Archive for the ‘The Daermad Cycle’ Tag

The Agony of Criticism   Leave a comment

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverThere are writers and there are authors. Unlike some in the publishing field, I am not convinced that all that separates a writer from becoming an author is publishing a book. I think some unpublished writers are authors in progress while some published writers will never be authors.

It’s a painful truth, but one does not simply sit down and write a good novel. There’s research, there’s writing, there’s rewriting and editing … and more than anything else, there is critique.

How you accept critique is part of what separates writers and authors.

I’ve been scribbling stories since I was 12. I had some critique on my fiction in high school from my teachers, but for most of the decades between then and publishing my first novel I was writing fiction for my own amazement. Then I decided I really wanted to advance a book to publication and I started to submit it to friends to read.

I guess my friends love me. They all said pretty glowing things about the manuscript that would become the seedbed for Daermad Cycle. Somehow I knew that wasn’t completely honest. I went one step further and submitted it to the writers site Authonomy. Mostly I got good reviews and that felt a little bit more honest because these people didn’t know me. Some of the reviewers gave minor critique — moves a bit slowly, takes a long time to get to the point, it’s awfully long — but I wasn’t really sure what to do with that critique.

Then it happened. Somehow I attracted the attention of a notorious misanthrope on the site and he (or that iteration was a she, I think) decided to critique my book.

If you’ve never been run over by a Mac truck, I don’t recommend it.

I knew this was a mean, mean person, but her words bit deep. She (or he) really hated my book. Worse, though a truly miserable human being, this person was also a great writer.

There are three ways to handle that sort of critique:

  • throw the project in the trash bin where the critic suggested … thereby proving that you’re a writer and not an author in progress;
  • ignore the critique and keep the project as it is … also suggesting that you may not be an author in progress;
  • learn from the critique what is worth learning.

The author in progress does the third thing. After I got done being mad and sad in cycles, I resolved to come back to the critique in a while (that turned out to be three months) and mine it for what was worthwhile. Because this person had a history of being deleted from the site, I printed out the critique and put it away for later consumption. In the meantime, more nicer reviews came in that sort of agreed (in a nice way) with the mean review. I recognized that this mean critic had given me solid advice in a truly despicable manner and her critique was really not substantially different from the more soft-soap critique of the nicer reviews. He was brutally honest and that was exactly what I needed.

I went back to the book and applied the critique in a reasonable manner. I broke the manuscript into smaller more manageable portions (thereby creating a series, which is almost never a bad thing in epic fantasy). I was honest about how slow it was and I resolved to change that. I included death and mayhem much earlier than I was comfortable with. I excised the info dumps and limited the beautifully detailed descriptions I like. I added more complex characters, including some actual bad guys. And I got a better book, which got better reviews, but I also gained the confidence to pick a date to publish. You see, buried in that really mean review, was a off-hand statement that I had to mull for a long while and when I came back to it after the rewrite of the book that would become The Willow Branch, Book 1 of the Daermad Cycle, I realized that it was a very subtle compliment. Nasty guy actually thought there was a kernal of something in the book worth saving.

But if I’d done what I thought he was advising — burn the manuscript, eat dirt and die — I never would have come to that realization and either one of two things would have happened. Either The Willow Branch never would have been published or … I shudder to think this — the book entitled that would have been a mediocre book that should not have been published.

One of the major things separating writers from authors in progress is how they handle critique. All critique is useful to those who are willing to use it.

Lela Markham is the author of two published books The Willow Branch (Book 1 of Daermad Cycle), an epic fantasy, and Life As We Knew It (Book 1 of Transformation Project), an apocalyptic headed toward dystopian.

No Longer a 1-Book Wonder   1 comment

Front Cover UpdateLast year, I published The Willow Branch.Front Cover Final 1.27.15


Not long after that, I read a blog article that said “Don’t be a 1-Book Wonder.”


