CSFF Blog Tour – Venom And Song, Day 3

My turn. I’ve spent a good part of the day reading other blog posts from CSFF tour participants, and now I get to say what I think. One of the cool things about the tour, though, is that as I read what other people are saying, my thoughts crystallize a bit more. And I have to say, they needed some crystallizing.

I recently read (on an agent’s blog, I think, but don’t quote me on that) the best way to evaluate a book is to see if it accomplished what it set out to accomplish. That made sense to me. As a guide, it helps me give an assessment of a book that goes beyond, Well, I liked it (or not)! Which brings me to my review of Venom and Song by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper (Thomas Nelson).

The Story. This second in the Berinfell Prophecies continues the story where Curse of the Spider King ended. The young elven lords, three teenage girls and four teenage boys, newly arrived from earth, must train in the history, culture, fighting techniques, and use of their individual powers. But most importantly, they must learn to work together, which is where their true strength lies.

Clearly, they will need all the strength available to them because the plan is to take the battle to the Spider King. The time is right, the prophecies give every indication that victory is at hand. And yet, there will be a cost.

Strengths. The greatest aspect of this book, I think, is its appeal to the target audience (see yesterday’s post for a more detailed analysis of this point). The authors “get” young teens and late pre-teens. They understand how they think, and the story will resonate with those readers.

There are also important themes woven into the story, the greatest being the need to work in unity as opposed to disharmony (see Monday’s post for further discussion of this point)—the greatest theme, but by no means the only one. The story also shows the need to accept one’s gifts (abilities) and work to grow them for the good of others. There are examples of sacrificial love, submitting to those who are wiser and more experienced or to those in authority, depending on God, and not underestimating someone based on appearance. In fact, the falsity of the outward appearance is a recurrent theme first introduced in Curse of the Spider King.

Beyond these important lessons—all good things for teens to learn—the story is fast paced and unpredictable. There’s not really a point when I felt like I knew for sure what was coming next. About the time I thought I saw which way the story was going, it changed. Not in a random way, however. The surprises were, for the most part, set up well.

The imaginative elements were another strength. There were cool hidden rooms with old parchment and wicked birds that turned out to be good. There were amazing capturing devices and some impressive natural powder used for offense. There were some hideous baddies and a bear of an ally (who reminded me of three-headed Fluffy). Lots and lots more. A room that was booby-trapped. A betrayer that betrayed more than once. You name it—from places to powers, the imaginative elements were impressive.

Weaknesses. I’m pretty sure that what I consider to be weaknesses, the target-age reader won’t even notice. But I tend to think these things might be the difference between Venom and Song being a well-liked book versus a well-loved book.

Others have mentioned the omniscient point of view and the many characters. These two factors keep readers at a distance. This may work for teens. And yet, I would like to see the reader drawn in closer so that when danger comes, when tragedy strikes, there’s an emotional response, not just an adrenaline rush.

In addition, this story felt big and yet it went by so fast, it didn’t go down deep. Some things were introduced that showed great potential, then faded away to insignificance. (I. E. how did the seven lords continue on their way when the gnomes had burned their boots? Were they so toughened by their training that it wasn’t an issue—apart from the initial pain they experience upon waking? That’s a tiny example. I’d rather see the point omitted altogether rather than introduced and go nowhere).

My guess is the writing and editing was fast because of deadlines. Consequently there was an abundance of telling. At times I felt like I was reading a screenplay with the action delivered via exposition rather than carefully sculpted for the reader to experience along with the characters.

There were some bobbles, too, such as Jimmy going down the zip line twice.

But will the readers to whom the story is aimed notice these things? I doubt it very much. If they do, they’ll tuck it away and keep on going because they’ll want to keep up with the break-neck pace.

Recommendation. For “tweeners”—young people between the ages of twelve and fourteen—this is a great story. Some middle graders as young as ten may also enjoy the book, though there is considerable violence, none of which is graphic. Parents should read this with their children, and as Jason Joyner discussed on day one of the tour, perhaps they should read it out loud as a family.

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

CSFF Blog Tour – Venom And Song, Day 2

I may have mentioned that Venom and Song by Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper (Thomas Nelson) is a young adult fantasy, but apparently Amazon has it listed as a middle grade novel. Neither is quite accurate. A better description, though book stores don’t have a section labeled in this way, is a “tweener” book—not middle grade, not young adult.

Since I taught “tweeners” (ages twelve to fourteen) for years, I am somewhat familiar with that audience. In fact, when I first started writing, I wanted to create stories for this group that was, at the time, overlooked. Consequently, I’m happy that Wayne and Christopher, along with a handful of other Christian fantasy writers, have stepped up to meet the challenge.

Here are some reasons why I think the Berinfell Prophecies, of which Venom and Song is book 2, give tweeners what they’re looking for.

Tweener humor. This is slightly different than regular humor. A part of the requisite elements is bodily functions, and Venom and Song provides just the right touch with the little problem the gnome king has. 😳

A distant perspective. Tweeners are self-conscious and consequently not at the “getting in touch with yourself” stage. Above all, they want to feel normal (though most don’t) and fit in. The omniscient perspective in which Venom and Song is written allows for some distance—some non-threatening distance that I think the target audience may prefer.

Fast pace. In response to one reviewer, Wayne used the term “high energy” about his co-author. I think the term fits Venom and Song like a pair of Spandex biker shorts. 😆 From the first page, the story is action oriented. Danger, intrigue, and betrayal alternate with near-death experiences. Nothing slow or meandering about this one.

Tweener themes. The story has well-crafted themes that tweeners won’t miss but also won’t reject because of a strong-handed delivery. I suspect instead, many will see themselves in at least one of the characters—the unloved son, the bully who lashes out because of his anger, the pushed-to-perform daughter, the girl who doesn’t fit in, the nerd, the jock, the perfect student.

Each of these true-to-life personas was established in book 1 of the series, Curse of the Spider King. Now in book 2, the characters find the assumptions upon which they constructed their paradigm for living no longer hold true. In fact, maybe they never did.

Was Kat ever ugly because she was different? She thought so, but now she finds it isn’t true. Was it ever true? Was Kiri Lee’s worth only in the applause she received for her performance? Was Jimmy’s life ever worthless because he didn’t receive the love at home he so desperately craved? On and on the story takes the teens who will identify with these types of struggles and questions.

I suspect there are factors I’m leaving out, but I’m quite confident the elements I’ve named make this a very appealing book to tweeners.

Lots of buzz on the CSFF tour about the book. You won’t want to miss the excellent interview Amy Browning has with Wayne or John Otte‘s confession leading to an analysis of Christian fiction. Jason Joyner has some heartfelt words about reading the book aloud to his sons, and Jeff Chapman once again has some worthwhile analysis of the book.

These are just a few of the highlights. Any number of reviews are available, and it’s through the accumulation of comments, I think, that you can get a real feel for how readers are receiving this book.

Take time to check out the check marks in the list at the end of yesterday’s post. Each one is a link to a specific tour article.

CSFF Blog Tour – Venom And Song, Day 1

This week the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour is featuring Venom and Song by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper.

Unfortunately, I’ve been late on this one—late and hasty. So here are my errors. After telling co-author Christopher that I would correct the errant link to his blog, I forgot, so most of the tour participants are posting an old link (there’s no /blog after the .com).

I also sent out the notices to our members late in the week, so some didn’t notify me in time to have their links included on everyone’s list. Then there is our month-old member Sarah whose link I mangled last month … and failed to correct on the list I sent out. 😳

Confession, they say, is good for the soul, and I’m hoping it’s good for the CSFF blog tour so visitors interested in learning what bloggers are saying about Venom and Song can find what they’re looking for.

As per my usual pattern, I’ll be discussing aspects of the book or its content today and tomorrow, then give my review on Wednesday.

The most striking theme, to me, in this YA fantasy is unity in diversity.

