Fantasy Friday – New Books On The Horizon

It’s always fun to get a sneak peak at books that have just release or that will come out shortly. Here are the newest Christian speculative novels I know of.

a hero's throne cover

A Hero’s Throne by Ross Lawhead, Thomas Nelson (January 2013)
YA fantasy
Ancient Earth Trilogy, Book 2

Deep beneath the streets of England lies another realm . . . one few in our modern world know exists. Daniel and Freya, however, know it all too well. Eight years ago, these friends first journeyed through portals into the hidden land of Niðergeard—discovering a city filled with stones, secrets, and sleeping knights that serve to protect the world they call home.

But Niðergeard has fallen to dark forces, overrun by its enemies. Gates are being opened between the worlds that should have been kept closed. The battle lines for the war at the end of time have been drawn, and opposing forces are starting to gather.

Having served for centuries as the first and last outpost at the borders to other worlds, Niðergeard must be reclaimed and the mystery of its fall discovered. Daniel and Freya, along with an ancient knight and a Scottish police officer, must return to the legendary city, rally the surviving citizens, and awaken the sleeping knights—knights who are being killed, one by one, as they sleep.

But time is running out faster than they know.

the crystal scepter coverThe Crystal Scepter by C. S. Lakin, Living Ink Books/AMG (Jan 2013)
Fifth in the Gates of Heaven series
YA Fairytale

When Pythius, the wicked young king of Paladya, learns of the hidden realm of Elysiel and the crystal scepter that protects that northern land, he journeys to kill the Keeper and steal the scepter. But his defiant act unleashes a terrible curse, and the Seer foretells his death one day at the hand of his son, now a newborn babe. To thwart the prophecy, he attempts to murder his child, but the queen escapes and sends the babe off in a trunk across the sea, where he is found and raised by a humble fisherman.

Years later, Perthin, the cast-off babe now grown, hears his call of destiny, and is visited by a specter who tells him of the land of Elysiel and of the Gorgon—the evil creature fomenting war in the Northern Wastes. Perthin’s village of Tolpuddle is being ravaged by a monstrous sea beast sent by this enemy, and Perthin accepts the challenge to kill the creature by cutting off its head—although anyone who looks upon it turns to stone. Armed with magical shoes and a legendary sword, Perthin arrives in Elysiel, where the trolls lead him to the ice cavern where the sacred site made of crystal slabs awaits him to show him his future. Perthin feels a strange connection to this land, unaware that he is the heir to Elysiel’s throne.

With the help of heaven’s army, Perthin bests the enemy and returns to stop the sea monster as the beast is ravaging the kingdom of Paladya. He rescues the princess, who has been set out in the harbor as a sacrifice for the beast, and then stops the sea monster by exposing it to the Gorgon’s head, yet through his heroic efforts he unknowingly fulfills the prophecy foretold by the Seer. He returns to Tolpuddle a hero, where many surprising revelations await him as to his heritage and legacy, for he learns he is not truly a fisherman’s son but a king foretold.

the darker road coverThe Darker Road by L. B. Graham, Living Ink/AMG (February 2013)
Wandering Series
YA fantasy

The empire of Eirmon Omiir, king of Barra-Dohn, couldn’t be stronger. He rules all Aralyn with an iron hand. Meridium, the metal alloy that is both the source and currency of power throughout the world was discovered in Barra-Dohn and Barra-Dohn remains dominant because of it.

The family of Eirmon Omiir couldn’t be more fractured. Eirmon cares for little beyond the power of his throne and his own personal pleasure, and the sins of the father have had generational consequences. Eirmon’s son, Kaden, has reaped their bitter harvest. His marriage is in shambles, a deep divide separating him from both his wife and his son.

A series of mysterious visitors begin to converge on Barra-Dohn, each with their own secrets and motives. There is the elderly Devoted, with his impossible prophesy that the mighty Barra-Dohn will fall within 40 days, the pair of Amhuru, legendary wanderers, who have come to take back what was stolen, and the Jin Dara, who brings an army and an ancient thirst for vengeance.

The events that follow and the crisis that emerges offer both Eirmon and Kaden a chance at restoration, to rise above their past failures, even as the world around them falls apart. Kaden seizes this chance, a small mercy in the midst of a greater judgement. Eirmon does not, and his fate is sealed. And so is the fate of the world, for the end of Barra-Dohn is the beginning of The Wandering, and everything hangs in the balance.

broken-wings-coverBroken Wings by Shannon Dittemore, Thomas Nelson (February 2013)
YA supernatural
Book Two of the Angel Eyes Trilogy

Angels with wings of blade. Demons with renewed sight. And a girl who has never been more broken.

Brielle has begun to see the world as it really is, a place where angels intermingle with humans. But just when she thinks she’s got things under control, the life she’s pieced together begins to crumble.

Her boyfriend, Jake, is keeping something from her. Something important.
And her overprotective father has turned downright hostile toward Jake. Brielle fears she’ll have to choose between the man who’s always loved her and the one who’s captured her heart.
Then she unearths the truth about her mother’s death and the nightmare starts. Brielle begins seeing visions of mysterious and horrible things.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s been targeted. The Prince of Darkness himself has heard of the boy with healing in his hands and of the girl who saw through the Terrestrial veil. When he pulls the demon Damien from the fiery chasm and sends him back to Earth with new eyes, the stage is set for the ultimate battle of good versus evil.

Brielle has no choice. She must master the weapons she’s been given. She must fight.
But can she fly with broken wings?

A-Cast-of-StonesA Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, Bethany House (February 2013)
Adult epic fantasy
The Staff and the Sword, Book 1

The Fate of the Kingdom Awaits the Cast of Stones

In the backwater village of Callowford, roustabout Errol Stone is enlisted by a church messenger arriving with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Eager for coin, Errol agrees to what he thinks will be an easy task, but soon finds 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 change the fate of his kingdom.

Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom’s dynasty nears its end and the selection of the new king begins–but in secret and shadow. As danger mounts, Errol must leave behind the stains and griefs of the past, learn to fight, and discover who is hunting him and his companions and how far they will go to stop the reading of the stones.

the ravaged realm coverThe Ravaged Realm by D. Barkley Briggs, AMG/Living Ink (February 2013)
YA fantasy
The Legends of Karac Tor, Book 4

With the Nine Worlds facing a judgment of fire, Karac Tor stands on the brink of civil war and despair. A true prophet must be found, but he’s lost…somewhere in North America.

Determined to fight for the land, Arthur and Corus take their case all the way to the White Abbey, hoping to receive a blessing for their efforts. But time is of the essence, and Cassock, having delivered the deceptive gift of the Lost Oracle to the High Synod, has cleverly begun sowing the Devourer’s lies and confusion into the fabric of the Three Holy Orders. Has the sacred Book of Law really been expanded, or annulled? And if the Nine Gifts are to be abandoned, does the White Abbey finally reign supreme above all others?

Gabe, dramatically increasing his power to communicate with animals, ventures into the forbidding Highlands to find and rescue Flogg from the dreaded Stone Moot. Little does he understand the series of events this will unleash. Meanwhile, Arthur, refusing to play politics, discover that a small army has been secretly waiting for him to finally take charge. Setting out to make trouble for Kr’Nunos, Arthur and Corus finally confront the strange, beastly Ravers that are wreaking havoc across the land. Driven by enemies within and without, the Royal Kingdom of Karac Tor is swiftly unravelling, standing on the brink of civil war.

Meanwhile, back on earth, Reggie, Odessa and her children find themselves thrown across the Nine Worlds on a desperate quest to find and rescue the mysterious Lost Prophet, a great bird whose legendary power is woven into the history of our own world. Forced into hiding among the Native tribes of pre-Columbian America, Rianor is the last messenger and signal-bearer, whose final cry will usher in the War of Swords, and hopefully, summon Aion to return and save his people. But first they must find him and free him, before the Devourer brings ruin to all.

