Saturday, December 16, 2006

Merry Christmas!

We're leaving tomorrow to make a grueling long drive to be with family and friends for the holidays. I'm busy doing laundry, packing and cleaning and doubt very much if I will have time to blog for the next two weeks. I'm supposed to have a post over at Favorite Pastimes the week of the 24th, but blogger isn't giving me access--some glitch to do with blogger beta.

We've had a terrible storm here the last few days in the Pacific Northwest. You can view some of the videos taken by another Christian writers who lives on the coast here.



Blessings!
Beth.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Kathy Mackel Blog Tour


This is the last day of the Trackers blog tour, and I've already posted but I've gotta few things to add. There are some very informative reviews to read on various blogs such as Stuart Stockton and Becky Miller. As always Karen Hancock has an interesting read. Shannon McNear posted the letter she intends to send to WestBow Press. Valerie Comer posted a response from Kathy regarding the cancellation of her third book in the series. Make sure you've read these. And I have a review to post. My reviews are also posted over at Dancingword.net so they follow a specific format.

Title: Trackers
Author: Kathryn Mackel
Publisher: WestBow Press
ISBN: 1-59554-040-7
Genre: Christian Fantasy

Trackers is Kathryn Mackel’s second book in the Birthrighters Project. The young men and women sent out from the ark below the ice in Outriders, continue their responsibilities of gathering species from God’s original creation amidst a world filled with warlords, mutants and now an ancient evil. But not only must they fight against this evil, they must struggle with their own desires—desires that could destroy their mission and leave them exposed.

Tracker Timothy manipulates the others, convincing Niki and a rook to enter Baron Alrod’s palace in order to retrieve the secretive shroud, when his real intentions are to rescue Dawnray, the woman the baron has taken for his “lolly.” The rook, Anastasia, discovers a young man indentured to the sorcerer Ghedo, who dreams of good though knows only evil. While Timothy’s group penetrates the palace, Brady and his crew work to save a small village against the darkest evil they’ve faced yet. Brady must accomplish this while learning to trust Ajoba to be obedient. A new twist in Trackers is that Ghedo must face his own worst fear—being unseated by a more powerful sorcerer.

The novel is filled with graphic images of a world gone wrong. With each character Mackel takes great care to delve into their deepest desires and weakness, but views them from the light of the Cross. I enjoy the creativity of this author because I never know what will happen next. Though the darkness is the blackest of evils, Mackel relies on the brightest of Lights to dispel it, something I’d love to see in more novels. The redemptive value of the story deeply blessed me.


Blessings!
Beth.

PS I'll announce the winner of the two-book set soon.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Interview with Kathryn Mackel Part 2

Thanks for joining me again today for Part 2 of my interview with Kathy Mackel. You can read the first chapter of Trackers at Speculative Faith on Stuart Stockton's Tuesday post. Now, let's pick up where we left off yesterday.

BG: Fox Faith Movies. . . any possibility of working with them?

KM: Many studios have begun to explore faith-based entertainment. I just finished writing the screenplay for The Hidden for Namesake Entertainment. They are definitely among the industry leaders in making faith-based films with studio distribution. Next out the gate for them is Ted Dekker’s Thr3e, followed by the Dekker-Peretti collaboration, House. These two are being distributed through Fox.

BG: That's great news. I loved the Hidden and can't wait to "see" it. It's exciting that Christian novels are finally making their way to the movies and television in a big way. So what do you say to a writer who has multiple ideas just waiting to get on paper in the form of a book? How do you decide which one takes precedence?

KM: It depends where that writer is in their journey. If you’re still learning to put it all together, write what you’re most passionate about. But a writer who makes his or her living has to be aware of what’s commercial. When I evaluate how to spend my time, I still ask: which idea am I most excited about? But if I can’t answer yes to the next question—can I sell it—then I have to set that idea aside.

BG: Screenwriting or novel writing? Secluded on a desert island (how do you like the cliché?) and told to write anything you want-- the pay’s the same. . .would you write a novel or a screenplay?

KM: A screenplay—but only if there was someone else on the island to make the movie! Otherwise, I’d write a novel because it’s a more complete experience. Movies are collaborative. The script is only the first step in a process. Novels become an end to themselves.

