August 20, 2013

The Glorification of Death

With the first round of edits complete and the novel sent out to readers, I've moved on to the process of query-writing.  Not that any queries will actually be going out for some time yet, but it seemed like a good idea to buckle down and begin the work.  I think the current version is #3.  Getting there, getting there...

The process of researching and noting agencies is, as always, enjoyably frustrating: enjoyable because hey, books! and people to query! and frustrating because there are just so many pages to trawl through.  I am, however, beginning to memorize the agents of such bestselling novelists as Suzanne Collins, Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfeld, and Stephenie Meyer.  And then there are the ones whose works are represented by more than one agency, and that just gets confusing.

Poking through lists of recent fantasy novels, I've also begun to notice trends.  One is that most of these books get some pretty awesome covers, and could I have a cover like that?  Why, yes, thank you, I will take the cover of Wither!  The second, though, is that dark seems to be incredibly in at the moment.  Everywhere I turn I see yet another book about the undead; about vampire-slaying; about the end of the world; about romance between a human and a devil or an angel and a devil or a SOMETHING and a devil.  Vampires are going out of vogue (Twilight is so 2005) and dystopian is in, but even in young adult novels technically labelled "fantasy," horror seems to be the overriding element. 

This is not to say that all of these are badly written.  I'm sure some of them are; I suppose some of them may very well not be.  Nor do I have what you would call an iron stomach, so perhaps I'm not qualified to judge the creepiness level of any book.  However, seeing all these books lined up in virtual rows and reading all these queries of books that sold has made me wonder where exactly the obsession with death came from.  Death is something alien to the way things ought to be and there is, or used to be, a healthy dread of it.  Now it seems to be embraced. 

I don't believe Christians ought to shy away from addressing the hard, dirty problems of the world: on the contrary, I think the attitude of treading on eggshells that believing writers adopt is part of the reason our literature is so terribly insipid.  Death is a hard, dirty problem that must be faced.  What I wonder in looking over recent publications is whether they are no longer treating it as a problem, or whether the authors are attempting to confront the problem and failing.  And I wonder, too, whether readers are not being inoculated to the issue by the prevalence of horror and skewed spiritual ideas.  If the trend continues, will it not become harder and harder to battle a problem that readers no longer imagine to be a problem?

What think you?

August 13, 2013

Who Will Deliver Me?

pinterest: tempus regina
Updates!  First of all, if you haven't scooted over to the Notebook Sisters and joined in the festivities, I think you'd better had.  They've interviewed a number of authors and are giving away bucket-loads of literary Stuff, including two physical copies each of The Soldier's Cross and The Shadow Things.  And if you already have them, there are plenty of other novels you can enter to win!

Looking over the August to-do list (we're nearly halfway through the month!), I believe I've made significant progress on almost all the items.  Anything dealing with college is on hold until the week of Fall Orientation, and since the weather remains obstinately hot and muggy, long-sleeves are not possible.  But driving continues; one pair of shoes has been bought; Plenilune moves on apace; the brain is suitably stormy; and the first round of Tempus Regina edits is complete.  At the moment I am sending this second draft to only two beta readers, but perhaps at the next turnpike I'll expand the readership.  I can't send it to everyone but don't wish to disappoint anyone, which puts me in a very sticky situation.  We'll see how things pan out.

In the meantime, I will try to get on with the questions asked two months ago.  There was one from Joy and one from Sarah Ellen that unintentionally dovetailed, and I think it would be helpful if I tackled them in one post instead of taking them on separately.  Both are intimately bound up in the life of Tempus Regina and thus are difficult to spell out in so many words: as with all these questions, only the novel itself can provide anything like adequate answers.  However, I hope this post will provide a little clarification, especially to Sarah Ellen's question - which is one I'm sure others have been mentally asking as well and which may make some readers uneasy.

I am curious to know if...Christianity is an obvious and uncloaked element in your characters' faith. What is the religious-system of Tempus Regina's world?

