Tuesday, August 09, 2016

R. J. Larson: Naming the Next Series

Now that The Blessing manuscript is nearing its finish--with proofing and editing planned--I'm beginning to kick around names for the next R. J. Larson series.

What? A new series? 


I'm envisioning a world, not unlike our own, finally stirring to life as it emerges from the terrors of its Dark Ages.

Legendary creatures have returned to stalk mortals. Words, long forgotten, are spoken for the first time in a thousand years, and the soul of an ancient forsaken empire is stirring to life. One family has been entrusted with a treasure that endangers all who possess and understand its mysteries.

No one is safe. 

Armed with the above information, naming the series seemed straightforward: Forsaken Empire.  However, a quick online search pointed out that nowadays, Forsaken Empire is the name of a rock band. Alas, there are no rock bands in this series, sorry, rock fans. 

Long story short (is such a thing possible?) I've landed upon a tentative name. 

Legends of the Forsaken Empire. 

Thoughts, brave readers?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Interrupting This Blog~~SALE!

I love sales! My first fantasy-realm book-baby, PROPHET, is on sale through July 2016! The ebook on Amazon is99¢! Spread the news!

"Tarnished snow sifted through the air, clinging to Ela Roch's skin the instant she stepped outside. Warm snow. Impossible. She rubbed at the flakes on her bare forearm and watched them smear across her brown flesh like menacing shadows. Ashes. What was burning?"

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Deadline and Tortoise Syndrome

I'm within the last ten chapters or so of finishing The Blessing--a story that I've loved and looked forward to writing ever since 2010.
Blessing Bunny Trail

I should be sprinting toward that finish line at a record-breaking pace, right?

Not so.

I'm plodding along like Aesop's proverbial Tortoise, mulling over each scene, leafing through research and idling at odd moments to check out all the bunny trails along the way. In other words, I'm procrastinating. Why?

I could plead "Spring fever". Today was a gorgeous day, offering fresh green grass, cerulean blue skies and cotton-puff clouds that enticed me to stare out the window at the end of each sentence. But I didn't walk outside to soak in all that beauty, so I can't blame the glorious spring weather. I dawdled today over cooking, making chicken curry stew and a coconut pie--my family does have to eat. True. However, the fridge is packed with leftovers. I could declare a weeklong cook's vacation and we wouldn't starve.

Social networking, answering emails, the day job, and household tasks are contributing to my Tortoisian slothfulness, but none of these are overwhelming tasks. Oh, and LOOKEE, I decided to blog this evening, rather than open Chapter 31 and dig in.

I can't blame The Blessing, because I struggle with this syndrome at the end of each story. As the characters in my imagination are cheering and chanting because the finish line is in sight, I linger and loiter through the last few chapters of each book.

Once the story is finished, it's essentially done.


I can't like that, because it means bidding beloved characters farewell.

Conclusion: I stink at saying "Goodbye."

But like the proverbial tortoise, I will reach that finish line and savor the victory. Soon.

After I watch another cooking show. Hehehe!

Blessings, Dear Everyone.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

While I Was Away

Six weeks is much too long in between blog posts--I apologize.

Unfortunately, four weeks ago, I was hit with a case of pneumonia that would NOT leave despite three rounds of antibiotics. I feared the pneumonia bugs had decided they loved me and wanted to stay forever.

This week, however, I finally feel that life will continue, and I have energy to write to you!

What was I thinking of while dragging myself from my sickbed to work and back for the past four weeks? My current manuscript, among other things. The Blessing is coming along nicely despite my endless bunny trails in the name of research. Because I am a visual person, I wanted some imagery to study while finishing May Somerville's story, so I raided Shutterstock's endless files and pieced together this rough little (first draft) mockup.

It's not a cover. 

Not even close.

However, this IS close to what I see when I think of May Somerville standing in the beautiful Colorado mountains near the story's end, finally coming to terms with life's harsh realities.

