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.