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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hobbit

I know, I know, I know. Bad geek! Bad! I had wanted to see The Hobbit the moment it came out. I was hoping that I could even score free tickets to an advance screening (like I have for other movies lately). Sadly, the free tickets were not to be. The one screening my wonderful wife found were gone in 15 seconds and I couldn't have gone anyway. And Friday, well, Friday I had an eye doctor appointment and then we went to see Santa as a family. Weekends are bad, too, so I had to wait until a Monday. A Monday! I know, I need to turn in my geek card now.

But the time finally came and I settled in. After twenty minutes of previews (and I'm still wondering why they thought that fans of J.R.R. Tolkien would be interested in Stephanie Meyer's alien movie thing), the epic tale of Bilbo Baggins unfolded before me. And it was good.

For the most part.

So let's start with the caveats and the words of warning. I wasn't totally sold on the idea of splitting the story into two parts, let alone three. The Hobbit is a much shorter book than The Lord of the Rings, so it seemed a little odd to me that Peter Jackson would divvy up the film, regardless of if he brought in extra material or not. But it's Peter Jackson, for crying out loud. I trust him with Middle Earth, so I was willing to let go of my minor misgivings.

But what format to see it in? I could have gone to see it in IMAX 3D at the Minnesota Zoo, but the last movie I saw like that (Tron: Revolutions, or whatever that train wreck was called) left me feeling a bit dizzy. So should I try for 3D? Or track down the nearest theater that would show it in 48fps 3D? I finally decided on just plain old vanilla 2D.

And it was great to be back in Middle Earth again! It was fantastic to see Gandalf and Bilbo again. I was ready to stand up and cheer the first time I heard a whispered voice in a dark cave. And it was a fun movie, with lots of adventure, some silliness, and that spectacular New Zealand scenery.

And yet . . .

And yet there were some minor details, things that bothered me. I "saw the seams" on some of the visual effects, particularly when Gandalf and the dwarfs were trying to escape from the goblins. I could tell when the CGI folks took over, which I don't remember happening in the Lord of the Rings movies.

But most of all, there was disconnect for me, and I think it's the fact that the source material was slightly incompatible with Peter Jackson's vision.

Let's remember, The Hobbit started life as a story for children. So while there is danger and adventure, none of it is quite as life-and-death as in LotR. And in some ways, Jackson remained true to the source material, by including the "Blunt the Knives" musical number and the goblin's torture song (!) in the movie. Radagast too seemed particularly suited for a kids' story.

But then there are the parts where Jackson was clearly trying to hearken back to the style and vision of Lord of the Rings, and it caused a little bit of cognitive dissonance in me. It didn't feel right.

Not only that, but I think the film suffered a little bit because the story of The Hobbit doesn't strike me as being quite as epic as Lord of the Rings. Yes, taking on Smaug will be awesome and yes, the journey is important for the dwarfs, but the movie seemed to lack a "Big Bad." Because of that, the movie didn't feel quite as big. And yes, I know who the Necromancer is.

Now that may sound like I didn't enjoy it. I did. And I'm looking forward to the next leg of the journey.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Crosswind

I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm something of a steampunk neophyte. I've seen bits and pieces here and there, read a few books and short stories, and admired some cool fashions. But I suspect that this is one speculative fiction sub-genre I'll never really get all that into. That's not a judgment on the idea as a whole. It's just not for me.

In spite of that, though, I really enjoyed Steve Rzasa's latest book, Crosswind. This is the tale of the Sark brothers, inhabitants of a town called Perch. Perch sounds like a frontier town, a sort of alternate version of a Wild West metropolis, where aeroplanes are the order of the day and the inhabitants aren't too keen on their neighbors to the south, the city of Trestleway. Trestleway is all about the railroad, you see. More than that, they want everyone to be a stop on their lines, whether they want to be or not. Winch Sark is a newspaper reporter, while his brother, Cope, is a daredevil pilot. Neither are all that political, but when the Mayor-General's nephew crashes while bearing an important message to his uncle, Winch and Cope investigate. This pulls them into a winding intrigue between Perch and Trestleway, but more than that, because dark forces are at work to not only destroy Perch, but the faithful who live within its borders.

Like I said, while steampunk isn't my thing, I really enjoyed this story. The setting is vibrant and alive, and Steve did a great job of creating what felt like an "old world," one with its own unique history and geography. The best part is, he doesn't slather on loads of unnecessary backstory. Instead, he just teases us with a little bit of, "Hey, there's more to this than meets the eye." In short, it tantalizes instead of bogs down, which is great. Winch and Cope are fun to go on an adventure with, and I particularly liked Winch's spiritual journey. There's a great deal to be gleaned from this book about the interaction between faith and fear, and I really found it fascinating how Steve set the theology in the days of the early church. The Christ event analogue for this world occurred just a decade earlier.

I don't know what a hardcore steampunk fan would make of this book, but I enjoyed it, and I suspect that if you're like me, you will too. Be sure to check it out today.


Sunday, December 09, 2012

O Come, Let Us Do Laundry

It may sound like an odd Christmas greeting, but God invites all people to come and do laundry with Him.

Text: Malachi 3:1-7b

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Weird Al: The Book

I don't think it should come as a surprise to anyone that I'm a fan of Weird Al Yankovic, right? I mean, several years ago, I did spend a few hours writing an outline for a Weird Al themed musical. I own just about every song he's ever written. My poor family has had to suffer through me playing his music often enough that it's enough to send my six year old son screaming from the room. On my Facebook profile, I've listed three people as being influential in my life: St. Paul, Martin Luther, and Weird Al. So when I saw that a book dedicated to Al had been published, you can bet that I put Weird Al: The Book on my Christmas list right away. Since my side of the family did Christmas already, I got my copy and devoured it in about a day.

Now some of the stories that I read in here, I knew already, such as how Weird Al and his drummer, Bermuda Schwartz, met before Al performed Another One Rides the Bus on the Dr. Demento Show. I've seen the video of Al performing on Tom Snyder's The Tomorrow Show:



But there was a lot I didn't know. Like how Madonna apparently came up with the idea for Like a Surgeon (!!!), or the problems Al had with TV executives for his kids' show, or how, after UHF bombed, Al almost wrote another Michael Jackson parody. This was a great read for me to find out more about one of my favorite musicians. And the fact that this book is filled with lots of pictures from Al's life and career makes it all the better.

So if you're a Weird Al fan, you owe it to yourself to get this book. And if you're not his fan . . . well, then, what's wrong with you?

I leave you now with a picture of the Weird One that I took myself when he was performing at the Minnesota State Fair two years ago:





Sheer genius.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Branch

Do you put your trust in hollow trees?

Text: Jeremiah 33:14-16

Friday, November 02, 2012

Crossed

Well, that was a whole lot of nothin'.

For whatever reason, I was on a dystopian YA kick a while back. As such, I promised myself that I'd keep up with the different series. So when I got the chance to read Crossed by Ally Condie, I was looking forward to it. I seemed to remember that this was an interesting story, what with poor Cassia trying to decide who she was going to love, either Ky or Xander, in spite of the oppressive Society. I couldn't wait to see what happened next.

