Insecure Writers Support Group, paranormal romance, symbolism, the writer's journey

#IWSG Post: Making Magic on the Page

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeI love being a fantasy writer. No matter how many stories I write, there’s always new terrain to explore. As a practicing Pagan, I also have the opportunity to weave threads of real magic into worlds of the fantastic.

One of the ways I do this is by incorporating the magic and symbolism of gemstones and plants into my stories. In Spellfire’s Kiss, for example, my characters cast a spell that uses five gemstones, four associated with each of the four elements (earth, water, fire, and air) and a fifth to symbolize spirit. In my Cabot Sisters series, the characters have a chalcedony pendant that symbolizes the water magic that runs in their family. In The Faerie Key, Lily uses black tourmaline, a crystal that’s said to have powerful protective qualities, in casting a protection spell.

Plants, including herbs and trees, also have elemental associations and magical or healing properties. Sage is dried and bundled and used for cleansing people’s auras and living spaces and for smudging magical tools such as athames and wands. Lavender has calming properties, and it’s an herb that I reference frequently in my stories. Willow trees are associated with poetry, oaks with royalty, and an ash tree is said to be Yggdrasil, the tree that connects the nine worlds in Norse mythology.

When it comes to magic, the possibilities are endless, and that’s why I know I’ll never get bored writing fantasy. There are always ways to incorporate the magic of the natural world into a fantasy story. By far the most interesting research I get to do for my stories involves magical symbolism. I research goddesses and gods, types of faeries and other magical creatures, symbolism of plants and stones, and so much more.

Being a fantasy writer allows me to draw from nature, my greatest inspiration, and to incorporate my Pagan faith into my work. A raven, messenger of Odin or the Morrighan. The songs of birds heralding the arrival of spring. The legend of a redcap or kelpie. The power of the goddess Brigid. Or simply the verdant green of summer leaves. This is the magic of my path—and the magic that can make a fantasy story shine.

Learn more about the Insecure Writers Support Group, visit fellow bloggers, or sign up here.

What about you? What’s the most interesting thing you get to research for your work?

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#ROW80 check-ins, writing process

Making our worlds come alive: Sunday ROW80 check-in

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about world-building, trying to determine what the ingredients are that make a world one we’re not likely to forget, those things that make a world so rich, so vivid that we can imagine ourselves there.

One of the keys, I’ve noticed, is that worlds that leap off the page are rich in detail. All those small things—the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, the wayward pines in the Sword of Truth, the sights, sounds, and smells of the world that lives on the page—those are what brings the world to life.

I’m currently reading the first book in what promises to be a wonderful series: “The Hunter’s Moon,” the first book in O.R. Melling’s Chronicles of Faerie series. Melling took courses in Celtic studies in college and is originally from Ireland, so the details in the story are amazing. It really feels like I’m there with her characters, backpacking through Ireland and being drawn into the faerie world. It’s not a new series, but I’m glad I plucked this book off the bookshelf.

As I revise one of my own stories about adventures in the faerie realm, I’m carrying all of this with me, slowly digging deeper into the world. For me, revising is all about layering. We’re adding layers and depth to our stories. Bit by bit, the story reveals itself.

What about you? What is your favorite detail from a book? What makes a world memorable to you?

Writing goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 7,960 words in “The Phoenix Feather” and “Stolen by Magic.”

2.) Read four books on the craft/business of writing. 2/4. Continued reading “Beginnings, Middles, and Ends” by Nancy Kress.

Social media goals

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Goal met.

2.) Blog twice a week. Goal met.

3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. Goal met.

Life goals

1.) Do yoga or tai chi or meditate three times per week. 1/3.

2.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. Goal met.

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A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

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#ROW80 check-ins, dose of inspiration

Why I write–and read–fantasy

Sometimes the world is so full of darkness that we need an escape–even if there’s a touch of darkness in that world we find ourselves drawn into. It’s especially nice to read a story in which characters overcome great odds, save the day, and live happily ever after. As J.R.R. Tolkien once said

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

photo by Janet Boyer, WANA Commons
photo by Janet Boyer, WANA Commons

Or, as Dr. Seuss puts it

“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

Fantasy offers us a wonderful opportunity not only for escape but also to learn about ourselves and see our world in a different light. Our villains are our fears personified. Our heroes inspire us to greatness. We can enter a world of magic, of elves, of witches, of dragons, of … well, if you can dream it up, it can exist in the pages of a fantasy story. When it comes to writing fantasy, not even the sky is the limit.

Now, more than ever, I believe the world needs fantasy literature. I’m glad to see how many conferences there are devoted to the subject—because works of fantasy deserve to be parsed, analyzed, and explored. I’m glad to see how many writers have created worlds for readers to lose themselves in, whether it’s embarking on a journey through Middle Earth, attending a school of witchcraft and wizardry, or seeing a fairy tale reimagined.

Sometimes we just need to get away. It not only recharges us, it can also heal us, it can also enlighten. I’m grateful that stories of the fantastic speak to me. If I had my pick of genres, this is the one I would come to, again and again. But I often don’t feel that I chose fantasy literature. I feel like these stories have chosen me.

There’s magic in this world—inside of all of us. And fantasy brings that to the forefront. So go ahead. Pour yourself a cup of tea, pick up a good book, and lose yourself for an afternoon or an evening. You need it. We all need it.

Or, as Terry Pratchett said

“Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”

I leave you with the words of Robin McKinley:

“The great thing about fantasy is that you can drag dreams and longings and hopes and fears and strivings out of your subconscious and call them ‘magic’ or ‘dragons’ or ‘faeries’ and get to know them better. But then I write the stuff. Obviously I’m prejudiced.

Obviously, so am I.

Lastly, an ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals:

1.) New goal: Work on steampunk story, tentatively titled “The Clockwork in the Stars.” Wrote a detailed synopsis and tracked down photos of most of my main characters. Also did a lot of background work on world-building.

2.) Finish a first draft of novella/novelette “Haunted Kisses.” On hold.

3.) Finish a second draft of novelette “Called by Magic.” Started revising the first chapter and read through the comments I’ve received so far.

4.) Do a read-through of “Good Old-Fashioned Magic,” make necessary edits, and send to critique partners. On hold.

5.) Read three books on the craft/business of writing. Continued reading “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass.

Social media goals:

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Every day except Friday.

2.) Blog twice a week. Blogged three times this week.

3.) Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Goal met.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Are you a fan or writer of fantasy? If so, what draws you to this genre? What draws you to your favorite genre?