Friday, July 26, 2013

Elinor Mavor: What We Accomplish In Life Is Never Done Alone

Everyone's Story's viewership is for readers, writers, and everyone in-between. We're honored this week that Elinor Mavor is visiting, filling any gap between illustrator and editor. Elinor, a multi-talented woman, shares with us one of the key secrets in life. With her extensive history and a heart of gold, she looks forward to your comments. Plus, check out her very special, dynamic Giveaway that will definitely spice up your mid-summer!

Directly from Elinor: "I would like to donate a rolled print of any piece of artwork in my Fine Art America galleries. To browse through the paintings, see artist websites." Leave a comment for Elinor in the comment section of this blog if you'd like to win a print. For convenience, please leave your email address within the comment. The winner will be announced on Friday, August 2nd.

                    Becoming an Illustrator/Editor by Elinor Mavor

I think I was born with a sketchbook in one hand and a book to read in the other.

As a little kid I was always walking around with my sketchpad, pausing to draw pictures of whatever crossed my path, mostly my cats. Sometimes people became the focus especially when my family and I went to meet my father at the train station in downtown Chicago on Friday nights where we always had to wait for what seemed like hours. Capturing the passing parade in pencil sketches filled my pages, induced some giggles between me and my sister who was doing the same thing, and caused the time to melt away.

Majestic Lion
Copyright by Elinor Mavor
All rights reserved
Heavily entwined with this obsession was the fact that I read everything I could get my hands on, which can eventually predispose a reader to have a razor-sharp eye for how someone else’s words are presented. I had a curious and diverse reading list it seems to me as I look back on it: Dicken’s Oliver Twist; Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Grimm’s Fairy Tales; Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre; plus all of the L. Frank Baum books about Oz. It definitely leaned toward the dark and fanciful side.

I never imagined I would one day be making a career doing these things because my life took its own direction for quite awhile before I was ready and able to grab the reins. After graduating from Brown University, marriage and motherhood consumed my energies for the next decade. Then, divorce and single motherhood moved me from east to west and changed my course from housewife with two small boys to working mom and all the attendant problems. Reflecting on those years, I give myself kudos for handling my situation in a fairly reasonable manner. It forced me to quickly grow as a person and certainly made me a much stronger person as well. Having family nearby was, of course, an enormous help.

Baba Yaga
Copyright by Elinor Mavor
All rights reserved
Through one family member I found work as a secretary in the tiny office of a man who sold electronics to engineers. He discovered that not only could I write, but that I could draw quite well. A highly imaginative person, he had been dreaming about inventing products, plus producing and marketing them. What he found in me was the perfect partner to launch these ideas into reality with two small companies: Jeffords Industries and subsequently, Specialized Advertising Company. Bob Jeffords and I worked together on all of this for the next several years.

After that I ran my own small service bureau designing and producing menus plus brochures for travel and other types of businesses. Through my son, Scott, I met a man who hired me to edit and art direct two science fiction pulp magazines, which kept me busy for four years. Also, Scott brought me in to help him illustrate one of the only early video games that did not involve shooting things: The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes. Since he always told me he learned everything about the art business from me, it was an immense pleasure to see him working with Electronic Arts on a project and an even greater experience to have him call on me to help him get the job done.
Victorian Room for The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes
Copyright by Elinor Mavor
All rights reserved
All of those years added up to what amounts to a very intense education in my various fields of endeavor. Finally, it occurred to me that I wanted to specialize and not have to continue doing everything from designing, writing, illustrating and assembling an assignment for print production. I decided to go after just freelance illustration assignments. Well, it simply didn’t quite work out that way. Requests for designing and editing kept presenting themselves to me and I couldn’t refuse. So I now see myself as a “Freelance Illustrator/Editor” and if more is needed, I will probably rise to the cause.
Scene from The Mop Doll Family
Copyright by Elinor Mayor
All rights reserved  

Case in point: I just finished editing, designing and illustrating a charming 24-page storybook for Constance L. Cote, an American writer who lives in Ecuador. The book teaches a life lesson about prejudice in a gentle, funny story about a family of Mop Dolls and what happens when some mischievous little twin boys switch name tags at a banquet. Here is the aristocratic, evil Mrs. Moppafella who was forced to sit next to a poor soul named Mr. Scrub-Mop.

