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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thoughts for Thursday: The Importance of Folklore

Thoughts for Thursday is a new feature hosted by Musings on Fantasia and LKHill.  In this meme, we share thoughts or quotes that we know or have recently come across. Each week there is a specific subject or theme. These can be quotes from books, quotes by famous people, (quotes by YOU, perhaps ;D). Anything from anywhere is game, though we do ask that you keep your quote to a few sentences at most. Don't quote, for example, entire passages of a book or essay. These can be funny quips, cool sayings, hair-raising antidotes, movie lines, any kind of quote you can think of!

Just have fun, collect awesome sayings by awesome people, and try to be inspired!

On Monday, I did a post about writing Folklore. Continuing that theme, this week's them is The Importance of Folklore.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cryptography in Writing: Why it Might be the Missing...um, Key

Navajo Code Talkers, Saipan,
June 1944 (Source)
During World War II, the U.S. Marines recruited men of Navajo descent to help them with encryption in the war efforts. U.S. enemies were tasked with deciphering a double whammy. 

Not only was the Navajo language extremely difficult for them to crack, but U.S. forces were using code words within the language that wouldn't make logical sense. That made the language itself more difficult to crack, and even if they did figure it out, they still had the code to deal with. (More info here.)

This is an early (and may I add awesome) example of encryption.

One of the panels I attended while at LTUE was entitled Cryptography 101. I went to this panel kind of as a default fallback because I didn't have anything I particularly wanted to hear about that hour. To my great surprise, not only was it a fascinating panel, but it really got my creative juices flowing.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Historical Tidbit: How J.R.R. Tolkien Made Beowulf Famous

Most of us read Beowulf in school, or at least read excerpts and talked about it, right? There are also plenty of film versions of the story available these days.

The story of Beowulf and Grendel is important for many reasons. It represents the first story, mostly passed down through oral tradition, that was also written down. It's also the oldest known fiction written in English. Volumes have been written about this legend and it's importance to our culture, the Anglo-Saxon culture, and literature in general.

Did you know...that it was J.R.R. Tolkien that brought Beowulf to the world's attention?

It's true. Before Tolkien's time, the story of Beowulf and Grendel was very obscure, and used solely as a historical document, rather than a literary pillar or a work of art. No one read it in school back then. No one knew what it was. No one had heard the tale. Tolkien came across it in his research and understood it's import. He brought it to the attention of the Big Wigs at Oxford, begging them to pay attention. 

J.R.R. Tolkien (Source)
He wrote some essays and later a famous lecture known as Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, in which he begged his colleagues not to dismiss the fantastical elements of Beowulf. He asked them to look at it as a work of art and a cornerstone in the development of many literary forms, including folklore, narrative, and fantasy. His paper became known as the formative work in  Beowulf studies. (Source)

Eventually, his efforts brought the story to the world. He helped people understand that this story was not getting the attention it deserved. That it was a massively important part of our history, and especially in the development of our literature. 

Without Tolkien, most of us today probably wouldn't know a thing about the Anglo-Saxon hero Beowulf, and his battle against the monster Grendel. The text would have remained obscure, as many similar texts do that never see the recognition they deserve.

I gotta say, I've always been impressed with Mr. Tolkien, but after hearing Orson Scott Card tell this story at the LTUE conference, I'm thinking J.R.R. Tolkien was foreordained before birth to bring amazing stories to the world. And boy did he ever succeed!

What do you think of this? How different would the world be without Tolkien's contributions?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thoughts for Thursday: Quotes by the Founding Fathers

Thoughts for Thursday is a new feature hosted by Musings on Fantasia and LKHill.  In this meme, we share thoughts or quotes that we know or have recently come across. Each week there is a specific subject or theme. These can be quotes from books, quotes by famous people, (quotes by YOU, perhaps ;D). Anything from anywhere is game, though we do ask that you keep your quote to a few sentences at most. Don't quote, for example, entire passages of a book or essay. These can be funny quips, cool sayings, hair-raising antidotes, movie lines, any kind of quote you can think of!

Just have fun, collect awesome sayings by awesome people, and try to be inspired!

I'm a bit late, but Monday was President's Day, so the theme for this week's post is Quotes by our Founding Fathers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

3 Reasons Family is a Gateway to Character

Over the past weekend I attended the LTUE Conference in Provo, Utah, and even participated in it myself. It was SUCH a great conference. 

Orson Scott Card (Source)
Orson Scott Card was supposed to be the guest of honor but unfortunately, due to the bad weather on the east coast, his plane was grounded and he couldn't attend. But, thanks to all our amazing technology today, he was still able to participate via Skype.

