Is Faith In Fiction Taboo?
" [T]his is biased since I'm a vociferous Atheist...If it had been properly ADVERTISED as a religious book, I would have avoided it at all costs." - 3/5 stars
When I wrote Black Sea Gods, I thought my biggest detractors would be people of faith. I took clear artistic license with elements from the Bible. Though I tried to do so respectfully, it could be argued my novel has heretical elements. I was prepared for the backlash, but it never materialized. I haven't heard a peep out of Christians, Muslims or Jews about my novel’s subject matter.
Most "voracious" critics seem to be young, self-avowed atheists. I just received yet another review where someone comes to the “big reveal" and gets downright angry. One minute their digging the book, they next they recoil like they’ve been shocked by a cattle prod. In several cases, these readers made it known or inferred they were atheist.
I assumed atheists would be the last people in the world upset by the big plot twist in Black Sea Gods. Logic dictates they would view the novel as a unique take on blended mythology and, perhaps history. I mean, if its myth, why get so angry? Why would an atheist view it any differently that an ancient Greek worshipping Zeus?
Some call my novel "religious." It has a well-known religious character, one who holds deep faith. All the other characters, the main characters, are pagan. But that doesn’t make it a religious book in any way. If a reporter interviews a religious leader, does that make the broadcast a sermon? Can faith and religion be an element in fiction without the novel being religious?
I thought it could. A religious book seeks to covert, or evangelize. It may also aim to bring about some moral outcome or spiritual revelation to the reader. My novel doesn't do that. It simple seeks to tell a story in a setting where characters have religious beliefs that are natural and appropriate to their period in history.
If I wanted to write a religious novel, I would have followed the template of Tolkien or Lewis. Both authors openly admitted their novels were thin veneers for their deeply held religious beliefs. As for Narnia, the veneer isn’t just thin, its nonexistent. Even Harry Potter has deep Christian themes running through it.
I think my real sin was that I make these kind of readers uncomfortable. I take them places they aren’t ready to go by invading their intellectual safe space.
Maybe I should just write something safe, non-offensive, and accepted by mainstream society...like hardcore erotica.
Find out what all the controversy is about. Buy your copy of BLACK SEA GODS on Amazon.
Literary Standard versus filter
Here's an excerpt from my latest article on Underground Book Reviews. If you're an indie author, it may be worth your time.
We keep hearing that independently published books need a “filter”, a formal process to separate the serious novels from the not-so-serious. If this is true, who is qualified to provide such a filter? Not us, we’re just indie writers like you. Anyway, thousands and thousands of indie novels are published in the English speaking world every year. A formal process of sifting through all of them is daunting, to say the least.
Maybe a different tack is needed. Maybe indie novels don’t need a filter. Maybe indie authors need a standard. Welcome to the Underground Certified program.
Pick Your Fav Photo! (update)
UPDATE: Voting Closed.
The votes are in, and Feather on Water is the overwhelming winner. Ducks in a Row came in a distant second. Thanks for voting, we'll let you know if he won the school competition.
My 13 year old son Jacob. He is an aspiring photographer and has entered a photo contest in the black and white category. He's narrowed it down to four snapshots, but he can't make up his mind. He wondered if my readers could give him a hand since there are a lot of artistically inclined people out there. Can you all help him out?
View the following photos and vote for your favorite in the survey below.
Pic 1 Ducks on a Row
Pic 2 Feather on Water
Pic 3 Still Horses
Pic 4 Empty Swings
Thanks for stopping by and voting. Don't forget to stop by and check out my books, THE CHRONICLES OF FU XI.
The Golden Princess SNEAK PEEK
Thanks for stopping by this week for THE GOLDEN PRINCESS cover reveal. Its been a great promo. The novel is the late stages of editing, and will be released this spring. Keep watching this space for a official release date.
As a bonus to top a great week, enjoy this sample of the upcoming novel. Oh, and don't forget today is your last day to get both books in the CHRONICLES OF FU XI for free!
