The Goose’s Quill Top 10 Posts of 2019

I always like to see what my readers responded to in the past year. I found a mixed bag this year, from writing-related posts, to personal celebrations, to the on-going drama of my daughter’s fish tank. In case you missed any, here are the 10 most popular posts of 2019:

10. A Successful, Grateful Book Launch for The Witch of Zal

9. A Muddy Revision Slog

8. Three Benefits of Reading to Older Children

7. Revision Difficulty? Maybe It’s Your Theme

6. The Fish Saga Continues: RIP Gem

5. Celebrating 50 Years!

4. Considering a Social Media Break

3. On Being a Low-Energy Person in a High-Energy World

2. Book Fair Magic: Casting a Reading Spell

And my number one post of 2019:

1. Speak Up: Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

I hope you all enjoyed this look back at 2019! May your holiday season be happy and safe, and I will see you all back here in 2020!

Revision Difficulty? Maybe it’s your theme

I’ve been trying to revise Vertias for a long while now. I’m struggling with it, which is unusual for me. I normally love revision. So what’s the problem this time?

My first thought is perhaps I subconsciously don’t want to make the suggested revisions. This idea has merit, since none of us like to hear that our work is not quite up to par. However, I can see the value of most of the suggestions, and the changes I have already made have strengthened the story.

That should have been enough to get me excited, but it hasn’t. I still find myself procrastinating. Avoiding. Making excuses.

Truthfully, I’ve found it hard to get excited about anything writing related for a while. The burnout is real, and could also be why I’m struggling. But I don’t think it is—or at least isn’t the whole answer. Because when I get past the procrastination and into the work, it feels good.

Then I read K.M. Weiland’s post about plot and theme. And I got to thinking that perhaps in the almost 2 years since I first finished it, the theme had shifted. Now the plot and theme might not be working together seamlessly, and that’s why the revision is hard.

A lot has happened since I first wrote Veritas. Trump became president. My husband was away for nearly 10 months. The world has changed. I have changed. I am not who I was when I wrote that book…and maybe now I’m trying to say something different.

Every story has multiple themes, as evidenced by how many different ways readers interpret the same story’s meaning. The theme that I am working with now was in the original, but was a sub theme. Now it wants to take center stage.

If I let it, the revisions will be deeper and wider than expected. They will be more difficult. But maybe they will also finally be exciting again—a challenge to be conquered rather than a chore to be avoided.

Have you ever had a theme change in mid-stream? Or a life change that makes you see your book in a whole new way?

A Change of Place: Creativity and Location

So many things can impact our creativity—how we feel, what we eat, time of day, how much we’ve slept, outside worries. But one major component of creativity is place. Where we write. How does where we write influence what we write?

I’ve often read advice that we should have a specific place where we write. Perhaps an office, a local coffee shop, the library, or even a spot in our home. I’ve even heard that if you write on your sofa (as I do) you should write at one end and watch TV, etc., from the other. The idea behind all this advice is that having a dedicated writing space triggers your creativity because it trains your brain to write when you are in that spot.

This week I had a much larger change of place than the opposite end of my sofa. I spent some of the week in North Carolina, in a small rural town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over the years, I have noticed that this change of place triggers a change in mindset for me almost every time. For some reason, genealogy obsesses me when in North Carolina.

genealogy obsession heightening in one place

Now, it doesn’t take much to get me chasing down rabbit holes for genealogy. But for some reason, the past feels much closer to me while I am there. Perhaps it is because the town often feels like it is from a bygone era, and the surrounding mountains have a timeless quality. The many farms could be from a hundred years ago, and the pace of life is slower. Not everyone knows everyone, but the community is close knit. In the way of rural communities, many earlier generations had more than the 2.5 kids families have now, so kin networks sprawl across the land. The past is still very present here.

Maybe part of the mindset shift is because we come here specifically to visit family, so family is very much top-of-mind. Whatever the reason, it ramps up my genealogy obsession and I want to chase ghosts for hours.

This got me wondering what kind of stories I would write if I lived there. Would I still write fantasy and science fiction? Or would I be drawn to family dramas and small-town conflicts? What stories I would write if I lived on Chincoteague Island, as I did for 8 months one year? Would I be writing stories of wind and sea and sky?