CaptivesSafeLandscoverCaptives by Jill Williamson, Zondervan (April 2013)
YA Dystopian Science fiction
The Safe Lands, Book 1

One choice could destroy them all. When eighteen-year-old Levi returned from Denver City with his latest scavenged finds, he never imagined he’d find his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed by enforcers, and many—including his fiancee, Jem–taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Land, a walled city that seems anything but safe.

Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away to Denver City, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land like nomads and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Land has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams. Meanwhile, Jem is locked in a cell, awaiting the Safe Landers’ plan to protect their future by seizing her own. Can Levi uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Land’s facade before it’s too late?

CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs

The holiday season — the days leading up to Thanksgiving and extending through New Year’s Day — is always a hard time to fit in extras. Touring book two of a continuing story is also hard. I guess you could say the tour for Corus The Champion had two strikes against it, but as anyone familiar with baseball (or softball) knows, it only takes one swing to hit a home run. The “one swing” CSFF had, is a great group of 27 bloggers who posted 46 articles reviewing or discussing aspects of D. Barkley Briggs’s excellent epic fantasy.

And now it’s time to vote. But unlike Survivor, none of these bloggers will be shipped off to exile island or booted from the game. Rather, more nearly in the tradition of the Heisman Trophy, we’re choosing the best of the best. The Top Tour Blogger must have posted all three days of the tour and should receive your vote based on how interesting, entertaining, informative, thoughtful, or creative the posts are. So have at it. You’ll have until December 19 to vote and will be choosing from the following:

Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs, Day 3

This month the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Corus The Champion, book two of the Legends of Karac Tor by D. Barkley Briggs. We’ve had some unique posts this month. For instance, long-time CSFF member John Otte issued a writer’s challenge in his day two post, interestingly connected with fairy tales and the Bible.

In a different vein, Gillian Adams set up a challenge, this one between one of the characters in Corus the Champion and one from a series that provided inspiration for it. If you’re a fan of the Chronicles of Prydain, you won’t want to miss either Gillian’s day two or day three post.

Be sure to check out what the others on the tour are saying. You’ll find a list with links to specific articles at the end of the Day 1 post. My turn to share my observations about the book.

A Review

The Story. Corus The Champion is definitely not a stand alone novel. While it features four youths, in reality it is not a YA novel either. Instead, it is part two of a story for all ages that features four brothers ranging in age from 9 to 16. The range isn’t quite so rangy because the twins, Gabe and Garrett, are the 9-almost-10-year-olds. Ewan, a true tweener at 13, is the second child. The oldest is Hadyn, nearly a man at 16, going on 17.

I say that the book features the four brothers, but that’s only true in part. There are other central characters that figure prominently into the story.

The first volume of the Legends of Karac Tor ended with the twins finding the portal that took Ewan and Hadyn out of their real world into the land of five dominions, of the Grey, White, and Black abbeys, of the Fey and the Horned King. Corus the Champion takes up the story where The Book of Names left off.

Gabe and Garrett are separated in the transition from their world, and each begins an adventure that plays a part in the greater story of Karac Tor. They discover gifts and shoulder responsibility that eventually brings them back together with Ewan and Hadyn who have also been playing their part as Outlanders, using or surrendering their own gifts as need required.

Woven into the story of the boys is that of Sorge the Grey monk who once was the great champion’s pupil and later became his betrayer. He is now convinced that Corus still lives and he is determined to find him, to bring him back so the sleeping king can be found and awakened.

Strengths. Dean has created a dense, mythic world with it’s own history and ruins, religion and religious notables, politics and in-fighting, trade routes and drought. This is a world that feels real, and brings to mind J. R. R. Tolkien’s term, sub-creation — the process a writer uses to make a secondary world that is internally consistent.

The characters are well drawn and believable, too. Each of the boys is distinct; even the Fey have their own unique traits that make them seem realistic. The adults such as Sorge, Har, Cruedwyn Creed and the Highlander Va’nya, are equally true to life,

The story itself is full of adventure and intrigue, danger from within and without. There is sacrifice and grief, humor and hope, determination and death. It’s all there for the reader to grapple with just as the characters must.

