Friday, December 19, 2014

An Obsession with Epic

   People don't like to be bored. They just don't. And with the invention of the laptops, iPhones, films, and (of course) the internet, people never have to be.
   At first, people were fine with small movies. Things didn't have to be great and grand, as long as they told a good story. Then movies like Star Wars came along. Everyone realized just how big, how grand films could become. Filmmakers could show entire planets explode and a whole new universe of possibilities entered into their minds. Problem was that people didn't just take this new realm and tell good stories. That's too risky. Instead, it was easier to copy things people already liked. Thus, we ended up with Star Wars ripoffs; a few good, original ideas; and book adaptations. That's how we got the Lord of the Rings movies.
   The first trilogy of movies was good. It took the story of the books and transferred its themes to the screen. There were minor changes, which some hate and some like, but overall the films were well received. Then came the Hobbit trilogy. The problem with the Hobbit (the book) is that it was written before the Lord of the Rings. It's not so much a prequel as a fairy-tale, with little of the darkness and grand scope of the follow books. However, since the Lord of the Rings movies are already out, people expect a similar production from the Hobbit.
   Thus the filmmakers are left with a tough decision. Do they make the Hobbit like the book: a lighter, smaller, more 'fun' story? Or do they make what everyone is expecting: a huge, epic tale of armies and rings and sorcery? The filmmakers chose to do what they thought they could pull off: a Lord of the Rings prequel, rather than a direct Hobbit-to-screen transfer.
   With that preamble, how does that tie me into the movie I am actually reviewing? Well, I feel that the problem with the movie was exactly that: it was too epic. There were too many orcs, too many elves, too many narrow escapes and explosions. Some I liked, but when I backed up and looked around, I was stuck wondering: why aren't they all dead? If this were real life they'd all be dead.
   Of course, I thought the same thing about the Lord of the Rings movies. I wondered how everyone survived even though thousands of others didn't, given that most of the main characters put themselves in the most dangerous parts of battle. Still, when you look at the scale of the attacks (at Helm's Deep, Saruman sent 10,000 orcs), and see Gimli and Legolas fighting over which slew 42 orcs, the odds don't seem so impossible. But when you see the hundreds of orcs each character would have had to slay in the Hobbit movies, it all feels a little too fantastical.
   That's what I didn't like. What did I like? I felt that the portrayal of the dragon-sickness was very good. The acting was pretty good overall, but I felt Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage were especially good. Ken Stott as Balin I also enjoyed, especially in scenes between him and Bilbo. Actually, the film had some good things to say about greed, loyalty, courage, even loving your enemies (as strange as that seems in a movie where lots of people kill each other).
   So, overall, what did I think of the movie? I thought it was okay, but stuck too much to amazing cinematography and fight scenes, while forgetting about telling a good story. A rating out of 10? I would say somewhere around 6.

   What about you? Did you watch The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies? Did you like it, hate it? What about this blog post: do you agree that American movies may have an obsession with epic? Feel free to comment below!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Hanging Tree of Panem

   Recently, I went to watch Mockingjay Part 1. It was quite a strange experience, actually, because I watched it Saturday afternoon and then preached a sermon the next morning (which can be found here if you're interested).
   The movie was quite good. It was a well portrayed example of what war is. It tells of how an oppressed people can change a corrupted government. It shows how people can band together to get justice even against near impossible odds.
   That's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the song. You know the song, the one Katniss sings which is then scored over one of the propos. The song which has been cycling through my head for the last week. My theory is that this song reflects the point of Mockingjay, Part 1 and part 2. 
(Beware, possible spoilers ahead!)

   The song Katniss sings (The Hanging Tree) is a disturbing song. (Lyrics can be found here.) The first verse talks of a man who was hanged for the supposed murder of three. Then it says that strange things happened at this place, but those strange things are no stranger than what would happen if the listener were to come to meet the singer in the tree. Who is the singer? Perhaps later verses will tell.
   The second verse repeats the question of the first, asking if the listener will come to the hanging tree. This verse is different, it tells that while the 'murderer' was being hanged, he called out for his lover to flee. The third verse reveals something startling: the dead man is the singer. The listener, in the story of the song, is the love of the dead man. The fourth verse wraps it all up. The dead man, in calling his lover to flee to the tree, tells her to hang herself. That is the only way that she can be free.
   How does this reflect the theme of Mockingjay? This song presents a terrible situation. There's a man being hanged for murder, whether or not he did it (the song doesn't say), and he calls out for his lover to run. However, he's not calling for her to just flee, he wants her to avoid the 'government' the only way she can: death.
   Katniss, too, is in a terrible situation. She is a part of the Rebellion, but knows that they don't have much of a chance. She knows that statistically she should be dead already. But when she goes out and sees the destruction that Snow has created, she understands that inaction is not an option. Mere evacuation is not an option. Instead, she flees to the hanging tree. She goes into the very heart of battle and calls everyone else to join her likewise. The noose is around her neck and she is calling for everyone else to line up beside her.
   The funny thing is that the Capitol speaks the exact same message. It calls for its children to strike against the rebellion, and the Rebels call to strike against the Capitol. In this violence and bloodshed, what happens? Both the dead man and the lover will be hanged. They'll find freedom, but only in death. Finnick Odair actually states this outright in the film when he says, "I wish we had all died and no one was in this situation. I wish we were all dead."
   The funny thing is, while the Capitol is calling for their followers to fight and Katniss calls for the oppressed to strike back, Peeta is the lone voice of sanity. He calls for the laying down of arms. The Capitol thinks this is a way to get the rebels to calm down. Peeta knows better. He knows that resistance does not have to be violent to make things change. He seems to know that if one violent government is overthrown another will take its place. Instead, Peeta calls for a different way. He calls for a way of resistance which doesn't end in the elimination of the human race (violence), but ends in reconciliation.

   What did you think of Mockingjay Part 1? Did you enjoy it? Hate it? Comment below!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Football and Writer's Block

