On the Behalf of Everyone at the Guild

I just wanted to take this time to say Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to all our visitors.

I also humbly swear, should any of the worlds I've created for my fiction ever become popular, to never consent to allow them to be used in a cheesy "holiday" special, TV or otherwise. I mention this because I recently heard there was such a special done for Star Wars. I cannot blame Mr. Lucas for asking all known copies to be destroyed.

If you haven't checked it out yet, Adam Graham has the second annual Carnival of Christmas up, featuring some of the best Christmas trimmings the blogosphere has to offer.


Nacho mama's church

The air chilled my skin and I pulled my coat tighter about me. Around me, hanging out in the night, teenagers with spiked mohawks in a rainbow of colors -- red, blue, green. Beneath those tints, I could tell their hair was black, but not naturally black. Bottle black, topped off with bottle red, blue, green. The phrase "Taste the Rainbow" comes to mind.

Metal hung from their faces, like they had fallen face-first into a tackle box. I wondered if the term "earring" is accurate when it dangles from someone's eyebrows, lips, nose. One guy had "cheek rings (not sure if that's the right term, either) and I wondered if it made some sort of bit since there were identical ones on each side of his cheek.

I stand next to a security guard who professed to be raised Southern Baptist. He looks like many people I know -- jeans, jacket. I think he's bald, but can't remember. He did not have a mohawk in a new Crayola color, however.

"They don't want their parents' church," he tells me.

I'm interviewing the pastor, his wife, and anyone else they want me to for a story about homeless teens. The Rock, as their church is called, has between 100 to 250 teens and youth on Wednesday night and I can hear the praise and worship band from where I stand outside. It reminds me of the heavy metal I grew up listening to on the radio and cassette tapes. I've been told, by the guy with the cheek rings that about 10 percent -- 10-25 of the youth here are homeless. One told me she was abandoned when her mother moved in with her boyfriend.

No wonder they don't want their parents' church, I think.

They've seen their parents come to church, put on the show, and leave it at door when they go home. The security guard doesn't say it quite like that, but that's how I hear it. I know it first hand. When we first moved to Northwest Georgia, the only job I could find was as a cashier in a bar/restaurant. I lost count of how many suit and ties walked in, told me that they would not eat at this establishment because we served the demon alcohol and stomp out muttering something about burning in hell.

Whoo-hooo, what a way to win 'em to Jesus, I thought at the time, glad of my decision to leave the church. I was raised Southern Baptist too and got tired of hearing how I was going to hell. So, when I worked at this bar, I was agnostic, after trying Islam, Wicca, and "The-Way-According-To-Susan." But I felt sad, too, because I felt like something was wrong with the whole picture the church was painting. So, yeah, the security guard really made sense.

This church has endured the same tongue lashing from suits and ties. Other brothers and sisters in Christ have called them "Satanist" because most of the kids wear black -- other than their hair.

They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another. No wonder they don't want their mama's church.

undoubtedly, some of the youth hanging outside the warehouse that has become a church are among that 10 percent. I guess if you're sleeping in your car, or trying to figure out whose couch your going to crash on takes priority over whether your clothes fit. When your clothes come from clothing closet, you can't be too picky after all.

The missing part of the picture was the color. Their mama's church was black and white. But is it really? Is heaven black and white? Or is it paved in streets of gold, with pearly gates and jewels so vibrant that it's literally breathtaking. Can God paint a Heaven so full of color, yet the people who live there be black and white? Can Jesus wash us clean, then make us vibrant, three-dimensional, full of color and wonder?

Can He do all that, yet leave our imaginations in black and white? (Did you really think this rambling wasn't going to tie into speculative fiction?). Did He show us His wonders and miracles yet forbid us from using our imagination?

Do I sometimes feel like the "Taste the Rainbow" kids? Yeah, I do. Maybe that's why Celisa Cooper is one of those kids in "Fair Balance." She didn't want her mama's church, either.


Christians in Fan Fiction? - "Dad-Trek"

(Picard is talking with his crew...)

“It’s amazing how you came back, Captain. You escaped death, and you brought back twelve captured Starfleet officers.”

“It wasn’t easy, Mr. Data. I was helped immensely by the intervention of the Light Guardians.”

“I have heard a few legends about them.”

“More than legend. Ten years ago Starfleet Academy made an intensive study of the writings of all those who seemed to have genuine contact with the Guardians. Just after that I went on a refresher course, when Starfleet was revising its moral and ethical code to incorporate Guardian principles.”

“It was that relevant?”

“Definitely, Mr. Riker. The Guardian-inspired writings showed great understanding in relating to aliens and underprivileged cultures. Other writings, including their songs, had a well developed heart language that was invaluable in understanding the Beta-Zoid. That is what inspired us to take Deanna on board.”

“Captain, wasn’t there some major revision of Earth-originated Philosophy too?”

“Yes, Beverley. Western Philosophy revised its science and logic emphasis. The Academy study showed that historically the value of heart ethics was essential for human respect.”

“Haven’t there been reports of the Guardian touching history several times?”

“Right, Geordi. Various reports of angelic appearances before battles, dreams and visions which inspire people to overcome their oppressors. It all has a familiar theme.”

“That has influenced Klingon culture too, just in time to prevent destruction,” said Worf. “Speaking of which, what has just happened may also be a turning point. I think we’d all like to hear how you did it.”

“Very well. While the Borg were away preparing their worst torture implants, three Guardians appeared. They said they could not rescue me from it, but if I trusted them they would prepare me to go through with it. If it worked, they told me I could be instrumental to release the others.
The plan was this: the Borg were going to use psychological torture so that it came through the senses and through the mind implant at the same time. Similar things would happen with physical torture, making the Borg hard to resist. The Guardians gave me some battle song to meditate on, and a story of one of their interventions. It was tremendously hope-inspiring. For a time I felt I had already won.”

“Was this your first encounter with them?”

“No. There has been a series of visions and dreams over the last three years, building towards this encounter. They often came at times when I felt low for the next challenge.
Then the trial started. It was gruesome enough. It went through the night, accusing me, with multi-sensory bombardment, 'Jean-Luc Picard, the chief destroyer of culture.' I was instructed by the Guardians to keep the song and the story in my heart, and to apply as much of my brain as possible to its truth. I felt that I did not need to answer the Borg's charges.

Then they took me to the torture implants. There were two others: a captain, disgraced through Borg implant, and a vagabond cast out from the Borg who had to steal to stay alive. The vagabond joined in the tormenting: “The Great Picard. Where is your power and leadership now? Get us out of here, and take me with you!”

It was getting nightmarish. The implants shouted: 'Give in to our demands, then you will live!' The torture implants and the multi-sensor media went on, flashing by visions of our men killed under my command. When it was getting tough, I shouted, 'Guardians, Release these Borg! Their implants are destroying their real heart feelings.'

Then the other captain responded. 'Picard, I know you’ll have authority. When that happens, come and get me, please.'
'Hold on, Richard,' I said. 'I believe that will happen today, and we’ll be free.'

Then there were flashes of lightning in a great darkness. It was more awesome than the tortures.”

“Jean-Luc, it was about that time that the Borg tried to transmit a picture of your death.”

“Yes. The Guardian said if I resisted until my heart actually stopped, they would be able to help me more. I and the Borg knew it was happening. Then something strange took place. I think I was dead for a few seconds, although I was very aware of the Guardians giving me special power.”

“I remember. That’s when we saw on our scanners that the whole Borg ship was in turmoil. It shook like a drunk Ferengi. The captains they held in coma came out. I’m not sure who got the biggest shock.”

“Yes, Commander Riker. The rest you know.”

“But what is this about the Captain of the Enterprise changing?”

“In time, it’ll happen. I will be liaison between Starfleet Command, the Guardians, and sometimes the Borg. And you, Will, though you blame yourself for my capture, will be getting more help from the Guardians as you take over.”

“And the rest of us?”

