Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Have a fun time celebrating New Year's Eve and many blessings to you and your family in 2009!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
My series of interviewing and focusing on each of the authors involved in the Fantasy Fiction Tour '08 is coming to a close, but not without a crescendo. The hope of all the author is to encourage readers who have experienced one or two of us and our work, to get a better idea of other Christian writers that they might be interested in.
THE MILLER BROTHERS
The Miller brothers have had the distinct privilege of growing up in a CBA Bookstore. As children they learned first hand the value of faith-based stories while helping their parents operate several Christian bookstores and clubs for 30 years. As a result, Lumination delivers more than simply good stories, we bring passion to write and illustrate stories that inspire and illuminate the truth of God's Word in a fresh way.
Christopher & Allan are formally trained with a degree in Computer Animation. They have worked as animators for the popular CBA kids video series, Juniors Giants, and have recently written and illustrated the newly released book The Legend of Gid the Kid and the Black Bean Bandits, the first book in the Heroes of Promise Series (Warner Press Kids).
That's some of the background on these two authors and I had the chance to meet Alan and Chris Miller for the first time during the Northwestern leg of the Fantasy Fiction Tour '08. They are very energetic and creative types that have taken their unique talents and combined them with amazing results. They made the Motiv8 + 2 part of the tour for Canada and Seattle and while in their hometown I had the pleasure of crashing in their basement, which also works as their home studio.
Their digital animation rocks, so be sure to take a look at their website, blogs, etc. They are a big part of the Christian Arts revolution and were also responsible for designing their own cover art, interior design and website.
My friend L B. Graham had an interview with them recently and here are a few excerpts I thought you might enjoy:
LBG: You guys work together, not just on your books, but in your day job – what’s it like working so closely together at not one but two “jobs?” Did you two always work together well? (Ie, any good sibling rivalry stories lurking in your past?)
CHRIS: Allan and I have been blessed to have each other as brothers. I realize not many siblings enjoy each other as much as we do, and it is truly a gift from God that we have been best friends since we were very little. We've pretty much been a team since day one and even went to college together to pursue our passion for computer animation (back in the days before Toy Story...ehem). I find that even though we have similar skillsets (art and writing) there is a key difference between us that really makes the dynamic "work". I'm more of a big dreamer kind of guy, I see the big picture and provide direction and ideas on a broad scale. Allan is more of the details guy, he usually reigns me in so I don't go too far out in left field, and he helps fill in all of the glorious details that make the final product the best it can be.
LBG: I gathered from conversations on Tour that you two trained in computer animation. Did you ever, or do you still, have any aspirations to make pursue use of those skills in video production or film, to be the next “Big Idea?”
CHRIS: Our passion is for storytelling in all of its forms. Film is a very powerful and engaging medium to use, but the key is having good stories to tell. In terms of being the next "Big Idea" the answer is "yes" and "no". Yes - in that we love animation, and would think it is the coolest job in the world to animate one of our stories. No, because our passion is for the teen/pre-teen ages of kids. So we would focus on a different demographic than Big Idea.
LBG: For the uninitiated who might be reading this on my site, how would you introduce your Codebearers Series and the first Hunter Brown book to them?
CHRIS: Fans of Narnia and Pilgrim's Progress will love this book. It is cut from the same vein...an allegorical journey of Spiritual awakening and understanding. Hunter Brown shows us a different kind of hero. Where most stories will say that the hero "has good in them" and they must struggle to find that good to overcome evil...we take a differen approach. In many ways,Hunter is somewhat of an anti-hero. His entrance into the realm of Solandria causes more trouble than it solves.
In the beginning, Hunter thinks he's a pretty average kid, but what he doesn't realize is that he and his friends are secretly infected by an invisible horde of creatures known as the Shadow. An ancient book magically transports him to another realm, where he must search for the only one who can save him from the Shadow's infection. After arrving, Hunter is befriended by the Codebearers and trained in the ways of the Author before finally being tasked with recovering a sacred artifact known as the Bloodstone. Through it all, he must come to grips with the reality that he is not as good as he thinks he is.
LBG: As you work feverishly on Book 2 in the series, what are you free to tell us about where the series is going that will whet the appetites of folks who have already read book one and are looking forward eagerly to book two? (Like my son – so come on fellas, make me a hero and tell me something good I can pass on.)
CHRIS: Hmm...what can I say without giving away too much.
Well for starters, the title is tentatively set to be Hunter Brown and the Consuming Fire. Hunter is re-written into the Veil lands, his old home in Destiny, but unfortunately, his best friend Stretch has no memory of their previous adventure, which leaves Hunter alone in his beliefs. Strange things begin to happen, and Hunter quickly realizes that even though his connection to the Shadow has been broken they are still very much alive and well. Oh yeah, and a new threat emerges as a deadly assasin is sent on a mission to destroy the Codebearers Resistance - or what's left of it.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Q. Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head. (be as specific as possible).
A. Shortly after I quit my cubicle job, I wrote the first chapter of The Bark of the Bog Owl and showed it to agent John Eames, who was a friend of a friend. I told John, “My wife is pregnant with our fifth child. I’m in no position to do art for art’s sake. Does this look like the sort of thing you could sell?” John said he thought he could sell it if I could write a whole book that lived up to the promise of that chapter.
