Monday, February 20, 2012

Ross Lawhead's "The Realms Thereunder"

Hello and welcome to the blog tour for Ross Lawhead's book "The Realm's Thereunder". Ross Lawhead is the son of well known British Speculative Fiction writer, Steven Lawhead, and let's make no mistake, he has definitely decided to follow in the footsteps of his literary father. To date, He has collaborated with his father on a trilogy of speculative fiction, written and illustrated a graphic novel, and published two volumes of “awful” poetry in a series called “The Colour Papers.” He lives in Oxford, England and "The Realms Thereunder" is his first full-length novel.

Ok, I have to be extremely honest here: I am not very familiar with many of Steven Lawhead's books, and I know that's awful since I love speculative fiction -- especially Arthurian fiction -- and time travel and British literature intrigue me. I actually have quite a few of Mr. Lawhead's books at home, but haven't gotten around to reading them yet, as sad as that is. In the past I have read Mr. Lawhead's book "The Skin Map" and reviewed it here on the P&P, and I also received a copy of the second book in that series titled "The House of Bones", which I am planning to review hopefully soon. (I was supposed to review it a while ago, but I'm still picking my way through it; I find it -- eh -- dense, as in the book is rather thick, and it's content really needs to be thought over thoroughly. Dense books always take me longer to get through. :P) I like what I've read of Mr. Lawhead's books, even if I find the works a bit "scattered". Perhaps that's just me though. It's hard to tell sometimes. *shrug*

When I saw that Mr. Lawhead's son had written and published a novel, taking after his father, I was very intrigued. I decided that I should definitely try the book out and see if I liked it, and I figured I probably would, especially after having read the blurb for the book. Here it is:

Ancient legend tells of an army of knights that will remain sleeping until the last days.

The knights are waking up.

A homeless man is stalked by a pale, wraithlike creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. Maimed animals and a host of suicides cluster around a mountain in Scotland. And deep beneath the cobbled streets of Oxford, a malicious hoard besieges a hidden city.

Freya Reynolds is a university student with a touch of OCD and an obsession with myth and folklore. Daniel Tully is living rough on the streets of Oxford, waging a secret war against an enemy only he can identify. Years ago, they found themselves in a world few know is real. They have since gone their separate ways and tried to put that adventure behind them.

But the mythical world is now bleeding into our reality-a dark spiritual evil that is manifesting itself in forgotten corners of the British Isles. Alex Simpson is a Scottish police officer who specializes in hunting mythical creatures. Together, they must confront the past, the present, and points beyond to defeat the ultimate threat to humanity.

Nothing they've seen so far prepares them for what awaits . . . in The Realms Thereunder.

Now come on, you have to admit that this sounds like a cool story, am I right? ^_^ So I was very happy when I had the chance to get the book from the CSFF blog tour and read through it. Currently I'm almost 80% through the book, and still reading. This review is on what I have read of the book so far and what I think of it to date. It may be that I have to update this review after I get the book completely finished, but we'll just have to see. :)

My thoughts:

Ross Lawhead definitely takes after his father, no question. He is a good writer, and his prose are well placed, and engaging. He certainly has many good ideas and knows how to put interesting details into his stories that help flesh out characters, places and scenes. And I do like his style of writing... it has a definite "British" air about it, and I often find myself reading it aloud with an accent. *smirk*

However (and I think this is unfortunate), I find this work to be as scattered as I find his father's works to be, to date.

I don't say that to seem mean or rude, and like I said, it could just be me. I'm not sure. But let me try to explain what I mean. Up to this point in the story, the book has worked to juggle four different story lines: one for Daniel at this point in time, one for Freya at this point in time, one for Alex at this point in time, and one for Fraya and Daniel when they were children. Each story line is different -- unique to say the very least -- and thoroughly engaging. HOWEVER, at this moment I find it difficult to see how the four different story lines relate to each other. At 80% through the book, I have yet to see the story lines mesh so that the characters can meet and work together to defeat this ancient evil that threatens the world, as is stated will happen in the second to last paragraph of the blurb. Right now, Daniel is currently in another world altogether; Freya is completely spacing out, and coming to every few years or so (maybe... it's difficult to tell what's going on there); Alex was almost killed by a dragon in the modern world; and back in time, Freya and Daniel are searching for an evil heart of some sort.

