Category Archives: writing

Fairy Tale Novella Contest and Cover Reveal

Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their third fairy tale novella contest—

Five Magic Spindles

a collection of “Sleeping Beauty” stories

Five Magic Spindles

The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Sleeping Beauty,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours!

Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Magic Spindles collection, which will be packaged up with the phenomenal cover you see here. Maybe your name will be one of the five listed?

All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page.

Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers is available for purchase, and our second collection, Five Enchanted Roses is scheduled to launch on July 27, and is currently available for pre-order. Be certain to get a copy of each and see what previous winners did with their wonderful retellings.

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*This cover illustration was rendered by Julia Popova, “ForestGirl.” You can find out more about this gifted artist on her website: www.forestgirl.ru

Book Blurb Blues

I’ve been in the process of writing and polishing the back cover description for my upcoming novella. And I’ll tell you the truth – it’s not fun at all. I keep wanting to shout, “But I’m a book writer, not a blurb writer! I’m good at unraveling my story over the long haul, not condensing all of it into a tight little space!”

I think it comes down to a few specific things that should be included. Here’s my very amateur go at it. Ready?

Setting: Things need to be mentioned in the blurb that give the reader an idea of where this story takes place and what open bookthey are walking into. Whatever these end up being – certain qualities/people/creatures/props – they should be given a nod in order to create a sense of setting. Many of these depend on the genre. Fantasy more so than most, I think.

Characters: Ok, no-brainer. The main character has to be introduced, along with any other character who is important to the plot as a whole. Maybe even the antagonist. After all, books are about people first and foremost, right?

Goals: More than just mentioning the main character, we have to know what she desires. What is the crux of her journey, whether it’s a physical, spiritual or emotional one? I want to know up front that this girl has something driving her forward. Otherwise I’ll suspect that I’m in for a yawn-worthy read.

Complication: Is there a person or circumstance that is thwarting her from her goal? Well, we need to know about that too. A little bit. Don’t give too much away, though. The reader will want to hear about it, certainly; otherwise, why open the book at all? But I personally have difficulty with this one. How much to tell without giving too much away and ruining important surprises, but making it enough that it creates curiosity in the reader? It’s a very fine line, my friend.

Stakes: What is at risk if the main character doesn’t (or perhaps does!) obtain what she wants? Will she lose her life? Her family? Her self-respect? Her cat? All of the above? Whatever the stakes are, a blurb-reader wants to know them up front. Or at least I always do. It puts that extra fire in me that says, “I just have to know what happens!!”

Hope: So the poor main character has been given an ultimatum, a timeframe to achieve something, a roadblock that is seemingly impassable. What now? Well again, a simple blurb can’t give too much away. But we at least need to see that glimmer – that small flash of hope that tells us things might be … could be … all right.

Brevity: Ah, brevity, my bane. It’s like trying to fit my post-baby self into the size 4 jeans I wore a few short years ago. Not likely. I need a serious word diet to get the 25,000 words of my novella into a 200-word blurb. It’s painful, I’m not gonna lie. It takes lots of trimmings and re-writes. Lots.

So …. aaallll these things need to fit into a blurb? Yep. Ok, well, most of them. Some of them can be accomplished with a few very choice words. Some of them, such as setting, can be almost implied between the lines without ever mentioning directly at all.

Yep, I’ve got my work cut out for me.

So what are the things that draw you in when you read a book blurb? What is most likely to get you to pick up a book and say, “I have to take this home and read it right now!”

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?

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?

First Drafts and Dragons

first draft 2

Well, my friends, I am feeling a strange mixture of utter relief and tension right now. It’s the feeling that comes when a first draft is finished (relief), and edits loom large (tension) ….

Yes, you heard me. Mere minutes ago I typed the last sentence of my book. It is the second of a series I am working on (I finished the first draft of the first book earlier this year). It’s a thrilling feeling, to say the least! Especially as this is a bigger undertaking than I’ve ever tackled before. From a girl who has written only standalones, a series is a daunting task. As of now I have written the first two books, and have many plans and ideas for the third book, although it may be a while before I begin officially working on it.

