September 29, 2010

Author Interview: Christopher Hopper

Welcome to the third and final day of the CSFF Blog Tour for September!  I am pleased to officially announce the interview of Christopher Hopper, coauthor of Venom and Song.  It was a close one, mainly due to the fact that he's been overseas.  BUT - just in time, CH has come through for us with his answers to my interview questions.  YES!  He rules! 

If you didn't see yesterday's post, my interview with Wayne Thomas Batson, click HERE.  And if you're wondering what the heck I'm going on about, click HERE for Day One's post for Venom and Song.


Step up to the mic, Mr. Hopper.  Oh wait - you're already there.

I'll be using the same questions for today as I did for Wayne's interview yesterday.  But as you'll see, the answers are interestingly unique, if not a tad cryptic at times (for our own good, of course).

***

Me:  What does "Endurance and Victory" mean to you?

CH:  We felt it very much embodied not only the plight of the Elves, who's condition confined them to a life of delayed hopes (Endurance) and a reminder of eventual conquest (Victory), but also of the young lords, and that of our readers. Victories are hard won, at least those worth obtaining. And in a generation that has largely adopted an instant mentality for almost everything, learning to Endure is a character trait we need to tie back into our day-to-day lives.

Me:  There are several prevailing themes throughout this series, but some really come into focus in Venom and Song, like trust, forgiveness, acceptance, and many aspects of relationships. What is the one theme you felt was the most necessary to portray?

CH:  For me it was the development of interpersonal relationships. Next to how we get along with Jesus, how we get along with each other is the most important thing in life. Kingdoms rise and fall because of relationships. So watching the Seven learn to work together through their differences was simply a reflection of real life, and made the book extremely realistic for me.

Me:  We see the Seven's gifts mature and grow, will that growth continue? And what spurns this growth?

CH:  Growth is an essential part of human development; it's the whole reason people want to read a story in the first place. If characters are not growing, there's no real point in reading. So yes, it will continue.


As for the reason, I think it's two-fold: one is to serve their world in its pursuit of freedom. Allyra's bondage demands dedication to the development of their gifts (meaning the Seven). And secondly, the Seven themselves find more of their identity as they grow in their gifts. Like they say about men:  we find our value in what we produce. And therefore, the greater the Seven grow in their individual giftings, the more they feel connected to the world around them.

Me:  There are so many aspect to writing a great story, how does the language itself factor in for you? Is it important?

CH:  Yeah, language is a huge part of story-telling, esspecially when you're mixing a modern world with a pre-modern age. Apart from physical descriptions and environments, language is the single greatest telltale of who's talking and what era they're in. We worked very hard to make each character reflect their own world simply in the way they communicated.

Me:  We see a lot of battle and death in this installment. As an author of endearing characters, how do you choose who lives and dies?

CH:  We roll dice, make bets, and try to make out images in cloud formations. It's a very exact science.


Sometimes you just get this feeling like, "What if just killed off this person?" The bigger the upset, the more likely it's going to make it into the book. Never give the reader what they want, give them what they need.

Me:  Certain pairings are starting to appear within the Seven, will these carry significance througout the rest of the series?

CH:  Depends upon how the characters like each other.

Me:  The character of Mannaelkin is often the voice of doubt, why is a character like this important to the story? And the message?

CH:  In all of life, we have our doubters. And how we treat them, and overcome their emotional prowess, determines a great deal of our outcome in perosnal life. He made the struggle real and tried to thwart plans politically in much the same way real life adversaries do here today. Sure, everyone can name the big bad evil guy in life...but are they keen enough to spot the not-so-obvious road blocks?

Me:  Without giving too much away, in the final battle of the book we see rain. What does the symbolism of rain mean to you?

CH:  I hear the Lord most when I'm in the shower, or by the ocean. So water always symbolizes the person of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, He is most often compared to water and wind in the Bible.

Me:  In the chapter The Art of Discipline, on page 120, Grimwarden says, "Never mistake service for anything less than the highest form of nobility, Jett. Dictators and tyrants lead without serving; only true kings use their place of power to lead in the most humble of ways." This stuck with me, as did many other lessons the Seven learned. Is service something readers can strive for in their daily lives? How?

