Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "By Divine Right"

Okay, okay. It's not Friday, but it's been over a week since the last book review. Remember there's no post this Friday, so I'll see you next week, when I'll resume my normal posting schedule (Tuesdays and Fridays). 

The Short:

By Divine Right
Part of The Darkwater Saga

By: Patrick W. Carr

5/5 Stars

What: A medieval murder investigator must discover who has been stealing the divine gifts before it’s too late.

Recommended to those who like: Mystery, loosely Christian, fantasy

The Long:

I was really intrigued by the concept of this novella. It’s a quick read and the ebook is free in most formats.

Willet Dura is troubled by his ability to sense murders when they happen. However, as a murder investigator in a medieval-style city, he can’t argue that it’s a poor asset for his job. But when a string of murders takes place that seems to be targeted at the city’s gifted citizens, he has reason to suspect that there’s a larger plot at play.

This book is a nice blend of mystery/suspense and fantasy action. There is a strong Christian undercurrent to the book, but it doesn’t dominate the plot. There’s also a small touch of romance. The writing is tight and the fast pace combined with the short length of the book makes it a nice afternoon read. I look forward to starting the full-length novels in this series.

Any thoughts? If you’re interested in more of Mr. Carr’s work, you can check out another one of my reviews of his work here. 

Due to the holiday and  traveling, I may be slow to respond to comments. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What is a Space Opera?

For those of you who have somehow missed the news, Star Wars Episode VII came out this weekend! In my opinion, it was a great start to a new trilogy and a good/decent movie on its own. I'm looking forward to seeing the next movies.

This post isn't about The Force Awakens, but rather the subgenre to which it belongs: the space opera.

From here.
The space opera is a subgenre of science fiction and focuses on space battles and drama, typically involves romance, and has a limited focus on technology. Earth and the known universe may or may not be involved, but the story likely centers around a larger than life character trying to save the galaxy, universe, or planet. Another example of a space opera would be Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, though it leans a little closer to traditional sci-fi in some ways. 

The genre can be separated from "hard sci-fi" which has a much stronger focus on plausible technology and what the future might be like. These stories often center on Earth and/or the known universe. The characters in hard sci-fi are unlikely to be attempting to save the galaxy or to be larger than life. 

For those more familiar with fantasy, think of the difference between the two as epic fantasy vs. urban fantasy for a good comparison. Personally, I prefer epic fantasy and space operas. 

Which do you prefer? Have you seen Star Wars yet (no spoilers please)?

Merry Christmas! I'll see you next Tuesday with a book review.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Firebird"

Thanks for bearing with me while I took some time to let my brain to recuperate from three exams in thirteen hours. Also, please vote in the poll in the right side bar! I'd really appreciate your feedback. 

The Short:

Book 1 of the Firebird Trilogy

By: Kathy Tyers

4.5/5 Stars

What: She was supposed to die, but what if there’s something better than dying for a corrupt planet?

Recommended to those who like: Science fiction, Christian, space battles, some romance.

The Long:

Today we finally get something outside of my recent fantasy streak!

When I started the blog, I told myself I wouldn’t do “half” stars. But I really couldn’t decide between 4 and 5 stars on this book. The action, world-building, and characters suck you right in, but the beginning is a bit awkward and cumbersome, for lack of a suitable word. So, four and a half. (Also, the cover on this! This is some beautiful artwork.)

Lady Firebird is the third daughter in the royal family of Netaia, making her best option an honorable death in battle and, in lieu of that, a quick suicide of her own choosing.

But when suicide fails in the middle of battle and she’s taken prisoner, her whole world is turned upside down. Could there be something better than dying for a royal family that's been corrupted? 

I really enjoyed the story and it kept surprising me at every turn. There’s telekinesis, romance, some great flying scenes, and a fair amount of political intrigue involved in the story. The Christian allegorical theme is strong, but well done and not overwhelming.

I look forward to reading the next book! Currently, Firebird is available for free on Amazon Kindle, if you’d like to give it a try.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sequel Review: "From Darkness Won"

This is a sequel review. You can also read my reviews of books one and two. Spoilers may lurk in this review for those who have not read the first two books. I'll see you next Friday!

The Short:

From Darkness Won
Blood of Kings Trilogy, Book 3

By: Jill Williamson

5/5 Stars

What: Achan must take his rightful place as king of all Er’Rets and banish Darkness from the land. Vrell must come to grips with the web of lies that she’s sown over the past year.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, sword fights, Christian, and have read books one and two.

The Long:

I’m always a little frightened to read the last book in a series. Sometimes, it’s because I don’t want to leave the characters. Other times, it’s because I’m afraid it just won’t be a fitting end for “people” who have meant so much to me in the hours I’ve known them.

From Darkness Won did not disappoint. The action is still well-paced and the character development is beautifully done. It really felt like a fitting end to the series.

I have to tip my hat to Ms. Williamson for the romance in this book, as it certainly isn’t your normal, recycled YA love triangle, which was refreshing. The characters felt authentic in their confused emotions and their ability to make difficult decisions.

While the end, in some ways, felt like it took quite some time to finish, I thought that it was well worth the extra pages. There are very few series that I have finished with such a profound sense of closure.

While I’m sad to leave Achan and his friends behind, I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Have you read this series? What are your thoughts? 

Don't forget to vote in the poll to the right! (You can select multiple answers.)

Remember that there will be no post next Tuesday. I'll see next Friday!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Blog Tag: "The Writer's Life for Me"

I thought a blog tag would be fun this week, so I stole this one from Victoria over at The Endless Oceans of My Mind. Would you like to see more blog tags? Leave a comment, use the contact form, or use the poll I've set up to let me know what you'd like to see in the coming months. 

Rules: Thank the person who tagged you, repost the picture, answer the ten questions, and tag five to ten bloggers be a lazy bum and just let people who want the tag steal it. 

1. What kind of writer are you?  I'm a halfway-plotting, speculative fiction writer. I've written some dystopian and a fair amount of fantasy. I'm still waiting on a good science fiction idea to come to mind. 

