I was very depressed trying to watch a Hulu show, “The Patient”. If you made it through the entire series you know why. Dark, depressing, hopeless, filled with despair and the most subtly violent murders I’ve ever witnessed. I wanted to chain myself to a dark, basement bedroom floor by the end of the thing!
And watching the first part of that series changed my approach to writing. I’ve been working on the next two demons in my Chronicles of Jonathan Steel trying my best to keep them in separate books. That didn’t happen. The story of the 4th demon is so intertwined with the 3rd demon I had to combine the books for one LONG book. It will cost a bit more but that is because of the added cost of printing and producing the book by my distributor, Ingram.Read the rest of this entry
The final cover for “The 9th Demon: Time of the Cross” is here. Luke Lee of Fusiform Design has done a fantastic job. All manuscripts and covers have been uploaded and will soon be available for purchase on Kindle or in print. I will update you when the book is officially available. So, for now, here is the cover:
Well, I had almost given up.
And then this:
Hey, Bruce, just wanted to say congratulations for winning the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award this month. Your posts on The Warden and the Wolf King were awesome. So glad you’re a part of CSFF. (Christian Science Fiction Fantasy Blogtour)
Now, back to my despair!
I can tell anyone reading this blog post that it is incredibly frustrating being a published author in today’s publishing environment. I have written three books in the series, “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel”. After the second book came out, my publisher, Charisma, “released” me from a five book contract. But, I and already written the next two books in the series. I put a few feelers out to interested publishers and had my agent try and generate some interest in the third book. No response.
I have self published before and at the first annual Platform conference in Nashville, Michael Hyatt told me to self publish again. Take control of your own destiny, he suggested. I turned to Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson where Michael Hyatt was once CEO. That book became available in December, 2014 about six weeks later than my third book would have come out through Charisma.
Unfortunately, the third book has not received as much attention than the first two. In fact, after months of writing this blog and promoting my book here and through Facebook and Twitter I had become very discouraged. I had all 13 books in the series mapped out. But, it seemed interest was dwindling in my book series.
At the same time, B&H Publishing approached me and my co-author, Mark Sutton during the ICRS, the largest Christian media trade show in the country. In July, 2012 I was asked by B&H to update our depression book, Conquering Depression. This development was a complete shock and a pleasant development. But, it would mean I would now be dividing my time between Jonathan Steel and a new book on depression.
The last two years have been tough but ultimately rewarding. “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” will be released in September and soon, our website will debut. I am currently working feverishly on the website and social media and marketing and publicity and . . .
But, what about Jonathan Steel? The fourth book in the series is already written. In fact, the original manuscript was responsible for securing that five book series deal with Charisma. But, the original novel was 150,000 words long. My contract with Charisma specified a maximum book length of 75,000 words! What was I to do? It would mean seriously chopping down the fourth book to half of its length! I considered breaking the book into two parts, but the story just wouldn’t hold up. I went to work, painfully and carefully whittling down the manuscript. It was tough, let me tell you. As my books have come out, I have had the great fortune of working with an excellent editor and my writing has improved. This is a great lesson every aspiring novelist should pay attention to. Spend the time and money to get an editorial input on your manuscript. You will learn so much and your writing will improve or you will walk away in total frustration.
Now, with my former contract kaput, I have to decide what to do with the fourth book. Back in April, I made a decision to take the new, shorter edit and the old, longer manuscript and bring them together. The shorter work had so much more going for it, but the longer manuscript was meatier with more character development and lots of new backstory. A shocking development occurred in the narrative as I rewrote the book for the shorter version and I was excited about the potential.
But, again I became discouraged. Should I press on with the series? How could I afford another self-publishing package in the tens of thousands when the third book just wasn’t bringing in the funds to offset these expenses? But, as I started in on the third revision of the book, I got excited about some story changes based on hints and clues I placed in “The 11th Demon”. I really want to get this book out there.
