Monday, September 26, 2011

The Q'ntana Trilogy Movies: Teaser + Website

Some of you may recall all the pieces I posted here earlier in the year about the film trailer we were shooting in March to help attract investors to a MoonQuest movie.

After many months of post-production, we have edited the footage down to a one-minute teaser, set it to music composed by the fabulously talented Mattias Holmgren and posted it to a brand-new website. The site also includes synopses of all three of my Q'ntana Trilogy stories (The MoonQuest, The StarQuest and The SunQuest), a "making-of" featurette and additional info on the project.

Although teaser and site are primarily designed to entice investors, distributors and sales agents to become financially involved with the Trilogy project, they're still public. So please have a look!

If you were involved with the trailer project or supported us through our Indie GoGo campaign, be sure to look for your name on the site's credits page. (If you notice any errors or omissions, please let me know so I can make the necessary corrections.) And if you have any comments about teaser, site or project, please feel free to post them here.

Also, if you haven't yet seen the book trailer for The MoonQuest book, check it out here.

Finally, if you haven't already, please "like" The Q'ntana Trilogy Movie's Facebook page and The MoonQuest book's Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Whose Story Is It?

"Without characters there's no story."
Karl IglesiasWriting for Emotional Impact

"When I hit a real block, I find it’s usually because I've...said something false or made a character do what he doesn't want to do."
Anne Tyler

About two years ago, I was listening to a guest speaker -- let's call him Tom -- at a writer's group. He was talking about characters.

"In the first half of your story," he said, "let your characters do what they want. But when you get to the second half, you've got to reign them in."

Tom was pretty insistent, and it was all I could do to not jump up and shriek NO!...not to the first half of his statement, but to the second.

I was reminded of that story some months later when I began working with a new coaching client. She'd written a powerful memoir -- so powerful that it had been nominated for a literary award. Now, a fictional character had accosted her in a misty Irish glen and was insisting that she write his story.

"But I've never written a novel," she exclaimed. "I don't know how!"

"You don't have to know how," I replied. "All you have to do is write his memoir."

Thing is, whatever story we're telling -- whether it's a novel, short story, stage play or screenplay -- we're writing someone's story.

What we're writing is their story. And what we're often discovering in that first draft is not only what that story is but who that character is...who all the characters are who make up that world.
"I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it’s something I never expected."
Stephen King

Tom's point was that we spend the first half of our story discovering who the character is. From there, we spend the rest of the story making sure the character hews to that portrait.

My point is that we may only truly discover who that character is and what she's about by writing through to the end. Why stifle the creative process just when we've finally surrendered to the story's unfoldment? Why limit ourselves and our characters by insisting that at a certain point in the draft, character and story are fixed for all time?

When I was working on the first draft of The StarQuest (the first of two projected sequels to The MoonQuest), I had a pretty good idea who the villain of the story was and to what unpleasant end she would come in the final scenes. At least, I thought I did...

Then, on my last day of work on that draft, as I was letting one of the final scenes write itself, something unanticipated happened: Instead of the ugly death I was expecting, the villain had a profoundly redemptive experience that, within a few paragraphs, had transformed her from ugly antagonist into a positive force for continuing good. I was stunned.

In that moment, I had two choices: I could follow Tom's advice and refuse the villain her redemption, or I could surrender to the character's higher imperative and permit the alchemy to occur. I chose the latter, not only because I believe my stories and their characters are smarter than I am, but because my villain's transformation supports one of the story's central themes in ways I would have been hard-pressed to consciously manufacture.

In The MoonQuest, much about the character O'ric shifted -- not only through the first draft, but through many of the drafts. He shifted not because I couldn't reign him in. He shifted because, through the writing, I began to understand more clearly who he truly was, both within himself and to the story.

In the "rules for character-building" that I use when I teach workshops on characterization, Rule #10 reads "How did John become Jane? And why is she suddenly the villain?"

Often, characters in our stories want to undergo radical changes through the course of that first draft. Too often, we follow Tom's advice and refuse them that freedom.

My view is that our job as Writer God is to give our characters absolute freedom through the entire first draft of our story...and, sometimes, beyond.

Unlike Tom, I say, Let your characters be as inconsistent and mercurial as they want to be. Let them veer off in completely different directions partway, if that’s what they choose. Let your villains become heroes and your heroes become villains. Let them change names, physical characteristics, motivations and story-significance. Let them change gender.

