Happy Winter Solstice!

Courtesy of Google.

Courtesy of Google.

Because so much of my first book, The Cost of Two Hands, flows around Winter Solstice, I thought I should celebrate! Happy 1st Day of Winter! Also winter is my second favorite season. Time for some hot chocolate, a good fire, a warm blanket, and a good book!

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Finished!

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I just wanted to update all my blog followers, that yesterday afternoon I finished the rewrite of Book 1 of my YA Fairy Tale.

I finished the original rough draft last summer (2014) only to realize, with a little promoting from one of my Alpha Readers, Rob Akers, that there was a major plot point going in the wrong direction. Since then I’ve been up to my neck in rewrites. The plot problem had to be fixed and it’s effects on the rest of the world had to be followed through.

It was a lot of work, but I’m so much happier with the book now. It’s gone from 54 chapters to 93 and totals out at 168,800 words.

I think it is now ready for another set of Alpha Readers to come along and check it for holes, problems, and any issues. If you’re interested let me know!

Now I’m starting the next part of the story. My plan is to finish the series without worrying about whether its two more books, one more book, or twelve. Once the whole story is done, I’ll go back and start editing from the top!

Thanks for Cheering me on!

Writing Journal: Trees

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Trees are very important to me. They are mighty, knurled, fruit bearing, warmth-providing plants with rings counting back the years. They survive and grow into the heavens. Other than about six years living in Los Angeles, I’ve spent most of my life in the beautiful South. From northern Arkansas right in the middle of the Ozarks, to South Carolina and our quirky house that butted right up against a small bit of forest, to Fort Worth with her Botanical Gardens, to my first home with 11 trees surrounding our house, I’ve lived around lots of trees. Not everyone thinks the South or even Texas are beautiful, but the connector between all those places that I’ve loved is tress, trees, trees. (Obviously, besides my church and family.)

In my fairy tale, I’ve opened the floodgates on this love by having two main characters tied to tress. One is a mother with a special magical connection to trees. The other is the dryad Guardian, master of all trees—Oak! (Oak is captured, locked far away from his trees, and tortured. It isn’t pretty.) I have enjoyed writing about trees and about people who love trees. The more I learn about them the more amazing trees become. Getting to pour that out into my book is delightful!

One of my goals as a writer is to write stories from a Christian worldview. That’s doesn’t mean everyone is blatantly a Reformed Christian (I’ve tried to do that and it’s very hard to write…they all just go live quiet lives) or that the story is blatantly Christian, but that the themes, the guide, and the defining of right and wrong are Christian.

I love it when a sermon confirms how I’ve done this or directs me into a new path. For example, one of our elders defined grace as an undeserved rescue. I wrote a whole story around that concept.

I hope to write a series someday entitled The Deacon, The Pastor, and The SoulDefender. So sometimes sermons confirm the direction my stories take, sometimes they correct it, inspire it, and sometimes direct it. I actively seek to submit my writing to the preached Word.

A few Sunday’s ago, Pastor Jarrett preached on Hebrews 10/32-39 and the encouragement, the soothing balm the Holy Spirit brings us, through the Word, after the sharp and terrifying warning against apostasy. If you fear this damnation, you are to:

  • Remember your salvation and look back to see your endurance. (v. 32-34)
  • Remain steadfast in your endurance. (v. 37-38)
  • Root yourself in faith in Christ (v. 37-38)

“my righteous one shall live by faith.”

Right there, a connection was made in my mind. Root yourself in Christ. Let him be the anchor for your soul. In my story, my tree Dryad, Oak, endures some great suffering. But he always holds to the idea that “deep roots don’t fear the wind, and trees by water don’t wither.” When Pastor Jarrett said “root yourself” I thought of Oak because he is in a dungeon chanting to himself “root and water” while he’s lost in darkness.

This sermon helped confirm in my mind that I’m showing a Christian worldview in my fairy tale. It is subtle. It is hidden. It doesn’t preach or scream. It is a strong man, broken down by evil, who has a faith in the King that the villains can’t touch. His roots are deep and planted by water. Roots and Water.

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Oak will endure because his roots are deep. This will confound his enemies. May it do the same in our lives.

Writing Journal: Always Winter and Never Christmas

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“Always winter and never Christmas,” is one of those lines that is used, in excess, in my family. Any time someone says anything about winter a chorus of voices says “Always winter and never Christmas.” The magic of this statement is found in the Chronicles of Narnia, in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis.

