Spotlight: A Great Light


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Book Tour Grand Finale for
A Great Light
By Jennifer Ball

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops

you can see snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch – Note from the Author

Welcome! I’m so excited to bring you my new series “The Kingdom to Come”. This first book “A Great Light” will introduce you to Prince Karhiad, a humble prince next in line to the throne, and his band of close loyal friends who live in the low social status of his kingdom. The crown prince respects his royal family, loves his parents and brother dearly, yet doesn’t align with their views of ruling the kingdom. He appreciates the authenticity that is found in his friends and the lifestyles of the lower and middle class…

My Devotional Thoughts – Inspiration for A GREAT LIGHT

This book was inspired by my favorite non-fictional person who was a humble king. Although, he was never a prince and had no royal bloodline, he was (in the plans of God) next in line for the throne — King David. The extreme trials that David faces in his lifetime are so immense, yet he stays faithful to a God he’s never laid eyes on. He never allows his status as king to make him arrogant or materialistic…

Stacking My Book Shelves! – Excerpt

“You came out here at night?” she asked with excitement. “Did you see these lit up in the dark?” She held her jar filled with lucent flutters towards him.

“Uh, no. I didn’t see those.”

“What was the woman’s name you met last night? Maybe I know her, although I doubt I do. A Trinicitian woman wouldn’t travel out here at night. We really aren’t supposed to travel outside without a companion anyway. I think I may be the only adventurer,” she said as she got into a standing position.

“I don’t know her name. I didn’t ask. I saw this magnificently beautiful light from my balcony. The curiosity of what it could possibly be drew me out here to find it. But it…” — he looked up towards the sky where he had seen it before — “it was gone.”

Remembrancy – The Kingdoms of A GREAT LIGHT

In this first book, A Great Light, you are introduced to 3 major kingdoms — Merrhius, Trinicity, and Ananias. There is also a few other minor kingdoms mentioned, however their focus will play out in future books…

Rockin’ Book Reviews Review

“This book is full of fascinating adventure. I like the way Jennifer separates the lands with distinctive differences. They are close in proximity but so far apart in their beliefs and the way they live…

This is an awesome story and I highly recommend it to other readers.”

Hearts & Scribbles – Excerpt

“Where is Trinicity?” he blurted out. She stopped her antics, and looked up at him. She didn’t respond. “I don’t mean to be intrusive. I was… I was just wondering how long a journey it is for you to get here.”

“Not long.” They kept their deep gaze with one another.

“Do you know…” He stopped, he couldn’t possibly ask, but he just felt so comfortable with her.

“Do I know what?”

“Do you know… why do people say they can’t find it?”

Wishful Endings – Why We Read Fantasy

Why do people read fantasy books? Because the human imagination is far more creative, compelling and fascinating than reality. If all books available only had a non-fictional theme, our minds would explode with the constant mental state of reality we’d always be in. Fantasy takes a person, even if for a brief moment, into a realm of excitement at the thought of “Wow, what if…?”…

The Barefoot Reader – Excerpt

“Could you ever show me your city?”

“Oh, no! He asked it!” Faith tried not to let her anxious feelings show on her face. Karhiad just longed for this mysterious place so eagerly. He knew this place was real, irrespective of what his father believed. He was confident this fascinating girl he met in the woods wasn’t lying about where she was from. The way she spoke about trivial matters and important issues was so alluring to him. The idea of visiting Trinicity, the place she came from, was very appealing to him. Besides, he never believed it to be a myth, and now eagerly just wanted to see it all with his own eyes.

My Life, Loves and Passion – Review

“Over the time they spend together they share about their homes. How they differ and what they share. They call for each other. Then tragedy stricks. Secrets and lies and manipulation take over…

…I like the story though and am curious what happens next.”

Declarations of a Fangirl – Good vs Evil

People are drawn to good vs evil because everyone can relate to such a battle. Even if the storyline is fantastical, everyone can relate to one of the characters in the fight. If it isn’t obviously painted out who the villain is and who the hero is, such as in Stars Wars with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, then who is good and who is evil can be a matter of opinion. An interesting aspect of good vs evil stories is that it allows the reader/audience to see redemption in someone…

Among the Reads – Excerpt

“Rhaevaehyn. Do you know of it?”

