Friday, February 1, 2013

We've Moved!


Adventures in Fiction has moved!

I've kept the same title for the blog, and even the same header, but the new venue will allow for a little more flexibility in some areas, such as published my space opera serial "behind" the blog but still accessible to readers.

Thieves' Honor is still being published
and new episodes will be published each Saturday. 

The first season is over, but the second season begins with Episode 27, and here are upcoming storylines for the crew of Martina Vega:
1) solve the mystery of the ghost ship Elsinore;
2) remove the tracking implant from Captain Kristoff's head;
3) choose sides in the rebellion;
4) get the colonial government off their backs;
5) engage in more battles, more piracy, and--oh, yeah--a little romance.

Meantime, there are other stories to write:
1) a fantasy cycle with a core trilogy (Dragon's Rook, Dragon's Bane, Dragon's Blood); a sequel (working title is the main character's nickname, Goblin); and a prequel (again, only a working title, The Legend of Kel);
2) a paranormal modern suspense stand-alone novel;
3) a YA historical fantasy novel;
4) many yarns in scattered notes and varied genres.

In 2012, I increased my editing load, and will likely continue with that load in 2013. I hope to squeeze good writing time into the schedule, though, because--as you can see from the list above--I'm gonna need it!

Thanks for stopping by, and come visit the new Adventures in Fiction.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bones, Bones, Lovely Bones

I'm not a celebrator of Halloween, but have been known to read the odd dark fantasy, watch the occasional horror flick, and write a weird tale or two.

This being October, I thought I'd root around in the dank cellars of past writing and short pieces for the reading pleasure of those for whom All Hallow's Eve is a source of creativity.

my attempt at drawing bones
First is this quirky little poem composed on the fly in 2009 as the response to an editor's new system for judging stories in our slush pile: award them bones.
Bones, bones, tasty bones
Fresh bones, blood-sticky, flesh-spongy bones
Arm bones and thigh bones and tiny, skinny finger bones
Puzzle-cut spine bones and knobby-ended wrist bones
Not-so-round skull bones
Shovel-scooped collar bones, wing-like shoulder bones
Bones, bones, lovely bones
White-boiled angels floating in my stew
In keeping with the previous image, here's another sideways bit, this time a piece of flash fiction I composed for a contest Adam Callaway hosted over on his blog, also in 2009:
Dinner drips from my fingers, grease mingling with the blood on my boots, and I am weary from the hunt, but the cook has ruined his last meal; despite his weeping protestations, despite my wife's admonition not to bite the hands that feed us, I will have new meat for roasting.

Resigned, she sends one of the servants with a cauldron to capture the fat for rendering, and wonders aloud if the skewer will bend to breaking with such a load as it now bears.

"It's his own fault"—I kick aside his apron and bloody clothes—"for letting that annoying miniature Englishman up the beanstalk."
Y'know, I've always wondered about Jack. He invades someone's home, steals his stuff, and chops down the beanstalk, committing murder. Makes me think the giant was justified: "Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread."


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Excellence v. Mediocrity

Novelist Athol Dickson has posted an article on his site, discussing excellence v. mediocrity in writing.

It’s true many novels by Christians are poorly written. That’s also true of many other kinds of novels. In fact it’s true of most novels of every kind, but it’s not a particular indictment of mediocre writers or the readers who enable them. Most people don’t really care about excellence in architecture, sculpture, painting, or dance . . . or government, commerce, marriage, or anything else in life that ought to matter.
What interests me, is why. In our discussion about the “Worst Books” list, some of my author friends speculated that so many people dislike those novels because they were forced to read them in school and disliked them then. But these books truly are works of genius—most of them are, anyway—so why didn’t we love them in the first place?
It's a thought-provoking read, not only for writers who happen to be Christians, but for any writer who strives for excellence.

As an editor, I am constantly confronted by the "good enough" work of fellow writers who just want me to sign off on their manuscripts rather than helping them shape those manuscripts into polished books. The constant fight to challenge other writers toward excellence can be wearisome, but it's not a fight I can ignore.

