Friday, March 31, 2006

Camy Got a Contract! ----Lessons From Her Writer's Journey

Any aspiring writer out there--Christian fiction or otherwise--who wants to see how you "git-r-done" needs to drop by Camy's Loft, the terrific blog of writer Camy Tang, and read her March 29 post on her Writer's Journey. It's her roadmap from her first (bad) novel to her first contract in publishing.

It's a long post, but it's worth the time. You'll learn from it, and, maybe, as I did, you'll gain some motivation from it, something to push you (me!) to work harder and smarter as a wannabe-published writer.

The Lessons of Her Journey:

You, the unpublished or newbie writer, should commit yourself to--

1. hard, hard work (Writing may be creative, but it's also tough labor.)

2. a humble attitude of learning (You never know it all. Other people have stuff to teach you.)

3. attaining higher and higher levels of proficiency in the craft (Never settle for okay.)

4. holding on to a go-for-it attitude that won't quit despite setbacks (And setbacks will come, unless God showers you with miraculous move-past-roadblock cards for a lifetime.)

5. developing a network: giving and accepting help, joining groups, etc. (It's not about always taking. It's not about always giving.)

6. finding the joy in the work and the journey (Have fun with it, cause money and awards may be elusive.)

7. finding God's path for you in publishing (God may tell you to stop for a while, before He leads down a better path.)

8. appreciating the hard work of others (It's not all about memememe!)

9. seeking ways to promote others, not just yourself (Did I mention it's not all about youyouyouyou?)

10. knowing that setbacks may actually be part of how God will move you forward (Even a lost job or a torn ligament.)

11. constant prayer (You knew this was coming. Does anything not benefit from a lot of praying and maybe some fasting?)

12. the Word, because truth and beauty live there, and it will feed you in the lean times. (And all Christian writers should learn from the Master, who did a lot of writing Himself, ya know?)

Camy is a sweetiepie of the highest order. How could anyone who's spent time online or IRL with her not just adore her to bits? But she's also a tigress. She's got big teeth and sharp claws when it comes to going after what she wants. That's a GOOD thing, when it's mixed, as it is in her, with enough respect for the Holy Spirit's leading to be willing to set aside personal desires if called to do so. That is a powerful combination--ferocity of will with humility of spirit.

She set a goal, and she worked like mad to achieve it. That's an old formula. It still works, as you see.

(I admit it. I'm not as ferocious or as hardworking. I need to pump it up.)

I know Camy will set bigger and bigger goals, now that she clinched a multi-book contract with Zondervan for her Asian Chick Lit series. (That sounds like oodles of reading fun!) And you can bet that Camykins won't be satisfied with "good enough." She'll keep going for the gold.

I congratulate her as my pal. I admire her as a role model for aspiring writers. I am so proud of her. I hope I can follow her example with as much grace and fun and a third of the vivacity and energy that she's shown on her writer's journey this far.

Love ya, Camylamydingdongdoodlenoodle!

(Squirly-girly is next, I bet!)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chime in on Christian Chick Lit: Which CCL Novel or Author Rocks Your Girly-World?

I'm in the mood to read a Christian Chick Lit--after I'm done with a slew of contest judging/critiquing I've got to do, that is.

Please give me your opinions/suggestions. Who do you like best in Christian Chick Lit (book, author)? *Notice I want Chick Lit suggestions, not Hen Lit or Frazzled Mom Lit. I prefer not to read about the "trouble with toddlers." Maybe the trouble with teens, hmmmm...

Anyway, who tops your list?

Is it Kris Billenbeck from out in the wacky west-lands?
Is it Penny Culliford from that "green and pleasant land"?
Or perhaps Judy Baer floats your chick ship?
Do you dig Marilyn "M-Nog" Griffith most of all?
Do you prefer Dreaming in Black & White ... or Technicolor?
Are Sassy Cinderellas and Romance Rustlers more your kind of read?

(If you can't pick just one author or book, at least give a couple of your most-fave faves.)

Please help me find some really good Christian Fiction. (I've heard pozbuzz about STEALING ADDA. Have you read that one? What did you think?) Please give me recommendations (preferably with why they're your top picks) in the comments section. I'm gonna be amazoning soon, so get cracking. ~~~grin~~~


Getting it Donne: The Holy Sonnets

Okay, I love these sonnets. More than that, I love me John Donne. I'm gonna post one of his Holy Sonnets now and then in the upcoming days (mebbe weeks).

If you're not used to formal poetry, and English a few hundred years of age, it may seem odd to you. Trust me, though. This is primo stuff. This is the work of a poetic master who's got a heart for God. (Hey, ever read his sermons?)

Without further delay--and because I'm into colors lately, as a part of the symbolic frame of my novel--I present, Holy Sonnet Number Four:

Holy Sonnet IV

Oh my black soul! now art thou summoned
By sickness, death's herald, and champion;
Thou art like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turn to whence he is fled;
Or like a thief, which till death's doom be read,
Wisheth himself delivered from prison,
But damned and haled to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned.
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lack;
But who shall give thee that grace to begin?
Oh make thy self with holy mourning black,
And red with blushing, as thou art with sin;
Or wash thee in Christ's blood, which hath this might
That being red, it dyes red souls to white.

Islam says Converts to Christianity Must Be Executed

And that's why Abdul Rahman needs your prayers.

