Tag Archives: religion

My Self-Publishing Journey: I am the Decider!

I just got the 2nd pass edits on LIGHTBRINGER back from Edits that Rock. One of the questions Rochelle raised after the first round was whether I wanted  to discuss religion quite as much as I did. In much of today’s paranormal romance, the big questions of religion are carefully skirted so as to not offend and lose readers. This isn’t as true in science-fiction and fantasy. A significant number of authors in those genres have tackled religion head-on, but not so much in romance.

I had what I think is a fairly average Christian upbringing, colored by an early love of science-fiction and fantasy.  In SF and fantasy it’s often acknowledged that in building a new world, religion is an integral part of  what motivates people. So for me, if characters have a conversation about life after death (VEILED MIRROR)  or angels (LIGHTBRINGER) it doesn’t make sense to pretend religion doesn’t exist.

And yet . . . I am paying Rochelle for her expertise, and I do want to actually sell my books, not just decorate Amazon’s website with my listings. So I thought pretty hard about her advice. I was free to take it or leave it. As I mentioned in a previous post, unlike an editor at a traditional publisher, Rochell has no leverage — the decision was all up to me.

I’m pretty good at catastrophizing. I can worry that a minor misstep can doom me to utter darkness and failure with the best of them. Interestingly, as I’ve progressed on my self-publishing journey, I’ve felt less of that. Where I used to worry that if I didn’t write the perfect synopsis I would be exiled to the outer reaches of writer purgatory, now a decision about editing is just that, a business decision.

In the end I decided to trim a few sentences from LIGHTBRINGER for the sake of the larger story arc of the Celestial Affairs series. And that’s the point of this post: It’s all about the story you want to tell. Every story has its audience. Don’t worry about that. In my opinion, the priority should be what works best for the story, not protecting the author’s ego and not potential sales.


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Review: Drink of Me and Jacob by Jacquelyn Frank

I’m wrapping up a book binge.  Every now and then, usually between projects, I take a break from my usual routine and just read book after book after book.  This binge started with Jacquelyn Frank‘s Drink of Me (2010).

Ms. Frank is a new author for me even though she’s published ten other books.  The cover for Drink of Me caught my eye with faces silhouetted in iridescent blue, and the inside teaser sealed the deal.

One of the things I like about this book is that she has created a complete alternate world that is different from what I’ve seen before.  (I’m thrilled to see more fantasy oriented paranormal romances making it to the shelves.) She also has taken familiar archetypes and made them new.  I’m not a big fan of vampire stories, but her Sange are not the usual sort of blood drinkers.  Nor are they werewolves even though they have a pack hierarchy.  Frank convincingly makes use of the amnesia ploy, too. One of the heroine’s special skills is not particularly unique, but since she didn’t remember she had it, her rediscovery of it just before it was too late was satisfying.

Drink of Me enjoyably held my attention, so I decided to read one of Frank’s earlier works to see what she’d built her career on.  (What can I say?  I’m a writer, these things are important to me.)  I bought Jacob (2006), the first of the Nightwalkers series.

Jacob is what I think of as being a more typical paranormal romance.  The eponymous hero is a demon, one of the Nightwalker races which include vampires and werewolves, but who are misunderstood by humans.  They’re really nice guys at heart.  The heroine is our “average girl” when we meet her, and asks all the questions the reader wants answers to.

One of the things that is typical to this sub-genre is the biological compulsion the protagonists felt.  I wrote about this in an earlier post “Why Isn’t Free Will Sexy?” Frank overcame my reservations on this score in two ways.  One, though her characters were clearly drawn to each other to an unusual degree, neither of them knew why until fairly late in the book.  There was no manipulation of one by the other, and no secrets being kept.  Two, and most important, their interaction, their dialogue, made them real and appealing.  They became more than their archetypes.

One touch I loved was that the demons were happy about the rise of Christianity, because it nearly eliminated the use of magic, and more specifically, the necromancers who summon demons against their will.  Another thing to recommend the book:  Frank writes excellent sexual tension and well-developed love scenes.  As I mentioned in “Reading Like a Writer,” some books are worth learning from.  For me, Jacob is worth studying for that alone.

If you haven’t yet read any of Jacquelyn Frank’s books, you should.  I know I’ll be reading more.