To my surprise, not much happened. The story picks up with Ky in the Outer Provinces and Cassia in a work camp. The two of them look to find each other and then search for where they should go next.

And that's about it. The plot is really thin in this one. There's lots of rumination, lots of poetry quotations, lots of walking and climbing and rafting. And in the end, it felt like I was reading . . . well, nothing significant.

I might check out the next book in the series, but it's not going to be high on my priority list, that's for sure.

Wreck-It Ralph

Thanks to my wonderful wife (who is a wizard at finding cool deals), I was able to see a sneak preview of Wreck-It Ralph a little over a week early. This was a great opportunity, simply because I'd been looking forward to seeing this movie pretty much all summer. I heard it described as a sort of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but with video game characters. Given how much I love my video games, I couldn't wait to see who got included. I was hoping for a whole smorgasbord of characters. Sadly, there weren't as many as I hoped for. On that account, I was a little disappointed.

But only on that point. I went in expecting a light, silly movie, one designed to stoke up nostalgia and little else. But what I found instead was a well-crafted story. A silly one, sure, but I was pleasantly surprised at how great this movie turned out.

You can get the gist of the plot from this trailer:



Poor Ralph. All he wants is to appreciated for once in his life. But his quest to become the hero endangers his game and many others.

What can I say about this movie? It's awesome. While I was a little dissatisfied with the lack of cameos (there were a lot of classic characters wandering around in the background), the ones that did show up made logical sense from within the story. The internal logic hangs together well too. The characters are a blast. The story, while somewhat simple, was a hoot.

The greatest surprise for me? Alan Tudyk voiced the Candy King. I had no idea until the end credits started rolling. I suspect the people I was sitting next to thought I was crazy when I saw that.

The one caveat I can share is this: beware the ending, especially if you're bringing kids. There's some dark stuff going on in the ending. I mean, I know they're video game characters, but some of the stuff that happens at the end struck me as a bit . . . well, dark.

But it's a great movie nonetheless. If you're a video game fan, go see this movie. Even if you're not, it's a great movie. Just be sure to see it soon!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Law of Superheroes

If you haven't guess by now, I'm a colossal geek. That applies to my recreation choices (mostly videogames), the TV shows I watch, and the movies that I gravitate towards. And that also includes my interest in all things superhero. Believe it or not, I'm not a big comic book reader. I've got a passing familiarity with the Marvel and DC universes and I'll certainly check out some series and titles from time to time. But, as evidenced by my debut novel, I still have a great love for masks and capes. That's part of what attracted me to the book The Law of Superheroes.

James Daily and Ryan Davidson are both comic book fans and lawyers, and they spend the better part of this book seeing how the two worlds might possibly intersect. For example, let's say that a masked hero captures a criminal. Could the hero testify in court while disguised? Could a hero sue someone for revealing his or her secret identity? If a battle between superheroes and villains wrecks a big part of a city, will insurance pay for the damages? Daily and Davidson seek to answer all of those questions and more.

Where was this book when I needed it? When I was writing Failstate, I puzzled over a lot of these questions and I didn't feel comfortable contacting a lawyer to ask my questions. Here we have a great resource for geeks and comic book fans that not only answers those questions, but does so in a way that you can learn a lot about the legal system. In short, it's an excellent book that helped me learn quite a bit. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Advice for Star Wars 7

Normally I don't pay attention to business news. I've got no mind for economics and unless it directly or indirectly impacts me, I'll only skim the business section of Google News. For example, when I see news about publishing companies merging, I'll see who bought who and maybe read analyses of what that might do for me. But then I forget about it a short time later.

But today's news? Well, that got my attention. It's not every day that you see Disney spend $4 billion to purchase Lucasfilm. That means that any future Star Wars projects will come with mouse ears attached.

In some ways, this shouldn't surprise us. At least, it didn't totally surprise me. Not the price tag, certainly. George Lucas has created quite the little empire for himself. And the fact that Disney did the buying doesn't surprise me much either. If you've been to Epcot Center recently, you've seen the theme rides and the dance parties that feature Darth Vader boogie-ing down and accepting the fealty of little girls. So there was a pre-existing relationship there. Given the fact that Disney also has bought Marvel, and that leads to some interesting possibilities in the future. Marvel vs. Star Wars fighting games, anyone? Or maybe Darth Vader and Wolverine will cameo in Epic Mickey 3.

But what caught my eye was the little factoid in there that "Star Wars 7," whatever that will be, is targeted to be released in 2015.

To quote one Dr. Sam Beckett, "Oh, boy." Or, perhaps a bit more appropriate, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

My initial reaction was one of revulsion. Yes, Episode III finally, sort of got it right, but that's only because the bar had been set so low. George Lucas lost his ways, seduced by the dark side of digital effects, focusing on that over and above such mundane details as, oh, I don't know, storytelling, characterization, and so on. And while I've heard that the Clone Wars animated series is pretty good, I've been glad that we wouldn't see any further assaults on my childhood memories.

But then I noticed this little nugget in the middle of the stories, a quote from George Lucas himself:

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.”

So wait . . . this new movie would be one without George Lucas in direct control?

Interesting.

Further reading reveals that Lucas has turned over control of Star Wars to a lady named Kathleen Kennedy, and that he's shared ideas and plotlines and all that with her, that he will serve as a creative consultant for the future movies (yes, there will be more than just #7).

Initial feeling of worry returning.

Now I've been a Star Wars fan for a long time. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the original trilogy with my family to the point that we had them all memorized. I've read many of the novels. And I've played a lot of the videogames too. I've been a loyal connoisseur for decades now. And even though I doubt that Ms. Kennedy will ever stumble across this, my humble corner of the Interwebz, I do have some advice for her about what to do with Star Wars 7, which I'll share with you now:

1) Don't make them sequels. Or, to be more specific, respect the Extended Universe. A lot of authors have spent a lot of time telling the story where Return of the Jedi left off. The Empire fell and rose again. Memorable characters, such as Talon Karrde, Corran Horn, and Mara Jade, have trod the galactic stage and left an indelible imprint on it. And the main characters have been through a lot too. They've gotten married, had kids, lost kids and spouses. One of them even died (although I won't say which one). While I know that the books and such aren't probably "official canon," it would be a shame to slash-and-burn all of it. So if Star Wars 7 is indeed a sequel, set it in the far future. Avoid the Skywalker clan and their related associates. Tell us a new story set in the same universe and leave the EU to the fans.

2) Bring in some ringers. It's great that Lucas has given you his thoughts and ideas and I would never suggest you jettison them. But maybe hire in some folks with proven track records when it comes to telling Star Wars stories. Have Timothy Zahn take a pass at Lucas's ideas. Hire Michael Stackpole to flesh out the stories. Bring Drew Karpyshyn in, especially if these movies are set in the Old Republic period. There are plenty of talented writers who know this universe who could be used to help get this project off the ground and make it a classic. Speaking of which . . .

