J. Grace Pennington

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Don’t Take My Word For It…

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As I mentioned a few days ago, Firmament: In His Image is featured on Homeschool Authors this week for the Read to Win program. As a part of that, I was asked to write a post about what readers have been saying about In His Image. Why not let them tell you why you should buy the book?

In other news, I’ve been getting together some post ideas and a more regular schedule for this blog, so come back soon and see what I’ve been cooking up!

Go Ahead, Make My Day

And I mean that in the literal sense. As in, actually make my day. Not the accepted meaning of that phrase which means that you are going to do something bad. It’s like I’m being sarcastic about a sarcastic phrase, in which case the phrase reverts back to its original meaning which means it isn’t actually sarcastic anymore. Kindof like a double negative…

Anyway. If you haven’t heard the news yet, my book Firmament: In His Image is part of the Homeschool Authors reading program this summer. What does that mean? It means that for this week, In His Image is only ninety-nine cents on Kindle. So if you’ve been planning on reading In His Image but have balked at the normal price, now is your chance to pick it up! But wait, there’s more. After reading it, if you do a review you will be entered into a giveaway for a Kindle loaded with books! And you will also totally make my day (hence the sarcastic/not sarcastic title of this post) because I love getting reviews.

And there’s more even than that… you can check out the Homeschool Authors site for an interview from me about the book, and there will be a guest post later this week. And there are lots of other amazing authors featured on there. But have a look at the post to see for yourself!

In His Image interview.

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!