2. When did you start writing? What made you want to try it? I have a journal entry from third grade saying that I wanted to be a country store owner, florist, author, or veterinarian when I grew up. I guess I've always been a voracious reader, so it came naturally to me that I would want to make up my own stories. 

My first real attempt at writing creatively came at the end of my sixth grade year. What started out as a scrap of paper in a binder when I didn't feel like paying attention in class turned into a notebook that I kept between my mattress and box spring that I would write in by the light of my alarm clock, which turned into a fantasy novel/novella that I typed out on my first computer. I haven't touched it for several years, but the story is very near and dear to my heart. 

In addition to my creative writing, I blog (bet none of you knew that) and do some personal journaling.

3. What inspires your stories? That could be an entire blog post in itself. I really enjoy people watching and just playing out "what-if" scenarios in my head. 

4. What themes do you like to explore in your writing? Wow, this is another question that I could write a whole post about. I notice that things in the world that frustrate me have a way of spilling over into my writing. My faith also plays a large part in my writing and most of my works have a lot of allusions to faith, are allegorical in nature, or faith plays a large part in the story. Friendship plays a large role and it's not uncommon to find a lonely character in the books I write. 

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter, or a bit of both? I've pantsed quite a few stories, but I'm trying to plot a little bit more. I really struggle with character development, so I've been trying to be more proactive about exploring my characters beforehand. Before NaNo this year, I tried using the snowflake method to plot. While I followed most of the plot, I didn't really even get to all the main points I had planned out. However, this book should at least have a beginning, middle, climax, and end, unlike some other things I've written. 

6. Where are you at in your journey? (Querying, agented, published?) I'm looking at doing self-publishing. I'm not really sure where my life is going to take me at this point, so I'm hesitant to tie myself to a publishing company and the timelines and expectations that come with that. I'm sort of stuck in editing land right now. 

7. Have you entered any writing contests? Finaled? Won? I've entered a few over at Go Teen Writers. I've never finaled or anything. If you count scholarship essay writing, I've done fairly well with some of those; however none of them have solely been based off of the essay. 

8. Who are your writing heroes? There are too many to count. Tolkien, because his works have been really a big part of me growing up; L'Engle, because she had A Wrinkle in Time rejected many, many times but still published it (and it's one of my favorite books); my middle school English teacher who offered to read my aforementioned manuscript and encouraged me to keep writing...I could think of even more if I really tried. 

9. Have you ever been to a writing conference? What was your best or worst conference experience? I've never gone to one, but I'd like to. I've considered going to the Realm Maker's conference. I'm really weird about meeting "famous" people, though, and a lot of my favorite authors go to that conference. I'd be constantly tripping over my own feet and stuttering. 

10. Top three tips for newbie writers? 
a). You're probably never going to feel like you've "got" it. I've been writing for years and still can't figure out a good way to write. I haven't found the perfect system. I have a lot of insecurities about my writing. Don't get discouraged by this and...

b). Keep writing. Even when it feels like you're getting nowhere. 

c). Write what matters to you. Don't change what you write because you think it might give you a better shot at getting published or earn you more money. Writing is something that has to come from your heart and it's much more enjoyable if what you write is important to you. 

Any thoughts or questions? Don't forget to fill out the survey!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Mardan's Mark"

The Short

Mardan's Mark

Mardan's Mark Series, Book One

By: Kathrese McKee

5/5 Stars

What: A princess must rescue the heir to the throne before war breaks out between the two kingdoms. But will her heart be ensnared even if she isn't?

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, pirates, some romance, Christian/Clean.

The Long

(I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

I was pleasantly surprised to receive my first email asking me to review a book (up until now, I've just been wandering around the internet/my personal book collection/book stores to find books). 

Then the worry set in. What if I didn't like it? If I buy a book on my own and don't like the book, it just sort of sits around and I don't review it (I try to only review works that I'm comfortable giving at least 3 stars). But if an author gives me their book...how do you return it? 

Mardan's Mark certainly didn't give me any problems! Although it had a little more romance in it than I would typically pick up, it was still a nice fantasy read. 

Srilani is the First Princess, meaning that she's second in succession to her younger brother. Placed through rigorous training her entire life, she knows how to handle herself. But it seems like all of her decisions are out of her hands--that is, until disaster strikes and she's not only responsible for herself, but for her siblings as well. And can she trust the former slaves of a pirate to protect them?

The book is a well-paced read with plenty of action and high stakes. There is a Christian element to it, but it's more of a background theme. I enjoyed the character development in this book as well. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a more "realistic" fantasy (no magic, dragons, etc.), doesn't mind some romance, and enjoys a clean, well-written book. I'm looking forward to reading more of Ms. McKee's work. 

I'd love to hear from you! Comment below if you have any thoughts or questions. I also take book recommendations. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

NaNo Wrap-up and Blog Update

Looking Back

Wow! Is it really December already? 

After a last minute file deletion scare (Dad was super awesome and remote accessed my computer from over a hundred miles away and fixed it without a sweat), I won NaNoWriMo 2015 at about 4:30 on November 30th. 

Looking back, I'm still shocked that I did it. If you'll recall, I set out at the beginning of the month to write 30,000 words. Here I am, with 50,000 words under my belt in a tidy word document with more typos than I'd like to see in a lifetime. 

I've learned quite a bit from this NaNo. I haven't won a "real" 50k month since my first one in 2012 and I've taken a bit to reflect on why I was more successful this time around:
  • I wrote something every day. Sometimes it was only 50 words with my eyes closed, but I wrote every day. 
  • I didn't give up, even when I wasn't sure I could make it. Looking back on previous years where I didn't meet my goal, I often flatlined around 40k. This year, I wrote close to 8,000 words in the last two days. The last thousand or so were really hard, but I made it. 
  • I didn't sacrifice sleep. If I was tired, I made sure that I slept. I took care of myself, made my schoolwork a priority, and wrote when I could. I think one of the reasons I've burned out in the past is because I would refuse to take care of myself. If something is taking your time to sleep away on a regular basis, it's hard to enjoy it. 
The story itself is in rough shape. I went down a rabbit trail about halfway through and didn't even reach the climax I had so carefully plotted out. It's going to be a longer work than I've written before, most likely. But, it's an epic fantasy. Short doesn't belong in the same sentence, unless it's describing dwarves or gnomes. I plan to continue working on it as I have time over the next few weeks, which brings me to....

