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Author Spotlight: Girls of Dirt (Dirt, Series Two) by C.C. Hogan

Welcome to this week’s Friday Author Spotlight! Today I have fantasy author, C.C. Hogan, returning with Book One in Dirt Series Two, Girls of Dirt! He’ll also be sharing his wisdom on dealing with social issues in fantasy, but first more about C.C. …

Short, dieting, cook, lives in own sad world and drinks too much wine. Damn; must be a writer!

LOL, and that’s all he has to say on that…

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About the Book

It is five hundred years since the events of series one. The world has been ruined by petty wars and the dreams of Pree and Farthing have been forgotten. The population is smaller, trades less often and is poorer. Even the dragons are thought of as only children’s stories; they probably never existed.

But on the beautiful Isle of Hope, Silvi Farthing is seventeen, a cheese maker, living on her own and about to be rescued by an incredible creature from her own family’s forgotten past; Be-Elin, the dragon.

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Keep reading for a guest post from the author:

Dealing With Social Issues in Fantasy

Just because I am writing a story set on a world that does not exist does not mean I cannot deal with issues that we face in our own world in our real lives. Unless a writer decides to leap into the complete unknown and create an imaginary world that is unique, and that is a rare thing, there will be correlations between their fantasy land and their own experiences. Generally, this is seen as a good thing since many readers like to be able to recognise characters and situations in some form or fashion so they can relate to them.

When I was planning the Dirt Saga, I made the conscious decision to make it as close to our world as possible without it actually being our world at all. I wanted all the characters of whatever species to be believable, almost as if it would be no surprise if you encountered them walking down your local high street. This meant imposing limits on characters. Dragons are big and can fly, but they don’t breathe fire or live in damp caves; they have communities and families like we do. Magicians might do things that we cannot do, but they do not wave wands or pick up and hurl rocks across valleys; their abilities are more subtle and vague. And of course, all characters can face problems in their lives because of the culture.

Series two of Dirt, which is now available, features several female lead characters, both human and dragon, and the main lead is a young woman called Silvi. In series one, I talked about issues such as slavery, inequality, poverty and so on, but having a mainly female-led in series two cast allowed me to address sexism head on.

Silvi Farthing is not just a young woman, she is also a lesbian. Although I do not make a huge deal of her coming out or deciding on her sexuality, it is there in plain sight and some accept it and some do not. We do not know a huge amount about her younger life, but there are hints that it was more abusive than she easily admits to and this is at least partly responsible for the strong, independent streak that drives her through the story.

When addressing any problem in any type of tale, it helps to have something to compare it with; my situation must be bad because over there I see someone whose life is better. In real life, this is not always clear cut. Sexism as we see it today has to be compared to centuries of history that says men are superior to women and therefore what women suffer is not sexism. It was unforgiveable even back then, in my mind, but it was the status quo and we still have to fight that today when making arguments for equality; look at the women in some towns in the USA who not only think they SHOULD be subservient to men but also support Trump and have no issue with his terrible comments. This is sometimes joyfully referred to as dealing with dinosaurs. In a fantasy, you have the opportunity of inventing a comparison that does not exist in our real life and is therefore less ambiguous.

In Dirt, dragons are my perennial good-guys. They live hundreds of years, think friendship is more important than family, don’t have nations, borders, or the subsequent wars, don’t lie, and have no sexism or any other bad isms. If they were human, they would be unbelievably perfect and would not work, but because they are a species that do not exist, as long as I make them realistic, give them humour and tempers, I can get away with it. So, when Silvi is attacked by some men because she is a lesbian, although she is rescued by a dragon, the dragon is confused. Such violence is unknown in her people and she does not understand it. Oh, if that were so amongst humans too!

Fantasy is the perfect genre to address many issues that plague our world. It allows the writer to work with interesting metaphors and similes, whether that is using inter-species contact to portray racism or fantastical cultural structures to portray ageism and sexism. In Star Trek, they used the character of Data to ask logical questions about irrational human ideas; it was a little clunky sometimes, but worked quite well. Probably one of the best examples is George Orwell’s Animal Farm which used farmyard animals to explain the danger which was Stalinism. Of course, you can go the other way like Mervin Peake did with Gormenghast, and have a set of characters none of whom you would invite to dinner!

