Author Archives: LeeAnn Elwood McLennan

About LeeAnn Elwood McLennan

I write fantasy and scifi novels, mostly young adult.

Gratitude

Gratitude.

A simple word that carries so much power. As the launch date for Root draws closer, as I tick down my to-do list to get ready, I can’t help but think about how grateful I am to all the folks who made releasing Dormant memorable. Of course, there are the folks I expected to be grateful to – my parents, my sister, my husband, my critique group – but it’s the surprises that come to mind today. From the woman at work who sent out an email blast on the day my book was published to the high school classmate who invited me to speak to her middle school students. The support I gotten from my old school mates almost makes me miss high school (almost…OK, not really).

I remember the sweet ladies in my mother’s book club who read Dormant and discussed it with me via Skype. I’m grateful to my mother for buying a lot of copies and giving them to her friends. I appreciate all of the people who invited me to speak at their book clubs. It’s humbling to have serious conversations about ideas and characters I created. I’ve been awed and amused at some of the reader theories.

I think of the people who griped at me for killing off Hugh. As one reader pointed out, “he’s the only one with any sense.” Any author will understand the feeling of glee when a reader is upset over a character’s death. Means we made an impact.
And to the people who kindly listen to me natter on about my writing process, my latest book, and my experiences, I’m grateful to you for listening!

And there are the people who live far away from me but still wanted signed copies and were willing to pay a little more one. The bookstores who host readings and are so kind to nervous authors. And I will never forget those of you who come to my readings!

Self-promotion is very difficult for me. I constantly doubt the worthiness of my stories, I hesitate to add my voice to the clamor of promotion requests, even though I know it’s an important part of the process. So when I do, I’m very grateful for the support I receive from the likes, retweets, shares, and comments.

I don’t write my stories so you’ll like me but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a rush when someone tells me they enjoyed Dormant. Writing is a combination of transcendent and nonsensical moments. Sometimes I love what I wrote enough so I don’t think I need feedback from readers. Then someone tells me how much they loved Dormant or how much their daughter or son loved it and I realize that, yes, I do need to hear what you think.

Gratitude is humbling. Gratitude reminds me that people are generally good. Gratitude reminds me to say thank you. To my now and future readers.

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan twitter photoLeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, book 1 in the Dormant Trilogy (www.indigoseapress.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble). Root, Book 2 in the trilogy will be released soon so you should pick up a copy of Dormant today to get to know Olivia Woodson Brighthall and her family.

 

Follow LeeAnn on Twitter and Instagram @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Middle Children (or Books, really)

Root, book two of my Dormant trilogy, is completed and at my publishers! It’s bittersweet letting go of a story I’ve been absorbed in for so many months. However, it’s time to release Root into the wild and see how it fares.

Recently a friend commented that the middle book was usually her least favorite of a trilogy. It got me thinking about trilogies in general and middle books specifically. As I ticked through some of my favorite trilogies I realized that frequently my favorite book is the middle book. (The same holds true for movie trilogies in many cases.)

In the first book, the author has done the work of introducing the reader to world and the characters who inhabit that world. There’s often a lot of world building and character-building. Always interesting and necessary but sometimes the action can get a little lost. In book two of a trilogy, the assumption is the audience read the first book, so the author can spend a few lines on the events from book one, and then dive right into the action. The action is usually leading up to the climatic events in book three without having to resolve everything.

In no particular order here are some trilogies where the middle book is my favorite (no spoilers – though it was hard!):

The Tony Foster Trilogy by Tanya Huff. The middle book is Smoke and Mirrors, which takes place almost entirely in a haunted house. I relish Tony’s view of the world and he’s so accepting of the events that unfold around him that it makes scary scenes more enjoyable. This is my favorite in the series for it’s humor, tension, and deep character development.

The Old Kingdom trilogy by Garth Nix. The middle book is Lirael. The focus shifts from the characters in book one and ups the stakes for the Old Kingdom’s’ survival. Lirael and her companion, the Disreputable Dog, are delightful together and I cheer for Lirael’s hopeful success in achieving her desires. I love this book because we get to know more about the folks in the Old Kingdom, Lirael is an appealing character and her problems feel familiar, even though I’ll never have the opportunity to be a seer.

Daughter of Smoke and Bones trilogy by Laini Taylor. The middle book is Days of Blood and Starlight. We know Karou’s secret and now all hell is about to break loose between two worlds. Taylor finds a good balance between our world and the alternate fantasy world.

One notable exception is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – The Two Towers is my least favorite. Though, I do love the Ents and it establishes Pippin as my favorite hobbit.

