Friday, December 20, 2013

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

    And it came to pass in those days, that there came a decree from Augustus Caesar, that all the world should be taxed. (This first taxing was made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) Therefore went all to be taxed, every man to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of a city called Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) to be taxed with Mary that was given him to wife, which was with child.
    And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first begotten son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
    And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. And lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone about them, and they were sore afraid. Then the Angel said unto them, "Be not afraid: for behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people, That is, that unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you, Ye shall find the babe swaddled, and laid in a manger." And straightway there was with the Angel a multitude of heavenly soldiers, praising God, and saying, "Glory be to God in the high heavens, and peace in earth, and toward men good will." And it came to pass when the Angels were gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said one to another, "Let us go then unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed unto us." So they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph and the babe laid in the manger. And when they had seen it, they published abroad the thing that was told them of that child. And all that heard it, wondered at the things which were told them of the shepherds. But Mary kept all those sayings, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God, for all that they had heard and seen, as it was spoken unto them.
Luke 2:1-20

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Free eBooks!

If you've been wanting to read Across the Stars or The Experiment, but haven't gotten it yet, you're in luck. This week only, from today until Friday, both books are free on Kindle. Completely free with no strings attached. (Though if you would like to leave a review, I won't complain.)

Tell all your friends about this free offer. After all, it doesn't cost anything except a few seconds of your time. If you don't have a Kindle, you can get a free Kindle app from Amazon for your computer, iPhone, or other device. So head on over to Amazon and download these books for free.

Across the Stars

The Experiment


Prefer a paperback to an eBook? Paperbacks are on sale for 35% off the regular price through the end of the month.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Creighton Hill Anniversary

One year ago, yesterday, I was at Disney World, at Hollywood Studios. After a wonderful day at the park, we went back to our resort where we could see the fireworks at Magic Kingdom and Epcot from our window. And that night, December 10, 2012, with the fireworks outside the window, I penned, or rather penciled, the first words of Creighton Hill.

It has been a difficult book to write, and still needs much work, but I am happy to be able to say that I am now halfway through the story, at the point which I have decided to break it into two books. It has changed a good bit from the original idea I had many years ago, but this is a logline of the story as I currently see it going:

In a perilous quest that spans two worlds, four siblings must team up with their long-lost ancestors and a rebellious slave to deliver an enslaved people from the cruel Strytes who invaded their land.

And this is the prologue I wrote one year ago at Disney World:

    "It was July first, 1800 the day George Hubbard disappeared. He was just a boy, twelve years old, a good lad, not one to run away. His family thought he was kidnapped, the neighbors thought he had been murdered, but no one knows what really happened to George Hubbard. No trace of him was ever found. Ever since that day, every twenty years, a child of twelve years old, born a Hubbard, in this very house, has disappeared mysteriously, leaving no trace. Next time . . . next time it might be one of you!"
    "Is it really true, Grampa?" a wide-eyed boy of five asked.
    "Of course it is," the old man told his grandson.
    "No it isn't," a very matter-of-fact seven year old girl contradicted. "You're just joshing us, Grampa, I know. No one can mysteriously disappear leaving no trace. It isn't realistic."
    "You're right, Emily," her grandfather said thoughtfully. "It isn't realistic. However, a good many things happen in this world that are not realistic, things supernatural."
    "I still don't believe it," Emily said.
    A girl of four climbed up on her Grampa's lap. "I believe you," she said.
    "I know you do, Jill," the old man said. "I know you do."


It'll be a while before Creighton Hill is ready to be published, it still needs a lot of work. Right now, though, my other books, Across the Stars and The Experiment, are on sale for Christmas. The details are on this page. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 9, 2013

New Sale for Christmas!

I've heard that sales get better closer to Christmas. I don't know about other places, but here it's true. Last week, my books were on sale for 20% off. Now, until December 31, they are on sale for $6.50 each. That's about 35% off of the regular price of $9.99.

The Kindle versions of both books are $0.99 until December 31.

Christmas shopping is made cheaper and easier by 35% off paperbacks and $0.99 eBooks. Don't miss it!

Across the Stars

The Experiment

Friday, November 29, 2013

Indie Booksale and Christmas Sale

Merry Christmas! The first of my Christmas sales starts today. First off, my Kindle books are $0.99 through December 30. I am also participating in an indie author paperback sale that runs from today through Tuesday, December 3rd. There are coupon codes below, and links to where you can get the discount. It's a great opportunity to save some money on Christmas shopping!
Picture
Melody Valadez
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            Those Who Trespass: https://www.createspace.com/4404436

Faith Blum
                                  93LQLRJ8 (10% off)
            A Mighty Fortress: https://www.createspace.com/4420971

Marilynn Dawson
                                 MU73RQR (10% off)
            Mom's Little Black Book: Godly Advice for the High School Graduate:
https://www.createspace.com/4249405
            Becoming the Bride of Christ: A Personal Journey:
https://www.createspace.com/3672131 Volume One
https://www.createspace.com/3933868 Volume Two
https://www.createspace.com/3958072 Volume Three
https://www.createspace.com/3958097 Volume Four
https://www.createspace.com/3958124 Volume Five
https://www.createspace.com/3960362 Volume Six
https://www.createspace.com/3964570 Leader's Guide

Molly Evangeline
            http://www.mollyevangeline.com/holiday-sales

Kelsey Bryant
                                    YFY84GHU (20% off)
            Family Reunion: https://www.createspace.com/4428655

Christina & Melody Grubb
            http://www.etsy.com/shop/DaybyDayCreations

Aubrey Hansen
                                    D6PH5HAT (20% off)
            Peter's Angel:https://www.createspace.com/3988112
            Red Rain:https://www.createspace.com/3813172

Morgan Huneke
                                    BX6RV6SK (20% off)
            Across the Stars: https://www.createspace.com/4259184
            The Experiment: https://www.createspace.com/4410811

Vicki Lucas
            Toxic: http://vickivlucas.com/books/toxic/ (Discounted to $10 through Paypal)

J. Grace Pennington
                                    9L3ES8RT (20% off)
            Never: https://www.createspace.com/3940500
            Firmament: Radialloy: https://www.createspace.com/3816448
            Firmament: In His Image: https://www.createspace.com/4480518

Jordan Smith
                                    5PC4QW6S (20% off)
            Finding the Core of Your Story: https://www.createspace.com/4064194
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 22, 2013

Christmas Sale

Starting November 29th, I will be having a Christmas sale on my books. The Kindle books will be on sale for $0.99 apiece until New Years, with possibly a few days where it is offered for free. For the paperbacks I will have various sales running through New Years. Stay tuned for more details.

Happy Thanksgiving, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

S: Samuel Polk

Samuel Polk is another one of those characters I made up to fill a specific role. I needed another teenager who could drive, and so I named him Samuel. Now, you may be wondering why I had a character named Sam in Across the Stars, and a Samuel in The Experiment. I obviously like the name, but why? That can be answered in two words: Samwise Gamgee. He is my favorite character from Lord of the Rings, and so I started to like his name. I can't very well go around naming my characters Samwise, so I decided on a different name that can have Sam for a nickname. So Audrey called him Samuel.

At one point in the story, I decided to write a chapter about Samuel, simply because I didn't know what would happen next to the Raingolds. To do this, though, Samuel needed siblings. I have a little notebook full of fictional families I've made up, and so I looked through that to find a Samuel that would suit the part. I couldn't find very many Samuels, but I did find one family that had one with several older siblings, a twin sister, and a younger brother and sister who were twins. These were the Polks. I decided to use this family with a few alterations. For one thing, I never mention whether or not there are any older siblings. For another, I changed the ages of the girls so there were no twins. Then I had the Polks as can be known from The Experiment: Samuel, Samantha, Timmy, and Tabby.

