Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thank You For Praying

Hey everyone, I thought I'd post a quick note and say thank you for praying for Olivia back in March. Her counts are up and she's doing much better right now. They still don't know what caused her counts to fall, so please keep praying that they won't fall again.

Thank you so much!

God Bless!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing Update

Well, spring is finally here in the UP, which means some days slightly warm enough to go outside and write. I rode my bike down to the park a few days ago and enjoyed writing beside a fountain in the shade of some pine trees. And it turned out to be the most productive time I've had for a while!

Justin and I also went hiking a few days ago. We discovered a wonderful sand beach, and not many miles away from it, a gorgeous waterfall that I promptly claimed for my Elvish country. Don't you agree it looks very Elvish?

I can just imagine a cave underneath it, or an Elvish hermit's house tucked back in the woods on the other side of the river. We could feel the spray from it if the wind was just right. I would have loved to sit there and write for a day!!

Half Blood is going well. It's about 40,000 words long and I'm hoping to have it completely finished by the end of this month. It's been a longer journey than I ever expected--I was hoping for a storyline to get at most 10 parts, and I'm still going strong on Part 22! My character Jokk sprang a surprise on my the other day while I was writing. While I like the story twist, it's going to take my another couple of parts to straighten things out between characters. :0) Sometimes my characters drive me crazy! I also changed the part titles on Apricotpie to include the chapter titles. I usually don't like and don't write with chapter titles, because I have a hard time making up titles that don't sound cliche or completely give away what happens in the chapter. But I came up with a few that I really like. What do you guys think?

And my friend LoriAnn was kind enough to create this cover for Half Blood. I like it a lot! Mount Arborn jutting in the background, Fleet soaring--and the guy looks pretty close to my main character. She did an excellent job!

(A disclaimer: this is not the official cover for Half Blood. LoriAnn cut elements from other pictures she found on the internet. Neither of us are making any money from this picture).

I've gone back to editing The Second Crown, the novel that I'll have been working on or (come October) six or seven years. I'm rewriting the first chapter and after that I hope that all I have to do is to edit and maybe do a smidgen of rewriting. I know this novel seems like it's taking forever, but I'm determined to finish it by the end of this year, if not have it out to publishers. I'm so ready to be done with it!!! That's one of the reasons I'm pushing myself so hard with Half Blood.

I'm also writing a series of comical essays entitled "Conversations With Characters". It's about writing Half Blood and all the imaginary (or not so imaginary) conversations and arguments I've had with my characters.

So, what has your writing been like? Any insights on the world of editing, or funny stories about wrestling with character attitudes?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Meet the Author: Rachel Starr Thomson

Hey everyone! Last week I reviewed Worlds Unseen, a fantasy written by a homeschool graduate. This week, I'm doing something new--an interview with Worlds Unseen author Rachel Starr Thomson! Have fun!

Heather: How old were you when you first started writing? When you realized that it was God's calling for you?

Rachel: I've been making up stories all my life, but I didn't start experimenting with written stories and novels until I was 13 or 14. A long hiatus from writing followed, and I picked up writing seriously again in my late teens. Nowadays writing and editing are my full-time endeavour.

Heather: How did your family respond? Your friends?

Rachel: My dad is a songwriter and dabbles in most of the arts, so he was always very supportive of my writing. He critiqued my first novel (Theodore Pharris Saves the Universe), got me a subscription to Writer's Digest, and encouraged me to submit work for publication. My whole family is pretty artistic, and with Dad writing songs day and night, me writing novels didn't seem particularly unusual to anyone! Back then I didn't really talk about my writing with my friends; these days, all my friends know that's just what I do. They're tremendously supportive.

Heather: Why did you decide to write fantasy?

Rachel: I've always been drawn to fantasy; when I make up stories, those are the stories I most naturally make up. Hearing the Chronicles of Narnia at a very young age may have contributed to it. I love old-fashioned adventure, and the wonder and beauty in fantasy worlds appeals to me. I also like the underlying sadness found in a lot of fantasy, and the freedom to explore ideas that go beyond physical realities.

Heather: Your bio says that you're a "wannabe herbalist". What does that mean, and why does it fascinate you?

Rachel: It means that I would love to know more about herbs and be good at using them to treat illness and wounds. My bio probably doesn't have much right to say that; I wrote it in a flush of enthusiasm but haven't had the time to get into herbalism in any serious way ever since. I still intend to, though!

Heather: What do you suggest for someone who has a severe case of writer's block?

