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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Feature Follow Friday! TGIF!

Here's my #FF Post!

Q: Birthday Wishes -- Blow out the candles and imagine what character could pop out of your cake...who is it and what book are they from?

Hmm...tough one. How about Lan from the Wheel of Time, fully decked out! Although, if we're including TV characters I'd have to go with Dean from Supernatural! :D Happy Friday Everyone!

Just Sayin.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Liebster Blog Award

The Liebster Blog Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers and Liebster is a German word which means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome.

The rules:

1.Each person must post 10 facts about themselves

2.Answer 10 questions the tagger has given you and give 10 questions for      the people you’ve tagged.

3.Choose 10 people and link them in your post.

4.Tell them you’ve tagged them.

5.Remember, no tag backs.

10 Facts about me (Liesel)!

1. I am a novelist who writes across three different genres: historical fiction, crime drama, and fantasy.

2. I am the second of twelve children, all of whom have the same two parents. (Deep breaths, everyone. It's all going to be okay.)

3. I'm a Christian.

4. I love dark chocolate and stuff my face with it way more than I care to admit.

5. I am affiliated with two publishing companies: Tate Publishing and Jolly Fish Press.

6. My first book entitled Persistence of Vision will be out this fall. It's a futuristic dystopian fantasy with elements of romance and scifi.

7. My twitter account is at twitter.com/lkhill. My facebook pages are: facebook.com/lkhillbooks and facebook.com/lieselkhill (one for each published genre). Shameless plug, I know, but it's still a fact!

8. I love to read epic fantasy.

9. I love movies and TV--especially the CW network!

10. It's getting dark in my room right now, but it's too hot to turn on the light!

Here are the questions from my tagger:

1. How long have you been blogging for?

I've had a personal blog for a couple of years but I've only been blogging seriously for a few months--probably six or so.

2. Why did you start a blog?

I started my blog(s)--yes, there's two. The other is musingsonfantasia.blogspot.com--when my books got picked up by publishers. It's a way of networking and getting my name and work out there.

3. What has been your best experience with blogging?

Meeting interesting people and hearing nice comments!

4. What is your favorite book?

Entirely too many to name. A few I read over and over again, though, are Heart of Darkness, the Wheel of Time Series, Harry Potter, and the Lord of the Rings.

5. Who is your favorite author?

Robert Jordan, hands down.

6. What do you want to be when you grow up/what is your profession?

Right now I work a day job at a corporate building, splitting my time between the deli and the legal department. Novel writing is what I truly want to do, though. I have two books slated for publication, though neither is out, yet, so hopefully I'll realize my dream soon.

7. How many books do you think you have?

A few hundred at least.

8. Do you prefer reading a proper book or an ebook?

Depends on where I'm trying to read. I like the feel of a book in my hands but sometimes ebooks are simply more convenient.

9. If you could choose to live one character's life in a book, whose would it be?

Awesome question. I have to pick just one? Well, right now I'm pretty obsessed with George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series. My favorite character is Arya. I'd like to have all her adventures, I think. Don't get me wrong, she has some terrible things happen to her that I wouldn't like, but I also want to slap her sometimes for the decisions she makes and her short-sightedness. If I was her, I'd make all the RIGHT decisions so that I could find the happiness that has, as yet, eluded her. So much fun!

10. Ten items....hmm. Well, at least one would have to be an e-reader with unlimited downloads. Then there's my laptop, with internet access, of course. How about a few of my siblings to keep me company, and a few of my writer friends? An unlimited supply of chocolate. And George R.R. Martin--just so I can grill him about what's going to happen in book 6. :D

Blogs I've tagged:

Here are my questions to them?

1. How long have you been blogging for?
2. Why did you start up a blog?
3. What has been your weirdest experience with blogging?
4. What is your favourite book?
5. Who is your favourite author?
6. What do you want to be when you grow up/what is your profession?
7. How many books do you think you might have?
8. Do you prefer reading a proper book or a ebook?
9. If you could choose to live one character's life in a book, who would it be?
10. If you were stranded on a desert island what 10 items would you want to have with you?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Knights Templar

The Knights Templar were a group of warrior monks that existed throughout the middle ages. They began simply as defenders of the faith, but became quite powerful in their own rite because they were smart with money--started some of the first banks in Europe--and well educated.

