You’re writing a fairy tale?

Riders of the Sidhe by John Duncan (1911)

Well, no. I’ve not got the wisdom or experience to write a really good fairy tale. Perhaps someday, I shall be old enough to write a fairy tale, to misquote C.S. Lewis. That’s something I might elaborate on in a later post, not the point for today. So like essay deadlines, I shall let that one slide on by.

Fairy tales are in vogue nowadays, or at least, they were a few years ago. I’m a bit out of the loop on publishing trends, unfortunately. Fairytale retellings were popular.Rightfully so, for fairy tales are incredible stories. They contain Truth, which is their purpose, as their shape has been polished and honed over countless retellings to the forms that we know today.

However, that is not the story that I’m writing. It’s not even really about fairies.

Rather, the story is about Faerie.

To quote JRR Tolkien, “The definition of a fairy-story—what it is, or what it should be—does not, then, depend on any definition or historical account of elf or fairy, but upon the nature of Faërie: the Perilous Realm itself, and the air that blows in that country.” (“On Fairy Stories”)

Well, that’s helpful. Interestingly, he uses elf and fairy interchangeably as inhabitants of Faerie. Not just these two, but also Dwarves, Witches, Giants, Trolls, and enchanted mortals. Indeed, it holds everything that exists in our own world, except more Real.

It is an escape to this Reality that lures us into the stories, part of the yearning for something beyond. At heart, that is what the story that I’m writing is about, which is part of why it’s turned into a YA novel.

Most of the work that I do at summer camp was with teenagers, usually younger teenagers. They craved belonging, a sense of value, a consolation, one could say, about how they interpret their life. Those are things that stories can provide. Not just provide, but help create in the world outside the covers of a book.

Look at the fandom community. It’s incredible. People from all over the world united in their love for a story. Not just that, but stories shape how we understand the world. It’s part of the moral imperative of a storyteller. As we write stories, we are shaping the minds and lives of our readers, which shapes the culture.

Faerie stories aren’t about fairies. They’re about us.

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Well, I’m Back.

Well, I’m back.

I know that it’s been a long time since I last posted. Luckily, I took a hiatus after the high point of interviewing Mirriam. She’s still an incredible artist and an even more amazing person. Definitely, follow her and her work.

Where are we now though? Great question. Since I last posted, I’ve worked another season at a summer camp and changed majors. I am now an English major with an emphasis in creative writing, with plans for grad school and freelance work in the future. As part of that, I’m spending a month of this next summer studying at Oxford.

Oxford.

In England. With the Bodleian Library. And the comma.

Dudes. I’m stoked. I love, love, love British literature so the chance to study there is incredible. Plus, I plan to follow the grand Romantic tradition of taking a walking tour somewhere.

Let’s see, what else has happened?  I wrote a handful of poems and won second place with one of them, but we shall we what happens with the rest of them. Wrote a short story that’s gotten rejected for publication a few times and an attempt at a creative essay. Totally enjoyed writing in that genre

Oh! I forgot. I also wrote two hundred pages of a novel that is absolutely terrible. My guess is that I tried to write a story that was never meant to be a novel. At least, that wasn’t my intent when the plot-kernel showed up. So, we’ll see what happens there. Seize the day, after all. The Newsies knew what they were talking about.

I’m starting a second novel, a YA Faerie Story, that I plan to finish this semester, revise over the summer, and then submit to #pitchwars. That’s a highly ambitious project, especially since YA is new ground for me. The progress for that will end up being the largest part of this year’s blog posts, I think. But we shall see!

Anyways, see you all around! More often than before, at least.

Finally! Interview with Mirriam Neal!

Hello! Welcome back for this special edition of “Kaleb blogs about things!” In this case, I’m only asking questions and doing introductions because Mirriam is the real star of

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Today’s artist 

today’s show. Her second novel was just  published (Which you should go check out after reading this post) and I came up with some questions for her. Some regarding the book, some about Marvel, some about art and life in general. Her answers are incredible and you should go follow her own blog if you don’t already. (Link is at the end)

 

  1. When I first heard the title, Paper Crowns, I immediately thought of the British Christmas tradition, which I feel is not at all related. How did you decide on that title? The central plot of the novel is Ginny, who has just discovered her inheritance – the throne of the Summer Kingdom. Her Blessing – the thing that gives her the right to rule – deals with paper. ‘Paper Crowns’ seemed fitting.

