Friday, June 24, 2011

Tag, You're It!

Thank you to Katy at Legacy of a Writer for tagging me! :) What I have to do is answer a few simple questions :)

Are you hot/warm/cold right now? Where are you at?

I'm feeling perfectly normal :) Not too cold, and not too hot. I'm in the family dining room, typing away on my laptop, which is breaking down. :'(

Upload a picture of the wallpaper you are using. 

The desktop background I'm using is a cubism painting by Juan Gris, called Le Canigou (The Mountain). I attempted to replicate it in art class freshman year, but it didn't turn out well. Here is the original and my replica:

  



 When was the last time you ate chicken?

Just a few minutes ago. I had a Chicken Chipotle Cheese sub sandwich from Subway :)
What song or songs have you listened to recently?

Recently, I listened to a great track from the soundtrack to Sanctum, "Saint Jude's Cathedral." 
 
Do you have any nicknames? If so what are they?

Yes, I have a few:

Gentle: My name actually means "rest" or "gentle"
Noe: Spanish class

Tag 5 bloggers

Hehe not a question, but here goes!

Sarah at Just A Girl At The Azores - She's a new blogger and a really cool person to be friends with!


Michelle at Arrowhead Reviews - She's been a faithful friend, and she writes great book reviews, especially for fantasy!


Kate at The Parchment Girl - I don't know her well, but she has a blog with a great design and even better reviews. :D


Nolan at Guy With Book - He has a very official-looking website/blog and has very good reviews too :D


Millard at Shining Light - He has been a faithful follower from the beginning and very supportive and friendly. Thanks Mill!



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Darkness Follows - CSFF Blog Tour Day Three - GIVEAWAY! (CLOSED)

So, here's the big news!! Mr. Dellosso has graciously offered to give away a book to one blessed reader! One change from the usual, though, and that is that this giveaway will only last one week.


Rules-


All comments should include an email in no-spam form. [johndoe(at)example(dot)com]
Open to U.S. and Canada residents only.

  1. You must do this to be eligible for any other points. You can follow this blog. A follower widget is located on the blog's sidebar. (earns 1 entry)
  2. You can post about this giveaway on your blog. Comments MUST have a link. Limited to once a week. (earns 2 entries)
  3. If someone comes to this blog from your blog post and comments, you get one extra entry. (Tell them to say you sent them!)
  4. You can tweet (on twitter) with a link to this post. Comments MUST have a link. Limited to once a day (earns 1 entry each)
  5. You can add my blog button (located on my sidebar) to your site. Comment MUST have a link. (earns 2 entries)
  6. You can read any of my reviews or interviews on this blog and comment on it. (no double commenting) (earns 1 entry each)
  7. You may link to this giveaway on facebook. Comments DON'T require links, since I am not a member of facebook. However, you MUST email me an image of your status. My email is manuscriptna(at)gmail(dot)com. Limited to once a day. (earns 1 entry each)
This giveaway ends Wednesday, June 29th, 11:59 PM PST

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Darkness Follows - CSFF Blog Tour Day Two - Interview

The second day of this tour will feature the author of Darkness Follows, Mike Dellosso. Please welcome him for an interview!


NA: Welcome, Mr. Dellosso! What drew you to write Christian suspense?

MD: Ever since I was a kid I loved suspenseful stories. I think partly it's because I have a short attention span and get distracted easily. I needed something fast-paced and gripping to keep my attention. So when it came to writing my own books suspense was just a natural fit for me. I write Christian suspense because it allows me to write the story I want infused with the message that's been put on my heart. I want my writing to make a difference, to impact people on a deeper level than just a good story.

NA: What is unique in The Hunted, Scream, Darlington Woods, and Darkness Follows compared to other suspense stories?

MD: What makes my stories most unique is the message behind the story. Yes, the stories are fast-paced and thrilling. I get so many emails from readers saying they read one of my books in one sitting, they couldn't stop turning the pages. But the thing I get the most reaction about--and the thing I find most humbling--is the message intertwined with the story. Somehow, I'm able to weave a faith message into the story without losing the pacing and without coming off as "preachy." I thank God for that because for me, that's what it's really all about, giving the reader something to take away from the story.

NA: As you look back on writing those books, what challenged you the most, and how did you get through it?

MD: The most challenging thing for me is writing under a deadline. I'm pretty obsessive about deadlines so I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet them. Pressure and creativity don't go well together. I can get pretty stressed as the deadline grows closer, especially if I'm behind schedule or stuck on a certain part of the story.

NA: Which character was the hardest to write? And which was the easiest?

