Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rising to the Challenge - It's HERE!

Rising to the Challenge is HERE!

A decade of work. Three books. A lifetime of memories.

I hope you enjoy this final installment in The Comrades of Honor Series as much as I did. And, when you've read it, would you mind leaving me an Amazon review? Thanks so much!



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Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!


Monday, January 26, 2015

Waltz into the Waves



Here is an excerpt from my new short story, Waltz into the Waves. You can order your copy here.

“Amelia!”
I swung around at my father’s voice. He stood atop the sand dunes, waving to me. I hoped he was not coming to take me home.
“Father! Come and join me. This water is lovely!” The seawater swirled about my ankles, and the sand squished between my toes. I didn’t want to leave.
My father threw back his head. I could hear his laugh even though he was far away.
“I thought you might rather persuade another to join you!” He yelled.
“Who? Cynthia perhaps?” Even the name of my dear friend, who was a servant on the neighboring estate, brought a smile to my face. Being a rather odd girl, I didn’t have many friends. Cynthia was my senior by a full ten years. She had taken me under her wing when my mother had died shortly after my birth. Cynthia was a good friend and understood the deep attachment I had to my father. She, however, did not understand my love for the ocean. She feared the waves almost as much as I loved them.
“I was thinking you might prefer Alex’s company this day.” I could almost see my father’s eyes dancing.
“He is here?” I lifted my skirts and ran as fast as I could in the sand.
My father was still laughing when I reached him.
“Is he truly here?” I threw my arms around my father’s neck. His eyes were indeed dancing. The same way they danced in the winter when he and I would work on gifts for each other, making a game out of who could keep the gift a secret the longest. They also danced that way on long summer days, when we worked together to build castles in the sand or hunted for crabs.
He wrapped his arms around me and gave me a squeeze before nodding. “He arrived minutes ago and came right over to see you.”
I shrieked with joy and pulled away from my father. Taking fists full of my skirt, I started racing back toward the house. Soon my bare feet were slapping against grass instead of sand. As I approached our neighbor’s manor, I slowed my steps. Shielding my eyes from the sun, I gazed toward the house, where Cynthia worked. I saw him! Alex stood with his broad back turned to me. His hands rested on his hips as he watched servants carry in his trunks.

“Alex!”

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of five published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Rose by Any Other Name

Hi, it’s Kelsey again! I hope you’re keeping warm and well! Perry Elisabeth Kirkpatrick wrote a delightfully thorough article on character names, What’s in a Name?, some time ago that I really encourage you to read, as it gives great advice. I would like to add a sprinkling of thoughts to it, as well as a few recommended resources!

For many of us, naming our characters is a lot of fun. It’s one of my favorite aspects of creating stories and before I start a project I like to at least have named all the characters I’m planning for. (It’s the ones that rise up organically out of the plot that give me pause, because I have to get to know them a bit before I can name them.)

File:Rainbow Rose (3366550029).jpg

 Depending on a lot of things—the type of story, the era and setting, the characters themselves—naming can be easy or difficult. I have a working knowledge of what names are appropriate for what time period and what country, but I always like checking the popularity lists on my favorite name website, www.behindthename.com, to make sure. There are dozens of lists, for many different countries and many different recent years! The American ones give the 1,000 most-used names for males and females each year beginning in 1880. If I want a dated name for a character, I browse the lists around their estimated birth year and always come up successful. (I should warn you: it’s addicting.) If you check on popularity lists or something similar, you’ll find out, for example, that surprisingly the classic name “Abigail” was not all that common in the early 1900s. Of course, that’s not to say unusual names are taboo! They can really contribute to characterization if you choose them right. Also on Behind the Name are name lists from a large number of countries and cultures, even historical ones like ancient Anglo-Saxon and Egypt. You’ll get great background on the meanings and usage of every name you look up.

I don’t know about you, but I used to have a hard time finding good surnames. The well-known ones are too common! Behind the Name helps there as well, as it has a sister website on surnames. If your story is set in the real world, you’ll often want to consider the heritage of your characters, so knowing the origin of a surname is important for accuracy. My favorite website for surname research is www.houseofnames.com. It contains more than Behind the Name and gives a lot more historical information that I’ve found extremely helpful for authenticity. One other strategy I have in my bag is to go through magazines or other things that have long lists of real people’s names and keep alphabetical pages of the last names in a notebook.

And lastly, I found this website through a friend … Medieval Names Archives. I haven’t used it too much, but just look at its resources! Historical records from way back, even from obscure places! This is a mine of information.

So … do you like coming up with character names? What is one of your favorite names that you ever created? (I think mine is Winifred Braithwaite, an English woman in my soon-to-be-published novel England Adventure.) I love character names, so please share! 

