In search of goodness in modern books

A few years ago, I was listening to Elizabeth Elliot teach on the Fruits of the Spirit. I knew what Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, etc. were, but I’d never understood what Goodness was. It’s sandwiched in between kindness and gentleness, and my thinking was that Goodness was part of both of those. Kind of like saying “He’s nice.” It doesn’t mean anything.

So I was fascinated when Elizabeth Elliot defined Goodness as being high quality. “It’s like when we say, ‘This is a good cheese,’, or ‘This is a good vintage of wine’. In the same way, we are to be high-quality people.”

This stuck in my mind, especially as applied to writing. Was I portraying Goodness as desirable? Was I showing characters struggling to become higher and higher quality? After all, the refining process takes time and pain, both of which make for great stories.

Note: Holiness is: The state or character of being holy or sinless; purity of moral character; perfect freedom from all evil; sanctity.

Goodness is: The state or quality of being good, in any sense; excellence; purity; virtue; grace; benevolence.

Speaking of great stories, the other day, we were talking in my Discord about why Narnia and Lord of the Rings are still the Christian fantasy gold standards. One person said, “It’s wrong that their writings are still the best of Christian fantasy. By now we should have hundreds of works that are way better, and they’d be mostly honoured as those who started, not … all that it’s recommended when looking for Christian fantasy books.”

This got me thinking. As a Christian writer, I am obsessed with showing sinful man grappling with Ultimate Good. Evil is less interesting to me. Like, I pick up any Christian book, and yawn, it’s some lukewarm believer sinning again. You know what made Lewis and Tolkien stand out? They didn’t bother wallowing in the evil. Sauron has zero on-screen appearances. Instead, they grappled with Goodness, and man struggling to measure up. The Ring is a constant temptation, and arrayed against it are the Goodness of the elves, and Gandalf, and Gondor, and all the Good characters struggling to maintain their holiness in the face of corruption.

Goodness is treasured. It is something precious and desirable.

In Narnia, it’s each character coming to grips with Aslan. We’re not so much interested in what a pathetic waste of space Eustace is. We want to see him face Aslan and see how he changes. Each character is transformed by the end of each book by their confrontation with Good–they are either changed, or destroyed by it.

How many Christian books have been written since then that focus on man’s struggle with Goodness and Holiness and Righteousness? How many treasure goodness and constantly seek it out? I can’t think of any, and I’ve read quite a few. They kind of miss the point. Instead, they turn God into this cosmic battery that the hero channels in order to defeat the Bad Guys. Oh, and the hero wallows in evil. A lot. Like, in some books, the evil is pretty much front and center. This is no different from any book written by a non-believer.

Now, Mormons tend to get it right, and that’s why we have runaway authors like Sanderson and Meyers and Farland. They still write the stories of Man grappling with Good, although imperfectly. I think that’s why their books resonate so much.

For instance, Jeff Wheeler says in his Manifesto on Virtue:


When I was in college at San Jose State, I took Latin classes from Marianina Olcott. That is where I learned about the Roman concept of Virtus (pronounced “where-tuus”). It was a trait that the Romans respected, but it did not mean just virtue. It included other qualities too: prudentia (prudence), iustitia (justice), temperantia (self-control), and fortitudo (courage).

As I look around in the world today, I see that these traits are no longer honored and respected as they were in the past. Maybe that is why I love reading and why I have certain favorite movies I watch over and over again. You see, in my favorite books and films, the stories that grab me are about Virtus. All right, they can be cheesy sometimes. But I love that moment in Return of the Jedi when Luke throws down his light saber and tells the Emperor he failed to turn him to the Dark Side. That despite everything that will happen to his friends and (gulp) his “sister”, he surrenders and takes the blast of Force lightning full in the chest. That is Virtus.


I posted about this in a Christian writer’s group on social media. I received comments utterly dismissing my argument out of hand.

“Simple factor. [Narnia and LOTR] were not wrtten as “Christian” books. They were written for a secular audience and published by secular publishers. They were just writing great literature. They weren’t writing great “Christian” literature.

And both being classically trained lit professors probably didn’t hurt, especially considering the types of education they got. They probably wrote more during their teen years than most authors writing today have done in their entire lives”

Because Lewis and Tolkien were obviously gods among men and we can’t hope to achieve anything they did, or even study them to learn what they did. Yes. Very good lesson to draw from this.

I was also informed that stories that are dark and vile and end in death and despair have value. I have to wonder, to whom? English lit teachers? Fantasy readers seem to enjoy it with Game of Thrones, but I think that, even there, people still hope for some kind of a satisfying ending. There will probably never be one.

