Monday, July 30, 2012

The Earth Painter by Melissa Turner Lee

STORYLINE:

When a self-conscious young woman discovers that the boy in drama class is really an immortal that painted the world into being, she becomes the target of another who could shatter not only her new sense of hope, but her world, as well.

MY THOUGHTS:

I snagged this book for free and, to be honest, wasn't expecting a ton from it. It was touted as paranormal romance, which I usually avoid like the plague. It pleasantly surprised me. I rather enjoyed it. 

Theo, who is the titular character of the Earth Painter, is cool. I liked how protective he was of Holly and how artsy-vague he could get at times, even though at times I rolled my eyes at the teen romance. I like how he and the Sciences always argued about his paintings and whether or not they would work in the real world, and how they used card games to determine whether or not Theo would get his way. The concept of immortal Painters and Sciences working together on the earth under the direction of a divine Sculptor was an interesting take on the Creation story--it reminded me a little of Tolkien's creation mythology for Middle Earth.

The things that annoyed me were few, but ever-present in the novel. I didn't think Holly asked enough questions. I thought the book needed a bit more polishing, though not enough so that it heavily distracted from the story. Probably the biggest issue I had was how Holly's mom constantly threw pouty fits. I got that she was spoiled as a child and used to having her own way and not used to having her 18-year-old daughter make her own decisions. But it got a bit old after a while. I know that was the point, but I tended to skim the angsty parts, as I never cared for angst and drama even as a teenager.

I would feel comfortable handing it over to a sixteen or seventeen year old girl. It would be a decent read for them, and I plan to get the next book in the series.

Rating: three out of five stars

Friday, July 27, 2012

June and July In Pictures


Whew! I apologize for not getting pictures up for June, but this has been the summer to end all summers...between being sick, writing, and doing fun summer stuff, I know I'll be glad when winter and the chance for a rest arrives! :P

 My friend's daughter Aurora combing my hair...with a harmonica. Apparently they're perfect for damp lake-water hair. Like my sunburn? ;)

We did a fundraising 50 mile bike in the beginning of June. I've no idea what this book was about, but it was very apropos for the day, since it looked like we'd be riding in the rain. It didn't rain, but boy, it was a pain riding our bikes for so far in a 25-mile-an-hour headwind! 


 A Sunflower burger at a restaurant here in town. Yes, that's a flower on top. Yes, guys, I know...this is feminizing a hamburger. Deal with it. It was delicious! ;P

Rock climbing! Every time I get set to climb, I look up at my rope and think of the line from the Lord of the Rings when Sam pulls on the rope and the knot comes undone and spirals down at their feet. Frodo raises his eyebrows and says, "Real elvish rope?" Yes, this shows exactly how nerdy I am.


 Learning to golf.
 A tea party that my friend Elyse and I hosted for ladies from church. This is my friend Judy...doesn't she look lovely and perfect for the 1920s? :)

Watermelon agua fresca

 Awwww...Elyse's daughter Aurora and my friend Kate

Hands-down, everyone said Crystal had the best outfit there! :)

Another finely-dressed gal from church! We all love Bea! :)

And Elyse's son Boyne...being typical Boyne :)

One of the best thunderstorms I've ever seen! Justin and I sat and watched this one come in...it was so gorgeous!

We could see these clouds being sucked into the updraft of the storm. It's the first time I've gotten to see the parts of a thunderstorm so clearly!

Justin the meteorologist!

This picture doesn't do the sunset justice!

Me, wearing my Tenth Doctor glasses. Yes, I specifically picked them out because they looked like his. But mine are purple, not black!

Dirt-biking! I love it that my man teaches me how to do cool things!


 Another beautiful storm


The best bread ever...chewy with a crunchy crust! Yummy...but a pain in the butt to make!

Attempting to tea-stain....

This dress. It didn't work out, so I dyed it mint green instead.


Justin being Justin! I love his smile!


