CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award


Thirty-four blogs and fifty-nine posts later and the May CSFF Blog Tour for Jill Williamson’s By Darkness Hid (Marcher Lord Press) is finished. What a great time.

I’ve said before how much fun I have on these tours, in part because they are the nearest thing I’ve seen to an on-line book club. A number of us receive copies of the book, most often from the publisher, and then talk about the story and/or the author for three days.

Sometimes the interaction is lively because of the subject matter. This time there wasn’t as much back and forth because for the most part all of us who read the book agreed that it was excellent.

I admit to making an effort to stir up some controversy by tying the book in with the current event issue of illegal immigration, but apparently that didn’t cause much of a stir. The book itself did that.

A number of participants immediately ordered Blood of Kings Book 2, To Darkness Fled, thankful that it had come out last month and was now available. Others begged CSFF to tour the second book (not likely to happen, I’m afraid).

So all that’s left is to vote for the CSFF participant who deserves the May Top Tour Blogger Award. The candidates to choose from are these:

Please vote for the one you think has written the most interesting, creative content. You have until midnight, June 1.

Published in: on May 24, 2010 at 10:56 am  Comments Off on CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award  
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CSFF Blog Tour – By Darkness Hid, Day 3


A year ago CSFF Blog Tour maintained the policy not to feature print on demand books. Our administrative team revisited that position, in large part, because of Jill Williamson’s urging. Happily we changed the policy to include any books published by royalty paying houses. As a result, we’re privileged to spotlight By Darkness Hid (Marcher Lord Press, 2009).

I say “privileged” and I mean it. First, as CSFF member and regular participator Phyllis Wheeler pointed out, this wonderful book is batting 1.000, or nearly so, when it comes to positive reviews and recommendations:

“This tour is unusual: everyone who posted loved the book. Last time that happened, it was Stephen Lawhead who was the author.”

I love when this happens. CSFF aims to feature good books so readers can find them and so publishers can see there’s interest in good speculative fiction. We stress the importance of each blogger saying what they want about the books they review. Consequently, it’s usual to get some of us taking issue with writing or subject matter or entertainment value or worldview. Not so, for the most part, this time around.

The fix is not in. Bloggers are quite specific about what they love—from the characters to the Christian content to the fast pace to the intrigue to the unique world.

Simply put, By Darkness Hid is the kind of book that makes it fun to be on the tour.

But there’s more. It’s a privilege to feature By Darkness Hid because Jill Williamson is such a gracious author. Not to mention that she’s also an active CSFF Blog Tour Member.

First she’s been available for a number of excellent interviews. They’re all good, but I might specifically recommend the two part-er John Otte posted here and here. In addition, Jill has done a wonderful job touring our sites and leaving comments. It’s been a delight to see her interact with so many.

And all this was to be set up for what I actually wanted to talk about. I wanted to follow up a little on the power issue I brought up in my last post.

A group of people seeking power for themselves anchored a key choice with the argument that they acted for the good of the country, regardless that they were going against the law. King Axel, they said, was a weak king because he treated the lowly with kindness. In so doing, he nearly destroyed the nation.

In answer, the king’s brother says, “Do not confuse compassion with neglect … My brother was loved by the people.”

The issue was rule of law vs. a strong, stable government, which the Council said could not take place if compassion for peasants and slaves was the guiding principle.

In some ways, this same conflict seems to be behind today’s illegal immigration debate (something we here in California are attuned to). On one hand is the rule of law, but in contrast to By Darkness Hid the opposition is (apparent) compassion for illegal immigrants.

In the novel, rule of law and compassion were on the same side, making the “it’s good for the country” argument suspect. In the illegal immigration argument, two important values seem to be on opposite sides of the fence. But do they have to be?

Honestly, Christians turning a blind eye to compassion for the sake of Law come across as far from the Grace we see in Scripture. What is it that God says He wants? For us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God.