I think that meeting was late May 2002. I wrote The Bark of the Bog Owl throughout the rest of 2002… I finished it between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Starting in January of 2003, John Eames pitched it to about a dozen publishers as the first book of a trilogy. A couple of publishers made offers in the spring, and we settled on Broadman and Holman.
Q. Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?
Q. What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?
Q. What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?
A. That’s an easy one: the main character in the Wilderking books is a boy named Aidan, but my favorite is a wild swamp boy named Dobro Turtlebane. When he’s on the scene, something wild and funny is going to happen. His behavior seems erratic—courting danger, fighting with people he actually likes, etc.—but if you can accept a few basic premises about his unusual worldview, his behavior is actually quite logical. Dobro is a great example of what I was saying in an earlier question about character driving plot. He’s a game-changer, for sure.
Q. There is the ongoing debate in Christian fiction on the overtness of the gospel in novels. You’ve used allegory and hints, but no outright salvation plan on the back page. What are you hoping to accomplish through your stories?
Monday, December 1, 2008
This week it's all about ME!
What I thought I would do, since most of you who frequent my blog, know me to some degree, is to post the interview that L.B. Graham did with me over the Thanksgiving Holiday. So here it is, completely unedited:
Welcome to my lbgraham.com exclusive interview with Eric. Here we go!
LBG: You went to the Naval Academy, played Division-I college football, started your own financial planning company and now you've written a novel - what motivates you to pursue all these challenges?
Eric: The first thought that came to my mind when you asked this questions was, "I do what I love!" So many times I run across people that have gone to certain schools for the wrong reason, or chosen a career based on someone else's expectations. God blesses us all with different skills and abilities. We may feel like aren't special, but that's not biblical. The key is to find out where God has gifted you and to use those gifts to the best of ability. Don't choose a job because of how much money it makes. The world values positions different than God does. You may not be a star NFL football player or a World-Class Surgeon, but you can be the best teacher, salesman or plummer! Do what you love and then be content to live on the money that the world pays for that job. For me, I loved football growing up and tried to be the best I could be and it led to a coach recruiting me to play football for Navy. I knew nothing about the Service Academies, but graduated with an Economics degree and was the payroll officer on my ship and the financial advisor for the Midshipmen at the Naval Academy on my shore duty. That in turn led to my career as a financial advisor. I loved reading fantasy and science fiction growing up, so when my girls challenged me to write a book, I thought... "I could do that," and off I went.
LBG: Your road to publication was unusual and interrupted. What would you say you learned along the way that would be of interest for others out there who want to be published one day too?
Eric: As stated above, it’s important to pursue what you feel God has blessed you in to the fullest, but it is also important to remember that God brings about everything in His timing. I pursued my writing of a book with vigor, conducting the research, outlining twenty chapters, and writing the first ten chapters within a year, then… along came 2001 and a week before the tragedy of 9-11, I came down with a fever, my doctor sent me to the hospital emergency room where they hooked my up to IV’s and wheeled me to a room to do tests. Two days later I found out I had a bacterial infection in my heart, which would take a month to kill and then I would have to have Open-heart Surgery to replace a bad valve with a titanium valve. Talk about a wake up call. My book was put on the shelf as I dealt with my own mortality, I was out of work for 3 months, and all during this time the crisis of 9-11 was going on. It would be six years before I came back to my book. The irony was that while many authors get dozens, if not hundreds of rejection letters, I didn’t get any. I came back to my book last year, wrote the final ten chapters in three months, and then one morning when I met with one of my clients over breakfast (who happened to be the President of a publishing company) I mentioned I had written a book and he suggested I send it over. I had my book published and in hand within five months. What you should get out of my story is that you pursue what you can to the best of your ability and God will bring about the results in his timing. Be patient and you to will have a story to tell.
LBG: What, in your view, is the biggest strength of "Ryann Watters and the King's Sword?"
Eric: The biggest strength of my story is that there is believability. At least early on, everyone can picture themselves as Ryann. He lives in the real town of Mount Dora, Florida (20 miles Northwest of Orlando - there's a cool book trailer video up at www.ryannwatters.com with my daughter as Liddy) and is visited in the middle of the night by Gabriel and tasked with finding the King’s sword. Gabriel gives him three gifts to help him along the way. I loved super hero comics growing up (still do), so Ryann is given a staff (smooth and metal with 7 buttons) and as he matures throughout the story, the buttons light up and have different powers. Not only that, but he is given a ring that changes colors when he’s near different things. He has two good friends, Liddy and Terell, and together they have to piece together clues to find Aeliana and search for the sword. Across town, the class bully is visited by a Dark Angel and told to stop Ryann. Book 2 in the Annals of Aeliana is almost finished. I’ve gotten carried away and it’s over 400 pages now, but "Ryann Watters and the Shield of Faith" introduces a very cool cast of new characters, including; a Pegasus, White Dragon and Unicorn, a Black Unicorn, Elves, Dwarves… oh, and a new evil race – The Hugons (half human – half dragon). It’s due for release in May 2009 and you can find out more on my blog.
LBG: As you look back at our Tour in early October from this vantage point in late November/early December, what experience or events stand out to you?
