Beauty is an Option

Some emotions transformed into thoughts, transcribed into words, digitized and shared, from a prairie town in Alberta, Canada.

When the actions of our elected representatives are confusing, disappointing and incensing, it’s important to remember that our collective choices put them in these positions of influence. The system works bottom-up as much as top-down. The choices we make, or don’t make, as individuals create our communities, society, and world.

Those in power (whichever party or colour) will attempt to control the narratives of daily life because this is what we told them to do. This is their role. But it is our role as individuals, friends, family, and citizens to choose the beautiful, because no leader can tell you what to love. And if they tell you what to hate, then they aren’t a leader.

Discover the beauty in your life and share it with those you care for. Beauty is the truth in the story of your life and it’s on each one of us to find the courage to accept this choice.

 sometimes when looking into that Alberta sky
 it’s hard to tell
                                                if I’m going the wrong way
                           then why does this road lead to home?

 where I’m living as best as I can
 in love
 to be so fortunate
 born with a fighting chance
                                               the way I see it
                                                     Why not?

 have faith in the wind’s freezing kiss
 beneath a sky as big as the question
 deep as the space in my chest
 enough to fall into
                                     alone
                                              together with everyone else
                      looking into this endless blue 

Making Sense of the World Through Fantasy & Sci-Fi

We live in overwhelming times, although I suppose people always have. Tiny bodies caught in a massive gravitational pull. Cause and effect, strangeness, beauty and choice all wrapped up together. Each individual seemingly at the centre, capable of being a hero or villain. Perhaps this is why fantasy and sci-fi have risen to the forefront of popular culture; the scale and scope of these living legends resonating in our consciousness.

We sense the vastness, the grand scope, the great threat and dreaded task. We seek direction and inspiration. For humanity, since the beginning, it appears that we have looked to story to provide meaning, to help make sense of our own role in this complex existence. A story has pattern and rhythm, rise and fall, beginning and conclusion; a world contained. A vehicle offering an objective view, a way to safely make connection, as well as providing opportunity for reflection.

Books have the particularly subtle quality of encouraging the reader to place themselves inside the story; an invisible sort of give and take. Individual perspective works with the words to shape a unique experience. This is magic. Technology not fully understood, even today. True whether you live in the Shire or Mordor, Smallville or Gotham.

Some readers prefer a more optimistic outcome whereas others revel in the darkness exposed. Each have their merits, but I believe that a balance of both is required to create a fully realized story. Because humanity is messy, terrible and wonderful, and so is the reader. As is the writer.

There are voices for everyone, what with the ability to self-publish. Categories and characters that probably never would have made it past the gates of traditional publishing. Seems as though people and tastes are more diverse than what a few executives in tall buildings decided.

I leapt at the chance afforded by indie publishing and wrote a trilogy (discovering afterwards that it could be classified in the fantasy sub-genre, Grimdark.) Grimdark is a foreboding title that doesn’t really mean anything, except maybe to stride forward and meet the challenge headfirst, blade at the ready. Anti-heroes and likeable ruffians that are sometimes more relatable than the knight in shining armour and the ridiculously evil dark lord. Because we live in confusing times and not everything is as it appears at first glance, despite how loudly some people shout.

Everyone is evolving on their own journey, empowered by hidden motivations, born into a world of rules and systems not of their choosing. Grimdark, despite its name, does as good of a job as any genre of revealing this struggle, this desire to discover personal truth.

So I encourage you to try a walk down the many paths of fantasy and sci-fi. Maybe Grimdark isn’t your cup of stale beer, but there are plenty of other categories to choose from. Try a self-published author if you’re feeling saucy, why not? Be bold and see where the story takes you.

Book Launch: Gods of Rua

Gods of Rua FRONT COVER

Gods of Rua, second novel in The Spiritbinder Saga, is officially out in the big wide world! The cover art is incredible and the stakes have been raised across the board as the story continues from where Daughter of Shadow ended.

GoR_Back Cover

In preparation for the launch, I ripped these stumps out of the ground and attached old, rusty horseshoes to make a pair of book stand displays.

Stump and Table Display

Not too shabby.

Book Stump

A celebration was in order. I don’t mind an excuse to throw a party. So we organized with a great venue, booked some talented musicians, brought in a cask of a limited edition beer from a local brewery, and invited the best people we know.

And the artist even made the trek.

Tyler and Jeff

*I’m not short. He’s that tall. Comparative shortness is a byproduct of being friends with former college basketball players.

A fun night and the beginning to the next chapter of the journey!

