Do Wizards Have Sick Days?

by Chantal Boudreau

16862_375871140031_2570479_nSuffering from a cold myself at the moment, I find myself reflecting on how illness is one of those factors of realism a reader might hope to see in fantasy fiction. Fantasy is often based on medieval culture where illness was abundant thanks to less than sanitary living conditions and limited medical care. Poverty meant crowded living quarters where the malnourished and overworked couldn’t avoid ill family members. Livestyle led to epidemic plagues and a lower average life expectancy.

Granted, characters in the typical fantasy tale aren’t necessarily the type of person exposed to these conditions. Royalty, or heroic figures from noble stock would be less likely to succumb to illness than the ordinary peasant, but including illness in a story allows a writer to explore realistic aspects from a more fantastical angle. How would illness be treated in a realm where magic is available, for example? Would it impact the lives of rogues, warriors and wizards in a significant way?

One of my favourite science fiction novels involves a time traveller who ventures into the days of the bubonic plague, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. I consider this book a part of the inspiration behind the magic plague I introduced in my Masters and Renegades series. The ailment only afflicts those who wield magic and is the central theme of my second book in the series, Casualties of War. Not only does this illness make the practicing of magic dangerous, but it serves as the source for biological warfare – another way of applying real-world concepts to fantasy stories.

If you look at the type of illnesses that tormented soldiers in the trenches during real wars, you might expect similar obstacles for fantasy warriors entering massive battles. Trench foot, caused by standing in mud and water for long periods of time, parasites (trench fever was caused by body lice,) dysentary and shell shock were all real problems, but how often to they occur in fantasy fiction? Not all characters, like my dark elf, Urwick, have the mindset to tolerate combat. It’s refreshing to see such things realistically depicted in the fantasy we read.

Consider the weather conditions that questing characters would have to face while treking through wilderness. Getting drenched might make a less physically hardy wizard or rogue more susceptible to the flu or the common cold – perhaps even pneumonia, but how often does a wizard actually fumble a spell because of sneezing or congestion? It might actually add an element of comedy relief to a tense situation.

An illness need not land a character on the brink of death to add flavour to your story but it could be a welcome touch of realism. I definitely think it would be something nice to see, now and then.

And maybe then somebody could actually offer up the answer as to whether or not wizards get sick days…

Bridging the Gap Between the Expert and the Unknowledgeable

by Chantal Boudreau

Bruce Blake’s post on the unreliable narrator got me to thinking about narrators, or PoV characters, who are unreliable because of a lack of knowledge. Some readers are able to accept the character’s failing. Others find their narrow perspective hard to handle, especially if the reader is an expert in that area. Their ignorance, even if justified by circumstance, can be frustrating.

One example of this I ran into was when I had a test reader who worked in IT try out a story I had written involving technology gone wrong – a story where the protagonist was a technophobe and for the most part techno-illiterate. The character’s distaste for technology was a reasonable explanation as to why the protagonist had rejected the technology found in the story in the first place, which was an important component of the plot. My reader took issue with the main character’s technological ignorance, trying to impose his own understanding upon the unwary man (he should know this, he should expect that, he should be able to explain these things), even though as far as their technological knowledge base was concerned, they were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Technology was such a fundamental part of the reader’s identity that it created a disconnect between him and the protagonist that he just couldn’t circumvent.

I’ve seen this gap work the opposite way too, when a character is an expert and the reader lacks knowledge. I found this problem with Technicians and Scholars in my Fervor series and some of the more knowledgeable wizards in Masters and Renegades. The character gets excited about things that may not generate as much interest in the average person (think Sheldon talking physics to Penny in The Big Bang Theory) but his or her drive regarding a particular topic could be essential to the plot. As a writer, you may need to demonstrate that the character’s quest for knowledge can border on obsessive, but doing so can risk boring or even alienating the reader, so you have to tread cautiously.

So what can a writer do if this gap can’t be avoided? How does one bridge that gap for the reader while remaining true to the character and the story? How does a writer prevent that frustration or disinterest?

There are a few options. The first is being constantly aware that any difference is there. A writer can remind the reader of a character’s lack of knowledge through narrative or dialogue, at appropriate times, to reduce frustration. A writer can be conscious of when a learned character threatens to share to the point of an info dump. Listening to an expert blather on about a particular topic can put a less interested person to sleep.