What? You don't know who Abdul Rahman is? Let me enlighten you to this (not unusual) case of Islamic Law violating a pretty basic human right: freedom of religion.

Setting: Afghanistan
Situation: Rahman, after a custody dispute that has his wife outing him as a Christian convert from Islam, finds himself arrested, charged, and sentenced to death for apostasy. (Apostasy means he left Islam and chose to follow another religion. You die for that under Shariah, ie. Muslim Law.)
Complications: Outcry from Western nations and pressure to release Rahman, who had been defended with some kind of insanity plea. Hey, if my choices were death or plead nuts, I'd plead nuts! The high court decides evidence is scant and releases him.
Current Status: The guy has vanished. Is this good? (He's been taking to asylum.) Or is this bad? (His family thought he deserved execution; clerics and Afghan crowds called for his head. Was he abducted and harmed?)

An AP update says he was released to family members. Yes, that's right. The same family members who vehemently agreed with the crowds and clerics that their kinsman should be put to death for...CONVERTING TO ANOTHER RELIGION OF HIS FREE WILL.

Tell me, how popular would it be to global Muslims if the Western nations started executing every person who converted to Islam? Would they not feel violated? Would they not see that as vicious, bigoted, and unjust? I'm guessing they would be rioting over it, huh?

See why you need to pray?

(And, if your budget allows, remember to donate to Voice of the Martyrs, which helps our brethren who suffer persecution like this, and worse.)

I've prayed for various Christian individuals over the years who have been falsely accused of crimes by malicious Muslim neighbors, or who faced a death sentence for choosing to change faiths. Some outcomes have been positive. Pray the end result will be positive for Mr. Rahman and all others in his situation in foreign lands.

And here's a thought: If Muslims really believe that there can be no coercion in matters of faith--as I have so often heard them quote from their holy writings--then I'd say stop telling people they'll be killed if they leave Islam. That's clearly COERCION of the worst sort and contradicts that whole "no compulsion in faith."

May moderate Muslims speak out and speak loudly on this.

Here are a few commentaries on this hot issue. And remember, Mr. Rahman is merely one isolated case of many, many in his situation:

From the ever smart and always passionate Anchoress:

On Monday, hundreds of clerics, students and others chanting “Death to Christians!” marched through the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif…

Yeah, yeah, Death to Christians, Death to Jews, Death to cartoonists, Death to gays, Death to unveiled or “dishonorable” women, Death to the West. Death to all who don’t agree with us! Death, Death, Death - that’s all these people know.

Richard Cohen over at Real Clear Politics writes on "Unfathomable Zealotry":

The groupthink of the Muslim world is frightening. I know there are exceptions -- many exceptions. But still it seems that a man could be killed for his religious beliefs and no one would say anything in protest. It is also frightening to confront how differently we in the West think about such matters and why the word "culture" is not always a mask for bigotry, but an honest statement of how things are. It is sometimes a bridge too far -- the leap that cannot be made. I can embrace an Afghan for his children, his work, even his piety -- all he shares with much of humanity. But when he insists that a convert must die, I am stunned into disbelief: Is this my fellow man?

And for a better round-up than I offer here, visit ORDINARY EVERYDAY CHRISTIAN.

To keep abreast on the jihad against the West, visit the article round-ups at Jihad Watch and at Dhimmi Watch.

Finally, please, please visit THE VOICE OF THE MARTYRS and support them if you can.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Second Ark Makes For A First-Rate Read!

"Once upon a far, far future time, God led a group of true believers to build and dwell within the safety of a new ark, one that did not float on the waters, but hid underground, protected from the blight and toxicity of a post-apocalyptic Earth. At the right time, a vision from the Lord instructed the dwellers of the new Ark, the Birthrighters, to send out emissaries--young and smart, healthy and brave and well-trained godly ones--out above to the world that was left after the Endless Wars damaged the surface.

Four were initially sent, the first-evers among the Outriders. Then more were sent in small groups to staff enclaves of Outriders upon the continent. Their mission was to seek flora and fauna to send back to the Ark for study and protection. The Outriders also spread truth and goodness through the harsh and brutal world populated by "naturals" and mutated and transmogrified plants, animals, and, yes, humans.

But things do go wrong for the Outriders, because evil never rests, and lessons of the past are often forgotten...."

Since I began this blog, I've received requests for recommendations for Christian fiction (and especially Christian SF/F, which produced a relatively recent post full of novel and story recommendations, mostly secular). Well, I am strongly recommending OUTRIDERS by Kathryn Mackel This is a novel that I would classify as Christian Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction.

(You might even call it science fantasy, but I'll keep it simple.)

Don't let that classification put you off, okay? Move out of your genre comfort zone. Try something new. Stretch your mind. You may like it.

If you're not a regular reader of science fiction or fantasy or science-fantasy, you need to allow yourself that rather thrilling (if sometimes irritating for some) sense of disorientation at the start. You are entering an unfamiliar world, and, granted, the opening of OUTRIDERS is a bit confusing. Carry on, though, In short order, you'll start connecting with the tale. And it's a terrific tale. Inventive. Exciting. Fast-Paced. Touching. Spiritual. Cautionary. Violent.

And pertinent: This book resonates with current events and controversies--euthanasia, stem cell and other genetic research, crass consumerism, out-of-control vanity, and ecological issues.

It also had some sweet, and some painful, romantic subplots.

