From the beginning, I’ve intended this blog to be a resource and connecting point for Christians who love fantasy, not a personal life record. Yet in the past few months, I’ve ended up sharing several things going on in my life, with my health and with my family.

As I detailed weeks ago, my sisters and sister-in-law were in serious accident, and I’m excited to report that they’re all improving, by the grace of God. My sister-in-law has come out of a coma, something which the doctors gave her a 10% chance of doing, and we’re so grateful for God moving on her behalf! She hasn’t regained her ability to speak or walk, and she’s working on basic motor skills right now, but she’s regularly improving, and we celebrate the changes each day. From the doctors’ perspective this will be a journey of a year or more (although we believe God can accelerate the process), and she’s still in a place where she requires constant care and attention. My husband and I have been traveling to the hospital several days a week to help relieve my brother.

As you can imagine, the aftermath of the accident along with other recent issues have brought several shifts to our lives. I’m a writer, so I’m supposed to know how to say exactly what I feel, but the truth is I can’t fully articulate what God is doing right now. I only know that He’s asking me to restructure my life for a season and give up certain things for now to make more space to care for my family and handle my own health-related issues, among other things. These changes mean putting aside blogging and the pursuit of publication for a time.

Writing will still remain part of my life. I can’t imagine otherwise, because it’s part of how God created me, but I am putting on hold some of the ancillary writer activities.
My husband and I are on a journey, and I’m excited to see how it will unfold.

I always wonder when bloggers seem to disappear, so I wanted to let you know a few of the details that went into my decision to take a hiatus. I value the relationships I’ve formed here, and I hope you’ll check back on occasion to see what unfolds next!

P.S. The giveaway for DawnSinger will still remain open until Friday, and I’ll contact the winner via email as always.

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Winged Horses and Wingabeasts
(A Guest Post by Janalyn Voigt)

I’ve tweaked my blog schedule this week to participate in a blog tour for Janalyn Voigt, whose epic fantasy novel DawnSinger released several months ago. She’s graciously offered to give away one copy of her novel (in your choice of format), so leave a comment if you’d like to be entered. I’ll leave the giveaway open for one week (through August 24th). Without further ado, here’s what Janalyn has to say:

Winged Horses and Wingabeasts

DawnSinger coverHorses and flying both fascinate me. Small wonder, then, that wild winged horses known as wingabeasts feature in Tales of Faeraven. In DawnSinger, book one of my epic fantasy trilogy, the hero and heroine undertake a perilous journey on the back of wingabeasts.  I want to give the reader a chance to fly.

The wingabeasts of Faeraven are based on Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology. While Pegasus is large and white, as befitting the carrier of thunder on Mount Olympus, wingabeasts come in a variety of colors: silver, gray, black, and gold among them. They also vary in size from delicate to brawny. The smaller wingabeasts have more agility.

Pegasus is said to be the son of Poseidon and Gorgona Medusa and sprang, according to differing accounts, from drops of blood or blood mixed with dirt or blood and sea foam after his mother was decapitated by Perseus. Pegasus struck the ground with his hoof to create the stream Hippocrene in the Helicon Mountains, a place poets drink the water to spark their creativity.

The wingabeasts of Faeraven ran wild in the Maegrad Paesad (Impassible Mountains) until Talan, one of the High King’s of Faeraven, captured one in a memorable ride forever immortalized in the history of his people. After that more wingabeasts were captured, but an untamed remnant retreated beyond reach. The Guardians of Rivenn received the privilege of riding the captured wingabeasts. The creatures’ respond both to touch and sound commands, and will hold still when instructed, even when predators are near. When danger threatens and their riders are not present, as a safety measure, wingabeasts will launch into flight, but later return.

In the Middle Ages, the time period the world of Elderland within Tales of Faeraven is based upon, the winged horse symbolized virtue and wisdom. In DawnSinger, the wingabeasts certainly help those who ride them to that end.

About DawnSinger:

The High Queen is dying… At the royal summons, Shae mounts a wingabeast and soars through the air to the high hold of Faeraven, where all is not as it seems. Visions warn her of danger, and a dark soul touches hers in the night. When she encounters an attractive but disturbing musician, her wayward heart awakens. But then there is Kai, a guardian of Faeraven and of Shae. Secrets bind him to her, and her safety lies at the center of every decision he makes. On a desperate journey fraught with peril and the unknown, they battle warlike garns, waevens, ferocious raptors, and the wraiths of their own regrets. Yet, they must endure the campaign long enough to release the DawnKing—and the salvation he offers—into a divided land. To prevail, each must learn that sometimes victory comes only through surrender.

