Monday, June 25, 2012

Team Novel Teen Book Tour: "Swipe" by Evan Angler

Logan Langly is just months away from his thirteenth Birthday – the absolute BIGGEST day of his life. That is the day he will finally get the Mark. The Mark works like a credit card/driver’s license/birth certificate/social security card/everything-in-between. Once he has the Mark, he will be able to get a job, buy things, use public transportation, and do a thousand other things he would never be able to do without it.

It’s not mandatory to get the Mark, but who wouldn’t? If you had the choice between having a way to support yourself and your family for life in a semblance of peace, or living off of the garbage and leftovers of a broken society, which would you choose? To many people, the choice seems clear; the mark is the way of peace and prosperity, hope and world unity. It is the very sign of freedom. Those people without the mark are dumb creatures, lower than dirt, not even worth spitting on – the trouble makers of a world well on its way to eternal peace and structure. They shouldn’t even be left to live, the filthy trash!

There’s no reason why Logan should be afraid of being Marked. Every thirteen year old kid looks forward to it – the day when they are finally considered an adult; the day when they can finally take care of themselves by themselves, without their parents’ help (if that’s what they prefer). But Logan isn’t so sure that the Mark is such a good thing. Five years before, his sister went off to be Marked on her Thirteenth birthday, and she never came back. It changed his family forever. Now Logan’s mom barely gets through each day, depressed, barely responding to the life around her, while Logan’s father tries to make up for it in his own ways.

And Logan… well, he can’t seem to shake the feeling that he’s being watched. He’s absolutely sure that someone is out to get him…

And he’s not far wrong.


My Thoughts:

When I first picked up this book, I was apprehensive. The truth is, I had just finished reading a rather mediocre to slightly negative review about it by a reviewer that I trust, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

On that account, the book surprised me. I found myself immediately drawn into the writing style, and rooting for the MC, Logan Langly. I really, really wanted him to be able to defeat the bad-guys and come out on top.

Logan is a likable MC. A bit paranoid, but that’s something you come to expect of him, and soon enough you (as the reader) begin to turn suspicious of even the smallest details… much like Logan. He’s smart… but he’s also nervous. All the time. And many times his nervousness masks his bravery.

Which brings me to one of the things I had trouble with about the book. There were times when Logan’s bravery would come out suddenly and totally surprise me, and then a second later he would be the timid little nervous creature I knew him to be from earlier on. The same thing happened with him being smart. There was one scene in the book where he was talking to the New Girl in town, Erin. They were working together to trace a group of unmarked kids through the slums of the Old City, and Logan predicted something to Erin about their motivation and where they would try to go next. It was a very intelligent prediction, and a little surprising, but it made me like Logan even more. However, a second later, when Erin pointed out something obvious – something that I felt Logan should have had an intelligent answer for, especially after what had happened only a few paragraphs before – he instead acted as if he wasn’t sure of himself, and his answer was vague and not thought through.

Now, I know I’m being vague about where and what this scene is in the book, but that is because I want you, the reader, to come up with your own conclusions about the story itself and its characters. However, I did notice that Logan portrayed similar character traits throughout the book… one minute he would seem cowardly, the next surprisingly brave, and then a second later he would be a nervous little boy again. Out of the entire book, that was the probably the biggest problem I had with it.

Besides that however, I did find the book quite interesting. It was a relatively fast read, but engaging (though not particularly a story I would call “outstanding”.) It was a good read, though. Clean, wholesome, and I liked the fact that it was set in a dystopian future with lots of neat gadgetry. The author was able to explain the gadgetry well, and his descriptions were vivid enough that the world came to life in my mind’s eye as I read – something that I find extremely valuable within a book. :D Even now, thinking back to a few of the scenes, I can picture the author’s world clearly in my head.

I was able to guess at few elements of the story that I suppose were meant to surprise the reader, but I believe I was only able to do that because I am a very avid book lover, and a writer myself. :D And besides that, there was a VERY important surprise near the end of the book that I never saw coming at all.