And it's not at all dull. That's a good thing in The Mir's book. In fact, that's number one. Bore me and you're gone, baby.

(Not to say the book's perfect. I think having a battle scene before I get to know the main warrior makes me care less whether he lives or dies. And the prose is a bit stiff in parts, and really lovely in others. That slight inconsistency did not detract but negligibly from my enjoyment of the novel. It might not even hit your radar.)

Westbow is really rising in my estimation. They gave us real Christian Chick Lit before other CBA houses, they're doing some fun thriller/suspense stuff, and now they've got this primo science fiction offering. I hope they plan to offer more SF to Christian fandom. Soon.

Just so you know, I'm not the only one who has found this a rivetting read:

~Sally Apokedak reviewed the book at her site and calls OUTRIDERS "extremely satisfying." She gives it four stars.

Harriet Klausner chimes in on OUTRIDERS over at Best Reviews. She says it's a "great young adult post-apocalyptic thriller."

Novel Reviews' Gina Holmes says this: "The sweetness of the spiritual thread and the tenderness of budding love stories should appeal to those who don't normally like fantasy. Gina's husband got hooked by the novel as well.

The site for the The Birthright Project books (of which OUTRIDERS is the first)is here. You'll find a sample chapter there. (Although, sorry, too late to enter the Create a Mog contest.) I say don't judge it on any sample. Get the novel. It just gets better and better the farther on you read.

Friday, March 24, 2006

REMINDER: DKA Christian SF Short Fiction Contest Still Open To Entries

Got a great short story (no more than, say, 8K words) that fits the vision of Dragons, Knights & Angels Magazine of Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy and its contest guidelines? Does it have a dragon, a knight, and/or an angel used in fresh and innovative (though not anti-biblical) ways? (Preferably all three elements in one story)

Come on by DKA and submit your story. (Remember to identify as a contest entry in the submission process.)

No entry fee. No postage. Cash prizes. Publication of winners.

What's to lose?Nada.

What's to gain? Lots!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Eleh haDevarim ... These are the words ...

Today, I have a bit of a riddle for you.

For those who study Scritpure with some diligence, you'll find it a breeze.

For those who can't come up with an answer by the second clue: Get cracking! God went to a lot of trouble to get His revelation and commandments and poetry and histories into your life.

And so it begins:

The Question:
What book of the Old Testament did Jesus quote more frequently than any of the others?

First clue: The subject heading of this post includes the first few words. (Devarim is the Hebrew name for it.)

Second clue: It contains the shema.

If you don't know the significance of the word shema--there are variant spellings in English--you really need to follow-up on this. I recommend you read Mark 12:29 and get a copy of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MOSES by Athol Dickson.

Here's a third clue: Its name in the (Greek) Septuagint means "second law."
(That should make it super-duper easy to guess.)

Here's a final clue: When Jesus answers the devil during the time of his temptation, he answers each of Satan's suggestions with a quote from this book.

Seems to me that last fact alone makes this a very important book for us to study. If this is the book that the Son of God relies on to counter the devil's temptations, then it's useful to all of us at all times.

If you haven't figured it out yet, then go here and start reading.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Do you read the online and very cool INFUZE magazine? I hope you do. If you don't, you may want to check out a new article called "What About Sex?" by Julie Anne Fidler. You'll find quotes from Lisa Samson and Shaunti Feldhahn. (Note: You'll need to register, methinks.)

Here's a snippet:

In a culture where sex has been defined and portrayed by Hollywood writers and studios that know bare skin equals dollar signs, we can, on the one hand, view CBA fiction as merely a "suitable alternative" to "secular literature."Or, if we're really brave, and we're really sick of seeing God's amazing creation slandered and defaced, we can view this as an opportunity to take back the true meaning, the real intimacy, and the full pleasure of sex. God didn't create sex to be taboo, it was our culture that did that.As the saying goes, "it's all in the approach."

Over at Novel Journey, Gina Holmes has a two part interview with National Book Award winning author, Walter Wangerin, Jr. You'll want to rush over there and read both parts. Here's a resonant excerpt from part two that all aspiring--correction, all writers--should read several times over. Better yet, just memorize it:

Gina: Advice for those reading this interview?

Walter: This is my life. Write well. Write well. Write well.

Don't assume that because you're writing good (truth and God's message), that you are writing well. If you put poor clothing on a good truth, the truth will fail. Honor the truth with all the skill and craft that secular writers honor their writing or you will sell your books only to the choir.

That’s my greatest peeve. And writing well means that you make it your profession. That you learn that craft. It means that to you as a writer, that craft is absolutely as important as any physician’s skills. You just can’t assume that because the Holy Spirit told you to say something that it’s going to have any value to anyone who would find it a new and surprising insight.

And please make time today to pray for Mr. Wangerin, who is at this moment battling metastatic lung cancer.

While you're on your knees, remember dear, dear Zola Levitt, another one of the Lord's faithful children, who is also in a life/death struggle with lung cancer.

I ask the Good Father to pour grace and that understanding-surpassing peace over all His ailing children around this broken world. May the One who created the brain and the atoms and the molecules and every medicinal plant and each great historical insight illuminate doctors and scientists everywhere as they study and labor and seek cures.

