Monthly Archives: March 2015

Book Spotlight: Midnight Captive

I’m pleased to be a part of the tour for E.D. Phillips’ new book, Midnight Captive. It sounds like a compelling premise … and it’s a fairy tale! Even better!! Here’s a little about the book itself:

Midnight_Captive_Front (2)

Phaedra is cursed to sleep until true love wakes her. Hermione has a dark secret. 

When Prince Sheridan discovers the two princesses wandering the woods outside the castle at night, he begins to wonder if there is more to Phaedra’s curse than is readily apparent. 

With the help of a minstrel out to prove a point, they must discover the secret before the princesses are trapped forever in the night.

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“Truly a spellbinding tale. I cannot recommend it more, and look forward to any future books that E.D. Phillips may write.” – By SilverRose on Amazon
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PURCHASE THE BOOK ON AMAZON
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To see the blog tour schedule for Midnight Captive, visit here.
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Emilie

Emilie has been writing stories for the past ten years. Her love for storytelling and fairy tales began when she was a little girl and her dad would make up bedtime stories about a princess named Amichelie; a character based off the names of Emilie and her sisters.

Midnight Captive is her first novel, written during National Novel Writing Month, November 2010. She participated in the writing challenge the following two years and produced two more novel rough drafts. Her plan is to work on editing one of those drafts over the summer along with continuing to write a fantasy novel set in the real world.

Emilie lives in Alberta, Canada. In her spare time she enjoys crocheting baby blankets for her nieces and nephews and creating graphic art while watching British television.

Visit her on Facebook.

When Stories Are Truer Than Fact

This is a guest post by Suzannah Rowntree, the author of the freshly released (as in, yesterday!!) Pendragon’s Heir.

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As the author of a novel which is rooted in a deep and abiding love of medieval literature, I’ve spent much time over the last few years meditating on what great works of literature can teach us about the people who produced them.

Take The Song of Roland, a medieval French epic of Charlemagne’s retreat across the Pyrenees into France. Of this tale of betrayal, tragedy, and justice, which is almost entirely fictional from beginning to end, Dr George Grant says, “Its true lies tell us much about ourselves, our world, and the shaping of Western Civilization that we might not otherwise know.”

Stories tell us something far more important than the facts about the people in them. Stories tell us far deeper and more resonant truths about the people who tell them.

The Song of Roland, for instance, is obviously fiction. In this chanson de geste, a nobleman of Charlemagne’s court betrays his rearguard to the Saracens as Charlemagne’s army withdraws across the mountains. At Roncesvalles, the legendary Roland with various other paladins of France fight desperately until evening and then fall defending the PendragonsHeirpass. Horrified by his loss, inspired by the sacrifice of his greatest warrior, and obligated by an emergent chivalric code, Charlemagne recrosses the Pyrenees and wins a resounding victory against the Saracens. Finally Ganelon, the traitor who betrayed Roland to the Saracens, is tried and executed, not so much for his betrayal of the kingdom as for his betrayal of the chivalric virtues of Christendom: fidelity to a lord, the bonds of brotherhood between Christian warriors, and the defence of the faith against pagans.

Very little, if any, of this story is historical. But what it gives us is a snapshot of medieval civilisation at the very flowering-point of chivalry. In Dr Grant’s summary, “Roland…was the epitome of the great Christian knight. He was loyal, he was faithful, he was trustworthy to the end, and for Ganelon to betray that virtue with his cunning was to undercut the whole of Christian civilisation.” Like many other stories, The Song of Roland uses its fiction to tell us what lies, most burning, more insistent, most truly in the hearts of its tellers and hearers.

If this is true for a single literary work like The Song of Roland, how much more might it be true for the Matter of Britain—one of the most often-retold tales in Western history?

The body of legends known today as the Arthurian legendarium, or the Matter of Britain, has come down to us in a vast body of iterations and reiterations. Scholars today continue to debate the existence of Arthur, the man at their centre. Did he really exist? Was he Roman, Celtic, or Sarmatian? And what, exactly, did he do? Defeat pagan invaders—win the battle of Mount Badon—preserve civilisation for a time before the Saxon conquest?

knights at round tableAbout the only thing we do know for certain is that the vast majority of the stories about this man were invented by pseudo-historians, minstrels, and romancers. We see each new storyteller putting his own gloss on each of the tales and sending it on to the next storyteller to gain new details, new characters, new adventures. At the same time they pick up new anachronisms: a courtly love tradition that certainly could not have existed in the sixth century when the real Arthur may have lived; a code of chivalry; the latest knightly weapons and fighting tactics.

