Long before Dorothy came to Oz, Glinda and the Wizard changed everything.

Writing

Epistolary Novels – letter by letter

Image of a handwritten note with a pen, representing The Glinda Letters, A Hidden History of Oz story.

An Epistolary Story is one told through letters.

What is an epistolary novel? Simply put, it is a story told through letters. The most well-known (to me) is The Screwtape Letters, written by C.S. Lewis.

The Glinda Letters creates a bridge of history between The Hidden History of Oz stories (specifically The Witch Queens trilogy) and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum.

Dive into personal thoughts

Glinda writes to Oscar Diggs while he is in his self-imposed exile in Emerald City. She gives her deepest thoughts to her dear friend in messages that only they will see. There is an honesty conveyed in these letters that does not appear whens he is with other people. She conveys a sense of her own worldview that she simply cannot share with other people, due to her position as the Sorceress Queen of the South. She is responsible for protecting Oz, and that means duty comes first. There is no question that Glinda was fulfill her duty. The questions in her letters reveal a vulnerability that she cannot show to others.

See how they see themselves

The amazing thing about these letters is that Glinda sees the world in a very specific way. She believes in liberty and freedom, just like Oscar, but she does not believe that he can do it simply by being good. She has to gain power and protect him so that he can do what he believes in. Everything depends on her.

Glinda has a stilted view of the world that becomes apparent as you compare her words in private letters to her actions and words to others.

The Glinda Letters fills in the gaps between several stories in The Hidden History of Oz series. It is the backbone of history upon which to hang the sinews of story. It is one perspective drawn over a lifetime of experience waiting for love to open the door and step again into the light.

The Glinda Letters is available now on Amazon, or wherever ebooks are sold. Order your copy today and discover the Hidden History that sets the stage for Baum’s classic stories.

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How a misprinted copy of “A Wrinkle In Time” taught me to believe, despite imperfection

Madeleine L'Engle quote, "Believing takes practice."

“Believing takes practice.” – Madeleine L’Engle

In readying my fingers for this post, I had only one thought, “Find a Madeleine L’Engle quote.” She is right next to C.S. Lewis as one of my favorite authors. Her book, A Wrinkle In Time, is my favorite book, going back all the way to fourth grade.

It wasn’t the very first book that I had purchased at a book fair, even though I had not bought very many. Buying books takes money, and money was in short supply in those days. A Wrinkle In Time was a book that interested me in a way that the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi activity books did not.

Cover image for A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L'Engle

The first cover I ever saw for A Wrinkle In Time.

On the cover, there was a flying centaur-like creature, and a mysterious face with red eyes. The entire color palette of dark-neutrals and slate grays captivated my imagination. I purchased the book with the few dollars I was given, and I began reading immediately. I read through page 100 or so before I realized that I had read this before – not the book, but the section. I flipped back a few pages, and then a few more. There was a section in the center of the book that repeated a previous section. It was a misprint.

I was shocked and terribly disappointed. I had spent good money on a book that was broken. Now I didn’t know what would happen in the middle of the story. I found the place where the repeated section ended, and I continued reading. I finished the book, and then I immediately checked out another copy of the book from the school library and flipped to the section that I missed. I finished the book, and I was satisfied.

That book had a lasting effect on me. It was the first book I read that was not perfect. I had no idea that such a thing was even possible. I learned through experience traumatic to me that some things that we take for granted are subject to human error.

This book has the distinction of opening my eyes to imperfection. I’m certain I had plenty of other opportunities to see things gone wrong, but this one was all mine. I had lived in a world filled with books. Each one had a complete story. Each one was perfect – not just in its own way, but in all ways that I could see. Each one was complete and whole…until this one.

The simple misprint troubled me. It troubled me more than I wanted to admit. I had spent good money on this book, and now the book fair was over, and there was no way that I could get my money back. Even if I had gotten my money back, it was – in some ways – the end of my world. I had never had to leave a story like this before. I had never seen a book that was broken when it was new.

Fast-forward quite a few years to today. I am an author. I realize my own imperfections. In my writer friends, and their budding works-in-progress that they entrusted to me as a test reader, I see imperfection. I look further to see what is beneath that imperfection. What causes a writer to write? Or an artist to make art? Or a musician to make music? What causes us to do what we do in the pursuit of truth?

Belief.

Believing takes practice. So said Madeleine L’Engle. So say I. I seek after perfection – all artists do it, to varying degrees. However, it is not perfection that is achieved. It is, rather, a string of failures – a patchwork of persistence – that combine together to create a version of truth singular to its creator, author, artist, musician, or organizer.

Belief that the story needs to be told, the truth needs to find a face, and the image needs to find a voice – and then realizing that I am the imperfect tool that this story needs to find its way into the world – that takes a lot of faith. Believing takes practice.

Each one of us has something to do each day. Each one of us will have thoughts that come into our mind of things that we should do in the course of our daily work, whatever it may be. Give room to let those thoughts through. Now substitute whatever thoughts might come to you for the term “book” in this final quote.

“A book comes and says ‘Write me.’ My job is to try to serve it to the best of my ability, which is never good enough, but all I can do is listen to it, do what it tells me, and collaborate.” – Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L'Engle quote on writing a book

So where do we go from here? I speak these works that I, myself, need to hear. Believe in yourself, in your work, in the truth. Despite imperfections in the instruments of its creation, truth wants to be heard. There is no one that sees things exactly like you. There is no one that can do exactly what you do. So each day becomes a process of working, listening, adjusting, collaborating, and moving forward. In short, believing. Believing takes work.

Is there something you’ve been waiting to do because you haven’t believed enough? Are there thoughts pointing you to do or say something that you have pushed aside? What is your story, and how can today make it better? Share in the comments below.
This post appeared under the title “Believing, Despite Imperfection” on TarlAndAimee.blogspot.com on August 24, 2015, written by the same author.

Interviewing a Fictional Character

Picture of a princess looking out a window

Do your characters hide when you come knocking at the door? Try asking these questions instead to get to know them better.

We’ve all been through the get-to-know-you stage in meeting new people. Whether it is at work, or at school, or just moving to a new place, getting to know new people is difficult. It is made more difficult by the walls erected to keep our own personality and quirks obscured. Each person has their own walls around their persona, and they only let trusted people get to know the “real person” inside.

How do you get to truly know a person? You ask the deeper, thoughtful questions beyond name, job, school, sports teams, movies, etc. One suggested question for getting inside a person’s head might be: What is your most treasured possession? Or, How would you like to die?

However, you must be careful with such emotionally-charged queries, and use these questions with discretion, as they may be greeted with suspicion (or restraining orders) by one unfamiliar with your get-to-know-you questions.

In the late 19th century, an author named Marcel Proust penned a list of 35 questions to get to know a person better. (more…)


Can Subtlety Work in Action Tropes?

Picture of a thoughtful orangutan

Orangutan thinks about action tropes and writing exciting stories. Image swiped from HuffPo.

On Storymonger’s blog, I read a thought-provoking post: Four Action Tropes that Need to be Revolutionized in fiction. Could I come up with a subtle blend of tropes that revolutionized the action sequences in question? There’s only one way to find out. (more…)


A Noctuary for Your Thoughts

Fantasy painting, The Gates of Dream, by Xeeming on deviantart.com.

The Gates of Dream, by Xeeming on deviantart.com

Noc´tu`a`ry
n.1. A record of what passes in the night; a nightly journal; – distinguished from diary.

If you could see the future, would you write it down to remember? If you could see the past, would it be important to record it? If you saw honestly, would you want it inscribed, so it would last forever? If you could record your dreams, would you?

The answer, for me, is a resounding yes to all of these questions. But then comes the next question,  why? Why would you want to record your dreams? (more…)


The Benefits of Being Painted Into a Corner

Image of a man painted into a corner.

Painted into a corner via Google image search.

As a reader, I love to see how the characters are going to get out of difficult situations. When the odds are stacked against the hero, and escape appears impossible, those are the moments where creativity pays off. The process of going through the adventure, getting stuck, and then emerging victorious, provides great satisfaction. But what about authors that paint themselves into a corner? (Yes, I’m looking right back at myself.)

My own creative process actually requires that I paint myself into corners. What do I mean by that?  (more…)


Update to published novels

With the recent republishing of Books One and Two in The Hidden History of Oz series, I want to share a few things that have been added to each title.

Each book contains an Appendix, which contains several important pieces of information for the dedicated reader.

  • The Characters (referred to as The Players, a nod to Shakespeare). I have received comments on this addition. When a reader can’t keep all of the characters straight in her head, it is helpful to have a reference list.
  • Timeline. There is a lot of history referenced in each story. The timeline section details the events that happened and those referred to in the context of the novel.
  • Maps (where applicable). I like epic fantasy novels that include maps. It gives me a sense of wonder at the fantasy world.
  • Locations. There are some new places mentioned and visited in the context of each story. Just like the character list, having a list of the locations helps the reader remember. Plus, it will help when the inevitable wiki appears.
  • Sneak Preview. Including a glimpse at the next story does two things: One, it lets the reader know that there is another story coming, and Two, it creates a teaser for the reader to look forward to the next story. (This is very helpful in the case of cliffhangers, as I have learned.)
  • Guide for Parents. What makes my stories different? I claim that they are good for ages 10 and up. How does the parent know what is in the book, and if he or she wants their child reading this story? What can the parent talk about with the child? (This would work for reading groups also.) The Guide for Parents is also available on this website, for on-screen viewing or as a downloadable PDF. See the menu bar above.

Then there are the standard pages with the Author Bio, On the Web, Other Books by Author, but those are pretty standard in published novels anymore.

This Appendix is a labor of love from me, the author, to you, the reader. I want to show you that each story means something special in the greater world. I’m not going to give you the moral of the story, or tell you what to believe, but I am giving you the facts, and you can dream as you may.

Enjoy.


Who needs heroes? (I do)

Picture from Prince Caspian

In previous posts, we discussed villains and heroes. Now we come to a more personal question. Who needs heroes?

This question drives my writing and my explorations into character.

I am flawed. I struggle. I move forward a little bit, and then I fall. I get tired. It’s hard to get up and continue. What do I need to go on? Pretty much, I just need a hero to look to. (more…)


What makes a Hero?

 

Aslan, from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Aslan, from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

A hero is someone that inspires hope. A hero stands in contrast to a villain, who inspires hopelessness. Villains are explored in a previous post.

Based on this simple definition, the hero type can be broken down into several categories. This post contains short videos that I believe demonstrate the aspects of heroism that I look for in my characters.

There are many real-life examples of heroes. This post is limited to fictional heroes and heroic qualities that I find inspiring.

Everyday hero

These everyday heroes may not change the world, but they can change your world.

Consider Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Movie (1978). (more…)


What makes a villain?

Alien xenomorph vs. Darth Vader

Alien vs. Darth Vader. Image courtesy TheForce.net discussion boards.

A good villain is the embodiment of that which makes you feel helpless. 
With that in mind, three types of villains emerge:

Inhuman forces of nature

Shadows and hordes

Inhuman forces of nature that run rampant are always scary. A few examples include: (more…)