Drop by the Master's Artist and check out the entry by Deborah Gyapong--whose novel THE DEFILERS will be out soon. It's called
"Why I Have a Love Hate Thing with Romance", where she says this:

Our society looks at that "being in love state" as the be all and end all, worth breaking up marriages for, worth crying over Brokeback Mountain for, worth everything to say one has loved someone with all their heart and soul, no matter who gets hurt in the process. We have not only the movies, but a constant diet of love songs that put other human beings on a pedastal. (All I need is the air that I breathe and to love you. . . . You're all I need to get by, blah blah blah).Well....I listen to some of these songs and think, this is idolatrous. We shouldn't have that kind of need or craving or worship of any human being more than we crave and worship God. I think it's a form of Baal worship.

Read it all, my darlings.

Dave Long, editor at Bethany House Publishers, has posted a four-part series on "Establishing Your Career As A Writer." If you are trying to do just that, please click over and read his advice. You'll want to browse this mighty marvelous blog, maybe even drop into the forum, where some of the coolest Christian literary peeps hang out.

To my tall, fair, and hunky 1/4-Irish hubby--and everybody else out there:

Hmmm....time to put on a cd by Davy Spillane or Bohinta or Rita Connolly. Maybe dust off my RIVERDANCE dvd. It's the time on Mirathon when we step dance. (Badly.)
Oh, yeah!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

E for Eager to See V FOR VENDETTA

I'm a lousy filmgoer. I can't remember my last theater run. Mildewy theaters mess with my sinuses and bronchii (and mine are genetically wonky to begin with). People chatting around me when I want to lose myself in a story annoys me no end. Cell phones ringing (and being answered LOUDLY!) and kids whining or kicking the back of my seat all make me nearly homicidal.

So, er, I avoid theaters.

But I may get the hubby to pass me the Sudafed and Singulair and head on over to my local theater to see V FOR VENDETTA, the film that opens tomorrow and is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore. I'm not on the same boat ideologically as Mr. Moore--he strikes me as hyperlibertarian, while I have an authoritarian streak in me two kilometers wide--but I like his obsessed and off-the-wall antiheroes. I really do.

In my rattan book bin, even now, are WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, a couple bound volumes of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. And I have seen the film version of his IN HELL. (Eh.)

So, yeah, I'm excited. I love outcasts. I adore misfits. Crazy characters who simply do what they gotta do, the casualties be damned, fascinate me. That kind of passion captivates me.

Not that I want V or Rorschach living next door, mind ya. I'm not THAT nuts.

Still, I had a youthful crush on the operatic phantom and cling to an infatuation with the beast from La Belle et Le Bete, so, a tortured and canny wacko in a Guy Fawkes mask who's out for vengeance against his torturers and his country's oppressors, man, he's all up and down my alley.

WATCHMEN was a cooler tale, granted. V FOR VENDETTA is moodier and timely. It certainly has the sort of nifty details and allusions that readers of fiction can get dizzy over.

If you want to see if this film may be up YOUR alley, check out the reviews here.

It's an amazing movie. Not in exactly the way "The Matrix" was (how tired would that be?), but in a new way. Apart from its elegantly constructed plot and its unusual moral ambiguity, "V" has its own rich color and lighting (it was shot in Berlin and London), and an explosive new style of action choreography that's blessedly free of high-flying "wire work" clich├ęs. It's a fascinating picture, dark and exciting, and it will almost certainly be an enormous hit.
Kurt Loder's review

"V For Vendetta" is a glorious piece of pop culture subversive cinema that operates on manifold levels. On the surface, it’s a love story set in the depths of social despair, but it’s also a visionary tale of social uprising.
Cole Smithey's review

The Mir's Disclaimer: I do not approve of V's methodology. Terrorism is terrorism and V is, to my thinking, an idealistic madman. But, hey, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy watching a twisted mind setting a disfigured body in motion, does it? I always like seeing bad guys get it.
Yeah, yeah, I hear you out there: Vengeance is his, says the Lord. Well, sometimes, God takes a really long time to do that avenging and scourging thing, and justice delayed does, indeedy, feel like justice denied quite often. Sometimes, I look for immediate justice in fiction. It helps me cope with the sucky, uncalibrated scales of this world. Call me impatient if you like. Call me bloodthirsty. Label me weird, if it suits you. But there it is...I like to see vicious bad guys get it the hard way--and how!

And to close, remember this comment by Craig Klein over at the V FOR VENDETTA SHRINE when you read the graphic novel or watch the film:

"[W]ould you accept V's actions if you removed his mask and found the face of Osama bin Laden underneath?"

The answer is simple: No. I would not.

I like easy questions. (Almost as much as I like reading about mad crusaders.)

See you at the movies...maybe.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Answering Your Question: Some SF/F Titles and Authors For You To Try

An anonymous emailer asked the same question Synner asked recently in a comment: What SF/F titles would I recommend?

Wow. I look out at the panorama, broad fields of books of such diversity, of such rich variety, that all tastes may be satiated by reaping here or there or yonder.

Before I can answer that properly, I should ask: What do you look for in stories? What do you read the most? Who are your favorite authors and why? Do you like literary styles or more approachable fiction? Do you like romance in your stories? Will you only read stories that won't challenge your Biblical faith or are you open to stories by atheists, agnostics, Taoists, radical feminists, and gays, who may posit worlds compatible with ideologies other than yours?

