This week (and next week) at the life and lies…

This week: the last week of school.

Next week: finals.

Suffice it to say, I'm going to be scarce.

katnis exams

That is all.

Interview: Heather Burch

Today I have Heather Burch, author of Halflings, visiting The Life and Lies!

1) Why and when did you begin writing?

I’ve always had a passion for writing. As a teen, I wrote tons of poetry. My boyfriend’s mom and sister were published novelists, so I did the only thing a budding writer could do. I married into that family!

2) What inspired you to write your book?

Halflings was a combination of a lot of ideas that had been bouncing around in my head for a while. I wanted a story that was one part X-Men, one part Cinderella.

3) How did you come up with the title?

I was sitting at the beach thinking … They’re half human, half angel. Half, half. Oh! Halflings!

4) What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?

Well, my first loves were Dr. Seuss, then Edgar Allen Poe. I graduated to Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Huh. I’m seeing a trend here. I’ve always gone for the slightly strange … No wonder I write about girls being hunted by demons and hell-hounds! As for positive or negative, I can’t say. They were all an influence though. Absolutely.

5) How do you go about researching for your books?

I use the internet, the phone, sometimes I have to meet an expert face to face. It all depends on how much info I need. But the internet is always a great way to start.

6) Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Mace and Raven, the two main Halflings are mirror images of my two boys, Jake and Isaac. Nikki is a mix of all the things I’d love to be … strong, a warrior, ready to face whatever comes at her.

7) What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?

I really love helping other people realize they can reach their dreams. Also, meeting “fanlings” and getting to see the great reviews Halflings has gotten is just the funnest thing ever. The story is really close to my heart, so to see book 1 in print … it’s unbelievable.

The hardest part is being away from my family. Right now I’m on book tour and hitting several cities. Book tour is AWESOME! So much fun, but sadly, I can’t drag my husband and boys all over the country with me.

8) Do you have any other books planned in the future?

Halflings is a series and book 2 releases in October. It’s titled Guardian. Book 3 will release next spring and is titled Avenger. There is a free ebook short story that goes with Halflings. 11:15, The Making of a Halfling is an illustrated prequel. Also, we’ve offered a free Halflings Game App for iphone and Android. But watch out, because if you download it, you’ll be addicted. :D

9) Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

I really enjoy writing Raven because there’s always an ulterior motive with him. He keeps the tension high. Mace is a great guy, but he’s honor bound to do the right thing. That makes it tougher on the author. Vine is really fun. He always surprises me.

10) What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?

Get into a good critique group that will advise but not squash your voice. If you have a weird, bizzarro idea, go with it! No matter if everyone says, “You can’t do that.” Follow your gut. Not your ego. Ego says, “I don’t want to change that. Its good just the way it is.” Your gut says, “How can I make this stronger, better, more compelling?” And never ever EVER give up.

Just for fun:

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Reading. Walking at the beach. Oh, and laundry. Mountains and mountains of laundry.

Do you have any pets?

Our goldfish died yesterday.

What are your favorite (and least favorite) foods?

Love steak, pasta, sushi, guacamole. Huh, did I leave any continents out?

Least favorite: Uh. Hmmm. Well, there should be something. Not such a big fan of fishy-fish.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I have an office that’s really comfy and cozy, but I also go to Panera for a change of scenery. Sometimes out to the beach, but not too often.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

I’m a trail mix kinda girl. But I add extra M & M to it. Also, coffee must be at arms reach.

If you could go anywhere in the whole world, either for a vacation or to live there, where would you go?

Baden, Baden, Germany. It’s in the foothills of the black forest and the Grimm fairytales were written in the area. It’s truly magical. That’s why the Halflings ancestral home is there.

What was your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

Math was the least favorite. I really liked Drama.

What book are you reading right now?

Sophie Jordan’s Firelight series.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I grew up racing dirt bikes and when I was small, I was in several beauty pageants. Yes, I have the tiaras to prove it. :)

 

Thanks Heather! Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of Halflings!

Exploring Etsy: Dresses

I love dresses. And skirts. But especially dresses.

Here are some fantastic ones (that, of course, I can't really afford).

 

Vintage 50's cream and paisley dress by Reta's Roses

White Shores by Fantasie

White dress with black swan applique by Zoe's Lollipop

Bohemian Crochet dress by Nalini

Women Maxi Dress by xiaolizi

I don't usually like yellow… but!

This is pretty.

Vintage strapless dress by Vintage Vortex

Vintage 1970s Dress by zwzzy

1960's green satin and cream lace dress by Ruby Chic Originals

Last but not least:

If I had this, I would buy it, and wear it at my wedding… oh it's so pretty.

Vintage Edwardian wedding dress by ReInVintage

Interview: Summertime's End

Today I'm interviewing Daniel Throssell of Summertime's End. Summertime's End has been described as "Musical candy for the sweet-toothed. Think Owl City meets Relient K... in Australia."

 

Which other bands do you most look up to?

I grew up on Relient K. I remember discovering their music about eight or so years ago, when I first started listening to music, and since then they've always been my favourite band. I've seen them twice (despite living almost totally on the opposite side of the world) and it's rare that I ever turn as stupid and fanboy-ish as I am when I'm watching them perform. I really look up to what they do, more so with their older stuff, in terms of bringing music with Christian themes to an audience that really needs it. If I can have half the impact on someone's life that they had on mine, I'd be happy. I really look up to those guys. I'm also a huge fan of Owl City and what he achieved by himself with just a computer and a whole lot of imagination. Adam Young is a genius and a pioneer, and I really admire him for that. Finally I have to say I also look up to Hawk Nelson. Those guys are just blatantly Christian and it's so awesome to see people who are so willing to sing about their faith like that and not worry about how it might hurt their mainstream image.

