Archive for the 'Legends of the Guardian-King' Category

Is Fantasy Only for Kids? No Way!

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure where this idea that fantasy is only for kids came from. I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since middle school. I started with Madeline L’Engle and Andre Norton, progressed to Heinlein, Asimov, and Herbert. I read C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy as a teen, and unbeliever, and had no idea they were allegorical (I found Perelandra to be boring, and That Hideous Strength incomprehensible – they were better when I reread them ten years later as a believer).

Anyway, I never would have thought any of those were “for children,” not even Lord of the Rings which I devoured in high school. Yes, it has dwarves and hobbits and some funny bits, but the devotion to fantastical histories, the density of the prose and the sheer expanse of the tale was unlike any kids’ books I was familiar with.

From there it was Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Watership Down, Patricia McKillip, Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, Katherine Kurtz, Stephen Donaldson, and more recently, Robert Jordan and Robin Hobb.

With the exception of Watership Down, I would never have considered any of these writers or books as being for children. Thus it never even entered my mind when I began writing fantasies of my own, that they should be written for children. As I detail in my article Why I Write Fantasy (see the tab above), my intent in part was to analogize the angelic conflict all Christians have been entered in at the moment of new birth after believing in Christ. And I didn’t wish to do it in a simplistic manner. It was also, particularly with Legends of the Guardian King, to trace the trajectory of a man’s spiritual life from unbelief to salvation and on through the various stages of spiritual growth.

Clearly the issues on my radar would be issues faced by an adult, not a child. The spiritual precepts would include those wrestled with by adults, not children.

It was not until I entered the field of Christian Fantasy, that I discovered — to my great dismay — the assumption that all fantasy is for children or young adults and should therefore be “clean” and free of sex or “gruesome” or “extreme” violence. I had well-meaning acquaintances tell me how they had given or recommended my books to the eleven-year-old boy next door, or their nine-year-old nephew.

It’s possible an eleven-year-old could follow the main line of the action, but much of the meat of the story I would think would go right over his head. Not that that’s a bad thing. I read my own share of books just that way – following the action, or certain story lines while the bulk of what was going on remained out of my grasp… (Lord of the Rings comes to mind in that regard – my perception of it as a 40+ year old was far different than when I was 16). It’s just… middle school kids were never my primary audience, and here I was facing a mindset that assumed they were not just my primary audience but my only audience!

And since I was writing for kids… how dare I insert into my book the heresy of having my – adult, male, spiritually disillusioned and until-then-celibate – hero commit a sexual sin! I received irate letters from grandmothers who bought the novel for their grandsons, forced to tear the offending two pages from the book before they could pass it on.

Outraged reviews turned up from mothers on Amazon and Christian Book dot com who, having read the book to make sure it was suitable for their young sons, had discovered it wasn’t. How dare I try to trick them like that and put such a thing in a Christian fantasy!

I remain bemused. I know in time past the entire field of speculative fiction was regarded as juvenile and struggled to gain legitimacy as acceptable reading material for American adults. The reason, supposedly was because none of it was “real.”

This objection has been nullified for science fiction for the most part as more and more of what went for science fiction in the old days has become science fact in ours.

So that leaves fantasy, the last bastion of the “make believe” and the “not real” and only children believe in such … well… fantasies.

As if many romances today are not “fantasy”; or many detective and spy novels! And what about Stephen King and Dean Koontz? Most of what they write about is “not real,” but somehow their books are not seen as “only for children.” In fact they are not seen as being for children at all. (Particularly King’s).

So why does fantasy still have the bad rap of being kidstuff?

The only answer I can think of is that it really does provide an excellent vehicle for portraying truths of the Christian life related to the angelic conflict. And since part of the intent of the opposition force in that conflict is to hide the fact that it exists… well then…. The one genre that people should pay the least attention to is the one that can actually reveal the most about what is really going on… and historically has.

Which makes the whole kidstuff thing almost… acceptable.  Almost.

For a more detailed treatise on all the ways fantasy does what it does, see my aforementioned article in the tabs above: “Why I Write Fantasy.” And if you want to know more about the angelic conflict, check out the tab called “The Angelic Conflict.”

Light of Eidon Scrapbook

Continuing my series highlighting the first book in my Legends of the Guardian King series, The Light of Eidon, I thought today I’d draw your attention to the scrapbook I developed for it, similar to the one I did for Arena.

