Posts Tagged 'Christian fiction'

Game of Hot and Cold

Some time back in one of the messages I listened to about living in your spiritual gift, Pastor Farley described his own experiences in developing a sermon. He said that when he starts a message, he’s often stone cold. The Holy Spirit plays a game with him of hot and cold.

That immediately made me think of something I learned back during the time I was writing The Light of Eidon: if you’re bored and don’t want to go forward with a certain plotline or situation, that’s very often a “COLD”.

I remember planning out an entire sequence involving a fire in Southdock, and then could not make myself write it. Just could not. Finally it dawned on me that maybe this was not the way to go. Once I did that, and began to think of other ways to proceed. Sometimes in fiction, there’s an event you only want to “have happened” not actually portray dramatically and it can be difficult to figure that out. Sometimes, you’re just, flat headed in the wrong direction altogether and the event is either one you’ll never use, or something to be saved for another place in the book, or even another book.

I think that’s what’s been happening with Sky. I’ve been trying to take the story in a direction that seemed interesting and just is not where I want to go.

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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.

 

Sex and Violence in the Bible

Last week I had a new comment on the the guest post I did over at Speculative Faith Blog called Sex, Violence and Dark Events. The commenter, Joanna Wilson, suggested we use the Bible as a model for portraying such things, pointing out how when it comes to sex and violence, the Bible is usually quite graphic when it comes to its descriptions of violence but not so much when it comes to sex.

Her comment sent my thinking off in a number of different directions. First is that sometimes what appears as mild and bland in our English translations is that way because of the translators’ reluctance to render the evocative, earthy terms of the original languages into comparable English words. Eg. “seized violently” instead of “took” and “raped” instead of “lay with.” (“Lay with” as a euphemism has always cracked me up. Talk about bland and inaccurate!)

My first thought, which I stated in my response to Joanna’s comment was that often the story being told in the Bible is not concerned so much with the sexual activity as it is other — worse — sins. Here’s what I wrote in my response (with additions):

In the case of David and Bathsheba, for example, it seems to me that story had little to do with the relationship between the participants but was instead about the steps a mature believer — the man who faced down Goliath because of his faith in God — can take when he turns his back on God.

First is the fact that David was not supposed to even be there, lazing around the palace and sleeping through the day, but out on the battlefield leading his army as  2 Sam 11:1  says clearly:

 ‘Then it happened in the spring, at the time when KINGS (like David was) go out to battle [on a military campaign] that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.

And in case that wasn’t enough to clue us in, Uriah reinforces it in vs 11 when he dismisses David’s suggestion that Uriah go to his own home and spend the night with his wife while he’s in Jerusalem (there, because David had sent for him)

“And Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in [tents], and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.”

This is the officer’s code that David himself had developed. Having Uriah throw it back in his face, you’d think he might take note. Apparently not.

We can see right there in vs 1 that David was out of it. If he’d been where he was supposed to have been none of this would have happened.

Then there’s vs 2, just to drive the point home:

Now when evening came, David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof.

This is the man who, when in fellowship with God, rose early in the morning to pray and commune with God, as he himself wrote in Psalm 143 (Let me hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in Thee; Teach me the way I should walk; for to Thee I lift up my soul.) and Psalm 88:13 (But I, O Lord, have cried out to Thee for help, and in the morning my prayer comes before thee.) Now he’s sleeping the days away and making mischief at night.

So the story begins with David’s failures as a king and as a soldier and a commanding officer.  And he’s rising at sundown instead of the dawn: again, wrong place, wrong time.

Second, he apparently didn’t recognize Bathsheba since he had to “inquire about” her, so he must not have known her personally. Which tells me this wasn’t about a relationship, so much as an exercise of lust and an abuse of power, and came out of the sins that God called him on through Nathan in the next chapter: ingratitude and arrogance.

Nathan then said to David, “…Thus says the Lord God of Israel,

‘It is I who appointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!

‘Why have you despised the word of the LORD  by doing evil in His sight? [That is] you have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.  Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ ” 2 Sa 12:7-10

Here God’s provided everything for David, promoted him fabulously, and he was still dissatisfied, and arrogant, despising God’s word, (which is the same as despising God Himself, as this passage also makes clear). He was so full of himself, he actually thought he could get away with murdering one of his loyal men and taking his wife, because the seven wives and unnumbered concubines he already had weren’t enough. Gross.

Since the story is really about David’s failure to love and honor God’s word — and thus God Himself — and not being humble and grateful, it seems to me that the specifics of the adultery/rape incident are irrelevant and would only distract from the main point.

Even in the area of violence, there aren’t many specifics. We know little of the details of  Uriah’s death  beyond the letter David sent to Joab telling him how to do it — that is, put him “on the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him that he be struck down and die.”

Which I guess supports the point I made in my original post that such specifics only go in if they really serve the point you’re trying to make with the story.

If one were writing this story as a novel,  however, I can see where you might put in a few more specifics. Fiction isn’t supposed to be an outline, or a Bible lesson, but an experience. Authors are supposed to try to assemble enough specific details of character and setting to make the scene come alive for the reader.

And therein lies the problem, I think. Some people would rather not “live” certain scenes. In fact, I suspect all people feel that way. It just depends on the scene.

More on this in another post…

Sex, Violence and Dark Events…

That is the title of my guest post over at Speculative Faith’s Blog which should be up sometime Friday morning July 6. I want to thank you all, my readers, who replied to my request last week for ideas for this post. You can see from the title which of them was most popular.

This post turned out to be a lot harder to write than I expected. I thought I’d just knock it out, but it took me the entire week.

The question I posed myself was : “Should we as Christian novelists include portrayals of sexual sins, violence or other “dark” events in our fiction, or would that be an automatic violation of Christian standards?”

Then I did a nonstop on the subject. That turned out to be more or less a rant, but it had a lot of energy, as rants often do, so every time I re-read it, it just carried me along and no alternative routes opened up before me. Finally, in desperation, I sent it to a friend for help, and afterward sat down and began to just list my thoughts on the matter as they came, without letting the emotion carry me off.

Turns out I have a lot to say on this subject. More than could be confined in a single blog post, so I had to work on paring it down and getting it focused. It was an experience kinda like trying to fill a plastic trash bag with styrofoam peanuts. Every handful you put in, stirs up the peanuts already in the bag. They go flying out, stick to your hand, the inside of the bag, the outside of the bag… Yeah. Very much like that if you substitute “thoughts” for peanuts.

A lot of prayers went up, and at times I had to vigorously trust  that in the end God would make it come clear. Between His help and that of my friend, I believe it did.

Anyway, as I said, it goes up Friday morning, July 6, and I invite you to head on over to Speculative Faith to see for yourself if I succeeded.  Feel free to comment there or here, if you are so moved. I’ll try to monitor both places.

Here’s how the post starts:

Ten years ago this summer Bethany House Publishers released my first novel Arena into a literary world of petticoats, bonnets and buggies. This explains its original pink and purple cover, an attempt perhaps to mitigate the fact that it was a significant departure from the usual run of Christian fiction. While Arena does include an element of romance, at heart it is an allegorical adventure with sometimes dark and violent scenes.

I’ve received a full spectrum of responses to it, from “Fabulous!”…. Read the rest here

ΩΩΩ

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.

Day of Mourning

Recently my publisher, Bethany House, sent me notification of the sad news that because The Shadow Within (Book 2 of the Legends of the Guardian King series) and Return of the Guardian King (Book 4 of the series) have not been selling sufficiently they have decided not to keep them on their list of active publications. That’s a bunch of words to say they’ve been declared out of print and BHP will be producing no more copies of them. I’ve asked to have the rights revert to me.  

So if any of you are still waiting to get the Legends Series, or specifically the final book in that series, I suggest you act now before they vanish forever, like What-a-Burger’s A-1 Thick and Hearty burger. (Though I seriously doubt the A-1 is really going to vanish forever.) ((I’ve clearly seen that ad WAAAAY too many times…)  The books are still available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online sites as of today, and I would guess you can still order through local stores, though the strange setups independent booksellers have with distributors makes that literally a guess.  

Books 1 and 3 (The Light of Eidon and Shadow Over Kiriath) apparently continue to sell well enough that they’ve decided to keep publishing them.  

I knew this day would come and suspected it would be sooner rather than later, particularly given our current economy. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Shall we accept good from Him and not adversity as well? He knows what He’s doing and I don’t, and whether the books are in print or not is no obstacle to Him getting them into the hands of those for whom they are written. Maybe they don’t even matter any more and have served whatever purpose He had for them.  

If I step back I still have to marvel that the entire series actually made it to print at all, since there was considerable doubt the initial books would sell well enough to justify putting out the rest. And seeing as Eidon came out in 2003, Shadow Within in 2004… that’s about five years of shelf life in a very transitory and unforgiving industry. Have to be happy about that.  

Plus this last fall, a German publisher contracted to publish all four of the GK books. So it’ll still be out there, even if I won’t be able to read any of the books. 🙂  

In any case, I still have another book to write, which, believe it or not, starting last week I’ve finally the time to get back to. Or maybe I should say, I have another proposal to prepare, since at this point, that’s all I’ve got the go-ahead to do.  

   

 RIP

Graveyard photo by Qole Pejorian

Inspiration

I’m really tired today. No time and worse, no energy, to get much of anything done on Sky. Doctor’s appointments, laundry, dog walking, Bible class… So I’m going to post a poem I found that gave me the notion for my title. It also fits the story in a weird sort of way.

The Other Side of the Sky

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, —
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That cannot keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat — the sky
Will cave in on him by and by

From the long poem Renascence,  by Edna St. Vincent Millay


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