Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What is an Antihero?

Last week, Victoria J. suggested that I discuss antiheroes. I hate to admit it, but I had to look this one up, which makes it perfect for a post!

We've all heard of heroes. Superman, Luke Skywalker, Aragorn...pretty much every story has one or multiple heroes. They're courageous, honorable, and, well, just plain heroic. 

We're also familiar with the concept of villains: Sauron, Darth Vader, IT, The Joker, King Galbatorix, The Borg...they make us shudder, cringe, and desperately hope our hero either never encounters them or else defeats them easily (and neither of those options makes for a good story).

So, what is an antihero? They're not truly villainous and out to kill the hero (usually), but neither are they heroic, honorable, and courageous. They're more out for their own gain in some way or another.

From here

Take Han Solo, for example. He's not really the most honorable person (why else would he be found in a wretched hive of scum and villainy?). He's after money and girls and to save his own hide. He does heroic things, not because he's actually heroic, but because it's convenient. And we still manage to like him. He also does turn out to be a good guy in the end--but then he sorta migrates over to hero status. 

From here

 Another good example would be Captain Jack Sparrow, from Pirates of the Caribbean. He's a drunken pirate after girls, gold, and more rum (which always seems to be in short supply). Good gracious, his own crew committed mutiny against him. He's got an ego the size of the seven seas. He'll betray his friends for his own advantage. But he's not villainous like Davey Jones. We still root for him. 

From here

Last example, Captain Kirk from Star Trek (I apologize to all the real Trekkies out there; I can't get into the old movies/show. But the new ones are really good!). Again, astounding ego. He's a little closer to a hero (he's got some guts for sure). But he's not really out to be heroic for heroism's sake, at least at the beginning.

I apologize that these were pretty similar.  If you're into literary nerd-dom stuff, I'd recommend Hero, Second Class. It pretty much pokes fun at the whole idea of Heroes and Villains.

Thanks again for the suggestion, Victoria! I'm always open to article suggestions from any readers!

Who are your favorite antiheroes? 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: Kiriath's Quest

The Short:

Kiriath’s Quest

By: Rick Barry           

4/5 Stars

What: Following his father’s kidnapping, a young prince sets out on a quest to free him and save his kingdom.

Recommended to those who like: Quick reads, classic fantasy, clean, quests

Not recommended for those who dislike: Books written for a younger audience

The Long:

I’d forgotten that this one was sitting on my shelf. (Don’t you love it when you’ve forgotten the plot of a book and can re-read it almost like it’s the first time?) I still enjoyed the story and was surprised by a couple of turns in the plot.

We follow Prince Kiriath and his best friend, Brand, throughout the story. King Jekoniah is kidnapped at the start of the book and the prince and Brand must set out on a quest to find him before time runs out. It’s a classic quest story with strange creatures, a forgotten kingdom, sword fighting, and loads of action.

The characters did seem a little flat at times and a few of the descriptions were long-winded, but the book was good overall (I don’t think it’ll be getting as dusty this time—I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading it a second time). It’s definitely intended for more of a middle-grade audience, but that shouldn’t hinder an older person from enjoying it.

The book has some Christian undertones and the end of the book has some deep thoughts on the nature of good vs. evil, but I would classify it as a “clean” work. I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a quick, light afternoon read and enjoys a good quest.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Barry 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!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bonus Post: Tag of Randomocity

Well, today I'm trying something new! (Yay for new stuff! Also, terrifying; but that's besides the point). Basically, I was "tagged" by Heather over at Sometimes I'm a Story to do a post on random stuff about myself. (By the way, you should check out her blog. Also, shoutout to her for doing an awesome critique on my WIP a while back).

Blog tags, such as the Tag of Randomocity, are essentially a way to network between bloggers and hook readers up with new blogs that may be of interest of them in a fun manner, which is pretty stinkin' awesome!

For this particular challenge/ tag, you post the button into your post, followed by two truths and a lie about yourself (see if you can guess the lie down in the comments), and then answer the list of random questions that was posted by the previous person. You're then encouraged to pass on the challenge to another blogger.

Let the randomness begin!

First off, two truths and a lie:

  • I was a competitive swimmer for ten years
  • My favorite wild animal is the tiger
  • I love snow and wintertime
Best of luck with guessing!

What is one food that you can (and do) eat mountains of food because you love it so? 

Chocolate. Or taters (PO-TAT-OES; Boil 'em, mash'em, stick 'em in a stew). It's a really a close call between those two, especially if it's dark chocolate or really good mashed potatoes and gravy. I especially love both of those foods when I'm stressed out.

