Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What I Learn From Playing the Villain

Confession: Sometimes I get angry and frustrated about things beyond my control. I also have moments when I feel unjustifiable anger or jealousy towards another person. It happens. I'm human. But, I have a few coping mechanisms. Would you like to know what they are? It's kind of embarrassing....okay I'll tell you.

I have an "I don't care" playlist. This is the list of songs that I play when I actually care a LOT about what is happening in my life and I would like very much to not care. It is the list I play when I feel rebellious. When I'm tired of being reliable and I want to take a last minute personal day...or five. When I really want to give someone a piece of my mind but I can't do that because I'm an introvert and....yeah. When I've had to listen to someone I completely disagree with go on and on about their opinions as if they were facts set in stone.....

I need to calm down, I'm getting angry.

*deep breaths*

Okay. Anyway, this playlist mostly consists of villain songs. My husband says I turn scary when I start to play this list. All my pent up drama comes out and I become a little too animated when singing the villains part.

Here are a few of the songs on my list:

Mother Knows Best Reprise -- Tangled (great when you're feeling snarky)
Poor Unfortunate Souls -- Little Mermaid (she's such a great villain!)
Little Girls -- Annie 2014 (when I've had a particularly challenging day of teaching)
Defying Gravity -- Wicked (I'm going to soar above the drama)
In the Dark of the Night -- Anastasia (getting dark now, I want to hurt someone)
Be Prepared -- Lion King (Roar!)
Brand New Day -- Dr. Horrible's Singalong (I didn't even like this movie because of the ending. I'm REALLY ticked off when I play this song.)

Yes, most of these are Disney songs. Isn't that sad? My rebellion is listening to Disney songs. I really need to rethink my life.

Anyway, when I'm ticked off at the world I like to play these songs and sing along with them. I become the villain. Then I calm down, regain my dignity and become the rational human being most people know.

Why do I feel such release in singing the angry words of villains? Maybe because I can relate to each of these villains in my anger and frustration.

Mother Gothel -- she's afraid of losing control so she manipulates
Ursula -- she's ticked off because she's been humiliated and now she wants to humiliate back
Ms. Hannigan -- she feels stuck and she hates what she's become
Elphaba -- she's tired of playing games and she wants to be free
Rasputin -- his existence is meaningless and he's trying to justify it
Scar -- he's watching the life he feels he deserves being prepared for someone else
Dr. Horrible -- the one thing he wants is being claimed by someone who does not deserve it

I may disagree with the way these characters respond in their fear and anger, I may be able to recognize how their choices have led them to these moments, but it doesn't keep me from sympathizing with the underlying emotions.  Somehow, singing through these songs helps me to process whatever is irritating me at the moment. In a way, it is like verbalizing my complaint with the world.

These characters, on some level, all want to be recognized and important. Their motivations are unhealthy, but do we not all want the same thing? To be important to someone? To be seen and recognized for what we do well and what we contribute to our communities?

Some of these characters have legitimate frustrations with the world.  They're tired of less-than-deserving people winning in life while their hard work goes unnoticed. They're tired of dishonest people being lauded as heroes. Haven't we all felt like that at one time or another?

The difference between me and these villains is that in the end I know I have been heard.  God hears my little tantrums and doesn't love me any less when they're over. It may not change the circumstance, but it does help me to know that He sees me and understands my feelings even better than I do. He reminds me that I do have a purpose, and it is to serve Him. Even if I never get recognized for it, He knows, and that is all that matters.  It makes me want to talk to these characters and tell them that they don't have to be angry with the world.

These characters are fictional. I can't do that.

But I can be intentional about recognizing other people. I can find ways to sympathize with people who are angry and frustrated instead of judging them for the way they respond to those emotions. I can point the way to the God who sees them, hears them, and loves them.

Then maybe they will be less inclined to play the villain, too.

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,

    and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you." Proverbs 25:21-22

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."  Matthew 5:43-45

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review for Darkness Reigns by Jill Williamson

A few months ago I reviewed By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson. I fell in love with the world and the characters Williamson created in the Blood of Kings series. You can read my review for the first book, By Darkness Hid, here. This winter I am excited and blessed to help promote part one of her new series The Kinsman Chronicles. This series takes place thousands of years before Blood of Kings and is about Achan and Vrell's ancestors. The first book, King's Folly, will be released in three parts. Part one, Darkness Reigns, is available TODAY on Amazon and it's free! I received an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review:

