Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Six chapters to the good.

I'm 16,582 words into the revision of Marks of Repentance now. The voice has an odd lilt to it, not like anything else I've ever written, but I'm not having any trouble fitting back into it for the bits I've added. I've managed to find more places to pull the metaphors better into line with the world as well.

Poor Shanh has just endured listening to a *cat fight* between Taifa and her cousin that involves him. He is horrified; girls would never talk like that in Khairdazh. The whole thing erupts so naturally that I just love imagining the look on his face.

In other news, I'm facilitating a discussion group at Forward Motion on Nancy Kress's book Beginnings, Middles and Ends. We've had a fair bit of exchange in the couple of days since we started working through this book. It's interesting seeing the take various people have on the subject, but I can see the group will take a lot of my time in June. What does that matter? I had nothing else to do... :P

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Hidden

A few weeks ago you heard me whine about the fact that the books I've agreed to talk about on my blog seem to all be winding up thrillers instead of my first love, science fiction/fantasy. The genre of the book hasn't changed lately, but my attitude is a *little* more favorable.

I have just finished reading The Hidden by Kathryn Mackel. It's an astonishing story about innocence and guilt, about murders and miracles, about time and eternity. Big city psychiatrist Susan Stone returns to Colorado because her elderly father has been thrown off a horse and injured. Her help is needed on the ranch, but Susan only intends to make a quick visit, hire appropriate help, and go back to the safety of her life. Away from the ranch, her father...and all the terrible memories of years gone by. But then there is The Torch, the unknown psychopathic murderer that is burning victims into unrecognizable lumps of char, and the young man that Susan discovers chained at the bottom of a ravine. What have they to do with each other? And what have they to do with Susan and her inability to deal with the past?

I talked about Kathryn Mackel's science fiction novel, Outriders, in November. I loved that book and can really see a lot of the same voice, the same writing style in The Hidden. Previously she's had two other thrillers published, The Surrogate and The Departed. If I get a chance to read either of those, I will do it though I doubt that thrillers will ever be my favorite genre, so don't hold your breath on that one. What I'm REALLY waiting for is the sequel to Outriders!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Two chapters in

I'm enjoying dipping into the land of Nuomor and seeing what Taifa and Shanh are up to.

Another thing I'm having to watch out for is keeping metaphorical language tuned to their land. The Nuomorans worship Majai, goddess of the sea, so I am gearing the wording towards water when metaphors are needed. They even measure time with water clocks, so *seconds* become *drops of time*.

Yep. I'm having fun.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ready for Revision

I cringe phyically that I dare say this out loud: I don't think this novel, Marks of Repentance, needs massive revisions. I'll do a little tidy up, send it out to critiquers, and they'll doubtless have different ideas. Oh well.

What I see so far:
More hints of what the antagonist is up to early in the book. Even though I had done a lot of pre-work on the novel, I didn't know he was the antagonist. I know, I know, that seems silly, but I thought I had thrown enough things in the way of the two main characters with their major cultural differences that the basis of conflict was covered. I didn't realize how important a role this man would play until over half way in.

Which brings me to the second problem. He got SO important he got two scenes in the last couple of chapters. I had to decide whether to give him two or three more, spaced out in the story, or eliminate the two he already had. I'm opting to remove his scenes. It took me most of today to list the vital information those scenes held and figure out where the information can be tucked. I think it can be done. I don't want to dilute what is essentially a love story by giving him too much screen time.

Thirdly, I found a couple of minor sub-plot threads that need tying off. Not all that many which was a pleasant surprise.

Fourth, description. This is always hard for me to work into a first draft, and I have mostly stopped trying. Now as I revise scene by scene I need to make sure I am encountering all the senses and laying clear foundations without going on and on. And on.

Fifth, the ever present doubling up of words, unclear pronouns, and all the other fun little nit-gritty stuff line by line. And commas. Sigh. I have a thing with commas.

I do believe that character motivations are clear enough (maybe too clear?) and that the plot follows a logical enough path, though it wasn't always the most obvious choice.

Oh, yeah. One more thing. I have a border guard in there with a lot of screen time. He was a demanding sort when I wrote the scene, so I need to be on guard (ha!) when I get back to him, and make sure his long story really works in the over all scheme of things. He is absolutely convinced he's the star of the show.

