National Book Month

October may very well be the best month of the year, for not only is it nestled within my favorite season of the year, autumn, it also happens to be National Book Month.

An entire month, dedicated to the amazingness of books. Of reading and enjoying books. This reminds me of a quote I once saw that still makes me laugh even years after first seeing it:

You go, Batman.

Really, perhaps it is because I’m an incurable reader, but I can’t quite understand how some people just don’t like reading. Books are an incredible thing, both fiction and non-fiction. Reading has become how we pass on information and stories. Without reading, without books, we are a people lost and fallen to the darkness of ignorance and the drudgery of mundane existence.

Books are portals to other places, other times, giving a reader the opportunity to go beyond and see, feel, and experience more. And sometimes, hidden inside these adventures, we find a lesson for our own lives. Don’t give up. Keep trying. Don’t lose hope. The easy road doesn’t always (rarely will ever) lead to a good place. Rise above. Have courage.

That we have a month celebrating books is a great thing, and for all of us readers out there it’s positively spectacular. Spread the love of books this month and share with others just how awesome these blocks of paper and ink really are. That just two simple ingredients can sway a soul is truly something magical.

So . . . what are you reading?

Celebrate National Book Month with a good read! Start your adventure today.

A Hobbit-y Holiday

Today is a special day. Yes, it is the first calendar day of autumn (best season of the year, if you ask me), but did you know that today, September 22, is also Hobbit Day? ‘Best day ever!’ Tolkein fans may say. But what, exactly, is Hobbit Day?

I’m glad you asked.

Hobbit Day is an holiday of inestimable import celebrated on the mutual birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, our two small but courageous heroes from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkein has translated the day of that ‘Long Awaited Party’ in the text as September 22nd, and it may very well be the oldest festival observance in association with Tolkein fandom, celebrated since 1973. It was officially designated in 1978 and has gained a rather impressive amount of legal dignity due to the elected officials who have supported it through a variety of proclamations, declarations, tributes, and similar governmental documents. Hobbit Day has also attracted bipartisan support from the U.S. County Courthouse, the White House, and the U.S. Capitol.

Imagine that!

So, how do you go about celebrating this prodigious day? Well, you party like an hobbit. Observances include going barefoot all day (my personal favorite. So much so that I observe it every day), costume events, games, feasting (or be like a true hobbit and eat seven meals. First and second breakfasts, anyone?), and fireworks. Or gather amongst fellow enthusiasts and marathon the movies. With the three The Hobbit films out to add to the original LOTR trilogy, that’ll prove to be one extensive event. (I’m down. Who’s with me?)

Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply enjoy any excuse to celebrate, Hobbit Day is the perfect holiday to break out your festive best and make merry like they do in the Shire.

How are you celebrating?

Reynwood’s Reviews: The Prince and the Pauper

Title: The Prince and the Pauper

Author: Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain)

My Rating: 4 of 5


This treasured historical satire, played out in two very different socioeconomic worlds of 16th-century England, centers around the lives of two boys born in London on the same day: Edward, Prince of Wales and Tom Canty, a street beggar. During a chance encounter, the two realize they are identical and, as a lark, decide to exchange clothes and roles–a situation that briefly, but drastically, alters the lives of both youngsters. The Prince, dressed in rags, wanders about the city’s boisterous neighborhoods among the lower classes and endures a series of hardships; meanwhile, poor Tom, now living with the royals, is constantly filled with the dread of being discovered for who and what he really is.


My Thoughts:

I have heard of this story and seen variations of it done for years, but I’m the kind of person who likes to find the original of a classic in as unadulterated a form as possible (outside of original foreign languages, that is). So when I found this copy, copyrighted in ’69 and published by Grosset and Dunlap (who, as it happened, also did my copy of Jungle Tales of Tarzan) I knew I had to have it and find out the ‘true’ story of the Prince and the Pauper.

I loved it. Set in medieval England just before the reign of King Edward the VI, it follows the misadventure of a certain poor boy by the name of Tom Canty and a certain Edward VI, Prince of Wales, who, had they been born identical twins could not have looked more similar. A seemingly chance encounter wildly reverses their positions, and we get to follow along and see how each copes with their drastically foreign environments, learning valuable lessons along the way.