In it I put up several photos of the ancient Nabatean city of Petra, which served as inspiration for the canyons of the SaHal in which the action plays out at the end of the book. There’s even a link to a virtual tour of the area.

Also included is a picture of an LL Bean model from the late 70’s that served as the inspiration for Abramm,

some information on swords, a map of the city of Jarnek,

and a cartoon that was pinned to my bulletin board for years.   If you’ve read The Light of Eidon, you’ll probably get the connection. If not… well… as you know, it’s being offered free as an e-book this week HERE… or you can try your local library. Amazon even has a few paper copies both new and used for sale…

To visit my scrapbook for The Light of Eidon, click HERE.

 

The Genesis of The Light of Eidon

As I mentioned yesterday, in light of this being the last week that the first volume of my Guardian King series, The Light of Eidon will be offered free as an e-book by various vendors, I thought I’d pursue a theme of putting up some posts about the book.

In a previous post, I related that the inspiration for the series sprang from my seeing the very first Star Wars film (A New Hope) – which, like a lot of other people, I fell in love with – coupled with spiritual truths I was learning from a Bible study book by Col R. B. Thieme, Jr, called The Christian Warrior.

In Star Wars, I especially loved the idea of the hero’s journey from weakness to strength, the light sabers, and the concept of The Force, which at the time seemed like a great metaphor for the Holy Spirit.   

Especially in light of The Christian Warrior, which explores the biblical subject of warfare, both temporal and spiritual, using the template of a Roman soldier as a metaphor for exploring, defining and illustrating comparable qualities, preparations and experiences for the Christian soldier.  (“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Ti 2:3,4)

 Major chapter headings include Temporal Warfare, The Cause for Warfare, Jesus Christ Controls History, The Principles of Warfare, Military Metaphors in Scripture, Paul’s Contact with the Roman Military, The Roman Soldier in Paul’s Day, Roman Decorations and Surpassing Grace Rewards, and so on.  

Toward the middle of the book Col Thieme discusses the equipment we’ve been provided as Christians for the conflict, itemized in Ephesians 6: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit.

I loved the idea of the filling of the Spirit providing the light for the sword, something that might come and go depending on whether the soldier was in fellowship at any given moment. So that’s where I started.

The Bible teaches that our warfare in this age is invisible. We cannot see our real enemies, the fallen angels, nor do we see the Holy Spirit, indwelling all believers, nor Risen Christ, seated at the Father’s right hand.

Like them, if we actually learn to put on our armor, take up sword and shield to enter the conflict, we will be “Invisible heroes”. Which may be one reason why I am so drawn to many of the superhero stories: they often have a mild-mannered persona that leads most people upon meeting them to discount them – eg, Superman’s Clark Kent, Spiderman’s Peter Parker, Batman’s Bruce Wayne. 

I see in them a perfect metaphor for the Christian soldier, who is among the “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” of 1 Cor 1:26.  Like them we are “unknown but well-known” (2 Co 6:9). Unknown to most of the world, well-known to those we fight and those we fight alongside. And the angels who are watching us.

So I wanted that element in the story as well — someone who is perceived as weak by all, turning out to be not so weak after all. Especially as he uses the power of God.   Thus I would to tell the story of a man moving from weakness to strength, both physically and spiritually, and at the same time illustrate the entire trajectory of the Christian life, as well… chronicling the coming to faith in Christ, (or in this case Eidon,) then growing through the three stages of the spiritual life: babyhood, adolescence and finally maturity. Which is the ultimate of going from weakness to strength.

I was green enough, and deluded enough to think I might accomplish all that in a single book!

Somewhere toward the end of writing the first draft of what is now The Light of Eidon, I realized that was not going to happen. And even though trilogies were all the thing at the time, I had to settle for a tetralogy. The Light of Eidon would be Abramm’s journey to Eidon himself, as well as being molded into a hero strong enough to fulfill the destiny Eidon had for him.

In the five-year gap that occurs between The Light Eidon and The Shadow Within, I skipped over his baby phase and moved right to the end of that stage where he takes the first step of walking into his destiny… in this case, contesting his younger brother for the crown of the land that Abramm should rightfully wear.

Shadow over Kiriath brings him through spiritual adolescence and The Return of the Guardian King embodies the evidence testing, as Col Thieme called it, of the mature believer. By which he meant the believer’s ability through spiritual growth to reach a place where he can be deliberately tested by Satan as to just how far he will trust God, how much will he stick with what God’s word says. This is illustrated by Job’s experience and Jesus’s own testing in the wilderness by Satan in Matt 4– though Abramm’s testing is more like Job’s than Jesus’s.)

