Monday, September 18, 2006

Edenstar Blog Tour

I am taking part in a blog tour highlighting the Edenstar Books and Games website where you will find all sorts of products for Christians who enjoy Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Here is what Bill and Cheryl Bader, the founders of this company, wrote about their purpose:

The traditional Christian bookstore shelves science fiction with other fiction. So we sort through prairie romances to find the occasional science fiction or fantasy title.

In the general-market bookstore, Christian science fiction is shelved with other science fiction, if it's carried at all. So here again we sift through inappropriate material to find the books we like to read.

That's why we started Edenstar Books and Games in February 2003. We believe there are many others like us, who would love to read more Christian-themed science fiction and fantasy, if they just knew where to find it.

I applaud this effort. This genre needs more exposure, and Bill and Cheryl are to be congratulated for highlighting a product line that is frequently criticized in Christian circles.

Here is the link to their website:

You will find reviews on products, particularly books. Unfortunately, Cheryl's review of my book, Raising Dragons, took issue with how I developed my characters. She wrote:

Unfortunately the level of characterization doesn’t quite match the epic plot line. As often happens with Christian fiction, the lead character is too good to be true. Model student Billy attempts to restrain the troublemaker intent on setting off the school fire alarm, only to wind up accused himself. Billy and his friends come off as good examples rather than real kids.

I disagree with her strongly. I passionately defend the fact that real kids can be good, holy, and virtuous. Her stand that "real" kids can't be that good is a myth, and her false notion is a plague that contributes to the downfall of our youth culture. I wrote my characters the way I did intentionally, and the amazing feedback I'm getting from hundreds of readers, telling me that these characters have dramatically transformed their lives, is proof that they are hungry to hear the truth that God is powerful enough to make real kids holy.

Even though I passionately disagree with Cheryl's review, I still applaud and support the Baders' efforts. This genre is important, and it takes courage and steadfastness to make such an effort work.

Below are the other bloggers who are taking part in the blog tour. Check them out to learn more about what people are saying about the Edenstar website. Jim Black Jackie Castle Valerie Comer Beth Goddard Leathel Grody Karen Hancock Elliot Hanowski Katie Hart Sherrie Hibbs Sharon Hinck Jason Joyner Tina Kulesa Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Cheryl Russel Mirtika Schultz Stuart Stockton Steve Trower Joleen Howell

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Have you ever wondered if a strange event or "coincidence" was a sign from God? If so, has it been confusing or odd enough to make you clueless as to what it could mean?

I drove to Tallahassee yesterday with my wife and three daughters to visit my parents and watch a football game. Since it was so late, we spent the night. My father (79 years old) has a severe brain disease that has made him lack coherence most of the time. It seems that he is in a quasi-dreamlike state most of the time, making comments that sometimes relate to the enviornment yet frequently blend with illusions or hallucinations. When I said goodbye this morning, he said, "So what are you going to do with the twelve?"

I replied, "The twelve what?"

"The twelve people."

I tried to figure out how the comment related to any surroundings or recent conversations, but I was at a loss, so I said something like, "I'm not sure what you mean, but I'll think about it." That seemed to satisfy him.

When we left, I stopped at the first corner convenience store to fill up with gas. As I finished and opened the driver's door to get back in, I noticed a dime on the ground. When I bent over to pick it up, I saw two pennies next to it, so I gathered all three coins.

"Very strange," I told my wife. "Just yesterday, I found exactly this combination of coins at another convenience store when I filled up with gas to come up here."

"You're kidding!" my wife replied. "I found a dime and two pennies on the ground in the Walmart parking lot the day before that!"

"Three days in a row! The same coin combination!" Then it hit me. My dad asked me what I was going to do with the twelve. "Twelve cents!" I exclaimed. Then I told my wife what my father had said just minutes earlier. "What could all this mean? It's too coincidental to be an accident."

Twelve cents three days in a row. "What are you going to do with the twelve?" my father said.

Strange? No doubt. Is it a sign? I think it is. What does it mean? I have no idea.

Right now I'm leaning toward the idea that I should use it in the next story I'm writing, but I don't know how to do it yet. In any case, I'm keeping my eyes and ears open and my spiritual perception in tune for another possible solution. Twelve is a biblical number, so I'll be meditating on how it applies.

Any of you out there have an idea? Do you have a story about a strange circumstance that you thought was a sign?

