Wonder Mountain Christmas Published!

Wonder Mountain Christmas (my novella-length retelling of Cinderella, featuring some of the same characters you met in Show of Wonders) is now available on Amazon.  You can also view it (and review!) on Goodreads.
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Book description: Min’s childhood in foster care was marked by loneliness, relieved only by her escape into books about the magical worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth. Now that she’s of age, she’s looking for a home in the mountains she’s dreamed of all her life–only to find that working as a server in a luxury ski resort is not only lonely, but thankless and humiliating.

And then, one snowy Christmas Eve, a stranger skis into the bar where Min is working and offers her a strange invitation that could change her life forever–if she has the courage to accept it.

Join Min in this heart-warming Christmas story as she searches for her true family and the home where she belongs!

Special Offer: Wonder Mountain Christmas is only 99 cents through January 6th on Amazon! Merry Christmas to you, and hope you enjoy it!

 

Show of Wonders Published!

At long last, Show of Wonders (my novella-length retelling of Snow White) is available on Amazon. I’ve also created a page for it on Goodreads.
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Book description:  Bianca loves taking care of animals backstage and out of the spotlight for the traveling circus called Show of Wonders. But then an unexpected event causes her to become a reluctant performer under the big top.

As Bianca’s popularity with audiences grows, she threatens to displace the reigning star of the show, a beautiful high-wire walker – who also happens to be Bianca’s stepmother. When Bianca discovers her stepmother’s jealousy won’t stop short of magic-fueled murder, she must rely on her own wits – and the help of some mysterious strangers – to survive.

Show of Wonders is available in e-book format on Amazon. Novella: 72 pages; 20,400 words.

Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

Thankful to be a Finalist!

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2018 has been the most challenging year of my life due to a series of unforeseen illnesses that literally knocked me off my feet. And offline as well:  I’ve not been able to update this site since February, and I also had to stop beta reading for other indies and reviewing their work. But the most painful loss has been that I haven’t had the strength to write at all until the past week or so.

Before this trial began, however, I was able to submit a story for the Rooglewood Press Five Poisoned Apples writing contest (a collection of Snow White retellings). Although my story, Show of Wonders, was not one of the five winners that Rooglewood will be publishing as a collection (in December), I am thrilled to report that Show was selected as a finalist entry! (You have to scroll down nearly to the end of the list of Finalists to find Show – possibly because I finalized my entry just short of the contest deadline!) Not only that, but the judge awarded Show 49 out of 50 possible points, and said:

“This story was so original and immersive, it made for a great read!” 

Because of the judge’s positive response, I’ve decided to publish Show myself. I’m currently working on a cover, and if I’m able to get that done (meaning, my physical strength holds up and I can relearn the image editing program I haven’t used in more than a year!) I might even be able to get Show out sometime over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

So although of course I was disappointed that Show won’t be published by Rooglewood, at the same time being selected as a finalist has been the most encouraging experience I’ve ever had as a writer. Not only that, but I realize now that if Show had won I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up with Rooglewood’s editorial deadlines (given my health problems). So in a very real sense, this has been a “best of both worlds” experience.

And I am truly thankful for it!

Next step: Look for another contest to enter in 2019!

 

Why I Read the End First (Finally! Part 2)

Note: I originally intended to publish Part 2 in March 2018, but unexpected illness prevented me from doing so and unfortunately has kept me offline for most of the year. I’m doing a bit better now, so – finally, Part 2!

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In the first part of this two-part post, I confessed to reading the end of most novels immediately after reading Chapter One, and explained the first reason why. In this post I’ll explain Reasons 2 and 3, but before I do, I want to answer a related question: “Do you mean to tell me you read the end of everything first?”

The short answer is: no. The shorter the story, the more likely I am not to read the end, unless I have reason to believe the author is steering into dark and murky waters where I might not want to follow (more about this under Reason 3, below).

For example, I recently discovered DJ Edwardson, a fellow indie speculative fiction writer who, like me, writes from a Christian perspective. At the time of this post, he’s offering two free short stories. Because they’re short I was able to read each in one sitting (although not the same sitting), and so I read both from beginning to end (like a “normal” person!). In the case of one story, in particular, I was very glad I didn’t read the end. (If you’re interested, here are links to my review of “The Spirit of Caledonia,” and also to “The Artificer’s Apprentice.”)

That said, let’s wrap up Reasons 2 and 3:

The Second Reason I Read the End: If I begin reading a novel and find myself enjoying it, I’m sad to say I have very little self-discipline about putting it down and walking away to take care of other things in life. And unfortunately, I’m no longer able to read all night and leap out of bed in the morning to continue on my merry way, clothed and in my right mind. (I suppose I could try to get up in the morning, but the result would be more pitiful than merry!)

