Monthly Archives: January 2015

Gillian Bronte Adams’ New Novella: Out of Darkness Rising

This post is full of some amazing things – so don’t leave until you’ve had a chance to see them all! First of all, I’m proud to announce that the beautiful and talented Gillian Bronte Adams will soon be releasing a novella: Out of Darkness Rising. Just look at that gorgeous cover!!

Now keep scrolling to hear more about the book, to watch the awesome book trailer, and to enter a great giveaway that Gillian is hosting.

OODR Front Cover

Darkness reigns unchallenged.

For the villagers on the accursed Island, life has only one meaning – death.  Bound to the Island by the curse, the villagers suffer beneath the iron claw of the serpent, daily breathing the poison of his breath and dying to appease his insatiable appetite.

When Marya’s parents are slain by the serpent for their belief in a legendary king, she becomes an Outcast.  Struggling to survive and avoid the vengeance of the Tribunal, Marya is torn between legend and the harsh reality of the Island.  Yet when a forgotten promise springs to life, she cannot help wondering if the old stories might in fact be true.  And if they are, will the promise prove stronger than the curse?

Coming March 15, 2015

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ENTER YOUR NAME TO WIN AN ARC COPY OF OUT OF DARKNESS RISING

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Gillian Bronte AdamsGillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas and the dreamer behind the Songkeeper Chronicles. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist.

To find out more about Gillian Bronte Adams’s books, visit www.OfBattlesDragonsandSwordsofAdamant.blogspot.com.

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Traditional vs Self Publishing

publishing

Recently author Tialla Rising and I had a chat about the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing. I talked about my experience publishing traditionally, and she talked about hers in self publishing. Here are the two interviews we had for each other! If you are thinking about publishing at all, maybe our experience will give you some insight.

SELF-PUBLISHING

ASHLEE:  How difficult is self-publishing? Doing everything yourself seems kind of daunting to me – is it as hard as it sounds?

TIALLA:  I actually didn’t do everything myself.  The thought of doing everything, as in designing the cover, formatting the interior, formatting the eBook….that is certainly daunting.  However, I purchased CreateSpace’s services to design my cover and format the interior, plus the eBook, so it wasn’t nearly as hard as it probably could have been.  However, I do know several self-published authors who have done everything under the sun by themselves, and they say it actually isn’t too hard.  I’d still be nervous to do it, considering I have no idea what I’m doing, but perhaps it wouldn’t be incredibly difficult after all.

ASHLEE:  Did you consider having your own “publishing company” to publish your books under, as I’ve heard some self-published authors do? What would be the benefit of that?

TIALLA:  I am very impressed by self-published authors who are brave enough to create their own publishing company.  Simply as an indie author with CreateSpace, if you want something done, you usually have to do it (with some exceptions).  However, if an author has their own publishing company, they literally have to do Every. Single. Thing. Themselves.  Meaning, the writing, editing, designing, formatting, printing, binding, shipping, listing on websites, the copyright, ISBN…everything.  The thought of doing that is rather terrifying to me.  I’d much rather let CreateSpace take care of the listings, printing, binding, copyright, and ISBN.  So no, creating my own publishing company really never was an option for me.

ASHLEE:  How difficult is it to do all the “business” stuff … obtaining an ISBN and copyright, uploading your book to various sites, etc.?

TIALLA:  This is partly why I love CreateSpace so much.  They take of the ISBN, copyright, and listing my books on various sites.  Now, authors do have the option of using their own ISBN instead of a CreateSpace ISBN, but I honestly have no idea what that would entail.  I’ve simply used the CreateSpace ISBN, and I haven’t had any problems.  Also, about the copyright…technically once you publish something under your name, you are claiming the copyright.  Copyrights really aren’t as scary as they seem, and you can read more about them here.

ASHLEE:  What are some of your favorite things about self-publishing?

TIALLA:  I love having the control over my work.  After all, the book is my “baby.”  I love that if I want to do something with my book, and I have the means for it, I can—and I have the final say.  If I don’t want to do something, I have absolutely no obligation to.  It’s as simple as that.  I also enjoy the higher royalties, though it really depends on where the book is purchased.

ASHLEE:  I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how horribly unpleasant it is to format their eBook. Is it really so bad?

TIALLA:  I haven’t formatted my own eBook, so I really don’t know.  For first-timers, I’ve heard it’s pretty complicated.  However, I’ve also heard it’s easier/faster than formatting the paperbook.  I suppose it really just depends on the person, how much experience they have, what program they are using, and if they know what they’re doing.

ASHLEE:  Do you spend a lot of money on advertisement or marketing? Or do you mainly do that from your own social media or with other bloggers?

TIALLA:  Well, considering I am nineteen, I don’t have all that much money to put towards professional publishing.  Because of that, a lot of my marketing involves other bloggers, Goodreads giveaways (AMAZING networking opportunity, by the way), and social media.

ASHLEE:  What site/company did you self-publish through? Can you tell me a little about the basics of using that company? I’ve heard of CreateSpace, but not really any other self-publishing places.

