Category Archives: Waterspell fantasy trilogy

“Literary Fantasy” Defined

Book 1 The WarlockThis 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

Find Temple’s list on Literary Hub at “10 Works of Literary Fantasy You Should Read.”

 

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Notes from a ConQuesT 52 Foodie

close up photo of sliced bread on oval wooden plate

Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on Pexels.com

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.

 

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Christopher Plummer Narrates Alice in Wonderland

A friend who is active in the Lewis Carroll Society of North America honored the memory of the late Christopher Plummer by recommending his masterful narration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I’m very glad she did!

Plummer’s narration is brilliant. He gives each character a fresh new voice and brings out each personality to perfection. Even as well as I know the story, he had me laughing out loud. Listening to his performance (and it IS a performance, not merely a reading) is an entirely different (and better) experience than reading the books.

Given the ways in which my own Waterspell fantasy novels connect with the Alice books, I am particularly delighted to discover the Plummer narration and to recommend it to anyone who loves a good story well told. You’ll enjoy listening to a consummate professional lend his remarkable talents to Alice in Wonderland.

By the way, I couldn’t find the Plummer narration at Audible. I downloaded my copy from Barnes & Noble Nook Audiobooks.

 

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Singing the Social Media Blues

Waterspell on Goodreads


Was there ever an attempt at “social media” that turned out more difficult to use or clunkier than Goodreads? I set up an author profile at Goodreads years ago, but soon abandoned it because it’s so maddeningly difficult to beat into submission. Every update requires multiple attempts to make the edits “stick.” I thought I never WOULD manage to upload the new Waterspell covers and force the interface to show those as the default covers.

I wonder how useful Goodreads actually is to authors like me, who are trying every way we can to reach a wider audience. Cutting through the static is enormously difficult.

With new audiobook editions of my fantasy novels in the works, however, I’m once again struggling with such things as a Facebook page. “Clunky” isn’t a strong enough word for THAT particular platform—it’s dang near impossible to use, and Facebook’s algorithms ensure that few people will see it. I’ve now done my utmost to update my author profile at Goodreads. I’m trying to do something with LinkedIn, though I’m not sure it’s particularly suited to my needs. I’m not looking for a job. Twitter? Yech. I quit Twitter years ago and have no intention of going back.

What’s next? Instagram? A YouTube channel? Are any of them worth the effort they require? Are they worth the time they take away from writing and editing? I don’t know.

What I do know is that word-of-mouth is the only truly effective way of spreading the word about books that are worth reading. Fingers crossed that the soon-to-be-released audiobooks will catch on, the forthcoming fourth book will get some attention, and Waterspell will finally reach its intended audience. Given the glowing-ness of the reviews the trilogy got, I live in hope that more of my potential readers will find my work. I know they’re out there.

My eternal gratitude to everyone who has read the trilogy and left reviews at Amazon, Goodreads, and book blogs. I love you all, dear readers.

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Touching the Senses: Smell

“Researchers plan library of scents from plague repellents to early tobacco”

In the works: an online encyclopedia of European odors between the 16th and early 20th centuries. What a fabulous resource this will be for writers needing to describe the smell of (for instance) a sorcerer’s library filled with musty old books, or a chatterbag housekeeper’s richly scented kitchen.

“Once you start looking at printed texts published in Europe since 1500 you will find loads of references to smell, from religious scents – like the smell of incense – through to things like tobacco,” said Dr. William Tullett of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, a member of the Odeuropa team and the author of Smell in Eighteenth-Century England.

The first step in the three-year project, which is due to begin in January, will be to develop artificial intelligence to screen historical texts in seven languages for descriptions of odours – and their context – as well as to spot aromatic items within images, such as paintings.