Not having these answers, I will give some suggestions with guidelines, and I will accept that if you have the means to email or comment via a blog, then you have the internet skills necessary to track down reviews at and through, and that you are able to find excerpts, read them, and come to conclusions about what YOU may enjoy reading in this field. I will point you in general directions, offer you a sampling of the best and the most popular, but, ultimately, only you, by browsing online or in a bookstore, will find the SF/F novels and authors that suit your reading tastebuds.

I will not give links for every item. It's too tedious. I'll leave the footwork--or fingerwork--to you.

So, off we go.

Here are some books that came to mind, some I read so long ago that all I remember is "Ooh, that was good," along with some general feelings, and not much else. But if I thought, "Ooooh, good," then that's enough to recommend it, I figure:

Scary stuff written well:
Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Finely written and/or Intellectually stimulating:
Passage & also The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Blood Music by Greg Bear
Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe (and follow ups)
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler(and The Parable of the Talents)
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Demolished Man & The Stars My Destination
(the latter one is of my very faves) both by Alfred Bester
Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
The Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov (I read these over and over when I was younger)
Hothouse by Brian Aldiss
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by P. K. Dick
Neuromancer by Wm. Gibson
Ender's Game by O.Scott Card
The Space Merchants by Pohl and Kornbluth
Thorns and Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg
1984 by G. Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Zenna Henderson's books about The People

FUNNY writers!
R.A. Lafferty
Bob Sheckley
Douglas Adams
Terry Pratchett
Avram Davidson
Kurt Vonnegut
Esther Friesner

Imaginative use of language/trippy stuff
A Clockwork Orange
Slaughterhouse Five
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

Fairy Tales for Grown Ups... with a lyrical touch
Spindle's End by Robin Mckinley
White As Snow by Tanith Lee
Red as Blood: Tales of the Sisters Grimmer by Tanith Lee
Deerskin by Robin McKinley
The Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling collections
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
WICKED and UGLY by Gregory Maguire

Dark Fantasies
The Elric novels by Moorcock
The Flat Earth series by Tanith Lee

Good Reads & Bestselling Fantasies
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Harry Potter books
The Series of Unfortunate Events books (Lemony Snickets)
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever
The Dragonriders of Pern books and the Dragondrum series by Anne McCaffrey
Mists of Avalon by M. Zimmer Bradley
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Bradbury
The Riddlemaster of Hed
trilogy by Patricia McKillip

If you want romance with your SF/F
DUNE (my fave SF novel)
Restoree by Anne McCAffrey
The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
Cordelia's Honor (two novels in one set) by L. McMaster Bujold
Try some of the LUNA books
Catherine Asaro's sci-fi works

You want some spiritual or religious aspect in your SF/F
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller
Dune by Frank Herbert
A Case of Conscience by James Blish
The Parable novels of Octavia Butler
The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell
Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo
The Curse of Chalion by L. McMaster Bujold
Christ Clone Trilogy by James BeauSeigneur

WATCHMEN by A. Moore
SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman
SUPREME POWER by J. M. Straczynski

CBA (or Christian) SF/F Authors You May Want to Try
Karen Hancock (LIGHT OF EIDON and sequels)
Randall Ingermanson (Double Vision, Oxygen, Premonition, etc.)
Donita K. Paul (Dragonspell, Dragonquest, etc)
C.S. Lewis
G.K. Chesterton
Bryan Davis (Dragons in Our Midst)
Kathryn Mackel's OUTRIDERS
The Rats of Hamelin by Adam and Keith McCune
The Singer trilogy by Calvin Miller
The Colors trilogy by Ted Dekker (I call it that, cause it's BLACK, RED, WHITE)
Frank Peretti's MONSTER or THE OATH
Gideon's Dawn by Michael D. Warden
Giver of Roses by Kathleen Morgan
Bill Myers (Blood of Heaven; The Face of God; etc)
The Landon Snow books by R.K. Mortenson

And you may want to check out Christian Fandom's bibliography. Also, visit Ross Pavlac's Christian SF/Fantasy Recommended Reading list.

Authors of Wonderful Short Stories of Speculative Fiction
Ted Chiang (look for "Hell is the Absence of God" in his collection)
John Ford
Kelly Link
Tanith Lee (Tales of Dark And Light)
Harlan Ellison (Deathbird and Other Stories; Shatterday; Strange Wine; so many...)
Theodore Sturgeon (Oh, anything!)
James Tiptree, Jr. (Her Smoke Rose Up Forever)
Jane Yolen
Connie Willis (Firewatch; Impossible Things, both wonderful collections)
Orson Scott Card
George R.R. Martin
Just about anything edited by Datlow/Windling or Gardner Dozois or Bob Silverberg
And you may want to scan the 100 Best SF/F list compiled online from thousands of votes.

If you want to see what's nominated for a Nebula award, visit here. Some links (short stories, for instance), take you to where you can read the stories for free.

What's a nebula, you ask? It's the highest award given by the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America). Writers vote on the best in the genre. You'll find a list of past Nebula winners here.

The highest award from a fandom perspective is the Hugo. You can scan the Hugo award winners here.

I think that's a good list to get you initially oriented. Research before you buy. Read excerpts. Check reviews. Find styles and stories compatible with your own sensibilities. Or experiment wildly.

But never judge a genre by just a few books. Romance writers have decried that for decades. The same applies to SF/F.


Monday, March 06, 2006

If you liked Star Wars, E.T., The Lord of the Rings, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, then you actually DO like SF/F!

