Friday, December 2, 2022

Daican's Heir Cover Reveal

The Daican's Heir cover is here!

I had the great privilege of reading an early version of this book a few months ago, and let me tell you, this book is FANTASTIC!!! I CANNOT WAIT to read the final version. It's been a good while since we got new Ilyon, and this book is so totally worth the wait. All the angst and danger and also fluffiness, and Jace and Kyrin are just SOOOO ADORABLE. So many things to bring the series full circle, again, so much angst and so much fluff too. I can't wait for y'all to get to read it.

And now.

Yes, I'm trying to make you have to scroll down to see the cover.

Here it is.


Don't you just love it? Davira is just...she's so evil and it's time to take her DOWN.

Ahem.

Here's the description, and make sure you check out the preorder!

For three years, the Resistance has suffered under oppression—first from Emperor Daican and now from his daughter. In her quest for vengeance, Davira has ripped Arcacia apart, and more blood is spilled every day. Newly married, all Jace and Kyrin want is to be able to live their lives in peace. In order to do that, they must help restore the rightful heir to Arcacia’s throne.

Carrying the weight of everyone’s hopes for the future, Daniel works every day to be the leader and king they have all fought so hard to see him become. With the Resistance and their allies from all across Ilyon united behind him, he prepares for a final confrontation with Davira. But to do so will require facing the full might of Arcacia’s military and Davira’s wrath.

When Jace and Kyrin become the primary targets of her ravenous hatred, Daniel finds himself in a race against time to stop his sister and avoid the bloodbath she is determined to unleash. Can he find a way to protect his loved ones and bring peace to Ilyon or will Davira succeed in bringing them all to their knees and destroying everything they hold dear?

And an excerpt from chapter 1!

Jace didn’t like ships.

His stomach had threatened to heave itself up his throat since he’d re-boarded the talcrin vessel an hour ago. So far he’d managed to keep it in place, but Holden wasn’t so lucky. He had already lost what remained of his supper over the edge and now leaned heavily on the railing. Clearly, it would take a lot more than the two days they’d previously spent on board, sneaking the Militia into Samara, for their stomachs to get used to the sea.

A low groan rumbled from Holden’s hunched form. “Remind me never to set foot on a ship again after this. I’ll happily stick to dragons.”

Jace had to agree with him there. As much as he hated heights, he’d far rather fly with Gem right now. And it wasn’t just his churning gut that bothered him. Despite only small waves rippling the sea, each dip and tilt of the ship robbed him of balance. The lack of solid footing left him feeling vulnerable. Not that he had any threats to worry about just yet. Those awaited him on shore.

Footsteps passed behind him, and he looked over his shoulder. Though pre-dawn darkness cloaked the ship, and they’d forgone any lanterns that could give away their position, General Torva strode across the deck with a confident stride. He made an impressive figure, as most talcrins did. He reminded Jace of Sam, especially in stature, though his hair was long and gathered into small braids, and his eyes flashed a cunning copper.

Their talcrin allies were obviously masters of the sea. Jace hadn’t seen any of them on the verge of losing their stomach contents, though maybe that had not been the case when they’d first left Arda a few weeks ago. Somehow, Rayad and Trask didn’t seem affected either.

Torva stopped at the railing a couple yards away, feet planted and fists on his hips as he stared out over the dark sea. His bronze scale-mail glinted faintly like dragon scales. Jace had never seen armor quite like it.

“We should be nearing the city.”

Jace scanned the horizon. He could barely make out the shore from this distance—just a black line against the indigo water and sky. No signs of a city, but the talcrins would know better how far they had traveled.

Someone else drew near. Jace shifted, and Rayad put his hand on his shoulder.

“How are you doing?”

Jace wasn’t sure if the question was in regards to his queasiness or what lay ahead. He shrugged. He still thought Balen should have chosen someone other than him to lead this mission. Someone with actual leadership skills and experience. But then, he was the one who could see in the dark, and their plan to take back Samara’s capital depended on infiltrating the city undetected. Logically, he offered the greatest chance of success.

Rayad gave his shoulder a squeeze. “We’ll be right behind you.”

It'll be here before we know it! 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Indie Author Black Friday Sale!


I'm still alive, y'all! I know I've been pretty absent here, my newsletter, and even Instagram but I do have a legit, if not especially fun reason for it. I promise I'll write a real blog post soon with a proper update, but for now I'm going to leave it at school+work+sickness.

