J. Grace Pennington

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You Can Ride the Donkey or Walk, But Not Both


I regularly check the Amazon and Goodreads reviews. This isn’t because I’m narcissistic, or even fishing for encouragement (though encouragement is awesome), it’s because I like to post them on social networks to promote my works. I like doing this because first, I’m an introvert and don’t like promoting myself, and second, there’s that whole “let another man’s lips praise you, not your own” thing from Proverbs, and posting reviews seems to fit. At least, it seems that way to me.

Of course, not all reviews are unequivocally positive. All of my Amazon reviews are more or less positive so far, some point out flaws, a couple readers gave three stars, saying the books were good but not their favorites. But I was digging a little deeper on Goodreads the other day, and I found this two-star review of Never:

“Had I checked more closely, other than the general Goodreads description of this book, I would’ve undoubtedly “never” read it. Anyone, including “born-again Christians” such as Ms. Pennington, has every right to put out a novel with their particular slant. At several places in this book the “preachiness” became apparent to me, and this just isn’t my cup of tea. In my view, this was really a sort of sermonette under the guise of a novel. I’d agree that the overall plot is not bad. The writing is OK. I don’t find the characters particularly well-defined or memorable. The author’s frequent use of “kay” for “okay” is somewhat anachronistic & silly, not to mention annoying. Some elements of the story seem really far-fetched. I mean, given the description of the serious physical travails of Travis, could someone actually survive all that? About the only feature that kept my interest was the whodunit element. Compared to the initial Goodreads description, the novel was a disappointment to me.”

I actually think this is a pretty fair review, given the reader’s preferences. And I think that giving it two stars was honestly probably generous. But it’s still by far one of the most negative reviews I’ve received.

After browsing a bit more, I found this review of Firmament: Radialloy:

“I gave it 25% before I gave up on it. The collision of a merchant ship with an asteroid at “warp 8″ instead of vaporizing the ship, and asteroid, yielded no significant damage, or injuries, just some “malfuctions”.. “Propulsion” which should be a force, was treated like a speed. Totally ignoring physical laws(Google Newtons Laws). And the characters were barely developed.”

Again, this isn’t a mean or nasty review. This is a guy who knows a whole lot more about science than I do and who is severely bothered by unrealistic elements (though for the record, I have my own warp formula that is different than Star Trek, and I don’t see why I can’t call speeds propulsion if I like, but anyway…).

What was especially interesting to me in reading these posts was my reaction. I am not a person who is especially graceful at receiving criticism (unfortunately), but these reviews didn’t really bother me. Why?

Because I’m confident in my target audience.

There’s a fable in Aesop featuring a father and son going to town with a donkey. At first they walked beside the donkey, but then people mocked them for walking when they could ride. So the man put his son on the animal, but then passers by complained that the son was disrespecting his father by riding while the old man walked. So the man made the boy get down and mounted the beast himself, but some women along the road protested that the father was making his little child walk while he road in comfort. Eager to please, the man pulled his son up with him, then a fellow nearby expressed outrage at how heavily they was burdening the poor donkey. In a final attempt to satisfy, the man tied the legs of the animal together and carried it over a bridge into town, upon which proceeding the poor ass broke free of its bonds, fell into the river, and drowned.

The moral, Aesop kindly states, is that in seeking to please everybody, one pleases nobody.

The fact is, I didn’t write Never for non-Christian adults and I didn’t write the Firmament series for knowledgeable science geeks. I wrote them both for Christian young adults. And all the Christian young adults who have read them so far have more or less enjoyed them. If I had seventeen-year-old homeschoolers and young science-fiction fans saying my books were lame and unrealistic, I’d have reason to worry. But that hasn’t happened. So the fact that some people outside of my target audience really, really dislike my books honestly doesn’t bother me.

That’s not to say I shouldn’t work harder on my science or take into account the shared opinion that my characters could use work. But at this point, my main concern is turning out enjoyable Christian books for teens and young adults. If I’m accomplishing that, I’m happy.

Know your audience. You can’t please everyone, so decide who you want to please and focus on that. Ride, or walk — but don’t try to do both.

All the World’s a Stage

And I am merely a player, playing many parts in a very short time indeed.

I’ve been traveling, editing, finishing revisions on Firmament: Machiavellian, reading, doing housework, and living life, just to name a few. Thus it’s been rather difficult to get blog posts together. I have several guest posts in the works, will soon be making announcements, and am writing up an article about how to receive negative book reviews, but in the meantime — I have some questions for you, my readers.

What would you like to see on my blog? What could make it better? What improvements can I make? What’s that thing you have been watching longingly for through months of mediocre content that would just breathe new life into the site and keep you coming?

I want to hear what you want to see, so comment away! I’ll be back soon with more posts.