Rachel: It really depends on the cause of the block. Sometimes you just need to sit down and daily write something--anything--even if it's just a three-line poem or a page of rambling, until a strong idea breaks through. Other times you need to stop and fill up creatively. Read books, watch good movies, listen to music. But if you're going stop and take a break, put a time limit on it. If you're going to write, you have to be disciplined.

Heather: If you suddenly blurted out a random story idea at the dinner table, what would your family do?

Rachel: Possibly jump in and add their own ideas, but more likely the whole conversation would be sidetracked because someone would make a related literary or philosophical observation and we'd all go off on that. I don't share my ideas much, though. Like many writers, I'm very private about what I'm writing.

Heather: What are your other hobbies?

Rachel: I don't have time for hobbies ;). I love to take long walks. I love nature and wish I had more time to spend in it, study it, hike and camp and that kind of thing. I co-direct a Christian ballet/performing arts company called Soli Deo Gloria Ballet, for which I'm the active poet/storyteller/singer. I spend a lot of time helping put ballets together and touring with them.

Heather: Why did you decide to create your own publishing press instead of publish with one of the big houses (Thomas Nelson, Waterbrook, etc)?

Rachel: It's not an either/or decision, actually -- I'm still interested in pursuing traditional publishing. But I love the indie scene and all there is to learn from it. Initially I decided to publish some of my own work because I had so many manuscripts (over 14) "under my bed" and I couldn't pursue traditional publication for all of them. I wanted to get my books out to readers and start making some income from them. Both goals are being met, so I'm happy.

Heather: Most fantasy worlds have "good" magic in them, even Christian ones like Middle Earth and Narnia. What do you think about magic in Christian fantasy?

Rachel: It's a touchy subject. For the most part I avoid using magic in my fantasy, though I did use it in one of my unpublished books (Lady Moon). I think fantasy "magic" can be a good way to explore spiritual themes, but it has to be handled carefully because "magic" in OUR world is always bad, so you have to keep the lines clear. This blog post, which I came across recently, does a great job of exploring the two basic ways magic is handled in Christian fantasy: http://unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com/2010/03/fantasy-magic-and-christian-author.html

Heather: You write novels, articles, and monthly columns for magazines. You also provide editing services, have a large online presence, and write for and co-direct a dance ministry—and that's just the artistic stuff! How do you balance your life with so much going on?

Rachel: I'm not entirely certain that I do balance it ;). Seriously, the biggest thing is just discipline. Most people work eight hours a day and their lives don't get out of balance. I try to stick to an eight-hour-a-day, five-days-a-week work schedule, and I make a point of getting together with various people when I can. Things are trickier when Soli Deo Gloria Ballet is on tour, but at times we're able to coordinate that with weeks when I have less other work to do. It also helps to have clearly defined goals and objectives. I lay out goals for the year, month, week, and day, and that helps me ensure everything happens when it needs to. Of course, if I wasn't making a living from arts-related things, I couldn't devote so much time to them.

Heather: What is your favorite fantasy creature?

Rachel: Oooh, good question. I'm not sure I can name a favorite "creature." I love what Tolkien did with the various races--Elves, dwarves, hobbits, men.

Heather: What drives you to write?

Rachel: Having something to say! I have always loved stories, and there's a lot about walking with God that I want to share with people. I also just love words. I write sometimes just for the fun of playing with them.

Heather: How did you get the idea for the Seventh World Trilogy?

Rachel: I was reading about the Reformers John Huss and Jerome, and I got the idea to set elements of their story in some other world. Originally it had more of a sci-fi, techno feel. I wrote some preliminary scenes, and the setting turned more medieval. The other characters just came together on their own; I'm sure I'd been playing with elements of them for a long time. As I wrote the story took on significance as I saw this struggle to live out the truth--both the pleasant and unpleasant facets of it--often in the face of great opposition, playing out in the lives of people I knew. (There aren't many traces of that original Reformer story left.)

Heather: All authors know the irritation, however weird it may seem to outsiders, of "rebellious" characters who won't fit into the mold we're trying to shape for them. If one of your characters is rebellious, how do you get him back in line?

Rachel: Actually, I'm one of the few authors I know who doesn't struggle with this. My characters don't take over. Mind you, I don't always go in with a clear idea of who they're "supposed to be," so they have room to develop. But they don't overrun the plot. If something happens in the plot that isn't working, I just backtrack and rewrite.

Heather: Who has been your favorite character to date? Your most rebellious? The one that needed the most work?