   I have found myself in a bout with Writer's Block. I just cannot find the motivation or the ideas to write anything. Instead, I've found myself far too easily distracted by football (American), or television, or podcasts. However, that got me thinking and I came up with an idea I've never seen done before (but it probably has been): Football and Writer's Block.
   See, in football there is something called the line of scrimmage. That is the line where the football starts at every play. At the line of scrimmage there are two lines: the defensive line and the offensive line. The offensive linemen are trying to stop the defensive linemen from tackling the person holding the ball. Thus, in this analogy the line of scrimmage (and the various blockers located there) will form the place of Writer's Block in this analogy. This might be a little confusing for nonfootball fans, so I'll attempt to explain and keep it simple.
   See, sometimes when serving as the offense or defense the blockers just seem to get in the way. No matter how hard I try I just can't seem to get fend them off or get around them (depending which side I'm on). This is exactly how it is sometimes with Writer's block. That's why I've come up with 5 ways to beat it.
   1. Push
   The first way is pretty simple. It is merely to keep pushing. This may or may not get you through. Sometimes, it just takes hard work and perseverance to defeat writer's block. Unfortunately, that doesn't always work. That's when it's time to try a different tactic.
   2. Juke
   In football there is a move known as a juke. This means to dart quickly to one side, so as to throw the blocker (or anyone, really) off the trail. For a writer, sometimes this means to look at the story from a different angle. Try throwing in a twist or change perspectives in an attempt to get the story flowing.
   3. Look for the Hole
   When the offense wants to run the ball instead of throw it, the offensive lineman attempt to form holes in the defensive line in order to allow the runner through. However, the runner must still see the holes in order to run through them. This is a useful tactic as writers: look for the place where the story would naturally flow. If the tactic if throwing a twist in or a change of pace doesn't work, then try to look for where the story would naturally go. What is the motivation of the main character? What action would he/she take with that motivation? Thinking of the story with those aspects in mind might be helpful in defeating writer's block.
    4. Look Ahead
   In a passing play, the offensive line will form as blockers, leaving the person throwing with plenty of time to look for the receivers. If done correctly, the passer should be able to keep his eyes on the receivers down-field and not look at the defensive lineman at all. As authors, the idea of looking ahead can sometimes be helpful. In your story, what is the place where you think it will resolve itself? Keep your eyes on that goal, then make sure to set up and keep pushing toward it. Fun stuff can be thrown in along the way, but that resolution should always be the ultimate goal. Keep your eye on the end and it might be helpful in giving you ideas in how to get there.
   5. Punt
   In football, punting is when the offense cannot continue driving forward. The remedy for that is to kick the ball down-field, giving the opposing offense a longer distance to cover before they can score points. For authors this can be one of two things. It can be taking a break from writing in order to clear your head. This can be helpful, as long as the break doesn't become a form of avoiding the writing. The second way punting can be used by authors is to get rid of the story entirely. Some stories just aren't meant to be written. As sad as that is, sometimes writers just need to get rid of the story and start something new. This should only be done as a last resort and not literally destroyed. Sometimes working on something new can take your mind off the strain and you'll actually come up with ideas for the blocked story again! Therefore, not deleting things is a good idea (I know this from experience).

There you go! That's my football and writer's block analogy. What did you think?
Do you have any ideas for defeating writer's block? (Or any favorite football teams)? Comment below and tell me what you think!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Free Books!

   Welcome Ladies and Gentleman to the blog of Jesse Rice. I'm Jesse Rice, author of the Kitten Mysteries series, of which two books are out so far! (I'm doing this introduction since it's been so long since I've blogged.)
   Anyway, some of you might remember last year when I decided to have a rather hobbit-like birthday. I called it that because hobbits give away presents on their birthday rather than accept them. I'm doing the same, but with books! That's right, both of my books are free on Kindle from Saturday October 11th until Monday October 13. That means The Missing Kitten and Trapped are free for three days!
   I hope you get a copy and enjoy.
   If you do get a copy, can I ask just one thing of you? Leaving a review for a book you read is important. It helps other people see the book and gives people a feel for whether they will like the book or not. If you do get a free copy, please leave a review on either Amazon (The Missing Kitten, Trapped) or on Goodreads (The Missing Kitten, Trapped). Please? It's my birthday, after all.

   Anyway, whatever you do, thank you for coming to my blog and thanks for reading! (And feel free to share!)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Black and White

   Once again, Rambo and I met on the porch to talk about some random topic which I've been mulling over recently.
   "Okay," I said. "Last time we met we talked about the lack of black-and-white characters in fiction altogether. We basically came to the conclusion that it's not bad to leave the solution up to the readers."
   "We did?" Rambo asked, looking up from licked his hind leg.
   "Yes," I replied. "Don't you remember? Anyway, even though we just talked about it, I'd like to take a slightly different angle: black-and-white characters in children's fiction."
   "Seriously? We're going to talk about this again? Haven't your last four blog posts been on this topic?"
   "Right," said Rambo, obviously not believing me. His tone took that of someone reading a teleprompter: flat and bored. "How does this topic relate to children's fiction?"
   "I'm glad you asked! You see, I've been listening to several fairy-tales and various other children's stories and have noticed that things are more or less clean cut in children's fiction. There's always a good character, an evil character, and the character which has a redemption story. Take, for instance, The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. In that, the Blue Fairy is always good. She is clearly a positive role-model. The fox and the cat are evil role models, villains. Pinocchio is the guy stuck in between. He wants to do what is right, but he doesn't always do it. Gepetto, interestingly, is the same way. He starts out as a grumpy old man but, after he has a son to take care of, he turns into a good father."
   Rambo looked up at my pause. "What's your point?"
   "My point, I guess, is this: fairy-tales get at the heart of humanity. They show that in this world there us pure evil, but there is also pure good. In between the two is humanity, struggling to choose the right side."
   "That's fine, but what to fairy-tales tell us about cats?"
   "Um... they're hungry a lot?"
   Rambo thought about that for a moment. "Fair enough."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Idealogies in Storytelling

   I recently finished The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. It's an interesting story, and a depressing tragedy. In terms of the emotions transmitted by a story, I much preferred Les Miserables. 
   The idea of comedy versus tragedy has been playing through my mind recently. I don't think it is as simple as a happy ending versus a sad ending. I think it is more complicated than that. Essentially, it seems to me that tragedies present an issue and allow the reader to deem it good or ill. Comedies tend to be a bit more heavy-handed, taking the issue and offering a solution.
   Take, for example, Les Miserables. It presents the issue (among many) of poverty. It offers a solution to that issue by showing Jean Valjean being generous. This is set up as the ideal response to the witness of poverty. Miserables gives a solution to the problem.
   Hunchback, however, takes a different road when it presents issues. It presents the view of racism toward the Romani people. It does not really present a solution to this problem. It shows the consequences of racism (death, lots and lots of it), but never really shows a solution.
   That is really the point of tragedy: to show the consequences of evil, even if it must be a bit absurd making sure everyone dies at the end. Comedy, on the other hand, explores how people can more properly live. It is interested in showing a happy ending, so it must offer a solution (however feeble) to the problem at hand.
   Are there some stories which should be tragedies? Absolutely. It depends on the type of story. If the story seeks to show the consequences of sin, then writing a tragedy would be a good means. If the story seeks to explore the theme of grace, then writing a redemption story might be in store. The type of story is important in how you tell it. The themes of the story can be best carried in a certain genre, as well as a certain story type. Also, certain characters are better suited to certain types of stories. What characters are suited to such types? Why don't you tell me! Comment below and tell me of any types of characters (or specific characters) which you feel might fit better in a tragedy than a comedy and vice versa.

Friday, August 22, 2014

5 Tips as You Head Back to School

   Chances are, if you are a student, you are starting school next week. If not, then you probably already have started or you will be starting soon. Therefore, as your eyes are already gazing ahead to that daunting time (or desperately trying to enjoy the last moments of summer) here are 5 things for you to think about:

1. Learn
   The basis of school is learning. If you are not learning, then you are missing the point. The entire purpose of school is to educate you. Therefore, with this knowledge, head into school seeking for learning opportunities (you are going to find them). As for me, it took me my entire run of school until I realized that the important part of school was not the grade I got or the popularity status I achieved. Rather, it was how much I could learn.

2. Grades Aren't Everything
   Here's another important thing: Grades aren't everything. You aren't going to die if you get a C in English class. Of course, that's not an excuse for you to slack off and say, "I can still pass even if I only look at the book twice, so who needs to study!" That's not the right mindset. Look as school as an opportunity to learn (as stated above), but remember that grades are not the basis of your humanity. You are important as a human being, even if you fail maths class.