It’s fun to glance back like this, as well as to look forward to what the future may bring my way. And I have learned that what we accomplish in life is never done alone. Other people are very much involved. As, of course, is God. When I was a small child I saw on my grandmother’s bedroom wall a framed embroidery that said: “God helps those who help themselves.” I have never forgotten that. 

Elinor's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet Elinor Mavor, talented illustrator & editor, on Everyone’s Story. (Tweet This)

Artist Elinor Mavor offers print of her artwork as a Giveaway. (Tweet This)

Why does Elinor Mavor believe “God helps those who help themselves”? (Tweet This)

How did artist & editor Elinor Mavor end up illustrating a video game? (Tweet This)

Author Bio:
Elinor Mavor has worked as art director for an ad agency, editor and designer of various books and a restaurant magazine plus writer of radio commercials and local magazine articles. She ran her own business producing illustrated menus and brochures for various products and businesses, and she served as editor and art director for Amazing Stories and Fantastic Stories, two famous old pulp science fiction magazines, from 1978 to 1982. A special treat was working with son Scott digitally illustrating a famous early Electronic Arts video game, The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes. Presently she is a freelance illustrator/editor working with authors such as science fiction novelist Emily Devenport, children’s book writer Constance L. Cote and travelogue and thriller author Michael Edwards. Her blog, Mavor Arts, showcases her own artwork plus interviews and artwork of emerging and established artists from around the

Connect with Elinor at:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Laura Popp: Is It Selfish To Dream Of Publishing?

Everyone's Story welcomes the very cool and ultra awesome (well she is!!) award-winning author Laura Popp, aka L.J. Popp. Laura describes her writing as "Young Adult Fantasy On A Journey." Who better understands such a journey as one who has modeled, taught English as a 2nd language, traveled to the many corners of the world, and done mission work to Japan India, Malawi, Africa, and the U.S.? What truly caught my attention about Laura is her down-to-earth honesty and enthusiasm. This week she shares with us a dilemma that both the reader and writer tangles with as an uncooperative dance partner: what to do when one has a goal, but guilt gets in the way? Laura is offering a Book Giveaway (be sure to read her excerpt below) and looks forward to reading your comments.

Book Giveaway:
Laura is offering to one randomly chosen commenter (US only) a print edition of her novel TREASURE TRAITOR. The winner will be announced here on Friday, July 26th, between 4-6 PM EST. For convenience, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

Here's an excerpt of Laura's TREASURE TRAITOR for you to enjoy:

Treasure Traitor by L.J. Popp
Chapter One
The day I met my best friend, he tried to eat me.
I chuckled at the memory, releasing some of the tension in my sore legs and taut nerves.
You remember that, Acha? I asked, glancing up at the dim outline of the black carrion-eater soaring above me under the pale half moon. The coarse sand rasped against my feet as I slowed and stopped. What’s it been, five years?
If he were a person, he probably would have laughed too. Instead he answered in mental pictures, emotions, and sensations. They used to confuse me, but now I could translate them easily.
<Sorry, looked like corpse.>
I bent over with my hands on my knees to catch my breath. This place certainly hasn’t improved since then. If we’re not careful, I might die for real this time. The barren desert stretched before us as far as we could see.
A thousand fears whisked through my mind. What if someone from the castle caught up with us and dragged us back? What if a nasty nocturnal beast tried to eat us? Pain from running half the night shot up my side and through every muscle in my body.
I need to rest, just for a moment. Can you fly to me, Acha? I stretched out my leather-gloved arm.
He didn’t come, but cried a loud warning. “Rena!”
I spun around as two bipedal lizards my own size emerged over a tall dune. Their eyes flashed and razor sharp teeth gleamed in the faint light. Snarling, they lowered their heads and charged me.
Not now! My sweaty palms struggled to pull the hunting knives from both sides of my belt.
The lead lizard lunged for my neck. I slashed its face, spun and sliced the second in the chest. They shrieked in rage and kicked at me with their powerful legs. A talon sliced across my left arm. A scream tore from my throat.
Acha must have been waiting for an opening. He wasn’t getting it.
Help! I called silently.
“Rena!” His voice pierced the night air again. The lizards jerked toward the sound, distracted.
Thanks! I stabbed one in the stomach. It howled and collapsed. Acha flew in the face of the second.
Swinging my other blade around, I tried to cut its throat. It swiped blindly with its short forearms, knocking the knife from my slippery, trembling hand. My heart slammed against my rib cage.
I ducked under the monster’s claws, picked up one blade, yanked the other from the first lizard, and thrust them both into the second’s heart. The eyes rolled back in its head. It dropped with a thud, dead.
Fear propelled me over the dunes, carrying me from the sight and smell of the lizard’s black blood. When I reached the bottom of the next hill, I fell in the sand, shaking.
My pulse pounded in my ears, and the cut on my arm ached. Exhaustion, terror, and pain mixed together in gut-wrenching nausea. I wanted to throw up or burst into tears, but fought the urge.
Survival. That’s all that mattered now.
Acha, you all right? I held out my uninjured arm, and he landed on the leather gauntlet, puffing out his black throat and leg feathers to make himself look bigger and stronger. He jerked his short, curved beak from side to side as his piercing yellow eyes searched for further danger. Finally, he shuffled up my arm to perch on my leather padded shoulder. The base of his neck was about level with the top of my head. Despite his size, he wasn’t heavy.
<Little pain. Small scratch on Strong Beak’s face. Strong Beak not seeing more lizards. Free Wind hurt!>
Free Wind, his picture-name for me. He always imagined me running over the dunes, my long brown hair flying behind me. His picture-name, Strong Beak, was a baby bird pecking open its shell and leaping out. I willed myself to take the names to heart, to be strong and free, even though I felt more vulnerable than a trapped rodent.
I angled my injured arm toward the starlight. A narrow gash snaked from wrist to elbow, tiny drops of blood dripping into the sand. Looking at it made it burn even hotter. Acha let out a soft squawk, able to feel a portion of the pain in his own left wing.
They just got my skin, but it might get infected. I took off the small bag I’d slung across my back and pulled out a waterskin, wincing as I washed the wound. A torn piece of my long overshirt didn’t make much of a bandage. The thin, lacy fabric couldn’t absorb the blood or stop its slow seeping.
We need ointment and proper wrapping. I’d seen enough people die from animal inflicted injuries that didn’t seem lethal to know I couldn’t take any chances. And I’m almost out of water.
<Free Wind not take more along? Concern.> Acha eyed the gold and silver jewelry filling the bag, everything of value my parents had ever given me. On top lay only a few scraps of food. <Gold shiny, but Free Wind’s throat dry, belly empty. Now hurt.>
A small sip from the waterskin barely took the edge off my burning thirst. I had to slip straight out my window. I would have been caught if I foraged for supplies. The gold will buy me food and medicine if we reach the city.
<Eat roadkill like Strong Beak,> he suggested playfully, trying to help me feel better. He preened my hair, pulling out pieces of my braid, and pressed his long beak to my cheek.
Normally I would have smiled at his joke and “bird kiss,” even though his breath smelled like rotting flesh, but the battle had left my nerves frayed. How can you be worried about food when we were almost eaten alive just now?
Acha stopped “kissing” me. <Deep remorse for not noticing lizards.>
I scratched the top of his mostly-bald head, my eyes watering from the pain of moving my arm again. You saved my life, Acha. Sorry for snapping. I was the foolish one, distracting you with silly memories. I won’t let it happen again. We’d better get out of here before someone catches us, or I die of blood poisoning. I wasn’t sure which would be worse.
I stood, taking a deep breath to calm myself as I squinted into the night and checked my position by the stars. Before and behind, as far as the darkness let me gaze, I saw nothing but a sea of sand with islands of dark gray rock, towering cactus clumps, and serenading insects. Just like the day I met Acha, alone with no one who understood us.
A chill night gust whipped my long braid behind me. I shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold. Where should we go? How do we get there?
The closest town was still twelve kaktans away. Just because Acha hadn’t seen any more lizards didn’t mean there weren’t others nearby.
Not for the first time in my life, I wished for the old technology before the Ban. Shimmering machines that glided faster than the fastest bird, beyond the sky, through the darkness between the stars and Hierarchy worlds. A hundred years ago I could have hired a pilot to free me from this wretched desert planet with its man-eating beasts and traitorous parents.
There’s no point wishing for what can never be again. Now there was only one way off this world, and no one would grant it without my father’s permission. I’d be dumber than a sand slug to go back and ask. No stables nearby, either.
I needed a better view. Acha, will you fly?
He hesitated, reluctant to leave my side.

