Thursday, August 31, 2006

Where the Map Ends

Does anyone know what there is beyond the edge of the map? Not really. If we knew, it would be ON the map. But we can certainly speculate about it. Speculate. Interesting choice of word, that.

Where the Map Ends is heralding itself as a well-rounded home on the web for Christian Speculative Fiction. The host, Jeff Gerke, has experience in multiple areas of CSF. He's written several books as Jefferson Scott. He's worked as an acquisitions editor for major Christian publishing houses. He's now striking out on his own (into uncharted territory) in an endeavor to assist CSF in finding its way into higher profile.

This site hosts a comprehensive list of CSF books both old and new. And that is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the contents of the site. If you have an interest in Christian spec fic (fantasy, science fiction, chiller, time travel, etc) pop on by and have a look around.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Great post

There's great post up at Kit Whitfield's blog likening cover letters to editors to date pickups at a bar. Some of the parallels are truly hilarious, but on the other hand, they make a lot of sense as well. Go read it; it's not long!

Happy anniversary to me, and Jim. However, he's been out of town since Monday and won't be home until tomorrow. Twenty-six years ago today over a hundred people gathered in beautiful Nelson, BC, to witness our vows. We were young (some say cradle robbers! :P) but believed that we had the love that would stand the test of time. Would you say--after 26 years--that we've proved that?

Yes and no. We have friends who would have been celebrating 25 in November, but just this year things have come apart at the seams. We know others, too, who have reached this milestone and beyond--up to 40+ years--and decided that they didn't love each other any more. Seeing this happen to our good friends causes us to ask questions. Why are we okay when they're not? What have we done differently? Does it make a difference? And hey, we ARE okay, aren't we?

We've had ups and downs. Days I looked at him and thought, "What on earth did I get myself in for?" I'm under no illusions he hasn't thought the same from time to time! Nights I cried because there was no way out but through (over 20 years ago now, thank God, and I don't say that flippantly).

We're Christians. We believe in commitment to God and each other. That's not the answer though, at least not fully. Plenty of Christians divorce. Plenty of non-Christians don't. So what is the answer?

I don't know. We've made the choice that we will stay together. That *out* isn't an option. Please understand, there are people who have very good reasons for getting out, but we aren't one (or two) of them.

I heard on the radio this morning that August 30 is the most common breakup day in North America, closely followed by I-can't-remember-which day in late December. Today, however, is the day we choose to celebrate togetherness. Or we would, if we were together. Hmm. We'll go out for dinner on the weekend. I'm okay; I can wait!

Monday, August 28, 2006

and revising wins...

My new novel isn't quite ready to be written. It's begging for a bit more gelling time so I am letting it percolate on the back burner for awhile more. (I'd hoped to start writing this week.)

That brings the revision of Quest to be Queen to the foreground. I'm hoping to have a round on it done before Nano. Quest is a light-hearted fantasy spoof following Teagren through the seven lands of Dhaneira as she searches for the seven tokens that will confirm her eligibility to be chosen as the Prince's bride. Thus, the story is divided into seven long chapters. One of my jobs will be to look at additional appropriate divisions within each task.

Another problem is that the story is a little short at 70K. Okay, a LOT short. I need to consider how to best complicate some of the shorter chapters as they're not all the same length. Or possibly weave in another sub-plot or two.

It is true that some of the chapters flow better than others as well. Some of them just naturally took all the twists and turns that could be spoofed out of traditional fairy tales, myths, and cartoons. Others I struggled with more. I need to evaluate those chapters and see if I'm completely on the wrong track with those tasks or if they just need a new character or situation tossed in to make them come up smelling sweeter.

Besides the Quest revision, I've still only done about a third of Maripat's novel crit. And the recipe forum keeps me hopping as well. I probably have enough going on for the next couple months.

Friday, August 25, 2006

What can I say?

I get bored. And I play with photos. This is one I took last weekend at Fox Lake close to the BC/Alberta border. The blog was begging for a makeover...didn't you hear it?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Book Giveaway!

I just discovered a book giveaway hosted by Brandywine Books. Folks who enter the contest by commenting on the post before Sunday have a chance to win a novel by Lars Walker. His writing is an interesting mix of historical fantasy in a Norse setting. I've read one and would be delighted to own it so I could share it with you. Or if you win, you could share it with me...

More photos!

Should you *happen* to want to see more photos of Elk Lakes, check out my Flickr account and click on Elk Lakes album. Or you can check out my daughter's Flickr account or her blog Hanna's Life is Cool.

