I Published A Book And You Can Win A Signed Copy

I don’t talk much about my fiction writing on this blog. In fact, I don’t even write fiction under my own name — I use the pen name Maris McKay to keep my non-fiction and fiction separate. But this blog is partly about me sharing major things going on in my life with all of you, and so I’ve decided to let you all know about something exciting that happened in the fiction-writing part of my life.

I published my first book!!!

Technically this isn’t really my first book since The INFJ Handbook and God’s Love Story have been available for quite some time now, but it’s my first fiction book and it’s the first of my books available in paperback as well as ebook. Getting the proof copy was ridiculously exciting.I Published A Book, And You Can Win A Signed Copy | LikeAnAnchor.com

What It’s About

Most of my fiction is fantasy, and this new short story collection is no exception. All the stories are set in the fantasy world of Kern, which you can learn more about on my other website (click here). Here’s the description printed on the back cover:

A negotiator who uses herself as a bargaining chip.

An adventurous spirit trapped by her culture and family.

A resistance fighter leading her captors into a trap.

A reclusive horse trainer swept into a quest for treasure.

An elderly, overlooked servant smuggling slaves out of her country.

A woman with a gift that seems like far more trouble than it’s worth.

A princess whose arranged marriage puts her in the hands of pirates.

A shepherdess fighting to save her sister.

A belly-dancing assassin who fakes her targets’ deaths.

These are the women of Kern — the sort of women who in our own world are all too often ignored, overlooked, forgotten, and silenced by history. Enter their world of magic, adventure, and romance through nine short stories and novellas driven by women with the strength and courage to shape their own destinies.

Read more of Ari's story in the new fantasy collection "Women of Kern" from Maris McKay https://amazon.com/author/marismckay

FAQs

I’m anticipating a few questions about this book, so I want to answer them here (feel free to ask others in the comments):

Q: Is this Christian fiction?

A: No. It is fiction written by a Christian and certain stories have Christian themes, but it is not “Christian fiction.”

Q: Is this book clean?

A: Mostly? I’d describe it as PG-13 for violence and sex. My target audience is adults and older teens, not children.

Q: Why the pen name?

A: Several reasons:

  1. The website “marissabaker.com” was taken.
  2. I didn’t want people searching for this blog finding my fiction page instead, or those looking for my fiction to find articles I’d written about gardening (less of a problem now than it was a few years ago when I was writing for eHow).
  3. Since I write such a wide variety of things (non-fiction about personality types, Christian non-fiction, and fantasy/sci-fi) I thought it would be easier to write non-fiction and fiction under separate names.

Read more of Feiyan's story in the new fantasy collection "Women of Kern" from Maris McKay https://amazon.com/author/marismckay

Giveaway

Update: the giveaway is now closed. If you would still like to get a copy of Women of Kern either as an ebook or in paperback, click here to visit my Amazon page.

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Seeing Unicorns For What They Really Are

I realized after my last Classics Club post that I’m bad at writing book reviews. I’d intended to just write a short “this is what the books are like, this is what I thought” post for Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels but it turned into an essay on what makes a strong female character and the state of modern feminism. I think I’ll give up on book reviews. Apparently I can only write thoughtful, rambling essays.

That’s not a bad thing though, right? These are classics, after all. People have been writing reviews of them for decades or centuries. If you want to find out about the plot you can go on Goodreads. I’d much rather talk about the ideas prompted by these great books. And I think you might rather read about that, too.

NOTE: this post contains spoilers but not enough, I think, to ruin the book for you

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website. Affiliate links are marked with *

A Perfect Fantasy Book

I feel like The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle* should have been a re-read for me, but this was the first time I’d read it. You’d think as much as I love unicorns and fantasy novels I’d have picked this one up earlier. Especially considering how much everyone loves it. Even the guy who wrote the best fantasy book I’ve ever read says, “The Last Unicorn is the best book I have ever read. You need to read it. If you’ve already read it, you need to read it again” (Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind*).

