Monday, December 12, 2011

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to mean on whom his favor rests."

Have a wonderful, Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 5, 2011

CW Blog chain post: The Gift Given Year Round

(OK, I'm cheating a little bit and re-posting an article that was published last November in 31Ten Magazine. But it fit the theme for the month. Be sure to stop in and see all the other articles these fabulous writer have come up with!)

Christmastime. The mall is packed. You hustle from store to store, searching for that perfect gift for that hard-to-please person on your shopping list. Music blares over the roar of the crowd--some hip artist is torturing "White Christmas" for the umpteenth time since you set foot in the place. It seems the world has gone crazy.

Yet as Christians, we're enjoying the season of Christmas. W know how to laugh, love, and celebrate the birth of our King. We enjoy getting together with friends and family, singing carols, and general having fun. Maybe there's a special tradition we observe, or a special place we go every year. We exchange gifts with our friends and family.

And of course, we know truly what it is to give without expecting to receive. We give to older relatives who may not remember to get us something. We give to new friends who may not have expected something. Caroling is a way of giving with receiving, as is participating in something like an Angel Tree project.

Sometimes, thought, I think we tend to forget that giving without receiving is supposed to be a year-round pastime, not just one we reserve for Christmas. Why should we reserve it? So many of us as our own talents and gifts we can use year-round.

I was reminded of this one day as I sat at my brother's soccer practice. One of my younger friends, a 12-year-old, cam up to me and started chatting. She wants to be an author too. Eventually, as it always happens with authors, we started talking about story ideas. She shared a new story idea of her's with me and said it frustrated her that she didn't have a lo of people to talk with about her story ideas.

"I guess whenever I really want to have an author talk, I need to call you," she said.

"Go for it," I told her. "I'd love to have an author-buddy chat with yo sometime."

After she left, I remembered other times I'd urged friends to cal me if they needed to talk--my best friend called me at 11:30 p.m. once to talk about a hard decision she need to make, and my brother once woke me up to ask me some questions that had been bugging him. There have been other times I've listened to people who just needed to let off steam or ramble to get their thoughts straightened.

I loved helping people and comforting them, listening to their problems and praying with them. God has given me a heart to listen to my friends and my family. That's a gift I can give year 'round.

Even God didn't limit Himself to giving only at Christmastime. We celebrate His Son's birthday in December, yes, but years later in the spring God gave another great gift...His Son's life for our sins. "...But the gift of God is eternal lie in Jesus Christ our Lord." And even now god still extends that same gift of salvation and pureness to us--two thousand year later. There's no gift we can give that lasts that long!

So, I challenge you to not only focus on giving gifts at Christmas this year. Take some time to think about hat God could be calling you to give year 'round. What talents has He blessed you with, that you may bless His people?

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter
4:10, NIV)

12/1: Mike Johnson

12/2:Sheila Hollinghead

12/3: Samuel R. Choy

12/4: Keri Mae Lamar

12/5: Brian Jones
12/6: Chris Vonada
12/7: Cindee Snider Re
12/8: Tracy Krauss
12/10: Terrie Thorpe

12/11: Chris Henderson

12/12: Steve Olar

12/13: Nona King

12/14: Scott Fields
12/15: Tracy Krauss,
12/16: Pauline Creeden,

12/17: Israel Ikhinmwin,

12/18: Traci Bonney,

12/19: Michael Galloway,

12/20: Edward Lewis,

12/21: Carol Peterson,

12/21: Victor Travison,

12/22: Lynn Mosher,

12/24: Jacky Brown,

12/25: Keith Wallis,

12/26: Liberty Speidel,

12/27: David Pardoe,

12/27: Debra Ann Elliott,

12/28: Marilyn,

12/30: Michele Archer,

12/31: Suzette,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo conclusion and An Excerpt from FORGED STEEL

Well, so far today I've read several NaNo success stories and several stories from disappointed writers who have had to drop out. Yay for everyone who won and tried! :)

I thought I was going to make it this year--I really did. The first week was iffy, but the week after that was strong and I felt really good about it.

Then we went on vacation to Missouri for Thanksgiving. I think I wrote about...3 thousand words the ten days we were down there? Maybe? But, I decided it didn't matter too much. I'll just keep plugging away at Forged Steel and A Bargain with an Elf during December. And, I realized that I never even once posted an excerpt! That needs to be remedied, so here's a bit of an excerpt with some thoughts that I wrote in the beginning of November.

Hope you guys all have a great weekend! I'll be returning Monday with a post about Christmas!


Forged Steel is turning out to be one of those stories where I really feel sorry for the protagonist. Not necessarily because what I've gotten him into so far, but because of the people I've populated the story with.


I generally have this bad habit of surrounding my main character with people he mostly gets along with. In my two NaNo novellas, the opposite is true. A Bargain With an Elf puts together a shape-shifter who has a high moral code and an elvish thief--not the best pairing for teamwork.

Josh's situation in Forged Steel takes the cake, though. A moody fae girl who can't get her mind off her missing boyfriend and two fae guys who are fighting over who gets to be "alpha male". Not to mention that one guy, Eliaster, is telling Josh that he can't trust the other two (David and Larae) while David is telling him that Eliaster's motives for protecting him may be suspect.
No wonder the poor guy's lost his sense of humor. ;)


It will definitely need some tweaks, but here's an example of what I'm talking about:

“So, where are we headed?” Larae slid her jacket on and, with a practiced motion, flipped her ponytail behind her shoulder.

“Upside, “Eliaster said. “I want to see if Dagger is at his office.”

“Dude, are you nuts?” David asked.

“I don’t plan to waltz in there and say ‘Hey Dagger, you have Marc, so here’s the rest of us, free of charge!’” Eliaster snapped back.

Wow, Mr. Doom-and-Gloom had an ounce of sarcasm in his body. That was surprising.

David and Eliaster stood glaring at each other. Not good. The last thing we needed was our two strong guys ready to knock each other’s heads off.

But how could I cool them down without getting my head knocked off? So far, the most helpful one had been Eliaster. I didn't want to take sides yet, remembering Eliaster's warning, and I knew that I couldn't risk alienating one of them. Besides, we were all supposed to be on the same side, whether David and Eliaster liked that or not.

Larae looked at me, rolled her eyes, and stepped in. “If I can break through the testosterone for a minute, then what is your plan, Eliaster?”

"I just want to see the place. That's all."

That wasn't all. I didn't know how I knew, but Eliaster was lying through his teeth. The others could see it too. David grunted; Larae's left eyebrow quirked upward.

She shrugged. "Yeah, whatever. Forget trust and teamwork, Eli. Sounds good."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last day!

It's the last day of NaNoWriMo! Hope everyone does well and finishes strong!

I'm currently far, far behind. I don't even think I'll make half my goal. But, that's OK--I've made a lot of progress on Forged Steel. I know now that NaNo just isn't for me. Something about it just makes my creativeness curl up in a little ball and shout, "Go away! No one's home!" :) More on this tomorrow...

If you need a break from the flurry of writing, I have a new short story up at Avenir Eclecta, Delivered. This was the thirteenth door he'd knocked on...

Tomorrow is the beginning of December (YES!) and you know what that means? (Besides Christmas)...

A new chapter of Falls the Shadow! Skylar's tension mounts as he struggles to keep the Library a secret. The Professor doesn't notice, but his best friend Coll does, and as much as Skylar hates pushing him away, he knows it isn't his place to unveil the Library just yet.

And, one more fun thing to keep the post-NaNo blues away! Kat Heckenbach, author of the amazing fantasy Finding Angel, is hosting a giveaway on her blog. It has four books: signed-by-her copies of Chicken Soup For the Soul: Just For Preteens, Splashdown Book's short story anthology Aquasynthesis (with three of Kat's short stories), Finding Angel, and an unsigned copy of Fred Warren's short story collection Odd Little Miracles. These are all books totally worth checking out--so go show Kat some support and maybe win some books! :)

That's all! Hope you guys have a great writing day! Be sure to come visit tomorrow for a NaNo wrap-up post! :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Writing Exercise # 4--If you were Blind...

