A Deeper Meaning
A couple years ago, after Asylum released, an interviewer asked me about the title. What importance does it carry? I loved this question because I did put a lot of thought into the title. It has a great deal of meaning beyond the definition of the word.
Asylum has a double meaning. We know the phrase "insane asylum" which can have a pretty bad connotation to it. The word is used for haunted houses and other frightening experiences. But it also is defined as a place of safety and refuge - a sanctuary. So with the Straightjacket experience, the word asylum came to mind. And of course, I'm all for happy endings. Without trying to spoil the ending for the readers, the main characters, following all the harrowing events, end up in a place of safety. They find their asylum.
The same goes for Poison. There is a double meaning behind the title. While the obvious reference is to Thaed, the villain that influences the entire story arc of The Crown's Call, it also refers to the lesser villain, Velius. His internal demons lead him further and further down a dark path until he reaches the proverbial point of no return.
I also toy with this in the names of the characters. In my ears, they sound pretty exotic and cool, but they have meanings as well.
Gaultier is a name meaning "strong ruler; commander of the army."
Lassiter is my little tribute to Firefly. (If you don't know that reference, watch the show! You won't regret it.)
Marcella is a name meaning "warlike; strong."
Velius is a Roman name meaning "concealed."
Hanileh is a variation of the name Hannah, which means "favor; grace."
Thaed is an anagram of the word "death."
Raum is chill-inspiring. In demonology, he is the great earl of Hell. It is said of him, "He loves children and will target their souls." Raum translates from German to mean "space; room; chamber." Gives me the willies!
Many of my minor characters are also named according to their station. Castus, for instance, translates from Latin to mean, "chaste; innocent."
I enjoy adding this extra layer to my writing. Not only do I end up with some really neat names, I also learn something. The detail is gripping for the readers. When I tell people what certain things mean, they are blown away. It resonates on a totally different level.
Asylum is full of these extra tidbits, too. In fact, that's where I really began to employ this technique. Name meanings, language translations, and anagrams. It's intriguing! At least, it is to me.
The Expectation of Perfection
I have this problem. I want to be perfect. And I'm not. I'm far from it. Oh, I strive toward that end. I keep up my outward appearance as best I can. I put on the mask of "everything is great!", even if I'm falling apart on the inside. I even reassure others and take the blame for things, just to make those around me feel better.
This problem showed up when I was younger and quite taken with our Renaissance Festival. We were frequent visitors. My brothers and dad loved the turkey legs. I loved the hair garlands. There was just something about wandering through the dusty paths of the fake village, listening to madrigals and taking in the beautiful costumes. How badly I wanted to lose myself in that era. If only I had a dress...
But it would have to be the right dress. Appropriate to the time period, yet still dazzling.
And then I'd have to have shoes or boots that were accurate.
And of course, I'd just cut my hair. Girls in that time period had long hair.
So dressing up was out. If I couldn't do it perfectly, I didn't want to do it at all.
That tendency carries over to my writing. I know my work isn't flawless. I'm human. I'm bound to have mistakes throughout. Yet, I want perfection.
I work with an editor. Beta readers. Family and friends willing to dedicate the time.
And even after all those eyes review what I've written...after I've fixed the issues...there will still be mistakes. It's just the way of things.
So what's a writer to do?
I place my trust in God. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, He speaks to us through Paul. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
As hard as it is to accept my weakness, I'll take it. If it means God is working in me, by all means, I'll embrace it. And in doing so, that means I must accept the lack of perfection in others. I must throw off the weight of expectation and take what is given with a joyful heart. Paul gives us hope in another verse, Philippians 1:6, saying. "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. "
One day, we will all be made new and perfect in Christ. I look forward to that day. But without knowing what the non-perfect parts of us look like, we'd have no basis for comparison. No reason to celebrate when our perfection arrives.
Soli Deo Gloria.
A New Perspective
I recently wrote about the story behind Poison. You can read that blog here: The Story Behind the Story. But I discovered there's even more
Just the other day, I had lunch with a friend. She's read Poison a couple times, so she's well indoctrinated in my universe. One topic that came up was the relationship between Gaultier and Velius. As we spoke about their struggle, something totally new dawned on me. I'll get to that in a minute, but first, I want to set the stage.
How the Magic Happens
My creation process is scattered at best. I’m a mother of three with a full-time career. Thankfully, my job calls me to write, but it’s a completely different format than my novels. I deal with non-fiction books, research papers, and scripts for radio hosts. Still, I count that toward my daily writing goals because I have to carefully choose my words and direction.
