Monday, January 31, 2011

Updates! Yea!

Yes, I am still here.  No, I haven't abandoned you... yet... mwahahahaha!!!!

I just thought I would post an update on what's been going on and why I haven't posted anything for awhile.  For one thing, we must remember that school comes first... even if we would prefer not to remember that. But at least one of my projects has really caught my interest.  I'm sitting in on a British Literature class taught by the professor I had last semester for Shakespearian Lit.  She's amazing... but anyway.  She is allowing me to unofficially "join" the class this semester as it was a class I wanted to take but that I couldn't because of the hours I've already committed to.  This way I don't have to pay for the class, and I don't really have to do all of the projects if I feel like I can't, but I still get to learn and follow everything that's going on.

Anyway... The project that caught my interested was one where every student in the class must pick a British Author and blog about them in some way.  My pick was (naturally) J.R.R. Tolkien (reinforced by the fact that C.S. Lewis was already taken. :D)  As many of you know or may have guessed, I LOVE The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's other works.  I've created a new blog specifically for the purpose of exploring Tolkien's life and literary works titled The Inklings' Quill, and right now I'm really happy with the way it's coming about. So if that sort of thing interests you as well, check it out. :D

In other news, I am still waiting for some of the interviews I sent out to come back to me, and I've started working on another.  The people I will be interviewing on The Pen and Parchment (so far as I know) are:

1) Rachel Starr Thomson
2) Jeff Gerke
3 Scott Appleton

But not necessarily in that order.  Currently I'm working on the interview for Scott Appleton and I thought it might be interesting if you, my readers, posted questions you would like him to address.  Remember, we are currently talking about the ins, outs, and differences between Self Publishing and Traditional publishing, but you may feel free to ask him about his books as well, as that is also something we will be addressing.

So, that's all I have for now.  As a last note, I also have some book reviews planned in the future, but it may be awhile before I can get to them.  Thanks for reading! :D


Monday, January 24, 2011

Something Totally Unrelated to What We've Been Talkin' 'Bout...

Ok, so I know we've been talking about the Great Publishing Debate, and believe me... this theme WILL continue for a while.  But right now I'm at a bit of a "pausing" point.  I'm interviewing some people, but it's taking a while, so while we are waiting for that, I thought I'd share my latest digital painting, titled "Rejection".

"Rejection" was painted using Gimp and my wacom tablet.  It was created for The 100 Theme Challenge that I decided to take on

I've been working on skin tone and coloring a lot lately, as well as highlighting and shadow, and trying to make my subjects appear more "solid".  I've been getting much better with that: working with human forms has helped, of course.  The thing I've recently been playing with are the different colors that skin tone consists of.  If you'll notice, there's some green, blue, purple, and a little gold in his coloring.  Plus the ice blue highlighting.  I like the effect.  This painting was done using a reference, not something I use a lot when I'm painting digitally as it is, essentially, a pain to my eyes.  When I using graphite I use references all the time, but it's different when you have to split your computer screen up so that you can see both images, and my computer screen isn't all that big.

Well, that's all I have to say for now about this.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

As a warning, Deviant Art is a website dedicated to the visual and literary arts of people everywhere, and as such can present some immoral content if one is not very careful where and how one searches the site.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Great Publishing Debate Take 2: Other things you should know

Yes... a second post about Self Publishing vs. Traditional publishing.  I felt like there were some things touched on in the comments section of my last post that definitely should have been in the first post.  So I decided to talk about them here.

The first point brought up was the difference between a Print on Demand service (POD) and "self-publishing".  Yes, there is a difference.  Print on Demand services like Lulu and Createspace, are services where you can go online, upload your book and book cover yourself, press a button and POW!  Your book is ready for distribution.  It sounds easy -- and maybe it is at first... I mean, it doesn't take much time and you are in total control -- but it's the marketing that gets difficult.  This is the kind of publishing I was actually reffering to when I mentioned Self Publishing in my first post.

However, this isn't all there is when referring to self publishing.  There's also Vanity Presses and Subsidy Presses.  I'm sure many of you have at least heard of such companies.  Here's a definition pulled from the SFWA website.  And if you would like to read the entire article (which is highly recommended) you can go here:

