Friday, December 31, 2010

The End of a Year, the Beginning of Another

As I huddle in my trusty dining room chair, bathed in the bluish white glow of the computer monitor, I'm stricken by how much has changed over the past few years...and yet, how much has not. As for what has changed...

Three years ago on this night, I wrote the first word of what would eventually grow into The Sword of the Patron, my first novel, which today hunts for a publisher willing to bless it with printed pages to call its own.
Like all things that start small and on a whim, my little experiment in storytelling grew and changed. What began as one novel split like a single celled organism and grew into two, when I learned I had far too much story to cram into a first-time novelist's meager pages. Two books then birthed the concept for a third, though this story remains in its infancy while I tend books one and two. Amusing, given that prior to that day in 2007, I had continually told myself I was no writer.

That novel I started three years ago has undergone multiple transformations since its inception in 2007. After all, I had never heard the phrase Point Of View, at least not in the prose sense, before I had written almost all of The Sword of the Patron. I blundered into a less flawed rendering of the story than I might have, since I wrote the story using my protagonist as the "camera"...later I would learn I had used limited third person point of view. Granted, I had mountains of errors in need of revisitation, but I'm thankful for the learning I've gained over the intervening years that have helped me recognize them. I can only imagine the days, weeks, and years to come will help me see more places I can tighten and polish. Heaven forbid I ever reach the point where I decide I have no more to learn. And praise God for people brave enough to point out when I've made a mess of things and need to fix them.

An ever widening garden of writing endeavors grew from seeds planted by The Sword of the Patron. From characters mentioned in that tale and its sequel, A Voice Within, The Windrider serial took flight. I have long known who Vinyanel Ecleriast is...I believe he marched into my head in the late 90's...but his very mention in my second novel gave him breath enough to demand more screen time of his own. (He's demanding like that.) And from there, the early-history rendering of Delquessa's Lament, a novella in progress, has also taken shape.

Since my unfocused start, I've learned how very little I know and gotten a sense of just how mammoth the task of learning how to write really is. Through a couple writers' conferences,  a few contests, and a handful of rejections (some more painful than others), I've discovered more about the world of fiction than I ever thought possible. All this set into motion by taking a few blundering steps into fleshing out a character I had in my head who I thought wanted her story told in greater detail.

So, why am I recounting all this on this New Year's eve? I suppose it's because we all tend to wax nostalgic on nights like this, but it's also to encourage you...if there's a story inside you waiting to get out, don't insist it remain within only your soul, never to breath the fresh air of the world. Certainly, some will throw a few rocks at your baby. But others just might cheer and say your story has brightened their lives. You might be able to shed light upon a message only you can tell in your words, but will resonate with just the person who needs to hear it.

Here I am, three years later, in the same spot (or at least nearly) as I was that handful of New Year's eves ago. But at the same time, what a vastly different place I now sit. In a place I once restrained my inclinations, I have now found passion. Where I once feared to tread, I find irrepressible motivation. I'm looking forward to where 2011 will take me as I continue the journeys that ensue every time I sit in this chair and place my fingers upon the keyboard.

As for you...find your adventure this year and head out upon it. Without so much as even a handkerchief in your pocket. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Little Haitus

As I suspected, all things December have made editing the next episode of The Windrider pretty much impossible, so I'm just dropping in here to give a quick update on what's going on in my writing life.

November and December generated a couple of rejections for both a short story of mine and my novel, the former which I took quite hard, actually. Why? Because the reasons they rejected the story were spot on. It's hard to hear you gave somebody a peek at your ugly baby...but fortunately, in this case, I have power to make that ugly baby a real looker, if I do it right. For this particular story, I had experimented in writing above my ability in an epic lore style, and little character-driven me just shouldn't write that way. At least not at this point in my journey.

So what am am doing about that? I'm attacking that short story, which I believe will be a novella by the time I'm through, to deepen the characters, add a more specific sense of wonder, and hopefully get the story up to snuff. It's the story of an immortal elven duchess, a king of the most powerful human civilization on the planet, and the trouble a dragon can interject into such scenarios. It starts out something like this:


A shofar’s shrill cry pierced through the din of steel upon steel. Desperation rang in its overtones.
And well it should. Major Telenius wrenched his sword free of the rebel soldier slumped over the blade. At the soldier’s final gurgling cry, Telenius winced. Perhaps he would never grow entirely accustomed to the gut-wrenching sounds of battle. Telenius’s combatant was only one of hundreds of Durik’s troops to utter a scream of despondency or death at the hands of the Vareinorean army this day.
The enemy trumpeter blew the blast again, and the major cast his glance around the valley where the battle raged. Fractured enemy lines scrabbled in a disorderly retreat, though such a choice of tactics seemed premature in Telenius’s view. True, the Vareinor had already dealt Durik’s troops some telling blows, but did they really have so weak a constitution for the conflict? Why instigate the engagement at all, simply to withdraw when there were men still fit to fight? Years of warfare under King Aeleronde’s banner had taught Telenius that the cornered man typically fought hardest.
The rebels that withdrew looked as one to the rise south of the battlefield. Their attention compelled Telenius to follow their gazes, and when he did, all the blood drained from his face.
Like a blood-red sun lifting its wrathful head over the horizon, a figure staggeringly loathsome, incomprehensibly profane, crested the ridge. Yard after yard of armored, crimson terror slithered into view.
Telenius’s heart thundered against his ribs.
The beast reared a reptilian head upon a lithe neck. His gold eyes gleamed with an impure appetite as he regarded the battlefield. Telenius’s hand fumbled to his hilt.
The beast stretched membranous wings wide, eclipsing the sun so the vein-riddled webbing between his bony pinions glowed like firelight. Vareinorean troops exchanged wide-eyed looks.

Of course, quite a bit of plot ensues from there.
What does one do with a fantasy novella? Well, in this day and age of ebooks, I'm thinking of doing a little experiment self publishing it, and seeing if I can't get some practice promoting and selling my own work. After all, promotion is largely a first time author's job these days, and quite frankly, I'd rather get the hang of it on something short. Stay tuned for more information on the possible release of Delquessa's Lament.

