Controversial topic ahead. About religion. You have been warned.
Okay, so, I’ve been reading some fantasy from Christian authors. I used to read Christian fantasy all the time as a teen, simply because that’s all I knew how to find. Our library didn’t have a lot in the way of juvenile science fiction and fantasy in the early 90s. (Boy, it sure does now!)
Anyway, once I started reading adult fantasy/sci-fi, I stopped reading the Christian stuff. I especially got into urban fantasy, where gods and monsters ride motorcycles and eat greasy Chinese food on the weekends. In this brand of fantasy, if you need to interact with God, you do it very respectfully, usually through an angel. All the other gods and monsters dislike messing with Heaven, because God is the Big Boss.
So I’ve been reading some Christian fantasy, and I’ve run into something that bothers me. These characters pray all the time, and I do mean all the time. They attribute everything that happens to God’s will. When bad things happen, they spout platitudes about God’s mysterious ways.
But they’re shouting into a void. God never answers. There might be a coincidence now and then that is attributed to God, but God himself is absent.
After spending so much time in other branches of fantasy, where the gods not only intervene in daily affairs, they all bow to the high God, who also intervenes on behalf of his worshipers … this leaves me scratching my head. A lot of these books are written by non-Christians, as far as I know. So why are the Christians the ones the most distant from their own God? God talks to people all the time in the Bible. He’s talked to me quite clearly in my own life.
Even Cthulhu will answer if called to long enough and hard enough.
I recently joined an online book club that one of my friends started. I’ve tried a few book clubs before, but they tended to read books I didn’t care for.
This club carefully vets books and has a panel of judges who decide what book we shall lavish our adoration upon that month. Then we readers get to vote on what cover art we like best. (Tongue firmly in cheek, here.)
Anyway, this month, we picked Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia.
See what I mean about voting pretty much because of the cover art? Hee hee. Anyway, it’s upwards of 500 pages and I read it in about two days. It’s amaaaaaaazing. It’s the sort of thing I expected Pern to be. (I went into Pern as a wide-eyed teen who didn’t really like sex or politics all that much, BUT THAT’S WHAT I GOT BOY HOWDY).
In Dragonfriend, Lia is an adopted princess who gets diced up and tossed off an airship by the bad guy who just took over her kingdom. She’s saved from landing in a volcano by a tiny dragonet who sort of parachutes her into a tree. The dragonet, Flicker, falls in love with Lia, and they become close friends, even though humans aren’t allowed on the sacred Dragon Isle.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that all the islands stick up out of the Cloud Sea, which is made of poison clouds. Nobody goes into them and lives to tell the tale.
There are magic-wielding martial-arts monks. There is a big, bad, blue dragon named Grandion. There are hints of a coming apocalypse. There are deep conversations about love and belonging. There is self-sacrifice. It’s beautiful.
Marc came around to show us pictures of Ethiopia where he lives, tell fun backstory bits, and drop cool pictures.
So that’s where I’ve been lately. Got walloped with tonsillitis and then laryngitis, which means that basically all I can do is lay around and read. I certainly don’t have any voice to do anything with.
Come join our book club and read amazing books with us! The authors come schmooze and post cool backstory bits and giveaways.
Yep, this is a book review. Of a really fun book. You ready?
No, I did not just say that in a WWE wrestler’s voice.
Anyway, here’s the official summary:
By day, book-loving wizard Lily Singer manages library archives. By night? She sleeps, of course. In between, she studies magic and tries to keep her witch friend Sebastian out of trouble. Much to her displeasure, he finds it anyway and drags her along with him.
From unmaking ancient curses to rescuing a town lost in time, Lily and Sebastian fight to avert magical mayhem. Meanwhile, Lily’s mysterious past begins to unfold–a past hidden from her by those she trusts most. Will she be able to discover the truth despite them?
And now for my review.
This isn’t really urban fantasy, not if you take UF to mean clever wizards as the underdogs in a massive struggle against an overpowering evil force against the backdrop of a rainy city. This is more like what I think of as contemporary fantasy (and might be at home on a shelf of paranormal cozy mysteries): Girl and guy solve mysteries. They have chemistry. They exchange witty banter. They drink tea. Oh, and occasionally they do some really interesting magic.
