Monday, May 31, 2010


This will be a relatively short post, but I have uploaded 2 more stories in the C.S. Lewis Contest: "The Prophesy" and "Kelsey".  I will also be updating one of the stories already posted and will let you know when that is finished.  Tuesday is the last day I will be accepting submissions.  A poll will go up shortly after.  Have fun reading the entries!  I'm curious to know who will win now.

On another note, I hope to be posting at least one more book review within the next few days, and perhaps finally get some awards taken care of.  Some of you out there have been kind enough to give my blog some awards, and I am more than happy to award them to others as well!!! :)  It's just finding the time to do it that really has me stumped.  But have no fear!  I will get it done!  Eventually....  :D

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where Oh Where Have the Good Books Gone?!

It is a shame. Really, it is. In a way, I feel completely let down by the bookstores of today. Do you want to know why? I am disappointed with the itty-bitty amount of good Christian reads that large chain stores such as B&B and Borders allow on their shelves; it’s almost a crime.

Oh, don’t get me wrong: they associate themselves with some Christian books and publishers. If they didn’t they would lose a very large audience and of course they don’t want to do that. But they’ll try to get by with putting as few real and printed books as possible on their actual shelves and the rest they leave to E-sales.

I am ashamed. I knew it was bad before, but what can a person do, right?

I went into a Border’s store today and went to the “Religious” section hoping to find a good Christian Fantasy read (because, as many of you know, I enjoy reading fantasy above any other genre). In my personal opinion, a better name for that section would have been The “any-type-of-remotely-religious-looking-book-that-we-can-manage-to-fit-onto-a-single-shelf-and-not-be-called-bias” section.

I am totally serious here.

There were books on every religion from Budism to Wiccan stuffed on a single shelf and that was what they called the “Religious” section. Now, I admit that Christian books dominated that poor and lonely shelf, but more than half of these books were sappy western romances (and I apologize to those of my readers who enjoy western romances; I’m just not very fond of them). The good Thriller and Fantasy reads I could find, I already had and had no desire to re-purchase.

There was one new book I discovered: “Raven’s Ladder”, third (I think) in a YA series by Jeff Overstreet. That was it. And as much as I hate starting a series in the middle or near the end, I bought the book. Why? Because it was worth it. Not only does it look like a very good and intriguing read, but the Bookstores need to see that readers want these books, and we want the stores to sell them – not just on the internet, but IN THEIR STORES! I mean, let me see a show of hands: how many of you out there prefer going and sifting through the shelves and pages of a physical bookstore over clicking a link on the internet?

*waves hand frantically in the air, jumping up and down and shouting “me, me, me!!!”)

Christian fantasy writers, publishers, and readers really need to stand up. We need to. They’re not going to get the message otherwise. We want more than just a single shelf dedicated to every type of religion the world can throw their way with Christian stuff mixed in there somewhere. If they can dedicate an entire huge section to vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and demons and call it YA, they can give us the good, wholesome, Christian Fantasy we want to read!!!!

If you agree with me on this, let’s make sure that others get the picture. All I ask is that you post about this subject on your own blog, or else link to this page. Let’s get the message out there; we want the “good books” back!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Exciting Moment

Time is running short! Though not so much for me. It is now the 25th; that means there are only 7 days left to enter the C.S. Lewis contest. Finish those last few critiques, but remember… while it is preferred that the story has good grammar and whatnot, you can only do so much with it in a month. I know I’ve been pounding ya, but I can’t help it! I’m just as excited as you guys! *happy grin*.

But no more pounding, I PROMISE. I’ll hold off as long as I can.

On a completely different note, how many of you out there have heard of Marcher Lord Press? It’s a relatively new Indie Press specializing in Christian Spec-fic, and rapidly growing. Right now it has published 12 fiction titles, several of which have gotten rave reviews and are bestsellers. The founder of Marcher Lord, Jeff Gerke, also hosts a website titled, “Where the map Ends”. And, as a fiction writer, I was immediately intrigued by that title. After all, where the map ends there are usually dragons… and monsters… and whatever else can be conjured by imagination, because no one really knows what’s beyond the edge of a map (unless you have satellite or GPS, but for the present we are going to try and ignore such technology). “Where the Map Ends” is filled with writing advice, interviews with authors, spec-fic art, and a forum for fiction writing discussions. I have been following both “Marcher Lord Press” and “Where the Map Ends” for little over a year now, and have not been disappointed yet.

