Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sandi Rog Dares You to Dream!

I just now made a new online friend, Sandi Rog. Like me, she's struggling to find her niche with her writing. Appropriately enough, her blog is called Dare to Dream, and she has a couple of posts lately that I really wanted to share with my fellow dreamers out there.

The first is called "His Gift, Not Mine." It's about all those times that we want to do something for the Lord--but we want to do it our way.

Another is called "Living the Dream." Sandi shares some great encouragement from marketing guru Jim Rubart.

So check out Dare to Dream if you're needing some encouragement and a little dose of perseverance today. I dare you!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Winner of the Drawing Announced!

Congratulations to Jennifer Hallmark, the winner of today's drawing! Jennifer will get to select any one item from my online shop at Etsy. (So Jennifer, be sure to contact me with your selection and mailing address. )

Thanks to all of you for visiting the blog and participating.

And by the way, if any of you would like to purchase one of the goodies in the shop, just mention this blog in the message to the seller when you check out, and I'll give you a 20% rebate on your purchase.

Thanks again, and as always, stay tuned for more fun and give-aways.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Word Reclaimed: An Interview with Author Steve Rzasa

Today we're featuring an interview with Steve Rzasa, author of "The Word Reclaimed," which was released by Marcher Lord Press in October 2009. The book is available from, Amazon, and Barnes& And now, let's hear from Steve:

Welcome, Steve. Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in South Jersey, and fell in love with books—especially science fiction novels and historical volumes—at an early age. I earned my bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communications in 2000, and then spent seven years as a reporter and assistant editor at weekly newspapers in Maine.

My wife Carrie and I moved to her home state of Wyoming in 2007 with our two boys so I could take a job as editor of a weekly newspaper there. Now I work at the Johnson County Library in Buffalo, Wyoming.

I read in your Marcher Lord Press interview that you're proud that "not only does my oldest son read the Bible, but he also knows the difference between an X-wing and a TIE fighter." Let me just say that I do, too! What fun for me to interview a fellow Star Wars fan! Reading the synopsis of your book, I seem to catch a bit of the Star Wars influence. I'm picturing a boy finding the remnants of Christianity (when he stumbles upon a Bible) rather than the remnants of the old Jedi religion. Am I on track at all?

Pretty much, though I did not intentionally pattern the book after “Star Wars.” That said, I am a child of the 1980s – “Star Wars” informs much of what I like to read and create. The idea came when I asked myself, “What would a guy do if he found a Bible floating in space?” The idea expanded into a universe where all print materials are illegal, and a secret police force oppresses any and all religions that claim to have the sole route to salvation or paradise or what have you. This puts Christianity at the top of their hit list. But “The Word Reclaimed” is also an adventure tale that touches on politics, combat and family.

In your interview at Marcher Lord Press, you mention how hard it is to find science fiction with redeeming spiritual themes. Why do you think that is?

I think some of that comes with the territory. Science-fiction generally appeals to an audience that has given up on God, and looks to the stars for answers. I should know – I was one of those people. Science-fiction allows you to dive into a world where science and technology can solve mankind’s ills, both literal and spiritual. But it is a genre that also makes a wonderful setting for great adventures. It is ripe for spiritual redemption.

Are there other current SF books or movies or even TV shows that you're excited about?

Well, the one show I’m most excited about is long-cancelled – “Firefly” by Joss Whedon. Cowboys and pirates in space – need I say more? I am also very much looking forward to James Cameron’s “Avatar” this winter and am still reeling from the eye-popping “Star Trek” from this summer.

Wow, you're definitely at home on this blog! My co-blogger and niece, Kristi, has a Facebook group called something like "Joss Whedon Should Hire Kristi Israel." (Kristi, correct me if I got that wrong.) And I did a post last summer about the new Star Trek movie.

Do you think a writer may accomplish some things better through speculative fiction than other types of fiction?

Speculative fiction offers a better setting for adventures than other genres, in part because the authors can feel free to create a new world. I also think speculative fiction is more entertaining because it is far removed from everyday life, and that makes it easier to tackle themes on a grander scale.

What do you hope to accomplish through The Word Reclaimed? Sheer entertainment? Warn us of a possible, grim future? Or something entirely different?

I hope to do a little of both – entertain with a tale of adventure, danger and space battles, but also warn of a future in which all information is controlled through electronic monopolies. There is no substitute for the printed word.I also want the reader to see the power the Word of God has in people’s lives. It draws people to its pages but also leads them to raging extremes to destroy it. Or perhaps I should say, try to destroy it.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? And is The Word Reclaimed the first book you've written?

I have always wanted to be a writer. It wasn’t until high school and college that I really settled on that as the thing that I wanted to do, however. “The Word Reclaimed” is the first published novel I’ve written, and is actually the first half of the manuscript reviewed by Marcher Lord Press. The second half is the sequel, tentatively titled “The Word Unleashed,” is due out this spring from MLP.

I did also self-publish a short Christian sci-fi novel called “This Stirring Strife” shortly after college. It was kind of an experiment – I had a story I wanted told, and wanted to see it in print. So now there are a few used copies out floating around on and Barnes & Noble somewhere.