Can we do all three? I don’t see how, apart from God’s strength and guidance. But depending on Him for wisdom to look at this issue in a different way than the world looks at it might be the very thing that sets Christians apart. We love differently, even those who are “Strays,” or at least we ought to.

CSFF Blog Tour – By Darkness Hid, Day 2


One of the good things about the CSFF Blog Tours that I’ve discovered is the fact that I am more purposeful in my reading. I think about the books we feature because I know I’m going to be interacting with other readers.

In preparation for this month’s tour featuring By Darkness Hid (Marcher Lord Press, 2009), Book One of the Blood of Kings series by Jill Williamson, I ended up rereading the book. Since I knew the plot line already, I found myself freed up to notice other parts and pieces of the story.

Honestly, I’m surprised at how much I missed the first time around. I suspect that’s because By Darkness Hid is a fast-paced story with lots of intrigue. A page-turner. So I read fast—after all, the prose flows nicely as it paints clear pictures of the setting and action. But in so doing, I missed some of the nuances.

One of the things I missed first time around was the explanation of Darkness. The setting of By Darkness Hid is the Kingdom of Er’Rets, a land literally divided in two by a wall of gray mist. On one side was Darkness and on the other Light, in which the sun shone in the day and set at night. (To better understand, check out the header of Jill’s Official Web Site).

All that I understood, but I missed what caused Darkness. When the good and well-loved King Axel and his wife were killed, Darkness set in. In addition, many believe that when the boy prince comes of age and takes the throne, Darkness will be pushed back.

Another thing I completely missed was the reference to the son-god, Câan. In this world there is One True God and many idols. While few people, at least in the duchy in which most of the story occurs, follow the Way, a few do. Others mock by saying such things as “Who would worship a God whose Son could be killed by men?” Clearly the religion of the Blood of Kings series intends to evoke Christianity.

One topic I brushed past but which should engender more thought was the theme of treating others with respect. The socio-political aspect of Er’Rets is a quasi-caste system based on serfdom. People fall into different classes—royalty, nobility, merchants, peasants (servants), and strays (slaves). While some embrace the pecking order, others seem able to ignore it or to rise above it.

The key ingredient is power, and wealth seems to be a by-product. Those in control maintain their position by intimidation and manipulation, or by generating respect and loyalty. The contrast is stark, and it’s evident at every level—among the lower classes as well as among those vying for political power.

Today, in real life, with primary elections looming on the horizon, it’s interesting for me to think about those seeking office in light of these two opposing positions. Which candidates seem to be putting themselves forward through intimidation or manipulation? Which by earning respect and generating loyalty?

Clearly there’s more to say about By Darkness Hid, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.

Just a reminder to stop by the blogs of other tour participants. You can see the list at the end of yesterday’s post. One you won’t want to miss is the terrific interview with Jill at New Authors Fellowship.

CSFF Blog Tour – By Darkness Hid, Day 1


I first became acquainted with Jill Williamson, author of this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature, By Darkness Hid (Marcher Lord Press) a number of years ago, when she and her husband still lived in the Los Angeles area.

A small group of Christian speculative fiction writers got together one Saturday afternoon to talk writerly. We hung out together for hours comparing news and notes about the publishing world we were all still learning about.

One thing led to another, and before I realized it, Jill was probing me about the possibility of an edit. We worked out the details, and a few days later she sent me a hard copy of The Last Recruit, a YA suspense with some minor speculative elements.

I don’t know why I requested a hard copy. Up to that point, and ever since, I’d done all my editing on the computer. In this case, however, I was thankful I had the pages because, for the most part, I settled back and enjoyed a good story. I learned from that moment what a wonderful writer Jill is.

Imagine my surprise, then, when her first book came out two years later with Marcher Lord Press—a completely different story in an entirely different genre. By Darkness Hid is the first book in the adult/YA fantasy series Blood of Kings.

Happily, Jill included me as one of those who received a review copy of her book. I devoured the story and posted my review at Spec Faith.

As I said in my recommendation, By Darkness Hid is my kind of fantasy. It’s a fresh rendering of epic fantasy. Jill has done a great job creating sympathetic characters and lots of tension. The story zipped by.