Which of your songs is your favorite?

It's a tough choice for me, but Nadia's Goodbye has always been my favourite. It's probably not my best work as a producer, but I think it's my strongest effort as a songwriter yet. It's about a topic close to my heart, too, so it really means a lot to me. I have to say I'm also quite fond of Valentine's Day as well; I really like the lyrics and the arrangement. Plus I'm not the greatest singer, so I'm quite proud of my vocal performance in that track!

(Also I know you didn't ask, but I just have to say that I do have least favourite tracks as well. I'm not really a fan of Airport Dreams or Away, and yet people often tell me they like those the best! It drives me crazy sometimes. I reserve my strongest dislike, though, for the acoustic version of 'Compliments'. I don't think I've listened to that for months... I always skip it.)

Where do you find inspiration?

For me, the music I listen to is a massive inspiration. When I listen to a song that I really connect with, I get this thing that I described to a musician friend of mine as "songwriter envy". It's basically the feeling of listening to a new song for the first time and totally falling in love with it, and wishing that you'd written it. When that happens I'm always inspired to write. Obviously the first temptation is to try and write that song again but it usually just sets off a creative spark that eventually turns into another song.

In terms of inspiration for my lyrics, though, I draw a lot on my relationships with people. It's interesting to note that whilst the people are different, almost all teenagers go through the same kinds of things with other people: the person you fell for a little too late, the best friend who you were crazy about, the friend who lost interest in your friendship and drifted. We have all sorts of songs about these kinds of things, because not only do many people who go through this stuff write these songs, but also almost everyone can relate to them. To me, being able to put these events into a song sort of summarizes it, and in a way provides closure. There's also the good stuff too: everyone's been in love with someone, and I sure like writing about that! Finding new ways to make my girlfriend Hayley smile with a song is a huge challenge for me, and something that always inspires me to work on my music.

You sing a lot about love for people, and love for Christ. How, in your mind, are these similar or different?

To my mind, the love I have for other people and the love I have for Christ are two very different things. It's difficult to describe, but I guess an analogy that everyone could relate to is that one can love their sister and their girlfriend at the same time, but in different ways. I don't mean to say that my love for God is like either, but it's different in the same way. I actually view the songs of mine that sing about love for my girlfriend as extensions of God's love through me; I can only love because God is love, and I can show my love for God by loving my girlfriend in a godly manner. What I mean by that is not singing about girls like many modern artists do - stuff like getting with a girl you've just met, or focusing on a girl as a sexual object. There is no glory to God in things like that. The truth is that when you love God, you have to keep his commandments (1 John 2:4!), and one of those is to love other people. So I sing about my love for other people, but that's only a subset of the love I have for God, and from God.

When did you start writing songs, and how has your life and your walk with Christ changed since you started professionally making music?

It's funny; I started writing songs before I could play any instruments. Back in 2008, in my last year of high school, I went through a few of those clichéd relationship situations that I described before, and a few of them really left me in a bit of a spin. One day I got out a pen and some paper and just started writing lyrics. They were really funny - something about how girls just wanted to break your heart - but they were a start. (Interestingly enough, whilst the original lyrics didn't survive, the song that came from that melody was Dazzling By Design, 3 years later.) I wrote a few more of these lyric-only songs, and then when I first started learning the guitar in late 2008, I wrote Weather. After about a year of writing almost nothing else, Hayley eventually asked me enough for a song of her own, so in 2010 I wrote Your Sunrise... and everything followed on from there! My life has changed drastically since then. When I was writing my old songs, I was pretty young, immature and a bit unstable. I was still kind of figuring out who I was as a person and where I was as a Christian. Now, a few years later, rather than music being a little thing I do, it's pretty much my whole life. I am Summertime's End just as much as I'm Daniel. It's been a lot of fun to adjust to that but I really love what I do! I've also matured a whole lot in my faith. I feel like I have a much better idea of what my life is about now than I did when I first started writing music, and I feel absolutely blessed to have been able to get to this point. I'm not sure if I can say that my songwriting has been the driving force behind my development as a Christian, but I can definitely say that it goes the other way - being a more mature Christian definitely gives me something to sing about!

What is your lyric writing process like?

I wish I could say I had a solitary process for writing lyrics, but I don't! My lyric-writing process is really spread over a whole spectrum. The Art Of Succinct Compliments was the quickest lyric job ever. I sat down with a ukulele, worked out a melody, and almost wrote the song as fast as I could type. I'm not an incredibly gifted songwriter, but one thing I really do believe is a strength of mine is the ability to create poetry to a set rhythm. Give me a rhythmic structure and I can write a rhyme that will fit it really quickly. Compliments was obviously one of those songs so it really flowed. Valentine's Day was like that too, because of the rhythm and poetic nature of the song. There are songs like Silverlined where the rhythm wasn't so defined, but certain sections (like the bridge) would just materialize at once onto a page, and then the inspiration would vanish just as fast. Then there are a whole bunch of songs that are at the other end of the spectrum and take months and a whole lot of thought. In Stereo took many weeks to write lyrics for: I'd come up with lots of verses that fit the rhythm, and just spend hours staring at them thinking about changes or additions. For songs like this, I'll do all sorts of things like listing rhymes, swapping words to get the accent on different syllables, and even using rhyming dictionaries for inspiration. I often go through far more lyrics than end up in the song, and often a lot of my original lyrics are "dummy" lyrics that make no sense and just hold the melody. It seems really weird to me that the same activity can sometimes be a super-creative, spontaneous thing and at other times be a totally logical and thought-intensive process. I don't know of any other task that ranges from creative to logical like that. One common thing, though, is that lyrics usually (though not always: The Sunset Conspiracy and When She Sails Away were lyrics-first) come after the music, because it's easier to fit words to music than music to words.

