A Glimpse of the Strages
As Newton taught us, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." That brings up the age old question, can good exist without the presence of evil? How would we be able to measure what "good" is without identifying its opposite?
In the Circeae system, the opposite of the Logia is the Strages. Translated from Latin, it means "the defeat."
My original name for this faction was the Viscera. They are cold, calculating, and their evil knows no bounds. I liked that name, but I wanted something a little less obvious. Many people are familiar with the term, "visceral." It brings to mind a powerful image, doesn't it? With that in mind, I wanted to give these guys an air of mystery. What are they about? Who are they exactly?
The story behind the Strages is as old as the Logia. It begins with a rebellion, long before Poison takes place. You know the legend. Loosely based on the Biblical account of Lucifer's fall, evil enters the Circeae system when five created beings, known as the Continuum decide they no longer wish to be in service to the Crown. They each possess great powers, and as a result of the rift, evil becomes manifest in a different being who calls himself Thaed (an anagram of death.)
I'll fill you in more about the Continuum another day. They are so super cool!
Thaed gathers followers, preparing to lead an offense against the Crown by attacking His people. He trains them, leads them, and guides them into darkness. It starts with a handful, but throughout the series, as he gains power, many more fall under his wing. Eventually, he will become the force behind the Progressive Legacy, the corrupt government that deposes the Ruler Prince and takes control of the system.
Just as the Logia have spiritual gifts, the Strages have special powers. Superior strength, mind-bending abilities, and destruction come as a result of playing with dark forces. Thaed introduces these abilities to mere humans by "crafting" them. I find the unknown and incomprehensible to be far scarier than the known and understandable. I've left the idea of crafting to be defined by each reader. To me, though, it's a terrible, painful process, involving physical, mental, and emotional pain. Something only evil would be willing to touch.
In Poison, the Strages bear marks of honor--similar to tattooed patterns on their skin. Now, I'm not placing judgment on those who have chosen to get tattoos, but I find the idea of someone being marked or branded as property of another disturbing. That's what has occurred with Thaed's followers. And the marks carry an emotional burden that can only be relieved by serving Thaed.
To be honest, this kind of thing makes me uncomfortable. I don't like delving into the mind of the villain. I don't like devising torture and torment for my sweet characters. But in order to introduce conflict to the storyline, it's necessary. Thankfully, in the Story of stories, and in my own humble creations, good always triumphs. God is victorious, and so is my Crown.
It's just the journey that seems treacherous...
10 Facts about The Crown's Call
1. My first characters started out in the Star Wars role playing universe.
When The Phantom Menace came out, there was a resurgence of Star Wars mania online. I played with some friends in AOL chat rooms and created a female Jedi character that I adored. After the fad passed, I started to write her into a fan-fiction piece, but never completed it. Years later, I pulled out the few scenes I'd written. Knowing publication in the Star Wars cannon was too lofty a goal for an amateur writer like me, I reworked the entire idea, creating my own universe. The character transformed as well, becoming Selah Gunner/Clairet/Grayson. (Read the series; you'll understand the name progression.)
2. Most of my character names mean something.
I really like the idea of using names that are pronounceable, yet have meaning beyond just sounding cool. Someday, I hope to publish a companion book to the entire series that will have this kind of information in it. My first two characters' names, Selah and Gray, are anagrams of mine and my husband's. Mine is just missing the "y". A lot of the numbers I use are significant, too--mixing up the dates of my children's birthdays and such. It's fun being a writer!
3. The Crown's Call used to be titled The Circeae Tales.
Yes, it's true. The series began with the title The Circeae Tales. But as the previous fact stated, I prefer names that are pronounceable. And when readers can't pronounce the name of the series, it gets a little hairy. So I rebranded the entire saga, added a couple more books to flesh out the sub-series, and based the title on the focus on the entire work--the Crown. (It's pronounced SIR-see, by the way.)
