Nicholas Forsythe is a self-proclaimed bookworm, and proud to be so. References to his favorite books are littered throughout The Proper Bearing, and they are as tied to his life as our own dear stories are to us. To honor and celebrate the impact books can have on a person's life, I'm giving away what I'm calling Nick's Private Stash: three of his favorite books and a few things to help make your own little cosy reading corner.
The package will come with the following, lovingly wrapped:
To enter ... simply comment here on this blog post! Leave me your preferred method of contact: email, or private message via Twitter/Instagram/Facebook. (I received some feedback which said Rafflecopter was confusing, so we're going the easy route here.) Due to shipping costs, this contest is only open to United States residents (sorry, my international friends!). The deadline for this contest is September 17th, and a winner will be drawn on the following day during the online release party! Until then, please spread the word about both contests, and good luck to you all!
Hello, Readers! You may remember that as part of the celebration of last year's In The Cards, I created and gave away a piece of artwork. This year, I'm continuing the tradition! The Proper Bearing contains many pivotal scenes, but the image which seemed a natural choice was one that another character creates:
The Three Musketeers stood large-as-life in all their finery, each with their foils in the air and a defeated, unconscious Cardinal Richelieu at their feet: but their tunics were Oakridge navy and gold, instead of the robin’s-egg blue and shining silver that Nick had seen in countless illustrations. Each of them bore a familiar face: Scrib had done an amazing job of capturing Terry and Cris’ likenesses, as well as his own. It was clear that she had only had Terry’s caricatures of Goddard to draw on, but even so, there was no mistaking who she had used as her model for the scheming Richelieu.
The original was done with Chameleon pens on 9x12 Bristol, and I will be mounting it on black mat board. In my art shop, Gifts of Awen, this would sell for $60 ... but you've got the chance to own it for FREE! All you have to do is enter the giveaway over on Rafflecopter! You even have chances to gain extra entries in the raffle by helping spread the news about The Proper Bearing on social media or following me ... and if you haven't bought my other two books yet, you'll get super extra entries by doing that.
The deadline for entries is September 17th.
Good luck to everyone who enters! I hope you'll join me next week for the second giveaway!
For many months now, I've had a place-holding cover for The Proper Bearing floating around my website. It had the most basic element I knew I wanted: a vine-covered wall, reminiscent of stately old school buildings. But it wasn't enough. I knew it needed something more: something which hinted that The Proper Bearing is more than just a standard coming-of-age tale. So I went prop hunting.
There's a particular item of significance which helps drive the plot forward after its inciting incidents, and I had a very clear picture of it in my mind... so I went antiquing. I'm lucky enough to live within walking distance of an amazing antique store. The Laconia Antique Center was converted from an old Newberry's department store, right down to the still-functioning soda counter. I could lose hours in there - and have! - but going with a specific item in mind made things a little easier. Soon enough, I found what I was looking for, along with the vintage postcards I used for my new marketing material.
Some careful lighting and a little dance with Photoshop later, I may now happily introduce you to the final front cover of The Proper Bearing, and along with it, the magical artifact known as The Dawning Urn...
Story time! Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then we'll begin.
Once upon a time, there was a young(ish) girl who had loved books since kindergarten. An only child, she made some of her earliest and oldest friends between their pages: precocious girls like Pippi Longstocking and Anne Shirley were her favorites, but she soon grew just as fond of super-sleuths Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, and went on adventures with the brave mice of Redwall and discovered the creeping, delightful horrors of Edgar Allen Poe and Christopher Pike. Around that time, she was also beginning to discover the prospects of responsibility, as her teenage years loomed on the horizon, and her parents, wanting to coax her into it in the best way possible, suggested she get a job at a bookstore.
The bookstore was tiny, tucked away on the shores of a nearby lake, and catered mostly to tourists looking for summer beach reads, but our heroine loved it nonetheless. She learned how to open up shop, run a register, and create workshops for the kids who came in to amuse themselves on lazy summer afternoons. (One particularly memorable afternoon was spent teaching them how to draw Mushu from Mulan... which might tell you how long ago this was, if you're very clever and know how to use IMDB.) She discovered the joys of coffee, classic literature, and mystery novels, but more importantly ... she discovered the concept of book signings.
