Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Barbarians at the BBQ.



Quite funny.

It comes from this group: B.A.D.D. (Bel Air Drama Department)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CSFF Blog Tour Day Three: Jeffrey Overstreet - Cyndere's Midnight: An Interview



Shane Deal: What inspired the characters of Cyndere and Jordam?

Jeffrey Overstreet: Jordam the Beastman is not a new character, actually. He's one of the monsters who appears in the first book, Auralia's Colors. I didn't want the beastmen to be just ordinary monsters. I wanted to suggest that even these bloodthirsty mutants have a longing for beauty and a thirst for healing, so I gave Jordam a scene in that first book just to hint at that.

But that wasn't enough for me. The image that kept coming back to me--the idea of Jordam discovering some of Auralia's creative expressions out in the wilderness, and being calmed and inspired by beauty. Just like King Kong is inspired by the woman he loves. I relate to that. Beauty calls out to Jordam just as the beauty of a painting, or a tree, or a sunset can make me stop in the middle of my distractions and take a deep breath.

Like any Beauty and the Beast story, there also had to be a beautiful woman. But Cyndere came later. I knew that it would take a brave woman to stand her ground and deal with Jordam. Most people would run screaming at the sight of him. So Cyndere came to be inspired by brave people who have been willing to give up their comforts and safety in order to to and help people in need. A friend of mine said that Cyndere's like Elizabeth Eliot, the missionary who returned to the tribe that had killed her husband and ministered to them. I hadn't thought of that. But I like that connection.


Shane Deal: Now that Cyndere's Midnight has been released for awhile, is there anything you wish you could go back and change?

Jeffrey Overstreet: Oh, that's a painful question. Yes, every time I read my published work, I see things I would change if I could. I have what you might call "the George Lucas itch." But Star Wars fans know what happens when you let the artist keep messing with things years after they've been published, right? It's probably better for me to just let those things go. I don't know... maybe someday I'll publish Cyndere's Midnight - The Director's Cut.

If some of my readers could have their way, I'd be putting in more battles. But don't you think the fantasy genre has enough of those? I want to go places I haven't been before, to see what else might happen in a fantasy story. When I realized there would be a battle in Cyndere's Midnight, I re-read all of my favorite battle scenes so that I could avoid accidentally repeating anything. Nevertheless, after I wrote "The Siege of Barnashum," I realized what old, old battle story must have influenced me. Readers will have to figure that out on their own.


Shane Deal: What is the most challenging part about writing your books?

Jeffrey Overstreet: It's tough to find enough time... and the right kind of time. Time when my ears aren't ringing from the busyness of the day.

I work full-time at another job. And I have deadlines for my film reviews. It's tough to shift gears, to quiet down and drift off into a fantasy world. There are dishes that need to be washed, catboxes that need to be cleaned, and my library books are overdue. Traffic in Seattle is a wearying experience. Sometimes, I'll write from 7 p.m. until midnight, and only get one good paragraph out of it. To finish a book the size and complexity of Cyndere's Midnight in the course of one year, with a schedule like mine, is really difficult. It's a second full-time job.

But it's also tough to keep readers' responses from messing with my imagination.

Forgive me, but I've got an itch that needs scratching. I've been grateful for the criticism and the encouragement from readers. But it's disappointing to me when readers think I'm trying to "hide" or "bury" my faith behind fantasy.

Storytelling is part of my exploration of faith. It's one of the ways I express it. I'm not trying to hide anything. I'm trying to find a way to explore and celebrate aspects of faith that I can't otherwise explain. It's like composing instrumental music, or cultivating a garden, or dancing -- those pursuits reveal truth in mysterious and extravagant ways that a "lesson" never could. Fantasy can do the same thing. The Lord of the Rings is evidence of that. And I'm encouraged to find that even stories written by unbelievers--including pagan myths and fairy tales--reveal aspects of the truth, even though it would frustrate their authors to discover that. Tolkien understood this. It was while he explained this to C.S. Lewis that Lewis came to embrace Christianity.

I approach storytelling as a chance to play with beautiful sights and sounds and experiences in hopes that they will give readers the joy and inspiration they give me. The pursuit of these stories has drawn me much closer to God, and I'm sharing them with you in hopes that you might share some of that experience. It's not my job to simplify it or explain it for you. I'm not trying to write a book that can easily be translated into a study guide. I'm trying to paint pictures that reflect my experience of the mysterious glory of God. I'm a beginner, and I'm learning as I go, so I don't claim to have succeeded. But that's my earnest endeavor.

