Remembering C. S. Lewis – Prince Caspian

Prince_Caspian_coverFor me, some of C. S. Lewis’s most memorable lines, images, and scenes are in his Narnia tales. I want to share one of my favorites from Prince Caspian, the perfect illustration of “trust and obey,” and more.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy return to Narnia a year after they had become kings and queens in Aslan’s world. But everything is changed. The animals no longer talk–at least most don’t–and the people have forgotten Aslan.

Eventually, with the help of a Dwarf named Trumpkin, they realize that hundreds of years, perhaps a thousand, have passed during their earth year. To put things to rights, they aim to join up with Prince Caspian who believes in the old stories.

To reach him, they must cross a river which is now in a deep gorge. They are discussing how to navigate around this obstacle, then this:

“Look! Look! Look!” cried Lucy.

“Where? What?” asked everyone.

“The Lion,” said Lucy. “Aslan himself. Didn’t you see?” Her face had changed completely and her eyes shone.

“Do you really mean–” began Peter.

“Where did you think you saw him?” asked Susan.

“Don’t talk like a grown-up,” said Lucy, stamping her foot. “I didn’t think I saw him. I saw him.”

“Where, Lu?” asked Peter.

“Right up there between those mountain ashes. No, this side of the gorge. And up, not down. Just the opposite of the way you wanted to go. And he wanted us to go where he was–up there.”

“How do you know that was what he wanted?” asked Edmund.

“He–I–I just know,” said Lucy, “by his face.”

The others all looked at each other in puzzled silence.

“Her Majesty may well have seen a lion,” put in Trumpkin. “There ae lions in these woods, I’ve been told. But it needn’t have been a friendly and talking lion any mor than the ear was a friendly and talking bear.”

“Oh, don’t be so stupid,” said Lucy. “Do you think I don’t know Aslan when I see him?

Eventually the five of them take a vote and choose to make their way downstream. After a hard march they encounter an enemy force and turn back. They camp, but during the night, Lucy hears someone call her name. She gets up and makes her way to a clearing where she finds Aslan.

“Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,” sobbed Lucy. “At last.”

The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.

“Welcome, child,” he said.

“Aslan,” said Lucy,”you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

For a time she was so happy that she did not want to speak. But Aslan spoke.

“Lucy,” he said, “we must not lie her for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.”

“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so–”

From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I–I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that . . . oh, well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right–somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh, dear,” said Lucy.”

“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me–what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

Do you mean that is what you want me to do?” gasped Lucy.

“Yes, little one,” said Aslan.

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me,” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.

After Aslan reassures her and fills her with his lion-strength, she says she’s ready and goes to wake up the others. They’re all very sleepy and don’t believe her because they can’t see Aslan themselves.

[Susan said], “She’s been dreaming. Do lie down and go to sleep, Lucy.”

“And I do hope,” said Lucy in a tremulous voice,”that you will all come with me. Because–because I’ll have to go with him whether anyone else does or not.”

“Don’t talk nonsense, Lucy,” said Susan. “Of course you can’t go off on your own. Don’t let her, Peter. She’s being downright naughty.”

“I’ll go with her, if she must go,” said Edmund. She’s been right before.”

“I know she has,” said Peter. “And she may have been right this morning. We certainly had no luck going down the gorge. Still–at this hour of the night. And why should Aslan be invisible to us? He never used to be. It’s not like him.”

At last, despite all the objections, they set off, with Susan complaining the whole time.

Lucy went first, biting her lip and trying not to say all the things she thought of saying to Susan. But she forgot them when she fixed her eyes on Aslan. He turned and walked at a slow pace about thirty yards ahead of them. The others had only Lucy’s directions to guide them, for Aslan was not only invisible to them but silent as well. His big cat-like paws made no noise on the grass . . .

For a long way Aslan went along the top of the precipices. Then they came to a place where some little trees grew right on the edge. He turned and disappeared among them. Lucy held her breath, for it looked as if he had plunged over the cliff; but she was too busy keeping him in sight to stop and think about this. She quickened her pace and was soon among the trees herself. Looking down, she could see a steep and narrow path going slantwise down into the gorge between rocks, and Aslan descending it. He turned and looked at her with his happy eyes. Lucy clapped her hands and began to scramble down after him. From behind her she heard the voices of the others shouting, “Hi! Lucy! Look out, for goodness’ sake. You’re right on the edge of the gorge. Come back–” and then, a moment later Edmund’s voice saying, “No, she’s right. There is a way down.”