I have always loved the idea the evil magic kept Christmas from coming and that Santa Claus actually works as one of the King’s servants. I love it when he comes to Peter, Susan, Edmond, Lucy, and the Beavers and says, “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last.”

He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as holly berries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest.…
Now that the children actually stood looking at him… he was so big, so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.

“I’ve come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The witch’s magic is weakening.”

And Lucy felt that deep shiver of gladness that you only get if you are being solemn and still.

It is a wonderful feeling as a child to have such a joyous representation of the coming of Aslan. Every child given the chance to celebrate Christmas knows the thrill of the holiday. They know all about bells, sleighs, the man in the red suit, carols, special food, and presents.

I have always wanted to share my love of Christmas in my writing. Many of my books take place in the fall and early winter, but I’ve never had one that worked with the Christmas holiday. The other ones were too short and dark. The light and delight of Christmas seemed harsh and garish in that setting. I had not established a world where it soothed the soul like it does in ours. There was zero soul soothing in my first world.

In my YA story, Jonah has been rescued from Prison by the sacrifice of a man named Soul and brought to live in a new place: Greenhome. Greenhome is a magical place of safety and joy. Families are made there. Men and women take in the worst of children and give them a home. The childless and the parentless come together in Greenhome. Jonah comes from the Streets—a dirty, dark, and violent place—and finds himself awed not just the abundance of food and clothing, but by the celebration that’s about to take place.

Jonah has never celebrated Christmas. He’s never been given a present and he has never given a present.

Lights, candles, garlands, trees, holly, presents, and songs surround him. (While I work on these scenes, I often sing “What’s This?” from Nightmare Before Christmas.) His head spins with all the traditions that are so new to him.

Using Christmas to juxtaposition the difference between the coldness of the Streets and the warmth of Greenhome has tickled my heart. I love Christmas. I have more fun, and sometimes funny, Christmas stories than I have time to write, though one year, maybe this year, I’m going to try to record some of them. I have written about why Vincents celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, but have I written about the year the yard caught on fire? Have I written about the magical Christmas where it snowed and my brother got to come home? Have I ever written about my first kiss being on Christmas Eve?

In book 2, after all the things that could go wrong have gone wrong, the joy of Christmas will be part of what holds Jonah up through the darkness. The light of Greenhome decorated for the holiday will remind him that not all the world is lost in shadow, war, and hopelessness, for that is what Christmas does, right? Christmas is the celebration of God coming with a peace-offering to a dark and lost world. He is the light and he came down to us offering peace. His Son came and willingly subjected himself to a body, poverty, betrayal, suffering, and then death for us. This is the great and deep truth of Christmas. This is the under-girding foundation of all that is wonderful and magical about this holiday.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2/14

As a writer, you pour bits and pieces of yourself into your worlds and your characters. Christmas, in all its glory and magic, is one of the ways I’ve done that in my story. It makes me so excited!

A sound made him pause. Voices lifted outside his frosted window. People were singing. He listened wondering what kind of songs they sang here in Greenhome. Where they bawdy songs filled with cursing like the one Christopher taught them? Or maybe they were the haunted sad song the crones sang? Sometimes an unborn would be harvested that could sing. They usually died quickly on the Streets. Singing wasn’t a helpful skill. The words came to him: born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

The song made little sense to Jonah. It did draw him in a way, a quiet way. It didn’t feel dirty like Christopher’s song and it didn’t make life seem darker like the crones’ song. There was a powerful joy in the voices raised and the words sung. He’d have to ask Soul what it meant. Maybe it had to do with this Christmas thing everyone seemed so excited about.

– Icicle Rain by Abby Jones

Writing Journal: A Character Interview

Inspired by Bethany Jennings, I decided to do my own character interview. In the past, I always thought these were dumb. Most of my aversion stems from the fact that I write in a very visceral manner. My stories are quick, painful, bloody, and over. I don’t really have a strong sense of my main characters until the third or fourth rewrite. I’m a pantser and one of the failings of writing without an outline is that you don’t get a real sense of worlds or characters until after the book is finished. Then you polish polish polish and attempt to herd cats into a basic plot.

I’m not sure why reading Bethany’s character interview inspired me to do one as well, but it did. So, I’m going to roll with it. We’ll see what happens.

