Fantasy Monday?

I suppose I could wait until Friday, but I think these important announcements warrant a special day.

First is the return of Speculative Faith, with a new address and a bit of a makeover. We’re happy to be back in business (though some of you may not have known we were away 😉 ) providing news and discussion about speculative fiction (the Speculative part of the name) from a Christian worldview (the Faith part of the name.)

If any of you have links to Spec Faith, please be sure to input the address change, and of course, I invite any others interested in the genre to add the link to your blogroll.

We’re still “in process.” We’ll plan to have a way for you to subscribe to the blog, and we’ll have accounts on Facebook and Twitter. All kinds of ways to keep tabs on speculative fiction.

Look for a post this week from Stephen Burnett about Anne Rice and her latest change of heart. (You did hear about that, didn’t you?)

Today at Spec Faith I cross-posted about the Clive Staples Award (see below). Though the content won’t be new, I invite you to stop by and give your feedback on the new look (and don’t forget, we’re in process).

Speaking of the 2010 Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction, here’s the latest (most of it) from the award site:

Voting begins today!

Please read these instructions carefully.

CSA is not a popularity contest. The award has been established to recognize the work of fiction which readers designate as the previous-year’s best. Consequently, voters must adhere to these basic rules.

  • You MUST have read at least two of the nominations.
  • You may vote only once for a first, second, and third choice.
  • You may not vote for the same book as your second or third option that you voted for as your first choice.
  • Your votes for second and third options may not be for the identical book.
  • You may mark the “none of these” option if you do not have a second or third choice.
  • Voting will close September 1, 2010.
  • Second and third choice options will only be considered if a clear winner is not determined by the first choice vote.

You’ll find the link to the ballot at the end of the award site post.

And if you haven’t read two of the nominations yet, you still have time since voting will continue throughout the month of August.

OK, back to your regular programing tomorrow. 😉

Having Something to Say

I just listened to a CD I have of James Scott Bell teaching at an American Christian Writers (ACW) workshop in Anaheim, California, several years ago. One thing that particularly caught my attention was when Jim mentioned two books that came out in the 1970s that are still selling. He said the authors had something to say and conveyed their vision in their stories.

How revolutionary! Authors that have something to say, not just an entertaining story to tell.

For the last eight years or more, Christian writers have been brow-beaten by writing instructors to leave messages behind. Stories, after all, aren’t sermons. And message-driven novels are nothing but propaganda.

Might want to tell that to Ian Rand, one of the authors Jim Bell referred to. Here was an atheist writing a story that said something, that conveyed a vision of the world, and Atlas Shrugged has become in the minds of many, a classic.

Interestingly, there seems to be a parallel trend among Christian writers—and maybe among all writers: a return to the artistic. I say “return” because the great successes as far as sales were concerned belonged to “commercial fiction,” stories that weren’t attempting to do anything artistic.

How odd it seems to me that anyone would want to pour themselves into the work it takes to create a beautiful story, and yet say nothing. Or, actually, let whatever the story says seep from them organically, which seems to be the current belief: if a Christian writes, his Christianity will find a way into the story because it is so much a part of who he is.

There is a certain truth to that. I find any number of things I believe muscling into my stories though I hadn’t set out to proclaim them. But those are secondary. They aren’t focused or reiterated or recurring—because they aren’t planned.

If I have something I want to say, however, that comes through in a variety of ways and in the lives of a number of characters. It’s thought out and intentional, much as my non-fiction is.

There have been times when I sit down to blog and start typing about something unimportant because I don’t really know what I want to say that day, but those are the rare occasions. Generally I have a purpose, most often reflected in the title, since I write that first.

Sometimes I’ve found myself on a tangent and the title calls me back to the original intention, but usually, even in these short pieces, I have a purpose around which I structure the piece.

Why should fiction be different?

C. S. Lewis has become one of the favorite authors to quote for those who think great writing can just happen. Last week I wrote a counter to this view over at Spec Faith because I think he has been seriously misunderstood (though not misquoted).