On the surface, The Last Unicorn seems like a pretty simple book. A unicorn overhears two men say there aren’t any unicorns left in the world. Worried that she might be the last one, she goes out searching for other unicorns and meets with the sort of adventures you’d expect in a fantasy novel. There’s a wizard, a merry band of outlaws, a wise woman, a curse, a wicked king, and heroic prince, a talking cat, and a beautiful princess. But there’s so much more than that, too.

How People See You

There’s a lot going on in this relatively short book, so I’m just going to focus on one theme that I found particularly interesting. When the unicorn first sets out on her search, I expected that problems would arise when people spotted a unicorn walking down the road. But all they see is a white mare. The unicorn is puzzled.

“I suppose I could understand if men had simply forgotten unicorns, or if they had changed so that they hated unicorns and tried to kill them when they saw them. But not to see them at all, to look at them and see something else — what do they look like to one another, then? What do trees look like to them, or houses, or real horses, or their own children?”(p. 11).

Read more

Let’s Get Real About Fantasy

Daydreaming is often considered a childish activity. So it might come as a surprise that studies indicate at least 96% of adults engage in daydreams and/or fantasizing on a daily basis. These daydreams typically last for just a few minutes while the mind wanders, but they can also be more involved, frequent, and lengthy. And getting caught up in daydreams is not, as previously thought, as sign of tending toward mental illness.

According to an article in the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, we’re learning that daydreaming is “a normal part of our cognitive processes.” In fact, it’s pretty normal to “spend one-third to one-half of our waking hours daydreaming, although that amount can vary significantly from person to person.” I was honestly pretty surprised to learn this. I mean, I know I do that, but I wasn’t expecting such a large percentage of the population to also daydream so much.

But while reading different articles about daydreams, I realized something else. They’re talking about people’s minds drifting into fantasies about their real lives. For example, it’s considered healthy for someone approaching a job interview to daydream about getting the job or for someone in a high-stress job to spend time fantasizing about how all their conversations for the upcoming day could go well. Other studies asked people to daydream about taking vacations or their childhood home. These daydreams are about things that could happen or have happened. I have those types of daydreams, too, but that’s not what most of mine are.

Let's Get Real About Fantasy | marissabaker.wordpress.com
this picture is part of a psychological self-portrait I made in a college art class

Extreme Fantasizers

While studying hypnotic suggestibility in 1981, psychologists Theodore X. Barber and Sheryl Wilson discovered that the 27 women they identified “as extremely good hypnotic subjects … all had a fantasy life so intense that it seemed ‘as real as real.'”‘ After more research, people in this group are now described as having a “fantasy prone personality” (FPP). On the more extreme side, where fantasies start to take over reality, it’s called “maladaptive daydreaming” (click here to read an interview with a maladaptive daydreamer).

According to researchers, about 4 percent of people spend half or more of their waking hours absorbed in reverie. The fantasies are not mere fleeting daydreams but something of a cross between a dream and a movie, where an elaborate scenario unfolds once a theme is set. (from a New York Times article)

Reading about this group is where I start to recognize myself. Read more

Tale As Old As Time

Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite fairy tale. Favorite Disney movie, favorite Robin McKinley fairy tale retelling, favorite original tale … basically, I’m a fan. So you can imagine that I was beside myself excited when Disney announced their live-action remake of my favorite fairy tale. And yesterday, I finally got to see it.

It’s been a while since I wrote about fairy tales, so many of you probably don’t know that I’m not just a fan of Disney. I love the original tales as well. In many cases, I like them more than the lighter, tamer, happier versions. It’s hard to believe there was a time when it was considered normal to read children bedtime stories where stepsisters hack their own toes off, children throw witches in ovens, and princes fall from towers into thorns that blind them.

They weren’t just creepy stories for kids, though. Fairy tales represent a rich folkloric tradition passed along and refined by both male and female storytellers. And plenty of research has gone into documenting these stories’ histories, discussing their role in society, and cataloging the different styles. Beauty and the Beast, for example, is 425C in the Aarne–Thompson classification system. It’s one of a surprisingly large number of animal groom fairy tales and most likely has it’s roots in the story of Cupid and Psyche.Tale As Old As Time: Thoughts on the origins, meaning, and newest adaptation of my favorite fairy tale | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Fairy tales have always generated discussion and debate. This time around, people are talking about bestiality and wondering why this “tale as old as time” has endured for so long with such twisted ideas at its roots. But if we equate the Beast with an animal we miss the point of the tale. Psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim believed the “animal groom” stories were “intended to reassure virginal brides about sex” (i.e. he seems scary, but once you get to know him he’s not so bad).