So, we'll see where this journey takes me...and how long it will be. I'd like to be done in a month, but I have no idea if it is remotely doable. I guess I'll just get started and see.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Christian Fantasy Blog Tour Day Two (or Five...)

Today is the last day of the Christian Fantasy Blog Tour. At least officially. For the month of May. In 2006. Rebecca Miller's blog is the starting point, if you're interested in blog hopping. The featured site is Focus on Christian Fantasy. Some of the links from yesterday's post (just below this one) are bloggers doing daily posts on the subject; others have been just popping in and out.

Two new additions that I know of are:

Bedford Review of Christian Fiction
Writing from the Edge

Christian fantasy are words that many people wouldn't put in the same sentence, but why not? I think they go together beautifully.

Karen Hancock, published author of several great Christian fantasies, has this to say about the combination.

Beth Goddard tackles the idea of magic head on. So does Rebecca Miller.

As far as I'm concerned, the question of magic was something I spent awhile working through when I began desiring to write fantasy from a Christian worldview. I have no desire to emulate Tolkien or Lewis. Great stories, but not the end-all and be-all of fantasy.

Does magic exist in today's world? And if I'm writing fantasy, does it matter if it exists here and now? I know my created world doesn't! Why can't it have different rules? But who is to say that magic doesn't exist? What *is* magic? (I look at that list of questions and decide that I am not qualified to answer any of them...)

The best place to look for guidelines is the Bible itself. Folks, some mighty strange stuff happened in biblical times by anyone's standards. We have the magicians in Pharaoh's court during the Ten Plagues (during the time Moses was asking Pharaoh to release his Jewish slaves) copying most of the miracles that Moses and Aaron performed (Exodus 7-11). There is a talking donkey (Numbers 22:21-39). There is a magician following the Philip the evangelist around (Acts 9:8-13), apparently perfectly capable of amazing those around him.

So, then, what is a miracle? I think--simplistically--that miracles are extra-ordinary things done by God, often through people but sometimes directly. And magic is extra-ordinary things done by...not God. Not God. Does that make them wrong, evil? I think that *not of God* still leaves two options: of nature and of Satan. You could argue that nature, being created by God, would not be a separate category but fall into the miracles point of view. Go ahead, argue it. I'm willing to listen!

In some secular fantasy novels magic is portrayed as a liquid, much like water in rivers and lakes. In those stories (and others) magic is portrayed as amoral; that is, neither good nor evil. It simply exists and can be used for either purpose. In our current world, I don't believe this type of magic exists, but I fail to see why it can't work in a made-up world. Like anything else in a novel, it shouldn't just be there for flavoring but because it is actually a part of the plot.

Magic that uses the power of Satan is real. In North America, we don't see a lot of overt activity of this nature. Not so in remote areas of the world, where demon activity is quite visible (to hear the stories of missionaries to those places.)

So, my understanding is that there are three types of extra-ordinary means of accomplishing things. They are literally Good, Bad, and Indifferent. I think any and all of these may be used by a writer of Christian fantasy. The main thing to keep in mind is that the power of God is stronger than the other powers.

In my soon to-be-revised fantasy novel Marks of Repentance I did not portray the use of amoral magic. There are miracles, clearly performed by Azhvah (the One True God of the land), and there is magic, clearly linked to the gods and goddesses of the surrounding nations. Will I use that criteria and only that criteria again, writing in a different world? (Obviously any new stories set in Azhvah's universe will have the same guidelines!) I'm not sure. I've started worldbuilding on an unrelated project currently titled Puppet Prince that is very very (did I mention VERY?) loosely based on Old Testament Judaism at the time of the Babylonian exile. I'll be making decisions on the magic system over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Christian Fantasy Blog Tour

Rebecca Miller over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction has set up a blog tour this week to heighten awareness of Christian fantasy. This is a subject that is very dear to my heart and I've already found a few novels I didn't know existed...and also some fellow bloggers who will be worth keeping an eye on!

The featured site is Tim Frankovich's Focus on Christian Fantasy. Tim is a reviewer of Christian books and has recently put together this focus page on fantasy.

Many of the books Tim mentions are ones I haven't read yet. In fact, I've only read one of the featured books, The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock. I loved it and have yet to get my hands on the rest of the series.

So what HAVE I read and enjoyed in the Christian fantasy genre? Kathryn Mackel's fantasy novel Outriders is fabulous and innovative.