Have you ever thought about the way that something feels? Just picked an object up and really felt the different contours and textures of the components?

Here's a good exercise for that. Close your eyes, reach your hand out to the side, and pick up whatever your hand falls on first. Spend a minute or so just feeling the thing. Most likely you'll guess what it is right away, but I want you to just concentrate on the way it feels to your fingers.

Now describe it in a couple of sentences:

I felt a long, thin wire that swooped upward in a gentle curve. Then I felt a tiny round object strung on the wire, slightly rough and pebbled. Finally I felt a cool, smooth, flat stone, then a flat bit of metal, like a pinhead.

I was holding a stray earring that has been on my desk for the last two weeks.

Now, have your character stop in the middle of their scene, and imagine what they could pick up and feel. What is it? How would it feel in their hands? Would it be familiar or foreign to them?

Varian ran his fingers through the long grass surrounding him. It was almost sticky, catching the rough spots and callouses on his fingers, but leaving a bit of a sting behind. Guess that's why people called individual pieces of grass 'blades'.

I hope this exercise helps in making three-dimensional scenes for your readers to be immersed in! As always, if you want to do this exercise with me, just post your descriptions in the comments. Have a good week!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Meet the Author: Follow-up Interview with Rebecca P. Minor


Last week I spotlighted the new fantasy novella The Windrider: Divine Summons. You guys may remember me talking about this serial before, in an interview I did back in March. Now Becky--sorry, Rebecca P. Minor--is back with a follow-up interview!

Rebecca Minor draws narrative experience from a BFA in animation from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Since her graduation in 1997, she has worked as a game animator, freelance artist, full-time mom, teacher, and sheet music customer service representative. She is the author of The Windrider Saga, serial fantasy fiction from Diminished Media Group.

She blogs at http://callofthecreator.blogspot.com on anything from fantasy reading and writing to the life of mother and wife. In addition to writing, Rebecca also creates occasional illustrations, three of which will appear in Port yonder Press’s The Book of Silvari: An Anthology of Elves.

Rebecca resides outside Philadelphia, PA with her husband and three sons, whom she is slowly infusing with a love of fantasy, one member at a time.

*What was your journey to publication like? How long has it taken?

My journey from the beginning of writing to being published took a little less than four years from “word one” on Sword of the Patron to the release of the first Windrider book. Shortly after I began writing, I decided my end goal was publication, so once I started, I went at it full throttle. It’s been an amazing time of developing a whole new vocabulary in terms of what I need to know about the industry, unlearning some bad habits, and figuring out where (and where not) to stand my ground. I consider myself privileged to have books out after so short a relative time.

*Who is your favorite character in the Windrider series?

The obvious answer to that one is Vinyanel, of course, but I’ve also been surprised by the sudden magnetism of other characters that crop up, especially some of the new additions in the second book. There’s an assassin character who proves to be a great foil to Vinyanel who’s been fun to develop, as well a slightly dangerous female character who isn’t quite sure whose side she’s on.


*Now that you've joined the ranks of published authors, how do you feel?

Honestly, overwhelmed. The person who told me it’s easier to write a book than it is to sell one was not kidding. I find myself checking Amazon ranks and wondering if anyone has even bought, let alone likes my work, and for a newly published author, sometimes feedback is hard to come by. But I’m also thrilled to have come to a new world in my writing life, and I simply pray my efforts will bear lasting fruit.

*What projects are next?

The next big item that will be monopolizing my attention until the new year will be the editing of my novel, Sword of the Patron (which will be getting a new title, incidentally.) Once that project launches, I will turn my focus to the redrafting of the second book in my novel series, as well as to writing a third Windrider book. Somewhere in there, I might be releasing a novelette set 2500 years before the time of The Windrider, but that project is a little up in the air for me, just because there are so many other items in the queue. It’s all going to be guided by reader demand.


*Any advice for those currently seeking publication?

Attend conferences. Yes, they are expensive, but they are worth the cost from an education and a networking standpoint. I would also specify that smaller conferences are not necessarily less useful. You might get some bigger names teaching at ACFW and the like, but you may be able to network more effectively at a smaller event. The other piece of advice: seek out experienced mentors and apply what they say to you. The comments I got on my manuscript from fantasy author David Wolverton (aka Farland) is what I truly believe took my novel from a few people expressing mild interest to having a bunch of simultaneous requests for the whole shebang.

Thanks, Becky, for joining me at Magical Ink! Readers, you can find the first book in The Windrider series at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble for e-book. Remember, tomorrow on the 22nd, the second book is being released! And I've heard the plan is to release the two books in print next January, so for those who don't do e-books, mark your calendars!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Novel Spotlight: The Windrider: Divine Summons by Rebecca P. Minor

STORYLINE: When a dark plot to undermine the security of the elven nation emerges, Captain Vinyanel Ecleriast must decide. Will he allow his contentious relationship with his half-elven mentor, the Prophetess Veranna, to interfere with his sworn duty to protect his people and his homeland? Newly ordained as the future High Commander of the First Airborne Division of the Elven Cavalry, Vinyanel sets off astride his new mount—a silver dragon—to intervene before the elves’ enemies disappear into the wilderness not only with priceless artifacts pivotal to the elves’ safety, but the life of the elven king in their hands. Only if he can put aside his preconceptions and take full hold of Veranna’s teaching will Vinyanel find the strength to fulfill his Divine Summons.


MY THOUGHTS


Cons:
Too short! But I can live with that since there are two more books in the series. :)

It took me a bit to really get into the book. I think that was because of the situation the book starts with and the backstory needed to understand it.

While the characters certainly didn't feel two-dimensional, I found myself wanting more backstory on them. How did Majestrin and Veranna met? Was Vinyanel born a continually sarcastic grouch, or did he become this way because of an event in his life? I'm guessing that as the series goes on, we'll see a bit more of these characters' backstories.

Pros:

The lyrical writing style coupled with the first person point of view really pulled me into the story. It meshed very well with the more formal elvish culture, so that not only Vinyanel's speech but his narrative and thoughts matched his culture.

Like I mentioned above, the characters weren't two-dimensional.

And of course, I'm always partial to books that feature beautiful descriptions of riding dragon-back. :)

CONCLUSION:

I'd say the family-friendliness of Divine Summons was pretty good. There's a part where Vinyanel's horse breaks his leg (which turned my stomach a little, but my stomach is weak when it comes to breaking bones anyway). Vinyanel gets captured and knocked around, and there's a near-sacrifice that might be a little scary for kids. I'd probably feel comfortable handing it off to a 13 or 14-year-old. No profanities (unless you count a dragon saying "Blast!" when he gets into a situation where he can't breath ice). :)


I really enjoyed this book! It made a quick, beautiful read. I'll definitely be buying the rest of the series as they come out.


My rating: 4 stars.


**NOTE: A week from tomorrow, on the 22nd, the second Windrider book will be available for purchase as an e-book. For those who don't do e-books, the print editions will be out next January.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day 1-7

About four thousand words so for in NaNo--hopefully this week will be a little slower so I can get catch up those four thousand more that I'm behind. :)

Dragged Underworld has undergone two title changes. I wanted the second book in the trilogy to be Burnt Silver, so I thought I'd go with a color scheme. Turns out Ted Dekker has a monopoly on any color scheme that includes Green and Black--at least, that's what Justin suggested.

So I changed again, to Forged Steel. It sort of works, since I'm discovering that my MC's journey is about cutting down on his pride issue and forging him into a better hero. That changes everything to a metal theme--Burnt Silver and Poison Iron being the last two in the trilogy.

I'll try to be more diligent in updating. Look for me in a couple of days! :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

October Update--work on the stuff I'm NOT supposed to be working on ;)

So October was probably the best month I've ever had, writing-wise. Unfortunately it wasn't on much that I needed to get done. :)

I edited several flash fiction pieces, one of which went to Avenir Eclectia. The others, I'm not sure where the home for them is quite yet. There's an anthology idea being kicked around but I'm not sure if it will come to fruition or not. I also wrote a short story set in a colleague's story-universe, and just got the edits back on that.

