Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Opinions Below. Enter at Own Risk.

The book Dale Carnegie never wrote: How to Lose Friends and Alienate Enemies.

Explicitly or implicitly, we learn this throughout life: If we want people to like us, we should avoid speaking of controversial matters, such as money, taxes, politics, religion, child-rearing, education or legal systems, immigration or national defense, and so on.

If I were a better marketer, I might avoid those topics as well, and concentrate only on publishing or writing or book reviews -- but those can be nasty, too, and bring wrath upon the reviewer. Nowhere in life are we truly free of conflict or of running afoul of someone else.*

A conversation began on Facebook when a fellow Christian and writer posted a link to an article about the recent Planned Parenthood scandal and his comments about the article. (They were not favorable.)

Someone replied that, although he abhors Planned Parenthood and their sale of body parts (which the organization denies, but is implicit in the grand jury indictments of the filmmakers whose secret  videos captured the vile practice**), Christians should back down and compromise, because the pro-life side is losing the fight and should try other tactics. Also, he wasn't sure 1) morality can be legislated, and 2) when a fetus becomes a child.

My response:
Morality is legislated every day, whether we agree with that morality or not. Case in point: the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage. Laws themselves are the imposition of morality upon a nation, and by those laws the legal system determines guilt or innocence. Therefore, the argument "you can't legislate morality" is invalid.
However, the DNA is inarguable: A human child is a human child at conception. It is not a fully-developed human even when it's born, because it matures as it grows. Therefore, to ask at which stage of development it becomes a child is to ask the wrong question. (When does it become an adult? Well, that varies. ;) )
As for Christians taking the hard line and being uncompromising, we have an excellent example in Christ Himself. He didn't compromise, and it killed Him. But that's one of the reasons we follow Him: He loved not His life unto death and He took upon Himself the sins of us all, not backing down, not compromising, but doing what must be done in order to save any who would call on His name.
There are times to back away and try another tack. There are times to stand firm and not gloss over the ugly, not try to avoid the uncomfortable. Christians and other religious and ethnic groups in the Middle East and in Africa are encountering this daily, facing death for what they believe or for what they are. Even their children are slaughtered.
But filmmakers trying to save lives of the most defenseless are the bad guys? What an upside-down world.
 And that's all I have to say about that.***

* Of tangential interest: a list of controversies.
** Click to read a rebuttal of the undercover sting operation.
*** Borrowed, of course, from Forrest Gump. :)

Updated February 7, 2016: Looks like the indictments are "all hat and no cattle", to borrow an old saying used in this article. That's all right by me.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Story First

Anyone else wearied by myriad causes du jour? By politics and the endless “debates” about it on social media? By the expectation of outrage or an emotional response about [fill in the blank] lest one be labeled by folks who are outraged, offended, etc.?

In the literary realm, one current debate is the “inclusiveness” of novels, and some people think we need to keep score: x number of ethnic characters, x number of certain genders or sexual orientations, and so on. There’s plenty of agenda-driven fiction out there, from a variety of political, religious, and cultural viewpoints. From whence comes this need to turn stories into soapboxes or pulpits?

I have opinions and beliefs, and I’ll talk about them, but not everyone requires, deserves, or is entitled to knowing what they are. In this age of constant exposure, personal freedoms and privacy are in becoming a short supply. So is moderation of speech and behavior.

The Internet, as valuable as it can be, is also a digital three-ring circus. Society/culture at large is often a flamboyant, obnoxious tyranny demanding everyone think alike.

Not gonna happen.

Even in the most repressive governmental regimes, silence or outward compliance have never meant assent. There is always an underground.

I cannot and will not divorce what I believe from what I write. However, my focus is story first

a draft of Dragon's Rook (cKB)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Oklahoma City Lights

 reposted from Adventures In Fiction via WordPress

Last week, a fellow editor/writer and I met to work out a few details on a project and ended up hanging out until after dark. We ate supper at The Garage -- great burgers and tasty fish tacos -- and I brought the camera for our stroll, just in case. Unfortunately, it had the short lens (shallow depth of field, 1:1 ratio), so there's less detail and more blurring than I'd like.
This first image is of a parking garage, looking rather sci-fi or action-scene-like:
parking garage (c2015, KB)
parking garage (c2015, KB)

