Monday, September 28, 2009

Zuma's Revenge

Can I just say that I love PopCap Games?

I mean, don't get me wrong. I love the huge, blow-your-mind games that take hours upon hours to get through. Like Bioshock. Like Civilization IV. Like F.E.A.R. But at the same time, I love the silly casual games too. Sometimes all I need to unwind is some quick play, nothing too fancy, a short puzzle, something I can load up, play for fifteen minutes, and go.

When it comes to casual games, PopCap is king. Sure, others try, but nobody can catch the magic of a casual game as well as PopCap. And yes, they have a few misses, but those are rare.

So you can imagine my delight when I saw the box for Zuma's Revenge at my local Target.

Ah, Zuma. The original was so deceptively simple. A frog shoots balls out of its mouth at a moving line of multicolored balls. One of those ubiquitous "match three" games. Pretty fun. So what could PopCap do to make it different?


I downloaded the demo via Steam and fired it up and my eyes nearly fried. Sweet graphics, much better than the original!

Okay, so that screen capture doesn't do it justice, but it was great.

The play has been upgraded as well. There are new "power balls" that allow you to shoot a triple-shot of stones, lasers, and so on. There are even boss fights apparently, a strange development to casual games but not one that's awful. They also have included a "Challenge Mode," which seems to consist of setting a score bar that you have to meet within a certain time. They also have added a "hero" mode, something I can only try out if I beat the adventure mode. Somehow I doubt I'll be able to do that before my hour trial is over.

So it seems pretty good, but that's based on only a half hour worth of play. I have to leave the rest of the demo for my wife because she loves PopCap games too.

Not convinced? Just check out this trailer:


The St. Paul Pioneer Press had an interesting article on microchurches this past Sunday. While I don't agree with everything they're doing (i.e. taking kids out of a worship service. Not a good idea, in my not-so-humble opinion), their emphasis on using their financial resources for service is thought provoking to say the least.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Feast For Crows

And so my obsessive binge on George R. R. Martin books comes to an end with A Feast For Crows. And now the series has hit a metaphorical wall (oh, the irony of that statement, seeing how little the book had to do with the Wall or what lies beyond it, but I digress...).

This time, Martin spends a lot of his energy focused on the Lannister twins, Cersei and Jaime. Others briefly flit across the stage, sometimes sporadically, but the chief focus is on the Queen and the Kingslayer. Cersei does her best to tighten her grip on King's Landing, striving to stay one step ahead of the myriad foes she senses around her. And Jaime does his best to redeem himself as the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.

Other things happen in the book. Samwell Tarly leaves the Wall for Oldtown, only to get stuck on Braavos. There he unwittingly meets Arya Stark, who seems to have taken up residence in a Temple where they're teaching her ... well, I'm assuming how to be an assassin, although that's not always entirely clear. The Ironborn of the Iron Islands make a lot of noise in the beginning of the book about who their new king will be. They make their choice, the king has some crazy ideas about what he's going to do with his driftwood crown, and then they promptly disappear. And, of course, there is Brienne, the Maid of Tarth, on her quest for Sansa Stark, who is posing as Petyr Baelish's "natural daughter."

I'm not as enthused about this book or the series as a whole as I might have been. When I read the first book, the endless plots and counterplots, mysteries and twists, all of it added up to a wild ride that kept me guessing (i.e. "The seed is strong" and what, exactly, those words signified). The second book was pretty good too, with the whole of Westeros at war with itself, with even more twists and turns, even more plots. The third book lost some more steam, especially after the Red Wedding.

Now we have the fourth book and, let's be honest, it's not that good. I think part of the problem is Martin's complete lack of sentimentality when it comes to his characters. Don't get me wrong, you want to smash your characters against a wall. You want them to break, to crumble. Killing a few even makes for compelling reading. But here's the problem: over the past four books, Martin culled the field too sharply. All the noble characters are dead. And the ones that interested me weren't present in this book except when they're mentioned in passing. As a result, there really wasn't anyone to root for except for maybe Jaime Lannister. Jaime's redemption into a somewhat honorable individual has been interesting, so gradual that I didn't realize I was coming to root for him a little. But since most of Martin's attention was lavished on the completely irredeemable Cersei, Jaime's attempts at heroism wasn't enough.

Part of my complaint stems from the way Martin structured the story. According to a note at the end of the book, Martin decided to tell "all the story for half the characters rather than half the story for all the characters." That makes sense, but he lumped his sympathetic characters together. As despicable as Tyrion Lannister is, his quick wit and keen insights kept me reading. I keep rooting for Dany. And while I saw Jon Snow's elevation to Lord Commander of the Night's Watch coming, I wanted to see what he'd do with it. Like I said, none of those people ever spent any time on-stage in this book. I guess I'll have to wait to learn what happened to them.

We also have the seeming lack of twists and turns. The first two books were riotous in the plots and counterplots. The third book had a few surprises as well. But Crows, not so much. Yes, there were two surprises at the end that made me go, "Huh." But it was "huh," not "whoa." Big difference.

So I guess I'd better settle in and wait. Apparently Martin has had to delay the release of the next book for whatever reason. I don't fault him for that. I can't imagine trying to coordinate this massive and complex a story in a coherent way. But I won't be waiting quite as eagerly as I thought I might.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Wordcount" Wednesday

Or "What I did at the ACFW National Conference."

I flew in to Denver mid-Thursday and rode over to the hotel in the back of a SuperShuttle van. I think I may have freaked out a first time conference goer in the process. I was waiting for the van when someone walked up wearing a shirt that said something like, "Careful, I May Put You In My Novel." So naturally, I did my best to make her comfortable. I demanded to know what her pitch was.

She froze up and said she had been trying to memorize it during the flight. Whoops. To whoever that was, I apologize!

On the way to the hotel, I was pontificating about speculative fiction and the market in general with another first-timer. That's when we learned that the person sitting next to us was a senior editor with Tyndale. I promptly shut up and listened to what she had to say and felt pretty stupid.

When I reached the hotel, I spotted my roomie, Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press, working in the lobby. I figured I should pitch Numb to him right away, to get it out of the way and so I wouldn't be tempted to bug him in the room. It went well; he liked it and asked me to send him a full manuscript when it's ready. He also told me about Marcher Lord Select, a sort of literary version of American Idol that he's planning. Sounds intriguing.

I met a bunch of new writers, many of them first timers, and had a blast getting to know them. Avily, Ben, Ashley, Jenness (not a first timer, but I met her on Thursday), et al, it was a pleasure to get to know all of you!

Debbie Macomber, the keynote speaker, was fabulous. My mother-in-law is a huge fan and I knew I'd have to listen to everything Debbie said so I could repeat it back at some point.

Thursday night I attended the Zondervan Late Night Chat. Interesting stuff, especially what one editor had to say about the direction she wants to take the YA line.

This is where I (re-)learned a valuable lesson: always listen to your wife. Those of you who frequent the Least Read Blog know that I've been working on a fantasy novel called Return of the Mourning Dove. At least, I think I've mentioned that before. Anyway, I realized that the genre in which it would fit best is young adult fantasy. But it's not a Christian fantasy novel.

Anyway, my wife suggested I should bring info on it. I said no, why would I bring a not-Christian book to a Christian writing conference? Turns out, I should have. Gents, always listen to your wife.

Friday morning, I attended a continuing ed workshop led by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. Good, good stuff. They covered a lot of character-building stuff, and that's something I need help with. I'm more of a plot-first kind of guy, so they gave me some good ammunition to work with.

I also had my agent appointment on Friday morning. Said agent quizzed me for ten minutes on Numb, asking about spiritual themes, how much sci fi we're talking about here, that sort of thing. In the end, she let me down easily because she said she didn't handle spec fic, but she said I was "really close."

Friday at lunch, I managed to pitch Return of the Mourning Dove to the aforementioned editor and I was asked to send in three chapters and a synopsis.