Eric: The trip was such a blessing for me. Meeting the seven other authors provided a great deal of insight into each person’s unique story and how God is using them in their part of the world. Antics along the way, whether in the van or fast food stops, were a hoot. As the most inexperienced author on the tour, I gained a great deal of knowledge and wisdom from stories, experiences, and insights into the publishing world and writing in general. I’m very much looking forward to finishing book 2 before Christopher Hopper finishes his book 3, so I can move up the chain! Seriously, I’m so glad God brought us all together and look forward to what the future holds for all of us, hopefully teaming up again!
SPECIAL BONUS Q!
LBG: If Maryland plays Navy in a bowl game this year, who would win?
Eric: Ha! That’s an easy one – Navy! That goes for whether they play Maryland, Virginia or Wake Forest (oops, we already beat them this year!). Actually, since I grew up in Miami, I’m hoping for a Navy-UM Bowl game… if so, I’m there!
Monday, November 24, 2008
It was truly a joy having Donita on the Motiv8 Fantasy Fiction Tour. Donita's quick wit and insights always seemed to arrive at the most appropriate times. In addition, her spontaneous action to jump into any situation, especially when it was directed at young children, was a sight to behold (see pics below of our visit to the Central California Children's Hospital and the Fresno Inner-City Reading Program).
Make sure you check out Donita's website and blogs, but for now as you enjoy your Thanksgiving week, here are some tidbits about our favorite Dragon Writer that you might not know!
2. Family and Friends
4. Business Associates—the WaterBrook Staff, the Alive Communications staff, especially my editors and my agent
5. American Christian Fiction Writers
6. The Internet social networks—Shoutlife, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkdIn
7. The Internet Read groups—GoodReads and Shelfari (Anytime I think everyone is watching Netflix and playing video games, I visit these reader spots and breathe a sigh of relief)
8. Living in USA
9. Finding my niche, professionally
10. The knowledge God has provided and still encourages me to pursue
Ten authors Donita K. Paul enjoys:
1. Patricia Veryan
2. Max Lucado
3. Edward Eager
4. E. Nesbitt
5. Jane Austin
6. Charles Dickens
7. A. A. Milnes
8. Beatrix Potter
9. L.M. Montgomery
10. Too many Christian authors to list them all
Ten movies Donita K. Paul enjoyed:
1. Arsenic and Old Lace
2. Bringing up Baby
3. Secondhand Lions
6. Mary Poppins
7. The King and I
8. Sense and Sensibility
10. Pride and Prejudice
TV Shows Donita K. Paul watched as a kid:
1. Roy Rogers
2. Man from U.N.C.L.E.
4. Alfred Hitchcock
5. Twilight Zone
7. Disney’s Wonderful World of Color
8. Ed Sullivan Show
9. Wyatt Earp
10. Dick Van Dyke
Ten foods Donita K. Paul likes:
1. Steak, medium rare
2. Soup, not creamy
3. Salads, the more varied the veggies, the better
4. Pumpkin pie, cookies, cake, and bread
5. Brownies, gooey is best but any brownie is acceptable. (I wonder why it is brownie and not browny.
6. Rotisserie chicken
7. Pizza, lots of toppings
8. Marinated artichokes
Ten foods Donita K. Paul does not like
1. Macaroni and cheese
2. Rice pudding
3. Rye bread
6. Greasy fried food
10. Turnips and rutabagas
Favorite type of jewelry: ear rings
Hobbies: beading, knitting, stamping
Restaurant: Texas Roadhouse
Beverage: Coffee, Pepsi
Fast Food: Taco Bell
Collections: Children’s Books, dragons, statues and pictures of animals reading books
Song: Tomorrow from Annie
1. Spring—smell flowers
2. Summer—listen to kids in the neighborhood squeal
3. Autumn—watch leaves fall or blow down the street
4. Winter—curl up with a good book
How to shop, mall or online? ONLINE
How to communicate, telephone or email? EMAIL
Transportation for long distance? CAR with someone else driving.
Gathering, with kids or no kids? WITH KIDS
Ten places Donita K. Paul would like to go:
2. Disney World/Epcot Center
4. New York-Upper state
9. Washington State
Colors in order of preference
What Donita K. Paul wants people to say when they remember her: She was nice.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Swordplay is also one of CH's gifts, well... maybe one that is still being honed, as he did manage to cut Wayne's finger during one of the sword duels at an event! He has written an excellent series with book 3 in the trilogy going to the editor soon, which will be released in 2009. With the premise of a people group living in a Garden of Eden type setting and the idea that "what if the people hadn't sinned... the first time around?" Christopher lays out an exciting story of the second visit by Satan.
Instead of doing an interview this month, I'll give you two fun videos to watch. The first is an interview that was conducted by KSEE Channel 24 NBC in Fresno, CA (Wayne Thomas Batson is also in the interview) and the second is a video book-trailer for his series.
