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Fairy Tale Giveaway

FAIRY-TALE FORUM

For those of you who haven’t heard, author Shonna Slayton and I have started a shiny new group on Facebook called Fairy-Tale Forum. If you’re not part of it yet, please come on over and join! We have lots of fun stuff planned, and hope to see some fun fairy-tale-ish things from the rest of you as well!Beauty-and-the-Beast-fairy-tale

This week we have been having an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with editor and fairy-tale blogger Tahlia Kirk (Timeless Tales Magazine, anyone?!). She is so talented, I can’t even tell you. Please head over to our group and ask her whatever you’d like . . . she’s very responsive and so very fun to chat with!

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST GIVEAWAY

Also, beginning today, we have an awesome giveaway in honor of the upcoming Beauty and the Beast movie. Here’s what we’re giving away! I’m so thrilled!

Beauty and the Beast pinterest

Any thoughts on Beauty and the Beast in general? Where does it fall in your lineup of favorite fairy tales? Who are your favorite characters? What do you love (or not love!) about it? Will you be going to see the new movie?

 

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Books from the Emerald Isle

Two weeks ago, my mother and sister visited Ireland. Before they left, they asked what type of souvenirs I’d like them to bring back for me. I didn’t have to think about it long before I decided exactly what I wanted. I’m sure you may even be able to guess . . .

I asked for them to bring me books. Used books from a little Irish book store tucked away somewhere. On further thought I asked my mom to stop alongside a beautiful country road in Ireland and pick wild flowers, and to press them into the pages of the book she got for me. Not an expensive gift. Not a difficult gift to get. But I was ecstatic at the mere thought of it.

I’m sure most of you read the rambling and rather passionate thoughts in my last blog post about why I love paperbacks (and hardbacks, of course!) so very much. As my mom and sister handed me my gifts, it hit me once again just why I love physical books as I do.

From a library sale in Carlow, Ireland, to secondhand bookstores in Newry, Cahir and Dublin, my dear little Irish books are full of worn pages, penciled-in notes, unglued binding, age spots, wildflowers, a yellowed bus pass that someone must once have used for a bookmark, and, in short, more history and food for imagination than you could get into an infinite number of eBooks.

Are you ready for some serious book-love pictures?! Meet my new-old books:

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book1

I wonder who W.H. Fowler was? Did he enjoy reading this book? How long did it sit on his shelf?

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Irish wildflowers picked from an obliging field.

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Where did this bus ticket take the person who bought it? Who was he going to see? Perhaps he (or she, of course!) was reading this book as he rode the bus…

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Whose fingers blackened the edges of these pages with their thumbing? This book must have been well-loved, to have such worn edges.

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All my books have history. Some of that history I’ll never know about – I can only imagine where the many books I own have been, what shelf they have rested on, whose eyes have smiled or cried or even drowsed while reading them.

These books from Ireland are no different, really. They sat on a shelf somewhere, or maybe amid a stack of other books, perhaps in a household, perhaps in a bookstore or library. They passed from hand to hand, home to home, heart to heart, just as many books do.

It’s a connection between myself and someone far away. It’s a cord woven between me and a stranger whom I’ll never meet. What a mysterious, lovely thing. My fingers touch where their fingers have touched. I’ll read the very words that someone far away once read. Perhaps I’ll even be touched by those words in the same manner as the one who read them before me.

What history, real or imagined, do your own hand-me-down books have?

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!”

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.

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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?

Last Words

Characters die.

Sometimes they’re characters we don’t like. But sometimes they’re characters who mean so much to us that we mourn their deaths almost as a friend would do.

I’ve never liked killing off my own characters – even the truly evil ones. Yet sometimes an author must.

Recently I had to work on writing the death scene of a beloved character … a heartbreaking process, to say the least. To aid me (emotionally more than anything else), I refreshed myself on some famous last words, or “death speeches,” in literature.

As I read them, I had to wonder: What was going through each of the authors’ minds as they wrote their characters’ last words? Did their hearts break, even a little, as they composed the scenes that would mean the end of someone so close to them?

More so: What do last lines say about the characters themselves and their stories?