Finding myself in the middle of an unresolved plot with no power to reach the resolution as quickly as possible not only feels painful, but interferes with my ability to concentrate on what I should be doing: paying bills, performing life-sustaining chores, listening to my husband…. The best treatment for this condition is to read the end, for it diminishes the pain of having to put aside a book that I don’t have time to immediately finish.  Once I know where the journey is going, I find I’m able to bear the anguish of separation and mentally put the story on hold until I can pick it up again. (I don’t know what I would have done if I’d lived during the Victorian period and had to read Dickens in serial form. I don’t think I would have survived Great Expectations!)

The Third Reason I Read the End: Life is short, and I’m getting older (I won’t say “old,” because I don’t think my folks are amenable to the idea that any child of theirs could be “old”!). So if there’s a way to quickly determine that I’m going to dislike or feel apathetic about where a book is taking me, I’m not going to spend those precious hours making the entire journey to confirm my suspicions. I simply do not have the time.

The wisdom of taking this approach came home to me recently when I read the end of a very popular psychological thriller. Chapter One was interesting, but I wondered where the author was going with the story. So I read the end next, and boy, was I glad I did! The end was not only dark; it was inky black-utterly nightmarish. UGH.

“Inky Black Nightmare” is not a vision I’m interested in pursuing in fiction (either in reading or in writing). There is plenty of real-world “IBN” featured in headlines about endless wars and rumors of wars (between individuals and nations) every day. No need to invent more!

What I’m looking for in fiction is the gleam of light in the midst of darkness. The hint that all is not lost, we can wake up from the nightmare, and when we do, we’ll see that help is on the way. That’s the story I believe, and those are the stories I most want to read.

So there you have the reasons I re-read: it’s a compliment to a story (and its author) if it can survive the dreaded “End-Reading Test” and prove itself re-readable; I read the end for the sake of humanity (mine); and I read the end for the sake of sanity (again, mine).

And now it’s time to log off so I can (you guessed it!) read the end of the last story I downloaded….

Why I Read the End First (Part 1)

It would probably be more accurate to call this post, “Why I Read Chapter One and then Immediately Read the End,” but that doesn’t sound very snappy, does it?

If you’re the sort of person who views the world through a “two types of people” grid (e.g., “There are two types of people in this world: dog people, and cat people”), then you may already know that reading the end is one such polarizing issue. For in my experience, there are two types of people in this world: those who unfailingly read a book from start to finish, and those who read the end long before they read the middle. (In my case, often before reading Chapter Two.)

Over the years I’ve been amazed by the reactions to my admission (confession?) that I often read the end. Some people are astonished (“Why would you do that?”). Others are appalled (“How could you do that?”). Quite a few have absolutely no interest in hearing my reasons; they seem to feel punishment should immediately follow confession of the “crime” without any sort of hearing whatsoever. (But if you’re one of those people, then you probably stopped reading this post after glancing at the title, so I’ll assume that if you’re still with me you are interested in my reasons.)

It’s not as though most stories rely on any genuine element of surprise, anyway. Think about it: genre fiction, by definition, follows particular patterns. Before you even pluck a cozy mystery off the shelf, you know the murderer will be brought to justice. Before you download the latest romance novel, you know the lovers will get together. Before you plunge into a traditional epic fantasy, you know the hero will achieve the quest, even if s/he must pay a price.

“But wait!” (I can hear the protests now; believe me, I’ve heard them before.) Even though the murderer will be caught, you don’t know his/her identity in Chapter One (at least, if the author has any skill at all you don’t). You don’t know the exact nature of the obstacles the lovers will face. You don’t know exactly what the hero will battle before s/he completes the quest; you might not even know the goal of the quest!

And if, for you, these kinds of surprises are the most important features of a story, then of course it makes sense that you read your books from start to finish. And I say: bless you! Have at it! Enjoy!

But the stories I love most didn’t find their way into my heart due to any element of surprise. Which leads us to:

The First Reason I Read the End: Let’s look at a different issue through the polarity grid. There are two types of people in this world: those who read a book once and are done (no matter how much they enjoyed it) because they “already know how it ends,” and those who reread the books they love.

I’m a life-long member of Team Reread. I’ve always reread the stories I love, and I’ve been known to reread the stories I love most on a regular basis. In fact, when I was a child I became used to hearing my mother, on observing the cover of whatever familiar volume I was curled up with on a Saturday afternoon, cry out: “Are you reading that again?”