3. Everyone Else is Important too
   Now that you know that you are important regardless of grades, remember that other people too. If a person is completely awful at English and you are amazing, that person is still a beautiful human being. If someone in Maths class is acing every test, remember she is an important human being. Don't ridicule someone for being good or bad at school. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Love your neighbor as yourself. This is a valuable lesson for those outside of school as well as inside.

4. Use Your Time Wisely
   This may be shocking, but sometimes school isn't the funnest thing to do. Sometimes I just want to watch movies on Netflix rather than writing my English essay or reading my History textbook. However, this is important to remember: school does not affect only you. Teachers are spending time trying to teach you, parents are paying taxes for you to go to school, and you are spending hours every day having knowledge thrown into your lap. Is it respectful to just let that knowledge fall to the floor? Sure, the system may not be perfectly suited to your learning skills, but how much of it is your brain and how much of it is your attitude? At the very least, this is knowledge that people spent centuries accumulating, at least be respectful enough to try and learn it. This is hard for me, because frankly school can sometimes be plain boring. However, I must remind myself continually that I have a choice: I am not forced to watch movies or play video games. I have the ability to say no to my unhealthy desires and buckle down to do the homework. This is an especially useful skill as a college student, since I am paying far too much money to just watch movies all day.

5. Enjoy the Moment
   Last year I was a senior in High School and I had a taste of this strange disease called 'senioritis'. Apparently, it is the feeling that all I need to do is wait until I am out of school, and then I can do important things with my life. Once I am free of High School, I can actually get around to changing the world. Of course, this is partly true and partly false. It is true because the majority of people do change the world once they are out of school (since one spends more time in school than out of school). Also, the school years are the time I spend discovering who I am and what I want to do with my life. However, assuming that the only time I can change the world is once I am out of school is foolishness. I can do great things when I am young, but more importantly I can do small things. I can love my neighbor, I can encourage my friends, I can bless my enemies, all this I can do in High School (or Jr. High or middle school or college). The point is to make the most of the time you are in, rather than always looking ahead to the future before action is taken. So make the most of the time you have been given.

   What do you think of these tips? Any others you can come up with? Comment below and tell me!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ideas in Stories

   Whenever I fail to think of ideas for blog posts, I grab Rambo and have us sit down to have a transcribed conversation.
   "Hello, Rambo," I said.
   "What's up?" he asked.
   "Not much. What's up with you?"
   "Not much. Just eating and pooping like normal."
   "Rambo! That's not appropriate."
   "What? Everybody eats and poops."
   "Not true, actually. Many people go hungry, and hunger is not a game."
   Rambo shook his head. "That pun is dumb."
   "Yes, but it brings me to my point: how can stories portray ideas? See, The Hunger Games has been criticized for its lack of morality in the story. Some of the characters do evil things and those evil things aren't always shown as evil. Another story I found recently (which you can find here) is a story about a robot which does bad things, and is the protagonist of the story."
   "What's your point?"
   "I guess my point is this: can a good story portray good accurately without a 'good' hero?"
   "Well, how should I know? In all the stories you write I'm a perfectly good hero."
   I paused. "Well, we'll see how you act in further stories before you go bragging about that."
   "Well, what's your point?"
   "I don't know. I just wonder if you can present an idea or propose a question, and never really provide an answer."
   "That sounds like a good question," said Rambo. "Think we should answer it?"
   Rambo sighed. "Your wit is as unwelcome as your puns."

Monday, August 4, 2014


   Recently, two of my friends have blogged about other people. Specifically, they have blogged about how to help others and encourage them. (Those posts can be found here and here). It made me think. Stories aren't generally about one person. Few stories can be carried well with only one person. A good blog is not perfected by one person staring at a screen and typing. It is perfected through readers and through those who comment with feedback.
   In the same way, people need others. People need relationships. Ideals are not the main focus, relationships are. In my writing life, and personal life, this is especially true. I need others to help me perfect my writing, and my attitude. And others need me to help them be better people. In Genesis, the only thing that God said was not good was that humans were alone. Even though Adam walked with God, God said that wasn't enough. A story which will help people is not enough. The story will eventually fade. The best way to help people, and be helped by people, is to have relationships.
   Unfortunately, relationships are hard. They are messy. They hurt. And that's part of life. Life sucks. But life is also joyful. Life hurts, but it also soothes. Life bites, and life kisses. Which side do we, do I, focus on?
   So what got me thinking about this? (Other than the blog posts my friends wrote). Mostly it was me perusing my Goodreads profile and seeing how few reviews I have made. Now, that might not seem a big thing, but this is part of relationship. Reviews give the author feedback on how to better their book. Reviews give an opportunity for others to talk about the book. Reviews give others the opportunity to read this book (or avoid the book). And, sure, my review my be silly or lame, but practice makes perfect, right?
   I don't know. I guess these are just thoughts as I progress on a journey to think more outside of myself.

What do you think? Do you avoid relationships, or do you throw yourself in whole-heartedly? Do you think book reviews are a chance to foster relationships, or do you keep what you read to yourself? Comment below and tell me how wrong I am (or just what you think in general). 

Friday, July 25, 2014


   Last week was fun, and Rambo did a good job. But enough frivolity, it's time to get back into thinking mode. What am I going to blog about today?
   That's not to say that telling you what my topic is is spoiling. Rather, today's topic is spoilers.
   Personally, I don't have much spoiler-phobia. Spoilers aren't really all that scary for me. I have no problem looking up the ending to a TV series on the internet before I've finished it. Spoilers just don't bother me that much. Maybe that's because I'm impatient, or maybe it's just that I want to know if the story is worth my time before I invest in it for 7 seasons (or whatever the case may be). I listened to a podcast recently that talked about how a story should hold up on its own with or without the ending being known. I thought that was an interesting concept and thought it was quite good.
   There's just one problem with that: my mentality.
   See, if I know about a big twist that is coming, I tend to look forward to that and ignore the presence of the story in front of me. I've always been a bit of an idealist, looking for how things should or could be, and missing the thing that lies directly in front of me. It's the same way when a character is killed off. If I know a character is going to die, consciously or unconsciously, I will disconnect from that character and end up having the death not impact me (or impact me less).
   So, even though I haven't been much of a spoiler-phobe up until now, I've been trying to become more of one. Though, I guess that is just one of two options. I can either avoid the spoilers and allow the twist to impact me (or death, or what have you) or I can throw myself into the story regardless of whether I know how it will end or not.
   Still, the podcast was right: a big twist at the end should not be an excuse to allow weakness with the style of the storytelling. The twist just allows the author to make a bigger impact in the mind of the reader.

What are your thoughts on spoilers? Are you against spoilers, or are you able to enjoy a story regardless of whether you know the ending? Comment below with your thoughts!

Friday, July 11, 2014

One Year

   That's right, I've been blogging now for about a year! (I started June 24, 2013). Thus, without further ado, I'm going to bring out our host: Rambo the Magnificent!

