March 26, 2013

Favorite Archers in Fiction

If you've been paying attention, you've probably noticed that archers seem to be becoming more and more popular in the entertainment industry lately. While some of the bow-wielding characters popular today are long-lasting favorites, such as Robin Hood, new ones are popping up every time we turn around, it seems.
So just for fun, I thought I'd dedicate a blog post to featuring the most popular archers of our time.

Legolas Greenleaf, of Mirkwood, Middle Earth.

Hawkeye, of the Avengers - a.k.a. Agent Barton of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Katniss Everdeen, of District 12, Panem.

Kili, of Erebor, Middle Earth

Merida, first-born of Clan Dunbroch, Scotland

Robin Hood, of Sherwood Forest, Nottingham. (Since there are so many different representations of him I just picked a picture of my favorite one. Yes, the Disney cartoon is my favorite version.)

Susan Pevensie, of Finchley - a.k.a. Queen Susan the Gentle, of Narnia

It's hard to say what has made archers so popular in entertainment... maybe boredom with guns, admiration for the skill required for archery, a hankering for something unique. Who knows? But I, for one, don't mind the trend at all. I like the variety it brings to books and movies. And let's face it: there's just something way too cool about a character with a bow in his or her hand, and a quiver of arrows on his or her back - whether it's a medieval-style weapon like Merida's, an elf-made weapon like Legolas', or a high-tech mechanized weapon like Hawkeye's.

Do you have a favorite archer character?

March 25, 2013

The Hobbit, and a Yorkie's Journey to Middle Earth

Last Wednesday I brought home my very own copy of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I was so excited! I was the only member of my family who had seen it up to that point, so I couldn't wait to share it with them.
It was Friday evening before life and everyone's schedules allowed time to settle in for a three-hour movie, but settle in we did, equipped with drinks, jelly beans, and knitting. (Well... Mom and I had knitting, anyway.) With the fireplace roaring at our backs as the snow and wind howled outside, we set off on our journey into Middle Earth.
My Yorkie Terrier, Cricket, decided to join us, curled up in her usual spot on my lap. Normally, she pays little to no attention to anything on the TV screen, and instead just sleeps on my lap or snuggled down in the chair next to me. (A notable exception is the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, which for some reason holds her absolutely spellbound. So whenever she needs a haircut, I just spread a towel out in front of the TV, put Pirates in, and cut her hair while she lays perfectly still watching the movie. If it works, it works.)

For the first part of The Hobbit, Cricket stayed pretty still, dozing on and off and occasionally wiggling just enough to get tangled up in my yarn. She flicked her ears up a few times whenever the goblin army would make a sudden loud noise, but other than that she didn't seem to be paying any attention.
But then it happened: Gollum crawled his way onto the screen, hissing in his slimy voice.
And Cricket was not happy about it.
Next thing I know she's sitting bolt-upright on my lap, growling at the screen. When Bilbo spoke, she stayed quiet, but when the camera switched to Gollum and he started talking, she growled and snorted until he went away again.
Usually I'm glad to get any Gollum scene over with as quickly as possible, but Cricket was so entertaining that I was almost sorry to see him go.
But then there were the Wargs. The bravado Cricket had displayed while warning Gollum to keep his distance was quickly forgotten - or rather, flung aside in panic as she flailed her way through my knitting project and started trying to climb me.
By the time I got my knitting put down, Cricket was huddled against my chest, her claws hooked in my shirt collar, shivering and whimpering. Having experienced a similar episode when the Hulk appeared on The Avengers, I knew what was going on, so I snuggled Cricket up and tried to cover her eyes. But she didn't want that either, and kept pushing my hand away from her face to look back at the screen... only to shrink back whimpering in fear again. I guess maybe she was afraid that if she looked away the Wargs would sneak up and get her.
A word to the wise, then: if you haven't watched The Hobbit at home yet, and you have small pets around, it might be a good idea to put them in another room. ; ) My poor little Yorkie's journey to Middle Earth via The Hobbit was not nearly as enjoyable for her as mine was for me.