Eventually they fell when the order as a whole, which by that time had thousands of monasteries and hundreds of thousands of knights spread across Europe and the Middle East, was accused of witchcraft, sadistic sexual practices, and other unacceptable behavior. Friday the thirteenth as the "evil omen" day we know started with the Templar Knights. The monarchy and church of the time sent out an order on a Friday the thirteenth for all Templar Knights to be arrested and/or killed. (Think Star Wars Episode 2, when all the clones suddenly turn on the Jedi. Yeah, it was kinda like that.)

Those not slain were put to the question (a.k.a. torture) and made to confess their crimes.

Most people today recognize the sham that was the Trial of the Templars. It was very similar to the Salem Witch Trials. Though there might have been some questionable behavior (an order that large is bound to have a few twisted apples) the majority of these knights chose death rather than admit to false accusations.  A very small number did confess under torture, but immediately afterward recanted, saying it was only their physical weakness in the face of unbelievable pain that made them say what their torturers demanded.

These circumstances are a pretty good indication that the majority of the accusations were false. If one studies the history, it also becomes clear that their accusers had a whole lot to gain by bringing down the Order of Knights, which were richer than either the monarchy or the Church in terms of both coin and land ownership.

I love the middle ages, the Crusades (in which the Templars played a large part) and anything that has to do with knights and castles. I'm thinking of starting a project set against the backdrop of this time period and the Order of the Knights Templar. I'd love to get some good-hearted, wonderfully conflicted characters and drop them into the middle of all this. There'd be romance, battles, intrigue, politics--all the best parts of the middle ages!

What do you think? Is this something you'd be interested in reading? (Just gauging interest here! :D)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Follow Friday!

Q: If you could "unread" a book, which one would it be? Is it because you want to start over and experience it again for the first time? Or because it was THAT bad?

I don't think reading is ever a bad thing. Even if you swear you'd never read a particular book or author again, at least you've gained that knowledge and learned something, even if it isn't particularly pleasant. Granted, not the funnest thing ever, but it's life, right? As a writer, I definitely learn a lot from what other authors do wrong. It's much more stimulating to learn from what they do write and try to incorporate their genius into my own writing, but again, you can't win 'em all!

Answer: Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

Wait! Let me explain!

So my answer would be to un-read something in order to experience it again for the first time. Hmm. This could be any number of things that I loved reading the first time around, but something specific comes to mind. One of my favorite classic (a.k.a. difficult to read) novels is Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I LOVE this book. I read it at least once a year. (Easy, given it's a novella and after reading it a dozen times or so, the difficulty totally melts away). Anyway, the first time I read this was for a senior English class in high school. And I HATED it! The teacher kept forcing us to read massive amounts of pages, and then we'd run out of time in class and not discuss it. All this, during the last two weeks of school! Again, SENIOR year! We wanted to graduate, not wade through boring, difficult novels! But we were honors students (cue jeering) so we did it anyway. Bottom line, this is one of my favorite books in the world! By the time I got to the end, I loved it. By the time I'd analyzed it to death, I couldn't get enough and read it again that very summer. The way the teacher presented it to us was very unfair, though, and I wish I could get a chance to experience this timeless, fantastic book again with fresh eyes! Happy Friday everyone! Have a stupendous weekend! :D

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to Come Up With Awesome Titles

I think this is something everyone can use help on now and again. I certainly can! I'm currently trying to come up with a title for the second installment of my dystopian fantasy series, and I'm struggling. Though, admittedly, the struggle is mostly to find time to figure out the title, rather than the figuring out itself. (Did that make sense?)

Anyway, so how to choose awesome titles? An internet search will find plenty of pointers. Most of them are things like, a title shouldn't be dull. In other words, "The Tree" or "Dog and Cat are Friends" don't make good titles.  The title should pop. It should make people interested to read it. I've said this before, but I've run across several books that I would read just because the title is so great. For example, John Brown has a series entitled Servant of a Dark God. I've never read these books, so I can't say how great they are, but I would totally read them just for the title. It's one of the coolest titles I've ever heard! Just sayin.'