My Review
If you have ever felt fed up with your own culture and powerless to help people who were suffering, then you will be able to relate to Wilek and Trevn, princes of the House of Hadar.
The kingdom of Armania experiences disaster after disaster. Earthquakes and sinkholes destroy entire villages. Sar Wilek’s father, King Echad, believes the gods are angry and require human sacrifices. But the offerings do not seem to appease the deities. Wilek hopes to be named Heir to the throne soon so he can protect his people from the evil that is tearing his country apart, including the ruthless executions. To appease his father, and to keep him from sacrificing more innocent victims, he plays the political games, but it is becoming more and more difficult to be diplomatic and follow his own conscience.
Trevn, the youngest son of King Echad, is an explorer and a scholar by nature and hates the political games of court. Like his brother, he cares nothing for the gods or his father’s superstitions. He seeks to distance himself from his father and brother Janek’s corrupt lifestyle, calling himself a renegade and freely speaking his opinions to whoever will listen. He spends his time charting the changing landscape of the kingdom and wondering what lies beyond the sea.
When a messenger comes to court claiming that the kingdom of Farway has completely disappeared to the underworld, the king demands more sacrifices and sends Wilek to investigate. The disaster he finds is worse than he imagined. How will he be able to protect his people from his father and the cataclysmic destruction of the five realms?
I loved this first installment of King’s Folly. The story is written from several perspectives, but the majority of the time we read through Wilek or Prince Trevn’s point of view. I felt for Wilek as he felt powerless to protect his people from his own father. I related to him on the "oldest child" level, understanding what it was like Trevn’s energetic defiance of the courtly lifestyle reminded me of my own teenage years and my dissatisfaction with what was considered “normal'. I think a lot of teens will relate to him. I look forward to seeing how his character will grow throughout the rest of the story! 
This story has multiple narrators which makes for captivating reading. It was frustrating at times, only because I never wanted to leave one character's viewpoint. This also served to keep me engaged in the story so I could find out what happened to the character. So I kept reading, and it wouldn't be long until I was sucked into the next character's storyline. There was never a dull moment. It takes extreme talent to tell a story from so many different perspectives and not lose your readers.
Though Darkness Reigns is short, the reader has plenty of time to become fully invested in the characters. Warning: This is only part one of a larger book, meant to establish the setting and introduce the characters, which it does beautifully, but it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger. Still, though nothing is resolved in the end, there is a definite shift in the story that left me excited to read Heir War which will come out in February. You will not want to miss this new series!

The author will be hosting a release party on her Facebook page today at 6 pm PST (8:00 CST for those of you on my side of the country). You can also check out Jill Williamson's blog in which she writes countdown posts which give more information about the characters and the world of the Kinsman Chronicles. You can read each of her individual posts by clicking on the links below. Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stories, Thankfulness, Independent Authors, and Book Sale!


 This year I have discovered a lot of great books and new authors. I feel like I have made new friends. Only an introvert would say something like that, I know. But this year I have not only found new authors and books to love, I have rediscovered a love for great stories that speak spiritual truths.  Stories that snatch you out of your own world and give you a "Narnia" experience and allow you to participate in the story with the characters. Along the way, you meet flawed characters and get to walk with them as they meet various challenges and come out victorious. You change as they change. You experience their pain, their sorrow, their joy. You learn the life lessons they learn through their trials. You think about your relationship with God and other people as they think about theirs. I have an appreciation for authors who are able to do that without interrupting the story. My love of these stories has influenced me in ways I am very thankful for. By reminding me there is hope, by reminding me of the power of a good story, and by pointing the way to Jesus. So, in the spirit of "thankfulness" I wanted to recognize some of those authors and their stories. Here are five books I read in 2015 and am thankful for.
  1. The Blood of Kings Trilogy by Jill Williamson (I know it's cheating to put a trilogy, but really they're one long story!). I LOVE these books. The characters, the world, and the story are amazing. It is the story of Achan, a slave who wants to escape his situation and save his sweetheart from an arranged marriage. When he is given the opportunity to train with a knight he finds out that Arman (their version of God) may have other plans for him. Books one and two are available to listen to for free on her websites. 
  2. Dare by Tricia Mingerink. An assassin who works for the king is wounded on a mission and finds himself at the mercy of two girls whose family he helped murder four years ago. As they nurse him back to health he struggles with what to do once he returns to the King. Captivating storytelling, wonderful characters and character development.
  3. Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin. Oh. My. Word. The only reason I have not written a full review for this book yet is because words literally fail me. This is the story of what happens AFTER Sleeping Beauty wakes up. The only problem is, she's been dreaming for a hundred years and doesn't believe she is actually awake. Prince Arpien has his work cut out for him trying to convince her that she is in the waking world. Throw in tension between their two kingdoms, a dangerous fairy, hilarious dialogue, and you have an epic fantasy that will leave you with a major book hangover when you're done.
  4. To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander. This was a sweet story about a southern man who fought for the North in the Civil War and a southern widow who struggles to find her place in life after her abusive husband is killed. It is inspired by the true story of Belle Meade Mansion, and some of the supporting characters are based on actual people.  The character development was very well-timed and the storytelling was beautiful.
  5. Healer's Curse by Kathrese McKee. This is a novella in the Mardan's Mark series and it follows the story of Lady Elilan, who is gifted as a healer but was unable to save her husband and her mother-in-law when they contracted an illness. Her confidence shaken, she refuses to use her gift anymore, relying solely on natural methods. When a captain is injured and put under her care, he challenges her beliefs about her gift. This was a beautiful story that tugged on my heartstrings. If you've ever felt like a failure for your inability to carry out a responsibility you were charged with, you will relate to Elilan. I loved watching her grow throughout the story. It was a short but satisfying read.
Two of these books were written and published independently (Healer's Curse and Dare) by first-time authors.  I'm a little in awe of these women, not only for writing great first-time books, but for their independence in publishing without the help of a publishing company. Their lack of a publisher by no means hurts the quality of their product. These authors really care about their craft and have put in the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to write, rewrite, edit, market, and produce a quality story to the masses all without the help of a "professional" publisher. 

