Wednesday, August 30, 2006
So I've now finished the third of Donita K. Paul's dragon books, DragonKnight.
Instead of following the story of Dragon Keeper Kale Allerion, this story follows Squire Bardon, a character introduced in the last book. Bardon sets off on a sabbatical, a time for him to spend in seclusion to decide whether or not he wants to dedicated himself to the service of Paladin. But as soon as he arrives at the secluded cabin he's supposed to live in, he finds himself thrown into a quest with three women to save a group of knights held captive by an evil wizard's spell. Bardon reluctantly agrees to put his sabbatical on hold while he tries to help the women.
Soon Bardon's troubles grow as more and more people are added to the questing party. But on the way, he learns more and more about himself and who he really is. Trust me, if you read all three books, you'll understand what that's about.
I thought this was simply a phenomenal book, perhaps the best out of the three. You know those little gripes I had about the second book? They're not in this one. The story was a great read and actually kept me up late last night as I kept thinking, "One more chapter before I go to sleep. One more chapter! Oh, I have time for just one more."
So if you're in the mood for a great fantasy adventure, this is definitely one to read.
Friday, August 25, 2006
On my way out, I went through the new books section and noticed the novel version of John Cena's upcoming movie, The Marine. Fair enough. It was what was sitting next to it that made me cringe:
Seriously. What the heck is this? Torrie Wilson holding a gun? Before I knew what was happening, the book was in my hand and I turned it over to read the back to see what this was about. This is what I learned:
December 2001: Vince McMahon steps out of a snowy night into a diner in upstate New York for a meeting with old friend Phil Thomson, now a highly placed government official. Thomson has a strange proposition: creating a new covert black-ops group using the Superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment. The WWE's talented men and women are perfect. Highly skilled athletes with the ideal cover, they travel all across the country and the globe; no one would find it unusual to find them in a town one day and gone the next. The government would train and support the wrestlers in every way possible except one: no one must know the truth.
March 2006: The Superstars have been handed their latest assignment -- take down a commercial-grade methyl-amphetamine plant that is bankrolling terrorist activities in Europe. Their mission seems simple and straightforward, until a member of their team is taken prisoner. Now all that they've worked so hard for is in jeopardy, and one of their own might be killed...
Seriously. I am not making this up. What scares me even more is the fact that people gave it such positive reviews. A few might be sarcastic, but really.
I guess the one nice thing about this fiasco is this: Yes, this travesty was published by WWE Books. But if this can get published, then I have to have a good shot. Heck, maybe they'll need some help with the sequel. Vince, call me!
Like I said, I started reading Kathy Tyers before I knew she was Christian or had written any Christian science fiction. Because of this, I had a rather interesting experience reading Balance Point, her second Star Wars novel and part of the The New Jedi Order series of books. If you haven't read the books and ever plan to, don't check out that link. Major spoilers. Anyway...
I don't want to give away too much. The basic idea is that Jacen Solo (the son of Han and Leia Solo and a soon-to-be Jedi Knight) has to face off against a Yuuzhan Vong in a fight to death. Jacen has been having visions of this conflict for most of the book. At one point in the fight (either during it or immediately after; I honestly can't remember), Jacen has another vision where he is immersed in the Force.
Much to my surprise, the Force spoke to Jacen. In a fatherly voice, the Force addressed Jacen's fears and calmed him. It was an interesting scene, one that left me saying, "Huh?"
Let's face it, up 'til that point, the Force was supposed to be an amorphous, impersonal energy field generated by living beings that could be manipulated by Jedi (both Light and Dark) and the Sith (although after what got added in Episode I, who can say?). To suddenly have the Force actually talking to a Jedi threw me for a loop.
But now that I can look back on it, well, duh! Trojan Horse! It was an interesting moment, seeing a little touch of Christianity sneaking into the Star Wars universe. Kind of fun.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
To get the word out about Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy, the good folks at American Christian Fiction Writers have been conducting blog tours. This month's subject is a fantastic author named Kathy Tyers.
Ms. Tyers is the reason why I read Christian Sci-Fi. I converted to CSF in a sort of round about way. The thanks, believe it or not, goes to Star Wars.
See, I read the Star Wars novels obsessively. I've got one big shelf in my house filled with them. So naturally, I was aware of Tyers' two novels, The Truce at Bakura and Balance Point. I also found a copy of Shivering World. The hard science fiction of terraforming kept me engaged, but I was surprised by the Christian references in the book. By the time I was done reading it, I was wondering if Kathy Tyers was Christian.
Then one day, I was browsing the Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy section at Christian Book Distributors, hoping to find something that piqued my interest. I came across a trilogy of books, the author of which had a familiar name. I just couldn't place it.
I kept repeating the name to myself over and over and over again, finally looking up at my massive collection of Star Wars novels. It was there that I say Ms. Tyers' name. I decided, "What the heck. I'll give this trilogy she's written a shot."