Published in: on November 20, 2013 at 5:46 pm  Comments Off on Remembering C. S. Lewis – Prince Caspian  
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Remembering C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters

lewis_Screwtape_Letters_coverThis year marks the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s death. He, like President John F. Kennedy and author Aldous Huxley, died November 22, 1963. As part of the tribute (over at Spec Faith I’ve already written this post and this commemorating his life and writing) to this man who has influenced so many Christian writers, I thought it appropriate to let his writing speak for him.

So here is a flavor of The Screwtape Letters, one of my favorites of C. S. Lewis’s fiction.

My Dear Wormwood,

I note what you say about guiding your patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naif? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the daily press, radio, television and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false,” but as “academic” or “practical,” “outworn” or “contemporary,” “conventional” or “ruthless.” Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous–that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awaken the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real.”

Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh, that abominable advantage of the Enemy’s) you don’t realise how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the Metropolitan Library. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said “Quite. In fact, much too important to tackle at the end of a morning,” the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added “Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind,” he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of “real life” (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all “that sort of thing” just couldn’t be true. He knew he’d had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about “that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberration of mere logic.” He is now safe in Our Father’s house.

You begin to see the point? Thanks to the processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch or see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don’t let him get away from that invaluable “real life.” But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is “the results of modern investigation.” Do remember, Wormwood, you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle,

(pp 21-23, The Screwtape Letters)

Published in: on November 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm  Comments (4)  
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Fantasy Friday – I’m Not Buying It

DunCowcoverI’m not actually writing this post about a particular book–it’s more about an idea.

There are a collection of authors who are on a number of bloggers and readers and journals “must read” lists. For fans or writers of speculative fiction that list undoubtedly includes Ursula LeGuin, Walter Wangerin, Gene Wolfe. But I’m not buying it.

Some months ago, a blogger wrote an article about why Christians should read horror. I’m not buying that either.

Call me snapped, but I don’t want to read stuff that is dragging my mind and heart into despair, and I’m not planning on reading that kind of book ever again if I can avoid it. I’ve tried.

I hefted myself through a number of “Christian horror” titles, and yes, there were messages of redemption toward the end, following pages and pages of ritual pagan human sacrifice, loss, and grief or fear and madness. I’m not buying the idea that my life is richer for having read those books, or that my spiritual eyes are open wider, or that I understand the world better.

I’ve also tried reading The Book of the Dun Cow, a title that appears on any number of best book lists. I stopped on page 136. That’s more than half way through (my copy has 246 pages). And I’ll tell you, by nature I’m a finisher. I’ve finished my share of bad books simply because I started them.

As it happened, the place in the story where I stalled is at least two pages of the animals coming:

The Foxes had come from the north. The Ants, like thought, had come from anywhere. Now, out of the east and wet with the sticky water of the Liver-brook, Otters rumbled into the yard, scooting chaos into the Antian dignity which had preceded them, snapping left and right like a hundred fish, altogether unrestrained by the gravity of the Council, playing games . . . Animals brown and soft, animals quick and gray, animals ruddy, animals black and melancholy, animals with piercing, suspicious eyes, animals plumed and animals pelted, winged animals and those footed for the ground, the fleet and the contemplative, the leapers and the dodgers and the crawlers and the carriers, the racers and the trotters . . . (pp. 135-137)

It keeps going, but I didn’t. There’s a point where I say, I’m not buying it. This book is supposed to be so deep, so profound, so great an example of stellar, literary writing, but I’m not jumping on that bandwagon. I’m just not.

I’ve tried reading A Wizard of Earthsea, too. This is one every fantasy writer is supposed to read, and I’ve started it, at least three times, I think, and I still have it on my to-be-read pile as if I will some day try once again and succeed. But really, should a “must read” be that hard to get into? Judging from my bookmark, I actually made it to p. 37 the last time I made the effort. And maybe I’ll give it another try some day. After all, it is fantasy, and it has maps.

I’ll admit, I even had a hard time with Out of the Silent Planet, book one in C. S. Lewis’s space trilogy when I reread it a couple years ago, and I haven’t picked up the other two books since. So maybe it’s me.

Or maybe contemporary fiction–21st Century Fiction, writing instructor Donald Maass calls it–has spoiled me for the old style. I don’t want to read books that meander or digress, but I also don’t want to read books that wallow in angst or fear or despair.

