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Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Christmas “Story”

“You saved my life.”

I’ve heard these words before. Usually, they come from a total stranger through an email or a letter; someone who has picked up “Hope Again” and the LifeFilters and found them an answer to a desperate prayer for help. Let me be honest. I NEVER take such a statement lightly. Every time someone expresses this to me or to Mark Sutton, I am equally shocked and humbled.

This past Sunday, I shared a story with my family at our annual Hennigan Family Christmas Party. I won’t detail the story. Just know that the point of that story was to share with my family how a seemingly painful and potentially fatal encounter in my childhood served as the source for something I did later in life that had a profound influence on the lives of others. In this case, four veterans of World War II and an elderly woman who had lived in bitterness for years because of anger over losing her brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor. In both cases, a simple scene in one of my plays echoing that event in my childhood had the unexpected consequence of bringing these people profound peace and reconciliation.

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“The Shock of Night” Book Review Day 1

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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Coherence

I just love it when a plan comes together!

If you take all of the world building and character development we see in Patrick W. Carr’s “The Shock of Night” and judged them solely on their merits, it would be enough to make this book a thrilling fantasy. But, the real magic of a great author is in making all of those moving parts work together seamlessly in one cohesive whole that takes the reader by surprise and pulls him/her into the narrative.

My favorite writers have the uncanny ability to make me want more. They give me just enough of the story to entice to me to step into the dark forest. They show just enough of the superficial qualities of the character to make we want to know more. They dangle the proverbial carrot and I follow it into wonderful goodness.

In “The Shock of Night” the story starts off obscurely with Elwin, a Servant, journeying to the kingdom of King Lairdir with a carefully hidden secret. As abruptly as we meet Elwin and his companion Robyn, we awaken with Lord Dura, the king’s reeve who is taken to the scene of the murder of a “churchman”. Here we learn that Lord Dura has his own tortured secrets to hide, but what are they? We find out he is fascinated with what lies beyond death and desires to look into the eyes of the near dead. It is during this encounter with the dying Elwin he receives something that changes his life forever.

And, this new gift sends him into the arms of the Vigil, a group of gifted who have a secret themselves. It seems the Darkwater Forrest is growing and engulfing the surrounding land and from this Darkwater Forrest an evil is growing. And, we soon learn that the secret Lord Dura is hiding has to do with something horrific that happened to him, wait for it, in the Darkwater Forrest.

Let me stop there and not give any more of the story away. Just know that the story elements start out seeming to be not related but in time, Patrick W. Carr pulls these threads together and the story coheres, it holds together tightly and seamlessly.

I cannot recommend “The Shock of Night” highly enough. It is a joy to read, a journey to embark upon and a world built very smartly and fully. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to visit everyone’s book review and leave a comment!
The Shock Of Night — Amazon
Author Website — Patrick W. Carr

Participants Links:

Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Carol Bruce Collett
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rani Grant
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
 Nissa
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Robert Treskillard
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

If you are looking for great Christmas presents, there are four books now in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel and can be ordered from this website. If you know someone suffering from depression at this time of the year check out my book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” at conquering depression.com.

 

“The Shock of Night” Book Review Day 2

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

ShockOfNightCover-485x750@2x

Correspondence

For me, the strength of a good fantasy tale lies in the ability to take me away from the mundane nature of everyday reality. Who wouldn’t want to fly through the air on a broomstick and play Quidditch? Or, cast a spell with a few choice words and teleport fro one place to another? As attractive as these prospects are the story loses its relevance if it is not rooted in reality. Without a foundation in what is NOT possible in our reality, we would not appreciate being able to experience the IMPOSSIBLE.

Patrick W. Carr creates a very viable, realistic alternate reality with the elements of the church as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. In a telling scene in “The Shock of Night”, the main character, Lord Dura is summoned to his king’s chambers. Being the king’s personal “reeve” he has unfettered access to the king. But, to his surprise, King Laidir is surrounded by representatives of two of the church’s factions. In a shocking development, the King is instructed to stop Lord Dura from investigating the murder of Elwin, an elderly Servant killed at the beginning of the novel. How can the church exercise this kind of control over a king? Is this a realistic development? Patrick W. Carr does a masterful job of creating a reality in which the church can exercise this kind of power. It is not unprecedented and our own history demonstrates the power of the Church to dictate how a ruler should conduct the state’s business. As the story progresses, the reader is drawn into this conflict and it is believable.

How about Aer’s “gifts”. Suppose in our reality, one could read another person’s mind merely by touching them? We’ve seen this kind of device used in many fantasy and science fiction novels. It is not an unusual device. But, in “The Shock of Night”, Lord Dura receives such a gift. Patrick W. Carr slowly introduces the reader to the “shock” of the reality of having this kind of gift. Rather than making such a gift sound like a wonderful skill, we see the power of such a gift and the drawbacks. In painstaking detail, Lord Dura is pulled into the power of his gift and not only is devastated by its strangeness, but is also damaged by the depth of the memories he does not expect to accompany such a gift. The reality of the double edge sword of such a gift is deftly demonstrated.

The beauty of a well told story is the correspondence of the story with enough of our own reality to give us relevance as readers and at the same time, create an alternate reality that is believable and sustained by the author. Patrick W. Carr has done this in a powerful and immersive tale that builds and builds toward a powerful face off between the forces of good and evil.

Tomorrow, I will finish my review and tie all of this together with a discussion of coherence.