“You have already been receiving something from the Guardians, at least indirectly through me. From now on, there will be more visions from them, prompts for inspired wisdom and leadership, and you will be used to bring the rest of the Borg empire down. The Guardians are able to help you remember in principle how I operate. They will also convey personal messages from me to you if I know it is necessary. Are you ready for the next stage?”

Bruce Francis, Oct 2002. Based mainly on the passion narratives in Luke, Matthew and John.
This was inspired by trying to communicate with a “Trekky”fan while doing a Bible College assignment on Luke's gospel, the crucifixion scene. It is also inspired by Luke’s use of popular literature, such as extra-Biblical writings like 2 Enoch (chap 8- a vivid description of the 3rd heaven/ Abraham's side [AV “bosom”], which has a parallel in Luke 16- the Rich Man and Lazarus), or “the death of Isaiah,” with parallels to Luke 23.
This an allegory of general principles. It is not intended as rigid doctrine or as totally parallel to the story that is allegorised.
Thanks Dad for letting me borrow this! Hope you all enjoyed the read. Having grown up on this show, I do feel that it's become a sort of classical base on which to build my own worlds - even if mine are vastly different.
It seems to me that what is true of sci-fi in general - as a way into people's hearts - is also true, and even especially so, of fan-fiction. Perhaps there's a LGGer somewhere who will someday advance into this mission field. Nothing is impossible!
I thought it was really interesting how it took me quite a while to figure out the parallels and what he was actually talking about. Guess that's how the gospel can slip in the back door...


Sex, Violence, and Cliché in Christian Fiction

All Christian fiction authors delicately dance around sin on our keyboards. Each of us knows sin, but how do we speak of sin without making an editor or reviewer angry? Living in a fallen world, we sense, feel, and live sin. Authors are challenged with realistically portraying sin in our fiction ministry. How can we paint decent literature without crossing the Christian Bookseller's Association image of good wholesome fiction? I know some authors who won't even submit to CBA publishers, because the American Bookseller's Association is the only hope for their fiction.

Politics is a going-concern for the Christian artist. The difference between sex and violence lies in the nature of these ”sins.” We know He designed us to be sexual creatures, and in the marriage bed, sex isn't dirty. Unless one is a sociopath, onlooking readers may be inspired to, but aren't tempted by violence. So, how do we write a Biblical “kissing” scenes and a Biblical “action” scenes? Let's role-play this comparison. You're out for an evening stroll. Your eye catches movement inside a window . . .

The movement happens to be a fornicating couple. The fornicator's sin matches the lusting viewer who can't tear eyes away. If this is a married couple who forgot to pull the shade, then the sex is Godly, and only the Peeping-Tom is in sin. If we’re going to realistically include sex in our fiction, the most we can do is catch a glimpse and avert our eyes. Invading intimacy is wrong, and graphic sex in Christian literature is a contradiction in terms.

The movement is one human mercilessly beating another. Unless an author's intended readership are either sociopaths, or conscience-objector-Pacifist-Quakers who'd have let Hitler take over Europe—witnessing violence is a different moral issue. It takes a special kind of person to witness violence through this same evening-stroll window and not intervene by calling 911, or by hammering on the door.

Neither sex nor violence are sins. These topics carry different contexts, and each must be written with different levels of propriety. And then there's the usual . . .

Ever read Christian Fiction where a believer is the antagonist? Yes, secular fiction beat this horse to death in the eighties and nineties. I think it faded away not because of political correctness, but because of cliché. Our Biblical character, by definition, has to be a protagonist in Christian fiction. But divorce is more common inside church walls than outside. Christian abortion, addiction and suicide stats match secular demographics. The organized church is shrinking because it's plastic. People need real answers for real issues, not smiles and handshakes one day a week. What about a seeking or skeptical character?

Write real, in good taste, and let Him worry about business. We're His artists, and our job is to tell the tale of the real world—no matter what the setting. Let the Editor-in-Chief worry about the rest.

Write well,


Trackers (CSFF Blog Tour)

Trackers by Kathryn Mackel

Far from home in a ravaged world, the Birthrighters struggle for survival.

Raised in a new ark beneath polar ice, delivered by whales to a blighted surface, the young men and women of the Birthright Project have pledged their lives to a risky and redemptive mission--perserving God's original creation from the ravages of the Endless Wars and human depravity.

They've roamed the earth tracking original species. They've successfully battled sorcerers, warlords, and armies of mutants. But now a twisted new enemy is on the march. An explosive old secret lurks beneath the glitter of a decadent city. And the mysterious darkness that swallowed a mountain spreads toward an innocent mill town.

Before they can prevail, the Birthrighters must confront their most difficult challenge: overcoming their individual desires that threaten to betray the group.

The adventure draws to a dramatic close in Book Two of Kathryn Mackel's imaginative and absorbing Birthright Series...a fantasy thriller with a heart of faith.

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: WestBow Press (October 31, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN: 1595540407


Visit these blogs on the CSFF Blog Tour:
Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Karen and at
Karen’s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia
The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Terri Main
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John Otte
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Chris Walley
Daniel I. Weaver


Mixed Message

A couple days ago, I started to read a non-fiction book on healthy eating. Within the first few pages the use of Scripture pleasantly surprised me, but on a subsequent page the same author stated that Mother Nature is the only one that heals. This may seem insignificant to some, but I find it troublesome. Mixing truth with error. If the author wants to use God’s word to encourage people to eat for better health, she should not give Mother Nature the credit as the divine healer. If she had written it without Scripture references to make her point, the Mother Nature comment would provide a flag that an unbeliever wrote the book. But I’d read it with that in mind. Mixing her message makes me ponder the author’s motivation. Does she really not know the truth? Is she trying to appeal to those who believe God’s word, while remaining inclusive enough to promote Mother Nature? This author subtly planted one foot in the Christian camp and another in the world’s camp. I closed the book.

When I picked up the book on healthy eating, I did not buy it because it was a Christian book. I bought it because I’m interested in healthy eating. When I buy speculative fiction, I don’t expect a Christian theme, but I also don’t embrace adult themes. Finding the Christian Sec-fic market was an answer to prayer.

Christian Spe-fic by title of the genre promises the reader two things—Speculative fiction written with a Christian theme. Can this be accomplished without compromising the truth? Contrary to protests by some, these two ingredients are not at odds but blend elements that appeal to believers who enjoy reading Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Spec-fic + Christian does not equal a mixed message.

Just like people enjoy reading different genres, writers take pleasure in writing assorted genres. It’s part of how God created us. Authors who choose to write Lost Genre Christian Spec-Fic leave their mark on the craft and provide a viable option for believing readers.


Speculative Fiction by Carizz Cruzem

The Road Less Traveled By

Ding-dong! Ding-dong!
The grandfather clock strikes twelve.
It is where reality meets fantasy.
Calm wind breezes.
Trees sway.
Leaves fall.
Grass dotted with morning dew tickles my barefoot.
My feet guide me to the huge tree by the glistening stream.
I kneel down.
I dip my hand in the cool water.
I lift my fingers.
Water drips down my elbow.
Someone taps my shoulder.
I do not need to look back.
It is him.
His heart beats in sync with mine.
He grasps my hand.
We walk across the meadow.
I stared at him.
He looks back at me, beaming.
I smile back.
He grips my hand firmer.
If you find yourself so low that you almost need to look up just to look down, just come in this place and I’ll be always here with you. OHFT…,” he says to me.
I sigh.
He steers my head to his chest.
I close my eyes.
Tears trickle down my cheeks soaking his shirt.
He caresses my hair.
This is our secret hiding place.
It is always morning here.
No one knows this place but the two of us.

I just realized the beauty of speculative fiction. It’s becoming a supernatural being with the power to fly and getting lost in a place where no one knows who you are. You can even make the people who hurt you become aliens with balloon heads. You only have to be armed with a needle to defeat them.

There was a time in my life when I greeted everyone I met on the street with a smile. And they smiled back. It was a nice time—no assumptions, no doubts in your heart—just a simple unadulterated smile.