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    This is the book! 

 

  1. When you’re writing a book, especially Paper Crowns, what does the process of growing it in your mind and then getting it on paper look like? It looks like a shopping list creating itself. It puts itself together like an ever-growing list. Say, 1. Faeries 2. Paper 3. Oberon 4. Cat, etc. etc. until I have a shape I like. I get the ingredients, throw them together, and hope something good happens.

 

  1. I know you have a lot of different books, included one published previously. Have you noticed common themes that tie them together? I suppose my style is still developing, so that’s hard to pin-point. Hopefully it will develop until I die. As for common themes, I really don’t think so – I usually write darker, grittier novels, and the Paper books are a huge deviation from that. I’m a huge, huge fan of intimate friendships, come to think of it, so I suppose that’s a theme in all of my novels.

 

  1. How’d that finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. treat you, especially so close behind Captain America: Civil War? It was crushing, but probably not for the usual reasons. I’m really going to miss Brett Dalton. He brought my favorite element each season, so I’m going to have to find a new one. As for Civil War, it was incredible – and less crushing than I thought it would be. I suppose that’s a relief, even if it felt like a bit of a cop-out. It ties with The Winter Soldier for my favorite Marvel movie to date.

 

  1. Speaking of which, word on the street is that you’re a bit of a Bucky Barnes fan. Why him, specifically? Oh, so many reasons. Bucky was my favorite Marvel character before The Winter Soldier movie came out, tying with Cloak and Dagger. I love him because he’s undergone so many transformations, but his inner strength has remained. He’s gone through horrific situations nobody should have to endure, he’s been treated like a weapon with no captain_america_civil_war_96567soul, and yet after 73 years of brainwashing, he still recognizes Steve. Not to mention that two years later, during the events of Civil War, he’s simply trying to survive without hurting anyone. He’s dangerous, he’s tragic, he’s lived through nearly a century of hell, and through it all he’s remained a kind person. He’s very important to me. Since then, the only Marvel character to give Bucky a run for his money is Frank Castle, but Bucky still wins. 

 

  1. I have also gotten an impression that you really like characters of his type- the tortured, broken, darker hero. What is it about them and their stories that calls to you? I like characters I can sympathize with, characters who make me hurt alongside them. But angst and pain aren’t enough – the key words are ‘darker hero.’ When someone tries so hard to do the right thing in spite of their past, that calls to me. I feel it’s very important, and it makes me root for them more than I root for others.

 

  1. What draws you to reading or watching certain stories instead of others? Are there concrete things or is it more of a feeling? I quickly realized, when I was in my early teens, that I hated Hallmark movies and I disliked most serial cartoons. This began to refine itself until I realized I was actually incredibly picky. If something doesn’t have substance, 99% of the time, I won’t enjoy it at all. If I can’t take something out of a story – creative inspiration, or a relationship or character that leaves an impression, or an amazing moral – I don’t enjoy it. I read maybe two or three YA books a year because I reached the point where I didn’t enjoy them. If it doesn’t have depth or substance or SOMETHING, I won’t enjoy it at all. (There are bizarre exceptions to this rule. For instance, I’ll laugh my head off watching The Young Frankenstein or Rocket Man. Don’t ask me why.)

