Friday, December 12, 2014

Write with Me ... One Last Time?



So maybe a bit dramatic … and it won’t exactly be the last time, but why quibble over semantics?

With the third Hobbit movie coming out in theaters in less than a week, it feels like the Battle of the Five Armies has already begun with the onslaught of posters, trailers, and #OneLastTime attempting to take the world by storm.

Needless to say, it’s stuck in my head. Score one for the marketing team!

Meanwhile, I’m buried beneath a pile of sticky notes, outlines, and character sheets as I furiously work on book two of the Songkeeper Chronicles. If you haven’t read Orphan’s Song yet, you certainly will want to read it before book two comes out.

Because here in book two, our beloved characters deal with bigger stakes, tackle bigger opponents, encounter a bigger world, and brave even bigger dangers than before.

In short, it’s bigger.

Which means that I as the author am dealing with bigger stakes, tackling bigger opponents, encountering a bigger world, and braving even bigger dangers than before too.

But I have off from work at my day job over the weekend and through Monday, so being the glutton for punishment dedicated writer that I am, I have issued myself a challenge.

A full-on gauntlet in the face challenge.



Starting tonight promptly at 6:00 PM and concluding before 6:00 AM Tuesday:

I will write 20,000 words.

Whew, there I said it … now I have to follow through. Or die trying. (Maybe not that part.)

I’m an edit as you go type of writer. If I’m not happy with what I write it’s super hard for me to keep going. But I’ve managed to crank out 50,000 words in 13 days before, so obviously this is the next logical step in my writerly progression.

In any case, I’m looking forward to my writing weekend and wanted to invite all you writers out there to join me in my epic quest.

Set your own goal if you wish—after all you know your writing pace best. Choose to write for part of the time, most of the time, or all of the time. Come hang out on my Facebook page where I’ll be posting (hopefully excited) updates and writing inspiration throughout the weekend.

But join me, fellow warriors of the pen, and “write with me … one last time.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Build a World and How to Destroy It—Guest Post from J.B. Simmons

jbsJ.B. Simmons writes thrillers with an apocalyptic twist, and political philosophy clothed in fantasy. His latest novel, Unbound, tells the story of a rich kid from Manhattan with nightmares of a dragon and the world ending in 2066. In his Gloaming books, J.B. carries the torch of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis into an underground city with an exiled prince.

J.B. lives outside Washington, DC, with his wife, two toddlers, and an intriguing day job. He writes before dawn and runs all day. His secret fuel: coffee and leftover juice boxes. Learn more at www.jbsimmons.com.

*     *     *     *     *

What kind of worldbuilding is the hardest? All of it.

I’ve created two different worlds in the past few years. One is high fantasy, and medieval in style. The other is on good ole planet earth, but set in the year 2066. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the challenges of worldbuilding exist for every book that departs from our present reality.

The world must be crafted with care, because a few slips can destroy it for readers.

Building Worlds (for the writers)

Every novel is set in a fictional world. But the more time and space vary from today’s earth, the more important it becomes to make the book’s world believable. Readers have to believe before they’re going to care.

First, writers should build the world in their minds, laying the mental foundation. You might follow the Creator’s example: start with the heavens and the earth. Add a little light and dark, water and land. Then toss in some plants and animals. People and buildings make good additions, too.

Next, ask lots of questions about what you’ve created. Try these for starters:

  • Do normal laws of nature apply? Any exceptions?
  • Which virtues are overlooked? Which vices praised?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • What languages do the people speak? How about the animals, the robots? 
  • Swords, guns, or nukes?
  • Standard breakfast menu?

Think that last question is a joke? Maybe a little, but what someone eats can reveal a lot about a world. Here’s an example from Unbound:

I had seven minutes until my wake-up alarm, but I started my morning routine anyway. Thirty seconds in the shower chamber, one minute to slip on my black suit, and then my food arrived. Real eggs and coffee. My mouth watered. It had been too many mornings of pills and smoothies. This was a day for real food. I took my time with each bite while watching the video briefings.

