December 21, 2010

Book Review: Epic

The Story God is Telling
By John Eldredge
The book begins with Sam Gamgee's quote, "I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?" From there Eldredge proceeds to remind us just exactly what kind of a tale it is that we humans have been born into. We have been born into a world at war, into the midst of an epic story of beauty and devastation, trust and betrayal, good and evil, love and sacrifice. People love sweeping, epic stories conveyed through movies and books, and it is because those stories echo the nature of the story we live in... the story we were created for.
Eldredge discusses the basic plot structure that every great tale more or less follows, and you may be surprised to realize that it is the exact structure of the story of our world.
While this book was intended as a resource for Christian living, I am also going to recommend it as a resource for Christian writing. "Every story we tell is out attempt to put into words and images what God has written there, on our hearts," Eldredge says in the book.
That kind of helps it all make sense, doesn't it? The reason that books like Lewis' The Last Battle or Tolkien's Return of the King can reduce us to tears, the reason heroes like Aragorn and sacrifices like Boromir's have so much power to move us... the reason we writers have this overpowering, unexplainable longing to write a tale of that caliber: a truly epic story that will move people the way these tales move us.
I suspect I'm not the only one who sometimes thinks "Is writing (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.) really what I should be doing with my life? Isn't there some way that I can serve God even more?"
But after reading this book, I don't think you'll wonder that any more. Yes, God may tell you at some point that your time as a writer is over and it is time to move on to something else that He has for you. But until then, just remember: it may be a fictional story you're telling, but dragons, sorcerers, warp drives and all, every epic tale is an echo of the true epic tale we're living in.

December 16, 2010

Let's be the change we want to see!

Writers, especially those of you just beginning your journeys, and especially those who have chosen to take your journey into the speculative realms of Christian fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), I'm sure you're painfully aware that the Christian publishing market doesn't seem to have much room for us these days.
I can't count the number of times I and one or more of my writing friends have lamented to each other that "No one seems to be publishing the kind of things we write!". It's true that the speculative genres, while growing slowly and by very small increments, are not exactly big in the Christian publishing industry right now. It's not the publishers' faults. What logical reason is there for them to spend money publishing something that only a tiny minority of people are reading?
Unfortunately, that problem is just the tip of the iceberg. In the midst of a national economic crisis, the publishing industry as a whole--Christian and secular--is facing tough times. Financial risks have gotten riskier, and no one wants to take them. Sadly, rookie writers and speculative genres are financial risks.
So what are we to do, up-and-coming writers of speculative fiction? Shall we hunker down and wait for the current crisis to blow over, hoping to emerge on the other side to find the industry more willing to gamble on us? Shall we commit that great literary sacrilege and change what we write to follow the market trends? I say: "Not on your life!"
Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has a great post up on her blog today, from guest blogger Marcus Brotherton. As well as being entertaining and humorous, his post is extremely encouraging and inspiring. Read it! He proposes that writers help the publishing industry they depend on by buying one hardback book a month in 2011. The figures he has come up with illustrating the impact this would have on the market are astounding.
But I would like to take his theory a little further than that. Writers of Christian Speculative fiction, let's take the initiative and be the change we want to see in the Christian publishing market. Let's be the ones waiting at the bookstore for the release of that new fantasy book; let's be the ones standing in line at that Christian sci-fi author's book signing; let's be the ones making speculative fiction and its authors not quite such a big risk for publishers.
It won't happen overnight, and our efforts alone won't turn the massive USS Christian Fiction around. But we can be the start, the leaders, the pebbles bouncing down the mountainside gathering speed and followers until--hopefully--they become a landslide.
What are your thoughts on the market for Christian speculative fiction and what we can do to influence it?

December 14, 2010

Seeing Christ

I did not write this story. My pastor used it as an illustration in his sermon last Sunday; I do not know who the author is.

A great artist painted a picture of the Last Supper. When he was finished he called in a friend to look at it, and asked for his opinion. After gazing at the painting for a few minutes, the friend said "Those cups on the table are the most magnificent cups I have ever seen."
Much to the friend's surprise the artist picked up a brush and some paint and methodically painted over each cup, shaking his head and saying "I failed."
Dismayed, the friend asked the artist what he was doing. The artist replied "I wanted you to see Christ, but you saw the cups."

Writers, does your work show Christ to people? Do they read your writing and see God's grace, love, and sovereignty reflected in your poems, essays, even your fictional stories?
I would like to challenge you all to think about that when you pick up that pen or put your fingers on that keyboard--today, tomorrow... every day.
It's not about us. It's not about the stories. It's about Who the stories point to.

December 6, 2010

One of those days, and a 'Writer' moment

This weekend was a long one for me--I am a teacher and staff member of a student orchestra, and this weekend was our Christmas concert, so Friday was spent plowing through dress rehearsals, and Saturday was the big day! It went off really well, all things considered (practicing and performing in a strange church building we're not used to, and trying to explain the extremely complex dress code "Black and white" to three hundred kids). I also got to be in the alumni orchestra for the first time this year, so that was a big blessing and ton of fun for me! I didn't realize how much I've missed being in orchestra.
The 'Writer' moment came shortly after I dragged myself into the house at 8:30 Saturday night, cold, weary, and convinced that high-heeled dress shoes were originally invented as slow-onset torture devices. There was a letter in the mail for me... oddly, addressed in my own handwriting with no return address. (?) I quickly thought through everything I had submitted, sent away for, or requested during the last couple of months, but came up with nothing that matched this. I opened the envelope to find three of my poems that I had sent away to a magazine four years ago and had long since forgotten about, along with a polite little note thanking me for my submission, but regretting to inform me that they couldn't use it.
And no wonder! The poems that, four years ago, I considered fabulous were downright embarrassing to see printed up so professionally, a painful reminder that I had actually had the gall to submit them. The whole situation was too ridiculous for me to feel very badly about the rejection--after rereading those poems, I knew I deserved it! It was a good learning moment, though, a good reminder of the progress I've made during the last four years as a writer.
How about you? What is a recent Writer Moment you've had, and what have you learned from it?

December 2, 2010

A breath of fresh air...