Well, yeah. And here’s why: if I love a story, it’s probably because I like (or at least respect) one or more of the characters. Often, I love their humor. I appreciate the challenges they face, and what they go through to reach the outcome of the story. And (most importantly) entering the story is like entering a familiar world. In the case of some fantasy fiction in particular, I wish I could visit that world (e.g., Narnia). But the only way I can visit is to read the book, and if that means rereading The Chronicles of Narnia so I can go to Narnia, then I’m going to reread The Chronicles of Narnia! It makes absolutely no difference whatsoever that I already know how all of those stories end.

I know I’m not the lone member of Team Reread. And if you think about it, the existence of Team Reread is proof that many of our most beloved stories don’t stand or fall on the element of surprise. Looking at this from another angle: if a story’s primary appeal is that element of surprise, then it probably won’t become a favorite story, because it won’t be something you’ll want to reread. You won’t enjoy spending more time with those characters; you won’t want to revisit their adventures in those places. Visiting once was okay, but you’ve seen all you cared to see-and you certainly wouldn’t want to live there!

I’ll explain Reasons 2 and 3 in the next installment.

 

January 2018 WIP

With Publisher, Awaiting Decision: A retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ tale Snow White for the Rooglewood Press Five Poisoned Apples fairy tale writing contest. Winners will be announced in April. If my story doesn’t win, I’m planning to self-publish it in April or May.

On My Desk: First draft of a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Have to say it: I LOVE this story. (Of course, I’m almost always in love with my stories while I’m drafting them. Once I reach the editing stage (especially final editing): not so much.) (“Who will rid me of this story?”) Current word count: approximately 30,000 with some partial chapters to be fleshed out. If the second draft goes to beta readers early in February, then (allowing time for revisions) I hope to publish this spring.

Top Drawer: While working on The Twelve Dancing Princesses all kinds of ideas for a series (same world, only expanded; same characters, along with new characters) dropped into my head. I’ve drafted an outline for a sequel that retells another tale. Wish I could say with confidence that I’m going to follow some inviolable production schedule and publish it in time for Christmas this year, but – well, things don’t always go as planned. So let’s just say that, in an ideal writing world, that is what I would say.

Middle Drawer: If the fairy tale series (described above) comes together, then I’d like to continue it. Ideas for other adventures keep popping into my brain. Most importantly, I know how the “overarching-series-level plot” ends (in the final volume). We’ll see how it goes!

Bottom Drawer: What is (hopefully) the near-final draft of a sci-fi retelling of Beauty and the Beast. This turned out to be more challenging than I thought it would be! I’m happier with the rewrite than the original draft, but the final third still needs work. After stalling out a few times, I decided to run with Twelve Dancing Princesses instead because the latter is more similar (in many ways) to my Snow White retelling. And if Twelve does become a series, BATB may simmer for a while on the back burner. (Which implies I have a stovetop in my desk – and thus, once again, we must acknowledge the inherently dangerous nature of untamed metaphor.) Current word count: 54,884.

Other Bottom Drawer: Partial first draft of volume two From the Annals of the Dragon Slayer. Current word count: 37,000. I definitely want to get back to this because I hate to leave characters I care about hanging. Wish I could clone myself and work on more than one project at a time!

Trunk in the Attic: Lots of stuff in here, but there’s no point in talking about it now. If all of the above is actually written and published, anything in the trunk probably won’t emerge for at least a couple of years. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t fondly thought of, trunklings!

A Poem for Christmas

christmas-934177_1920I started writing this many years ago. After running across it recently, I decided to brush it up for Christmas. I suppose one might question whether it actually qualifies as a “poem” – but I’m not sure what else to call it! And of course it’s not only about Christmas, per se – it’s about the Incarnation, which involves much more than the actual birth of Jesus. So a more accurate title for this post might be, “Something About the Incarnation,” but that doesn’t have the same ring at all!

Immanuel

Babe crying
Star shining
Voice calling
Wine flowing
Boat rocking
Storm raging
Man walking
Sea calming
Sick healing
Limbs mending
Ears hearing
Eyes seeing
Palms waving
Bread breaking
Coins clinking
Crowd scorning
Nails pounding
Blood pouring
Love hanging
Death dying
Veil tearing
Earth shaking
Light flaring
Son rising
Word running
Chains falling
King reigning
Praise soaring

Holy, Holy, Holy
Hallelujah

Copyright (c) 2017 by Cela Day

Thankful for Book Sales?

Book Sale

If you read on a budget (like me), then you know the thrill of running across a great book sale! (I’d hoped to take part in the Indie Christian Books sale this year until life got in the way, but in solidarity with the spirit of the event I’ve put Dragon Slave (my retelling of The Pilgrim’s Progress as a contemporary portal fantasy) on sale for $0.99 through the end of December.)