And then, I decided to check out a relative’s new book on Amazon. I can’t reveal her real name, but her pen name is Lorraine Britt. I read some of the reviews of her book and wondered, “What about my books?” I had checked out only one review for “The 13th Demon” that called it an “honest effort” and I was afraid to go back and check for more reviews. But, I was pleasantly surprised! The reviews definitely reflect the improvement in my writing so that was a relief. And, as I read the reviews I had to keep pinching myself. People actually like my books? They want to read more books?
It is late on a Friday night and my discouragement had reached a new high (or low, depending on how you look at it). But, after reading the reviews, I have made a final decision. “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone” will be released in some form or fashion by November, 2014. I am strongly considering forming my own independent publishing endeavor. The reason? The fourth book will definitely lead to a spin off science fiction series called “The Node of God” if it succeeds. And, I have several other books planned. These are NOT in the genre of Christian Speculative Fiction and I am pretty discouraged with fiction publishing by traditional publishers right now. I may only have a small group of readers who like my characters and want to read my books, what Michael Hyatt calls a “tribe”. And, I imagine we are a strange tribe indeed to want to follow Jonathan Steel on his quest to rediscover his memory and his life. But, I have always lived on the edge of the strange, odd, and edgy.
If you’d like to see the fourth book finished, just drop me a comment. I need the encouragement. And for now, I will cling to this one thought: God is not done with me yet and I will never give in, never give up.
Check back soon for more information on my new website promoting “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”.
I wrote about Leeli yesterday. But, today I want to finish with three truths I took away from the story. These may not be the messages that Andrew intended, but they are messages I took away from this wonderful story. So, what did the characters and the story of “The Warden and the Wolf King” teach me?
Evil does not always take on the expected form, particularly in the beginning.
Every good story must have a compelling and dangerous villain. From book one, I have been waiting impatiently to find out more about Gnag the Nameless. Try as I might, I could not imagine what Gnag looked like. He was not only nameless, he was faceless! Was he a reptile? Was he a wolf? Was he some other hideous manifestation of animal/man crossover?
I must confess, when I finally met Gnag the Nameless I was, well, underwhelmed. This was the creature responsible for an evil wave of Fangs overtaking the world? Really? Surely we can do better than this, Andrew. But, I trusted Andrew. I knew that the best villains are not necessarily the most vicious appearing villains. The best villains are subtle, almost ordinary, and certainly instill a sense of overconfidence in those who oppose such a villain. Hmm. Sounds remarkably similar to our own Enemy. He is subtle. He moves behind the scenes. And, he assumes a pleasing or nonthreatening appearance. But, he is NOT nameless!
Andrew does not disappoint in the area of bringing out the worst in Gnag. I cannot even begin to describe the events but there is no way any reader could ever be disappointed by Gnag’s ultimate plan and his ultimate appearance.
My take on this was how the Adversary works quietly behind the scenes in our lives. He places obstacles and crises in our way to trip us up. He throws his minions at our daily lives. We get frustrated, angry, and disillusioned and we often don’t even know why. The Adversary at this stage is truly nameless, faceless, and loving every minute of it. And then, through a glimpse of Truth through the eyes of Spirit, we see how Satan has tried to stop us from doing good. And now, in the light and in the open, the Adversary becomes the Beast that he is. And that is when we must choose — fight or flight — stand and engage in spiritual battle or run away and hide. Andrew has shown us that the fight can be intimidating and we can think we are losing but God will bring us the victory over an adversary who is already defeated! Thank you, Andrew for that insight.
The plan we have for our lives is not always the plan God has for our lives.
Kalmar did not want to be a king. He just wanted to indulge his artistic expression. This desire to avoid what others wanted him to do with his life led to his big mistake of singing the song that converted him into a wolf. Of course, being a wolf placed him in the desperate situation of fighting to retain his true identity and forced him into the very situation that led him to king like behavior. Andrew deftly and authentically shows Kalmar’s struggles in the final book. He takes Kalmar literally all over the place and through the story, Kalmar grows. Not only does he end up becoming the King, but his reluctance to be the king is the very thing that makes him a good king — the servant king.