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog.     

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why the Movie Shouldn't Always Be Like the Book

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Have you ever seen a movie rendition of a book and been outraged?

"They got it all wrong!"

"They didn't use my favorite character!"

"Did the director even read the book?"

Hollywood has murdered its fair share of books.

I hate to see a good book ruined as much as the next person, but I also think that movie-makers should have significant flexibility when adapting books.

I think most novelists dream of seeing their stories on the big screen, even if they don't really think it will happen. Sure, I've dreamed that dream myself.

Agatha Christie didn't need to dream, because it happened often during her lifetime. She and Shakespeare are purportedly the best-selling authors of all time. Many movies and plays were made from Christie's books during her lifetime, and she had input into some of them, particularly the plays.

Christie believed that the unique medium of films/plays allowed and required different things than the written word, so she was one of her own most liberal adapters. She even changed the ending to her book Witness when she adapted the stage play.

I agree with Agatha Christie that acted media (movies) should often be somewhat different than the books they were based upon. Theme is most important. There is an essence to every story that can be captured by both books and films, and that essence is what readers/viewers connect with. There's no reason to change details in a movie for the sake of doing so, but directors should have the flexibility to do so if their unique medium justifies it.

All that being said, books usually are more long-lastingly powerful than movies. That's why I prefer to watch a movie first, then read the book. I'll enjoy the movie (assuming it's good) and then enjoy the book that much more.

What do you think?

John J. Horn is a Christian author from San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about John and his Men of Grit series and sign up for his newsletter at johnjhornbooks.com.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dear Family, Love from Writers

Those who’ve tried it will know from experience that the creative process of writing is not a walk in the park. It can be tough to invent serious dilemmas and then save characters from them, and that’s especially true when you don’t tell everyone what’s going on in your head. Being a fiction writer means the whole world could be on the brink of disaster, and you’re the only one who knows about it!

Okay, not usually.

That’s the way it feels sometimes.

While we have moments of disappearing in search of pen and paper, forgetting about the soup we’re busy stirring, and losing track of conversation in the desire to insert a comma onto a billboard (and these moments make perfect sense to us), this can’t always be easy to live with.

So, if you have family members that don’t write books regularly, this little list may help them understand you better.

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Dear Family,
  1. We love you. When our eyes glaze over, it might be because what you just said was so eloquent that we want to remember it forever. Or use it in the next chapter.

  2. Sometimes, food will get burned in the cause of a paragraph. We are very, very sorry, and hope it will be an amazing set of sentences—that is—er, we hope it will taste okay.
  1. *Please do not burst into the writing space unless there’s an emergency. It can take a few seconds to come back to reality, and if in the middle of a sequence that is flowing along, we really really want to be able to finish the paragraph before forgetting it.

  2. *Please do not sneak into the writing space and yell “Boo!” That kind of thing can induce fright, spilled coffee, and most definitely the interruption of a thought. Depending on the genre of the work-in-progress, it could also induce an operatic shriek, a self-defense move, or a faint.

  3. Knocking before entering is nice. Yes, please; knocking is awesome!

  4. Please do not disturb when the headphones are on.

  5. If we emerge from the creative realm with sadness, the reason might be that a character has died. It’s not that you smell of garlic, or anything personal.

  6. If we are sad and the weather is sunny, send us outside on a long walk.
*Generally addressed to younger siblings. Image credit: Vintage Telephones of the World

Love,
Your Writer

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Now, I’m not a non-writer, but those that are would probably have a list for us too. I imagine it would go something like this:

Our Dear Writer,
  1. We love you. Please stay here ... with us ... why are you staring at the wall?

  2. Calling food “carbonized,” “well-coloured,” or “torrefied” instead of “burned” doesn’t change the taste.

  3. What exactly constitutes an emergency? ;) 

  4. Please don’t wear headphones. You can’t hear when the laundry needs to come out the machine, or when we call for supper, or anything else.

  5. Please don’t make your characters die! Learn to play nicely.

  6. A walk sounds good. Can we talk about an upcoming deadline?
Love, 
Your Family


Here’s your chance! Whether you’re a writer or not, what points would you add to either list?

  Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her blog or Facebook page to find out more.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why Do You Write?

So...

Why do you write what you write?

Some of you may be staring blankly at the screen. Well, duh! I write because I am a writer. It's like breathing. Or eating chocolate. Life doesn't exist without writing.

Okay, that's good. It really is. But what is your drive? Why are your books so important? Why are you as a writer so vital to your audience? On those tough days, it is good to know why you do what you do.

So I made my own list. 