Another option is to foil the gap with a secondary character – one more like the reader. That other character can point out an unknowledgeable character’s weaknesses with some sympathy or give the expert character a blank stare or a questioning look…or even a yawn… when they start going into too much detail. He or she can lend some understanding as to why the first character does what he or she does. This way, the impact of any knowledge gap on the reader is lessened.

As much as a writer wants the reader to get inside a character’s head and relate to them, this won’t always work when there is a significant knowledge gap between character and reader. Sometimes the relationship has to be sacrificed in part for the sake of realism. The character can still be likeable and may offer up other traits in common with the reader so they can sympathize with them to some degree, but there may always be at least a little disconnect on an intellectual level. That’s not necessarily a bad outcome. A writer will never be able to capture the full interest of every reader with every character. And sometimes lending a reader a new perspective is the whole point of the tale.

Just something to consider the next time a character in a story you’re reading makes you say: “why would he/she think that?”

Perking Things Up

by Chantal Boudreau

I, like many writers, am a lover of coffee. I drink coffee every day, try to get my hands on the best coffee possible for my price range, and I have a cubicle shelf cover dedicated to coffee quotes and cartoons, known as “the coffee wall”. Considering how important coffee is to me, it makes sense that I include it in my writing from time to time, right?

In my recent FOODFIC post, “Flavouring Fantasy,” I discussed the idea of using mundane things like food and drink to enhance fantasy fiction, taking world-building to another level. The same exercise can be applied to most genres, even those not related to speculative fiction.

And while coffee is a mundane thing, it is still something I happen to be passionate about. They say you’re supposed to write about what you know, and I know coffee. Here are a few ways I’ve found to use my passions as fuel and fodder for my writing:

Realism/Research: I have much more enthusiasm for researching something I find fascinating or intriguing to begin with. Incorporating coffee into some of my more realistic, detail-oriented stories means I get to find out new information about something I really like. For example, writing my short story “Waking the Dead,” a tale linking zombies with coffee, required research into types of coffee grown in Haiti as well as rust, a fungal affliction that affects coffee plants. I had the pleasure of increasing my knowledge of coffee while gathering the facts I needed to make my story more believable.

Focus: Especially with short stories, I find having a focal point for my story facilitates the creative process and strengthens the plot. Several people have said the “Waking the Dead” is one of my better zombie stories and I would attribute that the fact that coffee serves as a central theme.

Simile/Metaphor: Sometimes when you need something to explain an extraordinary or supernatural event in a fantasy setting, the best way is to compare it to something else you know very well. Coffee has served as a tool for me, functioning for the sake of comparison in the past. Here’s an example from Magic University, describing Ebon, one of the competitors, drawing sustenance from magic:

He continued onwards, abandoning the map face up in the mud. He had not expected this would happen, and knew it meant that he would have to feed, something he rarely felt the inclination to do. This did not please him. Feeding took time and energy, and he had neither.

Arriving at what he believed was his destination, he began his search. He had no trouble locating the leather wallet that contained the token. He could pick out with ease the two glowing magical auras surrounding the purse, and they smelt absolutely heavenly, like the aroma of fresh bread or strong coffee. He salivated at the thought of absorbing all of that sweet, distinctly different energy. The one reminiscent of coffee was harsh and bitter, but strangely satisfying, the other somewhat bland, but slightly sweet and very substantial. That was the only one he intended to feed off of, absorbing what he could as quickly as he could. This was the plan, but once he started, he could not stop.

He had not recognized his hunger, had not realized just how ravenous he had become. He sucked back the spell’s energies, lost in the instinct to feed and absorb. Before he had realized it, he had completely devoured the first spell and had started in on the second. He had lost all track of time, and as the last drop of energy slipped past his ethereal lips, he stretched out, thoroughly satisfied and replenished.

As you can see, there are several ways to use ordinary but much loved things to spice up your story, allowing you different way of deriving greater satisfaction from your tale – or in my case, ways to perk things up.

And if you are more invested in your story as a writer, chances are, readers will be too.

Old Dogs…New Tricks

by Chantal Boudreau

A friend of mine recently posed the question whether or not characters should be predictable, and followed with the argument that if a character does do the unpredictable, it can jar a reader out of a story. You’ve already established that a character behaves a certain way, so having them act differently would just be wrong, right?

Not so fast.