In writing my books, though, I start as I’m waking up. I linger in bed, allowing my mind to wander into the worlds I’ve created. I touch base with the characters to see if they have anything new to tell me. Sure, that sounds weird, but it’s how I do it. I envision scenes and situations that the characters are dealing with, which contributes to my inspiration for writing.
With three young kids around, it’s difficult to find time to write, but I take advantage of every opportunity I can. I take a notebook with me everywhere I go. If I’m not writing scenes, I’m making notes. My brain is in a constant state of thinking through my work, analyzing what’s been written and seeking what’s yet to be written. When I do get to sit down at the computer, it’s usually after my children have gone to bed. I tend to stay awake a few hours past their bedtime, so I can get in a good amount if I’m in the zone.
Oftentimes, though, I get distracted by online activities. In being an author and wanting to connect with readers or promote published works, social media is a great tool, but it takes a pretty hefty time investment. It also takes discipline to stay focused and not get drawn into surfing. Of course, when I’m in the research phase of a book, surfing can be a blast! Sometimes, I find myself justifying my online time by claiming research.
Even after shutting down the computer and closing the notebook, my mind is still processing. I close my eyes and return to the daydreams that woke with me. If something riveting comes to mind, I get up and write it down. I wish I could say those dreams carry into the night, but that is rare.
I think the most difficult part of the process for me is revision. If I am aching to write creatively, revision and editing become tedious. Conversely, if I’m in a more logical and analytical state of mind, the creativity doesn’t flow. It’s during these times I allow myself to switch over. I know my work won’t be my best if I force myself to do something I don’t want to.
Creation is a precious gift. While I wish I could dedicate myself to it full-time, the season of life I’m in doesn’t allow for that. But as I said, I’ll snatch up every free moment I can possibly find. I owe it to my characters, to my readers, and to myself.
Who Are You?
With all the quizzes and images helping you find your place in the various created universes out there, I thought I'd take a stab at my own. So...who are you in the Crown's Call universe? Be sure to leave a comment below! I'd love to know your results!
Please feel free to share this on Facebook or any other social media! I appreciate you helping me spread the word!
For the Love of Sci-Fi
I don’t know exactly when it started. There wasn’t a sudden switch that turned on or a moment when the lightning struck. It probably happened gradually.
I’m talking about my love for science-fiction.
I do remember living in a small mountain town long before cable television distracted every home. Our programming selection was minimal, and my dad oftentimes had control of what we watched. When he found Star Trek on one of those stations, we never ventured far. I hated it at the time, but those moments in our family room, curled up on our old yellow couch next to the wood stove as we watched Captain James T. Kirk lead the magnificent crew of the Enterprise will never be forgotten.
By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation came about, I had started to develop an interest. I’d seen the Star Wars movies in the theater. Having an older brother and a younger brother pretty much ensured my nerd-dom. But I boarded the new Enterprise with Captain Picard and Commander Riker and loved every moment of it. It’s actually what prompted my writing. A couple of friends and I would write stories for each other in the Star Trek universe. It was an even greater escape than just watching Gene Roddenberry’s masterpiece on the box in the living room.
While my love of sci-fi never really died, it did get shoved off to the side during high school. My other love, musical theatre, became my passion and started me down the career path. I was going to be a stage manager on Broadway. My world was full of fresnels, fly systems, sound boards, prompt scripts, and fabulous costumes. Escape in a different form. This time, I was helping to create magic on stage to invite others to join in.
I didn’t quite make it to Broadway. After I graduated, I took a job at Disneyland. Ever avoiding this crazy world, I stayed in the Magic Kingdom for close to three years. While I was there, the hype over the new Star Wars trilogy began. Episode One was on its way, and I rediscovered the original trilogy. I also ventured into online role playing games, immersing myself completely in a new universe. By the time Attack of the Clones released, I swore I would name my firstborn Anakin and my car’s license plate read “JEDIKNT.”
It had begun.
In the following years, my nerd-dom grew. I discovered the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and many other amazing tales of other worlds. I even slipped back into writing.
I met the love of my life and married him. (Even though he's not a sci-fi fan!) This came with a slew of changes—leaving my job and career, moving across country, and becoming a mom. I needed to find my identity before I lost myself completely in the whirlwind of change.
Writing grounded me. I pulled out my characters from my RPG days and created a new universe. I listened carefully to the internal whispers of my characters as they related their stories. As I typed them into that first document, I was all-powerful. The mighty author with a New York Times bestseller breakout novel.