Whew! NaNo is over until next year, The Pirate Shrine is finished (topping out at roughly 55.5k), The Christmas season has begun, and I'm once again free to work on whatever I want, writing-wise. Life is good!
Honestly, in spite of the tension and stress NaNo created, I'm glad I did it. It was a great chance to push myself, practice meeting a deadline (something every writer should work on, no?), and as a bonus it really made me appreciate the freedom I have the other 11 months out of the year. It was so refreshing to open up my computer file this morning and ask myself: "Hmm... what do I want to work on today?"
Of course, my main priority is getting back to editing Son of The Shield and start writing the sequel. I'm hoping that, with the help of a few good buddies, I'll have SOTS in good enough shape to start sending out queries this next year. Another world to explore: the world of publishing and marketing!
But along that line, literary agent Rachelle Gardner has an excellent post up on her blog today, from guest blogger Mary DeMuth, discussing marketing strategy. Would you believe that, in spite of what the experts tell us, it's still okay to be you, even when it comes to getting your book and your name out there? Click Here to read the complete post--I found it incredibly encouraging!

November 29, 2010

Journaling: Day 29 of NaNo

Total Word Count: 50,971
I won!!!!! My first NaNo ever, and I won!!!!
I have just concluded a glorious evening of eating end-of-NaNo pizza, enjoying cream soda and dark chocolate-covered pomegranates, and watching my favorite movie of all time, The Young Sherlock Holmes, to celebrate. My wonderful mother (without whom my successful completion of NaNo would not have been possible--and I mean that in all seriousness) spent the evening with me, sharing in my revelry... since celebrating all by yourself isn't half as much fun as celebrating with a friend.
The only down side is that--well, The Pirate Shrine isn't finished yet! Nearly 51k words and I'm still just on the verge of the big climax of the story. My characters just will not be rushed, not for me, not for word counts, not for deadlines, not for anything. I'm seriously hoping that the story will wrap up around 52 or 53k--surely no more than that! (Famous last words) At any rate, I'm hoping to get the story finished up tomorrow, and then I'm closing that lousy computer file that I've lived in for the last month, and moving on to something with a much lower stress level!
I've got a host of exciting new projects lined up, so for those of you who have so patiently stuck with me through the drudgery of NaNo, keep sticking around for the adventures to come!

November 28, 2010

Journaling: Day 28 of NaNo

Total Word Count: 46, 668
After ten days of being woefully way behind schedule, and three days of cranking it out to get caught up, I am now one whole word ahead of schedule! So now I am enjoying a celebratory bagel complete with melted butter and strawberry cream before putting in another hour or so of writing time tonight.
We're cruisin' the home stretch, people! Only 51 hours of NaNoWriMo2010 left! (At least in my time zone, anyway. I don't know about yours.) Oddly enough my entire family, none of whom are writers, have all jumped on my little bandwagon and are nearly as consumed with NaNo as I am at the moment. Between Mom and my brother James I haven't had to update my word count on the site a single time today--but the two of them have collectively updated it about 14 times. Any time I stray too far from my desk chair one family member or another commands me to "sit, stay, and write!" Both of my brothers have, at some point today, informed me that I will finish on time or else (the details of 'else' have not been specified). Their enthusiasm has struck me as a little odd, but... well after all, I've known they were all odd for years. : P
So, to those of you who have already finished and become verified 2010 winners, congratulations! To those of you, like me, still plugging away towards the finish line, keep at it! We're almost there, and you can do it! To those of you who chose or were forced to drop out early on, well... I understand. Really. Better luck next year? We'll see.
I'm off now--got to get back to the story that I seriously doubt will conclude itself in 3,332 words... although it may, you never know. If it does though, it's going to have a serious bottle-rocket ending. Only one way to find out!

November 15, 2010

Journaling: Day 15 of NaNo

Total Word Count: 23,835
I'm currently behind schedule, but the plot begins to thicken... and that isn't necessarily a good thing. When Day 1 began, I really didn't have that much of a plot, so I'm grateful to have one(23k of plotless words would begin to get very tiresome) but now the storyline is growing more complex--and I didn't think Tor's story would revolve so much around his journey to faith--and I had no idea that Marcus got captured by the enemy--and I didn't realize that one enemy was actually trying to double-cross another enemy... yeah, you all get the idea.
Basically, I'm charging ahead at full steam with no headlights and absolutely no idea where I'm going. So come December 1, the novel that is now waiting impatiently beneath my internet page may be a totally different story than the one that I started out with--or thought I started out with--on November 1. But, such is NaNo, I suppose.
Now I'm off to get back at it. There's a cream soda screaming my name from the refrigerator, but I've told myself that I can't have it until I'm caught up on the weekend's word count... no matter how late I have to stay up to do it.

November 10, 2010

Journaling: Day 10 of NaNo

Total Word Count: 15,932
I got to introduce my favorite character yesterday! Of course, I didn't know that he was going to be my favorite character, probably because he wasn't at all the type of character I expected him to be (that seems to be a recurring theme for me in this story) but he made the whole day of writing a treat! He's one of those characters whose personality and mannerisms are so distinct and clear that you don't have to figure out anything they say or do for yourself; they just do their thing, and you write it down.
My main character now has a trusty sidekick, and I'm off to do the breakfast dishes and get back to writing!

November 8, 2010

A Tribute to Writers' Companions...

...always eager to help in any way they can.

...willing to 'burn the midnight oil' with you when you're writing at 3 in the morning.

...and even when they can't take any more, they're still willing to encourage you!

As we all buckle down and plow into Week 2 of NaNo, don't forget to appreciate all the ever-loyal writer's companions (be they cats, dogs, goldfish, or family members) who make our month of madness possible!

November 6, 2010

Journaling: Day 6 of NaNo

Total Word Count: 8623
I took a bit of a break from writing yesterday, although I was able to have a good little 'writers' conference' with a couple of my NaNo writing buddies. We exchanged stories of writing woes and gave each other pep talks... though all of us were still in one degree or another of panic when we finally parted ways. Ah, well, what would NaNo be without panic?
I wrapped up the evening by attending an absolutely fabulous Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert with my parents and siblings--our family Christmas gift a bit early. If you guys have never seen them in concert, check their website for their 2010 performance schedule and find out when they're coming to your area. Trust me: it's worth the high ticket price!
With that over, though, I'm ready to get back to writing... and start playing TSO Christmas music.

November 2, 2010

Journaling: Day 2 of NaNo

Total Word Count: 4,150
No, I don't plan on journaling every day of NaNo, necessarily, but we're still in the very beginning stages so there are a lot of important things going on to journal about. First of all, congrats to all my writing buddies--your word counts are looking great! I know some of you haven't been able to update your counts yet due to problems with the site, but I've talked to most of you via email so I know that your novels are coming along beautifully! Keep up the good work!
As for me:
I'm developing the horrible feeling that by December 1 the Narnia soundtrack will start making me break out in hives. So far I've listened to "The Blitz, 1940" 9 times today--it's a great invasion/naval battle track.
After lying awake listening to a grandfather clock 'bong' all night I did some quick calculations and discovered that a standard grandfather clock actually 'bongs' 1038 times in a 24-hour period. (So the next time someone asks you how many times a grandfather clock 'bongs' every day, you'll know what to tell them.)
My main character isn't shaping up to be quite the handsome, intrepid hero I had hoped for pre-November. Handsome, I suppose so; a good fighter, sure; a good military leader, absolutely. Shy, awkward, and terrified of public speaking? Unfortunately, yes.
Oh, Torsten, what am I going to do with you?

