A Lesson In Persistence


A guest Post by Kristen Stieffel, author of Alara’s Call. This article, part of a blog tour for the new novel, includes Kristen’s remarkable publishing journey. Well worth the read.

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I once made the mistake of telling an agent just how long I’d been working on Alara’s Call. She said, “If you’ve been trying that long without success, you should probably give up and try something else.”

It’s the only time an agent made me cry.

There were times—many times—I tried to walk away from this book. When I wrote the first draft—longer ago than I’m going to admit—I did not know what I was doing. I had only written short stories before, never a novel.

I wrote this book eight times before I learned how to write a novel. And if you check out the stop I made at Steve Rzasa’s website on September 17, you’ll see that even then it had a lot of room for improvement.

I got feedback from a book doctor, implemented his recommendations, and started pitching. At first I got rejections like the opening was confusing or the worldbuilding was insufficient. I got feedback from another editor who helped me fix the opening. I kept revising. I kept submitting. I kept getting rejections.

Some of the rejections were just angry-making, like, “Many Christian denominations don’t have female clergy, so this book won’t appeal to those readers.” Others were just wrong, like, “There’s no market for that.” It took me a long time to figure out that what agents mean when they say this is, “That market is too small to be worth my time.”

In addition to agents, I started pitching to small-press editors who were willing to work with unagented authors. Finally, finally, early in 2013, I got a contract. Not just any contract—a four-book contract on the series. I was over the moon. This was the fulfillment of an over-the-top, big hairy audacious dream. New novelists don’t often get four-book contracts.

I never got editorial notes from the publisher. All I got was a cover mock-up that still had the stock photo site’s watermark on the image.

Then I heard nothing. Months. Years.

Fortunately, my contract specified that if the publisher didn’t release the book within two years of my turning it in, the rights automatically reverted to me.

So by 2015, I started looking for a new publisher. Collected a bunch more rejections. A few were silly, like, “We already have a fantasy novel with a female lead.” A lot were the dreaded, “Does not meet our needs at this time.”

In the summer of 2016, at the Realm Makers conference, I pitched to Michele Israel Harper of Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing. She loved the story and offered me a contract—only on the first book. A reasonable offer.

Meanwhile, I had finished Book Two. And as Book Three took shape, Tyana, a character who’d barely been mentioned in Book One, came to the forefront as one of the major players.

When Michele sent her editorial notes, I told her I was going to make other changes as well, to beef up Tyana’s role. She gave me the go-ahead. So when I turned in my edited copy of Book One, I had laid the groundwork for Tyana’s appearance in Book Three. This would have been impossible if Book One had been published two years earlier.

Isn’t it awesome that God knows what he’s doing, even when we have no clue?

When my first contract fell through, it seemed like a disaster. In hindsight, I see the four-book contract as God’s way of granting my big hairy audacious dream while reserving his right to bring the work into fruition on his schedule rather than mine. During the year between getting my rights back and finding my new publisher, I pitched to several editors who rejected me, and queried many agents who ignored me. Knowing my story was worthy of a four-book contract kept me going.

Paul tells us, “. . . suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4 NIV). There were days I thought I had quite enough character building, thank you very much. But God is no more finished with me than I am with my characters.

Persevere, my friends. Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2) will ensure that your troubles are not in vain.

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Michele Israel Harper with Tim Akers and Kristen Stieffel, both Love2ReadLove2Write authors
Photo Credit: Fen Wilson

Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in speculative fiction. Although she edits projects in varied genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket, she is a novelist at heart. Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection, mentor with Word Weavers International, and on the planning committee for Realm Makers, Kristen stays busy doing what she loves most. She is also the associate editor of Havok, a flash-fiction magazine focused on science fiction and fantasy. Visit http://www.KristenStieffel.com to learn more about this many-faceted author.

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Book Summary

Alara sees visions of other’s futures, but never her own.

A young clergywoman with a fiery passion for her Telshan faith, she has been assigned to a mission abroad but longs to lead a congregation in her homeland. Her father, the prime minister, jeopardizes her dream and her safety when he coerces her into what he calls a diplomatic mission.

But it’s a ruse.

The trip is meant to end with her marriage to the crown prince of a foreign nation, where members of Alara’s faith are persecuted and women oppressed. All for a trade agreement her father is desperate to enact.

But her mentor intervenes and takes Alara to Dorrel, the suitor she left behind. They believe they are safe, but foreign soldiers are under orders to bring Alara to the king’s palace . . . by any means necessary.

Published in: on September 22, 2017 at 5:36 pm  Comments (7)  
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Fantasy Friday: The Realm Makers Conference


RealmMakerslogo

Today the second annual Realm Makers Conference got underway, a symposium specifically for people of faith who are interested in speculative fiction. I wish I were there. Starting with the talented author Tosca Lee as the Keynote Speaker, the lineup of presenters is impressive and the courses they’re offering, intriguing.

