My First Love

Happy Valentine’s Day early! I hope all the couples out there have some good plans for celebrating your special someones. And if you’re currently single, be proud and enjoy the positives that come with that. This week I’m celebrating a first love—Phoenix Feather.

Phoenix Feather new cover

Phoenix Feather contained many firsts for me. It was the first book I wrote set in our world. Before that, I’d always written straight fantasy: dragons, sword fights, magic. But then I was thinking about superheroes and this thought struck me—”What if there was a supernatural character who *wasn’t* the hero?” Aidan Quinn was born, a woman who in every way was just like any other except for the dormant power inside that manifested at her death and brought her back to life from the ashes.
When I started writing Phoenix Feather, I just thought it would be a fun experiment; I didn’t expect it to actually go anywhere. But then the process of writing it took off, making it, not the first book I ever finished, but the first book I finished that wasn’t terrible.

Phoenix Feather was also the first book I ever published. It’s hard to imagine how far I’ve come in the past two years (even harder to imagine it’s only been two years!). I knew next to nothing when I published it, not to mention I had no social media presence. I hit that heart-palpitation-inducing “Publish” button  and then read up on good marketing tips, which stated I needed to start a blog and get on Twitter. So that’s what I did. It’s a good thing I fell into the #mywana hashtag group, because I met a handful of amazing people who I’ve been good friends with since.

Lastly, if you’ve read my books, you might find this a little surprising—Phoenix Feather was the first book where I gave my characters a happily ever after. That’s right, before that, I had an unfortunate habit of not letting the guy and girl get together. It’s not like I killed everyone off (though in one case I did kill the guy), but romance just wasn’t in the cards for my characters. Aidan and Trent changed that, and I’m so glad they did. Plus, Trent is a guy I could totally fall for. He’s sweet and solid, with old fashioned values. Half of the writing of this story was me living vicariously through Aidan and falling in love with the guy too.

Phoenix Feather was my first love, not just because it was my first published book or my first romance, but it awakened in me a love for writing urban fantasy, which led me down the path to writing Elemental Magic. Some people have asked if I will write a sequel for Aidan and Trent, but though I love the characters and each one holds a special place in my heart, their story feels complete. For now. The muse may very well change her mind later down the road.

Have you read Phoenix Feather? Tell us about your favorite romantic moment in the book. Hey, even tell us about your first love (doesn’t have to be human ;) ).

Snuggle up this Valentine’s Day with a sweet romantic suspense. Phoenix Feather on Amazon!

Aidan Quinn is a centuries-old phoenix living as a human. Weary of the repetitious life cycles, she’s not sure she has it in her to love again, though dashing fireman Trent McCain is going to do his best to convince her otherwise. But the clock is ticking—a serial killer is on the loose, and he’s on the hunt for a phoenix.

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Phoenix Feather Gets A New Look!

I’ve decided to change the cover for my first novel, Phoenix Feather. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original cover, even designed the concept myself, but I’m afraid it doesn’t shout, “Look at me!” So I’m giving this one a try. With Valentine’s Day next month, I’m hoping this sweet romance will get a little more love.

Phoenix Feather new cover

Cover art by Char Adlesperger at Wicked Cover Designs

Confessions of a Versatile Blogger

Earlier this month, I was awarded the Versatile Blogger Award by two fabulous ladies, Marcy Kennedy and Sharon Howard.  Thank you!  Be sure to check out the awesomeness of their blogs.

Before I take the pleasure of passing this award along, I must list seven random things about myself.  Let’s see if I can come up with any new material.  ;-)

1. I kill flowers.  Not intentionally!  But so far not a single blooming plant has survived living with me.  Even now, the orchid, a plant that’s supposed to survive anywhere, is losing its flowers one by one, shriveling into dried corpses.  I am very distraught over it.

2. Whenever I learn something new, it usually works its way into the novel I’m writing at the time.  When I wrote Elemental Magic, I’d just taken a Tai Chi class–Tai Chi became my main character’s method of relaxation.  When I wrote Dry Spell, I had just ventured into the land of social media, and then one of my characters became a professional blogger with her own Twitter hashtag.

