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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Update on...well, everything!

I feel like Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride right now...


"Let me explain!  ...No, there is too much. Let me sum up!"

So with that, let me sum up!

Writing has taken over my life.  I might not be able to ever write on my other blog again because writing is my life now.  (yes, yes, and schoolwork too, mom! :P )  It's sad.  Yeah, but I like this blog.

Ember Flame is being edited!  (happy dance)

I'm starting the 100 for 100 challenge tomorrow.  I'm attempting my first fanfiction.  Weird I know.  Wanna know what's weirder?  It's a Finnick/Annie background story from The Hunger Games.

I just saw your jaw drop.  I assure you, it is not a romance.  I'm writing because (a) it has been on my mind for awhile.  I mean seriously, Suzanne Collins left so many unanswered questions with that relationship.

Like...

If Annie is from District 4, that means she would have volunteered to go into the Hunger Games because she was a Career.

If she was a Career, that means she must have been trained her whole life to be a killer.

If she were a killer, then she wouldn't be so sweet and would not go mad when she watched her fellow tribute get killed.

And why the heck did the Capitol choose to just flood an arena?  Talk about anti-climactic.

So my manuscript will be explaining all of it!

And (b) I'm writing it because it might get my novels more publicity by having people read my fanfiction.

Yes, I am that low.  But hey, I'm honest!  And it will be good to practice writing in another person's style.

What else is going on in my life?  Oh yes.  I've been writing an epic TV script.  You can read about it in my "Still Round the Corner" page.

So there you have it!  Quick run-down of my life at the moment.  Hopefully, I'll have more interesting posts coming soon.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Movies v.s. Books

Movies v.s. Books.*


The age old debate.

Okay, maybe not age old.  But it is still one of the most heated and important debates of our time.  It's probably second in gravity only to the "who shot first, Han or Greedo" debate.  (HAN PEOPLE HAN!)

Nerdiness aside, I am here to officially settle the debate once and for all!

The answer is...the whole thing is INVALID!

That's right.  Completely and totally invalid.

It's like comparing Van Gogh to Mozart.

Or paper clips to toothpicks.

Or smart phones to televisions.

In case you didn't see where I am going with this, I'll just say it.  They are both two entirely different and unrelated works of art.  Sure, they do have some vague similarities, but so do all humans and all humans are not related.

(And yes, a toothpick is totally a work of art.)

Now, I confess, I used to be a passionate member of this debate on the side of books.  I have only recently learned the ill of my ways and adjusted my course.  Here is how I found the light in this...

A very good friend of mine asked me to write a script for her an some of my friends.  I complied, thinking it would be easy.  It's just dialogue, right?  I love dialogue!

Boy, was I wrong.

It was a pain to write.  I liked the story okay, but for some reason, everything seemed so cliche and awkward.  The characters did not come to life like I wanted them too.  But, cuz I'm awesome, instead of giving up I decided to learn more and adjust my ways.

I asked for scriptwriting books for Christmas, and my epic friends and family complied.  Long story short, I have officially read three incredibly awesome books on screenwriting.  And I have come to realize quite a lot.

Just like music and painting are two different kinds of art that should not be compared, so are movies and books.  Here are my reasons why:

1.  The amount of collaboration is different.

True, in books you have the author, editors, readers, cover designers, and in awesome cases publishers who contribute.  But ultimately, all power lies with the author.  The author chooses how the characters are portrayed, the author designs the setting and the story, the author chooses point of view.  Everything that defines the "book" is in the author's control.

Movies are very different.  Movies start with the scriptwriter, who would have vividly pictured the characters, scenery, costumes, make-up etc. in his mind.  But then it goes to the director, the producer, the casting board, the actors, the costume designer, the scenery designer, the camera men, the special effects dudes, the musicians, the composers, the lighting directors, the extras director etc.  The writer has no control over his story now.  Despite what they might think, the directors have no control over the actors.  The actors have no control over the music.  The composers have no control over the costume designers.  I'm sure in every movie dozens and dozens of arguments arise over simple, tedious things like whether the character should have a bracelet or not, or whether the scene should take place at night or day.

It's amazing there are as many good movies as there are today.  Or, maybe it's not amazing.  Maybe all the input from so many different people who specialize in different fields make it so much better.

Still, it is two totally different ways of making it.

2.  The story itself is wholly different.

In novels, you can get inside the character's head and know their plans and what they are thinking.  In movies, you don't get that.  They have to think of other ways of relaying the character's plan to you, or perhaps simply letting you watch and learn.  This can drastically change the rundown of a story.  The two types of stories must be totally different for them both to be enjoyable.  If a book never let you inside the character's head and kept you "watching" the character, you would begin to be frustrated because you could not "relate."

