Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes

Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes

Today we welcome my good friend Morgan Keyes, who has just published a brand new middle grade fantasy, Darkbeast (Simon & Schuster).  Morgan also writes as Mindy Klasky, and in that guise she is not only a colleague of mine over at SFNovelists, she is also a regular contributor to the Magical Words blog site.  She is witty, incredibly knowledgeable about our genre and the publishing business in general, and a wonderful writer.

As an added bonus, Morgan, with the generous support of the folks at Simon & Schuster, is giving away a free copy of Darkbeast.  Leave a comment before 11:59 p.m. EDT Sunday night, September 2, and you could win.  (Please keep in mind that this post is up at several blogs, so the winner might or might not be chosen from people who comment here.  Only one entry per person across ALL the blogs, please.  Commenting at each blog will not increase your chances of winning.)

Without further ado, here’s Morgan!!
*****

Many thanks to David, for allowing me to visit here and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel.

In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been bound to magically all her life.  Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.

Some authors have it easy.  They set their stories in real cities, taking advantage of real maps and readers’ familiarity with real landmarks.  Think, for example, of the wildly successful The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  A reader could navigate from the titular girl’s apartment to virtually any other setting in the book, simply by following Stieg Larsson’s detailed prose.

Some authors have it hard.  They set their stories in real cities, but in times past.  (Yes, D.B. Jackson, I’m looking at you, and at Thieftaker!)  These authors need to learn the actual map, as it existed in the time of their tale.  That alone can be a struggle – tracking down appropriate resources, reconciling conflicting data.  And woe to the author who has his characters walk streets that have changed their courses, or travel to landmarks that have burned and been rebuilt elsewhere.  Readers will helpfully offer endless “corrections” despite the actual accuracy of the story as written.

And then there are authors, like me, who can draw on actual history, but take liberties.  In writing Darkbeast, I created a secondary world, one that is not directly identical to anything in our actual historical past.  Nevertheless, I populated my world with people who were similar – in some ways – to actual people who lived in actual historical cultures.

Here’s an example:  Keara and her family are very religious; their lives are controlled in large part by the twelve gods they worship.  The architecture associated with those deities is distinctive, and it guides not only the design of the actual godhouses but their placement within villages and towns.  (For example, the goddess Pondera offers shelter to travelers, and her godhouse, however rudimentary, is always situated at the southern edge of settlements because people traditionally traveled from the south to the north on the Great Road.)

Alas, I don’t have any experience as a city planner.  For tiny villages, my ignorance was immaterial.  For larger towns, though, I needed help.  I needed maps of similar towns, located in similar geographic settings.

And so I came to study maps of Venice (with its waterways and bridges).  I also studied Rome (with its hills and multiple temples).  I tossed in a couple of surveys of Avignon, (with its massive Palace of the Popes, dominating an otherwise rather unremarkable medieval town).

My goal was not to create a factually correct map; no one is going to travel to Duodecia and use Darkbeast as a guidebook.  My goal was not even the more challenging one of presenting historical fact for modern readers, similar to Thieftaker.  Rather, my goal was to create a world that feels right, that seems accurate, even if no one can ever set foot there.  To that end, I could trace the path from the Doge’s Palace to the Bridge of Sighs, bulking up the palace into a “papal” bulwark, turning the bridge itself into a godhouse with specific attributes.

In the end, my readers will likely never know the specific paths I’ve traced.  But I know them, and they help me to keep the story straight in my head.  They help to make the world more real.

What are the most realistic secondary worlds you’ve encountered in fantasy fiction?  And what makes them feel “real” to you?
*****

Morgan KeyesMorgan can be found online at:

www.morgankeyes.com
www.facebook.com/morgan.keyes.author

Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including:  Amazon | B & N | Indiebound

Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat.  Also, there were books.  Lots and lots of books.  Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C.  In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads.  Because there are still books.  Lots and lots of books.
​​

Dragon*Con Cometh!

August 28, 2012

I’m heading to Atlanta the day after tomorrow for Dragon*Con, and frankly I am totally psyched.  Can’t wait.  I’ll be catching up with tons of old friends, and hopefully making some new connections.  I will also be appearing (as D.B. Jackson) on several panels and doing a reading of something from the THIEFTAKER universe — don’t know what yet.  My revised schedule is below.  My 11:30 panel is a late addition, and so I might not be on the list of panelists in your programs or on the D*Con app.  But I’ll be there.  Promise.

When I’m not on panels, I will be signing and selling books and t-shirts in the Marriott Marquis Dealer’s Room, booth 100-102 (Tairen’s Lair/Author’s Lair).  So, I hope that you’ll come and find me at one venue or another.

