Monday, April 27, 2009

The Big Five-O and Cats in the Ceiling

Last Wednesday was a big day for me. The Big Five-O. Not only that, but in addition to turning 50, it was the last day for me to see co-blogger and niece Kristi before she hit the road for her move to L.A.

All you younger folks out there are probably thinking, how does a woman in this mature stage of life celebrate her birthday? As you would expect, life is more solemn and profound at this age, so it's important to commemorate it in a style that's suitable. I myself chose a Harry Potter-themed party, complete with cake and a screening of Order of the Phoenix.

Then later, my husband took me to Zoo Atlanta to see the giant pandas, especially Lun Lun and her cub, Xi Lan (Atlanta's Joy).

Yes, it's a little sad to leave childhood so far behind and do the mature thing, but I'm facing up to it as best I can.

Because it was Kristi's last day in town, it wasn't all fun and games. I was a little weepy at the idea of her leaving. Then she left her cats with me and I became downright distraught.

The idea was for me to babysit her two cats for a couple of weeks while she makes the drive across country and gets settled into her apartment. Then I would put them on a plane to her. Sounded simple enough.

The trouble started right after we let them out of their carriers. I had the brilliant idea they could stay in the basement, where they would be away from my foul-tempered cat and have plenty of room. Big mistake. They would have been much better off in my guest room, with a cozy amount of space and a bed to hide under. Trying to get away from all that space, they started climbing, and found a crawl space up in the ceiling that I hadn't even realized was there.

The pictures are from Kristi's bon voyage party and show her and her kitties, Bundles (gray) and Leo (black). I'm glad I took these pictures. For a while there, I figured it was the last time I would ever see their faces.

Bundles remained in the ceiling for three full days. Leo finally came down last night, after four days. A lot of time, energy, coaxing, climbing on step ladders, and tuna fish went into the rescue operation. One day, a colleague asked me if I had finished taking pictures of my handmade items so I could open my online shop. I told her I had planned to do it that week but hadn't counted on cats in the ceiling. I promised to try to do it the next day, if nothing unexpected happened. But then I added, "But really. In life, it's always cats in the ceiling."

She said it would make a good bumper sticker. Maybe I'll have some printed up and include them in my online shop. You can order one, if you feel like your life is just a series of cats in the ceiling.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Interview with Debut Author Stuart Vaughn Stockton

I've blogged earlier about my excitement over new Christian publisher Marcher Lord Press. I love how they're giving opportunities to authors whose work is so fresh and unique. Stuart Vaughn Stockton, one of their latest authors, has a book that definitely fits into that category, and he graciously granted an interview to Dimensions, even though there's a lot going on in his life right now. When I told my husband that Stuart's first novel was released on April 1 and his first child was born on April 2, he asked me, "What did he do on April 3?"

Probably collapsed with exhaustion, I would think!

Here's my interview with Stuart:

Your debut novel, Starfire, was just published with Marcher Lord Press. Can you tell us a little about the book?

Starfire is a science fiction action-adventure story about a young warrior who is imprinted as the protector of a mysterious artificial intelligence and must make his way through a growing war in order to find the one weapon that may just be able to save his empire from a surprise invasion. But that weapon may also doom his world. The warrior, Rathe, must fight his way through deadly battles, discern ancient prophecy and uncover treachery in his quest for the Starfire.

This sounds to me like the kind of story with a long history. When did you first conceive of this world and its characters?

The first character of this world sprang to life riding a pogo-stick during a science class in Jr. High. Obviously it has come a long way from then, with the large-scale world creation kicking off in high school. So I’ve been working on the world and characters for a good part of the last twenty years. You can read the whole history of building this world here:

A novel with no human characters is pretty unique. Did that make it a difficult sell to publishers?

Well if the characters had been something like elf or dwarf non-humans that may have made it easier, but the whole alien dinosaur angle pretty much made selling Starfire to traditional CBA publishers almost impossible. At the same time that is what helped make Starfire the perfect fit for Marcher Lord Press. It’s just the kind of weird they look for and understand.

I hear two different kinds of advice given to writers whose works don't exactly fit a particular genre or market. Some say follow your heart and write the story you're passionate about, and it will eventually sell. Others say we have to remember that writing is a business and we should therefore study the markets and adapt our writing to fit. What would you advise?