In my own personal life, I know that God has taken me down paths I never imagined. Becoming an author, a dramatist, an apologist, and a public speaker was not in my plan. But, through the years of crises and refinement in the fire of depression, God has taken me to the place in life where I have found my purpose. And, in finding that purpose, I have found true joy. Unfortunately, the joy often comes at a price as we see in “The Warden and the Wolf King”. You just need to read it to see what I mean.
Running from God will leave us confused and unhappy and out of phase with the world. When we turn toward God along the path we have been avoiding, true fulfillment happens and we glimpse the eternal plan of God and see our place in it.
Janner just doesn’t want to be the warden. He doesn’t want to have to take care of his little brother. He wants to read. He wants to settle down in the huge library of ancient books; to get lost in the lines of poetry and essays and stories. And yet, in his desire for this we see his unease, his displeasure with a sense that everything is not quite right for him. He reluctantly takes on his role as warden with disdain and ultimately guilt. Of course, we see Janner’s brave protection of his brother in spite of his inner monologue of guilt and despair. And, ultimately it is Janner’s journey I most identified with.
Ultimately, we want to do God’s will for our lives and at times, we resent that. But, we know it is the good and right thing to do so we press on. And, in the perseverance, God begins to shape us and mold us into the person He intends us to be. Then there comes that moment, when our vision transforms from the momentary to the eternal and we see through God’s eyes the grand plan unfolding from the beginning of time and our place in it and we give in to that plan; we open our mind and our heart to the inevitable; we lose ourselves in the glory of His purpose with no regard for the price. And, in that moment we are most like Christ; a pale reflection in truth but still a connection with the sacrificial Lamb that is our salvation.
Thank you, Andrew for a wonderful tale that works on so many levels to convey Truth to a world drowning in the Adversary’s lies. I know that children (and adults) will enjoy this wonderful tale for a long, long time. And, I hope that we haven’t seen the end of the Jewels of Annieria.
To Find this book use this link.
I gladly and with great anticipation received a copy of this book for this review. Readers of the first three books may feel appropriately envious!
Check out these other reviews of “The Warden and the Wolf King”:
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rachel Starr Thomson
And, if you would like to check out a special offer for my three books in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles, go to the order page at 11thdemon.com.
Bitter disappoint burned in my chest. I had just found out I was being released from my 5 book contract with Charisma after my second book. It was late on the first night of Hutchmoot 2012 and I wandered the beautiful grounds of Redeemer Church in Nashville crushed and weepy. I made my way back into the sanctuary to listen to our hosts regale us with song and sat on the last pew. In front of me, a young girl, probably 5 or 6 squirmed on the pew beside her mother, restless and bored. On the stage Andrew Peterson was about to sing a number from his newest album, “Light for the Lost Boy”. He told us this story:
An artist told about growing up without knowledge of God. But, somehow he knew there was Someone to watch over him, a secret Companion. Later in life, this man came to know Christ and realized that God was always with him in the quiet, desperate moments of his life. Andrew decided to write a song about this secret companion. Then, he paused and called out to his daughter. The girl on the pew in front of me snapped to attention and with great delight ran up to the stage to sing with her father. As they sang, “The Voice of Jesus” I wept silently with joy that even in the midst of my depression and disappointment, the voice of Jesus still whispered hope and love. When she joined in with her father at the end of the song, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and a hushed, reverent stillness gripped us all. In that moment we heard not just the voices of Andrew and his daughter. We also heard the Voice of Jesus. My despair lifted and the music calmed my soul and brought me a measure of sorely needed peace.
