Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why I Write by Author Kevin Gerard

by Guest Author Kevin Gerard (comment for a chance to win a copy of one of his books in the Conor and the Crossworlds series)

I write because I want to make a contribution.

I always wanted to write but never found the courage. I took one creative writing course in college and wrote the first twenty pages of Conor’s story. The class loved it. The teacher encouraged me to write more of it.

Fifteen years after leaving that class I met a martial arts instructor who had written a conditioning book for Tae Kwon Do. I asked him how he found the discipline to write an entire book. I took home what he told me and failed miserably, but something about what he said sparked another idea. I decided I would write one double-spaced page every day. For the next five years I wrote every day. It started out as one page; eventually it became five pages a day. I’ve never moved beyond that amount, but I’ve written every single day. Two things happen when you do that; you get into a habit and your writing gets better very quickly.

Margaret Weis caused me to become an author more than anyone else. She wrote a trilogy called the Star of the Guardians. Without exception it is the greatest story I’ve ever read. She’s written a number of fantasy stories with Tracy Hickman, and I enjoyed them, but her solo effort just blew me away. I cry like a baby at movies, but this was the first time I ever cried while reading a fantasy story, or any story for that matter. There was a female character in the trilogy, Maigrey Morianna, who I’m sure influenced the creation of the Lady of the Light, a central character in Conor’s story. I’d love to meet that author some day so I can thank her for writing that phenomenal story.

I write with abandon. When I edit, I’m in a structured mode, but I’m strictly organic while writing. I feel this is especially important when writing a fantasy story – you really need to have total spontaneity or the story will suffer. I mentioned the Lady of the Light before; she has a relative that appears at the end of Book Three. I had no idea the relative even existed until that moment. Sometimes you have to let the story tell itself.

I don’t know whether it’s fortunate or unfortunate, but there is no typical writing day for me. If I had my druthers, I’d do all my writing in the morning. I’m up early always, I love that time of day, and I seem to be very productive then. I am a college professor, though, and I also spend huge amounts of time promoting Conor and the Crossworlds. I write whenever I have a spare thirty minutes. I keep a flash disk in my pocket with the latest ten pages of any story I’m working on, and when I see an opening in my schedule, I stick it in the computer and write!

As far as the future, I think there are five more books in the Conor and the Crossworlds series, but I have to make the first five a success before I sit down and write the others. I also fell into a great idea for another story. At a book talk I did in California I gave away a very cool dragon statue I kept on my desk the entire time I wrote the Conor and the Crossworlds story. I have a funny feeling about that dragon, maybe he will inspire that student to write his own books, and that might make a cool story in itself.

I wrote the Conor and the Crossworlds story for a variety of reasons. First and foremost concerns Purugama the magical cougar. This particular creature has lived in my mind for more than forty years. When I was a young boy I used to lie in bed at night and imagine a great beast exactly like Purugama floating down and landing by my bedroom window. After crawling out of bed and dressing, I would step through the window and climb aboard the mighty cougar. I would instantly be transformed into a powerful warrior, and off we’d fly toward our thrilling adventures. Amazingly, I kept that vision in my mind for decades until I finally wrote the first novel.

I never intended for Conor’s story to go beyond one book. A tragic event caused me to continue the story and create the characters for Book Two. The Lord of the Champions, Maya, was a real cat. He belonged to a close friend of my wife’s. An extraordinary cat, Maya befriended me when I married my wife and moved to San Diego. He was extremely proud, he had a right to be; he was a magnificent creature and an amazing individual. One day his mistress called our home with terrible news, Maya had been attacked by a rampaging pack of pit bulls. They ripped him to pieces in his own front yard. I cried openly on the telephone, and then I told our friend that I was going to make him immortal. I knew right then he would become the Lord of the Champions. It fit perfectly anyway, an alley cat in charge of the great wild cats the creators had chosen to be protectors of the Crossworlds.

This is how Therion, Eha, Ajur and Surmitang sprang into existence. If there was to be a force of Champions, they would have to be like no other group of saviors anywhere. Oversized with the gifts of speech and magic, all of the Champions have distinct personalities. From the second book forward their personalities continue to grow and become more interesting. For the longest time I cherished Surmitang over all the others. He is so proud, so in love with himself, and so sure of his abilities, and yet he is such a fragile child. As time went on and the story reached four and then five books, I began to admire Eha more and more. He is such a happy fellow. He loves being a Champion, he loves the Lady of the Light, he loves Conor, and he loves to laugh. One of the great moments in the story occurs during the initial stages of the battle for the Crossworlds in Book Four. Maya directs Eha to lead the horde of slayers and keepers out onto the plains. Using his magnificent speed, Eha keeps ahead of five hundred thousand angry enemies, laughing hilariously the entire time. Even though I favor one or another of the cats from time to time, all of the Champions have intriguing characteristics; they are quite a magnetic group.