I’m just not buying it any more. These books can win all the awards out there and have other writers praising them to the hilt, but I’m not buying the idea any more that the best books are the ones I don’t like to read.

Fantasy Friday – Introducing Patrick Carr

Patrick W. CarrA new addition to the list of fantasy authors comes to us from the field of education. Patrick W. Carr, the author of the soon to be released A Cast of Stones (Bethany House), teaches high school geometry in Nashville, TN.

He hasn’t always been in the classroom, though.

In one sense, Patrick started life on the road. He was born in West Germany into an Air Force family which relocated every three years. As an adult, he continued to see the world because of a “somewhat eclectic education and work history.”

Eventually he graduated from Georgia Tech. His work experience includes that of a draftsman at a nuclear plant, design work for the Air Force, work for a printing company, and consultation as an engineer.

Patrick didn’t come to writing until he turned 40. Like a number of other authors, he got the idea as he read to his children. He is the father of four boys–Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan–and he decided to write a book for them in which they were the main characters.

Creativity runs in the family, though at this point his sons show it most clearly through music. Two play the piano, one the sax, and the other, the cello. Patrick himself has aspirations to become a jazz pianist some day.

I’m not sure where that leaves his wife Mary who works as the infection control nurse at Alive Hospice. 😉A-Cast-of-Stones

A Cast of Stones is the first in a trilogy, so readers have the chance to jump in at the beginning. Here’s the descriptive blurb of the story:

In the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone’s search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who has arrived with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them – only to find himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he’s joined a quest that could determine the fate of a kingdom. Amidst mounting dangers, Errol must leave behind his idle life, learn to fight, come to know his God – and discover his destiny.

An interesting set up, I’d say. Who generally makes a drunk his protagonist? I’ll be interested to see how Errol Stone becomes a character readers care about.

If you’d like to learn more about Patrick and his writing, you can follow him on Facebook, and you can drop by at Spec Faith next Friday when he appears as the guest blogger.

Published in: on January 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm  Comments Off on Fantasy Friday – Introducing Patrick Carr  
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Fantasy Friday – Bethany House Adds Another Fantasy Author

Bethany House is one of the more interesting Christian publishing houses when it comes to speculative fiction. First, they contracted Karen Hancock for her science fantasy Arena, which, by the way, they’ve just re-released with a new cover. That novel went on to win a Christy Award, as did Karen’s next three titles–the opening trilogy of her four-book The Guardian King series.

You’d think Bethany would be ecstatic as slowly fantasy fans learned of Karen and the availability of actual, well-written Christian fantasy. I have no way of knowing what their reaction was, but apparently ecstatic would be a stretch because they went the next ten years without another speculative author.

Karen continues to publish with them. After she completed The Guardian King series with Return of the Guardian King, she went on to publish another science fantasy entitled The Enclave and is currently working on a similar type of book. But other speculative authors? Apparently Bethany was happy to stand pat. They had the speculative genre covered.

At long last, however, the publishing house that first opened the door to Christian fantasy has brought in a handful of other authors. First was Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and she just happened to win back-to-back Christy Awards. Apparently Bethany has an eye for quality!

Now they have also included R. J. Larson, who writes what might be considered Biblical fantasy, and Patrick W. Carr, whose first novel, A Cast of Stones, begins The Staff & The Sword series–good old fashion, unadorned, regular Christian fantasy.

Larson’s debut novel Prophet released April 1 this year, and as it happens, Bethany House has a one-day promotional ebook give-away coming up on August 14. The second in the series, Judge, is due to release in November.

Carr’s A Cast of Stones is due out in February 2013. For Bethany House, this feels almost like an explosion of fantasy!

I’m happy about a couple things: first, the obvious–they are expanding the number of titles. But I’m also happy that they seem to be diversifying somewhat so that not every fantasy is like the others. Stengl’s books, beginning with Heartless (also part of the promotional package and available free as an ebook on August 24), and continuing with Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Starflower, due to release in November also, are fairytale fantasy, which is quite different from Hancock, certainly, and from Larson’s Biblical fantasy or Carr’s epic fantasy. In addition, as I noted earlier, apparently Bethany is paying attention to quality–something I’ve felt is essential if fantasy is to grow as a genre in Christian publishing.

So, good on you, Bethany! I’m happy this publisher is joining Zondervan, WaterBrook/Multnomah, and Thomas Nelson as well as the smaller houses like AMG and Marcher Lord Press to put out more Christian fantasy.