Apart from perhaps one small grain of truth, the Arthur legends are fiction. Yet, over the years I worked on Pendragon’s Heir, my own retelling of the Matter of Britain, I came to appreciate just how profoundly truthful these tales could be—a truth powerful enough to captivate storytellers and audiences from England and Wales to France and Germany, from the High Middle Ages right down to the present day.

For at the heart of the Arthurian legendarium in its most refined form there is a painful gash that lies like a wound between medieval ideals and medieval reality. In Thomas Malory’s classic English version of the myths, Le Morte D’Arthur, the knights of Arthur are a savage, sinful lot, far removed from the idealised knights-in-shining-armour of popular imagination. Some of the knights—Galahad, Perceval, Bors, and (nearly) Lancelot—truly are men of honour and integrity, but the majority are violent, unchaste men who not only break their oath of allegiance to the Round Table’s brotherhood but also fail to live the life of holiness and humility necessary for them to achieve the Quest of the Grail, the one thing that might establish their realm forever. CS Lewis calls them “the peak which failed to reach heaven”—the warriors who dreamed of something better, who reached out to grasp beautiful and high ideals, but who ultimately failed through their own sinfulness.

It was my aim in Pendragon’s Heir not so much to use the Arthurian legends to construct something new, or to provide a faithful picture of any particular historical time, as it was to probe this painful gash between ideals and reality, to explore in my generation the same issues which the medieval romancers explored in theirs. And as much as us, the medieval romancers had excellent reason to explore this topic: they lived in a world of fierce, nigh-unbeatable warriors who all too often broke their oaths, betrayed their marriage covenants, rebelled against their lords, and preyed on the very people they were sworn to protect.

But that is only half of the truth that lies at the heart of the Arthurian myth. The other half is an equally compelling image of virtue: against oath-breaking, oath-keeping. Against unlawful passions, a tender and Christlike love. Against rebellion, meekness and courtesy. Against oppression and exploitation, self-sacrifice and charity. And these qualities, too, rose to a high and fierce flame in the Middle Ages: not all men knocked, or sought, or asked, in vain, and if there were many defeats in the quest to incarnate the kingdom of heaven on the earth, there were also glorious and awe-inspiring victories.

My hope in Pendragon’s Heir is to introduce you to the world of Arthur, which is the world of medieval Christendom: not to tell you what the medievals did, but to show you what they thought, what they believed, and above anything else what they hoped to leave as a legacy to future generations. My hope is to sketch out for you a map of the medieval faith: their ideals, their hope, their fears.

It is a story of dreams and visions. But to the men who dreamed them, those dreams and visions were more immediate, more solid, more true than anything else in the world.

I hope that through Pendragon’s Heir, they will inspire you too.

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Suzannah RowntreeWhen Suzannah Rowntree isn’t travelling the world to help out friends in need, she lives in a big house in rural Australia with her awesome parents and siblings, trying to beat her previous number-of-books-read-in-a-year record. She blogs the results at www.vintagenovels.com and is the author of both fiction and non-fiction. Pendragon’s Heir is her debut novel.

 

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Blanche Pendragon enjoys her undemanding life as the ward of an eccentric nobleman in 1900 England. It’s been PendragonsHeiryears since she wondered what happened to her long lost parents, but then a gift on the night of her eighteenth birthday reveals a heritage more dangerous and awe-inspiring than she ever dreamed of—or wanted. Soon Blanche is flung into a world of wayfaring immortals, daring knights, and deadly combats, with a murderous witch-queen on her trail and the future of a kingdom at stake. As the legendary King Arthur Pendragon and his warriors face enemies without and treachery within, Blanche discovers a secret that could destroy the whole realm of Logres. Even if the kingdom could be saved, is she the one to do it? Or is someone else the Pendragon’s Heir?

 

Lines from my WIP and a Party Invitation for YOU

The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 lines in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress.

WIP

The following lines are from the novel that is now in the hands of my beta readers, so they are definitely subject to change. But in the meantime, maybe they’ll give you a small glimpse into my story, since it may be a while before the rest of it is seen …

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Aylah looked at her husband, light flickering in her dark eyes. “It’s a Gift, Eoghan, I know it.” Her voice was breathless with a timid excitement.

But a deep frown creased Eoghan’s face. He stood staring down at his son, who was frozen with the knowledge he had given himself away. Then his good hand shot out and took hold of Frayne’s arm. He jerked him to his feet. Frayne was fifteen, and already nearly as tall as his da. They stood eye to eye.

