CSFF Blog Tour – Numb By John Otte, Day 3

Numb-CoverThis month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature is a rare science fiction novel, written for adults and published by Marcher Lord Press. Numb by John Otte, a Christy Award finalist, is a stand-alone, though some reviewers believe there is room for a sequel, should John care to revisit this world again. I admit, I love the universe he imagined, but this story seems well-ended to me, and I don’t have any particular need to see these characters again. But since I’m already opinionating, I suppose I might as well get right to my review.

The Story. Crusader is the perfect assassin: dedicated to the cause, loyal to the authorities over him, determined to complete his missions, and completely numb. He doesn’t feel emotion and he doesn’t feel pain. What’s more, he believes God has gifted him with this numbness so that he can take up the sword of judgment and wield it against those his superiors have marked as deserving of death—heretics, infidels, traitors, and the like. Above all, Crusader is good at what he does. In fact he’s the best the Ministrix has.

Imagine the uncertainty, then, when Crusader discovers, first, that he cannot complete his latest assignment—to assassinate an engineer named Isolda Westin—and second that some Ministrix agent has set him up and intends to kill him.

His inability to plunge the knife into Isolda’s heart is perhaps the most troubling thing Crusader faces. Something within him refuses to follow what he knows he must do. But why? And why is he, the most loyal, most accomplished Ministrex agent, now a target of the very leaders he has served these past ten years?

With these questions at the heart of the plot, Numb jumps into a tale of intrigue, suspense, action, and romance.

Strengths. There is so much to like in this story, but I think my favorite is the worldbuilding. It’s a little rare, I suppose, to put the element that most often fades into the background as the aspect of the story I liked best, but for me, the sense of place, without being bogged down by a lot of techno terms or details I didn’t care about, made the whole story more enjoyable. I thought there was just the right amount of science/technology mixed with the right amount of facts about the governments that dominated the populated universe to give me a feel for what the characters had to contend with.

Furthermore, the inventiveness seemed believable—a logical outcome of the way technology is advancing and of the way governments are behaving today.

I also thought the central theme was wonderfully woven into the story. Nothing seemed forced. The characters themselves, as a natural part of who they were and the predicament in which they found themselves, dictated the theme. It was never delivered in a heavy-handed manner, though I guess you’d say the “faith elements” were overt.

I liked the characters as well, though I have to admit, when Isolda appeared in chapter three, I felt quite relieved. I wasn’t sure about spending an entire book in the head of a numb assassin, no matter how justified he was in his own mind for doing what he did.

The plot was exciting, built as it was on intrigue. There were fight scenes, chase scenes, betrayals, rescues, hypocrites acting hypocritical and spies acting nobly. There were plenty of twists though the plot never became convoluted. Important elements were properly foreshadowed, so little felt as if it didn’t belong.

But that brings me to the next part of this review.



Perhaps the only part of the story I didn’t find believable was the sudden attraction Isolda had to first one assassin, then the other. To her credit, she didn’t realize that Balaam, who appeared to be her rescuer, was actually there to kill Crusader and kidnap her. But here’s the thing—she showed definite signs of attractions to a complete stranger. Then when he is killed, she quickly shows interest in the agent who defeated him—the one who she knows is there to kill her.

This tendency to be easily won over to a man could have been a character trait of Isolda’s, except she had no such response to the one guy she actually had known for some time and the one she had shared experiences with and who seemed quite willing early on to protect her.

In short, the contrast between the way Isolda reacted to Gavin and to Balaam, then Crusader, made her actions a little hard for me to believe.


Apart from that plot point, I had no problems with this story. The writing was straightforward, the characters well defined, the surprises plentiful.

Recommendation. I’m happy there’s a quality Christian science fiction novel to go along with the growing number of excellent Christian fantasies. John Otte has done a wonderful job giving readers an enjoyable story that also provides sufficient meat to chew on. I highly recommend this book to all readers. It’s a must read for fans of Christian science fiction.

As it happens, all John Otte’s books, including Numb, are discounted at Marcher Lord Press. However, these prices are only good through April.

CSFF Blog Tour – Numb by John Otte

Numb-CoverSo imagine you’re a pastor, one in an evangelical church that believes the Bible is true and has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. And imagine you also love science fiction, that you even write science fiction. What kind of story would you write?

