Monday, January 30, 2012

Pursuing Creativity in 2012 – My New Year’s resolution

Well friends, it is 2012 – the year that I am claiming as “The Year of Creativity”.  My prayer is that it will also be “The Year of Productivity”, and you will find that I have a very good reason for wanting this.  But I will get to that later.

For right now, let’s discuss “creativity”.  In the dictionary, creativity is defined as the ability to use the imagination to develop new and original ideas or things, especially in an artistic context; it is, in essence, the quality of being creative.  As writers, we are constantly creating… even when it appears to others that we are doing nothing at all.  This is because, to those who are creative at heart, our minds simply cannot STOP creating.

It’s true!  How many of you writers out there have decided you were going to read a book simply for the pleasure of it, and catch yourself comparing character traits and notarizing world building techniques by the middle of the third or fourth chapter?  How about those of you who glance out the window simply to see the landscape and find yourself contemplating the purpose of your characters’ journeys, or perhaps you start worrying over landmarks for your map, or you see a bird or a bug of some kind and get an awesome new idea for a unique creature?  Maybe you turn on the television to watch the news and begin to ponder the political standing of your characters, the government of their cities, or the religions of their world.  Do you ever sit in a church service taking notes for allegorical themes and hidden messages to incorporate into your story from your pastor’s sermon?

I have done all of those things and let me tell you – sometimes I get seriously exhausted from the fact that my mind quite simply refuses to SHUT UP.  I don’t MEAN to think about those things at those times… I simply can’t help it.  I have no control over the matter… it just happens.

But for the last couple years I’ve been seriously struggling with getting these thoughts onto paper – or perhaps better worded, into the computer.  I LOVE to write, but of all the activities that I find myself doing, writing is the one creative outlet it seems that I neglect.  It used to be that I would sneak away any chance I got to sit down and flesh out a scene for my book… but for the longest time now, I’ve had no will – no inspiration – to do such things.

Hopefully for no longer. 

My “sabbatical” from writing has lasted almost two years now against my will.  It has been a struggle to get the words out right, and then I grow weary of trying… so I stop, saying that I will pick it up again when I am more up to the challenge.  But I have come to realize that this will never happen unless I make myself up for it, and I berate myself for stopping at all.  Without pushing forward, of course I will always be stunted by that one obstacle that stands in my way; without persevering, of course I will be overcome by a problem that might have otherwise been easy to solve.

So this is my year of creativity.  This is the year that I take back the inspiration and perseverance that was always mine before.

And with that in mind, this is also the year that I claim as “The Year of Productivity”.  Not only am I going to work to get SOTD out of this rut that it’s been stuck in for so long, but I have some other exciting news as well… ^_^

MAGPIE ECLECTIC PRESS is almost ready to start accepting submissions! :D

(You may have noted the name change… and there’s good reason for it that I won’t go into right now. ;D)

That’s right, people!  Though I may have been neglecting my writing life, I have not neglected my research.  It has been six months to the day that I posted that Blog Post about wanted to start a publishing company.  But as I mentioned in that post, the idea has been simmering in my heart for several years, and I had been researching the subject long before I decided to share about it for the first time.    I thought back in August that to get the company set up correctly would take several years – and I don’t think I was wrong, but I also don’t think I was looking at the full picture.  Because, you see, I had already done lots of research beforehand, and since August, I’ve done even more. 

The other day I was able to get the site together and ready to launch.  I found a few typos afterward that needed to be corrected, but they are due to the fact that I typed up most of what is said on the site in a Word Document, and for some reason the site builder that I’m using doesn’t accept “smart quotes” and “smart apostrophes”… therefore leaving many of my contractions without an apostrophe at all.  :P  I was able to get those corrected.  There are a few other details I’m still working to get cleared up before I can start accepting submissions, but I’m confident that Magpie Eclectic will open its doors sometime within the next few months. 

