January 31, 2012

I is for Indiya

I know, it’s been a while for one of these posts, but here, at last, is the next post in my A-Z Makilien series.

Indiya (pronounced like “India”) is the only female dragon in Truth. She was the first of the dragons I created and the first one to make an appearance in Makilien. I never had dragons in the original story, nor had I ever written about dragons before. I never realized how much I loved dragons until I started writing about them. They are definitely one of my favorite fantasy creatures, whether they are portrayed as good or evil.

It was great fun to figure out the certain characteristics and appearances for my dragons. The biggest thing I knew from the start was that I wanted them to be realistic. I didn’t want giant, fire-breathing, indestructible beasts. I wanted them to be vulnerable. So first, I made them smaller than a lot of fantasy dragons, only the size of a draft horse. I also limited their fire-breathing ability by making it so they can only use their fire for short amounts of time before it builds inside them again. It’s these types of little world-building things that make it so much fun to be a fantasy writer.

Once I’d figured out the characteristics of my dragons, I got into their personalities. Indiya was a fun character to get to know. I think from the start I had a cat in mind when it came to both her movement and personality—the graceful, independent, playful, and slightly mischievous nature. She’s lovely, feminine, and kind, yet can instantly become a deadly adversary when the occasion calls for it. Both Indiya and her mate, Emaril, are young dragons, just a bit over one-hundred years old. I chose indigo blue for her color not only because it suited her, but blue is also my favorite color. It was only natural for my first dragon to be that color.

January 30, 2012

Homeschool Authors Interview

I just did an interview on a really awesome new blog all for books by homeschool authors. Thanks very much to Sarah for having me. You can check it out here:

http://homeschoolauthors.blogspot.com/2012/01/put-your-hands-together-for.html

January 27, 2012

Courage–The Cover

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00025]

And here it is!  The cover of Courage, the second book of the Makilien Trilogy. I have been waiting with giddy anticipation to finally share it. I think it almost has to be my favorite of any cover I’ve done so far. Maybe because the “feel” of it matches the story so well. I am extremely pleased with how it turned out. When you begin a project like this, especially when you’re taking the photos, you really don’t know how well it is going to come together. But it did far easier than I was expecting, and a lot more quickly. It was just one of those “meant to be” things I am always so thankful for. I can hardly wait to share this next part of the adventure.

 

 

 

Now, along with the cover release, I have also given the Makilien website a makeover, which is now live. You can take a look at it here: www.makilien.com. I’m very excited about how it turned out as well.

I am just about to start my final read through of Courage so it won’t be too long now until it is in print!

January 25, 2012

Courage Cover Costume–The Vambraces

vambraces

I love the whole Courage costume, but the vambraces have to be close to my favorite piece. This is something I had wanted to try for a long time, but this was the first costume where I had definite need to do it.vambraces3 

What are they made of? Craft foam. I came across this ingenious way of making fake armor quite a few years ago (again during our Lord of the Rings obsession phase). If you put “craft foam armor” in Google, you’ll come up with all kinds of results. This is the first page I ever looked at concerning how to do it: http://entropyhouse.com/penwiper/costumes/helmsdeep.html It’s amazing what you can do, isn’t it? This is the page I read through when I was making my vambraces: http://www.jedielfqueen.com/lotr/costumes/Boromir/vambraces/vambraces.htm 

It was sort of trial and error for me at first. I printed the design I made and used the end of a mechanical pencil to “trace” it into the foam. After I was happy with the result, I applied the Decoupage to seal the foam. I tried painting it first, but it just soaked up the paint. Once it was sealed, I gave it a couple coats with glossy black spray paint and used a tiny paint brush to apply silver paint to the designs. vambraces2 

Each vambrace is actually two pieces as you can sort of see in this picture. Once I was finished with the painting, I glued the pieces together to keep them from shifting, and then sewed around the edges by hand with thick, black quilting thread. Then came the eyelets. This was tricky because it’s really easy to accidently leave marks in the foam. I used a hole punch first and carefully worked the eyelets in. After that, I applied glue around each one to make the foam stronger and not as likely to rip when the laces are tightened.