Anyone come up with a novel about an assassin, one hired by the church?

Yea, that would not have been my first guess either, but that’s what Pastor John Otte has written in Numb, his third novel published by Marcher Lord Press.

John, a contributor at Speculative Faith (his columns post every other Wednesday), and a long-time member of the CSFF Blog Tour, spends most of his time pastoring at Concordia Lutheran Church in South St. Paul, Minnesota.

The son of a pastor, you’d think John’s future course must have been established from his youth—that is, until you learn he graduated from college with a degree in theater!

Graduated summa cum laude.

Majoring in theater!

Of course, he did go on, after graduation, to attend seminary where he earned his Master of Divinity degree. Soon after he began serving as a youth pastor, then as a senior pastor in Blue Earth, Minnesota. He was installed as the new pastor at Concordia in December, 2007.

And yet, that theater major was still very much alive. John had been a writer as early as elementary school and even then intended his stories to find an audience with the public.

He was so serious about his writing that he joined American Christian Fiction Writers shortly after graduation, and it was through that organization he eventually met his agent and his acquiring editor/publisher.

After publishing two superhero type stories, John created Numb, a novel nominated for the Clive Staples Award and just last week, named as a finalist for the Christy Award, Visionary Category.

Which brings us back to the assassin working for the True Church. His role, as he sees it and as he’s been trained to believe, is to serve as the sword of judgment against heretics, dissenters, or heathen. Wherever his leaders send him, he goes. Whoever they order him to kill, he destroys. And he’s the best at what he does because he’s been gifted by God, he’s told, to feel nothing—little or no pain or emotion. All the sensations that could distract him are swallowed up in numbness.

If you’d like to learn more about this story, check out what others on the CSFF tour are saying about Numb, the novel no one would expect a pastor to write.

Fantasy Friday Review: The New Recruit by Jill Williamson

Jill Williamson is one of the best writers I know, and the two back-to-back Christy Awards she won pretty much validate the point. I predict that she’ll be in the running again next year with her latest offering, The New Recruit (Marcher Lord Press), book one of the Mission League Series–a young adult contemporary supernatural fantasy.

The Story. Spencer Garmond seems like a typical freshman in high school–girl crazy, half-trying to balance the demands at home with the fun and games he wants for his life. Number one is his love of basketball and his ambition to play in college. And why shouldn’t he have that dream? At six feet five, he made the varsity and is hoping for a starting spot next year.

Standing in his way is … well, perhaps, himself. He gets angry way too often, ends up in fights, and his grandmother, who has raised him since his parents died, won’t take any more of his landing in trouble. He’s cleaned up as best he could, but there’s still C-Roc and then the mysterious men who show up looking for him. Are they there to take him to military school as his grandmother has threatened?

Not quite. The alternative to military school is for him to join a secret group of agents–Christians, with offices throughout the world. He’s to go into training, then participate in an introductory mission to Moscow during the summer.

Except, Spencer doesn’t hang with those churchers. And he has to swear off, well, swearing, and fighting, and drugs, and pretty much everything. Of course, he’s already quit doing drugs and no longer hangs with the gang that ended up in trouble with the law. The fighting and swearing–now those might be a problem, but he’s game to try to stop when he learns his parents once belonged to the Mission League. In fact, his mother wrote him a letter revealing her hopes for him.

Next to basketball and maybe girls, learning about his parents becomes the driving force in Spencer’s life. But the trip to Moscow uncovers more about his own life than it does about his parents’, and the adventures turn deadly so that he’s not worried about losing basketball as much as he is about losing his life.

You can read the first chapter of The New Recruit here.

Strengths. Jill writes compelling stories built around engaging characters. Spencer is a reluctant hero who has a lot of hurt he covers with enough swag to chase away any real relationships. His voice is strong, and he comes across as thoroughly believable in his role as tough guy trying to do better, trying to make it, and not feeling like he fits in with the churchers. His motives are clear, his choices understandable.

The plot speeds by, bolstered by the secrets Jill is adept at keeping from the readers. What happened to Spencer’s parents? Why does Nick hate him so much? What trouble was Spencer in before his new determination to keep his nose clean?

Then there is the suspense, both connected to the overall plot and to Spencer’s inner life. There are even relational questions that surface. On every page there is some question that pulls the reader forward.