Beyond all this, I'm still submitting The Sword of the Patron to editors, hoping beyond hope I can find one that will touch a book that pushes 120,000 words before I mercilessly start amputating plot threads. It may also be destined for ACFW's Genesis contest this spring. We shall see what life's progression has in store.

So, even though I had no story for those of you who have read faithfully all this time...fret not. It's not because I have opted to sit around in a pink track suit watching reruns of old game shows. I won't even get into the illustration projects I've got in process now. More on that  another time.

I pray the Lord richly blesses your Christmas with abounding joy! Stop back in around the New Year for whatever insists upon being posted here next.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Dead Genre?

I'm a subscriber to David Farland's "Daily Kick in the Pants," and email newsletter that goes out...well, daily...and offers a wealth of practical advice to writers. I've gotten some priceless tidbits of wisdom and motivation from his offerings.

Well, today the "Daily Kick" dished up a line that felt more like a kick in the teeth. (No fault of Mr. Farland's...he calls things like he sees them, and he's just being frank without any malice toward me or any other reader.) David Farland said something in just  few little lines that sunk a sword into my gut. He wrote that his agent believes Tolkienesque fantasy to be dead and unsellable.

What?

I can't help but wonder at the plausibility of this statement, given the number of teens who every day who discover Middle Earth for the first time, and how if you hang around at least the younger readers of fantasy, how there is still a deep, tremulous excitement over worlds populated with elves, dwarves, and the entire zoological gamut of humanoids Dungeons and Dragons has since lifted and expounded upon. Perhaps it's just my own bias tainting my view, but I simply can't see a book market devoid of books that take place in  a wholly separate time and place. I think the market would be sadly lacking if all we could buy for the next who-knows-how-long is contemporary fantasy.

This seems to be my week for discouraging speed bumps, though. Almost drives and author to self publish.

But I digress. What do you think? Is today's reader sick of castles, armor, and swords? Is contemporary fantasy the only sub genre one ought be writing currently if one hopes to become a published author? You can probably guess what my answer is to all this, but I'd love to hear your comments.

And by the way, more Windrider to come in a week or so.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We interrupt this programming for a quick mention of ACFW...

Well, several days have passed since I flew home from the ACFW conference in Indianapolis, so I had better get around to a short reflection on my time there. I know I have said this before, but it bears saying again.

If you are a writer...or want to be one...go to a conference!

Granted, not just any conference. A reasonably recognized one where they will have top-notch faculty is of course a better use of your time and money. But nowhere but the uncommon setting known as the writer's conference will you learn so much or have the chance ot rub elbows with so many great and influential people as you will on one of these sojourns.

At the ACFW conference this year, I had the chance to:
  • Pitch my manuscript to three people who either would never take an unsolicited email from me, or else never would have found that email in the pile of messages that clamor for their attention. Two of these connections resulted in a solicitation of either a full or partial manuscript.
  • Sit under the teaching of someone as awesome as Chip MacGregor and learn the world of fiction marketing in two short days. Jim Rubart, author of the fascinating sounding Rooms also provided insight. The two of them together had us rip-roaring in gales of laughter one minute, while feverishly scribbling notes the next.
  • Participate in an awards banquet where pioneers of the industry came along side wide-eyed unpublished authors (like me.)
  • Meet friends I've only ever known by screen names and avatars, and forge friendships I know will stand the test of time.
  • Encourage others by offering a sympathetic ear, the gift of a well-timed prayer, or cheers and props when the weekend treated them well.
  • Even after it was all said and done, I was able to ride the wave of inspiration and plot out my entire season of Windrider stories while I sat at the airport. That is nothing short of a miracle for this seat of the pantser.

And the list goes on. But I won't. (After all, the marketing class did say blog posts over 250 words are effectively talking to yourself. I'm hoping fiction is an exception. Ahem.)

But I do have to say, I don't know how anybody does more than a couple conferences a year. I was delirious with exhaustion by Sunday night. Like words slurring and coherent thought next to impossible exhausted. But would I trade the opportunities, the connections (or even the food) for a normal weekend of sleep? Not on your life. And for those of you who know my priority I put upon sleep, that's saying something.

So, if you want to be published some day...get thee to a conference. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What the Market Will Bear

Duchess Delquessa Ildonian leaned against the stone frame of her chamber's window, while her glance roved over the rolling terrain outside the palace. Rain fell in a steady thrum, shrouding the grasy hills and the winding road through them with a silver veil.

"Mistress, surely," her waiting maid's voice chided from behind her. "You must pry yourself from that window for a morsel. I worry over your insistent return to that spot, day after day."

Delquessa's gaze lingered upon the horizon. "Why sends he no word? Could the campaign stretch this overlong?"

"I assure you, I know not, mistress." The maid's footfalls neared. "Who among elves can fathom the minds of men?"

Not I, Elyrin, not I."


Welcome to a quick excerpt from one of my current projects--a 10,000 word short story I hope to submit for a short story anthology to be produced by Port Yonder Press this fall. As my new critique group looked over this particular story, a bit of a discussion came up about "reading level" and what today's fiction market will bear.

Now, let me start off by saying that I don't consider myself anywhere near intelligent enough to truly pull off "literary" as a genre. I won't go into the full definition of literary here, but lets just say it includes work that is written in an elevated style that uses words like the components of a complex mosaic...much different than we tend to think or speak in this day and age. But as much as I peg myself as a fairly average jane when it comes to complexity in my writing, the critique group had a slightly different opinion.

Anyway, the style in which I wrote the story began the discourse on whether today's fiction market can bear something written on a late high school to college level when it comes to vocabulary and pace. To write with words that aren't in the working lexicon of the average American narrows your audience, I'll admit. Fantasy already has a limited reach in the arena of readers. Christian fantasy...well, now we're really finding a tight niche, aren't we? At least I've had the common decency to write in this style only for about 25 pages. I wouldn't dare ask anybody to digest a whole novel of the stuff.

