Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Contest over at "Dancing with Dragons is Hard on your Shoes"

(Side note: isn't that just an awesome blog name?  I mean, seriously... if that doesn't catch a fantasy writer's attention, then what will? *grin*)

I just wanted to give a shout out about the awesome contest that Miriam Forster is having over at her blog. Ms. Forster recently sold her book "House of a Thousand Dolls" to a publisher and blogged about her efforts. To thank her followers for... eh, following her, and in celebration of her book deal, she's throwing a GIVAWAY!

(Don't enter please... ;)  I would like to win this one. hehe!)

But I said I would blog about it so here is the link: http://msforster.blogspot.com/2011/05/thank-you-contest-of-amazingness_26.html

Hey, even though I have a competitive spirit, I'm fair. lol! ;D

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Passion within Argument

First of all let me say that this is not a post about writing passion into the argument of characters, so if that's why you clicked into this post I'm sorry to disappoint you. THAT post will come later (yet another writing idea that I want to blog about but have yet to do so. *eyeroll*).

This post is actually about the passion I have concerning one certain argument in the literary world, and if you write Christian Speculative Fiction then you probably share this passion.

The other day I was browsing one of the writing forums I'm a member of when I came across a thread titled simply "Christian Fantasy?" The writer of the thread simply wondered if there was such a genre as Christian Fantasy and if his book would apply as it contained aspects from a Christian World View. Before I had read any of the replies I started writing my own. "Of course there's such a genre as Christian Fantasy!" I said. I was excited to be able to tell this person about what I knew of the genre, the whole time thinking, "That's another one for Christian Spec-Fic. Man is this genre growing!"

But after I posted my reply, I started to read the other replies on the thread, and what I saw broke my heart. Out of the three pages of replies, there were only a few people who actually stood up for the genre, and one of them was a lady that goes to my writers' group. Many of the other replies were saying that there couldn't really be such a genre as Christian Fantasy. They told the guy that perhaps his fantasy book was only Christian based, and maybe it should just be called a supernatural fantasy or something of the like. One person even posted something stating that all fantasy is of the devil and evil and terrible for children as it corrupts them.


Now I have very clear vision as to what I believe and what I believe is nonsense. I will be the first to admit that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that's fine by me, but when I see people openly and (dare I say it) blatantly demeaning something that not only has been proven true multiple times, but that I also thoroughly believe in, that's when I start to get fired up. Me fired up is not always a pretty picture. I've been told before that I should be a lawyer because of how passionate and pointed my arguments can be. I don't have the patience or the drive for law school, but DON'T cross my genre.

Of course I couldn't just let these statements slide. What were they telling this poor man?! I was sitting right there in my chair at the table, a Christian Speculative fiction/fantasy writer and reader who could name off 2 dozen world-known authors of the same genre just off the top of my head, not to mention the books that those authors wrote. I wasn't exactly invisible… (well, it's the internet… to many of my online writing buddies I'm just a faceless username. But still.) My next reply was full of reasons why there is such a genre as Christian spec-fic, how that works together, and then a whole list of links the guy could click through to read about the genre itself. Not to mention publisher names. My following posts included hot headed debates with those who put down or dismissed Christian Fantasy as well as encouraging words for the few users on the thread who actually wrote in my genre. My recurring tag line was "we may be small, but we are not invisible and we refuse to be overlooked or ignored".

Then yesterday someone replied to some of my replies. The person was very nice about it, welcomed me to the forum, admitted that it might sting to have my genre ignored and overlooked, but then told me that I'm probably insulting people as genre definition is often vague, and varies from person to person.

Ok, so I was a little hot headed when I wrote some of those posts, I admit it. I apologized if they insulted anyone. I didn't mean for them to be insulting, but I'm not sorry I posted them and I'm not taking them down. Genre Definition often times IS vague, it's very true, but that doesn't give anyone permission to erase a genre completely. The CBA and other organizations in the publishing world have tried to ignore this genre for far too long. I didn't even know there was such a thing as Christian Fantasy until a few years ago when I discovered Donita K. Paul's books, and then Wayne Thomas Batson's books. Many other Christians don't know about it either; they've been told that there is no Christian Fantasy, Christian Sci-fi, or Christian Spec-Fic in general. And I admit that sometimes it's hard to tell… I found Jeffery Overstreet's books in the general Fantasy section of my local B&N. However, if the writers and readers of this genre don't stand up for themselves and their books, then of course we'll be invisible.