Mary, LoriAnn & I worked on Falls the Shadow, mostly editing. Posts are scheduled through the end of the year, thankfully--we cut it a little close once or twice.

I was supposed to work on Half Blood. And I did. Some. I got stuck halfway through October at about 32K and decided that I was tired of it, that I needed a break. I want this draft to turn out good, unlike all my other rewrites, so I figure there's no sense in rushing it (although I think I have one or two people about ready to kill me or at least chase after me with pitchforks and torches because I'm taking so long.) The good news is that I'm unstuck. The bad news is, I'm not going to work on it for a while longer yet.

So what did I do in October? Well, a Facebook group I'm a member of was having a contest, and I thought, "Oh, I'll come up with a story for it." I'd already had a tiny bit of a story idea in my head, ever since I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman earlier this year (I don't recommend it by the way--while it was a fascinating urban fantasy there was just way too much foul language) about a kid who got accidentally pulled into an urban fantasy quest by his best friend. It was originally supposed to be funny.

It exploded. From a short story to a novella (I knew when I hit 7K and the hero had just gotten his hands on the treasure map that the short story thing wouldn't work any more) to a trilogy of novellas, collectively called The Underworld Mythos. Working title of the one I'm writing now is Dragged Underworld, but I'm brainstorming new ones. I want to get a color thing going for the titles, because for some reason I want the second one to be called Burnt Silver. Maybe Underworld Green? Errr...or not... So...yeah...that makes this 5 novellas for the year (counting Dreamwalker and Bargain with an Elf)...just call this The Year of the Novella, I s'pose. :)

As you know from last Tuesday's post, A Bargain with an Elf and Dragged Underworld are my two NaNo projects.

So what else am I doing in November?... We get to spend Thanksgiving week with family--yay! :D I'm going to pick up my flute and my brother's old viola and start teaching myself viola and--if I get good enough--join my church's worship group. Oh yes, and there's the church pie contest. I won last year, so we'll see how this year goes. :) And I've started training for a half-marathon with some ladies from my church. Normally I'd shy away from any sort of running, but I need to get back in shape and this provides the perfect accountability to do it. Wouldn't kill me to drop 10 or 15 pounds.

So I have a fairly busy month ahead of me! :) Somewhere in there I'll find time to write at least one more Avenir Eclectia story, and edit that short story. Oh yeah, and work on Half Blood.

Riiiiight. ;)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo Take Two

Yes, I'm doing it again this year, despite last year's ridiculous disaster. I'm stubborn that way. :)

Once again, I'm being nonconformist and doing an unofficial NaNo. I probably wouldn't have even done NaNo except--well, as I mentioned before, I'm stubborn. And it worked well with my super-full writing schedule to try to finish some stuff as quickly as possible.

This year's projects are two novellas. One, A Bargain with an Elf, is listed under my Current Projects page. The other is a novella that kind of grew on its own (more on that next Monday), an urban fantasy called, for now, Dragged Underworld. DU is currently at a little over 10K, while Bw/aE stands at about 3K. I know exactly where I'm going with both of them and I'm pretty confident I can get them both finished by the end of November. :)

I'm also going to drop some hints here, just to tease y'all. :) What I plan to do with these novellas is going to be fun, crazy, and awesome (I hope). I know for sure my plans with Bw/aE. Plans for DU involve a little more than myself making the decisions, but if I can get it to work, it'll be way cool.

I hope you guys will join my chronicling of my NaNo progress over the next month. Hold me to my goals! I'll post a short notice every couple of days or so to let you know how I'm progressing.

Have a wonderful week!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Familiar Sounds--writing exercise #3

It's so easy to tune out everyday sounds that I do it in writing too, and never mention the noises around my hero...until he hears the ominous sching of a sword being drawn or the snap of a twig in a quiet forest. :)

1) For me, the biggest noise I hear is the traffic. We live not far from Marquette's main drag and it can be loud. For Varian...probably people talking, seeing as how he lives in a castle.

2) Computers. I spend most of my day around computers humming, beeping and making other annoying sounds. Varian's second would be animals, again since he lives in a castle that has pretty large stables.

3) Music. As I'm writing, I listen to soundtracks. I hear it on the TV shows my husband watches and the video games he (and yes, I) play. Varian's third most common sound would probably be the sound of wood crackling in the fireplace, since the world he lives in (Absor) is medieval and fire is their main heat source.

I don't know about you guys, but this was hard! I didn't pause for a moment when I thought about the sounds I hear everyday, but when I had to step into my character's shoes, it got tough. But when I'm reading a novel, descriptions of sounds make it come alive, so I know it's essential for my novel to have noises.

What 3 noises do you (or your main characters) hear every day?

Friday, October 21, 2011

The changing face of interaction

Today, I hardly said anything.

Not kidding! And no I wasn't mad at my husband. ;) He was at work, I was at home, working, and made a quick errand run to Wal-Mart. Even with the shopping trip, where people bustled around me and the hum of conversation surrounded me, I said nothing.

Kind of creepy, eh? Just a few years ago, I would have had to interact with at least a cashier. Instead, I "interacted" with a machine. I swiped and pressed buttons but had no real interaction.

Could you imagine a world like that? No flesh-and-blood person to talk to, just glaring screens and buttons and automated, tinny voices--seems too much like something out of a sci-fi novel. It's a wee bit scary to me, especially as I look around at the world that seems to have embraced person-less interactions. Don't get me wrong--Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email--all those are fun. Even texting is fun. I just don't like the slide into interacting without the human element. At least call people on the phone once in a while instead of texting and Facebooking!

On the bright side, all of this speculating just made me think of a story idea! :D *bounces off happily to write down yet another nerdy idea*

**Next Week: the 3rd in my series of writing exercises, involving sound.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meet the Author: Kat Heckenbach

Last week, I reviewed the fantastic book Finding Angel. This week, I'm pleased to welcome the author of Finding Angel, Kat Heckenbach, to Magical Ink!

Kat Heckenbach is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom–everything from Art to Algebra II—and now homeschools her two children. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name. Her debut novel, MG fantasy Finding Angel, is available in print and ebook. Enter her world at www.katheckenbach.com and www.findingangel.com.

Kat, how do you get ideas for stories? Specifically, what gave you the idea for Finding Angel?

I hate to say it, but a lot of them just drop into my head. One of my stories that is in Aquasynthesis—“The Artist”—literally popped into my head fully formed. I was sitting on the couch and, poof, I *had* to go sit and write it. Another, “Like Stink on a Dog,” which was published online in Daikaijuzine, came about when two old guys started arguing in my head. I couldn’t get them to shut up without writing down what they were saying. (And, yes, I know just how nuts that sounds.)

Some stories come from prompts/themes for anthologies I had hopes of getting into. Those, however, tend to head off in completely different directions and end up no longer fitting the intended anthologies, then wind up published elsewhere.

Others…I have no idea where they come from. Bits and pieces of things that happen around me, daydreaming, who knows what.

As for Finding Angel, that’s easy. I was one of those kids who LOVED all things magic, and any book, movie, or TV show about other worlds. When I decided I wanted to write a book, I went for that idea—a girl who loves that stuff finding out she is from someplace else, and she has the kind of magic she’s always yearned for. The conflict for the story itself built from the characters and setting that formed as I wrote. I didn’t outline before I started writing, so a lot of the book came as a surprise to me.

When did you start writing? Do you feel that God specifically called you to write, or is it something you took up on your own?

I started writing in August of 2007. I had literally never done any creative writing before sitting down to write Finding Angel. There was just something bothering me after my 37th birthday, some need to do something, fill some unnamable void. I was talking to my husband, Jeff, and he said, “If you want to write a book I’ll be supportive.” I had no idea why he was saying that to me, until I found myself driving to Barnes & Noble to clear my head. Yep, right to a book store. Memories came flooding back. Me, as a teen mostly, scribbling on a legal pad, and crumpling up everything I wrote. Me wishing I could see my name on the spine of a book but thinking it will never, ever happen so why try.

