“In the Eyes of the Lore: The Village it Takes” Guest Post by Kaki Olsen

I promised I wouldn’t totally do away with guest interviews and featured posts – and here we are! Kaki Olsen is a friend and fellow author who loves sharing her knowledge and experience with other writers and quite possibly has the largest internal database of obscure literature of any one I know.

I was thrilled when she wanted to share something here on the blog with my readers. Enjoy!

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

In the Eyes of the Lore:  The Village It Takes

By Kaki Olsen

Happy October and welcome to my satellite installment of my literary analysis and book club, In the Eyes of the Lore.  If this intrigues you, you can also find more of the same on my author site:  www.kakiolsencreative.com.

It’s my favorite month to discuss spooky things ranging from the proper way to end a séance to the allegories of possession narratives.  I can bore you to tears or fascination with citations of an article on modern manifestations of fear that was coauthored by the author of Psycho.  I took a class on horror, science-fiction, and mystery writing in high school and have a lot to say on things that can make people feel deeply uncomfortable.

But, as you may know, that’s not the genre I’ve been published in.  I have written retellings of all but one of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, one astronaut drama, one dragon-smuggling android, one gardening romance and a lot of non-fiction.  That’s just based on what I’ve signed contracts for.  On my laptop are stories about secret societies made up of people with day jobs, a kingdom where fairy tales are regulated by law, and a 1920s murder mystery inspired by T.S. Eliot.

What I’d like to talk about today is how to write community-building.  This can apply to something as low-key as a family or as far-reaching as an entire nation.  I could even spread out to tell you how to invent an intergalactic system of politics, but I believe in working in closer quarters than that.

Let’s first talk about two of my favorite fictional communities:  Omelas and After the End Times.  You may not have familiarity with either unless you’re a Leguin fan or familiar with Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, but they’re rich in world-building for very different reasons. Spoiler warning because it’s nice to let you know I might tell you the ending in advance.

I remember reading Ursula K. Leguin’s “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” in Ms. Rodburg’s 9th grade English class. Ms. Rodburg was fond of shattering any idealism, so we also read stories like “The Nine Billion Names of God” (God commands humanity to know Him completely, then wipes them out for knowing him too well) and “The Star” (Jesuit priest discovers the remnants of a utopia that was destroyed in a supernova and is able to determine that the death of this society happened so there could be a Star of Bethlehem).  She’s incidentally the same teacher who taught me about horror writing. 

Omelas is a thriving community with festivals, pastimes, sophistication, and joie d’vivre.  The problem is that this utopia demands that one child be kept in the worst kind of squalor, neglect, and depravity.  Everyone in Omelas comes to know about this at one point or another and they are able to accept the sacrifice that makes their perfect lives possible or choose to abandon it.  The narrator admits to not knowing what happens to those people who choose to walk away from this horrifying perfection.

Contrast this with  After the End Times.  This is not a city or state or country, but as impersonal a forum as possible.  It is a company of bloggers across the world, most of whom will never meet each other in person.  This is largely due to the fact that, ever since the zombie apocalypse, travel has become something of an unnecessary risk.  People are terrified to venture out of their houses and one of my favorite sections of the first novel is when the narrator, Georgia Mason, goes to a political convention that is 7/8 shopping spree and 1/8 nomination of a presidential candidate.  It’s a place where people take advantage of being in public long enough to have a normal life and get Starbucks or buy a new car or check out the latest in self-defense technology.

Georgia and her brother Shawn have little sense of family.  They were orphans of the apocalypse adopted as a publicity stunt and have long outgrown their parents’ need to act like a family.  What they have in place of that is their website.  They are the main contributors to the highest-ranked reporting blog in a world where bloggers have replaced CNN and MSNBC because they are brave enough to still go into the world and confront the dangers.  Their beta bloggers and baby bloggers are something of an extended family, all under the jurisdiction of various trusted colleagues.  In a world where very little is up close and personal, the Masons’ community is the closest thing most of them has to intimate friendships.

When I talk at conferences about diversity in world-building, I bring up protected classes.  I ask about how the elderly, young, male, female, mentally sound, mentally challenged, physically fit, disabled, etc. are treated and regarded.  Then, when I have those answers, I ask what that says about the society.  In Omelas, we see that happiness is worth impersonal suffering.  In Newsflesh, we see that strangers can be more trusted than family.  The answers to these questions can also form the basis of a utopia or dystopia.