CH:  It all starts with the simple. Picking up your room. Obeying Dads and Moms. Doing the dishes. They might seem like menial chores, but they position you for greater levels of responsibilty later on in life. One reason grown-ups never enter into what they were destined for was because they never learned the art of service when given the chance as a youth.

Me:  The question that all of your readers are dying to know is - when can we expect book 3? Do you have a title or any tidbit you can share with us about it?

CH:  Sorry to make the masses wait, but mum's the word...

***

Thanks for joining me as I got to delve into one of my favorite fantasy worlds once again!  And rest assured, as soon as I know anything about Book Three in The Berinfell Prophecies, I'll be blogging all about it!

Until next we meet in Allyra:
Endurance and Victory!

September 28, 2010

Author Interview: Wayne Thomas Batson

Welcome to day two of the CSFF Blog Tour!  Hopefully you've read my review of this month's excellent book, Venom and Song by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper.  If not, click HERE.  Now that we're all caught up, let's see what Mr. Batson had to say in answer to my interview questions...

Can this guy rock a cape, or what?

Oh - and please don't forget to click on a few links from the day one post for updated tour info all about Venom and Song:  Book 2 in The Berinfell Prophecies.

***

Me:  What does "Endurance and Victory" mean to you?

WTB:  Not much. Christopher came up with that. Just kidding. The Elves are the Children of the Sun, and they have an actual physiological need for sunlight. It's their natural habitat. So to be forced underground where they can only rarely escape to get light requires great endurance. During that time of hiding, it seems the enemy has the upper hand. It's like that for Christians sometimes, I think. The world can seem so dark and dreary. And esp. in America, it can often seem like false things prosper while others suffer. But there will be victory. God has already won it. We know that in the end, not only will God wipe away every tear, but He will renew everything, a new heaven and a new earth. Everything false will be burned away. Victory is coming.

Me:  There are several prevailing themes throughout this series, but some really come into focus in Venom and Song, like trust, forgiveness, acceptance, and many aspects of relationships. What is the one theme you felt was the most necessary to portray?

WTB:  In Spider King we hoped that the seven teens would show readers that each and every kid, rich, poor, athletic, bookish, popular, or reclusive--each one is more precious than he or she can imagine. In Venom and Song, we hoped our young lords, now endowed with spectacular powers, would show readers how much each one needed to be content as one part of the whole body. As my mom says, "Comparisons are odious." Jealousy should be impossible for Christians. To each one He gives gifts. Run with it. Do your part. Be content.


Me:  We see the Seven's gifts mature and grow, will that growth continue? And what spurs this growth?

WTB:  We will indeed. CH and I have been plotting out book 3 of the series. And just the other day, we discovered that two of the seven will develop breathtaking extensions to their abilities. :-D


Me:  There are so many aspect to writing a great story, how does the language itself factor in for you? Is it important?

WTB:  Language is important. Vocabulary, sentence structure--it all matters. But, there's an element of language that is really very fluid and subjective. What I mean is that writing styles change over the decades. Ten years ago, we taught students to avoid using the speaker tag "said" so often. Be more specific with your verbs, we'd preach. Not said, but howled, bellowed, whimpered, etc. But in 2010, a lot of readers smirk and complain when writers don't just stick with "said." Get rid of adverbs, some tell us. Eliminate the comma before the and in a series. It's all very malleable and depends on who you ask. All that said, I am a firm believer in using words to impact tone. Every word and phrase, every chance for a simile or metaphor--can I craft it just right to add to the readers fear, joy, sadness, anxiety, etc? If a publisher gives me time, I like to go back through a manuscript and just tweak little things to add that lingering impression.


Me:  We see a lot of battle and death in this installment. As an author of endearing characters, how do you choose who lives and dies?

WTB:  I'm not sure what CH will say here, but for me, I don't choose. The story does. The story often demands that someone die, and usually, the demands are pretty specific. How can Aidan ever become the leader he needs to become if Captain Valithor is always there over his shoulder? And in Venom and Song, there was just no way that the seven could infiltrate Vesper Crag and not pay a price. When a certain sacrifice was called for, we thought, who would be the most likely character, and one stepped forward and volunteered.


