J. Grace Pennington

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Sometimes I’m Not Creative

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Well, I haven’t posted in almost a month, contrary to my most sincere desires. My schedule these days looks a bit like this:

Get up around 6:30 to head to the gym.

Work out for about 45 minutes.

Get to work by 8:00 and spend the day answering phones, entering things into the computer, and finding little snippets of time to write where I can.

Get off work at 5:00 and find some dinner, then do one of three things:

– Write/other work
– Hang out with my boyfriend
– Socialize in some manner–church, writers group, friends, etc.

Then collapse sometime between 10:30 and midnight.

So while I make time to write (which at the moment includes publishing one book and revising another, plus guest posts for the upcoming blog tour, editing projects, and sometimes recording audiobooks) blogging sometimes kindof takes a back seat.

Which means sometimes, even though I would love to be creative, I’m not. Thus I’ve been wracking my brain for awhile trying to figure out some clever method of revealing the Firmament: Reversal Zone cover. But it finally occurred to me that the most important thing isn’t to be super creative and original, but to share with you the excitement of the new cover. So without any further worries or plotting, here is the Reversal Zone cover, in all its glory:

reversal_zone_front_cover

Meet Harrison Alastair Trent, the Captain of the starship Surveyor. And what is that peculiar cloudy substance behind him? Well, you’ll just have to wait a little bit longer and see. And if you’re absolutely dying to part with $2.99 of your hard-earned money now, you can actually pre-order the ebook, and it will be delivered automatically to your kindle/phone/computer on October 7th! Isn’t that handy?

I can’t wait to share it all with you. And maybe one day, I’ll have clever ideas for releases and cover reveals. But for now, I’m just grateful to be getting this book out.

Independence Day

About a week ago, I was at a coffee place celebrating a friend’s birthday. I’d had a rough day, and when I spotted a dollar theater next door, I impulsively texted my boyfriend, “Want to drive over and see a super late movie with me?” He did, and we saw Independence Day 2. It was decent, for what it was, though not nearly as good as the first. But it reminded me of the review I wrote back when I first viewed the original, so I thought I’d dig up that review and share it for your reading pleasure.

Something’s coming — something big, heading for Earth.

A young president trying to make the right decision for the country. An Air Force captain torn away from his vacation because of a national emergency. And a divorced everyman who has discovered a pattern that shows that the alien invaders are counting down to a massive attack.

All three must try to hold their families together while working to find a solution — before all of Earth’s population is destroyed.

Two philosophical aspects of this epic and well-made film were particularly interesting to me — family, and peace.

Family

In the midst of all the action and the danger, all the extra-terrestrials and politics, the film essentially centers around four families. President Thomas Whitmore, who escapes the White House with his young daughter while his wife is trying to get out of Los Angeles. Air Force Captain Stephen Hiller, who lives with his girlfriend and her little son. David Levinson, who has to work closely with his ex-wife whom he never stopped loving. And alcoholic crop-duster Russell Casse, who lives in a trailer with his three kids.

There is something special about the story of each of the families. The death of the president’s wife illustrates the difficult weight of leadership. Because she was representing him in L.A., she ends up getting out too late to escape fatal injury from the alien attack. As the president cries with his daughter in the hall outside the hospital room, the burden he bears settles on the mind of the viewer. He failed to protect his wife, the most precious thing in the world to him. Can he protect an entire nation?

Captain Stephen Hiller on the other hand is unmarried, living with his exotic-dancer girlfriend. In the beginning of the film he is preparing to marry her and take on the care of her son, despite the danger to his job and the urging of his mates. While I do not appreciate his girlfriend’s occupation or their decision to live together outside of wedlock, I do appreciate his desire to do the right thing in the end, to become a father to the child, and a husband to the woman. In the end, he apologizes for not having taken the step a long time ago.

Then there’s David Levinson, just an ordinary guy. His wife left him for a job in the president’s cabinet, because she didn’t feel that he was going anywhere she could follow. But after three years of divorce, he still wears his wedding ring, to the consternation of his father. As the story goes on, the couple admits that they still love each other, and their recommitment at the end shows that they’ve both grown and learned in the years they’ve been apart. Love may not be enough, but they can find enough to respect in each other that they can commit to being together again.