I think that’s one thing that attracted me to the book in the first place. The magic system is based on Sumerian cuneiform (which has always intrigued me). It smacks of frontiers. The heroine, Lily, is always learning some new spell by examining an ancient artifact. It thrills my little paleontologist/archeologist heart.
The hero, Sebastian, is a witch. But he’s a witch in the sense that his magic comes from trading favors with other beings. And the beings he prefers to deal with are fairies. So there’s lots of him bribing various fairies and pixies with booze. It’s hilarious and not very witchy. It’s like the lighter moments in the Dresden books when Harry bribes the pixies with pizza.
The book is laid out kind of oddly–it’s basically three novellas rolled into one book. So in Story 1, you meet Lily and see how she deals with a haunted house. In Story 2, you follow Sebastian into the seamy underworld of Alabama and see how his fairies help him take on a drug ring. In the third story, the artifact of note in story 2 has been used to freeze a whole town in a time loop. Think Groundhog Day.
It’s kind of odd reading three stories in one book. But they’re all heavily interconnected. The shorter length makes for quick reading (again, like a cozy mystery).
Since I’m always in the market for light, fluffy reading, this book hit the spot. I’m also reading the second book, which is supposed to take the metaplot a little deeper. There’s also a kickstarter going for books 3 and 4, which will be out soon (yay!).
It’s January of 2017–time for all the lists! Top ten EVERYTHING! Top fifty! Top 100! Stuff we learned last year! WOOHOO!
So, as I’ve been looking at these lists with the casual interest of a reader, I’ve noticed a few things.
Namely, a bunch of these books are way far into a series. Like, book 3. Book 6. Book 9. Book 12.I’m mostly looking at the Goodreads top 2016 lists, because they’re so beautifully easy to navigate. The Kobo ones are pretty similar.
Let me show you. I’ve taken the liberty of marking each book’s place in a series with a big fat number.
You can tell which ones are the thrillers. They tend to not be in a series, because most characters in thrillers don’t survive anyway.
Next up: Fantasy!
Very few stand-alones here. Every book 1 is also the beginning of a series, with the exception of one book, which is a short story anthology (that tiger one).
Next up: Young Adult Fantasy:
Series are a big deal in this genre. The only book 1s are all series starters from authors who have established themselves with other series/trilogies.
It’s interesting to look at the spread here. If you want to hit a bestseller list, you’ve got to write series. Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid is up to book 8 now. I spy a book 10 of another series. One of those mystery series is at book 42! These authors have been at this for a LONG time. The young adult authors seem to crank out trilogies, but sometimes they run longer than that. Even Stephen King is up there with a book 3!
As authors, I guess we can expect to plug away at this for book after book–so pick a genre that you like an awful lot. Unless you’re a thriller writer, then you can write boatloads of book 1s.
Today I’m interviewing Ralene Burke, author of the fantasy novel Bellanok. I just finished reading it, and it was a fun, gentle romp through a fantasyland with a heaping helping of faith. Here’s the interview!
1. Welcome to the blog, Ralene! Thanks for joining us! First, tell us about your book. What genre/age group is it for? And what’s the story about?
Bellanok is a contemporary fantasy geared toward readers in their 20s. Although, I’ve heard from readers of all ages, including YA readers, who have enjoyed the story. Here’s the blurb:
A haven for myths and legends . . . until evil discovers a way in.
With evil darkening the mountains to the north, the fairy queen, Fauna, must journey from the island realm of Bellanok to the modern world to find the man the Creator appointed to save their kingdom. A man she has been dreaming of her whole life.
Brian is a down-on-his-luck pastor on the verge of giving up on God. He’s tired and frustrated–a failure. No sooner does he make a decision that jeopardizes his career than an unusual blonde woman shows up and tries to convince him he is some kind of savior.
Fauna must open Brian’s eyes to a different reality, and Brian needs to embrace the haven’s secrets. If neither of them succeeds, Bellanok will succumb to evil and the world will lose all trace of innocence.
2. What made you want to write this particular story?
It all started with a prayer. I was asking God for guidance on where to go after finishing edits on a WIP. The first chapter of Bellanok popped into my head. After a couple of days with that chapter demanding to be written, I sat down and cranked it out. That seemed to alleviate the urgency while I finished the current WIP, but the story was still building in the back of my mind. Once I had time, I was able to start cranking out the story.
3. What was your favorite part to write?
Any part with Roman in it? Seriously, Roman was my favorite character to write—mostly because he’s just so different from me. But he says many things that I wish I had the guts to say. Ha!
4. What was the hardest part to write?
I can’t tell you that without revealing a major plot point in the story. I will say, bring out the tissues! The second hardest part to write was the end. For several scenes in the final battles, Fauna and Brian are in separate places with different dangers around them.
5. This book was originally written in serial format. What are the pros and cons of writing that way?
Ah, yes, the serial project was an interesting experience. I had fun with it and would totally try to do it again (though I would change a few things). Pros: The serial format allowed me to keep putting my name/story out in front of readers with each release, thus helping to build a following more quickly.
The serial forced me to think on my feet and make a cohesive story without being able to go back and change things. So it was a great exercise for stretching my writing muscles. Cons: Ideally, each part of the serial would have released about 6-8 weeks apart. Due to life, that didn’t happen. So while the serial format did help to build a following, it wasn’t as effective as it should have been.
I don’t like not being able to go back to previous parts and change details or plot lines. Of course, that could be solved by writing the whole thing first—but that would have taken too long!
6. The theme of Bellanok is a journey back into faith. Why is this important to you?
It’s important to me because much of Brian’s journey is mine as well. I’ve always been a believer, but it wasn’t until my 20s that I reached a time when my faith was challenged, where I felt that I just couldn’t connect with God.
While it didn’t take me journeying to a mystical island to save unicorns to find that connection, God did have to bring me to my knees before I was able to see the problems.
I think many people go through the same kind of challenges—each unique to the person—but with the same struggles and desperation. Bellanok helps readers to sort through the coinciding emotions and thoughts while escaping with Brian to fight the battle and save the world.
Thank you for joining us on the blog today, Ralene! Best of luck with Bellanok and all future books!
RALENE BURKE BIO: Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone SHINE BEYOND! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for several freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is available on Amazon! When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . . You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.
A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to start playing games with my husband again. Videogames, board games, card games. We met and bonded over our shared love of games, but as the babies have kept coming, I haven’t got to play them much.
We started off with Tiny Epic Galaxies, which I enjoyed very much. But he has lots more games that I don’t know anything about.
As I have been thinking how far behind I am with new releases and games, I ran across these articles about awesome adulting. Or what happens when you’ve poured so much of yourself into your family that you have no individuality left. No likes or dislikes. No favorite places or hobbies. The articles are about how reclaiming that part of yourself can enrich your family, not subtract from it.
So I started thinking. When it comes to games, I haven’t let myself play much of anything in about seven years. I get a month of World of Warcraft now and then. I played some Stardew Valley with the kids. I play Pokemon sometimes. But that’s been it. Mostly I watch other people play games. I have no likes or dislikes, no opinions. Only fading memories of games that I used to enjoy.
When I told my husband this, he was overjoyed that I want to rediscover this. In particular, he was happy that I need him to help me. I hadn’t realized how that whole aspect of our relationship had been shut down. It’s kind of sad.
I did start running a little premade Dungeons and Dragons campaign for the kids, with premade characters. Right now they’re solving a murder mystery, and loving it. But I still want to play with my husband, too.
I wrote this much of the blog at the end of September. Then we got our notice that we had to move. Here I am, six weeks later, moved, and I still want to learn to adult awesomely. I’m trying to play games, trying to write, trying to draw, trying to do the things that not only give me joy, but enrich others, too. As Donna Otto says, my first ministry is to my husband. That means games.
I think that will be my goal for 2017. As we head into the end of 2016, it’s a good time to think about these things.
What about you? Do you adult awesomely? Or are you like me, and pretty much struggling to keep your head above water?
Anyway, Malevolent has been out for more than a year now. I would have had the sequel out already, but I kind of had a baby in November, and that always sets back all artistic endeavors by six months. Anyway! Book 2, Malcontent, is in final revisions and awaiting the jaded eye of a professional editor. I thought my loyal readers might like to read the first chapter and see how Mal and Libby are coping with the fallout after the events of book 1.