We need to find help, someone who doesn’t know who I am.

<Understanding.> He leapt from my shoulder into the air. He had lied about not feeling much pain from the fight. Our minds were so close I could feel it in my own bones, my own tendons, an echo of his aching. His wings hung lopsided, the right lower than the left, compliments of the old wound inflicted by Mother. The shortness of breath that had plagued him recently didnt help, either.
Not so high, I told him. I want to catch you if you fall.
Seeing through Acha’s eyes, even though I did it often, sent a thrill of excitement through me that momentarily displaced my pain and worry. The night was as day to him, the constellations and moon like the late afternoon sun. I marveled as the barren wilderness became ten times sharper. Colors not visible to a normal person, infrared and ultraviolet, and air drafts like wisps of smoke sprang into my perception. Acha circled the drafts to rise higher despite my warning. He could never help himself, and how could I blame him? Everyone wants wings.
A whole world of fragrances blossomed before me. Distant desert flowers, a twinge of salt on the rocks, the acrid terror of a rodent being crushed by a slithering, legless lizard. Acha couldn’t tell the size of the predator. My throat tightened in fear.
Then Acha caught the musty scent of pack bushyans just north of us. Even worse.
Did someone follow us from the castle, Acha? I won’t let them hurt you!
He turned toward the animals so that three purple, lumbering forms popped into view. Huge sacks of goods hung from their humps, and beside them walked an old man and a middle-aged woman.
<Strong Beak not recognizing people,> Acha assured me.
I sighed in relief. Me either. They’re moving too slowly to be chasing anyone. They’re probably just out at night to avoid the day’s heat. Animals don’t usually attack a group.
<Travel together?> Acha suggested.
Well… Hanging back, I continued to examine them through Acha’s eyes. The middle-aged traveler wore the red color of a married woman and a round, wide-brimmed grass hat that hid her eyes, probably to protect them from the sand and wind. Her plump husband dressed in the billowy pants and tight-fitting, ornate vest of a treasure trader.
The memory of Mother’s voice, loathsome as it was, warned, Merchants, almost as low as serfs, not to be trusted. Even worse, treasure traders. They wandered from planet to planet “collecting” rare items and selling them at outrageous prices. Not exactly upstanding citizens.
Acha swooped down and perched on my shoulder, chastising me with a sharp “cha!” and nipping my ear. He often grew impatient with my notions of caste.
<Sharp-toothed lizards attacking Free Wind and Strong Beak again!> he predicted. <Free Wind need medicine, water!>
I batted his beak away. All right already! It’s not like birds don’t have a system of hierarchy. We’ll go with them, but my clothes show I’m kakra. I have to act my status or they’ll get suspicious. I sent him the mental image of me feigning friendliness in all my expensive clothes and the treasure traders looking wary.
I hurried in their direction, feeling light-headed from my injury and thirst, but knowing I had to downplay my discomfort. If I looked vulnerable, they would take advantage of us. As soon as we drew near enough to see the dim impression of each other’s faces, I slowed to a saunter and held my head high.
“The stars’ blessing on you, wayfarers.” I struggled to keep my voice calm, greeting them in the Kakra language and using the high speech of superior to inferior.