So, as a fellow Christian writer, I challenge every writer. Look at your books and see if you are glorifying good or evil. How many pages are devoted to villains and sin and perversion? How many pages are devoted to Goodness and Righteousness and Holiness? And I don’t mean in an ironic way. I mean in an honest, actual, doctrinal way, which shows what you know of Goodness?

Tolkien and Lewis changed the entire fantasy genre. Let’s change it again, writers. But we have to focus on grappling with the Good.

Song of the Rose: Beauty and the Beast in space

It’s launch day for Song of the Rose! I’m sure there’s other space opera version of Beauty and the Beast, but this one is mine. 😀


The human race is at war with the Rox, a ferocious race of horned, demonic humanoids from space, and humanity is losing.

When the humans and Rox agree to a hostage exchange, Lieutenant Zayn is asked to volunteer because of her social standing. She will be housed with a prince of the Rox, and their good behavior will ensure that peace talks will go forward between their races. Zayn is terrified of sharing living space with one of the demons, but she agrees in order to bring about an end to the war.

Alnair l’Nath is a prince and commander in the Rox fleet. He is nervous about being shut in with a human princess who might knife him in the back, but he wants the war to end, too. He and Zayn despise each other on sight, even though Alnair finds her oddly attractive.

Zayn and Alnair gradually make peace as they discover that humans and Rox are not so different. But when a rogue agent of the Rox kidnaps Zayn and Alnair in order to end the peace talks and escalate the war, it will fall to a human and a Rox, and the growing love between them, to end the conflict forever.

This is a sweet romance with only mild kissing, but plenty of suspense and action.

Available on most retailers here


I wrote this book on accident. I’m kind of burned out on fairytale retellings, mostly because I’ve just read so many. They’re kind of predictable, because if you know the basic story, the retelling will hit the same story beats. And they’re also kind of like … 1500s medieval tech level, peasants and princes, Western European fantasy.

For some reason, my brain went, “But what if it was in SPACE?” And I had to start writing and playing with it. The first draft was much shorter, written in a week before Christmas as a gift for my writing group. They demanded that I go back and expand it. So I rewrote it from the ground up, and I think there’s about 1 page remaining of the original version. Which is fine, because the spaceships needed a lot more time to shine. While humans have regular spaceships, the aliens have these silicon-based lifeforms they fly around in. Their ships are sentient and have attitudes, kind of the dragon and rider dynamic. “You are my pilot and if anyone threatens you, I will vaporize them.” I wound up falling in love with my ships. I’m working on a second story in this same universe (Cinderella!) that is centered around a girl in a forced labor camp who accidentally imprints on a young ship … and he grows up into a giant frigate and demands that she be his pilot.

In Song of the Rose, Alnair and Zayn each think that the other is the beast. And the Roses wind up being this alien artifact that … well, I don’t want to spoil it. Read it for yourself. 🙂 🙂

Bloganuary challenge: Favorite quote?

Today’s prompt is, “What is your favorite quote, and why?”

I have plenty, but the first one that comes to mind is, “Let the excellence of your work be your protest.”

I can’t remember the guy’s name anymore, but he was the mentor of music artist Michael Card. Apparently, when he was starting out, Michael Card was disappointed with the relative low standards set by his peers in the music industry. His mentor then told him that quote. Be so excellent that your work outshines theirs, and you make your point without speaking a word.

I was writing fanfiction at the time, and, well … even hearing the word ‘fanfiction’ tells you all you need to know, right? Not only is there zero bar to entry, most of it is smut. I wanted to write action and adventure and explore the characters and world building deeper than the video games themselves did. (It was Sonic the Hedgehog stuff.) But when I looked around at what was being written for Sonic fanfic, it was pretty disappointing stuff.

So I took this quote to heart, decided that the excellence of my work would be my protest, and I set to work learning how to write. I produced a body of work that I’m still proud of, and I still have people years later telling me how much they loved those fanfics. I later did the same with Destiny fanfics, and then with my books. I may not be the best writer in the world, but doggone, I can be passionate. I’ve been amused to see how many people fell in love with my characters, afterward admitting that they didn’t like those kinds of characters until they read mine.

So that’s my favorite quote and where it came from. Hopefully it inspires you in your work, too. 🙂

Bloganuary challenge: Favorite photo

So I only just found out about Bloganuary, a month-long event hosted by WordPress to blog every day. There’s prompts and everything! I might wind up doing these into Feb. I love blogging, I just need an excuse.

Today’s prompt is, “What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever taken?”

And I be like

This, hands down, is my favorite photo I’ve ever taken. She was so excited about my phone!