It all brings me to the point of a deep lament...if readers don't read to expand, sharpen, and stretch their minds, where will this happen? Does making reading easy actually expand the number of people who decide they love to read? Just by glancing around society (and admittedly, I have no scientific numbers to back this up) I would have to guess the answer is no. It's a cycle and a downward spiral. We make books easier so that people who don't read might feel less intimidated. People might read them, but because the reading material fails to expand their vocabulary and complexity of thought, an author dare not write above am 8th grade reading level as he continues to produce work, lest he lose his readers.

And yet, despite all this, apparently I've written a short story that disregards the market on all fronts. I've written it for Christian fantasy readers who love detailed word pictures. I cannot fathom telling this particular story in any other way. Will this all turn out to have been an interesting, while slightly fruitless, endeavor? Only time will tell. But I open the discussion to you, followers, visitors and friends...is there a place for literary style fiction in the Christian fantasy market?

Thanks for reading. Keep an eye trained on this spot come early September for the season two premier episode of The Windrider.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Windrider Finale and an Announcement

I just wanted to drop a quick note here to let any of you who are interested know that the season 1 finale of The Windrider is now live on Digital Dragon. The Windrider, Episode XIII: Creo's Sight

I'd be deeply grateful if you dropped in on my friends and I over there and gave the story a read. While you're there, browse around an d see what else you like in the issue.

This all leads me to an announcement regarding the future of The Windrider. There's certainly no shortage of other exploits I can write about Captain Ecleriast and his cast of supporting characters, but due to a lot of converging circumstances, there's a bit of a change on the wind. Starting in September, the story of Vinyanel Ecleriast, Majestrin, and Veranna will indeed continue, only you will find the stories here at Call of the Creator, rather than over at Digital Dragon. (More on my thanks to DDM is coming, just not here and now. But if you'd like to hear Tim's perspective on how our journey together has gone over the past year, you can read his article: Tim's kind farewell)

I will be experimenting with the format of the releases (whether it will be partial stories either weekly or bi-monthly, or an entire story once a month) so your feedback will be paramount. Also integral to the success of this endeavor will be word-of-mouth. Please, if you know somebody who you think would appreciate the stories, tell them about this blog and encourage them to visit.

Why am I so insistent, you may wonder? Well, first of all, let's face it, most writers write to be read. I admit that. I'm not such a lofty artistic purest that I can put stories down and feel satisfied with the process with no sense of having provided anybody else with a moment of entertainment at least. But just as importantly, gaining readers for The Windrider has everything to do with the eventual success of my novel-length fiction. A reader base is essential to the successful marketing of a book, and one of my efforts to build a strong reader base will focus here.

So, if this sounds like a plea for you to drag as many people as you can over here to read what I'm posting, I guess that's because that's what it is, pretty much. Statistics show that the single most popular reason a person picks up a book to read is because someone they respect told them it was good. I'm "gazelle intense" as Dave Ramsey would put it, about getting my novels into print, and I'd be deeply grateful if you readers could be a part of that equation.

More fiction to come!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Too weird to be normal--too normal to be weird

This is just about a constant refrain in my household. We live in limbo...in that gray twilight that knows neither mainstream nor alternative.

I'll speak mostly for myself here, since I'm sure my husband would rather I didn't mock him on the internet, though he is the one who told me I must blog on this. Anyway, as a Christian who is an artist, I find myself in a strange position. The parts of me that look artsy: my hobbies, the strange things I think about while I'm doing the dishes, the fact that I have more than a few sketch books full of elves, knights, and unicorns...these leave me with scant common ground with most of my physical social circle.  I think I appear ordinary enough until you get to know me a bit...then it becomes glaringly apparent that I'm a little kooky. My physical social circle (those people I have actually stood beside, rather than those whom I know only virtually) pulls mostly from church and homeschooling, and those people who are fantasy enthusiasts are few-and-far-between in general, let alone in conservative bible-believing communities. So while I enjoy my friends from church, and I like to believe they enjoy me, I get the sense that I am just a shade wackier than most everybody else I fellowship with.

Then there's the group of people with whom I have much in common when it comes to interests and hobbies--most of whom I am not quite gung-ho enough to quite keep pace with either. I don't own a costume for the Renaissance Faire. I have never carried a sword anywhere. (Well, not recently. I did have to bring somebody's broadsword back to the dorms in college after I used it for a sound-effects recording session. I believe it saved me from a potential mugging...but that's another story, for sure.) I have never dyed my hair...not black, not striped with any color that does not grow naturally out of human heads. I refuse to talk role-playing-games in mixed company. So, when immersed in a group of overt fantasy enthusiasts, I don't quite fit the bill there either.

So, I suppose that leaves me with the option of simply remaining who I am and forgetting my inclination to try to pigeon-hole myself into a group of easily-defined peers. (As I write this, it seems that perhaps my best compatriots would be those who over-use hyphens.) If I look at things objectively, I can see that my opportunity to rub elbows with both ends of the spectrum is a good thing. It helps me keep some perspective. When you spend as much time as I do trying to create magical problems and fantastical solutions for people who don't exist, it certainly helps to hang around people who have a better grip on reality than I do. When I'm dry on ideas and can't seem to come up with a fresh angle from which to approach anything, those people I know who are happy to set aside the world's conventions are a breath of much needed fresh air. So I suppose I'll continue to hang out here in the middle, and try to absorb the best of both sides.

*****

In other news, keep your eyes trained on www.digitaldragonmagazine.net sometime after the 8th for the finale of season 1 of The Windrider. In a couple of weeks, I hope to have another dose of stand alone fiction, or perhaps a preview of a bigger work, posted here at Call of the Creator. Thanks for reading...if you like what you've seen, invite your friends.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fiction, as promised

In an effort to shift my blog over from articles (though occasionally, some will still appear here when I feel I have something to rant about, or a book to review, or something like that) I am posting a short story here for your enjoyment. The following was a story I submitted to a contest in the early part of 2010. It was a "tell us what happened in this picture" type of contest, where the catalogue running it offered an image of a knight, a king, a princess, and the suggestion of a nearby dragon. The story below takes a traditional stab at the image, but hopefully it will meet with your discerning standards anyway. ;) Without further ado...




