I am a writer.

Writers write.I am a writer.

If you are a writer and you haven’t said these words out loud, say them now. As you know, there is power in words. Saying them, writing them down, they make something true. Words can never be unsaid.

It was a couple of months after I joined my writers’ group, The Weaklings, before I said those words out loud. I had been writing for a while, but had never claimed the title. I remember having a conversation with another member of the group about whether or not I should be telling anyone about my writing.

It isn’t that I was ashamed of it. It was more that I was afraid of it. To say it would make it true, and what if it wasn’t true? What if I was just a man with a hobby?

My friend assured me that he felt the same way, but we were still writers all the same.

“Writers write,” he said to me. “That’s the definition of being a writer.”

This definition has haunted me. There have been times since I first claimed the title that I have not written. I still attended writers’ group meetings, still read the right magazines, still made notes for my different projects, but when I had the chance to put pen to paper, I’d choose something else.

Why? I scorned writing for many reasons. Some were valid, like grief and taking the time to be a husband and father. Some were not, like video games, television, and laziness. Some were not, but seemed to be, like research, reading, and making notes. But whatever the case, in those times when I was not writing, I was failing the basic test of being a writer. Writers write.

So here I am, saying it once again, hoping that my will and creativity will meet my goal of putting pen to paper and I will finish the works that I have started. I want to make it real.

I am a writer.

 

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Congratulations to Tim Vine on winning the LOTR set!

Do you want to win stuff like Tim? Stay tuned for more chances coming up!

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Report Cards, Writing, Blogging, and Hidden Messages, Oh My!

Here we are. It’s been an eventful week on the blog. I had my most hits to date on Monday (65 for those of you who like to know that sort of thing). I introduced the main character from my WIP, and posted a review of a book within the same genre. And, I started my first book giveaway (you can still enter to win until Monday morning when I pull the winner).

How I did this week. Also, fun links!As far as a grade for my writing report card goes, I’ll give myself a B. In taking time for blogging (which is totally worthwhile in its own right), I’ve not taken as much time to work on my novel.

Perhaps I’ll do better this next week.

Perhaps I won’t. But I’ll try.

You should visit me again to find out.

But I digress, let’s get on to the week’s top links!

In first place, I’d like to share another link to my writer friend Bob. He and I made a gentleman’s challenge this past week to see who could get a certain amount of hits on a given day. I’m new at this, and Bob has been blogging for a while, so it was an ambitious challenge for me to make. Anyway, I’m convinced that Bob is cheating, because he did a post this week that was pure quality. If you are a writer or have ever encounter’s writer’s block, check out this link.

Right up there with Bob’s post is this post from a blog called “Writing is Hard Work”. Truer words were never spoken (or written, as it were). The post linked here gives 6 ways to begin a novel. So if the reason that you haven’t experienced writer’s block yet is because you haven’t started a novel, here are some good ways to get started.

Then, for other bloggers out there, I came across this post on blogging mistakes that is quite good. I got permission to link to it here because I found it helpful as a guy just wading into this murk we call blogging.

Here’s one for all of my non-writer, non-blogger friends. Jessie Clemence and her husband Eric were one of the first people to befriend me when I got to Western Michigan University. After only one year of getting to know them, they graduated and I didn’t expect to see them again, but after a year or so, they moved to Grand Rapids and we reconnected. As it happened, in one of the summers between school years, I had two jobs. I worked in a dirty warehouse in the morning, then moonlighted as a waiter at Big Boy at night. My own house was too far away to be able to go home and clean up between shifts, so Eric and Jessie let me come over and use their shower. They are truly some of the nicest people out there. Anyway, check out Jessie’s blog. It’s filled with spiritual inspiration for people in general and families in specific.

Dare I forget to mention my contest again? If you just stumbled upon my blog, I’ve got a contest going, the prize for which is a shiny used set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Maybe you’ve read it, maybe you own it, but wouldn’t you like to tell everyone you know that this contest is going on? Come on, please?

And that’s pretty much it. If this week’s contest goes over well, I’ll do another one. I work at a bookstore and have access to lots of great books that I can use to giveaway. I’ve already got some good responses and suggestions for my blog, so I hope to continually improve it as I go. Thanks for stopping by!

Yowsa! (Did you catch the hidden message in today’s post? If you did, pass it on to my brother here.)

