Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Winner of Avenir Eclectia...

Is Sarah Holman!

Congrats Sarah--and thank you to everyone who entered! :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Extending the Giveaway

I know, I said I'd announce the winner of the Avenir Eclectia: Volume 1 giveaway this last Saturday. My weekend was thrown off a bit by a fender-bender Friday night, which was the first accident I've ever been involved in. Between that and being worried about how the baby was doing (though the ER trip Friday night said everything was okay) I completely forgot about the contest.
When I looked at it, I saw only a few people had signed up. I'd wanted at least 10 entries in this contest, so I'm giving it another chance. I'm extending the deadline another two weeks, so the winner will now be announced November 17th. If you're interested in winning a copy of the first AE volume of microfiction, please click over to the previous post and follow the rules there. If you've previously entered, then your entry still counts. Be sure to let your speculative-fiction-loving friends know! :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NAF-Growing Pains

Blogging over at the NAF about the interesting day-after-the-day-after-we-moved. :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Moving Fun

Hey everyone,
Just wanted to let you know that Justin and I've successfully moved into our new little townhome. We're currently in the process of getting everything organized and in place. Our Internet is, for the forseeable future, limited to my iPhone. I'll try to get more organized soon, but there will be no blog posts on Magical Ink for the next week. (I will however have my weekly NAF post on Wednesday.) Thanks for your patience!
(And don't forget to enter the giveaway for the Avenir Eclectia anthology--winner to be picked next week!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NAF: Just In Case...

I analyze and relate funny stories about how Justin and I both go about preparing for "just in case"...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Curse Bearer by Rebecca P Minor

STORYLINE: An oppressor's assault, a father's terminal illness, an elder knight's enigmatic challenge...could a single thread interweave them all? When Danae Baledric leaves home in search of a cure for a degenerative malady that's killing her father, she never expects her journey to teach her the price of her own ignorance. In Curse Bearer, Danae learns the eternal war between The Creator and the Impenetrable Darkness is waged one soul at a time. Danae's investigation reveals not only the spiritual nature of her father's danger, but that the forces of Darkness are hunting her as well. For power, even employed in ignorance, has its cost. A commitment to a life of service to the Creator extends Danae both deliverance from her debt and the ability to intervene on her father's behalf. But something bars Danae from claiming redemption-her insistence she must achieve her goals in her own strength. It's an epic tale of curses and miracles, where headstrong ignorance creates bondage, and the desire to serve offers freedom.

MY THOUGHTS:

Once again, Rebecca Minor brought me into a world that is beautifully drawn and detailed. Her world has a deep, rich, historical feel to them, and yet I never feel bogged down in the details. After the initial action, the book felt a slow in parts, but for the most part, the excellent world-building pulled me along through the draggy parts.
The characters were fun and interesting, and Rebecca definitely has a knack for creating awesome elvish characters...first Vinyanel in the Windrider series (who gets a passing mention, which I completely squealed at), now Culduin in Curse Bearer who, while not as sarcastic as Vinyanel, makes up for it with how infinitely sweet he is to the main character, Danae. Danae herself was a great character--I loved her dilemma and struggle throughout the book.
The storyline is very family friendly as well--it's very appropriate for family readalouds and teenagers. Kudos to Rebecca for the release of such a good first full-length novel!
Rating: five stars

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Short Story and a Giveaway

**This is a repost of my story "Amaris", first published on the Avenir Eclectia website and now part of the anthology. Enjoy!**


Pieter leaned back in his bed and closed his eyes.

In a way, night was a relief. It meant Pieter could go back to his cubbyhole of a living space and disappear from the world for a while. Away from the prying eyes of the Enforcers. Out of range of the stares from people in the docking bays who recognized his picture from the news reports.

It meant a break from Cara. He liked the girl, but sometimes her incessant questions grated on him. You had so much money, why did you get bored? Do the rich people really have cyborgs to serve them? Do you know where Avenir came from?

Lately, her questions had been taking a disturbingly spiritual turn. Who was Jesus? Why do you think the book you gave me talks about 'living water'? He didn't want the reminders of his mother.

But when he shoved away the cares of the day, she always took their place.

Chocolate-hazel eyes, silk-straight black hair pulled in an elegant knot at the nape of her neck. A fierce temper and even fiercer devotion. Jokes and small talk late into the night, a glass of wine while watching stars out the glass-fronted captain's deck.

Much worse than a few distrustful stares or never-ending chatter.

Her heart-shaped face was always in his mind, that playful fire dancing in her eyes. Even in the heat of battle, she had that spark, that vivacity, that filled his empty heart with hope and love.

She had been another mistake in the thousands that weighed on his chest. If he thought about her too long, his brain would start reciting his other mistakes. It was like she was a piece of fruit in the bottom corner of a large orange pyramid, and if he took out his memories of her, the rest came tumbling down on top of him.

Pieter groaned and rolled onto his side, squeezing his eyes shut so tightly that his head started to pound. "Go away, Amaris. Please, please go away." 

*******
GIVEAWAY! If you'd like a chance to win a print copy of Avenir Eclectia: Volume 1, please leave a comment on this post with your name, email address, and whether or not you'd like me to sign it. There's only one rule: the giveaway must have at least 10 entries for it to be valid (I'd also love for you to be a follower of this blog, but that's not a requirement). So let your friends and family know and encourage them to join! The giveaway will run for two weeks and end on November 2nd. The winner will be contacted on November 3rd. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NAF: Interview with Grace Bridges

Today on NAF, I interviewed Grace Bridges, the publisher of Splashdown Books and the founder of Avenir Eclectia.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Avenir Eclectia--some fun stuff

Today starts the blog tour for the Avenir Eclectia anthology, and I thought some fun stuff would be in order.

*Travis Perry, author and editor of the anthology, blogged about strange worlds in fact and science fiction. At the end of the post he mentions Eclectia, the planet which the generation ship Avenir circles. 

*Did you know that we have a sountrack? Yep! Here's the Avenir Eclectia theme, which is one of my favorite songs. 

*My posts coming up: On Wednesday, I interview Splashdown Books publisher and founder of Avenir Eclectia, Grace Bridges, on the New Authors Fellowship. Friday, I'm reposting one of my Avenir stories and giving details for a giveaway of a print copy of the anthology. Stay tuned! :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Post: Kat Heckenbach


You Have to Look
My pastor said something during a recent sermon that really struck me. He was talking about his early days as a Christian, and how he visited a church very different from the one he’d been attending. He said he sat there, feeling rather smug, and thinking how pointless all their manmade rituals were, how misguided and Godless the church seemed.
Then God hit him with a 2-by-4: “I’m here if you’ll look for Me. But you’re not looking for Me. You’re too busy judging.”
This attitude is not just an issue with different denominations—it’s also an issue with different genres of fiction.
Genres are a personal preference and not something we can dictate. We can’t control what stories snap our neurons into action any more than we can control what foods send our taste buds into bliss. Is it my fault if romance puts me to sleep, but fantasy begs me to stay up until two a.m. for one more chapter?
God loves variety, and He created us all with different tastes. The cool thing is, He is willing reach out to us through all those different styles of music, styles of worship, and genres of fiction. We are generally attuned to Him through our particular style preferences, though, and as my pastor made note of, we will have to look for Him in the places that don’t naturally align with our tastes and experiences.
But too often, readers and writers of different genres spend their time judging and not looking.
I’ve been guilty of this myself. In my early days of writing, I had no idea that Christian fiction existed, much less that any of it was sci-fi and fantasy. So I searched for God, and found Him, in secular books, and in the very fantastical and dark books that appeal to me. To this day, I still prefer that subtlety and tend toward books with dark and subtle references to God.
I tend to feel God more strongly during dark times. And no, that doesn’t mean I only turn to Him at times of need—it means that is when I feel His grip on me the strongest. So the rest of the time I need reminders, I need chances to think back on those dark times and feel God’s hand around me again.
Cheerful, overt, Christianese-filled stories don’t appeal to me. And when I first started writing, I found those books a bit insulting. How could they really have God in them? They’re so saccharine, so shallow, right? You need grit in your story to get across a realistic relationship with God, don’t you? You need that darkness to feel His touch…
But they reach people. People with different experiences than me. People who maybe haven’t experienced my level of darkness. Or maybe, they reach God in different ways.
The point is, I wasn’t looking, I was assuming. I was judging.
Coming to that realization was much like what my pastor described. I felt slammed with questions and accusations from God: Why are you judging others while griping that they are passing judgment on you? What gives you the right to determine where I reside? I may shine more brightly in the dark for you, but others need Me in the light as well!
Notice in there that God pointed out my own griping. Me, complaining about others doing exactly as I had done! Judging me because they couldn’t see the value in my dark, spooky, or fantastical stories—both the ones I read and the ones I write. Yet, I was doing the same thing to them.
It works both ways, see? We judge them, they judge us (and we complain about it).
What this has all led me to understand is that God is where He chooses to be. We as humans, we as writers, can’t limit Him. He’s not afraid of the dark, nor is He intimidated or insulted by writing we may see as fluff. He wants us all to do our best, to give 100%, but He’s not going to only reach out for readers through award-winning and best-selling novels. God isn’t a literary snob.
He wants all of us, no matter what genre we read. And if you don’t see Him in someone else’s genre, maybe you simply aren’t looking

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Killing a Dream

Big publishing? Not so likely anymore...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tales of Woe and Wonder by Jeff Chapman

Tales of Woe and Wonder collects nine fantasy stories from the pen of Jeff Chapman. Here you'll find a mix of fairy-tale wonder and tragic woe, ranging from a young boy's first brush with the harsh realities of war in "A Gift from over the Sea" to a miraculous bridge in "The Master and the Miller's Daughter" to a young girl's encounter with a witch's insidious spells in "Esme's Amulet."

MY THOUGHTS: Tales of Woe and Wonder is a collection of fantasy short stories. Some of the stories could be fleshed out a little more, which is why not all of them caught my attention, but the writing was fairly solid and the tales that I enjoyed were worth it. Chapman is a good author and I look forward to reading his longer works.
Rating: three and a half out of five stars

Friday, October 5, 2012

Look What's Out!

That's right, Avenir Eclectia: Volume 1 is out on the (virtual) shelves! :) Here's the book description:

Human settlement in the harshest of places. The Avenir: once a generational ship, now a crowded residential station and dominating force over a hard, broken world. Its people have nearly forgotten distant Earth, its wizards ponder the mysteries of the universe, its orphans suffer and beg, while the aristocrats live the high life. Eclectia: the highly unstable planet far below, pulled by its heavy moons into a fast wobble, its crust fractured and tormented with frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Miners and bug hunters eke out an existence through the grit and extreme seasons. The lucky ones live in undersea colonies, where submarines connect cities in the depths. The oceans teem with telepathic life everyone calls "angels." Sheba and Quatermain, the fractured and molten moons of Eclectia, are settled by miners and spacers, while merchants and smugglers ply their trades. For most, survival is an everyday question. Multi-author microfiction gives a many-faceted view of the future. New stories continue to be posted online at the Avenir Eclectia site.

Thus far, it only seems to be in print on Amazon. The Kindle edition should be coming soon. All the royalties from the book go to maintaining the Avenir Eclectia site. If you'd be interested in a signed copy (only by me...the rest of the authors are spread out so much it would take half a year to get a copy around to all of us for signing... ;) ) please contact me at skribblegurl at(@) gmail dot(.) com, and we'll work something out. Also, be on the lookout for blog tours upcoming in the next couple of weeks.

Enjoy your reading! :) 

September Writing Report


Well, like I said last week, there hasn't been a whole lot of writing happening over here lately. I did revise and send in Dragon Dance to Othersheep (finally) and got some work done on Forged Steel. The Avenir Eclectia anthology was sent to the printer so it should be out soon (you guys are probably tired of me saying that...) ;) So, on to the excerpt!

Forged Steel

The two people crouched beside me were obviously fae. The girl had long jet-black hair, a black jagged layer of bangs slashing across her pale forehead. Her long lashes slowly enfolded her purple eyes as she watched me. A knife handle stuck out of the tall boots she wore over black fitted pants, and she cradled a sawed-off shotgun next to her jade-green blouse.

The guy's pale blond hair jutted over his forehead in gelled spikes, and underneath, his bright green eyes flickered in jumps and starts. Those eyes looked hard and relentless, a little like Blodheyr's. In one hand, he held the hilt of a sword. Another was strapped to his waist under a brown leather jacket.

He stood up and prodded me with the toe of his heavy black boots, the hems of his tattered jeans swishing. "Well, mud-eater. What are you doing here?"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New Authors Fellowship: Bleed

I'd forgotten how it felt to write whole-heartedly

Monday, October 1, 2012

Seeking Unseen by Kat Heckenbach

SEEKING UNSEEN
It may be Angel's wish...
It's been two years since Angel learned the magic chip of wood inside her locket would grant any wish. What is taking her so long to choose? An alarming discovery about her beloved foster brother Zack makes the decision easy...but everything else gets complicated after she runs into her old friend Melinda, who demands to go along for the return to Toch Island.
...but it's Melinda's journey.
Melinda doesn't fit in with the magical freaks any more than she did with the losers back in Florida, but she never wanted to belong before. A secret world surrounds her where even the bugs have magic... She's more of an outsider than ever. So when ex-con Doran Ashe slinks out of the shadows and offers her an easy road to powers of her own, Melinda follows him despite-or maybe because of-everyone's warnings.

MY THOUGHTS:
When I first started reading Seeking Unseen, the sequel to Finding Angel, my stomach was a nervous mess of butterflies (or maybe Nazguls, given how I felt). I loved Finding Angel so very much that I was afraid the sequel would let me down horribly.
I should've trusted Kat Heckenbach more than that.
Seeking Unseen started a little slow, but things began to pop when Angel's adopted brother Zach and friend Melinda join her on Toch Island. Seeing the island through Melinda's eyes was fun, and I loved how Horatio and Kalek both had bigger parts to play...especially Kalek.
Melinda's disobedience and acting out annoyed me, but I also completely understood her motivations for it and found her as believable as the rest of the characters. Ayden was a sweet addition to the group as well. I enjoyed his and Angel's budding romance and the more "grown-up but still young" tone it brought to the book, even though (*sniff*) it made me realize some of my favorite characters were growing up. (How silly is that?)
I think that Toch Island has officially made it to my list of fantasy worlds to visit (in fact, it is right up there with Narnia). Oh yes, and the closing line of the book? Utterly and completely brilliant.
In sum, Kat Heckenbach has again brought us a beautiful and fun fantasy that all ages would enjoy. She did not disappoint, and I love Seeking Unseen just as much as I loved Finding Angel.
Rating: five out of five stars

Friday, September 28, 2012

September...but not with pictures...


Whew. Wow, sorry for the missed posts last Friday and Monday. It's been an interesting month thus far. Compared to the summer months, September has been booooooring, and I think that's part of the problem. Adjusting back to the slower fall and winter months, plus pregnancy hormones, plus rainy/gloomy/cloudy for a week equals Heather feeling super bummed and not in the mood to do anything but read all day.
Seriously. Two weeks ago on Wednesday I got some books from the library. I finished two of them on Wednesday, the third on Thursday, and the fourth on Saturday. Since then I've been working on the Wheel of Time book 4, which is ridiculously huge and makes me feel like an incredibly slow reader. I'm about halfway through it and even spent a couple of days again, reading most of the day.
OK, on to other news…as many of you've heard already, I'm pregnant again! I'm at 12 weeks right now and I look big already. My stomach muscles betrayed me big time and you could tell I was pregnant by about six weeks, not even kidding. (You know you look big when a friend stares at your belly on Sunday and says "Oh my gosh—you really grew this week!" Ummm, thanks?) ;) I've had two ultrasounds already and everything looks awesome, baby is doing great. This time around I've felt much better than with Matthew. The morning sickness showed up around 8 weeks, again, but for the most part I've felt fine. This baby's due date is April 9th, so the little monster will be in good company…right there next to Matthew's and sandwiched between my brother Josh's birthday, and the two Hannahs' birthdays as well as several friends' birthdays. April is a hot month for birthdays! :)
Last Saturday our friends the Greggs and Justin & I went to Green Bay for a shopping trip. I desperately needed maternity clothes…nevertheless Elyse almost had to drag me into a maternity shop, since I had it fixed in my mind that maternity clothes couldn't be anything other than baggy, ugly, and looking like something I wouldn't have worn even back in the '90s. Let me forever apologize to all modern-day maternity clothes, because I found some super-cute ones. I also found a cute denim jacket with a couple of lace appliques and some rips that Justin said made it look like it had been attacked by a cat…and I love it. Favorite new layering bit for fall, right there. Oh yes, and I bought another ear cuff. This one fits around the middle of my ear and has a couple of silver vines with leaves that curve over my earlobe. Very elvish, and oh so nerdy.
In writing news…ha. Ha. What writing? And before you ask, yes, I stopped taking my vitamin D for a while because I didn't remember it. So I was tired all the time, grumpy, and as mentioned before, wanted to do nothing but read all day. Oh joy, hello, seasonal depression. But now I'm back on the vitamin D and doing much better. I'm also getting back into writing…starting with building up my blog posts again. No way am I going to finish rewriting Forged Steel by the end of this month, so I guess I'll push it to October and try again! Blogging has become a big time-suck for me and so I'm trying to think of ways to make it easier…we shall see what I come up with, but for now no major changes will be made. I'll finished 2012 on this schedule and let you know what's going on in the new year.
Speaking of…I am insanely ready for Christmas. All the shops were putting out their Christmas stuff (already!) and I've been humming Trans Siberian Orchestra for the last few days now. Oh yes, and Elyse bought and awesome book of Christmas carol duets and it has a very cool version of the Coventry Carol in it that we're going to play for communion sometime in December.
One more thing, and then I'm done boring you guys. We're moving! Not away from the UP, thank goodness, just up the hill a little bit. We'll be closer to Justin's work. It's a new (brand new, like, we're waiting to move in because it's not quite finished new) townhome in a little complex with three other townhomes. At first glance it doesn't sound a ton better than the apartment, since it still only has 2 bedrooms, BUT…it has a garage (yay for getting all Justin's tools out of my office!) a little basement, and a backyard. So next year I can have a little vegetable garden and plant some flowers, and the little monster and I will be spending plenty of time in the hammock you can bet. :)
Life is wonderful. Yes, it is. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NAF: Small-Mindedness

A complaint about why people can't seem to entertain new ideas and have an open mind.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer

STORYLINE: The future of the Immortals is in the hands of an orphan

My greatest fear was that they would find us and make of us a sacrifice beneath a full moon. Now you, Thomas, must help us destroy the circle of evil.

The last words of a dying woman would change the life of young Thomas. Raised behind monastery walls, he knows nothing of his mysterious past or imminent destiny. But now, in the heart of medieval England, a darkness threatens to strangle truth. An ancient order tightens their ghostly grip on power, creating fear and exiling those who would oppose them. Thomas is determined fulfill his calling and bring light into the mysterious world of the Druids and leaves the monastery on an important quest.

Thomas quickly finds himself in unfamiliar territory, as he must put his faith in unusual companions—a cryptic knight, a child thief, and the beautiful, silent woman whom may not be all she seems.  From the solitary life of an orphan, Thomas now finds himself tangled in the roots of both comradery and suspicion.

Can he trust those who would join his battle…or will his fears force him to go on alone?



MY THOUGHTS: I found this book being offered in the Waterbrook Multnomah reviewers choices and, after reading the description, gave a big grin. I recognized this story! I'd devoured it multiple times as a teenager--back then it was one huge, thick novel called, depending on what reprinting you got, Magnus or Wings of Dawn. I remember thinking that the cover for Magnus was horrible and the Wings of Dawn cover really cool, and I remembered loving the story (it helped that this version had a cool cover as well) so I ordered it.

I definitely killed a childhood favorite doing that.

The book was OK. It had fleshed out a little of the events I remembered reading. If I'd read it as a teenager and fledgling writer, I probably would have loved it again. But...

I felt disconnected to the characters. Thomas was not as cool as I remembered. The story resolution felt way too easy. I remember that this is not the end of the book--in fact, there's a lot more than will be covered in the rest of the series, I assume--but I still didn't care for it. At times the narrative felt a little jerky as well.

About the only thing I liked was how Thomas starts out with almost no faith. As I remember, his faith gradually builds, and I remember enjoying his journey. 

I wish I had some more positive things to say about this book. I really wanted to like it, but I really didn't. I might pick up the rest of the books in the series just for the sake of revisiting an old favorite, but I don't expect to like them any more than I liked this one.

My Rating: two and a half out of five stars

**I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review**

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Remembering Matthew

**For those who didn't see it on the New Authors Fellowship earlier this week**


For those who don't know, earlier this year I was seventeen weeks pregnant when we discovered that the precious little child I'd been carrying had been called to heaven. We didn't even know if the baby was a boy or a girl at that point. Two days, nearly forty hours of induced labor later, I gave birth to our son, Matthew. My body didn't want to give him up.
I didn't want to give him up.
Today is Matthew's due date. He should have been born then, healthy and whole. But God chose to take Matty to live with Him instead.
Matthew is buried next to my husband Justin's youngest sister, Isabella, who passed away two days after being born. I become very close friends with Justin shortly after Isabella passed away...and little did I know that he already had plans in place to ask to court me. We loved little Bell, and I remember thinking, when I first became pregnant, that I did not want to put Justin through another little one's passing.
God, for some reason that we cannot yet understand (and that I still sometimes get angry about), chose to do so.
Bell is only four years older than Matthew, and she was born September 22nd, just week later than Matthew's due date. Sometimes, when Justin and I are quietly thinking and talking about our sweet baby, we think of how Aunt Bell is with Matthew. Just having Jesus would be sufficient enough, but we smile to think of Belle and Matty playing together. We laugh about how much havoc those two rambunctious Titus kids are probably causing and how many angels are going gray because of their antics. Silly, I know, but it helps.
I miss my little boy so much. It still hurts to write about this, even though I am now carrying our second child. I thought that having another baby might help with healing, but it hasn't yet. Instead I'm on pins and needles. I can only pray that my body will be a safer place for this little baby than it was for Matthew. That prayer hurts in so many ways.
Yet, I don't want to forget. I want to remember Matthew. Not the way that he was when he was born, perhaps, or how painful that whole time was. I want to remember him like I think he would have been born...with a mass of curly black hair and a mischievous personality, just like his daddy. After all, even at seventeen weeks, he already had his daddy's big knuckles and long toes. I don't think its a stretch to imagine that he would have been just like Justin.
It's funny how someone you've never met can wrap such tenacious little fingers around your heart. That's what Matthew did to me from the first pregnancy test, the first ultrasound, the first time I felt a tickle of movement. We loved him and waited for him.
I guess it's not a lot different than now, really. We just have to wait a little longer.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Guest Post: Robynn Tolbert


What Spec Fic Isn’t

Have you heard of “spec fic,” aka “speculative fiction?” I hadn’t, until I started hanging out with writers and learned I wrote it. A few famous authors are Ted Dekker, Stephen Lawhead and Frank Perretti, but more and more not-yet-famous authors are entering the market thanks to smaller, independent publishers willing to take a chance. The greater ease and lower cost of publishing has helped, too.

Since it’s always easier to define a thing by what it isn’t, let’s start there.

1) Spec-fic isn’t easy to categorize.
When someone asks you what the book is about and you hem and haw looking for a way to explain it, you’re probably reading spec-fic. It doesn’t fit into a box. The main character isn’t a back-slidden Christian looking for redemption, or a bride struggling to make her arranged marriage work, or a guy trying to survive in a post-Rapture world, although those could be descriptions of spec-fic. You know those books that tell the story of a Biblical figure like it was a novel (Tosca Lee’s Havah) or present a picture of the end times as we might imagine it based on the Biblical account (the Left Behind series or Joel Rosenberg’s The Last Jihad)? Those are spec-fic. You may be reading spec-fic and not even knowing it, like I was.

2) Spec-fic isn’t absolute truth according to the author.
I’m used to believing what I read. Hold over from trusting the Bible as the inspired word of God, I guess. The first few spec-fic books I read had me squirming. Is this the world as the author sees it? Am I supposed to accept this as doctrine? What about (insert Biblical teaching here)? It took me a while to realize you can’t judge a spec-fic author on the first 100 words. Maybe not even the first 1000. You have to give them a little leeway to get to their point. Once you’ve read the book, you get to decide if what they presented is truth.
This is because the spec-fic author would rather explore truth than spoon feed it to you. They ask the “what if?” question. Which leads to point 3.

3) Spec-fic has no easy solutions.
This may be the hardest part for the newbie reader who is used to getting obvious answers in her Christian fiction. A spec-fic author isn’t satisfied with “everybody gets saved and lives happily ever after according to the word of God,” mostly because that so seldom happens in real life. Frankly, it didn’t happen all that often in the Bible. A spec-fic author wants you to think about the truth behind church doctrine—that ultimate Truth of God Himself. Again, not saying a spec-fic author has a better grasp of truth than anybody else. I am saying you will get to decide whether or not you agree with the story at its conclusion.

Because spec-fic isn’t after the easy solution, you may encounter things in the story that make you uncomfortable. The main character may not be a saint, or even close to one. Situations presented may be as real as a trip to Walmart in language, dress and culture shock. Have you been to Walmart lately? I see things there I wouldn’t watch on cable TV. Some spec-fic books are not suitable for children. They were never meant to be.

The irony is “spec-fic” as a label only applies to the Christian audience. In any other market, it would just be called “fiction.” But Christians hate surprises in their books. They hate encountering a foul word, or a truly cruel act, or a character that makes horrible choices and has to live with them, so we call it “spec-fic” as a warning. It’s odd, because, again, the Bible is full of those situations. On the other hand, God wrote the Bible and He’s perfect. For the rest of us, we must do our best to live holy lives, and that includes our entertainment choices.

I guess I wanted to warn you. My book is so close to the near end of normal in the spec-fic spectrum, I’m almost ashamed to be included in that market. I am ridiculously conventional. I even like writing happy endings. However, Star of Justice is for adults. It contains adult situations and characters that are not glowing examples of sainthood (well, except for one). I’m not trying to present anything other than a good story of normal people trying to do the right thing for the right reasons and occasionally failing miserably for your entertainment.