I’m going to give this book 3 stars out of 5. I didn’t find it particularly compelling, but it was engaging. To me, it was one of those books that is not hard to put down, but that you like to pick up again. :) And besides that, this first book ended on a note that makes me rather curious about the second one in the series. I look forward to getting the chance to read “Sneak” when it comes out this September. :D

Here is the author's website, for those of you who would like to look into the book "Swipe", or it's sequel that will be coming out soon, "Sneak":

ADD Librarian •
Blooming with Books •
The Book Fae •
Book Nook 4 You •
Bookworm Reading •
Books I Recommend •
Christian Book Review Blog •
CTF Devourer •
Fiction Fire •
Jill Williamson •
Labor Not in Vain •
The Maniacal Bookworm •
My Story Shelf •
Oh, Restless Bird •
The Pen and Parchment •
Reviews by Jane •
Shadow Writer World •

Updates AT LAST!!!!! :D

Well, friends, I can see from the date of my last post that I have been out of commission for some time! At least blogging wise. And recently, one of my friends on Facebook got a hold of me through message, and asked when on earth I was going to post some updates? This wasn’t the first time I was asked, either; I had been asked the same thing by a blog follower just the day before. So I definitely know that it is time to get everyone up to speed. 

Well, let’s start with my regular life. I’ve been writing A LOT more lately. Way more than I could have even hoped to during the school year. My novel, “Song of the Daystar”, now has a (very nearly complete) history behind the plot, the world, and the story itself, and because of that history, all of the little plot holes that I was struggling with are starting to fill up and make sense. And, quite honestly, the whole thing sort of worked itself out all by itself and came at me from out of nowhere. I’m reworking the beginning of the book yet again, but this time I’m opening with my villain and (though I haven’t completely decided on the specific time period of the scene) at the moment it is a scene that happened four years before my MC’s story. (That may change in the near future, if I can’t figure out how to work in the four year skip with grace… :P)

Besides writing, though, I’m still working on art commissions. Right now I’m all backed up. I have quite a few illustrations I’m working on from several different authors, and I have some deadlines coming up for them really soon (both personal and otherwise) so the pressure is really on. So far so good… hopefully I can get myself completely dug out within the next month. Or maybe two, if there are any complications. I still don’t have a scanner of my own, which means I’m still relying on my local Library and my school’s computer lab, but hopefully before too long this problem will be fixed as well.

Which leads nicely into the third bit of news regarding my personal life: I’ve got a job! It’s a part time job working as an In-Home care CNA for a wonderfully sweet woman who just happens to be the mother of a good friend. This has made life so much more manageable, since I can now rely almost entirely on myself, and I thank God every day for this gift. Besides, a portion of the money is going into a business fund for Magpie Eclectic, while another portion is taking care of bills, and another portion is going in a savings fund for my planned move this fall.

You read that right, friends. I’m hoping (though it’s still too early to say for certain) that I will be able to move out of my parents’ house for the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters and live on campus (or somewhere much nearer campus than my parents’ house) during that time. I still need to figure out a proper mode of transportation, since I’m currently using my parents’ van, but the thought of finally being on my own is a sweet one. Besides, with gas prices what they are, it’s getting ridiculous for me to drive an hour to school and an hour back every day of the week (usually including Saturday), and then an hour to church in the same direction on Sunday. I might as well live close as spend all that money on gas! Lol!

I also may be going to the big Ren-fair in Wisconsin coming up in a few weeks. I’m excited about that. Been working on embroidering and beading my big renaissance dress for the occasion. Hopefully when I get it done, I can post pictures of all my hard work. I’m excited to get it finished… I absolutely can’t WAIT to wear it at the fair! :D

And now for news concerning Magpie Eclectic Press and the Anthology Project – just in case any of you were curious about it. The submission process for the Anthology Project is going well. Currently we have four short stories that will be included in the anthology, and two poems. I will not be announcing names until after submissions are closed, and only if I get the authors’ permissions to announce them. As of the moment there is still no submission deadline, and if any of you have submitted something but haven’t heard back from me yet, just know that I’m getting to it. :D Some of the stories are still being debated over, but as soon as a solid decision is made I’ll be sure to contact the author with the results. I’m really getting excited about this project. Using the stories that have been decided on as a base, I’ve started to work out a design for the cover and have begun to brainstorm Anthology titles. Within a couple months time I will probably be setting up a pole to see what readers think of the potential anthology titles. 