But if a movie was filled with thought voice overs from the characters so you know their every thought, you would accuse the writers of lazy writing.  (And rightfully so!)

And that is just one example of the many differences between book and movie stories.

3.  Imagination.

You don't need any imagination when watching a movie.  It's all right there for you.  With a book though, your imagination must be working all the time.


So there you have it!  Three reasons why movies and books should not be compared.  You might prefer one over the other, but you can't debate and argue preference because it is different for everybody.  Personally, I would rather go to an art museum and look at paintings than sit through an orchestra playing Beethoven's symphony No. 5.  But that is simply my preference.  Other's might like to hear beautiful music than go stand in a quiet museum.  I can't argue which is better though, which is why movies and books should not be argued.

I will say, from discovering this, I have gained an entire new level of respect for all the work that goes into even the crummiest of movies.  And to consider all the work that must go into an epic movie like, say, The Avengers or The Hobbit...it blows my mind!  I don't know how everyone does it, but I would love to be a part of it someday.

*This post is not about movies made from or based on books.  I'll cover that in another post.  I was simply talking about movies and books in general.


Monday, January 21, 2013

The Bible and Fantasy: Conclusion

I have really enjoyed finding out what God thinks about writing fantasy, and I hope you have too.  This series was a lot of fun to write and to study.  Hopefully, y'all found it interesting, or at least entertaining.  It's always cool to discover new things in the Bible.  


So far, I have covered...

God in Fantasy

Magic in Fantasy

Mythical Creatures

Humanoids in Fantasy

If there is something else in fantasy that you would like to know about, or a question about fantasy that is bothering you, feel free to leave a comment.  I'll pray about it and God will give me an answer for you.  :)

Thanks for reading!  Y'all are awesome!  


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hail Frost!!!

I'll wrap up my Bible and Fantasy series in a bit.  But first, I want to share some very exciting news...

Hail Frost is FINISHED!!!

Okay, it's not edited or anything, but the rough draft is completely done!  I'm very excited about it all.  Not only that, but we have officially begun re-editing Ember Flame.  Super happy.  So happy, I thought I'd share an excerpt from Hail Frost.  This excerpt actually takes place directly after this excerpt.  It's the second scene in the book, and it introduces Valin.  Keep in mind, ZERO editing has been done, so there are a tad too many "to be" sentences, and there are probably some grammatical issues.  I'm just so excited I had to share!  :P

******************************


Valin gazed across the valley, watching as black ooze melted down into the crevices. Far away, the valley ended and met the sinking sun, slashing the land with bright pinks and reds. The wind pushed his hair back and swept his black cloak behind him in a billowing cloud. He wondered vaguely what the oozing goop was, but not enough to cause him to investigate. He of all people knew that Northern Barbaric could never be trusted. The wind picked up again, and pressed the Pull insignia closer to his chest, as if it were trying to brand him with some unquenchable fire. Valin looked down and eyed the necklace, a triangle with a square inside it. Ugly, featureless, he almost wished he could remove it...almost.

“Commander Valin! Commander Valin!”

He turned to see Lenus, one of his soldiers, rush up the hill towards him. He was grasping something in his hand so hard it looked like he was trying to break it. His wild, bushy hair was shaking and twisting in the wind and his round cheeks were puffing and flapping. Valin laughed at the sight, “Lenus, your like to die of exhaustion. What is so important?”

“Amidoa just sent word,” he gasped.

Valin was taken aback, “Amidoa? I thought...”

“So did I. So did everyone,” Lenus nodded, his eyes wide in spite of himself.

Valin turned and stared down into the valley. Amidoa. He was certain he had heard she was dead. She was dead. How then was she back? Valin shuddered and stared at Lenus, “You are certain it was Amidoa?”

Lenus nodded his head, “I never saw her of course.” He held a flashing blue light towards Valin, “But every word I heard insists it is her, she knows all the correct passcodes, directions, and even the whereabouts of all the commanders and leaders of the Pull.”

Valin snatched the flashing blue light out of Lenus' hand. He stared into it, “And if it is really her...what word did she send?”

“Listen and find out.”

Valin glanced at Lenus. His soldier's eyes were wide with excitement and-what? Fear? Valin couldn't tell. He squeezed the light.

At first the noise was quiet, vague. Then it grew louder. A crash and a scream with some other noises Valin could not discern. Then a voice, “Love, it's the most horrible thing.” the voice cackled, “but I don't want to repeat myself...how about I just kill you now?” Valin swore at the voice, then listened closely as he heard a girl scream, rushing footsteps, and pounds. He heard sizzling, then an eerie, sickening cry and burning. He could almost smell the cooking flesh.

Valin squeezed and shut the light off. It turned back to a dull blue color and became silent. “He's dead?”