Friday afternoon, I got to witness a God-appointment between a writer and an agent.

Friday night, Jeff Gerke, another writer (whose name escapes me), and I went out to eat at a nearby Mexican restaurant. And then I spent the night reading A Storm of Swords rather than going to an agent late night chat. Whoops!

Saturday wasn't a good day for me. I can't go into all the reasons why, but I was getting into something of a funk. A jealous funk. I won't go into grisly details here, but the day wasn't all that great.

The evening was a blast at the awards ceremony. It was a great night for speculative fiction. We cleaned up: John Olson got two awards, Donita K. Paul was named Mentor of the Year, and Steve Laube won Agent of the Year. I tried to get our table to chant "One of Us!" for each of those, but nobody took me seriously. Good thing too.

I was also very excited for Sharon Hinck for her two Book of the Year wins. I jumped the gun when they announced Symphony of Secrets won for Long Contemporary, but when I heard mention of "Minneapolis," I knew it was her.

Sunday morning found me in the grip of the same silly, jealous funk. But thankfully, Debbie Macomber's talk really picked me up and helped bring me out of it.

So all in all, it was a positive year. A full manuscript request plus another three chapters for a different book. Yeah, some of the conference wasn't all that stellar for me, but all in all, it was good.

But now I have to get cracking. Mourning Dove's synopsis won't write itself!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Storm of Swords

George R. R. Martin must hate weddings.

I mean, seriously. Half the weddings in A Storm of Swords ends badly. Actually, come to think of it, all of them do in one way or another.

This wasn't an easy book to read, no more than the others. Martin is not sentimental when it comes to his characters and that's part of the reason why reading this series is so difficult. By the end of this book, there's very few heroes left, not many people worth rooting for. A few, to be sure, but most of them are dead.

I'm not even sure how to sum up this book's plot. So much of it is built on what came in the first two books. The so-called War of the Five Kings continues with moves, countermoves, plots and betrayals. Some of them came seemingly out of nowhere. The "Red Wedding" in particular made me gasp and want to stop reading. Of course, the wedding that came after that wasn't much better. Things have been shaped and reshaped so much that I'm not sure who I can or should root for.

Maybe that's the point. Martin doesn't exactly create heroes with his stories. All of his characters are flawed in some way, shape, or form. Some rise to actual nobility, only to be dragged down by their secret demons.

I'm beginning to wonder why I keep coming back. But I know the answer: the story is too compelling. I doubt I'll find "happily ever after" when A Song of Ice and Fire is done, but I want to see if it will be satisfying.

So on I go to A Feast for Crows. And then I guess I'll join the ranks of readers waiting for the next book. Hopefully it will all be worth it.

CSFF Blog Tour: The Vanishing Sculptor

Okay, so I feel like I'm shirking my duties a little. I hate to say it, but I think this is going to be my only post for this tour. Yesterday evening, I came home from the ACFW National Conference in Denver and boy, are my arms tired. Wait. I think I screwed up that joke.

But seriously, folks, I am wiped out. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and even a little spiritually. Lots of good stuff, but that's another blog post for another time. Right now, I should be discussing The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul.

We're back in the familiar world of the DragonKeeper series, only this time, we're half-way around the world. A young emerlindian named Tipper is faced with a serious problem. Her father, the famous sculptor Verrin Schope, disappeared years ago, leaving Tipper to fend for herself and care for her mother, a woman who is just a bit eccentric. But then, two strangers pop into her life (although they aren't strangers to fans of Paul's work), taking her on an adventure to find three of her father's missing statues so that not only can her father come home, but the whole world can be saved as well.

I really enjoyed this book. Those of you who hang around The Least Read Blog know that I was a little hard on Donita the last time I reviewed one of her books, so I was a little apprehensive about reading this one. But I really had fun with it. Her characters were fun and engaging, full of life. I also enjoyed learning a bit more about Paladin (again, those who have seen my rambling musings know that Paladin's identity has confused me in the past), namely about who he is and where he came from. And like I said, the two "strangers" are anything but to fans of Donita's previous books.

There are two "negatives" that I noticed. Well, one's not a negative necessarily, maybe more a word of caution. Like I said, we once again drop into the world of the Dragon Keepers, and so we have a bunch of minor dragons flying about. I had no problem understanding who the dragons were and what abilities they had. But I wondered if a new reader would grasp it as easily. I seem to recall more explanation in the previous books about that sort of thing. Not a bad thing, necessarily. A reader would probably be able to figure it out, but it was something I wondered. If you were someone who read this book and hadn't read Donita's previous books, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

The "negative" that I have is a minor gripe. The final battle of the book seemed hastily set up. It was great and I loved the bad guy's villainous plot, but a few hints about it earlier in the book might have made it work a little bit better. I seem to remember thinking, "Oh, really? Well, I guess if you say so..."

But really, those are minor things. I really loved this book! It was a lot of fun and I think a lot of people will get a great deal of joy from it!

And Donita ... once again, congratulations on your "Mentor of the Year" win at ACFW this year!

Go and see what the other tourists have to say:

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Rachel Briard
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Linda Gilmore
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen (posting later in the week)
Lyn Perry
Crista Richey
Cheryl Russell
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kanye feel the love?

Okay, so I should be getting ready to head out to the airport, but I found this gem and thought I had to share:

So do you want to have the Taylor Swift experience and have Kanye West insult your own website? Head on over here.

I'm going to wait for my three or four apologies now...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordcount Wednesday

So I guess I have no real wordcount update to make. The past week has been spent working on a novel proposal for Numb and getting my gear ready to head out to Denver for the 2009 ACFW National Conference.

I'm off!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Interesting Post on Healthcare

So the other day a certain president who shall remain nameless came a-callin' on the Twin Cities to stump for health care reform. And while I probably should have watched his speech, I didn't. I don't remember what I was doing exactly. I think I was working on my book proposal for Numb. The ACFW Conference is less than a week away and I've been a horrible procrastinator yet again.

Anyway, this is about health care, not my writing. It's not Wednesday, after all. I noticed that my friend Jamison (who occasionally stops by and leaves me comments on my blog) had written an article about how the current health care debate intersects with Christianity. So I hopped over to read it.

It left me a bit humbled.

Now I'm not the most political of individuals. I have watched the current debate (or furor, depending on who I'm watching) with casual interest. But I think Jamison has some valid points that we should consider.

Just sayin' is all.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Myth of a Christian Religion

I expected this one to shake me up a bit and boy, did it.

The Myth of a Christian Religion is a sort of sequel to Gregory Boyd's previous book, The Myth of a Christian Nation. For those of you unfamiliar with the previous book, Boyd is a pastor in the Twin Cities. During the 2004 election, he was pressured by many people, both from outside his congregation and within, to officially endorse George W. Bush since it would be the "Christian" thing to do. Instead, Boyd preached a four week sermon series about the proper relationship between Christianity and America. The end result is that 1,000 people left his church (he retells this story in the opening pages of The Myth of a Christian Religion).

When I read Christian Nation, it shook me up and gave me a lot to think about. When I saw Christian Religion, I knew that Boyd would give me even more food for thought.

Boyd's basic thesis is that Christ came to establish a Kingdom unlike any on Earth before. This kingdom is one of love, of transformation, of forgiveness. The problem, he says, is that the followers of this kingdom have compromised themselves by buying into attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the rest of the world. He identifies a number of idols that people wind up worshiping other than Christ and urges his readers to rid themselves of those idols and return to Christ's beautiful revolution.

In some ways, this book is simply a retread of the arguments Boyd made in Christian Nation. This is especially true of the chapters entitled "Christ and Caesar," "The Revolt Against Nationalism," and "The Revolt Against Violence." But he does touch on a number of other topics, such as individualism, greed, racism, creation care, and secularism. In essence, he holds a mirror up to modern American Christianity and points out where the warts are.

What's interesting is the fact that the last "chapter" are actually action-ideas from Boyd about how to overcome these issues. Admittedly, I skimmed this (not because I don't need the advice; it was late when I finished reading the book), but I'm excited to try some of them. "Prayer stalking" especially.

It's a convicting read. I don't know if I agree with all of Boyd's ideas, but they are certainly important for every Christian to consider. If nothing else, it will spark some new thoughts about how we live as God's Kingdom people.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wordcount Wednesday

So I'm doing this a little early this week. Normally this is something that I remember to do at the very last minute, sometimes even Thursday morning, and I have to frantically throw together a report. Well, this past week has been frantic, but in a good way.

Allow me to explain why. This past Monday, we were out celebrating my parents-in-law's 41st anniversary. We went to Famous Daves and we were having a good ol' time, making small talk, trying to get my son to eat his "mackerel and cheese" (that's what he calls it; no fish are actually involved). And in the back of my head, I was ruminating over some of the things that Sharon Hinck had said to me about the first 20 pages of Numb. And I was also thinking about some of the advice I had read in Donald Maass's book Writing the Breakout Novel. And suddenly, all those thoughts converged into a massive brainstorm.

See, I've been struggling with my antagonist's motivation. I knew what he wanted and why he wanted it. But it all seemed way too small. I needed to up the stakes for him, make it all bigger. And sitting in a restaurant with a mouthful of Georgia shredded pork, I suddenly knew what I had been missing. I knew what the antagonist wanted.

More than that, dozens of smaller ideas started to emerge on how to work this bigger idea into the existing plot. And plugs for other smaller holes began forming as well. I was having a veritable cornucopia of ideas pouring out of my barbecue-addled mind.

Small problem: I had nothing on which to write any of this stuff down. And I knew that if I didn't record my thoughts, they'd be gone before we got home.

I turned to my darling wife and asked her if she had any paper in our son's backpack. She said the only stuff she had was coloring book pages. Well, I'm not so heartless a writer as to deprive my son of coloring book pages, so I went after the hostess and asked if she had any paper.

All she had was receipt paper from the cash register. So I grabbed that, a pen, and startled scribbling furiously.

When we made it home, I had even more ideas that I jotted on Post-Its and put it all up around my computer:

So I set to work. But as I did, even more ideas started forming, requiring even more notes:

So the past two days have been pretty wild. I've been diving back into the text of Numb with both feet, trying to incorporate all of this. And I think I did an okay job of it.

But the end result has been interesting. Two new chapters have sprouted within the book. And as of this noon, Numb clocked in at 80,314 words (as opposed to the 76,599 words from last week).

So what's next? Well, I think I may take the rest of the day to catch my breath a little. Play some Sims 3. But then, starting tomorrow, it's prepping a book proposal and one sheet for Numb as best I can. The ACFW National Conference is upon us!

Comes a Horseman

Late last night I finished reading Comes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo. I noticed in the "happy blurb" section that people were comparing this book favorably with The DaVinci Code. And after reading it, I have to agree. The similarities are startling and that's not a good thing.

But let's talk plot first. Liparulo puts together an exciting thriller. FBI Special Agents Brady Moore and Alicia Wagner are on the trail of a man they call the Pelletier killer, a supposed serial killer who is literally cutting a bloody trail through the western United States. Little do they realize that their investigation is also putting them on a collision course with a man who believes that he is the Antichrist, the prophesied destroyer. Soon they're in danger for their very lives as they try to unravel the plot.

I'm not sure I can go much more into the plot than I already did without giving a lot of it away. That was part of the fun in reading this book. The plot was pretty complex, with seemingly unrelated strands that started to come together only toward the end. That's what kept me reading: how was the killer related to the Antichrist? Why did he target his victims? And when we learned the answer to that question, it just raised more.

There were definitely some very action packed sequences that kept me on the edge of my seat. One in particular had me sweating profusely for Brady and his adorable son, Zach. And Alicia, while a bit crude around the edges, was a fun breath of fresh air for the most part.

The book itself is extremely edgy, especially for Christian fiction. I'll be honest, I was a bit surprised at some of the graphic details that were included. For example, in the first chapter, we have an individual hiding in a bathroom ventilation system trying to peek at a woman using the facilities. And the Pelletier killer ... well, I'll leave that alone right now. Let's just say that what he does isn't sugarcoated in any way. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're squeamish, this one isn't for you.

As much as I wanted to really enjoy this book, though, there were a few things that got in my way. First of all, there were craft issues galore. Liparulo is a wordy individual (and I say that as a fellow wordy guy). I suspect he could have really tightened this book and trimmed a lot of excess verbiage. Toward the end, I was literally skimming the book, leaping over elaborate descriptions that could have been summed up in a paragraph or two.

More problematic is his seeming fascination with flashbacks. Two thirds of the chapters seem to start with a character remembering something. And usually, that something didn't have much to contribute to the overall plot. A few times, I got a bit confused because I thought that the flashback was actually happening right then and there. As a matter of fact, I thought at one point that Brady and Alicia kissed in the back seat of a taxi. Could have knocked me over with a feather. And then I reread it and realized that no, Brady was just remembering a flirtatious encounter with his wife. To put it simply, Liparulo did waaaaay too many flashbacks.

But what really annoyed me (and this is the part that really reminded me of The DaVinci Code) is the fact that Liparulo played fast and loose with facts, things that he should have known better from a little research.

For example, at one point, he says that Hasidic Jews wear black "to symbolize the sect's mourning of the destruction of King Solomon's temple in AD 70." Yes, that's a direct quote. Does anyone else see a problem here? Like the fact that Solomon's temple was actually destroyed in 597 BC by the Babylonians? Or that it was the temple built by King Herod that was destroyed in 70 AD? I know, it's nit-picky, but come on! This is something Liparulo should have caught easily. Most Bibles have this information in their footnotes or, if they have articles about buildings like the Temple, the information is there.

Now if this were the only thing, I wouldn't be all that upset. I'd readily admit that it's nitpicky. But what really maddened me was the fact that Liparulo played fast and loose with the belief system of the Roman Catholic Church. About three quarters of the way through the book, we hear a Catholic Cardinal discuss the Antichrist and he basically parrots what dispensational premillennialists believe about him. He'll be a political figure, descended from Rome, who preaches peace but really intends for war. He'll be closely allied with Israel. He'll rule a conglomeration of 10 kingdoms. So on and so forth.

Small problem: Roman Catholics are not dispensational premillennialists. In other words, a Roman Catholic Cardinal would not describe the Antichrist that way. Having those words come out of this man's mouth is as incongruous as hearing a dyed in the wool Republican supporting a public option in the current health care debate. Okay, so maybe that's not the best example, but you get the idea. It just would not happen.

It's further evidence and the worst example of the unfortunate homogenization of Christian fiction. I've railed about that before, but this one really torked me off. It's not just that differing viewpoints are glossed over. Now the "accepted theology" is being crammed into the mouths of people who would never hold it. It'd be like having a Lutheran pastor preach a sermon filled with decision theology, or a staunch Baptist espouse infant baptism. It's not realistic and it completely shattered my enjoyment of this book. After I encountered that point, I only kept reading to see how it would all end.

And speaking of the ending, I was a bit horrified at how the main plot resolved itself. I can't get into too many details right now, but the cavalier attitude of one character over the resolution just sickened me, especially given that this is a Christian book. Sure, it was all done by unsanctified hands, but even still.

Don't get me wrong, Liparulo is a very imaginative reader. His backstory for the Pelletier killer is imaginative and very reminiscent of The DaVinci Code (and that's a good thing in this case). But if he would have done better research, this might have been a great book.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Firstborn

I'm not quite sure what to make of The Firstborn by Conlan Brown.

Let's start with the plot. The Firstborn are the descendants of the people who were raised from the dead when Jesus was resurrected. God gifted this group with three distinct powers. Some could see the past. Some gained insight into the present. Some can read the future. But rather than work together as a unified whole, the Firstborn have spent most of their existence fighting with each other, sometimes with bloody results.

Now the three separate branches of the Firstborn are going to unite under the office of Overseer because they face a tremendous threat. But some of the Firstborn, namely Devin Bathurst, John Temple, and Hannah Rice, are about to discover that the problem isn't coming from without but from within.

Let's talk positives first. The story is action packed. The men are heroic. The women are too. And the central themes that emerge as the Firstborn wrangle with the horrific threat they face are very good and spot on, definitely worth considering in this day and age. An (possibly) unintended benefit was presenting a valuable perspective on terrorists and why they're motivated to do what they did. But while I considered one of the terrorists sympathetic, one with valid points that should be considered by Christians, I suspect that his words will be ignored by most readers simply because he's (and read this with a bit of sarcasm) the "bad guy."

That's perhaps the one thing that bothered me most about this book was the uber-patriotism that went unchallenged throughout the book. It seemed as if America and Christianity were presented as synonymous, that what benefits one definitely benefits the other. Granted, most of those arguments were delivered by the real "bad guys," but they mostly went unchallenged in the book.

Another problem I had was that while the Muslim viewpoint was presented, I fear that what the characters had to say will be lost by the fact that every Muslim in the book is a "bad guy," a terrorist. A few more sympathetic Muslim characters may have helped Brown's overall points better but sadly, they were lacking.

What truly bothered me, though, was the attitude of the Firstborn. They seemed to think that they were the ones who had to bear the sword of God's justice on Earth, that their powers and ability somehow gave them that right. It's an unbiblical belief that, at first, isn't challenged. Eventually, though, some of the Firstborn seem to grow beyond that attitude ... only to fall right back into it in the end. That's problematic to me because it confuses what God's people should be about. Here's a hint: it's not vengeance or justice.

All those things aside, this was a pretty decent book. Not phenomenal by any means, but certainly thought-provoking. If nothing else, it made me grateful that the Firstborn are only a fictional creation. Because I fear that if Christians really did have these powers, what Brown describes would come true.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Wordcount Wednesday

What an interesting week it's been.

First off, the minor update. I mentioned last week that I thought I could turn Return of the Mourning Dove into the first book of a possible series. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to try to do that. I've envisioned a four- or five-way conflict that could be fun. I've also been writing a fun scene in the back of my head in my free moments, based around three paths to immortality in this universe: binding, draining, or swapping. On top of that, I think there's some fun conflict brewing between former friends. I need to get cracking on that soon so I can shop it around, see what happens.

But what's really been interesting is my rewrite of Numb. Last week I reported that I was about half-way through the rewrite. Well, I finished it. Kind of. More on that in a bit.

Anyway, when I finished the first draft of Numb, it clocked in at 76,294 words, and I was pretty sure it was a hot mess. Well nigh unsalvageable. But working through it made me realize that it's not all that bad. So I did some cutting, some reworking, some additions, moved a chapter completely, and in the end, I came out with 76,599 words. So I wound up picking up a few more words along the way.

When I finished that run through it, I realized that there was at least one scene missing from the story. Possibly two. So I need to get back in there and get that stuff added in.

But then I received some fantastic help. Sharon Hinck, Christian author extraordinaire, took a look at the first three chapters. And she really helped. She helped me realize what Crusader, my protagonist, really wants and what motivates him. She had very encouraging words for what I've written. And after incorporating her suggestions, I have a slightly modified word count for the first three chapters. Before Sharon saw chapter one, it clocked in at 1,947 words. Now it's at 1,907. Chapter two was at 1,598 but now it's 1,593. While chapter three was at 1,493, it's now at 1,480.

So there you go. Work will continue on Numb for a while. I need to figure out how to add in details for Crusader's motivation. I need to figure out where those two missing scenes will go. And I have to prepare myself for the ACFW National Conference which is only - gulp - two weeks away.

I'd better get to work.