“You’re going to have to tell your parents eventually, Libby,” Mal said.
It was a hot August morning, and the sky was that brassy white color, like the lid on a casserole dish. Mal was gently wheeling a beehive on a dolly to its new position near the blueberry field. He’d poured so much smoke into the bees that they were comatose.
I leaned against a fence post and folded my arms. “I know what’s wrong with me. You know what’s wrong with me. I don’t need a psychiatric evaluation.” I tried to sound defiant, but inside I was quivering with terror.
In my circulation around the internet, I keep hearing about this book called the Bestseller Code. It’s not out yet, but a chapter of it is available for free on Amazon. Ever curious, I grabbed it and read it.
Here’s the summary:
This sneak peek teaser – featuring literary giants John Grisham and Danielle Steele – from Chapter 2 of The Bestseller Code, a groundbreaking book about what a computer algorithm can teach us about blockbuster books, stories, and reading, reveals the importance of topic and theme in bestselling fiction according to percentages assigned by the what the authors refer to as the “bestseller-ometer.”
Although 55,000 novels are published every year, only about 200 hit the lists, a commercial success rate of less than half a percent. When the computer was asked to “blindly” select the most likely bestsellers out 5000 books published over the past thirty years based only on theme, it discovered two possible candidates: The Accident by Danielle Steel and The Associate by John Grisham.
The computer recognized quantifiable patterns in their seemingly opposite, but undeniably successful writing careers with legal thrillers and romance. In Chapter 2, Archer and Jockers analyze this data and divulge the most and least likely to best sell topics and themes in fiction with a human discussion of the “why” behind these results.
The Bestseller Code is big-idea book about the relationship between creativity and technology. At heart it is a celebration of books for readers and writers—a compelling investigation into how successful writing works.
Intriguing idea, right? How can a computer algorithm pick out bestsellers?
Well, when you dig into it, it’s really stuff that readers know intuitively, but never really articulated. Here’s some excerpts:
If we compute an average proportion for each topic in all the books by each of these authors, it certainly seems that Steel and Grisham learned something from the old maxim “write what you know.” The author who dreamed of baseballbut then became an attorney has “Lawyers and the Law” as his most prevalent theme, followed by “American Team Sports.” Steel, who has been through five marriages, raised nine children and lost one, writes mostly about “Domestic Life,” “Love,” and “Maternal Roles.”
Roughly a third of all the paragraphs Grisham has ever written deal directly with the legal system, and similarly Steel has given almost an exact mathematical third of her pages over the years to the theme of domestic life, or even more specifically “time spent inside the home.”
Grisham and Steel each have only one signature theme, not two, that takes up a whole third (on average) of each of their novels. This likely helps with their branding. All the many other topics each writer employs are used in tiny percentages. Grisham’s second-most-used topic across his canon is American sports, but it is the subject of only 4 percent of his pages, and this average is no doubt as large as it is because it gets a big bump from his non-legal thriller Calico Joe— a book that is entirely set in a world of baseball. Many of Grisham’s other secondary themes are no big surprise: money (3 percent), cops (2 percent), and government intelligence (2 percent).
The less immediately obvious topic, at almost 4 percent of all of Grisham’s pages, is a topic we call “everyday moments.” The name is deliberately vague and undramatic. The scenes in which this topic shows up prominently may involve two people chatting, or sitting on a sofa watching TV, or walking down the street. Not much is going on but day-to-day living. Its presence as number three in Grisham, after law and sports, is important if only to indicate a writer who is aware of pace. Everyday interactions between characters are there in order to vary the pace of the drama and avoid melodrama. It is the kind of topic no one would likely think they read for, but if these scenes that offer breath and reflection are totally absent, a reader is almost guaranteed to complain.
There are other minor topics in Grisham, though, ones that we would have been less likely to guess immediately. These topics, with similar proportions to cops and courts, deal with people in their domestic environments (a top topic for Steel), kids enjoying summer at home (with words like “porch” and “bike”), scenes about relationships (also very important in Steel), and family.
