Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fictional Feels

So, I've been reading all sorts of stories recently, basically because I don't have any time or transportation to go anywhere besides the library.  Just thought I'd share some of the highlights.
spoilers abound

Dresden Files, Small Favors

Micheal asking Harry about the blasting rod.  To put this in context, Harry's a wizard- for-hire, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor, the guy everyone calls for help when weird stuff goes down.  Micheal, on the other hand, is a Knight of the Cross, married with several kids, who goes around slaying monsters with Excalibur. He's also one of the few friends Harry has. At this point, Harry's struggling the shadow of a fallen angel, fighting against the originals of the Billy Goats Gruff, and other various sources.
Harry, where is your blasting rod?
Someone had been messing with his head. When Micheal prays for him, the memory block is lifted. It's just amazing how much Harry respects Micheal, how powerful Micheal is.  Micheal is one of the few people who helps Harry more than the other way around. And Micheal trusts Harry, not foolishly, but out of character, which is more than Harry often grants himself.

The ending of Cubs of Toyland (Fables)

And every bit tasted like dust and ashes in her mouth. 
It's one of those horrible plot twists, a place of  toys and wonders that ends up being a nightmare. And the consequences. There's no getting out of it. The pacing and know the survivor is going to live with the guilt for a long, long time.  Not just her guilt, but the impact on her family...oh, man...

The Map Across Time by C.S. Lakin

 In contrast to many fairy tales and their emphasis on romantic relationships, this story focuses on the bond between a brother and sister. It's also delicious timey-whimey and multiple-choice timeline full.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cover Reveal: Goddess Tithe

“And what do you make of him yourself?”
Munny dared glance his captain’s way and was relieved when his eyes met only a stern and rigid back. “I’m not sure, Captain,” he said. “I think he’s afraid. But not of . . .”
“Not of the goddess?” the Captain finished for him. And with these words he turned upon Munny, his eyes so full of secrets it was nearly overwhelming. Munny froze, his fingers just touching but not daring to take up a small teapot of fragile work.
The Captain looked at him, studying his small frame up and down. “No,” he said, “I believe you are right. Leonard the Clown does not fear Risafeth. I believe he is unaware of his near peril at her will, suffering as he does under a peril nearer still.”
 Munny made neither answer nor any move.
“We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly, won’t we, Munny?” the Captain said. But he did not speak as though he expected an answer, so again Munny offered none. “We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly and there let him choose his own dark future.”
“I hope—” Munny began.
But he was interrupted by a sudden commotion on deck. First a rising murmur of voices, then many shouts, inarticulate in cacophony. But a pounding at the cabin door accompanied Sur Agung’s voice bellowing, “Captain, you’d best come see this!”
The Captain’s eyes widened a moment and still did not break gaze with Munny’s. “We’ll keep him safe,” he repeated. Then he turned and was gone, leaving the door open.
Munny put down the pot he held and scurried after. The deck was alive with hands, even those who were off watch, crawling up from the hatches and crowding the rails on the port side. They parted way for the Captain to pass through, but when Munny tried to follow, they closed in again, blocking him as solidly as a brick wall.
“Look! Look!” Munny heard voices crying.
“It’s a sign!”
“She’s warning us!”
“It’s a sign, I tell you!”
Fearing he knew not what, Munny ran for the center mast and climbed partway up, using the handholds and footholds with unconscious confidence. Soon he was high enough to see over the heads of the gathered crew, out into the blue waters of the ocean. And he saw them.
 They were water birds. Big white albatrosses, smaller seagulls, heavy cormorants, even deep-throated pelicans and sleek, black-faced terns. These and many more, hundreds of them, none of which should be seen this far out to sea.
They were all dead. Floating in a great mass.
Munny clung to the mast, pressing his cheek against its wood. The shouts of the frightened sailors below faded away, drowned out by the desolation of that sight. Death, reeking death, a sad flotilla upon the waves.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Munny looked down to where Leonard clung to the mast just beneath him, staring wide-eyed out at the waves. “How could this have happened? Were they sick? Caught in a sudden gale? Are they tangled in fishing nets?”
There was no fear in his voice. Not like in the voices of the sailors. He did not understand. He did not realize. It wasn’t his fault, Munny told himself.
But it was.

As a great fan of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's work, I am excited to be part of the Goddess Tithe cover reveal.  This novella, to be released this fall,  returns to some familiar characters and introduces new ones.  