Looking Ahead

Next week (December 7th) I will post as normal (Tuesday and Friday).

The week of  December 14th is my exam week. That Monday, I have three exams (7:45 AM, 1 PM, and 8 PM), followed by an exam on Tuesday. Suffice it to say that I will not be posting on Tuesday the 15th because my brain will be mush. However, there will be a normal Friday post.

The weeks of the 21st and the 28th, I am planning on only posting Tuesdays due to traveling and Christmas and New Years and eating too much sugar.

And that brings us to January! (Scary!)

I will be scaling back on the "What is..." posts starting in January. So, what type of topics would you like to see? Friday Fiction Fix will still be sticking around (I do welcome suggestions for those, as well!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What is Freelance?

According to Merriam-Webster, "freelance" can be either an adjective or a noun. In adjective form, it means "earning money by being hired to work on different jobs for short periods of time rather than by having a permanent job with one employer". (Also, I would suggest signing up for Merriam-Webster's "word of the day" program--there are some really interesting words out there).

Its first use was in 1820 in the book Ivanhoe to describe a medieval mercenary. The warrior's lance was "free" of any obligation to a certain lord or kingdom, but was up for hire. Of course, the meaning has changed significantly since then.
From here.
And if you don't mind a bit of vulgarity and innuendo,
A Knight's Tale is certainly a good movie for a laugh. 

So, what does freelance have to do with writing?

Freelance writers may write short articles for newspapers, blogs, or other publications, changing up where they work based on what jobs are available. Freelance editors are in business for themselves (rather than working for a publishing company or some such) and do various types of work for different authors and publications.

Have you ever considered freelance writing or editing? 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Raulin, Rise of the Forest King"

The Short:

Raulin, Rise of the Forest King

By: Benjamin J. Denen

5/5 Stars

What: After his family is brutally murdered, a young man embarks on a quest for revenge. But what will it cost him?

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, sword fights

The Long:

This is a prequel to TheKeeper of Edelyndia. Those who have read The Keeper will likely enjoy the interconnectedness of the story, but this book stands very nicely on its own. You can also read an interview with Mr. Denen here.

Raulin is a young man who tries to learn from his parents as best he can. But when his family is massacred in front of him, everything he was taught is challenged. Setting out to avenge his parents, he finds himself becoming the very thing his father warned against.

The book has a lot of strong, Christian themes throughout and the character arcs are well-fleshed out. Additionally, there are some nice sword fight scenes (can’t beat a good sword fight, right?)

This book was a little more predictable than The Keeper, so I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. There is a significant level of violence in the books, so that’s something to consider. I would certainly say that it’s well done and not over emphasized or glorified. However, it’s still an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy with Christian themes.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Denen and his work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Different View from Space

For a change of pace today, I decided to head out into space and discuss three "new" sci-fi movie releases. I think that one thing we can really see from these different movies is how, even with similar premises, stories can be vastly different.

Gravity (2013)

Dr. Stone, a biomedical researcher on her first space mission, finds herself stranded alone in space, trying to make her way home. 

My rating: 3/5 stars

Interstellar (2014)

In the future, a blight is threatening  the Earth's ability to support crops. Scientists take the plunge through a wormhole near Saturn that they suspect was created by beings who are able to travel among five dimensions. On the other side, they hope to find a new world for the human race to inhabit. 

My rating: 4/5 stars

The Martian (2015)

Presumed dead after a tragic accident on a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney must find a way to survive and contact Earth. 

My rating: 5/5 stars


While all of these movies feature space, return to Earth, some (varying degrees of) realistic science, and survival as common themes, there are quite a few differences between them. 

Gravity was my least favorite of the three, mostly because I really didn't like the main character. She seemed to have limited will to live and the relatively low interaction of characters didn't really float my boat. Much of her success seemed to rely on chance and, while it's certainly good to have a great series of challenges for characters, it felt like nothing at all went right. To me, it felt like more of a chance survival story than a true fight for survival. Others might disagree. 

Interstellar, in my opinion, had much stronger characters that had plights I could more readily relate to. One of the larger themes of the story is fighting for family. It also went beyond a simple survival story into some more abstract science concepts like wormholes, black holes, and the fifth dimension. The added science-y bits appeased my inner nerd. My main complaints about this movie were that it was really long and the ending felt a bit rushed. However, the intriguing concepts combined with the  internal conflicts of many of the characters. made for an interesting movie. 

The Martian was the funniest of the three. Watney's wit and humor added an extra layer to a movie that might have seemed dry and grim otherwise. Besides this, I found it more enjoyable than Gravity due to the fact that more characters are involved (we see some of the politics of what's going on back on Earth). Watney also has a strong will to live, even though he is far from unrealistic in his evaluation of the situation.  

All of these movies are PG-13, so don't go into them expecting them to be completely clean. If you like space-centered science fiction, I would recommend any of them. Even if you don't enjoy space movies, I'd still recommend The Martian. 

Have you seen any of these movies? What are your thoughts? And would you be interested in more articles like this in the future?

There will still be a Friday Fiction Fix this week, but I may be slow to respond to comments both on this post and on Friday's due to traveling. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sequel Review: "A Time to Speak"

This is a review for the second book in the Out of Time Trilogy. I reviewed book 1 here. Please read book one before continuing. I'll be back with a fresh book/ series next week!
The Short:

A Time to Speak
Book 2 of the Out of Time Series

By: Nadine Brandes

5/5 Stars (and going on the favorites shelf)

What: God seems to be telling Parvin to speak out against the oppression in her country. But what happens when it seems like nothing at all is moving toward peace?

Recommended to those who like: Dystopian, Christian, some romance, and have read the first book

The Long:

Spoiler alert! Please read Book 1, A Time to Die, before continuing on.

