Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Peeve of the Writerly Author

Hello, readers.

See. It's really me. I may not be famous enough
to get a verified Twitter account, but I do exist.
I just wanted to pop in here with a quick post to 1) let you know that I am still alive and 2) offer a bit of insight that may come in handy in the future as you continue to read this blog. I feel like number one has been accomplished, because I’m here and saying that I’m Brad and I don’t imagine anyone would want to impersonate me so there you go.

If you’ve come around here much, you’ll know that I am a self-published, indie author. I honestly don’t know what I would say if a publisher approached me with a traditional deal, but it’s not something I’m spending a great deal of time pursuing. I like the freedom of writing whatever story or tackling whatever project I feel God leading me toward, or whatever I’m passionate about. I looked around a bit for an literary agent when Emaline’s Gift was in the rewriting/editing stage and discovered that many, many Christian agents wouldn’t even look at a fantasy novel. One got back to me to tell me that they liked my work but I didn’t have much shot of getting published if I wasn’t already famous for something else (have you noticed how Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly are suddenly bestselling authors?) because traditional publishers were taking fewer risks than ever. Even if I found my way into a contract, would a Christian publishing imprint permit a book like The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living? I’m very skeptical—and yet I felt the Holy Spirit planted the idea for that book and sustained me through its writing. It was an act of obedience, of following Christ, to write and publish that book—and the Lord has used that work for His glory.

I believe this pie chart will help to illustrate  my point.
(Of course, one of the definite downsides to indie publishing is the dreaded burden of marketing, without a budget and with cobbled-together know-how perhaps of dubious value. Of course, the author feels called to writing, not marketing, and it can be difficult and discouraging to take time away from the next book to promote the ones that came before. Which all goes to say that, while I definitely feel God’s strong influence in each of my books, and while He has graciously used each to impact at least some readers, the number of people who will ever hold one of my books in their hands [or on their Kindles] is never likely to be very large.)

Anyway, as an indie writer myself, I’ve taken to reading quite a bit of indie fiction, and I delight in using this blog as a way to spotlight authors my readers may not have ever heard of. I do this most often through author interviews, which I feel have developed into pretty good chats that often (hopefully!) contain some fairly insightful—even challenging and provocative—questions, and give you a good idea as to whether this author is someone you’d enjoy reading or not (regardless of whether I cared for the book, which is all a review could do). I have enjoyed this greatly and I’ve read some truly wonderful indie books, including Adam Bolander’s fantasy The Slayer and the Sphinx, William Woodall’s coming of age tale Cry for the Moon, and Alana Terry’s harrowing The Beloved Daughter, which was one of the best books I read in 2013, indie or otherwise (and just added a Grace Award to the bevy of accolades it has deservedly won). I really feel like indie books are coming into their own, as indie film and music already have, and that the more we see the big publishing houses back away from taking risks, the more we’ll find work that is truly unique, excellent, and worth reading in indie published books.

I thought about posting an image about so-called "Grammar Nazis" here,
but way too many of them actually called those heroes among us
"Grammar Nazi's," and I just...well, I just couldn't.
But the lack of marketing support and knowledge or wide distribution options aren't the only differences between indie books and those traditionally published. Mainstream books by major authors certainly make it to the market with errors, but the editing help offered by the publisher usually reduces the number of typos and grammatical mistakes significantly. Editors are also available to indie authors, of course, but they are usually quite expensive (it is perfectly possible for someone to be an incredibly gifted storyteller but not have the funds to commission a professional cover, hire editors, etc.), and I can personally attest to the variance in quality. For one of my books in particular, I proofread it personally countless times, hired a professional editor to do the same, found countless mistakes they missed in my final edit, then had an astute and generous beta reader provide me with a lengthy list of necessary corrections that had still persisted to the near-final draft (and, actually, she is an author named Annie Douglass Lima and I almost listed her fantasy Prince of Alasia as an indie book well worth reading, but held my hand simply because I didn’t want the list dominated by one genre, but I’ll mention it here!). I didn’t feel like hiring an editor in that case turned out any more of a professional product than my books for which I’ve done all the proofreading by myself. And proofreading is something I believe the author can do by themselves, if they are extremely diligent and prepared to learn the rules of the English language—and if they’re able to be consistent in a number of grammatical gray areas. It simply takes a lot more than a reread or two.

But proofreading and weeding out spelling and grammatical errors is actually the least expensive type of editing. Traditionally published authors also have the benefit of those who evaluate the story for consistency and tone and pacing and continuity (you might be stunned how easy it can be for many authors to lose a bit of the forest for the trees). I have one author friend in particular who sometimes likes to talk out issues he’s
I feel like this level of discourse really
benefits the reader in the end.
having with his current story with me. I greatly enjoy these brainstorming sessions, working together to help guide his story away from cliché and toward more satisfying twists that are consistent with the characters and the world (even if I may not be much more than a sounding board, since I don’t know how many of my suggestions really make it to the page, but that’s okay, too—they’re his books!). Another perspective—that of an outsider who knows something about storycraft—is priceless, but doesn’t come cheap. A skilled editor can also provide valuable insight into the writing process itself: Do the metaphors rely too much on cliché (“Jon felt like a million bucks.”)? Is the tone consistent and appropriate for the story? Does the prose ever get in the way of the story?

This lengthy intro (just in case you needed more proof that this is really me writing this blog, and that I am indeed alive and well) has now struck at the root of what has probably become my biggest pet peeve as a reader (beyond releasing an error-filled book, for which I believe there is really no excuse): words that get in the way of the story. The phrase I have been bandying about is that this sort of prose is “too writerly,” and it is driving me crazy.

Let me warn you that this is a bit of a contentious topic amongst my writer colleagues. See, there can be a certain compulsion as an author—not universal, perhaps, but I don’t think it’s exactly rare either—to make decisions about word choice and sentence structure that one would only really find in a certain type of book.
I have never and would never read the books, but
the Amazon reviews I've read for 50 Shades of Grey are
quite amusing. Apparently, the writing is quite bad.
These type of sentences will not be found in nature. Sometimes they consist of big, unusual words when smaller, more conventional ones would do just fine (or better). Sometimes there are so many descriptors and adverbs (oh good heavens, watch if with all the adverbs!) that the paragraph rambles on endlessly, stealing any momentum from the scene. Sometimes metaphors or word pictures are so convoluted or unlikely that a critical reader can only come to the conclusion that the sentence is something akin to fancy-sounding gibberish. Does this stem from the author’s desire to appear intelligent, or to attempt to elevate their prose above others in the genre?

