Monday, July 31, 2006

The mystery revealed

Today is the Promised Day. You all have been very patient...and I hope at least a little bit curious. But maybe I'm making a mountain out of a mole-hill.

Quick review: Throughout my adult life I have been slowly gaining weight at roughly the rate of two pounds a year. That netted me a gain of about fifty pounds over my weight in 1980. In 1989 high cholesterol was added to my woes. I've been aware of the accumulative problem and periodically have made an attempt to deal with it but basically I am a lazy person.

I don't like counting calories, though I like healthy foods. I like doing things outdoors, but fitness classes bore me. Going to the gym was not much fun, but I did it for a couple of years in the mid-90s. It took so much time out of my week and it seemed I was constantly following big strong men around the strength training equipment--men that didn't bother to remove the monstrous weights they were able to lift or pull.

In 2004 I joined Curves for women. At last I could exercise in a woman's environment with several advantages beyond that. There are no weights to adjust---and the cardio workout takes place simultaneously to the strength-training. Forty minutes three times a week and you're outta there baby. I definitely began to trim up, but lose weight? Not so much.

I've mentioned my bout with arthritis in the fall of 2005 and the shocking revelation that I'd gained an additional ten pounds (seemingly overnight) elsewhere. It took about two minutes on March 10, 2006 to decide that there was no time like the present to mend my ways. It was time to Get Serious. Exercise wise, I realized I'd been going through the motions of the Curves workout but not really pushing myself (and of course I'd been off for a few months due to the flare-up). I vowed to go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and to go for a brisk walk on the other four days. Every day, I would exercise without fail. On the food angle I began jacking my daily servings of fruits and vegetables from a pathetic average of 2-3 to 8-10. When I discovered the G. I. Diet the remaining piece fell into place.

I have lost 30 pounds and am within 8 pounds of my goal (no need to be as thin as I was when I was 20, methinks.) At first I looked at the GI Diet as a temporary solution. It began working for me very quickly and that helped. However as I lost weight and gained health and energy I began to realize that this was too good a feeling to relegate to the back burner once I had reached my goal. I began adapting my recipes and inventing new ones to meet the requirements of the GI Diet.

What does GI stand for? Glycemic Index. The basic idea is that the founder, Rick Gallop (past president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario), has looked at how quickly and efficiently our body burns calories from various sources. In other words, not all calories are created equal.

He divided food up into three basic categories, based on universal traffic lights. Anything he labels *green* means Go for it. Eat as much as you want. The yellow category means Proceed with Caution. And red, of course, is simply Don't go There (at least if you want to lose weight!). His comprehensive charts are found in his paperback book (sold at paperback prices; I bought my copy at the local pharmacy) and categorize food by glycemic index into these three colors.

What makes the GI way different from other *diets*? Gallop acknowledges that simply going low carb means that we deny our bodies a lot of the essentials we need. There are good carbs (vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts, etc) and bad carbs (those high in refined products). The absolute best thing is not counting calories. If I'm hungry, I go have a snack. I have lots of favorites to choose from.

This made a lot of sense to me and still does. And as I've worked through recipes both old favorites and new innovative ones, I've been thinking about the lack of a recipe book that is based on the principles of the GI Diet.

The idea of writing one was born. I write, don't I? Why not a recipe book?

At last we get to the point of this post. I have been researching (ongoing) what it takes to write a recipe book and seek publication for it. I know it is a long shot. Doubtless the world in not waiting with bated breath to hear from me. Still, the idea won't let go.

I am looking for people from all walks of life, with varying cooking skills, and living in various parts of the English speaking world to test recipes. A forum has been created for the posting of these recipes in which the testers can comment. There will be specific forms to fill out. No tester will be expected to try every recipe, but I am looking for reasons why a recipe might not appeal to you enough for you to WANT to try it. I am looking for a one year/ fifty recipe per person commitment (out of several hundred that will be posted).

