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Monday, December 23, 2013

A Sprinkling of Faith: Seasoning the Fantasy Genre with Religion

(This is a guest post I did for Melissa F. Olson on December 10. You can see the original posting here.)

What place does religion have in fantasy novels?

I’ve noticed that many young adult urban or paranormal fantasy novels exclude religion for the most part; it’s easier for the protagonist to accept magic if God doesn’t play a part in it. For example, you hardly see Bella Swan or Katniss Everdeen turning toward an established religion for help in solving their problems. Likewise, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone has seraphim characters, but no connection between them and a Creator. And honestly, I can’t blame them. After all, if I were the protagonist in a book about the sparkling undead, the entire novel would be focused on my internal struggle as I try to level that idea with my Christian beliefs, not on me falling in love with a friendly vampire who looks like a Greek god. It completely changes the story.


Despite this, religion can play a significant role in fantasy, especially in stories that take place in new worlds (i.e. epic/high fantasy). Religion can be found in some shape or form in all cultures—in fact, in many cultures past and present, spiritual beliefs come first (this can be seen among the Shi’a and many Native American tribes). Religion plays a monumental role in setting, even for those who don’t practice a specific faith.

A great example of religion in fantasy is Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Alloy of Law, which has four separate religions that all formed based on characters and events from the original Mistborn series. Not only do these religions (all fictional, in this case) play a major role in Sanderson’s characters’ lives, but we as readers actually get to see how the belief systems came to fruition.

Religion is also used to explain natural phenomena, such as the ancient Egyptians’ belief in the sun’s death and rebirth to explain sunset and sunrise. Jennifer Fallon uses such a strategy in her novel Lion of Senet. In this book, Fallon’s world never sees darkness, as it has two suns—a brighter one that shines at “day” and a fainter one that shines at “night.” A certain religious sect claims this is the work of a goddess, and works to appease her through human sacrifice and sacred orgies. Fallon also plays the science card in the novel, which makes it that much more interesting.

The balance between the religious and the non-religious in fantasy is a tricky one; for me, it mostly depends on the story I want to tell. I will always include religion in an epic fantasy, even if only in the background, as it helps mold the world I want to create. All cultures have a creation story of some sort, a myth that explains where mankind came from, pre-Darwin.

For non-epic fantasies, I use religion where and when I deem it will help my story. For example, in my novel The Paper Magician (47North, 2014), I use Anglican Christianity as a means of character development for my main male lead: he’s someone who wants to believe in something, but doesn’t know what. His questioning spiritual beliefs reflects back on my protagonist who, living in 1902 London, has Christian roots, albeit a more universal view of God.

Even in an atheist setting, establishing that there is a prominent lack of religion (and how that came to be) can go a long way in world- and character-building. All people, fictional or not, believe in something, even if it’s just the number 42. (Imagine what Star Wars would be like without the Force!) Religion, if nothing else, is a psychological tool for explaining the unexplainable.

Pi Patel: “So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can't prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?”

Mr. Okamoto: “That's an interesting question?'

Mr. Chiba: “The story with animals.”

Mr. Okamoto: “Yes. The story with animals is the better story.”

Pi Patel: “Thank you. And so it goes with God.” –Yann Martel, Life of Pi


Does religion have a place in fantasy? Where have you seen religion work well in the genre, or fall completely flat?


Monday, December 16, 2013

Worldbuilding for Speculative Fiction

(This post is a revamp of a guest post I did for author Michelle C. Eging in March 2012. You can read the original post here.)

Many stories, especially those under the umbrella of "speculative fiction," must have a clear setting before they can bloom. Revered science fiction author Orson Scott Card says in his book, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, that he first starts with the world itself. Why? Because characters grow from setting, and story grows from characters. The setting, at least for Card's stories, is the seed for a novel:

“I didn’t have even the seed of a good . . . story until after I had a clear idea of the world in which the story would take place” (p 27-28).

Setting affects all aspects of the story: how people live, what they eat, what they wear, and how they get from place to place. Take any popular book, change its setting, and you change the story. (Twilight, for example, would have been very different if written in the Bahamas. There would have been a lot more hiding, a lot more secretiveness, and a lot more sunburn.)

Many writers don’t just create a new town (such as Clayton in Dan Wells’s John Cleaver series), they create whole worlds, whole planets. Everything from where these planets are located in their solar systems to how close the protagonist’s country is to the equator affects the story. What minerals and materials are to be had? Those determine the kind of house the protagonist lives in, the tools he can make. If the country is flat, he'll have to worry about tornadoes. Mountainous? Earthquakes. You get the idea.

I had the pleasure of talking to Isaac Stewart (mapmaker for Brandon Sanderson and others) at LTUE 2012. I took notes on everything he said and compiled them here (to inflict on others, of course). Feel free to check it out—he said some interesting stuff.

But setting is more than just jagged coastlines and a volcano or two. What readers want to know is, What makes your world different from ours? Why should anyone care about the world you’ve created?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received came from Brandon Sanderson’s creative writing class at BYU, when he told me to think of my setting as a character. What makes it an individual, and what are its quirks? What are its points of conflict? When I think of my world as a person, I start to care about it a lot more, and if I care about it, I can assume readers will, too.

That being said, there’s also the cultural side of worldbuilding. The cultural side is just as important, if not more important, than the physical setting. For example, when I think of ancient Japan, it’s the culture—the samurai, the geisha—that spring to mind long before I consider Mount Fuji and vast oceans. If the earth beneath the characters’ feet is different from our own, their society likely will be, too.

But be warned—the more imagination you put into your world, the slower the pace of the story. The higher the risk for info dumps (which should be avoided at all costs). And, though you may know every last grain of sand in your world, the reader doesn’t always need to. (I imagine Tolkien had a lot more to say about Middle Earth than what he laid out in The Lord of the Rings.)