Today, I want to make sure you know all about the Indie Author Black Friday sale! We have over 600 titles this year, all free or $0.99 on kindle! As usual, Creighton Hill is free and the rest of Time Captives + Acktorek and Twisted Dreams are all $0.99. There are SOOOOO many books this year, but there are a few I have to especially mention.

First off, Ilyon Chronicles, which is super important because book 6, Daican's Heir (which is absolutely amazing, by the way) is finally almost done and just went up on preorder today! You do not want to miss this series!

Y'all know how much I love Elven Alliance, I've been raving about it for years. And they're on sale for Black Friday too! So make sure you check them out so you can experience the adorableness that is Essie and Farrendel for yourself. 

And the newest Firmament book, Eleftheria, is on sale too! I've been a HUGE fan of this series since I read the first book in 2013, and this particular book is one I anxiously awaited for the past nine years--and it was totally worth the wait! I reviewed it earlier this week on my blog, so you can go check that out and see why you need to read it.

Make sure you browse around the site too! I haven't read nearly all the books that are on there, but there are definitely some whose covers have caught my attention.

That's all for now, and hopefully I'll see ya real soon!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Firmament: Eleftheria Review


They're finally going back.

Several months after the discovery of Kainus Ge, the Surveyor's crew has a new mission – to gather more information about the planet and try to negotiate a treaty with its ruler. Andi is excited at the prospect of seeing Elasson again, but the arrival of a legalistic attorney on the ship threatens to once again turn her way of life upside down.

How has Elasson fared on the treacherous desert planet in their absence? Can the crew find a way to help the people of Kainus Ge, or will their presence throw the civilization into chaos? And with loved ones absent and rules and regulations forcing unwanted change on her home, how can Andi find her place in the world?

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

*cue the fangirl squealing*

Seriously, though, I'm not sure how I can make it through this review without dissolving into a puddle of fangirly happiness and totally spoiling the whole book.

Ahem.

Y'all.

I waited almost nine years for this book and IT WAS WORTH EVERY SECOND. See, I got book 2, In His Image, for Christmas in 2013 and proceeded to devour it, fall in love with Elasson (who I still 100% ship with Andi), and proceed to pester Grace for, well, the next nearly nine years about when I was going to see Elasson again and by the way, is my ship canon? Well, I still don't know if my ship is canon though there were moments that (okay, maaaaaaybe I'm just seeing what I want to see, but I don't think so) had my sister and me squealing and speculating. Even though Andi's still super annoyed with the Captain not so subtly trying to set her up—

Aaaanyway, trying to not be spoilery but ELASSON IS BAAAAAACK. Or rather, the crew of the Surveyor gets to go back to Kainus Ge and see Elasson again. *big cheesy grin* 

Why is it so hard to not spoil the whole thing?

It's just SO GOOD. 

But it's not all sunshine and roses getting to go back to Kainus Ge. A legalistic attorney is pointing out all the violations that are just a normal way of life on the Surveyor—like Andi working in medbay with the Doctor—and that's just the beginning. Helping the people of Kainus Ge with Basilius, Elasson's brother, being just as unfriendly as ever while not violating the rules and causing total upheaval to their way of life is hard enough...and then things go crazy and I had so many emotions, from anger to shock to elation to, well, fangirl squealing...

And oh, why are the things I love the most about this book spoilers?

I love seeing my Firmament family again, I LOVED revisiting Kainus Ge, I loved the roller coaster of emotions I went on as I read it in a matter of hours, and after this one, I am beyond excited for upcoming books. 

I really cannot express how much I loved this book, though if I admit that at 26 years old, thinking about certain elements of the story make me squeal and actually literally jump up and down, that might give you something of an idea.

Go read the Firmament series. I know I've said that many times over. But really, truly, I love it so much and I want y'all to experience the awesomeness too.

And we got to see Elasson again!

Monday, September 26, 2022

"Don't Like, Don't Read"

"Don't like, don't read" is a tag/disclaimer I've seen used a number of times on fanfiction sites. It makes me sad that people feel like they need to state that, but...I've seen the comments left on certain fics.

But I've been thinking about that tag lately beyond the context of fanfiction. Because it really applies to so much more.