It was all so nice and tidy when I outlined it. Trying to put flesh on the outline was something else entirely, far more messy and complicated than I ever could have dreamed.

 Looking back, I should have known it was going to take a long time.  You can’t write about a journey like that without living at least some of it. The funny thing, at least for me, is that “maturity” always seems like something off there in the future.   The end of the story doesn’t really end until you’re dead. Or “promoted” as I like to think of it.

Col Thieme called it a “Permanent Change of Station.” I like that, too.

In any case, I originally had ideas for Abramm’s death, for his sons to carry on, for the Dorsaddi to return…

If we stick around as a nation long enough, and I finally manage to finish my current WIP, I’d like to go back to Abramm’s world and tackle that. But we’ll see what the Lord has in mind.

Again, if you’d like to try out the first volume of my Guardian King series, as a free e-book, click HERE.

 

The Impossible is Possible

Since this will be the last week that the e-book version of The Light of Eidon is being offered for free through various vendors, I thought I’d do a few posts relating to it.

This one is another from my newsletter of almost ten years ago, telling the story of how  Eidon got into print, not the specific moments of that day my editor called me to ask what I had lying around, but the long years before that time. The back story, if you will, of my relatively long journey into the world of the published novelist.

The Light of Eidon — The Impossible is Possible

The Light of Eidon

 I’ve been promising to tell the story of how The Light of Eidon got into print for a couple of newsletters now, so here it is. The book began with the advent of the first Star Wars movie which happened to coincide with my reading of a Bible study book called The Christian Warrior by Col R. B. Thieme, Jr.

The two came together in my mind in a welter of metaphorical possibilities and I began writing a science fiction allegorical adventure. Within a year that had turned into the fantasy series that The Light of Eidon begins.

I worked on that for some years, during which time I met Kathy Tyers through a snail mail critique group. She’d just written Firebird and we became critique partners.

Not long after that, she sold Firebird to Bantam Books, and I got an agent for Eidon (then called The Shadow of Ghel). My [first] agent sent it all around to general market houses and NAL (New American Library) almost bought it, holding it a year before changing their minds. I’d written Book Two in the series by then, but my agent didn’t know what to do anymore, having sent Ghel to all the houses, so we decided to go our separate ways.

I rewrote Ghel from start to finish, renamed it The Star of Life and got another agent, who was far more enthusiastic about it than the first agent. Or at least more expressive. She got a very positive response on the book from Tor (another general market publisher), and though they thought it was too long and the loose ends not tied up, they said they’d be happy to look at it again if I reworked it. My agent advised against that, but shortly thereafter decided not to be an agent any more.

I then queried a third agent who was very positive about the work, but suggested I write something entirely unrelated since by then the market had become saturated with that type of fantasy. So I wrote Arena.

During that time I was homeschooling so it took quite a few years to finish it. Then I had lots of trouble getting it critiqued. Two critiquers’ responses were lost in the mail. Others suddenly had no time to get to it. Even more disconcerting, when I finally did get all my reader responses, every critique was different from the other.

“I love the Epilogue” vs “I hate the Epilogue.”

“You write wonderfully vivid descriptions” vs “Your descriptions are weak and need to be more vivid.”

“I don’t like Callie–she’s selfish and whiny” vs “I love Callie and can really relate to her.”

Eventually, though, the book was the best I could make it and I started submitting. It bounced off desks in the general market. By then Kathy had entered the Christian market with her rewritten Firebird. I was still trying to figure out which market I was supposed to be in. Though I’d come to realize that my primary interest was in edifying the Body of Christ rather than evangelizing the lost, my stuff had long been too edgy for the CBA.

Uncertain, I sent a proposal to Kathy’s new publisher, Bethany House in Oct 1998. It was returned within a month with a form letter. So I thought, “Okay, forget that,” and went back to bouncing the manuscript off desks in New York.

Two months later, Jan 1999, I read Penelope Stokes’ book on writing Christian fiction and began to think my work belonged in CBA after all. I decided to try to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California that March. I had no money, there was an airlines strike and I was a late registrant in danger of being excluded for lack of room, but I knew if the Lord wanted me to go, He’d take care of the details. He did, and I went.