“Vaguely. They have a monarchy.”

“Yes. We have a monarchy.” He couldn’t tell by her tone when she said ‘monarchy’ how she felt about royal dynasties. He wasn’t sure if he should follow his statement by telling her he was a prince in his kingdom. He didn’t want to appear as if he was boasting. Besides, he was still a little shocked they had never even discussed where he was from until now.

“I know.” Faith’s lack of interest let him know that this actually was not the right time to let her know his inheritance.

Reading On The Edge – Excerpt

“An old man in my city died this morning,” Faith said as she and Karhiad stacked twigs and leaves up into a pile. They wanted to see who could start a fire first without the common essentials needed to cause a spark.

“I’m sorry. Did you know him?” Karhiad wasn’t sure what level of comfort to provide her yet, so he kept gathering the driest leaves he could find.

“Yes. He was an elder that I would deliver dinner to.”

Tell Tale Book Reviews – ​Prince Karhiad’s Survival Checklist

√ Don’t fear anything… ever

√ ​Loyal friends in my circle who value me unconditionally

√ Physically train harder than what is expected of me as the prince

Locks, Hooks and Books – Review

“I enjoyed this Christian Fantasy. Prince Karhiad is lead to Faith by a light. She was my favorite character of the book. The story is full of inspiration with the battles of good versus evil.”

Colorimetry – Excerpt

“So, um, where…” She was eager to change the subject. “Where else have you traveled? Do you journey outside your kingdom walls often? Have you met people from different cultures?”

“I’ve traveled many miles on the outer stretches of my kingdom. It was part of my training to know all the terrain. The most interesting culture I’ve encountered would have to be those living in Ananias. They don’t have walls, so I guess they are considered just a village.”

“Oh, yes. I’ve read about them. How did you find them?”

“I don’t know the details of it. When I was a young adolescent, there was a man in our military who said he found a unique culture and wanted us all to meet them. My father took me out with him and the rest of the traveling troops to encounter them.”

SilverWoodSketches – Review

“Jennifer Ball does a fantastic job of painting this world with compelling characters and vivid colors. There is some very lovely prose to immerse the reader into Karhiad and Faith’s worlds. The writing style harkens to Robin McKinley’s and other epic fantasy authors. Some readers may be put off by the heavier religious elements, but fans of more allegorical works like C.S. Lewis and Anne Elisabeth Stengl will love the message of faith behind The Kingdom to Come.”

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below, if you haven’t already…

A Great Light
(The Kingdom to Come #1)
by Jennifer Ball
Young Adult Christian Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 298 Pages
June 28th 2018 by Revelation Publishing Company

Love and war are often the same thing.

Prince Karhiad is a humble king-in-waiting. His father, King Vilsig, rules the Kingdom of Merrhius with an iron fist. While the king dreams of endless conquests, his son only wants to conquer the hearts of his subjects through love instead of fear.

Meanwhile, a dark and sinister force threatens every kingdom around. And if King Vilsig and Prince Karhiad can’t put aside their differences, an ancient sinister beast and his supernatural army will lay waste to the Kingdom of Merrhius.

On the night of Prince Karhiad’s 17th birthday, he is mesmerized by a radiant light and makes a decision to learn of its origin. That choice will force him towards answers he wasn’t seeking, a woman he wasn’t planning to fall in love with, and a destiny that will bring him great suffering yet an even greater reward. But in this gripping tale of good vs. evil, the power of love isn’t just a shield to ward off the darkness — it’s also the strongest weapon of all.

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About the Author

I am a friend of Jesus who at times fails at making this is my most important relationship. I am a wife who forgets at times this is my primary job. I am a mom who at times didn’t get it right. I take lots of pictures that annoy everyone in my family except for my dog. She loves it.

I began writing short stories when I was a child. I would sit in my room for hours writing as fast as I could to keep up with my thoughts. We didn’t have a typewriter and certainly no computer. Too often my writing would turn to scribble. I ended up with lots of loose paper with many short stories written on them in half scribble that made it too difficult for others to read. Thanks to technology, I went back to my childhood passion and wrote a story that I turned into a readable book.

That’s me, to make a long story short.

