Friday, December 30, 2016

Sequel Review: "Outcasts"

If you haven't already, you can check out my review of the first book in this series, Captives. As always, I've tried to keep this review spoiler-free for both books. I'll be back with a fresh series next week! 

The Short:

The Safe Lands, Book 2

By: Jill Williamson

5/5 Stars

What: The people of Glenrock face cultural challenge without and tension within.

Recommended to those who like: Dystopian, Christian, and have read Book 1. Teens/YA

The Long:

Mason and the other people from Glenrock are starting to find their way around their new home. But they still haven’t found a way to rescue their children and trust within the group is at an all-time low. Can they survive while keeping their faith in tact? Or will they figure out what liberation means?

This series absolutely has me hooked. Ms. Williams’ writing style brings life to this tale of courage and finding hope in a new land. The “typical” dystopian backdrop was changed a bit, providing for a fresh setting for the story. Furthermore, teens and young adults will find many applications for the story within their lives. The themes of faith are strong throughout without coming across as trite or preachy.

I would highly recommend the series to mature teens and up. Much of the message of the story centers on the dangers of wanton living, so it would be ill suited for younger readers.

Also, kudos to Ms. Williamson for the continuation of Princess Bride quotes. Those made my day.

The Bottom Line: A fresh dystopian story from a Christian perspective, this thoughtful and gripping series would make a good pick for mature teens or young adults. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Pastors in Fiction: "A Cast of Stones"

Today I'll be looking at Pater Martin from Patrick W. Carr's A Cast of Stones. I've kept this analysis spoiler free to the best of my ability. If you want a little more context for this character analysis, you can find my review here.  I would highly recommend the series to fantasy fans.

Name: Pater/Benefice Martin

Book: A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr.

Genre: Christian allegorical fantasy.

Role: Main Character

Personality: Understanding and sympathetic, but with a stubborn streak

What he brings to the table: Pater Martin is somewhat of a hermit at the start of the book. He is one of the people who offers Errol, the protagonist, the chance to change his life. (Errol is a drunk at the start of the story).

Spiritual role: Pater Martin is one of the main spiritual protagonists in the book and wants to convince Errol to come back to the church. He disapproves of how other churchmen have treated Errol over the years and serves as a foil to several of them.

Pastorly/Worship notes: Not much is revealed of Pater Martin's worship or beliefs in this book. He is shown administering the Sacrament at one point. The world is allegorical in nature and his method of administering the Sacrament can be readily compared to Catholic, Lutheran, or other liturgical bodies.

We do know that he holds different beliefs than some in the church and that he is more welcoming to outcasts than many other priests. He also got into a physical fight with an abbot prior to the start of the story over theological issues.

Ninja Status: Orange belt. While we don't often see him in action, we do know that he is "familiar with a sword" and manages to handle himself well when attacked at numerous points throughout the story.

Further Discussion: In this story, Pater Martin is one of the few members of the church who is cast in a primarily positive light. He is set as a foil to numerous other priests and abbots in the story who have abused their power in various ways. (I plan on covering some of them in the future).

While Pater Martin serves largely as a protagonist, he also serves an antagonist to some of Errol's personal goals and desires. For him, protection of the church and state is of the utmost importance. He has pity on Errol, but he's also willing to sacrifice himself and anyone else necessary for the greater good of the kingdom. This can sometimes make him seem uncaring.

I like Pater Martin for the fact that he's a well-fleshed out character with his own desires and goals. Sometimes he's a little misguided or takes things over the top, but he's a man with good intentions overall.

Who's your favorite priestly protagonist?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness"

The Short:

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
The Wingfeather Saga, Book 1

By: Andrew Peterson

4/5 Stars

What: In a town held captive by fearsome invaders, a boy and his family work against all odds to stay together.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Humor, Middle Grade, Christian

The Long:

Janner Igiby leads a rather simple life in a nondescript town on the continent of Skree. It would be perfect for a young man—if it wasn’t for the reptilian invaders who seem bent on destroying his family and the fact that his one-legged grandfather seems to have unreasonable expectations for him. When he makes a mistake that nearly costs his sister her life, will the family be able to hold together?

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a tale sure to delight middle schoolers as well as many older folks. Plays on words, hyperbole, and crazy creatures (such as the deadly toothy cows) combine for a fun and action packed story.

Older readers may find some of the writing over the top or excessive, but the book still makes a good, lighthearted read.

There’s a hint of a Christian message in the story, but it’s by no means overwhelming.

The Bottom Line: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a humor-filled read geared for middle-grade readers that some older readers may also enjoy.                                                                                     
Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On Purpose

The following post comes after reading a couple of articles on the state of Christian Fiction. The first is Maybe We Should take a Long Look at the "Christian" Genre by Aimee Meester of "To the Barricade". The second is Should Christians Only Write Overtly Christian Books by Alea of "Elvish Pens, Fantastical Writings". I don't think reading either is strictly necessary to understanding my response, but I would encourage you to read and think over both of them if you have the time.

What's the purpose of Christian fiction?

No, I mean, really. Think about it. Why is that adjective on the front of "fiction"? Why does it belong there? Why would we read Christian fiction over regular fiction? Why is it important?

What should the purpose, the intent, or the end goal be for those of us who seek to write it?

Perhaps we first need to ask who our target audience is. I think we can safely assume that we are writing to other Christians. (Although there are some Christian publishing houses that have imprints specifically designed for non-Christians, they're sort of an exception to this discussion).

Then, we need to ask, "What is our purpose in writing to these people?" What do we as authors want Christian readers to take away from our books? Of course, we shouldn't overrun our story with message, but if we had to have a take-home value from our books, what would it be? What's our "moral" of the story?

Is it entertainment? Clean entertainment is a noble task. Heaven knows that it's hard to find clean media to consume.

Is it encouragement? Encouragement is a good thing. In a world filled with sin and awfulness and filth, we could use an encouraging message that reinforces our beliefs.

Is it to feel better about ourselves? Sometimes that's a good thing. But oftentimes, that's our way of hiding a dirty conscience or refusing to acknowledge our own problems.

These are all very important questions for both readers and writers of Christian fiction to answer. However, I think there's another question to be asked once we think we've determined what Christian fiction ought to be.

