Blog Hop and a Magnus Kir updates

First I wanted to give a quick thanks to  Bonnie Watson for asking me to participate in this blog hop. She’s a fellow fantasy author and an amazing artist. Her work is definitely worth checking out; you can see some of her work in progress at https://wisdomnovels.wordpress.com/

What inspired me to be a writer:
I’d love to say that I was a life-long reader, but that would be a complete lie. Truth be told, I didn’t really like to read until college. I was somehow coerced into a “book-club” (visualize me doing air-quotes for additional emphasis) my junior year of college where the reading was G.K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man. It was a life-changing experience. As I’m writing this I realized that I never thanked the guy who invited me. Thanks David! While the book club itself primarily consisted of us trying to figure out the genius who was G.K. Chesterton, it propelled me into the world of literary discovery. It created in me a intellectual confidence for which I was severely lacking. Now, I was no intellectual nincompoop, but I wasn’t confident enough to mold that intellect into applicable wisdom, and then express this wisdom in an articulate matter. But in holding this book of Chesterton’s in my hands, reading, struggling, and eventually UNDERSTANDING his puzzling prose as well as discussing it, this created in me a sense of “standing on the shoulders” of this literary giant. I immediately, and to this day, gobble up every Chesterton book I find. On finding an old copy of The Man Who was Thursday a few months after this book club ended, my love of fiction commenced. Without this simple invitation to a book club, I wouldn’t be as thoughtful, introspective and contemplative as I am today; and there’s no doubt that without this event in my life, I would not be an author. So, there are many reasons why I write, but one of the most poignant is that I want to inspire in my readers that sense of awe, wonder, and eventually confidence that G.K. Chesterton developed in me.

But enough about my background, I’ve written a fantasy entitled Magnus Kir (simply pronounced KER) for middle grade students via Ambassador International. Here’s a little synopsis below, but if interested you can read much more, including the first chapter and book trailer at www.magnuskir.comScreenshot 2014-07-24 09.15.07

For those who’ve already read the book, I’d like to share with you the time before Magnus Kir, but to do that we have to go to another era, and even to another place= the present. Well, it’s a few years beyond today, but close enough. I hope you enjoy the first (unprofessionally edited) tidbit, where you’ll meet Dale and his son Allister:

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“Just like our two minute drill Allister; get it done!”

Allister stuck his head out of his room and screamed over the presidential address blaring out of the radio in the living room, “Ok Dad! But why right now?”

There was no response.

Allister thought he was prepared, but the emergency backpack he’d packed months before seemed so small and empty now. He looked up from the pack and quickly scanned the room. He absorbed what he was leaving behind; his bed, posters, and the life of a fifteen year-old American, or at least, what used to be called America. Knowing he was almost out of time, he grabbed whatever he could carry. As a starting receiver on his school’s JV football team, he instinctively reached for his football, and after second thoughts he dropped it to the floor. He slipped his pocketknife in his front pocket, grabbed his camouflaged duffle full of hunting gear from his closet and reached under his bed for his memory box. For some reason, it wasn’t the pictures and letters from his mother that made him reach for this simple plastic container, it was the assortment of throwing stars that he’d collected as a middle-school kid. Like every other boy he dreamed of intense battles with those stars flying from his hands, but he never thought that one day he might use them in a real life situation, until this moment.

His father’s thunderous voice sent a shudder down Allister’s spine, “Let’s go son!” Allister put his hunting bag over his shoulder, stuffed the memory box in his backpack, and grabbed his blue and grey letterman’s jacket and tossed it over his shoulder as he walked out of his bedroom.

Dale Swift, Allister’s father, was a rugged, back-woods North Carolinian. It was well known in those parts that Dale’s father was an infamous booze runner in the early days of stock car racing. That’s where he got his love of cars and grew to be a seasoned mechanic. No, it wasn’t a rich-man’s life by any means, but Dale was able to pay their bills and stored up enough gold bullion and food to take care of the two of them in case things got worse; and so they had.

