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Are Fairy Tales a Waste of Time?

This is a guest post by Brent King.

As a Christian urban fantasy author I have been confronted, as have many of my writing partners, by those who doubt that fantasy, or fairy stories, have any anchor in the real world. Worse yet, some have argued that they take their reader far out of this world into an imaginary place that has no connection to reality.

Is this true? Are fairy stories a mindless waste of time? Do they lure our minds away from reality into an anchorless world of fantasy?

What Fairy Tales Do

It’s true, when we experience a good fairy tale it allows us to open up a place inside of us where we can actually believe its enchantments. It is thrilling to go adventuring with Kyran and Posy, or on a quest with Frodo, but does it snow-white-933491really have anything to do with our world?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” Fairy tales:

  • give us a lens to see the world in a startling new way.
  • help us to see our lives not only as they are, but as they could be (or perhaps should be).
  • touch us in their most signature way by how we experience their endings: that sudden, unexpected joy that washes over us in the miraculous grace of what Tolkien called the “eucatastrophe.”

But How Can This Be?

Fairy stories are only successful to the extent that they reflect our world. Who would be moved by a story to which they could not relate? The only reason why the fairy world attracts us is because it is fashioned after the truth of our world.

Indeed the fairy world is our world, a world of wonder we can experience in the real—right now. There is awe, wonder, and amazement in our world. There is beauty and redemption beyond all our evil and brokenness. The problem is that our eyes are often too compromised, shaken, pacified, unfocused, jaded, or injured to see it.

take-532097Where Fairy Tales Shine

This is where fantasy shines. In a world where the simple virtues of God have become routine and expected, a fairy tale catches us off-guard and we are surprised by the truth. It breaks through what CS Lewis referred to as our “stained-glass and Sunday school associations,” and the result is pure delight. This was JRR Tolkien’s point in his lecture on fairy tales:

“The peculiar quality of the ”joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth.”

Teaching by Delighting

A good story both delights and teaches, and that is the power of a great fairy tale. It teaches by delighting. This anchors the fairy tale deep in the real world, powerfully connecting it to our lives in ways that are essential to society.

Are Fairy Tales A Waste of Time?

Are fairy tales a waste of time? Only if teaching truth is a waste of time. There is realm of awe and wonder in our world, scenes of beauty and redemption, yet many of us would miss them without a good story, indeed, without a grounding fairy tale.

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Brent KingBrent King is a freelance writer of Christian urban fantasy from Lake Oswego, Oregon. He also works as a massage therapist and health consultant. He has two sons, 20 and 23, who live in British Columbia, Canada.
Brent’s first book, The Grip of Grace: God’s Hand in The Lord of the Rings, was published in January, 2014. His debut novel, The Fiercest Fight, was published in November 2015.
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I’m Saying “No”

I say no to letting my precious gift of a life slip by while I drown in an electronic, anti-social, busy world.

I say no to not making decisions, or letting others make them for me, thus making the worst decision of all.

I say no to ignoring the friends who are near and needing me.

I say no to fearing freedom and clinging to slavery like a coward.

freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net

I say no to complaining and bickering about the dirt I tread on, when God has given me gems enough to light the world.

I say no to listening to Satan’s lies, which keep me from spreading God’s love more fully.

I say no to being offended for my own sake, because in the end that’s only selfishness anyway.

I say no to the laziness and indecision that keep me from coming fully alive and awake, as I was meant to be.

I say no to the mentality that big moments are what we live for, when the small ones are the rich fabric my life has been made of thus far.

I say no to seeing only with my eyes, when God has given my heart the ability to see His Kingdom all around me every day.

I say no to waiting for someone to show love and attention to me before I give it in return.

I say no to demanding fairness for myself in relationships and in life.

I say no to walking timidly and with fear, when God has given me the wonderful, beautiful heart of a lion.

And I say yesyes to God alone, and the joy and the life and the purpose He has for me.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

If I Had One Year to Live

In honor of Nadine Brande’s brand new Christian dystopian novel, A Time to Die, I am taking part in the How Would You Live blog hop. Nadine’s book is truly special and thrilling, and I will be posting my review of it here on my blog on the day it releases (Sept. 23), along with a giveaway.