A Christian religious framework, without the name, pervades the world, but this is not an idealized manifestation of faith. One religious group emphasizes the written tenets almost to the exclusion of any esoteric experience, for example, and one abbey looks down on another. Yet the belief is there, though somewhat neglected and misunderstood. Frankly, it’s almost an uncomfortably real portrayal at times.

Weaknesses. Two things would strengthen this story, I think. First, a review of the previous book and/or a glossary or a list of characters. There’s a nice map that helps immensely with the places, but more than once I found myself in search of something that would help me with the characters that appeared in the first book. I’d love to see those things posted at the Hidden Lands web site in the future.

The second thing that would enhance the reading experience, I think, is stronger character motivation. When Ewan had a goal, I was noticeably more invested in the story. Gabe, Garrett, and Hadyn seemed to have more happen to them rather than they taking the initiative or being the agent of action. Sorge had a strong goal, and yet I didn’t know him as well, so it took me a little while to warm up to his key part of the story. But warm up I did.

Recommendation. Corus The Champion is a story in the mold of the great epic fantasies. In my opinion, the Legends of Karac Tor is a lovable, motivated character, a la Frodo Baggins, away from being a series that will break away from the pack of epic fantasies emulating The Lord of the Rings. I highly recommend this for fans of epic fantasy, but read book one first for the full experience.

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

CSFF Blog Tour – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs, Day 2

Borrowing versus creating — when is a work considered “derivative”? I’ve asked that question before in a short two-part series of posts, and yet the topic came up again in my article yesterday at Spec Faith. Consequently, as I read some of the tour posts about Corus The Champion by D. Barkley Briggs (AMG/Living Ink), the topic was fresh on my mind.

Clearly Dean (which is what the D in D. Barkley Briggs stands for) did his share of borrowing. His epic story includes Arthurian figures, but he doesn’t stop there as others on the tour noted:

Briggs deals heavily in the folk traditions of our own world. Arthurian legends are central to his story. His fairies are drawn more purely after the pattern in European fairytales than I have ever seen, and I saw a surprising number of gleanings from the Norse. (from Shannon McDermott‘s Day 1 post)

In addition, tour member Gillian Adams noted particular similarities to Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain:

Many aspects of the Legends of Karac Tor (the horned king, cauldron born, etc.) seem remarkably similar to the Chronicles of Prydain and there is a very simple reason: both Alexander and Briggs drew upon ancient Welsh mythology from the Mabinogen to form their tales. (from “The Peoples and Creatures of Karac Tor”)

At the same time the Legends of Karoc Tor has its own inventiveness — the Gorse, the Highlanders who strap on wings — as well as a new twist to familiar devices. Each of the brothers has a gift, for instance, but these have their own uniqueness. For example, one boy can “mind-speak” to birds — not to other humans or to the animal kingdom at large, but to birds.

The main illustration of this twist to the familiar is evident in the story structure. It is a portal fantasy, in which characters from the real world travel to a fantasy world, but it is more than that — Dean adds in a layer by having a few chosen characters travel between the worlds and back and forth through time. (I was immediately reminded of Stephen Lawhead’s current series with its use of ley lines — but Dean didn’t borrow from Lawhead since he wrote his book before The Skin Map was published).

Of course there are also elements familiar to our contemporary world — political in-fighting, greed and exploitation, corruption, religious squabbles, and more.

In short, I find Corus The Champion to be a wonderful blend of the familiar and the fantastic, the known and the unknown, the borrowed and the created. Dean has taken time to build his world, to give it depth, to allow the place to impact the story, to show the people shaped by the world. This is the kind of writing J. R. R. Tolkien referred to as sub-creation. And quite honestly, it’s the kind of fantasy I like best.

CSFF Blog Tour – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs, Day 1

Epics. They are so much more than the average novel — histories and languages and prophecy, symbols and cataclysmic stakes. With D. Barkley Briggs‘s series The Legend of Karac Tor, we have an epic story.

Yes, in the wonderful tradition of writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and Stephen Donaldson, Briggs writes interlocking books that depend on one another to tell the entire story.

