Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Book Haul // Ruffles & Grace GIVEAWAY

(graphic via Victoria Lynn)

Hey! You didn't expect to see me again so soon, did ya? But I'm back midweek with some exciting news. Blogger and author Victoria Lynn is having a super fun blog party and giveaway this week. She's celebrating the growth of her blog, Ruffles and Grace, and all the friendships she's formed with the blogging community.


Yesterday's part of the giveaway was fashion-oriented, and the part I'm participating in today is about as bookerly it gets! Here's how it works. Myself and several other book/writer bloggers are all posting about summer + books in some form or another today. You get to enjoy said posts, and by doing so, you can enter Victoria's massively epic giveaway! Details can be found on her blog HERE. Trust me, you don't want to miss this!

(graphic via Victoria Lynn)

(photo via Victoria Lynn)

The items she's giving away are:

-A book bundle including
  • Left to Die by Ivy Rose
  • Martin Hospitality by Abigayle Claire
  • Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter
  • Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter
  • London in the Dark by Victoria Lynn herself
  • The Reluctant Godfather by Allison Tebo (link leads to my review)
-A Book Bestie (aka book protector) by Ruffles and Grace, Victoria's Etsy shop
-Some special handpicked notebooks
-A book themed tote by Ruffles and Grace
-A small leather journal

Does that not sound fantabulous? I actually just ordered a Book Bestie last month. You know how awful it is to shove a book in your purse or backpack, and take it out later to find the cover's been bent? Well, a Book Bestie is just the fix, because you slide your book into it, then shove that inside your purse/backpack/bottomless Mary Poppins carpetbag. Presto, no more bent covers! I'm loving mine so far, even if it is too large for my usual purse. It'll be perfect for toting novels--ahem, textbooks--to and from school, and it's even large enough to fit bigger notebooks too.

But on to the summer book haul I promised in the title! What better time to share alllll the books I acquired this summer than now, when summer is (sadly) ending?

Summer Book Haul

I thought my bookshelves were stuffed before, you guys. Ha. The stacks are slowly invading my entire room now! Take a look at the fourteen new additions to my collection:

Where am I supposed to put these beauties? If you have spare bookshelves lying around, ship them to me! Actually
don't. I don't have room for more shelves either.

There's something special about the circumstances around a book--where you found it, why you bought it, who gave it to you. There's always a story leading up to a book. Maybe the book was borrowed from the library before you decided you simply must possess your own copy, and marched straight to the bookstore to buy it. Maybe a dear friend gave the book to you just because. Maybe you "visited" the book in the bookstore several times, as some of my friends like to do, before committing to it. Maybe a perfect stranger recommended it to you. Maybe you sniffed it out in the dusty corner of some forgotten second-hand bookshop. Whatever the case, there's always a story surrounding the story.

Today I'd like to briefly share a few of my own stories.

bought: April 2017
Okay, so April is technically to early to count as summer, but hush--I couldn't leave these two out! While gallivanting around Banff, Alberta with friends on a college trip this spring, I naturally gravitated toward the nearest bookstore. (Am I the only one who must visit the bookstore of every new city I travel to? Yeah? Just me? Okay.) While there in Chapters, I snagged these.

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer // TBR (to-be read) // bought because of Sleeping Beauty research (and that gorgeous, silky smooth cover).

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine // read this month, half on the plane and half on vacation // bought because it's been on my TBR probably since it came out, and the premise is a.m.a.z.i.n.g.

bought: sometime during the summer of 2017

I was supposed to be shopping for birthday gifts, I swear. I was supposed to be finding things for somebody else. But like any self-respecting book dragon, I snuck a peek at the discounted section of my local bookstore on my way to the birthday cards. And this baby was on a really, really good sale. I couldn't say no.