In the end, remember that a good setting can make you shine. Geography, race, government, social roles, economics, religion, and technology all make the pieces of the next great novel. The only question left is, what will yours be?



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Pain Lexicon: Using Physical and Emotional Descriptors in “Painful” Passages

Today I’m partaking in a mini blog series with Juliana L. Brandt and Lauren Spieller—writing pain in fiction. Together we've created the Pain Lexicon, which provides a sort of thesaurus for strong words to denote pain. (Because sometimes “that hurts” and “this was painful” just don’t cut it.)

It’s crucial to give painful moments in a book, whether physically or emotionally charged, solid descriptions to relay them to readers. While we certainly don’t want readers’ eyes to start bleeding as they peruse a story, we do want readers to feel something. We’ve all read those books that make us hurt inside, and it’s those books that we dedicate our time and devotion to.

When it comes to pain, I really want to get the sensations across—I want to describe exactly what it feels like internally and externally, and I want to hit familiar cues with the reader. If they’ve felt similar pain, I want them to think Yes, I remember that. If they haven’t, I want them to think they have. At the same time, I want to steer clear of clichés.

Let’s start with physical pain; I’ll make the physical the main focus of my “scene.” People are always being stabbed in books, right? Let’s make that the starting point:

He took the steak knife and stabbed me in the shoulder.

Ouch. Those are serrated, too.

Now, using the Pain Lexicon as a help-meet, I’m going to add some detail:

He took the rusty steak knife and jammed it into my shoulder, digging into the chapped, cracking skin of my burn.

Now I’ll extend the scene a little and drive to up the “pain stakes,” again leaning on the Pain Lexicon for support:

Paul slammed into me from the side. My feet skidded over the wet tiles and we crashed into the table and fell into a tangled heap on the floor. He took the rusty steak knife and jammed it into my shoulder, digging into the chapped, cracking skin of my burn. The thin blade bent back and forth in my muscle, ripping and clawing as he yanked it free. I screamed, feeling tendons tear like the wet cords binding a roast. My own blood bit me like acid, but I couldn’t wrench myself free.

Finally, though this is a passage describing physical pain, I want to throw in some emotional pain too, since pain is never entirely one-sided. Since this isn’t attached to any existing story, I can just make it up:

Paul stepped into the light, revealing himself. I had only a moment to register his face before he slammed into me from the side. My feet skid over the wet tiles and we crashed into the table, falling into a tangled heap on the floor.

Paul?

Air wheezed from my lungs. My head banged against the table leg. The jolt gave me a moment of clarity.

Not Paul. Anyone but Paul.

The first tear didn’t have a chance to slip over the corner of my eye. He hefted the rusty steak knife and jammed it into my shoulder, digging into the chapped, cracking skin of my burn. The thin blade bent back and forth in my muscle, ripping and clawing as he yanked it free. I screamed, feeling tendons tear like the wet cords binding a roast. The tip of that blade pierced my very center, a venomous tongue licking away the final grains of hope residing there.

My own blood bit me like acid, but I couldn’t wrench myself free. Though he held the bloody blade over me, I couldn’t connect his hand to the handle. My disjointed thoughts throbbed in time with my shoulder.

Paul. I had no one left.

Regardless of the pain emphasis, both pains should be present. A man fighting for his life should feel something emotional—desperation, hatred, fear. A woman nursing a broken heart will feel something physical—pressure, soreness, rawness. Emphasizing both in a pain-filled scene will help readers emphasize with the characters and their situation, and help the moment come alive.

A few other tips:
  1. Find someone who has had a similar injury to what you’re trying to write and interview them (I did this once when my protagonist broke his collar bone).
  2. Jot down what thoughts might go through the character’s head when he is in pain. You don’t have to voice all of them in text, but it will give you a good vantage point to what he’s experiencing.
  3. Don’t forget pain. If you’re character gets beaten up in chapter three, she’ll still be feeling it in chapter four. You don’t have to dwell on it, but most pain worth writing about is not fleeting.
  4. Feel free to throw in metaphors. Sometimes the best way to relate a sensation is through comparison.
I also recommend checking out The Emotion Thesaurus—it’s a great reference book for emotional pain.

For more on the Pain Lexicon, check out Juliana's Show vs. Tell: The Pain Lexicon and Lauren's post The Pain Lexicon: Let's Make It Hurt.

What tactics do you use to describe pain? What books or passages have you read that conveyed pain from page to person?


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Place Does Religion Have in Fantasy?

Today I'm guest-posting over at Melissa F. Olson's blog as part of a "Faith and Fantasy" blog series. Please stop by if you have the chance!

Link: http://melissafolson.com/mfoblog/faith-and-fantasy-day-9-a-sprinkling-of-faith-by-charlie-nicholes-holmberg


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Writing Process Blog Tour



G’day mates.

Today I am taking yet another opportunity to talk about myself by participating in The Writing Process Blog Tour, where I answer a handful of questions about my writerly ways and then force three other authors to do the same. Splendid.

The torch has been passed to be courtesy of Steve McHugh, author of ALL THESE BOOKS.

So. Onto it.

1. What am I working on?

Not being lazy.

But seriously. I’m working on working harder. Putting more effort into what’s on my plate. The current entrée is THE MATERIALS MAGICIAN, the third book in my unnamed series that I can’t call The Magicians because that’s super taken already. My deadline for this book is a ways away, which may contribute to said laziness, but I would like to get the first draft out before I birth my spawn.

On the side, I’m planning stories. Not sure what will suit my fancy once TMM is off the RADAR.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

Hmm… good question. It sits in that still semi-awkward New Adult/YA-crossover genre. I like to think TMM, along with its predecessors, are a tad on the quirky side, sort of Howl’s Moving Castle-esque, albeit with a historical flare. That, and one of my side characters is a paper dog. That counts as different, right?