What awesome reads of 2015 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2016?

If you are looking for great books to read over the holiday season, or gifts for the book lover in your life, you might consider the following Christian Book Sale by independent authors. Tricia Mingerink's book Dare is included in this sale! (The rest of this post is a pre-written advertisement).

In honor of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a group of independent Christian authors have banded together to offer over seventy discounted books on Nov 27-30. There's something for everyone. Every book listed on Indie Christian Books is on sale in one or more ways. Find discounted paperbacks, dozens of books offered with free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals and more. Even if you have a budget of $0, new reading material awaits you. Don't know what to pick? The fearless Indie Christian Books team created a quiz that will generate a book list perfect for you! Check it out!

  Book Quiz 

A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as "Sold Out." This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time-consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review for Deny by Tricia Mingerink

Yesterday, I interviewed Tricia Mingerink about the writing of her second book in the Blades of Acktar series, Deny. Today, I am including my own review of this wonderful book. Read through to the end for a surprise!  

What happens when the lies we tell to protect others catch up with us? How do we reclaim our past moments of bravery and conquer the fear which keeps us silent and frozen in the present? These are questions that Leith and Renna must face in this next installment of The Blades of Acktar. 

  Leith has returned to King Respen and The Blades to continue his work as a spy for the Resistance and keep his friends safe. The lies and half-truths he has told to keep them safe are becoming more difficult to balance by the day. His new identity in Christ and the role he has to play as First Blade are at odds. He doesn’t know how much longer he can keep this up. Everyone depends on him and he cannot, will not, let them down but what, or who, will he have to sacrifice in the end because of his lies? Meanwhile, Renna continues to struggle with her own fear. She wants to be free from the fear that dominates her life, but she stays silent while other people make decisions for her, too afraid to speak out. Why can't she be brave and sacrifice everything like Leith? Why can't she speak openly about her faith like Brandi? Does she even have faith anymore? When everyone who makes her feel safe is taken away, will she find comfort in knowing that God is in control?

True Courage LeithLike its predecessor Dare, Deny had me gripping my Kindle and reading furiously till eleven o’clock at night. Every time I thought I would take a break from reading, I would pick it right back up again. I’m pretty sure my husband caught me talking out loud to the book on several occasions when I would cry out at something that had happened. The storytelling was so beautiful. I loved the tender moments between Leith and Renna as they both tried to get over their nervousness and talk to each other. I wanted to hug them as they each dealt with their inner struggles. I understood Renna’s uncertainty and frustration of knowing what she should do, being unable to make herself do it, and then hating herself afterward. I felt for her every time she tried to be brave and fell back into her safe habits instead.  My favorite scene is near the end where she finally finds her courage and peace again. It was such a beautiful and tender moment, even more so because of how much we see her struggle with her faith throughout the story.

I have also experienced the same burden that Leith puts on himself when he tries to save everyone instead of putting them in God’s hands.  I loved the theme of denial that runs through the story and the way it shows how things become more difficult for us when we deny God’s power.
If you loved Dare, then you will love Deny. It picks up right where the first one left off and it wastes no time drawing you back into the world of Acktar.  You get to see characters from the first book grow, you will be introduced to new characters you will love, and you get to read an incredible story! I loved Deny just as much as I loved Dare and I eagerly await the third book!

Deny is available for purchase on November 30th, but if you can't wait till then, enjoy this two chapter sneak peek! Also, don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for the chance to win a signed copy of both Dare AND Deny! The winner will be announced at the Launch Party on December 4th (see link at the bottom of the page). Between now and then, please visit the other blogs on the blog tour to learn more about Tricia and her books.