If you were a traveler without roots, would your home be a train car, hot air balloon, a boat, or just a pack on your back? Or maybe another option?

I'd probably pick some form of backpacking. I love tent camping and spending time outside. I would bring my dog along with me; he has a backpack, too. Definitely some books. And my coffeepot for over the fire.

I'd look like Samwise Gamgee with a pony-sized dog. But I'd be happy. And I'd probably eat potatoes for dinner, come to think of it. 

Name a celebrity you wish you could spend one day with.

I don't know about a "celebrity" in the strictest sense. I've always been a little paranoid about these questions because celebrities are only human, after all. What if someone I really liked in their celebrity role turns out to be a jerk?

Anyways, I would probably pick either Aliy Zirkle, Alaskan musher and Iditarod runner-up, or Ed Stielstra, Michigan musher. Also, pretty much any author who writes cool stories. 

What fictional character's house would you like to have as your own?

An interesting question. I don't know about a particular house, but I think Rohan from Lord of the Rings is really pretty. I'm not the most comfortable around horses, but I think I could work on that. 

If you could take a class in anything, what would it be? 

As far as "real life" college classes, I would have really liked to take Europe in the Middle Ages or The American Revolution. (Neither would fit into my schedule, sadly). 

As far as fake classes, I'd love to become a Ranger from the Ranger's Apprentice. (I've already got the coffee-drinking down and I've been shooting a recurve bow for the past year, so maybe I'm well on my way). Or I would become a Jedi. Unfortunately, it's harder to come by real lightsabers than bows and arrows. 

Name a childhood obsession.

Books, Star Wars, dogs, and pigs. Come to think of it, I haven't changed all that much.

What do you think would be an awesome theme for a party?

I can think of a few, but since I have virtually no social life when school is in session, none of them are likely to happen. 

Lord of the Rings--my friends and I sort of did one of these a few years back. We had a LotR marathon and played board games. I would definitely add in Lembas bread and some costumes (though my mom's tacos were also quite the hit, so maybe we shouldn't change that up). 

A Ranger's Apprentice party would also be cool. There would definitely have to be an epic game of hide and seek, coffee, and some archery involved. 

Also, there has to be something really good to do for a Star Wars party. Movie marathons are always nice...and with the new one coming out in December, there might be some potential for that one. *Walks away muttering about costumes*. 

Basically, I'd just enjoy anything with some good friends, good food, board games and something caffeinated (but nothing stronger). 

Have you ever been involved in any clubs or groups?

You're probably learning more about me than you ever wanted to! Yes; marching band and archery to name a couple.

What's something that you have to buy all the time that you wish you didn't have to? (Nothing unique, like movies or books.)

Tennis shoes/ sneakers. The college I attend has a huge campus, so I kill shoes on a regular basis. And good ones that fit my wide, high-arched feet are hard to come by for a reasonable price. 

What park would you choose to visit?

Gosh, there are so many national parks I want to see. Denali is probably my number one pick, closely followed by Yellowstone, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. I wouldn't mind going back to the Grand Canyon or seeing the Redwoods out in California. 

They aren't parks in the same sense, but I'm really interested in the American Revolution and have seen very few of the memorials/ battlefields associated with it. The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Lexington and Concord, and other similar sites would definitely make my list. 

I don't know many people in the blogging world, but I would like to nominate Victoria J. if she has the time and desire to participate. 

Also, don't forget to guess on which of the three facts at the top is a lie! 

Thanks again to Heather for the nomination and don't forget to stop back in on Friday for a book review!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What is an Inner Editor?

I don't know that I've talked about it on here yet, but many authors frequently refer to their "inner editor". What strange beast is this and why do writers seem to alternately love and hate it?

Have you ever tried to type an email, only to keep re-writing it half a dozen times in the middle of actually writing it? Change a word here, rephrase a sentence there, correct a minor grammatical error in paragraph one--and do you sign with "Sincerely" or "Thanks"--and did you use perhaps a few too many times? Essentially, your cursor keeps running back and forth across the page like it's trying to get in the best shape of its life.

That's the result of your inner editor. You're constantly tweaking whatever you're trying to write--editing it--while still trying to write it. And how productive is that?

It's not terribly unproductive if you only have to compose a three paragraph email or a three hundred word blog article or college essay,  but it's pretty near impossible to complete an entire fifty thousand manuscript if you leave your inner editor turned on.