D.B. Jackson

——————-
Title: The Abundant World of Alternate History: An Overview
Description: Not just “Steampunk 101″ this panel will survey it all: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Dieselpunk, Post-Apocalypse, and much more!
Time: Fri 01:00 pm Location: International BC – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Gods and Goddesses
Description: How to develop a plausible religious/spiritual system for your fiction. Who worships whom and why?
Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Meet the Authors of Alternate History
Description: Join a wide array of Steampunk authors as they discuss their various Steampunk worlds and what to consider when writing your own.
Time: Sat 02:30 pm Location: Augusta 1-2 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Urban Fantasy – What exactly is it?
Description: What makes urban fantasy different than other kinds of fantasy?
Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Centennial I – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: The Steam Horizon
Description: Editors and writers will give sneak peaks into what’s coming in the near retro-future. Come and be the first to know what lies ahead.
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: International A – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Reading: D.B. Jackson / David B. Coe
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: Roswell – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: The Perfect Blend – Genre Mixing In Urban Fantasy
Description: Urban Fantasy has been romantic, mysterious, magical.  What makes the perfect blend?
Time: Mon 11:30 pm Location: Fairlie – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: How Do You Take Your Steampunk — Light or Dark?
Description: Steampunk can be light “fun adventure” or dark “something sinister.” Do you enjoy Steampunk light as aether, dark as night or a bit of both?
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: International A – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

Two more stops today on the ever-rolling Summer 2012 THIEFTAKER Blog Tour.  At Adventures in SciFi Publishing, you can listen to a podcast of an interview I did earlier this week with Techno-Wizard and Interviewer Par Excellence Shaun Farrell.  It was a fun conversation; I hope you enjoy it.  You can find it here.

I also have a new post up at SFNovelists.com — “A Writer’s Belated Tribute to FIREFLY.”  The post is about the ways in which Joss Whedon, and other creative stars, can teach writers about the craft of storytelling.  The post is here.

Today’s installment of the Summer 2012 THIEFTAKER Blog Tour can be found, once again, at the Magical Words blog site.  The post is a continuation of my series of essays on writing ideas and what to do with them, and it’s called, “On Creativity and Writing: Making the Most of Ideas, part IV — Blindsides, Gaps, and Spinoffs”

The basic point of the post is the we can’t control the timing of ideas — they come to us when they want to.  But we can adopt strategies that allow us to make the most of them, even if we’re in the middle of another project when the shiny new ideas show up.

I hope you enjoy it!

THIEFTAKER by D.B. JacksonThe Summer 2012 Thieftaker Blog Tour takes me today to Fantasy Literature, where I am interviewed by Bill Capossere.  The interview covers a broad range of topics, from research to pseudonyms to magic systems.  Fantasy Literature recently reviewed THIEFTAKER (with Bill writing the review) and so you can also find that review at the site.  And finally, as with all good stops on the Blog Tour, this one includes a book giveaway!  So visit the site, read the interview and leave a comment!  Maybe you’ll win a copy of the book!

I have my schedule for Dragon*Con, which I will be attending as D.B. Jackson. I have several panels and a reading, and when I’m not doing something in programming, I will be in the dealer’s room in booth 101/102 signing books!  Looking forward to the con and to seeing many of you there!

D.B. Jackson

——————-
Title: The Abundant World of Alternate History: An Overview
Description: Not just “Steampunk 101″ this panel will survey it all: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Dieselpunk, Post-Apocalypse, and much more!
Time: Fri 01:00 pm Location: International BC – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Gods and Goddesses
Description: How to develop a plausible religious/spiritual system for your fiction. Who worships whom and why?
Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Meet the Authors of Alternate History
Description: Join a wide array of Steampunk authors as they discuss their various Steampunk worlds and what to consider when writing your own.
Time: Sat 02:30 pm Location: Augusta 1-2 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Urban Fantasy – What exactly is it?
Description: What makes urban fantasy different than other kinds of fantasy?
Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Centennial I – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: The Steam Horizon
Description: Editors and writers will give sneak peaks into what’s coming in the near retro-future. Come and be the first to know what lies ahead.
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: International A – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: Reading: D.B. Jackson / David B. Coe
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: Roswell – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: How Do You Take Your Steampunk — Light or Dark?
Description: Steampunk can be light “fun adventure” or dark “something sinister.” Do you enjoy Steampunk light as aether, dark as night or a bit of both?
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: International A – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

“It comes down to this:  Writing and publishing books is not a zero-sum game.”

The Summer 2012 THIEFTAKER Blog Tour rolls on today with another post at my “home blog” — Magical Words.  The post is another in my series of essays dealing with creative ideas and how to handle them.  The post is called “On Creativity and Writing: Making the Most of Ideas, part III — The Fear of Being Scooped” and it can be found here.  I hope you enjoy it!

So, I have another signing this weekend — the THIEFTAKER Summer 2012 Signing Tour resumes with an event at the Barnes and Noble at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee.  I’ll be signing on Saturday at 2:00 pm, and I hope to see many of you there.