My hope—should you read Star of Justice—is that it will make you think. Would you walk that same road? Would you make the hard choices if they were the right choices? Would you be a friend to someone who desperately needs one, even if you don’t understand her at all? Would you look to yourself or to God for the help you needed? Those were a few of the questions I was asking while I wrote it.

The most important question of all to me was “wouldn’t you love to have a dog like Jasper?”

I sure did. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Remembering...

Today is just a few days away from Matthew's due date. I wanted to remember him...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Novel Spotlight: Star of Justice by Robynn Tolbert

STORYLINE: She joined the knighthood for the scholarship program... A thwarted assassination attempt drags Caissa Ocren into a secret war between elemental spirits and dragon worshippers. More accustomed to solving puzzles than wielding swords, she undergoes a crash course in survival from a mercenary minstrel, a shape-shifting druid, and a legendary spirit warrior. An ancient book may hold the answers she seeks, but understanding requires the memories of a wizard. With time against her, Caissa faces the hardest lesson of all - how to serve when the cost is her life.

MY THOUGHTS:

Oh my goodness.

I'm really not sure why I liked this book as much as I do. Really, I should dislike it. There are many (maaaany) off-color comments by the characters. One of Caissa's talents is (though never explicitly detailed) swearing worse than a sailor. And several of the characters are seen naked or nearly so.

But I did like this book.

The characters were very well-drawn and each had an outrageously unique personality. Readers of Star of Justice will not forget these characters in a hurry, especially the one I nicknamed The Man I Want to Strangle...otherwise known as Merritt. There are quite a few humorous situations that had me laughing aloud.

The plot is twisting and fun, with plenty of action and quite a few surprises. I loved how Robynn twisted a typical fantasy world to include some science fiction elements. Her writing style is perfectly suited to Caissa's scholarly mind, and I loved the faith that was woven throughout.

Besides the things I mentioned above, one part of the plot drove me insane. Merritt and Caissa's relationship. Though he made me laugh, I thought Merritt was a total jerk and that he so did not deserve a romantic relationship with Caissa. I kept wanting to push them apart and smack Merritt over the head. However...the ending of the book was beautiful. My opinion of Merritt rose in leaps and bounds throughout the final few chapters.

This is definitely not a family book, nor is it one for younger readers. I'd only give it to 18-year-olds that were quite mature. Overall, however, I really did enjoy it.

Rating: Four out of five stars

Friday, September 7, 2012

August Writing Report

Forged Steel: I'm on chapter 4 of the rewrite. It's going a little slower than I anticipated, just because there's a bunch of new stuff to add right away. Once I get into the middle of the book, rewriting should speed up.

Darkglass: I have about 10,000 words written here. While not going as quickly as I'd hoped, I'm enjoying the process of discovery on this story so much! Plus I'm having fun with some new twists I put into it. Celtic Elves, anyone? :)

Face: Has been at a standstill for the most part, as both Mirriam and I are busy with other projects. I hope to pick it back up this month--there's no doubt that we could easily finish it, as we both love it very much!  

Falls the Shadow: Is very close to being finished! My final chapter posted on the first.

Avenir Eclectia Volume 1: Will be releasing on September 15th! Look--that's my name, second-to-last there! On the cover for a PRINT BOOK! :D 

EXCERPTS:

Forged Steel: I lowered my hand, but Blake had already seen me. He waved back, but instead of coming across the room, he just stood by the door, staring at us. Another guy with a blue Mohawk came in the door and stopped beside Blake. They exchanged a few words, then the blue-haired kid ducked back out. Blake never took his eyes off us the entire exchange.
"This is creepy," I muttered.
Marc shifted in his seat and finally looked at Blake. His eyes narrowed.
Blake grinned, the silver stud in his lip twinkling, pointed at Marc in an "I'm watching you" sign, then turned and pushed out the café door. For a split second, as he crossed the threshold, his skin seemed to waver and stretch. I caught a glimpse of green skin covering his arm, then Blake was out the door and walking away.
I blinked hard. "Did you just see what I saw?"
Marc turned to me, his face perfectly composed and blank. "What?"
Uh huh, sure, act like Mr. Innocent. "You know what."
"Blake is always weird." Marc flicked a wad of napkin at me.

Darkglass: He stood between me and the stairs, his eyes blazing hazel fire. "Have you regained your magic?"
I crossed my arms over my chest. "Oh, please. You know that some of the best Elven magic-workers have said I won't. Why should you care? Even if I did regain it, it'd be my luck that your magic is still stronger than mine."
He chuckled. "You only run yourself down like that when you're hiding something, Mollan. Now answer me."
I shoved past him. "I'm not going to waste my time."
I had just put my foot on the first step when I felt it, a sharp tingling in the back of my skull. I whirled around, slamming the door to my mind, but it was too late—Fachtna was in. His eyes were narrowed, his ear tips red as he bore down on me. I clenched the staircase bannister and pushed, hard, but his magic only moved forward, prying into me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

NAF: Call Me a Professional, Already

A little gripe about being a professional author.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Favorite Summer Reads

I didn't get a ton of reading done this summer--too busy trying to keep up with writing on top of all the camping, jet-skiing, rock-climbing, and mudding that we did! :) Several books stand out to me as favorites this summer:

Rift Jump by Greg Mitchell
A sinister threat is growing in the void between realities, and Michael has been recruited to stop it. Ripped from his own violent life, he is sent rift jumping to other worlds seeking out the agents of the Dark and putting them to an end by any means necessary. The love of his life, Sara, joins him as he battles Civil War spaceships, sea serpents, superpowered humans, and even his own duplicate from a parallel timeline. But the darkness he fights is growing within him too, calling him to the same destiny as every other Michael from every other world. If he is to change his fate, he must learn to love, to forgive, to trust, and to let the man in the Stetson guide him to become the warrior of the Light he was always meant to be.


Night Train to Rigel by Timothy Zahn
HUMANITY'S LAST HOPE

It begins when a man delivers a message for former government agent Frank Compton--only to fall dead at his feet. The message is a summons from the Spiders, the exotic and mysterious creatures who run the Quadrail, an incredible transportation system connecting civilizations across the galaxy. The Spiders believe that someone or something is preparing to attack their entire network and the worlds it serves, by smuggling battleships through the Quadrail--something that should be impossible to do. Compton, with the aid of a beautiful but enigmatic agent of the Spiders, is their last hope.

Because nobody else has been able to find the elusive enemy who seeks to enslave the entire galaxy…and Earth is its next target.

