Monday, November 22, 2010

The Blue and Green of Things

I'VE GONE BLUE!  And my hair has turned green.  It's weird, I know, but hey... it was definitely an interesting experience.

And why do I now look like a strange blue creature from another planet?

Because that's what I'm trying to be!

It's all for Brock Eastman's contest, "Look like Obbin", a little blue character from  his book called "Taken" coming out in 2011.  What you have to do is take a photo of yourself and then go into your favorite art program and digitally make your skin blue and your hair green.  If you don't know how to do that, click here.  Brock Eastman explains an easy way to do it, and also gives you the other info you need to enter the contest.  But hurry!  The contest is ending soon, and you don't want to miss out on the chance at winning really cool prizes:  a $50 gift card, a signed copy of "Taken", and a cool Obbin T-shirt!

Now I'll tell you a little bit about this picture.  At first all I was trying to do was exactly what was required: digitally turn my skin blue and hair green.  Then I thought, "Hey!  I've been messing around with digital art, and I don't think I'm half bad... I could probably repaint this!"  So that's what I did.... for most of it, anyway. The hair and the face are completely repainted, as well as part of the shirt and the arms.  I wanted to keep the necklace on so the neck wasn't redone, but I did add highlight and shadow to make it blend better with the rest of the painting.  :D  Almost all of this picture was repainted in GIMP with a Wacom Tablet.  I really enjoyed messing around with it.  Hope y'all like it!  :D

The Long Awaited Review: "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader"

Well, here it is at last folks: the long awaited review of the new movie “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” due out in theatres December 10th and the first post in “Narnia Week”.  Yes, I’ve dedicated this entire week on “The Pen and Parchment” to Narnia.  As some of you know, I got a big surprise last week when I received an email stating that I had been chosen to go to a pre-screening of the movie before it came out.  How often does that happen, right?  The screening was last Thursday in Minnesota, which is a good 8 hour drive from where I live in Central Illinois.  There were a couple of times when I didn’t have any clue how I was going to get out there, or if I was going to get out there at all though I really, really, really wanted to go.  But then a friend of mine decided that she wouldn’t let me miss this opportunity and we drove up to Minnesota and back all in one day: then she went to work the next morning and I went to school.  We were both extremely tired, and she was much more tired than I was because she stayed up to help her husband with the directions while I napped on and off in the back seat.  But it was great!  She’s never read the books (naughty, naughty Anne!  Lol! :D)  but she thought the movie was excellent.

So here is my review.  Let’s start with the basics, shall we?  Most people know the story of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” but for those of you who don’t, here’s the basic summary:

Lucy and Edmund are forced to stay with their intolerable cousin, Eustace Scrubb, when their parents are on a business trip in America.  In Lucy’s bedroom there is a portrait of a beautiful ship sailing on deep blue waters, and one day, as the siblings are musing over the painting, they and their cousin are sucked in through the frame and end up back in Narnia.  The ship is called “The Dawn Treader”, the first ship built in Narnia for hundreds of years, and it is run by King Caspian himself whom Lucy, Edmund, and their older siblings, Peter, and Susan, helped put on the throne.  Caspian set out from Narnia to find the Seven Telmerine Lords, friends of his father whom his uncle Miraz banished from Narnia during his tyrannical reign.  Lucy and Edmund are only too happy to help in the expedition, though Eustace has other ideas in mind.  Along the way they have many adventures as they search for the missing lords, discovering many different and magical lands populated with friends and foes alike.  Perhaps, if they keep sailing, they’ll even come to the land of Aslan himself! But there’s only one way to find out…

Ok, that was a rather interesting summary.  I haven’t read the book in ages, you see, but it is my absolute favorite of the series so I figured I knew enough about it to just wing it.  :D

So now, back to the movie. 

The first question you are probably all asking is, “was it better than ‘Prince Caspian’”.  The answer is quite simply, “yes”.  :)  Was it as good as “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”?  Uh… I’ll let you make your own opinions.  (yes, I am that cruel.  Mwahahahaha!!!)