Fantasy Friday – A Success Story

I heard some great news this week. Long time CSFF Blog Tour member (he joined in 2007) Robert Treskillard has signed a publishing contract with Zondervan. His series The Merlin Spiral will begin releasing February 2013 with book one, Merlin’s Blade.

Robert has been on this path to publication for some time, starting with his love for all things Celtic and a decision sparked by his son to learn blacksmithing and sword making. What I love is that in the process of writing and seeking publication, Robert worked on behalf of others who were writing and promoting the kinds of books he wanted to see on bookshelves — Christian fantasy.

For example Robert’s participation in the CSFF Blog Tour has gone beyond joining the occasional tour. He designed the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award button and has made invaluable suggestions of books to tour. When he has participated in the tour, his posts are exemplary (witness the fact that he’s won the Top Tour Blogger Award four times!)

In addition, he was instrumental in the creation of the fan book trailers for Jill Williamson’s The Blood of King series — To Darkness Fled and From Darkness Won.

All last year Robert was “close.” He submitted to publishers, sought out an agent, went to a conference, and waited.

Meanwhile, he continued to support other writers — rejoicing, for example, with fellow Missourian L. B. Graham (The Binding of the Blade series) when he recently received a contract from AMG for a new series.

At long last the news came that his books will go into print. It’s a great individual story and a great story of success for Christian fantasy.

For those of you who, like me, are excited to learn that more Christian fantasy is on the way, take a moment and visit Robert’s Facebook page and friend him — you can tell him I sent you. 😉

Published in: on April 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm  Comments (4)  
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Fantasy Friday – Introducing Karyn Henley

In case anyone isn’t noticing, young adult (YA) literature is hot right now, especially fantasy. Following this trend, any number of writers who published adult fiction now write for the YA market. Of late I’ve learned of several children’s book writers who are making the switch too. They may be well-known in one arena, but when they write for a new audience, they, too need an introduction. Such is the case with today’s author — Karyn Henley.

If her name sounds familiar, it isn’t surprising. Karyn is the author of the original The Beginner’s Bible which sold over five million copies during the fifteen years it was in print. She’s also an accomplished and award-winning song writer and has some 100 books to her credit — picture books, easy readers, curriculum, and parenting books. Throw in the numerous articles she’s written and the CDs she’s made, and it almost seems like Karyn’s should be a household name!

Karyn is a native Texan, though she now lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Growing up in Abilene, she was a great reader, even reading as she walked to her grandmother’s house from school. Her love of books carried into adulthood. After graduating from Abilene Christian University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education, she became a preschool teacher, and her favorite time of the day was story time when she read aloud to her children.

Her migration to YA fiction came as a direct result of her continuing education. She received her Masters of Fine Arts Degree from Vermont College in 2004. One of her advisers, Kathi Appelt, became a great supporter and encouraged Karyn to grow as a writer. She accepted the challenge and began to write a novel. It soon became apparent from the language and the issues the protagonist faced, that the story was most suited for young adults.

Writing fantasy seems to be a natural fit, too. Karyn’s early reading included a generous dose of myth and fairy tales. She also appreciates specific aspects of writers such as Ursula LeGuin and Orson Scott Card. Consequently when she started writing, she naturally gravitated toward fantasy.

Some may think of her work as paranormal romance, but Karyn differentiates because her series, The Angelaeon Circle (Waterbrook Multnomah), takes place in an ancient time where an acceptance of the supernatural was … well, more natural. Consequently, she considers her work to be high fantasy.

I like ancient and medieval settings for fantasy, because the worlds are slower and very different, and I don’t have to know the latest technology. Besides, when I go into the world of a book, I like to be transported far away. Working within an ancient world allows me to explore very different ways of life and places where the rules are different. For me, characters in ancient settings can be closer to the earth, rawer in their emotions, more deeply connected to the big struggles of survival that fantasy addresses so well. (excerpt from “Blog Tour Interview: Author Karyn Henley“)

Karyn was literally transported far away this summer when she traveled to Norway to attend her son’s wedding. She planned to do a little research for the third of her series.

Book one, Breath of Angel, debuted last June, and the second, Eye of the Sword, is due out in March.

Besides writing, Karyn lists reading as one of her hobbies. She also bakes bread, gardens (though she doesn’t have a green thumb), and bird-watches. She loves chocolate, prefers spring and fall to either winter or summer, and finds inspiration for her writing in Greek and Roman mythology.

