Wednesday, July 30, 2008

DragonKeeper Chronicles Day 4

Day 4, you say? Why yes. Last week the Christian Science Fiction Fantasy Blog Tour also toured DragonLight. I hadn't finished reading it yet then, so I talked about some of the earlier books in the series. But Sunday afternoon I got finished with DragonLight, and therefore the entire series of five books.

Donita K. Paul has written a great fantasy series for young adults, and I've read three of the books in the last ten days, so they're the ones most clear in my mind. (I read the first two a couple of years back.)

I have to share with you the opening paragraphs of this novel. They show quite well the light humor that Paul sprinkles throughout the tales.

Kale wrinkled her nose at the dank air drifting up from the stone staircase. Below, utter darkness created a formidable barrier.

Toopka stood close to her knee. Sparks skittered across the doneel child's furry hand where she clasped the flowing, soft material of Kale's wizard robe. Kale frowned down at her ward. The little doneel spent too much time attached to her skirts to be captivated by the light show. Instead, Toopka glowered into the forbidding corridor. "What's down there?"

Kale sighed. "I'm not sure."

"Is it the dungeon?"

"I don't think we have a dungeon."

Toopka furrowed her brow in confusion. "Don't you know? It's your castle."

"A castle built by committee." Kale's face grimaced at the memory of weeks of creative chaos. She put her hand on Toopka's soft head.

The doneel dragged her gaze away from the stairway, tilted her head back, and frowned at her guardian. "What's 'by committee'?"

"You remember, don't you? It was just five years ago."

"I remember the wizards coming and the pretty tents in the meadow." Toopka pursed her lips. "And shouting. I remember shouting."

"They were shouting because no one was listening. Twenty-one wizards came for the castle raising. Each had their own idea about what we needed. So they each constructed their fragment of the castle structure according to their whims."

Toopka giggled.

"I don't think it's funny. The chunks of castle were erected, juxtaposed with the others, but not as a whole unit. I thank Wulder that at least my parents had some sense. My mother and father connected the tads, bits, and smidgens together with steps and short halls. When nothing else would work, they formed gateways from one portion to another."

Can't you just imagine a castle built by a committee of wizards? It makes me laugh.

Thinking about the fact that this is the fifth book and that it's unlikely that anyone will read it that hasn't gone through the other four (except, perhaps, for book tours like this!), I think it's easy to see who the characters are and the current situation, and even a glimpse of how it ties to the past. We know Kale and Toopka clear from book one, but we haven't met the castle before this. We see that it's been at least five years since the end of the fourth book. And we're reminded that Toopka is from a species that is short and furry...and apparently has a bad memory!

The best part of the story for me was seeing the development of Toopka's storyline. She's wafted in and out of the previous stories, but this novel brought her to the forefront. And ironically, one of the negatives for me was the same thing--Toopka's story. Though the viewpoint characters were Kale and Bardon (as throughout the series)--primarily Kale--they had little to do in the story's climax but watch Toopka pull it all together.

Another negative for me was Gilda's story line. Gilda is a meech dragon--a superior humanoid type of dragon, and very rare. (Donita, if you're reading this--what DOES a meech dragon look like?) And whereas in DragonFire (the fourth book), I got tired of Kale whining, I found that Gilda's attitude really got on my nerves throughout DragonLight. To give credit where credit is due, Gilda learns the error of her ways and gets pulled down a peg or two, so the inclusion of this character development was purposeful.

Still, I think that the series has more positives than negatives, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend all five novels to young adult readers of either gender.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I'm making reasonably steady progress on Tempest, though not as rapid as I'd have liked. Still, it seems that it's better to think a bit here and there than to rewrite/rewrite/rewrite. Of course I'll probably still have to! It might be that this story just didn't have as long to percolate, so there wasn't a huge build-up of words just waiting for the starting gate to open (think the rush of the first hour of Nano!). It might be that my muse is a bit reluctant, being as this is definitely a bit darker story than anything I've written previously. Or it might be that this is just the perfect pace for this story!

I'm doing in the neighborhood of a chapter a week, and they're averaging over 4K each. So if I can just keep the wheels turning, it will get itself done in a few months. That's fine.