Only by allowing them that freedom in your first draft will you learn who they truly are and be true to their story. After all, it's their story you're telling.
I do my best work when I feel least like its source and most like its channel.
~Lawrence Block

Let your first draft, as I said earlier, be your journey of discovery: of your characters and of their story. Through that journey, you will grow into your story and its characters. You might, as I did in The StarQuest, only discover something of major significance about an important character on the final page of the draft. That’s okay. Use your next draft to bring consistency to the characters you now know more fully.

Remember whose story you're telling...and get out of the way!
"It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does."
William Faulkner

• How can you better trust your characters to reveal themselves to you?

• How can you stop trying to control your stories and, instead, let them emerge organically?

• How can you better surrender to the magic out of which all creativity is birthed?

• How can you trust that your stories and characters know themselves better than you do?

• How can you let yourself be surprised -- by your characters and by their stories?

You'll get help answering these and other questions about your writing process and projects in The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write.

Art credits: 1) Detail from the Zazzle "fictional character" t-shirt; 2) Image from the Talk Stephen King blog; 3) Detail from the cover of Karl Iglesias's book, Writing for Emotional Impact

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Anatomy of a Writer: A Blog Interview

This blog interview with me originally appeared in The Uncustomary Book Review on September 13.

Anatomy of the Writer

UBR: What are writers for?

MDG: Writers are for expressing the truths of the human heart into words on the page. Writers are for finding the universal in the human experience. Writers are for painting worlds of wonder beyond the conscious imagination.

UBR: Quill and parchment or touch typing?

MDG: The bards and elderbards in my Q’ntana Trilogy of fantasy books and movies definitely write with quills on parchment. And although I wrote its first installment, The MoonQuest, longhand, I’ve written all my other books and screenplays largely on the computer.

UBR: Required beverage while editing?

MDG: Coffee (americano or cappuccino)!

UBR: Describe your imagination.

MDG: It defies description, at least by me. It’s that realm of “true fantasy” that lies beyond any conscious knowingness and to which I must always surrender…because it’s smarter than I am.

Anatomy of the Reader

UBR: Where’s your favorite place to read?

MDG: The bathtub!

UBR: Have you ever read one of your books for pleasure?

MDG: No. It would be interesting to see if I could separate myself enough from my author self to try it.

UBR: What’s the one thing that the book you’re currently reading is missing?

MDG: A feeling of engagement. Which is why I put it down after about forty pages and am about to start something else.

Uncustomary Traditions

Favorite places: Places of peaceful beauty (oceans, mountains, desert) and places of high-octane urban buzz (L.A., Toronto, New York)

Weaknesses: Dark chocolate, Starbucks

Believes in: The innate creativity of every human

Refuses to: Compromise my essential self for anyone else

Uncustomary Review of Author’s Work 

The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write

• Reprinted from The Uncustomary Book Review: A Conversation with the Reader, 9/13/2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's Time To Live the Dream

“You just have to keep your dream. If you lose it and get cynical, you die.”
~ Meryl Streep

"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
~ Proverbs 29:18

What's your dream for your writing? For your life?

Know that whatever it is, however improbable it may seem in this moment, it's not impossible. Nearly every success story begins with an "impossible" dream. Nearly every "overnight success" was years in the making.

Have you begun the book or screenplay you've always dreamt of writing? Now is the time to put your dream into action. It doesn't matter whether you can give it five minutes a day or five hours. It doesn't even matter if you know what it's about.

Every journey begins with a single step. Every piece of writing begins with a single word. Any word.

Write it. Now.

What about your dreams for your life? Have you abandoned them? Stuffed them in the back of a drawer because they seem so unreachable?

Open that drawer. Reach your hand in. Gently. Touch it. Reconnect with it. Reconnect with yourself.

Open your heart again. Open your heart to the vision. Open your heart to your life.

Meryl Streep photo from Pictures of Famous Actors and Actresses. Meryl Streep quote from Inside Inside by James Lipton.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The MoonQuest: Introducing a New Video Trailer for the Book

a land where stories are banned and dreams suppressed...
a land where dreamers are tortured and storytellers killed...
a land stripped of vision, hope and imagination. 