I realized writing was something I’d always wanted to do but never thought I had it in me. So I sat in front of my computer one day and just started. I told myself that if the words flowed I’d write a novel. If not, I’d never try writing again. A lot of pressure to put on myself, I realize now, and I’d never advocate that approach for anyone! But I had to do it, and the words flowed.

As for whether I feel God called me—I honestly can’t answer that. I believe He gave me the talent to write, and therefore knew I would someday. I think much of my life prepared me for this, and God’s hands have always been in my life. I guess you’d have to interpret from that whether it was a “calling” or not. I prefer to say God designed me this way.

That's a cool starting-out story! Do any of your characters take over the story, or do they generally stay well-behaved?

Interesting question! My characters do things that surprise me all the time. I do a little outlining when I write, but not gobs. I have scenes pop into my head and I scribble them down, or random ideas, but I don’t plan things heavily, and often the characters lead the way and I just follow along writing down what they do. As for behaving themselves….if they did that there probably wouldn’t be much story to tell ;).

Why did you decide to write fantasy?

I have always just loved it. My earliest memories of beloved books are fantasy. The Phantom Tollbooth, A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (which I suppose is really more sci-fi), and anything that had magic and/or other worlds. It stayed my favorite genre my whole life. I was a huge Piers Anthony fan in high school, and more recently I’ve fallen in love with JK Rowling’s writing, and Cornelia Funke’s, and so many others. It simply comes natural to me.

So which fantasy creature is your favorite?

This may sound cliché, but dragons. Definitely dragons. They are just so cool! All fire-breathing and impenetrable scales. And they are beautiful. Powerful and graceful and intelligent.

Did you base any characters off of someone you know personally?

That is such a dangerous question. My family has gone nuts trying to figure out “who” certain characters are in Finding Angel. And yes, I do sometimes start with a real person in mind, but the character comes to life and takes over. The character may retain some of the original person’s traits, but most will be completely different. And many characters are bits and pieces of multiple people melded together. Others, as far as I know, have no resemblance to people I know.

Who is your favorite character that you've created? That you've read about?

In Finding Angel, I’d have to say Kalek. I love the idea of an Elven rocker. He’s mysterious, and rebellious and regal at the same time. And his Talent (his strongest magic skill) is quite unique. (Do I tell what it is here, or keep ‘em guessing? Hehe….how about a hint? All of Creation sings, but only one guy can make you literally hear it….)

A character I’ve read about—that’s harder. I have so many favorite books and they all come with a favorite character. Hermione in the Harry Potter series and Dustfinger in the Inkheart series are two I can name off the top of my head.

Kalek is cool! The part where Angel met him was one of my favorite parts in the book! How do you go about writing a book or story?

It depends on whether it’s a pop-into-my-head story or something I have to plan out. But basically, I tend to write in spurts. I may go weeks without writing, then an idea will hit, hard, and I write almost nonstop until the story is out. For novels, I tend to write entire chapters like that.

What do you do if you have a severe case of writer's block?

Panic. Hehe.

Actually, I take time off. I try to focus on other things, like drawing or reading more. I figure writer’s block often comes from being burnt out. We all need breaks now and then. Usually if I just back off from writing for a while and get other things taken care of my muse will show up when I least expect.

Can you tell me a little about future projects you have planned?

I’ve started on the sequel to Finding Angel, which takes place a couple of years after the end of Finding Angel. It’s part Angel’s story and part, well, a new character. Can’t say exactly if we want to avoid spoilers. I have an idea for a third book in the series—one that will involve time travel. I want to write something with that because the idea of time travel is one of those things that makes my brain squeak. Can’t wrap my mind around it properly. There will also be a fourth book, a kind of prequel, that tells the story of one of the bad guys and how he became a bad guy.

Outside of the Finding Angel series, I am working on a paranormal thriller involving some characters from a short horror story I wrote, “Willing Blood,” that can be found in The Absent Willow Review.

Of course I’ll keep writing short stories. I contribute fairly regularly to Avenir Eclectia, and I enjoy short story writing too much to give it up regardless of finally getting my novel published. I had started doing short stories mainly to glean publishing credits, but it turned into something I love.

More Angel books! Who-hoo! What is your favorite funny writing quote?

I’m not sure if this really qualifies as funny, but, I love:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

― Madeleine L'Engle

Nice! I think that's another quote that I need in my quote book. Thanks for taking the time for these questions, Kat! :) Readers, be sure to grab a copy of Finding Angel, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Falls the Shadow Chapter 11

In Chapter 10, Libby and Maricossa struck a deal. Now Maricossa has all but abandoned his assignment from the White Tiger to make good on his end of the bargain.

In exchange, Libby has let him step inside a world that until now he has only dreamed of--a world that threatens to pull him completely and helplessly into its priceless enchantment.

Click Here to read Chapter 11 of Falls the Shadow.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Novel Spotlight: Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach

Storyline: Angel doesn't remember her magical heritage...but it remembers her.

Magic and science collide when she embarks on a journey to her true home, and to herself.

Angel lives with a loving foster family, but dreams of a land that exists only in the pages of a fantasy novel. Until she meets Gregor, whose magic Talent saves her life and revives lost memories.

She follows Gregor to her homeland...a world unlike any she has imagined, where she travels a path of self-discovery that leads directly to her role in an ancient Prophecy...and to the madman who set her fate in motion.

MY THOUGHTS

Cons: the only problem I have with this book that is was too SHORT! :) OK, and I thought that some of it was a little too much horror for a middle-grade novel. Most of the book was fine, but there was just one scene in a laboratory with specimen jars and dissections that I really thought showcased the author's horror side. Maybe I underestimate today's middle graders, but that scene felt a little too much to me.

Pros: The characters are awesome. Angel and Gregor as the main characters are pretty cool, but my absolute favorite character was Kalek, a rocker elf with quite an amazing Talent. I can't tell you anymore because I want readers to discover that for themselves and be as totally in awe of that scene as I was (favorite scene in the book, right there).

And speaking of Talents...I liked the magic system of the world. Each person has a primary magical ability, their Talent, as well as other magical abilities. For example, Angel's mom's Talent was painting pictures, then pulling the object out of the picture (as long as it wasn't alive). Gregor's Talent is making gates in trees to get from one place to another.

The storyline likewise was fun, quirky, and nicely paced. The climax had me biting my nails (after a successful month of not chewing them) and muttering, "I know where this is going--please don't go where I think it is--you can't just DO that! No, no, no!" and the conclusion was extremely satisfying, though tinged with sadness. Though there was no mention of a "God" figure, there were hints, and I'm looking forward to how the author will pull those hints out in further development of the world.

Conclusion: Obviously, I can't talk enough about this book. It's another Splashdown Books release, and probably my favorite to date that they've put out (as well as gaining a spot on my all-time favorite fantasy books list). The writing is great, and the story is one that, while I would hesitate to give it to anyone below 13-14, could easily charm anyone above that.

Rating: five out of five stars.

Next week: An interview with Finding Angel's author, Kat Heckenbach!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A short ramble on Fall and Harvest: Looking forward to life

As far back as I can remember, fall and harvest-time has been one of my favorite seasons (next to Christmas, which as everyone knows, lasts from Black Friday to New Year's Day ;) ). I love the sharp smells and the crisp wind, the sound of rustling leaves underfoot, the tang of a freshly-picked apple in my mouth...

And yet, someone once told me that it's odd to love fall so much, because everything is dying then. Granted, we gain a lot of good things from fall, mostly food for ourselves and animals, but all those pretty colors are from dying plants. But, if I might be allowed to wax poetic here for a moment, the cycle of fall-winter-spring seems to me like a good analogy for a person's confession of belief. Dying to self (fall) to be protectively covered (winter, snow) to form new life (green growing things in spring.)