  • A commercial publisher purchases the right to publish a manuscript (usually together with other rights, known as subsidiary rights), and pays the author a royalty on sales. Most also pay an advance on royalties. Commercial publishers are highly selective, publishing only a tiny percentage of manuscripts submitted. They handle every aspect of editing, publication, distribution, and marketing. There are no costs to the author.
  • A vanity publisher prints and binds a book at the author’s sole expense. Costs include the publisher’s profit and overhead, so vanity publishing is usually a good deal more expensive than self-publishing. All rights and completed books are the property of the author, and the author retains all proceeds from sales. Vanity publishers may exclude objectionable content such as pornography, but otherwise do not screen for quality.
  • A subsidy publisher also takes payment from the author to print and bind a book, but contributes a portion of the cost and/or provides adjunct services such as editing, distribution, warehousing, and marketing. Theoretically, subsidy publishers are selective. A subsidy publisher claims at least some rights, though the claim may be limited and non-exclusive. The completed books are the property of the publisher, which owns the ISBN, and remain in the publisher’s possession until sold. Income to the writer comes in the form of a royalty.
  • Self-publishing, like vanity publishing, requires the author to bear the entire cost of publication, and also to handle all marketing, distribution, storage, etc. However, rather than paying for a pre-set package of services, the author puts those services together himself. Because every aspect of the process can be out to bid, self-publishing can be much more cost effective than vanity publishing; it can also result in a higher-quality product. All rights, the ISBN, and completed books are owned by the author, who keeps all proceeds from sales.

So there you go.  And then of course, you also have POD publishing through something like Lulu or Createspace.  Technically, both of these websites are part of self publishing businesses, since an author can purchase certain services to aid them with their endeavorers.  However, both of these companies also offer a way to get a book bound, printed, and marketable totally free... with the understanding that the author is solely in charge of selling their books and will not receive further aid from the company without buying it.

The second point that was touched upon in the comments that I would like to talk about, is the fact that just because a book is "published" (through a POD or self publishing company), that doesn't mean it is marketable.  

What I mean by that is simply this: there are certainly benefits to becoming traditionally published.

1) not all authors are, in fact, visual effects artists: I know many people who can write like nobody's business, but who couldn't draw or paint to save their lives.  And some of these people can't tell good art from the bad stuff.  

Why would this be important?  For cover art purposes, of course!  Half the time it's the cover that actually sells the book.  If you don't have a good cover, it's likely you won't sell nearly as many books.

With a traditional publisher, this isn't so much of an issue.  The publisher hires artists and graphic designers who base their life around artwork and doing it well: basically, a professional full-time artist doesn't make money if he's not good at what he does. (And I ought to know, because that's what my dad is).  So, with a traditional publisher, it's likely you'll get good cover art, thus making your chances of selling well much higher.

2) Editing.  That's right, editing.

Galadriel pointed out something very important: Self publishing IS NOT a way to get around editing.  In fact, Self Published authors have to be even MORE aware of typos and misprints than the traditionally published author, and they have to be more concerned.  Why?  Because their book will reflect on their name... there will be no big publisher to hide behind.  Self Published authors will definitely want to look into editors, and have their books read over several times by critique partners and beta readers to try and catch all the flaws.

With traditional publishing, this isn't such an extremely huge deal.  Don't get me wrong here!  Editing is EXTREMELY important with traditional publishing too.  And a writer who is going for traditional publishing must strive to get their book as good as they can make it by themselves and with outside help in order to be confident when approaching a publisher or an agent.  But it's commonly known that writers are human, and humans make mistakes.  And, before manuscripts are actually bound, printed, and stamped with that big, glamorous publisher's name, they are chuck-full of typos and other mistakes.  

I look at SOTD here: reading through it the other day, I found a whole mess of typos that must of slipped through during a late night editing session.  And the book's already under submission!  

However, with traditional publishing your book is more likely to go through several rounds of possessional edits... without the cost coming out of your own pocket.  So that's bonus!

The last thing touched upon in the comments was e-books vs. paper books...

Eh, I'm not even going to mess with this subject.  There are so many different views!  I know many people who enjoy reading physical books as well as e-books, but who think that paper-bound books are superior. I know people who read the same way, only they prefer e-books.  And I know people who will only read e-books, and those who will only read paper books.

I personally don't own an e-reader, so from my point of view, paper books are better... namely because I don't like reading whole books on a computer screen.  It hurts my eyes and my brain, and I usually end up falling asleep (because my computer writing sessions are usually late at night, and for some reason the soft blue light of the screen makes me even more tired if my fingers aren't constantly moving.)  If I'm reading a physical book, my mind stays more engaged... can't really explain why.

However, the other day I was allowed to play with my sister's boyfriend's e-reader which he got for Christmas.  Now, I believe I could get used to that. :D  It really did feel much the same as reading paper, and it was more compact and lighter than many of the books I own.  There are troubles I can foresee with electronic devises, especially ones linked to any kind of network, whether the network is for books or not... but I won't go into those now.