Now, the author has 20% of the book left to convince me that these storylines will all eventually work together and the story will align. I'm definitely going to keep reading. But at this moment this doesn't feel like one good story; it feels like four good stories, that may have similarities involved, but that really don't have much in common. I'll just have to wait and see what happens closer to the end of the book -- reserve my final judgment until I get the whole picture. Perhaps I will end up changing my thoughts and will have to come back and change my opinions in this review. I don't know.

On another note, I have two copies of this book in reality - a paperback copy that was given to me for the blog tour, and then after I bought my new kindle I went ahead and got an e-book version as well. I've been switching on and off between the two versions of the book, and while I have so far had no real troubles with the physical copy, I've found several formatting issues with the digital copy. These aren't grammatical errors that I'm talking about; these are more like cut offs in the middle of a sentence while the rest of the sentence starts a new paragraph, or paragraphs doing much the same thing. It's rather annoying. :P And to be quite honest, for a book that came out through Thomas Nelson, I expected a better job. I don't know if others have noticed the same problems or not, but it's definitely something that troubles me. I wish it were different.

I honestly must say that I HATE to give negative reviews of any sort. And I especially hate to give negative reviews to good writers, because the truth of the matter is that Ross Lawhead is ABSOLUTELY a good writer. I've kept reading, after all, and I'm going to continue reading to the end. Truth to tell, it's a catchy story, even if it makes no sense to me at the moment. But that's just it: it makes no sense to me at the moment. I may keep reading, and I may even like what I'm reading (which I do), but I can't pretend I know what's going on, even so far into the book. It's confusing right now, scattered all over the place, and the plot lines just don't match up. Hopefully things will improve by the time I reach the end.

Don't let my review deter you from checking out this book for yourself though. For more reviews on this book and other Christian Speculative titles, please visit a few of the links below. I'm sure that others' opinions will differ. :)

Also, you can find more about Ross and his book at:


Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Joan Nienhuis
Crista Richey
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writing Days -- An Excerpt from "Song of the Daystar"

It has been a very LONG time since I've posted a writing excerpt. :)  I thought it would be fun to start doing that again, especially since work on SOTD has started to pick up once more.

As many of you already know, I'm working on a new rewrite for SOTD... I started after I got the reply from the publisher who was looking at my manuscript.  They thought I had a good story concept, but they thought that I didn't do it justice.  It took me a couple months of setting SOTD aside before I realized that they were right and I decided to start fresh... same characters, improved concept, story, and writing.

That was about a year ago, and since then I've been in a long stall... only three new chapters were turned out in a whole year, and everything's been on hold since.  My love of writing never digressed, but suddenly it became so much easier to put it off, and put it off, until I really had no more good excuses... just the fact that I didn't want to do it right then.

(This will lead up to a new post on Procrastination, I'm thinking... perhaps I'll be able to get that up in a day or two. ^_^)

But last weekend I decided it was time to stop stalling.  I went back and read over the three chapters I had rewritten previously, and decided that the first chapter started a little too late into the story.  So I started writing a new first chapter... one that really does start at the beginning where it should, instead of jumping right into the action where everything has to be laid out and explained in back story and the like.  This chapter is much truer to what I envisioned the beginning of the story to look and sound like, and already it's made it easier for me to plan out the next few moves. (That was one problem I had with the other rewrite... I got to a point where I felt like I couldn't move forward because there was still too much to go back and explain. :P)

I was able to write 1,513 words for the new first chapter on Sunday, and now I'm going to share them with you. :)  Note that this excerpt ends in a rather odd place, since I truly have not had time to work on the piece until today.  I'm hoping to get more done on it this afternoon after I finish the 8 measure composition due tomorrow morning for my Music Theory class, and finish the errands that my mom has me running for.

