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Friday, April 20, 2007

Proposition to all concerning JRR Tolkien's new book: The Children of Hurin

As most of you know, I am a fantasy author because first, I was a fantasy reader. And JRR Tolkien's books were the books that drew me into the genre. Other than the Bible, I have never been impacted by a book more than The Lord of the Rings (The Hobbit as well). Now, these wonderful stories are my old friends, and I visit them often. So often that I am beginning to grow tufts of fuzzy hair on the tops of my feet.

Well, amazingly enough, Professor Tolkien wrote another novel that was never quite finished and certainly not published until now. It's called The Children of Hurin. Prof. Tolkien's son Christopher (now in his 70's) spent 30 years filling in the gaps of the narrative from his father's notes. Christopher Tolkien claims that the language in the books is all his father's. I sure hope so.

My copy of Children of Hurin just arrived today. And I wanted to throw out a proposition to any who visit this blog. How would you like to read Children of Hurin together? I'm thinking shared experience is always more fun than alone. As we read through the book we could discuss the story, what we like, where we think it's going, Tolkien's craft, etc.

I'd like to create a dedicated page/or post on this blog so that those of you who join me can post in and chat about Tolkien's new book.

Anyone up for it?

I'll wait a week to hear (today being 4/20), and I promise not to read until I know who's in. Well…I might actually read a little, but just a little.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's CSFF Blog Tour Day Two/Three: Karen Hancock's Return of The Guardian King

Read this excerpt from
Karen Hancock's
Return of the Guardian King

(Click on the page for larger size)

I know, I'm a little behind the time, but I'm celebrating Day 2 and Day 3 of the CSFF Blog Tour Today! My focus for day two is the Written Craft. Karen writes beautifully. It's no wonder she's won four Christy Awards ( a fifth on the way?). Her vocabulary is not just huge, but accurate and evocative. Her sentences are fluid. Her verbs active and driving. As an author myself, I read Karen's work, and it inspires me to learn more about the craft.

Several things strike me about this all-important opening page of the novel. First, note the use of italics. This tells the reader there's something different about this text. Either it's someone's thoughts, a supernatural voice, or a memory. Or, as Karen uses it, it shows us Maddie's song.

Then, notice the phrase bell-toned voice, sunlight, open meadow, yellow butterfly, patch of rippling grass, bloom-laden stalks, etc. Gorgeous, lyrical writing to be sure, but it's also very purposeful. Karen's setting you up by building mood through word choice. I mean how serene and comfortable would this scene be? You feel like you want to leap into the book and sprawl onto your back in the tall grass. But then, WHAM!! Karen just hits you with a 2 X 4. Look at the words on the next page.

(Click on the page for larger size)

Look at how the vocabulary changes to words that not only describe but evoke negative, uncomfortable feelings. Cold, misery, screamed, pelting, slivers, snow-caked, dangling, frozen, numb, squinted, shuddering, etc. For the writers who visit Enter the Door Within, take note of Karen's expertise. Every word counts. Eliminate vague or overused descriptors and use precise language that carves not only an image into the reader's mind, but also an emotion. You touch the emotions, the heart, the soul of your readers, and they will read you forever.

If this first segment was enough to hook you, you can buy Karen's book by clicking the link below. I've also listed the first three books in Karen's awesome series.

*All excerpts of text are from Return of the Guardian King by Karen Hancock, Bethany House Publishing, 2007, used by permission.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Break from the Blog Tour: Not just another day...

Yesterday, April 16, 2007 was not just another day.

On the campus of Virginia Tech, an armed gunman shot and killed more than 30 people, wounding dozens more. He then killed himself. This is already being hailed as the worst killing rampage in US History. Occasions like yesterday shake people up. We begin to consider our safety…our mortality. The Beltway Sniper, 9-11, Columbine…events of such a shocking and terrible nature smack us all in the face and offer absolute proof of evil in the world.