What's the story behind your song The Sunset Conspiracy?


The Sunset Conspiracy was the last song I wrote for Light And Colour. It actually started from a title. I have a list of titles that I've come up with over time and I put them all in one notepad file on my phone. "The Sunset Conspiracy" was one such title that had been there for probably over a year. I was thinking about the album and getting one more song done for it, feeling like my creative spark was probably exhausted after having written 12 other songs, and hence feeling a little glum and directionless. So I looked at my file and saw that title. I really liked the idea that just those three words suggested - something about the sunset being a lie. So I wrote these lyrics about a guy who sat on his balcony every night watching the sun go down, and he's just obsessed with this idea that the light doesn't have to go, that the day doesn't have to end. And I wrote these lyrics, almost exactly as they appear in the song (apart from the "west" lyric - I messed up my thought process to start with and had him catching a plane east, before I realized in horror when I was listening to it that the sun does not set in the east!). I looked at them... and then just thought, "these sound way too indie... I can't use these. There's no way I could make this song sound like one of mine." I hadn't written a melody yet, but at this point I had pretty much given up on the song and was starting to feel like I had no good ideas again. I remember emailing Hayley and telling her I was totally out of inspiration, and said something like "check out these terrible lyrics I wrote today... that's how bad it is!". She emailed back saying that I'd totally misled her by saying I hadn't written anything good, and that she loved the lyrics! So I think that gave me a bit of a kick to finish the song. I knew there was something different about them to my normal lyrics, so I tried for something different stylistically. I'd never used electric guitars exclusively as the main instrument in a song, so I tried that, and the result I ended up with was amazing. It sounded like Relient K in all their pop-punk glory. I was actually scared though, that my fans weren't going to like it, because it was too different. So I took the unusual step of posting a preview to test the reaction... and it blew me away. Everyone said they loved it. So I was super happy, and I finished most of it off; called over my bassist friend Shane, who plays for a band called Oak Tree Suite, and he wrote and recorded a bass part for it. I honestly think his bass part in the bridge is one of the coolest parts of the album. On reflection, I'm super glad I ended up pressing ahead with this song, because it's my favourite song to play in the car. I love that chorus!

(I do get the feeling that you were asking about the meaning of the song, though, as much as that is a fun story.) Obviously a lot of the song is fictional. I don't sit on my balcony staring at the sun, and I know how the sun sets. But the sunset spoken of in the song is metaphorical. It's not something I can easily explain, because the themes of chasing the light and not believing the sun has to set represented a few things. One of those was on an emotional level: I never really found a place where I was stable and happy with my relationships until I met Hayley, and in that sense, she was the light I'd chased and longed for. The lyric about being "all too familiar with how things change" is a bit of a reference to events like those that prompted Nadia's Goodbye, in that almost every other friendship I'd had over the last few years had ebbed away to some extent eventually. But the song also has another meaning, and that was about God: the belief that we don't have to live in darkness for most of our lives. This guy is sick of the sunlight always leaving and he has a desire to chase the sun, to be in the light always. I think that was like me: knowing that there's something missing, something that only God can fill. The only problem with interpreting the song is that it alternates between these two meanings quite readily and extricating the parts which refer to one or the other is a tricky task; some lines mean both at once! But there is a lot more to it than just chasing the sun around the world (which in itself, I think, is a good little story).

Thanks Daniel! Check out Summertime's End's new album "Light and Colour."

 

"Light And Colour" is my sequel to "With Love From Where You're Not". After over a year of anticipation from my end I'm incredibly excited to finally be able to release it. Expect more and better guitar work, heavier Relient K/Hawk Nelson influences, richer harmonies, punchier drums, more organic instrumental playing, thicker synths, dreamier strings and more dynamic vocals. I honestly believe this album blows my older stuff away - but I'll let you be the judge of that. Enjoy!

Light and Colour is available online as a free download on Summertime's End's website!

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Waiting on Wednesday

Books I can't wait for:

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

In Clockwork Princess, Tessa and her companions travel all over the world as they race to stop the clockwork army before it's too late. As Jem's health worsens alarmingly and his friends search desperately for a cure, can Tessa choose between the two boys she loves — even if it means never seeing the other one again?

I've promised myself I won't start this series until all three books are published… because I know how Clare's books are!

 

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins

After her father loses the family fortune in an insider-trading scheme, single mom Parker Welles is faced with some hard decisions. First order of business: go to Gideon's Cove, Maine, to sell the only thing she now owns—a decrepit house in need of some serious flipping. When her father's wingman, James Cahill, asks to go with her, she's not thrilled…even if he is fairly gorgeous and knows his way around a toolbox.