Allister and his father stepped out of the house; Dale firmly shut the door. He put his key in the deadbolt and hesitated; he froze as if he’d heard something.

“What is it dad?” Allister stared at his father.

Allister pulled his weapons bag off his shoulder, “Should I get out a gun?” His father quietly shook his head in response.

Dale finally removed the key, put it in his pocket and started walking to his pickup truck. Allister shrugged and followed as his dad put his large pack along with all of the other items in the truck’s bed. As Allister loaded his backpack and hunting bag in the cab of the truck, he noticed that his father had removed a handkerchief from his weathered jeans pocket and wiped his eyes. After Allister sat down and strapped in, his father sat and stared at the steering wheel and took a deep breath. Dale uttered in his southern drawl while he put the keys in the ignition, “I was thinkin’ of the first day I unlocked that door, with your mother in my arms.”

“Oh,” Allister sighed.

Dale revealed a broken smile, “She always thought I was crazy; planning to bug out.”

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Thanks guys for reading! I’ll post the full chapter when I get finished with the prequel!

Next Author to Post on August 4, 2014

Jessica Grey:  www.authorjessicagrey.com

Check her stuff out!

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The motive behind Magnus Kir… our cultural “Bubble”

One of my favorite projects I assign my seniors is to go speak with someone from a very different religious perspective. The students’ are to give them reasons why they believe there is a God. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get preachy here, I just find it interesting when some of my students tell me that they don’t know any non-believers.  They’ve been so sheltered by the Christian environment, that they don’t have any non-Christians to seek and understand a contrary opinion. I don’t know what to say to these students except, “You going to be shocked next year when you walk onto a  college campus.” I fear they will be overwhelmed, not only by the shock of a different environment and added freedoms, but also the vast number of different opinions that will flood their minds.

While Magnus Kir is about a 12 year old boy and not a young adult, the theme still remains. (This is why I think the young adults who have read the work identify with the character.) You have some students who are itching to get out of their “home” culture, and when they get out, they look back with disdain and bitterness (Tobias). These usually never want to return, or even worse, they return to mock their home community. Others leave willingly, but have issues with the “outside world” and indeed encounter struggle, but they eventually find their way home (Thaddeus). And lastly, we have those that long to get out, but once out, they still carry Christ’s heart, and they long to come home (Zack), even if only on a temporary basis.

One of the points of Magnus Kir is to consider the walls we have built around our lives and the lives of those around us. Obviously, some of these walls are built for protection (the Nomads), others are built out of irrational fear (who’d fear Zorbit?), but this is for the reader to consider…

http://www.MagnusKir.com 

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American Football, and giving a book a second chance…

I must admit, I once was a music snob. I’d call it hipster, but that wasn’t invented yet, and there were no fashion statements involved. At one time I was introduced to the band “American Football” by multiple people. I popped in a CD and listened for a bit, but then, for some reason, I chose not to continue. Fast forward fifteen years. A friend’s status came up on my newsfeed “listening to American Football” and I couldn’t remember the band’s sound. I flipped over to itunes and began to listen. I couldn’t figure out what I didn’t like about this band. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t ready for them yet. I simply needed to mature into their sound.

I think the same can be said about our reading tastes. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I began to love reading, and at that point, I was devouring everything that I could get my hands on. My journey started with Chesterton’s “Everlasting Man”, then C.S. Lewis’ works- especially fascinating was his space trilogy. Then I read somewhere that what started Lewis on this grand adventure was George MacDonald’s Phantastes. What a weird name for a book. When I finally did find a copy of this book years later, I dove right in, just to find that the pool’s water was cold and shallow. This was the first MacDonald book I’d ever read, and my expectations were very high. Yet, I simply couldn’t get into the book. I know we’ve all had that experience where we’ve read a few chapters in a book, but then it just sat for weeks, months, dare I say a year? There sat Phantastes until I put it back on my bookshelf, unread.