Demanding that a character adhere to pre-established norms makes the assumption that character development ends once that character has been thoroughly introduced to the reader. We all should understand that that’s just not true. Aside from the fact that some people enjoy being unpredictable, even sticks-in-the-mud will do something out of the ordinary from time to time. You may know somebody quite well, yet see them transform gradually as they grow and mature. And how likely is it that a traumatic event or a life-altering experience will change the way a real person thinks or acts? The same thing ought to apply to fictional characters as well.

Not that I’m suggesting a character should suddenly behave completely out of character with no explanation or no transition. That would be jarring and frustrating to a reader, as my friend suggested, and create the kind of disconnect that may put someone off of a story. But a character can be motivated by emotion or circumstance to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do. They also might be changed permanently as a result.

Not only can these changes occur, but considering the types of conflicts used as a foundation in fantasy fiction, you would expect circumstances to have some kind of lasting effect on characters. The battle-hardened veteran may be able to shrug things off, but what if your character is more of a reluctant type of hero, a younger person still green in the ways of the world or an older person who has spent most of their life sheltered behind a desk? With new demands and/or new opportunities comes the potential for change.

I can offer a couple of examples from my own tales where a particular character ventures into new aspects of persona in response to unusual or shocking circumstances. Burrell, a stout, middle-aged wizard introduced in “Magic University,” shows himself to be a bit of a yes-man with a mild case of the lazies, a somewhat cowardly nature, and a distaste for conflict. He isn’t exactly a man of action or the type of material heroes are typically made of, so when he is approached at the beginning of “Casualties of War” to venture into dangerous terrain for the sake of saving lives, it’s no surprise that he balks at the request.

But his part in the story doesn’t end there. While it isn’t in his nature to involve himself in that kind of precarious situation, he does feel concerned for his friends who are participating in the trek and guilty for not helping them. These feelings motivate him to do more than he typically would under ordinary circumstances. While he still can’t bring himself to follow the others into peril, he does what he can from home, setting aside his laziness and even his aversion to conflict to support what his friends are doing. He even shows a streak of leadership, inspiring others to join him. Several of the things he does are not actions that would be deemed predictable for that character, but they are fitting when all things are considered. By the end of the book, he is definitely a changed man.

A second example I have involves Crag-Climber, a character in my Snowy Barrens Trilogy. He begins the story as a bully with a follower mentality, second-in-command to Far-Runner who leads the band of rabble-rousers. He is brash, egotistical, and at times quite cruel, although more intelligent than Far-Runner’s other toadies. He is also insecure and doesn’t trust his own judgement enough to speak up when he disagrees with Far-Runner. This does not change even after they have segregated themselves as the splinter Tribe of the Wolf and Far-Runner’s mental stability begins to degrade. In fact, it takes an extreme and shocking event where Far-Runner kills a member of Crag-Climber’s family and Crag-Climber responds with violence of his own, before he finally stands up to the man he once considered his best friend.

Injured, Crag-Climber exiles himself from the Wolves, and almost dies from his wounds. It is only after he is rescued by others and is being nursed back to health that he finally gets a chance to reflect on his life, his choices and their consequences. He realizes he has made some terrible mistakes – that he should have taken a stance long before he did and that the reason he hadn’t was a matter of cowardice. He emerges from the experience a changed man, with a new patience, generosity of spirit and dedication to those he cares about. In a word, he has been humbled. He longs to redeem himself.

His actions after the incident differ greatly from those before. They are not what a reader would consider predictable, given his track-record. However, there is good cause for these differences, and even though the transition is more abrupt than with Burrell, it is appropriate in light of the circumstances.

I think it’s clear that I don’t feel it is necessary for a character’s behaviour to be predictable. In fact, sometimes I think the story calls for exactly the opposite. I believe that it is possible to teach an old dog…or an old wizard…or an old Wolf… new tricks, it’s just not all that simple. A writer is going to need a substantial carrot or stick to get that character to change his or her ways, and once they change there may be no going back.

What do you think?

Even the Strong…

I’m sure I’ve addressed this in my blog before but I still think it’s important enough for ongoing attention. In my opinion, the possibility of having to deal with mental illness or disability doesn’t arise enough in genre fiction storylines, fantasy included – at least not as much as a proper attempt at realism would demand. Sure, you’ll see psychotic villains with a range of mental illnesses, it’s acceptable for the bad guy to be “crazy,” or a less than admirable anti-hero displaying some disorder or another as an explanation for deviance or unethical ways, but you aren’t nearly as likely to see it in heroes or secondary characters. This begs the question “why?”