 

Abby Jones’ Interview of Ralph

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Ralph sat in his chair kicking his feet. He’s even shorter than I pictured him. He’s not a dwarf, just not a boy blessed with long legs. His green hair is the brightest point in my gray and brown office. It shines like a beacon of joy and oddness.

I sit down opposite him and hold out my hand. He shakes it with a shy smile that pulls down the right side of his face. We exchange a few pleasantries while he continues to swing his feet back and forth since they can’t reach the floor. After getting over the shock of his bottle-green hair, I notice how strong his arms are for a boy his age. I notice the gentle shape to his beautiful brown eyes. They’re going to melt a lucky girl’s heart some day, I find myself thinking. A sense of sadness softens my smile. No, they won’t. I, even as I interview him, know his fate. I know no girl will ever have the opportunity to love the twist of his lip, or his brown eyes, or his green hair. I shake it off. Now is Ralph’s chance.

Let’s start with the basic’s okay, just to warm up. What’s your name?

Ralph.

Just Ralph?

Well yeah. Unborns like me don’t get last names. It’s not like we have fathers.

What’s it like to be an unborn?

Not much different from being a born, other than the last name thing, and the skills.

Skills? (Yes, I’m playing dumb to draw him out.)

You know: skills. Each unborn is harvested with skills. I guess it’s the King’s way of making sure someone wants us. I knew this guy once in Gang White (he leans in and his legs stop swinging) with the most useless skill ever. It’s amazing they didn’t just shoot him. His skill was whistling. He could whistle like his lips were some crazy flute. You should’ve seen Colin’s—that’s Gang White’s Master—Colin’s face when the boy just lit up and started whistling like a wild little bird. (Ralph shakes his head.)

What happened to him?

He got sent to the scroungers. Died I think. I don’t remember now.

And what’s your skill?

My skill? Well, it ain’t whistling. (His mouth dips down at the right with every word.) My skills metals. Iron specifically. I can work it real well, least that’s what Kent and Gil say.

Kent and Gil?

Gil salvaged me and Kent’s his brother. They’re Greenhome’s blacksmiths.

Salvaged?

Yeah, you know, salvaged. I broke the law back when I was part of Gang White. They were going to throw me in the Prison. Gil paid the cost of my crime for me and they sent me to Greenhome instead. He’s my salvager. I, I owe him everything.

Do you like living in Greenhome?

Like? Of course I like it. We have food, clothing, and Christmas. I never even knew about Christmas until I came to Greenhome. Can you imagine? All those years on the Street and never knowing about Christmas. Seems sad now. Besides, if I wasn’t at Greenhome, I’d be in the Prison or I’d be dead . . .or both. The Prison isn’t a place you want to be. I heard (again he leaned forward) that they’re all crazy in there and they do things like sew weapons into their skin and stuff. I even heard that they eat each other when they die. (He shudders believing the stories boys tell each other after the lights go out. His legs start swinging.) I’m more thankful than I can say that Gil salvaged me. I just hope, I hope I can live up to that someday.

It has to be pretty amazing to have someone willing to do that for you.

Yes it is. (His face reddens. He wipes his eye the back of his hand and sniffs.)

So, let’s change the subject. Tell me about your green hair.

Well, it’s green cause I liked the color. When I made my first lantern with Gil and Kent’s help, I smashed a green piece of glass and embedded it in the metal. It was really neat to see the glass melt and then harden. I gave it to Gil. He hung it on his door. I’m going to make him another one and give it to him for Christmas, but this one will be a lot better. I’ve learned a lot since then.

No one thinks it’s strange for you to have green hair instead of brown or blond?

Brown? Brown hair would be strange! That new kid Jonah has brown hair. He stands out like a sore thumb, so does that girl Adele. Her hair is gray. It’s not like silver or something, just gray.

So, everyone in Greenhome has hair like yours?

Yep. Some of us just stick with one color, like my green. But other kids, mostly the girls, change their hair color almost every month. It’s crazy. Who needs a new hair color that often?

How old are you, Ralph?

Twelve, I think. I’m short for my age, but I’m strong. I can beat most of the older boys in an arm wrestle. Even the one’s in training with Duke.

Training with Duke?
Yeah, every kid trains with Duke when they turn sixteen to learn basic fighting skills and how to shoot a gun. If you want, or if he wants, you can stay in and join up with Greenhome’s army.

Are you going to join Greenhome’s army?

