Category Archives: Writing

Ten Favorite Characters from Flight of the Raven

Ten Favorite Characters fromI was asked a couple weeks ago to name ten favorite characters from my upcoming novel, Flight of the Raven (which comes out at the end of this month, yeah!), and I thought I would share that list with all of you here (because I know you’re as excited as I am to meet all of these people!). So here you go 🙂

Lady Selene Ravenwood (main character): I love her desire to not accept what fate/destiny/or her mother has planned for her, but to search for who she really is and what the dreamwalking gift can be used for. I also love her dual swords and long, raven-colored hair!

Lord Damien Maris: Ah, Damien! What can I say? He’s strong and gentle, powerful but understands the consequences of his power, and fiercely protects his people. He has the ability to control water and uses it to create walls out of rivers to keep out enemies. However, his power will wash away anyone who is not part of his people, on either side of the river.

Taegis (Damien’s guardian): He’s been watching over House Maris ever since Damien was young, and was there to help Damien when his family passed away. He’s a councilor, guardian, and friend.

Cohen: He’s young, he’s tall, and he has wild hair. And he looks nothing like a monk. But it is his curiosity about the world, and his heart for people has led him to be selected to be the next abbott. He hasn’t quite adjusted to his height and is always banging his long legs on tables and chairs.

Karl (personal guard to House Maris): Dark and brooding, with a painful past and is not sure about Lord Damien marrying someone from House Ravenwood. Eventually, he becomes Lady Selene’s personal guard.

Sten (personal guard to House Maris): jolly and stout, with many brothers and a love for life. He likes to whittle figures out of wood.

Lady Bryren Merek: leader of House Merek and the wyvern riders. Her house is known for their courage, and Lady Bryren is known for speaking her mind. Her wyvern is a large copper female named Shannu.

Lady Ragna Ravenwood: Selene’s mother. Cold, rigid, and focused on one thing: to tear every other great house down and build her own up. She is known for her beauty and strength.

Lady Amara Ravenwood (Selene’s sister): she’s always been jealous of her sister until she discovers the burden Selene has been carrying for years. Now she’s questioning everything she’s ever known. She fights with a single sword.

Breven (a pilgrim): sweet young man with a brilliant smile and a huge heart. No wonder Amara starts to fall for him. He’s from the city of knowledge, Shanalona, and hopes to work in the massive libraries there someday.

 

And there you go, a little peek into some new and returning characters in Flight of the Raven!

Haven’t read the first book, Mark of the Raven? Then check it out here.

Haven’t pre-ordered your copy of Flight of the Raven? Then head over here.

 

Finding the Fantastical in Everyday Life

Finding the Fantastical in Everyday Life.pngAs a fantasy writer, I’m constantly asked where do I get my ideas. I think it first began when I was a kid growing up in the mountains of Montana. I didn’t see the world around me with ordinary eyes. Instead, I saw the world with my imagination. Everything around me was magical, from the creek that ran behind our house, to the forests I would hike with my family, to those snowy days when the snowdrifts would be as tall as I was. I was an explorer wherever I went, constantly making up stories about the world around me.

I’ve grown older, but I haven’t changed much. Instead of keeping the stories in my head, I now convey what I see into the stories I write. When most people see a sunset, I see a painting of God every evening. The stars are diamonds in the sky. A thunderstorm is God’s power on display.

Even little things like the weaving of a spiderweb and a bird building her nest amaze me. Or the scent of fall as the leaves crunch beneath my boots. Or the stillness of a winter’s night. The sweet scent of a baby, or the tender purrs from my cat.

When I write, I want to convey the wonder I have of the world around me, and of the God who made it. And that doesn’t just stop at the physical world. Sometimes I ask questions in my stories: Are we monsters? Can anyone be redeemed? What does God’s grace really look like? What if I could walk in dreams? Who are we? And what does it mean to follow God?

I place my characters in situations that could not exist in this world in order to explain the real questions we ask as human beings. And I use the beauty of the real world to convey a fantasy world full of wonder.

Where do I find the inspiration for my stories? It is the fantastical I see every day around me.

How about you? What ‘ordinary’ things do you see as amazing? How does it bring you closer to God, and if you are a writer, how does it influence your writing?

Decency, Integrity, and Respect in Romance Scenes

dead-reds-1317346-1279x885The #metoo movement and recent exposure of sexual harassment and more in the Christian publishing world has made me take a closer look at how romance is portrayed in stories. What I’ve discovered has given me pause. The very things and situations we are condemning in the real world have quietly slip into books and perhaps it’s time to take a look at these situations and ask are we feeding into the very thing we want to abolish?

