Showing posts from 2013

I Survived 2013 and That’s Enough

My awesome social media coordinator, Ralene Burke posted a status on the Realm Makers facebook page today, asking how life has changed for our fans over the past year, and like many posts there, I felt compelled to respond. I mentally worked my way through 2013, and came up with this list of what big events happened over the year.
I settled into a new position at work
OK, so I changed positions, technically, near the end of 2012, but 2013 was the first year that I had to go through the “busy season” for my new job. The busy season runs from about May to August, and during that time, I am responsible for obtaining and preparing about 6500 (no, really) jpgs of the covers for different pieces of choral, band, and orchestra music to populate our half dozen catalogs that go out before the beginning of the school year. I spent the first half of the year learning who’s who at about 50 different publishers I need to contact for these covers, and by some miracle, survived juggling all this art…

Not Exactly Hatin' on Desolation of Smaug

I’m not usually a fangirl—I don’t think I even have the physical capacity to actually squee. But yes, I will have to concur, the combined efforts of the sound designers on The Desolation of Smaug and Benedict Cumberbatch created easily the best dragon voice EVER. I dare you to try to show me one better. In terms of design, mannerisms, and animation, Smaug was definitely the crowning achievement of Peter Jackson’s continued cinematic interpretation of The Hobbit.
For me, however, much of the rest of the movie was just OK. It pains me to say that, but I keep thinking back, trying to determine if I was just addled from slogging our way to the theater through driving snow, or from the unthinkable--actually having to get up and use the restroom during the movie. (This has NEVER happened to me in two decades of independent moviegoing. I must be getting old.) But no, it just turns out that tDoS did not strike the chord with me that any of the Lord of the Rings movies did.

The Kid With No Currency

The following is probably going to be one of those blog posts that, once my kids are old enough that we'll let them search the internet on their own, they will scowl at me for it if they find it. But since I've decided this blog is going to be just about life and observations and musings--a public journal of sorts, that's the risk I take.

Nobody who's ever tried it for more than three minutes will dispute that parenting is hard. And anyone who has more than one child will laugh knowingly when you dig your fingers into your scalp wondering why in the world people with so much overlapping genetic material end up so daggum different in terms of personality.

In terms of genetic variations in my family, I have one relatively compliant but scatterbrained child--an absentminded professor, if you will, a people pleaser with an imp underneath, and My Angry Child. My Angry Child has been the subject of more prayers and tears and lost-for-words bafflement in my life than the othe…

Which Character is Supposed to Be the One Who Changes?

"Supposed to" is a terrible phrase in the world of creativity. I find myself wrestling with it all the time when I write. We're "supposed to" show, not tell. We're "supposed to" stay away from adverbs. We're "supposed to" make sure something significant wrenches "life as usual" from beneath the protagonist at the end of act I. Who knew so few words could exert so much pressure on a writer?

Currently, I'm working on the sequel to Curse Bearer, a book I'm tentatively calling A Voice Within. Whether that name will stick through the completion of the book, who knows...since I've taken what the book was in rough draft form and demolished it, and am now fairly certain I will only retain the vaguest plot markers from the original. But I'm wrestling currently with the big "supposed to" of character development:

The main character is "supposed to" undergo a paradigm-shifting change of attitude tha…

Genre Mashups and a Revelation

OK, so maybe "revelation" is a bit of a strong word. More of a "huh" would probably be accurate.

Anyway, I was looking at the Publisher's Weekly blog post that Marcher Lord Press shared, where PW gave a little press to Kerry Nietz's new release Amish Vampires in Space. Now, I'm glad for any press Kerry is getting--it can only help his visibility, and even if people are mocking (which PW wasn't) it generates traffic. Good for him!

The PW article was talking about genre mashups and how authors seem to be unabashedly having fun with them. I can support writing for fun. It's generally what I do. The other three books in the PW article included romance as one of their genres pulled into the mix, and in the midst of my moment of mirth over the ridiculousness of making a character a werecuttlefish (like werewolf, but yes, shapeshifting to a fish) I had that "huh" moment.