At Mt. Hermon Kathy introduced me to Steve Laube, her new editor at Bethany House. Because of the rejection from BHP the previous October, I had not submitted a proposal of Arena to him, assuming he’d already seen it. He hadn’t. I ended up having a long meeting with him the very first day of the conference and he told me to try to cut 20,000 words from the manuscript and send it to him, which I did.

Because SF was a genre still in the process of gaining acceptance in the industry (a phenomenon I experienced first hand in my trips to Mt. Hermon), Steve waited a year and a half before he judged the timing right to present it to his editorial board, and they bought it in Feb 2001.

During that time I’d attended another Mt. Hermon conference, where I’d talked to him about my fantasy but, though he loves the genre himself, he wasn’t interested. If SF was difficult to sell in the Christian market, fantasy was all but impossible. He told me the very word “fantasy” was death in the industry “because you are automatically compared with Tolkien or Eddings and no one can survive that.”

Even so in winter of 2002, several months before Arena was to release, and despite all advice to the contrary, I decided to go ahead with trying to sell my fantasy, which had been rewritten for a third time and was now entitled The Light of Eidon. Nothing else I was working on was even close to being finished and Eidon was really the book of my heart.

Plus, I knew the Lord was the one who promoted and He was not limited by industry trends. I prepared a synopsis and chapters to submit at my third Mt. Hermon conference—only to decide I should give Steve the chance to see it first. Since the book still needed some polishing before I showed it in entirety to anyone I changed my mind about submitting anything for Mt. Hermon.

The conference that year was about marketing, all aspects of which are challenging for me and something I was dreading. But I decided to give it my best shot, hoping that if Arena did really well, maybe Bethany House would be interested in looking at Eidon the next year. I went home and started working, setting up the website, getting bookmarks made, going into bookstores to introduce myself, making all sorts of plans…

Well I’d barely begun and Arena hadn’t even come out when I received that fateful call from Steve asking if I had any more novels lying about the house.

As I said in my previous post, within two weeks I had a four book contract for the series. Arena hadn’t even released yet, I hadn’t done any marketing to speak of, and there I was with Eidon finally sold, and a go ahead to write the next three books!

Talk about a whoosh. Talk about making it Very Clear WHO was doing the promoting and whose work mattered!

Just in case I missed the point, when the Bethany House catalog arrived the next fall with The Light of Eidon’s entry, I found it positioned on the left page opposite a non fiction book called The Impossible is Possible by John Mason. Across the bottom of the two-page spread were the titles of both books, laid out to read

“The Light of Eidon ~ The Impossible IS Possible!”

Ah Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee. With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26

If you’d like to take advantage of the free e-book offer from Bethany House, please click here.

Retrospection — The Sale of Light of Eidon

I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve been going through some of my old files, and coming across things I wrote almost ten years ago.  One such writing was the story of how The Light of Eidon sold. In light of the special e-book offer Bethany House has this month on that book, as well as the recent re-package, re-release of my first novel Arena, I thought now might be an appropriate time to revisit those golden days when I was a newly published novelist.

This was back in 2002 when Arena was published, 26 years or so after I started writing what would eventually become The Light of Eidon, a fantasy which I had been told would never sell. In fact I had just begun working on a “bridge book,”  something partway between Arena and Eidon, in hopes it might sell and win readers and maybe publishers would decide to take a chance with my fantasy series. Ironically, that book was The Other Side of the Sky, which I am currently working on for Bethany House now. God’s timing is so not our timing!

Anyway, here’s the story, excerpted and edited from our Christmas letter of that year…

So here we are again, looking back over the last year to see what we have to tell about.  It’s been a big one, as the seasons of our lives have changed again.

As most of you know, the big thing for me was the release of my first novel Arena in May. It has been an adventure, and not at all what I expected.

My first reaction upon receiving a fan letter was something closer to outrage than joy. “What? Why is this person I don’t even know talking about MY characters? They’re mine. Strangers can’t have them!

“And what is this book-like thing with the multiple arches on the front and the title Arena? That’s not MY book. My book is a stack of manuscript pages.”

Original Cover

New Cover

Autographing books also felt all wrong at first, like something other people were supposed to do, not me.

Yes, I have adjusted and the Lord has blessed Arena’s release in marvelous ways: a good review and profile in Publisher’s Weekly (rare for Christian novels, rarer still for Christian first novels and unheard of for Christian first, science fiction novels), a contract with both the Crossings and Literary Guild book clubs, a contract with one of the largest Christian publishers in the Netherlands and a continuous stream of encouraging fan letters. After all these years the writing is finally being validated in a very satisfying way.