The Vengeful Goddess Demands Her Tithe

 When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya's only hope to return safely home.
Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown's garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe.Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend? 
 I had the fun of designing this cover—finding reference photos, inventing the composition, applying the text, etc.—but the actual artistic work was done by talented cover artist Phatpuppy (, whose work I have admired for many years. It was such a thrill for me to contact and commission this artist to create a look for Goddess Tithe that is reminiscent of the original novels but has a style and drama all its own.
 The boy on the front was quite a find. I hunted high and low for an image of a boy the right age, the right look, with the right expression on his face. Phatpuppy and I worked with a different model through most of the cover development stage. But then I happened upon this image, and both she and I were delighted with his blend of youth, stubbornness, and strength of character! It wasn’t difficult to switch the original boy for this young man. He simply is Munny, and this cover is a perfect window into the world of my story.
 You can’t see it here, but the wrap-around back cover for the print copy contains some of the prettiest work . . . including quite a scary sea monster! Possibly my favorite detail is the inclusion of the ghostly white flowers framing the outer edge. These are an important symbol in the story itself, and when Phatpuppy sent me the first mock-up cover with these included, I nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement!

The cover isn't the only exciting part. For the first time, the story will include illustrations; a total of eight full-page images. 

 This is the first one in the book. I decided to share it with all of you since it depicts my young hero, Munny the cabin boy, under the watchful eye of his mentor, the old sailor Tu Pich. Munny is on his first voyage, and he is determined to learn all there is to know about a life at sea as quickly as possible. Thus we see him utterly intent upon the knot he is learning to tie. Tu Pich is old enough to know that no sailor will ever learn all there is to know about the sea. Thus he looks on, grave, caring, and perhaps a little sad. He might be looking upon his own younger self of many years ago, fumbling through the hundreds of difficult knots his fingers must learn to tie with unconscious ease.
I enjoyed creating all the illustrations for Goddess Tithe, but this one was my favorite. I love the contrasts of light and dark, the contrasts of young and old . . . youthful intensity versus the perspective of age.

Read the first chapter here.

Author Bio:
Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and Starflowerwas voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.


I am offering two proof copies of Goddess Tithe as prizes! U.S. and Canada only, please. To include the giveaway in your feature, get the Rafflecopter widget here:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Praise Chapel Notes

For most people at my school, praise chapel is their favorite one of the week. It's certainly the most interactive, with student worship teams leading the auditorium in songs. 
But I can't worship in that setting. I'm sure all the worship teams have good intentions, but I can barely focus, let alone worship. There are several reasons for this:
1. The room is completely dark. I know there are good reasons for this, but between my glasses, the sloped floor, and the dark, I get slightly dizzy when I try to stand up.
2. The backgrounds for the lyrics move. Why can't they just pick one simple, pleasing picture and leave the words on that, instead of choosing an image that bubbles like a lava lamp or shows clouds passing over a cityscape?
3. Of, say, eight songs, 2 will be ones I am familiar with. The rest are either completely new or ones I have only heard in other praise chapels. 
4. This is my biggest problem: IT'S SO LOUD!
Sometimes the bass is turned so high that it feels like a heartbeat filling the air. Even hymns are given the amped-up treatment with electric guitar and drums and goodness knows what else.   It feels more like a concert than worship.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

