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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry Christmas!

My family - parts of it, anyway - finally celebrated Christmas together last night. It was brief, it was low-key, but I got my presents and they got theirs and we all went away happy. Except possibly The Flash, but if you're going to be an archaeologist, then you should expect to get historically relevant and educational Christmas presents. From this aunt, anyway. At least it was a DVD. I could have gotten her a book. Gasp!

Tonight, many will celebrate New Year's Eve. Many MLS participants will no doubt stay up and on the boards, staring at the screens, waiting for Jeff the Publisher to reveal who wins The Big Prize of publication.

(You still have time to vote, if you haven't, but not much time)

I am curious about the main contest winner. I am more curious about who will win the premise contest. But, being a turtle, curiosity doesn't plague me like it plagues most people. Most likely, I'll go to bed and read about it in the morning.

Like with Presidential elections.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gene Getz Would Be Proud of Me

If that humble man is capable of pride.

Last night, emboldened by The Lioness' example, I contacted several authors from the boards and offered to assist with read-throughs and comments. I received one immediate response. Yea!

I hope yea. I am concerned I may be that You Tube turtle trying to eat the cherry tomato. Lots of desire, not a lot of success.

We'll see. It has been exhilarating to be part of the refining process for another author. Since it's something I want, it makes sense I should offer it. How does the saying go? If you want a friend, be a friend? Something like that.

I must obey rule 3 today. It snowed again in Kansas, and I need all the time I have to clean off my car and get to work undamaged, God willing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What I Learned as a Newly Published Author

Mary DeMuth put this article on her "So You Want to be Published" blog (which is one of the blogs I follow, if you want to read it). She wrote it two years ago.

Basically, it's about networking, and being gracious, and promoting your own work when you can, and not being a jerk.

She has 10 points but those are the highlights. It's a good article, whether you're published or not. It probably relates to more than just the writing field.

Sally Stuart said much the same things 20 years ago when I was attending her conferences, so I'm guessing some things never change.

I was a jerk 20 years ago. I didn't like people very much, so I wasn't interested in networking. I was rarely gracious about anything. And self-promotion? Forget it. Too much work.

Amazing the difference 20 years and a little growing up can make.

This blog, my website, my newly self-printed business cards with the little turtle head on them - all my beginning efforts at self-promotion.

Entering the MLS contest provided immediate networking possibilities as well as the opportunity to be a gracious loser. I hope I succeeded in that! Feels like I did. It also gave me a chance to learn more about the business end of the craft, and that can only be useful.

Writing isn't a goal to be achieved. It's a craft to be mastered. Publishing one book is great. Writing a good book is better.

Past Ties is officially begun. With the Blown Away soundtrack alternately rocking and crooning through the living room, Tayra Shah started her journey from Antarctica to Pohnpei and countries beyond.

'Cause I want to be published, Mary. Thanks for the good words.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Quandary

So, I decided to write Past Ties next because it's the book that started it all. I can keep it short and sweet and action-packed (maybe). It has issues I must resolve if other Ah'rahk stories are to progress with any hope of coherence.

I'm having second thoughts. Shocking!

Susie, you'll understand this. Which book do you write when you have more than one book idea?

Do I write the actual sequel to Star of Justice? What if the sequel needs to be something different depending on the publisher? The sequel deals with some heavy issues, like marriage and betrayal and, you know, marriage. I'd rather change a story before I write it.

Or, do I write one of the books that precedes Star of Justice? Like the one that explains the presence of humans on Ah'rahk (The First Man). Or the one that explains the mysterious stranger briefly mentioned in Star of Justice who sort of causes all the trouble in the first place (Dangling Participles)? Or the book that tells why Golor's king is in York when Caissa gets back to the city (The Royal Pain)?

See the trouble?

They're all important. They all give a piece of the story. Not all of them are Caissa's story, but they are all based on Ah'rahk and give background on her story. Remember background?

So, there's my quandary. The only way I can think to solve it is to quit my day job, start writing and not stop until they're all done or the cats eat me.

Or cast lots. That would be more Biblical.

I guess I'll write on Past Ties until I decide.

Oh, and check out my website! I've added my first "reader review" quote for Star of Justice, and it looks great!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


No, I didn't watch Braveheart (now I want to). No, I'm not debt-free (yet) according to Dave Ramsey.

I did put my Suzuki into 4-wheel drive and power out of my driveway to church this morning. Ah, freedom!

Most streets are not good. Things that melted today will freeze up overnight and be horrible in the morning.

I don't care.

While I have had a wonderful, home bound Christmas with my furry family, I am ready to venture out even into the cold and meet a few humans for a while.

Not a long while. But a while.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Starfire by Stuart Vaughn Stockton

I learned about MLP because of this author.

"Let me explain. No, is too much. Let me sum up."

Some fellow church members knew Stockton as a boy and bought his book when it was published by MLP. They loaned me the book and some Internet links for Stockton, and I did the research that ultimately led to my entry in the MLS Premise Contest.

Back to the book.

I started reading Starfire in the emergency room when one of my grandmothers was getting stitched up after a fall. Several family members can attest to my despair at that time, and not for my grandmother's sake (she recovered nicely). The prologue instantly transported me to a world where dinosaurs are the dominant species, volcanoes spew ash and fire into the air at will, and plants move around as much as the animals. I thought, If this is the quality MLP seeks, I'll never make it with them. Who could? This writer is too good for the rest of us mere mortals.

Again, my relatives will testify to this. So will the hospital emergency staff on duty that night. I am not the quietly despairing type.

Stockton creates an enormous, violent, technicolor world, where Rathe must survive and thrive in the fight-or-die-fighting rules of his society. His empire is at war, and through sheer coincidence (or is it?), he gets the break he needs to elevate his position from unknown runt to war hero.

Is he worthy of the trust of his new team, or will he prove himself to be just a soft-shell from an unknown family who got a lucky break?

I have never read nor wanted to read a book with dinosaurs as the main characters. After the first chapter, I wished I had a tail because the things are so darn useful.

Fortunately for me, my despair eventually wore off and I realized Stockton is not a god of writing but a man with a well-conceived and executed story. I was relieved when I found my first typo (Jeff the Publisher explained on the boards why books have typos, and his reasons sound accurate).

Dinosaurs with weapons, computers, airplanes and ground transports are a wonderful mix of contrasts to this reader, reminding me of the epic battle between the demon Hell Boy and the fairy monsters in Hell Boy 2. Talk about clash of worldviews!

Stockton isn't afraid of violence, blood or killing characters to prove the situation is serious. This is a real world, with a real war, and real casualties. I especially enjoyed the little Karey Or (carrier?) who contains the computer program that will launch the Starfire weapon and end the war, thus elevating Rathe to positions beyond his wildest dreams.

This is subtitled Book 1. I have no idea how many books are planned, but I will be buying them, right after I buy a copy of this one for myself.

This book will appeal to guy and girl geeks and nerds (as far as I know, jocks only read sports magazines, and there isn't a lot of romance for the girly-girls). I had to read in snatches over the course of a month, and I had no problem remembering where I was or what was happening.

Stockton includes size charts (I used a lot), species definitions (don't think I read it) and lexicon of unfamiliar words (only looked at twice because he's so good at defining in context). I would have liked a listing of all the different types of saurn but not having one didn't hinder me too much.

To sum up: Great book. Buy it. Read it. Don't despair.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Maligayang Pasko!

That's how they say "Merry Christmas" in the Philippines. I've been shouting it at people all week. I've gotten some strange looks.

Snow continues to fall in Kansas, and the capital city is shut down for the duration. I have spent the day reading, eating and sleeping. At least one cat and the dog have joined me in all of these activities.

It occurred to me last night, some might think I was upset at spending Christmas alone.

First, it is impossible to be alone in a house with seven critters. Second, it is impossible to be alone when Jesus is in your heart. Third, it is impossible to be alone while electricity and phone lines are active.

I am blessed to live near the majority of my family. I see them on a regular basis. I would far rather know they are home safe and warm than worry about them being damaged or stranded on their way to a turkey dinner.

I ate a ground turkey dinner, with peas, onions and rice. It was delicious.

I have fixed the "contact me" page on my website. You should now actually be able to "contact me."
Too bad no one was able to contact me to let me know it wasn't working :)

I continue to pray for the safety of all travelers this Christmas. Being safe is more important than being home. Trust me on this.

God bless us, everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Voting Begins in Phase 4

Those of you registered with MLS got an email this morning. Polls will stay open until New Year's Eve, when the winner will be announced at 11 PM Eastern. If you vote in this round, you have a chance to win an MLP product, two chances if you vote in both contests.

I scoffed (nicely) at the need for prizes when it was brought up on the boards, but seeing how many of my favorites have vanished, prizes might be a good idea to keep more people engaged.

I have one more main entry to read before I can vote, but I'll do that today.

Here in Kansas, a snow storm is brewing. I'll spend most of the day indoors, working on my website, wrapping presents, reading a new friend's manuscript, and praying for safety for all the well-meaning idiots who don't understand that snowstorms are God's way of telling you to stay home, even on Christmas Eve. Alas, I will be one of those idiots, so spare a prayer for me, if it's not out of your way.

If you are also snowed in by yourself, I have a few more Christmas movie recommendations. If you are snowed it with someone else, shame on you for wasting time watching movies.

Home movies: These are the exception for those home with someone else. These can be just the thing to rekindle the holiday spirit of love and gratitude. Or anger and bitterness, so be careful which home movies you pick to show.

Little Women: A safe movie for the family, except for the worldview philosophy espoused. I can't remember what they call it, but I call it secular humanism when you believe a child will naturally grow into someone wonderful if you just love them enough and let them follow their own inclinations. Humbug! But, I'll watch Christian Bale in almost anything, and its nearly impossible to see Gabriel Byrne in a G-rated, non-villain role, so I like this movie.

Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas: Now available on DVD! I am no longer the only person who will be singing the lyrics to "Barbecue" this Christmas. Or at any backyard barbecue. Or at any gathering where barbecue is present. Or... well, that's enough of that.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: I can't believe I left this off my other list! This movie even has Santa Claus in it. I cried when he showed up. I cry a lot during this movie, but it's good crying. I love the way Lewis combines pagan myths with a Christian worldview, as if God is the maker of them all, which He is. Funny. As I write that sentence, my worldview antenna comes up and asks "what stops people from believing God is as mythical as the myths?" Hmm. May have to ponder that a while.

Galaxy Quest: Yeah, I know I already listed this one, but I just watched it last night with some new friends, and I really think the world would be a better place if more people saw this movie.

"Unless I'm wrong, and I'm not (that's Tony Shaloub as Adrian Monk. Is there nothing that man can't do?)."

Anyway, Merry Christmas!

PS: It's a Christmas miracle! My family decided to not risk death and dismemberment by going out tonight. I'm headed down to the stacks to pull out some movies. Galaxy Quest, anyone?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do You Read Your Own Stuff?

I'm not asking in a mean way, like "Didn't you bother to read this before you submitted?"

I'm asking because I do read my own stuff, and I wonder if other people do, too.

I like my stories. That should be obvious by now. When I can't find a book to read that fits my mood, I'll pull out one of my old short stories and read it (just did it last night actually).

I'm not reading it to edit or improve it or anything. I just like the story. Now, I may see areas I could improve, but that's not the point. I just enjoying the writing and think, "Not too bad, turtle. There's hope for you yet."

Does anybody else feel that way about your stuff? Is that why you write?

Or, once again, is it just me and my pride filling the room?

Let me know.

PS: Don't be afraid to comment. You can do it anonymously. Even if you use your own name, you can't possibly sound more arrogant than I do on a daily basis. Here, you are completely safe with being completely honest!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Benefits of A Contest

I'll try to keep this short. Since I keep breaking Rule 3, I may modify it to "I will try to keep it short." You can tell how passionate I am about a topic by how long I wax on it.

The MLS contest is over for me, but it isn't over. I encourage you to continue participating if you have any interest in speculative Christian fiction. I also don't own any MLP books yet, so if you're still looking for a Christmas present, I'd be good with any of them. Hero, Second Class will be my first official purchase. I want to see what kind of writer is allowed 607 pages on his first book :)
And, I was thinking of Jeff's possible answer to my concerns should he ever read my post. It was obvious.
0 : - )
My answer? : (

I'll get over it.

Anyhoo... I've learned a contest is a little slice of what getting published is like. The submitting, the waiting, the worry, the sleepless nights. I hope entering contests provides a kind of inoculation. I kept thinking of that Northern Exposure episode where pregnant Shelley redecorates their apartment in pink frills, lace and gingham and Holling can't use the bathroom anymore. Joel tells him "no man could move his bowels in here" (pause to laugh a while). Holling says he'll spend time in the bathroom everyday until he gets acclimated (more laughing). Contests are like that.

I learned I am not the only Christian fantasy writer in the world, nor am I the only good Christian fantasy writer in the world. (That was a joke. Sometimes hard to tell with me.) I've added some good writers to "blogs I follow" since the contest started. Susie, you'll like the newest one, "Musings on This, That and The Other." Jennifer Allee wrote Vinnie's Diner in the contest, but she normally writes romances.

I've rewritten my Star of Justice synopsis based on comments about mine in general and others in particular, and it seems to be improved, according to the folks who care enough to comment. Thank you for those comments. Hopefully, this will translate into better first efforts for my other books.

I will write hooks and blurbs earlier in the new book process. A hook can help keep focus on The Main Thing. Being a seat of the pants writer, I don't know if it will help or hurt, but I'll try it and see.

I will aim for 100,000 words on my next few books. Elementals' first draft is 108,000. I actually planned to add a little bit rather than take away but I won't go above 110,000. I may be able to cut.
That was my first "zipper" book (two different perspectives at the same time in different places zipped together as you read) and I personally got lost while writing it, so I have no idea how it will read when I pick it up next year (next year is next month, so don't freak, mom). But, Past Ties... I think I can keep Past Ties at 100,000. I bet I can do it with The First Man, too, and that's the book that starts The Justice Cycle (that's what I'll call the series of books dealing with Ah'rahk).

So, not keeping it short, but stopping now. I'll save the rest for another post.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

It's finally here! Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!

After tonight, the longest night of the year, the earth will begin its tilt back toward Sol and the days will lengthen instead of shorten.

Thank you, Jesus!

Had God not predestined me before He created the world to be one of the elect, I would be a druid. Not quite sure how I would handle the animal sacrifices, but I suppose I would work something out. I feel a deep connection to seasonal cycles. I wish work days could be shorter in winter and longer in summer. I'm not at my best in the cold dark.

I drink a toast every winter solstice to those who have taken The Long Step before me. I call it The Long Step because I have a theory about faster than light acceleration after death and time disappearing and...oh, it's long and complicated and possibly not terribly accurate, although I developed it after reading a book about string theory. Basically, it doesn't matter how long the step, we all get there at the same time.

Anyway, I drink my toast and say "hello, again" and "farewell 'til next year" and go to bed with the hope that tomorrow the sun will come up a minute earlier. So far, my hopes have been realized.

Make it a great day, everybody. Spring is now three months away!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm A Brat, Recovering

I'm glad I've written the previous posts about pride, cause, boy howdy! this could be a doozie.

I'm going to write this post for two reasons. One, I want this blog to be an accurate reflection of my writing journey. That means even when I'd prefer not to write something about myself, I'm going to do it anyway. If I ever get a fan base, I hope they appreciate it.

Two, I've said before I have to plan my actions before the moment arrives or I freeze. This means I spend a lot of time thinking about what I will do in situations that never happen. Welcome to my hell. I do try to focus on things statistically likely to happen. God will have to take care of me in the rest.

The MLS experience has opened all manner of new situations for me. First contest I ever wanted to win (except that candy selling contest in third grade with the 8 lb bar of chocolate as first prize. I won, by the way). First time I submitted with an actual chance to get published (I knew Tor would never accept me). First time I've written any of the things required for the contest.

I think I've done pretty well with them. I thank God and Gene Getz and my new found turtle philosophy of one little step at a time...

Let me tell you a fact about brats. We have one thing in common. We all believe we are The
Exception to The Rule. Doesn't matter what Rule, we are The Exception.

Brats believe this because it's true. For whatever reason, brats are formed when they actually are the exception to the rule. Brats are broken when The Rule finally applies. The worst case scenario for a brat is death. Can't really negotiate that.

I encountered The Rule in my 12th year. It was quite painful (though thankfully not deadly), but I survived and became a recovering brat. I also began my crusade to be The Rule to any brat I happen to encounter. Ask my nieces. I think they've forgiven me.

The rest of my life has been a struggle to accept The Rule. For the most part I succeed. But every once in a while, my brat shows up and expects to be the exception.

Why write about this now? I'm still processing the new experience of word counts, and cutting 100 pages, and my first book, and just how badly I want to be published. I now have two examples of Jeff the Publisher asking new writers to cut their word counts on their first books (and after he wrote on the forum that new writers don't necessarily need to limit their word counts, too! Not nice, Jeff!). This concerns me a little.

I think of my first born like The Sixth Sense. I believe it is the best book I will ever write (I might believe that because I think the world will end soon, but maybe not). Frankly, I'm a little afraid of making it my first published book because I don't know if I can ever do that again, and we all know what happened to M. Night Shayamalan. I'm not saying Star of Justice is perfect. It needs copy editing and tightening and tweaking and maybe even some cutting. I have no problem with minor adjustments.

I am processing this because I need to know what I will do if Jeff the Publisher asks me to drastically cut words on Star of Justice. If I don't answer that question in my own head before it happens, my automatic freeze response will be "no."

Don't be stupid, you might tell me. You'll never get another chance with this. Yeah, Mr. Collins said the same thing to Lizzy and she got Mr. Darcy. Not that I'm comparing MLS to Mr. Collins. OK, I kinda am, but... Anyway, I don't make my decisions based on what might happen later. I make them based on what lets me sleep at night. Can I sleep if I cut 100 pages from Star of Justice? Would it really be a better book or just a shorter book?

Some people (Elder Brother comes to mind) would tell me not to borrow trouble and no point worrying about it until MLP requests a full mss. I can't help it with this one. I will think about this until I resolve it. I have no hope of doing otherwise.

