Reviewing The CSA Final Five

Final Five

Curious about what other readers are saying about this year’s CSA final five? As part of the ongoing introduction of the finalists, today we offer additional excerpts from readers posting on their blogs or reviewing for online organizations.

* Liberator by Bryan Davis

I found myself highlighting great quotes throughout the book, as the characters struggled to free the slaves, cure disease, live up to their individual callings, determine who could be trusted, and ultimately, reconcile their worlds with the Creator who designed them. This is a complicated series with a lot happening on different levels, and this last book will keep you on your toes as you follow the exciting adventures.
Hammock Librarian

    The most compelling aspect of Liberator is the way in which Davis uses the tropes of high fantasy literature – crystals, swords, shape-shifting, and, yes, even those dragons – to deal with universal themes in a symbolic way. . . Though the language is advanced and the mythology complicated, it’s a sure bet that young readers with an appetite for these sorts of stories will hunger for more of Davis’ dragon tales.

Davis has written a fast-paced, action-packed novel with a pinch of romance that is sure to capture the interest of teens who love fantasy. Mythological characters such as dragons, Diviners, and starlighters fill the pages and pull the reader into the world of Starlight. Plot driven, this book reveals each character more through their actions than their inner thoughts. There is a clear theme of good versus evil as those who serve the Creator fight to free those enslaved by the evil dragon forces.
Christian Library Journal

* A Throne Of Bones by Vox Day

    I enjoyed it immensely. Vox Day isn’t the prose stylist George R. R. Martin is, but he’s not bad. On the plus side we have a complicated, complex story with interesting and sympathetic, fully rounded characters. There are few out-and-out villains – everybody is doing what they think right. And unlike Martin’s stories, the fact that someone is virtuous and noble does not guarantee them a painful and ignominious death. In terms of pure story, Vox Day’s book is much more rewarding. And Christianity is treated not only with respect, but as a true part of the cosmos.

But overall this is a very readable book that made me want to keep on reading. It is, in turn, humorous, shocking and exciting. There are beautiful moments, there is clever dialogue, there is deep mystery. It took some level of genius to write it. I recommend you read it.
The Responsible Puppet

    What makes this book both an entertaining and fascinating read is that Vox draws on his rather tremendous depth of knowledge and literary theory to create a world that is quite imaginative and “realistic,” which is in turn populated with characters that are interesting, sympathetic, and multi-dimensional.
    Allusions of Grandeur

* Mortal by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

The duo of Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee have pooled their talents once again to build a story world reminiscent of another Dekker hit, The Circle. Dekker’s zealous and sometimes nearing maniacal emphasis on the themes of darkness and light is evident in full force and Lee’s power of prose paints word pictures to be remembered (emphasis in the original).
t.e. George

    The world Dekker and Lee created when they wrote this series is compelling and symbolic in a number of ways. I found myself pondering the redemptive meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and the use of His blood for our atonement in a deeper way because of this book. I also saw in the story how deception hardens the heart and at the same time how intense and overwhelming our Savior’s love is for mankind despite our many flaws.
    Michelle’s book review blog

What I love about Dekker’s and Lee’s books is not that they are gripping and intense reading, although they are, nor is it the great writing. It’s the fact that I’ve grown in my understanding of myself, and my relationship to my Savior, and others when I finish them. Their books are the best fictional allegories to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the life of being a true follower of Christ that I have ever read.
Reading Reviews

* Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

    My Thoughts: This had to have been my favorite of the [Tales of Goldstone Wood] series so far. I absolutely loved it. The imagery is amazing, the setting so detailed, and the characters are a hilarious. I could barely put this book down for wanting to know what would happen next.
    Like a lot of fans, I absolutely love Sir Eanrin and was so glad to find out that he would be a main character in this story. Usually I don’t like cats, but he is an exception. 🙂
    Backing Books