Having to fend for herself financially for the first time in her life, Parker signs on as a florist's assistant and starts to find out who she really is. Maybe James isn't the glib lawyer she always thought he was. And maybe the house isn't the only thing that needs a little TLC…

Why? Because it's Kristan Higgins!

Tour: Social Punk

The Book

Ima would give anything to escape The Dome and learn what’s beyond its barriers, but the Chicago government has kept all its citizens on lockdown ever since the Scorched Years left most of the world a desert wasteland. When a mysterious group of hooded figures enters the city unexpectedly, Ima uncovers a plot to destroy The Dome and is given the choice between escaping to a new, dangerous city or staying behind and fighting a battle she can never win.

Amazon

Author

Monica Leonelle is a well-known digital media strategist and the author of three novels. She blogs at Prose on Fire (http://proseonfire.com) and shares her writing and social media knowledge with other bloggers and authors through her Free Writer Toolkit (http://proseonfire.com/free-writer-toolkit).

 

Excerpt

Prologue

After playing God for six years with the world he created, he couldn’t control any of his subjects, none at all. Over the years, he had watched them evolve and become the sum of their own choices rather than the sum of his; and for that, he regretted ever giving them life.

A small, blinking red light from just inside his eyelid reminded him of the news they sent him earlier that morning. The company had cancelled his funding and would shut down his project within three months. According to them, the project cost too much and took up too much space, and the inconclusive results couldn’t be published reputably, now or in the future.

Six years of his work, tens of thousands of lives at stake—and he could do nothing to save any of it. He bowed his head, letting his chin rest on the rim of his breakfast smoothie. The smoothie reeked of powder—crushed pills—but he supposed he had better get used to it. He wouldn’t be able to afford the luxury of real food after they canned him.

He closed his eyes and called up the camera view of one of his favorites, number 3281. She fascinated him; he couldn’t deny it. When he had designed her, her pre-teen rebelliousness lit fire in her eyes. A survivor, he’d thought. He’d meant for her to have it all—to grow up, to get married to the love of her life, and to have a beautiful family of her own someday.

But he had only given her sadness so far. Instead of creating a strict father, he had given her an abusive one. Instead of creating a loving boyfriend, he had given her a friend who could never love her. And instead of creating a strong, proud mother, he had given her a meek one, who watched the whole thing unfold and did nothing about it.

He looked at his last and final creation sitting in the chair across from him—his own son, not awakened yet. The law forbade him to have any children of his own, so this boy would substitute.

But he had done the unthinkable with this creation—he had bestowed on it his own thoughts, emotions, and decision-making processes. He’d given the boy his own mind, his own physical characteristics, his own wants and desires.

He had never done so with any of the others because of the dangers of investing too heavily in any one of his subjects. But who could he kid? He had not stayed objective thus far, watching some of his subjects more closely than others, wishing for the happiness of some at the expense of others. He had become an abomination, a monster of his own doing, who had created subjects only to watch them suffer.

He couldn’t forgive himself; not now, not ever. His eyes lingered on the vial that sat next to his breakfast smoothie, that he’d stowed away for the day when they destroyed all his work, his entire world. He would save it, tuck it away for now, for as long as he could protect them. When things spun out of his control, he would drink it and end himself the way he had ended them.

In the ancient stories, gods frequently gave their sons as gifts. Now, he would give his son as a gift to her, number 3281. So she could be happy in her last months on earth, before they destroyed her with the rest of them.

 

Giveaway

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Music Spotlight

Check out Summertime's End! Download their album off Noisetrade for free, and if you like it, leave a tip!

Teaser Tuesday

For school I'm reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. (I'm also writing a paper on it. Eventually I'll post it so you can see why I haven't been blogging often.) So here's a teaser from DG and from the book I'm currently reading for review.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

"There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all." ~Preface

 

 

The Vampire Underground by Brian Rowe

"I don’t care if the world started imploding on itself right now. I am going to make my movie, do you understand me? This is no longer a homework assignment. This is war. And you want to pull out our troops just before the last second. You’re nothing but a coward, Brin. And I’m not gonna put up with your shit anymore. Shut your mouth. Do what I say. And we will get through this day without me pummeling your ugly ass face into the ground.”

Anaya might have said more, but Brin would never know. When the van reached the top of the hill, the front tires plunged downward into a yard wide wedge of sunken mud. The van abruptly stopped, Sawyer exclaimed a vicious expletive, and Anaya went flying forward, her head smashing against the back of the driver’s seat.          

“Owww!” she screamed. “What the hell!”

“I think…” Sawyer said, fear and confusion in his low voice. “I think we’re stuck.”

~Chapter 10

Got any addicting reads you're in the middle of right now?

Book Trailer and excerpt: Taste

Today is the trailer reveal for Taste! Check out the trailer, and read the short excerpt and tell me what you think!

About the Book

At Barinkoff Academy, there's only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.
When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn’t realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.

ISBN | Publisher | Amazon | Goodreads

 

Trailer

Song Credits: "Hunger" © Noelle Pico.

Full Download available at http://sheisnoelle.bandcamp.com

Excerpt

Luka’s smile shifted into a snarl. “Obey my command.” His chin lifted. “Kneel.”

Demitri’s stance went rigid. His grip tightened around my wrist.

Okay, weird just got weirder. Why would Luka want Demitri to kneel before him? I thought back to Eli and the others bowing to Demitri when he questioned them, but they didn’t kneel. Seriously? Were they all living on a different planet or something?

