Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Work of Art's Timely Questions:
Miyazaki's PRINCESS MONONOKE

Ashitaka, a member of an outcast tribe of people believed to be extinct by other Japanese, finds himself in a fight for the life of his village--and for his own life--when a rampaging creature, a boar-god turned demon, works out his destructive urges. In killing the demon-boar, Ashitaka ends up infected by the hatred/pain of the demon-god Nago, manifesting as powerful markings taking over his right arm, spreading. The only way to slow the spread is never to give in to great raging hatred, or the demon in his flesh will activate and grow.

It is discovered that an iron ball lodged in the body of the boar caused its pain and hatred. We viewers can guess what this means.

Ashitaka takes the iron ball and goes in quest for a cure to remove his curse, off to the land where the boar-god came from, a forested place where a great Forest Spirit abides.

On his journey, he meets others with an interest in this forest and it's great Spirit. Ashitaka befriends a wild nature girl from which the film takes its name: San. Raised by wolves, she sees the spirits of the land and speaks with the animals freely. Each person has their own reasons for fighting their cause, but Ashitaka comes across as the most balanced. He tries to do good to all parties--not just take a side as everyone seems to do. While he wishes to be free of his curse, he will not destroy someone or something else to achieve it--as the others will. San is willing to kill all humans, despite being human herself, to protect her own. The apes are willing to kill all non-apes to protect the forest. Lady Eboshi, ruler of an iron-working town of prostitutes, lepers, & social outcasts, will kill whatever and whoever to protect her town and people. And others will hate and kill to protect their own interests--the emperor, the mercenary, etc.

(Be ready to be deliciously amused--I laughed like a crazy woman--at the silly innocence of the tree spirits. See pic above right. Someone needs to make car bobble-heads out of these critters. Adorable!)

Ashitaka, strong and brave and handsome and full of virtues, looms as the great balanced hero, who wants the good of all, forest and human and animal and spirit. Will he be able to forge alliances and will he be able to save this magical place in the world threatened by human needs and greed and ignorance? And will he be able to survive his curse?

I had only seen two works by Miyazaki prior to Princess Mononoke. I already knew that Studio Ghibli produced really terrific anime, and that Miyazaki had a knack for presenting film moments that make us sigh in that spiritual part of us that senses wonder.

This film has perhaps the most enthrallingly magical sequence I have ever seen: the section in the heart of the forest where we see the forest spirit as NightWalker. These few cinematic moments were, to me as a Christian, almost holy.

The film is of a different myth/religion, but it captures that ineffable, that transcendant, that wordless experience where part of you KNOWS that there is truth manifested, and that it echoes real life like a voice saying, "Yes, there is something beyond atoms and molecules, and it is powerful and necessary and benevolent and awe-inspiring." (Although it can destroy, too, as we later see with the Forest Spirit). It is a moment that made me think of 60's psychedlia--a bit--and the special taste of clean night winds in moonlight--a bit--and the way you feel when you've prayed a powerful prayer.

This is a quest story that depicts man vs. nature, man vs himself, and asks questions about the place of humanity within the natural context. How much do we take, or should? What must we give back? What must we respect and leave alone? What are we willing to sacrifice for the good of even our enemies? It is very powerful and extremely beautiful. Even dubbed, you will be captivated.

There is a moment near the end where there is this pause--many seconds passing when you wait, wait, wait and the screen seems not to change. And you find yourself hoping, praying for a change. And when the first perceptible changes come, it's such a relief. Such an answer to prayer.

This film is like an answer to prayer. It says thing we need to listen to, and it can speak to folks outside of the Japanese culture and the nature religions. (And Neil Gaiman did the English screenplay adaptation. That didn't hurt.)

I can't recommend it too strongly. A work of art.

I don't have enough thumbs to stick up in the air.

An Editor's Lesson on Comma Usage

If you have had your critique pages or your story submissions returned with lots of metaphorical (or Word Tracker) red "ink" and with a note or comment that say, "Do brush up on comma usage," then I have an article for you.

Jeanne Cavelos on "Puntuation 1: The Comma."

Do read this more than once before you submit to DKA, okay? :)

Then go on to see what she has to say about dashes, ellipses, semi-colons, colons, etc. I know I will.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Help for World Builders (of the SF kind)

If you're in the midst of worldbuilding, you might wanna drop by Josh's place. He's posted on the subject, and included a good link to Patricia Wrede's Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions, with the promise to toss up more links in future.

I'll take the relay baton, and offer this:

Holly Lisle Responds to Questions About Worldbuilding

And if you want to see some SF masters go at community worldbuilding in a rather intriguing project:

Medea: Harlan's World

I still have my dusty copy that I bought 22 years ago somewhere round here...

J.M. Bertrand Weighs in On Lit-Lit vs Pop-Lit

The Charis Connection has authors answering one of those questions that has been the topic of blog-gy debate during the last year or two:

Do you believe pop fiction and literary fiction are equals or that one is better than the other? Why?

You might want to see how they answer. Generally, egalitarianism is ruling.

Do you agree?

I like J.M.'s response, which includes some good advice:

Is it better to entertain or to challenge?

Ah, but it isn't so simple, because every author must entertain. One of the misconceptions about literary fiction is that its readers derive something other than entertainment from it. I read what I read because I like it, not because it makes me a better person, challenges my worldview, or whatever. If I avoid a lot of popular fiction, it isn't because I don't like to be entertained; it's because that kind of stuff has lost its power to entertain me. But you know what, there's a lot of literary fiction I avoid for precisely the same reason. At the end of the day, we all read for pleasure, and there are some things we can appreciate and others we can't. I think it's a nobler goal to present a compelling, idiosyncratic view of reality than to keep a reader entertained for a few hours, but I want authors to do both, and I don't think either ambition is confined to a certain type of writing.

If you're a reader, my advice is to read the best books you can, and develop a palate for even better ones. But realize it's a subjective, unscientific process and ultimately the only person you have to please is yourself. If you're a writer, I say write what you do well. An author with artistic instincts is going to have a hard time writing certain kinds of fiction well, just as one with popular instincts will have a hard time going against them. My early reading consisted of comic books, illustrated classics and trash. My academic training focused on literature. My tastes run across the spectrum -- like most people's -- and my writing is somewhere in the broad, fuzzy middle, the result of following my instincts and using the tools my various influences have provided.

Ted Dekker's SHOWDOWN

I finally got around to reading SHOWDOWN by Ted Dekker. I had been using the hardcover book (along with my Chicago Manual of Style) since it released as booster for my mouse pad (ie, to raise the mouse to an ergonomic level). Yeah, low-tech of me.

But I was readjusting the mousepad and, voila, found the book. I had meant to get around to it. :)

So, what did I think?

This has been one of the more immediately hooky and page-turnery books the guy's written. I left the one about the special kid partially read. (Blessed Child) I found the prose spotty and, basically, lost interest. I didn't think THRE3E started off as hooky as this one, though, granted, the twisty, thriller nature of Dekker's style are there.

SHOWDOWN gets going right off the bat. Bad guy in black comes to town, and, bam, proceeds to gouge out an innocent bystander's eyes. This while insisting he's there to bring hope and grace to Paradise, Colorado.

Okay, and what kind of hope and grace is this?

It's Marsuvees Black's version. And it's a creepy fella with a creepy preaching style, I gotta say.

The adults begin to come under his scary power, and young Johnny is the only one who seems to have kept his wits. So, Johnny, a young boy, watches his town "come apart at the seams" (as Dekker tells us more than once via more than one character).