She was only able to work at one of them, but one was enough. The author, though no one she had previously heard of, was a mystery author, just like the books she was starting to love so much, and was willing to talk to her at length about her craft. Not only that, but she signed a book for her:
The advent of the internet (yes, this IS an old story, isn't it?) meant that she began to meet other people who wrote their stories in secret, same as she did, and one of them, a little older and a little braver, convinced her to share her own stories with the rest of the world. The wide anonymity of the internet made this all seem so much safer, and she began to gain a little following, which made her think that maybe her writing wasn't so terrible after all. College and the so-called "real world" took their turns at her confidence, but eventually, she began to share stories which were entirely her own, and discovered self-publishing, and all the freedom and challenges that came with it.
There's no neat dovetail to the end of her story - of course, she's sitting here typing it to you. ;) I will say that things have managed to come full circle: later this month, I will have my second-ever book signing at the store that started it all. I invite those of you who are able to come and join me ... it's not quite a Happily Ever After, but as far as I'm concerned, it's damn near close enough.
I hope you'll come back next week, when I'll drop some exciting stuff: the cover reveal for The Proper Bearing, and the party schedule for the month leading up to its release! Until then, I'll see you in the stacks...
If you've been with me for a while now, it's no secret that I'm a proud dork. Movies, video games, comic books, TV, cartoons ... you name it, I've probably flailed about it for a couple of months at some point. But there's one common thread running through them all, which I believe accounts for the success of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU for short) films over the last nine years: they all tell a damn good story. I'd like to illustrate this point by comparing the first of them with the most recent. If you'll kindly indulge me, there are some great writing and plotting lessons to be had amidst all the explosions and - yes - spandex.
Exhibit A: Iron Man (2008)
I shouldn't have to worry about spoiling anyone for this one, but the gist? Super-smarmy, self-important, booze-soaked billionaire Tony Stark gets a serious reality check when he's kidnapped by terrorists and has to invent, engineer, and snark his way out to freedom. Once he's out, he realizes he's got to fix the mess he started, and thus, we get Iron Man. That, alone, sounds like a pretty good story, right? It gets better. The writers (it took four of them) add in little subtle layers to raise Tony's stakes even higher. He's got family issues in his past, which seem a little obligatory, but provide great hooks for his later development. He's got a romantic arc which, to my great delight, didn't actually resolve itself by the end of the first movie... or even the second, or third, or ... you get the point.
But the best thing about Tony's story isn't necessarily his "jerk-to-good-guy" redemption: it's the growth he has to undertake to get there. He doesn't just lose his creature comforts. He's reminded of some hard truths, he loses, he fumbles, he falters. People around him fail to understand what's going on in his head, because they weren't there for these things: they just see sudden change, and react with frustration and bewilderment, which makes it just that little bit harder for him to maintain The New Tony Stark. Why does this make a better story than the "bad things happened, now it's time for REVENGE" tale it could have easily been? I have a one-word answer for you: empathy.
Everyone knows what it's like to go through personal changes and not be "heard", to be understood or completely validated. Everyone has multiple stakes in their lives, and everyone has issues which can't be resolved within a two-hour or two-hundred-page storyline. The key to a great story, for me, is the growth. It's not just about how much they lose (I'm looking at YOU, George R. R. Martin), but how much they gain back, and how. It's about shedding any previous conceptions about the world that may have been keeping them from moving forward. Enter Exhibit B.
Exhibit B: Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)
This is, refreshingly, not a third take on "oh no, my Uncle Ben died, with great power comes great responsibility, and now I have to save my girlfriend from a villain who I thought was a mentor". Marvel does themselves a favor by skipping the bits that we, the audience, already know, and dropping us into the thick of something new. Peter Parker knows he's got these awesome powers, and he's pretty high on them. He caught Tony Stark's attention - he feels like the king of the world. He knows he can help, he can make a difference, and he's very eager to do so. He reclaims a bike without even knowing who it's been stolen from. He helps old ladies cross the street. His heroism is both big and small ... but it's the big stuff that gets him in trouble when he gets in over his head. Despite his great intentions and his giant squishy heart, Peter's Achilles' heel is the same as Tony's - his ego - and because of that, we're cringing for him from day one, because we can sense where this is going to go. Downhill.
Downhill it does, in spectacular fashion: not once, not twice, but three times, and by the end of it, you really just want to see the kid figure it out and triumph, because by this point, he really deserves it. Again: empathy.
So, what can a writer learn from these movies? SO much, but I'll give you the biggest bullet points:
I hope you enjoyed this little foray into fandom as a teaching moment ... If you have any movies, shows, or other media which have taught you about story structure, drop me a line in the comments: I'd love to start a discussion on this! Please join me back here next week, when I'm going to take a brief detour into crafts and DIY to show you a great writing tool.
Until next week, be yourself, create something good, and have FUN!
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