   Hello Ladies and Gentleman. How are you all? I hope you have had a good day. Or a good night. Either way, I'm not picky. As long as you're here, I'm going to talk your ear off.
   They say it's best to start off with some preamble. So now I'd like to invite my friend Pre to come up here and amble.
   That's more of a visual joke.
   Anyway! When Jesse told me to come up here and walk you through the One Year Birthday, I was excited. I mean, it's basically me saying random stuff and getting paid for it! (What, you don't get paid for blogging?) But enough of all that, let's get on to the good stuff!
   Top 3 posts of the year!
   3. Reasons to Watch Popular Films. Posted May 9, 2014.
      This one makes the most sense to me. Jesse wrote about popular films in response to a challenge posed by a podcast. I think the podcast mentioned it, which is probably why a lot of people saw this. I read over it and thought the logic was a bit faulty. I think I'll stick to watching the sunset, thank you very much. That's not very popular these days.
   2. News. Posted July 8, 2013
      This one I can understand. This was when Jesse announced his first story had come out. I guess people were really excited and told all their friends. I know I told my friends, but they don't have internet to check blog posts. If they did, they'd probably just watch funny human videos on youtube.
   1. Everyone is Connected. Posted March 28, 2014
      This is kind of surprising to me. This was Jesse's review of God's Not Dead, the Christian film that came out early this year. I haven't seen it, but Jesse thought it was okay, and it seems people thought his review was grand. Or maybe he just got extra publicity since the movie was so popular.

   Top Interview of the Year!
   3. Interview with Jessica Verve. Posted August 9, 2013
      Interviews are obviously going to have a lot of views, because the interviewed will post about it on their respective social media. Therefore, more people are going to see it. In fact, these three interviews were all in the top ten posts of the year. About this specific interview? Jesse says it's the most fun interview he has done. It's probably because of the cool name of the person he interviewed.
   2. Interview with Jeremiah Lang. Posted Jan 23, 2014
      This was an interview with a brand new author celebrating the release of his first book. There was lots of talk about books and stories and all sorts of other stuff common to interviews.
   1. Interview with Faith Blum. Posted December 8, 2013
      This was the second most viewed post of the last year. This was part of a blog tour, which was probably why it got a lot of views. It was also celebrating the author's debut novel. Jesse says this is the only person he interviewed whose novel he hasn't read. About that, he is sad. But, not time to waste crying, time to move to the next topic!

   Looking forward to next year:
   Topics Jesse hopes to write on: Jesse says he hopes to write about spoilers, write more movie reviews, and write more book reviews. He also hopes to not take a huge break during the middle of the year like he did last year (shame, shame). He also hopes to have more conversations with us cats, like he did once around Easter. I think that would be quite enjoyable, because it will mean me being on more!
   People Jesse hopes to interview: He hasn't worked up much of a spine yet, so he'll probably stick to low-key authors and indie published authors or, possibly, even unpublished authors who are hoping to some day. Of those possibilities, he hopes to interview Juliet Lauser, Katie Lynn Daniels, and anyone else he can work up the nerve (and the time) to talk to. (Jesse's giving me a warning look, so I'd better wrap up).

   Well, I hope you've enjoyed the last of year of Jesse's blog. Comment below if you enjoyed it, and tell Jesse that I should be on here more. Have a good day, night, or otherwise! Farewell!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Release: Trapped!

   I have realized a horrible mistake. I have a schedule (not that I ever follow it) that says I am to do an author interview/ book review on the last Friday of every month. And last Friday I FORGOT! HORRORS!
   Yes. I forgot. So this week I am doing a book review of... My own book! And I have a celebrity to do it for me!
   That's right: Trapped just recently came out (it can be found on Amazon) and I have (drum roll please) Grumpy Cat to review it!

   Okay, not really. Grumpy Cat was way to busy to review a lowly book about cats for me, so I have Rambo here to fill in. Take it away, Rambo!

   I care about this book as much as I do about you. Not at all.

   ...Thanks, Rambo, for that glowing review. Well, who cares what the cat thinks. I'll let you make the decisions for yourself. Here's the synopsis:

   When rebellious kitten Seabert decides he no longer wants to live under his mother's rules, he flees the farm. His freedom ends suddenly when a skunk, claiming the same love for freedom as Seabert, imprisons him. Stunned by this unexpected twist, Seabert is horrified when he finds out the fate of an entire city hinges upon his actions. Will Seabert's friends rescue him, or will his 'freedom' turn into a trap of its own?

   How's that sound? Interesting I hope! This book has been in the works for a long time (I've been working on it since 2011). More to the point, it's been almost a year since the last book. I know that's a lot longer than I was planning, but I'm hoping to get the 3rd book out sooner (Title: The Kyge in the Mist). Look for that coming March 1st, 2015 (unless things get slowed down again, then it'll probably be out next summer).
   Oh, and if you are wondering about the Kindle version: don't worry, it's coming. I hope to have it out by next Friday. All I have to do is tweak a few things and upload it, so it shouldn't take me that long.
   I hope you come back next week, where I'll have my anniversary party and talk about all the stuff I've done over the last year. I hope you enjoy it, and I'll have Rambo here to help keep things interesting. For now, this is Jesse and Rambo signing off.
I still don't care.

Friday, June 27, 2014


   When one writes a blog for a year, it is inevitable to come to a point in which no ideas present themselves. Interestingly, I haven't had that problem recently. Maybe it's because I've actually been writing a lot more and thinking more. Whatever the reason, I recently came up with the idea to write a blog post on words.
   Last week I talked about how I went to a conference. It was an interesting experience, mostly because the only conferences I have been on before in my life have been retreats with my church's youth group. I have spent most of my life around Christians, and, being homeschooled, I've never encountered many other teenagers. This made the conference of high schoolers all the more of a shock to me. Why? Because not everyone talks like a grandmother.
   This is probably not a surprise to anyone that has had any experience out of the 'holy huddle' (church culture). It was not that I was ignorant of profanity (I've watched television), but having people the same age as me use culturally frowned upon language without a second thought was kind of equally horrifying and fascinating. It made me seriously consider how I use my words.
   For example: is saying a bad word after I smash my finger with a hammer really that much different than saying a word like "Rats!" in an identical situation? Isn't the heart issue the same? If I speak a 'clean' word profanely, is it not the same as if I had swore? Surely to say God's name is not evil, but to say God's name in vain is an abuse of that word. If I substitute 'sugar' in for a swear word, is that not taking 'sugar' out of context as much as the swear word?
   There lies the truly interesting conclusion: if a word is only to be frowned upon when used in a profane or harmful way, can 'swear' words be used in a nonprofane way? Is it profane to use a culturally frowned upon word for poop? If that is profane, then why is poop not viewed in the same light? And if I call someone a poophead, is that not the same as swearing at someone? If I mean the same thing, does the term I use really make that much difference?
   Regardless of the logical issues or how it should be, it must be admitted that some words are looked at differently than others. Some people will view something differently depending on the word used. And people make judgments based on the words we use. Therefore, how can we use our words to build others up? How can we use words to tell about beauty, even if there is darkness surrounding it? How can our words affect those around us?

What do you think? Can words be used well? Does the heart behind the words cause words to be good or evil? Or are some words inherently profane? 