The Lion Vrie Book TRailer
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Sharon is a wife and mom who has had many adventures, though none have involved an alternate universe (thus far). She has an M.A. in communication and has spent her life working in the arts (music, theatre, dance, and writing). Her other novels include The Secret Life of Becky Miller (Bethany House, 2006), Renovating Becky Miller (Bethany House, 2007), The Restorer (NavPress, 2007 – Christy Finalist), The Restorer’s Son (NavPress, 2007 – ACFW Book of the Year Winner), The Restorer’s Journey (NavPress, 2008), Symphony of Secrets (Bethany House, 2008), Stepping Into Sunlight (Bethany House, 2008).
Link to amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1600061311/
Now... how about some questions for Sharon!
Q. What was the inspiration for The Restorer? A. I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Deborah in the book of Judges, and wondered what a modern woman would look like in that role. The fantasy genre provides a powerful way to look at a familiar story in a new way. I loved the challenge of creating a completely relatable character, and then inviting the reader to follow her into an imaginative journey.
A. I wrote this story for my friends – ordinary women who are sometimes called on to fill extraordinary roles that they don’t feel prepared for. We may not be literally yanked into an alternate universe, but the idea of being pulled into an unexpected challenge is very real to most of the people I know. I wrote this book for my friends who receive a diagnosis of cancer, or the news that their child has a learning disability, or their parent is battling Alzheimers, or their spouse has lost their job. They suddenly find themselves in a foreign world, facing new rules, and being asked to fill a role they don’t feel ready for. My prayer is that as well as being entertaining, this novel can inspire courage and determination for those facing daily battles.
What some are saying about the series!
The Restorer is a great book for the hero – or heroine – in all of us. Sharon Hinck gives us a beautifully-realized world that demands the best that an everyday, run-of-the-mill Mom doesn’t even know she has. Hinck’s prose engages us in every moment of the struggle as the strength of the One drives the battle of the faithful against unimaginable odds, Excellent characters and an intriguing plot provide readers with great entertainment along with spiritual inspiration and enlightenment. I simply loved this book, hated for it to end, and am grateful that there’s another in the Sword of Lyric series coming soon.
~ Kathryn Mackel, author of Outriders and Trackers
“A compelling adventure, an engaging heroine, a unique and fascinating other world The Restorer satisfies on many levels. Skillfully incorporating themes of faith, sacrifice and the power of words to deceive or deliver, Sharon Hinck has crafted a tale that resonates in both soul and spirit. A welcome addition to the expanding genre of Christian fantasy. Don’t miss it!”
~ Karen Hancock, author of the Christy Award-winning Legends of the Guardian-King series.
I knew that Sharon Hinck was a gifted writer, and I knew that her ability to write details was impeccable. What The Restorer showed me is just how big her imagination is! She's taken two concepts that have no right to work in the same story -- a harried housewife and a sprawling fantasy world with its own science, culture, and rules -- and smashed the two together into something altogether fresh and compelling -- even for a red-blooded, testosterone-driven guy like me. She zigged every time I expected her to zag, and the world she created is full of mystery and suspense and the awe of discovery. But it's the characters, especially her soccer-mom-come-prophesied-hero, who keep you coming back for more.
~ Robin Parrish, author of Relentless; creator of Infuzemag.com
"Sharon Hinck has done a remarkable job in writing a fantasy for people who don't normally read fantasies. A soccer mom finds herself in an alternate universe where she has to save her adopted people from vastly more powerful enemies. Loved the swordplay. Loved the spiritual insights. Most of all, loved the main character, Susan Mitchell, a compelling mix of Everymom and Wonder Woman."
~ Randy Ingermanson, award-winning author of Retribution
Lastly, here's a cool video if you want to know more!
Monday, November 3, 2008
This week I am highlighting L.B Graham, who is the author of The Binding of the Blade, a five book epic fantasy series with P&R Publishing that began in 2004 and just recently culminated with the publication of All My Holy Mountain in 2008. The first book of the series, Beyond the Summerland, was a 2005 Christy finalist in the “Visionary” category.
L.B. was born in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up there before heading to Wheaton College outside Chicago in Wheaton, Illinois. From there he went to St. Louis to attend Covenant Seminary. Since 1996 he’s been teaching in St. Louis, the last 9 years at Westminster Christian Academy where he also serves as the Bible Department Chair.
L.B. was a hoot on tour and added quite a bit to our van escapades as we "rocked the suburbs!" Well... now let's get into a little Q & A with this accomplished author!
Q. It sounds sizable. When did you start?
A. Well, I would say that I started working on the series, and by that I mean seriously working on the world-building and story-building, in the summer of 2000. But, that being said, the first seeds for the idea were sown long before that, in the summer of ‘92.
Q. 1992 is a long time ago - what happened that summer, or what were the ’seeds’ that were sown that summer?
A. I was a senior at Wheaton College, studying literature in England on a summer program, and two things collided to create the basic idea for the story. The first was, of all things, a footnote - I know, no one reads footnotes, but I actually do read them, at least sometimes. The footnote was in a poetry anthology of W.B. Yeats. The note was about archetypes... not very exciting to some, but to me, really interesting. Basically, for readers who don’t know what archetypes are, it is the idea that there are universal ideas or images or themes or symbols that carry with them, if you will, deeper meaning that add layers of richness to stories, movies, poems, etc…
Q. Like the ‘archetypal hero’ or ‘archetypal villain,’ that kind of thing, right?
Anyway, this particular footnote was about geography. The idea was that geographical regions have archetypal connections in a lot of mythology and stories. For example, “the east” is often associated with spring, with morning, with new growth, with birth, with themes of things rising. “The south” is often associated with summer, with midday, with things in fullness and maturity, with romance, with themes of things having reached their full strength or potential. “The west” is often associated with autumn, with twilight, with things fading, with tragedy and themes of things declining, and “the north” is often associated with winter, with darkness and night, with sorrow and desolation, with themes of things lost.