One would think, under the stresses, traumas and difficulties most genre fiction heroes face, they’d be inclined to suffer a break here or there even if they might otherwise be reasonably stable. Post traumatic stress disorder, depression, unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcoholism or drug abuse, problems with anger management might all come into play at some point with heroic types – after all, it happens to our real-world heroes all the time. Wouldn’t it make sense to expect similar things in our fantasy worlds? I do.

I believe this lack of inclusion, in part, has to do with the social stigma that mental illness carries with it. People often avoid talking about it and those who do admit to suffering from a mental illness of any kind risk subjecting themselves unfairly to ridicule and exclusion. The topic makes others uncomfortable, stand-offish, and trying to be truthful about such things can bring with it a loss of respect from those who would have respected you otherwise.

I feel, as well, some writers think that while it is okay to attribute “lesser” flaws to heroes, mental illness is taboo. They view as too great a weakness for a proper hero, who of course must be mentally and emotionally strong out of necessity.

How unfortunate, because I’m sure a lot can be gained by adding that type of realism to your story. Showing that a hero is ultimately human can help readers become more invested in them, as characters respond in a reasonable way to hardship, tragedy or even old age. Revealing that the strong can sometimes break adds an interesting complexity to a plot and more dimension to explore. I believe it can also help reduce the stigma that’s out there. Suggesting that all heroes, especially the reluctant ones, may not be gifted with an iron will and an unbreakable resilience isn’t a bad thing either. Some people called upon to do great things can be very ordinary people in some ways.

Confronting mental illness is never easy. I’ve seen kind-hearted, hard-working people face prejudice as a result. Wanting to share their trials, I’ve had both secondary characters and heroes suffer from mental illness in my stories. I’ve allowed a secondary character in my Snowy Barren Trilogy to succumb to dementia and heroes and villains alike suffer from depression, guilt, anxiety and the anti-social consequences of isolation. In the Masters and Renegades series, I use protagonists who are plagued by addiction and in one instance, a particular character, one who was initially quite resilient, is subject to a nervous breakdown after multiple traumatic losses. Victims from the strain of being subjects of an experiment, several of my characters in my Fervor series have broken – some, like Francis and Grace, quite badly. Even the strongest individuals have their breaking points.

On a personal level, I for one would like to see mental illness addressed more often in genre fiction. I have lost friends, good people, to suicide and alcoholism. I have family and friends who have battled with clinical depression and bipolar disorder, people who have had to endure the stigma despite making great contributions to society. It would be nice to see societal attitudes change.

Maybe if genre fiction does its part in tackling these issues in a fair and objective way, we can hope to get there someday. It certainly would be a good start.

All Speakers Great and Small: The Non-Human Narrator

Having a central character who is not human is certainly not unheard of in genre novels. I can easily think of a few fantasy tales with creature protagonists. Tad Williams “Tailchaser’s Song,” and Richard Adams “Watership Down” and “The Plague Dogs” are the first to come to mind. “Sirius” by Olaf Stapledon is another. While having an animal as a protagonist can be difficult at times when writing in third person, it is an even greater challenge if you choose to present the story in first person.

My latest NaNoWriMo project does exactly that. The story, a post-apocalyptic tale that looks at the world after it has been devastated by a biological warfare agent gone wild, is told from the perspective of one of the few survivors – a crow named Ash. He’s not an ordinary crow, either. His plumage makes him a bit of an outcast because it is a sooty grey rather than black, he is smaller and less imposing than the majority of his brethren, and his role prior to the apocalypse was as “translator” for his murder because he is clever and has developed a talent for understand the human or “no-wings” tongue, English in this case.

Writing from an animal point of view presents a few obstacles. If you write too much from a bestial perspective, the story could become incomprehensible. Your human reader needs something he or she can relate to; otherwise, there’s not much point to reading the story. Sure, it may be novel and surreal at first, but this can get tedious after a point. If you write too much from a humanistic perspective, there’s not much point to choosing an animal narrator to begin with, and you’ll lose that sense of realism, even if the story makes a lot more sense as a result.