Somehow, through the passing of the years, the smile turns to a frown. And like everything else that is changing gradually, I didn’t realize it until I saw this girl on the bus.

That day, I was on the bus with Mark Galang. As a gentleman that he is, he also paid for my fare that day. He is such a kind-hearted guy. Bless him.

Well anyways, he pointed me this girl. But even before he mentioned the girl, I already noticed her the moment she came up the bus. There was something different about her. She smiled to everyone. The driver knew her, the bus conductor knew her, and the street fruit vendors knew her and even gave her some lanzones— it seemed everyone knew her, apparently except me. She wasn’t that beautiful. I mean, not stunningly beautiful like Demi Moore or Catherine Zeta Jones, but she was nice to look at. At first though, I raised an eyebrow at how she acted. Well, in the course of time, I’ve developed a negative attitude of doubting everyone’s intention. I guess that would explain the frown.

Mark told me that they met the girl in Chowking, where he works. As I’ve suspected, the girl has a very high self-esteem. She is the kind who’d be the first one to approach you and introduce herself. She doesn’t need a middleman.

I’d like to have that kind of attitude. But then, you can’t help but to doubt everyone if you’ve been hurt too many times. I don’t know but… I just thought it would be nice to go back to the time when I don’t carry even a hint of a grudge to anyone—the time when I have a smile ready for everyone.

Until that time comes, I guess writing speculative fiction will be my cover.


Writing What Is

Writing What Is

I often get into some quite animated discussions about the shape that the writing of a Christian should take. There are several schools of thought, which I’ll condense down to two main ones:

1) Christians should write only explicitly Christian stories.

2) Christian should not write explicitly Christian stories, but rather bury hidden meaning that an unknowing secular audience will dig up and point them in the direction of God.

Both points are valid. Many people have come to Christ through Christian films, Christian concerts, and all those explicitly Christian things that get scoffed at. However, the power of the Gospel in them is enough for God to use them for His purposes.

Others point to the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who spread elements of the Gospel through their stories like bread crumbs that guide you home in the midst of a thick forest. I’ve heard several people at least say they came to know Christ through a journey that began with one of these books.

So, who’s right? Neither is. While both heavily religious and more subtle works have been successful in reaching people for Christ and being commercially viable, neither is the be all and end all.

The key is to write what’s in your heart and the stories you have, not to play your stories one way or another. The question shouldn’t be, “What’s the right approach to take to a story?” The question ought to be, “What’s the story I have and what’s the best way to tell it?”

God is always a part of most of my stories, particularly the good ones, but how he appears varies. In both my short stories for the anthology, God is talked about, but never shows up. In my novel, “Two Sides of the Hill,” God is at the center of the entire story, while in “Super Hero,” he’s only discussed every few chapters. I’ve written stories of great miracles and the chronicles of the mundane. Both have a place in my world.

The danger we face when we adopt a rigid view of what our stories will look like is that in that rigidity, we kill imagination. We try and fit our characters, our stories, and even our portrayal of God in a box and we end up unhappy with what we produce and stuck in a rut, because we’ve limited ourselves.

I write what I see in mind’s eye and I make changes to the plot if it makes it better or flows with my vision of the story, not to please a school of thought. The critical thing for Christian writers is to tell the stories we’ve been given, because if God is guiding us, they have an important purpose, no matter what form they might take.

Santa Claus, Just Another Great Fantasy Fiction

The holiday season always creates a strange dichotomy, secular celebration versus religous rejoicing. With very small children, I am often torn between the obvious conflict of the concept of Santa Claus and whether I should expose my children to the mystical fantasy surrounding Christmas.

While it is imperative that they learn about the birth of Jesus Christ, understand that the holiday is a celebration of that blessed day, and a day to give thanks to God for the most precious, most intimate gift that could be offered to the world, there may be a benefit to the Santa Claus story. Is it possible that the idea of Santa Claus is nothing more than a fantasy fiction character, created to encourage good behavior in children? If they are good they will reap a benefit, if not, well, coal in the sock. But, what actual benefit, if any, could Santa Claus really have on children? The concept that a strange man will enter their house bearing gifts may not be comforting to some. As an African American woman, there is also the cultural emhpasis recently, (past 10 years), to celebrate Kwanzaa instead, or along with. More importantly, the focus on gifts and material things drastically narrows the actual purpose of the holidays, distorts its intended nature, completely removing Christ from Christmas.

I internalize all of these problems every year, but do not have the courage to deny my children participation in America's most festive celebration of the year. The reality is that I have to find some justification, some reason to believe that I am not harming them, not diluting their faith or our religious beliefs, by allowing the Santa Claus theme to reside in our house. So here is what I came up with:

1. Santa Claus is another character that exercises a child's imagination. Look, I know this is a stretch, since we pretty much tell them exactly what they should believe, with innumerable television shows and movies. There is something to be said, however, in the idea of Santa, what he looks like, where he lives, what type of toys he will deliver, how his reindeer actually fly, will he come to my house, what does he like to eat, etc...Alright, if your not buying that one, then on to idea 2.

2. Santa Claus is a good exercise in faith. A child must have belief that an entity they have never met will somehow be able to monitor them, judge them, and reward them accordingly. They must trust that there innermost desires will be known to this person and he will deliver them. Is it possible that Sant Claus is a smaller demonstration for our omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God, who is aware of our needs, wants and desires and judges our behavior? Can Santa Claus be a miniature model that demonstrates the hard to fathom concept of faith, belief in the unknown, manifestation of the unseen?

3. Santa Claus is an exercise in trust. Every year, Santa makes his rounds and deliveries, no matter what. The recent The Santa Clause movies are a great example of this, the goal of the movie focuses on how Santa and his purpose must go on, no matter what.

4. Santa Claus is no more than positive fantasy fiction character, created to serve a good purpose or accomplish the good deed against all odds.

If I am able to believe in the concept of Christian speculative fiction, if I can advocate that it's very existence is not contradictory because fantasy can be inspired by Christian themes, then shouldn't the idea and concept of Santa Claus be easily acceptable. Actually, shouldn't it be unquestionable. Where the real story is the birth and celebration of Jesus Christ, then aren't Santa Claus, his elves, the North Pole, Mother Claus and the flying reindeer no more than Christian speculative fiction?

I don't know; but it is the reason I will swallow this year to allow my children to sit on a stranger's lap and take the Santa picture, put up the tree, leave out the cookies and experience frenzied gift openings. A new year, a new fake explanation. I'll work out the guilties in church Christmas morning.....

A Message from cyn

Just wanted to point out the new feature on the Lost Genre Guild blog . . . if you scroll down, on the sidebar you will see a little form for your email address. Sign up and you will receive each new post in your email inbox—saves having to go to the blog site daily and is a good reminder about what's happening in the guild. Another beauty of receiving the feed via email is the ease with which you can respond to a post—just click on the title and shazaam! you are at the site (if you have dial-up, the "shazaam" aspect = wishful thinking).

The Writers' Café Press
The Lost Genre Guild


The Revised Version

My last day to post came up right after an emotionally-exhausting election and my article got rushed off to press without adequate editing. I realized later (hat tip: Frank) that it probably wasn't coming across the way I intended it to at all and did a rewrite, which follows under a new title. I replaced the last one with this version, but with the interruption of thanksgiving, it got buried, so at Frank's encouragement, I'm reposting it. Please read it. I apologize to anyone the poorly thought out version may have offended, and for dragging my feet. No excuses here, but believe me, my article only hits the tip of the ice berg of what I've been through in a quarter century. My old defense mechanisms keep coming back to hurt good people and I need loving, gentle people to keep me balanced as my craft has gotten by far more polish than my social graces.

Let me end with Merry Christmas to all and a blessed New Year!

Now onto the article....

Strength in Weakness

by Andrea Graham

I, like many, struggle with the huge pressure exerted on us to measure success by the numbers-oriented, if not dollar-signs-oriented, measures the world uses.