Emissary by Thomas Locke // read the library's copy two years ago // bought because I loved it . . . and also because I needed that cover on my shelf, honestly.

won: September 2016

Remember that 100-for-100 challenge I participated in last summer? Well, entrants were eligible to win a book from Go Teen Writers, and I ended up winning! I picked Jill Williamson's book on world-building. But a funny thing happened, and I sort of fell through the cracks on their end of things. Not until I came across old emails while cleaning up my inbox did I realize, "Oh, I never did get that prize, did I?" So I contacted them, and they were incredibly sweet about it all. And Storyworld First arrived in the mail this summer! Hoorah!

Storyworld First by Jill Williamson // TBR // won in a giveaway; selected because I'm always ravenous for writing tips.

bought: June 2017

While enjoying a day in the city with my middle sister, we visited Chapters, and I snatched up these two lovelies in anticipation of our upcoming vacation. (I have this thing about being very selective with my holiday reads.)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall // read this month // bought because some of my dear internet friends, including Deborah O'Carroll and Mary Horton, highly recommended it!

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand // read this month // bought because I first heard of it from Katie Grace, I thought the idea of a young girl's fiction running parallel to her reality sounded cool, and that cover is beautiful.

bought: July 2017
On another city excursion, this time with my brother, we were browsing Chapters (again) when my gaze landed on this book. And a spontaneous, completely not-premeditated book purchase ensued.

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron // on my TBR now that I own it // bought because a) Sharon Cameron is fantastic, b) that cover is equally fantastic, and c) the premise made my eyes widen right then and there.

bought: August 2017

So I went to Realm Makers. And Realm Makers had a bookstore. And this bookstore happened to contain a huge number of books by Enclave authors, indie authors, and just all-around cool-sounding Christian authors that big chains don't carry on their shelves. So what does a reader do? She buys as many as she can fit in her suitcase because this is way better than ordering them on Amazon.

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson // TBR // bought because Jill is an amazing human and I've been wanting to try her books forever.

A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes // TBR // bought because only like nine million of my friends have been flailing about this dystopian trilogy for years.

Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams // TBR // bought for the same reasons (plus I need an excuse to buy Songkeeper, which boasts one of my favorite covers ever--are you sensing a pattern?)

The Beast of Talesend and The Tomb of the Sea Witch by Kyle Robert Schulz // TBR // bought because a) Kyle's a fellow Silmarillion host! and b) Deborah O'Carroll's review of The Beast convinced me.

Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland // on my TBR now that I own it // bought because his classes were so informative, and again, I'm on a constant hunt for writing advice.

bought: August 2017
While on vacation with my family, yes, we did find a bookstore. The nose for books must be in the genes. I wanted to buy a book (why I would want to spend more money on books, after flying home with a suitcase full of them, I can't figure out), so I finally settled on this one.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs // TBR // bought because I own the first book and it feels wrong not to finish what I started and buy the rest of the trilogy (even if the first book fell a little bit short of my expectations).

Do I have a problem?

Yes. Yes, I do have a problem. It's the same problem afflicting most all book dragons alive, and I don't regret one bit of it! But I definitely have my reading cut out for me for the next few months. I may not even set foot in the library for a while--horror of horrors.

What's the best book YOU bought this summer? Have you checked out Victoria's giveaway yet? If not, shoo! Off with you!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Realm Makers 2017 Recap

Greetings, fellow adventurers! As you've probably realized by now, I have returned! And boy, do I have stories to share about Realm Makers. I'll try not to make a novel out of this post, but no promises.

Day 1

My parents and I woke up at an unholy hour (3 am, to be precise) to get to the airport on time. I've never flown before, aside from a few times in tiny crop duster planes, so this was all new to me. Despite being a complete newbie, flying turned out to be pretty straightforward. Follow the signs, ask for directions if you need to, and be on time. Easy enough. And thanks to Gravol and air plugs (these little rubber ear plugs that help with the changing air pressure), I made it with zero nausea.

From home I flew to Vancouver; then to Santa Ana, California; and finally to Reno, Nevada. I had a window seat during two of those flights, so I got to watch the flat prairies turn into the Rockies, and the Rockies turn into the Sierra Nevada range. I've never seen brown mountains before! (And I can now write airport scenes more accurately, so yay for that!)

