Free downloads: Narnia quotes

narnia-centaurs

Something about breakfasts…

I’ve been reading the Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books to my kids over the last year or so, and I’ve noticed a theme.

First of all, I’m a big fan of the hobbit idea of “second breakfast”.

And then for some reason, the two Narnia memes I’ve made center around breakfast.

Coincidence? Or conspiracy? You decide.

narnia-the-horse-and-his-boy-quote

And meanwhile, if you’re a fan of the books, enjoy the quotes and share them with your friends!

(And go make that omelette you’re suddenly craving!)

Answering the question “What is speculative fiction?”

whatisspecfic.com

New website launched

Hey, friends! My latest finished project is a simple website designed to answer the question, “What is speculative fiction?” 

Whenever I talk about the movies I like or the stories I write, I use this term “speculative fiction” and many people give me a blank look.

Has this ever happened to you?

If it has, you know what comes next.

Next we have to explain that it’s an umbrella term for all the genres of fiction that include fantastical, supernatural or futuristic elements — genres like science fiction, fantasy, dystopian and post-apocalyptic, steampunk and cyberpunk, paranormal and urban fantasy and more.

My goal is to raise awareness for this umbrella genre term and bring it more into the mainstream vocabulary. This site is very basic: it provides the definition of “speculative fiction”, it contains a few links to examples and resources, and above all, it offers a few shareable graphics that people can use to join the spec fic awareness movement.

What you can do to help:

Go to whatisspecfic.com and download a free badge (if you are a spec fic author, reader or fan, there’s a badge for you!) and post it on your blog. Share the “What is speculative fiction?” graphics on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites.

Got a better idea?

If there’s something you think I could do better, or if you have an idea for a shareable graphic to spread the word, drop a comment below. The more, the merrier!

Procrastination meme

How noble and necessary distractions appear when you're procrastinating. Don't be fooled.

I’ve started creating shareable graphic memes when I have the time. Feel free to share on your favorite social media and help knock some sense into fellow procrastinators. (Kidding. No knocking. Have mercy, friends.)

Dogfights Outside My Window

Hummingbird flying up to feeder

Hummingbird at feeder Hummingbird lookout Hummingbird feeding

There were dogfights in the air outside my window this morning.

Apparently, hanging out a hummingbird feeder is the catalyst for war. Hummingbird war.

#bestintentions #unintendedconsequences

Your Turn

Have you ever done something nice that caused a stir? Chime in below!

The Liebster Award

Liebster award

Fellow blogger and writer Bethany Jennings tagged me for this fun “award”. Thanks for thinking of me, Bethany. She has some fascinating book concepts — you can check out the blurbs about her works in progress on her website.

Bethany shared this about the Liebster Award:

“A Liebster is a ‘pay it forward’ sort of blogging chain mail. Liebster is German for some lovely traits such as endearing, welcoming, and valued. Those are kind compliments to pay via this nomination! It is also to encourage readers to discover new blogs.”

Here are the rules I need to share:

– Answer the 11 interview questions
– In that post, link back to the person who awarded you.
– Choose 11 other bloggers to award, focusing on those with 200 followers or below.
– Link to those bloggers in your post, then go and leave them comments to share the good news!
– Be sure to ask them 11 original questions.

So, here are the 11 questions Bethany asked me and her other nominees!  At the bottom I’ll tag some bloggers and ask them 11 questions of my own.

The Questions

What is your favorite blog post you’ve ever written?

I don’t have a favorite. I do enjoy going back to see samples of my photo-editing work. Even though I was the one doing it, it still looks like magic to me.

photo-editing-gia-facebook

What makes your heart sing about your current WIP or creative endeavor?

It’s a story that never gets old for me, how a divine prince finds his true love in a young woman who committed murder and is being shipped out of the kingdom, banished for life. He leaves behind his status, his superpowers, and his kingdom to go after her. Along the way he finds a young man from her village who loves her so much that he also is leaving the safety of the kingdom for her sake. What will happen to these three — the broken girl, the devoted would-be boyfriend and the prince who gave up everything?

Stories of love and loyalty in the face of hardship always get me.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

The answer to this question hasn’t changed since I came up with it as a kid. The ability to change my size — as giant as I like or as tiny as a microscopic cell. This power would translate into so many things: strength, speed (if you’re big enough, you can take one long step over the Atlantic, right?), invisibility (get small enough and no one can see you), etc.