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve dabbled in many different forms of fantasy—epic, romantic, YA—but I always write fantasy because for me, writing is about going outside the walls of our world. While I like to read a contemporary or historical every now and then, I want to delve into stories that can’t happen on our earth. Stories that don’t appear on the news. My brain likes to linger among the incredible, and when I can’t find exactly what I want in a book, I must create it myself!

4. How does your writing process work?

Well, it starts with an idea.

Der.

I get an idea, usually involving a magic system or a specific character (for TMM, it was the magic system; I liked the idea of working spells via origami). I let the idea sprout in my brain and write down notes of how such and such would work, or what the bigger plot line would be. Frequently I store these ideas away, but if an idea is gripping enough, it gets pushed to the front of the line.

Then I outline. I’m a big outliner, and I keep notebooks on hand so I can jot down any plot idea or character or whatever that comes to my mind, because I hate the idea of forgetting it. Lately I start my outlines by storyboarding them Save the Cat style, AKA on my wall with post-it notes.

Then I write. Nothing too secretive or fancy going on here. I take a chunk of my outline and paste it into a Word doc, then reference it as I create each chapter. I’m usually pretty boss at drafting if I’m excited about the idea.

When I’m done, I fork the raw meat over to my alpha readers, other writers who will read it and tell me all the BIG problems. I take a break while this happens, and once I get all the feedback, I make another draft, which goes to my beta readers, or non-writers who will read the book and help me with smaller things, including grammar.

Then I proofread the thing myself and throw it at my agent. Or something. Very business-like, I’ll have you know.

-

Oh look, I'm done talking about myself.


SO. The tour goes on, hereby carried in the hands of the wonderful Ranee S. Clark, the astounding Juliana L. Brandt, and the fascinating Cat M. Scully. :)


Monday, December 2, 2013

Guest Post by Michael "Tinker" Pearce: Building a Fantasy World

Let’s talk about building a fantasy world, and let’s begin by admitting that I am nobody’s idea of an expert. My wife and I have created exactly one "world" between us, and the only things set there thus far are a single novel, a novella and a short story.  Our resume is NOT epic, so I can only speak to this subject from our own limited experience.

I make Medieval European-style swords, and when I started I was determined to do it right, so I studied Medieval swords to see not merely what they looked like, but why they looked that way. I discovered lots of things influenced their designs: the armor that they had to defeat, the metallurgical technology and Guild structure of the industry that produced them, on and on. The deeper I went down the rabbit-hole the more influences and connections I found.  In the end I realized that I couldn’t study Medieval swords without studying the Medieval period.  This principle carried over into creating the world of “Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman.”

Building a fantasy world is a lot like coding—there are a lot of “If X then Y” propositions. Let’s take on aspect of a fantasy world and look at how it affects everything else. I actually started building the world of our novel with the idea of Dwarven riflemen in a medieval fantasy setting.  The problem with guns in fantasy is that if one group had them, sooner rather than later everyone would have them.  Guns are not particularly complicated or hard to figure out once you have the concept; then everyone starts in improving them, and pretty soon you don’t have a medieval fantasy anymore.  So how do you prevent this proliferation?  The obvious answer was, “It’s a fantasy— use magic!” The simplest and most obvious way to employ magic is the ability to prevent gunpowder from detonating… or detonate it prematurely. 

This raises the question of how the dwarves prevent this, and my studies had led me down some pretty obscure paths, so I knew the answer: They use air-rifles of a type that uses a very particular technology. The guns are simple, but the technology to recreate them is very, very difficult.  But every answer brings up new questions, like why hasn’t some enterprising dwarf sold the tech for profit?  What part of their culture makes the dwarves so paranoid that they will employ the measures needed to keep the secret, and what history formed that culture?  More questions then—where did dwarves come from?  How did they get from there to where they are today? How does this affect the way they deal with other races? With each other?  Every question spawns more questions until you have a pretty complete picture of your world.

When I am selling a sword, if I told the customer every single detail of how and why it is the way it is and all the processes and research used to design it, their eyes would roll up in their head and they’d fall over before they could complete their purchase.  Similarly, if I gave out every single detail of everything that I’d figured out about the world of “Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman,” it would make for a very long and tedious book.  I know, because Linda made me cut a lot of that stuff out. Yes, I pouted, but she is wiser than I. “Does it advance the story?” “Do we really need to know this?” I heard a lot of that when I over-geeked.

Why does all this matter?  We may be fledgling writers but we are lifelong readers, and as such we know the importance of not breaking immersion in the story. Its easier to keep our attention if there are no jarring inconsistencies, nothing to break us out of the story and say, "Huh?"  The more logical and consistent the rules the easier it is to get out heads into that world. 

Our goal with "Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman" was to tell an entertaining story that people would enjoy reading.  But we also wanted to set that story in a world that seemed real and larger than the story. We felt the way to do that was to understand our world and to make it seem real to us.  We think—we hope—that we succeeded.  

~*~

Michael "Tinker" Pearce
Michael “Tinker” Pearce lives in Seattle with his wife and co-author Linda. In 1992 he settled down to become a sword maker, specializing in the blades of medieval Europe and the Viking Era. He is the author of “The Medieval Sword in the Modern World,” and the designer of the CAS Iberia Tinker Line of medieval swords and trainers. He is a trained theatrical fighter and choreographer, and a student of Historic European Martial Arts. He co-authored the Foreworld novella “The Shield Maiden” and the couple released their first novel “Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman” in early 2013. They released a sequel novella, “Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman: Rear Guard” in September 2013. Their second Foreworld Novella “Tyr’s Hammer” was published in October 2013.

Linda Pearce
The couple is currently working on their second novel, “Rage of Angels,” a hard-science military science-fiction story. They hope to complete this book by the end of the year. Future projects include the full-length sequel to “Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman,” “Lord of the North” is in the works for 2014 as is the Contemporary Fantasy "The Gray Man’s Journal.”


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Familius Christmas Anthology: Giveaway Winners!