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A Dark Little Tale

Last week I discovered that my Amazon Prime subscription includes several seasons of the original Twilight Zone. So I came to watch “Judgement Night,” an episode that opens on a civilian ship creeping across the Atlantic Ocean in the unhappy year 1942. I would be reluctant to recommend this dark little tale to many people; I would be afraid they would find it merely unpleasant. Yet it left me thinking. It is a story that demonstrates – all the more powerfully for its lack of greatness – the power of stories.

First, the story itself (and if anyone needs a spoiler alert for a sixty-year-old story – well, consider yourself alerted). We begin with a man standing at the railing, looking out at the foggy sea; he is persuaded to enter the dining cabin, where people carry on civil conversation despite the silent, hanging dread of being stalked by German U-boats. Our protagonist is the most afraid of all, and with reason: he cannot remember getting on the ship, knows nothing but his name and birthplace and an awful sense of familiarity coupled with a crippling dread. “Judgement Night” follows the Twilight Zone pattern – tiresome elsewhere, but not here – of a bewildered person growing more and more distraught until he finally understands the trap snapping over him.

One of the awful things about this story is that the protagonist spends it just on the wrong side of understanding, where uncertain fear and sure misery converge. He’s not at all surprised when the U-boat attacks; he’s not even very surprised to see himself on the U-boat’s deck, directing the torpedoes that spill him into the ocean to drown. Neither is the audience very surprised, but the show holds its final punch until the end. We see our protagonist as the Nazi captain he always was, deriding a younger officer’s discomfort at the slaughter of men and women, but then slowly subsiding into unease as the man worries that God will damn them to a special hell – a hell where they are forced to share the fate of their victims, except that the people they killed only died once and they will have to die a hundred million times …

And we see again a man staring at the foggy sea, quiet in his confusion, and for him it is always 1942.

Probably the full strength of the story eludes us; we can’t receive it, today, as they received it then, when World War II was a living memory for most adults. “Judgement Night” aired in 1959, only seventeen years after 1942 – the same length of time between us and 9/11. To its first audience, it wasn’t just history. But if it can never be as immediate or visceral as it once was, the story still weaves its spell – the quiet, dreary atmosphere of the ship, the thick tension of fear, the frantic, useless resistance to the end. It’s chilling to see the Nazi captain again at the railing, knowing it will be exactly as it was, but there is also a grim sense of justice. God sent him to hell, but he made it.

The old-time preachers tried to evoke the horror of hell, and the rational apologists tried to justify it, and this brief story makes you feel both the horror and the justice. It’s not a great story, obvious in some ways and oppressive in others. But it possesses the power, innate to stories, to slip by arguments and intellectual proofs to make you feel truths you might not even believe. And what you feel is easy to think, for that is the power of the heart over the intellect, and of the story over the mind.

A Girl and Her Father

Of all biblical stories, Esther is among the best-known and most retold. There is good reason for this. It is a complete and satisfying tale, with peril and victory, with an underdog who wins, a villain who gets his comeuppance, and a brave, beautiful heroine. Its attraction is enormous, but a curious pattern emerges among the re-tellings. Even while staying faithful to the facts of the story, many re-tellings shift the dramatic and emotional center from Esther and Mordecai to Esther and Xerxes. The story of Esther is commonly told as a romance, but in the Bible, the relationship that matters most is the one between Esther and Mordecai.

Esther and Mordecai were cousins, but their relationship is defined by the fact that Mordecai adopted Esther after her parents died, taking her in and raising her. (Somewhat-irrelevant side note: This phenomenon – family members of the same generation but of vast age differences – occurred more frequently in ancient times than in modern, for various reasons.) Mordecai was, in effect, Esther’s father. This relationship drives forward the story: Mordecai’s concern for Esther leads to his vigils at the palace gate, through which he both saves the king’s life and incurs Haman’s animosity; it is Mordecai who explains to Esther (cloistered in the palace) the plot to annihilate the Jews and persuades her to act; Mordecai and Esther together save the Jews and later establish the celebration of Purim.