 

  1. You’re a pretty big Marvel fan, and don’t care for DC. What are some of the differences between the two that make that distinction? Do you find those same elements in your work? We won’t talk about the recent ‘Cap is Hydra’ fiasco here. Ahem. Moving on. I noticed a large difference at a young age (I was a comic kid; I grew up reading my dad’s old Marvel comics and I thought hey, I’ll like DC too, right? Wrong. I would check out DC and Marvel encyclopedias and read them before bed, and I quickly realized I liked Marvel much better.) Marvel has more elements I love. They take themselves less seriously. They have a lighter sense of humor. They handle dark, painful situations without drowning me in the AAAAAAAAAAANGST. DC likes to dwell on the bleak, dark aspects of things. I watched the first few episodes of Gotham when it came out, and even comparing it to Daredevil, I liked Daredevil much more – even though it was darker and grittier than most Marvel shows. I went and saw Batman vs. Superman before I saw Captain America: Civil War and was utterly disappointed. Basically, DC needs to lighten up a little (which I feel like they’re trying to do with Suicide Squad).

 

  1. As a Christian, what do you think the relationship between faith, art, and beauty should be? How do you illustrate it through your writing? The first part of this question is one I want to spend my whole life answering, but I think it boils down to the Bible itself. A few years ago, when I was tossing myself around in the sea of ‘How dark is too much? What pushes the envelope? What should I write and what shouldn’t I?’ Then I realized – the Bible deals with a TON of dark, gritty, hard-to-swallow things. But the end result? The end result is God. It’s God’s redeeming grace and love and beauty, and that’s the whole point of the book. I think sometimes you have to tunnel down to find the light.

 

  1. If it’s possible to be Christian writers who honor God through writing, how do you think Christian readers can do the same? Reading should provoke thought. I think it should help you wind up with questions, then answers, and eventually the truth. I think being open to the truth, whether you like it or not, is the responsibility of the reader. A good book can change a life, but so can a bad one. Differentiating is where the reader comes in.

 

  1. How do you balance writing, art, faith, and other responsibilities? I have a mantra I chant to myself often – balance is fluid. (I’m not kidding. If you walk into my room at any given time, chances are I’m sitting on my yoga ball-slash-desk chair going ‘Balance is fluid. Balance is fluid.’)The concept of balance changes depending on my circumstances. Sometimes it means dropping something I thought I could carry. I’m blessed to be able to work from home currently, which gives me more time, but my schedule is never the same week to week, which makes it hard. I can’t always write, I can’t always draw. Sometimes days go by and I haven’t had time to do either, but I know when I’ve reached he point where I HAVE to. It’s like knowing you’ve held your breath for too long. As for faith, faith isn’t something to juggle. Faith envelopes everything – I don’t have to make time for it, but I do have to make time for its upkeep. I read the Bible (and the Celtic Way of Prayer, my current ‘food for faith’ book) when I eat lunch, for instance, and I don’t rush it.

 

  1. What should we look forward to from you next as your writing career progresses? I’m looking for a traditional publisher to take Dark is the Night. It’s a novel about a bitter, heartbroken man chasing down a vampire. His chase leads him to Salvation, South Carolina; a town full of new surprises, new friends, new enemies, and old faith.

That next book sounds awesome, Mirriam. Looking forward to it! And here’s some information on Paper Crowns!

Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.

Want to buy it? You should, so find it here. Or, want to read her blog and/or contact her? All that is here.

Blog: https://mirriamneal.com/

Email: the-shieldmaiden@hotmail.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29949578-paper-crowns?ref=ru_lihp_up_rs_15_mclk-up3061430879

Publisher’s page: http://pagesofwonder.com/neal.html

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Paper-Crowns-Mirriam-Neal/dp/1612253369/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461172653&sr=1-1&keywords=paper+crowns+mirriam+neal

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/paper-crowns-mirriam-neal/1123700963?ean=9781612253367

MEET THE CAST: LIBERATOR Interview pt. 1

So, here I am again! This time with a discussion with the main character of my superhero stories. And while I could list questions, I decided to do it more in a narrative format to incorporate body and facial language to really get to know her better. Remember! Come back on May 31st for author Mirriam Neal as she answers all sorts of questions loosely centered around writing. I have her answers back and they are incredible.


A sharp knock echoed through my mental writing chamber- cutting through the crashing of nearby waves and  the crackling fire. I rise and pick through the piles of books to open the door revealing my guest.