And so ends TAKE 2.  Fell free to let me know what you are thinking on these matters in the comments.  And as some of you may have noticed, I have added a "reactions" tab to the bottom of each post.  If you want, click on one of those buttons to let me know that you read it and your  over-all take on this post.



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Great Publishing Debate

Shhh! Listen. Can you hear that? That slight buzzing noise? It sounds like millions of authors all across the world debating over the values and opportunities of the different publishing markets. Voices murmuring, keyboards clicking, cell-phones ringing… and the occasional outraged cry.

Well, at least I can hear it. But you should be aware of it too. Especially if you are a writer who is looking to get your book, novella, or short story published sometime in the future.

And what is this debate about?

It's about self publishing versus traditional publishing, and it's causing some major controversy.
Lately, as I've been browsing the web and different blogs on publishing and authors, I've noticed a rise in authors who believe that self publishing has changed over the last decade into a viable, money-making scheme that authors can take advantage of to get out, sell their books, and keep doing what they love over and over again while having total control of the outcome. Plus, some of these authors are making serious money, selling thousands of books a month and reaching best selling lists on Amazon while keeping 70% of their books' income. Their numbers are absolutely daunting. Now, tell me this doesn't sound appealing, because to me, it sounds like the ultimate publishing deal of a lifetime! But it comes with limitations. Of course it does. And those limitations can be quite the doosies.

For one thing, anything "publishing" or "marketing" related calls for money, and with self publishing, that money will be coming out of your pocket. I mean, you'll probably want to hire an editor who can get your book up to par with as few typos or misspelled words as possible. And you'll need cover art, right? And that means you have to hire an artist (unless you are in the fortunate position of being a fairly good artist yourself, in which case you can do the cover art for your own book). And what about stepping out there and shoving your book in the public's eye… trying to make people notice you? That can take money too. After all, you'll probably want a few adds in the paper and local magazines, and you'll probably want to send out a few review copies of the book – which in physical form can cost up to $15 a copy depending on your prices and which POD company you go through (typically, Lulu is said to have slightly higher price ranges when compared to Createspace). Then, if you feel that you can't be your own publicist, you'll probably need to hire one, which of course costs more money; you can't expect them to work for free unless you are really, really close friends with them or related to them somehow.

Because publishing is a business, all of these pros and cons must be taken into account. And if you become the publisher by self publishing your own book, then you are the one who is going to have to consider them. Otherwise your book will never get known.

With traditional publishing you will have to consider a marketing strategy as well… although the price for publication won't necessarily be coming out of your pocket and you probably won't be working on marketing your book alone. The publisher who decides to print you will, of course, want the books to sell well so that he can get paid and make money from the efforts he put forward to publish your book. You will also want to be in on this marketing strategy so that you, too, can get paid. Because of the publishers want and need for success, he/she/they will work towards pushing your book into the public's eye, even if your own selling and marketing strategies fail. And if the publisher succeeds in this, you are likely to gain a following, and your following is likely to grow. Plus you'll have a traditional publisher's name on your book, which can be important when trying to sell your books through the major retailers. By self publishing, all of this will have to be done by you, and if you fail then it is unlikely your book will get known or that your following will be very large. (So if you decide to self publish, it is a very good idea to make sure you don't fail. :D)

However, Publishing companies are known for giving authors somewhere around 10% of their books' income – maybe a little more for e-books – which is not a whole lot at all, and when compared with the whopping 70% total income likely to be made by succeeding in self publishing (even after paying off your publicist, editor, and artist), that meager 10% looks really frail. Also, with traditional publishing there is a whole process to go through, usually involving queries and agents, and rejections, and more querying, and editors, and more rejections, and then a waiting list before your book is actually looked at and accepted by a publisher, in which case it usually goes on to another waiting list and doesn't come out in print anywhere from one to two years later, (at least that's how it is if you are going for one of the Big Six companies). By self publishing, you don't have to wait forever to see your book in print; your book can get out there right away… but you'll have to work on marketing it practically by yourself.

And then you have E-publishing… which can be done by yourself or through an e-publishing company, and in which the market has been seriously growing since the release of e-readers like the Kindle and the Nook. I personally do not think e-books will ever take over the paper book market, and my outlook is that this e-reader fad is just that… a fad that's popularity will eventually pass, even if the e-reader market never completely dissipates… sort of like beanie babies. However, one cannot deny the fact that within the last few years, e-books have become a major competitor in the publishing market. An author can self-publish an e-book without so much hassle as with POD, and still have the book available through POD companies should readers want a physical copy. And you would still get your 70% income from e-books as well as whatever physical versions sold… if you decide to publish your e-book by yourself, that is.