But I can't stand that thought. I refuse to be ignored. I refuse to be overlooked.

I mean, even if you don't believe that the genre is moral (which, in my mind is complete nonsense), at least recognize that it IS a genre… that it's real and not just a pretended fad or wishful thinking. There are authors out there who write Christian Fantasy; they don't try to hide that fact. There are readers out there who read Christian Sci-Fi; they know what to look for in the bookstores. I may have insulted some people with those forum posts, but at least I was stating truth, and if someone wants to be (in my opinion) blatant about the "truth" of a nontruth, then I will be blatant about the actual TRUTH.

Don't put down my passion. Don't ignore it. Don't tell me it's not worth it... I work hard for my passion just like everyone else, and it's not easy. Don't try to convince me that it's immoral when it's been proven moral over and again. And don't tell me that it's not real. I know it's real. I've seen it and I've been writing it for years. If you try to convince me otherwise, I won't believe you because I have proof of the opposite. I'll show you my proof if you like. I'll share what I know. I'll share author names and book titles and publishing news. I'll even listen to your opinions on the matter.

But I will not sit by and pretend to be invisible when you insult my chosen life and my chosen genre. Christian Speculative Fiction is real, the writers and readers of that genre and all of its subcategories are out here, and we are NOT going down without a fight.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Intriguing New Book... Hmmm...

So, I’m back after a very full spring semester, and today I decided to go apply for a job at the Berean Christain Bookstore in my area (yep… we still have one. :D).  As it happens, (and this is really, really freakin’ amazing), the general manager goes to my church.  I met him last Thursday after our writers group which takes place in a conference room at Berean.  He saw me as I was walking out and said, “Hey, don’t you sing on the Worship Team at Riverside Community Church?” (my church.)  Of course I said yes, because… well, because I do.  Then he said, “I knew I’d seen you before.  And that’s so cool because I will be singing with you on Sunday.”

Wow.  Now that’s just awesome. :D

Well, I had planned last Thursday to apply at Berean before I ever met the man, but then when I told him on Sunday, he told me to definitely come back and apply.  Don’t know what that means, exactly, but it can’t be all that bad.

Anyway, while I was there today, I decided to check out the books, of course.  You can’t go into a bookstore and not look around a bit… (at least I can’t).  Berean has a bookshelf at the very front of the store for local musicians and authors.  I thought it would be interesting to start there today, and as I was gazing over the shelf my eye fell on a book titled simply “The Chair” by Jim Eller.

 I honestly couldn’t tell you what compelled me to pick this book up.  Its cover wasn’t the most spectacular, but it really wasn’t bad looking either: clean and to the point.  The book was self published and the blurb on the back was an intriguing excerpt.  Now, I’m not the fondest of excerpt-blurbs, but this one really wasn’t that bad.  Flipped open the book and read the first chapter.  Again, very intriguing.  I would have continued reading but I had an appointment to make, and the book was $12.00 which I don’t have to spend.

 To be completely honest, I probably would have bought it just so I could keep reading.  I even put it on my list of books that I would like to look into and possibly buy in the future.  (That's a pretty extensive list... <_<) It’s not very often that I pick up a book on whim and read through the first chapter while I’m still IN the store… the whole first chapter, mind you, not just part of it.  If a book catches my eye it usually only takes ½ of the first chapter for me to decide whether or not I’d like to finish reading it.  If the first ½ of the first chapter grabs my interest and really intrigues me, then I’ll finish reading the first chapter.  And possibly read on while still standing in the middle of a busy store. (yes… yes, sometimes I find books like that at Wal-mart.  I’m not that picky of where I find the book, as long as the book is good. ;D)

Now many writers have been warned against self-publishing, and I honestly don’t know how well this book is doing on the market.  What I do know is that I read that first chapter without even realizing it until I had finished it completely.  That, to me, is what marks the beginning of a good book.  I haven’t read on, so I don’t know what happens in the book, or how well thought out the plot is, or how colorful and fleshed out his characters are, but that first chapter was GOOD.