Can it be something more?

Encouraging, clean entertainment is nice--but is that all we are? Is that all we can be? Because, if that's all we can be at our very best, that's pretty sad.

Can we be challenging? Thought-provoking? Can we make people grow? Can we make people change the way they think--for the better?

You might nod and say that Christian fiction already encourages us to do that. And some books certainly do. But does Christian fiction encourage the "heathen" to rethink his ways while neglecting the believer's problems? Do we see all of our problems as "being out there" rather than turning a critical eye inside? So often, the answer is, "Yes".

If we're writing to Christians, shouldn't we be addressing Christians' problems, challenging them? Why do we spend more time challenging people outside the church than within it in our fiction? People outside the church aren't our typical target audience. So what makes us point a finger at them instead of at ourselves?

It's uncomfortable. It's not what people want to hear. It might give people the wrong idea about Christianity. People will encounter more opposition from outside the church than within. People won't buy books like that. Publishers won't buy books like that. The list goes on.

But are those good reasons to stop ourselves from growing? Are those good reasons not to challenge ourselves or our readers?

Worse, could ignoring areas for growth cause us to stagnate? To become self-righteous? To become comfortable with who we are rather than daily recognizing our need for repentance and grace?

Good fiction challenges and drives thought. It doesn't coddle. It doesn't hide the truth, but reveals it in a different setting.

The truth is, God's children have problems. We're sinners. Christ's blood is what stands between us and God's righteous wrath--not our works. And if we deny in our fiction that we (or our allegorical counterparts) have real issues that need to be addressed, we do ourselves a disservice. We make God's grace a mockery, a gift only imparted to those who are already worthy enough to receive it.

So, what's our purpose in Christian fiction? Is it to make our paper-cut-out fictional Christ followers perfectly take out the terrible people of the world? Is it to show the evil people of the world that they need saving and we perfectionists can lead them there? Is it to encourage the already good Christian that he is on the right road, in spite of obstacles? Is it to make us feel all warm and fuzzy?

Or can it show us our brokenness, our need for God's daily love and mercy? Can it show us how we've failed our neighbors? Can it show us our daily need for our Savior? Can it show us a need for humility?

Please understand that this is more of a criticism directed at myself than at others currently published. I'm wrestling with editing a piece right now and trying to decide what it needs to say. These are the questions that I've had to ask myself. I encourage you to ask them of yourself, too, regardless of what genre you write.

Do you ever struggle with the "message" of your story? 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sequel Review: "Fusion Fire"

As always, I've striven to keep this review spoiler free for both this book and the original book in the series, Firebird. I'll be back with a fresh series next week!

The Short:

Fusion Fire
The Firebird Trilogy, Book 2

By: Kathy Tyers

5/5 Stars

What: Firebird discovers she’s more powerful than she thought—but can she control that power before it destroys her new life?

Recommended to those who like: Christian Allegory, Sci-fi/space opera

The Long:

Fusion Fire continues shortly after where Firebird left off. Lady Firebird discovers that she has powers that make her valuable to multiple groups. Soon, they’re vying over the right to have her—but only if she can control her power long enough to keep it from destroying her or Brennen.

Like the first book, Fusion Fire is filled with epic action of the space-opera variety. I found the plot a bit easier to hop on board with, largely because I was excited to be re-united with the characters. Firebird undergoes some serious personal growth, which I enjoyed following. Brennen also becomes a much more relatable figure and we’re able to learn more about some of the minor characters.

I really have to congratulate Ms. Tyers on finding a great balance between the plot and faith. The discussion of faith within this book is marvelously executed without coming across as preachy. Firebird struggles with the same questions as many believers. Her struggles draw the reader in with their complexity, rather than feeling contrived or shallow.

The Bottom Line: Fusion Fire is a good follow-up to Firebird and continues to build on its strengths. Overall, I’d recommend the series to fans of space opera with a Christian flavor.                             
Please take a moment to fill out the survey to the right. Your feedback means a lot!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Reality, Meet Fiction: Holidays

It's been a while since we've had a world-building article. I hope this provides you with some good food for thought with regard to your story. 


At least in the U.S., November and December  are considered to be the holiday season. Christmas tends to dominate the season, but New Year's and Thanksgiving are widely celebrated and observed as well. 

Holidays are celebrated for various reasons, including religion (Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah), memorial reasons (Patriot's Day, Memorial Day, Veteran's Day), or calendar changes (The New Year). Celebrations may consist of meals, reflection, music, time with family, services, or other observances.


What holidays do your characters celebrate? Why? Are there disagreements about what holidays should be celebrated (differences in religion, for example)?  Or are there disagreements about how holidays should be celebrated (going to church on Christmas morning vs. spending time with family)? Does everyone agree on what date the holiday should be celebrated? Is it expected that people will greet people a certain way during the holiday season (Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays; "He is Risen" on Easter)?

How are the holidays observed? Is there a specific meal that should be eaten? (For example, eating pork for good luck on New Year's Day or observing the Passover supper). Are there specific decorations? How about music? Activities? How do activities vary by age group? Gender? What roles do various people play? Does the youngest or oldest child have a particular part to play?

What attitude should be maintained on holidays? Is it reflective, such as for Memorial Day, or jovial, as for Christmas? 

How long does the holiday last? Is there a preparatory period before the holiday (Lent prior to Easter)? If so, does it have a different "feel" than the actual holiday? How do preparations contribute to the actual holiday?

Did you invent any holidays for your books?

If you haven't already, please take a moment to fill out the survey in the right-hand column. Thanks in advance!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Merlin's Blade"

Well, I managed to finish a book just in time to save you from a sequel review! (Plus, it gave me an excuse to avoid cleaning).

The Short:

Merlin’s Blade
The Merlin Spiral, Book 1

By: Robert Treskillard

4/5 Stars

What: A blind boy finds that his village is falling under the spell of a group of druids and their mysterious stone.