Camping, Day One

Last weekend we met our daughter and son-in-law for three days of camping just outside Elk Lakes Provincial Park. Two of the days we went for a day hike into the park. It was great to spend the time together enjoying nature and stretching our legs. Oh, how they were stretched... Posted by Picasa

Here is the map of the northern part of Elk Lake Park. You can see the red line that loops to the north and back again--that's the Day Three trail. The red line that meanders along the lakes and on in to the left (west and south) is the trail for the Day One hike Posted by Picasa

We found three fat frogs lurking in the bushes at the ends of some of the bridges. Here my daughter is conversing with one of them. It was like the trolls and the billy goats gruff...only not. Posted by Picasa

The rugged mountain scenery made every step worthwhile. The trail varied from smooth gravel to rocks-and-roots to pine needles to planks-over-bog to...? And the view was different around every bend. It's an awesome world our God created. Posted by Picasa

We've just crested the last climb and have gotten our first good look at the waterfall we've hiked 7 km to see. Definitely worthwhile! Posted by Picasa

The objective of our hike has been reached at the base of Petain Waterfall. Even whisking the camera out for a quick shot resulted in getting spray all over it. I got it back under cover pretty quick! Posted by Picasa

Camping, Day Two

Much of our second day was spent recuperating from the hike on the first day! Can you say 'relax'? Posted by Picasa

Even from the campsite the view was fantastic. In fact, this is the mountain that we hiked along the other side of for much of Day One. No wonder we were tired! Posted by Picasa

Just like a stone-age man, hubby uses a sharp rock to try to break through the fault line of a larger layered rock in the creek near the campsite. Posted by Picasa

All that chipping away at fault lines in the rock paid off with this fossil. Only we don't know what it's of! Posted by Picasa

Camping, Day Three

On this day we broke camp, then drove back to the park gates (several kms) and headed north towards West Elk Pass and Fox Lake. The trail rejoins the Petain Waterfall trail a few km further west after making a loop of roughly 6 km. Here hubby points out a pine mushroom that is worth about $50 on the mushroom market. Too bad we found it at the beginning of the hike and don't have all the connections lined up for selling them! Posted by Picasa

We climbed steeply for the first while but an amazing portion of the hike was along this meadow that comprises West Elk Pass. It was huge! Posted by Picasa

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Fox Lake was our lunch stop at roughly the half-way point of the hike. Up above the lake, cradled in the valley half-way up Fox Mountain is Frozen Lake. Next time we're going to try the hike up into there.

The view coming down from West Elk Pass was magnificent. The air was a little hazy which made for less clarity in the photos. Still, the haze added an interesting mood element. Posted by Picasa

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Coming down off the mountain towards the end of our hike. I'm not too fond of heights, but this section was the only one all weekend that even hit my radar for a minute. From the bridge at the bottom the trail rejoins the trail from Day One about 2 km from the parking lot.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Recipe forum

is now open to registered members. If you think you should have heard from me but haven't...leave me a comment or email me: chief_tester AT valeriecomer DOT com.

Christian Fantasy Blog Tour - The Firebird Trilogy

The August Christian SFF Blog Tour has been running this week while I've been on vacation. Don't they know they should consult with me before setting the dates? I mean, really.

However, I'm here to catch the final day and to point you to many worthy posts on the topic of Kathy Tyers' most noted set of books, The Firebird Trilogy.

I first came across mention of the first book, Firebird at an interview Kathy did a few years ago with Christian Fandom. I ordered it in by inter-library loan and loved the story. Books two and three followed, and then I started hunting for my own copies of the stories so that I could share them with others (and help support the author).

Rumors via Kathy Tyer's writing buddy, Karen Hancock indicate that a new novel set in the Firebird universe may be on its way. Beth Goddard has posted a current interview with Kathy on her blog. Reviews of the three novels can be found at Jason Joyner's blog. And who doesn't love a good giveaway? Stop by Rebecca Grabill's blog for information on how to enter.

Here is a further list of bloggers participating in the tour:

Leathel Grody
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Pamela James
Tina Kulesa
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Rachel Marks
Jim Black

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Create a Character Clinic by Holly Lisle

Way back in February I posted that I had won a free copy of Create a Character Clinic by author Holly Lisle. It's in e-book format and I printed it out and popped it in its very own binder.

I haven't done any first draft work since Nano, so I haven't had a solid opportunity to work through the clinic until recently, when Krin popped into my head.
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Here is a photo of our campsite last week. Note that I am all set up to work hard on the prep work for the novel! Hubby's reading here, but he alternated that with fishing, eating, and napping. We both got to relax.

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Here's a close-up of the picnic table. I've also got the 2ynovel workbook out. And a mocha. It's a necessary part of the morning routine, in case you didn't know.