The graphics and special effects were absolutely stupendous!  Beautiful, really… just gorgeous!  And I was told that what I was watching wasn’t quite the finished product yet, so all the more reason to go see it again when it comes out in December.  The ship looked just like I imagined it too… and that’s saying a lot, because I have very specific images come to mind when I read a description: I like it that way.  And for everyone who’s curious about Eustace and the Dragon?  Amazing.  I don’t think there’s another word to describe it.  That was, by far, my most favorite part of the film.  And there were quite a few good parts.  :D  As for the White Witch – yes, they did bring her back… AGAIN – but it was done very well.  It didn’t feel forced or out of place at all, like it did in the movie, “Prince Caspian”.  It worked well.

The only problem I really had with the movie was that they messed with the plot again.  I won’t tell you what they did: you’ll have to figure that out on your own.  *cruel grin*.  But they did mess with it.  As a stickler for the books, I wasn’t too happy with some of the changes.  Admittedly, some of them were much need and were absolutely awesome!  But others…  there were just those spots… those spots that ate at me through the entire program, slowly, slowly chipping at my satisfaction.

Eh, I’ll stop complaining.  :D  Don’t let me discourage any of you: it really was a fest of awesome awesomeness!  Except for those few parts…

Ok, I’ll shut-up now.  :D

In other words, you should all go see it as soon as it comes out in theatres without delay!  I’m sorry this review is so vague, but I’m not supposed to give details.  Hopefully my mysteriousness peaks enough interest that you’ll be running to the theatres on December 10th.  They are getting better!  And if this movie was anything to go by, the next will be even better.

Ah! Tied again!!!! A Change of Tactics

He!  You guys are making this difficult.  As many of you know, we are having a poll-voting battle over who the third place winner is in "The Amazing First Chapter Contest".  This last poll was supposed to decide, but it looks like we have another tie.  Originally I was going to have the poll continue until we actually had a winner, but you guys have proved to me that you like both entries and so we'll do this instead:

You see, there has been a turn of events.  The first place winner, Squeaks, relinquished her right to the first pick of the three books to Jake who chose "Watership Down" (which is, indeed, about rabbits both good an evil, but he already knew that.  :D).  Because of this, I've decided that both Jakes and Galadriel will be given the title of Third Place, but the other book will be given to Galadriel.

Still waiting on a choice from our second place winner, Adele.  :D

So Gladriel, send me your mailing address, and as soon as I get Adele's choice, I'll send you your prize.

Coming up later: the highly anticipated review of the new movie, "Voyage of the Dawn Treader"!  Keep checking in...


Friday, November 19, 2010

Nano Excerpt -- finally!!!

Well, I've been slowly plugging away at Nanowrimo: I doubt I'll make it to the end though.  But, I did promise myself that as soon as I finished the scene I was working on (the one I got horribly stuck on and couldn't figure out what to do with it) I would post it here for you guys to see that, yes, I have been at least trying.  lol.

So anyway, currently I'm stuck without my main word program, but I found another one that works alright; at least I can open documents until I get my other program installed.  This scene fits somewhere in the middle of chapter two and it's from one of my villains' point of views.  It comes right after my MC and supporting characters escape their farm where my evil character is lurking in their yard looking for them.  I'm actually much farther in the rewrite than chapter two, but sometimes you just have to stop and go back.  :)

So, without further ado, I give you MY NEW SCENE!  :D

  The smell of sweat; the echo of pounding feet growing farther and farther away; the faint pulse of quickened heartbeats throbbing in the air… 

And fear. 

Lots of fear. 

Vúrhaugh breathed deep, licking the corner of his mouth, and closed his eyes. So sweet; so intoxicating… He’d almost forgotten how it tasted, it’d been so long. He smiled, allowing the aroma to permeate his senses, and glanced down at the footprints beaten into the dirt. Three sets, crisscrossing back and forth over each other. One large set, two smaller. 

The Grohnjiem yanked its chain, wrenching his concentration. Vúrhaugh growled. He kicked the fiend in the back legs and wrapped the chain a second time around his hands. “You’ll get your chance, you Guldakh beast! Heel!” The creature snarled, flames flashing from his maw. Vúrhaugh spit and bared his teeth. His eyes glowed a dangerous red. The fire died in the Grohnjiem’s throat. It glared at him and sat down on its haunches, beating its tail impatiently against the ground. 