Rachel: I'm not sure I could pick a favorite. I think Mirian (from Taerith, which you can read online - www.rachelstarrthomson.com/books/taerith-a-novel ) is one of my best characters to date. The whole cast of characters in Taerith is strong, and the plot hinges on the way they relate to each other more than anything else. In the Seventh World, I've always loved Nicolas and Virginia and Miracle (from Burning Light), and I've grown in appreciation for Maggie. In The Advent, which I'm finishing up right now, I really like Roland and Rehtse. And the Boy. But no one else has really met them properly yet!

Thanks for the interview, Rachel! To all my blog readers, be sure to check out Rachel's website. Her book Worlds Unseen is available for free download, as is Taerith (see link above).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Worlds Unseen--Book 1 of the Seventh World Trilogy by Rachel Starr Thomson

Storyline: Maggie Sheffield unwittingly stumbles into adventure when she and her guardian, Mrs. Cook, take in a dying man. She discovers that the man, Old Dan, and Mrs. Cook know each other from long ago, when they sat on a secret council intent on discovering the world's secrets. And Old Dan has a scroll that could deal a heavy blow to the evil that has taken over their world.

Maggie decides to take the scroll to one of Dan and Mrs. Cook's old friends, hoping to gain answers about her own life. Along the way, a Gypsy named Nicolas Fisher, his pet Bear, the rebel Jerome, and the blind seer Virginia join her.

My Take: technically, this book had a few things that jarred the smooth flow. But, to paraphrase Brandilyn Collins, the greatest rule in writing is that the story rules. This was very true for this book. It was fast-paced and heart-pounding. Though the urban-fantasy feel is very different from anything that George MacDonald wrote, it reminds me a little of his works because of the deep, spiritual undertones.

I was very intrigued by the world Rachel Starr Thomson created—a world very similar to our own in the 1800s, with faintly familiar place names such as Sloczka, Londren, and Pravik, and familiar things like trains. It's scary to read about a world so similar to ours being inhabited by the Order of the Spider, hell-hounds, and sorcery-ravens (but I wouldn't mind having a pet like Bear). :0)

She has woven a very good tale with likable main characters, and one that is worth reading. It's available for free on her website, as is her other fantasy e-book, Taerith.

Next week: Meet the Author!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

So Many Ways To Say Goodbye (Just Kidding!) Fun Music/Quiz Post

Rules: Put your music player on shuffle. Then answer the following questions by using the title to each song that plays while on shuffle. Then tag 6 people.

I Tag: Jessica (Great Things)

Fopias (The Nonexistent Blog)

Mary (The Writer's Lair)

Abbey (Horse Girl)

Nienna II (Mansion West Of Valinor)

Colin + Rachel (A Slice of Our Lives)


Are you male or female? Route 66 (CARS soundtrack)—ok…


What do people feel when they are around you? The Black Gate Is Closed (LOTR: The Two Towers)—LOL! I don't think my music player likes me today!!

Describe your current relationship? Changing World (Kutless) It is a changing world—and I LOVE it!

Where would you like to be right now? Bishop's Death (Ladyhawke soundtrack by Alan Parsons)—umm…no.

How do you feel about love? Between You And Me (DC Talk)—perfect!!

What's your life like? Over and Over Again (Tree 63)—haha! Sometimes my life feels like that, yeah! But not now!


What would you wish for if you only had one wish? Fame (Rush of Fools)—wow, that sounds bad! Not really, it's really the last thing on my mind, to put all your minds to rest! :0) But the lyrics work: "I'm letting go/of false control/…my life is Your's/Use me for Your fame…"


Say something wise? This Is The Future (Owl City)—first off, you expect me to say something wise? Secondly…I answered the question, so it's your turn to figure out how this is wise! :0)


If someone says "Is this okay. . ." You say? It's Killing Me (DC Talk)—so you'd better not do it! LOL


How would you describe yourself? Christmas Waltz (Michael W Smith)—hmm, "Christmas" works because I love Christmas…but "Waltz" not so much. If I had to pick a dance type to call myself, I'd pick something fast like a jig.

How do you feel today? Hearts of the Innocent (Kutless)—hmm, I'm never quite innocent… :0)

What is your life's purpose? Daylight Is Coming (Remedy Drive)—one of my all-time favorite songs (and incidentally one of the songs for a book I'm writing…)! But that's definitely my life's purpose—to show people that daylight IS coming.


What is your motto? Is Forever Enough? (Hawk Nelson)—...to answer all my questions? I sure hope so!


What do your friends think of you? Eyes (Stellar Kart)—do not creep me out!!! :0)

What do you think of your parents? Do You Hear What I Hear? (Mannheim Steamroller)—ROFL! Actually, it should've been "Do You Hear What I'm Saying?"

