Why Adults Should Read Fantasy with John M Olsen

I had so much fun featuring Candace J Thomas here on the blog last week that I invited another dear author friend to come join us this week. Be sure to stop by her blog to see her wonderful interview with yours truly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, writer friends are the best.
Today we have John M Olsen with us. He is a fellow Immortal Works author who also has roots back at Xchyler Publishing. In fact, he and I met during the same event where I met Candace back in 2015. John is also currently president elect of the League of Utah Writers and just this summer released The Crystal Queen, the sequel to his first book The Crystal King. 
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My big question for John is:

Why should adults read fantasy?

John’s answer:

A man by the name of G. K. Chesterson said, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

Adults also know dragons exist. We face them every day. Maybe your dragon is a mortgage or a boss with a personality disorder. Maybe your dragon is a disability or a dear friend who refuses to make good life choices. Many of us like to escape into fantasy worlds, but there is much more than escape going on as we march page by page through a fantasy world. These worlds of the imagination are fraught with peril and doom, and good storytelling puts us on the edge of our seat as we hope good overcomes evil, or that true love will conquer all.

I love themes that confirm my faith in the goodness of humanity and of the universe, especially when we see so much entropy and failure if not outright evil. The bad guys may take the upper hand as a story progresses, but in the end, they will lose. Fantasy, at least the sort I prefer, shines a beacon of success despite the odds and illuminates a path forward. If the hero of your story can achieve great things, then you as a reader can as well, no matter how dark the night.

This is why I write, too. I love to write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, something all readers can relate to. I’m a regular guy. Most readers are regular folks, too. Few achieve great fame or fortune, and the world spins on its merry way oblivious to our existence. But history is filled with true stories of ordinary people who stepped up just like fantasy characters to do what nobody could expect. We have power we don’t recognize. Power we don’t understand, and power we don’t use. But we will recognize, understand, and use that power as we learn by example. As long as we immerse ourselves in stories of success and never give up on ourselves and those around us, we put ourselves on a path to change lives, and through that to change the world.

Fantasy gives us power over reality’s dragons.

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A huge thanks to John for joining us and for his insightful thoughts on why fantasy is so important for readers of all ages, not just kids.
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You can find John all over the place, here are some handy links:

Twitter: @john_m_olsen
Find his novels and short stories over on Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/johnmolsen

 

About John M. Olsen

Motivated by his lifelong love of reading, John M. Olsen writes about ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to entertain and inspire others. His father’s library started him on this journey as a teenager, and he now owns and expands that library to pass his passion on to the next generation of avid readers.

He loves to create things, whether writing novels or short stories or working in his secret lair equipped with dangerous power tools. In all cases, he applies engineering principles and processes to the task at hand, often in unpredictable ways. He usually prefers “Renaissance Man” to “Mad Scientist” as a goal and aesthetic.

He lives in Utah with his lovely wife and a variable number of mostly grown children and a constantly changing subset of extended family.

Check out his ramblings on his blog. Safety goggles are optional but recommended.

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To Bear a Stone

For the longest time I’ve struggled with a perfection complex. If it’s not a perfect fit with what is “supposed” to be done, I get crazy anxious and most of the time end up not starting. This might explain why this novel has taken so long, and why I don’t post here as often as I should. Go figure. It’s my stone to push, which leads me  into what I’d like to talk about today.

The other reason I haven’t posted for a while is that, until recently, I haven’t figured out what my message is, or in industry speak, my brand. Thanks to the amazing and talented J.H. Moncrieff and this years Quills Conference hosted by the League of Utah Writers, I finally think I get it.

If you like noble but dark stories, beautiful Gothic architecture, interesting history tidbits, magic, and finding the best in the worst circumstances – you’re going to like it here.

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Today’s history lesson

Within the boundless reaches of Greek Mythology (Greek! – sorry, inside joke) is the story of the sinner Sisyphus who was condemned to push a boulder uphill only to watch it roll back down day after day. Sisyphus was a cunning trickster during his life. When he died, Hades came for him. Instead of going peacefully, Sisyphus “tested” his new handcuffs on him and tossed him in a closet for a couple of days. I’d be a bit peeved too.

