Thursday, July 31, 2014

Christine Amsden - "All Good Things..."

Hello, MB4 friends and fans!

Please help me welcome back our good friend and talented writer, Christine Amsden! We love her articles and books and hope you will, too!

If you love to write, remember to write like the wind!

Aaron Lazar

 "All Good Things..."

copyright 2014, Christine Amsden

Since releasing the fourth and final volume in my Cassie Scot series, I have been thinking a lot about endings. What makes an ending satisfying? And especially in a series, how long is long enough?

As a writer who has been heavily involved in group discussions in the past, I feel like we spend an overwhelming majority of our time talking about beginnings. I'm part of the problem! I teach workshops on beginnings at Savvy Authors, but have yet to offer one on endings. Why? Because endings are difficult to discuss without spoilers; the discussions get mired in generalities. I can read someone's first few thousand words and tell them if it's working or not. I can't read someone's final few thousand words and tell him if it's working – it all depends upon how it was set up.

I'm sure you're aware that at the beginning of every story, you supply the reader with an implicit promise. You say, “This is what the story is about.” (But not in those words.) The promise can grow or shift through the middle, so that the discovery of a dead body (whodunit?) turns into a race against time to save a city from a terrorist plot. But whatever the promise, you must fulfill it in the end. That, in vague generalities, is a satisfying ending.

I'm a character girl, so for me a key element to a satisfying ending is a lesson learned by the protagonist … the sense that she has undergone a journey and come through changed on the other side. I prefer changed for the better, although these days the dark hero model so popular in fantasy is taking that trend the other direction. Either way, for me there is extra satisfaction in not only solving the murder or saving the day, but also in showing a real shift in your character's view of the world. No one goes through life without collecting a few scars, least of all the heroes and heroines of interesting stories.

Up at the top, I also asked how long is long enough for a series? The answer lies in the character, and whether or not he or she still has changes to undergo. As long as the story is growing and the character changing to meet new demands, you can keep it up for a dozen books or more (Harry Dresden). If not … well, I'm fond of saying that a story should be as long as it is and no longer.

A few years ago I had a chance to meet Jim Butcher, the author of The Dresden Files, in person. He has a great sense of humor and deals well with his fans; he usually hosts a Q&A before he signs books. At this particular Q&A, I had just finished my first draft of Stolen Dreams (called Dreamer at the time). I felt okay about it, but I knew something was off. Then, there in the middle of the Q&A, someone asked Jim when his long-running Dresden Files series would end.

“It depends upon whether my kids decide to go to graduate school,” he replied, only half-joking. But then he went on to say something else. He said (and I'm paraphrasing) that by the time a series reaches its final challenge, the main character should be uniquely qualified to overcome it.

I had an unexpected light bulb over the head moment. I mean, Harry Dresden isn't much like Cassie Scot – kind of the opposite in fact. I set Cassie up to be the only one in her family without magic, whereas Harry is a kick-ass wizard with ever-increasing magical skills. But, and this is the key point, in my first draft of this novel I had created a challenge that not only was Cassie not uniquely qualified to overcome, but she was surrounded by at least half a dozen characters who could have probably handled it more easily. I had fallen into a trap, an easy trap to fall into because by creating a character without magical abilities and putting her in a magical world I had turned genre rules upside down. Fantasy is often about pitting a powerful person against tougher and tougher bad guys – like in a video game. But in Cassie's case the bad guys didn't need to get tougher, they needed to get more personal. Because my implicit promise was never that I was telling an event story. In fact, I stated my promise pretty clearly in the first paragraph of the first book of the Cassie Scot series:

“My parents think the longer the name, the more powerful the sorcerer, so they named me Cassandra Morgan Ursula Margaret Scot. You can call me Cassie."

I gave you a character who wasn't sure who she was and who felt out of place. Granted, there are other ways of interpreting this promise. I've long-since come to understand that readers are never wrong, they just have alternate opinions. I believe a good number of readers expected Cassie to stumble across hidden powers at some point, even right in the first book. But my intention was to give you a character who learned to accept and love herself. I knew what the last paragraph would be almost as soon as I wrote the first – partly because I'm a big fan of symmetry. It's not a major spoiler, so here it is:

“My parents always thought the longer the name, the more powerful the sorcerer, so they called me Cassandra Morgan Ursula Margaret Scot. These days, I go by Cassandra.”

For those readers who chose a different interpretation of my implicit promise, this ending should clarify its nature. Depending upon how deeply they internalized their own view this could either be jarring or a light bulb moment. Obviously, I'm hoping for the latter.

I'm also hoping that readers will mourn the conclusion of Cassie Scot as I did, that they will love her enough to feel sad to see things over. I sometimes feel the urge to write another book about her, to bring her back to life once more, but all good things must come to an end.


Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)
Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.

When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood’s grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie’s father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.

But things may not be precisely as they appear.

Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own?

Conclusion to the Cassie Scot series.
Buy Links
Print Release Date: October 15, 2014
Audiobook Release Date: TBA

Rafflecopter Giveaway ($100 Amazon Gift Card) Code

The Cassie Scot Series:

Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

Author Bio

Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that affects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. 

In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

Social Media Links:
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Christine Amsden said...

Thanks for hosting, Aaron! Always a pleasure to stop by your site.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

It's great to have you back, Christine. I love your books and can't wait to read the new one!

Unknown said...

Looking forward to reading more of Christine's books!

teena3940 said...

Great looking book.. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Sounds exciting! Can't wait to read it!

Unknown said...

Thanks for hosting! Love Cassie Scot....!