Until then, though, here's what I have up to this point:

Chapter 1
The Boy with a Secret

            The stable was cold and steeped in darkness when Curron stepped in and drew the door shut behind him.  Soft nickers drifted out to him from the stalls, followed by several welcoming snorts.  Shivering from his early morning walk, Curron latched the door with his free hand and reached out to grab the old lantern from its post.  The cold metal handle bit into the palm of his skin sending tingles up his arms, and for the hundredth time Curron wished he could afford a set of gloves.  He tipped his candle to the lantern’s wick and warm light flooded the walkway before him.  Several long muzzles poked into the aisle and dark eyes glistened at him from the cubicles lining either side of the path.  
Holding the lantern out in front, Curron made his way to the back wall where the feed was barreled.  The horses shifted to follow his progress, snorting quiet greetings and stretching their noses over stall doors for him to fondle as he passed.  A few reached out and yanked his clothing with their teeth, asking after the wrinkled apples hidden in his pockets. 
Curron winced each time he heard the fibers of his shirt pop.  The mornings were growing colder as the autumn months progressed.  Sooner or later he’d have to ask Téagh for another set of clothes if he didn’t want to catch frostbite or worse in the winter months, and it was inevitable that Téagh would be annoyed.  Téagh was annoyed at most things.  Only two winters had passed since the last time the old stable master had bartered a boy’s shirt and leggings off a servant for Curron’s sake.  The clothes had been too big for Curron then, at only twelve, but now the pants were up to his shins and the shirt stretched taught over his back.  He was afraid that someday soon the shirt might rip open, leaving him in nothing but his trousers and his skin.  Then how would he manage through winter? 
At the back of the barn, he hung the lantern on the nail protruding above the grain bins, picked up the pitchfork leaning against the wall, and turned back to his charges.  Cold and dark as it was, it was still worth rising before dawn each day to spend time alone in the stables.  It was the one place he was free to be entirely himself, the one place he could escape his nightmares. Horses always listened and were never judgmental; they didn’t care if you were a prince or a pauper, so long as they were treated with kindness and respect.  Which was good since Curron was far from princely.
“Alright then,” he said to no one in particular. “Who’s hungry?”  Grabbing up a fistful of oats from the nearest barrel, he approached the first stall and held his arm out to the occupant.  “How about you, Nathahl?” he crooned.  “Is your belly sticking to your ribs yet?”
Large dark eyes winked out at Curron from the shadows of the stall.  Several moments later the eyes drew nearer and a warm, velvety nose found its way into his palm to lip timidly at the grains.      
Calm flooded Curron’s senses at the familiar touch, easing the worry that still lingered from his bad dreams.  Setting the pitchfork against the stall door, he reached up, threaded his fingers through Nathahl’s dark mane, and sighed.  The horse’s warmth seeped into his cold hands and up through his shivering arms.  His muscles relaxed as the heat spread to his shoulders and rolled through his back. To Curron, there was nothing so consoling as the feel and smell of horse.  His charges were like family. 
It was humans who were strange, even if he must count himself among them.
            Curron closed his eyes and leaned forward, pressing his head against the small white star on the bridge of Nathahl’s nose, allowing his emotions to uncoil.  The Black knew of his dreams, of course; it wasn’t something Curron could hide from him.   The nightmares had been growing steadily worse, and Nathahl sensed them as deeply as Curron did.  He often woke hours before dawn now, panting and sweating through his bedclothes though the hearth’s fire had long since retreated into the coals and the room was cold and still.  Several months before, in a rare moment of visible concern, Téagh had insisted Curron visit the Fort Infirmary, but none of the Healers’ treatments improved the dreams or eased his sleep. Commander Olan had berated him for valuable time lost. 
