Tuesday, March 29, 2016

We Write Books, Camp NaNo, and Guest Posts, Oh My!

For more on We Write Books, click here. 

So, something went right this month and I managed to balance my school life with my writing life. Look at me being a responsible adult. (I hope I didn't just jinx myself there.)

As of this weekend, I have most of my scene descriptions typed out for Crossfire and I'm on track to finish them this week!

That means I'll be participating in Camp NaNo, albeit in a limited capacity. Colleges don't seem to understand that April is Camp NaNo time and they laugh maniacally as they schedule exams during the first week of May. Thus, they ensure that their students will not become famous writers who are able to quickly pay off their student loan debt. It's an evil plan, I tell you.

All conspiracies aside, though, I have to study this month, which means I have to put writing on the back burner for a bit.

That also means I have 1-2 guest posting opportunities coming up. You can use the handy-dandy contact form in the left hand column to get in touch. I accept posts on Christian/clean sci-fi/fantasy movies and books, as well as posts on writing. I'm open to other ideas, too. (If you're looking for reasons to guest post, click here. (I promise I am not as creepy as the last gif. Pinky promise.))

Are you doing Camp NaNo? What's your word count goal? 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Kingdom's Edge"

While this book is a sequel, it stands very nicely on its own. I thought it would be an appropriate pick for Good Friday since it is an allegory of the gospel account. 

The Short:

Kingdom’s Edge
The Kingdom Series, Book 3

By: Chuck Black

4/5 Stars (5/5 for intended age group)

What: A stranger comes to the Kingdom of Arrethtrae, claiming to be the Prince.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, allegory, Christian, Middle-grade, sword fights

The Long:

A while back, I reviewed books one and two of the Kingdom Series. You could easily jump into this book without reading the first two books.

This series is well suited to middle grade readers. If you have a younger child at home, it would even be suitable to read aloud. They’re easy, quick reads and have a strong Christian allegorical message. The sword fights and adventures are exciting and enjoyable.

The story is a very close allegory to the gospel accounts. We see the story through the eyes of Cedric, a young peasant who is turned into a knight by the Prince.

If you’re looking for a book exploring real-life issues or having a deep plot, this probably isn’t the series for you. However, I think books like these are a cool way to get kids interested in their faith. Sometimes hearing the gospel in an interesting, new format can give it fresh life.

I hope you have a blessed and reflective day. I may be slow to respond to comments this weekend.

How do you celebrate Good Friday/Easter? 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Totally Should've Tag

I know I've got a backlog of book tags, but I REALLY wanted to do this one. For the most part, I've tried to keep them to Christian Spec Fic novels, but occasionally I had to deviate from that. Thanks to Victoria over at The Endless Oceans of my Mind for the tag. 

Totally Should Have Gotten a Sequel

Knox's Irregulars

I mean, I can see how this one constitutes a complete story, but I really would've liked to see where the story went. Perhaps it would have imploded and I would have said that it would have been better left alone. Who knows?

If you're interested in futuristic military fiction with a dash of romance, you can read my review here. 


What happened to Evan Angler? Did he get captured by DOME? Because I'm totally freaking out that there's no book five in this series! *wails hysterically*

Okay, so I'm not sure that counted as needing a sequel, since it was book four. But I needed to get it out of my system *sniffs*. 

Check out my review of book one here.

Totally Should Have Had a Spin-off Series

Okay, so Christian authors tend to do spin-off series nearly to excess. It makes me happy to see my favorite characters again, but...I can't find one for this one. 

But The Inheritance Cycle seriously needs a sequel series, STAT. *Glares pointedly at Christopher Paolini*.

A Character that Should Have Ended up with Someone Else

Yuck, love triangles. May I say that The 5th Wave would have been much better without a love triangle? Actually, without Cassie. And without Evan "I've been planting bombs" Walker. I'll be quiet before I spoil anything else. It's a good movie to make fun of. 

Totally Should Have Ended Differently

I have to agree with Victoria on this one--Mockingjay should have had a better ending. It needed a better sense of closure, which is something that I think the movie provides. 

Also, Green by Ted Dekker. It had absolutely no closure. He wrote an alternate ending for it, but I'm still not happy.

However, the rest of the Circle series is good. You can read my review of the first book, Black, by clicking here

Totally Should Have a Movie Franchise

To keep with my Christian spec-fic theme, I'm going to say Firebird by Kathy Tyers. I think it's one that could easily be produced by a non-Christian film group and it would turn out great. It would have to receive the right treatment, though. I'm also not so attached to it that I would be crushed if they ruined it. (Also, this gave me the chance to post the beautiful cover again. Still can't get over it!)