TIALLA:  I published through CreateSpace, which is an Amazon company.  This means that when you publish your work through them, the book is automatically listed on Amazon, which is super helpful.  Also, authors have the option of choosing an “Expanded Distribution” option, which will list the book on Barnes and Noble, Google Books, and many more on the web.  I’ve come across my book on at least fifteen different sites that I didn’t even know existed.

Anyway, with CreateSpace, you can either upload your own print-ready PDFs of your interior and cover, or you can purchase their services to create and format them for you.  You can also purchase their services to format your book into a Kindle book.

ASHLEE:  Do you have a print run of your paperbacks? Or does your self-publishing service allow you to do print-on-demand?

TIALLA:  All books published through CreateSpace do print-on-demand.  I’ve heard that most other self-publishers do this as well, but I don’t know if it counts for all of them.

ASHLEE:  Who mails out your orders of paperbacks when they are purchased? Is that your responsibility? Amazon’s? How does that work?

TIALLA:  When someone purchases a book anywhere on the web, Amazon mails out the order.  That’s another reason why I love CreateSpace…they take care of all that for me.

ASHLEE:  How complicated is it to get the digital version of your cover design to look right on the paperback? Are there a lot of things you had to learn about as far as color schemes, etc., to get the finished cover to look like you wanted it after it was printed?

TIALLA:  Once again, I didn’t design my cover for my first book, “Holding the Future Hostage,” but it looked great when I received the proof, so I have a feeling the CreateSpace designer perfected that before sending it to me.  However, it’s been a bit of a different story with my second book, “Where Shadows Lie.”  WSL has a rather dark cover, so even though the digital looked great, it was far too dark once printed.  My designer, Perry Elisabeth (perryelisabeth.blogspot.com) and I will play around with lightening techniques a bit before finalizing it.

ASHLEE:  What percentages of your sales do you get from the various sites your book is available through?

TIALLA:  Amazon Kindle: about 70% of the profit (by far the most of all sites)

Amazon: about $3, give or take some change.

CreateSpace eStore: about $6, give or take some change.

Barnes and Noble: about 20 cents.

If my book is purchased from any other site than these mentioned, the royalty really isn’t anything.  As you can see, it’s pretty small for Barnes and Noble, even.  Everyone has to get their cut, I suppose.

ASHLEE:  Did you have any sort of detailed marketing plan before your book was released? What did you do to get it out there in front of people?

TIALLA:  Before my book was released, I began a blog to start publicizing my soon-to-be-published novel.  I was actually able to meet lots of people through the blogosphere, so that was definitely a great start.  Soon afterward, I signed up for Facebook.  I’m on lots of other social sites now, including Pinterest, Tumblr, G+, YouTube, and Instagram.  Marketing through these socials have really helped me connect with other authors and readers alike.  I don’t know if it’s resulted in many sales, but the networking helps to just get my name out there.

ASHLEE:  Can you tell me about how much you have to pay to purchase your own author copies?

TIALLA:  I pay about $6.63 per each copy I purchase, and then a whole lot more for shipping. 😉  Even though I have a vanity publishinggreat discount per each book, it’s the shipping that kills me.

ASHLEE:  What are the differences between self-publishing companies and vanity presses?

TIALLA:  Vanity presses are sites that offer publishing packages for at least $100 each.  These sites have big “Publish Now” buttons and are plastered with positive testimonials.  Even though they sound good, RUN AWAY.  You should not have to pay to publish your book.  Now, there is a difference if you are paying someone specifically for designing your cover, or specifically for formatting your interior.  However, you shouldn’t have to purchase any “package” for a few hundred dollars in order to publish your book.  You and your book deserve more than that.  Believe me, I’ve fallen into the trap of vanity presses before—three times, actually.  If you’re looking at a website, and you’re not sure if it’s a vanity press or not, send me an email at therubyvial@commspeed.net.  I’ll be happy to take a look at it for you.

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TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING

TIALLA:  What was the timeline between an agent/publisher interested in your work and the book being published?  Do you think this is about average or shorter/longer?

ASHLEE:  I began sending proposals in Jan 2013. I heard from the publisher around May of that year expressing interest. They offered me a contract around Oct 2013. In June 2014 my book released. So all in all it was about a year-long process (from the time they expressed interest to the time the book was in my hands!). I think that’s probably about average for traditionally published books, more or less.

TIALLA:  Did you have a say in the editing process-as in, keeping certain phrases or words and removing others?  Did the publisher have the final say?

ASHLEE:  I did, yes. They were very willing to work with me on any changes they proposed that I wasn’t ok with. Luckily they didn’t have any big-picture changes they wanted made to the overall structure of the story, so I didn’t have to deal with that.

TIALLA:  Would you recommend finding an agent first before contacting publishers, or is that not as necessary as it seems?

ASHLEE:  I think it has everything to do with what you, as the writer, want. If you already know you want to self-publish, or you’d like to go with a small name publisher and you’re comfortable researching your publishing contracts and coming up with your own marketing plan, you probably don’t need one.