Naw. I’m going to be a blacksmith like Gil and Kent. I’m gonna make the guns, not shoot them so much.

Don’t you think it’s strange for Greenhome to have an army, especially one filled with sixteen-year-olds?

Are you crazy? Have you seen the Streets? Look around. (He swings his arms wide.) The world isn’t a safe place. Why last summer, I heard that there was this place out west that couldn’t harvest kids, so they sent a gang to go steal other people’s kids. You think Soul and Duke are just going to let some people come steal us? You think we’re not going to help them fight that gang? Besides, Duke always says we’re safer for the training than we are without it. At least, he always says, “we ain’t in danger of shooting ourselves with the wrong end iffen we know which end the bullets come out”.

And it’s not like it’s the little kids learning. Only the older kids get trained.

I can’t help but smile at his impersonation of Duke. It’s almost spot on. Well, Ralph, I think we’re just about out of time. Any last thoughts or something you’d like to say?

I don’t think so. I just want to make sure I did Greenhome, and Gil and Kent, proud. They gave up everything for me. An unborn from Gang White? I want to make sure I don’t say anything that might get them in trouble.

I think you did just fine Ralph.

Okay, good. Thanks for talking with me.

 

He vaults out of the chair and tares out of the room running and whooping like a boy on the first day of summer. I can’t help but smile at my dear brave Ralph, smile and hope he strong enough for what’s coming. He was right about the people with no harvested unborns. He was right about the gang coming for children. I fold up my paper and put away my pen. I’m glad I had this time with a twelve-year-old blacksmith apprentice because I’ll never have it again.

 Ralph is a character in my Gentle Magic Fairy Tale, Icicle Rain.

So, how’d I do on my first character interview?

Writing Journal: Replacing Vampires

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As many of you know, and some of you don’t, I was once really into Goth stuff. Fishnets, trench coats, and black, black, black filled the closet of my early twenties. I loved all things fairies and vampires even more. For you moms out there, I eventually grew up and out and normal, except for the vampire part. There is hope.

My first two series—When Skies are Gray, and the Marriage of a Hunter—centered on vampires. (Please think Stoker, not Twilight.) I love them for their ability to communicate sin’s hold on our flesh even after we’re saved. I love them because they never overcome the thirst. I also love them because, done well, they are scary and interesting. (Think Vampire Hunter D and ‘Salem’s Lot not Sookie Stackhouse, or Antia Blake.) I like them for the moral dilemmas they present as arch villains, saved monsters, and half-breed anti-heroes. (Think Buffy, Angel, and Blade not Vampire Academy.)

But for all my love, last year I left them behind. I didn’t want to. I did a little kicking and screaming. But now I’m glad I did. It was time to excise them from my writing just like my gothic clothing removed from my closet, and my fairies taken down from the walls. Not because there was anything sinful or inherently evil about any of that, but because it was time to grow up. It was time to grow up and write something lasting for children.

As I started writing this blog post, I held my sleeping three-month-old nephew in one hand and typed with the other. It’s not quite the hunt-and-peck method employed by my grandfather, because I can almost type in the dark, but it’s not far off either. As my role at church changes from served to servant, my life becomes home-centric instead of career centric, and as my nieces and nephews grow up, my husband has encouraged me to think about what I want to teach them and what I want to share with my church. (It’s kinda like Metallica in their wild youth compared to the tame nature of their concerts now. They got kids in their life.)

Do I want my nephews and nieces to know monsters can be saved? YES! The dear little ones need salvation even now! Each of them will face their own monsterness some day, by God’s grace, and they need to know there is cleansing and salvation. Do I want to showcase that in the overused, abused vampire setting? Maybe not. Maybe I want to challenge myself as a writer to move beyond serial killers and vampires to more subtle evil, more subtle monsters cause that’s more like real life. Real life isn’t often serial killers and being stalked by beautiful people who want to drink your blood. The very reason they seem so shocking to us is their rarity.

But, they will meet self-focused people who will only be interested in what they can get out of them. They will meet themselves someday, in a dark alley, and they will wonder what happened to the innocent child who thought naps were to be avoided. They will face the choice to do what is right, or do what is easy. They will face the lies of this world—that they can see—and the truths of heaven and hell—that they can’t see. They will have to decided to be courageous or cowardly, and in those moments, I want to give them something they can hold on to, like I was given.