Vúrhaugh lifted his head, closed his eyes, and breathed in deep. His mind cleared. Slowly, the night noises faded into oblivion, leaving only the faint sounds of his prey. His nostrils flared, working through the information mingling in his nose. Three, yes: an older man, a young girl, and a boy just reaching manhood. The fear from the girl was strongest. Her every breath, the beat of her heart, and each movement secreted pure terror. The boy’s bravado was only feigned, a mask to hide the panic in his chest. Vúrhaugh scowled. Pathetic. 

And then the man… The man was curious. Vúrhaugh focused his senses, concentrating only on the man’s scent and what little sound of him the night offered. The man was running, but he was trying to be silent and, for the most part, was succeeding. He was frightened but… how strange; he wasn’t frightened for himself. His strides were long: he was a tall man… 

Information bombarded Vúrhaugh’s senses, creating a picture in his mind. The man was mature, but not old. Strong. Well built. He ran, but did not breathe hard: experienced then – a warrior? Perhaps. 

And then a new scent fused the air, sweet and pure. It came like death to Vúrhaugh’s nose. His brow creased and he pulled back. This was not normal. Humans did not have that scent. He freed a tendril of his mind and sent it out before him. Out over the field it went, weaving between plants, bumping over earthen knolls and exposed tree roots. The resonating echo of footfalls came back to him, louder now… much louder. And the frightened breaths were like wind through a cave. 

So, they weren’t being nearly as silent as they thought they were. 

He pushed the tendril onward until it brushed against the man’s leg, then climbed to his waist, up over his shoulder, and finally caressed the back of his neck. Vúrhaugh smiled. The probe nudged the base of the man’s head, seeking a way in. Human skin was fragile and not resilient to mental probes. It would soon find an entrance… 

The man’s head snapped up. 

Pain erupted in Vúrhaugh’s head. He gasped and fell back on the ground. There was no way the man could have seen him and yet… Lightning flashed behind his eyes. A power stronger than his forced the probe back, pounding it into his skull like a nail driven by a hammer. Darkness crowded his vision and for a moment, a set of angry silver eyes flared into existence. 

Then they disappeared. 

Vúrhaugh sat up and looked again at the large imprints in the dust. By all appearance they were normal human footprints, but Vúrhaugh bared his fangs at them and spit. No doubt lingered in his mind now; the man was Awet. 

Vúrhaugh glanced at the Gronjiem, now pacing at the end of its chain. It snarled at him, but he ignored it, lost deep in thought. Humans weren’t supposed to go Awet – they weren’t built for it. To be Awet was to be subdued by the thoughts and minds of others and it took great will-power to remain sane under such a weight.  When Humans gained such abilities, they either grew heady with the power and eventually destroyed themselves, or they tried to hide their gift and crumbled under the burden… 

Or they weren’t human. 

Vúrhaugh stood and pulled the Gronjiem closer by the chain. It snarled but he gave the chain a good yank and the beast fell still. Vúrhaugh’s fingers brushed over the clasp that locked the chain to the creature’s collar. It glared at him, slight interest flickering in its fire-red eyes. 

“Find them,” he whispered, “but do not hurt them yet. Search out the truth behind the guardian’s facade. Then return to me.” His fingers moved and the clasp fell away. The wolf shot off into the field, as silent as a shadow. 

Vúrhaugh straightened and turned back to the farm. Suspicion nagged at the back of his mind and he knew he couldn’t ignore it.  The Prizes were being guarded and the enemy was powerful; Gorakk would not be pleased. 

Update on my Craziness...

Well, it's Friday.  And I now have my Lappy back with at least most of the data in tact!  Thank you Mark!  I have to pay you, it's true... but it is indeed very worth it: your really saved my hide... really, really.  :D

But there is one small problem... that being that I have to reinstall Microsoft Word and a hand-full of other programs, and because of that I must postpone my "Voyage of the Dawntreader" movie review until at least tomorrow.  Without "Word", I'm still wondering if all my documents came back entirely, and I'll never be able to sit down, rest, and write a review until I know for sure.  And I won't be able to know for sure until tonight when I get home and have time to install the program.