Part One: Afternoon
“The Age of Gilded Darkness rose and fell thousands of years before Yu the Great built his capital upon the Yellow River, before the Silk Road, or the Pharaohs laid the first stone of the first pyramid. That age came crashing down when the Emperor of Heaven turned his face from the unspeakable evil of men and gods, and pronounced a terrible judgement on both. He buried their empires, and cursed them to be forgotten for eternity. Millennia passed before men dared to stack stone once again, or remembered what it was to read and write.
“In the twilight of that forgotten age, one city stood above the rest in splendor and wickedness. Hur-ar, City of Gold, reigned at the edge of the Caucus Mountains, and challenged the Scythian Empire for domination of the steppe surrounding what men would one day call the Black Sea. Yet, even in that dark place an ember of hope was born. Here, a princess fell from a golden throne, and transformed by grace, became a flame of hope for a lost people.
- Emperor Fu Xi, First Sovereign of China
Chapter 1: Shadow over the Gates of Gold
It wasn't so much a city, as it was a lair.
Surrounded by jagged mountains and nestled deep in a three-sided canyon, Hur-Ar resembled the gaping jaws of a ravenous beast. The weak would find themselves consumed by her power, the foolish crushed under her might. This city would one day devour the world, of that the trader was certain. Here, a cautious man might survive, but a cunning man could make himself a prince…
…Or a king.
He walked between the worlds of steppe and city, lord of neither. Behind him lay the endless grassland ruled by terrible horsemen, the Scythians, masters of the west. Ahead rose Hur-Ar, the rising power in the east. The trader found himself trapped between two princes, each determined to conquer the world, each sworn to kill the other. Only one could emerge victor, and, at this moment, both needed his services. One slip, one misspoken word, and either would tear him apart. If he played his hand wisely, he would find himself on the winning side, not to mention considerably wealthier.
Half a dozen iron chains draped over his shoulder gently clinked with each step. Forged by his personal blacksmith, he relished the metal’s weight pressing against his heavy fox fur cloak. Only truly powerful men possessed iron. Most displayed it on their hip in the form of a blade, but not this trader. His personal bodyguards could carry their swords for all to see. He, however, kept his dagger sharp and hidden. The chains dangling over his shoulder spoke adequately regarding his power and status.
The trader had almost reached the wall when his men, following a few paces behind, began to laugh.
He turned and scowled. “You jabber like a bunch of hags. What do you find so funny?”
“We look forward to an evening of wine and whoring,” one of them replied.
The trader looked beyond them toward the west. “Have any of you fools considered glancing behind us from time to time?”
The six Sammujad bodyguards halted and considered their master. With slack expressions, they turned around and looked west from whence they came. The King’s Road cut straight through the wheat fields on either side, toward the Hur River. A few miles away, the sun began to dip behind the two massive towers that supported the Kupar Bridge.
“Are we being followed?” the biggest warrior asked.
The trader shook his head.
Mountainous men, shaggy black manes, and grizzled beards blended with their filthy furs, giving his men the appearance of spear-wielding bears. To enemies, they may appear fearsome, but the trader knew how stupid his bodyguards truly were.
Stupid is easier to control, he thought.
“Do you see dust rising above the fields?”
“No, my lord.” No hint of understanding graced the enormous man’s face. For a moment the trader considered trying to explain it to the oaf, but knew such an endeavor futile.
“Come here,” he curled his finger at them as if they were children.
The men crowded around the trader, towering over the little man. Not the least bit intimidated, he rubbed his bald head impatiently.
“Listen carefully. Where is our caravan?”
The warriors frowned at one another, and then at their lord.
“Where is our caravan?” he repeated.
One of them shrugged. “Back at camp where we left it, lord.”
The trader leaned in. “Why do we enter Hur-Ar?”
They shook their heads. “Because you wish to trade?” another replied timidly. The trader slapped him hard.
Cowed, the warrior dropped his gaze.
“Because I am buying, not selling.” He jingled the heavy purse tied firmly to his waist. “Having no caravan marks us as carrying gold, and that marks me for a knife across the throat.
“I don’t give a damn about the Festival. In and out by tomorrow night. We deliver the goods to base camp before Prince Tuma and his warriors arrive. And you know what happens when the Scythian prince is disappointed, don’t you?”
The mercenaries exchanged uneasy glances.
