July 29, 2012

My Return from the Wild Country...

... a.k.a. 'Kentucky'. That's right, I just got back at 5 o'clock this morning after spending a lovely four days with my family in beautiful, rugged Kentucky... where they've received a good deal more rain than we have here. Coming home, it was amazing to see the difference between the rich green of Kentucky and the parched brown of Missouri. Please, all of you, keep praying for rain. Drought comes with the territory of Missouri summers, but I have never seen it as bad as this before. In fact, this evening we could look out our back windows and see the smoke from wildfires miles to the west of us, and that has never happened before. Maybe in places like Colorado that's normal, but not in Missouri. We don't just have wildfires around here like that, and it's actually pretty scary to realize that we've reached that point. Your prayers are appreciated, and desperately needed.
But back to happier things: namely, my trip! It's been several years since my family has taken a real vacation, so this week we ventured out to Kentucky for my great-grandma's 95th birthday party. But we also spent two days at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum! We've been wanting to go there  for years, and if you haven't been to it yet, let me assure you it's well worth the trip! As I said, we spent two days there, and we could have easily spent much longer.
It was a typical Pursselley endeavor: riddled with mishaps and random chaos. Details to follow. But we had a fantastic time. We took literally hundreds of pictures, and I'll be posting some of them here at the Lair tomorrow or Tuesday, so be watching!
Until then, friends!

July 23, 2012

Musings on the Unseen Stories

This afternoon, I was standing in line at the Barnes & Noble checkout counter, when an older gentleman walked past behind me. He was wearing a short-sleeved, plaid, button-down shirt and khaki slacks, but it was the sound of his footsteps that caught my attention. Each step made a distinct double 'click' on the tile floor. I glanced down and saw a thin silver line circling the back of both of his heels.
He was wearing tap shoes.
Now why, I asked myself, would someone wear tap shoes to a book store? My writer's mind immediately went to work trying to conjure up a set of circumstances that might lead to such a thing, but none of the results were very interesting. On the drive home, though, I kept thinking about it. It occurred to me that, even though I couldn't come up with a reason someone might wear tap shoes into Barnes & Noble, that man did have a reason for doing it. Somehow, there was an explanation.
And that got me thinking about the 'unseen stories' - the unseen explanation behind so many of the things that make our day to day lives interesting.
There is a story, a reason, an explanation, behind every weird, random little drama that plays out in front of us:
My mom had a perfectly legitimate reason for throwing open our front door, shoving the UPS man aside, and flinging our vacuum sweeper off the porch into a snow drift. For the poor UPS man, though, it must have been hard to imagine any explanation other than 'this woman is nuts'. (For those of you sitting out there scratching your heads, the inside of the vacuum cleaner was on fire.)
My dad had a perfectly legitimate reason for leaving his suit coat, dress pants, shirt, and shoes on the front porch over night. But for the mail man who showed up the next morning, a suit hanging on a farmhouse porch must have looked pretty crazy. (For the record: shooting a skunk in the head will not prevent it spraying, no matter what your uncle Ed says.)
The man in Barnes & Noble must have had a perfectly rational reason for wearing tap shoes to the book store. I can't imagine what it was, but then how interesting would seeing it have been if I knew all of the therefores and whereases?
It's the unseen stories, the explanations we don't know, that make life colorful and interesting... and pretty entertaining, too.

Your thoughts?

P.S. I'm probably not going to have access to the internet much for the rest of this week, so y'all will have to keep yourselves busy and out of trouble until I get back. In the meantime, take care, have a great week... and pray for rain! If your area doesn't need it right now, then A) count your blessings, and B) pray for the areas that do. Many families in my area are having to sell off their livestock because there's no food or water left for them. My family isn't to that point yet, thanks to stockpiled pastures and God's grace, but if we don't get rain soon we'll be in the same situation. So please, please pray.