Please note that I’m certainly not without sin. Hopefully, my annoyance with this sort of writing as a reader will lead me to cut down on it as a writer. I’m not trying to say that an author has no license to use words that the reader needs to look up. I think us voracious readers tend to have much larger vocabularies, on average, than most non-readers because of all we have learned through context or, if need be, grabbing a dictionary. And I’m not saying that the writer ought to not take care with word choice. In my opinion, Vonnegut’s prose is so wonderful and poetic that it immediately elevates the work, regardless of its topic, and I’d love to write like him.

I am simply offering my opinion that I like to read stories, not listen to writers be writers. In fact, I rather think on whole I’d like to be a storyteller rather than a writer, if I had to choose (a storyteller that generally uses proper grammar and punctuation and all, mind you). And that’s why I consider “being writerly” to get in the way of the story. When I feel like the writer is trying to impress someone, I can’t focus on the story. When I feel that they’re using a fancy word instead of a simple one simply for the sake of variety, in takes me
For my part, I'd rather be swept away to a different world than
to be grounded by an onslaught of words.
right out of the scene they’ve set. For me, the best writing is subtle and unobtrusive, fading into the background, so the stories and the characters, the emotions and the plot take center stage.

I’ll give you an example. Lots of examples would be helpful, I’m sure, but I feel like I would be too tempted to dig out some of the books I’ve read that contain lots of offending passages and quote from those and I don’t feel like that would be fair to the authors. But I’m not sure I could come up with great examples on my own. It’s more like I know it when I see it. So I’ll give you an example that is not a very good one but is at least marginally connected to the topic.

When I read a book, dialogue attributors tend to fade in the background and not get in the way of the story when the author uses common ones: said, asked, replied, etc.

“Where are we going?” John said.

John said attributes the dialogue to John. That’s its function and it does it well. The dialogue itself is generally the most important thing here, a point which is reinforced by the fact that, when a limited number of people are conversing, we can actually drop attributors that are unnecessary. If the reader knows who is saying each line, we’re good. If the characters are actively doing something at the moment, we can mix it up a bit by focusing on the action and using that as an implied attribution:

John stood and brushed himself off. “Where are we going?”

But too much of that can be excessive, especially if the action is fairly inconsequential. So what is the author left with, especially if more than two people are present for the conversation? Said, said, said. Now, as a reader, this doesn’t bother me in the least. The dialogue attributors do precisely what they are intended to do: they attribute dialogue to the speaker. The words themselves get out of the way of the story.

Tragically, this panicky author flopped his
head down on S-A-I-D.
However, for us authors, looking at all those saids can make us panic. Look at all that repetition! What a bad writer we are! We must fix it! So we do our best to mix it up. Now, instead of John merely saying, he declares, he mentions, he states, he announces, he reports. In other words, Johnny stops being a person who simply says what’s on his mind—as you and I tend to do—and starts to be a character whom a writer is forcing to declare when he really just wants to say. And for me? It takes me right out of the story because the author’s attempt to artificially add variety feels clunky and woefully conspicuous. Being writerly is getting in the way of being a storyteller.

(Now, are there times when it is perfectly appropriate for John to mention something or report to someone? Sure. But, in these instances, the context will support the word choice, and a good writer’s instincts will choose mentioned over said during the writing or rewriting process, as opposed to putting it where it doesn’t belong later because they have a problem with the repetitive saids. The context will support these exceptions because said and mentioned are not synonyms. They have slightly different meanings and each connotes something different for the reader. In high school, one of my English teachers shared the belief that there was no such thing as a true synonym—that there is always a best word for any given sentence, because even words with very similar definitions carry with them different connotations—and I rather believe this is true.)

But, in my opinion, dialogue attributors can get worse. A book that has a fair amount of dialogue will run through all of said’s linguistic siblings, cousins, and extended family before long. What to do when even they get repetitive? Why not throw any verb—especially those involving the mouth—into dialogue attribution to see if it sticks? I’ve seen:

“Where are we going?” John gritted.

“When will we get there?” John huffed.

“Who else is coming?” John bristled.

“Whatever shall I wear?” John queried.

“Why is this blog post making such a big deal out of this stuff?” John gesticulated.

Now, some of these are worse than others. Still, I would contend that most of us average human beings tend to ask much more often than we query (although if you want to query querulously at the quarry, I certainly won’t stop you). And there may well be those reading this blog who shrug and wonder what the big deal is. That’s fine. This is about one of my personal literary pet peeves and you may have no beef with it.

But, please, for the sake of argument, would you mind doing something for me? Permit me to present the following line of dialogue:

The monkey bear and marsupial boldly followed the manatee past Red Bird’s monstrous lair.

Would you mind saying that for me? Oh, sure, you might get some weird looks, but that doesn’t bother me in the least. Just say it. Said it? Great. Now, grit it for me, would you? Are you gritting it (do you remember what I said about writing gibberish?)? Maybe try huffing it (it’s not paint or rubber cement or anything so we should be good)? Incidentally, I wouldn’t mind seeing some YouTube videos of you guys gritting or bristling that line. Just leave some links in the comments, okay?

"Tell me, John. How long have you been gesticulating?"
Due to my pet peeves as a reader, I have trained myself to show restraint as a writer. To be honest, John would be merely saying quite a bit in my books. If you don’t gloss over it like I do, it may bother you. But, hey, I tend to say quite a bit myself. In some books, John’s hardly saying anything, instead spending his time bellowing, whispering, declaring, gritting, moaning, and sighing. Sounds like John needs a doctor, and possibly a psychiatrist.

I’m reminded of the Hemingway quote in which he responded to a disagreement with William Faulkner:

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

Some writers look at Hemingway’s position and think the point is that they are being told to dumb down their writing, or to never use a single word your entire readership doesn’t know, but I don’t think that’s it at all. I do, of course, think any perception that a writer that uses big, fancy words might be inherently more talented than a writer who writes in a more accessible manner is absolute poppycock. Big emotions mean much more than big words. Ultimately, however, it’s my position that the tone and verbiage of any book should probably be dictated by the story. My problem comes in when I get the impression, rightly or wrongly, that an author is going back to make changes that result in a disparate tone, practical gibberish, or are trying to write in a style or using words that they are not comfortable with or do not fit the story.