A Willing Heart 
by Becky Minor

Nothing spoils a momentous occasion like an uninvited guest. So when a forty-foot, bronze-scaled dragon swooped down upon the field of tournament behind Stonewarden Keep, the festivities not only ground to a halt, but the throng of spectators burst into cacophonous panic. Courtiers wailed. Peasants stumbled over one another. Knights stood with jaws dropped, paralyzed by a moment of shock.

The dragon’s first snatch at the Princess Lydia missed only by a hair’s breadth, for the Tournament’s Champion swept her aside. The winged serpent ascended and came about.

Finally overcoming their stunned stupors, many of the knights drew bows, fit arrows to the nock, and let the missiles fly at the beast. Most of these darts, fashioned to pierce the stoutest armor upon the field of war, bounced off the hide of the dragon with no more than a spark. Only those arrows that met with the membranous webbing of the creature’s wings stuck fast. They fired a second volley.

The dragon, black blood oozing from his wings, sped to the arena floor and landed with a thud that rattled the earth beneath Squire Caleb’s feet. It bellowed a roar that elicited further cries of dismay from the crowd.

Caleb snatched a sword from amidst his master’s gear.

After another volley of arrows bounced off the dragon’s hide, the knights glanced to one another, hesitant. A look of black smugness overtook the dragon’s features, and in the knight’s dalliance, it shot out a claw and ensnared the princess.

Caleb dashed forward a half-dozen steps, but turned to look back as he realized no knights followed.

“Knights of the crown! Is this not just the sort of duty to which your office calls you?” Caleb cried.

The Tournament’s Champion balked at the squire, askance. “What would you have us do, young one? Do not mistake foolishness for valor. You saw how our arrows fell harmless upon the beast!”

“Surely the creature has some weakness,” Caleb retorted.

The dragon wheeled, lumbering for the arena gate. Princess Lydia strained and writhed, but could not free herself from the beast’s iron grasp.

Still, no knight made the first move.

“If you will not use your God-given talents for such a cause as this, I shall test my own mettle.” Caleb set his jaw. After a deep breath and a wordless prayer, he leapt after the beast.

“Clearly, we cannot allow the youth to challenge this evil alone,” another knight said.

Infected by Caleb’s determination, a phalanx of knights swept into a wide circle around the wyrm as it loped across the castle lawn. The glistening stain of the dragon’s blood marked a spattered trail to mark its retreat. The girl had fallen silent, which Caleb prayed was only due to a swoon, and no worse.

The dragon whipped its head back and forth, baring rows of crooked, yellowing teeth at his adversaries. Hatred flared in its blood-red eyes as the press of many sword points cornered the creature against the waters of Lake Thistleburgh. The dragon halted, claws digging into the sandy soil as it hissed its defiance. The dour-faced knights encircled the beast, but kept their distance, weapons clutched in white-knuckled hands.

The wyrm sniffed the air. “I smell your fear.” A laugh of derision rumbled in its throat.

“Not mine, foul one!” Caleb roared at the wyrm. “Go, foul beast, back to the watery depths from whence you came!”

A slow, disquieting smile spread across the creature’s lips. “You mistake me for the pup old Saint George cowed in his day. I assure you, I am made of sterner stuff than that.” The dragon cast princess Lydia’s limp form to the ground.

With the swiftness of a cobra strike, the dragon shot its head toward Caleb, who barely tumbled clear of the snap of deadly jaws. He swiped his blade at the dreadful beast, though its edge skittered over diamond-hard scales. He rose to one knee and braced himself for the dragon’s next assault.

The knights glanced to one another. None advanced.

The dragon reared, its disdainful voice echoing above the din of weapons and armor. “You are outmatched, little mortals. I claim this princess unto my deathless appetite.”

Caleb bellowed in response. “You are no less mortal than we. This battle belongs to the Almighty, immortal alone!” The squire swept his blade in a circle as he stood, holding it high and daring the dragon’s attack.

“In your false confidence shall I send you to meet this Almighty,” the dragon replied.

“That choice is neither yours nor mine, but God’s. Should I die, you remain a tool of his will!”

The wyrm screeched. It dove at Caleb, maw gaping.

With a thrust, Caleb pointed his sword to the sky, a prayer in his heart that his end, though swift, would glorify his Lord. A bone-shattering impact struck his raised sword, and utter blackness engulfed him.



When Caleb opened his eyes, he saw above him the flapping banners of the king. The summer breeze caressed his face, and the smells of horses and honeysuckle drifted to his nose.

“Father, he awakes!” a feminine voice, no less sweet than the scent of nectar proclaimed.

“Does he now?” another speaker replied.

Caleb blinked the haze from his eyes to see none other than his Highness, King Thaddeus striding across the castle lawn, waved over by his ivory-skinned daughter Princess Lydia. His right arm bound across his chest, Caleb struggled to rise for his earthly liege.

“We owe you more than words can convey, Squire Caleb, for my daughter’s rescue,” the king said. “What my knights hesitated to do, you performed without hesitation.”

“Truly, Sire,” Caleb replied, “if I ever hoped to count myself as one of them, I did only what I believed the office requires. I’m humbled to have done my part. Tell me, though, did the knights finish the beast?”

The princess giggled, an infectious sound that drifted like bubbles on the breeze. “They didn’t need to! Your stroke did the deed.”

Caleb shook his head. “How can that be? I don’t recall dealing any blow.”

“When the dragon dived at you, your lifted sword pierced the villain inside his maw, felling him outright,” the princess said. “Or so I’m told, for I had fainted and saw nothing.”

A sheepish grin tugged at the corner of Caleb’s mouth. “It sounds more like a stroke of luck than prowess.”

“But it was bravery that put you in place to deal it. Do not dismiss as luck what was more likely a miracle.” The king clasped Caleb’s good arm. “Hand me the sword you wielded, young squire.”

Caleb knelt. He stretched a trembling hand toward the blade that lay in the grass beside him. The king took the weapon in a firm grasp.