3. The very first CD I ever owned was Spice Girls.  It would have been quite the scandal in my house if my dad found out, so my mom, sister, and I only played it when he wasn’t at home.

4. I love lists.  I make to-do lists for everything–daily to-do lists, monthly to-do lists, lists for things to watch out for in editing.  I buy those page-a-day calendars so I can use them as notes.  Current count on my desk: 9 lists.  (7 of them are actually writing related.)

5. Every year I buy a fantasy art calendar like Nene Thomas or Josephine Wall, then at the end of the year I cut it up and put the pictures on my wall like posters.

6. I can recite every line from all three of the LoTR extended movies, in order.  I would love to be able to watch them for the very first time again.

7.  In college, I learned how to write in Tengwar, Tolkien’s elvish runes.  My friend and I used to write letters to each other in them.  Now, it just comes in handy for hiding passwords.

Now I get to pass this award along!  Congrats my fellow bloggers!  Remember, when you post about receiving this award, list seven random things about yourself, and then pass the award along.  And don’t forget to let those winners know.

1. Alina Sayre~Illuminations–She blogs on writing, cooking, books, and how faith brings them all together.

2. Jessica O’Neal–She’s already received this award, but her blog is newly discovered on my end, so there you go.  ;-)

3. Rebecca Enzor–She’s gotten this award in the past, but I just have to highlight her Custom of the Week posts.  If you love My Little Pony, these Sunday features are a must!

4. Jennifer Kirchner–In addition to her Vote Your Own Adventure series, she’s added some more nerdy pursuits to her blogging topics, such as gaming.  You absolutely must read her post on Kirk vs. Picard.

Thanks for playing!

Write Like an Onion

No, I do not mean your writing should smell bad.  Rather, writing a book is like growing an onion–it happens layer by layer.  One doesn’t typically bust out a perfect best-seller in the first draft.  (And if you do, well then kudos, but most of us aren’t gods.)

Writers are told the most important thing in writing is to just get something on paper (or Word, since most of us are computer trained by now).  A messed up paragraph is easier to fix than a blank page.  I, for one, enjoy watching my novel transform from superficial first draft to detailed final product.  There are so many aspects that make up a good book–plot, description, characterization, emotional investment, grammar.  (It’s amazing how much that last one comes up in book reviews.)

I don’t know about most of you, but I’m guessing that like me, you can’t keep all those aspects at the forefront of your brain at the same time.  Maybe you’ve got one down really well, but it takes a few rounds to nail another.  That’s okay because it’s all part of the process of writing/growing a novel.

Everyone’s process is different too.  My first drafts are all about plot and pacing.  That comes easiest to me.  Then I have to go back and work on adding subtle characterization to make my characters really pop.  Grammar is not an issue, but there are some technical aspects that I need to focus on one at a time, like passive voice (“was”) clusters.  In the revision process, I go over each chapter again and again, each time with a different focus, adding another layer.

When it’s over, I’m exhausted.  But seeing how my novel changed and grew makes all that work worthwhile.

What’s your growing process like?  Do you know which layers you tend to apply first?  Last?  Do you struggle with this concept, pushing yourself to write down the first words perfectly? 

Take a look at this video of flowers.  Notice how the first petals push out, and then later how more petals emerge and fill in the center.  Like a fully bloomed flower, a great novel is full of rich complexities–and they didn’t come together all at once!

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Phoenix Feather is on SALE now on Amazon for $.99!  A sweet romance with a slight supernatural flair.

Missing the Miracle

In January of 2007, I answered an inner calling to travel to Spokane, Washington.  I’m not a spontaneous person, but something tugged at me with a strength and allure I could not deny–hope.

