A Brief Fairy Tale

This brief fairy tale, originally written for the Prism Book Tour, is based on the story world of The Valley of Decision. One deep night, a mother of Alamir tells her child the story of another night, long, long ago …


One more tale? All right, my love; just one.

Long ago, the great father Athair led the first Alamiri up into the Rhugarch Pass. They were men of his clan, relatives loyal and strong. When they scaled the mountain to the Rhugarch Gap, they stopped for the night.

The men settled down to their rest; the fire sank into embers; the watchman grew drowsy. And a soft, soft pattering murmured into the camp.

Athair, great warrior that he was, woke and listened. Was it the wind? Was a fox slinking among the rocks?

A small, dark figure crept into the light of the dying fire. It stopped beside a sleeping man, and a stone dagger was in its hand.

With a roar, Athair hurled his knife and dropped the strange attacker dead. At his shout all his relatives leapt up from their slumber, drawing out weapons.

At that same moment, scores of small, fierce creatures swarmed into the camp. Athair commanded his men, and they stood back to back, in a circle around the fire. So standing together, they held the creatures at bay.

But the night was long, and their enemies were implacable, and the men grew weary. In the second watch, one cried out, “Athair, father of our clan, how long must we fight?”

And he said, “Until the morning comes.”

In the third watch, another cried out, “Athair, elder of our tribe, how long can we endure?”

He said, “Until the morning comes.”

When dawn broke over the mountains, sending pale rays of light shooting at the battle-torn camp, the attackers scattered and fled. But for one moment, Athair saw them in the light, and he knew them for what they were – the hobgoblins, the darkness-dwellers. And they, like the darkness and all dark things, fled with the coming of day.

Are hobgoblins real? I think so; don’t you?

Ah, but the candle is burning low, and now it is time for you to sleep. The morning comes, as Athair said, and it will be bright and good.

So sleep, my child; sleep.

Odds and Ends

So is it time for a news-and-updates blog post, a I-didn’t-have-much-planned-and-this-is-easy post? Yes, I think so.

At the end of May, I joined SpeculativeFaith as a regular contributor, posting every other Wednesday. In June I made my first two posts, and I’m scheduled to post my third this Wednesday. (Sneak preview: It will be about why Christian fiction is predominantly romance novels.)

Today, Anne Elisabeth Stengl graciously hosted me on her blog. There is an interview, a snippet from The Valley of Decision, and a giveaway.

The Prism Book Tour of The Valley of Decision has come to an end. In addition to the interviews and guest posts, I got a few good reviews. Melanie, at her blog Mel’s Shelves, wrote kindly about the ending: “There are lots of moving parts that came together in the end for a satisfying conclusion. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this, and I look forward to reading more from this author!”

Tina at Mommynificent commented, “The characters were definitely my favorite part of the book. I really enjoyed coming to understand the complexities of the three main characters, who interestingly are all male. I also really enjoyed the unfolding mystery of who the Fay are and why they are a part of this world.”

Sara, writing on Platypire Reviews, also remarked on the characters: “Keiran, the Captain of the Hosts, was an interesting character. From the beginning of the book, I wasn’t quite sure what direction the story was going to go in, and I didn’t know what to think of him at first. As things were revealed and I got further in the story, I found myself rooting for him as a reader and enjoyed his character development.”

Which is just the sort of thing an author likes to hear.

Sweet Green Paper

This weekend, Sweet Green Paper is on a Kindle Countdown sale. It will be 99 cents – 67% off its list price – through Sunday. Then it will go up to $1.99 for another three days, and finally will revert back to its list price on May 22.

Sweet Green Paper is an Adventure of Christian Holmes, a humorous detective series. Excerpts are available on Amazon and on Goodreads.


Sweet Green Paper (An Adventure of Christian Holmes)
by Shannon McDermott

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I like mysteries, and I loved the interactions between the characters. I would recommend this one. – 4-star Amazon review

Christian Holmes is on the trail of a thief. It’s another day in the life of his private detective agency—until he’s shown a picture of the thief’s accomplice, and recognizes his own cousin.

So he partners with his cousin in pursuit of a thief and the more elusive truth. All sorts of lies are told, when the reward is sweet green paper.

Christian Holmes is a detective series, offering humor and moral themes.

A Blog Tour and a Giveaway

With the release of The Valley of Decision less than four weeks away, I have two announcements regarding the book.

Prism Book Tours will be doing a themed tour of The Valley of Decision June 16-29. It will have a story-book theme, journeying through the fantasy world of The Valley of Decision. I am creating a series of guest posts to be featured by bloggers on the tour, writing about Trow and hobgoblins and Northmen. (“In the uttermost north, beyond even the kingdom of Belenus …”)

I’ve participated in Prism Tours as a blogger, and I’m excited to have a Prism Tour of my own book. You see that post directly below this one, the Grand Finale of The Weather Girl? That’s what I’m looking forward to, a virtual tour of reviews and guest posts and interviews. Any blogger who wants to jump in is welcome. Visit Prism Tours to learn the details and to sign up as a reviewer (receiving a copy of the book), or to sign up to feature a guest post or an interview.

