Write

Write

write | Guy L. PaceTo write, or not to write–that is the question:
Whether ’tis wiser in the heart to suffer
The stings and barbs of reviewers and readers
Or to take up pen against a sea of paper
And by writing, satisfy them.

(Apologies to Shakespeare.)

Okay, I promise not to hack The Bard any more.

Carolina Dawn is in the second round of editing with my editor. It’s been a year since I started the project during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I went through the rough draft a couple of times to fix a few things, make sure my timeline wasn’t all messed up, and polish it up. Then I let it simmer for entirely too long. I know. It was a busy summer.

I’m not working on a project this year for NaNoWriMo. I’ve done three NaNo’s, and produced three books. That’s a pretty good score for now. I plan to work on more short fiction and maybe put together a small collection. I may compile the Spirit Missions into a single, special volume and include the two short stories (Amy’s Lesson and The Gift) published here. That might be fun.

When I get closer to a publication date, I’ll keep you all posted and fill the Events page with readings, signings and all that. I hope next spring gets very busy with this third book out.

One of the best parts of writing, I found, is getting to meet readers. Especially young readers.

Keep writing.

 

Can Christian SF&F be Good?

Can Christian SF&F be Good?

Well, can it?

Can Christian SF&F be Good? | Guy L. PaceI struggled with this for a long time. I tried to read some Christian science fiction and fantasy, and fiction, and some of it was … well … not so good. So, if you have an opinion that it isn’t good, you may have found some of the same work I did.

That is the reason I wrote Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers. I wrote something I wanted to read. Something different, fresh, exciting. As a result I also met a few other authors who are writing Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF&F). And, what they write is good! Here are some of my favorites:

Tabitha Caplinger

Joshua McHenry Miller

Nadine Brandes

What sets these (and–I hope–my own work) apart from the rest? Story, mostly, and character. Christian fiction, including SF&F, shouldn’t vary that much from mainstream fiction at all. The only thing that should differentiate Christian fiction from mainstream is the characters. The characters, or the main character, is Christian and the story should center on that character’s struggle with faith. But, that isn’t all the story should address. The real world throws all kinds of situations, problems, and hassles at people. It doesn’t matter if they are Christian or otherwise. The whole point of the Christian part of science fiction and fantasy is how the characters deal with the same situations, problems, and hassles as their mainstream counterparts.

Challenges

In Sudden Mission, the main character (Paul) gets a mission to correct reality. This is a straight up “hero’s journey” with Paul as the reluctant hero–right out of Joseph Campbell’s concept. The mission challenges his faith and his willingness to obey God. As a friend recently said about the book: “You throw everything but the kitchen sink at him. And then you add the kitchen sink.” But, that’s what good stories do. Characters  must work toward a goal in spite of their flaws or limitations, and meet challenges for which they are not prepared. None of this is the sole domain of mainstream fiction or SF&F, and I know of no rule that says Christian fiction can’t go there.

Tabitha Caplinger’s The Chronicle of the Three series (the first two are out and available) throws her main characters–Christians who have varying levels of faith–to the wolves, er, demons. Each character has their faith, or lack thereof, challenged as they face the situations Tabitha so creatively pushes them into.

Nadine Brandes’ Out of Time series follows Parvin through both the life and death struggle to survive in a malevolent future dystopia, and her journey to understanding of Christian principles to help guide her life. Parvin faces characters who at first seem to be friends, but turn out otherwise, and makes mistakes that cost her much (I’m not going to spoil anything here).

Neither of these, or my books, hammer Holy Bible passages at the reader. That’s not what makes them Christian young adult or teen SF&F.

Joshua Miller’s book Tyrants and Traitors is a little different. The setting is ancient Israel. It is a retelling of the story of Saul and David (using different names) based on the Old Testament scripture in Samuel I and II. While this isn’t directly Christian, it is about faith, learning about God, and learning to serve God. The bonus in this one is Joshua gets you into the ancient culture, politics, and history, and it feels like you’re right in there. I understand more is coming. Soon, I hope.