I probably won't write another post on the subject, but this is what will be going through my mind for a while. I will pray that God gives me wisdom in answering the question. And maybe, I'll be The Exception one more time.

My Brat sure hopes so.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

TUTAW: One Book

The Ugly Truth About Writing is...some authors only write one book.

I don't mean one book in quantity, although plenty of authors do that. I mean one book in essence.

A few secular examples: Barbara Cartland (fragile, penniless waif with heart-shaped face and huge eyes is rescued by brawny, impeccably-dressed millionaire), Piers Anthony (coming of age story for a boy or girl whatever), and Anne McCaffrey (young person with musical ability and some extraordinary talent must beat the odds to become the best dragon-rider, crystal singer, psionic, you fill in the blank). All three are prolific authors who write basically one book with variations.

Don't get me wrong. I have and love various books by each of these authors. Maybe not Barbara Cartland so much, but her books are like popcorn. Finished in an hour or two and you can still eat dinner. And, I think I own more books by Anne McCaffrey than any other author I read. She's certainly one of my biggest influences. I owe my tendency to link my worlds to her. I believe every book she's ever written involves the same universe in different chronology.

Even Barbara Hambly, one of my favorite authors, writes basically the same book. A stick-like warrior woman and a gangly wizard who doesn't actually use his magic fight some kind of all-powerful evil thing using sheer stubbornness and plodding methodology. I like her because she uses words I don't know and every once in a while, usually once per book, writes a sentence that grabs my heart and sticks in my brain.

Let's examine C.S. Lewis's Narnia series. Those books are nothing alike, except that they take place, for the most part, in Narnia and Aslan shows up in all of them. I cannot say I like all the Narnia books equally, but that is not a bad thing, either. Lewis wrote more than one book, in essence as well as quantity.

And me? I want to think my books will be different. Now that I've started book 3 in a completely different series and genre than the other two, I'm not so sure. Two out of three begin with loners (although loners for different reasons), two out of three include tall, black, bald women warriors (I have no idea how that happened unless I blame Grace Jones in Conan the Destroyer), three out of three feature a mentor, and three out of three involve abandonment issues by parents or guardians. To quote Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly: "Huh."

On the other hand, if I can sell as many books as any of the authors I've listed, I'm totally okay with writing only one book. As long as it's a book people want to read.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Solid People

The first book I read by Barbara Hambly was Those Who Hunt the Night. She immediately became an author I looked for in bookstores. Irony: this book was different than many of her other books. Go figure.

What I loved about it was the solidity of the characters. These people had lives pre-story and a sense of lives post-story, yet it is a stand-alone book. That sense of reality was created for this book and this book alone. I'm pretty sure this is the first book where I felt that to be true.

Apparently, some authors have difficulty making people. I don't have this problem (or I don't think I do) so I don't know what that would be like. I can say, even I have used some tools in the past to help flesh out characters.

I've mentioned I used to role play. I was blessed with a group who loved character-driven campaigns as much as I did (as opposed to action-driven where you spend 2 minutes rolling stats, play until you die and roll another character before the next encounter. A lot like a video game, and not my cup of mead).

My group would spend an entire evening creating characters, equipping them, and coming up with backstories so our actions during play would be realistic. That's the kind of nerds we were. One of our members had a background creation book that was dog-eared with use. Galena was one of the characters I created this way. It's how she ended up with four children, a short, orange-haired husband (who later became a character of his own) and a proficiency for wrestling learned during a two year stint as a slave gladiator. That's background.

I think it's important to a story. You don't have to put all this info into your book. It might be better if you don't. But knowing someone's past can help determine future actions. Galena's wrestling background means she's not afraid to drop her morningstar and grapple with a bad guy if that's how it has to be. Having four children may affect how she treats other children in the story (it doesn't, by the way. Her non-barbarian husband is the mother in that family). Being a slave means she might have met another character in the slave pits (that would be Tusk, Star of Justice fans) who shows up to say howdy and becomes a part of the action for a while. Noodles, if you're out there, I kept my promise!

This doesn't mean a story without all this can't be great. Sure it can. Some tales don't require knowing the third-removed cousin of the protagonist's chiropractor. And sometimes creating that kind of detail can be an excuse to avoid writing the actual story. I'm just saying I prefer people who seem real, and those kinds of people have backgrounds.

The background bonus? You might get a prequel, sequel and side-quel out of it. I have.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Day After

As predicted, very few comments (so far) on Star of Justice. I don't think people quite know what to do with the story. I am grateful to one of my "new friends from the boards" who copy-edited it for me. I slapped my forehead when I read it. How could I have missed those obviously glaring issues? Because they were my glaring issues, obviously.

Oh, I relish the thought of mingling with other fantasy authors, even if it is virtually.

I suspect I know who the author of Dying For Dragons is, but I'm very bad with logic problems, so I could be wrong. We'll see.

The main critique for my synopsis, and every synopsis that has posted thus far, seems to be "too busy." While that may be true, it does beg the question of exactly how to distill a 166,000 word book into, let's say, 500 words. That's about one page single-spaced.

I just did a quick count (very quick) but I have, at least, seven different storylines/ mysteries/ plot complications in Star of Justice. (to paraphrase Quillek to Dr. Lazarus in the deleted scene from Galaxy Quest: "it's very complicated.") I mentioned the five main characters in the synopsis because they each play a part in what is most likely the main story of the book: Caissa's quest to verify the truth of the so-called prophecy. That's not the only thing happening in the book. For 166.000 words, I would hope not.

Plus, a synopsis, according to Jeff the Publisher, is supposed to lay out the meat of the story in three acts. At Jeff's request, the synopsis I submitted for the contest covers acts 1 and 2. I appreciate this deviation. It allowed me to leave out some major zingers that would have ruined the book if they were told in synopsis form. Since I hope one day some of these people will be readers, I would have hated that. For a regular synopsis reviewed only by an editor, I would include those because they show I have tricks up my sleeve, new twists on an old story, as it were.

Some of the synopses in the main contest were written the proper way, and the irony is people complained about giving the whole plot! Chuckle. This highlights the difference between editors and readers. Are editors visionaries? They read the little blurbs and see what could be instead of what is? If that is true, I am not editor material.

Now, this is not sour grapes. This is real puzzlement. If a synopsis is supposed to summarize the story and give a flavor of the writing style, it's no wonder so many people aren't doing it well. I've actually relaxed my normally uber-legalistic rule-following because I see how much trouble we newbies are having with this.

If premises and blurbs and synopses are what get a writer's foot in the door, it is to my advantage to learn to write them well. This contest is the first step.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

For Me, the Contest Is Over

I noticed that yesterday was my 100th post. In TV, that would mean I could now be in syndication.

Star of Justice did not advance. I am not crying. I am not shaking. I feel, for the most part, completely normal.

My dear readers should know by now I handle failure better than success. Success frightens me.

The irony is Dying for Dragons, the only other premise I started a thread for, did advance! Chuckle. God has a sense of humor.

Congratulations to the author of Winter (wink). I told you it would move forward.

My intention is to revisit the remaining 10 and try to look at them with new eyes. Most of them haven't interested me genre-wise since the beginning, but we'll see if 500 words makes the difference.

In the main contest, I was more surprised to find neither Sword of the Patron nor Vinnie's Diner advanced. I'm starting to think a vote from me is the kiss of death. Except The Last Apostle moved forward, and I voted for it, too.

I will post a feedback thread for Star of Justice. I'm waiting for someone else to do one first so I know where to put it. I've been trying to compose an appropriately humble yet cheeky intro for the thread. Something like "With straightened shoulders and one raised eyebrow, I step forward to claim Star of Justice as my own. I welcome anyone so inclined to offer whatever they feel is appropriate."

Although, wow, that sounds stiff yet geeky. So maybe not that. I'll think about it.

My thanks to everyone who took part in the contest on my behalf. Please don't stop just because I'm out of it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Last Day to Vote in Phase 3

I want to believe tomorrow is not bothering me. Last night's restless sleep (for once, not attributable to cats - yea!) tells me differently. I had the feeling I was missing the deadline. Odd, since I voted several days ago. It was a little bit high school nightmarish. You know, you forgot your homework, but you're really 38 and high school has been over for a while? That kind of thing. I had a nightmare three years after I graduated that I had to take my master's degree oral exam the next day. Woke up in a cold sweat.

I don't want to spend tomorrow with a post-weeping headache. Those are rarely good days.

I finally compared the voting totals for the various phases. I'm no statistician (despite that last boring college class), but I was curious.

Seems aside from the first slam of 779 voters in phase one of the main contest, voters are, for the most part, holding steady around the 500 mark. I'm not even going to try to interpret the number of votes cast. That way lies madness for the math-challenged turtle.

Phase 2 saw a drop in participation in the main contest and an increase in the premise contest. That makes sense. Several people on the boards who were in the main contest and didn't advance have admitted to turning their attention to the premise contest now that every waking minute isn't spent thinking about whether they'll win the prize. That was a long sentence.

With one day left, all the procrastinators may show up in droves and add another couple hundred to the tallies. Polls close at 11 PM Central time today.