I also have a Goodreads giveaway of The Valley of Decision running until May 30. Goodreads restricts its giveaways to its own members, but becoming a member is easy, and being one is fun. If you are interested in entering, drop by Goodreads’ Valley of Decision page; you’ll find the giveaway there.

And the release of The Valley of Decision grows closer … closer …

Cover Art, Maps, and The Valley of Decision

I am pleased to announce that the cover of The Valley of Decision (due to be published May 31, 2014) has been completed. Some of the concept art centered around mountains, valleys, and the image of a soldier, but I’m glad we went with this one.

The map is actually a map of the countries in the book; if you were to get close enough, you would see the Black Mountains, with Alamir to the south and Dokrait to the north, and forests and towns marked on either side. The map was created whole, and then was bent and torn and integrated with the knife and the light. There is symbolic meaning to the torn map, but it obscures some of the details.

The original map encompasses nearly all the places of note in the story: the Rhugarch Gap, the Ushleen Moors, the Anuin mountains, Ataroth, the Northwood, the Glahs Forest, the Crown, and on. A few places mentioned in The Valley of Decision were beyond the scope of the map: the Coldlands, too far to the north; the Wildheath, south beyond Alamir; and out on the ocean, the western isles.

The map and the entire cover were created by my sister Meghan McDermott at Myristica Studios. I think the style is a bit different than much Christian fantasy, and while I won’t say it’s better, I will say I like it.

With the completion of the cover, The Valley of Decision has acquired its own Goodreads page. If it seems to you that you might be interested in reading the book someday, please add it to your “to-read” shelf.

And thanks. Really.

Character Profiles: The Long-Lost …

She felt like she was talking to a scared animal, and her heart went out to him, much as it had gone out to Nugget when she’d found him as a puppy. Something about his face looked familiar – a thought that had never occurred to her before. She’d seen him bouncing through town, but she’d never really stopped and looked at the strange man before. She knew that he was prone to speaking gibberish to lampposts and attacking street signs, but she had never spoken to him. No one did. The Glipwood Township ignored him like a stray dog.

– Andrew Peterson, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

We’ve all seen them. They pop into stories, spring into books out of nowhere, leap out from behind the curtains onto the stage in mid-act.

The Long-Lost Relation. Long-lost fathers, long-lost mothers, long-lost children and brothers and sisters.

Even, on occasion, long-lost uncles. But it tends to be a rare occasion.

Contemporary stories use the device of the Long-Lost Relation shamelessly; fantasy and sci-fi stories use them just as shamelessly. I fancy, though, that the Absent Father and the Never Known Mother are more likely, in SF/F, to have a legitimate and even noble reason for their absence. Maybe they had their baby daughter hidden with fairies to protect her from an evil curse. Maybe they were under an evil curse themselves. Maybe they’ve been mouldering in somebody’s dungeon for the past decade.

And if the Absent Father – it’s usually the Absent Father – has a bad reason, it can be a very bad reason. Like, you know, he betrayed everyone he ever loved and everything he ever fought for to become a Dark Lord of the Sith, causing his Former Best Friend to spirit his children away and hide them beyond his evil clutches. (This ripples out, of course, to other Long-Lost Relation moments: the Epic Father Discovery, the Kinda-Convenient-But-We-Don’t-Care Sister Discovery, etc.)

That, you see, is why the Long-Lost Relation device is more fun in what they call speculative fiction: It’s far more likely there that the Long-Lost Relation is an epic villain. Or an epic hero. Or royalty.

To date, Andrew Peterson has in his Wingfeather Saga pulled the Long-Lost Relation ploy twice (surprising me, I confess, both times). We are holding our breath to see if he pulls it a final time in the last book, and having read the preview, we strongly suspect a Long-Lost Distant Cousin is involved somehow.

The Wingfeather Saga’s first revelation is so far the best – more surprising, more unique in what Long-Lost Relation was found, more unique in how he came to be lost so long. Not often is the Long-Lost Relation lost in plain sight, or found so reluctantly.

The Long-Lost Relation is popular because it aims at something universally understood, though rarely experienced – the shock and the emotional power of discovering a lost relative. The device lends itself to all kinds of fascinating and emotionally compelling situations, and no matter how many authors have used it, every author is entitled to make use of it himself.

Only one word of warning: Like other excellent things, the Long-Lost Relation must be used only sparingly. Every author may use it, but every author has a limit in how many times he should use it. George Lucas is out.

NoiseTrade and Other Ventures

Recently NoiseTrade – the site that has, for five years, connected musicians with their listeners – expanded into the book-sphere. Now NoiseTrade boasts an e-book library, all available for free download with an option to tip and an encouragement to share on social media. Reportedly NoiseTrade has been good for musicians; we’ll see how it is for authors.