Esther and Mordecai are also at the heart of the story’s spiritual and emotional power. Esther commands the fasting and prayer in preparation of her bid to save the Jews; Mordecai makes the immortal statement that she became queen “for such a time as this.” It is their lives, their family, and their people brought beneath the shadow of ruthless slaughter. It is their relationship – and emphatically not the relationship between Esther and Xerxes – that is demonstrated to be one of mutual affection: Mordecai walked in a courtyard of the palace every day to find out how Esther was after the king’s officials took her; Esther was “in great distress” at the news of Mordecai’s distress.

Esther’s relationship with Xerxes was, of course, marriage – but marriage to a despot of ancient Persia, and that is a very qualified thing. He practiced, and pretended, no sexual fidelity toward her; consider that he slept with all her rivals for the queenship and then kept them as concubines within his palace. It is evident, too, that Xerxes and Esther didn’t really live together. They only visited at such times when Xerxes wished it – and he could go whole months without wishing it. No detail more sharply illuminates their relationship than the fact that Esther was deathly afraid to go to Xerxes without his summons. In the pivotal moment, Xerxes treated her with regard, but to the end their interactions were those of an absolute sovereign and a favored inferior. Esther was Xerxes’ queen more than she was his wife (though that also, to be fair, had its privileges). It should be noted, too, that Xerxes was an alien to the spiritual concerns of Mordecai and Esther and wholly safe from the death that threatened both of them. Xerxes is an ambivalent figure at best, and a hero on no consideration.

Why, then, do interpretations of the story so often fix on the supposed romance between Esther and Xerxes? The answer is simple, a truth that has long frustrated readers who prefer fantastical stories: People would rather hear about romance. To many people, a romantic relationship – even one as distant and asymmetrical as the marriage of a Persian despot and his queen – is inherently more interesting than a father-daughter relationship, even if it saves a nation from genocide.

Choose Your Own Story!

 

Welcome to my site! Today I’m taking part in Sarah Holman’s Choose Your Own Story! event. This is to celebrate the release of her latest book Escape and Endurance. In this event, you get to pick the outcome of the story by making choices. A lot of different things can happen. What are you waiting for? Start your adventure by clicking the image below.

He couldn’t see the princess. No doubt her cruel captor had locked her up and shut the window for the night.

Though his feet were sore and his bones ached, Sir Andrew would not let that stop him. After all, he had his sword. He waited until after the sun had set and then snuck up to the wall. He listened to the guards and found out that this place had been built by Lord Burn secretly. Since the guards had indulged in too much ale, they did not hear him climb over the wall.

He crept toward the tower and up the stairs. It was there that he encountered a guard who was alert. However, the guard was no match for the knight. Sir Andrew dealt with him and moved went to the door.

“Princess Gail?”

She flew to the door. “Sir Andrew! You’ve come to rescue me!”

“Come! We must leave here quickly!” Sir Andrew led her back down the stairs and to a horse he had spotted. An alarm was sounded, but it was too late. The princess and the knight were out the gate and flying back toward her home.

Sir Andrew became the most respected knight in the land. The king lavished him with many beautiful gifts, including the finest pair of boots that could be made.

It didn’t matter if the knight had stumbled upon the princess by accident or been dedicated to finding her, he had rescued her, and all was as it should be.

Are you interested in reading about a knight, a tower, a princess, and a servant? Pick up a copy of Escape and Endurance! Haven’t read the other books in the Tales of Taelis series? Not to worry. Each book can stand alone.

 

About Sarah:

Sarah Holman is a not-so-typical girl, a homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and lives in the great state of Texas. If there’s anything adventuresome about her life, it’s because she serves a God with a destiny greater than anything she could have imagined. You can find out more about her at her website: www.thedestinyofone.com

You can join the Adventurers (her newsletter) here.

Seriously, Now

For some years, I avidly followed a certain political/cultural writer until finally – you know how it can be, between authors and readers – we drifted apart. I thought her commentary was simply declining. One symptom of this decline was an overabundance of the word serious. It wasn’t right or left or even right or wrong anymore: The new word – the only word – was serious. Our national diagnosis was a lack of seriousness and our national prescription was to get serious. Our leaders weren’t serious and they didn’t know how serious things were, but if everybody would just get serious we would all be serious and then things could finally stop being so serious.

I lost interest, but I had a thought: To be serious is not enough. And can’t a serious person be just as wrong as an unserious person and, in certain situations, even more disastrous?

This principle can be applied to art as well as people. You may hear much of serious art or a serious work, but the phrase tells little of the real quality or worth of the work. My favorite example of this disconnect between seriousness and worthiness is Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes. The most shocking thing about Tarzan of the Apes is that it is a genuinely serious book, a story written around ideas. The second most shocking thing is the book’s level of racism. Given the period in which Tarzan of the Apes was written, a certain degree of racism would not have been surprising; when racism is dominant in society, it is inevitably reflected in (some of) that society’s art. But even with that forewarning, the racism of Tarzan is surprising in its pervasiveness, in how deeply and how elaborately it is woven into the story.

These two elements – the book’s seriousness and its racism – are not at all in contradiction. Indeed, if Tarzan of the Apes had been less serious, it would probably have been less racist. Burroughs might have still, in the appearance of a minor black character, invoked cheap, false stereotypes, but he would not have taken such pains to present thoroughbred English aristocrats as the highest human type. That was Burroughs’ elucidation of the theory of eugenics. Tarzan of the Apes revolves around nature v. nurture, the effect of environment and the effect of genetics; it is also wrong about nearly everything, from the truth of eugenics to the likely consequences of a childhood totally without human interaction. But books, like people, are not any less serious for being wrong, nor less wrong for being serious.

All of this emphasizes the essential ambivalence of what we call seriousness. Serious is more a description than a judgment, more an attribute than a virtue or a vice. To be serious is not to be good, or even to be deep, but the ambivalence is greater than that. Serious ideas, cogently presented, are as likely to be false as to be true, and some of the most serious works are also among the most malignant.

So if anyone, or anything, is commended to you as being serious, remember that this could mean seriously wrong.

Review: Tarzan of the Apes

It is the rare but glorious lot of writers to create a cultural icon that lasts generations, one of those things that everybody just knows even if they’re not sure how. Tarzan is one such icon. Who doesn’t know the image of the handsome, wild, muscular man swinging through the jungle with the agility of an ape? Sometimes there’s a girl in his arm, but to tell the truth, she’s not really necessary.

Like many such icons, Tarzan has been unmoored from his ultimate source. Everybody knows Tarzan, but most haven’t read Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. When I picked up Tarzan of the Apes, I was driven more by curiosity than the hope of a good story.

Tarzan of the Apes was first published in 1912, and a century is more than enough to make a novel historically interesting. Even the novels that were radical unconsciously reflect the ideas and attitudes of their era (no one lives entirely free of his time). In this respect, Tarzan is interesting, even though what it reflects can be quite bad. The crude racist stereotypes are obvious blemishes, but the more subtle eugenicist ideas are the same poison – refined and intellectualized and so more pernicious.

This book surprised me. It is darker and more violent than I anticipated, with a surprising dose of cannibalism from both white and black characters. Tarzan’s jungle divides itself pitilessly into killer and killed, and he himself is a wholehearted participant. Most of the characters, of whatever race or species, are scum. At the same time, it is far more thoughtful than I would have guessed. In the best tradition of speculative fiction, Burroughs uses fiction to explore an idea. He takes up the nature vs. nurture debate by putting a child of the best hereditary (in an eugenicist touch, the son of English aristocrats) in the worst environment (raised by savage apes in a virgin jungle).

To Burroughs’ credit, he doesn’t offer a quick, cut-and-dried answer. Tarzan, the subject of his fictional experiment, is deeply influenced by both hereditary and environment. At the same time, Burroughs’ treatment of the question is generally unconvincing, occasionally ridiculous, and undermined by eugenicist assumptions. Burroughs explicitly grounds the explanation of Tarzan’s superhuman physicality in evolution, in the logic that human muscles and senses atrophied as we learned to rely on reason and would rejuvenate in an environment that demanded it for survival, but I didn’t buy it. Nor did I buy that Tarzan’s aristocratic genes made him instinctively gracious or chivalrous, or that he could become fluent in any language quickly. In a very real way, Tarzan of the Apes is a book of ideas. It’s just that the ideas are mostly claptrap.