Let me start by laying it all out. I am not effective, and I am not wise. I am not the sharpest debater, and shun apologetics. I struggle with a tendency towards being foolish, lazy, prone to self doubt, gullible, easily tossed about by the winds of emotion. I lack confidence, self-esteem, endurance, and patience, especially with faults in others. I am not good at making friends, indeed, I’ve lived in Boise about three years now, and still wouldn’t know who to call in an emergency, other than 9-1-1 and the Church office, who would send whoever happened to not be too busy. I have a difficult time trusting in God, let alone man. I’m prone to coveting, especially babies. Take the worst traits of the extrovert, combine them with the worst traits of the introvert, and you’ve got my temperament. Only in terms of over-correcting, am I Queen. When I’m not being bossy, manipulative, and controlling, or just obstinately opinionated and all too eager to share my beliefs, I’m huddling in the corner, terrified to speak at all.

In school, I was not the popular child, the smartest child, the prettiest, or the most athletic. You want to find who I was, slip out to playground. See the little red haired girl, the only one, sitting alone on the bench, watching all the other children? See her pretending she doesn’t care as her classmates tear her to shreds, mistaking freckles as a symptom of the AIDS virus (it was the eighties, coodies had a new name). That little girl, that was me. I had no friends, until a friend of my mom’s took us to church, where I met a Man who wanted to be the friend of a rejected little girl. His name was Jesus. He was a King and God Himself. He was my only friend, the only person I knew beyond doubt cared about me. To this day, He bears the scars to prove it.

With that in mind, let’s remember what the Lord said at the end of first chapter of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, starting in verse twenty-six:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh,
not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish
things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of
the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in
His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from
God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written,
“He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

Let me propose a question we need to ask ourselves. This is entirely between you and the Lord. We say with our lips we glory in the Lord, but do we honor him in our hearts? Yes? Good! That's important, because, at least for me, the heart has a way of ending up on paper whether I intend it to or not. Too often, though, I find myself relying on my knowledge, and slipping into worldly thinking, all the while patting myself on the back for my cleverness. True, the Bible says, "be wise as serpents," but are we using God's wisdom, or the wisdom of man, which God, speaking through Paul, declares foolishness? I can't answer that for you personally, but I'm sure we can all think of such in a world where even Christian publishers balk at putting the name "Jesus" on the cover. Let's consider what Paul had to say about wisdom:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or
of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know
anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in
weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were
not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit
and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the
power of God.

Wow. How did Paul accomplish so much? He sounds about as marketing-savy here as me. Guess that gives us hope, doesn't it? He continues, though:

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

So we need to rely on God? I suppose we already knew that, those tacky bracelets made sure of it. But I spend way too much time trying to pretend I'm not shaking in my boots, so I opened with my own version of Paul's why-not-to-hire-me-as-a-public-speaker query above, taking in consideration Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 12:6-10:

For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the
truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be
or hears from me. And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to
buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with
the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace
is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore
most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may
rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs,
in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am

A challenging passage, in a world that compels us to boast of ourselves! Yet scripture teaches we’re strongest when we’re weak. Why? Because when we think we’re strong, we rely on our own strength and instead of His, and he is by far stronger, wiser, funnier, more clever, than any of us could ever hope to be. So when I rely on my own limited strength, I cut myself off from a much greater strength. And in my weakness, his strength comes with an added bonus, as in Isaiah 55:11, He promises His word will not return to him void. I guess that's why it's better to try and fail than to not try at all. Like the sower, we scatter our seed, never knowing where and when it will take root. Thanks be to God, that He can make use of one as weak and foolish as I.

Let me leave you with a few more words from the Apostle Paul to meditate on.

1 Cor 3:18-20:

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age,
let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is
foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own
craftiness”; and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are

1 Cor 4:10-16:

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you
are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we
both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And
we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the
world, the offscouring of all things until now.
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.
For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not
have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Therefore I urge you, imitate me.


Characters we love AND hate!

by Deborah Cullins Smith

Why do my daughters always do this to me? I don't have -- or for that matter, WANT! -- cable television. I have a huge movie collection, which gives me the freedom to watch what I want, when I want, without commercials, and I can fast-forward past any unsavory clips if I'm offended! But my girls feel duty-bound to keep me apprised of the newest, hottest series available on prime time. They both agree that "Grey's Anatomy" is the best new series on the block -- now in it's 3rd season. Well, okay -- it's not 'new' anymore. But it's new enough that Daughter #1 has Season 1 and 2 on DVD now. I've been crying my way through #2 for the past week, and I encountered a startling revelation as I knitted my way through about 5 episodes.

Season 1 was basically character introduction. Five young interns begin their residency in a hospital in Seattle. Meredith Grey is the main character. Mommy was a brilliant surgeon at this same hospital, so Meredith has some big shoes to fill. But Mommy now has Alzheimers and rarely even recognizes her, a fact that Meredith tries very hard to hide from her coworkers who still idolize the famous Ellis Grey. Then there's ambitious, competitive Christine, who is about as lovable as a barracuda. George, a cute, cuddly, insecure sweetie, has an enormous crush on Meredith, but she is already having a fling with one of the residents known as Dr. McDreamy. Yes, you've undoubtedly seen Patrick Dempsey pictured on the front of People magazine or any one of a dozen other tabloids with that particular little tag! We also have fashion-model-turned-surgeon Izzie, a goofy blond you have to love just because she tries so hard to be everyone's friend. And the egotistical Alex really needs a close encounter with a baseball bat, preferably upside the head. And just as Meredith makes great headway in her relationship with McDreamy, Season 1 ends with the appearance of his wife. Abrupt end of affair.

Yeah, this isn't a series I should probably recommend, particularly to an illustrious group of Christian writers! But bear with me --- I really DO have a point to make.

As I watched Season 2 last week, I developed some pretty harsh opinions about some of the characters. McDreamy's wife, Addison, I labelled as a cold-hearted, calculating witch (with a capital 'B'...) and she deserved to be dumped. McDreamy was crazy to even contemplate giving up Meredith for this woman. She didn't deserve a second chance. And Meredith more or less proceeds to go from one man to the next in Season 2, which didn't exactly endear her to my heart after all. She's a sympathetic character, but give me a break! There are other ways to deal with heartbreak (believe me, I KNOW...) than to bed-hop.

Christine is still hard-boiled, but she has a blunt directness that I have to give grudging respect. However, when her boyfriend, one of the hospital's top surgeons, is hit by a stray bullet, Christine can't handle it and pretty much bails out emotionally, leaving this poor guy to deal with some severe neurological damage to (of all things) his hand. I wanted to go through the screen and shake her.

George finally finds a woman who adores him, which makes up a little for the fact that Meredith still thinks of him in a brotherly way instead of a 'lover-ly' one. But I can't say that I'm favorably impressed with this gal, because she just seems to be a little too trashy. And Izzie falls for a patient in need of a heart. But a heart becomes available, and the coin-toss falls between her patient and another man who was added to the national register only 17 seconds quicker. Izzie, showing the effects of too much peroxide, cuts the cord -- literally -- between her patient and his life support! When he crashes, she can honestly (in her shattered judgment) state that her patient is more critical than patient #2 --- and she manages to 'steal' the heart.

By now, you are sick and tired of this night-time soap opera and are probably drumming your fingers on your desk, wondering if I'm ever going to get to my point. So I'll try to rally my thoughts and put you out of this roller-coaster misery!

I liked alot of these characters in Season 1, but by the end of Season 2 .... well, it was tempting to try to "adjust" them by taking a baseball bat to my tv screen. And there were a few that I utterly detested in Season 1, but by the end of Season 2 I had alot more sympathy for their plights. Just about the time I thought I had a character tagged, tried, and sentenced, something else would happen and my perspective changed. It's really hard to separate them into 'good' and 'bad' because EVERY ONE of them is both --- and neither. Just like real life.

