Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Redemption (M. L. Tyndall)

The Redemption, by M.L. Tyndall
A review by Frank Creed

A Christian Pirate novel, what a concept, what an oxymoron! M.L. Tyndall, author of The Redemption, is quick to point out that the genre is actually historical romance—with plenty of gritty swashbuckling. So what am I, an industrialized-blue-collar-yankee-Christian reader and writer of adventures, doing reading what Barbour categorizes as fiction/ general/ romance? It is with pleasure and complete surprise that I found myself completely engrossed in The Redemption from start to finish.

The Redemption is no more or less a romance novel than is Robin Hood. Anyone interested in classic swashbuckling action stories which just happen to include a leading lady and man reluctantly falling in love, must read this book, regardless of the bookstore shelf label.

Not only was I relieved to discover The Redemption to be all Robin Hood with a thimble of Maid Marion, I was ecstatic to find that the quality of M.L. Tyndall's writing rivals that of Robin Hood author, James Clarke Holt! Every scene that could have lapsed into page-flipping predictability instead edged me on my seat then riveted me there with clashing cutlasses, strategic naval maneuvers and dire conflict: I'd found a gold and pearl true pirate treasure. Those are pumped-up-classy review terms but remember I'm a writer. This is what makes The Redemption true literature . . .

We begin with a shipwreck introduction of the heroine: must be the Godly woman who leads all the pirates to Jesus, right? Wrong. Lady Charlisse Bristol is a non-Christian who hates the church. She's rescued off a desert island when a pirate ship stops for careening and fresh water. The Redemption (the pirate ship) is captained by a Christian—yes, my eyebrows did the same thing.

While this story is not easily labeled, The Redemption can be best categorized as alternate-history, a sub-genre of speculative fiction. One of the reasons I'm drawn to write spec-fic is the creative latitude granted by the genre: If you can make something like a Christian pirate believable to your reader, it's allowed. Not only does M.L. Tyndall make apparent contradictions believable, she makes them logical and does so with the most powerful tool of fiction—deep characterization:

Captain Edmund Merrick was raised in Britian's high society,
found snobbery unfulfilling and fled to the Caribbean to seek
adventure. Years of piracy proved equally unfulfilling and eventually
he found Christ. The only reason Merrick's still in the pirate-game
is that he was contracted by England to raid the Spanish Main.

In classic style and voice, Tyndall skillfully braids breathing characters with Raider's of the Lost Ark non-stop plot conflict and action, forcing you to turn pages until the very end.

My breathless thanks to M.L. Tyndall for an autographed first-edition of what I seriously consider to be the best spec-fic novel I've read in over twenty years. This is a book that will be around for a long, long time, and one that I look forward to re-reading!

To God be the glory,
Scott “Frank Creed” Morris
email Frank Creed
The Christian Writer's Notebook


Friday, July 07, 2006

Frank and the Mave

Frank Creed and little Mave, the award-winning member of the family. Check her out at
Frank and the Mave Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Interview with Jackie Moore

Enjoy the words of this amazing woman and learn the true meaning of Christian activism . . .

Writers have different motivations. What is it that drives you?
I know this may sound like a cliche, but I am just in awe of the talent that God has given me to write. He has revealed so much to me in his word, that I am bound to share what I have learned with others. I realize and recognize that he has done so much for me in my life, that I must do the same for other women and show them just how much power they themselves have if they would just learn to trust and depend on God.

As a staff writer to Bahiyah Woman Magazine (BWM), actively searching for a publisher/agent, submitting to anthologies, starting a new job, living as a single mother of two, and enrolling in fall classes, how on earth do you find quiet-time to write?
I generally write late at night when the house is quiet and my sons have gone to bed, but can often find various times throughout the day when something really hits me.

Readers can read about you and sample your work at this link:

How do you keep all these threads straight? Do you work from a writer's notebook?
Surprisingly, no I don't use any tools. I generally update my main site each night and will find time when ever to update the rest. Most of what is posted are things that I have already completed so it's just a matter of posting them to my various blogs.

You've been active for years in volunteer and citizenship capacities, working to improve your community in Detroit. In what ways have these experiences affected your writing?
I write about real life experiences. Each of us has a responsibility to our fellow man, to our communities and to our children. So often each of us see so much in the world that is wrong. If we don't take an active part in trying to change some of those wrongs, then we are essentially turning our backs on those that we love, including God. I see my writing as a way to affect change.