Here’s a look at the schedule:

Thursday, May 29
3:00 pm-On Campus housing check in available
8:30 pm-10:30 pm – (Early Bird Event) Flash Critique Party sponsored by Splickety Magazine

Friday, May 30
Breakfast
8:00 am – Conference Check-In
9:00 am – Opening Keynote with Tosca Lee
10:00 am-12:00 noon – Class Sessions
12:00 noon-1:30 pm – Lunch
1:30 pm-5:00 pm – Class sessions
7:00 pm-9:30 pm – Awards Dinner

Saturday, May 31
Breakfast
9:00 am-12:00 noon – Class Sessions
12:00 noon to 1:30 – Lunch
1:30 pm-4:00 pm – Class Sessions
4:00 pm – Closing Keynote with Tosca Lee
5:30 pm – Dinner
7:00 pm-9:00 pm – Multi-Author Book Signing Featuring Tosca Lee (open to the public)

2014CSA_Small copyDid I mention that at the awards dinner, Realm Maker founder Becky Minor will present the winner of the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Should be very cool.

Wish I could be there. *Or did I already say that? 😉

Here is the information about the presenters:

Tosca Lee
Keynote speaker

Tosca is NY Times Bestselling author of Demon: A Memoir; Havah: The Story of Eve; Iscariot; and The Book of Mortals series with NY Times bestselling author Ted Dekker. She’s best known for her exploration of maligned characters.

Steve Laube

Mr. Laube, president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency as well as the new owner of Marcher Lord Press, is a 33 year veteran of the bookselling industry. After running an award-winning bookstore in Phoenix, he spent 11 years with Bethany House Publishers, rising to the position of editorial director. in 2002, he was named the AWSA Golden Scroll Editor of the Year. The next year he become a literary agent and formed The Steve Laube Agency. In 2009, he was named the ACFW Agent of the Year.

Steve is a long-time advocate of Christian Speculative Fiction. He’ll be teaching two sessions as well as taking manuscript pitches at the conference. I hope you are as excited as we are to have him lend his amazing expertise to our attendees.

LB Graham

Mr. Graham joins us for a second year at Realm Makers, offering an encore presentation of his powerful class on Worldview in Speculative Fiction as well as a second course the characters we love to hate: Villians. LB will unravel the mystery of when it’s actually OK to have a two-dimensional villain vs. when they need to be more fully-realized, explain why we (and our heroes) need bad guys, and discuss why evil is attractive, even though that attractiveness is a lie. He’ll also delve into how to keep our portrayals of evil age-appropriate and how to avoid glorifying evil while admitting it’s sometimes fun to write.

LB has published eight novels with a ninth on the way, and had eighteen years of teaching experience. According to Realm Makers:2013 attendees, LB “owns the classroom,” and you will be challenged and encouraged by the content he presents.

Torry Martin

Mr. Martin teaches at conferences across the country, and his personality and presentations are both hilarious and packed with take-away. He’ll be presenting content on the ins and outs of networking, including a spiritual perspective on effective network-building. Torry’s second class will offer attendees wisdom, drawn from Torry’s own career, on how to swim with industry sharks without becoming one yourself. Too valuable to miss for writers at any stage of their career!

Jeff Gerke

Mr. Gerke served as our keynote speaker for Realm Makers: 2013, and we’re excited to have him back in attendance, this year in his preferred role as session teacher. Jeff will be presenting content on the craft of fiction writing, though his exact presentation content is still coming into focus. For anyone who’s ever sat in one of Jeff’s classes, you know he teaches at warp speed, and his takeaway is at once challenging and brimming with encouragement. Jeff has written novels under the pen name Jefferson Scott, worked all over the publishing industry in an editorial capacity, edits on a freelance basis, and has written multiple books on the craft of writing. He is the founder of Marcher Lord Press, and continues to advocate for, teach, and build up Christian writers of speculative fiction with his constant contributions to the geek community.

Jeff’s classes:

Class 1: The So-Called Rules of So-Called Fiction and What to So-Called Do with Them–Jeff’s newest book for Writer’s Digest covers the conflicting “rules” of fiction put out by teachers of craft, rules that can leave writers feeling paralyzed and frustrated. Come hear his solution.

Class 2: The One Rule: Engaging Your Reader–Jeff debunks the so-called rules of fiction and swaps them all out for One Rule to Ring The All (er, or something.) Come here Jeff explain what the one rule is, and how to make it happen.

