Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Announcing... Albion Academy!

*Camelot trumpet fanfare*

Today it is my great pleasure to host author Elijah David on the book tour for his novel Albion Academy.  Eli and I first met through our mutual friend Mirriam Neal, but we didn't really 'connect' until a Facebook discussion on Arthurian Legend, during which his Albion series was mentioned.  Today, we've come full circle, with Eli here to tell us what parts of Arthurian Legend have intrigued him the most over the years.

Welcome, Elijah!

Thanks, Arielle, for having me here today.

Albion Academy features a variety of creatures and beings from myth and legend, from Djinn to Valkyries to mermaids to Faeries. But the foundational legend for the book and its sequels is the Matter of Britain—the story of King Arthur and his knights. The book started with an idea about Merlin Ambrosius, and even after I moved on from him, I still had a Merlin at the heart of the story: Merlin Pendragon (because why suffer from the burden of one legendary ancestor when you can have two?).

Over the years, I’ve made it no secret that Merlin Ambrosius —that is, the Merlin of legend—is one of my favorite fictional characters. Disney’s The Sword in the Stone first introduced me to this magical man (and indeed, he was one of few male magicians in the movies I saw as a child, something which vexed me greatly) and he has remained one of the primary attractions of Arthurian legend for me to this day.

For those of you who don’t know, Merlin as we know him today is a composite figure of at least two men, one a military and political figure (Ambrosius) and one a prophet or madman of the wilds (Myrddin or Merlin). When Geoffrey of Monmouth penned his pseudohistorical History of the Kings of Britain, he combined these two figures and made his own contributions to both Merlin’s and Arthur’s stories. In the oldest stories, Merlin is a figure of mystery and danger, much akin to the Fae who populate the legend of the Celts. He is both wise and mad, powerful and shifty (not unlike Merlin’s older alter ego Droon on the BBC series). But while Merlin’s roots are wild, I’ve always taken the view that he is more like the portrayals from Disney, Hallmark, and T.H. White—beneficent, if a little unhinged at times, and always holding his country’s (and his student’s) best interests at heart. The aid he offers to Uther in seducing Arthur’s mother has never made sense to me in any iteration; it always seems against Merlin’s character, the same way Arthur’s slaughter of the May Day babies has always seemed out of character. (Incidentally, these two events are addressed at a later point in the Albion books, with at least one character attempting to “set the record straight”.)

But while Merlin is the center of my own Arthurian obsession, he is by no means the sole star in the constellation. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Mordred and his arc of deception, manipulation, and betrayal; Morgana le Fay (regardless of whether she’s related to Arthur); and the Fisher King and his connection to the Holy Grail (to name just a few) all make their mark on me, my storytelling, and the Albion Quartet. The Knights of the Round Table, Gawain among them, become an integral part of the story as well as the mythos of the series; Mordred is a full-fledged antagonist with his own agenda; Morgana—well, I won’t say much about her for fear of spoilers; and the Holy Grail’s existence and appearance are touched on at some point in the story. The prospect of Arthur returning to rule in Albion’s greatest need has also fascinated me. I think Gargoyles did a fine job with this idea during its Avalon arc, though I’ve always wanted there to be a continuation of the series that explored what Arthur did after he walks off the scene. We’ll see if the Once and Future King makes any appearances in Albion Academy’s sequels. I won’t say no, because characters like him tend to push their way in just to spite me.

As you can tell, the magical and villainous have attracted me most in Arthuriana. That’s probably due to my imbibing copious amounts of fairy tales, both Disney and otherwise, and having a mind and heart for fantasy and epic storytelling. If you can point me to a retelling of the Arthur stories that captures these characters and quests in a new light, I’m there in a heartbeat.

Are there any characters, quests, or conflicts in the Arthurian legends that keep you coming back for more? I’d love to hear about them!

Thank you, Eli!  You can find out more about Elijah David and his books on his blog: Inexhaustible Inspiration.

Now, take a look at this shiny cover. 

Is a Djinni just a trickster? Can a wizard only learn magic? Must a Valkyrie always ferry the dead?