November 1, 2010

Journaling: Day 1 of NaNo

Total Word Count: 2257
Well, I made my word count quota for today--only 29 days to go! Ugh... yeah. 29 days to go.
Well, anyway, I'm happy. I've made my quota for today and a little extra for tomorrow. Maybe that'll make up for the time it'll take to go and vote in the morning. (Make sure none of you forget, by the way!)
I've got to admit, though, that even though it's only the first day of my first NaNo, things aren't exactly as I thought they would be. First of all, my plan to go to bed early last night and get a good early start to writing this morning didn't exactly work as well in practice as it did in theory. Oh, I got to bed early, all right, but I laid awake half the night,wondering if it was time to get up and if that noise in the kitchen was really just the wind or some freaky intruder.
I finally gave up trying to sleep and got up at 5:30 this morning, got dressed, made myself a cup of tea, sat down in front of my laptop, opened a new blank Word Document, and typed: The Pirate Shrine, Chapter One. Then I hit "Enter"... and panicked.
There was that cursed cursor, blinking away at me, and I hadn't the faintest clue what to write! So, I took a deep breath, told myself "Quantity over quality," and then wanted to slap myself for uttering such sacrilege. But I did it anyway--closed my eyes, pictured the opening scene in my head, put my hands on the keyboard... and started writing!
The day went pretty smoothly for the most part (if you don't count a minor disaster involving paraffin wax and a hapless little sister) and right now I really think that I can do this! With that being said, though, it's 9:30 pm and I still have dishes to do, so I'll quit journaling and get to it. Maybe I'll get a little more writing in before I go to bed, too. Good night, NaNo-ers, and hope you all got in a great first day!

October 30, 2010

Two Days, NaNo-ers!

Time to tidy up your writing space, stock the cupboard with your favorite writing snacks, dig out your background CDs and soundtracks, charge up the laptop batteries, and get lots of sleep.
In addition to updating my word count on the NaNo website, I'll do my best to post an update once a week or so here at the Lair. Any of you Lair Dwellers who are doing NaNo too, feel free to leave comments updating us on your own word count!
Good luck, everyone, and write well!

October 19, 2010

My first NaNoWriMo - the countdown begins!

I'm sure some of you will probably be surprised to learn that, in spite of all my years of writing, I've never taken part in NaNoWriMo before. It's true. I thought about it last year, but somehow just couldn't quite talk myself into it. I was deeply involved in finishing Draft 1 of Son of The Shield at the time, and couldn't afford the distraction. So, I kept plugging away at SoTS and watched as my friends slowly lost their marbles throughout the month of November. By December 1, when said friends had collapsed into heaps of hysterical white-haired gnomes, I thought "And they wonder why I don't do this?"
But then I had the privilege of actually reading the results. For being written in only a month's time, the stories were remarkably good!
And, after another year of listening to "Mary, you really should do NaNo, you really should. Even if just to say you've done it, come on, just do it, you really should," I finally came to the conclusion that I might as well. What could it hurt? Er--ahem--besides adding me to the aforementioned pile of hysterical gnomes, that is.
I am officially signed up for NaNo now, waiting very nervously for November 1 to dawn, so that I too can begin my journey to white-haired gnome-hood!
So, Lair Dwellers, how many of you are undertaking NaNo this year? I'm MaryRuth (one word) on the website, so look me up and I'll be happy to add you as a writing buddy! After all, if you've got to be a hysterical gnome, you may as well have company doing it, no?

September 28, 2010

Editing Progress

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time has no doubt had to listen to a few of my rants about my dislike for the editing process. Dear friends like Heather and the Traveler get to listen to it even more in phone calls and emails. It's no secret: I hate editing and I wish novels could just be perfect the first time around.
But, alas, it doesn't work that way, and so I am left with the humongously overwhelming task of editing Draft 1 of my novel, Son of The Shield--all 108,642 words of it (as of last count at 1:00 this afternoon). Yes, it is a huge novel.
These days, editors seem to want stories that top out at 100k max, and with that in mind I'm trying desperately to reduce my word count. Unfortunately, I keep finding and being informed by friends of all these scenes I need to add to clarify and develop things. So far I've only come across two scenes in the entire novel that need to be cut.
However, aside from those little problems, I have actually started making great progress with editing, for the first time since finishing Draft 1 at the end of December!
Since there's a lot of clarifying and explaining to be done throughout the novel, I'm focusing on streamlining as a way of reducing word count right now. It can get frustrating, taking down the word count 1 and 2 words at a time, but it makes for better quality, so I'm glad to do it.
And, the big thing that has (finally) kick-started my editing: I have finally managed to nail down my main character in my head! I know it sounds crazy, to have been working on a novel for three-and-a-half years and to just now be able to really grasp a character's (especially the main one) essence, but it's the truth.
I've had trouble with this character from the beginning--everything from understanding his thought processes and feelings, to simple things like being able to picture his face clearly in my head. I've had recurring dreams of being in the world where SOTS takes place, running in circles trying to get a look at this character's face, and he keeps turning away from me. No joke. Needless to say, this created a major problem when it came time to develop his character and write the dialogues, thought sequences, and scenes that he starred in. I managed to bungle my way through a blurry and disheveled Draft 1 in spite of it all, and since I was my only critic at the time I could let myself get away with it. But then came the critiques from my cohorts, Heather, LoriAnn, and Katrina. And they weren't letting me get away with anything. They dragged me, kicking and screaming, to face the awful truth: my main character needed to be more solid, more developed. But no matter how I tried, he just wouldn't seem to come to life like the other characters.
Until last week, that is!
I am absolutely ecstatic that Sorek has finally come to life in my mind! Now I can picture his physical appearance perfectly, and I understand his personality at a very deep level. And to make matters even better--he's really cool!
I'm really not sure what triggered the change and made him finally come to life for me, but I can tell you that it is making editing SOOO much easier! Instead of feeling like I'm dragging my main character around and forcing him to act out scenes like a marionette, I'm watching him take charge of his own scenes and live out the story like he's supposed to. Draft 2 is finally underway and rolling... and I'm beginning to think that this might actually shape up to be a pretty good story!

September 20, 2010


By Helen Hunt Jackson
(Sometimes the best way to get inspired to write is to sit down and read some really great writing!)

