September 25, 2015

A Spark Fires in the Void

I make my morning cup of tea, sit down at the table, and open my laptop—completely mundane acts on an entirely ordinary day.
A document file opened…a blinking cursor waiting for me to push it forward across the page…a keyboard waiting for my fingers to move.

And as they move, a spark fires in the void. A light appears in the distance—faintly, only barely visible at first, but glowing brighter, stronger. Following its rise from the darkness comes a world, solid and strong, with shape and texture and jagged edges. The building light solidifies into a blazing sun that breathes down onto the raw earth and fills it with color, life, growing things.
A fire burns in my chest and spreads, first to my shoulders, then down my arms, into my hands and fingers as they move faster and faster across the keyboard. I close my eyes, and I am there, standing in the midst of my created world, creating by the power of my will and imagination. In this world I am transcendent, unbound by finite size or capabilities. One moment I trace my finger in the sand of the beach and sketch a line across the miles, over mountain ranges and plains, outlining the borders of kingdoms and countries. The next moment I stand, tiny and insignificant, dwarfed by the towering columns, vaulted ceilings, arches, and domes of the palace that rises from the ground around me in response to my slowly lifting hands. At a wave of my arm, frescoes blossom to life across the ceiling and walls and stained glass materializes to glow in window settings. As I step forward, the bare earth beneath my feet turns to a marble floor, spreading outward like ripples in the water to merge with the walls.
Music pounds from all around me, from within me, from the very fibers of the world. I turn, and find that I am not alone. A crowd of people stands staring at me, waiting for me. Although they stand at many different distances from me, one man stands prominently in the foreground, watching me with a listless but expectant stare.
I place one hand lightly against his chest and exhale. His chest expands as he breathes in my breath, and the listlessness vanishes from his eyes, replaced by burning energy as we move in unison to take each other’s hands. We begin to move in time to the music, but tentatively at first, shy and uncertain. Then the music grown deeper, louder, more powerful, and we draw each other closer, moving now with confidence and nearly telepathic synchrony. Though no words are exchanged, I know his thoughts, his heart, his feelings. His desires resonate with me as clearly as my own. I feel his pain in my own being and look up at his face to see the tears that I feel falling from my own eyes.
I reach up to wipe them away, but before my fingers reach his face he takes me by surprise by spinning me away from him, twirling me under his arm and back to face him again, this time to see the tears gone and his eyes blazing with triumph and all-consuming joy. I try to move into a different set of steps, struggling to understand, but he tightens his arm around me and his grasp on my hand, and pulls me in a different direction, into a pattern I wasn’t expecting, and there is nothing I can do to get away.
The dance intensifies, growing faster and faster, and I am left with no choice but to stop fighting and surrender to the movement, and as I do I find myself lost in a pattern more complex than any I imagined before. A mosaic takes shape on the floor beneath me, and with every step of the dance, every twirl and spin, every moment of eye contact, more pieces materialize in the air and fall into place. I stare wide-eyed, struggling to miss nothing as thoughts, memories, emotions, loves, and fears, none of them my own, flicker to life in the air around me and become part of me. I care about them as much as I care about my own, about this man as much as I care about myself.
And then the music fades to a close and he stops in front of me, still holding my hands and looking into my eyes, this time with a wordless request. With my returned gaze I give my promise to grant his plea, and now it is my mission: to tell his story, to show the world the losses he has suffered, the destiny that has called him, the pain and scars of his battles, the joy of his victories, and the dreams of his future.
He walks away, out into the vast world that I have created but not yet explored, and I stare after him with mixed emotions, knowing that for now he will be close by, that there are many more dances to come…but knowing with just as much certainty that someday I will have to say goodbye, to let go of his hand and watch him walk away forever, to then turn my back and step out of his world, when his story is completed. Destiny will call me to create another, different world, just as it will call him to leave me behind and step into someone else’s world—someone who might break his heart, or fail to see the beautiful soul that I have seen in him—or, then again, into the world of someone who might be searching for him even now, someone who needs him even more than I do. It is that thought that gives me the courage to stay here in this world, to dance with the next person to approach me from the crowd, to fall in love with all of them even though I know I will have to let them go one day. This is my sacrifice, my gift to the ones who do not have my gift to create worlds and breathe life into souls.
Is this how it felt to God when He created a world, breathed life into its people, knew from the beginning their faults and fears, foresaw the day that they would turn their backs and walk away, watched His Son fall in love with them, knowing they would break His heart? Am I sharing the feelings of Elohim the Creator in a way that other people can’t? Are the emotions I feel at the keyboard a communion with God that others never experience? Are the loss, the pain, the heartbreak, gifts? Rare, precious windows into a chamber of God’s soul that those who have never created a world and fallen in love with it have never had the chance to look through? Do writers understand their God in a way that others never could?
In writing, creating, directing the lives of our characters and yet being able to watch them make decisions for themselves whether those decisions ultimately bring them joy or pain, always being there even though the characters don’t see us, feeling every bit of their pain with them, weeping as they weep and question destiny or fate, because we see the happy ending that they can’t, but cannot show it to them, only promise them that it is there; silently asking them to trust us with their hearts, their dreams, their lives, knowing that for some that trust will be rewarded with “happily ever after,” while others will not even live to see the end of the story.
It leads me to fear the mind of God, to see it equally as a place of terrible beauty and unfathomable pain, and yet to write only draws me deeper. The pain can be shattering, and the joy every bit as destructive in its intensity. The beauty of my characters’ souls, and the independent life they take upon themselves, show me how completely unworthy I am to be in this place of control. It sends me running to the feet of the One whose control over my life I no longer fear because I have felt His pain. I have tasted the bitterness of allowing suffering in the life of someone I created, and it makes me want to lift my head even through the worst of the pain and tell Him, “It’s okay—I know You feel my pain as much as I do. I don’t hold it against You. I know You have Your reasons, even if I don’t see them now, and I still trust You.”