Book update! I received the proof for Trapped and have finished the final edits! The second book in the Kitten Mysteries series should be published by July 1st at the latest!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


   Recently, I had the privilege of traveling to a conference hosted by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. The goal of the conference was to teach us (the attendees) how the Farm Bureau worked and how it interacted with the state government. All the kids were split into different groups based on interests (dairy, beef, swine, or equine) and then those groups sent several members into the conference 'House of Representatives'. This house was supposed to act as the embodiment of the PA House of Representatives and I was chosen to be one of those representatives. It was a fascinating experience simply by being able to experience how government worked and how bills are passed. It also showed me how government can help or harm its people. However, neither of those thing were at the front of my mind; instead, I was most focusing on how and if my faith should be involved with my choices.
   Some people might read that last sentence and be confused. "Of course your faith should affect how you live," they might say, "otherwise you don't really believe it." On that point I would agree. However, I come from a denomination that believes strongly in separation of church and state, because whenever the state mixes with the church things tend to get ugly. On that point I also strongly agree. Thirdly, when writing bills that affect those of different faiths, it is crucial from a political viewpoint to keep religion out of the mindset so that all can have free rights to practice their religion (unless it harms another person).
   Thus, I was faced with a dilemma: Do I allow my faith to dictate the ethics I use to write the bills? or Do I set my faith's ethics aside in order to make a choice which is best for the state?
   Something that I found most fascinating was what happened at the beginning of every session: there was the Pledge of Allegiance and an Invocation. Because of aforementioned separation of church and state beliefs, this prayer at the beginning of every session made me slightly uncomfortable. Prayer that God will direct our leaders is all well and good, but should the leader's be asking God's blessing if they are not willing to follow his will? And should a country follow God's will, would that country still be able to survive? And should following God be the wrong choice for a nation, would it be sound for the nation's leaders to follow the ethics of God?
   The other thing done at the start of the session, as stated above, was the Pledge of Allegiance. This action also has theological implications. Christians are called to serve God above the state. We are to respect the state and honor its leaders, but not to be loyal to it above all others. As such, is it blasphemy to pledge allegiance to the state? Are not Christians born into the Kingdom of God, which is a kingdom separate from the kingdoms of this world?
   I could go on, but I'm pretty sure you either understand my dilemma or are bored of my asking questions which you find pointless. Thus, I shall end by stating how I solved my dilemma: I performed my duties as a member of the House. I did that which was best for the state, and left my theological ethics for personal matters, embracing a different set of ethics for the bills I proposed. How did I reconcile this? Well, it's all basically a big game and I wasn't truly enacting any laws. Had this been real politics, my decisions would have been majorly different or, at least, I would have spent a lot more time deliberating over the decision.

What do you think of my dilemma? Can you see my struggle or do you think I was over complicating the situation? Leave a comment below and thank you very much for reading.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cover Reveal

   I was going to come up with something clever and original for the title, but I figured a direct and to the point title was probably just as profitable. Though, technically, I'm not gaining any profit from this release, so I suppose a different description would be more apt. Relevant or not, I figure I should stop talking about nothing and reveal that which I speak of in the title.
   Voila! The cover for Trapped:

   Isn't it beautiful? Much thanks to Anthony Rice for crafting the amazing cover. I'm actually starting to get excited about publishing this book (other than the feeling of get-this-over-with I've had for a while). I'm hoping to have it published by the end of June, July 1st at the latest.

   What do you think of the cover? How's it look? Leave a comment below!

Friday, June 6, 2014


   I hate writing. Writing is something that I have to force myself to do. I don't like it, it's difficult to actually write something good, and I can never actually polish something good enough to like.
   As I've been finishing up Trapped, this has been something I've really been thinking about. I've wondered whether I should even continue writing. Should I keep at something I don't enjoy? Sure, just because you don't enjoy a job doesn't mean it isn't necessary. However, I'm not really making much money off this endeavor and I could be making more money at something I dislike less (or more). So what really is the point of this? Is joy a necessity for all actions?
   As I've been thinking over this, I thought about the Fruit of the Spirit (found in the book of Galatians) and, after reading over this, I started wondering if I've been thinking about this all wrong. See, in our society we use the word "love" to cover an emotional/chemical reaction. This has set my thinking to consider joy in the same way. It thought joy equaled happiness, and I've never been a real happy-go-lucky type of guy. I'm more of the serious guy sitting in the corner who doesn't smile much, but doesn't frown a lot either. But I've never considered that to be embracing joy.
   However, as I've studied and learned, I have come to realize that the word love is not used in the Bible to refer to a chemical reaction, but rather to a conscious choice. In fact, in order for the Fruit of the Spirit to be something which is possible to actually embrace, they must be choices, not emotions. It is not possible (without drugs) to feel the same way all the time. Happiness is an emotion, something which is a chemical response to good things that happen to us. In the same way, sadness is a result of a chemical process which is a response to something bad happening. We cannot always feel sad or happy regardless of our circumstances. We can choose to feel such ways, but it is near impossible to continually disregard our circumstances to embrace an emotion. Thus, just as love is a choice to do that which is good for those around us, joy must also be a choice.
   And if joy is a choice, then surely hate is a choice as well. Therefore, even if I feel angry or frustrated about my writing, I am not really hating it uncontrollably. Hate must be a choice that I make. And if I am choosing to hate my work, then there is still the potential for me to enjoy it.

Have you ever thought of this before? Have you chosen to enjoy something regardless of how your emotions react?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Review - Firmament: Radialloy

 It's the last Friday of the month, and that means (according to my newly made up rules) that I have either a book review or an author interview to post here. Of course, that assumes that I've either read a book sometime this month or talked with an author. Unfortunately, the only author I've talked with is myself, so I guess that means it's a book review.
   Firmament: Radialloy is a science fiction story, set up kind of like Star Trek. And, since I'm bad with writing descriptions of stories, here's what Amazon has to say about it:
The year is 2320. Andi Lloyd is content with her life as the assistant to her adoptive father, a starship doctor, but her secure world turns upside down when she begins uncovering secrets from her past. When her father mysteriously starts losing his mind, she finds that she can no longer count on him to guide or help her. With mutiny breaking out on the ship, and two factions desperate for a valuable secret she holds, she must race to help her father and herself before time runs out.
   Isn't that fascinating? Is your interest peaked?
   I first saw this book only a few months after it had been published and thought it was interesting. Since the author was self-published (and I was looking into that) I could find a new book and support a independent author. It was a win-win situation.
   Enough about how I heard about the book, what about the story itself? Well, the story is well-crafted. The story, though, isn't the best part about this book. The characters are. Andi is delightful. She's an orphan, taken in by her father, The Doctor, who is not a Time Lord (sad, but true). August is the shy navigator (fangirl favorite) who I thought was good, but not exceptional. I most resonated with Crash. He's a brash, brave pilot of a small spacecraft, but who thinks he knows it all. The most interesting part of his character is that he is brought on as a joker (which I can relate with) as well as tending to be a bit of a know-it-all. This is, in fact, basically how he is seen almost as soon as he arrives on the spaceship: he is set up against the resident pilot of the starship. This initial conflict really made him interesting to me. Unfortunately, he's not around for much of the book (good thing he's more of a major player in Book 2!).
   What about the plot? Well, as I stated before there are some twists and turns. The part about The Doctor (still not a Time Lord) is quite troubling. Andi has no idea what is going on with him, same as the reader. And when certain new arrivals start to act suspiciously, things really go topsy-turvy. Things turn into a high-sea adventure (but in space) for a while, though on a much larger scale. The climax is tense, and there is my major problem with it. I've read the book twice now and, while I have a basic understanding of what happens, whenever I actually read the last couple scenes I am confused. The first time I let it slide, because I was so caught up in the excitement of the novel and I wondered if I had just missed some things. The second time, however, I read a bit more carefully and I was still confused on what exactly happened.
   Still, other than that qualm about the ending, the book is well written and I would recommend it. You can pick up the book on Amazon: (link here) and you can find out more about J. Grace Pennington here.