Eoghan’s voice was a low growl. “How long?”

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Ok, so that was a very tiny glimpse. But you were introduced to the main character, Frayne, and in the throes of a fairly crucial scene, actually. So that’s something! I never like tagging people for these types of things, but I will leave it in your hands … if you’d like to share 7 lines starting from line 7 of page 7 in your WIP, go for it. Comment with your post link below and I’ll be sure to visit and read your lines!

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On another, completely unrelated, note … have you heard about Nadine Brandes’ 6-month-anniversary release party for her novel, A Time to Die? Well, it’s happening soon! March 31, in fact. I will be a special guest at the party (so excited!!), promoting The Word Changers (and giving away 2 Kindle copies of it). And Angie Brashear (Of the Persecuted) will be there, too!

You won’t want to miss it! Consider yourself invited! Click here to visit the party page 🙂

party

Tidings of New Stories

2 + 2 = 4

For those of you who follow my Facebook page, you’ll have seen that I’ve finished revisions (at last!) on book 1 of my new fantasy series, and have passed it on to my first round of beta readers. This is the first time I’ve used betas, so I’m naturally a bit nervous. It’s one thing to finish a book and hand it to your husband or sister or mom, knowing they will gush with praise. It’s quite another to hand it to someone and say, “Please tear it apart.”

*Gulp*

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I originally planned for this book to be one of two. The first draft of the sequel has been written already, in fact, although it is awaiting much work! However, something has happened along the way. Rather inevitably, I suppose …

The characters … have come alive.

One or two of them are asking for their own stories. A couple others are wishing for more of their stories to be told. It’s all I can do to keep up with the ideas that are being flung at me, and in the process … two additional book outlines have taken shape. So it looks like this book duo has now become, officially, a series. A family of four books … two of which are only ideas thus far, yes, but rather strong and insistent ideas.

*Another gulp*

A bit scary. Quite challenging for someone who has never even considered writing a series. But what a delicious challenge! I think I’m willing to tackle it 🙂

BETA READERS

As I’ve said, the first round of my beta readers have copies of the book already. However, I will be announcing, at a future date, my need for a second round of 2-4 readers. Those who follow my newsletter will be the first to hear about this opportunity, and if the need is filled by them, I may not be announcing it again on my blog.

NEW FAIRY TALE

freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net

Before I launch into revisions for book 2 of the fantasy series, I am working on a novella of a fairy tale retelling that I plan on indie-publishing sometime soon (eek!). As it was written a couple of years ago, I’ve got a lot of work to do on it yet. I began revisions on it today, and I must say they are going swimmingly so far! I basically read through it and marked down all the “homework” I’ll need to do. Several hefty changes, but I’m excited to get started on them.

My wonderful newsletter followers will also be the first to hear about beta reading opportunities for this book, plus fun things like participation in the cover reveal, etc., when the time comes. (Ooh, helping design another cover … I’m definitely looking forward to that part!)

READING

On a rather random note, I just finished the amazing His Dark Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers, and am in a bit of withdrawal. None of the books I pick up seem to be appealing to me, but I’m ready to dive into something. Any great suggestions?!

Ramblings on Writing Spaces

Growing up, all my stories and poems and songs and plays – even my first couple of books – went into spiral notebooks. They were badly smudged, with that pesky left-hander pencil smear across most of the pages. I can still remember the smell of pencil shavings and the satisfying rustle of pages turning.

I toted my notebooks and a fistful of sharpened pencils with me just about everywhere. Everywhere is the key word here. Because I wrote. Absolutely. Everywhere.

At the little desk overlooking our front yard in my teenage bedroom, in the closet under our back staircase, in the field behind our house while leaning against a hay bale (with my dog’s head in my lap, as often as not, and my horse grazing nearby), in the dusky, dusty barn loft with kittens playing around me, at family reunions, in the car on the way to piano lessons, sitting in the waiting room at the dentist …

Yeah. You get the point. Everywhere.

Years later, I still don’t have a particular place I write. Many times it’s in the chair in my living room, sometimes at the desk (the same desk I used growing up!) in my bedroom or at the dining room window. Now and then I lug my laptop to the back patio or even out to the park so I can sit in the shade while my son plays. Several times I’ve taken it, along with a blanket, to sit on the bank of a pond while my son and husband fish. Once in a while I write while waiting in the parking lot to pick up my son from school.