For readers, epics create an interesting challenge: if you read the first book when it comes out, you have a wait before the next edition releases. Certainly anticipation may rise, but what about forgetfulness? That, too, may rise. Hence some readers hold off buying until the entire series comes out. With a well-discussed and lengthy series like Harry Potter, that would be a difficult task in and of itself.

Epics are also challenging because they are about some place new, as in, no one has ever heard of it before. Consequently, a good map is a huge benefit in reading high fantasy. Often times the cast of characters is expansive and the names unfamiliar. In fact, there may be an entirely different language and certainly a new and unusual culture.

Why, then, would anyone want to read something so Other? Precisely because it takes readers beyond the bonds of the Primary World (as Tolkien called it) with which we are familiar. My contention is that we humans know there is more to life than this life, the perishable-ness of it, the mortality, the fading glory. We long for a glimpse beyond, and epic fantasy gives us that.

We also long for right to win out over tyranny, for good to find love as well. We want the noble to be compassionate and the great to be selfless. In short, we long for God. Epic fantasy at its best, gives us just such a glimpse.

The Legend of Karac Tor fits nicely into this category of epic fantasy. Corus the Champion is the second installment, a bridge between the accomplishments of the first in the series, The Book of Names, and the newly released book three, The Song of Unmaking.

What a fantasy readers’ dream — three books in the series available at once!

Take some time over the course of this week to see what those participating in the tour for book two have to say.

Celebrity Influence

Today at Spec Faith I wrote a post about the “It Factor” — the something that some books seem to have that separates them from the crowd.

One of those is what I called “The Celebrity Factor,” by which I meant some writers by virtue of their name sell books. Marketing may call this “branding” — readers aren’t so much buying a book as they are buying the author.

Once musicians did the same thing, which is why they sold “the best of” albums and eventually CDs. Fans didn’t really care that they were simply buying a re-packaging of music they already owned. If the artist they followed put it out, they bought it.

Several people who commented on my Spec Faith post, however, looked at “The Celebrity Factor” in broader terms than just the celebrity standing of the author. They correctly identified the importance of celebrity influencers. One person mentioned how Oprah’s recommendation could sway people. This (from Facebook) is so good, you have to read it:

It could be old hat, new hat, or controversial & it will sell if any known person backs it. Oprah is the perfect example. If she promoted potato sack dresses with corn-on-the-cob belts, they’d be flying off the shelves tomorrow.

😆 I laughed at that one because I think she’s absolutely right. Personal taste would go out the window if a respected celebrity gives approval. Rather than wondering what happened to Oprah’s good sense, people would line up to get whatever it is she said is great.

The point is, it would become great because the influential celebrity said it was great.

I know I’m influenced by names I recognize and respect. My first awareness of Wayne Thomas Batson and his writing, for example, came one December when I was shopping in (the now defunct) Borders for Christmas presents. Right next to a new Cornelia Funk fantasy was this beautiful hardback book with the most intriguing cover. When I opened it, on the flyleaf was an endorsement by Josh McDowell. That’s when I realized the book was written, most likely, from a Christian worldview, and that’s when I knew I wanted to read that book.

The endorsement essentially sold me. I didn’t know anything about this Wayne Thomas Batson character ( 😉 ), but Josh McDowell I’d read. I knew what he stood for.

Interestingly, today on Facebook, author D. Barkley Briggs asked me to spread the word about a poll he is running (for the title of book 4 in his Legends of Karac Tor series) to my “network of fantasy friends.” After he clarified that he did indeed believe the friends are real, not make-believe, ( 😉 ) I got to thinking a bit more about the idea of finding the talkers.

I’d read about it before in Andy Sernovitz’s Word of Mouth Marketing: part of the strategy to get people talking is to identify the talkers — the people who know people and who will talk about your product.

I am certainly no Oprah, but Dean knows of my connection to the CSFF Blog Tour and to Spec Faith. In other words, he recognized that I could be one voice reaching out to his target audience. I then become one of his talkers.

The problem that I see with this “celebrity influence” is multifaceted. For one thing, in an area like Christian fantasy that is just developing legs, who are the celebrities? Wayne Batson went outside the genre to acquire his influencer, and that might be the way to go.