However, you would still need a marketing strategy, still need cover art for marketing's sake, and still probably need at least an editor, if you don't think you also need a publicist. And to me, while offering e-books feels like a good idea alongside physical versions, I am not one who personally enjoys reading from a computer screen as much as I enjoy flipping a page, and I know many people who feel the same way.

It's hard to decide which version of publishing is better, really. I guess it all depends on what type of person you are. For me, it feels like there is a sense of accomplishment and acceptance behind being traditionally published, even if it seems to take forever to get there. However, I wouldn't mind trying out the self publishing business, if only as a personal experiment to see if I'm cut out for the job. I also know that many publishing companies are turning down books that could be amazing best sellers, and are definitely worth their weight in paper and ink. Some of these turned-down authors have decided to self publish as a means to get their work out there despite the publishing world's view on their manuscript and whether it will sell or not; some of these authors are among the ones I mentioned earlier, who are selling thousands of books a month and making Amazon best seller lists. However, I also believe there is a thing to be said about genre and what will sell through self-publishing, and what needs a traditional name behind it in order to make it anywhere in the market. It seems like the market is absolutely saturated with paranormal romance lately, and so many new "para-romas" are being turned down. If an author has a para-roma they think will sell, self publishing would not be such a bad idea since many people in the world have learned to enjoy this type of read because of the great "Twilight" hit. As for thriller, mystery, and erotica, it seems to me that there will always be a place for self published and e-published books in these genres, since the few people I know who enjoy such things are constantly collecting such books whenever they can find them, and e-books through Amazon is a quick and cheap way to get new reads without having to leave your home.

But what about Christian Fantasy and science fiction? You know… Christian spec-fic. It is my belief that in this particular genre, the market leans more towards physical and traditionally published books. However, there are authors out there who seem to be doing well by self publishing and marketing their books by themselves, and these authors aren't afraid to tell us so. And why should they be? Why should an author be afraid to say that they self published their book, or created an indie company through which their books are published? This concept is hard for me to understand: I mean, they worked hard, their book is written, edited and published – and it's selling. And this market certainly isn't saturated yet.

My views on the Great Publishing Debate are quite mixed (as you've probably noticed). So I've decided to conduct some interviews with other people in the publishing business to see their outlook on the matters. My first guest will be Rachel Starr Thompson, author and publisher of her book series "World's Unseen". You can visit her website here: Rachel is also a freelance editor and a dancer. :D

Hopefully the interview will be up sometime around the end of the week. Untill then, however, what are your views on the publishing market? Where do you think we'll go from here, and which do you consider a better choice: self publishing or traditional publishing. Why?

Feel free to debate these issues in the comments. I'm looking forward to seeing what everybody thinks on the matter.



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I feel like I'm in Kindergarten again: Time for Show and Tell!

Long title, I know, but this subject is really important to writers -- especially ones that aren't published yet.

We are forever being told "Show, don't tell", but what exactly does this phrase mean?   I remember years ago when I had first discovered the writing forums at, I had asked some of the members to critique my work.  And as I recall, one of the members said to me, "You have a lot of imagination, but you are telling us everything that's happening.  Why don't you show us instead?"

Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?  But I just couldn't understand the difference between showing and telling.  People tried to explain it to me.  They gave me examples of what they meant and how they thought my work could be improved upon -- and they were right! -- but I still couldn't understand it.  How do you "show" something when you only have words to work with?  And don't we consider ourselves storytellers?  Their examples helped, of course, and I watched my writing improve bit by bit, but I still didn't "get" it.

Then the other day I had an epiphany.  I was at the college I attend, preparing for classes that actually start today, and as I walked by the writing lab I paused to check out the announcement board.  There weren't many announcements yet, of course, but there was something else: a quotation from Anton Chekhov that says, "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

As you might imagine, I immediately fell in love with that quote.  After all, I find it just as intriguing as it is beautiful.  But believe it or not, when I first read it, I still couldn't understand it's full purpose.  And yet it was so intriguing that I kept thinking and thinking about it and... at long last... I finally understood.

It makes perfect sense...

The secret to showing instead of telling is...

*drum roll please*


You heard me right; I said painting.

Don't look at me that way; I'm not crazy.  (Well, maybe I am a little... but that's not the point!)

The point is that writers don't know how to explain showing vs. telling because we think about it in the wrong way.  Many writers that I know are masters with words, but only a few are also masters of the sketchbook or the canvas and brush.  Yet these two arts -- writing and painting -- go hand in hand.  You've heard the saying, "A picture's worth a thousand words," right?  Those are not idle words.  A picture is worth a thousand words because the artist is trying to tell a story without using words.  If a writer decided to explain the story behind the artist's creation, it may take a thousand words or more to do it correctly.