Of course, this is an extremely exciting time for me.  As many of you know (simply because I’ve said it before… over and over again…) I’ve never tried anything like this before.  But I’m not backing down… not even a little.  I’ve been studying this industry since I was 17, and ok, that means it’s only been almost 8 years (much less that some people out there), but that’s still a whole 8 years dedicated to learning the business of writing and publishing.  Plus I’m earning a degree in English, was previously a writing tutor, and have done editing jobs on the side… not to mention the fact that I did once teach a creative writing class for young adults.  I’ve even had a few things published (well… mostly in the college literary journal, but still), and was afterward made a part of the same literary journal’s production team. 

I know this makes me sound like I’m bragging, but I’m not trying to.  Really.  Actually, if anything, I’m telling this to you simply to help convince myself that I can handle this.   Or at least I hope I can. <_<

So keep your eyes open for more news on the opening of Magpie Eclectic Press.  If you are interested in visiting the site, here’s the link, but we aren’t open for submissions just yet:

And on that same note, I hope that some of you will also claim this year as THE year for creativity and productivity.  I totally believe it is.  By God’s grace I will be able to move forward, no longer stuck in 2011… this is 2012!

Nichole White

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fun in Music


As some of you know, I am a college student working towards a double major in English and Music.  Last year was my first semester in Music Theory (even though I've been at my college doing gen-eds for three years now... :P).  I was so excited!  I had a lot of fun last year learning as much as I could about music and how it all works together.  I also started piano lessons.  But the best part of all was learning how to write music.

Now, I've been a musician for years... I sing, and write songs, play the guitar, and I could still plunk out songs on the piano, even though I couldn't read or write music.  But now, I'm starting to understand how music works together and it's PHENOMENAL!  I love it so much!

I spent a lot of time in the piano practice rooms last year, composing small pieces and writing down the music.  One of the pieces that I wrote I was actually able to play for my piano final, which was super exciting!  Afterward, I decided I wanted to be able to listen to it, so I found a software that let me play around with synthesized sounds to create music.  Following the sheet music I had, I put the notes in and played around with them a bit, adding some here and there.  This is how it turned out and I hope you like it!  The song is titled "Waves" because the music made me think of the ocean.  It's a little repetative, but I hope in this next semester to be able to add bits and pieces to it to make it more... eh... interesting. :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

“Replication” by Jill Williamson – a Review

Hello friends,

It has been a while since I’ve had the time or a sufficient connection to the internet with which to post something more meaningful. I hope you all had a good holiday! Mine has been quite full to say the very least, and while I know that college starts again on the 17th, I’d swear that classes got out for Christmas only a week ago… Oh well. No matter how short the vacation was, it was still time off, and I’m thankful for it. Just know that when school starts again, I’ll be able to blog more often: it definitely helps when you have a reliable connection to the web. But, the time off has helped me get back some of my personal priorities too, like writing (I’ve made some new leeway in SOTD, but I’ll talk more of that at a later time) and like… sleep. In fact, sleep has become so much a priority that sometimes my parents become aggravated; they ask how a person can spend so much time with their eyes closed, and I tell them it’s to make up for a whole semester of trying desperately to stay awake 24/7. Lol! College takes its toll, my friends. Especially when you fill your class schedule with as much as you can manage. I really need to fix that… :P

But enough chit-chat!

Today I’m writing a review for Jill Williamson’s newest book just recently released through Zondervan, titled “Replication”. I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive an invitation for an ARC. Jill is one of the most respected authors on my long and still growing list of favorite authors, and one of the most anticipated. I haven’t posted a review on her “Blood of Kings” trilogy yet, but I will be posting one sometime this year (when I finish the third book. ;D). Besides that however, who wouldn’t be intrigued by the premise? A main character named Martyr? A farm solely dedicated to cloning humans? What’s not to like? :D

Here’s the blurb so you can read it for yourself:

Martyr – also known as Jason 3:3 – is one of hundreds of clones kept in a remote facility called Jason Farms. Told that he has been created to save humanity, Martyr has just one wish before he is scheduled to “expire” in less than a month. To see sky.

