Category Archives: Chronicler- Will Hahn

Year-End View: That Happened, This is Coming

The last two weeks have definitely involved reflection for me, an unaccustomed state with all that normally happens. Officially on vacation from work (still peeking at the emails each morning- confess, you do it too), and of course I submitted Book Four to Findaway Voices last week, so the audiobook series is finally out the door. Christmas light drive was Wednesday night and now I’m waiting on the big day and musing about what actually hit me in 2018, as well as what’s to come next.

2018 Year in Review: One Big New Thing

I did some of the more usual authorly stuff in the past year:

  • Fairs- Smyrna Opera House (Feb), Cecil ComicCon (Apr), Dover ComicCon (Aug)
  • Library Talks- April (‘By’ the Cover) and December (I Can Show You)

I sold some copies, met some folks, and I think I generally made a good impression. Most of all these gigs are FUN. For me. I’m so aggressively extroverted I would never pass up a chance to be in front of customers, fellow authors– really anyone who will stand still and listen to me talk is a friend in my book. What can I say, I’m easily pleased. I want to keep all these on my docket for 2019 and hopefully add at least one more fair (Ocean City ComicCon, which I hear is great but was far away and conflicted with a rehearsal for my daughter’s schooling).

The Traditional Thing

There was also some writing. Specifically, I lobbed out drafts of three short pieces (going into the Tales of Hope collection, where I’m aiming for a second volume at about twice the total size as current). I got good feedback but haven’t polished them yet. Also I created a “tall tale” that will be the seed for a longer piece about the origins of the hero Treaman, perhaps called “The Crust Runner”. As I reflect on my world, this well-traveled young Woodsman has to rank as one of the greatest and most important heroes of the new generation; and if Solemn Judgement has an origin, why not Treaman? It could be a short story, or perhaps a novelette, I still have to flesh this out and I’m looking forward to that in January (as I complete it for my assignment in Myth-Fantasy Writing!).

But far and away, what I did in 2018 was record my voice.

A Lot Like Writing

I can’t imagine how many hours I spent, just recording. Two hundred, maybe? Probably less, but then the editing, production effects, totaling the files and shipping them off with bated breath to my distributor.

And the waiting. That counts too. That WAS hundreds of hours.

Rejection, don’t forget that part- especially early on there was lots of learn-by-doing-wrong (most people drop that last word, but I’m being honest  here). The big audio houses have fairly tough technical requirements and I kept getting little things wrong. But the pipeline APPEARS to be moving smoothly now- The Ring and the Flag and Fencing Reputation are out (book 2 still waiting on Audible); Perilous Embraces entered distribution as of December 19th and should be popping up in various outlets soon; Shards of Light is awaiting technical checks but was recorded in identical fashion to the others so I anticipate it will go through. Maybe in time for Christmas?

I signed onto Findaway’s new Voices Plus service, a no-brainer for someone in my position. If you distribute to every partner and only use Findaway to do it, you can qualify for a few extra perks including piracy protection (which certainly caught my eye), and maybe a slice of preferential treatment when new abilities come to the platform. I certainly have no bandwidth to seek alternatives, so this seemed a great option for me. At least the next six months, I’m in.

I’m mentally quite exhausted by the effort to record, post and blog about my audiobooks but I am also proud of my efforts. I had no earthly notion it would suck up 90+% of my writing time for the entire year, so I will have to be careful about making promises to myself or others in future. But if the sales do at all well I would probably consider continuing to narrate in some capacity.

2019 Plans: Several Smaller Things

Much of this you can already guess.

  • The same fairs, plus one
  • Hoping for two or three library talks
  • Polish those three drafted short tales (perhaps add one or two more)
  • Grow the story-seed of Treaman’s origin into a short tale or novelette
  • Return to actually blogging sometimes. I will edit my world-building library talk into a six-bullet series which should be easy to take in, hopefully helpful to aspiring authors (and amusing to interested readers). After that, I have a few ideas.
  • Then back to writing for real with my long-abandoned start of The Test of Fire. This sequel to The Plane of Dreams is actually the end of the trilogy (the first book has yet to be written, so sue me). It is a ripping good tale, focusing more strongly on one of the terrific characters in that someday-to-be-middle book, the young knight Qerlak and his close companion the human Dream-seer Galethiel as they fight for what’s right on several levels. Can I finish this ~100k novel with less than 20k drafted? Probably yes! But that’s assuming a lot goes right for me and my family, which was never a wise bet

Like life itself, it’s an adventure and we’ll have to see. But as my college motto says:

Laying it on a bit thick? Maybe. But this is the time of year to feel ambitious. Remind me in May and we can both look back and laugh.

All the best to those reading my blog so faithfully; here’s to success whatever your plans for 2019 (unless your plans involve becoming a famous new epic fantasy author- I’m not secure enough to wish you well in that!).

 

State of the Lands: Poetry in Epic Tales (Seriously, What Up with That?)

Thou art wise to consider such a synthesis, Solemn. There are many worlds, but only a single nature.

-Final Judgement, The Eye of Kog

I have a question. Or perhaps it’s a rant. And maybe no one cares, though I’m far too egotistical to go for that. But it’s a Two-World Tuesday (OK in all honesty, a world and a half, you’ll see what I mean). But here’s the thing:

Over and over in classics of epic fantasy which I adore, I hit a patch where there’s this poem. And I love-love the story, but the poem just stops me cold.

And I’m wondering- why on earth is that in there?

Keep the Tale Moving

As a modern-day epic fantasy author, I’m challenged to construct a story that somehow brings the reader into an entirely new world, slips in all the information they need to understand that world and empathize with the characters, and keep them on track with a

Illus. Rachel McReynolds

ripping good plot that forces them to turn the page. If there’s no magic, monsters, other races, incredible geography, unthinkably-evil villains and mind-numbingly old prophecies coming true… then why not write a paranormal-thriller-shapeshifting-romance set in the Alleged Real World? Like everyone else!

{<— Shapeshifter with romance, I got. Alleged Real World? Not so much!}

Point being– why are you stopping your draft for anything, for any reason, much less for something so overt, decorative, distracting and pace-slaying as a POEM. Yet that’s what our forefathers, the giants of the genre, did all the time. ALL the FRICKIN’ TIME!!

  • C.S. Lewis broke into poetry frequently, most annoyingly to my taste in Till We Have Faces, and just at the climax before we figure out what’s going on.
  • Not to be outdone, Tolkien put tons of songs into LoTR, both at times when things were already going slowly (Tom Bombadil singing about how much he loves his wife), and also at times of great pathos (the Elves of Lothlorien singing their grief at the death of Gandalf). But the former case, when we don’t need to care, is in plain English doggerel complete with heigh-ho’s and hey-nonny’s. In the latter, when we really could get some emotional impact from the words… then, Tolkien puts the poem into ACTUAL-FACTUAL ELVISH! Because of course he made up languages from like six years old, and they hadn’t built the signs to warn fantasy authors about world-building yet. I mean, honestly, Elvish? And it goes on for two pages!
  • Just this past month I finally got around to reading George MacDonald’s Lilith, which was a head-bender in its own right let me assure you. I staggered on through a tar-pit of allegory for about the first third, and finally caught the thread of his plot, hanging on for dear life and enjoying it fairly well. But I’m not kidding, hanging on.
    • Suddenly there’s a real situation: an evil-looking feline creature has run through the MC’s library and is hiding in a dark corner.
    • And this is kind of supernatural and he’s not sure what to do but his mentor the Librarian says “I got this”. And proceeds to recite a poem. No, not kidding. A rhyming poem, full of Christian allegory (which is fine, but now?) and all the assurance that the Guy Above is going to win (which is fine, but ditto).
    • And every three or four stanzas the cat in the dark corner yowls in pain, and I’m wondering is it because the goodness in the verse is hurting it, or are the metered rhymes just driving it nuts like they are me? And it goes on for at least four pages! Verse-Verse-Verse-cat yowls, lather-rinse-repeat.
    • The cat gives up hiding and comes out, and the plot labors back into gear again. And I’m still hanging on. But dude, why?

I got tired of just asking myself why about this, and decided to have a think. And here’s what I think.