Holly Lisle is an established author with over 25 novels out at the moment. I do believe she is a master of creating characters and this clinic provides a different approach than other writing books I've read.

Holly breaks up the character building into three sections.

The first is called: Ask Them Anything.
In it she talks about the type of needs this particular character might have, and how it affects what he does. She talks about his past, present and future. I've looked at the past a lot with my characters before this, because (amongst other things) I believe this is where their fears and phobias come from. Holly takes this to a deeper level. Other chapters in this section have to do with the character's relationships, stakes, moral stance, and culture.

The second section is: Bring Them to Life
Good idea. Sometimes those characters we've drawn up lay flat on the page. This section gives oodles of tips for giving them that third dimension, from first person interviews to exposition, dialogue, and action.

The third section is: The Sins of Characterization, and How to Commit Them Right. There are plenty of ways to incorrectly use dialogue, action, and exposition in a novel. Holly guides her student through the various options and shows how to make effective use of the tools.

That picnic table and I worked through a lot of Krin's personality during the two days we were camped there...and the camper table got some as well when it rained and the wind blew. I felt like I was far away, though. I was directing a movie where a teenage girl learned her parts--learned how to perform her story--while an experienced director guided ME while I guided HER.

I'll certainly be using Holly's book again for other creations of my mind in the future. If you believe your characters could stand some deepening, I highly recommend Holly's book. She also provides a great affiliate program for folks who provide links to her e-store on their websites or blogs. I haven't gone that route, but that doesn't mean I don't recommend her book highly. While you're in there, have a look around at some of the other fine e-books for writers that Holly carries, some by other authors.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Of fantasy and chick-lit

This new story is way too much fun. Fluffy stories aren't exactly the kind of plotting I usually do. Fantasy seems to want to have some eeeeevil creeping through as well so it's entertaining balancing both sides. However, the outline marathon started today at Forward Motion and so I roughed out what was currently floating around in my head concerning this new novel. And came to 33 scenes. I'm estimating I'll need 45-50, so 33 at first go is decent.

At least now I see where further plot development needs to fit to link the logic together. Maripat seems to object to the sentence after the fifth scene as well: Training, relationship development, travel scenes go here.... Ah well. Why have a perfect outline straight out the starting gate?

Krin's story needs a working title. Badly. Maybe it needs an un-holey plot even more though.

Of plot bunnies

Back in the winter one of my writing buddies Erin and I wrote a short humor piece called The Plot Bunny Purchase Agreement which was published in a recent issue of Vision: A Resource for Writers.

It seems the article is making the rounds and it occured to me that I had never posted the link here before. Today Erin came across a mention of our piece at SF/F copyeditor Deanna Hoak's blog. How cool is that?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


So, I've been ambushed by a brand new novel.

I've been mulling over the concept that for some reason, the Christian market seems to be more open to fantasy in YA than adult. I'm not sure what they expect fantasy-loving youth to read when they get older, but that seems to be beside the point at this time. The reality remains. Though a lot of my stories seem to be about younger adults, they aren't really YA in theme. But what makes a book YA? Yeah, that's what I've been mulling.

We were camping for a few days, see. And the very first night I lay awake in the camper for a couple of hours. I don't usually have trouble sleeping and the camper is just as comfortable as my bed at home. It's even cooler up in the mountains than at home. No reason at all to be awake, but occasionally there is a night like that.

When the idea crawled in, I knew sleep was going to be awhile in coming. What if, I wondered, what if I could write a YA fantasy in a chick-lit style? Throw in a first person narrator, journal style, a bit of humor...I can do that. What if this was the story for the girl named Krin? But what would Krin be doing?

What if Krin woke up one morning to find a trio of fairies circling her head? What if her family and the townspeople thought they were angels, but she knew they weren't. Not only were they not angels, they were bunnies. Fairy bunnies. What if...

I did get back to sleep eventually. In the morning, I hauled out my trusty spiral-bound notebook and began scribbling my thoughts into it. Then I had a moment of gratitude that I'd brought along the entire 2 year novel course and began working through the assignments with this new idea, ignominiously shoving poor Jhonal and the Puppet Prince off into a corner again (where unfortunately he has been residing since March. I was going to catch up on this vacation. Honest.)

When I had a dozen or so pages scrawled in, I fired up the laptop and typed them in. I had to use the battery time judiciously; it only lasts so long so I couldn't waste it on thinking time. But I also know that given a few days I can rarely read my own handwriting so it's dangerous to leave handwritten notes for too long.