Assateague Island--a favorite place

Your location undoubtedly influences your writing, from topics to characters to theme. While a temporary relocation may not fundamentally alter what or how you write, a change of place can shake up your creativity and dig you out of a funk, break a writer’s block, or give you a new perspective on some element of your story.

Do you have a specific place you write? Have you found your creativity influenced when you have a change of place?

What place will you sail away to?

by William T. Gans, Sr.






A Powerful Message to Our Children

When you are a parent of a young child, you often have the pleasure of watching the same movie over and over and over. The one good thing about this is that you get the chance to dissect the movie into itty-bitty parts in a way that you never thought possible. (I could write a doctoral thesis on some of the movies my daughter has binge watched.) Sometimes, even if it’s a movie you’ve seen before, you suddenly see a message or theme you never did before.

RescuersThat’s what happened lately with me and Disney’s The Rescuers. That movie was one of my favorites as a child, so I thought I knew it pretty well. But after seeing it for the 100 billionth time, I suddenly realized it had a theme I had never noticed before. (SPOILERS BELOW)

Small people can make a big difference.

Now, perhaps that should have been obvious—I mean, it does star mice who rescue people. I just never saw it before. In the beginning, Rufus the cat asks, “Two little mice? What can you do?” And when the mice first talk to Penny, she asks, “Didn’t you bring somebody big with you? Like the police?” And the mice themselves, in their darkest moment, wonder if they are capable of helping at all.

But, of course, they are perfectly able to save the day—with a little help from other small animal friends.

This theme of being small but capable may be why I loved the movie so much as a child. My author theme is that every child has the potential to change the world—an extension of this very theme. It seems this theme has been in my heart for a lot longer than I realized.

I’ve talked before about another good message kids can take from The Rescuers, but I think this one is something all kids need to hear:

You are small, but not helpless.

In a nutshell, giving kids the idea that they can change the world for the better sends them perhaps the strongest message of all:

You matter.

And isn’t that a message we all need to hear from time to time?



Exploring My Author Theme: Connection to the Past

A long time back in a post on The Author Chronicles blog, I talked about author theme—a theme that seems to recur in every book by that author. In that post, I realized that all of my current WIPs deal with individuality, with the struggle to be yourself and still be accepted and find a place to belong. So that seems to be my primary author theme.

Concept cover art for Veritas by author Kerry GansRecently, I have found another author theme that seems to pervade my work—that of connection to the past, of problems set in motion well before the protagonist came into the picture. Perhaps this is an outgrowth of my fascination with genealogy, or perhaps it’s because I have a soft spot for Chosen One narratives. After all, Chosen Ones are, by definition, chosen by someone or something else outside themselves—usually because of events that happened before they were born or able to influence their own lives.

Concept cover art for The Curse of the Pharaoh's Stone by author P.G.K. HansonIn one WIP, the protagonist’s problems start with something that happened when his uncle was a young archaeologist. In another, the secrets parents kept threaten to tear apart sisters. In a third, a battle 300 years in the past is influencing the present. In a fourth, a conflict of beliefs between her grandparents and her mother force hard decisions on the protagonist. So in many different ways, decisions made by people in the past propel the protagonist into the adventure of the present.

Concept cover art for The Oracle of Delphi, Kansas by author Kerry GansThis is not the same as predestination. My protagonists are free to reject or pick up the task handed to them. They are free to handle the situation as they see fit—not as others deem proper. And even though the decisions of the past are driving the present, those decisions were not predestined, either—those people could have chosen differently.

So this is not predestination—it is reality. In the reality of our world, we are often impacted by decisions made in the past. Had my parents not moved to Pennsylvania, I would not have made the friends I’ve made or met the man I married. Would I have made other friends and met someone else? Probably. But that would have been a different life, a different narrative. And my daughter would not exist. A daughter might exist, but not the one who exists now. And that would change the future. Every decision our ancestors made led to our existence. Every decision we make, even as a child, changes the trajectory of the future.

As Jane Goodall said: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Who or what made a difference in your protagonist’s past? What difference is your protagonist making today?

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