I’m reading a book right now in which the author takes a very long time to get through a simple scene because she feels the need to use dozens of words where a few would communicate the story well enough. Not much has happened in the book so far, but we’ve got paragraphs upon paragraphs going on about what little has transpired, with the protagonist endlessly overanalyzing everything. It’s very slow going. A quote from the play and film Amadeus keeps popping into my head. Struggling to come up with some criticism for a Mozart composition, members of the royal court conclude that his work had “too many notes.” Mozart of course insists that he uses precisely the number of notes he requires, and yet I often feel this way when I feel an author has lost sight for of the story itself in favor of being writerly: that there are simply too many words.

But we’re not here to second guess the decisions of other authors. We’re simply here because I wanted to share this particular authorial pet peeve because I can pretty much assure you that the criticism of being “too writerly” will surely surface in my interviews and mini-reviews in the future. If you don’t think the sort of prose I’ve described is a big deal, or if you like it, that’s fine. Pet peeves don’t have to be universal, by any means. Tell me why you like this sort of thing (feel free to type or, if you can, grit your comment). Or share your own pet peeves as a reader. They don’t have to be rational (I’ve heard some readers swear off either first or third person, which seems pretty darn arbitrary to me...and would make you miss out on some great books!), and that’s fine because we all have different tastes and preferences and there’s no such thing as the perfect book that will please every single reader. Heck, Jesus was perfect and a storyteller and had plenty of enemies and continues to attract critics.

But enough from me. What really grates your cheese?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Silas, Tragedy, and One Fallen World

Permit me to break a bit from the format, won’t you?

Oh, don’t worry. I don’t mean that I won’t ramble endlessly. All I mean is that I’m not going to set up the rambling via a film or book or video game, that’s all. We’ll get straight to the point. Relatively speaking. Straight to the rambling? Yeah.

Unfortunately, the real Silas isn't terribly attractive, so I'm using this
photo of a child model instead, since attractive people deserve
sympathy more than uggos.
(Full disclosure: I lied. This is Silas. Isn't he a cutie?)
I want to talk about my first cousin once removed. His name is Silas. He’s the son of my cousin Kristen and her husband Harvey. Harvey is in the Navy and works on a sub and he would have hated my post about the short-lived TV show Last Resort because he cannot watch a show set on a submarine without nitpicking and missing the show entirely while critiquing the number of steps on that stairway leading from the bridge to the constabulary or the composition of the metal alloy used in hatch B3. He’s not the sort of guy you want to watch Hunt for the Red October with. Of course, it’s the same reason I can’t take Castle or Murder, She Wrote seriously. I mean, they actually have times in those shows when the police seem to resent the priceless input of writers into murder investigations! It’s preposterous. But I should stop this digression because my cousin-in-law’s failings as a television-watching companion are not terribly pertinent, and I don’t want to punish my first cousin once removed for his father’s shortcomings.

I am sharing this face swap of President
Obama and Chris Christie for two reasons:
1) My wife Shannon has an irrational love
of face swaps and I love to make her smile;
2) I cannot think of a better way to signify
my commitment to an apolitical blog than this.
And, honestly, Silas has enough problems as it is. In fact, the poor boy has had countless health problems in his three years of life. Questionable diagnosis has followed questionable diagnosis, and we’ve wondered at times if we would ever know for sure what precisely was wrong with him, and how to help him. But it looks like at least some of those questions may be answered.

It seems like all these problems may stem from incredibly rare genetic mutations. In fact, it’s looking like Silas may be the only person in recorded medical history to suffer from this particular variation of these diseases. The child is certainly unique, but this isn’t much to celebrate.

Unfortunately, to get the proper treatment and the accommodations in life that he needs, Silas requires pricey genetic testing to finalize the diagnosis. Although his father is active duty US military and Silas has their health insurance, Tricare will not pay for the testing. They’re looking at somewhere in the ballpark of $25,000 for the required testing. I almost want to type that I wonder how much it would have cost back before the US had affordable care enacted, but I really don’t tend to get political around here so I won’t go there.

So pray for Silas, Kristen, and Harvey, please. You’re good readers. I know you’ve got my back and I know you’ll have theirs. If you’re so inclined, there is a GoFundMe page set up where you can help them meet their financial needs through donations. Whether you give or not, sharing the page on Facebook or Twitter or MySpace or Google Plus could also be helpful. And if you have anything to give, my wife is putting together an online auction in which the proceeds go toward Silas’ needs. I’m kicking in e-copies of all my books, of course, and have reached out to other author friends to do the same. If you’re an author, this sort of thing is a no-brainer if you ask me. Ebooks don’t cost us anything, we get to help out, and it’s even good publicity. And, indeed, some of my author friends are helping out too. Anyway, if you’d like to donate anything to the auction—anything!—go ahead and e-mail me and I’ll put you in touch with my wife, so I can deal with any spam that arises from this and she doesn’t have to. I don’t know exactly when the auction is supposed to get going, but I’m sure I’ll announce it on my Facebook page when the time comes so there’s a plug for that. Oh, and since blog posts are timeless, I’m writing this in early April 2014 and so just bear in mind that, if you’re reading this in May 2088, you might be a bit late to
And, for our friends from 2088, here's a picture of the view outside
your window right now so you can feel all comfy and homey!
Art credit: paooo (http://fav.me/d471bob)
this party. February might still be okay, but May would definitely have missed the boat, as May is wont to do.

But don’t worry. The rest of this post won’t be nearly as time sensitive. Let me say first of all that all the problems my little first cousin once removed is having really suck. I mean, poor Silas is only three years old! I think it’s pretty fair to arrive at the conclusion that this isn’t exactly fair. Three year old boys should be running and jumping and playing in mud and peeing on inappropriate things and people indiscriminately and eating turtles and catching wombats and playing Doctor Who and all that (disclaimer: I’ve never actually raised any boys), not combating incredibly rare genetic mutations! It’s bullcrap!

And, for some people, it’s precisely this sort of thing that precludes their belief in or acceptance of a loving God. So let’s talk about that. Because the Bible does indeed explain why a relatively innocent child like Silas can be afflicted with a horrible illness. Of course, you can choose to reject what God has to say. You don’t have to like it or accept it. But please don’t suggest that the turmoil, violence, chaos, disease, and overall crappiness that afflicts this world is somehow inexplicable within the pages of Scripture. Rather, it fits perfectly.
I'm clearly not speaking to any concierges reading this.
If you're a concierge, you clearly can't help but suggest
stuff even if I tell you not to. But everyone else should stop.