I tell you this because when I read of Leeli in “The Warden and the Wolf King” I hear the voice of Andrew Peterson’s daughter raised in song. In fact, song and music are integral to the story of this novel and permeate throughout the narrative. This shouldn’t surprise me. Andrew Peterson’s songs are more than catchy tunes. They are deep, thoughtful reflections on our life in this imperfect world and the redemption we find in Christ’s love.
Song is so important to the story of “The Warden and the Wolf King”. I remember reading “Lord of the Rings” as a teenager and being impatient when I came to long verses of song lyrics. Most of the time, I skipped over them. And, although the songs’ words gave some framework for the world of Middle Earth, I could have done without them.
I was sitting at an outdoor table under a tent with my son Sean when Andrew Peterson plopped down next to us and began to eat his dinner. It was a cool September evening in Nashville at the 2012 Hutchmoot. Talking to Andrew was like talking to a long lost friend. The conversation meandered to children, much like the three jewels of Annieria in the Wingfeather Saga. Andrew scrunched up his face, shoved his nose in my son’s face and proclaimed: “You better behave, Sean me boy, or your father’ll have you hoisted up the petard!”
I’m sure Andrew doesn’t remember this. He said things like that to everyone at Hutchmoot, but we remember it well. And, it is that spirit of random abandonment to reality that flows through the Wingfeather Saga.
Being a alumnus of two Hutchmoots, I can easily see in Andrew’s writing his love for Buechner, Lewis, MacDonald, Tolkien, and Wendell Berry. He blends elements of fantasy, swashbuckling, and allegory with a touch of parable throughout his works all set against a lushly realized landscape. Now, I am an author of a book series. I am currently in the final edit on book four and I can tell you it is not easy keeping all the story lines coherent and moving in parallel. One of my pet peeves is with authors who set out to write a book series and run out of creative energy early on. They create immersive worlds, stunning characters, and set up elaborate plot lines and then just get lost in their own maze. The list of book series I have given up on is long. By book four, you can tell you are lost in a forest along with the author and there is no way to get out unless you turn back (reboot your story) or open up the Pandora’s box of contrivances and let loose the deus ex machina.
This past week the Christian publishing world was shaken by the announcement from Broadman & Holman (B&H) Publishing regarding their new Christian fiction strategy. Steve Laube, a major voice in the Christian publishing industry, commented on these changes at this link. This may seem like some mundane industry-babble but it has grave implications for the reader of Christian fiction. The bottom line is this: a major Christian publisher has decided to back off of fiction unless it ties in with some other media initiative (such as a movie). In fact, all contracts for future fiction that would have been released beyond April 2014 are now null and void. Kaput! Gone! And, I know that feeling!
Why? In September 2012 just a few weeks before the release of my second book, “The 12th Demon: The Mark of the Wolf Dragon” by Charisma, I received a notification that I was being released from my five book contract after the second book. This didn’t catch me totally by surprise. I had already heard from a couple of my fellow authors at the Realms imprint (an imprint is a division of a publishing “house” focused on a particular “genre”) who had suffered the same fate. As of September there were two of us left, myself and Mike Dellosso easily Realms bestselling author. Mike has now moved on also. At least I was in good company! I know this was a business decision made because of the downturn in the economy but it had a lasting impact on my personally as well as many Christian authors.
What does all of this mean for you, the reader of Christian fiction?
It will mean a much smaller selection of books and a much narrower range of genres. Major publishers will not be taking as many chances with new authors and will not be looking to branch out into “strange waters” such as Christian speculative fiction. Frankly, this frightens me. I am already a victim of the troubled economic times coupled with the sea change in traditional publishing trying to adapt to newer digital technology. However, I followed the advice of Michael Hyatt, once CEO of Thomas Nelson (which has been swallowed up by the larger HarperCollins publishing behemoth along with Zondervan). He suggested I self publish. The good news for authors like myself is there are many reputable self publishing ventures available. The bad news is I have to fund the book and all of the prep work myself. Let’s just say it makes for a tremendous tax right off! But, I am hoping the momentum of two previous books will help “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” sell enough copies to keep the series going.
