Dear Diary…talking and investigating (also what we’re bad at)

Alert: May contain spoilers for the module “The Village of Hommlet”

Well…we know what we’re good at, now.

Over dinner, Mikael told Raven about how Elmo’s armor is nicer than expected, and some of the suspicions he and Ezekiel had about that. (Elmo was too busy drinking to notice, I think.)

Ezekiel excused himself and went to visit the chapel of St. Cuthbert to ask the rector about the habits of bugbears (wish I could find the manual my Ranger Master gave me), while Raven and I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to have another member of the party, and we’d feel out some of the other potential adventurers in the inn. Continue reading

Dear Diary…math and talking (what we’re bad at)

Alert: May contain spoilers for the module “The Village of Hommlet”

Ezekiel and Mikael got some branches to make a stretcher for the chest of coins – since otherwise none of us are carrying it.

Meanwhile, Elmo sharpened some sticks and made a barricade across the opening of the bugbears’ cave. Obviously this isn’t his first rodeo.

Ezekiel asked Elmo over supper about the nice dagger he used to kill the bugbear chief. Elmo says it was a present from his brother Ottis.

Ottis is a man-at-arms, and was hired by a “gentleman” a while back – somewhere not in town.

It’s good to have an older brother you can look up to. Continue reading

Dear Diary…things get bug(bear)gy

Alert: May contain spoilers for the module “The Village of Hommlet”

And people wonder why my nerves are like this.

I hadn’t been on watch for very long when a weapon came out of nowhere and just missed my head. I “roused” my party (with a yelp) and we jumped up to fight six bugbears – huge, lumbering, and almost silent! (So you see, it wasn’t my fault…they kept to the shadows and made about as much noise as Kelsier or Raven does.)

Lydia cast a spell on herself (I think she said it was Protection from Evil) while Mikael charged a bugbear and tackled it to the ground (I assume he meant to do that).

Elmo yelled, “Die, Bugbear!” and chopped one in two with his axe. Continue reading

Dear Diary…we try a new approach

Alert: May contain spoilers for “The Village of Hommlet”

Lydia has been wearing Bakluni face-wraps while traveling. It draws less attention than her face, so I have to applaud her for that.

The last leg of the trip has been pretty quiet. We did meet a caravan of cargo wagons on the road…they told us that “oh, yes, Hommlet is Old Faith” and exchanged pleasantries. They’re passing through all the way to Dyvers.

Lots of gnomes in these hills. They wear different fashions than those in the Starkmounds, but so far they’ve been very hospitable.

****

Met a strange old man on the road today. He sat on the crest of a hill, and looked like a weathered herdsman except we didn’t see any flock.

Ezekiel (naturally) greeted him, and asked if we were on the road to Hommlet.

The man answered that one direction was Hommlet, but the other way was Verbobank. (So…like my brother Snarkin.)

He turned down Ezekiel’s offer that we accompany him, but asked us to “be kind” to any of his flock that we found in Hommlet.

I don’t trust it.

We’re staying outside a gnomish inn tonight, and according to the map we should reach Hommlet early tomorrow. We talked a little bit about what our approach should be, but I think we’re just going to see how things come. After all, our investigative technique in Orlane wasn’t that impressive.

Ezekiel agrees we should try to see if we can resolve this problem without killing any townsfolk. Continue reading

Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me

Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me — Kimia Wood

Some things you gotta see for yourself…

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on vacation with my family. And I’ve been sick the whole stinkin’ time.

You know how any vacation goes…the expectation, the planning, the packing and list-making… This particular time, we were camping – so the organization of “this goes in my tent”, “this smells like food, so goes in the bear barrel”, “this is only for the car ride” was intensified.

I always over-pack for car rides, vacations, etc. I had my list of everything I could get done (see below) and anticipation was especially high since this is the last extended vacation for our immediate family for the foreseeable future (four adults’ work schedules are hard to coordinate).

But God allowed something else to happen. Namely, a “sinus infection” that is still making my voice softer and weaker than normal! Continue reading

“Shadow”—A Christian Jason Bourne?

What makes my written work stand out from others in the genre?

