Category Archives: Writing

What if Only One Person Reads My Books?

writingThis thought has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if you’re doing what you’re supposed to as a writer. Doubt is always there, lurking in the back of your mind. My rankings are down, should I still be writing? My royalty check makes me blush, should I still be writing? I feel like I’m letting my publisher, agent, etc… down, should I still be writing?

Is anyone even reading my books?

So as I was once again re-evaluating if I should be writing (aka, I’m not feeling like I’m successful and wondering if my life would be better served doing something else), I had this thought: what if only one person ever reads my books? Then I took it a step further. What if what I was writing was meant for just one person? That God wanted me to spend my lifetime writing multiple series for a person who I will never meet, but someday would need to read my books because through those books God would change them? And not just one book, but God would use all of my books to help that one person?

Would it be worth it?

Would it be worth all the hours I pour into writing, the sacrifices I make so I can make time to write every day, the other “good things” I could be doing, but instead I am writing? Honestly? In my flesh that thought makes me cry. Just one person? But as I pondered this thought, I realized that God would do that, because of that one soul.

When we think of God doing above and beyond what we can imagine, we think of grandiose plans and ideas. But what if God’s plans involve a lonely writer, writing her heart out for the rest of her life, then connecting her books to one person who needs to read those books—every single one of them—and by reading them, comes to know God his or herself?

That’s exactly how God would do things…because to Him the value of a soul is priceless. He would do anything to reach people, including using the lifetime of a writer and all of her books to reach that other soul.

This thought has plagued me over and over again for the last few weeks. What if only one person ever reads my books? And not just one book, but will read everything I will ever write, and by doing so will connect with God? Is that worth it?

Yes.

That’s not to say sometimes I wish I had more to show for my writing, but when my focus is on God, it’s then I believe that what I am doing is not in vain, even if it might be for just one person. After all, every soul is precious to God. And that makes writing worth it.

How about you? Are you struggling with what you’re doing? Do you wonder if it’s worth it or is it time to throw in the towel? I can’t tell you yes or no, but I can tell you anything you do with open hands held up to God is never in vain, even if you don’t see the results.

Steampunk Worldbuilding

I was asked to share a while ago how I created the steampunk world for Tainted, the first book in my steampunk series, The Soul Chronicles. Before I begin, I think it is good to define what steampunk is. There are a lot of definitions out there, most of them wordy and abstract. So I took the common elements and narrowed them down to one statement: steampunk is the fusion of our history (usually Victorian Era or wild west) and science fiction/fantasy. The “steam” part comes from advance technology that is run on—you guessed it—steam.

I like to use the word “fusion” when defining steampunk. Why? Fusion is the process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity. With steampunk, you join the historical genre with the speculative genre and fuse them together with steam-powered technology to create a brand new genre.

So now that you know what steampunk is, let me share how I created my own fused world. For the historical aspect, I went with the Victorian Era. I love this time period because there was so much change that occurred during this era. This is when the Industrial Revolution occurred (perfect for my steampunk technology), many things were in the process of being invented (again, perfect for steampunk), advances and changes in the medical world, women were stepping into the world of higher education and science, and all the advancements of science itself.

For the speculative aspect, I went with fantasy. The idea for Tainted originally came from an online conversation where someone asked if necromancy could ever be used for good. I had this image of a woman who had been “tainted” by her father’s research, and although it opened her up to amazing power, it also was killing her on the inside.

Tainted_Hi_Res

And thus Tainted was born. But instead of straight up fantasy necromancy, I chose to use science instead, and ask the questions 1) Are there lines we shouldn’t cross in our pursuit of the unknown? 2) What happens if we cross those lines? 3) Does it hurt others?

Kat’s own abilities stem from science as well, namely, the laws of science. She can manipulate matter. This means she can cause things to combust, or move, or cause particles to draw together (forming a solid) or drift apart (creating liquid or state form). She can even cause time to stand still. But humans were never meant to contain such power, and so it is killing her soul.

Lastly, the steampunk technology. I chose to go with a more covert approach instead of flashy, in-your-face technology. Steam technology is part of the everyday world in Tainted, and thus not focused on as much by the characters, in as much we use the coffeepot to make coffee in the mornings, or use our cell phones to connect with other people, but we don’t sit there and gawk at how amazing our technology is. We simply use it. It is part of the background of our lives.