And a couple that I've had the privilege to read before publication, either as a beta reader or as it has been written:

Monster by Mirriam Neal

Seeking Unseen by Kat Heckenbach
What were your favorite books this summer?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dark Heroes

I've always been fascinated with reading and writing about dark heroes...here's why.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Girl In the Steel Corset by Kady Cross


STORYLINE: In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch.
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets, against the wishes of his band of misfits. And Finley thinks she might finally be a part of something, finally fit in—until a criminal mastermind known as the Machinist threatens to tear the group apart….

MY THOUGHTS:
I'm a fan of superhero stories, and this kind of sounded like one—a group of talented teens defending their country from an unknown evil genius—with added steampunk flair. I'm also fascinated by characters who struggle with a dark side, and Finley Jane, the main character, is the perfect candidate—a girl version of Jekyll and Hyde.

The characters seemed a little flat, though not horribly so. The worst part, for me was that the author put two—yes, two—love triangles into the story. I also think that Finley's struggle with her dark side ended a little easily, but I guess with the aether, you can (presumably) do anything.

That's another thing that might present a rough spot for some readers—the mystic Aether, basically the spirit realm of the book. Griffin can access the Aether and use it's somewhat magical powers for things like emitting blasts of energy and calming Finley when her dark side rears its head. I didn't care so much for those sections of the book, especially when Griffin uses it to contact his deceased parents. It just touched a little too close to the occult for me.

Coupled with quite a bit of cursing (though nothing above PG-13 range, certainly) and some sensuality (though not nearly as much as the cover would suggest), I would say that this could be given to older teens with a mature understanding of how the spiritual side of life really works.

Rating: three out of five stars

Friday, August 24, 2012

Guest Post: Janalyn Voigt and Shae of Whellein



Janalyn Voigt’s epic fantasy trilogy, Tales of Faeraven, will release with Harbourlight Books. Janalyn also writes in the western romance genre. She is represented by Barbara Scott of Wordserve Literary. Her nonfiction publication credits include Focus on the Family, Scripture Press (now David C. Cook) and Pentecostal Evangel. She serves as a literary judge for several national contests and is an active book reviewer. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA. Janalyn lives in a quiet corner of the Pacific Northwest, where she discovers worlds of adventure in the great outdoors.

DawnSinger BlurbThe High Queen is dying… At the royal summons, Shae mounts a wingabeast and soars through the air to the high hold of Faeraven, where all is not as it seems. Visions warn her of danger, and a dark soul touches hers in the night. When she encounters an attractive but disturbing musician, her wayward heart awakens. But then there is Kai, a guardian of Faeraven and of Shae. Secrets bind him to her, and her safety lies at the center of every decision he makes. On a desperate journey fraught with peril and the unknown, they battle warlike garns, waevens, ferocious raptors, and the wraiths of their own regrets. Yet, they must endure the campaign long enough to release the DawnKing—and the salvation he offers—into a divided land. To prevail, each must learn that sometimes victory comes only through surrender.

To benefit the readers of this blog, Shae of Whellein, the main character from DawnSinger, first of the epic fantasy trilogy, Tales of Faeraven, granted a rare interview to Janalyn Voigt, her author.

Janalyn: Tell me, Shae, why you always seem to be at the center of trouble.


Shae: I often wonder that too. Problems just seem to follow me around. Maybe I’m too much like my brother, Daeven. He didn’t want to settle down to the responsibilities of a first-born son, so he ran away to sail the seas. They say wreckers lured his ship to its doom on the Coast of Bones. I don’t want to end up like Daeven. If only I could be more like my twin sister, Katera. She seems made for a simple life. It doesn’t help that sometimes visions warn me of lurking evil, or that souls touch mine in the night.

Janalyn: Visions of evil? Souls touching in the night? That sounds serious.

Shae: Things have gotten intense ever since Kai rode into the garden at Whellein Hold on the back of a wingabeast, a kind of winged horse ridden only by Guardians of Rivenn. Kai brought a summons that changed my life forever. But he was followed.

Janalyn:  Followed? Why?

Shae: Ask Kai. He won’t tell me his secrets, no matter how irritated I become.

Janalyn: For those who haven’t met him, who is Kai?

Shae: I’m not certain I really know. He’s always been there, in the background of my life. But things have changed, and I’m not sure where I fit in his life any more.

Janalyn: Won’t he tell you that either?

Shae: He says he loves me, despite everything. I’m grateful for that anyway, especially after what happened that night with Freaer.

Janalyn: Care to elaborate? Let’s start with introducing Freaer.

Shae: Beyond the fact that he’s a musician, I don’t exactly know who Freaer is either. He fascinates me, and whenever he’s near I don’t feel quite – safe.

Janalyn: But something happened with this Freaer you don’t know?

Shae: Don’t look so smug when you say that! I’d answer your question but Kai told me not to tell.

Janalyn: *Sigh.* I begin to understand why trouble follows you around. So, is there anyone else we should know about?

Shae: Well, there’s also Elcon, heir to the throne of Faeraven. I’m drawn to him, and he seems kind. He’s sad right now because his mother is dying, and I think he’s a little scared. He’s young to become a High King, especially with trouble brewing in Elderland.

Janalyn: Do you think the evil you mentioned earlier lies behind the trouble in Elderland?

Shae: I don’t doubt it. There’s an answer somewhere in all the riddles that surround me. I know it. I only hope I can find it in time, and that I’ll have the courage to face the trials that come, no matter what they cost me. Maybe then I can redeem myself a little.

Janalyn: Thanks for being so candid, Shae. I appreciate this chance to get to know you better.

Shae: Thanks for thinking of me. I guess we’ll both find out what happens as you continue writing. What are the names of your novels again?

Janalyn: I’m glad you asked. The three books in the Tales of Faeraven trilogy are DawnSinger, Wayfarer and DawnKing.

Thanks, Janalyn and Shae, for taking some time to visit with us on Magical Ink! Readers, if you're interested in DawnSinger, here are the links where it is available for purchase:

Amazon



Barnes and Noble

Also, Janalyn is graciously giving away a copy of DawnSinger. If you would like to enter, please submit your name and email as a comment. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

By the Ticking of Your Heart

My steampunk flash fiction piece, By the Ticking of Your Heart, is up at the New Authors' Fellowship today! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton


STORYLINE: 

Teagan Wylltson's best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures--goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty--are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn't worried. Her life isn't in danger. In fact, it's perfect. She's on track for a college scholarship. She has a great job. She's focused on school, work, and her future. No boys, no heartaches, no problems. 

     Until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives. Finn's a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either he's crazy or he's been haunting Abby's dreams, because he's talking about goblins, too . . . and about being The Mac Cumhaill, born to fight all goblin-kind. Finn knows a thing or two about fighting. Which is a very good thing, because this time, Abby's right. The goblins are coming. 

