Real or Not Real

library-425730_640There have always been people who refuse to read/watch anything speculative because it isn’t “realistic” but some forget that almost all media has some fiction involved. Reality TV is often scripted, and even if it isn’t, it’s cut down so it fits the time slot. The news is always biased one way or another. History is written by the victors. People want a story, not realism, even people who think they want something “realistic.”

Fiction, no matter the genre, is unrealistic. Realistic stories are hardly ever that interesting. That’s why most movies are not completely loyal to the original source material, and in many cases, there’s a good chance the source material isn’t 100% accurate to begin with. Even memoirs are edited to make a readable story. After all, who wants to read about all the boring parts?

Does this mean consuming stories is a waste of time? Of course not. Stories, not matter how crazy, almost always have an element of truth to them. Characters are written by people, so they’ll have something human to them, even if they’re fluffy and have two sets of arms.

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed. ~ G. K. Chesterton

Fantasy and sci-fi have another added layer of fiction to teach their lessons. Even the Bible used stories that were fantasy to teach lessons, such as the tree parable in Judges 9. The nice thing about sci-fi/fantasy stories is that they can tell a story and avoid any pre-conceived notions the reader may have gotten. For example, in the thriller, Kenan, the author uses a made-up terrorist organization and a few made-up country alliances. This made the story much more enjoyable since the reader doesn’t already have a view of the terrorist organization. If the author had used a real organization, one reader may have had a family killed by the organization, but another might have family members sympathetic to the organization. By telling a story that’s not set in the real world, the reader comes in with a clean slate which increases enjoyment and allows the reader a closer connection with the characters. Another advantage of speculative fiction is that it’s less likely to give a reader false notions of the real world. Historical fiction, especially if it uses real people, could leave the reader believing something false about people who actually existed. Stories involving real-world politics can be even worse.

In the end, stories, even fantasy and sci-fi, teaches. Jesus knew this when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Stories portray scenarios that bring real world situations to light, forcing the reader to ask, “what would I do?” Many of the good stories are allegories for real world issues. Some show how different people can come together, that just because people disagree doesn’t make one evil, and more importantly, to always stand for what’s right. They teach that evil can be overcome, no matter how dark things get. These stories give hope in a world that sometimes seems hopeless.

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Realm Makers 2016

Instead of going to the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference like I had for the last three years, I went to Realm Makers, which is geared to Christian writers of speculative fiction, so these are my people.

It took quite a bit of courage to go since I’m a country girl who is/was afraid of flying alone, as well as scary cities. I thank Donny for encouraging me to go.

The conference felt much more laid back than the FCWC, which was interesting considering a much larger percentage of the authors at RM are published. There was fun every night, including an epic nerf war that started Saturday night and ended Sunday morning. The classes were good, and I especially enjoyed the fight workshop Saturday night.

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A small sampling of the books at the store. There were a bunch more. I only picked out two, but I hope to get the ebook versions of others.

They also had a costume party on Friday, which was really cool. I just wore black clothes and a silver cape. After I’d bought the cape, I realized I may have been accidentally cosplaying the supervillain Steelheart from Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners trilogy.

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Sarah, Bethany, and Julia, co-author of Thicker Than Water with Janeen who is also the author of World-Building from the Inside Out. Photo credit to Tricia Mingerink, author of The Blades of Acktar series.

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Aaron, author of A New Threat, his family, plus Ahsoka. (Sorry, Ahsoka, I don’t know your real name.)

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Kerry Nietz, author of Amish Vampires in Space and the Dark Trench Saga with Sarah Grimm, author of Scarlet Moon. Photo credit goes to Stuart Stockman.

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Me with Leila Rose Foreman, author of the Shatterworld trilogy

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Look at those feet.

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The costume finalists. Photo credit to Ralene Burke, author of Belanok.

 

Overall, the conference was a ton of fun. I talked to a few people who might be interested in my books, and if not, I also have contacts with editors and cover designers. The best part is meeting other people who write my genre. I’ve met so many great people I’m not even going to try to mention them all.

After the conference, I met some friends from the now closed Dragons in Our Midst forum, which was a lot of fun since I’ve known a few of them for about eight years, but I’d never had a chance to meet them in person. For those out there who do have online friends, don’t feel like you’re never going to see these people. I’ve probably met a dozen or more people who I first knew online.

Overall, it was a great trip. Next year, it’s going to be held in Reno, Nevada. I hope more of my friends will attend.

 

If you want more blog posts about Realm Makers, check out this link.

Posted in Geekiness, Updates | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Author Interview: Alexa from Summer Snowflakes

Today, I’m interviewing Alexa from Summer Snowflakes.

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Tell us a little about yourself: Well, I guess the most important thing for anyone to know about me is that I’m a Christian. After that, I’m a writer, a reader, and a truly insane nerdy fangirl who’s technically INTJ. I’m the type of person who can go from 100%, Spock-level-logical to A-One-Direction-Fangirl-Flailing in 60 seconds flat. I am really quite the paradox.

What are you currently excited about? (A new book, a movie, a TV show, something else?) 
Really, the things I’m excited about aren’t particularly new. I’m super into Hamilton, loved it since I first heard it back in the fall, but I’ve re-fallen-love in the past week or so and am now just… helpless like I was when I was first listening.😉 Also, Star Wars. But that is because I will always love Star Wars, now and forever❤

What project are you working on now? A few things actually. Obviously, my blogs, as well as a contemporary foster care story, currently title Low Expectations, last year’s NaNoWriMo, a rural fangirl fantasy called The Wizard Apocalypse, and a sci-fi dystopian I’m working on with a friend, Becoming Brave. I’m also considering starting a freelance editing business for other novelists.

Now, tell us about your favorite project or close second, if the one you’re working on is your favorite. Ahhh… wow. I don’t even know. I love all of my projects SO MUCH—I mean, if I didn’t I wouldn’t bother with them—that it’s hard to pick a favorite. But a project I love and haven’t talked about yet… Well, I have a teen spy thriller that’s been on the back burner for a while, but I truly can’t wait to get back to it. It’s currently titled What’s Real, and it’s a sort of teenage Agents of Shield meets National Treasure plus some psychological stuff. At least that’s what I hope it’ll be, lol. But I still need to do some more research.

How did you get into writing? That’s actually kind of a long story, but to keep it short: I started writing stories about my paper dolls when I was about 5 or 6, came back to that series  off and on, had a fanfiction phase (that is actually still going) beginning when I was about 11; but I didn’t actually get serious about writing until the November I was 14, when my mom told me about NaNoWriMo. I didn’t have anything better to do that particular month, lol, so I went ahead and tried it. I started two weeks in, wrote 14,000 words, finished my first real project (which eventually became Low Expectations), and more or less discovered what I wanted to be when I grew up.

What advice would you give to beginning writers? Just write. When you’re first starting out, I think the most important things for you to do are just write and don’t worry about anything else—don’t worry about how good you are, what everyone else is doing, what others say you should be doing. None of that is important right now. Simply put a pen to paper—or your fingers on the keyboard—because that’s the only way you’ll know if writing is what you really want to do and it’s the best way to get acquainted with your story and your style. So yeah, if you’re just getting into this writing thing, lock away all your inhibitions and simply get the words down.

What about experienced writers? Haha, well, truthfully, I’m not even sure I’m an experienced writer, but for people around the same level as me, I think that researching the market is really important. Look up all the details of the publishing industry, figure out where you fit, what kind of author you’d like to be, and which branch of the industry would work best for you: self-publishing, agents, straight to a publishing house, or something in between.
Also, network. Networking is really important. If you can, enter writing contests, join a writer’s group, go to a conference, something like that so you can get a picture of where your skill level is and meet some people in the writing community. If those are outside your range of possibility right now, use the internet. There are all kinds of online writing communities you can become a part of that will offer tips, encouragement, and really help you learn more about the business side of publishing.

What are some of your favorite books, authors, movies, and/or TV shows? Haha, anyone who’s followed me for a while knows that my favorites can change on a daily basis. But as of today, my all-time favorite books are either the Tiger’s Curse series by Colleen Houck or The Safe Lands series by Jill Williamson, my favorite movie is Revenge of the Sith, and my favorite TV show is BBC’s Merlin.

Any closing words? Just have fun! Writing, blogging, whatever your creative pursuit is, it’s supposed to be something you enjoy. I mean, it’ll surely be difficult sometimes and you’ll have your share of bad days; but overall, it should be something that excites you and that you more-often-than-not want to come back to.

Where can we find you? (Links to social media) Well, I’m on two blogs, Verbosity Reviews, and Summer Snowflakes, as well as Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Thanks so much for having me Jessi!

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Book Review: Kenan

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Kris knows how to treat wounds, so when she sees a man shot during a bombing, she rushes in to help. Trouble is, her patient is a hitman. Within the day, Krys, her two roommates, and four elite hitmen gone rogue are on the run from an international terrorist organization.

 

Note on ratings:

*           Horrible.
**         Below average
***       Average. Not good or bad.
****    Above average
***** Above and beyond

Content: **** (Content based off my personal level of squeamishness.)
Lots of action violence and blood loss, but nothing graphic. I can’t recall any swearing, unless it was in Turkish.

Originality and world building: ****
World building is kind of light, which isn’t a problem for a book like this since it kept it from getting mired down in politics like some other stories I’ve read, though I did wish I knew a bit more about the political situation. I enjoyed that the author didn’t seem to be visibly pushing an agenda. The plot line is pretty good.

Characters and their Arcs: ****
This is where the book excelled. Each character had their own personality and quirks. I think the arcs are probably going to be series-long, so the arcs weren’t that huge. Bener was probably my favorite of the four hitmen.

Writing style and Pacing: *****
The writing is quite sound. If anything, the pacing may have been a bit fast, but then again, I’m not that experienced with thrillers.

What I liked:
The characters and the mental image of four tough hitmen running around with three American girls. The humor in here is quite funny too, and the relationships between the characters.

What I didn’t like:
I didn’t get some things done because I couldn’t put this book down.

Is it worth reading?
Yes, and it’s not very expensive on Kindle. Also, there are some shorts here. (Note that you should read the oldest ones first. Some of the new ones have spoilers for the first book.)

My Rating:

Fourhalfstar

 

Posted in Reviews | Tagged | 6 Comments

How I use Scrivener

About a year or so ago, I bought Scrivener, a writing program. Unlike Microsoft Word, Scrivener is created with the writer in mind. That means it has a bunch of cool features, including a name generator. Another feature is the full screen mode, which allows a writer to write without distraction. About the only thing it doesn’t have is a music playlist.

One of my favorite things about Scrivener is the ability to separate things into folders.

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As you can see on the left of this image of my WIP, The Red Tattoo, each chapter has its own folder with separate scenes. The main panel here shows me more details. (The outlines are blurred so you don’t get spoilers.) I have each scene labeled with the POV character. The status tells me which scenes need more work, and the word count is really handy so I can figure out if any of my scenes or chapters are too short or two long

Scrivenr shotWhat’s really handy about having these separate scenes is how easy editing is. If I remember something that needs changed in the third chapter, I can go to the third chapter without having to scroll through a 300 page Word document, or use “find” just to find the chapter I want to edit. This also gives me a quick outline so I remember what happened in each chapter.

Lower down, bellow the chapters on the left, I also have some other handy folders. I can have stuff about my notes, each of my characters, the locations in my story, a synopsis, and an old outline I used. I also have deleted scenes, which is where I simply drag weak scenes. It’s nice to have them in the same document as the rest of the story.

Scrivener is a wonderful tool, especially when editing a longer story. It won’t make your writing better, but it can make polishing the writing a much easier job.

Posted in Writing Tips | 4 Comments

Tagged

It’s been a while since I’ve been tagged, so I was pretty happy to be tagged by Alexa. I’ve also got a new blog theme, and I decided to do a blog post every other week instead of every week. That way, I can work on polishing my posts.

#1 If you could go back in time to any time, what time would it be?
Depends. Could I change the past or not? If I could change it, I’d go back to the Garden of Eden and tell Eve that you shouldn’t listen to talking snakes.
If I couldn’t change time, I’d probably go back to some pre-Flood time and see what the world was like. (I want to see dinosaurs.)

#2 What are your favorite hobbies (besides writing)?
I like drawing. I also have chickens that I take care of. I’d mention ranch stuff, but that’s not a hobby since it’s my family’s main source of income.

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One of my drawings, featuring Takaski from The Red Tattoo.

#3 What’s your favorite character you’ve ever written?
This is a hard one. There are so many I like. Klate’s cool, but maybe my favorite is Rolf. He’s interesting because he’s got few personality flaws. Razor is another cool one of mine, but I don’t know if I’ll ever finish the book he’s in. My favorite in The Red Tattoo is probably Ashin. She’s pretty spunky.

#4 Favorite character you’ve ever read?
Favorites are annoying. Don’t ask me to choose. One of my favorites would be Ty from Dark Life. He’s a pioneer type character and I related really well to him because, like him, I prefer wide open spaces to city life. Of course, he’s in a very different environment. There’s also Tool from The Drowned Cities. I just tend to like big tough mutant super soldier furry things.
Another cool pair are Cinder and Cress from the Lunar Chronicles. Cress is one of the few damsels in distress that I actually didn’t get annoyed with.

#5 Favorite outfit?
Lando Calrissian got a pretty snappy outfit. Wait, did you mean my outfit? I just throw on whatever isn’t too dirty.

#6 What do you do to relax?
Surf the web.

#7 How many siblings do you have?
Two younger brothers.

#8 Can you think of a single best day of your life?
Not really.

#9 Do you have an all-time favorite quote/motto?
“Only he is lost who gives himself up for lost.”
Immortal ain’t bulletproof. ~ John Carter

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#10 What are your three favorite movies?
Star Wars, the original trilogy. Lord of the Rings is good too. There are a few others I should rewatch to see if I still like them.

#11 What do you think is the prettiest animal in the universe? (note: I did not say your favorite. I said the prettiest.)
Peacock? If we’re going by the entire universe though, there might be alien animals that are really pretty.

Posted in Art, Blogging Related, Uncategorized | Tagged | 12 Comments

Book Review: Resistance

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A young man, haunted by his past and mixed blood, and a girl, forced to hide her faith under the Emperor’s nose, must survive and keep their faith with persecution on the rise.

Note on ratings:

*           Horrible.
**         Below average
***       Average. Not good or bad.
****    Above average
***** Above and beyond

Content: **** (Content based off my personal level of squeamishness.)
Some torture, not graphic, and of course action violence. Rape hinted at.

Originality and world building: ***
The world seems somewhat run of the mill fantasy. I did like how there was a good reason for persecution and the politics seemed to be thought out decently. I want to know more about the ryrik species.

Characters and their Arcs: ****
I enjoyed Jace. I’m glad I read Half-blood before reading this book since it gave me a better view of him. (I highly recommend Half-blood, by the way.) Kyrin was okay, and I admired her faith, since it was something that makes one think about what they’d do in her situation.

Writing style and Pacing: ****
This book was good, but a bit easier to put down than I liked. Of course, the fact that I was reading multiple library books and vacationing in New Zealand while reading it may have had something to do with that.

What I liked:
The Christian message was really good and fit for the world. It felt like it fit.

What I didn’t like:
There’s not much to dislike. I would have liked to see a bit more action.

Is it worth reading?
Yep.

My Rating:

fourstar

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The Real Lack of Diversity

It’s not race.

One of the biggest things I saw in 2015 was the push to add more diversity to YA books. Many YA authors wrote books where the main characters weren’t white. If the main character was white, the supporting cast tended to be people of color. I’d have trouble naming more than one book I read that didn’t include at least two races.

The idea is fine if that’s what authors want to do, but an author should feel they’re being pushed into changing races or genders just to fit the trend.

Looking back at books, I hadn’t really noticed race much. There were a few older books, like Ender’s Game, that included quite a bit of racial diversity. (The Ender books did a very good job of worldbuilding a future where different races and cultures didn’t fade away.)

Overall, I’d never noticed a lack of racial diversity. It’s pretty easy to forget the race of a character. After all, reading isn’t visual like movies, so skin color is much like hair color. Unless it influences the plot/character or is mentioned a lot, it’s forgettable.

Most books are lacking diversity, but not it’s not racial. What they’re lacking is personality diversity which is much more obvious in the written word than skin tone. Skin color doesn’t make a character unique. What makes them unique are their thoughts and actions.

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Firefly is a great example of moral diversity. Mal’s crew has a preacher, a prostitute, and everything in between. (Sadly, the series has too much sexual content for me to recommend it.)

Authors tend to forget about this sort of diversity. The characters (at least the good guys) often end up having the author’s own moral views. In some cases, not only do the characters not have moral diversity, they don’t even have different goals or personalities.

Characters need to be cut from different materials, not cut from the same cardboard and painted to look different. Without difference of opinion between characters, there is little unique about them.

This is probably why anti-heroes have seen a rise in popularity. It’s because they’re not cut from the same moral fiber as the rest of the cast. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo had two very different moral outlooks on life, or at least Han liked people to think that. This adds conflict and makes the story interesting, as well as realistic. In real life, not all good people agree. If everyone in a story agrees, there’s very little conflict, and conflict is what drives the plot forward.

Character flaws and misconceptions, often brought on by the life the character has lived, are another good way to add diversity. In Mistborn, Kelsier believed all nobles were evil. This made him act ruthlessly, which wasn’t right, but it set him apart from some of the other characters and added conflict. Because of the world he lived in, the audience could sympathize with him. Characters like this bring up the question, “If I’d gone through what that character did, would I have ended up like them?” If it’s done well, it won’t encourage the reader to act like the flawed character, but it might help the reader learn to show empathy to flawed people in real life.

To add this sort of thing, look around at people and see them as more than a stereotype. Just because someone doesn’t agree with another person on certain issues, or would act differently in a certain situation doesn’t make them evil. (Though, in some cases, it can.) Keep cultures in mind too. Some people might consider horses or dogs to be a food source, while another person would be horrified at the thought of eating them, even if the second person is perfectly okay with eating a cow or pig. Cultural differences can be an interesting source of conflict. Just look at dwarves and elves.

When it comes down to it, it’s best to focus on making unique characters, not just giving them different appearances. A character’s choices are more important than their race or gender.

Posted in Characters, Controversy, Musings, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

TV Review: Star Wars Rebels Season 2

In celebration of May the Fourth, also known as Star Wars Day, I’m reviewing the second season of Star Wars Rebels. Last year, I reviewed the first season.

Star_Wars_Rebels_Season_TwoThe victory the crew gained has turned them into a target for the Empire. It’s become much more dangerous now, even if the crew has a powerful new ally. Things are going to get worse before they get better.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Note on ratings:

*           Horrible.
**         Below average
***       Average. Not good or bad.
****    Above average
***** Above and beyond

Content: **** (Content based off my personal level of squeamishness.)
This season was similar in content to the last season, including a few cases of off-screen dismemberment, but the feel of things was darker. Instead of being hunted by a few Imperials like Kallus and one Inquisitor, the crew now has to deal with Darth Vader himself, and he’s just as terrifying as he was in the Original Trilogy.


Originality and world building: *****

Like all Star Wars media, the world feels deep. There’s the sense that the world doesn’t revolve around these characters, and ancient temples make things quite interesting.

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Characters and their Arcs: *****
This is where Star Wars shines. Ezra is becoming a Jedi and Kanan is doing what he can to teach the kid, but as the show moves along, there are hints of darker things to come.
The other side characters each get at least one episode. The two non-powered villains also get some character development, though one of them doesn’t last long.

Pacing and action sequences: ****
The pacing was pretty good, with little hints that things would get darker throughout the episodes. The first two episodes and the last two were extremely good.

Animation: ****
Maybe I’m just getting used to Rebels, but it seemed like the animation this year was a lot better. Darth Vader’s appearance is as frightening as it should be.

Episode Flow: ***
The flow of some episodes felt a bit episodic. A few of the storylines only got one episode even though it made them feel very rushed.

Addition to the Universe: ****
It is a worthy addition to the universe and should not be discounted just because it’s animated.

Other things I liked:
Vader and the darkness that comes with him. Talk about a terrifying villain. What makes him so scary in this show is he’d obviously much more powerful than any of the heroes. There’s no way they can beat him. All they can do is run, but they don’t give up.
I also liked that, in the last episode, no one escaped unscathed by the fight. Ezra is being tempted by the Dark Side, Kanan is blinded, and Ahsoka is on the planet and probably not returning to the rebellion after the trauma of realizing her beloved master has become Darth Vader.
I also enjoyed seeing Rex and Ahsoka again. It’s certainly cool to see her as the most powerful good guy around.

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What I didn’t like:
The rushed nature of some of the episodes.

Is it worth watching?
Yes. At the very least, watch the first two episodes and the last two.

My rating:

Fourhalfstar

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Published again

610viz3b7bl-_sx384_bo1204203200_A few weeks ago, one of my short stories was published in Havok Magazine. You can purchase the magazine here.

My friend, Victoria, was also published in here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the same magazine I got published in last October. Here’s the cover of the October issue.

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Two publications is pretty cool. It gives me some confidence that I can actually write.

Come back on the May the Fourth for my review of Star Wars Rebels Season 2.

Posted in My Stories, Updates | Tagged , | 5 Comments