Saturday, February 25, 2012

Collaboration- The Beginning by Maggie Phillippi

Three years ago, Julie and I decided to turn our story ideas into a book series. Not much thought went past that general idea. At first.

Learn by what we say and not what we did.

We started out with our cast of characters, who we knew very well, and a general outline. We knew what the basic game plan was but nothing more. There were times when our ideas were running off in separate directions and we butted heads trying to decide which way was the right way to go. Which led to days of going nowhere.

Snowflakes saved our lives.

I’m ashamed to admit this but yes, our outlining practices at the beginning were notably bad. We stopped and started 3 different stories until we found the one we both wanted to write.

And we found it by following the Snowflake method.

A simple outline just wasn’t enough with two people writing. Snowflaking was a tedious process that I fought every step of the way. It is boring. It is hard. I find it difficult to think of a story in segments when all I want to do is begin writing that first scene and plug on through to the end. I tend to be a little impatient. As long as I know where I’m going, I’m ready to get there!

Julie: Yes, I’m the one who said we should try the Snowflake method. I’d tried it for NaNoWriMo and other projects. (Don’t tell Maggie, but I never got it to work quite right on my own!) I love ideas so much, I’d love to follow every single one of them, and it takes me ages to realize that the idea wasn’t worth following to begin with. Maggie helps quite a bit with shooting down my ideas that don’t work...but we still needed the snowflake method to help us to actually focus on what WORKED for the story.

After the snowflake method, we had a completely different story that was coherent and had a pretty even balance of ideas contributed by the both of us. All it took was the right method for us and the time to sit down together to hash out each chapter.

We learned our lesson!

For the second book, before we even started the first draft, we sat down together to write a very detailed outline. It took us two months to come up with the ideas, decide which ideas were staying and which ones were going and finalize our plans.

The end result was a solid storyline and a quicker start writing the right story the first time around. I think it saved us about eight months of work! (And Julie is thinking right now that she loved writing 3 different stories even if they never made it to a final draft. )

Julie: I didn’t say that! (though it’s kind of true)

Are you a co-author?

We’d love to hear about your experiences and the process you go through when writing with your partner. If you’d like to be featured in a guest post, please email and we’ll be in touch. Thank you!

Meanwhile, look for more on collaboration in the weeks to come!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yellow Rose Bride by Lori Copeland

Vonnie Taylor and Adam Baldwin were childhood sweethearts but an ugly family feud had forced them to keep their love, and their 24 hour marriage, a secret. Per Vonnie’s request, Adam had the marriage annulled lest they provoke their fathers’ rage. Now, seven years later, Vonnie finds herself making a wedding gown for her ex-husband’s new bride-to-be.

Lori Copeland managed to keep me guessing on who the real culprit was and that isn’t an easy task. I’m usually pretty good at sniffing out the bad guy! Of course, the reveal of the person behind the incidents was about the only exciting moment in the book. Copeland gives you many suspects to choose from, each more sinister than the next.

I liked the personal history between Adam and Vonnie and their fathers. I felt sorry for Adam’s father in the end when the truth was revealed but too late for amends to be made. Copeland’s characters tend to tug at your heartstrings. I enjoyed the interactions between Adam and Vonnie. Her guilt over her part in their annulment was evident as well as his wounded pride.

I also didn’t know you could ride ostriches. I had no idea! I thought the ostrich riding scene was one of the more interesting moments. Copeland gives you a neat look into what it is like to raise these strange creatures.

The motivations behind the secondary characters were lacking. Beth started out as this bubbly girl whom everyone adored because she was just the nicest person you’d ever meet. Of course, otherwise we’d wonder why Adam doesn’t dump her right away? Except the first scene the two are alone together you realize Adam should do just that. She’s controlling yet annoyingly indecisive. Which is a little comical at first but then you wonder why everyone adores her. Then suddenly Beth’s attitude changes.

Vonnie’s mother’s story is left unsolved. At least to me it was. That was very disappointing. I didn’t like this character that much and I hoped she would be redeemed. She was too dependent on her husband to the point where nothing else mattered, including her daughter. This book fixated on unhealthy co-dependent relationships and Vonnie wanted a marriage to match that.

