Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sleeping Beauty Cover Reveals

My sister and two other authors are revealing the covers of their upcoming books today. Come take a look!

Poison Kiss

About the Book
Everyone knows that Sleeping Beauty's curse is triggered when she pricks her finger on a spindle and that she is awakened by true love's kiss ... but what happens when the wicked fairy decides to switch things up?

Edmund didn't mean to put Auralea to sleep, but now it's up to him and the famous Puss in Boots to figure out how, exactly, a spinning wheel is supposed to awaken her.

And here's where you can preorder it:

About the Author
Kendra E. Ardnek is a homeschool graduate who picked up a pen at an early age and never put it down. The eldest of four, she makes her home in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her parents, younger siblings, giant herd of giraffes, and honor guard of nutcrackers. 

You can connect with Kendra on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Twisted Dreams

About the Book
“I, Calandra, of the Wingans, do bestow upon you, the Princess of Hanover, a gift. You have been given long life. I cannot interfere with that, but when you are sixteen years of age, you will prick your finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into an everlasting sleep.” She stepped closer so that she could be heard only by Liesel and her parents. “Then you will at last see the truth. Be wary. Be wise. Your fate rests upon yourself.”

On her sixteenth birthday, Princess Liesel Rosanna falls victim to a sleeping curse—but wakens in another world, a prisoner of war. As the bait in a trap for her fiancĂ©, the crown prince of Hanover, Liesel longs to escape back to the fairy tale world. The world where she is only wanting a true love’s kiss to set everything to rights.

As situations quickly grow dire, Liesel must choose which story to live, which life is real. The fate of her country rests on her decision.

And here's where you can preorder it:

About the Author
Morgan Elizabeth Huneke is a homeschool graduate who lives in Georgia. She has enjoyed creating characters and writing stories since early childhood. Books have always been a big part of her life, never more so than when working at the local library. Her other interests include reading, playing and teaching piano and violin, and politics. She is the author of Across the Stars and The Experiment as well as the Time Captives fantasy trilogy.

You can connect with Morgan on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Rosetta Thornbriar

About the Book
Once upon a time, way out west...
Back when they were young'uns, Fleur Guardstone proposed to Rosette Thornbriar with a cigar band ring. However, not long after, she disappeared back into the forest and hadn't been heard from since. However, when Fleur hears reports of smoke coming from that woods, he's determined to find out if it is, indeed, his dear Rosette. If he can get past all of the briars.

About the Author
Rachel Roden is a natural story teller, capable of weaving the most hilarious of fairy tales. She fell in love with the Lone Ranger in her teens, but ended up with a basketball referee instead. Together, she and the Ref homeschool their four children in the Piney Woods of East Texas, as well as any other odd kid who ends up in their house. She might also be the sole human who still uses math after college.

Go check them out!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The True Enemies of the American People

   The year 2016 will long be remembered around America as one of the worst years most of us have ever experienced. Terror attacks were rising on the extreme, celebrities were dying it seemed every other week, and our nation was caught in the throes of an election that ripped our nation apart. The last threads of unity left hanging in our country were snapped as Republicans and Democrats first tore themselves apart in vicious primaries, then tore each other apart in an even more vicious general election. Violence rose everywhere political candidates went, hate was spewed on every political post that showed up on Facebook, and people on both sides lived in such a constant state of anger that they threw around death threats like confetti.
   The election has ended, but the fighting has just gotten worse. People on both sides have worked themselves into a frenzy. The left bemoans everything the current government does as causing the deaths of millions, and the right pounces on anything the government does, tears it to pieces, and calls the entire government promise-breaking traitors if they can find even a smidgen of something to criticize. People on both sides are intent on destroying anyone they see as opposition without pause or regrets. They are unable to speak civilly to someone that does not hold their views. It should not have been a surprise when the rabid fighting that has been going on unchecked finally pushed an unstable man to do the unthinkable and try to murder congressmen and senators gathering to practice for a charity baseball game. This country and this people have come to a breaking point, and if we don't find a way to unify, we may destroy ourselves in a civil war more bloody than the one that erupted in 1861.
   Hate. Anger. Viciousness. Violence. These are the things that define our country today, when before we were known for our love, our compassion, and our unity. We are not the United States of America anymore, but the Divided States of America. People all around the nation seem to have forgotten how to disagree civilly, how to have different worldviews and still be friends, how to love and care and put aside our differences for what really matters.
   Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could not have been more different. They had completely opposing beliefs and ideological systems. They disagreed on nearly everything that mattered. And yet they were still best friends for many years before Justice Scalia succumbed to a heart attack in February of 2016. Most Americans today couldn't even fathom how two people so different could be such good friends, and I couldn't either until not long ago.
   During former President Obama's very last State of the Union address, I had a flash of realization. Despite our incredibly differing views on everything imaginable, we were still working towards the same goal: a better, safer, freer America. Contrary to what I had believed, most people on the left are not consciously trying to destroy the country we all love. I realized we all do love America, no matter our political beliefs. We all are trying to make her a better nation, though we have different views on how that can be accomplished. I realized these people are not my enemies. We are all Americans, united in purpose and truth...or we should be.
   So who are our enemies?
   Barack Obama is not our enemy. Donald Trump is not our enemy. Neither is Hilary Clinton, Harry Reid, George W. Bush, Ted Cruz, or the media on both sides of the aisle. Hate is our enemy. Fear is our enemy. Aggression and violence are our enemies. Criticism, anger, and suspicion are our enemies. Ignorance is our enemy. Lies are our enemy.
   But people are not our enemies. We need to stop all the hatred and the anger and the lies. We need to stop accusing the other side of trying to kill people and of being the devil's seed. We need to stop assuming the people in the government are out for themselves and are always trying to hurt the American people. We need to stop jumping to conclusions, and threatening violence, and losing friends to arguments over our beliefs. We can disagree and still be friends. We have a lot more in common with the people on the other side than we think. People on the other side are truly trying to do the right thing. It does not make them our enemy when they are opposed to what we are doing.
   We can still disagree with the people around us. Indeed, disagreements, if conducted civilly and in a friendly manner, can be very healthy for a nation of laws and purpose. But the fighting, the hatred, the ignorance, the anger, is poisoning our country and may lead to her death. It needs to stop and it needs to stop now, on both sides of the aisle, in every state, in every political and ideological group, in every religion and belief system, in every city and town, everywhere across the entire nation.
   Please reach out to those around you who disagree with you and reassure them you are their friends, that you stand with them, and that though you may disagree on many things, you still love them and recognize you are still working towards a better America.
   In the 1960's, people talked about spreading love, not hate. True love is putting aside our differences and standing united, working towards our common goals, and finding our common ground with each other. Let's put aside our division and hatred and become a united nation once more.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Why Can't Christian Media Be Good Quality?