Which of your works do you expect to market first: your novel The Lady and the Cabdriver, or your non-fiction Virtuous Women?
I am actually working on marketing "The Lady and The Cabdriver" (At the suggestion of my editors, I actually changed the name to "Serving Justice"), first. I think it so relevant to today's society that I feel that even though it is a work of fiction, the message that lies within, is too important to let pass.

What do you hope to accomplish in your workshop/ seminar based upon "Virtuous Women"?
So often most women can't relate to the story of the virtuous woman because the don't see a correlation between her and today's woman. I take the story of the Virtuous Woman and show women how it relates to the here and now. It doesn't matter if you are single, married, young or old. We as Christian Women need to be able to recognize the lessons in the Virtuous Woman and apply it to everyday living.

If you could give single moms out there one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't ever feel that you are alone. Things may be seem hard sometimes but when you have the desire and the passion to do what is right, put God first, be strong and know that no matter what your circumstances and situations, you can do all things through Jesus Christ.

I don't know how you find the time to do everything that He has you doing! Thanks so much for your answers.

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share!

If anyone ever feels overcome by life, spend a few minutes at Jackie's site: you'll come away humbled. oin her online treasure hunt in July to winautographedovels.
email Jackie
Jackie's Website

To God be the glory,
Scott “Frank Creed” Morris
email Frank Creed
The Christian Writer's Notebook


Tales for the Thrifty Barbarian: An Anthology of High Fantasy

Tales for the Thrifty Barbarian was just released! It is a compilation of high fantasy novellas from members of Fantasy Writers International, a group of writers gleaned from the web’s largest fantasy/ sci-fi site,

I am one of seven contributors to this anthology which is especially dear to me because the project was my late father's creation. This book has been dedicated to his memory.

Overview of Tales for the Thrifty Barbarian: An Anthology of High Fantasy

a pair of commoners are on the run after accidentally killing their Count . . . a lass with psionic powers must save her Duke’s realm, and the peasant woman who raised her . . . a spoiled Lady and her bitter heir protector put aside all differences when wizards and Orqs attack . . . an alchemist takes in his wraith-haunted nephew, then his wife disappears . . . hunters face-off against environmentalists in a dragon-rights demonstration: an inept Elf/ freelance diplomat comes to the rescue (ever read a fantasy satire?) . . . three warriors defend a village against a dark beast who’s summoned a foreboding storm as hunting cover . . . a wizardling is quested to recover an artifact in order to save his land from an army’s onslaught . . .

You can read more about the anthology and purchase a copy (free shipping on the FWI website) at the:
FWI Bookstore

Editor: Cynthia MacKinnon: The Writers’ Cafe
ISBN: 978-1-4116-9407-1

$24.95US trade paper from the FWI Bookstore (or $7.41US download from

Author list:
Larry N. Morris, Jamie Hughes, Frank Creed, A.P. Reckert, Brian David Smith, Jaren Schroeder, Eugene Erno.

To God be the glory,
Scott “Frank Creed” Morris
email Frank Creed
The Christian Writer's Notebook

Frank's Interview with Author Tricia Goyer

Frank’s Interview With Tricia Goyer: author of From Dust and Ashes, Night Song, Dawn of a Thousand Nights, and Arms of Deliverance.

Whether you're a reader or a writer, this you'll enjoy:

Writers have different motivations. What is it that drives you?
My brand is Reflecting Reality, Honoring Truth. That is my motivation for writing too. My desire for my fiction is to reflect the reality of history—to bring it to life for readers. I also desire to honor the truth of the experiences men and women during WWII . . . and Truth, who is Christ.

To do this, I not only research through books or on the Internet, I also interview the men and women who were there. And I tie spiritual threads throughout the books, which don’t focus on religion, but rather the relationship with Jesus Christ in individual lives.

You’re married with three children, so how do you find quiet-time to write?
There is NO quiet-time to write, since I also homeschool my kids. They are around 24/7. I’ve trained myself to write without quiet time. We have one big homeschooling room/ office. When my kids are working on their homework, I’m working on mine in the same room. I can be crying my eyes out, writing an emotional scene, and then I have to stop to help with a multiplication problem! Yet God blesses me as I serve Him in both of these areas.

To be able to write, I use advice given to me by my writer-friend Anne de Graaf, “Do the next thing.” The next thing may be to write a description, to research a scene, or to write 2,000 words for that day. Or it may be to read a story with one of my kids or to set up a homework schedule. These small steps keep me plugging forward, and helps me not to get overwhelmed. If I tried to think of the whole book at once (or thirteen years of education!), then I’d probably freeze up. But I can do one little part at this moment.And even I don’t have quiet time to write, I do take time for quiet time with my Bible and prayer book every day. I wake up at least an hour before everyone else and spend time with God. This is my priority, and this too transforms my writing.