Curron breathed in deep and let his mind brushed against Nathahl’s consciousness, light and airy as the tips of feathers.  The thoughts and feelings of the other horses crowded forward, eager to comfort him, eager to grab his attention, but he didn’t immerse himself.  Not this time.  He touched each of their minds and gave them all one order.
Be still.  You will get your turns in a bit.
Their wild blood pressed against the boundaries of his command, but he shielded his thoughts from them.  They were wild, yes, but he was strong… thanks to Nathahl’s guidance.  If Commander Olan ever discovered his secret, it might be the death of him, but the Black had taught him well.  Nathahl humbly shook his neck as Curron let his thanks touch the Black’s mind.  He nipped the cuff of Curron’s sleeve and nickered softly in his ear.
 Curron had no idea how long he’d been standing like that – an hour, maybe, or a few minutes – when a draft of cold air broke his concentration.  Nathahl snorted uneasily, stamping a hoof to the ground.  Curron opened his eyes and the Black jerked its head away.  The horse grunted at something over Curron’s shoulder and pranced back into the shadows of its stall.
            The sound erupted from nowhere and echoed through the rafters, rending the silence in two and sending the rest of the horses into frenzy.  Curron spun around, stretching out his mind to quiet them.  He caught snatches of their thoughts and his muscles tensed.
            Stranger! they warned.  Predator.  Bloodlust. 
            Curron’s eyes skimmed the shadows for danger as he moved down the line, placing his hand on each horse’s muzzle to calm it.  He’d never seen them so uneasy before; not in their own stalls, not while he was near.  Their minds resisted him until finally he had to force his way in between the cracks of their fears and compel comforting thoughts to take the place of terror.  It was no easy task.  By the time he reached the end of the stalls, his chest hurt and he felt like he hadn’t slept in a week.  
            He turned back toward the lantern and the pitchfork he’d left leaning against Nathahl’s stall.  It seemed so far away now, but if he finished his work quickly, maybe he’d still have an hour or two to rest before Téagh was up and yelling for him.  He took a step forward, sagged against a support beam, and yelped as a large rust-colored bird swooped down over his shoulder, missing him by inches. It lifted into the rafters and stared down at him with golden predatory eyes as if unsure what it wanted to do with him.
            “Now that’s some trick you’ve got there,” a deep, rich voice commented from somewhere behind him. 
            Curron spun, searching the shadows for the source of the voice.  His eyes roved over the cubicles one by one, but found nothing.  The lantern’s light, once offering warmth and comfort, now splayed across the floor in a pitiful pool of insipid gold reflecting like flames in the eyes of the raptor perched aloft.      
            “The horses,” the voice explained, “They respond to you like none I’ve seen.  ‘Tis a rare talent, that.  A pity it’s wasted in such a place as this.  But then again, Olan never was one to recognize ability.” 
A dark figure pealed itself away from one shadowed corner and stepped forward.  It had a slight frame draped in the dark billows of a traveler’s cloak with the hood pulled up to hide most of its features.  Only the lower part of its face was completely visible, dark ginger stubble shadowing its chin and upper lip.  A twinkle of eyes glimmered out at Curron from the darkness beneath the hood, assessing him, judging him…
Curron glanced up as the hawk warbled a few curious notes and tilted its head at him.  It followed his movements closely, shuffling back and forth on its post, its talons scratching along the beams. 
The stranger tipped his head back to follow Curron’s gaze.  “Ah,” he said.  “That’s just Aigneis.  You needn’t fear her, if that’s what you’re so anxious about.  She’ll fight like the guardians of Grimwryld themselves if I ask her, and she’s got a call to chill the blood, but she won’t attack without incentive.”  He lifted an arm and the hawk screeched again, spreading its wings and drifting down to alight on its master’s shoulder.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Updates on my life… And no, I’m not Dead Yet