The three covers in the article (yeah, you should probably go look at it…

A Plea on the Behalf of Newbie Authors (Like Me)

I’ve lost count of how many times I have tried to write the blog post that is to follow. As I pull it together now, I recognize that I am taking a risk of looking like I am pointing a finger at individuals who have placed their confidence in my work and gotten it to market. But at this stage of the game, this post isn’t so much about my experience in particular, but the troubling recurrence of certain issues I have been hearing from many authors across multiple publishing houses.
To be clear, my own books are small-press published, and in that process, I have made some great friends with some excellent people. In most cases, the way my works got to market was the right fit for where I was at that moment in my publishing journey. But as I seek to grow my writing career, I’ve hit a few bumps in the road. Had I been the only one to hit these snags, I’d let them pass quietly. But since there seems to be something of a quiet sickness going around, I feel the time has come for someone to t…

Character Misery and Creative Momentum

For the first time since I discovered A Voice Within (the sequel to Curse Bearer)would require massive rewrites I am actually excited to plow into the new book. How long ago did I realize these rewrites were in my future? Sadly about 3 1/2 years ago.

What's changed? I've put my characters into better position to have problems.

It's funny, in life, we tend to try to orchestrate things to minimize problems, but when we do that in writing, it makes for books that are both boring to read and to write. In the original draft of Sword of the Patron, I covered the entire tale of Danae's departure from Dayleston, around the western half of the continent, and back home again, and the whole tale took about 150,000 words. The trouble was, the last 40,000 were rushed, summarized, and awful. It occurred to me I was going to have to make SotP into two books to give each section its due.

So I performed the second-half-ectomy and focused on the first 100,000 words to get them ready to …

But Does It Have to Have a Message?

I'm going to start off by launching right into the question at hand:

Does a Christian writer have an obligation to be sure his writing advances the gospel (a.k.a. helps people come to a belief in the redemptive work of Christ or in some way build up the existing church) to be using his time in a way that is worthwhile? What if a writer chooses to write solely for the entertainment value he and his readers find in his books? Does that mean he is being a bad steward of the talent that God has given him?
As you can imagine, Christians in the arts fall on every part of the spectrum when they endeavor to answer this question. But when I look at it, I have to writing any different than any other hobby or profession?
If you scrapbook avidly, should you be only putting together albums that preach the gospel or commemorate church events?
If you're a cabinet maker, does your woodwork need to have scripture graven upon it?
If you golf, is it a waste of time if you're not …

I'd Look Ahead If I Could Keep My Eyes Open

The Realm Makers Conference is a wrap for 2013, and if the feedback is to be believed, was a great success. Valor's Worth has been released. We're (for the most part) in the winding-down phase of the renovation on our home. So why is it I feel closer to a nervous breakdown now than I did in the thick of all three of those things at the height of their production?

Don't get me wrong...I am still very excited for what's been going on with these three monumental events that have characterized the summer of 2013. But justifiably, I'm tired. I have told myself that I would do nothing that causes artistic pressure during the month of August. However, we all know that's not realistic. After all, books that have been released require a high level of talking-up and promotion if they're not going to go off with a fizzle. The conference needs wrapping up from a bookkeeping standpoint, and if we're going to do this annually, we honestly need to start thinking about…

Now available for Pre-Order! Valor's Worth

$18.00 for a signed copy of the newest installment of The Windrider Saga!

Price includes shipping

The third book of the Windrider Saga, Valor's Worth, is now available for pre-order. If you would like a signed copy of the paperback edition of the book, please use the PayPal button here.

The best part about this pre-order: if you order before August 19th, your name will be entered into a drawing for a fabulous book bundle from Diminished Media Group, including books from Bryan Thomas Schmidt (The Worker Prince and The Returning) and the first paperback edition of The Windrider Saga which includes both Divine Summons and A Greater Strength.

Please note that the $18 cost only applies to US orders. If you are ordering from outside the US, please email me at beckyminor123[at]comcast[dot]net. I will invoice you with your exact cost for international shipping.

Valor's Worth Cover Reveal

Whether or not you believe it takes a village to raise a child, it does seem to take at least a city block or two of folks to build a book cover--at least when you're like me and have the vision, but lack the layout chops to actually finish the job!

And so, after the coordinating efforts of Mitchell Bently of Atomic Fly Studios, Morgen and Ken Knott's photography, and my crazy building of props, sketching, and mocking up, we arrive at the cover for the next release in The Windrider Saga...

I hope the covers will speak for themselves and draw in readers for this, the first novel-length Windrider story to reach the market. Look for it at the beginning of August...and don't worry, there will be an announcement when you can get the book on Amazon.

Go vote in the Clive Staples Award

There are so many awards out there where the audience for the nominees in question (whether it's movies, books, or music in question) lament that the board of folks who choose the winners are completely out of touch with what normal people actually like. I think of the Oscars, especially. How many years has the best picture award gone to films that the average film goer watches, wrinkles his nose, and says, "Really?"

