Monthly Archives: September 2009

CSFF Blog Tour Day 3: Donita K Paul weighs in

Now it’s the third and final day of the CSFF blog tour of Donita K. Paul’s book, The Vanishing Sculptor.

Mrs. Paul kindly supplied the answers to my questions of yesterday. Here they are:

1. Is The Vanishing Sculptor the beginning of another series?

Vanishing Sculptor is the first in The Chiril Chronicles. We’ve planned for three, and I’m working on The Wandering Artist now.

2. Do paladins (emissaries of God) live 1000 years?

Paladins do live for a 1,000 years or more. A Paladin is a champion of the people. On my world, they are mortal.

3. The market is in flux now, with Internet publishing gaining a foothold, and publishers cutting back on selections by unknown writers. Do you have advice for writers who have a Christian fantasy story they’d like to publish?

The last question is the hardest to answer, because it is hard to be positive. Breaking into the writing world is hard when the economy hasn’t tanked. Now it is even harder. But we have an all mighty God. Write the best story you can. Continue to hone your skills. Go to conferences to learn more and network. Join a professional organization like ACFW. Nothing is impossible with God. Read, read, read. Write, write, write, Pray, pray, pray.

Here are other participants in the blog tour. I put a “+” next to the ones that had entries on the topic when I was checking.
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
+ Rachel Briard
Karri Compton
+ Amy Cruson
+ Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
+ Jeff Draper
April Erwin
+ Karina Fabian
Linda Gilmore
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
+ Julie
Carol Keen
+ Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
+ Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Eve Nielsen (posting later in the week)
Nissa
+ John W. Otte
Lyn Perry
Crista Richey
Cheryl Russell
+ Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
+ Rachel Starr Thomson
+ Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
+ Fred Warren
+ Dona Watson
+ Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
+ KM Wilsher

Day 2- CSFF Blog Tour, The Vanishing Sculptor

I’m still talking about Donita K. Paul’s book, The Vanishing Sculptor, as Day 2 of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. This blog tour has really grown in the year or so that I’ve been on it. It has taken me a while to visit all the 35 blogs listed and check out what others are saying.

Nearly everyone really enjoyed the book. It has an unusual feature for fantasy these days: it’s upbeat. Rachel Starr Thomson summarized it nicely:

“It was a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. In a genre which often relies on heavy themes and gathering darkness, that can’t be said about every book. It’s entirely true of this one.”

It’s also got some great offbeat characters in it, particularly the giant parrot, many agreed.

Mrs. Paul has granted interviews in some cases. I emailed her some interview questions Sept. 12, and never got a reply, so I am guessing that the good old email system isn’t working too great as usual.  In case she stops by this blog, here are the questions; maybe she could answer them in the comments.

Here they are:

1. Is The Vanishing Sculptor the beginning of another series?

2. Do paladins (emissaries of God) live 1000 years?

3. The market is in flux now, with Internet publishing gaining a foothold, and publishers cutting back on selections by unknown writers. Do you have advice for writers who have a Christian fantasy story they’d like to publish?

Here are the other blogs on the tour. I put a “+” next to the blogs that had a post on this topic when I looked for one.

Donita Paul’s blog: http://dragonbloggin.blogspot.com/

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
+ Rachel Briard
Karri Compton
+ Amy Cruson
+ Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
+ Jeff Draper
April Erwin
+ Karina Fabian
Linda Gilmore
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
+ Julie
Carol Keen
+ Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
+ Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Eve Nielsen (posting later in the week)
Nissa
+ John W. Otte
Lyn Perry
Crista Richey
Cheryl Russell
+ Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
+ Rachel Starr Thomson
+ Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
+ Fred Warren
+ Dona Watson
+ Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
+ KM Wilsher

The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul, a Review

sculptor

The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul, also called The Dragons of Chiril, a review
Published by Waterbrook Press, 2009, 398 pages.
Genre:  Christian fantasy, suitable for middle grade and up

It’s a medieval-style world, where friendly wizards use magic, technology has advanced as far as use of swords, and the animal kingdom includes huge sentient parrots as well as dragons, large and small, who communicate telepathically.