I'm all ears!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Tragedy of Ignorance

I read an opinion piece in the Orlando Sentinel today by Yanis Rock Click Here that made me think of the following passage:

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:5-8)

It amazes me that Mr. Rock would write with confidence about what Jesus would do when he himself is apparently ignorant of Jesus' teachings.

Astoundingly, he writes:

Well, Jesus wasn't arrogant or pompous, so he wouldn't deliver his message in such a way to exclude rather than unite. The very idea that Christianity or any other religion, for that matter, has a monopoly on morality or divinity is absolutely preposterous.

Was Jesus arrogant? No. Did He have a message that excluded? Absolutely! And did He claim a monopoly on morality or divinity? Without a doubt!

Jesus preached in public, much like the man Mr. Rock derides, and he demanded repentance of sin (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15, and others) and proclaimed that those who would not repent would perish (Luke 13:3 and 5).

Jesus also claimed divinity and that unbelievers would die in their sins (John 8:24). Not only that, Jesus claimed to be the only way to salvation, a clear proposition of an exclusive message (John 14:6).

The one who is preposterous is Mr. Rock. He wrote that piece using Jesus as a model in order to proclaim the opposite of what Jesus actually taught. Mr. Rock, through his utter lack of knowledge, research, and credibility, has held up a flashing neon sign that says, "I'm Ignorant!" and he doesn't even know it!

This is sad. This is tragic. In our culture, the teachings of Jesus have been reduced to a popular consensus of opinion that is the opposite of truth. Most readers, and apparently the editor of a major newspaper, have no problem accepting this ridiculous notion that Jesus taught a sweet, let's-all-have-a-group-hug kind of message that wouldn't offend anyone, when, in fact, Jesus made this amazing declaration:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)

To those who don't believe, this is a divisive and offensive claim. Either love Jesus more than anything and be willing to die for Him, or you will die. The words of Christ cut, and they cut deeply. They expose the soul and demand repentance of sin and adherence to His teachings. There is no other option.

Mr. Rock is just one of many who believe his nonsense. It's up to real Christians to shout the real teachings of Christ from the rooftops and expose ignorance like Mr. Rock's for what it is.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Great Beginnings

As I'm writing the early portions of Enoch's Ghost, the second book in the Oracles of Fire series, I'm once again reminded of how difficult writing the beginning of a book, especially a sequel, can be. I have no idea how long it has been since a reader has finished the previous book, so I have to reintroduce characters, bring in reminders of the old storyline, and create a new stage for an engaging story. This problem isn't exclusive to sequels. In most first books there is an important backstory, so the story acts as a sequel to whatever set up the events of the first chapter.

Here are some of the potential pitfalls:

Contrived dialogue - This happens when the author makes characters say things to each other they normally wouldn't say in order to inform the reader of what's going on. It usually results in experienced readers grimacing at how stilted the characters are.

Backstory information dump - This usually occurs in narrative or interior monologue where the author informs the reader of what has happened in the past. I see it most often with a primary character thinking about what recently happened. This is similar to contrived dialogue. When it's done in narrative, it is usually boring, and it certainly slows down the story.

Sketchy characterization - In order to get the story going and hook the reader, the author jumps right into the action. Sure, it might be exciting, but if the characters aren't developed, the reader won't have an emotional investment in the outcome. The action won't evoke the kind of edge-of-your-seat response the author is looking for. This isn't as difficult to avoid in a sequel, because most readers will be familiar with the characters and only need a brief refresher.

Boring introduction - Sometimes an author will try to avoid the previous problem by introducing the characters slowly in their normal everyday environments. This develops characters well, but it can lose readers because the story just doesn't grab them. If a reader puts the book down, the author has lost. The author won't be there to scream, "at least get to chapter four! That's where it really gets moving!"

Are there other pitfalls? Please share them with me. Then, I'll try to relate some potential solutions.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hitting the Road Soon

I updated my on-line schedule this morning:

I have about eight more appearances I'm working on to fill in a couple of gaps. If you're near one of locations I'm visiting, please stop by at one of the scheduled appearances and chat. I'd love to meet you. If you want me to speak to a school, church, homeschool group, etc., I still have some time available in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and the Atlanta metro area, especially in the evenings, so please let me know.

These road trips are always exhausting for me, and I sometimes get sick near the end. Please pray for my family and me as we travel.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Dancing Word Chat Tonight

I will be the guest in the chatroom tonight (September 8) at 9 pm eastern time.

