Tag Archives: Cindy Koepp

Guest Post ~ Faith in Fiction

I’ve been really, really busy trying to push through a major portion of my manuscript on Job. It is going quite well. That means, of course, less time to spend here. But I have a plan! This week I have a guest blogger, Cindy Keopp. She is an author of science fiction/fantasy. As it happens, I am one of her beta readers. Recently, one of her novels has become available for preorder, Like Herding the Wind, Urushalon I. It is a lovely tale and I highly recommend it.

Faith is something that winds its way throughout Cindy’s tales. It is a part of her and her journey, and so it finds its way into her novels. I asked her to tell us about that.

Like Herding

Cindy Koepp:

I was tempted to write an analysis of all the reasons why writers are told to avoid explicit mentions of Christianity in their writing followed by an explanation of why I ignore those suggestions. The prohibition of faith in writing would have made an interesting addition to my blog series on the Hugo and Nebula winners, but I’ll keep that topic for another time.

Instead, I’d rather have a look at the reasons why faith features so prominently in so many of my stories. The most overtly Christian of my books, Remnant in the Stars, even has a character convert to Christianity partway through the tale.

Leaving out the matters of faith would have made some things much easier. I’ve gotten into intense “discussions” with a publishing expert on the issue, been accused of trying to shove my religion up everyone’s nose, and had folks who offered to review the book later refuse because of the religion issue. Had I kept religion out of it, I would have avoided that mess altogether, but I can’t do that.

Some writers eschew the anti-religion advice because they “write for the audience of One.” In other words, they say that they don’t care what other people think because they’re writing only to please God. That’s not me. I’m not half arrogant enough to think a perfect God is interested in what I wrote. The best I can do is hope He’s not majorly offended.

Likewise, I don’t believe my writing is inspired by God. I’m not simply His scribe, and this isn’t a new Gospel I’m working on. If God were writing these tales, they’d be much more perfect than anything I come up with on my own. I wouldn’t need an editor because God doesn’t make mistakes. Trust me. I need an editor.

I write to communicate what I think and feel. Often these stories help me work through difficult things I’ve had to face. Sometimes the stories help me relate funny things that have happened. My tales contain goofy jokes and a weird sense of humor because I have a weird sense of humor and tell goofy jokes. The stories deal with complex characters and situations because life is rarely simple. All the characters are dealing with their own problems and their own joys. They have their own goals, so most of the characters in my stories have their own character arcs.

Most importantly, they have their own beliefs. People are predisposed to believe in something. In my own personal adventures, I’ve found that people put their faith and confidence in something or someone, even if that someone is found in the mirror every morning. To leave faith out of the story is to create a character that is woefully lacking in a critical element.

That’s not to say that all my stories have strong religious tendencies. One, Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo, has only one reference to God in passing toward the end. Are those characters missing something critical? No, but the details about their personal beliefs were not necessary, so rather than clutter up the work with unneeded detail, I kept the info about the characters’ religions in my notes along with other factoids. At critical points in the story, though, the religious background of the character influenced the choices the character made even if the reader never got to know the motivation for the choice.

More frequently, though, the characters’ religion plays a more active role in the story. For some characters, their faith becomes a source of strength for them in adversity, a cause for hope when practical answers are elusive, a solace in the maelstrom of family and international politics, and a comfort in times of grief.

In my personal life, faith is all these things, and I’ve only just begun to explore what faith in God can bring.

Like Herding the Wind — A Mystery. A wounded path. An alien society with centuries of work to coexistent with humans, but someone isn’t happy with the progress made. Will the human-alien team find those responsible before another human dies? In the 1600s, an Eshuvani generation ship crash-landed in a farmer’s field in Germany. Unable to find the resources on Earth to fix their ship, the Eshuvani built enclaves and tried to let the humans develop without interference. Three hundred fifty years later, Eshuvani criminals start a crime wave in the Texas coastal town of Las Palomas. With police officers being injured and killed in the efforts to stop them, Sergeant Ed Osborn attempts to use his ties to the Eshuvani community to get help for his men, but the local leadership wants nothing to do with humans. Ed contacts his urushalon, Amaya Ulonya, the Eshuvani mother he adopted when he was a boy, and seeks her help. After the death of her partner, Amaya, the captain of a police and rescue team, finds more grief than joy in her current assignment. Amidst controversy, she arranges to spearhead the new Buffer Zone station between Las Palomas and the nearby Eshuvani enclave of Woran Oldue. She hopes the opportunity to help Ed train his people will help her bury the past. The indifference of the local administration leaves her with Ill-functioning equipment and inexperienced staff. It only gets worse when the attacks of an Eshuvani criminal grow personal. Amaya must get control of her grief to help Las Palomas or risk losing someone even more dear to her than her last partner.