For Mortimer, Merlin, and Bryn, it seems the fates have already written the ends of their stories. When Mortimer asks unorthodox questions, the Djinni Elders exile him to a human school of magic—Albion Academy. Merlin's friendship with a mortal only increases his mother's determination for him to live up to the heritage of his ancestors. And Bryn's prophetic sisters outright declare that her fate is tethered to Mortimer, Merlin, and the mysterious door in the school's basement.

As the three of them struggle against the constraints of their families' expectations, they find themselves inexorably drawn into a conflict that encompasses rogue Faeries, dangerous mortals, and sorcerers hidden in Albion Academy itself. Defying their fates might be the only way they survive their first year at . . .

Albion Academy.

Albion Academy is available from Amazon in both PAPERBACK and KINDLE format.

Valkyries, Djinni AND Arthurian Legend?  Sounds like a win-win to me!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Books I Would Sacrifice....

A couple of weeks ago my sister Dessa read this tag aloud to me from her friend Keturah’s blog, then proceeded to follow it back and hop around to many of the other bloggers who had filled it out and read those aloud.  We laughed, raised shocked eyebrows once (throwing THE HOBBIT at a professor??), and laughed more.  Then Dessa filled it out and tagged me.


#1: An Over-Hyped Book
Situation: You are in a bookstore when the zombies attack.  Over the loudspeakers you hear the military announce that over-hyped books are the zombies' only weakness.  What over-hyped book will you chuck at the zombies?
Yeah, I’m with Dessa.  TWILIGHT.  What a travesty to the world of books, and how excruciating to see the effect these have had on the world of teenagers AND the world of writing.


#2: A Sequel
Situation: You are caught in a torrential downpour and you're probably the type who melts when you get wet.  What sequel are you willing to use as an umbrella to protect yourself.
Wow, seriously?  Melts in a downpour?  Nothin’ melts me, baby; not even Hades himself!
But for the purposes of the question... Chasing Shadows by Ashley Townsend.  I didn't read the first book, but you can read my review of this one HERE.  It frustrated the tar out of me.


#3: A Classic
Situation: You're in English class and your professor won't stop going on about a classic that "revolutionized literature".  Personally you think the classic is garbage and you decide to express your opinion by hurling the book at his head.  What classic is that?
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I’d heard it lauded for years and eagerly pounced on it a decade ago at a used book store.  I brought it home, tore into it, was a little disappointed at the beginning but kept going, hoping it would get better....  At the end I closed the cover and stared at it as though I had thought I was opening a box of doughnuts only to find out it was croutons.  WAIT, THAT'S IT???  THAT'S WHAT ALL THE HYPE WAS ABOUT???
It was profoundly disappointing.


#4: A Least Favorite Book
Situation: You're hanging out at a bookstore (where else would you be?) when global warming somehow manages to to turn the whole world into a frozen wasteland.  Naturally, your only hope of survival is to burn a book.  Which book would you not regret tossing into the fire?
Aside from the illogic of the question.... oh hmmmm.  Lori Wick’s English Garden series.  Mind. Numbingly. Stupid.
Also, one of the main reasons I almost never read Christian romance anymore.


#5: A Series
Situation: There's a flooded stream you have to cross on your quest and you can't get your feet wet.  Which series (oh yeah, btw, you brought your whole bookshelf and also probably local library with you) will you use as stepping stones?
The Mortal Instruments.  Gosh, that series’ poor writing made me so mad, especially given the fact that it could have been fantastic had Clare put as much focus on the mythological aspects and worldbuilding as she did the ridiculous, soap opera teen drama.  Seeing these books drown after I had crossed a swollen stream on them would do my heart good.

I tag Mirriam, Kate (when she starts blogging again), Elijah David, Tom, Jessica, Kiri Liz, and Carolyn... plus anyone else who wants to answer.

What books would YOU sacrifice?  Take the tag off to your own blog or tell me in the comments!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Super Secret Project Debut

I've been waiting to announce this project for nine months and the time has finally arrived.