I attended a panel he spoke on about the role of religion in literature and it was fascinating! I may talk about it more in a later post, but today I wanted to talk about something mentioned that particularly intrigued me. 

The other author on the panel was Michael R. Collins. At one point, Collins asked Orson Scott Card about how family-centric his novels are. His point was to ask Card if the fact that he put all his characters in very realistic family situations (not always good ones) was a reflection of his LDS upbringing.

Card jokingly responded (paraphrasing here) "I've never thought of that before, but yes. And I'll just pretend I've always known that." 

I only just read Ender's Game for the first time a few months ago. I hadn't thought of the story in terms of Ender's family, but Collins is 100% right. The role of the family in Ender's life and, more specifically, Ender's perceived role in his own family, was a huge part of the story. They then went on to discuss the role of family in a character's life.

The truth is, in most novels, immediate family doesn't figure much unless the story is specifically about familial relationships. This is often made fun of in teenage TV series--the absence of parents and such--but we don't think about it much in literature. 

Card made several very interesting points about this subject.

1) "Family is a great way to add depth to the character." We often talk about flaws, motivations, back story, and many other things that can help give our characters layers. Family isn't always discussed. But family is such a huge part of our identities as human beings, that it probably should be considered, and usually isn't. The next time you have a character to flesh out, consider their family situation, especially when they were growing up. It's the kind of thing that wouldn't have to be included in the story, but if the author knows about it, can inform the character's attitude, believes and world view.

2) "Writing a realistic family is one of the hardest things a writer can take on." Like with ensemble character casts, the dynamic changes with more than one or two characters in a scene. Plus, in real life, a person can change depending on who they're with, so you can understand the complexity of writing this into a book. If you want to challenge yourself as an author, try to write a true family. And just one child with one parent doesn't count. I'm talking two parents and two or more siblings. It's harder than you might think. 

3) "When there is no family, the character is what he does." As human beings, we are very defined by our family. When this is discounted, the reader only has what the character does to go on. This defines the character. It's a very romanticized way to portray a character (by his deeds) but it's definitely not whole. Most people just don't realize it. (Even most authors!) 

What do you think about using family situation to help define your characters? Do you agree with Card's conclusions?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Historical Tidbit: Hedy Lamarr During WWII

Hey Everyone! Happy President's Day!

Before I get to today's historical tidbit, I have a favor to ask. I don't have an exact date, yet, but in the next 2-3 weeks I'm going to be doing a cover reveal for The Botanist, my crime fiction novel which will be out courtesy of Jolly Fish Press early next year. (Press Release HERE.)

I saw the cover for the first time on Friday, and it's awesome! Very haunting!

If anyone's interested in helping me do the cover reveal, I'd really appreciate it! Email me at lkhillbooks@gmail.com and I'll send you the info and exact date. I'd appreciate all the help I can get.

Did you know...

That Hedy Lamarr was a great contributor to the war effort during World War II? 

Hedy Lamarr was a famous actress in old Hollywood. She appeared onscreen with the likes of Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Judy Garland, and is best known for her role opposite Victor Mature as Delilah in Cecil B. Demille's Samson and Delilah

What most people don't know about her is that she was the co-inventor of what, at the time, was cutting edge technology. During the war, radio-controlled missiles were important to the naval campaign, but could easily be interrupted by jamming the frequency. 

Working with a composer, George Antheil, Lamarr proposed a frequency-hopping, spread spectrum approach. They would use 88 frequencies (because there are 88 keys on the piano) and have the military hop frequencies because monitoring, much less jamming, 88 frequencies would be beyond enemy capabilities at the time. 

After patenting it, this technology was given to the U.S. military, free of charge, to help with the war effort. Unfortunately, due to various objections to the novel technology, it wasn't widely used during the war. It was adopted and used to great effect twenty years later, however, in 1962. 

Publicity Photo, 1930s (Source)
In 1997, Lamarr was given a belated award for her contributions to the war effort. 

Now, the only thing I really know Lamarr from is Samson and Delilah--I sort of grew up watching old, Charleton-Heston-era biblical films--but I'd never heard this about her. She had plenty of problems and interesting situations in her life--don't we all?--but I always find it nice to hear about un-sung heroes. This is especially impressive because it was so difficult for women to do things of major importance during the war. 