If I am able to reach my goal and actually sell this recipe book, each tester in good standing will be mentioned in the acknowledgments and will receive one signed copy of the book. There will be no additional cash (or any other type of) payment. If it doesn't sell despite my best efforts, I still believe all participants will have been winners. You will have many healthful recipes to fall back on for the remainder of your life.

If you are looking for healthy recipes (whether or not you intend to go the GI Diet the whole way, every day) and are interested in this pilot project, please email me at: chief_tester AT valeriecomer DOT com. I will send you more details and a basic application form.

Applications close Friday, August 11.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Bark of the Bog Owl

Some time ago I came across a mention of the The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers at Paraklesis, but I didn't remember much about it. All I remembered was that it was YA Christian fantasy. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the first two volumes in my own church's library! On a whim (and not really from boredom; my to-do list is lengthy!), I brought the first one home today.

The Bark of the Bog Owl isn't a big book; it only took me a couple hours to read. And while it certainly is strongly reminiscent of a favorite story from the Bible's Old Testament, there are plenty enough twists and turns of its own to give it a fresh appeal.

Who wouldn't love a story that begins this way? (and I quote...)

His Majesty, King Darrow of Corenwald,
Protector of the People,
Defender of the Faith,
Keeper of the Island
Tambluff Castle
West Bank of the River Tam
Tambluff, Corenwald

My Dearest King--

You will be glad to learn that I am still available for any quest, adventure, or dangerous mission for which you might need a champion or knight-errant. I specialize in dragon-slaying, but would be happy to fight pirates or invading barbarians if circumstances require. I would even be willing to rescue a fair maiden imprisoned by evil relatives. That would not be my first choice, since I am not of marrying age. Still, in peaceful and prosperous times like these, an adventurer takes whatever work he can find.

As always, I am at your service and eagerly await your reply.

Yours very sincerely,
Aidan Errolson of Longleaf Manor

P.S. I have not yet received an answer to my last letter--or to my fourteen letters before that. Mail service being what it is on the frontier, I assume your replies were lost. I hope you don't mind that I have taken the liberty of writing again.

And thus twelve-year-old Aidan seeks adventures. There would, of course, be no story at all if Aidan didn't find them. Jonathan Rogers spins Aidan's tale out over three novels, and I for one want to read the other two! Any one of you who has a child or enjoys a quick read through a fantasy world will love the story of Aidan.

I found an interview with Jonathan Rogers here. Here's a little quote about writing:
Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block. Lawyers don’t get lawyer’s block. They get up in the morning and do their jobs. Are you a writer? Then get up in the morning and write.

I think I've been told!

One caveat: I'm used to strict rules of point-of-view being adhered to. This author hasn't heard the rules I've heard. Therefore, the reader is privy to the thoughts of many of the story's characters, major or minor. Once I made up my mind to ignore that, the story drew me in.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

So...what have I been up to?

Monday is the big day when All will be Revealed.

Yeah, I know, I keep promising. Sometimes it's hard for me to connect with my daughter online, and my learning curve for web work still requires a hand-hold at many stages. But the forum she is helping me build (shall I say that I am helping her build?) is nearly ready for the symbolic ribbon snipping.

Of course you have no idea what the forum is for! It's not just for a bunch of Val groupies to hang out. I'm under no illusions that I'm about to win the World Popularity Contest. The forum does have a purpose, though. Come back Monday and let me explain my evil plan for World Domination. Or maybe I'll leave that to Pinky and the Brain...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Christian Fantasy Blog Tour - Fandom day 3

Today is the last day of this tour featuring Christian Fandom. I talked a bit yesterday about my favorite part of the site, the interviews.

But there is plenty more to the site than that. There are book reviews in various of the represented genres. There is a list of which conventions will host fandom meetings (for example, I didn't know that Kathy Tyers was going to be a guest at V-Con in Vancouver, BC, in October. I'm not entirely sure I would call some of the movies reviewed to be Christian, but it still was interesting to read the reviews.