I don’t want to write books that I have to hide until they’re eighteen. I want books I can give then at eight. I don’t want to give them books with only butterflies and puppies, but books that are good at their heart because their focus is on the heroes and not the villains. I want to write books that show the beauty of a saved monster, not just the harshness of it.

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Coming to this realization is, in many ways, what growing up is all about.

With this in mind, I am dissecting my love of vampires and creating something new for my fairy tale world. I want a creature linked to the soul, cursed by their own selfishness, forced to renew themselves by what they once were, and ultimately savable. But I don’t want them to be blood and lust based. I don’t want them  to be stories with only sexual desire at their center. Our world is so full of that already. We’re completely unaware of how soaked and tainted we are by it. (If you don’t agree, walk through a mall and focus on how much lust is used as the main selling point.) The stain goes so deep. I want to take what I love about vampires and use that to create villains that are the perfect foil for my heroes.

The vampire world, like the gothic world, once held so much charm for me. But as I see what others are doing with this mythical creature, I’m less inclined to be associated with them. I seem to spend half my time trying to explain to people why I write what I write and then nobody reads it. A few friends did read it, and I got lots of positive reviews on line. I’ve been honored by having people say I’m redeeming vampires for Christ, and that they’re as good as Ann Rice and not at all like that Twilight stuff. But, they weren’t serving my church. They weren’t something I could let stand on their own. I had to support them with lots of caveats. I had to imagine them on a shelf next to books I would never in a million years read. I had to face the fact that I’m in my mid thirties and still writing about vampires. Time to grow up. No. Time to grow. I need to grow. I need to find a way to communicate what I love more clearly, simply, and effectively.

I’ve always tried to avoid the fantasy troupe of taking something we’re all familiar with like elves and having them in my world just with a different name. I’ve always thought that was kinda dumb. Just call them elves. But, I’m about to give it a try, and I hope to do it in a way I don’t find dumb. (I also swore I’d never write YA fantasy…but here we are.) I take heart in the fact that one of my human characters turned into a wolf when he went to the Spirit World, making him the closest I’ll ever get to having a werewolf. And he wasn’t really that. It was more a subtle, sub-conscious thing.

So, as I get finished with my first rough draft of my Fairy Tale, things are moving and growing. Things are twisting and tangling in my mind. I hope to have something that I can love as much as I love vampires, but with less baggage and more purity. I think that’s part of growing up too: respecting purity. I will never under why we have to see the darkness to respect the light, but I’m thankful God is longsuffering and never leaves us or forsakes us.

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Why I blog?

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I’ve been asked several times in my life why I write and why I blog? To give back to a community that has given so much to me while also answering that question, I decided to ask several of my favorite bloggers (sorry Josh, it’s never going to leave my vocabulary) the same question and collect their thoughts as guest posts. There are links at the bottom to each of the articles and there you will find links to these five wonderful blogs. Now it’s my turn:


 

Well, to be honest, I’m one of those strange people born with a need for self-expression. And not so much self-expression, as a need to share the beauty of what I see with the world around me. I see trees, clouds, sky, grass, birds, a magnificent horse, the heart-breaking death of a warrior, a child’s laugh and I feel the need to capture it, package it, and share it with the world. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. What does this mean? Before I’m a writer, at my most inner core, I’m a story-teller. I love stories. I always have.

I tried painting. Oh, how I wanted to be an artist with a canvas and a world of colors. But, paintings never flowed from my fingers. I tried drawing and got an A for coming to class every day, not for any great piece of art—although my doodling improved. I tried music. How I longed to capture what I felt and saw in the stringing of notes together. Is there anything more powerful than music for expressing the human condition? I did okay. But when I reached the crossroads of more practice or dropping my lessons, I dropped my lessons. More practice just didn’t seem worth it. I tried photography. And while I can shoot a pretty picture, I fail to see the story in my own shot. It’s just not there.

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Somewhere along the way, much inspired by Tolkien, and encouraged by my husband, I picked up the one art form I hadn’t tried. I picked up a pen and started writing. It was like coming home. Writing allowed all that I saw in my head to flow out of me. It gave me a means to share the magic of the world that I constantly saw around me.

