as it always has. Only by blocking off that eye could I force my brain to shift its focus to my now-farsighted left eye.
Old eyewear modified for post-surgery needs
3. Besides modifying old eyeglasses to help you cope between surgeries, I also recommend that you ask your surgeon about operating on your dominant eye first. I believe a great deal of my disorientation, discomfort, and incapacity between surgeries could have been alleviated if my dominant eye had been the first to go under the knife. In hindsight, I wonder why determining my dominant eye wasn’t a basic part of the pre-op examination. It seems logical that a surgeon should want to work with a patient’s natural abilities, rather than go against them.
4. Buy reading glasses and have them on hand before your surgery! Being a lifelong wearer (since second grade, anyway) of prescription eyewear, I had never owned a pair of over-the-counter reading glasses. I knew nothing about them. I had no idea what power of reading glasses I needed, but guessed at 3.0 based on this chart at Readers.com.
The second surgery, performed on my right eye exactly one week after my left eye, utterly stripped me of my reading vision. I had been forced to trade my excellent close vision for good-enough distance vision. Now, with both eyes “done” (or done for), I could drive without glasses, but I shall never again be able to read without them. The sacrifice of my close vision saddens me. It seems a big price to pay, for someone who Reads All The Time and who is writing a new novel when she isn’t reading.
Only my cheap mail-order reading glasses kept me from roundly cursing the name of the surgeon who said I had no options and then left me unable to focus on the Written Word. The reading glasses are getting me by, just barely, until I can go to my optometrist for the real thing.
Computer glasses rubber-banded to empty eyeglass frames
4. Buy computer glasses or multifocal reading glasses. As luck (or my eyes) would have it, I did already own computer glasses that are made to slip over one’s regular eyewear, to sharpen one’s view of a monitor. To use them post-surgery, I removed both lenses from an old pair of my eyeglasses and, with rubber bands, affixed the plastic computer glasses to the empty metal frames. They are enabling me to work at my desktop computer, after a fashion. I’m writing this while peering through them at my monitor. Constantly switching back and forth, however, between computer glasses (to see what’s on my screen) and reading glasses (to see my phone and everything else that’s on my office desk) is driving me to mutter curses at the surgeon once more.
In hopes of finding a more workable solution that will tide me over until I can get proper prescription eyewear, I returned to Readers.com and discovered Foster Grants that claim to combine reading vision, computer vision, and “interacting” vision, all in one. The glasses are on order and due to arrive in less than a week. I will return here and report my opinion of what purports to be a kind of over-the-counter no-line progressive lens.
Going back to recommendation No. 1, above, about finding an eye surgeon you can talk to: Patients lucky enough to have a surgeon who understands People of the Book, People Who Read All the Time, may escape many of the terrors and traumas that I have endured. With an understanding surgeon who will seek to maintain your ability to read throughout the process, you may find the surgery—and its aftermath—to be far less stressful than I have. My surgeon simply didn’t care. He brushed aside my concerns and showed no interest whatsoever in my needs and priorities. When I expressed to him my distress over not being able to read post-surgery, he shrugged it off as a trivial thing, not as a loss that strikes at the core of who I am.
For a lover of the written word, an inability to read and write—even a temporary incapacity—is a situation that will induce near-panic. I share my experiences in hopes of helping others to prepare yourselves, as far as possible, for the sacrifices that accompany eye surgery.
I hope you have booklover friends who will understand your cries of anguish when you cannot read and your surgeon doesn’t care. Let me end by quoting a friend who reacted to my pain and frustration as all true People Who Read would react:
“He needs a different profession. For an eye surgeon not to respect his patient’s need to be able to read should be criminal.” Amen.
I found this presentation by Professor Harry Lee Poe (Union University) so enjoyable, I watched it twice. The second time through, I took notes, some of which I’ll share here. Any fan of Tolkien or Lewis will do well, however, to pay the $12 registration fee for unlimited access to the full lecture. Prof. Poe provided an enlightening overview of how Tolkien and Lewis related to one another in developing modern fantasy. Their works spawned an entire field of storytelling.
Among Poe’s points:
The Lord of the Rings is a three-volume book. It’s not a trilogy.