In my own writing, I find that I tend to create 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. Of course, my bad guys are usually demons, so there really ARE no redeeming qualities! (Although I have had some comments that my demon Fumbleblot, soon to appear in "Light at the Edge of Darkness" is a far too sympathetic creature!) Personally speaking, I tend to be something of a 'people-pleaser' in personality. I was an only child, and the type of little girl who hated to displease or disappoint my parents, teachers, or other authority figures. Then I grew up and still tried to please not only Mommy and Daddy, but a husband as well. Now a divorced woman for many years, I feel freed from a little bit of that people-pleasing-in-vain stuff (because there are some people you will NEVER please no matter what you do), but I recently came face to face with the uncomfortable fact that my own Mother hates spec fic, and wishes I would "write something else". (that's a completely different topic, so I'll save it for another day....) Back to my point. In looking back at my stories, most of them contain characters with those same people-pleasing qualities. I relate to that, so I suppose that's what I characterize best. But, by and large, they are likeable!

"The Rider" features a young woman named Alice, a bit of a dreamer, tired of living under Daddy's strict rules, but for the most part, an obedient daughter. "Fumbleblot's Task" tells of woman dominated by her fears. "Allison" is a little girl who wants to meet her Mommy, even if only for a few minutes. I was more than a little disconcerted to discover that they all contain a portion of the people-pleaser in me.

What has this got to do with "Grey's Anatomy", after boring you to tears with all the sordid details? I've become emotionally invested in these characters, be they good, bad, or in-between. For the most part, they are each a bit of both. I've roared with laughter, and I've sobbed through hour-long crying jags. (when the plots have hit a little -- or alot-- closer to home than I was prepared to see....) I cheered them on, and gritted my teeth in frustration at their stupidity. I've applauded when they got it right, and screeched when they pulled stunts no moral person would think of doing. But I kept on watching!

When we can give birth to characters as brilliantly dimensional as that, we WILL be successful authors! Each and every one of us! That's my goal.


The Opposite of Magic

"Is... Is that magic?" Alfred stammered.
Laylah's eyes flashed, but her tone remained gentle. "No. It's the opposite of magic. ...I merely proclaim God's will rather than trying to impose my own. That is why this is the opposite of magic."

I wrote earlier that a purely literary device (a.k.a. a gimmick) such as magic or aliens needn't encourage belief or experimentation. While there are aspects of the Harry Potter books I find troubling, magic isn't one of them.

But should Christians have magic in their stories? If the magic is based on reality, then like any other sin, it's fair game--if it doesn't encourage readers in a harmful direction. It can even serve as a warning against the counterfeit miracles of magic and bring out the dictinction between true miracles and false.

Even literary magic can have useful qualities. In the Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien's Middle Earth Stories, witches are not positive characters, ordinary humans either can't work magic at all or make matters worse when they do, and most magic is limited to naturally magical creatures such as elves. There is magic, but it's off-limits to us readers.

So the options appear to be

1. Real magic (demonically based power) presented in a way that discourages imitation;

2. Divine gifting, which may be contrasted with 1) above, and which operates at God's direction, not ours, as in the quote at the beginning of this article; and

3. "Supernatural" magic, where the "magic" is actually another set of natural laws that can be made to supersede the usual ones. In this case, the "magic" is no more evil than regular science: it may be misused, but it is neutral, a mere tool.

I don't care for the last option as a rule, though it crops up a lot. It is basically the basis for Narnian magic, though "magic" there often (especially as an adjective) means "numinous." It is also (very roughly) the explanation for magic in my short story "At the Mountains of Lunacy" (coming February 2007 in Light at the Edge of Darkness), though the proper explanation is far more involved.

I reject the quasi-naturalistic form of magic because it reinforces the dangerous modern tendency to reduce everything to formulas. "If there are natural laws, there must be supernatural laws"--and if we can manipulate phsical laws via physical machines, why not manipulate supernatural laws via supernatural machines? A lot of writing about prayer, spiritual warfare, and prophecy is an attempt to build such machines so we can take control never promised to us--but all for the glory of God, of course!

This is what magic really is: an effort to impose our will rather than God's. There's a lot of it around, even outside of fiction. In real life especially, we should be sure what we do is the opposite of magic.

Tune in next time for "It's Life, Jim, But Not as We Know It":

"Greetings, Earthling! How would you like to play 'Probe the human' on my saucer?"
"You can't fool me. There are no aliens. You're probably just a demon or something."
"I've been called worse, Earthling. Why do you say there aren't any aliens?"
"Because in his new book, No, There Aren't Any Aliens, Idiot, Rev. Whimsy proves there aren't. See, I've got the 'For Dummies' edition and everything."
"I believe the reverend is singing a different tune these days."
"Yeah? Why?"
"Because I let my apprentice do the probing. The reverend swears like a sailor when you get the probe crosswise..."

21st Century Ethics

Back in the Technological Age, lab-coats said, “let there be tech,” and it was good. From Roe v. Wade, to pulling the plug on a loved one, to Dr. Kevorkian, we blundered through hi-tech goodness and tripped over legal rights issues. Biotech, back then, had three steps on bioethics. Then we decoded the human genome. This scared the reality of "goodness" into everyone, and the pendulum swung. Now cloning and stem-cell research are under debate—in the US.

Many have predicted that the twenty-first century will be known for its biological breakthroughs. By 2107, micro-tech submarines will zip through arteries, eliminating all diseases not legally protected by pharmaceutical lawyers brandishing the endangered species act like Greenpeace zodiacs fronting whaling vessels. DNA strands will stream binary code through computer chips, and we'll be flipping light switches and flushing toilets with brain waves.

What does this have to do with Biblical fiction? Theme. Yeah, I'm nagging about fiction message. I know we're a bunch of artists who wait on muse while plucking flower petals, chanting "She loves me, she loves me not." Authors of Bib-spec-fic, no matter how subtle, answer to the Editor-in-Chief. We have to write the tough stuff for our audiences. We wield a powerful genre that touches entire world-views: logic & emotion, idealism & reality, truth & life.

Is the subject of bioethics solely the sci-fi writers' department?

  • What of a pregnant mother, an orc woman, who'd been raped by a human, and is rejected by doctors who can afford to choose their patients? Not just racism, for-profit healthcare.
  • What if Nazi-Germany won the war and bioengineered the Aryan race? Alternate-history.
  • What if fallen angels animated soul-less clones? Horror, and Daniel Weaver's idea.

Theme does not need to be inspiration, but it can be. Those who plot first and land on theme, need to recognize rubber-meeting-road topics: bioethics.

Peace, Love, Dove

Email Frank Creed
Lost Genre website
Frank Creed website
Frank's book review blog


Miracles are dead...

I would like to pose a few questions. Why do you believe that Harry Potter has seen so much success? Why do you think that so many television shows are now focusing on "supernatural" experiences? Ex, "supernatural," "The Ghost Whisperer," "Medium," "Heroes," etc. And look at the movie industry...

I'll offer up a thought to consider. Miracles are dead.

Okay, now before you go off on a tangent telling me about the person you know who was miraculously healed from cancer, I don't actually think that miracles are dead, per say, but the world has changed since Old Testament days. We no longer have any Samsons. We no longer have a Moses or Elijah or Gideon or fiery furnace trio. We don't have a man feeding thousands with a couple fish and a few loaves of bread. Simply put, we haven't had a global miracle in so long that the world is hungry for one. (Personally, I think this is one of the reasons the Anti-Christ will gain so much power and convince so many people that he's the real deal, but that's another discussion.)

So, in the absence of miracles, what would any average miracle-hungry person do? Go looking for one. I write supernatural thrillers/horror and I got to thinking about the reasons that so many people love these genres. In research for a WIP, I've been going back through and re-reading a lot of the OT miracle stories when it hit me: We just don't get to see this kind of stuff any more. Sure, we have our tiny miracles...People saved from accidents that should have resulted in certain death, people cured of terminal illnesses in the blink of an eye, people without a dime to their names living without care day after day on faith...But where is the grandiose "Hand of God" miracle these days?