Does this hold true for some of your favorite trilogies? Let me know in the comments!

Now, about the third book…

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan twitter photo

 

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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You Are What You Ink by LeeAnn Elwood McLennan

I’m getting my fifth tattoo today. Some of you may smirk at the measly amount of ink adorning my body while others will wince with dismay at the whole idea. To tattoo or not tattoo — a great way to get people talking, isn’t it?

800px-Alice_05a-1116x1492

Tattoo # 1

When folks hear I’m getting a new tattoo, the natural question is what am I getting? True to writerly form, all of my tattoos are literary — specifically from Alice in Wonderland. My ink-marked road began back in 1992 with the Caterpillar smoking his hookah tattooed onto my left thigh. A few years after that, I balanced things out with the Mad Hatter on my right thigh. Later on, I added the Cheshire Cat on my back and more recently, a playing card painting roses on my foot. For my next tattoo, I’m branching out into Through the Looking Glass for the White Queen, along with her wonderful quote ‘sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’.

I considered the Red Queen but as I explained to a friend, the Red Queen has taken on menacing connotations since appearing in Through the Looking Glass. Anyone who has read Frank Beddor’s The Looking-Glass Wars series or watched Resident Evil knows what I mean. I’m not sure how I feel about putting something sinister on my body. Would it imply I’m sinister? Reveal my dark side to the world?

This got me thinking about what drives folks to choose what they have tattooed on their skin. If you ask someone about her tattoo, you’ll hear a story in return. The story could be about the design — be it a Chinese character denoting a name, an Egyptian symbol for Osiris drawn on a napkin at a bar by a tipsy friend, or a favorite piece of art reimagined just for you. The tattooed person might choose to reminisce about the experience — perhaps the ink was drawn by a renowned artist, maybe the tattoo shop clientele was rougher than expected tinging the experience with a little fear, or possibly close friends came along as support during the session. Sometimes the story is about why she got the tattoo — it could be in memory of a parent, to commemorate a momentous event, or a reminder to be strong. The stories are as varied as the human experience.

A tattoo is more than ink cut into flesh. For most folks their tattoos express how they think of themselves, who they present to the world. I’m a fantasy author and one of the first stories I remember loving was Alice’s crazy journey though Wonderland. Tattooing her world on my body tells the world a little bit about who I am and what I like. Some folks want original art on their bodies, while others sport family portraits. A gorgeous design of flowers twining around your arms could lure you to the tattoo parlor chair while your friend would rather have words from a favorite movie coiling around her arms.

Oftentimes, a non-tattooed person will mutter, “I don’t know what I’d get” — I think that’s a sound reason not to get a tattoo. You’d better like what you pick — because it’s going to hurt and be permanent. Tattoo removal notwithstanding.

Tribal designs, Chinese symbols, family photos, movie characters, album covers, favorite foods, a lover’s name, a child’s birthdate — anything can be mined for ideas. If someone chooses a menacing, evil design, be it historical, religious, literary, or simply violent, he is embracing a philosophy, declaring an affiliation with something disturbing. It’s a deliberate choice.

Of course, the Red Queen isn’t all bad in Through the Looking Glass, but she gets bad rap since she’s often confused with the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. You know, “off with their heads’ — that Queen of Hearts. In fact, The Red Queen even helps Alice become a queen and celebrates with her near the end of the book.

Mmmm — perhaps # 6 will be the Red Queen after all. A kinder version of the character.

I’d love to hear your stories about your tattoos in the comments.

With thanks to Amber Hettman for the title. In addition, a shout-out to Brynn Sladky at Blacklist Tattoo (http://blacklisttattoo.com) for designing and inking tattoo number five.

Tattoo # 5 or at least the original design before Brynn worked her magic

Tattoo # 5 or at least the original design before Brynn worked her magic. She added the ‘six impossible things ‘quote as well as some other wonderful details.

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan 05 Color (2)LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Why do I Write in the Fantasy Genre?

At recent book reading for Dormant, someone asked  why I write fantasy novels. My gut answer was that I’m all about escapism and what better way to escape than by hiding in another world?

As I thought about it, I realized there’s a longer answer. I write fantasy stories because of the world building, the chance to create the rules and structure the characters inhabit. To me, a good fantasy story balances between describing the world and describing the characters’ journey — it’s not always an actual journey, of course. For that matter, it’s not always another world. Many wonderful fantasy novels take place in our world…with a twist.

In each world, there are rules that define how life works. The rules can relate to magic — does using magic make a sound that other magic users can hear, can only certain people use magic, or are only certain locations magical?  Where does the power comes form — is it an inherit ability, or does it come from a magical object?  Are you born with the power or does it turn on like a flipped switch? Does magic come from a fragile balance between man and nature that can break without explanation?

