Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo Year 7 - 2011

Last year was by far my favorite - and most intense - NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) year to date. Because I had completed the six years of NaNo prior, I decided to up the ante and do two complete 50,000 word novel manuscripts, so 100,000 words.

The two novels I did that year were Black Earth: Dark Masquerade, and Black Earth: Bridge to Anaisha - the third and fourth novels in my Black Earth series. Dark Masquerade was published a few months ago, and Bridge to Anaisha will be released (hopefully) next month.

I set Skyrim as my motivation for completing 100,000 words that year. I figured I would either get the game as a Christmas gift or get it via other means, and so I set myself up to be able to play it for a couple days once I did complete NaNo and receive the game, which I did. I actually had this as my desktop wallpaper that year, envisioning my NaNo goal as the slain dragon. What made it even better is the whole Nord getup actually matched the viking theme that NaNo has been encompassing the past few years now.

It was an epic year, and to top it off, I managed to complete the 100,000 (100,084 to be exact) word goal in only 16 days!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo Year 6 - 2010

The sixth year I did NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I attempted to venture away from the characters and storyline of both my Black Earth and Expired Reality series and write a standalone novel that could be included as canon in the Black Earth/Expired Reality universe, but give fans a completely different reading experience.

Eternal Midnight was the name of the project, and it starred a protagonist named Sage who resided in Midnight City - a location in Anaisha wrapped completely in darkness and run by a madman known as Top Hat. Midnight City was flooded with darkness long before the story starts, and now insane, bloodthirsty citizens reside within the city's many otherwise vacant buildings. They are considered something akin to zombies, and Sage's intentions are to find a cure for their disease. Eventually, Sage's adventure has her meeting up with other characters, such as Frost - a young scavenger girl, and Clinker, a young mechanic - and all of them work together to put an end to Midnight City's perpetual darkness.

Eternal Midnight will eventually see the light of day. I really liked the concept of urban survival in a post-apocalyptic city environment, and Top Hat - the crazed king of Midnight City - simply has to be explored more.

That year, I finished NaNo 7 days early with a 50,100 word count.

Monday, October 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo Year 5 - 2009

My fifth year doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) had me penning the drafts of two different novellas, neither of which have seen the light of day. Yet. They will be polished and published once the Expired Reality series gets up and running again after the Black Earth series comes to a close this winter.

Expired Reality: The Dark Past was split into two parts, each of which told a 25,000 word backstory to Veronica Amorou and Turquoise - both protagonists from my young adult series.

Veronica's story went into detail as to how she met Simper Creed and was trained to use her powers to manipulate rhodenine - a gift of hers that is revealed in the first novel in the series, Endangered Memories.

The second half of the manuscript gave background to Turquoise, a Wedge special agent in my series, and detailed how her powers revealed themselves once she hit puberty, how she was welcomed into the Wedge organization, and also gives a bit of story regarding her parents and her past as an adolescent. 

That year I ended up finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge with 50,132 words, and only finished a day ahead of schedule.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

NaNoWriMo Year 4 - 2008

The fourth year I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I crafted the draft to the second novel in my Black Earth series - The Broken Daisy. This was also the year I finished NaNo in only 21 days. Ironically enough, The Broken Daisy has become my longest fiction piece to date - the finished book comes in at over 164,000 words - and is the longest volume in the Black Earth series.

2008 was also one of my favorite years when it came to NaNo's theme. The viking ship was really nice and a step up from previous years' icons, and this was also the same year the viking helmet was incorporated into NaNoWriMo's logo - a great symbol for the challenge that NaNoWriMo offers up each year.

I found out that year too that it's a bit easier accomplishing NaNo when you have source material already written. The Broken Daisy is the second book in my Black Earth series. So in essence, most of the characters were already introduced in End of the Innocence - the first book in the series - as were most of the plot elements. Writing The Broken Daisy was easier because I already sort of knew where the series was going and I knew what all the characters were going to end up doing. For the most part.

My NaNo manuscript at the end of that year's competition came to 50,111 words. That means when I finally (self) published The Broken Daisy, it has more than tripled in size from its NaNo origins.

Friday, October 26, 2012

NaNoWriMo Year 3 - 2007

The third year in a row that I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) brought about The Expired Reality Anthology Volume 1. This was meant to be a collection of short stories that took place in my young adult series, Expired Reality. But The Expired Reality Anthology has proved to be so much more than just a short story anthology.

For starters, one of the stories - Black Earth - sparked off my entire Black Earth novel series. When NaNo was over with that year, I took another look at Black Earth and I realized there was enough material to make an entire series. The final book in this series is due out this Winter.