There are a couple of things that don't go along so smoothly in the allegory (for example, where does summer come into it?) Some might say that you don't harvest anything good from your "dying to self" fall period, but I debate that there are good things--maybe buried--that you find during that period. So, to be honest, you can't get too nitpicky, otherwise the analogy breaks down, just as all analogies are liable to do at one point or another.

Another spiritual reason I like the fall and harvest time is because it reminds me that there will be a harvest, and the wheat will be divided from the chaff, and we'll get to live forever with Christ.

So really, I see fall as looking forward to life, not stalling in death.

I wrote this as part of my contribution (though "contribution" might be debated) to the Christian Writer's blog chain. Go check out the rest of the posts--I'm sure they'll be awesome!

  • 10/1: Traci Bonney, http://tracibonney.wordpress.com/

  • 10/2: Jacky Brown, JayBees Blog

  • 10/3: H.A. Titus, Magical Ink

  • 10/4: Tracy Krauss, http://www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com/

  • 10/5: Pauline Creeden, http://hosannaschristianreader.blogspot.com

  • 10/7: Cindee Snider Re, http://breathedeeply.org/

  • 10/8: Scott Fields, http://www.writingdead.com/

  • 10/10: Steve Olar, http://bibleschooldropout.blogspot.com

  • 10/11: Lynn Mosher, http://lynnmosher.blogspot.com/

  • 10/12: Victor Travison, http://victortravison.webs.com/apps/blog/

  • 10/13: Nona King, http://www.wordobsession.net/

  • 10/14: Keith Wallis, http://wordsculptures-keith.blogspot.com/

  • 10/15: Mike Johnson, http://collegemanual.blogspot.com/

  • 10/16: Keri Mae Lamar, http://www.kerimae.com/

  • 10/17: Liberty Speidel, http://libertywordwanderings.blogspot.com/

  • 10/18: Chris Vonada, http://chrisvonada.com/

  • 10/19: Michael Galloway, http://www.michaelgalloway.blogspot.com/

  • 10/19: Sue Ewing, Little Bits

  • 10/20: Edward Lewis, http://eglewis.blogspot.com/

  • 10/21: Sheila Hollinghead, http://sheilahollinghead.com

  • 10/23: Chris Henderson, http://thewritechris.blogspot.com/

  • 10/25: David Pardoe, http://www.pardoe.info

  • 10/26: Carol Peterson, http://fromcarolsquill.blogspot.com/

  • 10/27: Shawneda Marks, http://www.shawneda.com/

  • 10/28: Marilyn, http://life101understandingitall.blogspot.com/

  • 10/29: Chris Depew, http://chrisdepewwrites.com/

  • 10/30: Debra Ann Elliott, http://debragrayelliott.blogspot.com/

  • 10/31: Michele Archer, http://mlarcher.webs.com/apps/blog/
  • Saturday, October 1, 2011

    New chapter of Falls the Shadow

    In Chapter 9, Maricossa made the decision to return to the library and try to buy or bargain for books. Now Libby is faced with a choice...

    ...and she responds with a challenge.

    Learn the secret behind the title Falls the Shadow as two equally desperate minds engage in a duel of called bluffs and clashing desires that leaves only one question:

    Deal or no deal?

    Don't miss Chapter 10 of Falls the Shadow!

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    What did you look like?--writing exercise #2

    From clothing and appearance to opinions/ideas, everyone changes throughout their life. Have you thought about how your character might have changed? Here's an exercise to help you get started about thinking how your character may have changed.

    You have to answer these three questions about yourself:

    *What did you look like in grade school?

    *What did you look like as a pre-teen/teenager?

    *What do you look like now?

    Ready? GO!

    *Grade school: I was taller than most of the guys my age, with lanky arms and knobby knees. My hair was long, probably the middle of my back if not my waist, and my mom often put it into a French braid topped with a hairbow as big as my face or hair bungees with plastic knobs on the ends--though if you rode a roller coaster with me, those stupid bungees could be deadly. Just ask my cousin Becky. ;)

    Most likely, you would have found me running around in baggy shorts and t-shirts during the summer, and leggings with baggy long-sleeve shirts and sweaters in the winter. Barefoot, too. I hated dresses--my mom was lucky to force me into them about once a month for church. :)

    *Pre-teen/teenager: I wore lots of hand-me-downs as a pre-teen and early teen. Think tapered-leg jeans, big t-shirts, etc. About 15, my style changed and I started wearing more fitted t-shirts and flare-leg jeans, as well as the occasional skirt. I became infatuated with Converses and wore my pair everywhere.

    All the guys grew up and bypassed me, and even some of my girlfriends got taller than me. I went from beating up my little brother to being very nice to him. My hair went from super-long to short chin-length, to shoulder length. I got full bangs, then side bangs, as well as going from full to thin to gelled perm-curls to hair-straightener-flat and slick. I got glasses--first a thin little "secretary" pair, then some weird-shaped octagon things, then my square "nerdy" glasses--and contacts. I HATED pink. I got my ears pierced. Typical can't-figure-out-who-you-really-are teen years.

    *Now (age 22): I wear dresses and skirts a lot. Half of my wardrobe consists of sundresses that I'm currently trying to figure out how to wear in the winter. ;) I have a lot of sweaters (hey, it's COLD up here!) and boots. I go for bold and bright colors, anything yellow, green, orange, or a combo of pink/gray makes me happy, I LOVE vintage clothing, and I like weird patterns or combinations of colors. My favorite casual outfit is a jean skirt, leggings, converses, and a smart-alecky-saying t-shirt. I've fully embraced my love of anything a little off-beat, and I love hats.

    My hair hits my shoulder blades, and it's very layered and curly. I wear it down and loose, with a bandana or headband, or pulled into a ponytail or messy side-chignon. I take a bit of time with make-up instead of slapping it on. I still wear glasses or contacts. I filled out a bit and grew a bit so I'm nearly as tall as my mom.

    So there you go! Did you change a lot or were you pretty stable? Hopefully this gave you some inspiration to dig into your character's past and unearth how they've changed. I can't wait to hear your answers to these questions! :D

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    **Next Month: Another writing exercise involving sound, a musing on how technology has changed our interactions, and a review/interview from the author of Finding Angel!!

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Meet the Author(s): Grace Bridges and Walt Staples

    (This month, I'm interviewing two people--Grace Bridges, the publisher of Aquasynthesis (who also had some short stories in it) and Walt Staples, who wrote the narrative that tied all the Aquasynthesis

    stories together. This is going to be a long post, but bear with us--it's going to be a fun one!!

    Let's start with Grace:

    Grace Bridges is the owner of Splashdown Books, and an incurably voracious reader and author of sci-fi. She has two published books: Faith Awakened (2007) and Legendary Space Pilgrims (2010). Grace is a Kiwi of Irish descent living in New Zealand, and is a multilingual do-it-yourself gal.

    Catch up with her at http://grace.splashdownbooks.com.

    How did you get started with writing? With publishing? How do you balance being a writer and a publisher?

    I have always been a writer, from my very earliest days - first in epic, sweeping stick-figure sagas on that old-fashioned computer paper that came joined up in rolls. I would take the roll sideways and just keep going across the joins. Later in words, still with plenty of illustrations! Then I wrote a novel. It took seven years. It was a very weird one (can anyone say first-person-present, dual storylines, supernatural and sensual Christian cyberpunk?) so instead of trying to submit it somewhere, I decided to go into business for myself. After that... once I had learned the tech skills for making books, it just seemed obvious to do it for others as well.

    Balance? There is none. I write when I feel like it, blindly pushing other projects out of the way to let the lightning strike. Still, writing must often take a back seat when the publishing schedule looms. I write on occasional afternoons off - and mostly far away from my desk.

    I know your publishing model is a bit different than other publishing houses. How did you come up with the model? Why?