It has occurred to me that with the race so close, and only 10 spots available, we're playing a game of musical chairs. With only one vote separating 20 and 21 last phase, this could be interesting. I wonder if Jeff the Publisher has a contingency plan for multiple-ties.

I'm so glad I'm not running this contest. I would have eaten my own hair by now.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Flip Side of Pride

Only the proud probably know this, but the flip side of pride is doubt. Self-doubt, to be specific.

This is important to know. Not so you can go around wigging out proud people. That would be fun, but hardly Christ-like.

No, it's important because everyone is plagued by self-doubt. Everyone.

Every time I hand my manuscript over to someone new, every time I post a comment on a message board, every time I write a post in this, my own blog, I struggle with how it will be perceived. When I reply to an email, I worry I'll be misunderstood.

Why? Because pride and doubt are the same thing: an intense focus on self.

Let this be a ray of hope to all you insecure folks out there. You, too, can appear just as proud as I do (if you wish). Here's how.

When I was young, I was told most people have no idea what they're doing most of the time. For this reason, when you walk into a room, act like you know what you're doing, and most folks will believe you do. Why? 'Cause they don't have a clue, either.

I cannot remember who told me this. It must have been someone I trusted.

This has been my SOP in new situations for most of my life. It works. When I was young, I was bossy, arrogant and proud when I did this. As I've matured and learned to inject a good dose of self-directed humor into situations, I am often perceived as confident and self-assured. This could not be further from the truth.

So, that's the secret. When you encounter the proud, bossy, arrogant person (or the calm, self-assured, in control person), realize - she's just as terrified as you are. She just hides it better.

I've focused a lot on pride this week. I wonder what God's trying to tell me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Word Count

I can't remember if I've thought about this, talked about it or written about it. If I can't remember, I seriously doubt you can.

The subject of word count has come up several times during the contest. Star of Justice is one of the higher word count submissions. Naturally, I am quite interested in these discussions.

In single space/12 font, Star of Justice is 314 pages long. I always assumed that would be close to the final, published page count of the book. Books are smaller, but so is the font. I don't believe I've ever learned a conversion guide for computer type to printed type.

According to an MLS poster (and I have no reason to doubt him), it's actually closer to 500 pages. That's a lot of pages, even to me. No wonder people are hesitating.

I didn't have a page count in mind when I wrote. I just wrote until the story was finished. I covered all the bases, answered all the questions I meant to answer in this book, and called it done. It happened to be done at 166,000 words.

My writing process is to start with a quick sketch of the scene using emotional dialogue or action. My second sweep adds specific actions for each character that move the scene forward. Finally, I add sensory details to bring the action to sometimes delicious, occasionally disgusting life. I gained weight writing this book because many scenes revolve around eating, and I didn't want to be the only one left out.

Early on in the contest, a writer admitted his book was 150,000 words and Jeff the Publisher wanted him to cut it down to 120,000. That's 30,000 words. By my (albeit shaky) math and tiny solar calculator, that's over 100 pages.

Now, maybe that author's book can benefit from the cutting. He seemed at peace with the decision. Maybe that peace had to come after some wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I can't imagine cutting 100 pages from my book.

I have always expected to do some rewriting. I've done my best to prepare it for publication as is, but I learned yesterday, having one other writer look at something can be invaluable for spotting wasted words.

A few posters at MLS would tell me to suck it up and slash and burn, baby. My paraphrase. Boy howdy, though, would Star of Justice really be better without Horus and Callista, Master Thall and Tusk and Daria? Those are the people in the scenes most likely to get cut. I don't know if I like the idea of a book without them.

I don't want to borrow trouble. Maybe whatever publisher picks it up won't mind the word count. It just occurred to me I might want to prepare myself for the possibility.

I'll let you know when the wailing begins.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Bit of A Ramble About...Pride

Pride is my top deadly sin. Gluttony and Sloth are tied for second place, but since I don't weigh 500 lbs and live unemployed in my parents' basement, I'll stick with Pride as number one.

Why pride? Allow me to quote George MacDonald from The Lost Princess:
"As she grew up, everybody about her did his best to convince her that she was Somebody; and the girl herself was so easily persuaded of it that she quite forgot that anybody had ever told her so, and took it for a fundamental, innate, primary, first-born, self-evident, necessary, and incontrovertible idea and principle that she was Somebody."

I could be either girl in that story. While I identify with Rosamund, I fear I resemble Agnes. I would hope I no longer walk her path.

Fortunately, God in His wisdom sent a thorn in my flesh in my 12th year of life. I learned there were other Somebodies in the world besides myself. I've been learning it one way or another ever since.

So, while pride is my problem, I have two advantages in my fight against it. One, I know it's my problem. Two, I don't like it.

I recently told a friend that my default state is cynical, perfectionistic, and critical to the point of cruelty. My family calls it "being honest." Normal people call it "being mean." I suspect the normals have the right of it.

Couple this default state with the Judgment aspect of my personality type according to Meiers-Briggs, and I can seem quite heartless and insufferably arrogant. I can do it without trying, actually. (Hmm. Does that sound proud?)

My point with this post is complicated. On the one hand, I want you my readers to know I struggle with this and to know that I know I struggle with this. On the other hand, I also want you to know that my prideful statements are rarely deliberate (unless they're funny. I have to go for the funny). It is a remnant of my fallen nature, something Christ will continue to draw out of me as long as I live.

My brother and I once got into an argument that went something like this:
"You are never wrong," he said.
"That's not true," I replied.
He rolled his eyes and left. It took me years to understand why. Turtle proud but not always bright.

I am not perfect. I can be mean, but I promise I don't do it on purpose anymore. My Jesus frowns on such behavior, and I try very hard to make Him proud of me.

I guess I'm saying it helps to read the turtle with a grain of salt, because I can't always tell when my words are hard to swallow.

You, my readers, have permission to call me out for bad behavior. It's one of my rules.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Only Missed A Day

Huh. Feels like an eternity.

I was not exercising my sabbath rest. I've been ill. Not death's door, praise the Lord, but not the happiest camper, either. Fever finally broke. Today I got up, showered, and tried to stay awake.

I mostly succeeded.

I hope tomorrow will get better.

Drink your elderberry juice, children. The world is an ugly, germy place.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Voted

It wasn't easy.

The voting part is easy. All the entries now fit into a single thread so it is by far the easiest process in the whole contest.

The not-easy part was choosing the entries I would support.

In the premise contest, some of my favorites were knocked out. Of those that remained, I found three (other than Star of Justice, of course) that held my interest and seemed to know how to put a sentence together. Jeff compared me to a copy-editor in one post. I wouldn't have the patience to be a copy-editor. Or the fan base to support me. On the other hand, I could be known as "The Dragon Lady." That sounds nice. Better than "Crazy Cat Lady."

I started a thread for Star of Justice with this reasoning: I promised I would start some in this phase, thinking I would be knocked out. If I didn't start some, people would know I was still in. This is assuming anyone is paying any sort of attention to me at all, which is beyond arrogant at this point. Rationally, if I didn't make it, I should have started a "Why Did You Hate My Book?" thread. Since I didn't, I'm either a coward or I'm still in the contest.

I didn't want to start threads on premises I didn't like, and fortunately two of my picks remained "open for discussion." So I started two threads, one for my book, one for someone else's. I haven't promoted either since starting them. My secret identity is intact. Maybe. Mwahahaha!

The nice part is hearing from a few people who liked it. One even went back and changed her votes to be sure she had voted for it. That was nice. Made me feel all warm and tingly.

In the main contest, boy howdy! The difference 30 pages makes!

I'm keeping The Last Apostle, but only because I can't find another one that I would want to read more. It was a little boring in the first 30 pages. I hope the next 30 give me a reason to go on.
Vinnie's Diner has returned to my list, much to my surprise. I don't like first person writing, but this first person is hilarious. I enjoy being in her head. She reminds me a lot of Kiven, one of my characters from Past Ties. This may end up being The One I vote for in the end.

Sword of the Patron continues to hold my interest. As a fantasy, it reminds me of Star of Justice, although the story is completely different. Caissa doesn't live in an occupied land, for one. The characters seem more fleshed out to me than some of the others, and for the most part, believable in their actions and reactions. I'm all about the characters. I also like some of the word choices. This author isn't afraid to use words out of the norm.

I did try to read through the remaining five entries when I realized I wasn't as happy with the Apostle John as I hoped. They just didn't hold my attention. Altar has potential. The emotions are there. The skill seems a little lacking yet. Maybe that could be improved with copy editing. I wouldn't know.

I almost voted for H20. I hadn't been interested in it until I got the 30 pages, but the main character is interesting. High-powered exec yet rides a motorcycle. Maybe that's true of all execs. My biggest fear? After reading the synopsis, I know she swears off water for a while, and I didn't want to read about her all grungy and gross in first person. A little too Crime and Punishment for me.

So, there are my three votes in the main and my reasons. We're only allowed to vote for three this time.

Polls close 11 PM Dec 15. Don't forget to vote!