Lewis served as “the great encourager,” urging Tolkien to write his stories of Middle-Earth. Lewis gave Tolkien the idea for “the wound that would not heal” as well as the basic structure of the “journey story” — there and back again.
“In the journey story,” Poe said, “the hero risks all, ventures all, travels to the end of the world to do the great deed, and having accomplished the great deed on this fabulous quest, having fought all the foes, he returns a changed person.” (Sound familiar?)
For Watching & Reading …
I’m behind on my movie-viewing. Prof. Poe mentioned these films, only one of which I’ve seen:
He also mentioned the Scottish author George MacDonald, whom Wikipedia describes as a pioneering figure in the field of modern fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll. Clearly, I need to spend some time with MacDonald’s books, and catch up on all the movies I missed while I was absorbed in my own fantasy worlds.
Making a place for yourself in a world where you don't belong takes courage. So does moving in with a warlock.
“Complicated characters, plot twists, romance, adventure, and magic — all written in a voice that immerses you in a fantasy world both foreign and familiar. Get the box set because you won’t want to leave this world.” —Beck Digs It, Amazon
“A great read that features world building with drama and magical characters. Highly recommended.” —Neil, Amazon
“An entertaining, fast paced, and well-plotted fantasy series. The world building is fascinating, and the characters fleshed out. Highly recommended.” —Anna Maria, NetGalley
“Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast. Amazing story, very original. Great series.” —Emma, Amazon UK
“Lightfoot has a sure touch with regard to characterisation. Each of her characters has their own authentic and convincing voice. Narrative, description and speech are exceptionally well-balanced.” —Martin Dukes, author of the Alex Trueman Chronicles
“Such a joy to narrate this. It didn’t feel like work. The story and characters take flight so naturally and then soar.” —Simon de Deney
“Addictive epic fantasy, with drama and adventure. I binged through the books, eager to see how the story unfolds. Great book. 5 stars.” —Di, NetGalley
“Captivating. I loved this series from beginning to end. Complex characters who mature through the series and unexpected plot twists kept me reading far too late into the night.” —Amy, Amazon
“An extraordinary book, four in fact! I read these over a five-day period and found the storytelling fantastic. See for yourself!” —Michelle, NetGalley
“I was hooked instantly. I willingly gave up sleep and could not wait to get up to read more. I’m reading the whole series, and absolutely loving it.” —Sarah, Amazon
“In this four-book saga, the author has created an epic fantasy world full of magic, danger, romance, and travel through time and space. The characters are vivid and complex. This is a most enjoyable read for fans of fantasy and fine writing.” —Shirley, NetGalley
“I was HOOKED. I read until 3 am two nights in a row to finish this. The magic system is unique and the characters are as morally gray as they come.” —Megan, Goodreads
“I absolutely loved all four books! You kept your storyline throughout the four books brilliantly. The characters were all genuine and relatable.” —Carol, Goodreads
“A riveting series. Well written, excellent world-building with an engaging plot in each book and well-developed characters. I was gripped right from the start with twists I didn’t see and unpredictability.” —Aria, NetGalley
Castles in the cornfield provided the setting for Deborah J. Lightfoot’s earliest flights of fancy. On her father’s farm in Texas, she grew up reading tales of adventure and reenacting them behind ramparts of sun-drenched grain. She left the farm to earn a degree in journalism and write award-winning books of history and biography. High on her bucket list was the desire to try her hand at the genre she most admired. The result is Waterspell, a multi-layered, intricately detailed fantasy about a girl and the wizard who suspects her of being so dangerous to his world, he believes he’ll have to kill her … which troubles him, since he’s fallen in love with her. Deborah is a professional member of The Authors Guild. She lives in the country near Fort Worth, Texas.
Magic, mystery, murder, and romance. Waterspell: An intricate save-the-world fantasy adventure with complex characters, cosmic calamities, and the gothic sensibilities of Jane Eyre.
Mix environmental fantasy with magic, mystery, and a little slow-burning romance, add dystopian undercurrents, and that’s the Waterspell series—a cross-genre story with too many layers for a single label.