3) Don't confuse flash for substance. I think one of the chief problems with the prequels was the fact that so much of it was focused on the visual effects. Don't get me wrong, the effects were awesome and made the movies a lot of fun. But it was clear that Lucas's focus was on the sizzle, not the steak. The story is full of plotholes (which are fun to exploit at times), the characters are lackluster, and overall its disappointing. Make sure that whoever writes the script an craft a good story. Make sure whoever sits in the director's chair can say more than just, "Faster, more intense." Definitely don't get rid of the visual effects. Just use them to support the story, not overwhelm it.

4) Whatever you do . . . don't include Gungans, midichlorians, or characters from the original trilogy as children. That's just a bad idea all around.

But hey, what do I know? It's just a thought.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The New Recruit

Is it any wonder than I'm a Jill Williamson fan? It's not just because Jill is a good friend and my "agent sibling" (seeing as we're both represented by the awesome Amanda Luedeke). No, I'm a fan because of her writing. She's done it once again with The New Recruit.

Spencer Garmond is just an ordinary teenager. He loves playing basketball and yeah, he gets in trouble from time to time. But one of those times leads him to a difficult choice: he can either go to a private military school or he can join the Mission League, some sort of special service organization run by Christians (or "churchers," as Spencer refers to them). If he goes to the military school, that would mean the end of his budding basketball career. So he decides to check out the churcher's mission whatever.

That's when he learns that this is no ordinary mission trip. The Mission League is so much more. Soon Spencer finds himself heading to Russia, where he'll find himself caught up in the middle of an adventure that could completely destroy the Mission League from within. Will Spencer finally start to accept his calling? Or will the League's enemies finally bring it down?

I really enjoyed this book. It's not just because I received a free copy to review (which I did, but I bought a copy anyway. More on this in a bit). And it's not just because Jill is my friend. It's because once again, Jill created a rich world with some memorable characters. Spencer is a deep character with some very obvious flaws, and that's good. He's by no means perfect. I particularly like his discomfort at the churchers' behavior. That rang very true to me. I also appreciated the shorter chapters, which kept me reading the entire time and didn't let me off the hook.

My one complaint, and it's a minor one, is the sheer number of characters. A few of them blended together after a while and I couldn't keep them straight. But they were minor players in the overall story, so it wasn't an issue all that often.

At any rate, this is a great new book and you should definitely check it out. And I can help you there.

As I mentioned earlier, I received a free copy of this a few weeks back. Well, that was after I bought a copy at the ACFW National Conference. I'm not big on having doubles on my bookshelf, so let's give away one of them. If you comment below with your e-mail address disguised (such as email (at) domain (dot) com, y'know?), I'll pick a random reader out of a hat a week from now (that's right, on Halloween).

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Wool Omnibus

I love a great success story, and Wool - Omnibus Edition is certainly that.

Imagine a future where the only human survivors live inside an underground silo. There's a definite hierarchy to the silo. There's the up top and the down deep. There are rules and law, the chief of which is this: don't talk about the outside world. That kind of talk gets you sent out for a "cleaning." But what happens when a young woman from the down deep to be the silo's new sheriff. This upsets the status quo and threatens to tip the silo into absolute chaos.

I can't say much more than that due to spoilers and all that, but this was a fantastic read. Hugh Howey did a fantastic job of creating a believable world with some great characters. I felt completely immersed in the silo's world and there were times I wished I could join the story to help out. I had to keep reading.

What makes this even greater is that Howey is a publishing revolution success story. Howey published the first story in this omnibus as a stand alone short story via Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service. It became so popular that he wrote more stories and he's even sold the movie rights.

So if you want a good sci-fi, dystopian read, be sure to check this one out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Save the Date

Every now and then, I like to take a stroll outside of my geeky genres and read something a little different. So a few weeks ago, I decided to dip my toe into the waters of romance.

Don’t look at me like that.

Actually, I’ve wanted to read something by Jenny B. Jones for a while now. Jones usually writes Christian Young Adult books and I’ve heard that she’s hilarious (I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her officially, although I have seen her in the halls of my writing conferences). When I heard that she decided to publish an “adult” novel, I figured it might be worth checking out. Hence why I bought Save the Date.

Lucy is a geeky girl who runs a non-profit organization that helps rescue young women who are too old for the foster care system but too young to make it on their own. Alex Sinclair, a former professional quarterback and heir to a hotel fortune, is running for the Senate. You wouldn’t think the two of them would ever need the other’s help, but they do.

See, Lucy’s non-profit is running out of money and she’s in danger of losing her facilities. Alex is drowning in the polls and needs something to boost his numbers. So when the two of them run into each other at a gala hosted by Alex’s parents and the press jump to the conclusion that they’re dating, a revelation that helps Alex’s campaign, Alex hatches a plan: if Lucy will pretend to be his fiancĂ© up through the election, he’ll pay her the money she needs to keep her charity going.

Simple, right? Not exactly. There’s the fact that Lucy and Alex have a painful past together, even if he doesn’t remember it. There’s also the fact that Lucy’s ex-boyfriend has come back to town and is wanting to get back together. And both Lucy and Alex have problems that they’d rather not face.

This was an enjoyable read, a lot of fun. Like I said, it’s a bit outside of my wheelhouse, so to speak, but I still liked it enough to polish it off in a day or two. The faith content is strong and the writing is fun. The fact that Lucy is a geek particularly sealed the deal for me. So if you're a fan of the romantic genre, this might be one for you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

FTL: Faster than Light

The bane of my existence right now is Kickstarter. I actually have to stay off of it most days because I know that I'm going to find something that I like and I'll want to dump some money into supporting it. My particular weaknesses are the games, both board and computer. I want to get them all!

Case in point: FTL: Faster than Light. On the surface, it looks like a throwback to "simpler times." The graphics aren't complex. Neither is the sound. And yet, this game is a lot of addicting fun.

You are in charge of a starship, one with a vital mission. The Rebels are going to wipe out your government, but you have the battle plans that reveal the weakness of their massive flagship. You must get your plucky crew across a randomly generated galaxy to do battle with the flagship. While you go, you collect scrap, missiles, drone parts, and fuel. You upgrade your ship with new systems and weapons. You pick up Sounds easy? Guess again.

This game is hard. Extremely hard. As in, I've played this game dozens of times and only beaten it three or four times, and each time, it's surprised me. The enemy gets progressively harder, but the final boss is a beast. Worse, there's no way to save the game to go back if you make a mistake. There is a brutal learning curve to this game and it is still a blast. Ever since I backed FTL on Kickstarter, I've had access to the beta. The additional features that have snuck into the game as they worked on it has made it awesome. This is a great game and a challenging one to boot. It's worth the investment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Let's Cast Failstate!

One of the funny things that's happened since Failstate was published was that a rumor somehow got started that I had a movie deal in the works. I'm not sure how that got started, but several people (who don't know each other) have asked me about it. I suspect it might have something to do with the starred review that Publishers Weekly gave me back when the novel first released. The last lines of that review were:
Otte has a TV show full of sequel possibilities; here’s hoping.
And maybe that got twisted into "John has a movie deal in the works?" I don't know. That'd be awesome, but it hasn't happened yet. Hollywood, if you want to talk movie or TV deal, call me! Or my agent, actually.