So, enjoy Life As We Knew It.

Kindle Countdown Deal   1 comment

The Willow Branch ebook is only 99 cents today.

Kindle Countdown   1 comment

March 17-24

Announcing Kindle Select Enrollment   Leave a comment

I decided to give it a 90-day try for The Willow Branch in advance of publishing my next book, Life as We Knew It — which is NOT the sequel to The Willow Branch.

Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read it for free and watch for my Countdown Deal in March.

Plus my paperback price is now $10.84.

The Willow Branch   Leave a comment

Front Cover UpdateNow on Kindle Select.

On Sale   1 comment

71rYAYxfZsL._SL1500_In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lela Markham Publishing announces a 48-hour sale

The Willow Branch

Smashwords $2.99 with coupon code ZH32D

Sunday and Monday January 18 & 19, 2015

Kaira Lansing Interviews Lela Markham   1 comment


Interview with Author Lela Markham

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedYour Name and/or Pen Name.

Lela Markham is a pen name for Alaskan writer and blogger, aka Aurorawatcher.

What have you written?

The Willow Branch is an epic, sword-and-sorcery fantasy with Celtic influences.

Who are your target readers?

Anyone who loves fantasy.

Do you write daily?

Pretty much. I have a full-time job, but I fit writing into lunch hours and any other free moments. I even draft stories while I’m doing mundane work.

 Do you aim for a certain amount of words/pages?

No. I set a date goal and try to stay on track for that, but there is no goal per day because life gets in the way.

Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you just prefer to see where an idea takes you?

I always start with a character that forms spontaneously in my head, usually while I’m doing something else. Long car drives in Alaska are great for this. If that character hangs around for a while, I try to put him/her in a setting or among other characters. If they stick there, then I work out where they’re headed and draft an outline. Generally, about one-quarter of a story is written in pieces before I start outlining a book because the character has to tell me his story.

How have your personal experiences affected your writing?

There are experiences that have influenced my writing, that show up in the plot or in the history of characters. I think a truly effective writer must have some life experiences in order to create fully realized characters. But I never use raw experiences in my writing. I always change them and reimage them because fiction should imitate life, not record it.

How do you start writing a story and develop ideas?

A character usually forms in my mind while I’m doing something mundane – filing, washing dishes, driving. If that character hangs around for a while and starts to tell me an interesting story, I try to write it down. Generally, there’s something I’ve been researching, something in the news maybe, that roughly fits with the character and I try to adapt that real-life scenario to my character’s story. If it works, then I write a few scenes. If that seems to flow well, then I outline for a conclusion and start filling in the gaps.

Do you have any special time set aside to write or how is your day structured?

I work full-time and have a family, so my writing is formed around that. I’ve always got something going on in my head, so I carry a notebook and jot things down as they come to me. In the evening, often while I’m cooking dinner, I’ll power up my laptop and try to bang out a few paragraphs between flipping meat. Then I use my lunch hour and some portion of most evenings to write and then Saturday morning. My family likes to sleep in, so I get up and write.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

Part-time. Writing fantasy novels is not a pro-ball career.

Do you use your own life experiences?

I adjust my personal experiences and use them in very attenuated forms. For my non-fantasy-genre books, I often draw inspiration from the news or from something I’ve been researching.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

71rYAYxfZsL._SL1500_I want to publish a dystopian in summer 2015 and the sequel to The Willow Branch (Mirklin Wood) in early 2016. I might possibly have an Alaskan murder mystery-political thriller completed in 2015 as well. Long-term, I want to finish the five book Daermad Cycle (of which The Willow Branch was Book 1) and I have plans to make that dystopian into a series.

When did you decide to become a writer and why?

I told stories from the time I could talk, according to my mom, and wrote my first story when I was in 5th grade. I tried to be a journalist, but it didn’t work out – mainly because of the long hours and low pay. I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t a storyteller and I really can’t say why other than that I am.