Another story found in the collection - Eden's Folly - introduced Eden Ambersay, a character who will be appearing in the Expired Reality series in the near future. Eden is a female archaeologist on the hunt for the shards of an ancient sword that can save humanity, and is also in the midst of performing experiments on Legion.

Yet another story in the collection - Parallel Dance - told of the dance that David and Carrie (from the Expired Reality series) attended in David's flashbacks in Endangered Memories, but from the point of view of an entirely new set of characters - one of which actually has connections to Eden Ambersay. Parallel Dance has been renamed Parallel Extreme (for the moment) and is planned to be released as a novella (or possibly a short story series) in the near future.

Another nugget of fictional shenanigan that took place in The Expired Reality Anthology was a scene I ended up writing that details the death of Carrie Green. Now, I'm revealing this not to confirm whether or not Carrie will die in the Expired Reality series, but to point out what I felt compelled to write for NaNo that year. The scene takes place in an abandoned hospital and Carrie's body is wasting away while her soul is kept within a necklace David Corbin wears. Not sure how much of that - if any - will make it into the Expired Reality series as canon. Time will tell, though.

It worth mentioning that this was the year I finished NaNo in 9 days. The Expired Reality Anthology came to 50,108 words, contained some great starting points to other writing projects, and was finished - at least the NaNo version - in only 9 days. I believe that was the year I was working two jobs as well.

Just goes to show that anyone can do NaNo.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NaNoWriMo Year 2 - 2006

The second year of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) found me penning the fourth book in my young adult series, Expired Reality. This manuscript was tentatively titled Hidden Sanctuary, yet almost none of the story has seen the light of day. One reason for this is that the third book in the Expired Reality series (talked about a bit in yesterday's NaNo post) hasn't been finished/published yet. The other reason that Hidden Sanctuary hasn't wound up in book format yet is because of the fact that the story doesn't coincide with where the rewrites of Books 1 and 2 in the series venture.

Most of Hidden Sanctuary takes place within Carrie Green's memories. Carrie is the main protagonist's love interest in my young adult series, and at the time of penning Hidden Sanctuary, Carrie had fallen comatose due to Legion possessing her mind. At least half of the novel is dedicated to Carrie's journey through her own spirit where she battles her inner demons and overcomes many of her darkest memories in order to purge herself of Legion's presence.

The concept was something new I decided to try out, and I may very well use some of the manuscript in upcoming novels in the series, but for the most part, it was a NaNo novel that may never see the light of day. Hidden Sanctuary won me the NaNoWriMo challenge in 2006 with a total word count of 50,135.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NaNoWriMo Year 1 - 2005

Most people don't know what I mean when I say NaNoWriMo. Sounds like I'm greeting people who've watched Mork and Mindy in the past, but what it stands for is National Novel Writing Month. Each November, thousands of people from around the world participate in a challenge to write out 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. I have done this for the past 7 years now (2012 will be my 8th) and have succeeded each year.

I figured I'd do a little countdown to NaNo by giving a little bit of info on each year I participated.

My first year of NaNo was the craziest. My wife and I had just gotten married June 30th of that year, and I was still working in a typical 9-5 job as opposed to writing full time like I do now. I felt insane and a little messed up in the head to attempt to write 50,000 words in a month, but I went for it not really sure what to expect. My project that year was Expired Reality: Betrayal in Crystal City - the third novel in my young adult series. Betrayal in Crystal City has yet to be published (it is the next project on my docket after this year's NaNo novel), and it has gone through many revisions since its initial write-up. In fact, the name has changed now to Crystal City, but I'm almost pretty sure that will change before the book is officially published.

That year, I remember spreading out my NaNo writing according to the traditional formula: 50,000 words / 30 days in November = 1666.666666666667 words per day. If I remember right, I forgot to factor in that I don't write or do any type of work on Sundays, and I forgot to factor in days when we had extra plans in the evenings, like dinner with friends or date nights. It was a challenge that first year, but victory tasted sweet when I was able to print out my winner's certificate at the end of the month. My final word count at the end of that November was 50,094.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October Update

So, for the past couple weeks, I've been working on a number of different projects, all of which have been taking up the majority of my 'work' time so I haven't had too much time to network socially. My plan is to get a lot of these things off my plate in the next week so I can get back into the swing of things and start getting more activity rolling in my social networking and on The Crossover Alliance community.

First, I've been completing edits to and reading through Black Earth: Bridge to Anaisha - the fourth and final full-length novel in my Black Earth series. My hope is to release the book next month. This weekend my wife and I will be working on some of the cover design. And, there's a small chance I may change the name of the novel - not sure about that yet, but I'm definitely giving it some serious thought for reasons I may get into if I do decide to change it.