Don't worry. She's not as tranquil as she seems--this image is missing a rifle. After all, my post-pneumonia creative energy still has its limits! *Sickly author sipping herbal tea.*


Saturday, February 27, 2016

A God Who Saves

Some stories deserve retelling. My dear FIL's journey is one of them.
Pop, it's been more than 16 years and we miss you! Looking forward to seeing you again, in His presence.

A God Who Saves

“I don’t believe in that religion stuff!” my father-in-law scoffed, dismissing all mention of God with a wave of his broad, work-toughened hands.

Pop, at the age of eighty-eight, was a proud, self-reliant German-born American. He insisted that he had seen too much suffering to ever believe that there could be a living, loving God. Pop had barely survived the aftermath of World War I as a child in his native Hamburg. In an attempt to escape from his memories of disease and starvation, and certain that he would “strike it rich,” Pop immigrated to the United States in October, 1929. Two weeks later, the stock market crashed. Pop, along with the rest of the world, was confronted with the Great Depression.

Despite many hardships in the decade that followed, Pop poured all of his German stubbornness into becoming a model American citizen. When World War II broke out, Pop gladly served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army. The brutality of the war affected Pop so deeply that he rarely shared his memories of the buddies he had lost or the atrocities he had witnessed. Hardened and cynical, he scorned the very idea that there could be a God. According to Pop, anyone who actually believed in God was a fool. After the war, Pop devoted himself to the American dream and watched in disbelief as his wife and children, one by one, turned to the God he denied.

“You’ll get over it,” Pop assured his youngest son, my husband, one day as we departed for church. We didn’t get over it. We prayed for Pop instead. For more than twenty years, we prayed. But the trials of old age did nothing to soften Pop’s heart. His temper shortened all the more, and we despaired during his last weeks of life, certain that nothing could ever touch his heart. Many had tried. Our spirits sank all the more when Pop suffered a stroke and began to relive his past aloud. He was oblivious to us then, and we began to mourn. No one could possibly reach Pop now, we reasoned. No one.

For twenty-four hours, Pop lived in his memories, flowing backward through his life until he literally became as a child again. Then, he began to sing in broken English and German, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so ….”

We were incredulous, and skeptical. But over the course of the next five days—the last of his life—Pop was transformed. Despite the debilitating effects of his illness, he radiated a pure sweetness that we had never seen before. And he actually said to us, “I love you.”
A miracle!

Most wonderful of all, he joyfully affirmed his love of God over and over again.

Indeed, only One could reach him.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

When the Writing Gets Tough ... Remember Love

Several months ago, I finished writing a fantasy novel and was determined to resume and complete The Blessing, a story I began to write more than five years past as Kacy Barnett-Gramckow.

It would be so easy, I was sure. I had all my notes, a good story-line, and lively characters ... yes, this story would flow smoothly.

Not so.

In almost every paragraph, I stumbled across odd details requiring research not answered in my notes. My characters, lively as they were, had become like strangers to me. Was it because I'd left them tucked in a dark and hidden file for more than five years?

Chapter after chapter, I wrote the story I'd loved and pledged to finish, but each sentence was like a hard-won skirmish, and each chapter seemed an outright war, leaving me dazed and drained. What was wrong? 

Two weeks ago, I realized that although the pace of my research hadn't diminished--I'm overly-obsessive about details and I'll be the first to admit it--the story itself was becoming familiar again, and easier. Better yet, I'd remembered the one necessary ingredient I'd forgotten: love.

Yes, I'd fallen in love with my characters all over again. Every sweetheart, stinker, and Person-of-Questionable-Character. In return, my characters began to talk to each other, and to me, sharing their secrets, and opening up new subplots I'd failed to consider years ago. The Blessing has once again become pure joy despite its serious subject matter.

Is your writing dragging? Would you rather stomp outside and kick rocks than face another paragraph? Take a deep breath, calm yourself, and remember love.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Writing Controversy (Redux)

Writing Controversy

*Redux. First posted on Backing Books Blog, 12-8-2015. 