But there’s also the problem of access. There simply aren’t enough celebrities to go around, and the ones that exist are undoubtedly bombarded with requests. Many writers — not even of the celebrity category — have decided they must adopt a “no endorsements” rule because they receive so many requests. A few reserve their endorsements for personal friends. Which brings us back to the access issue. How does a beginning writer become the personal friend of a celebrity writer? Or a celebrity anything?

It feels a lot like the conundrums I faced as a young adult. In looking for my first teaching job, I was asked for my teaching experience … In applying for a credit card (in the days before they were handed out like candy at Halloween), I was asked for my credit history …

Here are a few closing thoughts on the subject. When writing about all the people who would line up to buy an Oprah-endorsed potato sack, I was reminded that “all we like sheep have gone astray.” How like sheep we are!

Regarding celebrity endorsements, I think how much better it is to have the King’s approval — the eternal King who knows the beginning from the end, who loves me and has my good at heart. With Him, I have no access problem. And I can be confident that He’ll see to it my writing will end up where He wants it.

– – – – –

Don’t forget to vote in the “It’s All In The Opening” poll — it will remain open for four more days.

More Is Not Better

No, more is not better. Better is better. More is just more. If it’s more of the same, and the same is boring or insipid or unimaginative, then how is more better? It’s not.

Yes, this is somewhat of a rant. Recently I’ve been reminded of some authors who are overly busy because they are putting out several books a year, some in different series and even for different publishers.

This means there is little, if any, coordination between when a manuscript is due and when the book needs to be edited or promoted. There’s also a question in my mind how well an author can write unique characters when she spends so little time getting to know them.

Experts say we only can have three or four close friends at any one time. So how many characters can a writer develop? Seems to me we should know our characters nearly as well as we do our close friends.

Consequently, I feel confident that more characters don’t make for better stories. More books of course require more characters, so it seems to me, every book an author puts out in a relatively short amount of time indicates less time spent with the characters.

There are exceptions, of course. D. Barkley Briggs, for example, is in the process of publishing three books this year. He published the first of a young adult trilogy with NavPress back in 2008, but weeks before the second released — a book that had already gone through the editing process — his publisher decided to end its fiction line.

When he recently signed with AMG Publishers, they reprinted his first book, then three months later published Corus The Champion. The third in the Legends of Karac Tor series is due out a scant three months after Corus, but this elapse of time is not a reflection of how long it took to write the books.

Apart from the obvious — the disadvantage a writer puts herself at by trying to create deep and realistic characters and a story that is fresh and well crafted in such a short amount of time — there’s also reader weariness.

Yes, reader weariness. What if the Harry Potter books all came out within six months of each other? Would readers have been ready to stand in line waiting for a midnight release when they’d done it just six months earlier?

Would so many readers have been clamoring for the next book, or would some give up the effort to be in the mix because after three books, they’d fallen hopelessly behind?

My point is, writers that believe more is better may actually be saturating the market with their own work. Readers either can’t keep up or may grow weary of the writer’s voice.

Not to mention that some writers sacrifice story structure for the more is better approach. The plot twists and twists and twists again in a meandering plot because the writer doesn’t really know where the story is going and is just hoping it all comes out in the end.

Some readers don’t care how convoluted a plot is, as long as there’s a spaceship battle in every chapter. Some don’t care how realistic the characters are, so long as there’s a good guy and a bad guy. I understand — I once watched western movies that had characters like that.

But make no mistake, those stores are not better. No matter how many of them a writer cranks out, more does not make them better.

The Stereotype That Keeps On Slamming Doors

Over and over I hear or see statements like, I don’t read Christian fiction because it is so ___. Fill in the blank — preachy, poorly written, predictable, unrealistic, sanitized.

I’m not going to pretend that all Christian fiction is well-crafted, with deep spiritual themes that demand real thinking while telling a captivating story.

But I think it’s fair to ask those who make negative declarations, especially categorical ones, about Christian fiction, What have you read lately?