Parvin has survived a grueling year—banishment, betrayal, and near death. But it seems like things are worse than ever. Reid is dead, Mother can’t seem to talk to her, and the Council is more determined than ever to control the USE. Jude’s clock invention is about to be used against them.

I really enjoyed this sequel. The characters continue to grow and the stakes are higher than ever. As in the first book, the Christian message is strong (but not preachy) and the characters are beautiful.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has read book one and enjoys Christian Dystopian fiction. I’m going to have a hard time waiting a whole year for the next book!

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Ms. Brandes and her work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What is a Word War?

If you're doing NaNo and feeling behind, Word Wars are one of your best tools to increase your word count in a flash.

The goal of a word war is to compete to see who among a group of writers can write the most words in a set amount of time. My favorite length of time to war is 15 minutes, but I've seen people war for as short as five minutes and as long as a whole hour.

Do any of you participate in Word Wars? How do you stay motivated to write?

If you're ever looking for a word war buddy, just let me know! I hang out on the NaNoWriMo site frequently in the evenings (ET).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

NaNo Halfway Update

Well, it's been a crazy month.

I've put the pedal to the metal, burned the midnight oil on a few occasions, and burned the candle at both ends more than once--but I haven't burnt out yet.

At the beginning of the month, I said I'd set out to write 30,000 words in a novel I had actually plotted out a bit (feel free to faint right now; this normally doesn't happen).

Miraculously, I've done a lot more writing than I thought I would. My typing speed has improved significantly since last year. So, instead of being able to only type about 500 words in a 15 minute word war, I've been typing 800 or 900.

Which means that it's taking me less time to type my novel for NaNo than I expected. Like, 20 minutes or half an hour of writing a day instead of 45 minutes or an hour to meet word count goals.

So, being stubborn and not one to be told by my more rational self that I should do things in moderation, I decided that I should try to write all 50k this month (so long as I'm staying on top of the rest of my to-do list and still getting 7 hours of sleep a night).

I know I'm crazy. But a lot of crazy stuff has been happening this month--I've surprised myself with my ability to motivate myself, my grades, and my ability to meet goals when I set my mind to it in various aspects of my life. I like the results I get when I push myself and I actually feel better than just trying to scrape by with the bare minimum (most of the time; I'm still human--don't worry). So I've decided to push myself a bit with my writing, too.

Granted, this might change by the end of the month. I might realize a project is going to take longer than I thought, that my grades were a fluke during October, or I might get a sinus infection that knocks me out cold for a week straight.

But right now I'm shooting for 50k. Because I think that we'd all amaze ourselves if we tried to see how far we could actually go.

To the Nano'ers out there, how's your month going?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Embers"

The Short:

Abiassa’s Fire, Book 1

By: Ronie Kendig

4/5 Stars

What: When the heir to the realm swaps places with her crippled brother, both are burdened with more than they could have ever imagined.

Recommended to those who like: Loosely Christian, fantasy, some romance

The Long:

Haegan has been crippled since he was before he was a teenager, left to rot by his father the Fire King. But when his sister Kaelyria finds a way to swap places with him, he’s left on the run, blamed for what’s happened. The kingdom’s under siege, he’s never had to survive on his own, and he seems to wield a power that should never have been his.

There was some really great writing in this book and I loved the premise of certain people being able to wield fire. The action starts right at the beginning and continues up to the heart-pounding end (I may have stayed up too late reading it).

However, I was somewhat confused about the overall, larger plot of the story. I think I would have really enjoyed a prologue that explains a bit more of the set-up of the story world.

Nevertheless, the characters—especially Haegan—felt vibrant and I’m sad that I’ve had to leave them. I look forward to the next book (although it sounds like it may be a while before it comes out).

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fantasy novel of a moderate length with some Christian tones to it and a small amount of well-done romance.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Ms. Kendig and her work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome book suggestions! I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What is Speculative Fiction?

Okay, so this might be a bit of an easy post for me to write...but it's NaNo time!

Seeing as this blog is devoted to Christian Speculative Fiction, it might be useful to define what speculative fiction is.

Speculative fiction is a genre of literature that is based on the idea of creating an imaginary world in which the main story takes place.

You might argue that all fiction uses the concept of an imaginary world, but speculative fiction goes above and beyond by creating a setting for the novel that doesn’t exist. Regardless, it’s still a broad genre.

It’s a broad genre that doesn’t have hard edges, but we’ll try to nail it down a bit here.

The most commonly named speculative fiction “sub-genres” are Fantasy and Science Fiction. These two sub-genres are frequently lumped together, but they are broad in scope, containing everything from the space/time travel A Wrinkle in Time to epic fantasies such as The Lord of the Rings to science fiction classics such as Ender’s Game and the space opera series Star Wars. Each of these worlds has a different feeling, but they encompass just a small sampling of the speculative fiction field.

A speculative fiction author doesn’t always have to start from scratch to create his or her world. Alternate histories are an example of speculative fiction that uses a place (and even a “time”) that does/did exist. Many science fiction novels are set on a future earth that has different technology. While the place (Earth) is familiar, other parts of the setting are unfamiliar (such as alien species or intergalactic travel) and are products of the author’s imagination.

Another characteristic of speculative fiction is that a significant part of the work is devoted to world building. A Victorian Romance may include characters and places unique to that story, but the plot is more likely to revolve around original characters and their conflicts than the type of horse and carriage used by the characters in their quest to save the world.

In contrast, many speculative fiction authors focus on the technology, history, and even geography of their worlds to transport us to another realm that is almost entirely fictional. These stories tend to have a plot that is less personal and more grandiose—“let’s save the world!”, though there are certainly exceptions on both sides.

This presents challenges to spec-fic writers—how can we build a convincing story world that has high stakes without sacrificing character development? In a world that is strange, alien, and foreign, how can readers relate to the characters?

To any spec-fic writers out there, how do you focus on character development while building realistic worlds?

To any spec-fic readers, what books do you think did a great job world-building without sacrificing their characters? 

Also, thank you to all my readers! Over the weekend, I hit a total of 1,000 page views in the history of the blog, which is pretty exciting!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Knox's Irregulars"

The Short:

Knox’s Irregulars

By: J. Wesley Bush

4/5 Stars

What: On a distant planet in the future, a reluctant soldier is pushed into leadership of a hodge-podge group of militia and army regulars when a long-brewing religious war comes to a head.