I’ve also set up a new blog for the company… well, actually for me; to chronicle my journey into the publishing world as a company. It is called “Aspiring Endnotes”, and the title was inspired by the fact that I learn as I work… so basically my blog posts are likely to be “notes” on the lessons I learned after the fact. Lol! Currently there are no posts, but I have a couple that I’m working on. When I set up the first post, I will put a link up on this blog for those of you who are interested in reading it.

Some of you are probably wondering why I would set up a separate blog for that, when I could just post everything here at the P&P. But the truth is, every time I posted something about Magpie Eclectic here, I felt like I was self-promoting – advertising. That’s not really the purpose of the P&P, so I thought I would set up a separate blog for that sort of stuff… for talking about publishing through the eyes of one who is learning how to become a publisher. This blog here (the P&P) is for my personal journey as a writer… the Aspiring Endnotes blog is for my personal journey as a publisher. I’ve found that I look at the world of writing and publishing through different eyes, depending on which subject I’m working on, and which roll I take on as I’m working on it (writer, or publisher). So I feel like it’s just better to have my two views on the subjects separated... to keep them from getting mixed up. 

On another note entirely, yesterday I opened my business inbox to a new submission that I found quite intriguing. Since magpie has opened I’ve been surprised at the amount of submissions I’ve received already. After all, this is a fairly new press, and I haven’t even been given the chance to prove myself in the publishing world yet; I only have what I know, what I’ve studied, and what I believe – bunches of promises and this blog, but no books. And yet Magpie is still receiving submissions. :D However, up until this point, although I saw potential in several of the manuscripts, this is the first submission that I feel could possibly have more to it… this is the first one I’ve read that has made me want to request more. And it’s not just the writing or the style (by which I found myself pleasantly surprised when it drew me straight in), but it is also the subject idea. Now, of course it’s still WAY too early to say more than that or to get any hopes up – I still don’t know much about the rest of the book or how everything will play out, etc… and I haven’t even talked to the author yet – but this submission has made me wonder… I’ll be sure to keep you all posted over at Aspiring Endnotes.

Besides that… well, there really isn’t any “besides”. That pretty much sums up my life and current situation in a nutshell. I’ve been keeping myself busy. :D I have several book reviews that I should be getting up soon… but with everything else I’ve been working on, it seems so easy to push a book review to the side for a few days… and then a few more days… and then a few more… I can’t put it off forever though. Lol! There are also a couple of posts I would like to blog about, having to do with some insights into the lessons behind certain scenes of “The Chronicles of Narnia” books. I’ve been re-listening to the audio dramas of the books as I work on my ren-dress, and just the other day I had a revelation about the scene in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” where Aslan turns Dragon Eustace back into a boy. It should be a very interesting post. 

If you’ve made it through this entire post, then I congratulate you for surviving my rambling! Hopefully my next post will be more focused (although I promise nothing… ;D)
Bye for now! And Happy Writing. ^_^

Nichole White

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Essence of Fantasy

"You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

That is a famous quote by Madeleine L'Engle, author of one of the most renowned science fiction books to date: “A Wrinkle in Time”. It is also one of my favorite writing quotes ever, and I will explain why in a moment.  First, however, I would like to talk about something I did just the other night.

The other night I watched one of my favorite movies of all time: Peter Pan, produced by Universal Studios. I first discovered this movie several years ago when my dad brought it home from the movie rental. At the time he’d just thought that it’d be an interesting one to watch, and something the whole family could enjoy together… But he had no idea what he’d sparked.