I emailed the guy and found out he goes to a local church that’s affiliated with my church.  Then I invited him to our writers’ group.  Who knows whether he will come or not, but it should be interesting.  I would post a picture of the cover, but I couldn’t find one online.  I would post his website address, but I really wasn’t that impressed with his website and he doesn’t have an Amazon account for this book.  However, I did find a book trailer that seems to tell more about the book, and boy does it look interesting!  The tag line for the book is, “Faith lies somewhere between Obedience and Fear”.  “The Chair” is, apparently, a supernatural thriller.  It read like one too.  Reminded me a little bit of Ted Dekker, but not the same style… not really.  It was it’s own style.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings.  Here’s the trailer, and you can decide for yourself whether this book looks like a keeper or not. :D

Monday, May 16, 2011


IT'S DONE! Oh my word, it's DONE!!!

I finished my last final today at 3:00pm. Don't know what my grade is yet, but all I can think about is this wondrous weight that has been lifted off my shoulders. Seriously, I feel light headed.  *swoons*

What does this mean?  It means that the anxiety of having giant school projects that I am really not interested in looming over my head is now gone.  All of that has been replaced with some very interesting endeavors I plan to pursue in the summer, including (but most certainly not limited to) finishing the new and improved re-write of SOTD.  Not to mention the blog posts I have been promising everyone. :)

Tonight I go home to a few other writing related projects, and now that I don't have to worry about classes, I think I will enjoy them.  Tomorrow morning I get to sleep in for the first time in a very, very long time.  And I just found out that the Pen and Parchment now has 60 followers.  Sounds like a good beginning to what promises to be a very good summer. ^_^


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Welcome Back, Dear Muse. I Have Missed Thee. :D

If you’ve been following the Pen and Parchment for awhile, it’s probable you know about my crazy hectic schedule. School’s coming to an end for the Spring Semester, Finals are almost over (if I can survive them) and I’ve been planning some big things for this summer. First up on my plate is to finish the new and much improved rewrite of “Song of the Daystar”. I want to have it completed by August, if at all possible (which it may not be… maybe by the end of August). This means that aside from my training sessions at the school for my position as a writing tutor which begins next fall, and the fact that I need a summer job – preferably something along the lines of my career choice (I’m thinking about starting a business in my area as a creative writing teacher for homeschoolers over the summer, inspired by my wonderful mother’s faith in my abilities. :D), my summer days will be filled with hectic and (hopefully) inspired writing moments.

However, there has been just one little problem with my plans; my muse decided to take a long and quite unexpected vacation several months ago. You’ve heard me complain of this before, I’m sure. I’ve been just plain stuck, and for a long time it seemed that nothing I did would coax my muse to come back before she decided to. How on earth am I supposed to plan a summer filled with writing endeavors when my muse refuses to stick around long enough for me to include her in my plans?

But last night (that would be the night of Thursday the 12th), I was rewarded with a very pleasant surprise. I had just put down my German homework for a much needed break and was flipping lazily through my video files when I came across a file that I had completely forgotten about. It was a writer’s prompt issued by Arwen9 (also known as Liz) over at the Sci-fi/fantasy thread on the Writers’ Digest forum. The reason for the prompt was to inspire a short story no longer than 5k to enter into the summer short story competition. (They have regular short story competitions over on that forum. Depending on the amount of entrants, the top three stories voted on receive a sparkly cyber trophy that the author can post in their sig-line. :D) This particular prompt was different from the previous prompts I’d seen, as it was both a visual and audio prompt, which is why I had decided to download the file in the first place.

The visual prompt is just a single picture of what looks to be a regular girl standing out in the rain in a yellow raincoat with sniper lasers trained on her as she holds out a grenade in one hand for all to see and dangles the pin from the first finger of her other hand. The music is a slightly repetitive score, but very thrilling at the same time. Changing mostly in volume as it adds more instruments and voices with each repetition, it dips and raises – crescendos and decrescendos – with every replay until the song is absolutely thrumming with tension. It sounds like it would easily fit in some sort of psychological thriller movie, such as Eagle Eye or perhaps Transformers. The idea behind the contest is to write a short story no longer than 5k that is based on the music and the photo, and tells the story of how the girl got to that point in her life.