Abby Goyer may have just moved to Alaska, but she has a feeling something strange is going on at the farm where her father works. But even this smart, confident girl could never have imagined what lies beneath a simple barn. Or what would happen when a mysterious boy shows up at her door asking about the stars.

As the reality of the Jason Experiment comes to light, Martyr is caught between two futures – the one for which he was produced, and the one Abby believes God created him to have. Time is running out, and Martyr must decide if a life with Abby is work leaving everything he’s ever known.

Now about the author:

Jill Williamson is a novelist, dreamer, and believer. She grew up in Alaska and loved to read books. In 2010 her first novel, “By Darkness Hid” won the Christy Award. She loves to work with teens, and she gives writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches. Currently she lives in Oregon with her husband and two children. And of course you can find out more about her, her writing projects, and her books at

Also, a word in edgewise, Jill is simply a really awesome person to hang around. I don’t know her very well, but I was able to meet her once in person and it was such an honor. If first impressions are anything to go by, Jill made a good one. She was kind, fun-loving, and she smiled a lot. And come on! What’s not to love about setting out to meet one of your favorite authors for the first time, and having her greet you wearing a medieval Lord of the Rings style dress. ;)

My thoughts about the book: WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Replication was not quite what I anticipated… it was much better! When I first started looking into the book, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. How would the clones be portrayed? Why had they never seen sky? Just what exactly did Abby’s father do? I wondered at first if the book wouldn’t have similar qualities to the movie i-robot (which is, by the way, one of my favorite futuristic films.) My mind predicted clichés in Science Fiction, and I pondered the possibilities.

I shouldn’t have worried… my mind couldn’t have been more wrong.

Replication is all about finding God’s purpose for our life and living out that purpose to the fullest. And what is that purpose exactly? Why, it’s living for Him, of course!

The main character, Martyr, is quite simple upon first glance, but we soon find out that he’s much more complicated than his “creators” ever thought likely. They knew he was smart, but they didn’t expect his ability to mentally think over problems to work so well, nor did they think his endless questioning would actually render useful answers.

Martyr’s one wish to see the sky before he expires is what first compels him to disobey the rules. Now for him, this is hard as he doesn’t like to lie – at all – which is an intriguing quality in Martyr’s character that brought into retrospect several interesting thoughts about the consequences of lying. Martyr is also very naïve, an aspect that has him asking curious (and sometimes almost embarrassing) questions throughout the course of the book. This aspect also has him regret simple sins that most of us in today’s world would overlook entirely or justify. That fact in itself was an eye-opener, but it was written into the book in such a way that it wasn’t overwhelming.

Having lived his whole life without ever seeing the outside world, Martyr’s first glimpse of some things in our world – like the sky, the sun, a moose, a car – all were slightly choppy and vague, pieced together with what little he already knew of the world. This was a most satisfying element in Martyr’s character, and one that isn’t exactly easy to pull off, but Jill managed to do it with grace and believability. It’s like a writer asking themselves, “How would I describe something of this nature to a blind person? Or a person who has never seen it before and has no notion of what it is?” The trouble is always in keeping elements that you yourself find obvious knowledge out of the description, and comparing the experience to things that the character would already know.

Here’s an example from the book so that you can see what I mean. It depicts the first time Martyr get’s a good glimpse at the sky:

The sky stretched overhead like a very high, blue ceiling – a lighter color of blue than the picture of Myrtle Beach, but darker than Rolo’s eyes. The sun hung up in the sky, as well, somehow staying there without falling to the ground. It did not have a smiling face or long beams stretching out on all sides like the pictures Dr. Max had drawn. It was a pale, round ball of brightness. It hurt his eyes to start at the sun, so he studied the clouds instead. They were fluffy and white like the snow. (he had already seen snow at this point.)

I thought Jill managed this part of Martyr’s character very well. It was almost like I was seeing these things for the first time too, as I was reading the book. Notice that the sky was like a ceiling, something Martyr had seen before, and the sun was not like the smiley faced drawing he had been shown in the past. These descriptions kept the experience alive and fresh in my mind to the very end of the book.