They Kind of Had To

I’m not posing as a scholar of the historiography of literature here. I’ve read some stuff, looked back in my reading list, and thought about it a while. And I came up with some thoughts, maybe they’re even excuses. Nothing I say about these giants in the least bit diminishes their stature.

Poems Are What They Started With!

If you think about it, the roots of epic fantasy are epic tales, told by our ancestors and describing a world they sincerely believed had existed. Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Beowulf (you KNOW how JRRT went gaga over that one). All poems! Even the lays of Roland and Arthur were in verse: it was quite literally the stuff of which the genre was born. I hadn’t ever really considered that. The notion of telling a TALE with an epic fantasy flavor was far less than a century old by the time these guys got started.

A Whole New World

Here’s one I bet you might not have thought about: how many years went by with people writing extraordinary stuff– new discoveries, monsters, supernatural occurrences– but all still set in the Alleged Real World! Almost everything we think of as classic horror and sci-fi, it all stayed “here”. And why not, creating a whole world is so laborious. But the epics of the past, despite having gods and miracles and creatures beyond the pale, were nevertheless all still part of this world, and their authors believed it had all happened in their distant past.

Breaking away from that, to create something entirely new, did not come easy. Thus was born the emphasis on world-building. Though in fact, you ALWAYS have to build a world for your reader, even in lit-fic. But now it’s a game where ANYTHING could be on the chopping block of change– taxes, nuclear families, gravity– better explain it soon or the reader’s going to assume the default setting.

And I guess these guys figured that the best way to enforce the notion of a world’s character, its believability if you will, was for it to have poetry. Yeah, me either.

Put Your Name on It

Sort of related to the previous theme, some of the earliest efforts in fantasy were portrayed as frame-tales, or via “primary sources”, etc. in an effort to cloud the issue of authorship. How better to make a tale seem real than to point elsewhere for authority? This doesn’t do much to explain the existence of poems in the tale, but it does create a kind of buffer between the writer and any critique of their work. Hey reader, this verse is just there, don’t blame me! Then too, of course media wasn’t so rampant and easily available, the competition for a free hour not as desperate. Stories could take their time, perhaps, for a poem or two along the way.

Hey- They WANTED To

For all these reasons (and also just because, I suspect), the fantasy giants were drawn to the notion of writing poems into their stories. I can’t judge from quality– I mean, at all, I have no idea– but I think in many cases they were being true to their roots, in others perhaps they were truly trying to add verisimilitude to the tales and make them more believable by the lights of their day, and then too, in the case of the Christian authors, they may essentially have been trying to write hymns. Since the allegory put them in that vein to start with, they were looking at joy and worship and giving us their version of the Psalms. The ones I recall have meter, and could be set to music.

Thither Go I?

Can anyone name an extended passage of verse or lyrics within an epic fantasy tale of the last couple decades? I’m not the widest-read fellow and most of my page-flips are in the past, but I can’t pull up a single example. So, I should definitely avoid this trap in the future, right? I mean, I do have the usual ancient prophecy at the start of Judgement’s Tale, and a soldiers’ marching song in The Ring and the Flag. But when the bard Salinj’r refers to the cryptic tomb-epitaph they find in the Shimmering Mindsea, during The Plane of Dreams— you know, the epic rhyming verse poem that could serve as the basis of two or three plot seeds– I should bring those out in prose, I’m sure. Forget the rhymes and meter I found in there. And the Song of the Silvertongue, which I’ve only taken down maybe a quarter of: I should leave that alone in the mists of history, no point in bringing the other eight to twelve verses out in poem. Everybody already knows who won the Battle of the Razor.

Sure, that’s what I ought to do. I get it. Then I start to think about what makes a world seem real, and I come back again and again to the notion that the characters feel joy, have a capacity for happiness. Those kind of people, damn it, they recite tales, say stuff that rhymes, they sing songs. Just has to be part of the story, is all. I mean, I didn’t set out to write poems, I just… found them along the way.

What’s your opinion? Have you ever run across a poem in a tale that really boosted you along? Or are you one of those old-fashioned holdovers that isn’t looking to turn the pages at record speed? Comment here, you could be saving me from myself!