Did you know this about Hedy Lamarr? Do you know of any other little-known heroes of the war?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thoughts for Thursday: True Romance

Thoughts for Thursday is a new feature hosted by Musings on Fantasia and LKHill.  In this meme, we share thoughts or quotes that we know or have recently come across. Each week there is a specific subject or theme. These can be quotes from books, quotes by famous people, (quotes by YOU, perhaps ;D). Anything from anywhere is game, though we do ask that you keep your quote to a few sentences at most. Don't quote, for example, entire passages of a book or essay. These can be funny quips, cool sayings, hair-raising antidotes, movie lines, any kind of quote you can think of!

Just have fun, collect awesome sayings by awesome people, and try to be inspired!

Today's theme is True Romance. Valentine's Day is tomorrow. You knew I had to do the sappy love quotes, right? 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: My Soul to Keep, Reaper

I'm still making my way through the Soul Screamers series and really enjoying them. My reading time has gone seriously down lately due to other commitments, but this past week I got through book 3 and installment 3.5, which is a short story. Here's what I thought of them:

(Warning: while as a general rule I try to avoid spoilers, there may be mild spoilers for what's come in previous books. You've been warned!)

My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent

Plot: So this installment picks up not long after the last one left off. After a not-so-jolly jaunt to the Netherworld, Kaylee is grounded for a month, and by the time she gets un-grounded, her boyfriend, Nash, is acting really weird.

Meanwhile, a strange (perhaps paranormal) drug is making its way through her party-inclined classmates, and more and more Kaylee wonders if it might have some tie to what happened during their previous adventure. When classmates start dropping dead after using the drug, and Nash acts weirder and weirder, Kaylee knows she has to get to the bottom of things before they become infinitely worse.

Characters: I'm still enjoying the character development here. This was kind of the obligatory they've-got-to-have-relationship-problems-eventually installment. Not that it's a bad thing, but you had to figure it wouldn't continue to be all hot make-out scenes and valentines. Still, the way things progressed felt very real. Vincent does a good job of finding a medium between the teenage girl trying to cut her boyfriend some slack, and the no-nonsense heroine that won't put up with his crap. 

The only thing I'm starting to not like is the best friend, Emma. She's a character who knows all about Kaylee and Nash's banshee origins, and for the most part stays out of it. She wants a normal life enough that she really doesn't want to know everything. I get that, and it's kind of refreshing, to be honest. But after so much has happened that directly involves her, Emma still not being even the least bit curious is starting to come off as dumb blond rather than educated, informed decision. I'm hoping this will be remedied in the next volume.

Ending: Don't worry, I won't say what happens except that I thought the ending was pretty good. In terms of the overall problem (the drug and everything it entailed) we got a fitting resolution with some intense action at the end. In terms of the troubles in the Kaylee/Nash relationship, we were left on a bit of a cliff hanger. Just enough to make us want to dive into the next novel. Well played, Rachel Vincent. Well played.

Overall: I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record, but I'm simply still enjoying the series overall. I want to continue reading. The fact that I'm not sick of the story or the characters yet (which is saying something in my case, given my proclivities against YA) says a lot. I'm hoping to finish the series by the end of the month.  So, if you're into YA, paranormal, or just a great, fun story, check out Soul Screamers. I'd recommend it!

Reaper by Rachel Vincent

Plot: This is basically a prequel that goes over exactly what happened with Tod. From what I can tell, Tod is a lot of people's favorite character, and I completely understand. He's got an anti-hero flair to him. He's always quick with a joke, and is often the comic relief. Yet, he's brooding with a bad boy vibe. You can't help but be curious and want more information about him.

I also like that, in the main series, he's become quite protective of Kaylee. I've wondered more than once if this will become a Salvatore-Brothers kind of situation, with both brothers having feelings for our heroine. So far, Vincent hasn't gone in that direction, but I like that he's protective, even if it's just in a brotherly manner.  So, Reaper tells his story. It expounds on what we already know of how he died, was recruited as a Reaper, and came to be in the situation we find him in, in book 1 of the series.

Characters: This short story definitely gives Tod a lot of depth. We see him first as a living teenager who is supposed to watch out for his younger brother. He's human (read: teenage boy) enough that he'd rather make out with his girlfriend that keep his kid brother in check. Then when disaster strikes, we see him be very selfless. I'd even say transcendent. This was a very sad story, but it makes you love and respect the characters even more for that. Tod's situation is bleak, but I was glad to read more about him and get something from his POV. 

Ending: No big mystery here. Being a prequel, it ends in he situation we find him in for book 1 of the Soul Screamers series, only with much more understanding of his character and how he came to be there. Like I said, there's definitely a melancholy vibe to this story, but that's not uncommon for prequels. 