This second installment in the Berinfell Prophecies features seven main characters. Seven. Seven different teens. One is a jock, another a musician. There’s a bully and a kid who never succeeded in anything. You get the drift. Each is unique.

Upon reaching their teen years, however, each develops an equally unique magical gift. But as they discover their place in the fantasy world to which they go, these seven teens learn they must work together to accomplish what they need to do.

It’s a wonderful point, one made clear through the plot elements. I couldn’t help but think a lot of adults need to read a book such as this to learn about working together rather than pulling apart.

God gave Christ’s followers very specific commands—love our neighbor, love our brother, love our enemy, to “malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

Here’s the contrast:

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

– Titus 3:9-11

Somehow, no matter how clear the Bible is, this point doesn’t seem to get home. A handful of professing believers assume the mantel of purity police. I read a post today (not from anyone in CSFF, I assure you) who began by decrying the evils of Narnia and C. S. Lewis as a heretic.

Certainly, while I believe readers must be discerning, must think about and evaluate the books we read, there’s a point of foolishness and a way of speaking about others that becomes divisive.

May the Berinfell Prophecies teach young adults and adults alike that being different doesn’t have to mean being divisive.

See what others on the tour are saying about Venom and Song:

Fantasy Friday – Bits and Pieces

I decided it would make sense to let readers know a little more about the Clive Staples Award nominations. After all, of the nineteen books, I’ve only read nine so far, and I consider myself knowledgeable of the genre. Not as knowledgeable as prolific readers and reviewers like Phyllis Wheeler or John Otte, but still, more so than the average person. And I haven’t yet read half the selections! 😕

The upshot is, I’ve begun posting a series over at the CSACSF site introducing the nominated books. I suggest you subscribe to CSACSF so that you’ll be sure to receive each of the posts.

And speaking of awards, Amy of My Friend Amy’s blog and a group of her blogger buddies have started a new award for excellent faith-driven lit. The cool thing is, there’s a Speculative category. And nominations come from bloggers.

The only thing I’m not crazy about is the fact that the books that are eligible span the last half of 2009 and the first of 2010. I’ll have to go on Amazon and track down publication dates before I can nominate, but I definitely plan to do so.

By the way, the organizers are looking for judges (not just in the Speculative category) so if any of you are interested, be sure to click on the above link and you’ll find instructions in the post.

If like me, you missed the live feed of the Christy Awards, you can still see them. Also, Jill Williamson now has the Christy Award Winner decal affixed to her cover. You can also see Marcher Lord Press editor Jeff Gerke’s very home video of the moment when By Darkness Hid was announced as the winning entry. 😀 (You think he was a mite excited?)

There are some excellent books coming out this summer or fall. If you haven’t heard yet, CSFF member, crit group leader, Mount Hermon Writer of the Year winner, and friend, Merrie Destefano is prepping for the October release of her debut novel Afterlife (HarperCollins/Eos). Take a moment to view the intriguing trailer.

Writer friends and CSFF members Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper had the second of the Berinfell Prophecies, Venom and Song, release a little over a week ago. I missed the ordering blitz this time, but I’m sure it’s quite fine to still get a copy. 😉

Jonathan Rogers of The Wilderking Trilogy fame will be releasing The Charlatan’s Boy (WaterBrook) in August.

I know there are more, but I need to save those for another day. Besides, I think this gives you enough info to check out, even on a long holiday weekend.

Happy Fourth of July, US’ers.

CSFF Blog Tour – Curse of the Spider King, Day 3

Review, Part 2 of Curse of the Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper.

More Strengths. I wanted to mention a couple other things I really enjoyed about this book—primarily things important to writers and less so to readers.

First, I thought Wayne and Christopher created an incredible mood through their writing, evoking tangible creepiness, even fear. Some of this was accomplished by creating such diabolical creatures as Wisps, so that even “friends” couldn’t be trusted completely.

Another means of creating this mood was through brilliant foreshadowing. How many times did a character nonchalantly brush aside a spider web or did a window crack spider-web across the pane? How could a reader not anticipate the presence of creeping evil, given such hints and suggestions?

