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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hail Frost: Just Some More Info

I sat here, staring at my blinking cursor, trying to think of something to blog about when I had a very awkward revelation. 

I have hardly shared anything regarding Hail Frost. Oops. 

Well, I've shared my complaints about editing, but I've not told you anything about the story. I feel rather ashamed right now. 

So! Without further ado, allow me to introduce two of the new characters that play a role in Hail Frost!

Commander Valin

Valin looks like Jamie Dornan


Valin is a mysterious explorer with a knack for manipulation, political subtlety, battle strategies, and organized chaos. After Sicreet's death, he masterfully takes control of the Pull and begins to destroy everything Sicreet had created. The people love him, but after trying to blackmail Hail into abandoning Elethor and Holdinus, it's obvious Valin has a plan of his own...one the Leverage probably won't like.

Dray Thorn

Dray looks like Donald Faison

Once upon a time, Dray was the only friend Ember had. The two of them felt like it was them versus the rest of the loggers of Grel. But one day, Dray disappeared and Ember had no idea what happened to him. Now he's suddenly back and he knows everything about the Leverage, the Pull, and the world. Ember is determined to find out what happened to him when he went missing, and who exactly he is working for.

Not very good introductions, but I'm tired and hungry, so it will have to do. Here's some random images I've found on Pinterest that might give you a clue to the feel and look of the story.






And finally, the rough draft of the summary that will appear on the back of the book. I know it needs work, so if you have any suggestions for it, I'd love to hear 'em! :)

***

 After defeating the Pull Lord and finding the other Leverage, Hail thought the stormy clouds of his past would vanish. Instead, he finds himself traipsing through the countryside with his annoying brother while searching for the mysterious lost Leverage. When his temper flares and he delves back into his deadly habits, Valin, the new Pull Lord, gives Hail an ultimatum: Give up the search and be free from his past, or continue and place everyone he loves in mortal danger.

The only way to escape the challenge is to recover the lost Leverage and begin the war against the Pull. But with his sister the focus of Valin's wrath; his best friend in the hands of a witch; and his brother questioning his every decision- concentration is difficult. Will Hail relent the quest to free himself of his guilt? Or will he fight the Pull, despite the danger to himself and those he loves?

***

Thanks for stopping by! 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter! Now let's talk about villains...

via Pinterest

Happy Easter everyone! Easter has always been one of my favorite days of the year! I like Good Friday because it's indescribable and amazing the sacrifice Jesus made to save everyone, but I've always been a fan of happy endings. I'm so glad He's alive and undefeated and that I'll be able to meet Him face-to-face someday.

Oddly enough, while reflecting on Easter and the joy sprouting from the holiday, I found myself considering villains. I'm not quite sure how the bizarre workings of the thing I call my brain lead me to the subject, but I'll try to track it for you.

Jesus is the ultimate hero. He's the perfect hero. He was literally perfect, and yet, he gave up His life to save the people who hated him, his enemies. He was gone for three days and then he rose again, defeating death and victorious forever. During those three days, I often wonder if the devil thought he had won. Satan obviously knows the scriptures, but he's also (and I'm pretty sure I can say this with confidence) the most prideful being in the universe. I mean, the guy thought he could defeat God. That's prideful. So did Satan's pride cause him to think that he had, indeed, defeated God? Or did he actually understand that Jesus was sacrificing his life to save everyone who would accept his free gift? I personally think it was the former.

I suppose it doesn't matter. Either way, Satan knew he was defeated when Jesus defeated the grave on Easter. But Satan, being a villain, isn't going to admit defeat or give in to God. Now, he's just trying to bring as many people as he can with him to destruction.

Screencaps- Once Upon a Time S3

So that's the first thing I thought. I was also thinking of a line from ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'. In the scene, Rumpelstiltskin, someone who has acted as a villain for much of the show, decides to do something extremely sacrificial to save his friends and family. The sacrifice will destroy a powerful enemy they are facing, but it will also kill Rumple. The enemy tries to dissuade Rumple, saying that he could go and have a happy ending. Rumple simply replies, "But I'm a villain. And villains don't get happy endings."

That line has been a theme throughout the show, and many of the more villainous characters like Captain Hook and the Evil Queen have reacted by changing, morphing into heroes. I believe the theme is true, but I find it interesting that writers who are ultimately secular would believe it. When you look at the world as it is, it certainly doesn't seem like heroes get happy endings. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Jim Elliot had a spear thrust through his chest. And all the while, bad people seem to be prospering and ruling entire nations.

As a Christian, I know the theme is true because a truly happy ending is not how your life on earth ends, but it is where and how you spend eternity. I know that God is just and merciful and I know that Jesus is a hero and He saved me. I'm going to get a happy ending. But the question still stands, why do writers who are secular believe the same? Is it because they simply tend to look at the happy ending stories and ignore the tragic ones? Or is is something deeper? Do people who are not Christians have a deep-down knowledge that justice will win out, that evil will fail? Or is simply a hope that if you are good enough you'll get a happy ending?

I don't have any answers. Maybe it's because the original authors of fairy tales were mostly Christian and the 'Once Upon a Time' writers are simply trying to stay true to their stories. But I don't think that's it. The ending of 'The Little Mermaid' by Hans Christian Anderson is incredibly tragic. Disney changed it to make it a happy ending.

via Pinterest

So this has been incredibly long-winded, but here is what I'm trying to decide. Should villains ever get a happy ending in a story? Obviously a happy ending for the antagonist would be tragic for the protagonist, since by definition they should be at odds. In some cases, it might be more realistic to have the villain succeed and the hero fail. But for some reason, that just doesn't feel right to me.

But on the other hand, as a Christian, I know that my own 'goodness' could get me nowhere. The Bible says that God considers my greatest righteousness as filthy rags. Without Him, I can't do anything. So is it right to have the hero succeed based on his deeds and the villain fail based on his deeds? That's not exactly realistic either, but I cringe at the thought of writing a Deus Ex Machina story (Deus Ex Machina means 'God out of the machine'. It originated in Greek plays where the ending often involved a god entering the story and fixing everything. Now, it simply means something random and unrelated fixes everything- like a random cop showing up in the climax and solving the issues between the hero and the villain).

For me, the answer was surprisingly simple. I'll simply include God into my story from the beginning and have the protagonist struggle to follow His will. I do this in the Leverage Series. Elethor (God) is an integral yet separate part of the story. The more heroic characters struggle to follow what He has for them. They make mistakes and turn away from him because they are reflection of me, but ultimately, they try to do what He wants. I never have God appear and make things suddenly right, especially at the climax.  I make sure my villain characters are not followers of Elethor.

via Pinterest

Christian writers don't have to do this. My favorite novels ever, 'Lord of the Rings' don't do this. Tolkien was a strong Christian, but he did not include Eru (God) in his famous novels. The good characters act the way they do based on morality and principal, which could possibly stem from a belief in Eru, but that is never stated in the novels. The bad characters are clearly working out of selfish ambition and desires. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this way of writing. In fact, Lord of the Rings is one of the novels that caused me to actively pursue a relationship with Christ. I wanted to be like Aragorn and Sam and Eowyn and I knew that that was impossible apart from a power much higher than myself.

I know I'm not a skillful enough writer to use Tolkien's method effectively. Maybe someday I will be, but for now, it's better for me personally to keep it perfectly clear what and who caused my heroes to succeed. I give my heroes happy endings because I want to reflect the fact that Jesus gave us a happy ending, and all we have to do is accept it.

I don't want to imply that everyone who is not a Christian is a 'villain'. That's not what I mean. However, there is a right and there is a wrong. There are only two options when it comes to Jesus. You either love him or you hate him. Many people would protest and say they 'like' him but they just don't think He is God. Well, then, you must think He was a liar because he said he was the way, the truth, and the light and nobody can get to the Father except through him. Shouldn't you hate lying? Others would insist that Jesus and God don't exist. That's insulting. That's like walking up to your own mother and telling her she doesn't exist to you. Even though you might truly be so blind as to believe she doesn't exist, she will be extremely insulted and will come to the conclusion that you hate her. There is no gray area when it comes to Jesus. Therefore, if you are not for Him then you are against Him. An antagonist is someone who is against the protagonist. Jesus most certainly is the protagonist in the analogy.

I'm sorry for the long post. Oftentimes my blog posts are reflections of my own scrambled thoughts, trying to make sense of themselves through words. I guess what I'm trying to say is based on all these different concepts, I've finally decided how I want to treat villains in my stories- at least for now. They are people who are antagonistic or ambivalent (which is the equivalent of being antagonistic) towards the God in my story. They are people who are pursuing something very wrong that forces the hero to follow God and try to stop him or her. They are people who do not get happy endings in their earthly life to represent what will happen to all antagonists in reality.



Of course, there is always grace. Hail was a villain for most of his life until he finally decided to follow Elethor. I think it's a bit Deus Ex Machina to change the villain with no precedent to the good side at the end of the story, but reality and fantasy are very different. As Christians, we don't need to look at those who do not know Christ as villains or antagonists. They are people who are lost just as we were before meeting Jesus. We need to show compassion and love to them, not pride and hatred. If we show the latter ideals, who's the real villain? In my stories, if at all possible, I like to emphasize that God does love the villain and wants to save him or her. I don't think I did good a job of making that point in 'Ember Flame'. I can't think of a single instance where Sicreet is offered a chance for redemption. Other 'not-as-bad' characters get the chance to change, but not Sicreet. I'm going to fix that in 'Hail Frost'. I won't turn the villains good, but I do want to give them the chance, just like Jesus gave me the chance.

Again, sorry for all the rambling. My mind is a bit frazzled right now. The ACT is done (I felt like Frodo walking out of the entrance to Mount Doom), but I still have to go to the Shire and defeat Saruman (er...the AP English and SAT). Editing for Hail Frost is starting to come easier now, which is definitely a good thing. I'm still on the first edit, but for some reason, it seems to be flowing easier than it was a few weeks ago.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by! I hope you all have a Happy Easter! :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Randomness and Movies...what else is new?

So this is awkward. It's been awhile....again.

Again, I am sorry for the lapse in blog posts. Life always gets hectic around this time of year. I wish I could promise to be more consistent, but I don't know if that can happen until at least May. It's rather overwhelming. I have the ACT on Saturday (AHHHHHHHH), AP English in May, and then the SAT in June, not to mention just the craziness of finishing the schoolyear. And colleges. Gosh, I wish I could just know what college I'm going to and get it over with!

Okay, now that I have officially dropped all of my angst on y'all...I can try to be a bit calmer..

The movie God's Not Dead is incredibly awesome! I was surprised at how good it was. I admit, I walked into the theater expecting it to be just a "Christian film". You know, nice, trite, bad acting, bad writing, cliche, boring... I was very pleasantly surprised. The story was fascinating and compelling, the acting was great, the writing was cool, it was serious, funny, poignant, subtle, and powerful all at once. If you have not seen it yet, I highly suggest going to see it in theaters to support the makers of it. It is well worth the money!

Another movie well-worth the money is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This movie was absolutely incredible. Definitely the best one I've seen this year, and will probably remain the best movie of this year to me. The only thing that could possibly beat it in my estimation is Mockingjay Part 1 and maybe The Guardians of the Galaxy. I doubt it though, even though both of those movies are gonna be epic.

Some people are calling The Winter Soldier the "Dark Knight" of the Marvel movies. I'm not quite sure what I think of that analogy. The Winter Soldier is, in my opinion, the best Marvel movie made to date. (Yes...it's a better movie than the Avengers. I still like the Avengers better though because it's funnier and more fun. And hellooo, Loki and Iron Man.) Captain America has the most intriguing and complex story and character arc of the Marvel movies. I also like the grittiness of Captain America movies. Each superhero seems to have a feel that comes with it...Thor movies are hilarious, Iron Man movies are witty, and Captain America movies seem to be the most realistic and gritty. I like it.

Are y'all excited about any movies this year? Honestly, I'm looking forward to 2015 more than I am to the rest of this year. I'm excited for Mockingjay Part 1, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I'm tentatively excited for Maleficent as well. If the writing is as well-done as the spectacle and special effects it will be awesome. If it's not... it will simply be a repeat of Snow White and the Huntsman (the WORST movie I've ever seen in my life). But 2015 is going to have Avengers: Age of Ultron, Antman, Fantastic Four, Mockingjay Part 2, Cinderella, and last but most certainly not least Star Wars Episode VII. There's been rumors of the next Star Trek movie coming out then too...

So...I have complained about my school-life and given you a movie rundown that you totally wanted to read...what other boring subject can I curse this blog post with?

Right! Updates! Everybody loves to read updates!

Most of my writing time is spent editing Hail Frost. I don't know what I did to tick Hail off, but this book is being so difficult. Is it just me, or is the first edit the hardest??? I have all these continuity issues to work through, so I'm mostly re-writing entire scenes. I keep having to tell myself that it will get better once I get to the second edit, but it's hard to focus on that when I'm drowning in a sea of unending, tedious plot problems and stubborn characters.

Hopefully, Hail Frost will be published in October. My friend May said she'll design the cover in the summer. I'm totes excited!!!

Story D is on hold until summer, when I can relax by the pool and work on it while tanning and drinking sweet tea and lemonade and talking with my friends and smelling the smoke rising from my backyard where I will be incinerating all of my schoolbooks...

Oh yeah, and I also turned seventeen. As my also-seventeen-year-old friend put it today, "Cool! Now we're both ancient!"

I also studied the urinary tract in anatomy today. Just thought you'd like to know. : /