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!

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