   There's a lot of media out there. There's millions of songs being released every year, thousands of books being published, especially with the new self-publishing phenomenon, and oodles and oodles of movies. As Christians are called to be lights in a darkened world, we feel a calling to place our own songs, books, and movies out there with our worldview to counteract all the other media people are constantly gushing over. Yet we never see people fangirling over the latest Christian book releases all over Facebook or Pinterest. Millions of screaming girls don't flock to concerts of Big Daddy Weave and Casting Crowns. And Christian movies get nothing but mockery from everyone that doesn't publicly claim to be Christian. Is this just all symptoms of a deranged world turning its back on its Creator and Lord? Or is the world willing to admit something about Christian media we ourselves are too afraid to?
   Now don't get me wrong: many times, the producers of Christian media have their heart in the right place. They honestly have a good message they want to share and they are genuinely trying to spread the Gospel. This is why I think many Christians are too afraid to admit the truth about Christian media. They're afraid that other Christians will claim they're denying that the Gospel is true instead of denying that Chris Tomlin is the next John Newton. That's not what I'm saying, so don't misunderstand me. I'm not criticizing anybody's beliefs. 
   But what is it about today's Christian media that isn't hitting the mark? Secular people might claim it is our "stuffy" worldview. But any examination of classic media that still lives on and is well-loved today will show that's not true. Charles Dickens' books have lived on through over a hundred years, countless adaptations, and constant fans the world over. Yet Charles Dickens was a devout Christian, as is obvious in his books.  Treasure Island and The Swiss Family Robinson have been well-loved for ages, and they are also written by Christians. Jane Eyre, A Little Princess, Alice in Wonderland, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, The Wind in the Willows, Heidi, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and countless others were all written by Christians. And it's not limited to books. Some of the most famous songs of all time, Silent Night and Amazing Grace, were both written by Christians, and pastors to boot. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, and others were all Christians. And the lion of all modern entertainment who shaped the twentieth century and what exists of the twenty-first, Walt Disney himself, was an unapologetic Christian. Christians have the most amazing heritage of well-done, unforgettable, life-changing media of anybody in the world. So why is modern Christian media today the butt of all jokes and something that nobody but Christians even cares about?
   The answer is simple: most modern Christian music, books, and movies are not good quality. Most modern Christian books are not quality literature and are not even close to comparing to the works of Charles Dickens and C. S. Lewis. None of the Christian artists out there today are ever going to write anything as memorable as Silent Night or Amazing Grace and only a few, such as Michael W. Smith for example, are true musicians. And ever since the death of Walt Disney during the production of The Jungle Book, wholesome good movies made by Christians have been almost non-existent. Instead, all we have are movies like Left Behind and The Mark. All we get from Christian books, movies, and music nowadays is shallow messages, preachy words, and sub-par work. But why is this and how do we fix it?
   Most Christian artists, writers, screenwriters, and movie producers are too concerned with their label and the message they're trying to get across than with the actual works of art they're supposed to be producing. They really are trying to spread God's kingdom. But they're producing music, books, and movies for all the wrong reasons. They produce them because they know that's where the people are and that's what our culture revolves around, when they really should be producing music and books and movies because they have a passion for creating music, books, or movies deep down inside of them.

   MGM Studios has a motto: Ars Gratia Artis, which is Latin for "Art for art's sake." This idea really captures where good art (books, music, and movies) comes from: artists who would create their works even if no one was watching and their works would never be seen by the light of day. As Christians, we who were born artists have an even greater reason to create the art that demands to be let out of us: our God who loves us and has adopted us has given us a talent that can't be suppressed. If for no other reason than to make Him smile do we want to create our art, but our beliefs and our callings push through and drive us so that our art becomes not only a thing of entertainment, but a creation with the possibility to change the world.
   Christian musicians and authors and movie makers should focus not on making Christian music, books, and movies, but on being good artists creating good art. And because God has given us a new nature and made us a new man, and because true art is a reflection of the soul of the artist who created it, our art will not reflect us, but Christ who lives in us (see Galatians 2:20).
   And that is when art changes the world.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Epitaph of a Bookworm

I wrote this poem the other day while writing my name in all the books I got from a library book sale.

To whoever gets my books
When I am passed away:
Treat them kindly, love them well;
Give them a place to stay.

Be nice to Frodo; put him somewhere
He can feel the sun.
Keep Long John Silver close nearby,
And do not mind his fun.

Captain Nemo was good to me;
Make sure to give him love.
Peter Pan needs your tender care,
And please mend Hamlet's glove.

The Psammead will gladly grant
A daily wish for you.
And if you serve some tea and toast,
Tumnus will come at two.

Don't forget to feed the dogs.
Let Lassie out at three.
Pongo and Missus take walks in the park,
And Lad has guard duty.

Winnie-the-Pooh and Toto, too,
Will help you as you go.
They'll teach you how to care for all 
My friends I've come to know.