    Well, I hate that whole publishing culture of rejections. So I set out to minimise my production of them. The first manuscripts I picked up came out of casual critique exchanges with the members of the Lost Genre Guild, and I liked that so much I decided to continue doing it that way. It's not an actual submission, so there doesn't have to be a rejection, see? And if I critique something I really like, then that author is going to hear from me.

    That's cool! So how long does it usually take from signing a contract to publishing the book?

    It really depends on how ready the book is. Some authors write so clean, we can do it in a month. That's how long I generally need for final editing and project design. If it takes longer, it's mostly because the schedule is full. No matter how I try, I cannot do more than one book a month and survive. I'm currently looking hard at the available slots for next year, and they are almost all full up. It saddens me that I won't be able to move fast on any project for a while because of that, but there's only one of me. Perhaps someday if I have someone in my team who can do everything I do, we could increase our output.

    The way you put the anthology together (as a bunch of stories connected by a narrative) is pretty unique. How did you do it?

    It wasn't my idea! I have my team to thank for that. Originally I was just going to stick the stories in by author and be done with it. But Travis suggested they should be arranged by theme, and he came up with the first draft order. Everyone helped to finalise it, and then Keven had the idea to write a joining narration. We asked Walt to write it, and Keven helped with that. Keven's wife DeAnna provided the stunning cover art. And several people aided in editing as well. It was truly a team effort, and I'm so proud of my crew.

    And you guys all did a really great job. Do you have a favorite funny writing quote?

    A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. ~ G. K. Chesterton.

    That's going in my quote book for sure! Any advice to future publishers/editors?

    Aim at perfection. Nothing else will do. Don't allow yourself to put out a sub-par product for reasons of speed, cost, effort, or friendship. The buck stops with you - you will be associated with that book for a good long time to come, and yes, maybe even forever. So you'd better be sure you're 100% happy with it.

    Awesome! Now for Walt:

    Walt Staples spent far too many years thinking the unthinkable for a living. He maintains this has had no effect on him though he admits to a predilection for collecting odd people and an inordinate thirst for Dr Pepper. While his physical position is generally indeterminable, his heart is firmly located at 38.9N, 78.2W. His work has appeared in Digital Dragon Magazine, Avenir Eclectia, Wherever It Pleases, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Christmas: Peace on All the Worlds, and Residential Aliens Magazine. His rather questionable humor appears the first Monday of each month on the Catholic Writers' Guild Blog. Walt also wastes everyone’s time with his blog at: http://gkfields.blogspot.com . He is a member of a number of organizations which shall remain nameless with the exception of the Catholic Writers’ Guild and the Lost Genre Guild--both of whose blackmail payments are in arrears. In lieu of the normal payments, he was elected president of the CWG (a move that proved far more costly to that organization than the previous arrangement). He agreed to move on after everything of value was piled outside the gates. Walt is also rumored to be a member of the Marine Corps Association.

    According to Walt, the future trend of his life was probably foreshadowed when he was three. Driving with his parents, as they looked for a place to go to the bathroom on a Virginia fire trail, he was involved in a head-on collision with another family coming from the other direction also looking for a place to go to the bathroom. He credits this experience for his rather cockeyed view of the world.

    How long have you been writing?

    Walt: Quite a while. Apparently before I could read in fact (and, yeah, I don't understand that either). Looking at my first notebook (“Big Chief” brand, first grade lined, 80 pages, tear-off), there appear to be runic/Sanskrit-like inscriptions between the burning ducks, automobiles on horse legs, and cats in warbonnets (like I said, I don't understand either).

    I've been fouling up and getting published sporadically for the last 25 years. I started writing hard science and geohistory, followed by general literature and mystery, took a turn into radio play scripting, tripped into comic book scripting, and since my retirement, things have exploded with science fiction and fantasy, historical mystery, small town fiction, and a head-on collision of all of the above at times.

    Wow, that's quite a journey! In all that time, what is your favorite character you've created? That you've read about?

    I think it's a dead heat between Conrad Ritter, a former Bavarian homicide investigator trapped in the Afrika Korps; his grandson, E.D. Ritter, sheriff of Danube County in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley; and Uncle Onslow, chief engineer on the intra-system tanker, Tau Ceti Maru. E.D. has appeared in stories published online by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature http://www.deadmule.com/fiction/2011/02/walt-staples-enough-gun/ and Uncle Onslow has appeared in stories published in Digital Dragon Magazine http://www.digitaldragonmagazine.net/ and Avenir Eclectia http://www.avenireclectia.com/ . The nice thing about writing my characters is they're easy—I just cheat and use people I've known (and I've associated with some pretty strange types too).

    As to my favorite character I've run across in my reading, I'd have to say Robert A. Heinlein's sneaky, little old man. If you notice, he seems to show up in just about every one of Heinlein's stories—kind of a combination Deus ex machina from below and Greek Chorus. A close second is Brian Freemantle's Charlie Muffin.

    I love Uncle Oslow! He's one of my favorite characters on Avenir Eclectia. Next question: what was it like bringing a bunch of stories together with the narration you wrote for Aquasynthesis?

    My end was easy. I was handed the stories (which are a major pleasure to read—even for the third or fourth run through) and the order of their appearance in the book (according to the police scanner, homicide and C.S.I. are still working the scene of the editorial conference). All I had to do was come up with Master Tok and his student Gizile, a coherent plot line linking the stories, and write it (with a heck of a lot of help). Like I said, dead easy.

    Yeah, sounds sooo easy! ;) What's your favorite funny writing quote?

    “Remember: Sleep deprivation is a writing tool.” – G.K. Fields, author of Chained Dogs

    No joke! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

    No. But if you hear some, please tell me--I need all the help I can get. Seriously, a good story is a tripod made up of character, setting, and plot. If any of those three legs are weak, the beast is going to fold up on you.

    Good advice!

    Awesome interviews, Walt and Grace. Thanks for stopping by Magical Ink!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    **Next Week: Another fun writing exercise to get your creative juices flowing!

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    more Published stuff and a Milestone

    Hello y'all! Got a few announcements from the beautiful fall U.P. this morning...

    A new microfiction on Avenir Eclectia: "Cara peered through the crack that led from her hidey-hole to the marketplace. Orphans, hunters, and merchants scurried around the large area, giving no sign that they'd seen her worm into the pile of broken beams..." READ MORE

    A new chapter of Falls the Shadow, where Maricossa decides to take the plunge: “Are you holding back because I’m a girl?”

    Maricossa smiled at Connie as she bounced and dodged across the leather training mat. “You know better than that,” he said, “I’m just waiting for you to burn up your energy with all that bouncing." ... READ MORE


    AND...my blog has reached 30 followers!! Yay! Thanks to everyone new to the Magical Ink blogs and to all my goldie-oldie followers! :D (And if you haven't checked out the Bookshelf...well, you should. A new reading suggestion every week...what could be better?!?)

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Novel Spotlight: Aquasynthesis

    Aquasynthesis is a collection of short stories from the authors at Splashdown Books. They range from a miracle-working ring, to learning sentient computers, to a Lucky Penny, to an obsession with ears, all tied together with short snippets from the viewpoint of a girl watching a pool of water freeze and melt.

    If you think that sounds weird...well...it's speculative fiction.

    Let me quickly review some of my favorite stories in the mix:

    Dude by Kat Heckenbach: This story made me laugh so hard! It was a creative, non-traditional use of an elf and I loved it. This was easily my favorite story in the entire collection. Kat's two other stories, Between the Pages and The Artist, were also amazing. Her book, Finding Angel, is under contract, so I know it's one I have to get!

    When the Game Became Too Real by Ryan Grabow: I. Need. Air. Gulp. An adrenaline-laced story with the protagonist stuck in virtual reality, based on his forthcoming novel, Caffiene. Yeah. I'm gonna need this book too.

    The Kissing Part by Fred Warren: A companion story to his novel The Muse, this is a cute story that reminds me of something my little sister did to one of my stories once.