Overall: I really enjoyed being in Tod's head and love him more for knowing more about him. I hope we get lots more great Tod moments in coming installments. 

Anyone else read Soul Screamers?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: My Soul to Steal

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I'm still making my way through this series, more slowly than I would like since I've got so many other projects going on, but I'm still loving it. Right now I'm on book 4, My Soul to Steal

"And sad. Makes me feel bad about not bothering with homework for most of last semester. Do you think he was grading midterms when he died?" 
I frowned when I realized she was serious. "Emma, your test did not give him a stroke." 
"I think you underestimate my incomprehension of sign, cosign, and tangent," she said...

What are you reading this week?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Announcements: LTUE + Citadels of Fire ARCs Available!

Happy Monday, Everyone!

I hope you all had a safe, fun, and productive weekend. I was super-busy, but I still managed to get some stuff done. 

I have two announcements today:

1) The LTUE Conference is at the end of the week--Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I'm going to be there for sure on Friday, and I was planning on Saturday, too, though that may change between then and now. (My work schedule is suddenly up in the air.) But, if you're going to be in the Provo/BYU area, come on over and join us. I've never attended before but I hear it's an amazing conference and I'll be at the mass autograph signing on Friday. I'd love to meet you! (Visit this website for more info!)

2) My historical fiction novel, Citadels of Fire, which is slated for release in May of this year, now has ARCs available. I'd love to send a free, digital copy to anyone who'd be willing to give me an honest review. My publisher, Jolly Fish Press, is also putting together a tour. 

Below is a letter (also generated by my publisher) with a link to sign up for the tour if anyone is interested. Below that is the Goodreads description of the book.  If you'd like an  ARC, email me at lkhillbooks@gmail.com with what version you'd prefer (mobi, epub, pdf) and I'll be happy to send it to you.

This was actually the first full-length novel I ever wrote and I'm super excited for it to finally see publication. Thanks for all your support, guys! It means the world to me.

Have a fantabulous Monday! 
Dear Blogger,

When considering the history of our world, there are few periods more brutal and majestic as that of medieval Russia. Filled with murderous Tsars, terrible wars, and towering kremlins, a well-written story set in this tragic yet beautiful time and place is exactly what readers didn’t know they needed. 
Citadels of Fire is the answer, and there has never been a historical fiction like this. 
Written by L.K. Hill and releasing May 27, 2014Citadels of Fire is a powerful account of the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The story is experienced through the eyes of a palace maid and a foreign boyar who must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall. 
I’m confident this story will intrigue and entertain you and your readers, so I’d like to request your review and/or endorsement. 
Should you be interested, a printed or electronic Advance Reading Copy of the book is available for your review. The eARC is available as a pdf, mobi, or epub file. Please let me know which format you prefer.  
We also invite you to participate in the Citadels of Fire Blog Tour. The tour will last from May 20th, 2014 to June 20th, 2014. Should you be interested, visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Uj3lu54ikyw3jPsH7cuP-dYcXGumpsBrBu8tvQPDE8Q/viewform and fill out all the necessary information. We will provide a blog tour banner, giveaway, and additional information on the book (including a press kit) as the tour nears. 
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you. 
Regards,D. Kirk CunninghamHead PublicistJolly Fish Presskirk@jollyfishpress.com801-380-4503

In a world where danger hides in plain sight and no one aspires to more than what they were born to, Inga must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth. 

As a maid in the infamous Kremlin, life in 16th-century Russia is bleak and treacherous. That is, until Taras arrives. Convinced that his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident, he returned from England to discover what really happened. While there, he gains favor from the Tsar later known as Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit upon the throne of Russia. Ivan allows him to take a servant, and to save Inga from a brutal boyar intent on raping her, Taras requests Inga to stay in his chambers. 

Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian Imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Follow Friday: First Reads. Again.

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!

If you could read a book for the "first time" again, what would it be and why?

One of my favorite classic books is Heart of Darkness, and that's actually surprising given how I first read it. It was introduced to me as a senior in high school. We read it right at the end of the year, and the problem was the teacher didn't leave enough time for us to really get through it. She kept assigning us copies amounts of pages and then not discussing them in class. And it's a difficult book for high school readers. So, I kind of hated it while I was first reading it. If we'd discussed it as we went, I think I would have liked it better. As it was, we had an in depth discussion at the end, and I realized it was probably a great book, and I'd missed out on the nuances. 

