Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review of The Hidden Sun by Jaclyn Hardy Weist

I must admit that when I picked up this book I had no idea what to expect. I was in the mood for a castle, prince and princess story. I was delighted to find out that it was exactly what I wanted - with a lot more adventure mixed in than I had anticipated. It started out with a short history of the kingdom. You learn to like Eliana from when she's small, along with her nursemaid and Priest Sherwyn. You love her father and his kindness to his daughter and to his people.

Then you add the villain. This book has a variety of villains. They're smarter and more cunning than most villains. Personally I love Daimh. He's a good-looking guy that loves himself more than anything and he's not exactly a bright person. But he speaks up when it is most needed - even if its not often enough. His dad and the magistrate Caldre however are villains that you want to see brought to justice. You also have other villains that are bullies who enjoy using their positions to abuse others.

There are several tragic events in this book and you get hit hard with every one of them. The book was well-written and kept you at the edge of your seat from beginning to end. It all comes to an exciting conclusion that you will have to read!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Being content—not always a good thing?

One thing about being a writer is that I’ll get ideas all the time about different stories. Sometimes I’ll dismiss them because they are too similar to others that have been written. Sometimes I’ll incorporate them into whichever book I’m writing at the time. And then there are those that I file away and will come back to time and again.

Recently, I was pondering on why, as humans, we just can’t seem to be content. There are those who are always wanting more—whether it is power, money, material items, fame, free time or any other number of things.
I listen to a lot of music and it’s amazing how many hidden gems of wisdom are in lyrics. There is a song by the group Train that has the lyric: “In a world of what we want is what we want until it’s ours.” And it’s true. Many are the times I’ve really wanted something, and when I finally get it, very soon I take it for granted.

Another lyric is from a song “Big Yellow Taxi” which has been done several times by different musicians. The version I am most familiar with was done by Amy Grant. A line from that song is “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.”

I’ve experienced that first hand. As an example, when we moved from Connecticut to North Carolina, my wife and kids stayed up there for a couple of months to sell the house and finish school until the winter break. Oh how I missed them! I physically ached from not being able to give them hugs. I found myself as excited as I’ve ever had been when I was going to see them again.

Now I see my wife and kids every day. I make sure to give them hugs at least once a day, and I’m constantly doing what I call “fly by kisses” on the tops of their heads when I go by them. They may think it’s corny, or even a bit weird, but I enjoy it.

Back to the idea of why people can’t be content, I was thinking of an idea where a drug was invented that allowed people to be content with what they have, and the impact that would have on the world. Part of me thinks it may not be a good thing. Would scientists seek to find cures? Would engineers look for ways to make cleaner energy and eco-friendly items? Would the homeless be satisfied with eating other people’s garbage? Would authors write books that challenge their readers to think?

During this Thanksgiving time, aside from being grateful for my Heavenly Father, my Savoir, my family and hundreds of other blessings I have, I’m also thankful for those who aren’t content to leave things the way they are, yet at the same time, use their time and energy to make positive changes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Picking actors that match characters in "The Hidden Sun"

When reading a book, I get a mental image in my head of what the characters look like. Sometimes they'll make a movie based on a book. When they do that, I'm always curious on who they'll pick to play different parts and if that person matches the image in my head.

So for a bit of fun, I thought I'd pick some actors to play the characters in my book, The Hidden Sun. Some of them I picked strictly on looks, some, I chose more on the characters I've seen these actors play.

I'll have to admit this is not an original idea. I borrowed this from my friend Dan Harrington. He posted a similar blog for his book Who's at the door?

Again, I state these are my opinions—if they are different from what you think, that's ok. That's the magic of books.

Eliana (Leelee Sobieski)

I've often thought of Eliana looking a lot like my wife. In my opinion, Leelee Sobieski pulls that off with the blonde hair and blue eyes. In the roles I've seen her in, she can be both sweet and commanding.

Rinan (Clive Owen)

Granted, he's a bit older than Rinan is in the start of the book. I feel he has the looks that aren't "pretty boy"—he's more manly in a rugged sort of way.