About Janalyn:

Janalyn VoigtJanalyn Voigt’s unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Beginning with DawnSinger, her epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams.

Janalyn also writes western romance novels, and will publish in that genre under Janalyn Irene Voigt. She is represented by Barbara Scott of Wordserve Literary. She serves as a literary judge for several national contests and is an active book reviewer. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA.

When she’s not writing, Janalyn loves to find adventures in the great outdoors.

You can find out more about Janalyn and her books on her website or blog.


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The Nacirema

American Anthropolist CoverIn one of my college history classes, we read an article on the Nacirema. This essay originally appeared in the American Anthropologist magazine in 1956, and a subsequent article showed up in the Natural History magazine in 1972.

In a scholarly fashion, these articles detailed the habits and rituals of the Nacirema people, who demonstrated such strange notions as “a fetish against trees” or “a fascination with the mouth, the condition of which is believed to have a supernatural influence on  all social relationships.”

Of course, these articles refer to Americans (Nacirema is merely American backward), and they demonstrated the confusion that takes place when we look at the behavior of a people group without an understanding of their culture. For example, the latter essay described race car driving in this way:

The racs did not hold a steady position in the planetarium, but changed their relationship to the other racs rather frequently. Occasionally a special ritual, designed to emphasize man’s power over his universe, was enacted. On these unannounced occasions one or more of the planet symbols was destroyed by crashing two of them together or by throwing one against a wall.

In part, both these articles were intended to communicate to anthropologists the ways they might easily misinterpret the societies which they were trying to examine. However, they illustrate important principles to a greater audience. An outsider looking in may easily place false interpretations on behaviors and perceived beliefs of a people group, and I think this often occurs when those of other worldviews look at Christians (and also many times when we look at those of other worldviews).

We have traditions, words, and beliefs expressed in certain ways that may confuse those who don’t share our faith. Consequently, they may interpret them falsely or be altogether baffled by our behaviors. There are many ways of bridging this gap, but one powerful means of connection is story. And as it pertains to spiritual matters, I wonder if fantasy has an advantage in connecting with non-Christians, because it gets past many of the external trappings (which have little value anyway) and presents truth without traditions that may distract. What do you think?

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Beauty and Imagination

“Beauty awakens the soul to act.”
Dante Alighieri

This quote came to mind when I watched this music video of a violinist dancing along the coast of New Zealand and playing her own medley of music from Lord of the Rings. Since beauty not only awakens the soul to act, but also to imagine and to create, I thought this video was worth sharing. I hope it will spark some imagination in you!

(If you’re viewing this post as an email subscriber or receiving it in a feed reader, you may have to click through to the blog to view the video).

Isn’t that inspiring?

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The Enduring Legacy of C.S. Lewis:
A Life of Integrity

Time Cover featuring C.S. LewisTwo years ago, the C.S. Lewis foundation began the process of creating a college under his name, one that would reflect his pursuit of Christianity within the academic realm. They want to hold a high intellectual standard, while encouraging discussion of faith and highlighting Christian principles.

Such an endeavor will take time to establish, but it speaks highly of C.S. Lewis that he set a standard for many generations to follow. So what does it take to make that kind of impact? Certainly he had a brilliant mind, a strong education, and the influence of being an Oxford professor whose books, radio presentations, and lectures reached many thousands.

The list of his abilities and achievements could go on much longer, yet at the core of all his accomplishments was character and a life of faith. He viewed integrity as “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching,” and he appeared to live by that standard. He wasn’t afraid to wrestle with difficult questions of faith, yet his commitment to God preserved him even through the most difficult of circumstances.

Moreover, he possessed a character trait not always found in those of great influence, a strong humility that endured despite his achievements. I believe that this humility allowed God to increase his impact on those around him. He’s an excellent example of a storyteller–and more specifically, a fantasy writer–whose skills flourished due a life surrendered to God.

A humble heart leads to growth in all areas, including story craft. It causes more effective writing, because it sparks a genuine care for readers and a willingness to learn and improve no matter our level of experience. It leads to greater creativity, because we’re not limited to our own endeavors or perspectives. And in fantasy, that choice to look past ourselves gives readers a look “beyond,” a glimpse at something more than this world has to offer.

When we put God first in our lives, we will reflect Him in our work, whether in our writing or other endeavors. Perhaps we won’t have the degree of outward influence that Lewis did, but in the eyes of God we will succeed…and He will make of us what He desires.