However, none of that compares to the biggest blessing of all.

Last year at this time I knew Arena was coming out, but had no idea what I was going to do next. I’d been told over and over that fantasy doesn’t sell, no one wants fantasy, fantasy is a bad word in the Christian market. I’d even taken to calling my next book “speculative historical fiction,” to avoid using the word.

I went to a writer’s conference this past spring and learned lots of good stuff about marketing which I was not at all eager to do. Still, I figured if I worked really hard at it, and Arena did well enough, maybe Bethany House will consider taking on my fantasy.

Ha! The Lord certainly showed me how important my efforts are (not very) and that when He is going to do a thing, He does it.

Arena had not even been officially released when my editor called. The reviews and feedback coming in on it were so good, he said, the marketing people wanted something else from me as soon as possible.

“So,” he added, “what do you have?”

An editor actually called me up and asked what I had lying around the house! This, they tell you in all the writing books, NEVER happens!

So I told him I had The Light of Eidon.

He said, “Go on,”

I told him it was finished.  “Go on.”

I told him it was part of a four-part series, of which the second book was also finished in rough draft…

Bottom line: within two weeks Bethany House had signed me to a four-book contract for the fantasy series. We’re calling it Legends of the Guardian King, with The Light of Eidon, Book One, due to release next summer.

Talk about a miracle! Now I am not only a “published author” but I also get to have the experience of writing with a deadline as I work to complete the first submission draft of Book Two, The Shadow Within, by next summer.

Walking in Fog

Last week, in the process of looking for something else, I stumbled upon a documentI created in 2007 called “The Muddled Phase, which is a collection of quotes from various nonstops I had made when I was beginning The Enclave.

Once again, they track dead on with what I’m experiencing now with Sky, and it was such a help for me to read them, again, I thought I’d share.

“Gah!  I hate all this muddled thinking I’m doing!  Just completely mushed up and tangled.  Nothing clear, nothing right.  A mess.  Ideas float in and out.  Who knows if they’re any good?  They sort of fit, but then need modification.  I just don’t know what I’m doing.  It all feels like a stupid idea, I should just give it up and go write something simpler.  But . . .

“I do recall feeling this way about Arena.  And about Eidon, for that matter.  So.  Again, I must walk by faith.  And again I am in the fog.  Where I can’t tell if I’m going forward or backward, where I’m going, if I’m actually going anywhere, or just in a circle.

“In fact, it’s hard to even think about any of it.  As I start to grope for it mentally, it seems to recede and fall into a jumble.  I want to wrest it all into order, and yet there’s nothing to hold onto.  Not even a direction to head in.” 

–Snip questions, possibilities, ideas –

“Hmmm. That could be interesting.  Urk and urk.  Swirling again.  Maybe I should just try and write it.  I don’t know.  Maybe I need to lie down or iron or something.  Something constructive.  Something besides just sitting here staring at the wall having half-formed thoughts flit in and out.  It’s maddening.  Maybe I should just paint.  Or clean or . . . but I don’t want to do any of those.  I want some order.  I want a map.  I want it now.  I have to make it myself.  My brain won’t cooperate. 

“Interesting about …” [and then my mind flits to something that is completely irrelevant but bothering me at the time]

“Where was I?  Trying to distract myself?  Is this avoidance behavior?  I don’t know what to do.  Sit and wait, or try to make something emerge?  Reread the material or . . . sit and wait.  Lie on the couch.  Stare at the penguin mobile.   

“Oh this is a waste.  My brain is dust.  Ash.  Urk and urk.  And urk.  So many distractions.  I am becalmed again.  There seems to be an awful lot of that.  I need to rebound I guess and ask for guidance because there doesn’t seem to be any. 

Oh.  That’s right.  My emotions have been turned off, so I can’t look for much help from them.  I listened to two songs today that usually get me going, and they did hardly anything emotionally.   Maybe I shouldn’t be waiting for some great surge of  “It’s right!”  Maybe I should just look at what I’ve got and go with it, whether I feel good about it, or not.  Just do the plan I have,”

 From another Nonstop, later

 “Okay, I was being frustrated, angry.  I have need of patience.  I need to trust Him to provide and to be content in whatever state I find myself.  And if that is in not finding the lost object — AGAIN — then that is what I will be content with.  Looking for the object in my mind.  Or not finding the answer.  That’s what it is.  It’s not an object, it’s an answer.  An understanding. 