What we, as writers, need to do is paint a picture with our words.  We need to make the reader see the  grass swaying gently in the breeze, and the moonlight glinting off of broken glass.  To just say "the moon shone down" isn't enough.  We need to make the moon shine so beautifully and clearly in our readers' minds that they are transported into our world and find that they cannot drag themselves back out of it.  That's what true "showing" is.

Think of it this way:  You are painting a picture.  The moon is out, a silver orb hanging in the sky like a pearl drawn out of the sea.  The cobalt night shimmers with stars, and a purple and aqua aura dances on the northern horizon.  Below the moon, a sea of grass sways back and forth in a gentle breeze, moonlight capping the rolling hills... and there!  A shimmer of light.  You bend down to see where the light is coming from.  It is only a reflection, glimmering on the edge of a piece of broken glass.  You look up.  Before you, a window peers at you through the darkness, like an empty eye socket, dark and mysterious.  What lays beyond this window?  Dare you take a look?

My dad is a professional artist.  He's always told me since I was very young that if I could see the picture clearly in my mind, I could paint it.  This meant anything I could think up could be rendered with a brush on canvas.

I took those words to heart.  But what my dad never expected was that my canvas would be a word document and my paintbrush a keyboard.

It goes for all writers.  If you can see it in your mind, you can paint it... with words.  Be descriptive, be detailed, be creative... and show the reader what you mean, because writers are painters too.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Suma Elvetica: a Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy – By Theodore Beale

Marcus Velerious of the renowned house of Velerious in Amorr, does not follow in the footsteps of his Father and Uncle, and their father’s before them.  Instead of a life in the army, he has chosen a more scholarly life, immersing himself in the literature and politics of the church – but this in a world where Elves, dwarves, Orcs, and Goblins do exist.   When Marcus, as a young man whose word, knowledge, and desire to further serve God has started to become noticed among certain political figures, is informed by the Sanctiff of the Church himself that he will be accompanying two well renowned priests to the elvish realms, he considers it a great honor.  But learning that this expedition is to decide whether or not the heathen elves possess souls arouses questions in Marcus that he seeks to answer through observation and reason while on his journey.  For one thing, elves do not believe in the One and Most High God, Immanuel – and as a result, often blatantly mock Him and those who serve Him.  But were not all intelligent, intellectual peoples of the earth created by God, and were not elves similarly imbued with wisdom and reason as was man… even if they do not follow God themselves?  However, elves are an alien species to man, and they are practiced in foul sorceries, which is against the very essence and commands of God – and since they are not man, nor angels, would they not then fall under the category of beasts, thus making them soulless?  But do not all men, and other free races as well, sin?  Are we not all fallen short of the glory of God?  But we can all be redeemed through Christ’s blood, and that is a gift reserved for those with souls…

And then there is always the fact that if the Elves are declared soulless, the Church will declare Holy War in an attempt to wipe out the heathen aliens.  That, of course, has to be taken into account.

Upon reaching the elven city, Marcus’ group is taken before the High Elven King, Mael, who seems already aware of why the group was sent.  They are shown around, and Marcus sees, to a small extent, the heathen and evil magics that the elven people practice.  But when Marcus learns from a young Elf Maid that there’s a plot set in motion to claim his life and that of the two priests he travels with – and that this plot is not from among the elves as would be expected, but from people in his own company who wish to see the elves killed for whatever reasons and plan to blame his and the priests death on the elves to start a war– he must trust the elf maid despite their differing religious and political outlooks – however alien she may be – in order to save his life and that of his companions… and to keep the two peoples – men and elves – from starting a war that will kill many on both sides.

My Thoughts:

I’m just going to take a moment to remind everyone that my views on this book – or any other books that I review, for that matter – are only MY views, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions and/or views of other writers and/or readers.  I’m only writing down what I thought of the book as a whole, and whatever I say (good or bad – however it falls) is not meant to offend anyone in any way, shape, or form.  If it does somehow offend you, I apologize (although I seriously hope it won’t come down to that.  :D)  I also want to warn people now that the rest of the review does contain spoilers.

To be honest, Suma Elvetica was shorter than I expected it to be – at least the story in itself – which is a complete surprise if one is looking to read a long, thick, epic fantasy book debating the morals of elves.  After the main story there are some other, smaller documents, one of which is the actual Suma Elvetica that Marcus supposedly wrote when he returned to Amorr.  (The story titled “Suma Elvetica” is actually the story of how Marcus came up with the idea and the content of the Suma which he wrote later.)  There are also a few other stories after the Suma explaining certain points in the history of Amorr that are briefly discussed in the main text, along with a lengthy note from the author that I found useful in explaining some of the questions I had while reading the book.