A Time to Die deals with the theme of living and dying … do we take every moment God has given us and use it for His good, or do we waste our lives, squandering the time allotted to us?  These questions are brought into sharp focus when you consider your life in terms of time – days, hours, minutes. What if the time left to you was only a year? What would you do with it?

Here are my thoughts.

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Five years ago my best friend died.

I’ve never written about her, and only in the last year or so have I begun to speak much of her death, even to those closest to me. Everyone around me knew I was grieving, and they also knew that, for a long time, my grief was too deep for words. She was a part of
me, a sister in all but blood, and I truly loved her. Even now, typing these words, my heart still bleeds a little for missing her.blog hop button

In the three short years that she sickened and declined, we were living far apart. I was able to visit her a handful of times, enough times to watch in awe as she laughed good-naturedly about her surgery scars and cracked jokes about her hair loss. I wondered how she could do that – look death in the face so lightheartedly. Because I myself felt a gripping, paralyzing fear for her and for the loss of her that I dreaded. But she … How could she, who left behind a husband and a young child, take the time out of the dwindling days left to her and spend it at a hospital comforting those sicker than she? How could she bear to take even one precious hour away from her family in order to speak to me on the phone and listen, patient and understanding, while I spoke of my own petty day-to-day concerns?

It blew my mind. And if I’m honest, I’ll say that it scared me. She lived so much life in the little time she had, and an astounding amount of it was for others, though many didn’t even see it until it was too late, and some never saw it at all. She didn’t have much time … a couple of decades and a handful more years … and instead of hoarding it when she knew it was slipping away … she gave it.

When I saw the theme of Nadine’s blog hop, my first thoughts went to my dearest friend, and the admirable – no, the graceful – way she lived the last year of her life on earth.

There are many who would rush to travel, to experience and taste, to live on the edge, perhaps even pursue danger and thrills, knowing their last 365 days lay ahead of them.

Me? I hope that my last days would be days of grace, and of love. Of forgiveness and mercy. Days that reach gentle fingers and touch – and touch again – those around me, whether family or friends or strangers.

A Time to Die quoteI would hope to live my love more acutely than I do now, to find the bravery to speak it, the strength to overcome anything that would stand in its way or distract me from it. I think many of my desires would die, upon knowing I lived my last year. The desires to travel and see and experience … they would fade to nothing in the brighter light and warmth of the things that mean the most – my family, my loved ones, my God.

I may not be able to shake the world or start a revolution or write a bestseller or end a war … but I could touch those few around me. Genuinely, honestly, with utter and unconditional love. And I could hope and pray that my love – God’s love – would pass through me to them, and through them to others, and on and on until a small piece of the world, at least, shines brighter for it.

That’s what my friend did in her last days. She had such strength, even in her youth, such clarity and love. I was confused by it for so long, terrified at the brightness of it, ashamed that if it had been me in her circumstance I’d have hidden myself away like a chastened, cowardly child, fearing death, fearing even the life left to me.

But I see now what I didn’t then. She was a vessel, and though she was strong, her strength was not her own. Though she loved deeply, the love she gave was God’s.

And whether it be my last year, or my first of many more to come, I hope I can learn to live that way, too, a little more each day.

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Now comes my invitation to you … write your own post and join the How Would You Live blog hop. Finish the statement, “If I had one year to live, I would ….” You can simply post it for your followers to see, or if you’d like to officially join the blog hop, send Nadine an email and she’ll add your name (find her info below).

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How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?ATimetoDieCover

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. 

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

This is book one in the “Out of Time” trilogy (subsequent volumes coming in 2015 and 2016).

Find the author here:

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Summer of Ups and Downs

Death …

The past weeks have included a lot of ups and downs around our house. For those of you who remember when we got our puppy, Pilot, a few months back, it pains me to say that we lost him just a couple of weeks ago. He died, we believe, of a disease young dogs sometimes get. Fine one day … horribly sick the next. My 7-year-old, my husband, and myself were (and are) heartbroken, to say the least. It’s a sad thing to lose your dog … and it’s a sadder thing to watch your child’s little heart break because of that loss. God certainly put a special place in people’s hearts for their pets, and Pilot will always be in ours.