“And I haven’t found it.  And I feel as if I should be able to find it now.  Immediately.  But I can’t.  I look inside and only incoherent thoughts fly by.  Not even floating anymore, more like whirling, breaking apart, joining with others and breaking apart.  Maybe that’s what’s going on.  I don’t know.  Maybe I should just give it up and iron.  I am impatient.  I feel that I must get busy on this book.  That I must be professional and work.  That I must use my time wisely, when it seems all I do is write endless, worthless nonstops that get me nowhere.”

And then having read all the above, I opened another file, this one titled “Incubation” which justified everything I described above as being a legitimate part of the creative process. But I’ll save that for tomorrow.

Slammed With Jesus

Last weekend, quite by non-intent, I spent several hours rereading a good portion of the end of The Light of Eidon.

It started with a reader’s email informing me he’d gotten LOE free on his new Kindle and started reading it. At first he wasn’t sure he would like it, but by the time he’d reached Section 3, he LOVED it and downloaded the next three books in the series right then and there.

Curious as to what was happening by Section 3, I got the book down and checked it out. Section 2 ends with Abramm’s first battle in the arena where he becomes the White Pretender and Section 3 jumps ahead 2 years to Carissa’s finally catching up to him in Xorofin. I read/skimmed from there and in so doing came upon what I’m pretty sure are the problem passages that moved some disgruntled readers to leave one-star reviews on Amazon complaining about being “slammed by Christian theology at the end”, or “tricked into reading about Jesus.”

Take this exchange between Abramm and Trap on p 383:

“Of course not,” Abramm said dryly. “Nothing is ever enough with you nor will it be until I wear your shield upon my chest.”

Trap regarded him soberly. “Eidon is the only answer in this world, Abramm, and life is not about settling scores or being respected by people. It’s about his power and his worth and what he did on that hill outside Xorofin. You must come to him as nothing. But you don’t like that. You want it to be about you. Your sacrifices, your efforts to make yourself worthy.” He paused, studying the horses without really seeing them. “It’s pride, Abramm. That’s why you won’t believe.”

As soon as I read this I thought, Oh wow! Yeah, that would hit some people right between the eyes. The flesh hates the notion that it has nothing to offer, that salvation really is all about Him and His work and His worthiness while we are nothing.

Here’s another a some twelve pages later, Abramm’s viewpoint as he recalls the above-quoted conversation:

You want it to be about you. Your sacrifice, your efforts to make yourself worthy.

It was true. And yet it seemed with every decision he’d made, every action he took, he’d only made himself more unworthy. Almost as if he couldn’t help himself, almost as if some part of him insisted upon showing him how weak and helpless he was. Now he was trapped like a fish in a bowl, every good thing he might have accomplished wrenched from his grasp. He couldn’t deliver the Dorsaddi, couldn’t deliver Carissa, couldn’t deliver Kiriath — couldn’t even deliver himself.

I don’t remember having written this, and was kind of surprised how it went so straight to the point.  I was pleased, though. Yeah, those people with the 1-star reviews, they were being convicted. Whether they responded or not’s another matter, but who cares about 1-star reviews if something you’ve written has rattled them enough to react as they have?

Because another thing I’ve noticed is that the book is 432 pages long. Yet the parts that had provoked such offense are measured in paragraphs, not chapters and, with one exception, not pages. Okay, so his spiritual conversion does make for the resolution of a major plot line, but still…

What About Task Four?

Last week, in detailing my experiences with coming back to a habit of working on a novel, I mentioned I’d come up with five tasks for myself to be completed in fifteen minute increments. I told about tasks one through three, but left out four and five.

Task Four was to spend fifteen minutes answering fan mail, a practice I have been seriously remiss in pursuing for probably close to a year now. Every once in a while I would come in and do a spate of answering, but as the numbers of unanswered emails mounted so would my guilt and self-recrimination. The whole thing got too hard, especially given all the other stuff going on.

Now, I would tackle that mountain, once more in baby steps. Reading through the emails has the added benefit of reminding me that God really can use the gift He’s given me (duh) and I shouldn’t be letting it idle in the closet. Reader responses are tremendously encouraging. In fact, the very day I embarked on this new system I received an email from “Sandi,” which was one of the most encouraging I’ve ever received. She graciously consented to letting me post an edited version of it here:

Karen,

I cannot thank you enough for writing the Legends of the Guardian-King series. It has profoundly impacted my life.