What, you ask, are these books about? Well, I’m always a bit reluctant to say much about my WIPs while they are still in first-draft form – even to my own family! But I will give you a few clues.

Firstly, there are dragons. And anyone who knows me knows how much I adore dragons. I’ve longed to put them in a book for many years, but dragon1hadn’t found the right story for them until now. And I’m so excited about them, although to be honest, a little nervous about how I’ve pulled it off …!

Secondly, and probably obviously, these books are of the Christian fantasy genre, just as The Word Changers was. There is an element of allegory, an element of mystery, a great deal of adventure and intrigue and danger, and a bit of romance.

Thirdly, these books are told from multiple points of view. There are two protagonists – one is a male and one is a female. The story is told alternately from their viewpoints, something else I’ve wanted to do for a long time but didn’t quite have the courage for. The male viewpoint was a difficult one, and when I’m editing I’m sure I will have to sharpen his voice and think many manly thoughts in order to get it just right …! Perhaps some of the men in my life will be willing to read the book and offer their wisdom! 😉 😉

I am giving myself a week or two off before I begin edits. And by “off,” I mean that I will probably just tackle another writing project while I wait.  A short story, perhaps … or maybe a brand new book. I’ve got ideas for both of those things rattling around in my brain right now, so we’ll see.

So thanks to those who prayed for me and encouraged me as I struggled through the ending of this book (you know who you are!), and to those of you who I pray get to read these labors sometime in the distant future. I truly couldn’t do it without you, or without God, the true Author of all our stories.

Have a blessed weekend!

My Writing Process

I was tagged in this fun writing process blog tour by two of my favorite bloggers, Deborah and Sarah. So here we go!

What I am working on.

I recently finished the first draft of another YA fantasy, and am already about halfway through the sequel to it. When I’m finished with the sequel, my plan is to edit and revise both of the books at the same time. I also have a couple of short stories I hope to writehand writing soon (we’ll see if I have time!). In the midst of all of that, several weeks ago a brand new book idea (middle-grade fantasy this time!) dropped on me from nowhere, and I couldn’t help writing down a rough outline for it … I’m super excited about it, of course, although it will be a while before I can begin working on it.

How my work differs from others of its genre.

I love reading entertaining books, funny books, serious books, meaningful books. And though I’ve wanted to write books like that for as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt I couldn’t simply just write an entertaining story. My stories, as I hope my life does as well, point toward God. And I hope that they not only do that, but that they also tell my readers something new, or unsuspected, about their faith, God, or their relationship to Him.

Why I write what I write.

While I enjoy fantasy more than any other genre, I feel also that fantasy serves my purposes better – the purpose of reaching people in a way that’s not preachy or moralizing, but instead natural and even surprising. What could be more unexpected about a fantastical fairy tale world than finding a path leading you right back to your true home? I talk about why I write fantasy in more detail in this blog post, if you’re interested!

keyboardMy writing process.

My usual process for a book goes something like this:

  1. First draft (usually takes between 6-9 months)
  2. When finished with my first draft, I like to work on something completely different, or simply concentrate on reading, while my manuscript sits for 1-2 weeks.
  3. Now come the “big picture” revisions – that is, fixing structural things that don’t flow right, plot lines that are out of skew, character arcs that don’t work, scenes that are out of place or need to be cut altogether … etc.
  4. For my second round of revisions I normally concentrate on things like dialogue, descriptions, wording, flow, and grammatical errors.
  5. In the past I haven’t used beta readers – but that has changed! I look forward to being able to send my newer manuscripts to some trusted writers/friends who will be able to give me a sound critique of my work.
  6. After the beta readers have given their advice, and I have changed anything that needs to be changed, off goes the manuscript to my agent, and from there … who knows! Maybe more edits and revisions … maybe straight into the hands of editors or publishers.

Currently, as a stay-at-home mom, I don’t have an actual writing schedule I stick to. I wish I could! But it’s just impossible right now. This coming school year, though, I hope to implement a fairly strict writing routine, and to become more consistently productive. Daily word counts … here I come!