Lenus nodded.

Valin walked towards him, a smile beginning to form, “He is dead? Sicreet is dead?”

“Killed.”

Valin ran his hands through his hair excitedly. He turned and walked, then burst into laughter, “And he was killed by the Leverage? Oh! Irony! How long ago? When was this?”

The soldier shrugged, his hair bobbing in the wind, “A month at least. Several weeks. It took awhile for the investigation to find this.”

Valin laughed again, “And I suppose the Leverage just skipped off into the sunset, correct?”

Lenus smirked, “Allegedly. Amidoa will probably see that the sun never rises for them.”

“Oh no. I'll see to that. But tell me, what word did Amidoa send? Does she want me to find them? Be her little slave puppy?” Valin's face contorted into a sneer that ruined his handsome features.

“It's the oddest thing,” Lenus replied, “She wants you to take over the Pull.”

Shocked, Valin took a few steps back. He stared at Lenus then mulled it over out loud, “Take over the Pull? All of it?”

“She said she felt like you had 'scratched and slitted your way far enough.' She said you have proven yourself worthy of it.”

“Aethin's wings, I have!” Valin growled, turning back to the oozing black liquid a few paces away, “Why now? Why is she helping me now?”

Lenus shrugged, “Sicreet is dead. I have a feeling everything is going to change now.”

“Oh yes, especially if I really am in charge.” He turned to Lenus and placed his hand on his shoulder, “Where did she tell me to meet her, and the rest of the Pull, friend?”

“Drental, Heesen. At your brother's castle.”

Valin nodded, “When?”

“You have three weeks.”

“Thank you, Lenus,” Valin clapped him on the shoulder, “Go pack my things. We leave at dawn.”

Lenus bowed, “Yes, commander.”

Valin smirked as he went flying down the hill again. Valin stared at the flashing blue light, one of the many examples of Sicreet's stupidity as lord.

Lord, Valin smiled at the thought. Soon, that would be him. And about time too.

He threw the light with all his strength into the liquid ooze. It sputtered, then swallowed it, leaving no evidence it ever existed.   

**************************

Hehe...I like Valin.  XD

Anyway, hope you liked it!  Can't wait to start editing!  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Bible and Fantasy: Part 4



So today we are going to be talking about elves, dwarves, hobbits, fairies, mermaids, and other epic creatures.  We will also be talking about the baddies that plague fantasy worlds across the universe: goblins, trolls, giants, orcs, and such nasty creations of the subconscious.

How does God feel about creating "creatures" that have souls, human emotions, and morals, but don't necessarily look human?  And how does God feel about creating hideous and evil monsters inside our heads?


First, I would like to point out that we mere humans are not the only ones out there.  And no, before you go run and hide, I do NOT believe in aliens.  I'm talking about angels and demons.  Angels and demons are very real entities in this world, even if we can't see them.  I don't know what either of them look like.  I do know that whenever an angel appeared to someone, they usually began with "do not be afraid."  (Genesis 21:17, Matthew 28:5, Luke 1:13, etc.)

The Bible simply does not say much about angels.  I don't know if they look like humans, or if they look like something completely different, or if they can shapeshift.  But I do know that they can speak with humans (like, every angel story ever), that they can appear where God wants them to appear (Judges 6:12), and that they are in a constant war against demons (Revelation 12:7).

Demons are corrupted angels.  They were cast down with Satan in the beginning because they revolted against God.  They are wicked, evil, and constantly looking for ways to defy God.  I don't know what they look like, but the Bible says to arm yourself against the devil's schemes (Ephesians 6: 10-18).  They can posses and corrupt humans, and only the power of Christ can make them leave.  Clearly, both these beings are very powerful.

Funny thing is, Christians get all weird over different races in fantasy worlds, when our world is no different.  Angels, humans, and demons are all COMPLETELY different beings.  But you know what is interesting...and scary?  Both angels and demons have attributes common with humans.

The purpose of angels is to glorify God and do his bidding.  Same as humans.  They can speak, so can humans.  They can praise God, so can humans.  They can rejoice, so can humans.  They can fight against evil and the devil, so can humans...though perhaps not on the same front.

However, angels cannot have a personal relationship with Christ.  Jesus Christ does not come and live in their hearts like he does for us.  From what the Bible says, it does not look like angels can marry, and I would go so far as to say there is only one gender of angels.  All angels that appear in the Bible are listed as males, so I don't think there are any female angels.

Demons also have a lot in common with human.  Both corrupted themselves.  Both were cast from God's presence.  Both are inherently bad.  Both are prideful, vindictive, selfish, and malicious...no offense to any humans reading this, but it is true.  In our own flesh, there is nothing good in us.  Both look for reasons to defy God and live our own lives.