I wouldn’t advocate that a writer must deal with difficult social issues, but certainly it can be an opportunity that is hard to resist. In the end, a fantasy is only set in a fantastical environment; the story is still one about people of some kind or other. People create societies and sometimes those societies stink. Humans have managed that in every society they have ever built, right up to and including today. So, if you feel that there is an opening to perhaps raise an issue from our own world in your created world, go for it. It will add depth to your story and will resonate with readers.

I will leave you with an excerpt from series two of Dirt. Silvi is sitting on the ground and next to her is the vast Bren-Hevvin. Just his head is much bigger than she is, and his body wouldn’t even fit on the cover. This is not about sexism, but about war, yet another important issue. There has never been a dragon on dragon war; their culture is so different to ours that there has never been a reason for one.

“Dragons don’t want to go to war, do they, despite your dreadful jokes. It is not in your blood. I see it in your eyes sometimes.”

“You do? What do you see? I don’t think you want to go to war either, but you do.”

“I didn’t want this war, you are right. But there is a difference between you and me; between humans and dragons. When I look into Hal’s eyes, when we are planning and realising the consequences of our plans, I see his hatred of war, but I see a tolerance of it. He knows we have no choice, and he understands that however terrible, it happens again and again and is part of our existence. War makes sense to him, even if he abhors it.”

“And what do you see in my eyes?”

Silvi turned and looked up into the big, soft, face of the Draig Mynyth Coh. He was not beautiful like a desert dragon or a sea dragon, but he had a face you could love. Even when he was angry she could happily hug his face if she had long enough arms.

“When I look into your eyes, I not only see a hatred of death, dear Bren-Hevvin, I see puzzlement and confusion. You don’t understand war in any way whatsoever; it mystifies you. You only know that they happen and humans start them. I have seen the same in every single dragon I have ever met.”

Dirt is a fantasy saga by CC Hogan. Series two is out now as an eBook on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other stores. The series starts with Girls of Dirt and includes a recap of series one.

3 Ways to Connect with Fantasy Readers by Dave Chesson

It’s impossible to succeed as a fantasy writer without knowing how to reach the right readers.

Even the best book with a wonderful cover can’t be considered a success if it doesn’t reach the people who love it.

There are currently over 197,000 fantasy eBooks on offer in the Kindle store alone, not to mention many more short reads. In such a competitive environment, it’s not enough to simply wish that a book draws the attention of readers.

Fantasy authors should actively seek out every opportunity possible to find and connect with people who are likely to love their work.

If you’ve published fantasy for a long time, finding your future fans may be second nature to you. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry!

These simple tips will help you to reach the right fantasy readers to make your next book a soaring success.

Participate In Online Communities

The passion fantasy fans have for their genre means Amazon doesn’t even list fantasy along with other fiction categories. It has its own special section. That’s how widely loved fantasy is.

As such, fantasy fans are passionate about connecting with like-minded people online.

Many busy fan communities exist solely to help fantasy fans meet one another and discuss the books they love.

As a writer, you should seek out and engage with these communities as much as possible. There are several important reasons to do so.

First, there is no better market research than listening to fans directly. Hearing fans talk about what they like and dislike is a great way to finetune your own work.

Second, by offering value and participating in community discussions, you show yourself to be someone who is knowledgeable about fantasy and has something to offer the fan community. When it’s time to promote your next work, you’ll find it a lot easier to market to people you have a preexisting relationship with, rather than people who have never heard of you.

When participating in fan communities, it’s important to give value, rather than just promoting your own work. You should actively enjoy and contribute to discussions regularly. Visiting only to promote your own books is a mistake which will do you more harm than good.

Network With Other Fantasy Authors

As well as reaching out to fans directly, it’s a great idea to use your fellow fantasy writers as advisors.

There’s no need to discover everything for yourself. Fantasy writers who have been publishing and marketing their work for a long time will have plenty of tips to share on the ways they reach out to readers and connect with them.

It’s useful to get a wide range of opinions rather than relying on just one author. By getting lots of advice, you will be able to see what is working well across the board.

Just as you shouldn’t interact with fans selfishly, you shouldn’t interact with authors selfishly either. Don’t just ask endless questions. Strike a balance between getting the information you need and contributing something in return.

Take Charge Of Your Brand

You have one powerful weapon to help your books succeed in the crowded marketplace that no one else has.