The cast is not a small one, but for the most part, Jill did a masterful job giving each person unique, memorable, and sometimes quirky traits that made them seem authentic. Even the antagonists are painted well.

The thematic elements are woven throughout in a way that adds to the story, all without the taint of preachiness. Each character acts in a way consistent with his personality. Those of faith act in a way that is true to life–sometimes knowing and doing the right thing and sometimes not, often in the frantic zeal of not knowing what is best.

The story aptly shows a variety of responses to the gospel–some from unspeakable brokenness embracing faith, and others with advantages and privilege turning their backs. There is no easy believe-ism here, no one-and-done response to the first presentation of the gospel that occurs.

Above all, The New Recruit turns the idea of spiritual warfare on its head. Though this is far from an allegory, nevertheless, the reality of battle becomes strikingly real within these pages.

Weaknesses. This is definitely a story for Christians though the main character is not a believer. This is not a weakness that destroys the story, however, and many readers may actually find they prefer reading about authentic struggles and doubts and fears. Some of the most important thematic threads run through the minor characters’ storylines, so there is plenty of meat for Christians.

Recommendation. I’m enthusiastic about The New Recruit. It’s smart, contemporary (mentioned in text is Angel Eyes a novel by Shannon Dittemore that just released this year), fast-paced, insightful. It’s not brimming with speculative elements, so for those only satisfied with the weird or the dark, this probably won’t be weird enough or dark enough. But for anyone else who loves a fast-paced adventure with a few speculative elements, you will LOVE this book. If you’re a Jill Williamson fan, of course this is a must read. You will not be disappointed!

The New Recruit is currently on tour. Yesterday Christian Teen Fiction Devourer posted an article and tomorrow A Writer’s World will add thoughts about the book.

I received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Fantasy Friday – A Look At Daughter Of Light

Daughter of Light, a fantasy novel by Morgan Busse (Marcher Lord Press) has one of the most intriguing point of view characters I’ve read in some time. He isn’t the main character, and you can’t really think of him as the antagonist either. But he and his interests pit him directly against the true main character.

Mind you, I want to tell you about this character without giving too much away (down on spolers!), so if I’m somewhat vague, you’ll know why.

The character I’m talking about is Caleb Tala, second brother to Lord Corin, the power-hungry leader of Temanin. In some ways, Caleb is an uncomplicated person. He wants pleasure and ease, and is willing to pay a high price for both. Not in money but in loyalty and service.

At the same time he’s rather complex–driven by nightmares, haughty toward those who have significant power, kind to the most undeserving. He’s clever to the detriment of the main character, skilled in military strategy, understanding of human nature, but he can’t see his way out of his own political snarl.

In short, he’s a compelling character, someone I found myself cheering for–not that he would succeed, but that he would change. He’s not happy, and I want him to be. I want him to figure things out, to make better choices, to stop what he plans, renounce what he wins.

Ultimately, Morgan made me care for him. It’s a great accomplishment, I think.

Daughter of Light is high fantasy–the kind that feels like it’s set in medieval times. The only “magic” in the story is a big piece of the puzzle–the power that resides in a race of people thought to be extinct.

The premise is unique on its own, but when Caleb’s story and that of Nierne, the young scribe from Thyra, are woven together with the main character’s thread, “the plot thickens,” in a compelling way.

This storytelling is not straight bad guy against good or supernatural evil against supernatural good. There is complacency among the side of right and hope amid despair within the ranks of the defeated. And then there is Caleb.

Why is he, of all people, the focal point of the light coming from the daughter of light?

That question alone generates a great deal of interest in volume two of this fantasy series.

Fantasy Friday – More Good Books

Some visitors here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction may have noticed that I don’t write as many “for writer” posts as I once did. I haven’t mentioned it often, but I have a second blog.

I realized recently I need to make this clear. I was conversing with another blogger who I thought had abandoned the blog I’d subscribed to. Turns out she’d just started a new one where she was talking about different things. I would have happily followed her to her new blog, but I didn’t know about it. Horrors, I thought, I’ve done the same thing! 😮

So now it’s out. Once a week (usually Saturday) I post writing tips over at Rewrite, Reword, Rework, my editing blog.

Fantasy stays here, though. Fantasy is for us all, writers, readers, thinkers. It’s just the best genre! (But I might be a tad partial in that assessment 😉 ).