Apart from interviewing WW-II veterans while writing this series, tell me about your creative method. Do you work from a writer’s notebook?
The first thing I do is get an overview on the time in history. I read some general books and figure out a basic timeline for the story based on historical events.

After that, I weave my characters within the timeline, and then I start specific research. This is when I start interview people who were there.

On each of these levels, I have WORD documents on my computer. Or I’ve recently started using a program called One Note. I have different files for timeline, characters, description, conflict, etc. Each of these have different title files.

Then, once I have the research about 2/3 finished, I start writing. I open a document and plug in my research according to how I will need it.

Then, I start writing.

War and Christian fiction seem like contradictory terms. Did you struggle with moral issues while writing Arms of Deliverance, or was Hitler vs the Allies too black & white?
Hitler vs. the Allies is the general conflict of the book, but I also have more specific conflicts within each of the characters. Each one has their personal goals, motivations, and vices. These are not cardboard people. My “good guys” have personal struggles, and my bad guys aren’t 100% bad. Even with my Nazi officer, I try to get into his head to provide motivations for why he does what he does—not always moral motivations, but motivations all the same.

So in essence war and Christian fiction are not contradictory. The Christian aspects of my novels deal with the people who are involved within the war. Most women stayed home for WW-II, but your main characters, Mary and Lee, are both war-correspondents.

Is your intended audience women?
I would say that most of my audience is women, but I also have a lot of male readers too. In addition to Mary and Lee’s point-of-view, the story is also told from the point-of-views of Eddie, a B-17 Navigator, and Hendrick, a Nazi officer.

My favorite male readers are the WWII veterans I’ve interviewed, of course. Here is what one of them said:
It was a fascinating pleasure to watch the development of the author’s courageous young reporter. The description of airbase activities and flight in a B-17 bomber out of Bassingbourn, England brought back poignant memories of my personal wartime experiences.I too flew with the 91st Bomb Group out of Bassingbourn as a Pathfinder Navigator. The descriptions of flight conditions are thought-provoking and accurate. Further, the author has pieced together an intriguing story with different segments. She skillfully guides the reader through peaks and valleys of why we fought, the struggle to win, nail-biting suspense, divine guidance, and . . . sweet victory.Tricia Goyer has effectively captured the robust ‘Can Do’ spirit of World War II.
~~ John HowlandPathfinder Navigator91st Bomb Group

Is there a feminist message in Arms of Deliverance?
I suppose all of WWII could be considered “feminist” in nature, not out of rebellion, but out of necessity. Women were forced to do the jobs of men, as their husbands, boyfriends, and brothers went off to war. My characters are no different. They use this opportunity to excel in jobs once only held by men. They struggled in these roles, and as my novel shows, some choose to continue with their careers while others return to more traditional roles.

This is your fourth and final book in this series; are you looking forward to a new project?
Yes, I’m currently working on a three book series on The Spanish Civil War. This war took place in Spain right before WWII. Hitler and Mussolini supported Franco and the Rebels. Russia and International Brigades from all over the world supported the Spanish people and their elected government. The first book, A Valley of Betrayal, (which I’m still writing!) will be out February 2007 . . . so I’ve been deep in the heart of Spain in my writing world.

I don’t believe in luck, so I’ll wish you His will.
Where can we pick up a copy of Arms of Deliverance?

Arms of Deliverance is available at local Christian bookstores or at on-line bookstores such as
You can find out more at
Thanks so much!

Thanks for the interview!

Check out Tricia’s new release Arms of Deliverance at:

Plot Synopsis: The fourth and final novel in this exhilarating series capturing the tales of men and women swept into World War II. Two friends, Mary and Lee, land similar reporting jobs at the New York Tribune on the eve of the war’s outbreak and soon they become competitors. Mary’s coverage of a bombing raid over Germany leads to a plane wreck and an adventurous escape attempt from across enemy lines. And when Lee hears of Mary’s plight, she bravely heads to war-torn Europe in an effort to help rescue her friend. Will there be enough time for diplomacy or will war get the best of everyone?

There's No Such Thing as Writer's Block

Donna Conger, author of Forgotten, had this to say about “Fiction Outlines,” my previous blog article:

“Frank,Great blog. Good information. For me, an outline is extremely necessary, because it helps me keep the story organized. It shows me where I’m repeating myself, where the story is contrived, etc. Often, when I’m writing an outline, I get so deep into the story and characterization that I start writing actual dialogue and mixing it with the chapter synopsis. When that happens, I get a much stronger handle on the whole project. I remember the story better, so that when I don’t get the chance to work on it, it’s still with me quite strongly.”

