Monday, August 29, 2011

An inconvenience rightly considered...


Found this quote on Andrew Peterson's (author of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten) website in the "about" section.

So often we think of the grand adventure being out there somewhere, waiting for us, like you have to leave home to find it....'World Traveler' was written about my slow realization that life is just as much an adventure if you're a family man as it is if you're a pirate on the high seas. Every human you meet is a great mystery....

Wow...

That reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes from G. K. Chesterton:

An adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.

Three years ago when I found this quote, I resolved to live by it. I resolved to not let inconveniences unsettle me. I also settled down to being content living at home without a job, helping around the house, and diligently pursuing publication while working on "school". Little did I know that when I stopped looking for adventures and began receiving every day life as an adventure, even the inconveniences, that God had major adventures around the corner for me.

Within a few months of resolving to live my life this way, Justin was courting me. And the adventures have never stopped! Some of them haven't been so great--going through the months with Livie having cancer was a pretty dark period of our courtship adventure. Well, and making my mom upset because I was laughing at how we couldn't get of the driveway two winters ago wasn't exactly the best move either. Moving to Michigan was a mixed blessing of easy/hard, because I was finally married to Justin, but I was leaving my family and friends behind. I will never, ever understand how Justin was able to make it through 5 months being here by himself! But Michigan has presented lots of adventures for Justin and me to take together. The biggest one has been our marriage--building and maintaining our relationship, just like when we were courting, but on a much, much deeper level.

When I think about it, a lot of the best adventures of my life have either happened at home or happened because I looked at an "inconvenience" in the right way. Despite living adventures through my characters all the time, I'm very contented to be a stay at home gal. Besides, I'm honestly not brave enough to wave a sword in a dragon's face anyway. :0)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nice to meet you!

I just spent 2 1/2 hours compiling several different Character Questions lists into one long list. One of them came from my friend LoriAnn, the other I'd made myself, and the third came from K. M. Weiland (who, btw, is an excellent blogger on writing mechanics and ideas.You should really follow her!). I added new questions, picked and mixed and matched from the three I had, and added follow-up questions. The final product was 8 pages and over 250 questions.

I put the list into sections, moving through questions as you might if you were meeting a real person--first, what do they look like? What are their names, nicknames? What do they wear?

Then we move on to family--who were your parents? What was your family like?

And on through the list--education, job, personality, and finally personal questions that are a bit nosy. ;)

Why such a long question list?

Because I love getting to know my characters. I like making them real to my readers and, ultimately, I hope my readers love getting to know my characters. I can't do that unless I delve very deeply into my characters' personalities and history. I'm able to learn enough about my characters to predict most of what they will do and say. Even when they surprise me (like my friends still do from time to time), I'm able to go back to the questions and see if they really would do that, or if they're just trying to confuse me. ;)

I can see the obvious changes from the first books I wrote--where I didn't do anything for characters other than throw them into a situation and say, "Have at it!!"--to the later ones, where I've been very careful to get to know my characters beforehand. Scenes come together better, I can know quickly how this certain character would react to a certain comment, and I don't get stuck nearly as much.

If you writers don't do anything with your characters, I'd suggest you find a list of questions or a profile that you can fill out for your characters. Get to know them so you can offer your readers the best, well-rounded characters possible! If you don't know where to look, two good resources are K. M. Weiland's e-book, Crafting Unforgettable Characters (available for free if you sign up to receive her email updates) and Brandilyn Collins' Getting Into Character. If you're interested in seeing my list (or my Character profile for beginners), go to the About page and email me.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Meet the Author: Peter J. Dudek

Hello everyone! Last week, I reviewed the book City of Prophecy. Today, please welcome its author Peter J. Dudek! :)

Heather: How do you get ideas for stories? Specifically, what gave you the idea for City of Prophecy?

Peter: I'm really intrigued by the spiritual element of the Bible, as well as the spiritual side of us, specifically Christians. We have this amazing Holy Spirit living inside of us, but we don't always recognize it because the physical element of our reality is so overwhelming. I wanted to write a book that highlighted the spiritual nature of humans and the world we live in. This desire was the foundation for City of Prophecy. From there I wove together elements of my own walk with God along with my vivid imagination to create a story in a world where the spiritual is as prevalent and visible as the physical.