Recommended to those who like: Science Fiction, Christian, Military, some romance

The Long:

I can’t say I’ve read a lot of military fiction, so this was a bit of a branching out for me. However, I did enjoy the book. The characters are witty and colorful, the action kept me interested, and there was some unique world building involved.

Randal Knox went into the armored infantry to escape his status as the Prime Minister’s son. But when the neighboring country is taken over by a militant, radical faction, he’s pushed into a leadership role he’s never desired but that God seems to will.

In enemy territory, he’s left with a group of misfits—an explosives expert of questionable sanity, his best friend, a vengeful special ops guy, a crazed pilot who knows just how to press his buttons, and a beautiful medic with a checkered past.

The resulting story loses none of its seriousness in spite of lots of wit and dry humor in it. Although the action started to get repetitive toward the middle of the story, I enjoyed the internal conflicts in many of the characters. There is a significant love element, but it doesn’t overwhelm the story or come across as too cliché. 

The Christian element of the story is strong and deals with Christian morals and trusting God during times of war. It occasionally comes across as a little preachy, but much of it was insightful and well-written.

Overall, I’d recommend this to teen readers and up who are interested in a futuristic military story with strong Christian themes throughout.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Bush and his  work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

I'll be out of town for a couple days, so it may take me longer than normal to respond to your comments. I'd still love to hear from you! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What is NaNoWrimo?

The wind has a bite to it now. People have been walking around in costumes for the past week. Readings of Edgar Allen Poe and other frightening stories lend the air a scent of mystery.

But, more importantly for (many) writers, there's something special that happens after Halloween. Because October 31st is followed by November 1st.

Duh. Of course--no month has 32 days and November follows October. What's so special about that?

Halloween at midnight sees a special transformation in many writers. We turn from our normal selves into caffeinated, word-warring participants in National Novel Writing Month, affectionately abbreviated as NaNoWriMo or NaNo.
Essentially, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in the scant 30 days of November. (That's a scant 720 hours, if you're wondering).

Why would anyone do this?

It's the perfect time to shove your inner editor into her office, broom closet, or personal yacht. There are literally thousands of writers across the world writing in this insane event, developing a certain level of camaraderie And it's a way to crank out a nice rough draft.

Granted, symptoms may also include talking to characters, caffeine overdose, editing withdrawal, and the occasional sleepless night, but I've written some terribly ugly really nice first drafts that I later edited into some novels I'm working on turning into something that might one day be worthy of publication.

This year, my college program is really demanding, so I won't be shooting for 50,000 words. (School is my priority right now). But, I'm shooting for 30,000. Hopefully, I'll be able to get a nice little word count widget going on one of the side columns.

Have any of you participated in NaNoWriMo? What are your goals for this year?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Taliesin"

The Short:


Book 1 of the Pendragon Cycle

By: Stephen R. Lawhead

4/5 Stars

What: The intersection of two worlds—Atlantis and the post-Roman British Isles—sets the stage for the Arthurian legends.

Recommended to those who like: Legends of Arthur, fantasy, Atlantis legends, Christian message

Not recommended to those who dislike: Magic use, discussion of old cults, mild love element

The Long:

I debated a bit about reviewing this one, especially early on in the book. There’s quite a bit of “more realistic” magic use, so if that bothers you, I wouldn’t recommend this as a book for you. However, at the end, there is a really redeeming Christian message. Overall, the book is good (other than it dragging a mite at the start) and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t object to magic in books and also enjoys a Christian element.

The book follows two main stories: Charis, an Atlantean princess, and Taliesin, a young man in the British Isles who finds himself a bard in a changing world.

Atlantis is crumbling just as fast as Charis’ own life. Following a personal tragedy, she takes to becoming a bull dancer—one who performs elaborate dance routines with bulls in front of a crowd. The dangerous work suits her disenchanted views of life. (If you read it for nothing else, read the book for these scenes; it’s some of the most vivid writing I’ve ever read. You can see exactly what’s going on and it’s thrilling).

Meanwhile, Taliesin finds that he has more than a few expectations laid upon him. When crisis strikes his village, how will he and his father Elphin respond? And does this really signal the Dark Time so long foretold? Will he help usher in the Light?

As I said, the writing brings life to the old stories. If you don’t mind the few potential issues that I listed at the start, I’d say it’s well worth the read. I plan to continue in the story.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Lawhead and his work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Author Interview with Benjamin J. Denen

Today, please welcome Mr. Denen for a special author interview! Mr. Denen is the author of The Keeper of Edelyndia, the first book in The Keeper Chronicles, a really cool fantasy series. Raulin: Rise of the Forest King is a prequel to The Keeper of Edelyndia and releases TODAY! 

Benjamin J. Denen is a husband, father, son, brother, friend, Christ follower, author, musician, pizza aficionado, promoter of the Oxford comma, and fan of all things Chicago sports (Cubs not White Sox). He holds a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in Guitar Performance from Belmont University (a fancy way of saying he plays guitar good) and a Master of Arts in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. When he's not reading, he's writing. Sometimes that means he is composing music for film/media in his project studio (i.e. in his converted garage). It could also mean that he is writing his latest novel.

He writes much in the same way that he reads, which is to say that he bounces around between different genres like Tigger after drinking a 5-Hour Energy. In music that means one day is laying tracks for a metal piece for a client. The next day he is composing a symphonic ballad for another. In his career as a novelist, it means that he writes urban fantasy, murder/mystery, epic fantasy, humorous young adult, Hallmark Channel-esque novellas, and so on. He thinks it makes him creative. His wife thinks it is adult A.D.D.

Being a writer is what he does not who he is. As much as he enjoys crafting music and stories, he places a much higher value on being a present father and husband. He'd rather play toys with his son than write a best seller (of course if he could do both he wouldn't complain).

To start off, tell us a little about your writing.