Recommended to those who like: King Arthur legends, Christian, teen and up

The Long:
I’m a sucker for King Arthur legends. (I don’t know how much I’ve expressed that on this blog, but it’s a true statement). There’s something about the tale that lends itself to innumerable retellings from various angles. I’ve enjoyed many different versions of the legend, from T.A. Barron’s imagination of Merlin’s early years, to Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle that meshes the Arthur story with tales of Atlantis, to the multi-dimensional traveling Merlin of D. Barkley Briggs’s Legends of Karac Tor.

Suffice it to say that Merlin’s Blade has been on my to-read list for quite some time. I was eager to see what Mr. Treskillard had to add to the Arthur/Merlin universe.

One of the main problems with writing in such a small niche genre is that you face stiff competition and easy comparison to other works. In the end, that’s one of the main reasons I just couldn’t give this book five stars. It didn’t have that special “umph” that made it stand out from others in its genre.

That being said, I did enjoy the book. I loved the version of Merlin that we were given—not confident, but boyish and human. It’s something that we miss out on so often in these tales. I also loved the imagery that brought to mind the book of Daniel. It was a unique way to bring about Merlin’s prophecies. Merlin’s struggle with blindness plays into the story significantly without being overemphasized, which takes skill from an author.

Unfortunately, while I had fallen in love with Merlin by about fifteen pages into the book, I didn’t find myself enjoying the plot until almost halfway through the story. I also didn’t like many of the supporting characters until even further down the line.

The Christian message of the story was well done overall. Although occasionally it bordered on a little too strong, it never jerked me out of the story.

Due to some violence and gory images, I would recommend the story for teens and up. (It’s on the level of The Lord of the Rings movies, if you need a comparison).

The end of the book redeemed the story overall and set up nicely for the rest of the series. I look forward to receiving some answers in the next books and spending some more time with Merlin.

The Bottom Line: A noble addition to King Arthur lore, this book would be suitable for fans of Arthurian legend who are willing to wait a while for the plot to get going. 

What fairytale or legend do you love to see retold?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

NaNo Wrap-Up and Looking Ahead

NaNo Wrap-Up

NaNoWriMo did not go quite as planned this year, as you can see from my rather sad word count and plateau-ing graph. Not planning out my novel beforehand came back to bite me in the posterior.

However, the month was not a complete loss. I now understand my characters enough to actually be able to plot out a more cohesive story, which is far more than I could have said in October.  I'm still excited about the idea, so hopefully I'll be able to share a little bit of it with you over the next few months.

One highlight of the month was word-warring with Victoria, who convinced me to get up at oh-dark-thirty the day after Thanksgiving. (If you have the choice between word-warring with someone and going Black Friday shopping, definitely go for the former rather than the latter). It was quite a bit of fun. Shout out to her for figuring out the time difference between us and staying up late to write with me.


Unlike last year, Christmas and New Year's don't fall on posting dates. (Yay!) That means posting will continue as normal, barring any unforseen circumstances. Please be aware that I may be without internet access or busy for long stretches of time, so I may be slow to respond to comments or emails throughout the next month. I haven't forgotten you!

Tuesday posts this month will probably be an odd assortment of topics while I get the blog organized for next year. It's likely that there will be an excess of sequel reviews for the next month or so; I'm scraping the bottom of my review barrel after NaNo. 

Early 2017

I know that we've got one month left of 2016, but I'd like your opinion on the blog and where I should take it in the next year. Please take a moment to fill out the survey in the right-hand column of the blog. It closes in about two weeks, which will give me time to make changes and brainstorm ideas in time to get them rolling early in the year. 

Got something on your mind that you can't tell me in the survey? I would love to hear from you through the contact form in the left-hand column. 

So far, my plans include weekly book reviews and one other post per week. Beyond that, I'm pretty open to suggestions. I'll be speaking more about my personal goals for the New Year at the end of December or in early January.

Thanks for sticking with me through November! Again, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Sequel Review: "The Betrayed"

I would recommend reading The Gifted prior to reading this book. However, I've tried to keep this review spoiler-free for newcomers! You can also check out my interview with Mr. Dickerson that was posted yesterday, if you're interested in learning more about why, how, and what he writes. 

Although I received a free copy of this book, it did not impact my review. Now that we've got all the fine print out of the way, let's get to the fun part!

The Short:

The Betrayed

By: Matthew Dickerson

4/5 Stars 

What: The company must seek a new way to defeat the Daegmons, whose powers seem to grow more every day. 

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, Tolkien/high fantasy, and have read book 1.

The Long: 

The Betrayed had many of the same strengths as The Gifted--beautiful, sweeping prose; a complex, inviting storyworld; gripping fantasy action; and a plot that defied prediction. As a fan of high fantasy, it was a perfect pick for some gray fall days. 

However, I did find some aspects of the story to be distracting. About halfway through the book, I started losing track of who the minor characters were and why they were important. This distracted from some of the main characters that I've grown to love, such as Elynna. 

As is common in stories with large "casts", the group split early in the story. While I absolutely loved one side of the storyline, I was somewhat confused by the other. I look forward to reading the next book and seeing the stronger plot re-emerge; I think the ending of this book set up a nice opportunity for a wonderful finale. 

I also enjoyed the further development of the "Christian message" in this book. The elements were well-played, providing a subtle message without shoving it down the reader's throat or compromising the story.

The Bottom Line: The Betrayed is more than worth reading if you enjoyed The Gifted. Overall, I'd recommend the series to teens and up who are already fans of high fantasy.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Author Interview with Matthew Dickerson

Give a warm welcome to Mr. Matthew Dickerson, the author of a three-part fantasy series, entitled The Daegmon War. You can check out my review of Book 1, The Gifted, here. Book 2, The Betrayed, was recently released.
What was the most challenging part of writing The Betrayed, your most recent book? What was your favorite part of writing this story?