Also included is an art gallery and some pertinent essays. There are considerable research links with the sf writer in mind (which, to be honest, is what the site focuses on). Various discussion groups are listed as well.

In short, for those who are interested in this genre, Christian Fandom offers a great diving board. Jump in; the water's fine!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Christian Fantasy Blog Tour - Fandom part 2

This week's Christian fantasy blog tour highlights Christian Fandom. What did I find on this site that so revolutionized my reading and writing?

First and most important: I was not alone.

My favorite part of the Christian Fandom site is the interviews. This is where I spent the bulk of my first day or two when I discovered the fandom site. You may well ask, who do they interview? asked!

In February 2000 they interviewed Kathy Tyers. Through the interview I learned about her novels with Bantam in the late 80s and their subsequent re-release by Bethany House in the past few years. She also is responsible for two of the Star Wars novels. Because I read this interview, I ordered in (through interlibrary loan) her Firebird trilogy, which I bought afterwards.

I also met Randall Ingermanson for the first time through his interview dated December 2003. Randy has multiple books to his credit, but he may be best known for the Snowflake method of novel plotting. He also publishes a free monthly writers' ezine. If you sign up, tell him Valerie Comer sent you!

In April 2004 they interviewed Steve Laube. Through this interview I learned that there are such things as Christian literary agencies...and at least one agent that loves Christian sff. He'd been an acquisitions editor at Bethany House and in that position had helped start the careers of some of my favorite authors.

The October 2004 interviewwas with Donita K. Paul. Although I wasn't able to get her books through interlibrary loan, I was finally able to purchase the first two this spring and thoroughly enjoyed them. But Christian Fandom is where I first heard of her and the other ones listed above.

By the time Karen Hancockwas interviewed in January 2006, I'd already read two of her novels. She has become a favorite author of mine in the interim and is a member of this blog tour. She blogs at Writing from the Edge.

There are other interviews on the Christian Fandom site on a hit-or-miss sort-of-monthly basis for the last five or six years. I've highlighted here the ones that made the biggest impression on me.

Not only did I come to realize that others shared my passion for sff, but that Christians were writing it and getting published. This was a HUGE discovery for me in my personal writing life. It gave me hope and a direction. Maybe one day, Lord willing, I'll have a book or ten published and Christian Fandom will want to interview me. One can always hope!

Meanwhile, I'm not going to get published if I don't get back to work on the novels, so I'll get right on that. If you want to read more about the Christian Fandom site, check out all the blog links on yesterday's post. Many of these bloggers are posting every day this week about the site.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Christian Fantasy Blog Tour

Once again this week a group of us are discussing a topic near to our hearts--that of science fiction and fantasy from a Christian worldview.

Ten to fifteen years ago I was struggling as a reader. My genre of choice was sff. When I read, I love to be transported to places that don't exist, to scenarios that can't happen. I'm not into girl-next-door stories. There were well-meaning folks (you've all heard of them) who told me that my reading choices were intrinsically evil. Nice Christian women shouldn't read that stuff.

It was true that there were elements in many of the stories that weren't uplifting, but I believed (and still do) that is a problem common to most genres. I prayed about my choices and began to analyze my reading and to set down books that repeatedly were offensive. I set standards for myself in the areas of sex (while I can handle a sex scene or two, I will lay down a book that seems to be about nothing else BUT torrid encounters), vulgarity, violence, and blatant anti-Christianity. I began to use the words of Paul in the Bible (Philippians 4:8&9, New International Version) as guidelines:
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

To that point I hadn't seen anything that argued that a Christian worldview was actually compatible with sff other than the writings of Tolkein and Lewis. Were they one-offs? (Or two-offs....) The back of my mind began to play with the concept when I took up the writing craft four years ago. Meanwhile I wrote a couple of more traditional fantasy novels.