I hope you're enjoying the contest so far. I think I am.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Winter is my least favorite season. Were I able to stay inside all snuggly warm in a hand-knitted sweater like Little Mouse on the Prairie, it wouldn't be so bad. But I have to scrape the cold off my car and brave treacherous streets and more treacherous drivers to get to work and back twice a day. I hate that.

I also miss the sun. And the warmth. And I hate it when things die, which many, many things do in winter.

My favorite part of winter is the solstice. I tried having solstice parties, but Christmas kept getting in the way. Just kidding, Jesus. Your birthday is more important.

I like the solstice because once it's over, days start getting longer. Within a few weeks, I can see the difference in the morning. Weather-wise, the worst of the cold, snow, ice, etc. is just getting started, but knowing that the earth is tilting toward spring, my favorite season, makes is bearable.

Today brought a forcible reminder that winter has arrived, even though, officially it doesn't start until the solstice. Bundle up. And leave at least two car lengths between you and the guy ahead. If it's me, I've already paid my deductible for the year.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why I Write

All authors have a reason for writing. We have a reason because writing is hard work and why work hard with no reason? The reason usually falls somewhere in the spectrum between "I want to be richer than JK Rowling" to "God gave me this story and the world needs to read it."

I don't expect to make a lot of money. I won't be upset if that happens, but that's not my aim. I will not write simply to appeal to a mass market audience. If I was OK with that, I'd write GLT porn and make a mint.

I don't particularly feel God has called me to write. He gave me some ability in that direction. He gave me an interest in it, and has opened doors in the writing world, but I don't think my stories are "change the world" stories.

I don't write just to write. I don't have a degree in journalism because I don't want to write about things that bore me.

I don't write to challenge people's worldviews. I don't feel the need to push any envelopes or step on toes or cause great theological upheaval. One of the reasons Star of Justice isn't getting much discussion at MLS, I suspect. What is there to discuss?

So, why do I write?

I write because I'm tired of secular authors taking up all the space on the fiction shelves. My books illustrate my basic worldview: God created the universe (He created any universe I write about), He put humans in it, humans turned away from Him and He went to great lengths to redeem us. He also recorded all this in writing so we'd know it.

These ideas will present themselves in every book I write. Some of my characters will reject God. Some will have an incomplete understanding of Him (who doesn't?). Some won't have a clue He exists. Some will know Him in a real relationship.

My stories are stories about people dealing with God, specifically the God of the Bible. Other things happen in the stories. That's how life works. We don't just sit around thinking about God all day. He shows up in the things that happen to us.

I used to role play (alas, I lost my group in a divorce. Not mine). In every campaign, the characters I played believed in God. I had a friend who thought that was silly. She just played good characters. My question to her was "how can you be good without God?"

That's the question my story characters must answer. How can you be good without God?

So, no money, no calling, no drive to write. Just a basic interest in improving the general quality of fictional literature produced today.

So far, that's reason enough.

Oh, and voting opens today and runs through Dec 15. If you're looking for info about Marcher Lord Press, click on the label on the left side of the blog. You may have to click on "older posts" if you don't find what you're looking for, like how to register with MLS.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Stress Relief

Seems I'm not the only one feeling a little frustrated. Several "fights" have broken out in the premise contest threads (chuckle). I wondered early on how long it would take for things to get ugly. To paraphrase the little cartoons seeking answers about a Tootsie pop:
"How many rounds does it take to get to the nasty in a writing contest?"
"Let's see. One. To-who. Crunch! Two."

Poor Jeff the Publisher. He called for a group hug. Hopefully, it will be enough to remind us all to behave ourselves. I'm feeling a little more magnanimous today. I apologize to any and all yesterday's rant may have offended. I'm not sorry for the rant. I'm sorry for the offense.

In the spirit of stress relief, I recommend everyone take two hours off and watch a Christmas movie instead of fret over the contest. Here are some of my favorites.

Galaxy Quest: Not technically a Christmas movie, but I once watched it every single day in a December (that's 31 days for those of you who like math). It is, quite possibly, my favorite movie ever. It exalts teamwork, loyalty, self-reliance and helping innocent aliens whenever possible. It also has some of the funniest one-liners ever uttered by Tony Shaloub: "The floors are so clean," "Didn't you see that thing, with the eyeball, like this?" and "Seems okay." This may be my most quoted movie, too.

Scrooged: This is my favorite incarnation of A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray is Frank Cross, a TV executive who hates Christmas and is planning the largest live Christmas show ever on Christmas Eve. It has the Solid Gold Dancers in it! By the time Frank comes around to the meaning of Christmas, I'm balling like a baby. Every time. Great show. Susie, you'll need the TNT version.

The Addams Family: Opened during the Christmas season and spawned a not-too-bad-all-things-considered sequel. This show proves that good triumphs over evil, because in trying to show how evil this family is, the writers only showed how powerful love it. This is a multi-generational family living together, involved in their children's lives and rearing them according to family tradition, with parents completely devoted to one another and supportive of each other's quirks. That's how I see it, anyway. Some of us could learn a few things, eh?

The Fellowship of the Ring: Also opened during the Christmas season. The best of the three in my opinion, and closest to the book in execution, this movie has it all: friendship, devotion, romance, endurance under persecution, and a great soundtrack. I recommend the extended version. If you have the time, go ahead and watch the other two movies. If we get that blizzard on Tuesday, you might need a way to pass 12 hours.

Die Hard: Did you really think I could list Christmas movies and not include the most iconic Christmas movie of all time? This blockbuster took America by storm, spawned three sequels and put Twinkies back on the food pyramid. Susie, you'll definitely need the TNT version of this one. But if shoot 'em up, never-say-die American spirit personified by a bloody, battered Bruce Willis is your cup of joe, by all means, sit back and enjoy the ride. It might also help get some of the fight out before you hit the forum boards again.

Happy watching, people.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Premise Contest Phase 3

That's what you're looking for this time around. Minimum vote remains 3, maximum vote is now 8.
I have chosen four, and I'm being nice about one of them. I won't say which one.

I'm a little snarky today. Not the best thing considering I posted a comment on the forum that may attract some return snark. It went a little bit like this: I'm disappointed in the synopses.

Here's the exposition I left off the forum. Anyone truly annoyed by my comment there may come here and read how I really feel.


Silly, I suppose, but I figured everyone who applied to a publishing house would actually know how to write well. Perhaps naive is a better adjective.

By no means do I consider myself a master's level writer, but I do have an English Composition and Grammar course book sitting next to me at the computer, and when I have a question, I look it up.

I love the English language. Like Henry Higgins, it pains me when people misuse it. "Less" instead of "fewer." "Raised" instead of "reared." "Busted" instead of "burst." Modifiers dangling without hope of finding an object. I forgive most people because they don't know better.

Writers should know better. I can appreciate breaking rules for drama or tone, but show me you know the rules before you break them.

Last night was the first time (I'm having a lot of firsts with this contest) I considered that the premise contest is an actual slice of the kind of submissions Jeff the Publisher gets on a regular basis. Great ideas in less than perfect form. Grrr!

For him, the question is probably "Can I work with this writer?"

For me, the question is "Are you kidding?" OK, that's a little exaggerated. My emotions are getting the better of me. Engage Vulcan calm.

It's a good thing Jeff is laizzez faire (I have no idea how to spell that. I love English, not French). I'm uptight, anal-retentive and occasionally (occasionally? Ha!) insensitive. I'd tell everybody to go home and come back when they knew how to use commas.

Yeah, Vulcan calm not engaged yet.

I would like to say the main contest has had much better writing overall. And better discussions.

Another rant coming on...

That's another thing that helped bring on the snark. I check in to the premise sub-board after 2 days to see what's going on, and there's a thread discussing the funny permutations of mibillie2's login name.


Vulcan calm just transported up to the ship, and left Klingon rage alone on the planet. I suppose we all need to blow off some steam, and making fun of Hill-mibillie the Redneck Son is how some folks choose to do it. I will not be participating in that thread.

My viewpoint from here on out is I can't afford to engage emotionally with winning this contest. It's like owning a newt. Won't do it again. They don't live long enough to offset the week long crying jag that follows their deaths. I will not spend a week of my life sobbing into my computer at work because my entry didn't make the next cut. It's silly and undignified.

To be clear, I will still do that. I'm just aware that it's silly and undignified.

To sum up, three minimum - eight maximum, I'm freaking out again, and tomorrow will be better.

This is why you don't trust your feelings. They can make you write stuff like this.

Friday, December 4, 2009


It seems important to perform a monthly evaluation of this site most likely for the next year (unless the Internet gets shut down in that time, that is). Important to me, anyway. Let me know how you feel about it. It is nice to pause and look back, around and forward. Hmm. I don't think I've looked forward yet. See? That's why you evaluate.

This month I've added one official follower. Hi, Kristen! I know of a couple more who read it but don't "follow" officially. Hi to you, too!

I've increased the number of commenters to five (I think), including my mom. Way to go, mom, on figuring out how to post a comment! Mom's also learned how to navigate The Anomaly. I'm very impressed with her.

I've learned how to put a picture inside a post (see Neno Award). Thank you, Susie, for the award and the instruction. If only I took more pictures!

I've added "labels" to my posts (not all of them yet, but I'm working on it). I saw that on (correction) Kristen's site and liked it.