As some of you know, Marcher Lord Press has been one of the publishers I’ve been looking at for “Song of the Daystar”. I have had some correspondence with Mr. Gerke concerning SOTD’s content. Since SOTD was originally written for YA, I was unsure if I would be allowed to submit it as MLP does not publish YA. However, Mr. Gerke told me that some of his authors have had similar questions and told me to go ahead and submit it, which I did yesterday.

Yes, that is my exciting news!

I was so excited to finally finish filling out the form, and then to send it in. I received a confirmation email soon after. However, Mr. Gerke made it clear that MLP is really swamped with submissions right now, and he told me to expect at least a year before he can get to my submission.

A whole year! How am I ever going to wait that long?!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Transitions and What Makes them Good

Transitions are a tricky subject to tackle and one I’m having difficulties with right now, which is why I decided to write a post on the matter (go figure!). I’m working on one of my older pieces, titled “Eldrie” and I’m at a point where my characters have a sudden understanding that they are not just ordinary characters, but extraordinary ones.

Now, I admit, this transition is very popular in epic fantasy and its counter transition is just as well used (character comes into the story knowing that he’s extraordinary, and either finds out that he’s not as amazing as he at first thought, or else he uses his awesome powers to fight off evil forces… this transition is more popular with urban fantasy than with epic.) But let’s all face it; we read fantasy and Sci-fi because we like that sort of transition… and all the magical and futuristic baubles that tag along with it. We wouldn’t read it (or write it) if we didn’t.

The trick, however, is for a writer to make these transitions look new and appealing as if we were the first ones to think them up. And let me tell you now, it is NOT easy! There are no (or else very, very few) ideas out there that haven’t been tapped into before, and the same thing goes with transitions.

So what do you do when you find yourself stuck writing a transition that just doesn’t want to work?

Well, for shorter transitions such as scene or chapter changes, here is a tip from the all important literary agent:

First and foremost, do NOT describe weather.

Weather is a fine thing, and as writers we all want our readers to know what’s going on at all times, whether it’s raining, snowing, morning, or night. But agents have made it clear, they don’t like reading long descriptions of the weather or how brilliantly light or deeply dark it is outside unless it seriously affects the scene.

Let me be the first to admit, I am totally guilty of this.

To be honest, weather is an easy subject to use and it’s one of the first things a writer considers when trying to set a scene or start a new chapter. I don’t know how many times I’ve started a scene with “The night was dark” or “The sun rose... [fill in the rest of the sentence]”. Recently I’ve tried to go back and rewrite these transitions so that they fit the scene better.

Here’s a quick example. In the first excerpt, I’m trying to describe one of my villains to the MC who is seeing the creature for the first time. The setting is late at night in the MC’s front yard. What I’m trying to portray is sense of deep evil and dread, even though my MC has never seen or heard of the villain before. In this particular instance, the fact that it is dark out is very important, as my MC just woke up from a nightmare set in the black of night on a high cliff top.

Outside, the night was black. Clouds scuttled across the sky, hiding the stars from view.  A dark figure stood in the yard. Tibain figured it to be several feet taller than Dakore and it was completely black. Shadows darkened the ground around it and no moonlight fell where they were. No moonlight fell on the figure either; it repelled the light like an oil-skin repels water.

That was the original text. Did you catch the “black night” reference? Did you also catch how it countered the fact that the moon was out?

Well, recently I’ve gone back and rewritten the scene to seem more forbidding and dark.  I tried to be careful when choosing my words, and I was also careful to have the weather set the scene rather than hinder it. See if this sounds any better:

Tibain slid his dagger from under his mattress and eased himself out from beneath the covers. Keeping his movements as silent as possible, he crept over to the window and drew the shutters open. Clouds scuttled across the sky, hiding the stars from view. The moon’s ghostly light shone through them, piercing them with silver. The land lay beneath it, cast in a spectral glow.

A tall, dark figure stood beneath the oak tree. Moonlight splattered over the shoulders of its tattered black cloak, filtered through the branches above. Shadows darkened the ground around it, stretching towards it like errily reaching fingers.