Steel’s top few themes appear to put her characters and those of Grisham in very different worlds. After time spent in the home— a topic whose specific nouns suggest the home of a typical nuclear family— she gives 5 percent more of her storytelling to a similar theme we called “family time.” The nouns in this word group suggest a family at home, engaged in everyday activities: dinner, conversation, rest, love, weekends. So far it is all quite low drama. Her third most used topic, though, deals with hospitals and medical care. This topic is made up of words like “nurses,” “doctors,” “ambulance,” “emergency,” and “accident.” It suggests not the long-term stay of a patient with a chronic disease, but instead the sudden and unexpected event that threatens the domestic contentment of Steel’s primary themes.
There’s a lot more in this vein–analyzing the topics in the proportions. It boils down to “people like reading about people interacting in casual, friendly, intimate ways.” Oh, but sex doesn’t sell.
If we take a cross section of almost five thousand novels— five hundred of which are bestsellers and the rest are not— and measure the presence of five hundred different themes across all of them, then the proportion of the whole taken up by sex is just about a thousandth of a percent. If you then measure the content of bestselling novels (and we will explain how this is done in just a moment), this fraction for sex goes down to 0.0009 percent.
It’s hard to believe. Who would have thought that sex does not sell? We tell people and still they do not believe us. But the truth is this: sex, or perhaps more precisely erotica, sells, and it sells in notable quantities, but only within a niche market. Titles within that genre rarely break out enough to win the attention of the mainstream reading market that creates bestsellers.
We know what you are thinking: “What about Fifty Shades of Grey?” Well, that novel (or those novels if you count the whole series) is one quite rare example of an erotic story that hit the lists. … Contrary to what you might expect given the prominence of sex in TV, movies, and the media, the U.S. reading public public of the past thirty years has demonstrated a preference for other topics.
The algorithm actually came up with a list of things that didn’t sell–at least, not on that snapshot of the New York Times Bestseller list. This is where all my spec fic friends are going to cry foul.
Two notable sets of under-performing topics are all things fantastical and otherworldly. Made-up languages, fantasy creatures, settings that don’t exist, space battles, and starships are all statistically far less likely to succeed on a mass scale than the topics of realism in today’s market.
Still, in the many topics that suggest a realistic world, there are some that are winners and others that are losers. Among the good, the popular, and (for writers) the go-for-its: marriage, death, taxes (yes, really). Also technologies— preferably modern and vaguely threatening technologies— funerals, guns, doctors, work, schools, presidents, newspapers, kids, moms, and the media.
By contrast, among the bad and unpopular, we already have sex, drugs, and rock and roll. To that add seduction, making love, the body described in any terms other than in pain or at a crime scene. (These latter two bodily experiences, readers seem to quite enjoy.) No also to cigarettes and alcohol, the gods, big emotions like passionate love and desperate grief, revolutions, wheeling and dealing, existential or philosophical sojourns, dinner parties, playing cards, very dressed up women, and dancing. (Sorry.) Firearms and the FBI beat fun and frivolity by a considerable percentage. The reading public prefers to see the stock market described more so than the human face. It likes a laboratory over a church, spirituality over religion, and college more than partying. And, when it comes to that one, big, perennially important question, the readers are clear in their preference for dogs and not cats.
This is where I start thinking about the data we’ve been presented. Of course, this is all based on one chapter of a very deep book, and I’m no statistician. But I am a reader, and I have a few theories about why these books sell.
First off, for the lack of speculative fiction in the algorithm–this was based off a snapshot of the 2014 NYT bestseller list. This was, I believe, right after the NYT changed its rules to keep indie published books off the list. (Otherwise it would have been pretty much dominated by picture books.)
The indie market has been killing it in speculative fiction. I mean, the Martian was indie–Andy Weir wrote it on his blog and dumped it to Amazon for a buck afterward. Traditional publishers have declared Urban Fantasy a dead genre. Meanwhile, on Amazon, UF is one of the big hot genres. Watch out, Jim Butcher, here comes Domino Finn and a bunch of others, out to steal your crown.
Science fiction, especially space opera, its going bonkers in the indie realm. So is epic fantasy–dragons, wizards, magic, all that jazz. Over on the kboards forum, writers of speculative regularly report being able to live off their earnings in those genres.