When I opened this book, I expected a much more intricate philosophically based story about the common, though often overlooked, fact that elves and other fantasy creatures are not man and therefore most probably could not fall under the grace God bestowed on man.  Well, it was not quite as intricate as I expected, nor as deep, but there were a few interesting conversations between debating priests that caused a person to think it over… for instance, I, as a fantasy writer, always considered that elves (whether they existed or not) did posses souls as they were similar to man in too many ways for them not to have souls.  However similar doesn’t mean they are the same.  And I’d never really considered what the difference between those two words could mean when applied in this context.  It was definitely an interesting thing to think over.  However, while it is a good question, I wouldn’t say that this question could apply to all Christian Speculative Fantasy and Science Fiction… which was the point I thought the Author just might have been trying to prove, while I know it was definitely the point he was exploring.  

For one thing, when writing Christian fantasy, one must know that while to a degree one is bound to certain rules that one must not overstep, one is not always bound by the same rules or histories of this particular world.  If you are to understand what I mean by that, take a look at the works of Tolkien, or C.S. Lewis.  In the Chronicles of Narnia, while Aslan and the Great Emperor over the Sea where figures that represented Christ – and while certain instances in the stories were almost eerily familiar to historical events of this world – it wasn’t exactly the same.  This is mostly because no writer can ever embody all of what God truly is into a written character… it just cannot be done.  Lewis was able to capture the basic essence of Christ in his portrayal of Aslan, but Aslan, while it was hinted to the fact that he represented Christ, was not the actual Christ.  That is the reason that Christian Fantasy writers use what they call “A God Figure”, that will represent their outlook and religious viewpoint of Christ, but which could never actually be a Christ figure to the full extent of which Jesus was, nor could be as complex, wonderful, or Holy as the One True God.  Even when a fantasy writer decides to make their “God figure” be the actual God as Christians look at Him today, we can still only show our own knowledge and understanding of Him in what we write… we cannot actually portray, convey, or ever comprehend all of what He actually is.  Therefore, as writers we often only portray one aspect or truth of God per story… and often by having a figure that represents our viewpoint of God.

Then we have Tolkien who built an entirely new world based on a few Norse Myths and his own imagination.   There were similarities in his peoples, religions, and histories that hinted that they came from a greater knowledge of our world and legends, yet most of the world, histories, rules, and so-forth were completely imagined by the author, and the characters never stepped foot out of those bounds.  This would be because the aim, and perhaps the privilege, of Christian fantasy writers is to show and sometimes discuss through their creative outlets certain aspects or themes discussed in our world and our religious views.  However this doesn’t mean that we have to write everything exactly the same way it is debated in this world; characters may look at something differently in a different world, and they may have different views where the rules of our world to not apply, and where the rules of another world do.  This is always what makes fantasy so fun to write and to read… and I mean, all kinds of fantasy, not just speculative fiction.

What was uniquely interesting about “Suma Elvetica” was the fact that it basically did the exact opposite of everything I just talked about above; it was set in a world that shared – almost exactly – the religious beliefs, histories, legends, and even the Latin language that would have been common to our world’s medieval catholic outlook, while also possessing histories and aspects uniquely made for that world alone.  And, in this story, there is no “God figure”… there is only God as he was known to the Catholics of our Medieval world.  AND (to top it all off) – this WAS NOT an Historical fiction.  The difficult part was not so much separating the two worlds by means of race and layout as it was separating our medieval world’s philosophical views from that world’s views.  Which was part of what made it so interesting to read and contemplate. 


It was easier to read than I anticipated, which is certainly a good thing if you are one who doesn’t like to stumble over lengthy and often meaningless passages of flowery philosophical debate.  :D  And the story in itself was an intriguing one.  As a person whose fascination with elves was born with my first reading of THE LORD OF THE RINGS which only continued from there, I was particularly curious to see how these elves were rendered… and I was slightly disappointed.  I mean, I know in epic fantasy elves are often portrayed as sorcerers and whatnot, but I like to think of them as mysterious… not so much “evil sorcerers”.  However… for this particular story, because of the debate that was being posed, the elves were portrayed in an understandable and believable way… and there was something else that redeemed them in my eyes, but I won’t say what here.  You’ll just have to go read the story now to find out what it is.  :D

Also, once I got into the story, I did not want to stop reading.  There was enough action to keep me interested, and enough information given that I could guess at reasons for certain events… a thing I like to do with any book I read.  If the author can keep my mind actively engaged while I’m reading the book, I’ll probably enjoy reading it.

However, hindsight is always a kicker.