4. Asylum is actually the second-to-the-last book in the saga.
Yes, I went about things in the C.S. Lewis sort of way. (The Chronicles of Narnia were published out of order.) I am not a chronological writer. I write as the fancy strikes. So the written order of the books is Valor, Fusion, Outlaw, Shattered, Asylum, Poison, Excelsior, and other notes, pieces, and parts that will become full-fledged books. I felt strongly about Asylum, so after it was finished, I entered it in a contest held by self-publisher WestBow Press. It won the grand prize, which was a free publishing package. I couldn't pass up the exposure...and the opportunity to hold my printed book in hand! I'd also tried to craft all my novels to stand alone, even though there is some overlap.
5. There is a faith component to each story.
I'm not here to preach. I struggle with faith every day. But I feel like God gave me these stories and the desire to write...so the least I can do is honor Him in some way. Science-fiction is severely lacking in the Christian market, and while I enjoy reading mainstream, some of the scenes get a little too steamy for me. One of the biggest compliments I received in a review for Asylum was from a mainstream reader who had won a copy of the book from my Goodreads giveaway. He said he was leery when he first saw it was categorized as "Religious Fiction," but after reading it, he felt the elements contributed to the story and were not "rammed down" his throat. That was my goal.
6. I started writing as a stay-at-home mom.
I needed a creative outlet. Something to focus on. Where I could place my identity. Writing seemed a natural fit. At first, I started writing during naptimes and after bedtime. As my kids grew older, they could play, and I could write. When I went back to work last year, I couldn't focus as much on writing my books, even though I write every day in my line of work. But I use every free moment I have to pour into my books in some way. And now that we're into the routine, I'm able to pick back up and find the time I need. It's not easy. Never easy. But I owe it to my characters to get their stories out there. (Plus, they just won't leave me alone until I do!)
7. The Crown's Call now consists of fifteen books.
I started with just one--Valor. But then another character came to mind, along with her story, so Fusion was born. More ideas came to mind, and before I knew it, I had ideas and notes for ten books. That was enough. I was happy. But then three more stories came to mind. Okay. I like the number 13. I'm good. And that's when the rebranding came into play--dividing those 13 books into more marketable sub-series--Heralds of the Crown, Rise of the Crown, Touch of the Crown, and Champions of the Crown. After that, two more stories developed. And I've had thoughts for short stories and such within this universe, but as far as the novels go, I'm done. I think 15 is enough. For now...
8. The technology is a given.
I don't know much about space travel. While my dad was a math professor, and my brother knows amazing things about computers and the way things work, I just don't have a mind for that. I'm a theatre girl. So while I put some "technobabble" in from time to time, that's really all it is. I prefer the space opera aspect to sci-fi--focusing on the characters and their relationships and struggles. I just assume the technology is there without giving much reasoning to it. I hope you'll do the same as you read.
9. I cast my characters.
As with all writers, I have an idea of what my characters look like. And when I'm really lucky, I can find a celebrity match for them. Sadly, some of those matches happen with actors past their prime or long gone. But alas, if the movie versions ever come about, I am ready to help the casting director! (That was a joke. Really. What authors actually get to cast the movie version of their books?) I have most of mine set for Poison. If you want to know after reading it, feel free to ask.
10. Each book contains a little piece of my heart.
Okay, a big piece. There are elements that represent me in some very big ways. I always said Selah (Valor) is my princess. She's the gentle and meek side of me. Laney (Outlaw) is the bad girl side of me. Raven (Fusion) is my stronger side who flirts with madness. Trista (Asylum) deals with a situation that is a skewed event that occurred in my life. Hanileh (Poison) represents the struggle I face every day...reconciling my past with my identity in God. As you can see, writing is my therapy. It's allowed me to work through things while bringing something beautiful to the page. Now, I'm not saying I'm the world's greatest writer. I know I have much to work on! But crafting words into a story, and a story into a novel is an amazing experience. How grateful I am to have been given this moment in my life. And even more grateful to share it with you, my readers. You make all this possible. Thank you.
With the impending release of Heralds of the Crown: Poison, I thought I'd share a little about the main characters. You can find out more about them on the Character page, of course, but there is a story behind each of them.