BG: Interesting. So then what do you see as the big differences between noveling and screenwriting in terms of writing challenges?

KM: Screenplays require a strict structure. When I’m working under contract, I have to write with an eye on the projected budget. For example, in The Hidden, Jacob’s final therapy session reveals a look at evil as it plays out in human history. Even using stock footage, that would be far too expensive for a low-budget film (which all Christian films are at this point). So I created a flashback of his being chained with lots of close-ups so the filmmaker wouldn’t have to create an expensive set. When writing a script, I’m focused on creating moments—images and sound—that add up to a story. The beauty of film is that we can see things that we’ve never experienced (Titanic) and create what our imagination may not be able to grasp (Narnia).

But you sacrifice the intimate moments and interior reflection that prose allows.

BG: Yes, and that's why I always say the book is better than the movie! Can you share what you consider to be your “dream” project—a project you’d love to do but haven’t yet had the opportunity?

KM: I would love to write the CBA-version of Harry Potter. Obviously, not about wizardry but something that fires up young imaginations while presenting grace and mercy. And though I’ve published a book about fastpitch softball with HarperCollins, I haven’t been able (yet) to persuade a publisher to do a series on girls’ sports. Girls are so committed to their athletics and teams but they are underserved in literature.

BG: Regarding the CBA-version of Harry Potter, I would love to see what you would create with your metaphorical abilities! Can you share what you’re working on now?

KM: I just finished the first draft of screenplay for The Hidden. It came in nice and lean so the second draft will give me room to grow the characters. And I’m writing a middle-reader for Dial Books called Boost, about a girl on steroids. I’m exploring the pressure on young athletes in terms of performance and also body image. The research I’ve done on steroids is frightening. They are readily available and few (if any) high schools are able to test for them.

BG: Tell us about what you consider to be “high point” of your writing career? Any regrets?

Writing Outriders (and Trackers) is definitely my high point. By unleashing my imagination, I experienced the Holy Spirit in amazing ways. I pray my readers will join me in that experience.

As for regrets: I broke into the film industry just as family films were getting fired up. Showtime and Fox had family film divisions and Nickelodeon was getting into family films big time. But the movement was over before it even really took off. Now studios consider their PG-13 offerings as “family fare” even though most are loaded with innuendo and crudity. Companies are still trying to make family films but they’re very few. Even many animation projects come through as PG. It’s sad.

BG: Thank you so much, Kathy, for joining the CSFF Blog Tour and sharing your thoughts on the Birthright Project. We wish you much success and look forward to reading more from you. Please join us again in the future!

That concludes my interview with Kathy Mackel. If you haven't done so please read the first chapter of Trackers on the Speculative Faith Blog. Don't forget to post a comment to be eligible to receive the two-book set. And if you don't win. . please, please consider supporting this genre and author and buy the book!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Interview with Kathryn Mackel Part I

BG: Thanks to you, Kathy, for joining us today. We're looking forward to hearing more about Trackers. Can you give us some details, including what you love about it?

KM: In Trackers we catch up with Brady, Niki, and the rooks as they return from Arabah. (Arabah is the missing Birthright camp.) The Birthrighters of Horesh are under tremendous pressure because they now have to gather all of Arabah’s collections as well as their own. Meanwhile, Timothy is head-over-heels for Dawnray, the young woman kidnapped to mother an heir for the evil Baron Alrod. As an excuse to enter Traxx, Timothy conjures up a mission to retrieve the shroud that Alrod has. He’s not pleased when Niki is assigned to accompany him.

What I love about it are the twists—which I can’t go into here. But character-wise, I love seeing both heroes and evildoers playing out their humanity on a fantastic stage. We see Brady and Niki at their most heroic but also very vulnerable. And we see Ajoba and Anastasia—on separate missions—have to grow to fit what is required of them. The Anastasia of Outriders was quite the diva. I loved challenging her and watching her grow.

BG: The characters in both books are strong and courageous. But what do you feel is the take away message in spiritual terms?

KM: When my characters grow closer to God, I get to as well. And when my antagonists stumble on their own arrogance or hateful natures, I need to confront my own nature. I hope my readers experience the same.