While Paradise is unraveling, a secret monastery conducting a rather strange experiment with orphans--one intended for good, but suddenly going quite, quite wrong--is the epicenter of the evil goings on. Expect chilling moral degeneration a la LORD OF THE FLIES (if not the literary level prose) and ickiness with slight echoes of Lovecraft or a Bentley Little novel. Gross-out factor is up there, though nowhere near that of secular novels where gorefest free-for-alls are permitted. (This is, after all, Christian horror for a CBA reader.)

Dekker is excellent at ratcheting up tension and showing how easily humans can cave to their darker desires. And perhaps, cave too easily. While this is an exploration of good and evil, free will versus fatedness, I did find a sort of lopsided in terms of results.

I also found that the debates were not as thrilling as I wanted or the conclusion as clear and profound. In fact, I went "huh" more than once at the end. The showdown part of SHOWDOWN needed more depth of characterization to work as intended.

I still have to say this was a consistent page-turner. Only a few spots did I sort of want to skim in the middle-bits, with a couple of scenes that I didn't think were needed and covered old ground. But we're talking a mere handful of pages that were skimmable. Otherwise, you flip, flip, flip to find out what happens next and when the good guys will turn things aroun. And HOW they'll turn things around.

There are biblical parallels in the finale that will definitely please the Christian readers. We're wired to love that kind of echo. But when you skimp on characterization of a singularly important character, the pay-off will suffer. And that's what ultimately keeps me from giving a higher grade to SHOWDOWN. I needed more "people" in the thrillfest to make those last chapters sing.

I still give this 4 out of 5 stars for pure effectiveness as Christian horror. This is a fast read and a creepy one. Go and scare yourself.

THE ACFW's 2007 GENESIS CONTEST IS OPEN FOR ELECTRONIC SUBMISSIONS

The American Christian Fiction Writers has announced that their 2007 Genesis Contest is now open for entries. I won this in the SF/F Category in 2006, and I can assure you that I received some very helpful feedback. If you want some smart folks critiquing your work based on a detailed score sheet, and the chance to get your work in front of editors/writers for feedback (or possibly MORE), then this may the the contest for you.

GO HERE for details.

For those of you who write CSF, the final round of judging is really, really good for y'all. TWO EDITORS. Yep. TWO, count em, TWO:

• Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Allegory: Andy Meisenheimer, Zondervan, and Reagan Reed, NavPress

That means that if your pages dazzle, there's a very good chance you'll be asked to submit a full without an agent! And even if they don't ask, you'll get feedback from TWO EDITORS!!!!!!!! And one is a fan of sci-fi. Maybe both. I don't know a thing about the Navpress Editor.

So, get cracking! Let the SF/F category RULE!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Christian Fiction Authors Sound Out
On the Future of Christian Fiction

On Friday last, Charis Connection blog posed this question:

What concerns you the most about the future of Christian fiction?


The assorted answers, which I found quite interesting--some at which I nodded my head, a couple at which I went hmmph--came from Robin Lee Hatcher, Brandilyn Collins, Deborah Raney, Karen Ball, James Scott Bell, Rene Gutteridge, et al.

Read it here: Ask The Authors

Friday, January 26, 2007

On Voice & Style: Spec Faith Post Up

On the Matter of Voice & Style: Mortenson, Dekker...& You?

As the title suggests, I take a quick peek at two CBA authors of spec fic and see what their voice & style is like. I also offer an exercise to help you analyze the voice of your fave authors, and even your own. (If you're still not sure what your voice is, this will help.)

Here's a snippet where I take a look at Randy Mortenson and LANDON SNOW:

Short statements. Simple descriptions. A nice, optimistic cadence that keeps us from thinking anything truly vicious could possibly happen. A clear boy’s voice in a clean, straightforward style that sets a particular ambiance for an adventurous boy’s story. And yet, we've got a combination of boy and man narrator. The boy says gooey. The man behind the boy says "braced" and "noiselessly withdrew." Another author might have stayed utterly in a boy's voice: "He stayed real quiet, cause a slap or a snap or a tap-tap was coming! But the hand didn't make one sound and , just like that , it went away." That bit of adult stuck in the boy gives a sense of security—nothing really awful can happen cause a grown-up is here.

Boy's hand in man's protective grip voice; breathless and simple and optimistically clear style.




Drop by and do the exercises. Or just drop by. :)

A Two-Dollar Good Deed For Your Day

Some friends of Shannon have had a life-in-upheaval sort of mishap: a house fire. It doesn't take a great imagination to figure how badly that can mess with a family. Add an insurance company that has mastered the art of saying NO, and things can get pretty bleak.

So, for two dollars, you can do a good deed for a family today. (Of course, two dollars is what they ask for, but if you can do better, I leave that to your inner voice.)

Here's a link to the blog where you'll find a link to Paypal and a snail mail address for those who'd rather send the aid by mail.

I happen to be very suspicious of claims for help--even though over the years I've given quite a bit of cash to folks I never met via online pleas. Normally, I need to have someone I have a bit of trust in to say it's legit. Shannon's word is good enough for me.

This in contrast to the dude who came knocking at around 9 pm last night with a sob story about a prescription for his sick kid and being short $13 bucks for the pharmacy. He had his spiel down, too. I said, "Okay, I'll give you the money when you come back and show me the prescription. I'll check the web that it's a legit ear infection med."

On the off chance he wasn't feeding me a line, I got thirteen bucks out of my wallet. I went outside to enjoy the cold fronty chilliness, and there he was, giving his spiel to my neighbor. I went to the fence, said, "Hi, Nefertiri," and explained to her that I'd asked him for a 'scrip'. My neighbor works with a pediatrician. She said, yeah, bring the Rx and I can get you a sample for free, probably. The guy, fleet on his spielish feet, started a thing about how he'd knocked on doors for three blocks and his wife wasn't home, blah, blah.

Yeah. This is where I knew it was time to put my 13 bucks back in my wallet.

He never did come back with a 'scrip'.

Just for contrast.

Go ye and give.

CSF Writer as Caleb: In The Face of Giants

If you're a Christian writer in a 'tough' genre, visit Becky Miller, who has a couple of posts that may end up giving you a bit of encouragement:

So here’s the thing. Caleb … Joshua, too … recognized there were giants in the land. They weren’t pie-in-the-sky pretending the giants didn’t exist. But their eyes weren’t locked on the giants. Their jaws weren’t permanently fixed in the open position as their gaze traveled up and up and up.

They saw beyond the giants to God who promised to give them the land.

No, I do not have a promise from God that I will be published. I do have a promise that His working in my life will be for my good. And in His promise I will trust.


"In the Face of Giants" in two parts. So far...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Christian SF & F Blog Tour, Day Three:
THE FINAL STORM by Wayne T. Batson



Here we are. The last day of the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour for January 2007. I'll focus on the last book of THE DOOR WITHIN trilogy today, THE FINAL STORM by Wayne Thomas Batson.

As often happens (though not always, think Children of Dune), the final novel of the three seems to be the strongest, or so the reviews lead one to opine who, like me, hasn't yet read the books.

Kevin Lucia, one of our tourmates, had this to say:
The final installment in the trilogy is much like Matrix: Revolutions, with the storyline splitting into equal parts as the war within The Realm spills over into the real world in very tangible ways, and this heightens the peril, as not only The Realm stands at risk, but all reality as well. Baston ends the series well, but not without fulfilling plot twists and teaser elements laid through the first two novels.

The Final Storm’s greatest strength lies with its ties to real world elements, and though the other stories really lack nothing, after reading the final installment, I would’ve liked to see stronger crossover elements between the two worlds. However, thanks to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, we are now living in a “prequel” world, so it’s very conceivable that Baston could look back and revisit The Realm to tell another tale: perhaps Grampin’s first trip to The Realm?

