The Universe

What Makes a Story a Good Story?

As an avid reader, writer, and watcher of stories, this is something I’m always thinking about.

What makes a story a good story?

You know what the good stories are. You read that book, and now, two years later, you remember it as the best thing you ever read. You completely ignored that story you wrote back in november, but your mind will keep wandering back to it, desperately wanting to edit it and share it with the world. You watched that tv show and, despite the slow process of getting it out of the library since Netflix no longer shows it, you keep coming back for more, finishing it through sheer determination and multiple trips to the library.

The Book ThiefThe Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, To Kill a Mockingbird. All these are good books. Doctor Who, Sherlock, The Princess Bride, Lilo and Stitch. These are good movies/shows. (and these lists are by no means exhaustive. I love tons of other books and movies)

But what is it that draws us to the story and labels it “good”?

A good story is one that reminds us of who we are, what we can be, and what makes life worth living. It’s one with well rounded characters, effortless dialogue, and development: people becoming better people, worlds becoming better worlds.

For everyone, the answer to this question is different, but this is what it means to me. Next time you read a book or watch a movie, try to think of what the definition is for you. What do you look for in characters? In plot? What are you searching for? What is lacking in certain stories?

And when you find the good stories, don’t let them go. Treasure them always.

See ya later,

Jese

The Universe

My Dear People…

Do you know what today is?
If you said the 29th of July, then yes, you’d be right. But it’s also the 63rd birthday of that most epic tale ever to grace the shelves of the fantasy genre.
That’s right, I’m talking about The Lord of the Rings.
Now, you might be thinking: Nikken, why do you have such a high opinion of those books? After all, you’re a fictional character yourself.
That has a very simple answer: if it wasn’t for these books, I wouldn’t exist.
You see, when my Author was a little girl, she loved to make up stories. But she only liked to make up mystery stories. Her favorite books were The Bobbsy Twins and The Happy Hollisters and the like. But when she was six years old, her mother read The Hobbit to her, and it changed her world. The next year, she read The Hobbit all by herself, and it changed her. Middle-Earth touched her in ways she didn’t understand, being only seven years old. Elves and dwarves, goblins and hobbits and dragons… it was unlike anything she’d ever read before. Slowly, she stopped reading mainly mystery stories and began reading fantasies like Redwall and Eragon. Then, when she was eleven years old, her parents said she was old enough to read The Lord of the Rings. She had been waiting for this for years, especially once her older brother read it, and nearly burst from excitement. She read the entire series in five days.
If she loved The Hobbit, she absolutely adored The Lord of the Rings. The world of Middle-Earth, which had so intrigued her in The Hobbit, became so much clear, so much more wonderful than she thought it ever could be. The cheerfulness of the hobbits, the courage of men, the loyalty of the dwarves, the long, long sorrow and steadfastness of the elves… It made her wish that somehow she could be a part of so epic and wonderful a world. Reading the book was like peeking through a window to a world of honor and glory and faith and valor and wonder. A world of good and evil, of weakness triumphing over strength.
Then she had an idea.
She thought, “I can never write as well as Tolkien, but I wish I could write a fantasy story that would make people feel in the tiniest the stuff The Lord of the Rings makes me feel.” So, a few weeks before she turned twelve, she climbed up into her loft bed and began to write a story on six pages of tan-colored lined notebook paper. And eventually, a story took form—the story of how my cousin, my brother, and I set out on a long journey to discover the Father’s Chosen hero that would save our lands.
So that is the main reason I like these books so much—they helped bring me to life.
But there are other reasons too: for one thing, if you think about it, Tolkien is the father of the entire modern fantasy genre. Don’t believe me? Think about it:
1. Orcs—Tolkien invented them. The name is based off the Old English words orc and orcneas, which, roughly, mean ‘demon’. In Middle-Earth, ‘orc’ is the Elvish word for Morgoth’s and Sauron’s servants, who were originally elves that were corrupted by Morgoth. In English, the word ‘orc’ is translated to ‘goblin’, (therefore, Tolkien’s orcs and goblins are one and the same, not separate species, as many people seem to think). The orcs in World of Warcraft and Warhammer? They would not have existed without The Lord of the Rings.
2. Elves—Tolkien, of course, was inspired by the elves of Norse Mythology, but the standard modern version of elves—tall, wise, long hair, incredibly beautiful, archers—were invented by Tolkien and Tolkien alone. Traditional mythological elves do not look anything like the image of elves that is so common in our minds these days. The preeminence of elves in modern fantasy, such as World of Warcraft and Eragon? You can thank Tolkien for them.
3. Dwarves—dwarves in Norse Mythology were greedy little guys that spent all their time underground, and most of them were mean-spirited types, if not out-and-out evil. The image of noble dwarves? This came from the last bit of The Hobbit and Gimli from The Lord of the Rings.
4. Dark Lords—how many Dark Lords are there? Too many to count. When was the first appearance of a Dark Lord in modern literature? I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure it was The Lord of the Rings.
5. Other languages—this isn’t as common, but there are many books that have invented languages for certain races in the books (often Elves). I don’t know if there were any instances of invented languages before The Lord of the Rings, but you and I both know who started that trend—Tolkien.
6. Halflings—again, not as common, but Halflings tend to pop up here and there, especially in board games. The trend of short guys with curly hair and hairy feet that live in holes and eat a lot all began one sunny when Tolkien wrote the words ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit’ on the back of an exam paper.
7. Mithril—mithril was invented by Tolkien. It first appeared in the Hobbit, and it had a prominent position in the story of The Lord of the Rings. All sorts of fantasy games and stories have mithril, and even call it mithril (which is a Sindarin name meaning “grey brilliance”) instead of the English name, truesilver.
8. The fantasy genre in general—There are instances of fantasy stories before the publication of the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings, such as George MacDonald’s excellent stories. But the big boom of fantasy happened after The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954. Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, World of Warcraft, Eragon, you name it—they probably would never had existed if Tolkien hadn’t published a book about hobbits and dwarves and elves and men and then was asked to make a sequel.