“Kneel.” Luka’s detestable smirk made his features sinister rather than angelic. The real Lucifer: a fallen angel.

Without letting go of my wrist, Demitri knelt down on one knee and bowed his head, his free hand flat at the center of his chest. “Your command has been obeyed,” he said formally.

Luka nodded once.

Demitri stood up and pulled me toward the school without telling me where we were going. Not having the time to thank Luka for saving me from Calixta, I risked a glance back. Luka smiled at me. His smile spoke of whispers, secrets, and promises to be shared on a later date.

Want more? Check out the other tour stops, or you can be adventurous

Author

When Kate Evangelista was told she had a knack for writing stories, she did the next best thing: entered medical school. After realizing she wasn't going to be the next Doogie Howser, M.D., Kate wandered into the Literature department of her university and never looked back. Today, she is in possession of a piece of paper that says to the world she owns a Literature degree. To make matters worse, she took Master's courses in creative writing. In the end, she realized to be a writer, none of what she had mattered. What really mattered? Writing. Plain and simple, honest to God, sitting in front of her computer, writing. Today, she has four completed Young Adult novels.

Review: The Story

The Story [Teen Edition]: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and HIs People; Selections from the New International Version
Genre: Bibles
ISBN: 9780310722809
Published: April 12th 2011 by Zondervan
Rating: 4 (for the format, not the content!)

'The Greatest Story Ever Told' is more than just a cliché. God has gone to great lengths to rescue lost and hurting people. That is what The Story for Teens is all about---the story of the Bible, God's great love affair with humanity. Condensed into 31 accessible chapters, The Story for Teens sweeps you into the unfolding progression of Bible characters and events from Genesis to Revelation. Using the clear, accurate, and easy-to-understand text of the New International Version, it allows the stories, poems, and teachings of the Bible to read like a novel. And like any good story, it is filled with intrigue, drama, conflict, romance, and redemption.

The Story contains excerpts of the NIV Bible in a modern day format, as if the Bible was a novel. The text fills up the full page rather than the usual two columns, and it it has the regular paragraph breaks and quotation marks. History and explanations are italics, poetry is indented, and events and dialogue are in regular body text.

One thing I really like about this version is the quotes. In many Bibles it's hard to tell when someone is saying something, or quoting something from somewhere else. In this version, it's very clear, because it sets it in a block quote, with proper quotation marks.

Again, this version is excerpts. It's not the full version. It's not something that can be referenced, because the books and chapters and verse numbers aren't shown. It's separated into chapters with titles rather than the traditional books and chapters.

This is good and bad. Good because I think it would be easier for some people to read, and maybe more friendly to teens who are just trying to get an overall grasp of the Bible. It's not so great because then if you say "Wait, where is that in the Bible, and what chapter/verse is it?" it's not going to be easy to find.

I think The Story is a nice way to read the Bible in a casual setting, or for a small group or Bible study for people who want to get the big picture of the Bible and want to see how it ties together on a larger scale, but it's not really suitable for intensive study (which is fine; you need both).

Interview: Jill Williamson

Jill Williamson is the author of Replication: The Jason Experiment. Today she's visiting The Life and Lies!

Why and when did you begin writing?

My husband is a youth pastor. And back in 2004, we had some serious readers in our group. Since I was also a serious reader, I often traded books with a few of our teens. I got frustrated by the content in many of the books the teens passed my way. I have no problem with books that deal with edgy subjects. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorites. Teens need honest books. My frustration was with books that continually romanticized careless lifestyles without being truthful about the consequences. That kind of entertainment is harmful to a young, impressionable teen.

Around the same time, the newest Harry Potter book released, which re-fueled the debate within the church community as to whether Christian teens should read them. This frustrated me because there were much worse books out there. And aren’t drugs, alcohol, stds, and unhealthy relationships a much more realistic danger to a teen that the idea of trying to become a witch or wizard? I thought so, anyway.

All this inspired me to write a teen novel from a Christian worldview that would tell a fun story without ignoring the natural consequences that might arise from my character’s decisions. I wanted to write entertaining truth. And writing a novel turned out to be so much fun that I never went back to writing articles.

What inspired you to write your book?

I was riding in a car through upstate New York with my sister. We were going to pick apples. We passed endless amounts of ranches, orchards, and farms. It got me thinking. What if there was a farm where they grew people? Clones. It could be called Jason Farms. And that’s where the idea for the story came from. I wanted to explore how the world might treat cloned humans. Would they have the same rights as the rest of us? And what would their existence say about a creator God?

How did you come up with the title?

Originally, I called the book Jason Farms, because of that apple-picking day. But my publisher felt that Jason Farms was confusing, so they changed the title to Replication: The Jason Experiment.

Do you have any other books planned in the future?

Right now I’m working on the first book in a dystopian trilogy. Book one is called Captives, and it’s the story of three brothers who are taken captive by their enemies and forced to live in a strange land. I’d like to write two more books in the Replication series, but… we’ll see!

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

In Replication, Martyr is my favorite. He’s smart and kind, but totally naïve about the world outside the lab. He questions things like colors and animals and marriage, but doesn’t hesitate to stand up for what he believes is right. And it was fun to write his loving, selfless character in comparison with Abby’s by the book, it-has-to-be-my-way personality. Martyr sure showed her a thing or two.

What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?