King Thaddeus rested the blade against Caleb’s left shoulder, then his right. “I knight thee, Sir Caleb of Drastony. Swear, from this day forth: thou shalt serve thy earthly king with valor, until the King of Kings releases thee from thy service to join him in his Kingdom eternal.”

The nearby crowd of knights and courtiers erupted into torrential applause, and Sir Caleb of Drastony, Wyrmsbane, stretched tall. “I swear it.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Feeling Disoriented?

Yes, I admit, there are a few changes going on around here, and if that's disconcerting to you, I sincerely apologize...and will continue to apologize, since I have no idea when I will be done the renovation of this blog. I am one of those people who would rearrange my furniture every six weeks if I could--the fact that my current home allows for one configuration, and one only, of our furniture is making me batty.

Anyway, perhaps you're shaking your head at my swap of templates. Now that blogger has upgraded your ability to see your blog with new "clothes" on, I've been trying a few templates on for size. The current template's font sizes and the like are not my favorite, so we'll see if I can get that swapped out for a custom header soon. But nonetheless, it has been fun to see what other looks I might utilize around here.

The Donate Button (Dun-dun-DUN!)
Another detail you may have noticed is a little button on the right that says "donate." To be honest, left to my own devices, I probably never would have placed such a thing on my blog. However, every day, I receive an email called "David Farland's Dail Kick in the Pants." For those of you who don't know David Farland, author of the Runelords series, you may know his as Dave Wolverton, who wrote at least a handful of Star Wars novels. The Courtship of Princess Leia comes to mind off the top of my head. Okay--so what does he have to do with a paypal button on my blog?

Whatever one might think of Mr. Farland's writing, one fact you can't deny is that the man is a successful writer, in a career sense. His books routinely make best sellers lists and I get the impression he has a pretty comfortable life due to the royalties from his writing. He composes his "Daily Kicks" to offer new writers practical advice on how to attack their writing from a career standpoint. One of his recent kicks suggested offering a "donations" button on your website or blog.

Let's face it...we're all struggling along this "get into print" road together. As a reader, you have minimal power to insist a publisher take on your favorite budding author. But if the Lord has blessed you financially and prompts you to do so, you could make a contribution to a writer, which would enable said writer to pay for things like airfare to conferences (ahem, the particular place I have a shortfall right now), cover the cost of registration for a conference, contribute to the fee it would take for that author to pay for a professional edit of his or her work...you see what I mean. While the time a writer spends writing costs him nothing in dollars and cents, to say there is no monetary outlay necessary to build a career as a writer is a misconception.

So, I hope you don't view my little button as an online way to sit on a street corner and mutter in a barely intelligible voice, "Spare any change?" In future months, I intend to start offering short fiction here on CotC, and maybe, if there's something you read and feel you enjoyed, you might just feel moved to throw a few coins into my little online cup. If not, that's great too. Just keep stopping back, reading new stories, and telling your friends to drop by too. I'll be blessed if you do.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Since I am typically remiss in posting any recent artwork, I figured I'd throw an image here on the main page for folks to heckle. Most of my writing is character driven, which means (to me) that the characters come first. I design them, build at least a skeletal framework for their personalities, then throw them into a situation and see how they will deal with it. The outcome is usually a surprise, at least to me.

The character providing me with the most startling revelations of late has been Lieutenant Commander Vinyanel Ecleriast...oh wait...if the one or two people who read that serial drop in over here, I guess that was a tiny spoiler about something that happens in season two. But anyway, I felt it was high time I put a face on this character I've been writing about for a year now...or should I say, a face visible to someone besides me.

It's always a risk, putting an image with a written character. People always say "Wait, that's not how I pictured him." But I figure, I'm reasonably safe, since this sketch is pretty much "animation style," so it doesn't really register in a person's mind like a photographic image would as being as right or wrong for the character might. At least that's what I'm hoping.

So, what's in store for my writing journey as I head into summer?

  • I hope to finish at least season 2 of The Windrider, where Vinyanel leaves Delsinon in pursuit of the stolen talismans of passage that will allow whoever carries them to penetrate the illusion that has protected the city from invaders for generations. Veranna and Majestrin will continue to play a key role, with supporting plot threads supplied by Major Galdurith Emynon and another character of dubious intent who worms his way into the band of travelers. I recently posted something about a ninja assassin on facebook making his way into the story, and while this new character isn't exactly a ninja, I hope you'll enjoy the part he plays in the story development.
  • I am putting another coat of wax and polish on The Sword of the Patron (and a hearty thanks to Jennette for going through the whole manuscript with me to help me find those missing words and other hiccups that still have managed to elude editing.) 
  • I'm trying to get all my "front matter" for SotP in tip top shape, since I recently registered for the ACFW conference in Indianapolis this fall. With any luck, I'll make some contacts that will bring that book closer to publication. All that remains is to scrape together the pennies for the flight out there and the hotel, since I don't think the conference folks would appreciate it if I slept in my 1995 Dodge Grand Caravan in their parking lot. ;)
  • I'm working on a tragic short story set in the early history of my world, with hopes of submitting it for Port Yonder Press' Elves Anthology that they are hoping to fill with submissions this October. I'm about 8000 words into it, and very close to finishing the first draft. Then editing it will be.
  • And somewhere in there, I considered adding short fiction to this blog. That may have to wait for fall.
  • This is in addition to all things in the word of being a wife, mom, and VBS decorations guru. Pray I can keep all the priorities in the right order!
So that's what the next few months have in store in the world of fantasy writing. As always, your prayers, readership and snarky comments are more than appreciated. (And I mean that, even about the snarky comments. A laugh is good medicine, so I'm told.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

What's coming

So, as those of you who drop by here at all, you know I don't blog prolifically. I want to keep the blog running, since there is value in blogging that I won't get into here. But as I look at the content and purpose of my blog, I think I may make some changes around here.

I'm toying with the idea of doing monthly releases of stories written solely for this spot. As many of you know, I already am in a contract with Digital Dragon Magazine (www.digitaldragonmagazine.net) to write serial fiction, and that isn't changing. But, if I can do it, I may start offering fiction here as well...that is, if anyone wants to read it. (Comments about that would help! Nudge, nudge.)