Don’t forget to visit everyone’s book review and leave a comment!
The Shock Of Night — Amazon
Author Website — Patrick W. Carr

Participants Links:

Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Carol Bruce Collett
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rani Grant
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
 Nissa
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Robert Treskillard
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

If you are looking for great Christmas presents, there are four books now in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel and can be ordered from this website. If you know someone suffering from depression at this time of the year check out my book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” at conquering depression.com.

 

“The Shock of Night” Book Review Day 1

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

ShockOfNightCover-485x750@2x

I have not finished this book. Why? It is long, true. But, it is immersive. I’ve found myself going back and re-reading chapters after I have understood more about the world in which this story is told. Again, this is NOT a criticism. Rather, it is a reflection of a dense, multilayered, well developed world. At the heart of every science fiction and fantasy novel is world building.

I’ve read many novels in which there are weaknesses in the world framing the story. Such contrivances can torpedo a story, especially when “deus ex machina” swoops in to save the day. In my own writing, I’ve adopted some ideas from a surprising source.

Ravi Zacharias is an amazing speaker, preacher, and author whose efforts in the field of apologetics provides thinking Christians with tools to defend the truthfulness of the Christian faith. In his organization’s teaching series, “ASK” he talks about the concept of a worldview: a set of assumptions you have made through which you look at every choice you must make in life to shape your values and your spiritual condition as you live our your every day life. He then goes on to instruct us on how to test a worldview. It must have: logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. Finally, in testing a worldview it must have correspondence (that is corresponds to reality) and coherence (holds together).

I would like to focus on three key concepts of “world building” executed brilliantly in “The Shock of Night” by Patrick W. Carr. These three concepts are: Logical Consistency, Correspondence, and Coherence. I’ll talk about each topic on each of the three days of this book review.

Logical Consistency

In our postmodern, relativistic culture, logic tends to get lost in our daily thoughts. And yet, it is fundamental to our thought processes. We still look both ways before we cross the street! And, particularly in storytelling, logic is essential. Many fantasy novels utilize magic or metaphysical powers from some magical source. In “The Shock of Night”, Patrick W. Carr does a masterful job of creating a world of “gifts” given by “Aer”, the divine source of everything. These “gifts” are desired by different division of the “church”. The principle of “Tolerance” allows these competing factions within the church to present their argument for how “gifts” should be used by those few who are blessed enough to receive them. These “criers” present in the public square their opinions and this device serves to establish the logical foundation upon which everything in the story occurs.

The “Servants” say “The purpose of man is to serve others, placing them above himself. If every man looks to use his gift in his own interest, we will descend into selfish barbarity.”

The “Vanguard” say “I must take issue with my brother. While service is a noble goal, there will always be evil in this world. Unless we are bold in confronting the enemy’s malice, servanthood will only provide fuel for its excesses. The gifts of Are are given so that we might eradicate evil from the world.”

The “Absold” say “While I can sympathize with the desire to serve and to fight evil, as my brother and sister so eloquently express, I must disagree. Our principle purpose here is not dependent on what we do, but on what we are. We are all fallen. Only by extending forgiveness freely to each other, in imitation of Aer’s forgiveness for us, can we free ourselves from those internal chains that make us less than we are. Then you will see your gift shine forth.”

The “Merum” say “The strictures are these, You must not delve the deep places of the earth, you must no covet another’s gift, and above all you must honor Aer, Iosa, and Gaoithe in all.”

And then, there are those who say, “How many of you have waited on your knees with your prayers turning to ashes in your mouth, hoping that somehow your talent and work might be enough? . . . what are you hoping for? That someone will die unexpectedly or without an heir and somehow a gift will come to you? I speak for the Clast, and I’m here to ask you this: What right does some rich man’s family have to hoard their gifts from generation to generation and keep you poor?”

In this powerful scene in the public square, Patrick W. Carr has laid out the logical progression of how tension and strife over the possession of “gifts”, fueled by divisions within the church become the foundation for the drama that will unfold throughout the story.

Is this logical? Yes, in the realm of the Christian worldview it is. We know all about the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit given by God. We know how these gifts work with our God given talents and our life’s experienced skills and wisdom to serve as tools for God’s work. Here, in this story, this gifts become the “magic” abilities needed by the characters to give this wonderful fantasy a believable and logical foundation. It makes sense and it doesn’t have to rely some arbitrary change in rules to continue the story. Most of us can readily identify with different attitudes about spiritual gifts and how Christians should exist in a world increasingly hostile to our faith.

The main character, Lord Dura, serves as King Laidir’s “reeve” to investigate crimes in the kingdom. As Lord Dura investigates the violent death of an elderly Servant, he journeys to the House of Passing where the injured man has been taken to die. As the Servant dies, something happens to Lord Dura that alters his life forever. Does it have something to do with the Servant’s gift? Has Lord Dura, an ordinary man without the backing of wealth or position most gift possessors have, acquired a powerful gift? Who attacked the Servant and why?

Within this world of inter-church conflict and the struggle to hoard and acquire gifts a powerful story unfolds as a great evil has led to the death of this powerful Servant. Patrick W. Carr has used a powerful tool of worldview construction to build a deep, immersive world in which the story logically provides foundation for a powerful story!

Tomorrow, I will talk about Correspondence. Does this story and the world in which it takes place correspond to reality?

Don’t forget to visit everyone’s book review and leave a comment!
The Shock Of Night — Amazon
Author Website — Patrick W. Carr

Participants Links:

Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Carol Bruce Collett
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rani Grant
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
 Nissa
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Robert Treskillard
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

If you are looking for great Christmas presents, there are four books now in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel and can be ordered from this website. If you know someone suffering from depression at this time of the year check out my book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” at conquering depression.com.

 

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