Now comes the speculation. This study found a few big things.
An author spends 1/3rd of the book solidly focused on genre tropes. If it’s a Grisham, people want law shenanigans. If it’s romance, they want relationships. If it’s fantasy, they want the fantastic. If it’s space opera, they want space ships and aliens. If it’s Harry Potter, they want Hogwarts.
This is all fine and dandy. But what separates the winners from the rest of the pack is that “human interactions” thing. We don’t read Harry Potter for the epic battles against the forces of Voldemort–we want to hang out with the Weasleys. “We’re not dumb. We know our names are Gred and Forge.”
In the Expanse trilogy by Corey, the heroes spend a LOT of time hanging out in the canteen of the ship, drinking bad space-coffee and debating what to do. There’s a ton of human interaction along the way.
After Harry Potter came out, I read a lot of the copycats that launched around the same time. They were all big on the action and weak on the heartwarming, cozy human interaction moments. They lacked staying power as a result. Out of the whole pack, I think only Percy Jackson managed to rise to popularity.
The Mitford books by Jan Karon were big on human interaction. Each book is pretty much “Father Tim wanders around a little town and talks to people”. There will always be a mystery to solve or an over-arching conflict to face, but at its heart, it’s just a cozy story. I think that’s why it sold like crazy.
Human interactions, marriage, death, taxes, moms, kids, and all the rest of things that feature in bestsellers–those are all what we call high concept. That is, something that everybody can relate to. We all have families. We all have laundry and taxes and death in the family.
So, basically, if you want to write a book that people want to read, you have to write about people dealing with common topics. But the fun of it is setting it in different genres. (In the second Expanse book, one of the main characters is trying to find his kidnapped daughter. So he crowdfunds his search. The resulting donations and trolling he gets ring absolutely true, whether here on Earth or roaming the moons of Saturn.)
As a reader, I know that I love the quiet moments where the characters spend time with other characters. Seems that I’m not the only one.
Interviewer Hank: So tell me where the idea came from for No Such Thing As Werewolves, what’s the story about and how did this idea hatch for you?
Chris Fox: So the basic premise is that legends of mythical creatures have a grain of truth–they come from the distant past. And I tied that in with a science fiction approach, where I wanted there to be a reason why something like a werewolf could exist–a reason why moonlight would cause it to change, the reason why they’d be vulnerable to silver. So I started researching all that stuff, and in the process, really got into genetics and anthropology.
So I invented a culture that is currently something that mankind doesn’t know about. My version of Atlantis, I guess you might say. It used to exist, but has since disappeared. All of a sudden, traces of this culture are returning. It’s heralding a big change in the world–there’s an apocalypse coming. These werewolves are back, and people aren’t sure why. So our main character is an anthropologist trying to tie all these things together.
Hank: What is it about the idea of a distant past, and the idea of these creatures and civilizations that are so enchanting? What do you think it is that appeals to us?
CF: I think it has to do with frontiers. If you look back to when dime novels were popular, people loved reading about the wild west, because it was still an unknown frontier. They could learn about something. The idea that we don’t know everything there is to know about mankind, and that there is this great looming mystery, is very exciting to us. It sort of bores a lot of us to think that we know all there is to know about where we come from as a species and what exists in the world.
I’ve been musing about this for a few days now. The books I’ve really enjoyed have all had some kind of frontier in them–whether it was really interesting world-building, or a cool magic system, or characters with deep, world-shattering secrets. I seriously enjoyed the Expanse books because of all the mysteries lurking out in space. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much my favorite thing about space opera–the mysteries. The frontiers.
So, while thinking about this, I had a thought about why Christian spec-fic doesn’t do so well. I mean, why haven’t the Christian arena produced a Brandon Sanderson, the way the Mormon arena has?
Christians think we have all the answers. Therefore we have no frontiers.
The trouble is, the Bible is FULL of frontiers. Tons of unanswered questions and unknowable mysteries. Just read Ezekiel 1 and struggle as the poor prophet tried very hard to describe a 10-dimensional lifeform. Why do the cherubim carry their life inside fiery wheels? We can’t understand it.
But because Christians have some knowledge–for instance, about Jesus and the Gospel–we think we know it all.
