Friday, November 27, 2009

Round Two Voting

Here we go!

The voting for Marcher Lord Select: Round Two began early. The polls for both the Premise Contest and the Main Contest (In which The Sword of the Patron competes) went live Friday at about 9:30 pm.

So, if you're voting in this one, you can do so any time over the weekend until midnight on Monday. Once again, the contest requires that you vote for 3 selections for your vote to count, so enjoy picking at least three of your favorites.

Will Danae's story live on to phase three, where voters and contestants alike will get to read the first thirty pages of the stories that remain? If it does, I don't think you will be disappointed with the mix of action and character depth you'll find in those pages.

Technical information:
Go to www.wherethemapends.proboards.com to find the contest of the forum called "The Anomaly." All contest rules and polls are posted under the top message board called "Marcher Lord Select."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Keeping it clean

Over the past week, there's been some dust kicked up over in the world of Romance Novels (don't worry, I'm not shifting the focus of this blog from fantasy to romance...just using the current debate as a jumping-off point!)

Anyway, agent Chip MacGregor and author Ted Dekker seem to be at loggerheads concerning an imprint of Harlequin called Love Inspired, which takes submissions for very "clean" Christian Romance. Love Inspired, on their site, has a very detailed list of what words they will not allow to appear in manuscripts they publish.

If you want to browse the list, look at this

Now, Mr. Dekker went a little nuts about the "narrowness" of this list, and Mr. MacGregor came back with a scathing rebuttal, but without getting into their arguments, how does this apply to Christian Fantasy?

I think the ideology is something we all have to consider when we talk about books of any genre that bear the prefix "Christian." Just how pristine should the text be? Does an author sacrifice believability for the sake of keeping certain, possibly offensive words from their text?

With specific reference to fantasy, one place I have wrestled with the idea of "purity of prose" is in the fact that my book does portray a few people in desperate socio-economic situations, and the questionable behavior that births. Granted, this behavior isn't the action of my protagonist, just something she observes on her journey through parts of the world she's never before seen. I use the brief, darker images in order to paint a sense of danger to the protagonist, and I think my book would suffer if a publisher told me, "No, you can't have those prostitutes on the corner in that scene." I also use the word "harlot" in book two, but I would like to hope the lesson Praesidio teaches by using it would give the word a pass, even in the world of Christian publishing.

Another difficult spot in fantasy is the propensity for it to contain sword fights and the like. Just how far do you go in the portrayal of violence? One of my biggest pet peeves in fantasy reading is when the embattled protagonist spend the entire fight graphically decapitating, disemboweling and otherwise devastating the anatomy of his opponents, while he quips and chortles his way through the endeavor. No matter how "easy" the fight, I would think there's a degree to which the battle gets those "fight or flight" chemicals going. And if you want the protagonist to be sympathetic to a Christian audience, do you really want to paint him as so desensitized to gory killing? Even if you're slaying the denizens of hell itself, it seems inappropriate to me that you would be flip about it.

That particular rant aside, there still remains the issue of how detailed a battle should be. Should Christian fantasy contain detailed accounts of how much blood, which organs, every sword stroke? For The Sword of the Patron, I decided not. I pray that they way I wrote the battles are still exciting and full of tension, despite the fact that I neglected to inform my reader of just how each villain who dies meets his end.

For the final consideration I'll toss out for consideration, I offer the conundrum of the protagonist who begins the story unfamiliar, or even antagonistic to the things of God. Do you write that protagonist "clean" anyway? Is there a way to depict this lost character that is believably "of the world" without offending the majority of your readership, or worse yet, casting an ill light on Christianity by what you, the author, has decided gets a pass?

All in all, while I find the list on Love Inspired's guidelines page pretty confining, the spirit in which the list was created is something I think all of us, as authors and readers, need to consider. To simply write to the opposite end of the spectrum, under the banner of being "real" doesn't hit the mark for me either. While I want my story to resonate with my readers because it contains believable conflict, I would not want to write that conflict in a way that grieves my Heavenly Father. After all, even if no mortal ever reads what I write, He will know what I have poured onto the page, and first and foremost, I want him to be proud of every word I have chosen, and the reasoning by which I have chosen them.