HONOR

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

BETRAYAL

“Et tu, Brute?” (Caesar, Julius Caesar by Shakespeare)

IRONY

“Bad form.” (Captain Hook, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)

PASSION

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither romeo and julietcan be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!” (Captain Ahab, Moby Dick by Herman Melville)

“Precious, precious, precious! My Precious! O my Precious!” (Gollum, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“Yea noise? then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die.” (Juliet, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

REMORSE

“Lord, forgive me everything.” (Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)

“Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.” (Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“The ultimate sacrifice for love: I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee: no way but this; Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” (Othello, Othello by William Shakespeare)

FRIENDSHIP

“Cher ami …” (Hercule Poirot, Curtain by Agatha Christie)

“Harry … Potter …” (Dobby, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling)

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’sthorin a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” (Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White)

“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!” (Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Is there a character whose death broke your heart? Who was it? What were their last words?

WANTED: Newsletter Signer-Uppers!

Yep, I finally got a newsletter. See the button for signup, over in my sidebar? Yeah, that’s it!

For those of you wondering: What’s the difference between signing up for a newsletter and following a blog? Well, there are several things that set newsletters apart.

My newsletters won’t be as … ahem, random … as my blog posts. Neither will they be as frequent. You can expect them something like once every other month. They will be focused on specifics, a few of which are:

1.) Book news. Release dates, exclusive content like as-yet-unseen chapters or excerpts, and any other important announcements regarding my books and stories.

2.) Opportunities. Newsletter followers will get first dibs on things like beta reading and reviewing opportunities.

3.) Condensed blog info. If you don’t fancy getting an email every single time I publish a blog post, my newsletter will give you a rundown of the most popular posts I’ve published recently (with links), and you can pick and choose (or not!) which ones you’d like to read. No clutter in your inbox … always a good thing!

4.) Fun Stuff. Even if you don’t follow my blog, my newsletter will keep you up to date on things like giveaways and promos. Also any other fun tidbits from elsewhere on my various social media that you may have missed.

Click here to sign up for my newsletter, or click on the lovely green sidebar button!

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?

Fairy Tale Gifts for All

I have been making lists and checking them twice, readying myself for both giving and receiving for Christmas this year (although giving is much more fun, as we all know!). I thought it would be amusing to look up gifts strictly in the fairy tale realm. I don’t know many people whom I’d be able to actually buy these gifts for … but how whimsical and wonderful they are, all the same!

FOR THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE

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A prince frog ring? Why yes, please 🙂 And he’s so cute, who wouldn’t want to kiss him??

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A castle necklace for your prince (or princess!) charming.

FOR BOOK LOVERS

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This version features enhanced illustrations (150 of them!), as well as annotations that explore the historical origins, cultural context, and psychological effects of the tales (wow!). It also has a biographical essay on the lives of the two brothers Grimm.

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As if E.E. Cummings isn’t awesome enough without having written a fairy tale book for his daughter … and wait till you see some of the amazingly unique illustrations in it! Eek.

FOR KIDDOS

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I’ve been meaning to create a crochet pattern of my own for a cute and cuddly dragon for some time now. But in the meantime, this felt one is pretty adorable (not to mention organic and … ahem … a bit pricey!).

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I can just imagine making these fairy tale shadow puppets dance on my wall in the light of the Christmas tree …

FOR ANYONE

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This tea is supposed to “induce quiet creativity.”  Um, bring it on!

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In anticipation of spring, a whimsical garden stepping stone.

Which is your favorite? Who would you give it to?

Vanquished Release

I’m excited today to introduce you to a new Christian series for teens published by Pelican Book Group. A novel set in a world where sickness is rampant and medication is limited, Vanquished was written by author Katie Clark. The entire series is available in paperback at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and will be available in eBook form on November 22, 2014.

I myself had the privilege of being an early reader for this book, and if you like dystopian novels with a foundation of faith and hope, you’ll want to consider this one!

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Here is a little about Vanquished!

When Hana’s mom is diagnosed with the mutation, she is denied the medication that might save her life.  Fischer, a medic at the hospital, implies there are people who can help—except Hana’s not sure she can trust him; Fischer is involved in a religious group, and religion has been outlawed for the last hundred years.  Hana embarks on a dangerous journey, seeking the answers Fischer insists are available. When the truth is uncovered does Hana stick to what she knows?  Or does she join the rebellion, taking a stand against an untrustworthy society?

 

Author Katie ClarkKATIE CLARK writes young adult speculative fiction, including her dystopian Enslaved Series, made up of Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.