This has been a very crazy week and I thank you all for being so patient with me!  And thank you so much for all your prayers!!!  I didn't get around to turning this week into "Narnia Week", like I thought I was going to do.  And so I've decided to make next week "Narnia Week" instead, now that I have my computer back and can really get moving on the articles I have in mind.  And instead of closing out the week with the movie review, how's about we open it with the review?  Yeah... yeah, that sounds good.

So if the review isn't up yet tomorrow, plan on it being there on Monday.

In the mean time, please vote for your favorite third place winner in "The Amazing First Chapter Contest".  Looks like one of the stories is pulling ahead... but the other isn't too far behind.  :D  We wouldn't want another tie, so vote, vote, vote!!!

Mwahahahahahahah!!!! *cough, cough... straightens*  Yeah.

Thanks again for all the prayers.  I should be back in full throttle on Monday!  *waves*


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Votes are In!!!

That's right folks.  The Amazing First chapter Contest is officially over, the votes are in, and the winners are soon to be announced!

First I would like to thank everyone who participated.   It was great you guys!  Totally awesome!  And I enjoyed entering all of those worlds so much, even if it was only for one chapter.

Just so everyone knows what was at stake, the first place winner recieves a page of thier own set up on "The Pen and Parchment" to showcase their first chapter and profile... and anything else they may want to post.  They also get the first choice of three books I have to give away:

(and yes, I did find another copy of the book. :D)

The second place winner get's to choose from the two books left after the 1rst winner pics.  The third place winner gets the book that's left.

So, here are the winners.  I was going to fool around and make you guys wait, but I just can't make myself do that.  Too nice I guess.  :D

1rst place: Squeaks with "Children of the Song".  Way to go Squeaks!  You get the first pick out of the three books!  And a page set aside just for you.  Shoot me an email with your pick of the books and your prefered address so that I can send you your prize.  Include in the email anything besides your profile and the excerpt of your book.  I'll try to get the page set up within the next couple of days.

2nd place: Adele Treskilard with "Wolf's Bard".  Woo-hoo!  I really enjoyed looking over this chapter. :)  Adele, you get second pick of the books.  Send me an email with your choice of the two books you would like the most out of those listed above along with your address.  If Squeaks chooses one of the books you chose, you will get the other one.  Make sure you list the books in order of preference: that way, if squeaks doesn't pick one of the books you wanted, I can send you the one you wanted the most.  :D

Third place winner is...


Guess that means I have to set up another poll.  So I'm going to put that up this afternoon.  Voting will be open for the next five days.  If the poll doesn't move within the next five days, it will go for another five.  The third place winner will recieve the book left after the first and second winner have thier pick.

Here are the participants listed in order from first winner on through.

1rst:  Squeaks with "Children of the song"
2nd:  Adele Treskilard with "Wolf's Bard"
3rd:  Galadriel with "Three Dark Roses"
3rd:  Jake with "Quest for the Kingdom"
4th:  Gillian with "Song of Leira"
4th:  John Walker with "A Time Yet to Come"
5th:  Seth with "Tempest: First of the Tales of Myth"

Thanks to all who participated!  And who knows: When I reach 50 followers, I might host another contest... *wink, wink*



Monday, November 15, 2010

REALLY REALLY EXCITING NEWS IN ALL CAPS!!!! (with lots of exclamation points. :D )

Ok, so I know I haven't blogged in a few days.  He, he... sorry about that.  Life has definitely been busy, and I just lost the use of my faithful lappy... so, I will probably not be getting on near as much until I get him back, which will be (hopefully) Wednesday. *dramatic sob*  He was so young...

Anywho, today is the last day to vote for your favorite first chapter!  So don't wait another minute.  It looks like it might be a close call for third place.  If we have a tie, then we have to have another poll, so vote, vote, vote!

But now to get the REALLY EXCITING part of this post.  You know... the part that's IN ALL CAPS WITH LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! (love to do that.  :D)


You heard right folks! *does really happy dance*  The screening is this Thursday in Minneapolis. 

I really don't know how it happened.  It's like an answered prayer, but it was so unexpected.  I'd just been keeping in touch with people over the web and I'd been entering a few contests and what-not... (especially concerning Narnia, because Lewis was my first inspiration to write).  Then the other day I get an email reply saying that I've been chosen to go see this pre-screening because of my apparent presence on the web. 