As I wrote more about the year 2066, the words helped fill in the gaps. I typed lots of silly details that didn’t make the final book. They helped me flesh out a future reality, which you can read more about in my blog post on Writing the Future: Real Technology in Fiction.

The editing and pruning of extraneous fact got harder as topics grew in complexity. For example, how could I show how international security might be different in 2066, without writing an entire history of the next five decades? I used tidbits like this:

Unbound_COVERA spinning holograph of the White House appeared before the instructor. “You know,” he said, “the President used to live in this house a few blocks from here.”

Laughter rolled through our class. There were fifty of us in the room, and most looked like old bureaucrats.

“I know, I know, hard to imagine,” he joked. “The President, living out in the open like that, with everyone knowing where he was? Well, life changes when you have power and responsibility. The world is watching, and it’s our job to watch the world. Starting today, you used to stay in hotels, just like the President used to live in the White House.”

The holograph blinked off.

I hope that reveals something about this future world. Maybe it leaves you curious about why the President no longer lives in the White House. The editing process should seek the delicate balance of revealing the world while enticing readers deeper into it.

Destroying Worlds (for the readers)

Fictional worlds are fragile. They unravel every time a word, or a mental picture, makes a reader trip. The great challenge is that different things trip up different readers. Yet it boils down to four common issues.

1. Too much detail. You might guess this from a book’s thickness. Hefty fantasy epics often pile on the detail. This can be incredible, engaging, escaping. But it can also drag.

Here’s a classic example: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. Talk about a world builder! Tolkien invented languages. He wrote history. But I think we’d all agree that The Lord of the Rings is a better read than The Silmarillion. This doesn’t at all mean The Silmarillion is poorly written or bad, it just has A LOT of details. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:

“[I]t is told among the Eldar that the Valar endeavoured ever, in despite of Melkor, to rule the Earth and to prepare it for the coming of the Firstborn; and they built lands and Melkor destroyed them; valleys they delved and Melkor raised them up; mountains they carved and Melkor threw them down; seas they hollowed and Melkor spilled them; and naught might have peace or come to lasting growth, for as surely as the Valar began a labour so would Melkor undo it or corrupt it. And yet their labour was not all in vain; and though nowhere and in no work was their will and purpose wholly fulfilled, and all things were in hue and shape other than the Valar had at first intended, slowly nonetheless the Earth was fashioned and made firm. And thus was the habitation of the Children of Il├║vatar established at the last in the Deeps of Time and amidst the innumerable stars.”

Do we have to know that history of Middle Earth to enjoy The Lord of the Rings? No, but we benefit from the clarity of the world in Tolkien’s mind. This clarity helped him write a story in a believable world full of elves, hobbits, and dwarves. While The Silmarillion may never be a Hollywood blockbuster, it is the foundation that helps the world of Middle Earth long live on. 

A_Map_of_Middle-earth_and_the_Undying_Lands_color

2. Not enough detail. These are the thin books. Sometimes they pack heavier punches, like Hemingway. It helps when the story is contemporary, so that the world-building touch is lighter. But the touch is still there. You see proof when you pick up a bare book written fifty years ago. Are there unexplained details that don’t make sense in today’s world? They probably made sense when they were written. 

Some readers of my Gloaming novels craved more detail about the world. Perhaps the books are an oddity: compact epic fantasy. So readers who are accustomed to longer epics understandably could want more. But other readers praised the action and picked up on my hint that this was to be a “simple yet luxurious backdrop” for a deeper struggle:

Almost every building was built of bright white walls and steeply pitched, slate gray roofs. Against that simple yet luxurious backdrop, the thousands of merchants and craftsmen of the city had developed their own colorful pennants, which they proudly flew from their rooftops and windows. The building’s strong foundations and ornate decorations reflected the city’s culture—bound by generations of custom, but individually distinct and free. Every twisting road had known hundreds of stories and names.

This, again, is the balance writers must seek. It’s a little like Goldilocks’ porridge. Not too much detail, not too little – but somewhere just right.

3. Inconsistencies. These are the nuclear bombs of worldbuilding. No one likes inconsistencies, and readers are geniuses at detecting them. If a castle had a crumbling southwest wall in the first chapter, that crumbling wall should darn well matter when an army is gathered outside it ten chapters later.