I'm also debating taking some slightly risky advice from mega-selling fantasy author David Farland. (Runelords) I get an e-mail bulletin from his called "David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants," which he uses to offer writers tips on the world of writing. Today, his advice was to set out a donations jar.

Now, being the conservative that I am, I don't believe in getting something for nothing. I figure, if I'm going to set up a donations jar on my blog, I could at least try to offer something entertaining on the blog in exchange for a reader even considering a donation. I have a very specific goal in mind, actually,for these donations: to collect enough pennies to pay my airfare and hotel for the ACFW conference this fall. I'm determined to go...where else can I hope to learn a ton about the craft and business of writing, as well as to make some contacts to get closer to having a publisher for The Sword of the Patron? You, as a reader, may be able to be part of helping that novel and it's subsequent members of the series to publication, and this little donations jar could be part of that equation.

It's humbling to look to readers for help in becoming more widely available to be read, but it's also a fact: without readers, writers go nowhere.

So, keep an eye out for potential changes around here. If the muse blesses me with a plotline soon, perhaps a new story or even a serial will soon grace the pages of this slightly weedy blog.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Changing Face of Books

When I started my journey toward publication just a couple of years ago (and I mean barely started--at that point I had a manuscript that was in such sorry shape that you would never know it was the embryonic phase of the novel I'm now sending queries about) I started poking my nose around the idea of the e-book. Just two short years ago, the overriding opinion was that e-books sat in a tiny niche that made it so you couldn't lose the user's manual to a piece of electronic equipment, and that the publishing industry didn't see the e-book ever growing into a mainstream means of publication.

Fast forward to 2010, and statistics show us that books sold in electronic formats have seen a 233% surge in sales over the past year. We've got the Kindle, the Nook, Sony's reader, and of course the iPad (which, by the way...the iPad's sales at its launch apparently dwarfed the launch of iPhone, and if you've been awake for even a few minutes over the past five years , you know what a phenomenon that was.) So that little niche reserved for technical manuals and obscure pamphlets that were too tiny either in content or readership to garner paper publication has suddenly exploded into a force to respect.

I'm amazed, that even just in two years, this reversal has unfolded before my eyes. Where I once dismissed e-books, I'm now thinking that it's a non-negotiable that whatever publisher picks up my book will have to possess the capability to release my work in e-format. While I don't think the hard copy book is going away any time soon, (so many of us still love the smell and feel of a book) I do think that the electronic book is here to stay.

So what do you think? Do you own an e-reader? Are you anxious to buy one? Money aside, if you could have one in your hand today, which one would you choose? If your answer is "none," why is that?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson

It's always a happy day when book-sized packages arrive on my doorstep. Granted, this does not happen with great regularity around here, but when it does, you can count on my being buried in whatever I've bought until I've turned the last page.

Part of this latest shipment of books to my home included Jill Williamson's second installment to her Blood of Kings Series: To Darkness Fled. If you heft the book and its nearly 700 pages, don't let its length daunt you. It moves at a brisk pace...brisk enough that even this homeschooling mom who's trying to write her own serial as well as edit a novel (or two) managed to down the book over the course of a long weekend.

To Darkness Fled continues the story of Vrell Sparrow, Achan Cham and their companions as they flee the usurper Esek. Both Vrell and Achan have their turns telling the tale from their point of view, which I think the author handles well. It took me a while to shake the cobwebs out of my cluttered brain and recall some of the events and tertiary characters from the first installment of the series, By Darkness Hid, but the author reintroduces those characters clearly enough to jog even my questionable memory.

The story gives the reader a pretty comprehensive tour of several of the kingdoms of Er'Rets, helping us to see the differences in customs, affiliations and nobility (or lack thereof) of each. You can see the depth of world building Williamson has done in order to craft the political climate of the continent. The cultures are varied, each with their own flavor, which I enjoyed.

Love, marriage, and the pitfalls of relationships interweave throughout this installment of the series, and I will be interested to hear what male readers of the book have to say about these aspects of the plot. While I understand the need for Achan to systematically discover none of the other romantic options available to him hold the appeal of his eventual choice of love interest, I am curious as to whether the pervasive romance of the story will "work" for the male reader or not.

The character development of Achan is thorough and satisfying. His growth into a new follower of the creator God of Williamson's world is believable and not overly swift, which I appreciate.

Vrell's character development was very interesting over the course of the two novels. I admit, I found her whiny and unlikable at the beginning of the first book, but she grew into an appealing character through the end of the first book and through most of the second. I'm sad to report, however, that the turn she takes in the end of To Darkness Fled throws her back to that place where I wanted to shake her by the shoulders and tell her to get a grip. Now, let me qualify this by saying I don't think this is a bad thing in terms of the storyline. I think the third book that is on its way (From Darkness Won), would suffer if both Vrell and Achan had ended this story well on their way to being put together and heroic. I will be interested to see where these characters' personal journeys take them in the future.

To Darkness Fled
is rife with subplots, ranging from Vrell's continued struggle to conceal her identity, to questions about her true parentage, to Achan's ability to make wise choices befitting a king. It's not your typical sword and sorcery quest model...while there is the broad plot motivator of taken Achan around Er'Rets to muster an army to fight for his throne, and the short quest to liberate the Old Kingsgard knights from imprisonment, it's character development that drives the story, not the quest. But fear not, fans of swordplay, there is still plenty of action. Peril comes to the good guys in bursts that are appropriately exhausting before the story gives both characters and readers a respite.

The story is an excellent continuation of the series, answering some questions but still leaving an assortment to be solved. I enjoyed my read of this book two, and I'm looking forward to the further exploits of these characters in the next installment.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A first, it wasn't so bad...

As everyone who suffers through my continual yammering about the progress on my novel, The Sword of the Patron, already knows, my book is currently sitting on the desk of the second agent I've queried about it. The wait for a response from the first agent wasn't so bad, but I credit that to the fact that for the 5 weeks it took the response to come, I was insanely busy, so I didn't have time to hover over my email like a hungry seagull at a picnic on the beach.