The books that I bequeath to you
Have taken me far from home.
I have passed them on to you.
It is now your turn to roam.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not All Story Drafts Are Novel Material

I've always loved watching old TV shows. One of my favorites is I Love Lucy. The other day I watched an episode entitled Lucy Writes a Novel. Naturally, Lucy tries to write a novel. She eagerly writes a draft about the her life and that of her friends and sends it off to a publisher. She awaits the publishing of her first book...and ends up getting rejected. She declares that that the publishers were thick-headed men who were keeping back her masterpiece from the world. I started thinking about the episode later that day, and ended up thinking about the many new authors I've seen eagerly wanting to publish their books, and their denial, like Lucy's, when told their book shouldn't be published.

We've all been there. If you're a writer, you've surely experienced the point where you know what good fiction is and you love good fiction, but what's coming out of your pen isn't good fiction. It's worse when you think what you're writing is good fiction...but it's not. Sometimes the idea is great, but the draft is horrible. For instance, I have one old draft of a story that I really wanted to publish when I began it. When I started it, I thought the writing was brilliant. By the time I finished it, however, the first pages made me blush at how bad they were. It took me a while to get through the phase where my writing was sub-par at best, but by then, I was aware of the fact that my writing needed major work. But in so many cases, writers give up or wind up crashing and burning because someone tells them that their book needs work to be published and they, like Lucy, declaim the critic as a thick-minded fool keeping a masterpiece from the world.

News flash: some drafts just aren't meant to be published. If someone tells you that your book isn't ready to be published, that it needs to be rewritten, etc...they're not trying to be mean. They're not saying you can't ever be a writer. Many times, they're seeing something you can't because of your closeness to the work. They see mistakes you made that can be fixed with a lot of hard work. It's hard to reconcile yourself to the fact that the long draft you just finished needs to be rewritten...again. I say this right in the middle of yet another rewrite of book one of the Condemned Patriot series...which still needs a ton of work before anyone outside my family can read it. Some stories take a while to be written. And if you're a newer writer, the stories are going to take even longer to get right. But that's really okay. It's okay not to be ready for publishing right now. I'm not ready for publishing. That doesn't mean I'm not an author. That doesn't mean you're not an author. Being an author means more than just getting your first book out there. Being an author is the wisdom of knowing when to rewrite and when to just edit. It's listening to everyone's advice even if it's hard to hear. Being an author means sacrificing and killing your darlings and rewriting as many times as your book needs it because that's the career you've dedicated yourself to. If you want to be published, people assume you are trying to be an author, not just a writer. Don't shoot down the critics that are treating you like an author. They are working towards the goal of getting good fiction out into the world. And being an author, published or otherwise, means that needs to be your goal, too. 

So dear Lucy Ricardo and all you other new writers out there trying to be authors... Your first draft is not ready to be published. Your first book probably isn't either. I know, it's exciting to be a writer, and it's hard to resist the urge to jump into publishing as soon as possible. But being published means making a commitment to be an author, not just a writer. And the only thing that turns you into an author is hard work and perseverance and lots and lots of writing...and rewriting. It's okay for right now to just write and learn and grow in writing. The people telling you to wait to be published want to see you as an author just as much as you do. But they understand that being an author, a real author, means sometimes doing the hardest thing of all...listening.

So just keep writing better drafts. Write a bunch of different stories. Rewrite your drafts. Get a bunch of feedback from the people around you. One day you'll be ready to publish, and when you get there, it'll be all the sweeter for waiting. Don't give up and don't get angry at the people who tell you your book shouldn't be published. With a lot of sweat, hard work, and perseverance, you'll have a finished, publishable day.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Introducing Peter Oglethorpe

Name: Peter James Oglethorpe, Jr. (He was named after his paternal grandfather.)
Physical appearance: Golden brown hair which he wears longish-short (think Luke Skywalker), brown eyes, medium build, 6’ tall.
Personality type: INFP.
This picture isn't exact (his hair needs to be more golden and his eyes need to be brown), but it's close enough.
Via Pinterest