We talk about the writing life as if it’s all a carousel of coffee, chocolate, rejection letters, writer’s block, and inspired all-nighters, and we joke about having a “socially acceptable form of schizophrenia” like it’s no big deal. And yes, sometimes it’s good to keep it light to keep from going crazy. But the truth is that there’s much more to it than that.
The moment of creation, the dance with a stranger that sparks a bond as deep as a soul, the anguish, the piercing joy…
These are what it’s like to be a writer.

September 24, 2015

The Adelfian Prophecies Series, now on Facebook!

Guess what, everybody? My epic fantasy series, The Adelfian Prophecies, now has its own Facebook page, where you can not only keep up to date on all the latest happenin's as I continue writing the series, but also take part in discussions about the series, ask questions about already-released or upcoming books, share favorite scenes or characters, talk about what the stories mean to you...and well, maybe even get a sneak peek or two.
I'd love for you to join me, so visit, like the page, and let the journey begin!

September 1, 2015

My (Long Overdue) Thoughts on Realm Makers 2015

(a.k.a. A very long-winded Thank You letter to Robert Liparulo)

I know this is way overdue, but I wanted to make sure I gave myself plenty of time to think and digest before trying to write about what the 2015 Realm Makers conference did for me.

I went to Realm Makers to meet and connect with new likeminded people, with half-hearted hopes of improving my floundering marketing strategy. (And, yes, I’ll admit it, to have a ball hanging out with a whole horde of people as crazy as me!) I did both! But what surprised me was that something else happened too—something that, quite honestly, has been much more impactful by comparison.