I’ll give two examples. In a recent webcomic I’ve been reading, the female main character has clearly shown her heart to be attached to one character. But another male character continues to intrude into her space (pinning her to the wall, making suggestive comments, and trying to kiss her). It’s the usual love triangle, but I can’t help but think if this was going on in the real world, this character is crossing lines when it comes to this woman. She’s told him no, and he’s not respecting her words, or her space, or her being. It might seem romantic since he’s a hot, muscly, sexy guy, which hormones can make it seem like the woman is being pulled toward him (and she is, because hormones), but she doesn’t like the guy.

Another example is from the manga/anime Seven Deadly Sins. The main character repeatedly looks up the female character’s skirt. At first she doesn’t know what to think, then she shyly tells him no. And she keeps telling him now, but he keeps on doing it. It’s a running joke and one that is disrespectful, rude, and definitely crossing lines. And he’s the hero of the story!

These are just two examples I see in stories (I won’t even talk about Fifty Shades of you know what). Situations and scenes where a man is using his power, influence, and ability to seduce a woman. This is not romantic, my friends. This is predatory and not how I would want my daughters pursued by a man!

The strongest, most romantic man is the one who looks beyond his desires and wants to do what’s best for the woman he loves. He shows her respect. He listens to her words. He acts with integrity. Does this mean he’s a prude? Not at all! It means he keeps his heart and his actions in check even when he is longing for her.

As writers, one way we can help the readers in our sphere of influence is to show what real romance looks like, and to shun scenes where a man is taking advantage of a woman (and vice versa). If we want to help stop this predatory view of love, it starts with the love scenes in our books. Let us create male characters who are passionate, but keep their hearts in check and show respect and decency toward female characters. And female characters who stand up for themselves and tell a man firmly no (and that is perfectly okay for a woman to say no to a man, and for a man to listen). Perhaps by doing this, we can help usher in a real world of decency, integrity, and respect for both men and women.

Carol Award Finalist and Other Things

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me! I’ve traveled across numerous states, visited some beautiful places, spent lots of wonderful time with my family, finished my edits on Flight of the Raven, book 2 of the Ravenwood Saga, and…

I FOUND OUT AWAKENED IS A CAROL AWARD FINALIST! YEAH!

Awakened 3

So that’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while. If you want to see the pictures from my travels, check out my Instagram account (I also post pics of my books and pets because they are so cute!).

Next week I’ll be at Realm Makers and if you live in the St. Louis area, come see me at the Realm Makers Book Festival 🙂

Also, I’ll be having my very first giveaway for a signed copy for Mark of the Raven, so be watching (or better yet, sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss out).

New Book Contract

contract signingFriends! I’m so excited to announce that my new fantasy series has a home. I just signed a three book contract with Bethany House. It is bittersweet to be moving to another publisher and yet I’m excited to work with the people and authors at Bethany.

So what does this mean for you, my readers? It means you will have a new book to read next November (2018). And it also means you won’t be waiting a whole year between books. Yep, you read that right! I will be working diligently with Bethany to have a new installment every nine months. Yeah!

So be watching for the cover for Mark of the Raven, coming soon! And in the meantime, here is what my new series is about:

Mark of the

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?

Handling Real-Life Experiences in Fictional Writing

coffee dateHi everyone! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving full of food, fun, and family 🙂 It’s the last Friday of the month and that means another coffee date with yours truly. Enjoy.

Maegen asks: “When you write something that is similar to a real life experience you’ve had, does it feel awkward? How do you handle awkwardness in writing?”

When I write, I pour my heart and soul into my writing. I also ask a lot of questions in my writing: questions about myself, about God, and about life. Sometimes that means I bring in my own experiences and flesh them out through my characters. I think this makes my characters more relatable, but it also makes me vulnerable.

When I received back my first set of edits for Daughter of Light, my editor told me not to hold back. He wanted me to dive deeper into what Rowen was feeling and experiencing. That was hard because I didn’t want people to see my fears, my past anger toward God, and my struggles to follow God when life is hard. You see, when I choose to open myself up that much in my stories, it means that negative reviews are much harder to receive. People say readers are not judging me, they are simply judging my book. But when your book is you, then it’s harder not to take it personally.

As I’ve grown as a writer, it has become much easier to bring my life-experiences into my books and not have it feel so awkward. I’ve come to realize that there are others out there who need to read what I have to share, and have been through, or are currently going through, the same fears, doubts, and feelings of worthlessness. Those are the people I’m writing for. My books are a bridge between my heart and theirs. And when I look at it that way, it’s not as awkward to open up about myself.

Thanks, Maegen!

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 🙂

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!