Friday, 29 April 2011

Angelburn - L.A. Weatherly

Angel Burn
L.A. Weatherly
Candlewick
ISBN 9780763656522


This book, previously published as Angel in the UK by Usborne, is finally available to North American Markets. Candlewick press has brought this book across the ocean and I am sure it will be a success. L.A. Weatherly's novel has a strange and unusual plot. The premise is great and the execution very interesting. If this first book is any indication it will be a really interesting trilogy.

What if Angels were real, what if they were coming to earth in greater numbers, what if they could manifest and show themselves to humans? No, what if they needed to feed, and they do so on human energy, leaving behind a wake of death and disease, and the whole time the humans believe it is the best thing in their lives? The Church of Angels is the fastest growing religion in North America; the followers are devout Zealots, who believe the Angels are only here to help us. There is a small but dedicated group of AKs - Angel Killers, who hunt them down and kill them. The only way to kill an Angel is to destroy its halo while it is in angelic form.

The main part of the story focuses around two characters. Willow is a young woman who has always known she is different from other girls, but not the reason why. She can sometimes see the future and help people make better decisions. And Alex is a young man who was never really allowed to be a boy, who has been hunting Angels since before he could drive. The two have been drawn together, at first with a great antagonism to each other, but also being a bit taken with each other. Circumstances have brought them together, and their friendship and relationship begins to grow.

This book is geared mostly for young women, but there is enough action, and guns and cars to keep a young man interested and reading. The romance and time at the cabin in the mountains is a little long, but other than that it is a great novel. I look forward to the next two books; it should prove to be a very interesting series.

(Note: I received an electronic galley of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of Candlewick. The book was read on my Kobo eReader. As per my general disclaimer, free books have no impact on my review.)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Aimee Friedman - Author Profile

Aimee Friedman is an author who specialized in young adult fiction. Yet even though her books are geared for a younger marker she has a large and dedicated adult following. Aimee who wrote her first story at age 5 has always been writing. She also wears the hat of editor for Children's books. Her books are wonderful and we thank her for taking some time to answer some questions for the readers at Book Reviews and More.

1. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

Probably a film director or a costume designer-I love fashion, and all elements of storytelling. I'm a big believer in make-believe.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

I've wanted to write since I COULD write - probably since the age of five or so. Nothing else gave me quite that thrill or sense of creative bliss. And I wrote all the time-it was my absolute favorite thing to do. So I think just the sheer act of practicing so much-although it didn't feel like practice, only fun-was a great way to nurture my dream.

3. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

I was very fortunate to have many wonderful teachers (and in college, professors) who encouraged my passion for writing, and critiqued my work as well. I also owe a huge debt to my parents, of course-they instilled in me a fierce love for books and language, and they always told me they knew I could "do it"-go on and become a published author.

4. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

Growing up, I was a voracious reader-I still am, but I don't have quite as much time to loll about my room and tear through books all day (I miss childhood summers!) I read everything from The Secret Garden to The Baby-Sitters Club, from V.C. Andrews to Virginia Woolf, and I think, on some level or another, everything I've read has influenced who I am as a writer. It's more subconscious than anything.

5. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

To not feel as if there was something I "should" be writing-and to not worry too much about labels like "literary" and "commercial." The key is to write what excites you, and to try put all that other "noise" outside your head.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

I like to outline. I basically just write out a fairly broad summary of what I want to happen in the story, but I leave it loose. I leave room for change and twists along the way. A novel is a living, breathing thing-I don't think I've ever written a book that stayed exactly as it was in outline form. Then I'll discuss the outline with my editor, and once I've been given the green light, I'll dive into writing. I write in a very linear way-I start at Chapter One and can't really skip around too much. The first draft is the hardest part for me, because I tend to self-edit as I go, so that takes a while. But once the first draft is done, I'm always happy to revise and tinker. I find revising much easier than drafting, but it's a different process for every author.

7. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

I love that story! I totally relate. I think about my characters all the time-where they would be now, what they might do in a given situation. They become very real to me in the writing process, and they stay with me long after. If possible, I'd continue writing all their stories…but new characters always crop up in my head, too.

8. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

Thank you! I've never deliberately based a character on one particular person. They are mostly composites of people I've known, people I've read about, and, of course, myself. There's a piece of me in all my characters-some more than others.

9. What of your books was the hardest to write and why?

Sea Change was challenging to write because it has subtle elements of the fantastical in it, and that was a change of pace for me, even though I love all things paranormal. I knew I didn't want the book to go into full-on paranormal mode (and I wrote it before the paranormal romance genre even really exploded in YA!) but it was still tricky to walk that balance. In the end, I felt that the hard work paid off…I hope!

10. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

Judy Blume, Ann M. Martin, Candace Ransom, Paula Danziger, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Stephen King, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, and on and on…

11. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?

Michael Chabon, Ann Patchett, Philip Roth, Meg Cabot, Emma Donoghue, Emily Giffin, and on and on…

12. A few of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

I am a die-hard traditional book person (I don't own an ereader yet), but you can't stem the tide. And ultimately I think ebooks are just another format for getting stories into the hands of readers. They also provide wonderful opportunities for interactive elements. I do feel strongly that we need to keep tabs on the pirating of ebooks, and ensure that authors and publishers are compensated.

13. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

This hasn't happened to me yet.

14. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

It's different for everyone. I loved college-I do think it taught me how to think in a more critical and sharp way, and it really helped me hone my creative writing skills. This is almost more a question for my sister, who is an English professor. I will have to discuss with her!

15. What advice would you give to teens today, to your readers, what gems of knowledge have you gleaned in life that you would pass on?

Oh, boy…I don't think I've gleaned ANY gems of knowledge yet! In many ways, I still feel very much like a 15-year-old inside (no surprise I went into children's books….). One thing I wish I'd known as a teen would be to take things a lot less seriously and to develop a thicker skin-it's hard, at that time in your life, not to take everything that happens to you to heart. But on the other hand, that's what makes it such a rich and interesting time. And, in truth, I still take things too much to heart! That's probably why I'm a writer.

16. You have published some books under pseudonyms, the one know about is Ruth Ames, are there other names you have published under?

Nope, just Ruth Ames so far! But she does have a new book coming out-At First Bite, a companion to This Totally Bites, in November.

17. Have any of your books been optioned for books or TV? If so what ones? If not is there one you would especially like to see done?

My book South Beach was optioned for film, and my novella Working in a Winter Wonderland (in the collection Mistletoe) was as well. Some of my other books are in early development/discussion-of-optioning phases, so I don't want to jinx them by giving away too much! :

18. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

The Great Gatsby Jane Eyre The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay The Norton Anthology of Poetry Room The Secret Garden Without Feathers The Princess Diaries The Graveyard Book Something Borrowed (Though, come to think of it, if I had an eReader, I could upload hundreds! Hey!)

But the battery would die on the eReader then you would have no books.

19. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Keep writing, keep reading, keep "practicing"-but if it's something you truly love, it will never feel like practice. And stay on course- dreams are absolutely tangible. Go for it!

Aimee thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us here at Book Reviews and More. I look forward to read more of your books in the near future.

Books By Aimee Friedman:
South Beach (2004)
French Kiss (2005)
A Novel Idea (2005)
Hollywood Hills (2007)
The Year My Sister Got Lucky (2008)
Sea Change (2009)

Contributed to:
Mistletoe (2006)
21 Proms

Graphic Novel:
Breaking Up (2007 - with Christine Norrie )

As Ruth Ames:
This Totally Bites - Poison Apple Book 2 (2009)
At First Bite - Poison Apple Book 8 (2011)

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Ironwood Tree - Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi - Spiderwick Chronicles Book 4

The Ironwood Tree
The Spiderwick Chronicles Book 4
Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
Simon and Schuster
ISBN 9780689859397

The further I get into this series, the more I like it. These are great books, wonderfully written and illustrated. Black and DiTerlizzi have done an amazing job. These books in some ways are like C.S. Lewis's Narnia books, and in other ways like J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but they are not overtly religious the way Lewis's are and they are not as dark as Tolkien's. They will introduce children to the concept of wonder, and believing in things unseen, or at least unseen by most. As the series progresses, the relationship between the three Grace children solidifies. They grow closer together as they struggle against those forces that wish to take Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide, and they grow in character through the trials they encounter.
What is great is that as each book progresses, the story moves faster and faster. In this book they encounter goblins again, and dwarves and an ogre. They soon realize that the world of fairy is far more dangerous than they had experienced so far. In this book we have riddles, a kidnapping, capture and an escape. We encounter mechanical animals and a few hidden surprises even the children could not expect. It is a great novel and leaves you wanting the 5th and final book of the first series.

Books by Black and DiTerlizzi: The Spiderwick Chronicles
The Field Guide
The Seeing Stone
Lucinda's Secret
The Ironwood Tree
The Wrath of Mulgarath

Arthur Spiderwick's Notebook of Fantastical Observations
Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You
Care and Feeding of Sprites

Beyond Spiderwick
The Nixie's Song
A Giant Problem
The Wyrm King

Other Books by Holly Black:
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories


The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Doll Bones

The Modern Faerie Tales
Tithe
Valiant
Ironside

The Good Neighbors
Kin
Kith
Kind

The Curse Workers
White Cat
Red Glove
Black Heart

Anthologies
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd
Zombies vs. Unicorns
Welcome to Bordertown

Other Books by Tony Diterlizzi:

Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-This-World Moon-Pie Adventure
Ted
G is for One Gzonk
Kenny & the Dragon
The Search for WondLa

Books Illustrated by Tony Diterlizzi:
Dinosaur Summer
Ribbiting Tales
Alien & Possum: Friends No Matter What
Alien & Possum: Hanging Around
The Spider & The Fly
Dragonflight
Peter Pan in Scarlet

Books by Tony & Angela DiTerlizzi:
Adventures of Meno:
Wet Fun!
Big Friend!
Yummy Trip!
Uh-Oh Sick!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Conspiracy 365 - Gabrielle Lord


Conspiracy 365 is a great new series from Scholastic Press. It is one of the best series I have read in years, comparable to The 39 Clues or the Skeleton Creek series. Told in 12 books over 12 months, each with page numbers counting down and written journal style with date and time stamps for the entries. It is the story of an average teenage boy thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Calllum (Cal) Ormond gets a cryptic message on New Year's Eve that his life is in danger and he needs to hide for 365 days. Soon his life is turns even more crazy and he is living on the run, and trying to solve the riddle left for him by his father. The stories read like a cross between the 39 Clues and the TV series 24. I am enjoying the series so much I cannot wait until my reviews post to start sharing about it. Check out the 12 books and the synopsis from the back covers. This is an amazing series, check it out!








































































































August
Conspiracy 365
Gabrielle Lord
Scholastic
ISBN 9781443104753













September
Conspiracy 365
Gabrielle Lord
Scholastic
ISBN 9781443104760













October
Conspiracy 365
Gabrielle Lord
Scholastic
ISBN 9781443104777













November
Conspiracy 365
Gabrielle Lord
Scholastic
ISBN 9781443104784












December
Conspiracy 365
Gabrielle Lord
Scholastic
ISBN 9781443104791


Note: I will like back to the Months as each of my reviews publish.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The hardest thing in the world to do - asking for help.

One of the author interviews I did this year, the authors advice to youth was: "Ask for help when you need it, don't when you don't, and learn to recognize the difference." It amazes me how hard it is to get caught up once you get behind financially. As many of you know I was off work for 3 years with a shoulder injury. I have been back to work 2 and a half years and we just cannot seem to get caught up. Every time we start something happens. We're expecting a tax refund, and Andrea gets reassessed on her previous year and out it goes. We get a bonus at work and all of a sudden the car needs new tires. And now with three kids 4 and a half and under, there seems to be a never ending list of expenses, drapers, pull-ups, formula, prescriptions and more. We had a family member say they were going to give us some money and we budgeted with it in mind, and then it did not happen. Combine that with being on contract currently and not having sick days and missing more than a week with a viral infection and we are really hurting. It just always seems to be one more thing. So in reality we are in a very tight spot and if you could help out it would be appreciated.If not please be praying! To quote Bilbo Baggins "I feel like butter spread over too much bread" It just seems to never let up. I am worn down and no longer know even how to hope.




Peace and Strength!
Yours, learning to be
Steven R. McEvoy

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"The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it."
- Leo Rosten


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Stretch and Recovery - Tony Horton One on One Volume 3 Disk 7

Tony Horton
One on One
P90X - MC2
Volume 3 Disk 7
Stretch and Recovery

Beachbody

Tony talks about calling this Warrior Stretch 22, in part because there are 22 exercises in 70 minutes. It starts with a skip rope warm up, and then straight into it. He does some basic ballistic stretching and then 22 moves. There are a few moves we have not seen before and some variation on moves we have seen before. There is far less chatter in this one.

Equipment Needed:
Jump Rope
Yoga Mat

I absolutely loved this workout. Flexibility is my weakest point. I love some of the straight yoga DVD workouts, Yoga MC2, Fountain of Youth and Patience "Hummingbird", and this one is another great workout in line with those. It is more advanced than Stretch X from the original P90X. It is also more focused on the stretch part than Recovery 4 Results. Overall I would rate it a 4.5 out of 5 making it one of the best from Volume 3. I know it is a workout I will visit frequently.

