I just got back from an amazing week in Utah where my co-author, Chuck Sale, and I were hosted by several schools in Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs. Through a series of four presentations arranged by our wonderful publicist, Andrea Lunceford, we spoke to nearly 1,000 young people about our books and the writing process. The experience was exhilarating and memorable, but it didn’t start out that way.
Writing is a solitary endeavor. Promoting and selling books is not. Giving seminars on the writing and publishing process is not. I enjoyed writing The Successor and The Culling, but when our publicist arranged these events, it dawned on me that the safety of solitude was about to be withdrawn. I would soon be standing on a stage, holding a microphone, and presenting without any editorial safety net. Chuck, my editor and co-author, would be beside me doing his part of the presentation, but I was the lead, and he couldn’t very well stop me mid-sentence and suggest a better way to say what I had just said. I had fears and did not know what to expect.
After a particularly intense run-through an hour before the first presentation, I remember exclaiming to Chuck, “I can’t do this. I hate this!” His reply was simple and direct: “Yes, you can.” The man is all heart. But he was right. I could and I did. When I mounted the stage, I experienced a transformation. I looked around at the eager young faces staring up at me and realized I was looking into the future. Sitting before me were the writers, readers, mothers, fathers, and leaders of tomorrow. By agreeing to these presentations, I had agreed to play a small part in shaping their future. All my fears vanished behind the curtain of this privilege.
My thoughts went back to my own childhood. I never thought I would become a writer. I thought I would become an art teacher. I always had a sketch pad in my hand, even when I was very young. Some of my earliest memories are of lining up my stuffed animals so I could draw their portraits, which my mother then displayed proudly on the fridge.
When I was in 11th grade, I had a particularly wonderful art teacher. His name was Mr. Bertram. My father was in the military, which required my family to move around a lot. Entering the 11th grade, I found myself a stranger in yet another high school, essentially starting over again for the eighth time. I will always remember walking into Mr. Bertram’s class for the first time. He pulled me aside and questioned me about my art experience. I enthusiastically announced my love for working in pencil, pastel, and acrylic. Mr. Bertram waited patiently while I described some of the pictures that I had done in those mediums. I made it quite clear I did not do watercolor. His eyes twinkled as I announced my willingness to do a picture for him in any of my preferred mediums. With a broad smile he said, “Ok, Naomi, I want you to show me your art ability. You have a week to paint me a watercolor picture.” I was shocked. Didn’t he hear me? I tried to reason with him. No watercolor, absolutely not, beyond my ability. He simply smiled, walked back to his desk, and took a seat, indicating the matter was concluded. Watercolor it would be.
I spent the entire period in frustration. I looked through various water color designs, searching for a way to showcase my artistic abilities in a medium I feared and hated. Near the end of my second day of doing this, I realized I was quickly running out of time for completing the assignment. I did the only thing I could: I rolled up my sleeves and began.
My first brush strokes were tenuous and shaky, but by the end of the day they had become fluid, and by the end of the week I had created a beautiful watercolor portrait of a red-headed woodpecker clinging to a flowering dogwood tree. I was surprised by what I had accomplished. I went on to paint several more watercolor pictures; I became obsessed with the medium and soon ventured into mixed medium, pairing it with pastels. Mr. Bertram never reminded me of my previous dislike for watercolor. Instead, he bought me expensive watercolor paper, some of the best paint brushes, and paid $300 dollars out of his own pocket so I could attend a week-long artist seminar. Soon after, two of my watercolors were published in books.
Mr. Bertram had seen beyond the cocky, opinionated 16-year-old who didn’t do watercolor. He saw a self-imposed limitation and the endless possibilities that lay beyond it. He reached out to me and pulled me past myself. He changed my world forever.
I thank God for wonderful teachers like Mr. Bertram, and I now look forward with eagerness to my next round of school presentations. This is not because I love traveling (I don’t, I miss my family terribly) or – because I have a vast store of wisdom only I can impart. It is because I seek the honor and privilege of doing for others something like what Mr. Bertram did for me.
I conclude each of my school presentations with this advice, which I now offer to all who are reading this:
Dream big, and live what you dream. To all of the young people and all others who are young at heart I proclaim, don’t be afraid to dream, and live everyday like your future depends on it—because it does.
We just returned from four school presentations, including book signings, in Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, Utah. I travelled from Colorado Springs, and Naomi travelled from Phoenix. All preparations at the venues were made by our publicist, Andrea Lunceford. Andrea worked tirelessly setting up the engagements, advertising them, and handling all logistics; Teri Sale, our business manager, assisted her and did the accounting piece. Our sincere thanks go out to these lovely ladies.
