Courtney

The last character I’ll discuss from Soul Conquest is Courtney. She was older when she was abducted and comes to the gym as terrified as the rest of the slaves had been, but her age and personality help her navigate her trial differently. She is sure of her faith. She doesn’t blame God for her circumstances but is able to continue to trust and believe in Him, which gives her peace and a different kind of strength.

She loves Devin and sees in him the desire to do what’s right. She values the depth of his ability to care for others. Their differences are what help them be the strength the other one needs. Devin comes to respect Courtney’s faith even as he struggles with his own. Courtney is likewise patient with Devin in his personal journey of belief. This is one of the reasons their love grows stronger over the years.

Courtney is determined to survive and Devin helps to give her those skills. There isn’t much written in the book about how Courtney deals with the repercussions of killing in the ring, so I’ll tell you here. She does have nightmares and is haunted by the images that she can’t erase from her mind, but unlike Devin she doesn’t internalize them the same way. She recognizes the right she has to survive, the right someone else has to refuse to kill and those that are really responsible for the wickedness of her dilemma.

Courtney is an optimist like Bailey was. She doesn’t have to work as hard to see the good amidst the bad. Devin needs to be surrounded by people like that. The weight he makes himself carry is a load impossible to bear on his own. If he were alone the weight would crush him. This is why Courtney had to be a part of the story. She was the only person that could save him from the blackness he had chosen to walk in. At the moment Courtney comes into the picture, Devin had lost his will to survive. His body may have still been alive but in every other way he was dying.

The only way to save Devin was through love, and Devin had shut everyone else out, ensuring his own demise. So in comes Courtney, the imperfect girl that held the key to reopen his heart.

Let Me Help

As I’m putting more effort and priority into my writing, it’s caused me to reflect on how far I’ve come. I’ve had moments of fear, frustration, and doubt. I’ve also played with the idea of giving up. Fortunately the positive aspects of writing always won. It’s an amazing feeling to learn that someone couldn’t put my book down. Writing has brought me happiness as I enjoyed the process of creating. I truly love turning my thoughts into something others can fall in love with.

As I reflected, I wondered if there are other writers that might find my experiences helpful. I have started to think that maybe I could be their encouragement.

So here I am writing with such a purpose. If you are starting your own writing journey and find it hard, frustrating and overwhelming, please know that you’re not alone.

Let me be your encouragement. Feel free to ask me questions and I will do my best to respond. My own writing journey is still progressing and I still have much to learn but I’ve also learned a lot. At the very least I can help encourage you in your endeavor.

So if you would like similar help, feel free to send me an email or comment on this post and allow me to join you in your creative expression.

Marcel, Bailey, & Ante

Marcel was not a part of my original daydream. I needed a character that would help Devin emotionally so that he could become the person I already knew him to be. Marcel could guide Devin from the start, and help him adjust to his new life. Marcel had an internal struggle of his own, which is only lightly hinted to in the book. Marcel shields Devin and the rest of the gladiators from his own pain so that he can help them with their own. It was Marcel who first suggested that Devin learn to master his emotions and control his tongue. Marcel taught Devin that the less his enemy knew him the better the advantage he would have. Let’s not forget that he gave Devin the opportunity to push himself intellectually.

Now let’s touch a little on Bailey. He becomes Devin’s best friend. As it gets close for Devin’s first real match they become brothers by blood. Bailey is an optimist so he can see beyond what’s happening now. He understands that he’s being forced to act, so he doesn’t internalize what he’s made to do. Instead Bailey pushes the guilt and horror to those that are responsible for it, whereas Devin always blames himself. Bailey however is not as gifted at fighting. Thus, Bailey with the other gladiators, look to Devin for protection from Ante. Due to the horrific circumstances that they are thrust into they become as close as any two brothers can be.

Ante is one of those characters that you just hate from the start. He and Marko are very similar. They refuse to allow anyone into their stone-cold heart. Ante is jealous of Devin from the start. On the streets in Bosnia he was a great fighter so getting knocked out right after Devin and he met was a crushing blow to his pride. As hard as Ante works, he never learns how Devin always has the advantage, which always keeps Ante a step behind. Ante has nothing but glory to fight for, whereas Devin has his friends. Devin keeps his mind active and alert, always pushing himself, like controlling his temper and his tongue. Without those advantages Ante continues to fall a step behind, which only causes his hate of Devin to grow.