Here are the things I did in fact enjoy about the book:
1. The world building was excellent, far better than I thought it would have been. I really got the sense of being there right along side of the characters.
2. The story itself. I really enjoyed the plot, mystery, and how the story unfolded with each PART within the book. The book was written in three parts, one in the present day, one the past (part 2), and then once again back to the present where there the story as a whole begins to make complete sense. The ending was beautiful and I dare say I cried a bit. *tissues may be needed*
3. Starflower. She was a real and believable character. I found her to be very kind, and self-sacrificing for the ones she loved. Her jounany [sic] and hardships made her stronger, not bitter.
Bittersweet Enchantment

    the story is not driven by action. Instead, it delves into character–not simply the beings, whether mortal or Faerie, but the very lands in which they dwell, as well. One could practically smell the lushness of the jungle-type atmosphere Starflower grows up in; the Merry Halls of Rudiobus become ingrained in one’s mind. And the fallen city of Etalpalli IS a character–a very wrathful, dangerous creature. The way Stengl wrote the scenes in which the very streets do not stay still…. it gave me shivers.
    And if you’re the type of reader who wants action in a novel, well, it’s definitely here. Whether it’s facing demonic wolves, running from a giant hound, or leaping off bridges, there is something there for everyone. But the action is not the sort that precedes and overwhelms the substance. Starflower is a novel to be savoured for the layers it weaves.
    The Other World

* Prophet by R. J. Larson

Its YA tone will likely make Prophet most engaging to teen readers, but all ages will be able to relate to the spiritual themes. As a historical fantasy, this has the potential to engage a wider range of readers, especially those with an interest in Biblical history. And if you’re looking for something unique in the Christian fantasy market, you may want to give this a try.
Sarah Sawyer

    Truly, the “Infinite” of Ela of Parne is the Lord I love and serve as well. I found some of the parallels and words of wisdom presented in a way that touched my spirit and really spoke to my heart.
    I thought this story was well thought out, believable and yet still held that fantasy element to it that drew me in. I can’t wait to pick up book two [of the Books of the Infinite series]!
    A Simply Enchanted Life

R. J. Larson brings the biblical stories to the present and makes it easy for a younger reader to relate to. The author has an excellent use of concise prose, and draws the reader in with her multifaceted characters. The cover is beautiful, and the story of a young girl who deals with her unworthiness of being called as a prophet is believable and not overdone. Personally, I loved this book and will be reading the rest of the series as they are released.
Readers’ Realm

Don’t forget, voting ends on Sunday at midnight (Pacific time).

Cross posted at CSA.

Since You’re Already Buying A Present …

No surprise — families buy each other Christmas presents. And often neighbors do too, and friends, and sometimes even co-workers. Since a present is in the works already, why not make it a book! And if you’re buying a book, why not make it a fantasy?

Happily, you have a one-stop source where you can find books you might like to give as Christmas gifts. I’m referring to the Speculative Faith Library (which might better be named, the Spec Faith Book Browser, since we aren’t actually able to lend books out).

The cool thing about the Spec Faith Library is that you can find the newest releases listed first on the Home page, or you can sort the books by the age of the person you would like to gift, or you can search for a book by a specific author by going to the author index or you can click on a tag and find other books tagged with the same term (for example, if you’re looking for fantasies, locate a book such as C. S. Lakin’s The Land of Darkness, and click on the word “fantasy” in the tags box. That link will take you to a page of books in the library with the same tag).

Not yet in the library is the new release by Wayne Thomas Batson that came out just last week: The Errant King, Book 2 of The Dark Sea Annals series (AMG Publishing). I might also mention that Sir Batson has started another one of his crazy fantabulous contests, known as the Seek The Stars Contest. 😉 Here’s the description:

The Seek the Stars Contest is an opportunity for my readers to have EPIC fun, exercising their God-given talents to form communities of readers and spread the word about books they know and love.

To learn more, check out Sir Batson’s informative blog where you can find all the guidelines and prizes.