In my personal opinion, I like the second version better. I cut out the “black night” reference, and instead made the fact that the moon was out seem almost more frightening than if it’d been hidden away. (or at least I tried to).

But there are other types of transitions too, and they are not so easily dealt with.  Like, for example, the one I was talking about earlier - you know, the one I'm having trouble taming. That one spans several chapters and covers several scenes.  My problem? I feel like I’m taking too long to get to the point.

So what do I do now, eh? Do I let it sit? Do I fall over my laptop and cry out of frustration? Do I rewrite it?

Actually, the first thing I did was go and look up possible solutions in “Novel Shortcuts” by Laura Whitcomb. (and no, I’m not being paid to advertise her book.) Seriously though, I’ve found it to be an immense help, and I suggest that every writer get a copy. My problem right now is that I feel like my transition comes too late in the story, so I flipped to chapter 9 in Ms. Whitcomb’s book and looked up “pace and structure”.

There it was, listed #2.

For copyright reasons, I will not actually quote Ms. Whitcomb’s book, but I will try to summarize what it said.

Basically it said:

If you think your novel is moving too slow, then pay attention to that feeling. It could mean that you have too many scenes that don’t really pertain to the actual plot, or maybe you just like to describe things in detail but you don’t need to. Try to cut out what you don’t need, including some scenes that aren’t as important as others. Cut back on your adjectives and adverbs and use them only when absolutely necessary; sometimes things can be described better without them. Then, if cutting things out doesn’t help, go back and look at the outline or rough draft: perhaps your problem isn’t in too many words, but in the flow of actions. If your characters actions don’t seem to flow correctly, go back and try to figure out what went wrong, then try to fix it. You might find that the problem get’s fixed by rearranging (or cutting) a few scenes to keep your reader’s turning pages. Also, read, read, read!!! Reading and analyzing transitions to see what made them work from some of your favorite books might help you realize what is going wrong with yours.

So that’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s already helped a lot. I’ve gone back and cut words (and a few scenes) and have started re-reading some books that I feel have a similar story voice as mine. (when reading someone else’s work to discover a problem in your own writing, I’ve found that it’s always best to choose something with a similar voice because the style I’m reading tends to slip into my writing style as well).

If anyone out there struggles with transitions as much as I do, I hope this post helps. Transitions aren’t easy, I know… believe me, I know! But they can be done and done well. It just takes time and determination, and before you know it your book will be reading smoothly again. :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Rejection... and a reminder

Hey guys! 

Just recieved another rejection for "Song of the Daystar" via email.  The Agent was very polite about it.  That makes 3.  And yet I felt peace when I opened it and peace after I read it.  This is certainly turning out to be an interesting ride...

And now, I know you're all busy and you're probably getting tired of my reminders, but I feel like I should remind those of you who are entering the C.S. Lewis contest that we only have about 12 more days to the submission deadline!  Keep typing away!  What I've read so far is very good and I want to give everyone an equal chance at this.

And, in absence of something more meaningful, that will be all for today.

Random splurge:  Chocolate Pencils!  :) 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Quantum Inspirations

I’ve been reading the Second book of Bryan Davis’ “Echoes on the Edge” series, titled “Eternity’s Edge”. For those of you who don't already know, Echoes on the Edge is a book series written by the author of the bestselling series "Dragons in our Midst". I've only just started reading “Eternity’s Edge”. (Haven't read the first book yet, but that's what you get for buying books at a Goodwill).

Anyway, I'll try to cut to the chase.

Reading his book last night while winding down from a busy day, I found myself totally enthralled with the idea of different dimensions being opened through music, which is the evident theme for the book. Music has always been an important part of life; it affects everything, from my mood in the car, to my writings, and even the way I talk at times. To me, the thought of Music affecting not just my mood, but also dimensions of time and space is absolutely riveting. Enchanting. Alluring. Absolutely Inspiring.

So, like a good daughter, I decided to talk to my mom about it. And do you want to know what she said?

Mom: Yeah, I've known about that for awhile. It's called Quantum Physics.

Well, you'd think I'd have thought of that beforehand!