Riding the shuttle from the airport to the hotel, I overheard conversations behind me about vampires and fictional races and how to find critique groups, and I couldn't help but grin. It was so unlike anything you'd hear on a regular bus, I just knew I was in the company of writers. I was finally at Realm Makers.

When I arrived at the hotel (which was huge and had a casino on the main floor--it reeked of cigarette smoke there), I met Lisa Canfield, long-time friend, blogger, and one of my roommates! We had supper with an assortment of Realmies, then retreated to our room for an early night.

Day 2

Me and Lisa nipped across the parking lot for breakfast first thing in the morning.

Pre-conference day! I met a bunch more people, including Victoria Grace Howell! It was so surreal to be meeting online friends and fellow bloggers, and glimpsing familiar authors in the crowd.

Me and Tori! Apologies for the fuzziness in the photos. Hotel lighting isn't the greatest.

The first half of the day was David Farland's pre-conference workshop on creating a winning writing career. I learned SO. MUCH. Midlist authors vs. super lead authors, pen names, global markets, being a fast and consistent writer, growing my skills in concept/plot/prose, the neurobiology of readers, reaching a vast audience, writing beats . . . I scribbled a dozen pages of notes on this class alone!

David Farland, pre-conference workshop

Sometime that afternoon, I met my friend Mary Horton, who's just as sweet in person as she is online!

With Mary Horton

Later in the day, the conference officially began, kicking off with an agent and editor panel where they answered questions we wrote in. One thing I was reminded of is to write the story I am passionate about, rather than worrying about trends, and that's what will set me apart.

Ted Dekker's opening keynote was next. If you'll remember, he's one of my favorite authors, so I was massively excited to hear him in person! I found he was as dynamic and powerful in his speaking as he is in writing. He's been on an incredible journey and come to learn so much about who God is, what it means to be one with Him because of Jesus, and the power of our own perception. Much of what he talked about was similar to things he teaches in The Creative Way writing course, but it stirred my hunger for knowing God, clarified my vision, and provided a breath of fresh air and peace.

Ted Dekker

After that, Carla Hoch held a fight workshop. It was super informative, because she was teaching real fighting skills in order to help us write better fight scenes. It was also super hilarious, especially since she was demonstrating everything on the emcee, Ben Wolf! Some of the practical things I took away were: everything is a weapon, the deadliest person is the most willing person, and the first thing you should try to do when approached by someone aggressive is RUN.

Carla teaching us how to break Ben's wrist with nunchucks.

Day 3

I had a lovely breakfast in the lobby with Mary H. and her mom, and then hurried off to my first class of the day: Robert Liparulo's continuing session called "Embrace the Strange." Sadly, I missed about half of his teaching throughout the conference because, being a newbie, I scheduled all my appointments during class times. But what I did hear was so encouraging and inspiring. He talked about how to write strange stuff without chasing people away (hint: hide the weird among the ordinary, the familiar, and the universal, especially universal human emotion). But the biggest thing I took away from his classes was this: trust yourself as a writer. And don't hold back those good ideas you're saving for fear of emptying your bag of tricks. Write those twists, those amazing characters and plots and ideas, now. And trust God to give you more for the next novel.

In the middle of that first session, I slipped out for a mentor appointment with David Farland. I asked him for advice on getting from where I am now to where I'd like to be (writing as a career), and got some great tips for how to prepare myself and grow my skills.

My next class was one on networking by Mary Weber! I was expecting social media strategies and marketing platforms, but what she taught was so much better: publishing is relational. Networking is just making friends. Of course she went way more in depth than that, but it was a wonderful reminder and eye-opener.

At lunch, I sat with Mary, Jonathan Trout, and a whole group of teens, a few I know from Goodreads and whatnot. They're such a fun group, and I ended up hanging out with them a lot more during the conference.

Right after that, I had a class on plotting a bestselling series by David Farland (apparently I signed up for a lot of his classes, LOL). I know I'll definitely be referring to my notes whenever I get back to working on The Prophet's Quest and its sequels!