I've tossed out the corny poem and replaced it with a less-corny guidance verse of Scripture.

I've added my own website link to this site.

This blog (as well as my website) shows up on search engines. Irony: when I googled my name, one of the links that came up listed "Star of Justice entered in Marcher Lord Select Premise Contest" from my website. Of all the parts to list. I decided to leave it on there. How many people will be looking me up by name? A lot, I hope, but originally, Jeff the Publisher was considering posting author's names, so...shrug. Besides, I wanted the website to promote my name as an author, and I'm doing that. I will not feel guilty. That's a topic for another post.

I started this post early this morning, and almost forgot I hadn't finished it. I'll finish it now.
The last month's posts have focused mainly on the Marcher Lord Select contest. Prepare for some MLS posts for the next month. The contest will conclude New Year's Eve. I'll give more details tomorrow. I haven't looked them up yet.

I do have other things to write about, though, and I'll get back to some of those, too.

Now, I have some main contest reading to do. I'll start with my picks that made it, and work out from there. I think we're only allowed three, and I think only three of mine made it. Choices might be pretty simple here.

And a heartfelt "I'm so sorry" to Ginny Jacques. I was surprised Zinovy's Journey didn't advance. I'm more shocked by some of the ones that did. This is a weird contest.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


What to write about today? I'm starting the morning with a headache, crick in my neck, and a stuffy nose that's upsetting my stomach, so I'm a little bit off. I'm thinking I need to lay off the wheat and eat nothing but greens for the next week to get back into balance.

Since I was having trouble picking a title for this post, I've decided to write about titles.

Seems titles are difficult for some authors. My ideas usually come to me in title-form. The title pops up in my brain and the story follows soon after. The only title I ever had trouble picking was Star of Justice. The book was written before I realized the title was staring me in the face.

The funny part is I didn't tie the title into the blurb or synopsis in any way whatsoever for the contest. That probably isn't good.

A star of justice is a magical tattoo of rank for the Goloran knighthood. Instead of medals, Goloran knights have a six-pointed star (basically a Star of David) on their left inner forearm that is altered each time a new rank is achieved. A seventh-ranked knight's star includes all the colors of the rainbow with gold edging. Caissa is a second-ranked knight when the story begins, so her star is purple and blue with silver edges (described in the first 500 words). A knight of Golor is known colloquially as a Star of Justice.

See? Obvious title. Can't believe it took me four months to see it.

Elementals was simple. It's a story about elemental forces of good, evil, fire, water, darkness, light, etc. Past Ties was so simple its sequels (or possibly acts) followed immediately with Present Tense, Future Perfect, and the side-squel Dangling Participles that starts the events concluded in Star of Justice.

I have a file cabinet full of titles and ideas. I've just never had the follow-through to work on them. Hopefully, that is now changing.

Unfortunately, the MLS contest has halted work on Past Ties. I have 245 pages of main contest entries to read and consider in the next week. Some people are already commenting on the boards. I have to wonder how many of the posters in the contest have other jobs. Or lives :)

I have both, and I should be getting back to them.

See you on The Anomaly.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What I Meant to Write Yesterday

I wrote my concession speech the day before. I was prepared to be all thoughtful and magnanimous.

Then I made the cut, and pretty much went out of my mind for the day. I expect to be finding mistakes I made at work while thinking about the contest for the rest of the month. God-willing, they'll be small.

I have told you before I do not make snap judgments. That is sort of correct. I do have a default setting, if you will. When confronted with a completely new situation, something I've never encountered before (or don't recognize as something I've encountered before), I freeze. Caissa from Star of Justice shares this quality with me, poor girl. It's not a good reaction to have when dragons want to kill you.

I do absolutely nothing until I can figure out what to do. This is not a right or wrong response. It is just my response.

When I believed I would be eliminated, my first response was to do nothing. Yes, I've lost things before, but not quite this type of thing. I would wash Star of Justice's hands of MLS and move it on to other pastures as is, and write another book for MLS (still a good plan).

Then my brain started working. I realized I was missing an opportunity to really look at the writing I submitted and consider how it could have been different. I've said before I was aiming for accuracy, but it's a big book. It could be accurate in a lot of ways.

Marketing is about knowing the audience. What kind of blurb would catch the attention of this audience? What parts of my book would appeal to them?

I believe truth is absolute. Truths are true all the time, for everyone, without exception. This belief about truth can cloud my thinking sometimes. Just because absolute truth exists doesn't mean my back-cover blurb must capture it.

I'm not saying I should lie about what's in the book. I'm not saying I should rewrite the book to please this audience. I am saying if I'm serious about being a published author, I should try to think of explaining my book in different ways for different audiences. Yes, this is a new thought for me. No instincts, remember, and very little real life experience.

The truth is Star of Justice won't appeal to everyone. I don't expect it to. It's not the Bible. But it does appeal to a wide audience.

I just need to figure out how to communicate that.

So that's what I was going to write yesterday, and it's still true today. I'm going to fiddle a bit more with premises and cover blurbs, and even the synopsis, keeping in mind that truth, in this instance, can be reflective instead of absolute.

And if Star of Justice doesn't make the next cut, I will post a thread and ask for advice and take it like a real woman. While crying into my java chiller.

Oh, and I've added my website link to this blog. It's a little rough, but feel free to hop over there, check it out, and sign my guestbook! You can also email me from that site, if you wish.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I Love Everybody!

When I checked the MLS forum this morning, it was merely to complete the formality of not seeing Star of Justice on the list.

It's there.

The phrase I uttered cannot be written here, for decency purposes and because I know of at least two people who would be offended. Think Frank Barone and take it up one notch.

Not the best way to give thanks to God, but I was startled.

Startled? Floored. Dumb-founded. Shocked. I kept checking to make sure I really was looking at the right list.

Tears started immediately. I'm crying now, so I'm having trouble seeing the keyboard. Sorry if I miss a typo.

This was entirely you people. According to the boards, people at MLS are generally not interested in my type of fantasy. The three other fantasies like mine did not make it (the other ones I voted for).

That tells me it was entirely people who actually know me, whether they've read my book or not, who voted for me. That's you guys.

I'm crying again. I know I love myself. I never realized other people might love me, too. Except you, mom, you're a given.

Anyway, thank you, everybody. I don't know how I'm going to make it through work. I can't stop crying and now my head hurts.

See? This is what happens when I win something.

And a special thank you to my Lord and Savior. You've been with me through all of this, the writing, the submitting, the waiting, and the resignation. Thank You, Jesus, for my life and my friends. May You bless each of them as much as You've blessed me.

Monday, November 30, 2009

To Ask or Not To Ask?

I'm experiencing contest fatigue. Maybe it's just fatigue. I ate a cornbread muffin for lunch, and wheat makes me sleepy. Tasty muffin, though. Copper Oven.

I was on The Anomaly for a while, but it's just not as interesting tonight. Perhaps it's the impending losing that's taken the shine off. Don't worry, I'll be fine. I've already accepted this as fact.

My concern now is whether to post a thread asking for critiques. I'm pretty sure I know the reasons Star of Justice wasn't picked:
1) the title is boring
2) the hook is boring
3) the blurb is boring
4) pretty much the whole thing so far is just plain boring

Yeah, that sums it up.

On a more realistic note, I'm concerned only 5 people will comment, and it will be the same 5 people who are commenting and it will be basically the same comments they've given to everybody else; namely, if you weren't quite so boring, we would have picked you.

I suppose there are worse fates than being boring. I've often aspired to boring in my life. It may surprise some people to learn most of the time I prefer not to be noticed. It was difficult for me to make that first comment on the boards, or to contact MLS in the first place, or to start this blog.

You know my real fear? No one will comment. My book is so boring, no one even noticed it sitting there patiently at the top of poll two.

Or worse, someone will comment who's been annoying me the whole contest. Not in a gloating fashion, mind you, just a polite "Oh, yes, this was just too boring for me. Been there -yawn- done that, you know? I mean, dragons in fantasy. How cliche."

I'm not thinking of anyone in particular, although I kind of just quoted somebody who's actually been pretty informative.

Of course, if I don't ask for critiques, who will think I'm just a coward? Which I am, by the way.
Would it make a difference with Jeff the Publisher? Do I care? I've pretty much decided Star of Justice isn't Marcher Lord Press material. Not because of quality, mind you, but because MLP audiences would find it boring and not buy it. As confirmed by this contest.

That's OK. I'll find an audience somewhere.

I have high hopes Past Ties will be better suited to MLP. It's sci-fi, deals with psychic nuns, cyborgs and time travel.

Of course, I'm sure someone somewhere has read something -yawn- like that. :)

See you at Sonic.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What to Say?

I'm ready for November to be done. I have some posts I want to write but not this month.

Voting continues on MLS. This is day two. Apparently, front runners have become apparent to Jeff (not us, because we can't see the polls). Star of Justice's thread has dropped to page two. Only Kristen and I have commented on it. I will not say "welcome to the story of my life" lest I provoke another comment from elder brother.

Reminder: you must vote for at least 3 entries in either contest or your vote will not count.