*Two students told NBC's "Today" show they were unaware of the dorm shooting when they walked into Norris Hall for a German class where the gunman later opened fire. Derek O'Dell, his arm in a cast after being shot, described a shooter who fired away in "eerily silence" with "no specific target — just taking out anybody he could."

"He was very quiet, always by himself," neighbor Abdul Shash said.

The gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead was identified Tuesday as an English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service.

News reports also said that he may have been taking medication for depression, that he was becoming increasingly violent and erratic, and that he left a note in his dorm in which he railed against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus.

The Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site that he left a note in his dorm room that included a rambling list of grievances. Citing unidentified sources, the Tribune said he had recently shown troubling signs, including setting a fire in a dorm room and stalking some women.

ABC, citing law enforcement sources, reported that the note, several pages long, explains Cho's actions and says, "You caused me to do this."

Events like this point to the reality of evil in the most public of ways, but the truth is, there is far surpassing evil going on behind closed doors every single day in America and the world. Child abuse, neglect, torture, teenage prostitution, pornography, incest, racism, abortion…the list is longer than the composite memory of the Internet could ever possibly contain. Have you ever thought about the world, take its natural disasters and all, and considered how pleasant this place would be if it weren't for the threat of human evil?

The Bible confirms life when God says,

**10As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
11there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
12All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."
13"Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit."
"The poison of vipers is on their lips."
14"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
15"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16ruin and misery mark their ways,
17and the way of peace they do not know."
18"There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Someone might say, Wow, that certainly does sound like the state of things. BUT…I'm not like that. I haven't done any of the horrible things listed there. But if we dig deeper and begin to analyze, we will find a web of selfish motives, self-protection, denial, and fears. In moments where we are pressed hard, we may react in a rage that surprises us. When no one is around, we may do something we know is wrong. We may rationalize away our subtle attempts to put others down to lift ourselves up in the eyes of our peers.

We are all fallen.

We are all broken.

We are all desperate.

When we have a day like yesterday, when the reality of evil cannot be avoided, people tend to turn to God…and rightly so. Church services swell. People pray. People share. But soon, people wander back into complacency. Life for many returns to the numbing routine it always has been. A day like April 16th is left behind as "just another day." And we might just be able to busy ourselves enough that we forget...

We are all fallen.

We are all broken.

We are all desperate.

I pray for all of us that we won't let that happen. Take advantage of the clarity of thought afforded to us by recent events. We are fallen, but God can pick us up. We are broken, but God can mend us. We are desperate, but God can meet our needs…especially the urgent ache of our soul for Heaven.

12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no
other name under heaven given to men
by which we must be saved."

The events in Blacksburg yesterday also remind us of the immediacy of life. Those kids got up for class just like everyday. They had no idea that the rest of their lives would be measured in minutes and hours…not years. I wondered how many hurried phone calls parents had with their children in the days and hours before the tragedy. I thought about my own kids, still so very young. I looked in on them sleeping just a few minutes ago. I won't take them for granted. It's a promise for today, and a prayer for every future day.

And I pray for all of you that you will not take life for granted. Love your Lord and love everyone you can.

Yesterday, April 16, 2007 was not just another day. In fact, no day is.

*All Newstory Text in Green By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer
**ALL Bible text from

All Bible verses:

New International Version (NIV)

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It's CSFF Blog Tour Day One: Karen Hancock's Return of The Guardian King

Today is the first day of a 3 Day Blog Tour
for Karen Hancock's wonderful new fantasy tale:

Return of the Guardian King

Much more in the coming days, but for now:
If you'd like to see what Amazon has to say about The Return of the Guardian King, click HERE.

If you'd like to learn more about Karen Hancock, visit her site by clicking HERE or her blog by clicking HERE.

Wayne's Incomplete Review:
I begin by confessing, I haven't finished RotGK yet. I further confess that I have not read the first three books of Karen's series. SO please understand, my review is incomplete--my judgments flawed, insights lacking, and overall perspective somewhat limited.