Some things, though, an agent can do for you that you can’t do for yourself. They have connections, they can get your proposals in to big name publishers (which most times won’t even accept a query directly from the writer herself).

Agents don’t necessarily all offer the same thing either. Some agents may be more focused on marketing, some of them may be better at helping you revise. So again, it’s what you, as an individual writer, are looking for.

TIALLA:  What are your suggestions for writing a good-convincing-query letter to agents/publishers?

Query letters are always sooo tedious, there’s just no getting around it in my opinion! The trick for me was not to send off the first letter I wrote. I just hated them so much that once I got that first draft finished I was like, ok, here we go! Send! But you have to revise your query letters just like you’d revise your book. Maybe even more so! Because they are the first (and maybe only!) impression you get to make on an agent or publisher.

Another thing that’s crucial is making sure that your proposal follows the exact guidelines for each individual agent you are sending it to. That means you won’t be able to get away with writing just one query letter and sending copies of it to all the agents or publishers you’re interested in. You have to tailor-make each letter, bring out the points of your book or proposal
that appeal most to that particular agent (according to the research you’ve done on him/her). If they see that you’ve followed their guidelines exactly, that tells them a lot about you as a person and as a writer, and they will be much more apt to consider your proposal.

TIALLA:  I’ve noticed that a lot of query letter submissions require the author to explain why they are qualified to write the novel.  This seems rather daunting to me since I personally didn’t starting writing because I thought I was “qualified.”  I wrote because I had a passion for the story, simple as that.  How would you recommend tackling that question in a way that would convince agents/publishers to represent us?

ASHLEE:  I think most times you’ll hear that question is when you’re querying for a non-fiction book that would require some extensive knowledge about a certain subject.

However, the times I’ve come across that question before, or questions like “what are your previously published works” … well, what can you do but ignore them, actually? If you have no special qualifications for writing what publishing2you’ve written, it’s best not to bring attention to the fact. What I would do, though, if you feel you need to address the question in some way, is to outline exactly what you said: that you have a great passion for the subject you’ve written about.

TIALLA:  You’ve mentioned that it’s important to stay away from publishers who want you to sell ALL the rights to your book.  I hadn’t even realized it was possible to keep some rights.  Which rights would you deem important to keep?

ASHLEE:  I think most legitimate publishers would never ask you to flat out sell your rights to them in the first place. What a normal publishing contract does is to LICENSE the publisher to USE some of the rights to your work – such as editing, creating cover art for it, printing and of course listing and selling your book. No one could do that, obviously, without your permission as the author. Therefore you have to have an agreement that says basically, “yeah, I’ll allow you to do these things to help me out with my book, and in return you get a percentage of my sales.” My contract (and I’m assuming most publishing contracts) says something about the publisher “having the right to edit and revise the work, provided that the meaning of the work isn’t materially altered.” So you’re protected against your book being changed in any big ways.

It’s good to keep the rights to anything you think the publisher won’t take advantage of or actively pursue. For instance, if the publisher has no intention, or just doesn’t have the budget, to do an audio version of your book, you should keep those rights. That way if you decide you want to use those yourself down the road, you don’t have to play tug of war with your publisher. Same goes for movie rights or anything else like that.

TIALLA:  What do you pay for author copies of your book?

ASHLEE:  I pay just over 40% of the listed price of my books (that comes to around $5.50 per book). That means that when I sell the author copies on my own, I make 60% of the listed price (as opposed to the 30% I get when the publisher sells it).

TIALLA:  What are some of the most important reasons for having an agent?  Navigating publishing contracts?  Help with marketing/book signings, etc?

ASHLEE:  Well my situation is a bit different. I started querying publishers before I did agents, so by the time I got an agent I was already in the midst of negotiating a contract with my publishers. So I feel like I haven’t probably felt the full effect of the benefit of having an agent yet. I think after my next book is finished I’d be able to answer that question better. So far, though, my agent has helped me communicate ideas or concerns I have to my publisher in a clearer way than I’d be able to do myself. She’s also given me some tips on marketing.

TIALLA:  Could you list some qualities you think a good agent should possess?  On the other hand, what are some red-flags when it comes to agents?

ASHLEE:  It’s important to research each agent you want to query, and it’s important to remember that basically, you are hiring the agent – not the other way around! Yes, the agent is looking for specific things in your book, but you also have a right to look for certain things you may want in the person who is to represent you. You may want an agent who is willing to update you frequently on the status of your proposals. Or you may want an agent who is really aggressive with a marketing plan. Etc. It also helps if you can personally get along with your agent, almost like you would a friend. You’ll need to be able to trust that your agent’s vision for your work is similar to your own – that you’re both on the same page about where it is going and the potential it has. Not to mention, she should just have faith in your story and your talent in general!

I’d say anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, stay away from. If the agent is pushing you in a direction that you’ve already made clear you don’t want to go, that’s a bad sign. If she asks for too many rights or too high of a percentage of your proceeds, that’s not good either. Also I’ve heard of some agents who want to begin working for the author and sending out proposals before anything official and legal has been decided as far as their representation. That basically means the agent doesn’t want to take a risk by signing you until she already has proof that a publisher is interested – you definitely want to stay away from that sort of agent, too!

