Book News Announcement

Merrie Destefano, a guest poster at Spec Faith a couple weeks ago, is holding a contest for a free copy of her next book, Feast.

In line with full disclosure, I am posting this announcement so that I can earn more points in my own quest to win a copy. But I can also tell you what a talented writer Merrie is, so you should either enter the contest, pre-order a copy, or buy her first book, Afterlife.

Published in: on February 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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Fantasy Friday – Bits and Pieces

I decided it would make sense to let readers know a little more about the Clive Staples Award nominations. After all, of the nineteen books, I’ve only read nine so far, and I consider myself knowledgeable of the genre. Not as knowledgeable as prolific readers and reviewers like Phyllis Wheeler or John Otte, but still, more so than the average person. And I haven’t yet read half the selections! 😕

The upshot is, I’ve begun posting a series over at the CSACSF site introducing the nominated books. I suggest you subscribe to CSACSF so that you’ll be sure to receive each of the posts.

And speaking of awards, Amy of My Friend Amy’s blog and a group of her blogger buddies have started a new award for excellent faith-driven lit. The cool thing is, there’s a Speculative category. And nominations come from bloggers.

The only thing I’m not crazy about is the fact that the books that are eligible span the last half of 2009 and the first of 2010. I’ll have to go on Amazon and track down publication dates before I can nominate, but I definitely plan to do so.

By the way, the organizers are looking for judges (not just in the Speculative category) so if any of you are interested, be sure to click on the above link and you’ll find instructions in the post.

If like me, you missed the live feed of the Christy Awards, you can still see them. Also, Jill Williamson now has the Christy Award Winner decal affixed to her cover. You can also see Marcher Lord Press editor Jeff Gerke’s very home video of the moment when By Darkness Hid was announced as the winning entry. 😀 (You think he was a mite excited?)

There are some excellent books coming out this summer or fall. If you haven’t heard yet, CSFF member, crit group leader, Mount Hermon Writer of the Year winner, and friend, Merrie Destefano is prepping for the October release of her debut novel Afterlife (HarperCollins/Eos). Take a moment to view the intriguing trailer.

Writer friends and CSFF members Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper had the second of the Berinfell Prophecies, Venom and Song, release a little over a week ago. I missed the ordering blitz this time, but I’m sure it’s quite fine to still get a copy. 😉

Jonathan Rogers of The Wilderking Trilogy fame will be releasing The Charlatan’s Boy (WaterBrook) in August.

I know there are more, but I need to save those for another day. Besides, I think this gives you enough info to check out, even on a long holiday weekend.

Happy Fourth of July, US’ers.

More Mount Hermon, 2010

If you’ve been around A Christian Worldview of Fiction for any length of time, you already know I think the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference is topnotch. Every time I go, I learn more about writing and the business end of publishing, meet more writers, and get more inspiration.

This past conference was no exception.

I arrived a day early, having driven up from SoCal with Rachel Marks and Merrie Destefano (yes, the award winners!) That night I attended the Early Bird session taught by Austin Boyd (no picture! What was I thinking??)

The full conference started the next day with the noon meal (you can hardly call the abundant food provided by Mount Hermon “lunch”), followed by separate orientations for the first timers and the alumni. Author James Scott Bell taught the session for the latter group. About half way through, he invited agent Steve Laube to join him. They held an interesting dialogue about agent stuff. 😉

I had the privilege of sitting at Steve’s table for dinner that night for the purpose of asking him if he ever looks at a work he’s rejected a second time (he does). I was impressed by how much help he gave each of us, even those just getting started who aren’t close to the agent stage. He brainstormed ideas with everyone, listened to projects, and asked intelligent questions.

Later I thought to ask him for an appointment. When we met the last full day of the conference, he was just as engaged, and gave me some helpful suggestions. A+ for Steve Laube. 😀

A good part of my conference time was spent in Rebeca Seitz‘s Major Morning Track—Painless, Purposeful Publicity. I took one picture which is good for blackmail, but this one gives you the real Rebeca. As head of Glass Road Public Relations, Rebeca was full of information about the promotion side of publishing. She had stats and studies, anecdotes and outlines.

I’m nowhere near this part of the process, but I like to be informed. Rebeca gave us loads of info, all from the perspective of what an author can do.

I’ll be honest—there’s so much that at one point I thought my only hope, should I become a published author, would be to hire a PR firm. But that, of course, is crossing the stream before I know if I need to get to the other side.

More on Mount Hermon another day.

Back from Mount Hermon

So the big news is, the two women I rode with to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference both won awards—two of eight offered.

Rachel Marks, on the left, won the True Grit Award, described as honoring a writer who perseveres under personal difficulty. Rachel is a cancer survivor. In the last year or so she had two surgeries with chemotherapy sandwiched between. By God’s grace and mercy, she is doing well and has continued to write.