I write because I love to write.  That may sound cheesy or cliché, but it couldn’t be more true.  I guess I was sort of blessed with a very overactive imagination.  When I was a kid, I would play out intricate (for a child) dramas with my toys.  There would be epic wars fought by G.I. Joes for the survival of the human race and so on.  No that I have to “adult”, writing is the only way I can allow the stories floating around in my head to get out!

Because I first and foremost write for my own enjoyment of the process of telling stories, I tend to bounce around a little in terms of the kinds of books I write.  This is reflective of my reading habits.  Currently, I have self-published two fantasy novels and a Hallmark Channel-esque Christmas novella.  However, I’m sitting on a few completed manuscripts that are radically different from my published works.  As I continue this journey of writing and publishing, I think my readers will surprised at some of my releases.

What made you decide to take the indie publishing route? What makes indie publishing difficult?

Not to put too fine a point on it, I went the indie route because the “big house” publishers and agents haven’t “discovered” me yet.  Just ten-ish years ago that might have meant that my manuscripts would never see the light of day. Thankfully, I’m writing in a period that I think history will look at as the boom of publishing.  Some bemoan the “easy access” that would-be authors have to self-publishing tools because it allows what they consider to be “poor writing” to reach the public and clog up the field for all of us.  I, on the other hand, see this as a wonderful era and not just because it allows me to publish my works.  As a reader, I love the opportunity I have through sites like Amazon to discover new authors and create works that may not have fit the market-research driven top publishers.  Likewise, as an indie author, I can feel free to write the stories as I feel they are meant to be written without worrying that an agent will fail to take interest.

The most difficult side of self-publishing is most definitely marketing.  Though a published author has to be involved in this aspect of the process as well, there are teams of publicists and marketing experts to help connect him/her to readers.  As an indie author, that responsibility falls solely to me.  I love writing.  I do not love selling.  Many aspects of marketing all outside of my interests and skill set so it can be a challenge.

What’s your favorite part about writing?

Easily my favorite part of writing is getting to know the characters.  I used to hear other authors talk about how their characters tell the story, but until I wrote my first novel I didn’t truly understand this.  My wife tends to think I’m crazy!  I will often come out of a long writing session and tell her how surprised I was by the sudden twist in a story. The characters do really tell the story and often that leads me to discover a world I hadn’t expected to find.

I see you’ve written some music to go along with your books. What role does music play in your writing process?

My undergraduate degree is in music, and for much of my life I have played music professionally.  When you get down to it, music is another form of storytelling.  Music is a powerful medium for conveying emotion and drama.  As a composer I find myself creating stories and character arcs as I write, almost as if I am crafting a novel.  This made my transition into writing novels seamless.

When I write, I always have instrumental music playing in the room or through headphones.  Usually, I listen to film scores or other styles of orchestral music.  Film scores naturally lend well as a soundtrack to writing due to the fact that composers were, themselves, underscoring a story.  Honestly, I have a very difficult time writing without music.  The two are a package for me.

What would be your fantasy weapon of choice?

Oooh, great question.  In The Keeper of Edelyndia, I sort of invented a weapon that is a combination of a bowstaff and a spear.  There were a few reasons why I chose to do this, not the least of which was the desire to have my protagonist stand a little more unique among the pantheon of great fantasy characters already in print.  That said, I am a sucker for the sword.  There is something beautiful and awful about the double-edged blade.  It is a personal weapon that requires the wielder to step close to the man he intends to harm which lends an ugliness to it; yet it cannot be wielded by just anyone.  It takes skill and grace. 

 Now for something a bit more serious: how does your faith influence your writing?

The intertwining of my faith and my writing is so interconnected that I’m not entirely sure I could separate the two even if I wanted.  The stories that I write always wrestle with deep questions of the human condition.  Pain, suffering, joy, hope, fear… these are all things that make us human. My Christian faith naturally speaks to all of these and more.  When the stories unfold as I write them, I always strive to make my characters as human and realistic as possible.  Because I too have crisis of faith, have suffered loss, joy, fear, etc. it is only natural that my characters should as well.

That said, I also strive to write books that will appeal to people of different backgrounds.  Obviously, no book will appeal to everyone, but I want someone that does not share a similar faith to mine to feel just as engaged by my book as someone who does.

What authors have been a source of inspiration for you?

That’s a tough question.  The list could be endless.  As a fantasy author I obviously have to pay homage to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  Brandon Sanderson, J.K. Rowling, Steven King, Stephen Lawhead, John Green, Patrick Rothfuss, Frank Peretti, and Brent Weeks are a few others.  I’m an avid reader.  In fact, I think that all authors of any quality should consider themselves to be professional readers.  I’m not sure how you can add anything to world of literature without reading what is already out there. 

Recently, discovered Robin Hobb and have fallen in love with her writing.  I’m not sure how it took me so long to find her books!

 If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be?

I am a bit of a self-proclaimed history nerd.  Though I primarily read fictional works, I do enjoy reading non-fiction that pertain to history, particularly anything to do with WWII.  Narrowing it down would be really hard.  I would love to meet FDR and/or Winston Churchill.  Those were two amazing men that were forced to make some of the most difficult decisions a world leader has ever faced. 

What’s your favorite fictional book and why?

Wow, I don’t know that I could possibly narrow it down to one.  Though I am in the middle of writing a fantasy series, I read many different genres.  That said, if I’m forced to pick one I’m going to go with Eragon by Christopher Paolini.  There certainly are other fantasy works that are considered finer literature, but I choose this one because of how it inspired me.  I first read it while I was in college, a time when I had mostly stopped reading for leisure.  There have been a couple of times that in reading it again, a passion for reading has been reawakened in me.  For whatever reason it really connected with me.  The characters are well constructed and relatable. 

Close seconds would be The Oath by Frank Peretti and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. 

Last question: You find yourself in an alley in the middle of the night when you hear menacing footsteps behind you. If you could summon any book character to be with you, who would you choose and why?

This one is easy.  Jack Reacher.  He is, quite possibly, the coolest, toughest character ever created.  He might not be the most skilled, the strongest, or the most powerful, but if I’m trapped in a dark alley, I like my odds with him having my back!

Thanks for taking time out for the interview and for all the great answers! 