Anyway. Earlier today, I spotted a blog post by author Rachel Coker (of whom I am intensely jealous; she was first published when she was 16. Although, come to think of it, the stuff that I was writing when I was 16 was garbage, so it's probably better I waited an additional 20 years to figure out what I was doing). Rachel mused about who she would cast in a movie adaptation of her book. I haven't read Interrupted yet (although it is in one of my to-be-read baskets and high on the list), so I can't comment on her choices one way or the other. But that got me to thinking.

What if, by some bizarre stroke of divine intervention, someone did want to make a big budget version of Failstate? Who would I want to play the roles?

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized . . . I have no idea.

Seriously. I suppose part of the problem is that I'm not up on teenage actors (or actors who can pass for teenagers). Or it could be a fault of my writing craft.

But still, it's fun to dream, so I'm inviting you to dream with me. Let's cast a hypothetical Failstate movie! If you've read the books, who do you think should play the characters?

Before we get started, let's establish one quick rule: the people you cast have to be actors who can play the role today. No "time machine" casting. As awesome as it would be to go back in time so we can cast a teenage Nathan Fillion as Failstate, the laws of physics blah blah blah.

So who do you see in those roles? Let me know!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Partials

This is one of those books that jumped off a bookstore shelf at me and screamed, "READ ME!" I have no idea why. I think I liked the cover. Huh. Anyway, I just finished reading Partials by Dan Wells.

At some point in the near future, humanity is teetering on the edge of extinction. Most of humanity was wiped out by a group of synthetic lifeforms called Partials when those artificial people rebelled against their human masters. Then, to make matters worse, the Partials unleashed the RM virus, an epidemic that wiped out the majority of the human survivors. Only a couple thousand are left, bunkered down on Long Island, trying desperately to survive. That's not easy, though. Every time the human survivors produce a new baby, the baby catches RM immediately and dies. The youngest human being just turned 14 and things are turning desperate. The Senate has lowered the mandatory pregnancy age to 18 and a lot of people are not happy about it.

This is the world that Kira finds herself in. She's about to turn 16 and she's training to be a medic in a hospital. When she learns that her "big sister" is pregnant, Kira vows to find a cure to the RM virus. And she strikes upon a wild idea: why not see how the Partials deal with the virus? This leads Kira and her friends on a desperate hunt to not only capture one of humanity's avowed enemies, but see if they can find a cure in record time. But Kira has to be careful, because she might learn more than she wanted.

This was a pretty good book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I found it interesting the way Wells described humanity's attempt to survive in a nearly abandoned part of what was New York City. For me, the most fascinating part was another of Kira's "sisters," Xochi, who was the music freak. She had gathered baskets full of MP3 players and had named them after the people who had monogrammed their names on them.

In some ways, the plot was a bit predictable. I had two of the twists pegged before they came. But that didn't diminish my enjoyment of this book. There appears to be a sequel in the works, and I, for one, can't wait to see where the adventure goes next.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Fuse of Armageddon

Fuse of Armageddon by Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaff left me feeling a bit conflicted.

Quinn Mulvaney is a private negotiator in Israel. He handles kidnappings and hostage situations for insurance companies. But then, he's caught up in a massive plot. A Palestinian terrorist has kidnapped a wealthy American televangelist, one who has long preached that America must support Israel, no matter what. Quinn is asked to negotiate with the terrorist, even though he has strong feelings about the man's fate. But by doing so, Quinn finds himself in the middle of a far larger plot, one that could embroil the entire world in a gigantic holy war. For powerful men are using the hostage situation to fulfill what they think are God's prophecies. Can Quinn stop the plot? Or will this whole situation kill him?

I really, really wanted to like this book. I really did. But in the end, it left me kind of flat. The characters are mostly unlikeable, including the main ones. The plot is a bit too convoluted, with schemes followed by counterplots and even more counterplots and even more counterplots, so many that the whole story seemed to collapse under their collective weight. And the whole thing is preachy. Oh my goodness, is it preachy. It bludgeons us over the head with the blunt end of its premise.

And yet, for all of its flaws, I think this is a book that should be read and have a far wider audience, simply because its message is so important. Fuse of Armageddon makes the important point that theology matters and can have devastating real world implications. In particular, Brouwer and Hanegraaff attempt to show the impact that dispensational premillennialism has had and can have on the Middle East, particularly the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

I've actually been talking about this a lot over at Speculative Faith. If you want to get caught up on the discussion, you can watch the video playlist. In short, I'm not a fan of dispensational premillennialism. I'm a strict and ardent amillennialist. And this book helps explain why I take it so seriously. End times theology can have a major impact on the way we view the world today and interact with it. That's why I think more people should read this book, if for no other reason than to think through some of the messier implications of what they could or do believe.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

What Can Videogames Teach Us About Backstory?

So earlier this week, I was a presenter at the NextGen Writer's Conference, an on-line conference for teenage writers. It was an absolute blast! Rather than just write a post, though, I decided to go all high-tech and do a video. And here it is:



This won't be the last videogame/writing related video you'll see from me, though. I have a few more ideas and, at future conferences, I'll be presenting more of them. And I'll always be sure to share in this little corner of the Web as well.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Memory Eater

In the interest of fairness, I helped write this book, so my review might be a little biased. But I finally got to read The Memory Eater, which was edited by Matthew Hance.

What if there was a device that could wipe out your memories? What would you want erased? What kind of havoc could the memory eater cause? Or are there instances where destroying memories would be helpful? Is it worth the risk? Would there be errors?

Fun premise, right? That's why I submitted my story, Satisfaction Guaranteed, to this anthology. After it was accepted, I was curious to see how other authors would approach the same subject.

And these are good stories. I liked some more than other, but that's only natural. I think my favorite, when it's all said and done, is Souvenirs from Another Life by Lauren C. Teffeau.

So if you've got some money, go ahead and get this one too. And enjoy some truly memorable stories.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Of Limited Loyalty

Michael Stackpole has always been one of my favorite authors to read. I "discovered" him because of his Star Wars novels, but I've come to enjoy his independent projects just as much, if not more so. That's certainly the case of Of Limited Loyalty, the sequel to At the Queen's Command.

In an alternate history, where magick exists, the colonies of Mystria have a new threat within them. Ian Rathfield has been sent by the Queen to investigate the rumors that a group of colonists have left the Crown's territories and have created a settlement called Postsylvania. Rathfield's job is to bring those errant colonists to heel. Prince Vlad, the Governor-General of the Mystrian colonies, sends Owen Strake, Nathaniel Woods, and Kamiskwa with Rathfield to guide him.

Things go off the rails for the expedition for several reasons. First of all, the Postsylvania colony is using forbidden magick, making them heretics. Not only that, but apparently the folks of Postsylvania have awoken an ancient threat, one that will not tolerate the Mystrian colonies.