Robert Liparulo’s opening keynote address caught my attention with its point-blank simplicity and its call to STOP worrying about all the extraneous details and bring the focus back to why we’re writing in the first place.
Like so many other writers, I started off with starry-eyed dreams of fame, fortune, NYT best sellers, and movie deals. And, like other writers, I quickly came face-to-face with the reality that gave birth to terms like “starving artist,” and jokes like “If you want to get rich writing, the first thing to do is change your name to Stephen King,” a reality that throws you face-to-face with people who say things like “Oh, you’re a writer? That’s nice. Do you have a real job too?”
It is reality, like it or not, and every starry-eyed dreamer needs a good healthy dose of it now and then. The problem was, I overdosed. I told myself to be content with my “starving artist” status, that it was the best I was going to get. I told myself that it was okay for my books to reach only a few people—at least they reached those few, right?
Once I was thoroughly saturated with that bleak perspective, I let it make me passive. As I said, my marketing strategy (or lack thereof) was floundering. But hey, that’s okay—if God wants me to make it big, He’ll make it happen, no worries!
Enter Robert Liparulo again, with the appeal to “Be prepared when God says ‘It’s your turn.’”
It made me stop and think: If God came to me right now and said “Alright, it’s your turn to make it big! Are you ready to go?” what would I have to offer Him (or the publisher/editor/agent/movie studio/etc. He’d sent my way)? The answer was nothing short of dismal: One published novel, a 22-page ebook that sold all of six copies, the first chapters/pages of a dozen unfinished novels, 100+ story ideas, all unwritten…and absolutely no plan or strategy for how to turn that disorganized heap of raw materials into something useful and productive.
It was a major wakeup call, as if God was saying “Okay, you get it now, so what are you going to do about it?”
Now I had come full-circle, back to Robert Liparulo’s original point: Do what God has called you to do, and do it well, but make sure you’re doing it for the love of doing it. Never before had it occurred to me to think of my dreams as prayers to God to help me reach them, but as I contemplated it, I began to realize how liberating the concept was.
That opening talk sent me into the rest of the weekend with my passion for, not just writing, but for being a writer, rekindled. I took pages and pages of notes. I laid awake at night excitedly mulling over new ideas for reaching new audiences with my writing. I texted my mom to tell her how excited I was about everything I was learning. There were so many connections to be made, so much information to take in!
And then I started getting overwhelmed. I was beginning to grasp the scope of the massive undertaking in front of me, and I didn’t know if I was up to the job of tackling it. Where would I even start?
As Saturday started drawing to a close I felt myself freezing up, thinking that maybe crawling back into my Hobbit hole of obscurity where I could cuddle up all safe and sound with my self-doubt wouldn’t be so bad.
Thank God, Robert Liparulo had one more talk to give: A charge to writers to GO!
As I told Mr. Liparulo afterwards, even if that talk meant nothing to anyone else there, it meant everything to me. Even if it touched no one else at all, it changed my life. It changed the way I saw myself. It changed the way I viewed my future not just as a writer, but as a Christian, as a human being on God’s Earth. It touched on issues that I’ve spent the last year wrestling with in areas of my life that (I thought) had nothing to do with my writing.
I have always struggled with an irrational phobia of being a pest, of seeming obtrusive, of admitting that I’m not okay, of swallowing my pride, trust issues, and, at times, feelings of low self-worth, enough to ask for help when I need it. It’s far easier for me to soldier on alone than to ask for someone to hold my hand. I love taking care of others, giving advice, sharing my knowledge, and helping in any way I can, but in my twisted view it’s selfish and needy of me to ask for those same things.
To sit and be encouraged to go out and introduce myself, to make my presence known, to ask for help and advice, to attract attention, to be like that asteroid crashing into the earth…well, it was hard. And scary. My initial reaction was to think “No way, I couldn’t do that!” But at the same time, I felt a sense of peace telling me “Yes you can, it’s okay. At least give it a try.”
So afterwards, I introduced myself to Robert Liparulo, told him how much his talk had meant to me, and spent the next twenty minutes enjoying a fabulous conversation with him. Later, I tracked down someone who had raised an interesting question during the fight scene panel and asked him if he would critique a scene in my novel that was related to his question.
In the weeks since Realm Makers, I’ve started contacting bloggers about book reviews. I’ve been more open about my work as a writer, and haven’t felt needy or conceited for doing so.
Outside of writing, I’ve been more open and honest with myself as well as others. I called a friend for no other reason than to ask her to pray for me as I went through a rough time. I’ve talked about my struggles with people, asked them for help and advice. I went to my mom and laid bare an entire pile of issues I’ve been struggling with for months. They don’t always have the answers, but they’re willing and happy to listen to me, put an arm around me, and pray for me.
And when those old fears and worries start whispering their tired old lines of “Don’t bother them, you’ll seem like a nuisance; they’re busy and your problems aren’t really that important; don’t draw attention to yourself, that’s selfish; don’t say anything, you’ll seem totally weak and needy…” Well, I just smile at them and say,
“But Robert Liparulo said I could.”