As much as eugenics, as an idea, deserves to die, its presence in Tarzan is part of the novel’s scientific bent. So, too, are the references to evolution, the nature vs. nurture debate, and the way an important plot point turns on this new thing, fingerprinting. If you don’t know what that is, the book explains it. A good part of the book’s darkness comes from its more realistic portrayal of apes in particular and African jungles in general. The portrayal is not really scientific; Burroughs attributes to the apes a language (however limited) and customs and laws (however savage). But unlike Disney’s Tarzan and The Jungle Book, which were developed out of a desire for fun, child-friendly stories with animals that talk and sing and occasionally even dance, Burroughs’ jungle society was developed in the spirit of the real jungle. The apes in this novel are violent, but so are apes in real life.

To take Tarzan of the Apes strictly as art, the plot was well-constructed and the author unafraid of making decisive change in his hero and story. The love story, for once, was not completely predictable. The old professors were funny. I was still ready for the book to end in the neighborhood of page 150, and I got tired of the phrase “forest god”.

Not much of the real Tarzan of the apes survives in his icon – not his propensity to kill, his blue blood, his superhuman strength. But the image of him in his jungle is enduring. Tarzan of the Apes may be good fare for those interested in culture, history, and old-fashioned pulp romps. Reader discernment is needed, however, and the novel is emphatically not for children.

Much of Magic

Sir Bors set out on the Quest for the Holy Grail, but he spent most of the appointed year in prison because (it can happen) he made an unscheduled stop to proclaim the Gospel to apparently unreceptive heathens. “They knew much of magic,” he later told King Arthur, “but little of God.” (quoted from Maude L. Radford’s King Arthur and His Knights)

This formulation – much of magic, little of God – is striking in any case, but particularly so because it occurs in an Arthurian story. Although this is often neglected in modern retellings, the Arthurian legends combined Christianity with magic, pagan legends with culled elements of Christianized Britain. Classic versions of the sword-in-the-stone legend put “the wise magician” Merlin working together with the Archbishop of Canterbury to find a new king for the Britons. And still the association of magic with heathenism: much magic, little God.

There is tension between the Church that makes common cause with magicians and the heathens full of magic, but perhaps not contradiction. The authors of the Arthurian myth found they could broker an accommodation between Christians and magic. Yet they could rarely have missed the accommodation between pagans and magic, typified in the Druids whose memory outlived their presence. The sort of magic that most famously imbues Arthurian myth – the magic sword, the wise man who saw the future, the Lady of the Lake – is not witchcraft. Yet it remains, in itself, ambivalent. Despite the rumors, there is no inexorable link between magic and the devil, but neither is there any inexorable link between magic and God.

I’ve seen the link between magic and God made; probably all of you have. There is more than one way to weave magic into the framework of Christian doctrine and Christian principles. C.S. Lewis’ way – carving out a place for magic in an explicitly Christian universe – is the most obvious. Another method, popular in modern Christian fantasy, is to fix a magical world beneath God (often called the Creator, the Eternal One, etc.), without venturing any further in Christian belief than monotheism. J.R.R. Tolkien is the premier example of the most subtle method. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings show little overt religion, but his posthumous works reveal his efforts to bring his creation into harmony with Christian thought. The influence of Tolkien’s faith on his work is indelible. (In this lengthy but thoughtful essay, Steven Graydanus examines how Tolkien’s Catholicism shaped his portrayal of magic.)

Much fantasy is created by people who have no interest in taming magic to Christianity. That alone doesn’t make it bad; I once read a charming, perfectly innocuous children’s book called The Enchanted Castle, in which I found nothing to condemn or to call Christian. Yet the portrayal of magic in fiction isn’t always innocuous. Nor is it bound to keep its customary ambivalence; it may be remade into more sinister forms. The categorical rejection of all fictional magic is mistaken, but there is a shade of legitimate warning down at the roots.

Because it may justly be said of some books, as it is justly said of some people, that they know much of magic and little of God.

Can We Say …

The Nephilim walked into history in Genesis 6:4, which runs, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” The Nephilim are mentioned once more, as the terrifying inhabitants of Canaan (in reality, the ancestors of the prodigiously-sized Anakites; whether they have any connection with such groups as the Rephaites is more than I can say).