I would advise that you decide whether your passion is in writing the story or in being published. But for the first novel you write, write the one that stirs your passions the most. Then if that novel doesn’t seem to be finding a market try to find a story you can be passionate about that is more marketable. Don’t get hung up on that first novel, most don’t sell and can become a black hole that eventually sucks away your creativity and passion as you constantly tinker and submit. Always move forward with your writing. And most importantly, seek out God and give your writing over to Him.

Obviously you have a love to speculative fiction. What are some of your favorite books and movies--especially ones that inspired your writing?

The books that have most inspired my writing are mostly fantasy titles by R.A. Salvatore (especially his Cleric Quintet) and Weis and Hickman’s Dragonlance Chronicles. Stephen Lawhead’s fantasies and science fiction was also an early influence on me.

Some of my favorite movies are Dragonheart, Into the Woods (A stage musical) and the original Star Wars Trilogy.

Do you ever encounter Christians that are a little leery of speculative fiction? What would you say to those folks about the Christian's place in reading--and creating--works of fantasy or science fiction?

Actually I haven’t encountered Christians that are leery of spec-fic. I’ve read about them online, but I haven’t met any in person. What I would say to them though is that is that fantasy and science fiction gives us ways to explore the truths of God and his creations in ways that can challenge our imagination and help us see things from new angles. But I can understand that the genres aren’t for everybody.

This book isn't the only major life event for you this spring, is it?

Nope! On April 2 my daughter Victoria Elizabeth was born! This is the first child for my wife and I and has eclipsed the release of Starfire a bit. But I’m okay with that. She is precious and beautiful and a little bit stubborn. I love holding her and watching all the various faces she makes.

That's a lot to have going on at one time! How are you handling it all?

I’m just taking it one day at a time and trying to keep everything balanced and support my wife as best I can as we explore this wonderful new chapter in life together.

What is this about a Brandilyn Collins character being based on you?

When Brandilyn started writing her Kanner Lake series, she had a character who would be writing a science fiction novel. A rather odd and eccentric fellow who was all wrapped up in his created world. She remembered me from an ACFW conference where I had spoken in my Saurian language and a bit of my writing she had read and asked me if she could use my story for her character’s book. I was thrilled at being asked, and even had a chance to blog as the character, Ted “S-man” Dawson on her character blog Scenes & Beans.

It’s been a real fun fact-meets-fiction-meets-fact story as in the last book of the series Ted had sold Starfire to a publisher which actually corresponds well with when the real Starfire released from Marcher Lord Press.

Thanks, Stuart! And congratulations on all the wonderful things going on in your life!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Little Fish: Off to the Big Freaking Sea

Friday is the day, folks. I'm sorry that this blog is as short as it is, but wow, it's exactly 3:33 in the morning, and I have been BUSY. I need to go lay down, and get ready to load in tomorrow. One suburban, one little dodge neon, and one U-Haul trailer will be loaded to the gills (hehe- a pun!) Remember, tune in for hopefully many updates and pictures from the road.

Here's a question: Why move from a big river to this big freaking sea to which I am about to head? Mainly, I believe it's what I'm supposed to do, after much prayer and seeking God's guidance. Also, check this out.

In college (the first time around), when I went to Mercer University in Macon years ago, I knew what I wanted to do, and struggled to get into the 3 or 4 theatres in town. I wanted to test and grow what I suspected was my talent. To be fair, Macon Little Theatre gave me the most opportunity, but generally, theatre in Macon was a tough business for me.

At the school where I was majoring in theatre and trying to learn how to be a better actor, I was hardly ever given the opportunity I felt I should have been given. The director then was a sweet man, but had a tendancy to cast the same two women most of the time. Anyone who has had any experience with the dramatic world knows that female roles are much harder to come by- there are fewer of them than the male roles. Thus, this made things even tougher.

To make a long story short, as I must at this hour, my opportunity was greatly limited in Macon. When I got to Atlanta, though, there was SO MUCH MORE opportunity than what I had experienced in my home town. It was amazing. Roles I had never dreamed of became available to me and I was finally able to test my skills and have them appreciated by other artists. What a feeling! I thank God for that opportunity.

Now though, years later, walls have been hit in Atlanta, and once again, I feel the need to expand. Perhaps eventually I can elaborate on some of Atlanta's special concrete, but that is a story unto itself (or two or three). Will there be barriers in the West? Of course, but hopefully, as it was before, there will be more promising prospects there as well, and the chance to perform on a completely new level. Please keep me in your prayers, and look for a post sometime around Sunday. Maybe by then I'll have some nice pics to share!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Contest Update--Almost Time for the Grand Prize!