Happy As A Sunflower

My friend and fellow-author Sarah Scheele over at Stardust and Gravel (I must stop and say again how much I adore that blog name) tagged me to participate in the Sunflower Award! What is the Sunflower Award, you asks? Why, it’s just a fun blogging event where each blogger gives eleven random facts about themselves, answers eleven questions, then tags eleven more bloggers to answer eleven more questions! I’m not sure of the significance of the number eleven, or what it has to do with sunflowers, but I thought I’d try it out, anyhow.

So here are eleven random facts about me:

1. I sleep with a stuffed animal.

2. I own three-hundred and sixty-three books (counting Bibles, not counting ebooks or multiple copies of my own publications).

3. I have written in my journal(s) every day since October seventh, 2008.

4. I am afraid of almost everything.

5. Physical Touch is my primary love language (with Words of Affirmation being second).

6. I don’t eat beef, pork or eggs (health reasons).

7. I am a major “Civil War” aficionado and a passionate Confederate.

8. I change my nail polish twice a week.

7. I have lived in Texas all my life.

8. There are three books I read once a year: Me, Myself and Bob by Phil Vischer, Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss, and Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. (Go figure…)

9. I am a self-taught piano hobbyist.

10. I dislike reality TV (other than American Idol).

11. I usually find it much easier to pray outside than inside.

There, eleven facts! Now to answer Sarah’s questions.

1. What’s the last sentence you wrote in a story?

“Very well. I’m quite accustomed to standing.” ~ Captain Felix Holloway, Firmament: Machiavellian

2. What was the last movie you watched?

Partially, The Fugitive. Entirely, Iron Man 3.

3. Do you have a favorite quote?

Not counting Bible verses… “He who has God plus many things has nothing more than he who has God alone.” C. S. Lewis

4. Favorite food?

Dark chocolate. Alternately, French fries and other forms of potatoes.

5. Have you ever seen a shooting star?

Yes. I’ve had the privilege of seeing at least half a dozen. They are beautiful.

6. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have three books, which would you bring?

I’m going to just assume that the Bible is a given and that we’re talking about three additional books. Probably With by Skye Jethani, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, and… maybe The Oath by Frank Peretti. Though you’d probably get a different answer every time you asked. (Except I’d probably always bring With.)

7. In real life, which appeals to you more: futuristic, modern, or old-fashioned?

I suppose a mix of modern and old-fashioned. I like classic style and many traditional values, but I like modern conveniences!

8. In fiction, which appeals to you more: futuristic, modern, or old-fashioned? (Other worlds count.)

Futuristic. Love the possibilities!

9. What’s the strangest thing hanging on your wall in your room?

I don’t know… does a giant metal “G” from an old shopping mall count as strange? My bulletin boards have all kinds of things; from a picture of Adam Young to a collection of coupons for fried chicken.

10. What’s your favorite bird?

Definitely eagles. I love eagles.

11. Robin Hood or King Arthur?

King Arthur. Of the Merlin variety, since I’m not really a fan of Arthurian legend in and of itself.

And I could think of my own questions, but in truth I’m quite interested to hear everyone else’s answer to these. So I’ll just be lazy and copy them.

1. What’s the last sentence you wrote in a story?

2. What was the last movie you watched?

3. Do you have a favorite quote?

4. Favorite food?

5. Have you ever seen a shooting star?

6. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have three books, which would you bring?

7. In real life, which appeals to you more: futuristic, modern, or old-fashioned?

8. In fiction, which appeals to you more: futuristic, modern, or old-fashioned? (Other worlds count.)

9. What’s the strangest thing hanging on your wall in your room?

10. What’s your favorite bird?

11. Robin Hood or King Arthur?

And I tag Jonathan Garner, Aubrey Hansen, BushMaid, Ophelia-Marie Flowers, Jeremiah Stiles, Jenny Freitag, Jess Verve, Abigail Hartman, Zoe Scrivener, Hannak K., and Elizabeth Kirkwood. Have fun, y’all!

And thank you for tagging me, Sarah!

“Because I Kept Reading It.”

Reviews of my books always make my day, and Amazon reviews are especially precious because the more reviews a book has, the more likely it is to sell. Between that and the joy of hearing how God used my work to impact a reader…

Yeah. I just really, really love reviews.

So imagine my delight when I discovered yesterday that I had not one, not two, but THREE new Amazon reviews, one for each of my books. All from the same young lady. This turned a tiring day upside down and made it happy! Thank you, dear reader!

I just had to share one of these reviews, the review of Never, because it is quite possibly my favorite review yet for that particular book.

“A quiet little town in the West suddenly becomes not so quiet when a murder is committed. And you wonder who killed who, and you think you have it figured out, and then that person dies too. And then you aren’t sure of anything and so you just settle down and enjoy the wonderfully well crafted mystery that unfolds before you. Two brothers, the younger one is timid, sweet and bright, the older is strong, determined, and has a fierce protecting love for his little brother. I wondered at the book name and cover when I bought the book, what did “never” and water have to do with a western? Kind of everything. :P

“My sister was blown away by me as I read this story. Because I kept reading it. Everywhere. Even in the restaurant. But it’s soooo good! The story is very compelling and well written, and it never gets boring, though at times you wonder just how many more people are going to die before the story ends! I normally can figure out who the murder is by the halfway point. Not this book. At the halfway point I was chewing my nails and wondering if they would ever get it figured out. Miss Pennington writes in such a way that you can smell the smells the character smells, taste what he tastes, and see what he sees, so there is never a dull moment to be had.