I don't think you have to spend much time on the internet to see the fandoms getting stirred up, to see people tearing apart franchises they supposedly love, rage/hate watching things for the express purpose of trashing it publicly. I can't say I've never watched something I knew I wasn't going to like for the purpose of seeing how bad it was. I can only think of one time I did it purposely, but I did do it once. I can't say I've never publicly stated that I didn't like X for Y reasons. I did try to be dispassionate, but I did it, and now I question the wisdom of it.

Because if you don't like something, you don't have to read or watch it. And you don't really need to talk other people into hating it either.

It's something I do struggle with. I'll admit to telling people the reasons I disliked Harry Potter or the Star Wars sequel trilogy in the hopes that they'll come around to my point of view. But really, what difference does it make to me if someone else likes something I consider to be poorly written? What difference does it make to other people if I do enjoy something that other people think is full of plot holes or clunky dialogue?

It doesn't.

There are plenty of things I've decided not to read or watch, or decided I didn't like for reasons pertaining to worldview, writing craft, and personal taste. But does it really do any good to argue with strangers on the internet about it? Not really.

I'm not saying to compromise your convictions. And I'm not saying not to talk about it to anyone either. If there's a good reason to have a civil, productive conversation with someone you actually know about it, by all means, do it. You might both come out of it with a new perspective, and pending the story, reasons, and audience, you might have a perfect opportunity to share the Gospel in a relevant, impactful, loving way. 

But if you're just yelling at people that they're stupid if they think X was a good movie, or that their kids are going to become devil worshippers if they let them read Y, then all you're really trying to do is pick a fight.

Let people have their preferences. And if you don't like it, you don't have to read/watch it.

There's another reason I think you don't really need to give any time or attention to movies and books that aren't very good. Think about this: How many mediocre movies have come out in the last decade that people are still talking about? Thought of any? I haven't. Because reality is, if the movie isn't very good, unless there's a big internet explosion over it, people tend to just forget about it. If no one cares, it usually ends there. If a movie bombs at the box office and does just as poorly in whatever the current equivalent of home video sales is, it's unlikely to get a sequel. If a TV show doesn't get good enough ratings for the advertisers, the network cancels it. If a book sells poorly, it goes out of print. 

On the other hand, rage views still count as views. Going to the movie to see how bad it is still results in a ticket sale. Buying a book and throwing it in the trash because you hated it that much is still a sale. And bad press is still press. You can't pay me to believe that no director has "leaked" something about a project known to trigger certain groups to get people talking about it and buying tickets to see if it's really what people say it is. It gets people talking, it gets people curious, it gets people watching. And that's all they really want. Because views/sales equal money, whatever the reason people are watching or buying.

Full disclosure: This post is largely prompted by the constant fighting in the Star Wars fandom and the months-long complaining over Rings of Power. And I don't think it's hard to figure out that I've liked some of what's come out of Disney Star Wars and some of it I haven't. And that I do like Lord of the Rings. But I've come to realize that not only do I not have to watch everything from franchises I like, I don't have to convince others that certain things are bad or not worth watching either. If they ask, sure, I'll say, but that doesn't mean I have to convince them of my point of view either.

I'm not watching Andor. I watched the trailer and it didn't excite me, so I decided not to bother. Is it good? I legitimately don't know. Will I change my mind later and decide to watch it after all? I also don't know. But it doesn't really matter. If you want to watch it, you can, and we don't have to try to convince each other that the other is wrong. And if you're not bothered that they pushed back Bad Batch season 2 from September 28 to January 4 the way I am, that's also okay. I can be disappointed and you can not care.

Same goes for Rings of Power. Is it good? I don't know, I've heard very mixed reviews. I'm not watching it myself because I don't care. Maybe I'll have to turn in my fantasy-lover card for admitting this, but I'm not what you would call a Tolkien fanatic. I love watching the Lord of the Rings movies and I prefer the extended edition to theatrical, I mostly enjoyed the books when I read them, and I think the music from the movies is amazing. But actually...it took me a year to read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings back when I was a young teen, and I only started reading it because my mom made me. She convinced me to read The Hobbit by telling me Tolkien was friends with C.S. Lewis, and had to literally make me read Fellowship of the Ring until they got to Moria. Also, I totally missed the fact that Frodo went into the west at the end because my sisters were watching Up in the same room where I was reading, and I didn't get very far in The Silmarillion before I quit—that was over a decade ago and while I've since acquired my own copy I've yet to feel compelled to pick it back up. This is as much to say, I don't really care enough to have an opinion on Rings of Power. You can watch it or not watch it, like it or not like it, and we really don't have to argue about it. If you think you won't like it, you really don't have to watch it, and you don't have to convince people your position is the better one either. 