That information will be used to develop an online encyclopaedia of European smells  …

See the full article in The Guardian at https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/nov/17/scents-of-history-study-hopes-to-recreate-smells-of-old-europe

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Ruminations on the Third Draft of the Fourth Book (with a blurb-in-progress)

When I sat down to write a fourth book in my Waterspell fantasy series, I wondered whether I still had enough to say about my characters and their world to produce a novel-length work. Turns out, I needn’t have worried. I got Drafts 1 and 2 down on paper in record time: started May 6; had a nearly complete second draft by September 6. After leaving the manuscript sitting for a couple of weeks, I started again at the beginning of the story, checking it against my stacks of notes, looking for loose ends and adding material to address every thread that I wanted to bring forward from the original trilogy. The result is a third draft that’s very nearly complete at just shy of 90,000 words. Book 4 will be the shortest in the series. The previous record-holder for “short” was Book 3, at about 115,000 words.

Book 4’s conciseness stems partly from my not needing to include so much description. The story takes place in settings that readers already know from Books 1 through 3.

I’m aware, however, that I’m relying more on narration in Book 4 than I did in the previous volumes. Between now and the early months of 2021, I plan to let the story sit largely untouched as I hear back from my beta readers and get some distance from the narrative. I’m a bit concerned that this story lacks the immediacy of Books 1 through 3, which were built on you-are-there, “real-time” scene-and-sequel with lots of dialogue and limited narration. Detailed scenes take more words to lay out for the reader than narration requires.

As a writer (and as an individual) I’m in a very different place from who and where I was when I finished the trilogy. It’s no surprise, to me, that my approach to Book 4 differs in tone from the original books. I’m trusting my beta readers (and my gut, once it has gained the necessary distance) to tell me whether my approach to Book 4 will satisfy readers who enjoyed the original story of Carin and Verek, or whether the “new me” is straying too far from readers’ expectations.

In the meantime, here’s the working draft of the book blurb. Any and all comments will be appreciated:

It’s five years later, Carin and Verek are married with children, and the grandparents are calling. Readers of the Waterspell fantasy series will welcome this long-awaited fourth book for the answers it provides to questions raised in volumes 1 through 3: Does the wysard Verek regain his powers, and will Carin make her way back to him? Have Carin’s parents survived the bleeding disease that devastated Earth, and will Carin ever see them again? How is the woodsprite faring in its new world? Has it forgiven the treachery committed by its greatest friend? Will Carin ever forgive herself for abandoning the creature? Does Megella get her wish, to be the wisewoman who midwifes Carin’s children into the world? Will those children bear the mark of their ancestry, or are they fated to be disappointingly ungifted? Did Lanse survive? Is Lord Legary really dead? And not least: Did the necromancer die in the jaws of Carin’s conjured dragon? Remember: There was no blood in the water. These questions and more are answered in Waterspell Book 4: The Witch, which picks up the story of the lovers, Carin and Verek, five years after readers last saw the pair separated in the closing chapters of the series’ third book.
By the blood of Abraxas, it’s about time we learned what happened next.

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When Characters Speak

I’m having a great time working with a skilled, extraordinarily talented professional narrator to turn the first three books of Waterspell into audiobooks. The way the narrator has moved into the body of my wysard is uncanny. The man sounds exactly like the voice I heard in my head during all the years I devoted to writing Books 1 through 3. I look forward with eager anticipation to each newly recorded chapter the narrator sends me. He’s finished Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock and is approaching the one-third mark of Book 2: The Wysard. We plan to release both audiobooks together or within about a month of each other, since Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger and I believe listeners will want to move immediately into Book 2.

For me, an unexpected side benefit of hearing my characters’ voices come alive in the real world, is the inspiration this experience has provided to finally get me writing again. After my husband’s sudden death in 2012, I had no impulse to write. People would ask about a possible Book 4, and all I could tell them was that Life with a capital L had kicked me hard, and I wasn’t writing. Then came 2016, and the shock of discovering that I wasn’t living in the country I thought I was living in. The country of my birth was, in fact, a breeding ground for the absolute worst in human nature.

Therefore, after spending four years trying to patch together my life, I found myself obliged to join the Resistance and spend the next four years attempting to save the soul of my nation.