In the true spirit of Lewis, then, I think Christian fiction writers should come to a story with something to say, with a vision to share. And bravo to instructors like Jim Bell who stand up and say so.

Fantasy Here, Fantasy There, Fantasy Everywhere

My head is full of fantasy. Just last Monday Sharon Hinck had a live chat with members of the ACFW Book Club discussing the April feature, Restorer’s Son, the second book in Sharon’s Sword of Lyric series. Great stuff. I was heartened to see so many readers, not normally fantasy lovers, who raved about the book. And I do mean raved.

On top of this, as you know, we’ve been collecting nominations for the Clive Staples Award. It’s been lots of fun to see what books readers are putting forward as worthy of recognition.

Yesterday I visited the web site of the Mythopoeic Society, a fantasy organization tilting toward the literary and scholarly, inspired by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. I discovered this organization also gives out awards—has for almost forty years.

Well, on Monday I also posted over at Spec Faith, and in the midst of writing the article got the idea for a “Commenters’ Choice” award for the best Christian speculative web or blog site. I’m still not sure if we should lump the two together and have one award or separate and have two separate awards. Still, the idea was exciting.

Then we’re nearly ready to put out the next issue of Latest In Spec, so the news authors are listing is always interesting to me.

Let’s see. One example, Bryan Davis‘s next series, the one published by Zondervan, has launched this week with the first book, Beyond the Reflection’s Edge. This sounds like an intriguing series.

Besides the contests and news, there’s this little movie coming out very soon, launching here in the L.A. area, I think, May 18. I’m referring to Prince Caspian. You can read an interesting blog post regarding the movie over at Fiction Mirrors Truth (love the name of that blog).

So there you have it. That should get your brain thinking about fantasy, too. One more recommendation: pick up a good fantasy to read when you want to relax. You just might find yourself transported to another world where you’ll stay until the last word on the last page. Ah, that’s the fantasy experience! 😀

Community, Community, Community

When I began working as a full time writer, I realized I needed to connect with others in the profession. I went online hoping to find information about live writing groups in my area. Instead I found a budding online community of Christian writers.

First it was an email group, then a blog. A discussion board followed, and there I stayed for a long, long time—until more and more of the participants deserted to start their own blogs. At long last, I caved and started A Christian Worldview of Fiction. Only to discover an excellent community growing up here. And at another writer’s forum, which led to the formation of the CSFF Blog Tour (and Spec Faith) and a greater community.

Why this little trot down Memory Trail? I mentioned in my last promotion post, Going to the Dogs Again, that an author’s best bet in promoting through online sources is through “organic discussion.” This kind of communication is in contrast to a “mass market blogging” approach.

But who do you “discuss” with? Not strangers. You discuss with people you know or people who are interested in the same things you are. You discuss with your friends, those you work with, those you sit next to in church.

And online? You discuss with those in community: group blogs, bloggers you meet on tours, email groups, discussion forums, online book clubs. There are probably other options, too. The point is, the chance to connect with others in a meaningful way has expanded beyond the furtherest reaches of my imagination.

But with so many voices clamoring for attention, does anyone listen?

We’re back to the many dogs yammering analogy. People listen if they care.

One way to make people care is to speak about something vital. When my dog would bark in the middle of the night, he got my attention. No stranger should have been within his “danger range” to cause him to bark that deep-throated warning bark of his, so if he woof-woofed his loudest, it was vital that I listen.

People also care if they are engaged with others. The first writer’s forum I went to was by invitation—someone I already knew told me about it and suggested I stop by. One of the email loops I’m on came about because of people I met at a writer’s conference. Later, I joined a writing group, and became involved in their forums, because of a blogger/writer I met at a conference.

Of course, the reverse happens, too. As I enter into discussions, I make friends with those I’ve never actually met. But their ideas influence me. I respect their opinions. What they say matters.

The drawback to all this community involvement, of course, is that it is time consuming. But aren’t booksignings and speaking engagements time consuming as well?