Me:  Certain pairings are starting to appear within the Seven, will these carry significance throughout the rest of the series?

WTB:  Great question. At this point in the planning, I'm not sure. But honestly, the characters in Venom are all a little young to forge lasting romantic ties. Attraction can be there and HUGE bonds of friendship too. And I hope these kind of bonds will grow.


Me:  The character of Mannaelkin is often the voice of doubt, why is a character like this important to the story? And the message?

WTB:  I don't know if you always need such an oppositional character within the ranks of the "good side" characters. For CH and I, it wasn't really a purposeful thing. But, unconsciously, I think, Christopher and I have a burning resentment toward the infighting within Christianity and even the local church. Jesus said that others would know Jesus' kids by how they love each other. When someone puts self in front of God's plans, we all look bad.


Me:  Without giving too much away, in the final battle of the book we see rain. What does the symbolism of rain mean to you?

WTB:  Funny, but the symbolism came after the fact. In the very early stages of Book 1, Curse of the Spider King, I was sitting in a park with my laptop working on the outline. There were all these little kids running around and playing on the equipment. Some were jumping rope and singing. That's when it hit me. Spider King. And I had this image of little kids singing "Itsy bitsy spider." And I thought, HOLY BISCUITS!! "Down came the rain and washed the spider out" !! So there it was, a key element of book 2. Once we began delving deeper into the rain concept in book 2, it began to take on more of a "cleansing" metaphor.


Me:  In the chapter The Art of Discipline, on page 120, Grimwarden says, "Never mistake service for anything less than the highest form of nobility, Jett. Dictators and tyrants lead without serving; only true kings use their place of power to lead in the most humble of ways." This stuck with me, as did many other lessons the Seven learned. Is service something readers can strive for in their daily lives? How?

WTB:  I'm still very much learning about being a servant. All I know so far is that we must daily put our own needs behind those of others.


Me:  The question that all of your readers are dying to know is - when can we expect book 3? Do you have a title or any tidbit you can share with us about it?

WTB:  We're working on a title. And we're proposing Book 3 this week, so pray that it will happen. I think CH and I are pretty dedicated to doing book 3 no matter what, but that might mean finding a new home for the series. We hope not, but we'll see. As far as what might be happening in book 3, well let's just remind readers that the Spider King had accumulated a gigantic force of Warspiders, Gwar, and Drefids...on earth. Nuff said.

***

Okay kids!  I'm not sure what I'll have for tomorrow, cuz that's just how I roll.  It could be something really cool, or not much at all.  We shall see...

As they say in Allyra...
Endurance and Victory!

September 27, 2010

Venom and Song - CSFF Blog Tour Day One

Welcome once again to the CSFF Blog Tour!  Today kicks off a very special three day tour with two of my very favorite author dudes:  Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper.  These guys have both created amazing prose and breakneck adventure in their individually authored books, but today we look into the mad-science that happens when these two superstar authors get together for Book Two in The Berinfell Prophecies:

Venom and Song

Click to get your own copy!


Important Links:
Book 2 in The Berinfell Prophecies follows its predecessor with fervor and fire.  Taking up the story from exactly where we left off in Curse of the Spider King, Venom and Song hurls us into the lives of the Seven as they encounter their people, train in the ancient art of Vexbane, discover their true history,  learn about themselves and each other, and fight to survive and free their race from hundreds of years of oppression.

The Seven carry a heavy burden, but first, they have to learn to use their ever-growing gifts:  air-walking, strength, speed, mind-reading, foresight, marksmanship, and flame-throwing.  Each Elven lord is equipped with one of these, but not yet ready to use their blessings.  It takes, Grimwarden, an externally gruff yet big-hearted military genius to reign in the Seven.  Along with some excellent cooking by an Elf named Mumthers.