Ted Dekker dabbles into suspenseful fantasy in his series that begins with Black. Many of his other books are thrillers (not my cuppa :P)

An up-and-coming series for kids that I've read Book One of is Landon Snow by R. K. Mortenson.

I find it hard to separate out science fiction and fantasy sometimes as I love them both. Some favorite writers in Christian science fiction are Randy Ingermanson and Kathy Tyers.

Actually, all told this fantasy blog tour is happening at a good time for me. We have slightly more disposable income now than we used to...and I'm planning on spending a portion of it supporting the genre I love (and write in myself.)

If you're interested in the genre, here is a list of some of the bloggers that are participating in this tour:
Insights from Beth Goddard
Spoiled for the Ordinary
Writer Lee
All About Children's Books
Old Testament Opera
Unseen Worlds
See you on the Net
Shenandoah's Eclectic Musings
The Jerkrenak's Den
Sharon Hinck
Some of these folks have posted every day this week regarding fantasy. Have a look around! Like me, you may find new books to add to the TBR pile--the pile that threatens to topple over...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Great Mother's Day camping trip :)

For some unknown reason, Picasa and Hello don't like me tonight. I had several other photos I wanted to upload and it just isn't working.

We went camping for a couple days and had a really relaxing time out along a creek in our truck and camper. The highlight of my days was catching a glimpse of this pine marten, which is rarely seen. (Hubby worked in forestry for nine years and figures he's seen three of them.)

However, I had other photos I wanted to share as well. I'll give H&P a chance to recover from their snit and try again tomorrow. Stay tuned!

The rarely seen pine marten :) Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 12, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

My own mother will be 84 this August. I'm very thankful for her. I didn't write the following for her! In fact I didn't write it at all...

Lisa shared with me this little clip on Why We Have Mothers. I only found it on the internet in one place, and it didn't claim to be the original. I did try to track it down, though. Honest!

"Why we have moms" answers given by elementary school age children to
the following questions:

Why do we have mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the Scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1 Clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use
string, I think.

Why do you have your mother and not some other Mom?
1. We're related.
2. The doctor knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like

What kind of little girl was your Mom?
1. My Mom has always been my Mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did Mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get
drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to

Why did your Mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between moms and dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home, and dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power 'cause
that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's.
4. Moms have magic; they make you feel better without medicine

What does your Mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of
plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid
of that.
2. I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who
did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on her back.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


I'm almost halfway through the read-through of Marks of Repentance, aka Shanh's story. I'm certainly seeing things that need addressing, but all in all I really love this story still. I wrote the first draft from March to July 2005 and wanted nothing more than to keep going and write its sequel.

Somehow or other I managed to see reason and remember that getting space from a story is not likely to happen while writing sequels. As I'm reading these days I'm seeing the seeds I've planted for the sequel and the desire to keep writing in this world is reviving itself. Whether that could ever be lucrative depends entirely on how good a job I do ironing out MoR. With that in mind, I'm diving back in.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Catching up

I got Maripat's crit off to her yesterday. Today I got caught up on 2ynovel assignments.

Puppet Prince is starting to come to life. I have a map now :D and am beginning to picture the city and the palace grounds. One of these assignments was on marriage and family life, so I got to have a little fun with that. Please understand that (for the record) I am a firm believer in marriage: the one-man-and-one-woman-till-death-do-us-part kind.

But this novel is very VERY loosely based on Old Testament culture, and didn't some of them kings (like David and Solomon) have an awful lot of wives? Yup. So does my Emperor. In fact, in a flash of insight, I understood why Prince Jhonal might NOT have trouble making up his mind which of the two likely young ladies he will marry. Why not marry them both? Yeah, well, his life isn't going to work out that way, but it does give an interesting starting point. Doing some cultural style worldbuilding has been a lot of fun.

Next up: playing a bit more with the website and...TA-DA...starting the revisions on Marks of Repentance. If I'm looking forward to it half as much as I say I am, why haven't I cracked open the file yet? Might I be afraid that it won't live up to my memory of it? Nah. It must be that I need to clean other things off my desk so that I won't need to come up for air for a couple months. Yeah, right.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Just to prove I can...

I updated the look of my blog again. This seems spring appropriate. I didn't want to forget how to do it! :P

I'm busily catching up on all matter of writing odds and ends these days. If Salesman-Who-Talks had not shown up today, I would have finished Maripat's crit. As it is, I have about a chapter and a half left to go. Fun stuff.