To find out more about this series or other workouts in the collection, follow the links below. I have created a random workout generator that uses 1 on 1's and P90X if your interested.

Volume 1, Disk 1: Plyo Legs
Volume 1, Disk 2: Power 90® Road Warrior
Volume 1, Disk 3: Killer Abs

Volume 1, Disk 4: Just Arms
Volume 1, Disk 5: 30-15: The Upper-Body Massacre
Volume 1, Disk 6: Fountain of Youth
Volume 1, Disk 7: Super Cardio

Volume 1, Disk 8: Mammoth UML
Volume 1, Disk 9: Bun Shaper
Volume 1, Disk 10: Medicine Ball Core Cardio
Volume 1, Disk 11: Recovery 4 Results

Volume 1, Disk 12: Diamond Delts
Volume 1, Bonus Disk - Holiday Workout

Volume 2, Bonus Disk - Pay It Forward
Volume 2, Disk 1: Cardio Intervals
Volume 2, Disk 2: Core Ball Sandwich
Volume 2, Disk 3: Patience "Hummingbird"
Volume 2, Disk 4: 10-Minute Crusher Pack

Volume 2, Disk 5: Butt and Belly (I Dare You)
Volume 2, Disk 6: Back and Belly
Volume 2, Disk 7: On One Leg
Volume 2, Disk 8: Iso Abs
Volume 2, Disk 9: Cardio Confusion - Mason's Choice
Volume 2, Disk 10: 100/30/20
Volume 2, Disk 11: On One Leg 4 legs
Volume 2, Disk 12: Upper Body Balance

Volume 3, Disk 1: Chest, Back & Balls
Volume 3, Disk 2: ARX2 (Ab-Ripper X 2)
Volume 3, Disk 3: Shoulders and Arms MC2
Volume 3, Disk 4: Base and Back
Volume 3, Disk 5: Yoga MC2
Volume 3, Disk 6: Plyocide
Volume 3, Disk 7: Stretch And Recovery
Volume 3, Disk 8: V Sculpt
Volume 3, Disk 9: Core Synergistics MC2
Volume 3, Disk 10: UBX
Volume 3, Disk 11: PAP
Volume 3, Disk 12: Total Body X

(Disclaimer: I am asked frequently if I am a Beachbody Coach, no I am not, I am just some one who has used their products, P90X, 1on1 with Tony Horton and more and liked them and achieved good results. I am not paid by Beachbody or any of their affiliates. You can see my full disclaimer here.)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Anthony Horvath - Author Profile

Anthony (A.R.) Horvath is an author who spends a lot of his time promoting new talent in the Christian writing market, lead by his ministry Athanatos Christian Ministries.

1. You have embarked on an ambitious writing endeavor. You are working on a series called Birth Pangs the series is to be 7 books in length. Do you have a specific writing plan and timeline for the series? If so what is the release schedule?

The original goal was to try to publish a new book every 2 years. I'm not going to make that with book 3, which looks like will have to wait until the summer of 2012, although the possibility of the winter of 2011 remains. So, that's a 3-4 year gap. Sometimes life interferes with our plans. : I hope to get back onto the 2 year cycle after that.

2. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

That's a great question. I'm pretty ambitious in a lot of ways and it has taken some disciplined thinking and decision making to compel myself to stick to things that I think are truly important and worth while. I've wanted to be a writer from my earliest memories. I suspect writing would have been a large component of whatever I ended up doing.

3. Who are some of the authors, or what books have had the greatest impact on your own writing?

I can't underestimate the impact of C. S. Lewis. Take his The Great Divorce. When I first read it I was grappling with the Christian doctrine of 'hell.' That is, how it could be reconciled with the notion of a good, fair, and just God, and similar questions. Simply as a story, though, I was moved. Perelandra remains one of my favorite stories of all time. What the two books have in common is that they provided me with the imaginative framework needed to fit pieces of dogma together into a coherent framework. There probably isn't anything that I've written that didn't have its germination somehow in the writings of Lewis.

4. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?

Wow, give me an easy question, then! Just 10? The collected works of C. S. Lewis The Bible The collected works of William Shakespeare The collected works of GK Chesterton The collected works of George MacDonald From these five I suppose you could get just about anywhere.

5. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

Actually, I prefer silence when writing. Preferably long stretches of silence. This has been of short in supply the last couple of years, hence the delay in the writing of Caritas (the upcoming third book of the Birth Pangs series).