Gaultier, the hero, captivated me right off the bat. The whole premise behind Poison started with a single scene and grew from there. I won't tell you which scene, of course, but feel free to ask me sometime after you've read it! Okay, okay, I'll give you a hint. It was a scene between Gaultier and my female lead. I wanted Gaultier to be exotic. Intriguing. With a heartbreaking backstory that would either propel him into darkness or greatness.
Marcella, the female lead, comes from my heart. She portrays my struggle with faith. As she learns more about her past, she begins to doubt her standing with the Crown. Been there, done that, as they say. (Thankfully, we serve a merciful, loving, forgiving God, huh?!)
But my favorite character is the one that is the most complex--Velius. He's done some very wicked things, but returns time and again to find completion in the Crown. He faces a difficult internal battle, and we don't find out until the end of the story which side wins. When I first wrote him, he was a puppet. But as his character whispered little details here and there, I discovered that there was far more to him--just as you will when you read Poison. Once I learned his secret, writing him became such fun in a most dastardly way.
Of course, choosing a favorite character you've created is much like choosing a favorite child. Impossible! All of my characters carry some part of me into the story. I'm dedicated to each one. It reminds me of this scene from Amadeus:
A Look at the Logia
Faith has played a large role in my life. And I knew I would want it to play a large role in my writing. So when I started to create the Circeae system, I built it around the idea of a triune God.
As with all creative endeavors, this concept evolved. I've always related best to God as a King. Yes, I love Him as a Friend and a Father, and all the other amazing ways He cares for us. But with my fondness for the Renaissance era and the earlier kings and queens of Britain, I understand allegiance to a monarch.
From this, the Crown was born--the Creator King, the Ruler Prince, and the Eternal Companion.
I wrote my very first novel, Valor, as an allegory of Christ's resurrection. Sure, it was in a sci-fi setting, and I took creative liberties with the story, but the essence was there. My Ruler Prince--Prince Ternion--became a central figure in the entire series. And with that, I needed to give a special name to His followers.
I toyed with "Mystics", which reminded me too much of The Dark Crystal. A couple other names came about, but nothing really stuck. Until I started playing with some translations and discovered the word "Logia." It refers to the sayings of Jesus, and I've read that it translates to "truth."
I liked the idea of these beings possessing special gifts, such as healing and other supernatural abilities. I didn't want to use those traditional descriptions, though, so I gave those powers different names. Restoration is physical healing. Reconciliation is mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. And those terms leant themselves naturally to book titles within the story arc. Those are just a couple of the abilities I chose for this faction of people.
The symbol (above) came about before I settled on the name. If you look closely, you'll see an "a" and an "e". Remember the significance of that? Yes! My first two initials! Again, I wanted to put part of me in this.
You'll learn about the Logia in the first three books of The Crown's Call. They play a role throughout the entire series, though. I can't wait for you to see how all these stories come together.
It all begins on May 16th...
Creating the Universe
It's a job, I tell you. It starts with a character or two. Where do they live? What are their everyday lives like? And it grows. The very tiny seed of a universe begins to sprout, and before you know it, you have a full blown star system blossoming in your head.
Or at least, that's what happened with me.
The Circeae system began with two characters--Selah and Gray. You will find them in Valor, although their story starts a little earlier in Ransom. Little bit of trivia for you...Selah is an anagram of my name without the "y", as well as a measure of music in the Psalms, and Gray is an anagram of my husband's name. And yes, that was done on purpose. They came to me in a daydream, and started whispering their stories. I had to find out where they lived and give them a backdrop.
The above image went through several iterations. I knew I wanted a system with three stars--one new, one in its prime, and one dying . I doubt it's scientifically possible, but I figure with the pull of three stars, a centralized planet wouldn't revolve. Dot it with a few moons, and I had the building blocks for my system.
Each star needed its own planets, so that allowed me to have some options. The planets around Vetus (Latin for old)--the dying star's rotation--are uninhabitable. (There are a couple of exceptions, of course.) Vetus wasn't always dying. That's actually part of the story arc of the entire Crown's Call series. Aevum (Latin for life) has the most inhabitable planets. And Novus (Latin for new) has wild, unexplored planets. Crenet (an anagram of center) is aptly named, as it is the center of the system, containing the most life and traffic.
