‘Writing Believable Fantasy’ (2017)

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“The writer who can’t look into another person’s heart, and find some kinship with it…” might as well go on to Congress. Or join the nooze media.

So what does it take to write believable fantasy?

Writing Believable Fantasy

I only get to see books that are actually published; and a lot of those are bad enough to dry up a good-sized pond. After many years of studying the matter, I don’t know why that should be. Unless it’s simply that so very few people can actually write a good novel, the supply can never catch up to the demand and a lot of pfud gets published because they don’t have anything better.

 

My Next Book

WindHeaven

The Wind from Heaven is almost ready for publication. Typesetting is all done, and final proofreading is in progress. And after that comes Behold! That should be ready sometime next year.

Ah! But spring is almost here, which means it’s almost time to start writing another one. I’m happy to say I’ve already been given two key pieces of it–one of which has solved a major problem with the plot. There’s stuff going on in Durmurot, and in Lintum Forest, that has to be addressed.

In writing a series of any kind, the writer has to beware of repeating himself. Edgar Rice Burroughs got bogged down with Tarzan and ran off a dozen or more books featuring lost cities. People enjoyed them anyway, but sheesh! You couldn’t throw a brick in Africa without breaking a window in a lost city. I don’t want to do anything like that.

But the new stuff excites me, and I hope it excites my readers, too. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for a catchy title. Sometimes I get badly stuck for a title.

What new stuff? Well, I can’t tell you that, can I?

 

Exit February

BTS-Cellar

(The girl who looks just like Ellayne!)

Still plenty of snow on the ground, expensive car repairs looming, no one here is in the best of health, our country is being murdered by inches, right before our eyes–but I know that spring’s around the corner.

And Bell Mountain No. 15, whatever it winds up being called, is waiting for me to climb into the ring and wrestle with it. I hope I can get myself up for the match. It’s like Gorilla Monsoon is in there waiting for me.

When No. 12, His Mercy Endureth Forever, came out, there was some talk that Bell Mountain had gone on long enough, time to put the series to bed, sayonara, nice knowin’ ya, etc. I don’t know. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a couple dozen Tarzan books. I haven’t counted the number of books in Walter R. Brooks’ Freddy the Pig series. Or Hal Goodwin’s Rick Brant. To say nothing of Hercule Poirot, Inspector Ghote, or Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series, with its 54 books. If I thought my Bell Mountain books were no longer worth reading, I wouldn’t write any more of them. But I don’t think that

Writing is hard! Unless you’re one of the chosen few allowed to stand on the tip of the pyramid and get your grocery list published, you just never know if your work has any merit.

But spring is in the air, Gorilla Monsoon is waiting, and it’ll soon be time to rassle…

 

‘So Where Do I Get the Funny Names?’ (2014)

Bell Mountain (Bell Mountain, 1) by [Lee Duigon]

My mother wasn’t the only one who was put off fantasy by the names of the characters. My wife felt that way, too–and a pretty odd way to feel, I thought, for someone who likes Russian novels.

Where do my Bell Mountain characters’ names come from?

So Where Do I Get the Funny Names?

Admit it–if you were reading a novel set in Japan, you’d expect the characters to have Japanese names. You wouldn’t expect them to be called Frank McGlothlin, Suzanne Jones, Reggie Smythe, etc., etc.

I need those funny names when I’m writing about the world of Bell Mountain. But I have tried to keep from going overboard with it.

‘Now That’s a Question!’ (2017)

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As a writer, I get asked a lot of questions. A lot of dumb things are said to me, by a lot of people.

Here’s the most insulting question I’ve ever been asked:

Now That’s a Question!

No, it wasn’t “How long did it take you to write that?” Although that particular question is always asked. Always. And I’d estimate about 95% of the people I talk to say they’d write a book, too, if they had more time.

But this is the one that takes the cake (in case you don’t have time to click on the original post from 2017):

“When’s it gonna be a TV movie?”

[Exit, screaming]

I’ve Got Bell Mountain Fever

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My writer’s chair is buried under snow and ice, it’s dead cold outside, and there’s more snow in the forecast–

But spring is in the air.

I know this because I’ve received an inspiration for my next Bell Mountain book, which I can’t even begin to write until spring is really here. Suddenly a really thorny plot problem has been bulldozed out of the way. Thank you, Lord!