Finally, there’s the former service pilot, Russell Casse. His alcoholism and crazy stories cause his children hardship and frequent embarrassment, but they never give up on him. In the end, it’s their belief in him that gives him the strength to step up and fight, and to give his life to save not only his family, but all of mankind. His last words, “Tell my children that I love them very much,” as he crashes into the alien spacecraft, show the viewer what he’s truly fighting for.

Why do families play such a strong part in science-fiction stories? Why are there so many stories of couples or parents and children hidden in stories that are mostly concerned with alien invasions or the exploration of strange, new planets?

Here’s why. How often do most men have to ward off extra-terrestrial attacks, or pilot a starship to the outer reaches of the galaxy? Such stories, though cool, are not particularly relatable. But every man can relate to this simple feeling: I love my family. I want to protect my wife, my girlfriend, my children. Every woman knows what it’s like to want to support her man, and to be afraid for her children. With the family element, people can be drawn into an otherwise outlandish story.

We may not understand UFOs, but we understand loss. We may not care much about alien mind control, but we care about relationships. We may not have experienced world invasions, but we’ve all experienced love.

Peace

Despite the fact that all the film’s main characters are American, the ending depends largely on the coming together of all countries around the world to defeat the aliens. The implication is that if mankind only had a common enemy, they would come together to fight it, forgetting all their difficulties and becoming one in the fight for their planet.

I would like it if this were true. As much as anyone else, I’d love to see humanity stop fighting and come to peace. But the reality is that even an alien attack, if such a thing were possible, would not be enough to draw everyone on Earth into unity. Every single person on Earth is selfish, everyone has their own agendas, no one has the capability, in and of themselves, to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the good of all mankind.

Even with the threat of annihilation, people would not trust each other. Each country’s government would distrust the others. There would be those who doubted the honesty of their nation’s leadership. Many, if not most, would run and hide, not stand shoulder-to-shoulder and fight. This is the reality, because the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things.

It will take more than giant, destructive UFOs to bring humanity together. The one and only means of peace is the blood of Jesus Christ and the grace of God. Without Him, we’ll go on fighting each other to the end of time. Our only and best hope lies in His plan for us, and no matter how much we dream of uniting under a banner of peace, it will do us no good unless the banner bears the emblem of the Prince of Peace.

Guest Post–A Firmament Fan’s Look at August Howitz

Well, I didn’t say anything in the last post about analyzing everyone’s favorite Austrian space pilot, but considering it’s the month of August it seemed only appropriate!

Grace brought it up to me that how could we miss an opportunity to write continue the series with a breakdown of the beautiful character that is August.

And since I would write Firmament fan-fiction for a full time job if I could, I had no opposition.

If you don’t know why you should be in love with Firmament‘s young heroine Andi Lloyd, or her father Doctor Lloyd, not to mention the cocky pilot Eagle Crash, then you can go back and read my break down of them.

And without further ado, I give you the calm, gentle, fangirl favorite: August Howitz.

– Character Type

With August, you have to start with his gentleness. While it can sometimes come off as wimpy or timid, August’s calm, unassuming attitude is very helpful in any dangerous situation, keeping his head and not stirring up arguments unless absolutely necessary.

He’s the kind of guy more likely to sit by and be insulted for hours then insult the speaker back, but if someone was insulting or hurting Andi, he’d step in maybe even fight back if it were needed to save her.

He doesn’t like the spotlight, but values performing well and doing his duty over getting attention or recognition.

He’s very sympathetic and kind, reaching out to people when he notices they’re hurting if he thinks there’s anything he can do.

– Relationships

(WARNING: SPOILERS TO BOOK #1)

His relationship to the Lloyd family is a bit complicated, considering he’s Andi’s biological brother but the two were parted as very young kids and didn’t meet again until they were adults. While she didn’t remember her family, he’s always remembered her. She was adopted by the Doctor as a baby, while August was raised by their cold, hardened biological father.