A second thing I really liked was the hand-copied history book that showed scenes to a select few, as if the readers were actually there. I thought this device was a brilliant way to insert flashbacks. It gave a feel of mystery and magic, made the backstory interesting, even exciting, and promised more of the same as the story moved the protagonists toward the fantasy world.

Weaknesses. There aren’t many, in my opinion, and the ones I noticed were again something another writer might think about but would probably not stand out to the average reader.

The first problem—and it was a problem for me at first—was the host of characters. One of my pet peeves is books that have so many point-of-view characters, the reader has no one to root for. I was feeling similarly peevish at the beginning of Curse until I realized what tied all the young people together. From that point on, I cheered for the group—or actually for any particular individual who was a member of that group.

Still, I easily mixed the characters up. I did not wish to slow my reading at the beginning of a point of view switch to consult the chart at the beginning of the book that tells who everyone is. Within a page or two I was back into the new character’s world … until the characters came together. Then my confusion was more noticeable and costly.

This “many characters” mix-up was exacerbated by the fact that a number of the names were similar—Tommy and Johnny and Jimmy and Jett, Kat and Kiri Lee. Autumn was the only one with a name that easily identified her.

A second weakness, from my perspective, was the first chapter, which was actually a prologue. The action occurs in the fantasy world, but the authors missed a chance to anchor the readers by clearly revealing the elfin connection. Here’s the opening:

Concealed in a grove of alder trees, two cloaked figures waited, their whispered voices lost in the soft rustle of wind-stirred leaves.

“Commander. I had forgotten how brilliant the moon is.”

“I know, Brynn,” the burly warrior replied, absently rubbing a whitish furrow on his cheek, one of many scars on his face and neck. “Since we are allowed only rare views … I, too, drink it in.” He sighed.

“How many hundreds of years since we could gaze our fill?”

Clearly this scene is occurring in the fantasy world, but why hide the fact that these are elves? That point, along with the fact that I only learned two paragraphs later Brynn was female, and that the whole conversation smacked of a “As you know, Bob” exchange for the sake of the readers, not the characters, made this opening irritating.

I didn’t know these people, didn’t understand what they were doing or why, didn’t believe the story was about them because chapter two created a completely different world, so I felt those opening pages were superfluous. Actually, I still think so. At any rate, I didn’t retain anything in those first pages. For me, the story started with chapter 2.

Recommendation. There were a couple other writerly things like the last point, but from the moment I accepted the seven protagonists as a collective, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It was fast paced without feeling reckless. The characters were well-developed and interesting. I felt for each one of them, in different ways.

For young adult readers who enjoy fantasy, this is a Must Read. For other fantasy lovers, I highly recommend Curse of the Spider King. For readers who want a good adventure story, I highly recommend this book as well. In other words, you’ll be richer for having read the book.

Don’t forget to take a look at what other blog participants are saying. John Otte has some divergents view from mine, so you might want to see what he’s saying.

CSFF Tour – Curse of the Spider King, Day 2

Today I’m posting Part 1 of a review of the CSFF Blog Tour’s November feature, Curse of the Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. Often times I will take a day to highlight the author(s), but Wayne and Christopher are hardly strangers to CSFF. Both are members and have participated from time to time—Wayne, most recently in the September tour for Donita Paul’s book The Vanishing Sculptor. In addition, I interviewed Christopher for the Fantasy Fiction West Coast Tour a couple years ago.

Speaking of interviews, James Somers posted his exchange with Wayne (and a very cool sword fighting picture) as part of the tour while Ryan Heart has an interview with BOTH authors. Donita Paul even posted an interview of Wayne interviewing himself! 😉

But on to the review.

The Story. Curse of the Spider King is an ambitious tale featuring not one, not two, but seven principle characters—apparently “average” twelve year olds. Except they’re not.

Each of them has a number of things in common, the most important being that a stalker intrudes in their otherwise ordinary lives. Well, “ordinary” doesn’t describe them quite right because another thing these pre-teens have in common is that they are beginning to develop skills, abilities, talent they didn’t have before.