So if you don't like something, you don't have to read or watch it. If you get a little ways in and realize you don't care for it, you can stop and move on with your life. None of us really need to waste time and energy antagonizing each other over stories we do and don't like. It's not worth it, and it's only serving to add even more nastiness to an already sinful and fallen world. Let's not waste our limited time here on earth rage watching and picking fights about things that don't really matter. And above all,

"Be ye kind, one to another." —Ephesians 4:32a

Monday, July 11, 2022

How to Get Professors to Like You

1. Come to class regularly. They know when you're absent.

2. Participate meaningfully in class discussions. Professors don't really like acting like Dora the Explorer.


3. Show genuine interest in the subject. They don't like blank stares either.

4. Turn in assignments on time. Who really likes constantly nagging people who don't turn in work?

5. Put effort into your assignments. Professors can usually tell when you wrote your whole paper in less than an hour before the due date.

6. Be respectful. No one likes a jerk.

7. If you're struggling with the material, seek out help in the way suggested by the professor. They (well, some of them, anyway) do want you to succeed.

And if you do these things, chances are your professor will like you.

Note: This post is meant to be (somewhat) humorous, but seriously, if you're nice and respectful and apply yourself, you're much more likely to be liked by your professor than if you're a rude slacker.


Anyway, this is what comes out when I run out of prewritten posts and I still have homework. But I am dabbling here and there at Acktorek. See y'all...sometime!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Speculative Fiction: The Truth About Fairy Stories


Sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said.” (Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 45)

It often happens that theology in ordinary settings becomes meaningless through over familiarity. Being preached at often raises defenses. Yet experiencing a gripping, imaginative story with relatable characters, vivid imagery, and settings that are out of this world makes faith new, more palatable, more beautiful.

I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralysed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. . . . But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.” (Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 47)

The trappings of church can obscure the wonder of the Gospel. The infighting in many congregations can disgust even true Christians. The hypocrisy of many prominent leaders can turn people away, even when they are seeking that purpose beyond this world. But speculative fiction breaks free of the stuffiness, the infighting, the hypocrisy. It goes beyond the preconceived notions we all have and shares with us the effects of faith, the heart of the Gospel, the nature and power of God in a way we cannot otherwise experience.

At times I have felt distant from God. The circumstances of life press down, I see the evil in the world increase, and it becomes difficult to remember that God is still here and in control even throughout all of these pains and sorrows. During these moments of hopelessness, I remember a passage from Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy:

I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” (164-165)

God is here. He is with us all the time, even when we do not realize it. And fantasy stories can remind us of that. 

Certainly one must be careful when writing stories of science fiction and fantasy. There are pitfalls that must be avoided and these tropes and plot devices must be used intentionally and within biblical parameters. However, these genres truly are powerful vessels for exploring truth. They present the Gospel in new ways. They make faith real in ways that nothing else can. 

Therefore, far from being instruments of harm to Christians, speculative fiction is of great benefit and ought to be welcomed as a creative expression that glorifies God and furthers His kingdom.

References

Lewis, C. S. The Horse and His Boy. Scholastic, 1995.

Lewis, C. S. On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, edited by Walter Hooper, Harvest / HBJ, San Diego, CA, 1982.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Speculative Fiction: Suppose There Was a World...


We have seen throughout this series that stories of imagination and wonder need not be inherently harmful and that Christians who write in these genres have no intention of leading their readers astray. But are these stories simply neutral or can they have a greater purpose? Could they possibly further God’s kingdom, spread the Gospel, and enhance Christian faith?

Many believe that rather than obscuring truth, these stories actually illuminate truth, give us a better picture of reality (Ryken), and artistically represent truth: “Yes, these tales are intended to reflect and embody many important Christian ideas. But they do it thematically, symbolically, and imaginatively, somewhat in the style of the parables of Jesus” (Focus on the Family).

J.R.R. Tolkien expressed a similar sentiment: “Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker” (52). Furthermore, he explains that fantasy used properly evokes a joy that reflects the same joy and picture of reality of the Gospel story (64-66). Creativity and imagination reflect aspects of God’s nature and present metaphors that can aid in understanding of Scripture and show readers the wonder of God in a new way.