The Sagesse star cluster came about when I wrote Fusion, and it also came in handy for Poison. Revenant isn't exactly where it appears on the map. It's the base for the Ghosts (in later books), and can only be accessed through a secret wormhole. Revenant translates to "I will return," referring to one of the central characters of the series.
I didn't start out with all these names. I based my first round on foreign musical terms. Some of them remain (Pavana, Serenata), but the majority of them were changed to give deeper meaning to their context in the series.
As for naming the Circeae system, I wanted to put part of me in it. The "ae" are my first initials. When I found that Circeae translated into daughter of the sun, it clicked. And that was one reason the series started out with the name "The Circeae Tales," but after much thought, I rebranded it. How many of you know how to pronounce Circeae, anyway? That's what I thought.
My initial map was done on Paint. I'm not "up" on all the software, but thankfully, I know someone who is. He took my sad little rendering and transformed it into the brilliant map that now explains my universe. We also plan to have an interactive map for this website at some point.
I enjoy being a creator. It's an amazing feeling. And it gives me a great appreciation for the true Creator. The Designer of life. For I was made in His image. How awesome is that?! And with that, I give Him all the credit for this tiny universe that was born inside my brain.
Soli Deo Gloria!
The Hair in the Who
When I was little, I loved playing Star Wars. Being a brunette...and a girl...I identified with Princess Leia. We'd hop on the swings and have smooth sailing for a while. At least until those pesky Stormtroopers in their TIE fighters would show up. Then, we'd fly out of control, swooping and twisting and calling out, "Mayday!" It was the best time ever!
I remember one summer, playing Star Wars with my cousins and brothers on my grandmother's porch. Awesome porch, too. And to prepare for my role as the lovely Leia, my mom parted my hair and attempted to re-create the infamous cinnamon rolls. My fine little girl hair didn't want to cooperate, but she managed to make it close enough to satisfy me. I felt like Leia...and that's all that mattered. Didn't matter that I wore shorts and a t-shirt, was under four feet tall, and gravity-bound to Earth.
Today, I got the pleasure to extend that hair fantasy to my littlest one. As with the rest of the world, she is obsessed with Frozen. (We are counting down the days to the DVD release.) As we're getting ready to face our day, I asked her if she wanted to do anything with her hair.
Now, let me explain a bit about this child. She hates having her hair touched. In fact, we cut it short because she didn't like to have it brushed. At that time, it was easy to convince her to go that route. Tangled had just come into our lives, and she was a miniature version of Rapunzel after her hair was cut off, lost its magic, and turned brown. (Thanks, Disney, for adding to the brunette's complex with that little tidbit.)
So we're transforming from Rapunzel to Elsa now. Nevermind that we have much darker hair than Elsa. And much shorter.
Somehow, I managed to wrangle a good portion of the short dark hair into a tiny braid. But you should have seen her face. She was aglow with her imagination! As she looked in the mirror, I knew she could see a happy little girl with a lengthy white-blonde braid staring back at her.
Oh...and the gloves. Elsa wears gloves...so my little one is bearing bright purple one-size-fits-all gloves. Whatever makes her happy, right?
All that to say, it's awesome being able to pass along the magic. I love seeing her daydream and wonder. I enjoy those quiet moments when we can discuss the good aspects of character and how she can be like that. I thank God for every second we have together, because I know the magic of childhood doesn't last all that long.
Make magic for your kids. It's totally worth it!
Haul Out the Holly
All right. I will admit, at this very moment, there is a Christmas movie on my television. I know spring is right around the corner. I know we have months until the jolly season rolls around. But you know what? I don't care. I love Christmas, and I will happily celebrate it every day!
Sure, if we did celebrate it every day, it would lose its specialness. But it's pretty fun to crank up the carols when it's ninety degrees outside. Not that it's ninety outside right now. I do live in Colorado, after all. With snow on Pikes Peak and a little still on the ground, my heart thinks it should be Christmas, even though my brain knows otherwise.
I've never been a big fan of summer. I love blankets and sweaters and coats and sleeves. I enjoy hanging out in front of my space heater and snuggling under my electric blanket. Thankfully, our Colorado summers are pretty mild. Low humidty, decent temps. Not a bad place to be!