Speaking of Firebird, I still need to read the sequel. Maybe that'd change my opinion. 

Totally Should Have a TV Show

I can't go Christian spec-fic with this one; hands-down, this has to be The Ranger's Apprentice. I think it's better suited to TV than the big screen and I just really would love to see it. 

Totally Should Have Had One POV

I don't know on this one. It's got me stumped. 

Totally Should Have a Cover Change

A Wrinkle in Time. It has about ten different covers and none of them really do it justice. This is the one that comes closest, and I'm still not overly fond of it. I'm not sure how to fix it, but it needs fixed. 

Also, speaking of movies that did not do justice to the book...*glares at whoever produced the movie adaptation*. 

If you haven't read it, please go read it right now. Beautiful, beautiful book.

Totally Should Have Kept the Cover

I'm going to reverse this one and say this is one of the best cover upgrades I've seen. Same thing with Firebird. 

I know I had a really good book for this one yesterday, but I can't think of it. I'll post it down in the comments if I remember.

I'll also take a moment to rant at all publishers who have ever changed a cover design in the middle of a series. It's not fair. 

Totally Should Have Stopped at Book One

Is this my pocketbook talking, or my heart?  Speaker for the Dead was not the same at all as Ender's Game and I just didn't enjoy it. I've toyed with the idea of returning to the series, but I'm not sure. I've heard Ender's Shadow is pretty good and more similar in tone and theme. 

Meanwhile, my pocketbook screams in agony over John Flanagan, who has mastered the art of the spin-off series. 

I Totally Should've Stopped Reading

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Not speculative, or fiction, but I was tempted to buy a copy just to burn it. When I get to the "Read, Rewrite, Burn" book tag, I'll probably include it so I can have the pleasure.

Totally Shouldn't've prejudged

I've really been wanting to use that contraction this entire post. 

It's really sad, but I can't remember the last time that I was pleasantly surprised by a book. Or vice versa, for that matter. Hopefully I'll encounter the former sometime soon.

Whew, that's a lot of books and side-rants. I also did a lot of self-promotion in that post, which I'm only slightly ashamed of. Let me know if you disagree with any of my selections, and feel free to steal the tag!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

On Christian Fiction

"Enemy-occupied territory---that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
 ~C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis has a knack for making things sound exciting. Christianity as a tale of espionage sounds so much more intriguing than how we tend to view it on a daily basis. Perhaps much of that is due to the fact that we are so self-absorbed that we tend to ignore the opportunities God has placed before us.

But I would offer that some of our boredom is due to the fact that many of us have heard the story over and over again. 

Someone coming back from the dead three days after dying a gruesome death doesn't even strike awe or wonder in us anymore. We nod and smile and go on, thinking that, all in all, our faith is rather unexciting in many ways. 

That's one reason I believe that it's so important to have Christian fiction. For me, it strikes upon that same excitement Lewis conveys above.

The idea of God making Himself human and dying for the very people who have turned their backs on Him should inspire us--especially considering we're the ones saved by His action. 

And while I don't always see that in my day-to-day life, well-written Christian fiction can refresh that joy and excitement all over again. It brings home the reality of spiritual warfare, shows the darkness that lurks in the world--and myself--and makes the light shine all the brighter.

I understand that there's a lot of cruddy fiction out there that masquerades as Christian. It reduces the greatest story of all time to something only for perfect people. Refusing to acknowledge the evil in the world and in ourselves, it denies the redemptive power of One who is greater than anything we could ever write. It might be written poorly or have plot holes or be stale or predictable or perhaps they forgot to hire an editor.

But there's some good stuff out there, too. I urge you to give it a chance. 

Authors, I'll leave you with the words of another theologian for your food for thought:

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
~Martin Luther

Well, that was a bit more serious than normal. Stop by tomorrow for a more lighthearted blog tag. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Sequel Review: "Third Starlighter"

I would highly recommend reading Masters and Slayers prior to picking up this book. I've tried to make this review spoiler-free in regards to Book 1, but no guarantees. 

The Short:

Third Starlighter
Tales of Starlight, Book 2

By: Bryan Davis

4/5 Stars

What: Adrian must find a way to reunite Marcelle’s spirit with her body while she works in spirit form to rally troops to rescue the human slaves.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, Dragons, and have read the first book.

The Long:

While I enjoyed many aspects of this book, I also had a few issues with it. I haven’t read anything else in this series for quite some time and it was difficult to hop back in. I think I could have used a summary at the start of the book.