On that note, though, yesterday I got to watch a live behind-the-scenes tour with Hobbit and LotR director Peter Jackson, which included a sneak peak of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. They were offering it online to everyone who bought the DVD as soon as it came out. And it. Was. Awesome!
As if I wasn't dying already, waiting for the second installment of The Hobbit, they had to spend almost an hour taunting viewers with questions and answers about both An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, snippets of production footage, guest appearances by actors from both LotR and The Hobbit, and a short finished scene from the next movie.
Those of you who watched it won't need to be told how I'm feeling right now. For those of you who didn't, let me just say that March and December have never, ever, seemed farther apart. If the theater would let me reserve my tickets now, I would. I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas - I cannot wait for The Hobbit Part II!!!
Just sayin'.

Well, I'm off now, to venture out into my own fantasy world (i.e. get some writing done). Here's hoping all of you are getting your week off to a great start!

March 22, 2013

Proclaiming the Original "New Feminism"

Mainstream Western culture has been spewing its feminist mantra of gender equality, abortion on demand, cessation of discrimination, and women's liberation from degrading practices such as marriage, motherhood, etc., for generations now. To anyone who's been observing the cultural trends - couples having children only to turn them over to be raised by daycare workers and schoolteachers, rampant teen and/or out-of-wedlock pregnancies, annual abortion rates sustained in the thousands, and the overwhelming pressure on girls to find fulfillment not in being wives and mothers but in being career women - it would appear that the FemiNazi movement (to borrow the words of Rush Limbaugh) has established a pretty solid foothold.
Lately, though, I've been seeing signs that maybe feminism's foothold isn't quite as solid as the feminists have hoped, that maybe their runaway campaign is losing some of its steam. It's got me hopeful that maybe we're not quite finished and down for the count yet. Maybe we still have the juice for another upswing in the cycle.
What's the giveaway?
It's called "New Feminism". Here's a very basic rundown of the idea:
Many professing feminists are beginning to discover that they actually gain a greater sense of emotional, spiritual, and physical fulfillment from being homemakers and even stay-at-home moms than they do from being professional, career women. Some are putting forward the idea that the physical differences between men and women are connected to a difference in the roles in society and family life that they are each best suited to fill.
Wikipedia's article on New Feminism has this to say:

In order for men and women to be truly free, New Feminists assert that they must act in accordance with the way they are psychologically and emotionally structured to be as sexed human persons. Philosophy and Religion, then, are essential components in the search for how men and women should and ought to act for "a higher truth or good", not just how they want or can act. New Feminists assert that people must remember God and purpose to recognize that life, in some way, is a gift and not a mere thing which a person can claim as his or her exclusive property.


New Feminists claim that other feminisms are preoccupied with "power", domination and positions of visible "authority" and claim that those are as masculine and faulty. Dismayed by what they see as the bitterness, hatred, or retribution of many feminists against men or other women for current or past injustices, they argue that men and women should cooperate with one another in interpersonal communion. This means giving of themselves in mutual service and love.