Signings are strange.  They can be utterly exhilarating.  I’ve had a few that sent so well, that saw me sell and sign so many books, that I really wanted them to go on and on and on.  I was fortunate enough to have several very successful signings in July, as my travels took me to Albany and Storrs, Somerville and Claymont, Rock Hill, Columbia, and Charlotte.

We writers don’t get to interact with readers and potential readers nearly as much as most of us would like.  Signings give us a unique opportunity to meet the people who buy our books.  Even more important, they allow us to interact with the people who sell our books — the bookstore managers and staff.

The folks who work in bookstores are almost always there because they love to read, they love to turn other people onto the books that they have enjoyed, and they enjoy meeting authors.  We enjoy meeting them every bit as much.

But not all signings go well.  And some of them are truly disasters.  There are few things worse in a professional writer’s life than sitting in a bookstore at a table laden with books, and signing nothing at all.  People enter the store, look your way, and then quickly avert their eyes, as if simply making eye contact will somehow compel them to buy a book they otherwise would not want.  I’ve had people come up to my table and ask me where the magazine section is, or where they can find a restroom.  “Um . . . I don’t know.  I don’t work here.  I’m doing a book signing.”  “Oh.  [Blink, blink]  Well, thank you . . .”

Now, I’ve also had people come up to me, look at my books and tell me, very politely, that they don’t read fantasy.  That’s fine.  I would never force someone to buy a book they didn’t want, and I am very happy to talk to people about books and about writing, even if they have no interest in ultimately purchasing my novel.  I prefer that — by a long shot — to having people avoid me entirely.

So, if you see me at the store, come by and say hello.  If you want to buy a book, great.  If not, that’s fine, too.  But there really is no need to run away.

Hope to see some of you on Saturday!

Yes, it’s been a little while since my last blog tour installment.  I admit it.  I was a little burned out and needed the week off.  My wife and girls and I went to the North Carolina Coast and spent the week swimming, reading, sitting out in the sun and sand, beachcombing, listening to the rush and retreat of the surf.  It was lovely.

But now I’m back, and I’m ready to get back to work.

It seems appropriate, though, to resume the blog tour with a post about taking time off from writing.

I’m asked quite often what advice I would offer to aspiring writers, and quite often I respond, at least in part, by saying that writers write, and that those who seek to become professional writers should make a daily habit of writing.  I still think that’s sound advice.  Writing is a little like exercising:  The more you do it, the easier it becomes.  There is no such thing as a writing muscle, of course, but I believe that the imagery can be helpful.  When you write, you tone your writing muscle, making it leaner, stronger, more efficient.

I know that after I take off too much time from writing, my writing muscle becomes a bit flaccid, and it can take me a couple of weeks, or even longer, to get back “in shape.”

And yet, having said all of that, I would now like to make the case for NOT writing all the time, for taking time off and giving oneself a break periodically.

As I have said here before, writing is hard.  It is draining emotionally; it is something many of us do in isolation, with little daily feedback; it can be deeply frustrating, not only in its everyday mechanics, but also in the slow progress that often characterizes our pursuit of longer term goals.  Sometimes, we just need time away from this work.  Creative burnout is real.  It can happen to the most dedicated and passionate among us.  Taking time away from our writing simply makes sense.  We wouldn’t want to work our real jobs without some time off.  We wouldn’t want to spend every waking minute with our children or our spouses or anyone else for that matter.  Breaks are healthy, they are necessary.  Without breaks, we run the risk of smothering our passion for the work we do.

But even more than that, sometimes breaks can actually be beneficial to the creative process.  Clearing our minds after finishing one project, or even after tackling a particularly difficult section of a work-still-in-progress, can make the next task far more manageable.  And yes, there are even times when we find ourselves confronted by something so challenging and troublesome that we need to take a break before we overcome it, lest we waste too much time and energy banging our heads against the proverbial wall.

Let me be clear here:  I am NOT saying that each time we reach an impasse with a book or story, we should take time off and wait for a solution to come to us.  Nine times out of ten — or maybe even ninety-nine times out of a hundred — I believe that the best way to deal with a creative problem is to sit at the computer (or in front of pad and paper) and work it through.  But there are exceptions.  There are times when that approach won’t work, and time away from writing really is the answer.

I am also not saying that with every finished chapter we should take off a week as a sort of creative reward.  Most of the time, I finish one section of a book or story and move on to the next.  But again, on occasion, rewarding oneself with a break of a day or two after reaching a milestone in a project can be a good thing.  And taking time off after completing a book manuscript is, in my view, essential to a writer’s mental and creative health.

Butt in Chair is still one of my favorite writing mantras.  We succeed by doing the work.  Still, taking time off from writing every now and then is not just acceptable, it is good practice, if for no other reason than because you will find yourself energized when you return to the work.  Just as I do now.

Keep writing!

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