Where’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to, and why?

Hard to choose. I like so many places. The Northern California coast is probably my favorite, though. And let’s say Prairie Creek Redwoods specifically. Fern Canyon is amazing.

Fern Canyon, California

Speaking of travel, what’s your favorite mode of transportation?

Walking. It’s so relaxing and you have time to take everything in and people-watch. But driving is nice, too, because long road trips lend themselves to either great conversation or great brainstorming of stories.

What is your ideal dinner/supper?

Tacos!

What was the first story you ever wrote?

I don’t remember. I started pretty young. There was one called “The Cygnet” about a baby swan. I’m especially fond of my early attempt at crossover fan fiction in 6th grade: “Indiana Jones in Narnia”.

indiana-jones-meets-aslan-narnia

Do you like poetry? If so, what kind?

All kinds. Free verse can be great, but I like forms, too. Sonnets and haiku and all that. I don’t often go out of my way for it these days, but I like it.

Tell me about a treasured childhood memory.

Summers at a ranch in Napa. The orchards had so many kinds of fruit: cherries, tangerines, oranges, pears, blackberries. There were lizards to catch and long grass to hide in. A creek with clay in the banks so you could line the sand and make water channels and pools that didn’t sink into the sand and disappear. There was a circular driveway, so I would get a bag of cherries and ride my bike around that circle with no hands (because my hands were busy with the cherries). I was about 10-11 years old and it was wonderful!

Now tell me about a moment in your life that changed you forever.

I have these moments daily. I am changing continually (hopefully for the better), and although there might be some moments that make bigger shifts than others, I value the many, many little moments where my choices are taking me where I want to go. Yes, the moment I met my husband was a forever-change, but so was choosing to marry him. So was choosing to stay with him when other options presented themselves. So was having my first child. And my second. So was recognizing God was really interested in me, personally, and choosing to give Him my allegiance.

Every day I believe we make choices that affect our eternity. (The song below reminds me that no matter where I’m at, I can make a turn and go in a different direction. All it takes is one choice in one moment. And course corrections can happen as often as needed. Plus, it’s fun to dance to.)

If you could become an expert in anything overnight, what would you choose?

That’s a tough one, too. Either playing the piano–no, the guitar (because it’s more portable)–or speaking another language. But I don’t know which language.

So let’s stick with the guitar. Here’s a picture of me not knowing how to play the guitar:

teddi-with-guitar

The 11 Nominees & My 11 Questions

Joseph Brassey
Grace Bridges
Kat Heckenbach
Rachael K. Jones (I’m a new fan of her short fiction!)
Rob Kroese
Stant Litore
Mirtika
Melissa F. Olson
Lori Stanley Roeleveld
Kory M. Shrum
Andrew Winch

If you’ve been tagged above, here are the 11 all new, original questions I have for you to answer if you choose to participate in this Liebster Award posting party.

When did you know that you were really a writer?

What would it take for you to quit writing?

Favorite music for writing? 

Favorite music for working out or waking up or partying (whichever of those three you do the most)?

What things in life make you feel most alive?

What is the deepest relationship you’ve had with a fictional character (yours or another author’s)?

Whose fiction did you enjoy the most growing up?

What new author (first published in the past 5 years) do you admire the most, and why?

If you could gather a dream team for life or business, what kind of people would you surround yourself with?

What do you secretly wish would happen to you someday?

Tell us about a tender moment with a family member.

Thanks again, Bethany, for tagging me. And thanks to everyone I am tagging for being who you are and enriching my life with your fiction and/or your presence. Let’s continue to make the world a better place — together!

Story Release: The Author Collector

tac-cover_800h

I suppose most people would announce the release of an ebook on the day it actually came out, but I’ve never been one for following the crowd. Given that my marketing plan as an indie author involves writing a lot more before I focus on promoting my work, the release of my first story was really rather anti-climactic, anyway. More of a fun project for kicks than a serious attempt at world domination. Like sticking my toe into the giant pool of publishing.

That said, I felt like talking about my story today, so here I am.

So is it a book or what?

You may notice that I’ve been saying “story” and not “book” or “novel”. That’s because the story clocks in at about 17,000 words — just short of novella length and nowhere near the length of a full novel.