It’s like my son asking for a carpentry kit. I expressed doubts about his skill with hammers, saws, etc. (he’s nine). I pointed out that we live in an apartment, and he really needs a garage to work in. But he confidently assured me that he knows exactly how to hammer everything together. He just needs some wood, and he’ll make a playhouse.
He doesn’t know how much he doesn’t know.
Well, us Christians are like that. We have a tiny bit of knowledge about a couple of mysteries. So we make ALL the frontiers be about those few mysteries that we have solved. No questions are allowed to go unanswered. Everything is spelled out, hammered home, and wrapped up in a nice tidy package.
As Chris says up there, it bores us to know all the answers. It also makes for boring storytelling. I mean, it’s fine if you’re writing a murder mystery and you’re revealing how the killer dunnit. But for a fantasy story, or a science fiction, which by their very nature deal in big sweeping questions that might not have answers–that’s trickier. We don’t like leaving questions unanswered. Heaven forbid that we leave any doubts in the reader’s mind, right?
Yet, doubts and questions are what fuel the imagination. What’s Pluto like? we wonder. What might live at the bottom of the ocean? What’s down there that’s big enough to swallow a ten foot shark whole? Is there a tenth planet that orbits perpendicular to the solar system’s elliptical?
Finding out the answers to these things would be totally rad. They’d also lead to more questions.
I wish Christian writers would get more comfortable with asking questions, but not necessarily answering them.
Today I’m having Rabia Gale guest post on my blog. I’ve enjoyed her books, but I haven’t read this series yet. However, now that the last book is launching, that’s my cue to read them all. I mean, it’s steampunk fantasy. What’s not to like?
Now, without further ado, here’s Rabia!
Thank you for having me on your blog, Kessie!
I’m delighted to have the chance to introduce my series, The Sunless World. This epic fantasy with a steampunk flavor features a world on the brink of extinction. Centuries ago, the ancient mages saved their word from an imminent threat by plunging it into eternal night. But the mages are long gone and the world is slowing dying without its sun. Veins of luminous quartz provide light and heat, and desperate states vie to control this precious resource.
Enter Rafe Grenfeld, junior diplomat and spy. He’s just learned that a legendary quartz pillar, known as the Tower of Light, actually exists. Determined to claim it for his own country, he begins his search for it. That’s difficult enough, but then lost magic, dark demons, a hostile foe, and an unpredictable ally with her own agenda show up.
The Sunless World series contains many elements that are fascinating to me. I love writing worlds where magic exists alongside more advanced technology, like trains and industrial machinery. I enjoy putting characters, cultures, and whole worlds in tough situations (like losing their sun!) and seeing how human ingenuity copes. And I adored writing from Rafe’s viewpoint, a character who is energetic, competent, and prone to making wisecracks.
Without further ado, I’m happy to share the cover of Flare, Book Two of The Sunless World series, with you!
Rafe and Isabella are back
The mages of old saved their world, but left it in eternal darkness. Now it’s time to bring back the light.
After two years of training his magical gifts, Rafe returns home to a land wracked by war. Desperate states struggle to protect their resources of luminous quartz. Magic pulses and earthquakes devastate a world on the brink of extinction.
Rafe’s old enemy Karzov has gathered a band of prodigies obedient to his will. He seeks the power of the ancient mages for an audacious and sinister purpose. It’s up to Rafe and his ally, Isabella, to stop him—and undo the mistakes of the past to put their world right again.
Flare will be out in September 2016!
The Sunless World series
“Quartz: The Sunless World introduces a rich and credible backdrop to the adventures of her characters, with a deadly political mire underlying the bright colours of high society.” – By Rite of Word Reviews
“This story is fast, fascinating and highly recommended.” – Amazon.com review
The Sunless World series begins with Quartz (Book One) and Flux (A Sunless World Novel).
About the Author
I create weird worlds full of magic and machines, and write characters who are called on to be heroes. I’m fascinated by light and darkness, transformation, and things that fly. Giant squid and space dragons appear in my work—you have been warned!
A native of Pakistan, I now reside in Northern Virginia, where I read, write, doodle, avoid housework, and homeschool my children.