The following is an all new story — a Lost Tale of sorts — set in the world of the Watchers of the Light that was first revealed in Among the Shadows. Readers of AtS will have met Milena before (and this story takes place after the events of AtS). Those who have not crossed paths with this Arc Maiden are about to learn why the Darkness fears her. Enjoy…
Moby Dick. The Hobbit. A Tale of Two Cities.
All have classic beginnings, ones many readers know by heart. And therein lies one of the great challenges of writing: The beginning. The hook. Finding a way to convince people to continue past the first sentence in your Moby Dick length epic in this soundbite world
So are there hard and fast rules to help your catchy first sentence to not turn away readers? There are many recommendations that can keep your first lines from sounding clichéd, as Joe Konrath lists in “How Not to Start a Story.”
After reading his article you may, like I did, start pulling books off the shelf and seeing how many examples of rule violations you discover. There are always exceptions, but many of his points concern avoiding clichés and not boring the reader. Creative writing should be, well, creative. However, be careful to not throw the baby out with bathwater.
Take the “no prologues” rule that many swear by. It isn’t that prologues are bad book structure, rather it’s that many people don’t know how to write one correctly. The Prologue, like a Chapter 1, must kick off your narrative, but it does so while adding some additional layers. Quite often, it’s part of the story that is out of time sequence with what follows. The connections should be clear in the chapter that follows the prologue, or it isn’t a prologue. This, combined with the fact that the prologue must also launch the story, makes execution a little more difficult for the writer. The payoff can be worth it, especially if you also include elements that foreshadow plot points deep in your narrative.
Typically readers could care less how you label your chapters, but a writer can use this old school, traditional structure to set something apart. It’s a subliminal way to place something in your reader’s mind. Ultimately, if your Prologue works as a Chapter 1, it probably isn’t a prologue.
A good one, though, may help pull your reader into your Hobbit hole from word one and not let go.
The fantasy genre has exploded in popularity over the past twenty years. From the big screen adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, to endless new novels often directed to teens and young adults. Fantasy has always appealed to younger readers as escapism, but is this the only reason, or is there something more for the current generation?
Rebecca LuElla Miller writes of deeper reasons in The Appeal Of Fantasy For Young Adults, in that these readers have been:
…expected to do little more than have a good time and do their homework, [now they] long for significance. They want to do something that matters, that has eternal purpose…long for a life that matters, and they find in fantasy a world that needs someone who will step up and do just that.
Then too, fantasy helps young people organize the world. There is moral right and wrong, and the characters in fantasy must align themselves with one or the other. There’s also history that makes a difference in the here and now, prophesy that tells about the future, and decisions that make or break a destiny.
So I suspect that these, and the other reasons that LuElla details, are not all that different for all age groups. Finding your true purpose, your place in the Story, is the desire that burns in all people.
Younger readers just haven’t given up on that quest. They haven’t allowed societal forces to tell them where to go or what to do. Yes, one could also argue that flawed materialistic and relativistic beliefs have replaced solid and logical worldviews.
Perhaps a good dose of fantasy is, ironically, needed to show us reality.
Kat Bloodmayne was experimented on by her father. Now her soul is dying and an uncontrollable power within her threatens all around her.
When we last left Kat in Tainted, she had learned of the darkness infecting her father. He seeks to capture her and take her power for an insidious Frankenstein-esque goal — and is willing to sacrifice his daughter in the process.
Awakened is set in a steampunk era that almost was: Victorian style, merged with the industrial age, and one of airships and mechanized war. So are you ready to enter this world where the Darkness is rapidly descending? Will Kat control her power and restore her soul?
Or will she destroy all those around her, even those she loves?
The Templars played a part in the history of Among the Shadow‘s origins. This was years ago, when the Knights Templar became the central focus of novels, revisionist history books and films. Suddenly, the medieval Knights were everywhere, from being in control of secret organizations, to being the key to finding lost treasures and solving religious mysteries. A new History Channel drama, Knightfall, may soon bring the Knight Templars back into the limelight (check out the trailer here).