A Thing or Two About Centaurs

centaurs

  1. The most popular theory of how this mythical creature came about was when the Minoans, a people who lived around 2700-1400 BC, first saw a tribe of nomads. The Minoans were a non-riding culture; the nomads were great horsemen. To the eyes of the Minoans, watching horse and man move so fluidly together, it looked as if they were one creature.
  2. According to Greek myth, the first centaur was the child of Ixion (king of the Lapiths) and Nephele (a nymph cloud disguised to look like Hera). Zeus wished to test Ixion, whom he knew desired his own wife, Hera. Thus he sent the cloud to him in the appearance of Hera. When Ixion succumbed to the temptation, Zeus punished him by making his offspring a strange and hideous half-breed: the centaur.
  3. Kentaurides, or female centaurs, did not appear in the earliest Greek mythology. However, they began to show up in later antiquity, though not often.
  4. Historically, there was much strife between man and centaur. Zeus was known to send centaurs to punish both gods and humans who had offended him.
  5. Though Chiron is one of the best known of all mythical centaurs, his knowledgeable and honorable character was rather in contrast to most stories of centaurs, in which they are rowdy, drunken, and even sometimes evil.
  6. Many say the centaur represents the struggle within each of us between good and evil, god and beast. Others see the centaur quite differently: as a pure symbol of wisdom, foresight and knowledge.
  7. The ancient Thessalian tribes claimed that the horses they bred and raised were descended from the race of centaurs.
  8. The Greek writer Homer refers specifically to a centaur (kentauros) in the Odyssey. However, in other of his centaur1writings, he calls them “pheres” (beasts), which might have meant he was merely referring to a horse and rider (alluding to the savagery of the man riding the horse, or perhaps the horse, or “beast,” itself).
  9. In the first century BC, a man named Lucretius actually went so far as to lay out specific reasons denying the existence of centaurs (which means, of course, that many must have believed in their existence to begin with!). His argument hinged on the different rates of growth between a man and horse. A horse that is three is in the prime of life, whereas a man of only three is … well, not a man, but a baby. Therefore a hybrid man-beast would be impossible.
  10. Indian mythology shows “evidence” of centaurs (or something very similar). Ancient art and sculptures from India show images of horses with the torso of a man where the horse-head should be.
  11. Not many know where the Greek word “kentauros” came from originally. Translated literally, it means “piercing bull-slayer” or “piercing bull-sticker,” which some argue could have been describing something as simple as a group of men mounted on horses, shooting with bows and arrows at a herd of bulls.
  12. At the University of Tennessee there is an exhibit called “Centaur from Volos.” Made by sculptor Bill Willers, the exhibit is a combination of a human skeleton and the skeleton of a Shetland pony. It was originally made with the intention of misleading students, in order to make them more “critically aware.” Yikes.
  13. Two of my favorite centaurs: Roonwit, from Narnia (The Last Battle), and Firenze, from the Harry Potter series. Both of these centaurs are depicted as future-seers, star-gazers, as wise and kind and brave.

I chose to make the centaurs in my book wise and kind as well. Yet I can’t help seeing the possibilities of using centaurs in fiction a different sense, now I’ve researched them a bit more. The fact that some people saw centaurs as creatures that represented the struggle between good and evil, god and man … what ideas that inspires!

What do you think?

Reminiscences …

I was looking through some old family photos today, and got the idea that it would be fun to share a few of them with you. When I first meet a friend, I like to get to know them by asking questions about how they grew up. A person’s past is like a treasure trove of clues for how they came to be who they are … Many times, great fuel for a writer’s imagination! So today I’ll show you a few of the pictures that characterize “how I came to be.” Just promise you won’t giggle too much 🙂

Reading, of course, was one of my biggest pastimes. I pretty much read everywhere …

ash reading

…out of dresser drawers…

ash, age 5

…buried in my parents’ closet…

reading

…giggling between a sister and friend…

I’ve always had a bit of a flare for the dramatic …

ashlee

That’s me on the left, dancing in The Nutcracker ballet.

ashlee

Thinking deeply about … um … a change of fashion, perhaps?

ashlee

Bounding into the water on our first visit to the ocean. My dad was quick with the camera on that one!

… and a little bit of quirkiness, too 🙂

ashlee

ash

My darling cats were a huge part of my growing up, of course. Well, they and my horse and goats and dogs and the neighbor’s llamas that shared our pasture …

kittens

My sister and I showcasing our brand new kittens!

Penny

Our sweet Penny. The house I grew up in is in the background.

Prince

My horse, Prince.

And just so we’re PERFECTLY clear … my sister and I were NEVER those girls who dressed up their animals …. ahem … never…….

snowbell

 

Umm … yeah.

pumpkin

Pumpkin looks sooo happy!!

Right. Moving on …

My life wouldn’t have been the same – nor would I have been – without my little sister, who is still my best friend today.

sisters

Being home-schooled was also something that helped shape my personality … not to mention allowed me to continue to pursue my love for writing and reading.

ash grad

My tiny home-school graduate class … I’m the one hiding behind the hat on the far left.