“The strong Christian moral of “never” that runs through the book is what makes this work truly special. Maybe I don’t read enough Christian novels, or maybe the ones that I do have wimpy or nonexistent values, but I found this book to be a refreshing drought of water in a barren land, or…..in a deep, dark coal mine…..”

Thank you, Heather, for blessing me with this review! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the book so much. And rest assured, it won’t be too very long before the third Firmament book is released!

Resistance Interview

I know what you’re thinking… another interview? When will we get another regular post? Hopefully soon, but my friends keep publishing such interesting books, so I can’t help talking about them — plus, I’m so busy with Firmament: Machiavellian edits right now, that it’s hard to find the time to sit down and write out posts at the moment.

Speaking of interesting books, today I get to talk to Jaye L. Knight about her recent New Adult fantasy release, Resistance! I haven’t officially read any of Jaye’s books yet, but I’ve followed her journey with interest, and I eagerly look forward to finding the time to dig into one of her novels.

In the meantime, let’s learn a little more about Jaye and her writing.

Hello, Jaye, and welcome to my blog! What was the first story you wrote?

My very first story was about an eight-year-old girl named April. I wrote it in a quite hideous green notebook. ;) It was basically a collection of one-page chapters that were their own mini stories of April getting kittens, building a fort, or other childhood adventures that I either had or wanted to do. My first real story that I actually completed was about a young teen girl (I think her name was Jessie) who went to spend a couple of weeks with her grandmother and ended up finding a horse stuck in the nearby swamp. It was based on one of my favorite Pony Pals books. I was horse crazy from about 4 to 14 years old, so pretty much every story I wrote in my early years revolved around horses.

What is your favorite part of writing Resistance?

Jace . . . haha, I suppose I should elaborate. Jace is my favorite character I’ve ever written in any story. Despite being the most troubled, he’s the easiest character I’ve ever worked with. I understand him so well and it’s really easy to get in his head. I just love telling his story. Aside from that, I just love all the character dynamics. Because of the number of characters, not just in Resistance, but in the whole series, there are so many different types of relationships from romantic to downright hatred. I love exploring all of them. Character interaction, I think, is my number one favorite thing about writing.

What inspires you, or provides the spark for your ideas? People? Places? Situations? Pictures?

I get inspiration from many things. Movies and TV shows seem to be my biggest source. Seeing things visually really gets my imagination working. I do get a lot of inspiration from reading, though I have trouble finding as much time for it as I’d like. Music is big for me in creating characters. I almost always have theme songs for my main characters that help inspire their characteristics and certain scenes. And then, of course, there’s Pinterest. I didn’t want to sign up when my mom first told me about it because I didn’t need another internet distraction, but I eventually gave in and don’t regret it at all. It’s now one of my favorite writing tools. I’ve found so many pictures for characters and scenes, and having storyboards on there really helps me visualize the story.

What are your favorite reads and how do they affect your writing?

I know it’s cliché, but The Lord of the Rings is right at the top. I don’t think I would be writing fantasy if I hadn’t discovered Lord of the Rings when I was thirteen. That’s when I completely fell in love with fantasy worlds and everything that’s a part of them. Right up there with LotR is the Books of the Infinite series by R.J. Larson. They’re more of a recent discovery for me, but I absolutely adore the books, and I think they have had an impact on my writing style, especially in portraying characters. I could really see it coming through when I was editing Resistance last fall. They’ve definitely helped me improve in some crucial areas.

What time of day do you like to write and why?

I usually like to get working on my current projects right away in the morning. I’m more of a morning person than a nighttime person. I’m always in bed early, though sometimes I wish I could handle staying up late because I’d probably be pretty creative at night. Even though I get an early start in the morning, my most productive hours seem to be in the afternoon. I think it takes me a while to settle into my writing.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Jaye! Best wishes with the rest of your blog tour!

Immerse yourself in the world of Ilyon! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win an autographed copy of Resistance (Book 1 in the “Ilyon Chronicles” series), a Resistance-inspired necklace crafted by the author (Jaye L. Knight), a Better Homes “Warm Rustic Woods” candle, and a wolf paw leather bookmark from Lodgepole Leathercraft. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

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20140520-104642.jpgJAYE L. KNIGHT is a 25-year-old independent author with a passion for writing Christian fantasy and clean NA (New Adult) fiction. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope.

Jaye is a homeschool graduate and has been penning stories since the age of eight. She was previously published as Molly Evangeline. You can learn about her latest writing projects at www.jayelknight.com.

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