And now I realize, my time today is half past up, so I’ll continue this another day.

Fantasy Tidbits

First, ACFW announced the finalists of their Genesis contest. This competition is unique because it is for novelists. The opening fifteen pages, entered in specific categories, are judged by three writers familiar with the genre. Here are the 2008 finalists in the speculative fiction category:

    Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Allegory: (there are six finalists because there was a tie for the 5th finalist spot)
    Lynda K. Arndt
    Valerie Comer
    John W. Otte
    Jim Rubart
    Chawna Schroeder
    Stuart Stockton

Note, these are alphabetically listed, not in order of finish. Congratulations to all six! The winners will be announced at the ACFW conference in September.

Secondly, I mentioned yesterday that I had extended a grassroots challenge over at Spec Faith for fans of Christian science fiction and fantasy to tell ten friends about three titles of books they enjoyed or even have on their to be read piles. One commenter asked for titles, as a refresher. I just so happened to have a partial list, taken from my own Fantasy Challenge II:

  • By Sharon Hinck
    The Restorer
    The Restorer’s Son
    *The Restorer’s Journey
  • By Wayne Thomas Batson
    The Door Within
    The Rise of the Wyrm Lord
    The Final Storm
    *Isle of Swords
  • By Kathryn Mackel
  • By George Bryan Polivka
    Legend of the Firefish
    The Hand That Bears the Sword
    *The Battle for Vast Dominion
  • By Donita Paul
  • By Karen Handcock
    Light of Eidon
    Shadow Within
    Shadow of Kiriath
    *Return of the Guardian-King
  • By R. K. Mortenson
    Landon Snow and the Auctor’s Riddle
    Landon Snow and the Shadows of Malus Quidam
    Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum
    Landon Snow and the Volcer Dragon
    *Landon Snow and the Auctor’s Kingdom
  • By Bryan Davis
    Dragons in Our Midst
    The Candlestone
    Circles of Seven
    Tears of a Dragon
  • By Jeffrey Overstreet
    *Auralia’s Colors
  • By Gregory Spenser
    *Guardian of the Veil
  • By Christopher Hooper
    Rise of the Dibor: The White Lion Chronicles
    *The Lion Vrie: Book II of The White Lion Chronicles
  • By Stephen Lawhead
    The Paradise War: Book One in The Song of Albion
    The Silver Hand: Book Two in The Song of Albion Trilogy
    Hood (The King Raven Trilogy, Book 1)
    *Scarlet (The King Raven Trilogy, Book 2)
  • By Jonathan Rogers
    Bark of the Bog Owl
    The Secret of the Swamp King
    *The Way of the Wilderking
  • By Robin Parrish
  • *Latest release

I’ll update this to add the following:

  • By Andrew Peterson
    On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
  • By Eric Rheinhold
    Ryann Watters and the King’s Sword

Don’t forget to drop by Spec Faith and leave a comment to let us know you’ve emailed your friends (or actually told them in person) about three of these titles, or any others you know, including science fiction novels I didn’t include. Kathy Tyers, Chris Walley, Randy Ingermanson and John Olson, Austin Boyd come to mind at once.

Then there are any number of authors who have self published or are with a small press or even have decided to go with a POD publisher. One self-published author (though, technically I suppose she would consider herself to be under a small press) who has an incredible website is Candy Abbott. Spend any time there at all, and it’s hard NOT to buy a Gavin Goodfellow.

Talk is cheap. That’s actually the good news when it comes to books, because editors continue to say that “word of mouth” is the number one promotion tool.

Do readers—Christians and non-Christians alike—really want fantasy and science fiction from Christians? We know the truth about the spiritual as well as the physical. We understand the conflict between good and evil, the internal part as well as the external. We ought to care about excellence because of Who we serve. And fantasy continues to be the hottest genre in the general market.

What are we missing if it isn’t the word-of-mouth promotion necessary to bring readers inside the covers of the books and let them fall in love with the characters they find there.

Published in: on April 8, 2008 at 12:09 pm  Comments (6)  
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