Former Clayton teacher pens Tolkien-inspired fantasy novel

Photo by Jim Massara
Former teacher Elizabeth McCraw says she’s “living the dream” by self-publishing her first fantasy-sci-fi novel.

Photo by Jim Massara Former teacher Elizabeth McCraw says she’s “living the dream” by self-publishing her first fantasy-sci-fi novel.

MORROW — Talk to author Elizabeth McCraw for a few minutes, and it’s clear that she really knows how to spin a tale.

Just don’t ask her to give away the ending.

McCraw, a former technology education instructor at Morrow Middle School and one-time teacher of the year in DeKalb County, says she’s “living the dream” now as a writer. Her first self-published novel, “The Chosen: Angelic Warrior,” is a mash-up of everything she loved growing up as a teenage fan of science fiction, Tolkien, and the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

“The book starts off with a villain,” McCraw says, speaking slowly and deliberately. “He’s a fallen angel, and his name is Barius” — her voice rises a bit — “with his demon Azreki.” She pauses. “He’s looking for something but you don’t know what.” Another pause. “And he’s desperately looking for something , someone in particular. He’s looking for ... the chosen.”

Chosen in what way?

McCraw’s face breaks out into a big smile, and she laughs. “I can’t tell you. You’ll just have to read the book.”

So ... what can you tell us?

“There are angels and fallen angels, elves, dwarves, dragons and magic,” McCraw says. “You get to look at the supernatural world through teenage eyes.”

McCraw smiles easily — and it’s a good thing, because her novel was almost lost for good in 2006 shortly after she wrote the first draft.

The first iteration of “The Chosen” was written during three weeks in summer break. But the jump drive McCraw where saved it and a subsequent edited version was mistakenly taken by her son for a school project — and lost.

Fortunately, McCraw says she was able to fall back on her “poor man’s copyright,” a hard copy of the first draft she had mailed to herself to prove authorship. Between that and a back-up she accidentally unearthed, she was able to piece together what she had originally written and improve on it.

She mailed off what she had written to major publishers.

Their reaction?

“Reject reject reject reject reject,” McCraw says.

She responded by working harder to refine what she’d written, working with online writers groups that provided constructive criticism.

“They’d tell me to make sure my content flows, don’t give too much information about characters at one time or you’ll put your reader to sleep,” McCraw says.

She also got some honest feedback from an agent who advised her to attend more workshops and network more before aiming for the big time.

The finished book first went online as an eBook at www.smashwords.com, where it sold close to 100 copies. In July, McCraw began to printing her book via CreateSpace, which does publishing-on-demand for amazon.com.

“For now, this is the best option, because it’s incredibly expensive to be on bookshelves,” McCraw says.

Until some big publisher comes knocking, there are more books to write. McCraw says she’s already in the midst of writing the second book. It already has a name — “Traitor” — and will be part of a 15-book series she’s already dubbed “The Rachel Chronicles.”

Her inspiration, Hobbit creator J.R.R. Tolkien, would be proud.

“He has a wonderful way of taking races and bringing them together and turning them into a community and having them fight for a common goal,” McCraw says. “I think that’s just beautiful.”