But it's not just the threat to the west that has our heroes worried. Prince Vlad is being put under pressure by the grasping Bishop Bumble, who suspects the prince of meddling in forbidden powers. And Owen Strake is having trouble with his wife, Catherine, who doesn't want to live in the colonies but would rather be home in Norisle.

All of this pales, though, when that ancient evil stirs and threatens to destroy everything.

I really enjoyed this book. Stackpole's alternate version of the American colonies is really cool. When I read the first book, I wished that Stackpole would explore the relationship between magick users and the Church a bit more and I got what I asked for. There's an intriguing conspiracy brewing in this world that I can't wait to see more fully developed in the next book.

My only gripe (if you can call it that) is the almost anticlimactic nature of the final confrontation with the aforementioned ancient evil. I suspected that they would be the main baddies, so to speak, for this story and that they would become a permanent part of the story. But it doesn't feel like that at the end. I could be wrong, and I'm really not complaining. This was a good read and a lot of fun.

But I do have to say that I feel sorry for Owen Strake. I'm really hoping things get resolved for him soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Let's start right off the bat (pun not intended) by saying that this post is not about what happened in Aurora. That is an unspeakable and, in some ways, unexplainable tragedy. It's never wise to start pointing fingers and assigning blame so quickly (as some people have felt the need to do). I suspect that the shooter's motivation is a lot more complex than a simple, one-word answer, such as "guns" or "Hollywood" or whatever. For those of us on the outside looking in, the best thing we can do is offer support to those in need and join the ancient prayer of "Kyrie, eleison." Lord, have mercy.

With that out of the way, let's talk about The Dark Knight Rises.

I went to see it Thursday night as part of a movie marathon. I got to the theater at 6:00 so I could watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before the final movie kicked off at 12:01 am. As much as I'm paying for that now (I got to bed at 3:30; not a wise choice), I think that helped keep the other two movies fresh in my mind.

So what's the plot of this one? Well, it's several years after the events of The Dark Knight. Inspired by the legend of Harvey Dent (and blissfully kept in the dark about the monster he eventually became), the citizens of Gotham City have cleaned up their act. Crime is down, people are feeling more prosperous, and everything is coming up roses. For the most part. Sure, there are still the poor and downtrodden, but they're mostly out of sight.

Not everything has gone well for Bruce Wayne, however. He's become something of a recluse, hiding in the rebuilt Wayne Manor, his body slowly falling apart from his time as a vigilante. It would take something major for him to rejoin society and don the cape and cowl once again.

That something is Bane, a terrorist with a very odd mask. Bane is the leader of a mercenary group, one that is suicidally loyal to him. He comes to Gotham armed with a complex plan with a simple goal: level the playing field for everyone. And then kill everyone.

Thrown into the mix is a cat burglar named Selina Kyle and you've got a great movie, one that kept my attention all the way through.

Were there bad parts? Yeah, a few. I wasn't entirely enamored with Bane and his headgear. It wasn't just the fact that he sounded like he had a Darth Vader noise machine wired in there. Tom Hardy's choice of accent (whatever it was) threw me off for a while and there were times when his voice was hard to understand. And while I get Christopher Nolan's decision to not mention the Joker out of respect for Heath Ledger, that silence didn't fit the story all that well. That's my grubby little opinion, but there you go.

But there were plenty of surprises in the movie. I, for one, was pleasantly surprised by Anne Hathaway. I seem to have something of a blind spot for her. When I heard she was playing Selina Kyle, my immediate reaction was, "Really? The girl from The Princess Diaries?" But I think Hathaway did an excellent job. She captured Selina Kyle's playfulness, cleverness, and ferocity in a way that worked.

There were also two surprise twists that I didn't see coming, although I should have seen the first one. I mean, I know the Batman mythos fairly well. I should have seen through the smokescreen that Nolan set up around some of the characters to realize what was truly going on. But instead, I swallowed the deception and chalked it up to "artistic license," which made the reveal a lot more fun. The second twist, I didn't see it coming and laughed out loud when it happened. If you've seen the movie, it's the one that happened right before the ending.

And can I say how much I loved Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this too? Simply awesome.

So I'd say that this is a film worth watching, a great non-superhero superhero flick that really wrapped up Nolan's trilogy well. I've read rumors that Warner Brothers is already starting plans for a Batman reboot. I would not want to work on that movie, because Nolan has left some mighty huge shoes to fill.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

You know, I used to do more on this blog than just review books and whine report on my writing endeavors. I used to talk about movies and video games and occasionally music. I have no idea why I got away from that. It's not like I stopped going to the movies or stopped playing video games. I'm thinking I should rectify that. Starting tonight. Which is appropriate since I just got back from seeing The Amazing Spider-Man.

Okay, honestly, do I have to do a plot summary? We've been there, done that. Radioactive spider, new found powers, yadda yadda yadda. The origin story is pretty much the same as the last go 'round with Tobey Maguire. As a matter of fact, I was one of the people who originally shook my head in dismay over the fact that Hollywood was rebooting the franchise so shortly after unleashing the steaming pile that was Spider-Man 3 upon the world. But then I started hearing good things about it. And, I have to admit, I'm a sucker for superheroes. Go figure.

So let's talk about what's different in this movie. We see Peter Parker's parents. They've disappeared for some reason, leaving him with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (wonderfully played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field). Mary Jane Watson is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it's Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone) who causes our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler's heart to go pitter pat.

And Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man? Wow. Awesome. You can tell he gets the character.

Anyway, the plot centers around Dr. Curt Connors, a scientist at Os Corp who dreams of fixing people through interspecies genetic engineering. For example, using lizard DNA on patients who have lost limbs. Sort of like how Connors is missing an arm.

So, yeah, in some ways, the plot is a little predictable, especially if you're familiar with the characters that inhabit Spidey's world. But at the same time, the filmmakers took some great liberties with the origin story. Some things were missing (such as J. Jonah Jameson, but after the way JJ was played J. K. Simmons, no way I'd want to follow in his Hitler 'stache). The story was simply great.

The acting was awesome as well. I'd take Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy over Kirsten Dunst's MJ any day . . .

. . . that sounded a lot better in my head. I mean Emma Stone did a fantastic job as Gwen.

And may I say, this movie has almost convinced me that 3D movies are okay. I normally don't like springing for glasses for a movie that doesn't quite need 3D. Watching Spidey swing around New York in 3D is worth the extra buck or two.

All in all, this was a great movie. I'm not sure it edged out The Avengers as my favorite superhero movie to date, but it came pretty close to doing so.

I'll be throwing out more reviews as the weeks go by. But for now, go check out this movie. It's worth it.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wordcount . . .

. . . never mind. I won't call it a "Wordcount Wednesday" two days late.

So I haven't added any new words just yet. I spent the last week or so reading Failstate #2 (I still don't have any idea what I want to call this thing). Thankfully, I've come to realize it's not the mess I thought it was. There's a fun story in there after all. I'm actually quite relieved to learn that.

I still think some stuff is missing, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that, when I first wrote Failstate, I hit kind of an interesting snag. For some reason, I wrote that story in such a way that the plot would only have been possible if a week had eight days in it. In this blog post, I detailed how I created a calendar and, using Post-It notes, figured out the chronology.

This time around, I realized that I didn't have an eight day week to worry about. Instead, a lot of the events happened in what you might call a temporal vacuum. With very few exceptions, I didn't ground the scenes into a discernable timeline. Days were just scattered through the story and that really didn't work. So, once again, I got out the calendar sheets and started to work.

Here's before:


If you look at that mass in the top page, that's part of what I'm talking about. A lot of scenes with no discernible anchor points. I basically wrote down chapter numbers and a brief, one or two word description of the action for reference. Like last time, I wound up with an "orphaned" chapter, one that needs to be slipped in somewhere.

After putting together the mess, I sat down and took a closer look at what I had. I tried to keep in mind some of the "missing pieces" that I noticed, stuff that needed to be put into the story to make it flow a little better. This is how the calendar looks now:



So there we have it. The purple Post-Its represent new scenes or chapters that have to be written. So all in all, not too bad.

There were a lot of victims in the process, though. I cut several scenes that just didn't do much of anything, including about 7,500 words in one gigantic axing.

The next step is to start work on the notes I've taken and see how this all gets stitched together. Onward and upward!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

Or Thursday, I guess. Technically. If you want to be technical.

I want to be asleep right now. I should have gone to bed a while ago, but I didn't. And I'm glad I didn't. I'll pay for it in the morning, but I am pleased to announce:

Failstate #2 is in the can.

I just put the final words to the page. The epilogue is done. And this monster weighs in at 118,247 words. For those playing at home, Failstate is about 100,000 words. So the sequel is going to need to slim and trim down a bit.

But not now. Now I plan to go to bed.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Sapphique

After reading Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, I was really looking forward to reading Sapphique. With its living prison, memorable characters, and strange, other-wordly vibe, I figured this was going to be a wild ride. And it was.

I just don't have a clue as to what actually happened here.

The story picks up where the first book left off. Finn has escaped from the living prison, Incarceron, only to find himself trapped in a different prison. Is he the lost Prince Giles, like Claudia, the daughter of Incarceron's Warden, believes? Could he really be the heir to the throne? And what about Finn's friends, Keiro and Attia, still trapped inside the Prison? What about the political machinations of Queen Sia's court, trapped forever in an illusion of a time long gone. And what of Incarceron itself? What strange plot is it hatching?

I finished reading this book a few days ago and I'm still stumped by it. I have a feeling that "something significant" happened in this book, that Fisher is trying to say something deep about humanity and junk, but for the life of me, I can't decode it. It was an okay book, I suppose, but everything got started so suddenly that I was left wondering if I missed something.

All in all, this book didn't recapture the magic of the first one. It was a fun read, but nothing memorable.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

Okay, I am in so much trouble right now.

Let me explain why. As of tonight, Failstate #2 is at 90,579 words. That means I added 11,840 words this week. That's awesome!

Except I'm supposed to be wrapping this up. And I'm pretty sure I'm nowhere near the end yet.

Buckle up, folks. This next week is going to interesting.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

And things were going so well, too.

This week, things kind of slowed to a crawl. I was able to write 4,865 words, bringing the grand total of Failstate #2 to 78,739 words. Wow. Not good.

But I do have some excuses. Want to hear them?

Too bad, I'm going to give them anyway.

Part of it was the long weekend. I was out of town with family and that didn't give me a whole lot of time to write.

But more importantly, I wound up hitting a wall last Wednesday. I'd gotten up to the point where I'd figured everything out and then said, "Well, now what?" And I had no idea. So I had to take a little bit of a break to figure out what needed to happen in the last several thousand words. I wrote out a list and that seems to have cleared the logjam.

So clearly, I won't be meeting my self-imposed deadline. But that's okay. Because I think the end is in sight.

Of course, that's what I said almost two years ago when I was writing the first Failstate. Hopefully I won't half-life it this time also.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Daystar

This is the end, my friends. The incredible journey that started with Firebird wraps up in Kathy Tyers' latest epic, Daystar. It's been a wild ride, so let's review:

The Firebird universe is one in which God's people were exiled from their home planet because of their illicit genetic engineering. They tried to make themselves gods by giving themselves telepathic and telekinetic abilities, to name a few. In the cataclysm that drove them from their world, the Eternal Speaker commanded them to protect the non-altered humans they found. And He also promised them that He would eventually send them a Savior through one particular family. Up until the last book, we've followed different members of that family as they try to struggle with the prophecies surrounding them.

But now the time has come. The long-promised Boh-Dabar has come. And he's come to a galaxy that desperately needs him. Non-altered humanity is turning against the Sentinels (the genetically altered people) and are threatening to wipe them out. Caught in the middle of this is Meris Cariole, a normal human who finds herself trapped on the Sentinel Sanctuary planet. She finds herself on stage for one of the greatest dramas ever. But will she see the truth that's speaking to her? Or will she hold on to her own selfish teachings.

This was a great read. I'll admit, I was a bit intimidated by the heft of the story. The book clocks in at a little over 600 pages, which had me worried. But once I got into the story, I was hooked. I had to find out what was going to happen next as evil forces conspired to destroy the Sentinels. I was particularly delighted to see the return of Firebird and Brennan. They were conspicuously absent from the previous book, Wind and Shadow, and I didn't realize how much I missed them until I saw them in this book.

I also loved the way that Tyers tied in so many little details from the previous four books, especially Wind and Shadow. That one didn't sit so well with me for some reason, but seeing how it tied into this one makes me want to go back and read it again.

I have two minor quibbles with the story, and they are minor. First of all, there were a few problems with predictability. This is basically a retelling of Jesus' story but on a galactic scale. As a result, I saw a few things coming. That's not necessarily a bad thing per se, but there you go.

The other was the odd way that the book ended. I mean, I get it, but I was surprised at how . . . compressed? . . . everything turned out to be. I get the reason why, it just struck me as odd.

But this is a great book. I know I'll have to pull out the Firebird books again and reread them all in the future. In some ways, though, it's sad that the journey is over. It would have been fun to keep traveling in this fabulous universe.

Failstate Blog Tour!

Yesterday, Team Novel Teen did a blog tour for Failstate. You know how people show you pictures of their kid? Well, I'm posting links to the blogs that participated. Because I'm egocentric like that. :D

ADDLibrarian said,"Robin, aka Failstate,  is a Fantastic character, and Otte really nails the male teen psyche in a way that can be rare in Christian fiction."

Bookworm said, "Holy Cow, what a book! Okay, there have only been a few books that pull me in as this one did to the point of ignoring those around me."

Jessica at my story shelf said, "Failstate is a great start to a series that both guys and girls will enjoy. Now, bring on the movie!"

Jill Williamson did a two-parter. She interviewed me and did a review today, in which she said, "Now, this is what has been missing from bookstore shelves! John Otte’s Failstate combines mystery, action, humor, romance, and faith all in one rip-roaring superhero tale."

 And over at Virtuous Girlhood, Miss RJ had this suggestion: "And to any moms reading this? If you have teenage children then you need to buy this book for them. I promise you that they will love it."

This was a blast! Thanks, Team Novel Teen! Thanks for all of your kind words and I'm glad you enjoyed Failstate.

Have you enjoyed it recently? ;)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

So here we are, ladies and gentlemen, with a little over a week left in the month, I've made it to 73,874 words, meaning that I was able to write 13,227 words this week. That's getting better, but I'm still unsure that I'll make it by the end of the month, especially with Memorial Day Weekend coming up. But that's okay. I'll make it eventually.

Provided I can find my way out of the corner I'm in now. I seem to keep finding them in this manuscript.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Daughter of Light

I almost feel silly writing a review for Daughter of Light by Morgan L. Busse. I feel like a latecomer to the party because USA Today did a review earlier this month. But hey, I've never been one to back down from a bad idea, so here goes:

Rowen Mar is a young lady in a small village in the Ryland Plains. She was left on the doorstep of a villager when she was a child and because of that, she's never fit in. But then, after a bout of sickness, Rowen finds a strange mark on her hand. Even more bizarre, when she touches the village blacksmith, she sees visions of the darkness inside him. This gets her branded as a witch and she has to leave the only home she's ever known.

Rowen soon finds herself in the White City, her country's capital, and thrust into the middle of an adventure. Her kingdom's enemies are on the march, both the armies of their southern neighbor and a restless evil as well. What will happen when Rowen learns of her destiny? How will that affect the many people around her, people she's come to love?

This was a pretty good book overall. Morgan created a sympathetic character in Rowen, strong and capable and yet messed up because of her past (a tough trick to pull off well, which she did). It's obvious that she's spent some time building her world and the characters and people are fascinating to read about. I wish she had spent a little more time setting up some of the concepts. For example, the Avonains' connection to the sea seemed to come out of nowhere and it's so fascinating, I wish she had spent a little more time examining it.

My one complaint about this book is that in many ways, this one felt like a prologue to the true story yet to come. While there is a complete story in Daughter of Light, many of the subplots were left unresolved for future books. I'm not sure what could have been done differently and maybe I'm the only one who felt that way, but there you go.

But I am looking forward to future additions to this series. It should be a fun ride.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

You ever experience an epiphany? I needed one, and boy, did I get one earlier this week.

As I've said, I've been working on the sequel to Failstate. It is, as of yet, untitled. I'm working on it. Well, not really. That's not important. What is important is this: I was feeling a bit stuck, a little bit blocked. I was writing a few thousand words here, a few thousand words there, but it felt very much like I was spinning my wheels and not going anywhere. I knew what the story was supposed to be. I knew what needed to happen. But for some reason, something that I couldn't put my finger on, I knew something wasn't right. I was missing something.

The maddening thing was this: I had no idea what I was missing. I had no idea if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere in the plot. I had no idea if I had made a major mistake somewhere along the line. Just this persistent feeling of "wrongness."

But then I had an epiphany. And it's thanks to, in large part, sleep deprivation.

This past Friday, our church had a youth lock-in. I didn't stay for the whole thing. Instead, I went in late, played a game called Underground Church with the kids, learned a game from them called "Ninja" (apparently quite popular in our local high school), and played another game with them called The Werewolves of Millers Hollow. I didn't get home until 2:30. My mind didn't shut off until 3:30.

Needless to say, when I got up at 7:00 the next morning, I was tired.

In that state of sleep deprivation, I tried writing. Didn't go so well at first. But then, with half of my brain shut off and desperately craving sleep, I had the epiphany. I realized what was wrong.

I was missing a bridge.

I don't want to go too much into the plot right now because, hey, I'm in the middle of my first draft and things are in flux. But for a long time, the plot of the story was feeling a bit disconnected. There are two distinct . . . well, phases to the plot. And while I thought I had found a way to link them together, I really hadn't.

On Saturday, I realized what the bridge had to be. It was right there in front of me the whole time. I just hadn't spotted it.

And that's all it took. My "muse" is humming along. I'm feeling the desperate need to write. And my wordcount shows it.

Right now, Failstate #2 is at 60,647 words, meaning that I've been able to add 11,957 words this week. Holy cow! I'm almost tempted to keep writing right now to break the 12k mark.

In spite of that, though, I'm still a little worried. My self-imposed deadline of May 31st is looming large and I have a lot of ground to cover yet. And I'm also a bit worried about different details of the plot. I'm not sure I'm doing them all justice. Oh well. Time will tell.

Maybe I'll have another epiphany along the way.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sons of Thunder

It's been a while since I've read a book for just simple pleasure. Long story, don't ask. And to be completely honest, I didn't go into reading this book with entirely pure motives. See, every month, I review a book for our church's newsletter. But due to my tastes, a lot of the fiction I read tends to be . . . well, weird. And that's not the only kind of fiction that my parishioners want to read.

Then, a few months back, I noticed that Susan May Warren's book Sons of Thunder was free for the Kindle. I snagged it since it wasn't spec fic and also because it had just won the Carol Award for Long Historical. Well, I just realized I have to write a review of a book for this next newsletter and I figured, Well, no time like the present. I got out my Kindle and I started reading. I'm glad I did. It's easy to see why this book won the Carol. It is excellent.

The book follows the story of two Greek brothers, Markos and Dino Stavros from the island of Zante. Due to a scandal, Markos and Dino must flee their home with a young woman named Sophie. They head for America and try to start a new life in safety. But problems follow them as they try to make that life in Chicago during the time of Prohibition and then in Minneapolis at the start of World War II. It seems as though trouble will continue to follow them no matter where they go. Ultimately, they realize their need for God and the healing that only He can bring.

Like I said, this was an excellent book. Warren wove in a great deal of historical details, including references to two famous figures in the early part of the book. And while there was definite "preaching" in the book, it never got to the point of overwhelming or where it felt tacked on. It flowed naturally from what the characters were doing and experiencing. On top of that, Warren expertly created mood pieces using words, augmenting the story with her descriptions.

In short, if you want a great historical novel set in World War II, this is a good one for you.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

So I'm starting to make good progress. Failstate #2 (great working title, huh?) is now at 48,690 words. That's an additional 7,801 words. I'm almost at the halfway point. And I'm even feeling a bit better about the story.

But I'm also running out of time, I think. I need to get this done by the end of May. Will I? At this point, I have no idea. Keep watching, true believers. The next few weeks are going to be interesting.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

So here we are, a week later, and Failstate #2 is weighing in at 40,889 words, meaning that in the past week, I've added 6,513 words. That's good. I've managed to eke out a little more. Not quite as many as I had hoped, but it's a step in the right direction.

My problem is this: I'm not feeling great about what's happening in the story. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something feels off right now. I don't know if I'm suffering from a tiny bit of writers' block or if my subconscious is trying to tell me something. Hard to say. I guess the only thing I can do is keep working and hope that I'll break through it soon.

Until next week, then!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Video Book Review of Failstate

Have you seen this yet?