MD: The leading ladies are always hardest because, for me (and most men), getting inside the head of a woman is a near-impossible ordeal. I always second-guess how I write the female lead in my books. Surprisingly, the easiest characters to write are the villians. Writing their character is like following the path of least resistance. I let my inhibitions go and just have fun making them as creepy and tormented as I need to. It's a solemn thing, too, knowing I'm dealing with some dark issues and vile things. I don't take it lightly and make sure to protect myself while I "get inside" an evil person.

NA: If you could be any character in your books, who would it be?

MD: Either Mark Stone of Scream because he has the coolest 1973 Ford Mustang or Sam Travis of Darkness Follows because he lives in my dream home outside Gettysburg (it's a real place). Also, both of these men struggle with real issues that I myself struggle with (and, I'd venture to say, most men) and found their faith in God to carry them through. I admire that so much.

NA: Do you have any personal connection to or knowledge of the Civil War?

MD: For my full-time job I do homecare physical therapy and work in and around Gettysburg. I'm always taking shortcuts through the battlefields and will often stop there to eat my lunch. It's a beautiful area surrounded by apple and peach orchards, fields of wheat and corn. Rolling hills. And Gettysburg is a very quaint, attractive town. I'm not a Civil War junky, though, that's my uncle's thing. Several of my friends are big fans of the War too, especially the battle of Gettysburg. For Darkness Follows I did a lot of research and talking to my uncle and friends.

NA: I could tell you put a lot of good history into it. If any of your books were made into a movie (or each of them), would you have any preferred director(s), actors, composer(s), etc?

MD: I've always seen Mark Wahlberg or Ryan Reynolds as my leading man and Zooey Deschanel or Amy Adams as the leading lady. I'd love to see M. Night Shyamalan direct Darlington Woods. I think he'd do a really good job with it.

NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

MD: If anyone follows my blog these may not be a surprise because I've been open about them and have written often on these topics. But if you're new to my writing and to me as an author this will be a first. One, I've stuttered my whole life and continue to struggle with the speech impediment. It's one of the reasons I turned to writing, to find my voice. Two, I hated writing and anything related to English in school. I didn't start seriously writing until I was 26. Three, I'm a three-year colon cancer survivor. The toughest thing I've ever had to go through.

NA: Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book, Frantic?

MD: Sure. It's about a disabled boy with a special gift and the maniac who thinks he's God's agent to protect the boy . . . at all cost. An unsuspecting stranger is sucked into this boy's world and caught in the middle of his nightmare. Frantic is the fastest-paced story I've written so far. It's unrelenting and will leave the reader feeling . . . well, frantic. The book is due to release February 7, 2012.

NA: That sounds exciting! Apart from Frantic, do you have future book plans or ideas?

MD: Yes, A Thousand Sleepless Nights is due to release in October of 2012. It's a story unlike any I've written before and that both excites and terrifies me. I'm about a third of the way through it and having a blast. I'm even trying something new with the way I'm writing it. I'm not at liberty to say anything about the plot yet but more information will be forthcoming as it's release date draws nearer.

NA: Do you have any advice to those wanting to write suspense?

MD: Yes, finish what you start. I talk to so many people who have partial manuscripts but no completed ones. There's a lot to learn in working your way through an entire story and the sense of accomplishment is a great boost. Suspense is all about the pacing and tempo of the story, but don't forget the characters. People read books to follow other people. The story is nothing if it doesn't have engaging real characters.

NA: It's been great to have you! Do you have any final words for our readers?

MD: Sure, please visit my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/mikedellosso) and "Like" it. I run a lot of contests from there where you can win free books and keep up with what's going on in my world. Also, if you've read one of my books, I'd love to hear from you. Go to the contact page of my website (http://www.mikedellosso.wordpress.com) and drop me a note.



Check out Mr. Dellosso's website!

Participating bloggers:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Chris Deane
Cynthia Dyer
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Inae Kyo
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Up To You, Sorta

I am going to enter a photo contest, and the theme is Sunsets. I came up with 8 options, (I love taking sunset photos!) I need you advice on which one to enter. I can only choose one. Here they are:

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight



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Darkness Follows - CSFF Blog Tour Day One - Review

For the first day of this three-day tour, I am posting a review of Darkness Follows.

Darkness Follows (Paperback)Darkness Follows, Mike Dellosso, Realms, Suspense, 2011, 290 pages.

Synopsis: Sam Travis lives in a Civil War era farmhouse in Gettysburg, PA, where he awakens one morning to find an old journal with an entry by a Union soldier, Capt. Whiting, written in Sam's own handwriting. When this happens several more times, both at night and during waking, Sam begins to question his own sanity while becoming obsessed with Capt. Whiting and his bone-chilling journal entries. As the entries begin to mimic Sam's own life, he is drawn into an evil plot that could cost many lives, including his own. Can the unconditional love of Sam's daughter, Eva, break through his hardened heart before a killer on the loose catches up with them and Sam's past spurs him to do the unthinkable?