Cool!  That means I'm being noticed, which is really good platform-building material for me and my writings.  And this opportunity will also look great noted on a future resume.


So here's the deal.  I won't be able to give out any details of what I actually saw in the movie when I get back home, but I will be able to tell how I felt about the way the movie was made.  So in honor of that, I've decided to make this week on the Pen and Parchment all about Narnia and C.S. Lewis.  Get ready for some really Narnia related posts.  And on Friday, I'll post my review of the movie to close out the week.

I'll try to get the first post of this series up later today.  Until then, don't forget to vote!

C ya all later!


Monday, November 8, 2010

The Written World -- Elements of the Story, part 3

First of all, I apologize to all my readers for basically disappearing since November third. I'm still here, I promise! But what with school, life, and the fact that I'm miserably failing Nanowrimo, I have been quite busy. I also want to say that, like most of you have probably noticed, I'm not writing this series in any particular order. Instead, I'm just writing down points as they come to me. :D That's what you get for being an SOTP writer who still refuses to outline, even though she knows the benefits of outlining now and doesn't absolutely despise it anymore. :D

What we are discussing today is World Building. Every fantasy or science fiction writer knows that you can't have a story without these three elements: Characters, Plot, and a World to put both of those in. Themes usually slip in later (even though that was the first element I wrote about). The order of importance between these elements varies from writer to writer, but for me they usually line up like this: Character, Plot, World, Theme… or maybe Character, World, Plot, Theme. As you can see, the only two elements that are interchangeable for me are Plot and World. This is mostly because I am what is called a "Seat-of-the-pants" writer, and very rarely to I outline. Writing like that usually makes me care more for my Characters than my plot – at least until after the rough draft is written. Then I start to analyze plot and world – in either order – and only after that do I turn to theme.

When I do outline, however… and this is only every once in a while, just because that's how I am… the order usually changes to Plot, Character, World, Theme, or Plot, World, Character, Theme. Again, you might notice that it's the two middle elements that are interchangeable. I haven't discussed plot yet in this series, but I am working on putting something together for it.

Now, when I think of world building that is done well, my mind immediately skips to two of my favorite authors, both of whom write epic fantasy: Tolkien and Paolini. J. R. R. Tolkien is well known for the very complicated world, languages, and rules set forth in the Lord of the Rings. He was an absolute master of the writing craft and knew well how to handle his genre. But, as wonderful as Tolkien's work is, he is dead… a sad and true fact. And so today I'm going to turn to Tolkien's modern apprentice: Christopher Paolini.

When I get inspired to expand on my own world, I usually start by re-reading "Eldest" as a vague reference for world-building done well. Now granted, what plot there is in "Eldest" meanders pathetically, but the world Paolini created becomes vivid and sparkles. And even though the plot is dry, you can watch the characters grow into their world.

So the first thing I ask myself is, "What makes a believable world?"

A believable world has to feel tangible; it has to feel like you could touch it, walk into it, live in it, and become a part of it. If it doesn't feel like that, your reader is likely to feel unsatisfied with your book, especially if you're a science fiction or Fantasy writer, so it is very important to get your world created right.

Like with Characters, making a believable world usually involves using something familiar to base your made up world off of. Everyone knows what trees and grass looks like, that the sky is usually blue, and that the sun rises in the east, etcetera. Most of the time, when writing fantasy worlds, we leave those elements alone. That way the reader can overlook them and concentrate on the importance of, say, race, cultural aspects, and religion. Of course, it is possible to mess with these elements and change color and type, or to even make up something entirely new, but usually the sky is only a strange color in the middle of the day (like purple) if we're discussing science fiction and a different planet, or if we're describing a weird storm.

I mean, raise your hand if somewhere in your book you have green grass and a blue sky. *raises hand* Now raise your hand if your trees are purple and your grass is maroon. Anyone? *looks around*

This is why there are planets in most pieces of science fiction. Everyone knows that a planet is basically a humongous spherically shaped glob of rock or dirt. Life doesn't have to grow there, and in our reality it doesn't (as of yet). This is also well known. So, when writing a space story involving lots of gunfire and robots and spaceships and all that jazz, science fiction writer's usually throw in a planet or two to make the world somewhat familiar to the reader. Besides, planets give characters somewhere to go. Who would want to read a book where there was nothing but space? No place to land, no new world to explore, no excitement or adventure because there's seems to be no place for other creatures to live...

