The Gift of Words

Signs the friends and family know me well:

Aw, shucks.

The easy route would have been ye olde classic Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift cards, but this just goes to show they understand the beast that is writer in my heart. The character naming sourcebook is particularly fun, as it will now cut down significantly on my website hopping – while telling me all this little nameophile could need to know about names throughout various languages. And one can always use an update to their Writer’s Market.

Time to figure out who the new kids on the block are this year…

Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

Writing: For Self, not Sales

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
~Cyril Connolly

Writers, take those words to heart.

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

"Painting the Writing Master." Image care of Wikimedia Commons.

I know many of you come to the pen with big dreams—sometimes those big dreams include fat wallets, legions of fawning women (or sparkling vampires, as you will), and possibly an honorary lifetime supply of Captain Morgan’s finest. Well I’m probably not the first to tell you, but kiddies, one writer to another, let me just say, that’s not the way of the world—and if that is your sole interest in this art, I think you may wish to consider a new career path. Quickly.

While I’m not saying the former examples couldn’t happen (sans sparkling vampires, at least as far as I know. Call the cops if a pale lad covered in glitter shows up on your doorstep though—garlic optional), in the real world, it’s unlikely. In fact, these days, it’s a miracle for most writers to even make it into a steady career. I don’t say it to be harsh. It’s simple fact. Writing is a big dollar business for publishers—not for writers. Writers, more often than not, turn to their writing as a second job. Their passionate job. The work that gives their lives meaning.

But still, a second job.

Writing is not about money. It’s not even about fame. Writing, in its purest form, is art—no different from the portraits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the sculptures of the Frederick Meijer Gardens, and so on. It is art with a pen, rather than the hammer or the brush. While these things can produce the other two, they should be undertaken for a love of the craft, and the howling of the soul.

Yes, howl. Like a werewolf. If writing doesn’t stir the primal in you, if it doesn’t roar through you with all the power of a freight train, if the thought of never writing again—regardless of whether anyone ever would or could lay eyes upon it—doesn’t crunch your soul into a knot, than perhaps you should re-evaluate what you are doing.

Why do you write?

Do you write for your family? What about fame? The almighty dollar? Or do you write because the sun rises in the morning, sets in the evening, and leaves starlight to bathe the night in silver?

It is that intrinsic to my own nature—and to my sanity. What does writing mean to you?

To Write: Love and Creation

Writers hold worlds in their hands. (Not my creation!)

Time is the writer’s friend. Strange to hear, I’m sure, but it’s true. Deadlines and date may be the staple of the craft, but for all the stress time heaps about our heads, it remains our greatest treasure. Day after day, we practice our craft, we hone it, as one would any other skill. We are possessed by it, in libraries and open mountain air, beside the hearth fires or lounging in the bustling street-side cafe. We love it. We hate it. Time strengthens the bond, strengthens the craft..

And lets us create:

“You must write every single day of your life…You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads…may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
~Ray Bradbury

Poetic Spotlight: The Jabberwocky

Curiouser and curiouser…that’s the theme this week as featured previously on dVerse Poets Pub, with a few words from one of England’s wackiest writers: Lewis Caroll. The author of the legendary Alice in Wonderland – a staple engrained into the very heart of modern western culture – one of his most famous creations actually came within its sequel, in the form of a poem: “The Jabberwocky.”

Nonsense is the name of the game – and this work is considered one of the greatest bits of whimsy and fancy produced by the English language…comprised of many made-up yet perfect words. Many of them words that have since entered into the actual language. Ever wonder, after all, where the word “chortle” came from?

Get ready to get silly.

Jabberwocky

” ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought–
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”

~Lewis Caroll

Writing – Wit, Soul, and Taste

For the writer, there is nothing quite like the sensation of writing. Of crafting a world full of character and stories. The type doesn’t matter. It is the sensation, the craft that stirs us – and so it is only fitting that learn of writing from the beautiful words of other writers:

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make.”
~
Truman Capote

“Writing well is at one and the same time good thinking, good feeling, and good expression; it is having wit, soul, and taste, all together.”
~Buffon

“Take away the art of writing from this world, and you will probably take away its glory.”
~Chateaubriand

On Friends

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
~Albert Schweitzer

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” 
~C.S. Lewis

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 
~Henri Nouwen

Poetic Spotlight: Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes, image care of Wikimedia Commons.

This week, we’re trying a little something new (with a little something old) here at the Waking Den. Every Thursday I’ll be doing my best to sift through my library (yes, I’m 22 and I would say I’ve got a good start on a library going) for some of the great works by classic poets – both known, and unknown – to bring before your eyes. Some will be personal favorites. Some will not. All will be here for your benefit, put forth, archived, and ready and waiting for any of your discussions of these immortalized poetic greats.

Today, we kick off the affair with something hardly “lightweight” in subject matter – Langston Hughes’s powerful “Let American Be America Again”. It packs a punch, as a forewarning, as well it should – it speaks to matters many would wish to forget, or to sweep under a rug and keep out of sight, at the least. It speaks of freedom and equality – critiques and hopes, longing–it rings out in a voice that echoes through the ages…and works as such are rarely gentle. Enjoy.

“Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!”

A few words on love

Victor Hugo, image care of Wikimedia Commons.

“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved – loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” 
~Victor Hugo

“Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all of the time, made new.” 
~Ursula K. Le Guin

Success!

