Tag: Christian

The Shadows Danced

The Shadows Danced

“The Shadows Danced” is set to release on August 1st, 2017.  There’s a long road between here and there, but I’m looking forward to the journey.  Here’s a peak at the technical steps of my writing process, for anyone interested.

Making the Plan

Generally, my books start with a character.  The first book I remember reading on writing was Robert Peck’s “Fiction is Folks.”  My mother kept it on a shelf in the living room, and I picked it up one day and read it straight through.  The big-idea of the book, as the title puts it, is that fiction is folks.  Books are about people.  So, naturally, if you know the characters well the fiction will flow easily.  Of course, the idea for Averelia started with a world instead of people.

My dad loves science fiction of all flavors, and I grew fond of them as well.  One of my favorite ideas was a tidally locked world, that is, a world which doesn’t have a day-night cycle, but is permanently set in either night or day, depending where one stands.  Scientifically, it presented problems.  The light side would always be ash and lava, and the dark side would be a frozen wasteland.  I moved away from sci-fi and let Averelia grow a little more, fantastic.  The world became less physically harsh, and people flourished.

Cities bloomed, cultures grew, individual stories popped into existence, and before I knew it, I had a world full of folks, and that’s all fiction needs.  I was ready for the next step.

Setting Pen to Paper

The hardest, but often most enjoyable, part of writing is, well, writing.  After the planning, the research, the design, the dreaming, I get to sit down in my comfy armchair with a laptop and a cup of coffee or tea and explore a world of my own creation.  Honestly, there’s almost nothing like it.  Every sentence, every turning page, is a discovery.  For the most part the actual writing process doesn’t involve many decisions.  I just choose where to point the lens.  I know I’ve planned well when I can sit down and let the characters simply exist and act as they would if they were real.

The most exciting moments of writing are when I realize what a character is about to do. , rather than decide what a character is about to do.  It’s a subtle difference, but it makes a world of difference in the feel of the text.  Currently I’m writing a conversation between three individuals and it’s fun just to let them talk – or not talk – as they really would.  “What would they say?” is a very different question from, “What do I want them to say?”

So I plug away at the keyboard, excited to see where my characters go next, how my world unfolds, and how the story is told.

The Editing Process

After the last sentence of “The Shadows Danced” is written – and I take a good few days to breathe – I’ll set in to the editing process.  These are two very different stages, and they use different halves of the brain.  Writing is creative, free, and fun.  Editing is analytical, structured, and challenging.  They’re both enjoyable in their own way, but I’ve found any attempt to mix them into one stage only ends in depression, anxiety, and a million renditions of Chapter One.

Being a fairly poor college student, I’ve found I can’t afford most professional editors. Instead I’ve trained myself to do the hard work of fixing grammar, analyzing sentences, and chopping my book into little pieces and stitching it back together.  It takes a few weeks, and I’m sure it never ends in perfection, but after a few rounds of editing the book will feel much more polished and coherent.  It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

The Last Steps

Self-publishing is blessedly simple after a few days of poking around.  I’ve already put together the cover, so it will just be a matter of formatting, uploading, and a few days of waiting.  I use Amazon’s Kindle Direct for eBook publishing.  It’s companion site, CreateSpace, is fairly straight-forward for paperback editions.

Then it’s on to marketing.  I still have no idea how to properly market an independent Christian fantasy book.  It seems like a fairly small niche, so if you enjoy my books, thank you!  Be sure to share them with your friends, give them as gifts, and – best of all! – leave reviews on Amazon!

Thanks for reading!

To follow my progress on “The Shadows Danced,” check in whenever you like.  There’s a progress bar on the sidebar of my site that will be updated as often as I work on the book.

It looks like this:

The Shadows Danced
Phase:Writing
Due:6 months ago
28%

Thanks for reading!  Leave any feedback or thoughts in the comments!

-J. Christopher Earl

 

What’s The Good of Christian Fantasy Books?