Check out my recent guest post on Speculative Faith on the use of the concept of parallel universes in fiction:
I am frustrated.
I haven’t been posting this summer because of family issues with my daughter’s health. But, she is doing very, very well and it is time for me to re-engage the creative side of my brain.
I haven’t been negligent of my writing. I am finishing up the final edit for “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” and it will be available hopefully by late October. It will not be available in the usual traditional sense but you will be able to purchase it through bookstores, Amazone, B&N, etc. Now that I am no longer beholden to my previous publisher, I have much more freedom to tell the story the way I want to.
For instance, my previous two books suffered from the word limit demon (pardon the pun). I had to constrain my story to fit 75000 words. That required cutting major story elements and, in some cases, entire characters to fit the required word limit. While I don’t plan on going all Harry Potter on my readers and make the next books 700+ words, I have extended the upcoming book from 75000 to 90000 words.
I am back in the world of self-publishing and it is much different from the first time I self-published back in 2006. Self-publishing has gained in reputation since then. To give you an example, I ran my dilemma by Michael Hyatt back in February. If you don’t know who Michael Hyatt is, go to his website. He was former CEO of Thomas Nelson and has launched his own brand teaching authors how to communicate and how to build a platform for their work. I met him at the first annual Platform conference. Michael took one look at my previous two books in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles and quickly, confidently without hesitation told me to self-publish. This came from a man who was once the CEO of one of the largest Christian publishers in the world!
For a while, I pursued traditional publishing for the third book and met with half-hearted response. I don’t want to disparage my previous traditional publisher, but I think today’s tp’s don’t know how to effectively market Christian speculative fiction. Michael Hyatt made the comment this is the fastest growing sub-genre in Christian publishing. I have discussed problems with this genre in previous posts, the least being that bookstores don’t know where to put these books — Christian publishing or secular publishing areas.
So, it is up to those of us who write such books to decide if we cave in to the poor sales and poor marketing and little recognition or do we press on and continue to write the books God has placed on our hearts and minds. Authors such as Greg Mitchell, Mike Duran, Mike Dellosso, Marc Schooley, Linda Rios Brook, and Conlan Brown write speculative fiction and their works are fantastic, awe inspiring, moving, and wildly imaginative. Their books should be flying off the shelves. Instead, like me, they are struggling with balancing day jobs and writing supernatural thrilling stories that are trying to break their way out of our brains onto the written page.
Here is my plea. Check out the Christian speculative fiction market. But some books. Buy lots of books. Support your favorite Christian speculative fiction author and I’m not just talking about the giants such as Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti or Tosca Lee. Look for us little guys and gals who are struggling and promise to give you a good story — a great read that is wildly imaginative, thrilling, and yet, ultimately redemptive.
Give us a chance!
Buy one of our books as summer comes to a close and then post a review on Amazon or on your blog or your website. Help us flood American readers with the kind of thrilling supernatural stories the world is craving but with a different twist — a Christian worldview. Do that, and we will go a long way to changing the world’s attitudes — changing the world’s perception of reality — and showing the world the light and love of Christ!
“God seals men’s instructions while they sleep; you don’t need to figure everything out. God can speak straight to your spirit and tell you what to do, even when you don’t understand his words.”
This sage advice from a mother to her young daughter is at the heart of that child’s dilemma in “The Little Seer” by Laura Cowan. Aria is having dreams, sometimes in the middle of the day! In her dreams horrible things are happening around her particularly at her church. In one dream, she is attacked by birds and upon opening her eyes finds her arms and wrists covered with cuts! Soon, her classmates at school are making fun of her and adults are whispering about her parents behind their backs. The world seems to have turned against poor, little Aria.
“Why am I seeing demons in my own house, and why are my friends being so mean?”
