‘So What’s “Bell Mountain” All About?

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Ten years later, I’m still trying to answer this question. The Lord has much to teach me.

So What’s ‘Bell Mountain’ All About?

I am waiting for the 13th book in the Bell Mountain series to be published (can’t imagine what’s delayed it!), No. 14 is written, and I’ve just started writing No. 15, The Witch Box. There are those who say the series is too long; but I’m still very far away from catching up Tarzan, Hercule Poirot, Rick Brant, Freddy the Pig, et al. Edgar Rice Burroughs grew weary of Tarzan, and Agatha Christie would have gladly pitched Poirot into a tar pit; but I still love my characters. Besides, there are always new ones that come along, and I never know where they’re going to take me.

The Adult Fantasy’s Not So Hot, Either

Emissary by Thomas Locke, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Yesterday we looked at a review of an appallingly bad fantasy novel pitched to children.

Today’s mouldering pile of rubbish was marketed to adults.

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/review-of-christian-novel-emissary

Question! When in America did “mainstream” come to mean “completely outside the Christian world-view,” and how did we ever allow that to happen?

Christian fiction author T. Davis Bunn, with a string of best-sellers on his resume, decided a few years ago to write “a wholly secular fantasy”, Emissary, under the pseudonym of Thomas Locke; and a major Christian publisher decided to publish it.

Emissary contained every fantasy cliche known to man; it was a veritable thesaurus of cliches. Why in the world do fantasy writers do this??? I mean, it’s “fantasy,” right–and that means it’s supposed to be imaginative. Like, what is the freakin’ point of a thoroughly unimaginative fantasy? Why bother to write it? Why bother to read it? If you’re an experienced fantasy reader, you’ll already know precisely what sort of characters will appear in the story, you’ll know exactly what they’ll say and do on any occasion, and the only surprise you’ll ever get is if you drop the book and fall out of your chair trying to pick it up. If you even bother.

Also, many of these fantasy cliches, in addition to their thorough predictability, are basically pagan–not “Christian” in any sense of the word. Why did Mr. Bunn waste his talents on such bilge?

Fantasy matters because it has access to regions of the heart and mind not easily explored by other kinds of stories. It matters because it ought to be included in Christ’s Kingdom and put at the service of that kingdom, not reserved as a province of neo-paganism.

And I wonder if Mr. Bunn just stopped caring about such things.

 

 

Truly Abysmal Children’s Literature

I’ve done a lot of book reviews for Chalcedon, and I thought you might like me to share them with you.

Some of these books were breathtakingly, astoundingly bad. Here’s a book supposedly written for children under 12–Spartan and the Green Egg: The Poachers of Tiger Mountain.

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/book-review-of-spartan-and-the-green-egg-the-poachers-of-tiger-mountain

Looking back on it, this book is more hair-raisingly awful than it seemed while I was reading it. Conferring virtual omnipotence on children, by means of insanely high technology, is not an idea I can get comfortable with.

And what would possess any mother to name her baby “Spartan”?

This book is just so incredibly bad, I might actually be afraid to read it to a child. What if it puts him off reading for life? What if he gets mad at me for insulting his intelligence?

But worst of all–

What if he thinks it’s good?

I wake up screaming.

‘How Bad Should Your Bad Guys Be?’ (2017)

Image result for images of richard iii

If he’s really worse than Shakespeare’s Richard III, or Iago, your villain’s got problems–which will be passed on to both the writer and the reader.

How Bad Should Your Bad Guys Be?

Well, okay, how many of us have to worry whether the villains we make up are credible? Oh, but many people do like to try their hand had writing a story, so these tips may not come amiss. And fiction can sometimes help us to understand what we see and hear in real life.

My villains all have something in common–they justify themselves to themselves. The elasticity of this approach is limitless. Even Stalin, Mao, or Hitler could have used it, and very likely did.

P.S.–I don’t believe Richard was anywhere near the villain Shakespeare made him out to be. He’s a great example of what happens when your enemies win and get to write the history.

 

‘Are We Really Talking “Christian Fiction”?’ (2018)

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What makes “Christian fiction” Christian? Is it just a convenient marketing term, or does it have a real meaning?

Are We Really Talking ‘Christian Fiction’?

You’ll be interested in the comments by Nadine and Unknowable.

BTW, getting a super-early start hasn’t helped me in the least. Neither have key words. I’m not going to bother with them anymore.