To learn more about Karyn, visit her Facebook page, fiction website, and blog. To read an excerpt of the upcoming release, visit her publisher’s Sneak Peek page.

Published in: on January 27, 2012 at 6:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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Fantasy Friday – Introducing Chuck Black

Speculative authors come in all shapes and sizes and from any number of backgrounds, but apparently flying planes stimulates the imagination. Along with former astronaut candidate Austin Boyd, fantasy writer Chuck Black joins the ranks of military men who love Jesus Christ and choose to influence others through story.

Born and raised in North Dakota, Chuck grew up wanting to fly planes. He studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering, receiving a degree from North Dakota State University in Fargo. Soon after, he entered the US Air Force and eventually became a fighter pilot.

After nine years in the service, he returned to North Dakota where he now works as a product design engineer and partner in a plastics company. More importantly, Chuck is husband to his wife Andrea and father of their six children who range in age from 14 to 24.

Because of his role as father, Chuck became a writer. He’d never envisioned doing more than crafting a story for his children, but after he completed his first Kingdom series book, Andrea encouraged him to look into publishing. With additional encouragement from a group of objective readers (Chuck used a pen name), he agreed to pursue publication. Because he didn’t want the long wait associated with traditional publishing, he chose to self-publish.

During the next five years he completed three additional books in the series, and apparently sold enough copies to catch the interest of Multnomah Publishing which reproduced all four titles and contracted two more. Since then, Chuck has added six additional books in the Knights of Arrethtrae series.

He is now working on an ultra secret new fiction series while at the same time penning a non-fiction book of advice and encouragement for dads.

Several things set Chuck apart from other writers of fantasy. For one thing, he is not a big fantasy reader. As far as influence is concerned, he mentions science fiction by John Christopher and Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness. He also seems to purposefully steer away from traditional fantasy elements such as magic and wizards.

In addition, he is not shy about the fact that his work is intentionally allegorical and that he wants to communicate truth through story. During adolescence and into his early adulthood, Chuck struggled with doubts and questions about his faith. God rescued him, he says, through prayer, study of God’s Word, and wise counsel. In turn, he wants his writing to point young people to truth.

I wrote Kingdom’s Edge, the third book in the series but the first book written, for one reason only — to inspire my children to study the Scriptures and to create a zeal for God’s Word … The Kingdom Series provides an action/adventure story for our youth that teaches Biblical character without the use of magic, witchcraft, or wizardry. The romantic medieval time period provided an excellent setting to write an allegory that children from ages eight to adult simply love. Each scene and character are directly symbolic to Bible stories. (from an interview with Shelley Noonan of Second Harvest)

While some might think allegory is a kind of second rate type of writing, I disagree. I think it’s hard to do well, but in my review of Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione, I found the truths to be “well-woven into the lives and actions of the characters.” In other words, the allegory did not feel in your face so that it detracted from the story. That may seem surprising in light of what Chuck hopes his readers will take away from his books:

I earnestly want to inspire and excite young people in their faith in Jesus Christ. I hope to impart to them a keen sense of the spiritual warfare that is being waged around them. I hope to help them understand that they have an important role as a child of the King to take up the armor of God and go to battle tearing down spiritual wickedness in high places. I hope these books help them realize that they can have a deep personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. And finally I hope that they grasp that there is a greater purpose in life than to grow up, get a job, work, and die…we are all eternal kingdom builders…Knights of the Prince! (from “Interview & Giveaway – Chuck Black”)

It requires skill to write a good story that simultaneously conveys rich spiritual truths, but that’s what Chuck does. Good for him! It’s time more readers discovered his books.

Published in: on January 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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Fantasy Friday – Introducing Lisa T. Bergren

Lisa T. Bergren is the author of over thirty books, so you may wonder how it is that she needs an introduction. As it happens, Lisa is somewhat of an eclectic writer — she has books in a variety of genres: non-fiction, romance, historical, suspense, YA.

I first became aware of Lisa’s work when the CSFF Blog Tour featured the first title, Begotten, in her supernatural suspense series, The Gifted, back in April 2008. The epic trilogy is set in medieval times.

More recently, however, Lisa has written a time-travel young adult series, The River of Time: Waterfall, Cascade, Torrent, with a fourth book to be released later this year. Rather than falling into the science fiction category, however, these stories relate more nearly to fantasy because they take the protagonists back in time to medieval Italy. The first in the series, by the way, has been nominated in the fantasy category in a reader’s choice contest.