Their part in the story expanded slightly from the tiny chapter I wrote while stalling the Raingold part. Their chapter doubled in length, and Tabby had a role to play at Courtstone. Their main role, however, is to show that these events are happening to others, and to expand the Raingolds' acquaintance. And that role they fulfill very well.

Monday, November 18, 2013

R: Raingolds

Finally I come to the Raingolds! I don't see why I always seem to pick last names for my main characters that come so far down in the alphabet. The Raingolds were a family I made up based on my own family except with extra kids, namely two little brothers. I made up random stuff about them for a while, but I really wanted a story to put them in. However, I couldn't come up with a good one. Then I had the dream which inspired what I then called Stand Fast, and decided to put them in it. It was a perfect fit, though the finished story is considerably different.

Audrey Raingold is the oldest, and somewhat based on me. She does tend to be somewhat bossy, and likes little kids. The muffin batter she mentions dumping on the inside of the oven is a true story. And I also found a beetle's exoskeleton inside of the frog I dissected for biology. Audrey is a lot braver than me, though. She is responsible, but she doesn't really want to be in charge. I suppose this is somewhat like me. I am capable of leading if I absolutely have to, but I hate doing it. Honestly, I think Audrey handled the whole situation better than I would have.

Ginnie was inspired by my sister Rebekah, but I think Ginnie came out even quieter than my sister. Ginnie is mostly just there, to support the others without obtruding into the story. Her relationship with Carrie Pauley as piggyback ride giver is taken from real life. "Carrie" did always get Rebekah to give her piggyback rides, and she did tell Bekah to jump over things, saying, "I won't fall off. I promise."

I'm not sure where to start with Abby. She is based on my sister Addyson, as my family was quickly able to see. I remember when my dad was reading it for the first time, my mom asked him, "Have you met your daughter yet?" Yes, Addy does talk a lot about the Constitution, and in an intelligent way. She knows it. She knows politics, too. Though Abby doesn't do this in the book, Addyson has gone into very detailed descriptions of why property and income taxes are wrong. Abby is rather argumentative, but she knows what she is talking about. She is a tomboy, and an entertaining character. Abby and Ian are the life of the story, which leads me to Ian.

Ian is not based on anyone in particular. However, his name is. His name is Indiana, which is because of Indiana Jones, though that is not the story explanation. I originally called him Indy, though I decided before I wrote it that I would call him Ian. He is, shall we say, spirited. In a less delicate way of speaking, he is a pain. He is very active and, well, he is a little boy. He is only seven, and doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut. He also is argumentative, and gets into good natured fights with Abby. It doesn't take much for the two of them to get obnoxious together. As a character, I like him, though I'm not sure I would want him to be my little brother.

Then there's Collin. He's two, and, apparently, not much of a talker. He gets carried around a lot by the older children, but he doesn't really do much. I'm pretty sure he's a cute little thing, though. At any rate, the little boy who played him in the book trailer is.

And that's the Raingolds.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Q: Quadruped

I had a hard time coming up with something for "Q." In fact, I was having such a hard time thinking of something that I looked through all the words beginning with Q in my dictionary several times. Finally, I noticed the word "quadruped," and thought, a dog is a quadruped, I'll do Canis! And so this post was born.

I love dogs. I haven't always, but I do now, especially my yellow Labrador retriever Sophie. There is no mention of a dog in Across the Stars, so I had to put a dog into The Experiment. It isn't the Raingolds' dog, it is York's, and while the dog doesn't have much page time, he plays an important role. His name is Canis, which is Latin for "dog." And yes, that was on purpose. I was having trouble naming him, so I asked my mom and my sisters for ideas. We threw around a bunch of possibilities, and I ended up settling on Canis. I don't remember who thought of it, but it works. Canis is a very obedient dog, and very faithful to his master. I never specify his breed, but I tend to think of him as a German Shepherd, or something of that sort. Strange, because I like retrievers best by far. Canis has a job in the story, which he fulfills, but it could be considered a bit spoilery, so I won't say. It is in chapter 20.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

P: Pooles, Pauleys, and Pardens

The Pooles, Pauleys, and Pardens are friends of the Raingolds. They are inspired by friends of mine, some of whom even starred in the book trailer for The Experiment.

The Pooles are Elisabeth, Mike, Maddy, and Elliot. The Pauleys are Bethy, Grace, Suzy, and Carrie. The Pardens are Annelise and David. The Experiment is dedicated to those who inspired these characters. For some of the characters, I used the middle name, or a variation thereof, for the name of the character. For a few I chose a different name, Elliot and David in particular. Those were just random names chosen because I didn't want to call a character by the middle name of the person they were inspired by. "David" found himself and his sister in the book when he was reading it, and his question was, "Why didn't you give me a little brother?" After explaining that I didn't need any more characters, he told me that next book I put him in, I had to give him a little brother. I wasn't planning on putting him in another book, but I'll have to keep that in mind if I do.

The characters didn't all come out exactly like the person they were inspired by, but they suit the story. Since the Raingolds are based on my family (with two little brothers), I can't help but think of The Experiment as being a story about me and my sisters and friends, though in the story we are all the ages we were three years ago. It has served to make the story mean more to me, imagining us in those circumstances.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

O: Orphanage

Is it just me, or are orphan stories the most dramatic, sad, awesome stories ever? Anyone who knew me as a child knew my favorite game to play was "run away from the orphanage." We would make up the worst orphanage matron we could think of, slip out of the "orphanage," which was usually a dugout at a baseball field at the park, run around in circles with imaginary dogs chasing after us, journey far and wide in the small area of the park we were playing in, and set up housekeeping next to the same baseball field we had run away from, though this time it was far away. Then we would go back home to the air condition in our respective happy homes, and eat dinner with our families.

How does this figure into The Experiment? Especially since hardly any of the children are orphans? Well, they are treated as such. They even go to an orphanage at Courtstone. They are put in dormitories, given ugly gray uniforms, fed nasty food, faced with the possibility of being separated from their siblings . . . it's just what orphan stories are made of. I want to write a true orphan story someday, but since I haven't yet, I have to be content with the orphan story elements in The Experiment.

For any others who enjoy the drama of orphans, I highly recommend Thursday's Child by Noel Streatfeild. It is one of my favorites.

Monday, November 4, 2013

N: Nonconformists

The Experiment is about nonconformists, the people who refuse to conform to the confines of the government's control. A major section of the nonconformists would be the homeschoolers. There are a lot of those in the book. Maybe I'm biased, but I like homeschooling, and since I don't have any personal public school experience, my main characters are generally homeschooled. Other nonconformists in The Experiment are from private schools, though I don't feature any of them. Then there are the public school kids, who constantly land themselves in detention by refusing to accept the lies they are being fed. What happens to these nonconformists is the premise of the whole book: they fight back. They are freedom fighters.