Filed under Book reviews, writing

Wednesday Review: The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose

M.J. Rose got her start in the world of fiction by self-publishing Lip Service, an intelligent erotic novel.  It was successful enough to be picked up by a major New York publisher, and she has since published a double handful of novels.  With The Reincarnationist, Rose moves away from the erotic, toward mystery and suspense.

The Reincarnationist is what I call a “big book” and not because it’s nearly 500 pages long.  It’s big in scope, ranging in locale from Rome, to New York City, to Utah, and back to New England.  It’s big in concept, too, raising questions about who we are and who we’ve been.  And in the end it’s a good read with a nail-biting conclusion.

Rose’s book takes some concentration to follow, interweaving stories from three time-lines and several point-of-view characters.  Unfortunately I made the mistake of reading the first half of the book in the evening before going to bed, when I wasn’t at my best.  I shifted to reading in the morning after that and found the book even better when I was awake :-).

There were times when I thought there was a bit more summarizing of the action than there should have been, but I suspect Rose’s editor may have said, “M.J. you’ve got to get it below 500 pages!” I also felt that at times the historical segments were more emotionally vivid than what was taking place in the present.

One of the things I like best about this book is that it’s more than just a mystery or an adventure.  Given that the entire book revolves around reincarnation, it raises all sorts of interesting questions about the afterlife, but it doesn’t bog down trying to answer metaphysical questions.  However, Rose does slip some wise thoughts into the heads of her characters that are worth contemplating.

At one point a young woman in love observes, How different a man becomes when he’s accomplished what he set out to do. It made me think about people I’ve known who have been frustrated in their pursuits, and then acheived success, and how their behavior changed.  It makes me more aware of how important our goals are to our happiness, but also how easy it is to let the acheiving of those goals overshadow other parts of our lives.

At another point the main character remembers something his dying father told him :  “When you look into the eyes of someone you’re photographing, and glimpse a terrible suffering, don’t turn away. . . .  It’s a gift to see into the depths of grief, because only when you realize that someone can be in that much pain and still function, speak civilly, shake your hand and tell you how nice it is to meet you, do you understand why it is that you can never give in or give up.  There’s always another chance, another day.  That’s the miracle of the human spirit. Take on the pain, Josh.  Give it its due. That’s the only way to beat it.”

I’ve known three people who have committed suicide, and I couldn’t help thinking of them when I read these words.  One was very ill.  The other two, well, I won’t speculate about what they were thinking.  But it was good to read these words of Rose’s, and I’m glad she put them out into the world.

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Religion in fiction

It may be my destiny to offend people.  I don’t want to, but I can’t help myself.  Every one of my as yet unpublished novels deals with religion in some way. When I build a new world, it just seems reasonable to put some kind of religious belief system in place for my characters.  There’s no culture on earth that hasn’t been influenced by at least one religion.  Why should fiction be any different?

My first two novels, Dangerous Talents and Forbidden Talents, are about the descendents of a lost Vinland colony and their adventures in Alfheim.  So far, so good.  Not many people will be troubled if I take a few liberties with the old Norse religion.  (Cultural drift changes beliefs over time, you know.)  But remember, the Vinlanders had been exposed to Christianity.  They don’t follow that religion, but they do have an opinion about it.  Not satisfied to stop there, I also populated Alfheim with the descendents of the Anasazi Indians.  (The Anasazi disappeared as a distint culture from Arizona about 800 years ago — I say they went to Alfheim.)  Their (the descendants) beliefs are derived from those of the Hopi Indians — the Anasazi’s actual descendents — but I couldn’t leave them untouched either.

My third book, Veiled Mirror, only deals with ghosts — but how can you talk about ghosts without asking questions about the afterlife?

In my lastest book, Lightbringer, I go all the way.  I have a fallen angel trying to protect a psychic from a demonic assassin.  How could I let the characters ignore the obvious questions?

Religion isn’t necessary for a book to be compelling.  If I’m swept up in the story, I may not notice its lack until later — as I did with Souless by Gail Carriger.  Souless is a lot of fun — I highly recommend it.  It’s what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies should have been.  The heroine, Alexia, is souless.  She is a proximity antidote to both vampires and werewolves.  When she touches them they instantly become mortal.  The plot hinges on this fact.  Yet I realized as I began writing this blog that the author had barely touched on the existential questions that should arise from the premise.

I don’t know if readers will be offended by anything I’ve written.  I hope not.  But there is a vocal minority who aren’t very tolerant of differences of opinion.  I guess that’s just another reason why authors need to grow a thick skin.

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