Write, write, write. Get into a critique group where you feel you are learning. And finish that first book. Many new writers tend to get stuck for years writing that first book. Train yourself to be a writer by doing the hard work of completing a full manuscript. Then go back and rewrite it.

One of my favorite writing quotes is from Michael Crichton. He said, “Books aren't written—they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.” It’s so true.

Also, read, read, read. When you read, study what the author did. Look at their dialogue, action, punctuation, characters, plot, everything. Learn all you can. It will help you be a better writer and storyteller.

And try not to be impatient. Work on making each book the best it can be. When you finish a book, send it to editors and agents. And while you’re waiting to hear back, write another one. I wrote six novels before my first book was published. And I’ve heard the same from many authors. So, try to have fun.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

My husband is a youth pastor, and he and I do a lot with teenagers in our free time. We have teen events, teens over to hang out, and participate in Young Life. I enjoy reading, playing the guitar, playing games with my family, reading books to my kids, scrapbooking, kickboxing, and helping my son learn the piano.

If you could go anywhere in the whole world, either for a vacation or to live there, where would you go?

I’d love to go to Great Britain and tour England, Scottland, and Wales, see London, see old castles, and feel the history of that place.

What book are you reading right now?

I’m reading Temptation by Travis Thrasher. It’s the third book in his Solitary Tales. It’s a fun series. Scary, but fun.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I wanted to be a fashion designer and went to college for it, including a year in New York City. My husband and I moved there for my last year of school and our first year of marriage. While we were there—me in school and Brad working—we did all the touristy things: Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, seeing the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, New Year’s Even in Times Square, Empire State Building, the Bronx Zoo, Coney Island, and even standing on top of the World Trade Center. It was a very special year.

Thanks Jill!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a finished copy of Replication: The Jason Experiment!

Review: Replication: The Jason Experiment

Replication: The Jason Experiment by Jill Williamson
Genre: YA, Christian, Sci-fi
ISBN: 9780310727583
Published: December 27th 2011 by Zonderkidz
Rating: 5

When Your Life Is Not Your Own
Martyr---otherwise known as Jason 3:3---is one of hundreds of clones kept in a remote facility called Jason Farms. Told that he has been created to save humanity, Martyr has just one wish before he is scheduled to 'expire' in less than a month. To see the sky. Abby Goyer may have just moved to Alaska, but she has a feeling something strange is going on at the farm where her father works. But even this smart, confident girl could never have imagined what lies beneath a simple barn. Or what would happen when a mysterious boy shows up at her door, asking about the stars. As the reality of the Jason Experiment comes to light, Martyr is caught between two futures---the one for which he was produced and the one Abby believes God created him to have. Time is running out, and Martyr must decide if a life with Abby is worth leaving everything he's ever known.

 

Replication: the Jason Experiment has many different components that make it an excellent book.

The plot is intricately woven, exciting, fast-paced, and realistic. Yes it's about clones, but Williamson does an excellent job of keeping it from feeling ridiculous and impossible. She builds her world realistically and believably. The story starts off compelling, keeps you interested the whole time, and ends with potential. I like the ending because it doesn't feel like happyland syndrome (even though it's a happy ending) because it's an open ending: Williamson doesn't write everything down, but you pretty much know what happens, and it makes you feel so happy.

The characters are very complex. Abby is a Christian, but she's not perfect by any stretch. The youth pastor is a good guy, but he's not perfect either. Abby's relationship with God is realistic, her relationship with her father (who isn't saved) is hard to watch, but she tries to stay above reproach in the way she deals with his misunderstandings of her. I would have liked to know more about how Abby came to know Christ, but not knowing didn't take away from her story or her character. And maybe that's a story for another time.

Even though all the Jason's are clones, they are all very different. There are similar things about them, like their expressions (and probably their likes and dislikes) but they all have very unique characters. This story tackles the concept that yes we are born with DNA that determines a lot about us, but the way we grow up and the lifestyle we have and the influences around us also seriously impact our thoughts and choices. It's a balancing act; Williamson exposes it.

This book is a Christian novel, but it doesn't feel preachy (I call this Fictional Preaching), nor does it feel like a girl with a perfect almost sappy relationship with God. It's realistic. Abby fails, Abby sins, but she keeps going the right direction and she doesn't give up.

Lastly, the romance between the characters starts off subtle enough that you don't think anything of it, and stays real. It's not about the physical—so many teen romances start off that way. In fact, this novel says a lot about love: it's about them as people seeing examples of the love of Christ in each other! and because they love Christ, they love each other. And that's the way love is supposed to be: We love because He first loved us. It's a beautiful picture, and an excellent execution.

This novel was exciting, fast-paced, realistic, encouraging, and inspiring. On top of it all, it was totally clean. I recommend this one to anyone. Seriously. Read it. You won't regret it.

Check out the interview with Jill Williamson and the giveaway for a copy of the novel!

Replication: The Jason Experiment is on sale at Amazon for $1.99!

Exploring Etsy: Cats!

I don't know about you… but I REALLY love cats.

Here's all the best kitty stuff I found on etsy.

Sweatshirt by The Bold Banana

Moody Cats by Em &Sprout!

Silver Kitty Locket by Fever Bloom

Meow Mits PDF Pattern by Tiny Owls Magic Attic

Amsterdam Cats, hand painted by House of Harriet

Vintage Storybook cat sweater by Pursey Galore and More

Look at the paw-print buttons! I love this thing!!