In addition to book signings, Naomi and I conducted four mini-seminars on the writing and publishing process. We took questions at the end of each seminar. The students listened attentively and interacted enthusiastically. I was pleasantly surprised at the degree of this attentiveness and interaction. I had expected less, given the ages of the youth and the fact that in their eyes we might be just more blah-blah-blah. To say they were on the edges of their seats might be an overstatement, but not by much. This speaks to Andrea’s advance work and the work of the teachers in preparing their students. Our thanks to all.
In the seminars and during the book signings, Naomi and I defined and discussed five secrets to success in the writing process. We talked about (1) how to capture inspiration; (2) how to maintain momentum; (3) how to explore where you are; (4) how to free yourself from chronology; and (5) how to use setbacks as stepping stones.
The video linked here captures some of our discussion of number 5. Naomi emphasized using setbacks—rejections, criticism, self-doubt, editing and editors, etc.—to move forward, while I addressed the myth of writer’s block. Hands shot up all over the auditorium when we called for questions. The audience microphone failed so I had to run ours to each questioner and back for our answers. There were at least twenty hands still raised when lunch was announced.
I spent thirty years in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). I saw many things; experienced many things; and in the course of this seeing and experiencing, took a broad sample of humanity—including my own. Typically, police who turn to writing fiction choose police procedurals, either as novels or screenplays. These procedurals are usually realistic or hyper-realistic. I took another path, drawing on my police and mountaineering experience to write sword-and-sorcery fantasy with Naomi Sawyer. I didn’t have the heart to sit in front of a computer screen rehashing police war stories for hours on end, or to focus on the tragedies people can make of their lives. Plenty of writers do have the heart for this, and their work is sometimes important. I took another path.
I want to sell books; that is necessary to keep going. But I want more: I want to plant seeds in readers young and old, to convey something of what lies beyond “realism,” beyond what we think we know, beyond ourselves. In every child there is an emerging adult, and in every adult there is a remembered child. Naomi and I write to both.
- Chuck Sale
We are pleased to announce that the The Culling, Book Two of the Chronicles of the Two Worlds, was released today, September 27, on Amazon in both print and Kindle Editions, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers worldwide. The Culling is the sequel to The Successor, the first book of the Chronicles. Both books feature unique new covers by cover artist Jeffrey Otto in collaboration with title designer Matt Scavezze and photographers Charles Sale and Andrea Lundsford.
There is more exciting news. The Bladesmith, Book Three of the Chronicles, is on its way, and will be released a few months from now. Click here to read a preview and receive updates on release of this new book.
We would be most grateful if after reading our books, you would rate them and comment on Amazon or wherever you purchase them. This will help bring to more readers the excitement and joy we hope you found in reading this epic story.
As always, we welcome your comments. You can make them here or use the guestbook . We hope you will follow us here and on other social media as we post items of interest about our writing and the adventures to which it takes us.
May your life be filled with the magic and joy of endless possibilities!
Naomi & Chuck
Release of the The Culling, the second book in the Chronicles of the Two Worlds series, brings up a mix of feelings. There is excitement, the thrill of seeing one’s imaginings take form in words, of seeing a dream become tangible reality in the form of a book. There is also fear, like that of a mother watching her child take his or her first teetering steps into the wide world. There is the wonderment of a ship builder launching his vessel into the vast and turbulent sea. What new and strange shores will it encounter, and will it return safely or founder and sink to the bottom of some distant ocean, there to be forgotten? I wonder, I worry, I anticipate... and then I let go. My child’s back is to me now, receding into the crowded marketplace of books, where some live, some die, and some linger forever in between. The story has a life of its own. My writing partner and I merely put pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard, and the story revealed itself. It has left our home; we hope you will welcome it into yours. -Naomi Sawyer
The Successor, Book One of the Chronicles, was released October 30, 2016, and we sincerely hope you enjoyed reading it. The second edition of The Successor was released several weeks ago. It features the work of our new cover artist, Jeffrey Otto, based on a photograph made by co-author Charles Sale while he was travelling in Spain. Charles’ photography spans the world, capturing nature, cultures, people, and the beauty of changing seasons. You can see his work at www.chucksale.com. The inspiration for this new cover comes directly from the story. The inspiration for the cover image of the second edition can be found in Chapter 13 of The Successor:
Elizabeth raised the heavy Florentine door knocker.