I edited the next photo to show the heat map, because the dim lighting was insufficient to show detail, such as the spiral fire escape strung on wires above the common space between two buildings. It's surreal and quirky and cool, but something keeps me from wanting to walk underneath it. ;)
"flying" fire escape (c2015, KB)
"flying" fire escape (c2015, KB)

The image below is a fuzzier version of one I shared on Facebook a few days ago. It's the Devon Tower in downtown Oklahoma City, otherwise known as the Eye of Sauron.
Devon Tower a/k/a Sauron's other lair (c2015, KB)
Devon Tower a/k/a Sauron's other lair (c2015, KB)

Miscellaneous images below of old buildings, Christmas lights, and alleyways:
"Cinemascope" lends an older feel to the already old structure (c2015, KB)
"Cinemascope" lends an older feel to the already old structure (c2015, KB)

a misty, oblique shot that almost transports the viewer to an Old World city (c2015, KB)
almost like an Old World city (c2015, KB)

another blurry shot, this time of Christmas lights blanketing businesses near Automobile Alley (c2015, KB)
Christmas lights blanketing businesses near Automobile Alley (c2015, KB)

alley behind businesses that front Automobile Alley (c2015, KB)
alley behind front Automobile Alley (c2015, KB)

same alley, Christmas lights in a closed cafe (c2015, KB)
same alley, Christmas lights in a closed cafe (c2015, KB)

industrial-like structure abutting the alley (c2015, KB)
industrial-like structure abutting the alley(c2015, KB)

Below are variations on a theme. These images were taken before I departed the parking lot beside the alley. I was ready to drive away, but caught sight of the spiral fire escape in my rearview mirror. The result is a surreal mix of that reflection and of the alley beside the car.
The ghostly figure in the background is of a passerby walking her dog.
(c2015, KB)
(c2015, KB)

(c2015, KB)

(c2015, KB)

IMG_3332^HDR soft
(c2015, KB)

(c2015, KB)

(c2015, KB)

IMG_3332^invert colors
(c2015, KB)

Something tells me I need to spend more time downtown, and this time bring a tripod to help hold the camera steady.
NOTE: all images property of Keanan Brand

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Shock of Night

Welcome! Step inside for Day 2 of The Shock of Night blog tour. (My brief introduction to this month's feature novel for the CSFF Blog Tour can be read here.)
Due to life-related factors, today's entry will be equally brief. Others in the tour have delved into the writing itself and the spiritual and theological aspects of this fantasy-mystery tale, but I was struck by the inclusion of a PTSD-stricken protagonist (although such modern terminology was not used). In Carr's previous series, the hero was an alcoholic young man who was abused since childhood -- not typical fantasy fare.
In this series, the hero -- Willet Dura -- is a would-be priest who was sent to war, but his mind has shut out an important chunk of those experiences. Not only is part of his memory missing, he sleepwalks, and his job as one of the king's reeves means he encounters death in many forms. In fact, he has a strange fascination with it, and he questions the dead about what they know now that they're, well, dead.
I like that I can connect with Carr's fictional folk. He knows that externals do not make up a man's character, that not everything is what it seems, and that anything and anyone can change.
And they do.
Dura's study of the dead takes a step toward the further-weird when he gains the ability to read the thoughts of the living.
I wrote yesterday that this is fantasy for grownups, but I think teens would like it, too.
And for readers who don't want only mystery-solving or action scenes, there's a quiet romance between Dura and Gael, a well-off young lady whose uncle is scheming up an advantageous marriage that doesn't include Dura.
One thing that leans this story toward the grownup end of the readership is precisely that romance, and the other decisions and sacrifices that must be made. These characters aren't teenagers in a coming-of-age tale, but are already adults who've been shaped by war and torment, hardship and abuse. Even allies can be at odds with one another, and pride and ignorance still cause folk to stumble, but -- as a forty-something reader -- it's refreshing to encounter a fantasy yarn for readers older than sixteen. ;)
For other perspectives of The Shock of Night, visit these other stops on the blog tour:

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Reading Wonderland

c2015, KB
Some of my most calming, curiosity-piquing, wonder-filled memories are of libraries and bookstores. Even the smallest or dimmest or least organized are magical places, perhaps made more so by their imperfections and the sense of exploring a cavern of delights.
Years ago, I used to spend my lunch breaks at The Snooper's Barn on Towson Avenue in Fort Smith, Arkansas, poking through the dusty stackes in the back where history books and old volumes -- some antique -- were shelved higgledy-piggledy, sometimes in precarious Jenga-like towers.
I recently introduced my eldest niece to an excellent independent bookstore in Oklahoma City. When we entered Full Circle Books -- serving readers for more than three decades -- we stepped not through the looking glass, nor through a wardrobe, but through a modern glass and metal door, yet the magic still welcomed us.
entryway, Full Circle Books, c2015, KBc2015, KB

fireplace and sitting area, Full Circle Books, c2015, KB
fireplace and sitting area
(c2015, KB)

an old friend, c2015, KB
an old friend, c2015, KB

She fell in love with the rambling space filled with hidden rooms and cozy nooks, and the old-fashioned ladders that travel back and forth on metal tracks in need of oiling.
The children's rooms are well-stocked with old friends and new, including a French copy of Dr. Seuss's One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish -- my niece's first excuse to climb a ladder, but I don't think she really needed a reason. ;)
children's reading room, Full Circle Books (c2015, KB)
c2015, KB

the red ladder (c2015, KB)

IMG_2989^vignette brown
by the light of Winnie the Pooh (c2015, KB)

French Seuss (c2015, KB)

I love Sandra Boynton books. (c2015, KB)

another old friend (c2015, KB)

IMG_3006^vignette pale
familiar author names (c2015, KB)

IMG_3003^HDR soft
funky covers (c2015, KB)
Same spaces have the atmosphere of a comfortable corner of someone's home, and every doorway welcomes.
a comfortable study (c2015, KB)
a comfortable study (c2015, KB)

c2015, KB
c2015, KB

IMG_3008^HDR soft
c2015, KB

a cheery welcome at one of the several doorways (c2015, KB)

I came around the corner and encountered mysteries. There's a metaphor there, I'm sure.
c2015, KB

My niece later found another reason to climb a ladder -- various collections of Edgar Allen Poe, to which she coined a pun: "If one is perusing the works of Edgar Allen, one could be said to be reading Poe-etry."
We are a silly lot.
Jamie reading Poe (c2015, KB)
Jamie reading Poe (c2015, KB)

On the mantel of one of the fireplaces stands this whimsical fellow:
c2015, KB
c2015, KB

If you ever visit Oklahoma City, try to carve out time to visit Full Circle Books, especially if you're an independent author. The staff are friendly and professional, and the store supports indie and local authors, and the variety of books is vast.
front desk and beyond (c2015, KB)
front desk and beyond (c2015, KB)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Win a FREE novel!

From Friday, October 4, through Saturday, October 12, enter to win a FREE signed copy of Dragon's Rook, first half of The Lost Sword epic fantasy duology:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Dragon's Rook by Keanan Brand

Dragon's Rook

by Keanan Brand

Giveaway ends October 12, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The First Principle - a brief review

When I learned of this book, my immediate response was negative: “Noooo! Not another YA science fiction futuristic dystopian!”

For the sake of family and neighbors, the wailing was internalized.

However, I read a sample of the book and then the back cover copy, and decided to give this one a shot. And I’m glad I did. The First Principle by Marissa Shrock is a smooth, easy read, and could easily be finished in one day, although I read it over the course of several. The ill-tempered editor in the back of my brain did not stomp around and throw his arms in the air, which left me free to enjoy the novel.

Well, to be honest, there were times when he looked up from his desk, his eyes narrowed. Those occurred in the first portion of the book — in the first long dialogue between ex-boyfriend and baby-daddy Ben and protagonist Vivica — and at two or three other places later in the story, probably because teenage speech and behavior annoys him. (a wink and a smile)

Shrock gives us an intelligent lead character with skills as a computer hacker, and these come in handy as Vivica graduates from using her abilities to aid herself and her friends at school to employing them to escape those who want to abort her child.

The rebels she joins are not all secret agents. Many are everyday, likable, good people, much to her surprise, and they are endeavoring to be nonviolent toward other humans even as they refuse to bow to the tyranny of a totalitarian government. However, the media and the government leaders label them terrorists and assassins.

Hidden and aided by different rebels along the way — Ben included — Vivica uncovers a plot by government insiders to frame the rebels while staging a coup. But not only is the national leadership in turmoil — there’s a mole inside the Emancipation Warriors.

Is it Jared Canton, or is he, too, being framed?

And who keeps revealing Vivica’s information to the very people from whom she’s running?

The First Principle is recommended reading for teens to grownups, male or female.

[This post adapted from an original on the other Adventures in Fiction blog, and has two companion posts discussing the novel -- click here and here.]