What was the trilogy in question? The Firebird Trilogy.
I know I haven't reviewed this on my blog yet. I won't post a review here yet. These books are on my list to re-read; once I'm done with Donita K. Paul's latest book, I'll re-read Firebird and review the books here.
At any rate, I absolutely loved Firebird. It was simply a great story. But here I'm getting ahead of myself again.
Anyway, there you go. As far as the blog tour is concerned, I've only had a chance to read Beth Goddard's two part interview with Kathy Tyers. But I'll be poking through the other blogs, and so should you. Here's a list of the participants:
John J. Boyer
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Perhaps tomorrow I'll write about one of the "Trojan Horse" moments I had reading some of Kathy's secular stuff. We'll see.
EDIT: After poking through some of the other blog tour participants' posts, I realized I should clarify something. Apparently Kathy originally published the first two Firebird books and Shivering World as secular books. Since that time, Bethany House Publishing has reprinted them and allowed Kathy to pump up the Christian content.
The reason I thought I'd share this is because I think the copy of Shivering World I found in my local library was the original version. I haven't had a chance to read the re-release yet. That's why, at the time, I wondered if Kathy was a Christian.
Monday, August 21, 2006
This time, I was checking the website for "Striptease" (get your mind out of the gutter and read my post; it's not about that) when I noticed a very well done banner ad for another web comic called Talismen. The above isn't the banner ad itself; I couldn't download the image from it. Instead, it's an "incentive poster" that the artist drew.
The cool thing is, the artwork in this webcomic is that elaborate on every page. A lot of webcomics I've peeked at are simply stick figures (or worse) not really worth reading. Talismen, on the other hand, is richly illustrated.
The story of Talismen is about a group of children who are banished from a magical kingdom to our world. In the first story arc, one of them, named Ollie (the marine in the poster above), is brought back to the magical kingdom. He falls in love with a woman named Astrina and learns about his past. They're now working to bring the other exiles back to face the evil Lord Ba.
I can't wait to see how this story unfolds. It should be really good, especially since I can see a love triangle forming amongst some of the exiles. Make sure you keep tabs on this one! It promises to be good.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
As my more loyal readers (what few there are) know, I've blogged about the similarities between the movies The Clonus Horror and The Island. I was first tipped off about the similarities between the two movies and the fact that the latter may have plagiarized the former by The Agony Booth, a great website for reading about really, really bad movies. Think Mystery Science Theater 3000, but only on the Internet.
Anyway, I recently read the Agony Booth review of "The Island", which included a section on the similarities between Michael Bay's "masterpiece" and "Clonus". And that got me to thinking. Maybe I should see if I can spot the similarities as well.
I actually have a copy of "Clonus". MST3K ripped this movie apart during one of their last seasons on the Sci-Fi Channel. Getting "The Island" would be easy enough as well. I'm thinking that on one of my days off, I would devote a morning or an afternoon to watching the two back-to-back, "Clonus" first and then "The Island", just to see how much Bay ripped off.
I've done stupid things like this before. One time, in college, I decided to watch Ed Wood and then Bride of the Monster back-to-back. I had seen "Bride" before (again, thanks to MST3K), but I had always fallen asleep while watching it. But after watching "Ed Wood" first, I was able to appreciate "Bride" a bit more because most of "Ed Wood" is concerned with the filming of "Bride". Good stuff.
So will I do it? Who knows? But if I do, I'll let you all know what I discover.
I found out about this book from Randy Ingermanson, a Christian fiction author who also teaches a number of on-line courses about writing. I've taken one of them and so should you (if you're a writer) and he has an e-zine he publishes once a month. It was in one of the latest editions of this e-zine that he mentioned this book. More specifically, he said that if you're a writer and you seriously want to be published, you should get and read this book immediately. I realize it's hyperbole, but hey, it's worth a shot, right?
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is a really good book about some of the mechanics of fiction writing. Renni Browne and Dave King are independent editors who have worked with writers over the years, polishing up their work to get them ready for publication. In the introduction, they lament the fact that in modern publishing, a lot of manuscripts don't get the editing job they need to turn them from good into magnificent. Their book is designed to "sit in the gap", so to speak, to train writers to edit their own work.
They cover such topics as showing and telling, point of view, dialogue mechanics, and voice. There are many examples taken from workshops that they've led and published novels to illustrate their lessons. What's really nice is that at the end of each chapter, they have a detailed checklist with suggestions on how to check your manuscript for problems as well as exercises you can do to test yourself on the concept.
I agree with Randy Ingermanson. If you're a writer, you'll want to read this book!
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
This makes me so excited! I'm a huge fan of Karen Hancock's books. Her Legends of the Guardian-King series have been a real joy to read. Perhaps I should re-read them and post reviews on the blog....
Whatever the case, I finished the third book in the series a few months ago. I've been eagerly waiting to get my hands on the fourth and final book.