Merrie Destefano, on the right, won the Mount Hermon Writer of the Year Award. Besides her many past accomplishments in the business, including her work as the editor of Victorian Homes magazine, she sold a novel to a general market publisher that will be releasing later this year.

I can’t tell you how happy I am for them both. What a fun/wonderful Awards event that was. More on the conference later.

Writing Fiction—Planning the Truby Way

Anyone who hangs around fiction writers or our blogs soon deciphers that there are supposedly two types of authors—seat of the pants-ers and outliners—though James Scott Bell in Plot and Structure (Writer’s Digest) identified a third sort of in between writer.

I’ve identified myself as the latter, at least when I write fiction. When I journal (or blog), I definitely write on the fly. For this blog, I pick a topic and pour out my thoughts as they come. When I journal, I don’t even pick a topic!

On the other hand, when I write non-fiction formally—the articles I did for Victorian Homes, for example—I carefully research and plan.

Fiction seems to fall in between.

But I’m currently dreaming up a stand alone fantasy to write when I complete The Lore of Efrathah (I’m revising the last book, now titled Against Blood and Fire.) I had one plot point and no characters, though I knew the story would take place in Efrathah before Lore. But who would it be about, what would it be about, what would happen?

No thoughts, but no hurry either. Until a few weeks ago, when I was in Borders with our little group of SoCal speculative fiction writers (Mike Duran, Merrie Destefano, Rachel Marks, and me), and Rachel pulled The Anatomy of Story (Faber and Faber) by John Truby from the shelf.

I was excited about the book because it put a premium on theme, something few other writing books seem to do. But once I had my copy, I realized it was more than a book that discusses the elements of stories. The subtitle is accurate: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller.

Well, I don’t know about the “master” part, but I do know that by setting out to follow the steps, I am building a story. And the great part, as Truby says, it is organic. It isn’t a formula where you plug in character type A in slot B, then fifty pages later shift to Act II.

All that to say, I am becoming a firm believer in plans. I’ve run across several blogs/writer comments in which writers are obviously well into their story and they do not know what will happen.

One said his character was accused of a crime, of which he was innocent. Or not, because he did have a good motive to commit said villainous deed.

Well … doesn’t it MATTER early on if your character is a villain or a hero? I mean, is it OK to switch part way through a story? Or will the author, of necessity, have to go back over that earlier ground and rewrite, putting in the appropriate foreshadowing and character attributes of a villain?

Either way, it seems so unnecessary to me if an author would sit down and think the story through first.

Sure, changes happen as a story unfolds. The character must act in a way that is consistent, so in a given scene, the appropriate and necessary action may be one the author had not anticipated before hand. Hence new possibilities open up.

But using Truby’s organizational structure, there is a framework that serves to hold the story in place so it doesn’t wander.

Here are some pertinent quotes:

Most writers don’t use the best process for creating a story. They use the easiest one …

The writer comes up with a generic premise, or story idea, that is a vague copy of one that already exists …

He thinks of the opponent and minor characters as separate from and less important than the hero. So they are almost always week, poorly defined characters.

When it comes to theme, our writer avoids it entirely so that no one can accuse him of “sending a message” …

He comes up with a plot and a scene sequence based on one question: What happens next? …

Often he organizes his plot using the three-act structure, an external imprint that divides the story into three pieces but doesn’t link the events under the surface. As a result, the plot is episodic, with each event or scene standing alone.

Instead of the above, Truby says the process he is detailing will allow you, the author to

construct your story from the inside out … With each chapter [of The Anatomy of Story], your story will grow and become more detailed, with each part connected to every other part.

This latter is exactly what I’ve experienced so far. I think I’m being won over. I’m not outlining. I’m not filling out character charts. I’m thinking and answering questions and imagining and recording in a precise way what each new layer of my story will become. I hope. 😕

CSFF Blog Tour – Beyond the Reflection’s Edge, Day 1

The CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Bryan Davis’s Beyond the Reflection’s Edge this month. I “met” Bryan Davis back in 2003. We were both members of an email group, the Christian Writers Group (now the Christian Writers Group International) and exchanged an email or two because we both wrote fantasy. Eventually I began critiquing Bryan’s first manuscript, the story that became Raising Dragons, first in the Dragons in Our Midst series. One thing led to another, and I ended up editing Bryan’s next four books.

In 2005 we met in real life when Bryan came to the West Coast in early December for a book signing. As I recall, he went to four schools and a bookstore while he was in my area. A friend of mine and I met him one evening for dinner at a local restaurant, and I caught his presentation at several of the schools, then went to the booksigning.

This past year I met Bryan’s wife, Susie for the first time when they both came to the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference (where I took the picture above).

All this to say, Bryan has been influential in my own writing. We have discussed writing technique and writing purpose and what Christians can do through the fantasy genre. These give-and-take exchanges have helped form my own writing philosophy. To illustrate the point, I pulled the following quote from an email Bryan sent soon after he finished the revision of The Candlestone in 2004.