Ghosts. Ouija boards. Haunted houses. Psychics. Voodoo. Mediums. They offer up little miracles for the people that let them... But why do people let them? Because we hunger for more than what this world can show. Deep down inside, our very souls KNOW the supernatural exists. God is supernatural. And knowing that, knowing the infinity of his power, spurs the imagination, stirs that ingrained part of our souls that hungers for Him.

But not everyone knows Him. Not knowing Him doesn't stop the hunger, it doesn't stop that spiritual need for proof that something greater than our lives exist. And when someone doesn't know Him, all of the other supernatural things become so much more attractive. We want to explain the things we can't explain. We want to hope that there is some kind of life after death. We want to believe that our time on this earth isn't futile. And if we don't have faith in God, in Heaven, what do we have left as options? Reincarnation? Some kind of spirit world? etc.

Now, for those of us who do know Him, who have faith in the here-after, the supernatural isn't as much of a mystery. It's a fact. We know that God isn't the only one who moves in this world. The devil's agents move as well. So, as a Christian who loves supernatural thrills, I've come to see the importance of showing this modern world in which we live in proper light. I think we need to remind everyone that miracles are in fact, alive and well. They might not shake the world's foundation when they happen, but they happen according to His plan. And more importantly, we need to shed Light on those "miracles" that don't come from His throne so that those people who don't know Him can see a glimmer of truth through all the lies.


Spec Fic With Gravy on the Side

Spec Fic With Gravy on the Side

Maybe it's the fact that it's the day before Thanksgiving.
Maybe it's the weather-- a blustery, wet Noreaster that makes one
curl up inside and think warm thoughts. Or maybe having my baby
Ember has just softened up me a little.

Whatever the reason, today my thoughts turn to a part of writing
that it's easy to forget amidst the hustle and bustle of creating
stories. I am absolutely, utterly grateful that God chose me to write.
When I was still being formed in the secret places of my mother's womb,
He decided to tweak things so that I would have this gift, and
stories have just seemed to be a natural part of my life since
childhood. He could have chosen someone else to glorify him through words;
certainly at times I think He could have found someone more worthy,
less insecure, more bold. But He gave it to me. And even at the most
frustrating moments, when my stories seem stale and my self-doubt is
ranting in the back of my mind, I know that writing is like breathing.
I can no more stop one than the other.

Writing has given me a portal into hundreds of worlds, introduced me
to characters through whose struggles I find hope for my own. Words
give me a way to put my passion onto paper, or to grapple with a fear,
or to take up arms against an evil or injustice. If I combine them
with music, I have a wonderful and powerful way to praise my God.
I love that He's put it in my heart to write speculative fiction and
explore the countless possibilities of the genre.

So, on the eve of turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, I just want
to stand up and say thank you-- to God, for His unspeakable mercy
and grace, and also to my fellow wordsmiths, for joining together in faith
and community, helping one another use the gift God has placed in us.



Writing about the darker side of faith.

On the surface, I appear normal. My chosen attire is usually jeans and a sweater, but I'll wear khakis for interviews and meetings. I have five girls, a husband, and the normal pets -- a goofy lab and a lazy cat. But there is a darker side of me -- a fascination with ghosts, spirits, demons and witches that I don't normally talk about with casual acquaintances. I don't think one ever gets used to the shocked, wide-eyed look that comes when I tell people that I've written Christian horror. That disbelief generally precedes the protest that it's an oxymoron. But like in "Fair Balance" you can't judge based on appearances. My past, on one level was quite normal -- in fact, the joke in my circles is that I was raised by Ward and June Cleaver. But when the house was dark and quiet and everyone was asleep, my world could have been born from a marriage of Stephen King and Ann Rice.

As a child and teenager, I was plagued by chronic nightmares. Demons, death, and fear greeted me every evening to the point I was averaging about two hours sleep a night -- generally from the time my parents woke up at five in the morning until seven when I had to get ready for school. I still remember every detail of some of therecurringg ones. In the end was always a church I stumbled upon. But instead of being a safe haven, it was a place of fear and isolation.

One of the most recurringg nightmares involved me being trapped in a house that was demon possessed. During the course of this dream, I tried to escape while voices echoed through the dark home that I would die. I would duck flying objects, scramble to free myself from some unseen force trying to pin me down. I would somehow escape and run until I saw church. The church should be a safe haven, but it wasn't. I could call out to God and He would save me, but the church only incited terror.

I'm not a psychologist. I don't know why I had these dreams. I had a pretty boring existence as far as teenagers go. I did not live in an abusive or cold home. My love for reading and writing was encouraged as was church and sports. Writing became my passion but I did not write about the things that kept me up at night. Even though I knew God was bigger than whatever was going on, I was terrified into silence. But it did put me on a path of morbid curiosity. What was on the other side? Why was it plaguing me? Anything black and sinister captured my attention, like I had a disease and needed to know everything about it in order to cure it. Maybe they didn't cause all my bad dreams, but they caused some, perhaps just enough to get my imagination rolling.

After years of spiritual wanderings, I came back to the faith of my youth. The fascination of demons and devils and evil never left me. The difference was as a child, I knew God was bigger than all the nightmares and demons and spirits, but for whatever reason, I couldn't get to Him and let Him protect me. Now, I know He's protecting me. However, I don't cower behind Him in fear. He didn't create me to have a spirit of fear. But I do let Him shield me. The nightmares have stopped, but now a mission remains.

"Fair Balance" was the first, but it won't be the last horror story I write. That dark side of my faith is too strong and not enough people acknowledge it's existence. I know because in the last decade, I've only heard it mentioned once or twice in church. I'm no longer surprised that the church in my dream was cold, distant and inattentive of this part of Christianity. I'm only saddened by it and pray that the people who feel as I do can read my stories and know they have a kindred spirit in the foothills of Georgia.


Changing Lives with the Lost Genre

In my previous posts I have explored a little of what our work can mean for us and our readers, and for myself as a reader of speculative fiction. The more I ponder it, and the more I read of the other posts on this blog, the more I have come to the conclusion that my heart’s goal all along has been to change lives with the Lost Genre. I don’t know if that’s everyone’s ideal, but I do know that its effect can range from the beginnings of granting someone an escape from a hard life to a beautiful world for a few hours, all the way to actually influencing someone to accept Christ. To be honest, I would be happy with anything between these two extremes.

There are books that show such strength of character that it cannot help but change me as I read it – for example, Lawhead’s Merlin, Hancock’s Arena, or beyond spec-fic, Alcott’s Little Women, just to name a few. There are books that expand the horizons of the possible, like Empyrion, or the Narnia stories, or indeed most if not all of the Lost Genre. Yes, it blows my mind. But I enjoy having my mind blown, and when my horizons have been expanded, I can think outside the box, I can see beyond my immediate situation and grasp hope for my future.

Sometimes after reading a particularly mind-expanding tale, it has the effect on me that I start coming up with ideas for my own writing. Sometimes it’s an adrenaline rush as plots and ideas are hammered out in my mind before I can even reach for pen and paper. I don’t mean copying, but simply an inspiration set free by glowing examples to fly further than I ever dreamed, discovering even more strange new worlds that never existed before. And as we all know, a little inspiration must be followed by a great deal of perspiration if we want to get anywhere at all.

I am very interested in “genre crossover” books – Lost Genre stories able to be read by people who profess no interest in speculative fiction. Maybe it’s the “foot in the door” that can broaden our niche readership. For example, “An Alien at St. Wilfred’s” by Adrian Plass. Here, a visit from a childlike alien, perpetually asking simple questions, causes an Anglican priest and an assortment of parishioners to penetrate the darkness in their own souls. It’s a tale of deep brokenness and honesty and healing, a tale of very ordinary people, except that one of them is an alien. My friend, not a LG fan, read it and loved it, although she did say the presence of the alien was a little disturbing. Even so, this book still has the potential to touch someone very deeply AND win another reader for the genre.