Run for cover, he's blowing things up! No, seriously, he and my dad lit a cooler full of old fireworks on fire. It was exciting for a while. :)

I love hammocks...so for my birthday, Justin bought me one and set it up in my office! Then he also bought a green shag rug and said it was my "grass" so I could pretend I was outside. :) Cheesy, but very, very sweet.

Elyse made me a birthday cake! This is the best cake in the world, not even kidding. It's the orange marmalade cake from the Mitford books. I have it every year for my birthday. Normally, I don't make it quite so fancy, but Elyse decorates cake beautifully. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NAF: Noise, Music, and Inspiration

Here I ramble on about how music sometimes inspires and is sometimes just noise.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sketchy Behavior by Erynn Mangum


STORYLINE: 

Drawing Conclusions or Drafting Disaster? Other than harboring a somewhat obsessive fondness for Crispix and completely swearing-off boys after a bad date (don't ask), sixteen-year-old Kate Carter is about as ordinary as they come, except for her two notable talents: art and sarcasm. After an introduction to forensic sketching in her elective art class, Kate discovers a third and most unexpected gift: criminal profiling. Her photo-quality sketch helps the police catch a wanted murderer and earns her celebrity status in South Woodhaven Falls. But when that murderer appears to be using his friends to exact revenge, Kate goes from local hero to possible target. Will she manage to survive? Will life ever be normal again? And will local news anchor Ted Deffle ever stop sending her flowers?

MY THOUGHTS: 

Erynn Mangum's books have, since high school, been my brain candy reads. I love her Laurie Holbrook series and have read the first of the Maya Davis series, so when I found her short novel, Sketchy Behavior, in a bookstore last November, I grabbed it.

I found it to be different than her other books. Not in a bad way, but definitely different. For one thing, all her other books were fluffy—goofy stories about a coffee-and-chocolate-guzzling matchmaker who finally meets her match, or an ice-cream junkie whose old boyfriend happens to be dating her roommate.
Sketchy Behavior is about a high school student who happens to perfectly sketch the face of a serial killer.
It has some of the goofiness of Erynn's other books, but it also has a very serious tone. Everyone takes this very seriously, especially when Kate starts receiving threats from X and things start happening that could only happen if he had a guy on the inside.

Erynn Mangum did a fabulous job capturing the characters. The story was tense, but with plenty of light moments and humor sprinkled through it. I didn't rush through it all in one sitting like so many other thrillers and suspense novels, but it was a fun weekend read. Sketchy Behavior is the author's first foray into suspense and I hope she writes more, because it's awesome!

I would feel perfectly comfortable passing this on to a 15-16 year old.

Rating: four out of five stars

Friday, July 20, 2012

Guest Post: The Artist's Job by David Larson


There’s a lot of debate in the Christian art world today.  How do we compete in the mainstream market?  What sort of art glorifies God?  What are our goals?

These are just a few questions that face us, and the fact that there are so many different opinions about the answers shouldn’t surprise us.  After all, art is an incredibly subjective thing to begin with.  Within certain moral guidelines (that idea alone is a subject of huge debate) art can often serve as a fulfillment of the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Of course, the ultimate beholder of our works is God, and we should want to make what He thinks is beautiful.  I don’t know what else matters.  Which leads me to the question in this post: What is the Christian artist’s job?  What are we trying to accomplish with our work?  What are supposed to do?

I think one of the problems with Christian art today is that we sometimes over-think this question. And when we do, the result of our efforts tends to be a sort of carefully packaged commercial product, trying desperately to keep mainstream American Christianity happy, or at least not angry, yet attempting to include elements that draw secular audiences. 

I don’t think this approach turns out well very often.  When we’re so caught up trying to please everyone and earn the approval of man, we miss the most important goal: pleasing God.  And there’s no way, Christian Artist (especially Writer) that you will please everyone.  Believe me, someone’s going to get angry no matter what.  I mean, an author like, say, Bryan Davis, can write about Christian love, sacrifice, and heroism beautifully, but even he gets blasted by a minority of Christians who believe the literary genre of fantasy is inherently immoral.  You’re just not going to be able to make everyone happy.

