Ancient Landscapes – Writing From the Subconscious

“I am somehow drawn to ancient landscapes”, I hear myself say to Julie, my therapist. That was back in 2008. I went to her for a few years and on that particular day, on my way to her practice, this sentence came into my head. I couldn’t figure out why it had come to me. In our sessions, we had explored different inner landscapes, usually connected to a conflict I was experiencing or an issue I was working on. That morning, before I arrived at her house, I realized that I had no idea what to talk to her about. Or so I thought.

About an hour into the session, I heard myself mentioning the ancient landscapes and that I somehow felt drawn to them. There was nothing specific in my mind. No imagery, no picture of old pyramids or anything similar. Julie  asked me if I wanted to close my eyes for a minute and see what would come up. Usually, for that, I’d lie on her table and we go through this process a bit differently but we didn’t have that much time left and I really wanted to see where this ancient landscape was and what it meant, if anything.

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So I closed my eyes and for a while I waited for an image to show. It didn’t. Nothing happened until at some point the words “before time was” appeared. I told Julie that the ancient landscape I was referring to might have been there before time was. This was obviously an oxymoron because how can something exist – a stone, a tree or a forest – before time existed? Without time there is no growth and nothing can start or end or be at all. Those and other thoughts passed through my mind in a split second. But I felt that there was something else there, something I had missed or hadn’t understood properly.

Then I saw, almost in a close up, a couple of old stones, overgrown with moss. As I pulled back, I realized that I stood in the middle of what must have been an old foundation. The stones were almost completely grown into the ground. Grass covered the soil. Judging by the outline and size, it must have been an old church or chapel at some point. For some reason I had the distinct feeling that the ground I stood on was very holy. Holy in the sense of clean, untouched, undisturbed – and very old. Another thing that was very interesting was the fact that there was no sound. It wasn’t just the absence of noise. It was complete stillness. Nothing moved. The spot and its immediate surroundings felt suspended. I realized, when I spoke to Julie about what I saw, that I was barely breathing. My breath was completely quiet. As if I almost didn’t need to breathe at all.

I could feel the ancientness (if that’s a word) of this place. It did feel as if it had been there before time was. And then something very unexpectedly happened. As I looked at the partial wall in front of me, where I surmised once stood the altar of the church, suddenly – and I can’t describe this any differently – the walls began to rebuild themselves. But not with their original materials made out of stone, granite, plaster and wood. No. The walls rebuilt themselves out of light. As if the stones had merely the shape of a stone but were not made of stone at all but of pure light. After a while, the church walls reached the ceiling, closing the gap until what I saw was the most beautiful building imaginable, with all the details like moldings, figurines and ornaments completely intact but made not of their usual material but out of light. The whole building had a soft glow to it. It was slightly transparent but looked very solid. And yet not solid in the usual sense. Clearly defined, very strong, but transparent.

What I saw was a perfect representation of what had been there originally. And what was broken, fallen down, deteriorated by eons of time, was still there – untouched and unchanged. As if everything that exists in time, still has its original shape from before time was. The image of the finely outlined church made of light, against the grey sky, was magnificent.

Three years later, I began to write The Three Feathers which, originally, also came out of one of the sessions. When I got to chapter 12, I knew I should incorporate what I had seen at Julie’s office a few years earlier. This became one of my favorite chapters of the book. Something significant happens there albeit very quietly with not much noise.

Here is the excerpt from The Three Feathers. Just before this section, Joshua, our hero, and Grey, the wolf, come into an ancient city from which only ruins are left. But suddenly something unexpected happens, as the whole city begins to rebuild itself out of light.

Thanks for watching and Cheers!

Stefan

 

A (Super) Hero For A New Generation

We all know and always look forward to that small segment in all the super hero stories and movies where we find out how the super hero actually became one. Spiderman gets bitten and begins to develop his abilities, the Hulk is being exposed to gamma radiation and changes for the first time, Iron Man develops his suite, learns how to use it, and so on. Usually, any story about a super hero has a small portion of it set aside to tell the tale of how the hero became who he or she is now.spiderman

The White Dragon tells the story of eighteen-year-old Kasey Byrne, an average teenager who lives on Long Island and who has just finished high school when the apocalypse hits full force. The first book, The White Dragon – Genesis, is a real time account, through Kasey’s eyes, of the first thirty six hours of this apocalyptic event.