I've also been tinkering with the design of my website and attempting to clean it up a bit, make the Compendium entries a little easier to read and just make it easier to see a lot of my content at a glance. The new and improved site should be up next week - along with Heather Rhodes' profile, which I wanted to put up this week but couldn't because of the design delay.

In the world of writing, I've been working on the daily NaNo Prep activities over at to get myself prepped for a November full of writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

I also have a new email newsletter to go out, which will match the design of the improved website. The newsletter should be going out toward the end of next week.

Next week I plan to do a small series of posts on the 7 years I've done NaNoWriMo, with a spotlight on each year's novel that I worked on with some details as to the future of those projects - the ones that haven't already become published novels.

All in all, October has been hecka' busy, but productive. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Super Powers and Magic in Christian Fiction

On Tuesday we took a look at Heather Rhodes, a main character from my Black Earth series. Today we'll take a look at one of the themes surrounding Heather - super powers. Or magic. They both kind of go hand in hand, because both seem to have origins in the mysterious or impossible, and both give one the ability to use these powers for good or for evil.

The Bible is very clear about God's stance against divination, witchcraft, or sorcery, but the Bible also promotes the gifts of the Spirit. I'm not promoting divination or sorcery. I'm not promoting witchcraft or other satanic taps into the spiritual realm. But what if instead of just spiritual gifts - such as love, peace, paticence, kindness, etc - God granted humans special powers, almost magical in nature, both to defend from and attack the forces of evil? It's an interesting concept that can easily be explored within the boundaries of fiction.

When I was growing up, magic was heavily frowned upon in all forms of entertainment. Magic was, by default, assumed to originate from Satan himself. Mirrors were evil portals that stole people's souls, magic wands were the devil's utensils, and viewing anything to do with witchcraft had the uncanny ability of turning viewers into witches or warlocks themselves. Now, it's true that much of the magic I experienced through screen or books growing up did have strong elements of witchcraft and the occult, which is clearly in opposition with Christianity.

Our culture has changed somewhat since those days, though. Harry Potter brought the theme of magic into a more innocent  and dazzling realm, showing how magic could be used against the forces of evil as well as originating from them. Although if one stretched it, one could find minor themes of occultism in the Harry Potter films. That's probably one reason why everyone went up in arms over the movies when they first come out, because young folk can't always discern between fantasy and reality. But the themes weren't strong enough to cause kids to go out and begin chanting to the devil to have him grant them special incantations.

In the same token, super powers have grown wildly popular with the slew of super hero movies that have graced the screen and comic book shelves in recent years. Maybe there's just a feeling of heroism going around lately. Strangely enough, super powers were never frowned upon the same way magic was while I was growing up. Maybe there's just something more innocent about a man in a cape flying through the air, shooting lasers out of his eyes than there is with a decrepit old woman sailing around on a broomstick shooting magic beams from her wooden stick. 

In End of the Innocence, the first novel in my Black Earth series, Heather Rhodes realizes she has the ability to create a shield or barrier made of light. She questions this ability at first, wondering if it is something Satan has granted her. Little does she know it is a gift bestowed upon her as a Wedge, triggered when she hit puberty, the time when all Wedge gifts become apparent. Later in the series, it is revealed that Wedges believe their powers are bestowed upon them by the Ravencroune, a sort of deity among Wedges, when in fact it is God who has bestowed the gifts upon them and the Ravencroune is simply a mortal worshiped for her martyr death.

Throughout the series, Heather uses her light shield to protect herself, her friends, and other innocents from Legion's dark attacks. She uses the power for good. But what if she were to use it for evil? What if she were to use the gift for other means - either to protect evil minions, or protect herself after committing heinous crimes? What if she could find a way to use the light shield to harm others?

The parallel here is that God has given everyone specific gifts. Yes, He doles out and cultivates fruits of the Spirit, but He also gives us gifts. The gift of writing, of eloquent speech, of technical prowess. Some of these things come naturally to us, others are traits or skills that we have to work harder to perfect, but benefit us and others in the long run. Translating gifts to fiction and terming them as powers or magic isn't too much of a stretch.

And each character is given the choice to use these powers for good or evil, just as each of us are given gifts to use for the Kingdom, ourselves, or the powers of darkness. It takes discernment to look at something and decide if it has origination in darkness or light. I already discussed something close to this in my post about entertainment and exploring great movies for the themes they present, even if they might have content questionable to Christian prudes.

In fiction though, I think magic and super powers and the like can be conveyed in a meaningful and responsible way that portrays evil for what it is, good for what it is, and fantasy elements for what they are.