“No whoring. No wine. Stay close to me, don’t let anyone within arm’s reach. If you have doubts, kill first, talk later. I’ll pay any fines for bloodshed. This time tomorrow, we march out of these gates with our treasures, or face death under Scythian hooves.”
Without another word, he turned and resumed the march, his shadow, stark and crisp, led the way.
The sunset swept across the unbroken steppe and bathed the city wall and the mountains beyond in glittering glory. Only at sunset did Hur-Ar live up to its name, the City of Gold. Nestled at the bottom of a box canyon, sheer cliffs and rugged mountains protected three of it sides, but cursed the city to almost permanent shadow. Its only wall sealed its western access overlooking the Hur River, and beyond that, the Steppe.
Thick crowds milled before the closed gates, beseeching the captain for entrance to join the Festival of Gold. The annual celebration of the yellow metal, with its unrestrained debauchery and decadence, drew threefold the number of traders from the Steppe and beyond.
The trader gestured his warriors forward. With shoves and threats, they cleared a path through the riffraff who could not afford entrance into the city. He strolled casually forward, hands on hips. He relished the way his shadow towered against the giant gates, an omen that one day he would become a giant, a force to be reckoned with.
Flanked by two warriors, the gate captain crossed his arms and glanced the trader up and down. Resplendent in gleaming bronze armor and richly embroidered ochre waist wrap, golden ringlets laced his thin, oiled beard. The trader didn’t recognize this particular officer, likely a minor prince from a family in the King’s good graces.
The captain stalely recited the challenge he’d likely uttered thousands of times before, “State your name and purpose. But be warned: All who enter must pay the King’s tax. All who enter must come to trade.”
The trader bowed low. “I am Virag, Lord of the Marshes that surround the Great Sea, Master of the Limita, and friend of Hur-Ar.” From somewhere in the folds of his tunic, the trader produced a gleaming gold coin bearing the likeness of the city’s king and held it out to the captain. “Of course, I can pay the tax.”
The captain eyed Virag suspiciously and then reached for the coin. Virag quickly closed his hand, before slowly reopening his fingers, palm up, revealing not one, but two thick coins.
“I can pay the kings tax, and then some,” Virag purred.
The captain took them both. He tested each with a small bite, and grinned. He craned around Virag, perhaps to see if any wagons or carts followed behind. “Welcome, Virag. Do you come to buy or sell?”
Virag grinned and shook the rusty chains on his shoulder until the manacles clanged together.
The Golden Princess Cover Reveal
Raised in splendid isolation.
Betrothed to a man she despises.
Destined to rule over the greatest city on earth.
She is the Golden Princess.
Sarah dreams of love and adventure beyond her gilded prison, but tonight her dreams come true in the most terrifying way imaginable. A bloody power struggle erupts for the throne, and dawn finds the princess on the run with a bounty on her head. Alone and hunted by guards, criminals and a ruthless slaver who will stop at nothing to burn his brand into her flesh, Sarah must summon courage she never knew she possessed.
Hope, however, comes in the form of two lowly thieves. Driven by a secret, they race through Hur-ar’s underworld to find Sarah before her enemies do.
Before the next sunset, Sarah’s fate, and that of empires, will be decided with gold, steel and blood.
Huge thanks for Hanna Elizabeth for the fantastic cover. And don't forget to take advantage of the CHRONICLES OF FU XI free promo, ending 23 January 2016!
Coming this spring from DeadPixel Publications!
Cover Reveal 22 Jan!
I will be revealing the cover for my upcoming novel THE GOLDEN PRINCESS here on 22 January. To celebrate I'll be offering BLACK SEA GODS free from 19-23 Jan, and TEARS OF THE DEAD for only 99 cents.
While THE GOLDEN PRINCESS is a stand alone novel, its also a prequel to The Chronicles of Fu Xi series. It is also my first foray into young adult fantasy. For those who've never read my previous work, I hope you'll enjoy the experience. For those familiar with the world of Fu Xi, I hope you enjoy this peek at events that occurred prior to BLACK SEA GODS.
The novel is finished and well-along into the editing process. Things are moving faster than expected. Stay tuned to this space for a release date.
Oh, and I am 50,000 words into Chronicles of Fu Xi, Book 3 - working title THE BASTARD GODS.