Most of these Cons were realized only after I had finished reading the manuscript: like I said, hindsight kicks.
This book was easier to read than I anticipated.  :D  No, really!  I was ready to read something very deep, intricate, and long and this, except for a few priestly debates, did not feel very… well… deep.  At all.  At least to me.  Plus it wasn’t very long at all – only about 250 pages (rough estimate) though it says it’s over 300.  About 100 pages are filled with other documents explaining historical events and religious views, which can be helpful in understanding the text, but which make the main story’s length a slight disappointment.  

It was also hard to get into… the first half of the book is basically just riding across open, barren plains on their way to the elf kingdom while listening to religious philosophical debates about why or why not the elves have souls.  I ended up skimming through several parts that just lost my interest or didn’t seem relevant to me.   Later I was told that the author was trying to use a style similar to that used in The Canterbury Tales.  Knowing this has actually improved my view of this particular part of the book.

The second part of the book was when I started getting really interested.  Earlier during the story, I was eager to learn anything I could about these Elves that were thought not to have souls.  The second part of the book is when we actually get to meet said elves, and it's also where the action picks up.  However, once the action picked up, it seemed that most philosophical debate on the matter of the soulless elves disappeared.  And Marcus never really discusses the subject of the elves’ souls with the priests except for during one brief moment.  There are hints throughout the chapters that he just might believe they do have souls like humans do, but I felt like he kept going back and forth on the matter and was never really sure exactly what his outlook on the matter was, or which outlook he was turning towards… which was part of the reason I wasn’t wholly satisfied with the book.  In the very last chapter Marcus does tell the Sanctiff that he does believe the elves have souls and he goes on to try and explain why.

Ok, I’ll give him the fact that he’s unsure of his standpoint on the issue at the beginning of the novel, but you would think by the end of the novel the reader would know, more or less, where the MC stands… before the MC says it all himself.  

There was also a moment where the sorcery of the elves (before only described as evil and what-not) was shown in a most disturbing manner.  However, that said, in most Christian Fantasy books there is a point in the story where the evil is shown in its most despicable form before any part of the book can get any better… (I can certainly name certain areas in different manuscripts of mine where there is a chapter or two that shows the character of my villain in his prime and full extant.)  That is a normal aspect of fantasy, so I wasn’t too perturbed by the scene, as it was shown the way it was meant to be shown. 

I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

As a story in itself, it’s a pretty good read, and it’s definitely captivating once you start getting into it.  And it poses some very intriguing questions that a fantasy writer would not be wrong to question themselves or their stories over, and for that alone – along with the internal debate it can easily inflict in a writer, thus revealing interesting character traits and story plot twists – it should definitely be read.  (I say this, because that seems to be the effect it had on me.)  However, the external plot seemed lacking in several parts when compared with the internal plot, thus making the book feel not entirely satisfying.  Yet even with the cons taken into account, this was a book worth reading. 

I hope this review makes sense and doesn’t feel like mindless babbling by the time you get to the end of it.  

Happy reading everyone!!!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Change Can Be A Good Thing...

You know, writing this post was an interesting experience.

"Forest Bridge" representing "A Bridge of Change" (for this blog
picture found at:
For one thing, by last post was about "change", and I asked everyone what they thought of changing the look around "The Pen and Parchment" which had looked the same since I started blogging in April.  Well, as you can see, I've started working out the changes around here: new header, new background, and I'm thinking about changing my blog button... as well as drastically shortening my posts.  (Yes, I've gone back through the posts of last year.  And MY WORD, you guys!  I sure was long winded!)

The second reason it was interesting to write this post is that "change" was what the sermon was about at my church this morning... physical and spiritual change.  Last week the pastor challenged the congregation to get physically fit by June, and to continue (always) to work on their spiritual relationship with God.  Before this challenge I had already decided to challenge myself to loose the weight I need to before summer.  I've been loosing slowly, but it's time to kick my butt in gear and crack down.  And what better time to commit to change than at the beginning of a new year?  (Yes, I said "commit"... I've vowed that this resolution won't end up half-finished.  However, the subject of commitment requires a different post.)

But you see, even that last reason isn't the one I chose to write this post about.  No, this post is about change in your novel - or my novel, as the case stands.

You remember my "finished" manuscript, Song of the Daystar?    Well... the hard truth is that a book is never really "finished" until it is on the printing press and the author has no way to get in and change things.

And before you ask, Yes SOTD is still under submission: no, I haven't gotten word of whether it is accepted or rejected yet.