More on that in a moment. First, permit me to briefly get scientific. I don’t do this very often given that, despite my high school career at the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center—which was for advanced students, not those who needed extra help, thank you very much!—my mind is actually much more creative and inventive than analytical, cold, and calculating (that pretty much describes scientists and mathematicians, right?). The last time I really delved into a defense of biblical creation, it was really much more of a theological argument than a scientific one: God simply used His human author to word the Genesis account in such a way to completely preclude the possibility of defending millions or billions of years of evolution through Scripture. The six days of Genesis simply cannot be reconciled to modern evolutionary theory. God anticipated (of course) the latter and developed the text deliberately to contradict that. It is only by twisting the Bible and completely ignoring the author’s clear intent that anyone can bring the two concepts together.

But this much I do know: when we hear about someone having a genetic mutation, it doesn’t mean that Patrick Stewart is finally going to get to open his special school for mutants. That’s not real life. What’s going on with young Silas is much more in line with what genetic mutations have to offer in real life. They’re bad. When DNA is corrupted, we are looking at the loss or perversion of normal genetic material, not the invention of new, beneficial changes. It’s tragic. While again reiterating that I am not a scientist (truth be told,
If I ever buy a bowtie, of course, I'll buy a fez to go with it.
Fezzes are cool.
I don’t even own a bowtie), it’s my understanding that one component of evolutionary theory is the unproven mechanism of going from very simple, basic life forms to infinitely more complex ones due, in part, to billions of years of serendipitous, beneficial, new-material-producing genetic mutations. Poppycock. I can show you a special three-year-old boy and demonstrate how genetic mutation really plays out in our world. It’s not the creation, extension, or upgrading of life. Not at all.

All right. Enough of that. Back to the Bible. First of all, let me assure you that I am definitely praying for my FirCoz1Mov’d whenever he comes to mind (I decided to abbreviate it a bit, as first cousin once removed is a bit cumbersome). I care about the little guy and his family and hate to see them all suffer as they fight their way through this. I’m behind them completely, and obviously one of my chief purposes in writing this blog post is to spread the word about what they’re going through, to ask for prayers and donations. I believe I offered the sentiment earlier, but permit me to repeat myself: this sucks.

Yes, this sucks, but the Bible makes it very clear that suckiness will come. That doesn’t necessarily make it any better, but we at least can be confident in the fact that this of course does not take God by surprise. And we don’t have to start pointing fingers like biblical Israelites trying to ascertain which parent sinned for the child to be afflicted like this. This isn’t divine punishment.
Having said that, I reserve the right to alter my
position if fire and brimstone should start
raining down on the boy.

Oh, that’s not to say that sin is not involved at all. On the contrary, sin is at the very heart of the issue. We simply don’t have to be pointing fingers at individual sin in the life of Silas or his family members—but sin is still very much to blame. God made a wonderful, beautiful world for us to live in, and He is such an artist that it still retains so much of its majesty and splendor, but it has been ravaged by sin for tens of thousands of years. Sin touches everything. Yeah, we know it ruins lives and families and marriages and churches and friendships and communities. The human fallout from sin is well documented, and none of us have been immune.

But it goes deeper, to the point “that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:22). Jesus spoke of earthquakes, famine, and war as birth pains as well (Mark 13:8). We think of sin in terms of actions and consequences, and there’s truth to that, but sin as a cancer has infected absolutely everything this world has to offer. We cannot for a moment forget the fact that we live in a fallen world because that truth manifests itself daily in Chilean earthquakes, Ukrainian invasions, widespread corruption and, yes, rare genetic mutations. This world is broken. Disease, violence, and natural disasters are all symptoms. The groaning of creation will only increase until Jesus returns to restore all things; eventually, this world will be put out of its misery, to be replaced with a shiny new model (Rev. 21:1).

This is not to say that God does not intervene. We know that prayer is effective and we have countless biblical examples of His direct intervention as He wills (James 5:16-17). I believe entirely that He still performs miracles today. Why does He sometimes choose to stay His hand? I cannot begin to say. There comes a point where you finally realizes that He is so far beyond us that I have no right to question why He does what He does. I cannot see what is going to happen two minutes from now, and yet am I going to presume to know better than the One who knows and sees all? We know that He uses tragic circumstances and difficulties to mold us and give us opportunities to grow closer to Him (James 1:2-4). This may offer small comfort in the midst of our grief and fear, but even then we can have the comfort of knowing that He is
This doesn't have the slightest application to the post.
It's simply one of my wife's favorite face swaps.
unquestionably sovereign, undeniable in control, unassailably good.

Again, you don’t have to accept any of this. Faith can seem almost impossible when hope seems farthest and circumstances most dire. I understand that. But it’s true regardless. I will not be the one to offer empty platitudes to my cousin and her family, I assure you. Like I said: it sucks. God may well have a wonderful plan to grow them all and bring oodles of glory to Himself through this nightmare—indeed, I hope He does!—but where they’re at right now would still suck. So I won’t try to pretend that I know how they’re feeling; I won’t try to guess for them what God wants to teach them through this. Not at all. Rather, I’ll donate my books to the auction. I’ll pray—for strength, for comfort, for healing for Silas, for the cash to get the proper testing done. I cannot really have faith on their behalf, and yet I do believe with all my heart that God is not surprised by these developments; that He loves Silas, Kristen, Harvey, and Violet; and that He sees the whole picture whereas I can barely grasp what’s happening now. And I’ll ask for your prayers.

Oh, and I’ll link to the donation site one more time. I can’t do much, but I can do that.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Guest Blog Post by Lynn Donovan: Why I Restrict My Writing to Christian Fiction

Braditor's Note: Hi everybody! Today, we've got a guest blogger in Christian author Lynn Donovan, who's currently promoting her brand new book release, a " paranormal romance mystery" entitled Thorns of Betrayal. This is the followup to her popular "Christian Ghost Story" The Wishing Well Curseand if these stories interest you, as I post this, the Kindle version for Book One is free and the new book is on sale for only 99 cents! If you enjoy her post, you can follow Lynn at her website:  http://lynndonovanauthor.webs.com/  

Now I'll turn this post over to Lynn, interjecting only when necessary because I need to post a photo and a caption. Oh, and I think I've got a comment I need to make at the end too. We do need a reminder that this is my blog after all! Thanks, Lynn, and good luck with the new release!

Freedom. It's what America's all
about, after all!
I have been asked, “Why not write for a secular publisher and allow more freedom in the scenes?” Well, I
have my reasons. And this is why…

I write for God’s glory. I write for an audience of one, God. I write to please Him. He gave me this talent, and I want to do well with what He has given me. The only way to “do well” is to multiply the talent and give it back to Him.

