May 31, 2011

The allure of old favorites...

I remember very clearly where I was and what was going on in my life the first time I read the book Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery.
I was a writer. At thirteen, my craft was in a state of melodramatic chaos - I didn't even realize at the time that I was a writer - but I wrote incessantly for my own enjoyment and my imagination operated on a completely different plane from the rest of the world.
It was summertime - humid and blistering hot. My bedroom had east-and south-facing windows, guaranteeing hours of direct, scorching sunlight every day all summer long.
For my recent thirteenth birthday, my parents had given me a solid cedar hope chest, and if I propped the lid open the tang of cedar wood filled my whole room.
Sadly, one of our neighbors was going through a divorce, and his three children were staying with my family until the courts could settle things. Needless to say, it was a bit stressful for my mom. After lunch, she had sent us all to our rooms to read or draw for a while, since it was too hot to go outside. Both of the neighbor's girls were a lot younger than I, and both went to sleep within a few minutes. Bored and about to sunburn from being too close to the window, I started looking around for something to do. In one corner I had a box of books someone had given me, but that I hadn't really looked through before. Since I had read everything on my shelves multiple times, I started rummaging in that dusty cardboard box.
The Anne of Green Gables series was there, but I had seen the movie so the books didn't really grab me. Then I found something else: the Emily trilogy. I picked up the first one and looked at the cover. Emily of New Moon. Lovely title. And the cover design looked intriguing. I opened it to the first page. "The house in the hollow was 'a mile from anywhere'--so Maywood people said." That sounded delightful! I grabbed a pillow, scooted over so that I could lay over the air conditioning vent in the floor, and kept reading.
I have read Emily of New Moon annually for the last nine years. Most of the time it's during the summer, but not always. Regardless of the season, reading the book always makes me remember hot summer sunshine, cold air-conditioned air, sweet little neighbor girls, and the smell of cedar. And it works the other way around, too. Every time I smell that cedar tang, or walk across a hot room and feel the breeze from the air conditioner, I remember Emily of New Moon.
That's how great books are. They work their way into our hearts and become a part of us, and they're there forever. That's part of their power... part of their magic. That's part of our calling as writers: to write books that get into people's hearts and stay there, delighting them with the same allure over and over again.
What is a book that has worked its way into your heart? Or, what is a place, a season, a smell, an activity, or a sight that never fails to remind you of a great book?

May 28, 2011

Happy weekend, everyone!

There won't be a post on Memorial Day, but The Lair will be back on Tuesday.
Everybody have a great weekend, be safe, and thank a veteran.
If you need something to read, stop by Avenir Eclectia and check out my newest short story, just published on Friday!
Jehovah shalom, and happy Memorial Day!

May 26, 2011

Book Review: The Ale Boy's Feast

By Jeffrey Overstreet

When I agreed to review this book, I didn’t realize that it was the last book in a series—a series of which I have not read the first three. As a result, I don’t have much to say about the plot, because it didn’t make much sense to me (I am definitely looking forward to finding and reading the first three, though!).

What did stand out to me about this book was the beautiful, vivid, multi-layered descriptions the author used to bring the story to life.

In a recent discussion with a friend, I heard the complaint that the vast majority of fantasy novels contain almost no animals except for the horses necessary for the plot, a few dogs and cats, perhaps, many rats, and that’s all. Not the case with this book!

From vawns to gorrels and a host of unusual creatures in between, The Ale Boy’s Feast is full of colorful, fascinating, and sometimes unnerving creatures of all shapes and sizes.

The scene settings were another aspect of the story that intrigued me. From desolate mountains to ruined cities and underground rivers, the story is an ever-changing journey into realms the likes of which you’ve never seen before. I have no idea how Jeffrey Overstreet does it—which, for me as a writer, is infuriating—but he leaves you feeling like you’ve been there, seen it, felt it, taken part in it.

The Ale Boy’s Feast is well worth reading, if for no other reason than just to experience the vivid and mysterious fantasy world that Jeffrey Overstreet has created in The Expanse.


I received this book free of charge from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my review. A favorable review is not required; Waterbrook is committed to gathering honest opinions about the books they publish.

May 23, 2011

Why We Write

Most people, but certainly writers most of all, understand the power a story can wield. A story can make you laugh or cry, it can show you the world in a way you've never seen it before, and sometimes it can even change your life.
And that is what Rhizome Publishing's newest project, Teach Your Daughters to Cry Loudly, is about: changing lives. Reaching those who are out of reach. Speaking for those who can't speak for themselves. Click Here to see the project's promotional video and learn more about Teach Your Daughters to Cry Loudly. Rhizome plans to sign a total of fourteen writers to tell the stories of fourteen women living through terrible circumstances. They have signed five already. But in addition to that, they need financial support and prayers. Please click one of the links above and prayerfully consider getting involved in any way you can.
Regardless of whether you feel led to join this particular project or not, I'd also like to use this opportunity to remind all you Christian writers out there why we do what we do. God said in His Word that we as Christians are to protect and care for orphans and widows. We are to feed the hungry and lift up the weak. He also told us that He has given each of us gifts to enable us to fulfill these callings.
Writers, He has given us our pens. Are we using them to fulfill God's calling and bring Him glory... or are we using them to pursue our own dreams and bring ourselves glory?

May 20, 2011

Hello, Everyone!

My apologies for missing my Monday and Wednesday posts. Internet troubles--the joys of technology. My technical difficulties prevented me announcing in a timely fashion the official launch of Falls the Shadow and the release of Chapter 1, which posted Sunday. So for those of you who may be wondering, it has begun! Visit The Lost Scribes to read the prologue and Chapter 1. Chapter 2, is coming soon, and I'll be back here at The Lair on Monday.
Have a great weekend and write well, everyone!

May 11, 2011

New short story published!

My short story, "Tomb Raider" is now published on Avenir Eclectia. Click Here to read it, and be sure to let me know what you think!
I would advise any lover of science fiction to visit and become a follower, or subscribe to get Avenir Eclectia by email. Personally, I have just fallen in love with the project and I am thrilled that God has enabled me to be a part of it. There are a lot of very talented writers getting in on this project, and I am extremely excited at the chance to get involved with them!

Behind the scenes of a multi-author novel

Usually when a novel has more than one author, one person (usually a non-writer) has the idea and the other person (the writer) does the writing. It works.
But my friend Heather and I are both writers, so when we decided three years ago that we wanted to write a book together, we knew that traditional methods of co-authoring wouldn't work for us.
We had the story idea, we just needed to figure out how to execute it. We couldn't both work on all of it--we knew each other well enough to know that we'd just argue and never get anything done.
I suggested that we each write every other chapter, switching off and alternating. That would solve some problems, but led to the new problem of inconsistencies in author voice and writing style that could jolt and confuse the readers.
That was when Heather came up with the idea of each of us writing from a specific character's viewpoint, and only from that certain character's viewpoint. In theory, it looked like that approach would solve all of our issues, so we tried it. And it worked!
So, when Heather, Elynn, and I decided last year that all three of us should write a novel together, we already had the system down to a science. After putting together the basic structure of our story world, we each chose a character and got to work fleshing them out. We each only write from the viewpoint of the character we chose and developed.
Of course, that process, simple as it sounds, has taken a lot of time and a lot of work. Many, many Saturdays have been spent developing characters and plotting story structure via conference call--I believe Elynn even has some of our calls recorded somewhere. Many, many three-way emails have been sent and received and filed and copied and resent, sometimes at one in the morning or later. Occasionally we email each other and have conference calls simultaneously.
We've discovered that collaborating on a novel takes a mind-boggling amount of work and cooperation, and there's way more to it even than what I've mentioned in this post. But we've also developed a system that is (to our knowledge, anyway) completely new and that we hope could revolutionize the possibilities for multi-author projects in the future.
What are your thoughts on our system? Have you ever been part of a multi-author novel project? If so, what system worked for you?

May 9, 2011

Sneak Preview: Falls the Shadow--Prologue


I was too young to remember this city before the wars started. The ones who do remember say it was the greatest city in the world: high education, low crime, good economy. Part of the city—‘The Forgotten Sector’—had already been abandoned during the earlier Technology Boom, when new strides in development made the entire place obsolete. Only the poor, the fugitives, those with nowhere else to go, still lived there.

The rest of the city was a marvel, a crown jewel of human civilization. Imagination and architecture, technology and education, art and science, all came together in the great city: Shandor Rei, the capital of Antolic.

Even though I don’t remember it, that’s how the city was when I left it.

Even if I did remember it, I wouldn’t have recognized it when I came back. Within days of my mother taking me across the border into the neighboring country of Cimarrah, Antolic collapsed into chaos—leading to war.

A scientist experimenting with computer viruses as weapons of war had created a ‘bug’ designed to target Convey-Directs—the single most important source of information and education in the world. C-Ds were a product of the Technology Boom, and over time had come to replace textbooks as the mode of education in schools. By the time the scientist began his virus experiment, C-D technology had developed so far as to have replaced written text itself, transmitting information through a person’s eye and ear directly into their brain.

The theory behind the weapons experiment was that, without education of any kind, the targeted society would crumble, opening the way for complete takeover by an outside force.

It worked. Shandor Rei learned just how accurate the theory was when the virus was released—whether by mistake or design, no one knew—and destroyed every Convey-Direct on the continent.

Within days, riots broke out in the streets. The people stormed Shandor Rei’s municipal buildings, demanding retribution for what had happened. But the government was as helpless as anyone else to counteract the virus, and the scientist responsible for its development had disappeared.

With information relay hampered by the loss of the C-Ds, authorities quickly lost track of the death toll in the melee that followed, with murders, assassinations, and riots claiming dozens of lives every day. The general panic among citizens grew, feeding on itself as passing days brought no sign of the C-Ds being restored to working order. By the time two weeks had passed, scarcely anyone in the Antolican government remained alive, much less in office.

Though Cimarrah had suffered the same crippling loss of the C-Ds as Antolic, her government officials were apparently either more enterprising—or more prepared—than Antolic’s. Shortly after the Antolican government had been completely deposed, Cimarran officials arrived in Shandor Rei with promises of order restored and immediate research begun to reprogram the destroyed C-Ds, provided the riots and violence were stopped.

At first, the citizens complied, and the Cimarran officials established themselves in the place of the fallen Antolican government. But as months passed, no evident progress was made in restoring the C-Ds. The stirrings of unrest began again among the citizens, finally resulting in another march on the capitol building.

Only this time, the people’s protests were met with government retaliation of unprecedented proportions. Aircraft hovering over the city dropped incendiary bombs on dozens of Shandor Rei’s largest and most essential structures. Buildings burned to skeletons and imploded, spreading flames to other buildings that had escaped the bomb strikes. Bridges collapsed, halting traffic. Transportation tunnels caved in, burying hundreds alive beneath the city streets.

Public outrage withered into embittered desolation following the bombings. The newly established government offered the people no assistance or relief in dealing with the destruction they had unleashed… but there were no more uprisings. They had broken the spirit of Shandor Rei’s people with a single, devastating strike.

Since those days, little has changed. The Cimarran officials who first brought the Antolicans to heel during the Bug Wars have now grown to become The White Tiger—a vast, but practically invisible network of control, espionage, and international political conspiracy.

Shandor Rei remains a shell, a bombed-out, haggard shadow of what she once was. The war’s destruction remains largely unrepaired. Poverty is the new normal in what was once one of the world’s wealthiest cities. And, needless to say, education is largely nonexistent, as no one has yet been able to successfully repair or redesign the C-Ds.

Some have tried—are still trying—to bring back books and written text in education. But books are a rare find any more; the libraries were abandoned with The Forgotten Sector after the Technology Boom. Even if a book does surface, it rarely does any good, since people who can actually read them are as rare as the books themselves. But they’re out there—the books—and people are looking for them. Everyone, from The White Tiger to the resistance groups haunting the Forgotten Sector, wants to find them.

Sooner or later someone will—it’s just a question of who finds them first, and what they do with them when they do.

If I have my way, I’ll be the one who finds them.


I hope you've enjoyed this sneak preview of Falls the Shadow. Visit and become a follower to watch the rest of the story unfold. Chapter 1 will be posted May 15, and a new chapter will become available the first and fifteenth of every month following that. In the meantime, get more sneak peaks at the project and get to know the creators behind Falls the Shadow by checking out the "Author" pages at The Lost Scribes and visiting their blogs.

Be sure to keep hanging around here at The Lair, too. A special behind-the-scenes look at our unorthodox approach to writing a collaborative novel will be posted here on Wednesday!

May 2, 2011

Falls the Shadow

Coming to The Lost Scribes blog May 15: Falls the Shadow.
The first Christian steampunk novel of its kind, by authors H.A. Titus, Elynn W. Marshe, and Mary Ruth Pursselley.

Imagine a world where technology has replaced the need for traditional education... even the need to read. Imagine entire sectors of cities being abandoned as rapid technological advances render them obsolete. Imagine libraries falling into disrepair and decay, the books inside moldering away, ignored until they are forgotten...

until an experiment, using computer viruses as weapons of war, goes tragically wrong.

Welcome to Shandor Rei.
Amid the wreckage of a swift and devastating war, life goes on--as a fight for survival. Poverty, starvation, violence, and oppression haunt the streets and the broken people who live there.
One chance for recovery and freedom remains: thousands of books, buried deep beneath the rubble in the ruins of a bombed library.
A teenage boy named Skylar dreams of finding lost books and learning to read, but has his doubts about whether they could still exist after so much destruction.
Maricossa, an agent of The White Tiger, has been ordered by the oppressive government to find and destroy any books that may have survived the bombings.
Libretto con Brio, a spunky teenage girl, has dedicated her life to making sure no one finds the books she protects--ever.

When circumstances bring the three of them together, a battle of ultimatums, loyalty, deception, and trust begins. No secret is safe. No outcome is certain.
No motive is clear, for "between the motion and the act... between the emotion and the response...
Falls the Shadow."
Visit The Lost Scribes and become a follower to watch Falls the Shadow unfold, starting May 15, 2011