But if God is happy, that’s the only thing that should matter to us.  Right? 

It should.  But I find myself having to wage war against the part of myself that longs for the approval of man rather than the approval of God.  This is a spiritual battle, and I could write another whole post on this.

So what is the Christian artist’s job?  Let’s start by very simply saying that our job is to create a good story, drawing, song, or whatever it is we’re making.  Truly.  That should be our first focus. A good piece of art glorifies God, and it also has universal appeal.  Suddenly, we don’t have to work so hard to create a safe, marketable product.  The art does its own work, has its own draw. 

I believe that if we focus on being the best artists we can be, we’ll be surprised at the results. Hopefully the world will, too.  I really believe that a good piece of art glorifies God more than a safe, tailor-cut product.  And it stings to say this, but I would go so far as to say that I’ve seen works of art made by non-Christians that glorify God more than some works of art made by Christians, whether they mean it to or not.  It sounds practically blasphemous to say that, but it really isn’t. Humans, Christian or not, cannot quench their thirst to worship, whether they mean to or not.    

Please understand, I’m not trying to knock Christian art at all.  There’s some great stuff.  Good music, poetry, drawings, and, of course, writing, something I’m trying to do myself.  There are commendable aspects of certain movies as well.

The reality is, it’s harder to be a Christian artist than a secular artist.  We have ethical restrictions, there can sometimes be a negative bias about our work, etc.  But it’s not supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to glorify God, and He promises that it will be well worth our effort and that, as the great runner Eric Liddell said in the movie “Chariots of Fire”, we will “feel His pleasure” along the way. 

Soli Deo Gloria,
David

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NAF: Make Characters Fight

I never made my good guys fight among themselves! First because I didn't think about it, then because I didn't know how. Lost taught me some good ways to make characters fight among themselves.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Crater by Homer Hickam


STORYLINE: A Helium-3 miner named Crater makes a treacherous journey through space to find a mysterious and priceless treasure.
It's the 22nd Century and a tough, pioneering people are mining the moon 
to produce energy for a desperate, war torn Earth.  Crater Trueblood, an 
orphan, loves his life in Moontown, a frontier mining settlement.  Just turned sixteen, Crater is already a seasoned Helium 3 miner, hoping someday to be a foreman on the scrapes.  But "the Colonel," the man who owns the mine, has a different plan for Crater which includes Maria, the Colonel's daring young granddaughter.  Crater, accompanied by Maria and his gillie--a sentient and sometimes insubordinate clump of slime mold cells--must shepherd a convoy of Helium 3 trucks across a forbidding river of dust while also looking for a mysterious, historical artifact that could mean the difference between life and death for every inhabitant on the moon.

MY THOUGHTS: 

Ugh.

Just…ugh. I get that the author was trying to make the colonized moon kind of like the Old West. We had the accents, the traveling inventors, the con-men, the story-telling techniques, the shoot-outs…but it didn't work for me.

The titular character, Crater, drove me nuts. He was one of those "perfect" protagonists who are kinda scared, but are able to stand up and fight when they need to. They're sorta not sure what they're supposed to be doing, but they make strong decisions anyway. They kinda like this girl, even though she acts like she hates him ('cause every time a girl hates you, she's secretly longing to kiss you) and his adopted brother wants her for himself (like that love triangle hasn't been done before…a bazillion times…) but he gets her without much trouble at all. And he was the one with the most characterization and consistency in the entire book.

The storyline had potential. The way the world was set up, reminiscent of how the first Star Trek series was supposed to be the wild west in space, had potential. But the poor characterization ruined it.

Rating: One star.

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

Friday, July 13, 2012

Guest Post: Adam Graham



Beginning Your New Career as a Superhero
By Powerhouse

So you want to be a superhero? Do you have what it takes? What if one day you get
exposed to radiation and rather than dying or getting a nasty rash like normal people,
you obtain amazing powers far beyond the abilities of normal men? Or what if random chemicals fall on you in a lightning storm? Or what if aliens just give you superpowers for the heck of it? Would you be ready to make the transition from mild-mannered whatever-you-are to full blown, awesome superhero? Follow my quick and simple guide to help you prepare for your career as a masked fighter of crime.