Overall, the vambraces turned out looking exactly as I’d hoped. Combined with the rest of the costume, you really can’t tell they are not real leather. The greatest thing about them is how ridiculously cheap they are to make. The foam sheets cost less than a dollar each, and most of the other supplies I already had. It’s certainly something I’ll be doing more of because it’s really a fun project and you can come up with all sorts of designs.

That pretty much does it for the look at the costume, which leaves only one thing, seeing how it all looks together. By now, I hope I’ve been able to raise your anticipation level because, on Friday, I will officially release the cover of Courage. I, for one, can hardly wait. :)

January 23, 2012

Courage Cover Costume–The Chain-mail

chaim-mail

And here it is, the chain-mail. I procrastinated this piece for so long, even going so far as to contemplate going without it.Certainly glad I didn’t do that, because, you will see soon, it really adds a lot. The thing about the chain-mail, is it felt like it was going to be harder than it really was. Once I got into it, I really enjoyed working on it. It’s killer on your hands, but it’s really fun to craft something like this. Now, as you can see, I didn’t make a full shirt. I didn’t have near enough time for that, but I will someday. For this project, this worked just fine.chaim-mail2

Besides what you need for making the coils (which I will get into), there really isn’t much you need to make chain-mail. This is everything I worked with. The only thing not showing is the fingerless gloves I wore after the first day and the bolt cutter I used to cut the rings.

 

chaim-mail3

 

 

Once you learn what you are doing and get into it, it’s actually really easy to make. You get into a rhythm and it comes together pretty quickly. As you can see in the picture, you need both open and closed rings.

 

 

 

chaim-mail1

For the rings, I used fencing wire. Now I can’t remember what gauge it is because I actually made the coils years ago. I first learned how to make chain-mail around seven years ago with my brother while we were going through our  Lord of the Rings obsession phase. We started using PVC pipe like they actually did for the movies, but shortly upgraded to wire. We learned how to put it together from this website: http://mailleartisans.org/weaves/weavedisplay.php?key=6 (I can’t believe I still had the link after all this time!) The tutorials and diagrams made it so easy to figure out and I’ve never forgotten how to do it.

As for for making the coils, I also found the original video we watched to learn just how to do that. (Amazing how this blog post as brought back so many memories. :)

Chainmail

In all, the front piece and two sleeves took me about three solid afternoons to complete, and I used about five 16-20” coils. Despite how I put it off, it all came together perfectly in the end.

Now on Wednesday, I’ll get into another piece of armor and the last piece of the costume—the vambraces. I tried something I’d never done before with those, and I am thrilled with the results.

January 20, 2012

Courage Cover Costume–The Vest and Overskirt

vestskirt

This is a part of the costume I’ve had in my mind for a really long time, ever since I wrote Truth. I had wanted to make it for just as long so it was a lot of fun to see it finally come to be. There are technically two versions of this outfit that Makilien wears in the trilogy. The first time you read about it is in Truth. It’s Makilien’s ceremony outfit. That’s the first version of the outfit. The second version Makilien wears to battle in Courage. The battle version is a bit less decorative than the ceremony version, and it’s the battle version that I created here. I made the entire thing out of a very nice black suede. Originally it sold for $25.99 a yard, but I waited to buy it until I could get it for 50% off and had an additional 20% off coupon. I had been thinking of getting something cheaper, but I am glad I waited because this particular suede is so soft and was nice to work with.

 

 

vest

 

The vest was something I debated about for a long time. I wanted something very specific so it took a while to find the right pattern. I ended up settling on Simplicity 2633 and it really turned out nicely. It was a simple, easy to use pattern and had just the fit I was looking for. Another debate was whether to use buttons or clasps. The ceremony outfit I described as having silver clasps. However, I never did make that distinction about the battle outfit. After a lot of going back and forth for a while, I finally settled on buttons. One, they are much more budget friendly, and two, it seemed to me buttons would stay much more secure during a battle than clasps. So buttons it wabuttonss.