What I love most off all is using the vehicle of fiction to portray the daily provision and deliverance by which a Spirit-led life is blessed. Niki huddling under a piece of shroud to escape the fire of wrath is an exciting scene but more importantly for me, it’s a picture of the covering that Jesus Christ gives me. Fantasy gives the writer so many opportunities to portray spiritual truths—and joys.

BG: Wow, I hadn't thought of it that way. When I read that scene I was mostly astounded at your creative abilities--an image of Christ didn't come to me at the time. The covering of Jesus certainly brings me to my next question. You focus quite a bit on Ajoba’s redemption from her disobedient behavior in Outriders. And through it, Brady suffered greatly, but in many ways due to his own stubbornness. Can you share why you took this path with your characters and any thoughts you have about it.

KM: Ajoba has a good heart—a heart for the Lord. But we are also called to obedience. There is a consequence to her actions that I felt was important to show, as well as the daily battle all believers share in resisting our old nature. Ajoba, who resists Brady’s leadership with very good intentions, can’t make a true turnabout until circumstances force her to fill Brady’s role. Suddenly everything looks entirely different to her, just as it is for us when we filter our experience through Christ rather than our own desires.

As to Brady’s stubbornness, the challenge of discipline—especially church discipline—is to know when to stand firm and when to step aside. This challenge is magnified when there’s an entire body of believers whose safety, whether physical or spiritual, is at stake. As any good leader, Brady has to deal with the question of knowing when it’s the Lord leading him or when his own nature is pushing him into a course of action.

BG: You certainly know your characters well and they seem real, coming alive in these books. And of the two books, Outriders and Trackers, which would you say is your favorite? Which one resonates within you more?

KM: That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite. I would say Trackers only because it’s the younger—and perhaps more in need of my shepherding. In both books, grace is found in unexpected places. In Outriders, with the gargant (giant) Jasper. And in Trackers…oops, I won’t reveal that. I love showing the breadth and depth of Christ’s mercy.

BG: What would you say was your inspiration for the Birthrighter Project and what is the overall message you hope to get across?

KM: My original thought was to provide a worthy follow-up to the Harry Potter generation. These books certainly aren’t kids’ books but they are designed to feed teens and Gen X’ers and Y’ers who have an affinity for fantasy.

The Ark is meant as a metaphor for the church or the Christian home. The world of the strongholds is what we face every time we step outside our sanctuaries. Just as the Birthrighters collect specimens to honor God’s creation, we share the Gospel to honor Christ’s sacrifice. In the books, the kingdom of Traxx is sheltered by a wall of thorns. How many hardened hearts are there behind spiritual walls of thorns that the Spirit is calling us to dare to approach?

BG: Where did you find the inspiration for your characters? Did you model any particular character after someone you know? Any favs?

KM: In Trackers, readers will meet a young man named Gabe. He is definitely my favorite because, though he’s the sorcerer’s ‘slave’ and lives in Ghedo’s lair, he still hears the call of God on his life.

Inspiration for characters? Hm…I think there’s pieces of me in most of my characters. I want to be Brady—wise, kind, bold, strong. But I’m more often Niki—determined to do good but afraid to ask the Lord what He wants me to do! Niki and her wolf is a definite picture of me and my old, ratty dog who loyally follows me when I call. I’ve been petulant like Anastasia in Outriders, but also optimistic like the Anastasia we see in Trackers. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had moments like Ghedo, where I want to shape my life my way. Writers have the privilege of playing out our own nature in our characters. But we also have the responsibility to learn from the process.

BG: You write both thrillers and science fiction. Which do you prefer and why?

KM: Is it a cop-out to say I prefer doing both? That I love thrillers with a touch of science fiction that allows me world-building? If you forced me to chose, I’d say I prefer science fiction when I’m doing film, and thrillers when I’m writing novels.

BG: As you know, some Christian readers don't approve of science fiction or fantasy. How do you feel about that and what is your rebuttal?

KM: Imaginative literature gives us the tools to show truth in so many compelling ways. People perceive truth in different ways. Jesus knew this, which is why he taught some in parables and others in harsh tones. The apostle Paul geared his teaching for different cultural groups. Certainly Tolkien, Lewis, and Charles Williams used fantasy (and a little science fiction, in Lewis’ case) to great effect.