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

It varies a little depending on the project. Much of my fiction begins with actual scenes playing out visually in my head. I will often let them play over and over again for several days or even weeks. In my mind's eye, I see the scene from the perspective of different characters. I am often surprised at how a scene unfolds. When I sit down to write it is a quest to record as accurately as possible what I saw in my mind. I wish that people could see the scenes in my head! They are much cooler than the pale representations my words achieve. After I write, there must be editing. But I hate editing. I'd rather go to the dentist. And I hate going to the dentist. I don't mind one or two pass throughs but by the third and fourth I'm about ready to let the thing fly as is and let the pieces fall where they may. I am unlike some people in that I am not particularly concerned if I get 100% grammatical orthodoxy. I figure I'd probably die of old age before I pulled that off. This is especially the case in the Birth Pangs series, where each book tops 150,000 words. Also, I have always said, "Language is my servant, not my master." Many times what a 'grammar nazi' (my affectionate term for them) would object to exactly communicates what I want to communicate. At any rate, I find nothing more satisfying than watching the text at last come into its final form- order out of chaos.

7. One of my goals in life is to find balance between body, mind and spirit. You seem to have achieved that balance in both your work and your life. What do you do to maintain your balance?

I'm not sure that I've hit that balance but I'm certainly trying. It is also a heck of a lot of work. Probably the most important strategy in pursuing that balance, in my own life, is by holding firm to the things that I am passionate about. They are not the things that typically make a lot of money. They are not the things that ambition can co-exist with. (My passions, anyway). So, I have to reconcile myself with living the life I live that comes with following those passions. Contentment. But it is really not as easy as that in practice.

8. What does your typical day or week look like for our mind, body and spiritual development? Do you try and keep to a specific regime or schedule?

I would like to keep a regime or schedule. I think I would benefit from it. Real life thwarts it at every turn, though. Still, there are some things that we could call typical. In the morning I'll wake up, check the news, check my email, send the kids off to school, and then reply to the emails that came in overnight. Then I sit down to read, write, proofread, or research. I get about an hour or so of that in and then have to deal with other obligations for a bit and then after lunch get another couple of hours. This isn't a lot of time for being productive, but I am assisted greatly by the fact that I can type pretty fast, on the order of 70 to 90 words a minute. If I have a story idea in my head, and it's ready to pop, I can have it done in thirty to forty minutes. This is why I've produced more short stories lately than full length ones, because I can pump out one of those and be done with it in under an hour. That doesn't mean that the other hours aren't productive. I'm constantly thinking. I'm 'writing' in my head. It's those scenes playing over and over again in my mind, as I mentioned before. If I'm driving down the highway I'll call up a scene for review. After the kids go to bed at night, I read. When I wake in the morning I almost always have a whole series of things to pump out in the few hours of good 'silence' to work with.

9. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

That's a really good question. I think I'd have to say, "Yes." Some characters are reflections of people I know. Others are composites, and still others created whole cloth. Often a character will have its own identity (ie, entirely my creation) but will have one specific trait that I have observed in 'real' people. Sometimes, that trait is something that I have observed in myself. A good example is Aiken's father, who it appears did nothing half way. Everything he did, good or bad, was done at 100%. I definitely see that in myself.

10. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

Yes, that's very similar to my own experience. Each one of them has a whole back story to them and it isn't uncommon that I've devoted days and weeks of mind wandering to watching the 'scenes' of their lives unfold. As a way of example, one of the characters in Caritas appears very briefly, yet I have on my hard drive a 25,000 word novella I actually sat down to write, detailing much of her story. I am speaking of 'Grandma Jazz.' (I suppose it wouldn't kill me to throw that up on Kindle). In Spero, there is a scene where the character named King sits down in a park in Cairo and an old man sits down on a bench nearby- there is a whole story for that man residing in my head, but in Spero the sum total of his interaction in the story is that he sits down, rests for a bit, and is gone when King next looks. So, each character has the courtesy of full existence within my mental universe, even if I don't have time to record it in typed out words. That said, one weird thing (weird given the above) is that after I've committed a scene, story, or book to paper, it is no longer in my mind anymore. It only comes back into my mind again when viewing it from the perspective of another character or book that intersects it at that point.

11. Your books are classified as literary apologetics. From your perspective can you define that term for us?

'Apologetics' is 'defense' and is typically meant in the sense of defending Christianity. 'Literary apologetics' is the defense of Christianity through literature. My books may be classified like this, but it isn't always intentional. Some times I'm just telling a story. Still, I have found that I can sometimes get ideas across better in a story than I can through proposition. Since my goal is communication, if it takes a story to do it, I'll do it. (Example, my short story "Polite Company.")

12. There is a big difference between being an author who is Christian, and writing Christian fiction. What drives you to have such a strong theological focus in your own writings?

I suppose it's as simple as the fact that I really believe what I'm selling. I believe Christianity is true, top to bottom. I don't really intend to write 'Christian' fiction most of the time. I just write. However, like all writers, I'm informed by the experiences and reality I'm immersed in. My experience of reality is that it is infused with many real things that are not directly presentable to the senses. We know they're there- we brush up against them, or we feel their passing- but we can't put our finger on it. Something more is going on, but we are incapable of nailing it down. I think all my writing is an attempt to put words to this sensation and argue that this sensation is not a fabrication of our mind, but rather represents something real about the fabric of our reality. It's the imprint of something supernatural upon us and as both readers and writers we get a glimpse of the Creator. I am enthralled with world building. Each story is a world that I am both utterly immanent within and yet fully transcend. If I become a character within it, I incarnate myself relative to the characters of my world- fully them, fully me. The only worldview that can accommodate this is the Christian worldview and I can't keep this belief from percolating up into what I write.

13. Your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

Well, I like the concept of ebooks as a producer. Actually printing books comes with costs. An ebook allows one to jump right to considerations of value, since you typically don't have any capital outlays in developing it further or distributing it. However, there is something about the culture of the Internet. Since it has stripped away the need in so many cases to invest so much money in distribution, people on the Net are used to having everything free. Even when they understand that there is a tangible connection between an artist's right to have compensation for their work and the person enjoying that work, they are still loathe to fork over any money for it. The temptation to turn to illegal methods is strong. One's own moral integrity is challenged, and in a society where the moral fabric is in tatters, one can expect more trouble along these lines. That said, I welcome technology's ability to cut out the middle men. For example, I have no sympathy for RIAA. I think the large publishers are next. You see, technological advances have exposed the fact that in a lot of cases the costs of production and distribution were not really as high as we were led to believe. Have the profits been shared appropriately with the artists themselves? I don't think so. Still, it is clear we're going to have to strike a balance. Producers and distributors deserve their fair return, artists deserve their fair return, and those who enjoy their services need to be prepared to pay a fair amount for their enjoyment. Otherwise, if they aren't careful, there won't be any content for them to enjoy. It's as simple as that.

14. You spend a lot of your time promoting writing contests and new works. How do you balance that vocation with your own writing?

I don't harbor any illusions that I am a great literary talent. That sort of assessment is not to be made by the author himself, in my view. When you can get feedback, you take it. It is my sincere hope that by offering these kinds of opportunities to other authors that they can refine their skills and potentially open doors for their future success, however they define it. Our judges have the interests of the writers in mind and truly want them succeed. That is why, for example, we give the anthology out to entrants, whether they win or lose. That way they can see who succeeded in our contest and hopefully learn from them. That is to say- I don't mark myself as someone who has great literary talent, but if I can help find someone who is and can give them a step up- I would consider that part of my writing vocation. Balancing my writing vocation against my most important vocation- that of husband and father- now that is a trick! As for promoting my own new works, marketing is definitely not one of my natural strengths. In today's market place, however, it is necessary. If you write and expect to be read, plan on managing your own marketing campaign. You will be the exception if you don't take point on promoting your own work, not the rule.

15. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

I agree with your university professor. I fear, however, that universities are not doing their job. More directly, I'm not sure that education in general is doing this. This would be a long answer if I gave it in full. In sum, before you can think about facts you actually have to know facts. Once you have the facts, your task is to be able to interpret them. Before you do that, you have to understand what principles you are using to interpret. What is your framework? Where did it come from? How do you evaluate positions that emerge from two mutually contradictory frameworks and happen to overlap just at that point? Schooling these days seems to be useless in these areas. Never mind facts… its how you feel. Never mind principles… how you feel about a situation or circumstance is all you need to know. Well, you can't argue with feelings and you can't reason with them, either. The number one virtue that education is trying to foster is a feeling of tolerance. I am not here trying to knock tolerance, per se. There is a big difference between the feeling of tolerance and actual tolerance. I could almost tolerate the latter. It's the former I detest. Whether or not education has any business fostering tolerance, felt or actual, is another question, but in any case it is a long way from being able to thoughtfully and critically evaluate the many mutually exclusive frameworks that are out there. It appears that in the face of the fact that there are many mutually exclusive frameworks, the goal is to try to goad people to adopt none of them and hate anyone who does. But that, I am afraid, would also constitute adopting a framework.

16. In many ways you are a modern renaissance man, philosopher, educator, researcher, student, author and more. Very few people today are as well rounded as you are to what do you attribute this?

Very simply, I hate being in a position where I have to take someone else's word for something. I also think that if I'm going to express an opinion about something, I should at least try to bring myself up to speed on the issues and do some research on it. Note, I don't mean that I can't have an opinion on something without doing that kind of legwork. I mean… if I'm going to express that opinion, and defend it. Well, if you have this kind of approach to the world I suppose that means you spend a lot of time reading and researching, which I do. The other thing that I think might distinguish me from others is that I would much rather hear things from the horse's mouth rather than the jockey's. I'll take a primary source over a secondary source any day of the week and form my own judgments about it, thank you very much. I think I am a long way from being able to consider myself a true modern renaissance man and frankly had never thought of it in that way, but I guess I can see how if I continue to go the way I'm going, that will be, one day, a true description.

17. Many people have commented on how each of your books would make great films. Have any of them been optioned or has any interest in actually developing them begun?

No, and I am afraid that it isn't likely any time soon. Maybe if I actually tried to press the issue I'd discover differently, but due to the nature of the series, a movie would be impossible at this point. Each of the first 6 books will carry on from the perspective of 6 different characters or sets of characters, covering more or less the same time frame. Where one character's story overlaps with another's, you will see the same scene in both books, but from each character's unique perspective. Some scenes will appear in all 6 books, as each story overlaps. Thus, no movie could do the stories justice until it was known how each book would overlap. Moreover, in the final analysis, while each book is offered up on its own terms and written so that it can be enjoyed independently of all the others, none of them can be fully understood until all of them are integrated into the reader's mind as a collective whole. (The 7th book will start up chronologically where each of the previous 6 books all ended, and then wind them all together as one story to the grand conclusion). Since the rest of the books haven't been written, there is no way a movie could be made, and thus, in my view, no point in pushing for one to be made. But it is flattering to hear people say such things, anyway.

18. What are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors to read?

I tend to read more non-fiction lately and I can't say that religious authors are much more represented than non-religious authors. In the past, I enjoyed the fiction of Frank Perretti, a Christian author, and C. S. Lewis, whom I've mentioned (but he's dead, so I suppose he doesn't count). I am afraid that I find a lot of the contemporary Christian writing I've come across to be fairly formulaic. If a Flannery O'Conner emerged today, I doubt Christian publishers would touch her. I suppose I shouldn't limit it to Christian writing. Everywhere I look I see the same formulas over and over again. I'm sure that the publishers and movie studios value that because a winning formula pads the bottom line every time. Although, it is worth mentioning that the very fact that there are winning formulas speaks to some metaphysical reality about humans and their unique place in the universe. Neither my dog or the ape at the zoo appears to enjoy any story, let alone the same ones over and over again under new guises. Still, I prefer some variation, myself.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

Of course you expect me to say, "How to Escape from a Desert Island" but you would be wrong. My list would actually look something like this: 1. How to Survive in Comfort on a Desert Island 2. Everything You Need to Know to Make your Own Beer, Wine, Rum, and Whiskey and Grow your Own Ingredients on a Desert Island. 3. How to Keep Pirates and Bureaucrats (Pardon the Redundancy) Outside your Territorial Waters With Minimal Effort 4. Creating Your Own Fiber Optic Cable out of Ordinary Sand 5. Nuclear Generators for Beginners 6. Quantum Teleportation for Dummies (in case I ever DO want to get off the Island or have friends over) 7. 100 Things You Can Do So you Never Have to See a Doctor 8. 1,000 Things You Can Do If You Scoffed at the Orders Given in '100 Things You Can Do so you Never Have to See a Doctor.' 9. The Bible. When and if I finally left the desert island (the official word would be that I had done so voluntarily) I would write a book called, "The Incredible True Story of a Man Who Did the Impossible: He Survived- and Thrived- Without Having His Entire Life Micro-Managed by the State." They would make it into a movie. The fliers would read: "The Unbelievable True Story Banned in 195 Countries! Seen for the First Time Without Editing!"

The movie would be great. It would carefully follow a man who wakes up in the morning and eats his state sanctioned fat free cereal with homogenized and pasteurized synthetic milk- and likes it- who would proceed to the office where he would be bossed around by a series of bureaucrats- which he would enjoy- before going home, exhausted and distanced from his family, to plop himself down in front of the tube where he would watch- with glee- the carefully scripted fare that the government had sanctioned for him that night. Then the movie would show him getting up to do the same thing the next morning. In dialog they would have me saying, "All for one and one for All. My work looks drab, but I know it's for the greatest good for the greatest amount of people, and since I'm not smart enough to calculate either of those, I'm happy with my lot!" And now for something completely different.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

I read somewhere the advice that a young author should first strive to do anything, literally anything, before pursuing writing. I am inclined to agree, especially if they want to have their writing reflect their faith. How can you have your faith reflected in the characters and events in your story when you don't know how your faith is reflected in your own life and the events of your own Story? Living out your faith in real life is instrumental in making sure that your writing reflects the harsh realities that face the faithful in the world. That isn't to say that they shouldn't write or write for publication. I'm just saying that if you don't have a life outside your writing, your writing will not have life. But there is something more to add to that. The truth is that just because you love to write doesn't mean that your writing will be any good. I love to draw, but I'm terrible at it. I end up throwing the crayons against the wall and breaking them into tiny pieces in rage. No matter how I try, I cannot get the images in my head to the paper. Oh sure, there are some principles out there (I was taught some of them at one time, even) but it's just not my gift. Sometimes the things we love become our idol and as is always the case when we worship something that doesn't warrant it, the sacrifices we make to it go wasted. Having a life outside of your passions, whatever they are, helps you to keep things in balance and perspective. More to the point, they do not rule you but are ruled by you, and therefore cannot harm you if they do not get their full expression. Put your passions to death daily and who knows, "if, having renounced [them, they will be] restored." (Charles Williams, Descent into Hell)

Thank you Anthony for taking some time to answer our questions, I look forward to the rest of your series!

Book by Anthony Horvath:

We Chose Life: Why You Should Too

Birthpangs Series:
Fidelis
Spero
Caritas

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Tithe - Holly Black - A Modern Faerie Tale

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale
Holly Black
Margaret K. McElderry Books
an imprint of

Simon and Schuster
ISBN 9780689867040


For a few years now I have been meaning to go back and read some of Holly Black's earlier works. Both her Spiderwick books and her Modern Faerie Tales were on my TBR (To Be Read) pile, but because they were older books, they kept getting pushed down on my reading list as new titles came across my desk and new authors were discovered. I have no one to blame but myself; I should have known better and read these works much, much earlier. Black shows amazing diversity in her writings and this trilogy is no exception.

Kaye Fierch is an 'Asian Blond' sixteen year old, who spends most of her time in bars with her rocker mom. She doesn't know it yet, but she is not who she thinks she is. She is not even human. She has interacted with faeries since she was young, and even though she was bugged at school and by others, she has always believed in them. Then after returning to her grandmother's home, she rediscovers the other world, and they have a plan to achieve freedom with Kaye's help.

In a world where the faerie and ours overlap much closer than anyone thinks, Black weaves a tale of mystery, deceit, danger and destruction. C.S. Lewis is quoted as stating: "Some say you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." He also states "At all ages, if [fantasy and myth] is used well by the author and meets the right reader, it has the same power: to generalize while remaining concrete, to present in palpable form not concepts or even experiences, but whole classes of experience, and to throw off irrelevancies. But at its best it can do more; it can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of 'commenting on life', can add to it." Black definitely achieves that in most of her writings and especially in this book. Every time I read something else by Black I am blown away by her skill with the pen.

Other Books by Holly Black:

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Doll Bones

The Modern Faerie Tales
Tithe (2002)
Valiant (2005)
Ironside (2007)

The Spiderwick Chronicles
The Field Guide (2003)
The Seeing Stone (2003)
Lucinda's Secret (2003)
The Ironwood Tree (2004)
The Wrath of Mulgarath (2004)
Arthur Spiderwick's Notebook of Fantastical Observations (2005)
Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You (2005)
Care and Feeding of Sprites (2006)

Beyond Spiderwick
The Nixie's Song (2007)
A Giant Problem (2008)
The Wyrm King (2009)

The Good Neighbors
Kin (2008)
Kith (2009)
Kind (2010)

The Curse Workers
White Cat (2010)
Red Glove (2011)
Black Heart (2012)

Anthologies
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd (2009)
Zombies vs. Unicorns (2010)
Welcome to Bordertown (2011)