Cindy Koepp is originally from Michigan. She moved to Texas as a child and later received a degree in Wildlife Sciences and teaching certification in Elementary Education from rival universities. Her recently concluded adventures in education involved pursuing a master’s degree in Adult Learning with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. Cindy has three published science fiction and fantasy novels, a serial published online, short stories in five anthologies, and a few self-published teacher resource books. When she isn’t reading or writing, Cindy spends time whistling with a crazy African Grey. Cindy is currently an editor with PDMI Publishing and Barking Rain Press as well as an optician at monster-sized retail store.

Cindy can be found — and further enjoyed at:

http://ckoepp.com
http://cindykoepp.wordpress.com
http://www.amazon.com/Cindy-Koepp/e/B008QXR2QI

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Second time around the block! What IS a writing process?

Image courtesy of Dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Writing Process

Well. What are the chances that I might be dinged for similar reasons almost at the same time? Perhaps it’s the season – you know, sinuses, allergies, other stuff that gets in your head and won’t let you think? So you say, “Sure! I can do that.” If you’re lucky you note it on some electronic calendar and hope you actually remember. I did. Remember that is.

One of my most precious friends, Rhonda, asked to do her the honor of joining a blog hop on my writing process. I found her through a brief mention by another lady I respect and adore, Ms. Kristen Lamb. (Who, by the way, is an uber blogger with writers as the focus). One visit to Rodalena and I was hooked forever. Her observations on life, love, cooking and everything else that can make sense to anyone of us, are each treasures to cherish. This is her rendition of how words make it to the page. So, yes, I am honored to join this blog hop and describe, as she did, a metaphor of sorts that describes me at my keyboard.

The problem, of course, is that my writing is a bit sporadic. I am at a time in my life when my career (something to do with numbers), and all the little ventures I managed to dabble in take up a great deal of my time. I have to admit, though, that when I am permitted those few hours of peace and quiet; when I bar the doors and refuse to respond to flashing lights, urgent messages and multiple emails, I do find myself in a zone. If I were choose a metaphor, I would choose that of a potter with my work a work of clay. Weather spun on a wheel, or carved on the face of a poured mold, it is the creation of something from a lump of information, or the shape of an idea that I enjoy most.

As most folks know my primary focus is nonfiction. This comes from years of research and observation. All of that information piles up in my computer somewhere until I sit down and begin the process of sorting through all of that to see what I can learn and what might be worth sharing with others. Then that information, needs to be molded into a cohesive “story” that is interesting, informs, and maybe even helps in some way. Sometimes those notes are conversations with myself. What worked, what didn’t, who helped and who seemed to make things worse and why? This is the process I used in writing my first book about learning how to cope with my husband’s dementia.

There are times when some ancient piece of literature that I wrote lingers in my files because “someday” I’ll make something of it. This is a carving exercise. Taking away the things that I questioned and now see far more clearly. Perhaps mellowing a stance that seemed so unmovable “then” and so naive now. Those bits that survive the test of time make it into the general process that becomes my working in progress.

I actually love the work of writing. But then I love reading. I find things I simply must share and things that I feel must have come from some other dimension. In any case, I build, and mold, trim, and spin again until I begin to see the shape of my creation. I hope that as more of my writing becomes available you will find humor, joy, remembrance, peace, healing and maybe even knowledge.

Now you get to meet three wonderful authors I have come to know and treasure.

Elizabeth Mueller, an author and an artist, knew that books couldn’t bite, but even though she never admitted, she was scared of them. What she didn’t know, was that one day books would be her career as a writer and an illustrator.

She started writing poetry when she was 9. Then there were stories when she was 11 that, well, are quite funny from her current perspective. It was her creative writing teacher in 12th grade that made her realize there was more to writing than life itself. That’s when she fell in in love with books.

She hasn’t stopped since, feverishly working to perfect the craft late into the night. She lives with her husband, five kids, a hyper dog, two cats, a turtle and a fish. Darkspell, a young adult Paranormal Romance, was her first novel.

You can find Elizabeth at: elizabethmueller.blogspot.com

Andrea Zug is an avid reader who loves the English language; which is a good thing when you are an author. She has been writing, mostly poetry, since grade school. While her husband was in Vietnam she started her first novel. He was wounded and sent home just three months after their daughter Michelle was born. Raising a family took precedence over writing and it was 2006 when that long abandoned manuscript was pulled out of mothballs. Lancer, Inc. was born. Her husband’s wounds were emotional as well as physical and her work with Lancer, Inc. became a form of therapy, a way to unlock buried trauma. Many of his experiences live within the pages of the series. They found that it helped him and it became their mutual passion to continue the series. Her latest book, Vengeance, takes the Lancers down a new road. Step into the world of Mike and Angela Lancer, Private Investigators…you might just like it there. https://andizugatlancersinc.wordpress.com/

Cindy Koepp, a friend, my first editor, and a wonderful storyteller. After hatching years ago in a land very far away, Cindy tried to hide under a secret identity, but she finally gave that up and started openly telling people she was an alien capable of adopting many forms. To her surprise, with the exception of one class of elementary students, no one believed her. They assumed she was joking, thereby giving her the perfect cover story.