Well, this shouldn't be the case with the Clive Staples Award, offered by Speculative Faith and co-sponsored by The Faith and Fantasy Alliance. The Clive Staples Award is a reader's choice award, where you, dear readers, have the chance to give a shout out to your favorite book of 2012. In an effort to keep the contest from degenerating into a test of which authors can get the most voters to show up and click on their book, the contest sets the stipulation that voters must have read at least two of the books on the finalist list. This should end up e…

The Drawing Challenge Update, the Making of a Book Cover, and the Parable Award

So, over the past few weeks I had decided to crazily add a goal to my already-packed draw something every day for a month. Well, I haven't succeeded. I have drawn something for about 5 days from each week, so while I haven't met the challenge goal, that's still better than no drawing at all. And honestly, now that I'm working on book cover elements, I'm counting sculpting toward the challenge. I made it up. I can do that.

You see, since I am published through a small press, I can choose to take as much control over my cover design as I feel I have the chops to manage. As always, I've bitten off more than I can chew. My current project involves sculpting a crazy stone-bladed dagger that figures into the climactic danger in Valor's Worth, and it currently looks something like this:
Once it's dry, I'll be repairing it, which is inevitable, with the way air-dry clay tends to shrink. And like a real knife maker, I didn't run the tang all th…

The Drawing Challenge Update

Since I issued my "draw something every day" challenge to myself, life has been doling out the stress from multiple directions, and it has definitely gotten a grip on my psyche--and this has taken a toll on my drawings.

Sure, I've been able to stick with the idea of drawing every day (well, except Saturday because I was out of the house from 7:30 am to 11 pm helping my kids' choruses with a competition they were attending), but like I predicted at the beginning, masterpieces, these have not been.

It started with my Veranna piece. While I was pretty happy with how Veranna turned out, the dance mistress, Devna is not great work. And without the context of the booing audience and flying rubbish, the scene lacks the impact I went for in the story. But it was meant to be quick, and thus the focus on only the major players.

After that, I worked a bit on the Geek Girl design, which will likely be the concept that gets the most mileage from this whole endeavor, and honestly,…

Draw Something Every Day: Day 2--Geek Girl

Here on day 2 of the "Draw Something Every Day" challenge, this one has a semi-strange inception.

I was talking with some on-line friends about how writers conference attendance is heavily dominated by female conferees. Fun for a guy looking for a mate, I suppose, but perhaps intimidating otherwise. Anyway, that got me thinking about how the population of Geek Girls is also on the upswing. So that led to the pondering: what's the right t-shirt to be the uniform for that club? Hence, the image above was born.

I foresee the silhouette overlaying chunky letters that form a pretty exact square that say "geek girl." I haven't found the right font yet, though, so that's why you see no lettering involved.

We shall see where this and the other other drawings that crop up over this challenge lead.

Draw Something Every Day Challenge: Day 1

On my way to work today, I was thinking about some of my artist friends who have been working full-time in the art industry since we graduated college in the late 90's, and how I admire the way their craft has grown because of it. I've been what you would call "all over the map" in terms of what I have been doing with my days since college, ranging from game animation, to full-time parenting, to managing files for a sheet music company, to writing novels and novellas--so needless to say, drawing has taken a serious back seat. I don't love that truth.

So in an effort to limber up, I've decided to challenge myself to draw something every day for the next 30 days. Some of them I'll post here, some I might throw onto Facebook only. But I thought I would give you the method behind my madness as I begin.

Now, there are destined not to be masterpieces, but just little sketches I can crank out on my lunch break or while I'm waiting for files to upload.


How Your Book Cover has the Potential to Make Me Embarrass Myself

One of the thorny things about social media is just how wide open it leaves you to making a fool of yourself. Take today for example: a friend of mine posted on Facebook about a book she had just read and was very pleased to report it defied all the stereotypes of self-publishing in terms of story. Unfortunately, all I could respond to was the cover of said book, having not read it, and I was direct about the fact that I thought it was a shame that the cover on the book was not as professional as what my friend said was inside. This wouldn't have been such a big deal, except the author of the book was privy to my friend's posts.

So moments after I called the cover "unprofessional," the author chimed in, wanting to know what was wrong with it. I winced.

Now, to give myself a little credit, I don't think I was mean or unprofessional in the way I worded my thoughts on the cover, and I did get into specifics with the author. Hopefully that particular spec-fic enthusi…

Coming this Summer: Valor's Worth, book III of The Windrider Saga

Whew. The last 10 days have been, in a word, insane.

