Alara’s Marcher Lord Roots

What can I tell you NAF followers about Alara’s Call that I haven’t already? Some of you have been with me on this journey since the days of the Marcher Lord Select contest. When we announced the release date for Alara’s Call, Becky Minor—NAF alumn and founder of the Realm Makers conference—asked me if that was my Marcher Lord Select contest entry.

Alara’s Call is available for preorder now at Amazon or the publisher website, which has links to other stores.

Yes, it is. Let’s talk about that contest, shall we? For those who weren’t around for the inception of NAF, the Marcher Lord Select contest was run by Jeff Gerke in the early days of his publishing company (now under new ownership and called Enclave Publishing). Jeff had 36 manuscripts and one publishing slot. He likened the contest to American Idol for books. The winner would get that publishing slot. The whole contest took place on the Anomaly forum that was an offshoot of Jeff’s website.

In Round 1, we presented our title and synopses. Everything was posted without author names attached. Authors could appeal to their fan base and say, “Go to the forum and vote for my book titled whatever.” In fact, we were encouraged to do so, since that would show what kind of platform we had. But anyone who didn’t know you would have only the title and synopsis to go on. Based on that—and I confess my original title was awful—my book did not advance.

Once the votes were in, I posted on the forum, identifying which story was mine and asking for feedback. I wanted to know what I had done wrong, because that synopsis was the same one I was sending to agents and editors.

Robynn Tolbert thought my request was courageous, and ever since then she’s been calling me Lioness. Truth is, I’m a cowardly lioness—but also desperately eager to improve my craft. So I felt the fear and asked anyway.

I got lots of good input on the synopsis, but the best advice came from the person who said Alara was an awesome name and should be in the title.

In Round 2, the remaining 18 entrants shared their first 500 words. I read all of them and gave feedback, and continued to do so in the following rounds as we read longer excerpts of fewer manuscripts. At some point I realized that I enjoyed marking up other people’s manuscripts as much as I enjoyed working on my own.

At the time, I was working in the newsroom, doing a little bit of writing and copyediting and a lot of page design. I wanted to do more copyediting, but there were three editors above me, and only one of them delegated more work to me. The economy had tanked. First management cut overtime. Then they reduced our base pay. Then they cut our hours. I started freelancing as a copyeditor to make up for the lost income.

On the forum we all developed a camaraderie in spite of—maybe because of—the competition and critiques. When Keven Newsome launched New Authors Fellowship in January of 2010, most of the participants were from the Marcher Lord contest. Many have since been published. Others stepped away from NAF to spend more time on their personal projects. Soon I’ll join the alumni ranks and someone else will take my place. But I’m delighted that the version of Alara’s story that’s releasing next week is so much better than the one that got voted off the island in the first round.

The Anomaly forum and the contest forged relationships that extend into the NAF and Realm Makers communities, and I am thrilled to bits to be part of it all. It isn’t a stretch to say that without the Marcher Lord Select contest, we wouldn’t be here. Because that’s where we met.


While I was riding out Hurricane Irma, Alara was on tour. Check out all the places she’s been:

Monday, September 11th, Gretchen E. K. Engel, www.newauthors.wordpress.com, “Review of Alara’s Call

Monday the 11th, Catherine Bonham, www.dolphin18cb.wordpress.com, “FANtastic Interview with Kristen Stieffel”

Tuesday the 12th, Jebraun Clifford, www.jebraunclifford.com, Visual Post: “Alara’s Call: Royal Palace Inspirations”

Wednesday the 13th, Kate Jameson, www.kategjameson.wordpress.com, “Book Review: Alara’s Call

Wednesday the 13th, Anna Tan, www.blog.annatsp.com, “#BookReview: Alara’s Call by Kristen Stieffel”

Thursday the 14th, Laura A. Grace, www.unicornquester.com, Guest Post by Kristen Stieffel: “My Favorite Character: General Rariden”

Thursday the 14th, J.M. Hackman, www.jmhackman.com, “Interview with Kristen Stieffel”

Friday the 15th, Story World Feature, Travis Perry, www.travissbigidea.blogspot.com

Friday the 15th, Double Feature: Visual Post, Liv Fisher, www.livkfisher.blogspot.com

Saturday the 16th, Top 3 Post, Laurie Lucking, www.landsuncharted.com

Sunday the 17th, Behind-the-Scenes Feature, Steve Rzasa, www.steverzasa.com

Monday the 18th, Review of Alara’s Call, Laurin Boyle, www.laurinboyle.wordpress.com

Tuesday the 19th, Behind-the-Scenes Feature, Kristen Stieffel, www.newauthors.wordpress.com, Release Day!

Wednesday the 20th, Guest Post by Kristen Stieffel, Gillian Bronte Adams, www.gillianbronteadams.com

Thursday the 21st, Review of Alara’s Call, Michele Israel Harper, www.micheleisraelharper.com, Facebook Party Day!

Friday the 22nd, Guest Post by Kristen Stieffel, Rebecca LuElla Miller, www.rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

6 comments on “Alara’s Marcher Lord Roots

  1. I’m so glad Alara has finally gotten her day in the sun, Lioness. Congrats to you both!

  2. Oh, I love the back story of not only NAF, but the friendships that bloomed from that time in the contest. It sounds like many blessings came from it, though I’m thankful that we have Alara today! 😀 I sooooo can’t wait to read it, Kristen! Congrats on it’s release! *throws confetti*

  3. Congrats on the release of Alara’s Call, Kristen!
    I remember the ML Select contest — a fun time even for those who didn’t make it into later voting rounds. I fell out early, too — my blurb & synopsis was beyond *horrible*.
    We’ve all learned a lot since then!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: