Under the Magnifying Glass: Is it Getting Hot in Here?

Today I’m giving you a peek at my latest newsletter. These go out every couple of weeks, and in them I share deeper insights into my book world and inspirations. You’ll also get bonus stuff, like links to a wide variety of free books by other authors, Rafflecopter giveaways, and the chance to participate in surveys that shape my series. Additionally, when you subscribe, you’ll get a coupon code for a free copy of Ancient Voices: Into the Depths, the second book in my series.


Under the Magnifying Glass: Is it Getting Hot in Here?

Life really pushes us around sometimes, testing our strength, our patience, and sometimes our faith. Writers test their characters just as hard, sometimes harder. We can put them in situations we hope to never face ourselves, then either shove them over the brink, or pull them back at the last second and pick up all the emotional pieces left in disarray.

Now, you might think writers are really just like a mean kid with a bug and a magnifying glass on a hot summer day. But really, we don’t enjoy tormenting our poor characters. We feel their joy, disappointment, and grief just as strongly as if it is our own. In the process of exploring their circumstances and emotional reactions, we learn something about ourselves, and about people in general. Our writing is often an invitation for our readers to do the same–to put themselves in our characters’ shoes just as we have during the writing process.

Einar is tested to the limits of his sanity in Into the Shadow Wood. Likewise, Elowyn faces the greatest test of her young life in Ancient Voices (I won’t go into detail for the sake of those who haven’t read it yet). I dreaded putting her through it, going through a writer’s version of a stubborn, sulking, toddler-like tantrum where I didn’t write for months. I tried to talk myself out of it a hundred different ways, but as I followed all of those different possibilities to their eventual outcomes, none of them took Elowyn where she needed to go. Without that defining moment her life would have been simpler, happier maybe, but not nearly as rich or significant. She could never be the person she was intended to be.

I eventually came to accept that Elowyn’s test was bringing about a necessary pain. So I gave up my tantrum and got down to writing. I got angry. I shed real tears as I wrote, and if anyone had asked me what I was sobbing uncontrollably about, they probably would have thought I was crazy. Maybe writers have to be…just a little, anyway.

In my final acceptance of Elowyn’s fate was a real life lesson for me as well. Parts of my life have not been easy, and I’ve sometimes thought how much better everything would have turned out without them. If I had power over the master delete key, and could go back and remove all those difficult chapters where I was tested, would I? How would that irrevocably change me, since I am a far more complex being than a fictional character? Would my life have been simpler and happier? Would I be a better person without them? I have no way to know, and I am not done being tested, or growing as a result.

Yet I do have faith that what the Bible says in Romans is true, that God really does work for the good of those who love Him. He can take the horrible things we go through and use them to make us spiritually rich and significant in the lives of others–if we let Him. Elowyn can’t see my plans to turn her pain into a blessing. If she was real, she might very well think of me as a mean kid with a magnifying glass. I am equally blind to God’s plans for me.

In dire times it’s natural to wonder why God doesn’t stop the bad things that cause such pain. But if He has a magnifying glass, its purpose is not for torment, but to give clarity and a tool for self-examination. If I can use Elowyn’s trials to write her into her most beautiful future self, how much more so can the Author of all Life write my story into something more glorious than I could ever imagine?


Click to view the rest of this newsletter. I won’t always post peeks on my blog, so subscribe to make sure you don’t miss an edition. They’ll get sent right to your email twice a month, and if you change your mind, you can unsubscribe at any time.

 

Medieval Monday: Smelting Iron Ore / Bloomeries

I am re-posting this from over a year ago with the intent of making my next post about blacksmiths and their work. It is a subject I haven’t tackled yet even though blacksmiths played an important role in medieval society.


My second book, Ancient Voices, is set in a small mountain village called Minhaven—a place full of miners and blacksmiths.  Naturally I had to do some research, to figure out what mining techniques were used back then, and how iron ore dug from the ground was transformed into something that could be used to make things like tools, knives, and swords.

hotslagOne process I had particular trouble envisioning was the smelting process. The simplest and most common furnaces used in the Middle Ages were called bloomeries, and they were typically built out of stone or clay.  Iron ore was placed in through the top, along with a lot of charcoal for fuel, and kept burning for hours.  Very high temperatures had to be maintained for the process to work.  Air could be fed into the bloomery with a hand bellows.  Sometimes limestone or oyster shells were added into the mix as well, so that they would combine with the impurities in the ore.  The end result would be a brittle slag that could be separated from the iron, which could then be hammered into submission by a blacksmith.

I found a couple of great videos that show how the smelting process works.  The first is replicating Edwardian era techniques, which were relatively unchanged from the Middle Ages.  It gives a great demonstration in only about 5 minutes.

For those of you wanting more, this video is more authentic medieval, and shows the entire process, but is considerably longer (about 22 minutes).  Definitely worth the time if you are interested in the topic.  Both videos are very well done. Enjoy!

Aslan and Why I Love This Lion by Jamie Lapeyrolerie

Well y’all, another year and another Inklings Week comes to a close. I’ve had so much fun and I hope y’all have enjoyed the posts, learned something new and maybe even convinced a person or two to join the Inklings Club. I thought I’d finish out this week talking about one of my favorite characters in all of literature. Outside of the Bible, this character has helped me learn more about God’s character than any other work. Through each of the Narnia stories, Lewis shows the world one of the greatest stories ever told, all through a lion.

I started this week with a love letter of sorts and it’s only right I finish with one. Here are bits I loved from each book about Aslan. My hope is that whether or not you’ve read the books, you’ll be encouraged in these and ultimately the Greater Story…

Read the rest at Books and Beverages: Aslan and Why I Love This Lion | Inklings Week

 

Why Is It So Hard to Write Good Fantasy? by Lee Duigon

I’m always looking for more fantasy fiction to read, to inspire my own work and, hopefully, to teach me how to do it better.

I’ve read hundreds of mystery novels of all kinds, and can count on my fingers the ones that have been truly awful. It’s not hard at all to find a good mystery. But with fantasy it’s the other way around.

Why should that be? There are authors who have made prodigious amounts of money writing fantasy that is at best half-baked. And there are lesser fantasy writers who produce stuff that’s hardly fit for the bottom of a bird cage.

Good fantasy fiction, obviously, will have things in common with quality fiction in any genre: an interesting plot; well-drawn characters who have some depth to them; situations that engage the reader’s emotions; a smooth flow of the language. But in fantasy–and in science fiction, too, by the way–books that lack those features are, well, plentiful…

Continue Reading: Why Is It So Hard to Write Good Fantasy?

 

Fantasy Art Wednesday

I know I haven’t posted one of these in a while. My schedule has been pretty busy, and my blog has been sparse as a result. I promise I’m trying to get back on schedule, though! Here’s this week’s Fantasy Art Wednesday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.

Two ethereal figures emerge from a pool of still water. Slow and solemn, they seem to be more of the spirit world than the one of solid stone they are now traversing. Where have they come from, and where are they going? Is there a secret world hidden beneath the murky water? Or is this pair part of a ghostly legend, their appearance coinciding with a certain date, or time of day? If you blink, will they disappear, leaving no trace that they were ever here?


 

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words…or Maybe 100,000

In my last newsletter, I asked my readers for some advice.

For those of you who don’t get my newsletter (or just haven’t voted yet) my survey is still open. What’s it all about, you ask?

My cover art for Into the Shadow Wood was custom made by a wonderful artist–and it’s gotten a lot of attention. Readers helped me choose from a couple different concept designs for that cover, and they were totally right!

Now I am considering redesigning my Journey to Aviad and Ancient Voices covers too, so that they match in style and quality. I would release them when my next book is finished.

But before I go back to the artist and have him get to work, I’ve got a decision to make. Should I have him take the existing images and recreate them (or something similar) in his style? Or should I go with a completely new design?

I am not a marketing expert, and most of you probably aren’t either. But that doesn’t matter–you are my audience. You know what you like, and what you don’t, right? So I’m open and ready to listen.

I’ve got a survey set up, and I would appreciate any advice you have. Here are the book covers so you can see the old versus the new. (Click to see them enlarged.)

Ready? Take the Survey