What’s The Good of Christian Fantasy Books?

As a writer of Christian Fantasy books I often wonder if there is any eternal value in my stories. Do my stories produce any kind of life-change, or do they merely exist to entertain and distract from the world?  When the cover closes, what remains?

Fantasy as Escapism

Tolkien defended his own stories by embracing the idea of escapism. However, he defined escapism very carefully.  There tends to be a snobbish tone in people’s voice when they talk about escapism.  People think of escapism as the soldier running from his duty, the mother hiding from her family, or the student procrastinating assignments.  Tolkien sees escapism as the prisoner of war breaking free from his chains and running headlong for home.  Ursula K. LeGuin summarizes Tolkien’s thoughts in a quote that is often misattributed to Tolkien himself. 

Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!  -Ursula K. LeGuin

And while I embrace this vision of escape, it is limited.  It fixes our eyes on Heaven and asks us to ignore and even despise the world around us.  Fortunately, this isn’t the end goal of Christian Fantasy, it is only one step along the way, and it is dangerous to linger here too long.

Illuminating Reality through Christian Fantasy Books

Reality is undoubtedly a dark place.  With the constant news of war, disease, disasters, and the constant looming threat of imminent destruction, we can’t help but feel helpless.  Every day we face the darkness and we have no choice but to respond to it.  Anyone who looks at reality through modern, analytic, what-are-the-odds glasses sees themselves as too small to face the weight of this world, and they are.  Human beings alone will always fall to the darkness.  It’s Gollum and Frodo, bending under the weight of the ring, It’s Edmond, taking Turkish delight from the White Witch, and it’s us, every time we give in to the cravings of our sinful nature.

Fantasy doesn’t just offer us an escape, it shows us the world we live in, a world filled with shadows, evil, and despair.  But it also shows us what happens when the light steps into the shadow.

Hope for Our World

In fantasy we find people empowered by hope.  Sam, Frodo, and Aragorn are led by a constant hope, a will to push against the darkness with their very lives.  In Star Wars we see a handful of Rebels standing against an entire empire.  In The Chronicles of Narnia we find five children who decide to stand against a darkness that plagued their world for centuries.  Time after time fantasy stories present us with individuals empowered to change their world because of their hope.  When Christians read fantasy we see that hope isn’t just for some future world, but for the world we live in everyday.

My favorite scene in the Lord of the Rings was cut from the films.  After the ring is destroyed, Aragorn is crowned, and all the companions go their own way, the Hobbits return home.  But the home they returned to is not the home they left.  The shire itself became tainted by the shadow, governed by Saruman and Worm-tongue, and characterized by despair.

The heroes, changed by the adventure they’ve been on, are unable to fade into that system of despair.  They rebel against the darkness and work to change the world they live in.  At last their hope spreads and the entire shire, once divided over petty arguments and family feuds, is united in casting off the dominion of Saruman.  Their adventure prepared them to face the issues of their home!  And so the adventures we take through the pages of fantasy novels prepare us for the issues we face every day.

The Good of Christian Fantasy Books

It is no surprise to me that fantasy resonates so wonderfully with the story of Christianity.  The Bible is not fantasy, but it is fantastic.  It shows us the epic struggle of good against evil, not only on a cosmic level, but on a very human level.  It shows us a God Who is undeniably characterized by Hope, and Who passes that Hope to all who follow Him.  Time after time we read how He empowers His people to stand against the darkness, to live in hope, and to make a difference in their world.

So what is the good of Christian fantasy books?  Certainly the Bible is more than enough, but contemporary Christian fantasy has the ability to focus on the issues of our present age, as Tolkien and Lewis did, and show readers the difference Christ makes in our lives, and the difference He empowers us to make in the world around us.

This is why I write, not to provide an escape from this world, but to inspire its citizens to stand with Christ against the shadow which rules it.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in Heaven.  – Matthew 5:16

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you read here take a look at my books section, and feel free to leave any feedback in the comments.

-J. Christopher Earl