It was terrible.
I knew nothing about writing other than what I had learned in my grade school English classes. But I sent off my final draft, expecting all kinds of offers from agents and publishers alike. I was stunned to receive my first rejection. Were these people crazy?
I stumbled on a site with tips for writers, and my eyes were opened. Greatly humbled, I placed that first novel aside and started to work on another story. It took far greater discipline to remember the “rules” about point of view and showing versus telling, but the final product shined with the effort. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was something I was proud of. And it spurred me on to write more. To keep creating. To keep trying.
I never would have pegged myself as a writer. It wasn’t something I set out to do. It’s a passion I uncovered in the midst of depression and turmoil. But I am so thankful for this beautiful art form. It’s binding, uplifting, and satisfying. It’s terrible and wonderful at the same time.
My advice for aspiring authors? Keep going. As Captain Taggert says in the historical documentary film Galaxy Quest, “Never give up. Never surrender.” Be willing to learn. Get involved in a writers’ group. Do all you can to improve your craft every day. And remember—the world is full of amazing tales, but it still needs your story. Go for it.
He Still Speaks
Today has been a crummy day. I’m dealing with situations left and right that have put me in difficult positions. I’d love to run away and forget the world. Alas, I am part of it. Beyond that, I am an adult, and I need to face what I’ve been given.
In the midst of the figurative storm clouds roiling around me, God spoke. It wasn’t a light-parting-the-sky moment. I didn’t hear what I imagine to be His big, booming voice. But He spoke through someone I indirectly work with.
Through her, He said, “You have a great smile.”
Those five words brought tears to my eyes. Tears because I heard Him in them. Tears because He reached out in a dark moment to whisper His love in my ear. Tears because for the first time in my walk with Him, I realized just how He can use others to touch us. It was a beautiful moment.
I’m working on a project surrounding a verse from James 1. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” What a difficult challenge! But today, God made that easier. I love that I can trust Him to carry me through. I can collapse in His arms and know He’ll supply the strength I need to get through.
That sweet lady will probably never know what those words meant to me at the time, but I just may have to tell her. Isn’t it encouraging when you find out God is using you? It’s tough living day-to-day in this world. And when He moves, there’s nothing like it.
How has God touched your life today?
UPDATE (7/25/2014): Just had the opportunity to share with the woman who encouraged me yesterday. I got goosebumps as I told her. She couldn't stop smiling. I love telling other people how God used them! I plan to do it more often!
Last evening, I found a documentary on Netflix about Hampton Court--King Henry VIII's palace. Of course, I watched it! I was swept away to the glittering and glamorous era of my favorite king. Oh, I know he was a bad guy, but for some reason, I adore him. Perhaps it's the time period. Perhaps it's the costumes and dress. And as much as I think I could live in that time period, I know better.
I've been fascinated with Henry since I was young. My dad had an album by Rick Wakeman titled Six Wives of Henry VIII. I suppose that was my introduction to the great king. We also made regular trips to the Colorado Renaissance Festival. I loved seeing the knights and ladies. I was even "damed" once! Girls can't be knighted, of course. Pish-posh.
I remember having a dream where my dad was dressed as Henry. In my dream, I wore one of the big, fancy dresses. We lived in New England somewhere, and I had to walk the dogs. Weird dream, I know. But it still placed me in that time period.
Every year. I celebrate Elizabeth I's birthday. It's exactly one month before mine. It's always fun to tip my hat to England's most awesome queen. Yes, they've had quite a few, but I love how Elizabeth, like a phoenix, rose from the darkness of her childhood and transformed into a powerful leader.
And I imagine this love for the Tudors is what led to me becoming a duchess. Years ago, my brother purchased the title for me from the British Title Registrars. Sure, it's nothing more than a quick buck for this internet group, but I have two lovely certificates proclaiming me as "Duchess". And it's fun to toss that around.
I look forward to the day I get to go to England and take in all this history myself. I'll nod my head to Henry, Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Kathryn, and Katherine. I'll spend some time with Elizabeth. And then, I'll enjoy myself a spot o'tea.
Lessons from Another Class
This weekend, I broke one of my major life rules.
I fraternized with people from my high school.
Now, I've visited with a select few here and there in the many (seriously...) years since I've graduated, but just a few. And I have a variety of reasons behind this rule. I was a drama/choir geek, as well as a big girl. I caught more than my share of the "clever" and "witty" jokes made by several of the popular kids. While I found comfort in the embrace of the equally awkward and outcast misfits who took up residence in our choir room and auditorium, the names and choice adjectives I received in the hallways made a lasting impact.