And now let’s talk about INDIE CHRISTIAN BOOKS! In honor of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a group of independent Christian authors has banded together to offer a huge selection of discounted books between Nov 24th and 30th. No matter what you enjoy reading, there’s literally something for everyone!

On November 24th, the Indie Christian Books website (http://www.indiechristianbooks.com) will go live. Every single book listed will be on sale in one or more ways. Find discounted paperbacks, dozens of books offered with free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals and more. Even if you have a budget of $0, new reading material awaits you. When you purchase a paperback book through indiechristianbooks.com you’ll be eligible to enter an exclusive giveaway including free books and an Amazon gift card!

You can meet ICB authors by visiting the Author Database on the website. Want to get to know the authors better AND have the chance to win some fun prizes? Join the ICB week long Facebook party which will feature 39 authors over 7 days.

A note on the Ebooks Only page. Many of the books are listed as “Sold Out.” This is because we aren’t selling those directly through our site. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good and Kendra E. Ardnek for their work organizing this sale, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Burning Rose and Hansel and Gretel

To celebrate the release of Burning Rose (her first collection of retold fairy tale novellas), Hope Ann shared some intriguing information about Hansel and Gretel (the inspiration for my personal favorite in the collection, Shadows of the Hersweald):

Hansel and Gretel’s Original Plot: Two children are abandoned in a great forest, where they stumble across an old woman who captures them and tries to eat them before being tricked into her own oven where she dies a miserable death.  [Cela: Because nothing says “bed-time story” like a bit of attempted cannibalism followed by total immolation, right?]

Hope Ann’s Take on Hansel and Gretel: One of the darker fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel was great fun to work with. I chose it for my Shadows of the Hersweald novella (the third novella in my new paperback book, Burning Rose) because I enjoyed the element of siblings. And the forest offered a perfect setting for post-war rebel bands. It isn’t my favorite fairy tale by far, but that is what retellings are for: to change some elements, add others, and create something new.

Hansel and Gretel Fun Facts:

  • The original title for this story was Roland and May-Bird.
  • The title Hansel and Gretel originally belonged to a different plot, in which Hansel was turned into a deer and Gretel eventually married the prince who saved them.
  • The fairy tale that inspired the Grimm brothers’ Hansel and Gretel is a French story called The Lost Children, and is even more morbid. [Cela: Ew!]
  • The step-mother who abandoned her children was originally their real mother. The Grimm brothers changed the character into a step-mother after their stories became popular and they wanted to make them more acceptable to a wider audience.  [Cela: And obviously they knew what they were doing, because the rest, as they say, is fairy tale history….]

To learn more about Burning Rose, keep reading!

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Fairy tales retold as you have never heard them before

If you’re already looking for that perfect Christmas read for a fantasy lover or fairy tale fanatic on your list, then guess what? I have great news: your search can end here, because Burning Rose is the book for you!

Hope Ann’s work has everything a fantasy lover could want: strange creatures, interesting lore, bantering dialogue, threatening shadows, pulse-pounding adventure, and an underlying allegorical significance that ensures the parts add up to a greater whole. And if you love Christian fantasy in particular, then you’ll find much to appreciate in these resonant, interlocking stories.

Here’s a look at what you get in Burning Rose:

Rose of the Oath (Beauty and the Beast): As civil war threatens Aslaria, Elissa, a villager from the northern mountains, attempts to save her brother and ends up trapped in a hidden valley with a strange host and a treacherous enemy.

Song of the Sword (Rapunzel): The war is raging as Evrard, the Wingmaster of the Prince’s army, races against his own weakening powers to discover the location of his twin and save her from deadly mistbenders.

Shadows of the Hersweald (Hansel and Gretel): Although the war is finally over in Aslaria, the battle for individual loyalties rages on. Haydn, a pardoned rebel from Tauscher’s army, confronts shadows of myth and former comrades in his struggle to keep his sister safe and find the stolen Stormestone.

The collection also includes a bonus story, Rose of the Night (prequel to Rose of the Oath): Before the war, before the legends, before the Separation, there was a man who started it all. There was a curse, a promise, a sacrifice. There was the Oathkeeper.

Order Burning Rose now! (Available in paperback or for Kindle.)

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Hope Ann is a Christian wordsmith, avid reader, and dedicated author. Her time is taken up with writing, reading, playing with inspirational photos, blogging, helping care for the house and eight younger siblings, and generally enjoying the adventures of life on a small farm at the crossroads of America. She is the author of Legends of Light, and is currently working on several projects including a fantasy novel and futuristic trilogy. You can find out more about her at authorhopeann.com.