For those who outline in depth, Donna’s method must be a wonderful tool. Such a detailed outline would mesh well with the subconscious mind for creative inspiration. Because of a mental handicap that cripples my short-term memory, I’m stuck with re-reading pages of notes plus my chapter-in-progress in order to “tune-back-in”. My own inspiration only comes either in light-bulbs throughout the day (that I scribble down and transfer into my three-ring-binder), or, more productively, as my left-brain is running SO full throttle that I can’t type fast enough to capture all my thoughts.

Reflecting upon Donna’s technique brought back a conversation that my father (who was also a writer), and I had years ago. He’d been experiencing a period of writer’s block. As he lamented about his problem, it occurred to me that because I’m so used to troubleshooting ways around my mental condition, I’d been manhandling writer’s block for well over a year!

This was my e-mail reply to Donna:
“I’ve experienced that detailed kind of hyper-outlining before, but this topic leads into my definition of writer’s block. I don’t believe in it. Creative writing is left brain stuff. If I find myself sliding into creativity, I open my WIP and go-to-it. When word-count refuses to turn a phrase, that means my right brain is switched “on”. That’s when I work on my marketing plan or pull out my writer’s notebook and organize thoughts.”

A writer’s best quantitative standard of productivity is word-count; we set goals and we record daily figures. Then we get so focused on this single unit of measurement that we forget about less quantitative aspects of the craft. Those one or two thousand words are our eight-days-a-week mandatory discipline; but what about e-mail, research and critiquing? I once read that there are other spheres of life beyond writing: like enjoying family, community, worship and creation around us. It’s so easy to get caught-up. Balance your spheres, and engage yourself in His moment’s gift.

"We who escape into our craft are not unlike junkies; once we admit our problem we can balance our lives. Once we balance our live’s spheres, we’re living as He’d intended."
–Frank Creed

CREDITS:Thanks to my guest quotationist:

Donna Conger
I urge anyone who questions whether or not true love exists to read Forgotten. You will know it is alive and well.
–Janet Elaine Smith

Fiction Outlines

My last blog article detailed the categories into which I’ve broken down my own three-ring-binder writer’s notebook. It finished with thoughts about a tab I call “SEQUEL NOTES” but what happens when a sequel graduates to a WIP?

Jan recently asked the following questions: “Just curious . . . I realize some writers never use outlines, but I’m trying to get various viewpoints on them to make some decisions . . . So, if you use an outline, what format do you use? Basic Roman numerals? Topical? Do you outline chapter by chapter? Outline the entire book before you write? Outline a chapter, then write it? Outlining was recommended to me, and as a former English teacher, I definitely see the benefit. BUT when I tried it for my novel, I found I ended up changing stuff as I got more involved with my character’s lives . . . Just looking for other opinions, I guess. Thanks, Jan”

This is like a painter asking if it’s better to use watercolors, acrylics, or oils. In the arts there is no shortest route between two points, and each artist will develop their own techniques. There are writers who can only work from a strict outline and others whose creativity would be stifled by this technique. While I myself lean more toward the latter variety, my WIP has proven to be a real organizational challenge, teaching me lessons from which any writer might benefit.

To preface Jan’s questions, I first need to define the braided novel. While writing Flashpoint, my own comfortable method of thought-organization worked very seat-of-the-pants-informally-functional. That story is very linear and straightforward. But that was then and this is now.

I’m writing its sequel in a form of which I first discovered while reading Michael Stackpole’s afterword from his novel Wolf and Raven. An anthology, as we all know, is a collection of short fiction. A braided novel is different in that it’s a series of shorts revolving around the same main characters and occur chronologically with each story building on the history of its predecessor. The functional beauty of a braided novel is that each freestanding short can be individually marketed before completing and compiling the stories into a single work. I fell in love with Wolf and Raven because it’s told in the same first-person sarcasm as Flashpoint, but I fell in love with Stackpole’s braided novel form because of its pragmatism.

For a mentally handicapped closed-head-injury victim like myself, keeping story threads alive and organized throughout seven (planned), shorts of a braided novel called for a level of outline complexity that I’d never before required. Because my writer’s notebook is of ye olde fashioned pencil and paper variety, Roman numerals are too rigidly unforgiving: while my characters and setting are fairly concrete, I’m a firm believer in letting a story tell itself. This means I have too many new ideas as I write, and my plot development must remain very fluid.