I was going to add Heather's profile to the Compendium on Friday, but I'm a little behind on my design goals, and the Compendium's new look won't be ready until next week. So her profile will go up sometime next week. I'm also going to be running a side series next week that explores the last 7 years of my NaNoWriMo adventures. Each of 7 posts will explore the projects I did for NaNo each year and maybe give some hints as to where these projects fit into my writing portfolio in the future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Sparrow - Book Review

This book was recommended to me by Amanda Liston of Appraising Pages, so I went to my local library and picked up a copy. Needless to say, I'm in her debt for convincing me to read The Sparrow. This novel is one of the best pieces of Christian science fiction I have ever read. I will say up front that a good portion of this review has spoilers, so if you haven't read the book yet, wait on reading this post.

The plot of The Sparrow revolves around an intergalactic radio broadcast received by an observatory here on Earth. This broadcast is a stream of beautiful songs being sung from the planet Rakhat. The Jesuit order decides they want to venture into space and find the origin of this music, and so a team is assembled and sent to the alien planet.

In the beginning of the novel, we're introduced to Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit who is the only survivor of the crew sent to Rakhat, currently on trial for supposed crimes he committed while on the alien planet. As the novel unfolds - switching between Emilio's debriefing (and somewhat inquisition) and the actual events that occurred - Emilio's story is unraveled for the reader to find out why Emilio's hands are maimed, why he is a wreck physically, mentally, and spiritually, and what really happened on Rakhat.

The preparations taken for the journey to Rakhat, and the actual travel there via a mining asteroid, aren't the main focus of the story, although these pieces of The Sparrow help to introduce readers to the wonderful array of unique characters. The book centers most of its plot around Emilio Sandoz, a priest who has sworn celibacy and is looked on by the Jesuit order as somewhat of a saint in regards to his relationship and closeness to God. What is fascinating though is that by the end of the book, Emilio is questioning if God even exists, and if He does, Emilio concludes that God is a merciless monster.

Emilio's struggle with priesthood, celibacy, and God's existence are scattered throughout the story, but in such a real way that I actually became teary-eyed as, toward the end of the book, Emilio confesses to what actually happened to him on Rakhat - his horrific discovery that such a mundane act as planting a garden could bring two alien species into violence against each other, destroy most of his friends, and catapult Emilio into a sexually submissive nightmare he had no hope of waking up from.

The author's voice does a great job of foreshadowing terrifying events throughout the novel which the reader can only speculate about until they actually occur. For example, when the author mentions that had Alan not died, he might have been able to warn everyone to be careful around Supaari, one of the alien characters. This foreshadowing is put in perfect spots throughout the book and sets up great intensity as you read and wonder what's going to happen between all of the characters. In the beginning of the book, you are made aware that Emilio's entire team perished and he is now the only survivor, but learning how each member dies - in nearly all unexpected ways - kept my interest throughout the whole novel.

I think the lynchpin that made the whole book interesting and terrifying and beautiful at the end was the fact that it was a simple garden that turned everyone's 'world' upside down. I love the theory that if you were to travel back in time, the simple flap of a butterfly's wings can alter the course of entire histories. In that respect, The Sparrow brings across, quite successfully, the fact that if one simple thing is altered or disturbed on an alien planet - a planet we humans know almost nothing about - it can cause a chain reaction leading to the very destruction of civilizations.

When first arriving on Rakhat, Emilio and his crew were incredibly careful about disturbing the ecosystem. But once they settled and realized much of the vegetation and atmosphere is akin to Earth's, they think nothing of starting a small garden to produce food for them to live off. Little did they know it would forever alter the destiny of the small Runa village they took residence in. I absolutely loved this inclusion in the book. It really tied everything together. As did the fact of how horrific the themes behind the music Earth's observatories picked up really were.

All in all, The Sparrow constantly surprised and delighted me. The story pulled at me, tugging me along to areas I wasn't sure I wanted to go, but once I was there, I was comforted by the fact that the characters questioned the same things I questioned, such as why God would bring so many people so far down a particular - very particular - path, only to allow them to be destroyed in the end.

I'll end this review with a great quote from the novel, spoken by Emilio during his inquiry by the Jesuit order - “Do you think so, John?  Was it your God?” he asked with terrifying gentleness.  “You see, that is my dilemma.  Because if I was led by God to love God, step by step, as it seemed, if I accept the beauty and the rapture were real and true, then the rest of it was God’s will too, and that, gentlemen, is cause for bitterness.  But if I am simply a deluded ape who took a lot of old folktales far too seriously, then I brought all of this on myself and my companions and the whole business becomes farcical, doesn’t it.  The problem with atheism, I find, under these circumstances,” he continued with academic exactitude, each word etched on the air with acid, “is that I have no one to despise but myself.  If, however, I choose to believe God is vicious, then at least I have the solace of hating God.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When He Calls, He Equips...But What Does That Mean?