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I am supposed to tag others to post answers to these topics as well, but instead I’ll just leave it up to you. Any of my followers who would like to fill everyone in on their own writing process (if you write!), fire away! Leave your answers in the comments, or post it on your own blog and leave the link below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Begin and End with Faith

Everything I’ve done up to now has started with faith.

The faith of my parents when I was only a little girl, handing them a scribbled story.

The faith I’ve been taught God has in me as a soul of worth, as a creature who belongs to Him, and the endless love that accompanies that faith.

The faith of family and friends who have prayed for me and encouraged me both in life and in the growing of my creativity.

The faith of a husband and son who have left me alone for countless hours to wrestle with the characters and stories in my head.bird1

The faith of an agent and a publisher who were willing to take a chance on both me and my book.

And, of course, the faith of you, the readers.

Sure, a lot of people are willing to pay a few dollars for a book that catches their fancy. But fewer of them are willing to invest precious hours of their time to dive into its story, bond with its characters, and open themselves to be changed by its message. That takes an enormous amount of faith – one I hope I never disappoint.

So thanks to you, my readers and future readers and even you “maybe” readers and “just-passing-by” readers!  And also to everyone who has ever offered encouragement and truth and wisdom.

Now my own faith comes back into play – faith that God will take The Word Changers and do whatever He wills with it, be it great or small.

 

“To have faith is to have wings.” – J.M. Barrie

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LAST DAY TO ENTER GIVEAWAY!

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Release Giveaway2

Edits, ARCs and a Tree House

This week I’ve been working on edits for THE WORD CHANGERS. The first round was finished a few weeks ago, and the second round (thankfully!) was much less intense. There will likely be a third round quite soon, which will probably be the last! *Happy dance!*

My publisher informs me he hopes to have ARCs for THE WORD CHANGERS printed by the end of this month. As in … March. THIS MONTH!books1

What, you may very well ask, is an ARC?? Well, truth be told, I was wondering that myself not so many moons ago …

It is, my friend, an “Advanced Reader Copy.” What that means is that, while THE WORD CHANGERS may not have completed its final edit quite yet, the unfinished paperback version of it will be available to certain readers chosen by my publisher, so that reviews will be available and circulating before the actual release date of the book.

ARCs are pretty great, huh? And I may decide to do a giveaway for one of my copies in exchange for a blog/Goodreads/Amazon review … so keep watching for that!

So, yes, THE WORD CHANGERS is not yet out and the edits have been much less than horrible. But have I been idling away my time? Nope. I am nearing the end of a brand new book! Eeek! For those of you write, you know how exciting it is to get near that finish line. Today I finished my second-to-last chapter … just one to go! I’m so close, I can just smell it!

It’s not a sequel to THE WORD CHANGERS, as many people have asked me, although it is a YA fantasy (of course!). And while I really prefer writing standalone books, this one has turned into a duology. It was simply too much to put into one book, and I think it works well as a two-book set. So once all the work is finished on the first one (edits and revisions and other fun things) I will be plugging away at the second one. I can’t say much about it now because even my agent hasn’t seen it yet – but I hope to tell you more in the coming months.

Oh, and one more exciting thing … my 6-year-old wants me to inform everyone his treehouse is now officialy finished and ready to play in! Right in time for spring!

Yay for edits and ARCs and tree houses!

A Teller of Tales

“Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart longs for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.” – W.B. Yeats

I love this.

For I’m a teller of tales, constantly reaching to seize what my heart longs for. That next perfect word, that world only I can see, that turn of phrase, essence of place, note of book1longing, glimmer of hope.

I discovered long ago the miracle the God gave me: that within me lies a kingdom. And knowing this about myself, I realize it must be true of others as well. We have worlds within us … did you know that? Did you possibly guess?

Whether you write about that kingdom, whether you live it, or speak it, or pray it, or even ignore it … it’s there.

Everything exists. Every possibility. Every promise. Every joy. Reach out and take it – it was God’s gift to you long ago, even before you were born.

I write the worlds within me. I glorify God’s Kingdom by writing of the kingdoms in my imagination, of thrones, of heroes, of evil and triumph, of battles lost and won.

Tell me, how do you give life to the world within you?