Kat Heckenbach

Ms. Heckenbach participated as a loved panelist at Realm Makers: 2013, and is back this year to teach one solo session and to team-teach another. Her solo session, “Writing in YA mode” will explore how writing for young adults is not the same as simplifying fiction for adults. The major point of the session will emphasize that meeting teens where they are does not mean dumbing down a stories language or content. She’ll also explain the difference between writing “teen fiction” and writing adult fiction that is safe for teens. Kat Heckenbach is the author of Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen, YA fantasy that incorporates satisfying scientific principles. She has published countless short works as well, in anthologies ranging anywhere from Chicken Soup for the Soul to horror. Attendees will benefit from Kat’s dry wit and extraordinary literary range.

Andrew Winch

Mr. Winch joins us once again to offer an encore presentation of his 2013 class on writing flash fiction that sells, a class that will offer attendees the opportunity to enter into a Splickety Magazine-sponsored flash fiction contest. He will also be team-teaching with Kat Heckenbach a session that explores ways to connect scientific reality with fantasy to build believable and consistent story worlds. This team session promises to offer an excellent toolkit to either get you started or bolster any writer in their world building. Andrew is the senior editor of Splickety Magazine, Splickety Love, and Havok. His training as a physical therapist gives him expert knowledge in the science of the human body, and he finds no shortage of ways to utilize that knowledge in his own writing endeavors.

Randy Streu

Mr. Streu, a member of the very popular horror panel at Realm Makers: 2013, joins us once again, this time to teach a full, solo session on “the Ins and Outs of Christian Horror.” The class will feature an examination and critique of modern secular and “sacred” horror in literature and film against classic horror. We will explore the question of what makes horror, horror, while critiquing modern expectations of the genre, such as sex and gore. Finally, the class will look at Christian horror from a publishing perspective, specifically writing well within the genre without breaking trust with Christian readers–or with God. Randy is the administrator and lead writer for A Flame in the Dark, the premier Christian horror blog on the web. He’s also is the co-founder, director, and developmental editor for Diminished Media Group.

Travis Perry

Mr. Perry joined us in 2013 as a contributor to the discussion of Splashdown Books’s Avenir Eclectia, and this year will draw upon his experience as an Army Reserve Officer to teach about the real toll of mortal danger in fiction. Travis deployed five times into combat zones, once as a medical specialist and served over ten years as a combat medic. His real-world experience with warfare and his established body of work in speculative fiction make him an ideal candidate to keep the rest of us straight when we write about the physiology or psychology of wounding and danger.

Kristen Stieffel

Ms. Stieffel is also a returning presenter at Realm Makers:2013. This year, she’ll explore how the work of Mark Okrand and JRR Tolkien can help us give distinct languages to the people groups in our storyworlds. She’ll unpack how studying real languages other than English can provide inspiration for our fiction. Kristen is a writer and writing coach, helping writers polish and non-writers write. Kristen is a member of Christian Editor Network and the Editorial Freelancers Association. Her fantasy novel Alara’s Call is under contract with OakTara, along with three additional books in the Prophet’s Chronicle series.

Gary Kwapisz

Mr. Kwapisz joins us as a new faculty member in 2014 to discuss the detailed process of taking a graphic novel from idea to print. His session will cover the current realities of the marketplace and the differences writers and artists encounter if they traditionally publish vs. taking the self-publishing route. Gary has a passion to encourage Christians to re-engage the popular culture and help infuse the general market with values-based content. Gary offers a wealth of industry experience, having worked as a professional artist for virtually every publisher in the comics industry, from 1980 to the mid 90’s. (Just Google him—you’ll be amazed.) He’s drawn characters as diverse as Conan, Batman and Harvey Pekar. Even if you don’t necessarily intend to delve into the world of graphic novels, Gary’s breadth of skills and depth of experience will offer Realm Makers attendees encouragement, wisdom, and a dose of reality not to be missed.

Avily Jerome

Ms. Jerome joined us in 2013, primarily as a “Splicketeer,” but has much to offer in her own right. This year, she will present content of supernatural elements in real-world settings. As an author of books that incorporate fantasy and supernatural elements into a real world setting and as the editor of Havok, a speculative fiction magazine, Avily’s perspective is unique and will be beneficial to writers who are also interested in this type of world.

Lisa Walker England

Ms England is an author of far-flung steampunk and fantasy adventures as well as a branding expert, and we are thrilled to have her joining us at this year’s Realm Makers conference. Lisa will bring her expertise gleaned from writing anything from serial fiction to sequential stories (think graphic novels and films) and share them with us in her session, which will explore the ins and outs of the steampunk genre.

So it’s too late for this year, but why not make plans to attend Realm Makers next year? I’m hoping I can!

Published in: on May 30, 2014 at 7:08 pm  Comments Off on Fantasy Friday: The Realm Makers Conference  
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