That doesn’t mean I want to get all up in reader’s faces with a Christian message. When an idea for a book comes to me, and I start plotting out the storyline, I’m not out to create a “big sermon” that’s going to so heavily influence every single reader that their life will be forever changed for the better. No way!

Like one of my favorite quotes, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." ~Saint Francis, it’s a matter of planting seeds. Seeds are small and not easily noticeable. Yet, when planted, they are given an opportunity to grow when conditions are right.

Plus, don't forget germination! Germination is important!
Seeds are planted when a person does something insignificant, yet thoughtful, like taking the time to help an elderly person across the street. It’s noticed by someone who might not have been inclined to do that. They observe that small act of kindness and, in turn, extend some act of kindness when an opportunity presents itself in their life. That’s a sprouted seed. That is being Christ-like.

Therefore, I write about real people with real problems and real shortcomings who deal with those problems as normal human beings deal with problems. I lace in spiritual awakening and awareness into the characters' lives because that’s how real people’s lives are. My purpose is to subtly show how a fictional person moves closer to God and received a blessing from Him as a result.

For example, in Thorns of Betrayal, my latest publication, Rose Bauer often turns to prayer but then is stifled with very little to say. She ends up speaking simply to God, sometimes just saying “Thank you,” which is sufficient. I want to show my readers, if they don’t already know, that we don’t have to be eloquent speakers with elaborate, well thought out prayers in order to seek God and receive answers.

"Why does my villain keep cussing?!
Doesn't he know this is a Christian
I enjoy writing under Christian Fiction guidelines because it forces me to keep my good characters moral,
limiting their angry words, and restricting their physical desires. As for the bad characters, I am forced to think outside of the box of the worldly norm and show their bad behavior without offending the reader with grossly elaborate descriptions.

I am a better writer because I have to explore and utilize creative prose to get the idea across to the reader as to what that bad character is doing, without pushing the envelope on PG-13 language and scenes.

I hope my stories plant seeds in hearts, and when the time is right, those seeds grow and then that person moves closer to God, which in turn will manifest a life changing event in his/her life. In the meantime, I hope to entertain the reader and leave them wanting more from me, all for God’s glory.

Brad's postscripting interjection: Boy. You can tell that someone else wrote this blog post since it's so much shorter than mine are!

I wanted to take a moment and speak, however, to the idea—because it's one I've heard batted about often enough—that writers who "utilize creative prose" to describe sinful actions and language are inherently "better writer[s]" than those who choose to be more explicit (and I do not mean sexually explicit here; the Bible says to "flee from sexual immorality" [1 Cor. 6:18] and I do not believe sexually graphic material has any place in any Christian's work because of that and similar admonitions). 

Then, of course, you get some artists who arbitrarily
decide not to use "sense" or "coherency."
While you will never hear me criticize an author's decision to avoid profanity and graphic depictions of sin in their books—and, indeed, my readers will be aware that I avoid such things myself, with the singular exception of the censored dirty words in The Savvy Demon's Guide to Godly Living—I strongly disagree with the idea that the artist who chooses to willingly limit him or herself has more creativity or talent than those who make full use of the available tools. A painter who arbitrarily refuses to touch blue and thus produces paintings full of red oceans is not an inherently better painter than the one who more accurately depicts reality through their willingness to use all the colors. Nor am I saying that the first painter is any less because of their decision to limit themselves. I simply do not think that this decision—whether the author who refuses certain words, the painter who refuses certain colors, or the musician who refuses the G sharp—speaks to quality, talent, or creativity. And, yeah, in case you can't tell, it bugs me when an artist on either side of the issue considers others to be inferior because they don't make the same decision. 

Yes, I realize that the paint analogy doesn't work perfectly since the author is likely limiting their vocabulary for moral purposes (although I think that certainly quite a few also do so to cater to a certain audience), and, again, I do not fault them for that. But, as God did not shy away from either offensive terminology nor graphic descriptions (such as comparing good deeds to used menstrual rags in Isaiah 64:6) in the writing of Scripture (despite the fact that many English translators have felt the need to sanitize the text), nor do I see entirely G-rated Christian fiction as a biblical mandate.
"Oh God, thank You so much for giving me secret
information that everybody ought to be living by!
It makes it so much more gratifying to feel superior!"
Ultimately, every believer will answer to God and I see no foundation to the notion that we will all follow Him in the same exact manner. In the meantime, I would love for charges of superiority and inferiority as the result of personal decisions for which the rules are not explicitly spelled out in Scripture—the moral expectation for the bad guys in works of art, for instance—to take a backseat to tolerance and unity. And that's my postscript! 

Thanks again to Lynn for writing the guest post today. Regular visitors will know that I fully believe we can disagree on some issues with civility and respect and still part friends, and I absolutely encourage you to check out Lynn's work and pick some of her books up if they strike your fancy. At these prices, you have very little to lose!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Annie Douglass Lima and the Prince of Interviews

Someday, when television is respected
as the premier storytelling medium,
they'll erect statues of this man.
I may have mentioned before that I am a bit of a connoisseur of fine television. The small screen is producing some remarkable storytelling feats these days, and I love great storytelling. As a serious student of the medium, I of course frequently peruse the criticism offered by such great teleanalysts as TV Guide’s Matt Roush and HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall. Both are well respected giants in their field, and the world of television criticism would be significantly darker for their absence. Why do I bring them up? Because I've been thinking a lot recently about a statement that Matt Roush makes frequently: It’s not necessarily the premise that matters, but rather the execution.

He’s right. When it comes to quality television, execution is almost everything. Sometimes, sure, we get a wonderfully original bit of television such as Pushing Daisies or Andy Richter Controls the Universe that are a joy to watch in part because they are so delightfully unique, but even an original idea is unsustainable without great execution (for example, back when I watched Glee, I marveled at how good it could be if it had good writing and actual characters instead of cartoons who changed entirely depending on which songs they wanted them to sing).
If Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy
ever turns up murdered, lovers of quality television
will probably be at the top of the suspect list.

Of course, most shows on TV are either medical, cop, or lawyer shows. But execution matters. There’s a great difference between The Wire, Chicago PD, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, even though they’re all cop shows (the latter's pretty good, the former's completely untouchable in terms of quality, and we won't even deign to discuss the middle). Make a show about people just hanging out and you can have Seinfeld or Friends or hundreds of other shows that didn’t work nearly as well.