I discovered your books during one of the most painful times of my life. The stories were so captivating and the spiritual insights so rich that the books actually helped me work through the intense emotional pain and spiritual struggle I was going through.

I loved the way you depicted life as the constantly challenging spiritual journey that it is — fighting the shadow within and the shadow without, trying to be steadfastly faithful to God down to the most subtle of levels of the heart, etc. You described it all so powerfully in LGK!

I have read the series through twice now and will probably read it again. I “soaked” in it and did not want the story to end. Oh how I would like to see the series made into films! Meanwhile I have tried to tell as many people as possible about the books to keep the word of mouth about them going. I hope this amazing series stays in print forever.

Sandi Shelton
Franklin, TN

Cool, huh?  Thanks, Sandi! Your timing was exquisite.

Reading Reviews Again

On Sept 18 2010, K. Daru  gives a generally favorable review of the first book in my Legends of the Guardian King series, The Light of Eidon, highlighting elements of the fantasy aspects she/he thought were good, then discussing elements of the “religious” aspects of the story that were good and concluding with the following:

“And therein lies the rub. The fantasy, by itself, would be four (maybe five) stars. The depiction of Christianity, by itself, would also be four stars. But I found the juxtaposition between the two jarring. Every time the story turned to Christianity, I found myself yanked out of the fantasy world and into the present day; my mind couldn’t decide whether I was reading an epic fantasy or a modern-day conversion story. This lack of immersion makes the whole of the book less than the sum of its parts, and is what finally led me to give it 3 stars.”

I reproduce it here because it triggered a sudden realization for me related to fantasy and Christianity. For as long as I can recall, there has been discussion of Christianity in Fantasy, and the importance (some feel) of not jerking the reader out of the fantasy world with the Christianity. It has to be hidden, pontificators pontificate, or it’s flawed.

Okay, they’re welcome to their opinion, but it was the way this reviewer articulated that opinion that struck me: For some readers the fantasy world is IT. That’s what they care about. That’s why they read fantasy. That’s why they can read almost any kind of fantasy regardless of what it says because they just love the escape to another world.

I love the escape too, but it’s not the be all and end all for me. Take Avatar, the movie. Great world, but I didn’t like the story at all. I have no interest in returning there because there was no Truth in that story.

And Truth is what I love. Of course I mean Truth as revealed in God’s word, and for me fantasy — all of it, my own and others, is merely a vehicle that can communicate Truth. (See my article Why I Write Fantasy in the page tabs above) It’s the Truth that I love, that gets me excited, that I want to think about and investigate and handle. Particularly the truths related to salvation, the Christian life, the Christian’s relationship with God, the angelic conflict… That’s what I’m interested. The world is secondary. (That admission is almost sacrilege in some circles, but so be it.) It’s a means to an end, a way to bring out concepts in a new way, unencumbered by baggage that often accompanies Christian vocabulary and concepts.

For readers who also love the truth, that is what they love about The Legends of the Guardian King. Those are the ones like Christine W who said of Return of the Guardian King

“The message of perseverance and placing your faith in Eidon comes across so strongly and resonates within the reader long after the book is closed. I wanted more, but not because she didn’t finish the story or that it was lacking in something, but because it inspired me and left me wanting a closer relationship with God.”

For readers who are more interested in fantasy as a genre, in going to some new and exotic world, well, they’ll be less impressed. If they notice the Christian foundations, that’s really all it seems they do: notice. They say “Aha! Eidon is God! Ha! This is representative of Protestantism versus Catholicism and Islam. I’ve guessed the secret.”

But they don’t see or care to see the analogies to the Christian life. A person has to want to see those things. Has to be ready to see them. But what’s cool is that some of us plant, others water and still others reap the harvest.  And I see more and more how God can use these books in the lives of people who may not seem ready. Who read them and are offended, or bored, and yet for some reason feel compelled to read to the end. Even those who didn’t read to the end, who gave up midstream in disgust, even those on some level must have been ready, because they had the opportunity to read the books. So even if they don’t like what they read, and give only a three, or two or one star rating, the fact is those concepts and images and truths have entered their souls.

And, whether they accept or reject them,  the Word of God does not go forth void.