As soon as he realized who Andi was, he felt a connection and a closeness to the sister he’d lost and she was quick to reciprocate the affection. They maintain a trusted confidence and warmth throughout the series that’s really very beautiful.

To others, he’s usually slow to warm up to people, keeping things polite but professional unless there’s a reason to be extra encouraging.

He’s not a big talker, prefering to keep to himself unless someone needs to know something he knows–or if talking is the polite thing to do.

I expect his father’s lack of attention and affection contributed to August’s lack of self-confidence and his methodical, accurate work. Andi seems to bring him out of his shell bit by bit, as her habit of believing in everyone around her ignites trust and confidence in his attitude around her.

Andi and The Doctor were also the ones who reintroduced August to Christianity, which he eventually accepts when he sees it playing out in their lives in a way he’s never seen before.

– Habits and Quirks

You’ve got to love August’s hesitation and even occasional stutter. (The exact opposite of Crash’s reaction to a poor father-son relationship, I might add.)

While you root for August to grow more and more confident, his careful gentleness and uncertainty are certainly endearing. It’s clear that doing what is right and expected is so important to him. He rarely seems to think of himself in any situation preferring to see what the people around him need as a sense of duty and instinct.

– Character Arc

As mentioned before, his quiet, shy attitude seems to be warming into a quite confidence and even sometimes a challenging playfulness.

It’s pretty clear that belonging to a loving family, especially Andi, is helping him feel more comfortable sharing his thoughts and bringing up his ideas without fear.

I’m frankly enjoying seeing the subtlety of his growth from timid to quietly confident very much, and can’t wait to see him come into his own even further in future books!

Thank you ever so much for reading! This has been A Firmament Fan’s Look at August Howitz! Thank you for visiting Grace’s site! From what you know about the characters, would you say August or Crash is your favorite?

Thank you again for reading and have an epic day!

Hope author photo Hope Pennington is a homeschooled manga artist and sci-fi fan who blogs at TheEpicPlace.com, and the author of the soon-to-be-released YA novel Fairytale. In her spare time she enjoys coffee, YouTube, and making new friends ^_^

The Month of August

Yes, I know the month of August is almost over. I meant to do this post earlier in the month, but I’ve been not only working full time and dating and trying to keep up with friends, but I’ve been working on getting the fourth Firmament book published, I’m working on two other writing projects, I have a new audiobook job, and I do still have to rest somewhere in there. So blogging has taken a back seat. But I couldn’t let this month go by without saying something about everyone’s favorite Austrian navigator. I begged Hope to do another of her Firmament fan posts for him, and she did, so I’ll post that in a few days.

But first, I want to talk about August myself. I never expected this timid, pale, unassuming fellow to be the most popular character in the series. Sure, I have the fondness for him that an author always has for her creations, but he’s never in the forefront of my mind when I think about my characters. I think first of the Doctor, or Andi, or the Captain, or Crash, or even Guilders. But August? He’s a good man. He tries his best. He means well. And yeah, he’s handsome. But the most popular character? More popular than the relatable Andi or the charming Crash or the dear Doctor?

That puzzles me a bit.

About a year ago my friend and fellow author Morgan Huneke posted this on my Facebook wall:

“My mom and I think we have figured out why August Howitz is so popular. He’s kind of needy and had a bad father, so all the girls feel sorry for him and consequently love him. I guess it’s the miserable factor.”

Maybe so. Maybe this poor, pathetic orphan who tries so hard and never can quite seem to measure up to the staunch, stalwart men around him draws people to him merely by his misery. Girls like needy things. Babies, puppies, kittens. And apparently, August.

We’ll see later in the week what Hope has to say about this boy, but in the meantime, here’s a scene from the fifth Firmament book that just may show a side of August that you haven’t seen yet:

I nodded, then looked towards the castle. “Let’s go, then.”

Following the map, we started towards the nearest door.

We shed our backpacks when we reached it–a simple but heavy wooden basement door in the ground just outside the castle. It didn’t match its surroundings–the wood looked new, and the handles and lock were modern and polished. Someone–Dred?–must have added the door later.