I'd been thinking that I'd go on another round of revisions of some of my older stuff once I got rolling with this story, but it's not happening yet. I'm teaching another workshop at Forward Motion in August, and I've recently signed up for a six-month writing course put on by author Holly Lisle, How to Think Sideways. Even after only one week, I'm beginning to see that this investment is quite likely to pay off in a practical sense.

So it'll be at least September before I start revising again, and it's a toss-up still whether it will be Joy Comes in the Morning or Off Beat. Off Beat (aka Squid) has finaled in the Genesis contest, but I won't have the results of that until mid September. I'd hoped to enter Joy in the 08 contest as well, but didn't have time to revise the opening pages to my satisfaction, so I'd like to enter it in '09. A whole new category for me: romance!

And if I'm going to get chapter five written this week, I'd better get rolling!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DragonKeeper Chronicles Day 3

Yesterday I blogged about the third book in the DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul. I forgot to say that I think DragonKnight was my favorite of the four I've read so far. On Facebook, I gave it a 3.5 out of 5 while the first two earned 3s. Once again, the tour is all about DragonLight, which I haven't read yet, but I'm getting closer! I actually started it Monday evening. But today I want to talk about the fourth book, DragonFire. Sadly, this was my least favorite (2.5).

As a series develops and the characters age, they should change. And if you start with them as young teens, then progress them to young adults, it seems that they ought to become more mature. Of course they won't be perfect, but moving forward would be good. Because I read the first two books in the series two years ago, and the third book was mostly Bardon's story, I may have forgotten Kale's personality. But in the fourth book, I found her to be petulant and whiny. I didn't much like her, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if she'd had the same attitudes in the first book, I wouldn't have been as willing to keep reading.

DragonFire takes place seven years after the first book. I'd've liked to see a more mature Kale fighting personality battles a little more suited to a 20-year-old than the 13-year-old she was. (Actually, I don't remember the exact ages, but I think I'm close!) Did Mrs. Paul make the choice she did because the series are for young adults and this way, they could identify more closely? I don't know.

I'm hoping to see a more mature Kale close out the series in DragonLight. Check back in a couple weeks and see what I think once I've read the book.

Meanwhile, some of you may recall my excitement last year that four Christian fantasy authors (Sharon Hinck, Wayne Thomas Batson, Chrisopher Hopper, and Bryan Davis) toured the east coast of the USA in July. This year, for an encore, the tour has been doubled to eight authors and is on the west coast in October. I'll let you know more about it as it gets closer, but if you live anywhere from San Diego to Seattle, you'll want to keep this in mind.

Why am I mentioning it here, today? Well, Donita K Paul is one of the four additional authors for this year's tour, called Motiv8. In fact, more than half of the authors are YA authors, so if you have kids that like fantasy, you really need to plan to attend one or more of their booksignings. They put on a good show last year, and this year should be double the fun.

Had to share!

What do YOU think of all the fonts out there? College Humor decided to let us know what goes on at a Font Conference.

DragonKeeper Chronicles Day 2

So today we're going to have a wee look at DragonKnight by Donita K. Paul. This is book three of a five book series, and technically this blog tour is for the fifth book, DragonLight. However, I haven't read it yet. It's sitting on my bedside table and maybe I'll get a chance to start it tonight.

So yesterday I told the tale of my quest to read this series. If you are--or know--a girl in her young-to-mid teens who loves fantasy, the DragonKeeper Chronicles is a win. But it's not just for girls, for sure. Though Kale, a girl, is the main character, Bardon, a boy, is nearly as major a character throughout the series. Mrs. Paul has created an imaginative world, Amara, with lots of different species AND a bunch of different kinds and sizes of dragons. What's not to love?

I talked a bit about the basic plot of Book One, DragonSpell, and Book Two, DragonQuest, on my blog here a couple of years ago.

Book Three, DragonKnight, is mostly Bardon's tale. He is expecting some time off to meditate and plan his life...wait, let me show you the opening few paragraphs!

"People. Always too many people."

Only the leathery beat of Greer's dragon wings answered Bardon's observation. Cool air rushed against Bardon's face, blowing away the cares of three intense years of training and study.