Too Much

Some young adult or teen fiction you see in Christian book stores is a bit too sweet, not pushing the boundaries, no action, no adventure, and ends up with too much preaching. Some seem to have a Holy Bible verse on every page, or read like a long devotional. Teens and young adults want adventure, action, a little romance, and sometimes some scary, dangerous events.

Like the teens and young adults we write the stories and books for, the characters should have to deal with real issues from problems at school, problems with parents, bullies, growing up issues, sex and romance. If you don’t address these issues in Christian young adult and teen fiction and SF&F, those teens and young adults are going to read stories about those issues in other genres.

Granted, we, as Christian young adult/teen authors, use Bible references where appropriate. Of course we have to put a disclaimer in the front matter to provide attribution for the version and edition.

So, to answer the question: Yes. Christian SF&F can be good. Not just good, but great.

Keep writing.

 

Amy’s Lesson

(This is a short-short story–about 1,500 words–I put together the other day. My thought is to write a third novel following Paul and Amy from Sudden Mission and the sequel, but from Amy’s point of view. So this is an exercise in writing from Amy’s point of view, plus a little view into the dystopian world they live in, and some seasonal fun. Happy Halloween. – GLP)

Amy Grossman shrugged her shoulders against her backpack straps as she entered the small town. The breeze pushed a lock of her auburn hair across her grey eyes and she gently looped it back behind her ear with her right hand.

Aside from the breeze tossing gold and brown leaves and bits of paper around the street, nothing else moved in the town. Empty storefronts looked out on the main street. Windows shattered, doors smashed in, and the products formerly offered for sale inside gone.

They seemed to cry out to the empty streets. Why?

Fall was strong in the air and the early morning frost that coated her sleeping bag was still fresh in Amy’s memory, and just then it made her shiver. Normally, the autumn breeze would bring crisp scents and a promise of harvest and feasts. But this small town had been ravaged by looters, gangs and rovers in the last two years. The smells in and around it held a strong suggestion of decay and rot.

Fortunately, the smells of not-so-freshly dead were long gone.

BOAmy jumped, startled by the sudden rush of breeze and scrape of dry leaves on the sidewalk near an alleyway. She found herself in a fighting stance, holding her bō in an attack position, looking around. She still had nightmares from her experiences on this last summer’s mission trip. The lost souls they went to save, the hellhounds, the battles, the demon, and the possessed–all continued to haunt her daily life.
She remembered there was a term for what she now experienced. Nightmares, jumping at sudden noises, being hyper-vigilant. She just didn’t remember the term. It’s not important now, anyway, she told herself. There isn’t anyone to help me deal with it other than Paul and my family.

She shook it off and continued on. She sought a grocery or hardware store that may still have something useful left. This was the third town in the last few days of foraging. They were having to go further and further from their community each time they sent out foragers. And each time they returned with fewer useful items, less edible foods.

Amy had a short list from the community, most of which she found already. But she still needed to find some tools and some special oil, undamaged clothing, and any edible food.

The community produced almost everything anyone needed from their household gardens and a few small farms. But, they always sought to add any unspoiled canned food and stocks of clothing. Amy could not carry all that back in her backpack, but would note the location of large stocks of clothing, food, or hardware for larger groups who would come later with trucks.

Fuel was rare now so vehicles were only used when absolutely necessary and there was a large cache of supplies to bring in.

She stepped carefully across the threshold of a broken entry door, trying not to make too much noise. Her eyes scanned the dingy, dark interior of the former hardware store.

#

Nothing moved.

She didn’t expect to find much on the shelves. Most were cleared of anything useful. Everything left behind was damaged or destroyed and joined the detritus covering the shelves and floor of the store. She moved carefully toward the rear of the store and found the door to the back room. This is where stock was kept until brought out to the shelves. Looters often overlooked this part of the store operations, and the community harvested a lot of good tools and material in these back rooms.

This one, though, was well looted. Boxes torn open and the remains of spilled fluids and powders littered the floor. If there had been tools and equipment back here, they were long gone.