Some also encounter a kind, bookish adult who befriends them and gives them a leatherbound tome entitled The History of Berinfell. Amazingly, the book, under certain conditions, has the ability to create a visual representation of the scenes it narrates.

As the stalkers (yes, there is more than one) close in, the young people each learn that more is at stake than their own lives. They must make a decision that will affect them for all time, for good or for ill, and they must do so for the sake of others—some in a world they do not know, some they care about and love.

Strengths. The characters! I was absolutely stunned by how real these characters felt. I taught seventh and eighth graders for years, and I felt as if in the pages of this book, I was meeting some of my students.

Not only did they come across as believable and authentic, they seemed unique from each other. One was musically gifted, another an athlete. One was picked on and a bit of a nerd, while another was a bully. One came from a close, loving family, and another felt as if he’d been abandoned because his parents favored his younger brother. Each of the stories was well developed, interesting, true to life, and unlike any of the others. These kids came alive on the page.

The story is also a strength. Not only were each of the kids different from each other, the things that happened to them, while similar in some instances, were not predictably repetitious. Consequently, I found myself on the edge of my seat more often than not.

The action kept me engaged and the characters made me care—a great combination in a book.

I’ll have more to say tomorrow, but I hope you reserve some time this week to see what others participating in the CSFF Tour have to say (by the way, there’s a second tour underway this week as well, this one hosted by Mama Buzz).

Also, check out The Berinfell Prophecies Web site for more information about the book, forums, contest, and authors.

CSFF Blog Tour – Curse

The title of this post sounds dramatic, which is fitting for the book the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring this month – Curse of the Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper, first in the Berinfell Prophecies. For a variety of reasons, I’d like to skip the preliminaries and get right to the review of the book, but I’ll restrain myself.

Rather, let me mention The Biggest Contest in the History of Men and Elves. The prize is truly one of a kind, and the contest itself promises to be a fun ride, though I recommend it most for younger young adults.

The actual name of the contest is “Tribe Building Quest: An adventure based on Curse of the Spider King.” The goal is to build tribes of twenty-one people or more.

For someone looking to be a part of an existing tribe, there’s information in the Underground – a discussion forum connected with the Berinfell Prophecies.

The other option, of course, is to start your own tribe. By the way, the larger the tribe, the better the chance of winning.

After a tribe has been formed and a name chosen, then there needs to be a home (such as a Facebook page) and a leader (someone with Internet access – and communication skills, it would seem 😀 ).

Each tribe member then earns points by doing such things as joining the Underground, posting about one of Christopher or Wayne’s books, mentioning them on Facebook or Twitter, even doing homework well without being told (note from parent required to verify this. 😉 )

I don’t know about anyone else, but the whole thing makes me wish I was back in junior high. What fun. What a great chance to interact with others who also love fantasy. What an excellent way to reach readers in the target age group.

But there’s more to the adventure—a clue at the end of Curse of the Spider King that can lead to solving the Alternate Reality Game, videos, store visits, and of course book buying.

Sound enticing? Just think of all the points a tribe could tally by participating in the blog tour!

See what other participating bloggers are discussing. Oh, before you do, have you voted yet for Readers’ Choice Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction? You have until November 30.

Fantasy Friday – Updates

Last call for nominations for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction. You may still leave a nomination here or at the Award site. Remember, the actual award will be a Reader’s Choice, so please tell your friends to be ready to vote!

Wayne Thomas Batson reported that the Amazon blitz for The Curse of the Spider King went very well. No, it didn’t break into the top 25, which would have been exceptional, but moving up over 70,000 places ain’t so bad! 😉

Even now it is ranked under 6,000. A lot of books never reach that far up the best selling ranks on their best days! The current ranking means it is #3 in Christian tweener books, #7 in Christian science fiction/fantasy. And the book hasn’t released yet! 😮

Next up are the launch events. I’ve recently heard about the importance of having local success as a way to attract wider notice, and I think these speaking engagements and book signings are designed to garner media attention. I’m still waiting to hear about a potential exciting opportunity that will put Wayne and co-author Christopher Hopper in the national spotlight.