I also wondered why everyone knew about the murders that spurred the feud but no arrests had ever been made. That was odd. But perhaps that was the way of the West.

All in all, The Yellow Rose Bride was an enjoyable read. I downloaded the book when it became free on Amazon Prime. I generally enjoy Lori Copeland’s writing. Her books tend to be simply written and leave you with a happy feeling long after putting the book down. Perfect for a sleepy rainy day. I would recommend this for anyone looking for a light romance.

Maggie's rating:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What do the women of Kinyn wear? Part 4

Nessa’s adventures in The Healer and the Pirate cost her four good dresses. Lucky for her, pirate treasure paid for most of them!

This dress is also made of expensive silk. Aster flowers were used to dye the fabric to a shimmering blue that actually goes well with Nessa’s unusual hair color. Both the dye and the silk is what gives the dress its value.

Since the dress is one piece, it is easy to shimmy into in a hurry. The lace bodice gives it some shape as well as support. Though, Nessa would have preferred a much higher collar.

The sleeves are what are called “bridged sleeves” and they add some decoration to an otherwise unadorned dress.

Thank you for reading! Have any questions about Kinyn? Contact us! We hope to hear from you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Julie's Review of Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock

Ridiculously simplified summary: A prince joins a monastery to serve the god Eidon, and to hide from his responsibility to the kingdom. But Abramm is sold into slavery, forced to compete in deadly games for the entertainment of others. Can Abramm find Eidon amidst the carnage of the arena?

Content: This is a Christian fantasy, so you know the hero will come to a knowledge of this world's version of Jesus. It is interesting that His followers are basically given the ability to do light-based magic.

First--and this didn't hit me until a couple weeks after reading--there's an interesting allegory/possible explanation for the fact that in our world, many of the people who claim to be Christians are jerks.  Most fantasies I've read (which tend towards children's fiction, granted), the Christians are great and the non-Christians are evil, so it's a realistic take. (Though darker than I like to see...frankly, it was darker than most secular books I've read, which surprised me.)

As reviews have stated, the main character (called Abramm through most of the book) has premarital sex. I wasn't offended by a young man probably in his late teens being interested in women, but I was shocked he went through with it. I don't think the act is glorified, but I didn't see it condemned here. In fact, Abramm marks it off as the last vow of the Order that he's broken (two others being a vow not to eat meat and a vow not to use weapons). Breaking these other "arbitrary" vows turned out to be Eidon's will, so I don't feel like it was "bad" to break the last vow. Admittedly, reviews indicate the guilt comes up in later books, but I didn't see it in this one.

Finally, as some reviews have said, there is some sexism. I believe there are only three female characters (one very minor)--two love interests for our hero, and then his sister, who has several scenes in her point of view. I don't like how any of them were treated in the book.

It was a bit disturbing to me that the dark-skinned desert dwellers keep slaves, veil their women and treat them as chattel, live in filthy cities, and (per Abramm's sister) eat disgusting food. The Erushites reminded me of the Telmarines of Narnia's The Horse and His Boy, except this book was published in 2003, not 1954. Not all Erushites are bad, but their whole culture is evil, in contrast with the white-skinned heroes'.

(And speaking of sexism and violence, the Erushites are unfailingly hospitable--so much so that when a man comes to visit, he's welcome to sleep with the master's daughters, wives, or slaves (!).)


Compelling: 8 out of 10.
The book started slow with a lot of exposition pertaining to a sect that is barely relevant for the rest of the book, though it could come up in the rest of the series. What kept me reading initially was the mystery of why the Terstans--the book's Evangelicals--are plagued with madness and eye diseases.

Things pick up as the book progresses. The battles in the arena were overall brilliant--the fights as shows and entertainment, complete with costumes, reminded me of "The Hunger Games," though Hancock's book predates it by several years. Once the Games were done, I lost some interest but had no trouble finishing.

Characters: 6 out of 10. Abramm has a knack for ignoring the obvious, which can be frustrating. Abramm's sister makes almost exclusively poor decisions. Though I know Abramm is the change character, I would have much rather read from the point of view of almost any other characters besides him and his sister.