Bryan Davis also has a fairly new book out, though I have to admit to my confusion about his similarly named series — one released by Zondervan and for young adults, the other put out by AMG and designated for adults. Here are the books as listed on his web site:

    Tales of Starlight
    Masters & Slayers
    Third Starlighter
    Dragons of Starlight

The newest is Third Starlighter, which sounds like one part science fantasy and one part Christian horror:

In this second book of the Tales of Starlight series, Adrian Masters journeys into the wilderness of the dragon planet of Starlight in search of his brother Frederick. Carrying the comatose body of Marcelle, he has to find medical help for her, but the slave master dragons will kill him on sight if he comes out of hiding.

Adrian believes Frederick has set up a wilderness refuge for escaped slaves, so he hopes to join Frederick and devise a plan to rescue the humans enslaved on Starlight. Since Adrian cannot leave Marcelle alone, her nearly lifeless body becomes an anchor, both physically and emotionally, as he has to decide to care for her or attempt to rescue the slaves.

Adrian has no idea that Marcelle’s spirit has left her body and has traveled to their home planet in search of military help to rescue the slaves. She is able to materialize there in a temporary body that looks corpselike and feels icy cold. Because of her appearance, Governor Orion persecutes her as a sorceress and sentences her to burn at the stake.

If I were to give my suggestions of books I haven’t read yet (with links to their Spec Faith library post), I’d have to include
Matt Mikalatos’s Night of the Living Dead Christian
Athol Dickson’s The Opposite of Art
R. J. Anderson’s Ultraviolet
Austin Boyd’s Nobody’s Child
Ross Lawhead’s The Realm’s Thereunder

For books I have read, I suggest you take a look at my most recent reviews.

Happy book buying for those readers on your Christmas list. 😀

To Lie Or Not To Lie

Bryan Davis asked an interesting question on his Facebook page yesterday: when, if ever, is it OK to tell a lie? Actually, he was asking in relationship to a character in a story, and the specific instance was in regard to saving a life.

Back in April I explored a more broad form of this question in a post discussing Lost Mission by Athol Dickson. But from time to time I’ve thought specifically about the issue of lying, primarily because some of the heroes of the Bible told lies.

Here, then, is what I wrote about the issue yesterday (with just a little editing 😉 ). In part I was responding to earlier comments that pointed to the idea that if God blessed the person, it was verification that their lying was justified.

    Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife—twice, and it is clear in the second incident that the king who suffered for it thought it was wrong.

    [Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” Gen. 20:9]

    Yet God blessed Abraham.

    Jacob deceived Isaac, yet God still gave him His covenant promise. Clearly, Esau thought Jacob was wrong, and even Jacob thought he was wrong—first when he was afraid he’d be caught, then twenty years later when he went home and anticipated facing his brother.

    My point is, I don’t think blessing from God is evidence that the lies were OK. I think they were sinful and God forgave them.

    But what about in the instance of saving a life? Abraham thought his lie was justified because he believed he was saving a life—his own. But what about saving someone else’s life?

    When David went on the run from Saul, he lied to the priest about being on a mission for the king (see I Sam. 21:1-10; I Sam 22:11-19). The consequence was that the priest and all those serving with him were killed—over seventy of them, if I remember correctly [actually eighty-five]. Yet Jesus used the incident as an example of “law breaking” that was OK—a layman eating the Bread of the Presence which was against the Mosaic Law (Matt. 12:1-5). Jesus gave no commentary about the lie David told.

    Yet Jesus says that Satan is a liar and the father of lies.

    I’m leaning toward this idea: My heart is the issue.

    If I don’t want to lie because I want to preserve my own righteousness, I think I’m like the priest and the Levite in Jesus’s parable who wanted to keep themselves clean, so avoided the man who’d been mugged. [Or like the Pharisees who wanted to remain clean so they could celebrate the Passover and therefore wouldn’t go into the Praetorium to speak with Pilate when they wanted to ask him to crucify Jesus (John 18:28).]