One day I was wandering around the internet and googled Christian fantasy. And there were links!!! Astounding, I know. Somehow I'd thought I was the only one out there that had been mulling this over. Silly me.

One of the first places I found was Christian Fandom. I spent DAYS poking around in this site, following the many links. What this site lacks in beauty it makes up for in links, lol. I discovered that this group of Christian fans had initially banded together in 1982 to support readers and writers and movie-goers and artists in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and westerns. Their mission statement?
Christian Fandom is an interdenominational fellowship of fans interested in the courteous and accurate representation of Christian viewpoints in genre fiction fan communities.

Later on in the week I'll discuss some of the particular things that I found on the Christian Fandom site...and the difference they have made in my reading and writing. In the meanwhile, if you're interested in more on the subject, see what these other bloggers have to say about Christian Fandom. Some of them are involved with the site and each has a story or two of some kind to relate. Some of these sites are permanently linked on my sidebar as well.

Kameron Franklin
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Pamela James
Tina Kulesa
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower

A new group blog promoting Christian sff is located here:
Speculative Faith

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Implicit Promise of a Story's Beginning

In June, a bunch of us at Forward Motion discussed Nancy Kress' helpful writing book Beginnings, Middles & Ends. Kress says that the opening paragraphs of our novels make an implicit promise to our reader. The question is whether the beginning gives the promises that we think it does.

One of the things we did in our discussion was trade off some of our opening paragraphs to a total of around one hundred words. Then we examined each others' openings for the promises we felt we saw in them. I provided the beginning of Quest to be Queen which I haven't talked about on the blog for a long time. I wrote it for Nano '05 and it is still in need of its first round of revisions. In the opening scene of this fantasy spoof, Teagren is listening to her sisters argue with each other and their father as she leaves home on her quest that will take her away for a year and a day, during which time she intends to win the hand of the prince in marriage.

The folks in the discussion all agreed that the implicit promise was that this would be a story about the interplay of this family and how her quest relates to the group as a whole. However, the story actually is about Teagren's quest, and while certain things throughout remind her of her various sisters, they aren't seen again until the closing scene. Is this cheating? Am I promising one kind of story and promising another?

You might wonder why this is even on my radar at the moment. You may notice that in the previous post Quest did not make the top of the list of things to do; it didn't even make the discussion at all. (Though I admit I love the story and want to get back to it...sometime.)

I've just finished reading two of Mercedes Lackey's books that have been published by the Luna imprint of Harlequin. Luna is producing light and romantic fantasies (which describes Quest come to think of it...). The two Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms are The Fairy Godmother and One Good Knight.

The Fairy Godmother starts off with Elena watching her stepmother and stepsisters pack up for a journey. When they leave, on the twelfth page of the story, they are not seen again until the epilogue, though they are mentioned from time to time. It takes a further 26 pages before the fairy godmother comes along. If I were applying Kress' advice on implicit promises to this novel, I would certainly not feel I was being promised the story I got.

Ditto with One Good Knight. To be honest, it took awhile for this story to get rolling. On the 82nd page of print the dragon appears. I have to admit that's where I would have started writing this story were it my idea. Certainly much of what happens earlier has bearing on the entire novel...and what happens with the dragon. But still, 82 pages until the first REAL action? While there would have been a lot of information that would have had to be dropped in later, it still seems like the story started too soon. If it wasn't Mercedes Lackey and what I know of the Luna line of books, I'm not sure I would have made it to the dragon.

So when is the right time to start a story? How important is it that the initial hook be one hundred percent accurate to lead the reader into the story? Can a story "promise" to be about Elena's stepmother and stepsisters and turn into something else? Can Quest to be Queen start off with Teagren's family squabble and carry on with her quest, having the reader aware of what she leaves behind and why she feels compelled to go?

Somebody once told me the best place to start a story is just before everything changes. What do you think?

Friday, July 21, 2006

and its GONE

Just before noon today I hit *send* on the emails bearing Marks of Repentance off to my critiquers.