Shenanigans ensued. No one could die because Hades had gone missing. When Sisyphus freed Hades, the cunning trickster was promptly ordered to go to the underworld for his eternal assignment. But – he had another trick up his sleeve. Through a series of bureaucratic loopholes involving a missing coin and an improper burial, Sisyphus managed to sweet talk Persephone into letting him return to his wife and set things straight – and then cheated death until Hades hauled him back to the underworld a number of years later.

For his crimes, and for royally annoying Hades, he was sentenced to to hard labor of the most frustrating kind – rolling a boulder up a hill for no good reason for eternity.

Hades gif.gifTo this day, when people have a frustrating and/or pointless job to do, the story of Sisyphus comes to mind.

What is a Stonebearer?

In the Stonebearer’s Betrayal universe there is a society formally called the Stonebearers of the Khandashii. These are the magic users. Simply put, those belonging  to this society possess a power that enables them to manipulate the world around them and grants them relative immortality. They can still be killed, but they will not die of old age or disease. The term “Stonebearer” comes from the stone they wear that enables them to use their power safely. The Khandashii is the name of the power itself – and is a brilliant topic for another post.

Having the power means enduring the responsibility of being a guardian of mankind, regardless of the prejudice and superstitions mankind have curated to hate any one who demonstrates supernatural abilities. This, paired with a centuries long life, is often more of a burden than a blessing. Like Sisyphus, to many it seems like an endless frustrating punishment.

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Discussion

What are some of the frustrating things you’ve had to do? For me, it’s got to be trying to make a bed when a toddler wants to play on top of it. Or laundry … there’s ALWAYS more laundry, it’s never done! Or … working with flaky people who don’t know how much they don’t get it.

Share your frustrations down in the comments!

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Writing Update

Stonebearer’s Betrayal is entering the final stages of production and we’re steadily getting ready for its November release. Currently we are refining the details on the cover.  I can’t tell you how excited/terrified I am to reach this point. Everything is so, so real.

Also, awesomeness has been happening over at my blog for writers. (Seriously though, go check out the suite of presentation notes I’ve been creating, they rock.)

Other publishing news – If you like dragons, I will be part of a dragon themed YA anthology coming out earlyish next year. If you’re at FanX, one of my flash fiction pieces will be read at the Immortal Works Flash Fiction Friday LIVE podcast, Friday, Sept. 7th at 6pm (255a).

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Stonebearer’s Betrayal comes out November 2018 through the amazing people at Immortal Works Press and will be available on Amazon.

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LUW Fall Conference 2017

LUW logo.pngAround these parts, writers are drawn to writing conferences more readily and faster than cats chasing a laser pointer. For those of us who have been around for a few years, a writing conference is a great excuse to hang out with our awesome writer friends and claim it as a business expense. For newer writers, a writing conference is a place to find new friends and feel supported all while learning the tricks of the trade.

The League of Utah writers held their annual conference October 6-7.  Even better, they let me come play. I got to moderate a panel titled “Mindfulness and the Modern Author” where we explored the importance of finding your center and using mindfulness techniques to acheive greater focus and more importantly, get more and better words on the page. On the panel with me were Jef Huntsman, Peggy Eddleman, Lauri Schoenfeld, Amanda Luzzader, and Dan Allen. If you are nice to me, I might do a blog post about the  key points in the future.

LUW 2017 panelOne of the other perks once you’ve been around for a while is the chance to volunteer. On a whim I asked to help out and the next thing I knew, I was in charge of the special guest check-ins in the green room. Major Score. I got to spend the majority of my conference doing what I like best, having conversations with some of my favorite local authors, including our keynote Kevin J Anderson. I also had access to the best snacks.

While I didn’t get to go to as many classes as I would have liked, I did get to go to a few. DK Godard did an amazing presentation on the use of ballistics gel and let us play with some that he brought. Liesl Seborg taught about how authors can get involved with their local libraries, Patrick Tracy did a mini workshop on flash fiction and let us play with some random generated story prompts. I wrote a story about an astronaut waking up from a medical hypersleep and being hit on by an alien who thinks he’s cute. He rejects her because he’s still tired. I might just post it here if I get brave enough. There was also an insightful lecture given by John Patten about leadership for those in the league in leadership positions, including myself, one of their chapter presidents.