Of course I knew the story of Peter Pan. I hadn’t read the actual book yet (still haven’t, actually), but what person (little or otherwise) didn’t know it? Peter pan was the boy who ran away to Kensington Gardens when he was just a baby. There he was saved by the fairy Tinkerbell and was later taken to Neverland and learned to fly. He was the leader of a band of misfits known as the Lost Boys, and Peter’s arch nemesis was the evilest pirate to ever sail the seven seas, or any other sea real or imagined… the notorious Captain James Hook. Peter and Hook had many battles and adventures but, of course, Peter always came out on top.

I love that story simply to love it. Even though I hadn’t (and still haven’t yet) read the original book, I’d read other books about Peter and his amazing adventures: unofficial sequels and prequels to the original. And of course, I still knew the original story too… maybe not as well as one might hope, but I knew it. To me, it is an amazing tale of adventure and fantasy blended in perfect balance.  A tale of childhood fancy and the beauty that such creates. A splendid rendition of imagination and the power that such can hold.

However, it is Universal’s particular version of the story of Peter Pan that will now, always, and forever be held in my heart as a favorite. Not Disney’s version, and not any other version, though I may watch and enjoy them… it is the Universal version that I truly love. And yes, I now own my own copy of the movie – I had to own it, I decided, after I saw it the first time. I plan to keep the DVD for always, and one day bring it out for my children to enjoy. And hopefully (if they are anything like me) I will have the extreme pleasure of watching their faces light up as I hold them in my lap and fall back into the remarkable world and characters created by the master story-teller, J.M. Barrie.

But now think about that for a moment. Mr. Barrie wrote the story of the amazing, conceited, flying boy who vowed never to grow up, Peter Pan, over a hundred years ago, and even then, the story was originally a script meant to be staged in the theater. How is it, then, that Mr. Barrie’s story, “Peter Pan”, has managed to last so long and touch the hearts of so many, being handed down from generation to generation and quite literally becoming a household name? What did Mr. Barrie do that made his story so memorable? So memorable, in fact, that other people would make different renditions of his story to last for years to come, and that even a girl like me who has yet to finish reading the original story at all, would know and understand the wonder, adventure, and excitement behind the tale?

Well now, you remember that quote at the beginning of this post? The one that says if the story is too difficult for grown-ups, then one should write if for children?  Well, this is where it comes in again.

As I was watching that movie the other night, I was catching all sorts of interesting themes subtly woven into the action and adventure. Oh, I know that the film-makers most likely took many liberties when it came to adapting the masterpiece for the movie screen, but the main story line is still there, strong as ever: no one can say that it isn’t. And these themes… they are obviously from the story itself. Themes like the power of love, and the longing for something greater, and the adventure of an ordinary life, and the strength of imagination, etc… These themes were all over the place!!!

But the movie… ah, the movie. And the story itself. What genius. What sheer brilliance in a written work!

There’s no way that children are going to pick up on such themes right away, of course. They will watch the movie or read the book for the enjoyment and the adventure, but they won’t understand how the themes are strung along so subtly throughout the entire tale.

I mean, honestly, what child is going to be able to connect the power of Wendy’s kiss on the Pirate Ship, with the strength of Peter’s own imagination, with Peter’s longing that is shown (at least in the movie) for something more than what he has, and the fear he shows at the unknown adventure of growing up… he doesn’t know what it’d be like to grow up, but it doesn’t take much thinking for an adult to suddenly understand that he’s scared of it. It’s made evident throughout the tale, like when tries to confirm with Wendy that her being a mother and him being a father is only just pretend, and like him being upset with her for wanting to grow up at all.

And yet, we also get the sense that he longs for what he fears. He says he just want to always be a little boy and have fun, but towards the end of the movie we watch him look in on the Darling family with longing eyes and say (one of my favorite quotes of the whole film), “To live would be an awfully big adventure.”

Life, in and of itself, is a great adventure… but we, as adults, must learn not to lose sight of the wonderment that life presents us as children.