Next I had another of Robert Liparulo's sessions. I missed part of it again for my first ever appointment with an agent. I was a bit nervous, but no more than I've been for job interviews, and the pitch went decently well. I was told my writing was good, so that's a plus!

That evening was the awards banquet, where almost everyone showed up in costume, and I dressed as Emma Swan from Once Upon a Time! Aaaaand here comes the onslaught of pictures.

With Mary (as Bilbo), and roommates Brianna da Silva (as medieval peasant) and Lisa (as Arwen) // photo courtesy of Mary's camera

Will all my roomies: Liv K. Fisher (as a fairy), Lisa, and Brianna
With Cassia Schaar (as Annabeth) and Olivia Hofer (as herself)
With Tori (as a fem Graham)
With Jonathan Trout (as Robin Hood, minus a bow)
With Hann R. (as herself)
With Keturah Lamb (as herself)

I didn't catch their names, but when I asked Flynn Rider and Rapunzel for a picture,
Flynn said, "As long as you get my nose right," to which I replied, "As long
as you give me the smolder." This is the result.
Snow White and the cutest dwarf I have ever seen!

Author Jill Williamson (as Gamora) and her husband (as Star Lord)
With Jill
I met so many others too--I just don't have room for all the pictures! There were characters from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Disney, and more. I saw Dr. Strange and the Ancient One (actually Scott and Becky Minor, who run the conference!), Katniss Everdeen, Belle, Gandalf, Wolverine, people in steampunk costumes, and so many others I either recognized or had never seen in my life. I've never been a part of any cosplay event before, but it was really fun to strike up conversations with perfect strangers based solely on the fandoms they represented!

As the banquet wound down, I got a chance to meet and talk to author James L. Rubart. He's a super nice guy. We had a great conversation and I walked away encouraged!

Day 4

First thing in the morning I had a half-hour session with editor/author Lindsay A. Franklin for my ten-page critique. It was amazing. She was so encouraging and supportive, offered awesome advice, and was just really fun to talk to! (And her first novel is coming out in 2018, you guys! Be on the lookout!) Based on her comments and ideas, I'll be reworking at least part of The Brightest Thread. Improvement is an exciting thing!

Afterwards, I had another pitching appointment. This one went very differently than planned, because as it turned out, TBT isn't the right fit for this agent. But we had a good discussion in which he asked questions to stir my creativity and help point me in the right direction, so it was still a helpful learning experience!

I then caught the tail end of Robert Liparulo's final session. Following that was a class on character motivations by Lisa Mangum, which offered practical tips for defining characters' values, goals, and ambitions, and thrusting them into conflict and growth.

That afternoon, I sat in on a panel about reaching readers. The advice was aimed more for already-published authors (always keep copies of your books in your trunk; never be without a Sharpie for signing them; etc.), but it was still informative.

My final class that day was another one by David Farland, this one about building a magic system! One of the best things I took away was the idea of using magic to explore morality--what is the right use of all that power?

Then we had some free time! I hung out with friends in the vendor hall/bookstore and agonized over which books to buy. With limited room in my suitcase, deciding was hard. And then for supper, my teen friends kidnapped me right out of the hotel for deep dish pizza and deep conversation to match. I had so much fun with them! (They were fascinated by my Canadian currency. 'Twas hilarious.)

picture provided by Jonathan Trout

Then it was back to the hotel for Ted's closing keynote and Q&A (so good!) . . . and then, the reason I had packed probably ten pounds of books along: the book signing!

I got Storm Siren signed by Mary Weber! She's like the nicest human bean ever.
Ted Dekker! I got Mortals signed by him. (Most of the Dekker books in my
house belong to my dad. I actually own very few of them myself.)
I didn't have any of Robert Liparulo's books with me, nor did I have room in my luggage to buy one, so he signed my notebook for me. XD
I also got a couple of books signed by Jill Williamson (she's so friendly) and Kyle Robert Schulz (fellow Silmarillion Awards host), though I didn't get pictures.