Purely out of curiosity, I counted words on Past Ties (the words I wrote 15 years ago, that is). Turns out it's only 33,000 words. No wonder mom couldn't remember any of it. I may have to combine it with Present Tense just to make one reasonable book. That would certainly speed up the process. If I try real hard, I can jam Future Perfect in there, too, and turn my trilogy into a book in three acts.

I've looked over some of it, and a lot will probably get cut. Working on Elementals taught me it is far better to let go of past writing than cling to it hoping to make it work now. If I'd written the book then, it would be done. Since I didn't, I pretty much need to start over.

I did decide to get rid of Mars and the lunar colony. This allows me to move the timeline much closer to now (I kept ending up in the 25th century otherwise and how cliche is that?) and removes a lot of that pesky research that keeps getting in the way of my muse.

Now, I need to pull out Peter Gabriel, Celene Dion and soundtracks for Blown Away and The Bodyguard cds so I can get writing.

Yes, I am afraid those are the main artists in the Past Ties soundtrack. I have some Roger Whittaker in there, too, but he tends to show up somewhere in all my books.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Phase 2 Voting Starts

I voted early this morning. Thought I'd get it done and move on with my life.

The boards were quiet. An eerie sense of anticipation lurks...

Not really. I suspect most people don't have cats to wake them up freakishly early on any day ending in "y."

Voting in the main contest is now very simple. All 18 entries fit in one poll.

The Premise Contest remains split in two polls. Star of Justice is listed in the second poll and once again, the first poll has more hits.

Of course, the first time I voted, I missed some on the first page and had to go back. Maybe that's what's happening to other folks, causing an artificial inflation of the counts. Whatever.

I'm tired today. I have no reason to be other than winter makes me tired. Like the turtle, I am a sun-worshipper. When the sun is up, so am I. When the sun is down, down I go. I would normally be sleeping later, except for the cats. This is my first winter with six cats. When I only had four, they knew to leave me alone. The two newest can't seem to grasp the concept.

I hope to take a nap tomorrow. I may go to bed early tonight.

Well, I have a book to write. See you in the morning.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks for...New Friends?

OK, so my bubbling ecstatic mood just got squashed by the fact that I somehow managed to delete an entire post I had just finished writing. I don't know how. I blame Satan. Mica may have helped.

Since my bubbling ecstatic mood is in serious jeopardy, I may have trouble recapturing the spirit of that post. I will try.

Last night, while on the phone with My Dear Friend who does not have Internet, I made a wonderful discovery! I was reading her some of my blog posts (yes, I am that self-centered) and realized I had new people commenting! Woo-hoo!

And not just any people. Marcher Lord Select people! WOO-HOO!

My diabolical plan to make weird, Christian fantasy writer friends is working (insert evil laugh here)!

Everyone, meet Kristen. Kristen is one of those amazing people whose manuscript Jeff thought worthy of publication. Alas, the votes did not favor her (I voted for her, which may have been the kiss of death), and she is now seeking God's will for her manuscript. Please pray for Kristen.

Our other mystery commenter is Ginny Jacques, who has a blogspot of her own and lists MLS and Zinovy's Journey, which is one of the stories I'm following in the main contest. I will review Ginny's blog more thoroughly this weekend. A link may appear later ;)

Welcome to Ranunculus Turtle, ladies!

You may wonder how they found me. Well, in keeping with the spirit of no campaigning on the MLS forum, I did not list my contact info on my public "forum face" but put it on my private face. These ladies must have seen something they liked (or didn't maybe) in one of my comments and clicked on my name to find my blog. Again, diabolical plan working! HA HA HA!

At least, I assume that's how they found me. I suppose they could have hired a private detective. Or be affiliated with the FBI. Hmm.

Seriously, ladies, thank you for stopping by. I am honored.

Reminder: voting for the next phase of MLS starts tomorrow. Some of you will be getting an email about that.

Oh, and Jeff is running some Marcher Lord Press special sales today in honor of Black Friday, so if you want to pick up a speculative Christian fiction book for Christmas, this is a good time for it.

PS: I just went to Ginny's site and, yeah, she's my kind of weird. You'll find her on my "Blogs I Follow" list now.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Like most of you, I have plans for the day. I thought I would get the blogging done early. I hope very much to write on Past Ties this evening, provided I'm not passed out from too much turkey.

If you have a chance, tune in to Bott Radio, Topeka FM 92.5 or American Family Radio (my favorite station), Topeka FM 90.4 at 7 PM to hear David Barton of Wall Builders on Focus on the Family speaking about our Thanksgiving heritage. I love and admire David Barton very much. He is worth a listen. I heard him at 7 AM, but I can't help being up early, even on holidays, thanks to the critters. A special thank you to Mica, who woke me up at 5 crying in my ear.

Hi, Cornelia, love you, sweetie!

Now that the aberration of mom in bed after 7 is over, my entire family is curled up in little balls on various pieces of furniture throughout the house. I keep it cool here because they all have built-in fur coats. I'm the only one who actually suffers.

I am fighting the desire to check out MLS forum. I suspect I will lose.

I think I've figured out the difference between New Member, Junior Member, Senior Member, and Full Member. It may have something to do with number of posts on the forum. There is a "members" button where you can sort members by frequency of posts. The titles are listed with the posts.
I'm still New but once I hit 50 posts, I should become Junior. Now it's like a contest, which is bad. I get a little competitive.

Anyhoo...day's a'wastin' so I'll move on.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am thankful for each and every one of you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More Thanks

I intended to devote the entire week to Thanksgiving. Then Aunt Flo showed up and rained on that parade. Good one, eh, my lamb?

I am thankful no homicide was committed yesterday. Mocha java chillers seem to have healing powers beyond the normal caffeinated beverage.

I am thankful for my family. I spent the evening celebrating The Flash's birthday (that's your new nickname, Molasses). I love that the nieces like each other now. I remember when being in the same room meant someone got grounded. I hope it lasts.

We talked of movies, driving (another learner's permit -eeek!), boyfriends and breaking up with boyfriends (ruined me. I never could get it right after that first one), and a host of other things while eating way too much food for way too much money (thanks for dinner, Elder Brother).

I am thankful for food, and movies, and boyfriends and the lack thereof. I am thankful for being debt free except for the house, and having a job, and having outside interests.

I am not thankful for coffee, but I am thankful other people enjoy it (that's all you're getting, Bessie. I can't capture the true spirit of the moment: "Oh, yeah, coffee! I should slow down."

I am thankful I have a house to come home to, and little people who are, for the moment, giving me enough space to finish this post. That won't last, but I'm thankful for that, too.

One of my favorite STNG episodes has Data creating a child. I fear I cannot remember the name of the episode. Loll enrolls in school, serves drinks in Ten Forward and generally captures our hearts. When a scientist from Starfleet command comes to take her away and study her, she develops emotions - fear, for starters - and consequently self-destructs.

My favorite scene from that episode is her last moment with Data, her father. It is very calm, as a farewell between androids would be. She tells him she loves him and says "thank you for my life." I cry every time.

How often I have said those words to my Father. Even when the sky is dark, the cold rain falls, and moon days overwhelm my reason, I am grateful for my life. I am even grateful for those hard times, because they remind me of how good the good is.

"Thank you for my life." So simple. So appropriate.

Gratitude is the greatest gift we can offer. Offer it whenever you can.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Jesus Was a Man

Forget for a moment the Bible refers to Him as masculine (unless you have a femi-Nazi-approved Bible). I try not to argue gender about a spirit.

The reason Jesus was a man is obvious. You can't have PMS and remain without sin.

Yes, PMS, that reproduction-involved miracle of biochemistry that turns the kindest, gentlest creature into a sneering, snapping harpy willing to eviscerate anything that dares to enter her breathing space on those most unfortunate days.

"Moon days," the Indians call them. I can only assume it relates to the wackiness so associated with that celestial body that our word lunatic is derived from its name.

In season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Oz confesses to Willow he's a werewolf, she replies with "Well, three days out of the month, I'm not so fun to be around, either." Understatement of the century, Joss Whedon.

Leviticus says a woman is unclean during her monthly discharge and must go to the priests to offer sacrifices afterwards. You can bet money Moses was writing that little bit of wisdom in the back of the tent while Zipporah was on a rampage. Even God knows women are going to need extra grace afterwards.

The woman with an ounce of decency in her otherwise regular life will warn her fellows once she is aware of the chemical wash about to shut down her cerebellum and leave her reptile brain in control. Because the one thing you must never, ever do is ask "Are you PMS?"

How many tragedies could have been avoided by not asking that question? The world, alas, will never know.

God, in His infinite wisdom, side-stepped the entire issue by making Jesus a man and keeping Him single.

Because a man with a wife cannot be without sin, either.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Week of Thanks

For those who scroll down, I finally got the Neno Award on my blog. It's not where I want it, yet, but I'll get there. Thank you, again, Susie! (I'm supposed to pass it on to other bloggers who love blogging, but I only know two and one of them gave me the award. I need to make more friends)

(HA HA! I learned how to add picture! Thank you, Susie!)