The names have been thrown into a figurative hat and five have been drawn to win a copy of The Familius Christmas Anthology: Just for Kids, courtesy of Kristy G. Stewart!


Our lucky winners are Chris, Crystal Collier, Juliana L. Brandt, "Unknown," and Mason T. Matchak.

Congratulations! Please email me at CNHolmberg at gmail dot com with your mailing address so Kristy can get your prize shipped out in time for Christmas!

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Keeping Focused While Writing and Working from Home (Guest Post + Giveaway!)

Editor and fairy-tale expert Kristy Stewart of Looseleaf Editorial & Production is here today! Not only does she have great advice regarding balancing home- and work-life, but she's giving away FIVE copies of The Familius Christmas Anthology: Just for Kids, which you can read more about here. It's a great book for family nights, and a great gift! Just leave a comment below and I'll announce winners next Monday, November 25.



My newest Christmas anthology, The Familius Christmas Anthology: Just for Kids, just came up for purchase in online retailers. In the process of putting the anthology together, I ran into a whole host of
scheduling nightmares and stress-inducing deadlines. But Charlie and I both have issues with the idea of people saying things like “I don’t have time to write.” The way we fill our time is made up of choices, which are based on things we value. If you value something enough, you’ll make time for it. Sometimes writing (or some other activity) is not as valuable as other things (providing for and parenting children, etc.). Even so, I completely empathize with people who have difficulty balancing all the things they value. I currently have a very active one-year-old boy, I’m earning a master’s degree in English, and my husband and I are both working to pay for rent, books, and tuition.

I do almost all my work from home. With all the different claims on my time that I value, it can be hard to focus on one project, but when I’m drowning in a bottomless pit of deadlines, there are a few things that help me manage to come out alive.

Know Your Assets

Early this year, when I was figuring out how and when I would put together this Christmas anthology, I had to analyze the assets I had available. I had quite a few:
  •  Naptime. This was irregular, but oh so precious, and my son is a good sleeper once he gets going. It’s important to know when you have time available. That time may be at 5 AM, between 10 PM and midnight, or during the precious hour(s) while your infant slumbers.
  • My husband. At the time I was putting the anthology together, the hubby didn’t have a lot of time to help me free up some of my own. But he was still awesome at helping me calm down and find guinea pigs for my recipes (i.e., his family).
  • Grandma. Not every new mother has access to a grandma within a seven-minute drive, but I do, and I take advantage of her when I need to. Knowing who in your circle of friends or family can help you free up some time, talk through an outline, or speed up revisions is vital. These people care about you, and it’s okay to ask for a few favors now and again (and also very okay to reciprocate).
  • My co-editor. Rick Walton is great to work with, and every year he gathers all the stories and poems we need and gives me some summaries so I can figure out which ones work best with any theme or organization we choose for our book.

Be Realistic

Despite all these assets, I couldn’t go crazy on this anthology. This year we were slated to do the theme “around the world” (some retailers still have the old description text) and “just for kids” was for next year. But “around the world” was going to take a lot more research, and I knew that I needed more time than I had by the publisher’s deadline. So I asked Rick and the publisher if we could trade the topics for this year and next. “Just for kids” was easier for me to do in my time constraints, and next year I’ll have finished my degree and will have the extra time for research. I had to be realistic about what I could accomplish in the time I was willing to commit to this project.

Choose Priorities

After I made the change to “just for kids” and turned in a sample chapter for Familius’s sales team, I had four months or so to put together the anthology before the deadline. But I was also in the middle of a semester in which I was studying topics I wasn’t familiar with, my son was starting to be less okay with the stick-him-in-the-baby-carrier-and-study method of survival, and I was working as a teaching assistant and a webmaster on top of completing projects for freelance clients. The anthology, at that point in time, could not be my priority. So I decided which month I would dedicate to the anthology: I gave it July. Since I planned ahead, I was able to schedule freelance projects around the anthology (so I didn’t disappoint clients), I wasn’t taking any classes, and I knew it was a good month to ask for help from Grandma too. Pre-scheduling and making my priorities clear to myself and those around me made it possible for me to compile my parts of the anthology and take pictures all in one month.

It’s never easy to balance all the things we value, but with some forward thinking, realism, and humility, you can finish your novel, meet a publisher’s deadlines, or make it through another hectic holiday season without completely losing your mind.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

What I'm NOT Thankful for in November

This.



Is the bane of my existence.

Husband is participating in "No-shave November," though he's not growing this face demon for the sake of raising awareness for testicular cancer. He's growing it because he thinks it's funny when I cry.

It's like kissing a barb-wired wrapped cactus that's been rolled in glass.

And it's not just my poor face getting a beating, here. It's everything. He kisses the baby belly, he kisses a shoulder, he kisses anything, and I can feel the beard-briars piercing through my clothes and into my very soul.

BOO.

But what can I do? How does one abstain from this glorious specimen of manhood?


I know, I know, when it all grows out it's much softer. But not the softest. And by the time it gets to that point November will be over and I'll have my helookslikehesseventeen face back. :D /slightlypedofile-ish /hecanonlygrow60%beardanyway


Any men participating in No-shave November or want to rant about their beards anyway? 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Life Update: Writing, Baby, and the Holidays

On the writing front:

I've started work on THE MATERIALS MAGICIAN, the third book in my unnamed series (the first two books of which have been sold to 47North). I have a feeling this book will be a "slow and steady" novel, not a word-fiesta like its predecessors. Fortunately, I have time to take my time... but my goal is to finish the first draft before the baby comes!

I've also started planning another romantic fantasy without a name. I have a skeletal plot on a Save the Cat storyboard, albeit with characters that still need a great deal of fleshing out. I think once I get a connection to these characters, I'll be more excited for the project as a whole.

On the baby front:

Image courtesy of BabyCenter.com
Today I am 27 weeks along. Which I think is third trimester, but alas, Baby Center claims I'm still in second.