I couldn’t capture the dust floating like so much fairy-powder in a golden sunbeam in music, paint, shutter lens, or graphite, but I could capture it in words. I could show you how they dust glitters and sparkles. I could let you see the magic through my eyes that would change how you look at the common sun shining through the window. I can turn common into a glowing soldier locking tiny sparkles in an incandescent prison. I can drive common away with mention of Peter Pan, happy thoughts, and fairy dust. I can sit you in a sunbeam and sail you away to Never Neverland. With words, I can paint. With words I can weave together a song all people can cling to. With words I can capture a moment and freeze it forever. With words I can smug just a little gray to make a powerful shadow.

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Words, writing, storytelling. This is why I blog. I blog because blogging is the easiest way in our modern-day and age to share what I’ve always wanted to share. Blogging lets me interact with readers in a way in which I couldn’t if I had to wait until my novel was finished. Blogging lets me encourage, inspire, challenge, and build up in a way that would be impossible in any other time. I could submit articles to magazines, but why not let you just read what pours out of my fingers?

This way, you the reader can sort and find the authors you want to read. You can find people who are like-minded, or very different in their mindsets and beliefs. You can read my blog, or Heather’s, Deanna’s, Raelea’s, Josh’s, or Rob’s and find articles that make you ponder, that help you as you tend to those in your life, that inspire you, inform you, and share a little of each of us with…well…you.

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That, my friends, is why I blog. I blog because I’m a writer, and I’m a writer because I’m a storyteller. So jump in the deep end of blogging. Read, comment, and start one yourself, if you’re so inclined. Take the advice and thoughts from this month’s guest posts and put them to good use. Ask questions. Get advice. Network with other bloggers.

And if you’re not a writer, thank goodness. Cause there’s one thing us writers need: Readers. We need readers to cheer us on, offer a counterpoint and advice, share our musing with others, suggest article ideas, and connect us with the world. We need you! This is why I blog!

 


 

I hope you’ve grown to understand why we bloggers do what we do. I hope you’ve seen that our takes on blogging are as diverse as we are. Maybe you’ve even a little inspired. The blogging world is a pretty friendly place, ready to offer advice and support. Feel free to comment on any of our blogs and ask questions! Thanks again for reading!

Guest Posts:

Heather FitzGerald

Deanna Brown

Raelea Hiller

Josh Magill

Rob Akers

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Thank you Michael Fedison for inviting me to the Writing Process Blog Tour. This is my first blog tour and I’m really excited to be part of it.

Michael is the author of the ‘coming of age’ book, The Eye-Dancers. This is the story of four young boys who slip into another world and must find a missing girl and their way home. Each boy faces his greatest weakness and finds a chance to shine as their metal is tested. I really enjoyed the characters in this book, the young and innocent love story, and the focus on friendship. You should check it out! Michael also authors the Eye-Dancers blog, which I adore. His articles are well written, insightful, and beautiful. I’m honored to join him on this Blog Tour.

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So about me:

What am I working on?

I am working on four separate, yet connected projects. My blog is my outlet to the world with articles ranging from religion/theology, movie and book reviews, to writing journals and advice. On my blog, I also featuring two different series. One is about my nieces and nephews, which I hope to publish someday as children’s stories. Most of them are about the silly things they do and say, while some are longer ‘moralistic’ stories. I alternate those with a Secret Agent series featuring my older, twin nieces. Someday, I would like to publish the series as a MG (Middle Grade) book.

When I’m not working on those, I’m working on my fairy tale for Young Adults. The story takes place in a fantastical/steam punk setting with an economy based on child labor and children soldiers. It’s a dark story about the seventh son of the seventh son and the lost Arts.

I generally alternate between the two every two weeks.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

This is always a hard question to answer. I guess the main difference between my work and others in the young adult field is my Christian worldview and my focus on the ideas of the undeserved rescue. This means I have bad people being saved and living in light of that salvation. Like Hunger Games, I don’t steer away from darker concepts, but like Tolkien, I have copious amounts of hope mixed in. I write in a more poetic voice than is typical for the YA genre and don’t focus so much on the teenage drama typical of YA fantasy.

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Why do I write what I do?

I write my blog to encourage my church. I write my children’s stories to capture this precious time in the lives of my nieces and nephews. I write my fairy tales because much of my previous work was too dark. Changing it to YA Fairy Tales helps me control the darkness and increase the light. I write because I love stories. I especially love heroic stories about warriors, the women who love them, brotherhood in battle, and mercy shown to monsters. I’ve been telling stories since I was a little girl and I’ll do it until the day I die.

How does your writing process work?