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

'T is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.

September 7, 2010

Learn to laugh!

All of us have heard the jokes and teasing remarks about how weird we writers are. If we're not careful it's easy for us (especially those of us who are female) to get sand under our feathers over family and friends who laugh at our sudden attacks of inspiration or emotion over fictional stories. We can very easily become insulted when they tell us we're weird.
Face it, guys: we ARE weird! Like it or not, we writers simply are not normal. Period. Just because something is normal for a writer does not mean it is normal for any other species of human. It's high time we just accept the fact.
Now, we have some options as to what we do with that fact. We can continue being insulted by remarks and jokes about how weird we are; we can try to convince our non-writer friends and family members that it is they, not we, who are abnormal; we can follow in the footsteps of Mr. Edgar Allen Poe and become morbid, suicidal drunks; or, we can step back, take a good look at just how weird we really are, and learn to accept it with grace and humor.
We are what we are. We can't do anything about it, and we can't change how 'normal' people see us, so why waste time and energy being insulted or angered by it?
Admit it: we're writers, we're weird, and we love it. It's time to shake the sand out of our feathers and learn to laugh at just how crazy we really are!
One of the ways that my personal case of writerhood manifests itself is all over the walls of my bedroom/office. I have a pad of sticky notes that I keep on the end table. If I need to suddenly write something down, I just jot it down on the Post-It pad and slap it to the wall for safe keeping until I need or want it. Then of course, I have the whiteboard hanging on the wall, for more organized visual storage of ideas. It currently contains the title list of the fantasy series I'm working on, as well as my current favorite quote and my current reading list. Not that I have anything against writing in a notebook. Indeed, I have several notebooks stashed in various purses, bags, jacket pockets, and locations around my room. It's just that I like having things on the wall, too, where I can see them and look them up at a moment's notice.
How about you? What are some of your laughable writer's quirks?

August 23, 2010

Book Review: City of the Dead

Book Two in the Seven Wonders Series by T. L. Higley.
I'll be honest, the cover made me a little edgy when I first saw it. It kind of had that 'romance novel' look to it, and I am really not into romance novels. Rest assured, dear readers, this is not a romance novel! Yes, a romance does develop between two of the characters over the course of the story, but ... well, that's different.
Anyway, the main character, Hemiunu, or 'Hemi' to his friends, is Grand Vizier to the pharaoh Khufu, and the designer and architect for the Great Pyramid at Ghiza. He and Pharaoh Khufu grew up together, and both are hiding a dark secret regarding the mysterious death of a young woman many years ago, when they were still boys. Both of them are hiding the secret, but neither of them actually knows the full truth of it...or so they claim.
When Hemi's friends start being murdered, he begs Pharaoh for permission to investigate, but uncovering the murderer may mean uncovering the truth of an event they have both sworn to keep secret forever. It also leads Hemi to meet some new and surprising people who introduce him to a God other than the statues he serves in Egypt's temples.
This books makes a fabulous read; it combines an historical adventure with a delicious murder mystery. The only problem I found with it was that it is written in first-person from the viewpoint of a man. Being written by a female author, I think it sometimes doesn't accurately reflect the way a man would view or think about a given situation. But, the character development is deep and thorough, and we the readers get the feeling that we know Hemi personally.
City of the Dead gets a great rating from me (in which case, I should probably develop some sort of rating system to go by) and I will definitely be adding it to my bookshelf at my first opportunity!

August 18, 2010

Back-with a book review!

Hello all, and sorry for missing my posting last week. God blessed me with the opportunity for a rather impromptu vacation, so I jumped at it and basically spent all week catching up on sleep and reading. I did venture out to make a library run, though, and brought back some fabulous finds! Namely, I have discovered the astounding work of T.L. Higley. I absolutely love this author, and I suspect she'll become a common post-topic here at The Lair. So to get started, here's a review of her book, Shadow of Colossus.
Set on the Greek island of Rhodes, Shadow of Colossus is the story of Tessa, a slave since childhood. Tessa is hetaera to Glaucus, a powerful politician. In the opening scene of the book, she is planning to kill herself, convinced that suicide is the only way that she can ever be free.
Then Glaucus meets an accidental death--but the circumstances make it appear that Tessa murdered him. If charged with the crime, it is almost certain that she will be executed. But quick-thinking, clever Tessa isn't about to let it go at that, and she sets in motion a dangerous plan to hide Glaucus' death and use it to escape to the island of Crete.
This book doesn't 'open with a bang' by any means. In fact, the first few pages were a little slow getting started. However, once you do get into it (which doesn't take long--by Chapter 2 I was completely immersed) it is absolutely riveting. I sometimes have trouble letting go of my Analytical Writer side and letting myself become completely engrossed in a book as a reader and nothing more. That was not a problem with this book. After years in slavery, Tessa has let herself become impervious to emotions in order to avoid pain and sorrow. Then she meets Nikos, who encourages her to let herself feel, because feeling is what makes you alive. This causes a huge struggle for Tessa, and I the reader could feel every part of that struggle.
Another great aspect of the book is that the romance that develops between Tessa and Nikos actually feels natural, unlike so many books in which the main male character and the leading lady seem to fall in love simply because the writer wanted to include some romance in the story and there was no one else around for them to fall in love with.
And as if all that weren't enough, T.L. Higley transports you completely to ancient Greece with her fabulous descriptions and writing style that presents Rhodes to you as easily as if it was right outside your front door. Reading this, I felt like if I were suddenly transported to ancient Rhodes, I would know my way around (and know which creepy characters to avoid).
Read this book, you guys! If nothing else, use it as a textbook on how to take your readers on a thrilling journey they will not soon forget!

August 3, 2010

Beyond Character Developement

"Strong writing requires an intimate knowledge of humanity."
~From Creating the Story
It's true: elaborate, detailed character development is important, but it won't get you anywhere without deep, familiar knowledge of human nature. A writer has to know and understand the workings of the human mind and apply their knowledge to their characters in order to effectively transport a reader into that character's thoughts and struggles. A reader cannot identify with a character on a deep level if that character's mind doesn't function like a realistic human mind.
So that leaves us, the writers, with the task of learning and studying human nature. You'd think it would be totally easy--after all, we're humans, aren't we? Of course we know how we think!
But it's not always that easy. We tend to take our human nature for granted; it's part of us, so we don't think about it that often, just like you probably take your right leg for granted. Have you ever just sat down and studied your right leg, the way the muscles fit together, the way the tendons flex and move when you bend your knee, the way the components of your knee joint work together? I'm going to venture a guess and say that most of us probably haven't. So have you ever sat down and analyzed your own thought processes and mental gear-grinding?
A warning: don't become over-analytical! You don't want your writing to become bogged down with the minute details of every character's thought processes, nor do you want to get so into the habit of analyzing yourself that you spend all of your time analyzing potential decisions rather than actually making them!
The microscopic details of characters' thought processes aren't what's important. What's important is the understanding of the character's nature that you bring to the page. Even if you don't openly display your understanding in a lengthy dissertation on why Character A made this particular choice, if you have that deep, intimate knowledge of human nature and the workings of the human mind, it will show. And if you do it well, the reader will benefit from it without even realizing that it's there.