Flashpoint’s jagged notes scribbled scene by scene. I added chapter breaks later, always at action’s peak in order to create a page-turner effect. But, because a braided novel’s shorts are told in parts (Part One, Part Two . . .), this technique cannot be employed.

To sustain this form where each tale had to be supported by its former layer, work had to progress methodically. Before entering into any word-count writing, I motored up the olde speculative binder. I first chose the themes that I wished to include, followed closely by which plot-vehicles I’d use to deliver them. Using one loose-leaf notebook page for each story, I gleaned details from my notes on scene ideas, concepts and snappy lines then fleshed out the first details. I gave each short a working title, and listed them in a table of contents, for a quick organizational overview reference and major notations.

With this framework in place, it came time to plug-in the threads that I wanted to chronologically develop throughout the stories. Because this is a sequel, a solid cast of characters already existed, and over the years I’d worked up a few new character profiles. This is where I got to cheat a bit, because I already had ideas on how to develop characters with whom I was intimate. In my humble opinion, the most important element of any tale is its characters. They are the beginning point. You can have the best plot ever, but if your characters fall flat, I’m shelving the story. Conversely, if I care about strong characters in an ugly plot, I’ll keep turning pages. My five threads all dealt with character/ relationship development (a real shocker, I know). For easy reference, I listed a thread index on a separate sheet, and assigned each thread a capital letter. On those seven story pages I tracked each thread with its corresponding letter in the left margin.

In the end, every writer’s approach to the art is different. Whatever is right for you is a mantra that fails morally, but preferences are a freedom that we’re all allowed. Each artist must choose the medium and tools that their gift requires. As I’ve said before, every writer’s bag of tricks is of unique cloth but when each of us dumps it out, our work must have detail and depth.

“Trifles go to make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”–Michelangelo Buonarroti

To God be the glory,
Scott “Frank Creed” Morris

The Notebook

Since my childhood in the 1970s, I knew I wanted to write. I cannot recall when I first read that a writer always needs to carry a pen and paper for inspiration’s lightning strikes, but a few months later I was the proud owner of scrap paper piles. I said to myself “Wow, this is helpful.”

Then I heard about keeping a writer’s notebook; the concept impacted my skull like a brick. This eleventh Commandment (somewhere in Leviticus I think), inspired me to load a three ringbinder with two hundred sheets of filler paper and two packs of index tabs. Many hours of scribbling later gave me a full trash bin and an invaluable personal fiction reference resource: my notebook has become a lifestyle.

Later I began writing in another genre: my first act was to split my notes into a second notebook. Duct tape could not revive my original binder, may it rest in pieces, but the system upon which I’ve come to depend, lives on. It doesn’t matter if you write notes in a hard copyfolder or type in e-file, the important thing is your ability to access your own catalog of ideas.

THE TABS: These will vary depending upon one’s form and genre. I write speculative and fantasy fiction so my own look like this:


I’ll detail each of these categories in coming months, but a recent question from the Fellowship of Christian Writers Newsgroup makes me focus on the last in this list: the nebulous SEQUEL NOTES. asked, “I am trying to organize some of my short story ideas into coherent story outlines. Does anyone have advice and examples?”

The following methodology serves either long or short fiction:

I begin with a concept, an inkling of story-line and characters, then turn to my SEQUEL NOTES tab to gather up some particulars. My loose outline is left intentionally rough in order to accommodate brainstorms that occur as I create.

Themes: this is where I start. Meaningful fiction carries messages. List here the social concerns that have weighted your heart to address in future fiction.
Plots: I’ve begun with a kernel, but this treasure of notes fleshes out the skeleton.
Scene Ideas: little mind’s-eye concepts that add silk leather and velvet to each tale.
Characters: the heart of any story. By now I have enough of the story constructed that I can fill one page bios.
Concepts: The little things that would otherwise slip the cracks between characters and construct: symbolism, misdirection, strategy, etc.
Snappy Lines: a record of THAT’S-what-I-should-have-said. One of the advantages of our craft is time.

Every writer’s bag of tricks is of unique cloth, but each of us dumps it out our work must have details and depth.

“Trifles go to make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”
–Michelangelo Buonarroti

To God be the glory,
Scott “Frank Creed” Morris


Monday, July 03, 2006

A Writer's Tortured Soul

April third, 2006

The news yesterday of my father’s death obviously blew the day’s creative productivity right off the itinerary. I am so thankful for the sixteen years He allowed Dad and I to have together.