Well, today I went over to the website of Bethany Publishing House to do some research. I'm hopefully going to meet one of their editors in a month at the ACFW Conference so I can pitch my sci-fi trilogy. From what I've read, when you're pitching a book, you're supposed to be able to tell the editor why your book would fit into their publishing line. So I wanted to see what other sci-fi books Bethany had listed (strange thing is, I know that they've published more sci-fi than they've listed! I should know, I have those books on my shelves!).
At any rate, I checked the "speculative fiction" section and I noticed this cover! Doesn't it look cool? Very heroic. It made me smile to see this cover.
But there's always a smidge of bad news to go with the good. This book isn't scheduled for release until April of 2007. So while I can smile and drool over the cover art, I have to wait to find out how this terrific story ends.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
As my faithful readers/friends will know, I'm an unpublished author myself. I've been writing since the fifth grade (not that anything I produced at that time is any good; most of it will never see the light of day ever again) and lately, I've been working on a Christian science fiction trilogy that I call The Leader's Song.
I've been working with a critique group from Ameican Christian Fiction Writers help me polish up the first book in the trilogy, The Rune Enigma. One of the things these wonderful ladies in my critique group has helped me realize is that I have four pet words that I constantly use. I incorporated all four into a sentence to help me remember to search them out and destroy them.
My four pet words are: just, that, finally, shrugged.
Notice the last one. It seems like on every page, I have a character shrugging, often when there's absolutely no logical reason for them to do so. I've had to grit my teeth and groan whenever I encounter one of these words.
I suspect part of the reason why Dar the winking doneel bothered me is because I'm too hypersensitized. And, like I said in the previous post, I loved DragonQuest. The constant winking wasn't enough to stop that.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
I'm always a sucker for a good Christian book series, and Donita K. Paul's dragon books are no exception.
This sequel to DragonSpell continues the tale of Kale Allerion, a Dragon Keeper in the service of Paladin. In this book, Kale and her numerous friends are sent on a number of quests. The overall plot is to rescue a "meech dragon" from the evil wizard Risto. Along the way, Kale encounters two different women who claim to be Lyll Allerion, Kale's long-lost mother. Along the way, Kale grows into her role as a servant of Paladin by working with the stodgy Bardon, the always amusing Dar, and a number of minor dragons that have bonded to her.
Once again, Paul does an excellent job creating a unique world. Rather than retread the usual fantasy races (elves, dwarves, etc.), Paul created her own races, such as the diminutive, light-bearing kimen, the tumanhofers who love to dig into mountains and into books, the color-shifting emerlindians, and so forth. Paul shows incredible creativity in creating this world, especially when it comes to creating dragons. Kale, as the Dragon Keeper, has hatched four dragon eggs so far and each new dragon surprises me. It turns out there are different kinds of minor dragons, differntiated by their colors. Each type of dragon has its own color and corresponding abilities. The first minor dragon Kale hatches, Gymn, is a green dragon and has healing abilities. Seems pretty standard for a fantasy novel, right? Well, things get a little interesting after he hatches. The next minor dragon to hatch is a purple dragon named Metta who has musical abilities. A green and yellow dragon named Dibl comes next. His ability is to make people laugh. The fourth is named Ardeo. During the day, he's dull and silver. At night, he shines like the moon. These dragon abilities stunned me the first time I read them. I would never think of having a singing dragon or one that makes people laugh, but Paul weaves these abilities into the story wonderfully.
There are really only three minor things that I didn't like about this book. The first is the more problematic. The plot in DragonQuest shifts and swings rapidly and oftentimes, plot threads that get started get resolved "off-stage" so to speak. For example, at one point, Kale and company are sent to investigate who attacked the city of Vendela with Creemoor spiders. But before they can complete this quest, they're sent on another quest, leaving the spiders to be resolved by another band of heroes. This wouldn't be a problem, but this happens several times in the book. Kale and friends are given an assignment but, before they can complete it, they're sent off on another errand. The quest they were on is then fulfilled by another group and we're barely told what happened.
Part of this stems from the fact that Paul tells the story only from Kale's point-of-view. This is admirable and very well done, but it means that many of these seemingly important quests are finished "off-stage" and then we're simply told what happened.
The second kind of grows out of the first. The end of the book was too abrupt for me. I don't want to give the ending away. Suffice it to say that there's a big build up towards something that never happens. I can understand why it happened and how it fits into the plot. But given the number of quests that are resolved "off-stage", this disappointed me.
The last thing that kind of bugged me by the end of this book is the number of times one of the characters, Dar, winks. It seems like every other page, Dar is winking at Kale. It's overused in my opinion and detracts from the story. Every time I encountered Dar winking, I kind of sighed and had to steel myself to keep reading.
None of that should keep you from reading these books, though. Once again, Donita K. Paul has put together a great fantasy read, one that can be enjoyed and appreciated by people of all ages.