And then, to close it all off: the NERF WAR. I didn't stay for nearly all of it, because I had a ridiculously early flight the next morning, but I stuck around long enough to play several rounds of zombies vs. survivors. Despite being tired, it was hilariously fun! (Seriously, when do you get to see a whole roomful of mostly adults running around shooting foam darts at each other? And having serious strategy huddles before each round of the game?)
Liv and I, happy assassins

Day 5

I got four hours of sleep and woke up at 4 am to catch my flight to Salt Lake City. I was exhausted and threw up once, but my next two flights went smoothly. By suppertime I was home again.

* * *

And that was Realm Makers 2017! Sorry for the beastly length of this post. There was just so much I wanted to share with you. Realm Makers was encouraging, inspiring, jam-packed, worth the money, and so. much. fun. I learned a lot and met so many awesome people. When others ask me what the highlight of my trip was, I've been telling them it's the people. It's being around so many other writers. The energy of a huge room full of individuals who love story, speculative fiction, and Jesus. People who get me. People amongst whom small talk consists of more than just "Where are you from?" and "What do you do?" but "What do you write?" It was an amazing conference, and I hope I get to go again next year!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sunshine Blogger Award

Hello! I'm currently off in some secret location on a vacation with my family, so this is me speaking to you from the past. I needed a quick post to schedule for today, since I hate to leave this place lonesome and deserted, and a tag seemed like just the thing.

I've done the Sunshine Blogger Award before (a Q&A is about as easy as it gets, thank goodness). This one comes from the lovely lass who goes by the name Blue, over at To Be a Sennachie. Thanks, Blue!

1. How are you today?

As of the day I'm writing this, very well, thank you! My brain is racing a hundred different directions because I'm on the verge of flying away to Realm Makers. (But as of today, I'm probably sitting in the sunshine with a book in hand and feeling much more relaxed.)

2. What’s one thing you love about your job/school?

I enjoy the mindless organizational aspect of restocking the store (I work in clothing retail), but I love the endless stories of customer interactions more. Character fodder, you know! Takes all kinds to make the world go round, and I've seen some rather interesting kinds during my two years at this job.

3. Know any other languages?

Besides English . . . no. Does a handful of words I've made up for fantasy novels count?

4. What’s one thing you adore- but think you will be able to give up for the rest of your life?

Oi, this is a hard one! If I adore something, naturally I'll want to keep it around for the rest of my life, or at least for a good long while! But . . . I suppose if forced, I could give up movies. Though I'd hate not getting the chance to see the rest of the Marvel movies. And the eventual new Narnia movie. And all the rewatches of LOTR and the Hobbit that I want to partake of. And every single Disney reboot they come up with. And all the funny, tragic, moving, suspenseful films I want to see. GAH, I CHANGE MY MIND. I couldn't give up movies! How about chocolate? I'd miss it terribly, but I'd rather feed my mind and heart than my stomach.

5. What’s one thing you despise- but think you will be able to endure for the rest of your life?

Bureaucracy! Red tape! Political correctness! I hates, it precious! (I'm really a harsh little rebel somewhere deep inside, but I tend to keep that shady corner of myself hidden from the public eye.) But being as this is the world we live in, and this sort of nonsensical lack of common sense and justice is entrenched so deeply, I suppose I may have to endure my fair share of it. Though I would like to affect some changes during my lifetime. How, you ask? By burning it all down and starting a benevolent dictatorship on my own little island--ah, I kid. Mostly.

6. The doorbell rings. You answer it, and find the future you at the doorstep.  What do you do?

Invite her in for chai lattes and gingersnaps, knowing she simply can't resist those, and ply her with questions. Most importantly, how did she get where she is today, is she happy there, and what's one piece of advice she'd give her younger self (aka me).

7. Have you ever gotten lost, but enjoyed the experience?

I've probably gotten turned about in the woods someplace, but there's always been trails around. Any other times I've gotten lost, it's been driving around in the city, and I do not enjoy that.

8. Do you have any culinary quirks?

I am a messier baker than my mother. *wink* I can't help but leave flour dust in my wake! And I don't particularly enjoy handling raw meat, though I'll do it.