Win Stuff | The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Box Set

Leave me a comment with your ideas for this blog. Now. Do it now.

You could be as happy as me if you win this set of books.

Here’s the deal. I’m giving away a box set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is the set that I bought right after the Fellowship of the Ring came out in theaters. I bought it to replace the well-worn copies that my dad had laying around. Well, I still have those well-worn copies. Also, my wife brought a really nice hardcover set into the marriage. As much as it pains me to say this, I don’t need three copies of the same series. So I’m giving this box set away.

If you’ve never read the whole series, now’s your chance. If you are quick about it, you can just finish them in time for the arrival of The Hobbit (part one) in the theaters this December.

So how can you win?

Simple. Just tell me what you’d like to see from this blog of mine. Share with me any questions that you have, any ideas for posts, any themes or categories that I’m lacking. Just leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win. I’ll pull the winner next Monday, April 30th, and announce the results here on my blog.

The Fine Print: I’m not made of money, so although I love international comments, I can’t ship internationally. Sorry about that.

Book Review | Spirit Fighter by Jerel Law

Spirit Fighter by Jerel LawSpirit Fighter, the initial installment of the Son of Angels: Jonah Stone series, is the first book published by Jerel Law. According to the “About the Author” section of the book, Law is a pastor with seventeen years of full-time ministry experience who “began writing fiction as a way to encourage his children’s faith to come alive.”

I decided to review this book because the content and characters have some striking similarities to the novel I’ve been working on for a couple years now. The main characters are part angel. They have special superhuman abilities. They are on a quest to rescue a parent from the clutches of fallen angels.

The book is published by Thomas Nelson and is classified as Juvenile Fiction/Religious/Christian/Fantasy. The cover shows a scene from the book showing the main characters, Jonah and Eliza Stone, fighting the ancient biblical creature known as Leviathan, aided by their family’s guardian angel, Henry, in front of a New York skyline. I mentioned last week that it is usually safe to judge a book by its cover. This cover tells me that the book is an exciting biblical fantasy aimed at middle-school readers familiar with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. After reading the book, I can say that the cover fits it well.

The plot goes like this: Jonah Stone is a thirteen year old boy who isn’t very good at sports (he fails the tryout for the basketball team) or school (his genius little sister consistently outshines him). Discouraged, Jonah does what his dad, a pastor, tells him to do, pray. The prayer activates his angelic heritage and Jonah gains super-strength. His parents explain that Jonah and his siblings are one quarter angel, or quarterlings, and that their mother is one half angel, or a Nephilim. Jonah uses his new-found strength the next day to take care of the bully subplot, only to come home to discover that his mother has been kidnapped by fallen angels and that he and his sister are the only ones who can help. Thus they set out on the journey, aided by the family’s guardian angel and a fancy watch that gives heavenly instruction. The pair relies on their abilities, supplemented by the Armor of God to find and save their mom.

In the end, I didn’t care for this book. I had really high hopes, because if Spirit Fighter does well, publishers will see the need for books in this niche genre and my own book will stand a better chance of being published.

Here are a few of the reasons why I felt this way about the book:
The author writes with an agenda. I believe in writing a story for the sake of the story. If it happens to teach something along the way, all the better. But writing a story that sets out to teach something is not fair to the narrative. This may be a good way to write an exciting sermon, but a poor way to tell a story.
The characters are one-dimensional. They don’t undergo any great change as a result of their journey. In spite of being endowed with incredible powers, the main characters relate to situations the same way throughout the novel. They don’t grow. In reference to writing with an agenda, the characters seem to exist solely as a device to tell the reader how he or she should be living.
The story made leaps in logic. There is a scene where Jonah and Eliza come upon a castle in Central Park that they need to break into. The castle is heavily fortified and guarded by evil spirits. How do they get in? Obviously, they need to to reenact the scene from Joshua and the battle of Jericho. Why do they assume this will work? It’s a hunch. That’s it.
There was very little depth to the story. The only minor subplot that the main character had to deal with was resolved by the fourth chapter. This left the entire rest of the book to read without anything to make the story or characters richer.
It was very preachy. I don’t have a problem with any of the content philosophically, but when a large percentage of the dialogue is taken verbatim from the text of the Bible, the author is going to lose me as a reader. Copying is lazy writing. And by including so much scripture, the book will only appeal to parents and kids who are greatly opposed to mainstream/secular books.