These freedom fighters don't always have the upper hand. In fact, I would say the only way winning is possible for them is because they rely on God. The children are taken from their homes and placed in homes of those of people under the government's control, for the purpose of assimilating them into the society. Because removing them from their parents' influence will make them more controllable, right? Not so much. These children are nonconformists themselves, and will stop at nothing to save America. They are pursuers of freedom, and The Experiment is their story.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

M: Malcolm Crowdler

Malcolm Crowdler . . . the evil President of the United States, one hundred years in the future. I find that I tend to have an evil ruler in my stories: King Jorrid in Across the Stars, Malcolm Crowdler in The Experiment, the Stryte Toarna in my WIP (work in progress) Creighton Hill . . . evil rulers are just so useful in a story. The backstory of the creation of the character Malcolm Crowdler is nothing spectacular. I needed an evil president, and Malcolm Crowdler was the first name I thought of, so that's who he became. Honestly, I don't know much of his backstory as a character either. I'm not much like Tolkien, I don't create extensive history for my stories and characters. I just fill it in when necessary. And I never found a reason to make up President Crowdler's backstory. But here's what I do know.

I found out from Miss Reginald that he was commissioned by The Head to fulfill the position of President. I don't know who The Head is, though. According to Miss Reginald, the President is selfish and likes power. He likely held a position in the government before he became president. He is very controlling, and doesn't like to tell people what is going on. He tends to make others work on a need to know basis. He obviously is smart enough to control the country, he must not be a product of the purposefully bad schools. However, he must not be the one completely in charge, whoever The Head is would be that. He is rather cruel, and his treatment of Johnson is no exception. He even calls himself Johnson's master. Malcolm Crowdler's outcome in the story is one I will not divulge. You have to read it for yourself.

Monday, October 28, 2013

L: Linus Prescott

L is for Linus, finally someone I have something to say about. He is another dream character, the one who rescued me from the creepy guy when I was yelling for Georgie. He is Georgie's younger brother.

Originally, Linus was going to be 16 years old, but when I started actually writing The Experiment, I decided he would be 20. I don't believe he was originally Georgie's brother either. He has been involved in trying to stop The Experiment for years, and his name is one Anne recognized from snooping in her brother's files. He is very smart, but is, by his own admission, no scientist. He can't do anything with chemistry or biology, but when it comes to technology, he can do just about anything. Don't ask me how, because I have no idea. He basically fulfills the role of a double agent, situated as he is within Miss Reginald's scientific research facility. He has been able to disable security devices while making it appear as if it accidentally broke, and he can get out of whatever Miss Reginald may confine him in.

On personality . . . he has a temper. He and Anne have some heated exchanges. He cares about his sister, and is anxious to reverse the experiments performed on her. He's great at spying, but he won't take the initiative to fight back. This frustrates Anne to no end, but he is insistent that the time is not right. He does insist that Anne obey him, and when she doesn't, it causes conflict. I suppose he's in the right, but still, I tend to be more on Anne's side. He is good friends with Brian and Henry Rubin. Linus is an interesting character, and I enjoyed writing about him.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

K: Kansas Whitman

Kansas Whitman is a prime example of how my original idea is nothing like the finished product. First things first. She is a dream character. I don't know why the girl in my dream was named Kansas, though people in my dreams have had even stranger names. (One dream had young men named Vladimir and Foy, a boy named Atkinson, and a little girl named Rohlie.)

I originally thought Kansas would play a much larger role in the story than she did. Back then, though, it was completely separate from the Rubins' story and was under the working title Stand Fast (which I desperately wanted to change). I was going to have a bunch of characters with state names in that book, but in The Experiment there are only four: Indiana (Ian), Virginia (Ginnie), York, and Kansas. Kansas was also going to be the granddaughter of the Donahoes. She and her parents were to be rather estranged from the Donahoes, because of political differences, but that did not end up coming into The Experiment at all. I doubt now she is any relation to them, even in the first draft.

There are a lot of things from the idea of Stand Fast that I still would like to work into a story. I am working occasionally on a side project that is another dystopian type story, only with grownups as the main characters, so maybe some of it will get in there.

Kansas in the final version is a minor character, someone the Raingolds meet on their travels. She is basically in the same boat as them, taken from home, forced to work as a slave, etc. She seems like a rather spunky little girl. I know she was in my original ideas, but she didn't really get elaborated on much. She's there, though, and I'm sure she could have a very interesting backstory if only I had bothered to make it up.

Monday, October 21, 2013

J: Johnson

J is for Johnson, President Crowdler's minion, or lackey, or whatever you choose to call him. He is a minor character who performed the tasks needing to be done by an extra character. He is the only named employee of the President, unless you count Miss Reginald, so I suppose he is somewhat important. Regardless of his relative importance, his entrance into the story was rather unspectacular.

I was writing a chapter about President Crowdler, where he is told that the escapees have been recaptured. I needed a name for the person telling him, and Johnson was the first name I thought of. Thus, Johnson entered The Experiment. He had other tasks; he became the chauffeur, he tried to be a bodyguard, and most of all, he was there for the President to order around. Johnson doesn't have many scenes, but he's all I could think of for "J," since I had to put Jen with York in order to avoid repeating information. I do kind of feel sorry for Johnson, since he is under the President's control, but . . . I must say no more. I can't give away the ending of the book.

As a supplement to Johnson, here's a link to my latest interview, on KingdomTales.org.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The End of a Contest

My sister drew the names of the contest winners this morning. I wish everyone could have won, but, alas, there are only three prizes. I suppose it's a good thing I had more than three entries, since it means that more than three people entered. I will be contacting the winners to get their prizes to them. And for anyone who was wondering what the correct answers were, I will put the answers at the end of this post. Congratulations to the winners!

1) Which five characters were named in the dreams that inspired The Experiment?
            Linus, Georgie, Adam, Jen, and Kansas

2) What special ability does Anne Rubin have?
            An amazing memory

3) What kind of animal was Audrey Raingold's dissection specimen?
            A frog

4) What was Henry Rubin's name in the original draft?
            Edward

5) What is Ian Raingold's full first name?
            Indiana

6) At the beginning of the book, who is hiding in the cellar?
            Anne and Edmund Rubin

7) What two families do the Raingolds stay with in the PQR dormitory?
            The Pooles and the Pauleys

8) Where were Anne and Edmund when they were kidnapped?
            The grocery store

9) In The Experiment, who is the President of the United States?
            Malcolm Crowdler

10) What state is Courtstone in?
            South Dakota

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I: Inspirations

This wasn't what I was planning for "I," I was going to do "Injections," but I have a lot more to say about the various things that inspired The Experiment. It's a lot more interesting, too. The things that consciously and unconsciously helped to inspire The Experiment don't all normally go together.

The principle inspiration was from dreams, which I described here. The dreams are described in the third and fourth paragraphs. Another non-book or movie inspiration was America. America has been going downhill for a long time, with the government taking more and more power and trying to control every aspect of our lives. I listen to Glenn Beck most days, so I heard about it a lot. Common Core is one of these ways, a national education standard the government is trying to implement which essentially will make everyone the same and allow the government to collect and store records on us. The Affordable Healthcare Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, also takes away freedom and helps the government to collect information on Americans. I wrote The Experiment before the whole NSA spying thing became known, so that wasn't even a part of this inspiration. And if you didn't already know I was a conservative political activist, you do now.

The Giver by Lois Lowry and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle were a big part of the inspiration, more specifically, the society in The Giver and the planet Camazotz in A Wrinkle in Time. Both are very controlled and not the least bit free. I remember thinking how there were lots of books with situations like that, but not very many about it becoming that way. So I decided to write one.

Another thing that inspired The Experiment was an episode of Gilligan's Island. I believe it was called "The Good Doctor" and it was about a mad scientist. The scientist came to the island and took the castaways to his home where he switched their minds with each other. So the idea of a mad scientist became inseparably connected to The Experiment. A character from certain children's Star Wars books had a part in it as well. In the Rebel Force series by Alex Wheeler there is a character called X-7 who was taken by the Empire, his memory was erased, and he was used as an assassin, his mission being to kill Luke Skywalker. Later in the series, you find out who he used to be, Trever Flume, a principal character in the Last of the Jedi series by Jude Watson. Trever wasn't exactly the greatest character, he was an orphan and a reformed street thief, but I liked him and hated to find out what the Empire did to him. This greatly influenced the experiments on Edmund Rubin.

