April 30, 2011

Coming Soon: The Lost Scribes

A team of Christian writers who don't believe in playing it safe when adventure waits beyond the borders.

A revolutionary approach to multi-author fiction writing.

A groundbreaking expedition into the uncharted world of Christian steampunk.

A new story about to unfold.

Coming May
1, 2011

Watch The Writer's Lair for upcoming details!

April 28, 2011

Book Review: Sir Quinlan & the Swords of Valor

When it comes to Christian fiction, few things delight me more than well-crafted allegory. Which makes it seem somewhat odd that Sir Quinlan was my first experience with Chuck Black’s work. But regardless, this book had me hooked from page one, and I couldn’t put it down.

The story begins with Tav and Twitch—two young knights in training for the service of the Prince of Arrethtrae. Their training is basically just a hobby for them, an enjoyable pastime. But then Tav’s uncle Baylor, who his family considers just a little bit shy of sane, shows up and tells Tav that he wants him to come and join the Swords of Valor. Baylor claims that a deadly war is engulfing the kingdom of Arrethtrae, and that they need men willing to leave everything and join in the battle.

But no one—neither Tav nor Twitch—has seen any sign of a war being fought, so why leave a comfortable and peaceful life at home to chase imaginary enemies and fight unnecessary battles? Tav refuses his uncle’s offer. Baylor offers him two days to think about it and make his final decision.

It is Twitch, however, who finds himself seriously thinking about what it really means to be a knight of the Prince and what a life of service really looks like. It is Twitch who meets Baylor two days later and offers his life in service as one of the Swords of Valor.

At first it seems like the life he’s always dreamed of… until disaster strikes. It is a disaster so terrible that the Swords of Valor disband completely. And it is Twitch’s fault. Ashamed and convinced that he’s incapable of serving the Prince, Twitch returns home.

But his destiny won’t leave him alone, and before long he finds himself back on the road of service to the Prince. Back on the road to rejoining the Swords of Valor. Back on the road to becoming Sir Quinlan.

As I said before, this book had me hooked from page one and held me until the end. It has a classic plot filled with page-turning drama and delicious, breath-taking action. Best of all, there is a deeply moving and convicting message woven through the story. Unlike a lot of attempts at allegory, the author doesn’t pause the story to ‘preach’. The reader knows the message is there and understands what it is saying, but Chuck Black has done a stellar job of weaving it seamlessly into the natural structure of the story.

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is a book I will definitely be coming back to for a re-read, and there will be many more of Chuck Black’s books joining Sir Quinlan on my bookshelf!


I received this book free of charge from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my review. A favorable review is not required; Waterbrook is committed to gathering honest opinions about the books they publish.

April 27, 2011

Publishing Contract Giveaway

The Writer's Lair is pleased to announce the launch of Rhizome Publishing's first-ever "Cultivate" publishing contest. The guidelines are wonderfully simple (and simple is always good, right?): submit your completed manuscript by Sunday, May 29, 2011. Submissions will be sorted according to genre and the best manuscript from each genre will then be sent to the editorial staff. One winner will be chosen to receive a publishing contract with Rhizome Publishing, which includes:

1) Cover design

2) Editing

3) Interior Layout

4) Publishing to all E-Book services

5) Set-up and delivery to our Book printer

6) Distribution through Ingram (which makes the book available at all retail book stores)

7) Generous royalties

8) And viral marketing

Rhizome is open to and welcoming speculative genres, as well as most other genres of fiction and non-fiction.
If you are interested in entering this giveaway, send an email to contest@rhizomepub.com; they will send you an author packet with more submission information. Meanwhile, Click Here for more information about the contest, guidelines, and Rhizome Publishing.

April 25, 2011

I'm an Editor!

Over the last couple of years I've edited several novels, short stories, and essays for friends, just for fun and, well... because that's what friends are for, right?
But I am very excited to announce that I am now editing officially for an up-and-coming publishing house, Rhizome Publishing! I first learned about Rhizome Publishing after reading their debut release, Crabgrass & Oak Trees (Click Here to read my review of the book). Rhizome is somewhat of a 'hybrid' in the publishing world, using a unique approach "to re-imagine culture through creative stories and ideas." Visit their website, rhizomepublishing.com, to learn more.
I am so excited about the opportunity this will give me to learn and grow as a writer. God is absolutely amazing, and I am thrilled that He has opened this door for me!

April 22, 2011


I imagine I'm not the only writer of speculative fiction who has been asked a question along the lines of: "How can you use your stories to tell people about God if the stories aren't set in the real world?"
I love being asked this. If the person asking is not a Christian, the question gives me the chance to tell them about my Savior. If they are already a Christian (in my personal experience, the people asking this question usually are), I get an opportunity to talk with them about God and, hopefully, help them see Him in a way that maybe they hadn't thought of before.
My God is not limited by the confines of a single universe. To me, the idea of stories set on Planet Earth being the only stories that can be used to show God to readers equals the idea that God is not great enough to extend into other universes.
My God is the God of all creativity, imagination, and originality. Just as I don't put every single idea I have for subplots, character quirks, landscape features, plot twists, and architecture designs into one single novel, I don't believe for one instant that God put every single idea and feature He ever conceived inside this one little universe we live in.
My God transcends the bounds of our universe's space and time. He created a solar system in which the planets go around the sun, a world of four seasons, a man of the dust of the ground, an endless vacuum hostile to life surrounding our tiny little home planet, but His creations do not limit Him. My God existed before Time and Space, and He exists outside of them. The fact that He created them does not limit Him to existing within their boundaries.
My God's imagination is a diverse one--the same mind that conceived the red storm on the planet Jupiter imagined the whiskers on a mouse's face; the same breath that ignited the inferno of the sun breathed life into Mankind--but I believe that even the vast diversity and variety of our world do not begin to do justice to the creative powers of His mind.
My God transcends the bounds of my imagination, and of yours, and of our universe. Of course it would be just as easy to share my God with readers through stories set only in the 'real world'. My question is: Why would I confine God that much?
Have a blessed Easter, everyone!

April 20, 2011

Numbers Worth Noting

Rachelle Gardner, an agent with Wordserve Literary (and a fantastic source of practical information about the publishing industry), began taking a poll on her blog a few days ago with the intention of learning more about her readers. One of the questions was "Do you write primarily fiction or non-fiction?" followed by "If fiction, what genre do you write in primarily?". 26% of responses came back "Fantasy/Sci-fi," followed by 21% in the "General/Other" category (which could potentially contain other speculative genres such as Alternate History, Steampunk, etc.). Out of the seven genre choices available in the poll, both of those percentages led by considerable margins (at least 10 percentage points).
This, while certainly the most recent, is not the first encouraging sign I've seen regarding the growing trend in Christian speculative fiction. On his website, Where the Map Ends, Jeff Gerke has posted interviews with many authors of Christian speculative fiction; read them, and you'll see some very positive and optimistic attitudes about the future of the Christian spec. fic. industry.
A lot of Christian publishing houses still seem wary about the speculative trend, but personally I think that the industry is on the cusp of what could be a massive revolution. As a Christian writer of speculative fiction, I'm extremely excited to be riding this wave. God has already done some great things in the industry, and I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing what else He has in store for the future!
What about you? Are you encouraged or discouraged by what you see in the world of Christian speculative fiction? What course do you think the trends are taking?

April 18, 2011

Harmony of the Spheres

I'm currently reading the book Galileo, part of the Christian Encounters series, by Mitch Stokes. In the early pages of the book, Stokes briefly outlines the essentials of Pythagorean beliefs, namely: that the universe at its core is fundamentally mathematical.
Astronomer Johannes Kepler believed that the precise mathematical movements of the planets actually produced music--"the harmony of the spheres".

It's not exactly hard science, but it got me thinking about the possibilities of a universe where the movements of the planets and other heavenly bodies do produce some form of celestial music or other phenomenon.
What might such a world be like? What sort of mysteries might such a universe hold?
What adventures might await an ambitious explorer?

April 14, 2011

Book Review: The Charlatan's Boy

Over the weekend I managed to severely burn my finger and was on limited activity as a result, so I was thrilled when this book arrived and gave me something to do. And if laughter really is the best medicine, my finger will be healed in no time.

The Charlatan’s Boy stars Grady, a pitifully ugly boy who travels the country of Corenwald with Floyd—a professional flimflam man. Grady’s ugliness makes him perfect to play the part of a feechie (the wild little savages the people of Corenwald believe inhabit the swamplands), and he and Floyd make a handsome living off of people who are curious to see “a genuine he-feechie; alive and in the flesh!”.

But as the people of Corenwald gradually stop believing in feechies, times get tough for Floyd and Grady, and they’re forced to find another way of making a living. The book follows their hilarious string of schemes and escapades, including an “Ugliest Boy in the World” routine and a stint in the phrenology business. Alas, nothing seems to work as well as the feechie trade did, back when people believed in feechies.

So, Floyd and Grady decide to cook up another great feechie scare, something to revive the old beliefs in feechies and put them back in business. Unfortunately, as the scare gets underway they realize that they aren’t alone. It seems every huckster and charlatan in Corenwald wants in on the excitement, and before long they’re all claiming to be the only act of their kind, the only one to have a genuine, captive feechie.

If Mark Twain had written fantasy, The Charlatan’s Boy could have easily passed as his work. The settings, the characters, the language and grammar used, and the unique style of humor work together to create a one-of-a-kind fantasy read like none you’ve read before. This is a book to be read aloud in the family room in the evenings; it had me laughing out loud from start to finish.

The plot had a tendency to meander from time to time, but in my opinion that didn’t hurt the book a bit. In fact, I think it only added to the lighthearted and refreshing effect of the story. This was my first time to read anything by Jonathan Rogers, but you can be sure that after this I will be checking out more of his work, including the sequel to The Charlatan’s Boy, slated for release this fall!


I received this book free of charge from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my review. A favorable review is not required; Waterbrook is committed to gathering honest opinions about the books they publish.

April 13, 2011

Book Review-Dragons: Legends & Lore of Dinosaurs

By Bodie Hodge and Laura Welch

This book is a relatively new release from Answers in Genesis, and I have a piece of advice for all of you: buy it! Besides being a great resource for Creationist Christians, Dragons is a fabulous book for fantasy writers. What could be a better addition to a fantasy writer's library than a book of real-life facts about real-life dragons?
Have you ever noticed that dragon lore in ancient cultures is a world-wide phenomenon? How about the fact that certain creatures described in the Bible and even depicted in cave drawings bear striking resemblance to our vision of dragons? This book will take you on a thrilling journey through those ancient legends and stories. It includes translations of ancient writings from all over the world, Biblical descriptions of dragons and dinosaurs, legends of dragons that have been passed down for centuries, and even some surprisingly modern eyewitness accounts of dragon encounters.
Besides the store of exciting information it contains, just reading the book is an adventure in and of itself. Every page boasts gorgeous artwork as well as fold-out panels, hidden doors within the pages themselves, and pockets with stories and pictures tucked inside. The book demands a re-read - you may not catch everything the first time through!

April 11, 2011

A common complaint from writers:

"I have nothing to write about!"
Most every writer out there, at some point or another, will utter this complaint. My response to this is:
"I don't believe you!" (My friends love me for being so sympathetic.)
But seriously, look around you! There is always, always something you can write about if you know how to look. I'm not saying that you should necessarily write about every little mundane detail of your life (unless of course your life is exceptionally fascinating), but I am saying that there are stories, scenes, and little dramas that unfold right in front of us every day if we're paying enough attention to see them. Here are some fun examples from my own life just this past week.
Monday afternoon my cell phone rang. I answered it to hear my friend Joe say "Hi, Mary. Would you be able to cut my hair this afternoon?"
I paused and said "Um... what?"
"Oh," he said, "I have the wrong Mary, don't I?"
Write about a similar mistake and something that happens as a result.
Friday morning I was at a church working with a home-school group and glanced out the window just in time to see a kid ride past on a Rip-Stick, waving a foam sword over his head at the same time.
Write the story behind that scene.
Friday afternoon on my way home I saw a man walking down the sidewalk carrying a to-go meal in a paper bag, a gas can, and a newspaper.
Write about why he's carrying that particular combination of items.
Saturday my family's cows got out and took off at a dead run down the road--twice. Then, while baking bread, I got my hand into the stove's heating element and had to be taken to Urgent Care. That left my sixteen-year-old brother to make and bake the cinnamon rolls that I had rising at the time. They tasted fine, they were just a bit... shall we say, large and shapeless?
Write about a chain of random disasters.
There is an amazing amount of writing material built into the world around us, waiting to be used. Granted, the microwave bursting into flames may not be the inspiration for your next novel, and the basement flooding may not win any short story awards. But they just might get your creative juices flowing again, and that is what matters. Because writers write. Other people make excuses.