But... I was blessed with a truly insightful beta reader since submitting SOTD who has pointed out a few serious character inconsistencies at the beginning of what once was considered the "finished" version of my manuscript.  And she has also kept my imagination fed when my pool of inspiration has grown stagnant from lack of ideas.  This beta reader is Adele Treskillard, and I would just like to take a moment to sincerely thank her for all her help.

Thanks Adele!!! :D

She's really great.

However, to fix these inconsistencies, the entire beginning (about 6-8 chapters worth) has be rewritten with a different premise.  And to do this correctly, at least three characters have to go.  They just aren't important enough and can be replaced by characters who are stronger and better for the roll.

Does this hurt?  Well... maybe.  It hurts my heart just a little to think of cutting and changing so much.  But it doesn't hurt the novel at all; instead it makes it stronger.  And, to be completely honest with myself and you readers, I'm really excited about these changes.  Totally stoked, in fact.  I haven't felt this ready to write since October... (November doesn't count: as soon as I sat down to do Nano, all my ideas flew out the window.)

So... *pours self and blog-followers an invisible drink of nonalcoholic white grape fizzy drink*... Here's to change in the New Year... change of all types, shapes, colors, textures, sounds, and mice... er, price.  (hehe!)

*clinks glass and gulps fizzy white grape drink down*

Ah!  So much better... now I can move on.  :D

Monday, January 3, 2011

Change Anyone?

Some people say change is good...

But what if you can't decide?  No, this isn't a post about changing your novel or anything (though, come to think of it, that wouldn't be a bad thing to write about...)  Rather, this is a post about changing the look of "The Pen and Parchment".  It's been the same since April.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but to be honest, I'm getting a little tired of the same look.

So what is your guys' opinion?  Change it or leave it the same?

And while we're on the subject of change, what do you guys think of my posts?  Would you like them to be more informative, more personal... what?  I never thought I would ask, but now I am and the main reason is because I don't want to feel like I'm rambling.

I'm also thinking about starting a book review blog... but I haven't decided whether to do it or not.

So, what do you think?  Let me know.  And I'll continue to play around with the ideas too.

Thanks!  :D


Sunday, January 2, 2011

“Invasion” – by Jon S. Lewis

Colt McAlister was having the summer of his life.  He spent his days surfing and his nights playing guitar on the beach with friends.  He even met a girl and got his first car.  But everything changes when his parents are killed in a freak accident.

He’s forced to leave his old life behind and move to Arizona with his grandfather.  The only person he knows at the new high school is a childhood friend named Dani.  And Oz, a guy he’s sure he’s never met but who is strangely familiar.

But what if his parents’ death wasn’t an accident?  His mother, an investigative reporter, was going to expose the secret mind control program run by one of the world’s largest companies.  Before she could release the story, what if agents from Trident Biotech made sure she couldn’t go public?

Vowing to uncover the truth, Colt gets drawn into a secret world of aliens, shapeshifters, flying motorcycles, and invisible gateways.

He didn’t ask for the job, but now all that stands between us and CHAOS… is Colt.

The invasion has begun.

My thoughts:

As a story in its self, this book was engaging and interesting… if it seemed a little corny at times.  Every time I sat down to read it, I really didn’t want to put it down.  I even stayed up until 5 am one night to finish it.  And you know a book is good when it does that to you.  J

However, like I mentioned before, it did seem a little bit cheesy at times.  The whole plot is basically that the aliens and Super heroes out of certain comic books are real.  I never was a super huge fan of comic books in the first place (though I’ll check out a graphic novel if it’s based on one of my favorite stories).  The idea of comic book aliens being real and really trying to take over the world… well, in my opinion it’s sort of been done before.   This book just didn’t feel very original to me.  That’s not to say it wasn’t good… just not original.  To be honest, I kept thinking of James Patterson’s “Daniel X” books, as I was reading this.  And I guess that could be taken two ways, since I really like the “Daniel X” books.

The other thing I notices was that, even though it’s published by Thomas Nelson, there’s hardly any real mention of God or Church, or anything similar.  Colt went to church a couple of times when his Grandpa made him go, and then he started going because there was a girl there he sort of liked.  Other than that, there’s really not anything that might help in growing a person’s faith, or even in improving the character’s relationship with God.  In fact, Colt’s main mission is to get revenge for the deaths of his parents.

There were a few other things I could have nit picked, but they are probably just my own personal preferences.  “Invasion” is, over all, a pretty good read… but one I might have found at any other major publishing house.  I give it 3 stars out of 5.  If you’re looking for an interesting bit of high action science fiction – comic-book style – then this is a very good read for you.  Even if you just want high action, or just the science fiction.  But don’t read this book really expecting to learn anything spiritual, or to confirm a belief.  This one is purely entertaining.