It's similar with dimensional jumps. Narnia is clearly not a planet in and of itself, but an entirely different dimension. Yet the snow is white there, just like it is here, and the animals look like the ones we have here too. Granted, most of them can talk, but we were able to accept this whimsical aspect simply because Lewis based his world off of ours – he made it a place of waterfalls and mountains, meadows and forests, seas and islands; we all know what those are. The fantastical elements were added only after the reader could recognize bits and pieces of the world in and of itself. And if there's a tree with gold and silver apples, we can accept that because we recognize the name of the fruit. The color is different, but at least we can put a picture with the name and get an idea of what the author meant.

Now that we've established this fact, what else must be put into our fantasy worlds to make them believable?

Well, the world would be boring without anyone to live in it, because then nothing would happen, so we must put characters in our world. And because we don't want them to all be generic, we will split the characters up into races (or "species") and give each a different cultural background. Most fantasy writers stick pretty close to the original fantasy species layout: that is, elves, dwarves, giants, fairies, etc… I tend to avoid writing anything about orcs since that was Tolkien's original idea, and I usually stay away from "Halflings" as well unless I specifically give that name to a certain type of mixed breed (like I did in "Eldrei"). Humans are also pretty common in a fantasy setting. You can always add other species if you want; just slip them in any old place – but make sure they have some sort of background to anchor them in that world. If you want to go all out, I would suggest taking a look at Donita K. Paul's "Dragon Keeper" books. In those books, all races except for the dragons were completely created from scratch: there are no humans, elves, dwarves, or any other generic species. It's awesome!

But what are characters without a cultural background?

This is where I start to have lots of fun. Some writers prefer the physical part of world building over cultural, but I tend to be the other way around. While I enjoy setting up scenery in my books, I'm one who loves to explore the legends and mythology of my races, figure out histories, set up languages, and discover the "truths" behind the "fiction" in my characters' worlds. I'm like this in the real world too: ancient cultures, legends, and mythology completely intrigue me. And if we're talking historical events that include sword play and armor, then count me in (though I'm not a huge fan on the more recent history involving complicated machines and gun fire).

The first step in setting up a culture for your characters is asking what happened to bring this race to where it is at the time the book starts. What does this race believe in? Do they believe in one God, or many? Do they have "churches" or "Temples" or "Cathedrals"? What holidays do they celebrate, why, and what are the holidays for? What is their original language, do they have different dialects, and in which area of the world is one dialect more prominent than another?

This is the type of world building I revel in, and it is this type of world building that Paolini used in "Eldest". In his second book, we start to get a good look at the world through the eyes of the dwarves, and then through the eyes of the elves. The elves are apparently the prominent race in the book, as Eregon spends most of his time in the forest of Elesmera learning to become a true Dragon Rider. Besides that, the elves were the race that first had war with the dragons, the first race to establish the dragon riders, and they are the race that every rider, no matter the type or history, begins to resemble after joining the Dragon Riders.

Both the dwarves and the elves have complicated backgrounds, histories, and beliefs. At the beginning of the book, when Eregon is offered a place in the dwarf king's clan and accepts the offer, we learn that the dwarfs believe if they are not buried in stone when they die, they will not go on to their version of "heaven" after death. Also, each dwarf has seven toes on each foot, and it was considered a myth that humans only had five toes until after Eregon proved that the dwarven "myth" was actually a fact. The dwarfs also have a strict religious background and a series of religious rituals they follow. The elves, on the other hand, don't believe in a deity of higher power at all, but do believe that a "higher calling" only has to do with oneself and that person's dedication and awareness to the world around them.