April 6, 2011

Mark Twain, on Writing

The Writing Life

"I can live for two months on a good compliment."

"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained."

"My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Fortunately everyone drinks water."

"I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened."

"All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure."

"A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds."

"'Classic'. A book which people praise but don't read."

"A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't."

The Art and Craft

"A man's character my be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation."

"The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

"Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."

"Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own."

"Words are like painted fire; a look is the fire itself."

And a few just for fun...

"I wouldn't have a girl I was worthy of. She wouldn't do. She wouldn't be respectable enough."

"Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins."

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

April 4, 2011

Book Review: Breath of Angel

The Angeleon Circle, Book One
By Karyn Henley

I’ll admit, at first the cover design had me edgy and expecting something dark, more along the lines of paranormal or horror than fantasy. Fortunately, the old adage about judging a book by its cover came through for me and I was delighted to find an exciting story set in a unique fantasy world, built on a very intriguing premise. The dark mood set by the cover doesn’t carry over into the story itself.

The story begins when a haggard young man staggers into a temple courtyard. Melaia, a priestess, offers him shelter, but before the stranger can accept he is attacked and killed by a vicious hawk, which Melaia chases away. Already shocked by what has happened, she is even more stunned to find that the murdered stranger has wings growing from his back.

She moves the body into the temple to be prepared for burial and await the return of the high priestess, Hanamel. Before Hanamel returns, however, another stranger arrives—the hawk that killed the stranger, this time in human form.

His arrival throws everything Melaia thought she knew into chaos, leading her to discover that what she has always been taught about angels is not entirely accurate, and there are many things she has never been taught at all.

As circumstances and events unfold, Melaia is drawn deeper and deeper into an ancient feud between two brothers, now immortal, whose battle destroyed the stairway to heaven, trapping countless angels in the world of mortals, with no way to return to their home.

I had a little trouble understanding the workings of the story world at first, until I realized that I was expecting the angels in the story to be and behave like the Bible tells us real angels do. Once I stopped trying to apply that template to the story’s angels, everything made a great deal more sense and was very easy to follow.

The scenery and descriptions in this book were just beautiful. From towering cities built on the brink of high cliffs, to the joyful dance of a fire angel in the flames of a campfire, you are in for a visual treat with Breath of Angel. And the story’s inhabitants—from green-skinned sylvans to varying ranks of angels, each with different gifts and abilities; from shape-shifting immortals to gruesome draks (spy birds with human hands instead of feet)—form an enthralling cast you’re not likely to forget quickly.

My only complaint is that a lot of the major plot points of the story almost seem ‘too easy’. A piece of earth-shattering, life-changing news arrives, altering everything Melaia thinks she knows about herself and her identity; she acts shocked for a while, and then just moves on, seeming to take everything in stride. And while the story’s ending is fantastic and a perfect conclusion to the rest of the plot, there is little buildup to that ending, so it hits somewhat out of the blue.

Along that same line, Melaia’s character definitely changes, grows, and matures over the course of the story, which is good, but there really isn’t a visible turning point. There doesn’t seem to be a point at which she hits rock bottom and decides “okay, I’m going to stop fighting it, here’s what I have to do, now I’m going to do it”. There were a couple of instances that I suppose could have been turning points, but they didn’t come across that way openly. Melaia does struggle with a lot of the things she’s facing and dealing with, but she seems to be just going along with it anyway, playing it by ear.

Aside from that, Breath of Angel was a very unique and exciting adventure that had me hooked from page two.

You should know that as I sat writing this review, a bird flew into the window behind me; you will have to read Breath of Angel to appreciate the heart attack it almost gave me.


I am legally obligated to inform you that I received this book in exchange for my review as part of Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program. There. I have informed you.