But my denseness aside, I still think it is a wonderful idea. Really! I’m already convinced that God must be a singer, or else why would music affect human kind so entirely? Even Lucifer was the lead worshiper in heaven before his head got too big and he decided to make himself into something he wasn’t.

God loves music. He really does. A few years back while watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network (or TBN), they were doing a program on crickets: crickets of all things! But what they actually did was record a cricket chirping at regular speed and then slowed the recording down for human ears. The results were astounding. Slowed down to the frequency of a normal human’s ears, the chirping became a beautiful heavenly symphony. Even crickets are God’s worshipers!

“… Even the very stones will cry out…”

Yes, they will!

According to an article my mom was reading to me on the Elijah List a few months back, scientists have now proven that music can change the course of different events.

This stuff is astounding people! God is so amazing!!! And it opens up all sorts of interesting questions for my overly active mind to mull over.

What if, instead of speaking things into being, He sang them into existence? What if music really is the essential key to the secrets to the dimensions of time and space? What if musical notes played or sang in the correct order really could open the door to a new world, or close the door to an old one?

I feel excitement build in my chest every time I think of it! The possibilities are endless. I simply must go and write.

And that’s exactly what I’m planning to do. I’ve started planning out another book titled either “The Keeper” or “Guardian”. Both simple titles for a relatively complicated idea. I won’t bother with the details just yet as I’m only just starting to sketch them out. But as the theory of Quantum Physics is relatively well known worldwide, I figured I would share the wonder of the idea with you, my faithful readers.

And I also want to challenge those who are willing to write a short story based on this theory and post it in this thread. It should be interesting to see what you come up with. :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wish Me Luck... *Crosses Fingers*

Before anyone asks: no, I have not found an agent yet to represent Song of the Daystar.  Still working on that.  But that is not what this post is about.

This post is about a couple of other stories I have written... Short stories, no longer than 4k.  And two poems.

Now, some of you may already be members at and some may not.  Some of you may get the magazine and some may not.  But for those of you who don't already know this, Writers' Digest is hosting a competition for Short stories and poetry, with the grand prize being $3,000 and a trip to NYC to meet with editors and agents.  All submissions are due May 14 or else an extra $5 must be payed per entry.

I have just entered two of my short stories and two poems.

That's a lot of money, I know, ($60 all told) but God has been kind to me recently and has granted me the entrance fee.  I have edited like crazy: I've revised: I've worried.  Now all I can do is cross my fingers and pray.  And maybe worry some more.  Contest winners won't be notified until October.

Wish me luck everyone!!!  :)

And here's one of the poems to help pass the time.

The Rose Minstrel
By: Nichole White

How beautiful the rose at eve
As, delicate, its petals furl
How effortless I could believe
The rose to be a minstrel girl

For look unto her skirts of fire,
Of crimson edged in fairy-gold;
A beauteous flame of love’s desire
But wild, whose mysteries lie untold

How sweet her voice on breezes carried,
Whispered songs of secrets held
In my heart her whispers tarry;
Twined in thorns, my heart is spelled

On her beauty let me linger,
But I’m cheated by her shows
For my pretty minstrel singer
Ends up simply but a rose.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

C.S Lewis Contest Update

Hello People,

Well, I said I’d try to keep everyone updated on the C.S. Lewis contest, so here we go. Yesterday I posted another story on the contest page; it’s titled “Dark Hour”, and while I’ve only read part of it so far due to time restrictions, what I have read is pretty sweet.  Then today I've posted another story titled "Holding On".  Make sure to check them out.  Remember, at the end of May a pole will be set up for voting so it’s always good to try and read every story as they’re posted so you have an idea of which story you like best.

I must say, I’m impressed so far. You guys are really writing all out. :) Keep it up! This is definitely turning out to be an interesting contest. :D

(Update again:  I now have links posted on the story page that will link to the story you click on.  It's all explained on the contest page, so check it out!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Queries Runnin' Wild

Ok, I've had a few people ask me about queries.  Now, granted, I haven't been in this particular stage of publishing for very long  yet, so I'm not very experienced with it.  But I have been looking into it for several years.  Hopefully this post will be helpful.

A query (for those who don't know) is an official letter than an Author sends out to literary agents and publishers, pitching his/her book.  The agent or publisher will read the query and decide whether or not they are willing to represent/publish the book. 