The Sequel

1019db30f6c478cc4ab6edaa22c86bb2

Writing a novel is fun. Contrasting qualities blend together to give voice to a quiet activity. It’s structured yet creative. Solitary yet expansive. Direct yet subtle. And sometimes, in those sweet moments that render time meaningless, the words flow. The words come smooth and fast, clear and fresh as water drawn from a well. From unseen depths and into sunlight. It feels pure. At least to the author. Inspiration to feed the spirit. The hope is that the reader perceives a similar phenomena.

This is all to say that the sequel to Daughter of Shadow is completed. All that is left are a few technical aspects of indie publishing, such as formatting, ISBN’s, etc.

Gods of Rua picks up the action directly from the conclusion of DoS. New areas of the world are explored along with the development of characters to enhance the depth of the overall story. There are a fair share of new characters as well to fill-out the escalating conflict within The Spiritbinder Saga.

Progresss on the third, as yet untitled, instalment has been steady, as the first draft is nearing completion. The stakes keep being raised and it’s been thrilling to write the progression of increasingly complex characters (sometimes deviating unexpectedly from original plans).

Writing my first novel, DoS, was fun in a pushing oneself to climb a mountain sort of way. Writing the second novel has been akin to sitting on the peak to enjoy the view. The first draft of the third has the inherent momentum of descending a backside trail. Then there’s the fourth, and series concluding novel, in the distance. The sparkling water of a lake holding the promise of fire and rest.

20170619_132502

They say to write what you know but in all honesty I don’t know much about properly wielding bladed weapons, being an orphan, or performing arcane rituals. I think the saying is meant to encourage one to write what they love. I love asking big questions, different perspectives from all walks of life, and slow-mo action scenes. I love comparing and contrasting concepts then melting them together to create an alloy that is strengthened by the differences and supported by the similarities. I love writing fantasy. Can’t wait to share.

The amazing cover art will soon be revealed, with the published novel following shortly.

BOOK 2 TEASER.png

 

Author Credibility in the Age of Alternative Facts

All authors face an uphill climb to credibility and none more than independent authors. In this digital era, the internet is like the wild west and author after author enters their book into the mix, hopeful as a gold miner looking to strike it big.

is-it-gold-in-here

Advertisements saturate our devices, turning choice into a chore. Netflix is nailing the streaming game, making it acceptable to binge entire seasons in a sitting. Individual time is eaten up quick as movie popcorn (handful after handful smashed into the mouth until life is chewing, butter, and previews). And that’s not including work to pay off the debt that floats the economy. Everyone has a side hustle these days. Hopefully your side hustle doubles a passion project.

Hustle-Image-700x350

The best route to credibility as an independent author is likely to garner a multitude of positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Having champions in various genre forums and subreddits to sing your praises is crucial. Getting on a powerhouse mailing list like Bookbub is also a solid boost to the reputation. Paid advertisements get the author’s name out there, but what is the point if no one knows the name? And then there are competitions.

competition_is_good_-1043x1065

Many competitions exist for independent authors, some more legitimate than others, yet all offer potential glory. Note: these competitions tend to cost $50-150 USD to enter and usually require that the author mail multiple copies of the book, so factor extra postage into the expense.

After carefully researching the available competitions, I entered Daughter of Shadow into four this past summer. DoS was a finalist in two competitions and two were never to be heard from again. The 2017 IndieReader Discovery Awards gave this fine review, even though DoS didn’t end up placing.

“In DAUGHTER OF SHADOW, a must-read for all fantasy lovers, the world is splintered into light and dark and a young female warrior struggles to choose a side. Author Tyler Sehn takes great pains to lay out a richly detailed realm of magic, monstrous creatures, and political upheaval. ”

The Colorado Independent Publishers Association chose DoS as a finalist for the EVVY Awards. 2017 was the 23rd annual CIPA EVVY Awards, which in independent publishing is practically prehistoric.

dinosaureatingbook

*Turns out illiteracy killed the dinosaurs*

DoS finished with Merit. Not #1, but not bad. Not bad at all. That’ll do book.

20170907_083313

Plus I got these neat stickers to slap on the cover for the next little while. And THAT is what makes the competition worthwhile. A literal seal of approval. A symbol of authenticity to instill trust. An image to catch the perusing eye and make the hand pick up the book.

cipa_evvy_merit_digitaldownload__84907

What say you, reader of blogs? Have a success story about entering a novel in a competition? A not so success story?

 

 

Go

20170622_000248.jpg

As I await feedback on Gods of Rua from the last batch of beta readers (and cover art from the maestro) I decided to head north. As far as the road goes. In Canada, that is a long way. Damn near top o’ the world. I’ll be returning. Mucho inspirató.