    If, on the other hand, I don’t want to lie because I want to please God, I think He can work no matter what.

    I guess that sounds quite relativistic. Let me be clear. I think lying is sin. Period. I think God can forgive it and work in the same way He worked when Joseph’s brothers meant him evil—God meant their actions for good.

    A person may lie for a good cause, rather than trusting
    God to work in the situation. The lie is still a sin, but God can use it for His purpose. The story of David mentioned above illustrates this. [Even as it illustrates that lies have consequences.]

So what do you think? My comments came at the end of the discussion. Because Bryan had to get back to work, he brought the responses to an end, so I never got much feedback and would love to hear how others view lying for a good cause (especially to preserve life).

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 4:53 pm  Comments (16)  
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Fantasy Friday – Speculative Faith

Some of you who have been visiting here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction for a while know about the team blog Speculative Faith—a site set up by Stuart Stockton to discuss speculative fiction from the perspective of our Christian faith.

A number of writers participated. For a time Karen Hancock wrote regularly. Bryan Davis did a short series. We had interviews with editors like Nick Harrison (Harvest House) and with writers like Robert Liparulo. We did reviews and had lengthy discussions about books and movies alike. In short, it was a wonderful success.

But gradually, one writer after the other began to pull back. We were a loose organization and no one filled those gaps or took the lead to insure that each day had content.

I was the last of the regulars, and then my computer crashed. When I was back up and running, I had so many things to catch up on, and Spec Faith was low on the priority list. Then the spam set in. When our core group still wanting to see Spec Faith work took a look at the site, the clean-up alone seemed daunting.

In the end, we agreed to start afresh at WordPress. This time Stephen Burnett took the lead and began transferring posts and designing the new site. We began posting a couple weeks ago, with Stephen doing most of the writing. The next step was to secure regular writers, but we also wanted to include a good selection of guests.

I’m happy to report that the schedule is coming together. I’ll once again be writing on Mondays. Stuart will post on Tuesdays. New to the team is Rachel Starr Thomson, writing on Wednesdays (though she may share the slot—this detail is still being worked out). Then Steven will post on Thursdays. Fridays are the designated Guest Blogger Days.

We have invitations (and some acceptances) out to a number of writers. It should be an exciting lineup. All this to say, you are hereby invited to stop on over at Speculative Faith (affectionately known as Spec Faith 😉 ) and join in the discussions. We also are on Facebook and Twitter, so we’d love to have you follow us or friend us on those sites as well.

CSFF Blog Tour – Starlighter by Bryan Davis, Day 3

One of the fun things about blog tours is the chance to learn more about the author through interviews. We’ve enjoyed a couple this week in our tour of Starlighter by Bryan Davis. For a quick, six-question interview, stop by Fantasy & Faith with Dona Watson. For a longer edition (only eight questions, but Bryan’s answers are more in depth), visit Inklings Blog with Rachel Starr Thomson. Jill Williamson also interviewed Bryan for her day two post—interesting set of questions.

Something else I think important to mention during this tour. Bryan has a short companion adult series coming out with Living Ink (AMG) called Tales of Starlight. The first book, Masters & Slayers, releases September 14. If you’d like to learn more, check out what Nicole, an early reviewer (and not part of the blog tour) has to say about this part of the Starlight story.

And now my review of Starlighter.

The Story. Two planets in the same system share something that could have been wonderful—a portal allowing inhabitants to step from one to the other. However, one group, the dragons of Starlight, used the portal for their own purposes. Some time in the past, they kidnapped children from Darksphere and enslaved them.

When one of these Lost Ones escaped and returned to his world, no one believed his story. To protect the rest of his people, he devised a way to lock the portal.

As years passed, people came to believe the story of the Lost Ones was nothing but a myth. Meanwhile, the dragons of Starlight told their captives a different story about their origins. However, the humans had an oral tradition telling of the portal and the enslavement. But who believed in “old wives’ tales” any more?