Interested in Mr. Denen's writing and books? Check out these awesome links! 
Click Here For More Info
Click Here for More Info
Click Here for More Info

Mr. Denen's Author Website

You can also follow him on Facebook!

Or simply check out his Amazon Author Page.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "The Princess Bride"

The Short:

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

By: William M. Goldman

4/5 Stars

What: A story within a story following true love and fantastical adventure.

Recommended to those who like: Humor, Clean, literary devices, sword fights, fantasy

Not recommended to those who dislike: some language, vague endings, moderate to strong love element

The Long:

I have to admit that I had a hard time rating this one. The movie is one of my favorites (I watch it pretty much every time I’m sick because it has the ability to make me laugh even when I feel terrible). So, when I went into the book, I might’ve set the expectations a little high.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a good book. Just realize that (unlike most cases) the movie is probably better than the actual book. At least, that’s my personal opinion.

The story begins by Mr. Goldman telling us that he’s abridging a work that his father read to him as a young child. If you’re just after the fantasy elements of the story, I would recommend skipping to where he actually begins the abridgement (it might take a while to find where that’s at). Then, since it’s an abridgement of a (fictional) book, Mr. Goldman interrupts the story at several points to note what he’s omitted from the story. It’s a little confusing if you’ve never read a book with that type of literary device in it.

However, the meat of the story is great. There are sword fights, plays on words, kidnappings, and, of course, true love. The “real” story follows Buttercup, a farm girl, and Westley, her family’s helper. At the beginning they fall hopelessly in love and the rest of the story is spent trying to reunite them.

As you’ve probably figured out from most of my reviews, I’m not too keen on love stories. I don't bear them any ill will. I just...can't get into them. This is actually one of the few love stories that I enjoy—mostly because of the humor (and some epic sword fights).

Overall, I would recommend this book to someone who doesn’t mind a little bit of a non-traditional style when it comes to storytelling, a little bit of language, and a strong love element. I would recommend the movie to pretty much anyone (yes, it’s “old” now, but it’s still really good!).

Now, for a special announcement!

This coming Tuesday, October 27th (or Wednesday, depending on where you happen to live), Mr. Benjamin J. Denen will be joining us for an author interview! Mr. Denen is the author of The Keeper of Edelyndia. His next book, Raulin: Rise of the Forest King, is set to release next Tuesday. Raulin is more of a "backstory" book, so definitely check it out, even if you haven't read The Keeper. 

Thanks for putting up with my brief hiatus. I've included links to Amazon for the books, if you're interested (I'm not trying to make promotions for Amazon or anything; it's merely my preferred outlet for ebooks). I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday!

Amazon Kindle Link                                                                                       Amazon Kindle Pre-order

Friday, October 16, 2015

Double Feature: "Kingdom's Dawn" and "Kingdom's Hope"

I decided to do a double review on these two books because of how this series is set up (the first two books are really like one story). They're very short, easy reads.

The Short:
Kingdom’s Dawn and Kingdom’s Hope
Books one and two of The Kingdom Series

By: Chuck Black

4/5 Stars

What: A tight allegory highlighting many significant events of the Old Testament in a medieval/fantasy setting.

Recommended to those who like: Allegories, easy/middle grade books, sword fights, fantasy

The Long:

I dusted off this series and sat down for a nice afternoon read. The Kingdom Series is a very tight allegory. In this first post, I’ll be reviewing the first two books of the series (they fit together very well and are pretty much a continuum).

Leinad is just a simple farmer, but his father seems intent on teaching him the way of the sword and a virtuous way of life. When his life is turned upside down, he realizes that there’s much more in the world beyond his hometown. There’s a King who’s much more involved in the history of the Kingdom of Arrethtrae—and his own life—than he could have imagined.

The books follow Leinad through his many adventures and perils. There’s lots of good sword fighting and the vivacious character Tess always makes me smile.

Truth be told, I debated giving this one a five-star rating (I would say that it’s a five-star book for middle grade readers, but adults/more advanced readers may find the vocabulary and character development a little below their liking). The action is great, but sometimes the characters feel a little stiff. All in all though, it’s a good allegorical pair of novels to get the series started and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian, middle-grade books. This was one of my favorite series in Middle School/ High School.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Black and his work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Due to travel plans and having multiple tests this upcoming week, I will not be posting on Tuesday. Check back in on Friday for another book review!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When It's Time to Rewrite your Novel....Again

I decided to take a short break from the "What is..." series. If you have suggestions (the brief hiatus from it may or may not be due to a lack of ideas), please leave them in the comments or use the new handy-dandy contact form in the left-hand column.

From here.
For the first time in a while, I've remembered that writing, like life, isn't easy. It might seem easy to sit down and write a good novel when the letters are flying and I know what my characters are going to do...but those moments don't last long.

I've been editing a novel for a good chunk of the summer and into the fall (It's the second book in my Christian dystopian series that I've been working on over the course of a few years). This wasn't the first time I've edited it.

The whole summer, I thought to myself that it was going well. That writing was easy. That I could just put in a bit of effort and it would fix itself. I chalked off the nagging feeling that something wasn't right to my inner editor not being given her allotted amount of chocolate for working overtime.

I edited it once and wasn't happy with it. I took some time off, re-read it, and decided that it still needed just a bit of something. I edited it again.

Perhaps I wasn't happy with it, but my inner editor was exhausted. Three months of work and she hadn't been given extra coffee, better chocolate, or vacation time. And I didn't want to look at it again. I'd edited it three times. Shouldn't that be enough? How many red pens had to spill their life's blood for the sake of one novel? Surely it'd be fine.

I sent it off to my wonderful critique partner, Victoria, who gently told me what I didn't want to hear.

I still have a lot of work ahead of me.

She put the words to the nagging feeling that had plagued me all summer. Words that I wanted to throw away, but couldn't deny their truth.

The feeling that I couldn't get the pacing right? She nailed it on the head--no climax and my characters acting like a handful of houseplants (my words, not hers). The feeling that I couldn't figure out where my characters were going? It helps when your characters have goals.