July 11, 2015

Sneak Peek of The Second Prophecy!

As promised last week, here comes a special preview of the sequel to The Song of the Wren-Falcon!

Tentative Title: A Traitor’s Prayer

Possible Alternative Title: The Flight of the Moth

Characters: Many of the characters you know from The Song of the Wren-Falcon, but with a few new faces thrown into the mix—and, well, some old faces making re-appearances in such unexpected ways that they might as well be brand-new characters!

Conflict: Since the end of The Song of the Wren-Falcon, Adelfia has enjoyed six years of peace. Sorek and Orienne are busy with their growing family, as are Cyrus and Viette, and Ryker and Ashnin. Sorek’s biggest problems are trying to keep neighboring countries happy about trade rates, and trying to figure out where his four-year-old learned the word “disembowel”…until a message from Moritar gives him reason to fear that the peace they have been enjoying may not last much longer.
A mysterious dark power has taken hold in Moritar’s capital city. King Saras is dead, murdered by sorcery. And although the ominous turn of events points at Shekiah Hyn, the only known sorcerer remaining in Moritar, she has disappeared and not even Adelfia’s deepest spies can locate her.
Sorek fears that the peace is ending, and that things are about to take a turn for the worse. What he doesn’t know is that the Second Prophecy is about to fulfill itself in ways more wildly incredible than anything he could ever have imagined.
Old fears are about to raise their heads again. Old wounds are about to be reopened. Dark pasts will be revealed. Friendships will be strained to the breaking point. Love will bloom in impossible places. The darkness will deepen, and the cost of defeating it will climb.

What I’m Excited About: In this book I not only get to continue the personal stories of the central characters from Book 1 (characters like Sorek, Orienne, and Allegar), but I also get to dive much deeper into some of the secondary characters who didn’t really have that much time in the spotlight in the first book (characters like Gabriel, Albrius, and Shekiah). I’m so excited about this! It was hard for me to leave these characters largely unexplored and undeveloped in Song of the Wren-Falcon, but the wait is definitely proving worth it! (Now you all can get to know them as well as I do!)
I’m excited about the message of this story—in many ways a re-hash or continuation of the message of Book 1, but woven through enough plot twists and surprises to make it fresh and new.
I’m excited to introduce a couple of new characters as well…but their identities are still classified and you’ll just have to wait and read the book. :P
And of course, because I am a hopeless romantic, I can’t help being super excited about the two love stories that will play out over the course of Book 2. I won’t say much—this isn’t a spoiler post, after all—but I will say that one of the love stories will be both hilarious and heart-wrenching, and the other one will be deeply moving and absolutely gorgeous. And heart wrenching. (Sorry, that’s just the way it turned out. Don’t worry, my publisher and I are currently discussing the logistics of inserting small packets of tissues in the back of every hard copy of the book. [Some restrictions apply; not available with digital versions of the book.])

But what I’d really like to know is: What are you looking forward to in Book 2? What are you hoping to see? Share your thoughts! Who knows? If I like your ideas, you might just end up influencing the story. So don’t be shy!