Abrecan (Christoph Waltz)

This was a tough one. I had a hard time picking someone. My wife and I watched Water For Elephants recently (it was her turn to pick) and I thought he was quite commanding.

Daimh (Patrick Warburton)

Again, he's a bit older than Daimh is at the start of the book, but he's got the chiseled features of Daimh, plus he's got the ability to play the dimwit without being over the top about it.

Bertram (Paul Bettany)
I'd say this choice was based largely on the role he played in A Knight's Tale. He's got a sharp wit about him, yet he's got quite the vulnerable side.

Caldre (Brad Dourif)
In his roles in Dune and The Lord of the Rings, he's got the ability to play the kind of slimy character that makes your skin crawl.

Anemone (Maggie Smith)

Probably best known for her role as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies. I liked her ability to play the mentor role, while at the same time, she can show compassion.

Sherwyn (Christopher Plummer)

What's not to like about Christopher Plummer? Though in this picture he's got more hair than Sherwyn does in the book, I could totally see him bringing Sherwyn to life.

Eadward (Brian Cox)

He's one of those actors that looks familiar, but he's not defined by a sole role.

Sunshine (Bridget Regan)

She played Kahlan in the TV series Legend of the Seeker. Another actor that has the range to be tender and commanding.

Rayne (Alex Pettyfer)

This was a hard one to pick. I'm not super familiar with his work aside from I Am Number Four. Mostly, this is how I'd picture Rayne to look.

Nash (Santa Claus)

Why not? He's a jolly man, with a long white beard and says "Ho ho!" time and again.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cute + Stupid = Cupid

"Oh, you think you're being charming!" is something I often hear from my wife. I tend to walk a fine line of being loving and silly—usually tripping and falling on the silly side.

A quote from me you'll hear time and again is, "I love the fact that even though we've been married over 20 years, I can still make you laugh." And it's true. My wife has heard all my jokes dozens of times over, so I'm forced to be spontaneously silly—and she finds it funny.

Early in our marriage, this would sometimes consist of throwing a cup full of cold water on her while she was taking a shower. (She'd do the same to me)

Then there were times when we'd sit down to eat dinner and she'd get up to get something from the kitchen. I'd take her utensils and hide them. She'd come back, we'd say the blessing on the food and as we were about to eat, she would get a perplexed look on her face. The whole time, I would act as if nothing had happened.

One of my favorite silly things to do was to "stack the cards" when we'd play one of our favorite card games. While I was "shuffling", (I was actually just having the cards make shuffling sounds) I'd put the cards in an order where she'd have an amazing hand. However, mine would be just a wee bit better. This trick would only work when she was getting us some snacks to munch on while we played, as well as the fact that she rarely cuts the deck.

On more than one occasion, her pillow would somehow disappear while she was getting ready for bed, and I was already in bed reading. Spooky!

But this isn't a one way street. Oh no. She can be just as silly.

The other night, I had gotten me a drink and a bowl of chips. I placed them on our kitchen island with the intention of taking them to my computer to enjoy while I wrote. But before I left the kitchen area, I used the bathroom to powder my nose. When I returned, the cup and bowl were both there—just with nothing inside of them. She was doing the dishes and acted like nothing had happened.

All this brings me to one of my wife's favorite quotes: "Anyone can be passionate, but it takes true lovers to be silly."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blog hop completed!

Thank you all who participated in the Nov blog hop. It was a smashing success!

The winner goes by the name "BJ".

Congrats to the winner!

Monday, November 7, 2011

November blog hop

I'm excited to be part of the Giveaway Hop. What a great way to win free stuff!

I'm going to make it very simple.

Here's what I'm giving away: a rare, autographed first edition of my book The Hidden Sun. The book is in its second edition, so the first editions are collector's items.

To enter, please do the following two things:

#1 Become a follower of this blog.

#2 Leave a comment on this blog.

That's it.

Make sure to click to visit the blogs listed below for more chances to win!

Good luck!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday School Answers

Regardless of what religion you follow, considering you believe in God, I'm sure there are basic things you are taught to do. I've often heard these referred to as "Sunday School Answers".

For example, if someone were to ask you what you can do to be more spiritual, the Sunday School answer would be, "Go to church, read your scriptures, say your prayers."

What about if you are going through a rough stretch in your life? Maybe you've lost your job, had a relationship end, had health issues, or any other number of things. If you ask a religious person what you should do, you may get the same Sunday School answers.

Lately, I've noticed some people ask questions in a religious setting, and before they allow people to respond, they'll say, "And I don't want the Sunday School answers."

To which I reply, "Why not?"

I honestly think that sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be. There is something to be said for doing the basics consistently. That's true in many aspects of life. Do you want to lose weight? Eat right and exercise. Do you want to learn how to play a musical instrument? Practice. Do you find that you are tired all the time? Make sure you get enough rest.

For the example of losing weight, how many different diets are out there? How many of them contradict each other? But no one can deny if you eat less and exercise, you'll lose weight.

There is a great story which I'm sure I'll mess up if I try to retell it verbatim, so I'll paraphrase.

A Native American young man has a vivid dream one night. He sees there are two wolves inside him—each fighting for dominance. The dream is powerful enough that he goes to see his wise grandfather to ask about it. The grandfather responds that every person has two wolves inside of them: one that seeks to be good, and one that seek to be evil. The young man asks, "Which one will win?" The grandfather responds, "Which ever one you feed."

My point here is that by doing the basics in a consistent manner, we're feeding the proper wolf.

And so, the next time someone responds to a question with the "Sunday School answers", I'm going to stand up and shout "Halleluiah!"—or at the very least, smile and nod my head in agreement.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The best parts

Have you ever read a book that was really long, and just interesting enough to hold your attention, though you felt like you had to trudge through the boring parts to get to the good parts? Or perhaps the same could be said about a song or piece of music.

Maybe it's my short attention span, but I find myself doing that often.

The last book I read was a good 800 pages long. What actually happened in the book could have fit within a novel half that long (in my opinion). So, what dragged out the book? A few things, really. First, it's book six of a long series and it spends a lot of time retelling what happened in the previous books. Second, there is a lot of detail about the setting, again, in my opinion, too much detail. To me, it doesn't add to the story to know what every item in the room is made out of.

What keeps me reading a book like that? Well, the characters and overall story are interesting. In addition, I've already invested a lot of time in the series, so I'm curious to what happens next. At the same time, I'm frustrated with the author for dragging things out.

Then there is the other side of the coin. Sometimes authors have too much happen too quickly. For me, unless I'm emotionally attached to the characters, I could really care less about all the crazy stuff that happens to them. It's a fine line, to be sure—and one that is going to be different for every person.

The same can be applied to movies. A lot of the blockbusters now are, to quote Shakespeare, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". For me, the "Transformer" movies are a perfect example.
I'll admit, I've not seen the third movie. Why not? Because the first two really turned me off. I'll grant the special effects were amazing, but half the time, I couldn't tell which were the good robots and which were the bad ones. Even worse, I had no emotional attachment to the characters, so I could really care less what happened to any of them.

Lastly, what inspired this blog, is a recent project I completed. I'm a huge fan of the rock group "Yes".
I think they have produced some of the most amazing music over the last 40 years. I've seen them in concert several times, and these are musicians of the highest caliber. Having said all that, even I admit that many of their songs are long for the sake of being long. (at least to me)

So, I decided to create a CD of music of my favorite parts of Yes music. I have music editing software and I've developed the talent to use it—no doubt from my TV directing days. Over the course of a week or so, I edited down some of my favorite pieces of Yes music to just the parts I thought were the most inspiring. It can be tricky taking a 20 minute song and trimming it down to 5 minutes, and still have it sound like a finished piece of music—but it can also be a lot of fun.

I'm not selling it or sharing it with anyone else because of copyright issues. I needed to say that so I don't get sued.

The lesson I take out all of this is things I apply to my writing. In general, I think I was successful with The Hidden Sun to balance pacing with character development. It's my goal, and hope, to continue that with my future books.