On Darksphere, a boy named Jason and on Starlight a girl named Koren both desire something better for the Lost Ones. Jason comes to believe the story of the hidden portal and sets out to find it. When he does, his path and Koren’s intersect, and the real conflicts begin.

Strengths. One critiquer commented that this story is clearly a Bryan Davis novel. In other words, Bryan’s voice is strong, and his stamp is all over this story, from plot to themes to characters.

The central figures, Jason and Koren, are heroic, sacrificial, noble, altruistic. (For an excellent commentary about creating such characters for young people to emulate today, see Fred Warren‘s day 3 post.)

The plot moves at a rapid rate. Dangers on the left, dangers on the right, and difficult decisions to make at every turn. Without a doubt, this plot will keep Bryan Davis fans holding on or holding their breath.

The themes develop from the character qualities of the protagonists. They are not exclusively Christian but mirror biblical attributes Christians are called to live out.

Weakness. I notice things in fiction now that I am a writer that I would not have noticed earlier, at least not consciously. And as it turns out, the area I’m considering a weakness is a direct result of a decision Bryan has made in his writing process. As a self-styled computer geek, Bryan undoubtedly has an organized mind, but instead of outlining his plots, he utilizes the “seat-of-the-pants” method of writing fiction.

The method itself is not a weakness, but I think it leads to one—a lack of foreshadowing. Because Bryan doesn’t know ahead of time what will happen, he doesn’t tip off readers. This can work against believability, but it can also dampen reader reaction.

* * * SPOILER ALERT – Of necessity, some discussion of plot points ahead * * *

For example, when a group of slaves are trapped in a small cluster of mining tunnels, the dragons release a swarm of particularly deadly bees. It’s a tense moment, but I suggest it could have been rendered more so if the bees had been foreshadowed. As it is, readers understand the danger but don’t feel it. We could have been worried about the bees for chapters. (Not the bees! Anything but the bees! NO! They’re NOT releasing the BEES! Woe, oh woe! How will they ever escape the deadly, deadly BEES?)

I doubt if one out of a hundred Bryan Davis fans notice something that is not there. But I suspect the power of foreshadowing would have vaulted the tension so much higher that readers wouldn’t be able to stop talking about the story.

Recommendation. I highly recommend Starlighter for all Bryan Davis fans. It’s sure to move to the top of many a favorites list.

Be sure to see how my review stacks up with others posting on the tour (see participants’ list at the end of Monday’s article).

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.

CSFF Blog Tour – Starlighter by Bryan Davis, Day 2

Time, time, there’s not enough time to read all the interesting things CSFF bloggers are saying about Starlighter, Bryan Davis‘s recent release, the first in the Dragons of Starlight series (Zondervan). There are a couple posts, however, you won’t want to miss.

For a wonderful, detailed account of the story, see Jeff Chapman‘s day two post. Also in day two, Fred Warren took a look at how the Starlight dragons compare to others in the dragon tradition. For discussion about the mixture of science fiction and fantasy that seemed to snag some readers, see John Otte‘s day two post.

Me, I’ve been thinking about betrayal.

* * * SPOILER ALERT – Of necessity, some discussion of plot points ahead * * *

On both worlds featured in Starlighter, Starlight and Darksphere, the leaders seem to be corrupt. While giving the appearance of doing what is good for their people, they are actually trying to achieve some particular personal goals.

At this point in the series, the goals are not clear, but my supposition is that rulers on one planet wish for power and those on the other, for wealth. Whatever the reason, they are willing to do unspeakable things to achieve their ends—enslave a group of people by breaking the wills of children, selling children into slavery and lying about it, working against those who would rescue the lost.

