Thu, 2014-02-27 16:19

CAPTION: Fantasy writer Carol Coffelt, who goes by the pen name C.D. Coffelt, sits at her desk in the farmhouse she shares with her husband, Bryan, southwest of Maryville. Coffelt's first novel, "Wilder Mage: The Magic Withheld," published by Musa, has been selling briskly as an e-book on Amazon.

News editor

Carol Coffelt has always had a vivid imagination, a lively sense of wonder that has been steadily nourished over the years by a love of good books and a persistent hunch that the world inside one's mind is even larger than the cornfields and wide horizons of rural northwest Missouri.

And now that imagination is paying off for the 59-year-old farm wife and former Department of Corrections sergeant who recently published her first novel, an "urban fantasy" tale titled "Wilder Mage: The Magic Withheld."

Unlike the self-published books trumpeted in clumsy, sometimes handwritten, press releases that unfailingly end up on the desks of small-town newspaper editors, Coffelt's novel is no vanity project.

She's a real writer turning out commercial work for a real publisher (Ohio-based Musa Publishing) and collecting real checks. For now, her book is only available in electronic form, but e-books are big business these days, and "Wilder Image" is selling briskly.

Making the Amazon list

Released in 2013, the novel sold 900 copies in just three weeks, and briefly went to No. 1 on Amazon's electronic best-seller list in the horror category. The book topped out at No. 9 on the urban fantasy list and reached 611th overall.

In a saturated fiction market where selling as few as 5,000 books counts as a significant feat, those are impressive numbers for a first-time novelist lacking both an agent and connections at a writer-friendly university — "ins" that many scribblers have found essential.

No, Coffelt, who lives with her husband Bryan on their farm southwest of Maryville, has pursued her craft the old-fashioned way. She just sat down at her paper-strewn desk in front of a computer, more creative clutter piled behind her on the old piano she uses as a sort of credenza, and started transforming the stories in her head into sentences, paragraphs and chapters.

When she gets stuck, she works with a pad and pen in longhand, turning the pad sideways so she can read and revise while walking on her treadmill.

"It gets the juices flowing," Coffelt said.

And while the checks are nice, it's not so much the amount of money as getting paid to practice her passion.

"That first check was just for one book, and it was amazing," she said. "It was a vindication that meant, 'Hey, I did this, and it was real.'"

It started with ‘Twilight’

Like many who spend their days sculpting prose, Coffelt can't remember not being affected by the power of words. She recalls first getting the bug — both for language and farm life — listening to her second-grade teacher reader from Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books.

"But my imagination was always too big for the rural life," she confesses in a note to her readers. "Sci-fi and fantasy — from Robert Heinlein to J.R.R. Tolkein — intervened."

Persistence and hard work are usually the two most useful items in a writer's toolbox, but inspiration helps, and Coffelt's muse came from the "Twilight" vampire romances by the American writer Stephenie Meyer.

Her reason for writing her own supernatural fantasy tale was simple: she didn't want Meyer's stories to end.

"I really liked it, and I wanted it to go on," she said. "And the only way I could get it to go on was to write something myself, so I made up my own little fantasy world."

That world is growing quickly. The second novel in the "Wilder Mage" series, "The Unlikely Mage," is already being edited by the publisher, and Coffelt has completed a detailed treatment of book number three.

For those unfamiliar with the world of fantasy fiction, "mage" is an old term for magician related to the Latin words "magus" and "magi."

Wizard on the run

The "wilder mage" in Coffelt's book is a renegade wizard on the run from a shadowy cabal known as the Imperium, which — what else — wants to rule the magical world and everyone in it for its own evil purposes.

"Think of it as Harry Potter for adults," Coffelt said, adult themes and relationships that is, not adult sex.

"Oh no," she hastens to add, "not 'Fifty Shades of Grey,'" referring to the wildly popular erotic romance novel by E.L. James.

Rather than graphic language and torrid bedroom scenes, Coffelt depends on a simpler formula to draw readers into the plot.

"You write what you're interested in, and fantasy has always interested me," she said. "Also, persistence plus humor gets published."

Coffelt describes her hero, Justus Aubre, as an "elemental magician," a sorcerer who manipulates the properties thought in ancient times to make up the world: earth, water, air and spirit.

Aubre, his creator said, wants to retain control his own magic while staying out of the clutches of the Imperium, a mysterious cabal that would use his powers for its own ends.

In evading the Imperium, Aubre must somehow defeat the evil Tiarra while keeping fences mended with love interest Sable.

It wasn’t his fault

All of this intrigue is going on, by the way, in modern-day southwest Iowa, and if that isn't enough to whet your curiosity, Coffelt has managed to craft one doozy of a first sentence, the kind that sucks readers right into the next paragraph, the next page and the next page after that: "The earthquake wasn't his fault. Not this time."

So will Justus Aubre survive? Will he and Sable escape the Imperium? Will they defeat Tiarra and live in love and happiness all their days?

Well, probably. But there'll be one heck of a fight before the "Wilder Mage" series comes to an end.

"Oh yeah," Coffelt said, looking already anxious to write the climactic scenes. "There's always a showdown. You can't go out with a whimper."

Stalking the Wild Introvert

Nodaway-Holt Middle School kids and me

So you wanna be a writer, huh? 

Sit there at your keyboard and punch those books out like so much bubblewrap.

*slightly psychotic laughter*

Sure. Go on. Write that book. Make it 90 – 95 K words. Perfect it. Polish it. Find an agent or publisher.

Signing books at a trade show
KaPOW! You have a contract.

You are a published author. Now, you will market the book.

WHAT! Market? 

But I’m shy, an introvert, a total geek that practically wears camo when I go out in public. Me? Give presentations? Sell my book face to face with the *shiver* public?

What? Are you bloody mad?

*wiping tears off cheeks from maniacal laughter*

Ah, my children, that is exactly what you must do though. The last thing an introverted creature such as myself wishes to do is stand on a chair and shout, “Look at me. I have something you want to buy.”

*rolling on the floor*
Marketing. Selling yourself, your book, the premise. Making it interesting. At this point, you wanna-be writers, think and plan. Because someday, marketing will consume you. And by all that is Holy, you’ll wonder:

What have I gotten myself into.

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