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Posts Tagged ‘Xsardis’

I’ve lived somewhere else lately, on the border between Xsardis’ illuminescent forest and a place called the 17th Realm. Both have their own kind of a magic and, I admit, I have liked my fictional reality better than the real reality around me. Not that real reality is any too shabby. Life is brimming with potential. It’s just that, the potential… well, it alarms me.

Weeks of the final push on not one but two novels (yes, that’s right. I finished another one last weekend–just five days after bidding farewell to Rise of the Dark Sprite) have necessitated a blissful break from social engagements or even checking my email. And, while I thoroughly enjoyed this creatively-mandated repose, I can’t help but feel terribly, terribly behind. So I’m back to checking my email and blogging and banking and accomplishing little and big tasks alike. I’ve got a solitary day in which I am able to work before I pack up for a long weekend in Florida to celebrate my cousin’s graduation. Florida. Sunshine. (Why, yes, it did snow last weekend on the family farm.)

Meanwhile, I’m trying to descend slowly from the mountaintop of creativity, energy, and enthusiasm that led to so much writing. (Over the week, I set a personal word count record of well-more than fifty thousand words.) After five novels, I’m pretty used to this process (including post-novel depression which is, sadly, quite real). My mind knows better than to keep spinning, trying to improve characters and clarify plots. On the other hand, my creativity–and its mighty muses–are not so sure they are ready for a break. The result? With no other outlet for the imagination, creativity strikes my dreams and makes them… strange. Like last night’s, in which I escaped a war-zone only to be dragged across the border into a cult. It was not awesome.

(Blog Bonus Feature: If no one has warned you, fellow writer, about the vividness of your dreams and their ability to grip you long past the alarm clock’s interruption, consider this your warning. Also note that the same prowess that allows you to craft realistic characters can alter your loved ones’ personalities in the dreams until they utterly terrify or excite you.)

But I digress.

Life. It’s full of potential that manages to thrill and scare me simultaneously. But what kind of adventure would life be if it didn’t? Any good roller coaster has to cause your mind to waver on the border between certainty of your demise and certainty that you will fly. As for me, I plan to fly.

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I’m working on the final stages of my novel. So–to make sure everything ties together with a little bow–I find myself doing nearly constant research with my previous books. And today I had a good laugh, because I discovered a document entitled Bloopers. All I can figure is that during the backbreaking work of editing Xsardis, my mother/editor and I went a little bit crazy. We created a Blooper Reel of editing mishaps, misunderstandings, mis-writing, and snarky (albeit well-meaning and well-received) comments.

Take, for example, this comment from my editor and chief: “Doesn’t this person have a name? Call him a small elephant if you want, but give him a name!”

Or this one: “Why did coloring help her use a slingshot?”

Or this encouraging word: “It’s probably written right. You just can’t read.”

Or how about these completely random and I-can’t-quite-see-how-they-are-relevant comments: “Pant girl!” and “I think you need a chicken in this story” and “Put a skirt on a continent.”

Hmm… What does it all mean? I can see how I could mis-write “asked us to flee” as “accessed a flea.” I can even see how my poor description of someone’s downcast eyes as “his eyes fell down” could leave my mother with the impression that the eyeballs “rolled out and dropped onto her shoes.” But the rest? Well… Let’s just say that what happens in the editing room should probably stay there.

In the pursuit of a refined novel we’ve pinned each other to the wall to discover how to break free; we’ve chucked paper at each other to get out angst; we’ve drank too much coffee; arm-wrestled for who is going to read; and had some minor mental breakdowns when I need to get a sentence just right and she wants to discover if a character lives or dies (really, why is she so impatient?). But, all in all, as evidence by the Blooper Reel, my editor and I have had a glowing good time doing it. So I’m looking forward to round 5 with the Lure of Lemons… That editing process will come sooner than I think.

Ps. If you can’t tell that I absolutely ADORE my mother and that we have a fabulous working relationship, you really need to read this blog more often and get to know me better… She’s awesome.