It's been an interesting walk of faith since I announced that my wife and I intend to move to San Francisco this January to take part in a church plant called Canvas. It's no small task to move from one state to another. It's not a small feat to move to the Bay Area - one of California's most expensive zones. Nor is it anything short of a miracle to move to the Bay Area when you have close to no money.

That's right. No money. We don't even have a savings account because we don't have any money to put in it. I say that jokingly because I'm not too bothered by it, but it is true that we don't have a savings account because of lack of funds. It's nearly humorous to watch our friends and family scratch their heads when they find out we're moving to San Francisco. We get comments about the high cost of living, the questionable downtown area, or better yet, we just get people telling us it's just not going to happen.

I look at the bright side - at least they have the courtesy to say it to our face.

Regardless of the minor opposition - trust me, I rarely make decisions that go with popular opinion, so I'm used to being criticized in this manner - my wife and I are still moving forward in our plans to move this January. Because see, it isn't necessarily because we desire to move. It's because we're being called to move. Personally, and I think this is true of many people, the last thing I want to do is relocate. I've grown quite comfortable here in Arizona, even if I have wanted to move for some time because of the unbearable heat. No, we're moving because we're being called to move. God has spoken to us, told us to move, and so we're moving.

Simple really.

But people - even me sometimes - tend to make things complicated and require God to supply all  resources and miracles up front, before we'll take even a step of faith in the direction we're being called to. We make things even harder on ourselves when we automatically - by human nature, I figure - assume that God's provision is always money, and when we don't see that money, we assume God is not working or that He is not going to come through on his end. Money, money, money. Our entire culture centers around money. So when we say we're being led somewhere by God, the first question is always: Can we afford that?

Where in the world did we ever get the idea that God can only fulfill His plans with our money? I learned long ago that God does use money to teach us valuable lessons. It is a tool, a resource, but if we rely on it too much, we'll be stripped of it until all that's left in our life is God. He is a jealous God, and He wants nothing to stand in the way of our obedience and devotion to Him.

In Philippians 4 verses 11 and 12, Paul makes a statement that he has learned how to be content in all situations, whether he has plenty or is in want.

For years now, my wife and I have been walking a treacherous, faith-filled, sometimes confusing journey - but the walk has been forcing us to grow closer to God, to each other, and to be refined of the characteristics and habits that have no place where we're going. God has been preparing us for this move this whole time. We have truly learned to be content with plenty and while in want. We've had an $800 deficit in bills before and we've had $800 excess in funds. We've been at both sides of the scale, and we've seen God move in both and have learned to be thankful to God in both.

So when God calls us somewhere, my first anxiety shouldn't be about how we're going to afford it. God knows what the journey is going to cost before He even calls us to step foot on the path. Now God is calling us to move. And when God calls us to do something, He simply requires us to walk out a string of faith-induced steps to get to the destination/result.

Steps. Not miles. We're not talking about instant potatoes. We're talking about faith and life.

Our first step of faith was to sign a 6-month lease with this apartment complex. That puts us moving out in January. Signing a 6-month lease as opposed to a 12-month lease is costing us an extra $50/month each month of the lease. So if this wasn't something that God called us to do, we'll be out $300 by the end of the year for no reason at all. For us, that's a lot of money.

Our second step of faith was to sell our second vehicle. Having a child, a wife that works on the other side of town, and only one vehicle has potential to be an inconvenience. Good thing inconvenience doesn't determine the direction we're going to head in.

Our third step of faith requires us to start getting rid of at least 1/2 of the stuff in this apartment. Bookshelves, desks, trinkets, knick-knacks. Anything that isn't necessary for us to keep is leaving our sight in the next few months. And most of it isn't going to be sold, it's going to be given to those who have need of it.

Is this slightly scary? Yes. Have we seen God's provision for our move yet? No. We've seen close to no movement on God's part in the area of finances. And that's okay, because God has called us, and we know that when He calls, He equips. He isn't going to leave us in the dark, He isn't going to wait until January 1st to tell us that we made a mistake stepping foot on this path months ago.

Instead of focusing on what hasn't been provided to us yet, we'll focus on taking these steps of faith toward the destination we've been called to.

San Francisco, here we come!

Black Earth Character Spotlight - Heather Rhodes

This has been a pretty long blog series, but I'm enjoying giving you all a deeper glimpse into some of the characters from my Black Earth series. Today we're going to take a look at Heather Rhodes, one of the main characters from the novels.

Heather was conceived on Rhodenine - the Wedge home world that was destroyed in a massive attack by Legion and the Dark Army. Before Rhodenine was destroyed, Heather was sent to Earth where she was taken in by an orphanage through which she was adopted by a loving couple who raised Heather through adolescence.