How did such greedy or power-hungry people (or dragons) come to positions of prominence? So far the story doesn’t really go there (nor do I think it necessarily needs to), but on one planet intrigue and deception, suppression and assassination seem to rule. On the other, the pretense of following the law is in place, but this is for appearances only. Lies and manipulation and treachery and rebellion are strong undercurrents running through the power structure.

A few observations.

  • Betrayal makes for intriguing plot elements. Thinking of Starlighter in particular, I soon found myself questioning who was on the side of right and who the protagonists could actually trust.
  • Betrayal is something endemic to human nature, so we can all understand it, we can all abhor it. Consequently, characters in dark circumstances because of betrayal, or a misuse of power, are immediately sympathetic.
  • Abuse of power might be a defining element for a villain. Writing instructors often point out that an antagonist isn’t necessarily a villain. He may simply be someone who wants the same thing that the protagonist does. He isn’t evil, but in his efforts to fulfill his desires, he comes into direct conflict with the protagonist. The villain, however, has something else besides a strong desire. He has selfish motives. And he has power which he uses to achieve his personal agenda—which also comes into conflict with the hero’s goals.

I could go on. Lots to consider in thinking about corrupt leadership. But for other insights, discussions, reviews, and interviews, see what the other tour participants are posting (links to specific posts listed at the end of yesterday’s post).

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour – Starlighter by Bryan Davis, Day 1

I love introducing new Christian fantasy/science fiction, and especially the first in a series. It seems to me, the best time for a reader to start in is at the start. 😀 Ironic that I seem to be a late-to-the-party reader.

One of the trilogies that captured my imagination was Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. In those days, books came out in hardback, then months later (perhaps as long as a year later) the paperback released. I missed the hardback and only bought the paperback at the insistence of a friend. That was probably the best I’ve done at getting in on the ground floor of a literary phenomenon that took hold of the culture.

I missed the Left Behind series completely, was late to Harry Potter (didn’t read any of the books until the first movie came out), ignored the Twilight series intentionally.

All that to say, I’ve learned that the best is to be in the “first wave,” those readers who are the discoverers, the ones who start the buzz. Therefore, I delight in introducing not only new releases but first books of a series.

The CSFF Blog Tour has that opportunity this month as we feature Bryan Davis‘s Starlighter, Book 1 of the Dragons of Starlight (Zondervan).

Having released in March, Starlighter has fans raving about it. Fortunately it’s not too late to join in. For more info, readers might be interested in viewing a book trailer or reading the first chapter. (These are things I’ve learned to look for as I prepared the various introductions to the Clive Staples Award 2010 nominations 😉 ). The genre is young adult Christian fantasy, though the book spans a wide age range. The story can be enjoyed by guys and girls alike.

Of course, the best way to decide if a book or a series is for you is to see what other people are saying—which is pretty much why we have a blog tour in the first place. Here are the other CSFF members who will be discussing Starlighter in the next three days. Let’s do a little Amazon-style rating—leave a comment to let us know which posts you thought were especially helpful.

Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 10:02 am  Comments (9)  
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Fresh Fiction Writing Refreshed

Yesterday, the heart of my post about writing fresh fiction was this: A fresh story is a familiar one told in a new way. Or a different story told in a familiar way.

While I think those statements are true, I don’t think they are particularly helpful to a writer who is trying to figure out out to tell a familiar story so that it comes across as something new and interesting.

I think of King Arthur stories, since there are so many of them. It seems next to impossible to tell the tale in a new way, and yet Bryan Davis did in his Dragons in Our Midst series of YA fantasies (AMG Publishing).

Part of his stories, but not all, were flashback scenes of King Arthur and good prophet Merlin saving the dragons from dragon hunters by turning them into people. Reviewers often said their favorite parts of the books were these Arthurian legend scenes.

Obviously Bryan told the familiar in a new way. But how? For one, he linked Arthur with dragons, something I don’t think is part of the traditional legend. He also made dragons in need of saving and gave Arthur a pivotal role in doing so. In other words, Bryan’s fresh take enhanced the existent story and built upon the character’s strengths.