 

And I do LOVE the buttons. They look very fantasy/medievalish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

skirt

 

 

 

The second piece to the outfit is the overskirt. It is actually sewn with four separate panels making it open in the front, back, and along the sides. This is a style I’ve gone with for most of the dresses and skirts in Makilien (the wearer than has on a pair of pants underneath). It makes moving, running, riding, and fighting easier. For this I used Simplicity 9825. It is an excellent pattern that made it really easy to modify in order to have the separate panels.

 

 

 

skirtback

 

 

 

The one other modification I made was removing the zipper and instead having laces to give it a much more authentic fantasy feel. This was really a very simple process.

 

 

 

In all, aside from cutting out the pieces, it took me two and a half days to sew this part of the costume. Both of the patterns were simple and went together quickly. In the end, I am very pleased with how it turned out and how it looks altogether with the rest of the outfit.

On Monday, I’ll be sharing the creation process of the most challenging piece of the costume, the chain-mail.

January 18, 2012

Courage Cover Costume–The Dress

The first piece of the Courage costume is one of my favorite pieces. It was a type of dress I had wanted to make for a long time. I’d never before made one that laced up in the front. For the pattern, I used McCall’s 5499. At first, I was pretty leery about using it. These types of patterns that contain all sizes from girls’ through women’s in one package usually are not the highest quality patterns. Let me say, I was very pleasantly surprised. It turned out to be one of the best patterns I’ve ever worked with. The finished dress not only fits perfectly, it is also much more comfortable and wearable than most costume dresses I’ve created, which makes it feel much more authentic. Now, I did do a fairly major alteration to the pattern, though I don’t think that affected the fit. The dress is actually supposed to be laced up in the back. Thank goodness I had the experience of making a few dresses before this. That made the altering pretty simple since I had a good understanding of what needed to be done.

The fabric of the dress is 100% linen in a sort of navy blue. I can’t say enough about linen. Having worked with it quite a bit while making reenactment clothing, I’ve found it is so nice and easy to work with. It does wrinkle easily, but I love the look of the weave and it gives added authenticity to a historical/fantasy outfit.

mariandress2The inspiration for the dress came from the dress worn by Cate Blanchett in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. From the moment I saw it, I fell in love with it and knew I had to recreate it. It’s so simple, yet beautiful.

It’s not so much fun actually wearing it, but I love all the layers of historical clothing. Being this dress opens to the front as it does, you have to wear a shift underneath (in the movie she was actually wearing two). I have yet to create a shift specifically for this dress, but it was easy enough to use the cotton shift I have for attending buckskinner reenactments.

This is actually the same dress on the cover of Truth as well. I considered making a new one for Courage, but little of it actually shows this time so I thought it prudent to reuse what I already had. Unfortunately, as much as I love it, linen is not the most budget friendly material.

So that is the story behind my Makilien dress. I’ll certainly be using this pattern again one day. Most likely it will be used to create a dress for the coming cover of Trust as well.

On Friday I will share the creation of the next layer of the costume—the vest and overskirt.

January 16, 2012

Courage Cover Costume

SuppliesA few of the supplies I used.

In the past couple months, one of my focuses has been working on the costume that will be on the cover of Courage, the second book of my Makilien Trilogy. It was one of the biggest things left to complete on the way to publication. It has also been one of the biggest costume projects I’ve ever undertaken. There were so many pieces involved, pieces that really took a lot of time and effort to put together. I tried a lot of new things with this costume as well. At times it was frustrating, but on the whole, it’s been a very enjoyable process. I love to see a costume I’ve designed come together. Now that I’ve successfully completed it, I wanted to begin a little series of upcoming posts on the creation process. Over the next couple of weeks you can expect posts detailing the creation of each piece of the outfit, including photos. All this will lead up to . . . *drum roll* . . . the very first look at the cover. The costume itself consists of the dress, a vest and overskirt, chain-mail, and a pair of vambraces. First up will be the dress. Be sure to check back on Wednesday to get a closer look at the foundational piece of the outfit!