‘Can’t Miss! “Throne of Games”‘ (2018)

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A lot of people say they hate fantasy, and never read it. I think this comes from exposure to fantasy of the kind represented by Throne of Games.

Can’t Miss! ‘Throne of Games’

Don’t accuse me of exaggerating. There really are fantasies featuring characters with names that sound like bathroom products. And there are a lot of fantasies that are just plain awful.

Me, I dunno: some readers are crazy for Russian novels, and those are full of names that are much harder for English-speakers to handle than anything in Tolkien. Yeahbut, yeahbut! Those names are real names! What–you mean “Maalox” isn’t? You need to get out more.

Book Review: ‘The Realm Beyond the Storm’

The Realm Beyond the Storm (Wind Rider Chronicles Book 6) - Kindle edition  by Reid, Allison D.. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

We know Allison D. Reid as “Weavingword,” a long-time member of our blog community, and this is Book 6 of her “Wind Rider Chronicles,” The Realm Beyond the Storm. I’m going to review it for Chalcedon, but I wanted to do it here first–warming up to the task, as it were. And Christian fantasy writers need our support!

This is her best book so far. It features a very strong climax, laden with suspense, and is infused with the wisdom of the Scriptures: the alert Christian reader will find many echoes of the Bible. Another plus is her intimate study of medieval life and culture, which serves to make her fantasy world convincing.

The continuing story in the series is a war launched ultimately from Hell, with plenty of human servants who think they’ll profit by it (sound familiar?), and the travels, toils, and perils experienced by God’s servants. The chief protagonists are three sisters: Morganne, a scholar and a seamstress; Elowyn, an eccentric middle child who may turn out to be a prophet; and Adelin, who was still a baby when the series started and has yet to grow into any definite role. But I have a feeling that she will.

These are believable and sympathetic characters, each with her own voice and her own part to play, with none of the usual and mostly unbearable fantasy cliches attached. Allison has a gift for making her characters come alive. As I read, I can see and hear them as if they were characters in a movie playing in my mind. I do love it when that happens.

Don’t ask me to summarize a plot that has taken six books to present, so far. Suffice it to say that the war’s stakes are the survival of the human race and maybe even Creation itself. There are supernatural forces at work throughout, some for good, some for evil. And let me say there’s at least one major and unexpected plot twist that has me eager to find out what happens next.

Allison’s Wind Rider books are available on amazon.com. They’re self-published, but don’t let that put you off. I root for the day that sees them professionally published for a bigger market. Which they deserve.

 

‘Writing Believable Fantasy’ (2017)

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“The writer who can’t look into another person’s heart, and find some kinship with it…” might as well go on to Congress. Or join the nooze media.

So what does it take to write believable fantasy?

Writing Believable Fantasy

I only get to see books that are actually published; and a lot of those are bad enough to dry up a good-sized pond. After many years of studying the matter, I don’t know why that should be. Unless it’s simply that so very few people can actually write a good novel, the supply can never catch up to the demand and a lot of pfud gets published because they don’t have anything better.

 

‘A Serial Poisoner Stalks Broken Hill’ (2015)

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The nooze is getting me down, I can hardly bear to cover it.

And so, for the time being, turn we unto murder mysteries–stories about crimes that get solved instead of just sucking whole countries into their depths.

The Bachelors of Broken Hill, an Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte mystery by Arthur Upfield–this is one of the best detective novels you’ll ever read.

A Serial Poisoner Stalks Broken Hill

No matter how fiendishly clever the crime, “Bony” will always solve it. No matter how big the crime, the perps won’t get away with it.

I know, I know–now it sounds like fantasy. Well, so what? Go ahead–just try to convince me that multitudes of anti-heroes in “I give up, everything’s so awful!” stories have done anybody any good–let alone the country. Prayer and faith are what it takes to help us back to a belief in ordinary goodness, decency, and sanity. But a little dab of fantasy doesn’t hurt.

 

Talkin’ My Books (with Jon Dykstra)

The Last Banquet (Bell Mountain, #4) by Lee Duigon

Jon Dykstra, of Reformed Perspective, did a wonderful job of interweaving some of my blog posts and some of my answers to his questions into a seamless, easy-flowing article. It first appeared in 2017.

After Lewis and Tolkien

I’ve also been asked why I bother writing fantasy while America is being eaten alive by Democrats; but that question doesn’t come up in this article. I’ll have to answer that another time.

For now, Mr. Dykstra’s editorial skills still have me going “Wow!”

I hope he makes you want to read my books.