She’s not tall, like one would expect for a superhero. Instead, she stands just a few inches shorter than me. Dark sandy hair, tied into a braid, drapes across her shoulder and she twirls the end around one finger. It’s her eyes that grab attention. They’re blue and incredibly sharp. Calculating even.

I gesture for her to take a seat on one of my armchairs. She tilts her head towards the stack of books on the arm and I hurry to move them. They end up dropped on a window bench atop LiberatorHeadshotan even larger book stack. She sits then, perched on the edge, close to springing up.

“Well,” I say finally, dropping into my own chair and pulling out a recorder.

“No audio recording,” She says, and I try to put a finger on how to describe her voice. It’s deep for a woman- darker with just a hint of a roll. I couldn’t place her accent, but it hinted at a Southern drawl. Familiar, but not recognizable. “Just write it.”

I nod and pull out a notebook, flipping it to an empty page and scrounging around for a pen. She continues to examine the room, discretely, with no more hair-twirling. Now her hands dig into the arm-rest and her jaw clenches. It was time to get started.

“Well, thanks for coming,” I begin, sticking the pen behind my ear. She nods. I pause to think through the interview. “Let’s start simple. What’s your name?”

She slumps back in the chair, bangs draping across her eyes, and snorts.

“You said simple,” She snaps, voice suddenly taught, and tosses her arms up before crossing them. “Lily Bennet!” Her voice rises sharply with the name. “I don’t even know! Jackie Marshall? Kris Martínez?” Her accent changes, sounding perfectly El Salvadoran. She continues, voice rising with each name, “Myriam Moreau? Franziska Acker? Ocèane Abbuhl? Yasmine Alfarsi? I have all their passports! Even have my pictures!”

She stops again, her breath short, ragged, and sharp. I sit frozen and she slowly lifts her head, pushing the hair back out of her face. Her face, earlier so composed, now just looks tired . Lily, the name I choose to use even though I know her birth name, rubs her eyes, wiping away what looked like tears. My heart twists.

“But none fit. I’m just wearing other’s clothes.” She shakes her head and forces her face back to neutral. “The only I know that belongs to me is the Liberator. And it’s not a name! It’s not a person!” Lily snaps the last part as she half-rises and then crumbles back into the chair. “I’m not either.”

I study my question list. That was the first question out of forty written down from a list of a hundred. Maybe that was enough for the moment. She needed some time to process it.

While she seemed small at the door, now she seems smaller. I put the notebook down and magicked up a cup of mint tea. The smell permeates the entire room and I handed the mug to her.

She grabs it and drains it- not even pausing to let it cool. I look down at my own. Steam still rolls off.

I stand and walk to the window overlooking the bay. A storm was brewing. It lingers on the horizon, crackling with lightning. Wind whips up waves and and snapped my garden plants back and forth. The air smelled of salt and fish and something else. Something strange. I frown.

“I don’t know who I am,” Lily (or perhaps Anna in this case) whispers, just loud enough to hear. “No idea where home is or who my family is.  Do you know what that’s like? What it does to people?” She raises her head to stare at me. Her gaze froze me where I stood.

“No. Afraid not,” That was all the answer I could muster. She shrank down again. “But-” I stopped there. I had nothing to answer that.

Thunder rumbled in the distance and rolled across the slate-flat waters. I could hear her on the opposite end of the room.

“Let’s wait for the storm to hit,” I said after a moment. “It would be a good time for a beach walk.”

Nothing but silence. Then the door creaks and she was one. A few moments later, she sprinted across the beach. Sand flies up behind her feet and she was almost running faster than I could follow.

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COMIC REVIEW: Aether & Empire #1

Page Template - SingleAt the height of Victoria’s reign, a scientific expedition to Mars has vanished and the daring rescue mission is now a race against time and space. Jules Verne meets Star Trek in Aether & Empire, a tale of adventure, mystery, and terror from Blue Juice Comics! 