Full Landscape Leith Torren

Blog Tour Schedule
November 16
November 17
November 18
November 19
November 20
November 21
November 23
November 24
November 25
November 27
November 30
  • Release Day!
December 1
December 2
December 3
December 4

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My First Author Interview -- Tricia Mingerink, Author of Deny!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to welcome to my blog Tricia Mingerink. She is the author of the book Dare which is a young adult adventure novel released in June of this year, and the sequel Deny which will be released on the 30th of this month! I found out about Dare when Kathrese McKee (author of the Mardan's Mark series) interviewed Tricia on her blog.  I was intrigued by the idea of her setting, which is a medieval-type time period in an American West-type landscape. I got the book on Kindle and read it in less than two days. Tricia is definitely one of those authors who snatches you into her story as soon as you open the book! My review for Dare can be read here. I will post my review for Deny tomorrow, but today I am thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Tricia about the writing of Deny. 

About the Author
DSC09457-2Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country. You can connect with her on FacebookPinterest
GoodreadsTwitterInstagram, and her blog

About the book:
Deny_cover_resizeAll lies have consequences.

Promoted to the top rank among King Respen’s assassins, First Blade Leith Torren hides his involvement with the Resistance. How many lies will it take to protect his secret?
Renna Faythe has done nothing but survive for the past four years, but now Leith’s courage inspires her to try to be something more. If only she could figure out what that duty might be.
When the unthinkable happens, faith waivers. Friendships tear. What else will they be forced to deny?
But this time, Leith faces his greatest fear.
He can’t save everyone.

Welcome, Tricia! For those who may not know, what gave you the idea for the series? 

Tricia: It was really a combination of things. I had recently graduated from a public college where I’d have several instances where I should’ve stood up for my faith and I didn’t. I also had just finished researching my great-grandparents’ experiences during WWII in the Netherlands. WWII tore the Netherlands apart. Some Christians joined the Dutch Resistance. Some Christians didn’t believe they should rebel against the government and did nothing. Others went so far as to help the Nazis and turn in their fellow Christians for Resistance activity. Those two things inspired The Blades of Acktar

Which comes easier to you, writing plot or writing characters?

Tricia: Plot. By far. My sister-in-law spends hours walking with me while I complain about how hard characters are to write. I go through drafts and drafts trying to get the characters right. In Dare, Renna had a habit of disappearing in a scene, even the ones from her POV. In Deny, she was flat through most of the book. As my editor said, Renna has a shell, but she shouldn’t have a shell from the reader. The problem was, she had a shell from the writer too! 

Speaking of characters, how did you decide what needed to happen with the characters in Deny? Did you have specific plans for them as far as what how you wanted them to develop and what needed to happen to make that development occur? 

Tricia: I tend to get ideas in big chunks. When I got the idea for The Blades of Acktar, I knew most of the first book and the third book all at once. To figure out what had to happen in Deny, I had to decide what would get the characters from Dare to Book 3. And that was the events of Deny. 

What was the most difficult thing about writing a sequel?

Tricia: The expectations. When I released Dare, only  a few people had any expectation of what the book would be like. Now I have readers depending on me to deliver the same great story with Deny as I did with Dare. Preferably get even better. And that pressure was almost crippling at first because, as far as first drafts go, Deny was much weaker than Dare. It took rather drastic re-writing to get the book to what it is now. 

What was the thing that most surprised you about the story or characters in this book?

Tricia: Jamie is probably the character that surprised me most. In the first draft, Jamie didn’t have much of a role. I actually considered cutting him entirely, until I wrote the draft of Book 3 and realized that he was a really important character. I’m really glad I didn’t! The response of my early readers to Jamie has really surprised me. 

Teaser question: Is there a scene you are particularly proud of? Can you answer that without giving too much away? ;-)

Tricia: The climax scene. I can’t really say too much about it, but it’s one of the few scenes that didn’t change much during revisions. 

If there is one message you really hope to convey to your readers through this book, what is it?

Tricia: God is in control even in our darkest moments. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to us and it’s easy to doubt during those times. Doubt is natural. Weakness is natural. If we didn’t have that doubt and weakness, we wouldn’t be able to see the strength found in God. 

Thank you so much for visiting my blog, Tricia!

Deny comes out November 30th! Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win signed copies of Dare and Deny! Make sure to follow the blog tour leading up to the Facebook Launch Party on December 4th as well. Just click on the names of the bloggers and you will be taken directly to their pages.

Blog Tour Schedule
November 16
November 17
November 18
November 19
November 20
November 21
November 23
November 24
November 25
November 27
November 30
  • Release Day!
December 1
December 2
December 3
December 4