For favorite artworks, I think this one is still one of my favorites:

I’ll be here tomorrow with another Bloganuary post! (Seriously, guys, it’s a terrible name, you can’t even pronounce it. Should have been Blanuary!) 😀

The most wonderful time of the year: end of year recaps

I just love December, and not because of Christmas. I mean, Christmas is nice, too. But I just love it when people start writing their end of year retrospectives. What art they made, what books they wrote, what they learned, where their journey of life took them. They usually come along about New Year’s, and I’m looking forward to them.

I haven’t had a chance to go back through my records and see how my books did this year. I’ll save that for the New Years retrospective, heh. But I was looking over the artwork I did this year, and I’m happy with my progress. Here’s my Art vs Artist meme:

artvsartist meme

You can get on twitter or instagram and look for #artvsartist and see loads and loads of people showing off their best work. It’s a neat way to find new artists to follow or commission.

I had other artworks I’m proud of that wouldn’t fit into the eight boxes. Here’s a couple:

Girl and guy back to back, painted in rough brush strokes
“But where has he gone?”
Dark angel of fire and light angel of ice

Each artwork has been a study in a new technique. I’m trying to learn all the time. Starting next year, I want to feature some new artists I’ve found whose work I’ve found to be absolutely marvelous.

On the writing front, I finally finished the next After Atlantis book, Sanctuary. It had to have a giant rewrite the way Mercurion did, because I wrote it while pregnant and stupid. I can write fluff while pregnant, but not action scenes. My brain just won’t do them. Sanctuary needed a some really big action scenes at the end, with everybody getting their Crowning Moment of Awesome, so I redid the climax to make it better. I was joking to my Discord that this book is hurt/comfort, hurt/comfort, cool thing, cool thing, cool thing.

I’ve written enough books now that I can be my own developmental editor, and I am a brutal one. I wrote my own letter to myself. “The first 100 pages are nice, if a bit thin. But those last 90 pages? Garbage. Do them over with more attention to each character.” Crushing when coming from someone else. Pretty grim when coming from yourself, too, heh heh. But it’s done now, and I’m hoping to launch the book late January. Just depends on how long editing and revisions takes. I already have the cover done, which I hope to showcase on the blog soon. It’s already up on my deviantart gallery, if you want to take a peek. 😉

Also, have a merry Christmas! Here is my Christmas artwork from last year:

Father and daughter admire Christmas lights

Learning to WordPress

I came to WordPress.com after my WordPress.org blog died in flames and malware smoke on my own server. I thought I pretty much knew how to use WordPress as a whole, and I’ve let the blog coast for several years. Life was busy and I didn’t have time to fool around with blog stuff.

Anyway, this past week, I actually bothered to grab the WordPress app on my phone so I could update my blog on the fly. As I was clicking on stuff, I happened to look at my stats. They pretty much tabulate the rise and fall of social media, where most of my hits came from.

Stats for my sad little blog over its lifetime

As you can see, I moved to wordpress.com in 2015. I update about once a week, or every two weeks, whenever I have something to share. After 2017, you begin to see the social media sites throttling outside traffic. I used to get comments on my blog posts. I forgot what that’s like. Actual people used to visit my blog and say things and for heavens sake, sometimes disagree with me.

My art used to bring in a ton of search results from Google. Google doesn’t like people to use the image search anymore, so that dried up. So now my poor blog sits here with a vast archive and no visitors. People say blogging is dead? Only because social media and the algorithms killed it.

Being the type to never say die, I was poking around in my shiny new app, and discovered the Reader button. It lets you follow blogs, and search for new ones. I started doing that. Lo and behold, I found a whole secret ecosystem of WordPress blogs. They’re interconnected. They share traffic. Some of them get comments.

The trick is the tagging system. WordPress doesn’t make this easy for you. They give you a general idea on their Help section, but they don’t give you a list of categories, except a handful of very broad ones to start. This blog would fall under “art” and “writing” and “creativity”. But thousands of blogs get posted to those categories every day. You’re supposed to use tags to describe your content in a more granular way. My artwork might also be “painting” “illustration” “fanart” “science fiction” “fantasy” and you see the trouble. WordPress’s ecosystem isn’t that big. There’s no way to target the exact readers I want unless I hunt them on social media. And social media hates blogs. Unless it’s Tumblr.

And if you have books to sell? Pff, you’re on your own, buster. Nobody wants to read a story unless it’s a fanfic and it’s free oh and it has the correct ship.

Please don’t make me explain what a ship is.

The point is, I’m going to start experimenting with bringing the ol’ blog in line with Teh Modern Internets. I’m going to repost some of my more popular posts with updated tags and categories. I’m going to try to figure out how to get my artwork onto the search engines. (Better descriptive text? I have to figure this out.) If you see smoke and ashes flying from this blog’s direction, don’t be alarmed. That’s just me, relearning how to blog.

Anybody else out there trying to cope with Teh Modern Internets? If you have tips for me, let me know. I’m woefully behind.