J. Grace Pennington

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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 ^_^

You Know You’re a Real Author When…

…someone writes fanfiction of your series.

Okay, so it was my sister who write the fanfiction, but hey! Still! I have my very own fanfic!

She showed this to me back when she wrote it, and recently posted it on her website. I really enjoyed giving it another read-through. I’m a big, well, fan of fanfiction, so to have some of my own is pretty darn brilliant.

It’s on the long side, but worth a read if you enjoy my Firmament series and want to see more of Andi and the rest. Non-canon, of course, but she did a great job capturing everybody.

Thanks, Hope, for being such a fan!

Now I Know Everything

I love libraries. One of my favorite parts of living in the big city is that there are so many of them so nearby. Once I have a library card, I can check out everything from romance movies to classic sci-fi short story collections to the latest Maze Runner novel. Interestingly though, I rarely check out fictional material. Much as I love novels, short stories, and movies, I’m much more likely to check out how-to or self-help books. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’m just compelled to use this opportunity as productively as possible.

Over the past year, I’ve checked out at least half a dozen books about writing. Everything from Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy to a handy dandy tome entitled Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish. Also, presented with an opportunity to download a couple of The Great Courses for very cheap, one that I picked was Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques.

It wasn’t until I finished reading the plot book and started listening to the course that it dawned on me. I couldn’t remember the last time that I learned something new by reading or listening to these things. Every time I go into the book or the lecture expecting to savor some new revelation that will bring my prose, plotting, and personalities from good to great. I’m always trying to garner that missing puzzle piece that will snap it all together into the complete picture of the perfect story.

But thinking back, I had to face the truth. I used to learn so much about writing. Whether it be from books or speakers or writing curricula, I was always finding out new ways to spice up my storytelling. But then, about a year or two ago, I plateaued. What was the last new writing principle that I learned? I think it was something in 2013 about including specific details.

I never seem to hear any writing advice I haven’t heard before.

In short, I now know everything.

Why, then, has my writing not reached the New York Times bestseller list? Why am I making $30 a month on my books instead of $3000? Why do I still get two- and one-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads?

Okay, so even many of the most brilliant authors get negative reviews and don’t hit the bestseller lists, but still. Why is my writing not yet perfect, now that I know all the rules?

Well, does knowing all the rules of football make me a player that every team in the NFL is clamoring to sign onto their team? No. Does knowing all the rules of chess make me win every time? Not quite. How about having read the entire Bible multiple times? Does that make me a perfect Christian? By no means!

The distance between knowledge and action seems much farther than I would like to believe. There may be few writing principles I have left to learn, but I’m realizing I still need an incredible amount of practice before I can become the best that I can be.

So I guess it’s time to spend a little less energy on reading books about writing, and do more of the actual sitting down and churning out words.

A Firmament Fan’s Look at Doctor Lloyd

Another guest post from my awesome sister and fellow writer Hope of The Epic Place! This time she’s looking at my very favorite character from the Firmament series, Doctor Gerard Lloyd. Let’s hear her observations…

A Firmament Fan’s Look At Doctor Lloyd

Hello again, people-who-are-likely-not-big-enough-fans-of-the-Firmament-series. This is Hope Pennington, AKA Firmament’s biggest fan, here to analyze the series’s gruff but charming Dr Lloyd.

As before in my look at Andi I’m going to cover four attributes of character study:

– Character Type

– Relationships

– Habits and Quirks

– Character Arc

Dr. Lloyd (AKA “The Doctor”) is undoubtedly the coolest dad character I’ve ever read in a book or seen in a movie while still being believably dad-ish. So without further ado, let’s dive in to the brilliance that is The Doctor.

– Character Type

He’s that gruff-on-the-outside-kind-on-the-inside type of guy but the thing that’s cool about the way he’s written is that it’s not super over the top or comedic. It’s more subtle, which makes it easier to believe in. He’s a practical, matter-of-fact person overall, with an underlying sensitivity that when you see it is really extremely tender. His past, only hinted at so far, is shown to be both heartbreaking in the sense of loosing loved ones and difficult financially, suggesting he had to work from the bottom up. This seems to have given him a wall of sorts to his emotions which would develop over time yet at the same time he’s not shut off. He shows a lot of love and gratitude in his own subtle way for his family, friends, and job which would also have come from not always having those things.

– Relationships

His existing relationships suggest that Dr Lloyd isn’t one to go at anything half-heartedly. In his day-to-day you see a rational, wise, and steady attitude, but the small subtle glimpses you do get of his care for Andi, Crash and even Captain Trent and Guilders show someone who forms loyal and compassionate relationships with all of his friends. It takes awhile to get on his “friend list” but when you’re there be sure you’re there for life. One REALLY admirable thing about the Doctor is that while he’s an ardent Christian and the Captain and Guilders are not, he doesn’t let that bother him or distance him from the two of them. They seem at peace with their differences and even discuss them in slightly annoyed but mostly light-hearted terms–and you know the Doctor would never turn on or abandon either of them no matter what they’d done. You get the feeling that you could threaten to kill him and he’d stay with you, praying with you and assuring you that wasn’t the real you.

– Habits and Quirks

The Doctor likes things the way they used to be. He doesn’t like trying new things or change in general. Whenever there’s an upgrade in uniforms, medical equipment, or even the lunch menu he’s frustrated and asks what was wrong with the way things were before.

His likes and dislikes are strong even though he’s not largely outspoken about them.

While most people in this future only read electronic books he continues to read the Bible as a “real” or “traditional” book.

– Character Arc

We haven’t seen a ton of change in Dr. Lloyd in the series so far, which makes sense with him being a lot older than, say, Andi.

Some things were touched on in book 1–when he was under the effect of a device, he rambled pathetically about how he didn’t want Andi to leave him like everyone else had, which we is just a deeper look into what a hard past he’s had.

The bond he and Andi have is very strong, sometimes making Andi seem younger then she is because of her strong love and respect for her dad; something that usually changes a lot around the teen years.

It’s actually very beautiful to see a father and daughter as close as Andi and The Doctor are, but it makes you wonder how the Doctor would react if he were to lose Andi or believe that he had for a long while.

Again not much of this has been explored more than subtly, but I think it will be fascinating to see where their relationship goes in the future.

This has been A Firmament Fan’s Look at Doctor Lloyd! Join me next week for part 3 where I take a look at Eagle Crash!

Hope author photoHope 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 ^_^