The image of sixteenth century London is vivid, picturing both the opulence of the royal world and the dire straits of the plebian community, who suffer perpetually under the unjust English law ─ which is ragged on often enough. The hardships young Edward endures, and the troubles suffered by those who endear themselves to him along the way, reveal to him the truth of wonton tyrannical rule. Meanwhile, the lavishness of royal life nearly blinds Tom Canty of his good heart, but in the end realizes all the posh and pomp is meaningless and empty.

The dialogue is chocked full of ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s and ‘for sooth’s and whatnot (like I said, unabridged), but the writing is clever and speckled with rather frank humor. The characters are well portrayed, insomuch that I felt frustrated for both Tom and Edward when they insisted on their reversed identities and everyone around them persisted in assuming they were mad. Suddenly and inexplicably so. For the length of it, Edward expressed resentment toward Tom and what he must be doing, usurping the throne, and throughout all the story I felt fear for what might befall the pauper boy.

And then there’s Miles Hendon. Dear, dear Miles Hendon. An escaped POW, he comes into town in time to save the mistaken Edward from Tom’s abusive father and proceeds to take the lad under his wing. He is an extraordinarily kindhearted and noble soul who gets abused both physically and emotionally, but he takes it like a man with endearing stoicism for Edward’s sake and you can’t not love him for that.

This story is yet another example that goes to show that just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it can’t keep up with the bullet train of this present era.

A Peek into the ‘Other Life’

Hello, everyone! It’s only been about two weeks since my last post here, but it seems like forever ago! Time moves in mysterious ways. How has your August been, so far? Over here in our little corner of Arcadia it’s rained more days than not — quite a turnaround from last year, I’ll say! I’ve heard it said that the weather is bipolar, and in some respects I think I might have to agree. Nevertheless, though we had a late start on the planting season, things are coming along fairly plentiful. We’ve been drowning in green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini for some weeks — and now the peaches are ready!

With so much going on around here, I thought I’d share a bit of my off-writing life with you, so you know I’m not as one-dimensional as I’ve been making myself out to be. I do more than write!

So, for starters, I live on a wee farm, as many of you may already know and probably could have guessed. This season I learned how to use a pressure caner for the first time and have squirreled away a number of pints of green beans. I’d have done more, but ran out of wide mouth pint jars. Super bummer.

Yesterday I spent the evening hours canning peaches! I love canning things, and it is my firm belief that one of the world’s most beautiful sounds is the popping of a sealed jar.

Are they not gorgeous? I’ve got regular and spiced. Over the past few days of prepping food for processing I’ve acquired a nice pair of sliced thumbs. It is a most worthy sacrifice. Next on my list is spiced peach jam and bread and butter pickles. Mmmm . . .

 

One of our beloved peach trees.

As for today, it was time to pick more of those cucumbers, zucchini, and green beans.

Cucumbers up the ying-yang. They’re good sliced with a sprinkle of sea salt. Or pickled. Pickled is good.
A basket full of produce. Much more and I’ll become a basket case.
In the process of cleaning more green beans. I think I’ll try roasting them for dinner tonight.

I also made a bundt cake out of one of our zucchini for dessert — can’t not look forward to that!

And there you have it, a glimpse of my ‘other life’, which, as it happens, can some days take up an entire day, whereby I miss writing entirely, but such is life, and I can’t say I don’t love it.

On Writing: Worldbuilding

Hello, everyone! These past couple of weeks have been wild with things going on, with the publication of the final volume 7 and my brother’s wedding ─ which was gorgeous, by the way. Here, I will show you a picture of them:

Aren’t they the best?

Anywho, things are finally beginning to settle down around here, going through the last stages of activity before regular routines are picked back up (for some, anyway) My brother (the married one above) goes back to Japan on Sunday, which is a super bummer, but that’s how it is in the service and we’re looking forward to his next visit. Our new couple are coming over tonight for dinner, so in between preparing for that I want to share with you a little bit about a subject in writing, fiction in particular: worldbuilding.

The concept of worldbuilding is exactly as the word describes: building a world, a template, an environment in which your story takes place, things like history, geography, mythos (legends and superstitions and whatnot), culture, wildlife (if your story involves fantastical creatures), and so on. The more in-depth you go the more realistic a place becomes, and sometimes (most the time) it’s the little details that make the biggest impact.

When I set out on this TJT project, I did not begin with worldbuilding before I started writing. There were a lot of things I did poorly and backwards when I began this project, actually, learning as I went, and I think now that doing even rudimentary worldbuilding beforehand is important. It helps dimensionalize the setting, and even influences aspects of the characters ─ this is the world they live in, after all. How is their home town/city structured? What sort of culture were they raised in? What history did they learn in school or were a part of? What is the land like around them? Arable? Arid? Prairie? Mountainous? The geography also influences the climate and weather patterns (which I’ve personally put into the category of serious worldbuilding, but it is a detail to keep in mind).

There is a lot of freedom in worldbuilding, giving your creativity ample room to stretch its muscles and make perfectly sensible just about whatever you want. For example: The people of Dalyss celebrate annually the Duck Festival, wherein they eat lots of duck-shaped food, dress up like ducks, and enter into the Duck River Run, where participants race their homemade ducks down the river’s current to a finish line some half mile downstream. The Festival was first instated thirty years ago by Baron Hans, whose life was saved during the Tinker’s Rebellion by a flock of ducks that caused a raucous when the rebels tried to pursue his flight, distracting them and allowing him to escape. The event was commemorated and made a local holiday.

Who knew ducks could be so influential? The above mentions 1) a cultural event, 2) an history of how it came to be so, and 3) an allusion to another event that took place in the town of Dalyss’s past. It also hints at how the townsfolk felt about their Baron, that they’d make such an holiday. These things give a place (and a person) depth and dimension.

I, personally, really enjoy the worldbuilding aspect of writing, more and more so as I’ve explored Sekon’dome and other places of Jasinda and all the possibilities available there, as well as thinking ahead to other stories I hope to write in the future. Regardless of on what scale your story’s world is built, from scratch or a preexisting environment (such as modern day or historical NYC or London) it will stand all the stronger for the extra thought and effort. You, and your readers, will fall into your world that much more thoroughly ─ and who doesn’t want that?


Don’t forget! The giveaway for An Odyssey’s End is well underway, so if you haven’t entered yet, now’s the time!

Volume 7 Giveaway is now Alive!

Hello, everyone, and happy July! The days are dwindling down to the publication day, and I am both thrilled for it to come as well as anxious — it promises to be a wild weekend, after all! But until that day comes I have here a pre-present: the seventh and final giveaway celebrating the run of The Journey Taken! You’ve all been so encouraging and supportive along this road, and I can’t help but feel a little surreal that it’s coming to an end after what? Has it been five years already? I believe so — how crazy is that? Thank you so much for walking this path with me!

On Role Models: A Skim off the List of Favorite Authors

Hello! How is everyone’s May coming so far? A little cooler than we were hoping for, no? The 85 days are coming. Until then, enjoy the sunshine when it’s here and not roasting you to a crispy potato chip ─ those days are saved exclusively for haying, it feels like!

Later this month I’ll be divulging some long anticipated information on volume 7 (so exciting!) but today I wanted to share with you a (very brief) list of some of my favorite authors:

Andrew PetersonAndrew Peterson ─ Author of the Wingfeather Saga, a tale that transcends age genres. Mr. Peterson, based in Nashville, is a storyteller through and through, sharing his gift through many different mediums. Not only has he written a fantastic series of four books, but he is also a singer/songwriter who travels the country and (sometimes) the globe spreading his love for stories and Jesus through music, creating albums like The Burning Edge of Dawn  and Light for the Lost Boy. He is currently in the process of turning the Wingfeather Saga into an animated short, and I cannot coherently relate how thrilled I am at this prospect. What I admire most about Mr. Peterson’s writing is his whimsy. It may sound silly (and in many ways, that’s the very definition), but his turn of phrase and usage of words is so creative that it gives the feeling of a finger painting ─ but a finger painting that’s as captivating as anything Michelangelo or Monet ever put to canvas. His ability to communicate deep subjects in a format any and everyone can understand without being heavy, crafting a tale with power and scope that inspires the imagination in both children and adults, is a truly beautiful experience.

Visit his Goodreads Page and website to learn more (and sample his music!) And don’t forget to watch this trailer of the animated short and check over at the Wingfeather page for news, art, and conversation – all about the saga!


Megan Whalen TurnerMegan Whalen Turner ─ Mastermind behind the Queen’s Thief series, the fifth volume of which is coming out next week (ah!) The day I discovered her was a fateful day, indeed. I heard someone say of her writing in the Queen’s Thief series that ‘it reads like a political historical fiction’, and I could not agree more. Each book is so chocked full that I can read them time and time again and never get tired, because how she crafts the story is so multi-faceted that no information is given too early. Just because you’re reading from someone’s POV doesn’t mean you’re privy to every thought and reasoning that would spoil the suspense and surprise. That’s what hooked me on both her story and her writing when I first read The Thief. How she developed her characters, and the personality of each, sent me head over heels as both a reader and a writer, because even though we experienced the story as Gen, we didn’t learn that he was actually Eugenides, Thief of Eddis, until the Magus and Sophos did, and how everything unfolded and came together to reveal a plot that was bigger than you thought just wowed me. I’d never read anything like it before, and I have to admire Turner’s ability to take that puzzle, scatter it, and put it back together so randomly that you never get an idea of the full picture until it’s staring you in the face, sitting back and marveling. I love her puzzle box writing, and you’ll be gathered to the fold as well, from page one.

Visit her website and Goodreads page to learn more, and check out these book trailers for The Thief!


Stephen R. Lawhead ─ Architect of such tales as the King Raven trilogy, Song of Albion trilogy, and the Pendragon Cycle, just to name a few, Lawhead easily fits in with the greats like C.S. Lewis and Tolkein for the depth and richness of his stories. As a scholar and award-winning wordsmith, spanning several genres, much of his work (including and especially the three series mentioned above) is based on and influenced by Celtic history and legend, bringing to vibrant life such renowned characters as King Arthur and Robin Hood in a new and realistic light. Even his original characters become so authentic, with their struggling, failing, and prevailing, that I felt more in tune with them, like they were real people and not just the glorified pawns some heroes and villains become in roles they play. The symbolism he puts into his stories and the artful way he speaks on the page has made him a staple on my bookshelf and an author I repeatedly return to for a gripping, well rounded, and inspiring story.

For more information and a complete list of his bibliography, visit his website, and check out this trailer for The Skin Map, the first book in his Bright Empires series!


Image result for wayne thomas batsonWayne Thomas Batson ─ Author of the Door Within trilogy, the Dark Sea Annals duet, and the Dreamtreaders trilogy, plus several other works, Batson is actually the first author I claimed as a ‘favorite’, and because of that he holds a special place in my heart. I was first introduced to his work years ago through the Door Within trilogy, which I happened to find while browsing the shelves at my childhood library. I read the first book, The Door Within, in one sitting, staying up past two in the morning because it engulfed me so completely. I wasn’t writing much back then, but his craft certainly helped me along toward where I am now. Not only did he make a story, characters, and plot that carried me away to a wonderful place, but I deeply admired the biblical truth and analogy with which he wrote, synonymous to both Stephen R. Lawhead and Andrew Peterson. Similar also with Megan Whalen Turner, it was an experience I had never had before, and I remember still now how it impacted me, how it made me want to be able to write like that, a good story ─ in all its layers. Someday I would like to meet this man and thank him for following his dream, which has in turn helped me follow mine.

Visit Batson’s Goodreads page or weblog for more information about his books and what he’s up to!


My own work hasn’t yet reached the level of excellence these masters have attained, but I always say that nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and I’m hoping that every drop of blood, sweat, and tears I put into forging my own style, every word I punch out on this worn keyboard, will bring me one step closer to what and where I want my writing to be.