Author friend Mike Duran began a discussion today on his site Decompose that has generated a number of slam-the-door-on-Christian-fiction comments. So I decided to provide short excerpts of a few of my favorite novels — YA or adult, mostly speculative, but not all — which fall under the Christian fiction umbrella, as evidence that readers would do well to prop the door open.

We must counter ignorance with facts, I think, or the same negative lines get repeated over and over. That’s a sure way of chasing off potential readers! After all, why should a reader pick up a Christian novel if a bunch of insiders agree Christian fiction is bad?

Here is a smattering of evidence that such a conclusion is faulty (links are to longer excerpts so you can read more if you wish):

The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers — a YA fantasy stand-alone

I don’t remember one thing about the day I was born. It hasn’t been for lack of trying either. I’ve set for hours trying to go back as far as I could, but the earliest thing I remember is riding in the back of Floyd’s wagon and looking at myself in a looking glass.

I’ve run across folks claim they know everything about their birthday—where it happened, who they was with, what day it was. But if you really press them on it, turns out they don’t remember no more about it than I do. They only know what somebody told them.

I don’t care who you are—when it comes to knowing where you come from, you got to take somebody else’s word for it. That’s where things has always got ticklish for me. I only know one man who might be able to tell me where I come from, and that man is a liar and a fraud.

Vanish by Tom Pawlick — first in a series of adult supernatural suspense

It all began with a feeling. Just an eerie feeling.

Conner Hayden peered out his office window at the hazy downtown Chicago vista. Heat plumes radiated from tar-covered rooftops baking in the midafternoon sun. A late-summer heat wave had every AC unit in the city running at full capacity.

He narrowed his eyes. Every unit except the one on the building across the street. On that roof, a lone maintenance worker in blue coveralls crouched beside the bulky air conditioner with his toolbox open beside him.

Conner watched the man toil in the oppressive August heat. Something hadn’t felt right all day. Despite the relative seclusion of his thirty-ninth-floor office, Conner couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched.

It had begun early that morning when he stopped for gas. He could have sworn the guy at the next pump was staring at him. Conner saw his face for only an instant. But it looked strange somehow — dark, as if shrouded by a passing shadow. And his eyes . . .

For a moment, his eyes looked completely white.

Then the shadow passed and the guy turned away.

On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness, Book One of the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson — Middle Grade/YA fantasy

Just outside the town of Glipwood, perched near the edge of the cliffs above the Dark Sea sat a little cottage where lived the Igiby family. The cottage was rather plain, except for how comfortable it was, and how nicely it had been built, and how neatly it was kept in spite of the three children who lived there, and except for the love that glowed from it like firelight from its windows at night.

As for the Igiby family? Well, except for the way they always sat late into the night beside the hearth telling stories, and when they sang in the garden while they gathered the harvest, and when the grandfather, Podo Helmer, sat on the porch blowing smoke rings, and except for all the good, warm things that filled their days there like cider in a mug on a winter night, they were quite miserable. Quite miserable indeed, in that land where walked the Fangs of Dang.

Back On Murder by J. Mark Bertrand — first in the Roland March Mystery series, adult mystery

I’m on the way out. They can all tell, which is why the crime scene technicians hardly acknowledge my presence, and my own colleagues do a double take whenever I speak. Like they’re surprised to find me still here.

But I am here, staring down into the waxy face of a man who, with a change of wardrobe, could pass for a martyred saint.

It’s all in the eyes. Rolling heavenward in agony, brows arched in acute pain. A pencil mustache clinging to the vaulted upper lip, blood seeping through the cracks between the teeth. The ink on his biceps. Blessed Virgins and barb-wired hearts and a haloed man with a cleft beard.

But instead of a volley of arrows or a vat of boiling oil, this one took a shotgun blast point-blank just under the rib cage, flaying his wife-beater and the chest cavity beneath. He fell backward onto the bed, arms out, bleeding out onto the dingy sheets.

Lorenz stands next to me, holding the victim’s wallet. He slips the license out and whistles. “Our boy here is Octavio Morales.”

He’s speaking to the room, not me personally, but I answer anyway. “The money guy?”