   What about you? Have you read Firmament: Radialloy? What did you think? Or have you read any independent books that you might recommend? Tell me in the comments below!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Not Me

   I have difficulty writing characters. I've always preferred coming up with plots or cool twists to character arcs, while never actually being able to move the character along the arc. Still, characters are the heart of the story. They carry the reader throughout a story and without good characters, even the best plot is brought down. Therefore, I write characters as well as I can. In order to keep from falling into cliches, I craft all my characters after the character I know best: my own. This works well for villains as well as heroes. Unfortunately, especially since my stories are told in first person, all the characters end up feeling like they all have the same character.
   So I am learning as I go. I try to craft each character after myself, as to capture a sense of realism, while still making them separate from myself. The hardest part, interestingly enough, is realizing that not all people have the same morals and ideologies that I do. Naturally, this is most easily recognized in the villains. Villains do horrible things, sometimes thinking it is admissible because of the goal and sometimes just doing it for fun. However, their deeds are recognized as horrible. I don't have to wrestle through with the question of whether a good character should do that thing because the character is evil! It is much harder to have a good character do a deed which, though it disagrees with my morals, is not actually wrong.
   Say, for instance, Rambo becomes angry and kills someone out of revenge. That is wrong. And even though he is a good character, that is explained because he has shortcomings. However, to have Rambo do something which I disagree with, such as go to war, is harder for me to write because I have not put myself into the mindset of someone who believes in Just War. Rambo, by doing that, is not wrong. People can be good and noble and disagree with me. In actuality, it brings more realism to my writing to have characters which disagree. The challenge is to write well characters who disagree with me.
   There is another challenge in this 'character writing' stuff: lack of redemption. I'm the type of person who wants all the bad guys to apologize at the end and everyone to live together as one big happy family. Sure, it's cheesy, but wouldn't that be amazing? All I would have to do to stop a mugging would say, "Hey! Stop that!" and the mugger would apologize and we'd go out for tea. That's not how it works in life, and, therefore, that's not how it should work in stories. Yes, there is redemption in life, and there can be redemption in story. However, not every character gets redeemed and that must be recognized. Sometimes it takes leaving the villain to die to truly create good art. Sometimes, in life or in story, people must be left to their own devices. They may choose good, they may choose bad. But in the end they must choose. If Rambo decides he wants to become a greedy millionaire who rips animals off until everyone around him is poor, and chooses to stay that way, then do I have the guts to let him stay there? Sure, the other characters (Butch and Spot, etc) will try to change his mind. But some character's minds just won't be changed. Do I have the courage to say, "I have my morals and you don't and, even though it's sad for me, I'm not going to force you to change."?

What about you? Have you ever really connected with someone who has different morals than you? Have you ever had to allow someone to go their own way in life? Comment below and tell me about it!

Friday, May 16, 2014

From the Inferno to the Iliad

   A few months ago, I read The Divine Comedy for the first time. It was a long, complicated book, but a fascinating read. I understood some of it, but much of it was confusing to me partially because of the way it is written and partially because it references a lot of culture and literature of that time. Because of such, I realized I would need to do some background reading before I could completely understand Dante's masterpiece.
   Logically, the Aeneid would be the place to start, since Virgil (author the Aeneid) is the guide of Dante through Hell and Purgatory. However, the Aeneid, to my understanding, is based largely off of Homer's Iliad. In order to fully comprehend the background of the Aeneid, I should read Homer first. That is why I am now listening to the audiobook version of The Iliad. It is an interesting read, uh, listen (but that's a whole other blog post).
   Another thing I am reading is Deuteronomy. It is the fifth book of the Bible and is largely a recap of the first four books before it. It tells of how Moses led his people out of Egypt and of Israel's wandering in the wilderness as well as the laws God handed down for the Israelite people. Most people would consider this difficult reading (and I agree). One might be more willing to read the New Testament, as it is more theologically relevant and more interesting. However, in order to truly comprehend the New Testament, one must have background. Just as I need to comprehend Dante's literary background before embarking on the Inferno (and the other two books of the Divine Comedy), I must comprehend Jesus' Jewish background before truly understanding the Gospel he teaches. Context is important, not just the textual context, but the chronological context as well.
   I've found this is true in my writing as well. As I look back at what I've written through my lifetime, it is interesting to discover much of what I've created corresponds to what I've read or learned over that time. If I am studying Greek mythology, my novels tend to have dashes of gods and heroes thrown in. If I am studying deep theological issues (such as free will or penal substitution atonement theory) my writing also seems to touch on those topics. In order to to deeply understand my writing, it helps me to look back at what I was going through or thinking about at that time.

   What about you? Has learning the context of a story helped you to understand in better? Can you see this same idea working in your creative life? Comment below and tell me about it!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Reasons to Watch Popular Films

   As some may know, I enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I listen to often is The Sci-Fi Christian. On one of the recent episodes, one of the hosts asked why people would choose to consume films or novels which were average, if not downright terrible. This is an interesting question to say the least. This caused me to consider my own 'entertainment' choices. Why did I choose to watch the films I watched and read the novels I read? I came up with several answers of why I choose to consume films or novels which are not brilliant instead of works that are.
1. Entertainment Value
   This is probably the weakest of the reasons. However, there is something about a superhero film or a mindless thriller that is entertaining. If it were not so, I doubt they would be so popular. Such stories can form a means of escapism, wrapping up my mind in the intriguing plot or hilarious comedy which separates me from the tragedy of real life. That's not to say that this is the best option for choosing such content, but it is a factor.
2. Cultural Engagement
   When I hear my friends talking about a book or film that is popular, there is a yearning inside of me to be able to add to that conversation. When the Hunger Games became popular, I wanted to read the series merely to find out for myself why people were so interested. I also wanted to be able to engage with people on that subject in order to build relationships. Discussing shared experiences is a means of creating or building friendships.
3. Relationships
   There are those people who are more willing to go see a superhero film than go see a dark, thought-provoking film. That is not so say that superhero films cannot be though-provoking, but with superhero films one is not forced to consider deeply theological or ethical choices. The great thing about superhero films and mindless thrillers is that one can just watch the story and forget about it at the end. However, two people can sit together and watch a less than stellar film and bond over the experience. The film may not be incredibly stimulating or though-provoking, but it requires two (or more) people to sit together for a long amount of time and, at least, converse slightly before and afterward. If in nothing else, they can agree that the film was a waste of their time. However, it was time they spent together enjoying (or ridiculing) a film. Some of my most enjoyable times have been making fun of a bad movie with my brother.
   Remember how I said a great thing about thoughtless films is that they can be taken at face value without much thought? Well, that is true. However, there are few films which are not, upon further reflection, teaching the viewer ideologies and presenting situations to be mulled over. It is not forced on the viewer to consider the ramifications of the scene, but, upon further reflection, the questions are still there. How does one respond if a villain threatens to kill an innocent bystander? What would I do if my enemy were about to kill an entire city and it was up to me to stop him? Can a bad thing be done for a good reason and still considered just? Questions like these invade all sorts of films and novels which, at first glance, might be considered mindless. The question is are we discerning enough to see them?
   My point is not to say that watching a 'dumb' film is okay. My point is that sometimes watching the popular superhero film or reading the popular romance novel may be more than about how great a work of art it is. Even an average or less than average novel can still teach about love and show the destructive power of evil.