"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Image credit: imdb.com

Ha ha! That implies that I’ve actually read books in my genre…or that I know what genre I’m writing in…

But seriously, my latest work (Transmutation of Shadow) is an action-packed secret agent mystery…sort of in the vein of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity…or the movie The Matrix (no, really, a beta reader said it reminded him of The Matrix…yas!)

And yet it’s different. How is it different? How have I made this genre my own? If you love running-and-gunning spies, but also want to train your palate with clean, uplifting books, read on:

Action and Adventure

Books in this genre are usually full of fight scenes and dramatic chases…and Shadow is no exception!

A quick pace follows our hero through the pages, as he hides under the radar, running from people he used to call friends. I’m no Tom Clancy, but I managed to slip in some cool spy maneuvers (like switching clothes and cars repeatedly!).

How is my writing different?

Mr. Ludlum’s fight scenes can be a little…bone-jarring. While I don’t try to gloss over the bloody realism of combat, I also don’t dwell on it. My story doesn’t need it. In the words of one critiquer, I handle everything from death to violence with “grace and elegance”.

Let’s face it: my main character is an assassin. His government pays him to “eliminate” undesirable elements…AKA to murder people.

I think this is one of the things that made my parents leery when I first started writing it – but they both agree that I’ve dealt with the subject with maturity (but not gratuity) and cheerfulness (but not glorification).

Language

Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Alistair MacLean, and others in their genre are prone to “spicy words.” Let’s face it: in the world of soldiers and spies, terrorists and mafia dons, you won’t catch many people saying, “Good golly, Miss Molly!” when they stub their toe.

I’m from a different culture.

To be specific, the homeschooling, church-y culture where “Jeez” is too strong, and “Good grief gravy!” is for when you’re really, truly frustrated.

I gotta snicker a little here, because this is an area where my first line of beta readers really raked me over the coals.

“He can’t say ‘shucks’! He’s in the Army Special Forces, for crying out loud. If the guys in boot camp caught him saying ‘shucks’ they would beat him up!”

So…I took advantage of the glorious tool of obfuscation, and peppered the manuscript with “I swore” or “I muttered a curse.”

Realism + opaque writing = something you can give your teen without blushing!

Sex

Robert Ludlum is especially bad this way, but Tom Clancy also doesn’t shy from a sex scene or two.

What about the Kimia Wood books?

Hmm, yeah, there is none.

My character doesn’t even have a girlfriend. And if he did, I have a moral compunction against including any illicit material. Just check out my full-fledged rant against romance fiction. After frothing at the mouth about characters sniffing each other like wild dogs, the last thing I’m going to do is give my book a steamy scene.

While I tend to associate the tag “clean” with sickly sweet little Amish romances or quirky romantic mysteries with brightly-colored covers, I can’t deny the strict reading of the label applies to my own work. If you’re not “dirty,” you’re probably “clean.”

Tone"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Alistair MacLean’s work are tense, but largely upbeat and empowering adventures. Tom Clancy’s are highly technical, with tension slowly and deliberately constructed from all sides.

Robert Ludlum stares deep into the abyss, and his work is accordingly heavy on the gritty realism of his topic. And Larry Correia, while he sprinkles humor and cool world-building throughout his books, knows how to ratchet the tension up to eleven and just keep cranking.

How am I the same but different?

"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

My book has been compared to The Matrix and Equilibrium. While I’m thrilled that my fight scenes evoked these same emotions, the tone of these movies is not what I was going for…nor (I think) what I achieved.

Both these movies have greyscale palates, with lots of dark costumes, rainy sets, and oppressive atmospheres.

While my protagonist is in a lot of danger (and goes through some pretty rough experiences) I wanted to stay upbeat and hopeful (with, dare I say, touches of humor?).

This isn’t your fluffy-creampuffs read…but it isn’t a GRIMDARK where you’ll leave the story feeling dirty and depressed. We put the “fun” in “run for your life”!

Theology

The best books show an honest picture of human nature, perhaps draw images from it to help us understand ourselves…and perhaps even say something profound about the universe.