One of my friends from college lived up there and told me about the Healing Rooms.  It was a place people came from all over to seek and find healing prayer.  I’ve had health problems my entire life.  Even with advances in technology, my diabetes was severe, and the very modern day conveniences that made controlling it easier often caused me great pain.  I had only been diagnosed with celiac three years before and was still in denial.  On top of that, I had been struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts for the past fourteen years.

So I bought a plane ticket, even though I hate to fly and dislike travel, not to mention it was freezing cold in a place that saw heavy snowfall.  (While there, I learned that snow is only pretty after the first fall.  Then it becomes brown slush.)  I was a senior in college, and was spending my cherished winter break chasing hope.

My friend took me to visit the Healing Rooms.  It was like a free clinic, in a way.  First come, first serve.  There were several rooms where volunteers gathered in numbers of two or three to meet with people and pray over them.  They praised a high success rate, and even local hospitals invited them to come down and pray with patients.  I didn’t go in that first day.  We looked around, picked up a few pamphlets and a book, and went home where we dove into the Bible, examining the verses and passages their faith was based on.  We even visited some local pastors to discuss the matter with them.

And you know what?  I found no flaw in their beliefs.

I went back to the Healing Rooms and asked for prayer that God would cure me of my diabetes and gluten allergy.  Before they prayed, one of the men stepped forward and said he sensed there was something else I needed healing from–my depression.  I had forgotten about it, believing that if my physical troubles were over, that would follow.  They laid hands on me and prayed for healing, calling upon the promises in the Bible and the promise of life in Christ.

And I believed.

Then came the tricky part: when would I experience my full healing?  For the next couple days, my diabetes got markedly better.  I started decreasing my medication without consequence.  But days turned into weeks, and weeks into months.  Still, I held on to this hope that God would heal me of my afflictions.

Hope turned to disappointment, to anger.

Before you come to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist or miracles don’t happen, let me say that in my anger and hurt, I missed the miracle.  I am sad to say that it took me a whole year before I realized that God indeed had healed something very important–my depression.  Since that day, I have not had one day lost to despair, one suicidal thought.  God may not have healed me the way I wanted, but He did heal the thing that was preventing me from having a relationship with Him.

I still believe God will heal me of the other stuff someday, though whether it be in this life or in the next, that is up to Him.  I realized the wrongness in my prayers those years ago.  God is not a genie for us to call upon when we want something.  Answering my prayer the *way* I wanted would not have brought Him glory.  Even today, in this new year, not knowing how I will pay for my medical supplies without insurance, deeply desiring miraculous healing so life would be easier, I know that it would not teach me faith the way God wants to.

Stripped of everything I have ever depended on, I am left with only Him.  There is a profound peace to be had living in full dependence on God.  It is something I am only beginning to glimpse and understand, as fear still gnaws at me.  And while the road may be harder, if God were to grant me a healing modern medicine can’t explain, I would miss another, greater miracle–learning to live in and love God’s everyday provision.

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Phoenix Feather is on sale now for $.99 on Amazon!

The feather and who it represents is both a catalyst for darkness and destruction, and the vessel of love and hope.  In a world full of joy and sorrow, love and misery, this agent is a light seeking a balance between two inevitable realities in a sinful world, and is ultimately the final hope for something better.

Custom Pony Contest!

Welcome to Imagine That on Wednesdays!  Rebecca Enzor is hosting a contest where writers design their own custom My Little Pony based on their completed novels.  Being a lover of My Little Pony and drawing them, I couldn’t resist.  So here are my ponies based on Phoenix Feather and Elemental Magic!

Phoenix Feather is my official entry for the contest.  This pony represents the character, Aidan Quinn, in both her human and phoenix form.  As a human, she has deep, vibrant red hair, which is one of the features that fits the serial killer’s type in the story.  As a phoenix, she has wings of fire, and the feather plays a key role in the novel, though I can’t explain without giving too much away.

Phoenix Feather–Can a phoenix find happily ever after with a mortal before a serial killer finds her?