Shettai, the woman Abramm falls in love with, is an interesting mystery who I felt was never explained. I feel like she was in place almost exclusively to affect Abramm's emotions. Overall, I wanted to see more of the minor characters and less of the main ones.

Writing/editing: 9 out of 10. Technically, the book was quite well-written. Some of the descriptions were over-detailed, but that's standard for fantasy. There are some good lines, such as "An only slightly exaggerated rendition of the latest trends in Kiriathan fashion, it was so copiously trimmed with ribbons and lace he felt like a cloth merchant's notions rack."

Unfortunately, the Kindle version had occasional misplaced dashes in-between words. The chapter advance function did not function properly on my copy, which made reviewing difficult.

Plausibility/believability: 4 out of 5. The plot twists at the end felt kind of rushed, and I thought there were too many of them. Some of the trainers for the Games were bizarrely evil, attacking even those who succeeded in their battles.

However, the world was richly detailed. (Even though I would never want to visit it. Probably not even if I were a man!) There was a lot of thought put into this book.

Positive: 2 out of 5. Yes, Eidon has a plan for the world--or at least for Abramm. But as I mentioned above, this is a dark book. Some of the scenes were terrifying and/or disgusting. Giant flying monsters decapitating people are some of the milder terrors. Also, many who bore the Terstan shield on their chest had terrifying insanity and/or nauseating eye conditions. The book was earthier than I expected, too--within the first five chapters Abramm wets himself, and he spends a good deal of the book either naked or in a loincloth.

Gut reaction: 2 out of 5. It was a compelling read, but I felt a little dirty reading it. Some of the terrifying details haunted me for days. The treatment of women also rankles me, though I know that's not abnormal for fantasy. And it was hard to get into the characters when the ones I liked best were glossed over.

Bonus points: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for: Fans of secular, adult epic fantasy novels who don't mind Christian allegory.

Probably not good for: Catholics (anti-Church content); young teens (too violent); people who admit to enjoying Christian romance novels (the romance is not at all satisfying by Christian romance criteria).

Total Rating: 3.6 out of 5 stars

(Disclaimer: I received this book for free on

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What do women in Kinyn wear? Part 3

Here's another dress Nessa wears in "The Healer and the Pirate," sketched by Julie.  It's a fancy dress--a true one-piece garment without a separate bodice at all.  It laces up the sides to flatter the waist. It's made of something we called silk in the book, though it's not actually made from silkworm cocoons. Elves and fairies both make fabric similar to silk, through magic, though it's quite costly--in fact, this dress costs at least two months' wages to a common man. The seams are so fine it's likely it was sewn together by fairies or magic.

The skirt is three fine layers, though the illustration doesn't particularly reflect that. Flowing sleeves are gathered at the elbow.

The undershirt doesn't look particularly feminine.  Interesting; I wonder what the story is behind that...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What do women in Kinyn wear? Part 2

Picking up from last week, here's a sketch that Julie did and Maggie salvaged from having a lavender bodice.

This is another of Nessa's dresses from “The Healer and the Pirate." The bodice has pink summer daisy designs woven in, and there is a slim matching skirt.  With its fairly high neckline and long hemline, it's just slightly reminiscent of something a child would wear to a festival.

The sleeves belong to a separate shift worn underneath the dress. They are gathered at the bicep and wrist and edged with sky blue lace.  The skirt is also edged with lace to match the shift.

In Renaissance times on Earth, lace was incredibly costly, as poor women would work all day to make just a miniscule amount of lace.  In Kinyn, however, several varieties of caterpillars spin cocoons which can be easily pulled apart into lace. A quick dip in vinegar sets the lace, preventing it from falling apart when it's used.

This is actually a ready-made dress, acquired in a clothing shop in a fairly small town. In towns and even cities, women tend to sew their families' clothes, while the wealthy have clothes custom-made for them. However, many towns on main roads--even small towns--have small shops selling clothing for travelers passing through. Ready-made clothes are costly but are often more finely-sewn than their homemade counterparts.

A wide placket in the back of the bodice (not pictured) allows this to fit a wider variety of body types. Nessa is slimmer than the ideal figure in Kinyn, so she can lace the bodice as tightly as it will go.