But here’s what I’m wondering about local efforts. How effective would it be to have a similar launch on the other side of the country? Wayne and Christopher both live on the East Coast. While I think it’s great that they have big plans for both their home states, what if they duplicated that in, say, California? Just thinking out loud. 😀

Now some not so good news. MindFlights, the online publication formed by the merger of Dragons, Knights, and Angels and The Sword Review announced that they need to cut back on the number of stories they publish in each monthly issue. They remain a paying market, but could use donations, even small ones, to help defray costs, especially of the print issue they’re planning that will contain the yearly best.

A note from D. Barkley Briggs, author of The Book of Names regarding the other books in the trilogy:

Finally, if you wish to send a note sharing your support of this series, I would love to compile all such correspondence to present on behalf of the fans of Karac Tor to any publishers I contact.

You can write to him at his site or on his Facebook or Shoutlife pages.

I’m sure there’s more info out there, but I’m out of time. You can always click on the link of your favorite author listed in the sidebar and see what’s the latest.

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 webmaster@dragonkeeper.us.

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.

Fantasy Friday – An Interview, Part 1

Announcements. Please vote in our monthly poll for the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award.

Also, check out the list of nominations for the Clive Staples Award. Be sure your choice is on the list and remember, these are books published in 2008. You can see the requirement details in the post opening nominations.

Authors Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper have a great contest going on to promote their new book, Curse of the Spider King (the CSFF November feature). Follow this link and check it out!

The Interview. Some of you may already be fans of action thriller author Robert Liparulo (Comes a Horseman, Germ), but perhaps you didn’t realize (as I didn’t) that he’s currently writing a young adult series of speculative fiction. I had a chance to ply him with some questions—too many for one post, but we’ll get started today:

RLM: In July Timescape, the fourth book in your series for young adults released. Tell us a little about the Dreamhouse Kings series.

RL: The King family moves to a small town in northern California, so Dad could take a job as principal of the local middle and high school. They move into a run-down Victorian home, where they find a hidden hallway of doors.

Each door leads to a portal to a different time in history. Trouble is, not only can they go from the house to the past, people from the past can come through into their house. Someone does—and kidnaps Mom, taking her into some unknown place in the past. The Kings—primarily David and Xander—begin a quest for Mom, which takes them to many dangerous and incredible places throughout time. We slowly learn that the family is in the house for a very specific purpose and they must do much more than “simply” find their mother.

With each book, the action and stakes increase. It’s a lot of fun.

RLM: You broke in as a published author three years ago with your much acclaimed adult thriller, Comes a Horseman. What prompted you to shift gears and start writing for an young adult audience?

RL: A lot of high schoolers started reading my “adult” thrillers, especially Germ, and I got a chance to talk to classes and book groups. I found that I really enjoyed talking to young readers; they’re primarily interested in the things that made me want to become a writer in the first place: story and character. They love asking why a story went one way instead of another, why characters did what they did. Every time I left a school, I was excited to get back to storytelling. The kids really pumped me up.

Right around this time, my publisher called and asked if I’d be interested in writing a few young adult stories. I jumped at the chance.

RLM: Your fans love the high-action thrills in your books. What prompted you to dip into speculative elements for the Dreamhouse Kings series?

RL: In tackling young adult stories, I decided not to “talk down to” them. I wanted to retain my style of writing and even the vocabulary. These are smart readers, savvy consumers of story. I decided what would make these stories “young adult” would be the protagonists—they would be youthful, like the readers—and the story itself would be one that this age, particularly, would like. I have four kids of my own, so I know they enjoy far-out stories, speculative adventures. They are more willing than adults to suspend disbelieve for the sake of a good story. That got me thinking about a dream I had when I was eleven or twelve about a house with doors to the past, and that developed into the Dreamhouse Kings.

I’ve always been a fan of speculative fiction—Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov—and in my early days, I wrote short stories that could be classified as horror or science fiction, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to go there now.

To be continued.

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