Yourself.

As it becomes harder and harder for fantasy fans to gauge which books are worthy of their time, authors can increasingly stand out from the crowd by building a strong brand.

Branding is simply using the right combination of words and visuals to make a positive impression upon the readers who come across you. This means writing a bio in language that will appeal to fantasy fans, using a pic which is appropriate for the genre and ensuring that all of your branding efforts are easily accessible, such as through an Amazon Author Central page.

There’s nothing better from a reader’s perspective than feeling they know and admire a writer as much as they do their work.

Building a solid brand as a fantasy author is the fastest way to make that happen.

What Works For You?

What are some of the successes you’ve had reaching out to fantasy fans as an author?

If you’re a fantasy fan yourself, have you ever discovered an author in one of the ways mentioned?

I’d love to hear about your personal experiences in the comments.

How to Overcome Writer’s Block: 5 Simple Tips by Christina Battons

Writer’s block is one of the most dreaded things for many of us. Even the experienced writers face it from time to time; however, the more experienced writer is, the quicker they are able to overcome it.

Beginners or less experienced writers aren’t as lucky, though. They can find themselves stuck for days, unable to produce something they find worthy and decent. Of course, not all of us can afford such long writer’s blocks, especially if we have to earn a living with the help of our writing. That’s why today I’ve prepared some simple tips that could help you overcome it quickly and finally get back to writing.

1. Step away from writing.
There’s no point in spending hours staring at a blank page when the words simply won’t come no matter how long you do this. Instead, step away from your writing for a bit and try to do something else. This will help you relax and switch your attention from writing to something you actually feel like doing at the moment. This way you’ll be able to relax and maybe even find some inspiration and ideas.

Of course, the best way to do this is to do something creative instead of simply switching to your housework or work projects. This way your mind will rest more and will be able to produce new ideas.

2. Go outside.
Long walks not only allow you to rest – they are a great source of inspiration. When you are walking, you are observing the world around you, looking at how people look, how they behave, noticing the nature around you, and so on. The flow of oxygen to your brain also increases, making it easier to concentrate and think more clearly.

3. Free writing.
This great technique isn’t used by writers only but can be especially beneficial to them. Free writing is simple: you choose a certain time or page limit (for example, you are going to write for an hour or are going to write three pages) and start writing until you reach this limit. The mere thought of doing so scares some people, but actually, you don’t have to write a masterpiece or something. All you need to do is to write: maybe this will be a story or simply everything that comes to your head, from daily worries to feelings that have been bothering you for a while. Free writing is great because it helps get the things out of your head, making more space for amazing ideas, as well as helps develop the writing habit.

4. Mind mapping.
Mind maps are used in different areas of life, helping to establish the connections between certain things or objects and develop new ideas. They are a great tool for writers too, allowing to solve various plot problems, link together certain abstract ideas, come up with the new stories or plot twists, as well as expand some ideas too. That’s why you should definitely try them if you feel stuck at some point of writing.

5. Make a promise and stick to it.
One of the harshest and most effective ways to overcome the writer’s block is to actually continue to write no matter what. Some people sit and wait for the inspiration to come, while some simply start writing, hoping that inspiration will come in the process. While this technique won’t be useful to everyone, it still can help many of us a lot.

If this seems tempting but too challenging, start with a small step. For example, promise yourself that you are going to write 100 words a day no matter what. This won’t take much of your time and so seems like an easy task – at the same time, this means that you’re going to write something consistently, day after day. Do it for a couple of weeks, then increase your daily limit to 200 words a day, and so on.

These techniques can help you a lot. Moreover, you don’t have to use all of them to overcome your writer’s block. Start with one of them and then add another or combine all the techniques that seem appealing. And don’t forget: writing isn’t about making everything right from the start (you can do it later while editing or try using one of proofreading services). Concentrate on the process, not on the result.


Christina Battons is a web content writer and blogger from LA. I am a graduate of the University of Southern California. Currently, I write for various blogs like Thriving Writer or similar. I am interested in topics about education, writing, blogging, motivation, etc. My writing I use as a tool to further the education of others. My free time I spend with my family, friends, or riding my bicycle. You can connect with me through Twitter or Facebook. I’ll be happy to hear you, just drop me a line!

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