Pilot and my little Bug were rarely apart.

Birth …

Several days after Pilot’s death, our cat, Princess Peach, had a kitten. Yes … just a single kitten! And this was, in fact, perfect. If there had been any more, we would have had to find homes for them. This way we get to keep our precious little kitty (named Toad). While the pain of Pilot’s death won’t end anytime soon, this new fluffy addition to our household has helped a small bit.

Our tiny Toad

 

First Drafts…

Having completed the first book of my new two-book project, I have been attempting to concentrate a bit more on finishing up the first draft of  Book 2. I’ve sent very, very rough synopses of both Book 1 and Book 2 to my agent, although I fear she may be a bit bewildered with the fractured and confusing way they were put together! These books are still in early stages, and they are the first books that aren’t stand-alones I have ever written – quite daunting! But the confusing synopses are only temporary … things will be ironed out during edits, as usual. It’s nothing some hard-core revisions and trusty beta readers won’t be able to handle!  My hope (fingers crossed!) is to have revisions completed, and finished drafts of both books in my agent’s hands, by the end of the year. Then I’ll be able to start talking a bit about them here on my blog! Can’t wait.

Introvert Overkill …

The past few weeks have been full of other things as well.

I got to visit for the day with a friend I hadn’t seen in more than four years.

One of my very close childhood friends got engaged!!

I spent a “girls” weekend with my cousins and sister (sans kiddos!), just shopping, watching movies, chatting, swimming and laughing ’til we cried.

And I am gearing up for my son to attend school. We home-schooled this past year, but decided a small local Christian school was the best choice this year. I’m sure my Bug will have no problems adapting … it’s Mom who will be the emotional mess during the first week of school!

So, yeah. A lot going on for this introverted girl 🙂  I’m just plain worn out.

How has your summer been going? What have you been up to? Relaxing in the sun … or something new and exciting?

Mythical Retelling, Guest Post, and Upcoming Release Date!

Well, today is an exciting day!

Mythical Retellingpandora's box3

My short story, The Cost, was published in the Timeless Tales Magazine edition which released today! It is based on the Greek mythological story of Pandora’s Box (I just love mythology, don’t you?!). If you’re not familiar with the story, you might want to visit here first to read the original version before reading my story 🙂

Also, there is an audio version of my story, which is so exciting! I’ll be receiving the audio copy sometime today or tomorrow, and I’m so anxious to hear what it sounds like!

Guest Post

I’m also a guest over at New Authors Fellowship today. If you’d like to read my article, titled The Thing That Writing Untaught Me, head over there! I talk about how writing is meant to be messy … and what accepting that fact taught me (or untaught me!) about life. Be sure to check out all the other great posts on NAF while you’re there – it’s such a great site!

Nine Days!

Also … just nine more days until The Word Changers releases! The eBook is out already, but for those of you who prefer paperback (as I do!), June 23 is the date for you to look for it if you’d like to hold a copy in your hands! I’ll be posting some fun things here on my blog during release week, including a fun giveaway. And in case you’re unaware of it, there’s another giveaway going on right now over at Goodreads – you could win one of five copies I’m giving away after the book releases 🙂

Hope you have a fabulous weekend, dear readers!

 

 

The Grip of Grace: God’s Hand in the Lord of the Rings

the grip of graceAs a Christian who has both read and watched Lord of the Rings for years, I thought there was not much of its deeper meaning left for me to discover. How wrong I was! Brent King takes a classic we all know well and revisits it, bit by bit, uncovering things of value and eternal worth. Tolkien himself may not have had the purpose of “Christian” meaning in mind when he wrote his trilogy, but it is clear at the same time that he wished at least to represent the battle between darkness and light. The author of The Grip of Grace takes those representations and shows us how to apply them to our Christian lives and our walks with God.