First, do you have unique, superior abilities?
I started this out with "superpowers" but I thought of too many heroes who have managed to do their job without actual superpowers. (i.e. Batman.) However, Batman has unique abilities. He's super agile, he's a skilled martial artist and escape artist, and he's got a few billion dollars lying around.

Please note: your strange ability should be something that can be used in fighting crime.
My biographer, Adam Graham, has a double jointed thumb. That's an example of an ability you can't use in fighting crime. Well, maybe once, it might gross the bank robber out and give you a chance to punch him in the face, but that's kind of a one time thing.
Sorry, Adam, but you don't have any future as "The Thumb."
Your super abilities can come from technology, it can come from radiation, or just plain old training, but you have to get these abilities.

Now, Batman got his powers the hard way. It took more than a decade of training to
make Batman who he is. I get impatient three minutes in the drive through window.

Unfortunately, the easy way is a little iffy. You could start digging up the Middle East
hoping to find a magic talisman, but you'll probably find a lot more regular talismans plus other old artifacts of ancient civilizations, such as bellbottom pants and platform shoes.
Radiation is always a great way to get superpowers, but most people either die or get
rashes. Same thing goes for having a bunch of chemicals spilled on you. If the combo is strong enough to give you superpowers, it’s more likely to kill or injure you instead.

Technology is great. It's probably the one way I'd recommend, if you can do it. Build
your own super cool robot battle armor or get a rich friend to do it for you as a favor.

Of course, you may already have powers the super easy way. For example, let's say you escaped as the last infant of a doomed planet with powers far beyond the ability of mortal men. Wait a second? Are you Superman? Why on Earth are you reading this? You ought to be writing this. Can I have your autograph?

Well, for everyone who is not Superman, proceed to Item 2.

Do you have a sense of right and wrong?

One of Spider-Man's key beliefs is that with great power comes great responsibility. We have to know what the right thing is to do. We make mistakes from time to time, but we don't need another guy with no idea what's right flying around with amazing powers.

It's important you be a righteous dude or dudette. Kids look up to you as a role model.
Running an ad saying you're not a role model won’t work. Kids will still look up to you.
When George Reeves took over as Superman, he stopped smoking because he didn't want to set a bad example for kids, and George Reeves didn't even have real superpowers.

Do you have a name?

Not your real name, but your superhero name. Finding a good superhero name is tough.
It’s not hard to figure one out, but all the good names have already been taken for
fictional characters. What are us real superheroes to do? There are a few rules of thumb:

1) Don’t use a name with “Super” in it (i.e. Supergarder, Superflyer, Superpoolguy).
You’ll only make people think of Superman and you’re no Superman

2) Consider an animal name with man, woman, boy, or girl at the end. If you’re a woman with teeth so strong you can chew through wood, chew through crime as Beaverwoman.
Alternatively, our long-toothed heroine could declare herself the Beaver, but don’t use
my example. It could get you in trouble with the people who made Leave it to Beaver.

3) With so many cool superhero names being already taken, some have resorted to using body parts for their name. This can only go on so long before the suitable body parts are all taken, too. If you’re not one of the lucky few to get a good body part name, don’t run around fighting crime as “The Eyebrow.”

4) Some have gone by names of inanimate objects. The more menacing the better. The
Hook and the Claw are great examples. Again, be sure it’s you and that it sounds cool.
No one will be awestruck by “The Office Chair.” Well, unless you’re shaped in a way
that prevents lower back pain and you’re willing to let people sit on you for hours.

5) You can always make a superhero name by taking a word and adding Captain to the front of it. Of course, many Captains have been taken: Captain America, Captain France,
Captain Planet, and Captain Kangaroo. However, there are plenty of good Captain names out there. There are cities (Captain Seattle) or states (Captain Washington) or attributes (Captain Awesome and the Awesome Squad). You can also use Major or Commander. Adam even has a story featuring an Admiral. General is one I've only heard villains use, so avoid that Don't overdo it, or it could get monotonous. If I have Captain Seattle, Captain Tacoma, and Captain Bellingham all around me, it'll have gone too far.