My Mom and Dad divorced when I was about five, and she kept him out of my whole childhood. It wasn’t until 1989 when I was living in the Chicago burbs that my sister located Dad here in Lafayette, Indiana, and set up our first meeting in nearly two decades.

Over the next five years we visited regularly and developed a wonderful relationship. In May of1994 I moved to Lafayette and stayed at his house until I got established. Back then I was working on my fantasy work, White Iron. Dad had focused his lifelong creative efforts into entrepreneurism, and had started several companies, but never enjoyed any degree of success. My bouncing ideas off the old guy nourished a drive that he never knew he had, and in the late nineties, he funneled his creative energy into his first fantasy novel.

Like the work of any new fiction writer, itwas bad, but he had a natural gift for plot-development and in six or seven years really learned how to turn a phrase. I’d been driven to write my whole life, so my father’s new interest opened a commonality that gave a new depth to our relationship. A few yeas ago dad discovered, the web’s largest fantasy and science fiction site. He made many friends there and after a year, founded Fantasy Writers International, a writer’s club for aspiring novelists. In January of 2005 he solicited FWI’s members for contributions to an anthology of high fantasy.

The anthology’s completion was delayed by a family crisis involving his sister in California. He and my grandmother flew to California to support my aunt. The trip dragged out longer than anticipated, and the decision was made that Dad would fly back toIllinois and drive my grandmother’s car to San Deigo.

On the evening ofApril first, somewhere around Fort Worth, Tx, the car left the road and rolled. He was ejected from the vehicle and found some fifteen feet away by paramedics. Dad was immediately alert and responsive, but once in the ICU the only movement of which he was capable below the waist was the movement of his big toes. Then he went unconscious.

My brother informed me that dad coded four times in the early AM hours of April second and never regained consciousness.

At about 7:30 PM my brother again phoned, this time with the news that Dad had been declared brain-dead.

C.S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after Joy, his wife of three years, was taken by cancer. After weeks of his soul’s torment Lewis turned a corner. At this point he wondered why he couldn’t see that there was nothing to do with suffering but suffer it. In 1996 these words comforted me when my mother died of complications brought about byMultiple Sclerosis. Lewis’ same words sustain me now.

Dad was so happy in the last years of his life, and although he was not able to hold the finished book in his hands, assembling this anthology for his fantasy fiction club was his dream come true. My wife, Cynthia, is the anthology’s editor and told me last night that she’s decided to see this project’s completion. Dad’s dream will be posthumously realized. It has, over the last twenty-four hours, slowly occurred to me that this book will stand, in my mind, as a memorial.

Regardless of any future success that I may enjoy as a novelist, this secular fantasy anthology will undoubtedly stand as my life’s most meaningful published work. It will be a physical symbol to the years with my father with which He blessed us.

Thank you Father for the time with my father.

Self-Publishing: Frank's Counterpoint

How can we bridge the gap and give both professions more courtesy and respect they deserve?

I chose to address the second question first because its implication answers the first question. We’re asked to bridge the gap, give courtesy and respect to two different PROFESSIONS (?): SP writers and ‘traditionally’ published writers (?) The fact that the latter doesn’t even have an abbreviation (that I’m familiar with), speaks of the distinction. I fear this prejudice to be wide-spread. For example: I turned eight years old in 1974, and decided then that I wanted to write story-books. Since then I dreamed of the day that I’d open an envelope, find an acceptance letter, and leap in the air for two-weeks-straight like a Publisher’s-Clearing-House winner. OF COURSE anyone who’d PAY to be published MUST be a loser! Then in January of this year I’d read something that made me Google . . .

Do you feel there is a stigmatism that says, “self-published writers aren’t as good of writers as ‘traditionally’ published writers”?

“In 1994 Barnes & Noble reported that books from the 10 largest publishers accounted for thee quarters of their purchases. By 1997 these 10 leaders accounted for less than half of the books bought.”–Jump Start Your Book Sales, by Marilyn and Tom Ross.

Indies and SPs are biting into traditional houses’ market shares, which is why the big boys only solicit famous authors, why it’s harder than ever for a new author to receive an acceptance letter, and why Random House has entered the POD game. RH is either trying to snatch up all the little fish, or has entered into the if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em wisdom. Even if a ‘traditional’ house accepts an author, all they get is a little shotgun marketing; you’re accepted not because you’re good, but because you can sell books. The days of holing-up with a muse and a keyboard in a comfortable apartment, are over. The only person who’s going to publish a new author is the new author. This concept is what changed my mind about SP.

