November 18, 2009

Cold weather calls for a hot drink!

I don't know about where you live, but here in the midwest it is getting cold! Today is the third day in a row of gray skies, icy wind, and rain-that-might-turn-into-snow. Our high yesterday only made it to 39 degrees! Such dreary weather does much to heighten one's appreciation of fireplaces, sweaters, and hot tea. So, I decided that for this installment of "The Starving Artist" I would share some of my favorite hot drink recipes.
Sugar Cookie Tea
Put a plain black teabag in a mug and fill the mug about 2/3 full with boiling water. Let the tea get extra strong, then remove the bag. Fill the mug the rest of the way with milk. Add 2 or 3 drops of vanilla extract. (For those of you making faces, it doesn't taste like sugar cookies, but it does smell like them.)
Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate
Make a cup of plain (or dark) hot chocolate. Add about a tablespoon of heavy cream to it. Sprinkle the top with pumpkin pie spice and stir it in. This is one of my favorites!
Cinnamon Cider
Put fresh apple cider in a small pan and heat it on the stove (cider that's fresh-pressed at the orchard is best!). Once it's hot, pour it into a mug and add a cinnamon stick. If you want a stronger cinnamon flavor, float the cinnamon stick in the cider while it's heating, or sprinkle some ground cinnamon into it.
What is your favorite hot drink for a cold day? As always, be sure to share it in the comment box!

November 11, 2009

Christian Fantasy?

The fantasy genre can be a controversial subject among Christians. Some will say that all fantasy is wrong, period, while others hold that only certain fantasy, usually a particular book or books, is wrong. Fantasy is like any other genre – there are bad specimens of everything.

The aspect of fantasy that raises the most fuss has to be the common association of fantasy with magic. Face it: fantasy and magic go together. Magic is part of what makes fantasy what it is. I have, pinned to my bulletin board at home, an article from Writer’s Digest on fantasy, and it states: “fantasy always involves some kind of magic”. That’s just the way it stands.

Which poses an interesting problem for Christian writers, since the Bible makes it clear that Christians should have no involvement with magic, witchcraft, or sorcery. Where does that leave those of us who want to write fantasy?

First, it depends on the kind of magic you’re talking about. There are two basic types of magic.

The first one is simply the manipulation of natural laws. For instance, having a character draw energy from a tree to give them enough strength to survive a wound, or allowing them to deflect light waves, making themselves invisible. I don’t have a problem with this kind of magic. In all honesty, we use it ourselves – it’s just a matter of perspective. For example, technology that we take for granted today (Wi-Fi, GPS, Genetic engineering) would appear spectacularly magical to someone from the sixteenth century.

“Mind-speaking” falls into this category. Real-life people can feel another person staring at them. A person paying close attention can feel the mere presence of another person in an otherwise empty room. When my brothers and I were little, our mom could tell whether or not we were telling the truth before we ever said anything. Close friends can often communicate with only their eyes. So really, “mind-speaking” in fantasy is just an enhancement, an exaggeration of a skill that we as humans already possess.

The second type of magic deals with wizardry, witchcraft, and sorcery. Webster’s dictionary defines a wizard as a man with “possession of supernatural power by compact with evil spirits”. A witch is basically the feminine counterpart of a wizard. Sorcery is defined as the use of “evil supernatural power over people and their affairs”. This is the kind of magic I have a problem with.

Magic consisting of superhuman power granted by an alliance with demons or other evil spirits is what Christians have to be careful with. I’m not going to say that your writing should contain absolutely none of this kind of magic, although if you feel that is should that is certainly up to you. In Reyem, the fantasy world where my novel is set, this kind of black sorcery is used very widely, but only by the pagan Moritarcs, the enemies and “bad guys” of the story. The Protected (Reyem’s equivalent of Christians) are forbidden to use magic or sorcery.

Now, they do from time to time accomplish some superhuman feats, but it is with power given to them by The Shield (Reyem’s name for God), not the power of sorcery or witchcraft, and not whenever they choose – they can use it only when The Shield allows them to. It’s no different than the apostles performing miracles in the New Testament, using power that God gave to them. Which brings us to the issue of “good wizards”.

I’m as much a fan of Gandalf and Fenworth as anybody, but considering the definition of the term “wizard”, can Christian writers really have “good wizards” in their stories? I say yes.

According to the dictionary a wizard’s power comes from his alliance with a spirit or spirits. In the case of an alliance with evil spirits, the wizard would be given power in exchange for something. But if the wizard is a follower and servant of the God of your fantasy world, why couldn’t that same God have given him superhuman power to use in His service?


Magic will always be a tough and tricky subject for Christian fantasy writers. There will always be questions of where to draw the line. But in essence, it’s not about the power. It’s about what the power is used for, and where it comes from.

November 9, 2009

The Fact in Fiction

I usually get strange looks when I tell people that I want to spread the truth through my writing, considering the fact that I write primarily fiction. How can you share the truth through made-up stories set in made-up worlds?

For a secular writer, that would be a legitimate question. But for a Christian writer, the answer is simple. True Christians are grounded, firmly anchored in the Truth. In John 14:6 Jesus tells us that He is the Truth. So the Truth is in us; it is part of us; the Truth is what saves us. In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said that our words come from what is in our hearts. So if we fill our hearts with the Truth, it will be reflected in our writing … even if we’re writing fiction.

Jesus used fiction to communicate the truth – just read the parables. The Sower, the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and others – all fiction used to make a powerful point.

Look at the Chronicles of Narnia. How many Christians can read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and say that there is no truth in it?

I’m not saying that your writing should all be allegorical. My novel, Son of the Shield is not allegorical, but it is nonetheless a story of rebellion, repentance, redemption and forgiveness – the forgiveness of both God and Man. There is truth in that.

If the truth – the real truth – is embedded and rooted in your heart, it will come out in your writing.

November 3, 2009

Autumn Trail Mix

I love autumn – bright leaves, busy squirrels, brilliant sunshine, and blustery rainy days. A chilly autumn day calls for long hours of writing, and an appropriate desk-side treat. But if you’re like me, you don’t want to spend your long writing hours making the appropriate desk-side treat. The solution: Trail Mix. Quick, easy, and delicious. This fabulous recipe is one of my favorites:

Autumn Trail Mix

~Candy Corn

~Honey-roasted peanuts


Just three ingredients – but a wonderful combination that’s great to keep around, especially in an attractive little bowl within easy reach of your writing spot…

What is your favorite trail mix combination? Be sure to share it in the comment box!

"The Starving Artist"

We’ve all heard the phrase. I suppose whoever invented it had a point (after all, writing really doesn’t pay that well) but the picture presented is kind of depressing (i.e. you’re unsuccessful, no one appreciates your work, you can’t even make ends meet and afford to buy food, etc.) and the implied self-pity is very annoying.

So, you may ask, why title a blog series “The Starving Artist”? Simple: writing is hard work, and writers need good food to sustain them. And anyway, writing is much more enjoyable when one has a good snack to go with it!

It’s always been a principle of mine, that no one to visit my house leaves hungry. Henceforth, that principle applies to The Lair as well. My ‘Write Like the Pros’ series and other postings will continue as usual, of course, but I’ll be on the lookout for writer-friendly recipes to share with you all from time to time. Feel free to share your own favorite writing treats with the rest of us by posting them in the comment box – the more the merrier!