Stephen Lawhead also re-imaged a familiar story in his King Raven series (Thomas Nelson)—Robin Hood. He changed the legendary setting from England to Wales, then in the final book of the trilogy gave a credible explanation how the English adopted the story based on a “real” Welsh hero.

A third example of a fresh take on a familiar legend is the movie Ever After, the story of Cinderella, told as if by an aging relative who passed the true story along to the Brothers Grimm. In this “real” version, Cinderella is anything but a helpless woman, though she is mistreated by her step-mother and one step-sister (the other turns out to be of some help later in the story, though she doesn’t stand up to those who are abusive).

The magic elements of the story are changed into real events/people, with only a perception of the fantastic. Another twist is that the prince, when he learns who Cinderella actually is, feels betrayed by her and is unwilling to marry beneath his station. Later he comes to his senses, rushes to save her from a brute who has bargained with her step-mother to marry her, but finds she has already freed herself from the man’s evil clutches.

These three examples do not hide their source but make a concerted effort to alter the story in some significant way: Davis by incorporating dragons in the Arthurian legend, Lawhead by changing the setting of Robin Hood, and Ever After by explaining away the magic of Cinderella and adjusting the plot accordingly.

Making full use of myth and legend while altering the source in some significant way is just one method of telling the old in a new way. But I’ll save any further discussion of fresh fiction for another day.

Fantasy Friday – You Might Like to Know …

Lots going on in the world of fantasy.

First, Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper are running a couple interesting promotional events in preparation for the release of their co-authored book, Curse of the Spider King, book 1 of their series The Berinfell Prophecies (Thomas Nelson).

First is a campaign to blitz Amazon on October 7 with pre-orders. This is particularly aimed at readers who are already planning to purchase the book, but I suspect new readers will also be welcome. 😉

Before this first, they launched a forum to discuss the books in this new series — The Underground.

More recently they revealed a huge, giganto, fun, exciting contest they’re running to help get the word out about the book. They’re calling it, Build Your Tribe, Begin Your Quest. Sounds cool! 😎 And one of the prizes? A personal book signing party with lots of freebies for the winner!

And finally, they’re holding several extravaganza-type launch events. In Maryland, they’re speaking, signing, and performing at various places on October 16 and 17. In New York, they’ll be doing the same October 30 and 31.

By the way, the CSFF blog tour will be featuring Curse of the Spider King in November. I’m looking forward to reading this YA fantasy.

Speaking of tours and contests, Donita Paul has announced the closing date of her library contest for The Vanishing Sculptor. From her newsletter:

Library Contest
The library contest finally has an end date:
November 20, 2009

Why November 20? Because it is Mrs. Paul’s birthday, and we think it would be fun to give something away on her birthday. 😀

The Contest Image Gallery is almost complete, but we need more pictures of YOU (and your librarians)!

Remember your camera (or use your camera phone) next time you go to the library and get a picture of you with Mrs. Paul’s books on the shelves. Be creative! We want to see your faces!

NEW CONTEST RULE: You will be entered up to two times for each picture of faces you submit to

If you have already submitted pictures or screenshots–thank you! They have likely been received. Our webmaster is working hard at getting them entered into the gallery, so your patience will soon be rewarded.

What else? There’s a new Christian fantasy forum called Holy Worlds.

Rachel Star Thomson won the September CSFF Top Blogger Award. Congratulations, Rachel!

Marcher Lord Press announced their new line of books/authors with special pricing if you purchase a number together.

Starlighter, first in the Dragons of Starlight series by Bryan Davis (Zondervan), can now be pre-ordered. Here’s the blurb from Bryan’s newsletter:

Jason Masters has heard his older brother Adrian’s tales about dragons kidnapping humans. Supposedly, almost one hundred years ago, a dragon stole away several humans and enslaved them on its own planet. These Lost Ones, as Adrian called them, live terrible lives as cattle. Yet, the Underground Gateway, the portal to the dragon planet, still exists somewhere, and a secret society of the same name has long tried to find it so they can rescue the Lost Ones.