Q. Those things don’t seem to be connected. How did you put them together?
A. It didn’t come together all at once, but what I conceived of was a story about a world where the making of weapons essentially represented ‘the Fall,’ or the loss of that world’s innocence and descent into sin and misery. And, on the other hand, the unmaking of weapons was the clearest picture for that world of peace, of things being made new. In short, the symbolic picture from Isaiah of our future restoration became a literal picture in my fantasy world, the picture of their great hope.
So, the Isaiah image became the thematic core of BOTB. The geography archetypes gave the story shape. I decided to structure the series geographically, matching tone and mood and theme and plot elements according to the pattern I outlined above.
The story then cycles in the next two books through the north and into the east, each representing those archetypes in turn - darkness, night & desolation in winter followed by the slight glimmer of hope that comes with morning, sunrise, spring and things new. The covers for books 3 and 4 below show those seasons too. And then the last book returns to summer, though a different kind of summer, but I’ll leave it at that.
Q. So, those things help to explain some of the specifics of your series, but why fantasy? Did you know even back then in 1992 that you wanted to write Christian fantasy?
A. Actually, I would just say fantasy. I wouldn’t use the term Christian fantasy.
Q. Why not?
A. Well, the short version is that I think the adjective “Christian” is one that is properly applied to people, not things like “music” or “fiction” or in this case, “fantasy.” I know what people mean with labels like “Christian fantasy,” I just dislike the implication that Christian fantasy is good, and other fantasy is bad. I think that view is simplistic. Music, stories, movies and other artwork that conveys a message isn’t really divided into two piles - the good and bad. Rather I see them in a continuum. Some stories have lots of truth or good in them, others some, others not so much, and just because the author is a Christian doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with what he or she says or like the story. Likewise, I’ve read some great books by non-believers, who despite their unbelief are people made in the image of God and have created powerful stories.
Q. But isn’t there always something missing in those books, in those stories? Aren’t they always incomplete?
A. All stories written by finite, sinful human beings will be imperfect, if that is the question. However, just because there are certain things a writer can’t write about well or truthfully because he or she doesn’t believe those things, doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of other things they can and do write about well and truthfully. Stories from nonbelievers can contain beauty and power and truth, and I wouldn’t simply dismiss them out of hand because they come from non-Christians.
Q. Are you working on anything new, now that BOTB is finished?
A. Yes. I wrote a crime novel last year. It is a stand alone book, but I have ideas for 2 sequels right now. Currently, I’m also writing a nonfiction book and the first novel of a new series as well. None of these projects are under contract at the moment, though, so I couldn’t say what my next publication will be.
Q. Is the new series you mentioned also fantasy?
A. Yes, though I think of it as a fantasy/sci fi hybrid. I’ve posted a bit about that on my blog, but I won’t get into that here, since it is a bit complicated.
Q. Before wrapping up, what would you say to readers who haven’t heard of you or your books and may be wondering if The Binding of the Blade is for them?
A. It’s a fair question, as my books certainly aren’t for everyone. My publisher categorized them as ‘young adult’ fantasy, but I don’t think of them that way. Certainly younger readers who are good readers can read them, as many have, but I think of them as a bit older than that.
I guess what I would say is that there seems to be a lot more true YA fantasy stories than fantasy for older kids or adults out there in CBA, the “Christian” publishing world (there I go, doing what I don’t like doing, but I’m not sure how else to describe CBA!) As readers of those stories get older, they often become interested in stories that are geared a little older. Not that they necessarily outgrow the YA ones, but as they become ready for older ones too, then I’d encourage them to pick up Beyond the Summerland and see if they like it.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The tour kicks off at an amazing event in Abbotsford, BC.
The authors storm Seattle, WA signing books, swinging swords, and even causing a car accident!
Interview with NBC KSEE 24 in Fresno, CA
The authors start off with a rainy, impromptu gathering under a gazebo in Portland and finish with a bang at Medford's mall. A huge crowd gathered for the signing put on by Evangel Family Bookstore and were treated to, among other things, a reading by Jonathan Rogers and a humorous dual between Christopher Hopper & Wayne Thomas Batson.
(The fun and funky Portuguese/Brazilian music is in honor of Nathan Reimer).
MOTIV8 Fantasy Fiction Tour: Day 3 - Sacramento, CA
MOTIV8 Fantasy Fiction Tour: Day Three finds the authors crossing over into California and the question is: "Is California ready?" Stops include Trinity Christian School and Barnes & Noble in Sacramento.
Day Four is too jam-packed for just one Video Journal, starting off with a bang at NBC, two charity events, and finishes at a Berean Bookstore.
Day Four, part two, focuses on a special charity event done in partnership with Character 4 Kids and READ Fresno.
