Category Archives: Report

American Christian Fiction Writers conference coming up

I will be going to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in September. I’m all excited about it!  As my readers of this blog may or may not know, I am an aspiring fiction writer.

I’ve got a story I’m working on writing, hoping to have a good strong draft ready by time for the conference.  There are many like me.  Three of us from Missouri are going to drive together over to Indianapolis.

I joined ACFW last October and bought the conference audios from last year. I’ve listened to them many times over now. What a wealth of information for a beginner like me! I also have gotten a lot out of the email groups that ACFW offers for free.  It’s a great organization for aspiring Christian writers, no matter what your genre.

The 2010 Christy Awards: fantasies are winners!

The 2010 Christy Awards were announced over the weekend.  I’m proud to say that three of the recipients were reviewed here at the Christian Fantasy Review, all of them part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour.  I found all three to be outstanding works.

They are:

SUSPENSE

    Lost Mission by Athol Dickson – Howard Books: a Division of Simon & Schuster

VISIONARY (meaning speculative fiction)

YOUNG ADULT

There were six other categories in the Christy awards, ranging from contemporary romance to historical.

Notice that the winners were in two other categories besides “visionary.” These two books, Dickson’s and Peterson’s, are winners in their “other” genres: suspense and  young adult. Way to go, writers!  Maybe the heart of the market is softening toward science fiction and fantasy, told from a Christian worldview. I sure hope so.

The Christy Awards are a way for the industry to recognize outstanding fiction sold in the Christian marketplace.  They are named for Catherine Marshall’s beloved novel Christy.

Source: Rebecca Luella Miller

A terrific blog tour on Jill Williamson

The CSFF blog tour on By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson ends tomorrow.  I checked out what is posted so far and am really impressed.  There were many reviews and some criticisms, but everyone recommends this book.

In particular I liked KM Wilsher’s interview with the author, discussing how she got the ideas to write the book, and even including her sketches of the characters.

Check these out!

Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Beckie Burnham
R.L. Copple
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Tori Greene
Becky Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Krystine Kercher
Leighton
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher
KM Wilsher

AND last but not least, the author’s blog:
http://jillwilliamson.wordpress.com/

By Darkness Hid, Day Two of CSFF Blog Tour

By Darkness Hid, by Jill Williamson, more thoughts:

Last night I checked the blogs of others on the CSFF blog tour and found a number of posts. This tour is unusual: everyone who posted loved the book. Last time that happened, it was Stephen Lawhead who was the author. Does this mean Jill Williamson is the next Lawhead???

Check them out for yourself:
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
R.L. Copple
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
Tori Greene
Becky Jesse
Carol Keen
Leighton
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

AND last but not least, the author’s blog:
http://jillwilliamson.wordpress.com/

Nominate a book for Clive Staples Award!

All you Christian fantasy and sci fi lovers out there, it’s time to nominate a book for the annual Clive Staples award. Clive Staples being, of course, what C.S. stands for in C.S. Lewis.  The award, administered by several major players in Christian fantasy-sci fi, is nearly new–the first award went last year to Dragonlight by Donita K. Paul.

For the 2010 award nomination, a book must be published in 2009 by a royalty-paying publisher. The actual selections will be made by reader’s choice. You might want to put in an email subscription to the Clive Staples Award blog so you’ll know when the polls are open! In order to vote, you have to have read at least two of the books which have been nominated.

What’s the point of all this? Why, to generate buzz and admiration for our favorite genre, of course!  The more buzz and admiration, the more sales, and the more books will be published. So readers like us will be happier with all the books to choose from.

So, take a minute to think about it, and then go to this link:

http://clivestaplesaward.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/clive-staples-2010-accepting-nominations/

A controversial book!

The Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour bloggers had enormously varied reactions to Athol Dickson’s 2009 book Lost Mission. Many, like me, loved it. Others couldn’t get into it. Yet others disapproved of it. What a wild tour!

Here’s a little roundup of some of what they said:

Amanda Barr “Lupe was such an inspiring character. Her faith, optimism and thankfulness were convicting.”

Keanan Brand “Faith without works is dead, but works do not make faith. We show our faith by our works. Many of the works done by the characters spring from reliance on themselves rather than faith in God. Sounds like us, doesn’t it?” He also finds this book to be like a mirror.
Keanan Brand again
Use of omniscient narrator works well.
Valerie Comer Found a podcast interview of the author and discussed it.

Timothy Hicks Full of contrasts and parallels
Timothy Hicks again “As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, many of the characters started out with good intentions. When they took their eyes off God they lost their life’s focus or mission.” Hence the name Lost Mission.

Cris Jesse Objects to a woman, Lupe, as a preacher teaching men. Switching time and location too confusing. Foreign names too confusing. Doesn’t like the book.
Jason Joyner Found “a rich tale to chew on for a while.”

Krystine Kercher “Each of these four characters does things that we as readers may disapprove of. Each of them also does things that are right. But in the end, the real story is not about them; it’s about The Story; HIS story…
Dawn King Couldn’t finish the book–didn’t see any sci fi or fantasy in it, found it dragged.

Rebecca LuElla Miller Themes of obedience, how Christians handle wealth
Becky Miller again
This book produced controversy!
John W. Otte Interested in idea that America needs evangelizing

More from John Otte In each of these cases, each person lost sight of what God really wanted. They trusted in themselves and their own abilities and ultimately, they wound up seeking after their own will.
Donita K. Paul What is “magical realism”? Turns out some Latin American writers made it up. She quotes a definition for us, and tells us she seems to be writing a magical realism novel too.
Chawna Schroeder “Yet there does seem to be an underlying, unifying thought, captured by the title—lost missions. At its core, the novel seems to focus on people who feel called or driven to a specific purpose and somewhere along that way loses sight of that purpose. The reasons are as diverse as the characters themselves, as are the results and their responses to such lost mission, but this only gives more for the reader to ponder.”
James Somers “It wasn’t my cup of tea.”
Steve Trower It “isn’t science fiction. Or fantasy. At least, not in the strictest, where-to-look-in-Waterstones sense.”

Phyllis Wheeler A review
Phyllis Wheeler again An author interview

Athol Dickson speaks

Lost Mission author Athol Dickson agreed to an email interview. Here it is:

Q. The Christian characters in the book are both Catholic and protestant; the protagonist is Catholic.  Are you a Catholic? What is your take on the Catholic faith vs protestant? What can you tell me about your own faith journey, briefly?

A. I am not a Catholic because I don’t agree with some of their doctrine. I
don’t believe in the immaculate conception, for example. I believe the Bible is very clear that Jesus is the only person who ever lived a life unstained by original sin. I have a few other areas of disagreement which make it impossible for me to be a Catholic, but think God has faithful followers in every part of His church, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, just as there are many people in every part who are tragically mistaken and lost.

We can disagree on everything except the basics of the gospel, and still be
brothers and sisters in Christ. The Catholic Church has gotten the gospel wrong in the past, basically making the mistake Paul warns against in Galatians, but then so have many Protestant denominations. Many Catholics believe that we are reconciled to God by faith in Jesus Christ through God’s grace alone, and not by virtue of baptism or christening, nor by any other liturgical ritual, nor because of anything else that we might do. As far as I’m concerned, that makes them my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

Q. There is a character in the book I would call an angel. Is this how you
think of him, or would you categorize him as something else?

A. I was careful not to use the word “angel” in the book, because I wanted
readers to decide for themselves about the nature of that character.

Q. The plot is “paranormal” except for the fact that the spirit being appears
to be an angel, not a demon. (Though there does seem to be a demonic
influence as well, which isn’t very developed–the one that keeps the friar
from painting the retablo.) Do you think this book belongs in the paranormal
genre?

A. Ah, genre. That’s always been my nemesis. I focus on making my stories as interesting as I can. In the service of telling a fascinating story, I’ll
follow an idea almost anywhere. Sometimes that means my novels end up
straying far outside the lines of any one genre. People have called
different novels I’ve written everything from suspense to mystery to gothic
romance to speculative to magical realism.

Now you’re calling it “paranormal.” Ha! A new one. The publisher’s marketing people get headaches trying to tell people what my work is like, but I think that’s okay. There’s something to be said for opening a new book and not knowing exactly where the ride will take you. Where I try to be consistent is in a high quality of craftsmanship, a sense of redemption, a love of the natural world, and in the fact that the stories are as fresh and original as I can make them.

Q. Was this book a long time in the gestation? It seems very difficult to pull
together, with the parallel stories in different times.

A. Yes, it was hard to write. It took me about a year, including all the back
and forth with editors, which is about how long most of my other novels have required. They’ve all been hard to write, mainly because I won’t follow a
formula.

Q. Did you intend parallels involving the duo of the warring friars and the duo of the rich man and the pastor?

A. Oh, absolutely. Everything that happens in LOST MISSION is connected across both space and time, just as it is in life. That’s one of the themes in the story. How do we deal with that reality? What does it mean in terms of the choices we make next? Are we stuck in some kind of eternally repeating loop, or can we break patterns and strike out in new directions?

Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

A. Writing is a rotten way to make a living, so the only sane reason to do it
is because you love it.

So, readers, this book is generating quite a bit of discussion on the CSFF blog tour. Take a look!
Amanda Barr
Keanan Brand
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

CSFF bloggers on Andrew Peterson

This week the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour has been examining North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson, second in the series called the Wingfeather Saga.

Nearly all of those who blogged on the book so far (see below) liked it. Only one had some trouble getting into the book (but then, it is the second book in a series and he skipped the first book…)

Useful ideas: Participants noted that there is an audio book available inexpensively for the first book in the series (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness), and that North! or Be Eaten is really a bit too suspenseful for a child under the age of 10.

Becky Miller delved in detail into the plot occurrences that led to the temptation of the future king, Tink, who chucked the king idea and tried to join a den of thieves.  I was happy to see this thread developed, because I had missed some of it in the exciting happenings of the book.