Thank you to my nieces for growing up. School plays and musicals only become more enjoyable as that happens. I'm thanking God for that, too. Two hours is a long time to sit in a bad play. Topeka High School's production of Grease was not a bad play. The play isn't that great from a Christian worldview standard, but the kids did great. Some of them have some very impressive pipes.

Thank you to all my readers. Without you, I would be a sad schlub endlessly reading my own writing wondering "Why doesn't anybody like me?" I wouldn't care, but I would wonder.

Thank you to those dedicated souls taking part in the writing contest. A 35 year old woman from Texas mentioned Star of Justice in a mostly good way on one of the threads yesterday. Since I don't think I know any 35 year old women in Texas, I took it as a positive. Not positive enough to get me to the next phase (most likely), but a positive.

Anyway, those are a few things I'm thankful for this season. I'll probably give you more tomorrow.

Take a few minutes and thank God for your life, even if it sucks at the moment.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What I Should Be Doing

I should be researching Antarctica.

I should be working on my new website.

I should be writing about the Fair Tax on my other blog.

I should be reading Starfire by Stuart Vaughn Stockton.

What am I doing?

Reading and rereading the MLS forum boards.

I believe I have now made my selections for both premise and main contest. I will not go over them again until vote results are posted in December. Probably late-morning, mid-afternoon December 1.
I have picked my final six in the main contest. They are, in order of current interest:

The Last Apostle
The Sword of the Patron
Primary Source
Neil Before God
The Mysterious Calling of Mike Malone, and
Zinovy's Journey.

Having the first 500 words has made all the difference for me. I can now judge where I am comfortable, in the art of story-telling.

The most telling story is the comments of the participants. What a varied audience this contest has collected. Jeff the Publisher does not have an easy job. Some choice will undoubtedly offend someone. It must happen. But, I am sure we will all still respect him in the morning.

Now I must go resort my choices into an Excel file for later. Yes, that's just the kind of nerd I am.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Neno Award?

Let's see if this works.

OK, it didn't. I'm supposed to put a picture of this award on my blog, but I don't know how. Susie's done it, so she'll have to walk me through it.

Susie of Susan's Sampler, one of the blogs I follow, gave me a Neno Award.

First, this is an honor, and I recognize it as such.

Second, it apparently requires a skill set I do not yet have. :) Kinda of makes me wonder whether I deserve such an award!

There are Rules I'm supposed to post. One of them is to explain why I love blogging.

I'm not sure that I do. Yeah, I probably do.

I like putting my thoughts on the proverbial paper. I never would have thought this could be true when I was in high school being forced to write essays about my thoughts. (Thank you again, Mr. Freidline). Now that I'm doing it, and have some (very few) people reading them, I like it.

I'm also supposed to nominate someone else, but since I can't figure out what to do with it yet, I'll wait for further instructions.

But first, I'll say, "Thank you, Susie! I am honored!"

PS: HA HA! It worked this time!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Missing the Target

You may have noticed, yesterday's post stirred some reaction in at least one reader. I was aiming for amused epiphany. Apparently I hit whiny butt.

I've said before, I wrote Star of Justice without a specific audience in mind. It honestly never occurred to me it might not be interesting to actual Christian fantasy nerds. This is where that research I mentioned in my rejection post comes into play.

I submitted to Marcher Lord because of what I saw after one month of reading about Jeff the Publisher. I believe Jeff would have no problem with my writing skill level or story content. Often, the editor is the first hurdle to pass. I submitted with a clear understanding that I was worthy of publication by his company (we're not worthy! we're not worthy!)

I did not get onto the boards and learn about the readers until the contest. One month into it, I am realizing these people are looking for something startlingly new and ground-breaking (the ones who are talking on the boards, anyway). Apparently, that's what speculative Christian fiction is about.

That's not Star of Justice. Those who've heard me talk about it for any length of time, and you know who you are, know that I have no fantastic new ideas there. Certainly not Harry Potter new. I have old ideas rearranged with interesting characters and unexpected twists.

So, even though Jeff the Publisher might have no problem with my book, he has to consider what will sell to his audience. If none of his fans will buy it, it makes no sense to publish it, no matter how well I write.

I am not automatically rejected if I lose. I will not throw Star of Justice back into the proverbial drawer. I will see the book published, one way or another. If not by Marcher Lord Press, then somewhere else. Maybe my own company, Ranunculus Turtle Publishing.

But the first tale of Caissa Ocren is not my only book. Elementals is finished. Past Ties is begun, as is The First Man, Dangling Participles, Justice for All, and The Royal Pain. Provided the world doesn't end tomorrow, I have plenty to keep me busy. For now, I will continue with the contest and with seeking a venue for Elementals, and researching Past Ties. That is more than enough to keep one turtle busy.

Which reminds me, the premise contest vote this time is minimum 3 - maximum 12. I have 13 on my list, and I don't know what to cut.

I know which one I won't! :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Don't Read Fantasy

My mom said this to me yesterday as we discussed the MLS contest.

It had never occurred to me before, but she's right. Mom's bookshelf nowadays is stacked with political thrillers by authors whose names I can't even think of to write. When we were younger, she liked historical romances and westerns like Louis L'Amour and that guy that writes about Indian reservations. Hillcamp? Huxtable? Something like that. Perfectly good books I would never read.

Another friend who only read biographies and non-fiction historical commentaries also read my book and liked it. We were talking about cover art once. I told her I knew what picture I wanted for the cover (Caissa sitting at the feet of a dragon as they talk) and what picture a publisher would want (Caissa with sword drawn rushing a dragon breathing fire). I was told in no uncertain terms that my friend would never pick up a book with a picture on the front of it. She suggested a star of justice symbol instead. Maybe I suggested that and she concurred.

My sister-in-law read my book. While her taste runs to gangsters and vampire/horror, and she cannot stand English romances (or authors, for that matter, who are my main inspiration), she liked it. She even suggested I add a few more fight scenes. The dismembered monks in Manarot are for you, Triny.

Even my postman read it, and gave me the greatest compliment I have yet heard: "It's like a real book."

Either all these people are flat-out lying to me, or my book has appeal. Which floors me, considering I can't get a mention in the MLS contest. Yes, it's early, but once again, Star of Justice is noticeable by its absence. (I am not telling you to mention it, mom.)

So now I'm wondering, is my book too normal for real nerds? Is my lack of fantastical and uniquely startling creatures a drawback with the hard-core fantasy crowd? Is the very thing that makes the book accessible to people with other interests making it boring to those I would normally market to?

Egads! What a disaster! People who like the book would never pick it up to read, and those who would pick it up won't because it's too normal.

Welcome to the story of my life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Premise Contest Phase 2

That's the title you're looking for when you log on to MLS's site. You can go back and look at the Premise 1 stuff, if you like. Some discussion threads are continuing. I will now look forward. Except for when I go back to post on the discussion threads, that is :)

The premises have been rearranged and the 100 word back cover blurb has been added to them. This has caused Jeff to break the entries into two threads. I'm listed at the top of the second thread. Yea! It means nothing, but it feels good.

The addition of blurbs did not make much difference to me at first read-through, but appears to have changed some minds. One poster pointed out that if a writer can't take a few hours to write a good blurb, why should you trust they took the time to write a good book? Given my own two-week struggle to write a good blurb, I'm not sure I agree with him, but I will go back tomorrow and look with a slightly more critical eye.

I am heartened by my blurb. I had forgotten what I wrote, and while reading it at MLS, I still think I did a pretty good job of giving the highlights of the story, a glimpse of the interesting characters, and the problem my heroine faces. The only question now is "will anyone care more knowing these things?"

I will know the answer in ten days. The next vote will take place Nov 28-30. End of the month, possibly end of the line for Star of Justice and the Marcher Lord Select Premise Contest.

We will see.

My, that sounds grim!

I am not depressed. I have not purchased that mocha java chiller yet, nor have I felt the overwhelming need to do so. As long as the weather cooperates with some sunshine in the next 10 days, I will do well.

I will no doubt do well long after that, too. My hopes for this contest are more than just publication. Those hopes show every indication of being fulfilled.

Game on!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Results Are In

I lost.

I can't actually lose this round because Jeff made it a freebie, but I would have lost if it counted.

I'm not surprised. A little disappointed, but not surprised. My premise doesn't catch the eye. Nobody cares about dragons destroying the world or Caissa Ocren.

I wonder how I might have written it differently. I was going for accuracy, but maybe snappy would have been a better approach.

These dragons don't need magic: they have lasers! They don't, actually (not in this book, anyway), but you have to admit, it's snappier.

I do wonder what the vote count was. I'm guessing nine. That would be me, the three people who mentioned it on the forum threads, the two people who emailed me with "break a finger's" and the three people who answered yes when I asked if they'd voted. Some others might have gotten around to it, but I don't count my dragons before they're hatched.

The next round of voting seems to happen in two weeks. That's the one that will knock me off for good. That's a slightly more depressing thought.

I'm waffling between eating my mozzarella sticks and java chiller then or having one now and one then, too. I am a little, tiny bit depressed. Not surprised, mind you, but a little depressed.

On the plus side, my Swedish squeegee mop really cleaned the slush off my back steps, so, Yea!

"It's the simple things in life you treasure." -Fred Kwan, Galaxy Quest.