All in all, a terrific conference, fabulous guests, good food, and good memories.

LTUE 2017

jodimilnersocialmediaThe 2017 Utah writing conference season kicks off with the ever popular, and oh-so-affordable “Life, the Universe, and Everything” symposium on science fiction and fantasy. I’ve attended this particular conference a handful of times as a hopeful starry-eyed participant in the past.

However, this year for the first time ever, they let me play with the big kids. That’s right, yours truly got to be an expert panelist. If that wasn’t exciting enough,  I got to be a panel moderator as well, which is a huge first.

It’s hard not to read too deeply into the committee’s choice to include me, a mere short storyist. My qualifications as an author are still a bit thin. There are so many super talented and super published authors in Utah that you can’t throw a rock without hitting one. I’d love to say I was picked because they had seen some of my presentation work before and they were impressed.

The truth is, I apparently have in-depth knowledge of several obscure fields of study, knowledge that most gals in my position don’t have.  I also volunteered to be part of several obscure panels. My first panel discussed the realities of what happens at death. I haven’t personally died yet, so my experience is limited there. I’m holding off on trying it out until it goes on sale. Instead, I have worked in health care for both humans and animals and seen plenty of death that way. My fellow panelists included a firefighter, a seasoned RN and personal friend, a physicians assistant obsessed with cellular biology, and the moderator who I still haven’t figured out the background on. In fairness, he’s still puzzling out mine.

The other panel centered on the visual comedy of Rowan Atkinson. I know, I laughed too. death goes so well with visual comedy. On the panel was the founder of the LTUE conference itself, Dave Doering, and the TMA track head, Nick Mills, and another guy who apparently spent his childhood the precisely the same way I spent mine, watching late night PBS when all the British comedies came on. Yes, I didn’t have that many friends, why do you ask? Needless to say, having two fairly influential people on the panel stressed me out to no end.

To sum up – I had a great time and I believe that my panels went well. I wanted to attend a few other panels and perhaps glean a few nuggets of new writerly wisdom, but instead I hung around with writing friends instead, which honestly is the best part of the conference anyway.

A huge shout out to the following awesome people who let me play and were kind enough to let me hang out with them: Jared Quan, President of the League of Utah Writers; Candace Thomas, Eliza Crosby (who got a full manuscript request – you go girl!), Sarah Seeley, Chris Roche, DawnRay Ammon, Jenna Eatough, and all my other LTUE talented friends!

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Volatile When Mixed

volatilewhenmixedVolatile When Mixed is an anthology of The League of Utah Writers 2015 Fall Conference writing contest winners. My flash fiction piece, Mundane Chores, is a “slice of life” story about the frustrations and joys of a mother doing laundry around her toddler. Totally not inspired by real life, really. Ok, maybe a little bit. He’s still a cutie.

League Flash Fiction Prize Winner

image_1I almost forgot – In all the hustle and bustle of the last few weeks I won a prize! Yay! Someone out there actually likes my work, and it’s not my mother (although she likes it too…I think).  The League of Utah Writers holds several conferences and events throughout the year. In their big Fall conference they hold a large writing contest for anyone who wants to participate.

There are a ton of categories to choose from including first chapter, whole book, short story, article, etc. I usually end up doing flash fiction because of time constraints. I can finish and polish a 1000 word or less story much faster than say, a novel.

My story “Mundane Chores” centered around a playful interaction of mother and young child. The mother is trying to fold laundry and the child is doing his very best to distract her from it. It’s not really a story, but rather a vignette meant to capture a moment of childhood and parenthood. Had I managed to make it a story with an inciting incident and clever ending I might have taken a higher prize than third place.

I’m not complaining. This was a piece I wrote in a car driving to Yellowstone with my family, which includes several young children. I’m ecstatic to take home anything.

Winning is a huge confidence boost. I hope to write and enter more contests in the future.