It has been a long time since I’ve posted something meaningful on this blog, and I truly am sorry for that.  I honestly can’t say why that would be, either.  It’s not that I don’t have lots of interesting things to talk about, because I do… I suppose.  And it’s not necessarily that I don’t have time for it either, because I suppose I have that as well. 
Perhaps it’s just sheer procrastination.  I’m not sure anymore.  I’m busy, as always, but that is really no excuse.  I’ve just plain been avoiding it, I guess.  On a side note, I’m in some pretty desperate need of a solid job, and though I’ve been applying all over and have had several interviews, I’ve yet to be hired.  It’s rather discouraging, to be truthful, but people keep telling me that perhaps it’s because I just haven’t found the right job yet, and that God knows which one I need.  I keep praying about it.  Hopefully something will come up soon.

But speaking of interesting jobs and what not, there’s been no end to creative release for my overly active mind.  Over the holidays I made a TON of new jewelry.  I also lost my camera, which is why there have been no pictures of them, but I found it the other day so hopefully I’ll be able to post new pictures soon.  I honestly don’t know what I find so fascinating and fun about twisting wire and adding beads, but I find it soothing… something for my hands to do without my mind having to process a whole lot of information, guess.  It’s comforting.

On the other hand, I’ve also picked up a few new commission jobs; some exciting ones at that. :)  I know that some of you out there are writing friends and followers of Jake Buller over at his blog “Teenage Writer”.  And if you follow Jake, then you’re probably aware of his novella “The War Horn” which has been in progress for a while now, and has been discussed on his blog several times.  Jake is quite the talented writer, I must say, and I was excited when he let me read through part of his first draft for TWH.  But I was totally honored when he came to me a few weeks ago and asked if I would do his cover art for him.  Jake currently lives in Liberia, having just moved there with his family from Kansas.  He is planning to publish TWH for kindle through Amazon, and the proceedings from the book will help fund his way back to the States for a writing conference that he really wants to attend.  Right now he’s waiting for feedback from his ARC’s, but the book should be available to purchase sometime near the end of February.  Here’s a look at his cover art, in case you are interested.  If what I’ve read and what he described for me was anything to go by, the book should definitely be worth looking into.

But that’s not the only exciting piece I’ve started work on.  I know that many of you are followers of Jill Williamson and her “Blood of King’s” trilogy Published through Marcher Lord Press.  Her newest book “Replication” just hit shelves in January, and I wrote a review for it here on the P&P.  It was quite a page turner, I’ll tell you!  Now, Marcher Lord is preparing to release yet another of her books in the fall, and GUESS WHO’S WORKING ON THE MAP FOR IT!!!  ^_^

 I seriously cannot tell you how excited I am. :D 

Jill Williamson is one of my most favorite, if not THE most favorite Speculative Christian Author on my list today.  Her “Blood of Kings” trilogy is really phenomenal, as is her new book “Replication”, and I’m sure that her latest book will be just as awesome.  On the flip side of the coin, Marcher Lord Press is the premier indie publisher of Christian Speculative fiction in the world.  They’ve published some truly spectacular material, and picked up some big names in the last few years with Sharon Hink’s “Restorer” books, and Kathy Tiers’ “Firebird” trilogy.  And they continue to grow.  It’s just a little mind boggling for me to think that if all goes well, one of my maps might actually be in an MLP book… and not just any MLP book, but the book of my favorite Christian author to date (besides Tolkien and Lewis, of course.)  It’s a little frightening and a whole lot of tingly.

I gotta tell you, God is amazing. ^_^

And speaking of God and books, I finally, FINALLY moved forward with Magpie Eclectic Press.  We are now open to submissions. :D  However, I’ve decided that the company’s official launch date won’t be until we actually release a book for market.  Because, after all, we definitely want people to see what we can offer them.  ^_^

Still, for now, Magpie is up and running and we are on our way.  And at the moment, I’m just trying to get the word out about the open submissions.  I have several online interviews lined up to talk about what the company is about, how we differ from other houses, why we are different from self publishing and vanity presses, etc…  The types of questions that authors want to know the answers to before looking at a publisher, as well as the types of questions all curious authors want to ask about the publishing business itself.

I must be honest, it’s daunting to look at some of the questions being asked.  I believe I’m ready for them – I honestly and truly do – but this is still a big first step for me.  Do I have the answers to all of them, and if I do, are they the right ones?  I won’t lie, I’ve already wondered if I might have opened the company too soon, or if I should have opened it at all.  Can I truly handle this, or was it never meant to be? 

Well, I believe it was certainly meant to be.  I believe that the idea for it was planted and watered by God, and I believe that I have the passion and knowledge to carry it forward.  But I’ve disillusioned myself.  I said from the beginning that I couldn’t do it alone, and I stick by that instinct; I’m hiring out for help.  No way could I complete everything by myself and do it well… God has placed many talented people in this world and in my path, and I’m so grateful for his provision.