The Author Collector was a fun story to write. This story is more along the lines of Ray Bradbury’s or Arthur C. Clarke’s collections of shorter works. It’s long for a “short story” but just about right to read in one sitting if you have a couple of hours. It is only available in ebook format at the moment. It’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

The story blurb (“back cover copy”, as it were)

Over 100 years in the future, authors still face the same struggles. Two years after his son is born, Andy Kingston gives up his writing dream and takes drastic action to support his family: he lies to his wife and arranges an interview for a government job. When he is kidnapped and then held in a baffling prison environment, he’ll do anything and everything to escape and return home. But Andy will face choices no man — and no author — should ever have to make.
A psychological thriller set in a dystopian future, this story is for readers and authors alike. If you have ever loved books, loved writing or loved your family, it will prompt the question: What would you do if the Author Collector took you?

More to come…

I’ve got some fun background info to share about the birth of the idea, the writing of the story, the development of the cover and the process of putting it out with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program. There may even be some hints about a sequel or longer version of the story, since there are some things that happen to Andy after the story ends that I’d love to explore some day. That will be coming up in future posts!
How to compress video files for online use (reduce file size)

handbrake-video-transcoder

It all started when birds built a nest under the eaves outside our kitchen door. Next came the photographs, then the purchase of a “snake camera”, and finally gigabytes and gigabytes of video footage.

It wasn’t long before my laptop couldn’t hold any more video files. The hard drive was filling up! I needed to find a way to compress these large video files to something I could upload for web viewing on Facebook or YouTube.

Handbrake — The Free Software for Compressing Video Files

A quick search online brought up Handbrake, an open source, free software for reducing the size of video files (technically called a “video transcoder”). YouTubers spoke highly of it and it seemed to be recommended everywhere.

It is easy to use. You can queue up an entire folder full of video files and have them all done at once (big time saver!). There are many options you can tweak, but you can do the basics of taking a file and optimizing it for the Web in less than 10 clicks — probably less than 5 clicks, if you don’t count selecting the file you want to compress, selecting the folder to save it in, and naming it.

Wondering how much smaller the files got? Handbrake took 25 GB of video down to 517 MB. And the video footage still looked great (in casual watching on my desktop PC, I couldn’t see the difference). Of course, the video footage I was working with was already relatively low quality, and I left most of the options on their default settings. Your mileage may vary!

I recommend this tool for anyone looking to reduce the file size of a video before posting online.

Handy Links

What to Say When You’ve Got Nothing Good to Say

teddi-thinking-question

Ack. That awkward moment when you realize that you’ve found yet another author that really needs an editor (or a better one).

After you’ve already enthusiastically told them on Twitter that you downloaded their sample.

I so much want to tell them that they need help… and yet it just seems rude and interfering to say such things out of the blue. From a stranger. Especially since they have several books already out and lots of enthusiastic endorsements on their website.

Well-endowed endorsements

That’s the other thing. I trusted those endorsements. The people who were quoted sounded like they might know what they’re talking about (“award-winning authors”, etc). They were eloquent in their promotion of the author’s work.

Then I read the Kindle sample and can only think, “What were they talking about? These stories aren’t ready for publication!”

Raising questions

The experience brings up so many questions.

  • Am I just like him? Thinking my story is ready and yet it’s not?
  • Should I even be judging his work? Maybe his stuff is perfect for his perfect audience, and I’m just not them.
  • Am I doing the same thing those endorsing authors did? When I write an enthusiastic review of a friends’ work, am I giving a false impression of its quality? What if I’m too biased and it’s really mediocre and not that great?

My current conclusion

Honesty is still my best policy. Not interfering, but honest and true to what I believe. Don’t buy the book just to spare the author’s feelings — the sample didn’t make the cut. On the other hand, I don’t need to get up in the guy’s inbox and tell him that he sucks. (Actually his writing wasn’t that bad. It just needed some tightening and some work to cut out cliche junk.)

The same policy goes for the reviews or endorsements I give. Be honest. Don’t support something that I don’t think is good enough. Don’t compromise just because somebody is a friend. Do my best to be objective (and kind). I think I’ve done that so far, I just need to stick with it.

Honesty is still number one. But silence comes in a close second. Drop the book and move on. Let it go.

How about you?

Have you been there? What do you do in these situations?

Are You Green? Or Yellow?

What was your first thought when you read the title of this post? Green, as in jealous? Yellow, as in cowardly?