As a Christian, I question these beliefs in my characters, but knowing that our world is just as divided culturally as Paolini's world, I make myself take a closer look at the possibilities of different and conflicting cultural beliefs in my characters' world and time. My main character usually believes something similar to what I do, or else he/she learns to believe something like that towards the middle or end of the book. But what about my other characters, and the races they come from? I used to prefer not to mess around with multiple deities in cultural religion. However, I've found out since then that such a thing can be done well from a Christian perspective. For an example, let's turn to Jeffry Overstreet's books "The Auralia Strand". In book two of his series, titled "Cynder's Midnight", we learn that the character "Cynder" is from a city that doesn't believe in "The Keeper", a mythical dream creature who's allegorical perspective parallels with that of "God" or even Christ. (I don't know that I would go so far as to say the Keeper represents either one of those… there are enough differences that I would hesitate to put such a name on this creature. But there are also enough similarities to note the possibilities.) In Cynder's city, they worship their "Moon-spirits" as well as their own desires, and they are adamant with their religious rituals. Reading "Cynder's Midnight" was the first time I fully realized that a thing like this could be done well in a Christian book – that is to say that the religious beliefs didn't have to revolve around only "believing in God" and "Believing in the Devil", "being on the side of good" or "being on the side of evil". There are mixed beliefs in the real world, so why not in a fantasy setting as well?

I had, of course, read secular fantasy books where the author played with different religions and cultural backgrounds, but as much as I wanted my world to seem as real as all that, it wasn't until after reading this particular book that I understood the powerful impact such a thing could have in the Christian Speculative Fiction genre. Between Paolini, Tolkien, Overstreet, and Donita K. Paul, we have some pretty good examples of world building here, culturally, physically, and character-wise. The trick, however, is in applying these techniques to our own writings.

I'm going to end this post now, since it's starting to get pretty long (just reached over 2k). However, I'm seriously contemplating writing a second part to this particular element, so keep your eyes open for that. I hope what I did write didn't meander all over the place, and that this actually made sense in a way that can be used by any who read it. In the meantime, the very best advice I can give to authors who want to work on world building is to keep it "real" and always do your "research"… that is to say, look at other authors that you admire and who are successful in your genre, analyze what they did that worked, and see if you can't apply a few of the techniques they used in building your own worlds. Also, even if you base some things on other styles, cultures, and books, try to keep your world fresh and original. This is so important if you truly want to make a name for yourself in the literary world; otherwise, if others don't feel you are original enough, they may consider you a "rip-off", and that can damage your reputation in the writing world. However, to be completely honest, the only "rip-offs" I've ever met were completely new to fictional writing and have since grown into their own voices with ideas so original I am sometimes happily jealous of them (meaning that I love their work, and can only wish I had come up with the idea before they did. :D).

Until later, God bless and happy Writing,


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour: day 3

So sorry!  I was going to post something yesterday, but I never got the chance with all the homework I'm trying to catch up on.

So here's the book trailer for "The Skin Map" and hopefully tomorrow I'll get around to posting more about the author.  :D

Monday, November 1, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour, Nanowrimo, and Edits... OH MY!

November 1rst... the beginning of so much.  I don't know about anyone else, but I've been looking forward to this day for weeks now.  Today is the day that the CSFF blog tour (for October) starts, and in a few minutes I'll be posting something about Stephen Lawhead's new book "The Skin Map".  But today also marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, and for me that means lots and lots of rewriting this year.  :)  Is it normal to be excited over editing and rewriting?  I don't really know... but then again, I don't know how many people would call me "normal".

I did just receive a very nice and unexpected surprise when some fan art I drew based on one of the characters in Wayne Thomas Batson's book "Isle of Swords" appeared on his site.  Thank you Mr. Batson!  There's also an awesome picture of Falon with it from his other books, "The Door Within" trilogy (not drawn by me.  :D)  If you would like, go check them out at his link:

I would also like to remind people that the poll for The Amazing First Chapter Contest closes the 15th, so don't forget to vote for your favorites!!!

And now on to other business.  First and foremost, I would like to thank Thomas Nelson for providing me with a free review copy of "The Skin Map" for the CSFF blog tour this month.  And then I would like to thank Stephen Lawhead for writing it, as I've quite enjoyed it so far.  Granted, I haven't finished just yet, but in my defense it only arrived a week ago and I've been extremely busy with school.

I know, I know... not a good excuse.  :D

But I have read a lot of the book (and I've even done the forbidden and skipped ahead chapters at a time to read certain POV's) and from what I have read, I believe I have a relatively good grasp on what's going on.