Some authors (like Ian Fleming) simply provide some wish-fulfillment and let the audience have an exciting adventure. Others (like Robert Ludlum) paint vivid, honest pictures of humanity and the societies we build.

How do my works compare?

Transmutation of Shadow is fun, sure. A romp that lets us run for our lives, hide in plain sight, and experience the thrill of daring escapes all from the comfort of our reading chair.

But I tried to go deeper. As I’ve gotten older, and my writing has grown, I’ve decided “I don’t want to be room noise” – I want to say something worth saying.

As I let my conscientious Christian worldview inform my story-craft, I can deliver a story that’s about much more than a psionic assassin solving the mystery about himself…I tell a story about a killer forced to confront his own actions, to stop passing the buck, forced to find redemption.

Which only comes from Jesus.

As impressive as Clancy, Ludlum, and MacLean are, that’s a story I’ve never seen them tell."Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Decide for Yourself!

Transmutation of Shadow is currently out with critique readers, but I plan to publish it some time this year. Stand by, and you can read this exciting science fiction/spy thriller with a humble yet determined protagonist for yourself!

It’s now available for preorder! Find at your favorite retailer…or get the paperback now!


"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures – including WHEN SHADOW PUBLISHES!

Top Ten Book Quotes

Meaningful quotes can be hard to define, since they so often depend on the context.

But this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post is all about “Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes,” so I’ve done my best to compile my favorites:

1Top Ten Book Quotes — Kimia Wood

“Why do they send these people here? Making themselves miserable and taking up the place of people who would enjoy Oxford? We haven’t got room for women who aren’t and never will be scholars…”

“I know,” said the Dean, impatiently. “But schoolmistresses and parents are such jugginses.…”

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Gaudy Night is a deep and complex examination of the role of women in society, higher education, and the interplay of individuals in a romance. There’s also a philosophically-grounded mystery. Highly recommended. Continue reading

“Red Rabbit” by Tom Clancy

"Red Rabbit" by Tom Clancy — Kimia Wood A Soviet plot to assassinate the pope. A KGB communications officer trying to defect to the West. And star CIA analyst Jack Ryan, who…is there.

Tom Clancy builds his Cold War-era spy adventure slowly and deliberately…with detailed settings, in-depth character philosophizing, and realistic portraits of the mind-sets and world-views that create the situation.

Characters

Clancy’s recurring star, Jack Ryan, is a CIA analyst and teacher’s pet (and possibly the weakest character here). In fact, he does very little except agonize until the last chapter or so.

He does, however, act as a bridge. His ostensible role in the plot is as liaison between the British and American intelligence operations…and in this way, he also provides for Clancy to paint a clear and memorable picture of the differences between America and Great Britain.

A diverse cast

One of the things Clancy does with excellence is draw out the differences between different countries.

Ryan moves from America to a station in Britain, his homeland’s ally. Yet there are still so many things he must get used to: they drive on the “other” side of the road…everyone drinks tea, not coffee…words are pronounced differently (and some things are called by different names altogether)…the outlook on life is subtly shifted…even the TV shows are different (and Ryan doesn’t understand the sit-coms’ humor).

This underscores the culture shock of the Soviet “Rabbit” and his family when they flee a country of regulations, controls, and corruption to one of individual freedom. From assuming that the KGB watch and follow everyone at any and every time, to a place where you can walk onto a car dealer lot, pick out a car, pay for it, and drive away. From a nation where VHS players, bras, and nylons are luxuries snuck in through Hungary (and only affordable to the elite, like KGB officers) – to a place where they’re taken for granted, and every middle class family can afford them if they wish.

The ground-work for this change is laid with deliberate and poignant brushstrokes…perhaps slower than I would have chosen, but there’s no denying Clancy’s touch for choosing an exact turn of phrase to communicate his meaning, or for seeing to the heart of a mind-set he doesn’t hold himself and portraying it in believable philosophical prose.

This laying-bare of cultures holds the greatest value of the work.

Life Philosophies

A lot of time is spent in the different characters’ thoughts, dealing with their mental outlooks on life in minute detail.