The actual importance of the Nephilim, in theology, religion, and the arc of the Bible’s narrative, is slight; their fascination is large. Their close connection to the much-disputed “sons of God” entrenches them in controversy; their association with the outsized denizens of Canaan increases the intrigue. Their name means “fallen ones,” and Nephilim is frequently translated giants, including in such venerable translations as the King James Version, the Geneva Bible, and the Wycliffe Bible. (The Geneva Bible also provides the alternate word tyrants.) Giants, fallen ones, heroes of old, men of renown – wouldn’t you love to know more about them?

One ancient, and still popular, interpretation of the Nephilim – it appears in the Book of Enoch, written before the birth of Christ – holds that they were the children of fallen angels and human women. For obvious reasons, this interpretation is the one that prevails in Christian speculative fiction. It’s not that the writers necessarily believe it, any more than sci-fi writers necessarily believe that it’s possible to go back in time or to travel faster than the speed of light; it’s just that it’s that sort of idea. The idea is acutely uncomfortable. But ideas often are in a genre that takes, for its parents, people like Edgar Allan Poe and the Brothers Grimm.

What sets the Nephilim apart from other ideas is that they are derived from the Bible. Nobody really cares whether it’s possible to go back in time when reading (or writing) time-travel stories. Nobody ever liked Star Wars less because some scientist debunked lightsabers on the grounds that that’s not how lasers work. We’re all happy to set aside debates and, for the sake of our chosen stories, presume what we suspect to be false. But should we have a different standard when the debates are centered around Scripture?

This question goes beyond the Nephilim and, if you care to follow it, wanders into all sorts of nuance. Is it all right to write a novel where the rumor is true and the Apostle John never dies? (This, too, happens in Christian speculative fiction.) Can we say that Daniel founded a school of astrology that eventually trained the Magi, though we know in our hearts that never happened? Can we have time-travelers at the Crucifixion? Can we have the Nephilim after all? Are the answers to all these questions conditional on the details, on what we do with the premise more than what the premise is? Is it simply a matter of staying in the gray and not infringing on the black and white? (For example: We can say the Nephilim were giants or tyrants or angel-human hybrids because that argument has been going on for centuries, but we can’t say they caused the Flood because they didn’t, and if you don’t believe me, read Genesis 6 past verse 4.)

What do you think? What sort of lines have you drawn, in your reading or writing?

The Making of ‘Us’

America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice … Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things. G.K. Chesterton, What I Saw in America

I open with this quotation for two reasons. The first is that today is July 4, and it is appropriate to Independence Day. The second is that, like Independence Day, it points to the creation of a nation. Nations, though somewhat maligned as, for example, a proximate cause of World War I, stand as the largest cohesive group yet formed by humanity. (Empires, though generally larger, possess unity no deeper than the edge of a sword – hence the inevitable dissolution of all empires, usually in short order.) Groups are defined by common identity. National identity is only an unusually modern way of defining us

The oldest method of creating a broad us is through blood, through a concept of family expanded to include thousands. Clans, tribes, kinship groups: all have been societies unto themselves, holding political power and social organization within a web of kinship. Common ancestry, real or invented, is an effective way of forging identity and unity, and a tenacious one. Even today, ethnic violence is often a reversion to tribal divisions, whose bonds prove stronger than overlying national identities.

Religion also forms a basis for groups and for identity. Some religions (it isn’t true of all) transcend divisions by ancestry to create a broader identity. Islam, at its birth in the Arabian peninsula, did this; the Koran specifically forbids violence against fellow Muslims of different tribes. Christianity used to be a powerful force of cohesion in the West, a common source of moral standards, metaphysical beliefs, and – in such forms as music and literature – culture.

National identity followed the rise of the nation-state. National identity encompasses any attribute or characteristic people wish to claim, from speaking Gaelic to fine cuisine to the Declaration of Independence. It often includes common ancestry or religion but often transcends them as well. The Reformation broke the religious homogeneity of Europe, and America never had much in the way of ethnic homogeneity; national identity is another avenue to unity.

By all these things we forge identity, and by identity we create the us, and Man must have the us. The trick of it all is that if there is an us, there must also be a them. What bridges one gap may deepen another; if the presence of a commonality is reason to spare someone, the absence of it may be a reason not to spare him. Nations have broadened beyond tribes, but not risen above tribal impulses.