I’ve also seen Peter Bowerman’s self-publishing strategy reflected in the January’s Writer’s Digest (cover story I think, but the cat messed on it and we had to toss it out). The upshot is that internet has forever changed the industry because SPs now have access to all the privileged information that used to keep us at the mercy of thepedestaled ‘traditional’ houses. I own a 2002 Writer’s Market (stop laughing), and in that year compiled a list of Christian Fiction publishers. In 2004 I subscribed to WM online, and discovered that MORE THAN HALF of the publishers on my list were either out of business, or ceased accepting unsolicited unagented manuscripts. As long as one has a polished edited manuscript and successfully creates market demand, booksellers will be driven to the SP. I’ve spent a decade on Flashpoint, and now I’ve CHOSEN to make five dollars per copy instead of bowing before the altar of tradition, and netting less than one dollar. In order to use the talents He’s invested in me as a full-time income in our modern world, I have to make ends-meet, and pay the bills. If I can do that on one fifth the book-sales of tradition, then SP seems the wiser choice.

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it. — Groucho Marx

The Bible vs. Rock Music, Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Role-Playing Games

By Frank Creed

In my youth there existed a large demographic of Bible-believers who referred to Christian Rock & Roll as demonic. Their argument ran something like this: If you’d lived in the puritanical Fifties like we had, and you saw Elvis-the-Pelvis move like that, you’d have crossed yourself with holy water.

Given the times, I probably would have.

But this is a different millenium. Every television two-minute-commercial-break, North America is spammed with sexually-explicit-cubed. Our animated-G-rated “children’s” movies are seeded with adult comments once-per-minute, yet we’re trying to raise a new generation of ambassadors from Heaven in this place? We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God (2nd Corinthians five, verse twenty, (NIV)). Me-thinks that if there were a New-World to which we could all sail and start anew, most would be packin’ even as I type. But we’re fresh outta’ new worlds. We can no longer flee the Biblical command to be in the world but not of it. Since we’re stuck here, what do Christian children think when we allow them to watch Cinderella, Snow White, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, then curse Harry Potter? Why is Star Wars okay, but Isaac Asimov bad, and why on Earth do Christians file Role-Playing-Games in the same mental box as Ouija boards? With this kind of confusion, how will they be equipped to make proper distinctions when encountering the mysterious?

Now back to Elvis. In the late Seventies and early Eighties, when it finally occurred to Christian record-producers that they could imitate pop-music and reap healthy profits (yes, it took some twenty-five years—we are a slow bunch) they met with outcry from old-school Bible-believers. Rightly outraged grandparents argued that rock-music was of Satan, and could not glorify God.

I submit that this was impotent hand-wringing.

Inanimate objects are neither morally Satanic nor Theistic. Art forms may be employed to either worship or blaspheme. The old-school was wrong.

Yet in our new millenium, the people who haven’t figured out how to diagnose sin, still bemoan that which threatens them, that which they don’t understand. Is rock-music inherently evil? What if it’s Christian rock? Have you ever read any Creed lyrics (my personal favorite)?

Are ideas of intelligent alien life-forms blasphemous? Do you believe in angels?

Is magic the equivelant of Satanism? What about Fairy Godmothers and the Good Witch of the North?

I am not saying that morality is shades of grey, it is indeed very black and white. I am saying that we who are quick to judge must not do so from some instinctive and ignorant fear. Our sub-culture is in full retreat from popular culture. Because of this we fall into the Islamic mindset of idealizing an earlier golden-age that never existed: an age when Fantasy (Snow White), was not yet a taboo genre. We protectively cocoon our children, and purchase firearms (I personally have and use an Indiana hand-gun license-to-carry).

With her children’s best interests enshrined, our mother secluded my sisters and I behind a trusty societial curtain. She ignored Second Corinthians: three through six: For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weaopns we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we will take captive every thought to make it obiedient to Christ (NIV). Rather, Mom tucked us safely away within the folds of her Christian subculture.

Her problem was, we grew up, moved out, and faced the world, with wide eyes. She’d not thought that far ahead. Rather than exposing us to limited doses of ‘secular’ and using given opporutunities to discuss current events, Mom forceably stuck our heads in the sand. Without revealing personal demons, suffice-it to say that my siblings and I met the real world naked as a monk on brown-robe-laundry-day.

But Mom got one thing right—the exception to our cultural isolationism. She allowed us to play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

I know, the unforgivable sin; take a deep breath and read-on.