And I’ll see how it is for this author. Yes, this is what I am getting around to: My novella Beauty of the Lilies is on NoiseTrade.

With winter flying away, The Valley of Decision is growing ever nearer to its release date. I’ve set up its official Facebook page, and given it an entire page on this site. “The Valley of Decision” features a preview, a book description, a little more about the Facebook page, and – most excitingly – the novel’s first endorsement. I plan, as time goes on, to add more.

On Monday, the CSFF blog tour begins, so I should be back then. This month’s book is One Realm Beyond, by Donita K. Paul – and yes, it involves dragons, too.

CSFF Blog Tour: Dystopia

Today the CSFF blog tour begins its tour of Outcasts, the second book in Jill Williamson’s dystopian Safe Lands series.

Dystopian is in now; you don’t need to look any further than The Hunger Games to know it, and if you look anyway, you’ll see Divergent. YA dystopian is especially in. This has naturally led to all sorts of rumination about dystopias, trends, literary darkness, and teenagers.

Some people attribute the increasing darkness of YA fiction to the increasing darkness of the world around us. In our era of terrorism, school shootings, economic decline and political dysfunction, dystopia is either a dark mirror or a dark comfort. (“Well, America might be unraveling into a social, political, and economic mess – but hey, it could be worse.”)

I wonder about this explanation. The images we swim in might be darker and darker – and someone out there must like it, when you consider how much of the darkness is manufactured in Hollywood for our entertainment – but is the world itself darker? Is our modern experience so much grimmer that it darkens our imagined worlds to match?

At the end of the 1930s, Americans were marking a decade and counting of economic depression, while watching other nations topple into the second world war in twenty-five years. Somehow it didn’t set off lucrative trends into dark stories.

I have no firm theory or settled opinion on the matter, and surely the real explanation is complex and multifactored. And whatever the precise reasons behind the current popularity of dystopias, the essential idea is an old one and is still a compelling way to examine ideas. On that thought, here are the links to

Outcasts on Amazon;

Jill Williamson’s website;

and the blog tour:

Red Bissell
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
April Erwin

Victor Gentile

Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner

Julie Bihn
Carol Keen
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Writer Rani
Chawna Schroeder
Jacque Stengl

Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson

Cover Reveal: Power Elements of Story Structure

When I was invited to participate in the cover reveal of Power Elements of Story Structure, I thought to myself, Of course. It’s not a lot to do. I’ve done more than one cover reveal in my day. (I’ve done two.)

So here you go: Power Elements of Story Structure is a writing instruction e-book written by Rebecca LuElla Miller, a freelance editor who has received endorsements from Bryan Davis and Jill Williamson. She maintains a blog called Rewrite, Reword, Rework, where she gives helpful and thought-provoking advice on writing.

And now, for the cover reveal …


I’m pretty sure this is the most eye-catching cover I’ve ever seen on a writing book.

For more details on the book and its upcoming release, check Becky Miller’s blog.

Becky Miller is also, by the way, the administrator of the CSFF blog tour. (I don’t know if that’s the official title, but it works well enough. At least it works better than “blog tour overlord”, which I believe is what one of the CSFF bloggers used to call her.) A new CSFF blog tour is scheduled for next week, so I should be here on Monday to begin the tour of Outcasts.

2014: Reading Books, Writing Books

Over at Speculative Faith, Becky Miller began a discussion about reading and writing goals for 2014. I answered the question there, but I thought I’d take it up again, in more depth, here.

I have two reading goals right now. One, to slip in some novels between those I read for review. I enjoy nearly everything I review, but I’d like to get to other books, too: Veiled Rose, Spark, Greetings From the Flipside …

And, of course, The Warden and the Wolf King. I’ve been waiting a couple years for the conclusion of the Wingfeather Saga, and when it finally comes out, I’ll get it in if I have to ram it.

I am also hoping to read nonfiction pretty much nonstop – taking in small doses alongside and in between whatever fiction I read. I’m currently reading 10 pages a day of William Jones’ History of the Christian Church, and I am planning to go from there to Finally Fearless (Cheryl McKay), then onto Days of Fire (Peter Baker), and probably from there to one of the history books languishing in my personal library, waiting to be read.

At 10 pages a day, I’ll get through all these slowly … but surely.

As for my writing, I want to get deep into my new Mars novel. I’m not optimistic enough to think I’ll finish it this year – but even getting close would be terrific. I’ve also wanted to return to fantasy, and to Christian Holmes – a Christian Holmes spy novel would be fun. It’d be nice to start accumulating notes, but I don’t know if I’ll get around to it.

In the meantime, I’m still receiving the final edits of The Valley of Decision, and still awaiting the final word on Forever Today from the publisher that is considering it.

And life goes on.