R. J. Larson
My latest work, Valor, is based in part on the much-debated, controversial text from Judges 11:30-40, concerning Jephthah and his courageous daughter. Their story stirred my imagination from the first time I read it as an eight-year-old. I remember staring at the page in my Children’s Bible, greatly distressed and seriously resenting that particular story’s ending. Why had that girl’s father made such a rotten vow? Why had she agreed to fulfill her father’s vow—couldn’t she have run away? (No, I was never tempted to run away from home when I was a child, just sayin’.) But I wished I could change the ending for her.
Fast-forward decades later.
Last year, while I was writing Queen (inspired by Esther and other scriptures set in a fantasy realm) it occurred to me that the Agocii lands were an almost ideal place to present the story of Jephthah and his daughter. Much as Israel during the time of Judges—when there was no king, but each person did what was right in his own eyes, when pagan beliefs and customs surrounded those who followed the Lord, and when wars and conflicts presented themselves at every turn—the Agocii reflected spiritual and social turmoil similar to Israel’s during the time Judges. It seemed a perfect place to present Jephthah’s story.

I chose the warrior Vsevold from Queen as my fantasy-realm Jephthah, and with Aniya’s name chosen for his daughter by a friend, I turned my attention to researching the verses which had distressed me when I was a child. Almost immediately, I found numerous web sites citing the debate over Jephthah’s story. The original Hebrew of the text is a marvelous multilayered and versatile language, which often conveys multiple meanings. In Jephthah’s case, this meant that his story, and mine, had two potential and equally defensible possible endings. First, as the most basic and straightforward translations suggest, Jephthah could have actually sacrificed his daughter as he vowed. Or, according to the nuances of some of the Hebrew words in those verses, Jephthah might have dedicated her to the Lord—to serve the Lord’s House, some of the debaters insisted, to live the remainder of her life unmarried and a virgin. The dedication theory also sets aside any quandaries concerning Jephthah’s hero-status mentioned in Hebrews 11, placing Jephthah in the company of Gideon, Barak and Samson.

Could Jephthah’s daughter have survived the threat of sacrifice? I certainly hoped so. Whatever happened, I knew above all that the Lord abhorred human sacrifice, and this must play out strongly in Valor. I dug through the debates and accompanying commentaries, and found several mentions from different sources that the “dedication” theory had first been presented in the early middle ages when it was common for women to become nuns, never marrying in order to serve the Lord. While that gave me pause during research, I still found merit in both sides of the debate.

After reading all the debates, looking up the Hebrew root words, and studying the circumstances surrounding the book of Judges, I had to make a decision. My main hesitations were:
1. Deuteronomy 23:3. (An illegitimate man many not enter the assembly of the Lord, nor many his descendants down to the tenth generation.) Jephthah and his daughter were considered ceremonially unclean due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his birth, therefore she couldn’t have served in the Lord’s House as some Dedicated theorists argued. (Though she could have been isolated for the remainder of her life, unwed and a virgin.)
2. The apparently late emergence of the dedication theory.
3. Numbers 30:2. (If a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath and obligates himself by his own word, he must not break his word. He must do everything he said.)
Even if that vow displeased the Lord? This made me hesitate.
Certainly the Lord would never approve of human sacrifice. Therefore … and yet ….
Being fallible as so many other leaders from the Scriptures, such as David, Samson, and Abraham, could Jephthah (within the chaotic framework of his times) have fallen prey to a rash and desperate vow in an attempt to bargain with the Lord, when faith in the Lord’s provision for victory would have been enough?
Could Jephthah have committed a terrible sin, yet still be regarded as righteous based solely on the fact that he believed in and followed the Lord?

No matter which way the book might end, it would not be happy.

After weighing both sides of the controversy, I wrote Valor, praying through each chapter. Was it easy? No. Yet I hope you’ll enjoy the story and love the characters as I do.

R. J.