The amazing aspect of this series, from an author’s viewpoint, is the trust I gave to the story and to the characters. When I began writing the third and fourth books, I honestly had no idea what would happen, where the story would go, and what would be the final outcome of each novel. I didn’t know until the second she appeared that the Lady of the Light had a twin sister, the Lady of the Shadows. I didn’t know that one of the destroyers would rise from the rubble of his castle to torment Conor again, nor did I understand the importance of the sacrifice at the end of Book Four. Some of the best passages from the Conor and the Crossworlds series occurred when I allowed myself to “go where the characters wanted to go.” I followed and found amazing plot twists around every corner.

Everyone loves the Conor and the Crossworlds story, but I wrote these books for teens because I wanted to give them something I believe they are sorely lacking. I won’t explain exactly what that is, you’ll have to read the books to get the full impact, but I will say that the world is becoming increasingly complicated. Teens have so much thrown at them in just a few short years. I think the important ideas are being pushed into the background, and young folks are dying for direction. I also wanted to give teens a good hero and heroine. Conor and Janine are somewhat complex, but they are also what I think teens would want to emulate.

The last thing I’ll say is that I wanted to write a fun story. I watched a biography about George Lucas once. He created the Star Wars series, and the commentator said, “George Lucas made it fun to go to the movies again.” I hope someday people say, “Kevin Gerard made it fun to read again.”

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More about Kevin Gerard and His Conor and the Crossworlds Books

Visit Kevin's website where you can download a free Conor and the Crossworlds ebook and keep tabs on the upcoming release of Surviving an Altered World which is due out in December. In it Conor and Janine watch in horror as a powerful warrior sent by the Circle of Evil destroys their world and imprisons everyone they know, including the Crossworlds Champions and the creators. The Lady of the Light appears, explaining that she and her kind deposited the five keys of the creators on different worlds just before the chaos began. If Conor and Janine can recover the keys, the Crossworlds will be restored. You can join in the hunt for the keys by clicking on the contest video on his website to learn the exciting details regarding The Hunt for the Five Keys of the Creators. The contest begins in January.

On November 3, whet your appetite with an inside look at Kevin Gerard's life as a writer at Teens Read Too with a bonus of an excerpt from his book.

And don't miss Great New Books Reviewed as they host Kevin on November 5 and read more about what Kevin has to say about being a science fiction/fantasy writer.

For more information about Kevin Gerard and his virtual tour, check the schedule at

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Role of Research in Fantasy Writing - Part 2

Part 2: The Role of Research in Fantasy Writing

Correct Spellings

This may seem like a no-brainer, but research includes checking the dictionary. Don’t rely on the spellcheck feature of your word processing software to catch every spelling mistake.

Search for Another Word

Redundancy is one pitfall writers strive to avoid. It requires research. Keep an updated Thesaurus handy, and don’t hesitate to use it.

Grammar and Style

Grammar and style are as important as correct spelling. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr is a valuable resource available online at no cost.


Why research experts? To add authenticity to your writing. An expert can sift through your scenario and tell you what works and what doesn’t and why. Talking with an expert provides minute details that pull the reader into the scene.


A writer’s research carries over from unearthing details that enrich writing projects to the search for markets where the submission process begins. What do publishers want, what do they pay? Once the manuscript is finished—where do you send it? Researching markets includes sifting through writer's guidelines to find a match for your genre and word count.


When writing fantasy with historical ties or even speculative fiction, researching genealogies can open the door for a plot connected to reality through family ties.


Building a world sometimes calls for supplies outside the realm of current knowledge and experience. Research encourages the collection of specific new information necessary to build upon the writer’s foundation of knowledge and experience. For instance, if you want to create a world connected by waterways rather than roads, a cursory study of Venice could spark the creation of a lagoon near the train station.

Here’s a tip taken from Pumping Your Musemap your world as it develops. Mapping provides logistical smoothness and continuity. It also offers a visual as the story takes shape. When your character heads down the road, you know where they’re going.


Government organization puts an authority structure in place even in a fictional world. It provides a sense of history to help understand how the world operates. Understanding how the government works aids to determine the character’s actions, consequences to those actons and the direction of the plot. Research real world governments to inspire your writing.

Historical Research

Even in a pre-modern fantasy world, writers research to learn historical details to weave unique threads into the story line.