Monday, November 16, 2009

End of Round One

It's with my humble thanks that I inform all of you the outcome of the first round of voting for Marcher Lord Select. It appears that my book, The Sword of the Patron, has garnered enough votes to make it through to round 2! For each an every one of you who took the time to participate in the voting, I offer my deep appreciation. When Jeff Gerke explained that the last slot to advance came down to a single vote, an author can't help but heave a sigh of relief. My congratulations to my co-competitors who have advanced, and my applause to those who submitted but did not move on. It takes perseverance to finish a novel, and bravery to hold it out for public scrutiny. Everyone involved has enjoyed a victory on one level or another.

A part of me wondered if I ought to contact Jeff Gerke, as he said if we wanted to know specifically how our books fared, that we were welcome to ask. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, "Why?" Whether I came in 1st, 18th or anywhere in-between, would that change the fervor with which I will campaign of my story in the coming rounds? It certainly shouldn't. Therefore, I will pour all the passion I have into the continuing contest, and may that passion ignite the interest of voters. And may the excerpts of the actual novels people now get to read exceed the voters' expectations, that any one of them might be proud to cast their lot with me.

All that being said, here are the business items:

The first 500 words of the remaining books in the "Main Contest" will go live on http://wherethemapends.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=mlsphase1 sometime on either the 16th or the 17th.

Readers will have about 2 weeks to read these excerpts and choose their favorites
I will be sure to let you all know the date and time the voting for round 2 will go live.

While I am overjoyed to have made it this far, it is only the beginning of the journey. I pray you will continue to walk along side me as far as this road will bear us. And invite friends to join the adventure. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ever closer

The countdown has wound to a scant few days before the voting will begin over at Marcher Lord Select. This may be one of the longest weekends of my life, barring the two times I went 3 days overdue with babies who seemed content to remain within the safety of the womb.

But just as those sons of mine eventually made their way into the light of the outside world, so shall this coming weekend pass, and to what end, who can say? I have several loyal readers (dare I call them fans while I am still unpublished?)who promise their votes, and a few readers I have not yet met who have stated their intention to vote for my novel over on the message boards at The Anomaly, but the truth of the matter is that the many, many voters who have remained silent insofar will determine the outcome of this round of voting. My continual prayer has been that I will make it past round one, but then I keep amending that to say that whatever the Lord's will is in this, that I will have the wisdom, courage and maturity to face that outcome with grace and dignity. It's all a good exercise in realizing just how few of life's outcomes are really in our hands. For the person who has no God to trust with these inescapable uncertainties, I feel a deep sense of compassion. For myself, I am so glad that all that matters rests in the hands of my mighty Creator and Maker, a personal God who holds back nothing that is in our best interest.

So, let the weekend come. It will test me as the tempest tests the galleon that weathers it. I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Quick Update

Hello, Fans of Speculative Fiction!

Well, it has begun...the opportunity to read the 30+ contenders for a spot on Marcher Lord Press' spring release list is up at www.wherethemapends.proboards.com. If you're so inclined to help choose the book Marcher Lord Press puts into print, you'll have to create a free account, and then at the top of the forums, you'll be able to access the Marcher Lord Select boards. Be warned, you must vote for three entries, so the contest won't be heavily weighted by folks who just drop in to vote for somebody they know and really don't invest in the process.

There's a pretty wide range of offerings in the fray, for sure. I, as an author, am permitted to vote, and how hard is it to choose the two books I will vote for along side my own!? Having a part in choosing one's own competition is daunting, to say the least.

It has been interesting to watch the guidelines of the contest unfold, as Jeff Gerke, the mastermind behind it all, tries to figure out how to mitigate human nature, basically. How to keep the contest form becoming solely about who can drag the largest number of their acquaintances over to the forum and force their click on the right entry, or how to head off any sneaky ways people might find ways to cheat. (I'll admit, some of those strategies have cropped up in the back of my own mind, and boy are they hard to ignore! I just keep reminding myself that in the long run, any paltry effort I might make to pad my vote count will probably fall far short of boosting my numbers above the other competitors, especially if my work doesn't speak for itself. All I'll succeed in doing is setting myself up for a bad reputation. So not worth it!)

But no matter what happens, the next couple of weeks are bound to be exciting! My prayer is that my blurbs on the forum right now speak for themselves and carry me into the next phase of the contest, where you readers will get a better feel for the actual writing in my novel.

So, if you think The Sword of the Patron deserves to have a beautiful cover and a spot on the bookshelves of the wide world, do go to the forums at WheretheMapEnds.com and cast your vote accordingly. No matter what happens, I keep reminding myself that the Lord has carried me this far, and He has planned how it will all turn out. I pray I have the strength of character to manage whatever outcome He deems proper.