This time, life is relatively calm, and I'm finding the wait much harder to endure. I'm questioning everything. Should I really have gone the route of querying agents on my first-ever novel? Or should I have gone with smaller presses, waiting until I have a book in print with decent sales numbers before I bother the big guys? Or am I deluded that it would be any easier to get through the gate of a small press than it is to catch the attention of an agent? Should I have entered some contests, like ACFW's Genesis contest instead? Should I have my book on Authonomy.com? (This isn't off the table...I'm debating this, in an effort to generate some buzz while I'm waiting. I'm fully aware that could backfire, though.)

I've never been good at waiting, so this process, while agonizing, is also instructive. I hope that through it all, my character will be refined, however slightly. Will learning how to wait on agents make me more patient with my children? (I wish.)

One this is certain: remaining idle while waiting is a very bad idea. I'm thankful that I have my serial fiction to work on, illustrations to continue to chip away at for Tony Lavoie's Many Stops to Make, and my family to offer me more than enough to do in the meantime. One day at a time, one query after another, I am determined to find a publisher for this book, and hopefully it's subsequent members of the series. Only the prayerful request for the Lord to steady me as I wait will provide the firm foundation I'll need to weather this journey, that I know.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Getting a chance to read...

I admit, I don't read as much fiction as I would like. Not at all.

So, that helps explain why it is I am just starting in on my discovery of Karen Hancock's work. One would think, as an aspiring female Christian Fantasy author, that Hancock would have been one of the author's I'd have tracked with all along. Well, finally, thanks to inter-library loan, I have finally begun her Legends of the Guardian King series, having just finished The Light of Eidon.

I won't give a synopsis here, but here's a link: http://www.kmhancock.com/Eidon.htm in case you want to research on you're own.

My reaction?

World: Ms. Hancock created a convincing world with enough detail that I could visualize the locales in which she placed the characters, as well as the local inhabitants of those places. She took the time to create the macro-scale relationships between cultures and governments as well as to get down to the micro level so much as to mention the peculiarities of local cuisine. I found the world a nice blend of exotic and familiar, which she achieved only using "human" characters.

Characters: I cared about the fate of just about all the characters woven into this story. (Almost...the only character I found a bit flat was Philip. And Clarissa was irritating, but I am guessing that was by design.) When characters died or turned out to be on the wrong side in a plot twist, I was saddened at the "loss" of those characters. Ms. Hancock does a great job of crafting the friendship between Abramm and Trap, which I found genuine and a good story driver.

Plot: The Light of Eidon has no shortage of twists, a lesson I hope to take away from the book for my on writing. The plot moved forward well and quickly, and perhaps my only gripe were places where we got summary instead of scenes. (I know we can't show it all and expect to end up with a publishable wordcount, but still, I consider it a compliment to the writing that I didn't want to miss a moment of interaction between these characters.)

Some who read Hancock's work, from what I've heard, have a little trouble with some of the more "adult content" in the text. Yes, there's violence, and some gore (though none of it did I find gratuitous) and yes, there is some immoral sexuality employed by major characters. However, where this morality issue comes up, I believe that Hancock handles it by not letting it slide without repercussions, showing remorse in the offending character, and also by having the behavior occur at what was a spiritual low point for that character. So, while I know it sparks debate, in my opinion, the use of sexual content in the context she offers has rhyme and reason. It's not there simply to titillate.

On a more general note, I found it interesting that Karen Hancock managed to use both adverbs and clauses that start with -ing and get published. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek here!) But seriously, I am heartened that the so-called "rules of 21st century writing" that many would-be writers bang over others' heads don't seem to hold sway here. There is hope for the well placed adverb! ;)

So, overall, I give the book a strong affirmative nod, and I'll be hitting up those inter-library loan folks for the next book in the series. Of the time I've spent reading fiction this year, I'm glad that The Light of Eidon graced some of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coined words

When people are geniuses, they get leeway the rest of us don't. But what are we, as writers, allowed to do with the precedent these geniuses set?

My current train of thought comes up over a single word I am debating over using (or not.) People like Shakespeare coined words all the time, words that have worked their way into our everyday speech. After all, according to Michael Macrone's Brush Up Your Shakespeare, the Oxford English Dictionary credits Shakespeare as the first to use these words, among others: "arch-villain," "bedazzle," "cheap" (as in vulgar or flimsy), "dauntless," "embrace" (as a noun), "fashionable," "go-between," "honey-tongued," "inauspicious," "lustrous," "nimble-footed," "outbreak," "pander," "sanctimonious," "time-honored," "unearthly," "vulnerable," and "well-bred." Now, if I used any of these words in my writing, would anybody point at me and say "You lifter of words?" I think not.

Where my trouble comes up is over one single word, not from Shakespeare, but coined by Tolkien. What word?

Weapontake.

In the sense of using the word to mean the mustering of troops, it is generally regarded as Tolkien's invention. If I wrote romance, or thrillers, or some other genre, perhaps it wouldn't be a big deal. But since I write fantasy, would the use of Tolkien's word, a word he coined within the last century, invite ire?

Clearly, I spend too much time ruminating on the absurd and the obscure.

But the fact remains, I love the sound of the word, and I think it sits in my story nicely. But the last thing I want to do is thrust my reader out of my tale with word usage.

But here is my bigger question: when does the word an author coins become the property of the populace? When you use a word used in an unconventional way by another author, are you giving a nod to a master, or are you functioning as nothing more than a pale shadow of someone greater? These are the questions I hope to answer as I think my weapontake dilemma through.

And I better figure it out before June, since that's when Digital Dragon Magazine needs the story in which the word will (or won't) appear.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When sentience isn't just a human trait...

Fantasy often presents the reader with not just fictitious cultures, but diverse races of creatures that all share the blessing of sentience. What is an author to do with this situation when it comes to deciding what these races believe about their origins and their eternal destination?