    Summer Snaps: a deleted scene from Keven Newsome's Winter, the book that launched Darkwater, the supernatural imprint of Splashdown. It's a supernatural thriller about a Christian Goth named Winter who receives visions from God. I wasn't too sure about the book--I mean, Christian Goths? Really?--but reading the story made me interested. Add Winter to my must-buy pile.

    The Unjust Judge by Adam Graham: The story about a man who refuses to mete out justice and a widowed alien who refuses to give up...sounds just like something the author of Tales of the Dim Knight would write. Serious and funny all at once, and an excellent story.

    The Field Trip by P. A. Baines: Ha! A story about two aliens learning about earth...and the difference a comma can make. Oosha. (Oops.) ;)

    Overall thoughts: Some of the stories were better-written than others, but all made me curious to check out the authors I haven't read before. For people concerned about content, most of the book is clean. One story (Bob by P. A. Baines) contains a mild cuss-word, and Caprice Hokstad's story Fettered Soul contains a little sensuality (but nothing happens, not even a kiss. Oh yeah, and I really like this story too. Add two more books to my "must-buy" pile.). Aquasynthesis should be fine for those over 16.

    If you like Christian speculative fiction and want a book you can read in short snippets, I'd definitely recommend Aquasynthesis. It will give you a good introduction to the fan-tabulous authors at Splashdown!

    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    **Next Week: Interviews with the publisher and an author of Aquasynthesis!

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    What am I doing?

    Has this summer gone by too quickly? I feel like it! Of course, it's only been summer in "da U. P." for about two months now. ;) Justin & I visited Missouri in the middle of August. When we left, summer was still in full swing. When we got back, it smelled like fall and the trees were just barely starting to turn.

    It's been a while since I updated on my writing projects, so let me do that real quick.

    Half Blood:

    Sloooooooooooow. I'm on plot point 11 of 31--about 31,500 words out of a projected 85K. But I finally got the beginning down (crosses fingers and hopes she didn't just jinx herself). It's definitely hard with this story because I've have to 1) change the story world and history, 2) make up different reason for the highlanders and lowlanders to be fighting (because let's face it, the Crown of Ages was nothing but a semi-ridiculous plot device anyway), and 3), write a new beginning and make sure it matches the tone of a story I wrote 2 years ago. But I think Apricotpie readers will appreciate how I've deepened and expanded the story.My deadline is the end of October.

    Bargain with an Elf:

    On standstill until I finished Half Blood. I plan on using it for my NaNo novel this year. Maybe starting out small and building up will help me not panic. ;)

    Falls the Shadow:

    Is expanding. We have up to Chapter 16 written, almost the entire rest of the book plotted, and are beginning to think about at least one sequel. Keep an eye on The Lost Scribes blog, because Libby, Maricossa, and Skylar are about to have their world turned upside-down and sideways! ;)

    Short stories:

    I'm continuing to write for Avenir Eclectia. I have four published pieces there right now and have plans for a short serial that involves not only Pieter and Cara, but Reeder (from Brush) and two new characters who will add a bit of a steampunk vibe to the rest of the story. (Of course, I had to get some steampunk in there somewhere! ;) ) Keep your eye on that site!

    On other short stories, Bound To Dance didn't make it in the contest I entered, so I want to work on revising it...sometime. When I have time between everything else...which will be never. LOL. I'll get to it sometime soon and I hope to submit it to places like Residential Aliens and Digital Dragon.

    I also have a Secret Project. ;) More will be forthcoming when more is decided on.

    Until then, have a good week, write well, and keep safe from spare-appendage-crunching beasts like dragons and chimeras and so forth. ;)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    **Next Week: A review of a new anthology from Splashdown Books!

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    An inconvenience rightly considered...


    Found this quote on Andrew Peterson's (author of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten) website in the "about" section.

    So often we think of the grand adventure being out there somewhere, waiting for us, like you have to leave home to find it....'World Traveler' was written about my slow realization that life is just as much an adventure if you're a family man as it is if you're a pirate on the high seas. Every human you meet is a great mystery....

    Wow...

    That reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes from G. K. Chesterton:

    An adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.

    Three years ago when I found this quote, I resolved to live by it. I resolved to not let inconveniences unsettle me. I also settled down to being content living at home without a job, helping around the house, and diligently pursuing publication while working on "school". Little did I know that when I stopped looking for adventures and began receiving every day life as an adventure, even the inconveniences, that God had major adventures around the corner for me.

    Within a few months of resolving to live my life this way, Justin was courting me. And the adventures have never stopped! Some of them haven't been so great--going through the months with Livie having cancer was a pretty dark period of our courtship adventure. Well, and making my mom upset because I was laughing at how we couldn't get of the driveway two winters ago wasn't exactly the best move either. Moving to Michigan was a mixed blessing of easy/hard, because I was finally married to Justin, but I was leaving my family and friends behind. I will never, ever understand how Justin was able to make it through 5 months being here by himself! But Michigan has presented lots of adventures for Justin and me to take together. The biggest one has been our marriage--building and maintaining our relationship, just like when we were courting, but on a much, much deeper level.

    When I think about it, a lot of the best adventures of my life have either happened at home or happened because I looked at an "inconvenience" in the right way. Despite living adventures through my characters all the time, I'm very contented to be a stay at home gal. Besides, I'm honestly not brave enough to wave a sword in a dragon's face anyway. :0)

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Nice to meet you!

    I just spent 2 1/2 hours compiling several different Character Questions lists into one long list. One of them came from my friend LoriAnn, the other I'd made myself, and the third came from K. M. Weiland (who, btw, is an excellent blogger on writing mechanics and ideas.You should really follow her!). I added new questions, picked and mixed and matched from the three I had, and added follow-up questions. The final product was 8 pages and over 250 questions.

    I put the list into sections, moving through questions as you might if you were meeting a real person--first, what do they look like? What are their names, nicknames? What do they wear?

    Then we move on to family--who were your parents? What was your family like?

    And on through the list--education, job, personality, and finally personal questions that are a bit nosy. ;)

    Why such a long question list?

    Because I love getting to know my characters. I like making them real to my readers and, ultimately, I hope my readers love getting to know my characters. I can't do that unless I delve very deeply into my characters' personalities and history. I'm able to learn enough about my characters to predict most of what they will do and say. Even when they surprise me (like my friends still do from time to time), I'm able to go back to the questions and see if they really would do that, or if they're just trying to confuse me. ;)

    I can see the obvious changes from the first books I wrote--where I didn't do anything for characters other than throw them into a situation and say, "Have at it!!"--to the later ones, where I've been very careful to get to know my characters beforehand. Scenes come together better, I can know quickly how this certain character would react to a certain comment, and I don't get stuck nearly as much.

    If you writers don't do anything with your characters, I'd suggest you find a list of questions or a profile that you can fill out for your characters. Get to know them so you can offer your readers the best, well-rounded characters possible! If you don't know where to look, two good resources are K. M. Weiland's e-book, Crafting Unforgettable Characters (available for free if you sign up to receive her email updates) and Brandilyn Collins' Getting Into Character. If you're interested in seeing my list (or my Character profile for beginners), go to the About page and email me.


    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Meet the Author: Peter J. Dudek

    Hello everyone! Last week, I reviewed the book City of Prophecy. Today, please welcome its author Peter J. Dudek! :)

    Heather: How do you get ideas for stories? Specifically, what gave you the idea for City of Prophecy?

    Peter: I'm really intrigued by the spiritual element of the Bible, as well as the spiritual side of us, specifically Christians. We have this amazing Holy Spirit living inside of us, but we don't always recognize it because the physical element of our reality is so overwhelming. I wanted to write a book that highlighted the spiritual nature of humans and the world we live in. This desire was the foundation for City of Prophecy. From there I wove together elements of my own walk with God along with my vivid imagination to create a story in a world where the spiritual is as prevalent and visible as the physical.

    H: When did you start writing? Do you feel that God specifically called you to write, or is it something you took up on your own?