He squeezed his knees into the riding hooks and leaned forward across the major dragon's neck. Brisk mountain air rose off the snow-topped mountain and blew his dark hair back from his pale face. Soon he should be able to spot the valley Sir Dar had recommended. He needed time alone. The first part of his sabbatical would be spent in isolation.

Bardon put a hand on Greer's purple scales and communicated his desire to locate a lake shaped like a boot.

Looking down at the forested slopes, he speculated on how many of the seven high races populated the area. A smile spread across his face. It was likely that not one civilized being walked this southern part of the Morchain Mountain Range for a hundred miles in any direction.

He saw a ropma scurry across a rocky stream.

"Don't worry, fella. I won't bother you if you don't bother me. I'm taking a break from everyone, both high and low races."

Greer rumbled in his throat, and Bardon placed a hand on the amethystine scales of his dragon's neck. "No, I'm not running away from you, my friend. And in truth, I'm not really running away from civilization. I just need a sabbatical, a long sabbatical."

Well, after all that set-up, you can be certain that Bardon does NOT get a break at all. As soon as he lands by that boot-shaped lake he discovers that he is not alone and that, in fact, he is expected to go on a quest to help an old lady and her young granddaughter to rescue the son/father. Albeit reluctant, Bardon realizes that as a squire who serves Wulder (God in that world), he can't turn these females away in good conscience so he agrees to help.

The coolest thing in the book is the granny, I think. Her name is Granny Kye and she paints, even when they are in danger and should definitely be doing something else, such as running, hiding, or fighting. When she feels compelled to paint, she sets up her easel and paints away.

What's cool about that? Granny Kye is willing to explain. Here's what she says (p. 78):

"I paint the people as I see them. But when I finish, there's more there. While I'm painting, the expressions on their faces and the colors around them become clear in my mind. Some people say that the finished picture looks like the inside of the person instead of just what is seen on the outside."

...some chitchat, then Bardon says:

"What else do you paint?"

"Landscapes, houses... They rarely turn out well." Her face brightened. "Once I painted a neighbor's house, and in the painting, we saw an odd object under a bush. We went to look, and there was the bracelet she'd lost months before."

"So you saw something while you painted that couldn't be seen just by looking?"


Quite a talent, and one that is useful several times.

At any rate, the quest carries on, they find the missing knight...and many others. Who are the other knights? It wouldn't be fair for me to give that away here in this review, so I won't.

Suffice to say that it brings Kale back into the picture for the last few chapters, and that she and Bardon...oh well, never mind. Once again, too much to give away!

Tomorrow I'll have a look at Book Four, DragonFire.

Monday, July 21, 2008

DragonKeeper Chronicles Day 1

Once upon a time, about two years ago, the CSFF blog tour talked about DragonKnight by Donita K Paul. I joined in here and here.

The problem then was that I'd bought the first two books in the series, DragonSpell and DragonQuest in preparation for the blog tour for the third book. I read the two books, blogged about them, but DragonKnight never arrived. Though I liked the stories, they're Young Adult and I'm not, and my life went on and I read many other books, and I forgot that I hadn't read the third book in the DragonKeeper Chronicles until the blog tour for the last book in the series, DragonLight, was announced.

A few weeks later I had a few minutes to spare in Hastings in Couer d'Alene, Idaho, saw a Donita K Paul book I hadn't read, grabbed it and bought it. Thought, "Aha, I will now read the intervening book and be ready when my copy of the final one arrives in the mail."

Small problem that I discovered as soon as I started reading it: it didn't make sense. Yes, it had been two years since reading the other two, but I thought I'd remember if *this* major a change in the characters' lives had been hinted at in the second book.

Turns out I'd bought Book FOUR, DragonFire and that the book tour was going to feature book FIVE, DragonLight.

I was still missing Book Three. The series is five books long, not four. Time was running out, and I wasn't getting anywhere near a store that might carry DragonKnight, so I ordered it in via InterLibrary Loan. By now Donita K Paul's books are all over BC Libraries (they weren't two years ago!) and so it arrived and I read it. I've also now read book four, but the fifth book is on my bedside table, yet unread. And of course it is the one due for this week's tour.