What do you think of very often? Not To Us (Chris Tomlin)—God's gift is perfect!

What is 2+2? All I Want For Christmas Is You (no clue)—LOL…my mom and Hannah used to tease me so much about this song when Justin and I were courting! Can I rephrase the question to 1+1? :0D


What do you think of your best friend? The Light (Michelle Tumes) Justin shines the Light most definitely!

What is your life story? The Right One (Stellar Kart)—yes, my life is the right one for me, and yes, I found the Right One for me! :0)


What do you want to be when you grow up? Gra De, Love of God (Maire Brennan)—what do you mean when I "grow up"? I'm God's love right now and that's amazing!

What will you dance to at your wedding? Runaway (HOODWINKED soundtrack) ROFL!! NO WAY EVER! Besides that, I've already had my wedding and didn't dance to anything…but our special song was "When God Made You" by Newsong.


What will they play at your funeral? While You Were Sleeping, Christmas Version (Casting Crowns)—That's funny! :0)

What is your hobby/interest? Peace Be Still (Rush of Fools)—I'm never still enough. Maybe I should be.

What is your biggest fear? Praises (Newsboys)—Praises to God, yes, I'm all for that!! Praises to myself…weeeeellll, just don't puff my head up. :0)

What is your biggest secret? May It Be (LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring)—may what be? My biggest secret? :0) I don't think I have any secrets except for what I'm getting Justin for his birthday…

What do you think of your friends? Amon Hen (LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring)—umm, would this be a reference to the LOTR spoof that some friends and I did way back when? Oh brother! I wanted to forget that!!


What will you re-post this as? So Many Ways To Say Goodbye (Article One)—Just kidding!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Glorious!

Hello everyone! Did you miss me over the month of March? :0)

Well, I know I promised wedding pictures. I will do that soon, promise! But for now, I thought I'd catch you up on what's happening right now.

As I think most of you knew, after our honeymoon Justin and I came straight up here to Marquette, Michigan. I was expecting cold temperatures, a few feet of snow, and gray, cloudy skies. Instead, we arrived to find most of the snow melted off (with the exception of the dirty parking-lot monsters), sunny blue skies, and (while not tropical) warm enough temperatures that we haven't been stopped from getting out and doing stuff (most days!).

Let me tell you something; I LOVE it up here. Even if spring is generally delayed until May. :0) There's so much to do! My family never considered me much of an "outdoor" person. I'm discovering that as long as I'm not in sticky, humid Missouri, I love being outdoors. Justin and I have walked around Presque Isle (really a peninsula into Lake Superior about five minutes from the apartment), we've taken walks on the cool bike paths around the city, gone out on the breakwater for the harbor, gone skiing, and generally enjoyed ourselves.

It is beautiful up here. As we walked around the isle, Justin and I explored out onto the side, where the isle basically turns into these huge rocks that jut out into the lake. Waves come splashing up the side in the winter, creating this enormous ice-and-snow shelves that cling to these rocks. We had a lot of fun navigating our way around part of the isle on these rocks! That was our second day in Marquette, and I'd already encountered something that was beautiful and could be used to enhance one of my fantasy countries.

Skiing was a ton of fun!! Once I got the hang of it, I really loved it! Of course, the day we went was near the end of the season, with melting snow, and the only slopes open were the intermediate and advanced slopes. Justin talked me into going on an intermediate slope--remember, this was the FIRST time I've ever skied, so that was a big step for me! The first time, I regretted it because I had no idea what I was doing and felt completely out of control. But once I figured out how to turn and stop, I was good to go! Justin went down one of the hardest slops by himself and did a nice, somersaulting crash. He was OK, but got rug-burn on his arms and stomach, and cut his hand. The reason why he got rug-burn was because some snow had turned into ice, and the ice was the texture of snow-cone shavings. But Justin's perfectly fine and we're both laughing over the incident! :0)

I enjoy having several hours a day (if I want) to write while Justin's at work. Once I get into the groove I'm sure I can make the keys on my laptop fly! :0) I admit, I miss my family--but this is an adventure and I'm trying to make the most of it!!

Beauty, adventure, and inspiration aside, though, the most important thing is that I'm with Justin. All this stuff is an added bonus. I truly love being married to him. What amazes me is (at least for now) I enjoy even the mundane housework that I used to find so boring and time-consuming--because I'm doing it for him. I'm very content and happy to be here, with Justin.

It is a glorious life, folks!

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