The Ale Boy’s Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet — adult fantasy (this excerpt is from the Auralia Thread series summary leading up to this book)


The ale boy was once an errand runner, almost invisible as he served House Abascar. As he grew up—an orphan raised by House Abascar’s beer brewer and winemaker—his real name remained a secret, even from him.

But what he did know proved useful indeed. As he gathered the harvest fruits beyond Abascar’s walls, worked with brewers below ground, delivered drinks across the city, and served the king his favorite liquor, the ale boy learned the shortcuts and secrets of that oppressed kingdom.

When the ale boy met Auralia, a mysterious and artistic young woman from the wilderness, they formed a friendship that would change the world. Auralia’s artistry shone with colors no one had ever seen, and when she revealed her masterpiece within House Abascar, the kingdom erupted in turmoil that ended in a calamitous collapse. Auralia vanished, as did her enchanting colors. And hundreds of people died.

Brokenhearted but brave, the ale boy sought out survivors in Abascar’s ruins and helped them find their way to a refuge in the Cliffs of Barnashum.There, led by their new king, Cal-raven, the people endured a harsh winter and an attack from the Cent Regus beastmen.

The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs — YA fantasy

The day was gray and cold, mildly damp. Perfect for magic.

Strange clouds overhead teased the senses with a fragrance of storm, wind, and lightning, and the faint, clean smell of ozone. Invisible energy sparkled like morning dew on blades of grass.

Standing alone in an empty field on the back end of their new acreage, Hadyn Barlow only saw the clouds. By definition, you can’t see what’s invisible, and as for smelling magic? Well, let’s just say, unlikely. Hadyn saw what was obvious for late November, rural Missouri: leafless trees, dead grass, winter coming on strong. Most of all he saw (and despised) the humongous briar patch in front of him, feeling anew each and every blister and callus earned hacking through its branches.

Blaggard’s Moon by George Bryan Polivka (maybe the best of them all) — adult fantasy

“On a post. In a pond.”

Delaney said the words aloud, not because anyone could hear him but because the words needed saying. He wished his small declaration could create a bit of sympathy from a crewmate, or a native, or even one of the cutthroats who had left him here. But he was alone.

It wasn’t the post to which he’d been abandoned that troubled him, though it was troubling enough. The post was worn and unsteady, about eight inches across at the top where his behind was perched, and it jutted eight feet or so up from the still water below him. His shins hugged its pocked and ragged sides; his feet were knotted at the ankles behind him for balance. Delaney was a sailor, and this was not much different than dock posts in port where he’d sat many times to take his lunch. He was young enough not to be troubled with a little pain in the backside, old enough to have felt his share of it. No, the post wasn’t the problem.

The pond from which the post jutted was not terribly troublesome either. It was a lagoon, really, less than a hundred yards across, no more than fifty yards to shore in any direction. He could swim that distance easily. He peered down through the water, past its smooth, still surface, and eyed the silver-green flash of scales, lit bright by the noonday sun.

The piranha, now, they were somewhat vexing.

Lost Mission by Athol Dickson — adult magic realism (sadly I can’t copy any of the excerpt of this one, so you’ll have to click on the link to get a flavor of the book.

Mind you, this sampling doesn’t include a single author of women’s fiction. In that genre I’d recommend Julie Carobini, Kathryn Cushman, Kathleen Popa, Sharon Souza, Debbie Thomas, and that’s right off the top of my head.

I’m just saying, good Christian fiction is available.

When readers listen to those who don’t (or who no longer) read the genre, they are insuring that publishers will not aim for a larger audience — because when they do, insiders will say, Those genres don’t sell. And they’ll be right because those not informed about the latest books and newest authors are telling potential readers how horrible Christian fiction is. Who wants to buy books when the buzz about them is so negative?

How about, let’s at least keep an open mind, so when someone like me or Tim George who reviews for Fiction Addict or any of the CSFF Tour bloggers gives a contrasting opinion to the “Christian fiction is bad” mantra, we might consider that it’s possible there are some worthwhile books published by Christian houses.

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

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.

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