And if you had not loved me first, I would refuse you still

I’ve said before and will say again, I love the Doctor and River, I love everything about them, but there’s something special about Let’s Kill Hitler. In some ways, I think it shows his love for her better than any other episode.
From the Library onwards, (for him). she knew him, more than that, she was secure in her relationship with him. It didn’t matter if he knew it or not, she did, and that was enough for her. You don’t see River analyzing their relationship or second-guessing her behavior. She just flirts with him and pushes all his buttons. 
At first, it seems Berlin is more of the same. Okay, she shoots the TARDIS, but hey, high spirits. And then 
: It was never going to be a gun for you, Doctor. The man of peace who understands every kind of warfare, except, perhaps, the cruellest. Kiss kiss.
She’s not just killing him—she’s mocking him. Yes, she gave him a royal scolding at the end of GMGTW, but she was serious then, she was trying to warn him about certain tendencies that could get him in trouble. Instead, she’s calling him a hypocrite, a criminal, heartless with no concept of love. 
I was born to kill the Doctor
The Doctor sends Amy and Rory to follow her and staggers into the TARDIS.  When he learns about the poison, he factually responds
better regenerate then
Even when informed that he can’t, his reaction is quite interesting, especially if you consider Ten’s panicked reaction to death in Stolen Earth and End of Time.  Ten tried to hold out as long as possible, even lashing out at Wilf. 
Eleven, on the other hand, is all business. His primary objection?
River needs me. She’s only just beginning. I can’t die now. 
Not one word about fair or unfair, nothing about timelines being rewritten.  He has to take care of River. Sure, she seems to have things under control, but it’s a self-destructive path: how long do you think she’ll last in the middle of Nazi Berlin at this rate?
But the part that really chokes me up is the Tesselecta scene. I’ve already written about it here. Not only does he defend her, but he boils it down to one simple question.  Yes, she is/will/has killed him (not yet, by fixed points.)  Sure, she’s been brainwashed.  Yes, she’s the daughter of his best friends. But he doesn’t defend her on any of those grounds.
"According to records, the woman who kills the Doctor."
And I’m the Doctor. So what’s it to you?
If you look at other places—Power of Three,  Bells of St. John—it’s clear what he’s doing here. This is a giant UNDER MY PROTECTION sign, no explanation necessary.  Nothing else matters.
And later, when he leaves her the message and she realizes who she is—who River is, because at this point they’re different people—I love imagining what she must have thought at that point, because I don’t think she’d known that sort of love before. Madame Kovarian and the Silents weren’t the caring sort, Amy and Rory were nice but they weren’t her parents yet and couldn’t protect her.  
He can protect her. He did.  What she did wasn’t even mentioned. 
But even then, he’s still giving her a choice. He didn’t tell her that she could save him. He didn’t even hint. He flat-out lied,knowing he could die for real.  She wasn’t indebted to him unless she chose to be. 
That’s real, true love.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Summer Reading Highlights

Best Audio Drama: The Blackgaard Chronicles
This Adventures in Odyssey album collects all the episodes of the Blackgaard Saga in one album. Because I was too young to listen to the episodes when they originally aired, it was amazing to hear them. Oh, these are classics. Plus, it totally, completely confirmed my theory that Blackgaard is a Time Lord. He even offered to show Aubrey the Time Vortex in one episode!

Best Standalone Fantasy:  The Ocean at the End of the Lane
“I liked myths. They weren't adult stories and they weren't children's stories. They were better than that. They just were.” 
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the latest Neil Gaiman work, was absolutely beautiful. I loved the fairy-tale atmosphere and mysterious setting. It may be classified as a novella, but it just left me feeling like I'd gotten inside something so much bigger and bigger than I am.

Best Familiar Reread : Dragons in Our Midst/Oracles of Fire/Children of the Bard
I  read all of Bryan Davis's anthrozil books in about a week, partially because it had been a while since I had read them and also because I felt like I was reuniting with old friends. Oh, I was watching them grow and mature and suffer all over again--especially the latter, they do that a lot! And by the time I got caught up with Children of the Bard, I felt nostalgic for the old days, when you only had to worry about your principal trying to kill you, not angels who wanted a situation where death was impossible.

Best Newly Discovered Series: The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica 
Oh, man....this is good. This is really, really good. When Jack, John, and Charles happen to arrive at an Oxford's facility office, it's an interesting coincidence--but when the man they came to see is dead, then things get really, really interesting. '
There's so much I want to say, but I can't because all the punchlines come in with the surnames. Anyway, READ IT!

Best Media Tie-In: Shada

 There are at least three versions of Shada, and this one is the most complete. It's based on the original Douglas Adams script, with lots of continuity nods to the new series.  
This story was originally meant to be a season seventeen episode, with Four and Romana, but a writer's strike left the filming unfinished. It was released in 1992 as a clip-and-narration production, a  Big Finish audio with Eight, and finally this 2012 novel based on the final script.

Best Poetry: The Fall of Arthur
Okay, I wanted to put this one under "Best Posthumous Author", aka Best Book by a Dead Guy, but A. that seems rather ridiculous. B. Shada also qualifies.
Seriously, Tolkien had more books published after his death than he ever finished alive; thank you Christopher Tolkien!
But it's a really interesting poem--perhaps not as good as  Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun--but the atmosphere is really, properly English, and I'm always up for more Arthurian legends.