The project I’d like to feature today of my own writing is from the Iron Doves anthology.  This charity anthology was a collaboration of several authors in which all of the protagonists had to have three traits from a list of potentially marginalized people.  I wrote “Just One Chance” and made my protagonist a time-traveling android maiden.  Just when you think that’s unusual, she’s time-traveling to save a large number of people traveling to a new world from death and she does it by giving them a secret to keep.  If you were paying attention before, this is what my dragon-smuggling android refers to.

I based the entire society on the dynamics of a cruise ship to explain the setup, but then built the world around smaller-scale choices.  There is a culture among the stewards, but also a conspiracy of schoolchildren who hate being out of the loop.  There is a wide range of ways that adults respond to children having very inconvenient boundaries.  But the place where I have a soft spot for this society is that when the dragon hatches prematurely, the adults know that they will have to put her and her mother on a shuttlecraft or find a way to live with a fire-breathing monster the size of a pit bull in their midst.  They decide to let the children decide whether or not the dragon is a threat or another member of the already unconventional community.  The children, seeing no reason to judge a creature by the sins of its fathers, decide to treat it as one of their own.  The story ends before we ever find out what that means in the long run, but there are stories in the works that explore that as well.

About today’s featured guest:

Kaki Olsen is a Texan by birth, Bostonian by upbringing, and a world traveler these days.  She has been to twenty countries on five continents and her stories of pocket universes in Istanbul or pilgrim’s trails in Austria are as much fun to tell as the stories she writes.  She loves ballets, but is always rewriting them for modern audiences.  She is passionate about space exploration, but has been known to tweak the makeup of a colony ship.  Because she writes essays for fun, she has written on topics such as theologically debunking the zombie apocalypse and why poor characters make the best heroes.  She studied English at Brigham Young University and currently divides her time between a desk job at a law firm and being on the board of an arts non-profit.  She can be found at www.kakiolsencreative.com

Connect with Kaki:

About Iron Doves:

A set of short stories featuring female protagonist, dedicated to support those who have been in abusive situations and needed help. All proceeds will be donated to the Doves Program.

Find Iron Doves on Amazon!


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“A Love Letter to the Creative Process” by Tara C. Allred

Back at the beginning of summer I attended a fun library kick off program put on by the wonderful people of the Tremonton Library. Tremonton is a small town with a huge heart and it shows in the kindness and friendship of the families who came to enjoy the event. Tara and I shared an author signing table where we chatted and shared our writing journeys with each other.

We had such a great time that I knew she would be a wonderful choice to share something with the readers here on my blog.

Enjoy!

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

A Love Letter to the Creative Process

When Jodi invited me to be a guest on her site, she suggested some options, like sharing an article about creativity, and then she added, “Like a love letter to the creative process.” That phrase grabbed me. I jotted it down and whether Jodi meant for me to take the phrase literally or not, in the end I did. This is my love letter to the creative process. Thanks, Jodi, for this perspective. I enjoyed connecting with my writing in this way.

Dear Muse,

I’ve been away for a bit, but I miss you. A lot.

You’ve been a friend.

At times a very good friend, at other times a nuisance, but beloved friend.

In our younger days, you would wake me in my sleep. 4 am. 3 am. 2 am. Whatever it took. Beckoning me to flip on a desk lamp, grab a notepad or fire up the laptop, and let the words pour out as fast as they could fly. Special early mornings, tender late nights, just you and me, pouring over words, finding magic swirling around us, dancing with us, seeping into a reality that belonged in another time and place but had invited us in. Together, we heard the protagonist speak, the conflict grow, the setting materialize. Characters exposed motives. Story took on movement. Action unfolded.

My little office space, or dining room table, or soft sofa radiated with life. Rich purpose swirled around me. Carols of eager joy pulsed through my veins. I miss that. I miss you.

From age five, when I learned that books came from people, I wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to be first in line when you were ready to share a story. I wanted to hear it first, watch its plot unfold around me, taste the life of characters, of this other realm through you.