Dilemma. What to do? I can only read so fast, and this summer has been busier than most recent ones with hubby living at home again, Hanna and Craig home for the summer, and the new puppy.

So here's the deal. Tomorrow we're going to look at Book Three, DragonKnight and Wednesday I'll post about the fourth book,

None of which are the books I'm *supposed* to talk about this week. However, in a couple weeks the CFBA tour is also blogging about DragonLight, so I'll catch the final installment book then.

Whew. I have a plan.

If you just can't wait a couple weeks for me to read DragonLight and review it, check out what these folks are saying about it:

Brandon Barr, Justin Boyer, Jackie Castle, Karri Compton, CSFF Blog Tour, Gene Curtis, Stacey Dale, D. G. D. Davidson, Jeff Draper, April Erwin, Karina Fabian, Beth Goddard , Mark Goodyear, Andrea Graham, Todd Michael Greene, Katie Hart, Christopher Hopper, Joleen Howell, Jason Joyner, Carol Keen, Magma, Terri Main, Margaret, Shannon McNear, Melissa Meeks, Rebecca LuElla Miller, John W. Otte, Deena Peterson, Steve Rice, Cheryl Russel, Ashley Rutherford, Chawna Schroeder, James Somers, Robert Treskillard, Steve Trower, Speculative Faith, Laura Williams

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Puppy Time

The last time we had a puppy living in our house was 1991. Kyleigh was a golden retriever and lived to the ripe old age of almost 14 before dying 4 years ago. Jim's been wanting a puppy for a couple years now, but with him working at the mines, the timing wasn't right. Well, he's had a local job for six months now, and he began looking for a puppy a couple of months ago.

Meet Brody:

There are a few more photos of him up at Facebook if you're curious.

His mommy is an unregistered black lab, and his know how these things go. He's part border collie and part shepherd and part who-knows-what! Brody carries a lot of the lab as you can see. He's 7 weeks old and is a fat little porker.

And he spent ALLLLLLLL last night crying. Six hours. Yes. ALLLLL night.

I'm tired.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Good writing day

I'm not sure what kept the customers out of the store today--yes, I remembered to unlock the door AND flip the sign to Open!--but I had plenty of peace and quiet for writing in.

Tempest's story is almost to fourteen thousand words, which averages out to about a thousand a day since I started writing. That isn't a mind-boggling amount by any standards and yet it proves that slow and steady will definitely get you somewhere.

For Tempest, that many words have landed her in a heap of trouble, and it's still a looooong way to the other side.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Social Networking

My friend David Bridger has been researching Social Media and shares his new wisdom here.

If there's anything you want to know about Facebook, Shelfari, MySpace, Twitter, and a whole bunch of other social sites, some of which I'd never heard of--what the heck is *Plurk*?--check out David's review.

Oh, and feel free to friend me on Facebook if you haven't already. That's the only one I'm active on! Though David may be convincing me to spread out a little more. It's something to think about.

Poor Tempest

The story is just short of 10K now, and I have broken Tempest's heart. She doesn't see how things can get any worse. But you know--80,000 words to go. It CAN get worse. I'll let her cry under the apple tree a bit longer before I show her how.

Friday, July 11, 2008

August Workshop at Forward Motion

A group of moderators has been running writing workshops every month so far in 2008. I've been involved in facilitating several of them thus far, and just completed the first draft of Interactive Description which I'll be teaching in August.

What do I mean by interactive description? In a way, it is much like showing instead of telling, providing an emotional experience for the reader instead of a bare-bones report. We'll be spending a week working with characters, a week with settings, and a week with actions. Then putting it all together in a scene. Really, we'll only be skimming the surface of the topic, but I'm hoping it will be enough to springboard the participants into recognizing when they've achieved that level of interaction in their writing.

If you're a member of Forward Motion, feel free to join in. If you're not--and you're a writer, why not? FM is the web's premiere website for writers. A great place to call home.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tempest clears 5K

Tempest's story is up and running, though not without a couple of false starts. I'm still amazed I'm actually writing with only a couple weeks of worldbuilding and outlining under my belt!

I got about 700 words into the second chapter on Monday but it felt sluggish. I re-read it and couldn't see the problem. There wasn't an over-abundance of backstory or thoughts (two things that can grind a story to a halt in no time, especially in first person narrative), there was tension and the story was moving forward. In the evening I poked at the outline a bit to see what was missing. And the goal for the scene was too vague. I was in the right place, going the right direction (I think I only wound up tweaking half a dozen words), but with a blindfold on.

Tuesday I flew through the rest of that scene and well into the next one before the customers started coming. In the afternoon I basically designed flooring for a renovation and a whole house, so perhaps there is an excuse for not finishing the scene!

It's interesting--I'm not sure where this story came from. It's not a particularly happy tale. Sometimes when I'm working on a novel I can almost see the characters trying to hide from me--they don't want to go through what I've planned for them. With Tempest--definitely my darkest tale yet--it's like she's pushing me to tell it. It's like she knows she has to get through it to get to the happy ending, and just wants to push through.

So I guess I'd best get back to the writing!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Life on the farm

Is NOT kind of laid back. I'm not sure where John Denver got his ideas from, honestly. We've been slowly cutting back the size of our herd of cattle for the past few years, and planning further cuts. With occasional discussion of selling all the cows and finding something else to do with our forty acres.

At any rate, on Friday hubby noticed that a couple calves had pink eye. He phoned and talked to the vet, then asked me to pick up meds on the way home from work. So I did, but when he had a closer look that evening, he realized that the problem was more wide-spread than he'd thought. We bought MORE meds (basically a type of penicillin) and rounded up some help for this morning. It took a couple of hours once we got our system going, six of us working like clockwork (okay, not QUITE that smoothly!) and dosing cows and calves alike with intramuscular shots.

Hubby did get on the wrong side of a retreating cow a couple times and will doubtless have a few bruises to show for it later, if not a cracked rib. He's in a tad of pain but is also in the middle of haying, so he's back out on the tractor now, driving in circles raking the crop he cut a couple days ago.

We'll see in a day or two if the belligerent bovines are improved. Sure hope so. I don't want to do this again, or call the vet down for actual farm consultation.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tempest begun!

I got a decent start on Tempest today: 1565 words and a complete scene. Actually I deleted the first 250 or so words and started over, deciding to introduce two other characters a bit further in. Four seemed too many for the opening scene, and left Tempest narrating instead of engaging. So now we're starting with Cadence in tears and Tempest trying to comfort her, when what she really wants to do is rail at the injustices in their lives. Trust me, Tempest's story is not going to be a ball of joy. There is a LOT of injustice in her little world. I'm actively looking for places to lighten it a bit along the way, but it's a tough story. I'm not sure why this one called to me so insistently. I'll likely find out.

Tempest's basic need is for safety and security, so I guess that tells you what isn't in her life at the beginning. But she's strong. She's a survivor. And unlike some characters who stand there wringing their hands at what the writer is planning to do to them next, Tempest is all about me bringing it on so that she can get to the other side and her happy ending.

So we've started. I'll try updating my progress in the sidebar, so keep an eye!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tempest is ready to roll

It's only been a couple of weeks since Tempest erupted in my brain with her sort of complete story synopsis. I tried to ignore her for a couple of days, thinking I knew best. When that didn't work, I jumped in with both feet. By the time I'd fleshed out what I knew of the synopsis, built a story world that allowed this story to live in it, then expanded the outline based on the story world (leap frog, anyone?), I found myself with a full, though nasty, culture and a handful of characters with their own ways of reacting to it. And a lot of random characters who may or may not come to play in a larger way.

Of course some of that original synopsis turned out not to be accurate, but it was surprisingly close being as I've never had a story start that way for me before this.

I have quite a full Scrivener file--high five to Scrivener!!--and plan to start writing the novel tomorrow.

You know how long it's been since I've rough drafted? Nano '06 (The Girl Who Cried Squid, aka Off Beat). Yeah, it's been awhile. I hope I remember how. I never intended to have such a large gap.

At any rate, here we go again...