I chose to aim for a happy medium. Having my protagonist understand human language, think more in human terms than a typical crow, but still apply very distinct crow nuances to his perspective of the tale, means I can have the best of both worlds. He can make sense of the dialogue of his human companions, but he can’t speak to them directly (he can speak with other crows.) He uses those humans to make sense of what is happening because he would not be able to on his own.

On the other hand, he attributes things “crow” to everything he experiences. Birds are “winged ones”, with crows being “his kind”, other animals are “four-legs” and humans, because they walk on two feet like birds, are “no-wings”. All homes are considered “nests” and he makes references to fledgelings , nestlings and murders. Because he has flight, he can do things that no human narrator could do without magic. Many of his actions are influenced by instinct and he has a clear connection to nature.

All that being said, I think one of the most important things to keep in mind, when making use of a non-human narrator, is that you should do your research. I did significant research on crows before even starting my outline because I wanted my narrator’s behaviour to be as realistic as possible. That meant knowing how crows live, their mating habits, their relationship to their environment and things that are important to their survival in the wild. If you are using a non-human narrator and you are ignorant of these kinds of facts, it will be easy to flub details in your story. If you value realism in your speculative fiction, research will be essential for this narrative approach.

Considering I rarely write in first person and this is my first attempt at a first person novel, this choice is admittedly an unusual one. At the same time, I think it adds a new dimension to the story and provides an extra source of interest for the reader.

After all, doesn’t the idea of a crow’s-eye view of a post-apocalyptic future pique your curiosity?

Here or There

By Chantal Boudreau

I often get asked if my Fervor series is set in a far future version of our world or someplace altogether different. I won’t answer that. I want the possibility that it could be us in future without defining the story that way, leaving it open to either interpretation. Some people may not like the fact that I won’t share my own impressions, but I’d rather they focus on the social and political commentary within the story rather than whether or not I’m saying it’s something I’m projecting for our future if we keep to a certain path. It shouldn’t matter if it’s here or there – the fact that anyone could see it as something that might happen should say enough all on its own.

I’ve had that criticism before with other stories – that people want the location defined for my urban fantasy romance or my sci-fi horror tale set in the near future. “What city is it? Where is it happening?” They suggest defining the location might add something more to the story.

I say it might detract from the story as well. The problem with selecting a specific location is that if people aren’t familiar with that place, they may feel less connected to the story. If you provide a setting that could be almost any urban location, the reader can superimpose a place they can identify with as the city where the action is taking place. Naming the place and adding in specific identifying features can take that away.

Not that I always hold to this. Sometimes, the story demands something less vague. In “Intangible” my yet to be published paranormal thriller, landmarks are important to the plot. For that reason, I identify the location from the very beginning and make reference to places that actually exist in the city and the surrounding area. There’s no point in not being specific under those circumstances and giving details in this case will add to the story.

What I think is funny is that I do give place names and details in The Snowy Barrens Trilogy, my tribal dark fantasy trilogy, but people still assume that because the story borrows elements from North American Native mythology, it is set in the past in North America. That’s not the case, and there are several Easter eggs seeded within the trilogy that link it to the world that serves as the setting for Masters & Renegades, my standard fantasy series, to support this. Barb used to say people think of it as historical in nature because the characters seem so realistic – it was hard not to imagine that they actually once existed.

I guess I should take it as a compliment then that people come to the conclusion that the story takes place here and not there. After all, realistic fantasy has always been one of my primary goals.

Those Little Extra Things…

I have to wonder how much thought an author has put into the smallest of details in a short story, now that I’m a writer myself. It’s not something you necessarily think about as a reader. “It’s just a short story” you might think – why would the writer have bothered doing extra research on a character name, a back ground story or have gone as far as to implant “Easter eggs” to connect that short story to some of their other fiction (I had three of these in one of my short stories)? You might expect those things from a novel, but a short story?

I have to admit it. I can get a little obsessive over things like research no matter what I’m writing – I’ve researched turbulence in depth for a flash fiction piece … a humorous one. But, I get an idea, the seed of a story, and I want whatever I weave around that core to be something special and exact. To give you an idea of what I mean, I’ll use my story “Octavia”, published in Crooked Cat’s Fear anthology. I’ve done this with fantasy stories as well, but I think “Octavia” is a great example of the little things I put into a story on many levels that no reader may ever notice is there, but which probably enhances the story to some degree. Or, at least, I hope it does.