Their training takes each one of the Seven on their own personal journey as well as a physical one.  Each is introduced to Ellos, the creator of all Allyra.  And in time, each will find their own connection to Ellos.  The teenage lords also find comfort in each other as a team.  They work together, using their abilities in harmony, rather than competing, thus learning to work "as one."  But none of their training is without cost, a foreshadowing of the realities of war.  For Allyra has been at war for over 800 years and the Seven are supposed to be the key to victory.

With training brought to an abrupt halt, the Seven are thrust from the protection of their practice sessions into the violent reality that has plauged Elves for centuries.  They fly on giant birds of prey, navigate ancient underground bastions, search for something vitally important known as the Keystone, and grow into warriors.

By the time the final battle begins, the Seven are no longer separate entities concerned with their own individual lives, but the focused, dedicated leaders of a race that desparately needs freedom.  New beasties have been brewing in Vesper Crag though.  The Spider King is prepared for a seige.  His forces are great, but his weaknesses will be exploited.  All in the name of Ellos, the war with the Spider King ends.  For victory or for ruin, I'll not say.  Only that we discover that one war's end may not be the end of fighting for the lives of the Children of Light.

This story takes us through so many exciting twists and turns that it's almost like riding a cavesurfer to Nightwish Caverns.  And if you have no idea what that means, read the book.  You won't be disappointed.  This installment of The Berinfell Prophecies is chalk full of intensity, wisdom, action, suspense, and just plain fun.  We ride along with the Seven through their myriad of emotions and challenges.  Every teenageer or anyone who's been one will easily relate to the experiences the Elven lords endure.  Though we are seldom faced with overt battles like in Allyra, we all have similar mountains to climb.  The spirit in which this story was written pervades through its rich language, intelligent humor, and sincerity. 

Trek into the unknown with the Seven.  And if you dare, travel into The Underground, the internet forum with direct links to specific parts of the book.

Tune in tomorrow, when I will have my personal interview with Wayne Thomas Batson.  Check out the authors' sites and see what other cool stuff my fellow tour participants found out about Venom and Song.

Angela
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Leighton
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
James Somers
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

In case you missed my review and author interviews from Book One of The Berinfell Prophecies:  Curse of the Spider King, click HERE

Also - the very cool people at Thomas Nelson Publishing provided me with a review copy of this book, so that I may bring you this month's CSFF Blog Tour.

Until tomorrow!
-Amy

September 17, 2010

Open During Construction

Judging just by the last post date, it's safe to say I've been gone for quite some time now.  And when I came back I realized that cobwebs were collecting in the corners, thus I decided it was time for a change!  I've got a new layout, new approach, and LOTS of new ideas. 

Coming soon...

I'm rejoining the CSFF Blog Tour this month for the sole purpose of promoting two of my favorite author buddies:  Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper.  I'll be posting a review of their newest book, Venom and Song, book two in The Berinfell Prophecies, interviews with the authors, and a few other goodies to get you sucked into the world these two amazing guys have created.


In the future...


I'm spending this year to focus on developing the craft of writing.  I've decided to join NaNoWriMo this year and will post updates on that madness.  I'll also be blogging about my other writing projects big and small.  But this is the year for me to really sink my teeth into my writing.  I plan to take full advantage!


I'll also be continuing to do my own reviews besides the tours.  I read so many books that it just seems like a waste not to continue to review them all.  I may even venture into discussing movies, tv shows, and music.

Also - I may be introducing a game or regular feature soon.

Overall, I have big plans to be around this part of the bloggy world a lot more often now.  Scoot over neighbors and make some room, cuz here I come!  ;)

Until next time,
Amy

March 24, 2010

Day 3 - Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter

Today I'll be taking a brief look into the author of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, R.J. Anderson. First, I am pleased to announce the June 22, 2010 release of the second Faery Rebels book, Wayfarer. Here's a look at the cover.

You can pre-order a copy over at Amazon.com by clicking HERE.

Now - about our author. The following is from the bio on her official website (HERE):

R.J. (Rebecca) Anderson was born in Uganda, raised in Ontario, went to school in New Jersey, and has spent much of her life dreaming of other worlds entirely.