I love how the book is split into short 2-3 page sections – so easy to devour several of them in a setting! Each section begins with the author’s (slightly paraphrased) version of a scene from the trilogy (chronologically organized). The section then goes into the application of the scene – how we might use or apply it in life. Something simple, or perhaps something epic, can turn into something so real that I can see it clearly in my own life. It reads almost like a devotional, and I can completely see a group of Christian Tolkien fans using this book for a Bible study! Wish I had just such a group of friends …!

The author weaves and reveals the Christian meaning from Lord of the Rings in such a natural way that it’s difficult for me to believe Tolkien did not intend it to be meant that way from the very beginning. I got great good out of this book – new perspectives, inspirations and blessings from the world of Middle Earth that I never dreamed of.

Are you a Christian? Are you a Tolkien fan? Read this book!!

 

Visit Brent King at his site and find articles on God, fantasy, writing, and more. Also find him on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Purchase The Grip of Grace on Amazon.

King’s newest book, Tempting Jesus, released last month as well!

Finding an Epic Life Beyond the Book

This is a guest post by Nadine Brandes.

living lifeI read so many fantasy books as a child and teenager I started to think my life wouldn’t be amazing unless dragons attacked my little Wyoming valley or unless the fate of the world hinged on my brave choices. It was unfair that I was stuck in a Muggle world. Couldn’t God see that lives in fantasy realms had so much more purpose?

A few years passed and I realized life was zipping by without me saving the world or traversing time with merely a walking stick. It wasn’t until I read Jill Williamson’s Blood of Kings Trilogy that I realized…my life can be epic.

Plenty of real-life stories exist of adventure that stretches the mind, power that transcends our concept of reality, and experiences that leave us breathless. Just look at martyrs. Too morbid? How about missionaries? Adventurers? Travelers? Have you seen the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty yet?

There are epic things in this world that don’t involve boggarts or white witches or aliens. It’s my job to find them because God didn’t create us to have boring lives. Really, he didn’t. But it takes a lot of courage to pursue the epic.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Josh. 1:9

“But I’m a stay-at-home mom!”

“But I have to work if I want to eat!”

“But I’m stuck in high school!”

“But I live in the most boring town ever and I’ll never leave.”

This is about the time I’m supposed to say, “Everything can be an adventure, even washing dishes!” and your heart kind of shrinks aepic-life little because I’m not inciting any sort of change or providing an answer. Well, I’m not going to say that (because you’re already thinking it.)

Epic adventures require pursuit – not just physical pursuit, but mental pursuit. They come from having the right mindset. God understands epic. He wrote the Bible. He invented the word. He put that desire in our hearts – the desire to be part of something great. And then He said, “I’m the answer. Come to me and I’ll take you there.”

“Now to him who is able to do far more than we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Now when I pick up a fantasy, adventure, or survival book, instead of bemoaning my boring life I start pushing the boundaries in my own story, in my own thinking. Ever since this giant revelation that I can lead an epic life with God, my husband and I have completely re-worked our concepts of adventure.

It’s your turn. Don’t live vicariously through these beautiful fantasy books lining our shelves. Let them be reminders that God is calling you to be a warrior, an adventurer, a pilgrim. Figuratively and literally.

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Nadine Brandes - Head ShotNadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases Fall 2014 from Marcher Lord Press. When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband.

 

Be sure to visit Nadine at her blog, Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter!

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A Time to Die is Nadine’s debut novel, the first of a dystopian series releasing soon from Marcher Lord Press. Here’s the book’s enticing description! Can’t wait to get my hands on it!!

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

ATimetoDieCov

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

Inspiration in the Garden

J40J39

As a birthday surprise a couple of days ago, my son and husband planned a trip to one of my favorite gardens. The sun was shining, the breeze was cool, the flowers were smiling, and the whole garden was awash with color and life. The perfect day for a long stroll through the gardens, thanking God for His beautiful creation and my time with family.

As we wandered through the iris and daylily gardens, I noticed marker after marker of unique names that had been given to the different versions of these flowers. I wrote some of them down (ok, a lot of them …) while my husband and son took a breather in the shade.