But my little girl is kickin' up a storm! Which is a relief to me, because I know everything's going okay in there. (Super excited for my glucose test and butt-shot come December. I can barely contain myself.)

On the general life front:

Super excited for Christmas! I'm planning out my Christmas gifts and getting crafty. SO excited to visit my family in December too--since I work from home and Jordan gets a nice long break from school, we can visit for about three weeks. Counting down the days!

For Thanksgiving we're planning on making the driving to Montana, where Husband's grandmother and aunt live. It's a long drive, and if the roads are bad we'll have to cancel (and go to the Tri-Cities instead, which is what we did last year. A friend of mine and her awesome family live there). We won't know one way or another until the week of.


What are your holiday plans this year? What projects are you working on, writing or no? 

Monday, November 4, 2013

BTW: My Halloween Costume

This year Husband and I dressed up as congressmen.

I am not wearing pale makeup, I'm just that white.
He's a democrat; I'm a tea-party republican.

We've got a few "healing wounds" from our recent brawl.
And all your tax dollars.



Friday, November 1, 2013

Interview with Richard Ellis Preston Jr's Romulus Buckle

Today I'm hosting fellow 47North author Richard Ellis Preston, Jr! However, I've got a spin on his "author interview"--I'll be speaking directly to the protagonist of his novel, Romulus Buckles & The City of the Founders, which you can find on Amazon, here. The second book in the Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin series, Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War, is coming out on November 19th.


Hi Romulus. Can I call you Romulus? Glad to have you here today.

The honor is all mine, Madam Holmberg.

To start us off, I want to get to the guts of your story. You risk an awful lot for the sake of rescuing your leader, Balthazar Crankshaft. Did you have a strong relationship with him?

Balthazar Crankshaft is my father. I am adopted by him, you see, along with my sister, Elizabeth. I have few vague memories of my natural parents but Balthazar is the only father I have ever really known. He is the leader of our Crankshaft clan and a true lion among men. We all know that a war is coming and without Balthazar we would be lost, like walking into a duel without one's pistol. There was no debate on what had to be done. I volunteered to lead the rescue mission because Balthazar is my father, yes, but of greater importance is that fact that he is the father to all of us. And under no circumstances shall one of us be left to the enemy.

Oh... that's intense. Can you share details about this impending war?

The Founders clan is powerful and there are many rumblings about them gearing up for war. They once held a vast empire and it appears they are seeking a return to their former glory. The smaller clans, us among them, are scrambling to form a Grand Alliance and assemble a united fleet before the Founders can destroy us piecemeal.

What would the Founders clan's return to glory mean for you, personally?

It would be a catastrophe for myself and every other man, woman and child in the Snow World. The Founders are tyrants, running a totalitarian state disguised as some sort of benevolent parliament. Their record of enslaving other clans and cruelly exploiting their resources is long and dripping with blood. If I were to survive a defeat of our forces in a war I would be executed for my role in the resistance, along with every other member of my crew. Also, my beloved sister, Elizabeth, was apparently kidnapped by the Founders, and I am willing to sacrifice everything to ensure her safe return.

You and your crew engage in a lot of... horrific stuff. Alien monsters, poisonous wastelands, forgewalkers... and all in frigid temperatures. Can you share with us your worst experience on this journey?

Well, it was rough-and-tumble all along, so I unfortunately have a considerable list of difficulties experienced. Falling off of one's zeppelin, referred to as the "Cerulean slip" in the airship business, was a bit of a pill for me. A captain should never fall off of one's ship. I was fighting a tangler at the time. The tanglers are flying beasties that look like old-style pterodactyls in many ways, and they are big, vicious and relentless predators.  We had quite a scrap on the way down. I'd also have to say that plunging into the noxious mustard fog bank was also quite unsettling, in a primitively emotional kind of way; it is frightening to be sealed up in an oxygen mask while the cabin you're in fills up with dense poisonous gas. One certainly hopes that one's helmet has no leaks in that situation.

That's a downer. Does all that trauma affect your dating life?

I can't say I had ever considered such an effect.  I suppose not, now that I think about it.

Ohhhh... so does that mean you've got a lady-friend somewhere in this ripe mess of a world? (Or a man-friend, if you swing that way...)

Currently I have no... permanent lady friend. There is one crew member in particular I am extremely fond of, but she and I have an understanding as to the casual nature of our relationship. As for men, they do not fall into romantic categories for me personally.

So dry, Romulus! Does anything besides the war get a rise out of you? Any pet peeves or estranged passions?

Witnessing the abuse of animals or children will always get a rise out of me, as it would with most people. I have stepped into several brawls over such things. My pet peeves include slacking, incompetence and negligence... any attribute which could bring an airship crashing down. Crewmen in the crow's nest who do not espy hazards before I do, now there's one that really gets my goat, and they hear about it. If the world was different, if there were no wars and all was at peace, I would have loved to have been an explorer of the far corners of the globe. I wish I was a good painter. I am also rather put out by a cup of cold tea.

What do you consider your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness?

I have long been told by my father, sister and various elders that my great weakness is my impulsiveness. I can tend to leap before I look, at times. As for my greatest strength, well, I cannot speak to that with authority. I see flaws in most every part of my existence. I would state for the record that I am loyal to my friends, and that my word is ironclad.

Any final words of wisdom for our readers?

Life is difficult. If you expect it to be easy, get over it or you will be disappointed almost all of the time. Also, keep your powder dry.

~*~

Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. is a science fiction writer who loves the zeitgeist of steampunk. Although he grew up in both the United States and Canada he prefers to think of himself as British. He attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, where he earned an Honors B.A. in English with a Minor in Anthropology.  He has lived on Prince Edward Island, excavated a 400 year old Huron Indian skeleton and attended a sperm whale autopsy. Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders is the first installment in his new steampunk series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. Richard has also written for film and television. He currently resides in California.