Now it begins.
She brought the knocker down hard on the brass striker plate.
November 14, 2016, 12:01 a.m (MST)...
Naomi Lea Sawyer
With the publication of The Successor on November 14 and the finishing touches in progress on its sequel, I am struck by a strange sadness. Endings are funny things. As a reader I have found myself racing through a 700-page novel, ravenously devouring its contents in an effort to satisfy my insatiable desire to discover how the story ends, all the while hating how fast I was turning the pages because I did not want to turn that last page and end the experience. Watching an entertaining film last night, I found myself desperately wanting to know if the hero was going to find the bomb before it exploded and killed half the human race, while at the same time wishing the movie would not end. We bite our nails, stamp our feet, and involuntarily tense our muscles in eager anticipation of a conclusion. Not because we want to reach the end but because we want to make sure that everything is going to turn out okay or in some other way is satisfactorily concluded. Yet there is a part of me that hates for the conflict to be fully resolved.
I have decided all this resolution stuff is an illusion. What some view as an ending is just another beginning. The seasons form a perfect metaphor for this. Fall is my favorite season. I love the parade of color, the crispness in the air, the thrill of watching the near-magical daily change in my surroundings. I know that the season will end: The cold white snows of winter will replace the brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds of fall. It is said that fall is essential death, being a temporary cessation of many processes we associate with life in both flora and fauna. Fall is the ending of one thing and the beginning of another. If this ending did not occur, I would never know the beauty of a falling snow flake, the joy of walking through virgin snow, or the pleasure of sipping a hot cup of tea while wrapped in a cozy blanket—or the coming of spring and the great planet-wide rebirth.
The Successor is complete. Or is it? The work of delivering it to readers, who we hope will be entertained and uplifted, is just beginning. The Culling, its sequel, has only to be edited and processed for publication. Still, ending work on The Successor is a scary thing after so long a journey with my partner. Closing the door on edits and revisions that took eight years of my life and moving on to the next book—a scary thing. But if we didn’t end it, the characters in The Successor would be forever stuck—stuck repeating the same lines in the same places, telling each other stories within the story I told.
It is time to move on, to prepare the rest of the story for you. And so with boldness I let go of The Successor and hand it on to you, dear reader. I hope you will make it your own, as I did for a time. I hope it brings you as much joy as it has brought me.
Charles Arthur Sale
“People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are.”
― G.K. Chesterton
Soon, eight years of collaboration will culminate in the release of The Successor. On November 14, 2016, at 12:01 a.m. (MST) the book will become available in print and Kindle editions at Amazon.com. Other booksellers will follow.
As a published non-fiction writer of long experience, I believed the transition to fiction, especially fantasy, would be relatively easy. I can string words together with passable skill. My non-fiction readers understood my meaning—I was tested in tough environments. Writing directives and speeches for executives in large organizations, political leaders, and scientists and engineers in academia required not only that my products be concise and understandable, but also that they block misunderstanding by any reasonable standard of interpretation.
This experience was useful in my work on The Successor, but it was not enough. The demands of storytelling are unique. As Chesterton observes, the storyteller must convey truth that goes beyond facts. The poet must give us reality and then take us past reality to what lies beyond mere perception and arrangements of concepts. Words can only point. The storyteller takes us into unknown territory. Naomi and I invite you into unknown territory.
"I think we can make it to the other side."
"You first. I saw movement in the trees."
"That makes it easy. 'Canon to the right of them, canon to the left of them...' You know, Charge of the Light Brigade"?
"I seem to remember that every last one of the 600 died."
"Yeah, but there are only two of us. We can make it."
Naomi Lea Sawyer & Charles Arthur Sale
The Successor is coming soon.
"She was here. She was everywhere. She walked with him as she always had along the backcountry trails, over the talus fields, through the swollen streams of spring, and across the frozen lakes of winter..."
Chronicles of the Two Worlds
Naomi Lea Sawyer & Charles Arthur Sale
Coming soon to Amazon and other booksellers. Watch here for news of the release.
"She died a year ago," he said. “Cancer.”
"I know," Joshua said. "I saw her grave."
Gone only a year, Nathan thought, but it feels like ten, like a lifetime really.
He had heard people speak of soul mates. It did not seem right to him, what people said. She had been his soul mate, but it was not like what people said or what he read in books. It was simpler, more natural, more real, just the way things should be between two people who meet and marry and use up their lives together.
Chronicles of the Two Worlds
Naomi Lea Sawyer & Charles Arthur Sale