 

Some of the names were silly, some were creative, and some were just plain inspiring. I’ll be honest, I started seeing some of these as titles to possible stories! I even started getting ideas for the stories themselves … I just couldn’t help myself!

 

Here are some of my favorites. Aren’t they inspiring? Do any stories come to mind for you when you read them?

 

Fox GrapeJ19

Peach Fairy

Little Gypsy Girl

Dragon’s Orb

Patchwork Puzzle

Dark Avenger

Glowing Inferno

Minstrel’s Fire

Lavender Kingdom

Book of Magic

Smuggler’s Song

Magic Lake

Dragon KingJ15

Raven’s Rage

Irish Issues

Piranha Smile

Hebrew Maiden

Little Damsel

When I Dream

Royal Braid

Demon Rum

Believe in Tomorrow

Gentle Shepherd

Web Spinner

Pale Moon WindmillJ26

Beautiful Jealous Eyes

Cinderella’s Dark Side

Mask of Eternity

Cinderella’s Blush

Starman’s Quest

Yesterday Today and Tomorrow

Dragon Prince

Tigerling

Enchanter’s Spell

Walking Into the Sun

White Wizard

Laughing GiraffeJ41

Paper Butterfly

Pirate’s Patch

Moses’ Fire

Dauntless

Ruffled Pinafore

Skinwalker

Primal Scream

Moonlit Masquerade

Stardust Dragon

Dark Design

Peace Prayer

Follow the Fleet

Poet’s Rhyme

Park Avenue Princess

Uncharted Seas

Crimson King

Innocent Devil

Grindelwald

Death Means Life

Harry Potter is struck down by his archenemy, visits the in-between, and makes the choice to return and finish what needs to be done – that is, conquer evil in the form of Lord Voldemort, thus saving not only the wizarding world, but the world entire.

Death, for Harry, meant life.

Gandalf the Grey is taken down into darkness by the Balrog, only to later return a much greater and stronger wizard: Gandalf the White.

Death of the Grey meant birth of the White.

Persephone is taken by the god of death, Hades, every autumn and made to live with him in his kingdom of darkness beneath the earth. Yet each year she returns to the world above, bringing spring and new life in her wake.phoenix

Death, for Persephone, meant the promise of life.

The mythical creature, the phoenix, is famous for its ability to rise from the ashes of its own fiery death.

Death means life.

Neo moves between the Matrix and the real world, doing and understanding things no one else can. He is The One. After death has claimed him, Trinity kisses him, commands him to get up. And he does.

So his death meant life.

Aslan the Lion dies to save one boy, Edmund, whose life was forfeit because of the wrong he had done. In saving this one child, Aslan saves all of Narnia from the clutches of the White Witch. But it wasn’t his dying that saved Narnia – it was his use of the Deeper Magic to turn death backwards, and rise again.

Thus, death means life.

There isn’t one of these stories or characters that fails to affect me deeply. Their stories are ones I love to read and watch and ponder time and again. In fact, a few of them hold places in my heart as the best stories I’ve ever read.

The best, save one.

For there could be no life after death without Jesus, could there? There could not even be the thought of it – the very idea of it – without Jesus. We humans could not even begin to imagine such a vast concept.

Stories are about hope, more times than not. We love them because they give us a promise that our lives, no matter how dark, can one day stumble into the light.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

cross seaA phoenix rising can give us the confidence of new beginnings. The Matrix can remind us there is a truer world than the one we live in – one that eyes cannot see. Aslan goes a step further still, and gives us a direct idea of what Jesus did for us. For you are the Edmund Aslan died for. I am the Edmund he died for.

Yet still, nothing compares to the true story, the one that happened in our very own world more than 2,000 years ago.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Had you guessed that you are living out a fairy tale? Can you fathom that your life has the capability of being more thrilling than any fantasy? Did you know the hope you have is greater than anything found in a novel?

Because this is the True Fairy Tale. The one that started the rest. The one that turned death backwards and conquered the darkness.

I’m thankful for books – so thankful for them. And the Bible is closer to my heart than any other. But these other stories are God’s work as well – the stories that bring us back to the Bible, to a better understanding of Jesus, His death, and what his resurrection means to us: life eternal.