It isn’t my goal to tear down the book, and certainly not the author. As his first published work, Law takes on an ambitious tale and gives flesh to an invisible world. The novel is imaginitive and fast-paced. It is well-suited to a young audience and portrays a large amount of scriptural ideas in a way that younger minds might understand.

What I’m afraid of is that well-intentioned people will buy this book as a gift for kids who like Rick Riordan’s novels or the Harry Potter series. Those kids won’t like Spirit Fighter.

I hope the next book in this series is better. I really do.

I’d still like to prove that there’s a place for Nephilim in YA books.

** Tomorrow is the big book giveway. Come back to see how you can win!

Meet the Cast Tuesday | Daniel O’Ryan

Daniel O'Ryan | Orphan, Freshman, NephilimAs I mentioned in last week’s post, this week I’ll be introducing the main character from my current WIP (work in progress). The project began as a 3-day novel contest entry. I had just finished another trip through the Harry Potter series, right on the heels of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series, and I had the magical orphan genre on the brain. My goal was to write a book in the genre that actually had a chance of being published.

The thing is… I work in a Christian bookstore, which is owned by one of the top five Christian publishing houses in the country. Also, I have good friends with connections to two other top-tier Christian publishers. Up to this point, none of my writing had any sort of religious tint to it. I’d done humorous flash fiction, and dystopian thriller, and that was it. Writing something for young adults that would be able to find a home with a Christian publisher was going to be a challenge.

Of course, I wouldn’t be able to use magic outright. I’d run into enough protective parents that would be shocked and disgusted to know that I loved Harry Potter to know that magic is not acceptable to the core audience I was hoping for. So I would have to replace the magic with miracles of some kind. Or, as I finally decided on, choose a character that has built in extra-human abilities. So I decided on the human/angel half-breeds that the Bible mentions a couple times, the Nephilim.

Nephilim are a popular subject for writers. Because the Bible mentions that they were the product of the “sons of god and daughters of men,” and that they were mighty warriors, they are already pretty cool. But given that the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot else about them, there’s a lot of wiggle room where authors can fill in the gaps.

I decided to do some research on the topic, which brought me to the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which goes into some creative details about the fallen angels that helped spawn the original, pre-flood Nephilim. It has a very interesting take on things and provided me with a list of character names and abilities, places, and motivations. That information and inspiration led me to create my main character and his storyline.

But enough back story. Who is my main character?

His name is Daniel O’Ryan. At fourteen years old, he’s one of the oldest boys at Stockton’s Home for Disadvantaged Boys.

He was dropped off as a baby at the orphanage by his father, a fallen angel. His mother was killed in an attack by the angel Gabriel, who sought to fulfill his ancient charge to kill the Nephilim. After dropping him off at Stockton’s, Daniel’s father disappears.

Now, fourteen years later, strange things are happening to Daniel. First, there’s his new school, the prestigious Blackwood Academy. Mysterious forces are at work in bringing Daniel and his best friend, roommate and fellow orphan, Ian Langston, to Blackwood.

Freshman year is hard enough, but at the new school, Daniel and Ian make few friends.

When Daniel accidentally throws the star of the rugby team, Hunter Garrison, across the locker room just days before the homecoming match, things look very dim. And when Daniel is completely unharmed after Hunter drops him from the roof of the school, he starts to question his own sanity.

Fortunately, Daniel receives guidance from teacher and angel, Abdiel, who explains the truth about who Daniel is and what he can do. And what’s more, Daniel has a chance to rescue his father from a fate worse than death and restore the family that he’s wanted for so long.

But before he can save anyone, Daniel has a lot to learn about himself and his abilities (360 degree visibility, lightening speed, sonic attacks, heightened strength, and built-in shadow armor). With the help of his friends, the Undesirables, and his teacher, Abdiel, Daniel begins the quest to find and recover the fruit of the tree of life from the long-lost Garden of Eden, the only thing that may help his father.

That’s the plot of book one. Daniel’s story will span three books, and I sincerely hope that you’ll see the whole series on bookstore shelves soon.

P.S. – Stay tuned for this week’s book giveaway.

I am a Weakling.

It I am a Weakling.probably started at a baseball game. Now, I’m not a big baseball fan, but when my mom asked whether my wife and I would like to join her at a Whitecaps game with her work, Cornerstone College, we came along. It was a good family outing.