How did you go about creating the world of your novel? Do you have a science or technology background that helped out?

I have next to zero background in those subjects – beyond public school education – but I usually read any space/future tech-related article in news magazines I come across. I spent a lot of time over the years putting together the future tech for “The Word Reclaimed,” figuring how it would impact their society, and knowing how it works. I also wanted to give the universe a feel of realism, so I made the effort to research foreign languages and put them into the book.

Tell us a little about your journey to publication.

I had little time to write fiction when I was a reporter. When you spend all day writing for a living, the last thing you want to do when you get home is park yourself in front of a keyboard. So my book proceeded slowly. In 2008 however, I changed jobs and my writing took off. Within a year, I’d completed the book and send out submissions. Jeff Gerke from MLP picked it up in the summer of 2009, and the rest, as they say, is history. It was quite a whirlwind ride.

Do you have any words of advice for other writers--especially those struggling to find that first publishing contract?

Yes – keep trying. I know that’s terribly cliché advice, but it’s true. I had several rejections along the way, but thankfully MLP was right there as the perfect fit for “The Word Reclaimed.” Do not give up on your writing, if it is a story for which you have an undeniable passion. And don’t be afraid to take the advice of others and change your work. It’s very hard for the writer’s ego, but the end result will be worth it.
Anything else you'd like to tell us?

By far, the coolest sci-fi characters in existence are Han Solo (Star Wars), Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Sandor Kreja (Merchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh). Coolest ship ever? The USS Defiant from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

Thanks again for being our guest today. And best wishes with the book!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Star Curiously Singing: An Interview with Kerry Nietz

Today we're featuring an interview with a new author, Kerry Nietz, whose Christian speculative novel about a world under Sharia law manages to be both futuristic and timely at the same time.

Q: Hi, Kerry, and thanks for being a guest on my blog! I just took a look at your information on the Marcher Lord Press site, and I have to tell you that A Star Curiously Singing has a fascinating premise. I was already thinking it reminded me a little of I, Robot, but with an extra dash of cosmic mystery thrown in. I love the line in your MLP interview that says it's like "I, Robot meets Muhammad." So now that we've intrigued everyone, do you want to tell us what the book is about?

A: A Star Curiously Singing is a speculative Christian novel with a decidedly cyberpunk feel. It takes place in a future hundreds of years from now, when much of the world is living under sharia law.

It is a dualistic society, where average people live on the streets in near-squalor and the powerful ride above them in cable car-like conveyances. This latter group is shrouded in high tech, to the point of needing specialized debuggers to handle their machines.

That’s where my protagonist comes in. Sandfly is a debugger who’s summoned to solve the mystery of why a bot malfunctioned. The extenuating circumstances? The bot has been on an interstellar voyage in an experimental ship. Something about the trip made it malfunction. So it is a sci-fi mystery of sorts.

Q: Not only does this premise sound futuristic, but also timely. So timely, in fact, that I could see the theme being a little controversial--or at least not "politically correct." Are you getting any feedback, either positive or negative, on the aspects of your book that deal with politics and Islam?

A: All the responses I’ve gotten about the book thus far have been quite positive. Of course, it is still early. Actually, there was one reviewer on Amazon who questioned the use of the name “Abdul.” In the book, Sandfly uses that name to refer to anyone who isn’t like him. You see, Sandfly has an implant in his head that not only connects him to the stream (think, future Internet) so he can perform his job, but also controls his behavior. Outlets for rebellion or disrespect on his part are fairly limited. Referring to non-implants as “Abduls” is one of the few ways he--and others like him--can rail against the machine.

Anyway, the reviewer thought I might have used it too much. Like it was unnecessarily disrespectful. It’s a fair point, but my first response was to wonder whether he would feel the same way if I’d used the name “Frank”? (I’m guessing probably not.) Regardless, I never gave it any thought when I was writing the book. Sandfly sort of writes himself.

Plus, there is significance to the name “Abdul” for Sandfly and his cronies. You’ll have to read the book to have it fully explained.

Q: This is your first published book, but not the first book you've written, correct? You've mentioned that you were writing A Star Curiously Singing mainly for yourself--and yet, it's the one that got published. Do you think that was simply a coincidence, or is there something different about this book from the others you've written?

A: Actually this is my first published novel. I do have a published non-fiction book called FoxTales, a memoir of a portion of my life in the software industry.

To answer the second part of your question--everything I’ve written has its own personality, a personality derived from the story and its characters. I would say, however, that A Star Curiously Singing is the most unique book I’ve ever written. To start with, it is written in first person present tense which is almost never used for novels. It also has a religion-based totalitarian world that is rarely touched upon in novels, much less in science fiction. Plus, the book has a lot of interesting future gadgets and human interactions that I think are unique as well. There is a review that was just published on Christian Fiction Review that does a pretty good job of outlining the book’s distinctiveness, I think.