However, humans have the capability of doing good.  Not being good mind you, but doing good.  The Bible has never shown or spoke of a demon with that capability.

Okay, all this to say, there are other "humanoid" beings in our world.  But what does this have to do with fantasy?  Well, for one, I think it is okay to have human-like races that are supernatural, like Valar (The Silmarillion) and Shepherds (Dark Sea Annals).  But what about more basic creatures?  Elves, dwarves, and the like?


Well, I have said before that the main purpose of fantasy is to amplify the little things in the life.  Using Lord of the Rings, yet again, races can be used to show different aspects of us humans.  The Elves of Middle-Earth are graceful, beautiful, and in love with nature.  They do not like technology and stone, but they love the living and growing things.  Tolkien used this to display an aspect of human nature, whether he did it consciously or subconsciously, I don't know.  But every human, even the most tech-savvy, computer drooling, robot-building geek, has the desire to see and experience nature.  We all at some point in our lives have desired to do nothing except walk a gorgeous wood with no thoughts but the beauty of it all.  A quiet, graceful wood with no human building in sight is about as close as we can get to the garden of Eden, which is what we were made for.


Dwarves reflect the human desire to build things and explore the dark and dangerous places of the world.  Hobbits reflect our desire to live in the good old days, where life was simple and good.  So you see?  They are all magnified reflections of ourselves.


What about the grody creatures of fantasy?  Well, the scary thing is, it's the same thing.  Orcs were corrupted Elves.  They demonstrate what happens to a human if they become so bogged down in the things of this world until they can no longer remember what it feels like to run through a meadow barefoot, or to swim beneath a sparkling waterfall.  Gollum is a corrupted Hobbit.  He became consumed by the bare moment, by the one thing bringing pleasure to him, the Ring.  He spent years doing nothing but staring at it, thinking of no other time or place, until he even forgot his own name.  This is a reflection of what happens to humans if we live for far too long in the present, only focusing on finding our own "preciousses."

I wrote a very long post to explain a very simple concept...again.  The different races are all just reflections of ourselves.  They bring the small aspects of humanity to life in a full, new form.  I don't mean to keep nailing this point, but it is seriously the most important point in all of history.  Our job is to glorify God.  If it glorifies God, do it.  If it doesn't, then run from it!  Pray over your novel, and I promise God will tell you what to keep and what to use the old backspace button on.

Part 5 coming up soon!  Not sure what that'll be about...probably just my random thoughts on dead people, curses, religions, and such in fantasy.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Bible and Fantasy: Part 3

That's right folks.  Part Tres of my I-dunno-how-many part series!

This one will be talking about mystical creatures and characteristics in fantasy novels!  Fun, right?


So, we'll start with the most common fantasy creature: the dragon.  Some Christians have issues with dragons because the Bible often (seemingly) uses them as metaphors for evil and Satan.  (Revelation 12:9)  Also, a lot of people don't like the use of dragons because they think that they are mythical and myths aren't of God so that's bad yada yada yada.

Well, hate to burst your bubble (no, actually, I'd love to.  I'm proud of my research.  XD) but dragons were absolutely, totally, and completely real.  For one, the Bible says so.  The Hebrew word tannin appears nearly fifteen times in the Old Testament.  Tannin is the Hebrew word for sea monsters and dragons!  You can read all about it here.  Plus,God talks to Job specifically about two dragons, the Behemoth and the Leviathan.  In Job 40: 15-24, God is using the Behemoth as an example of his might and power.  Why would God be describing something Job would know nothing about?

Why do I refer to these as dragons instead of dinosaurs?  Well, the word "dinosaur" wasn't coined until 1841 by Sir Richard Owen.  I believe dragon to be more historically accurate than dinosaur.  Plus, dragon is just so much cooler.  It helps be less pessimistic when comparing the real earth to Middle-Earth.  ;)

Plus, God goes on to describe Leviathan, which can actually breathe fire!  How epic is that!  (Job 41:1-34)

So yeah, I believe in dragons.  Just had to get that aside for all the Christians who don't.  

But true, dragons probably did not covet and hide treasure.  They probably did not raid towns and villages just for the heck of it.  And odds are nobody ever rode a pterodactyl or a pteranodon. (But how epic would THAT have been???)  So dragons clearly have a lot of "mythical" traits associated with them.