(Blurb from the publisher)
Aether & Empire #1 ( April 2016)
Story: Mike Horan
Pencils and Inks: Bong Ty Dazo
Colors and Cover: Tim Yates
Letters: Crank!
Editor: Thomas Mumme
Layout and Design Editor: Adam Miller

Airships! The British Empire! Some of the most royal facial hair to sail the skies! All things that make steampunk such a beloved genre- along with its cheerful disregard for historical accuracy, flippant attitude towards authority, and full-steam ahead approach to innovation and gadgets (Love my pun there, right?). A steampunk loves gadgets. But enough about steampunk and onto the comic. A few disclaimers as I begin. This is the first issue of an ongoing series with each issue referred to as a chapter, while maintaining themselves as stand-alone stories. Ideally, I would review them all at once, but only #1 is available in print at my local comic shop.

We open this story with the cover, I posted. I think it’s wonderfully done. At first it looks like a random collection of objects, all neatly arranged and vintage styled, but after reading, all of them play a significant role, which I really appreciate. You can see the airships in the corners, both which have their own unique, culturally influenced design which is a touch I don’t think I’ve seen before. Opening the book brings us to the title page, which names the chapter as “An Overture to Eternal Glory.” That phrase runs through the whole story, so it will be interesting to see where it goes in the future.

The art here is magnificent- a full color splash page of Her Majesty’s Airship Nimbus with a few captions labeling the year as 1879 somewhere over the Libyan coast. And wow, is that a beautiful airship. Classic maritime style with balloons on the mast and wings off the hull and stern, with a massive cannon on the bow, hinting at this ship’s purpose.

The story progresses from there, starting as a quiet watch upon deck and then escalating when the sailors discover an Ottoman warship attacking a British merchant vessel and then they resolve to attack the much larger ironclad until their support ship arrives.

During that event, we are introduced to a handful of characters ranging from the Captain to his Leftenant to a few of the crew-members. I love the art for them all. Each one has their own personality in their appearance. The textures and movement in the uniforms and face are exquisite.

I’ll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover through your own reading, except for a few comments. First, this issue is a set-up for the main plot and introduces the main character (not the Nimbus‘ captain- he is a wise old mentor, after all) and what others have in mind for his future. Due to this introduction, which feels like the opening of an Indiana Jones movie, it comes across feeling like the events have no meaning on the larger plot promised in the blurb. Even the characters only have the briefest introduction that does little to make them endearing to us. Indiana Jones at least had his “Why did it have to be snakes?” line in the airplane that brought him down from invincible action hero to common, if rough and tumble, human.

That lack of rich characters hurts this story right from the beginning- making character investment nearly impossible. I will be continuing this series, at least for a few more issues to see what happens. I just can’t say I’m seeing the depth or richness of these characters the way I can in, say, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the comic, not the movie) to use the most well-known steampunk comic book series. Yes, the two series are vastly different in their scope and premise and Alan Moore is considered a genius of comic book writing, but it can serve as a good benchmark. Right from the very first issue I remember reading, The League had very strong clues to imply character backstories and events to make them strong individuals. That might be something to work for in future Aether & Empire chapters.

I’ll keep following this series for now, and writing reviews. Perhaps not for every chapter, but maybe every other issue. Overall, I’d give it 7 stars out of ten.

Aether & Empire #1 is on sale now at your local comic shops, Amazon, Blue Juice ComicsComixology, and more.

 

The Janus Review

Well, hello there. Remember when I said I was aiming for blog posts once every two weeks? No? Don’t feel bad, I posted that close to a year and a half ago. Obviously, I failed there. The best laid plans of mice and men, I suppose. Oh well, never too late to start again.

But where was I that caused such an epic let-down of such idealistic dreams? Where am I going now?

Janus, in Roman mythology, had two faces- one to look forwards and one to look backwards. He was the god of time, its passage, and the transitions, or doorways, within it. That’s my goal for this post. Establish my rule over the universe  Look back to where I was and then look forward to the future. 220px-janus1

So… 2015. Well, when I wrote the last post, I was starting my last semester of high school and then graduated. During that time, I worked at a library and took an upper level fiction-writing class through the Ohio State University. That was the main reason I never got any more posts up. I was writing multiple pages of fiction a week, culminating in eighteen pages a somewhat polished chapter in my novel-in-progress Daughter of a Thousand Suns. With taking a lower level fiction class with the same professor, I wrote the first chapter. Then in the summer, I worked at a greenhouse as well as the library, spent two weeks in Colorado Springs at a Summit Ministries conference, and left a month later for a cross-country road trip to move into my dorm at my university.