She saw what I didn't want to see and didn't shy away from telling me about it. (And I wouldn't have it any other way, either. Critiques are only useful if they're honest and constructive. And she was super nice about it).

I don't know if this is what Hemingway meant about sitting at a typewriter bleeding, but I feel like it could be. I left my life's blood on the page and more is required. Elbow grease is expensive to buy, but sometimes it's the only thing that works when you have a broken manuscript.

So it might be back to the drawing board. I'm debating investing in a larger white board  to draw stuff out. I've already got three colors of neon sticky notes in my drawer that have been slotted for enlistment into the editing armada.

I'll need some time to get away from the story a bit. My poor, whimpering inner editor has earned that, at the very least. So for now, I'm plotting something different for NaNo.

But come December 1st (or Christmas break, depending on scheduling), it'll be time to roll up the sleeves again. My inner editor will have had a couple months of much-needed chocolate and coffee vacation time in her office (I think the only time she leaves is to buy more red pens).

It'll be back to the drawing board. Back to the blood-covered typewriter. Back to writing a story I love and making sure it gets told the way it deserves.

Until then, it's time for a fresh story and some more blogging.

(Also, you should check out Victoria's blog, because she's also an awesome blogger).

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sequel Review: "A Draw of Kings"

Spoiler alert! Please go back and read Book One and Two before continuing to read this review. Book One, A Cast of Stones, is still free on Amazon for Kindle as of the writing of this article. I would highly recommend this series. 

The Short:

A Draw of Kings
(The Staff and the Sword, Book 3)

By: Patrick W. Carr

5/5 Stars

What: Rodran’s death brings the series to a head. Who will be king? And who will die to save the kingdom?

Recommended to those who like: Christian fantasy, epic battles, and have read the first two books.

The Long:

Warning: Please read the first two books in the series before continuing to read the rest of this review.

Who will live and who will die? That question haunts Errol. Despite all of their casts, they still have no idea who the next soteregia will be. With his newfound love for Adora, can he bear to die, leaving her alone? Why does Deas demand such sacrifice?

With Merakhi and ferral forces on Illustra’s doorstep, time is running out for their casts. The king must be chosen and the future of the kingdom secured—both militarily and spiritually. If only a remnant will remain, the heroes must somehow ensure that those left behind will be able to know Deas, even if the church fails.

This is a fitting, captivating end to an excellently written series. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has read the first two books. If you haven’t read the first book, my review for book one is here. I would highly recommend this series to anyone who likes Christian fantasy.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Carr and his work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bonus Post: Lessons from my Dog

Dogs are great. As you've probably noticed by now, I'm a little obsessed with them. I'm also missing my three dogs now that I'm off at college (having dogs in the dorms is more than a little frowned upon). So I needed a dog post in my life! (No worries; I'm going to relate it all back to writing).

1. Dogs love routine. If we skip our morning walk, Charlie gets super cranky with me and acts like I'm not there. Having to walk him every morning keeps me in shape and gives us a little time together.

It's important to develop a writing routine. It gives you time with your characters and keeps your writing muscles in shape. No, I'm not talking about the finger muscles you use for typing--I'm talking about your sheer determination to plow through, even when plagued by writer's block and the skills you need to keep your writing polished.

2. Dogs like to hang out together. They're always excited to meet new friends and enjoy some time playing with them. You always have some dogs that don't like to do this, but as a general rule, they like to stick together in groups (or adopt human families as their packs).

Similarly, it's good to find writing friends, even if you can't hang out in person. Find someone to sharpen your skills and encourage you when you're stuck. Better yet--find a critique partner!

3. Dogs are always excited to eat. Or at least my beast of a dog is. He hears the food bowl clank and he immediately starts slobbering waterfalls and jumping around. It's pretty much his favorite time of day--I think it even outranks our morning walk.

We should also be hungry for writerly food. Novels in the genres we write in are an excellent place to start; books on writing and blogs about writing should also make a good portion of our "diets." It gives us the strength to build our writing muscles.

Have you ever learned lessons from odd places? What areas are your strongest as a writer? 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What is "Head-Hopping"?

To understand "head-hopping", we first have to understand Point of View, or POV. POV is how we are seeing the story. In its simplest form, POV can be in the first person. "I went to the store and bought milk but was annoyed with the long line." An example would be The Hunger Games. 

Hey, look at this handy chart! From here.
Then there's third person, which is used frequently when the author intends to change which character we can "see through" in the story. "Jane went to the store and bought milk, but she was annoyed with the long line." Sometimes, the author doesn't even give us the character's thoughts. "Jane went to the store and bought milk. As she stood in line, she frowned and tapped her foot, checking her watch every so often."

Now, it's important to differentiate between which character we're using as our "camera" into the story world, or we get head-hopping. Let's say we start out in Jane's head thinking about how annoyed she is about the long line at the store and then we jump over to Larry, the cashier, and how hungry he is after having to work through his lunch break.

That would look something like this: "Jane groaned. How much longer would this take? Larry's stomach grumbled and he stared at the long line of people waiting to get checked out. His lunch wouldn't be coming anytime soon."

See how confusing this is? We feel Jane's frustration and then all of a sudden, we're on the other side of the register, wondering how we got there.

Head-hopping is something that takes a while to identify, especially in its more subtle forms. I have this bad habit of trying to foreshadow and giving stuff away that my characters wouldn't know--another form of head-hopping (unless writing third person omniscient or some other craziness).

For example, "As John shut the door behind him, he had no idea it would be his last time in the building."

Granted, there are some exceptions to this. You can have something called a third person omniscient viewpoint (Lord of the Rings--of course Tolkien had to be complicated). I don't fully understand what differentiates this style from plain old head-hopping, but I do know that it flows better. (I've heard it said that the narrator also knows things that none of the characters know--such as the foreshadowing above).

There are some people who claim that head-hopping is acceptable so long as it doesn't interrupt the flow of the story and it's clearly expressed that we're going to be switching POV characters. I beg to differ--I really haven't run into a time where I like head hopping and normally it confuses me more than anything.

What's your opinion on head-hopping? Do you have trouble with it in your writing?