We're told in Psalm 19 that "the heavens declare the glory of God," and "day by day pours forth speech." Sometimes I wish the heavens and the days would be a little more explicit about what they're saying. But I know that the truth dazzles gradually, through beauty and through grace. And when I'm patient, I come to sense that beauty is speaking to me about God in ways I cannot paraphrase. I'm hoping to capture a sense of that in Auralia's world

And I do hope readers will be patient, and refrain from declaring me a heretic until they've seen all four volumes. We're only halfway through, after all.


Shane Deal: You have some rather interesting names, do you wish to share any particular stories of how you came up with some of them?

Jeffrey Overstreet: Sometimes it's as simple as finding words that describe the character, and then smashing them together to see what happens. I can't remember exactly, but I think "Auralia" came from playing around with the word "aura" and the name "Laura" (which means "light.") Sometimes, I look for sounds that give me a sense of the character.

One of the Gatherers is a rough, crass, hard-edged fellow, and the name "Krawg" just sounds right. It sounds rather like a cuss word from some other world, doesn't it?

Krawg's friend is overly cautious and worried, so "Warney" just sounded right for him. I was delighted when someone reminded me later that C.S. Lewis's brother was called by the same name.


Shane Deal: Do you have any story ideas for after you finish this series? Or is that too far ahead at this point?

Jeffrey Overstreet: I have a lot of big ideas. I have an adventure series for younger readers that takes place in a world of talking animals, like something Pixar might turn into a movie. (Forgive me if I dream about that for a moment.) And I have a few stories from my high school experiences that I'd like to tell, with a bit of a fantasy flourish. There's another huge fantasy story--a horror story, really--about a group of artists who start experiencing something truly unusual in their work. But I don't feel quite ready to launch that ship just yet. And I have a couple of non-fiction projects brewing as well.

But I'm going to rest for a while when I finish The Auralia Thread. I'll need to rest, recharge, and start training for the next marathon.

------

Many thanks to Mr. Overstreet for allowing me the privilege of an interview.

Also worth checking out:

I highly recommend watching the following talk, given by Mr. Overstreet at Seattle Pacific University in October of 2007:

"We Gotta Get Outta Here" - How Tolkien, Lewis, and L'Engle Help Us Hope"

I watch or listen to it quite often. (Usually listening while driving.)

-Shane

Featured book, Cyndere’s Midnight - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400072530
Jeffrey Overstreet’s Web site - http://lookingcloser.org/
Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog - http://lookingcloser.org/category/journal/
Jeffrey Overstreet at Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeffrey-Overstreet/42902959

Monday, February 16, 2009

CSFF Blog Tour Day Two: Jeffrey Overstreet - Cyndere's Midnight: A Review



There is very little to criticize about it, actually. Thus I fear that the review will be overwhelmingly positive.

Jeffrey Overstreet’s Cyndere’s Midnight is a novel, the second in the Auralia Thread series, the blue strand.

The book’s wonder starts even before you begin to read it, the cover itself is excellently designed. It was the cover of Auralia’s Colors that drew me to that book, Cyndere’s Midnight has an equally well designed cover. I definitely have to praise the work of Kristopher K. Orr & Kelly L. Howard on their excellent design.

Jeffrey Overstreet is unapologetic in creating real, believable, and beautiful, characters. From the very first sentence he weaves the tremendous personality of our heroine. “Cyndere walked down to the water to make her daily decision–turn and go back into House Bel Amica, or climb Stairway Rock and throw herself into the sea.” Such golden verse, such beautiful prose. The book is filled with it, like Auralia’s Colors before it, it is poetic and powerful. Not only that, the book is filled with things that would usually be considered quite strange. Half-beast, half men. And yet, Jeffrey Overstreet has such a gift of weaving beauty into his books that he can make a book about what would at first glance seem deplorable, beautiful. His storytelling will bring questions to your mind, and challenge you to ask them. Begging you to look closer and presenting you with the idea that perhaps the monsters without are not that different then those within. And while such plots have been done many times over in literature, you have several books featuring good orcs for example, Jeffrey Overstreet doesn’t have the preaching that I often see such books have, instead Mr. Overstreet trust the reader enough to draw what conclusions he or she might make from the story itself.

The book is able to challenge your prejudices without raising your guard, I found myself relating to a character so different from me as to be nearly alien. I have to say that this is one of the most well written books, from many angles, that I’ve read in a very long time. It is the kind of book I’d like to see folks discussing the same way that we still talk about Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

I highly recommend it.