Just this past week, I had an e-mail  conversation with a rookie novelist whose work is being published soon. He acknowledges that it needs more crafting, but it's been praised so highly by so many peopleI was his only negative reviewerthat he's going ahead with publication, because (as he put it himself) it's good enough. 

Not to sound overly pessimistic, but I've been feeling like the "lone voice crying in the wilderness"and then I read Mr. Dickson's eloquent, thought-provoking post. I'm dropping a copy into my archives so I can pull it out whenever I need encouragement. Or a kick in the pants.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Telling - day 3

Zeph stared at the Indian. "We've met before, haven't we?"

"Ha!" Little Weaver clapped his gloved hands. "A shred of sanity!" Then he leaned toward Zeph. "At some point, Brother Walker, you will have to trust again."

Zeph's eyes were locked upon the Indian. Then his shoulders slumped. "That's what I was afraid of."  (p172)

When the people around town start behaving strangely, knowing who to trust becomes a challenge in this month's CSFF Blog Tour feature: The Telling, a speculative novel by Mike Duran, author of The Resurrection. And what's the story behind the town's mass suicide over a hundred years ago, and what truth is there to the legend about the ninth gate of hell?

Human grief and hubris unlocked it. Zeph Walker is the key that will close it once more.

If only he can overcome his past: a childhood marked by the gift of prophecy; manipulation and abuse by his mother and stepmother; and the grief and regrets that keep him locked inside a world of his own making.

You aren't a prophet, the phantom hissed. The blade proved it.

Sadness. So much of it inside him. Her words seemed to reawaken the venom of bitterness. Zeph swayed back, overtaken by a great darkness looming on the periphery of his mind.

You are the son of silence. Sickly glowing eyes peered at him from deep inside the mine shaft. And now you've gone and killed someone. (p213)

I could analyze this novel, and dive into spiritual applications or ramifications, but I won't. This is fiction, and anyone seeking a one-to-one correlation with the Bible will not find it here. There are no sermons. No allegories. There is a serious struggle between the darkness and the light, and flawed characters who are drawn into the fight. Some lose the battle, but some emerge stronger because of it.

For readers looking for suspense, action, a touch of horror, they'll find it in the pages of The Telling. It's an intriguing read. 

Anyone who has ever had to fight for his faith, has ever had to walk alone because of deep wounds, has ever endured abuse and struggled to find hope or love on the other side, will likely connect with Zeph Walker as he wrestles with truth, failure, forgiveness.

For other perspectives on The Telling, check out these stops along the tour:
Jim Armstrong Beckie Burnham Jeff Chapman Theresa Dunlap Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Lyn Perry  Kathleen Smith Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Telling - day 2

"According to the legends, on Planet Earth there are nine gates to hell. Most of the gates are scattered across America--insane asylums, cult clearings--"

"Retirement homes," Zeph deadpanned.  (p114)
One of the things I like about Mike Duran's novel, The Telling, is the wit. It's sideways, dry, often unexpected, and it rises naturally from the characters and the events. And some of it -- humor dropped into a dark situation -- has a Southern or country twang, which reminds me of stories told by older kin back home in Arkansas:
"Mr. Duty." The world seemed to wait for Zephaniah's words. "The Lord has this for you."

The congregation drew a single collective breath. And held it.

Zephaniah spoke the words just as he'd heard them.

Blaise Duty looked like he'd been punched in his soft, spongy gut. The color drained from his orange-tinged skin, and his bottom lip began to tremble.

..."Loree-e-e," was the last thing he said before spinning like a corkscrew onto the carpet and falling flat on his back, as dead as a possum on the center line of the 395. (p150)
 Or an armadillo in the ditch.

Despite the California setting, there's a Southern gothic feel to this novel. That's all right by me. Done well, that dark, moody atmosphere adds mystery rather than melodrama, and serves the story.

It also enables even the not-so-spiritually-inclined the reader to suspend disbelief and accept fantastical elements as if they were a matter of course.
"Ah! The dark angel craves one thing--to be like man. And to be like man, it needs but one thing--the breath of life. If this one had finished its feast, Brother Walker's body would have been disposed of--a fully formed ectype would have developed, an angel become man. It would have blended into your society without notice. In the case of Brother Walker, few would ever know it."