Where am I going with all this? Glad you asked! It just so happens that what I am doing is introducing my interview today with Annie Douglass Lima, in which we will talk about her book Prince of Alasia, the first novel in her Annals of Alasia series. So I don’t forget, let me tell you now that you can find Annie online at her blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.tw/

I am talking about execution so much because I did not feel that Prince of Alasia was a terribly original tale, and yet it is well written and there is surely joy to be found in the journey. The story is familiar, but the execution is generally very good. As always, I’ll do my best in this little mini-review and in the interview to follow to give you all the data you need to determine whether this book is one you ought to pick up or not.

"Hullo! It's me, your neighbor. Just
popped over to borrow a cup of sugar
and murder everyone you love."
The book focuses on Jaymin, the eponymous prince of Alasia, a kingdom in a different world but similar to the swords and castles of medieval Europe. It has a fantasy setting, but is not a fantasy story in the sense of having any fantastical elements such as magic or mythical creatures. This is something we discuss at length in the interview so I won’t get too much into that side of things here. But Jaymin wakes in the middle of the night when his best friend and personal bodyguard, Erik, makes him get up. It doesn’t look good: the castle is under attack by the Malornians from the next kingdom over, his parents are dead, and he will be too if they can’t get away. Alas, they’re caught right outside his bedroom door and he’s killed. It’s a really short book.

Just kidding! Jaymin escapes the palace with the help of Erik and Sir Edmund, an older and trusted advisor. The boys have to hide out in a village far from the palace and pretend to be commoners to blend in with the villagers and survive the Malornian occupation of Alasia—and, of course, if Jaymin is discovered to be the prince, he’ll surely be executed like the rest of the royal family.

Like I said, I don’t consider the plot itself to be the reason to read this. It’s pretty familiar, and even a late twist is easy to see coming. But it’s still a good read. The author does an admirable job of painting pictures with words and she injects a lot of life into the two boys at the core of the story. I recommend the book for the privilege of spending time with Jaymin and Erik, for enjoying their friendship, and for getting away into the world of Alasia. I think you’ll probably enjoy your time there.

And if I can’t convince you? Well, I’m sure some time spent with the author will!

Brad: Hello there, Annie. Let me just say that it’s a pleasure to have you join me today, all the way from Taiwan! I don’t think my interviews have strayed too far from the United States thus far (although I did once travel back in time, but those were extraordinary circumstances). In my efforts to empathize with the average American, I’m utter crap at geography. Will you tell us what brought you to Taiwan and how far you are from Alasia, the land where  Prince of Alasia takes place?
This is Thailand. Lots of people think that Annie lives there.
She doesn't. She lives in Taiwan. Now you know!

Annie: Well, I've always loved living overseas.  I grew up as an MK (missionary kid) in Kenya, and I've traveled to a total of eighteen different countries.  My husband and I lived in America for our first few years of marriage.  But we prayed for God's timing, and when both our careers showed signs of being close to a good transition point, we started looking into jobs in other countries.  I applied to teach at a number of different international schools, and Morrison Academy here in Taiwan was just the one where God opened all the doors.  So here we are!

As to how close this is to Alasia - it's only a thought away.  Like every place I've ever been.  :-)

Brad:  Ooh! Good answer. I’ll refrain from asking whether you simply moved there so you could get untold weeks off for Chinese New Year, even though Taiwan isn’t in China, and just give you the benefit of the doubt.

We’ll get more into the questions about the book in a minute, but this seems like as good a place as any to discuss, ahem, The Nature of Fantasy Itself. After all, my blog visitors have paid good money to get here, so we need to give them a show. Prince of Alasia is advertised as a fantasy, but, aside from taking place in a made-up kingdom that seems to be almost identical to real medieval settings in European history, there are no fantasy elements. There’s no magic, no fantastical creatures or items, no talking animals, and the world seems pretty identical to our own. So what, in your opinion, makes a story fantasy? Is The Andy Griffith
This clearly is *not* The Andy Griffith Show because this is in color.
fantasy since it takes place in fictional Mayberry, for example?

Annie: To me, a fantasy can be either a story involving magic or one taking place in a different world.  If it's a made-up but realistic setting in our own world, I wouldn't consider that fantasy.  But when the entire world is one that has never existed—or a setting in our world that COULD never exist, like Hogwarts—to me that's fantasy.

Brad: Let’s talk about this some more. Hogwarts doesn’t really seem similar to me at all since it’s a magical castle full of fantastical objects, mythical creatures, and magic. In other words, it’s not just an invented locale, but one that has fantasy elements in spades. It sounds like you’re saying that you consider these books to be fantasy simply because Alasia doesn’t exist in our world, despite the fact that the world itself greatly resembles medieval Europe.

Annie: Alasia is in some ways similar to the Europe of centuries ago, but it's not set in any part of Europe; its geography doesn't match, and the events in it conflict with what actually happened in European history.

I think setting and elements can both be important in defining fantasy - in most fantasy (e.g. Harry Potter, Narnia) the elements make it obvious.  I guess I would say that when it isn't obvious from internal elements like magic, setting can help define the genre.

In my two books that come later in the series, I introduce some sort-of-almost magical elements. Somewhat unrealistic ones, at least, like a minstrel who, when he plays his instrument, has the ability to influence people's emotions (more than music can normally do) and change their states of mind. And a particular breed
These magic horses can even play hide and seek!
But they really, really suck at it.
of horses that can be far more easily trained than "regular" ones, and who are so loyal to their owners that they will never run away or stray even when they're left untied.

Brad: Sounds like a question we should open up to the audience! Especially if you’re a fantasy fan, do you feel like a fantasy book needs to have magical, mythical, or other fantasy elements to qualify? Or are you satisfied simply being in an imaginary world where the geography and history is different, even if the people and the rules operate very much like ours (either now or in our history)? Share your view in the comments, and I’ll see if we can get Annie to swing back by to respond!

Back to this story specifically, tell us about Jaymin. And, while you’re at it, tell us about Erik too. After all, we can’t have one without the other!

Annie: Jaymin is a young prince who has lived a very sheltered life.  When tragedy and danger thrust him out into the “real world,” he struggles to cope, not only with his new surroundings but with his own role.  He loves his kingdom, but has always assumed he would have decades longer to prepare to rule it.  Now he is Alasia's only hope, and he has to figure out not only how to survive and to help his people but also how to become the king they will need.

