My Top 10 Favorite Authors

I realized that since this is supposed to be a writing blog, I ought to make mention of other authors occasionally besides myself. In the various “top favorite” posts of this and that, I have never covered my favorite writers. So, I am now remedying that. Here they are, in a sort-of one to ten listing:

C.S. Lewis – Once I graduated from Little Golden Book versions of fairy tales, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia is what I cut my fantasy teeth on. I’ve reread those books probably more than any other book or series ever.

J.R.R. Tolkien – Middle-Earth was the next logical step after I mastered the Narnia stories. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are not easy reads, but I loved the stories and Tolkien’s words enough to read the books several times.

Beatrix Potter – My mom read me stories about Peter Rabbit and Tom Kitten along with those Little Golden Books, but I never actually outgrew Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter is one of my writing heroes in general, and not just because she wrote about bunnies.

L. Frank Baum – He is a recent addition to my favorite author list, because I only recently started reading his Oz books. Baum’s vivid imagination and love of the fairy tale style is evident in The Wizard of Oz and all the subsequent books.

Chris Claremont – He wrote all of the greatest X-Men stories of the 80s and 90s, in my opinion. I’ve always loved comics, and Claremont had some of the most vivid characters and elaborate storylines during his time on the various X-Men series.

J. Michael Straczynski – JMS, as he’s often known, is primarily a writer and producer for TV (though he has written a few comics, as well). I love him best for his show Babylon 5, which featured epic sci-fi storytelling on a Tolkien-esque scale. JMS not only drafted the overall concept for the series, but he wrote the script for almost every single episode himself.

John Maxwell – Here is my token non-fiction writer for the list. John Maxwell is known as a leadership expert, and I’ve read quite a few of his books. While I don’t have a desire to be a leader in a corporate or political sense, I do want to be able to positively influence people with my writing. And as John Maxwell says, “leadership is influence.”

Jeff Smith – Another comic writer. He’s actually an artist, too, and he wrote and drew his famous Bone saga. Bone is equal parts epic fantasy and slapstick humor, and a very unique cast of characters.

Lois Gladys Leppard – She wrote the Mandie books – an inspirational children’s mystery series. Unlike most of the books on this list, the Mandie books aren’t fantasy. They’re historical fiction, set in North Carolina around the year 1900. Believe it or not, I do enjoy the occasional non-fantasy tale.

Dr. Seuss – Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss? His books have that fun, timeless quality that makes them enjoyable at any age.

Who is your favorite author?

The Color of Creativity

So I recently dyed my hair blue. Actually, my hair stylist did it, and a good thing, too. There’s no way I wanted to have at my own hair with bleach and a tube of dye. Anyone who follows me on Facebook (either my personal profile or my writer’s page) has probably seen a picture or two. So for those of you who haven’t seen me, here’s a picture:

My hair stylist rocks

My hair stylist rocks

The question I’ve gotten the most is, of course, “why?” Some have jokingly muttered about kids these days, and some have asked with genuine surprise and curiosity about what prompted such a radical and dramatic change.

My primary answer is that I thought it would be fun. And that’s true! I wear clothes I enjoy and jewelry I enjoy, so why not do something fun with my hair, too? I feel a bit like a fairy tale creature when I glimpse myself in the mirror, which just adds to the coolness factor. As a fantasy writer, it’s a special kind of fun going around feeling like a character in a story.

After a week of questions, comments, and a few silent disapproving looks, I started wondering if I had some deeper, darker reason for coloring my hair. Was I actually deeply and subconsciously distraught and this was my way of calling out for attention? Was I feeling stifled and blue hair was my way of rebelling? After wrestling with a lot of self-doubt (I’m so talented that I can have self-doubt about lots of other things in addition to my writing!), I concluded that I was not, in fact, mentally disturbed. All I wanted to do was dye my hair blue.

This got me thinking about stereotypes. Not everyone who wears goth makeup, is covered with tattoos and piercings, or has strangely-colored hair is dangerous or disturbed. (Please note – I am not putting down these different styles, and I’m certainly not belittling anyone who dresses a certain way because they’re searching for help.) Yes, the reason that stereotypes develop in the first place is because of the common traits within a grouping. But I know many people who do not fit their stereotyped group, and perhaps now I am one of them.

I colored my hair because I’m creative and artsy, and I decided that it was time for my outward appearance to reflect that. A couple of people expressed to me that with blue hair I would not look professional – which is true if I were trying to fit in the corporate world. But I am a professional writer and social media entrepreneur (or at least working my way towards that), and in that realm, blue hair is just as “professional” as any other color or style.

So maybe I did have a deeper reason for dyeing my hair, after all – to show the world that sometimes negative stereotypes can be wrong, and that blue hair is nothing more than just another color of creativity.

The Longest Short Story Ever

 

Six months ago I started writing a short story. To me, this is a very long time for a short story. I’m accustomed to working on a novel for years, because a novel by its very nature is a long-term commitment. But with short stories, I’ve always handled them one of two ways: finish it in weeks or even days, or not at all.

This particular short story I launched into with exceptional enthusiasm, because it was the inaugural story for a new fantasy world (different from the world of the fantasy novel trilogy I’ve been working on for years).

I had the whole plot worked out, had my cast of characters, knew the ending scene. I had the rules of magic and other world-building essentials already sorted out, because this was a revamping of some fantasy stories and a world I’d created as a kid. Basically, all I had to do was type up a few thousand words. So what happened?

Two things: life, and losing my focus.

The life bit wasn’t a bad thing. There were some changes – good ones – at my jobs, some opportunities came my way for some paid writing, and other stuff. I was excited about all of these changes, but the upshot was that a few months ago my life got suddenly busier and a lot more hectic. So with all of that, plus the novels I was plugging away at and this blog, the short story got pushed to the bottom of the pile.

The main problem, though, was simply that I lost my focus. I blogged at the beginning of this year about how I was going to take my fiction writing more seriously. I’ve been doing the bare minimums (keeping up with submitting installments of my novel to my critique partners, and keeping this blog going), but that’s it. But to be successful – or even to finish something – requires more than bare minimums.

And so, I finally got my rear in gear, I refocused, and I wrote a few thousand words and finished that short story. It’s been a long, rough road – that unfinished project, all mapped out and ready to go but still not done – was starting to really weigh on my mind. There’s nothing like the stress of an unfinished project.

So what did I learn from this long road to a short story? I learned that without focus and intentionality, even the shortest bit of writing can get pushed down in priority and left unfinished. I learned that all it takes is a little discipline to keep a short little tale from becoming a six-month headache.

I learned that if I want to be a writer, then all I have to do is write.