Toward the end of book one, it becomes clear that the opponent – an ancient demonic being that wreaks havoc on the island while spreading a terror that is beyond the imaginable – is much more powerful than anyone could have thought. In book two, The White Dragon – Crucible, Kasey has to leave this world and travel through a gateway to a different time and place where she will be trained for one single purpose: to find the white dragon, to tame it, and to bring it back to our world in order to save it..

But nobody has ever found the dragon and the odds are stacked against her. For her friends, a small group of survivors hiding out in a thrift shop in Babylon, one hour passes. For Kasey, three years go by before she returns.

While the apocalypse unfolds and throughout her training, something inside Kasey awakens. It is gift and curse alike for it can destroy her or turn her into the most powerful weapon against the evil that has reached the shores of our world.

All three books – Genesis, Crucible, and Alchemy – are part of an overreaching arc, attesting to the birth of a completely new kind of super hero. The apocalypse, as horrific and all consuming as it is, is nothing against the inner battle Kasey has to fight in order to become who she needs to be.

I’m in the midst of writing book two at the moment. May the epicness ensue.

Cheers,

Stefan

The Emotional Impact of Landscapes in Writing

Have you ever had dreams where the natural laws were suspended, where you were able to swim under water for  long periods of time, or float in the air without wings? I’ve had a lot of those dreams during childhood. In my early twenties, I discovered a German painter named Hans-Werner Sahm. His work could be categorized as surrealism as he paints stunning landscapes that never quite follow the natural laws of physics or nature. Nevertheless, or maybe because of it, the paintings evoke emotions of longing, hope, and limitlessness of spirit.

hochland_hiWe all know that the basic task of the writer is to evoke emotions in the reader. Ideally, each scene includes at least some element of that. Usually, emotion is created when one or more characters in the story go through experiences of loss, love, fear, external and internal struggle, etc. I always felt that landscapes can evoke those very same reactions, albeit in a completely different way.

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As an example from my own writing, in The Three Feathers, the landscape itself is what pushes a good amount of the plot forward. The characters travel from one location to the next and the landscape itself, dangerous and beautiful alike, becomes an obstacle or a place of refuge, depending on where they are on their journey. The images create an emotional arc, adding depth to the individual arcs of the characters.

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The depth of the landscape can mirror the depth of the emotions the characters go through at any given point in the story. I found that whatever the landscape is, should reinforce the emotion of the characters so that, even if there is a scene where nothing much happens in terms of character development, the emotional impact of the landscape is still present.

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Landscapes can make characters seem powerless and small in comparison, adding to the sense of danger and futility the characters have to overcome in order to reach their goal.

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The image above is a good example. For me, it evokes feelings of loss and parting, danger, and a certain finality. I imagine a traveler reaching this point in her journey only to realize that she cannot continue. Her quest is in jeopardy, maybe the life of a loved one on the other side of the bridge is now more in danger than ever before. How will she get to the other side. Here’s an idea: Eagles!!! 🙂

In the book I’m working on right now, I have just reached the point where I was able to begin working on a map of the main character’s whole journey. Simply working on the map always provides me with immense insights into the story and characters. Plot points begin to fall into place and things come together more coherently. Drawing a map, to me, is always the most helpful part of developing a story (Besides, in this case, listening to an extensive amount of DRAGON FORCE!). The book is called Apocalypse Weird: The White Dragon – Crucible. It will be out next year.

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Hans-Werner Sahm does not have a web site but if you Google his name, most of his paintings will come up in the search.

Cheers and happy reading and writing,

Stefan

Hugh Howey – The Birth of a Legend

Can people become legends while they are still involved in the very process of becoming one?

Yes.

As a writer, it’s hard not to get inspired by someone who, by his very example, pushes others to become better at what they do. A writer’s writer, an author’s author, Hugh Howey embodies the ideal when it comes to those things. The goal of this post is not to boost his ego. There’s very little ego to boost there. There’s no pretense in the man. Besides, his boat is gonna be pretty small and he can’t take a lot with him on his journey.