In March of last year I was growing increasingly more frustrated with some indie books I had been reading that frankly, stank.  The plots were good, the characters had potential but the writing was AWFUL.  It was a problem I had been seeing more and more often in the writing world, not just with indie books but also with traditionally published books.

One day, apropos of reading a couple other creative writing websites, I started to think, "If they can do it, why can't I?  They don't have exactly the kind of content I'm envisioning anyway, so why couldn't I try it?  It would be a way to give back to the writing world which has given me so much."  Teaching subjects I love has been a passion of mine for years but until that moment I hadn't actually seriously considered just up and doing it.

When I mentioned this idea to Mirriam- who often had to listen to my venting about bad writing- her response was instantaneous approval and support.  She told me that she'd been thinking for months that I would be good at teaching/coaching creative writing.  Her response blew me away and when I told Kate the idea later that day, I was shocked for the second time when she reacted similarly.

I began scribbling ideas and drafting posts.  Over the summer I chose a website host and discussed graphics.  Slowly but surely my idea began to take shape in reality.

The process wasn't without its hurdles: delays and setbacks in design and strong self-doubts about not actually being good enough or would people listen to me if I didn't have a college degree or an author reputation, to name a few.  Through all of this Mirriam, Kate, my mother, and my sister encouraged me to keep going.

It's been an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking journey but finally earlier this week, I pushed that big shiny 'PUBLISH' button on this website.


Huge, from-the-bottom-of-my-heart thanks go to the people without whom I would not be writing this post:
My mother - who spent hours making all of my graphics and working with me until I liked the results.
Mirriam - who never let me give up and kicked me when persuasion didn't work.
Kate - who was my never failing encouragement and always ready with examples of why I should do this.
My sister Dessa - whose blunt comments about being more than happy to share my teaching abilities with people she thought needed them always made me laugh.
The handful of people who I told beforehand and who said, "Hey, that's great, yes, you should do this!"

I hope you enjoy reading the site and Happy Writing!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dandelion Moments

I'm a very focused, driven, intense person.  I like every day to be full of work and accomplishing things.  On the days when I haven't accomplished much 'work' I'm frustrated with myself and go to bed feeling annoyed.

I often forget that living isn't always about what you've managed to accomplish in terms of what knowledge you've gained or what you've done.  It's also about taking time to enjoy the journey, to have fun, and to laugh.  Enjoying the journey isn't usually about spending an hour+ a day doing something considered 'fun'.  It's the smallest things that bring the full realization of just how amazing life can be.

Remember all those times as a child when you would keep your eye on a huge dandelion flower and carefully wait until it was just the right ripeness to pluck and blow the seeds to scatter on the four winds?  Some of the seeds would fly far away at once while others would hover nearby until an air current caught them and you would watch it as long as you could, musing on where it would land and whether it would take root or die.  It was such a simple occupation but it brought immense joy and a vibrant awareness of the richness of life.

Life is full of those dandelion moments if you only know how to recognize them.  Times where you force yourself to stop, take a break, and just absorb the atmosphere and what's happening around you.  I have learned that those mini-breaks are vital to maintaining one's equilibrium. 

A few of my 2016 dandelion moments:
~ Yielding to my 4-year-old brother when he begged me to take him on 'just a little walk around the driveway, not even on the road' even though my mind was screaming at me that I had a blog post that absolutely MUST be finished that night and I was running out of time and even typing like Hamilton might mean that I wouldn't finish in time.  Kids are more important than blog posts.  It was a fun walk.

~ Braiding my horse's mane while I made sure she ate her wormer-coated oats and enjoying the play of the strands through my hands.

~ Pausing for a few seconds at a friend's FB profile picture to appreciate how the color of their shirt brought out the color of their eyes and how skillfully their makeup was applied that day and what a pleasing overall aesthetic the picture was.

~ Taking a moment in the middle of the afternoon to just pray and thank God for the gift of a friend and for getting the chance to talk serious subjects with that friend for a few hours.

~  Receiving a card and a tiny rubber dragon in the mail and stopping for a few moments of just cradling it in my hand and smiling over the hidden, symbolic meanings in the gift.