For a classic fantasy truly worthy of the title Christian Epic, pick up The Door Within trilogy today.



Rob Bedford also reviewed the third novel at SFFWorld, and concluded with this:

Again, it is difficult not to compare this trilogy to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, because of the Christian motifs in the fantasy setting. This is especially evident with the prophecy of the Three in The Final Storm and how it parallels the similar prophecy about Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In Batson’s story it worked as an effective homage.

Despite the somewhat predictable elements of The Final Storm, and indeed the entire trilogy, this is still a recommendable saga for the Young Adult Market. Devout Christians can no doubt find the faith based aspects of the novel to ring true with their own beliefs, while others can enjoy these books for what they are on the surface – adventurous entertaining fantasy novels, where friendship is paramount and magic provides a backdrop. It was also nice to see Batson grow as a writer and storyteller through each of the books.


So, as we close this edition of the CSFF Blog Tour, I encourage all of you with young folks at home who enjoy fantasy to get this trilogy. All three novels are available from Christian Book dot Com and from amazon.com, and you may even find them at your local FAMILY STORE or other Christian bookstore, or neighborhood B&N or Borders. The quality of the book's production makes it a great gift--something, by most accounts, quite beautiful and entertaining and faithful to Biblical truth:

The Door Within
Rise of the Wyrm Lord
The Final Storm

And have a visit with one of my fellow tourmates:

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Tessa Edwards
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Kait
Karen
K. D. Kragen
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John Otte
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver


If you have a blog and want to help promote Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy, consider joining up with us. It's at minimum one post a month (or two or three, up to you), and it's a bunch of really nice folks. Visit the official site of the CSFF Blog Tour for information.

Interview with Newly Contracted
Zondervan Author Michael Snyder

Brandilyn Collins is interviewing Michael Snyder on her blog. M's just signed a two-book contract with Zondervan. Hurrah.

Here's a snippet from part one of the interview:

4. What things did you do that most helped lead you to publication?
In order of importance…

-READ!!!

-Studied craft but refused to get all hung up on the rules. If you break them, do it with attitude.

-Read some more.

-Wrote every day, or close to it.

-Tried to spend twice as much time reading as writing. (Be a nerd! Read in line at the DMV, at stoplights, in parking lots, while your dog is making wee-wee, during boring conversations with family members you’re not all that fond of.)

-Attended at least one conference per year. Tried to remember to put people ahead of my conference goals. Publishing is a business, but if you listen you can hear its heart beating.

-Explored the world of critique groups. My critters are simply the best. And no, I’m not sharing.

-Wrote, read, wrote, read, wrote, read, ad nauseum.

-And somewhere in there I screwed up the courage to submit stuff.


Drop by Michael's blog, Gritty and Bright, or catch him at the Master's Artist team blog, where he posted on his good news.

And M, glad you're better from the appendix going boom. Congrats!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour : THE DOOR WITHIN Trilogy, Day 2

Today, I want to introduce you to the second book in THE DOOR WITHIN trilogy--THE RISE OF THE WYRM LORD--penned by Wayne Thomas Batson.

Note: Despise the term "wyrm" in there, I've been informed by various comments under yesterday's post on the trilogy that the books are dragon-touched, not dragon-saturated. That's a bit of balm for the dragon-overdosed, such as yours truly. Just thought you'd like to know.

Back to the novel.

SFFworld.com's review (by Rob H. Bedford) of THE RISE OF THE WYRM LORD had some complimentary things to say:

One of the things about Batson’s second novel that surprised me was how much it didn’t focus on Aidan. On one hand, this could be seen as a retread in that Batson revisited the Realm in the same manner as he did in the first novel, only with a different character. However, in this new book he explored different facets of the Realm, as well as different angles to the struggles presented in the first novel. Additionally, with Antoinette Reed, Batson provides a character with a different perspective, so the Realm may be perceived a bit differently.

As in the first novel, Batson continues to tell a story with themes of faith, belief, and virtue. While these are Biblical themes, in one sense, Batson doesn’t use a heavy hand in expounding these themes and virtues. There are obvious parallels to Christian theology, but readers who found C.S. Lewis’s work a bit heavy-handed might be pleasantly surprised with Batson’s handling of such similar themes.


My pal Sally Apokedak gave the novel 3.5 stars at her site, All About Children's Books. Sally had some strong criticism for the first 100 pages--not enough conflict, slow pace, "put-downable." But she had plenty to say bout the pros:

Strong points? Bad guys who have the potential to be truly scary--the Wyrm Lord and the Seven Sleepers. Had we seen more of these dangerous beings the story would have been truly gripping because there is no doubt these guys are creepy. I also thought the chemistry between Antoinette and Aelic was good--I liked both characters. I liked many of the Knights, too, which reminds me of another strong point--noble knights and evil knights mixing it up with sword fights and arrows flying fast and furious.

The part I enjoyed most about the book, though, was Yewland, Nock's leafy home. I loved the descriptions of the cities in the trees and found myself wishing I could visit. I also think that Wayne Thomas Batson has quite the imagination and has a big story to tell. The story is building to a final showdown between the good king and the evil one who rebelled and I will surely buy the next book to see how it all turns out.


Rob and Sally had their say. See what others are saying about THE DOOR WITHIN:

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Tessa Edwards
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Kait
Karen
K. D. Kragen
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John Otte
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver

Monday, January 22, 2007

Faithmouse Does Up BrownBack and Pal
And Another March for Life Passes By



The talented and unequivocally pro-life (like moi) Faithmouse has drawn up new presidential candidate Brownback with Neverborn. (I think you can guess by the name who Neverborn represents.)

I discovered Faithmouse today via Nissa's link. I really love the Paypal button with Neverborn. And if you scroll down, the ACLU as Baddie toons are cute, too.

Today was the March for Life. When I first heard about the Marches for Life, back in the early 80's, I was at my most pro-life active. Yeah, the Mir used to stand out there with ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN signs, peacefully and prayerfully, forgiving hecklers and spitters. I've supported pro-life organizations, and I still hope to see the my nation come to its senses on the subject, however unlikely that seems in an era where embryos are mere commodities. I've shifted the emphasis of my hopes and prayers to revival and awakening, great ones, to sweep across the land, from low to high, rich to poor, believing and unbelieving. That will lead to moral laws more surely than anything else. Set the soul on fire and the mind will follow.

Glad my mom didn't see me as disposable or something to be experimented upon.

So, to those who marched, God bless you. To those who still pray, pray on. And know that the souls of the neverborn children are at rest, and that, at least, is a solace.

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy
Blog Tour: THE DOOR WITHIN




The first CSFF Blog Tour for 2007 brings you THE DOOR WITHIN trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson. This series is aimed at the young adult audience, but I've had some adult pals give it a thumbs up. Every review I've read has had positive things to say, even when they add critical remarks. That's a good sign.


The trilogy consists of THE DOOR WITHIN, THE RISE OF THE WYRM LORD, and THE FINAL STORM.


I'm skipping the trilogy only because I'm totally burned out on dragons--in both short stories and longer fiction. (Remember where I edit!) It seems that the CBA will publish SF if it's 1. got dragons and 2. is aimed at a younger audience. Well, I'm 1. in a no-dragons mode and 2. not at all young... Hmmm.