MY THOUGHTS:

I'm nowhere near as Irish as the Wylltsons, but I loved the mythology of Tyger, Tyger. It created a unique framework for the story. The way some characters occasionally spoke in Gaelic made it all the better, even though some of the words looked like complete nonsense. The story felt quite dark, but that was also true to the nature of the myths its exploring.

I loved the characters. Next to Abby, Aidan, and Finn, all outrageously unique characters, Teagan felt like a normal teenager next to the others, but that made her unforgettable as well. The romance between Teagan and Finn felt predictable, though fairly solid, until the end where she doesn't even want to talk about it.

There is some sensuality and cussing in these books which, while not enough to make me uncomfortable, ensured that I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone under 17-18. Tyger, Tyger is an excellent novel with cool characters. I can't wait for the rest in the series!

Rating: five out of five stars

Friday, August 17, 2012

Guest Post: Terms of Service by Cindy Koepp


The shuttle landed on the space station with a thud that had an emotional impact like the crash Sora had lived through as a child. Eyes artificially widened, Sora paid the pilot and led Pashan out to the hangar. He kept his pace slow for her little legs and joined the end of the security line.
The hangar was a huge, box-like structure decorated with safety and instruction signs in English and Aolanian. He'd read each one in both language twelve times before they reached the front of the line.
The security console had a scanner port and a screen.
After a soft chime, a hyper-polite female voice came on. "Please hold your ID card in front of the scanner." The instructions repeated in Aolanian.
Sora pulled out his ID and followed directions. A red light passed over the card.
"Thank you." The voice spoke Aolanian only now. "Please select the reason and duration of your visit from the list. If your reason and duration are not available, select 'Other' and a security agent is with you shortly."
Probably not. They are human, so they are tall.
The screen showed two columns. The left column gave times ranging from less than an hour to over a year. Sora selected four hours or fewer. If they stayed any longer than that, Pirien would have his scales for missing dinner. The right column gave a list of reasons for the trip. He tapped on the one marked "I visit a friend."
"Thank you. Enjoy your stay," the system said.
The green light came on, and Sora helped Pashan present her ID card. Once she was allowed through, he led the way through the winding corridors. As they neared Kirsten's quarters, his stomach went into a flat spin and his hands shook.
He took a deep breath and blew it out. The last time he'd felt like this, he'd been trying to glue together the courage to ask Pirien's family if they would consent to him as a her husband. He could only hope this meeting turned out as well.
One hundred twelve point six two meters from the checkpoint marking the beginning of the military sector, Sora reached Kirsten's door and stopped.
"–any idea what this is about?" Peter's deep voice came through the door.
"None." Kirsten's voice was harder to make out. "He just asked if–"
Pashan jumped up and triggered the door chime. "They are easier to hear if we are inside."
"Yes, little one." But then I have to be brave, and I do not wish to be.
The door opened. Kirsten stood there wearing slacks and a buttoned shirt that was practically her uniform when off duty.
She smiled and stepped back. "Come in. Can I get you anything?"
Sora gestured Pashan in ahead of him. He mentally swapped languages to English for Peter's sake. "No, no, we eat before we come over." Besides, if I put anything in my stomach right now, I guarantee it does not stay there.
Pashan raced into Kirsten's apartment and went straight to the cardboard toy box Kirsten had stocked with puzzle books and pencils.
She is happy for hours. His eyes widened.
Sora climbed up onto Kirsten's solid blue fabric couch and looked up at the far corner of the room. Meeting the eyes of his friends was too hard. He waited for Kirsten to settle at the other end of the couch and turn to face him more directly.
"You're the one who brought the agenda, Sora." Peter, in his own uniform of tan cargo pants and a green t-shirt, sat in a squashy armchair and sipped a fizzy, purple soda. "What's up?"
Sora drew a deep breath and blew it out. "I do not know how to ask."
"Just go for it." Kirsten's smile melted some of the ice lining his intestines.
"How do I get into the military?" His words tumbled out as if in a race.
Kirsten exchanged a look with Peter. "Why would you want to do that?"
"Yeah, I can't think of anyone less suited." Peter set his drink on the end table next to him. "You can't join up and then refuse to pick up or handle weaponry, y'know."
"To be Christian, I must, yes?" Sora glanced at each of them.
Peter leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. "What gave you that idea?"
"Well, I go to the church Kirsten tells me about, the one that meets on the freighter near my home ship." Sora clasped his hands in his lap to hide their shaking. "They are very nice people. When the service starts, they sing 'Onward Christian Soldier' and 'Battle Hymn of the Republic.'"
Peter looked at Kirsten. "'Battle Hymn?'"
"'Mine eyes have seen the glory–'" she began.
"'–of the coming of the Lord.' Got it. Go on, Sora."
"Yes, yes, and then the preacher speaks of David, a great warrior, and God says David is a man after His own heart."
"And so you concluded that–" Peter laughed.
Sora's eyes narrowed. He turned to Kirsten. "I am wrong?"
She chuckled. "You are confused, my very good friend. When a church puts together a worship service, they sometimes align the music and the preacher's message on the same theme."
"Yeah, and David was described as a man after God's own heart, but not because he was a warrior." Peter took another sip of his soda. "Whenever David messed up – and he did a phenomenal job of messing up now and then – he sought God's forgiveness and put his trust in God in some really dark times."
Kirsten rested her elbow on the back of the couch and her head on her hand. "In fact, David wanted to build a temple for God, and God sent a prophet to tell David to back away from that plan because he had been a warrior."
"So, Christians do not have to be in the military?" Sora asked.
Peter shook his head. "Nope. In fact, I didn't become a believer until after I was discharged."
Sora looked up at the ceiling. "My two greatest teachers are in the military, so when the preacher speaks of David, I think this is a requirement."
He blew out another breath. All the tension building up since church that morning drained away.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Survey the Terrain Before Jumping Wholeheartedly

Letting a story simmer? Nah--let's just jump in without knowing anything!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Novel Spotlight: Remnant In the Stars by Cindy Koepp

STORYLINE:

Two hundred years ago, the Aolanian home world exploded and a remnant of survivors escaped. As their convoy combed the galaxy looking for a new world to colonize, they discovered Earth and were given permission to establish a temporary base while they continued their search for a new home world. When an Aolanian exploration vessel goes missing after transmitting a garbled distress call, the uneasy alliance between the humans and the Aolanians is put to the test as two anti-Aolanian groups jockey to use this opportunity to press their own agendas by foiling the rescue mission.