So we'll start with a summary, straight from the horses mouth... uh... back of the book.  :)

Kit Livingstone's great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm.  He reveals and unbelievable story; that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds.  To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily inhabit only a tiny part.

One explorer new more than most.  Braving every danger, he toured both time and space on voyages of heroic discovery.  Ever on his guard, and fearful of  becoming lost in the cosmos, he developed and intricate code - a roadmap of symbols - that he tattoed onto his own body.  This Skin Map has since been lost in time.  Now the race is on to recover all the pieces and discover its secrets.

But the Skin Map  itself is not the ultimate goal.  It is merely the beginning of a vast and marvelous quest for a prize beyond imagining.

Tomorrow I'll try and post something about the author of this book, but for now I'm going to give you my thoughts on the matter.

Pros:  I have nothing to compare this to, considering the fact that I haven't read any of Lawhead's books before, but I would say this is well written and intriguing.  The language (in my own opinion) is fun to read... partially because it has that British flare that everybody seems to love.  (It might help, of course, that Lawhead is a British author.)  It's definitely a fun and fast paced read, which always makes the journey more enjoyable, and the characters are interesting enough to draw you in.  At the same time, it makes you think.  The story alone is intriguing, although I do have to ask myself how many times the concept of dimensional and time travel will be "done" before people begin to tire of it.  Yet I do believe this book has brought new fire to the genre.  It's definitely worth looking at.

Cons:  It seems to jump all over the place.  Now granted, it is time travel, and dimension  travel, and what else should we expect?  But while I found it easy to follow one character, and could have easily continued to follow him, we suddenly jump to another character.  This in itself was not really disorienting, except for the fact that until the very end of the session following Kit's girlfriend there seems to be no real connection between jumping time and dimension and the dangers that follow; she easily settles down into her new home, makes friends, starts a business that is a great success based on her knowledge of the future, and then a man comes along (I won't say who to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it) finds her, gets suspicious of her, and leaves and she finds a way to travel the leys, and we hear nothing more of her or her friends from ancient Germany until the very last two pages of the book.  (Yes, I couldn't help but skip around to read those chapters one right after the other.  I easily followed her story, and probably would have read a book just based on this turn, with her trying to create a business in ancient Germany based on modern values.  That was done well.)

I would say that the book in itself is a good introduction to further books, although I do feel it "beats around the bush" a little bit.  I look forward to checking out the other books soon to join this one in the series; perhaps things will make more sense then.  But that's part of the wonder of series books, isn't it?  The mystery of what happens next and how everything ties together...

Now, given the fact that I haven't read Lawhead before and am not familiar with his writing style, I wasn't sure of what I thought of his semi-narrative style.  It was slightly refreshing, to tell the truth, yet disconcerting in the fact that narration is something that seems to be so vehemently preached against these days in 3rd person writing... not to say I don't slip into it myself from time to time.  I would say that all in all, I liked his style, and will definitely be checking out his other books.

Though I haven't finished reading the book, my rating for it so far would be a three out of five... not bad, but not the best.  Definitely interesting though, and worth a look."> Red Bissell"> Thomas Clayton Booher"> Keanan Brand"> Grace Bridges"> Beckie Burnham"> Morgan L. Busse"> Jeff Chapman"> Christian Fiction Book Reviews"> Valerie Comer"> Karri Compton"> Amy Cruson"> CSFF Blog Tour"> Stacey Dale"> D. G. D. Davidson">  George Duncan"> April Erwin"> Tori Greene"> Ryan Heart"> Bruce Hennigan"> Timothy Hicks"> Christopher Hopper"> Becky Jesse"> Cris Jesse"> Becca Johnson"> Jason Joyner"> Julie"> Carol Keen"> Krystine Kercher"> Shannon McDermott"> Allen McGraw"> Matt Mikalatos"> Rebecca LuElla Miller"> Nissa"> John W. Otte"> Gavin Patchett"> Sarah Sawyer"> Chawna Schroeder"> Kathleen Smith"> Rachel Starr Thomson"> Donna Swanson"> Robert Treskillard"> Steve Trower"> Fred Warren"> Dona Watson"> Phyllis Wheeler">  Nicole White"> Elizabeth Williams"> Dave Wilson