MOTIV8 Fantasy Fiction Tour: Day 4.3 - Fresno, CA
SPECIAL : Meet The Authors - Day Four ends at the Berean Bookstore in Fresno where the authors take a few moments for a run-down on each of their books.
MOTIV8 Fantasy Fiction Tour: Day Five is all about Reedley, CA! From Hotel Burgess to G Street, the authors are kept on their toes and given a special dinner that will make you drool...
MOTIV8 Fantasy Fiction Tour: Day 6 - LA, CA
Day Six starts off at 4:00am! St. Genevieve's welcomes the authors on one of the favorite stops of the tour, then on to Bethany Christian and a final bookstore appearance in Van Nuys.
Los Angeles, CA
MOTIV8 Fantasy Fiction Tour: Day Seven keeps our authors in LA for a second day, making two appearances at Christian schools and then a grand reception at Calvary Chapel Refuge in Huntington Beach.
MOTIV8 Fantasy Fiction Tour: Day 8 - San Diego, CA
Day Eight is the big send off! The authors make their final stop in southern California and then head home. Thanks to all those who made this tour a marvelous and memorable success.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I'm especially greatful to Bryan for being my initial contact with the Motiv8 authors and for him recommending me to join them this year. Bryan walks the talk and is a great example as a caring father and committed Christian. This week I'd like to provide you with a short interview with Bryan. If you haven't checked out his Dragons in our Midst series yet, you need to. Fortunately for you he is finishing the 8th book in the series now... so if you get started then you'll be able to have the complete series soon!
Q. What was the inspiration behind the "Dragons in our Midst" series?
Q. You've written four books in this series. Are there any more books coming up?
A. Tears of a Dragon is the last book in the Dragons in our Midst series. I’m writing a new series called Oracles of Fire. The first book, Eye of the Oracle, will be a prequel to Dragons in our Midst, and the second book, Enoch’s Ghost, and the following books will be sequels. The new series will have the same basic story world, but a couple of the minor characters from the first series will step up and become major characters.
Q. Can you name some people/authors whose works have influenced you? If so, can you say in what way these people have influenced your life and your work?
The works of Francis Schaeffer had an impact on me. The God Who is There and He is There, and He is not Silent are two that come to mind. I enjoy careful, analytical thought, and Schaeffer was a master in that field. I try to carry that kind of thinking into my stories, and those who read my fantasy series will find that they are far more than children’s fairy tales.
Q. Does your faith influence the way you write? Would you like to elaborate on this?
I believe in the overwhelming power God gives us for holy living. My characters struggle in many non-sinful ways and find the power to overcome. I like successful heroes. God gives us victory in Christ, so it makes sense to write that way. And feedback from my readers indicates that they relate to the great struggles my characters go through, and they are inspired by my characters' successes. I believe this portrayal of obedient faith is what is truly real and honest.
Q. What were some of the challenges you faced in writing these books and getting them published?
Between agents and publishers I collected about two hundred rejection notices, which I might use to wallpaper my office someday. I rewrote the first book about twenty-four times, changing it drastically in some of the rewrites. I think I made it even more radical as time went on, perhaps thinking that it might just end up as a story for myself and my family.
I finally met Dan Penwell of AMG Publishers. He had already contracted with me for a non-fiction book called The Image of a Father, and although AMG had never produced fiction, he took interest in my weird dragons story. AMG liked it so much, they started a fiction line with the series, and it has become their best selling line of books.
Q. Some Christians are a bit scared of fantasy works. I know of some who do think that it is opening the door to an unseen world. What is your take on this and what would you say to encourage Christians to embrace Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction?
Most people see dragons as a symbol of evil. Why did you decide to make "good" and "bad" dragons?
Well, I think that dragons are rightly a symbol of evil. But we have to remember that Job chapter 41 tells us that God created Leviathan. He describes it as one of His greatest creations and He uses it to reveal His power. If you read that passage carefully, Leviathan has armored scales and breathes fire. It sounds just like a fire breathing dragon. That's certainly where the authors who have described such beasts got their inspiration, from this creature of God. God created this being in order to show His power. Now, I don’t believe that God created anything for the purpose of being born evil. Angels were created and some of them fell. They weren’t created to be evil, but some of them chose evil and fell. I'm putting dragons in the same mold, as a symbolic parallel to angels. They were created to be good; some of them fell. The greatest evil figure in all the world, and in all of the Bible, is a fallen angel, and the symbol of the fallen angel is a dragon. But why can’t there be good dragons as well? Some people would say that dragons are a symbol of evil. The Bible calls Satan a dragon. Therefore, all dragons are evil. Well, the fallacy there is Satan also appears as an angel of light. Does that mean that all angels of light are evil? I don’t think so. I wanted to make that angelic parallel, and it becomes even clearer in the third book, called Circles of Seven. Billy’s going to face a tremendous decision, and he'll have to discern between good and evil dragons. It’s such a great story.
I like how you interweaved Christian faith in your story, but didn’t "hit people over the head with it." Did you find it hard to strike that balance?