And last, but not least, something many of you may well be unaware of … I am, in fact, an angel 😀

ashlee

So many memories, and as I sift through them I see a glimmer here and there of some of the things that, though I didn’t recognize them at the time, led me down the path to becoming who and what I am today. Doesn’t it make you wonder you’re doing today that will affect who you grow into tomorrow …?

 

Ice Maidens in Real Life

This is a guest post by E. Kaiser Writers, whose winter fairy tale trilogy, Thaw, has just released. Be sure to check out her books, her site, and other information at the end of this post! Also, enter your name in a great giveaway (link also below) for the ARC of Winter’s Child!!

I’m so excited to read her series, based on the classic fairy tale of the Snow Queen. It looks truly enchanting!

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In the newly released Thaw books the princess Ilise is a “winter’s child”, an answer to her barren parents’ long years of prayer for a baby.

When they share a moment of closeness amid their sorrow and build a baby out of snow, they whisper secret plans that can never come true of the daughter they will never have.

“I would name her Ilise.” The king says, “I read it in a book. It is from the southern lands, and it means blessed.”

The queen drops a sweet tear on the snow baby in her arms, and the little snow figure disappears.E. Kaiser promo

Then a soft voice of the Winter Angel tells them that their prayers have been answered, and their Ilise, their blessed one, will be born next winter. “And she will be a special child.”

Overcome with joy, thus starts a fairy-tale that has unexpected results for the royal couple.

Their child is pale, perfect, and lovely. Studious and proper, she is does everything just as she ought and there is no room for improvement on this delightful gift.

But as her parents cuddle and coddle her, just how “special” the Angel meant becomes clearer with the years, and she goes from tracing the frost on the window to making it, from showing off her talents with pony ice sculptures to ice automatons, to the full blown fortress of ice that she eventually immures herself completely inside.

Her story is too long to share here, but she is not the only one who freezes those around her and  shuts herself off from the world.

There are those among us, though born of less fairy-tale means, that have the power to psychologically “freeze” those around us, and we too retreat into our towers and refuse to come out.

Although in the real world this has limited repercussions compared to Ilise’s dramatic problems; it is still not healthy and we need to find ways to release the grip of ice on our hearts and learn “how to thaw”.

I know this because I am/was one of them. A middle child finds it easy to feel forgotten, and a quiet one simply retreats further within.

I was “the smart one”, so while I couldn’t make others feel “put in their place” through my athletic prowess or my charismatic personality, growing up I was often tempted to “put the chill” on someone simply by upstaging their incorrect information/ or pointing out a truer fact that cut their argument off at the knees.

My family is rife with choleric personalities, so for someone who hates conflict (which I truly do) I found myself in that kind of hot seat quite a lot over the years. Since I didn’t have the roaring fire of a powerful personality on my side, I had to reach for other ammunition, and since logic and facts were respected in my house, my intellect became my archery squad.

Many of the fights never should have happened, but like most families, our parents were elsewhere and childish tempers raged… even well into the teens. (Actually, cross that out, because they still do from time to time.)

Anyway, my point is that where some of my siblings grew fire, I became an expert on ice. I would shut down, tune out, and my words were my whip as I responded to my perceived attackers. I never let them see they’d hurt me, because that would give them the victory. What I don’t know is if I ever hurt them. One of those things we’ll never know, the “might have been”.

(To my credit I was always the “peacemaker” of the family, so I didn’t let my strengths carry me away as drastically as I could have, since I was always in the back of my mind calculating how hard to recover from each barbed word would be.

The ones with lethal hit points I generally choked back and kept in the arsenal.)

I always thought of myself as the “good guy”. After all, it wasn’t me raising my voice and getting red in the face. My pulse would race, but my lid never flipped.

It wasn’t till I was in my late teens that I began to see just how damaging the “cool cucumber” bazooka could actually be; not so much to others… but myself.

The more instances I saw of my kind, the more I noticed it could get very out of hand; so distanced from the world that some of us had quit feeling anything. Or had at least convinced themselves so hard that we believed it.

As I assessed other people I met, and it became evident that whatever reason we had originally started to “shut down and tune out” as a defense mechanism was generally long gone, but the response was still there, shutting us down.

E. Kaiser promo2Sometimes we were snippy and trigger-happy, jerking off shots at anyone below us within reach of our “freeze”. We were showing the world that we were better than it. We were untouchable. We didn’t need friends and we didn’t care if you knew it.

Even with a general desire to be liked and accepted, our “ice veins” couldn’t be thawed, and our habits were chilling everyone around us.

Others of our ilk had turned inward to the point that we stopped interacting at all, maintaining a stony-cold silence throughout any event; distanced by a gulf so wide that mountains might as well have towered in it.

As an outsider I could see that what while we were cutting ourselves off from present joys, those past hurts were trapped inside our ice towers with us, as stinging today as they were the first time we faced them.

As many different reasons we all had, almost all of them were in our far past. Whether the insults were real or imagined, from a wrong turn in a basically normal childhood or from real abuse in various forms, we were all now trapped by the very thing we believed was protecting us.

And we had no clue how to melt it and step out of that cold prison.

I didn’t. I remember wishing I could react in a different way, even picturing the whole thing, but in the end I didn’t have the courage or the strength to even try.

As I studied our collective problem more and more I finally came down to a base, fundamental truth.

It was a form of pride that made us unable to release our cages.

And all pride is selfishness… and so the first step was fighting myself, the worse parts of me that whispered “They hate you anyway, don’t give them a chance to hurt you.”

“Nobody likes you, and why would they? Show them you don’t need to like them, either!”

The path to a better self is always strewn with ugly battles… and those various monsters seem to rear up again and again long after you think they’re dead. But in the end they do get dead-er, and the inner warrior grows strong enough to withstand their weakened darts of doubt and shame.

We “ice maidens” and “ice men”; we have so many things going for us. Invariably, we are strong, determined people with intelligent minds and an ability to focus that can be a massive benefit. But when our strengths are used against us, we flounder and freeze into a pillar that is stuck in the middle as life blossoms all around us.

It still hurts when my attempts to be friendly are shot down, or when someone I love says something that stings. But I’ve learned how to thaw, and that’s allowed me to be open to new warmth as it shows up, as well as the old hearth-fires that bond family members in palpable affection.

I don’t know how many others out there share my strengths, and my weaknesses, but I’d love to be able to touch their hearts and inspire them to melt, too.

The universal laws apply to this as with any strangle-hold selfishness may be exhibiting itself through; and so the same rules can kill it back:

Sincerely apologize as soon as possible after you realize selfishness scored a point.

A true, authentic apology is so hard to do, but think of it as kicking selfishness in the teeth. I tell you what, that little monster takes a major hit every time you go the distance to genuinely apologize and then make it right with a honest heart, and the next time the scenario rolls around it hasn’t got nearly as much power over you, by a long shot.

Ask those you know can help, when you need it.

I’ve learned how to ask for affection when I’m feeling distanced and like no one likes me, instead of allowing selfishness to say “If they loved me, they’d know.” Even though we may pride ourselves on reading others ( a trait “cool cucumbers” major in) a ton of people aren’t that observant. (Besides, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you don’t know all the time, as much as you think you know.)

And finally, be open to the idea of rejection/pain.

Westley says “Life is pain, Highness. Anybody who tells you different is selling something.” E. Kaiser promo3

While that may be true, life isn’t all pain, and if we run into hurtful spots, a better way to deal with it instead of clamming up and scrambling back into our tower is to say “I can weather a bit of pain. This isn’t going to kill me, I am stronger than this.”

Growing up rural, in the mountains and plains, on farms and ranches, we kids got used to pulling splinters our of our hands, skidding our knees across gravel, falling off of horses and getting our toes stepped on by hoofs large and small. The first time shocked us, but we soon adapted and would be more concerned about getting on with our plans or bragging rights than how much it hurt.

Why can’t we be that way with emotional hurt?

In the end, we should be in such a hurry to do our next thing the “slights and stings of fate” should be no more than a temporary knock.

And finally, we should always look to our Great King as our source of importance, not whether the world likes us or not, approves of us or not, or even loves us or not. The more we battle selfishness down into its hole and put a lid on it, the clearer we are able to see that our Maker is the only One who matters… and our relationship with Him is our best and greatest alley.

And with Him we can never be alone.

(P.S. Disclaimer: those out there that are “Fire hearts” have their own problems, and they need to take care of that. Don’t let their behavior tilt your boat… we are responsible for our own vessel sailing straight, so just do our best with “fire ships” that could temporarily sink us. Charting a course for clear water is not the same as freezing over and sitting completely still. Please don’t confuse the two! )

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So what do you think? Elizabeth shares some great honesty and wisdom with us, doesn’t she? It’s difficult to find that fine balance between hot and cold – I think we all struggle with that! The very things we use to protect ourselves can, in the end, damage us. But with God’s help we can see past those things to His true purpose for our lives.

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E. Kaiser author picE. Kaiser Writes credits her nearly nomadic childhood for the vast reach of her fictional worlds; she has lived (and gotten to known the locals) in the Rocky Mountains, the Smoky Mountains, the plains, the deep forest, the searing Texas summer and frozen Minnesota north.

She wears many hats: writer and editor of ad copy, web copy, office correspondence & fiction; a cowgirl, animal trainer, seamstress, jeweler, artist and… authoress!

Connect with her here:

Blog    Author Site    Facebook    Twitter    Pinterest

Find her books here:

Winter’s Child    Winter Queen

Info about her other books

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ENTER THE GIVEAWAY BY CLICKING THIS LINK!!

Cover Reveal, Excerpt, and Giveaway for DRAVEN’S LIGHT by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I’m thrilled today to have the privilege of being a part of the cover reveal for authoress Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s book, Draven’s Light. If you’re a fan of The Tales of Goldstone Wood, I’m sure you’re already pretty hyped about this brand new addition! If you haven’t discovered this great series yet … well, just make sure you do!