The most enjoyable part is always the discovery—getting to know the characters better, seeing how they respond to different situations, learning what happens, and (very often) being surprised and delighted (or sometimes surprised and saddened).  The greatest challenge goes hand in hand with that. Writing requires great attentiveness. I need to be carefully listening to the characters, and noticing details in the landscape, the history of my world. It’s like being an explorer or a naturalist.
The delay in this book was more of a frustration than a challenge. The publisher that started the series by publishing Book 1, “The Gifted”, wasn't doing very well and decided to back out of the fiction market except for children’s fiction. They fired my editor and the Vice President. I later learned they were already strongly leaning toward this decision when the first book came out, so they spent $0 on advertising. I’ve been entirely dependent on word-of-mouth to get out news about my books—hoping people will post about it on social media, or tell friends—and I had to take over publishing myself in the middle of the series. I guess the one good thing that came from this is more freedom to let the book follow my own vision.
How would you say that your faith has influenced your writing?
Madeleine L’Engle spoke of writing fiction with the metaphor of “walking on water”, which is to say that writing itself is an act of faith. Trusting the story maybe means trusting the Great Story, and the teller of the Great Story. Just like following God requires letting go of control, following a story also requires letting go of control and letting the story take you where it needs to take you.  
But I guess another aspect is that I can’t imagine a world that was not created, and in which there is not a loving Creator at work.  So that vision is certainly present in my writing, even though I try not to be “religious”.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Do you have a writing “ritual” such as a favorite beverage or writing spot? Do you plot your novels or fly by the seat of your pants?
As my earlier answer suggests, writing is very much an act of discovery. That is, writing the first draft is. I let the story (and its characters) take me where it needs to go (and where their choices will inevitably take them). I get to know my characters, and as I do I see how they act and respond to situations.  The hard work really is the revision—the focus on prose and the discipline of making every word just right, and also sometimes cutting or completely rewriting large portions.
One exception is that my two medieval historical romances—including the relatively recently published novel The Rood and the Torc--had more of the plot worked out in advance, in part because I was dealing with real historical events and characters. There was still very much a process of discovery, but it had more to do with how things would happen than with what would happen.
You have a strong interest in J.R.R. Tolkien and his works. What sparked that interest? Is there something specific about Tolkien you really enjoy talking about?
Well the interest has been sparked mostly by reading a great deal of Tolkien’s writing. And rereading. First delighting in his work, and then studying it and seeing just how much craft and wisdom is in the writing.  I get invited very regularly to speak on Tolkien, and I think some of the talks that I most enjoy giving—because they are things I most enjoyed learning—are about his environmental ideas, his moral vision, the way his theistic and Christian worldview are so central woven into his works, how he draws on past myths and stories.
Finally, if you found yourself alone in a dark alley at night, which book character would you choose to be with you and why?
Depends if my primary goal is to learn something there, or to get through the alley somewhere I need to be, or if I just wanted to escape the alley. Luthien would be a really good choice, I think. She took pretty good care of Beren in a very dark situation. Gandalf would be a pretty good choice, especially if my goal was to learn something important there. I think he could make it light if he needed to through some sort of spell. And there is nobody I’d rather have if there were Balrogs around.
Although speaking of spells, having Harry Potter wouldn’t be bad if I just wanted to disaparate out of there.   I think, though, Harry might be the sort who would get me into deeper trouble before I got out of it, and there does seem to be a high body count when he is around. So I guess I’ll stick with Luthien or Gandalf. And if they aren’t available, then Aragorn or Faramir.

Although I think having Morgan, the Prince of Hed, would also be a very good choice, particularly if there was some riddle I needed to solve. Morgan is, after all, a riddle-master. And very powerful. At least he becomes powerful.
Thanks for joining us, Matthew!
If you're interested in The Betrayed, you can find it here, or at another online outlet, such as Amazon.
Don't forget to stop back in tomorrow for a review of The Betrayed.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

NaNo Update

I apologize for the relative lack of postings this month. My schedule has been very different this year from years past and I'm trying to find a way to fit writing in.  I'm currently trying to finish up NaNoWriMo with a respectable word count, so I'll be out again today. 

However, we have an author interview this Thursday! We'll be joined by fantasy author Matthew Dickerson in celebration of his release of the second book of The Daegmon War, his fantasy series. You can check out my review of book 1, The Gifted, here. I will be posting my review of book 2, The Betrayed, on Friday.

 Next week, I'll give a little more of a NaNo update and discuss the postings for the rest of the year. (How is it almost December?)

If you have any suggestions for what you'd like to see on the blog in the upcoming months/over the next year, let me know using the contact form. I take your feedback seriously. Even if you'd just like to tell me that I'm doing something right, I'd appreciate it. (That way I don't go around trying to fix things that aren't broken). 

Thanks for your patience! Happy writing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nano Survival Guide: Week 4

This week is what I like to refer to as the Gauntlet.

Here in the U.S., it's Thanksgiving week. That means even less time to write, plus the danger of turkey-induced food comas. (However, there's more likely to be some free coffee hanging around the house).

Write in small chunks. Get up early. Stay up late. Drink coffee. You can pull it off.

Keep writing. You might hate your story at this point, but you can pull off the win if you're crazy enough.

If you've been following me on NaNo, you've probably noticed that I'm a bit behind. (There'll be a post on that later/next month). Take heart if you're behind, if your story is falling apart, and plunge forward. I've pretty much always pulled off my NaNo wins from farther behind than I ought to have. Being behind the week before doesn't mean that you can't do it.

(And if you're wondering why this post is so short, it's because I didn't get that far ahead in pulling posts together before NaNo struck. Procrastinators unite tomorrow?)

Happy Writing and Happy Thanksgiving!

Due to the holiday, there will again be no Friday Fiction Fix this week.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Writer is Out

The doctor is out:

Due to NaNo, I've had very little time to read, so there will be no Friday Fiction Fix this week.

Instead, I hope that you'll join me over the weekend occasionally for some updates on my latest attempt to get back on schedule. I'd love to word war with you or do group sprints over on the NaNoWriMo website as well.

  Hope your own writing endeavors are going great!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

NaNo Survival Guide: Week 3

Just to be the one who falls down on December 1st.

And if you don't know what song this is referencing, here you go.
This is where the rubber meets the road, folks.

If you feel like you're behind, that you can't get enough sleep, that everything you've written is stupid, and that you haven't a clue where your story is going...

You're not alone.

(If you're one of those people who miraculously doesn't feel this way at week three of NaNo, congrats! Just pretend that you aren't so that the rest of us feel better. In return, we won't give you the stink eye. Deal?)

Whatever you do, keep writing.