However, if your kid loved Bryan Davis' DRAGONS IN OUR MIDST, or Donita K. Paul's DRAGONKEEPER CHRONICLES, or ERAGON and its sequel, then I think you should definitely get THE DOOR WITHIN series for them. And hey, if YOU loved those series, you should read this one, cause dragon lovers have another entry into the D Club. Besides, the encouraging sales of the Davis and Paul series (not to mention the blockbuster status of the Paolini books) tells me dragon lovers abound.

(Note of exception: If Connie Willis or Neil Gaiman come out with a dragon book, I'll be there, cause I pretty much just buy what they put out like a mesmerized groupie.)

Now, let me recommend a couple of sites for you to visit for more insight into the series and its author:

Drop by THE SWORD REVIEW for two items of interest. Item A is an interiew of Batson by CSFFB Tourmate, Rachel Marks. Here's one Q/A from that interview :

I find many Christians think fantasy anything from childish to evil. As you stated this world is only a small piece of this great creation. I have been on a tangent about this lately and I'm curious: What role do you see fantasy literature playing in the Christian walk?

I think Christian Fantasy is both a tool and an expression. It's a tool because it can be used as a vehicle to communicate truth. Fantasy allows us to suspend judgment, pull away from stumbling blocks, and just think about things. We might read a fantasy about hobbits bickering over who gets to pick mushrooms, and suddenly see how strident we ourselves have become at home.

And like anything a Christian puts his/her hand to, Fantasy Fiction is an artistic expression. Just as someone could craft a unique piece of furniture or a beautiful painting, writers can write fantasy. I know some Christians get bunged up about the use of magic in fantasy, and I agree that some stories out there get into occult practices that aren't healthy for believers (or anyone, really). But when you craft a fantasy story, you build a world, you create the rules, the races, the laws that govern what is possible. We yearn to create because we are made in HIS image. So when we make a world, I don't see problems with endowing our inhabitants with what we might call “magic”. Y'know, if you think about it, some could very easily look at the feats of God and call them magic as well. Water into wine. Parting the Red Sea, healing, casting out demons, raising the dead. Hmmm...



After that stop, please visit with Keesa Renee Dupre for Item B, her review of THE DOOR WITHIN, adorned throughout with several examples of Batson's own artwork based on his fiction.


And do please check out what my fellow tourmates have to say:

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Tessa Edwards
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Kait
Karen
K. D. Kragen
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John Otte
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver

An Awakening in the Muslim World?

Hope it's true, this startling report of stats offered in an Al Jazeera interview:

In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Everyday, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Ever year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity
These numbers are very large indeed …


Wish it was 60 million a year, but I rejoice if the reports are true. This has been one of my priority prayers in the last 5 years.

Are the stats from the Al Jazeera interview believable? I dunno. But he's not the only one claiming this sort of thing.

See this.

And this.

Of course, I dunno how many conversions are going that-a-way (ie, into Islam), so I can't compare.

I will hope, nevertheless, and continue to pray for more to come into the Body of Christ from the House of Islam.

Baruch Hashem Adonai. Blessed be the name of the Lord, whose mercy endures forever.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Chris The Snark On Writing

You might enjoy Snarky Chris' insights. Read them here.

Caveat: Chris is a straight-shooting, sometimes potty-mouthed dude. So, if you visit his blog, expect that.

I will say, Chris-Babe, that I disagree with this bit:

And hyphens. Now, instead of writing, “The yellowing wallpaper on the walls of Mary’s bedroom with roses on it was probably older than she was,” I might write, “Mary’s bedroom’s yellowing rose-print wallpaper was…” Clarity and concision often go hand in hand.


I think "Mary's bedroom's" is a horribly clunky duo. Granted, the other example has its own problem: "with roses on it."

A rewrite would depend on the writer's and narrator's voice. Not all styles go for brevity, though all should go for clarity, unless the specific narrator is hiding something or is naturally meandering and obtuse.

The rose wallpaper, yellowed and coming unglued in spots, had probably passed more years dozing in that bedroom than Mary.


or

Mary and the wallpaper in her bedroom are both yellowed and creased with age, but I suspect the wallpaper's older.

or

Mary's wallpaper--pink roses gone yellow in spots--probably'd been glued up years before Auntie'd been born.


or

Ugly yellow wallpaper, tacky rose pattern. Gotta be older than Aunt Mary.


or any various combinations...some longer and more lyrical, some shorter and punchier, all clear, none wrong. Just a matter of style.

The Dresden Files: Review in A Second

Eh.

SF/F Books-In-A-Minute

Ultra-condensed for your convenience. :-)

SF/F BOOKS-IN-A-MINUTE

Examples:

The Collected Works of Marion Zimmer Bradley:

Heroine

I am a strong, independent women. Well, maybe I'm not that independent. Wait, yes I am.

THE END




THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN:

Scientists

A deadly virus that turns blood into a fine powder has been brought to Earth by a fallen space probe. We must contain the area and study the virus in our impenetrable fortress-like laboratory.

(They do.)

Horror! The virus is loose in our impenetrable, fortress-like laboratory. We are trapped by our own ingenious defenses! We are going to die!

(They don't.)

Oh. The virus has inexplicably mutated into a non-fatal form. It now eats rubber instead of turning blood to powder. We aren't going to die after all.


Reader
COP OUT! COOOOOOOOOP OUT!

THE END

BCP Lectionary: Third Sunday Post Epiphany

Luke 4:14-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Writer-Poet's Snapshot of 2006

Wanna see what a pro's stats look like?

Well, Samantha Henderson (one of my fave speculative poets, and a very talented short story writer) has posted hers for 2006:

Short story rejections: 62
Short story acceptances: 15

Poetry rejections: 40
Poetry acceptances: 12


Take a look at that! That's a lot of submissions. That's a lot of rejections, which stuns me, cause she's so darn good*. In fact, I just read her poem in Dwarf Stars' 2006 Anthology today**. Terrific!

But pros keep on going, like energized bunnies.



*You can read a few online, even:
"Five Ways Jane Austen Never Died" (included in Rich Horton's anthology of the Best Of 2006, see my sidebar)
"Dead Letter"
"Honey Mouth"
"Histories"
"Starry Night"

** "Two Tanka for Post-Apocalyptic Librarian" (Originally in Aoife's Kiss)

Not Another Pseudo-Medieval Fantasy!

John Crowley (Little, Big) has compiled a list of books writers who world-build ought to read. Why?

Here's part of his post:

One of my contentions about fantasy novels, and science-fantasy and future-world novels too, is that the society of the distant future, or an alien species, or another planet, or an alternate universe, ought to be at least as complex and unlikely-seeming (to Western European/American-culture-based writers in English) as the societies, mentalities and cultures that humans have in fact produced. So this year I am going to ask my students to read one book of travel, history, cultural anthropology, or similar account that will illustrate this contention, and shame them out of concocting another pseudo-medieval non-society peopled by folks like themselves (and a few dragons and vampires, also much like themselves).


The reading list he compiled is HERE.

The following from the list interest me:

Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, George Lakoff. The way different cultures view the world as exemplified in their language. Don’t invent a language without it.

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, Bradley K. Martin. Nearly unbelievable dystopia.

Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution, Richard Stites. All the failed, ignored, suppressed possibilities that preceded the Communist state. Utopia meets Dead Souls.

Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie. A medieval town in France – beliefs and politics in the period of the Cathar heresy.

The Death of the Woman Wang or The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, both by Jonathan Spence. Among our greatest Western interpreters of Chinese culture.

Updates at Once Upon A (Uni)Verse

I've had a few posts this month over at Once Upon A Universe, my blog for poetry subjects only.

If you write SF poetry, I've posted a link to the updated market listing maintained by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

Drop by.