I’m not terribly frightened of spiders, but I wanted to write a story about someone attempting to cure another person of arachnophobia with his own carefully calculated (and completely unethical) treatment. The fear for me was not the critters, but the main character’s horrific methodology.

I started by picking the story’s name. I went with “Octavia” because of the association with the number eight, but I decided I wanted to use something historical to pick my protagonist’s name and after some digging into roman history, I found just what I needed. That’s how Augustus got his name, Octavia being his half-sister.

But that wasn’t enough. If I wanted to make the treatment method plausible, I had to research phobia treatments that already existed. I wanted to combine a selection of them, be able to make references to experts in the field and take the new treatment to the next extreme.

Remember, all this was just for a short story. And there was more…

I realized this entire experience would be a traumatic, and made sure to incorporate the phases of mourning as Octavia faced what she felt would be sure death. If you follow her reaction to the steps within the treatment, you can actually see what I mean.

You would think that would be plenty. It still wasn’t enough for my satisfaction. I researched arachnid associations with food, little known facts about spiders and information about their venom. That gave me enough to finish up the tale – a typical short story of standard length, teeming with details that had emerged as a result of my research.

How many people are likely to notice? Very few, I would suspect, but I know everything that went into that story and that effort is important to me, just as it is with most of my stories.

So the next time you are reading a work that’s fictitious in nature and you come across something striking in the narrative, some fact that adds credible structure to the tale or some feature that makes the story seem that much more realistic, consider the extra time and effort the writer likely invested in that story to put that in there. Those things are there in the hope that they’ll be appreciated for what they are – a little something extra.

Realistic Ideas in a Fantastic Setting

It’s funny how often you’ll hear the advice: “write what you know,” and that’s always one of those interesting concepts that just can’t be applied in full to fantasy. The whole point to fantasy is to write something outside of the sphere of reality – that’s what makes it fantasy, right?

Clearly, I can’t know what it’s like to cast a spell, to battle with a flame-breathing dragon or to encounter a genie because I happened to be polishing my lamp. You have to accept the fact that when writing fantasy, you will have to try to breathe life into things that you never have and never will experience. That’s part of the challenge of writing the genre.

On the other hand, I’m a true believer that the best fantasy always contains an element of realism, and that’s one of the reasons why I try to incorporate some of my own experiences into my books, around those impossible things that make up other parts of the story. It’s the best way of allowing readers to suspend their disbelief, by giving them the opportunity to connect to the characters who may be otherwise doing some pretty unbelievable things.

Just as an a example, I’ve integrated my own experiences at my workplace into my writing- events, in particular , that I found terribly frustrating. I wove them into my stories to capture that same “frustration with authority” feeling for my characters. There’s a scene between Fortia and Finch in my recently released novel, Casualties of War, where Finch is battling unrealistic expectations and perfectionism taken to an extreme. This scene is almost an exact duplicate of an encounter I had with one of my managers, where she did things like insisting I should know what she wanted before she wanted it, and be able to second guess my supervisor when he wasn’t providing me with all the details I needed for a particular task, or expecting my work to be flawless despite the fact that she had me working twelve hour shifts on top of a very difficult professional training program (I was chastised savagely for a single transposition error I made at the end of one of these twelve hour days, when I had to go home and spend several more hours finishing an assignment for class the next day.) This was tweaked, of course, to match the character’s situation, trading off accounting for wizardry.

I also wrote an entire short story, Fly on the Wall (to be included in a collection being released by May December Publications) around a separate event that involved a heated discussion with a supervisor over the importance of substance over image. She favoured image (and lacked integrity in more ways than one, so I’m glad I work elsewhere now) and I stayed true to the idea that substance and strong ethics were what mattered more. I had to change the environment for the story, and add some magic and some wonder to make it more interesting, but the root of the story stayed the same.

Making my own experiences an integral part of the stories – my encounters with bullying, my feelings towards my family, my disappointment when someone I’ve trusted has let me down – gives the plot a solid foundation, and building on that, I can add whatever fantastical elements I need to, to make the tale interesting and fun. I think it lends a great deal of strength to plots and that aspect of realism which I strive for.

So the next time you happen to be reading one of my stories and an event intrigues you, remember, it might just be something that actually happened to me, twisted to fit my fantastic tale.