Secular fantasy doesn't have any obligation to wrestle with this question, but I believe that fantasy that has a Christian sensibility at its core cannot overlook this conundrum. Biblically, we are told that God created man in His image, giving man a component that will live on forever, and differentiating man from all the rest of His creation with this eternal part of his being.

So, what happens when a world has not only men, but elves, dwarves, gnomes, dragons, centaurs, and myriad other thinking creatures? (In reference to this question, I really ought to read Summa Elvetica by Theodore Beale, but in the absence of any insight from that book, I'll just have to ruminate on my own.) Does the Christian author insist all of these races share the same creator? In my current "world" in which I write, I have taken that route...I suppose it's the smoother path.

Can Christian Fantasy fiction weather the concept that each race has it's own creator? J.R.R. Tolkien dabbled in this idea a bit in The Silmarillion, when Aule, in his eagerness to create as did Iluvatar, made the dwarves. But that act of creation worked to further illustrate Iluvatar's supremacy, in that he insisted Aule's children remain unquickened until Iluvatar had brought forth his firstborn, the elves. So does that address the idea of multiple creators? Not in the purest sense, although it does show precedent.

To be fair, however, Tolkien never set out to write "Christian fantasy." In fact, especially with The Silmarillion, he wove many different mythos together while adding his own twists, so while the battle of good versus evil underpins the work, to call it Christian fantasy is a bit of a stretch.

If we want to read and write Christian fiction that won't garner debate, my impression has been that a single creator is a necessary element. Others might add that a picture of fallen-ness and redemption are also key. So as usual, I end this blog entry with questions, rather than answers. Just how "biblical" does Christian Fantasy need to be in order to remain Christian and not simply become fantasy? My answer to that question is that Christian fantasy is storytelling that I can read without having that story challenge my worldview. Does it have to express every intricacy of that worldview? I don't think so. But in my opinion, multiple creators start to step over that boundary.

But even so, I've still read The Silmarillion. Call it trust.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

February DDM

Hello friends and readers!

Just wanted to blip a short message here to let you know that the February issue of Digital Dragon Magazine has hit the web. If you head over to www.digitaldragonmagazine.net, you'll find my ongoing serial, "The Windrider" in its seventh installment. The plot is getting thicker (or at least I hope you'll think so.)

If you do get a chance to head over there, I wonder what you think about the format changes for the e-zine. They are publishing to a downloadable PDF in addition to their online format. What do you think of that? How's the readability? They are making a lot of other changes there as they ramp up to launch Diminished Media, which will handle print publications as well. For reasons I cannot yet disclose, I am watching carefully how the transition goes. Things could get pretty exciting for those writers tied into Diminished Media's offerings, should all go well.

Also, if you do give the story(ies) a read, I'd love to hear any feedback you might offer. I have no way of tracking my readership or people's reactions through DDM, so I'd be gratified if you shared your impressions. And I'm not just soliciting pats on the back here. If you think the stories are drivel, judicious, constructive comments to that end are also welcome. To improve is to take the good with the bad, right?

Thanks in advance to any of you who have a moment to offer up your coveted opinions.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The truth, the whole truth...

Is fiction a lie?

It amazes me how although we Christians all worship one God, we have such widely varying opinion on so many things. One of those areas of divergence is fiction. There are religious leaders who will say that only the bible and non-fiction books are worthy of the time it takes to read them. While I won't argue that any time spent in the Bible is time well spent, I do have to take issue with the idea that fiction is in some way wrong or evil.

So, those of us who like fiction argue that Jesus told stories and site his parables as an example. The fiction detractors come back with the idea that the parables weren't made up, but rather accounts of things that really happened. Now granted, just about any of the illustrations Jesus used were very practical, contemporary scenarios, so of course they could have happened. Does that mean that Jesus got the directive from the Father: tell the story of Esther of Capernaum...you know,the time she lost her coin? (Okay, now I'm being a little flip.)

But beneath my digression lies my point. Does a story have to have happened to possess value? If that's the case, well, then...we fantasy writers better just take our "My Documents" file and move it to the recycle bin.

As you have probably guessed, I don't think that a story need to be factual to have value, but what it does need to do is point to truth. Western Society has abandoned the existence of truth, even as it contradicts itself to do so. ( I can't get into the argument right now, but how can a person say it is true that there is no such thing as truth?) What the reading world needs is material that reflects the deep, God designed truths that no matter what philosophy comes along, no person can truly deny without eventually talking himself into a knot.

So, in the sense of thinking on whatever is true, I believe we can still do that in the context of fiction. If a fantasy story points the reader to the truth that one leads best by serving, is there no value in that? After all, isn't it the veiled truth that we pursue and discover hidden within our experience the one that brings us the greatest, most personal revelation?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Slim Pickin's

Nothing brings a smile to my face quite like a box from UPS on my porch.

Today's delivery? My copy of the 2010 Christian Writers' Market Guide by Sally Stuart. (I must interject, this woman gets some kind of medal for tackling this book every year.) I pushed the supple cover open to begin my treasure hunt through the pages within. My goal: to track down likely publisher/agent candidates to whom to send my manuscript for The Sword of the Patron.

To be fair, I am not entirely settled upon whether I will start sending the book to the four winds before Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press has actually rejected it through the traditional submission channels. Since he has only had it involved in Marcher Lord Select, he hasn't actually weighed in on it. But I do need to do my due diligence on other publishing options, after all.

What I'm learning so far, however, is that the publishing options for a Christian fantasy novel aren't exactly numerous. The publishers that do take them on often don't take unsolicited submissions or at least unagented submissions. The agents that want speculative fiction are few and far between...and they crop up between a forest of agents that write on their websites "interested in all genres EXCEPT: Sci-Fi/Fantasy."

I suppose the bright side to all this is that I won't be overwhelmed with options when it comes to sending out my materials. The negative? I won't have a big trove of choices when sending out my materials. But discouragement will gain no foothold here at the beginning of my journey, as much as it tries to sink it's little grappling hook into my soul and cling to me. After all, I'm only in the "h's" or so of the agent listings, so I'm sure I'll be able to put a little star next to a few more names before I finish that chapter of the book.

Let the journey begin.