-Shane

An earlier review of Auralia's Colors

Featured book, Cyndere’s Midnight - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400072530
Jeffrey Overstreet’s Web site - http://lookingcloser.org/
Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog - http://lookingcloser.org/category/journal/
Jeffrey Overstreet at Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeffrey-Overstreet/42902959

CSFF Blog Tour Day One: Jeffrey Overstreet - Cyndere's Midnight: My Impressions


I've been looking forward to this tour since I saw that it might be coming up. I had the chance to read Cyndere's Midnight over the holidays and in nutshell it has joined the favorite, worth reading over and over, book section of my shelf. Overstreet is the rare writer who can tell a good tale in elegant language that has enough depth to make it worth reading several times.

Cyndere's Midnight starts pretty much where Auralia's Colors, the phenomenal first book in the series, left off. The poetic language of Auralia's Colors is maintained in Cyndere's Midnight but a much more distinct plot is formed. It feels well as a book on its own as well as with Auralia's Colors, another sign of the excellence of the writing.

I am astounded by the depth that Overstreet brings to his writing. His writing is deep, profound, and beautiful. Literature as it is meant to be. I believed Auralia's Colors to be an outstanding example of modern literature, my belief has not been disappointed upon reading Cyndere's Midnight, it has been reinforced.

Every once in awhile you will come across a novel that is rich in meaning, even if you can’t say what the book means. There are several themes to be found in Cyndere’s Midnight, but there is not any problematic telling the reader something they need to learn. Lessons learned in Cyndere’s Midnight come from the readers own observation of the story, which is generally speaking, exactly what a good book tries to do. In my opinion, a book, even and perhaps especially, a fictional book’s first and primary purpose is to instruct, to change, to impact the mind and soul of the reader. Redemptive literature does not leave one the same as when they started the book. Cyndere’s Midnight is no exception. It delights the reader while giving them the opportunity to think about things in a manner they might not have before. Which is why when I read Cyndere’s Midnight I was astonished about what character it was that I most related to.

A highly recommended read! I believe that Mr. Overstreet’s writing could hold its own among the classics.

-Shane

An earlier review of Auralia's Colors

Featured book, Cyndere’s Midnight - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400072530
Jeffrey Overstreet’s Web site - http://lookingcloser.org/
Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog - http://lookingcloser.org/category/journal/
Jeffrey Overstreet at Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeffrey-Overstreet/42902959

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Holiday Post

Happy Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Of Book Signings and Pubs.

We had an awesome time going down to The Banshee in Scranton, PA yesterday. Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper were doing a book signing/lunch and we decided to go to it.

We left our house about eight o’ clock in the morning, it’s a three hour trip but we wished to give ourselves the extra hour in case we ran into trouble along the way. After rest stops (The New York welcome building has WiFI!) and such we arrived about 11:30 at “The Banshee”. After being greeted by and greeting Sir Wayne and Sir Christopher, we sat down at a table.

It was a tremendous afternoon. Food, fun, and great conversations. Sword fights and book readings, we had a blast! A news station even showed up! It was a fun afternoon. Glad to have done it.

Besides the wonderful time we had with Sir Christopher and Sir Wayne, we had a great deal of fun on the ride as well. The most fun part of the trip was obviously the book signing event, but the rest was still good. Dad drove Heather and I down, it was good to spend time with him. We were all tired by the time we got back to our house, but during the trip we listened to a lot of music by a wide variety of musicians and genres and were having a pretty good time. I brought a book with me to read but it was forgotten in favor of scenery. When I read I tend to get totally absorbed. Even though we traveled nearly the exact same route in May of last year on our trip to Maryland I still enjoyed watching the scenery.

I find I like traveling. But I probably wouldn't like obsessive amounts of it.

On the subject of Scranton, I was thrilled to be visiting Scranton, when I put a scene in my book that takes place at "The Banshee" I was bit by the "Must Visit The Banshee Bug"... That was in November. If I had time I would have walked the same route that my characters did one evening.

In my book a group of Dwarves were visiting "The Banshee" and enjoying it very much. They were not there yesterday, must have been somewhere else. :-) Still it was kind of cool to stand in a spot that my characters stood in. I think I'm going to have to have the Dwarves visit our local pub.

Speaking of our local pub, we visited it as well for our dinner. It would have been a nice quiet evening as there were hardly any other customers except for a large but quiet party at the longest table or groups of tables... Not sure what they did. It would have been a nice quiet evening except that about five or ten minutes after we sat down the fire alarm went off. (It turned out to be a false alarm that someone accidently set off by hitting the alarm button on the forth floor.) Needless to say everyone had to leave the building. It wasn't too cold out yesterday thankfully. Most people hadn't grabbed their jackets. Glad it was a false alarm.

I also found that the local pub serves excellent salads, and they will let us bring our own dressing in the future. (Which is good because we have allergy issues to worry about.)