These are some of the basics. There is even more evidence out there proving that Tolkien is the father of modern fantasy fiction. It’s sad to think that many people nowadays forget his huge influence on modern culture (My author says it’s even sadder that people watch the movies based off his stories and never even bother to read the actual books. That really annoys her).
Tolkien, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings are doubly responsible for my existence, if you think about it, so I have a lot to thank them for. I think anyone who is a fan of fantasy should celebrate the often-underrated epicness of Tolkien, so that’s why I’m here writing this post. Maybe someday, everyone will remember how Tolkien started it all and appreciate him for the impact he had on our world. But until that happens, at least my author and I will never forget.
Professor Tolkien, I salute you.
So CELEBRATE, everyone! This year marks the 100th year since Tolkien first began to write about the world of Middle-Earth, and today it’s the 63rd Birthday of The Lord of the Rings! Cosplay! Sing songs! Eat Apple Pie (though seriously, you should do that anyway)!
Happy Birthday, Lord of the Rings, and many happy returns!
Namarië! Elen síla lummen’ omentielvo. Namarië!
~Nikken

19

The Universe

Rose of the Oath: A Beauty and the Beast Novella by Hope Ann

Well met, everyone! It is I, Nikken, and today I am introducing a special guest. She has come here to present unto you the wonderful news of a book release, and a review as well.

Now, without further ado, I present to you–My very own Author! *clasp wildly*

Author: *laughs* Thank you, Nikken. Today I am here to talk about Rose of the Oath, a new novella by author Hope Ann.

~*~

War clouds the horizon and rebels gather under a mysterious leader. Alone, with her two younger sisters, Elissa watches the mountain road desperately for her brother’s return. Instead, she receives news of his capture by a strange figure covered in scars and cloaked in wolf skins.

With rebels drawing nearer, she sets off to find her brother. To save him. There is no one else who can.

Yet she soon finds the rose that granted her warning now holds her captive in safety. Outside the valley, war threatens those she loves most. Though her strange host claims the ancient promises of the Prince’s return and victory over the rebels, Elissa knows the blood-drenched truth. She is on her own. Elissa will do anything to keep her family safe, but more than one kind of wolf stalks the Blackwood and danger lurks closer than she could ever imagine.

Download it for FREE at:

Amazon

Smashwords

iTunes

Add it to your shelf on Goodreads

Also, a bonus! For those of you who may not have seen it, I’m also giving away the prequel to this Beauty and the Beast retelling, Rose of the Night – an account of how the ‘Beast’ became the Beast.

Click here to claim your free copy!

Add to your shelf on Goodreads

Finally, in honor of the official release of Rose of the Oath, my other novellas are $0.99 for this week only!

Buy Song of the Sword: A Rapunzel Novella

Buy Shadows of the Hersweald: A Hansel and Gretel Novella

About Hope Ann

Hope Ann is a speculative fiction writer who lives on a small farm in northern Indiana. She has self-published three Legends of Light novellas and writes regular articles for Kingdom Pen as the Writing Team Captain. Reading since the age of five, and introducing herself to writing at age eight, she never had a question that the author’s life was the life for her. Her goal is to write thrilling Christian fantasy and futuristic fiction — stories she longed for while growing up. After graduating from homeschool, Hope now teaches writing to several of her eight younger siblings. She loves climbing trees, archery, photography, Lord of the Rings, chocolate, and collecting shiny things she claims are useful for story inspiration.