Knowing that I have not had the pleasure of reading the first three books of the series, I expected to find myself completely confused and disinterested in the series finale. After all, I wouldn't want someone to read The Final Storm as their first Door Within Trilogy experience. But I have to tell you, I was dead wrong. So far, I love everything about RotGK. I feel like I understand it, and those things that I cannot understand have enough hints to let me draw my own conclusions, and I like that very much. Half the fun of reading is translating the implied meanings and the trail of breadcrumbs left by the author. So here are my overall comments. Beware, minor spoilers ahead.

• Very few, so far.
• The Front Cover is a turn off for me. I know that goes against popular consensus, and I am certain that, for most readers, the cover is eye catching and will draw them right in. It is without a doubt, evocative and beautiful to behold. The colors are striking and cool, and the King looks handsome and Kingly. But that's partially my problem. Abramm looks too pretty. He looks like a poor-man's Fabio photoshopped into an oil painting. Perhaps this is my Wayne Lens bringing too much to the party. After all, I grew up with my mom having 6ft bookcases stuffed with Harlequin Romances and the like. If I'm hunting for fantasy, the gushy-romance vibe makes me look elsewhere. Funny thing is, Stephen Erikson's Gardens of the Moon has a very similar look to it. If you've read the book, you know how misleading that is. Holy cow, is his stuff rough and tumble, severe even. And like Erikson's cover, Karen's cover really doesn't convey the incredible riches to be found once you get past it…not to me anyway.

• Minor issue here: Karen has a tendency to use pronouns when the antecedent is somewhat unclear. That's it. I don't have anything else to call weakness.

• The Language: Stephen King says he gets asked a lot of questions, but no one ever talks about his language. I can't commit that sin here. Karen's language is evocative, flowing, and rich. I get lost in her fluid sentences and structure. See Day Two Blog for more on this!

• Hook Factor: Books IMHO must hook a reader in the first paragraph, page, and chapter. Even though this is book 4 in the series and Karen could have rested on the fact that she's already got her readers OR they wouldn't have come this far, she does not. Karen throws a wonderful GOT-YA moment on the very first page. Spoiler alert. Abramm is about to be reunited with his beloved wife. He hears her singing and playing in the distance. He can picture himself hugging his children in the warm sunlight. He's almost there, just around the bend and…WHAM, he's not there at all! He's just slipped on an icy precipice. He's in the midst of a blizzard on the side of a mountain. Wow, talk about pulling out the rug! Never a dull moment so far.

• Real Characters: Karen's characters, (esp. Abramm) are not cliche. They are as real as you or I. They have hopes, dreams, flaws, and baggage. Stranded with a ragtag bunch of villagers, Abramm tries to convince them to press on through the storm. They resist. One accuses Abramm, "'...He just wants to get t' the monastery as fast as he can so he lose the rest of us and strike out fer Trakas on his own. Ye heard him the other night--he doesn't care a pin what happens t'us.'
The accusation stung precisely because of its element of truth." Abramm is no better-than-thou. He has cracks and fissures. And the enemy will attempt to exploit them.

• Great Creatures and Monsters: For me, a fantasy isn't worth it unless there are wonderfully imaginative and scary beasties about. Balrogs, wights, shades, Razac, etc. Bring it on. Karen does. The Rhu'ema are fantastic--demonically invisible to all but Abramm, and mannnn, like a pack of Screwtapes, they mess with Abramm constantly. And my favorite is Tapheina--a werewolf vixen of sorts whose breath has a potent allure to it. Hmmm...not the stuff I usually read in Christian fiction. There are many more creatures, of course, but that's just another reason to love this book.

• Spiritual Insight: Like The Screwtape Letters, RotGK can open your eyes to spiritual truths. Seeing into the demonic world unmasks some of the things we Christians all too easily (and sometimes lustily) ignore. The "Path of Light" motif is everpresent, but skillfully handled. As Abramm notes, the path of righteousness is visible to us, if we bother to look, and…actually want to find it.

Wonderful book, Karen! May your mind be filled with endless streams of future stories for all of us to enjoy!

*All excerpts of text are from Return of the Guardian King by Karen Hancock, Bethany House Publishing, 2007, used by permission.