It wasn’t until four or five years ago, that after reading much more of MacDonald’s work (especially his highly accessible Princess books), I tried reading Phantastes again. I now list it (along with Lillith) as one of the deepest and most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read.

All this to say, if you’ve changed and matured, it’s possible that you have a book to add to your favorites list- and it could be sitting right there on your bookshelf- waiting to be dusted off and consumed.

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Each of us have a little bit of Capitol in us…. a Hunger Games Review

First let me say that expectations were high for this movie, but I have to be honest, once I saw the trailers for The Avengers and Promethius I forgot why I was there in the first place. After my wife quickly reminded me, we were transported to the world of Panem.

For a fan of the books, it was quite well done and true to the original. I would easily give it 4 out of 5 stars. My only complaint was that the books seemed to give the reader a much more intimate knowledge of the mind and emotion of the main character, Katniss Everdeen. Throughout her ordeal she shared every thought, hesitation, insecurity and worry. This didn’t seem to completely rise to the surface in the movie- but I don’t know if that’s anyone’s fault or simply the transmission of the written medium to the big screen.

My biggest struggle (not a complaint) was that for the entire two hours and 22 minutes I was uncomfortable, unsettled, and disturbed. While reading the book, I could put it down whenever this feeling arose and watch a little Phineas and Ferb. This always cheered me up; but alas, on this night, Perry the Platapus was busy with Dr. Doofenshmurtz, so I was stuck in Panem. The content of the movie wasn’t anything different from the book, but apparently watching kids struggle to survive in an evil system and eventually strive to kill each other somehow affected my sensibilities. This became obvious when the audience in my auditorium cheered when Thresh saved Katniss by killing young Clove by slamming her against the cornucopia. Did they know what they just applauded? A teenage boy just murdered a teenage girl. A little throw-up came up in my mouth; because I caught myself starting to cheering too. What had this author and director done to me? For this one second I realized, and I recoiled at the thought, that each of us have a little bit of Capitol in us….

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Book ‘Em North Carolina Visit

I had a wonderful trip to a North Carolina event yesterday ( http://bookemnc.org ). While I sold a double-digit amount of books, that wasn’t the point, the proceeds went to the Book ‘Em foundation. The Book ‘Em Foundation’s goal is to “highlight the connection between illiteracy / poor reading skills and crime rates.” Visit http://bookemfoundation.org/ for details on the organization.

While I expected meet many readers, which I did- young and old alike, I didn’t expect to meet so many cool, interesting, helpful and encouraging authors at one place. To be honest, I’ve never been around so many authors at one point in time. Yes, I’ve met authors before. One or two here or there…maybe a writers group meeting, but never 75+ authors under one roof.
What I found most exciting about this was how I, along side of another author new to these sorts of events, were both welcomed with open arms. I thought that since we were in essence “competing” to sell our books, there might be some sort of resentment. Boy was I wrong. We sat next to a seasoned author who, during the breaks between shoppers, gave us a verbal to-do list to help us promote our books on the web. I was stunned. Why was she giving us her secrets? They apparently worked for her; they shot one of her books to #6 on Amazon. (Yes, I will be implementing this in the near future! ) I met other seasoned authors, one being on a panel of which I was a member, who eagerly doled out amazing tips on character development, outlining, and even the current state of publishing.

Needless to say, I’m still overwhelmed with the experience, as well as the information I garnered from the event. If you hear of one of these Book ‘em events coming to your neck of the woods, make sure you take time to visit!

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George Macdonald’s fantasy Lillith made me want to die.

While George Macdonald’s book Lillith is one of his more “literary” fantasy books, it may embody exactly what I long for when I read books in this genre. In fact, and more specifically, it made me long for death. This sounds morbid, I know, but let me explain.