So where do we go from here? Maybe you see evolution in all this and, with happy optimism, imagine that identities will grow broader and broader until they merge, in some distant utopia, into one universal identity. Maybe you think that that would be very nice, but unfortunately people aren’t, so it’s more likely that a regression into primitive loyalties and narrow identities will create a dystopia. Maybe you think that another basis of common identity is possible, whether culture or secular creeds or social class (Workers of the world, unite!).

Whatever you think or imagine about the thorny issue of communal identity, of this – as of everything else – stories are made.

Spotlight: Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey Blog Tour

Faith Blum has a new book. And it’s not a Western. It is a fairy tale retelling set during the time of King Saul. Read on to learn more about the book.

About the Book

Trust and Obey_KindleA wicked priestess, a morally corrupt king, and two children stuck in the middle…

Hadassah and Gidal love their parents and will do anything for them. When Priestess Basmat tell Ehud and Jerusha to pay their debt, they cannot and she takes Hadassah and Gidal as her slaves for two years.

The priestess works them hard, but there are two other servants to divide the load with, so they cope as well as they can. Then King Saul comes in disguise requesting the priestess’s other services—as a medium.

Will Hadassah and Gidal trust Adonai to take care of them? What will happen after Priestess Basmat comes face-to-face with the prophet Samuel?

Amazon

Goodreads

About the Author

FaithBlum_EmmaCatherinePhotography03Faith Blum is a small-town Wisconsin girl. She’s lived in, or outside of, small towns her whole life. The thought of living in a city with more than 60,000 people in it scares her, especially after some interesting adventures driving through big cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Faith currently resides in the middle of the state of Wisconsin with her husband and their cat, Smokey. She is blessed to be able to have writing as her full-time career with household work and cooking to do on the side. She loves to paint walls as long as she doesn’t have to do hallways or ceilings.

When not writing, you can find her cooking food from scratch due to food allergies (fun), doing dishes (meh), knitting, crocheting, sewing, reading, or spending time with her husband (yay!). She is also a Community Assistant for the Young Writers Workshop and loves her work there. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to contact her on her website.

Giveaway

Giveaway

Faith Blum is doing a giveaway with her blog tour. She is offering a paperback copy of Trust and Obey as well as a magnet with the cover on it! You can enter here.

Excerpt

Saul called in Urim, the priest. “Have you heard from the Lord yet about this battle?”

“No, I have not.”

Saul picked up the nearest thing to him and threw it at the tent wall. “Why is He ignoring me? I need to know what to do. I can’t take the silence anymore.”

Urim bowed his head. “I’m sorry, my king. I cannot help you.” He backed out of the tent and Saul was left alone with his servants.

Saul sat down, his shaky legs no longer holding him up. His vision clouded and he ground his teeth together. One of his servants approached and Saul snapped his head in that direction. “Seek for me a woman who is a medium so I may go to her and inquire of her.”

Achim took another step nearer. “My king, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.”

The cloud dissipated from Saul’s eyes. “Gather some servants clothing for me that I may disguise myself. Then pick another servant to go with us.”

Achim bowed. “Yes, my lord.”

Saul stood and paced around the tent until Achim returned. Achim assisted Saul in changing into the servant’s clothing.

When he finished, Achim scooped up some cooled ashes. “My king, may I smudge your face?”

Saul nodded. “Who is coming with us?”

“My brother, Carmi. We grew up in En-dor and know the best ways to get in and out of the village unseen.”

“Very good. We must get going.”

Achim beckoned to a shadow at the edge of the tent and a man stepped out. “I am at your service, my lord.”

Saul looked him up and down. “Come. We depart now.”

 

Tour Schedule

June 26
Bookish Orchestrations – Introductory Post
Frances Hoelsema – Book Spotlight
Rachel Rossano’s Words – Book Spotlight

June 27
Letters from Annie Douglass Lima – Book Spotlight
RockandMinerals4Him – Book Review
Shannon’s Blog – Book Spotlight

June 28
Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections – Special Post
Wildflower Acres – Book Spotlight

June 29
God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae – Book Review
Purposeful Learning – Book Review
The King and His Kingdom – Book Review

June 30
Bookish Orchestrations – Giveaway Winner