   What do you think? Do you have reasons for watching the popular movies which aren't very good? Do you have reasons for reading that book which isn't that great? Comment below and tell me about them!

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Struggle

   Have you ever been in the moment when you know you need to do something yet have no resolve to actually do it? That's how I feel now. I know the blog post is late. I know I need to put one out consistently or I'll stop altogether. Still, I have no idea what to write about. Therefore: I write the first thing that comes to mind. This is quite dangerous. Why? Because I have a strange mind.
   Still, this is the only place where I actually have a schedule. Sure, I have cows that need to get milked every day and pigs that need fed. But that's stuff I'm required to do. This is the only real thing I put upon myself to do that I've actually kept up. I tried writing books every Christmas, but eventually I failed at that. I tried writing novels, but that's been slowly pushed back. I've had Trapped (Kitten Mysteries Book 2) sitting halfway through the fourth edit for probably a month or two now. This is the only thing that has come out Friday after Friday. I enjoy blogging (most of the time) and I want to continue. Still, at times like this I have to look at my reasons for pursuing this and wonder if they are enough.
   I want to encourage people with this blog. I want to entertain them. I want to (if only to make a living) sell books. I want to interest and show people different sides to things. I want to see what people think and love to see it when people comment on a post. I just wonder sometimes whether its all worth it. Am I entertaining or encouraging? I don't think I'm harming anyone. However, not harming anyone is hardly something to brag about. The golden rule isn't "Don't do to others what you wouldn't want done to you." It is a positive rule: "Do to others what you would want someone to do to you." And that's what I want to do. I want to actually be doing good, not just refrain from doing harm.
   So here I sit. Typing away at this computer hoping to put together a competent blog post two hours after its due. Could I spend this time better? Probably. So why do I spend time at this? That is the question. And I guess, for now, I should either be content with the answer "I don't know", or stop altogether.

   Sorry to be so depressing. Still, sometimes I have to, need to, take a look at the things I do and decide whether they are advancing my own life and others'. Because sitting still isn't really an option; at least, not a good one. It's either forward or backward, there's not point standing here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Interview with Joel A. Parisi

Yesterday, I had the privilege of interviewing Joel A. Parisi, author of Shadow Play. It was quite interesting for me, and I hope you enjoy it.

Jesse Rice: Hello Joel Parisi. Welcome to my blog. Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Joel A. Parisi: Sure! I'm a writer, editor, and all-around geek who lives in Tucson, Arizona. I've been writing for the past eight years, but only recently have I actually begun to produce quality work. Shadow Play, my debut novelette, is the first thing I've felt was good enough to self-publish and promote.

Jesse Rice: What first caused you to become interested in writing?

Joel A. Parisi: Hmm.... I would have to say it was Star Wars. My first attempt at writing a novel (which failed miserably) was driven by my somewhat misguided desire to make 'a Christian Star Wars.' But then, I was only twelve at the time.

Jesse Rice: Would you say science fiction is your favorite genre, then?

JAP: Science fiction and fantasy have to share, actually. *laughs* I love both genres for different reasons, but I love them about equally.

JR: In which genre do you prefer to write?

JAP: Again, I split my time about equally between sci-fi and fantasy. (And yes, I consider supervillains to be science fiction, at least the way I write them.)

JR: On that note, can you tell me a little bit about Shadow Play?

JAP: Absolutely. It's a bit of a mashup between your usual superhero/supervillain fare and modern action, specifically black ops. The story revolves around Paul Cantref, an ex-Army Ranger who's been recruited by the Supervillain Handling, Research And Intervention Department (SHRAID) to kill supervillains. He's assigned to lead a team into a very volatile situation in the field, and has to deal with his own insecurities while holding the team together and (hopefully) managing to kill their target.

JR: Sounds interesting. Now, from what I've heard, you are writing in a shared universe. Can you tell me a bit about that?

JAP: Yeah, that's a very interesting part of this experience.... basically, Katie Lynn Daniels started publishing a series of novelettes last year which dealt with the aftermath of the "Supervillain Outbreak" on Earth and the efforts of an alien trained to kill supervillains. She licensed the series under Creative Commons, which means (for me) the universe is open for others to contribute. She had mentioned in passing that the US had a "superhero" program (and one of the central conceits of the series is that superheroes don't exist). My reaction was "Well, we wouldn't be THAT stupid, would we? No, it must be a cover for something else." And so the idea for SHRAID was born.
I talked to Katie about the idea and she was game to not only endorse my writings, but accept them as canon within the universe. And we may be doing a crossover (eventually) where our main characters run into each other....

JR: So how closely tied is SHRAID to Supervillain of the Day?

JAP: Good question. We're still not really sure ourselves.... I know that major events (such as Katie's Season Two finale, and my series finale [sorry, no spoilers!]) will be cross-referenced. But as far as the average reader is concerned, you don't need to be intimately familiar with her series to enjoy mine, or vice versa. Though if you are familiar, you'll notice a few easter eggs.

JR: Sounds fascinating. From what I've read, your series seems to have a story arc over the entire series. After reading Supervillain of the Day, my biggest complaint was the episodic nature of the series. What caused you to choose a different route?

JAP: Well, I should mention that Katie's series does have a unified arc-- it's just a really long one.
I honestly don't think I consciously chose to go a different route. But then again, I've always enjoyed long epics, featuring a meta-story spread over several volumes, so I think I may have just automatically slipped into that mode of storytelling. And then there is the fact that I tend to write plot first, while Katie tends to write characters first. So you'll see that the plot is, to me, the most important consideration (and hopefully my characters don't suffer too much as a result.)

JR: So what are some of your favorite epic stories?

JAP: The Lord of the Rings, of course (including The Hobbit and The Silmarillion). Also the Dune saga, Asimov's Robots and Empire series, The Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, and Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen.

JR: What about favorite authors? Do you find your own writings are patterned after a particular person's writing style?

JAP: Ah, that's a question a lot of authors get. For me, no. I read, and have read, so much that no one author has really 'defined' my voice.
That said, aside from the authors I mentioned above, some of my favorites are Timothy Zahn, CS Lewis, Terry Pratchett, Orson Scott Card, Christopher Paolini, Madeline L'Engle, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens.... yeah, I could write a several-page-long list of those.

JR: What are your plans for future novels?

JAP: Cue sinister laughter. 
In all seriousness, though, I have the next five novelettes for SHRAID to finish before I can really think of doing more. But I do have some ideas.... There's a three-part (or maybe just two-part) fantasy/sci-fi mashup that's been percolating in the back of my head for about a year now. It involves a pair of opposed but complimenting magic systems (dealing with matter and energy), an isolated colony world, and universe-ending danger. And then I also have an idea for a standalone sci-fi novel dealing with an invasion precipitated by extra-dimensional Lovecraftian aliens.

JR: Well, with that to think on, I think I've taken up enough of your time. Thank you very much for allowing me to interview you. I hope your writing endeavors continue to go well. How can my readers find you on the internet?

