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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A Trip to the Zoo

I have two reason why you’re getting a rambling post about how I spent yesterday rather than a nice, neat article:

1) NaNoWriMo

50,000 words in 30 days = one novel, and not much sleep. I’ve done it twice before, and I’m trying again this year with a Young Adult novel full of super humans (click to visit my writer’s website). I’m prepared with enough Lindt hazelnut truffles to reward myself every 5,000 words (plus a few extras, just in case).

2) Zoo Day!

Months ago we got half-price tickets to the Columbus Zoo, and just never seemed to find time to use them. Then we realized they expired in February, and it wasn’t getting any warmer, so we went yesterday. It was so cold that most of the South-Asian and African animals weren’t out, but the predators were very active.

Amur leopards
the Amur leopards were moving too fast for my camera

Very, very active, in some cases. The brown bears were chasing each other all over their exhibit, my family saw a tiger try to pounce on one guy through the glass, and there was a cheetah stalking a child being pulled in a wagon.

brown bears
huge brown bears

We also saw an extremely rare creature — an awake koala. They sleep 22 hours a day if given the chance, and I think this is the only time I’ve ever seen one moving.

koala
hungry koala

I’d say the dinosaurs were even more rare, but they weren’t moving much. Didn’t even try to snatch a tourist out of the boat ride, so I suspect they were animatronic.

it's a dinosaur
It’s a dinosaur!

The aquarium in Columbus might not be huge by public aquarium standards, but it’s certainly one of the most impressive at a zoo. I love the manatees. Columbus and Cincinnati are the only aquariums in the U.S. outside of Florida that help with manatee rescue and rehabilitation.

manatee
Stubby can’t be released into the wild because of propeller damage to her fluke and an autoimmune disease that affects her skin

And last but not least … I found a yurt!

yurt, a.k.a. one of the cutest structures known to man
yurt, a.k.a. one of the cutest structures known to man

Fairy Tales

I love fairy tales. When I was little, my exposure to fairy tales was mostly through Disney films (my favorite is Beauty and the Beast, just in case anyone is wondering). I started seriously reading fairy tales just a few years ago, when my favorite English professor loaned me a collection of Celtic Fairy Tales. Since then, I’ve read all the Brothers Grimm tales, many of Andersen’s fairy tales, more Celtic folklore, and collections of French fairy tales including Perrault’s writings.

I’ve been reading some of C.S. Lewis’s essays collected in the book “Of Other Worlds.” I’ve enjoyed reading his fiction (Narnia and the Space Trilogy), as well as Mere Christianity, so it was nice to get insight into his mind and writing process. For the blogt I wrote to post on my writing website tomorrow (yes, I write under a pen name), I turned to one of these essays for inspiration. I liked writing it so much, that I decided to post it here as well.

C.S. Lewis on Children’s Writings

By tracking down a quote on Pinterest, I came across C.S. Lewis’s essay “On Three Ways of Writing For Children” (full text online here). Though I don’t write specifically for children, I like to think that my fantasy novels would appeal to (and be appropriate for) some young people. After all, I can’t be the only child who was reading Jules Verne by age 10 and searching for other stories of the fantastic.

The essay becomes most interesting to me when Lewis addresses the question of what kinds of stories are worth reading as children. Since he wrote children’s fantasy — not because he set out to write for children, but “because a children’s story is [sometimes] the best art-form for something you have to say” — he spends much of the essay defending fairy tales.

If I have allowed the fantastic type of children’s story to run away with this discussion, that is because it is the kind I know and love best, not because I wish to condemn any other. But the patrons of the other kinds very frequently want to condemn it. About once every hundred years some wiseacre gets up and tries to banish the fairy tale. Perhaps I had better say a few words in its defence, as reading for children.

Just as when Lewis was writing (in 1952), modern parents have been banning classic fairy tales. Hansel and Gretle and Little Red Riding Hood are not read because they are “too scary,” but there are other reasons as well. More than 50% of parents wouldn’t “read their kids Cinderella because the heroine spends her days doing housework. Many felt that this theme of female domesticity didn’t send a good message.” The politically incorrect word “dwarves” disqualifies Snow White from polite society. Rapunzel’s kidnapping and imprisonment is “too dark” a theme (actually, it is darker than they think– in the Grimms version she’s not actually kidnapped. Her father gives her to a witch to save his own life).

Whether or not to read fairy tales (and which ones to read) to children is a choice that will vary from parent to parent and also depends on the child. There are plenty of fairy tales I wouldn’t read to a very young or sensitive child (like The Little Mermaid, where she is in agony the entire time she has legs and dies at the end). But on the whole, I tend to agree with Lewis when he said,

Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. Nor do most of us find that violence and bloodshed, in a story, produce any haunting dread in the minds of children. As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end the book. Nothing will persuade me that this causes an ordinary child any kind or degree of fear beyond what it wants, and needs, to feel. …

It would be nice if no little boy in bed, hearing, or thinking he hears, a sound, were ever at all frightened. But if he is going to be frightened, I think it better that he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars. And I think St George, or any bright champion in armour, is a better comfort than the idea of the police.

As a child who was deeply afraid of things that go bump in the night, I can wholeheartedly support Lewis’s claim that a “bright champion in armour” is a far better comforter than the police. And if my mind had not been filled with fairy tales, fantasy, and knights in shining armor I would never have dreamed up Jamen and Karielle or Bryant and Aelis (who now live in my in-progress and finished novels) or invented Ves’endlara.

Which fairy tales would you read, or not read to children? As an adult, do you enjoy reading fairy tales?