My thoughts: Apart from the first chapter, I wasn’t too frightened or chilled by this book. That is, until at least half-way through. At that point, it certainly got scary. The characters weren’t developed enough, though, and that made me a bit bored. I often had to push myself to finish it. The ending wasn’t very satisfying, either, in that you don’t learn who the main enemy organization is, and where the murderer came from, and why. The whole ordeal with Tommy appearing to Sam was confusing, and would require another novel to straighten out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as there will be a sequel. There just wasn’t enough roundabout plot material to make it a pleasing read.


*This book was provided free by the publisher in conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

My rating: 3.5 stars

Buy Darkness Follows
Check out more Christian Suspense and Mystery
Check out Mr. Dellosso's website




Upcoming reviews:
  • Gravestone by Travis Thrasher
  • Ryann Watters and the King's Sword by Eric Reinhold
  • Tombstones and Banana Trees by Medad Birungi and Craig Borlase

Participating bloggers:

Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Chris Deane
Cynthia Dyer
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Inae Kyo
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Forsaken Kingdom: City Of Prophecy

Forsaken Kingdom: City Of Prophecy, Peter Dudek, Carnation City Press, Fantasy, 2008, 311 pages.

Christian Fantasy BookSynopsis: The days have grown dark in the lands of Arvalast. The people have forgotten about their king, and the light is fading from the countryside. As the stories of the King of Arvalast and his long ago holy rule pass into the annals of myth and legend, dark things prowl the woods, and shadows grow long.There is evil afoot, as the last days descend upon Arvalast. The light of the Illumina, phials of holy, pure light that Arvalast citizens carry with them, is dimming, as their collective faith in their King becomes trite, ritualized.

Woodend, a modest, walled city in the northern regions of Arvalast, is a last bastion of light and good, holding true to the stories of their once and forever High King. However, the shadow wraiths of an ancient enemy are returning, and the baser emotions of mankind; sloth, envy, hatred, are spilling over as these wraiths worm their way into the hearts of the people.

Enter a mysterious stranger on a dark, windblown night, astride a mighty steed. Gildareth has come at last; a long-awaited herald of the long absent King of Arvalast; so long awaited that none expect his arrival, nor heed it. He comes to warn of a growing evil in the lands of Arvalast, and he brings with him the full light and power of the Illumina. Inside Woodend, Willerdon, a tired, exhausted town governor who fears for his family and his people sits paralyzed by his own lack of faith, unaware that his son sits on the very edge of the epic conflict of good and evil. All the while, the forces of the enemy draw closer, as the hour becomes desperate.

-The Press & Sun Bulletin

My thoughts: After reading the title of this book, I thought it would be more like a generic, mediocre Christian fantasy. I was wrong. This book had an epic feel to it, which I loved. The characters were also a strong point, especially Gildareth, Ristun, Dralo, and Thief. They had very interesting turn-of-phrases, which I greatly enjoyed. I liked the abrupt ending, which was similar to the end of the Two Towers movie, and I look forward to the next volume.


*This book was provided free by the author. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

My rating:
4 stars




Buy Forsaken Kingdom: City Of Prophecy
Check out Mr. Dudek's website

Upcoming reviews:
  • Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso
  • Gravestone by Travis Thrasher
  • Ryann Watters and the King's Sword by Eric Reinhold

Travis Thrasher - new cover art!

Check out the cover art for Travis Thrasher's upcoming book, TEMPTATION!! Behold it in all it's glory. :P I can't wait for it to release April 1, 2012. *groans* so long!!



You can pre-order TEMPTATION here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Jill Williamson - New cover art!

Mrs. Williamson has released the cover art for her new book, "Replication: The Jason Experiment"!

Here's info about the book:

When Abby Goyer discovers her father is working in an underground cloning lab, she begins to have a serious moral dilemma … especially when one of the clones escapes and invades her world. 

Martyr spent his entire life waiting for the day he would expire—his death the only way to save mankind. But when he escapes from The Farm and befriends a beautiful redhead named Abby, Martyr begins to understand that his life has a different purpose.

Abby and Martyr embark on a twisting adventure as they try to outwit the scientists, solve the mystery of a missing high school teacher, and free the other Jasons before it’s too late.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Heavenly Man giveaway (CLOSED)

Here is the next book giveaway, celebrating...summer! I am giving away the nonfiction book The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway. Read my review of it here.

Rules-


All comments should include an email in no-spam form. [johndoe(at)example(dot)com]
Open to U.S. and Canada residents only.