After completing the last thirty pages of editing that I'd had to leave yesterday, I ran a few *find* functions. Two were for *minute* and *hour*. Hey, I found WAY more of those than I would have guessed! I also inserted several paragraphs in a couple of places for a tad of foreshadowing I'd missed. Then I ran spell check. For some reason I've never gotten around to setting up special dictionaries for my projects. I can see it would be a huge help! I had some interesting typos on some of the location and character names, as well as a few on *normal* English words that I really should have caught in the edits. Oh well. Now it is up to the critters to see what I missed and how the whole thing hangs together. I don't expect to have it back from everybody for a couple months or so.

What to do with my time?

Two of the three crits are back on False Perceptions. I'm planning to wait for the third before taking out a fine-tooth comb and going through them. I've read enough of the first two to know that I don't know what I'll be doing to it next. The four months' worth of rewriting didn't solve all its problems to be sure. So that's kinda frustrating.

I could get back to the worldbuilding for my new Christian fantasy project, Puppet Prince. It's the 2 year novel (2yn) that I've been ignoring for several months now. I think it's going to be a fun project; it has some solid skeleton already in place.

For the next few weeks I'm planning to concentrate on getting my website operational and my secret project up and running. Then I have a week's holidays in early August. Maybe by then the project will be ready to roll (generating some of its own steam) and I'll go back to Puppet Prince.

For now, that sounds like a good plan. Good plans are always subject to change.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Okay, here's the deal

Just in case you care! We bought a laptop about a month ago. I get to share it with hubby, so when he's working out of town, he takes it with him. (It gives him a place to watch dvds, play games, and listen to music.) When he's home, I get to use it. That's been a lot lately because of haying, but that's another (much longer) post.

I've really enjoyed having the laptop on the kitchen table where I can poke at edits and things while waiting for dinner to cook or whatever. Besides, its cooler in the kitchen than upstairs in my office. You may also recall that I bought a flash drive.

A wonderful combination in the right hands. Yesterday, my hands were not the right hands. At the end of six hours of editing, I copied my file of Marks from the hard drive to the flash drive. Or at least, that's what I thought I'd done. Instead, I copied from the flash drive to the hard drive, effectively erasing a day of work. Thankfully the flash drive was only out the one day.

Today I have re-done yesterday's work and added a bit more, but of course, I'm still not done.

I did read about half of Ammit though. You all remember you saw it here first. One day M.S. Sluyter will be a famous YA author.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Every day...

Every day I don't post because I think, 'Tomorrow I can announce that Marks is done and on its way to critters.' And every day it's not true, so I say nothing at all. Still, I'm only 50 pages from the end of this read-through. I have a couple of *find*s to do after that, as I've found a couple references to hours and minutes which my fantasy world does NOT have, and I'm not 100% sure I've caught them all. And it needs a final spell-check as well. Word doesn't like to keep showing the spelling issues when you have 95K in one file!

Tomorrow. Really. It will be off my hands tomorrow. And then I spend a couple weeks working on my secret project. Announcement should be arriving here at this blog early next week.

Oh, yeah, and I have Maripat's YA novel, Ammit's Judgment, here and waiting for me to begin the crit. Never a dull moment.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Two gals whose blogs I frequent were Christy Award winners this past week. These awards are given out at the International Christian Retail Show for books published by Christian publishers.

Deanne Gist won the award for Best Romance of 2005 for her novel A Bride Most Begrudging which I read last summer and thoroughly enjoyed. The story is laugh-out-loud funny in places, so I'm not surprised to hear that I wasn't the only one who loved it! Deanne blogs here.

The winner of the Award for Excellence in Christian fiction in the Visionary category was Karen Hancock for her 2005 novel Shadow Over Kiriath, the third book in her series Legends of the Guardian-King. Karen blogs at Writing from the Edge.

Of course, other people won awards as well, but these are two authors whose careers I have been following, so they're the ones who get an honorable mention here!