The inner editor is a persnickety beast. (Personally, I imagine her as an old lady with blond hair, rhinestone glasses, and red fingernails who likes to purse her lips at my writer self and shake her head sadly, clucking, "Now, now, that won't do." And then she gets out her huge red pen and makes my manuscript bleed.) She (or he) likes to tell you to fix things while you're still writing.

When she does this, you must politely decline and shut the door to her office so that she doesn't bother you. She's going to scream and shout and pound on the door until you let her out with her armada of red pens. And she's going to be cranky when she does come out. But, to finish a rough draft, sometimes you have to lock her away while you're still writing it.

Now, your inner editor can also be a good friend (sometimes she just needs taming with some chocolate or coffee to calm her down to a normal, less frantic state). But, you have to let her out only at certain times or she'll crush your inspiration. That's not conducive to writing. But make a friend out of your inner editor when you're actually editing. She's a valuable resource, rhinestone glasses and all.

Do you struggle with your inner editor? Any suggestions for "What is..." articles? 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "The Sword"

The Short:

The Sword
(Book 1 of the Chiveis Trilogy)

By: Bryan M. Liftin

5/5 Stars

What: After the world has been virtually destroyed, Christianity has disappeared—until a Bible is found.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, sword fights, post-apocalyptic, unique world-building, Christian

Not recommended for those who dislike: Moderate to strong love element, some darker themes

The Long:

Miraculously, I actually found a book in a brick and mortar store this time. I was pleasantly surprised by The Sword. It had good action, a believable love element that didn’t consume the story, and a very unique world.

The known world was destroyed by a combination of acts of terrorism and disease. Now, it has reverted to a system of government and technology that resembles the medieval period—nobility, feudal kingdoms, swords, archery, etc. Outside of these kingdoms, in the Beyond, the remnants of twenty-first century civilization can be seen.

Throughout the story, we follow Captain Teofil, a soldier who teaches when he’s not patrolling the borders of the kingdom of Chiveis; and Anastasia, a young peasant woman who has become weary of the gods of her kingdom.

When they are stranded together in the wilderness, they discover a mysterious book. Will they be able to bring the Good News to Chiveis, or will the High Priestess stop them?

Note to readers: the book does deal with the nature of sexual temptation, though it is handled tactfully and in a Christian manner. Witchcraft/ demon worship is also mentioned as an aspect of worship of the gods of Chiveis. Again, this is handled well and actually adds depth to the story. These elements do make the book better suited to mature young adults and adults rather than younger audiences.

The book captured my attention from page one. While there is a love element to the story, it’s reasonable and doesn’t wipe out the action or other parts of the world building. The characters were flawed, but heroic, loveable and relatable. I look forward to getting the next book soon.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Liftin 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, September 15, 2015

What is Writer's Block?

If you're friends with an author long enough, they'll eventually tell you about something called writer's block.

It's an awful illness and it can manifest itself in several different, ugly ways. However, they all share one common symptom--writing stops or becomes excruciatingly difficult. The afflicted author may or may not moan, bang head in frustration against desk when in proximity of their computer, become sleep deprived, or act listless or uninterested in writing.

As a friend to these aspiring authors, it is your privilege (and responsibility) to help them overcome this disease ;) Even just realizing they're going through it and supporting them is helpful. I've included brief descriptions of different strains of the virus (thankfully it's not contagious) and what treatment may aid your writing friend on the path to recovery.

The Curse of the Blank Page! Though this looks very nice.
Writer's Block Type A:
You're writing, writing writing...and then the story stops coming. Suddenly. Without warning. You try to write, but no ideas come. It's like you're brain dead.

This type happens to me quite frequently when I'm using the pantsing method of writing a novel. I typically step back from my computer, go for a run or a swim or a long hot shower and come back to it. If that doesn't loosen up the gears in my head enough, I let it sit for one or two days before coming back to it.

Writer's Block Type B:
You've left a story sitting for several weeks because life got busy and you come back to find the novel lifeless. You totally forgot how excited you were for the story, what the characters were about, why the villain was so compelling...and now it feels dead. Ideas have stopped coming. It's hard to write because every step is plagued by thoughts like, "This character is so flat. How could I have liked him? And he was the main driving force for the story." or "Why did I think this plot was cool? Nobody's going to like it."

And if you let those ideas sit and ferment, you'll probably leave the story in some forgotten corner.

My solution to this? Don't let the novel sit too long unsupervised (occasionally that's necessary, but you have to have some true grit to come back to a long-lost story idea; the couple time's I've done it, I've ended up overhauling the story). NaNoWriMo is great for staying motivated and preventing this.