She shook her head, but still made a loop through the room to make sure she didn’t miss anything.

Outside, she identified a small grocery a couple of blocks down the street and made her way to it. Just after the Troubles, the time when Satan threw reality into chaos and decimated two-thirds of the world population, supermarkets and grocery stores were difficult to enter. Power failures caused frozen and refrigerated food storage to fail. The resulting smell of rotting food could be overpowering. Now it wasn’t so bad. You just didn’t touch or move anything from the freezer or cooler units.

She walked slowly through the aisles of the grocery. What she found was boxed food chewed into by mice, or worse. All the canned food she saw was dented or bulging–and most of those scattered on the floor. No coffee in cans, bags or bulk at all. At the bulk bins for coffee, she opened one and breathed deeply of the aroma. Even empty, it still held an aroma.

I miss good coffee, she thought.

She sighed and shuffled on.

In the candy aisle, she saw one little bag dangling from a display hanger. It had a patina of dust, but a dull orange and yellow could be seen through it. As she drew closer, she recognized it.

Candy corn.

Carefully, she pulled the small bag from the hanger bar and gently wiped the dust off the package. Yes, it was candy corn. It was intact and the candy inside looked unharmed, even safe to eat. The pieces had bright white, orange, and yellow parts.

She resisted the urge to tear it open and devour all the pieces immediately. Tears filled her eyes and spilled down her freckled cheeks. Memories of her childhood, Halloween treats, and the flavor and sweetness of candy corn in her mouth drifted through her head.

Then another memory–a lesson–came to her. Something she could do to share this special treasure.

Candy corn.

#

Amy watched the small children enter her little Sunday school classroom. She could barely contain herself as she sat on the floor waiting for them. They circled around her and joined her on the floor doing the normal things small children do; wriggling, giggling, and squirming around.

“How are you all this fine Sunday?” Amy said. This was the signal for the children to settle down and pay attention. After a moment, they were attentive.

“Fine, Miss Amy,” they chorused.

“Good,” she said. She looked around at the small, sweet, smiling faces. “We have an interesting lesson today. Who can tell me what God is?”

One little boy shot his hand up. Amy nodded to him.

“God is good,” he said.

“Thank you, Brad. That is correct. Anyone else? What is God?”

A little girl on the other side put her hand up.

“God is our Heavenly Father,” she said when Amy looked at her.

Amy smiled and nodded.

“Right. Did you also know that God is three in one?”

All the children looked at Amy, some confused.

“God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” she said, using the fingers of her left hand to enumerate the points. “All three in one God. It is called the Trinity.”
Another little boy raised his hand.

“Yes, David,” Amy said.

“Does he come apart like a toy?”

“No, not really,” Amy said. She chuckled softly. “Let me show you something that might help understand God.”

She reached behind her and into her pack and carefully brought out a small package. Her hands shook just a little. There was enough for all the children here, with some left over. But for all she knew, this was the last package in existence. She carefully opened the package and spilled the contents out in her hand.

“This is candy corn,” she said. “I want each of you to take one. Just take one, hold it in your hand and look at it carefully.”

The children all took a piece of the small candies. Amy realized this was the first–and likely the last–time that these children would see and experience candy corn.

“Notice that there is a white part at the tip, an orange part in the middle, and a yellow part on the large end.”

She used her own piece to demonstrate as she spoke, pointing to each part. “But the candy corn is one piece. This is like God. God has the Father part, the Son part, and the Holy Spirit part, but is just the one God.”

The children looked at the candy and back at Amy. No one raised a hand.

“And, do you know the best part?” Amy said. She held up her piece of the candy.
Most of the children shook their heads. No one raised a hand.

“God is sweet and good! Just like candy corn.” Amy popped the candy corn into her mouth and chewed. The flavor wasn’t as strong as she remembered, and the candy was just slightly stale. But it was good and sweet. She savored it a moment, with those childhood memories flooding back. Then she noticed the children hadn’t moved a muscle.

“It’s okay,” she said, smiling. “You can eat your candy now.”

< The End >

Keep writing.