9. Imagine that a theme song from a film or show played every time you entered a room. Which theme song would you want it to be?

Ohhhh, THIS is what you were referring to, Blue, when you mentioned this question was familiar! (On my brother's blog, I believe?) Anyway, I'd probably pick something light and airy and vaguely epic, with Celtic undertones. Like THIS, perhaps? But if I'm being more accurate, it would probably be something quirky and strange, like Radagast's theme music.

10. Where would you rather live? A houseboat, a mountain cabin, a farmhouse, or an apartment overlooking the whole city?

The mountain cabin, if you please! Although the farmhouse would be my second choice. I'm not fond enough of the rocking sensation of boats to live on one, and a city--though fun at times--makes my tree-loving soul feel cramped.

11. Where’s Waldo?

Good question. If you find him, you'll make a killing, because I'm sure there are a good many people who are wondering the same thing.


Aaaand I would come up with a set of new questions and tag more people, but I've run out of time! Feel free to pick some of these questions to answer in the comments, though! I'll see you in a short while, and I'll probably come dump an overly long post full of Realm Makers stories. Until then, fare thee well!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fantasy in My Veins (#SilmAwards2017)

Well, my friends, the 2017 SilmAwards have come to a glorious and bittersweet end. If you missed any of the presentations, I finally got around to putting a list at the end of my own presentation post, which you can find HERE. Thanks for joining us in this epic event!

Now, to wind it all down on the very birthday of Lord of the Rings, we're throwing a party to celebrate Tolkien and all things fantasy! Feel free to join in with your own blog post or update on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/whatever, using #SilmAwards2017. The more the merrier, of course. (And one side of me is chuffed as chips that this coincides with Realm Makers--how appropriate!)

Last year I presented a small smorgasbord of Lord of the Rings stuff--quotes, pictures, musings on what the books and movies and soundtracks mean to me, etc. Today I wish to broaden my view with a reflection on my reading history, and fantasy as a genre.

* * *
picture via Pinterest, graphics my own

Fantasy is my literary homeland.

See, I grew up in a family that treasured stories. My parents read to me copiously as a child. I vividly remember afternoons snuggled up next to my mom with a picture book, prodding her awake and asking her to reread pages when she grew sleepy and began slurring the words I'd memorized . . . evenings gathered around the kitchen table to eat night snack with my siblings while my father read a storybook of our choice . . . trips to the library every three weeks, during which my family of six would haul out 60-70 books at a time . . . lonely bus rides during my earliest elementary school years (prior to homeschooling) when I would bury my nose in a book and ignore the noisy teenagers in the back seats . . . I even recall bedtimes as a teenager, when my dad read a chapter of a novel to me every night just for old time's sake.

I remember learning to read. I remember my parents telling me that books were like picture windows. When one learns how to read, one can go through those windows into another place.

I remember grade one, when a beloved teacher taught me the bare bones of crafting a story: beginning, middle, and end. She unlocked the first of many doors into a world of making my own magic.

I was hooked.

The moment I mastered beginner readers with stories like "The cat sat on the mat," I reached for bigger books with longer sentences. From there I jumped to novels like Anne of Green Gables, which was marvellously long and dense for such a young mind, and full of words I didn't yet understand. As I outgrew animal stories about puppies and horses, I discovered the mystery genre. The Boxcar Children, Jigsaw Jones, Nancy Drew, and Mandy Shaw books held me in suspense and piqued my fascination with the unknown, with secrets to be discovered and trails to be followed.

But the moment a young classmate recommended The Chronicles of Narnia to me was the moment that changed the course of my reading years. I distinctly remember climbing to the second floor of my school library and hunting down the name C.S. Lewis. That day I went home with a copy of The Magician's Nephew, and I was utterly enchanted.

I was rather young at the time, perhaps eight years old. My parents were wise enough to put the rest of the series, which was a wee bit over my head, on hold for when I turned ten. Yet another clear memory: the day they put a massive tome containing all seven Narnia books in my hands.