That’s not what I’m talking about.

sponge-green-or-yellow

Yep. I’m talking about sponges. You see, when I grab the sponge at my sink and start washing a cup or a dish, I go straight for the green side. Scratchy, rough and tough — guaranteed to get the grunge out.

I use the green side first and I use it 98% of the time. Why? Because it gets the job done and gets it done faster than the yellow side.

Isn’t that a little harsh?

What about my Teflon and non-stick surfaces? Doesn’t the green side scratch up my dishes?

Why, no.

My dishes are quite safe. Because I don’t buy dishes that can’t handle the green side of the sponge. Why buy some namby-pamby dish that I will have to coddle for the rest of its existence?

When it comes to tools and the accessories of daily life, I am looking for things that can handle the pressures of life. Heavy, solid pots. Unbreakable plates. Solid glassware. In other words, I want dishes I can scrub with the green side. Something that will last.

It doesn’t stop in the kitchen.

The second thing that hit me today is that I feel this way about other things in life. I don’t have namby-pamby friends. They don’t disappear at the first sign of a rough day. They’re tough and courageous and get the job done. They dig in and do what it takes to overcome obstacles and make the world a better place.

We encourage each other to be tough and keep the faith. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) Notice, it’s not wood sharpening wood or cotton sharpening cotton. It’s iron. Tough stuff.

Of course, using the green side of the sponge doesn’t mean I’m always scrubbing the heck out of something. One learns to use only the amount of force necessary to accomplish the job.

steel-spongeEven so, this can be taken too far. I have a protagonist in one of my stories that not only uses the green side of the sponge on people, he’s more of a stainless steel scrubber sponge. If there’s a layer of grunge somewhere, he’ll scrape it off and it won’t always be pleasant. He rubs a lot of people the wrong way. He even leaves scratches on solid metal folks. And if you’re a bloodsucking hemavore, he’d as likely kill you as look at you. Heh. That’s too rough, though he doesn’t think so.

What about the yellow side?

Isn’t it time I take the metaphor to the other side of the sponge? Hmm… What’s the yellow side good for? Well, you’ve got me there.

How about some of you yellow-side folks speak up for the softer, gentler side of the sponge?

I’d also be tickled to hear a good defense of those funky blue sponges that supposedly don’t scratch your non-stick surfaces and are “safe” for anything. Safe, sure — but do they get the job done?

Leave a comment below!

Limited Time: Time Travel Story Bundle (and a marketing idea)

time travel story bundle

First, the Vital Stats

The Time Travel Story Bundle has a variable price.

  • Pay at least $5: Get 6 titles
  • Pay $14 or more: Get 12 titles (including a favorite of mine by Stant Litore!)

If you are bargain savvy, and enjoy sci-fi, this is the kind of deal that will stretch your book dollars and pump your e-reader full of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey goodness.

Bundle offer ends April 9 (double check the countdown on the offer page, I might have counted wrong!).

Why? Because Sci-Fi. Because Time Travel. Need I Say More?

Ansible by Stant LitoreI’m a huge fan of science fiction. Time travel is always a fun (or ridiculous) part of sci-fi, so this bundle of stories looks like a collection that would keep my spring reading hopping. (Get it? Ha!)

The big reason that I am recommending this group of stories is because I’ve read one of the bonus books — Ansible by Stant Litore. It’s a collection of some of the most intense, exotic science fiction I’ve ever read. And, remember, I’m a fan of the best and the classics. The Ansible stories will take you places you’ve never imagined, give you a taste of life in the skins of some very strange creatures. And did I mention — the fate of Earth and our universe is at stake?

The rest of the collection looks intriguing. With names like Dean Wesley Smith, Bob Mayer and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, you know there’s some top-selling indie authors included. If I skip over some other popular name you love, please forgive me — I don’t have the amount of time I used to for reading, so I’ve missed out on a lot of the great indie stuff out there.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, like me, you might like to pick this bundle up for Steven Saville’s Time’s Mistress. Steven has written for the DW and Torchwood universes. You can read more about his impressive background and works on his Wikipedia page.

Bite-Sized Sci-Fi

Several of the books included are collections of shorter stories.

That fits perfectly into my sporadic reading schedule. I can catch a story while waiting in line for something, during a park playdate or in a single evening after dinner and before settling in to watch Stargate: Atlantis with my hubby.