Before I cover that, I'm also going to say I believe in unicorns.  However, I don't believe in single-horned horse-like creature.  I think the real unicorn was probably an elasmotherium, an extinct type of rhinocerous.  The Hebrew word re'em, unicorn, appears several times throughout the Old Testament.  Plus, Marco Polo saw one.  So yeah, I believe in dragons, unicorns, sea serpents, krackens, and fairies!  (That last one was a joke.  Everyone knows its spelled faeries.  Duh)


Now that we have established all that, its time to talk about the mystical elements attributed to "unreal" animals and "real" animals.  Let's start with Chronicles of Narnia.  In Narnia, several different types of creatures exist.  There are the talking animals, and there are the normal, non-talking animals.  The talking animals often acted much like there non-talking counterparts, but in a human like way.  For instance, Reepicheep was brave and feisty despite his size, much like normal mice.  While Puzzle the Donkey was stupid, easily swayed, though well-meaning.

C.S. Lewis was a profound theologian who deeply loved God.  He did not see issues with having his animals talk.  Now, of course, I can't point to him absolutely with that.  After all, he is only human.  He's not the Bible.  So, lets take a look at the Bible...


God does not seem to have qualms with making his animals talk.  (Numbers 22:21-35)  Of course, that passage does say "God opened the donkey's mouth."  But let's think about this.  I'm assuming everyone reading this is a Christian.  If God calls you to write, you will be writing for his Glory.  If you are writing for his Glory, then you are going to probably point to God in some way through your novel.  If you are pointing to God in some way, then what is so wrong about having your animals speak?  Aesop used this technique all the time to portray morals and truths about the world, albeit they weren't always true.

Sorry for going all "give a mouse a cookie" on you, but you see my point?  If it is to God's glory, I believe it is perfectly acceptable!  God created the animals, and personally, I believe God created them to talk in the first place.  I mean seriously, why wasn't Eve freaking out when that serpent started talking to her?  And poor Eve, if it had just been her and Adam talking that garden, life would have been pretty quiet.

"So Adam, what did you do today?"
"I worked."
"How did it go?"
"Good."
"Did you meet any new animals?"
"Nope.  Zebra got back from visiting the leopard though."
"Really!  Did you talk to him?  Was he on his way home, or had he already been there?  How is Mrs. Zebra?  Were the kids excited to see him?  How was his trip?"
"Good."

Poor Eve.  XD  God is just and merciful, and they hadn't sinned yet.  I think God had the animals talk...just to give Eve someone to talk too.

Once again, fantasy is to bring small details into light.  If you can make a point about not judging a book by its cover by having a creepy looking wolf turn out to be a kind and helpful friend, then do it!  If you can make a point about Christ's sacrifice by having a brave and perfect lion lay down his life for sinners and betrayers, then do it!


Also, fantasy is to remind us, as Christians, that we don't belong in this world.  We belong to Christ's heavenly kingdom.  His Kingdom is perfect, filled with His glory, grace, and wonder.  Once we get there, we are going to have eternity to go on incredible adventures and bask in God's epic awesomeness.  My pastor was talking about serving God and sacrificing what we want for His Glory.  He said something along the lines of, "Are you worried you'll never get to take that vacation to the Alps?  Well, have you ever stopped to imagine what heaven's Alps are like?"

Heaven is going to be so much better than we could ever dream.  And dreaming sure beats this world a lot of the time.  If Christian authors can create wonder and awe in a reader, and a yearning to be a part of that fantasy world, then they are pretty good writers.  If they can force the reader to see that there truly is a world that is far better than any fantasy, and anyone can join if they will just accept Christ, then they are the best writers.  I know y'all are probably tired of me mentioning him, but Tolkien did that for me.  I read the books, I watch the films, and I want to be there!  But that just reminds me that heaven is going to be so much more beautiful and miraculous than New Zealand and Middle-Earth.

So, back on topic, unicorns, dragons, talking animals, and magical creatures are simply tools to teach the deeper truths of the world.  Jesus used parables.  The Bible uses metaphors involving creatures.  I think it is okay to create our own version of God's creation to glorify him.

Part 4 is going to be about humanoid characters (elves, dwarves, fairies, etc.), it's going to be awesome!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Bible and Fantasy: Part 2

So, magic.

Of all the complaints I've heard against fantasy, magic is the one brought up the most.


Magic is difficult to define.  Every author defines it differently in his or her book.  In "Ember Flame," I treat magic as a gift from Elethor (God) to a select group of people.  Tolkien did not like to use the word "magic" when talking about his Elves, but Elvish "magic" in Lord of the Rings is more like a DNA thing.  Elves just naturally have it.  "The Princess and the Goblin" by George MacDonald treats it as a natural part of the world, never explaining it.

All that to say, magic is difficult to nail down.  But most people, most Christians, who have trouble with magic mostly attribute it to what the Bible says about witchcraft and spells.  Here are some verses:

Revelation 21: 8  "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars-they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death."

2 Chronicles 33: 6 (talking about Manassah, a wicked king of Judah) "He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists.  He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger."

Galatians 5: 19-21 "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God."

