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.

 

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

Medieval Monday: Dirty Laundry

Those dirty clothes really pile up, don’t they? Especially when you have kids. As much as I grumble about having to wash and fold, I’m not really doing the work—the washing machine is taking care of the hard part for me. Our medieval counterparts certainly didn’t have that luxury, or many others that we don’t give much thought to. So in honor of my growing laundry pile, I thought today’s post would answer the question of “how would I have done it back then.”

Laundry was unquestionably women’s work. Some cities had communal wash houses, where women could come to share news and gossip while they worked. Soapwort, an herb with cleansing properties, was sometimes used to get fabric clean. It was also beaten with “beetles”, rinsed, and wrung. Marjoram could be used to give washing water a pleasant scent. Clothing could also be washed in natural bodies of water (rivers, streams, ponds), and beaten against rocks.

If one needed to remove stains, this could be done with the use of Fuller’s Earth or ashes soaked in lye. The mixture would be applied to the stain, allowed to try, then rubbed off. For more delicate materials, such as silk, verjuice was another remedy. Removing stains such as oil or grease was a more complex process. One recipe is as follows: “To remove grease or oil stains, take urine and heat until warm. Soak the stain for two days. Without twisting the fabric, squeeze the afflicted area, then rinse. As an alternative for stubborn greasy or oily stains, soak in urine with ox gall beaten into it, for two days and squeeze without twisting before rinsing.” White cloth could be cleaned and brightened by soaking it in lye, which was mixed using ashes and urine.

Undergarments were washed fairly often, even if they were only rinsed out at home in warm water, but woolen outer garments were rarely washed. They would have simply been shaken or beaten with a brush or a bundle of twigs to get rid of dust and dirt. Robes and cloaks might be rubbed with wax to weatherproof them, but this process would have been too expensive for peasants who would have worn felted wool instead.

Washed clothing was dried outdoors; laid across bushes, flat on grass, or draped across wooden frames or ropes. These of these could be moved indoors during poor weather if there was enough space.


Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover more topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.