Best New Book in a Series: Dragonwitch
I absolutely adore Stengl's writings. I actually received a free copy of this book as part of the blog tour, but it didn't arrive until the last week of July when I was busy with VBS. Then I was at camp for most of August and didn't have time to type up a review.
This book goes back to the past of Goldstone Wood, the world of Imrelda and other legends. I was slightly confused by the reappearance of the Dragonwitch, but after thinking it over, it made more sense. I think I'm prone to confusing the Dragonwitch with the Bane of Corriland. In any case, I love this series and highly recommend it. Reviews of the books are available on Quasars and Feathers.

Best New Author:  City of A Thousand Dolls
New authors can be hard to learn about, but Miriam Forster's debut novel is excellent. She manages to create a wonderful, complex world that feels fresh. She draws from Asian cultures to make a distinctive culture and setting,
The title location is a refuge of sorts for abandoned girls, who are brought up in one of the Houses and trained for service of various sorts.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thrice-Told Tales: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

As someone told me latelyEveryone deserves the chance to fly
Much like Alice in Wonderland,  The Wizard of Oz is a classic story that has grown and changed through many adaptations: from the original L. Baum book to the hit Broadway musical.  One of my favorite sites, Speculative Faith, has done a series on the changing story. But I'll focus primarily on two other adaptations, as the original is fairly well-known.
 The musically, loosely based on Maguire's novel, takes a lighter tone, portraying the Wicked Witch of the West as a misunderstood rebel, a young woman with a tragic past and a genuine desire to help the folk of Oz . I actually saw it performed in London and was greatly impressed by the special effects. While I was concerned about having a villain protagonist, I thought the show managed to maintain a moral code, if not a Christian one.

On the opposite end of things, "The Great Wishy Woz" is a two-part Adventures in Odyssey serial parodying the normal story, with Metal Guy, Mystic Mountain Lion, and Manny Kin played by familar voices.  It contains four short songs, but my favorite part is the ending, which subverts the traditional ba-humbug wizard while still having a fraud.

Finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce Namesake, a webcomic that plays with several stories I've already mentioned here, including Alice and the concept of metafiction.  The main character, Emma Crewe, finds herself inside the Wizard of Oz , years after the original Dorothy. I won't say too much more to avoid spoilers (And because I'm about three months behind).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Death on Lindisfarne

This book, the sequel to The Hunted Hare, is the second in Fay Sampson's Aidan Mysteries. While mysteries are not my favorite genre, I love the author's blending of Celtic history, Irish scenery, and modern mysteries. In fact, it sometimes feels like I'm taking a vacation to these locations, without the inconvenience of long flights, poor weather, and traffic.
While The Hunted Hare was told through the eyes of Aidan and his wife Jenny,  Death on Lindisfarne uses multiple points of view. While this can be useful, I feel it is a mistake to use more than two points of view in a mystery novel, as the reader learns more than an one character knows on his or her own.  However, as the author generally stuck to Aidan and the group leader,  I feel the possible damages were limited.
While I am looking forward to any further books in this series, I also think there's a limit on how many murders one individual can stumble onto without breaking suspension of disbelief. I'm hoping to see some theft or missing persons cases, just to mix things up a little.

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions

Last night, I stumbled back to my dorm after an eight to midnight shift, wondering how on earth I was going to get myself out of bed for my 7:50 science class. I was tired. I was hot. I had a sore throat.  Honestly, I just wanted to curl up in bed and sob. Raw emotion? If I was steak, I’d still be mooing. 
I know I have a problem controlling my emotions. I can generally stuff them in for a while, but eventually the smallest thing can set them off.  Although I haven’t read any of Lysa TerKuerst’s other books, this title jumped out to me as something I needed to read. Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions? Yes please!
One of her main points is that emotions should be indicators, not dictators. Easy to say, but not always so easy to put into practice.  However, the author draws from examples in her own life to show how different patterns of reacting can be destructive.  She also acknowledges that people tend to react differently to different people,  so we should be aware of multiple behavioral patterns.
Another point that she brought up is the need to replace negative self-talk with the truth of God’s Word.  I know I tend to beat myself down, especially when I realize what I’ve done wrong .  It’s good to read reminders of these things, because I’m so bad at putting them into practice.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program in exchange for an honest review.