Sunday, August 11, 2013

How to Write a Legend

The Legend of the Devil's Racetrack, Part I

My first youtube video is up! This is my example of how easy it is to write a legend. The second video (coming soon) will illustrate the following tips for creating a believable legend.

1. Choose the correct time period. There is no sense in creating a legend that took place anytime since the advent of television or the video camera. In fact, the farther back in time you can go, the better since no one can fact check your story. I recommend setting it before/during/after the "War Between the States", or near the battle for American independence. If you are feeling adventurous, place it before the New World was discovered!

2. Place is also important. It's easier to use your imagination (as I did) in how a place got it's name or for an unusual geological formation (Devil's Tower, Pilot Mountain).

3. While you can have as many characters as your heart (or your muse) desires, one particular type of character is important: a villain. Male or female, young or old. That is not important. What you truly must have is a despicably evil, mean, lazy, greedy, or otherwise easy-to-hate character.

4. Remember to use suspense and plenty of descriptions to build that suspense too! You can't simply jump from the beginning to the cause of the legend without a little backstory to create a great picture in your audience's mind. Beware of too much telling, though! You want to SHOW the story through dialogue and action!

5. If possible make a modern connection. This is that "legend has it" ending where the audience discovers how they can be part of the legend by visiting your location during a full moon or on a dark and stormy winter night.

So, think of a place and a time, and then recall those ghost stories you liked to hear at camp or at a sleepover. Remember the feelings a really good story brought out in you and then recreate those feelings with your original legend!

*Disclaimer for my legend: at no point in time have I or will I claim my story is the reason for the naming of Devil's Racetrack Road. I'm sure there is another legend out there they may even come closer to the truth. My legend is my own creation and is for entertainment purposes only.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Coming soon

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be creating a series of videos about writing! Why? For a lot of different reasons but primarily because it will be fun!

The first video will be a legend my students are familiar with. For the last seven years, they have been able to participate in a story-telling adventure with "The Legend of Devil's Racetrack Road." (This road runs through the eastern portion of my county.) The video will be titled "The Legend of Devil's Racetrack, Part I." What I've never told my students I'll reveal to you now:

I made it up.

Yes, for seven years I have fooled Cub Scouts, Webelos, Girl Scouts, and countless third graders with this tale of "old". Seven years ago I was taking my son to Webelos camp, and I knew I needed a new legend to tell at the campfire. I had been "elected" official tale-master when he started scouts, and the boys had a few favorites I told every camping trip. But what could I do differently, I wondered...and then I turned onto Devil's Racetrack Road. Hmmm. Inspiration struck and the legend was born!

The funniest part is the number of students who tell me they have "read" the legend in a book, or the ones who swear they have "seen the hand" (watch the video and you will know what I mean). You have to love their enthusiasm for a story that isn't true!

Now why will this be a part one video? Because part two will reveal my thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on how to create a legend! Think of it as a step-by-step guide to believability, or quasi-believability. If the response to this one is good, I might even record the second legend I created for the next summer's camping trip: "The Legend of Lizard Lick." (And it has NOTHING to do with a tow truck company.)

Monday, August 5, 2013


It seems impossible to believe I have not updated this blog in, well,  in WAY too long. I apologize for that!

I could make excuses like "I've been busy" or "My body hates me and has had me under the weather with all sorts of weird ailments and it's still acting oddly", but excuses don't matter.  However, I will be adding to this blog each week from now on.

Last year gave  me some great ups and a major down for my writing. A publisher asked for the full manuscript of J.T. Middleton: Time Traveler! What a rush! The publisher liked it and sent me great emails. Then the senior editor contacted me and let me know HE loved it and was sending it to a focus group. I was thrilled and hopeful that publication was in sight when the marketing director asked for my ideas to add to his marketing plan! WOW!

Then...they decided abruptly not to publish. The whole process from the request to the rejection took seven months. To be honest, after all the encouragement I was crushed and took a brief hiatus from writing everything, including this blog. (I know that doesn't cover the ENTIRE time I've been away. Oh, well.)

Now, thanks to NaNoWriMo 2012, my book is published. Sort of. And not the way I want it to be in the long run. You see, I wanted my free copies of my book, and winning NaNo gave me the ability to get 5 free copies. Oh, to hold my book in my hands! The culmination of my dreams and six years of working with J.T.'s story! So I combined book one and book two and uploaded it to Createspace. What I didn't realize is that it would suddenly be available on! (I had read several NaNo discussions where some people received their free books without having it for sale. Obviously I didn't figure out how to do that.) Once it was up on Amazon, I had a few people ask if it was available as an e-book so I uploaded it to Barnes and Noble through Nook Press.

My next goal? To market this book and sell some copies!

I have been back at writing, and the trolls are well into their quest with Airam the sprite. The dwarves are getting involved and so is the black unicorn. Due to an opportunity that has arisen, however, I am resurrecting The Curse of Josiah's Orchard in anticipation of entering it into a first crime novel contest by the end of this year. I wrote Josiah back in 2001 and sent it to a publisher a bit too early...however, the publisher liked the idea and made suggestions for some changes. Those changes were MAJOR and took me awhile to figure out how to make them work without losing the essence of the story. By the time I finished, the editor had retired and his replacement was not accepting manuscripts without agents. That's okay, because I refuse to give up my dream of being an author! That is why Josiah is being dusted off, edited a few more times, and readied for the contest. I am looking for some readers to give me honest opinions. If you're interested, then let me know!