July 21, 2012

Movie Review: Brave

From the moment my brothers and I first saw the trailer for Brave, we knew we had to see it. We figured any movie that A) is about Scotland and B) contains lines like "We'll expect your declarations of war in the morning" and "No weapons on the table" (which sounds remarkably like our house) was worth our attention.
So one afternoon when we all got off work, we drove into town to see it. It was well worth the trip, and we loved it.
As a nice change of pace from the romance movies flooding the market today, Brave is actually a lovely mother-daughter story. Of course, I was a bit edgy about that too at first, considering Pixar's less-than-glorious track record of botching parent-child stories (case in point: Finding Nemo). However, I was surprised and delighted to discover that in Brave, they actually did a good job handling the development and struggles in Merida's relationship with her mother. The way they executed the final turning point had me ready to stand up and cheer, simply because I was so happy to finally see a Disney movie with a moral of humility and admitting when you're wrong.
The music was wonderful (you can't really go wrong with bagpipes and fiddles), the animation was incredible, and the story itself was delightfully entertaining - a great way to get my Scottish blood flowing.
A few things to be aware of:
One, I wouldn't show this movie to very young children. Mordu, the giant bear Merida faces, would be pretty scary for a little kid.
Two, there is some brief partial nudity at one point, when all the men get stranded on the roof of the castle and tie their kilts together as a rope to get down. I admire their resourcefulness, but still... yeah.
Three, one of the castle maids is rather well endowed by nature, shall we say, and wears a very low-cut dress that makes the issue rather difficult to ignore.
Four, magic plays a key role in the story. Merida sees will o' the wisps, meets a witch, asks for a spell to change her fate, etc. The lessons Merida learns over the course of the story subtly emphasize that magic is what got her into trouble in the first place, which I appreciated seeing, but the presence of magic as such might be a problem for some families.
Aside from that, as I said before, this was a delightful movie that I definitely plan on seeing again. And for anyone of Scottish heritage who plans on seeing this movie in the future, be warned: you might be surprised by how vividly some of your own personality traits show up in various characters. ; )

July 19, 2012

Book Review: The Company

Author: Chuck Graham
Genre: Allegory
Publisher: WinePress Publishing
Pages: 224

While most people I know aren't particularly fond of the allegory genre, I absolutely love it. As in, I've read The Pilgrim's Progress five times, love it. So I was intrigued and delighted when I had a chance to review The Company.
The book begins with an account of a giant meteor striking the earth, destroying life as we know it. The ensuing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis wipe out nearly everything, and thick clouds of volcanic ash and smoke plunge what little remains into profound darkness.
One tiny mountain village, Brigos Glen, is relatively unharmed by the initial disaster, but smothered in darkness like everyone else. Their attempts to locate other survivors outside their sheltered valley fail. Seemingly alone in the world, they manage to eke out a miserable existence... until a stranger appears in their midst with one simple question: "Would you like some help?"
Thus, they are introduced to what comes to be commonly called 'the Company' - a giant power source somewhere far beyond the edges of Brigos Glen, that channels power over the mountains to provide light and a return to semi-normal life for the people there.

Though it was intended to be a discussion of the nature of the Trinity, The Company nonetheless delves deep into several other issues such as division in the Church, adherence to the authority of scripture, and others as well. And I loved it. In many ways, allegory is like bagpipes: there's nothing more amazing than a set of bagpipes well played, and nothing more atrocious than a set poorly played. This particular bit of allegory, my friends, was skillfully written and crafted, and a delight to read.
It was rather slow going for fiction, since the depth of the content required very careful thought and attention, but that's to be expected with allegory and didn't bother me at all. Parts of it had me near tears, parts of it had me cheering in my heart, and a few places even made me stop and think 'Oh wow! I'd never thought about it like that before!' - which is the sign of very good allegory.
I know allegory as a genre isn't for everyone. In fact, most of my own family dislike it. But whether you adore allegory like I do, or simply tolerate it once in a while, I highly recommend The Company. I'm already eager for the sequel to be released!

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my review. A favorable review was not required.

What do you think of the allegory genre?

July 16, 2012

What Now?