On April 30th, my husband and I became first-time home-owners through a fairly complicated loan process called a 203K loan, which is a federal loan that lumps home purchase and renovation into a single closing. The loan type exists to make it possible for home buys who can't simply pay cash for a house that needs rehab in order to be livable. (As I understand it, you can't finance a home in any other way when the place has no plumbing due to vandalization, needs electrical work, and generally needs overhauling.) The house we bought isn't much to look at right now, but when we're done, we hope to have a cozy little place to call home that we can enjoy together for the long haul. While I am excited to finally quit renting, the purchase has reinforced my hatred of wall paper.

Then on May 1st, we rolled out the registration for Realm Makers: 2013, the first-ever symposium to address the creation of science fiction and fa…

Finding the Bigger Fishbowl

One of my kids' favorite books is A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer...I'm sure most of you probably know it. It's that story where a little boy buys a fish at the pet store, and despite the shop keeper's warning, feeds the fish too much, and the fish begins to grow and grow and grow. The boy moves the fish from bowl to pitcher to pot to public swimming pool in order to find a place where the monstrosity he's created can fit. There are illustrations all through this book of a fish that doesn't even have enough room to turn around in whatever container he's occupying. He shifts from oblivious to shocked to dejected.

Authors in the Christian publishing world, in terms of marketing, seem to have this "big fish, little bowl" scenario working against them. Not in the sense that we've outgrown Christian publishing with our writing prowess and sheer market massiveness, but just that there's simply not enough water in Christian publishing in whi…

Valor's Worth: Book III of The Windrider Saga, chapter 1 sample

Welcome, old friends and new explorers! Below, you'll find the first chapter of Valor's Worth, the next book in The Windrider Saga, for your preview. Please bear in mind, this is a draft of the chapter, subject to change once my editor gets his mitts on it. For now, I hope you enjoy it. And if you do, consider picking up copies of the stories preceding this one: Divine Summons and A Greater Strength. Both these ebooks can be yours for less than $7--which is less expensive than a single book from a big press.
So, without further ado...

Chapter 1 The Phoenix
We sailed high over the dense pine forests of northeastern Kelmirith, our only companions winging birds, clouds, and wind. The westering sun warmed my cheeks, although its dip below the horizon would soon usher in the frosty chill of a mid-autumn night. Far below, the winding river Nuruhain flashed, a strip of amber glass set alight by the sun’s inevitable demise. The rhythmic whoosh of Majestrin’s silver wings thrust us forwar…

Purple or Poetic? The Fine Line in Prose

Since I spend about an hour and a half to two hours every day in my car, I use a lot of that time to think and observe. I figure, if I must have a commute that takes away time from my  writing, I can at least use that time to hash out things about or within my stories.

This morning was an observation kind of day. We had thunderstorms last night, which left everything quite wet, and lingering patches of thick haze hung in the air, depending on the elevation or the proximity of low, boggy places along my route. Since I take "the back way" to my job, I spend it driving through the hilly, wooded terrain of southeastern Pennsylvania, a route dotted with covered bridges, venerable fieldstone farmhouses, and mottled sycamores. Today, the sun was rising over the crest of a sloping farmstead, and the sunrise shone through the water droplet-laden grass grass with a silver glow. I fixed that picture in my mind, for use in a later book, I'm sure.

For me, if the description of a sett…

Intimacy with an Audience of Thousands

Recently, I started reading George R R Martin's A Game of Thrones, as part of my quest to read in both the mainstream market as well as within the tinier niche of Christian speculative fiction.  I have not made it far into the book, and am not sure if I will finish it. Certainly, it is well-written, and the depth of the worldbuilding is fascinating, but I hit a speed bump in the chapter where the young teen character, Daenerys Targaryen, is given in marriage to the older Khal Drogo, which is very early in the book. I'll be honest--call me a prude if you must--but I found the on-page depiction of their wedding night squeamishly troubling.

Now, the fact is, if you are looking at the practices of medieval society, a teen-aged girl marrying an older man has plenty of precedent. Just because it seems skeevy to us in our modern-day mentality doesn't necessarily make it a deal breaker for me on this book. The coarse language in the preceding chapters was also a non-issue for me. …

Valor's Worth: Off to the Judge, Jury, and (hopefully not) Executioner

Once again, another manuscript has escaped my hands and is now sitting in the likely-crowded inbox of an acquisitions editor. Even though I've had at least a dozen conversations with the powers-that-be at this publishing house, I can't help but have a little bit of trepidation about sending the book out for their ultimate acceptance or rejection. It's sort of like sending your kids into the first day of middle school. Maybe not as traumatic as the first day of Kindergarten, but somehow you know they are going to face new challenges, probably some nitpicking, and definitely some growing pains, and as much as you dread what might befall them, you know it must be done.

