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

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?

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

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

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

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.

--From J. Grace Pennington's Website


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 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?