But sometimes I find myself wondering: What would my true preference be, if I had the choice? Do I like still writing just about everywhere, like I did as a teen? Or do I want to grow up at last, and have an office or writing workspace like the “professional” writers do? Would it help me concentrate? Or would it merely restrain my creativity?

The answer? I don’t really know. I’ve always been a strange mixture (thanks in part to two very extreme parents) of rigid control and organization, and get-me-out-of-here-I-need-to-breathe free spiritedness. I get inspired by new locations and fresh points-of-view. But sometimes I do long for the solidarity of a permanent writing location, even if I can see myself abandoning it on a whim for other writing spaces on a fairly regular basis …

Either way, I’ve always been fascinated with the places in which other artists choose to do their work, writers in particular. I’ll share a few pictures of my favorite writers in their work spaces, just for fun.

Charlotte Bronte's writing space. Just think, Mr. Rochester may have been "born" right here! *sigh*

Charlotte Bronte’s writing space. Just think, Mr. Rochester may have been “born” right here! *sigh*

Well, you knew I wouldn't leave C.S. Lewis out. I've heard his house was rather a mess ... something he has in common with me, then! ;)

Well, you knew I wouldn’t leave C.S. Lewis out. I’ve heard his house was rather a mess … something he has in common with me, then! 😉

Jane Austen's humble yet famous writing table. I WILL see it someday ...

Jane Austen’s humble yet famous writing table. I WILL see it someday …

Joan Aiken with her typewriter. Her Wolves Chronicles will always have a special place in my heart. When you love something that much as a child, it just never goes away.

Joan Aiken with her typewriter. Her Wolves Chronicles will always have a special place in my heart. When you love something that much as a child, it just never goes away.

Elizabeth Peters, creator of one of my favorite sleuths of all time: Amelia Peabody!

Elizabeth Peters, creator of one of my favorite sleuths of all time: Amelia Peabody!

Charles Dickens, a total classic and a definite favorite.

Charles Dickens, a total classic and a definite favorite.

So interesting to see the wide variety of places these authors worked! Rather inspiring in and of itself, really …

Do you have a favorite place to create things, write, craft, or even just daydream? Or are you a bit of a free spirit like I am?

An Allegorical God

God in allegory. Even though I’m an allegorical writer myself, I often have issues with this one. Well, maybe not issues. Let’s just say I approach it carefully.

God is sovereign. God is almighty and all-knowing. His ways are not our ways. How, then, can any writer really do wood thrushHim justice in an allegory? We seek to know Him, but we’ll never know Him completely. Not on this side of death, anyway. If we did, He wouldn’t be God, right? But if we don’t understand Him, how can we write about Him in a way that will satisfy readers who want to see Him in all His wonderful, awe-inspiring glory?

I don’t have a cut and dried answer for this, really. I only know what I prefer when I read allegory, and the rules I personally follow when I write God into an allegorical story of my own.

MYSTERY

An allegorical representation of God should be as mysterious as the true God. So we don’t understand all the facets of this God-character we write about. So our readers don’t. That’s ok. Use the mystery to good effect. Let the unknown deepen the reader’s experience of this God whose ways are not ours, and thus deepen their awe of Him.

EXTREME

Large or tiny. Roaring or whispering. God is anything but a lukewarm, mediocre Being. C.S. Lewis uses a great lion to represent God in his Chronicles of Narnia. In one scene of my book I represented God as a field mouse, whispering encouraging directions in the ear of the protagonist before a battle. Anne Elisabeth Stengl represents the holy spirit with a wood thrush, which I absolutely love. Whether it be intriguing, awe-inspiring, or even quirky, the character a writer chooses to represent God has to be worthy of the reader’s attention and respect.

aslan roar

FEARED

God is to be feared. We fear His wrath, His judgment, His anger when we have chosen to disregard His Word. But take away that fear and you’re left with little love and no respect at all. That’s not a the type of ruler I’d want to follow. Whatever creature or person a writer chooses to use as her representation of God within her story, it should be one whose actions and power inspire a healthy fear. God has the power over life and death and time and all the earth. Fiction shouldn’t show Him as anything less.

LOVING

Yet beyond the fear, a writer must be sure to show the deep and unconditional love God has for His creation. Fear alone can perhaps turn our heads and keep in our minds what will happen if we stray. But it’s love that binds us to Him, heart and soul. It’s God’s mercy and forgiveness and sacrifice that give us the passion to follow Him to the ends of the earth. So why should an allegorical God be any different?

Do you have any preferences when reading Christian allegory? What are the things you like to see in a symbolic fictional God figure?