In Turn Homeward, Hannalee by Patricia Beatty, Hannalee is forced to be a servant for a cruel couple after the Yankees kidnap her during the Civil War and ship her north. The Raingolds' life at the Donahoes' was inspired by this.

In parts of the story, the Raingolds and their friends are in orphanage-type places, which was because of my love of orphan stories. Some of the stories that inspired this are the musical Annie, Changes for Samantha, Thursday's Child by Noel Streatfeild, and Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards.

Thinking back on The Experiment, I realized that the experiments on Georgie were probably influenced by the Vita-Wonk and Wonka-Vite in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl and Anne's memory most likely came from Cam Jansen's photographic memory in the Cam Jansen series by David Adler.

It just goes to show, what you write is influenced by what you read!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Interview With J. Grace Pennington

Author J. Grace Pennington and I interviewed each other on our blogs today. You can see my interview here, on www.jgracepennington.com.

And now for Grace's interview. She is the author of Firmament: Radialloy and Never, both of which I reviewed on this blog the past two weeks. It's a pleasure to introduce to you . . . J. Grace Pennington!

Hi, Grace! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello, and thank you for having me! I'm a twenty-three-year-old writer of Christian young-adult science fiction, western mystery, and everything in between.  I'm the oldest of nine kids, and wouldn't have it any other way.  I was homeschooled all the way by my dedicated parents, which I'm very grateful for, and God is the most important thing in my life.

You published two books last year, Firmament: Radialloy and Never. What are they about?
The logline for Radialloy is: When her father shows signs of insanity, a doctor's daughter finds herself the primary target as mutiny breaks out on their starship and secrets from her past threaten to destroy everything she has ever loved.

And for Never: When his younger brother is sent to work off a death sentence in the coal mines outside town, a rancher must discover what really happened before the younger man is worked to death or pressured into more sinister service by the cruel mine owner.

How did you get the ideas for the Firmament Series and Never?
I wrote the beginning of Radialloy after a dream I had based on a Star Trek movie. The basis for the series has always been Andi and her relationship with her adoptive father, Doctor Lloyd.  Once I had that relationship in mind, I delved into what role her biological family might play in the story, then surrounded them with characters I found interesting until my mind was popping with ideas of places to take the characters and ways to test and stretch them! I originally had twenty-four ideas, but I finally narrowed and whittled it down to eighteen.

For Never, I had a list of things I wanted to include in a book... a strong relationship between two adult brothers, a quarantined inn full of people who were suspects in a murder, someone being worked and pressured in a coal mine by a sadistic owner, the small-Western-town setting, and the theme of never giving in, among other things. Then I brainstormed a story that included all those things. Relationships are often a strong motivator for my writing.

Do you ever base your characters on real people?
Occasionally, but not often. Andi Lloyd is somewhat based on myself, but with certain key changes. Travis and Ross have a few character qualities that are like my brothers. But usually I just pull characters out of my mind. I do occasionally base characters on other characters, changing their backstory, religion, or setting to try to find out how it would change them. Doctor Lloyd, for instance, bears some similarity to Doctor McCoy from Star Trek.

I'm really looking forward to In His Image, book two of the Firmament Series. What is it about?

The official logline for In His Image is: After accidentally running awry of the laws of a civilization that scientifically shouldn’t exist, a stranded away team must figure out what’s going on and find a way to escape before they are all executed.

It's going to be different from Radialloy, because several key characters are almost or entirely absent, and the characters I do feature are stranded on a planet most of the time, rather than exclusively on the starship. We're also dealing with some of the emotional aftermath of the first book, and there will be a few new characters. I'm very excited to see what people think of it.

What made you start writing?
I've been reading since I was four, and one afternoon when I was five, my mom was taking a nap and I was bored. I realized that since I knew how to write words, and books were just words, I could write a book if I wanted, so I did. I've always enjoyed making up stories, so once I realized I could put them on paper for others to enjoy, there was no turning back!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My most basic advice is a quote I heard from director Robert Rodriquez: "The only difference between the do-ers and the don't-ers, is the do-ers do and the don't-ers don't." If you have something to write, there is no great inspiration and no winning method to get you there... you just have to get out there, grab your pencil or put your fingers on the keyboard and write. And there's no such thing as writer's block. Sometimes it's hard, and that's when you just have to force yourself.  Keep putting words out there, even if they're awful. You can edit anything but a blank page. :)

Besides writing, what do you like to do?

I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends, filmmaking, playing piano, violin, and guitar, watching movies, reading books, Bible study, spending time with my horse, eating, taking walks, and figuring out new ways to tie scarves!

Thanks for the interview!

Thank you for having me, Morgan! I enjoyed it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Never Review

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Travis Hamilton never expected to be a killer. One day he was studying to become a schoolteacher in the little western town of Spencervale, and the next he was sentenced to ten years hard labor in the Dead Mines outside town -- from which few return alive.

Ross Hamilton is no detective. But when his brother is convicted of murder, he has no choice but to abandon his ranch and do all in his power to find out just what happened the night of the killing, and who is really responsible.

Neither brother is prepared to be stretched and tested to his limits and beyond by an adventure that is much bigger than either of them ever imagined.

But in the next few days, they will be. The only way to survive is to never compromise.

Never
.
--From J. Grace Pennington's Website

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Again I am in awe of Grace's skill with the mystery side of her stories. Not only is it better than any mystery I have attempted to write, it is better than most of the mystery series I grew up on. Grace kept me guessing "whodunit" for quite a while, and even at the end I was going "He's on that side? I thought I could trust him." At the beginning, I wasn't even entirely sure the Travis hadn't somehow done it. About halfway through the book, the plot thickens considerably, revealing it to be more than just a random murder.

On the non-mystery side of the story, I loved the mine parts of the story. I've loved terrible underground places in stories since I was little (probably since I first read The Silver Chair) and the Dead Mines was such a place. The description of the conditions in the mine was extremely good, dark and grimy, hardly any food, nasty water, etc. Travis's experience was very well written, to say the least. Ross and Travis were well developed characters, they have their own personalities, and, despite being very different, are very close brothers. The message to never compromise your principles is well done, especially since the principles the Hamiltons are determined never to compromise are Christian ones.

The one thing I can think of that I didn't particularly like was that the word "then" was used a bit too often at the very beginning. However, further into the book she used the word much more sparingly.

In short, I really enjoyed Never, and would definitely recommend it, though, due to the subject of murder, probably not for young children.

My sister wants me to add that she thinks it is "totally awesome."

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Experiment is Here!

Contest Over
The Experiment is here! Well, the book is, I hope the events never are. It's available as a paperback for $9.99 and on Kindle for $2.99. But you have a chance to win a copy for free. That's right, FREE! Just one catch, you have to go on an Experiment scavenger hunt. Here's how it works:

1: There will be ten questions at the end of this post relating to The Experiment. All answers can be found in some form or fashion on this blog.

2: Find the answers to all the questions and email them to me at hunekeauthor@gmail.com by midnight ET October 14th. Each email will constitute one entry. (Limit one entry per email address. If you have multiple email addresses, you can enter from each one.)

3: Only entries that get all ten answers correct will be entered in a drawing for a free signed copy of The Experiment.