It really wasn’t that hard because it’s been my desire for a long time to be able to say, "I just want to tell a story that is filled with Christ." There is no soapbox; no one is standing there shaking a finger, preaching at you. I want to have a natural flow of Christian thought and Christian love, without having to say "Jesus loved you and died for your sins." It’ll flow out naturally. The reason I’m doing that is because so many people get turned off with the shaking finger and the soapbox sermon. But as we get to later books in the series, the Christian message of the blood salvation of Christ is going to come out a little more clearly. We want to hook our readers and not turn them off with a fire and brimstone, or an "Are you saved by the blood?" kind of message. It will come out later. I think you probably can tell that Bonnie is clearly a Christian, and Billy is probably not. He's got a lot of questions because he’s never been taught right. He’s in between because his father, being the dragon, revered the Bible, but he didn’t feel like he was a fallen creature that needs to be saved. This is one of these deep mysteries that I don’t think kids will get but I want adults to think about.
I’d like to see another contemporary/fantasy blend like mine. I think young people of today relate to a world they recognize, and they enjoy seeing weird happenings within it.
Q.Would you like to share some of the lessons you've learned in your journey as a writer and as a published author?
I will never forget that lesson! God is my sufficiency, and I have learned not to sweat a lot of the issues that used to cause me concern.
Monday, October 20, 2008
It was a blast meeting Wayne on the tour. You know you've bonded with someone when you're able to spend 12-hours a day in a van or event, eat every meal together, and yes (being good stewards of the publisher's funds) even share a "KING" size bed. Okay, okay... what do I know about Wayne? Wayne writes adventures set in imaginative locales because he believes that on a deep level, we all dream of doing something that matters and that we all long for another world. Wayne is a 6th grade Middle School teacher and knowing him now I would have done anything to have him as my teacher when I was that age (brrrr... I cringe thinking of Mrs. "O" from those days!)
But hey... why don't we do a little Q & A to get to know him more... shall we?
Q: Why did you write a fantasy instead of a contemporary story about middle school kids? I mean, you obviously know them well.
Fantasy is absolutely my passion. I’ve always loved tales of knights and dragons, exotic settings, and great feats of valor! And in traditional fantasy, I find the sort of world I’d like to live in. Honor and kindness are revered. Simple lives of tending gardens, working with your hands, and gathering around a table with friends at a pub—I long for such things. I mean, sure, running into a pesky dragon while taking out the trash would be a little inconvenient, but still…
Q: What made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?
Actually, I don’t write Christian speculative fiction. I write fiction that is informed by my identity as a Christian. I know that sounds like semantics, but really, it’s not. If I’m a Christian and a mechanic, and I fix your car…was it a Christian Repair? If the manager at the local McDonalds is a Christian, and I make a purchase there, do I get a Christian Happy Meal? See my point? I am a Christian and Jesus is everything to me. He is my worldview and my life. When I write, I pray that HE comes shining through. But I am NOT writing just for Christians to read. I want everyone to be able to read and enjoy my books on multiple levels: surface and deep. At the surface, come and enjoy a heart-pounding adventure in an enchanting realm. But go deeper than that. See the big questions. Be a thoughtful reader. My thought is, if I get people asking the questions for which Jesus is the only answer, then, I’ve done well.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Door Within series?
The Door Within Trilogy (DWT) came out of two distinct events. The base concept of the story, though I didn’t know it at the time, came from an encounter I had as a new Christian. I felt compelled to tell some important people I knew about Jesus, so I summoned the courage and went to them.
I laid it all on the line, spilled my guts with such fervor that I was literally shaking. I expected disagreement, argument, or just plain denial. But nothing prepared me for the reaction: they laughed. And it wasn’t just laughter, but it was that condescending “isn’t he cute?” kind of laughter. Insert dagger and twist. That pain stuck with me for a LONG time, and so, when I began to write, the first story that suggested itself was one that would be carried by a protagonist who discovered something akin to a cure for cancer…and yet, no one would believe it.
The between worlds aspect of DWT came from a challenge my students threw back at me. Teaching 6th and 7th grade Language Arts in Anne Arundel County Maryland, I assigned a short story to my students. I made it a contest. And for those who could not think of an initial story concept, I made a bulletin board with very evocative pencil/charcoal drawings—The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Well, the students, wonderful cherubs that they are, indignantly challenged me: “Mr. Batson, you make us do all the work, writing these stories. Why don’t you write one?!” So, using one of the drawings as inspiration, I began a 17 page short story called The Faith of a Child. Though most elements in the story have since changed, that short story became The Door Within.
Q: What message do you want readers to get from reading "The Door Within" trilogy?
#1 The nature of faith: it begins with persuasion. You recognize something as true. You accept its basis in fact. “You believe the bridge is strong.” But in faith there is also an element of risk that MUST be involved or you’ll never know how real it is. “You have to step on out there. Walk across the bridge. Trust that it will support you.”
#2 God can make use of failures. Aidan is no hero in the classic sense, but King Eliam uses him mightily.
#3 Putting God off or refusing to decide whether you believe or not is in reality choosing not to believe—The Glimpses with eyes that glint green. In the end, there is only faith or no faith. The superband RUSH said it this way: “If you choose not to decide, you’ll still have made a choice.”