At any rate, I thought it was timely to put up a Fantasy Friday post because there’s a lot happening in fantasy/speculative fiction land.

First, AMG Publishers/Living Inc has several books out or coming out.

Scott Appleton may be a new author to you, but he’s about to release his second book this summer. He created a small press and published his first novel in the Sword Of The Dragon series, Swords Of The Six. The book sold well, and now AMG has picked up the entire series. The first title is already available.

Also new to the AMG family is D. Barkley Briggs who first published The Book of Names, first in the Legends of Karac Tor, with NavPress. When the company decided to end its fiction line, the rest of the series was homeless. Until now. The first book re-released last month and the second, Corus the Champion, is due out in two weeks!

In addition AMG is continuing the series of fan favorites — C. S. Lakin, whose second book in The Gates Of Heaven series, Map Across Time, released in March, and Bryan Davis who returns to the world of Billy and Bonnie Bannister in the Children Of The Bard series. Book one is due out this summer.

For the middle grade/YA crowd, in January the Miller Brothers and Warner Press released book three of the Codebearers Series, Hunter Brown and the Eye of Ends.

WaterBrook Press has a key adult fantasy release. Jeffrey Overstreet‘s conclusion of the Auralia’s Thread series, The Ale Boy’s Feast hit bookshelves last month and happily the CSFF Blog Tour will feature it in May.

Finally, today is the day the next set of Marcher Lord Press books is available:

Christy Award winning author Jill Williamson’s From Darkness Won, book three of the Blood Of Kings series, Mitchell Bond’s Hero In Hiding, second in the Hero Complex Series; and well-known science fiction author Kathy Tyers’ re-release of Firebird, complete with newly created maps and annotations.

If all that wasn’t enough, popular YA author (The Door Within series, two stand-alone pirate fantasies, and co-author of The Berinfell Prophecies) Wayne Thomas Batson has new series with AMG. The first book in The Dark Sea Annals Series, The Sword in the Stars, came out last fall. Now there is a contest involving his completion of book two, The Errant King. It’s a dual of sorts, with his co-author Christopher Hooper.

There you have it. Lots of books to enjoy, now and in the days ahead.

Published in: on April 1, 2011 at 7:16 pm  Comments (8)  
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Starfire – A Review

I bought Starfire by Stuart Stockton (Marcher Lord Press) up at Mount Hermon back in March. I’ll admit, for the most part, I wanted to support Jeff Gerke’s efforts to establish his independent press, but I also knew that Stuart Stockton, one of the founders of Speculative Faith, was a good writer. Different, but good.

Different in the way that Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, is different. You see, Stuart envisioned a world “peopled” by dinosaurs. In fact, the world is technologically advanced and the saurians are highly intelligent, so it’s different from Adams in that Stuart was not trying to recreate a world “as we know it” in which dinosaurs roam.

The Story. Rathe, a 5-5 saurian (fifth hatchling of his sire’s fifth brood) wants to rise above his station. When a chance encounter with one of the feared Jerkrenak—wounded and dying—allows him to claim its fang and rescue a hatchling, he is elevated to a position in the warrior class of the Karn Empire.

When he completes his training and earns a spot in a prestigious Klaw, he and the rest of his Spur encounter an insurgent enemy patrol on their first mission—a simple escort assignment to bring back a group of engineers. During the battle, Rathe follows one of those in their party who runs away. The little Spika stumbles on a hidden cavern filled with ancient—and advanced—technology. She triggers some procedure that superimposes technology on her body. As Rathe tries to extricate her, she claims him as her protector.

Upon returning to the others in the Spur, they learn that the little Spika is connected to a rumored super-weapon known as the Starfire. Her goal is to reach her maximum capacity, then launch the Starfire.

However, Rathe encounters another Jerkrenak, members of a group known as Wayfarers who worship a God they call VorTolKo, and a prophet-like person all warning him to destroy the Spika before she can activate Starfire.

With his beloved empire in greater and greater danger from the enemy, and his affection for the little Spika growing, should Rathe help launch Starfire on their enemies or listen to those who warn that the temporary peace Starfire will bring will be followed by greater destruction than can be imagined?

Strengths. The world. First and foremost, Stuart has created a consistent and believable world populated by Saurians, not humans. He gives his characters Saurian mannerisms, creates a hierarchy based on their differing qualities, skillfully deals with problems such as how the smaller Saurians co-exist with the larger, and so on. The details are included as necessary, and therefore never seem overbearing, nor do they bog the story down.

