Pages of Awesome

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Importance of Backing up Files: Yes, I'm One of Those


I'm busy editing away at The Guardian's Tree but here's a quick post to tell you one of the most important rules of writing that may seem different.

Back up your files.

Every....single....day.

You may be one of those kind of people that read stuff like this and then think, "Oh, what an irresponsible person. I would never lose my files, my computer is never going to crash" and so on and so forth.

Yeah, I was one of those too.

And then I lost TGT.

It all started...somewhere, I'm not sure where, but I lost my flash drive that contained the entire, single, completed draft of my novella. Not only was it the one completed draft, it was the only draft containing any editing. Oh, and did I mention that I only had 2,000 words left to edit on this draft?

Needless to say, I was crushed.

Thankfully I had emailed out half of the edited novella to a friend and so I was able to grab that. At least I wouldn't have to rewrite the whole thing. But I would still need to redo the ending--the most challenging part of this story.

So I searched and searched for my drive, still haven't found it.

I gave up for the time being and began searching my computer for old, scraped, files. And after a while I found an older completed draft.

Whew.

But essentially, I'm having to re-edit half the story.

Imagine though if I hadn't emailed my file, or if I hadn't accidentally saved a back up long ago. That would be a tragedy.

Moral of the blog post: Back up your files--every five minutes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Starlighter - Bryan Davis - Book Review


So if you follow Christian Fantasy, especially teen Christian Fantasy, the name Bryan Davis ought not be a new one to you. Author of fifteen or so books including bestselling series Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire, and Echoes from the Edge, Mr. Davis has made quite the name for himself.

Recently he has started a new series entitled Dragons of Starlight. In this story world there will be, I believe, four books for teens and two books for adults. The adult series is to be published with AMG Publishers beginning with Masters and Slayers. The teen series begins with Starlighter, to be released next month.

Those who pre-ordered/won copies of the book received the book early and, as I was one of those people, I have decided to write an in depth review of the book.

From the Back Cover
Dragons are enslaving humankind and a black egg signals the end of the world. Jason Masters must journey to another realm and join forces with a slave girl named Koren to rescue the captives and save two worlds from destruction. What if the Legends Are True? Jason Masters doubted the myths: people taken through a portal to another realm and enslaved by dragons. But when his brother is taken, he must uncover the truth and find the portal before it's too late. Once he's through the portal, he meets Koren, a slave in the dragons' realm, who struggles to destroy a black egg prophesied to doom all mankind. Jason and Koren must work together to save their two worlds before the dragons learn that their secrets have been discovered. In Starlighter, bestselling author Bryan Davis masterfully weaves fantasy and inspiration into a captivating novel for young adults.


Plot
Personally, I found the plot thoroughly enjoyable. Who doesn't enjoy stories of other worlds? Dragons? Fantasy period? The story was fast paced and exciting. But some basic story elements were a first for Bryan Davis. For one, the dragons in this tale were evil. The villains were the creatures we came to love in his previous series. Secondly, none of this tale takes place on earth, and in the story world earth is nonexistent. Finally, I thought a lot of creativity went into this plot. Nothing came across cheesy, as things did in some of his other works, and in fact I was surprised by many of the fantasy elements in Starlighter.

Characters
The story has five or so main characters (two girls, two boys, enemy dragons) and I found them to be quite real. Each one has a very distinct personality, to the point that if you presented me with a line or two of dialogue, I could tell you which character spoke it. In this I believe Mr. Davis succeeded. However, I did not feel a serious connection with any of the characters. I identified with them, but because there were 4 heroes, two main villain-ish characters, and a deep plot, I do not think Mr. Davis had the time to create the connection. Keep in mind, however, that this is the first of a longer series, so I expect to gain that intimacy later. My favorite character was one that kept me on the edge the whole time, I am still analyzing his actions.

Writing Quality
Mr. Davis is a very well rounded storyteller. Exempting one or two points the dialogue was excellent, the detail was spot on, and the flow was perfect. As I said, I found a line of seemingly contrived dialogue and I was hazy on details in one particular scene, but overall the writing was wonderful.

Theme
The theme of this story is perhaps my favorite part of the book. The allegorical aspects are flooring and worded in my favorite way. Of course, I may be biased because of its similarities to my novella. :-P The theme was this one: the world is lost and needs delivering; though some will refuse bring the Lost Ones home. Beautiful if you ask me.

Conclusion
The story ended on a cliff-hanger of sorts. Some serious questions were left unanswered and I am dying to know their conclusion. Some things worth noting: I was a bit lost at the beginning of the book, terms were being thrown around that I didn't know the meaning of (and still don't) but that may just be because of my limited vocabulary, once the story really began things became easier to follow. Basic positive elements include: sacrifice, brotherly love, love between friends, non-romantic companionship between boys and girls, honorable men and women, loving adults, clearly defined good and evil. And I was going to put negative elements...but I can't think of any :P I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Highly recommended.

Be sure to check out the book trailer as well as Bryan Davis's website, blog, and the national tour schedule. Also, Mr. Davis is hosting a huge contest! See his blog for details! Zondervan will be hosting a contest shortly as well.
To buy the book from the author click here!
From Amazon, click here!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CCC Part Three - Evil is Good Evily


Most of you know that I am currently working on editing my novella, The Guardian's Tree. If you would like to read the basic plot of the story you can find it here. That, along with numerous other things, has kept me away from my blog. Until now of course.

Oh, and this isn't like the typical CCC Posts. Mainly because it's not entirely about characters. You can let me know what you think after reading though ;)

Presently, as I type the first half of this post, I am sitting at a school computer at uh....school. I have less than 2,000 words left to edit and one awesome ending to pound in there. Odds are that I will not complete the edits until tonight or tomorrow but I am so near the finish line either way.

A topic is repeatably brought up in the story, or at least near the end it is. It was also touched on in the last book I read by Ted Dekker, Red. And this topic is the idea of evil.

Evil, temptation, and the ability to overcome or fall to it.

This is just a quick post, I'm rather busy and have church coming up here soon. But let's take a look at evil for a moment. I consider it a very important part of any epic-like story.
  1. Evil must be evil
  2. Evil must be challenging, powerful
  3. Evil must be motivated
  4. Evil must be tempting
  5. Evil must be evil (yes I repeated)
I consider this pretty important. A story needs to be real, and evil is a very real part of this world. Plus, any good story needs a purpose and without evil there is very little purpose that I find...attracting to read about.

Evil must be evil. Sounds strange right? But in popular fantasy and aspiring fantasy this is not true for one reason or another. Writers seem to forget the true world that they are to be representing, the human condition they are to retell, and create a very different atmosphere.

Evil needs to be portrayed as evil. Essentially, this means that if there is evil in your story, as there must be, then it must be shone for what it is--evil. This means, no blurry lines. A lot of popular writings out there have begun to blur good and evil. The characters no longer struggle against evil, but the readers do. I enjoy reading, and writing, stories with great contrast between the two. You can't write gray areas. Sure you can have a character here and there in a gray space, but the true evil and true good cannot be mixed.

"...what fellowship has light with darkness?"

Mixing the two.....is a no-no in my opinion.

Another thing common among aspiring writers, I've been guilty of this, is that the evil is too easy. Good too easily overcomes its enemy. We get so caught up in furthering the story, our eyes set on our hero's prize, that we often forget to...well keep our characters away from victory.

When I was younger I had this problem in battles. Good army against Bad army. Good army never lost, always kicked Bad army's tail. Huge victories. Good never fails! WOOHOO

Which, of course, is ridiculous.

Not only does this provide for a terrible story, it isn't true. First, who wants to read a story with no challenge? I don't. Plus, good doesn't always win up front in life. It requires a struggle. And readers enjoy that struggle.

I look at it this way: Good stories are those in which good people come up against impossible challenges and overcome them. Essentially, there should be no way for your hero to win. I mean....it should be impossible. I try and try and try to write situations like these where your protag is backed into a corner with zero options. If you can get your character there, congratulations. Of course...you'll need to find a way out, but you get the picture.

Don't let your hero away unscathed. Make him pay for it.

Now combining the two you could have a straightforward evil force. But...this force is just evil, and with no motivation. I think I discussed this in the original CCC post. I will reiterate: evil needs a motive. Your readers need to hate the evil, despise it, but the evil needs to make sense. Satan has a motive--pride. So that's a simple one to copy if you need a starting point ;)

Temptation is my next point.

This isn't so much a requirement as it is something I find interesting. This goes in hand with the "powerful" thing. Defeating evil can't be too easy. And evil is often alluring.

In The Guardian's Tree, my novella, evil and sin are represented by monstrous creatures called Damans as well as by chains and torture. The allure doesn't have to make total sense to your reader per say, so long as it makes sense that the hero would be tempted. In TGT the...more human-like protragonist sets out to rescue captives. His goal is to set those bound by chains free. He reaches his destination when a "superior" Daman lands and begins addressing his fellows. Here is a short excerpt of his temptation:

Its gruff voice rang out. “Today is the day of reckoning. The Tree Guardian and his precious flower will be uprooted.” It flapped its wings and brought them to its side. “And my praises will be sung throughout Hethra.”

Its beady eyes swept its followers’ then made contact with Abarron’s. His heart leapt into his throat. The cries of the dying, the rescued, and the Damans faded. He could hear only his heartbeat, his rapidly speeding heartbeat. The whispery voice shook him to the core.

“Abarron…”

His heart pounded and his mind filled with doubt. He couldn’t do this. He slid his foot forward and kicked something metal.

“Abarron…”

His face chilled. Goosebumps seized his flesh. Bloodied chains rested on his foot.

“Come back…Abarron.”
Of course, that scene hasn't been edited...and it will be longer (it's a newer scene that I'm working on), but I think the idea still remains.

Writing that section, in context...there's a lot more to it that adds to the terror here, I was horrified. Abarron is strangely attracted to these chains, as will be tacked on later. Here we see his terror, and fear leads to tempation and failure.

But isn't that strange? He is attracted to the very thing he flees, chains. And an eerie desire to strap himself down again arises.

This is the type of temptation evil brings.

And I ended with evil must be evil. Essentially, don't sugar coat things to please people. In the end, you're only hurting the story.

So that's all I've got for now. What are your thoughts?

To the end,
Nathan

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Vertical Self - by Mark Sayers


Recently I had the opportunity to read an incredible book by a man named mark Sayers. I thought I'd post my review for it. Enjoy!

Our culture has driven us insane. So much so, we haven't even noticed it. We were created in God's very own image. And in Mark Sayer's book, The Vertical Self, he not only proclaims this drastic identity crisis, he provides an accessible solution through Christ Jesus. Find your identity in Christ, and you will never be in crisis.

The book begins defining where our culture is at, and what "the vertical self" means. The idea is simple really, those with a vertical sense of self find their identity vertically. At the top is God and eternal reward, the middle is yourself and earth, and the bottom is eternal punishment and Hell. Such people identify who they are as the image of God.

The second sense of self is horizontal. The horizontal self has no standard to hold itself to save other peers, who also have a horizontal sense of self.

Sayers challenges those saved and unsaved to come back to who we were meant to be. Find out who were truly are. To stop changing our identity to please others and become, once again, the image bearers of God. And that this doesn't require otherworldly saintness, giving up our desires, etc. All that is needed is subjecting our desires and person under the Lordship of Christ. Holiness. And to be holy is to be whole.

I loved this book. It's changed the way I think and look at things in a more godly manner I believe. The way Sayers spoke encouraged me and made things clear and simple. This is something every Christian needs to be reminded of. We are the IMAGE OF CHRIST. So we need to start living like it.

Read this book and prepare to be changed. God worked in big ways with this book, for me at least. I trust He can do the same for you.

Live life to the fullest. Become who you were made to be.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."