Still Researching, For a Good Reason

Two weeks have flown by since my last blog, but as you from the previous post, life’s been a whirlwind. Our sunny fall weather has officially become a drought, but as you’ll see from the photo, my hubby’s managed to find some beautiful fall leaves. While he’s been experimenting with photography, I’ve been focusing on editing, which is both calming and challenging.

A few days ago, I learned about an intriguing writing contest called the Unchartered Novel Excerpt contest. This contest was recommended by a writing colleague whose agent is the judge. You can submit anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words of your work in progress and the key is to choose something exciting to attract attention. It took some thinking as I have several big moments in this 122,000-word manuscript.

I wound up choosing two consecutive scenes that contain action, dialogue, and address the heart of the story. I’ve been working on this section a great deal and will be submitting the piece this week, I hope. If you’re interested in learning more about the contest, and I apologize for the late date, click HERE. They aren’t just looking for fantasy, but mysteries and horror as well. There’s also a good FAQ you can read on the home page for more information. I’ll do a little more research before I hit the submit button.

Research for my urban fantasy has been the other focus lately. Although I’ve read plenty of novels in this genre and books on Wicca and magic, I now find myself needing to read more on shamanism. One of the key characters in my fantasy is a shaman of mixed ethnic backgrounds, however, his shamanic training came from North American Indigenous cultures, and therein lies the problem.

After reading a number of articles about the need for sensitivity and the reluctance of publishers to touch anything even remotely Indigenous, particularly here in Canada, I’m reworking the character and focusing on Celtic shamanism, which is my ethnic background.

I found an amazing book on the topic that speaks to me on a level I hadn’t anticipated at all, but that’s something to reflect on later. At the moment, I’m looking at the issue from a writing/researching perspective and have compiled pages of notes. This particular character doesn’t have a lot of scenes, but the ones he does have are crucial and will necessitate some rewriting in the next draft.

The more I work on this book, the more I learn, and the more things need to be changed. Have you found that the longer you work on a project and the more research you do, the extra number of drafts you create? This whole process would be so much easier if I were writing a novella.

I was listening to the great novelist John Irving on CBC Radio this weekend. He’s 80 years old now and is about to release his latest novel. Wow! The interviewer asked him if he has another novel in the works, and he replied that he does, but it’ll be much shorter. He doesn’t have the time and energy for months of research anymore. I can totally relate to that!

#amblogging: Wicca: Where Everything Old Is New Again

I don’t have a strong religious background. My Sunday school education ended at age twelve. Neither my parents nor any of my grandparents went to church. Lately, though, I’ve become interested in reading about all types of religious beliefs.

In particular, I’ve been reading about Wicca, primarily because it’s at the core of an urban fantasy I’m writing. I also took an introductory course on the topic last year. That six-evening session was so interesting that it inspired further reading. Our instructor recommended books by Scott Cunningham, so I picked up a couple. Here’s a snippet of notes I made from his work:

. Wicca is a loosely organized pagan religion centering toward reverence for the creative forces of nature, usually symbolized by a Goddess and a God.

. Wiccan’s spiritual roots accepts magic. Wicca doesn’t solicit members because it doesn’t claim to be the one try way to deity. (I like that part.)

. Wicca is a joyous religion that stems from a kinship with nature. It is a merging with the goddesses and gods, the universal energies that created all in existence. It is a personal, positive celebration of life.

. Wicca arose from shamanic beginnings, which the author says was the first, original religion. (I know plenty of Christians who would disagree, but there you go, diversity of opinion, right?)

. The Wiccan rule of morality: do what you want, as long as you harm none. Also, do nothing that will harm yourself. Concern and love for the planet is at the heart of Wicca.

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Wicca has gained a lot of popularity over the last twenty years. You could say that it’s been making a slow but steady comeback. As hard as some people tried in earlier centuries, this earth-based religion never really died. If practitioners are true Wiccans, they use magic solely to make the world a better place, to heal and to help.

As with most fantasy novels, authors who write about witches are actually writing about Wiccans gone wrong. It’s where a writer’s imagination takes off, and why I love this genre as a reader and a writer.