Cheshire Cat shirt by Reta's Roses

Steampunk Polymer clay cat necklace by Freeheart1

That's it for now! If you have an etsy and would like to be featured, or if you have a favorite product list, leave a comment with the link!

Waiting on Wednesday: Underworld

I never thought I'd be WAITING on a Meg Cabot book (because if you haven't heard me rant about her before, I don't hate her, but I don't particularly like her either) but this one, this is the exception.

Underworld by Meg Cabot

Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera isn’t dead. Not this time. But she is being held against her will in the dim, twilit world between heaven and hell, where the spirits of the deceased wait before embarking upon their final journey.

Her captor, John Hayden, claims it’s for her own safety. Because not all the departed are dear. Some are so unhappy with where they ended up after leaving the Underworld, they’ve come back as Furies, intent on vengeance…on the one who sent them there and on the one whom he loves.

But while Pierce might be safe from the Furies in the Underworld, far worse dangers could be lurking for her there…and they might have more to do with its ruler than with his enemies.

And unless Pierce is careful, this time there’ll be no escape.

 

Expected Publication: May 8th 2012 by Point | ISBN 9780545284110 | Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Genre: Teen
ISBN: 9780547564593 
Expected publication: May 8th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Amazon/Goodreads
Rating: 3

A story of crushes, corsets, and conspiracy…
Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem.

I liked Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink. For the most part, it was a good read. There was only one thing that I didn't particularly like, but it was a pretty large part.

The good:

-The plot was fun. I enjoyed the storyline, the twists and turns, and the ending. Some of it I saw coming, some of it I didn't—but even when I expected it, I enjoyed seeing it work out.

-The characters: Dev (Libby's extremely gay friend) was fabulous in every sense of the word. If he were real, he'd be my buddy, even though he'd be constantly criticizing my shoes. Garrett, the reporter, is so nerd-tastic that I literally geeked out when he was introduced. Cam's romantic side was the hero every girl dreams about.

-The relationship progression: I knew from the get-go that Cam was going to be the greasy sleazy character that charms the girls but is really a jerk, and that Garrett was going to be the awesome-sauce hero. But when Libby first meets the characters, the reader perceives them just like she does: that Cam was a Shakespeare-quoting flower-throwing romantic, and Garrett was a nerd (again, I liked him more from the beginning anyway). The transition happened so slowly and flawlessly that I didn't see it happen, it just did.

-I've lead camps before. They're so much fun. Strohm nailed it! I loved the little girls! Ah for those scenes I totally wanted to be Libby.

-The writing was totally great. It felt like a teen's interior monologue, it was witty, fun, clear, and easy to read. It was perfect for the genre.

-The ending was pretty darn perfect. I liked what Libby learned, and how she changed. If the character hasn't changed from the beginning of the book to the end, nothing happened! The change was good. All in all the whole book was pretty cute.

The only not-so-good thing:

-I couldn't figure Libby out. Why doesn't she watch Battlestar Galactica or play Assassin's Creed? (That would totally be her thing. I bet after this story ends she turns into a total geek.) Libby was somewhat contradictory. She seemed to have a pretty clear view of right and wrong, and she was smart, but she didn't pick up on things that were blatantly obvious (trying to keep it spoiler-free here).

When there is only one not-so-good thing in the whole book, usually I'll rate it pretty high. But when the only not-so-good thing in the whole book is the main character? The whole way through reading this I kept thinking "Libby, what the heck are you thinking?" and she kind of annoyed me. I liked her, but again, her character seemed conflicting.

All in all, I enjoyed Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink, and would still recommend it for a fun quick light read.

Content/Recommendation: Little language, few references to sex. Ages 14+

Teaser Tuesday

Today I have several little excerpts for you, mostly because I couldn't pick, but partially because I am being forced to read this book for school, and I feel like if I blog about it maybe it'll help me finish it.

Not that I don't like it: it's just that, see, I'm being forced. So sometimes I don't do things simply because I want to rebel.

But this book is actually really good.

Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead—but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold coca-cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other's names. ~Little Bee, page 1

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

We don't want to tell you what happens in this book.

It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.

Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we'll just say this:

This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again—the story starts there…

Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.

Published first published January 1st 2008 | ISBN 9781416589631 | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 


"Please remind me again why you're going to pilgrim camp."

"Okay, first, it's not a camp. It's a living history museum studies internship." I nestled my cell phone between my ear and my shoulder, trying to zip my suitcase closed with one hand. Definitely not working. "And second, ugh," I grunted. That zipper was like beyond stuck. "Like I've said about a million times, I'm not a pilgrim." I sat on the suitcase and tried to zipper it between my legs. "I'm an eighteenth-century New England colonist on the coastline of the territory known as the state of Maine. It's a totally different thing. It's lime mistaking Pucci for Gucci." (Prologue, ARC page 1)

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm

A story of crushes, corsets, and conspiracy
Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem.

May 8th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | ISBN 9780547564593 | Amazon | Goodreads

Friday…

uh…I don't have anything to give away this week. Partially because I'm away from home on vacation (my only vacation of the year!) but mostly because I have plenty of ARCs yet, I just haven't read them.

So: Tell me which book you would LOVE to win, and you'll get 5 extra points in NEXT WEEKS contest.

I would absolutely love to get my hands on Timepiece or Magic Under Stone.

Review: Dancing on Broken Glass

Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock
Genre: General Fiction
ISBN: 9781451637373
Published: March 13th 2012 by Gallery Books
Rating: 5

I think this is the best book I've read in a really long time.