Granted, not all titles will make people go, 'Wow! That sounds awesome!' but even so, it should make them at least mildly curious. If someone browses titles and comes to something that piques their curiosity, even just a little bit, they'll probably look more closely. If your cover and/or blurb do their job correctly, then the title is the first step to getting browsers to buy your book!


Okay so what else? How about relevance to the story? This may seem obvious, but I've come across a surprising number of books that whose titles have nothing to do with the story. I think you most often see this in murder mysteries and medical thrillers. Crime dramas and the like often have titles like 'Pure Evil' or 'Fearful Intent.' I'm sure these types of titles are a marketing gimmick to strike fear into the readers heart or something, but I'd rather the title told me something intriguing about the killer or the main character. To me, generic titles are a red flag for generic stories. For medical thrillers, I've read several that were just called, 'Shock,' 'Trauma,' 'The Heart,' or some other generic thing that's loosely related to the medical profession. Now, these books/stories weren't bad by any means, but the title just didn't fit them. Maybe it had something obliquely to do with the story, but I've read a few where, try as I might, I couldn't find a single thing that the title had to do with plot or characters.


Okay, so these were kind of both things not to do, so how do  you come up with a good title? The thing that's worked best for me is using theme. You might see this described as using a metaphor for the title.  Pride and Prejudice is a metaphor for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, but when you think about it, it was also one of many themes for the novel: what happens when we are proud or blindly prejudiced and how we might  end up accidentally destroying our own happiness.

Now, if you're a decent writer (and we all know you are!) you must know what you're trying to say with your story; what message you're trying to bring across. So, brainstorm some themes and then pull out your thesaurus. Work from the themes to get a good title. Now, keep in mind rules # 1 & 2.  Something like 'love conquers all' is a common theme, and not a bad one by any means, but it would make a horrible, generic title. Be more specific to your characters and conflicts. What specifically do they learn in the novel? What are they up against?

I'll give you an example. I already talked about the title to my dystopian novel in another post last week. If you want to know about it, scroll back. In 2013, however, I have a historical fiction slated for release. It's going to be a trilogy set in medieval Russia. I decided to call the series as a whole Kremlins. My main character is a maid in the Kremlin palace and she's been told her entire life how little she is worth. At the beginning, she's not a strong character. This story is about her journey toward strength and freedom, but for her it's a free mindset. She's offered physical freedom more than once, but doesn't have the enlightenment to be able to grasp it. Very late in the story (probably book 3) I have a secondary character say, "Sometimes I think we put up walls around ourselves, to protect ourselves, but it keeps us from living the life that God would have us live." So you see, this is about breaking down our own walls so that we can be happy. Kremlin is the Russia word for wall, so it was a fitting title for the story.


So there you have it: my formula for coming up with titles. That said, this is something I still struggle with a lot, and I would love some advice from others. How do you come up with titles for your stories?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Death of a Manuscript: How to Edit

After writing for several years, now--eight or nine, I think--and being part of a critique group for four of them, I've learned a lot about editing and what makes strong writing.  It's a difficult thing for us writers to edit ourselves because we want to say what we want, how and when we want to say it, right? Of course right!

Yet, we all know that editing makes our manuscripts stronger and more readable. So, I've come up with a few tips. They aren't really rules as much pet peeves and specific things I see aspiring writers doing again and again.

WARNING: This list may be offensive to those who do the following things in their writing. Reading it may cause cursing and slapping of the forehead with the palm of the hand. If an emergency occurs, go to the kitchen/bathroom and get some aspirin. Watch out for nosebleeds.

ALSO WARNING: The writer reserves the right to expand this list for future blogs.

1) Don't say your POV character observed someone doing something; just say the person did it.
         Example. Abram sat on the couch. He saw Noah cross the room and pick up his coat.
                      Abram sat on the couch. Noah crossed the room and picked up his coat.
Which is stronger?  I hope you said the second one, by FAR! It gets to the point which keeps the reader in the moment and, as a bonus, cuts down on work count.