Now, there are some flaws in this secular interpretation of the ideology, naturally. But at its core, its structure is remarkably similar to the way the Bible outlines the separate and distinct roles of men and women.
Initially upon hearing things like the above article, I am sorely tempted to gasp and exclaim, wide-eyed, something dripping with snark and sarcasm such as "What?! No, it can't be! Who would ever have thought this?! Well, I mean, who other than the untold thousands of stay-at-home wives and moms out there who've been saying it for years, right? Other than those kooky fringe people, who would have thought it?"
Sarcasm aside, though, I think there's a different approach that Christians need to be taking to this.
In this particular case, there's really no getting around the "told-you-so" factor, whether we're being sarcastic about it or not. If we're going to engage people in conversation about this at all, we're going to have to, at the very least, acknowledge the fact that conservative Christians have been telling people to live this way all along.
But, rather than be snarky about it, I propose we use it to present and uphold the validity of scripture and God's outline for living. Because the fact is, the Bible has been saying this from the very beginning. It presents a blueprint for meaningful, cooperative, peaceful, and selfless living that sounds remarkably like this seemingly "new" discovery of a more fulfilling way of life.
Let me ask a question: How many of us have heard the argument that "the Bible may have been relevant for a certain time period, or a particular culture, but its ideas don't work in a modern society or with our culture"? Sadly, even many Christians have discounted parts of scripture because they don't believe that those parts are still "relevant".
But, to quote pastor and writer Scott Brown, "God's ways are trans-cultural. They transcend culture." What these "New Feminists" are actually discovering, whether they realize it or not, is that God's ways still work. They're still relevant, even today, even in modern "post-Christian" culture.
This is an incredible opportunity for Christians to present the gospel to people who may have been completely closed off to it before. If the Bible is right about the best way to find fulfillment and contentment in your life, even millenia after being written, might it not be worth listening to in other areas of life as well? Might we not consider giving it a bit more credence, rather than simply writing it off as outdated mythology?
If we can engage people in conversation about this topic, we will have an opportunity to open the scriptures to them, counting on God's promise that His word will not return void. As the culture shifts and we are able to once again discuss an idea like that of women staying at home without automatically being written off as fringe lunatics, those of us who are keeping head up and eyes open will, I believe, find abundant opportunities to give account of the hope that is in us.
Yes, it can be terribly infuriating, like a cliche scenario out of a sitcom - one character offers an idea to the other, who mocks it and declares that it will never work, but a moment later comes back and presents Character 1's idea as his own. Traditional Feminism couldn't offer what women were truly searching for, so when women found their desires answered somewhere else, Feminism had to sweep in and take the credit for it by changing their tune and touting it as a "new discovery". It's far easier than taking their medicine and admitting that they were wrong.
The secular world is still going to have the instinctive desire to reject God's word, because they are lost. The notion of their "new discovery" being borrowed from the Bible is going to be very offensive to them. That's just the way the cookie crumbles.
But that doesn't change the truth of it, or change what we have to do as Christians. We must take advantage of this opportunity to help people understand that every real truth comes from God. The Bible has the answers - and it's had them for a lot longer than the feminist movement has been around. What is considered a "revolutionary idea" in secular culture is old news to those who believe the Bible.
So, should you happen to come upon a discussion on the topic of New Feminism, I hope you'll graciously weigh in with a bit of Biblical truth on what is, essentially, the same subject... the only difference being that ours is the original version. ; )

March 20, 2013

Book Review: Winter

Author: Keven Newsome
Genre: Spiritual Warfare, Supernatural
Publisher: Darkwater (an imprint of Splashdown Books)
Pages: 322

My Thoughts: I'd been wanting to read this book for a long time, so I was very excited when I finally got a chance to make that happen. The unique premise of a new Christian (who's also goth) discovering that she has the gift of prophecy intrigued me. Actually reading the book kept me on the edge of my seat from cover to cover.
Winter is a new Believer whose faith is helping her put her life back together after a childhood that was more than a little rough. It's slow going, but she's making progress bit by bit.
Her progress gets a pretty major shaking-up, though, when she begins having premonitions, seeing things that haven't happened or knowing things she has no logical way of knowing. When her friend Kaci talks to her about spiritual gifts to Believers, Winter begins to suspect that hers is the gift of prophecy.
And when hideous, violent crimes and an anti-religious power grab rock the campus of the university, Winter's gift might be the only way to save the lives of her friends and bring the college back to its Christian foundation.