Marko

Now lets talk about Marko. His passion and pleasure comes from ruling others. He loves money for the purpose of controlling and using people. On the streets of Bosnia, he used his muscle and quick wits to move up as the leader of his own gang. He cared for no one, only whether a man would swear loyalty to him, and be his to command. Men joined him because he offered safety, not because they liked him.

When people started betting on fights in the streets, Marko was the first to start making money. He was able to tell which man had the drive and skills to survive. He had his men capture rival gang members so that they could set up their own fights. His power on the streets grew, but Marko wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more. Then suddenly it was gone.

The fighting was taken from the streets, by the Bosnian mafia. There was so much war and chaos in the country that no one seemed to care about some illegal side sport. Marko was angry. Most of the fighters on the streets had been taken as gladiators for the game. Marko’s power was gone, well at least most of it. Marko hated the mafia for stealing it from him. When Stefan, a leader of the mafia, came to him and offered him the job of training gladiators he refused. He had no desire to work for them. Marko wouldn’t be controlled by anyone.

Then Stefan offered him something he couldn’t refuse. A chance for Marko to fulfill his dream and have his own gladiators. He had spent years planning and thinking about how he’d set it up. He dreamed of having unbeatable gladiators and knew exactly how he’d go about training them. Marko knew his dream would be fulfilled when he met a scrawny little scrapper named Devin.

That is just a glimpse into the antagonist Marko. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.

Devin Andrew Steele

In the coming weeks I will be finishing my 2nd book of the “Soul Conquest” Series, “The Refiners Fire.” At the same time I will be reworking “The Ultimate Trial” and releasing a 2nd edition. During this process I thought I would create some posts about these two books and my journey in creating them. So here goes.

Devin Andrew Steel is the main character in “Soul Conquest.” His journey onto paper was a rough one. He is, I guess, my guinea pig for character development. I had tried to write down my stories prior to “Soul Conquest” and, being an avid reader I recognized poor writing when I saw it. So consigning myself to the stark fact that I could not write, I stuck with daydreaming. At least, until, one day my husband asked what it was I daydreamed about. At the time of the question, the story I had banging around inside my brain was this very story. After some insistence on my husband’s part, I sat out on the frustrating but rewarding journey of extracting a character and plot from a brain that had no idea how to translate such a project.

So in comes Devin. In my dreams he never had a name, or a childhood. He appeared at the most exciting part of the story. He was who he was. My mind automatically knew how he would act under any circumstance. Sometimes when I was daydreaming he would respond or act a certain way and I would backtrack because it wasn’t true to his character. How my mind does that . . . I don’t know.

So in comes the tricky part. How do I get readers to know him the same way I do. First I needed to give him a name. Names are a big deal to me, so I found a name that felt right and then did some research. If I like the name but not the meaning than It’s a no go. So . . . I named him, now the harder task was giving him a past, a journey, really, into the hearts of the readers.

That is truly one of the hardest and most exciting parts, for me, in writing. Think for a minute, about how you would describe all the different complex parts of your personality to a stranger. Complicated, right? I’ve had discussions with my children about Devin that got pretty deep. There is so much more to him than what is written in my book. I keep my stories pretty simple, and that much information on Devin would turn my books into something that belongs in a psychologist’s office. Which means, each reader will add their own depth to Devin’s character. He will always be Devin in my mind but the exciting thing about the imagination is you can create right along with me.

I love learning about how other people see Devin and why. If you would like to share your favorite things about him or just have specific questions, please comment. I would love to hear and respond.

Deadlines

I realized recently that I’ve been going about my writing goals the wrong way. I have always tried to set time aside for my writing. Sadly, I allow other priorities to encroach on that time.

I’ve discovered a new approach. Deadlines. Just to be clear, I hate the very idea of deadlines. I’ve always felt it restricts the fluidity of my time and schedule. Also I am not a lover of stress. I despise it in fact. Deadlines create stress. Well, at least they do for me. However, I’ve learned that if I don’t set a deadline the goal is unlikely to be completed.

So, I’m excited to say I have decided to, bite the bullet, and be more successful by making deadlines for my books.

