March 29, 2010

Things this contest has taught me

1. Blessings really do sometimes come in disguise.
I was very bummed and disappointed about not making it to round three. However, I was determined to accept it without complaining, whining, or feeling sorry for myself. I think that this has really helped me move into a new level of maturity when it comes to my writing and accepting criticism.

2. Hard work pays off.
Since entering this contest, I have done more to promote my books than ever before and I've made 4 sales in the past month (which is more than I sold all last year combined!)

3. I'm not as bad at describing my books as I think.
Making it to round two was such a confidence booster for me. One of my hesitations to writing query letters and synopses has always been a lack of confidence when it comes to "explaining what my books are about." When people ask me this question, I tend to go blank. I stammer out something about a princess and dragons and then change the subject. However, since the first round of judging was based solely on a 300 word description of what my book is about, and I made it through, I have suddenly become far more confident and have sent out my very first 2 queries in the week since getting the "bad" news.

4. Writing is fun.
Most importantly, entering this contest, "talking" on the discussion boards with other authors/writers, and getting feedback from strangers on my story has really reinvigorated my love of writing. It has lit a "fire" under me and given me the desire to edit and polish my manuscript until it shines (and is up to the standards of my most recent work: The Minstrel). I am excited about the prospect of finding an agent and subsequently a publisher. I am excited about editing. And most importantly, I am excited to continue writing new stories as they unfold from my mind onto the page. I have even started two whole new stories, as different from my Dragon's Eye series as Star Wars is from the Wheel of Time.

So, thank you, ABNA, for all you've taught me. And thank you, Lord, for not letting me slide through this contest with ease. It's way more fun this way.

March 23, 2010

Down, but not for the count

Well friends, the news finally came in around 10pm EST, and my excerpt didn't make the cut. Yes, I'm disappointed. Yes, I'm feeling a bit down and subdued tonight. But...

"... he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Cor. 12:9

I am pressed, but not crushed. I am perplexed, but I am not in despair. I feel a bit persecuted, but I know I am not abandoned. I am down, but I am not destroyed. (Paraphrase 2Cor. 4:8-9)

Tomorrow there will be editing, working on polishing that query letter, and the hunt for an agent or publisher will begin in earnest, but tonight, just for a little, there will be a sigh, maybe a tear, and the resting of my head in my heavenly Father's arms.

March 19, 2010

Writing Fiction

It all began with a door:

     It never seemed fair to me that so much could be imagined and yet unattainable. As a child, I had an over-active imagination. My favorite thing to do was to play “make-believe” with just about anyone who would deign to join me. The title of this simple-sounding game encompassed worlds of opportunities, because the parameters of the game were as limitless as our imaginations. The game often involved components such as: pretending to be someone else; pretending to live somewhere interesting and unique, such as a sailboat or in a jungle; or pretending to have the ability to travel to other worlds. In the mind of a child, a bed can become a houseboat, a lilac bush is easily turned into a horse, and a fallen branch from a willow tree can serve for several days as a palace, a forest, a jungle, or a pirate ship, depending on the mood of its occupants. However, it was the times that we spent in Narnia that I will remember the most fondly.
    I have read extensively throughout my life. Mostly I read adventure stories about fantastical worlds in which bigger-than-life heroes battle dragons for their beautiful princesses. I attribute much of my deep love for the written word to my parents. My parents used to read books out loud to me every night before bed. It was through my mother’s voice that I played with Laura Ingalls Wilder, and through my father’s voice that I entered into Lewis’ fascinating world called Narnia. It was not long before Narnia became a central figure in my games of “make-believe.” The adventures to Narnia began on a fairly average summer’s day.
    “We can get to Narnia, I know it!” My cousin, Gayle, insisted. Kim looked a little suspicious, but I didn’t doubt it for a second.
    “How?” Wendy asked.
    I don’t remember how the conversation began. We had all recently become acquainted with The Chronicles of Narnia, and we were bound to begin discussing the stories at some point. It was about time for a round of make-believe to begin. We had already gone wading in the creek, “accidentally on purpose” as my cousins are fond of saying, played capture the flag, and pretended to be orphans (the basement had quite nicely accommodated our visions of a creepy orphanage and its various methods of torturing the inhabitants: being made to sleep on hard wooden shelves, getting locked in the “dungeon” otherwise known as the root cellar, etc). Now we had moved on to a new idea, one that was even more intriguing than the “evil orphan keeper” game. We were all fascinated by the idea of getting into a different world through something as ordinary as a wardrobe, and we had agreed that we should try to get into Narnia ourselves. However, our only problem lay in the fact that we did not have a wardrobe.
    “Look, we don’t really need a wardrobe,” Gayle said convincingly, “all we really need is a door.”
    “But a door to where?” Wendy asked.
    “A door that doesn’t lead anywhere,” I piped in. My cousins all stared at me as though I had suggested we run over to the Himalayas and attempt to scale Everest. But then a light appeared in Kim’s eyes.
    “I know what door we need!” She exclaimed triumphantly. Leading the way, Kim took us up to the loft and started tugging on her bunk bed. “Help me move this away from the wall,” she said.
    Mystified, we all helped and eventually got the bunk bed a sufficient distance away from the wall. There it was: the door. It was little more than a board that covered a hole that led into the unused attic space, but it could have been covered in diamonds and rubies by the way we gazed at it.
    “It’s perfect,” someone breathed reverently.
    Solemnly we slid the board open and stepped through into a different world.
    My adventures in the world of the imagination have been many. Those times are some of my favorite memories. Some might question my sanity as a child, some might wonder if so much time spent in imaginary worlds could possibly be quite healthy, and some might even wonder if my time could have been spent in better or more productive ways. Well, perhaps. But then again I believe that spending so much time in my games of “make-believe” made me a more independent, more creative person. Because of the constant exercising of my imagination I was hardly ever bored. When I could not have friends over I did not resort to watching television or playing video games, but rather I traveled to Narnia or Care-a-Lot or Middle Earth; and when none of those places appealed to my mood I would make up my own world and act out my own fairy tale. Many of my adventures caused me to spend time outdoors, exercising my body as well as my mind. The time I spent cultivating my imagination is what helps me write. When people ask me how I come up with ideas for my stories the answer is simple: I have been making up stories my whole life.
    I sometimes think that writing is my way of making up for the fact that I never really did go to Narnia. By creating new stories, new worlds that I hope will fascinate other children like me, perhaps I feel that I can even out the score a little. Maybe there are other worlds, fairy mists that we cannot penetrate, it is more likely that such ideas simply spring from our human way of trying to explain heaven’s existence, but whether they exist or not, the imagination can make them real for a time at least. I suppose I never truly believed that I had journeyed through those mists into another land. I could never really banish the persistent illusion of the world around me. But in my imagination, tall buildings and reality were mere hurdles.
    Was it wrong of me to spend so much time in the imaginary? Even now, as I set aside time to delve into the world of fiction, both reading it and writing it, I wonder if it is altogether healthy. Then I look towards my Creator and I realize that it was His imagination that dreamed up everything I see, everything I am. My imagination was created in the image of His and I should use it to glorify Him. He is the greatest author of all time, and though we perceive it to be non-fiction, perhaps it is merely fantasy after all. And why should this life not be fiction? The Bible often insists that the “real” world is the one that we cannot see, the one that is hidden from our view except through our imaginations. One day, perhaps, we will find the right door and gain a glimpse of what is to come, or perhaps that door can only be found at the very end of life when we step out of this world and into the next one.
    I believe that a story is one of the essential parts of life. Every moment is a story, whether it is spoken, written, or simply experienced. A story, then, is one of the greatest gifts that one person can give to another. The greatest gift that God ever gave us was this story, the one that we each live, and the hope and promise of a reality beyond the imagination that he made us capable of. To inspire that imagination is to open a door, like the one that my cousins and I slid open so many years ago, a door to new worlds ripe for exploration.