This book has a fair amount of romance in it and deals with having a “Christian” relationship (the story’s an allegory, so it isn’t “Christian” in the strictest sense). It can sometimes come across as a little on the preachy side, so that’s something to take into consideration with this series.

I really enjoyed the action involved in this story. It isn’t as intense as some of Mr. Davis’ other books, but there’s still plenty of action to keep you hooked. Like many sequels, it feels more like we’re building up to some key moment than the events themselves having extreme importance. 

One of the parts about this book I liked the most is the moral dilemmas that the characters must face. I think that we’ll see some more of them in the next book and I look forward to that. The book definitely provides some good food for thought. 

 I think the next book should pick up the pace a little bit and I look forward to reading it.

What’s your favorite dragon book? 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

We Write Books Update

Well, I was an airhead and forgot to bring my camera home with me to take pictures of books for the Bookshelf Tag, so you'll have to put up with me rambling about my writing. For more on the We Write Books Challenge, click here. 

This reformed panster is successfully working her way through the Snowflake Method. I hit a bit of a snag when it came to planning my characters, but I think the couple uncomfortable weeks I spent working with them will help me in the end. 

I've now hit the nitty-gritty planning of my novel. I just started into the scene-by-scene spreadsheet. I'm simultaneously excited and terrified. In spite of having a three page long plot summary and ten pages detailing my characters, I have this somewhat irrational fear that I'm going to start making my scene list and find that there's something horribly wrong with the plot. 

After I finish my scenes list (shown in the handy-dandy Excel spreadsheet in the upper right corner), I just have to write a paragraph describing each scene. I currently have a phrase/sentence written in one of the cells, along with the POV I want to use. Crossfire has multiple POVs, so one of the fun/difficult parts of planning it is deciding which scenes should be told by each character. 

I think that planning will help me not only with my character development, but also with deciding who should tell each scene. In the past I've sort of flown by the seat of my pants. That resulted in a lot of scenes needing to be rewritten from another perspective, or having scenes told three different ways by three different characters and then deciding which one was the most appropriate. Part of my reason for trying the Snowflake Method was to save time, stress, and editing by eliminating it in areas such as POV selection. 

Unless I do hit some sort of significant delay (such as spontaneous combustion or a broken plot), I should be ready to start my rough draft here in a couple weeks. If I do finish my planning by the end of March, I'll probably participate in Camp NaNoWriMo. 

However, I don't want to sacrifice good planning just to be able to participate. If I do participate, I'll most likely set a lower word count goal than a traditional NaNo so that I can spend the last couple weeks of April preparing for final exams. 

Anyone doing Camp NaNo? And is it weird that I have a love for Excel Spreadsheets?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "The Gifted"

The Short:

The Gifted
The Daegmon War, Book 1

By: Matthew Dickerson

5/5 Stars

What:  When a dragon-like beast attacks her village, a young woman pulls together a band of survivors to fight the creature.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, Teen/Young Adult

The Long:

My family knows me all too well and continues to feed my book addiction every Christmas. Some I save for a few months down the road and some I read right away. This is one of my favorites so far.

Elynna is a simple fisherman’s daughter—or rather, she was, until the Daegmon attacked her village. 

Bereft of family and cursed with the ability to sense when the beast is nearby, she seeks help from her kingdom’s leaders only to find them unwilling to help. Together with others possessing supernatural gifts, she seeks to destroy the creature once and for all.

The writing style is similar to Tolkien in many respects. While I enjoyed the language, others may find it more tedious than the average book. (I marked the book as teen and above due to this, not due to content.)

I really liked Elynna. She seems like a normal twenty-something, with hopes, dreams, and relatable insecurities. The characters in the story were diverse, so I think that most readers will find a character with whom they relate.

I really have to tip my hat to Mr. Dickerson for his world building. The island/continent on which the story takes place is well fleshed out and full of diverse cultures and people. He also does an excellent job using the terrain of the story to affect his characters’ actions, struggles, and strategies. So often, geography isn’t used to its full extent in a story.

The story cuts right to the action and has a bit of an abnormal story arc. In spite of this, I found the book enjoyable. I would recommend this book to fans of Tolkien and Paolini who are up for a shorter read with definite Christian elements. 

Thoughts? Do you enjoy a specific author’s writing style? 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Spring Book Release Season

It's that time again--book release season! Granted, I shouldn't be looking; I'm still working through a few of the books I got for Christmas. However, it's still exciting to look! Below, I'll highlight a few books that look interesting to me that are supposed to be released soon.