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It looked like this for a long time

Then I started at Colorado Christian University with a major in psychology and, eventually, double minors in outdoor leadership and English. I joined the BellaJoy anti-sex trafficking ministry and the Inkwells writing club. Ended up doing a lot with them over the year.

Now summer has come and I’m looking forwards to what is to come. In a few weeks, I start my job as a camp counselor at Camp IdRaHaJe and then I come home to be a groomsman (which might warrant its own post). Then a week and a half and I’m on my way back to Colorado for leadership training.

Yes, leadership training. Now that’s a scary phrase if I ever heard one. It implies responsibilities. Have no fear! It’s a good thing (which may also be its own post). I’ll be taking over as the leader of BellaJoy next with year with a brilliant and fearless co-captain, so that will be an adventure all its own.

But what about your writing? Well, I’m working on that. Promise! I’m just stepping away from trying to speed write novels at this point. Part of that reason is because it wasn’t working and I kept getting mired in wanting to finish quickly and forcing the story when it wasn’t ready. I kept getting burnt out.

I was reading something that I can’t remember that made me stop and think. Essentially, what it said was that novelists don’t peak until their thirties. Unlike poets, who peak in their 20s, I have time. Novels are about life and until I live a life, my writing will always be shallow. More like wading in a rain puddle than diving into the ocean, which are two very different experiences. I know- I’ve done both.

So, my focus now is on living life and improving my technical skill. Part of that comes through studying the craft and developing ideas. Most writing growth, however, comes from actual writing, actual editing, actual revision, and actual rejection emails. I’m going back to writing short stories or smaller novellas to try and get a few of those published. First one to begin is a superhero project. She’ll show up soon in a character interview. More exciting is an upcoming interview with now-published author Mirriam Neal. (She is awesome. Go read her blog and buy her books) Then I’ll have some other stuff coming soon between now and then. So, stick around.

 

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I’ll be seeing you soon

 

Here We Go Again

Once upon a time, I had a blog. It was a steampunk story I co-wrote with a friend of mine where we alternated posts that were journal entries from the characters perspectives. Then it died. So, a while later, I started another blog. It was a personal writing blog. It chugged along better than the first, but it died after a year or so.

So here we stand, at the border between years. One chapter of our story is ending and another is just beginning. The pages are still blank and a pen is poised above the paper. The time has come for us to write out our future year. Some people use resolutions. Others call them goals. I’ve never been good at either of them.

I honestly don’t know what I would put for them either. Usually, those are things people want to do. I don’t really want anything like that. There are things I need to do. I need to pass my math class this next semester so that I can graduate from high school, which I need to do so I can go to college. I also need to do that because my desired career, outdoor therapy, requires a degree.

I need to establish a writing routine. Otherwise, I’ll never finish anything. That is unacceptable. It’s the same way I’ve been treating my college applications. I can’t just want to work on them or plan on working on them. I need to write them, so I sit myself down and write them.

So, that’s what I’m going to do here. I’m going to write blog posts. I’m going to write the first draft of my novel in 2015. I have one chapter mostly done at ten and a half pages and a commissioned sketch of the main character. Not a lot to go on for writing a very long novel in a year, but it’s a start.

For this blog, I need to write at least one post a week. Not sure what they’ll all be on yet though. My primary goal right now is character development and outlining, so those subjects will probably show up.

Anyways, here’s to a new year for us all. May we all write brilliant chapters in our stories over the coming months, full of joy and triumph. If it turns out to be a hard chapter, just remember: the greatest triumphs come at the greatest cost. Let’s stand strong together this year and make it one to remember for decades to come.