July 26, 2010

The Secret Fire

By guest blogger, Galadriel

Why are we creative? Why do we seek to write, sing, and paint? How can we make something from nothing?

Tolkien’s The Silmarillion speaks of the creation of the Ainur, the Holy Ones, by Ilúvatar’s hand, by the Flame Imperishable, the secret fire. What is this secret fire? Whatever it consists of, the Secret Fire is heavily associated with sub-creation, the making of a world in which both onlookers and the creator can enjoy.
After rashly making the Dwarves, Aulë the Smith, one of the Valar, says to Ilúvatar, “The making of things is in my heart from my own making by thee and the child (that) makes a play of the deeds of his father…(does so) because he is the son of his father.”
The making of things is in my heart from my own making by thee. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” goes further into this concept, but Aulë’s words struck me with their poignancy. We are creative because we were created in the image of the great Creator God. But our acts of creation are not as powerful as his, for while we may paint a rainbow or sculpt a stallion, only he can make the rainbow or the stallion. No matter how real our work is, it is only a mirror of God’s work.
But earlier in The Silmarillion, even before the making of the Dwarves, Ilúvatar sits and listens to the music of the Ainur. He then takes them to the edge of the Void and shows them a vision of the world that is to come. When the vision fades, he speaks of their desire for this vision “shall verily be; not only in your thought, but even as ye yourselves are, and other. Therefore I say: ‘Eä!’ Let these things Be! And will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the world.”
At this point, one can see that the Flame Imperishable, the Secret Fire, is of Ilúvatar, and with Ilúvatar, and yet separate from him, for it burns at the heart of the world. But perhaps the most startling reference to the fire lies in a comment about the world after the end of days, when “the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance…and Ilúvatar shall give to their thought the Secret Fire.”
And the choir that is to sing the themes of Ilúvatar after the end of days does not consist merely of the Ainur, or even the Elves, but of all the Children of Ilúvatar, both Elves and Men.
Would Ilúvatar truly give the Flame Imperishable to the work of mere mortals? Could the stories of Men be given existence in the same plane, the same reality, as the authors?
Such a concept is too hard to grasp. Can you imagine walking with your characters as you walk with your parents or siblings? If you knew that someday, somewhere, your words were given the Secret Fire—that everything you wrote came to pass exactly as you foretold—how would that change your writing?

July 19, 2010


Imagine that someday, a person will be moved to tears by something you have written. Someone will laugh delightedly at the antics of a character who was born of your imagination. Someone will be inspired to strive for greatness by the heroes and heroines in your story.
Someone will stay awake until some ridiculous hour of the morning (even though they have to get up and go to work later) because they just can't put your book down. Someone will be waiting at the bookstore door when it opens on the day that your next book hits the shelves. Someone will stand in line for hours for the chance to meet you and get their copy of your book signed.
Someday, someone will look up at you, and at how far you have come in your journey, and will be encouraged to keep trying even though it is far from easy.
Today, write for that person.

July 12, 2010

Look at the positives!

We writers love to complain. Read any writer's blog or website (and yes, I'm as guilty of this as the next person) and you're certain to find at least a few posts bemoaning the trials and hardships of writerhood.
I won't say that the life and career of a writer isn't tough at times. We writers are vulnerable to many problems and disorders that 'normal people' simply don't have to deal with - Writer's Block and Creativity Overload being two of the most common. However, I am convinced that the leading cause of stress and misery in the life of a writer is a case of Martyred Starving Artist Syndrome.
Yes! Writer's Block is miserable. Yes! it is overwhelming when ideas are pouring into your head literally faster than you can write them down. Yes! it is frustrating when the poem you spent hours agonizing over gets rejected ... and rejected ... and rejected. Yes! it is miserable when you spend hours fighting with a story scene trying to get it right and you're still not pleased with the result.
But there are positive aspects of writing too - positives that far outweigh the negatives! And yet do we hear about those even half as much as we hear about the negatives? Hmm?
So we here at The Lair are going to change that. I'm not going to deny or ignore the negative and difficult aspects, but I'm not going to give them center stage either. The Writer's Lair is a place for writers to come to encourage and be encouraged - not to bewail their pitiful misfortunes.
This is a big job - there are a lot of Christian writers out there who could use some godly encouragement - and I don't want to be doing it all on my own. The next few posts are going to be focusing on the glorious positive aspects of writing that we writers often tend to overlook, and you all are welcome (and heartily encouraged) to leave your feedback in comments. Also, feel free to drop me a line sharing your own message of encouragement to other writers, or your idea for an encouraging post, using the contact info on the lower right side of the screen.
I'll end this post with asking you all: What is the one thing that you love the most about being a writer? Can't wait to hear your answers!

July 8, 2010

Roll credits... keep rolling...

I sometimes think that I over-populate my novels. For the most part it seems okay, until I have three critical scenes happening in three different places across the story world, with six or seven different characters involved. And then even when I do get through that part, there are ten other characters that I have to catch the reader (and myself) up on.
The up side to that though, is the fun of naming everyone and everything in the story. Monica Wood, in her book The Pocket Muse (I forget if it was Volume I or II) talks about the fact that in 'real life' we might get to name a few pets, a few kids, maybe a business. But in our writing, we get to name everything! And it gets even better for us as fantasy writers, because not only do we get to name everything, we get to make up the names as well!
However, when you have a long cast of characters in your book ... and six more books to follow in that series ... and a related series of six more books ... and another related series of twelve books (just kidding, but you get the idea) it can sometimes get hard to make up names for everyone and everything.
Personally, in my writing I don't feel like every name of every person has to be a 'fantasy name' (for lack of a better term). I do have some, as my mom calls them, 'normal names': Ivan, Gabriel, Cyrus, etc.
But in order to really capture that fantasy feel, nothing does it like a good cast of exotic-sounding names. So where do you, the fantasy writer, come up with these names? Here are some of my favorite sources and methods.
~Typos. My friend Heather and I often discover cool misspellings/newly invented words in the emails we frantically pound out to each other.
~The Bible. In the back of his Bible, my dad has a list of all the proper names of places and people in the Bible. You would not believe the number of cool names you can come up with from there.
~Old baby name books. The older, the better.
~Foreign words. These days it's easier than ever to find instructions in six or seven languages on the backs of packages in the grocery stores. Read them! You might not want to use the word itself as it appears, but you can take it as a base and spin a name off of it. Nobody will know or care that your character's name is a derivative of 'shampoo' in Swedish.
~New spellings for common names. Take a common 'normal name' and give it a completely new spelling. Examples: Leah = Lhia Eddie (short for Edward) = Etti (short for Ettimer).
~Word games. Take the first common name that comes to your mind (longer names work best). Replace the third letter. Remove the fifth letter. Add two letters between the first and second letter. Pick a syllable and use it to replace the last syllable. Replace the first and second letter... you get the idea.
How about you? Where do you come up with names for the people and places in your fantasy worlds?