As a child she immersed herself in fairy tales, mythology, and the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and E. Nesbit; later she discovered more contemporary authors like Ursula LeGuin, Patricia A. McKillip and Robin McKinley, and learned to take as much pleasure from their language as the stories they told.

Now married and the mother of three young sons, Rebecca reads to her children the classic works of fantasy and science fiction that enlivened her own childhood, and tries to bring a similar sense of humor, adventure, and timeless wonder to the novels she writes for children and young adults.

Here is a list of links to interesting interviews of R.J. Anderson I found:


Thanks again for joining me here for the CSFF Blog Tour! I'll soon be posting non-tour related reviews for Graceling and its companion Fire, both by Kristin Cashore.

March 23, 2010

Day 2 - Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter

Welcome to the second day of the CSFF Blog Tour!  This month's book is Faery Rebels:  Spell Hunter by R.J. Anderson.  If you missed yesterday's post, you can catch up by clicking here.  Today I'll be giving my personal opinions about what made this book great and what could've been improved upon.

First, here's the cover of the UK version of Faery Rebels:  Spell Hunter, called simply Knife.


Let's begin with the cover of this book.  As I mentioned yesterday, I honestly may have passed this book by on the shelf simply due to its American cover.  The main colors are green and a bright purple/fuschia.  The font of the title just screams "princess story" - which is a huge miscommunication.  However, the artwork of Knife herself is stunning. 

In my opinion, a melding of the UK cover and the American cover would have better served the content within.  Perhaps, using the blues of the UK cover and the portrait of Knife from the American version.  For comparison's sake, here's the American cover again.


I would not have guessed that these are the same book.  Two different artists interpretations of a single story.  Honestly, I can say I would have definitely picked up the UK version first.  Now that I've gotten the cosmetics issue out of the way, I can move on to the substance.

Characters
    We're first introduced to a young faery, Bryony, who one day changes her name to Knife.  She is strong, independent, and a bit mischievious.  Her desire for knowledge and truth is the driving force behind the story.  She simply refuses to blindly obey rules that don't make sense or feel right to her.  Knife is the kind of character that must discover the truth on her own. 

    Disobeying the laws of the Oak's ruler, the Faery Queen, is initially seen as a huge risk of pure curiosity, but eventually leads to several truths that prove imperative to the survival of her people.  The message is clear:  Finding truth is worth the risk.  In this case, I completely agree.  Until Knife discovers the real history of the Oak's faeries, they have no hope of surviving the Silence.

    Several wonderful supporting characters enrich this tale including Wink, Knife's adoptive mother.  In a society that doesn't ever say "thank you" because of its implications, love isn't shown in the traditional human way.  In fact, the entire community has become one of trade and keeping score.  Not even information is given freely.  They barter for everything.  However, Wink brings a warmth to Knife's life that she doesn't recognize as love initially.

    Thorn is a gruff, tough faery who is the Queen's Hunter and has several lessons for Knife, not all of them pleasant.  Her intentions aren't clear until well into the story, but reveal several aspects of her true feelings that have been hidden from most of the faeries of the Oak.

    Finally, we have Paul, Valerian, Campion, and Queen Amaryllis.  Paul is a human boy who becomes central to Knife's struggles and joy, complicating her situation.  Valerian is the Oak's healer and a kind soul with a secret past.  Campion's faery occupation is that of the only librarian in the Oak.  Her willingness to help Knife proves vital.  Amaryllis' past is clouded by mystery, thus giving the reader plenty of doubt about her motivations and loyalty.  She appears to care dearly for her fellow faeries, but Knife uncovers secrets that could mean the Queen wasn't what she appeared to be.

    Overall, through the well-developed characters the story comes alive with possibilities.  Wink's caring, Thorn's influence, and the Queen's mystery all carry Knife along on her journey.  Paul shows Knife emotions that are foreign to her, but become more important than her own life.  Knife's strength and self-sacrifice draw the reader in and keep the pages turning.

    Setting


    The Oak is Knife's home and also a type of prison.  Faeries aren't allowed outside the confines of the tree itself unless it is their profession to be a Gatherer or the Queen's Hunter.  Knife longs to fly freely, but all faeries live in fear of predators, like Old Wormwood, the crow who has been terrorizing the Oakenwyld for years.