Connect with Richard:

Website: Richardellisprestonjr.com
Twitter: @RichardEPreston
Facebook: Richard Ellis Preston, Jr

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How Pregnancy Is a Lot Like Writing a Book

I have the wonderful opportunity to guest post over at Richard Ellis Preston Jr.'s blog today, where I talk about how pregnancy is a lot like writing a book. Please drop by and visit!

Clicky clicky!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Back to the Starting Line

Sometimes your brain just shuts off a story despite months of planning it. The excitement nerve has been severed for Horizon Drop, at least for now. My husband is very sad about this. :O

SO I'm going to let Brain dabble in some other story construction (in part inspired by Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor), and when it's done over there we'll wipe up and get started on THE MATERIALS MAGICIAN. I need the first draft done before Baby arrives!

Ever started the race only to retrace your steps back to Start?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Never Too Old for Costumes!

Have you planned out your Halloween costume yet? (Or your kids' costumes? Kid costumes always trump adult costumes. Especially baby costumes.)

Husband and I made a decent list of possible Halloween costumes to pull off--one of my favorites was for him to be a rainbow and for me (AKA the belly) to be a pot of gold, though I don't think I'm quite big enough to pull off a funny pregnancy costume. Alas.

We're 90% sure of our costumes now... but I'll post about that once we actually get them together. :) Not sure if it will top last year's ghosts or the "tree" costume of 2011.



What are you dressing up as this year?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Autumn!

I'm more of a summer gal myself, but I have to admit that autumn in norther Idaho is pretty. :)









Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Planning HORIZON DROP: Sailing Over the Edge?

They say write what you know.

Others say that's boring and we should write what we don't know.

For my next WIP, HORIZON DROP, I am most definitely doing that. In fact, I have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever on my topic.

What is it? Seafaring.


And not just seafaring. I'm talking pirate-times 400-years-or-so-ago seafaring.*

I've been reading books and pinning references and browsing nautical dictionaries, but there is so much to learn! Even with research, I know I'll be pausing dozens, if not hundreds, of times during the drafting process to look up a word or see how something-or-other works.

Not to mention I'm trying my hand at epic fantasy again. Epic fantasy is hard. My first five novels were epic fantasy, and they got me no where. (Did I mention I didn't start writing good books until I stopped writing epic? I feel like I should have one of those Insecure Writer group logos on here.)

But I want to give it a try. And I love the ideas I have plastered all over my makeshift storyboard. I'm hoping it will be worth all the hours I'll have to pour into research so I don't sound like an idiot.**

So here goes. I'm planning on starting the novel by October 15th and finishing the first draft before Christmas (not having a day job does wonders for the word count). After that I have to gear up and get as much of The Materials Magician done before I pop out a baby.


What are you working on? Ever set yourself up to conquer something completely massive?


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*At least it's not historical, so I get a tiny bit of slack there.

**Did I mention I've only been to the ocean once? No? Oh. Well...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Kegel Kat!

This app is hilarious.

Photo courtesy of bitty and the Google Play store.

It's called "Kegel Kat," and you guessed it... it's for kegels! (A must-have in every pregnant woman's repertoire. We don't want that urinary incontinence bug biting post-labor!)

I got the free version of this on Saturday, and it's hilarious. I mean, look at this cat's face:

Photo courtesy of bitty and the Google Play store.

You can do a record-setter program (which you can then share on social media!), a daily "workout," or you can kegel away to music, using those perineal muscles to keep the beat.

Ultimate win. I'll be pushing out that baby like a champ.

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Interview on Author Kate Danley's Blog

I'm over at Kate Danley's blog (read her interview on this blog here) this week talking about The Paper Magician.* Please stop by if you have the chance, and happy Friday!**



*I was told I could italicize that if I wanted. I'm like a real person now. :D

**Also, happy birthday to YA author Juliana Brandt!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cover Reveal: MOONLESS by Crystal Collier

I have the awesome opportunity to present the cover reveal for Crystal Collier's Moonless, a historical paranormal romance for young adults. The book will be released November 13th, but for now we'll have to settle for a sneak peek!

Drum roll!

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MOONLESS by Crystal Collier: Jane Eyre meets Supernatural

In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially later when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night. 

Among the many things to change for her that evening are: her physical appearance—from ghastly to breathtaking, an epidemic of night terrors predicting the future, and the blue-eyed man’s unexpected infusion into her life. Not only do his appearances precede tragedies, but they’re echoed by the arrival of ravenous, black-robed wraiths on moonless nights. 

Unable to decide whether he is one of these monsters or protecting her from them, she uncovers what her father has been concealing: truths about her own identity, about the blue-eyed man, and about love. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with the man of her dreams and risk becoming one of the Soulless.


Crystal, author of MOONLESS, is a former composer/writer for Black Diamond
Productions. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interview with Author Kate Danley and Release of QUEEN MAB!

I have the great pleasure of interviewing Kate Danley, author of The Woodcutter, on the blog today! Kate's new novel, Queen Mab, is releasing TODAY--this is one you'll want to read about.

First and foremost, tell us about yourself and your publishing journey!

Author Kate Danley
I've been writing since elementary school. It was always something I fell back on to blow off steam, but never really took seriously. The publishing world was impenetrable and I figured I had a better chance at becoming an Oscar award winning actress than getting a book published (I've been acting for the past twenty-five years, so that isn't hyperbole). In 2003, I was taking a horrible anatomy class and, in an effort to stave off the awfulness, I started writing The Woodcutter instead of taking notes. I shopped that book around for five years and received rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter. For five years. I knew it was good, but the doors were closed. It physically hurt to think that this particular story would die a quiet death on my hard drive, so in 2010, I decided to self-publish. It was the single most important decision I have ever made in my lifeThe Woodcutter did very well and I was approached by the wonderful people at 47North asking if I would consider partnering with them for a re-release. I am now what people consider a "hybrid author" with both indie and traditionally published titles.