Erik knows a lot more about the real world than Jaymin does; he spent the first several years of his life on the streets, so naturally he's street-smart and has great survival instincts.  He's spent most of his time since then learning how to be a bodyguard, but this is the first time he's ever had to actually apply what he's learned.  So it's a new experience for him too, as he's forced to keep his wits about him to hide and protect Jaymin, and of course himself, from the enemies all around them.

Brad: Who is your favorite character from this story? Why?

Annie: That's like asking a parent who her favorite child is!  They're all special to me in their own ways. 

But, well, if I reeeally had to pick, I guess I'd say Erik.  I admire his single-minded dedication to duty as well as his loyal friendship and willingness to risk his life for his friend.  I enjoyed developing those qualities more in a chapter from his perspective in another book that I'm currently working on.

Brad: That brings me to my follow up question: Which of your children is your favorite? Let’s talk about inspiration. Are there any other stories—whether books, movies, television, whatever—that helped inspire Prince of Alasia or any of the characters?

Little known fact: In Twain's original manuscript for The
Prince and the Pauper
, neither were anthropomorphic mice.
Annie: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain and One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.  Both of them feature royalty secretly living as commoners (or at least visiting commoners) and learning first-hand how
ordinary people in their realm live.  I enjoy the idea of a prince interacting with regular folk who have no idea who he is.  In a way, I guess it was similar for a lot of the people Jesus interacted with on earth.  Not everyone knew or believed he was God. I like to picture how shocked they would have been if they had been found out, just like the townsfolk who knew Jaymin in Drall.

Brad: It’s a bit of wish fulfillment, isn’t it? Admit it: you want to be wealthy royalty and then you visit the commoners and then you reward the ones who were kind to you, riding on your elephant. Admit it!

I think it’s wonderful how you’ve used your day job and your passion for writing to inspire the same in young minds (as evidenced by your collected anthologies of 5th grade poetry: Sunshine Leaking and A Boom in the Room). Share some stories with us about your class of budding writers.

Annie: I love teaching children to write!  We just finished up a unit on poetry, and my students enjoyed learning about the different elements of poetry and different types of poems.  I had a moment of pure joy the other day when one of my boys announced, as he worked on a poem he was writing, "I love poetry.  I never used to like it, but this year I do!"

That child, of course, would grow up
to be Lord Byron! So maybe, ah, some
lessons on character and morality
might have been squeezed in amongst
all the poetry, yeah?
Brad: That’s great. One of my top priorities with my eldest daughter was to instill in her a love of reading, and I’m very happy to have succeeded (and now she’s one of my biggest fans when it comes to my Christian fantasy, Emaline’s Gift). I need to do the same with my youngest! What do you consider to be your greatest strength as an author?

Annie: I guess that would be creating characters, scenes, and stories as a whole that appeal to young readers.  I have a big advantage in that I've got a captive audience in my classroom.  I read all my books to my students before (and after) I publish them, and their feedback is tremendously helpful in improving my writing.  When the kids start yawning and playing with things in their desk as I read, I know I need to liven up that scene.  When they stare with wide eyes and don't even notice the bell for recess, I know I've done something right.  And their questions and comments help me see what parts don't make sense or go over their heads.  So, I change what I need to and try to do more of what they respond well to.  I also have a club for middle schoolers that meets in my home after school once a week.  I read my books to them as well (but not the same ones those students heard when they were in 5th grade).  That way, after I've made changes after reading a book to my class, I can see how the new version works with my club, or vice versa.

Brad: Hey now! You’ve got your own focus group! That’s cheating! Well, what about your greatest weakness?

Annie: That would be marketing my books.  With my day job and all, I just haven't been able to do very much in the way of letting the world (beyond my immediate circles) know that my books are out there.  Plus, I'm just not very good at it, though I am learning and starting to get a little better.

Brad: Ugh! Marketing. I should start a Kickstarter project to hire someone to do marketing for me! As with many of the authors I have the privilege of sitting down with, it will not surprise the reader to know that I first met Annie through my Christian indie authors group on Facebook. And your book, Annie, begins with a dedication that I believe is intended for the Lord (or possibly the Greek god Apollo). That being said, there are no over Christian themes in Prince of Alasia. Some Christian authors that I’ve interviewed have felt very strongly that they have a responsibility to point toward Christ even through their fiction. If this book is indication, you disagree. Why? Do you believe that your faith gives you any obligations or even guidelines when writing?

Not to blame owls for how much anyone
sucks at analogies, but wouldn't a better
example be to say that not all clergy
are required to serve in a Christian church?
(Pictured: A Unitarian Universalist minister.)
Annie: Absolutely!  Every Christian has the responsibility to do whatever they do in life for the glory of God.  But I don't believe that necessarily requires all Christian authors to write "Christian" books, any more than all Christians are obligated to join the clergy.  There are lots of ways to honor the Lord in what we do, and I believe that primarily means giving Him our absolute best.  I made Prince of Alasia the best book I knew how to write at the time, and I wrote the dedication poem to reflect the fact that I intended it as my gift, my offering for God. 

I did consider trying to turn the story into an allegory, but I think there are few fantasy authors who can pull that off well.  We're all familiar with amazing allegories like the Chronicles of Narnia, but I've also read quite a few that I considered lame and cheesy.  Trying too hard to force in Christian symbolism, themes, or messages can, in my opinion, achieve the opposite effect from what the author intended.  I've read Christian fantasy that just made me roll my eyes and groan, and I don't think that kind of writing is honoring to the Lord either. 

Having said that, if I ever have an idea for a Christian book or series that I think would really work well, I will gladly write it.  I pray often that God will use my writing for His glory, and that probably does happen more often with specifically Christian books.  But so far He hasn't given me inspiration for that kind of book, so in the meantime I'll continue to write general fantasy and try to honor Him with the quality of my work.  Also, I do try to promote Biblical values in my books; for example, in Prince of Alasia I bring out the themes of honesty and forgiveness.  The second book of the series, In the Enemy's Service, emphasizes honesty and grace.  The third one (not yet published) features the idea that no matter how great a ruler is, his people aren't likely to care much about him or listen to his message unless he will humble himself, give up his rights and titles, and become one of them.

Brad: As regular readers will know, this is a question that comes up a lot: whether an artist who follows Christ needs to use their art to directly point to Him or not. There are as many different answers as there are artists, and the only thing that really bothers me is when one tries to answer it on behalf of everyone.

There are two points that jumped out at me in your answer. The first is that book three in your series again deals with a ruler without his crown. I guess you weren’t kidding when you said that you liked those kinds of stories!