~ Making a new friend via Pinterest because I took three minutes to send this person a message about how much I liked their storyboards.

~ Smiling hugely because a random someone from the other side of the world liked one of my first photos on Instagram.

~ Getting a picture text, replying with one phrase, and having the other person squeal because you know each other so well that she knew you would understand the picture without any explanation.

~ Going for a twilight hike alone in gently falling snow.

~ How warm it makes me feel when someone I barely know wishes me Merry Christmas.

~  How much it meant to me when people I only spoke to occasionally throughout the year messaged me at the end of the year and told me that they were grateful for me that year.

Take time to pause and blow the dandelion seeds.  Your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health will thank you.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I Dreamed a Dream of... Publishing

For years my dream was to write unique fiction that broke the mold.  C’mon, what author doesn’t dream of that?

Books that made people THINK.  Books they couldn’t forget because they made them stop and ask themselves hard questions or brought up issues they couldn’t concretely answer without searching their souls.  Books that were rich in world building and had a varied cast of characters that danced across the stage like the Swan Lake ballet.  Historical fiction that inspired the reader with the urge to know more about the history behind the story.  Fantasy that was unique without being uncomfortably weird or mind-numbingly cliche.  Political thrillers that evenly balanced a relatable human approach with the politics.  Thrillers that didn’t sacrifice character development for action.  Stories that combined all of the above.

I still dream that dream and labor to someday attain it.  But now the dream has grown longer, wider, grander.

I dream of an indie publishing company with high standards of quality.  Small, but by no means accepting of lesser quality work simply because it is smaller and independent as opposed to being big and having the traditional label.  A press that holds all its books to a high standard of good writing and editing.

Of uniting independent (and possibly even previously published) authors under an imprint that will come to be known for excellently written fiction with strong ethical and moral themes but without necessarily being ‘Christian’... for the reason that, even though I am a Christian and support literature in which faith plays a huge part, I’ve read several fantastic books that are not overtly Christian and yet had some amazing, thought-provoking moral and ethical questions.  Often, I feel like the label ‘Christian’ on fiction only targets a certain audience and I dream of a wider reach than that.

Themed short story collections, or series of books by different authors but one common theme.  Reviving well written, fascinating historical fiction that doesn’t have to be full of sleaze to engage a reader.  Books that make history live again for people, while presenting an accurate picture of life in that time period.  Fresh retellings of mythology whose tapestries glimmer with the golden thread of the vast history behind various mythologies.  Science fiction and science fantasy that keeps alive in people the hunger to explore the stars themselves.  Fairy tale retellings set in other cultures and unique genres.  Urban fantasy that isn’t the next Twilight or Vampire Diaries or Teen Wolf.  High fantasy that isn’t trying to be Lord of the Rings but that breathes a fantasy world on a grand, epic scale.  Thought provoking psycho thrillers that don’t have to cross the line into horror to make people sit up and take notice.  Historical fantasy that reignites interest in well-known eras.  Political, action, and espionage thrillers that don’t make people’s eyes glaze over three chapters into the book.

In addition to publishing original, new fiction; I dream of republishing some older works from the public domain; there are many books that currently lie under the dust of time but deserve to have a second life being read and appreciated.

I dream of feeding readers with books they’ll love or enjoy while assisting authors to bring the best version of their book to the public.  Beautiful, unique fiction from all genres that engages the mind and soul.

Books that are as sharp as a sword and forged to endure.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Quote Queste: January 2017 ~ A Heart Doesn't Have to Stop

Quote Queste is back!  Hopefully shinier and fresher than ever... though in reality no rules have changed and only my enthusiasm is left to burnish the shine. 

1. Take the quote below and write a short scene based on it.  It can be a scene for a story you're currently writing, one you plan on writing in the future, or you can make up characters solely for this challenge.
2.  Post your scene on your blog, with the banner from the top of my post and a link to my blog.
3. Come back to this post and leave a link to your post in the comments so the other participants and I can read your scene.
4. Have fun!

Happy Writing and here's to a promising New Year!