Strangely enough, I usually daydream during the few minutes before I fall asleep. From the seeds of these half-done stories, I discover the trees of my fairy tales. Some stories take root and some don’t. Either way, my daydreaming moves on to different worlds, different characters, and different plots. Many of these ‘between-sleep-and-awake’ stories feature the same characters over and over again in a new and fresh circumstance, which gives me a lot of familiarity with them when I go to type.

I don’t outline. Usually, I start at a point of high emotion and work towards another scene of high emotion really giving the characters room to grow and move. As the story unfolds, I take notes and document important side characters and places within the world. Editing happens after the basics of the story are complete. If I do enough proper world building the rest of the series tends to flow nicely out of the first book.  Because I’m more of a pantser, I will never publish a series until all the books are finished. There’s just too much back and forth editing between each book in the series to publish one before the others are done.

My blog posts are usually inspired by something I’m feeling fired up about, or something someone has asked me about. I try to keep them to a 1000 words or less and can usually crank one out each morning unless I’m working on one of my children’s stories. Those take a little longer. I read the blog posts out loud to check them and then give them another going over on the morning they go up. I like to be ahead on my blog in case real life invades my writing time.

I’m an early morning writer and do most of my work between 530 and 730 am while the sun rises.

1535525_10202921846195107_664240107_nNow, here are three other bloggers/writers that I enjoy who have agreed to talk about their own writing process:

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Heather Fitzgerald is a dear friend and soon to be published author. Her blog Tethered Together has been a great blessing and challenge to me. Heather writes YA fiction with a CS Lewis style and is currently going through Madeleine L’Engle  Walking on Water on her blog. I trust you will find it a refreshing  and thought provoking place to stop and read for a bit.

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Rob Akers is a fellow writer/blogger and also Iraqi War Veteran. His blog charts his time spent in the Middle East and other adventures along with some opinion posts and sports articles. Rob is a fellow contributor to the Magill Review and has recently sent me his novel with copious promises to appreciate all the red I’m pouring on it. I’ve loved and loyally read Rob’s blog for a couple years and always enjoy our extended comment conversations.

1383681_176272072576788_5656032_nRaelea Hiller is a young writer fresh on the college scene. She has always focused on her poetry, but recently she has started to dip her toes in the deep pool of novel writing. I’m excited to see where she goes! Raelea is also a fabulous artist and a wonderful fashionista. The poetry you will find on her blog is beautiful and sometimes haunting.

Writing Journal: Introducing Sisterhood

492599If you follow me around in real life, on FaceBook, and or read my Blog, you will quickly realize that one of my favorite concepts in stories—right after the idea of the Undeserved Rescue—is Brotherhood. I love action flicks with a core group that would kill for each other. I love stories about enemies becoming inseparable friends. I love stories about cops and their partners. I love war stories because of the brotherhood concept. Band of Brothers is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, but I feel like you see this same idea play out, to lesser degrees, in StarTrek: NG, Firefly, Sherlock, and Chuck. It’s all about the person next to you. It’s all about the guy willing to spill blood to defend you, even his own. It’s what I love about Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. It is what I love about Lord of the Rings.

With all that said, it’s not surprising that my Fairytale has at least two brotherhoods forming in Book 1. I’m diligently working on a brotherhood within the antagonist’s army and a brotherhood centered around my protagonists. Since brotherhoods tend to form in the middle of intense situations like combat, and since I’m a bit conservative and think combat should be left to men, and since it typically has been left to men so men are the ones forming these brotherhoods, my protagonist is a male. In fact, most of the books I’ve written have a male protagonist.

Why?

Most of the books I enjoy reading have male protagonist. It’s not that there aren’t books with lead females out there. It’s not that women don’t have adventures. It’s just that I never find books and stories with lead females as interesting or as fun as I do the ones with lead males. This started back when I had a choice between the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Can you guess which one I picked? (If you guess Nancy Drew you need to start this article over and try again. 🙂 )

Why is this?

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I’ll be honest, and a bit hard on my own sex, I find stories with lead females a bit annoying. Either the woman is doing something completely ridiculous in some vain attempt to prove that she’s just as big and bad as the guys are, or she’s standing in a corner screaming with a phaser not three inches from her hand while her man gets beat to death, or she’s eye candy. There are very few stories where the woman is a woman. And the ones where she is being a woman can be a bit harder to make interesting because they can end up catty, manipulative, and self focused. I just don’t think they’re as fun as male driven stories. (And yes, if you’re wondering, I was a Tomboy growing up.) What it really came down to was boys had adventures and girls had boyfriends. I would rather have an adventure.