You indulged me. By fifth grade, when my child-authored book bulked out in pages, refusing to be restrained by the comb binding that the other students’ dozen pages fit so nicely within, others saw the passion inside me too. I told them I would be an author someday. They believed me. You believed me. You granted me courage to fight the fight to do this. To work, hard, harder than my youthful wishes understood.

I fought, I worked, I learned, I lost, I found, I rejoiced, I sorrowed, I won, I published. I found readers, I found a voice, I found purpose swirling furiously within me. With a deep hunger, I wanted to share with others the wonders from you and your stories.

Dear Muse, where did it go? Life came. Responsibilities. Other jobs. Competing professions. Success in other ways. Better financial rewards. Other purpose. Other rewards. Reality. Harsh. Cruel. Critics. Disappointment. A changing industry. No longer fun. Losing the passion. Losing me.

How do we reunite again?

Do you find me? Do you call me up again in the middle of the night and see if I will come play again?

Do I find you? Do I pound at the keyboard, over and over again, searching for you in the words, trying to see where your shadow might be?

And if we find each other again, will the magic return? Like first love, the youthful innocence that turns the passion into an addiction? Where I think of you ever waking moment? Where I hunger to be with you again?

Or, is it now mature love? More of a tempered wisdom, a comfortable friend, one who knows me so well, and I too have come to better understand you? Where we can be together, and know how the day will go. The highs, the lows, my weaknesses, our combined limitations. Yet, there would also be our love. Our deepening love, an acceptance of continuous change, of growth, of becoming.

Could we unite again? Embark on a journey together once more? If I left my fears of a final destination, and turned my focus on the present moments of creating, would you come?

I want those moments again. When in the stillness of the world around me, you allow me to see and pen a scene that is untouched by another. Those initial gasps of wonder. The first awe of beauty. A moment with you, when I see something so remarkable about human nature to be shared in a way that only fiction provides. Then eagerness comes, followed by anticipation. The hope burning inside me of a reader someday, curled up in bed, or on the couch, or during a paused moment of a vacation, and we will connect. That breathless moment when fiction speaks to a soul, when reader, writer, and you, connect together. A touch with humanity.

I want that moment again!

In its purest form. In all it’s beauty. Without the thorns of the world, just you, me, and a reader, together again, learning together, rejoicing together, crying together, loving together, being better people together.

It’s time to find you again, dear friend.

I look forward to our reunion.

Much deep appreciation and love,

Tara

About today’s featured guest:

TARA C. ALLRED is an award-winning author, instructional designer, and educator. She has been recognized as a California Scholar of the Arts for Creative Writing and is a recipient of the Howey Awards for Best Adult Book and Best Adult Author. She lives in Utah with her husband.

Her published works include Sanders’ Starfish, UnAuthored Letters, Helping Helper and The Other Side of Quiet, a Kindle Book Award Finalist and Whitney Award Winner. 

Connect with Tara:

Special offer!

Sign up for Tara C. Allred’s newsletter and receive SANDERS’ STARFISH, the first book in the John Sanders series for free. Then follow it up with the award-winning UNAUTHORED LETTERS, the second book in the series.

About Sanders’ Starfish:

Dr. John Sanders is about to begin his career as a clinical psychologist. Full of optimism, he believes he can make a difference and is eager to provide hope to a group the world has deemed hopeless. Yet in John’s quest to offer those in his care a second chance, he embarks on his own journey of self-discovery. In his search, clear answers become scrambled confusion while the unimaginable truth is trapped in a complex web.

About UnAuthored Letters:

“Allred shows excellent insight into the psychological interactions of her characters in this gripping mystery of greed and redemption.” – ForeWord Clarion Reviews

Dr. John Sanders has given Rebecca Brownell a new chance at life. After an isolated childhood, an abused adolescence, and an institutionalized existence, Rebecca is finally free to conquer her demons and build a promising life.

However, just as it appears Rebecca has achieved her dreams, eerily personal letters begin arriving in the mail. Letters sent from an unidentified source who knows far more about her past than anyone should. Letters which question and threaten Rebecca’s sanity.

UnAuthored Letters is the inspiring tale of a woman’s troubled past, a man’s quest to protect her, and their fight against a mysterious foe. It’s a story of trust strained by illness, love tried by lies, and promises terrorized by illusive danger.

Winner of the Howeys 2014 Best Adult Book & 2014 Best Adult Author
Winner of The Blot Writing Contest


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

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