    The House is home to a family of humans and a constant source of Knife's curiosity.

    Story

    The pacing is excellent.  Readers are taken into the realm of the Oak, as faery society and its rules are revealed through Knife's interactions and experiences.  It's a natural unfolding of the inner workings of a decidedly non-human community.  We're taken on a journey with Knife that leads to an examination of human emotions from a fresh perspective.

    R.J. Anderson's writing is stylized and pleasing.  If I hadn't known she was Canadian, I may have mistaken her for a British author.  As a fan of British literature, I thoroughly enjoyed the rich prose and quirky terminology.

    One aspect I particularly appreciated is that although R.J. Anderson is a Christian, she never pushes her beliefs onto the reader.  She is an author who is a Christian, not solely a Christian Fiction author.  The distinction is fine, but Anderson's audience is sure to be broad and appreciate her stories regardless of their religion.  As a Christian though, I love that at the end she gives praise unabashedly to God.

    ***

    Thanks for tuning in today.  Tomorrow I'll be featuring R.J. Anderson herself.  With some fun information and interviews.

    And as always, please make sure to check out what other blogs on the CSFF Blog tour are saying about Faery Rebels:  Spell Hunter by clicking the links from Day One's post - HERE.

    March 22, 2010

    Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter

    Faery Rebels:  Spell Hunter
    by R.J. Anderson


    Important Links:
    Recommended Age:  10+

    Let me begin by stating that although the old adage about what not to judge a book by is ever-present in my mind, the cover is inescapably the first information one receives about a book.  If I had been in a book store, I may have just passed it by with the impression that it was a bit juvenile for my taste, and I would have been sadly mistaken...

    The story opens with a peek into the faery world of the Oak, and a particularly spirited faery named Bryony.  As the only youth in the Oak, Bryony feels a certain restlessness that fuels her first forbidden encounter with a human boy. 

    Years later, scared back into following the rules by a deadly sickness called the Silence that has been striking faeries for the last hundred years or so, Bryony is finally appointed to her faery profession.  Newfound freedom rekindles Bryony's passion for discovering the truth about the world, not only in the Oakenwyld, but beyond as well.  Through a series of excursions outside the Oak, Bryony encounters several natural dangers that creatures as small as faeries must face.  Against the faery queen's orders, Bryony, once again, gives in to her curiosity about the strange creatures in the House nearby - humans.

    It is her disregard for rules, passion for truth, and willingness to take risks that earns Bryony her new name:  Knife.  Along with her new name, Knife gains new understanding about her people's history, the terrible act called the Sundering that robbed all future generations of faeries of their creativity, and the Silence that has claimed yet another faery life. 

    In her quest for knowlege, Knife gains an unlikely friend and ally in Paul, the now-teenage human boy she had once encountered.  Through this friendship, we see the complexities of Knife's unique position evidence themselves.  She has several decisions to make, but will she choose duty over adventure?  And what of love?  Was her race ever able to love anyone other than themselves?  Through one faery's actions, the future of a race is decided.

    ***

    Tune in tomorrow for Day Two of the CSFF Blog Tour when I'll give my personal opinions on Faery Rebels:  Spell Hunter.  In the mean time, please check out what other tour participants have to say by clicking a link below.

    CSFF Blog Tour Participants:

    Amy Browning
    Melissa Carswell
    CSFF Blog Tour
    Stacey Dale
    D. G. D. Davidson
    Jeff Draper
    April Erwin
    Timothy Hicks
    Jason Isbell
    Becky Jesse
    Cris Jesse
    Jason Joyner
    Julie
    Carol Keen
    Krystine Kercher
    Dawn King
    Rebecca LuElla Miller
    New Authors Fellowship
    Nissa
    John W. Otte
    Donita K. Paul
    Crista Richey
    Chawna Schroeder
    Andrea Schultz
    James Somers
    Steve Trower
    Fred Warren
    Phyllis Wheeler
    KM Wilsher

    ***

    *In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a complimentary review copy of this title from HarperCollins Publishers.