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For those of you a little more interesting in my personal musings than in my writing advice, I offer you a second post for the day. One that still touches on writing but focuses more on Your’s Truly.

I’m breaking ground on my novel–again. The writing of the Lure of Lemons has been a herky-jerky ride (note: Spell-Checker doesn’t think that herk-jerky is a word. Merriam-Webster would disagree. Feel free to click on the link for the definition and for proof that I don’t blatantly ignore all rules of grammar and spelling.). One minute, I’m tapping away at my keyboard with lightning speed, inserting glorious paragraph after glorious paragraph. The next, I’m at a dead halt for days or weeks. Then I’m up and running again. I will breathe a deep sigh of relief when I finally finish the draft. I feel as if I have been on one of the old, wooden roller coasters and have been jammed and pushed and whipped around until I am nauseous, dizzy, and covered in bruises. Okay. Maybe that’s a stretch. But not much of one.

64, 064 is my word count. It may not sound like much, if you know about writing novels or about the million people it took only one month to complete 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo (again, click on the link if you want to know more). Of course, I did that challenge too, but had to scrap most of it and start over. Sometimes experiments fail. And the writing techniques I employed for NaNoWriMo left me wandering around in the dark once I was finished. But its not so much about the specific word count as it is about my process.

Given my experience with four novels (Issym, Asandra, Xsardis, and Mark of Orion), I know that my first draft should only be about 108,000 words, which puts me well past the halfway mark. And once I reach the last quarter of the book, I usually pick up speed–as if I am running downhill. So the good news is: I’m nearly to the home stretch. To quote Einstein as he rode a motorcycle in the adorable movie IQ, “Wahoo!”

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The day has arrived, folks! Mark of Orion is finally available for your reading pleasure. It has been two years since my last book release, but it seems like just yesterday we were doing all this for Xsardis.

IMG_20131115_140209_737I am sitting at my kitchen counter with a million curlers and bobby pins in my head, putting together Power Points and playlists and generally organizing. It has been a surprisingly smashing day…

My New York Sister Julie spent the morning running errands with me. We got coffee, caught up, printed tickets, bought more than a dozen lemons (to the odd looks of the guy at Sam’s Club), previewed the ballroom, and came home. Then I was passed over to my mother for food, beauty treatments, and more plotting. Eventually I got some down time to practice my speech, organize my thoughts, and blog.

Maybe it is the nature of a good day that puts me in a freer mood. Otherwise, I am not sure I ever would have posted a selfie (I think this is my first)–let alone a selfie of me in curlers! “Hello, inner-child. I missed you in all the craziness,” I think.

So, friends I know and friends I don’t, may you enjoy this November 15. Here in the frozen north, it is a wonderful occasion for gathering, slipping into unusual masks, and dancing our hearts out to the beat of Waltz music. Wherever you are, enjoy your inner-child and you’ll be celebrating with us in spirit.

Countdown to Mark of Orion: 0 days.

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” ~Charles Dickens’ opening for A Tale Of Two Cities.

This is one of the most repeated first sentences ever. And it is not even the whole sentence. In an epic run-on Dickens adds: “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

What Dickens wants us to see and feel and learn and anticipate, we see and feel and learn and anticipate. So profound is his first sentence that even those who have not read the book can quote you those first few words. We authors can learn much from Dickens. We can also take away a lesson from observing countless readers who remember only the first portion of his novel: brevity is a virtue.

As you struggle to write your own first sentence be aware that there are many ways to give the director’s call (mentioned in my last post) and capture the reader’s heart and soul. There is no one, better way.

The dramatic opening. This often utilizes nature to mimic the stormy or sweet or tense tone readers will uncover in the story.

“Thunder rippled across the frozen lake.” ~Jessie Mae Hodsdon’s opening for Issym.

The unassuming opening. It takes a soft approach, that makes the reader lean into the very ordinary nature of the words.

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” ~Charlotte Bronte’s opening for Jane Eyre. This mild opening for a very dramatic novel causes the reader to wonder, “What was there a possibility of?” And so the bond between author and reader is secured. Only the book can answer the question the reader has now latched onto.

“They moved with joint precision.” ~Jessie Mae Hodsdon’s opening for Asandra. Again, there is something quite ordinary about movement, but it also raises questions like “Why are they precise?” “What makes them move jointly?” “Where are they going?”

The evident opening. There are no hidden questions, no lost meaning, no parallel imagery. This opening, as its name suggests, is evident.

“The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.” ~Jane Austen’s opening for Sense and Sensibility.

“One strike of his sword after another, the youthful warrior barreled through his enemies.” ~Jessie Mae Hodsdon’s opening for Xsardis.

We know we are going to deal with the traditional Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility and that we shall see a medieval adventure take place in my own Xsardis. With unmistakable clarity, there is also a draw. We cut through all the fancy words and jump (in Austen’s work) to a traditional estate and (in my own novel) to a medieval battlefield. As a director’s call this leaves no room for losing a reader, as they are immediately forced onto stage. It might, however, jar them.

The location opening. It is possible to arouse the reader’s curiosity based on opening location alone. It is a risky move. If the reader finds the place uninteresting he will close the book, but, if he longs to know more or has a traveler’s heart, this opening can be highly persuasive. Most readers long to go somewhere. That is why they read.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien’s opening for The Hobbit.

“Ho Chi Minh City in the summer.” ~ Eoin Colfer’s opening for Artemis Fowl.

The image of a creature living in a hole is captivating. It begs questions like “What kind of hole?” “What’s a hobbit?” “What was it doing in a hole?” “Will it leave the hole?” And while I knew nothing about Ho Chi Minh City when I first read Artemis Fowl, I wanted to learn. The foreign sounding title awoke my sense of adventure.

The problem opening. This opening names a problem from the start. It may not be the problem, but it will point to the climax that will unfold.

“‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” Louisa May Alcott’s opening for Little Women.

“When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.” Anthony Horowitz’s opening for Alex Rider: Stormbreaker.

Financial woes for our young heroine in Little Women and the impending doom faced by Alex in Stormbreaker. Such problems arouse sympathy (even on the part of Jo’s drama, which doubles to show us a good deal of her character) and keep the reader browsing on.

The first-person opening. This is the last opening we will discuss today. Books told in first-person carry with them unique strengths and challenges. Their opening sentences should ignore all location, all weather, all danger, all other characters except the narrator. Unless you have a good reason to break this rule, the first sentence of this kind of book must give readers a glimpse at who they will be following through the entire novel.

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.” ~Rick Riordan’s opening for The Lightning Thief.

Such a comment makes us 1) feel sympathy for his unhappiness, 2) wonder what a ‘half-blood’ is, and 3) want to learn what events led him to wish he was not a ‘half-blood’. This makes for a powerful combo.

Opening types abound. Most are short; some are not. Most beg a question; some don’t. But the good ones all draw the reader towards the content of the entire book–not just the next paragraph. The one rule you should follow is this: make your reader want to uncover the adventure.

(Written 6/27. Scheduled for you while I am away.)

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So here is the deal. I’ve got a lot of new followers and likes on this blog (thanks everybody!). Since my life story is a bit confusing, I thought I’d dedicate this post to the top ten highlights of who I am and what I do. If you are new, you can catch up without wading through the hundreds of posts I have made on here.

1) After I accepted Christ at age four I discovered an absolute passion for serving Him and teaching others the deeper truths of the faith. I taught the preschool Sunday school class before I had hit middle school myself. I loved it.

2) Creative and athletic from birth, I followed in my three siblings big footsteps to strive for excellence in much; but it took me a while to discover what I was really made for.

3) At fourteen I started playing the fiddle. As my fingers danced along the strings I was looking towards Heaven and an earthly career. Life swept me in a different course. It was when I put down the violin that I really picked up writing.

4) While writing and imagining is something I have always loved, my choice to become an author has much more to do with a calling than with a desire to do something I find pleasurable. After watching my Christian friends ingest trash called teen fiction, and then watching them leave the faith behind, I found my heart aching to reach them in literature, to provide them with something clean, honest, and adventurous to read.

5) When, at fifteen, God called me to take on the challenge of changing literature, I thought He was crazy. But, so clearly called, I pressed ahead. Discovering that a major part of the problem lay in publishing, I established Rebirth Publishing, Inc., at seventeen. My first series of novels, Issym, Asandra, and Xsardis, hit shelves in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

6) In February of 2013 (at 20) I graduated with a Bachelors in Organizational Management. While most people think it is crazy that an author went for a business degree, I am well-satisfied with my choice. All my life I have loved organizing and leading. At times, I find business more fun than writing and often just as creative an outlet. The degree serves me well as I direct Rebirth Publishing.

7) My passion grew until I began speaking and teaching in a variety of settings, showing kids and adults that the time to serve God with the whole heart is NOW. This is one of my favorite, albeit the most exhausting, parts of my varied job. I also lecture on business and writing, and mentor students personally through email and classes.

8) Fun facts: A) I have seriously desired to quit on publishing, writing, and speaking at least a half dozen times. Thanks to God’s steadfast counsel I never did and I now LOVE my job. B) I dabble as a singer/songwriter/guitarist/worship leader too. C) In high school I memorized most of the New Testament. No education ever served me better. D) The perfect writing setting for me involves a good view; my laptop; coffee; maybe a candle; and Josh Garrels or wordless, spunky music (like Lindsey Stirling) playing in the background.

9) As a single gal with a ridiculously supportive family and a network of friends throughout the country, I get to travel a lot for work. What I learn of life on my travels and at home, as well as what I learn from the students I teach, is purposefully crafted into my novels. Ever since Issym, I have determined to share my heart through my writing. You will get to know me in a new way when my next book, Mark of Orion, comes out Thanksgiving 2013.

10) I am on the adventure of life, learning more about the God I love, how He loves me, and how I can love others. It is my greatest joy to serve the King of kings. It is my honor to discover Him in writing, in nature, in music, in organization, in Scripture, in fellowship, and in the quiet and uncertain times of life.

So, there, those are the significantly inadequate highlights of my life. I will leave you with two verses that are my inspiration.

1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV, 1984), “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

Philippians 3:12 (NIV, 1984) “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

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It is strange, but good to be back in Maine. I miss the life I left behind, the baby that I can still feel on my heart and the laughter of being consistently with other young people.  Yet I ached for this life and this home when I was away. I’m back to my fireside and my major household chore as ‘Master of the Blaze’; back to my nephews and their beautiful smiles; back to my Tempur-pedic and my gorgeous room; back to my attic-office and favorite candles  and white-board that together get the creativity flowing; back to the safety of family and friends.

It is a good thing to have safety in family. On Sunday two friends and I were heading out for a post-birthday dinner when a very creepy, clearly not in control of himself man lurked in our parking lot inches from my car. I’ve got to say that it put a start through me as I hit the locks and backed carefully out of my driveway. And while the cops were dealing with the issue within a couple of minutes it was a comfort to know that at the honk of my car my dad would have been outside in full battle mode in seconds. It is good to have support, and I am deeply grateful for the life God has given me. I drink in the beautifully simplistic moments surrounding me lately.

So as I take a respite in Maine, I’m finding that the creativity is steadily coming back to me and my marketing campaign is most certainly getting better. Doubts plagued me for years. It is so good now to live in clarity and peace. God is opening doors and blessing me with trust for what come next. Continue to pray as we look for new speaking engagements, new equipment, new authors, and as I search for new healing for my body. As the Xsardis peeps would say, “Kiash!”

Also, you’ll want to check out the five album give away from http://joshgarrels.com/. Don’t forget to tip him as all proceeds go to the work of World Relief in the DR Congo! The music is what I listen to in the background as I write and I highly recommend it.

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