Having been down this small publishing road a few times now, I know what I want from the relationship, should the publisher in question decide this book is worth taking a chance on. It's no secret that every book    a publisher takes on is a risk, and my newest Windrider book takes some chances.For one, it…

Free Short Story

For the next few days, I'm running a promotion: The "Spring is for Unicorns" short story giveaway, where you can get a free copy of my tale "Wish Wary" from Amazon. The irony to this is that it is decidedly un-springlike here in the Greater Philadelphia area, as I watch snow blanket everything outside.

The story I'm giving away is a quick little ditty, meant for a quick diversion, for some resonance with a simple folk tale or bedtime story form. Drop in and grab a copy, and if you feel inclined, leave a review. Review quantity has a large impact on whether little-known-writers become better-known-writers.

Thanks, as always, for your support. Your word of mouth has the power to move books, and the more books I move, the more likely it is I can continue to write further tales. You, dear readers, have the power.

Intellectual Property is Still Property

Recently, I attended a church production that did a really excellent job delivering the message of God's love and his desire to redeem our lives, no matter how big or how numerous our mistakes. The production quality of the show was absolutely professional, and the actors, singers, and dancers involved all showcased high-quality talent.  I wanted to enjoy that production without reservation, but there was a problem.

The show was "homegrown," which is great. I admire the effort it takes to work from scratch if you can't find a pre-packaged dramatic production that fits your needs. However, there were a couple items in this homegrown commodity that left me questioning the legality of their use.

One large section of the story was told utilizing the text from a published collection of children's stories. However, nowhere in the program or anywhere else did I see any credit given to the author or publisher of this text. I know for sure my own publishing contracts make…

The Constant Terror of Being an Author

On my lunch break today, I ran an errand of such gut-twisting formidability that I’m lucky the lunch I scarfed down on the way back to my cubicle stayed where it belonged. What was that errand, you ask? Dropping off my first load of books at the local, independent bookstore to be shelved and sold on consignment.
Maybe this doesn’t sound so terrifying to you. It probably isn’t to most people. But for artistic types like myself who are consistently underwhelmed by our own talent for making the thing we can’t help but produce any more than we can help breathing, it was enough to induce heart palpitations.
You see, I handed those books to a real person in the store. (A kind woman by the name of Kit who actually reads the stuff local authors bring to her in search of shelf space.) This woman had no prior connection to me. She didn’t seek my books out, I brought them to her and asked for a spot on her shelves. She was a perfect specimen of someone both objective and knowledgeable, and that…

What's Coming Next for Vinyanel?

A while back, there was this blog hop drifting around people were calling “The Next Big Thing.” I got tagged at least four times for it, and being the distracted mother, conference planner, author, advertising associate I am, I never got to post while this was still news. I’ve had bits and pieces of his post kicking around for weeks, so I’ve decided I need to actually get it in place. The point of the blog hop was to encourage authors to share in succession what they are working on in their writing life, to link to other authors who tagged them and who they intend to tag, and to generally raise awareness about what’s up and coming in the fiction market. All good stuff to do if you have time. So here I am doing the informational part, sans tagging.
Most of my motivation to finally post this stems from the fact that I have been getting feedback from Beta readers on my “next big thing,” Book III of The Windrider Saga: Valor’s Worth. They say you need to write a million words before you kn…

Half Baked: A Creative's Biggest Fear

The other day, during my lunch break, I got the itch to draw. You see, I'm in the midst of trying to come up with the right cover image for the third book in The Windrider Saga, entitled Valor's Worth. I really want this cover to feature Vinyanel prominently.

The trouble is, with all the work I've done on him in terms of sketches, I have never really "nailed" his look. That was, until yesterday. (The right reference makes a world of difference, by the way.) I was very pleased with the drawing I cranked out over lunch, but there are problems with it from its inception that I will never be able to fix: I started it in a crummy sketchbook with a horrible pencil.

This picture at the left here is drawn in a $2 spiral sketchbook from IKEA. I love IKEA, but it's not exactly the best place to shop for illustration supplies. My goal at lunch was just to do a study or two of Vinyanel's face, but one drawing took on a momentum of its own and grew into the sketch I …