Aria finds an ally in Mrs. Coghill who tells her she is a prophet with these soothing words, “The gift of prophecy just means your ear is tuned to hear God’s voice.”
Pastor Ted of the local church is at the center of Aria’s dreams. Soon, he is accused of embezzlement and Aria’s father, the church treasurer finds himself wrapped in false accusations as Pastor Ted pulls the church members into his evil clutches. Aria begins to see demons all around her, and one of them has its arms wrapped around Pastor Ted’s neck! And, it is during this encounter that Aria finally sees her salvation — a guardian angel!
The story has three specific events, each building on the one before as Aria grows in her awareness of God and His presence and plans for her life. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but it is fast paced and filled with downright creepy elements of demonic presences and spiritual warfare. Well done, I might add!
I have read the Twilight series and the Hunger Game series and this book easily approaches that level of intensity and immersion in teen angst in a GOOD way. It brought back many memories of a nerdy boy growing up with those who made fun of me and looked down on me. I highly recommend the book for any middle schooler or high schooler and it is a wonderful book for parents and adults to read.
I particularly like how Laura took something some benign seeming and made it the enemy. I don’t want to give this away but it is right on the money in today’s culture.
The dream sequences are moving and lyrical with an artistic sense of being transported to another world. I have often felt that God communicates to us in our dreams and this story really nails it. There is a particularly moving scene between Aria and Christ that I can not possibly describe. It must be read and enjoyed. Laura has captured the essence of being in the presence of God; the presence of Christ; the presence of the Spirit in a close and moving way. I read each of these passages and breathed deeply of the moving presence of God I sensed behind the words.
The sense of dread and anxiety also built as the climax of the story approached and the author managed to keep the stakes high, the tension tight, and the threat of evil very, very real.
I am reminded of a song written by Andrew Peterson, “The Voice of Jesus”. It is a song written for his little girl and it talks of wandering the woods and hearing “the voice of a secret companion” following and protecting the child. That “secret companion” is the presence of our Triune God always just beyond our full comprehension but still there waiting for us to turn to Him. Laura captures this feeling in every encounter between Aria and our Creator. Wonderful, moving work. I highly recommend this book for anyone who seeks to learn more of the nature of the spiritual war that wages around us. Here are the links to the book and author’s website. The first link is a link to a giveaway so check it out. http://laurakcowan.com/2013/02/17/welcome-to-the-little-seer-blog-tour-and-giveaway/
Great job, Laura. You have a very promising future and I can’t wait to read your next work.
Information about Laura:
Laura K. Cowan, The Dreaming Novelist, writes spiritual supernatural stories set against rich dreamscapes. A lifelong dreamer and modern Christian mystic, Laura draws from subconscious depths to bring the things we believe are impossible, spiritually and physically, into the world in a literal way, to bring the supernatural into the natural and help others come to see their infinite worth and the exquisite possibilities that exist in a world in which the supernatural is part of the natural order of things.
Laura has worked for years as an accomplished writer and editor in genres such as green tech, green parenting, and automotive media, and has been called one of the best copy editors in the business by multiple colleagues, including late mentor David E. Davis, Jr., whom TIME Magazine called “the Dean of Automotive Journalism.” She is the founder of popular green parenting blog 29 Diapers, author of Ecofrugal Baby: How To Save 70% Off Baby’s First Year, and Road Test Editor for Inhabitat, the web’s largest green design blog. Laura’s work has appeared in Automobile Quarterly as well as on numerous parenting sites including BabyCenter, EcoMom, and Inhabitots. She lives in Michigan with her husband and her 3-year-old daughter. You can find her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, or email her at laurakcowan[at]gmail.com.
Laura K. Cowan’s website: http://www.laurakcowan.com
Laura K. Cowan on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/laurakcowannovelist?ref=ts&fref=ts
Laura K. Cowan on Twitter: @laurakcowan
The Little Seer on Amazon: