30 September 2012

*Willing Sacrifice

Intro: Something on the darker side. Sacrifice is in the eye of the beholder.

The waves crashed against the cliff sending the salt spray up towards Silver. With his arms tied above his head, Silver stared at the ocean below him. The ropes cut into his wrists, rivulets of blood ran down his arms and body, dripping from his toes. Another wave crashed. The salt burned the sores on the bottom of his feet.

The crowd at the top of the cliff cheered. Silver looked up. The Behemoth approached. The red wave of its destruction moving before it as an omen. The stench brought tears to Silver’s eyes. He had just enough sense to hold his breath as the putrid water enveloped him. His wounds burned. She was going to pay for putting his name forth. He shouldn’t have accepted the wine from her. She was being too nice last night. That should have been a clue.

His breath gave out and he gasped, just as the water receded. The water from his hair dripped into his mouth. He coughed. The action caused him to sway. His body bumped against the cliff. Silver’s attention was focused on the monster between his feet. The rows of teeth were black and rotted. The stench was almost visible.

“Please, no.” Only the words didn’t come. Before Silver had been dropped down the cliff, his tongue had been cut, than seared to prevent him from chocking on the blood.

The Behemoth rose. Its forelegs reached up for Silver. One hand grabbed Silver while the other snapped the rope above his head. He screamed as he fell into the black jaws.


The villagers moved away from the cliff. The masks over their noses and mouths kept them from saying anything. The Behemoth had accepted the sacrifice. The red wave brought the needed chemicals to run their reactor. The new widow stood with her child looking down at the broken rope.

“Why did Daddy die?”

She pulled him close. “Because other people wanted him to.”

“Did you?”

She ran a hand down her bruised arm. “It doesn’t matter. He volunteered. That is what the record will show. We all have to make sacrifices.”

“He didn’t sound willing.”

She pulled her son away. “Sometimes sacrifices are more painful for some than others. “

He looked up at her with his one good eye. The bruises would finally have a chance to disappear forever. It was worth the sacrifice.

28 September 2012

Dark Lord of Derkholm

by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones is probably better known for HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, though I don’t know how many people realized that movie is based on a book. Though I love the Howl books, I am a huge fan of some of her lesser known books, especially DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM. There is a sequel, THE YEAR OF THE GRIFFEN, which is also really good, but that is a review for another day. DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM is a fun fantasy novel that is good for all ages.

Derk has been tasked with the job of being a villain. He is a family man with human children as well as griffin children that he created using his magical ability. Now he has to make his house into a lair fit for an evil magician. He and his children also have to provide entertainment to the tourists. A man by the name of Chesney contracts tourists to come for the experience of a lifetime, only those who have to put on the show are not pleased with having their lives disrupted every year and they are going to do something about it. Only Derk and his family are caught in the middle.

DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM has great characters. I love all of the children, human and griffin alike. They are unique and loveable. I love the idea behind the story. I mean it isn’t your typical fantasy novel. There is so much going on that you just don’t get with some other fantasy novels. Though the book is suitable for YA, it has adult characters that aren’t stupid and don’t know what’s going on. If you like this story I recommend the second one, which focuses more on the children.

26 September 2012

League of Utah Writers

Two weeks ago I went to the League of Utah Writers annual fall conference. I was contest chair, which meant a lot of work leading up to the conference. I worked at the registration table most of the time. The best part of sitting at the registration table is everyone has to register. I actually met a lot of people who had entered the contest. I am glad that the conference is over. It is very stressful and a lot of people have great expectations for what I am suppose to do. I would like to think I can live up to every expectation, but some of them are just so unrealistic there is nothing I can do to please them. I didn’t actually get to see any of the classes, because I was always off working somewhere else.

I am no longer contest chair, but I have a new position. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had some news. The news is that I am the President Elect for the League of Utah Writers. I am in charge of planning the spring workshop this year and in charge of the Roundup in 2014. I have already started planning for both. I am already panicking about both. Once I am done being president I will be taking a break from doing large projects for the board of LUW. Moose also says I will be taking a break. He gets stressed out when I am stressed out. I think I am going to have a blast, stressed or not.

24 September 2012

Fleshing out the World

When creating a fantastical world it can be hard to paint a clear picture for the reader without including your entire worldbuilding bible. No it isn’t alright to do this despite how cool you think it might be. What I have heard from various places is to flesh out the world by adding small details. It is in the little everyday details that really grounds your world. You can specify that they drink coffee and have moon rock powered reactors. You don’t have to explain the reactors but by adding the moon rock portion it gives us an idea of the society. This society is different than the societies that use enslaved magicians and only drink water from a unicorn spring. Through the course of the story you can explain more, but it is small details of everyday life that help define what the world is like. I’m not saying that you can’t have long descriptions about the world, but just don’t include every piece of research that you’ve done. As readers we don’t need to know and it can bog down the story.

23 September 2012

*A Destiny to Grow Into

Intro: I am not sure where this idea came from, but I actually had a lot of fun writing it. I could see this becoming something more, when I have time.

The red sun offered no mercy as it rose to its apex. I shielded my eyes against the glare from the sand. White robes covered me leaving only a slim gap but it was more than enough. Some people wore thin veils but I always found that to be suffocating. I needed some connection to the sun, even if it was blinding.

The weight of the pack pressed me down with every step. My boots, molded from a rubber leather compound would keep the sand from seeping in, since there were no seams or layers, But, more and more trickled in the top with each step.

Meylir was three days behind me, not even a speck of light on the horizon. I was glad to be gone from the city but my water supply was almost non-existent. Taking the time to harvest water was not a luxury I could afford on my trek.

When the sun moved behind me I threw off my head covering. My smooth skin rejoiced at the feel of warmth. I pushed up the sleeve of my robe. The gray tint to my skin was already fading to its natural burn orange color. The back of my head would act as a beacon against the white sand but I had gone 27 hours without feeding and every step taxed my energy. Before that I had feed every half day so I was weak.

When I felt the sand shift under the soles of my boots I pulled my hood back up.

One of the skimmers from Meylir whipped up a sandstorm as it flew overhead, the ground vibrating with the engine feedback. They were looking for me. This brought the total to 17 I had seen, though it was the first one since last night.

By now news would be spreading around the despite security measures. A sun god in the capitol city Meylir. The president Touched, and dying. Or at least it would seem that way. In another two days it would be apparent he was dying but had been chosen. His skin would change from the pasty white to a bronze or golden color. His blood replaced with a clear sticky substance and he would lose every hair on his body. Just like I had three thousand years earlier. I didn’t think I was going to survive. Becoming a god was harder than dying.

When the sun sank to the north I slipped the pack from my shoulders. I had reached my destination. I knew because I couldn’t go any further south. My legs wouldn’t obey my desire. Even gods are bound by laws of nature. My destiny was to be fulfilled.

I set up the water harvester in a circle. All the water would be pulled to the middle. The machine hummed the sound bringing back memories of my mortal life before I was chosen.

I wasn’t like the President of Meylir. I had been a simple farm boy. Our house had been in the poor section of a city named Tiborn, no longer a speck on any map. I farmed the pollution from the air. We filled tank upon tank of the contamination which were shipped to a facility that filtered the fertilizing chemicals out then disposed of the waste. I never learned how. The day the sun god came and changed me was the day the city was quarantined because of plague. I was the only one who survived the burning.

The chill breeze stimulated me and I removed my robes. The syringe with the sun god formula fell to the sand. I brushed a finger against my eye where I had been injected. Sight, mortal sight, had returned after a hundred years. I could still picture the visions and lessons that taught me what to do.

The water lapped at my knees as I stood in the water. My reserve was gone but with the sun at my back I faced Meylir. In hours the city would see me in my final form. And in a week the new sun good would begin traveling the world, fulfilling his own destiny.

I felt the sun on my back, the water between my toes, and sprouted.

21 September 2012

Farmer in the Sky

by Robert A. Heinlein

My father and I have been working on a research paper together. We are studying the shift of science fiction from space opera towards dystopic and apocalyptic. My father is writing about classic space opera while I am writing about the modern stuff. While I enjoy the modern books, as seen by my reviews, I wanted to review something today that was part of the classic side and one that people may not remember or even have read. FARMER IN THE SKY by Robert A. Heinlein is a juvenile science fiction book published in 1953. Though it was published in 1953 it first appeared in serial format in 1950 in Boy’s Life magazine. The reason why I said it is juvenile is because there wasn’t a YA category in the 1950s but Heinlein wanted to write books that would appeal to the younger audience because they had characters in their teens.

FARMER IN THE SKY is about an eagle scout, which is why it appeared in Boy’s Life. Bill Lermer and his father live on earth which is overcrowded. An opportunity arrives for them to be part of a colony to Ganymede which is one of Jupiter’s moons. There is already a colony set up and when Bill arrives he finds that he doesn’t fit in quite as well as he hoped. They boys are nice, but Bill thought himself to be revolutionary in his thinking and he isn’t. Living on Ganymede proves to be too much for some, but Bill finds it exciting and is even able to do some exploring with some of the other colonists and they find more than they are expecting. I have really condensed the plot down. One of my favorite aspects of this book is Bill’s relationship with his step-sister, Peggy. It is nice to see a book where the step-siblings really get along with each other.

I read FARMER IN THE SKY when I was in high school. At the time I didn’t realize how long ago it had been written. Truthfully, I thought it was written in the 80s. I mean the way it is written is just timeless. The idea of living on one of Jupiter’s moons is still such a fantastical idea. This is a perfect book to get young adults into space opera. Though I recommend it for adults as well.

19 September 2012

I Can Still See You

Tuesday, the 18th, I attended a class on Excel. I used Excel a lot at work and my training has been limited to Google. While using the Google method I’ve been able to accomplish fancy projects, but I don’t know some of the basics. I am using calculus to solve x + 3 = 7. It works, but isn’t very efficient.

Rant begin . . . I have been to classes like this before. Do the exercises on the computer while the instructor talks. It was fun to see if I could guess how the instructor was going to do the exercises. In these classes there is always a variety of people. I was sad to see the lack of respect that some of the students had towards the instruction. I am tired of cellphones. Do people honestly think they are being sneaky when they look at their phones under the table? I don’t even think it is appropriate to leave the cellphone on the table.

The person next to me left her phone on the table. For the first half of the class it was face down. She didn’t even bother with that for the second half. She complained to me at the second break that she didn’t know what to do because she had read all of her email. She ended up leaving early and I was kind of glad. She was just annoying.

I can relate to feeling bored. I really didn’t need to be there for the portion on inserting images. But, there is a certain amount of respect we need to give the instructor and the other students. When the instructor is helping someone one-on-one I don’t see the problem with people checking their phones or brainstorming blog post ideas. We can all do better at showing more respect when in public. And if I see another cellphone during a movie I may smash it. . . Rant end.

I am glad I went to the class. I learned several tricks that I will probably use on a weekly basis if not more often.

17 September 2012

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

This weekend I attended the annual League of Utah Writers Roundup Conference. I didn’t have much time to spend in the classes, but I wasn’t really expecting to. I did get to listen to the keynote speakers on both Friday and Saturday evening. I enjoyed both nights, but today I am going to talk about my impressions on the Saturday evening speaker, Barry Eisler. If I sound smart, that is because of him. If anything I say doesn’t sound right, that is probably my misinterpretation of the information.

Barry Eisler switched from traditional publishing to self-publishing. This is because he realized the audience that favored digital was larger than the audience that favored paper. He still has paper books, but they are done print on demand. One of the perks to the traditional publishing houses are the distribution channels. It is difficult for an author to get their books on the shelves when you have a name like TOR or Penguin backing you. If you don’t have interest in having your books on the shelf and are content with the digital world, then self-publishing may be the way to go. Amazon offers a hybrid approach. They buy the rights, but you do everything yourself.

The biggest thing you have to remember is the fact that you have to write and finish a good book. That isn’t just saying that you write your novel and as soon as you are done get it out there. You need to make sure it is the best thing that you can produce and then post it. Then write another book. The best marketing you can do for yourself is to have multiple books for people to stumble upon and look up.

Digital won’t completely replace books. There will always be a demand for paper books. Though that demand will be less as the years continue. (That isn’t just from me. He said it, I swear.) Because the demand for paper will go, the way an author interacts with their readership will shift. There are various programs out there that lets an author digitally sign the ebooks. Bookstore signings may decrease over the years, but that depends on who the author is, and what the readership wants.

Either way is good, you just have to figure out which way will get you to where you want to be. There is a place for both. Moose has learned he prefers ebooks while I am pretty sure I will always prefer paper. I hope that publishers really do offer an option that when you buy the hardbound book you get a digital copy as well. That is perfect for our circumstance.

16 September 2012

*Night of Hunting

Intro: I am still trying to recover from the conference this weekend. It was really good. I had a wonderful time, but it means that I have burned out my brains on contest stuff. Next week should be a lot better.

Rain lashed the windshield. Hank thought the windshield wipers were going to fly off and launch into orbit. An oncoming car flew around the corner. For a moment the high beams filled Hank’s vision before he could avert his eyes. The thin fog illuminated like a paper lantern, casting a hazy light an obscuring all details of the surroundings. By the time the car passed Hank needed to yank on the steering wheel to keep the car on the road.

His eyes scanned the darkness even as he tried to block off the pain. When a small silver spark shone in the dark he glanced right and left. He found another glint to the right and turned the wheel. The left wheel slipped onto the shoulder and he adjusted until he was back on. He continued looking for the signs of the road reflectors from his headlights, and being blinded by the other cars.

The usual hour long drive stretched closer to three. His head swam and the moisture in his sock could have been wrung out. Hank pulled to the side of the road and pried his fingers from the steering wheel. The pressure in his jaw moved to throb his temples. Hank peered into the blackness. The headlights penetrated only a few feet into the trees and fog. He wasn’t even sure the road continued in the direction he looked.

He glanced at the hand drawn map and sighed.

“Her saying no can’t be any worse than hunting for clues in the rain. Next time, I’m just going to ask her to prom.”

14 September 2012

The Marvelous Journey Home

By John Simmons

I was a little hesitant to read this book. I am always a little nervous when I read something self-published. I need to fix that bad habit. There are a lot of good writers about there who self publish and I would say John Simmons is one of them. His novel THE MARVELOUS JOURNEY HOME was a touching read. I was invested in the characters and enthralled by the culture. I know a little about Russia from my older brother, but this story delves into a known situation, adoption, and sheds more light on all the aspects. I never thought adoption was easy but the experiences related by the author are beyond what I imagined.

THE MARVELOUS JOURNEY HOME is a non-fiction story about the Knight family trying to adopt from Russia. They already have two boys and want a daughter. After the first potential falls through, Mike and Laura are swept up in the process. As part of the adoption they must travel to Russia twice and both times involve their own set of joys and heartaches. Not only do we have the story from the fancy Americans, but it also gives part of it from the humble Russians' perspectives. It is a heartwarming story about being a family and all that comes with it.

I love the smattering of Russian throughout the novel. I really enjoyed learning about the culture and people. The story is true but at the same time parts needed to be condensed for it to work in novel format. John Simmons explains this at the end. I am glad I read this book. Not only because it is witty and charming but because it broadened my horizons on what I've known about but didn't really understand.

12 September 2012

League of Utah Writers

My life has been taken over by the League of Utah Writers. I am trying to get all of the print material done for the conference this weekend. I actually don't mind doing it. I mean I went to school to be a technical writer and I learned I actually like more of the document design aspect than the editing aspect. I don't think I could have made it as a graphic designer, but I like these little opportunities to actually try my hand at making certificates and things like that.

10 September 2012

Paying it Forward

I have had the privilege of working with an amazing author by the name of Paul Genesse. I love his books, and he is the editor of the Crimson Pact volumes that my short stories are in. I have heard him speak at multiple conferences and one of the things that he supports is the idea of paying it forward. He had friends who helped him with his writing career and now he helps hopeful authors, like me.

Getting into the publishing world is hard, ask nine out of ten authors. A lot of authors receive help of some sort from others. I don’t feel like I have much to offer, but I try to do everything I can for my friends. As writers we should band together and support each other in any way we can, even if it is just commiserating over a cup of hot chocolate.

09 September 2012

*Shades of Death

Intro: This story started out as something completely different. I was going to have Pete be the main character and do it that way, but this idea seemed more interesting.

Carl didn’t enjoy the walk to school. That wasn’t new. The walk to school was often a run, avoiding the dogs, and bullies, and sometimes the bullies’ dogs. They were the worst.

This morning, Ripper, the Rottweiler caught him in the dark alley behind the drugstore. The teeth sinking into his leg made him scream. Generally speaking, Carl didn’t think men or boys should scream. This was something he often discussed with his friends. Yelling and hollering were fine, but screaming and shrieking should be left to women and girls. Carl screamed. He fell and the rest of the dogs were on him.

“We’ve killed him.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

Carl might have enjoyed the ride to the hospital, if he was conscious. He died on the operating table half an hour later. Blood loss.

When Carl woke, I was there to comfort, greet, him.

“What happened?”

“You’re dead. I just have a few questions for you. Truthfulness is key.”

Carl patted himself down. Dead was live to dead but dead to live. It took some explaining. If you were dead you felt alive. If you were alive, you felt alive. If you were dead the live felt dead.

“What is your name?”

“I’m dead?” Carl looked around. The world was faded, but Carl’s body was in the body bag. It was best to get this over with before the family came.

“Yes. That is the situation. Your full name, please.”

“Carl Gordon McFinnigan.” His voice was tremulous and his lip quivered.

“You’re doing well. Three more questions. How old are you?”


The body bag was moved to one of the cold lockers. I was in luck.

“Are you dead?” I asked.

Carl stared at me, his brows pulled together. “Am I dead?”

“It is a simple yes or no question.”

If he thought this question was hard, I was in trouble. The last questions always tripped people up. Not a good sign.

“Yes. You told me I was dead.”

Carl showed more promise than anyone gave him credit for. Most of the time people accused him of being slow. In the time that I was shadowing him, I learned he wasn’t slow, but I must have not been paying attention.

“Last question. I have to ask it for formality’s sake. Do you believe what I tell you?”

“You told me I was dead.” Carl said.

“Yes I did.”

“I believe you.” Carl looked around. “But, why can’t I see you? Are you a ghost?”

“No. But I am here to offer you a job. If you don’t want it then you can just proceed to the afterlife.”
“Will I go to heaven?”

“That isn’t for me to decide. Pete takes care of that.”

“St. Peter?”

“No, he doesn’t actually have a name, that I know of. We just took to calling him Pete because he wanted a name.”

The light came on. We fled with the darkness. Let the living remain with the living. The toolshed in the school yard was a perfect place to talk.

“What is it I am supposed to do?”

“You will become a guardian angel.” I went on to explain the duties. We couldn’t always save people from death, but we could offer protection and guidance.

“So do I get a pair of wings?”

“Not exactly. We are creatures born from light.”

“What do you mean?”
Even now I can see the change in Carl’s body. His colors are becoming richer, darker.

“Remember what your church teachers used to say. That Jesus is the light of the world.”


“We can only exist where there is light. We stick as close as we can to those we guard. We are their shadow.”

07 September 2012

Princess Series

By Jessica Day George

Princess of the Midnight Ball

I am a sucker for fairy tale retellings. I also love Jessica Day George, so how could I pass up reading PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL, which is a retelling of the twelve dancing princesses. Not only does she cover all of the important bits, but she puts her own twist on the story that I love. There is just something about the personalities that makes them seem so real. They aren’t just good or just bad but they are individuals.

The story of the twelve dancing princesses involves twelve princesses who disappear every night and come back from their room exhausted and with worn shoes. The king says that if any man can figure out where his daughters go at night he promises them the hand of one of his daughters in marriage. A soldier named Galen decides that he will try his hand at learning where the princesses go. With the help of the eldest daughter, Rose, he will do all he can of breaking the curse.

What makes this story unique, is Galen. All of the fairy tales have the dashing young soldier, but Galen has a talent that isn’t found among too many people. Galen knits. Once again Jessica Day George has taken some of her Nordic heritage and implanted it in her story. Apparently it was very common to have men knit, especially soldier. Who else was going to darn their socks while on the march. This story is a wonderful retelling of an old classic. Not only do you get to know Rose and Galen, but you learn about all of the princesses and they are unique.

Princess of Glass

I liked the PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL just a little more, but that in no wise means I didn't enjoy this book. This book takes the story of Cinderella and puts a twist on it. I love the main character Poppy, the younger sister of Rose, and I feel Prince Christian and Poppy deserve each other. I was really surprised at the third POV character, which added another element to the story. Some of the things she said and saw really made me think about what was going on. Poppy is level headed and spunky, she is the life of the book and there are times you just want to stand up and cheer for what she's doing and her grasp of the situation.

The reason I didn't enjoy this book quite as much was because I wanted a little slower pace at the end of the story. Everything that happened was amazing and awesome but I wanted it to linger longer than what we got. Now that it has been a week or two since I've read the book I have digested what happened and wouldn't mind reading it again, this time prepared and paying more attention to the details Jessica Day George gives.

Once again, this book makes me want to learn how to knit. I've never been against knitting but the fact that she includes the patterns for the various knitted items is genius. I really hope that this book encourages more people to learn the skill because who knows when you will have to knit a bracelet to keep your friends from falling under an evil spell. This book is great for anyone and is a new take on an old classic.

05 September 2012

Where Does the Time Go?

Between Labor Day weekend and the League of Utah Writer's Roundup next weekend, I lost track of what day it is. Sorry this post is coming a little later than usual.

This weekend Moose and I had a blast. His parents visited. They even slept on our floor one night. (Someday we will have a guest room again.) My parents also came down. We all met up at the sheepdog trials in Midway. I was talking with my mother and I made the comment that I don't really like watching professional sports, but I sat for two days and watched the trials. I was trying to come up with all sorts of reasons why the sheepdog trials are better than say the NFL, but it just boiled down to the fact that I just enjoy watching the dogs and their handlers. I recommend that everyone at least see the trials once. It is amazing to think of what these dogs can do, and a lot of them are professional working dogs who help with herding the family livestock. When we get our own place with a fence, we will be getting a dog. I know border collies take a lot of time and energy, but then again I have Moose. My parents' have a dog and her favorite person is Moose, despite the fact that she only sees him about twice a month. He runs her into the ground when they play.

I have also been doing a lot of work for the annual writer's conference for the League of Utah Writers. I am the contest chair and that means getting a lot of information organized from a lot of different people. I think last year I was a little frustrated with some of the contestants. I don't have much sympathy for people who want me to change the rules for them. This year I was able to talk a lot of people through the new electronic submission and the bigger concerns have come from the judges. The majority of the judges I've worked with have been great, but there are a few with whom I just grit my teeth and say, okay, if it is easier for you. This easier for them makes a lot more work for me. The nice thing about this is that I just don't have to ask them to judge again. The other exciting thing about being a contest chair is that it always seems to come down to the last minute. I always feel like I am scrambling at the end. Last year I was up until 1:30 the night before the awards ceremony trying to get all of the entries organized by author, and not by category, so I could hand them out the next night. I hope that this year will be smoother since I am emailing things back instead of dealing with all that paper. But who knows.

02 September 2012

Happy Labor Day!

I have been busy watching this . . .

And I will be watching this tomorrow . . .

Come back Wednesday for a normal blog post. Meanwhile I will be enjoying this . . .