Take half a day to re-plan if you need to. But keep writing. Stay committed to writing something by the end of the month. Remember, if you don't make it, you at least wrote something. And that's an accomplishment all of its own. You might feel behind right now, but you still have plenty of time to get caught up. I don't know how many times I've thought I was going to lose at this point, but managed to scrape out a win.

So may your coffee cup be full, your days be full of inspiration, and your hands free from carpal tunnel. (And may you get at least a little sleep).

Personal NaNo Update: I'm currently running several thousand words behind schedule after having a few days where I didn't have much time/motivation to write. I'm bound and determined to catch back up, however.

How is NaNo going for everyone out there?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "The Wolf of Tebron"

The Short: 

The Wolf of Tebron
The Gates of Heaven Series, Book 1

By: C.S. Lakin

4/5 Stars

What: A man must go on a journey to rescue his wife.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, fairy tales

The Long:                        

Joran is a young newly-wed. But when his wife betrays him and he sends her away, he finds himself trapped in a nightmare of regret, anger, and pain. Can he go on a journey that will free both him and his wife?

Joran meets many memorable friends along the way. Ruyah, his wolf companion, never fails to bring wisdom into Joran’s life with his timely sayings. The Moon, Sun, and South Wind also bring their particular quirks to the story.

This book was somewhat difficult for me to rate. On one hand, I really loved the different style of storytelling. It was slowly paced, which allowed for some of the more thoughtful aspects of this loose allegory to shine through. On the other, it really made the story slow down to the point where it seemed boring at times.

The allegory was loose in this story, but sometimes the endless sayings left me frustrated with their detours. Though the plot could have used a boost at times, the characters and world-building offset the downsides enough to make this an enjoyable read.

The Bottom Line: Although a little heavy on proverbs, the unique worldbuilding and characters in The Wolf of Tebron, will make this an enjoyable, if slow read for fantasy fans.             

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

NaNo Survival Guide: Week 2

Yay, you've survived the first week of National Novel Writing Month!

Perhaps it's going wonderfully for you. Maybe the words are flying onto the page, your characters are still behaving themselves, and you're managing to keep your caffeine consumption to a reasonable level.

Or perhaps things aren't going so well. Maybe you ended up with an extra class assignment, your car broke down, your characters are doing weird things, and you feel like you have writer's block.

Regardless, keep going.

Remember that the most beautiful thing about NaNo is that, as long as you put some words on the page, you've made progress. You may not write an entire novel. That's okay. You're still making steps toward a goal.

Perhaps this week you're struggling with your plot and you want to edit some things. Personally, I would encourage you not to go back and edit. Write a paragraph describing what changes you want to make and then carry forward. You might come back in a few months and discover that  you have some usable ideas within what you were going to throw out.

Keep writing. You've got this. Even if you don't write 50k, you'll at least come out of the month with more words than what you started with.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "The Maze Runner"

The Short:

The Maze Runner

By: James Dashner

5/5 Stars and on the Favorites Shelf

What: A boy arrives in a strange world with no idea who he is.

Recommended to those who like: Dystopian, teen, fast-paced

The Long:

This was the first book I binge-read in a while. Man, was I glad that I started it on a weekend rather than a weeknight. It was hard to put it down!

Thomas arrives to the Glade in the Box, just like all the other boys who had arrived before him. Like the others, he has no memory of who he was before, other than his name.

The Glade is surrounded by the Maze, a strange place populated with murderous, beastly machines. Thomas feels certain he is destined to be a runner—one of the few who dodge danger in the Maze in an attempt to find the way out and home.

The plot was jam-packed with action and adventure. Although dystopian adventures have seen immense popularity over the past few years, I found that this one had a fresh flavor to it. The plot twist at the end makes me want to rush to the store to pick up the next in the series.

I found the characters loveable and considerably less whiny than most teen protagonists. (Yay!) There’s definitely room for more character development in the next installation and I look forward to seeing how the characters grow.

The book is very clean, but I would recommend it to teens and up for the grimness of the story. 

The Bottom Line: I would highly recommend this action-packed story to teens and up who enjoy dystopian-style novels.
Has anyone seen the movie? Should I watch it?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NaNo Survival Guide: Day 1

So, today's the big day!

You might have stayed up till midnight last night to kick off the month. (It's really sort of fun that you can finish off Halloween and start NaNo all at once).

Today is the first day in a marathon. Don't wear yourself out too fast! Get a solid start, put those words on the page, and don't forget to take care of yourself between writing sessions.

The rest of this week, focus on staying on track with your goals without wearing yourself out too quickly. I've burned myself early on in more Novembers than I can count. Personally, I shoot for about 2,000-2,500 words a day at this point in the game. It puts me ahead a little without wearing me out too much.

Here's to drinking coffee, getting sleep, and putting lots of words on the page.

When did you kick off NaNo? What's your writing goal for this week? 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Sequel Review: "War for the Waking World"

Please check out the reviews of Book 1 and Book 2 first! I've tried to keep this spoiler free, but no guarantees. 
The Short:

War for the Waking World
Dreamtreaders Book 3

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

5/5 Stars

What: With his new Dreamtreading team, Archer must do battle for not only the Dream, but the Waking World as well.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, middle-grade/teen, and have read books 1 and 2

The Long:

To appreciate this book, you really need to read the first two books in the trilogy. Spoilers may lurk for those who have not read the first two books.

The Rift has finally torn into the Waking World, driving the two worlds together. Archer and the other Dreamtreaders must find a way to separate the two before the merger becomes permanent. To do so, they must defeat Kara and the ultimate enemy. But what if Archer’s previous actions have destroyed all hope of victory?

This is a fitting end to a well-thought out series. The themes of spiritual warfare come to a head in this conclusion, leaving the reader with much food for thought. While the ending is satisfying, I think there might be room down the road for a companion series.

The imagery in this book is also fantastic. (Kaylie’s dream creations are quite amusing). While some of the elements of the book may appeal more strongly to younger readers, the mature themes will more than make up for it for older, more serious readers.

Any thoughts? 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

NaNo Survival Guide: Preparation Week

This is the first post in a series that will start now and continue through November for National Novel Writing Month. I'll also be offering updates on my own writing. Happy NaNo prepping! If it's not for you, I hope you get a chuckle out of these posts anyways. If you're still on the fence about NaNo, make sure you check out this post. 