Peter's had to fight pain all his life, from his condition as well as from constant fights, so he has a super-high pain tolerance, however, he often has trouble walking and speaking, with occasional muscle convulsions and asthma attacks. Sometimes his neurons are overwhelmed and he passes out for no reason.
He is shy but snarky, and disdainful of all government officials, especially federal ones. He has somewhat mastered his terror of strangers when at or near his hometown, but can have trouble taming it in new or stressful situations. However, he is a people watcher.
He's a strong Christian, but he suffers from depression and chronic nightmares and sometimes can find it hard to keep his mind together. He deals with his emotional attacks and depression by playing the violin and reading the Scriptures they saved from when they lost their last Bible.
His best friends are Jen, his twin sister, and Katie, one of his neighbors. He really loves Katie and has always planned on marrying her. He was also really close to two of his brothers who he lost in tragic accidents. He blames himself for the death of one of his brothers.  He feels an almost painful need to protect his family, and can overextend himself trying to meet their emotional needs. Losing the rest of his family terrifies him and he does his best not to think about it.
He doesn't like needles or doctors or scientists or science experiments. He abhors them, but is not afraid of them beyond getting trapped.  He doesn't like NYC, but can handle it. He can't, however, handle parades usually. He often passes out and doesn't like to sleep, as nightmares and restlessness usually plague him. He usually writes or reads instead, when not in severe pain.
His sense of humor keeps him from breaking and growing crazy under the pressure and emotional and physical instability. His sense of humor can be super morbid, but Jonathan, his brother, and Jen and sometimes Katie play along, because the only alternative is to scream.
He really loves America and is very independence-minded. Saving his country is one of his biggest goals.

So, what do you think of Peter?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Camp NaNo Overview

In the last week of March, I decided to participate in Camp NaNo to give myself motivation to sit down and write, despite the fact that we were leaving for a vacation that very first week. Brilliant, that was. Somehow, I managed to stay mostly on top of my goal of 60 pages in a month until we got home. Then I fell behind and lowered my goal to 45 pages. I fell behind several times, but then managed to meet my goal a few days early. And I'm building up to the First Major Plot Point in my story. Success!

Week One: We left for a spring break vacation on one of the very first days, but I managed to stay on top of my goals and turn out scenes I was fairly pleased with. However, after we came back on Thursday, I took a break from writing on that day and Friday.

Week Two: I wrote six pages on Saturday, and then took a break that lasted almost the entire week. I read several books and gathered up my motivation to write two pages on Friday.

Week Three: I wrote five more pages on Saturday, wrote a couple more pages in the next few days, then lowered my goal from 60 pages to 45. All in all, I didn't write much this week.

Week Four: True to my pattern, I gained a lot of motivation with the end in sight and wrote 15 pages in the last few days. I hit 45 pages and validated my win on Thursday night while watching the NFL Draft.

And here's a snippet just for fun:

   Peter stilled. He stared up at the officer, barely breathing. The officer's face was hard, his eyes unreadable.
   The officer placed the barrel against Peter's forehead. Peter's muscles froze. Slowly, he forced his shaking hands into plain sight to lie flat on his desk. He stared at the top of his test paper.
   "Let me repeat my command." The officer's voice filled with steel. "Give me all the papers in your desk and reveal to us where your illegal terrorist textbooks are, or I shoot the boy with the service dog."
   Mutt! Possibly there was one way Peter could keep this from ending really badly. If he could get some command to him...
   "I'm sorry, I-" Mr. Larak started.
   "No, please!" Katie exclaimed at the same time.
   "Don't..." Mr. Larak continued.
   Peter's heart sank. This was it, then. Either he figured out what to command Mutt, or he got shot and killed. But what- "Sic him, Mutt!"
   Mutt dashed forward and latched onto the officer's leg with his teeth. The officer fell backward and fired.