CSFF Blog Tour – Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, Day 1

How fun to at last be back on track with CSFF. Our feature this week is R. J. Anderson‘s Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, a middle grade fantasy published by HarperCollins.

In my opinion, this book is Christian fantasy at its best. Christian fantasy? Published by a general market press?

Why not? Certainly all kinds of other worldviews are represented in books put out by general market publishers. A Christian worldview, therefore, should not be excluded.

My question, however, is this: why don’t houses affiliated with the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) produce more books like Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter? To be fair, I think a few have moved in this direction—in particular WaterBrook. Kudos to them.

But why aren’t more ECPA houses on board? I have some ideas. One might be the existence (really, the lack thereof) of magic in this story. I recently read an interesting article on the topic of magic in Christian fantasy. Here’s the key portion I want to address:

There are really only two options when dealing with the issue of magic: either magic is a craft that can be learned and mastered by any person who applies themselves, much like any skill in the natural world, or it is something that must be innate within a being, something one is born with.

The author goes on to say that J. R. R. Tolkien used the latter. While I would add a third way of dealing with magic—creating make-believe power, dissimilar to real magic sourced in evil and to real supernatural power sourced in God—I believe Anderson has gone the Tolkien route. Her characters, for the most part, are faeries, who should have magic innately.

I’ll say more about them in particular when I do my review. For now, suffice it to say that I believe too many Christians are losing the power to discern between what is a real concern and what is superficial. In saying this, I recognize myself.

Years ago, I pulled aside a student of mine for a lecture about a novel she was reading that had the word “witch” in the title. Never mind that I had not read the book, didn’t have a clue if the story was in any way promoting anything evil or not. Some lessons are costly, and that one was to me, but also valuable.

It was reinforced some years later when I wanted to add a novel to the curriculum (in a different school) that used alchemy (unsuccessfully) as a key plot point—only to have the powers that be say no, such a book was unsuitable.

But back to the topic—why aren’t more books like Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter coming out of the ECPA? I’d suggest a second reason: the Christian worldview is not overt. Although someone unfamiliar with Christianity can’t miss the central themes, they won’t necessarily identify them as Christian.

In my opinion, the best fantasy coming out of ECPA houses takes this same approach. The stories are accessible by anyone and thoroughly enjoyable. There is no need to preach because the key action in the climax does the heavy lifting, much the way Aslan dying in Edmond’s place did in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Please don’t misunderstand. I think there is a place on bookshelves for stories that deal with Christianity in an overt way. But ones that stir our hearts because of love and self-sacrifice are important, too.

Take some time this week to see what others participating on the tour have to say:

A check mark links to a tour post. (Special thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of the book).

Perseverance and Publishing

(Yes, an anomalous Saturday post—I owe you one from the week I was sick.)

How long do you keep after something if it’s not working?

Over and over I read on the Internet and in author interviews and in writing publications that above all else, a writer needs to persevere. I’m wondering, then, if that shouldn’t be true of publishing houses.

Recently the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) put on a Book Expo designed to supplant the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) trade show. The idea was that a books-only event aimed at readers, not bookstore owners and managers, would do more for the publishing business.

From all reports (here’s Thomas Nelson CEO, Michale Hyatt’s), however, the event was a dismal failure. While the organizers anticipated upwards of 15,000 people to attend, the numbers were closer to 1500. Discussion has flurried and those in the know have a sense of what went wrong and how the event could be improved. (Chip MacGregor voiced his opinion here and an “insider,” here.)

Apparently the problem was not with the product—the panels and author appearances received high marks. Where things broke down seems to be in the promotion, along with the cost and the venue.

I can testify that Internet promotion was nearly non-existent. I am involved in several writer groups and I visit a number of writer blogs. When I recently read that someone was getting ready to head off to Dallas for the book expo, my reaction was, Really, it’s here so soon? I thought about it a moment, then remember that when I first heard about the event I thought it was too bad it was so close to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. I figured one would necessarily hurt the attendance of the other since few writers would want to leave home for Dallas, then turn around less than a month later and fly to California.

Apart from the poorly chosen date, I wondered why I hadn’t heard more about the event. From reports, evidently the ECPA executives assumed the publishers would promote it. Could be the publishers, in turn, assumed the writers would promote it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers thought, Finally, an event I don’t have to promote.

All the what-went-wrong discussion aside, some insiders have expressed doubts about a second ECPA book expo.

Are they so quick to give up? When writers are told to persevere, persevere, persevere?

Unfortunately, I see a trend. Recently D. Barkley Briggs announced that NavPress, the publisher of his YA fantasy, The Book of Names, was pulling the plug on book two. The amazing thing is, the book is edited, the cover designed, the pages typeset. In fact the book was due to release next month, but reportedly the sales numbers for The Book of Names don’t warrant going ahead with the project.