So back to last night.

I had just pushed play on the video file and had almost finished listening through the first 8 bars, when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turned around and there she was with suitcases still in hand, a straw hat flopping over her eyes, and a glorious tan that could never have been coaxed from the Illinois sun at this time of year.

“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!” I scolded her. “I’ve been driven almost crazy with lack of imaginative ideas, and you’ve been off getting a tan… A TAN!”

My muse did not say a word but gently set down her suitcases, flashed a smile of pearl white, and leaned over to press my fingers to my keyboard.

My nose crinkled at her. “Oh, so NOW you want to work, do you?”

But instead of answering me, she taped my fingers on the keys a few times, then sat down on my bed and started giving me a back massage.

Now, I knew what she was up to; this was just a ploy – her way of saying she was sorry for deserting me in my time of mental crisis. And perhaps I wasn’t quite ready to forgive her yet – perhaps I should have played the victim a bit longer and really made her feel bad for leaving me all alone and stranded in crazy-weathered Illinois for so many, many months while she went off on vacation and partied it up on some beautiful Caribbean Island meant only for the ethereal threads of the inspirations of the world. However, I have never been able to resist a good back massage, especially when it is administered by my own muse. I’m telling you, people – she is an amazing masseuse!

So I’m lying there on my bed with this tension-building music playing in the background while receiving an extremely relaxing massage from the Embodiment of my Imagination, and right at that moment, I start typing. Typing furiously. In fact, I’m almost sure I saw smoke start to rise from my keyboard as I pounded out the skeletal outline of a story.

Now this story has absolutely nothing to do with SOTD or Eldrei. In fact, I’ve never written a story like this before in my life! And I can’t decide on which genre it is either… Sci-fi? Dystopian? Urban fantasy? Maybe a mix of all of them… Well, whatever it is, this story is going to be great! I can already feel it in my fingers, and my muse is purring right now and kneading my back with her paws (in her cat form, yes… she gets like that sometimes), urging me to continue writing. I’ll have to be careful around her for a few days now… if she decides that I’m not writing enough while she’s in that form, she tends to bring out The Claws of Doom, and believe me… you do NOT want to be wacked with The Claws of Doom. She aims to draw imagination-stirring blood, and that can definitely get in the way of other plans. ;D

Right now I only have the basic outline of the story written. It’s about a page long, not overly detailed, and reads slightly like a book blurb. Later I plan to do some world and character building and see how far I can take this. It should definitely be an interesting journey. This book feels more like a psychological thriller to me than anything else I’ve written… perhaps that is the genre it is? Who really knows?

I do know this though: there is no way this story is going to end at 5k. I don’t think I can even manage a scene without taking it way out of proportion. No… this is a going to be a novel length venture for sure.

It’s a bit of a daunting thought. I mean, I have several other WIP’s all waiting patiently for me to finish them. Eldrei was supposed to be next… Its rewrite has been shelved on and off for a little over 2 years now, much as I still like to work on it when I need a break from SOTD. Eldrei is just too big of a story to rush into… that world has been growing for almost 8 years now, and there’s no way I’m going to do the story any less than the justice it deserves. When I finish writing that book (for real, I mean) and finally start reworking what I have of the second book that will be a good day indeed! But in the meantime, what on earth am I supposed to do with this new story? I don’t want to just put it in a drawer until the idea becomes old and dusty; it deserves better than that.

Ah well. I guess I’ll have to let my wonderings sit and age for awhile. You know what they say: Ideas are like good wine… they get better as they age. :D So I’ll just let my thoughts simmer and continue writing SOTD. At least my muse is back, which means I shouldn’t have as much trouble writing the rest of chapter 3 as I’ve had for the last two months. And I just can’t stay mad at her either. I’m so happy that she’s back, that all I can say to her is, “Welcome Home, Dear Muse. I have missed thee!”

*Reaches out to pet cat-muse and nearly get’s her hands sliced off*


Ah well. At least she chose her cat form this time. Her Dragonian form is MUCH WORSE. :D