I found myself asking that question Friday night as I lay in bed staring up at the dark ceiling and listening to my Yorkie terrier 'woof' in her sleep. What do I do during the waiting period between Son of the Shield being finished and the next step, getting it published?
It's a bit of a silly question, considering the number of other projects I have waiting for my attention. But for five-and-a-half years now, Son of the Shield has been my focus, my Priority 1 writing project, and now suddenly it's done. I don't have to worry about tweaking this bit of internal monologue or revving up that fight scene or intensifying those emotions... it's done.
Weird feeling, let me tell you.
But, being born and raised a hillbilly, I don't know how to sit still for more than a few seconds, and it didn't take me long to push that 'what now?' feeling aside. So today, after enjoying my first Son of the Shield-free weekend in five-and-a-half years (Attending the Answers in Genesis conference made a great weekend vacation!) I'm turning my focus onto my next project!
Have I got you curious?
Some of you may have been following my short story series on Avenir Eclectia (you can Click Here to read it). For those of you who don't know, Avenir Eclectia is a multi-author micro-fiction project from Splashdown Books. I started writing stories for the project last year, mostly just for fun. But when the AE project's artist and composer, Michael L. Rogers, offered a creative idea for a plot twist, the story thread I had started began growing quite a bit.
The Avenir Eclectia Anthology, Volume 1, is slated to release later this summer or fall. Here's a look at the awesome cover art:

Notice the fifth name from the bottom? : D My first time in print - as in, on actual paper, not just online! I'm so excited!
Only one of the several stories I've published with AE is going into the anthology, though. Reason being:
Grace Bridges, the Avenir's commander-in-chief, has given me the go-ahead to turn the rest of my short stories, the ones that follow the same characters and plot, into a novel!
That's my next big fiction project: an Avenir Eclectia novel. So I'm shifting gears from fantasy to sci-fi for a while - and it ought to be quite a ride!

Do you find it difficult to 'shift gears' from one project to another? What do you do to make the transition easier?

July 12, 2012

The Unofficial Son of the Shield Soundtrack

By soundtrack, I don't necessarily mean that every song listed below actually goes with a specific scene in Son of the Shield. Some do, but a lot of them were simply what gave me the idea for a certain scene or concept. Others helped me work through and figure out difficult character arcs or problems within the story. Some songs are the ones I blared through my headphones while frantically pounding the keyboard trying to keep up with the images rolling through my head. But all of them pertain in some way to SotS and the journey that writing the story took me on. Someday, there may be an Official Son of the Shield soundtrack but for now, I hope you enjoy the unofficial one.
I've put my SotS-themed name for each track on the left (while trying not to let the name spoil the story) and the real name and credit for the song on the right. Clicking the link will take you to a Youtube recording of the song. I hope that's not too complicated or annoying, but with my level of technical savvy it's about the best I can do. So here goes:

This is by no means exhaustive - there are many, many scenes and plot points in the book that aren't represented here - but these are the songs that I listened to the most or that were the most helpful during the writing/editing/rewriting process.


July 11, 2012

An Important Announcement...

... one that is embarrassingly late in coming, but better late than never, I suppose. You've probably already guessed it:

Son of the Shield is finished.

Nearly a month behind schedule, but it's finished, as of approximately 3AM this morning.
As I dragged myself out of bed and staggered for the tea kettle this morning, my mom asked me how I felt now that it's finally done. Honestly, it hasn't sunk in yet. After five-and-a-half years of my world revolving around writing and editing Son of the Shield, I don't think having it done is going to feel real over night. It's become a way of life, and adjusting now that it's over is going to be a bit of a trick, I suspect.
But I'm going to have to get used to it pretty quickly, because now it's time to take the next step: publication! Specific plans for pursuing that next step are still classified and I'm not at liberty to reveal them... but I do have plans, and as soon as they're declassified my faithful followers here at the Lair will be among the first to know. ; )
Meanwhile, I think it's high time we got to some of those special features I've been promising and you've all been waiting for so patiently! Here's a brief rundown of what's in store:

Son of the Shield - the Unofficial Soundtrack

Tea with Orienne Seritan (leading lady of Son of the Shield)

Sneak Peeks, Behind the Scenes, and Production Featurette of the Son of the Shield unofficial trailer

The Son of the Shield unofficial trailer

... and more (most of which depends on what I can coerce the uncooperative and stubborn men of Son of the Shield to go along with)!

I'm planning to post the Unofficial Soundtrack tomorrow... but with the way these last few weeks have gone I'm not promising. Who knows? I may have to rush out of the house again to help the neighbors put out another kitchen fire, or get evicted to the living room again when another household appliance puts my bedroom under water. Around here one just never knows.
But you know what? I think having Son of the Shield finished just might be starting to sink in...

So what's been going on with all of you? I feel like I dropped off the face of the planet and missed a huge piece of the action around here!