You can visit Hope’s blog at authorhopeann.com, or follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter.

~*~

This novella is actually a rewritten version of Hope Ann’s original published work, Rose of Prophecy. My close friend, Jese’s author, recommended it to me a few months ago. I got it on the Kindle, read it, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Just a few days later, I discovered the author, Hope Ann, was about to publish a rewrite of Rose of Prophecy, called Rose of the Oath. This intrigued me, and I became very excited to see what this new version would be like. So when Hope Ann announced she was looking for people to participate in her blog explosion, I signed up and read Rose of the Oath immediately. I wasn’t disappointed. The smooth-flowing descriptions, the carefully thought-out symbolism, the quality of the characters–all of these show that Hope Ann has continued to grow and improve in the writing world. The book was exciting, entertaining, and at several notable points had me close to panic about what would happen to Elissa and the Beast.

There are, of course, a few things that I liked better the way they occurred in the original version. Yet over all, Rose of the Oath is far superior to its predecessor, in the same way that a rose in full bloom overshadows a bud that is about to open. One of the things I love most about this new book is the character of Elissa. In Rose of Prophecy, Beauty is sweet and gentle, brave and loving, faithful and trusting in the promise of the Prince and the King. Beauty is a character that, while she still needs to grow, is on the threshold of adulthood in the faith.

Elissa, on the other hand, is broken. She has seen no provision of the King, she disbelieves the prophecy that His so-called son, the Prince, will ever appear. The King has never cared for her–why would He start to do so now? She’s struggling and afraid, clinging to her disbelief, scared of hoping only to see the hope burn to ash.

While both Beauty and Elissa struggle, Elissa’s struggles are more poignant. Both are realistically human, but Elissa’s humanity is one that everyone can relate to.

This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and anyone who has ever heard of the story knows one simple fact: Beauty and the Beast is about love. Not merely romantic love between two people, but deep, deep love that saves from death, doom, and destruction.

I have read multiple retellings of Beauty and the Beast, all of them good and beautiful. Yet in the end, I have to say that Rose of the Oath is the one that most accurately, movingly, and meaningfully depicts this love, in more ways than one and in surprising fashions.

To sum up, this is a story about someone beautiful and someone beastly, about a faithful prince and a failing people, and an Oath made in love that will be fulfilled, despite all the powers of hate and darkness.

~*~

Author: And now, I’m afraid I have to be going. Thank you for your time, and thank you, Nikken, for letting me borrow your blog for a bit. Goodbye, everyone! *waves and leaves*

There, wasn’t that great? Give my author a big round of applause, if you will! (After all, she’s the one who made me! 😉 )

Thank you for coming, everyone. Come back soon! Until then, fare you well wherever you fare!

The Universe

On Modern Ideas of Female Battle-Wear

Well met, my friends! Wednesday has come around again, and so here I am with my thoughts on life and the universe (not on apple pie though–that’ll be Jese’s thing sometime soon).

A little while ago, I was watching my author play World of Warcraft. And as I’m watching, I notice the armor some of the women are wearing, and I have one question: Who on earth thought the metal bikini was a good idea?

I mean, really. Are all women warriors supposed to be some kind of suicide squad?

Where I come from, armor is very important. It protects you. It saves your life. It’s expensive. Way more metal and time goes into armor than into swords or spears. The High King does his best to ensure every member of his army gets high-quality equipment, but for travelers or normal people defending their homes, that isn’t always possible. I’m lucky, because I come from a wealthy family. When I have adventures or go to war, I’m always well-equipped. Many people don’t have that chance–they have to make do with boiled leather armor, usually with inset metal rings for extra protection. It’s better than nothing, but not as good as a well-made breastplate and chain-mail hauberk. If you have armor, you want to make sure it protects you. You take good care of it. When you go into battle, you know the armor you wear will do it’s part in protecting you.

I cannot imagine feeling confident marching into battle wearing something that exposes even a little of my stomach. Ships, you’re exposing one your most vulnerable spots to the enemy! Stomach wounds are a particularly painful and lingering way to die. I’ve been in battle, I’ve seen what it’s like. The only way I can see armor like that ever being helpful is if every enemy you face dies from laughter when they see what you’re wearing.

Yes, sometimes you are forced to fight without wearing any armor at all. I have relatives who are very skilled in the way of the sword who almost never use plate armor because it. But they usually at least use mail-studded boiled leather vests, and they don’t fight without shirts on unless they’re attacked in the middle of the night. Sometimes not even then–the more paranoid ones often wear leather vests to bed (I have some odd relatives).

I have female relatives that fight. They wear the exact same things that we do–sometimes they wear even more armor than we men (Yes, your Highness, I’m counting myself among the men. You can stop laughing now, I’m trying to concentrate).