A young woman,Tipper, lives a sheltered life with her mother in an elegant house that has seen better days on the edge of a forest.  Her artist  father mysteriously vanished 15 years before. Her mother is pleasantly out to lunch, talking a lot of nonsense most of the time. Among other strange things, the mother claims that she sees Tipper’s father in the evenings.

When her mother goes on a trip, Tipper sees her father in the evenings too. It turns out he is in quite a fix, appearing but then vanishing into thin air after only a few minutes.  It all has something to do with a “gateway” his wizard friend across the world in Amara rigged up in the closet of her parents’ bedroom.

The gateway is coming apart, threatening the fabric of the world. Tipper and her father, the wizard friend, a librarian, and a giant parrot set out on a quest to find the keys to putting it back together. Later on we find out that there are also some bad guys who want to take over the kingdom using the gateway.

What do I think?

Donita K. Paul wrote another successful series, the DragonKeeper Chronicles, which I have not read. The DragonKeeper stories are set in the same world as the characters in The Vanishing Sculptor, but they are separated by time and place. So to someone familiar with Paul’s work, the background and settings must seem familiar, though the characters aren’t.

For me, barging into this world clueless, it was difficult to sort out the seven races. Paul refers to these races by name–emerlindian, tumanhofer, etc., without explaining that they are races.  After several chapters of puzzlement I looked up the strange words in the glossary, which I was glad to find.

Other than that, I found a well-crafted story. Tipper’s teenage character is self-centered in a very realistic way.  Her bossy guardian, the large parrot, is also a fully-drawn self-important kind of guy.  Only the wizard from Amara seems two-dimensional through most of the story, continually dropping lizards from his clothing with little variation. However, I understand he is a character in the other series, and so is probably more developed there.

Christian underpinnings for this story are definitely there. A loving deity is watching over the characters, sending an emissary to intervene. Paul does a great job of touching the heart of the matter in a lovely and satisfying way.  So, I heartily recommend this book for a variety of ages.  -Phyllis Wheeler

This review is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour for this month. Read reviews by others of this book at these links:
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Rachel Briard
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Linda Gilmore
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Eve Nielsen (posting later in the week)
Nissa
John W. Otte
Lyn Perry
Crista Richey
Cheryl Russell
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

The Victor by Marlayne Giron, a Review

victor

The Victor: A Tale of Betrayal, Love and Sacrifice
by Marlayne Giron
Published by Tate Publishing, 2009, 274 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy/romance

This book starts with the rebellion of the faithless steward Lucius against the good King Eloth, in the medieval-style kingdom of Ellioth.  When the rebellion is thwarted, Eloth mercifully does not execute Lucius, but banishes him and his men instead.

What Lucius wanted was Eloth’s sword of power, scheming that with the sword, he could exert vast authority.  The person who stands to inherit the sword, Prince Joshua, is only a young boy.

Young Joshua is bethrothed to an eight-year-old step relative, Llyonesse. At this point the point of view shifts to these young people, and the story moves to a colony that Eloth sets up across the sea, for Joshua to rule when he is older. In the meantime, Llyonesse’s father Ardon serves as steward.Eloth gives Ardon the sword, for now.

In the colony, industrious settlers work hard. But after a while evil Lucius shows up. Soon Ardon and his wife are dead, and Llyonesse is imprisoned in the castle. Lucius rules the colony with complete evil intent. The sword has buried itself in a stone; no one can touch it and live.

Llyonesse is lonely. She knows evil Lucius plans to marry her when she is old enough, in order to gain rightful possession of the sword–which will fry anyone who isn’t of the royal line. As Eloth’s step grand-daughter, Llyonesse is of the royal line, more or less.

But what of Joshua? Time goes by and the young people mature. Joshua seeks to take back his colony and his sword. Does Lucius marry the lovely young woman in his castle?  You’ll have to read the book to find out more!

What do I think?

I had a bit of difficulty getting into this story, because there isn’t a character
to identify with for a while–Joshua and Llyonesse are not at the center of the action
at first.