I want heroes. I want people to challenge me to be great. I want to argue in court with Atticus Finch and feel his gentle strength. I want to go into battle with Joan of Arc and live her tremendous faith. I want to sing in chains with the apostle Paul and watch the walls crumble at the hand of an almighty God … And I want to challenge others to walk that path with me.

This goes along with the impassioned defense of fantasy Bryan delivered at the Huntington Beach Motiv8 Fantasy Fiction Tour event earlier this month. I’ll need to check on this with organizer Merrie Destefano, but I think there might be a CD of that entire evening (sans the booksigning 😉 ) which would be well worth acquiring.

Merrie has mentioned the idea of a fantasy/sci fi writers conference in the past, and I’m starting to think that has real merit. In the mean time, I encourage you to visit the blogs of others posting about Beyond the Reflection’s Edge. Also, I invite you back on Wednesday to vote (using WordPress’s new PollDaddy addition 😀 ) to select this month’s CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award. (Those eligible are bloggers posting all three days of the tour).

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
√ Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
√ Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
√ Shane Deal
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
√ Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
√ Mike Lynch
Terri Main
√ Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Eve Nielsen
√ John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
√ Chawna Schroeder
Greg Slade
√ James Somers
√ Speculative Faith
Steve Trower
Robert Treskillard Not on the original list
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

“√” indicates I know a blog post is up.

Mount Hermon Report 2008, Part 6

CSFF’ers at Mount HermonBefore I continue with my MH report, I should mention that I have put up a challenge over at Spec Faith. Not an official, contest-type challenge. Just a call for renewed grassroots involvement by fantasy and sci fi fans to let readers know there are Christian works in their genre.

In conjunction with the announcement, here is a picture of four of us CSFF’ers at Mount Hermon. On the left is Mike Lynch and on the right Mark Goodyear. Merrie Destefano is in the front, and, well, you know me already. As I recall, we took this picture after a breakfast get-together for speculative fiction writers. Unfortunately, most of the others had left by the time any of us thought about taking pictures.

On to the report.

Saturday afternoon the advance manuscripts were available. I’m never in a big hurry to see the ones I send because I’m not asking for a critique and I generally have an idea what editors might or might not be inclined to consider my work.

I had sent one manuscript to Shannon Hill, editor with WaterBrook, but she was ill and unable to attend the conference. That meant for the fifth straight year, one of my manuscripts was farmed out elsewhere. Julee Schwarzenburg (Multnomah) was reading manuscripts addressed to Shannon, but Julee had already rejected mine two years ago. So no suspense there. The other was highly improbable, so again, no high expectation and no surprise when the editor wasn’t interested.

On to the workshops. In the first slot after lunch, I attended Andy McGuire’s (Moody) “Christianity vs the Arts: What Is Christian Art?” seminar.

Andy started with a definition of art, one with which I agree, but one that would not be universally accepted, I don’t think. He connected art with beauty and truth. But I can think of any number of acclaimed art works that make no attempt to be beautiful—and succeed quite well in not accomplishing it! Yet they are classics, by renowned artists.

Next Andy gave “a case for art,” largely based on Scripture. At that point, I suspect he was preaching to the choir, and he probably thought so as well, because he didn’t belabor the points. He then asked the question, Does the evangelical community believe in the value of art? He gave a yes/no answer and some rationale for the negative. Next he briefly explored the history of Christianity and the arts and asked, What happened? In other words, why aren’t Christians still leading the art parade?

In 2006 Andy had done a similar workshop, (I purchased the CD) and back then I took issue at this point with some of his ideas. This time, as I recall, his main point was that Christianity became utilitarian. Beauty doesn’t “serve the cause of Christ” so we shouldn’t waste the precious time we have. I can see that view. Not to mention that society at large became pragmatic—it’s all about “what works.” If Christians believe we are to make disciples, then we should focus on “what works.” Not that I agree, mind you. I actually see a lot of problems with a pragmatic philosophy, but that’s for later.

To be honest with you, the seminar, from this point on, became a discussion, a quite good one, but I didn’t take notes (too busy thinking up questions and processing answers). I should have sat down immediately afterward and scribbled out what I came away with.

I did jot down a few questions on the side that I wanted to ask, and I think I did. First was, Don’t you think God created beauty to reflect Him – and therefore beauty is “utilitarian”?

Next, Isn’t experiencing truth utilitarian?

From these two, I can only surmise that Andy said something about art not needing to have a purpose outside itself.

At some point he said something against the “bait and switch” approach to art—pulling in readers with the promise of a good story only to use the opportunity to preach the gospel. I followed up with a question about symbolism, asking if he considered its use as part of the “bait and switch” technique. He said no.

There was lots of participation and good, good questions. I would love to have been sitting in a circle and having a real discussion with those folks for another hour or more. It’s the kind of thing we enjoy here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, only in person!

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