Tricked Into Reading About Jesus

Reviews have been increasing on Amazon for my novel The Light of Eidon ever since the Kindle version came out for free, and last week I found a really cool one, though it’s not at all what you might think. For one thing the reviewer gave it only one star (and probably would’ve given it a zero were that possible):

 I hate being tricked into reading about Jesus, June 3, 2010

By M. S. “M.S.” – See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase  This review is from: Light of Eidon (Legends of the Guardian-King, Book 1) (Paperback)

This book started out as a decent fantasy novel that dealt with an interesting premise–What if you were a good guy who had been raised by the bad guys? How would you know? If you discovered it were true, how would you move forward? It’s a really cool idea, but the author ruined her own novel by the end.

Pros: The plot was fun and the characters were likable and showed enough development.

Ok Cons: There was a thread of deep sex negativity that ran through the whole book, but it seemed consistent within the universe. A minor point, but many of the character names were so similar that it was difficult to keep them straight. Also, there was a theme of anti-Middle Eastern racism that seemed misinformed rather than malicious, but still made me uncomfortable.

The Bad Con: What completely killed this book for me was getting slammed with Jesus right at the end. I find religion interesting and I’m always pleased when authors think seriously about it in scifi/fantasy novels set in other universes. However, because this book is marketed as fantasy and NOT as Christian literature, I was offended when all of a sudden the main character was converted by a mythical savior who was the only one in the whole universe that could pay the debt of humanity and was killed in order to absolve them of their wretchedness. Seriously? The Bible was already written once. Leave us happily-secular fantasy readers alone. Also, the proselytizing felt forced and jarring and it completely wrecked the otherwise easily flowing plot line.

One of the most offensive parts of the whole thing was the ending discussion, which claimed that those people who resist conversion the hardest are the ones who are somehow the most fated to have religious conversion experiences. It totally disregards the major break the main character made with his family and his culture. His insistence on trying to convert his sister drives the wedge between them deeper. I think destroying a family, whatever its shape, is one of the world’s greatest evils and I will never condone a story that prioritizes selfishness (even religious selfishness) above family. Why should the main character insist that his sister abandon her support network just because he chooses to abandon it himself?

Anyway, to summarize: This is a book about Jesus. If you’re looking for a genuine fantasy novel, look elsewhere. (Emphasis mine)

Awesome! I am so jazzed by this review, first because she got it! With some readers I’m not always so sure. One lady, who was a personal acquaintance, was all excited about Abramm’s journey, but didn’t really seem to understand it was Christian. This reviewer, however, got it without question. Not only that, she more or less put the gospel message into her review!

I was also intrigued by her claim that she had no idea the book was Christian. I could maybe understand if she had read the Kindle version — though even a cursory glance through the information regarding the book on the Amazon page shows that it’s Christian allegory. But she’s reviewing the paperback, one she bought through Amazon. Granted the back cover blurb and the first two endorsements don’t clearly state the story is Christian allegory either, but endorsement number 4 does and is offered by Christianity Today, no less. Those that follow are also clear. Finally the second line of the acknowledgements right before the map leaps into the issue of my faith, so it’s really odd she wouldn’t have seen anything that might have tipped her off. But not an accident.

I am sure that she was indeed “tricked” — by God the Holy Spirit.

Because from what I read of her “other reviews” she doesn’t seem much of a match for the book, and I could not imagine why she’d choose to read it in the first place.

List of other items reviewed by M.S. (with my commentary):

–4 books on learning Arabic, all “excellent”
–a CD supplement to the above, also “excellent and very useful”
–high thread count Egyptian cotton duvet and sheets set, both “excellent”
–a pair of purple pumps, which are “adorable,” but not of made quality materials, and itchy around the trim but still two stars better than reading about Jesus
–a pair of black, 4″ heeled, ultrawide shaft thigh boots, which are a bit wide at the top and too stiff, but “decent boots” nonetheless, and also two stars better than reading about Jesus
–a “wonderful” ergonomic kneeling posture chair
–two different types of perfume, both “fabulous”
–a four-star tabletop, magnifying make-up mirror
–An absolutely wonderful book (five stars) about “the Iranian side of the Iran-Iraq war and the martyrdom culture in Iran. [One which is highly recommended] to anyone who is interested in learning more about the day-to-day reality of Iran”
–some dark brownish red nail polish, and some bluish purple nail polish, both of which are also significantly (4 stars) better than reading about Jesus…

LOL. The most ironic part of all is that she seems to be on a very similar story arc to the one Abramm took in LOE. At least in the sense that she is fighting the truth every bit as fiercely as he did, and yet, clearly being drawn as inexorably as he was. I am praying for this person. I invite my readers to do likewise.


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