Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hikes and Heart--Sterling Bridge Blog Tour

My first comment has to be an apology/explanation.  Apparently, my brain went through a convoluted series of mistakes in which I was supposed to review this book next Wednesday, not Tuesday.  Don't ask me how this happened, but this is also how I confused my roommate by claiming my hair appointment tomorrow is on the 18th.  7 days before my next big trip, my brain is starved for intelligence.

Anyway, here we go!  A little while ago, I was asked to review this book and knowing that it was a sports story, I gave it a shot.  After all, I am a huge fan of Miracle at Fenway, 42, A League of Their Own, Fever Pitch...  Basically, if you give me a good sports story, make it true and write it well, I'll be a puddle of emotions by the end of it.

Emphasis on "write it well."  I can't stand flimsy characters that I can't relate to or care about.  I have little patience for sports that expect me to know the playbook.  I need a good ending.

So, with those yo-yoing standards, where do I fall on the subject of Sterling Bridge?  Somewhere between Remember the Titans and 42.  It is a fantastic period piece.  I am not familiar with the area or the sport.  I periodically stopped and looked up things like European national boundaries in the 1920's or the history of the text of the Pledge of Allegiance.  (I found a factual error.  He had the students recite the text as found in 1954.)  I laughed in delight when he fictionalized Loren C. Dunn, the first president of the Boston Temple.

It was a multicultural story, both in the telling of life stories of Yugoslav and Polish and half a dozen other heritages in a small mining town, and a town segregated by religion.  There are 42-esque scenarios of people getting a black eye for calling another person a wop, the locals complain about the ferriners (and it took me a while to figure out that it was a Utah pronunciation of foreigner) and a local priest confesses that he thinks the Mormons refer to his flock as the "Catholic impostors."  But the binding force as in so many sports stories was the common goal.

Sterling Harris is clearly the ultimate hero of the book, but I found myself absolutely devastated when my favorite character died young.  I won't watch BYU football because I find it boring, but I read the play-by-play of the state championships eagerly.  I even possibly brought shame upon myself in my grandfather's eyes when I hoped that Tooele would win against his alma mater.

Do you have to be a football fan to like this?  Absolutely not.  Do you have to be religious?  No, you will still appreciate the cultural heritage of people embracing their religion and the struggles of multiple characters with faith.  Can you get excited over games that happened 80 years ago?  Good grief, yes.

Buy it here

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Blog tour: Stephen Zimmer guest posts!

Note:  I'm excited to have another person give advice on this blog!  He addresses a writing style that reminds me of Pratchett and Bujold, so I admire it already!  Also, check out a new Writing Wednesday post on later tonight. 

The Character Franchise Versus a Series: The Writer's Challenge

Heart of a Lion is the first book of the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy, featuring the sword and axe-wielding heroine Rayden Valkyrie.  The trilogy, though, is not the totality of the story of Rayden Valkyrie.  The Dark Sun Dawn trilogy is a story arc that is going to be part of a developing collection of short stories, other multi-novel story arcs, and perhaps even tales that can be stand-alone novels, all of which will feature Rayden.

To date, I have a pair of active series that have been progressing, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, which has three books out of a planned seven now available, and the Rising Dawn Saga, which has four books of a planned seven now available.  At this stage of my path, I do understand what's involved in writing a dedicated series, and that's why the Rayden Valkyrie stories, and the Dark Sun Dawn trilogy, represented new ground to me as a writer.

To illustrate what I am getting at, I will cite the short story where she makes her debut as well as Heart of a Lion, the first novel featuring her.  “All the Lands, Nowhere a Home”, which is contained in the sword and sorcery anthology Thunder on the Battlefield: Sword, marks the first appearance of Rayden Valkyrie.  The story in it is going to be continued, but it is set at a time in Rayden's life different than that portrayed in Heart of a Lion.  And that's what I'm getting at here.

A series develops in a sequential manner, while a character-based franchise, such as Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian tales, can unfold in a very non-linear manner.  One story or book could take place in a hero or heroine's more advance years, with the next taking place in their youth, and another taking place somewhere in-between.

This presents a unique kind of writing challenge, as a person evolves and grows over the course of their lifetime.  The stories have to reflect where they are at, on their path, and requires the author to have a full command of that character's history, very thoroughly, in order to maintain the right mode of that character and the references contained in the story.

Additionally, the author has a little challenge in selecting what stories to tell as everything unfolds.  For me, “All the Lands, Nowhwere a Home” serves as a good introduction to the Rayden Valkyrie character, while Heart of a Lion broadens and deepens the reader's experience of Rayden.

The story arc in the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy, when it is complete, will definitely leave the reader with the core of who Rayden is and what she is about.  For me, in developing her story and growing her body of work, that is the best place to start the path.

After the completion of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy I will have to focus on what is next, as far as stand-alone novels or multi-book story arcs.  By then I may have some more Rayden Valkyries short stories, which will also involve their own decisions as far as the overall timeline and which stories to tell.

Whether short story or novel, I will have to determine what story is most important to tell at the time and what will be the best next step in revealing the overall Rayden Valkyrie story.  I don't know whether that will entail her early years, her middle years, or her later years, but I can say it will offer the reader something that will broaden their relationship with the Rayden Valkyrie character.

Nevertheless, life is determined by a heartbeat, and my telling of Rayden's story unfolds at the heart, in Heart of a Lion.  Much more to come, and much more to tell.  Stay tuned!