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First, here’s a bit about the book itself:

In the Darkness of the Pit The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

Coming May 25, 2015

Are you ready to see the cover?!  Here it is!

Draven'sLightCover

Isn’t it stunning?

Anne Elisabeth will be giving away 3 ARCs (advanced reader copies) of the book, so be sure to visit her site and enter your name for a chance to win!

Draven’s Light is also available for pre-order as of today! It will officially release May 2015.

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To top off the excitement, here’s an exciting excerpt from Draven’s Light.

He heard the drums in his dreams, distant but drawing ever nearer. He had heard them before and wondered if the time of his manhood had come. But with the approach of dawn, the drums always faded away and he woke to the world still a child. Still a boy.

But this night, the distant drums were louder, stronger. Somehow he knew they were not concocted of his sleeping fancy. No, even as he slept he knew these were real drums, and he recognized the beat: The beat of death. The beat of blood.

The beat of a man’s heart.

He woke with a start, his leg throbbing where it had just been kicked. It was not the sort of awakening he had longed for these last two years and more. He glared from his bed up into the face of his sister, who stood above him, balancing her weight on a stout forked branch tucked under her left shoulder.

“Ita,” the boy growled, “what are you doing here? Go back to the women’s hut!”

His sister made a face at him, but he saw, even by the moonlight streaming through cracks in the thatch above, that her eyes were very round and solemn. Only then did he notice that the drumbeats of his dream were indeed still booming deep in the woods beyond the village fires. He sat up then, his heart thudding its own thunderous pace.

“A prisoner,” Ita said, shifting her branch so that she might turn toward the door. “The drums speak of a prisoner. They’re bringing him even now.” She flashed a smile down at him, though it was so tense with anxiety it could hardly be counted a smile at all. “Gaho, your name!”

The boy was up and out of his bed in a moment, reaching for a tunic and belt. His sister hobbled back along the wall but did not leave, though he wished she would. He wished she would allow him these few moments before the drums arrived in the village. The drums that beat of one man’s death . . . and one man’s birth.

His name was Gaho. But by the coming of dawn, if the drums’ promise was true, he would be born again in blood and bear a new name.

Hands shaking with what he desperately hoped wasn’t fear, he tightened his belt and searched the room for his sickle blade. He saw the bone handle, white in the moonlight, protruding from beneath his bed pile, and swiftly took it up. The bronze gleamed dully, like the carnivorous tooth of an ancient beast.

A shudder ran through his sister’s body. Gaho, sensing her distress, turned to her. She grasped her supporting branch hard, and the smile was gone from her face. “Gaho,” she said, “will you do it?”

“I will,” said Gaho, his voice strong with mounting excitement.

But Ita reached out to him suddenly, catching his weapon hand just above the wrist. “I will lose you,” she said. “My brother . . . I will lose you!”

“You will not. You will lose only Gaho,” said the boy, shaking her off, gently, for she was not strong. Without another word, he ducked through the door of his small hut—one he had built for himself but a year before in anticipation of his coming manhood—and stood in the darkness of Rannul Village, eyes instinctively turning to the few campfires burning. The drums were very near now, and he could see the shadows of waking villagers moving about the fires, building up the flames in preparation for what must surely follow. He felt eyes he could not see turning to his hut, turning to him. He felt the question each pair of eyes asked in silent curiosity: Will it be tonight?

Tonight or no night.

Grasping the hilt of his weapon with both hands, Gaho strode to the dusty village center, which was beaten down into hard, packed earth from years of meetings and matches of strength held in this same spot. Tall pillars of aged wood ringed this circle, and women hastened to these, bearing torches which they fit into hollowed-out slots in each pillar. Soon the village center was bright as noonday, but with harsh red light appropriate for coming events.

Gaho stood in the center of that light, his heart ramming in his throat though his face was a stoic mask. All the waking village was gathered now, men, women, and children, standing just beyond the circle, watching him.

The drums came up from the river, pounding in time to the tramp of warriors’ feet. Then the warriors themselves were illuminated by the ringing torches, their faces anointed in blood, their heads helmed with bone and bronze, their shoulders covered in hides of bear, wolf, and boar. Ten men carried tight skin drums, beating them with their fists. They entered the center first, standing each beneath one of the ringing pillars. Other warriors followed them, filling in the gaps between.

Then the chieftain, mighty Gaher, appeared. He carried his heavy crescent ax in one hand, and Gaho saw that blood stained its edge—indeed, blood spattered the blade from tip to hilt and covered the whole of the chieftain’s fist. Gaher strode into the circle, and the boy saw more blood in his beard. But he also saw the bright, wolfish smile and knew for certain that his sister had been correct. The night of naming had come.

“My son,” said the chief, saluting Gaho with upraised weapon.

“My father,” said Gaho, raising his sickle blade in return.

“Are you ready this night to die and live again?” asked the chief. His voice carried through the shadows, and every one of the tribe heard it, and any and all listening beasts of forests and fields surrounding. “Are you ready this night for the spilling of blood that must flow before life may begin?”