And what does this have to do with the quote I posted earlier?

Well, it’s quite simple really. I believe that J.M. Barrie wrote a children’s fairy tale because the adults either couldn’t or didn’t want to accept such themes for what they truly are and mean. Peter Pan is the very essence of boyhood, childishness, and fancy – something that grown-ups all too often lose touch with as the responsibilities and dull knowledge that come with maturity start to crowd in. It’s all too easy for us to forget what it is like to be children. We often see our childhood years as silly and petty in comparison to what we now consider important and valuable and influential in today’s society.

I think Mr. Barrie probably realized this about adults, but had an idea (at least subconsciously) that such thinking wasn’t altogether right. And children are easily susceptible to subliminal messages… they are more open to ideas, and less likely to judge outright.

Yes, children would be the ones to present these ideas and themes to, subtle though they were, for it was likely that, though while young the child would not fully understand the message being delivered, yet as they grew the thoughts and ideas would become more clear to them. And it was likely that by the time that the child realized this, the idea would already be strongly planted in his head and heart.

It’s relatively easy to follow a similar pattern throughout the world’s histories. After all, how to you supposed such strong religious beliefs and superstitions, and even fairy tales have survived so many ages? As each generation grows old, they pass down the legends, myths, and fairy tales to their children, who grow up thinking that the stories are either real, or that the moral of the story is real. It all eventually leads up to the same thing.

The beliefs instilled in a child are ultimately proven to outlast those presented to people in adulthood.

Now, I’m not (of course) saying that an adult can’t have a change of heart or of mind and come to believe in something so strongly as an adult that the result is nearly the same (if not stronger) as it might have been had the idea been instilled in them as a child. But if you think about it, children are the very makings of the next generation of adults. If a child can grow up believing in something – even if that belief is more subconscious than otherwise – that belief is likely to stick with the child through most of, if not all of, his or her life.

And so it comes to this: If the idea proves too difficult for grownups, write it for children.

Because children may not fully understand the idea, but they will be more likely to accept it. And in accepting it, they will be more likely to grow with it. And in growing with it, they will be more likely to carry it on with them into adult hood and beyond.

Yet, with that said, I would like to add one last thing, perhaps just as important as the quote above. If the idea proves too difficult for grownups, then write it for children, absolutely… but be careful of what you are trying to write for the children. Be considerate of their openness, their willingness to be accepting upon first glance and judge later. When you write for them, do not write of things that will darken their minds, poison their hearts, or blacken their countenances, for young children are a representation of purity and beauty in a world of bitterness and tainted dreams. Much like the saying, “You are what you eat”, children become what they are fed… mentally and spiritually fed, that is. So we, the writers who would spread our ideas far and wide and make a difference in the world with our words, should be mindful to feed their imaginations only with good, wholesome ideas and themes for them to grow on.

And yet, we must also not leave out the truth of what evil is, and what reality has become: after all, Captain Hook was every bit the evil villain in the story of Peter Pan – the very representation of evil and all things dark and sinister – but Peter, who was the essence of childhood, the very grip of imagination, and the light and joy of Neverland (conceited and short tempered though was), ultimately triumphed over Hook. And along the journey, we learned of Peter’s strengths and weaknesses, and read (though we may not have realized it at the time) themes of love, and longing, and strength, and passion. That, my friends, is what makes up a good tale: that is the very Essence of Fantasy – a lesson well learned through a tale of wonder and enchantment.

It’s not in how well the tale is made up, or how beautifully the world is created, or how thoroughly the characters are fleshed out. Oh no. But it is in what the true message of the story actually is, and in how it is presented that makes the story great. Fairy tales and the fantastic are a writer’s tools to open the minds and hearts of young readers everywhere… it is our chance to actually make a difference in the world for generations to come, much like Lewis Carrol, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and yes… J.M. Barrie.

For who here among us has not, at least, heard of the story of that amazing flying boy, Peter Pan? And look at what a difference that one story has made in the literary world of today.