It's still October, but NaNo is coming quickly.

In fact, November will be here in just one week! To have a successful NaNo, I highly recommend preparing yourself for it. If you're a plotter, I would highly recommend the Snowflake Method. If you're diligent this week, you can probably whip out the better part of the plotting necessary.

Even if you're not a plotter, I've still prepared a list of things for you that can make writing those 1,667 words a day easier. After all, even though writers are superheroes, we still have to eat and do other responsible things.

Ready? Here we go!

  • Food:
    • If you have to be an adult and cook your own meals, Crock Pot meals are your friends. I would recommend hopping over to the NaNo website and checking out this thread.  
    • Stock up on granola bars, clif bars, trail mix, and other poppable, non-messy snack items. Keyboards and gooey foods don't mix. 
    • Is your caffeine stock adequate? In spite of how much we all try to not stay up late in November, inevitably, we all get behind and have to pull a late night or two to make word count. My favorite caffeine sources include coffee, Chai tea, Earl/Lady Grey, green tea (good for the immune system, too), and Awake chocolate bars. 
  • Planning Writing Time:
    • November is really one of the least convenient times for NaNo. There's Thanksgiving, Christmas shopping to do, exams, final papers, and gobs of other obligations. You can't get out of all of them (nor should you try). Nevertheless, try to plan out your word count goals so that you can work in time for family or other commitments. I personally make a weekly goal word count that puts me ahead for Thanksgiving and accounts for exam studying.
    • If you can, make a daily schedule of when you plan to write. I know that, if I have a novel well-planned, I can type out my 1,667 words in about 30-50 minutes so long as I'm not proof-reading as I go. Thus, I need to find about one hour a day to write on weekdays. I like to make a spreadsheet schedule and block off writing times. Even if they're only 15 minutes apiece, I can easily accomplish my goals without feeling swamped. 
    • Plan out where you want to write. I love the library. It's quiet, has tons of information, plenty of comfy chairs, and easy access to caffeine if I need a break.
    • Invest in a Facebook blocker. My favorite is Freedom. It's free and lets you choose one or two sites to block. You even get to choose how long it blocks the site. You can still log out of the blocker and use the site if you need to (I use Facebook for a lot of group messaging), but it's enough of a pain to do so that you don't want to do it all the time.  
    • I also plan in a day or two for re-evaluating my plot. It's helpful for when you need to re-charge your writing batteries. These are often good for days when you have other commitments and may not have much writing time. 

    • Encouragement:
      • Week three is the pits. If you're anything like me, all the prepping has hit the fan at that point and you're left wondering why you ever though this was a good idea. I have a jar of pep talks that I keep on my desk for such times. It may or may not have multiple quotes from The Lord of the Rings in it.
      • Set up writing times with friends now, before you get swamped. All day word war? Now's a good time to plan that. Katie Grace is the queen of these and puts me to shame. 
      • Find what threads you want to follow on the NaNo site and have them ready to access. As I said, I like 15 minute chunks, so I like to follow the 15 minute word-war thread.
    I hope you enjoyed this. Is there anything you would add to this list? 

    Saturday, October 22, 2016

    Friday Fiction Fix: "The Orphan King"

    I apologize for the later posting of this if I kept any of you waiting. Apparently, I forgot how to read calendars when scheduling my posts! Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this Friday (Saturday?) Fiction Fix!

    The Short: 

    The Orphan King
    Merlin's Immortals, Book 1

    By: Sigmund Brouwer

    4.5/5 Stars

    What: A young man seeks to fulfill his mother's dying wish. But doing so places him in the midst of a centuries-long game that could cost him his life.

    Recommended to those who like: Loosely Christian, fantasy, quick reads.

    The Long: 

    Thomas is a man on a mission. He seeks to conquer Magnus--a grand fortress that was stolen from his family before he could remember it. Orphaned and abused by monks, he must find a way to escape and make alliances that can help him conquer the fortress. 

    Though he knows some of the challenges before him, he couldn't possibly know about the challenges that will be presented to him as he is thrust into the midst of clandestine combat between two secret societies. Will he be able to convince them of his loyalty? Or will someone end his life first?

    This is a quick, easy read that I would recommend for middle grade/young teens and up (there is some violence, but it's not overly graphic). Adults will easily be able to enjoy the series as well. There's intrigue, fantasy action, and some lovable characters. 

    The Christian message is subtle and well-played. I hope that the themes of faith continue to be explored throughout the rest of the series; we've only scratched the surface as of yet. 

    The Bottom Line: Recommended for young teens and up who are looking for a quick and intriguing fantasy read. 

    Tuesday, October 18, 2016

    Looking Ahead

    Well, it's that time of year again. I'm stocked up on coffee, I've got a fresh notebook with some half-baked ideas, my fluffy socks are waiting in my drawer, and I've got a new YWriter word document waiting for me.

    NaNoWriMo is coming.

    This year, I'll be publishing a NaNo survival guide/pep talk series on Tuesdays starting next week and through November.

    Ideally, I'll continue to have book reviews on Fridays, but it will depend on my schedule and how writing is going.

    For now, I'm heading back to planning and catching up on sleeping and reading.

    Are you doing NaNo this year? 

    Friday, October 14, 2016

    Sequel Review: "Watcher in the Woods"

    This is a sequel to House of Dark Shadows. I would recommend reading that book prior to this one. However, this review should be relatively spoiler-free.
    The Short:

    Watcher in the Woods
    Dreamhouse Kings, Book 2

    By: Robert Liparulo

    5/5 Stars

    What: The King family must face threats from both within and without the house.

    Recommended to those who like: Suspense, darker stories, loosely Christian, teen and up, time travel.

    The Long:

    This book picks up right where House of Dark Shadows left off. If you’ve left the series for a while (which I don’t know how you managed to leave it for so long), it might take you a moment or two to hop back in, as there’s not much of a recap.

    I appreciated that the stakes were higher and that there was a more definite goal in this book. It definitely makes for a more intense read.

    As with the previous book, Xander and David provided a nice bit of humor to a dark story.
    I can hardly wait to read the next one—cliff-hangers are terrible!

