Thursday, May 16, 2013

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop #25

Welcome to the 2013 Summer Scavenger Hunt! This hunt has 32 stops and runs 5/17-5/19/13. If you make the loop, reading unique content from 31 different authors, and fill out the Rafflecopter form at Stop #32, you'll be in the running for an iPad Mini (loaded with all our books), or one of two runner-up prizes---all 31 of our new releases in paperback.

Some authors are offering additional prizes, so be sure to read each post thoroughly to be in the running for everything that's available. The contest is open internationally too!

If you've JUST discovered the hunt, I recommend you start at Stop #1, found at But you can also begin here, and keep rolling. Just be aware that if you win, you need to email Lisa Bergren (within 24 hours) the COMPLETED phrase in the correct order (which you construct by gathering clues at each stop). If Lisa doesn't hear back from you with the correct phrase within the time limit, she will move on to the next winner that Rafflecopter draws. Ready? Here we go...

Meet Jill Williamson

Jill Williamson is my personal hero when it comes to writing, and she's a great friend. I first discovered her work when Marcher Lord Press published her Blood of Kings trilogy (By Darkness HidTo Darkness Fled, From Darkness Won). Then I met her at an American Fiction Christian Writers conference, where she pitched my debut novel, Failstate, to her agent, Amanda Luedeke. Simply put, Jill is awesomeness personified!

Haven't heard of Jill before? Here's her official bio:

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens and lives in Oregon with her husband, two children, and a whole lot of deer. Visit Jill online at, where adventure comes to life.

Personally, I'm in awe at the amount of detail and forethought that Jill puts into worldbuilding. It's not an easy trick, creating a new reality from scratch. When Jill does it, you can tell that she's put a lot of hard work and effort into it. And today, she's going to "pull back the curtain," so to speak, and show us how she does it. So, without further ado:

Creating the Future by Jill Williamson

Ever read a book that transports you to the future? That was the challenge I faced when working on my latest novel Captives, which is a dystopian story that takes place in the year 2088. I needed to create a futuristic storyworld that felt real. Here's how I did it.

1. I drew a map.

Maps always get my imagination going. Captives takes place in the future in what was once the ski resort of Mount Crested Butte, Colorado. So, I started with an actual map of the ski resort and added my futurist city. This way I was able to meld the past with my imaginary future. Lots of cool story ideas came from this map. Click on it to zoom in.

 2. I wrote a history for a controlling government that's hiding a secret.

Dystopian novels are cautionary tales in that they take fears from our real world and make them a fictional reality. I had a head start in this area because I already knew what I wanted my storyworld to be like. And it was all Beth Moore's fault! Want to know why? Check this out: 

Once I knew I was writing a futuristic Babylon, I wrote a history of how the Safe Lands came to be such a place. The important thing to remember when creating any fictional government, as dastardly as they might seem, they really do believe they are doing the right thing for the survival of their people. If they're just plain evil for no reason, the story won't feel as realistic.

3. I created technology.

This took some work, and I thank my Facebook followers for helping me brainstorm. Glass can project any image in The Safe Lands, as can human skin. I created SimTags, which are microchips that people can get embedded into their skin to create SimArt, which are virtual tattoos. Also, since everyone is sick, they use personal vaporizers (which are like electronic cigarettes) to take their meds or any other substance like stimulants or candy.

It was pretty fun to make up this stuff, and the combination of it all helped bring the storyworld to life. Check out the official book trailer my publisher made to see what I mean.

Jill's new book, Captives, is simply awesome. Young people have been kidnapped from their homes and taken to an ironically named city, the Safe Lands. But those lands are anything but safe. Can the victims make it home again? Or will the Safe Lands be the end of the road? (I've already read it and loved it!) It is available at bookstores or online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, and at a bookstore near you.

Captives The Safe Lands


Write down this clue: through
Have it written down? Great! Now head on over to Jill Williamson's website for your next clue!

But wait! For stopping by, I have a special bonus for you!

A few years back, some friends of mine (the folks of Tangled Blue) recorded a  special song, On What Has Now Been Sown, for the release of my first book, Failstate. Well, I'd like to share that song with you. Just click here and fill out the form, and you'll get your free music. It's really, really fun group and I highly suggest you check them out.

Thanks for stopping by!

Star Trek Into Darkness

Hoo boy. Here we go. Earlier today, I sat down to watch Star Trek Into Darkness, and now I'm trying to process exactly what it is I saw.

Let's start with the plot. Captain James Kirk and company are back. Kirk is hoping that he'll be selected to head up a certain five year mission, one that will take him into deep space and go where no one has ever gone before. Only there's a problem. Actually, more than one. At first, the fly in the ointment is Kirk himself. He still hasn't learned how to follow the rules, much to the chagrin of his first officer, Mr. Spock. An adventure on a primitive planet threatens to derail Kirk's dreams.

But then things really go awry when a man named John Harrison attacks a Starfleet archive. But then he makes things personal for Kirk when he attacks Starfleet's leadership directly. Kirk volunteers to go after Harrison. But that's a problem. Harrison should be far out of their reach. By going after him, Kirk is committing his crew to delve into darkness and they'll all be fortunate to emerge unscathed.

I had a really fun time watching this movie. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto embody their characters to the fullest (Quinto especially; it's eerie). Those two are definitely the heart and soul of the movie and they are more than capable of carrying the franchise forward. The action sequences were great, the plot had plenty of twists and turns, and there were more than a few subtle nods inserted for the fans (I caught two in quick succession that made me smile, two shout outs to DS9 and Enterprise).

But as much as I enjoyed this movie, I'm still a little frustrated by it, but before I get into why, I need to trot out my old friend again...

Okay. I've seen this particular plot point spoiled in numerous places (I'm looking at you, imdb and Entertainment Weekly), but let's talk about who John Harrison really is. Yes, it's a front and yes, if you're a Trekkie, you're going to know who this guy is. When I heard who Benedict Cumberbatch was really playing, I about went through the roof.

My first objection had to do with the continuity of the larger Star Trek universe. Yes, I know these movies are set in an alternate reality, but even still, I had a hard time wrapping my mind about how Harrison could really be . . . him. I'm sorry, even with Godzilla warning people off, I'm still not going to say the name. Thankfully, this objection was answered somewhat handily. They came up with a good "in story" reason and I accept their little tweak to the storyline. It works.

But my larger objection is that, in some ways, this is a retread. By resurrecting a classic Trek villain, we're just covering old ground again. Now, in some ways, I get it. This new movie series is a reboot and that makes everything fair game. But at the same time, I kind of wish we could have seen something a little newer. That's all.

Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun. I can't wait to see what's coming next.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Wordcount Wednesday

I'm just going to say this now: I hate the flu. Despise it. I got nailed with it twice this past week. It took me out of commission for two days and then again this past weekend. As a result, I've been having some trouble bouncing back. I still managed to do some writing, but again, not enough.

As of right now, Failstate #3 is at 53,087 words. That's only 4,180 more than last week. I'll have to step it up some more if I can.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Son of Truth

Rowen Mar and Caleb Tala are back in Son of Truth by Morgan Busse, a book that helps set up what can only be an epic confrontation in the final chapters.

When we last left them, Rowen had wiped out the invading Temanin army, thus saving the White City from destruction. But she also confronted and awakened something in the Temanin assassin, Caleb Tala.

Now both Rowen and Caleb have new challenges to face. Rowen, for example, has received a call for help from the distant city of Thyra. In the last book, an evil called the Shadonae has overrun the city and its Monastery, sending the soon-to-be scribe named Nierne to seek help from the Eldarans. Since Rowen is the last living Eldaran (that she knows of), she agrees to go with Nierne and fight this force of evil, even if it does mean leaving the rugged Lore Palancar behind. But the journey is not easy and takes and unexpected turn. Rowen must sacrifice something great to save her companions, something that might change her life forever.

Caleb, in the meantime, must come to grips with the fact that he's a changed man. He's no longer the ruthless assassin he once was. His experience with Rowen has revealed a completely different world to him, one that he barely understands. Maybe Nierne could help him understand his role, but Nierne is a constant reminder of the man he used to be, one that he's not comfortable remembering.

I really enjoyed this book. I think it's little surprise that Morgan is a 2013 Christy finalist for Daughter of Light. She is an extremely skilled writer and I loved losing myself in this world once again. Morgan has created some fantastic characters and concepts.

My one gripe (and it's a small one!) is that this book is more of a bridge than a complete tale in itself. It's obvious that there's another story to come. That's not a problem per se, but I wished that the book had it's own self-contained tale.

That didn't truly diminish my enjoyment, though. I can't wait to see how this epic tale concludes!

Friday, May 03, 2013

FFF Part VII --- A Dead End?

WHERE WE LEFT OFF: Staci and Leon struck out when they tried to interview the locals. Ray, surprisingly, uncovered a pattern: approximately every three years, someone goes missing from town. The disappearances are explained different ways. Not only that, but the local Catholic priest resigned after one of the disappearances. He claimed they were the work of a cult in the nearby woods. The gang decided to interview the local priest to find out what happened.


The next morning, Staci, Leon, Bethany, and Ray head over to the local Catholic parish and ask to speak with the priest. Eventually a middle-aged man who introduces himself as Father Collins comes out. He seems friendly if a bit wary when he sees the camera. Staci quickly explains that they're shooting a documentary, that they have all of the permits, and they just had a few questions for him. Would he mind sitting down and chatting with them? Father Collins seems unsure, but he agrees.

The camera cuts to the interior of the church. Father Collins is seated in one of the pews and facing the camera. Staci is apparently standing just off screen. Father Collins asks where Ray and Bethany had gone. Staci assures him that they'll be respectful (although her tone makes it sound as if she isn't so sure).

They chat for a while, getting his background. He's been in Garretsburg for the last ten years since the former priest resigned. Staci immediately broaches the subject:

"We understand that the former priest resigned because a little boy went missing?"

Father Collins holds up a hand. "Now hold on. I know that it's become acceptable to assume that we priests are always involved in nefarious plots against little kids, but Father Anderson had nothing to do with his disappearance. He simply became overwhelmed and suffered a mental breakdown."

"No, we understand that. But didn't he claim that there was some sort of cult out in the woods?" Staci asks.

Father Collins snorts. "Ridiculous. Like I said, I've been here ten years and I haven't seen any evidence of a cult."

"So why did Father Anderson think there was one here?"

"Because of the little boy. His name was Tyler Engler and he belonged to our parish. Father Anderson was very close to the Engler family and he took the disappearance hard. When the sheriff ran out of leads, Father Anderson started his own 'investigation.' His only theory was the so-called cult."

"What evidence did he have?" Staci asks.

Father Collins laughs. "''Evidence' is too generous. 'Conjecture' and 'guesses' is even too strong. He spotted what he thought was a pattern and ran with it. Before too long, he was so worked up he just . . . snapped. Listen, I don't know what this school project is you're working on, but if it has anything to do with Father Anderson, you're only going to wind up disappointed."

The camera cuts to Staci and Leon waiting out in the parking lot afterwards. Ray and Bethany jog up to the car.

"Where were you two?" Staci demands. "If you two snuck off to---"

"Hey, come on, give us some credit," Ray says. "While you two were playing nice with Father Collins, we did some digging on our own. I distracted the parish secretary and Bethany found Father Anderson's contact number. Why ask his replacement when you can ask the real deal?"

Staci squeals and hugs Ray. But their celebration is cut short when Leon notices the sheriff's car parked down the block. They can't see if someone's in the front seat or not, but Leon suggests they get out of there.

The camera switches back on late at night in the motel room. Someone is pounding on the door. Staci turns to Leon and asks if he knows what's going on. The camera drops onto the bed (still pointed at the door, of course). Leon creeps over to the door and opens it.

Standing outside is a bedraggled looking middle-aged man. He seems twitchy and a little off. Leon demands to know who he is.

"What do you mean? You called me!" the man says.

Staci creeps around Leon. "Father Anderson?"

The man nods. "Who else? So are you here to reveal the truth? Is someone finally going to listen to me?"

"Come in," Staci says. She then pounds on the wall.

A second later, Ray and Bethany come into the room. Leon retrieves the camera and gets it pointed at Father Anderson.

"So what can you tell us about this 'cult?'" Staci asks.

Father Anderson collapses onto the bed and coughs. "I hear doubt in your voice, young lady. But I had to come anyway. For Tyler. His disappearance is my fault."

"Why do you say that?" Staci asks.

"Because I ignored the signs around me. Because I didn't pay attention to the evil that's boiling right under the surface." He coughs again.

"Let's jettison the poetry, okay?" Ray says.

Bethany elbows him.

"I don't blame anyone for being skeptical, but Garretsburg has been poisoned for a long time and no one knows." Another long cough. "No one but me."

"Why? What's going on here?" Staci asks.

"Do you know about the pattern?" Father Anderson asks.

"1,008 days," Ray says.

Father Anderson nods. "Three lunar years. Precisely. And the pattern is about to restart soon. That's why I came back when you called. That's why..."

He breaks down in a coughing fit. As he does, the footage goes blurry and begins to break down. It stutters and skips, odd screeching noises cutting through the frantic sounds of Staci and Leon. It's hard to tell what's happening exactly, but it looks as though Father Anderson is having some sort of seizure. He collapses off the bed before the footage goes to static and then nothing.

So what happened? You'll have to wait until next week to find out for sure!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Iron Man 3

In The Avengers, Captain America insulted Tony Stark by calling him a "big man in a suit of armor." Then he asked, "Take that away---what are you?" Tony replies that he's a billionaire playboy philanthropist. I could argue that this one exchange is a sort of outline for Iron Man 3. And it turns out that Tony is so much more than that.

Thanks to my wonderful wife (who spotted a free preview on Facebook), I got to see the latest Marvel movie on Tuesday. And now that I've had a few days to mull things over, I have to say . . . I'm still not sure what I think.

The story starts with a flashback to Geneva, where Tony Stark is the old Tony Stark, the weapons dealing ladies' man. There he encounters a sexy biologist, a severely crippled researcher, and an exploding ficus. All of these will come back to haunt him. Then, several months after the attack on New York by Loki's forces. Tony Stark has tried to deal with his harsh memories by building new sets of armor. The latest is a prototype that can be summoned to him at a thought. Tony's trying desperately to hide the fact that his little trip through the wormhole has rattled him badly.

But he's about to be drawn into a massive plot involving the uber-terrorist the Mandarin. The Mandarin is trying to teach the President of the United States a lesson of some sort. When Happy, Tony Stark's bodyguard, is injured in one of those "lessons," Tony takes it personally and issues an open challenge to the Mandarin.

The Mandarin responds (and if you've seen the trailer, you know what he did). As a result, Tony is ripped from his world and is forced to improvise. Can he foil the Mandarin's plot? And how does Aldrich Killian fit into all of this?

Well, it was a fun ride. I was surprised at the amount of humor that was woven into the story. Parts of it were genuinely hilarious. And the plot was . . . interesting. At one point, I wondered how it all would tie together. Toward the end, it all became clear. Sort of. I think they skipped over some of the connecting tissue, so to speak.

But it was definitely a fun movie to watch. Ben Kingsley, especially, is awesome. And Robert Downey, Jr., is fantastic as Tony Stark. I keep wondering how much of these movies are made up on the spot. Downey's performance is spot on and excellent.

What's holding me up is more of a meta concern. Where are they going to go from here? In many ways, this movie seems like a dead end. But given how awesome Marvel's movies have been, I can't wait to see what Tony Stark does next.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Wordcount Wednesday

I'm going to keep this quick. Life has been conspiring against me lately when it comes to writing. Now it's flu. Grrrrr.

So right now, the third Failstate book is weighing in at 48,907 words, which means I added 12,242 words since the last time I checked in. Not good enough. I'll need to knuckle down and keep working.