Your thoughts?

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Christian Fantasy News and Releases, August 2012

August releases

DawnSinger DawnSinger cover
by Janalyn Voigt
(I missed featuring this one when it came out a month ago)

The High Queen is dying… At the royal summons, Shae mounts a wingabeast and soars through the air to the high hold of Faeraven, where all is not as it seems. Visions warn her of danger, and a dark soul touches hers in the night. When she encounters an attractive but disturbing musician, her wayward heart awakens. But then there is Kai, a guardian of Faeraven and of Shae. Secrets bind him to her, and her safety lies at the center of every decision he makes. On a desperate journey fraught with peril and the unknown, they battle warlike garns, waevens, ferocious raptors, and the wraiths of their own regrets. Yet, they must endure the campaign long enough to release the DawnKing–and the salvation he offers-into a divided land. To prevail, each must learn that sometimes victory comes only through surrender.

From the Mouth of Elijah book coverFrom the Mouth of Elijah
by Bryan Davis

In Song of the Ovulum, a fiery battle between dragons and the military helped Matt and Lauren set their father, Billy Bannister, free from a demonic captor. The demon, however, escaped and kidnapped their mother, Bonnie. During the battle, a portal vortex flung Matt into oblivion, and no one knew where he went.

Now, in From the Mouth of Elijah, Lauren and Billy set out on a journey to find Bonnie, hoping Lauren’s gifted hearing can track down Bonnie’s never-ending song. At the same time, Walter and Ashley search for clues to cure a mysterious disease that threatens to kill the original anthrozils, including Jared, who was once the great Clefspeare.

Both journeys are fraught with peril as Lauren and Matt are thrust into Second Eden, where a volcano, Mount Elijah, has erupted and devastated the land, killing many of the residents. Matt uses his gifts of healing to save some of the victims, and when he finds Bonnie, he engages in another life-or-death battle with Tamiel’s forces in an attempt to free her.

In the meantime, Lauren learns that she is the only person who believes the cure to be possible, so she begins a search for it. Along the way, she gains an unusual companion who prepares her for a heart-wrenching decision. Her choice is simple: Sacrifice her own life or let the anthrozils die.

Noble Imposter book coverNoble Imposter
by Amanda Davis

With microchips implanted in their skulls at birth, the slaves of Cantral and Cillineese have labored under the tyrannical rule of the nobles and their computers for decades. Monica, a noble who avoided the implanting and escaped a death sentence at the age of four, is now sixteen. She has risked life and limb to free the inhabitants of Cillineese, but the computers still rule the rest of the world.

Now she must journey to Cantral and take the identity of her dying cousin, Amelia, to infiltrate the Nobles’ world in the guise of a teenager who is a master computer programmer. Because of her childhood living among the slaves of Cantral, Monica knows little about programming and must improvise to stay alive.

The fate of millions rides on Monica’s shoulders. As the only chip-less person in the world, she must convince the Council of Eight of her innocence, destroy the computers, and free the world from the nobles before they discover her ruse.

A bit of news:

Perhaps of interest to Christian fantasy writers, Bethany House has contracted a new fantasy series, The Sword and the Staff, by Patrick W. Carr. Granted, this is a small step, but I consider it part of a promising trend. Bethany House already publishes authors Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Karen Hancock, and R.J. Larson, and most of them came on board in the last year or two, which makes me think fantasy has begun to do well for them.

For readers of Christian fantasy, Jill Williamson is offering a giveaway of The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer. She’s offering this giveaway in conjunction with an interview with Brouwer. Last Monday, while discussing fantasy novels that have been revised and re-released, I mentioned the confusion regarding Brouwer’s Wings of Light and Merlin’s Immortals series. His interview sheds some light on the situation (though he says nothing about the relationship between these novels and Magnus).

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Ancient Automatons

Perhaps it’s no surprise that as a reader and writer of fantasy, I’m interested in unusual inventions and ancient technologies, devices from our world that may provide inspiration for unique fantasy realms. And the inventions of Hero (sometimes known as Heron) of Alexandria fall into that category.

Not only did Hero create the precursor to the steam engine, he also invented some of the earliest automatons and robotic devices.

The primary purpose of his automatons appeared to be entertainment, and he captured the imagination with mechanical toys and devices capable of both sound and movement. Even more impressive was his theater which showcased an automaton play complete with sound, moving figures, and scenery. He used a system of strings and weights to set this play into motion and keep it in action for ten minutes.