(more verses include Deuteronomy 18:10, Micah 5:12, Isaiah 47: 11-13, Ezekiel 13:20)

Obviously, God is less than pleased with "magic arts" and "sorcery."  So why am I about to defend certain magic in fantasy?  Well, take a look at those verses.  Look up the ones I listed.  Feel free to go on BibleGateway and search "magic" "sorcery" "witchcraft" etc.  See what almost all of those verses have in common?  They are almost always listed with other really bad sins, like murder, child sacrifice, lying, and cowardice.

But want to see what I did not list up there?  The fact that the Jews thought that Jesus was demon possessed.  They were trying to explain how he could possibly do miracles.  This is a very interesting passage, and you really should read it all even though it is long.  It drives home a point I made in my last post, but this is my favorite part.

John 8: 48-58

" The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.  Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death.  Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.  Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”"

May I first say that I just love Jesus?
I mean seriously.  Seriously.

"If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you..."  XD

Don't you just love his response to the Jews' snark?  The comment about the fifty years?  I can just see their faces when he pulled an "I am!" on them.  

My Savior rocks, y'all.

*sigh* okay, awesomeness aside, you see what He did there?  "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing."  This was the main point of my post about God in fantasy.  Fantasies, and all writing done by Christians, should be written with the sole purpose of glorifying God.  Now, I'm not saying you turn your novel into a Bible-spouting weapon to beat people over the head with.  I'm simply saying our entire purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.  We should enjoy the talents God gives us, and we should use them to the best of our abilities.  That includes our imagination and writing.  And we should use them not for our own glory, but for God's.  


Personally, I'm with Tolkien on the word "magic."  Tolkien did not like using the word because he thought it gave bad connotations.  And he is absolutely right.  "Magic" is a very loose word, and as such, it scares a lot of people.  It could be as innocent as the fairy godmother waving a wand saying "bibbity bobbity boo!" or it could be as dark as a seance and Wicca.  Here is how I personally choose to define "magic" and its different versions in fantasy.

"Magic" is the supernatural/natural/mystical/whatever that characters and worlds in fantasy often have.  It's simply the broad term that includes my next two definitions.  

"Miracles" are "magic" given to certain characters/creatures in a fantasy novel by a deity or higher power.

"Dark Arts" is what is referred to in the verses above.  It's people who turn away from the good side and instead search for power in the dark side.  I like to lump creepiness like channeling dead peeps, talking to demons, and other bad stuff in this category.  


So, you see my differences?  Tolkien's Elves have a natural ability to live forever (unless killed or die of grief), make powerful rings, be more "in tune" with nature, etc.  It was a natural grace given to them by Eru, God in the novel.  This is in the "miracle" category.  


I have not read any books with "good" characters who do Dark Arts, but I know that it has unfortunately become a theme in books now.  That's really sad.  So many people have turned away from the true, loving, and darn awesome God who created them.  But I can give you a "sorta" example.  Regina, the Evil Queen, in ABC's Once Upon a Time learned magic from Rumpelstiltskin, the Dark One.  His dark powers are a curse, which he got by murdering someone.  The Evil Queen is most certainly an evil character, and she uses her powers for evil.  Even though she does not say creepy incantations or anything like that, I still categorize this under "Dark Arts."  


Meanwhile, Emma Swan from the same show, has a natural magic she inherited from her parents.  She uses this power for good, and only good.  This is a "miracle."  

I completely understand why so many people have qualms against fantasy.  Like every genre, it does have some murky waters, and it has become increasingly so in the past few years.  Paganism, the worship of many gods and goddesses, has become quite a trend in fantasy.  Judging by what I have seen on NaNoWriMo forums, people have become obsessed with making witches and wizards the protagonists of their novels.  Dark spells, curses, and demons are beginning to abound.  Horror and fantasy have begun to be intermixed more often than not.  


It's just another sad example that we live in a de-evolving world.  Everything is going downhill, crying to God to hurry and come.  But you know what would be worse than accepting this new ideal that I fear is more than a trend in fantasy?  It would be worse to run from it.  To refuse to have anything to do with the whole genre.  Jesus commissioned Christians to go and make disciples.  To do that, we will have to be in the world, and we will have to be armed with the Spirit and the Word.  I'm not saying to go and read all those dark books.  Jesus also said to guard your hearts.  I'm saying not to run from this dark world and cower in our own little corner of safety, but to fight the darkness with the light of God's Word.  Fantasy, and all genres, desperately need more good, Christian writers.  Writers who aren't there to beat people over the head with a Bible, but to show them the love and sacrifice of Christ.  