I've gotten over the past few months both comments and emails with some variation of the the following statements:
"but SF/F is not my cup of tea"
"but I never read SF/F"
"I don't like S/F"

Obviously, for someone like me who is writing SF/F, that is not something I like to hear. But it's not just that I'd like others to enjoy this "genre of wonders." Those comments leave me with questions.

~Is it that they've read SF/F and haven't enjoyed one or two or more books in those genres?
~Or is it that they don't go near an SF/F book, assuming it's not their "cup of tea."

Let me ask this, then, to you who say SF/F is not for you: Did you like more than two or three of the following films?--

THE TERMINATOR (or its sequels)
THE SANTA CLAUSE (and sequel)
SUPERMAN (and the sequels)
HARRY POTTER (any of the flms)

Or did you watch any of these TV shows with delight:

STAR TREK (any of its versions)
THE 4400

Can you see where I'm going?

If you didn't like half a dozen or more of those, didn't LOVE half a dozen or more of those...well, call me skeptical.

Many of the highest-grossing films of all time fall into the category of SF or F. That means many of the book-loving folk who say reading SF/F isn't for them are, likely, heartily enjoying WATCHING SF/F.

So, why are y'all not reading it? The same elements of wonder and "what if" of the films reside in the written stories. The same strong conflicts and developed protagonists come to life there. The same wonderful surprises of plot. The writing in SF/F is as good(sometimes much, much better) than in other genres. And the book covers rock! (I collect some vintage SF books just for the amazing artwork on the covers.)

Have you really tried SF/F? Or could it be that are you simply predisposed to think it's not a genre for you? Have you dismissed whole categories of stories out of hand rather unfairly? Only you can say.

Maybe you've tried it, tried it and found it wanting. Fine. That's fair. What didn't you like? I'm curious.

I know there is a certain mental challenge with science fiction that isn't present while reading a contemporary love story or a cozy mystery or a bildungsroman set in the 1980's or a Hollywood set roman a clef. I understand fully that some people are put off by anything that says "science," just as some fear math as much as I fear flying. Don't fear good stories because they include a scientific "what if" component.

Really, it's not rocket science. Well, okay, sometimes it actually is rocket science. Just not a college course in it. If you liked THE MATRIX or WAR OF THE WORLDS or THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN or SIGNS or X-FILES or THE TERMINATOR, then you can get into a science fiction story. Yes, really.

Fantasy, on the other hand, requires that you have retained a good measure of your childlike ability to gasp with delight over things that never were and cannot be but may bedazzle the mind. Remember how you felt as a kid being read to or reading about fairies and wizards and kings and princesses and quests and magic wands and castles with sleeping beauties and beasts who love beauties? Well, if you lost that ability to respond to tales of wonder, you may be a hard sell.

And yet...go back to my list of films. Did you like LoTR for its story, not just for the hunky-hunks? (AHHHH, Legolas! AHHHHHHH, Aragorn! AHHHHHHHH, Eomer!) Did you get swept away into the magical worlds of LADYHAWKE or THE PRINCESS BRIDE? Did you enjoy the magic of ELF or THE SANTA CLAUSE? Then you still have that ability to enjoy fantasy.

And if you did lose your ability to widen your eyes at wondrous worlds of the fantastical, you may yet recapture it with a great fantasy novel or anthology. See my dazzling optimism?

So, why do you not read SF/F?

Just wondering...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Eulogy for Octavia Butler

I almost didn't post this. It's essentially an email I sent to the ACFW loop. I posted similarly on my TSR blog, Miranatha.

But I decided that, since 1. this my main blog, and 2. I received email saying my words had touched a chord in some fellow readers/writers, it might be a good idea to post it here, too.

Octavia Butler died on Friday, February 24, at the age of 58. If you haven't heard of her, then you must never go near the science fiction section of your bookstore or library. If you have heard of her, you know she was a pioneer in that field--a double minority voice in it, black and female, or triply so, if you count that she was a lesbian--and highly esteemed by her fellow writers for her clean prose and powerful stories.

As a biracial gal, I appreciated Octavia Butler's writing presence in the SF/F world. She was the FIRST woman of color I remember seeing write within that genre, my favorite genre. That is no small thing.

Back when I initially wanted to write, I first considered writing a romance. Hispanic heroines were quite rare; no targeted Hispanic romance lines existed. I wondered if there would even be a market. (The ENCANTO line from Kensington came and went pretty fast.) The hundreds of romances I'd read had a lot of "pale skin" and "skin like fresh cream" and "flaming red tresses" or "golden blond hair" and "sky blue eyes" or "flashing emerald orbs." Not a whole lot of Esperanzas and Consuelos trod through those pages, unless they were housekeepers or cooks on a ranch. Or a Californio's daughter in a thwarted romance with an Anglo rancher in a historical tale. Or the vain, femme fatale rival of the virtuous, white heroine in love with a Spanish, alpha-male tycoon.

So, seeing Octavia's very not-white face, a sturdy and homely face that seemed so very real, was an encouragement to me and, I'm sure, to other minority wannabe-writers, some of whom were and are, like me, not the glamourously shot gals on the dust jackets of many literary or romance novels. (Never underestimate the value of a role model.)

You know, I can only think of two other black writers in the genre, Samuel Delany and Nalo Hopkinson, but then, I don't read as much as I used to in any genre. I still don't think there are oodles. No Hispanic one comes right to mind, beyond the late Lester Del Rey. Ain't that sad?