The characters are also wonderfully drawn. Certainly Rathe, who is the point-of-view character, is the one the reader is most attached to. But because of his role as Karey Or’s Protector, it’s easy to feel for her as Rathe does.

Stuart did a good job imbuing his characters with believable motivations. He also sets up internal conflict to go along with the external.

The plot is filled with external conflict that sends the story racing along at a good clip. There is action, intrigue, suspense, danger, surprises, twists, and turns.

The theme is clear but not because the author is trying to drill it into the reader. Rather, as a natural part of who each character is, the story themes surface.

Weakness. The only thing I can think is that perhaps more could be done on the back cover to sell the story to those of us not inclined to pick up a book staring dinosaurs. Again, I am reminded of Watership Down, one of my favorite books. To say it’s a story about rabbits is to do it an incredible injustice, and yet, it is just such a story. How can this be? Only by the skill of the writer who makes rabbits feel believably, humanly sentient. Stuart accomplished the same feat, I think. But I think it takes some selling to convince readers they will care about these Saurians. Maybe I’m wrong.

Recommendation. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to read. For those who love science fantasy or perhaps even science fiction, this is a must read.

Published in: on December 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm  Comments (6)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – By Darkness Hid, Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy Friday – New Releases

I’m pretty excited about the direction Christian fantasy is going. First, I’ve discovered general market Christian fantasy authors like R. J. Anderson and Australian author D.M. Cornish, published by Putnam.

Then I learned at Mount Hermon that Books and Such agented a fantasy author, selling the trilogy to Bethany House. Also, AMG (Dragons in Our Midst) has branched out and is now publishing adult fantasy.

Of course WaterBrook continues to lead the way with traditional publishers when it comes to speculative fiction. This month they released Raven’s Ladder (a CSFF feature later this month), Book 3 of the Auralia Thread series by Jeffrey Overstreet. In May The Last Christian a science fiction thriller by David Gregory will hit bookstore shelves. Publisher’s Weekly has this to say about the latter:

The plotting is intricate and imaginative, and the religious elements go beyond formula, though the political intrigue plot thread is less convincing. Gregory’s approach is fresh, and he’s produced a page-turner.

The big news is that Marcher Lord Press just released its new set of books: To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson, The Superlative Stream by Kerry Nietz, and The Word Unleashed by Steve Rzasa. The last two are science fiction.

Last month Publisher’s Weekly carried a short blurb about To Darkness Fled in their “Books in Brief” section. Here’s the opening line:

“Christian fantasy is the wee niche in which this fat book fits, and here’s hoping its quality helps enlarge the niche.”

The only thing I didn’t like in the PW blurb was the characterization of Christian fantasy as a “wee niche,” but that probably describes the number of available titles rather than the number of writers or would-be-if-they-only-knew readers.

In other encouraging news, the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference featured a Major Morning Track, eight hours of instruction, focused on speculative fiction. Also, three of the eight award winners there were speculative fiction writers.

Slowly but surely, the genre is coming of age.

Contests, Contests, Contests

The voting for the first ever Readers’ Choice – Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction is over. All that’s left is the counting. Meanwhile, two other contests are still underway. One is the November CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award I’ve mentioned already.

The other is a contest run by Jeff Gerke and Marcher Lord Press to select a book that will be published in the Spring 2010 Marcher Lord Press line.

I received a press release announcing this contest and calling for entries some time ago. The problem is, I never got word that the actual voting had started. Come to find out, the first two phases of the contest are over. Happily, however, anyone can still participate in phases three and four.

The contest was structured to be a kind of American Idol of Christian speculative fiction, with the winner receiving a publishing contract from Marcher Lord Press. Well, actually there are two contests. It is the “Main Contest” that will bring the winner a contract. The other, the “Premise Contest,” will earn the winner an invitation to submit a complete manuscript to Marcher Lord Press.

In Phase One of the Main Contest, voters were presented with the title, subgenre, word count, premise, backcover blurb, and synopsis of 36 entries. Each voter was required to vote for at least three entries. After the votes were in, 18 entries advanced to Phase Two.