Got SF/Horror/Mystery Flash Fic & Poetry?

Over at her livejournal blog, Karen Romanko--a nifty poet--has announced that she will soon be accepting subs for the magazine she edits and publishes, as follows:
Raven Electrick's next submission period will be February 1-28, 2007. Payment for fiction is five cents per word ($10 minimum) for stories up to 500 words. (Authors may send stories up to 750 words to allow for a bit of creative leeway, but the maximum payment will be $25.) Payment for poetry is $10 for poems up to 40 lines. All payments will be made electronically via PayPal.

Raven Electrick publishes flash fiction and poetry in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery genres only. Please consult the complete guidelines for the new submission address, submission formats, and other important information:

http://ravenelectrick.com/writersguidelns/

Quoth Another Writer: Camy Tang on YA Fic

The world today is not the one we grew up in. Fewer people are going to church, especially as they move toward their teens and twenties, because they don't see the usefulness or the need for it. Fiction also has to move with that age group, to relate to them and not to my generation. The kinds of methods and language, genres and issues in Christian fiction that continue to work with my generation do not work with teens. We writers need to be keenly aware of that and be like Madonna--reinventing our fiction so that it moves with the times.

--taken from "Interview with Camy"

Quoth the Writer:
Michael DiMarco & CBA YA Fiction

This has its parallels in publishing in the Young Adult category as well. Often times Christian authors and publishers are so concerned with answering teens questions with such completeness and precision on the ‘right’ answer or where to surgically draw the line, the content, while true, has the impact and penetration of a marshmallow thrown against a brick wall. It comes off as less than real to a teen and, without connecting with their daily reality, the advice seems a tad removed from true. And at worst it’s viewed as parental propaganda. That’s why in the world of ’secular’ publishing, Young Adult fiction is so huge and in the CBA, Christian fiction sells less than YA non-fiction, because ABA fiction sounds like their world around them while sugary sweet, no-question-left-unanswered Christian fiction and non-fiction sounds, well, ficticious.

--from "Fixing MySpace Will Break it (And How Breaking Christian YA Fiction Will Fix It)"

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

Bob, who is mid-book two, posts his thoughts on reading fantasy, and notably on reading Williams' MEMORY, SORROW, AND THORN books.

This is a series I have often been tempted by, and yet I've always overcome the temptation. Sort of like G.R.R. Martin's bestselling series. (Which Bob also comments on in that post.) I am curious, but I resist.

Why?

Cause I hate epics. In general. Mostly.

No, really. When I see multi-volumes of unwieldy lengths, I walk on by. :::::cue Dionne Warwick::::::

I have to really, really, really want to read a story that goes on for more than one book. Really, really.

Even when I was almost exclusively a romance/WF reader, I stayed away from sagas. I wanted something I could read in one sitting, preferably in a few hours. Then I pretty much wanted it over and concluded and done. I didn't mind related novels (as long as they weren't actually sequels, just shared some characters.)

This is why I'll never read Robert Jordan's opus. Well, maybe I ought to never say never. If I'm laid up in bed for months, I might give it a go, the way I gave the Thomas Covenant books a go way back when--and got as a gift from hubby the final novel in the series when I was laid low with a flare-up of TMJ that left my equilibrium so off I couldn't walk. Or how I gave LOTR a go when I was flat on my back for a spell. The way I asked my hubby to go get me the complete, so-far published Harry Potter novels four years ago when I was in the midst of a terrible, lengthy bout of bronchitis and wanted something to totally immerse myself in. And it was definitely therapeutically distracting.

Yeah, never say never. Just say...unlikely.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Can YOU Make Out This Dialogue?

—Thass rì, Carl cooed, Runti, tym fer yer slorta, yeah? Ve Acks partë ul B eer vis tariff or ve nex, n Eye gott tayk yer bak 2 ve manna.

--from THE BOOK OF DAVE by Will Self


John Clute translates here.

Style and Voice, Part 3 Up At Spec Faith

Drop by Speculative Faith to read my third, still sorta-rambly adventure titled "On the Matter of Voice & Style: Dashes and Rhythm, Semi-colons and Syllables, and the Parody Test "

Here's a nosh:

Voice, the rolling thunder or whispering precision of a story's procession of words, the property that marks a writer as baroque or vanilla or thudding or lyrical.

—Steve Carper


Have you ever corresponded with someone whose style and voice and handwriting were so familiar that if you read one line of one unattributed letter, you’d know this person had written it?

Did you go t hrough that phase in junior high school when we girls had to have a signature “dot” for letters, an affectation that drove some teachers to distraction? A heart shape. A star. A smiley. A butterfly. I had a daisy.

When you began writing, did you notice you had certain characteristics that set you apart from stuff you read in critique groups or workships? I realized that I really liked using dashes and parentheses and I like melancholic tones. Then I checked my journal. Oh, yeah. I really, really like using dashes and parentheses. And melancholic tones. And happy endings.