Butler's introduction to BLOODCHILD & OTHER STORIES (somewhere in my chaotic library upstairs) is an encouraging thing I recommend to unpublished writers. I'm pretty sure that's where she talks about her numerous--and I mean NUMEROUS, dozens and dozens--of rejections. This from a woman who went on to win the most pretigious awards in her genre, as well as a MacArthur "genius" grant. A study in persistence. She also was a kindred spirit (no pun intended) in the sense of being a bit antisocial and something of a hermit, like me.

Butler said in interviews that she used religion in her stories of interstellar travel because religion makes people do extraordinary things. She said writers should study anthropology and history, anything that helped you understand people, which was more important to storytelling than studying how to string words together. She said,
"You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. It's just so easy to give up!''

For those interested, here's an interview with Ms. Butler.

Amazon has an excerpt of KINDRED for those who might be interested in a time-travel tale. And she had this to say--which had me near to weeping, because the same thing, the same looks, were aimed at my dark-skinned, poor, uneducated father--about the "why" of that novel. It's from the LOCUS interview with her:

On Kindred: "...I really had had this experience in college that I talk about all the time, of this Black guy saying, 'I wish I could kill all these old Black people that have been holding us back for so long, but I can't because I have to start with my own parents.' That was a friend of mine. And I realized that, even though he knew a lot more than I did about Black history, it was all cerebral. He wasn't feeling any of it. He was the kind that would have killed and died, as opposed to surviving and hanging on and hoping and working for change. And I thought about my mother, because she used to take me to work with her when she couldn't get a baby sitter and I was too young to be left alone, and I saw her going in the back door, and I saw people saying things to her that she didn't like but couldn't respond to. I heard people say in her hearing, 'Well, I don't really like colored people.' And she kept working, and she put me through school, she bought her house – all the stuff she did. I realized that he didn't understand what heroism was. That's what I want to write about: when you are aware of what it means to be an adult and what choices you have to make, the fact that maybe you're afraid, but you still have to act.''

Here is a brief excerpt from PARABLE OF THE TALENTS:
My old home has come back from the ashes. This doesn't surprise me, somehow, although I saw it burn years ago. I walked through the rubble that was left of it. Yet here it is restored and filled with people—all the people I knew as I was growing up. They sit in our front rooms in rows of old metal folding chairs, wooden kitchen and dining room chairs, and plastic stacking chairs, a silent congregation of the scattered and the dead.

Church service is already going on, and, of course, my father is preaching. He looks as he always has in his church robes: tall, broad, stern, straight—a great black wall of a man with a voice you not only hear, but feel on your skin and in your bones. There's no corner of the meeting rooms that my father cannot reach with that voice. We've never had a sound system—never needed one. I hear and feel that voice again.

Ms. Butler ends her novel IMAGO, the third novel of her XENOGENESIS series--a copy of which I just plucked off my shelf--with this paragraph:

I chose a spot near the river. There I prepared the seed to go into the ground. I gave it a thick, nutritious coating, then brought it out of my body through my right sensory hand. I planted it deep in the rich soil of the riverbank. Seconds after I had expelled it, I felt it begin the tiny positioning movement of independent life.

I hope that, in her last days, she returned to her mother's faith, that faith she'd left behind. I hope she embraced the Lord who alone can give new life to the dead and planted seed that she has now become, so that more than just her books will live on vibrantly.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Curious Case of the Booing Browser

I've got that wicked Mir-grin thing going. Here's why:

I visited my pal Brenda Coulter's page over at, the one for her second novel, A FAMILY FOREVER, to see how the rankings had changed for her, now that the book is out and an intense, terrific Christian blog-review blitz is underway. (Go, bloggers!)

I have a review posted there. Someone thinks it's not helpful.


Now, some might find my review snarky. (Wasn't intended to be a full-on snark-rant, but hey, Brenda posted on how we misinterpret email the majority of the time, so I suppose that applies to posts, too.) Some might find it long-winded. (That may well be true.) Some might find it weird. (I hope so. I like that.) And some might love it. (I've gotten comments and emails to that effect, thanky.) But one thing that review is, babes, is helpful to the book browser at Helpful in spades. And hearts. Diamonds and clubs, too.

I took my time. I include a story synopsis. I comment on the two main characters at some length. I gives pros and cons. I gush and I critique. I include a couple of actual text quotes for the gals to swoon over.

Now, a person may not like the conclusions or emphases, and they may disagree with my opinion, but it's still helpful. You can't go away from that review without knowing 1. what that book is about, 2. who the intended audience is, 3. what the unintended audience might like or dislike, 4. what I personally thought of it in detail, 5. whether you might be a potential happy reader of this story, and 6. where to read a chapter excerpt of the novel in case you need to know more.

Ever run across reviews like these?--

A: I loved this book. It was great. You'll love it, too.
B: I hated this book. It sucked. Don't buy it.
C: Arrived quickly. Was charged the right price. Thanks.
D: Is this where I leave a suggestion?
E: This book is an insult to Islam and you will die horribly.

(And assorted variations: "insult to Christianity" or "insult to Wicca" or "insult to secular humanism" or "insult to every gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered person" and Etc.)

THOSE, my friends, are not helpful reviews. (Although the last one is occasionally amusing to come across and ranks high on the bizarrometer.) They tell you zip. They guide you in nada. I really don't like those. They suck. Don't read them. (More grinning.)