This is a repeat of what Kathryn Mackel experienced when Strang pulled the plug on her supernatural suspense after the first book, Vanished, came out.

What happened to perseverance? When a person or a business or an association takes on a new project, there should be some understanding that success won’t be instantaneous, that getting the word out to all the right people takes time and effort (and some money).

But here’s a bigger consideration for Christians. If we pursue something we believe God has led us to, doesn’t that require us to hang in there and trust that He will see us through? (Especially if “hanging in there” means honoring a contract?)

The fright-and-flight reaction of these publishers who lost a lot of money on the book expo, and of NavPress, which apparently lost money on The Book of Names, is similar to the reaction Gideon could have had when God sent home 99 percent of his army and the reaction Saul did have as his army deserted him.

In Gideon’s case, he trusted God and his gang of 300 achieved an incredible victory. In Saul’s case, he took things in his own hands, ended up incurring God’s wrath, and lost everything.

So back to the question: How long do you keep after something if it’s not working? As long as God wants you to. It seems like the right answer for writers, publishers, and associations alike.

Christy Awards – 2008

Some fine writers received recognition for their achievement this year at an awards presentation held Saturday as part of the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). The Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) presented the Christy Awards, honoring the best in Christian fiction in nine categories.

I know in the Visionary category (yes, they had a visionary category this year), since I read the three books that made the finals, the competition was stiff.

Why not consider adding the books on this list to your To Be Read pile?

From the Wynn Wynn Media press release:

The Christy Legacy Award
Carol Johnson, former Editorial Vice President for Fiction at Bethany House Publishers

Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin
Thomas Nelson

“Never settle for less than the truth,” she told him. But when you don’t even know your real name, learning the truth about who you are can be as elusive—and as magical—as chasing fireflies on a summer night.

Charles Martin lives a stone’s throw from the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida, with his wife and their three boys.

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon
Viking Penquin

For the first time in decades, Father Tim returns to his birthplace, Holly Springs, Mississippi, in response to a mysterious, unsigned note saying simply: “Come home.” Little does he know how much these two words will change his life.

Jan Karon is author of the bestselling series of novels that feature Father Tim Kavanagh, an Episcopal priest, and the fictional village of Mitford, North Carolina.

A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Over the course of a Chicago summer, Violet Hayes’s world will open wide before her eyes. But in the wake of discovery, she must find a way to determine which path is the right choice for her life.

Lynn Austin is a full-time writer, author of more than a dozen novels, and a three-time Christy Award winner who lives with her husband near Chicago.

Hallie’s Heart by Shelly Beach
Kregel Publications

Mona VanderMolen, an antiques dealer in a small Michigan town, is trying to keep her business alive when her fifteen-year-old niece, Hallie, suddenly arrives on her doorstep. As the two women work through their problems and learn to forgive, will an unfortunate accident tear them apart once again?

Shelly Beach is a Christian communicator who speaks at women’s conferences, retreats, and seminars and writers’ conferences.Author of Precious Lord, Take My Hand, Beach is a college instructor and writing consultant in Michigan.

Remembered by Tamera Alexander
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group

In search of her father, Veronique Girard needs transportation into Colorado mining country. Jack Brennan isn’t keen on driving a beautiful, young French woman to the rough-and-tumble camps, but Veronique isn’t about to take no for an answer.

Tamera Alexander is a bestselling novelist and Rita Award winner whose deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots, and poignant prose resonate with readers.

The Cure by Athol Dickson
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Riley Keep, former man of God, now haunts the streets. Forgiveness from those who used to love him seems impossible…until he hears rumors of a small town in Maine where miracles are happening.

Athol Dickson studied architecture and the arts at university, followed by a long career as an architect. Now a full-time writer, he’s the author of six novels. He and his wife live in Southern California.

Scarlet by Stephen R. Lawhead
Thomas Nelson

Scarlet continues Lawhead’s riveting saga that began with the novel Hood, which relocated the legend of Robin Hood to the Welsh countryside, conjuring up an ancient past, holding a mirror to contemporary realities, and shattering everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood.

Stephen R. Lawhead is an internationally acclaimed author of mythic history and imaginative fiction. Lawhead makes his home in Oxford, England, with his wife.

The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

One forensic geologist. Two dead men. 500 witnesses. Yet no one seems to know what really happened. As the FBI digs into the case, one thing is made clear: if no one else will talk, the stones will cry out.

Sibella Giorello, a former geologist and fifteen-year features reporter with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson

Scotty Dawn has all the freedom a fifteen-year-old girl could want. But there are costs to such a life. Scotty doesn’t know who she is, where she came from, or who to trust. The answers she finds are darker than she had expected. Will she discover who she can trust and finally make sense of her world?

Lisa Samson is the author of more than two dozen books, including the Christy Award-winning Songbird. She lives with her husband and three children in Kentucky.

Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 10:53 am  Comments (5)  
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