This is the Q'ntana of The MoonQuest... 
a land where "once upon at time" is a forbidden phrase
...where fear rules and storytelling spells death

Imagine it...if you dare
Part 1 of The Q'ntana Trilogy of fantasy novels
Soon to be a major motion picture!

"An exceptional, timeless novel."

Please "like" The MoonQuest's book and movie pages on Facebook!

• MoonQuest book trailer produced by John M. Burkhart
• Toshar portrayed by Eric Esparza

If the video link is not live, view it on YouTube

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Art of Healthy Feedback: Part II - How To Give It

Part II of a two-part series on asking for and giving healthy feedback. While both pieces are focused on writing and other creative pursuits, they can easily be adapted to the many situations in our lives when we are giving or seeking help or advice.

1. Be Nurturing.
Remember, the only reason to offer feedback is to support the writer and his or her work. This is not a test of your ability to pick out flaws. Don’t be smart. Be gentle. Don’t show off. Be fair.

2. Be Balanced.
Always begin with the positive -- with what you like about the piece, with its strengths, with what works for you. With that foundation of support, you can then offer constructive comments. Remember, you can say anything you feel called to say about the work, as long as you frame it with respect and compassion.

3. Be Specific.
You’re at your most helpful when you can offer examples from the text of what works and what doesn’t. Be clear.

4. Be Respectful.
Give only the type and level of feedback the writer has sought. If there are other elements you would like to comment on, ask permission. Respect the answer you get.

5. Be Compassionate.
Remember the Golden Rule of Feedback: “Speak unto others in the manner you would have them speak unto you.” Put yourself in the writer’s shoes and offer feedback as you would prefer to receive it.

How not to give feedback....

"Why don't you write books people can read?"

~ Nora Joyce, to her husband James

• How can you listen more clearly to the nature of the feedback being requested of you?

• How can you be clearer in the feedback you offer?

• How can you be more respectful of the work and its author, offering feedback that doesn't show how smart you are but, instead serves the needs and growth of the writer and his/her work? 

The Art of Healthy Feedback: A Two-Part Series

Adapted from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, (c) 2008 Mark David Gerson 

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Photo: James & Nora Joyce, 1915 -- Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Art of Healthy Feedback: Part I - How To Get It

Part I of a two-part series on asking for and giving healthy feedback. While both pieces are focused on writing and other creative pursuits, they can be easily adapted to the many situations in our lives when we are giving or seeking help or advice. 

Stay in charge of your creative process by reading these guiding principles before sharing your work with anyone -- including your life partner or best friend.

1. Be Protective.
You have no more right to knowingly expose your work to influences that could harm it or set it back than you do your child. Seek out only those people and situations that will support you and your writing. Never assume that the people closest to you will be the most supportive. Always use your discernment.

2. Be Open.
Your work, like your child, requires fresh air and outside influences. Don’t be overprotective and suffocating. Be open to others’ perceptions, comments and responses.

3. Be Aware.
To everything there is a season. At different stages in your work and your process, you will be ready to hear different things. Respect where you are and seek only the type of feedback you are prepared to receive and integrate. Recognize when you are at your most raw and respect that.

4. Be Clear.
Be clear about the type of feedback you require and desire.

5. Be Explicit.
Once you know what kind of feedback is appropriate at this time, ask for it -- clearly, directly and without equivocation. Your reader cannot know how best to support you unless you make your needs clear. If you are vague and unclear, you open yourself to comments you are not ready to hear, comments that could feel damaging, even if they’re not intended to be so.

6. Be Strong.
Know what you want and don’t be afraid to speak up when you’re not getting it, or when you’re getting something you didn’t ask for. Remember, this is your work and your creative process. You have every right to seek out what will help and support you.

7. Be Discerning.
The words on your page are an expression of you but they are not you. Negative comments, whether intentionally cruel or not, have no power to harm you, unless you abdicate your power and allow yourself to be hurt. In fact, take neither praise not criticism too seriously. Deep inside, you know your work’s strengths and weaknesses. Tap into that inner knowingness and rely on it to discern which comments support you and serve your work at this stage in its development and yours.

• How can you be clearer in the feedback you seek?

• How can you be more discerning in who you ask for feedback?

• How can you be more respectful of your work's needs and your own when seeking feedback?