The winner of the last weekly drawing for a $15.00 gift card is Rose McCauley--who deserves a prize for being a faithful reader of my old blog, then moving over here to the new one. Thanks, Rose. Enjoy!

The grand prize drawing for a $50.00 card is fast approaching. Remember, every comment you leave between now and April 30 will get you one entry into that drawing. Plus, all subscribers will get another entry.

This Friday, you can kill two birds with one stone--read a great interview with new Marcher Lord Press author Stuart Vaughn Stockton, and leave Stuart a comment to get an entry in the contest. It's all good!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Shameful Reading Habits?

Sometimes I wonder if my reading habits are degrading to the point of being shameful. No, I'm not referring to reading Harry Potter. I already confessed that. I wasn't so much thinking of what I'm reading as the way I'm reading.

A member of my family who lives far, far away (and who reads this blog, so she'll know who she is) was in town a couple of weeks ago. She asked me my secret for reading so fast, because I seem to be getting through more books lately than I used to. I told her the truth: audio books. She laughed and said she was disappointed in me; she thought I was "actually reading."

She was teasing, of course, but I'd been wondering the same thing. If you listen to a book, is it the same as reading it? It really is a different experience, but at the same time, you're actually digesting all the words. It's not like watching a movie, where the original book has been totally reinterpreted into a new form. Also, I figure that hearing books read out loud was the norm in the days before television. Read any Jane Austen novel (or even listen to one; you can find the audio versions in any library) and you'll see the family sitting together of an evening with one of the group reading out loud while some of the others sew or knit.

Which brings me to the real crux of my audio book addiction. I've gotten so used to multi-tasking that I feel guilty if I'm not doing at least two things at one time. Sitting down and reading a print book is one thing. Only one thing! With an audio book I can drive, listen to the story, eat my lunch, and run errands. Four things! I download a book to my iPod, attach it to my belt, and buzz around the house cooking and doing laundry all at the same time. When I'm feeling decadent and lazy, I fire up a book and knit or do beading while I listen, just like those ladies in a Jane Austen novel.

Of course, not all the books I want to read are available in audio form. I guess that's a good thing, or I might stop reading altogether. What's happening now, though, is that the print books are stacking up on a shelf waiting for me to have a reading vacation.

On the plus side, I have managed to get through a lot of books in audio form that I'd been meaning to read for years. I did the entire Narnia series in about six weeks, and FINALLY read The Fellowship of the Ring. Listened to it, I mean. Singing and elvish poetry and all.

On the other hand...I mentioned more than one shameful reading habit, so I have to admit I've also been listening to a lot of books that I had already read. I love re-reading good books. I originally read the Mitford books by Jan Karon in print but discovered that the audio versions have a wonderful narrator with just the right voice. He can sound homey and sophisticated for Father Tim or earthy for Uncle Billy. So I've been going through that whole series again. The print books I have read lately have mostly been re-reads. Doesn't this defeat my whole purpose of not wasting time? I don't appear to be accomplishing anything new, although I do find myself being able to pay more attention to the writing style the second or third time around. That's useful, right?

So am I all alone in this, or does anyone else out there have non-edifying reading habits?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Chance to Win a Gift Card!

The winner of the hand-crocheted wire and coral bracelet is Sally Bradley. I hope you enjoy it, Sally!

I'm lazy and running behind this week due to a long weekend Easter trip, so I think this week I'm going to take the easy way out and give away another gift card in the amount of $15.00. But everyone loves those, anyway.

So leave a comment on any post this week (by Sunday night) to be entered in the next drawing. Each comment gets you one entry. And if you're subscribed to email updates, that will get you one entry, too.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Benefits of Being Scatter-Brained

I can't remember who this quote is from. (Naturally, as you'll understand if you finish reading this post.) But some famous person once said he would give a million dollars to be able to read Huckleberry Finn for the first time again.

I understand that sentiment. The thrill of discovering a truly great book, one that resonates with your soul and you know will be with you forever, is a rare experience. I have an advantage over this famous unknown person, however. I've always been a trifle absent-minded and fuzzy in the memory area, but as I approach the Big 5-0 (two weeks from tomorrow!), this condition seems to be getting more pronounced. But hey, that's great! In the past, I could put Huck Finn down for five or ten years, pick it back up, and it was almost the same as brand new. Now after six or eight months, I'm ready for a second read.