In other news, our friend Rick (who was sent to the Regional Hospital for rehab on June 2 after he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre) is coming home today! The rehab has been a long haul...and the complete recovery will be much longer...but at long last he is coming home. He is now able to hobble about with a cane. The family has been able to borrow much of the equipment they need from the local Red Cross. Sunday is Rick and his wife's 18th wedding anniversary so it is particularily cool that he will be home for that. I have offered to take the three kids off their hands for the afternoon and to supply an anniversary supper at their house. (It's going to be awhile yet before he can navigate vehicles and restaurants with ease.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

So close I can almost taste it...

I've sent the novel crit back to Mar and have just four chapters left in the edits of Marks of Repentance. I saved the best for the last, of course. These chapters don't even vaguely resemble the outline they were (theoretically) derived from, and for some reason that I can't remember I thought it would be a good idea to throw in a third pov character four chapters from the end. I had this vague idea that I would let him put in a bit of time earlier in the novel as well, during rewrite. What was I thinking? The book is a love story. The two main characters are the pov characters. This guy doesn't belong. However, he has information...and I now need to figure out how the reader learns this. Duh...when Shanh and Taifa do. But I don't want too much *telling*.

Think think think.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Extreme frustration issues

Why did I ever think I could build a website? I purchased a domain name in April, along with a hosting service from Hasweb. This is not user-friendly, folks. I'll be lucky to have any hair left soon enough.

My problem? On Saturday I tried to create a php bulletin board for use in the secret project I mentioned last week. Simple enough, as my control panel has a place to click for that. soon as the bb is created, I can't log in to it. So I hunt down Hasweb's help desk. I need to log-in. Fair enough. It won't accept my username and password as valid, even though I used them five minutes ago to access my control panel. Hunt, hunt, hunt for a way to send for help without logging in. Finally I find a contact form (not in any obvious place, I assure you. The link for *contact us* only has non-800 phone numbers and snail mail addresses on it) and fill it in.

From that contact form I received three emails. First, someone saying he didn't know but would refer it up a level. The second email said she didn't know, but would pass it on to admin. The third email was from admin saying that it is an older version of bulletin board and if I upgrade it, it should solve my problem.


They have precisely ONE option for building a bulletin board in the first place, the one I had clicked an hour or two before. If it isn't the newest version, how is that my fault? Of course, the email addies these *helpful* emails came from are non-existent and bounce when you try to reply to them.

Today I finally had some time again and went hunting through the Hasweb site for that elusive contact form I'd found on Saturday. After about half an hour of hunting, I finally found it and copy/pasted the information from my original request into it along with their most unhelpful answer. Also vented about not being able to access a real live person.

The contact form bounced. I am no further ahead, but I can tell you my blood pressure is a little higher than it was.

Oh, yes, they have a support forum, but there's no place to post request for service. I can share links to sites I find helpful, however, or talk about the weather. I kid you not, the headlines for the various boards in the support forum say: Do not post support requests here; they will be deleted.



Wednesday, July 05, 2006

2/3 done the edits

After a week of vacation and a couple of weeks working on a *secret project* to be announced here in a few weeks time, I am finally back in the saddle with editing Marks of Repentance. A year ago a border guard waltzed into my story and made a much broader statement than I'd expected him to. He hinted at previous links with the heroine, Taifa, but didn't explain much. He didn't even have a name, though after awhile typing *the border guard* got a bit tedious. Today I revised him and gave him a name, Huidsor. He's begging me for a part in the sequel, Children of Sacrifice, that is somewhere on my to-be-written pile. My TBW pile is trying to grow as tall as my TBR pile. For an all-time high, I believe there are three novels and a nonfiction begging at the moment to be next in line.

First things first. Marks needs to be done by the end of next week, along with my current novel critique. Then I need to focus on my website again, get it up and running. It's been sitting unfinished too long...along with many other things. Summer. This year it seems to be attacking me. Would someone please call it off?