6) When all else fails ask a juvenile relative for clue. Believe it or not, they can come up with some amazing names. That's actually how I got my name.

There's much more to being a superhero, but if you get these first three down, you'll be headed up, up and away for an exciting new career.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

NAF: Closed Door Excuses

Don't let a closed door become an excuse to make your life easier. Closed Door Excuses

Monday, July 9, 2012

Novel Spotlight: Tales of the Dim Knight by Adam and Andrea Graham


STORYLINE: 

"Some relationships are built on trust and mutual respect, others are built on using someone as a pawn in a game of global domination." Mild-mannered janitor and superhero fanboy Dave Johnson gets all his wishes at once when an alien symbiote gives him supernatural powers. But what's he to do with them? Follow the zany adventures of the clueless custodian as he fights crime and corruption while trying to keep his family together and avoid being sued for copyright infringement...

MY THOUGHTS:

 There's something that I discovered while reading Tales of the Dim Knight—certain books have to be approached with different expectations.

For Dim Knight, you shouldn't expect something serious. It's a parody on superheroes, and that makes it goofy and wacky with a light message. Think The Incredibles in book form, enjoying the superhero genre while poking fun at the tropes.

I thought the characterization was consistent and the writing simplistic and well done. It was a fun, family-friendly book that would be great for teens who like superheroes.

Rating: four stars

Friday, July 6, 2012

June Writing Report and Excerpts


Forged Steel

IS FINISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*ahem* Forgive the cyber shout, but I couldn't resist. It's the first big project I've finished since Half Blood's first draft in 2009! Yay—I can overcome procrastination after all! (This post and this post at the New Authors' Fellowship are about that whole procrastination beast, if you're interested.) ;)

Granted, it still has a lot of work. I need to go back through and make characters consistent and work in some story-world ideas and foreshadowing for the rest of the Underworld Mythos series. And the last few chapters need lots of help…I bounced back and forth between two end scenarios that I couldn't decide on, so I actually need to take a good hard look at which one works better for the story.

But still…IT'S DONE!!!!! :)

Half Blood
I know where I'm going to start it now! And I got a really cool idea that will make Varian even more mad at me! :) So, yes, it's getting there. I will probably start work on Draft 4 within the next month or two.

Short Stories:
For Avenir Eclectia news, we're putting out an anthology! Whoooo! *bells, whistles, and confetti* So I wrote a story that ties up my Pieter/Cara character thread for the anthology, plus I'm working on a solid plot for my future AE stories. I'll keep you posted when I get a solid publishing date for the anthology—right now I think an August or September release is being considered.

I worked on the plots for my short stories series, Flesh Eyes and The Bone Whisperer. I wrote a super short flash-fiction piece, Bythe Ticking of Your Heart, for the Flesh Eyes series and posted it on Figment. If you read it, let me know what you think! :)

Not the most productive month ever, but I still got a good amount done. What did you accomplish during June?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Giving Procrastination a Good Swift Kick

Another post on my struggles with procrastination and fear. http://wp.me/pLWS6-2Bt

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Rat and a Ransom by Y. I. Lee


STORYLINE: Tom always wanted a pet, and when he finds a cute little rat, he names her Mask and convinces his parents to let him keep her. When he's kidnapped and held for ransom, Tom and Mask must safely escape.

MY THOUGHTS: Let me say it right up front—what I did not like about this book was the "twist ending". It felt jarring and out of place, and I felt just a little cheated, though not too much, as the plot had basically resolved by then.
Other than that, this book would make a good chapter book for 8-9-year-olds. The characters and plot are fairly simplistic. There are some longer words that younger readers might need help with, but I see that as a good place to expand vocabulary. Y. I. Lee did a good job of keeping everything tense but not overly-scary for kids.
Rating: three stars

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All blog content copyrighted 2012 by H. A. Titus