I love Agatha Christie books. I went through all of her Miss Marple's and Hercules Poirots some time ago. Now, I can pick one of them up and re-read it, and it's great. I don't have a clue who done it. Or how. Or why.

This is also an amazing ability for me as a writer, because after a brief period of time away from something I've written, it's a complete surprise to me. It's almost as though someone else wrote it.

Case in point. In 2008, I worked on my weird, gothic novel for the first six months or so. Then I had to put it down to write the romance novel I promised my agent. Now that I've finished with that, I picked up the rough draft of the gothic suspense and started reading it. What fun! I couldn't believe I'd written a lot of what I read--and I mean that in a good way. The plot hooked me, I liked the characters, and I'm dying to know how it will end.

Of course, that could be a problem. I'm not sure I remember how it ends. I didn't quite get finished with the draft last year, you see. I took notes, but they're sort of cryptic. Hmm...

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I'm Giving Away a Hand-Crocheted Wire & Coral Bracelet

The winner of last week's drawing was Jessica, who got to choose any one book from Marcher Lord Press as her prize. Jessica chose The Dark Man, and because it's one of their brand-new releases that actually won't be available for a couple of weeks, they sent her an e-version of the book to enjoy while she's waiting for the hard copy. Instant gratification!

This week's drawing is a little different. I'm giving away one of my hand-crafted goodies, a bracelet crocheted from copper wire and encrusted with red coral beads.

I'm generally lazy about wearing bracelets because they're so hard to put on, but these are perfect because you just slip them on. And I guarantee, no one else will have a bracelet like yours!

This would also make a nice Mother's Day or birthday gift for a special woman in your life.
Leave a comment on any post this week (before Sunday night) for a chance to win. Each comment gets you one entry in the drawing, and all subscribers will have one entry, as well.
A couple of reminders and a new rule about these drawings: I have to know how to contact you if you win, obviously. Please be sure emails from me or from Feedblitz aren't going into your junk mail folder. And if I don't hear back from you within a week after the end of a contest, you forfeit the prize.
Okay, enough fussing and nagging. On with the contest, and good luck!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Reminder about this week's prize drawing

The winner of last week's drawing for a $15.00 gift certificate is JH Wilson. Congratulations, and thanks for subscribing! (See, it pays to subscribe. Nothing to remember, no hassles, and a chance to win great stuff!)

Don't forget to leave a comment (or subscribe) this week for a chance to win YOUR CHOICE of any one book from Marcher Lord Press.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If You Like "Weird and Christian"

I was really excited when a new Christian Publishing Company, Marcher Lord Press, started up last fall. I heard the founder, Jeff Gerke, say he was interested in stories that were "weird and Christian," and I thought, hey! That's me! My stories, I mean. Or just me. Whatever.

Anyway, today is Launch Day for their second round of Christian speculative novels, so I thought I would share with you a message I received from Jeff at Marcher Lord a few days ago. Oh, and leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for YOUR CHOICE of any one Marcher Lord Press book.

Marcher Lord Press is poised to release its second list of Christian speculative novels.

The excitement has been growing as the time left on the countdown clock has been dwindling. And now we're just hours away from launch. MLP's second season has received unprecedented pre-release coverage.

Library Journal, one of the publishing industry's top 2 magazines--and the most influential magazine for library book orders--has mentioned Marcher Lord Press in its April 1 issue. And not just one mention, either. Nor two. But three mentions in one issue.

This is almost incomprehensible for any Christian publishing company, but it's all but impossible for a small press in its second season.

One of these mentions is a review for By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson, one of the three titles in the season 2 list. Library Journal calls By Darkness Hid a "thoroughly entertaining and smart tale" and gives it the coveted "highly recommended" stamp of approval.


Advance praise continues to come in for the other books in the second list as well. Christian fantasy novelist Donita K. Paul says of Starfire by Stuart Vaughn Stockton: "I was thoroughly enmeshed in this out-of-this-world world!" And an early reader of Dark Man by Marc Schooley calls it simply "Amazing!"

Are you ready for these books?

They're every inch as exciting as the launch list--and the covers are every bit as beautiful. As a fan of Christian speculative fiction, you'll want all three of these titles on your shelf. They're coming on April 1. No foolin'!

Keep your eye on the Marcher Lord Press store!