Me and my Bestie!

Me and my Bestie!

Then, a dear friend laid down a challenge. She pointed out the many wonderful relationships I have with other women. I’ve been blessed with a wise mother and extra mother, grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-Christ, wise older women, and a very dear best friend, and many nieces. I have more dear women than I can possibly name in my life right now. I have women who are going before me into old age and widowhood, I have young women coming up behind me into marriage, life, and adulthood. I wouldn’t trade these women for the world. I love each and every one of them. My dear friend, who is a woman, asked me why I don’t have more of those types of female relationships in my books? They are some of the best friendships I’ve had, why don’t I mirror the brotherhood concept with a sisterhood concept? If I hated women being written just to have boyfriends, why was I doing the same thing. (Don’t read this the wrong way, I think loving a man and being loved by him, being married, is one of the most wonderful and rewarding relationships you can have.)

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I was floored. I couldn’t believe how long I’d missed the opportunity to share something that has always been a part of my life. Facepalm.

Again, I find myself beholden to a woman while I write about a man. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be: Women supporting women who are helping men? So now I’m weaving women together. I have a mother and now I have a GateKeeper and a few elements who are women, plus some other girls. I’m shooting for a story that has brotherhoods, sisterhoods, and also some marriages.

I hope to show the positive sides of women and sisterhoods without reducing them down to catty relationships. One of the things I hated most about the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan was his sisterhoods. Every woman in the book constantly manipulated the men around them for their own ends. It grew very frustrating. It was like watching all that is the worst part of you instead of being encouraged to be better. I want to have a story more like Lord of the Rings that makes you want to be a better person when you finish reading it.

With this challenge accepted, I will be working on my female characters. I will be exploring what makes women and men different and how those things compliment each other. I have some good books to read, good movies to watch, and of course some interesting personal experiences to draw from. Plus, I have a whole host of Godly women ready to help me! I’m gearing up and ready to go!

 

Writing Journal: Now what?

fairy_tale_comes_to_life_by_chervona-d66vqmkI’m writing this having been sick for almost two weeks. By the time it gets posted and you’re reading it, I hope I’m a bit better. For the first week, I could do nothing more than lay on the couch and watch movies, sometimes read. For the second week, as long as I stayed on the couch, I felt relatively okay. Even long, drawn out conversations or facebooking left me feeling exhausted. But, at least during this second week I’ve been able to write. And write I did. I’ve tried to get some blog post going. I’ve thought about all the blog posting that needs to be done. But mostly I’ve worked on my fairy tale. I’m not up to my normal typing speed just yet, and I feel like I have more blog post to write than I can ever find time to write. But at least I’m feeling well enough to get something done.

And something is what I did. I got my fairy tale to the point of well . . . I’m not really sure. I have five main story lines. I’ve been working for weeks to get three of those five story lines together. And Eureka! It happened. I got everyone where they needed to be! Yes! As soon as I did, my brain just fizzled out. I know what I want the end result to be. I know where, far in the future, I want them to be, but I pushed so hard to get three of the lines together, that now I’m not sure what happens next, as in the next few hours.

imagesIt’s like braiding or weaving. You have five different colored strands draped over your fingers. One by one, you fold them over and under one another to create a beautiful image. Three of the colors create this perfect pattern in your mind. So you work and you work and you work those colors. Suddenly, their pattern is complete! Now, it’s time to weave the other two colors back in before you can move forward.

After puzzling over my fairy tale for a while, I realized I couldn’t move the story forward until I went back, found the other two story lines, and got them caught up. I’m still feeling a bit fizzled, but I know where I’m going. That helps. I’m still feeling stumped. But, I think once I get this person and that person caught up with the rest of the gang, things will become clear.

One of the advantages to doing something for a long time, over 10 years now, is gaining a bit of confidence. I’m confident that if I just leave the fizzled part alone, watch a few movies, read a few books, work on the other story lines, the fizzle will bloom into a glowing firefly. How do I know that? How do I know that I just haven’t reached the sad end to a short fairy tale? Cause I’ve had fizzles before and I’ve worked through them. Now off to read and feed the muse! Off to weave with different colored threads!

Any excuse to talk about fireflies or firefly...I'm taking!

Any excuse to talk about fireflies or firefly…I’m taking!