Now some steampunk authors love to build all sorts of cool gadgets and gizmos. Great! I wanted to focus more on the story of the characters and use the steampunk aspect as the backdrop to their story. I think ever writer has the freedom to be as overt or covert with their technology as they want to be. And I think it also depends on the story you are writing. If it’s about an inventor, then yes, you’ll probably have a lot of cool inventions. If it’s about a socialite, eh, not so much.

So there you go. To build a world of steampunk, you research your history piece, pulling together what works for your world, including cultural aspects, manners, beliefs, and even fashion. Then you choose if you want a more science fiction or fantasy feel (maybe even both), then tie those into your world. You want magic? Great! You want AI automatons? Great!

Then lastly, have fun coming up with your own unique steampunk technology and decide how covert or overt you want to be with it. Does it take center stage of your book? Or is it the backdrop? And how does it work? Some things you can get away with just showing it in use, but some things readers might want an explanation for, depending on how overt you go with your technology.

Now go forth and write!

To find out more about Tainted, click here.

This article was originally posted on janeenippolito.com 

 

I Choose to Write Dangerously

A couple weeks ago I received a review that made me scratch my head and ask if this person really read the same book I wrote? The descriptions given seemed far out there. But as I had time to process what this person said, along with what other people had to say, it made me realize something: I choose to write dangerously.

I will never glorify evil, but I will write about it because there is real evil in this world. In a tactful way, I will write about abuse because there is abuse in this world. I will write about the dark places of the soul, gut-wrenching pain, and betrayals by loved ones because all of those are real.

I will also share hope, because without hope, the soul withers and dies. I will write about the hope I have experienced, that is, the hope I have found in Jesus. I will do this in a non-preachy, realistic way because Jesus isn’t a sermon or a moral, He is God, and He has touched my heart and changed me. He is the only light and hope at the end of all things.

To write about both the darkness and the light puts me in a place of tension. I told my husband the other day that sometimes I feel like I have a horse tied to each arm and the horses are running in opposite directions. On the one hand, I write about uncomfortable things. Why? Because life isn’t squeaky clean, and neither are the lives of my characters.

  • Rowen from Daughter of Light has the power to see inside people and see all of their sin. This has caused her to be exiled from her home, used for financial gain, and abused by her own people.
  • Caleb from Son of Truth was a previous murderer and womanizer and still struggles with lust.
  • Nierne from Heir of Hope struggles with faith. She grew up in a monastery, but comes to realize she really has no faith in God.
  • Stephen from Tainted is betrayed by his fiancée and allows his bitterness to cloud his judgement and place a friend in danger.
  • Kat from Tainted is abused by her father, and yet longs for a relationship with him as well. Because of her father’s experiments, she has uncontrollable power that has caused her to hurt others, and so she sees herself as a monster beyond redemption and love.

 

Four books

Even though I write about fictitious characters in worlds far from our own, their struggles, pain, and hurt are familiar to us all.

On the other hand, I write about God, and that just makes people uncomfortable or downright grouchy. Like I said, I do it in a non-preachy way ( I leave the preaching to my husband!). But I do mention a monotheistic deity and have gotten in trouble for it. But to not mention God in one form or another in my books is to bring my readers through a very dark story then offer no hope.

True love does not bring hope in the end. A happy ever after does not bring hope (and seriously, how many real-life happy ever afters actually happen?). There is only one who can heal the soul, and that is God. And after what some of my characters go through, they need more than a true-love bandage to heal what has shattered inside of them. I know there are readers who have also been shattered, and I want to help bring healing to them as well by showing them what God can do.

However, to write this way is to write dangerously. It means I’m not going to make everyone happy. I’m not going to make the person who wants the clean, light-hearted Christian novel happy. And I’m not going to make the person who hates any mention of God happy. It means I will always write with tension on either side of me.

There are readers out there who want—even need—the books I write. They know the darkness, and they want the light. And so I will continue to write dangerously because that is what God has called me to write and because of those readers.

How about you? Have you felt tension in what you write? Do you feel pulled in both directions? What is God calling you to write?

 

What is Steampunk?

What is steampunk? I’m asked this question a lot, especially as the release date draws near for Tainted, the first book in my own steampunk series.

In a nutshell, the genre steampunk is a fusion of our history (usually Victorian or western) and science fiction/fantasy. For example:

  • London set in an alternate universe where magic exists.
  • A western city with sophisticated technology that runs on steam.
  • A Goth English setting with a character who hunts monsters with high-tech weapons.

What I love about steampunk is the possibilities. Steampunk isn’t just science fiction or Victorian. It can have magic if you want. Or you can borrow from the time period of your choice without being confined to it or to the technology that existed. So if you want to invent some kind of steam powered cell phone, go for it!

The thing that sets steampunk apart from other genres (both visually and in story) is the feel. Steampunk has a feel of fantastical inventions, adventure, and science/discovery. Usually cogs, clocks, corsets, goggles, airships, and alchemy are associated with steampunk stories. But you don’t have to have any of those if you don’t want to. Have fun and create your own technology, weapons, and culture.

My own steampunk series borrows heavily from the Victorian era and science. I also had fun inventing things such as mechanical animals, an airship that runs on solar panels, a sniper rifle hidden within a walking cane, and a prosthetic arm that functions as an electric cannon.

But like any other genre, the story cannot stand on just the genre underpinnings. What connects the reader to the story is the story itself, with characters the reader can relate to. So while you’re having fun inventing your steampunk world, remember to tell a story, one that will grip your readers by the heart and mind.

How about you? Have you ever heard of steampunk before? What do you like about this sub-genre?

***

Tainted_Hi_Res

What Happens When Your Soul Dies?

Kat Bloodmayne is one of the first women chosen to attend the Tower Academy of Sciences. But she carries a secret: she can twist the natural laws of life. She has no idea where this ability came from, only that every time she loses control and unleashes this power, it kills a part of her soul. If she doesn’t find a cure soon, her soul will die and she will become something else entirely.

After a devastating personal loss, Stephen Grey leaves the World City Police Force to become a bounty hunter. He believes in justice and will stop at nothing to ensure criminals are caught and locked up. However, when Kat Bloodmayne shows up in his office seeking his help, his world is turned upside down.

Together they search World City and beyond for a doctor who can cure Kat. But what they discover on the way goes beyond science and into the dark sphere of magic.

Book one of The Soul Chronicles series.

Order your copy of Tainted here: www.enclavepublishing.com

Writing the Middle of a Novel and Lagging Stories

coffee dateIt’s the last Friday of the month and that means it’s time for our coffee date! This month I had a reader submit two questions, which I will tackle today. So grab your cup of coffee (or tea if you’re a tea drinker) and let’s get started!

Michael asks: What keeps you writing in the middle of a novel?

I outline all my stories before I start writing them. So what keeps me writing when I enter the middle of the story is whatever I put on my storyboard. Okay, that’s not really much of an answer 😉

One time at a conference I attended, a teacher said that each chapter should have something that pulls the reader along, whether that is suspense, the romance thread, mystery, something that will entice the reader to read the next chapter, and the next. So when I am putting together my storyboard (where I map out my story), I figure out what needs to happen next and what can I do to make it interesting. Here is a visual:

romance->suspense->make things dire->expand the romance->humor->mystery->more suspense

I usually get bored with one aspect of the story, so changing it up not only keeps me from getting bored, it helps the reader take a breather from the more intense or darker scenes by scattering a couple romance threads and maybe some humor in between.

To find out more about how I storyboard and write a novel, click here: How I write a novel.

Michael asks: How do you add interest before the climax, when stories (or early drafts) tend to lag?

If I’ve done what I explained up above well, then with each chapter I’ve made the reader start to cling to the book or kindle with white knuckles, wondering what’s going to happen next? Each chapter in the middle is like a click on a roller coaster, bringing the reader to the top where I will unleash the end in a flurry of twists and dips until we reach the end and the reader is gasping for breath 🙂 (at least I hope so).

I think what also helps me to add interest is I plot out my story and tighten the plot before I start writing. That is where I can see the story and the potential places for boredom or stagnation. If you’re more of a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, then ask yourself two things as you write the chapter: is it boring? If so, which of the aspects I shared above can you add to make it not boring (enhance the romance thread? add suspense? add mystery? make things more dire for your character?). And does it add to the overall plot of the story (or is it a bunny trail)?

I hope that helps. Great questions, Michael!

Every month I answer questions from my readers. They can be personal, how to write, or about my stories. If you have a question you would like me to answer during my coffee dates, feel free to leave the question below and I will answer next month. Thanks!

Win a Year’s Supply of Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction Ebooks!

Labor Day saleMy publisher, Enclave Publishing, is giving away a year’s supply of award-winning Christian fantasy and science fiction ebooks to one lucky winner (including my epic fantasy Follower of the Word series). The contest is open until Labor Day. So what are you waiting for? Go enter! 🙂

http://www.enclavepublishing.com/giveaways/labor-day-giveaway-2015/

Breaking Those “Writing Rules” and Video Games

coffee dateIt’s the end of August and that means it’s time for another coffee date! This month I received some very interesting questions from my readers 🙂 .

Lisa asks: What is one writing “rule” that you like to break?

To rephrase Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean, “The rules is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.” If it moves the story along and engages the reader to the end, then I say you can pretty much do anything you want with your story However, that’s not the question. So what “rule” do I like to break? I’ll share two if you don’t mind ;).

Deep POV. For those of you who are going “deep what?” deep POV is where you go deep inside the third point of view of your character. I believe in showing things through the character’s experience. But there are times when the scene becomes really intense and I need to dial it back, so I choose not to use deep POV. It’s a personal preference. I think it’s also why I shy away from using first POV. I sometimes need some space between me and the story.

It’s like this: I can really get into a movie (if it’s good). But if I’m watching something scary, I like to watch with all the curtains drawn back on a sunny day so I can pull back from the intense scenes if I need to.

I’ll also sometimes “tell” the emotion if there’s already been of heart racing, gut clenching, sobbing, or however else you want to describe an emotion. Sometimes it helps to say that a fiery rage burned inside the man’s chest instead of a fire. But that’s just me, and if my editor insists, I’ll change it. I’m a good girl :).

I also like to use a lot of description at the beginning of a scene, kind of like setting the stage, then bringing the characters on and letting them do what they need to do for that scene. There are many different thoughts on description: use only a little bit and let the reader’s imagination do the rest, sprinkle it throughout the scene, or set the stage (like I do). I learned to do this with my first editor and when he explained the “why” for it, it totally made sense for me and I’ve been a description stage setter ever since.

And since we are on rule-breaking, I want to put in a word here for my friend and former editor’s new book. Jeff Gerke‘s The Irresistible Novel covers rule-breaking and why it is important to engage the reader first and foremost. Excellent material and great for both the beginner and advance writer (and recommended by David Farland!).

Excellent question, Lisa!

Laura asks: So I know you mentioned playing video games after Heir of Hope released and I want to know what’s your favorite video game or your top three (whatever is easier)?

I never really played video games until I was watching my husband play Age of Mythology years ago and decided I wanted to join him. Since then I have played almost everything from Mario and Zelda to more complex games like Oblivion/Skyrim and Dragon Age/Mass Effect to online MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft, Star Wars Old Republic, and The Elder Scrolls online.

However, as a writer, I limit my game playing to between books. There are only so many hours in a day and when I’m writing, it is split between my manuscript and my family. But when I write, “The End,” I usually take a couple weeks off to give my brain a break and forget everything I wrote so I can come back with a fresh pair of eyes. That’s when I break open the book or game I’ve been waiting to dive into.

So what are my favorite games? Hard question because I love so many! I love the Mario and Lego games because I can play it with my kids. I have loved Zelda since forever and have played almost every single game there is. For amazing world graphics, music, and story building, The Elder Scrolls are my favorite (Oblivion, Skyrim, and their online game). The Dragon Age series is a close second, with Dragon Age 3 vying for first place with The Elder Scrolls.

And I love online games because my husband plays them and I enjoy playing alongside him. I’ve played World of Warcraft on and off since The Burning Crusade and used to play as a raid tank healer until it started taking too much of my time. And I was there the first day The Elder Scrolls launched.

Lots of good memories! Thanks Laura 🙂

I’m always looking for questions for my coffee dates. Have a question? Leave it in the comments below or email me and I will be happy to answer it during my next coffee date post.