Earlier in this interview I spoke of just some of the story metaphors I’ve employed to portray spiritual truths. For example—Traxx’s wall of thorns as the hardened heart. In Trackers, Brady burns his finger in the fire to rid himself of a mog. To me, this is a picture of the ‘searing’ work of the Holy Spirit in ridding us of sin. Shroud is the seal of the Holy Spirit.

BG: Same thing with the Christian “chillers.” I’d love to hear your opinion about why Christians should write in this genre.

KM: First of all, Christians are people too. Some of us enjoy romances, others historicals, still others thrillers. As in any genre, we need to be careful not to exploit for the sake of shock but to use the story to tell the greater Story. While it’s true that many Christian readers enjoy using their fiction as an escape or sanctuary—and that’s a wonderful thing—others are looking for fiction that doesn’t shy away from the danger of the world we live in.

Thrillers are a very popular genre in the mainstream market. I write my thrillers with the prayer that non-believers will pick up my books and find a rousing story that includes spiritual truth. Horror is popular in mainstream literature but very few will show the divine side. For example, in The Exorcist, the young girl is demonically-possessed but the mother never cries out to God. This is a readership that needs to see God in control.

That concludes our interview today. Join me tomorrow for the second part and learn what Kathy considers her "dream" project and what she has in the works for the future.

Plus, hop over to the Speculative Faith blog on Tuesday to read the first chapter of TRACKERS! And don't forget to comment here to be eligible to win the two-book set of the Birthright Project.

Other participants:

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Mark Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Karen and at Karen’s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Terri Main
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John Otte
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Chris Walley
Daniel I. Weaver

Blessings!
Beth.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

CSFF Blog Tour: Kathryn Mackel


Welcome to the CSFF Blog tour featuring Kathryn Mackel.

Kathryn Mackel is a best-selling author and acclaimed screenwriter for Disney, Fox, and Showtime. She was on the screenwriting team for Left Behind: The Movie, and Frank Peretti’s Hangman’s Curse. She is the resident playwright for the Living Word Players of Dunstable, Massachusetts, coaches ASA Junior Olympic softball and is a singer and instrumentalist with the ministry of music in her church. She lives north of Boston with her husband and two children.


I'm thrilled that CSFF will be blogging about Kathy Mackel and her second book in the Birthright Project, Trackers. I met Kathy a couple of years ago when I reviewed one of her Christian Chillers, the Departed, and I can't say enough about her friendship, encouragement and support to this aspiring writer. The above blurb about her accomplishments and involvements falls short of telling about all of the time she devotes to helping others. She's also on the board of the Christian Writer's Guild and devotes much time to coach and encourage the newest of writers.

You'll enjoy visiting her website. Be sure to go to the Birthright Project.

Join me Tomorrow for the first part of my interview with Kathy and visit the blog tour participants. Don't forget to comment so you can have a chance at winning a two-book set!

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Mark Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Karen and at Karen’s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Terri Main
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John Otte
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Chris Walley
Daniel I. Weaver

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Just the Facts, Mam

From the moment of conception 46 chromosones with 30,000 genes combine to determine all of your physical characteristics: sex; facial features; body type; color of hair; eyes and skin.

The above is taken from here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Upcoming Blog tour and deadines


Wow, has it been more than a week since I've posted?! My, time flies. I'm supposed to post over at SpecFaith tomorrow but thankfully, Shannon McNear will be posting for me the entire month of December. Thanks for that break, Shannon.

Next week is the CSFF Blog Tour featuring Kathryn Mackel's sequel to Outriders--TRACKERS. Join me on Monday, December 11th for an interview with Kathy.

I don't have much more to say right now except that I've given myself a deadlne to finish the medieval I'm working on by the end of December so that I can start on my next project--a suspense thriller. I hope I can get it done:)

In addidtion to research material and medieval novels, I've taken a detour and I'm reading a wonderful mystery by Lorena Mccourtney--Stranded! I plan to post both a review and interview with her soon. as well.

Blessings!
Beth.
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