This is a huge question to approach, which is part of the reason why I've taken so long about getting to it.  It's dashed difficult!  First off, the phrasing presupposes that Tempus Regina is set in some fantasy world, which was hopefully cleared up in my post As Dreams Are Made On.  As an historical fantasy, it takes place firmly between the bookends of the real world, and that includes the faith of the characters.

Regina's faith is the product of a Victorian upbringing, a little battered and corroded by the constant necessity of fighting to maintain herself: when you are forced to rub shoulders and knock elbows with the world, a good deal of the prettiness gets chipped off.  In the ages to which she travels, however, there is much more of a religious mix.  These are the times of early Christianity, when biblical doctrines were often combined with paganism to create a drink more palatable to the heathens.  Some continued to hold to the array of Norse or Roman or even Persian gods; others accepted a version of Christianity; others, like the Assassin, took a little of everything but were really agnostics at heart.

This variety obviously jars someone like Regina, and since she finds herself thrown into a bargain with the Assassin, her faith - weak as it is - does collide with his worldview.  The antagonism, in fact, does much to reawaken the rudiments of Regina's faith.  It brings her face to face with what I mentioned concerning the story's theme: "the law at work in her members" and the war between Spirit and flesh.  However, this is much, much less central to the plot than it was to The Soldier's Cross.  Or at least, I will say that it is neither so obvious nor resolved so neatly. 

On a scale of clear spiritual overtones, my novels would probably be listed as The Soldier's Cross ("What must I do to be saved?"), then Tempus Regina ("Who will deliver me from this body of death?"), then Wordcrafter ("Greater love hath no man than this..."), and then The White Sail's Shaking & The Running Tide ("Am I my brother's keeper?").  

I've seen pins on your board about elements and wardings and such. Do you include some sort of magic in this book? 
[sarah ellen]

The simple answer is yes, this book does include a much greater magical aspect than any previous work of mine.  Tempus Regina is, again, a somewhat dualistic novel and I am constantly working to balance the elements of history and the elements of fantasy.  It is not historical fantasy in the way a book like Black Horses for the King is historical fantasy, simply by virtue of its placement in a time period about which we know next to nothing: there are definite fantastical components.  This does include some ambiguous sorcery on the part of certain characters. 

Magic as "magic" is not a great part of the story.  On the other hand, alchemy is, and it branches into intuitive alchemy versus the hard-learned, scientific alchemy of the ancient Greek philosophers.  The elemental power that some characters possess, and the burden of mastering something as immense as time itself, introduces a tension that I hope to explore in the future.  Suffice it to say for the moment that for the most part, the pins from the Tempus Regina board fit into the realm of scientific alchemy, which forms most of Regina's experience in this novel.  It's the Assassin's specialty.

August 5, 2013

Things to Do, Places to Go

Blog posts have been very scarce around here, I know: five days into August and this is my first one.  For that I apologize.  The brain has been running full steam on Tempus Regina edits, and the idea of then turning my attention to Blogger merely to write something else about Tempus Regina is uninspiring, to say the least.  Don't worry: everyone's questions are safely stored and ready to be hauled out and answered soon.  You've not been forgotten!

In the interim, I thought I would hop onto Mirriam's coattails and chart out my current plans for August.  It looks as though it intends to be an alarming month and I do think it just a little bit cruel of her to so casually fling out there that it is the last month of summer.  I don't like summer for summer's sake: I'll be glad when it shuffles by and I can haul out my fall clothing again.  (Apparently tromping about in boots in July is frowned upon by fashion experts.)  However, in this case I could stand for it to slow down and give me more breathing room.

The motive behind this post is mostly selfish, I admit.  I am going to set out the goals and requirements of August in the hope that, if blog posts are not forthcoming in the following weeks, you will allow me some grace.  For this month, Lord willing I'll...

find out what my fall courses will be

begin my freshman year at college

finish this round of Tempus Regina edits

continue brainstorming for the next project

get Tempus Regina packaged for my beta readers

soldier on with these "driving" shenanigans

determine how soon I can reasonably start wearing long sleeves

begin the business of query-writing

participate in an interview'n'stuff with the notebook sisters

finish reading Plenilune

buy shoes!
meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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