Season of the Sun

Joy in the North, life was playful

as yellow butterflies chasing each other round the arctic circle

whirling dust devils rise in the delta heat

where the road ends

The Great Migration is underway

travelers from all corners of the continent

from the Old Country across distant oceans

to make fire with sky above and earth below

where wildflowers burst from ancient glaciers

and the midnight wind blows in cool, river sweet

swaying sleeping branches beneath a midday sun

The birds have long known

singing of truth

as children play below an endless blue sky

into a night that does not come

Distance swallows vision

the weight of human eyes

lost to tundra folding into horizon

into dragon spine mountains

and impenetrable forest

Last of the giants thrive

beasts of hoof, horn, and claw

at once feared and adored by travelers

Yet it is the water

brown and slow, clear and fast, silent and still

that is the pulse of this land

free of ice, it sings

while ravens speak with raindrops in their throats

and the solstice sun smolders over the legend of the Klondike

Golden Eternal

IMG_1440

Tis the Season to Make Moves

Spring is here! Finally. An Alberta winter tends to linger like a relative who “just dropped by.”

If-I-ignore-it-maybe-it-will-go-away_o_34279

New energy abounds: an army of worm hunting robins have taken over the yard, buds are shyly appearing on branches, and even the soggy brown ground seems to be ready for a dash of color.  Life is preparing to make a major move.  And so am I.

f89087eb5f94089a6631be4c271f3e302d51ed3b3f156f6cde83944a1658ba42-1

My author-self has awoken from hibernation. The sequel to Daughter of Shadow is ready (nearly). ARC’s have been distributed and the cover is being sketched out. Meanwhile, DoS has been garnering some attention. A review from IndieReader:

“In DAUGHTER OF SHADOW, a must-read for all fantasy lovers, the world is splintered into light and dark and a young female warrior struggles to choose a side.  Author Tyler Sehn takes great pains to lay out a richly detailed realm of magic, monstrous creatures, and political upheaval. ”

images

I entered DoS in the Discover Awards and the winners will be announced in late May.

DoS was also entered in the Global Ebook Awards—winners announced in August. Lastly, DoS is currently available in a Goodreads Giveaway (April 25-May 25) so follow the link for a chance to win a free, autographed copy.

imgres

Initial moves for 2017 made, more to come.

Finding the Spark

Writing is an amazing activity, as a few thoughts or concepts can spiral into a story that is grander and more beautiful than the writer ever intended.  Editing is crucial to the process because it cleans up mistakes and smooths out the instances when the writer got carried away.  Lately I’ve been doing much more editing than writing.  Important work, no doubt, but much more on the analytical side of things.  Not much in the way of free-flowing creativity.  Getting back into the groove of writing can be surprisingly difficult.

writers-block-2

Self-doubt creeps into the corners of the mind, whispering that your ideas are weak.  How did I even write this story in the first place?

56110946

Distraction is everywhere.  For me that means the NBA and NHL are starting up.  Wooo sports!

tumblr_mnrfkg3ozn1somw7ho9_250

But I did it—I cranked out some new chapters.  And it felt great.  Momentum is a crazy thing, it wants to move.

Every writer knows about “the spark,” that lightbulb moment of inspiration that seems to provide limitless motivation.  The instance when those fingers dropped whatever they were doing in order to spin straw into gold and create a work of art.  The spark—initially bright as a beacon—dwindles, then goes out completely.  How to attain another spark?  Most people don’t know what they did to get the previous one in the first place.  Sitting around waiting for another spark simply doesn’t work because inspiration is a dynamic phenomenon.  Chances are that you actively found that other spark, perhaps unknowingly, so now it’s time to find the next one.  What sparks your imagination?

Everyone loves a good story, but writers may be guilty of being borderline obsessive.  Writers dig deep into the material by rooting out underlying themes, savoring nuances, and imparting themselves into the story.  This type of reading is an intimate act, providing the kindling for emotions, and has the ability to light the fuse of inspiration.  The same goes for TV and movies.  All are stories, the only difference is the mode of reception. 

On the intellectual side of things: stories spark questions.  The same stories that are setting fire to your emotions are now starting to activate the grey-matter gears in your brain.  Ask questions.  Questions are a powerful tool for discovery.  Follow these questions down the rabbit hole.  And this part is vital: take notes of what you discover!  Documenting these musings, thoughts, queries, and ideas establishes a stockpile of material for the eventual story.  With enough building blocks, dependent on one’s own particular style, the construction can begin.  Time to write.

imgres-1

What are some activities, TV shows, movies, books, etc that inspire you?  Please leave a comment.

Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off 2

Everyone loves a good competition, what with the collective consciousness of the world currently fixated on the Olympics, and everyone loves a winner.  A while back, I entered Daughter of Shadow into the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off 2, the largest indie fantasy contest in existence (probably).  300 entries were divvied between 10 of the top fantasy blogs, who would be the judges.  I pulled Fantasy-Faction for a judge, biggest dog in the junkyard.  I was thrilled—a real test.  If I could make it with Fantasy-Faction I’d get some real street cred as an author.

61645

Several rounds of eliminations have gone by.  My hopes kept elevating each time my name wasn’t listed.

Winning is awesome.  The joy, relief, and adrenaline fuelled vindication of besting a worthy opponent is a feeling anyone could get used to.  This post is not about winning.  Losing sucks.  Frustration, self-doubt, and dashed hopes are not fun.  Daughter of Shadow has been eliminated from contention.

Here is the review/justification.

“Like Nightfall GardensDaughter of Shadow is another book that fell not so much because the team found any issues with it, but because it simply didn’t grab us as much as some of the other books did. These are always the hardest books to say goodbye to, because we’ve moved beyond the more tangible reasons for letting a book go and into the purely subjective.

Perhaps it’s not much consolation, but another team of reviewers might well have preferred this book to some of our final seven. It has a decent prologue (which we found to be a rarity!) and introduces an interesting protagonist in Melea – the team enjoyed the fact that unlike many other fantasy protagonists, she is already powerful when the story begins. We also found the initial battle scene to be well written. In the end, we had to go by our subjective opinion that the writing wasn’t quite as smooth and didn’t have quite as much ‘voice’ as some of the other books – but Daughter of Shadow is certainly worth checking out for anyone who likes the sound of the blurb.”

My first reaction was denial (the initial stage in grieving).  It couldn’t be my book, but that cover did look familiar, maybe the title was Daughter in Shadow.  But nope.  Then came an expletive filled outburst—anger, the next stage.  Bargaining soon followed as I mentally schemed some way to get back into the contest.  Depression hit in next, a dour moment of “what’s the point in writing?”  I needed to get away from the computer.

I took the dog around the block for a walk.  The combination of cool night air with the stars peaking through departing rainclouds, and the joy elicited in my dog from a random stick she found on the ground helped to put things back into perspective.  I was firmly in the final stage—acceptance.  I’d lost.  But, the review had actually been mostly positive.  The reviewer had even admitted that a different reader may have put DoS into the next round.  So close.  Thwarted by subjectivity.  But everything is subjective!

So how to get more subjective individuals to choose my novel?  How to sway the people on the fence, decisions that could go either way, onto the side of recommending DoS?  This, my friends, was a new cache of motivation.

I’d temporarily fallen into a trap of unreasonable expectations and the only way to get untangled was to keep moving.  Yes, I’d entered the contest to win (why else?), participation is nice and all but the SPFBLO2 is a competition.  The reality of beating 299 entries seemed to become more possible as I eagerly watched the cuts happen over these past few months.  My expectations ballooned from hopefully sensible to borderline entitled.  This phenomena is visible in the actions of parents with children in minor league sports throughout the world.  Winning becomes an obsession.  Perspective narrows into tunnel-vision.

images-1

I’ve witnessed incensed fans/parents attempt to fight the referee in the middle of a hockey game being played by children!  I’ve had teammates break equipment and damage property after a loss.  I’ve known feuds between friends and family to begin because of a seemingly innocuous sports rivalry.  All instances of negative emotions being transitioned into blame directed at others.  No acceptance of one’s own actions.  Maybe the other team actually was better.  Maybe you should practice more.  Maybe, just maybe, punching that guy from the other team won’t change the score of the game.  Just sayin’.

Maybe the novels chosen to advance by Fantasy-Faction are superior to my own.  That’s a tough pill to swallow.  But it’s not the end of the story.  I’m a self-published author and that means I can alter DoS whenever I want.  The sequel to DoS is ready for a date with the editor, but first, I will go back improve.  I will make the story better.

To use a baseball analogy: I stepped up to the plate and swung, trying to smack a home run.  Well, I didn’t quite knock it out of the park but I got a hit.  I’m on base.  The game isn’t over and I can still score.

imgres

The review and competition has provided motivation to improve the story even more.  I’m hopeful that a copy edit will help to smooth out any remaining rough patches.  No shortcuts.  No excuses.  No blame.  Just be better.