Because I read the book over a year ago, I decided to skim it before the blog tour. As I read the first couple chapters, I soon found myself as hooked as I had been originally, and rather than skimming, I once again devoured the book whole.

I’ve been happy to discover that By Darkness Hid is receiving recognition by others as well. The review in Library Journal said that readers who enjoy Donita K. Paul and J. R. R. Tolkien will like By Darkness Hid. It’s one thing when a writer says, My story is just like C. S. Lewis or some other famous author. It’s an entirely different matter when a prestigious industry publication puts a work on the same plane as one of the greats.

In addition, By Darkness Hid has been nominated for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction – Readers Choice, the Christy Awards – Visionary Category, and is a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I suspect there are more awards in Jill’s future!

Take a look at what other CSFF members have to say about Jill and By Darkness Hid:

Buzzing Kids’ Books – The Year the Swallows Came Early


Announcements. I have an unusual number of these, so please bear with me. There is actual content below.

First, I participated in an email discussion about Christian speculative fiction, initiated by Mike Duran. He has posted the first part today at Novel Journey. (Warning: the discussion has taken a turn on a statement I made about what CBA’s target audience—women. Evidently my remark was controversial. Well, I hadn’t intended it to be so, but I’m pretty sure the comment I left, is! 😮 )

Second, I posted a review of an upcoming Marcher Lord Press release, By Darkness Hid at Speculative Faith which I hope you’ll take time to read.

And lastly, you’re invited to vote for the CSFF Blog Tour’s February Top Blogger.

– – –

The Children’s Book Blog Tour, of which I am a member, is featuring Kathryn Fitzmaurice‘s debut novel, The Year the Swallows Came Early.

Tomorrow I’ll give a full review of the book, but today I want to think a little bit about what makes a character draw readers in, perhaps even become memorable.

Eleanor Robinson, AKA Groovy, is just such a character. I found she drew me into the story on the first page:

We lived in a perfect stucco house, just off the sparkly Pacific, with a lime tree in the backyard and pink and yellow roses gone wild around a picket fence. But that wasn’t enough to keep my daddy from going to jail the year I turned eleven. I told my best friend, Frankie, that it was hard to tell what something was like on the inside just by looking at the outside. And that our house was like one of those See’s candies with beautiful swirled chocolate on the outside, but sometimes hiding coconut flakes on the inside, all gritty and hard, like undercooked white rice.

So here’s what I learned about Groovy, even before I knew her name. She considered her house perfect. Her father went to jail. She has a best friend who evidently is a boy. She thinks about things more deeply than you’d expect an eleven year old to think and even came to a wise, truthful conclusion. And she doesn’t like coconut.

Only that last part is a negative, as far as I am concerned. That her father went to jail makes me feel sad for her, and curious about why. That she has a boy best friend makes me think she’s not a spoiled-princess type. And that she’s likable enough to have a best friend. The coconut thing, I think she’s just wrong, but I’m willing to let that slide because I know there’s a whole set of people out there who don’t like coconut.

A little further into the story, I learn that Groovy had a special relationship with her father and that her mother loves her. I learn that those two facts seem to be in conflict and maybe in doubt. That she suddenly feels like she doesn’t know one of her parents as she always thought makes her even more sympathetic.

I also learn that she has One Great Desire and a particular talent. Before too long, she comes to realize that others have a similar passion to hers and this changes the way she perceives those of like mind. OK, I’m trying intentionally to be circumspect because I don’t want to give away too much of the story. The point is, Groovy doesn’t have a closed mind.

Eventually she shows that she is also kind, that she appreciates others for their kindness. In other words, she’s aware of others at the character level.

Is she perfect? Not at all. She makes some independent decisions that lead her into a real tailspin, and while it looks for a time as if she might get stuck, she makes another change that is probably the best of all, one that just might make her a memorable character.

I invite you to see what others on the Children’s Book Blog Tour have to say about The Year the Swallows Came Early:

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