But as some people might know, agents and publishers are usually very picky about what they represent.  After all, your writing is what is getting them paid; their reputation is on the line.  You need to convince them that your book is worth all the time and money they will invest into it (and believe me when I say they will invest A LOT of time and money into it if they choose to represent/publish you).  You need to prove to them that your book will sell and let them know what audience it will sell to.  And you need to let them know that you're not just throwing yourself into the publishing process blind: show them that you know what you're doing and that you're willing to work for your success. 

All of this will be shown in your query. (Pluss pitching the book)

Daunting, isn't it?

"But how", you ask, "will I fit all of that onto one page?!  It'll never work, I tell you!  I'm doomed!"  (and actually, that's really close to my first reaction.)

Well, for starters, a lot of what was mentioned above can be shown through how you approach your query.  Though I hate to say it, words alone can't save you here.  Well, actually they can... but ONLY if you approach your query with a sense of business.  The query is your writing resume and the publishers/agents will look at your query much as a potential employer will look at a resume to see whether or not they want to hire you.  So your query must sound professional.

But you must also use your own writing voice.  The agent/publisher wants to get a small glimpse at your writing style and see if it fits their taste.  Never believe that an agent or publisher doesn't have good taste because they rejected your work; maybe it just isn't what they prefer to read.  Or maybe they've even recently published something vaguely familiar to what you're offering (which happens all the time).

That said, the first and foremost thing that every author must do before sending a query into the critical jaws of a litterary agent is to do your research.

That's right: homework.

You want to show the agent that you know what you're doing so make sure you DO know what you're doing!  Look into litterary agents.  Look up agent and writing blogs.  Ask questions.  Check out books.  Look into Writers Market.  Ask questions.  Study potential queries of other writers.  Go online for help if you need it.  Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions...

I think you're starting to get the idea.

Only after you've researched, when you think you understand the process of querying and publishing pretty well... only then can you write and send your query.

Here's a basic form for a query letter that I found on Nathan Bransford's blog.  (Here's the link if you would like to check out the actual post:  Query Mad Lib.  And if you haven't checked his blog out yet, please be sure to do so: it's filled to the brim with all sorts of helpful writing advice.)

Dear [Agent name],

I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].

[title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author's credits (optional)], and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,

[your name]

Surprisingly simple, isn't it?  But believe me when I say that it works.

Of course, you would have to work with it in order to make this form really become your query, but this form has helped me a whole bunch in working on mine.  Nathan also gives two good examples of query letters that have caught his interest in the past.

Check, check, and double check your queries!  This is so very, very important.  Because agents will be looking to see how well your letter is written, you must make sure that there are no grammatical errors.  Also. be sure to spell the agent's name correctly; they tend not to like it if you just assume they'll overlook that small detail.  Make sure that you aren't over embellishing your query; these letters need to be short, sweet, and to the point.  A good idea to keep in mind is to summarize your book using only three sentences.  Now, sometimes these sentences run over... but if that's the case, just make sure that everything you've written is extremely important to the storyline. 

After you've finished writing your absolutely wonderfully perfect query letter, you must begin sending it out to agents.  I started searching for agents using QueryTracker which lists names and companies of thousands of different potential agents.  However, Query Tracker does NOT ensure that every agent listed on the site is a true agent and not just out for your money or (even worse) your story.  Even so, the site does provide a list of links where you can look up the agents and check out their credentials thoroughly.  If you decide that you'd like to query that agent, you can add the agent to your "agent list".  You can even change agent status (when you sent the query, when a response came in, and whether you were rejected or accepted), and leave comments about your satisfaction with the agent for other users to view.  I also discovered the other day that I could back up a query on the site that I had sent to a certain agent.

Then, after many rejections, you finally get an answer!  They want a partial, or a full manuscript, or they really, really think that you're the new Cornelia Funke or Jame's Patterson and can't possibly wait to represent/publish your book.  :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

First Rejection

Hello again.

I've told people I would keep my blog updated with news about Song of the Daystar.  As some of you know, I started the Querying stage of the publishing process at the beginning of the week, and now I can say I received my first ever rejection notice.