2) "Seemed." I have a pet peeve about this one. I see many people--and yes, have caught myself doing it as well--saying 'seemed' a lot.
                      The paper seemed to say...the man seemed to be asking...the tree seemed to be 
                      swaying...the writer seemed to be a good one...
I think we say this because we want to instill a sense of uncertainty for a scene or character, which is understandable, but there are better, stronger ways to do this.  Using 'seemed' all the time like this does a disservice to your writing itself. It makes the sentence weak. It makes it sound like you don't know for sure if what you're asking your reader to believe is true. Please don't use 'seemed'! Perhaps one time in a hundred, when some part of your character's reality is different than it seems is this okay to use. Otherwise, the majority of the time, edit it out of your manuscript!  For the love of all that seems real!!!! Okay, I'm better now.

3) "Noticed." This is another one that bugs me. I think writers try to use it as a synonym for 'looked' or 'saw.'  Don't misunderstand me: there's nothing at all wrong with varying word choice, but...you gotta use the synonyms correctly, right?

'Notice' implies something small; something that only you see and others don't. If you say, "She stood in the crowd and noticed the acrobat flying through the air," that doesn't make sense! She's not noticing the acrobat. She's seeing him along with everyone else! Notice is something that you happen to see, where you might have passed over it; it's something you see that others don't, something you aren't supposed to see, but do, or something you see but don't understand which will become important later in the story.

Don't use 'notice' and 'saw' interchangeably! It makes your prose read like three-week-old, watered down soda: weak, flat, not desirable.

I could go on, but three's good for now, as this post is getting long. Perhaps I'll continue the list another time.  That is, if people are interested....? :D

Happy editing, all!

Ivan the Terrible

Thanks to all those who participated in my mini-contest and hazarded guesses as to who the mystery dictator might be. I'm so pleased to announce that Alison of Alison can Read guessed the answer correctly! The evil dictator was Ivan IV Grozny, or Ivan the Terrible.

He dictated--er, ruled in Russia in the middle ages, specifically the mid-fifteen hundreds. He was on the throne during part of the time Queen Elizabeth I was ruling in England, and even proposed marriage to her several times, though she was sensible enough not to agree.

Ivan had a fascinating and tragic childhood, which is why he grew up to be a fascinating and horrible adult. His life was full of violence and tragedy; his reign full of dichotomies. For example, his reign was actually a golden age in Russia in terms of trade and their economy. However, he terrorized and murdered many of his subjects. He is called Ivan the Terrible, and when you hear his history, you'll probably think it's a fitting name. Yet, the "terrible" part of his name doesn't mean anything negative. Rather, it's more about being in awe. His people revered him.

So why did I do this little contest about Ivan, you ask? My second novel, slated for release in Fall of 2013 from Jolly Fish Press, is the first installment of a trilogy that takes place during Ivan's reign. Click here to read the press release.

Is this a subject that interests you? Would you like to know more about it?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Elana Johnson's Blogfest: Never Surrender

In honor of Elana Johnson's newest book, Surrender, the second installment of Possession, she's hosting a blog fest in which each blogger need only post about a time when they didn't surrender.

The experience I had was actually very recent. My debut novel will be out this fall and I have just gone into the cover art phase of the process.  Prior to that, of course, was editing. One thing my editor really wanted me to change was my title. I decided to call the book Persistence of Vision. This is a physics term.  It means something that you continue to see, even when it's gone. It's like when you look at the sun, then close your eyes and you can see a purple sun against the insides of your eyelids.  What you see is an after-image. The phenomenon of seeing it is called Persistence of Vision.

I used this term because in my story, Maggie Harper loses a year of her memories in a mysterious accident. Yet, there are things from that year that keep coming back to her, specific memories of a particular man. It's not possible for her to remember these things--they aren't in her head anymore--yet somehow she still does.  Thus begins the romance, adventure, mystique and all-around awesomeness of Maggie's journey.