Your novel, Queen Mab, is coming out October 1st. What’s the premise of the book?

In Romeo & Juliet, Mercutio has a monologue about Queen Mab. Now, scholars say that this speech was written purely as a performance opportunity for the original actor.  It has no bearing on the play.

But the more I study Shakespeare, the more I believe that every word is written for a reason.

So, I posed the question: What if Queen Mab was real and responsible for everything that happened to the Capulets and Montagues? I then took the text of Romeo & Juliet and wove it into a period story from Queen Mab's point of view, with her love for Mercutio at the heart of everything.

How did you get the idea for Queen Mab?

I saw a terrible film. It had a horrible plot and a horrible script, but it had this queen figure who intrigued me. I thought to myself, "Hmmm… I'd like to tell a story with her." Now, I thought this queen was very similar to Queen Mab, but then I started doing some research. I realized other authors were getting Mab (the queen of dreams that Shakespeare invented) confused with Maeve (the Irish fairy queen of the Unseelie--dark fairy--court). So, I decided to set the record straight and bring Queen Mab back to her original roots.


Where can we buy the book?

It is available on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, and Kobo. I will also be doing signing in
Los Angeles and San Diego throughout October  If interested, my schedule can be found at katedanley.com.

What tips can you give to us fellow writers?

The best bit of writing advice I have was given to me from my mom via an organizational website called The Fly Lady. The premise is that you can do anything for 15 minutes, be it cleaning your house or writing a book  So set a timer and write.  Fifteen minutes!  That's all it takes! If you write for longer, fantastic. But you are free to get up after fifteen minutes  If you do it every day, pretty soon you'll have a book done  I am also a proud participant of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). You commit to writing five pages a day, and by the end of 30 days, you have an entire novel written. Queen Mab started off as a NaNoWriMo book, and while it took me a year to complete the research and edits, NaNoWriMo gave this book its start. If your readers are interested, more information can be found at nanowrimo.org.

And, of course, where can we find you?

The best place is to go to my website at www.katedanley.com.  There I have links to my newsletter, blog, Twitter, and Facebook.  One stop shopping for all your Kate Danley needs!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Follow Fest!

This week I'm participating in Melissa Maygrove's Follow Fest! It's a big meet-and-greet that more or less uses blogs as business cards. :) If you want to join in the fun, click here.


Name: Charlie N. Holmberg

Fiction or nonfiction?: Fiction!

What genres to you write?: Anything fantasy :)

Are you published?: I have two books coming out from 47North next year: The Paper Magician and its sequel, The Glass Magician.

Do you do anything in addition to writing?: I'm also a freelance editor and mom-in-progress.

Where can people connect with you?:
Twitter: @CNHolmberg
Facebook: Charlie Nicholes Holmberg
Goodreads: Charlie Holmberg (Just my reader page, not my writer page!)


Monday, September 23, 2013

REVEAL and GIVEAWAY: The Baby Is a .... ?

We're back from the ultrasound!

The verdict is in!

Is the baby a boy or a girl?



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IT'S A GIRL!

I myself am surprised. I thought it would be a boy!

I threw those who guessed right into a drawing. I picked TWO winners for this, because the first is my sister and it's lame to have family win a giveaway, am I right?

One pound of  PINK gummy bears will go to Danny Chipman and Meredith M. I already know Danny's address (since we're related and stuff), so Meredith, please email me at CNHolmberg@gmail.com with your mailing address so I can send you your prize!


Now comes picking a name... oh dear...

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Shameless Publicity and Interview of Author Michelle C. Eging: The Threads of Sole

I have the privilege, and this is a real privilege, of presenting to all of you author Michelle C. Eging, one of my good friends and an amazing author. She just released her novel, The Threads of Sole: Unraveled, in ebook and paperback, and I am ecstatic.

Those of you who know me know I'm not huge on indie publishing, and I am extremely hesitant to purchase anything indie-published unless I know it's golden. But let me tell you: I absolutely adore this book. It's dark fantasy at its finest. The creativity, the characters, and the story just blow me away. I love it to pieces, and I hope you'll go check it out for yourself!


In the aftermath of the War of Awakening, the King and his Council condoned the Purge, methodically executing members of the magically gifted Blessed so no person’s power will threaten Sole again. After years of political negotiation, the Purge has ended, requiring the Blessed to brand their faces and creating a rift that has Sole on the brink of civil war. Enwyck, the daamon half-blood Prince of Sole, Joslynn, a woman whose mask hides her deformed and poisonous spider-silk skin, Windle, a former Godmother now hiding as an old man, and Kasimir, a blind cripple no longer able to transform into a raven, find themselves struggling to preserve the kingdom while confronting the trauma of their pasts and the broken pieces of their present. One false move and everything they fought for will unravel, if it hasn’t already.


First, tell everyone a little about yourself.

I answered the rest of the interview before returning to this question because I would rather discuss writing then talk about myself! Maybe an anecdote will be best:

Last Friday, I went to a fancy Italian restaurant. After work, I changed into a Not Work, time to hit the
town, outfit. The front bumper to my car is held on by duct tape, which was not sticking to the car anymore, so after changing, I gave the tape and my car a pep talk that it could make it to the restaurant and back without incident. For the most part, it listened. I drove to the restaurant and parked my gimpy, ghetto car next to a yacht, or some sort of fancy boat. As I walked across the parking lot, it occurred to me that money wasn't the issue holding me back from replacing my bumper, since I was about to drop some on what can only be described as exquisite cuisine. Clearly, I would rather eat good food than have a pretty car.

Now blow everyone’s minds with how long it took you to complete this novel, and how many revisions you did.