But once over that hump, I enjoyed the book.  It’s a romance, definitely, and will
appeal to female readers more than male, I expect.  I found a few copy-editing errors,
not enough to detract. The characters are idealized–the bad guy is very very bad, and the good guys are very very good and good-looking too.  However, the plot is more complex than that. One of the “good” characters falls to temptation, and another falls seeking to please his wife.

There are underlying Biblical themes brought out by footnotes linking to Bible passages.
The book contains plenty of actual Bible quotes, worked into the story line.  I like this; I
am happy to read the Bible and see it applied.  So the work provides a very satisfying read for me, a Christian.–Phyllis Wheeler

An Audio Book Full of Music

The Carol cover

The Carol by Mark Brine
Audio Book available through Audible.com
14 hours
Worldview: Christian (Catholic)

This is a most unusual offering. The author is a musician, not a polished writer.  His tale is about a song— a Christmas carol, and also about its composer, a sprite. The sound track contains a lot more than just Mark Brine telling the tale. It is spiced with a number of original songs, performed not only by Brine singing and playing the guitar, but by other musicians as well, including some memorable fiddle music.

Brine’s singing is “old-style” country music, which isn’t getting much play these days. I hadn’t heard it for a long time, and at first it sounded strange to me. But I got used to it as the hours went by that were necessary to listen to this work.  It turns out that Brine is a “somebody” in the old-style country music world.

The homespun story is about Jack Frost, whom God created just before Jesus was born as one of several “herald angels.” These heralds were to make music to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This Jack does. But then, instead of living in heaven, as most of the angels seem to do, Jack decides to live on earth. He’s trying to get away from the other angels, who are not treating him nicely because he is small and clumsy. He also has a mission: to make his carol, composed for the birth of Jesus, known to men around the world.  This mission is something he assigned to himself, thinking it would glorify God. Jack is also an angel of winter wind, and so where he goes, there is cold.

We learn the story of Jack through the voice of the narrator, who tells us in the first person how he, the narrator, was hit by a car, died and went to heaven (where he was invisible), and was there given the assignment by God to shadow little Jack unseen. (Jack is invisible to regular living humans, too.)  The narrator faithfully shadows Jack for nearly 2,000 years, until it is close to the present time. During these travels, Jack is the wind whistling his carol to musicians whenever he can find them, trying to get them to hear the tune and play music with him.  Occasionally he succeeds.  But his major goal of having everyone know the carol remains out of reach.  And he never really figures out that he has a shadow, although once the shadow has left, he knows something is missing.

How does the narrator return to this world to tell us the story? Does the carol become known?  What does Jack eventually learn about setting his own goals (as opposed to accepting God’s goals for him)?  All these are answered in the story.

What do I think?

Jack’s character is consistent. He’s impatient, impetuous, and can’t concentrate on more than one thing at a time, except for hyperfocusing on his mission– trying to whistle the carol for musicians whenever possible.  So in much of the story, he is not only the protagonist but the bumbling antagonist, doing things that mess up his plans and those of others.

This story moves slowly. Jack does a lot of agonizing over decisions. It’s definitely not a high-action tale. And because of the slowness of the telling, it won’t appeal to children, although there is nothing in it that is objectionable.

It’s an unsophisticated story. Brine speaks in a folksy manner, full of unusual idioms. This is definitely what you don’t find in other audio books, which are well-scrubbed grammatically in their initial versions as printed books. I like the down-home country flavor in this offering.

But I found it strange that, in this version of heaven, the angels can be mean to each other.  Aren’t angels “unfallen”? Well, on further reflection, there ARE plenty of fallen angels.  So I decided not to object to this part of the story, which is after all Mark Brine’s version of heaven anyway, not the real thing. In this heaven, the angels can pair off and have families. Somehow that’s not how I ever envisioned heaven to be.

I did enjoy the story and especially the music. Jack and the author tell us some truths for our busy lives.  With the music, it’s an unforgettable experience to hear this book. If you are open to old-style country music (such as the O Brother Where Art Thou sound track), you will also enjoy this audio book.