One method that has long been used in Christian fantasy is that of allegory. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was a very strict allegory and has come to define the method of writing for Christians. Every character, every place in Christian’s journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, was a strict metaphor for some element of the journey that is the Christian life.

Personally, I believe this method is too on the nose. Authors of allegories run the risk of focusing so hard on their allegorical message they neglect to develop their characters—such as occurred in Chuck Black’s Kingdom series—and thus end by diminishing the ability of the reader to simply enjoy a good book, reducing the overall impact of the allegory. That said, Pilgrim’s Progress style allegories have their place in the canon of Christian fantasy. For instance, when read in conjunction with his partial autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress is a fascinating allegorical exploration of his conversion. Still, there is a more effective and enthralling use of speculative fiction in regard to faith.

“Suppose there was a world like Narnia and it needed rescuing and the Son of God (or the ‘Great Emperor oversea’) went to redeem it, as He came to redeem ours, what might it, in that world, all have been like?” (C. S. Lewis Letters to Children, 92)

What, indeed, could spiritual truths look like in fantastical worlds far different from our own? This question of what if?—commonly referred to as a supposal, based upon Lewis’s explanation—forms the basis of the majority of Christian fantasy in the modern era. Where this differs from the allegory is that allegory originates from a message and builds a story around it, causing every element to directly represent something else. A supposal begins with a story and the biblical worldview of the author naturally informs the what ifs to create a story that is far more powerful, universal, and accessible to the masses than allegory. 

Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight is a supposal in a similar vein to Narnia. Narnia “began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood” then grew to contain the supposal and Christian themes when “suddenly Aslan came bounding into it” (Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 53). Ilyon began with the concept of a half-blood in a world where half-bloods are unaccepted and grew into a series with parallels to Ancient Rome and Christian persecution, centered around substitutional atonement when Elon, the Son of God in Ilyon terms, sacrifices himself for the protagonist Jace, assuring him of his worth and the existence of his soul. 

Jill Williamson’s Blood of Kings trilogy may not contain substitutionary atonement, but it nonetheless contains strong themes of following God and using gifts for Him. Half of the country of Er’Rets is covered in darkness, and Achan must learn to use his bloodvoicing ability—which incidentally includes telepathy among other spiritual abilities—given to those of royal blood by the true God Arman, to fight against evil in dedication to Arman in order to banish darkness from Er’Rets, thus providing a parallel of spiritual warfare among other things. 

Additionally, these kinds of biblical themes and parallels can be found even in secular works (Greisinger). For instance, the BBC series Merlin shows numerable instances of Arthur being willing to sacrifice his own life for those of his people, which is a beautiful picture of how Christ—our King—sacrificed His life for us on the cross. Also, my favorite episode, “A Servant of Two Masters,” illustrates Matthew 6:24 perfectly by showing that Merlin cannot serve two masters. Either he serves his king unreservedly or—under the enchantment of Morgana—he works actively against him, attempting to kill him. He cannot do both.

Seeing these pictures of biblical truths in these stories of wonder and magic and imagination, as well as in stories of space travel and technological advancement, casts them into a new light, causing them to resonate with us in entirely new and powerful ways.

Speculative Fiction: The Truth About Fairy Stories

References

Focus on the Family. “Questions about Christian Fantasy/Fiction.” Focus on the Family, Focus on the Family, 7 Jan. 2011, https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/questions-about-christian-fantasy-fiction/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

Griesinger, Emily. “Why Read Harry Potter? J. K. Rowling and the Christian Debate.” Christian Scholar's Review, vol. 32, no. 3, 2003, pp. 297-314,314-316. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/why-read-harry-potter-j-k-rowling-christian/docview/201277855/se-2?accountid=11824. Accessed 21 September 2021.

Lewis, C. S. C.S. Lewis Letters to Children. Edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead, Macmillan, 1985.

Lewis, C. S. On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, edited by Walter Hooper, Harvest / HBJ, San Diego, CA, 1982.

Ryken, Leland. “In Defense of Fiction Christian Love For Great Literature.” Desiring God, John Piper, 10 Aug. 2021, www.desiringgod.org/articles/in-defense-of-fiction. Accessed 9 September 2021.

Tolkien, J. R. R. “On Fairy-Stories.” Tree and Leaf, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 1988, pp. 9–73.