I've been working on this novel since I was sixteen, so it's been nine years in the making. And books two and three are in draft stages, so it will probably be 11-12 years before I'm finished. As for number of revisions? Oh, I've tossed out at least ten drafts before getting close to the final product. The draft previous to this one was over 500 pages long before I tried all over again.

Where did you get the idea for The Threads of Sole, and how did that idea evolve over your revisions?

Oh boy, do you want the long version or the short version?

In high school, I studied German. One day our teacher was going over the formula for fairy-tales, a genre I've been obsessed with since before I could read (movies count, right?). When she started talking about the heroine and how she was always beautiful, and sweet, and innocent, I started thinking of how I could take the genre and turn it on its head. The first version of the story was a lot like Cinderella, except the girl was disfigured from her stepmother pouring hot oil on her face upon discovering Cinder's engagement to the Prince. And then the Prince ended the engagement, even though he still loved her, because the Kingdom demanded the bride be beautiful. Of course, there needed to be more of a plot then that, so the two of them had to save the Kingdom from his mother. While I wrote the first draft, I bought a copy of the Grimm's Fairy Tales and read it straight through, jotting down fairy tale elements or plot lines that I think would work in the story, elements that have still survived although the story is nothing like that original idea that hit me between the eyes in school.

Over time, the story grew in complexity as I grew from a teenager to a grown-up. I ditched all the German words I'd layered in, which is why so many words are capitalized in the final draft, to maintain some of the flavor without alienating the reader. The book went from being only in Joslynn's POV to having four characters' POV. Since I was no longer a love-sick teenager, the plot and focus expanded from romance to include politics, struggles with personal spirituality, coping with trauma, the effects of tyranny and war on a nation's and an individual's psyche, etc, etc. And the characters became richer, too. For instance, in earlier drafts, Joslynn was a hermit living in some secluded cave given to her by the sea king and she finds the prince washed ashore. Now, Joslynn uses wealth she was given by the sea king to build a city for refugees and serves those people as their political representative before the Kingdom's Council.

Oh, and did I mention I never planned on this being a trilogy? It just sort of happened that way.

I've had a lot of eyes on this book for the past ten years, and all of that feedback helped me move further and further away from rehashing the familiar elements I had encountered in the fantasy genre into territory that was new and fresh for me. Hopefully it will be that way for my readers as well.

What has been your inspiration for writing this?

The Brothers Grimm fairy tales, like I mentioned. And this really dark fantasy trilogy, which I loved in all my angsty teenagerness called the Black Jewels Trilogy (I wouldn't love it now, but I did then). And my own personal experiences. Which might be kind of weird since this is a fantasy novel... I didn't mean for it to happen, but it did somehow. In weird, unexpected, subtle ways, it did.


When can we expect a sequel?

Hopefully next summer!

~*~

You can find Michelle on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and at her blog, and you can buy The Threads of Sole: Unraveled on Amazon or on CreateSpace.



Monday, September 9, 2013

Guess the Sex and Eat Some Gummy Bears--Giveaway

You know something's good if it has both "sex" and "gummy bears" in the title, right?

Anyway.

Unless the baby-in-making is shy, I will find out its sex September 23rd. (It feels SO far away, ah!)

But I thought, hey, let's make a wager, shall we?


What do you think? Boy or Girl? (Yes, this is me using stereotypical colors to denote gender. Deal with it.)

The contest will be open until September 23rd, when the verdict is in! All you have to do is leave a comment (and contact info if it's not easy to find on your blog or whatnot*) with your guess to enter. Those who guess correctly will then enter a drawing for the goods--a one-pound bag of gummy bears in the mail in either blue or pink, depending on what the little tyke decides to be.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sunshinee14

And if the baby crosses his/her legs... guess I'll send out some green gummy bears instead. BUT HE/SHE BETTER NOT DO THAT OR MOMMY WILL BE ANGRY.

Cheers. :)



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*If I know you in real life, you may skip the contact information. :P Unless I don't know you very well. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cover Reveal for Threads of Sole: Unraveled

I'm excited to debut Michelle C. Eging's cover for Threads of Sole: Unraveled. It's a wonderful, traditional-style cover that I adore.


The book will be released soon, and I'll have another post next week for the release, as well as an interview with the author. I love this story, so please stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

14 Things I Wish I Had Internalized About Roommates When I Shipped Off to College

This stems from a conversation with Husband a few nights ago.

For my sister.

1. Leaving notes is NEVER a good idea, unless it’s a “Have a nice day!” post-it stuck in someone’s lunch box. Handling problems with notes just makes the note-readers more angry. Always better to flush it out in-person. 
  • This means that, if someone leaves YOU a note, you reply to it in-person.
  • This is also great because, if the note-leaver is non-confrontational, you'll probably win the "argument" anyway.
  • I-statements!
  • Make sure the problem is worth the conflict. Sometimes you just have to accept annoying things about roommates and move on.

2. Share your dishes.

3. Wash your dishes.
  • And for the love of all that's holy, leaving a roommate's dishes in their bed is NEVER a good idea, despite what others may tell you.

4. Be willing to share meals with roommates, even if they don't share theirs with you.

5. You can hit the snooze button once. After that, if you're sharing a room, it's rude.

6. Fake patience. If you can't, leave the room. Always better to fume alone than to start problems that will haunt you for the rest of the school year.

7. Be careful who you roommate-vent to.

8. If you have a roommate who is seriously out to get you, don't be afraid to stand up to them. Sometimes those people need to be called out (firmly, not rudely). I wish I had done this more often.

9. Don't play your angry music super loud to make a point. I know from experience that this form of expression does not promote bunk-mate happiness.

10. Clean up after yourself.

11. Always thank the roommate who is cleaning a community area. Gratitude makes for happy living.

12. Giving roommates rides to places always earns roommate points. On the flip side, don't ask the same person for a ride too often.

13. Don't leave your hair stuck to the walls of the shower.

14. Fake it 'til you make it. Then move out.




(Also, happy birthday to Sister #1!)