There was no looking back. I had found a world that entranced me, inspired me, kept me captive and set me free all at once. The idea that another world might be as close as the next wardrobe nestled somewhere deep inside my heart. Here was a genre that deepened my understanding of reality by stretching my vision into realms beyond my own. Here was a genre that strengthened my hands with the courage of a knight and filled my heart with the compassion of a hero. A genre that allowed me to soar on dragon's wings.

Thereafter followed several years of testing my mother's patience every single time we visited the library. I very quickly exhausted their supply of age-appropriate fantasy, plagued my mother with cries of "I have nothing to read!" and subsequently turned down every thoughtful suggestion she made that fell outside the realm of my beloved fantasy. (God bless Mom.) She eventually managed to help me stretch my horizons, and I found enjoyment in a collection of other genres as well.

Older horse stories took me to Thoroughbred races and equestrian shows. Frank Peretti took me to wild jungles with the Cooper family. Melody Carlson immersed me in the elitist ranks of drama-loving high school girls. Countless other authors introduced me to all sorts of wonderful things.

But fantasy remained my One True Love. From the beginning of my teenage years, Bryan Davis and Wayne Thomas Batson pulled me into worlds of dragons, slayers, quests, and swords. More recently, authors like Anne Elisabeth Stengl have painted heart-rending images in my mind's eye of love and loss and beauty all wrapped up in another realm. And so many other authors in between have done the same.

I'm thankful for all the genres I've read, no doubt. But fantasy is where I feel most at home. Fantasy is often where I experience the greatest joys and deepest sorrows as a reader. It's where my imagination takes flight. And most importantly, it's where I see facets of the real Author's character the clearest.

pictured above: The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis // Liberator, Bryan Davis //
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien // Halt's Peril, John Flanagan // The Door Within,
Wayne Thomas Batson // Heartless, Anne Elisabeth Stengl // The Bones of Makaidos,
Bryan Davis // White, Ted Dekker // The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien //
Prophet, R.J. Larson // Raven's Ladder, Jeffrey Overstreet

In Aslan of The Chronicles of Narnia, I witness His sacrificial love.

In King Eliam of The Door Within, I see His blinding glory.

In the actions of Billy, Bonnie, Professor Hamilton, Sapphira, and their friends from the world of Dragons in Our Midst, I see what great warriors of the faith are capable of doing.

In the Prince of Farthestshore of Tales of Goldstone Wood, I see my Savior wooing me to His side, and in the song of the wood thrush I hear Him calling me to His path.

In the waters of Elyon from the Circle quartet, I find transformative joy.

In the Keeper of the Auralia Thread, I sense His mystery.

In the courage of hobbits, the strength of men, the wisdom of elves, and the determination of dwarves in Lord of the Rings, I see treasure hidden in jars of clay. I see what happens to the small and insignificant when committed to the hands of One much greater.

I escape into fantasy not to avoid the trials of this life here on earth, but to find wells of inspiration that bolster my faith to face them.

And that, my friends, is why I call fantasy my homeland. These books and more echo the cry of my heart for something beyond this world, for something greater than myself, for wonders hidden beneath what my eyes can see--and to all those desires, I hear my Father answering yes, yes, yes.

Yes, the unseen is more real than the seen. Yes, I AM greater than you yet know. Yes, I have hidden jewels of wonder in the crevices of your days, and the final treasure trove awaits beyond the veil of this life. Yes, I am here. Yes, I am present. Yes, I care. Yes, I am the One who compels you to a quest of your own, the One who charts your best path, the One who infuses your weary limbs with strength, the One who promises a crown to all those who stay the course.

Perhaps I stray too close to the ditch of exaggeration, but I think not. God knows what best speaks to our hearts, and I think He finds pleasure in my delight over the fictional worlds I travel. Whatever mouthpiece will speak the loudest, the clearest, is different from person to person. But as for me, the far-flung reach of fantasy is one of the greatest calls I hear.

It's a call I have listened to for years, and it is one I shall return to again and again for years to come. For me, fantasy is woven into the song of my Father.