Makes me wonder. Was it a vindictive click? Could be. I have been known to tick people off.

Not that it matters, other than to be puzzling. I did my part to help the browser. My review is something you can use. It's a tool. And it's a good one. I've written some lousy, sketchy, useless reviews in my day. This ain't one.

That's why I have my Mir-grin. I done good, baby. And maybe the phantom booer knows it and it irks. And I kinda get a kick outta that.

Future reviews I plan to do, for those mildly or wildly interested:
DELIVER US FROM EVELYN by Chris "Nifty Blogger" Well
SHOWDOWN by Ted "I'm gonna rock the bestseller charts" Dekker
And Christian Fiction from romantic suspense author ELIZABETH WHITE (Sorry, Beth, the title slipped my mind.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

DIES CINERUM or Why A Bit Of Ash On The Noggin May Be Good For You

Today is Ash Wednesday.

For some of you, that is a sort of nebulous holiday some Christians celebrate.

I'm an Evangelical, Southern Baptist to be precise. (Okay, so we're going to a non-denominational church right now, but hubby and I have been members of SBC's since we married in 1983, and I for two years prior to that.) We worship plainly, at least I have in the churches I've attended. No crucifixes. No images on the colored glass windows. No icons to kiss. No statues to venerate. Only this: A plain wooden cross over the baptistry. And flowers. And a big honking Bible on a table.

But I'm also a lover of metaphor and symbol. God is, too, have you noticed? And I am moved and value the symbolism of the ash on the forehead.

I grew up Roman Catholic, so I know what it feels like to walk around besmudged after being solemnly reminded that, I am "dust, and to dust" I "shall return." (Barring the glorious appearing of the Lord and my being snatched away, transformed, bypassing a terminal case of dustiness.)

Dies Cinerum. The Day of Ashes.

Ashes as a sign of repentance, of grief over sin, of mourning, is quite Biblical. Think of Job, after all his trials, all his questions, finding himself scolded by the Almighty and holding a whole new perspective: "Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6).

Ashes. And images of ashes:

Tamar sitting in horror and wailing, her head covered in ashes, after her brother Amnon rapes her. (2 Sam 13:19) Jeremiah calling for Israel to repent and "roll in ashes." (Jer 6:26) An ashy Daniel, praying and fasting. (Dan 9:3) The King of Nineveh sitting in ashes, effectively staving off the destruction God sent Jonah to prophesy would come if the nation did not repent. (Jonah 3:6)

And the words of our Lord himself: "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." (Mt 11:21, Lk 10:13).

Ash Wednesday is not a holy day kept by the Church at all times and in all places and by all believers. It...
is mentioned in the earliest copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary, and probably dates from at least the 8th Century. One of the earliest descriptions of Ash Wednesday is found in the writings of the Anglo-Saxon abbot Aelfric (955-1020). In his Lives of the Saints, he writes, "We read in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast."
(The History and Meaning of Ash Wednesday) has an article that states this:
Despite all these references in Scripture, the use of ashes in the Church left only a few records in the first millennium of Church history. Thomas Talley, an expert on the history of the liturgical year, says that the first clearly datable liturgy for Ash Wednesday that provides for sprinkling ashes is in the Romano-Germanic pontifical of 960.

So, yeah, don't feel obligated. I don't. But be moved. I am.

My generation of Jesus People focused a lot on the happy shiny side of things--total forgiveness, eternal security (some of us, anyway), everlasting mercy, joy, the Rapture, the coming Kingdom, the gifts of the Spirit, the abundant life, clapping hands, singing perky worship songs, and feeling good all over about loving Jesus.

A visit to the House of Sorrow now and then is a good thing.

Sin is still real. Sin is still crouching at the door. Sin is still wanting to eat us up. (Not to mention that roaring, prowling lion of an adversary.) And if we say we do not sin, we make God a liar.

We sin.

I sin. Quite a bit, omission, commission, in thought, in deed... Every day.

So, today, let's stop and focus on that. The Children of Abraham have Yom Kippur for fasting and repenting. We have Ash Wednesday and Lent as the traditional time to remember that we offend a Holy God in myriad ways all our life, and we ought to be sorry for "having offended Thee." We ought to mourn. We ought to weep over our failings before the Holiest Being, because God has been so very, very good and merciful and patient, providing salvation at His own expense and ever ready to forgive.

Life is short. You will die. Memento Mori.

"Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return."

That's one of the formulas, one of the things a minister may say, when smudging those ashes on your forehead. Here is another:

"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel."

Oh, yes. How can being told this be bad?

If you wish, join me in reading some of the standard readings (Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Catholic) for this day, Ash Wednesday, Dies Cinerum, even if your forehead is spotless:

Psalm 51:1-10 (ESV)
1Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 103:8-14 (ESV)
8The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

Joel 2:12-18 (NKJV)

12 “ Now, therefore,” says the LORD,

“ Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
13 So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
14 Who knows if He will turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him—
A grain offering and a drink offering
For the LORD your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
16 Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes;
Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room.
17 Let the priests, who minister to the LORD,
Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, “Spare Your people, O LORD,
And do not give Your heritage to reproach,
That the nations should rule over them.
Why should they say among the peoples,

‘ Where is their God?’”
18 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land,
And pity His people.

1 Corinthians 6:2 (NAB)
For he says, "In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you."

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.