Today’s Quotes of the Week (yes, I’m aware I’ve been a bad writer and neglected these for several weeks – apologies!) are a special bunch indeed. Today, kiddies, our topic is “success.” Why Chris, you might ask, whatever prompted you to speak of success? Why, funny you ask assorted internet browsers!

All image rights copyright/reserved to artist and Wolfsinger Publications.

One of my short stories (“The Child’s Cry”) was recently picked up for publication in the November, 2011 edition of Mystic Signals. Mystic Signals is the print-only companion to fantasy e-zines Lorelei Signal and Sorcerous Signals, all products of Wolfsinger Publications, edited by author Carol Hightshoe. The news put a smile on my face the size of Texas for most the week…

The curious thing is, though, most people immediately go, “That’s great – how much did you get for it?” Allow me to preface by saying: yes, there is payment involved. However, I would like to add that such joy is not about the money. Nor, from the publishing perspective, is the money the important part to me. It’s the recognition. It’s the name on the page. It’s getting to now, when submitting other pieces, being able to come at the writing game from the perspective and title of “published author”. It’s a foot in the door, and not one that I had to make myself (e-book self-publishing and the like – don’t get me wrong though, I’m not hating! In fact, my own first novel will be joining that selection soon…).

So without further adieu, I give you a few wise words on success:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” 
~Winston Churchill

“There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now.  I might as well take a nap.'” 
~Carrie Fisher

“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” 
~David Frost

* And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the November edition of Mystic Signals! You can order the individual issue for $12, or (and look at these savings!…oh dear, I think my voice hit car salesman pitch) $15/year for the PDF versions, $44/year for the print edition of magazines. Plus, 75% of that money goes to support your friendly authors and artists you know.  Order for some literary goodness…you know you want to…

Book Review: The White-Luck Warrior

If you know anything about R. Scott Bakker, it’s that his writing is not about to pander to his readers. After the success of his enthrallingly bleak series, “The Prince of Nothing,” we shifted twenty years into the future with The Judging Eye, as the opening of “The Aspect Emperor” series. Though it continued his history of quality literature, even for fans, it could come across a bit dense.

Yet if The Judging Eye stoked fears this upcoming author had stumbled, The White-Luck Warrior puts us right back into the mind of one of fantasy’s best and brightest. It’s a thick, philosophical, and highly intelligent read (and if “A Song of Ice and Fire” is dark, I’d say Bakker’s works are borderline nihilistic) that can make for an information overload at the outset, but an incredibly thoughtful and rewarding experience for those who stick with it.

For those who aren’t familiar, The White-Luck Warrior is a fantasy novel following numerous characters across the mythical “Three Seas.” Mimara, stepdaughter of the Aspect Emperor, teams with Achamian, the world’s only lone sorcerer, in a quest for vengeance and understanding. Sorweel, a captured prince (made king with the murder of his father) and hostage to the Aspect Emperor’s grand northern march, struggles with whether to believe in the Emperor’s quest to avoid apocalypse, or to kill him for the gods and his own sense of revenge. Esmenet, the Emperor’s wife, struggles to hold together a failing empire, while her son continues to manifest dark tendencies, and all the while the White-Luck Warrior trudges closer to an endgame none may predict. Through these, and dozens of well-thought-out side characters, the Three Seas comes together in all of its unsettling—and crudely satisfying—glory.

And that is where we begin: world-building. Bakker is a master of detail, and his world comes together in rich and engaging imagery. It breathes history, and while the previous novels gave us a Middle Eastern-style setting for a welcome change to most Europe-centric fantasy novels, this one takes us into the north, a primeval and wild place, made of ruins, dust, and trees. The narrative moves with force, and for all the history ground within its pages, it never slows in that regard. The depth with which Bakker writes leaves one wondering how many pages of notes he must have dedicated to this particular world.

For me, Bakker’s distinctly philosophic style makes for a unique bent in a genre stifled with stereotypes, but it can trip some people up, particularly in the pacing. That said, it does wonders for fleshing out the characters—as all have their particular codes, their views, their joys and fears, which allow Bakker to stretch his mind to its utmost. As well as many people’s moral codes.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—these aren’t series’ for the faint-hearted. Characters are complex, layered, and driven as men and women often are, but even the best have their dark moments, and with Bakker, they’re guaranteed to be dark indeed. There is a lot of evolution here in this book, and you may begin to see characters in new lights—and I daresay a few will certainly surprise. But villains and heroes certainly will still blur. Plus, here we get to see even more of that wacky Anasaurimbaur family—in all it’s crazed, homicidal glory.

Backtracking to the topic pacing now…I daresay that could be the book’s one issue. Certain portions of the book are quicker than others, and Achamian/Mimara’s sections in particular can suffer through a bit of a slog (haha, yes, I made a funny—readers will understand), largely due to the prevalence of thought over action. Until the end of course—and what an end! Hope you’re in the mind for cliffhangers, because you’re going to be handed a doozy of one—leaving readers with about as many questions as answers.

If anything, though, I do question the name of the book. Certainly The White-Luck Warrior is an influence to be felt behind the scenes…but while he does have an important moment, I don’t think he’s quite at the level yet to earn the titular. His parts are few, far-between, and decidedly fleeting. A touch off-putting I suppose, but minor as far as complaints go.

That said, I wouldn’t back down from labeling this one of the best books of the year, and certainly a fine way to be kicking off this decade. If you enjoy fantasy, I highly recommend it.