But I wonder if you could speak a bit more about how Christian fantasy that you consider to be poorly written does not or cannot honor the Lord. You probably don’t want to sit in front of me during a worship service. Although not particularly blessed with a golden voice, I love to sing out praise songs to the Lord. I do so because I believe this pleases Him, and that He appreciates a joyful noise even if it’s not on key. So I think of this anonymous fantasy writer who strives to write a God-honoring work but makes Annie Douglass Lima roll her eyes. While I think Scripture makes it clear that God equips us for the different roles He gives us to play, and thus the primary ministry focus of this would-be writer might be elsewhere, is it really so bad
God has been known, on occasion, to use a giant fish to
bring about glory for Himself. 
if, in his spare time, he spends time writing in an attempt, even a cheesy attempt, to point to his Savior? As an indie author who takes the position very seriously, I despair to see clearly inferior works on the market, especially when filled with typos and errors. But do you have any evidence that God cannot or will not bring glory to Himself with a cheesy but well-intentioned story?

Annie: I, too, have a terrible voice but love to sing to the Lord.  However, I would not create and sell a CD of my singing!  Still, you have a good point.  I suppose God really can be glorified through anyone's efforts if their heart is in the right place.  I certainly have no right to judge Christian writers who haven't perfected their skills - before God they stand or fall (yes, I know that's out of context, but I think it still applies).  I just think that if the secular world knows a certain writer is Christian but perceives her published work to be of low quality, it could end up reflecting poorly on the Lord she's trying to honor.  But I suppose that's really between her and God, and if she feels that God is calling her to present a certain message in her books, then she had better do it.  Who knows, the Lord could still use it to reach someone out there.  But I think that we as Christian writers have a particular responsibility to strive for the highest possible quality in our writing (as in everything else we undertake).  After all, our books may be the closest thing to the Bible that some people may ever read.

Brad: If a certain type of author has no qualms about attaching their own name to something that hasn’t been edited, I wonder if it would bother them at all for it to also reflect upon Christ. We ought to offer Him our best, as you mentioned. However, I wonder if any of us could get caught up in that particular fear—that our best is not good enough and may reflect poorly on the Lord—and get caught in scared inaction. Lots to think about in this interview, anyway!

There is a follow-up to Prince of Alasia: the second book in the Annals of Alasia, called In the Enemy’s Service. Do you have some idea of how many books will eventually fill out these annals? Is there an overarching story, or are you sharing different episodes that simply all share the same world?

Annie: There will be at least four in the series, though I'm purposely leaving a few loose ends that may turn into more books eventually.  In the Enemy's Service takes place during the same time period as Prince of Alasia, but focuses on different characters.  It tells the story of what happened to those left behind in the palace after Jaymin and Erik escaped.  The third book, which I plan to publish later this spring, is from the
perspective of Prince Korram.  It starts a few months earlier, though the story progresses through a longer time period and overlaps with the other two books by the end.  Those three will form a trilogy, and then there's a fourth book that takes place five years later.  I've nearly finished that one, but I'm waiting to publish it in chronological order; Lord willing, it will be available before the end of the year.
I was bored so I hacked Annie's calendar to see her plans
(you may need to click on this one to enlarge it).

Brad: Sounds like you’ll be a busy little bee in 2014! Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?

Annie: I actually have four writing projects in the works right now!  There are the two books in the Annals of Alasia mentioned above, plus another one that I drafted this last November for National Novel Writing Month.  That one is called The Collar and the Cavvarach, and may end up being the start of a different series.  It takes place in a modern world much like ours, except that slavery is legal there.  The main character is a 14-year-old enslaved boy who is trying to rescue his little sister from the system.  I'm having a lot of fun editing and improving that book; it's completely different than anything I've written before. 

My fourth project is called Better than Cotton Candy; it's another anthology of my students' poetry, and it should be available for purchase as a Kindle book in the next week or so.  My 5th graders have written the poems; I just have to compile and format them.  Properly formatting poetry for Kindle is MUCH more complicated than formatting prose, so it takes awhile!

Brad: Did you know that the Malornians are looking for you? They are indeed! Apparently, they think you’ve made them look bad in your books and so aim to kill you. They knew you were coming round and so I’ve locked them all in that room behind you. I may have to let them out, though. We’ll see. You can appease me by sharing with me your favorite book. You can only pick one!

Annie: Yikes!  How can I possibly pick just one?  I guess I'm doomed!  But maybe I can at least delay their escape from my laundry room by narrowing it down to one series.  I absolutely love the Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.  She has created an incredibly rich and detailed world.  Some of her stories take place at the same time but to different characters (with some connections between them), much like mine; others take place thousands of years apart.  But they all combine to give a vivid and seamless picture of the world and its history.

Annie kebobs? Well, Mrs. Lovett would approve, anyway.
Brad: Do you hear that rattling? I wonder if the lock will hold. I hope they don’t all decide to run against it at once. That might be bad. Of course, you’d deserve it, naming a series instead of a book! These cheeky authors. The only reason you’re still alive is that you make those books sound really good and now I want to
read them. But the danger still lurks. Best tell me who your favorite author is so we can let you scamper out of here before they get out. Unless you can’t answer my question, in which case I’ll have to just let them out to make an Annie Douglass Lima shish kebob.

Annie: Funny, I thought that was just the noise my washing machine makes when it's got an uneven load.  Well, once again, there's no way I can pick a single favorite author.  But before they ruin my laundry appliances, I'll say that another one whose writing I love is Francine Rivers

Brad: A very sensible move. Washing machines are expensive! One more question. I do tend to ask my indie authors this. I happen to know that you’ve rejected some offers from interested publishers and have chosen, for now, to remain an independent author. Other than purchasing your books, how can fans best support you and other indie authors?

First, get your non-reading friends
this to prep them.
Annie: If they read and enjoy our books, writing a review on Amazon or other sites is always a blessing to authors.  Similarly, they can recommend them to their friends.  Connecting with us on social media is also
helpful; it's a great way to help us build our fan base and get the word out when we have new books available.

Brad: That’s it! Thanks for coming by today, Annie! Now, before you go, reader, don’t forget to—

Annie: You're welcome.  Thanks for the fun and challenging questions!

I beg your pardon, madam! The interview’s over! That thank you was rhetorical.

Anyway, beloved reader, don’t forget to weigh in below about what you expect and what you’re looking for when you pick up a book that’s been touted as fantasy. You’ve heard Annie and me wax poetic, but we’d love to get your feedback, too! Thanks, as always, for stopping by. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Prince of Alasia if it sounds like your type of book. Adios!