At this juncture, potential voters could download the first 500 words of each novel. Voters were instructed to choose between 3 and 6 entries based primarily on whether or not they would want to keep reading the book or perhaps buy it. In many respects this reminds me of the Miss Snark’s First Victim’s Secret Agent contest except the entries receiving the most votes were the ones to advance (rather than a Secret Agent making the determination).

Voting in Phase Two ended Monday. The entries that are advancing to Phase Three, in alphabetical order, are

  • Altar
  • Chase the Shadows
  • H2O
  • The Last Apostle
  • The Sending
  • The Sword of the Patron
  • This Side of Eden
  • Vinnie’s Diner

Apparently there will be a poll once Phase Three goes live. I couldn’t find the information just now, but I read that this phase will be based on a number of pages (found it—first thirty pages) with three finalists being chosen. Phase Four will be sixty pages, I believe, with the winner being the selection with the most votes.

Sounds like fun. I wish I would have known when the contest part actually started. I also wish the instructions were clearer. I found it hard to uncover the information I needed to become a participant. At the Marcher Lord Press site, there’s only a small announcement about the contest, with a link, in the upper right hand corner of the home page, under Latest News.

First, it’s helpful to know that the contest is called Marcher Lord Select. Second, the contest is being conducted at the WhereTheMapEnds forums, called The Anomaly , which is where the link in the announcement takes you. This is the part I found off-putting. I expected to go to a site telling me about the contest but found myself at a forum with threads that did not refer to “Contest.” Third, participation requires registration in the forum, a simple, five minute procedure.

I still haven’t found the polls, but I’m guessing the phase one and two polls were taken down once the deadline passed. In the next few days I’ll look for a Sub-Board called Phase 3—Main Contest (I don’t have time to participate in that and in the Premise Contest).

At any rate, Jeff is trying to decide if there will be a two or three week period before the next vote. I’m guessing he soon will post the link to the download that allows access to the Phase Three entries. I went ahead and downloaded the Phase Two selections and will read the winning entries so I’ll be ready when Phase Three goes live.

Why not jump in and participate? Contests are fun!

Fantasy Friday – News

Much to report. First, Marcher Lord Press, the new POD publishing enterprise undertaken by Jeff Gerke, has released three new books.

Mirtika Schultz posted about them on her blog yesterday. Brandilyn Collins posted about one of the books on Wednesday—Stuart Stockton‘s Starfire (more sci fi than fantasy), this being the book she used in her Kanner Lake series. How fun for the fans of those books to learn that Starfire is now actually available.

For those of you who don’t regularly stop over at Speculative Faith, the team blog discussing speculative fiction, you may have missed my advance review of one of these MLP releases—Jill Williamson’s By Darkness Hid. As a matter of fact, Jill has become a guest blogger slotted, for the time being, to post on Wednesday’s. You can read Jill’s introduction, story of finding speculative fiction, and thoughts on vampires in her initial posts.

In addition, Jill has an article out in the latest Issue of CFBA’s Christian Fiction Magazine Online – “Quest’s, Spells, and Vampires: What’s so cool about fantasy?” Besides pointing out why teens like fantasy, Jill gives a nice list of some of the newer titles by Christians (though some of these might better fit in the Middle Grade category).

And in case you missed it, the Christy Award nominations are out. Several bloggers (Nicole, for example, and Sally Stuart) have posted the complete list. I discussed the books in the speculative genre in a recent Spec Faith post.

Something I neglected to mention here. At Novel Journey, Mike Duran has posted Part Two of a panel discussion on Christian speculative fiction. And yes, I’m one of the panelists. So is Jeff Gerke and Lost Genre Guild founder, Frank Creed. Part I appeared a number of weeks ago.

No new information from D. Barkley Briggs. As you may recall, he announced on his Facebook page that NavPress decided, a month from release date, not to publish the second book in the Karac Tor series. The first in his YA fantasy, The Book of Names, was a CSFF blog tour feature back in January. In a tour that doesn’t shy away from tough criticism, the participants gave this book high marks, so it’s especially sad news. Many of us were looking forward to the second installment of an obviously continuing story by an obviously skilled writer.

And for fans of Karen Hancock, Enclave, her newest book is due to release this July. Evidently it’s closer to science fiction than fantasy, but the publisher’s description suggests a combination similar to her first book, Arena.

On a different topic, the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference is just now getting under way. It seems a little odd to me that I am here and they are there … 😦

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