The old man put a hand on the lead bushyan’s purple hump to stop the animals. The first lazy creature used the break to run its toothless sucker mouth over the ground, spitting out the sand and eating whatever tiny creatures it found. The second uncurled its long proboscis and stabbed the sharp end into a needle-free part of a nearby cactus, slurping greedily. The third just dug its four plate-sized feet into the sand and stared stupidly at us through thick, dusty eyelashes.
Halting the animals took only a moment, but for me the process was agonizingly slow as my arm continued to throb. Was it getting worse? I thanked the gods that I was bonded to Acha and not some dumb, drooling bushyan.
Once the old man was satisfied that his merchandise wasn’t wandering off, he raised his oil lamp, squinting at me through the dark. His gaze swept over the fine fabric of my blue lace pants, long, loose overshirt embroidered with gold thread, and leather, silver-studded sandals. He nearly dropped his lamp, kneeling on the sand and touching his face to the ground. He spoke in the same language, though awkwardly, using the low speech of inferior to superior.
“Forgive me, Kakra! Couldn’t see your golden eyes in the dark.”
Thank the gods he still can’t.
“Rise, and be not troubled,” I said. “Whence do you go?”
He obeyed, trembling. “City Trabin, Your…um…Grace.”
Great. Father owns that place. Then again, he owns most towns in this area. “That is also my destination. Have you any water or medicine?”
His fearful face wrinkled with concern as he handed me the waterskin hanging from his belt. “No medicine, only bandages for emergencies. We had some wine. It could have stopped infection and helped a bit with pain, but another kakra took it. Tariff tax, you know.”
“Tariff tax.” This really isn’t my night. I had to restrain myself from taking huge gulps of water, sipping slowly, stately. “The bandages will suffice.”
He glanced at my injured arm, and his eyes widened. “Stars above, it looks awful!”
Hurts even worse. “A scratch is all.”
“Allow me to examine it.”
The gravelly voice startled me at first, seemingly disembodied and speaking my language perfectly, the way a kakra would address another kakra. Then I realized it came from the merchant’s wife. Her lips and eyes were hidden under her wide-brimmed hat. She reached out to take my arm.
I jerked back instinctively from a commoner’s touch, but she must have gotten the closer look she wanted. She sucked in a sharp breath. “A scratch? It appears the lizards got you.”
“I’ll get the bandages.” Her husband turned and started digging through his saddle bags.
I waved my right hand dismissively. “Really, it is nothing. I am accustomed to bites and such.”
The woman cocked her head to one side. “Then you are a monara?”
Imaginary flies buzzed through my stomach as my anxiety rose like a fever. Whoever this woman was, she wasn’t an ordinary commoner. Best to tell the truth, or at least part of it.
“My mother is a monara. She subdues animals to hunt for the king and plow his fields, to protect him and his castle against Kingdom Seekers and other invaders. I do not possess that particular talent, hence the scratch.
“If you’re not a monara, then why is that cursed carrion-eater on your shoulder?” She didn’t bother to hide her disgust.
“Acha, my monarant?” I laughed. “I bought him from a performer and named him after his bird call. He also speaks. Show her, Acha!” I silently translated for him.
“Pretty lady, pretty lady! Acha!” <Stupid, squawking bird in cage. Embarrassment.>
Smoothing back the sparse feathers around his ear holes, I let him know I appreciated him playing along. My head started to throb along with my arm. Why was the treasure trader taking so long to find the bandages?
         “Then, are you a halfer?” the woman asked. “Your skin is like the tan soil of 

the desert.” She brushed a hand over her own arm, which had the richer, darker 

shade of rain-quenched earth.