But do I actually have the answers to the questions that people are going ask me in these interviews?  Am I really ready for this?  Will the authors see and understand from my answers that I will really WORK for their books… that I truly want to, and will pour my heart into it?  Will they understand that my passion goes beyond these words into the actions and the steps that I will take for them… or will they just see a girl pretending to be something as if this were all just a dream?  Will they read what I have to say and take me and this company seriously

I guess that’s what I’m really worried about.

But I’ve done my research and thought long and hard on everything that this huge endeavor is going to take.  I’ve hosted and read interviews on the subjects involved, read articles, watched and listened to news casts, read books, searched blogs, studied publishing companies, their methods, and their markets, written papers and articles on the subject, blogged about it… I’m even studying to be an English Major simply because I know that I’m supposed to be working in the publishing industry, and I might decide to take on a publishing major afterward.  I’m not even going to try to pretend like I know everything now, but I know a lot and I’ve answered questions like these before.  Like I’ve said, this is a large first step for me, but I know I have God on my side, and my passion is for words.  I desperately want to help other writers bring their words and stories into the world so that readers can enjoy them too.  I want Magpie Eclectic to be trusted as a source of good, strong Christian Speculative fiction all over the U.S. and hopefully beyond.  I mean, truly, it’s all about the stories and coming together as a writing/publishing family, based on Christian morals and standards.

So yes… I think I’m ready.  God willing, I’m ready.  Prayers are welcomed, as I work to get Magpie securely anchored on its feet.   But you can’t take a step forward without standing first, and that’s why I’ve opened Magpie for submissions.  That’s why I knew it was time.

(And sorry if this all sounds like a bunch of rambling thrown out to form some sort of pep talk.  If you don’t understand what I’m going on about, no worries.  I simply think best when I’m typing freely, and I do THAT best when I’m blogging. ;D)

If, by any chance, you are interested in submitting to Magpie Eclectic Press, you can visit our temporary Website at  Please ignore any missing apostrophes or the like that you may stumble across… I haven’t figured out exactly WHY the site is refusing to leave them in, even after I go back through and insert them all again.  I know it looks very unprofessional without them, and its driving me insane!  But I am working with someone to prepare a more professional and polished website for the company… one that will have no problem leaving punctuation in its proper place.  Aside from that, however, this site does have our terms laid out for any who wish to submit something to us.  If you are interested, go ahead and take a look. :)

And now… well, I think I’m going to go ahead and end this blog post for now, and I might go ahead and write another one for another time.  Perhaps one that doesn’t feel quite so jointed together.  Maybe even one on the writing process.  It’s been a while since I’ve done one of those, and I’ve started to have more success with SOTD again as well, so perhaps it’s time for me to dig through my notes and actually write something about writing again.  :D  We’ll see.

In the mean time, what are your thoughts on traditional publishing verses self publishing?  What do you think of Indie Presses like Marcher Lord Press, Splashdown Books, and Port Yonder Press?  What are your thoughts on Indie Authors who go it alone?  Are you for them?  Against them?  Why or why not?  Do you prefer E-books or physical books, and what are your thoughts on the way the publishing market of today is turning out? 

Let me know what you’re thinking.  I love to hear all the interesting things everybody has to say. ^_^

Goodbye for now, and happy writing!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Oh, The Truths about Fantasy Writers!!!! ^_^

I posted this video once before, but I really don't think that did it justice.  If you are a fantasy writer, or you know a fantasy writer, then this video is definitely for you.

And a couple of facts about the video, for those of you who don't know about Andrew Peterson.  Andrew is one of my favorite musician/songwriters of all times. ^_^  His lyrics are just SO thought provoking!  It's absolutely amazing.  And he's also an amazing fantasy writer, as well as an illustrator.  His latest book, "The Monster in the Hollows", was released by Rabbit Room Press, which is a press that he created and runs.  I've written reviews on all of his books, and I will post the links for them at a slightly later time.

Seriously though, if you are a fantasy writer, reader, or if you know a person who likes fantasy, this video is ABSOLUTELY for you, and it's HILARIOUS! :D