And I can get through it...because I know on the other side of spring and summer are fall and winter. So while I'm enduring the budding flowers and trees (really, they are lovely!), I'll watch a Christmas movie here and there. Perhaps hum a Christmassy tune. Maybe even belt out a verse of O Holy Night. And dream of...
A Day in the Life...
Nine years ago, almost to the day, I became a bride. I married my best friend, and life was grand! I said goodbye to my career, my home, my friends and family, and set off on a new adventure across country with my husband. The world was full of possibilities!
Until I got pregnant.
Now, both my husband and I married later in life, so we knew we wanted to have children right away. Just perhaps not right away as God intended.
So I ended up in the rather foreign land of Virginia (no offense to my Virginian friends! It's just that our Colorado speed bumps have a higher elevation than your mountains...) as a pastor's wife and mother-to-be. I've had a good range of job experience, but I couldn't find a position that suited me. Thus began my adventure in stay-at-home momming. It's during this time that I also became a novelist, as I needed a creative outlet.
Two states (Texas and Colorado followed) and three kids (love my Dingoes!) later, I went back to work. It wasn't exactly as I had planned. My husband and I felt like it was time for him to move on from the church, and God opened up the position I held with an awesome ministry prior to my wedding. The worst part of this was having to commute 150+ miles every week. Early Monday morning, I would kiss my sleeping children goodbye and head out. I'd spend the week in the city, living with my mom and brother. My family time was limited to Skype and phone calls. Thank goodness for technology! This was a rough time on all of us, but we wanted the kids to finish out the school year with their friends.
Now that we're a year out, we know this was the right move. Our kids are thriving in their new schools. They have opportunities they wouldn't have had in the small town in which we lived. My husband is ministering, even though he's not in a ministry position. We've found a wonderful church home that has embraced us and is helping us to heal. And I adore my job!
So I thought I'd share a bit about my average day. Life sure has changed! In my previous days, all I had to do was worry about the usual home, kid, and husband stuff. Now, there's infinitely more!
My kids and my husband have to leave the house early...an hour and a half before school starts! Their school is on the far side of town. My youngest is in preschool. I deliver her each morning, then head off for work. I get a few hours in at the office before I need to pick her up again.
We enjoy lunch together. Then I work at home through the afternoon. (I am blessed to have an employer who "gets" family and makes that a priority.) That leaves my little one to play by herself most of the time...and she does a great job!
Occasionally, things come up to prevent me from getting a lot done. She'll need extra attention, or I'll have to run errands. When that's the case, I make up my hours in the evenings and on weekends. This isn't a complaint, but my job is never far away. I don't leave it at the office. It's constantly on my mind.
There are times I have to go to the office in the afternoons. My mom and my brother often step in to watch my youngest. I'm thankful we live close to family! Or she'll go with me. I work with amazing people who also don't mind keeping an eye on her for a short time while I'm wrapped up.
My kids and husband get home right around dinnertime. We eat and finish up homework before bed...and then it's time to start all over again. But once cheeks have been kissed, hugs shared, and covered tucked around the chin, that's my time.
Because on top of all of this, I manage to write. I have one published book, and three more are on their way. I used to crochet a lot, creating all kinds of crazy hats and such, but my writing took priority. I boxed up my yarn and put it away for a later date. When I'm not haunted by characters and stories longing to be told. I'm editing the first book in my series that will be released in May, and revising a solid draft of a fairy-tale mash-up. I squeeze in time where I can--before school, lunch hour, evening, any downtime. And I always carry a notebook with me.
Nowadays, the whole author thing doesn't just end with handing off the completed manuscript to the publisher. We get to market and self-promote! So there's keeping up with social media and coming up with clever ways to get my book out there.
I'm expecting my brain will explode someday. Spontaneously combust.
But you know, I'm grateful for all I've been given. And although most days, I feel spread very thin, I'm hoping to do the best I can with what God has entrusted to me . Because in the end, it's all about Him. It's not my legacy I leave on this earth. It's what points back to Him.
As I say in my books, "Soli Deo Gloria."
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3