The same thing goes for superhero costumes. Wearing little more than a bikini is asking for the villains to kill you (and don’t get me started on fighting in high heels. The very thought makes my mother and my cousin Enna go off into peals of high-pitched laughter). Personally, I think the defeat of injustice would be more effective if you’re not dead.

Anyway, all I’m saying is that the whole metal bikini thing isn’t a smart way to go. I’m also not knocking World of Warcraft or the superhero industry–just saying that their idea of female fighting gear doesn’t really make any sense. So a heads up to all you people out there–if you ever fall into  portal or something and end up in an epic fantasy world, be careful. If they offer you metal bikinis, refuse politely and ask for a standard mail shirt, maybe a breastplate. Trust me, it’ll go a long way towards keeping you alive.

Farewell! May your paths be straight!

Until next time,

~Nikken

 

The Universe

Books that I would like to see as Movies

Hello everyone! Today I shall unleash my geeky nerdy self and talk about two of my favorite things: Books and Movies.

More specifically, books I would love to see as movies.

I read a whole lot so every so often I come across a book that reads quickly, lacks nothing in pacing or characters, and leaves such brilliant imprints upon my imagination that I would love to see those visuals taken to the screen, sometimes even thinking of perfect actors to depict the characters and the various camera shots that could be used to make the scene exactly how I imagined it.

Half of me doesn’t want to put this list out there because I know there are so many books that have absolutely terrible and inaccurate movie representation (usually the book is so long that there is no way the movie could give it justice) and I would like to protect these books from that fate as much as possible, but I shall do it anyway!

#1Heartless (Tales of Goldstone Wood, #1)

The Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

Whoops. I’ve already deviated from the criteria for this list by mentioning a series instead of a book. Oh well.

So the books I would love to see in movie format from this series would be Veiled Rose and Dragonwitch, but seeing as how they are not the first book in the series, it would be pointless to start from there and Heartless (the first book) is wonderful too. All of the books are vivid with wonderful descriptions that take you straight into the wood between and the realms of faerie, strong plots and characters, and would probably make a very good movie if it was done right.

#2

The rest of the Narnia books.

I’ve read the Narnia books several times and, while not necessarily thinking they’d make great movie material at the time of reading (I was only just beginning to immerse myself into the world of fandom), I absolutely loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as the movie. So I know that it is possible to make a very good, very accurate portrayal of Narnia on screen. Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader weren’t as great and I am dreading The Silver Chair because I heard they’re recasting everything (if it ever even happens. I’ve been hearing rumors about it for five years), but I have hope that someday the all the books can be made into movies that match up with the excellence of the first one.

#3Isle of Swords (Isle of Swords, #1)

Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson.

I love anything involving pirates.

I love any movie involving pirates. *starts humming Pirates of the Caribbean theme song*

And I need a movie of at least one of Wayne Thomas Batson’s books. They’re all amazing!

#4

The Percy Jackson series!!

(shh….we’re pretending the movies don’t exist….)

I would love to see all the wonderful elements of the greek mythological world blended with our own while watching Percy and his friends go on quests without the butchering of the plot and character descriptions that happened in the movies…

Oh right. We’re pretending the movies don’t exist.

#5Reckless (Mirrorworld, #1)

Reckless by Cornelia Funke.

I haven’t finished reading the series yet, so this is a recent read, but I loved how detailed the world was and I longed to have visual representation more than what my limited imagination could produce, and the story was so well paced with wonderful characters (and a shapeshifter :)) that I couldn’t help but long to see it as a movie.

Or if they can’t do this book as a movie, at least make Inkspell and Inkdeath into movies.

#6

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

So I’m not as obsessed with this one as my author is, but I did enjoy reading it and together we were both disappointed by the movie that they made.

Yes. I’m breaking the rules again. I’m good at that.

The movie that they made to represent this book fell short on so many levels. It did have the good visuals and wonderful actors, but it destroyed what I loved the most about the story. It removed Max’s stories, which I think were central to the plot. I want a movie that can condense some of the longer parts (like the movie did) but doesn’t remove anything important to the story.


 

 

After compiling this, I am getting a strong urge to join the film industry.

Time to brush up on my scriptwriting skills and save up for a camera…

Sorry this isn’t a very long list, but if I were to put all my recommendations for movies we would be here for several days, and I’ve barely read all the books in the world. And honestly I could write an entire list on books that deserve a better movie adaptation and that would keep us here even longer, but I don’t want to keep you for longer than I have to.

Have a wonderful day! Summer vacation is just around the corner!!

Let me know in the comments if there are any other books you would like to see turned into movies!

Sincerely,

Jese