    The Bottom Line: Highly recommended to readers of House of Dark Shadows. I’d recommend this series to those who like a bit of mystery and suspense in a format suitable for teens and up.     

    Tuesday, October 11, 2016

    Pastors in Fiction: "Firefly"

    The previous pastors I've covered have come from Christian speculative fiction books. Today we're changing tack a little and visiting the TV series Firefly, which, interestingly enough, was written by an atheist. 

    Name: Shepherd Derrial Book

    Book TV Series: Firefly; Space Western

    Role: Main Character

    Personality: Warm, almost grandfatherly

    What he brings to the table: Shepherd Book joins the crew of the Serenity early on in the series. He is involved in their daily lives, including the (often illegal) messes they get themselves into.

    Spiritual role: Shepherd Book serves as the "conscience" of the group, many of whom are not religious.

    Pastorly/Worship notes: We know rather little of Shepherd Book's beliefs, but he is a Christian. He doesn't lead worship, but he can be seen reading his Bible or performing other pastorly duties.

    Ninja Status: Purple Belt. Shepherd Book has a rather checkered past that lends him familiarity with weapons, the antagonistic Alliance, and other dangerous subjects.

    At one point, when asked by one of the characters if the Bible had something specific to say about killing he famously replied, "Quite specific. It is, however, a mite fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps." (Perhaps he deserves a higher belt level?)

    Further Discussion: Although I haven't finished Firefly (there's only one season, so I'm afraid I'll like it too much and then have nothing more to watch when I finish), I have to say that Shepherd Book is one of my favorite fictional pastors.

    For one, he deals with more realistic people who don't want a sermon preached at him, who don't put up with empty platitudes, and often don't want his opinion on things. He doesn't compromise his beliefs often, but he doesn't shove his message down people's throats, either.

    Another reason that I like him is that it is clear that he struggles, too. It's not uncommon to see him frustrated with one of the characters for not understanding an issue of faith. His past is somewhat fuzzy and suspicious, as well.

    What's your favorite portrayal of a pastor in non-Christian fiction? 

    Friday, October 7, 2016

    Friday Fiction Fix: "The Giver"

    The Short:

    The Giver

    By: Lois Lowry

    5/5 Stars (And on the Favorites Shelf)

    What: Jonas’ world is perfect, but when he is selected for a position of honor in the community, he finds not everything is as it seems.

    Recommended to those who like: Dystopian, Clean, Thought-provoking, quick reads.

    The Long:

    This is one of my favorite books, but I haven’t read it for several years. When I found a used copy for a reasonable price, I simply had to read it again.

    Jonas’ community is perfect. There is no pain, no argument, and no hunger. But when he is selected for the highest honor in the community, he discovers that nothing is as it seems. Is what they lost worth what they gained?

    The Giver is one of those unique books that both children and adults can read and enjoy. The language is simple and straightforward, but the story itself is thought-provoking. I always end up thinking about the story for days after I read it.

    The plot, the characters, and the message all combine for a beautiful read.

    I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone in case they haven’t read it, so I will refrain from saying more. (This is an easy book to spoil for others). If you haven’t read this one yet, make sure you read it soon! Also, the movie isn’t half bad, but it misses some of the points made in the book. 

    The Bottom Line: I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.            

    What's the most pressing book on your to-read list?   

    Tuesday, October 4, 2016

    On the Pursuit of Excellence

    One of these days I'm going to get back to Pastors in Fiction. However, this post was just burning to be written this week. 

    I'm in my senior year of study right now. Due to my major, most of this year consists of hands-on work that applies the principles I've learned over the last two (very stressful) years.

    In addition to my 40 hours-a-week "internship", I'm expected to research topics that I'm unfamiliar with and to write weekly summaries of what I've been doing during my hands-on learning experience. Each instructor has different expectations for our summaries and what they should contain. (Which makes life interesting, as I change teachers every three weeks).

    The instructor who has moderated my past three weeks of learning has very high expectations.

    After I submitted my fifteen page report (that I considered far too detailed), I sat back and felt confident that I had knocked her expectations out of the park.

    Only to get an email the next day saying that I had significant room for improvement.

    But didn't I put six hours into it? Didn't I look up two topics? Didn't I use MLA citations? But, but, but...

    Then the anger hit. This was so unfair. Her expectations were totally unreasonable. The last teacher had been content with the six page report that I hadn't done any further research on. She should know how much effort I put into my report. I had put a good effort in--I deserved an A. People who didn't try deserved B's, not people like me who tried. No one should have to work this hard.

    The next day, I complained  to one of my friends about the work I had to do. She sympathized with me and said it was unfair. I felt vindicated...until I thought back on the conversation.

    "I tried so hard..." "I deserve..." "She's being unreasonable..." "I put six hours of work into this. If I put that much work in..." "I know I didn't answer every question in the rubric, but nobody has time for that." "The previous student didn't have to do this much work."

    Excuse me, self of two weeks ago, but when was the last time excellence cared how much time you worked on something? When did excellence care that you think deserve something? Does excellence care what someone else had to do?

    When did someone achieve excellence by having that sort of attitude?

    "Good enough" is not excellence. "I tried hard enough" is not excellence. "I'm tired of working on this" is not excellence. "I deserve," "I've surely put in enough time," "This is unreasonable," are not hallmarks of excellence.

    "This is a flaw I should address," is a step toward excellence. "How can I improve?" is a step toward excellence. Admitting faults, being honest with oneself, performing work diligently, avoiding entitlement, and taking personal responsibility are all steps toward excellence.

    I do not "deserve" an A--but I can earn one. A certain amount of time will not guarantee a good grade--but a good grade will almost certainly require a lot of time and effort to achieve.

    Writing is very similar. In some ways, it requires more of us than school does, for the simple fact that we have to determine what excellence is. We don't have a teacher who will put a shiny gold star sticker on our writing and say it's good. We determine what is acceptable to send to agents or to self-publish.