Because his daughter was onboard the Kesha when it vanished, Calonti Sora reluctantly signs on as an astrogator with the Gyrfalcon, one of the ships in the search party. There he meets up with an old human friend, Kirsten Abbott. Together, they work to overcome prejudice and political plots as they race toward an enemy no one could expect.

MY THOUGHTS:

Remnant in the Stars is a fun science fiction read. The characters were well-drawn and believable--I especially loved Sora and his curiosity.

I loved how the Aolanian culture was so well-thought-out. The speech pattern took a little getting used to, but Cindy did a good job with making them sound alien, but not incomprehensible.

The writing style felt very simplistic and almost, at times, sparse, but it fit well with the technical-minded characters. 

The Christian element was very strong, but I didn't feel like it was really preachy. It fit well with the story, and discussions about the characters' faith felt like it arose naturally out of story circumstances, instead of being shoved in unnecessarily. 

There was no objectionable material in the book, which was pretty awesome! I'd feel comfortable recommending this to a teenager, and it might even make a fun family read-aloud.

Rating: four out of five stars

Friday, August 10, 2012

On My New Favorite Genre

Last year, I listened to an audiobook of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. It was the first book I'd picked up by randomly hearing something about it on the Internet/knowing the author's name thanks to Doctor Who. I loved Gaiman's DW episodes...I figured I'd love Neverwhere.

What I did not know was that it would spark an obsession with urban fantasy.

Urban what? Fantasy who? That's normally the looks I get when I talk about urban fantasy. (Hmm...kind of like the reactions I get when I talk about steampunk, or when I say that I think Star Wars is a science fantasy, not science fiction.) I clearly love obscure speculative fiction genres. Here are some facts and thoughts about my new genre obsession.

What is urban fantasy?

It's fantasy defined by the setting: an urban environment, mostly big cities like New York and Chicago, that exist in the world as we know it. So you couldn't set urban fantasy in New-New York, or a steampunked version of St Louis. The world has to operate the exact same as our world, with one exception: "supernatural" creatures and happenings and, if you like, magic. The atmosphere of "big city" defines the genre. It is most often set during contemporary times, though there is urban fantasy that goes back to the Victorian age (I would argue that's blurring the line between steampunk and urban fantasy, however.)

My urban fantasy series, The Underworld Mythos, thus far has settings in (or under) Springfield, Missouri; Chicago; New York and the surrounding countryside; and, as a deviation from the norm, much of the last half of the series as well as the prequel will be set in Upper Michigan, mostly around the Marquette area, but also in remote areas such as Copper Harbor.

Creatures of urban fantasy

Anything you would see in normal fantasy fiction: zombies, werewolves, vampires, demons, angels, elves, goblins, trolls, even mummies. Often these creatures are given twists on their traditional fantasy roles in urban fantasy, and creatures normally seen as evil can often be protagonists or love interests--such the popular (gag) cliche of making vampires good guys.

In The Underworld Mythos, my "creatures" are fae--faeries (or elves), goblins, trolls, etc. I keep some of the traditional stories about them (for example, the fae are divided into two courts, the good Seelie and the malevolent Unseelie) but add my own twists on others (rowan does not repeal fae, but the leaves of a rowan tree are a popular mind-altering drug.)

Popular stories that are urban fantasy 

I would term the Artemis Fowl series an urban fantasy, as well as novels like Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles series. Other stories include the Dresden Files (which I've never read), and, according to some, the Twilight series. I say leave the wussy blood-sucking fairies to paranormal romance and let us urban fantasy lovers enjoy an Edward Cullens-free world. ;)

Bad stuff about urban fantasy: 


Unfortunately, urban fantasy can be over-sexualized, as I discovered when I picked up The Iron King from the library. I got real sick of reading about "love"-lorn fey and...once AGAIN...the author put in a love triangle. Grrr. Spare me.

You can also run into the problems of really nasty sorcery-type stuff in urban fantasy--from browsing through popular titles, I've seen a lot of stories featuring witches. Then we get into the whole undead issue with vampires and zombies. Some books featuring angels and demons can be OK, but some get get very wacky from a spiritual outlook.

Cool stuff about urban fantasy:

Urban fantasy can sometimes bring to mind the magic in the mundane. It reminds me of the things that are unseen in our world and the spiritual battles that affect our lives.

And, I mean, come on...biker elves? OK, maybe that doesn't sound awesome to everyone, but I like the idea. ;)

Urban fantasy books I love: 

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Cautions: Language...not a lot, but when the characters swear, they don't mess around with the mild words. Some sensuality.)
The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead (yes, Stephen Lawhead's son. It is amazing!)
Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton (Cautions: Mild sensuality. Some cuss words, mostly rude or mild but a couple of harsher words, some complete and some cut off.)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (Some mild language, lots of Greek/pagan beliefs, but a good way to understand the Greek gods and myths better)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Seeking Honesty

Be honest and open with the people you love. You might end up helping someone.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore

STORYLINE:

Once you've seen, you can't unsee. Everything changes when you've looked at the world through . . . 
Angel Eyes

Brielle's a ballerina who went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She's come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and the incredible, numbing cold she can't seem to shake. 
Jake's the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption.
Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what's going to happen. And a beauty brighter than either Brielle or Jake has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices start.
A realm that only angels and demons-and Brielle-can perceive.


MY THOUGHTS:

The almost lyrical prose threw me off a little in the first chapter, simply because I wasn't expecting it in a YA book. I especially loved the descriptions of Brielle's emotions and feelings throughout the book.
Normally, I roll my eyes at teen romance, but in Angel Eyes, I was rooting for Jake and Brielle to be together from the start. I knew he would be good for her, and I thought Jake's determination to take care of and fight for Brielle was incredibly sweet, something more teen romances books could benefit from.
Of course, being teen romance, we have to have some of the prerequisite he's so hot moments, though because of Jake's gift, most of those turned into humorous moments that they ended up laughing about.

There were a couple of plot points that blew me away and a couple that left me feeling meh. One of the things I disliked the most was how powerless I felt the Christian characters were against the demons. The whole demon plot of "Jake has a powerful gift, so let's turn him to evil" felt a little flabby compared to the rest of the book.

And again with the romance, we have the kisses--and I know I'm probably the only person who thinks this, but I'd love to see a teen romance where the characters (especially ones as dedicated to each other as Jake and Brielle) save their first kiss for their wedding day. It would definitely be unique.

Altogether though, I really enjoyed this book. I thought that it was unique in the realm of supernatural fiction,  very age-appropriate and I wouldn't hesitate to hand it off to a 15 or 16-year-old. I eagerly look forward to book two, Broken Wings!

Rating: four out of five stars

**I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review**

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All blog content copyrighted 2012 by H. A. Titus