If you haven’t read the book, there are a few major themes that are threaded through the novel- the ones I noticed most were redemption and the providential role of death in God’s plan. MacDonald approached these topics in a very unique way. Usually when we watch a movie or we read a book, the theme of redemption presents itself something like this: the main character is described, he has a problem and often fails at something, then somehow, through his own power (or even a little help from others) he solves the problem and reaches some sort of “redemption.” Even in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series both Edmond and Eustace (who are some of the most unpleasant characters) eventually come around and end up doing “good” and essentially redeeming themselves at the end. In Lillith, there are characters that do what we would call good and bad actions, but that has little to do with their development. Their behavior is merely a part of the story- none of them are redeemed until they are invited, and eventually succumb, to sleep in Adam and Eve’s chamber.

I’ve read through much of Randy Alcorn’s book “Heaven” and while I thought it was exceptionally well done, it didn’t satisfy my appetite. I started the book expecting it to cause me to anticipate heaven. It didn’t. It was too factual and stale. (Trust that I am used to factual and stale- I’m a philosopher!) On the other hand the book Lillith made me wonder. Isn’t that what all good Christian fantasy is supposed to do? It made me think about how “redemption” and our eventual complete salvation might take place. It made me consider how I will respond when I find myself at death’s door, knowing that salvation is on the other side. It made me long to be who God has created me to be in this life, but also imagine how things might be in the next. I can ask no more from a fantasy book than this…

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Speaking to students on the Steps to becoming an Author

I really enjoyed speaking to 5th grade classes at Charlotte Christian School. The enthusiasm of this class was infectious. Their imaginations ran wild…even though most of the classes hadn’t read the book. All I had presented was the trailer and the back of the book. (The actual point of the presentation will come later.)
I am very surprised that some of the students’ first reaction about the premise of Magnus Kir is that it reminded them of the Garden of Eden. So, Zack supposedly represented humanity in the book. It’s funny to me because that wasn’t intentional at all- and it seems so obvious to me now.
The actual presentation revolved around the steps to becoming an author. Here are the steps I came up with…if you think I’ve missed something let me know!

Have an idea!
Write an Outline
First Draft / First Edit
Find an Agent or go directly to a Publisher
Professional Edit
Cover Art
Marketing

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Contest winner for day two…and a hint for DAY THREE!!!

Our second winner for the week was Noah Arsenault. Way to go NOAH!

A little hint for today’s contest:
The question will have to do with the book trailer for the video. This can can be found HERE!

The question will be posted about 4 PM on our facebook page!

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New Magnus Kir Study Guide, Day one of “5 days of giveaways”, and a HINT!

Our first winner for the week is Marissa Franks Burt. She’s also an aspiring author who’s slated to release “Storybound” in April. You can check out more about the book at her facebook page:
Storybound

Every day this week I will post a blog entry with a clue about what question will be asked on our facebook page. This may give you a bit more help as the questions may get a little more difficult during the week. Hint: In the first chapter there a couple young women that are named. Last time the answer was Maybelline. This next question will be about one of the other women. See the first chapter here: Magnus Kir First Chapter

Also, I’ve written a discussion/study guide for Magnus Kir for individuals or groups who’d like to dig deeper. You can find a link to download here: Study Guide

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5 days of giveaways start on Monday the 3rd!

Here’s some information on our celebration of 1,000 likes on the Magnus Kir Facebook page!

Starting Monday the 3rd we will start the celebration of 1000 likes! Each day we will have a giveaway on the facebook page. I will ask a random question or assignment sometime during the day. It could be about the first chapter of the book (found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/51542868/Magnus-Kir ) or we may ask you to do something crazy and post a picture. There will also be special deals on http://www.MagnusKir.com during the week if you don’t happen to win a copy.

Other happenings:
I’ve sent in the draft of my article for the Res Aliens website. The topic ended up being a little different than I initially thought- but I think it turned out well. The title: The Metaphysics of Magic: Writing Christian Fantasy from a Christian Worldview

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