I met Hugh a few years ago in New York City during one of his early meet-ups. There were twelve of us. I had never heard of him until the day before when my fiancee told me that she had found this guy on the internet and that he’s an indie author, going to NYC tomorrow to meet people. I drove there. My car nearly broke down but I made it and we had a nice time discussing things I had no clue about, as I hadn’t even published my first book yet.

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The guy on the left is Dave Cullen, author of Columbine and a really nice guy also. That time, as far as I remember, was kind of pivotal as it was during those few days in Manhattan when Hugh had meetings with Simon & Schuster who would subsequently publish Wool in the U.S. I followed Hugh’s career from that day forward. He even gave me a boost when my first book came out. That was before he got really busy really fast.

What I didn’t realize until now is the gift his journey has given (and continues to do so) to a lot of authors. He’s very accessible and shares his journey with his readers. As an indie author, that’s really helpful to watch. Not only does it give hope in the sense that if someone has “made it,” I might too, but there’s another level there that strikes a cord within me: If you put in the work, the hard work, the sweating, the dark room with no windows where it’s just you and your laptop, if you stay true to yourself against all odds, if you keep your integrity, you might go further than you think. Your voice might reach further than you know.

Hugh is a lunatic when it comes to creating work. He publishes a LOT. Not only fiction but lately there’s a whole series of non fiction also. He will become a legend, I know it. Amongst us writers, he already is. If you want to know anything about writing or publishing or Amazon statistics, chances are, he can give you an answer that makes total sense. You don’t have to agree with him but you can’t deny the fierce intelligence and passion he’s got for books and the publishing process. You wanna know how to format your next book? There are a few articles out there where he explains it. Like really in-depth explains it. He’s there for us. He’s an open book (yeah, pun intended) when it comes to sharing his knowledge.

So why am I writing this? I don’t have the slightest clue. I’m keeping my head down while trying to become a better writer, a more prolific writer, a more profound writer. It works once in a while. But when it doesn’t, there’s always this guy somewhere out there reminding me to keep going, to type those letters and make them into words and form them into sentences and get closer to reaching my own full potential.

Thanks, Hugh. May your journey be fruitful and safe and freakin’ AWESOME!!!

Stefan Bolz

You can find Hugh… Actually, you might not be able to find him, starting in a few weeks. But you can check in with him here: www.HughHowey.com

OR, read ten questions with Hugh Howey here:

https://leighgendarium.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/10-questions-with-hugh-howey/

The Dragon Rises – Apocalypse Weird Gets it Done!

the dragon will rise

When George Lucas pitched his Star Wars script to the studio, they reluctantly accepted and green lit a very low budget for a space opera that, in their minds, would hopefully make the money back and most likely not have an impact on anything. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall the moment George asked the studio to keep the merchandise rights. They chuckled and gave it to him. Well…

Not that long ago and in this very same galaxy, a small group of authors approached Amazon to pitch the idea of publishing books by multiple authors writing stories in the same world. Amazon liked the idea. They loved the idea. They said it would be impossible to implement as they would have to build a completely new and separate department for it. They declined. Maybe they chuckled. We won’t know.

A week ago, I looked at the publishing schedule for Apocalypse Weird. We are well into 2016, with 2 books per month and no end in sight. Didn’t we just start this whole thing? New authors are coming on board and all of the books that are out right now, have been green lit for their respective sequels. HOW COOL IS THAT???

Because new stories were developed and approved while I was still writing, the sequel to The White Dragon – Genesis won’t be out until May, 2016. That’s a year from now. That’s a long time to wait if someone liked the book and I felt that I wanted to compensate readers for their patience. And here’s the cool thing about working with fellow indie authors. They get it. They get when something sounds right and benefits the reader, and they act on it.

I asked Nick to consider allowing me to write two books before March, 2016 (the deadline for handing in the manuscript to Ellen Campbell, our editor in charge). He said yes. So, here’s what will happen: The White Dragon – Crucible will come out in May 2016. One month later, in June, the conclusion of the series, The White Dragon – Alchemy will be published. I’m thrilled to have a deadline. It somehow gets the creative juices flowing.

Thanks to everyone who has read the first book. Thanks to you, I can do what I love and keep writing Kasey’s story.

Please read all the other books in the Apocalypse Weird universe. It’s a rich reading experience that will just get richer as new books become available.

Cheers,

Stefan

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