For those of you who are new here, this blog was originally set up to generate interest in my books, and that’s still part of its mission. (If you’re really new, click “Books” and see all the covers.) This unwritten, untitled book will be the 15th in the series. We are expecting No. 13, The Wind from Heaven, to be published sometime this spring. After that comes No. 14, Behold!

Some readers have complained that this series has gone on too long. Others have said they hope it never ends. What can I say? I love writing these books, and I’ll never live long enough to match the number of books in series by my favorite authors. Did Edgar Rice Burroughs write too many Tarzan books? He thought so, but a lot of readers disagreed. Did Agatha Christie write too many books featuring Hercule Poirot? She thought so, but a lot of readers disagreed.

Whatever the case, there is now a really cool miracle waiting to become the centerpiece of No. 15, and it will truly be a pleasure to start the work.

 

When I Discovered Fantasy…

2 Pellucidar books by Edgar Rice Burroughs - Ace F-158 F-280 | eBay

I was 13 years old when a friend lent me his copy of Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs–adventures in the inside-out world of the hollow earth, complete with dinosaurs and monsters–and it blew me away. I had no idea there were books like this! I couldn’t get enough of them. Happily for me, ERB wrote dozens of books. I’ve still got ’em (paperback price: 35 cents!), and I still read ’em from time to time.

Burroughs introduced me to other worlds, pure fantasy, anything goes. Just like Tarzan went to Pellucidar once.

But then in high school, sophomore year, I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, and oh, brother! This took fantasy fiction a notch higher. I find it bordering on the impossible, to describe how much I enjoyed it. I spent the next ten or twelve years of my life trying to write a fantasy like Tolkien’s. What the heck, everybody else seemed to be doing it–you never saw so many unsatisfying imitations published.

I learned an awful lot about writing by reading and re-reading Burroughs and Tolkien. I also learned to give up trying to imitate them, and just write like myself: took more than a few years to learn how to do that, too. The end result is my Bell Mountain series.

I envy those of you, out there, who’ll someday discover top-flight fantasy, as I did, and just go to town on it. I know reading isn’t as fashionable as it once was. But as much as I love movies, there’s nothing better than a roaring good book. No special effects genius, no cast of actors, no director can ever quite match what that special book can do with your imagination.

Does it serve God? Does it give God the glory? I’d say that depends on what the reader does with it. Tolkien was a devout Christian, and I’m sure he hoped his books would do that. Just as I’m sure that for many readers, they did.

‘How Did C.S. Lewis Do It?’ (2013)

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The government insanities that scared C.S. Lewis in the 1950s are still here, still tearing at our freedoms. A stolen presidential election wouldn’t have surprised him.

But I’ll always been in awe of his art–and of his Chronicles of Narnia.

How Did C.S. Lewis Do It?

I’m sometimes asked how one learns how to write a novel. The only sound advice I can give is “Read, read, read–and then read some more!” C.S. Lewis was a professor of literature. He would have known what good writing looks like. So you read, you study, you imitate–and if you have the talent, the technique will draw it out.

Just one word of warning: you’ll wind up writing what you read.

Finished!

137,854 Fireworks Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images

With a prayer, and with a cold wind blowing in my face, I have finished writing Behold! And if this book’s climax is as good as I dare hope–well, kowabunga!

I’m reminded of an essay (or was it a letter?) by Tolkien, in which he described a conversation he had with a stranger about The Lord of the Rings–who said to him, “You don’t think you wrote all that all by yourself, do you?” It was just the sort of thing, said Tolkien, that Gandalf would have said–and he left it at that.

I thank the Lord of All for giving me this book to write, and pray my work will be fruitful in His service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Writer’s Workday

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Some of you have expressed curiosity about what a writer actually does. Well, here’s a recap of my workday yesterday.

*Before breakfast, put up two blog posts to get the day rolling.

*After breakfast, two or three more posts, at least one of which will require some thought.

*Go outside and write as much of my book as I can.

*Two more blog posts.

*Write Newswithviews column.

*After supper, post a critter video.

This schedule doesn’t leave me a lot of time for deep-sea marlin fishing, high-stakes gambling, amateur bull-fighting, or an interminable train of amours. We are all trying to live down Hemingway. And contrary to popular belief, drink and drugs do not sharpen your creativity. Neither does college.