Magic is simply one of the things that come with fantasy.  Jesus and his disciples performed miracles, your characters can too.  Nobody has issues with villains murdering other people, so I think it is okay for villains to practice dark arts. Just be sure to make it absolutely clear that what they are doing is bad, and it has consequences.  I would shy away from going into detail though.  Imagination is a gift from God, but like everything else in this world, it can be corrupted.  You don't need to imagine incredibly evil and dark images.  And you certainly don't need to put them in a novel meant to glorify God.  You don't want to become a stumbling block, so cover your novel in prayer and God will show you what to keep and what to remove.  


If you still feel qualms about magic, then perhaps God is calling you to a different genre.  Or perhaps he wants you to bring an entirely new angle to fantasy.  But, this is completely my opinion, fantasy without magic is kind of like a world without air.  And besides, isn't our own planet a miracle?  How is it possible that billions and billions of chemicals, temperatures, cycles, and gravity combine in just the right way to make life a reality?  How is it possible outside of God?  The purpose of the Christian life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, and I still believe that the purpose of fantasy is to bring the small details into focus.  We are all living miracles!  It's just so easy to get bogged down in the everyday, seemingly mundane, reality we trudge through day after day.  I think magic is simply another tool that can be used to show the miracles, truths, darkness, and light of our own world.

Wow, what a long post!  I've changed my mind, mystical creatures is in two more days.  XD  Plus, I'll probably have a little bit more on magic in specific books.  See ya then! 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Bible and Fantasy: Part 1

Ello everyone!  I hope your year is going well!

Anyway today's post will be about overcoming some common issues in Fantasy by finding solutions in the Bible.  I know several people who don't like/approve of fantasy and I think it is because they believe it is Biblically unsound.  If we're talking about some fantasy books, they would be right.  But overall, I think I can refute most of the arguments against fantasy in general.

Alright, lets start.

Issue Number Uno: God is the creator of the world.  Is it right for you to invent/create your own world and write about it as if it were real?  Is it okay to create an alternate way "God" created your world?  Is it right to create an alternate version of God?

This is the toughest one to answer.  It really depends on the particular novel.  Here is what I consider a wrong version of fantasy, and one that I think is right.

Before I begin, I would like to say that I really do like Bryan Davis.  He is an extremely talented writer.  I even attended a writing workshop held by him and I learned a lot from him. His plots tend to be interesting, even if his characters are a tad stereotyped.  I met him, and I truly believe him to be a good Christian man.

However, Bryan Davis tends to insert things into his stories that give me a pause.  For one, he has a bad habit of always resurrecting his dead characters.  I'm going to cover that issue in a later post.  But he also tends to insert spiritual elements into his story that either don't sit right, or blatantly go against what the Bible says.  Here is my example:


In his series "Dragons in Our Midst" the characters discover that they have a need to go to Hell.  No, literally.  Some sort of relic thingamajig got stuck down there, and they have to go and get it back.  When I first got to this part, I paused a little, but I continued reading, hoping he would surprise me.  He did, but it wasn't pleasant.  Turns out, there are "circles" in Hell, and different pits for different sorts of people. There was even this bizarre town where some people who WEREN'T dead were trapped, and one of them was a Christian!  Okay, this made me feel a little weird, because I know that God views all sin as sin and there aren't different "circles" for different sorts of people.  Plus, I did not think it Biblical that live people could just go traipsing through hell when it suits them.


Not only do the characters go to Hell and manage to get out, they also go to Heaven, and they have to fight this huge battle at the gates of heaven.  None of the characters were angels, and none of the characters were dead.  There was even ANOTHER bizarre little town in front of heaven where some other undead beings resided.

So how does this apply? First of all, I might not have been so perturbed at this if the story took place in an actual fantasy world.  This story however, was about King Arthur legends and dragons in the real world.  It's a form of fantasy, and it was an extremely gripping tale with lots of potential.  I did not like it though.  First and foremost, I did not like the weird spiritual realms he added to a story that takes place in the real world.  I also didn't like the characters, but that's beside the point.

The point is: his story goes against what the Bible says, and it takes place in the real world.  Fantasy that takes place in the real world should add mystical elements, but I don't think it is right to tamper with spiritual realms. (And yes, I will be covering magic in a later post too.)


Matthew 10:28 is Jesus talking to his disciples.  He says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can kill both soul and body in hell."
The "One" Jesus is referring to is Satan.  This passage says that bodies and souls are destroyed in hell.  Why weren't the characters destroyed body and soul in hell?  Because they were Christians?  Well...


Matthew 25: 31-46 recounts the parable of the sheep and the goats.  Jesus said he would separate the the "sheep" (righteous) from the "goats" (unrighteous).  The righteous will inherit eternal life in heaven, while Jesus says the goats will inherit eternal punishment.

This and other passages (Psalm 16, John 3: 16, John 10: 28, etc.) show that Christians will not go to hell.  We also don't go to heaven before we die.

Now for my good example.