June 28, 2010

Stories show up in the strangest of places...

I'm not really a fan of the Christian band 'Skillet', but the other day while my brother Caleb and I were doing dishes, he hooked up his iPod to my brother James' guitar amplifier (who needs surround sound?) and we were listening to Skillet's song 'Looking for Angels'. I don't even remember all of the lyrics, except for the line "Angels show up in the strangest of places."
Now Galadriel's comment on my last post has me thinking about how we writer-folk find stories in the weirdest and 'strangest of places', so I thought we might spend some time discussing the subject.
Music is where I find a lot of my ideas. Sometimes it's when I hear a song for the first time, and sometimes it's a song I've heard dozens of times that just strikes me in a new way all of a sudden.
Sometimes I find ideas in conversation. Sometimes I find them in a painting or photograph. Sometimes I find them in real-life circumstances. Sometimes they show up without prompting from any particular thing at all, as far as I can tell.
What about you? In what strange and unexpected places have you found ideas and inspiration?

June 21, 2010

More on World-Building

So, fantasy writers, we've talked about beginning to develop your fantasy world, mapping it out, beginning to learn about and explore it. So let's continue with that train of thought, shall we?
Once you have the basics of your world - geography, countries, people groups, - figured out, where do you go from there?
For me it seems to be a gradual process. I never really sat down and said 'Today I am going to develop the Athragani culture' or 'I will now work out all the details of the Rheuhark social system.' Those things just sort of developed themselves over time, as I worked more and more with the characters from those cultures.
Oddly enough, the culture of the Taravels, which are the race closest to us Earth Humans in my book, is the least developed of all the cultures in Reyem. For me, it is actually a bit difficult to develop a culture that has a fantasy flavor to it. Human nature is the same, regardless, so there are aspects of human culture that will carry over, even into other worlds (commerce, family relations, moral ideals, love of art and music, etc.). In order for your readers to connect with your characters, they have to be able to identify with them on some level, so you have to maintain at least some aspects of human nature in your characters. At the same time, you have to take human nature/culture and give it the flavor of other-worldliness.
So how do you do that? How do you maintain enough human nature in your characters to allow your readers to identify with them, while still giving their culture the flavor of a fantasy world?

June 18, 2010

Maybe we're not crazy!

As writers, I’m sure that all of us have at one time or another had a friend or relative lovingly suggest that we are completely insane.

“If you don’t want that character to die, why don’t you just change the story so that he lives?”

“What do you mean you didn’t see that coming? You wrote the story!”

“You’re laughing at something your character said? You’re the one who wrote what she said!”

“Your character isn’t cooperating with you? Seriously…”

“You’re the writer – just make the characters do whatever you want them to do!”

Yes, I suppose we can all admit that to a ‘normal’ person, we writers are just a little weird. However, weird though we may be, perhaps we’re not crazy after all! Here is my theory – a scientific explanation – as to why we writers can’t always control what our characters do, and why they sometimes surprise us:

When you meet a new person – a real one, say, at church or at work – the first thing you get is a visual of their physical appearance. You introduce yourself and start a conversation with them, usually asking questions pertaining to the immediate surroundings and/or circumstances (Are you new in town? What brought you to this church? Have you worked here long?).

Then you start asking broad, generalized questions (Where are you from? What do you do for a living?). Then you begin moving on into more personal questions, learning opinions, etc. while still keeping a bit of distance (What kind of movies do you like? What did you think of the election results?).

Gradually, as a relationship develops, you can begin asking more personal, intimate questions, learning who the person is at their very core (What is your deepest desire? Your greatest fear?) and as they begin to learn to trust you in return, they will often share their deepest, darkest secrets with you.

Once you know a person at this level, you can begin to predict with some accuracy how they will respond to given situations. Have you ever had someone tell you “So-and-so did such-and-such,” and you knew in your very heart that there was no way on earth that story could be right? That is because you know that person, and you know how they respond.

These stages of getting to know a person work much the same way for writers getting to know a fictional character. For me at least, the first thing I get from a character is their physical appearance. I start asking questions, then, starting with broad, generalized questions, and moving on towards the deep, intimate questions, until I know who that person is at their very core.

My theory is that your subconscious mind does not know the difference between a fictional character and a real person.

Think about it: you have given your mind the same information and stimuli with the fictional character as you would have with a real one, starting with physical appearance and moving on into who the person/character really is in their heart of hearts.

Just as your subconscious mind allows you to ‘just know’ what your best friend will do in a particular situation, it allows you to ‘just know’ what your character will do. To change it would be to force them into doing something out of character. When you write a line of dialogue or action for another character, your subconscious mind can process all of that information and make a prediction as to how your main character will respond. The result is that witty line of dialogue that you find so hilarious; that recourse that you really don’t want the character to take but that they are bound and determined to take anyway; that action response that you never saw coming, but that makes perfect sense.

And that is why a fictional character can feel so real to us, just like they were a real person.

So, while we writers may still be eccentric and weird according to our friends and relatives, maybe we’re not completely insane after all. What do you think? Does this theory sound viable to you? Or do you have your own theory about why the writer’s mind works the way it does?

June 10, 2010

Some thoughts on world-building

Yesterday afternoon a writer friend and I met at the library for a mini writers' conference. Up until now, I've flattered myself with the thought that Reyem, the fantasy world where my books take place, is very well-developed, well-rounded, and fleshed out. After all, I have a map of the North Continent, the alphabet of one of the languages, and I have developed four separate cultures for the four countries on the Continent.
Then my friend shows up with his world maps, his stack of binders full of information about everything from the technology to the plant and wildlife of his fantasy world, and several volumes' worth of information still in his head. Needless to say, I didn't do a whole lot of bragging about how developed my fantasy world is.
But, it did get me thinking about the importance of world-building as a fantasy writer. It's not enough to take your reader on a grand adventure with a wonderful cast of characters if they're doing it in a vague or shallow world. (You can click here to read my thoughts on the importance of descriptive detail in your writing.)
So fantasy writers, let's start at the beginning. What is the first thing you do when you start developing a new world? How do you get the process started? What methods work for you? What aspects of world-building are the most important to you?