She had faith in her ability to teach us the difference between Biblical reality and magical fantasy. She allowed us to fantasize, and therefore encouraged our imagination (the result is that I’m a novelist and my sister, Lydia, is a Blogging poet). But once Mom had heard the media’s controversial reports on gaming, she became attentive to our past-time, feigning interest, asking confusing questions that had nothing to do with AD&D but everything to do with weirdness. Our being baffled at weirdness convinced Mom that we were just having fun, and in the end she came away convinced that we were safe.

My point is that Harry Potter and The Matrix are discussion-points for Christian families, not taboo materials. Fantasy and Sci-Fi explore human ideas, as will our children. These genres seek answers to important questions, questions to which the Bible contains thunderous answers.

Someone once said that Fantasy and Sci-Fi are the handmaidens of philosophy, because they explore the possibilities behind reality. Sooner or later, our children will face these boundaries. They’ll face them either with, or without us. Parents too busy to provide real guidance will be ignored.

Since we have the wisdom of experience, the logical arguments of theologians, and the loving trust of our children, let’s not cement those ill-mannered rascals behind brick-walls. Rather, communicate His answers to their curiosities. For centuries, both believers and unbelievers have tried our own solutions in place of His, and for centuries we’ve failed . . .

When will we learn to trust Him?

Naming Characters

Trifles go to make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.
Michelangelo BuonarrotiItalian architect, painter, & sculptor (1475 - 1564)

I’m a perfectionist. When a reader takes in my work, I want them to see flawlessness. While fiction is a collection of description, action and dialogue, names are an element, a detail, a common thread that crosses all phases of one’s work. Over the years I’ve worked out some logistics on getting good names to where they need to be.

My need for names began in High School, with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I’d create likeable characters, outfit them with sharp blades and flasks of oil, then stare off into space with only one blank space on my character sheet: NAME:. Of course a week later I’d come up with the perfect name, but Jonathan Doe had already set out on his quest, and the moment was lost. I was stuck in the that’s-what-I-shoulda’-said mindset. So I began writing down the names I-shoulda-said, and tucked that paper inside the cover of my Players Handbook.

A fellow gamer was inspired by my growing names list, and for our College-Prep class’ weekly journal assignment, filled one whole side of notebook paper, three columns wide, with NAMES! Scott Krebec’s Journal assignment is the oldest of my dozen sheets of notebook paper, three to four columns wide, filled with names.

As my writing became more important than gaming, I kept gathering names in my writing notebooks. Names of places, company names, first names, last names, nick-names; I keep two three-ring binders, labeled Fantasy and Sci-Fi. When I have a need, I flip to the genre ‘names’ file and start scanning. Even if I can’t find exactly what I want, the least I’ve come away with are syllables that sound appropriate to the character I’m writing.

Apart from my nagging about keeping a writer’s notebook, here are four more name tips:
Suitability – Have you ever met someone whose name fit them so well, that every time you’ve heard their name, your mind’s eye sees them? Seek that level on naming intimacy in your character creation.

Connotation – Here’s a trick for when you need a name that carries an idea. Select a word archetypical to the personality that you wish to convey to your reader. Now, stuff the word into a pillowcase, and beat it until it’s beyond recognition. Poke a funnel into the top of your computer, and empty the pillowcase into aforementioned funnel. Shake pillowcase to get every drop. Burn pillowcase to destroy forensic evidence. Now then, the word you see on you monitor is totally unique, but still has enough phonetic similarity to the-word-you-just-bludgeoned, that the connotation of its meaning still carries over to your reader.

EXAMPLE: In my Fantasy Novella White Iron, I needed a name for a primitive group of Orq barbarians. I landed on the word Neanderthal, and one pillowcase later, Clann Nintrithaal was born. There’s more. I informed my first two critiquers of my naming strategy, then asked them to guess the connotation word. Twice, the word Neanderthal was Bach to my ears!

Aesthetics – Be a word-smith. While selecting a name suitable to your character, craft syllables that are pleasing to both the eye and ear.

Simplicity – Don’t get so carried away making nice syllables that your reader trips over the name every time he sees it. An example of my own: Zuielmann. I thought the reader would easily pronounce this, Zool-men. I was wrong.

The moral of this non-fiction story is that names are an author’s fingerprint on their work. Story details last on a reader. I read Terry Brooks’ Sword Of Shannara when I was sixteen. I’m nearly forty now, yet the exotic name Panamon Creel still lingers in my memory. Do that!

His Will be done, Frank Creed