Here is the link to the chatroom:

Then click on the little connect icon in the upper lefthand corner, enter a nickname, then click on OK.

Please come and chat with me. I don't want to be there alone!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Desk Jungle

My desk is a jungle. I have heard that I'm not the only one with this problem, but it seems that all sorts of paper products and other items grow in haphazard piles on my desk. Every time I clear it (about twice a year), I vow that it will never happen again, but somehow the clutter reappears.

Actually, I know how it happens. Gremlins come into my office at night, rifle through my files, and scatter whatever they find all over my desk. Really! There can be no other explanation for the randomness of what I find.

I see a bottle of vitamins, a post office receipt, a camera, a remote control for something, a pile of blank CD's, a stack of business cards collected at conferences, scattered scraps of paper with phone numbers on them (I don't know whose numbers they are), bank receipts, an apologetics book, a clipped-out magazine article, two Beanie Baby dragons, an old shopping list, letters I have to answer, letters I have already answered, a coffee cup (though I don't drink coffee), two open water bottles, a plastic spider, a pile of bookmarks, a checkbook, a bookstore gift card, a drawing of a dragon, two classical music CD's, a printout of a fellow writer's manuscript, two family magazines, and the list could go on and on.

It must be gremlins! Who in their right mind would put together a collection like that?

Okay ... maybe I'm not in my right mind. I'll clear it once again, and this time ... this time I'm going to mount a camera to catch those gremlins at work!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Why Fantasy - From Speculative Faith

I posted a new entry on the Speculative Faith blog, and I'm copying it here in my own blog. It's part three in a series called, "Why Fantasy."
Sometimes I feel like the most blessed person on earth. Every single day I get messages, either through e-mail or postal mail, telling me how my books have affected someone's life for the better. When I first began writing Christian-based fantasy, I hoped the stories would help some readers, but I had no idea that the response would be so huge.

I put together a page of some of the responses to give you an idea of their content. Here's the link: Click Here

These are just a few, and although I haven't counted, I think the number of responses I've received is now over two thousand--from simple rebuilding of faith to prevention of suicide. And when I think that each message probably represents many, many more, I am overwhelmed with blessed satisfaction.

Why does Christian fantasy affect readers so profoundly? I don't know for sure, but I have an idea.

I believe fantasy allows us to write about characters we would all like to be. It displays heroes who are powerful, courageous, and holy. The overwhelming favorite character in my series is a teenager named Bonnie Silver. She is faithful, brave, and loyal--my ideal girl. She has fears and doubts, but she conquers them with an amazing faith.

Some have called her "unrealistic," but my readers (and I) beg to differ. They believe they can be like her. One girl embroidered "Bonnie Silver" on her cap. She told me that every time she puts it on, it reminds her to have faith like Bonnie's. Another girl and her friend memorized a prayer Bonnie says, a two-and-a-half page prayer, and they pray it together before school, putting the names of their unsaved friends in the prayer.

The fantasy hero, usually an unlikely hero, is someone we can identify with. Most of us long to do something great, to step beyond the mundane and make a real difference. When we see a fantasy character achieving that kind of great feat, our hearts are right with him. The unbelievable, at least for a moment, becomes believable, and our hearts leap.

I think God programs that desire into us. He wants us to step beyond the normal and walk into the realm of what seems impossible. As we walk in that realm with Him, He shows us how to achieve something great for His kingdom. What seemed fantastic and beyond our reach, comes into view and into our grasp, and we really can complete that fantasy journey.

So, I believe Christian fantasy, unlike any other genre, opens the door of faith to allow us to believe the impossible. It shows us that the spiritual world is real, and we can be those unlikely heroes who complete awesome adventures. We really can be strong, brave, and holy.

As each new message comes into my mailbox, I realize that my own awesome adventure, my dream of how writing can change lives, is coming true, and in a way that is far beyond anything I hoped for.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tennessee--Home of the Friendly

We've been working on our new home in western Tennessee (moving there in May, 2007), and as we go to various businesses in the area, we can't help but be overwhelmed at the friendliness of the people here. Yesterday, my wife called a business to ask for directions. On the way, we stopped for lunch. When we finally arrived at the business, the lady who had given us directions gushed that she had been so worried about us. She gave my wife a hug and said she was so glad we made it safely.

It seems that everyone waves to each other, and general courtesy is beyond the norm. I think I'm going to like it here.