In that respect, then, Lisa is fairly new to speculative fiction and thus my thought that an introduction would be appropriate.

Lisa was born in Kalispell, Montana, on March 28 and raised in Southern California (there must be a story behind that transition!) Growing up she wanted to be “A nurse. An astronaut. Indiana Jones. A teacher. A journalist. One of the Three Musketeers.” Writing, apparently, has made it possible for her to become any of these through her characters.

After high school she went on to get a degree in English literature from the University of California at Irvine. Post graduation she became, among other things, a “ski bum” in Park City, Utah, but it was there she renewed her faith in Jesus Christ. Now she describes herself as “a disciple of Christ, desiring to walk close enough to him to be covered in the dust from his sandals.”

Currently she lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband Tim and their three children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.

Her daughters were the big motivation for her decision to write a YA series. For, oh so long, these girls were reluctant readers — and then the Twilight books came out. The oldest in particular took to them, full force. Lisa stayed involved, discussing the books with her daughter as she read them and taking her to the first movie. It was there, seeing all those young girls longing for suspense and romance, that Lisa first thought of writing for that audience.

Besides me, Lisa is the only writer I know who starts with setting. She does her best research by traveling to the location of her story, and there she comes up with interesting characters and plot ideas. Her travels have taken her to Egypt, England, France, Italy. She’s gone scuba diving in the Red Sea, ridden a camel for a photo op at the Great Pyramids, and taken a ride on a gondola in Venice.

In addition to writing and travel, Lisa is a “mompreneur,” caring for her home and family, a business consultant, a freelance editor, and an occasional speaker. Formerly she worked as a publishing executive.

You can connect with Lisa (and she enjoys getting to know readers) at her web site, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Published in: on January 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm  Comments (6)  
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Fantasy Friday – Introducing Brock D. Eastman

As a child Brock D. Eastman, author of Taken, the first in a five-book middle grade science fantasy series, Quest for Truth, wanted to become a paleontologist. His toys and books related to dinosaurs, and undoubtedly he knew the difference between a stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus. Dinosaurs filled his room and his imagination.

While such an interest may not be typical among writers, picturing the world populated by creatures we know today only by their bones might explain why Brock gravitated toward speculative literature.

However, “gravitating toward literature” might be a stretch. Brock didn’t do much reading until college, and then the books that awoke his interest were J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. At that point he realized he’d been missing out. Since then he’s become a voracious reader. His favorites include Lord of the Rings, the Eragon trilogy (Inheritance Cycle) by Christopher Paolini, Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment, and Narnia.

Though Brock didn’t initially pursue writing as a career, he nevertheless became involved with making and making available stories. His day job is with Focus on the Family where he is the Product Marketing Manager working with the long-running children’s series Adventures in Odyssey.

He’s also had the opportunity to play several cameo roles in various episodes, and he wrote The Imagination Station series’ Book 5, Showdown with the Shepherd.

His own fiction was not something he intended for the public, however. Exploring the possibility of writing a story that “dealt with life and death and what that really means,” he wrote the first two books of the Quest for Truth series as one volume, primarily for family and friends and as a result of a conversation with a co-worker.

We got to talking about how death is portrayed so lightly these days on television and in other media, so I set out to write a book where no one would die, or if someone did, it would not be taken lightly. As a Christian, I recognize that death should not be glossed over. [from “Brock Eastman: Futuristic Animation” by Katie Hart]

Family is important to Brock. At 27 he is married to Ashley, the girl with whom he read those Harry Potter books back in college, and he is the father of two daughters. They live happily in Colorado where Brock can enjoy the outdoors and quality time with his family.

At the urging of those who read his work, Brock decided to explore publication. Ultimately he secured a five book contract with P&R Publishing. Taken, a kind of Indiana Jones meets City of Ember story, is the culmination of six years of work.

In this volume, set in the future, Mr. and Mrs. Wikk, archeologist-explorers, are taken captive by a secret society. Their four children embark on a quest into space to find their parents, but they discover that the world is not what they once thought. If they hope to rescue their parents, they must take up their quest for truth, starting with the forbidden planet on the edge of the galaxy and the mysterious blue people who inhabit it.

While the series is written for younger readers, Brock hopes teens and parents will enjoy the story as well.

You can learn more about Brock at his web site. You can also find him on Facebook.