    The Heavenly Man
  1. You must do this to be eligible for any other points. You can follow this blog. A follower widget is located on the blog's sidebar. (earns 1 entry)
  2. You can post about this giveaway on your blog. Comments MUST have a link. Limited to once a week. (earns 2 entries)
  3. If someone comes to this blog from your blog post and comments, you get one extra entry. (Tell them to say you sent them!)
  4. You can tweet (on twitter) with a link to this post. Comments MUST have a link. Limited to once a day (earns 1 entry each)
  5. You can add my blog button (located on my sidebar) to your site. Comment MUST have a link. (earns 2 entries)
  6. You can read any of my reviews or interviews on this blog and comment on it. (no double commenting) (earns 1 entry each)
  7. You may link to this giveaway on facebook. Comments DON'T require links, since I am not a member of facebook. However, you MUST email me an image of your status. My email is manuscriptna(at)gmail(dot)com. Limited to once a day. (earns 1 entry each)
This giveaway ends Saturday, July 9th, 11:59 PM PST

"Slow Fade" - Casting Crowns

Here's a wonderful family song. Enjoy.



The Pursuit Of A King

The Pursuit Of A King, Candace Little, Tate Publishing, Fantasy, 2010, 207 pages.

The Pursuit of a KingSynopsis:  In The Pursuit of a King, author Candace Christine Little tells the lighthearted tale of the brothers' many adventures as they cross deserts, climb canyon walls, face the evil Dunley, save Lady Wisdom, and rescue cities from certain destruction (using only cake!). But The Pursuit of a King offers more than engaging characters and harrowing escapes. Through the course of their adventures, the brothers learn timeless lessons--the dangers of pride, the power of mercy, and the value of wisdom. What seemed to be a simple quest changes the course of both brothers' lives and determines the destiny of a kingdom. Don't miss the fun! Don't miss the message! Don't miss The Pursuit of a King!

My thoughts: I love stories that change the character(s) dramatically, especially if it’s for the better. Miss Little did very well in making the character traits stand out, and showing the progression and sudden turn in behavior. I enjoyed all the likenesses to Pilgrim’s Progress: the physicality of spiritual things (hope, joy, etc.) and the names (Wit, Lady Mercy). The fruit of the spirit was a great tool in the plotline, and made the story that much more unique and special. I was perplexed by the image on the back cover for a while, but near the end realized it’s significance. If you like fantasy books with a focus on characters, then this is a great choice. Though short, I highly recommend it!


*This book was provided free by the author. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*


My rating: 5 stars

Buy The Pursuit of a King




Upcoming reviews:
  • Forsaken Kingdom: City of Prophecy by Peter Dudek
  • Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso
  • Gravestone by Travis Thrasher 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Heavenly Man

The Heavenly Man, Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway, Monarch Books, Autobiography, 2002, 351 pages.


Synopsis: This is the story of how God took a young, half-starved boy from a poor village in Henan Province and used him mightily to preach the gospel despite intense persecution. The book challenges any complacency about the situation in China, where persecution is still a daily reality for millions. Instead of focusing on the many miracles or experiences of suffering, however, Yun prefers to emphasize the character and beauty of Jesus. This astonishing book will form a watershed in your spiritual life. The Heavenly Man was voted 'Book of the Year' by the UK Christian Booksellers Convention.

My thoughts: This book was a divine insight into China’s Christian status. It begins in the year 1974, and continues on to 2001, all from the perspectives of Brother Yun, his wife Deling, and some of his companions. It describes China’s hunger for Christianity, the Chinese government’s brutal techniques for dealing with Christianity, and above all the grace, mercy, and love of God. I was amazed at how much Brother Yun endured for the Gospel. I was also amazed at how many miracles were described. Anyone remotely interested in missions, even if to somewhere other than China, would be better off having read this book.

My rating: 5 stars

Buy The Heavenly Man
Check out more Missions books

Upcoming reviews:
  • The Pursuit Of A King by Candace Little
  • Forsaken Kingdom: City Of Prophecy by Peter Dudek
  • Gravestone by Travis Thrasher

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Come To The Well

Casting Crowns is my favorite band, as some of you know. So when I heard these three pieces of news I was ecstatic!

First: Casting Crowns is coming out with a new album later this year (October 18) called Come To The Well, and to top it off, Mark Hall himself said that, in his opinion, "it's the best record we've written. In-your-face truth-in-love kinda stuff!"

Second: They're coming on tour to Washington on October 1st!! I'm going, no doubt about it, rain or shine. (meet me there?) Plus, I'll get to hear one or two of their new songs before they come out!

Third: They released a new song that will be on their album. It is sort of a theme song for the new movie Courageous, and is titled the same. You can get it free here:


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Tracy Krauss interview

Please welcome author Mrs. Krauss for an interview today!


NA: Welcome! What drew you to write in the adventure genre?

TK: I enjoy reading this type of story, so I suppose it makes sense that I would
write in this genre as well. My work has been called ‘Romantic Suspense’ as well
as ‘Edgy Inspirational’. I especially love an unexpected twist at the end, so that is
what I try to do.

NA: What is unique in And The Beat Goes On compared to other adventure books?

TK: I haven’t read too many other books that tackle the evolutionary debate in exactly this way. Another unique aspect of the book is that there is no ‘pat’ wrap up at the end. I’m not sure anyone will actually ever know the whole truth about the mysteries of creation, and I wanted to leave the ending open ended enough for this point of view to
come across. Although the hero decides to follow Christ, he is still unsure about what the evidence means in the end.

NA: As you look back on writing the book, what challenged you the most, and how did you get through it?

TK: Fitting all the research, especially on creationism, into the story without sounding pedantic or expository was a challenge. Somehow I wanted it to become a natural part of the story, their conversations, etc. I ended up cutting a lot of this out, just to keep the story moving.

NA: Which character was the hardest to write? And which was the easiest?

TK: This is an interesting question. I didn’t actually find there to be much difference. I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters and creating elaborate back stories for them. When it comes time to write, I know them all so well that it is usually not difficult to get a feel for each character.

NA: If you could be any character in your books, who would it be?

TK: I wouldn’t want to be any of my characters! They are usually quite dysfunctional people. (Not saying I’m perfect, but …)

NA: Do you have much involvement in the archaeological field or news of finds?

TK: Not at present. I got interested in the topic when I first became a Christian and realized the huge discrepancy between what most people assume to be truth (evolution) and what the Bible says. Just having ‘faith’ wasn’t good enough for me, so I started ‘digging’ into the topic. (No pun intended.)

NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

TK: I’ve had way too many hair raising outdoor adventures (usually involving wild animals – yikes!); I have a weakness for shoes, bags, and jewelry (who doesn’t?!); I’ve moved about thirty times (I’m an expert packer).

NA: Are there going to be any books following And The Beat Goes On?

TK: The prequel called Play It Again is currently in production. Another novel called My Mother the Man-Eater came out last November and has been getting great reviews. Actually, both And The Beat Goes On and My Mother the Man-Eater were nominated for the Indie Excellence Book Awards for 2011 in the Religious Fiction category.

NA: Do you have future book plans or ideas?

TK: I have several more novels on the go. One, which is ready for submission, involves some occult-ish elements in the form of ancient curses and Native North American ‘medicine’. I’m anxious to start the rounds and send out some queries. I am also a published playwright, so I am working at submitting several plays as
well.

NA: Do you have any advice to those wanting to write in the adventure genre?

TK: In general, I would say that anyone aspiring to write in any genre has to work really hard. Not only that, but it is essential that you find trusted people that you can go to for feedback and criticism. It’s easy to get so emotionally attached to our own words (kind of like a child) that we aren’t always objective about
shortcomings. You’ve got to get tough and learn that critique – and even rejection – are really your friend.

NA: It's been great to have you! Do you have any final words for our readers?

TK: Thank you, Noah, for hosting me here. Best of luck in your future endeavors as well. For more information, people can go to my website: www.tracykrauss.com or visit my blog: www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com



Buy And The Beat Goes On


Paul Baines interview

Please welcome Mr. Baines today for an interview!


NA: Welcome! What drew you to write Christian sci-fi?

PB: Hi Noah, and thanks for having me. My earliest encounter with stories of any kind was when I was about nine or ten, curled up in bed listening to "A Twist in the Tale" on the radio on Sunday night. I was enthralled by the stories that always managed to catch me by surprize. Later, I found myself drawn to stories that were out-of-the-ordinary. I loved the "what if?" of Speculative Fiction. When I became a Christian, I asked God what I could do to serve Him. I imagined some sort of ministry, but found myself with a desire to tell stories. With my love of Speculative Fiction, it seemed natural for me to write within that genre, but from a Christian perspective. Sci-fi tends to portray the God of the Bible in a negative way and I wanted to do something that would glorify God.

NA: What is unique in Alpha Redemption compared to other sci-fi?

PB: The idea of a sentient machine coming to a belief in God is something I have never encountered before. AI is nothing new, but self-aware machines are usually portrayed in a negative light. There are exceptions ("Short Circuit" and "I Am Robot" for example) but they never seem curious about God. I can't imagine a sentient computer not being fascinated by the big questions of faith, love, and redemption.

NA: As you look back on writing it, what challenged you the most, and how did you get through it?

PB: The big challenge with Alpha Redemption was showing Jay's growth in a believable way. I remember watching Short Circuit where Number Five finally gets the joke of why the chicken crossed the road. I remember thinking: a machine can't laugh because it doesn't have a diaphragm, and it can't cry because it doesn't have tear ducts. So the challenge was to show Jay experiencing emotion in a way that made sense for a machine. I did this by looking at sensory perception simply as the transfer of data, with pain becoming data overload. After that, the development of emotion followed quite smoothly.

NA: Which character was the hardest to write, and which was the easiest?

PB: Jay was the hardest because I had to start from a purely logical point of view, slowly turning him from a machine into something more human-like. I had to think very carefully about everything he said. At the start of the story he was incredibly smart but also extremely naive. I had to think of him as this small child in possession of a world of information. He could recount endless facts on any subject and yet could not grasp the concept of "lying by omission". Brett was the easiest to write because a large part of Brett's life and character was based on my own experiences and personality.

NA: If you could be any character in your books, who would it be?

PB: I think it would have to be Jay. To start life with so much knowledge and so much potential would be an amazing gift. I'm not sure I would be happy existing inside a computer though.

NA: Do you believe that AI’s such as Jay could exist in the near future?

PB: With Moore's Law proving uncannily accurate, I can't help but believe that someday somebody will create a machine capable of learning and, eventually, becoming self-aware. In the past decade, huge advances have been made in robotics. Modern robots can run, climb stairs, and make basic decisions. Technology is increasing in complexity and power at an exponential rate. If things continue as they are, I believe it is only a matter of time.

NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

PB: I originally planned to be a psychologist, but after my second year of study decided it was not the career for me. I once won a national title as a professional fitness instructor. I am scared of heights but enjoy flying.

NA: Is there going to be a sequel to Alpha Redemption?

PB: Yes. As soon as I finish my current novel "Hanzet, the Universe, and Everything", I plan to start work on a sequel to Alpha Redemption called Alpha Revelation.

NA: Do you have future book plans or ideas?

PB: I have a few ideas. Apart from Hanzet and Alpha Revelation, I have another story waiting to be written, plus two more old stories I want to rewrite, and possibly a short story that I would like to expand into a novel.

NA: Do you have any advice to those wanting to write sci-fi?

PB: No matter what genre you choose to write in, always remember to make the story your top priority. Robots and lasers are all very well, but they only become memorable if the story captures your reader's imagination. 

NA: It's been great to have you join us! Do you have any parting words for our readers?

PB: Thanks Noah. It was fun and I really enjoyed your questions. In parting I would like to ask anyone who has read Alpha Redemption and liked it to tell others who might be interested. If you have finished with your copy, please pass it on to someone else to read, or even leave it in a book store. If you can, post reviews at places like Amazon and B&N. As an author at a small press, I rely heavily on Internet reviews and word-of-mouth to find my readers. They are out there, I just have to find them. If you enjoyed my book, please pass it along. Thank you!


Buy Alpha Redemption!
Check out Mr. Baines' website!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Into The West"

Breathtaking song. Absolutely breathtaking.

Plus, it's LotR lol



Scott Appleton interview

Please welcome fantasy author Scott Appleton today for an interview!


NA: Welcome! What drew you to write Christian fantasy?

SA: I always loved to read and write and, when I was growing up being homeschooled, I fell in love with Pilgrim's Progress and Greek mythology. I never read fantasy, per se, but I enjoyed an imaginative tale, particularly one which conveyed a lesson through the story. Christian fantasy is, I have found, the best venue for my creativity. It allows me to dream up a world, populate it with fascinating creatures and characters, and form a story that matters to me.

NA: What is unique in Swords of the Six and Offspring compared to other fantasy?

SA: A great deal of the fantasy on the market feels generic to me. We know as we read that this hero/or heroin cannot die because the author would not be able to continue the story without them. However, my stories try to mirror real life. Some of the characters in my series must die. The odds just weigh against them.

I also didn't want to 're-name' God. I have criticized other authors for making the worldview in their stories inconsistent with the God of the Bible, and I don't want to make that same mistake. Therefore, God is either referred to as the Creator or as God.

My worlds are a blend of ancient days when prophets guided the people of God, frontier America, and old world/or medieval era, with myths and legends.

NA: That certainly makes the books different. As you look back on writing them, what challenged you the most, and how did you get through it?

SA: The greatest challenge is the scope of the books. There will be seven in this series, with a follow up series of five books, as well as offshoot novels I'm working on. Keeping everything consistent requires patience and variety, such as both writing out and sketching scenes/or characters.

NA: Which character was the hardest to write? And which was the easiest?

SA: I think the characters are pretty easy to write. None of them stand out as being harder or easier. When I create a character I first make sure that I, as the author, enjoy writing them. If I do then the job of writing their scenes becomes far easier than if I were to force myself into the head of a character I do not care for, or care less for.

NA: If you could be any character in your books, who would it be?

SA: Hmm, I guess I'd have to say Stalwart. But technically he doesn't enter the picture until book seven in The Sword of the Dragon series, so I can't say more.

NA: Was it hard to create and/or describe the creatures in your books? They seemed very vivid.

SA: I enjoy creating original creatures. I sit down and piece together elements or features that I find fascinating, sketch out a beast, and once it solidifies in my mind with a name, I roll with it! Book two, Offspring, is coming out July 15th of this year and it has one such creature called a Megatrath. I think my readers will enjoy this new creature in particular.

NA: I can’t wait! Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

SA: I love to travel and meet new people, see new places. I need to be left alone when I write. I am an amateur astronomer.

NA: Can you give us any news on the future of the series?

SA: The Sword of the Dragon series has book two Offspring (coming out July 15, 2011) and I am finishing up book three The Key of Living Fire (which will release beginning of 2012). There will also be an offshoot novel that I would like to see released this Fall, tentatively titled The It'ren on Eiderveis River (which will probably be a Flaming Pen Press release). After that I will work on the final four books in The Sword of the Dragon series through AMG Publishers. I'm also working on Starmist, a sci-fi political thriller that I'd like to find a separate publisher for.

NA: Do you have future book plans or ideas?

SA: The Sword of the Dragon series will keep me busy for a while, but afterward I will have a four/or five book series in the same story-world called The Death Knight Chronicles. Someday I would like to write a novel on Moses, and I have preliminary material for a historical fiction that I'm very excited about titled The Angel and the Prophet. And I have a short fiction for children that I wrote years ago and will eventually publish.

NA: Do you have any advice to those wanting to write fantasy?

SA: Write to glorify God, keep the worldview accurate. And study how to write from those who have been published by traditional houses. By books on the writing craft, editing, and publishing; educate yourself on the process so you won't be scammed and you'll know what to look for.

NA: It's been great to have you! Do you have any final words for our readers?

SA: I hope you will all read Swords of the Six and keep a lookout for the sequels. The story has only begun and I can't wait to reveal the mysteries that lie ahead! Thank you, Noah, for your in-depth questions. This was a fun interview.


Buy Swords of the Six and Offspring
Check out Mr. Appleton's website and his blog!

Alpha Redemption

Alpha Redemption, P.A. Baines, Splashdown Books, Speculative Fiction, 2010, 257 pages.

Synopsis: From despair he fled, through tragedy he lived on, and journeyed to innocence. His trajectory: the stars. His companion: a computer poised at the brink of sentience. An unlikely friendship on a prototype spaceship at lightspeed towards Alpha Centauri, and redemption.

My thoughts: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. But, hypothetically, if you judged this one by it’s brilliant art, than your judgment would be correct. This was a fantastic book! Both of the characters, Brett and Jay, were developed well through the progression of the book, especially Jay, the AI (artificial intelligence). Something I really liked about the storyline was that Baines didn’t leave us alone with Brett and Jay for the whole book, but also journeyed into Brett’s memories. This contributed to Brett’s character, our understanding of the mission, and the length of the story. The use of first person speech doesn’t have an excuse, but I’m not opposed to it. I rather enjoy it! The conclusion left me a little confused for a few minutes, but the biblical analogy dawned on me soon after. Great ending, and I look forward to the next volume!

Rating: 5 stars

Buy Alpha Redemption
Check out Mr. Baines' website!

Upcoming reviews:
  • The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway
  •  The Pursuit Of A King by Candace Little
  • Forsaken Kingdom: City Of Prophecy by Peter Dudek

And The Beat Goes On

And The Beat Goes On, Tracy Krauss, Strategic Book Publishing, Fiction/Adventure, 2009, 361 pages.


Synopsis: Canadian born archeologist Mark Graham unearths a remarkable discovery while at a dig in the mountains of Zimbabwe – pterodactyl remains and giant human bones buried together. Speculation leads to the possible existence of a mythical race known as ‘Nephilim’, a pre-flood people alleged to have descended from both gods and men.

But skepticism and sabotage delay Mark and his team as the dig site is compromised, putting their discovery – as well as his very life – in grave danger. Deceived and framed by trusted friends and colleagues, Mark struggles to safeguard his findings and protect his reputation in order to unearth the mystery behind the Nephilim.


My thoughts: I haven’t read many fiction books that deal with archaeology, so when I say I thought this was a good book, I don’t have much to compare it to. It deals with Biblical science, and gives arguments both for and against it. The adventure was sufficient for the plot it accompanied, even though I am used to more of it. I didn’t understand the significance of the title of the book, apart from it being a sequel to Play It Again. The characters were good and believable, but not excellent.

Mark’s exploration of God’s world brought him into knowledge of God’s existence. He  considered the possibility, and found it logical. Still, he resisted, as all of us tend to do at times. Eventually, he surrenders himself and experiences joy. It was a good object lesson, in essence. We ought to put aside our human nature’s revulsion of God, and surrender ourselves to His Will.


*This book was provided free by the author. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

Rating: 3 stars.