Authors: Take a Marketing Lesson from the Bundle

I don’t want to miss this opportunity to point out what a great strategy this sort of bundle is for authors, and especially indie authors. Find others whose work shares a readership with yours. Bundle stories together to gain new fans. When you’re new, especially, getting people to try your work and enjoy it is paramount.

Participate on blogs and support authors who are more established than you are, and find some who like your work. Then look for opportunities to partner with them for online events like launch parties, book bundles, blog hops and all the other many tactics that gain reader attention.

Sowing Good Seeds

There’s something called the harvest principle, or “sowing and reaping”, that I find very effective in this existence. Some philosophies call it “karma”. When you do good, it comes back to you. You have a chance right now to spread the word about this deal, and sow some seeds towards others sharing your projects. Use the share buttons along the left or click the bird in the quote below to share the quote and link on Twitter.

12 Time Travel stories for $14 or 6 for $5 – Support indie authors and get great scifi! Offer ends 4/9 http://storybundle.com/scifi tweet this

I’m excited about trying some of the authors in this bundle that I haven’t read before (most of them). I might find some new favorites. How do you usually find stories you like? Drop a comment below!

Pet Oceans

crab-with-pet-oceans2015

My stuffed crab with her pet oceans.

Yes, those little bottles contain actual sea water from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Harvested a splash of the Pacific from Santa Cruz, CA, and a swig of the Atlantic from a beach on Tybee Island, GA.

Just thought you should know, in case something like this shows up in one of my stories. Then you can smile and say to yourself, “Hey, I’ve seen that crab!” You’ll be in the know, part of the “in crowd”, the inner circle.

Yep, ’cause you’re my peeps. And that’s how writers roll.

Is Christianity fundamentally at odds with speculative fiction?

I came across an article that made the indirect point that religious readers want stories that reinforce their belief systems, and several elements of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc) are at odds with that.

In his post Religion in Fiction, David Farland recounts his experience with a writer who wrote a science fiction story for the Mormon market. But the book failed miserably. Why?

By setting his tale in the future, he was hoping to create a sense of wonder. But I suspect that such tales too often challenge the reader’s own views of the future, and religious readers usually don’t want to be challenged.

Religious literature is comfort literature. It reinforces, strengthens, and builds up the reader’s own belief system. That’s the draw. So anything that negates that will tend to disenfranchise readers.

Farland has worked professionally analyzing stories in Hollywood, finding those that would appeal to the most people and bring the most commercial success. I expect his observation is accurate, so far as it goes.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

If the needs and desires of Christian readers are at odds with the heart and soul of speculative stories (wonder, imagination, horror, the gritty reality of human nature), then is Christian speculative fiction doomed? Will it ever attain the success seen by some Christian fiction in other genres?

The conversations I’ve heard and participated in on the topic of Christian speculative fiction often revolve around this dilemma of “religious people don’t want spec fic (or don’t think they’d enjoy it)” and “religious people who like spec fic don’t know good Christian spec fic exists”. Some of us still haven’t given up on the long-term goal of teaching mainstream Christians to embrace spec fic, but the challenge remains: How exactly do we do that?

If religious people want to read entertainment that comforts them and reinforces their beliefs, what does that look like? Is it possible to make this happen with speculative fiction?

Jeff Gerke, original founder of Marcher Lord Press (now Enclave Publishing), often uses the example of stories like “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” to point out the popularity possible for Christian spec fic. Those stories are heart-warming and transformative, yet they contain speculative elements — angels, ghosts, time travel.

Perhaps this is a hint of what is possible.

Divergent movie poster

Divergent movie poster

Personally, I look at some recent dystopian hits like The Hunger Games and Divergent, and see strong, moral characters who rise above dark (and speculative) circumstances despite temptation and fear.

While these stories do not have overt religious themes, the overall values portrayed are often moral ones. I consider this a win for our culture, overall. Books and movies that glorify self-sacrifice, honesty, determination and love will shape society in a more positive direction than those that glorify murder, rape, seduction, manipulation, deception and betrayal.

Your Thoughts Are As Good as Mine!

So share them below! Do you write speculative fiction with a Christian worldview? What are you doing to write things that you think Christian readers would enjoy?

There are examples out there of Christian writers making big success with their books. Which ones have you read? What patterns do you see? Is there a book in you that might fit that pattern?