          I almost snapped at her to mind her own business, but her husband finally 

closed the saddlebags, a small roll of cloth in hand. Relief washed over me.

         “Hey now, don’t upset the kakra!” he said. “It’s not uncommon for them to be 

a little paler; you know that. She’s not white like a halfer.”

          Once again I was glad neither of them could see my eyes. He handed over the 

bandages, careful not to touch me, and I began dressing my wound. By now it oozed 

puss. I gritted my teeth so I wouldn’t cry out in pain.

        “Forgive me, my lord,” she replied quickly. “I just thought it strange, a lone 

kakra girl out at night like this, without an escort, hurt. Perhaps we should take her 


         No! I almost cried aloud in protest, but Acha silently reminded me not to panic. 

I counted my heart beats in an attempt to slow them.
         “Thank you, but my home is some distance from here, in Country Fraz,” I lied. 

“I am on an important errand for my parents. If you could accompany me to City 

Trabin where I can rest and obtain medicine, that will do.”

           The woman glanced at me from under her wide hat. “I’ve never known kakra 

to send one of their own to perform an ‘errand.’ Isn’t that what servants are for?”

         I simply shot her the smile I’d memorized from other women in the castle. The 

one that said, “mind your own business, or I’ll rip out your heart with my 

supernatural powers.” Only in my case, it was a bluff.

        The woman took her husband aside, whispering to him in a low voice. My 

throat went dry. Has she seen through me? They can’t leave me here! I’ll die!

       At last I distinctly heard the man say, “Now that’s a much better idea.” He 

turned back to me, his eyes concerned and a gentle smile touching his lips. “Seeing 

as you’re hurt, Kakra, I don’t think it would be good to take you to a common inn. 

You’d have to share a single room and table with many below your…um…station. 

Since we live in City Trabin, won’t you—”

       “Grace us with your presence?” his wife offered. “We would be honored to give 

you what meager food and protection we may, even if you were not kakra. Won’t 

you stay with us until your arm has healed?”
Though the pressure from the bandages had stopped the bleeding, the ache had not lessened, and I was eager to jump on their suggestion. I forced myself to stop and think. Their generosity made sense. If they didn’t extend any hospitality, they probably reasoned that I had the power or at least the connections to make their lives miserable. On the flip side, they might anticipate a reward. Then there was the possibility that they were simply nice people.
<Free Wind’s providers searching crowded places,> Acha pointed out.
Good thinking. My parents wouldn’t expect me in a commoner’s dwelling, though we shouldn’t overstay our welcome. Peasant tongues are prone to wag, and the castle has big ears.
I nodded. “Thank you, though my errand is very time sensitive. I can lodge with you only until sunrise.”
The woman lowered her gaze. “Then come. Let us not waste the night.”
           As we walked, exhaustion weighed me down. I was partly annoyed, partly 

thankful when the woman continued to ask me questions. At least talking kept my 

mind off the pain.
          “What is your name, Child?”

          Excuse me? Sure, I wore the blue of an unmarried woman, but ‘child’ wasn’t 

something a peasant called a kakra. I pushed my weariness aside and straightened to 

my full height, a good head taller than even her husband.

           “Renagada, daughter of Kristos.” I lied about my father’s name. They’d 

probably heard of him. “I’m sixteen by the universal calendar.” Another lie, but 

barely. After all, tomorrow would be my birthday.

          “Renagada.” She peered at me curiously from under her wide-brimmed hat. 

“Free Spirit, Free Wind? Spirit and wind are the same word in our Old Tongue, as I 

recall. Quite an unusual name, is it not?

