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

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.


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

“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


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.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Interview with Miss Reginald

    A woman in a plain, white gown sat in a chair across from me. Her long, blond hair hung behind her, and her mouth was set in a firm line. I caught a hard glint in her eyes. I had the upper hand . . . I thought . . . and she wasn't happy about it.
    Miss Reginald.*
    I alternately scratched the edge of my front tooth with my thumbnail and clenched my pencil in my teeth. I had to stop acting so nervous. I was the author, Miss Reginald was the character, I was in control. I took my pencil out of my mouth and held it poised above my notebook. I had to ease into this interview . . . but I also had to get to the heart of Miss Reginald, really find out who she was.
    "Miss Reginald . . . "
    "Yes?" She was using her silky, sweet voice. It was a cover, I knew, but I might as well take advantage of her still having control of her temper.
    "I would like to ask you about your childhood. Were you happy? Were you close to your family?"
    Miss Reginald's face hardened. "I have no family. Never have."
    "Were you in foster care?"
    "Yes." Miss Reginald's voice had become cold and hard. Please don't lose your temper, I thought. Change of subject.
    "How did you get interested in science?"
    "How does anyone get interested in anything?" she said irritably. "I learned about it and it interested me."
    "What made you decide to become a scientist?" I asked.
    "You tell me," Miss Reginald said. "You're the author."
    This author/character relationship was becoming increasingly difficult. I found myself wishing I had decided to interview Anne instead. She was a lot more willing to talk. But that was exactly why I wasn't interviewing her. Anne had already opened herself to me. Miss Reginald hadn't.
    "How about an easy one," I said. "Do you like movies?"
    "Yes," said Miss Reginald. Now why couldn't she let me see who she was inside? She was so closed up. I thought of another question . . . maybe this one would get her.
    "Are you in love with President Crowdler?"
    Miss Reginald stared at me for a moment. Well, I'm not very tactful. I tend to be overly blunt.
    "I suppose. Together we have much power and influence and I love that."
    "How did you meet?"
    She seemed to be debating whether or not to tell me. "It was at a meeting," she said. "The meeting where I was commissioned to develop the mind control serum. He wasn't president yet. But he had been chosen to fulfill that place."
    "Commissioned by whom?" This plot ran deeper than I knew.
    "By The Head." Very informative.
    "The head of what?"
    "The Head," Miss Reginald repeated. Very well, then.
    "Why were you chosen?"
    "I had made great scientific advancements."
    "In what way?" I asked. Finally she was talking!
    "I had created diseases, developed The Machine . . . "
    "You had already made The Machine?"
    "But why?"
    "I wanted to develop something that would create pain, something that would show others the pain I have felt."
    What kind of sadistic person was she? But it was starting to make a little more sense.
    "How long before Crowdler was elected was this meeting?"
    "Five years. Four years before we had to begin eradicating spies and informers. But the plot began long before."
    Well. This was new. "Was there anything in it for you?"
    "Revenge on those who have been cruel to me . . . " I didn't doubt she had a rough childhood, I don't see how anyone with a good childhood could turn out as evil as her, but to count revenge as something "in it for her"? " . . . freedom, power, limitless funding for my experiments . . . "
    "With torture?" I asked.
    A sadistic grin spread over Miss Reginald's face. "Yes. I adore torture. Don't you?"
    I can't deny I enjoy seeing my characters suffer adversity and overcome it, but to say I  enjoy torture . . . no. Dungeons, maybe, but I certainly wouldn't want to see The Machine at work.
    "And how does Crowdler figure into all this?" I asked.
    Miss Reginald frowned. "He has been promised power and authority. And he will do with it what he pleases. He is a very selfish man."
    "Does this . . . Head . . . have control over him . . . and you?"
    Miss Reginald's scowl deepened. "Yes. But Malcolm Crowdler and I will rise above him. With our combined power, knowledge, and influence, and the warriors I am creating, we will be able to take the whole world!" World domination. Naturally it would all come down to that. It's a common goal among history's villains.
    I looked down at my notes. I seemed to have enough. Or at any rate, some new, interesting information. Time to let Miss Reginald get back into her story . . . and to her torture. But I still think I would have had a nicer time interviewing Anne.

*Miss Reginald is one of the main villains in The Experiment