She spent 14 years mutating the minds of four-footers – that’s height, not leg count – but gave that up to study the methodology needed to mutate the minds of adult humans. In her off time, she writes about her adventures under the guise of telling science fiction and fantasy stories, records her blog articles, and reads wonderful books in exchange for editing help. http://cindykoepp.wordpress.com/

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Book Review ~ Finding the Lost and Learning to Choose

Book Review – Remnant in the Stars by Cindy Koepp.  Available for under $10.00

remnant

Rarely, any more, do I find myself reading straight through a book stopping only for necessary transactions with the outer world.  My lifestyle has changed in such ways that the “all nighter” is no longer an option.  I do, occasionally, find something that is more than just “interesting.”  Remnant is one of those finds.

As it happens I know the author of Remnant in the Stars.  She has become a good friend and her sense of humor and her intriguing outlook on life has often brought a smile to my face and mind.  That upbeat attitude is evident in her writing.  She does not employ stoic, cardboard-faced characters.  The story is peopled with interesting characters, each with their own unique qualities.  Not only is each character fully developed and in full possession of who he/she is; the journey each one travels shows a clear character arc.  Even if you don’t always know what is coming up, you can see the struggle each lead character experiences in the process of getting from where he or she is to where he or she must go.

The basic story line is based on an uneasy alliance between humans and a race of beings that fled the destruction of their home star in search of a new permanent home.  The refugees are not a violent race; in fact they have very strict moral codes that state that murder is murder even if it is caused by a lack of action rather than direct action.  This makes for interesting plot curves.  Not all humans are willing hosts and the story begins with a point-on-point battle between the factions.  One of our lady leads is severely injured.

In the meantime, something has gone terribly wrong with one of the scouting expeditions looking for a new home.  This requires a search and rescue operation and things get a bit interesting.  Booked onto a small merchant ship, a team of humans and an Aolanian, (a short, reptilian type of alien with a delightful way of using English) are off on a mission to play decoy while the main fleet does the looking.  Well, we wouldn’t have main characters if they weren’t involved in the main action, now would we?

Cindy develops the quirks of her aliens well.  Aolanians speak in present tense – always.  In their own language they use telepathy for the nuances so there is no need to describe then, now, when or such mundane sorts of speech.  There is also a supporting cast of aliens that are some form of pure energy.  Some of them are rather nice; some are quite nasty.  And then there is a worried chieftain of a people that look more like moving rocks than anything living.  Each clearly defined, each with a racial “personality,” each holding a very special place in the story.

The story follows three major characters, our lady fighter pilot, the Aulanian father trying to make a good choice between signing on to find his lost daughter or staying home and teaching his youngest how to use her emerging mental powers, and the lost daughter herself.  All things converge in the end, but along the way each of the characters must make hard choices that many of us face in one form or other as we find our way through life.

That, in my mind, is one of the best parts.  Cindy writes a beautiful story of how people make choices and what guidance, or lack thereof, they rely on to make those decisions.  Cindy is a Christian and her story is clearly a statement of her reliance on a guiding hand.  That statement is written beautifully.  Even when her alien friend does not understand her belief, he still understands that it sustains her in moments that would otherwise destroy her.  It is he that lectures a human that friends do not drive hope from friends; they support and encourage even if they don’t understand.

Yes, this is a delightful read full of humor, serious choices and great space-battle scenes.  It;s a rollicking good read and I sincerely hope these characters find their way into some future publication.

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Science Fiction/Fantasy Research ~ What Ingredients Make a Cake Part III

This is a continuation of a series I started about just how science fiction and fantasy writers stay up on the latest to give their tales substance.  This week we have Cindy Koepp, a teacher, an author, a craftsperson and the loving mother of an African Grey parrot.   For Cindy research is a part of the fabric of life as well as an “as needed” exercise in her writing.   From sword fights to aerial (or space) dogfights, seeking that perfect piece of information is what it’s all about.

From Cindy:

remnantResearch for Fiction Writing?

Most days of the year, I teach 3- and 4-footers in 4th grade.  In Texas, that means writing is a huge concern.  Recently, I gave my students an assignment of locating three facts and three opinions in a little reading book they were given.  One of my students lamented that he couldn’t find facts anywhere in his book.  It was, after all, fiction.  When I told the student that I do as much research for my fiction as I do for my nonfiction, he was flabbergasted, but it’s true.  Sometimes the research occurs long before the work on the story ever begins.  Sometimes I don’t go digging for details until I need them.