March 15, 2010

Enter now for your chance to win a free book

I thought it might be fun to hold a little contest of my own here, since I entered The Dragon's Eye into the ABNA and the second round of judging should be over soon here. (March 23rd)

You may enter my contest in one of four ways:

A) Suggest a new title for The Dragon's Eye (or any of the other 3 books, if you wish)
B) Suggest a name for the entire 4-book series other than "The Tellurae Aquaous Series"
C) Write a one-paragraph (or 300 word) summary of an idea you have for a story
D) Just enter your name by commenting either here or on my facebook fan page

The winner of the contest will be determined by a random drawing on March 31st. The winner of the contest will receive a signed paperback copy of The Dragon's Eye (unless you already have that and would prefer a signed copy of Dawn of the Dragon's Eye, I'm flexible) :)

The contest is now open.

March 08, 2010

300 Word Pitch

Just in case you were curious, here is the 300 word pitch that I submitted to the ABNA that kept me in the running:
Many hundreds of years ago the land of Aom-igh was in grave danger from the Dark Country across the Stained Sea; in their danger King Llian sought out the help of the dragons and the myth-folk. Graldon, King of the Dragons, granted the human king with a gift that would help him defeat his enemies. Graldon also promised King Llian that the dragons would come to the humans’ aid should Aom-igh ever be in such deadly danger again.
Years passed, and Aom-igh remained safe and isolated from its enemies. The dragons slowly disappeared and faded into legend and myth. Magic seemed to flee from the land and people began to forget that it had ever existed.
When her kingdom is threatened by an unknown enemy, the headstrong Princess Kamarie must set off on a quest to find the one man who may be able to save them all: the former King’s Warrior. With her travel two companions: a maid named Darby who has been her nurse since Kamarie was very young, and a squire named Oraeyn who would rather be on the front lines when the enemy arrives and resents his charge to travel with and protect the princess. However, finding this legendary hero proves to be the least of their worries. Together the companions encounter more than they ever bargained for: a beautiful gatekeeper, a sword fashioned by dragons, dark warriors who pursue them relentlessly and hound them at every turn, and an underground world full of mythical creatures are just the beginning of their adventures. As they search for the answers to mystifying prophecies and seek a way to save everything that they hold dear the comrades will learn a little about courage, a lot about truth, and more about themselves than they ever imagined.

What do you think? I was surprised I made it, but then again, "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26.

Accepting critiques of my pitch now. Do you think I should revise it for my query letter? How would you describe my book in 300 words or less? This is the part of writing that is hardest for me: narrowing it down into a concise explanation of what the book is about, so I'm honestly looking for tips, ideas, or even criticisms here.

March 04, 2010

Fan Page

Hello friends and fans,

Sorry I have been absent from this blog for so long. I am finally back. Today's post won't be long, I just wanted to draw your attention to a few things (anyone who actually peruses this blog anymore).

First: I have created a facebook fan-page for my writing. I update it every couple of days or at least once a week. If you'd like to swing by, you can click on the following link:!/pages/Raleigh-NC/Jenelle-Leanne-Schmidt/282216172260?ref=nf

Second: I entered my first book, The Dragon's Eye, into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and made it past the first round of cuts! I am super psyched. You can read about the contest here:

Third: I created a place where you can read a preview of my book and leave feedback here:

Thanks for swinging by. I will be updating much more frequently now.