This book had me hooked from the first page. The author, Keven Newsome, is absolutely an artist with the written word. He has the ability to present an image or setting in complete, vivid detail in the reader's mind with just a single turn of phrase or a word or two (literally) of description. His ability at scene-crafting is incredible. There were multiple scenes throughout the book that just amazed me with their vividness and the way they came to life, making me feel like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book. If nothing else, writers, read this book to learn how to create scenes and settings like Keven Newsome does it!
As for the content itself, be forewarned that it is very, very dark throughout the book, which just sort of comes with the territory. Between the spiritual warfare and brutal crime (and by brutal I mean very brutal) that make up the plot, and the frequent flashbacks to Winter's early teenage years, following her path into the Goth sub-culture and her eventual experimentation with witchcraft prior to her conversion, darkness is a necessary element. What I loved about it was the way that Winter's own experience with the dark elements of the book was part of what enabled her to figure out what was going on and fight against it, and in several instances it was what kept her from being shocked and freaked out to the point of not being able to function. I thought that was a skillful use on the author's part of the fact that what we intend for harm, God uses for good.
One element that seriously bothered me about this book was when Winter was first realizing that she had the gift of prophecy, but was doubting her own suitability for the calling. During one of her doubt-filled, questioning prayers, she hears the voice of God saying "I, the Lord, believe in you." Which is totally not a Biblical concept in any way, shape, or form. God makes it abundantly clear over and over in His word that our ability is not ours, but His. He pulls no punches making sure we know that we don't have the ability in ourselves to do what He wants of us, that the ability all comes from Him. So that really got under my skin.
Another thing that puzzled and perplexed me was the lack of parental involvement in the plot. At one point a few of the main characters even show up at parents' house seeking medical help after one of them has been kidnapped and beaten, tell the parents what's going on in full, and ask their advice. The parents offer them advice, prayer, and encouragement to face the situation as God would have them to... and make no attempt whatsoever to get involved. Their children are facing sadistic Satanic maniacs, and they don't make an effort to get involved. Really, now? I understand that, as a writer, if your main character is a child you sometimes have to marginalize the parents to an extent, since a parent's job is to protect the child from the kind of things that usually go on in fictional stories. But this was just a little extreme for my tastes.
There was some lack or realism, too, in how quickly Winter seems to recover from the various injuries she receives over the course of the story. For instance, at one point she gets a few broken ribs; after looking her over a nurse sends her upstairs to take a shower before she wraps the ribs. Having had a little bit of experience with rib injuries, let me tell you that with broken ribs, you're not going to be interested in undertaking anything more ambitious than just breathing - and even that becomes a chore. No way are you going to walk upstairs and take a shower.
But, if I forced myself to ignore the "I, the Lord, believe in you" thing, and overlooked the other few things, like I said I really enjoyed this book. Dark, yes. Brutal at times, yes. I definitely wouldn't recommend it for anyone under 18. But a very unique story with a unique cast of characters, and stellar writing and scene-craft.
Let me know when the movie comes out - I'll have my ticket reserved!

March 8, 2013

Character Costume Challenge: 'Object' Edition

It's that time again, and I'm so excited to be getting to participate in Gillian Adams' Characters in Costume Challenge! I was so excited when she announced last month that she was making it a monthly event!
This month's specification was an object - something your character carries or values or always has with them. So I decided I would feature my character Alice Ewing's necklace.

Alice Ewing is a seventeen-year-old girl who lives in the United States during the Great Depression/Dustbowl era. After the deaths of both her parents, Alice finds herself homeless and is forced to join her drifter half-brother, Frederick, as he rides the rails in search of work.

Alice wears her necklace all the time, and everywhere she goes. It never comes off. It consists of a simple, plain chain, on which she carries a whole host of different trinkets and small useful items. Some of the items come and go as the need arises, but some of them are there all the time.
The key is to the house Alice and her parents lived in. After her parents died and Alice was evicted, she took the key with her - it's the last piece she has of the home she loved.
The ring belonged to her mother, but in the impoverished world Alice lives in, it's not safe to draw attention by wearing it on her hand, so she carries it on a necklace under her shirt, out of sight.
The pocket watch belonged to her father, and was given to him by his father.
The little wheel/gear thing is just one of those items that Alice has picked up along the way. While it could serve a useful purpose - as a spare button, for instance - collecting little items like that has sort of become a habit with Alice. She just picks things up and puts them on her necklace, just because.

"It's a hard life on the roads and the rails. And the world isn't kind."  ~ Frederick

"When the world forces you out of the home and the life you've always known, I guess you just have to carry whatever pieces you can with you. And then - maybe - the home that's still in your heart will come to live in those little pieces, so that sooner or later you're carrying your whole home in those little pieces. It's a nice thought, anyway."   ~from Alice's journal