JAP: Not a problem! Thanks for the interview.
They can check out my website,; and they can also check out my Facebook page (, follow me on Twitter (, and they can find Shadow Play for sale on Amazon and the Createspace eStore.

JR: Thank you very much. Have a nice day!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesse and Rambo - A Conversation on Enemies

   It'd been a while since Rambo and I had talked, due to the fact that we were both so busy. Rambo had been managing the farm and watching the kittens, while I'd been working sluggishly on getting the cats' second adventure on paper. Finally, however, we got together just to talk.
   I started. "Hi Rambo, how're you today?"
   Rambo shrugged, sitting lazily on a table so I didn't have to look down at him. "I'm fine. You?"
   I tried to sit up in my chair so I didn't look unprofessional. "I'm okay." I balanced the laptop on my lap. "You don't mind that I'm writing this down, do you?"
   "Are you writing down what we're saying now?" he asked.
   I paused. "Yes."
   "That's going to be boring."
   I cleared my throat. "Anyway, I just need something to put on the blog and I figured a conversation between me and you would be interesting for the fans."
   "Fans?" Rambo asked. "You mean your grandparents and maybe a bored crow?"
   "Don't crush my self esteem."
   "Whatever. What did you want to talk about?"
   "Well, I was going to talk about enemies, but you seem a bit dour today (dour means grumpy, for anyone who doesn't know) so why don't you tell us why?"
   "Me. And the fans."
   Rambo smirked. "Right. The fans. Well, I've been busy. Watching out for intruders, keeping everything running smoothly, and making sure [redacted] and [redacted] are doing okay."
   "Don't say that: people don't know who [redacted] and [redacted] are."
   "Right. Still, the hardest part of 'that last thing' is keeping track of all the Sasha rumors."
   "Sasha rumors! Okay, now maybe we can get onto the topic I wanted to talk about: enemies."
   "Why would you want to talk about enemies?"
   "Because enemies are relevant. Especially at this time of year."
   "What exactly do you mean by that?"
   "Well, it's Easter time. That's when we humans celebrate forgiveness."
   Rambo looked confused. "What's that have to do with enemies?"
   I paused. "Well, this is the time of year where we celebrate how Jesus came to forgive and redeem his broken creations."
   "You're saying some guy came to tell his enemies everything was fine? What about justice?"
   "What about justice?"
   "Shouldn't the bad guys be punished? Take, for instance, Sasha. She did some bad stuff. Should I just let her go hurt other animals?"
   "No, that's not what I'm saying at all. What Jesus did, and that's who I try to emulate (that means 'try to be like'), was come and die for his enemies."
   Rambo stared at me blankly. "Die... for his enemies?"
   "Exactly. He came and died so that his enemies might be rescued from their shortcomings."
   Rambo blinked several times, trying to comprehend what I was saying. "And you want to be like this guy?"
   It was my turn to blink several times. "Yes. Why wouldn't I?"
   Rambo was speechless. "You don't... that's not how you deal with animals. Don't you know evil? Evil doesn't just... just change. Evil is evil. The only way to stop evil is to kill it."
   "What about back when Seabert was in trouble? You went and risked your life for him when he got kidnapped."
   "That's different! Seabert's my friend! What you're talking about is like me going to stop... Sasha! Stop Sasha from getting her due."
   "Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm saying."
   "And you don't find that crazy?"
   "No. Well, yes. I do find it crazy. But I also think that Jesus knows better about what's right than me. So I just try to follow after him."
   Rambo shrugged and stood up. "Whatever. As for me, if Sasha was about to get what's coming to her, I think I'd stand there and cheer. The less evil in the world the better."
   "I agree. But there's two ways to get rid of evil: kill it, or redeem it. Which would you rather?"
   Rambo was silent for only one second. "Killing's easier." He jumped off the table and walked away.

What did you think of our conversation? Should I transcribe more of them? Or maybe I can get a guest on and converse with them! Comment below if you have any suggestions, thoughts, or (duh) comments. What would you do to an enemy?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Thoughts on Captain America: Winter Soldier

   Last week I went to see Captain America: Winter Soldier. The film was, to my mind, one of the better Marvel films. While there is violence, if you are a fan of superhero movies you will probably like it.
However, that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the theme of the film. Namely: choice. Winter Soldier wonders whether giving humanity a choice is worth the risk of losing security.
   This is a question that I have often wondered myself. Is giving humanity the choice to do evil necessary? Would it not be better to avoid suffering, even if it ended up in creating humanity robots?
   This is a question that theologians also must ask themselves. Why did God give humanity the ability to turn against him in the Garden of Eden? If God was all loving, why even give us a choice? One might compare this to holding chocolate in front of a dieting man. Why even tempt him with the option? The answer is a simple one:
   Love requires choice. Robots cannot love. Love is not mere chemistry in the mind. That is infatuation or instinct. Love is making a conscious choice for the betterment of the other person. And, in order for love to exist, there must be the option for the one who is loved to walk away from the lover. God, in order to show his love and be loved by humanity, had to give humanity the option not to love him. If there is no choice, then tyranny is all that remains.
   The majesty of God's grace, however, is that not only one choice is offered, but many. If only one test was given, then all of us would have failed at the Garden. However, God gives us multiple chances for redemption. This, too, is shown in Winter Soldier (to some extent). Captain America encounters his enemy and, instead of destroying him and thereby saving his life, he chooses instead to risk his own life in an effort to redeem his enemy (much like Luke in Star Wars). 

What are your thoughts? Did you watch Captain America: Winter Soldier? What did you think?

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Point

   Two weeks ago I talked about why I don't like message-less stories. I mentioned that a reader likes to think while they read. At that point, I nearly said, "The point of a story is to make you think."
   Yet, I wasn't sure if that was completely true. I knew that the point of a parable was to explain an idea through story. The main point there was the idea, and the story was just a mechanism to explain it. Yet, what was the point of story? Logically, I eventually fell upon the idea that the point of story is to tell a story. That seems obvious. And it is. Yet, the point of a story is not that simple.
   A story tells us the story of a person. Or it tells us what happened at a certain time. It chronicles the stories of those in history. Or it takes us somewhere to other worlds. The point of a story is to tell a story, to explore themes through story, to show us what life is, was, or will be like.
   And yet, the story in itself is not an entity. Few people like a novel for the story alone (though if there is a bad story, that decreases a novel's enjoyment considerably). A novel must also have compelling characters in that story. Throwing a character into an action scene may grab a reader's attention, but why should they care about the character if they don't know him or her? Again, why should a reader care about a character if life is just cookies and roses? There must be conflict to a story and deep characters inside the story.
   That is what makes up a good story, but what is the point of the story in itself? The point is to tell the story. And this is where the truly difficult part comes in, because I want to get a theme across. I want to show a character's redemption. I want to make the reader gasp as I reveal a shocking twist. I want a good story, good characters, and a strong theme. And yet, if I exalt one of those elements above the others, I have something that has a great theme, but lousy characters. Or I have a great story, but its pointless and soon forgotten. Or I have marvelous characters in a plot that doesn't make much sense. The balance is the most difficult, yet the most vital part of the story.
   The point of a story is to find a way to tell a good story, explore a good theme, and detail how real people would react in those situations. There's no one to exalt above the others, and that is the point.

Any thoughts? What do you think is the point of a story?