The best way to iron out all these points is to give your near-final book to beta-readers. They won’t let inconsistencies slip. No one does.

4. Unbelievable events. Like the Creator, when you build a world, you have the power to change it, even destroy it. With this power comes great responsibility. An important rule of thumb is: once you’ve made your world’s rules, don’t break them unless you have a very good reason. (Hint: there’s a very good reason coming in the Unbound trilogy.)

In the end, the best worlds make us believe the unbelievable. That’s why we read after all, to visit worlds we love and carry back memories into the world where we live.

Let’s make our worlds count -- J.B.

Thanks, J.B. for visiting with us today!

Q: If you’re a writer, what are your favorite ways to approach worldbuilding in your novels? And as a reader, are there any particular books where the worldbuilding completely drew you in?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Orphan's Song Promo Video

Hope y’all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Now that it’s finally December, those of us who began listening to Christmas music in secret last month can finally emerge from our caves and rejoin humanity. 

Just in time for the holidays!


Posting on my blog will continue to be a bit sporadic until the end of the year, but for those of you who’ve read Orphan’s Song, I do have a good excuse. The best actually. I’m neck deep in finishing book two so y’all can find out what happens next!


There’s only so many writing hours in the day, and the book obviously takes precedence, so the blog may be a tad slow for the next few weeks.


But I have started planning out my blogging schedule for next year—yes, I know, I’m majorly ahead of the game. I’m just that good. And though I don’t want to give too much away, I can tell you to expect quite the exciting year with tons of giveaways (free books, who can resist that?), Destiny’s return, and visits to the Academy of Ultimate Villainy and the Warrior-in-Hero-Training School of the Round Table.


Lots to look forward to, right?


In the meantime, feast your eyes on this promo video I filmed for Orphan’s Song and consider sharing it with your friends. Hollywood worthy acting job right there. Another career option to consider or do you think I should stick to writing books? :)



And don’t forget to take a picture with your copy of Orphan’s Song and send it to me for a chance to win a $20.00 Amazon gift card! Only two days left to enter. Click on the photo for contest guidelines.


What do you look forward to most with the upcoming holidays?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Unbound by J.B. Simmons - Review

Unbound Cover - J.B. SimmonsHe must be released for a little while.
But the one who sees doesn’t believe.

Elijah Goldsmith has nightmares he needs to ignore. Why would a rich kid from Manhattan dream three straight nights about a dragon and the destruction of St. Peter’s Basilica? He’s never even been to Rome.

It’s bad timing, too. He’s graduating soon and applying to be a spy in the International Security Agency. That’s where he meets Naomi. She’s the kind of girl who makes boys like Elijah want to share their secrets. Were they brought together to learn what his secrets mean? There’s more to their sparks than they think.

This is 2066, the year the world ends.


My Thoughts:

From page one, J.B. Simmons draws us into the world of Elijah Goldsmith, a rich kid who could have anything he wanted, be anything he wanted, and chooses to try for the life of a spy with the International Security Agency.

But just when he thinks he’s got his life planned out to perfection, an unexpected event throws him into a tailspin. So much of what he thought he knew turns out to be false … and so much of what he was convinced had to be false appears to be unbelievably true.

You can’t help but sympathize with him.

“I never liked the easy path,” I said. “It’s too boring, too weak. By joining ISA, I get a chance to make a difference, to fight the decay, to become part of something bigger.”

Unbound, J.B. Simmons

Unbound is a fast-paced story with a fair bit of action, fascinating technology, and enough mysteries to keep your interest piqued. It covers a good deal of ground in a short amount of time—because of that you’re sure to keep turning pages to keep up with the story.

It was an easy and enjoyable book to read. I don’t mean to imply that the writing was lacking by any means, simply that it was easy to plop down on the couch, pick up the book, and get lost for a couple of chapters before I realized I had other things I had to do.

There were times, though, when I felt like the story was a bit too rushed. I wasn’t sure I completely understood the International Security Agency—perhaps by design, since they dealt with spies—but I felt like I could have used a little more explanation as to what their role actually was. It may just be me as well, but I’m not sure I really got Naomi and Elijah’s “love” for one another. It struck me as just a bit too much, too fast.