The notice was very polite but not overly so.  It was actually pleasant (and this coming from the rejected author!).  To be honest, I didn't really expect this agent to represent my work, but I was curious to see if he was even a tad bit interested.  Apparently he wasn't.  But I'm ok with that.

Some of you may be wondering who exactly I'm talking about.  Well, it's no secret: his name is Nathan Bradsford and he's one of the top agents at Curtis Brown, LTD... a very highly recommended literary agency.  I follow his blog consistently: it's completely filled with helpful and useful tips for writers.  I suggest that other writers look into it.

One of the things that Nathan says on his blog is, "If in doubt, query me."  Which is exactly what I did.  I have to say that I think the reason I wasn't hurt by the rejection in any way, shape, or form is because I've been steeling myself for my first rejection letter (and probably the many others that follow the first), for several years now.  I've know it was bound to happen, so when I read the letter, all that came to mind was, "Alright then.  He must not be the right agent, but that just means that the right agent is still out there and God will help me find him."

Below, I've posted the rejection so that you can see for yourself how polite he was about it: 

Dear Nichole,

Thank you for your recent e-mail and for reading my blog, I appreciate it. I regret to say that I don't feel that I'm the most appropriate agent for your work.

However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.

Best wishes,


So, I guess that means I just wait for the next response...  *taps fingers impatiently on the computer desk.*  Waiting can be so hard!!!

Starlighter Review #2

Well, this is the second part of my review on Bryan Davis' new book Starlighter.  Unfortunately I just read too fast for me to do any more than two reviews on one book!  I mean, I've had that book done for about a week now and am almost finished reading Raising Dragons which I started about three days ago.  So you see my dilemma.

But a review was promised, so here it is.  (A word of warning to those who haven't read it yet: this review contains spoilers!)

I have to say that in the end, I did enjoy reading it.  Now that I've read some of Bryan's other work, though, I would have to say that Starlighter isn't his absolute best, but it is still a pretty good read.  Jason's character developed a more clear personality as the story progressed, and the end is left open, making room for sequels (which, I have no doubt, will be very good).  I would like to hear a lot more about Koren, but I'm already missing Elyssa; I'm looking forward to see how Jason will rescue all the other slaves from Starlight, or if it can be done at all.

But looking back, while Bryan's world seemed vivid enough at the time I was reading the book, it now seems shallow in my memory... as if I didn't see enough of it to paint a clear picture of the world in my head.  I can see certain places, but the world itself seems only vague.  Please don't get me wrong on this; that is not necessarily a bad thing.  It just means he placed his story in a limited amount of space.

It will certainly be interesting to see where he goes with this story from here.  Bryan has proven that he's a good writer and his ideas always seem fresh (at least to me).  But building a story in a completely new world is very difficult, as many writers discover.  I will say that he's pulled it off with Starlighter... but I think he may have done better with Dragons in our Midst.

Having read some of his other books and enjoying them thuroughly, I give this book a 3-1/2.  I will definintely be reading it again, I have no doubts about it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The C.S. Lewis Contest is Underway!

Hello all,

May is finally here and now the C.S. Lewis contest is open for submissions.  I just recieved the first one today, and I've now set up a page on the blog just for the contest; when I recieve a submission I'll post it on that page, so be sure to check in often to read the new entries.

At the moment, I'm not posting the names of authors; this is to make sure the contest remains fair.  If no one else knows who wrote what, then judging will be based on the story itself and the writing.  That way we don't have just a bunch of people voting for one story just because they're good friends with the author or something.... 'course, that doesn't mean it won't happen anyway, but its worth a shot, right?

However, no one needs to worry about whether or not thier story will get mixed up with anyone elses; I will save all the stories in a special folder in my email, so be sure to put at least your blogger username in the subject bar so I know which story belongs to who.  If the author of the winning story would like to continue using thier screen name after the contest, that is fine as well.  Just remember that the winning story will be posted on my blog in hopes that anyone who visits "The Pen and Parchment" will read it and perhaps really like it.  (This includes any potential agents or publishers, so I would highly suggest that the winner allows his real name to be posted with his story... although I do understand safety and privacy issues.)

The first story is finally posted:  it's called "The Heartsmith", and its really good.  I'll post more stories as soon as I recieve them.