           Surprised, I nodded. Only Acha called me Free Wind.
Educated. Why’s she married to this bumbling merchant?
She asked me a few more questions, then fell silent. I tried to keep alert and pay attention to my surroundings, but fear, fatigue, and my aching arm distracted me.
My memory meandered back again to the day five years ago when I first met Acha, the day that started all of this. Separated from my parents’ hunting party, lying in the sand, thinking I would die of thirst. Acha, believing I was already dead, his sharp beak piercing my arm. Me jerking awake, suddenly bombarded with foreign thoughts and emotions, the opening of my mind like stepping outside a dark cave into blinding sunlight. I felt as if someone had taken a sword and sliced my brain in two. It was maddeningly painful. And excruciatingly wonderful.
The oath he’d given me then still rang in my mind. <Bound. Like mother bird defending chicks.>
From that moment everything had changed, for both of us. Well, some things hadn’t. I grasped the necklace Vasaran had given me. The small white half-stone on a thin leather cord pressed against my skin, hidden beneath my overshirt. It reminded me of the promise I’d made him just before I left.
I haven’t betrayed you, Vasaran, I swore silently. I will return when Acha is safe.
Stay sharp, I warned Acha as the tall, flat roofs and candle-lit windows of City Trabin finally flickered into view. The solid bricks of desert granite glittered in the haze of twilight. Just because we’re out of the desert doesn’t mean the danger has passed. Keep a look out for golden-eyed kakra. A good many have probably heard about “that crazy bird girl.”
My gaze scanned the grain growing in scraggly clumps near the waterhole, the fruit trees flanking the houses, and spiny plants with tough leaves and deep roots that kept the thin soil from running away in the wind. Many plants had an odd yellow hue, the town’s namesake. “Trabin” meant “yellow” in Las, the local language. Tiny tributaries snaked to the water pool, and wells lay every few paces like pock marks on a giant’s face.
“Hold it right there.” Two guards with long pikes stopped us before the city gates.
My heart banged against my chest. Oh, Acha, what if they recognize me and report us to Father?
I kept my face turned, pretending to look at something in the distance as they rifled through the merchants’ clothes and searched the pack bushyans. They approached me next, but as soon as they saw my gold eye, they backed away.
“Forgive us, Kakra, go ahead.”
I exhaled as we stepped through.
My foot froze in mid-stride.
“If you need a physician for your arm, you’ll find one near the north gate.”
In any other situation I would have thanked them, but now I didn’t even glance back. Too close.
The winding, narrow streets smelled of raw, open sewage, rotting vegetables and unwashed bodies. Children ran through the shadows in torn rags as they went about their early morning chores: fetching water, gathering wood for breakfast fires, chasing poultry. I wrinkled my nose and walked faster, yet the core of my heart burned with jealousy. They ran free, while I had been trapped behind the stone walls of a castle my whole life. Someday their landlord might sell them in the chains of slavery to pay their debts, but I wore the chains of a female kakra, chains that could never be broken or redeemed with money. I pitied the serfs, and I envyed them.
“The sun will wake shortly,” the woman said, beckoning me down a side alley. “Not much time to rest. At least come inside, and we’ll tend your arm a little better.”
She opened the door for me to a two-room, gray granite hut. From his perch on my shoulder Acha peered through the doorway, mesmerized by the burnished copper coins on the low stone table.
<Pretty, shiny!>
I laughed softly at his bird fascinations, finally able to relax, and stepped inside. It was dark. Too quiet.
Wait a—
Something hard slammed into the back of my head. Hot pain shot down my spine, and I staggered forward, colliding with the dirt floor. Acha’s “kek, kek” warning call came an instant too late, just as the room went black.

For the Glory by Laura Popp

As a child I dreamed of becoming a famous author. A whole universe swirled through my mind, demanding to be realized. I wrote dozens of stories and received only “thank you, buts...” in return. My dream seemed to be miscarrying before it could even be delivered.

