Monday Spark — Writing Prompts: What’s the Story?

steampunkw1-4413878_1280To prepare you for this week’s interview with Michelle L. Levigne, today’s prompt is a picture appropriate for steampunk. That’s the genre of Michelle’s short story, “Crystal Rose” in Christmas fiction off the beaten path.

If you are new to this genre, it’s a kind of speculative fiction. Usually set in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, it imagines our world as if it had been run by Jules Verne. All kinds of scientific advances that were made decades later in reality are made during this time period with steam.

I have a particular fondness for steampunk because one of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid was The Wild, Wild West, an early example of steampunk. My sisters and I would sit down on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to watch reruns of how two government agents in the Old West protected our nation from steam-powered robots and other fantastic plots dreamed up by supervillains, bent on taking over our country and then the world.

What’s the story with this steampunk picture? Here’s my take:

As my grandfather steered our dirigible toward the city, I leaned on the rail.

Neuweschstein. The most advanced city in the German Empire. Their scientists were known all over the world for their breakthroughs in developing steam tech. Some of their inventions were on board.

The German government also had a less well-known reputation for stealing other nation’s ideas. And possibly their scientists.

The city sprawled below us. My heart sank. “Gramps, even if Papa is here, how can we find him?”

Gramps set his jaw as he gripped the helm. “If he’s there, we’ll find him.”


Facebook Party!

BannerIf my posts about the Christian fiction anthology Christmas fiction off the beaten path have piqued your interest, join me and the five other authors for two days of fun and giveaways, beginning on Nov. 15. I’ll be chatting about the inspiration for my YA mystery, “A Rose from the Ashes” from 8-8:30 p.m. EST on Nov. 15.

To participate, you have to join the group for the party. Just click here. I’d love to have you party with us!

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Laurie Lucking

Laurie Lucking HeadshotI am so happy to have all five authors from Christmas fiction off the beaten path guest blogging this month.

First up, Laurie Lucking returns for another visit. Welcome back!

What inspired you to write “Return to Callidora”, a YA fantasy?

Several years ago, I heard about a publisher looking for Christian holiday romances. For some reason (probably due to my love of fairy tales!), I immediately pictured a lonely princess in a snow-covered tower, awaiting her Christmas delivery from a servant trekking through the cold. I enjoyed imagining why she might’ve been kept in that tower, what her relationship with the servant would be like, and how her life would change when a knight finally came to rescue her. That publishing opportunity never came to fruition, but by then I had fallen in love with this story and characters. I was so thrilled when it found the perfect home in Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path!

 You wrote the story from two points of view. Why?

I did! I delved into the points of view of both Eveline, the princess in the tower, and Ryker, her servant friend. Originally, I planned to only write from Eveline’s perspective, but Ryker’s role is so critical and they spend so much of the story apart that adding his point of view allowed a lot more of the action to happen on-screen. I was a little intimidated since it was my first time writing from a male viewpoint, but I ended up loving it! Ryker has some of my favorite lines in the whole story.

You’ve written a novel. What are the challenges when writing a short story as compared to a novel?

I’d say the biggest difference between writing a novel versus a short story is the level of complexity. For a short story, the plot has to be something that can be resolved in a handful of scenes or chapters, and there’s no time for side plots. It also really helps to keep the number of characters to a minimum. As an example, my novel, Common, introduces at least twenty-five characters (that’s how many I could list off the top of my head!), while “Return to Callidora” only has seven, if you count the dragon 🙂 It all comes down to that word count—you have to cut out anything that isn’t essential to the primary plot in a short story, which can be tough! But it’s also really satisfying to complete a story in a matter of days or weeks instead of months or years.

I would definitely count the dragon as a character! Next question: What excited you the most about this story?

 The relationship between Eveline and Ryker! I’ll be the first to admit I’m a hopeless romantic 🙂 I had so much fun with the dynamic of this gangly but clever servant boy whose affection for the beautiful princess is apparent to everyone except Eveline as she dreams of her knight in shining armor. I hope readers have as much fun rooting for these two as I did!

 Since we’re in a holiday mood, what’s your favorite Christmas tradition? 

I love loading our family into the car, putting on some Christmas music, and driving around to look at all the beautiful lights! It’s a nice chance to step away from all the presents and preparations and just be together, enjoying the magic of the holiday. I’m also quite a fan of Christmas cookies 🙂

Thank you so much for hosting me!!


“Return to Callidora” from Christmas fiction off the beaten path

Princess Eveline waits for a knight to rescue her from her secluded tower. In the meantime, yearly Christmas deliveries from her friend Ryker provide brief reprieves from her solitude. When Sir Batair slays the dragon, Eveline is charmed by the handsome knight but feels unexpectedly conflicted as he leads her away from the safety of her tower.

Ryker has been secretly in love with Eveline for years, but he knows a gawky servant and musician is a far cry from the noble knight of her dreams. Fearing Sir Batair may be less than honorable, Ryker follows to ensure the princess’s safety. But instead of Eveline’s home in Callidora, their journey draws them ever closer to the very danger the royal family sought to avoid.


An avid reader practically since birth, Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as an attorney to become a stay-at-home mom. When she gets a break from playing board games and finding lost toys, she writes young adult fantasy with a strong thread of fairy tale romance. Her debut novel, Common, won the Christian Editor Connection’s Excellence in Editing Award, placed third in the Christian Women Reader’s Club Literary Lighthouse Awards, and is a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards. She has short stories published in Mythical Doorways, Encircled, and the upcoming Christmas Fiction off the Beaten Path. Laurie is the Secretary of her local ACFW chapter and a co-founder of Lands Uncharted, a blog for fans of clean young adult speculative fiction. A Midwestern girl through and through, she currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. Find out more by visiting

Or on these sites: her blog, Amazon, Reader’s Group, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Pinterest.


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