As it happened, we sat next to the then-president of the college and his wife, with whom I struck up a conversation. I told her that I worked in the music department at a bookstore and she told me that her son, Andrew, was a musician who was moving back to the area and that he’d be looking for a music-related job. I promised her that I’d give him a call and try to connect him with something.

As promised, I called him. But rather than be all that helpful, I told him that Grand Rapids didn’t have a big recording industry and he’d be better off moving to somewhere like Nashville, the hub of all things music. He didn’t listen and moved to Grand Rapids anyway.

A month or two later, Andrew applied at the bookstore where I work. Remembering his name, and the promise to his mom that I’d try to help him find a job, I encouraged the management to give him a chance. He would have gotten the job anyway, but I like to take as much credit for other people’s accomplishments as possible.

We hit it off. Two weeks after he was hired, I asked him to help my wife and I move out of our apartment. Here’s a bit of truth for you: There is no better way to cement a friendship than to ask them to help you move. Andrew and his wife, Kristen, came over as strangers, but within a couple hours of seeing and packing our belongings, lifting heavy boxes, and maneuvering awkward pieces of furniture up stairs backwards, they emerged as friends.

While moving, we talked about our interests, and one of them was writing. Andrew mentioned that he and a guy named Bob were meeting for Bible study once every couple weeks and that he enjoyed writing as well. I was invited to Bible study and the three of us agreed that we should meet again solely to talk about our writing. Along the way, Bob ran into a guy named Matt, a writer friend from college, and invited him to the meeting.

The night we met, the Weaklings were born. Taking inspiration from the famous writers’ group, the Inklings, which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, we formed our own writer’s group, the Weaklings. Matt had been part of the a few writers’ groups over the years and lent his experience and some structure to our meetings.

The early meeting ran along these lines: grab some refreshments – 5 minutes; chat about life – 10 minutes; read something we wrote since the last meeting – 5 minutes each; discuss what was read – 10 minutes each; discuss any writing challenges or goals – 10 minutes; schedule next meeting & leave.

We met at least once every two weeks, usually on the opposite week from Bible study. Inevitably, Andrew and I would discuss writing a lot at the bookstore where we worked (and continued to move furniture together). That encouragement and accountability helped make writing part of my routine.

Since those early days, Matt has  moved to the other side of the state, Bob has two kids, Andrew has one, and I have one with another on the way, but we all still make time for writing. And we all continue to encourage each other.

There is power in writers’ groups, and I am proud to say that I am a Weakling.

Part Time Steampunk Ninja, Julia… Also My Report Card

It’s FriHow I did this week. Also, fun links!day! I had a couple ideas for what I could do with this blog on Fridays. My one thought was to just feature a link to something cool that I found online. The other thought was that I would use the post to hold myself accountable for my week’s writing goals. My last thought was that I should do both.

So, here are 4 places in cyberspace that I think are worth a visit:

1. Part Time Novel – This is Bob Evenhouse’s blog. Bob is in my writers’ group, the Weaklings and is at least partially responsible for the fact that I’m writing as much as I am (my wife accounts for the other portion of responsibility as I take no responsibility for my own actions).

2. Dr. McNinja – It’s a webcomic about a doctor who is also a ninja. Also, there are raptor-riding bandits, a clone of Ben Franklin, a time-traveling astronaut/mayor, and more. If you’ve never read this sort of thing before, it is worth starting at the beginning and working toward the present comics. Trust me.

3. Julia’s Place – I just stumbled across this blog yesterday, but I think it is worth looking into. I love writing exercises, and this place has weekly word challenges. Even if you don’t submit an entry, it’s a good way to challenge yourself and your writing.

4. The Steampunk Forum at Brass Goggles – My current WIP (Work in Progress) has a group of kids who are into Steampunk. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Think Jules Verne, or better yet, click the link. Be sure to visit the Tactile pages to see the things people make.

And as for my week’s writing goals, I didn’t do too bad.

Last Saturday night, I got some good writing done on my WIP at the local Tim Horton’s. Monday night I met up with my writer buddies, Andrew and Bob, and after a few minutes of catch-up, we all got some good writing done. I’ve successfully posted something new on this blog every working day this week.

I’d like to thank my friends who encourage me, my beautiful wife who makes my writing a priority, and anyone reading this because I get disgusting amounts of joy when I see that people are actually clicking into my blog. Thanks.

Come back next week. I’ll be doing my first book giveaway.