However, this weekend changed my outlook on reunions.
A good friend performed a benefit concert here in town. He took the theatre seed planted in high school and made a career as an actor. And a singer. And a dancer. And man, is he brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of that concert. Beyond his amazing performance, though, he invited some of his friends...our friends...to sing with him.
These were folks I loved in high school. We worked together on the drama productions and sang in the same choirs. So I wasn't apprehensive about seeing them. I knew, no matter what, we'd still be friends these many years later. It was wonderful to see them and catch up!
The next day, the class of '94--to which my actor friend and the others belong--had a reunion at our high school and later in the evening, at a local restaurant. My brother and I were invited to come. He had graduated two years later, and I was two years earlier. (If you do the math, you deserve to know my true age!) We decided to go, just to see what it was like.
There were a few others I hadn't seen since graduation. Again, it was lovely to see these people, get and give hugs, and chat for a little while. To see their kids. To see their faces carrying the memories of adolescence. To laugh over forgotten stories and share the heart behind our actions and words. At the restaurant, people mingled and enjoyed in a much more relaxed manner. I even met some new friends!
So, Class of '94, thank you for teaching me that reunions aren't that bad. That they can even be fun! You've given me courage to look past the hurt from my four years and walk bravely into my next reunion. You've shown me that we can grow up and forget the past. We can laugh together and enjoy the present. We can put foolishness behind us and hope for the future.
Bless you all.
The Story Behind the Story
Many years ago, I lived alone, a great distance from any family. I had a few friends, but no one I could really count on. Being lonely, I sought comfort and solace on the Internet. With the brand new Star Wars trilogy about to release (not my favorite, but I didn’t know that at the time), I discovered the world of online role playing.
I created a variety of characters that frolicked through AOL chat rooms. I copied and pasted many of the chats into text documents, and two of those characters quickly became my favorites. The first transformed into Selah Clairet, whose story has yet to be told. The second developed into Raven Criswell. Her story will be released in November in the book,Heralds of the Crown: Fusion.
I had to change a great deal about the characters and their stories, but much of Raven’s has stayed true to the original. After I wrote Fusion, I knew there was more to it. I wanted to explore the backstory of the characters I had created. Where did they come from? Who were their parents? Why were they important?
This is how Heralds of the Crown: Poison was born. I traveled back in the timeline to learn the origin stories of the characters. My villain gained depth and strength. My Fusion hero now had a motive behind his actions. And I had a story arc that captured an entire trilogy.
On a much more personal level, Hanileh, the heroine of Poison, struggles to reconcile her past with her faith. That is my struggle. Back in the online role playing days, I was a different person. Over the years, I developed a strong faith in God. I even became the wife of a pastor! But that faith isn’t rock solid all the time. I still face doubt and questions. Thankfully, my husband does have that rock solid faith. In those moments, I can count on him, as Hanileh counts on Gaultier. Just as he grounds Hanileh and returns her to a more lucid state, my husband does the same for me.
As I wrote this story, I’d had a disagreement with my older brother. It was a dark time, as we had lost my dad just a year before. I used that disagreement as a springboard for the relationship between Gaultier and Velius. It was tough at times, but in pouring that problem into my writing, I was able to work through much of the emotion I felt. I’m pleased to report that we’ve since resolved the issue, and not in the way Velius and Gaultier dealt with it.
The most touching moment I experienced while writing Poison came as I wrote the ending. Without revealing too much, I cried bitterly when I finished the closing scene. It was a natural way to finish the story, and it carried into the next book in such a beautiful way, but it was hard to complete that final scene.
Another personal touch came in the character of Velius. I’m a Broadway fan, and as I write, sometimes I’ll listen to cast albums or soundtracks. This had quite an influence on Velius. When I learned his secret, it added a much darker, creepier tone to the entire story. This insight has made him one of my favorite characters of all time.
I think a great deal of an author’s personality and personal life can be found in their writing. The old saying, “Write what you know,” comes into play. I don’t know much about space beyond our solar system and the awesome stories I see on various websites. My knowledge of stars and space travel is limited to my love of science fiction. But I can draw on my experiences and circumstances to develop characters and situations. This, partnered with my imagination and knowledge of the craft of writing, produces an exciting story that lures you away from this world.
And how thankful I am to my readers for joining me on this crazy adventure.
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3