The problem with many of the Templar books is that they are based on fake history , or create their own. Partially thanks to medieval fake news and propaganda spread by the Templar’s enemies, the Templars are easily abused by those with imaginative views of history.
In spite of this onslaught of fake history, the real history has always been largely available. There are the classics Dungeon, Fire and Sword and The Knights Templar, which give a complete picture. Others like God’s Battalions and The Templars and the Shroud of Christ address many of the claims of revisionists.
So how does this apply to my writing? Years ago, during the height of Templar mania, I was reading The Knights Templar, and came to chapter on the battle at the Horns of Hattin. During this battle, the Crusader army had brought with them what they thought was a relic of the True Cross. The battle was a catastrophic loss.
Instantly, though, I had an Inspiration Moment that would from the basis of Among the Shadows: Epic battles, legendary warriors and powerful relics. This would merge with my new found fascination with the fantasy genre and help define historical fantasy.
Ultimately, the Templars and the Battle of Hattin would recede into the background of the novel. The lost relic would remain prominent, as would threads of history — history that I wanted to remain accurate as opposed to how it was being handled by other writers. Of course, being fantasy, the fantastic is dropped against the historic backgrounds. Blurring the lines a bit, but leaving history intact, leave readers wondering what in myth and legend may be hints of forgotten truths.
Maybe the Templar connection will be explored again in future novels, but for now, their history remains part of our own all these centuries later.
The mysterious Nan Madol is in the news, due to attention from a television show. These ruins of a forgotten city on the island of Pohnpei have long been the center of myth and legend. In one of the opening scenes of Awakening, sequel to Among the Shadows, Ethan, Milena and Kyra, are vacationing on the ancient isle, but they find something unexpected in an empty tomb. A brief excerpt from the forthcoming Awakening…
Next to Ethan, Milena put her hands on the boulder. She closed her eyes, and cleared her mind with the box breathing she learned when training with her katanas. The energy began to surge within and she felt it intertwine with Ethan’s.
“On three. One…two…three.”
She opened her eyes, lit green from within, her husband’s burned blue.
“It’s moving!” Kyra yelled…With a little help from gravity, and more from their strength, they rolled the boulder out of the way…
Kyra turned the light on the darkness, chasing it away. “There are steps going down into another chamber.”
“Let me have one of those.” Kyra handed her father his flashlight and he started down. As soon as Ethan reached the last step, the light reflected off a crystal pyramid, twice the width of the boulder, but no taller. It sat dead center in the room, nearly filling it. The low ceiling added to the claustrophobia as Milena and Kyra joined Ethan. Krya approached the pyramid and reached out her hand.
“No, wait!” Milena yelled, running for her a moment too late.
Kyra’s palm pressed on the crystal and light swirled within it, illuminating the room. The walls shimmered and vanished. The tomb, the ruins, the island — all of it — had been replaced by a dusty, vast plain under a blazing sky. Haze obscured the jungle covered hills rising in the distance. Shadows passed over the ground.
Kyra looked into the sky and screamed.
Read how their adventure began in Among the Shadows and look for Awakening coming in 2018.
Being a “mentor” or “life coach” appears to be a popular career choice. I don’t know if it’s a generational trend, or a sign of some underlying needs. I tend to think it’s the latter, but I do know that our fiction is full of these mentors, or Sages, that seek to pass on their guidance. The role of the Sage is not a new one, it’s part of the ancient tradition of one generation passing on to the next their wisdom.
Perhaps a lack of that transfer of wisdom is the cause of the growing trends. Fiction, though, has been reminding us all along of this lost responsibility of each generation. John Eldredge, on writing on the stages of a man’s life in The Way of the Wild Heart, explores the Sages of fiction:
The War Among the Shadows has begun. Are you ready to enter the fray? Will you stand with the Watchers against the Darkness? Six will face the creatures lost to myth and legend. Will you join them? Among the Shadows Kindle edition is now $2.99 for a limited time. Step through the veil before it’s too late!
This extended excerpt from Among the Shadows is from a chapter that serves as an interlude in the story. In the midst of the dire situation Milena found herself in, this was an opportunity to see more into her mind and her husband’s, and explore deeper themes relevant to all of us. Enjoy…