4: All entries, regardless of whether or not all the answers are correct, will be entered in a drawing for second and third prize, which consists of a free eBook version of The Experiment.

That about sums it all up. Happy hunting!


Contest Questions

1) Which five characters were named in the dreams that inspired The Experiment?

2) What special ability does Anne Rubin have?

3) What kind of animal was Audrey Raingold's dissection specimen?

4) What was Henry Rubin's name in the original draft?

5) What is Ian Raingold's full first name?

6) At the beginning of the book, who is hiding in the cellar?

7) What two families do the Raingolds stay with in the PQR dormitory?

8) Where were Anne and Edmund when they were kidnapped?

9) In The Experiment, who is the President of the United States?

10) What state is Courtstone in?

Monday, September 30, 2013

H: Holly Reginald

Holly Reginald is a scientist, and one of the main villains in The Experiment. I struggled to find a name for her for a while. I looked through our baby name book, possibly one of the most tattered books in our house, in search of a name. I decided her last name would be Reginald, and I thought at first that her first name would be Anatola. However, thinking about that name, I decided I wanted to use it for an orphan girl in a story inspired by L. M. Montgomery's books instead (and no, I haven't written it yet). The first name I thought of after making the decision not to call Miss Reginald 'Anatola' was Holly, and so that became her name. Most of the time I just call her Miss Reginald, though.

One of Miss Reginald's lines has been in my mind since long before I began to write The Experiment. I thought of it then, and still do, as the sort of line that would be played in all the trailers if it was a movie: ". . . he is my pet project. To see what kind of a monster I can create." I was determined to work it in somehow, and I did.

Miss Reginald's character underwent some last minute changes about two months ago. One of my test readers pointed out how she unrealistically rambled on and on to no one about her evil schemes. I admittedly have great difficulty writing villains, so I was glad that this reader pointed out ways to make her more realistic. It was difficult for me to figure her out, to learn her motivation, and so I wrote an interview with her to learn more about her. You can read that interview here. Miss Reginald is an interesting character, and you can read all about her in The Experiment available tomorrow (though if you want to stalk Amazon and Createspace, you may be able to find it later today:) ).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Radialloy Review

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The year is 2320. Andi Lloyd is content with her life as the assistant to her adoptive father, a starship doctor, but her secure world turns upside down when she begins uncovering secrets from her past. When her father mysteriously starts losing his mind, she finds that she can no longer count on him to guide or help her. With mutiny breaking out on the ship, and two factions desperate for a valuable secret she holds, she must race to save her father and herself before time runs out.--From J. Grace Pennington's Website

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I have read a lot of books by homeschooled authors in the last few months, and though I love them all dearly and was terribly sad to say goodbye to all the characters I had come to know and love, Firmament: Radialloy has been the only one to leave me thinking, "Wow, I wish I could write like that." Radialloy is clean and well written, and is a complex, Christian mystery adventure set in outer space. The setting is similar to that of Star Trek, though without any aliens (Doctor Lloyd is very vocal about his disbelief in aliens), yet, even though Star Trek bores me, I absolutely loved Radialloy.

I have to be careful in this review not to give anything away, since part of what makes this story so intriguing is discovering things for one's self. I loved Andi. She's not much of a morning person, like me, so I was able to relate to her in that. The secrets about her past and the secret she holds are revealed well, as Andi herself discovers them. I was both entertained and a bit irritated by Eagle Crash, due to his cocky personality, but I like him anyway. I do like August quite a bit, and was pleased by what was revealed in regards to him, but I still like Andi better. It was difficult to figure out who the true villain was, and I must say, the villain(s) was well crafted. I struggle with creating a convincing bad guy, but Grace did an amazing job with hers.

The plot gets more and more complex as the story goes on. The tension even mounted to the point that I read Radialloy while eating breakfast, so determined was I to discover if they could accomplish what they had set out to do. The only thing I can think of that I don't like is that the second book in the Firmament Series hasn't been released yet. I'm really looking forward to Firmament: In His Image. Oh, and I really like the cover of Radialloy, too.

Monday, September 23, 2013

G: Georgie

Georgie is one of the dream characters, in other words, she was in one of the dreams that inspired The Experiment. In the dream, I'm not sure whether or not she was really old, or if, like in the story, it was only Miss Reginald's experiments that made her appear old (though Miss Reginald wasn't in the dream). Georgie is twenty-five years old and sister to Linus Prescott. She isn't actually in the book much, but she is there.

She has few lines to say, but mostly Georgie is one of the reasons they are determined to fight. Anne meets her when Linus takes her to Georgie's room, the only place they can talk without being overheard. Linus is desperate to reverse the experiments on Georgie, but, not being a scientist, he doesn't know how. Whether or not the experiment can be reversed you will have to find out from The Experiment itself, available October 1st. And, starting October 1st, you will have an opportunity to win a free copy of The Experiment!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

F: Fremont Farm

I have been rather neglecting my A-Z posts of late. It's been two weeks since my last one. So now you finally can find out what "F" is . . . something that wasn't even in the original draft of The Experiment. How can something that wasn't important enough for the original draft be important enough for a blog post? It has to do with rewrites.

At a certain point in The Experiment, the children on the Raingolds' side of the story all meet up together. In the final version, this is at Fremont Farm, but it wasn't there originally. Originally they met up at a local park, one that is rather out in the open. Did the park have to be out in the open? Well, actually, it did. Many of the characters and places in the Raingolds' side of the story are based on or inspired by real people or places. For instance, Abby Raingold is closely based on my sister Addy, and the floor plan of the Raingolds' home is the same as mine. The park the children meet up at in the original draft is one close to my home, and it's not very secluded. That was one of the things my mom pointed out that was a problem in the original. She suggested I have them meet up at a different place, at a farm we have been to, the fictional version of which I named Fremont Farm.

All the things mentioned about Fremont Farm, except the clearing the children had found, are real. There really is a dog that is mixed with a wolf, the hayride does go around in circles, and my friend's dad really did read us a story once about a giant purple gorilla that played tag. There are other real events mentioned in the book as well. Normally I don't use very much real life stuff in my stories, but for The Experiment I did. Not that the actual events of the story are real, but the background of the characters on the Raingolds' side of the story are based in reality. It gives the story a realism that wouldn't be there if it was completely fictional. It also served to make the story matter more to me than Across the Stars.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Interview and Excerpt

I have several announcements to make today. First of all, I was interviewed on the Homeschool Authors blog this morning. You can find the interview here. I'm giving away a copy of Across the Stars along with the interview, so be sure to enter while you're over at Homeschool Authors.

Second, I have made available an excerpt from The Experiment. You can now read the first four chapters for free . . . before the book even comes out. Here's the PDF of the first four chapters:

the_experiment_first_four_chapters.pdf
Download File

Finally, I have decided to have a giveaway contest to celebrate the release of The Experiment. It will start October 1st, and so I won't provide all the details until then. However, the basic idea for the contest is this: I will post questions about The Experiment, the answers to which can be found in various places on my website, and those who desire to enter will email me their answers for a chance to win a copy of The Experiment. More details will come later, but for now, I would really appreciate it if you would spread the word to your friends.

Look for The Experiment at the beginning of October!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Destiny Trilogy Review

Since I read the whole Destiny Trilogy by Sarah Holman in about a week, it seemed appropriate to review them all at once. Here are all the reviews.
The Destiny of One
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Destiny – it's a word that plagues Maria Morris. What does God want her to do with her life? Should she go to college or does God have other plans for her? When her parents go missing during a business trip, Maria embarks on a quest that will change her life forever. Trying to fight against an overbearing Milky Way Government, Maria travels to earth in search of a lost prince and some crown jewels. Her faith is tested, however, when a new law is passed. Will Maria be able to find her parents and the crown jewels before it's too late? Is she strong enough to stand up for her faith even if it means never seeing her family again? Most of all, will Maria discover her true Destiny?
--All book descriptions from Amazon.com

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It took me a while to decide to actually buy The Destiny of One, but I don't regret doing it. It's not perfect, but I still really enjoyed it. It is obvious that Sarah got her inspiration from Star Wars, however, it didn't bother me. I liked how she was able to create a world with space travel and living on other planets that worked with a Christian worldview. There are no aliens, just people from earth who have moved to other planets, and even the plants on Corateda are from earth. I also liked how she was able to give people the ability to use a lightsaber without relying on "the Force."

My favorite character was definitely Quint. I wish he had been introduced into the story sooner. In fact, it wasn't until Maria met Quint that I really started being able to relate to Maria. The story is a bit slow getting going, it has to set up the situation and setting first, but the other books don't really have this problem. There are quite a few things in the beginning of the book that seem trivial, but turn out to have great significance. And I really wish I could have seen more of Quint. By the time I reached the end, I was anxious to know what happened next.

The Destiny of a Few
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On her quest to find the crown prince, Maria Morris faces an abundance of obstacles. Now a marked Christian, it will be difficult and dangerous for her to travel. The USF follows her every move. (as the vibrating chip in her arm irritatingly reminds her.) Yet knowing all of this, Maria puts her trust in God and, with the help of a few new friends, refuses to give up her  mission. She must find the crown prince. The Destiny Of A Few depends on it.
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There are a lot of typos in this book, however, I enjoyed the story enough to easily forgive this. My biggest complaint about The Destiny of a Few is that Quint is absent from the middle of the book. I liked Maria a lot more in this book, and felt like the danger element had increased. The cast of characters is larger, and introduces Winter De Wimple. She kind of annoyed me at first, as she did Maria, but I came to like her by the end. She also made me aware of how often I insert "like" into my speech where it doesn't belong, and helped me to see just how annoying it is. Then there's James. I can't say much about who he is, but I will say that I hated him at first, and now I love him. The story line of The Destiny of a Few is a lot more exciting and intriguing than The Destiny of One, and I liked it better. A wonderful continuation of the series.

The Destiny of a Galaxy
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Time Has Passed…
In the three years since Maria Morris found the farmer-boy-prince, the Followers have multiplied. As Wyndemere’s empire cracks and unrest rises, the Legatee orchestrates the Rebellion.

Danger Has Not Disappeared...But Neither Has Hope.

Though the overthrow of the tyrannical regime is imminent, Maria’s role as the “woman who started it all” is not widely known. So why the foreboding of danger? Promise floats in the air. Many around her find happiness, even as the tension spirals toward a breaking point. But Maria flounders. What does Maria Morris want to do with her life? What is her destiny…now?

Rendered Powerless, Maria Must Make A Painful Choice…One That Will Alter the Future of the Galaxy

Forever

When James invites her to headquarters where Maria assumes a new role among The Followers, tragedy strikes. The enemies she had thought long gone are capable of far more than she imagined. Will she have the courage to stand for what she believes, no matter the cost? Will she have the strength to surrender her dreams when all seems lost and she can do nothing at all?

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Best part: Quint is in almost the entire book. Worst part: the end is the end of the  story. The Destiny of a Galaxy is an epic ending with plenty of action, suspense, danger, and the prospect of weddings to finish it off. All the old characters are back, and though at the beginning Maria is again struggling with the old question, "What does Maria Morris want to do with her life?" I'm pretty sure she has figured it out by the end. Though at first I wanted the ending to be different (if I said in what way it would be a spoiler), I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Destiny of a Galaxy is the only one that is not told as a flashback, and I think  it is better that way. There are times when the author tries to make you think something terrible has happened, but I didn't believe for a moment it had. I didn't think she had the heart to actually do it. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Some really bad stuff happens to Maria, but I'm glad to say it is still a happy ending. All in all, I really enjoyed the Destiny Trilogy, and would definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

E: Edmund and Anne Rubin

Edmund and Anne Rubin, probably my favorite characters in The Experiment. After all, Edmund is one of my favorite names for boys. And they have special abilities I really wish I had.

Anne is the youngest Rubin, being eleven years old at the time of the story. She is the only girl, and this causes her chivalrous brothers to be very protective of her. She has an amazing memory, she is able to memorize things at a glance and she doesn't forget. I wish I had a memory like that, though it's not always a good thing. Anyway, Anne is the character I sympathize most with (despite the fact that Audrey, not Anne, is based on me). Her emotional struggles throughout the story are quite intense, she has a temper, and is very determined to save Edmund from Miss Reginald's experiments.

Edmund is twelve years old, and the third oldest of the four Rubins. He is very close to Anne; as she said, they are like twins even though she is a full year younger. Edmund has extraordinarily good senses, which means he has really good hearing, sight, etc. Being extremely nearsighted, I really wish I had eyesight as good as Edmund's. Edmund probably has the worst stuff happen to him of all the characters. Let's just say Miss Reginald's experiments are quite ruthless. I really like Edmund, and so it was just as hard for me as it was for Anne to see miss Reginald experiment on him.

Anne and Edmund's side of the story was it's own story originally, and the final version of it is a lot more like the original than the Raingolds' is. In fact, a little scene at the very end of the book with Anne and Edmund has been in my mind for an incredibly long time, possibly even from the beginning, as have a certain line, and the experiments on Edmund. I can't say much more for fear of giving away spoilers, but their story is one I love.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Experiment Cover and Book Trailer

Here it is at last! The long awaited (by me, at any rate) cover and book trailer for The Experiment.
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Here's the cover. I originally created it with Microsoft Publisher, which actually did a fairly decent job, but then we bought Photoshop Elements, and, after much tears and frustration, I managed to recreate it in said program. Here's the back cover text:

One hundred years in the future…

America as we know it today no longer exists. Scientist Holly Reginald and President Malcolm Crowdler have hatched an evil plot to control the minds and lives of the American people. Only a few are still able to fight back.  And those few are children.

Mystery and intrigue abound in this heart-stopping adventure as the last remnant of Americans strives to stop The Experiment…before it’s too late.

Sound familiar? Well, it's the description that's been on my website since I started it, so nothing new, but now it has a cover image to go alongside it.

And now the book trailer. It was a lot of fun to make, though worrywart me had bad dreams about it turning out all wrong. However, it didn't, so enjoy! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

D: Donahoes

The Donahoes are not nice people. There, I've said one of the most important things about them. They are some of the "foster parents" who took in homeschooled children, unfortunately they turn out to be more like slave drivers. They are the ones who take in the Raingolds and Adam Ellison.

The section of The Experiment that takes place at the Donahoes' is one of the only things the final version of the book has in common with the original idea I had for the Raingolds' story, the other being the characters. It was inspired by part of Turn Homeward, Hannalee by Patricia Beatty, making another contribution to the odd combination of inspirations.

In the Donahoes' home, the children are forced to work as slaves, and are whipped when the quality of the work is not up to the Donahoes' standard. I don't know why, but I find oppression such as this to be very dramatic and exciting in a story. When I was young, pretending with my sisters and friends to live in a castle, I always preferred playing the servant to the princess, and I suppose this preference had something to do with the conditions at the Donahoes' home.

The Donahoes have a very large house, and are rather uppity. The have fine tastes, preferring escargot to a chicken casserole. And when their extreme standards are violated, they show no mercy.

I certainly would not want to go to the Donahoes', yet, despite basing the Raingold girls off of me and my sisters, I did not hesitate to send them there. After all, what good is a story if there is no difficulty to overcome?

Monday, August 26, 2013

C: Courtstone

Courtstone . . . a fictional place in South Dakota, a place in the middle of nowhere, a place where rebels are sent to be sentenced to a life of misery . . . so long as they still live.

The place Courtstone is one I made up, very similar in name (though I didn't intend it) to a town in a very Twilight Zone influenced story I began several years ago and which I haven't worked on since. I set Courtstone in South Dakota because I didn't want there to be much around it. It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, though it is a massive place.

What is it? In the words of Anne Rubin: “Courtstone was in the middle of nowhere, as most things in that part of the country are. And there, in the middle of nowhere, construction was beginning. Ground was being broken over miles upon miles of the land. There was no sign telling what it was, but we were entirely certain it was not a grocery store or a shopping mall. We hung around the area, mixed in with the local children, Brian and Edmund picking up every little detail, I remembering everything I saw or heard, Henry trying in vain to make sense of it all. I suppose it might have been just any construction site, though few are so vast, but there was such an air of evil that hung about it. I often clung to Brian’s hand in terror, glad for a big brother who was willing to protect me, praying that he would be able . . . . The construction site at Courtstone was to become a concentration camp. All who were likely to cause trouble were to be put into it so that the President could gain complete control of everything . . . including people’s minds."

Yes, Courtstone is a concentration camp, quite a terrible one, and the setting of the climax of The Experiment. It is a central point in The Experiment, but I can't say much about what goes on there for fear of giving away spoilers. Just about another month, and you can find out everything there is to know about the concentration camp at Courtstone.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

B: Brian and Henry Rubin

I told you I had to get creative to work in everyone I wanted to blog about, and this is one of those instances. I had to combine Brian and Henry into one post, which makes sense since they are brothers and quite close.

Brian is the oldest of the Rubin children, Henry second. They have two more siblings, Edmund and Anne who will be featured together whenever I get to "E." Brian is eighteen at the time of The Experiment and Henry seventeen. They are both very smart, were homeschooled, and are strong Christians. Their father was a famous private investigator and the family often traveled with him when he went on cases. Though I didn't know it until Anne told about her family and their involvement with The Experiment, all the Rubin children have some sort of special ability. Anne's and Edmund's are my favorites, and I really wish I had them myself, but they aren't the subject of this post. Brian and Henry are.

Brian is incredibly responsible, and a great big brother, but that's not what I consider his special ability. He knows immediately upon meeting someone whether or not he can trust them, and he is never wrong. It is because of this Anne decides to trust Linus. He can also tell if someone is lying. Brian knows chemistry fairly well, at any rate, well enough to figure out antidotes. He cares deeply about his younger siblings, and, like all of the Rubin boys, is very protective of his younger sister Anne.

Henry is a bit more impulsive than Brian, and he has more displays of temper. He got frustrated with all that was going on; after all they had been through, what happened to him was just the last straw. Henry is very good at figuring things out. As Anne said, he has "extraordinary logical abilities." Random fact: Henry's name was originally Edward. However, my sisters complained that it was too close to Edmund, so I had to change it. Now it looks odd to read the original draft and see him referred to as Edward.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A: Adam Ellison

I'm starting a new blog series, this time A-Z posts on The Experiment. I've had to get somewhat creative to work in all my main characters, and because of difficult letters, but that will be later. Right now I'm going to talk about Adam Ellison.

Adam is one of my primary secondary characters. In other words, he is one of the more important characters, but he is not a POV (point of view) character. He is also one of my dream characters. The Experiment was inspired by dreams. You can read more about that here. Adam was in one of these dreams, his name coming from Madeleine L'Engle's Adam Eddington. My Adam isn't really like her Adam, though.

Adam first makes his appearance in chapter six, though he is briefly mentioned at the end of chapter four. He is seventeen years old and a homeschooled high school student. I know that's what I am now, but when I came up with the idea for the story, I was in the position of fourteen year old Audrey Raingold. He is responsible, but though he is older, he generally lets Audrey be the boss of her younger siblings. He does occasionally step in when seven year old Ian Raingold starts to step over the line. In The Experiment, all the homescooled and private schooled children along with any public school nonconformists are taken from their parents and placed in "foster care." It is in one of these "foster homes" that Adam meets the Raingolds.

Adam is rather thrown in with the Raingolds and their friends. He fits in well as far as far as the others are concerned, yet he still seems to feel himself to be somewhat of an outsider. By the way, I only just realized that Adam was this way. I wrote him without even noticing how he felt in this respect, yet that's how it is. I can't imagine
The Experiment without Adam, and I sure am glad he was in my dream.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Red Rain Review

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Government regulations said they had no choice. 17-year-old Philadelphia must stay on Earth in the care of complete strangers while her father is sent against his will to Mars. When a benevolent official gives her the opportunity to accompany her father, Philadelphia knows she must keep her head down or be sent back to Earth. But when a search for her deceased brother’s Bible leads her into a hallway that isn’t supposed to exist, Philadelphia is faced with a question she doesn’t want to answer – the choice between returning to Earth or destroying it.
--From Aubrey Hansen's Website.



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My sisters and I listened to Red Rain together, and enjoyed it from beginning to end. Christian science fiction is really hard to find, and Red Rain is exactly that. Christianity, and persecution for it, is central to the plot, and there is space travel and a colony on Mars as well. Despite most of the story happening on Mars, the settings are fairly simple, which allows the reader (or listener) to focus on the story itself. The story is well told, and very intriguing. Philadelphia is a great protagonist, and I really like her. I grew attached to all the good characters, but Philadelphia most of all. Something I though was really cool was how some of the characters' names came from the cities mentioned in Revelation, the ones Revelation was originally sent to. It was fun to find the characters whose names came from the Bible: Philadelphia, Ephesus, Dr. Smyrna, Mr. Sardis and Cea (from Laodicea). I do wish there was more to the story, but I saw something about Aubrey working on a sequel, so perhaps there will be. I can't recommend this book enough. But don't take my word for it. Read it for yourself. You won't regret it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Writing "The Experiment"

As I finish up the last round of revisions for The Experiment and prepare to format it for publishing, I have been thinking about my experience writing it and the different things that inspired and influenced it (which is a rather diverse group of things). The Experiment was very easy to write, except for these last revisions to the end, and a really neat experience that I am glad to have had.

The Experiment is essentially two narratives woven together into one story. One follows the Raingold family: Audrey, Ginnie, Abby, Ian, and Collin, and the other follows Anne and Edmund Rubin. They all range in age from 14 down to 2. Each narrative was originally its own story.

I can't remember which I had the idea for first. The Raingolds' story comes first in my book of plots, but I don't always write down ideas in the order I have them, and I feel like the Rubins' story came first. Whichever it was, they both came from dreams. In the dream that inspired the Rubins' story, I was supposed to stay in a room with an old woman in a bed named Georgie in order to stay safe. I left the room and ended up being chased by a creepy guy. I yelled for Georgie to save me, but someone named Linus rescued me instead. I knew I had to somehow turn that into a story, and somehow the dream became inseparably connected with the idea of a mad scientist. I'm pretty sure this was because of the episode of Gilligan's Island where the mad scientist takes the castaways to his island and switches their minds with each other, though the scientist in The Experiment is a little less crazy and more realistic.