The Silmarillion recounts the stories of the Silmarils and the creation of Middle-Earth.  Long before Middle-Earth was formed, Eru (God) created the Valar.  He taught them how to sing, and he taught them notes that when they sang it together it created Middle-Earth.  However, Melkor, one of the Valar, was proud and jealous of Eru.  He created his own notes, and through it he created darkness and sin.


J.R.R. Tolkien was a very strong Christian.  Heck, he was the one who brought C.S. Lewis to Christ.  How would y'all like that on your Christian resume?  Any Christian can clearly see the parallels between the real Creation of the world in Genesis, and the Middle-Earth creation of the world.  God created the heavens and the earth to glorify him.  Eru created the Valar to sing and glorify him, so that Middle-Earth might be made.  Lucifer became jealous and wanted the power for himself.  God cast him to earth, where he and the other fallen angels caused mischief  and tempted Adam and Eve into sinning.  Melkor wanted Eru's glory and power, so he tried to lead some of the Valar against him.  He was exiled to Middle-Earth, where he formed darkness and despair.


Now, here is why I think Tolkien was right in what he did.  Tolkien was very open about his Christian faith, and his books clearly resound with his love for God.  He did not write this "for the sake of his story."  He wrote this to glorify God.  Many non-Christians read his books, and if they truly love them, they might look into Tolkien's beliefs.  Who knows?  His books have probably brought at least a few people to Christ!  Even if they have not, they strengthened my understanding of God and the purpose of Nature and Heroism.

Bryan Davis' on the other hand, takes place in the real world.  It makes it very unclear what is real and what is not.  You see "real world fantasy" should have a very clear line between the "real" and the "not real."  When I read a real world fantasy,particularly a Christian real world fantasy, I know that telephones, dogs, God, videogames, and New York City are all real.  I also already know that dragons, Excalibur  anthrozils, and wizards like Merlin are not real.  The line gets really blurry though, when you begin tampering with spiritual issues.  I've never been to Hell.  I wouldn't know if there would be live people trapped down there.  But something doesn't sit right with me about that.  I've never been to heaven.  How should I know if there is a town sitting outside the gate?  But something does not sit right with me about that either.

So you see my point?  As long as you make it very clear you are glorifying God, it should be okay.  Dragons in our Midst was an extremely exciting series, and I admit, the Hell and Heaven parts made it even more interesting.  But did Bryan Davis put that in to teach me something about God, or to make his story better?  I have a feeling it was the latter.  At least I hope so.  If it were the former, then he would need to examine the Bible a little closer.  You see the problem?  I'm very confused on what he was trying to say.

With Tolkien on the other hand, he was trying to demonstrate the love and care God shows for our planet.  If Eru, an unreal representation of the real God, can love, care, and look over an unreal Hobbit with such dedication, how much more so will the real God love, care, and watch over me?  It is a staggering thought, and I can't wait to meet Tolkien in heaven someday to thank him personally.

Tune in to Part 2 in two days!  It will be about magic and mythical creatures!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013!

Sheesh.  Is it seriously 2013?  I feel like I'm in Doctor Who...

ANYWAY, most people post their resolutions.  Now, I'm all for "resolving" to do something, but the whole resolution deal never works for me.  I like plans and deadlines better...so here are some of my writing plans for 2013!

Finish rough draft of Hail Frost by January 6th
Completely edit and reformat Ember Flame and have published by the end of May
Completely edit and reformat Hail Frost and have published by the end of June
100 for 100 challenge by Go Teen Writers starting on February 1st.
Write a script during the April Script Frenzy
And, of course, National Novel Writing Month in November

So those are things I know I am absolutely going to do.  I have some more vague ones....

I am going to completely rewrite Midnight Warrior.  That's right, I'm not going to continue with what I have at all.  Turns out, alternating first person is EXTREMELY hard for the intense plotline.  It did not fit the story at all.  Plus, the world is so large and enchanting, I can build so much more than what I have.  All that to say, I'm starting over.

A lot of people say that you don't become a "real writer" until you write a million words.  I don't necessarily believe this.  I think a "real writer" is anyone who sits down to write because they want too.  But still, a million words is a pretty cool milestone.  I want to try and reach it this year!  I am currently around 400,000 words written total.  I at least want to make it to 800,000.

I want to enter into more short story contests and maybe contribute to the Kingdom Pen e-magazine.

I will might do Camp Nano.  It all depends on how crazy life is at that time.  I can tell you one thing, if I do it, I will NOT be writing 90,000.  It would probably be more like 60,000.

So there you have it!  My list of goals for 2013!  Hope all of you have a Happy New Year's Day and an even happier New Year!  :)

On a side note, it's my Dad's birthday!  So, happy birthday to the best dad ever!  :)