    *Side rant* People always complain that self-published books are sloppy, but I'm always amazed at how many good ones are out there. We spend most of our lives having someone tell us what is acceptable and giving us A's for effort. So, when we are told to strive for excellence and given the opportunity to regulate it, it's a wonder that the world doesn't blow up. *Side rant over.*

    Excellence does not award points for participation. It awards points for results. It doesn't care how many writing books you've read--unless you apply them. It doesn't care how many times you've edited a work--it cares if it can be edited more. Excellence doesn't care if you're tired of fine-tuning a character--it cares if the character is fine-tuned.

    Excellence is a demanding teacher. It will work you hard. It will push you past your current limits. It will force you to grow. And, in the end, it will provide reward.

    Of course, entitlement is always another option. Entitlement invites us to say "enough". It invites us to blame others for our lack of excellence. Entitlement whispers what we want to hear--that excellence is too costly and unreasonable to even attempt. It tells us what we deserve, not what we can earn.

    Entitlement is an easy road, but often leads to disappointment. We will never get what we feel we "deserve" if we listen to entitlement. We will become jealous souls, bereft of the ability to achieve anything worthwhile.

    Even though I realize this, I'm far from perfect. I still catch myself complaining about my teachers' expectations. I still don't want to work hard some days. And I often give up when I think I've accomplished "good enough", rather than shooting for the stars.

    Nevertheless, I encourage you (and my future self) to shoot for excellence. Whether that's in writing,
    in school, or in some other vocation, shoot for the stars. Be all that you can be--you might surprise yourself.

    Do you struggle with doing things to "good enough" rather than as well as you can? (In a healthy, non-obsessive way, of course)

    Friday, September 30, 2016

    Sequel Review: "Isle of Stars"

    There aren't any spoilers here, but I would still recommend reading my reviews of books one and two if you're interested in this series. I'll catch you with a fresh series next week!

    The Short:

    Isle of Stars
    The Isle Chronicles, #3

    By: Wayne Thomas Batson

    4/5 Stars

    What: Kaylie, from the Dreamtreaders series, is sucked into the world of Cat and Anne on the day of their big wedding. But nothing seems to be going according to plan.

    Recommended to those who: like fantasy and pirates and have read The Isle Chronicles # 1 and 2, as well as one or more of the Dreamtreaders series.

    The Long:

    This book is a bit different from most other books by Mr. Batson. As he explains in the opening, this is his “Christmas gift” story to his fans (albeit published in the spring). As such, it lacks the grit and darkness of most of his books. It brings together two series—Dreamtreaders and the Isle Chronicles—for a time of fun adventures.

    This book is definitely a 4-star book for a lighthearted adventure. We have visits from many of our favorite quirky characters and swashbuckling adventures. Mr. Batson also gives a nicThe Lord of the Rings.
    e hat tip to his other series and to

    The book contains a strong Christian message. Some people may like it; others may not. I hesitate to say the Gospel is ever out of place, but let’s just say our mostly light-hearted story took a very serious turn right at the climax and it was a bit jarring, in my opinion.

    I would recommend this book to fans of Mr. Batson who have already read his other works and appreciate his characters. This book really isn’t a good introduction to his writing or a great stand-alone novel. Fans will appreciate the nice wrap-up to Cat and Anne’s story and getting to revisit old characters, but newcomers probably won’t get much out of this story.

    If you could have a follow-up book to any story/series, what would it be? And what would it be about?

    Tuesday, September 27, 2016

    The 2016 Tolkien Tag

    I'm a week late on this one, but, in my defense, I was sick last week. Not quite Frodo post-Shelob-bite sick, but pretty close. You can check out the fun festivities from Hamlette over at The Edge of the Precipice. 

    1.How many books by J.R.R. Tolkien have you read?

    Eight, if you count The Lord of  the Rings as three books. I have also read most of The Hobbit in Spanish.

    2. Have you seen any movies based on them?

    I've practically worn out my copies of the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings. I've also seen the new Hobbit movies...for better or for worse. I also watched an indie film called "Born of Hope" that chronicled the early life of Aragorn.

    3. Are there any scenes/moments that make you cry?

    I still get a little teary at the end of The Return of the King when the ringbearers sail off. Also, it isn't uncommon to see me sniff a little at the death of Boromir.

    4. Are there any scenes/moments that make you laugh?

    I absolutely love the scene from The Hobbit where Gandalf and Bilbo first meet. I was laughing out loud when I read it in my Spanish edition.

    5. Have you ever chosen a Middle Earth name for yourself? If so, what is it?

    Yes--Tithen. It's the first half of the elvish version of my first name. (Sindarin, I think? It's been a long time since I've looked it up).

    6. Who would you want to party with/marry/fight to the death? (pick three characters)

    Party with: Merry and Pippin. I would love to see them dancing on the tables and singing about the Green Dragon Inn.

    Marry: While my favorite Tolkien story is "Of Beren and Luthien", I feel like Faramir and I might make a good match. He has great morals and is reputed to love books. I also tend to associate with Eowyn quite a bit. 

    Fight to the death: Someone I could pick off somewhat easily with my bow, because I haven't had time to hone my sword skills to anything respectable. (And my bow skills are nowhere near as good as Legolas', so it would have to be someone I could pick off from a considerable distance).

    7. When was the last time you visited Middle Earth, via books or movies?

    Sadly, it's probably been since June. I've had a Middle Earth itch of late, so I'll probably either introduce my roommate to the movies or else drag one of my books along with me for a while. Fall is a good time for poetry, so I might dig up my copy of The Lays of Beleriand. 

    8. Do you consider Gollum to be a villain? Why or why not?

    This is a difficult question. He's a villain in the sense that he's certainly far from honorable and serves as an antagonist through much of the story. However, he's not truly villainous in many aspects. I don't believe that he truly seeks to cause others harm; he's just obsessed with the Ring. I would have to think on that question for a while longer.

    9. How would you sum up what Tolkien's stories mean to you in one word?


    10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotes from the books or movies.

    "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." 

    "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." 

    "All that is gold does not glitter." 

    "Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love." 

    "I will not say 'do not weep', for not all tears are evil." 

    "Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised." 

    "The women of this country learned long ago that those without swords can still die upon them." 

    "But I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend..."

    And far too many more to list...

    What are some of your favorite Tolkien quotes or books? 

    Feel free to steal this tag!