Things this contest has taught me

1. Blessings really do sometimes come in disguise.
I was very bummed and disappointed about not making it to round three. However, I was determined to accept it without complaining, whining, or feeling sorry for myself. I think that this has really helped me move into a new level of maturity when it comes to my writing and accepting criticism.

2. Hard work pays off.
Since entering this contest, I have done more to promote my books than ever before and I’ve made 4 sales in the past month (which is more than I sold all last year combined!)

3. I’m not as bad at describing my books as I think.
Making it to round two was such a confidence booster for me. One of my hesitations to writing query letters and synopses has always been a lack of confidence when it comes to “explaining what my books are about.” When people ask me this question, I tend to go blank. I stammer out something about a princess and dragons and then change the subject. However, since the first round of judging was based solely on a 300 word description of what my book is about, and I made it through, I have suddenly become far more confident and have sent out my very first 2 queries in the week since getting the “bad” news.

4. Writing is fun.
Most importantly, entering this contest, “talking” on the discussion boards with other authors/writers, and getting feedback from strangers on my story has really reinvigorated my love of writing. It has lit a “fire” under me and given me the desire to edit and polish my manuscript until it shines (and is up to the standards of my most recent work: The Minstrel). I am excited about the prospect of finding an agent and subsequently a publisher. I am excited about editing. And most importantly, I am excited to continue writing new stories as they unfold from my mind onto the page. I have even started two whole new stories, as different from my Dragon’s Eye series as Star Wars is from the Wheel of Time.

So, thank you, ABNA, for all you’ve taught me. And thank you, Lord, for not letting me slide through this contest with ease. It’s way more fun this way.

~ jenelle

Down, but not for the count

Well friends, the news finally came in around 10pm EST, and my excerpt didn’t make the cut. Yes, I’m disappointed. Yes, I’m feeling a bit down and subdued tonight. But…

“… he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Cor. 12:9

I am pressed, but not crushed. I am perplexed, but I am not in despair. I feel a bit persecuted, but I know I am not abandoned. I am down, but I am not destroyed. (Paraphrase 2Cor. 4:8-9)

Tomorrow there will be editing, working on polishing that query letter, and the hunt for an agent or publisher will begin in earnest, but tonight, just for a little, there will be a sigh, maybe a tear, and the resting of my head in my heavenly Father’s arms.

~ jenelle

AVATAR: Movie Review

I wrote this particular review right after seeing the movie Avatar in the theater. Thought I’d post it here in my Movie Review section.

Ok, let me tell you what I liked about the movie first:

1. the visuals. Wow. Rarely have I seen such beauty depicted in a movie. The world that they created was absolutely gorgeous and I would love to live there. The floating mountains, the dragon riding, and the glow-in-the-dark forest were just a few of the breath-taking visuals throughout the movie that I highly enjoyed.

2. the courage and curiosity of the main character. I loved watching him “discover” the world and attack every challenge with absolute fearlessness.

3) the dragon-riding scenes. I would love to do that. It was about the coolest thing I have ever seen.

That does it for what I liked.

Let me tell you what I didn’t like about the movie:

1. The plot and the overall storyline

To be honest, it felt as if James Cameron came up with the idea for this fantastical world and drew it up and created a race of aliens to live on it and then went… “Hm… someone tack a story on there.” Enter a story that is basically Aliens meets Pocahontas. The blatant plagiarism was almost as offensive as the agenda (but I’ll talk about that in my next point). It was as if they truly believed nobody would notice that this plot has been used already in: Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, Fern Gully, and Aliens.

Basic gist of the story:

A group of humans has gone to a planet called “Pandora” to mine an ore called “Unobtainium.” The planet is dangerous and filled with an indigenous race called the Navi, who are tall blue people who wear very little clothing, have tails and shoot bows and arrows. They worship their goddess, Eywa, who is a tree, and every living organism on the planet is connected through this elaborate root system that they compare to synapses in a human brain. They can connect with animals via the braids on the back of their heads and that is how they tame creatures so they can ride. The Navi don’t really like the humans being there because they feel as though the humans are unable or unwilling to learn what is “important.”

The humans have created these “avatars” which can be controlled by a human who is placed in a kind of “bed” and hooked up to all kinds of monitors and wires so he or she can completely control the avatar body. The Avatars look like the Navi and are used to try to create diplomatic relations with the Navi.

The main character, a retired Marine named Jake who got paralyzed from the waist down and has to ride around in a crummy, falling-apart wheelchair (but they have the technology to create avatar bodies and fly through space… for crying out loud!), goes to Pandora to control an Avatar that was actually created for his twin brother, a scientist who was killed by a mugger. They get the Marine to come take his brother’s place because the Avatars can only be used by the person they were created for, based on DNA. Anyway, he gets to know one of the Navi and they teach him how to be one of them. He is supposed to be working for this colonel guy, who starts out somewhat normal and just gets more and more psychotic as the movie goes on. However, through his “training” he falls in love with the Navi people and ends up fighting alongside them against the humans.

2) The agenda… which as I said before, was so in your face that it wasn’t even remotely subtle and which was so ridiculous that it actually made me laugh during parts that I think were supposed to be taken quite seriously

The movie was replete with lines such as:

“There is no green left on our planet.” (referring to Earth, let’s see, message: environmentalism?)

“We killed our Mother.” (again, referring to humans, message: environmentalism again)

“You are like a baby.” (the Navi girl says multiple times to Jake, message: humans are stupid)

“Eywa, I see her, she’s real!” (referring to the Navi’s goddess, message: promoting the idolism of nature)

“Let’s fight terror with terror.” (said by the main bad guy who is attacking the poor Navi people to get at an ore that their “Home Tree” is planted on top of, message: anti-war agenda)

“They’ve sent us a message… that they can take whatever they want. Well we will send them a message. That this… this is our land!” (Jake to the Navi people about the humans, message: all white people are racists agenda)

“This is why we’re here, because this little gray rock sells for twenty million a kilo.” (said by the head of the human mining operation, message: anti-consumerism/capitalist agenda)

 And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head.

At the same time that I felt the agenda was so obvious that it was laughable, it was no laughing matter. I am sick of being told by Hollywood and the Media that all white people are racists, that the terrorists are our friends, that by being alive I am killing all nature on planet Earth, and that America is everything that is wrong with our world and that we owe the rest of the world an apology for being successful.

3. the bad guys all being very one-dimensional. The colonel does not have any motivation for being evil and wanting to kill these people, he just takes over and decides that he is going to blow things up. As the movie goes on, he becomes more and more unreasonable and evil, and there seems to be no real reason for it.

4. the sex scene towards the end. While no, it wasn’t your typical scene because it occurs between two Navi people, it left very little to the imagination.

I do not appreciate being slapped across the back of the head with the agenda of the writer. Especially when that agenda is offensive to everything I believe in and to everything that I am, not only as a Christian, but also as a human being. The agenda of Avatar was every bit as offensive as The Happening, (a conversation for another time) it was merely packaged in prettier wrapping paper that wasn’t quite as horrifying to watch.

~ jenelle