Then came 2020 and Covid-19, and a months-long self-isolation that has been a godsend for me. I hate the pain, the loss, the suffering that this virus has heaped on other people’s heads. I’m a walking example of white privilege: I get to stay home, safely isolated out in the country, ordering stuff for delivery to my gate and going into town only to pick up groceries and my mail. My pandemic experience has been 180 degrees from the devastation that others have experienced.

After years of no motivation followed by years of exhausting nonstop effort to resist the tide of fascism, I suddenly found myself with both the time and the desire to create something of my own again. Almost immediately upon entering my bubble of self-isolation, I hired my audiobook narrator. After six or seven weeks of listening to his breathtakingly good interpretations of my characters and their story, I placed my fingers upon the keyboard and started pounding out Book 4.

I started Draft One on May 6, and completed Draft Two on September 6. Record time for me (Books 1–3 took me 16 years to write and publish).

The second draft will need to sit for a couple of weeks. I do still have obligations to my state and my nation—I’m supporting candidates and contributing to Get Out the Vote efforts. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks engaged in that effort.

But then I’ll be looking through my notes again, and settling down for a close reread and re-edit of Draft Two. I’m tentatively planning a Summer 2021 release date of the Book 4 ebook, to coincide (I hope) with the release of the Waterspell Book 3 audiobook.

How good it is to be writing again. Strange, how inspiration will arrive unexpectedly, and opportunities may arise from cataclysm.

 

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Having Fun Again

How great it is to read that Far Side creator Gary Larson has published his first new cartoons in 25 years, and he’s sort of coming out of retirement – though with no deadlines. Larson said he is having fun, “exploring, experimenting, and trying stuff” – without the pressure of daily deadlines.

“So here goes,” he wrote. “I’ve got my coffee, I’ve got this cool gizmo [a digital tablet], and I’ve got no deadlines. And – to borrow from Sherlock Holmes – the game is afoot.”

While I’m not in the same league as Gary Larson, I completely identify with the delight he’s taking in all the creative potential contained in new technology. He wrote: “I hail from a world of pen and ink, and suddenly I was feeling like I was sitting at the controls of a 747. But as overwhelmed as I was, there was still something familiar there – a sense of adventure. That had always been at the core of what I enjoyed most when I was drawing The Far Side, that sense of exploring, reaching for something, taking some risks, sometimes hitting a home run …”

I feel the same way about my Waterspell books. I began writing the story in 1996. Created my first website for it in 2000, using what was then a modern app called Web Express. I attended writers conferences and pitched my books to various editors who invited me to submit the manuscript. Some of them never gave me the courtesy of any reply, afterward. Several did reply, but every one of them rejected it with some version of: “Definitely captures interest, it’s beautifully written, it’s very cinematographic” … but, “The first book of the series must be a standalone. We won’t commit to publishing all three books of a trilogy.”

In other words: Every major publisher who looked at it wanted to publish only the first book, and if it wasn’t immediately as profitable for them as the Harry Potter series, they’d kick me to the curb. I’d be on my own to publish Books 2 and 3.

That being the case, I decided my only rational response was to publish all three books on my own. How fortunate for me that I went the indie route! Have I made any money? Nope. My royalties have not come anywhere near covering the time and effort I’ve put into these books. But I’ve retained control, which has me in a great position to enjoy the benefits of new technology. Like Gary Larson, I’m having fun exploring modern tech’s creative potential, while freeing myself from deadline pressures.

The creative spark for my current project began in December 2019, when my sister-in-law gave me an Audible audiobook gift membership. I immediately downloaded The Lord of the Rings, the unabridged edition narrated by Rob Inglis.

My god! What a masterpiece. Inglis’ narration is astounding. He speaks Elvish, Dwarvish, and Orkish. He sings the songs. He correctly pronounces unpronounceable words. I found the whole audiobook experience to be far superior to rereading the books myself, and even better than the movies. The audiobooks combine the best of both: the dramatization of movies, with the completeness of  books.

My readers had been encouraging me to produce audiobooks of the Waterspell series, but I thought the cost would be prohibitive. After so immensely enjoying The Lord of the Rings, however, I decided to look into it.

And that’s when I discovered the creative potential of new technology.