January 13, 2012

Movie Review–Twilight

220px-Twilight-dvdI’ve been planning to review movies for a while, but I certainly never expected the first one to be on Twilight. The thing is, I’ve considered writing a post on Twilight for a long time, but, ever since the books and movies exploded into our lives, I have adamantly refused to read or watch them. I wanted nothing to do with them for very specific reasons, and since I hadn’t watched or read them, I didn’t share my thoughts on them. However, after a lot of thought and debating, I came to the decision that I wanted to be able to adequately defend my reasons by knowing exactly what I was talking about. So, the other night, I sat down with my mom and watched the first two movies. To say I’m disturbed, upset, and deeply saddened is probably an understatement. I have always been saddened about the diehard following Twilight has, but to actually see it for myself really drove home why I am upset.

Let’s look at the obvious for a moment. The story centers around vampires, werewolves, and evil elements no one, let alone Christians, should be dwelling on. It would be one thing if it were portrayed as what it is, evil. Something wrong and repulsive. But it isn’t. All these things are portrayed in a positive light. That is my biggest objection to Twilight. It makes things that are undoubtedly wrong and portrays them as okay and desirable. It portrays giving into desire and temptation without any real regret or consequences. I will say right now, I firmly believe it's dangerous, especially to the hearts and minds of young women, and that is horribly troubling.

Now, to get into some of the details. One of the very first things that jumped out at me was that Twilight exhibits the very height of foolishness when it comes to relationships. Bella’s constant “I’m not afraid of you” and “you won’t hurt me” to Edward after learning he is a vampire is as na├»ve and foolish as it gets. If you’re attracted to a guy you shouldn’t be with, convincing yourself you’re safe with him and that he’s a good guy isn’t going to make it so! I can’t think of any area more dangerous to throw caution to the wind, which is what Bella does throughout the first two movies. Edward’s “dedication” to Bella may seem romantic, but trust me, in real life there is NOTHING romantic about such obsessive, stalkerish behavior. Nothing. When you really sit and think about it, his behavior is just plain scary. Seriously, sneaking into her bedroom to watch her sleep at night? How can that be romantic? And Bella doesn’t even bat an eyelash at it. I’ll be the first to tell you, if God blesses me with marriage someday, I want to be married to a man who will protect me, but a guy who is so obsessed he’ll do anything is wrong. The entire thing gives such a poor and warped view of a true, loving, and God honoring relationship. Say what you will, but I completely believe it has the power to influence how young women might view a relationship and give them a desire for something that isn’t wholesome.

One thing I found particularly disturbing is Bella’s complete disregard for her soul. All she wants is to be turned into a vampire so she can be with Edward, and she doesn’t care at all that she’ll end up in hell as a result. As long as she has what she wants now, her eternal future doesn’t concern her. Seriously consider that for a moment. To be so obsessed and desire something so much, you don’t care what it costs you. What kind of message is that? Adding to this is how neither one is willing to live without the other. Edward comes right out and tells Bella that she is the only thing worth living for. No one is the only thing worth living for except for God. Our relationship with Him is the only relationship that should consume us. Everything and everyone else is second, and shouldn’t dictate our lives, which leads to that fact that, at the end of the second movie, when Edward comes to the false assumption that Bella is dead, he goes to the head vampires to have them kill him because he won’t live in a world without her. Oh, this is such a dangerous, dangerous message, having two people who don’t even think twice about committing suicide if they lose each other. And it wasn’t just Edward. Throughout the second movie, Bella, deep in depression after Edward leaves her, turns time and again to self-destructive behavior just so she can see these visions of him.

And I can’t overlook the obvious gruesome violence and darkness that comes from having a story centered around vampires. Numerous times you see them biting into the necks or wrists of helpless victims, and while this should be something horrific, most of the time it was portrayed as an act of kindness by the “good” vampires in order to save the dying since the venom turns them into vampires themselves, saving their lives. Really no mention is given to the fact that, in the story, this means all these people are now going to hell when they eventually die. Not only that, but on other occasions, you see the “good” vampires either lose control or nearly lose control of themselves at the scent of blood. It’s horror, plain and simple, and all very uncomfortable to watch.

