Some of the bigger subjects, such as Why I Write, What I Write, and How I Write are covered in their own sections of the main site. This section is for the … shorter questions and answers. Hopefully, you’ll find it useful!
- Will I like these books?
- What are these books about?
- Are these books for ADULTS only? (i.e. sexuality, violence, language)
- Can I get a print copy?
- Are there other e-book options?
- Where do you come up with this stuff?
- Are these “furry” books?
- Hey, I want to ask you a question – how do I do that?
- I found an error in one of your books. What do I do?
- How do you explain your writing style?
1. Will I like these books?
Well, I certainly hope so! However, let me give you a few specifics to direct you. The books in this series feature…
Female Protagonists: In English, the primary characters are female.
Strong Female characters: There are varying definitions of this, but suffice it to say, that the characters I write must make tough choices, take the lead, face down their fears, their pasts, and their desires to do the right thing, and they must make sacrifices that hurt. Now, that said, it doesn’t mean that they’re never helped by anyone else, male or female. It doesn’t mean they have all the answers or did everything on their own – honestly, that isn’t realistic for either gender. It means, to me, that they showed bravery and moral courage – by that standard, I call them strong.
Nowhere near Earth: As mentioned in “What I Write,” I like books that offer a real escape from the present day reality of planet Earth. So, there are characters which have fur, are composed of just energy, are crystalline, lizard-like, and so on. It’s different, but not so foreign that you won’t recognize anything. They are still souls that have relationships and disputes with one another, and they have to work things out. I also use different words for minutes, seconds, and hours. My “day” isn’t 24 hours long, either. Why? Well, it wouldn’t be, would it? Weeks wouldn’t be a sure thing, either. Moon cycles (months) would be a little more realistic, but still. So, that should give you a flavor for it.
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2. What are these books about?
In short, they are about two females from very different social circumstances who change the world and each other through their friendship. They live in a society where the “purebred” are considered worthy and honorable, and those of “mixed blood” are dishonorable for even having been born. Each has their flaws, and the onset of a great disaster both magnifies their failings and challenges them to overcome.
Now, the method by which this happens is they are rescued by an alien from a horrible death, and in turn, the two friends try to rescue others. His gentle guidance helps them grow, without doubt, but it is always a choice they must make.
Finally, it’s about a world that is balanced not between government and the private sector, but huge matriarchal families are added into that mix. Being in a family is a good thing; being out … well even if you’re purebred, you might as well not be.
Beyond those general guidelines, I’ll leave the rest for the reader to figure out. There are a lot of issues and complexities in the books, and that’s by design. There are science fiction things like spaceships and time travel and so on, but that’s never the point of the story. It’s always about the characters.
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3. Are these books for ADULTS only? (i.e. sexuality, violence, language)
The introductions of my books state it something like this:
“This book contains some material not intended for children. Parents and other responsible adults are asked to do their part in ensuring that any story with mature subjects and themes does not end up in front of eyes too young and for which it was not intended. There are some episodes of violence, occurrences of suggestive material, and moments of coarse language; however, these are not prevalent.”
Now, that said, there is very little that would merit a warning for 13 year olds and above. In my books, relationships and intimacy are always a part of the mix (as they would be in real life between some adults), but they aren’t the main focus of the story. The explicit mention of sex, “mechanics,” “pieces parts,” or vulgar language by the characters regarding sexuality are not welcome in my books, period. However, characters who have to overcome those desires to do the right thing? That’s not a bad example, I think.
In The Summit, there is an instance where one individual is taken sexually without her consent and brutally so. The fear of the act is described, the terror, the emotional and psychological damage, but not the “mechanics” as specified above. As important as it is, I think, to understand the need to overcome flaws in an individual’s own character, it is as important or more so to understand the horrific impact of a such a vile act against someone else. Such abuse and objectification of one individual by another typifies my definition of evil – the lack of all empathy for someone else.
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4. Can I get a print copy?
Yes. There are now paperback versions of all of the books.
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5. Are there other e-book options?