The writer defines the rules — she must follow those rules or else build the story around why the rules are suddenly suspended. It’s both fun and daunting to face creating a world with certain guidelines. Staying within the rules can be just as frustrating for the writer as it is for the characters. However, rules must exist because if the character can suddenly change within the story to resolve an issue then there is no conflict.

In The Well World series by Jack Chalker, he creates a planet where the rules change geographically by creating hexagonal like worlds with the major world. The rules of one hexagon might allow magic while the next one over doesn’t. Machines work in some hexagons while they don’t in others. It’s one of my favorite series simply because the rules can change so quickly but within the construct of each little world, the rules are absolute. Machines go from useful to lumps of useless metal just by crossing a border, geography deters poisonous gases, and an extreme patriarchal society borders a hive world run by a queen.

Sometimes people assume authors spend time creating the rules before starting to write the story. Obviously, everyone has a different process but many writers develop the rules while writing the story. I began Dormant with some basic rules — you’re born a supernormal with basic package abilities (super speed, super hearing, super strength, etc.), your significant ability manifests at age thirteen and you don’t get new abilities once you’ve grown into the significant ability. This means I can’t decide Olivia’s ability is fire and then add the ability to fly because it would be an easy away to get her out of a sticky situation. Other rules of the supernormal world inhabited by Olivia and her family evolved as I wrote the story.

As I write Root, the second book in the series, I’m having fun defining more rules — for supernormal beasts, for Ben’s mind reading ability, and, well…you’ll just have to see when Root comes out later this year.

What is your favorite fantasy novel and what are its rules/laws?

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan 05 Color (2)LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

 

 

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Interview with a Supernormal: About Those Abilities

As I write Root, the next book in the Dormant series, I draw on clandestine interviews I’ve had with the only supernormal I’ve met. I know her as Kate Brighthall but that’s not her real name. It’s the name she gave me when she recused me from a house fire when we were both teenagers. Over the years she’s trusted me with details about her world and allowed me to write about it. I suspect she wants to make sure at least some facts are correctly reported to counterbalance the rumors swirling around — mostly in the tabloids.

Below is an excerpt from notes I took when Kate told me about how supernormal abilities develop. She was unusually chatty that day.

…………………………………………

As told by Kate Brighthall…

Supernormal children aren’t born with their active powers. Our children aren’t distinguishable from normal children at all. Not at first.

Our children start showing signs of the basic package abilities around age three. The basic package abilities (my daughter Zoe’s term) include super speed, sight, smell, hearing, and strength. As a child grows up, we do some light training to hone the basic package skills, however intense training begins at age thirteen when a child’s significant ability manifests. A significant ability can be one of many different skills — it could be an extension of the basic package or something very different. For example, Zoe’s significant ability is super speed. She can run the 120 miles from the Portland warehouse to Mt Hood and back in fifteen minutes. Others gain significant abilities such as the power to manipulate objects without touching them. I can manipulate objects weighing up to 5 lbs. Others can handle heavier objects. Other abilities include fire starters, like my niece Olivia. My brother, Alex, is an empath — skill often used for healing. Supernormals can heal more rapidly than normals but we occasionally need a little help. Alex also uses his ability to help normals heal — surreptitiously, of course.

Most abilities are easy to hide from normals but some of us manifest abilities that require we stay hidden. It’s not unheard of for a supernormal to manifest wings, gills, or other physical changes. Once, a long time ago, we were less successful at staying hidden. That’s how some myths got started — normals saw supernormals in action. Nowadays we stay below the radar; it’s safer that way — for us and for normals.

As teenager supernormals manifest their significant ability, they focus on honing their new skill. There are tried and true exercises for each ability, but my brothers and I challenge ourselves to find new ways of training. It’s been particularly interesting training Olivia’s fire starter skills — her range is amazing but her control still needs work. Good thing her grandfather built a fireproof training room.

Once a thirteen year old supernormal manifests her significant ability it takes about six months for full development. After that period, our significant abilities are set and don’t grow any more. Of course, we can refine our skills. For example, only being able to manipulating object of 5 pounds or less might seem like a limitation but I’ve learned that it depends on what that object is.

There’s only one forbidden ability — mind reading. Any child who manifests this ability must learn to suppress it — almost all supernormals who manifest this ability develop the power to control minds as well. They usually end up going insane. About two hundred years ago, a supernormal with the ability to read minds destroyed most of the supernormal population globally. Because of this cataclysmic event, there are less than a thousand of us worldwide. Fortunately, mind reading is a rare ability; typically, only one child per generation manifests it. I’ve only known one personally and he is in a medically induced coma to protect himself and others.