For example, writing about a character’s wedding in a historical fantasy or even an alien union on another planet such as the case in the sequel I'm writing—researching medieval weddings provides rich customs and details far enough from today’s reality to inject foreign and yet familiar customs and cultures. Researching triggers new ideas as you alter history to fit your story. Historical or alternate history scenarios also develop from finding an obscure moment in history and developing it into a novel. Writing historical fiction takes plenty of research to keep the details genuine.

Religion and Myths

People once believed the world was flat. Creating a belief system that affects the actions of the general population, takes research. For example, if characters believe the world is flat-most of them will not venture out to sea in fear of falling over the edge into oblivion.

Historical superstition blended with a fantasy realm feeds the writer’s imagination. Why do characters believe the superstition? Is it because government uses it to control with fear or because of a faulty premise? Something like travelers who experienced a great water fall and perceived it to be the end of the world when they lost traveling companions in the roaring, fog-enshrouded mist? Fictional superstitions and traditions can be based on history but transformed. Use them as a springboard.

Science and Technology

In Sci-fi, science makes the magic work. Researching cutting edge technology inspires gadgets like the communicators in the original Star Trek series. Have you ever thought about how much those now archaic devices resemble today’s cell phones? Writers must grasp the science enough to not only make it work in their minds, but to make it believable in the minds of their readers. Understanding the science behind wormholes in space, the dangers presented when a star goes super nova, or any such space travel science provides the details necessary to express the urgency to flee and the knowledge of how to do it.

Science and technology mold the culture. If your fictional world is pre-modern, research will include primitive beliefs and lifestyles. In a futuristic world, research will lead to cutting edge technology to be blended with the what if factor.

Research: The Springboard

Research feeds the imagination. Writing fiction generates questions. Searching for answers opens avenues of thought that reflect new ideas within the plot and construction of the fictional world. Use this list as a roadmap to discovery. It is not all-inclusive, but works as a springboard in the writer’s research process. No matter the genre, real facts and details create rich dimension and a believable story.
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Donna Sundblad resides in Georgia. Her published works include: Pumping Your Muse, a creative writing book, and two YA fantasy novels: Windwalker and Beyond the Fifth Gate. Visit her website, and if you want to buy her books in ebook form they are available at Fictionwise.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Role of Research in Fantasy Writing - Part 1

By Donna Sundblad

Recently in an interview, I was asked what role research plays in my writing. No matter what genre you write, research is a necessary tool. I'm currently working on the sequel to Beyond the Fifth Gate, and it involves the mating practices of the bio-genetically created incectoid race known as the eofs who are part human. Research led me down the path of various insects to find the blend of details that works. That's the fun of writing fantasy. Details can blend to become something unique to the world you create.

The research doesn't end there. I can't say too much because I don't want to be a story spoiler for those who haven't finished reading Beyond the Fifth Gate. But here's the question I must ask. What makes the purple planet purple? You see, even though you want to throw out great ideas, there has to be a logical reason to support what you've created. Even if it is magic.

When to Research

When creating a new story or scene, if a question arises, make note of it and research the topic. Why? Because the same question may cross the reader’s mind, and secondly it puts the writer’s creative thoughts in order as the story continues to develop. Research can mold your story depending on what you find. In my novel Windwalker, researching how to make gunpowder influenced the plot of the story.

It doesn’t matter what genre you create; research is part of the process. The following categories include (but are not limited to) facts and information often researched by writers:

Period or Ethnic Names

Character names should fit the story’s time and place. is my favorite site to search for names and meanings. It’s easy to navigate and offers not only a selection of names but also information on origin and meaning. Other fun features include categories such as celebrity baby names, celebrity real names, Lord of the Ring Names, Shakespeare names, soap opera names, and even pet names.


Characters take on life. Part of that life includes a career. In Windwalker, Jalil’s father worked as a metal smith. Since I knew very little about blacksmith tools or skills, research added enough detail to make the reader’s time in the smith shop valid.

In Beyond the Fifth Gate my female protagonist had to learn to fight. More research. I found a great resource in Them's Fightin' Words by Teel James Glenn, and Elita learned to make moves I would never have dreamed of—at least not in any logical sequence.

Crime and Forensics

At the writing of this article, forensics plays a part in several popular TV shows. Some of the technology seems far-fetched but yet believable. Research forensic science and the equipment available to detectives. Small, obscure facts can present the clue that breaks the case even in fantasy. Research combined with imaginative characters and plot provides an unpredictable and entertaining read. For mystery and crime writers research makes and breaks the crime while weaving realistic threads throughout the plot leading to whodunit. Sites like link the police with the community and provide a wealth of information.

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Donna Sundblad resides in Georgia. Her published works include: Pumping Your Muse, a creative writing book, and two YA fantasy novels: Windwalker and Beyond the Fifth Gate. Visit her website, and if you want to buy her books in ebook form they are available at Fictionwise.