Gaho drew a deep breath, putting all the strength of his spirit into his answer. “I am ready, Father.”

Gaher’s smile grew, the torchlight flashing red upon his sharpened canines. He turned then and motioned to the darkness beyond the torchlight.

The sacrifice was brought forward.

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Anne Elisabeth StenglANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Tales of Goldstone Wood. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award.

To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit: www.AnneElisabethStengl.blogspot.com

The Word Changers Has a NEW COVER!!

Oh, yes … but you can’t see it on my site! At least, not today.

The cover reveal is being hosted by the talented and lovely authoress, Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Head over to her blog to see the new cover for The Word Changers, and to enter your name into the giveaway for a signed paperback of the book … one sporting its new cover, of course!

The entire process was a new and thrilling and somewhat daunting one, truth be told. Working so closely with the artist who designed it was an eye-opening experience. What a wonderful thing to watch the concept in my head brought to life by someone else in a way even more lovely than I imagined!

You can leave comments over on Anne Elisabeth’s blog, or you can head back over here to let me know what you think of it. To be honest, I’m pretty giddy about it, myself 🙂

True Evil in Christian Fiction: Where Do You Stand?

Two things happened recently which made me want to explore this question, which is a rather broad one: Should there be evil … true evil … in Christian fiction?

The first thing that made me begin thinking about it was a conversation I had with a family member. She told me that she couldn’t understand why books had to be so full of evil. She just wanted to be able to pick up a book that gave her a sense of peace and happiness. Why bad guys? Why horrible obstacles?

The second thing that made me question this was a 1-star Goodreads reviewer who emailed to explain to me that she didn’t enjoy my book because it was “filled with witchcraft and premarital romance.” This example is a bit extreme, especially if you’ve read my book, and I have to admit I didn’t let it effect me greatly. In my book the small amount of magic used is certainly not glorified (although magic is a whole other blog post, honestly …). Also, I’m happy to say that I myself didn’t venture into marital romance without a bit of premarital romance first … I’m afraid of what the consequences would have been if I had, and certainly wouldn’t wish such a thing on my characters or anyone else! 🙂

However, after hearing the words and views of my reviewer and of my relative, I still had to wonder. Where does evil have its place in Christian fiction? What do you, as evil in christian fictionreaders and Christians, believe?

Is magic wrong, even when it is used solely by the antagonist? Is romance (the holding hands, kissing, puppy love kind) wrong for Christian teens (or anyone else, for that matter) to see? Where do you draw the line? And is it wrong to depict evil – you know, the kind that makes you shiver and feel like your stomach has dropped – within the confines of a Christian story with a God-glorifying theme?

I’ll admit, sometimes my tastes in reading and my personal beliefs don’t perfectly coincide. I suspect we’re all guilty of this in one way or another. I like reading about epic battles, and magic, and mysterious murders. Does that mean I’m going to grab a sword and run someone through, or sit pining for my letter from Hogwarts to come … or worse yet, go kill someone? No, not even a teensy bit.

In my opinion, reading about sin only becomes a sin itself when you find pleasure in the evil you see. More so when you not only take pleasure in reading about it, but take it to the next level and perhaps indulge in it yourself. As I heard Bob Ross say (as he was painting happy trees …) on a recent re-run, “You have to add the dark to make the light more striking.” He was speaking about painting, of course, but the minute he said those words, I thought, “Yes! That’s exactly it!” And so it is.

It was much like I told my relative after she expressed her concern over evil in stories. I explained to her that, as a writer myself, my desire is for my stories to mirror the world we live in, the battles (sometimes invisible) we fight every day against an evil that is all too real. To show the reader that evil (whether it takes the form of magic or murder or any other immoral thing), and then to show her a heroine much like herself who overcomes that evil … what could be more powerful than that? What else could leave such a deep sense of peace? Even – no, especially – if that hero or heroine overcomes the evil with grace and mercy and love, things God fully intends us to overcome our real-life troubles with.

So where do all these preferences and beliefs, so seemingly at war with each other, leave me? With several questions, actually, for myself and for you:

  1. Where do we draw the line when reading for entertainment about things we may not morally agree with?
  2. What if truly evil things come only from the antagonist in a story? Are they still wrong to read about?
  3. If we protect ourselves from all thoughts, books, and talk of the things we don’t believe in or agree with, what could be the possible consequences of that, for better or worse?
  4. How much responsibility do we take, as readers, for the direction of our thoughts and actions in relation to what we read, and how much responsibility lies with the author? What does that responsibility entail (for reader or author?).

You, as my readers and friends, have opinions that are extremely important to me. Opinions that I want – and need – to hear, if my future books are to be ones you will want to read. So what do you think? Do you have answers to any of these questions? Opinions? Questions of your own? I want to hear them!

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For some interesting and varying thoughts on magic and romance in Christian fiction, you may want to check out these articles:

Standing Up for Magic

Fantasy Magic and the Christian Author

Magic in Christian Fantasy

How Far Should Couples Go in Christian Fiction?