Real Life as Research

I find it hard to believe that most of twenty years have passed since the first time I put on some loaner armor, borrowed someone’s foil, and tried my hand at Renaissance fencing.  Even at sundown in central Texas I often felt cooked wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a four-layer jacket and hood, gloves, and a fencing mask. Even with all the bulk and temperatures in the nineties, being properly suited up was better than risking a foil or epee up the nose.

During the next few years, I learned two styles of Renaissance fencing: Spanish and Italian.  My studies were as much on the tennis court where the group practiced as in the library reading, and sometimes translating, books about Renaissance culture.  At the time, I had no idea that this information would prove handy in my writing. After all, I was working on science fiction, and the characters were not armed with blades of any sort.

A few years later, I had an idea for a fantasy novel involving a regent who’d rather be training her griffin.  I wrote the original rough – very rough – draft of Lines of Succession, a book currently under contract with Under the Moon Publishing.  Since the main character loves fencing almost as much as she loves her griffin, all that study and practice came in handy.  I ended up with three different styles of fencing in the story, one for each of the fictional countries known for their martial skills.  One group uses a mutation of the Spanish style I’d studied.  Another took on a close approximation of the Italian style.  The last?  I totally made that one up based on things I thought might be possible.

Last summer, I started a serial called The Condemned Courier with JukePop Serials, and that one, too, has had a lot of input from my fencing adventures.  The main character is a fencing instructor who was tasked with discovering a traitor.  For that tale to work, she has to be very competent with a sword.

I have another case of research long before any project was conceived.  I’ve had parrots since I was in high school.  Some have been little shavers like cockatiels.  Now I have a goofy African Grey.  Parrots are a real hoot, literally and figuratively.  They have each had different personalities and their own flair for bizarre antics.  I had a cockatiel who would wolf whistle, and if I either didn’t answer him or if I answered him “incorrectly,” he would repeat the wolf whistle very slowly until I “got it right.”  One of my other cockatiels would have qualified for the parrot version of the X-Games.  She would walk off the side of the cage and fall more than halfway before she started flapping her wings.  At first, I thought she’d just been klutzy, but when I put her back on top of the cage, she did it again and again and again.  She’d also fly to my purse and go exploring, taking everything out one thing at a time and inspecting it carefully.  I had a cockatiel who made spitballs out of whatever bits of paper she could get her beak on.  My dusky pionus beat up his toys.  My white-capped pionus strutted around his cage and gutted jalapeños for snacks.  My African Grey chatters and destroys oatmeal boxes.  She’s also learning all the bird calls from a new clock donated by an interested student at Christmas.

A couple years ago, I came up with a wild idea: tell a whole story from the point of view of a parrot and a dog.  I’ve recently finished the rough draft, and although I really do need to have the human characters tell parts of the tale, especially when the bird and dog are nowhere in the scene, the parrot in the story took on characteristics of each of the loony birds I’ve had over the last couple dozen years.

Research on Purpose

Not all of my research happens years in advance.  Sometimes I’m working on a project and need information on how something works so I can give my stories more realism.

I am not a pilot.  What I know about actually flying an aircraft wouldn’t fill up a sticky note, but when I wrote Remnant in the Stars, one of the main characters was a pilot, and a combat pilot no less.  I had to find out how flight physics works so I could extrapolate for how it would change in space.  While I was at it, I also studied up on dogfighting maneuvers.  I never actually use the term “Immelmann turn” in Remnant, but the pilot executes one a couple times.  She also experiences G-forces in a couple places and has to compensate for it.

Lines of Succession, for a fantasy story, had a lot of research.  In addition to fencing, I needed to know how black powder weapons work.  They were going to be loaded and fired on camera, so I really needed to know what was going on.  Fortunately, I found some sites with videos and descriptions, and my editor and some pals pointed me toward some other videos, and the mission was accomplished.

Another manuscript that took a lot of research was Like Herding Wind.  I needed to find out how old mines of the late 1890s and early 1900s in Michigan were built.  For a scene that has since been cut, I learned about the early cars, especially the Ford Fordor. Then there was medical phenomena.  Boy, did I have to do some digging for all kinds of information on medical phenomena.  The main character is an alien paramedic, and the trouble she doesn’t get into…

Research in Fiction? Oh, Yes, Please!

So, true enough.  I do indeed research very many things that I sometimes don’t use at all, but at some point in the tale, I thought I’d need it, so I paused to go scare it up.  If I do a good job, you shouldn’t be able to tell the research has been done.  In any case, I have almost as much fun learning the new stuff as I do writing the story that initiated the spark to learn.

Check out Cindy’s book, Remnant of the Stars at Amazon.  Kindle is currently available, paperback soon.   You can also visit her website: Cindy Koepp: Writing on the Edge  or her Facebook page .

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