I’ll freely admit to being a bit squeamish when it comes to books that interpret end time prophecy—just not my personal cup of tea. But I do encourage you to study the book of Revelations for yourself and to remember that this is a work of fiction meant to speculate, not chart out the order of events.

There was also one major thing that happened to one of the main characters toward the end of the book that left me decidedly uncomfortable. I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be interpreted as a bad or a good thing, and maybe that was supposed to be part of the mystery, but it still left me with an unsettled feeling.

All in all, Unbound was a great and enjoyable start to a new series! If you enjoy fast-paced YA books with a romantic subplot, you should certainly check it out on Amazon, read a sample chapter here, or and visit the author’s website!

Friday, November 14, 2014

For Your Reading Pleasure…

cyrano de bergerac

I remain busy at my desk (ahem, comfy chair) each evening working on book two in the Songkeeper Chronicles, and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several blogs for interviews or guest posts over the past month and a half since Orphan’s Song released.

But in the meantime, my ability to keep posts flowing on this blog has greatly diminished. Poor Alexander, Fate, and Destiny have been stuck with Wizard Doomsday in the Plucky Lass for far too long … never fear, I fully intend to return to their story in the near future.

(Unfortunately, I hear they’re still working on that mysterious time multiplication machine that would enable people to be in two places at once, accomplishing twice as much as normal—but I am at the top of the list once the technology is realized!)

For now however, I wanted to link to several of the interviews and guest posts I have done for your reading pleasure until I can get a real, honest-to-goodness post ready to go up here.


Turn it Beautiful (on Angie Brasheer’s blog)

A post about writing through the hard times in life to turn the pain into beauty.

“The speculative fiction genre is all about the grand “what ifs.” Using imagination and the ability to speculate to “create” in imitation of the Creator. But it’s hard to imagine what could be when what is presses in on your senses, so dark and heavy and close.”


The Stories that Shape Us and the Characters that Change Us (on J.L. Mbewe’s blog)

A post about how the books we read in childhood can shape who we become…

“My favorite characters became more than just characters, and more than just a child’s imaginary friends. They became me and I became them … And as I devoured book after book, the stories I loved and the characters I admired seeped beneath my skin and left an indelible mark on who I am today.”


Interview with Angie Brashear

Y’all know me as a writer, horse-rider, and fantasy lover from Texas, but that doesn’t completely sum it up. In this fun interview, I reveal three random facts you almost certainly didn’t know about me…


Interview with Lisa Godfrees

Lots of fun questions here about music, whether I am a Christian Author or an Author of Christian Fiction, and secret backstories.


Interview with the Scriblerians

Find out which character in Orphan’s Song is most like me and why … You might be surprised!


That’s it for now, but there will be more posts coming soon!

And if you haven’t entered yet, be sure to enter the giveaway on Goodreads and enter a photo in the Epic Photo Contest!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams

Orphan's Song

by Gillian Bronte Adams

Giveaway ends November 24, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win
Epic Photo Contest

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Orphan’s Song Epic Photo Contest

One simply cannot have enough contests and prizes and giveaways in my humble opinion. The last prizes for the launch contest have been shipped off, so I think it’s high time for another contest!

So, we’re launching the Orphan’s Song Epic Photo Contest … because who doesn’t love epic photos and Amazon gift cards?

Yep, you read that right. There is a $20.00 Amazon giftcard at stake here!

Epic Photo Contest 2

Guidelines:

The contest runs until December 3rd.

To enter, take a picture of your copy of Orphan’s Song and post it somewhere online – your blog, facebook, pinterest, twitter, etc.

You must either tag me in the picture, leave a comment with a workable link, or send a link to my email at thesongkeeper@gmail.com.

At the end of the contest, I will compile all of the pictures into an album where everyone will have the chance to vote on the most epic photo to select the winner of a $20.00 Amazon gift card.

(Important Note: by sending me the photo link, you acknowledge that you grant me permission to post your photo in an online album for contest purposes.)