Why I Write Historical-Fiction
  • I love history. I love writing. Put the two together = awesomeness.
  • Historical-fiction is educational. People learn about eras-gone-past while they connect with the story. And learning about the events that shaped our world as it is today is key to understanding who we are.
  • Historical-fiction is a descriptive, colorful genre to write. You are expected to fit in geographical detail, ancient cliches, fun accents, and super amazing elements of days-gone-past such as swords, slave ships, chariots, and kirtles.
  • There is room for a strong Christian message. Some genres are less tolerant of faith-filled tales. If only for the historical sake (although I certainly do it for additional reasons), the way God and Christianity has influenced culture is vitally important and expected.
  • I can grind any ax I want.... Heehee, and I do it too! Whether it's good character, salvation, or Biblical principles, I can include it as long as it's historical. And, when it is, you can "get away" with a lot of underlying themes that will have a strong influence on readers.

So...

Why do you write what you write? Leave your list in the comments!
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Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!



Friday, January 9, 2015

Your Story: A Mini World

Hello! It’s Kelsey again. I hope you’re experiencing a great year so far. I’m currently coming up with a cast of characters for a new novel (what a fun way to launch a new year!)—so you can trace the origin of this post. 

(Image courtesy of jannoon028 at freedigitalphotos.net)

How do we know how many characters our stories need? Planning characters doesn’t usually involve an exact formula; some rise organically out of the plot, others are the story so their appearance is never a surprise. And numbers aren’t important; whatever best serves our project is the best. The important thing is that each character is fully a person (even if they’re animals or flowers or what-have-you), someone whom readers can see and hear. Right, there may be exceptions to this, such as if we’d like to make the point that a group of people are nothing but names or bodies, but those aren’t the kind we’re discussing.

So, if we give our characters a presence, we want to make sure they feel real to the reader. I’m going through a DVD course from the Great Courses called “Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques,” so what follows is based off a cool idea from the professor. (Consider this a teaser and endorsement, because, so far, I would really recommend this course!) We want readers to feel that if they decided to shift their focus from the main character (MC) to any side character, they could follow that person’s life just as easily as the MC’s. One way to do that is to give the minor characters a definite personality and motivation, too, even if it’s something as simple as a store clerk wanting to do their job (though that can lead to interesting questions … why are they so determined to do their job? So they don’t get fired? What would happen if they got fired? Do they have a family? Could it open up a new career? And on the questions roll …). Every character in a story should want something, because that’s like real life.

What helps with creating realistic people is to think of all characters as potential lead roles. That makes their personality suddenly more important, doesn’t it? Our stories are mini worlds, after all, and every person on Earth has their own story. But with all this, we have to try not to get sidetracked—though a minor character can make a story take a wonderful twist, so we shouldn’t rule it out completely—because, as with all things, balance is key. A bite-sized description for a minor character doesn’t have to lead anywhere, but merely suggest that it could lead somewhere, to give readers the feel of a full fictional world. While evaluating the inhabitants, you may even be prompted to leave out a number of them because you find they don’t have any motivation or purpose and simply clutter the story—too many characters can be a problem. Like all things in fiction, characters must be chosen wisely. Perhaps a list or a chart of characters, their roles and motivations, will help you accomplish your goal of creating a deeper, more satisfying world for your readers.

Do you have an interesting method of coming up with characters? An anecdote of how someone important arose in your story? Do you ever find yourself getting sidetracked by an intriguing minor character?

For some inspiration on developing characters, see these excellent posts by Caitlin Hedgcock and by Perry Elisabeth!

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog.   

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

When You Hate Your Own Book...

Don't even dare call me dramatic.

Yes, I'm at that stage. I HATE my own book at this point. Editing, proofing, more editing, formatting, marketing...I'm just ready for the book to be done.

Ever been there? 

It wasn't this way with CrossBooks - I had all the joys of a Design Team and PSA who did everything for me. Man, I was spoiled. Now that I am delving deeper into the world of self-pubbing, however, I have to continue experiencing the *joys* of formatting and marketing.

But even though self-publishing is very different, it doesn't mean that I have not been at this stage before. I hated all of my other titles before they hit the shelves too.

Technically, I think that is maybe the way it should be. It shows all the hard work, toil, and tears that have been poured into the book. You did your best. You worked hard - even to the point of hating your project.

And the feeling of abhorrence very quickly slips away.

So, if you are near the end of a project and simply can't stand it anymore, don't worry. The feeling will pass. And it will all be worth it when you see your book on retailer websites and on bookshelves. 

Speaking of which, Rising to the Challenge releases (Lord willing) on the 26th of January. Get read for an all-new adventure, folks! :)
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Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!