Q: I also loved the story in your interview about the elderly author you met on a plane who--when you told him you were dabbling in writing--told you to start early, so you might actually publish before you die! I can SO identify with that line, and I imagine a lot of the other pre-pubbed writers who visit this site can, too. Did you collect a lot of rejections, or find yourself getting discouraged? And if so, how did you handle that and keep writing?

A: Oh yeah. I spent years and years of writing, editing, submitting and getting rejected. It can be very disheartening. In fact, I thought A Star might be the last book I wrote. That’s why when I started it, I told myself “this one is just for me”—meaning I didn’t care if it was publishable, or if anyone else ever saw it. I was just going to write the book I wanted to write, getting as creative as I wanted to get. Ultimately, I think that helped the book. It freed me creatively.

Sometimes that’s what it takes though. Tolkien had this word “euchatastrophe," which meant that just when things seem they are at their worst, good finally breaks through. That sort of describes my writing career…

Q: Do you have any advice for other writers who are struggling to keep writing in the face of discouragement and rejection?

A: Keep trying. You might get published before you die.

Q: The idea of Christian speculative fiction is very interesting to me. On the one hand, so many Christians have written great fantasy and spec fiction. But then this type of "out there" writing seems to make other Christians a bit nervous. How do you think speculative fiction fits in with a Christian worldview?

A: I think speculative fiction fits quite nicely with the Christian worldview. Wasn’t it the Apostle Paul who wrote that the gospel was a “stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles” and yet was both “the power of God and the wisdom of God”? So why should Christians feel nervous about a story with a few robots or aliens in it? What we as Christians are telling the world seems preposterous on the face of it: God became a man, walked the Earth and then died and came back to life. Plus, he lives today to repair and change lives! Preposterous—it might make you nervous--but also true! The same could be said for speculative fiction. It’s a perfect match, I think.

Q: We've mostly been talking about your book, but there are some pretty interesting events in your life story, too. One in particular has to do with Microsoft. Can you tell us about that?

A: Yes, I worked for Microsoft for seven years as a computer programmer, primarily on a database program called FoxPro. The reason I was employed by Microsoft, though, was because the company I worked for before that was purchased by them. (Fox Software.) At the time, Fox was the largest purchase Microsoft had ever made. Pretty significant for a company of only a couple hundred people...

Fox was much smaller when I started, though—less than a hundred people—and many of the employees were related. The owner of the company was also my boss, and he was a real character. Brilliant, driven, but also a little lacking in people skills. Bullying was his favorite motivational tactic. It was an interesting place to work. Lots of crazy stuff happened. For instance, my boss once picked me up during a snowstorm, drove me to work, and left me there. How many people can say that?

Q: Anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself?

A: I really appreciate the interview. I encourage everyone who is reading to get a copy of my book, A Star Curiously Singing, and tell me what you think. Also be sure to check out any of the other speculative titles available through Marcher Lord Press. They’re all great.

Oh, and if my non-fiction book interests you, that is called “FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software”.

Thanks so much for being our guest today!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Upcoming Author Interviews and Give-Aways!

I've been a bit lazy about blogging the last week or so. Actually, it wasn't so much laziness as being too busy in every other area of my life. But we have great things coming in the next week or so to make up for it.

I'm featuring interviews with two new speculative fiction authors with Marcher Lord Press. One has some great words about persevering and his journey to publication. Both authors have fascinating book premises. One is about a future world under sharia law. The other is about a world in which religion is outlawed, and a boy stumbles across a Bible.

So be sure to stop by tomorrow (Monday, November 16) to read the interview with Kerry Nietz, author of A Star Curiously Singing.

Friday (November 20) we'll feature Steve Rzasa, talking about his book, The Word Reclaimed.

And don't forget that on Monday, November 23, I'll hold a drawing to give one person their choice of any one item from my online shop, featuring handmade jewelry, knitting, and crochet. It's not too late to enter. Click here if you'd like to leave a comment and get in on the fun.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Contest: Win ANY ONE item from my online shop!

I'm in the mood to give something away again, woo-hoo!

I'm going to do something a bit different this time around. On Monday, November 23, I'm going to hold a drawing, and the winner will get to choose ANY ONE ITEM from my online shop as the prize.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment here telling me you'd like to be entered in the drawing. And make sure I know how to get in touch with you in case you win.

You can also use the "contact me" button over on the right side and email me the information if you don't want to leave info on the blog.

Want a bonus entry? In your comment, tell me which item from Jasmine Showers (that's the name of my shop) you would like to win and I'll give you two entries in the drawing!

The good part is, if you win, I won't even hold you to selecting the item you choose as your favorite now. After all, I'm adding new stuff all the time and you might find something you like better. Plus, this is mainly a shameless way to get you to click on the link and take a look at my site.

You writers out there might like the Historical Romance Pendant Watch, which features a young writer reminiscent of Jane Austen.

I'm adding lots of fall and dress-up stuff good for this time of year, as well.

So have fun!

Oh, and I understand that I'm supposed to add some legalese. The contest is only open to legal residents of the United States. Value of the prize depends on what you choose, ranging from $7 to approximately $50. Odds of winning depend on the number of entrants.