Wow. Five Bible Man masks. That's a bit humbling.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

Again, not a lot of forward progress. Right now, my WIP is at 34,376 words. That means that over the past week, I've added 5,238 words to the manuscript. That's a little better than last week, but not good enough. Hopefully once things have slowed down a bit in summer, I'll be able to do better.

So what am I working on? Glad you asked. I know I've been keeping mum on what this WIP is for a while, but the news kind of broke on Facebook earlier today. My extremely wonderful agent, Amanda Luedeke, reported this little tidbit:

John Otte's books 2 and 3 FAILSTATE series, in which the teenage superhero battles a horde of superhero zombies (book 2) and uncovers the mystery behind the reappearance of fellow superhero Lux (book 3), to Jeff Gerke at Marcher Lord Press, in a nice deal, for publication in 2013, by Amanda Luedeke at MacGregor Literary.
That's right, my current WIP is book #2 about Failstate. And that's right. Superpowered zombies. This is going to be fun.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

So I'm doing a little better. Over the last week, I've added 5,051 words, bringing my grand total to 29,138 words. Like I said, a little better, but not good enough. I think part of my problem is that I was writing a chapter that didn't quite feel right. It bogged me down.

I still can't reveal much about what the story is, but it's still proving to be fun. Hopefully I'll be able to do better this coming week.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Ending: Choices and Theme

A few weeks ago, I posted a video here about the controversy surrounding the Mass Effect 3 ending. Well, it looked like so much fun, I decided to make one of my own.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

Okay, so I seem to be a little lost right now.

Or maybe a better metaphor is I've hit a wall. A big one.

My current WIP feels a bit stalled out. I know where I need to get to, but I'm not sure what path to take. Add to that Holy Week, and I haven't been making much progress. Since the last time I've checked in, I've written 3,318 words, bringing the grand total up to 24,087 words. That's . . . not good.

Someone want to hand me a chisel? Or at least a well-worn rock hammer? I need to kick this in gear and get moving.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Books!

Holy cow! This has been an exciting week.

For starters, Failstate has released! It actually became available for purchase this past Saturday, which was technically a day early, but that's still cool! As of right now, there's really only one way to order the book, which is directly from the publisher. So if you want to get your hands on my debut novel, head on over to Marcher Lord Press and get your copy now! If you need any extra persuasion to do so, check out what Publishers Weekly had to say about it. It's the first starred review a Marcher Lord Press book has ever received. For those of you with e-readers, the ebook version will release soon, but for now, you can get my debut novel shipped to you in a few days!

But that's not all the publishing news that I have. Far from it.

Today also marks the start of the Memory Eater Kickstarter campaign. A few months back, I saw a notice saying that someone was putting together a short story anthology that centered around a device that could erase memories. That sparked my imagination and I set to work on two short stories for it. One didn't make it in, but "Satisfaction Guaranteed" did!

After the editor had put together the anthology, he shopped it around to a few houses. In the end, he chose to use the Kickstarter website to finance the anthology's release. For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it's a way for artists, authors, filmmakers, game developers, and others to find financing for their projects. You can contribute as much or as little as you want and you usually get cool rewards for doing so.

So if you want, please head over to the Memory Eater Kickstarter page and consider contributing some money to the project. If you contribute enough, you can get a physical copy of the book. I've already thrown in my support, please join me!

And finally, let's not forget about the Spirited anthology! Quite a while ago, a friend of mine sent me word about this YA short story anthology, a collection of spooky stories. I wrote one entitled "The Night Queen," a story about a wrecked spaceship and the folks who try to salvage it. It was my first attempt at "spooky."

Anyway, all the proceeds go to 826 National, a literacy charity. You can purchase this one for your Nook or Kindle. Or you can order a physical copy of the book if you want. No matter what, the proceeds go to a worthy cause.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Ending: Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage

Sometimes on Friday, I dump in silly little videos that have amused me in some way, shape, or form. Other times, they're videos that have gotten me thinking.

This time, it's a video about a video game.

If you read my review about Mass Effect 3, you know that I'm not entirely pleased with that game's ending. Neither are a lot of the fans. People have been trying to explain why and how to fix things for a while now. Well, I found a video this week that does just that.

A few caveats: there are spoilers aplenty. The video is over a half hour long. And there's some salty language in here. But after watching this video, I'm pretty much in agreement with just about everything this guy says. He breaks down the problems cleanly and points to how it could be so much better.

I doubt anyone from BioWare will find my little corner of the Internet. But if they do, watch this, please. And think about it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Incarceron

The Prison is alive.

Claudia is a young girl about to be forced into an arranged marriage for political reasons. She's only in that position, though, because her father is the Warden of Incarceron, a massive yet secret prison that no one has seen in centuries.

Finn is a prisoner in Incarceron, and yet he's convinced that he came from Outside. No one believes him; no one has come from Outside in years. And yet he has memories, dreams, and visions of the stars.

When both Claudia and Finn find objects in their worlds that allow them to speak to one another, they realize that they are exactly what the other one needs: a way to escape their individual confinement.

The only problem is, Finn's prison is alive and it does not want to give up what it believes is its own.

Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher, was a fun read. She did a fantastic job of worldbuilding. On the one hand, we have the interior of Incarceron, a living machine that is intent on keeping its prisoners in check. On the other hand, we have Outside, a world ruled by Protocol and trapped in an Era gone by, where high technology is forbidden (but everyone uses it anyway). The characters were memorable as well, especially Finn and Claudia.

The only downside is that Fisher telegraphed one of the reveals very early, so I had put together some of the pieces before the characters did. But that actually wasn't all that bad. The characters caught up with me quickly and the entire story was a fun, imaginative romp.

What really intrigued me was the almost Christian overtones to parts of this book, stuff that centered around the mysterious Sapphique, the only person to ever escape from Incarceron (at least, that's what the Prisoners believe). I don't know how that plotline will develop in the future, but I'm willing to read the next book to find out. I don't have it yet, but hopefully I will soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

Okay, so I still don't have any forward momentum to report. This week has been spent getting ready for the release of Failstate. Doing edits, looking over galleys, freaking out and curling up in a corner . . .

Um, I mean . . . doing manly things. Yes, that's what I've been doing.

Oh, well. It releases soon, people! And here's the last of the book trailers to whet your appetite.

CSFF Blog Tour: Happy Trails

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I usually try to post all three days of a blog tour. And I wish I could say that I had some dynamite content for the third day of the Night of the Living Dead Christian blog tour. Unfortunately, I don't have any such content (dynamite or otherwise) for this month.

Instead, I'm posting to say good-bye, farewell, amen.

No, I'm not shutting down my blog. I'll still continue to share stuff about my writing and the books that I'm reading. But in recent months, it seems like I'm being stretched more and more thin. I've come to the sad realization that something has to give and, after a lot of consideration, I've come to the conclusion that the first thing to give is my participation in this blog tour.

I want to make this clear: I've loved my time with all of you. I've been exposed to some phenomenal fiction because I've participated. I would not change anything that's happened for the world.

But this is the end, my friends. I hope all of you continue to help share the good word about the good books that populate the Christian speculative fiction genre. God's richest blessings to all of you!