SF Poem for a Friday: "The Kraken"

~~~~~~~~~The Kraken~~~~~~~~~

Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant fins the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

--by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Quoth the Writer: Caitlin Kiernan on Reading

Basically, I wish I could read the way I used to read. I did not dissect as I read. I simply became immersed in the story and let it sweep me happily along. Now I cannot help but dissect. I try not to, but I do anyway. I cannot help but see "flaws" and all the ways I think I could have done this better. I would suspect that all writers are like this, to one degree or another. Writers are the gods of their universes, and we are never at a loss to suggest how some other god might better run herhisits universe/s. At least, this is true of me. It is one reason I read so much less fiction than I did fifteen years ago.
--Caitlin Kiernan



I do the same! Sigh.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

OK, I Relent to a Tagging: The Lists of Four

Despite the fact that I said early on that I hate being tagged, several wonderful folks have tagged me in the last year or so since Mirathon was born. I had a lot of fun with Camy's and Carmen's, so I'll give Shannon's a shot.

However, because I am impertinent, I will answer the tag my way by twisting the questions to suit me. Humor me.

Four Jobs I Wish I'd Had

1. Personal assistant to Neil Gaiman in the alternate universe where he's a Pentecostal holy roller and we get to pray up a wild storm before we set his weekly itinerary in order.
2. Tour guide in Florence in the Edwardian period, complete with cool hats and lacy dresses
3. Taste tester in the kitchen of the Valrhona chocolatiers
4. Librarian in the Library of Congress circa 2247

Four places I've Been On Vacation, Kinda-Sorta

1. King David's Jerusalem. Very hot and dusty, but lots of music
2. Arrakis. Also a hot and dry, but the food is well-spiced
3. Wonderland. I drank way too much tea and I think I grew a few inches.
4. Middle Earth. I gained 7 pounds in two weeks in the Shire.

Four places I've lived

1. Alternate Cuba, the one without Castro and where my teeth were strong enough to munch on sugar cane.
2. Atlantis: But I had a very nice opalescent tail back then and fetching gray-green hair.
3. The Megalopolis of MiamiLand: And it's still a pain in the keister to drive across town, only it takes two days now, not two hours.
4. New York. And it's even stranger than all of the above.

Four Favorite Foods

1. Rigelian cheese enchiladas. Nobody does spicy red enchilada sauce like those two-headed, six-armed chefs.
2. Pizza (any planet, any style), because the combination of bread with sauce and cheese is pan-universally delicious.
3. Cuban black bean soup. They will actually be serving this at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, rumor says.
4. Fatoush Salad. The mystery spice actually hails from the multi-dimensional herb garden of KleKlah the Unforgettable, master cook to the Lord of the Fifteenth dimension. Or maybe it came from Lebanon. I always get those confused.

Four Favorite TV Shows

1. Buffy the Hydra-Slayer
2. Angelus
3. Flying Insect that Glows in its Backside
4. Whatever next show Joss Whedon is gonna create, prolly, or Dharma and Gregorian Chants, or Monkfish. How can a girl just choose four?

Four Movies I Could Watch Until My Eyeballs Fall Out

1. Sense and Even More Sense (with Sensible Emma Thompson)
2. The Red Shoes of Doom (by Powell & Pressburger)
3. Forbidden Planetarium (because those x-rated constellations remind me I once had hormones that functioned properly)
4. Anything with Gerard Butler (in jeans or leather) or Colin Firth (in Regency or Victorian wear), because they must share joint ownership of some ancient amulet that makes it impossible for me to look away when they are onscreen...The Eye of AgaMammaMia!

Four Books (Non Bible/Only Fiction or Poetry) That I Could Read Until the Ink Is Absorbed Into My Flesh and I Inhale All the Molecules of Paper And Nothing Is Left But Air

1. Dune Because we all want to be as powerful as Paul and as loved as Chani and as adept as Jessica. And because, Bible verses aside, vengeance is fun.
2. Jane Eyre Because Mr. Rochester is annoyingly hot and a good conversationalist, and because the plain girl gets the guy. All plain girls love this novel.
3. Women Poets: From Antiquity to Now Because...wow.
4. The Shadow and the Star Because I fell in love with Samuel Gerard, in a strictly non-physical, on-the-page way. And cause he's got ninja skills in Victorian London. Whoo!

Four Places Online I Visit Every Day Even If I'm Dying of the Plague

1. Mirathon: Ahem. Well, I gotta see if there are comments!
2. Dragons, Knights & Angels
3. Bloglines: To see what my other fave blogs are up to
4. Tie: Amazon.com (where I love to browse and read reviews) and Google's main page. I use that search engine like nobody's business. Good thing they're free or I'd be broke.

Four Places I'd Rather Be As Long As My Hubby Comes With Me Or Forget That!

1. Tuscany region and Florence. Oh. Oh. Oh.
2. Venice. Only if I have a ton of money and can stay in a really fabulous palazzo.
3. The Ahwahnee Lodge. I've always wanted to have a nice vacation there.
4. Various bits of Britain, including the Lake Country (and read some Wordsworth there), Bath (cause I loved Persuasion, Iona and Canterbury and Lindisfarne (for religious pilgrimages, and the fine sites of London (literary and artistic), and Edinburgh-so I can hear me some Scottish accent, baby!)


Four People I Tag Despite The Fact It Might Annoy Them

1. Josh
2. Carmen
3. Bonnie
4. Heather

If You're Loaded & Wanna Gimme An Easter Gift, Here's What The Mir Wants...

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoo
ooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooooooooooHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhh
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Women SF Writers and The Nebula

Ellen Kushner (Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword) had this to say on the subject:
Well, I'll be damned. Turns out Delia's* right: At her most acerbic, she has pointed out what a shame it is that women don't write science fiction or fantasy novels - or so it would appear, if you look at the World Fantasy or Hugo or Nebula Awards (unless you're Connie or Lois, as I always hasten to point out to her) . . . . Anyway, behold! I seem to be the only person of the female persuasion with a chance of being on this year's preliminary Nebula Ballot for best novel. How weird is that?!



In the comments section of that post, Patrick Nielsen Hayden offers this interesting bit of info as counterpoint:
Actually, while there are quite a few things to criticize about the Nebula Awards, in fact fully 55% of them over the last ten years have been won by women.


Green Man chose Ellen's The Privilege of the Sword as Best Adult Novel of 2006. I am kinda embarrassed to say that I bought Swordspoint a couple years ago and have yet to read it. But I read much less these days, and I blame it on eyes that are easily fatigued and, well, vision that's total crap, though reading glasses help some.


*For those who don'tknow, "Delia" is Delia Sherman, writer and partner of Ms. Kushner's.

Scalzi Interviews Pratt: An Excerpt

3. As a short story writer and as a professional observer of the publishing field, how healthy is the field these days -- both from the point of view of a writer, and from the point of view of a reader?

I actually think the publishing field is pretty healthy (though some recent upheavals in the publishing world threaten to put some small presses out of business; a major distributor just went bankrupt, and we're all holding our breath to see how things shake out). I've heard that, even though the percentage of people in America who read books is steadily falling, in terms of sheer numbers there are more readers now than ever -- because the population is increasing at a faster rate than the readership is decreasing! So you wind up with a smaller percentage but more actual readers. Which is simultaneously depressing and heartening. There's a lot of doom and gloom out there about the imminent demise of the publishing world, but people have been saying that for decades. The business will certainly change, but I don't think it's going to vanish.


The complete interview is HERE.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Begins

In order to unite with one another, we must love one another;
in order to love one another, we must know one another;
in order to know one another, we must go and meet one another.


These words, known as the "Testament of Cardinal Mercier," are the impetus for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The week (actually an octave, eight days) has been celebrated continuously since 1894.



The eight day period of January 18th through the 25th is the traditional span for praying for global Christian unity. (If anything that smacks of ecumenicism makes you turn green, sit down and have some herbal tea and pray, anyway.)

One of the readings for today, the first of the "week" is this, one of my top-ten passages of Scripture (which I once had memorized in the Greek. Alas, no more):

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
--
John 1:1-5


Find a list of the Scripture passages for reflection here.

Want To Get Your Hook Flogged?

Over at Flogging the Quill, author and professional editor Ray Rhamey is gearing up for a hook contest. Here's the deal:

...a critique of the FIRST 200 words of your novel. That's the equivalent of the 15 double-spaced lines that appear on a manuscript's first page when the chapter starts about 1/3 of the way down (as it should), with 1-inch margins.

Your writerly objective: to create an opening page that compels me to want more. This should make you really concentrate on making every word count, and make sure you raise at least one story question in those first few paragraphs.

The Flogometer is NOT YET OPEN for submissions. I figured you might want to take a little time to really focus on those first 15 lines and do a little editing and polishing. They had better gleam like the steel hooks they should be. It wouldn't hurt to browse through the FtQ writing category for coaching that may help.


You can access the writing category of his posts HERE.

In that section, one of the entries says all the following should be present on the first pages FIRST PAGE:

Tension
Story Questions
Voice
Clarity
Scene setting
Characterization


Keep in mind that you need to be willing to be publicly flogged by Ray and commenters.

And what's in it for the winner, you ask? Let's go back to Ray:

There's a prize, too -- a mostly free edit of someone's first 3 chapters.

I'm working out just how to structure this, and will lay it all out in a coming post, but I'm thinking that I can offer a "prize" to the most compelling novel opening: an edit of the first three chapters if I have permission to post excerpts from the edits on FtQ.



So, for all of you who were brave (or nuts) enough to submit query hooks to Miss Snark, here's a chance to get some helpful feedback from the Quill-Flogger.

Time To Vote: SF Site's Best of 2006

Do you have a definitive answer to the question, "What do you consider the best SF read of 2006?"

Good. Go vote.

List 10 SF books you really enjoyed this past year (published in 2006) and send that list to SF Site, as follows:


In the body of an e-mail, list up to 10 of your favourite books of 2006, in your order of preference, with your top choice clearly indicated as #1, second choice listed second, etc. Please do not submit your list as an attachment; e-mails with attachments are filtered out and will not be read.


Deadline for voting is Friday, 9 February 2007 at midnight EST.

Quote for the Day: The Greater Work

“Prayer does not fit us for greater works; prayer is the greater work.”
--Oswald Chambers



Thanks, Carmen, for the quote.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"The Secret Lives of Episcopal Priests"

Last December, SECRET LIVES by Jeff Vandermeer was released.

You can read three "secret lives" in an excerpt over at Fantastic Metropolis. My favorite of the three share its title with this blog post, a brief fiction about a priest compelled to act out an unusual vengeance ritual upon an iconic creature made famous by Benchley and Spielberg:

And so, down in the briny depths, where swims the hawksbill turtle, where the lacy fronds of certain sea grasses sway hypnotically back-and-forth, where the moray eel peeks furtively from its hidey-holes, and where the Crown-of-Thorns starfish makes its laborious and tortured way across the coral reef, deathstar of Death Stars, so too Padre Allen becomes part of the landscape, framed in light, framed in shadow, armored suit a-gleaming.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Blogging: Brandilyn on Christian Suspense and Karen Ball in "Ask the Editor"

Truth is, we do live in an evil world. But the truth doesn't end there, thanks be to God. The truth ends with the fact that God's power can help us live, even be victorious, amid this evil. Not to say bad things don't happen to good people. They do—in real life, and in Christian suspense. It is to say that followers of Christ have been given the awesome authority to go before His throne and ask for help in times of trouble—even big, bad trouble. Especially big, bad trouble.

Lest you think I sound too much like a preacher, let me set you straight. I'm not one. My #1 job as a Christian novelist is not to preach. It's to write the best rollickin' story I possibly can. I know my comrades in Christian suspense would agree. I want to grab you—from the very first line. I want to take you on a rollercoaster ride, make you need to sleep with a nightlight on. I want to make you forget to b r e a t h e. Yet along the way, you won't be so inundated with evil that you're left feeling hopeless.
--from "So What's the Deal With Christian Suspense?" at Charis Connection

And over at that blog, Karen Ball, an editor in the CBA, responded to question in a two-part blogging treat. Part of her response to the question of how a writer can find their voice/style/genre/etc, she says:

Read, read, read to find out what you like. Underline the phrases that capture you—not to steal, but to study, to understand why they hit you as they did. Second, though this is even more important, spend as much time with the One who gave you the call and the story to begin with as you spend reading anything else. Seek His desire for what you’re writing, ask him to use you. He gave you the story, He gave you your voice. All you have to do is open yourself, and He’ll use them. In ways you never imagined.


In part two she gives her Top Three Reasons for Instant Rejection and discusses the subject of trends.

Enchanted by MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO

It occurs to me I posted a review of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO in various places, but forgot to post it here. Oh, well. Here it is:

I had heard good things--great things--about MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO for years. I still avoided it. (I tend to avoid anime. My husband puts some on: I leave the room.) Plus, it looked as if it were for kiddies. But with Elliot and Carmen praising the work, rented it.

Verdict: I am an idiot. I could not have been more wrong.

To summarize it briefly: The father and two daughters of the Kutsakabe family move to countryside in Japan (circa 1950's), to be close to their mother, who is recovering in a hospital (from some unspecified ailment, maybe TB?) The girls soon discover they are neighbors to magical "trolls"--totoros--three of them, small and medium and very large! They explore--and find wonder--in their new environs with the Totoros and they get a happy ending regarding their family situation, in a way that will make you both smile and get moist in the eyes.

Nothing complex. It's what the writer/director/artists do with this simple premise that adds up to soooooooooo much more.

This film taps into the warmest, most human, most loving, gentlest, dreamiest bits of my young self that still hides inside my middle-aged self. It reminded me of what it was like to:

~have a dad I adored and who cared selflessly for me
~ be young and see enchantments in the world
~explore and be carefree physically
~have fun with the simplest, new things, like a fresh bit of produce from a a plant in a pot or from someone's garden--which seemed like magic to me when I was young), or from a bath or from climbing a tree
~be young and lost and afraid without family nearby
~worry a beloved parent might die (as I feared when I was very, very young, like Mei, and my Papi was hospitalized.)

I understand some of the critique bandied about the vocals/dubbing, but, geesh, get past it. It's hardly an issue in light of the amazing animation. Just watch the girls, the little things, the details, that so absolutely prove that the artist(s) have observed young kids very, very carefully. There is such playfulness, such delights in the world of the Totoros. I can't watch Chibi Totoro and not giggle. Physically unable to stop myself from just letting loose with a cascade of heeheehees!

It's a movie which opens with slow, establishing scenes of this new place for the family, but which soon utterly enraptures you with these darling girls and the weird but lovable Totoros and the kind, distracted Papa. The scene with Mei on Big Totoro's furry tummy is pure perfection. Watch her legs. Notice the way she lays there and plays with Totoro's face. Enjoy the detail in the way she scoots. The gorgeous bonding that ensues feels natural and has a restful effect on the viewer.

And the scene at the bus stop/catbus stop: Wow! Look at the way the shadows and light are done. The hilarity of O Totoro and his leaf hat. The joy of raindrops on an umbrella. The sweetness of sleepy Mei and the unselfishness and kindness of Satsuki.

The scene with the night ride: Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Who wouldn't want to be five or six again and ride on a Totoro's tummy through a moonlit night, over rice fields and camphor trees?

If you have high BP, this movie will settle it down, it's such a bit of grace pouring on you. If you want something beautiful that fills you with a sense of nostalgia: This is it.

Feel young again. Feel magic. Feel joy. Watch MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO.

Writing for CBA? Need an Agent?
Well, Here's A List Just for YOU

2007 Literary Agents for CBA Markets at Writers Information Network

Nissa's Code for the CSFF Blog Tour Blogroll

Nissa has created a code to imbed the CSFF Blog Tour participants in your sidebar. I am not sure how to do it. Has anyone done it on Beta Blogger. Give me a clue.

Here's the link to the post with the code.

Who Ran A Truck Over Me While I Slept?

Ever wake up and feel like someone whacked you in the face all night?

Yeah, I've been feeling like that for two days. I clearly am having worse waking up issues than usual. (A graceful and perky riser I'm not. A rhino is more elegant than I am in those first minutes of wakey time.)