It turns out that Audible has this nifty “Audiobook Creation Exchange” (ACX) by which writers and narrators can find each other, and work together easily and affordably. I’ve been astonished by how simple it was to post an excerpt, invite auditions, and immediately find the world’s most perfect narrator.

(More about him in a later post. We’re still working on Book 1. When we’re nearing the end of Book 2 and the books are set for release on Audible, I’ll be launching a bragging campaign about the extraordinarily talented narrator I found through ACX.)

My delight with new technology extends also to the ease of getting book covers designed these days. Even in 2011, when Waterspell Book 1 was initially published, getting decent covers proved difficult. I was never satisfied with the covers on the first editions, and I’ve been thrilled to discover that things have evolved to the point where writers can easily connect with talented graphic designers who’ll create good-looking covers using stock images. The new covers, created by Vila Design, are vastly more appealing than the books’ first-edition covers.

And like Gary Larson, I’m now doing this work for fun. I’ve got my coffee. I’ve got no deadlines to meet except those I set for myself. I’ve got no one to please but myself. No editor’s opinion counts with me now, for “Book 1 must stand alone” has been established as the fallacy that it is. Readers and reviewers have described the Book 1 cliffhanger-ending as “wonderful” and the series structure as “getting bigger and bigger.” I always knew that I knew what I was doing.

Having a new collaborator, however, in the person of the professional narrator who’s hard at work on the audiobooks, has sparked my creativity in an unexpected way. Hearing the narrator give each of my characters a distinctive voice has made the entire story seem new to me again. I swear the man has become Lord Verek — he voices the wysard so powerfully, and so close to the voice that I’ve heard in my head for years, that it’s simply uncanny. You just wait ’til you hear him.

Working with the narrator has proven to be such an inspiration, I actually cranked out the long-neglected Book 4 in a mere two months: May 6 to July 6. It’s a roughish first draft, it’ll need fleshing out — particularly as I work through the existing trilogy with the narrator, and recall details that I’ve forgotten. But it’s a solid start, and by this time in 2021, I expect to be publishing Book 4, which ties together some of those threads (not really loose ends) that remained from the first three books.

That’s how I’ve been spending the 2020 coronavirus lockdown: working with an excellent audiobook narrator, working with a talented cover designer, and writing a fourth novel. Like Gary Larson, I’ve been freed by the creative potential of all this new technology. It’s making my life fun again, after several dark years of grief, and feeling like I’d never write another word of fiction.

I wasn’t actually sure I still could write fiction. But I’ve shown myself that I can. And I’ve got my sister-in-law and other family members, my narrator colleague, my graphic-design colleague, Audible, ACX, Rob Inglis, and all my lovely and supportive readers to thank for pulling me out of my personal black hole and getting me creating again. Love you all! ♥

Waterspell, a fantasy trilogy by Deborah J. Lightfoot

Waterspell, a fantasy trilogy by Deborah J. Lightfoot

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July 2020 Ebook Sale

Through July 31, the three books of Waterspell are on sale for $1.50 each. They’re available in all formats: Kindle, Nook, and others. Click here to purchase. Find Reviews here. Thanks for your support!

Waterspell, a fantasy trilogy by Deborah J. Lightfoot

Waterspell, a fantasy trilogy by Deborah J. Lightfoot

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Authors Give Back

Through Thursday, April 20, 2020, thousands of authors and publishers are giving housebound readers deep discounts on ebooks. Discounts range from 30% to 60% off the regular price, and some titles are free.

Waterspell Book 1: The WarlockThe three books of the Waterspell series are included in the month-long sale. You can purchase the ebooks for $1.20 each, in any format offered here, including epub, mobi for Kindle, and html.

This sale is a direct result of several Smashwords authors who suggested it. These indie authors want to support readers around the world who face unprecedented anxiety, economic hardship, and social isolation as the world community struggles to stem the spread of the Covid-19 virus. More than ever, these ebooks from indie authors and publishers offer readers hours of low-cost entertainment, distraction, comfort, and knowledge during these trying times.

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