Frequently-Asked-Questions:

  • What if I got the ebook instead of the paperback? Can I still enter?

Absolutely! Take a picture with the cover showing on your ereader! Ebooks are awesome, so we definitely won’t let something like that stop you from entering the contest.

  • Do I have to be in the picture?

Nope, you do not have to be in the picture if you would prefer not to plaster your gorgeous face online. Simply take a picture of your book in an epic setting—see my photo above.

  • What do you mean by an “epic” photo?

I’m hoping that y’all will have fun with the contest and take pictures of the book in all sorts of adventurous settings, costumes, lightings, backdrops, etc. In short, be creative! Have fun! Use your imagination and try to convey a little bit of the adventurous feel of the story in your photo.

The sky’s the limit here!

Have fun and happy photo-taking!

If you have any other questions, leave a comment and I’ll get back as quickly as I can.

Don’t have a copy of Orphan’s Song yet? You’re in luck. I’m currently running a giveaway on Goodreads and it’s super easy to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams

Orphan's Song

by Gillian Bronte Adams

Giveaway ends November 24, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Monday, November 3, 2014

Winners Announced

First off, I want to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart to everyone who entered the Launch Contest and helped spread the word about Orphan’s Song! We had a whopping 580 entries earned during the contest! Each point earned equaled another time your name was entered into the drawing, and the winners were selected at random this morning!

Drumroll please

Birdie's Prize Bundle Collage

And the winner of Birdie’s prize is Deborah O’Carroll

Ky's Prize Bundle Collage

The winner of Ky’s prize bundle is Allison Ruvidich

Amos' Prize Bundle Collage 3

And the winner of Amos’s prize bundle is Ghost Ryter

Winners please email your mailing address to thesongkeeper@gmail.com to claim your prize in the next 48 hours. Congratulations! Thanks for your help telling folks about Orphan’s Song!

Didn’t win this time? Never fear. There will be plenty of other opportunities to win giveaways and prizes in the future.

Follow my blog and like my facebook page to stay tuned for more information about the Orphan’s Song Epic Photo Contest and upcoming Goodreads giveaways if you haven’t yet received a copy of Orphan’s Song.

If you have read and enjoyed the book, consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads or telling a friend what you liked about it. Word of mouth is one of the best ways you can help an author.

Thanks all!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Backpage Pass—Amos McElhenny

Well, folks, we’re down to the wire! These are your last few days to enter the Launch Contest and Prize Giveaway for Orphan’s Song. If you haven’t entered yet, it’s super easy to earn entries, and you don’t want to miss out on a chance to win one of the three awesome prizes!

(See the original post here: Orphan’s Song Launch Contest and Prize Giveaway.)

In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to a character who quickly became one of my favorites to write…

Backpage Pass - Amos2

Amos hefted the larger of the two packs and slung it over one shoulder. He took a deep breath, puffing out his chest. “We’ve supplies aplenty, the wind at our backs, and the open road before our feet. What more could a man wish for?” – Orphan’s Song

Amos editedAmos McElhenny was a part of the story from the very beginning. Before there was a plot or a problem, the character of the traveling peddler existed somewhere in the back of my brain, complete with his brogue, penchant for imaginative insults, and his stubborn donkey Balaam.

Half Waveryder by birth, Amos hails from a little sea-side village called Bryllhyn on the west coast of Leira. A man of many talents, he considers his skill with a dirk and most long range weapons second only to his mastery of the insult. One does not with to engage him in a battle of the tongue.

As a traveling peddler, Amos and his pack-donkey Balaam have visited many an inn, eaten at many a tavern, and stopped off at many a small town. He’s a man who’s been everywhere, seen it all, and experienced just about everything there is to experience. So you can hardly blame him for having an over-developed sense of his own rightness and a high regard for his own opinion.

But with all the places he’s visited, there’s one inn outside of one small town where he always returns: the Sylvan Swan in Hardale.

T’was at the Sylvan Swan that he met his wee lass, Birdie, and t’was there all his troubles began. Again …

Amos edited (2)

ADOI - Boggswoggle

Have you read Orphan’s Song yet? If so, who is your favorite character?