Of course, the questions Jill posed in this book were good ones: Are clones actually “people”? If they were “created” (so to speak) by man, then did they actually have a purpose beyond the one given to them by man?

In the book, the character of Abby Goyer certainly believed so. Abby is a Christian, though her father is not. She is the one who befriends Martyr in the outside world. Martyr, curious about anything and everything, asks Abby some simple questions about her faith and God which then turn into more complicated ones. Why does she “pray” over her food? Who is she talking to? And so forth and so on. The most interesting thing about these questions was that they truly played on Abby’s knowledge of her faith. How was she going to explain these simple acts that she had taken for granted all of her life to a person who had never, ever heard of such a thing before? And the hardest part was that Martyr’s questions grew larger and more complicated, until she didn’t have answers for them at all.

This part of the story really got me thinking about how well I know my own faith. I’m a Christian, but just how well do I actually know what that means and entails? Or do I just go through the motions half the time, like Abby did on occasion, doing simple things just because it goes along with my faith? And what exactly is my faith? What does it mean, and why do I believe as I do? These questions should all be simple… I’ve faced them before, as most Christians have at one time or another. But the book started me thinking about them again. And, one of the best parts of the book, in my opinion, was watching Martyr come into his faith. He would do things that seemed so simple and sweet… and sometimes things that even Abby couldn’t understand.


Like when he gave one of his kidneys to the doctor who had cloned him and was going to kill him for both kidneys. Abby asked why he would do such a thing, and clearly thought that he didn’t have to and really shouldn’t have. After all, Dr. Kane, who was dying slowly of Lupus, had been planning the whole time to kill Martyr for no other reason than he wanted his kidneys. Dr. Kane’s justification was that Martyr was a clone, clearly not a real human, and therefore the act was not really murder at all. But as the story progresses there was no doubt in my mind (as I’m sure there will not be in yours) that Martyr and all of the other clones were most definitely human and that Dr. Kane’s actions would have been murder, whether he thought so or not.

Martyr’s answer to Abby’s question opened Abby’s eyes to a completely new meaning and depth of the faith that she called her own. He said simply, “Because Jesus would have done it.”

Abby’s reply was that Jesus didn’t have the option of giving away his kidney, especially to a criminal man like Dr. Kane.

But then Martyr quoted from the book of Luke: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. And then he tells Abby, “I have done so for Dr. Kane. That was my purpose for him.”

(End spoiler)

Wow. I mean really, WOW. That depth, that understanding of God’s true purpose for us… it’s all written right there in the Bible, but how many of us actually think of that verse’s meaning to the extent that Martyr did? How many of us take God’s word and truth that far?

This book was an eye opener. Not only was it compelling science fiction that kept me turning pages long into the night, but it held truths and perceptions that I had either not thought of before, or that I had let my understanding of them go rusty. This was a book well worth reading.

The one trouble I had with the book (and mind you, it is a very small trouble), was how Martyr killed Dr. Elliot. I know it was a sort of pre-considered self defense, and that both Dr. Elliot and Martyr had a mutual dislike of one another… and I know that Dr. Elliot was just plain cruel, partially for the sake of being cruel… but I saw no remorse in Martyr afterward, and for a boy who would give an evil scientist one of his kidneys because that’s what God would have wanted, this seemed partially uncharacteristic.

However, that was just one small scene. Hardly more than a few paragraphs really. Let it not dissuade you from picking up this most excellent book.

I give this book 4 ½ stars out of 5. It was an epic read, and quite memorable for me. That in itself is something to say, as I have read many books, but only a few hold places on my “memorable” list. ;) This is one of them. It’s fresh, funny in all the right places, serious when it needs to be, and fast paced all through. It’s not like any science fiction book I’ve ever read before, and I’ve read enough to tell. I highly recommend this one.

Good luck, Jill, with your other writing endeavors. I know I look forward to reading future books by you. God bless.

And God bless all of you reading this! Go pick up this book: it is definitely worth it. ^_^

Until next time, my friends, HAPPY WRITING! And reading.

Nichole White