The book Devices of Wonder discusses the various self-propelling figures Hero designed, including “an influential hydraulic-driven bestiary.” This bestiary consisted of birds and other animals made to move, chirp, drink, and so forth. While these and other automated toys had no practical function, he did create many devices to perform basic tasks–such as an automated door opener for the temples of the day and a simple vending machine.

Historians have detailed knowledge of his remarkable creations in part because he wrote books on various technologies, including the construction of automatons. These manuscripts described in depth the process of constructing all sorts of devices and making them function using a variety of energy sources, including steam and mechanical.

Through the creativity of a man who lived in the first century AD, we get a glimpse at some of the ways automated processes work in a world devoid of what we consider advanced technology. And for writers of fantasy, that’s something worth considering.

What do you think?

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The Road Less Traveled:
A Character Journey

The Road Less Traveled

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This choice between two roads takes place multiple times on the journey of every hero, and each time, it sets his life on a different course. Every decision determines whether or not he will become a hero.

He can stay on the path that’s comfortable and familiar, the commonly traveled road, or he can take the road less traveled, a challenging path that often requires sacrifice. But there’s always a choice.

So it is in life, only we don’t always recognize those decision points, moments we must decide if we will go our own way or follow the path God has for us. Even small choices can set the course of our lives, as they nudge our heart in one direction or another. As Christians, we’re on a pilgrimage, and we’re meant to take the road less traveled, a narrow road that in the end leads to life. That truly makes all the difference.

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Fantasy Novel Repeats

Recently, I read The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer, a historical fantasy novel that released this month. The concept seemed familiar, and the further I got into the story, the more confident I was that I had read the book before. A quick search confirmed that The Orphan King had been previously published as part of the novel Magnus.

A further glance at the reviews on Amazon suggested that The Orphan King actually had it’s start as an eight part series, which then merged into the single book Magnus, and now has been split again to form a “new” series dubbed Merlin’s Immortals.

In the past, I’ve enjoyed some of Brouwer’s books, but I was not fond of Magnus (in fact, I never finished reading it), so I probably wouldn’t have picked up The Orphan King if I realized it was the same book.

Brouwer is far from alone in this process of revising and re-releasing books under a different title. A similar incident occurred with Davis Bunn, who originally wrote using the pen name of Thomas Locke. Under this name, Bunn authored The Spectrum Chronicles, a four book fantasy series. Approximately 15 years later, Bethany House combined three of the books into one novel, The Dream Voyagers, and axed the first one altogether.

In most cases, these republished editions contain some alterations from the original story. A good example of this is Kathy Tyers, who wrote the Firebird series for Bantam Spectra (a mainstream publisher). The series was later acquired by Bethany House, and she took the opportunity to flesh out the faith elements she had always envisioned as part of the story. Later still, Marcher Lord Press published an annotated omnibus edition, and also the sequels she had planned many years ago.

So sometimes it’s merging series to form one novel, splitting a novel into a series, or changing much of the content while retaining the core storyline. Other times it’s as simple as repackaging the book under a different title, as with Donita K. Paul’s novel The Vanishing Sculptor. It was retitled The Dragons of Chiril, presumably to make the title uniform with the rest of the series.

This sort of revision and re-release seems particularly common in fantasy–at least, I haven’t noticed it to the same degree in other genres. And while I can see reasons to bring  new life to an old story, readers who think they’re purchasing a new book, when it’s actually a story they read years ago, may experience some annoyance and perhaps even feel like they’ve wasted money. What do you think?

Image credit: artbymags

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Imagination and the Infinite Story

“We are all limited to five senses (that we know of), and we must live in and interact with this world, with art and language that is much too big for us. But we also have imaginations and a creative impulse of our own. We watch, we study, we try to translate and understand the enormity of the story going on around us. We try to process a play that has been written by the infinite for the infinite.”

— N.D. Wilson

I love what Wilson expressed here. The stories we write and the stories we read reflect back elements of a greater story. Through our stories, we grapple with things beyond our comprehension.

We have the opportunity to engage with the eternal things God has set in the heart of man and bring our small glimpses of them down to earth. For me, reading and writing fantasy opens a window into these things.

Though we view through a glass dimly, God reveals so much of His nature and eternal purpose to us. And He has given us the ability to imagine and create. As Wilson said, by these means we interact with the great story God has written, a story that unfolds through human history and beyond. It’s a gift given to those made in His image.

If you’re not a writer, how does the creative impulse come out? And if you do write, how does the knowledge of the greater story influence your work? Any other thoughts?

Image credit: The Uprooted Photographer

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