H: When did you start writing? Do you feel that God specifically called you to write, or is it something you took up on your own?

P: I wrote my first books when I was about seven. They were about an unlikely bunch of friends (a truck, car, mouse, and dinosaur) who had adventures together. I guess that was also the first time I tinkered with the fantasy genre. From there, a deep love for writing birthed from my deep love for reading. Tolkien, Lewis, Peretti, Dekker and other's captivated me during my teen and early adult years. Eventually, I tried my hand at writing a novel, which became sort of a prelude to the Forsaken Kingdom series. I did little with it, except use it for notes as I developed my series. I can't say there was a day God specifically called me to write, but since He gave me the ability and desire to write, I've always figured He intended me to do so :)

h: Do any of your characters take over the story, or do they generally stay well-behaved?

P: Tarin, is ultimately the central character, so he'll ultimately get the most page time. But he will not overwhelm the story to the point the other characters will be completely overshadowed.

H: Why did you decide to write fantasy?

P: I write fantasy because it gives me the best outlet to merge spiritual elements with the physical in a believable way. Fantasy readers are accustomed to strange beings and plot lines, so I can really be creative when I'm in essence, creating my own world.

h: Which fantasy creature is your favorite?

P: My personal favorite from fantasy literature is probably Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. Not only is he odd, he's extremely complex. From my book, I like the the monster I call the bostt.

H: Did you base any characters off of someone you know personally?

P: Yes, one of the characters I made a lot like myself when I was a teenager, and another, I tried to make like my brother.

H: Who is your favorite character that you've created? That you've read about?

P: My favorite character from my book is probably Gildareth. I've always love the character that, when he or she comes into the scene, you know everything should be OK. In that same vein, from other literature, I like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

H: How do you go about writing a book or story?

P: At the time I wrote City of Prophecy, I had a general idea of what I wanted, and just wrote. No outline, little planning, just a lot of writing and seeing where it went. Unfortunately, at the end of a process like that, you have to go back and do a LOT of reworking to make the plot-line work properly. Since then, my current projects, along with the second book in Forsaken Kingdom, I've generated from more detailed outlines.

H: What do you do if you have a severe case of writer's block?

P: I've not really experience writer's block. But I have experience long writing lags due to just getting very busy with life.

H: Can you tell me a little about future projects you have planned?

P: I'm currently starting to think a bit about the third book in the series, and I'm also working on another "non-fantasy" project to help broaden my writing scope.

H: What is your favorite funny writing quote?

P: "Show, don't tell". Not sure if it's really a funny quote, but I think every writer has probably been told that so many times that he has to just laugh at it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Novel Spotlight: City of Prophecy by Peter J. Dudek

Hey everyone! Welcome to the new reviews I'll be doing--the Novel Spotlight. Since I began posting a book review every week over at the Magical Ink Bookshelf, I wanted to keep this spot open for indie-published or self-published books I think merit a lot of attention. So, welcome to the first Spotlight, City of Prophecy by Peter J. Dudek!

Storyline: Tarin is a shy boy who would rather sneak around and listen to gossip through windows than speak with or touch his fellow villagers. Quite unwillingly, he befriends Sarky, the son of Woodend's gatekeeper, and his adventures begin.

Two strangers--warriors--arrive in Woodend. Tarin--and only Tarin--sees dark, smoky, cloaked figures skulking around the village, though Sarky throws up if he gets too close to them. The banished governor is rumored to return, and the people's dislike of the current governor, Willerdon, grows.

And finally, another stranger arrives--Gildareth, herald from the long-absent King of Arvalast. The country is in danger. The people's faith is waning, and their Illumina--phials of pure, holy light given to believers by the King--are loosing their light. Some are even turning red, overtaken by a weird usurper who claims to be the true King. Evil beings stalk the land, seeking to destroy the King and his followers.

And Tarin, Sarky, and Governor Willerdon's family are in the middle of the conflict.