Be sure to check out the other Backpage Pass Posts and be watching for more posts in the future: Ky Huntyr, Birdie.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Orphan’s Song Launch Contest and Prize Giveaway–Week 3 Incentive

Incentive #2

Something happened last week. I’m sure of it. I honestly don’t remember what. But whatever it was happened to be of such epic magnitude that I didn’t get around to putting up a Week 2 incentive for the contest.

So we’re skipping Week 2 and moving straight on to Week 3, for the simple reason that time somehow keeps marching on even when things get crazy. Go figure.

I have a fun challenge for y’all this week. (For a full list of prizes and ways to enter the contest, read the original post: Orphan’s Song Launch Contest and Prize Giveaway.)

The paperback copies of Orphan’s Song are finally here! So if you preordered a copy through Kickstarter or Amazon, or logged on the other day and ordered a copy, it should be coming soon, if it hasn’t already arrived!

As soon as my copies arrived, I stuck one on the shelf beside the books belonging to some of my favorite authors and couldn’t resist taking a picture.

photo 1 (2) - edited

So for this challenge, I’m inviting you to take a picture as well! That’s right, it’s the EPIC PHOTO CONTEST. How does it work? Simple.

Take a picture of yourself with your paperback or ebook copy of Orphan’s Song at any point in time between now and the end of the Launch Contest, November 1st, post it on facebook, pinterest, or your blog, and earn 10 entry points.

Easy, right?

But wait, there’s more.

Orphan’s Song is a fantasy adventure … and who doesn’t like epic, adventurous photos! So, as a part of the EPIC PHOTO CONTEST, you can also email a copy of your photo to thesongkeeper@gmail.com to be entered in an additional contest for a $20 Amazon gift card. When you email me the photo, you’re giving me permission to also post it online (on facebook, my blog, twitter, or pinterest) and ask readers to vote on the most epic, adventurous photo to determine the winner.

Note: This portion of the contest will continue until the middle of November, but if you want entry points for the Launch Contest, you’ll need to post your picture before November 1st.

Sound fun?

A photographer I am not, but here’s one I took to get y’all started!

 Epic Photo Contest

Friday, October 17, 2014

Backpage Pass: Ky Huntyr

Backpage Pass - Ky2

“There were three simple rules in the Underground: be invisible, look out for yourself, and no going back. Ever. They all added up to the same thing: Keep up or get left behind.” – Orphan’s Song

Ky editedKy Huntyr—thief, runner, member of the Underground—began as one of those surprise characters that pop out of nowhere and force their way onto the page. I had no more clue beforehand that he was planning on entering the story, than Bilbo had about the party he was hosting for thirteen dwarves and a wizard before the unexpected knock at the door.

But once Ky arrived, I soon realized that he had come to stay and was going to provide an integral part of the story that became Orphan’s Song.

With his aptitude for the sling and his penchant for jumping into trouble to save others, Ky occasionally reminded me of David the shepherd boy from the Bible. Not entirely sure why, but who among us can really explain the random paths our brains take?

Care to know a secret? (In a very early draft, I even included a David and Goliath-esque scene in which Ky’s slingstones felled a much larger and highly dangerous opponent. It made me happy. Sadly, said scene no longer exists…)

Ky is one of my favorite characters—right up there with Birdie and Amos—and I enjoy writing in his point of view because he tends to look at things a tad different from other folks.

Ky edited1

He’s humble. He’s not always convinced that he’s in the right—because let’s face it, that can get downright annoying—and even when he is, he struggles just like the rest of us with going against the flow of popular opinion. But when push comes to shove, he’s not afraid to stand up for what he believes or for those who are in danger.

Despite the hardness of the world he lives in, Ky still cares.

There are a lot of numb characters in fiction today. Characters who are so broken and beaten and bloodstained that they can’t feel anymore, let alone truly care for anyone else. And that’s realistic. When you go through something so challenging, you can begin to feel like every ounce of energy has been consumed and you don’t have anything to give anyone else.

But what I love about Ky is that he’s not afraid to keep caring, fighting, and doing what he thinks is right against all odds.

And that—I think—is what made Ky real and heroic to me.