Bethany House Publishing

King's Folly
Jill Williamson

The print book edition of the combined three e-book parts will be released in April! You can read my review of Darkness Reigns, the first third of the book, here. In spite of intending to wait to read the rest of the book until it came out in paperback, I caved and I've been following the e-book releases.

Enclave Publishing

Morgan L. Busse

I'm normally not one for steam punk (I think that's the category this falls into? It's listed as sci-fi. I'm really not sure). However, it looks really intriguing. Apparently, the main character has this condition where part of her soul dies every time she uses her new
found magical powers.

Edge of Oblivion
Joshua A. Johnston

As part of the blog, I'm trying to extend beyond my normal Fantasy comfort zone. This book looks like it'll have a Star Wars-y feel to it and possibly some good space battles.


Isle of Stars
Wayne Thomas Batson

He's a new face in the self-publishing arena, but he's definitely not a new writer. Isle of Stars released on March 4th for Kindle only (so far). This is book 3 in his pirate series. (Check out my review of book one here). I look forward to seeing how his change in publishing style goes. The book is free through today (March 8th), so spring on it while you have the chance!

Did I miss anything? What books look good to you? 

If you're looking for some recent releases in the Christian spec fic realm, check out my Fall Release Article. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Sequel Review: "Search for the Shadow Key"

It is recommended that you read Dreamtreaders before continuing. However, you could probably still jump in on this book and enjoy the story. 

The Short:

The Search for the Shadow Key
Dreamtreaders Book 2

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

5/5 Stars

What: Following the chaos of the Nightmare Lord’s defeat, Archer must single-handedly keep the Dream World in check while facing new threats from the Waking World.

Recommended to those who like: Christian, Fantasy, Middle grade/Teen, and who have read book one.

The Long:

This is probably a book that you can get away with reading book 2 without reading book 1, but I’d still recommend reading Dreamtreaders before continuing.

Archer Keaton is the only Dreamtreader left and his work is keeping him more than a little busy. Rigby and Kara have started their own company allowing people to Lucid Dream—for a price. Little do they know that the extra traffic is creating more holes in the dream fabric for Archer to repair.

What’s more is that there seems to be a larger plot afoot to destroy the dream and create a rift that would destroy both worlds. Will Archer be able to get to the bottom of the plot in time?

Like the previous book, the action is fast-paced and the imagery is excellent. The spiritual warfare themes grow stronger in this book and the author brings up some good thoughts regarding dreams and how they relate to real life. I really enjoyed this sequel and thought that it built nicely upon the work of Book 1 while leading into an exciting set-up for Book 3.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Batson has just made the shift from traditional publishing to indie publishing. It'll be interesting to see how that goes. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

We Write Books: Character Development

As I shared last week, I've started in on my "snowflake" of Crossfire, my dystopian novel. At this point, I've done more plotting than I've ever done. I have a one and a half page write-up of my story's plot and my characters are...

Well, they're being my typical characters. They have a tendency to think a lot like I do. Which means they all think similarly and that sort of destroys the idea of them all being separate people.

That's not exactly good material for a novel.

That being said, I'm  proud of myself for how much effort I'm putting into planning my characters right now. Last time I tried the snowflake method, I decided to just start writing the rough draft at this point. (Of course, that was partly due to the arrival of November 1st. But I could have started planning earlier.)

So far, I have three documents set up for planning my novel. I know, it's crazy! One is for my general overview (one paragraph of plot and then a list of all of my characters with a one sentence character arc), one is for my lengthier plot description, and one is for my growing character development list.

Each character has a story arc that's a couple sentences long, what lie he/she believes, what he/she wants most, what he/she most fears, and a list of flaws or weaknesses.

The lie the character believes is a concept that I stole from Go Teen Writers. I never really understood it before, but something clicked inside of my head this time around. 

Most of my characters believe lies about themselves--that they're the only one who can do x, for example. However, some characters believe lies that other characters have told them. 

I'm surprised by how useful I'm finding the concept to be and I think it's really going to help me shape my characters more realistically. If John Doe believes he's the only one who can do x, he's going to attempt to do x on his own, even if it seems a little illogical. He doesn't have to be impulsive to do this, either. He's just following what he  thinks fits in with reality. 

My next step is to write the story from each character's view point. I'm a little daunted by this task, but I think it will really help me to get inside of my characters' heads a bit more. I'll keep you updated!

How do you brainstorm and develop your characters? Do you use a character chart, character journals, or do you just wing it? 

Please be aware that it may take me longer than normal to respond to comments on this post.