The Art of Healthy Feedback: A Two-Part Series

Adapted from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, (c) 2008 Mark David Gerson 

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Snap a Pic for Me and Promote Yourself / Part 6

Welcome to the latest installment of my online Readers' Gallery, featuring photos (and, now, videos, too!) of people from all over the U.S. and beyond reading my books -- in hard copy or ebook form. (You'll find previous posts and pics herehereherehere and here.)

To get your photo (along with links to your books, website and/or other projects) included in a future installment, scroll to the bottom of the post.

Here's what writer Amy Robbins-Wilson (video above, and first pic below) says about The MoonQuest, which she read twice this past summer. She recorded the video at the summit of Maine's highest peak: Mount Katahdin. (If the video doesn't show for you, click here.)
As a singer/songwriter/storyteller, this book spoke to my heart over and over. It tells of the dance between teller and tale and between singer and song. It takes you forward on an adventure that brings you back over and over again to a better self. If you love fantasy and story as I do, you will love this book. 

Here are words and pictures from five other readers -- four human and one feline...

It's sadly rare that TV- and radio-show hosts have the time to read the books of the authors they interview. One such rarity is Charmaine Lee (above), who interviewed me last month for her Insights for the Soul show on Blogtalk Radio. This was my third time on her 90-minute show, an appearance dedicated almost entirely to The MoonQuest.

K. Andrew Turner (below) is an L.A. writer, writing coach and workshop facilitator who tells me he frequently revisits The Voice of the Muse for inspiration, both for his own writing and for his work with other writers.

Another writer-reader is Denver's Abdul Jaafari (below), who's working on an epic fantasy series of his own, to be launched in the next months with The Empress of Mortar.

Not all my readers are writers! Christine Robertson (below) is an Albuquerque Zumba fitness instructor who just likes to curl up with a good book!

As for New York's Beatrice Lopatin (below), I suspect she may have misread the title, thinking it was The Voice of Mews. Still, I hear that her human, author Jared Lopatin, may have seized on Beatrice's error to read the book for himself.

To read more about any of these readers and their projects, and to see them in my Facebook gallery, click on their names, below:

Why not join the online fun 
and get your book, business, event, blog, website
or other success promoted here, on Facebook and on Google+
Interested? Read on...

If you have a copy of either of my books, I'll post a pic of you reading either The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to WriteThe MoonQuest or both to my Readers' Gallery Photo Album on Facebook and Google+. I'll include you if you're listening to The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers. Just make sure the CD cover is visible.

And to help you promote your book, event, business, success, blog and/or website, I'll include in the photo caption not only your name but your promotional info/link. I'll also post the next batch of reader pics here in a future blog item.

Simply email me your pic and caption information, or contact me via FacebookTwitter or my website.

Feel free to send one pic or several and to include one book, both books, the CD or any combination. Just send separate photos for each item (unless you really are reading both books at the same time!).

And if you like my books, please "like" my Facebook pages:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Heartful Art of Re-Vision III: The Music of Revision

What follows is Part III of my three-part series on my radical approach to polishing your work and your words. It's an excerpt from a Paris Review interview with Irish author J.P. Donleavy

Scroll to the bottom of the post for links to Parts I and II.

Paris Review: What do you look for when you revise?

J.P. Donleavy: What I look for is a kind of inevitability, the words and sentences falling into an inevitable place that relates to what's gone before and that will presage what follows. ... This is the inevitability -- the words on the page, which lie there naturally, which don't you jar you, and find their own naturalness when they're said or read.

I suppose I think of myself as a sort of scientist, working with words, relating what is going on in my consciousness to what I put on the paper. It's like music . . . an orchestration. As in bell-ringing, when you ring, peal the bells, one echoing sound from one word will echo and sound in another. ... I work a long time on the sound-sense of words.

Occasionally I find myself trapped trying to get the rhythms down properly and sometimes something just won't work. There's one spot in The Ginger Man that I've never been able to solve to this day. It isn't perfect. ... In some ways, I was relieved to know, coming back to that passage ten years later and deliberating over it again, that it couldn't be solved even now till this day with what one assumes is one's accumulated masterliness.

Click here for the complete Paris Review interview

The Heartful Art of Revision: A Three-Part Series

A two-part series on how to give and receive healthy feedback

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