When Adrian leaves to find the portal, Jason takes his place as the Governor’s bodyguard. Although the government has tried to cover up the evidence, he learns that the legends are true, and after being accused of murder and learning that Adrian’s life is in danger, he has to conduct his own search for the portal, a journey filled with danger and intrigue.

Aided by a gifted young lady named Elyssa and an eccentric escapee from the dungeon named Tibalt, Jason ventures into the wilderness to locate Adrian and the Lost Ones. Yet, what he finds on the dragon planet proves to the biggest surprise of all. Koren, a lonely slave girl, is a powerful being called a Starlighter, the slaves’ only hope for survival and rescue, though most refuse to believe that their ancestors ever came from another planet.

D. Barkley Briggs, author of The Book of Names, announced good news about his second (and, sadly, orphaned) book (NavPress is no longer publishing fiction):

UPDATE: I am securing all rights back from Navpress as we speak. Once the paper work is finalized, I hope to locate another publisher soon. How soon? Don’t know, but I’ve had a couple of random inquiries with no real effort on my part, so I’m hopeful. Please be patient. My personal schedule is tied up until at least the first of October. The good news in all of this is that Books 1-3 are complete! They just need a home.

I suspect there is more news in fantasy, but that should do it for today.

What I’m Reading

I don’t know what got into me, but I’ve gone book crazy. I’d already pulled Bryan Davis’s second book in the Echoes from the Edge series, Eternity’s Edge, off the shelf at my church library. Then I made a stop at my local Christian bookstore.

I went because I wanted to do a little research connected to a book idea I have—a non-fiction project. But then I went and bought five books. Five! True, some I’m giving away, but still.

One was Stepping into Sunlight (Bethany) by Sharon Hinck. Somehow or other I must have gotten bumped off the reviewer list for Sharon’s books. I keep hearing great things about this one, and I really like Sharon’s writing, so I just couldn’t resist.

Then I stumbled on Randy Ingermanson’s Premonition (Zondervan). I’m not a particular fan of time travel, but I like Randy’s writing, too, so I decided to take advantage of a discount and picked that one up as well.

But I wasn’t finished. I also saw a book I figured a Christian fantasy writer should have, just to understand the discussion about fantasy among Christians. Until I got online, I had no idea there were believers who thought there was something spiritually wrong with the fantasy genre. Anyway, the book I found is Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings: What you need to know about fantasy books and movies by Richard Abanes (Harvest House). I’ve only dipped into it, but I’ll undoubtedly be reporting back on this one.

What else am I reading? Well our April CSFF Blog Tour book arrived: Blaggard’s Moon by (newly nominated Christy Award author) George Bryan Polivka (Harvest House), so I’ve started that one. Bryan’s writing is so good. He has a wonderful voice for his pirate protagonist and another delightful one for the entertaining storyteller. I have a feeling this upcoming tour will be a good one.

Then Sunday I was at our church library again, and I saw Wayne Thomas Batson’s Isle of Fire. I’ve read the Door Within trilogy and the Isle of Swords, so it just seemed right that I pick up this one too. I’ve liked each of Wayne’s books better than the one before it, so it will be fun to discover what goods this story holds.

Well, there was another one I saw in the library—one I don’t actually want to read, but one I think I should. I’m talking about The Shack. I’ve read so many reviews, commented, discussed, listened to just about everyone I know give their views, and I figured I needed to stop giving a second-hand opinion, and read the book for myself.

I’m also reading about three other non-fiction works—a couple history-of-the-church books and Gracia Burnham’s second book To Fly Again: Surviving the Tailspins of Life Those I nibble at as time allows. Good stuff, but not meant to be devoured.

So what about you? What’s on the top of your to be read pile these days?