Every family lineage has a role in the supernormal world. For example, Brighthalls often train to be hunters, seeking and containing the monster population while protecting normals from these creatures. Sometimes we have to kill the monsters; for example, it’s very difficult to trap and contain a Mongolian Death Worm due to its acid spewing abilities. Usually we try to capture and then release a creature in a safer habitat. Recently we tracked a firebug — a small tentacled critter who emits sparks and sometimes flames — usually harmless in a remote desert setting but not in an urban environment where it can harm normals. We were able to use Olivia’s ability capture the firebug and now it’s on its way to a safe habitat.

As the normal population has grown, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep monsters away from normals. Sadly, due to encroaching populations we’ve had to kill more creatures than we did in the past. I’m trying to find better ways for us to capture and contain these monsters. Most of the creatures are harmless when kept away from normals.

My family is atypical because we integrate into the normal population while most supernormals live in remote locations around the world. My family’s job as hunters means that we usually live in cities so we find have to work hard to blend in among normals. In fact, unusually among supernormals we often marry normals. Supernormal genes are dominant so our children have abilities. I remember when I told my normal husband about supernormals — he was stunned but has adapted very well to our double life.

I think it’s good to stay connected to the normals — keeps us grounded in both worlds. Not everyone agrees. Most supernormals keep themselves separate from normals as much as possible. Historically, the few times we’ve come out to normals, it’s been a disaster for us and we’ve had to go back into hiding. Normals either want to control us out of fear of our abilities or use our abilities to make their lives easier. The crash of the Hindenburg, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake –examples of normals trying to control my kind in the early part of the 20th century.

……………………………………………………….

At this point, Kate received a text message. I don’t know what it said but she gasped and abruptly ended our interview. As she rushed off I heard her mutter, “Olivia what have you done now?”

 

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan 05 Color (2)LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Writing Conditions

While the rest of the country deals with copious amounts of rain and snow, the Pacific Northwest is experiencing an unusually warm and dry winter. Most Portlanders react with joy at the news of another sunny day and rush outside to take advantage of the area’s many parks, hiking trails, and rivers.

However, I greet the lovely weather with gloom inside. For me, pleasant sunny weather is not ideal writing weather. Give me a stormy, windy day – rain lashing at the windows, wind rattling the panes, and clouds hovering over the city. I want to write without feeling the tug of nice weather calling me out to play.

The non-ideal writing weather got me thinking about writing conditions in general. Which lead me to ponder what my perfect writing space would look and feel like. I recognized it’s not just one space that’s ideal. Sometimes I’m drawn towards the idea of a tower room – lots of windows (to let in fresh air and fresh ideas), a large writing desk with the perfect chair (comfy body equals clear mind), a couch for pondering my character’s next move (also called napping), and several whiteboards for jotting down plot points I want to refer to later.  At other times, a crowded place – a coffee shop, the airport, or a park – sounds just right. Excellent for watching people and eavesdropping on conversations.

In addition, the dishes must done, the house must be tidy, the laundry must be in progress, and the cats must be quiet. Should I write early in the morning before work or on the weekends? Should I write in ninety-minute increments or until the chapter is complete? Should I work on the logical next scene in the story or the climactic scene swirling around in my head? Should I…well you get the idea. Writing is often a conundrum of where, when, and how.

If it’s such a struggle to write, why do I bother? Why spend a lot of my free time on an anxiety-ridden pursuit? I don’t have a very profound reason, in fact, it’s simple – I like telling stories. Not only do I relish building the narrative and characters but I also enjoy the craft of writing – what is the best way to express joy or sadness, what is the cleverest way to show a character’s inner conflict, or how do I foreshadow without revealing too much? Who gets the chop? Who gets to fall in love? Who gets to reveal their darkest emotions? Where does the story begin? Where does the story end?

When I do finally sit down and write, my reward is in those sublime moments when I read a snippet of a chapter or scene and think, “Damn, that’s good! Who wrote this?” Then I remember I did and it makes me smile.

Ultimately, the perfect writing conditions aren’t external – if the story is going well I don’t need the perfect chair or right weather. I just need to sit my butt down and write.

As I finish this article rain has moved back into Portland. I draw a deep breath, feeling my shoulders relax.

Now where’s my pen and paper?

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first novel in the Dormant trilogy. The second book, Root, will be out later this year.

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/?manufacturers_id=16&products_id=45#!leeann-elwood-mclennan/c1jyr

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan 05 Color (2)

 

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