I will have Soul Conquest the Refiners fire ready to print by the end of June as well as a 2nd edition of the first book finished and reprinted.

I’m also working on two more books that I plan to have ready for release by the end of the year. One is about a wizard and the other one is about a boy that inherits a curse.

I’ve also decided to write some children’s books that I hope you enjoy.

Please join my journey as I work on releasing the many stories that have been circulating in my head.

Time

Time is such a mysterious thing. According to our clocks it moves at a constant pace. Ticking away the seconds minutes and hours of our day. Yet in its mystery it can speed up and slow down. As a child, I used to wait for Christmas and in frustration exclaim that it was so far away. Now at summers close I stress because I know that in a blink of an eye it’ll be here.

Managing time is a constant process. My Life changes, my plans are readjusted and time seems to slip through my fingers. I try to prioritize, making sure that my time is spent in the most meaningful ways possible and yet minutes still slip through the cracks unaccounted for and impossible to reclaim.

I second guess myself, “should I have spent my time doing that.”  I reevaluate and then move forward only to question myself again. Being busy isn’t a bad thing. But it could be if I’m filling my time with things that don’t matter in the end.

So as the seconds tick I hope that at least my progress in managing something as precious as the time of my life is getting better. I hope that in the end I’ll be able to look back on my time, smile and be able to say “I did alright.”

Beauty

As a mother I have watched each of my children learn to create. They play with play do and color amazing works of art and then comes the sad day when they start to notice art created by siblings, friends and parents and everything changes. They stop believing me when I tell them that what they have made is amazing. They get frustrated with themselves and crumple up their drawing after seeing something they assume to be better.

I have reflected many times to my own youth. As a child I loved to draw. My parents always encouraged me, they even signed me up for a drawing class. I loved that class and at its conclusion I had a finished drawing of a tiger in charcoal. My parents were very proud of that drawing. Then came the day in middle school when a girl sitting next to me showed me a drawing she was working on. I don’t remember anything about her picture but my thoughts I remember with clarity.

I can’t draw. My parents were just being nice, because I’m their daughter, but I have no real talent.

I’m sad to say that I gave up drawing after that. Now when I look back I see the folly in my thinking. But even worse I watch my own children come to similar conclusions. Nothing I say seems to convince them otherwise. One day I was holding my sons bearded dragons with my daughter. She commented on how beautiful they were and I agreed with her. Then a thought entered my mind and I knew I had an opportunity.

I explained to her that many people detest lizards and don’t see them as beautiful. I then explained that God is the best creator. Yet not everyone appreciates all that he has created. He knew that some people would see beauty in some things and not in others. We are all different and knowing this he created a very diverse world so that all could enjoy it and find beauty in his creations. I then explained to her that if someone doesn’t like her art don’t get discouraged. There will always be someone that appreciates it. She just needs to keep working and improving.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve discovered that I’m my own worst critic. I have learned to handle criticism from others but still struggle with outing the critic in myself. My own doubt cripples me. It is my own voice that tells me that what I’m doing doesn’t matter and that no one would appreciate it. It’s an ongoing battle. Time is precious in my busy lifestyle and I tell myself that writing takes too much of that time and I’m really not that good anyway. So I put it aside for what I deem to be more important tasks. Then something inside pulls me back. I love to write. It fulfills a certain part of me. The battle is constant, but I’m beating the critic within, because my unique ability is worth sharing, even if it doesn’t compare in context or quality to someone else’s. There are people out there that will appreciate my work for what it is. A unique work of art. And art is meant to be shared.

Characters

I had a conversation with my son today about how I develop my characters. It was an interesting discussion. Every writer does things a little different and it’s interesting to see different ways to do the same thing.

My characters always just appear in the story. As I start daydreaming or writing the story they’re just sort of formed. I know how they’ll act in any situation I put them in. I have occasionally had characters confront a situation in my story and find that it doesn’t feel right for this particular character. At that point I’ll backtrack and make it right.

I do have character cards to help me keep track of my characters. They’re really not so much cards, as they are a word document with the characters and their names. The facts I keep about each of the characters has much more to do with details of their past, their family and their description. Their is almost nothing written on their personality. This is because I intuitively know each character and what they’ll do.

I’m curious as to how you develop your characters? Please comment and let me know.