This is the first book in a futuristic, dystopian fantasy series, and I'd wanted to name each installment after a similar scientific phenomenon that the characters encounter. These are fun to mess around with because my books aren't 'hard' science fiction. They focus much more on the characters and their emotional experiences than on technology or socioeconomic agendas. These phenomena, then, can work on many levels in the story: one for the phenomenon itself; another for the way the characters experience/apply it emotionally; and yet another one for the way it figures in the plot. It's perfect!

My editors didn't like the title. They said that when they mentioned the title to people who had no background information about the book (story, genre, etc.), most people thought it was a non-fiction Christian living book.

Well, no offense to my editors, but I don't think this was a fair test. The people they 'experimented' on with the title were those they worked with. (a.k.a. people who work for a company that publishes mostly Christian-themed books). They are bound to have certain prejudices. Besides, there's the cover to consider, and I don't think many people will walk into the fiction section of the bookstore, pick up a novel from the scifi/fantasy section and go, "Hmm. I wonder if this is a nonfiction Christian living book..."

Anyway, long story short, I fought for my title and got to keep it. As the book won't be out for a few more months, I have yet to experience any validation, but I'm glad I fought for my title. I will be able to do the series the way want to, now, and I think the titles will make the story richer and more satisfying.

That's right: Never Surrender! ;D

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bloody History and Frying Pans Part 2

Thanks to everyone who read and hazarded guesses as to which evil ruler I was thinking of. No one guessed it, yet, so I'm going to give you another post with some more clues. I'm participating in Elana Johnson's blogfest, so that post will go up tomorrow, but if no one's guessed it by Thursday, I'll tell you who he is, I promise.

The clues I'm going to give you today will be more specific, and yet not. They come in the form of a poem I wrote when I was in college. I learned about this dictator from a college history course and became fascinated with him. At the same time, I was also taking a poetry class. And you write what you know, right?  So anyway, here's the poem. It has enough cultural words that you may be able to figure him out more easily. Good luck!

(BTW, I named the poem after the ruler, so I'm totally not giving you the title. That would be an extremely blond move on my part!) :D

Lightning strikes the Kremlin Wall
A baby wails at birth.
Learns survival, climbs through intrigue, hides in deceit
The infant cries

Village-pillage; innocent-ravage
Young animals on spikes
The child laughs

Love. Matrimony.
Tranquility is almost skin deep.
Loss is rage, rage is frenzied brutality.
The building blocks of Red Square bleed.

Games of torture--play in Novgorod
Bodies swim through red water
The River is clogged.
Oiled frying pans and human skewers
Blood and steam and death and heat
The man laughs.

War against foe.
War against friend.
There is no friend or foe, only war.
The autocrat kills.

Son follows father.
Anger begets anger begets death.
Death of the royal line, by the king's own hand.
The father mourns.

No heir--will be the Trouble of the Times
The Tsar breathes harder.

Pieces in motion on a pious chessboard.
And the man dies.

That's it! Any more guesses?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bloody History and Frying Pans

Being a student of history and a lover of the Middle Ages in particular, I have a morbid fascination with morbidly fascinating ruthless dictators. (Oh, come on. It's not like I'm alone in this!)

Truth be told, it doesn't even have to be a dictator. As interesting as Vlad Dracula and King Henry the VIII were, sometimes the commoners that don't have a high number of page views on wikipedia are more interesting, specifically because they're less known.

So, here's your historical tidbit for the week: there once was a dictator--no commoner, this one--who liked to find more and interesting ways to kill people. He went so far as to build ginormous, six-foot frying pans to fry his enemies and traitors alive. Nowhere to lie, my friends! You can't make this crap up!

Don't get me wrong, he did other things too: cut people in half, beheading, public hangings, etc., but our buddy Vlad, along with countless others, already had those covered. The frying pan made this guy extra crispy--I mean special!

So, anyone who who he is? I'll give you a few more hints: Middle Ages, ruler, not Vlad Dracula.

Ok, so except for the last one those weren't very specific, but I can't tell you what country he was in 'cause that'd be like asking you which Hobbit I'm thinking of, and then telling you he was a loyal gardener.  I mean, duh!