I didn't read it again until college and I loved it then. Now I try to read it once a year. I wish I could go back and read it the first time again and really enjoy it, though.

What book would you like to read again for the first time?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review Day: Writing How-To Books

I'm trying to read lots of writing/marketing how-to books this year. In fact, I'm trying to read at least two a month. These are small, novella or ebook type things that just give helpful tips either to authors, or to anybody marketing, or running a business in general. Today, I'll be reviewing the last five of these types of books that I've read.

Becoming the 1% by Dennis Crosby

What it's about: I totally loved this book! It is so great. I think I've mentioned it in a couple of posts, but haven't actually reviewed it. This book is about PRODUCTIVITY. It gives tips on planning and making lists that will increase your productivity by 500% in only a couple of weeks. The 1% the title refers to is the top 1% of productive people in the world, which you can become by following these tips.

Did it help me? Yes. I was already a list-maker by nature, but this gave me a great way to structure my lists as well as lots of small things I wasn't doing that can make a big difference. I think Crosby has made me a list-maker for life. Anyone who needs to structure what little time they have to get optimal work done (pretty much all authors) should read this!

(Kindle Edition: $3.99. Scroll down for purchase link.)

How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon.com by Penny C. Sansevieri

What it's about: This short ebook could be read in one sitting. It focuses on the basics of Amazon that will help you use your Amazon account to it's max. It goes over basic things like categories and writing great descriptions, but it also goes into Amazon's Algorithms, perfect keywords, and why Shelfari matters. 

Did it help me? Yes. There were several things--like shelfari--that I wasn't taking advantage of and am now working steadily to get set up. Overall I found this book informative and am glad I got the chance to read it.

(Kindle Edition: $1.99. Scroll down for purchase link.)

From Freelance to Freedom by Michelle Shaeffer

What it's about: This was basically the transcript of an interview. Michelle Shaffer--who I follow--interviews Debra Jason, who has been a Freelance writer for decades. She gives tips on how to create and maintain your own freelance business.

Did this help me? I'll admit to being a bit disappointed with this one. For one, I believe it was a free download and I didn't entirely know what it was when I put it on my kindle. It wasn't bad, by any means, but it just didn't give very useful information. The tips Debra Jason gives are things like 'never give up,' 'remain positive' and such. Now, I'm all about this kind of attitude, but I think I was hoping for more practical tips that could be applied to a business. So, if you're looking for positive self-talk pick me up, this is the download for you. If you want more practical tips, I'd skip it.

(Kindle Edition: $2.99. Scroll down for purchase link.)

How to Love Your Job or Find a New One by Joanna Penn

What it's about: I've followed Johanna's blog, The Creative Penn, for more than a year now. She's an indie author who's been around the block a few times and definitely knows her stuff. This book gives tips on how to go from where you are in your career to where you want to be. If you hate your job, or just wish you had a different one, Joanna has some tips for you.

Did this help me? Yes. I will say that neither finding nor loving my job particularly applied to me for various reasons. Even so, I found some great tips and useful information in these pages. Her other book, How to Market a Book, was probably better in my opinion, but that's because it's more applicable to me. That book had SOOO many great tips in it. But, if you're someone who doesn't like your job or has a dream job you've always aimed for and never obtained, this is definitely the book for you! I'd recommend it.

(Since I downloaded this, Joanna has changed the title for marketing. It is now available under the title, Career Change. Kindle Edition $4.99. Scroll down for purchase link.)

Making Killer Profiles on Google Plus by Evo Terra

What it's about: I've known for some time that I needed to be more active on Google Plus. I do post my blogs there, but I'm not familiar enough with the platform to really use it to my advantage. This book is a step-by-step guide for how authors can maximize their use of the Google Plus platform, use it to get their name out there and ultimately sell their books.

Did this help me? Definitely. This was exactly the guide to Google Plus I was looking for. Whether you're totally clueless about Google Plus, have been on it for some time but would like to learn more, or are anywhere in between, this books if full of great tips and shortcuts. Anyone trying to run a legitimate business MUST BE on Google Plus! Evo knows his stuff and gives very helpful instructions. Definitely read this one.

(Kindle Edition $4.95. Purchase link below.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Author of the Month Feature!

Hey Everyone!

Just a quick announcement today. Donna of A Novel Gathering is featuring me as February's Author of the Month! Yippee!

I'd love it if everyone would hop over to view her opening post. We'll be doing some other things as the month progresses, and I'd love to see you all there. 

You can also head over to my other blog to check out tips on how to run a great KDP Promo!

Happy Monday! Reach for the stars today!