Heather's childhood on Earth was as normal as any other - until she reached puberty. At a routine checkup, an anomaly was discovered in one of her blood samples. She was placed in extensive testing, but doctors were unable to identify the strange substance in her blood stream and what its purpose was. Little did they know the substance was rhodenine, or that later in Heather's life, the rhodenine in her bloodstream would grant her abilities beyond her imagination.

While Heather's gifts lay dormant, she attended high school and eventually met Nathan Pierce, with whom Heather fell in love. For reasons unknown to her, he wouldn’t return her romantic advances, and instead he insisted they be friends. She agreed, knowing she cared about him on a level deeper than just physical intimacy. And as Heather went through her high school life, she fell more and more in love with Nathan even though her love went unrequited.

Despite the lack of returned feelings, Heather continues to be Nathan's supporting character - always there for Nathan, with an ear to listen and a hand to help. She would clearly die for Nathan, if only to prove her love and unwavering devotion to him.

Shortly before Black Earth: End of the Innocence begins, Heather and Nathan are involved in a horrific car accident that takes the life of a newborn child, and leaves Heather's face horribly scarred from airbag burns. Since she was the one driving at the time, Heather blames herself for the infant's death.

When the Black Earth series starts out, Heather is attending a church camp in California. Her first scene has her rushing out of a church worship session to be alone in the woods, haunted by reoccurring flashes of memory from the car accident. Tripping, she catches herself with a light shield conjured from her hands, wondering where the mysterious power originated from. Little does Heather know that she is a Wedge, an alien race imbued with special 'gifts' - or superpowers. Once Heather realizes her light shield isn't a hallucination, she begins to question where her newfound powers came from, and if they are considered magic or a sinister trick by Satan.

And this is where the argument begins of whether or not magic or super powers can have a place in Christian fiction. We'll dive into that on Thursday. And on Friday, Heather's character profile will be added to the soon to be new and improved Compendium.

Monday, October 15, 2012

NaNo Prep Challenge - Antagonist Story

Saturday's NaNo Prep Challenge was to write out a brief story involving one of the antagonists of our upcoming NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel. I decided to sketch out a short scene involving one of the council members, particularly one of the two judges, of Spectrum, Arnon Raskarat.

Arnon Raskarat sat in the judge's booth beside Reisha, the other council judge. The case was one Arnon had seen before - a child left abandoned in the Raskarat wilderness by parents who decided, quite harshly, that it was an inconvenience to deal with the consequences of unbridled romantic encounters.

"Go easy on him," Reisha whispered in Arnon's ear.

Arnon said nothing, just stared at the unshaven man standing before them. The Fountain of Judgment rose behind the convicted man, crystal clear water bubbling from the top of the stone and glass structure that stood in the shape of a capitalized 'A'. Arnon wanted nothing more than to watch this man, this delinquent of society, drown helplessly under the fountain's cleansing waters. He knew Reisha would have nothing of it, though.

"Your child was found dead," Arnon said in a trembling voice. His anger was almost uncontrollable. "Wasteland cannibals killed her and -" He put his fist in his mouth and bit down on his knuckles.

Reisha picked up for him, as she usually did in cases involving abandoned children. "Peera, you abandoned your child to the wilderness. Now that child is dead."

The man said nothing. Did nothing. He just stood, hands crossed in front of him, head tilted toward the floor.

"You have nothing to say for yourself?" Reisha pleaded. "This is your one chance to offer a defense, possibly help us understand why you did what you did."

"Understand?" Arnon grumbled. "You want him to make us understand why he killed a child? A newborn? Defenseless -"

Reisha put a hand up to stop Arnon. It was her way of saying she understood his feelings attached to this case, but that she would be the one to offer the final word. He would object had he thought it would do any amount of good. Reisha could argue that Arnon couldn't be objective because of his own past as a baby abandoned in the Raskarat wilderness. She would be right. She never did complain about Arnon to the other council members though. He was grateful for this.

Arnon shut his mouth and let her speak the final judgment.

"Peera, you've offered no defense to your abhorrent actions. We have no choice but to offer swift justice in this matter. You will, as of midnight this evening, be cast out of the city, into the very wilderness your newborn was left to die in. You will be given until midnight to gather supplies and say goodbye to loved ones. You will not take anyone with you into the wilderness. Those who follow you outside of the city will be killed on the spot. Is this understood?"

Peera nodded.

Arnon sighed, somewhat satisfied with the fact that Peera wouldn't be able to bring his wife into the wilderness with him. Justice, he thought, will be served.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

NaNo Prep Challenge - Setting #1 Description

Today's NaNo Prep Challenge is to write out a description of a setting that will appear in my NaNoWriMo novel. Yesterday, the task was to draw the setting - which I did - but since I am a horrible artist, I think I'll keep that 'illustration' off this blog. For now, I'll give a few details to the Fountain of Judgement, a landmark which sits in the center of the council chambers of Spectrum.

Positioned directly in the center of the council concourse, the Fountain of Judgment is a stone and glass structure reaching twelve feet high in the shape of a capital A. The fountain cycles through fresh, filtered water that is scented with lavender and jasmine. Aside from acting as a decorative piece to the chambers of the five council members of Spectrum, the fountain is also the place where those who are sentenced to death by the two judges on the council are drowned. The sentenced individual is restrained to the center statue of the fountain as gallons of water pour down over them, eventually drowning them. After their death, their bodies are left in the fountain for two weeks, while the council chambers are opened to the public to showcase to the other citizens of Spectrum what happens when the law of Spectrum is not obeyed in full.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Author Logo

If you meander through the dozens of articles on the internet regarding authors, author platforms, and writing in general, you'll probably come across a few posts advising against the idea of an author branding themselves with a logo. Authors should be their own brand and not have to craft an image - other than their author pic - to associate them with their writing platform.

Regardless of this advice, I took some time out last week to craft an author logo for myself. It's no different, really, from a coat of arms in that it symbolizes what I am all about as a writer, much like the coat of arms represents family heritage. And it helps, since I write in different series, to establish myself as an eye-catching symbol that can show attribution to my many different works.

The main thing this logo has in it is my oak tree - originally a photograph that my wife took while we were in California one year. It is also the same tree found on the cover of the first book in my Black Earth series, End of the Innocence. If you've read through the first two novels in my young adult series, Expired Reality, you also might draw a connection to the oak tree mentioned in those books, the one that Carrie goes to to escape her reality. The oak tree is found in both of my series, and an oak tree represents stability, strength, and firm rooting. Seeing how my firm rooting is found in God, I thought the oak tree symbolized my relationship to my faith quite well, and so that's why the oak tree is found in my logo. Oak trees also drop acorns (seeds), which can then spread to create other oak trees. In this way, the oak tree represents my ability to sow creativity and influence, both through my faith and in my writing.

The second thing you'll notice are the multitude of stars hanging above the oak tree. The stars really represent a multitude of different things, such as creativity, science fiction/fantasy (the genre I specialize in), and the limitlessness of our universe. There is no meaning behind the number of stars in the logo, just in case you were wondering. I simply put in as many as looked good.

In the end, I have a great representation of who I am as a writer. Grounded in faith, in the strength equivalent to an oak tree, crafting creative works of science fiction/fantasy and other relevant genres, I am a writer who seeks to bring imagination to the pages of each of my literary works. I'll be incorporating this logo and a few new design elements to my main website later this week, so stay tuned.

Monday, October 8, 2012

NaNo Prep Challenge - Protagonist Story

Saturday's NaNo Prep Challenge was to write out a brief story involving one of the protagonists of our upcoming NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel. Since the only solid protagonist I know of so far is Stephanie Bascomb, I decided to do the story on her. (For a brief background sketch on Stephanie, check out my last blog post.)

Hot coffee, pumpkin flavored. The dirty street scent of trash and exhaust blowing by on a bitter breeze. The changing leaves - oranges and red, in shades that rival blood and orchards. Fall. A terrible season, fraught with horror and themes of death and tricks.

Has it really been a year, brother? I sit here and stare at the bus stop sign - repaired now since the accident - and I have to wonder if there was something I could have done to prevent your death. I should have been with you that day. I should have been the one the bus hit. Not you. You shouldn't have had to go out like that.

A year is too long to dwell on these things, and yet not long enough.

"M'am, can I take your plate?" the barista asks.

"Yes. And please don't call me M'am." Twenty-four is hardly an age to be given such distinguished titles.

The barista nods, blushes a bit, and takes the dish away.

I wonder if you can take this ache in my chest while you're at it? Probably not.

Friday, October 5, 2012

NaNo Prep Challenge - Protagonist Profile

For the past week now I've been participating in's NaNo Prep Challenge, which provides a writing exercise each day in the month of October to prepare me for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) next month. The point of the exercises is to build the background for my story, characters, and environments so when November 1st hits, I'm ready to write like the wind.

Today's exercise is to sketch out some of the profile to my main protagonist. Even though I'll be writing a novella that takes place in the Black Earth universe, the characters are all brand new, making this a healthy challenge, and somewhat freeing to be able to do a story somewhat disconnected from the main Black Earth storyline.