And, because I couldn’t help myself, I also designed a custom pony for Elemental Magic, even though it’s not officially part of the contest.  This pony represents the element of water.  The main character, Aileen Donovan, is a water elemental.  The upside down triangle is the symbol for this element, and in the novel it is used as an identifying tattoo for elementals.  Inside the triangle are two dots representing Aileen’s status in her elemental society–Apprentice.  She needs to pass credentialing exams to become a full-fledged Steward and receive her third dot to complete the tattoo.

I hope you guys enjoyed these My Little Ponies.  Check out Rebecca’s post on the contest and read the comments to find others who are participating.  Voting will commence Oct. 5th-15th.

For the rest of September, everyone who leaves a comment will be entered into a drawing to win a free e-book copy of Elemental Magic when it releases in October.  Five winners will be selected.

Aileen Donovan wants nothing more than recognition as an elemental scientist by her supernatural community.  What better way to do that than to solve a mystery involving a power-hungry alchemist, hallucinogenic coral, and a homicidal sea dragon?  The hardest part will be working with Coast Guard officer Colin Benson—until the tides turn, and Aileen realizes that love and duty may not have to be mutually exclusive.

The Phoenix

The phoenix is one of my favorite mythological creatures.  The power of fire as both destructive and regenerative is mesmerizing.  The myth is essentially the same across cultures–the phoenix is a firebird who bursts into flame at death every 100 to 1,000 years and is reborn from the ashes.  But there are some interesting varieties.

Egyptian Phoenix

The Egyptian phoenix was called the Bennu, and was thought to be the soul of Ra, the Sun-God.  It was not depicted in the traditional colors associated with the phoenix, but instead was a grey, purple, blue, or white heron.  At the end of its life cycle, it would make a nest of cinnamon twigs and ignite, thereby burning completely to ashes.  Once the new phoenix emerged, it would embalm the ashes of the old phoenix into an egg and deposit it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis.  The Greeks adapted the same myth to their own liking, making the colors more bright and fiery, and associating the bird with their Sun-God, Apollo.

Persian Phoenix

The Huma bursts into flame every few hundred years.  It is said that the Huma spends its life flying above the earth, never to land.  To be touched by its shadow alone is said to bring good fortune, and should the bird alight on your shoulder, it foretells kingship.  Catching the Huma is impossible, but just the sight of it will bring happiness to a person for the rest of their days.  The Huma bird contains both male and female attributes, one on each wing/leg.  It is also said to be large enough to carry off a whale!

Chinese Phoenix

Originally, the feng were the male birds and the huang female, but tradition later blended the two into a single entity, the Fenghuang, and made it female.  The phoenix then became the symbol for the Empress and could be paired with the male Chinese dragon, who symbolized the Emperor.  Unlike Western traditions, the Chinese phoenix is more like a chimera, and is said to be made up of various different types of birds.  Phoenix are pure, and are said to only dwell where there is peace and prosperity, loyalty and honesty.

Russian Phoenix

This is the mythology I chose to base my novel, Phoenix Feather, on.  The firebird’s majestic plumage glows brightly like flames; even after a feather falls, it continues to glow.  The firebird is a symbol of blessing and doom.  It signals a difficult quest, usually inspired by the finding of one of those illuminated feathers.  The finder, mesmerized by the bird, then embarks on a journey to catch it, but the journey usually ends in woe.  The phoenix is also said to cry tears of pearls.

There are more legends and variations, not to mention popular modern day interpretations of these fascinating creatures (Fawkes in Harry Potter), but I didn’t want to get too encyclopedic on you.

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While the feather by itself seems innocuous, there is a deep power associated with it.  Like fire, it is neither good nor evil, but has the power to either destroy or refine.  It’s entrancing by its beauty, and the potential to blaze with glory, yet it is also dangerous because of those very qualities.  This feather and what/who it represents is both a catalyst for darkness and destruction, and the vessel of love and hope.  In a world full of joy and sorrow, love and misery, this agent is a light seeking a balance between two inevitable realities in a sinful world, and is ultimately the final hope for something better.