When I got home I pulled out Holly Lisle's Create a Character Clinic which you may recall I won in a draw a couple months ago. Perfect for working with Krin. She and I have been through the first section on the hierarchy of need and she is developing nicely. We'll go through some of the other sections on our next camping trip.

Next week we're running an outline marathon at Forward Motion. I'd intended to have the Puppet Prince worldbuilding done by then so I could outline it. Then it would be ready to write anytime the urge became too great. The real plan was to revise Quest to be Queen between now and Nano and then write PP for Nano. But I've been seriously hankering for a run of first draft again. I haven't first drafted since November but have rewritten two novels in the meanwhile. I NEED first draft to keep me sane.

So all of a sudden I'm planning to start writing this new novel for Forward Motion's one week Labor of Love challenge starting August 28. See, because it is a YA I'm aiming at about 60K for it, which should be doable by the middle of October or so. In other words, I could go straight into Nano with PP at that stage.

Unfortunately, that puts Quest to be Queen's revision on the back burner again. But it will come around again I know. I like that story a lot.

Meanwhile I have the finishing touches to put on the recipe forum and Maripat's novel to crit. Why should there ever be a dull moment?

Me and Krin can whup them all. WooHoo!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

More on the project...and assorted

Thanks to those of you who have volunteered already. Emails will be going out in the next 30 hours or so to the so-far list. I've been uploading recipes to the forum like crazy all week and have lots more to do. If I seem slow on the uptake communication wise, that would be the reason.

Also, for the next ten days I'll be in and out...but more out than in. Hubby is off work till the 14th. Over the next couple days he and his nephews are *topping* the haystacks and then first cut will officially over. The bale wagon stacks the hay in rows with a flat top which doesn't shed rain or snow all that well. So they create a peak with more bales over the center of the stack, then tarp it down so it will keep well for the required months.

Because this is a temporary shut-down at his place of employment and wasn't figured into our vacation days, we're not wandering far from home. By the time these dates were announced, my in-laws--who live on the farm and are our backup--had already made appointments in a city far from home. Hubby's fancy water system requires somebody keep a close eye on it at this time of year, so we'll ask a neighbor to do that a few times. We plan on doing some local camping overnighters, including taking his dad's boat across the lake and camping for a couple days there.

Our water system, in case you're interested, consists of a shallow well in a place where most households are hooked into a community system. Because we have two households on one deeded property (legally I might add), the community system refuses to service us. It's a mixed blessing actually, because hookup would cost us ten thousand dollars plus several hundred dollars a year usage fees. His folks, back when they owned the farm, put in a 1300 gallon cistern. In the months of the year that the well was usable (February through June or July, depending on the year) they ran the farm off the well. The rest of the year they filled the cistern using a 300 gallon slip-tank that fits in the back of the pickup truck. Then they'd switch back and forth between the well and the cistern whenever the water level in the well came up enough to use. Because the cows can go through 300 gallons on a hot day, that meant hauling a load of water became part of the daily chores (especially during the hottest part of the year which so happens to coincide with haying, the busiest part of the year.) The well water does not pass health standards, so an extra tap in the kitchen was permanently hooked up to the cistern, which always had clean water in it.

Hubby wasn't thrilled with that chore when we took over the farm. We did it for a few years and then he came up with a brainwave. He stuck a sump pump down the well so that whenever there was a bit of water in it, it would get pumped directly into the cistern. When the well doesn't keep up with the usage, we haul water. Allowing it to come in a little at a time prevents us hauling water for most months of the year. In spring there is so much water in the well that I would turn on the sump pump for about 15 minutes daily to top off the cistern. Now it is taking about four hours of running the sump pump daily, which is why we can't leave the farm totally unattended. In a few weeks I'll likely be able to leave the sump pump on around the clock. The last time we hauled a load of water in the slip tank was November.

The downsides are fairly minor compared to the gains. We now have a water cooler in the kitchen for all our drinking water--one of those commercial ones with the 5 gallon jugs. For awhile last fall I couldn't lift those into place but if I was careful in managing the water, I didn't run out while hubby was away. The other downside is changing filters often on the pipes around the cistern. The well water is quite murky.

Well. I had no intention of going off on water systems when I started this post! All to explain why we can't just throw the camper on the truck and disappear for the entire week, being as the cows are happy on grazing and don't require any personal attention.

We live in a beautiful part of BC--I've shown you pics before so you already know that--so it's not a hardship to camp nearby and do some day trips. We're hoping to find a good huckleberry patch or two as well. I've gotten kind of addicted to having fruit at the ready and our local huckleberries are superb. It's a little early in the year yet for the best spots, but we'll see what we can find.

Behave yourselves while I'm gone. I hope to come back at *it* all refreshed and ready for anything. Ha.