Here's what I've sketched out for (one of) the main characters of the novella -

Stephanie Bascomb - Female - Age 34 - Doctorate Degree in Business
Stephanie's parents died years before Earth's last days. She had a brother, Victor, who was killed in a freak accident involving a city bus years prior to the beginning of this novella. A lawsuit against the city was filed and the money awarded was used to send Stephanie through college. She pursued criminal justice in memory of her brother, but then changed her major to business halfway through after finding out that her brother was actually murdered by a powerful businessman involved in the mob. Knowing she wouldn't be able to get to the man via the criminal justice system, she decided to gain a doctorate in business, changed her identity to Bethany Sanders, and infiltrated the man's corporate structure, eventually moving up to the head of his main headquarters. After gaining the man's trust through a deceitful love affair, she was eventually appointed a position high enough in the corporate structure to allow her to force the company into liquidation. Shortly after going into hiding, Stephanie secured her seat on a SilverTech shuttle bound for Anaisha.

In the beginning of Black Earth: Spectrum, Stephanie is aboard the Adengors, relieved to have finally left Earth - and her past - behind, able to start afresh on Anaisha. Or so she thinks...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New Blog Design

This week I've been working diligently on some new design aspects to almost all of my social networking hubs. This blog was the first to get a makeover. For a while now I've had my sights set on Blogger's new dynamic templates, and so I decided to give it a shot.

So far, I like how the daily posts are set up so you can see the last week at a glance, and then scroll down to see older posts. That's in the Magazine view, and if you want to change how you view the blog, you can click on the drop down menu near the top left of the blog and change it to something else. I have it set at Magazine by default though. You can hover over the right side of the blog to bring out tabs that show info about me, my blog followers, the post archive, and other things. The only drawback to using the dynamic template is that I'm limited in the number of Blogger gadgets I can use, but I like this new design enough to put up with it for now. And you can still access my pages at the top of the blog to find out more about me, my books, and the genre I write in.

The next design element I'll be rolling out is a new logo - for my writing empire as a whole, and for me as an author. I know it's usually frowned upon for authors to brand themselves with a logo, but I've never been good at following the status quot. Besides, I sort of already have a logo - the white oak tree - at my main website, I'm just sprucing it up a bit and putting some more meaning behind it.

After the logo, I'll be cleaning up my main website a bit - making things easier to read, polishing up the format of the Compendium entries, and cleaning up the book pages to be more informative. That will probably take me a few days to a week. In the midst of doing that, I'll also be creating some nifty cover images for my FB pages, and finishing up October's email newsletter to go out in the next week.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Week of Writing and Design

This week I'm taking a little hiatus from my blog post series regarding my Black Earth characters and the themes found in my Black Earth novels so I can focus on some writing and design.

First off, starting today, I'm participating in the PreNaNo Challenge. This challenge requires me to participate in a writing activity each day of the month to get me ready for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. I'll be writing up protagonist/antagonist profiles, environment descriptions, backstories, and outlines, all to get me ready for November.

Second, I'm going to be doing some design work this week on my main website -, this blog, and my FB pages and Twitter profile. My main website has had some design issues I've been wanting to resolve for some time now. This blog needs to be cleaned up a bit and possibly changed to a new style. And my FB pages need new background images, and now that Twitter has added deeper customization to profiles, I figured I'd tackle that while I'm at it.

Throughout the week, I'll be posting some of the challenges I'm doing for the PreNaNo, starting with today's which calls for me to write out my NaNo novel's premise.

First off, the tentative title of my NaNo novel is Black Earth: Spectrum. My plan is for this to be a novella set in the Black Earth timeline, but with new characters and storyline. None of the plot will take place on Earth, but in some will take place in space after SilverTech's shuttles have left Earth to head to Anaisha.

One particular shuttle - the Adengors - comes into contact with heavy space debris and is forced to crash land on a nearby planet: Spectrum. Spectrum was originally mentioned in the third novel of my Black Earth series, Dark Masquerade. The planet is the most technically advanced in the universe because twelve spies were sent out to reach twelve different areas of space to obtain knowledge and technology which was then brought back to Spectrum, and now the planet is an all-powerful utopia of knowledge, technology, weaponry, and defense systems.

I haven't sketched out any of the new characters yet, but I know that some of them will be the flight crew of the ship, and others will be wealthy inhabitants of Earth who were able to pay SilverTech's exuberant fee for shuttle transport to Anaisha. Since a good portion of the story will take place on Spectrum, many of Spectrum's inhabitants will come into play, including the Spectrum council and the Ryloc's, which were mentioned very briefly in Dark Masquerade. I will also reveal a bit of what happened to Evanescence's magical staff, which was taken to Spectrum during the novel series.