    P: I wrote my first books when I was about seven. They were about an unlikely bunch of friends (a truck, car, mouse, and dinosaur) who had adventures together. I guess that was also the first time I tinkered with the fantasy genre. From there, a deep love for writing birthed from my deep love for reading. Tolkien, Lewis, Peretti, Dekker and other's captivated me during my teen and early adult years. Eventually, I tried my hand at writing a novel, which became sort of a prelude to the Forsaken Kingdom series. I did little with it, except use it for notes as I developed my series. I can't say there was a day God specifically called me to write, but since He gave me the ability and desire to write, I've always figured He intended me to do so :)

    h: Do any of your characters take over the story, or do they generally stay well-behaved?

    P: Tarin, is ultimately the central character, so he'll ultimately get the most page time. But he will not overwhelm the story to the point the other characters will be completely overshadowed.

    H: Why did you decide to write fantasy?

    P: I write fantasy because it gives me the best outlet to merge spiritual elements with the physical in a believable way. Fantasy readers are accustomed to strange beings and plot lines, so I can really be creative when I'm in essence, creating my own world.

    h: Which fantasy creature is your favorite?

    P: My personal favorite from fantasy literature is probably Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. Not only is he odd, he's extremely complex. From my book, I like the the monster I call the bostt.

    H: Did you base any characters off of someone you know personally?

    P: Yes, one of the characters I made a lot like myself when I was a teenager, and another, I tried to make like my brother.

    H: Who is your favorite character that you've created? That you've read about?

    P: My favorite character from my book is probably Gildareth. I've always love the character that, when he or she comes into the scene, you know everything should be OK. In that same vein, from other literature, I like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

    H: How do you go about writing a book or story?

    P: At the time I wrote City of Prophecy, I had a general idea of what I wanted, and just wrote. No outline, little planning, just a lot of writing and seeing where it went. Unfortunately, at the end of a process like that, you have to go back and do a LOT of reworking to make the plot-line work properly. Since then, my current projects, along with the second book in Forsaken Kingdom, I've generated from more detailed outlines.

    H: What do you do if you have a severe case of writer's block?

    P: I've not really experience writer's block. But I have experience long writing lags due to just getting very busy with life.

    H: Can you tell me a little about future projects you have planned?

    P: I'm currently starting to think a bit about the third book in the series, and I'm also working on another "non-fantasy" project to help broaden my writing scope.

    H: What is your favorite funny writing quote?

    P: "Show, don't tell". Not sure if it's really a funny quote, but I think every writer has probably been told that so many times that he has to just laugh at it.

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Novel Spotlight: City of Prophecy by Peter J. Dudek

    Hey everyone! Welcome to the new reviews I'll be doing--the Novel Spotlight. Since I began posting a book review every week over at the Magical Ink Bookshelf, I wanted to keep this spot open for indie-published or self-published books I think merit a lot of attention. So, welcome to the first Spotlight, City of Prophecy by Peter J. Dudek!

    Storyline: Tarin is a shy boy who would rather sneak around and listen to gossip through windows than speak with or touch his fellow villagers. Quite unwillingly, he befriends Sarky, the son of Woodend's gatekeeper, and his adventures begin.

    Two strangers--warriors--arrive in Woodend. Tarin--and only Tarin--sees dark, smoky, cloaked figures skulking around the village, though Sarky throws up if he gets too close to them. The banished governor is rumored to return, and the people's dislike of the current governor, Willerdon, grows.

    And finally, another stranger arrives--Gildareth, herald from the long-absent King of Arvalast. The country is in danger. The people's faith is waning, and their Illumina--phials of pure, holy light given to believers by the King--are loosing their light. Some are even turning red, overtaken by a weird usurper who claims to be the true King. Evil beings stalk the land, seeking to destroy the King and his followers.

    And Tarin, Sarky, and Governor Willerdon's family are in the middle of the conflict.

    My Thoughts: I unexpectedly won this book in a contest. When I received it in the mail, I was struck by the cover art--it was a very cool, well-done picture. That was my first clue that this book was a cut above most of the self-published stuff out there.

    Then I opened it and started reading. It took me a little bit, but I was sucked into the story.

    A few things may seem to echo The Lord of the Rings--shadowy beings, phials of light--but the further I got into the story, the more I saw the differences. There are some sticky spots of stilted dialog, draggy action, or omniscient pov, but those are few.

    Much of the story is amazing. The characters are fun and quirky, the description well-placed, the action exciting even without many fight scenes in the first half or so of the book. What at first seems to be a straight-forward plot soon evolves into something epic in proportions, with multiple storylines and lots of characters.

    And the best part? Nothing objectionable, yet still a fabulous story. This book doesn't read like a normal first-time author's book.

    Peter Dudek has woven a skillful, amazing story in City of Prophecy. As soon as I finished it, I got on his website and checked for the second one--What? Not out yet?!? When??? :) I'd definitely recommend it!

    Rating: Five out of five stars

    Be sure to visit next week to see my interview with Peter Dudek!

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    New Site for Book Reviews

    Hello everyone! Hope that you're enjoying the first day of August!
    Just wantd to let you know that due to the number of books I've been reading, my reviews have really backlogged. So I created a different site, the Magical Ink Bookshelf, where the schedule is the same as this blog (a post every Monday), but it's book reviews of all genres! If you've enjoyed my reviews, please hop over there and take a look. It's still a little messy as I'm sorting out an easy system for you to find the reviews you want, so please bear with me.
    I'm still going to post reviews on Magical Ink, but they'll be books from smaller presses, like I've been doing the past few months, and I hope to continue the author interviews too.
    Have a great week!

    Favorite Smells--a writing exercise

    Coffee: makes me think of waking up at my parents', hearing the coffee maker burbling and smelling that scent as it worked its way through the house. It makes me think of coffee shops and writing and chocolate and being with nerdy friends who love to talk for hours and hours about anything and nothing. It makes me think of being hyper on a storm-chase, so hyper during a brainstorming session that my friends tell me to sit still or they'll never allow me a latte again.

    Lilacs: make me think of summer. Our neighbor when we first moved to Missouri had a whole hedge of lilac bushes. I'd forgotten about that heady, flowery smell until a week ago when I rode past a whole flock of them on the bike path here in Marquette. It took me back to those hours spent underneath and in the old crabapple tree, building a fort with my siblings, ruining my white t-shirt with red Missouri mud, swimming in the motel pool that, to this day, makes me dissatisfied with swimming in anything but the ocean, a lake, or a huge pool. Getting my ears pierced. Playing at archeologist after seeing Indiana Jones for the first time. Reading The Lord of the Rings and Narnia for the first time.

    Old Leather: makes me think of Justin, because he has a black leather jacket that he looks absolutely fabulous in. Red sweater, jeans, and that jacket...and my heart thinks we're back to the day when he first asked permission to court me. It's the little things in marriage that count. :) Old leather also makes me think of antique mall shopping with my family. Sometimes we'd take an entire Saturday and just ramble through flea markets and antique malls, not necessarily buying anything, but always on the lookout for a bargain or a treasure. Old clothes, books, purses, furniture, castoffs other people didn't want. There's something almost sad in antique malls.

    Old Books: makes me think of the massive library I'd like some day. E-books are fine and dandy, but they can't beat print books. And print books today can't beat those old cloth hardbacks. That musty, inky, dusty smell--It's the smell of a new world to explore, the smell of adventure, the smell of writers tapping away furiously on typewriters.

    Car heat:That very precise smell of dust and a warm car engine that blasts your face until it's dry. It makes me think of winter in Marquette, getting all bundled up to go sliding down a huge slope with nothing but two sticks in your hands and flat waxed boards on your feet. Of hot chocolate, linking arms with your friends and hurtling in a tube down an icy hill onto a frozen lake. Of riding a snowmobile, going 60 miles an hour with no car walls protecting you, feeling the wind whip your biker-look-alike jacket.

    What are your favorite smells, and what do they make you think of?

    *Don't forget, Falls the Shadow posts a new chapter today!!*

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