Not right now. Amazon has an exclusive deal that is very good for authors, and honestly, they have about 70 percent of the e-book market with free readers that work on everything from i-Devices to Android platforms. If you’d like to see a version for a particular platform (like Apple iBooks or Nook), please e-mail me (see the About… section). If I get enough requests, I’ll consider it worth putting in the hours of work required to move it to a different format. Don’t mistake, though, it is a lot of work, and if I had a bumper sticker, it would say “I’d rather be writing.”
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6. Where do you come up with this stuff?
Well, everywhere! I’ve got an aunt and a sister-in-law who were a great inspiration for the brassy and direct Vanarra, not to mention a few “geek-girl” friends who are contributors to Sahni’s character. Some of my mental imagery has come from key character actors you’d see in movies or in TV specials. I’m also a big Sherlock Holmes fan, not to mention Anne McCaffrey, Douglas Adams, and a few authors of several “Great Books” including Kant, Machiavelli, Tolkien, and Twain. That said, it would be very wrong-headed not to acknowledge the many authors scattered all over the Internet who have written things from the beautiful to the strange, honestly. There are authors who have fallen in love with some television program or set of characters (even cartoon characters), and they have written some of the most wonderful works of fictional literature from the heart. They’ll never be paid for it, and they probably don’t want to be. It’s good stuff, though, and it deserves to be read and appreciated. I’m also ex-Army who grew up in an Air Force town, so that’s another set of fun experiences to draw from.
So, there’s no one single place, no one single thing I’m a fan of. It’s a bunch of stuff in a messy, swirly, stirred up package.
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7. Are these “furry” books?
Well, the characters have fur – some of them do, anyway. They’re not furry in the sense that they are simply tails, fur, and ears replacements of people on Earth. They’re not furry in the sense that they are just anthropomorphic versions of dogs, foxes, and cats. In selecting the species names, I tried for something that would be suggestive of a tie to what humans would be familiar with. The tie is suggestive, however, not direct. So, if there is a race that would seem nearly skunk-like, then that is just the closest thing a human could equate to them. They wouldn’t, however, have the ability to spray a smelly substance from their backsides. They wouldn’t have the exact striping of an Earth skunk. In fact, it would be more varied and interesting, honestly. So, because there is a strong genre of art and stories out there that does use foxes, tigers, and other animals as direct translations, I think it’s only fair to mention my creations are in a slightly different category.
I also don’t think it’s fair to pull up in the parking lot in front of a group of people and shout, “Me, too.” Inclusion in a group is for the group to decide – it has to be. If someone doesn’t want to include me in a group, then it would not be gracious to demand membership. It would be pretty arrogant and narcissistic, actually, for me to do that.
Now, that said, I’ve hung out with the “furries” for a couple of years, now, and I’ve seen how they’ve been portrayed on TV, especially by the “Entertainment Media.” Like most “reality TV,” what I’ve seen with my own two eyes has little if any resemblance to what I’ve seen in the media. The media has a very definite view of not only “furries,” but people who like anime or science fiction. When they portray these groups, they usually jump to a stereotype – showing such as weirdos and freaks and perverts and socially dysfunctional people. Admittedly, there’s a Bell curve everywhere, in any organization or grouping of people, but for the most part, these are just very creative people who love the characters they see in the media or who create their own characters.
I started writing my books long before I ever met a “furry,” but the ones I’ve met have been very real and complex people, many kind. They include artists who have helped me with the covers of my books or with advice, in general, on advertising, on art, and on so many other things. They’ve run fundraisers to help their friends desperately buried in medical bills. They’ve gathered thousands in donations to protect exploited wild cats (lions and tigers and pumas, oh my!). They’ve become good friends, and they are a generous, gracious, and creative batch of folks that I am happy to know.
The lesson here: Please don’t accept what the media says at face value … about anyone. If anyone is to ever know of you, let it be for how you love others and not how you hate them.
8. Hey, I want to ask you a question – how do I do that?
Neat! Please don’t be frustrated by the fact guests to this site can’t post comments. This site is sort of “read only” because if I made it so people could comment…
- I’d get enormous amounts of SPAM.