There is so much more than what I’ve covered, but it all pretty much boils down to two things. First, there is no purity in this story. Everything is just so warped and twisted. It goes against everything in Philippians 4:8. And two, there is so much obsession with self-desires that there is nothing God honoring about it. I could say there were little redeeming qualities. Bella’s dad is a really nice, loveable character, Jacob (despite the fact he is a werewolf) is a sweet guy (and far less creepy than Edward), and Edward’s sister Alice is really a great character. I’m sure there is a long list of other things someone could point out to me. But why? If you sit and be 100% honest, what purpose does it serve? Does it take away any of the other facts? Despite what good may be taken away from this story, the rest is still there. You can’t take that away, you can’t justify it. It taints everything. Evil can’t be excused or justified.

The conclusion is that I came away feeling shell-shocked and disturbed. To re-enforce that, I had a horrible night sleep because of it, waking up in the morning feeling burdened and repulsed. Yes, Twilight is fiction, but the things we let into our lives, the things we do for enjoyment, do have an effect on us. Unfortunately, nothing is just harmless entertainment. That is why we must be so careful in guarding our hearts and minds. Satan will use whatever he possibly can to sway and deceive us, and something like Twilight, I believe, is powerful ammunition.

January 05, 2012

1,000 Books Sold

With the closing of 2011, I reached another milestone in my writing career. I have now sold over 1,000 copies of my books. It’s been a goal for a long time, and with the popularity of eBooks and the success I’ve had with them, I was able to make that goal a lot sooner than I would have otherwise. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has bought my books, reviewed them, shared them, and spread the word. I am also very thankful for how God has directed me in all this and blessed me with success in something I love so much. I hope I can continue touching many people with the gift He has given me. And with 2012 already looking promising, I’m very excited to see what goals I’ll meet this year.

January 02, 2012

On to 2012

So, I’ve decided to go into the new year with a fresh new blog theme. It’s been a while since I had anything different. It’s always fun to start a new year with a change.

2011 was an interesting year. It was certainly my best as far as book sales. I was incredibly blessed with the number of eBook sales I had, particularly last month. I’m very thankful and encouraged by it. I guess you could say it was a good year for writing, though a lot went on that distracted me from focusing on my books. Writing Trust in the spring and publishing Truth were my biggest accomplishments of 2011. I think 2011 was the year I really figured out who I am as an indie author/publisher and settled into what I am doing.

Now, what is in store for 2012? Well, I still have quite a bit of work to do to publish Courage. We’re going through the final edits now. I’m still in the process of putting together the costume for the cover. It’s MUCH more involved than the last one. By involved, I mean sewing a vest and skirt, making vambraces, and putting together some chain-mail. It’s a very big project for sure. I was always in a hurry to publish Courage before now, but I decided to slow down and really take my time with it to make sure everything is perfect, and that’s been really nice. But I’m definitely excited to publish. I think this book might be my favorite of the trilogy…maybe. I also have a LOT of editing to do on Trust, the final book. I’ve been working on it slowly, but my focus has been Courage. Once that is finished, fixing up Trust will definitely be one of my main projects of 2012.

So what am I actually going to be writing this year? Seems like I always have this type of announcement for the new year, but here it is -- I have actually been working on a brand new fantasy series. I haven’t said anything about it until now, and am not going to share too much, but I’ve been working on it since June last year and am nearing the halfway point in book one. It’s definitely going to be the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken. At the moment, it looks like there will be 7 books total. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a series where I’ve had such an abundant flow of ideas. I’m terribly excited about it. I’ve completely fallen in love with the characters and their stories and struggles, and hope future readers will as well. The whole story centers around corrupt government, persecution, and rebellion, so it’s very action packed. At times, it’s also the most tragic story I’ve written so far, and the characters are wonderfully flawed. It sets the stage for some excellent character growth. I especially love the family dynamics in this story. There are some very interesting relationships. The world building has been a blast. For this fantasy, I have four intelligent races besides humans. Figuring out their characteristics and histories is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in writing. Hopefully the last half of book one will go quickly so I can move on to book two, and maybe start sharing more information over the next year. Not sure when an estimate publishing date on the first book will be. I think I’ll have to have at least three of the books written first, so it will probably be a while, but we’ll see.

Besides that, we’ll see where God leads me. I’m hoping and praying for a great year in my writing. With this new series, it’s certainly starting out exciting.