June 7, 2010

Little Brother's Graduation

It's so hard to believe that my little brother had his graduation party this Saturday. It's hard to believe that his graduation means that my graduation was three years ago!
Cute, sweet little James (and I pray he doesn't read this to know that I said that) has grown up into - well, not that he isn't cute and sweet any more, it's just ... different now. He used to say things like "Hey Thithy, wanna come play carth with me?" And now, just the other day he told me that "If anyone ever tries to hurt you they'll have to answer to me." He went from being head-and-shoulders shorter than me for most of our growing-up years to being a full head taller than me. I remember when he started kindergarten. Now he's getting ready to start EMT Basic. If it has wheels, he can drive it. If it can throw a bullet, he can shoot it. If it comes apart he can put it back together.
Granted, he still hates poetry (I've given up hope of breaking him of that) and he is a bit of a dunce when it comes to classic literature (he calls it 'li-torture') but I guess an EMT doesn't have much need for poetry.
And at the end of the day (please allow me a moment to wax sentimental here) I still love him to death and am proud as I can be to have a great guy like James as my brother.
Just in case you do read this, James: Happy Graduation!

June 5, 2010

The Answer Revealed:

For all of you who have been trying to figure this out all week, here is the answer and explanation of the clues I gave you in the last post.
The woman is wearing a huge diamond wedding ring and diamond pendant: her husband had a lot of money in the past, so chances are he's not in a business that grows gradually.
She's had a face lift: this most likely would have been quite some time after they got married, so business has stayed steady and profitable for him.
She tans, colors her hair, and just opened a brand-new business in February (and not a business that is guaranteed to make huge profits, either): so her husband is making a lot of money now.
The only people making lots of money in this economy are doctors and lawyers. But a lawyer has to start small, grow his practice, and suffer some slow periods in his business. The diamond jewelry suggests that this lady's husband didn't have to start out small, and if he did it didn't take him very long to get past that stage.
He's a doctor.
Congratulations to Kate, whose guess was 'plastic surgeon'. But as for the rest of you ... well, I guess I'm going to have to come up with a few more scenarios like this, since your Sherlock skills apparently need a workout! ; ) Just kidding, and great job, guys!
I'll be back on Monday. Have a great weekend, everybody!

June 1, 2010

"I'm not psychic - just paying attention."

~Patrick Jane, 'The Mentalist'

My all-time favorite fictional character has to be the great Mr. Sherlock Holmes. That is probably the reason that I also love the show “The Mentalist”. For those of you who may not have seen it, the main character Patrick Jane is almost a modern counterpart of Mr. Holmes – only lacking the austere aloofness.

In the case of both characters, the thing that sets them apart and makes them the best at what they do is their ability to pick up on minute details and form accurate conclusions from them. The most surprising thing about their methods is that they work! Granted, in the case of Mr. Holmes we always get the explanation of how he knows what he knows, and we don’t often get all of that with Mr. Jane. But a person who is paying close attention can actually learn a lot about you just by noticing details.

With that in mind, I’m trying to work on putting good details in my writing – details that don’t just give the readers a vivid picture of the (character, building, etc.) but that make sense and actually help us learn more about them. And we all know how important that is to good writing, especially fiction.

I decided to experiment with it one day a couple of weeks ago. My mom had taken me to visit a newly-opened yarn shop in town. While we were inside, I decided to learn as much as I could about the shop’s owner without actually saying anything to her.

Here’s what I noticed:

1. She’s had a facelift – maybe two.

2. She tans and colors her hair.

3. She’s wearing a huge diamond wedding ring and diamond pendant.

4. The shop is brand-new, opened in February.

So now here’s a question for the Holmes and/or Jane fans reading this: What does her husband do for a living?

P.S. Yes, you can figure it out using only the details I gave you above. I did it, and I was actually correct! Can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

May 29, 2010

The joys of editing...

Writing is definitely a love/hate relationship. Editing, on the other hand, is a hate/hate relationship. So just to make it official, I hate editing!
Why can't Draft 1 ... or even Draft 2... just be perfect the way it is? It would make life so much easier for the writer. I can hear Heather and Trav out there saying 'I told you so' so I will admit that yes, most of it I brought upon myself in my frenzy to complete Draft 1 by 12/31 last year. Still, dissecting every little scene and conversation trying to determine if I chose just the right word to describe a character's expression or action, trying to determine the best order to put the scenes in for story flow, trying to figure out if the character dashed into the room or if he just hurried into the room...
But, I can't complain too much. Editing is just another part of helping the reader experience the world I've created. It's part of helping them get to know my characters. Really, it's part of getting my work accepted and published so that readers can experience it at all.
So, with that in mind, I'll stop my complaining ... and get back to editing Son of The Shield.

May 24, 2010

Book Review: Fable Weaver, by Carlie Gernhart

If you are looking for a fun, exciting, and unorthodox adventure, this book is a must-read. Winner of the 2008 One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN) contest, Fable Weaver combines the story of a modern teenage girl with a generous helping of fantasy adventure.
Linnet, the main character, is a Fable Weaver, responsible for making sure that all figments return to Tierra Fabula (the place where characters go after their stories are over) from their vacations on earth. Always around to guard and assist her are Sekker, Arkose, and Izar - a trio of changelings with an obsessive love for cinnamon and video games.
The best thing about this book is the fact that it literally give you the best of both worlds, from car chases to sword fights, attic crawlspaces to Camelot, security systems to enchantments, and struggling to outsmart everyone from the local police to Morgan le Fay.
Really, the only thing that the book left me wanting (aside from a sequel) is a bit more explanation regarding how Linnet became a Fable Weaver in the first place, because other than a brief mention of it in passing at the beginning of the book, we really don't get a lot of information on that.
Otherwise, this is a fun and fabulous story that you can enjoy over and over (although I recommend having a plate of snickerdoodles handy when you do - you'll understand why when you read the book).

April 13, 2010


In the Democratic Review, November 1844, Edgar Allan Poe began his article “Marginalia” with the following words:

“In getting my books, I have been always solicitous of an ample margin; this is not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general. Where what I have to note is too much to be included within the narrow limits of a margin, I commit it to a slip of paper and deposit it between the leaves…”

Now, I have a few friends and acquaintances who consider marking in the margin of a book to be ranked somewhere between ‘a hanging offense’ and ‘a mortal sin’. Most of those are the same friends who would like to see me dead about now…

But I digress.