So anyway, I guess this is a mini-contest. Can anyone guess who this oh-so-jolly, fry-happy ruler was?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Challenging the Plot Chart: Denouement

  So most plot charts or story graphs--whatever you want to call them! there's hundreds of names--look something like this:

I find that often when I write, I have more story after the climax than the chart shows, and often more than many people prefer.  It is commonly accepted that there should be very little story left after the climax, and I'm not saying I disagree.  This is a great tactic, as when the climax is over, the reader doesn't want to be bogged down by a ton more words.  Especially because they know it's no longer building to anything.

Still, I've been told by more than one industry professional--publisher, editor, agent, etc--that I have more story after the climax than is generally accepted.  I don't know why this is.  I think I suffer from an over-abundance of closure.

I also notice that I do this more with stand-alone novels than with installments of a series.  It's easier to do less denouement with installments because the whole point is to do something exciting and then leave the reader hanging, wanting more.

With my stand alones, though, I tend to want to hash out what just happened; to weigh in on what the characters thought of it.  I don't do it excessively, mind you, but I do do it.

So what does everyone think?  Would this bother you as a reader?  As a writer?  Is it a weakness of mine? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Dead Marshes and World War 1

Did you know...?

That J.R.R. Tolkien's inspiration for the locale of the Dead Marshes Same and Frodo pass through is routed in history, both his personal history and the world's?

Tolkien lived through both world wars, though by the second one me was an old man. During the first, however, he was young and served in the army for his country.

 If you know anything about WWI, you know how messy it was.  The military strategy hadn't caught up to the technology, with the result that hundreds--perhaps thousands--of young men were needlessly killed. For years, warfare had consisted of digging trenches for cover, and running out of them for attacks.  The problem was, WWI was the first major war that made use of things like machine guns and mustard gas. Given these weapons, the trench strategy was ludicrous! There was no advantage to it whatsoever and men on both sides were cut down without a prayer of life or victory.  Many harsh lessons were learned during this war.  It's one that even today fascinates and inspires because of the epic tragedy it engendered.

On the psychological side, things were even sadder.  While war always does a number on soldiers, this one was particularly nasty for them.  Not because it was any gorier than later wars, but because the soldiers were not prepared psychologically for what they would experience.  I don't think anyone ever can be, but in our case today, we know what's out there.  We have movies, the internet, the news, video games, books, etc that prepare us--at least somewhat--for what we might be facing should we choose to go to war.  That was not so with these boys.  Most of them were very honorable and went to war because they were loyal and nationalistic and wanted to fight for their country.  It wasn't so much that those attitudes changed, but that they were utterly ignorant of what it would be like on the war front.

Enter a young J.R.R.  Though it's hard to say what he felt about his experiences in WWI, what we know is that he made it out and lived a long, respectful life.  Though he didn't know it in his lifetime, he wrote what would become one of the most famous, inspirational fantasy epics ever penned.

Within that epic are clues to how his wartime experiences affected him.  The imagery he uses to describe the Dead Marshes in Book 2, The Two Towers is reminiscent of the horrors of the trenches.  In the chapter entitled, "The Passage of the Marshes," Gollum explains why they can see dead bodies in the water.  When you read the following excerpt, think of Tolkien's memories of WWI and the trenches.  The 'pools' are symbolic of the trenches themselves; the marshes of the filthy, muddy conditions the soldiers endured.  See what other parallels you can draw between Tolkien's words and WWI.

" 'They lie in all the pools, pale faces, deep deep under teh dark water.  I saw them: grim faces and evil, noble faces and sad.  Many faces proud and fair, and wees in their silver hair.  But all foul, all rotting, all dead...'

'Yes, yes,' said Gollum. 'All dead, all rotton. Elves and Men and Orcs. The Dead Marshes. There was a great battle long ago...Tall men with long swords, and terrible Elves and Orcses shrieking. They fought on the plain for days and months at the Black Gates. But the Marshes have grown since then, swallowing up the graves; always creeping, creeping...You cannot reach them, you cannot touch them...Only shapes to see, perhaps, not to touch.  No Precious!  All dead.' "

What do you think?