Check out Mrs. Krauss' website!




Upcoming reviews:
  • Alpha Redemption by P.A. Baines
  • The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway
  • The Pursuit Of A King by Candace Little 

After The Cross

After The Cross, Brandon Barr and Mike Lynch, Ellechor Publishing, Fiction/Adventure, 2011, 271 pages.



After the CrossSynopsis: Colton Foster, once hailed as a renowned expert in Latin, Hebrew and Greek, had his reputation destroyed when a shadowy antiquities dealer outwitted him with master forgeries from Solomon s Temple. Years later, his career and self-respect still in pieces, a team discovers an 800-year old letter in Istanbul and his life takes a pivotal turn. The job of translating the letter, purportedly revealing the hidden cross of Jesus, is his for the taking, and with it a chance to redeem himself.

Mallory Windom is smart, beautiful, and skilled at getting what she wants. A linguistic prodigy with a dark history, she trusts no one, an important skill in the black market antiquities trade where she regularly sells her expert talents to the highest bidder. 

 
As Colton and Mallory hunt for Christianity s most prized relic, mysterious forces seem bent on stopping them at every turn. They soon discover that the most important struggle of their lives is not around them, but from within, testing their beliefs, their ethics, and their growing love for one another.



My thoughts:
This book was full of mystery and intrigue. The plot was often predictable, but still fun to read. The characters seemed to be the strong point of the book, and are what ultimately held it together.

It could have used a bit more fast-paced danger, and what was there wasn’t very vivid for the reader. If you like archaeology, then this book would be your style. It did very well on that subject.

I enjoyed the point the book made about worshipping idols, and what those idols could be, such as the cross of Christ. His cross would take His place for many people, and that is sad. It challenges us to look at what might be taking Christ’s place in our lives.


*This ARC was provided free by the authors. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

Rating:
3 stars.


Check out Mr. Lynch's website!
Check out Mr. Barr's website!




Upcoming reviews:
  • And the Beat Goes On by Tracy Krauss
  • Alpha Redemption by P.A. Baines
  • The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2

I'm excited!! My second movie review! Criticism encouraged.

Here it is:

 

Synopsis:

Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five – Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey. But Po’s new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu.

It is up to Po and The Furious Five to journey across China to face this threat and vanquish it. But how can Po stop a weapon that can stop kung fu? He must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.


My thoughts:

First off, a few character studies. The peacock villain, Lord Shen, was obsessed with power. He wanted to rule, and kung fu hindered his greed. His solution is to use a weapon of fire and metal to stop kung fu. He’s an outcast son who, by trying to change his future like Oedipus of old, fulfilled it. He’s full of bitterness and willing to destroy anything that gets in his way. Po, now the Dragon Warrior, faces two new challenges. One, to find “inner peace.” Two, to save kung fu from Shen’s “cup that is never full.” He’s haunted by visions from his past, and travels not only to save kung fu, but also to learn the secrets of his past. His connections with the furious five are growing, and they form a much stronger team. I love it when Po offers Shen the chance to be a new person, and offers forgiveness. How it ends is for you to see. These and other characters were great, and showed off some fun acting. The movie was full of chuckling humor, despite a couple cheesy lines.

The animation was amazing, to say the least. The 3D worked really well, with all the fighting and stunts. I really liked the diverse use of animation, with the 3D, the flat cartoon-like images, and the shadow puppets. The new range of animals, including gorillas, goats, peacocks, and a croc, was very satisfying as well. As in the first film, the fight scenes were wonderfully thought up and animated. In one particular fight scene, the music was timed precisely with each of the blows and bumps, creating a really cool experience. This describes all the music composed for this film by Hans Zimmer and John Powell. I heartily enjoyed all of the music.

Now for the movie’s effectiveness as a sequel. Unlike many companies, Dreamworks wisely planned for this movie even before releasing the first, and organized the plot around it. That was a key that made it successful. Plan ahead, far ahead. I love it when a sequel works as this one does. In the plot of saving kung fu, with the subplot of finding out about his past, Po took watchers through a wonderful adventure. They even left a cliffhanger, which gives me hope that they had also planned for a third. However, along with that are a few concerns. First, I worry that they thought up this cliffhanger on the spot, and haven’t planned far ahead. I want the third movie to be as much (if not more) of a success as this one was. Second, based on the cliffhanger, it may occur that the third movie takes the focus away from kung fu, and expands the “Po’s past” theme to be the main show. This would be a disaster.

Now for my final recommendation. This movie is slightly darker than the first, and is more intense. Not that it isn’t for kids anymore. Kids, I believe, will still enjoy this movie, maybe even more than the first. There is no language, and no inappropriate references or behavior. All the humor is clean, and actually funny. It is rated PG by MPAA for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence.

My rating: 5 stars