I share Edgar Allan Poe’s love for marking in my books. It may be as simple as a single line underneath a sentence or description that struck a chord with me. It may be a brief note on why a particular paragraph is particularly well-executed, or a note of agreement or critique. Sometimes, as Mr. Poe said, it may even extend to a slip of paper tucked in between the pages. Regardless of what form it may take, the majority of my books are full of notes.

To those among my readers who may be going into cardiac arrest about now, I can only say “sorry”. I know many of you will agree with me when I say that there is nothing like the moment when you read a sentence, a description, a line of dialogue that touches something… stirs something… awakens something… deep inside of you. Those moments are sadly few, far-between, and worth remembering.

Yes, my books are ‘marked up’ and full of notes – but I will always be able to remember the moments when a turn of phrase or well-crafted verse captured my fancy. My books have the same feel about them as my house: not always spotless, perhaps, but lived-in, comfortable, and well-loved nonetheless.

So, all your readers out there, let’s have it: which category do you fall into? The ‘thou shalt not mark in thy books for any reason’ category, or the note-takers category?

March 19, 2010

Son of The Shield Teaser

Okay, I know that in real life the writer of the story doesn't get to be the writer of the teaser too. But I just couldn't resist now, while I have the chance. So, here's my teaser for Son of The Shield.

The fate of a nation...
And the faith of its people...
Have collided with the destiny of one man.

A twelve-year-old war and a centuries-old enmity are racing to a catastrophic finish. The country of Moritar has rallied the forces of evil in a merciless onslaught against the nation of Adelfia. The force of their desireto destroy is equalled only by the force of the Adelfians' determination that they will not be conquered. And the scale of victory and defeat is balanced in the hands of a man withno true loyalty to either side ... a man who is a traitor no matter which side - and diestiny - he chooses.

Son of The Shield

February 26, 2010

Hey, everybody, I'm back!

It's been almost two months since my last post, I know. 2010 got off to a rough start for my family. It started when I got a full-time job literally dumped in my lap after a year of unempoyment - a bit of a shock, needless to say. In late January, we found out that my grandpa's leukemia was back with a vengeance after 12 years of remission. That news was followed two weeks later by his passing on February 2.
Since then it has been a frenzy of trying to adjust to the loss of our family patriarch. It's a strange feeling when you see or hear something and think "I've got to tell Pa about that - he'll just love it!" and then realize that you can't. It's odd to walk through my grandparents' house and hear only the sounds made by an empty building. But inspite of all that we're happy for him and can't wait to join him on the other side with our Savior.
So if, during the last two months, any emails and phone calls have gone unreturned, any blog or apricotpie posts have gone unread, birthdays unnoticed, struggles unencouraged, victories uncongratulated, etc. - tell me about it! I've missed you all, and I'm eager to get back 'in the loop'. Now that things are starting to develope some sort of routine (and I've got a brand-new-just came-home-from-the-store-last-night-!!! laptop to write and post on!!!) I'm back on line and dying to get back in touch and on top of things. So if there's any big news, interesting news, just news in general, or if you just want to talk and help me ge tup-to-date on all the goings-on, fill me in - pretty please!

January 11, 2010

The promised inside info...

Whew! Suddenly I look up and it's been almost two weeks since my last post! Sorry about that, but as a few of you know I have to drive to my grandparents' house to use the internet - and with all of this snow I haven't been able to get out! By the way, I think we should all make an effort to congratulate all of the environmentalists who so nobly gave up their SUVs and incandescent bulbs for the sake of stopping global warming - their efforts have obviously met with smashing success. Now can we please go back to SUVs so we can thaw out for a while? ; )
But I digress.
Since you've asked so sweetly (and since Heather and Traveler might come after me if I don't), I'm posting some of that insider information I promised on Son of The Shield! So here goes:
First off, I'm sure some of you have noticed the capitalization 'error' in the title (shouldn't it be Son of the Shield instead of Son of The Shield?). Nope. That's deliberate. Reason being: just as, in our world, we refer to God as "The Lamb of God" or "The Lion of Judah" - by His title, not His actual name, in Reyem, the world where SOTS is set, they refer to God by His title "The Shield" instead of by His name "Azor". Likewise, as in our world followers of Christ are called "Christians," in Reyem the followers of The Shield are called "the Protected".
So, if The Shield is God of Reyem, the title Son of The Shield means 'Son of God' right? Well, yes ad no - that's a little tricky to explain. Let me start by telling you a bit about how I had the idea for SOTS. I was standing in the kitchen doing dishes - a great start, eh? Anyway, I turned around and looked down the hall to the front room, where the lights were off and it was dark. I saw a shot of a man with blonde hair and blue eyes sitting on a horse, and a young woman with dark hair and gray eyes standing nearby. As I watched, the girl's eyes suddenly went from pale gray to black, and - well, I won't say what she did next, because that would give away part of the story! (mwahahaha) Anyway, I was quite intrigued by what I had seen, and I went and got my name book, hoping to find some good names for the characters I had just been introduced to. Skimming through the girls' names, I found the name 'Orienne'. Perfect! It suited the dark-haired woman wonderfully! So I moved on to guys' names. None of them really grabbed me. I did, however, find a meaning of a name that I loved. The name was Ransom, and it meant - son of the shield. Sweet! I didn't care for the name, but the meaning was awesome - perfect for the title of a story, I thought. So I named the man on the horse Ransom in spite of my dislike for the name, hoping that it would grow on me. It didn't. As time went by, I actually grew to dislike the name even more. It just didn't work for the character, no matter how I tried to make it. But I had already begun to call my vague little idea by the title "Son of The Shield", and that part fit perfectly.
Eventually I found the name 'Sorek' - a perfect fit for the man on the horse. The name 'Ransom' became the name of the group of six men who are chosen to lead Adelfia. These men, "sons of The Shield," are ranked as sons, from First-Born to Sixth-Born. If one of the younger sons dies, for instance: the Fourth-Born, the sons younger in rank than he move up to fill his place and a new youngest son is chosen by the remaining sons. If the First-Born dies, however, his replacement can be chosen only by The Shield.
So, while technically the title SOTS does mean "son of God", it doesn't refer to the Son of God. It simply refers to the men chosen to lead The Shield's people. All of the Redeemed are Sons, after all. "And if children, then heirs"... you get the idea, I hope. If my rambling attempts at explanation have left anyone profoundly confused, please let me know and I'll try to clarify!