Like the KGB chief…does he really believe in the Communist party’s rhetoric? Or does he rather believe in “power” – AKA himself?

When the communications analyst discovers that his government wants to kill the pope, what will he do? Should he blindly trust that his government knows best? Is he developing…a conscience?

What about Jack Ryan and his CIA overseers? Are they in this game for patriotism? To protect innocent people? Because the Soviets are inherently evil and must be stopped? When they hear that the pope is in danger, they debate whether they can protect him without revealing how they learned about it…because of course national security comes before the life of the head of the Catholic Church, right?

Some Complaining

Ryan’s loose Catholic faith adds an interesting dynamic, as he weighs his patriotism and religious feeling against the political concerns of his CIA bosses.

It also gives him something else to worry about, which seems to be most of what he does throughout the book.

When his bosses assign him to accompany some Brits on an operation as a CIA liaison, he freaks out and insists that he’s an analyst, not a field operative. He’s had some bad experiences with “hands-on” cases in the past…he has apparently stopped a terrorist attack in London before as a tourist (ex-Marine tourist, of course) and faced down a terrorist home invasion, but these experiences were only hinted at. Is there a different book I should have read first? Did Jack Ryan really need to be in this book at all?

His wife (an MD eye surgeon) is even more annoying – adding practically nothing to the narrative, nosing into Jack’s job even though she knows it’s secret, and nagging him for smoking/eating unhealthily. The only time her complaining seems well-founded, and actually lends sympathy to her character, is when her surgical colleagues leave a patient sedated on the operating table while they go for lunch and a pint. Remind me to never get medical care in Great Britain!

Cautions!

Clancy sometimes has trouble making it clear whose head we’re riding in, and you have to travel back through several paragraphs of mental narrative to get re-oriented.

There’s also sporadic language (including f-bombs and profanities) that seemed to get more intrusive as the book went on.

Also includes references to sex within married couples.

The Chess-man of Spy Thrillers

This book is about three-dimensional, conflicted people interacting with each other from different mental starting points. Mr. Clancy takes his time setting up all his dominoes, so that when they collide we say, “Oh, it was inevitable” as well as, “Oh, how is this going to turn out?”

If mental exercises, world-view exploration, and slow-cooking spy drama is your thing, you might enjoy Red Rabbit. I did enjoy it, but for my main spy-action reading, I prefer the bullets-and-fisticuffs of Robert Ludlum.


Red Rabbit is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo (as paperback or audiobook), and the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s newsletter for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier. You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits!

Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To

Books I Meant to Read in 2018 But Didn't Get To — Kimia WoodStop me if you’ve heard this before…Last year, my mother set each of us a goal to read fifty books within the year. So, I started scheming for titles to scratch off.

As these things happen, though, I hadn’t gotten to everything on the list before I reached my goal – and the year ended. For Top Ten Tuesday, here are some of them:

The Crown and Covenant series, Douglas Bond

This is a favorite of my brother’s, and I figured it’d be a good way to fill up my list of books read.

As it turns out, I did sample Mr. Bond’s work for the first time last year — but with Hand of Vengeance, which is a cool, stand-alone Saxon/Viking-themed mystery/romance.

Never Leave Me, Priscilla J. Krahn

This is one of several stories I received for participating in the Indie Author e-Convention (May 2018). I figured they’d be a good way to sample fellow authors’ work, while racking up some short reads for my list.

I’ve currently read about three out of five, I want to say — but this is one that I didn’t get to.

Monster Hunter Legion, Larry Correia

This is Book 4 in the Monster Hunter series (y’know, the series my brother chewed through like a machine gun chews through zombies). Continue reading

What a WoW Player Must Know When Playing AD&D

What a WoW Player Must Know When Playing AD&D

So you’re an experienced hero of World of Warcraft, but now you want to go back to the roots. Old school. Really old school.

Dungeons and Dragons, Advanced Edition.

Well…brace yourself for culture shock.

There are a couple…minor…elements that you should be aware of before diving in, sword blazing. In fact, before you even settle on what class of character to roll, you should check out these five crucial differences between WoW and D’n’D. Continue reading