Let's start with a critical analysis and break down the text: First, the writing was really good. Like, Dianne Dixon good, or JK Rowling good. It was filled with flowing and descriptive prose and beautiful metaphors. I could probably write a ten-page paper on some of the literary themes in this novel. It wasn't just fiction for the sake of the story: There was so much beauty about the meaning of life and love and commitment and… well, I'll let you read it.

The pacing was excellent. The very first sentence caught me by the hair and dragged me the whole way through the book. I read most of it in one setting, stopping only to readjust the pillow behind my back.

Now for the really important stuff:

The characters in Dancing on Broken Glass were so epic that I truly didn't want this book to end. They were so wonderful, but so terribly and humanly flawed, just like real people are, that I feel like if I saw Mickey or Lily on the street, I'd recognize them right away.

And boy did I relate to some of these characters!

The ending was just superb. It was heartbreaking, but I knew it was destined from the moment I started reading. It was so perfect and fulfilling that it was worth all the emotional turmoil the rest of the novel put me through.

On that note, it wasn't one of those books that are so hard to read that you can only take it in small doses or that it makes you cry, or extremely emotional readers can't handle it. Nor did it have any offensive language or sex scenes (okay there was some mention of sex, but it wasn't explicit in any way). In fact, it was one of the least offensive novels I've read in a very long time. We're talking years.

The romance was better than anything I've read in any teen novel. The relationships were true and realistic to the core. The flawed characters were just as real to me as I am to myself. The message of hope and grief and dedication and sacrifice will stay with me forever. I hope I never forget this story.

Dancing on Broken Glass was an absolutely beautiful novel. Ka Hancock is going on my Author Watch, and this novel is staying on my "re-read" bookshelf. I recommend it to absolutely anyone willing to hear a really good story.

Amazon | Goodreads

An unvarnished portrait of a marriage that is both ordinary and extraordinary, Dancing on Broken Glass takes readers on an unforgettable journey of the heart.
Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.
Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won’t blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.

Waiting on Wednesday: Silver, Vessel, and Collision

Today's WoW comes in three parts: a paranormal, a dystopian, and a contemporary release (that's already published but, hey, whatever.)

Silver by Talia Vance

Beauty is pointless when no one's looking.
Brianna Paxton has been invisible to guys since the eighth grade. She’s pretty enough, it’s just that no one bothers to look. There’s almost nothing that can’t be explained with science, and Brianna has a theory: she’s missing the pheromone that attracts people to one another. Brianna’s theory is shot to hell in one frozen, silver moment, when time stops and Blake Williams not only sees her, he recognizes something inside her that she’s been hiding from even herself.
Before Brianna fully understands who and what she is, she accidentally binds her soul to Blake. Forced to find a way to reconcile forbidden love and her bloody heritage, Brianna discovers that there's nothing pointless about her, and Blake may be in the most danger of all.

ISBN 9780738733036 | Expected publication: September 8th 2012 by Flux| Amazon | Goodreads


Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

In a desert land where serpents made of unbreakable glass fly through the sky and wolves made of only sand hunt within storms, Liyana is destined to be a vessel, to sacrifice herself so that her clan’s goddess can inhabit her body... but her goddess never comes.

ISBN: 9781442423763 | Expected publication: September 11th 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry | Amazon | Goodreads


Collision by Stefne Miller

Seven minutes inside a hotel room with a complete stranger. A friendly greeting where we pretend to know each other well and are genuinely happy to see each other; then straight to business. None of it meaningful. None of it real. All of it rehearsed, choreographed, and expected.
My life isn’t my own anymore. I pretty much go wherever I’m told and put on the show. It’s my life and whether I chose it or not, it’s the life I’ve got. It’s the world I live in.
And, I’m searching. Always searching… I just don’t know what for.
---
Cab Stone has it all—fame, fortune and the adoration of millions of women across the globe. When the constant attention from fans and expectations from his handlers becomes too much, he escapes the craziness of press junkets and movie sets and escapes to Asheville, North Carolina to hide away for the summer.
He expects peace, quiet, and solitude. What he doesn’t expect is to meet a fiery redhead who changes everything he knows about the world.
The daughter of missionaries, Kei Sallee lives a life of service to others. She has little, expects less, and helps heal the hearts of thousands in Uganda, where she grew up. When she finds herself staying in the same guesthouse as Cab Stone, she vows to ignore his Greek god good looks and spend the summer as she had planned—in peace, quiet, and solitude.
Cab and Kei’s lives couldn’t be more different…or more the same.
Despite, or perhaps because of, their vastly different yet startlingly similar backgrounds, Cab and Kei strike up an unlikely friendship that could possibly blossom into something more. But Kei fears that the truth about her past will prevent pretty-boy Cab, who is used to getting everything he wants, from fully committing to her.
When two completely different worlds experience a Collision, can they exist as one?

(this one is already out, but I can't read it yet because I have no monies.)

(also kind of want to read this book because it takes place in Asheville, and I live like an hour away from there. So that's cool.)

ISBN: 9781618626158 | Published March 27th 2012 | Amazon | Goodreads

Disclaimer

Copyright 2016 Haley Mathiot. All reviews are 100% honest and unbiased. One or more items featured in the blog post may have been free or discounted. Receiving free or discounted product does not affect review. For more please see my disclaimer page.