#4 The reality of adventures to come in Heaven. I won’t give away too much here, but that is one message I hope readers will take to heart. When we die, the adventure has just begun. We will not be sitting around in heaven playing harps like in the cartoons. God the creator of all things will have plenty of surprises for us. I imagine each of us will spend a thousand years just saying, “COOL!!” over and over and over…
Q: Are your books influenced by your own childhood in any way?
I think so. Aidan is a lot like I was when I was in my tweens. Creative, hopeful, and thoughtful—but not very outgoing. I always longed for adventure, but most of mine were in my imagination. Aidan’s fear of Robby’s Basement came straight out of my own childhood fear. My parents had a split basement. The unfinished side, the workside as we called it, was the creepiest place on the planet. I was always afraid that some creature lurked in its shadowy confines—that it waited for someone to venture too close to the open door. I used to leap over the side of the stairs onto a couch to avoid going by that basement door.
Q: What have you seen that discourages or frustrates you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
I am thoroughly frustrated by product placement in both CBA and ABA stores. I know there are a lot of hands involved in determining where a book goes: marketers, distributors, branch managers—and even a local clerk can trump them all by putting a book wherever. Lol
In CBA stores, fiction often gets lumped together with Nursery Rhymes and Beginners Bibles. Come on, dude…if you’re a teenager looking for a book, are you even going to consider something next to A Very Veggie Christmas?
In ABA stores, you often see great Christian SpecFic titles tossed into teeny tiny “Religious Fiction” sections. Yes, the place where no one sees it. That’s another reason why I don’t like delineating my work as Christian Fiction—if I do, it’s just that much easier to get thrown in with New Age Fiction or Taoism. If I do have Christ’s message to share, the books need to be where people can see them. You don’t see Phillip Pullman’s books being pulled from mainstream fiction for a special “Atheistic Fiction” section. Tolkien and Lewis can be found in both sections—religious and main stream. Maybe dual designation is what we should be looking for. Hmmm…
Q: How did you involve your students in the process as you wrote this book?
Fifteen years of students from three different Maryland counties and six different middle schools helped to shape The Door Within. They were my sounding board and my encouragers. In 1992, when The Door Within was only a 17 page short story, my 6th graders pestered me to make it longer...until I did. Then, they helped me to know what parts of the story interested them or made a personal connection. The kids seemed to enjoy being able to critique the teacher's work instead of the other way around. And those discussions took the kids into an amazingly sophisticated level of understanding of literature that they would not ordinarily have attained. "Mr. Batson, you need more foreshadowing in that chapter" or "Mr. Batson, I found that allusion to The Hobbit when Aidan said..." or "There's not enough description in this section. I just couldn't see it." These are 10, 11, and 12 year olds analyzing literature and thinking critically. Good stuff! And in the end, as I flirted with a publishing contract, nailed it down, and began the real process of editing, my students were there to share the suspense, excitement, and frustrations. And when my new batch of students comes in this year, I imagine they will exult in the finished product just as I do.
Q: Adults tend to pass over Young Adult books, thinking they are too simplistic in nature to be satisfying. Personally, I have found many of my most profound reads in this genre. What do you think adults can learn from Young Adult literature?
Grrrr…you hit upon a sore point for me. The same folks who think YA lit. is simplistic are the same characters who underestimate the capabilities and intellect of our kids. Kids are far more perceptive and intelligent than most would believe—and the books they read deal with REAL issues, issues that matter to them with a passion that is hard to imagine.
I think that adults can gain a lot from YA Lit. Especially they can regain their youth, their creativity, their dreams. To quote Gandalf when he spoke about the Ents, the tree people who had become stiff and too tree-ish: “they [parents] will awaken and find that they are strong.”
Q: Any musical inspirations that help you write?
I have strange musical tastes. While writing though, I listen to progressive heavy metal. I know what you’re thinking: a.) How can you possibly concentrate with that noisy music? But Prog Metal is really quite classical and symphonic. It’s also driving and epic—an adventure in every song. b.) And, secondly, isn’t that evil? I choose here to respectfully agree to disagree with my Christian peers who think that a particular style of music is inherently evil. The bands I listen to may not all be Christian, but they are mostly positive or ask the big questions of life. My particular favorites are The Orphan Project, Angra, Dream Theater, and Evanescence. Oh, and I like Yo-Yo Ma too.
Q: If a movie was made, based on The Door Within Trilogy, what actors would you have as the lead roles?
Ah, too fun! Here’s my potential cast:
Aidan Thomas: some unknown lad, soft-spoken but tough as nails. Maybe Josh Hutcherson (though he’s quite well-known now).
Antoinette Lynn Reed: again, an unknown, but she must have serious inner fire.
Captain Valithor: Sean Connery. Please, God, let them make the movie while Sean is still with us!
Falon the Mortiwraith: I’d like her to be voiced by Eartha Kitt the voice of Yzma in Emperor’s New Groove.
Paragor/Paragal: This may seem weird, but I’d cast myself in this role. I’ve read his most intense scenes like “Traitor’s Legacy” so many times, I feel like I just know his flaws and his arrogance. If not me, then Sean Bean or Richard Armitage.
Mallik: Gerard Butler, the Scotsman who played Beowulf
Sir Rogan: my buddy Dan who, I’m convinced, is part Viking.
Thanks, Wayne for the great interview.