If it's already happened and you're determined to see the story through even if you don't feel like it, you're going to have to sit down and stare at a blinking cursor for a while. Hash some words out, even if you think they're awful. The story will come back eventually and you'll remember why you liked it.

Writer's Block Type C:
The slow fade. You've been writing pretty steadily (but not with blinding speed). And each day it gets a little harder and harder until one day you just can't seem to write any more.

Like Type A, sometimes it's best to take a day off from writing. You might be burned out. If, however, this keeps happening, approach as you would approach Type B--force yourself to write, even if it's only a little. Sometimes I just need to re-read what I've written and rediscover my love for the story, re-lighting the fire I had at the start of the project.

Regardless of the form it takes, writer's block can be difficult to get over. The important thing is that you keep writing!

For more on writer's block, check out Victoria J's post here. It's excellent and humorous (and check out her other stuff, too!)

Do you struggle with writer's block? How do you cope with it?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Blog Update: Facebook Page and Other (Slightly Shameful) Self-Promotions

If you have a Facebook account, come on by and check out my new page! For right now, I'll mainly be posting about when I have an article coming out, starting a new post series, etc. In the future, I might expand the scope of it a bit.

I also have a Google+ page and a Goodreads account, so check those out, too! You can also become a "follower" of my blog so that posts show up with all the posts from your other favorite blogs. If you feel so inclined, I'd really appreciate it if you share the blog with others through any of these means or even just word of mouth.

Thanks for all of your support! Don't forget to drop by on Tuesday for a post about writer's block!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sequel Review: "The Hero's Lot"

This week I'm reviewing The Hero's Lot, sequel to A Cast of Stones. I would highly recommend reading the excellent first book before continuing. Come back next week for a fresh series/book!

The Short:

The Hero’s Lot
(The Staff and the Sword, Book 2)

By: Patrick W. Carr

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

What: Errol is put under compulsion by the church to kill Valon or die trying. He is rejoined by familiar characters from the previous book

Recommended to those who like: Sword fights, fantasy, Christian fiction, (and have read book one)

The Long:

If you haven’t read book one, don’t continue! This review may ruin the first book for you!

Wow. I really just cannot say enough about these books! The writing is excellent, the plots are gripping, and the characters are loveable and believable. I purchased book three right away, even though I probably should’ve waited.

Errol continues to be the main focus of our travels, though we also spend a significant amount of time with Martin. His character is still deeply flawed and complex, but he’s loveable. Relatable. Human.  He’s definitely one of my favorite characters.

Put under compulsion by the church, Errol must travel south to Merakh and kill Valon or die in the attempt (and certain authorities wouldn't mind the latter in the least). He enlists the help of familiar friends, as well as new ones. Their trip is fraught with danger, lots of sword fights, and the ongoing political and religious struggles for power that were hinted at in the previous book.

There’s a great plot twist/ reveal in the middle of the book that really ups the stakes and the action. I wish I could talk about it more, but you’ll just have to read the book to find out what it is!

Again, I can’t get over these books. This is some of the best writing that I’ve read in a long time—it sucks me right into the story. Mr. Carr is a master of his craft and I look forward to reading more of his books in the near future.

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!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What is a WIP?

This is the first in a series on writing "vocabulary". For this to work well, I could really use some reader input (or else I'll just be telling you stuff you probably already know). Want to know what a certain subgenre is? A writing term I've used? If I don't know the answer, I'll attempt to find it. Just write your question down in the comments phrased as "What is..."

 This will be an on and off series from now till Christmas (or beyond if you guys send me good questions!).

https://static.pexels.com/photos/3319/typing-vintage-technology-keyboard.jpgYou've probably noticed that I use the term WIP quite frequently. It's a handy little abbreviation.

One problem with abbreviations, though: we tend to forget what they mean (or we never knew what they stood for in the first place). Such as when signs read, "Free WiFi Inside". If you were to translate that literally, you'd get, "Free Wireless Internet Free Inside". It's rather repetitive and redundant.

Anyways, I digress. WIP stands for "Work in Progress". Authors use it quite frequently to denote a work that they're still working on.

Ex. "I did a macroedit on my current WIP during July, but there's still a lot to do before I send it to my critique partner." or "My dystopian novel is still a Work in Progress." (Authors typically say the whole phrase when actually conversing, but use the abbreviation for email communication.)

WIP also stands as a way to discuss a work without having to go through explaining what it is. This is especially handy if (like me) you have a hard time coming up with titles. When talking with my writer friends, I tend to speak of my WIP  with a genre attached.

Ex. "My fantasy WIP is currently on hold while I attempt to get over writer's block."