Beauty and the Beast goes deeper than most tales of this sub-type, though. What we know as Beauty and the Beast was first written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740. In this earliest version, as in subsequent versions, the Beast has to prove himself worth loving. Read more

Empathic Feeling

I realized Tuesday night when I was reading Fire by Kristin Cashore and crying into the bath water that I wasn’t crying because I felt sad a character had died. I was crying because someone in the book felt sad that this character had died. Once I thought about it, I realized that at least half of the times when fiction moves me to tears, it is in empathy with the characters rather than my own feelings being affected. In other words, I’m crying because the character is crying, not because of what moved the character to tears. Sometimes it is both (Ender’s Game, for example).

This feeling other people’s feelings (fictional and real) is something I didn’t have much of a grasp on until I discovered my Myers-Briggs type and started reading what other INFJs wrote about being overwhelmed with the emotions of others. Adding high sensitivity to the mix only heightens this (here is a wonderful article about Elaine Aaron’s research on the Highly Sensitive Person).

A Range of Empathy

The extent to which INFJs report feeling other people’s emotions range from an awareness of how others are reacting, to not being able to remember the last time you experienced a feeling that belonged only to you. “You feel it, I feel it,” an anonymous INFJ wrote. I may not be quite ready to claim my feeling of and for others reaches that extent, but I share her decision to try and avoid encountering strong negative emotions (e.g. a news story about child molestation, a film where a family is torn apart, real-life conflict) because of how overwhelming it is — emotionally as well as physically in terms of headaches and stomach pain.

Managing Feelings

In INFJ Coach’s series of blog posts on “10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life,” part two is “Manage Those Pesky Emotions.” Her article is mainly about dealing with our own emotions when they surface, but the comments point out that this is only part of the problem. One commenter named Jennie wrote that she asks herself,

“Is this my emotion that I’m feeling, or is it someone else’s emotion?’ Many of us INFJs are emotional sponges for the emotions that other people are feeling. Our NF gives us a very high degree of empathy, but sometimes taking on other people’s emotions can be too much to handle.

The other side to this is what INFJ writer Cheryl Florus points out in Personality Junkie’s INFJ Strategies for Dealing with Emotions: Part I. Because an INFJ’s feeling is extroverted, we often have an easier time understanding the emotions of other people than our own emotions (for more on function stacks, see this post). We feel emotions strongly, but need to make an effort to learn how to experience and express them in a way that doesn’t seem overwhelming or uncontrolled. Often, writing down or talking about our emotions is a way to get them outside us so we can look at them more objectively (I keep a journal and talk to my closest family members). Sometimes, until I’ve done this, I’m not exactly sure what it is I’m feeling, let alone how it should be expressed and dealt with.

What about you? Are you an INFJ with experience feeling other people’s feelings (or a non-INFJ who does the same thing, because I’d love to hear from you)? Or are you someone who has never had this happen and thinks we’re crazy?

It’s NaNoWriMo Time!

National Novel Writing Month is well underway, and I am happy to report I have not yet fallen behind. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a single month (which requires 1,667 words per day). I completed NaNoWriMo in 2011 while taking a full class load, working part time, and writing my undergraduate research thesis, so this year can’t be any harder, right?

This year, I very cleverly decided to begin NaNoWriMo by going to a church lock-in over the weekend. I frantically wrote 3,400 words on Friday, and wrote another 1,383 on the drive home before my laptop battery died (and another 1,100 before I went to bed). I was surprised how much I could write after only 3 hours of sleep (maybe 4 if you count the nap in the car).  I’m not going back to re-read for quality until after November is done, but the quantity part I was able to manage.

If you’re interested in the story I’m writing, you can look me up on the NaNo website under the name ‘linnon.am.meleth.vin’, or check out my writing blog under the pseudonym Maris McKay, where I’ve been writing about outlining my NaNo novel and drawing maps for the new fantasy world.