Category Archives: Writing

Book Endings and Time Spent Writing

coffee dateHello everyone! It’s the end of the month and that means it’s time for another coffee date with yours truly :). I’ve really enjoyed the questions you, the readers, have been sending me and I’m excited to dive into the next two questions for this month. So here we go!

Daniel asks: “Do you ever get caught up in your book, then dream a new ending?”

I think my characters wish this would happen, and I would simply dream up a new ending, preferably one that says, “Everything they ever wanted to have happen happened, and they lived happily ever after.”

But to answer your question, no. Once I have an ending in mind, that is the one that happens. There might be some minor changes, but that is how the story ends.

The reason for this is the ending is my target as I’m writing the story. I’m constantly asking myself if this scene or chapter is bringing my story one step closer to that ending I have in mind. If I’m writing a story where the hero needs to face a dragon at the end, then go and write a chapter about cute, fluffy rabbits, I’m deviating from my ending (unless the rabbits are eaten by the dragon at the end of the chapter, reminding the reader of the dragon).

When I sit down to write a book, I have to know the beginning, the main events, and the ending. Then I can write. So if I dreamed up a new ending halfway through the book, I have a feeling I’d have to rewrite the whole story :).

Thanks, Daniel!

Judy asks: “How many hours a day do you spend writing?”

I spend anywhere from 2-5 hours a day writing. I write one thousand words a day at least, and depending how fast that scene comes to me is how long I spend writing (and then there are days when I get caught up in the story and write even more words). But in order to keep up with my deadlines, I must write at least 1k words a day. However, that said, I take Friday-Sundays off to spend time with my family and catch up on stuff.

Now, if the question was how long do you spend editing, that is a whole different story (when I get my edits back from my publisher, usually I’m crunched for time and spend 6,8, even 10 hours a day on edits. That’s when I disappear from life for a couple of weeks).

Thanks, Judy!

I love to hear from my readers and if you have a burning question you’d like answered during my end-of-the-month coffee dates, please leave it in the comments below 🙂

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What I’m Writing Now and My Writing Routine

coffee dateWahoo! After almost a year (a year filled with deadlines, moving twice, and the release of almost two books) I am resurrecting my monthly coffee date posts. I love this post since it gives you, my readers, a chance to ask me questions and gives me a chance to interact with you! So without further ado, here we go!

Timothy asks: “What’s the release date and synopsis of your new series you are finishing up the first volume of?”

A timely question since I just finished the edits on the manuscript in question and just sent it off to my critique partners! As I’ve waited for the release of Awakened, the second book in my steampunk series, I’ve been writing a whole new fantasy series. This new series will follow a young woman who has inherited her family’s secret ability to dreamwalk (the ability to enter a person’s dreams and see their hopes, thoughts, and memories). Here is the back blurb:

Lady Selene is the heir to the Great House of Ravenwood and the secret family gift of dreamwalking. As a dreamwalker, she can enter a person’s dreams and manipulate their greatest fears or desires. For the last hundred years, the Ravenwood women have used their gift of dreaming for hire to gather information or to assassinate.

As she discovers her family’s dark secret, Selene is torn between upholding her family’s legacy, a legacy that supports her people, or seeking the true reason behind her family’s gift.

Her decision comes to a head when she is tasked with assassinating the one man who can bring peace to the nations, but who will also bring about the downfall of her own house.

One path holds glory and power, and will solidify her position as Lady of Ravenwood. The other path holds shame and execution. Which will she choose? And is she willing to pay the price for the path chosen?

 

The first book, Mark of the Raven, is currently under consideration at a publishing house. Once I know more, I will definitely let you all know. Until then, Awakened comes out November 14th!

 

Ralene asks: “How has your writing routine changed over the years as the kids have gotten older?”

It is much easier to have a routine with older children! I can even write in the summer, even though I cut my wordcount in half in order to spend time with my kids. A typical day for me goes with sending my kids off to school, writing my first 500 words, cleaning, cooking, doing whatever I need to do, then writing my second 500 words. Some days I write more, but I always write at least 1k words a day to stay on track and finish a book in a year. However, my family is still my priority, so writing happens when they are at school, and when they are home, the writer in me is put away and the mom comes out. Thanks for asking!

Do you have a question for me that you would like answered during my monthly coffee date? Feel free to post it below and I’ll place it in my que. Until next month, bye!

Villains: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Villians

Villains: without them, there would be no heroes.

But where do villains come from? What causes a person or a being to go down that dark path? And do they realize what they’ve become?

I once read that a villain is the hero of his or her own story. I’m not sure if that is true for every villain. After all, some villains know they’re bad and they don’t care. But there are others who think they’re the good guys. I then realized that in the broad scope of things, you could break villains down into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. So let’s start with the good villain.

 

The Good

These are the villains who believe they are saving the world. Or they believe that the end justifies the means.

A great example of this type of villain is Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) from Daredevil. The writers for Daredevil did an excellent job creating a sympathetic—even likable villain—in Fisk. He wants to save Hell’s Kitchen, the neighborhood he grew up in. And when his back-story is revealed, you understand where he is coming from.

But what Fisk doesn’t seem to realize (but the viewer does) is that he is going about it all wrong. You can’t work with bad guys and expect a good outcome. You can’t murder and manipulate and expect people to be fine with that. As one character pointed out during an episode, Fisk is going to have to choose who he is: dark or light. But he can’t be both.

Another villain who believed he was saving the universe is Jacen Solo. In the Star Wars Extended Universe, Jacen Solo is the son of Han and Leia and twin brother of Jaina. As an adult, he begins to have force visions of the future where galactic war breaks out. In order to prevent this, Jacen goes further and further down the path of the dark side until he becomes a Sith himself. He never recognizes what he is doing—or who he is hurting— in order to save the universe. To him, the end justified the means.

 

The Bad

However, not every villain sees himself as good. There are those who have been hurt so bad that they don’t care who they hurt back. Or they believe they are better than everyone else. And some just want to see the world burn.

Loki is what I would call an elitist villain. He sees himself above everyone else.

Loki: “I’ve come too far for anything else. I am Loki, of Asgard and I am burdened with glorious purpose…”
Nick Fury: “We have no quarrel with your people.”
Loki: “An ant has no quarrel with a boot.”

(The Avengers, 2012)

Loki gives no thought to the humans of Earth because compared to him, they are nothing—just ants.

My own villain from Heir of Hope—Valin, one of the Shadonae—is also an elitist. A being with the power to twist a person’s mind and reality, he can control anyone he touches. When he was younger he left his people behind to find his way in the world. He discovered quickly that most humans are suspicious of anyone with power. When they found out Valin was different, they tried to kill him. This created a hatred inside Valin’s heart toward mankind. That, coupled with his superior abilities, caused Valin to believe he is above humans and there is little reason for them to exist. They are only pests to be eradicated or consumed.

And we all know The Joker from The Dark Knight. He has no delusions that he is a good guy (he has other delusions, but not that one). He thrives on chaos and violence and his only ambition is to smile and watch the world burn.

 

The Ugly

Lastly, we have those villains who are more disgusting than scary. The best example of this is Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. I don’t know anyone who is scared of Jabba. However, he is definitely ugly and worthy of this category.

 

Conclusion

Villains, just like heroes, evolve to become who they are in the story. For some it is a drive to see things changed for the better but at the cost of lives and even themselves. For other villains, a deep hurt drives them to hurt others. Then there are those who believe they are better than anyone else. And finally there are those who are rotten to their very core and may even look like it on the outside.

Villains are a necessary evil (yes, I went there). They give us a glimpse of what could happen if the hero makes the wrong choice. They can even be a warning to us, showing us our own dark potential. Good, bad, or ugly, villains will always be a part of great stories.

So who is your favorite villain? What kind of villain is he or she? In what category would you place him or her?

 

*Image by Davidswartz

Realm Makers 2017

I just got back from Realm Makers 2017 and can I just say wow? For those of you who don’t know what Realm Makers is, Realm Makers is a conference for people of faith who write fantasy/science fiction (and their subgenres). For me, it is a place where I get to meet with like-minded people and talk about God, writing, and geekiness.

This year, I didn’t find out I was going until three weeks before the conference, which meant a flurry of excitement and packing. Then off I went to Reno. I spent five days meeting some amazing people I’ve only known from the internet, meeting fellow Enclave authors, meeting new writers just starting their journey as well as seasoned writers from whom I was able to glean nuggets of wisdom. However the biggest surprise was at the costume party where I found out Tainted won the REALM AWARD for Horror/Paranormal/Steampunk.

So exciting!

I would say this has been the best Realm Makers yet and I’m already excited to go next year. In the meantime, here are some pictures from my trip. Enjoy!

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Hanging with fellow authors!
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Hanging with Jim Rubart 🙂
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The Greatest American Hero (aka Kirk Douponce, the amazing artist for Tainted) and me at the Costume Party
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Steve Rzasa, John Otte, me, and Kerry Nietz 🙂
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The awesome Jill and Brad Williamson as Gamora and Starlord
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Tainted up for the Parable Award
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Tainted, winner of the Realm Award for Horror/Paranormal/Steampunk!

Art as a Ministry

Shortly after I moved to Illinois, I was invited to an art circle, a meeting where artists get together and show their work and talk about art. While there, I met a young lady who created art out of light (literally light). It was amazing! When it came my turn to share, I talked about my writing and the books I had published. This young lady contacted me a couple weeks later and shared how my books had intrigued her, so she went home and started reading Daughter of Light.

That connection led to us having coffee and her sharing how she came to know Christ—from an antagonistic atheist to a follower of Jesus—and how her passion is to not only create art, but to reach fellow college art students with the gospel. As a fellow artist, I resonated with her words and was moved by her heart for college students. I’ve been in ministry for a long time, but I’ve never heard of anyone with that kind of passion for art and for students of art.

Not only that, Sara gets college students and speaks into their unique world. She shared with me a story about how she was talking to a young lady who was viewing her artwork and the topic of Star Wars came up. By using Star Wars, Sara shared who God is and how He works in the world. No big words, no eloquent gospel presentation. Just using an image the young lady already knew, and using it to help her to understand God more. To Sara, the gospel flows naturally through her, whether that is directly through her artwork, or through whatever topic comes up when she is speaking to people.

As one artist to another, I am inspired by Sara’s passion and love for art, for God, and for people. Because of that, I wanted to introduce all of you to Sara and the ministry she is embarking on to reach art students. Here she is to tell you her story in her own words.

Being-installation-Sara-paige

During my time in grad school, I realized just how hostile the arts can be towards Christians. I was baptized four months before coming to the University of Illinois, so faith as part of my art was a new concept for me. I felt like I had to hide or be covert about faith topics within my art. I reached a point where I could no longer be ashamed of who God called me to be and the power within His truth. I got a lot of push back from classmates and some professors when I started being open about the influence my faith had on my art. Once I allowed God into my art practice though, I witnessed amazing growth, spiritually, artistically, and relationally.

God is the ultimate creator. He created everything, especially us, in His image. I honestly believe that as artists, when we create we enact on that image of God within us. God wants to be a part of our artistic practices, whether it be visual arts, design, music, theater, dance, or writing. He longs to see His kingdom come and what better way to bring that than through the arts? We as artists make physical the unseen. We take the unimaginable and put it into words/movement/imagery. Our sole purpose is to reflect the glory of God!

My calling is to help shepherd art students at the University of Illinois. There are 2,300+ students in the college of Fine and Applied Arts. My goal is to start a revival and help bring redemption through the arts. These students face many struggles and are in desperate need of the Truth. As a staff member of Illini Life, I will be able to establish an arts outreach and help build a community of artists who will boldly proclaim the gospel.  

However, I’m not currently on campus and working because I first need to build a team of people who believe in what I’m doing to support me. I’m looking for partners to join me in this mission through prayer, resources, and financial support. This is an opportunity to be a part of the bigger story God is writing in the lives of students at the University of Illinois. My goal is to be fully funded by August, so I’m ready to meet the thousands of new students coming to campus. If you are interested in joining me in this mission, please send me an email! I would love to meet you and get to know you 🙂

***

That afternoon when Sara shared her vision and ministry with me, I knew I wanted to support her, not just financially, but with prayer and as a friend and fellow artist. She will be reaching other artists, young people who I will probably never meet or have a relationship with. But she will. And I get to be a part of that, and that’s exciting!

If you’re interested in learning more about Sara’s artwork or ministry, or want to talk drop her an email, here are her links:

Ministry: reliant.org/sara.hoag

Artwork: sarapaigeart.com

Email: sara.hoag@reliant.org

Thanks, Sara, for sharing!

Rooglewood Fairy Tale Contest

Once again my friends over at Rooglewood Press are looking for writers to enter their last and final fairy tale contest. Have you always wanted to write your own version of Snow White? Ever wanted to place that classical story in a different setting, or even a different world? Now is your chance! So get out your creative ideas and start writing.

THE FINAL FAIRY TALE CONTEST
Rooglewood Press invites you to join the adventure of the Five Poisoned Apples creative writing contest!

FivePoisonedApples

And here is the cover that will be accompanying the five stories that make it into the collection. Isn’t it lovely? Now go forth and write!

The Importance of Living in Order to Write

enigma-1427049-1280x1920In this day and age where there is pressure for an author to churn out lots of books, I’ve stepped back and realized that when we as writers forget to live—to take those walks, to eat dinner with our families, to spend a half hour in quiet thoughts—we lose the very substance which we write about.

A favorite children’s book of mine is Frederick. In this book, while all the other mice are gathering supplies for winter, Frederick is sitting on a rock and enjoying the sunshine. Or he’s feeling the rain fall on his face. He’s sniffing the flowers and eating a strawberry.

The mice complain, but Frederick just smiles. What they don’t realize is he’s experiencing life. When winter comes and it grows cold and dark, Frederick steps forward and begins to tell them stories of summer. He reminds them what it felt like to feel the sunshine on their faces. He reminds them of the scent of a flower, or the feel of rain. He describes a fresh strawberry so vividly they can almost taste it.

That is what we do as writers. We experience life, then write stories to remind others of life.

A couple weeks ago I was in Chicago with my family. As we walked between the skyscrapers, I talked to my daughter (a budding writer) and asked her to describe the city for me. I had her listen to the sounds of Chicago, the smells, the sights, even the feel (Chicago can be bitterly cold and windy). I told her to remember this as an experience to draw upon if she ever wrote a scene within a big city.

Last month I was up in Michigan. I spent an hour walking around a lake, taking in the feel of the gentle rain falling, smelling the wet soil, listening to the different birds and sounds of the lake, and watching swallows dive for food along the water’s surface. I filed these away to use someday to describe a rainy day on a lake.

But these experiences are not just tied to places. A writer should also study emotions. I remember filing away how it felt the day my dog died, so I could accurately describe grief over death. Or the desperation and depression I felt the year my husband was without work. And what hope felt like when we found a job and a home.

Some life experiences are small and simple: conversations around a dinner table, a walk around the neighborhood at night, how good it feels to finish mowing the grass as I drain a large glass of lemonade.

If a writer spends every day, all day, sitting at a computer writing stories, then slowly they lose touch with the real world, and the substance that would feed their story fades. It is not a bad thing to write lots of books (many times I wish I was a faster writer), but there is something to be said about living and experiencing life, then bringing that life into your story.