What struggles do you face when writing?

Finding time to do it and letting characters I love go when the time comes.

What does your family think of your writing?

Mom’s a little crazy, but they don’t know any different. My husband generally encourages my writing, but he gets frusrated because he is under the mistaken impression that writers get paid a lot of money.

What’s your current or next project?

The Willow Branch is published. Murklin Wood, Book 2 of the Daermad Cycle, is underway. A Well in Emmaus (working title) is a dystopian with political-thriller overtones that I’m working on. Both of those are series that will go on for several books. A Death in Chena (working title) is the Alaskan murder-mystery political thriller I’m developing – which might end up being two or three books as the murder mystery leads into the political thriller. And I’ve got a Christian human drama that I wrote years ago that I’m dusting off to see if it is anywhere near publication. That’s tentatively titled Faded Blues.

Misc Fun Questions:

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Hiking the Alaskan wilderness which involves avoiding bear and moose – when we’re not hunting the moose. Quilting for relaxation.

 Morning or night person?

Definitely a night person.

Someday I want to travel to Austalia and have some grand adventures there.

Tell us a funny moment/embarrassing incident that happened to you.

I was in junior high at Old Main here in Fairbanks, height of the TransAlaska Pipeline boom, taking a shower for gym when the fire alarm went off and the teacher made me leave the building wrapped in a towel. I was a bit ahead of the physical development of my classmates and the boys were quite excited by the prospects. Roger – never did know his last name – loaned me his t-shirt and saved me all sorts of embarrassment. If you’re out there, Roger … I still remember you fondly.

  Favorite place to eat?

My house, on the living room floor, with boxes of Chinese food, chopsticks and my family.

Tell us something you hate doing?

House work.

  Tell us something nobody knows about you.

Well, if I told you, then everybody would know and what would I say in my next interview?

What’s the funniest prank ever played on you, or that you played on someone else?

I worked in community mental health for more than a decade and one Easter, one of the managers brought in a basketful of plush beanie bunnies. He wanted to give one of every worker on the floor, but not have them know where they came from. He enlisted me and the receptionist to help. The receptionist would lure them away from their office or desk and I would slide in and put the beanie bunny on their chair. Of course, we had to work fast before people started to talk, so for about an hour, I flitted here and there, playing the Easter Bunny elf, and it was incredible fun. And, we didn’t get caught, so it was the talk of the agency every Easter for years – who was the Easter Bunny back in 2000?

 Have you ever…..
Gone cow tipping?

Not a lot of cows in Alaska.

Danced in the rain?

Actually, yes. Summers in Alaska are short. We don’t call softball games, hiking, or parades on account of rain. It’s just part of the atmosphere.
Jumped out of a plane?

Always wanted to, but no. I can fly a plane, though. I’m not licensed, but I could keep a small plane in the air and land it (on a big airfield) if necessary.
Cried your way out of a speeding ticket?

No. I’ve talked myself out of one once, but I’ve never figured out that crying-on-command thing.


Where can we find you?








Amazon Author Page:

The Willow Branch   1 comment

Front Cover Update“The best entry into speculative fiction this year” -The Booktrap

“Gripping and vividly written” – Kristin Gleeson

“In a time when so much fantasy being published is grim and dark, it’s refreshing to find a book that returns to the beauty of high fantasy, with lyrical prose and an alternative history” Ted Cross

Meet My Character – Gregyn   1 comment

Gregyn is a very complicated character who could develop into a hero or into a formidable enemy. His origins are mysterious — he’s not even sure how old he is and although his first memories are of the slums of Llyr, he doesn’t have any family to confirm that is where he was born.

Gregyn isn’t a cold-hearted villain … yet, but he is ambitious and has been raised with less than adequate moral boundaries. Readers can love him or hate him and they can want the best for him or the comeuppance he deserves.

But do not take this young mage lightly because he is very powerful and his strongest loyalty is to himself.

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