Any questions about WIP's? What other terms would you like me to define? 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "A Time to Die"

The Short:

A Time to Die
(The Out of Time Series—Book One)

By: Nadine Brandes

5/5 Stars (And possibly going on the favorites shelf).

What: In the future, people are given clocks that tell them the exact time of their deaths. One girl is subjected to banishment, but hopes she can make a difference in the little time she has left.

Recommended to those who like: Christian, dystopian, great world-building, serious themes

The Long:

I really have to tip my hat to Ms. Brandes for this story. It’s excellent, gripping, and dares to deal with a subject that few authors seriously approach—that of death.

Throughout the story, we follow Parvin Blackwater, a girl destined to die at age 18. As she enters her last year on earth, she realizes that she hasn’t done anything that she considers to be worthwhile. She tries to make a difference in the lives of Radicals—those people who don’t have clocks dictating the day of their deaths.

 In her small village, all Radicals are sentenced to banishment through the Wall, a giant structure that divides the former United States in half.

No one knows what lies to the west of the Wall. A turn of events leads Parvin to be banished through the wall herself. Is this what God meant by her making a difference? Or will her numbers zero-out without meaning?

The plot is gripping and fast-paced. Though it’s a longer book, it does make for a fast read due to the action. The characters are flawed, believable, and real. Several plot-twists blindsided me (maybe only one or two of them will get you; I tend to be a gullible reader).

The book does have a strong Christian message, but it doesn’t come across as preachy or contrived. Parvin struggles with her faith, just as all of us do at one time or another.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys serious, dystopian novel and enjoys a Christian message.

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, September 1, 2015

Fall Book Release Season

Along with back-to-school season in the U.S., this time of year sees the publishing companies release images and descriptions of the books they plan to release this Fall. So, I thought I'd compile a list of ones that look interesting.

From Enclave Publishing:

If you haven't figured it out by now, this small publishing group dedicated solely to Christian speculative fiction is one of my favorite sources for books.

Embers, by Ronie Kendig

This fantasy looks intriguing and seems to be centered on a brother and sister who are heirs to the throne. I have it on pre-order, so look for a book review sometime in the future.

To be released on October 16th.

A Time to Speak, by Nadine Brandes

Book 2 in the Out of Time Series, this dystopian novel looks like it'll be a great sequel to A Time to Die. I'll be reviewing A Time to Die on Friday, so be sure to stop by and check it out.

Release date of October 16th.

The Hive, by John Otte

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the most into Sci-fi (in spite of it being a speculative fiction genre). And cyborgs creep me out (chalk that off to watching Star Trek with my dad when I was little and being terrified by the Borg). However, I might give this one a try. The premise of a cyborg on the run to save her baby is just so...different...that I might have to give it a try, though it might take me a while to get around to it.

To be released October 16th.

From Bethany House:

By Divine Right (The Darkwater Saga) (To be released in September) and The Shock of Night (The Darkwater Saga), both by Patrick W. Carr (To be released November 3rd).

From the brief description, these look like a fantasy/medieval novel meets murder mystery, which could be interesting. If it's half as good as The Staff and the Sword series, it'll be worth the read. By Divine Right is described as an "introductory novella" to the other book.

Chivalrous (Book 2 in Valiant Hearts), by Dina L. Sleiman

This cover immediately caught my eye. I'll have to go back and check out Book 1, Dauntless, so watch for reviews of both of these in the future. It looks like it's a series about warrior women.

Chivalrous is set to be released in September.

From Thomas Nelson:

Well, one publishing house had to throw a wrench into the whole, "Most books come out in the Fall or Spring" pattern. It seems they favor a June/July release date over a September/ October date (they also didn't have a "new releases" page that I could find, so it's entirely possible that they have some cool books coming soon and I just don't know about them).

Storm Siren, by Mary Weber

Released back in June, this looks like it could be an interesting Supernatural/fantasy book involving a girl who has the power to call storms and ends up being manipulated by the authorities in attempt to end a war.

Finishing thoughts:

I was surprised to see that AMG Publishers doesn't seem to have anything new coming out in the Speculative field (they've been a really strong publisher of the genre in the past). Likewise, Zondervan seems to have reduced the number of their spec fic novels recently.

I wish that I could keep up a bit more with Indie authors, but they're harder to track down on the internet. If you're an author who has an upcoming book that I missed and would like it considered for a review, leave a note in the comments for me--I'm still working on a contact form.

Any books I missed? What releases are you looking forward to? Any of the books above look interesting (aka I need to know what books I should purchase first to start destroying the budget)?