I’m sure we all agree that inviting the Lost Genre into our lives is a significant change and a valuable enrichment!

Of course I would be the first to agree that hard-core LG is worthy of pursuit, and as Frank said in his interview, there is a place for all varieties and all angles and purposes. No need to fight over that. Still, for myself at this point, I would like to hope that my writing is just this kind of “soft-core” speculative fiction, that it’s all about people who aren’t so different to us, with enough speculative aspects to broaden horizons, give hope, and perhaps even be enjoyable for readers who may be just beginning to discover the genre.

And, my friends, if we can manage that, then the world is ours for the taking…

(sorry this is late! I wasn't at home this week and couldn't log in to Blogger from Geneva... well, better late than never?)


Where do you draw the line? Speculative fiction vs Biblical speculative fiction.

((Okay, it was Chad's day, but he was tied up))

Speculative fiction, by definition, isn't based in "reality." Biblical Spec-Fic is simply an effort to ground these tales of fantasy, alternate realities, etc. in a Biblical light. And while every author's "purpose" is slightly different (some like to evangelize, some simply want to entertain while keeping things "acceptable" to the Christian audience, some want to reaffirm or lift up those already rooted in their faith, etc), I can't help but wondering exactly where one draws the line. Not that I'm one to teeter on the edge and keep glancing over the line into dangerous waters, but I could certainly be accused of my share of risky ventures.

I write supernatural thrillers (what most in the general market would call horror). So, my line is going to be a little bit different than your line. I'm curious to know, where do you draw the line between what you would call Biblical and what you would say is not...

There are a lot of "Christian" authors out there in the general market that aren't writing Christian novels. That doesn't mean that they aren't Christian-friendly, but they aren't writing stories for the CBA market. Now, while I think that's great and am glad they're getting paid to write, doing what they love, etc, the only thing that separates many of those stories from the rest of the fiction on the shelves is a simple lack of profanity, gratuitous violence, sex, drug use, etc. etc. So, would you clump any of their writings in with "Biblical" spec fic? Or does that cross your line?

For me, writing "horror," there are a lot of lines that could be crossed. How many cults have some kind of sexual ritual? How many "demons" that Hollywood unleashes are out just dying to curse, drink, and fornicate away their freedom before some holy-roller sends them back to hell? How many cheesy horror flicks have cliched teenagers running around naked so everyone watching knows who is going to die first? And then, how far do you go in showing the "dark" side of things? How much of some pagan ritual is too much to show before it could be a lure to draw kids into witchcraft? How many supernatural powers can you give the "bad" guys before you are making them "cool"? Etc. Etc.

When the day is done, when I put the laptop away and head off to bed, what makes my day's work any different from those folks out there in the general market? Why am I submitting my scary stories (that I just KNOW rival the scares of Mr. King or Mr. Koontz or Mr. Craven...) to an ABA agent instead of gunning for the big paychecks?

The answer is quite simple. About 2000 years ago, Christ dragged a line in the sand on His way to Calvary. If you want to see it, stop by the websites of anyone on this blog rotation and look deep.

So, where do you draw your line?


Day 3: BLOG Tour featuring R.K. Mortenson

Should one judge a book by its cover? perish the thought!
And, apparently, few book buyers are swayed by cover art:

On average, a bookstore browser spends 8 seconds looking at the front cover, and another 15 seconds scanning the back cover. This isn’t much time to make a sale, so you should pay close attention to making your text stand out and be read quickly and easily (apparently, universal advice given to authors)

I would argue that in the case of the Landon Snow series by R.K. Mortenson, the cover art alone will lure a child (or in this case, an adult) into opening the door onto what must surely be a fabulously rich world of fantasy. The bas-relief of the borders, the draping folds and calligraphy are reminiscent of the Illuminations of miniaturists in 15th century France. The naively rendered figures seem to be lured through the borders into the fantasy world of Landon Snow. How 'enchanting' for young readers!

From all accounts, the stories beyond these lovely covers, do not leave children disappointed. The adventures of Landon Snow immerse the reader in a make-believe world of fantasy where the characters rely on hope and faith instead of the gray world of magic to bring their tales to a satisfying conclusion.

Visit amazon.com to take a peek inside the covers


November's CSFF BLOG TOUR Day 2

Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum
3rd in the Landon Snow series
by author R.K. Mortenson

Publicized as a non-sorcerous alternative to the Harry Potter series, the Landon Snow novels use Biblical passages as the vehicle through which the Auctor — God — provides Landon with hints about his next adventure, and it is hope and faith, rather than magic, that the characters rely on for their success. While the Landon Snow novels don't offer the complexity and depth of Potter's world of wizards and Muggles, they are prosocial fantasy adventures that emphasize faith and family and avoid the moral shades of gray that have disturbed some Christians about the Potter novels.

About the Author:

R.K. (RANDALL KENT) MORTENSON, an ordained minister in the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, has been writing devotional and inspirational articles since 1995. R.K. is the author of the Landon Snow series. The adventures of Landon Snow are meaningful as they are entertaining and magical. Mortenson currently serves as a Navy chaplain in Florida. He lives with his wife and daughter in Jacksonville.

Or, as Mr. Mortenson introduces himself on the Landon Snow website:
I'm R. K. Mortenson (the R and K may stand for "Really Kind," "Radically Kool," or "Remarkably Knowledgeable." They also happen to be my initials-Randall Kent. Though I go by Randy.)

On his site Mortenson addresses an issue often debated and discussed by Christian writers: Can Christian authors write fantasy fiction that is Scripturally sound?

As I was writing Landon Snow I kept wondering, "Is it okay to do this? Can I use the Bible in the story and include fantasy?" My fears, I realized, were over what other people would think. When I looked to God and asked the same questions, the questions fairly evaporated. I felt reassured by a sense of God telling me: I gave you my Word; I gave you a vivid imagination; I gave you the talent to write. Use them.

Read some additional comments R.K. Mortenson makes on the website about writing--I think you'll find them interesting.

The Landon Snow series is available at:

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What is Reasonable Service for a Writer?

Romans 12:1

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.”

God calls the members of his family to different tasks. In my daily reading yesterday, I came across Romans 12:1. This is a special verse to me, because it’s the one God chose to draw my mother into the family of God over twenty years ago. As I read it yesterday, I stopped to ponder how it applies to us as writers.

We understand what it means to present our bodies as a living sacrifice but what is reasonable service? And how does it pertain to writing? It’s easy to think of our own definition of reasonable and roll with it, but whenever I start wandering along the what’s that mean trail, I turn to the original language instead of depending on my own understanding or current meaning of a word. The word reasonable comes from the Greek logikos {log-ik-os'}:

1) pertaining to speech or speaking
2) pertaining to the reason or logic
a) spiritual, pertaining to the soul
b) agreeable to reason, following reason, reasonable, logical

When I looked at it in this light, it’s easy to see that writing falls within the parameters of “reasonable.” Writing takes our speech and logic and opens a window to our soul for others to see. It follows reason and logic and takes others along on a journey.

And what about “service”? The Greek latreia {lat-ri'-ah} means:

1) service rendered for hire
a) any service or ministration: the service of God
2) the service and worship of God according to the requirements of the Levitical law
3) to perform sacred services

Well, that covers just about anything we do, since “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), because whatever we do is service to Him.

Writer’s who write speculative Christian fiction sometimes receive negative feedback from the community of believers, but if God has called you to write, even the lost genre of Christian spec-fic—consider it part of your reasonable service.


Day One: Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum


In the third of the Landon Snow series, Island of Arcanum Landon is fully involved in a football game when he begins to see animals all around him. And, not just dog and cats -- wild animals. Could the ref actually be a zebra? Coach Huddle a big hairy gorilla? wow, the opposing team appears to be made up of bears and wolves! Maybe Landon needs a holiday . . .