August examined the lock for a moment, then reached into his backpack and pulled out a pocketknife. “Do you have any needles in your first aid kit?” he asked. I nodded and dug around in the dark to find one for him.

He took it and worked with the lock for a few moments. In the silence I could hear his breaths and the muted clicks of the two objects as he worked with the lock. Then finally there was a louder click, and he handed me back my needle.

“I’m not necessarily proud of everything Dad taught me,” he explained in answer to my look.

Guest Post — A Firmament Fan’s Look At Eagle Crash

Greetings once again! It’s Firmament‘s biggest fan here to share with you all the reasons you don’t love Eagle Crash enough. Yet.

I’ve already explained why you have to love Andi and her father Doctor Lloyd but Eagle Crash has a charm all his own.

– Character Type

Crash is introduced as a lovable, brash, cocky, charming character who smiles his way out of situations and loves adventure. The more annoying and even worrying side to his character is emphasized less, giving him an irresistibly lovable quality.

He is the forward and confident type who hates any form of humiliation so much that he’ll argue, ignore, or joke anything really to destroy criticism of him or his abilities. To me this hints that his confidence actually comes from a lack of confidence. Call me a psychologist but if he’s actually afraid of rejection from rejection in his past this could explain his overly big personality that’s both charming and annoying. Little is explained about his father in the series thus far except that he divorced Crash’s mom when Crash was young and that Crash’s mom’s brother (Doctor Lloyd) didn’t like him. Without a father figure in his life, Crash could very likely feel a strong need to prove himself to everyone, perhaps even to his father, who apparently didn’t see him as worth sticking around for. Despite these failings, Crash still manages to be one of the most lovable characters in the series.

– Relationships

He seems to keep pretty much everyone at arm’s length, and while he spends a lot of time around his cousin Andi and obviously feels protective over her, he still keeps his personal feels and deeper personality to himself, preferring a louder, more cocky outward persona to revealing any feelings–unless they’re angry ones. He doesn’t seem to get angry easily unless his pride is insulted or he’s somehow prevented from solving a problem or completing a task.

– Habits and Quirks

He stands without any shyness, usually feet apart and arms crossed or hung casually over the back of a chair. He’s quick to banter and joke, especially when someone in the room has a long-running argument or disagreement with him.

While insults or poking fun can be a sign of affection from him, it can often at the same time be a mask for a real disagreement.

Crash’s saving grace that keeps him from being an annoying jerk is that he’s sober and serious when he needs to be and does show warm and real affection for his family, the Doctor and Andi, and no matter what arguments he has with them you know you could count on him to love them
and that if either one of them were in trouble he’d go to crazy lengths to save them and kick the backside of whoever put them in danger.

– Character Arc

There hasn’t been a ton of change in Crash’s character in the series yet except that in each book that he features in we get to see another side of him.

It’s always one of my favorite parts to see how Crash reacts to whatever situation the Surveyor encounters, or how he’ll brighten up or liven up any adventure.

I feel like Crash’s masked, repressed, and prideful attitude will catch up to him at some point and that he’ll have to go through some painful times. The Doctor has said things along the lines that Crash has a long way to go or a lot of hard lessons to learn, which makes me think Grace is going to make him go through hard stuff. *cries inwardly*

My hope is that before that happens or at least somewhere along the line he’ll learn how much he means to everyone on the ship despite his obnoxious qualities. Okay I’m getting feels just thinking about it.

I just NEED more Crash in my life! And he’s not even my favorite character!

Anyway, this has been A Firmament Fan’s Look at Eagle Crash! Thank you so much for reading this and if you want to join the #EagleCrash fanclub search the hashtag on Instagram. I’m campaigning for more Eagle Crash fan fiction! If you make any tag it I’d love to meet other Crash fans!

Thanks so much for reading and have an epic day!

Hope author photo Hope Pennington is a homeschooled manga artist and sci-fi fan who blogs at TheEpicPlace.com, and the author of the soon-to-be-released YA novel Fairytale. In her spare time she enjoys coffee, YouTube, and making new friends ^_^