Then, in 2009 at age 23, God called me as a missionary to Japan. A chill of fear accompanied my excitement. Could I find a church family? Would I ever master Japanese? Most importantly: could I pursue my writing career?

I suddenly found myself immersed in a world where few had even heard the name Jesus. It was suffocating to realize I may be the only person my students, colleagues, and friends ever met who could tell them about God’s ultimate sacrifice and love. Compared to this desperate need, writing stories felt almost sacrilegious. Spending hundreds of dollars mailing off manuscripts and contest fees and attending writers’ conferences in Tokyo seemed like a waste.

After the March 2011 tsunami swept away hundreds of homes and thousands of lives, I voiced my concerns to a fellow missionary. Shouldn’t I be spending all my time and resources in the relief effort? Was it selfish of me to harbor this dream of publishing books about make-believe worlds when the real world around me was falling apart?

Her forehead wrinkled, as if the question confused her. “Laura,” she said, “why can’t you do both?”

I stared at her, too stunned to speak.

“Don’t you think,” she continued, “that if you’ve been given a passion, you can use it for the glory of God?”

Not my glory. His glory. 

This idea totally transformed my thinking. I stopped trying to compartmentalize my life into sacred and secular, missions and mundane. Everything, including my writing, became part of my integrated mission statement: To glorify God wherever I am, whoever I’m with, whatever I’m doing. The very next day, after my sixth novel, Treasure Traitor, had received thirty rejections, a small Christian press in Colorado contacted me.  If that’s not God, I don’t know what is.

Two years later, I’ve been to thirteen different countries for missions and research for my books. My most exciting trip was probably Singapore, where I participated in a “falconer for a day” program, and developed the bird character Acha in Treasure Traitor

Modern missionaries often use the term “people group” to describe their target audience. As with the Japanese, I feel that God chose my literary “people group” for me. I’ve always written for teens, because theirs are the stories that fascinate me. In young adulthood we discover who we are and what we long to become.

My challenge became how to share God’s love with teenagers who would never pick up a “Christian” book, let alone a Bible. That’s where the allegorical power of science fiction and fantasy really grabs me. The main character of Treasure Traitor, Renagada, flees from her desert world of endless war and a hopeless future, yearning for something more. In her journey she learns of the Kingdom, ruled by King and Prince. She travels there and meets Charis and Agape (whose Greek names mean Grace and God’s Love), but loses the one thing closest to her heart...

And you’ll just have to read the rest of the book! Or at least the excerpt above.

A warning, though: this story is PG-13. One of the things I struggled with was how “realistic” to be. Rena is a broken girl living in a broken world. Without being gratuitous or preachy, I wanted to be true to the kind of decisions lost teenagers make, so they could relate to and understand on a deeper level the trouble certain choices can cause. The words “Jesus” and “Christian” never show up in Treasure Traitor, and there have been some who never saw the connections. But it’s my prayer that the Holy Spirit will speak to those whose hearts are ready.

My challenge to you, whether reader, writer or someone in-between, is to glorify God wherever you are, whoever you’re with, whatever you’re doing.

Laura's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet author Laura Popp, aka L.J. Popp, writer of YA fantasy fiction “on a journey.” (Tweet This)

Writers: do you feel guilty over writing instead of serving others? Laura Popp shares views. (Tweet This)

Everyone has a story: missionary & author Laura Popp shares insights. (Tweet This)

Win L.J. Popp’s YA fantasy fiction novel TREASURE TRAITOR. (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:

Besides writing, L.J. Popp has been a model, film maker, teacher, and missionary. Her novels, short stories, essays, and plays have won numerous local and international awards in fantasy and children’s literature. She dreams of having a television series based on her Hierarchy and Kingdom universe. She currently resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she works for the Young Women’s Christian Association helping refugees and immigrants.

You can connect with Laura at:

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