My Thoughts: I unexpectedly won this book in a contest. When I received it in the mail, I was struck by the cover art--it was a very cool, well-done picture. That was my first clue that this book was a cut above most of the self-published stuff out there.

Then I opened it and started reading. It took me a little bit, but I was sucked into the story.

A few things may seem to echo The Lord of the Rings--shadowy beings, phials of light--but the further I got into the story, the more I saw the differences. There are some sticky spots of stilted dialog, draggy action, or omniscient pov, but those are few.

Much of the story is amazing. The characters are fun and quirky, the description well-placed, the action exciting even without many fight scenes in the first half or so of the book. What at first seems to be a straight-forward plot soon evolves into something epic in proportions, with multiple storylines and lots of characters.

And the best part? Nothing objectionable, yet still a fabulous story. This book doesn't read like a normal first-time author's book.

Peter Dudek has woven a skillful, amazing story in City of Prophecy. As soon as I finished it, I got on his website and checked for the second one--What? Not out yet?!? When??? :) I'd definitely recommend it!

Rating: Five out of five stars

Be sure to visit next week to see my interview with Peter Dudek!

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Site for Book Reviews

Hello everyone! Hope that you're enjoying the first day of August!
Just wantd to let you know that due to the number of books I've been reading, my reviews have really backlogged. So I created a different site, the Magical Ink Bookshelf, where the schedule is the same as this blog (a post every Monday), but it's book reviews of all genres! If you've enjoyed my reviews, please hop over there and take a look. It's still a little messy as I'm sorting out an easy system for you to find the reviews you want, so please bear with me.
I'm still going to post reviews on Magical Ink, but they'll be books from smaller presses, like I've been doing the past few months, and I hope to continue the author interviews too.
Have a great week!

Favorite Smells--a writing exercise

Coffee: makes me think of waking up at my parents', hearing the coffee maker burbling and smelling that scent as it worked its way through the house. It makes me think of coffee shops and writing and chocolate and being with nerdy friends who love to talk for hours and hours about anything and nothing. It makes me think of being hyper on a storm-chase, so hyper during a brainstorming session that my friends tell me to sit still or they'll never allow me a latte again.

Lilacs: make me think of summer. Our neighbor when we first moved to Missouri had a whole hedge of lilac bushes. I'd forgotten about that heady, flowery smell until a week ago when I rode past a whole flock of them on the bike path here in Marquette. It took me back to those hours spent underneath and in the old crabapple tree, building a fort with my siblings, ruining my white t-shirt with red Missouri mud, swimming in the motel pool that, to this day, makes me dissatisfied with swimming in anything but the ocean, a lake, or a huge pool. Getting my ears pierced. Playing at archeologist after seeing Indiana Jones for the first time. Reading The Lord of the Rings and Narnia for the first time.

Old Leather: makes me think of Justin, because he has a black leather jacket that he looks absolutely fabulous in. Red sweater, jeans, and that jacket...and my heart thinks we're back to the day when he first asked permission to court me. It's the little things in marriage that count. :) Old leather also makes me think of antique mall shopping with my family. Sometimes we'd take an entire Saturday and just ramble through flea markets and antique malls, not necessarily buying anything, but always on the lookout for a bargain or a treasure. Old clothes, books, purses, furniture, castoffs other people didn't want. There's something almost sad in antique malls.

Old Books: makes me think of the massive library I'd like some day. E-books are fine and dandy, but they can't beat print books. And print books today can't beat those old cloth hardbacks. That musty, inky, dusty smell--It's the smell of a new world to explore, the smell of adventure, the smell of writers tapping away furiously on typewriters.

Car heat:That very precise smell of dust and a warm car engine that blasts your face until it's dry. It makes me think of winter in Marquette, getting all bundled up to go sliding down a huge slope with nothing but two sticks in your hands and flat waxed boards on your feet. Of hot chocolate, linking arms with your friends and hurtling in a tube down an icy hill onto a frozen lake. Of riding a snowmobile, going 60 miles an hour with no car walls protecting you, feeling the wind whip your biker-look-alike jacket.

What are your favorite smells, and what do they make you think of?

*Don't forget, Falls the Shadow posts a new chapter today!!*

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