I think I need a new mattress. No, rewind. I definitely need a new matress.

Anyone have recommendations for sleep-like-a-dream matresses (not too soft, not super firm)?

Yawn...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

"Waiting for Appa" is off to the Publisher
And A Way To Support CSF on the Web

I was given some time to fix typos and revise the last section of "Waiting for Appa." Bill Snodgrass totally rocks!

I didn't change much--sorry, Chris. But I did want to balance the structure a bit more by adding dialogue to the previously narration only denouement. The information is the same, but now it comes in both narrative and dialogue, which I think puts the reader THERE, in the spot. It feels more personal (ie to the first person character).

I also fixed a logic error I noticed (nothing big, just something only my "anal when it comes to my own work" mindset couldn't live with. I only had to change one phrase.)

The story should be up at THE SWORD REVIEW in late February (and will appear in print copy as well.) I hope you enjoy it. I hope you support TSR by donating to them. I hope you support CSF by purchasing a copy--or various copies--of TSR in print.

And there's only one day left to vote in the Pred Poll. If you care to make me smile, vote for my story, my poem (one of them), and for TSR or DKA for ezine. And if you want to make me smile even bigger, vote for either Bill Snodgrass or Selena Thomason for ezine editors. Trust me, these two work very hard, selflessly give of their money and time, so that they can nurture, encourage, support, and publish speculative works (fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and artwork) by Christians who love our genre.

Support Christian Speculative Fiction!

Second Sunday After The Epiphany:
Readings for Psalm, Gospel, & Epistle

Psalm 113

Praise the LORD!
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD!

Blessed be the name of the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the LORD is to be praised!

The LORD is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
Who is like the LORD our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the LORD!


1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.


Luke 4:14-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mir is Doing the Family Thing Today

Family birthday event today, so I'll be gone and non-post-al.

I hope you have a lovely Sabbath/seventhday/Saturday.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Part 2 of Voice & Style Up at Spec Faith

Visit Speculative Faith for my Friday post on the subject of voice and style. If you missed the first one, just scroll down to last Friday's or click on "posts by Mirtika" in the sidebar.

A Matter of Voice & Style: The Sound and Fingerprints of the Writer

If You Like MySpace.com & You Want To
Lose Weight, Get Fit, or Improve Health,
Consider the New SparkPeople.Com

Wow, that's a long post title. :) But really, that's the impression I'm getting. I just registered to Spark People out of curiosity. They have a MySpace sort of set-up in their SparkPages. The amenities reminds me of eDiets.com (a highly rated online and flexible diet site). Like MySpace and unlike eDiets, this online healthy program/system is FREE. (And it seems the organizers, at least some, did come from eDiets.com).

If you want to give it a try, go here. And say that I sent you if you register: http://mirathon.blogspot.com

And if you want to see a baby pic of me (ie, me on my first birthday), here's my SparkPage: Mirtika.

Terrific Speech by Agent Richard Curtis

Visit John C. Wright's blog for his post on Richard Curtis and the speech honoring Harlan Ellison. It's hilarious, and it's also somewhat saddening. Curtis comes across as a man of significant patience. Harlan comes across, again, as a childish and self-centered nutcase, but a gifted one who can write up a storm.

Read "Grand Master Speech May 6, 2006"

DKA Magazine's First Print Edition

In case you'd like to have our monthly editions of Dragons, Knights & Angels Magazine in print (and not free), here's a look at our first print edition.

The contents of January 2007th's Issue 40: "Moving On" by Adria Laycraft, " Dead Oracles" by Steven Riddle, "A Curse and a Boon" by Swapna Kishore, "A Mortal Kingdom Lies on Both Sides of the Mirror," by Bruce Boston, "Vehement the Merciful" by John Kuhn, "And after everyone abandons the planet, it rolls" by Sankar Roy.

The cost is $6.49 (plus whatever shipping).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

PredPoll & Voices

For some weird reason, my story "Voices from the Void" is listed twice in the SF Short category. If you go vote for me, choose the option that has a url with it (ie the url for the publication isn't blank.) That means that right now, you'd choose the first listing of "Voices."
Don't know why that glitch happened, but, well...

Blogging: Learning from Stephen King

If you haven't read King's ON WRITING--which I found to be a marvelous bit of a stroll through a famous writers life and mind--you can head over to KEEP ME IN SUSPENSE, where L. Harris has gleaned Stephen King's advice for you in easily digestible nuggets.

Each point is pretty much common sense or something you've heard from other writers, but it's not a bad thing to check out what a top pop-fic master has to say as a reminder that there is no easy way to do it. I think "read a lot and write a lot" is probably the best advice of all.

Blogging: Aspiring Young Christian Fantasist

Happened upon REFLECTIVE BEAUTY by chance. Seems this is a young gal (teen?) who wants to write CSF. Drop by and say hi, maybe? This may be one of our future CSF stars. Ya never know.

She's currently reviewing Graham's BEYOND THE SUMMERLAND, with lists of pros and cons.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Nebula Preliminary Ballot at SFWA.org

The full list is at 2006 Preliminary Nebula Award Ballot.

Here are the nominated novels and short stories:

Novels:

From the Files of the Time Rangers - Richard Bowes (Golden Gryphon Press, Sep05)
Crystal Rain - Tobias Buckell (Tor, Feb06)
The Girl in the Glass - Jeffrey Ford (Dark Alley, Aug05)
The Privilege of the Sword - Ellen Kushner (Bantam Spectra, Jul06)
Counting Heads - David Marusek (Tor, Oct05)
To Crush the Moon - Wil McCarthy (Bantam Spectra, May05)
Seeker - Jack McDevitt (Ace, Nov05)
A Princess of Roumania - Paul Park (Tor, Aug05)
Remains - Mark W Tiedemann (BenBella Books, Jul05)
*Spin - Robert Charles Wilson (Tor, Mar05)

Short Stories:
"Helen Remembers the Stork Club" - Esther M. Friesner (F&SF, Nov05)
"Pip and the Fairies" - Theodora Goss (Strange Horizons, 3 Oct05)
"Echo" - Elizabeth Hand (F&SF, Oct/Nov05)
"Mahmoud's Wives" - Janis Ian (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly #1, WS & LWE, Ed., Sum06)
"Henry James, This One's For You" - Jack McDevitt (Subterranean #2, Nov05)
"The Woman in Schrodinger's Wave Equations" - Eugene Mirabelli (F&SF, Aug05)
"Anyway" - M. Rickert (SCI FICTION, 23 Aug05)

I have no kept up at all with my reading in ANY genre, so I need to check out some reviews to see which of these I wish to acquire.

If you've read any of the nominees, why not comment on whether you think it's worthy to be on the list, and which you prefer to win. I thought Theodora Goss' story was very good. I thought SPIN was brilliant and deserved its Hugo Award win.

Comment away. Discuss.

*I reviewed SPIN recently on this blog, DKA, and on amazon.com.

Fun Link Notice: A cool idea + an SF award + a geek babe + a Japanese poetic form = Nebula Winners in Haiku. She covers 1965 though 2004. You gotta click "more, more, more" to see the list expand. Oh-so-nifty. Here's a taste:

1965 - Dune
Don’t drink the water
You find on desert planets
It will make you God.

1966 - Babel-17
Words describe language;
Language is a weapon - so
Will this book kill me?

Bad News Note: I drank the water in an old water bottle I found next to my section of the sofa (if you're married, you know what I mean about "my section"). I think this was really stupid. I was thinking it was from, you know, a day or two ago. Now that I've found another bottle nearby, I'm thinking it was more than a week old. If my queasy tummy is any indicator...even more. Am I an idiot or what? Anyway, if I'm scarce it's cause I'm nauseous.

Or it was the bag spinach I had with breakfast. (Didn't they clean up that contamination thing? Urp.)

Shameless Appeal For Votes for "Voices"
& "Heart" in the Preds & Eds Annual Poll

My short Christian SF story, "Voices from the Void", was published in Jan of 2006 over at THE SWORD REVIEW.

If you liked it, you can vote for it in the PREDITORS & EDITORS POLL:

Here's the url for the short stories: http://critters.org/predpoll/shortstorysf.shtml

Just scroll down until you get to mine. The particulars, as listed at the poll, are:

Title: "Voices from the Void"
By: Mirta Ana Schultz
Publisher: The Sword Review
URL: http://www.theswordreview.com/item.php?sub_id=361

If you haven't read it, I hope you will.

And if you like it (a lot, loads, enough), I hope you'll vote for it. I wouldn't even ask if I didn't think it was a pretty good read of CSF.

I also have my contest-winning poem "Into the Heart" up for a vote in the poetry section. See it--and vote for it--here: http://critters.org/predpoll/poem.shtml


And if you've enjoyed the offerings at THE SWORD REVIEW and/or DRAGONS, KNIGHTS & ANGELS, you have a chance to vote for favorite fiction e-zine here: http://critters.org/predpoll/fictionzine.shtml Both are now on the list of candidates.


Thanky for letting me self-plug!