- I’d have to moderate comments for good behavior, etc.
Okay, so not so much fun there. If it’s a private question, then there is an e-mail in the front of the books one can use. If someone just wants to make a general comment, start a discussion, etc., then the best place is The Thurian Saga on Facebook! I check that regularly enough that I’ll probably give you an answer or see your comment in 24 hours or less (no promises, though – life still happens, sometimes).
9. I found an error in one of your books. What do I do?
Okay, first, pardon a personal moment of internally directed rage (AAaAAAAAaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!). There, got that out of my system… I try really, really hard to cull all of the errors out before the books are ever published. Unfortunately, as some of these novels are more than 400 plus pages, it doesn’t matter how many times I edit it, I’ve learned something will get past me.
Second, thank you so very much for wanting to help. If you’ve got an e-book, please send me a message (author at jamestoddlewis dot com), and include the full sentence with the problem and your suggested correction. If it is a correction that’s a minor thing (comma, quote, period, wrong word, etc.), I’ll correct it, and it will be fixed the next time I release the book (within a month is my target). Amazon users can simply update the book on their Kindle or Kindle apps to pick up the corrections. If you found the error in a print book, well, please let me know, but there’s not much I can do to fix printed paper. I’ll make sure it gets fixed in future versions of the work, and we might work out something, but no promises.
Also, there are things which are probably wrong in the eyes of some which I will not correct. The primary example of this is my use of “kit” for the feminine gender and “cub” for the male gender. I just liked the sound of it, and it’s less human than “boy” and “girl.” Other example would be that I say there are six “species” on Thuria. Species can interbreed within their own group but not with others. I’ve stretched that a little here, with children being possible, but usually only sterile children. I’m sure we have a biologist in the audience who will debate me on that – fine, no problem, but I’m sort of invested in it at this point, and I can’t easily change.
However, these works are what people make of them, and I care about quality. In general, show me something authentically wrong, and I’ll endeavor to fix it!
10. How do you explain your writing style?
Er, what? Okay – let’s try it this way.
I like dialogue, and so you’ll likely see a lot of it. After all, as much as I like action, much of the story happens in the interactions between characters. Second, I like characters, and I like for them to grow and change – if needed. Books should mirror life, and to say that “everybody can grow” is just like saying “everybody is green!” No. There are some people you meet who are just squared-away and good-to-go (to use the military terms for it). They may have situations facing them, but don’t expect for them to change their viewpoints radically for the exigencies of a situation – they are examples that one can meet one’s challenges far better with some characteristics and character than someone who doesn’t have them.
Okay, those are the things I like, but let’s talk about what I don’t. First, understand that I write because I enjoy it, and if that means going with a weird structure in a book because I feel it moves the story along – so be it! So, if you’ve been to a writing class or your major was creative writing, I’m probably going to completely ignore the formulas offered in your textbooks and by your professors. See, I read A LOT. I’ve noticed all kinds of crazy structures and variations – from the primitive to the hyper-complex. I have no desire to imitate any of those. I write for my own pleasure, and that I share enjoyment with the readers.
My questions when I finish a novel are “Do I like it?” and “Does the story make sense?” I strive to be interesting, on point (although you might not know which one), and consistent. Then, I struggle to polish it as much as I can. My wonderful editors help, but nothing is a replacement for the analysis I do myself.
Now, will I change my style? I will probably trend to smaller books (or try to). I might try some stories in the same general universe but away from the characters in the first ten books. However, minus those shifts, I really don’t plan to change much. To get an idea of my style, please check out the short stories on this site. They are formatted and hopefully edited much like the books.
If you write, you have to accept the concept that some will like what you read, some won’t. I have, myself, abandoned books because they were too long and too complex. However, understand that I have read and finished books like The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. That was, potentially, the best book I have ever read covering a period of history. Long doesn’t mean uninteresting, and long shouldn’t mean hopelessly complex. My hope is that long means … you got your money’s worth!