I know I had the dream that inspired the Raingolds' story around November of 2010 because I remember thinking about the Raingolds while sign waving on Election Day. In that dream I was with my sisters and a young man named Adam. (His name was Adam because I had been reading several of Madeleine L'Engle's books containing a character named Adam.) We were trying to go home. We went by Adam's house and found it to be abandoned. Then we were on a bridge and Adam and two other boys were fighting bad guys. Two other girls were there and they introduced themselves to me and my sisters as Jen and Kansas. Again, I knew I had to make a story out of it. This one was more influenced by Glenn Beck than Gilligan's Island, however. It was a government taking over, children taken away from their parents, dystopian future of America kind of story.

After finishing Across the Stars, I marked all the stories in my book of plots I thought I might write next. These were among them. Then one morning, I was thinking about these two ideas and realized they sounded like two sides of the same story. I decided I had to weave them together into one. It took me a few weeks to come up with a beginning, though to be honest, I hadn't really been trying before. I figured out my opening paragraph while I was riding my bike around our neighborhood in the evening of May 22, 2012. I worked on that story just about every spare moment last summer. I wrote sometimes while watching TV, I wrote sprawled on the floor in the living room while my sisters were at piano lessons, on the way to my violin lessons, in my room wrapped in a blanket at my desk (my chair is directly underneath the air condition vent), and even in my friend's car in the middle of going door to door for a local candidate. I finished the rough draft on August 27, 2012, by far a record for me.

It underwent major surgery after my mom read it, there were many inconsistencies in it, and unexplained things that needed to be explained, and so I changed many sections, rearranged chapters, and added extra passages. Before a year had passed, I had finished all of these revisions. I am now trying to make the ending more exciting and less abrupt after hearing back from one of my test readers, who my sister quickly agreed with.

I am really excited about publishing it, I can't wait to share The Experiment with the world. But it's not the sort of story one wants to come true. In fact, I hope none of it ever comes true. It is a sort of warning, of where America could go if we are not careful, though there are some sci-fi elements I don't expect to ever be possible . . . at least I hope not. Even so, I love the story, and I hope you will too.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Importance of Beginnings

In a speech class I took several years ago, I learned how important the beginning of a speech is. Your introduction is what gets people interested. We even called it an "attention getter." After all, if someone isn't intrigued by your introduction, chances are they will tune you out even if you have something amazing to say. And in my experience as a reader, the same seems to hold true with books.

To tell the truth, I hate it when books take forever to get good. And there are several amazing stories I would have missed out on if my mom hadn't been making me read them. Lysbeth, a Tale of the Dutch by Henry Ryder Haggard is a story that starts out by describing Lysbeth's physical appearance and station in life. I persevered because it was a school assignment, and found that I liked it very much. I am currently reading The Children of the New Forest by Frederic Marryat for school, in which the majority of the first chapter is about the history of the time period the book is in; King Charles, Oliver Cromwell, etc. Once you get past the beginning, you find a wonderful little story about some orphans surviving in the New Forest, learning to hunt and farm and cook and all sorts of other things.

An opposite example is Red Rain by Aubrey Hansen. It begins by saying that it had been six months since anyone had been killed for refusing to go to school. I definitely wanted to know more after that. Starlighter by Bryan Davis begins in the middle of a tournament. My sister has said several times how this caused her to be hooked from the beginning. Honour of Savelli by S. Levett Yeats begins with someone insisting they would not eat with a thief. When I read that, it intrigued me and made me anxious to know what was going on.

A book doesn't have to start in the middle of action. Indeed, there are arguments for why it should not. But it should start by getting the reader's attention and making them want to know more about the story. I don't know how well I do this myself, but I do try.

This is the first line of my book Across the Stars: "Tell me I'm not crazy."

Does it pass the test?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Trust Review

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“I just can’t understand this, Elohim. When is any of it going to make sense? I really need You to guide me.”

Struggling to cope with the losses of battle, Makilien seeks to live each day in trust of Elohim’s plans. As the conflict of hope and reality war in her mind, a sudden arrival changes everything, bringing to light a new scheme wrought by the remnant of Zirtan’s men.

Finding herself witness to a shocking act of treachery, Makilien is thrust into the very center of the dangerous plans. Trust is something she must give carefully as those who appear trustworthy fail even as those she would least expect could hold the key to success. Can she and those around her secure their safety and freedom or will they find themselves outwitted by their enemy’s final act of dominance?
--From Molly Evangeline's Website

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Trust is my favorite book in the Makilien Trilogy, and probably my favorite of all Molly Evangeline's books. It's just that good. Unfortunately, I can't say much about the plot without giving away major spoilers, but it is very different from the other two, and really exciting. The title comes into play a lot as Makilien has to trust that Elohim knows best and has a plan for everything.

Trust is a very emotional and intense book, and one I love dearly. In fact, since I bought it in May, I have probably read the climax about five times, despite having an abundance of other reading material. One bad thing: when you come to the end, it's over. There is no book four in the Makilien Trilogy (though of course, if there was it couldn't be a trilogy anymore). Even though the ending is the end, it is a fairly satisfactory ending . . . but I can't say any more about it because it would totally give away the story.

I definitely recommend this book, though I do recommend reading Truth and Courage first. I'm really looking forward to more books from Molly!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Separation of Church and State

The following is an essay I wrote last year for school about the separation of church and state (with a few minor additions). There's actually a lot more I could say on the subject, but this will have to suffice for now.


Nearly every American has heard of the separation of church and state. We have been taught to believe that this separation of church and state originates in the First Amendment of the Constitution, that it is a call to obliterate all things Christian from every aspect of the government, even and especially down to the public schools. Some even take this to mean that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are unconstitutional, but it is not so. It is a common misconception that the First Amendment of the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state.

The First Amendment of the Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Many early Americans and their ancestors had journeyed to the New World to escape persecution for their Christianity. This amendment was enacted to protect the people from such religious persecution.

The Founding Fathers never intended for this amendment to be used to obliterate Christianity from all government buildings. In fact, Fisher Ames, the author of the First Amendment, believed that the Bible should be used as a textbook in schools. Most of the Founding Fathers were strong Christians, and it was their Christianity that helped them to shape American government the way they did, based on Biblical principles. The First Amendment was intended to keep the government out of the church, not the church out of the government.

"The separation of church and state," a phrase commonly used today to support the obliteration of Christianity, is not used once in the entire Constitution of the United States. The phrase originates from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. However, his intention was not, as numerous Supreme Court rulings have asserted, to create an impregnable wall between the church and all civil government.

During Jefferson's campaign for president, John Adams' supporters painted Jefferson as an atheist and an enemy of all religion. The Danbury Baptist Association wrote Jefferson worried about his supposed opposition to religion. Jefferson answered their letter, assuring them that he was in favor of Christianity, citing the First Amendment and using the phrase "a wall of separation between church and state" as proof that he would do nothing to restrict their religious freedom.

Unfortunately, enemies of Christianity have used this phrase to prove that the government is justified in prohibiting prayer in schools, removing the Ten Commandments from government buildings, etc. They say this is what Jefferson meant by "a wall of separation between church and state." If he truly meant for there to be such a severe wall of separation, he would not have approved of the use of federal funds for evangelism.

Keeping such facts in mind, it is easy to see that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance do not violate the Constitution in any way. It is simply an acknowledgement that America is under the authority of God. The fact that people wish to deny this, are willing to use whatever means necessary to deny it, whether legitimate or not, is an indication of how far we have fallen as a nation.

America has fallen a long way since its founding, as the widespread denial of Christianity indicates. It is long past time to return to our founding principles. Once we return to the Biblical principles our Founding Fathers set forth, America will be a blessed nation once more.