Robert Treskilliard pointed out that the Fork Factory in this book evokes Oliver Twist, something I hadn’t quite realized yet.

Chawna Schroeder interviewed the author, asking eight probing questions. One was what are his hopes for his readers?

…I hope the story will help them see the world we live in for the wonder that it is. Most of all I hope they brush up against that holy Other who haunts the world of man and proclaims His truth in stories and art and music. I hope the story pushes them closer to belief.

In a different post, Chawna addressed the disconnect I found between humor and dark suspense in this book, helping me a lot. Here is what she said:

“Yet the same wonderful tongue-in-cheek humor that drew me to the first (book) still adds a delightful dash of tension relief in all the right places, keeping the reader from despairing or getting bored.”

Take a look at what the other bloggers had to say:

Brandon Barr
Amy Browning
CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Draper
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

Curse of the Spider King’s viral marketing

Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper have created an ingenius “tribe” system that rewards fans for blog posts, tweets, and other mentions of their new book, Curse of the Spider King.  (Maybe that is why there are so many people blogging on this book in this month’s CSFF Blog Tour??)

In Allyra, the fictional world in Curse of the Spider King, there are seven elven lords of seven elven tribes.  The tribes have names like Silvertree, Ashheart, and Oakenflower. Want to join one?

Batson and Hopper encourage fans to form into groups of at least 21 people with their own Facebook group page. Fans can link to the book sites, write articles about the book in their blogs, and otherwise mention the book online to get points, with certain limitations. Tribe members can also get a picture taken of themselves with the book on a shelf in a bookstore, with a bookstore employee. They can get bonus points by ordering the book from a bookstore that doesn’t carry the book. They can create a fan page on Facebook for the book. Etc. etc.

The Tribe contest is limited in duration, lasting between the end of October and January 1.  At that time, the authors will evaluate contestants and select winners. The top winners will get a book-signing visit from one of the authors, complete with sword fighting and freebies.  There are other prizes too, like swords and Amazon gift certificates.

This system is obviously working; the “Underground” bulletin board on the book’s website is full of references to it.

My hat’s off to some marketing geniuses!  Check out what others on the CSFF Blog Tour are saying about this book:

+ Brandon Barr
+ Amy Browning interviews the authors!
+ Valerie Comer
+ Amy Cruson
+ Stacey Dale
+ Shane Deal
+ Jeff Draper
+ Emmalyn Edwards
+ April Erwin
+ Karina Fabian
+ Ryan Heart also interviews the authors!
+ Timothy Hicks
+ Jason Joyner
+ Julie
+ Krystine Kercher
+ Melissa Lockcuff
+ Rebecca LuElla Miller
+ Nissa
+ John W. Otte
+ Cara Powers
+ Chawna Schroeder
+ James Somers
+ Robert Treskillard discusses the viral marketing
+ Jason Waguespac
+ Phyllis Wheeler
? Jill Williamson
+ KM Wilsher

Curse of the Spider King, Day Two of CSFF Blog Tour

This month’s blog tour of Curse of the Spider King, a middle-grade Christian fantasy book, is drawing unprecedented participation. Maybe the outstanding cover art drew in the reviewers? Or the fact that many reviewers already know and love these authors?  Below is a list a list of blog-tour links to posts on the book.

What did the bloggers think? Nearly all of them really liked this book, myself included.  Some had questions. John W. Otte wonders where the Christian faith is, along with a couple of others. Jason Waguespac has a similar question. He had communicated with author Wayne Thomas Batson a while back about overused plot lines in fantasy fiction. They discussed one: a “chosen” child enters the fray and saves the day. In that exchange, Batson had indicated his next series (this one?) would turn that overused plot line on its head.

In my review posted yesterday, I had wondered whether the stage was set for the elves to turn to Ellos, cry for help with one voice, and be rescued. Batson responded in a comment that that was a very interesting speculation on my part. So perhaps we’ll see something like that in the coming books.

The depth of characterization in this book really is amazing, and in the author interviews posted on the blog tour I found out why: both authors spend their lives ministering to teens, and know their issues well. One is a youth pastor, and the other teaches middle school.  To see the interviews, check out the links below that are marked to include an interview.

You may also want to check out the promotional site for this book, which has a viral marketing setup via its discussion board, “the underground,” that apparently successfully encourages readers to spread the word.

+ Brandon Barr
+ Amy Browning interviews the authors!
+ Valerie Comer
+ Amy Cruson
+ Stacey Dale
+ Shane Deal
+ Jeff Draper
+ Emmalyn Edwards
+ April Erwin
+ Karina Fabian
+ Ryan Heart also interviews the authors!
+ Timothy Hicks
+ Jason Joyner
+ Julie
+ Krystine Kercher
+ Melissa Lockcuff
+ Rebecca LuElla Miller
+ Nissa
+ John W. Otte
+ Cara Powers
+ Chawna Schroeder
+ James Somers
+ Robert Treskillard discusses the viral marketing
+ Jason Waguespac
+ Phyllis Wheeler
? Jill Williamson
+ KM Wilsher