Well, Landon eagerly anticipates the holiday with his family in Button Up, Minnesota. The suspense builds as Landon begins to plan:

"Which meant, of course, that Landon was hoping to
sneak into the Button Up Library—the BUL—in the middle of
the night, perhaps with Holly tagging along. This time, however,
he would make her promise—cross her heart and hope to die—
that she would not follow any slinking shadows into dark corners
or down creepy stairways

Landon Snow finds himself on a wild adventure at sea. When a huge, ark-like vessel emerges, Landon-and his sisters-join a quest to find the Island of Arcanum, where the animals of Wonderwood are imprisoned. With the help of his old friends-a horse named Melech, elfish valley folk, a girl named Ditty, and the poet/prophet Vates-Landon seeks to unlock the island's dark secrets and escape with the animals. But he must battle storms and the villainous Arcans-pirates who hoard animals as treasure. Will Landon ever make it back to Wonderwood alive?

I’m sure I’ll have temporary insomnia until I finish all three books if I actually have the books in my hands--sleepless nights for a good cause.

Publisher:Barbour Books
Page Count:224 pages
Recommended for readers 9-12 years
The Landon Snow website
Visit now.

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…to Christ
…to fellow believers in Christ
…to the lost

We mostly do well with the first and last. But, as observed, the second is neglected; our love for each other has grown cold, or worse, apathy has become the rule of the day.

1 Corinthians 12:12 says For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

So what am I in the body of Christ? If I’m just a nose hair, I will not let go. I’m one with fellow nose hairs that filters air inhaled by the nose.

1 Corinthians 12:26 says If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

If I don’t feel the pain of a fellow believer, I need a self-check. I might be surprised to find that I’m only the greatest wart in the body of Christ—not benefiting the body but causing ache and humiliation.

Am I connected to the body but disconnected from the head (or brain if you may)? Am I a little finger that loses all kinds of feeling, thus I can’t support the coffee mug when the body wants to drink?

We all know this. But do we understand its essence? Each one must be an encouragement to another.

I need to stop pointing my finger to a fellow Christ-believer and blame him for not showing Christlikeness to me. Change must start with me.

Of course, there are times when we don’t agree. This is necessary for our growth. But do I hide self-agenda and call it “rebuke”?

Let each of our actions be an act of love.

What has this got to do with our purpose here in LGG? Everything! A body fulfills its role better if every part, even the ones we consider ugliest, does its part.

How do I answer for my fellow believer in Christ?


Character Creation (Edited)

While creating characters for my upcoming novel, The Quest for the Armor, Part 1, I discovered I had difficulty defining and establishing the main character's nemeses and supporting characters. Simply stated, in a novel designed for Christian young adults, how evil could the characters be without crossing the line? And what level of angst, or personality flaws, could I incorporate into the characters without alienating the Christian audience?

As with all character development, the stories "likability" rests on the reader's face value acceptance of the nemeses. If I soften them up, made them too predictable or sterotypical, then my audience would be lost by the end of the first chapter. I recall reading a popular fantasy fiction series in which the author did a great job developing the lead and supporting cast. Their distinct personalities and characteristics were flawless, engaging and exciting. Somehow the author had even managed to bestow upon the young hero unbelievable warrior capabilities that, in light of the plot and supporting characteristics, were not only believeable but equally engaging.

Then, the helium slowly leaked out of the balloon of anticipation as I was introduced to the lamest villain in history. The characterization of the villain and his chronies was so typical, dry and, for lack of a better word, corny, that I gave up by chapter 5.

Therefore, the trick seemed to be finding an acceptable template, so to speak, of conflicted and confused characters to utilize their distinct traits in an effort to enhance their strength and vulnerability, while making them a very real threat to the main characters very existence. I also wanted to encode the basic principles about lifes inevitable conflict with evil, and the power to overcome and achieve through the Holy Spirit. What better template for character confusion and conflict, battle and success, than the Bible?

The obvious nemesis with whom I am very familiar, and who is presented in the short story The Marks, in the anthology Light at the Edge of Darkness, is Queen Jezebel. Treachery marked her life. The Bible records her actions in detail: uplifting her god, Melkart (Baal) over the God of Israel, ruthlessly hunting the prophet Elijah, slaughtering God's priests and people, plotting and encouraging murder so that her husband, King Ahab, can fulfill his hearts desire. Her actions bestow plenty of freedom to establish a ruthless nemesis.

I wanted more depth, however, more levels of confusion, so to speak, for one of the supporting characters who is both the main character's grandmother and unknown nemesis. It is obviously a tricky relationship, she loves her granddaughter, yet she went to the other side long ago. I worried that an evil grandmother might be too much for the Christian market, therefore I studied the life of Jezebel's daugher, Athaliah. A fascinating study in the spiritual deposits left by the parent, or generational curses if you will, Athaliah becomes the only female ruler of Judah, because she slaughtered her own grandchildren to claim the throne.

Regarding personal conflict and deceit to cover one's own sin, I turned to the life of David and Bathsheba, of course. The text regarding David's planned murder and the ramifications that played out on the heads of his children makes for interesting character development. Similarly, the palpable torment of Tamar, the daughter who was raped by his eldest son, creates an interesting character framework. She covered herself with the cloth of shame and spent her life a ruined woman living in her brother's house. Her destruction was so damaging that Absolom, her brother, began to seethe with hatred toward his father, sought to dethrone David and eventually lost his own life. The unraveling of their lives and their tormented reactions span the gamut and allow a broad swath of creative character development.

To develop deception, I recalled the story of Esther and the plot of Hamas. I also studied the life of both David's sons, Absolom and Adonijah, who attempted to overthrow him. Both struggled to achieve power by divisive and manipulative means and met an awful end, Absolom hanging by his hair from a tree with arrows sticking out of his chest and Adonijah ordered to death after attempting to manipulate Solomon. For a warrior of savage ruthlessness, I turned to Nebuchadnezzar's ruthless destruction of Jerusalem and the Egyptian King Necho's rule of Jerusalem from afar and the harsh suffering his rule brought on the land.

Finally, there is always the vain ruler, who received a high position because of his birthright, but is foolish to his very core. Obviously, King Ahab of Israel, Jezebel's foolish husband, fits the bill for this. The scene where he wines and moans for a desired vineyard is almost laughable. Similarly, we see him employing childish tactics to pursuade King Jehoshophat of Judah to enter war and when the prophet Micaiah first warns him not to attend the war he is arrested. Ahab's insecurities and weakness are evident throughout the scene. Similarly, King Rehoboam, son of Solomon, who, after being unable to maintain a united nation, which had been foretold, and losing a large section of the nation to Israel, came under subjogation to Egypt. Egypt confiscated the vast riches stored in Solomon's temple as well as the heavy gold shields. In an unbelievable display of vanity and weakness, Rehoboam replaced the shields with fakes, bronze instead of gold, which were carried to and from the temple, presumably to keep his secret hidden.

Finally, a great character of foolishness, who I can't wait to later utilize is Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar who used the fine vessels his father had stripped from the temple of Jerusalem for a meal in which he continuously blasphemed and praised other "earthly" gods. Can't you just picture the glorious meal, with he and his guests laying on fine mats before the most splendidly decorated feast laughing at the God of Israel and a nation scorned.?Now, imagine him in a drunken stupor, amidst his wives and concubines. He glances up at the wall to see the fingers of a man's hand writing on the plaster of the wall, in an unknown language. He completely loses his royal cool and indifference, Daniel 5:6 states:

Then the king's countenance was changes, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed and his kneew smote one against another.

His knees actually started knocking!! What a remarkable character, what a priceless reaction. All of which can be incorporated in the development of a conceited foolhearted character, who is later stunned by the results of his own ridiculous behavior.

I discovered so many fitting tales, some I of which I had never heard before, when I relied on the Word. With these examples, I had leeway to expand or minimize the character's personalities, reactions, and situations, all within the rubric of our beliefs and guidelines. The biblical stories shaped the characters of The Quest for the Armor, and, I hope, has created an enjoyable read.