..."The world is growing dark. Soon the night will fall when no one can stand. All will become enemies. Friend and foe... ." (p169)
Little Weaver closed his eyes. He drew a breath and straightened. "My name is Little Weaver, heir to Big Weaver. He guarded the gateway to the underworld, heir to those before him. Long before the miners came with their tools and their lust for wealth. Long before the scientists with their calculations and careless tinkering. We watched. We waited for the wielder of wild magic. The Branded One who would close the gateway forever."  (p171)

And that is the crux of the tale.

But we'll discuss that further tomorrow.

For other perspectives and more in-depth reviews of The Telling, check out these other stops along the tour:
Jim Armstrong Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Brenda Castro Jeff Chapman Christine Theresa Dunlap Cynthia Dyer Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Anna Mittower Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Telling - day 1

"Is this..." Zeph's voice was detached, his eyes fixed on the body. "Is this some kinda joke?"

The detectives hunkered back into the shadows without responding.

Goosebumps rose on Zeph's forearms as the overhead vent rattled to life, sluicing cool air into the room. He took another step closer to the cadaver until his thigh nudged the table, jolting the stiff and bringing Zeph to a sudden stop. He peered at the bizarre figure.

Their similarities were unmistakeable. The lanky torso and appendages. The tousled sandy hair. Thick brows over deep-set eyes. This guy looks exactly like me! (p4)

This month's CSFF Blog Tour offering is Mike Duran's speculative novel, The Telling, a compellingly creepy, sometimes funny, often intriguing read (with a cool cover, too).

I enjoyed Duran's previous novel, The Resurrection, so I needed no convincing to give The Telling a try -- and I'm glad I did.

The main character, Zeph Walker, is a young man scarred in many ways: physically, spiritually, relationally. He's almost a hermit, his world contracted to three acres, a book exchange (think community library, sorta), his painting, minimal human contact, and a past he'd rather forget.

I'll discuss the story further over the next two days. Meantime, for other perspectives on The Telling, check out these other stops along the tour:
Jim Armstrong Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Brenda Castro Jeff Chapman Christine Theresa Dunlap Cynthia Dyer Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Anna Mittower Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Door Within -- a teenagers's review

I've challenged my eldest niece to write reviews of books she reads, and posting them on this blog and on bookseller sites, in exchange for food and drink from, say, Panera. (She's partial to their giant carrot cake portions and cold lemonade.) I figure that's a fair exchange for a teenager, especially one who point-blank says she can be bribed with edibles.

We went to the Air Force base library last week, and looked for the works of authors she's heard me discuss, and we found a few novels but no complete series, until we happened upon Wayne Thomas Batson's trilogy, The Door Within. I grabbed all three books off the shelf and plunked them into her arms. "Here. Read this."

She looked momentarily bemused then smiled and shrugged, and we kept looking for more reading material. However, upon returning home, she almost immediately dove into the trilogy, and completed it in two days, but took a few days to compose notes into an orderly review. Here it is:

When Aidan's family moves to Colorado, it seems like the end of the world. Aidan has to leave everything he knows, including his only friends, to live with his wheelchair-bound grandfather. But when Aidan decides to explore the basement one afternoon, he finds the Scrolls, and the Story within them which turns out to be very real.

Heeding his grandfather's advice, Aidan enters the Door Within, and embarks on the adventures of a lifetime.

I recently borrowed The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson, and found it to be both exciting and well-written. The characters and setting are realistic and vividly described, and the people are just that -- ordinary people who behave in ordinary ways -- making them easy to relate to.

 While there was a spot or two where I had to stop and think a minute before I could picture something (and I can't say I enjoyed the part in the spider den!), the books are definitely among my favorites.

There is plenty of adventure and suspense, but at the same time, an appropriate amount of wit and humor keeps the story fun in places where utter seriousness is not required.

Also, there are some very good lessons on courage and faith to be learned from these books.

Overall, I think that I would definitely purchase these books for myself to keep, and I would also recommend them to any other teens who are looking for good Christian fiction.

-- review by "Jamie", age 14, avid reader