“Why would a good Christian girl….”

I wasn’t sure whether I should post this, for fear of being accused of answering questions that haven’t been widely asked. (Let’s face it: I’m not exactly burning up the best-seller lists right now!) But I do know of at least one person who has been disappointed, however briefly, with the fantasy content in Look Behind You, and I’m sure there may be others. “Why,” the question runs, “would a good Christian girl be studying the occult to write a book like this?”

The thing is… I didn’t study the occult. I didn’t have to.

Much of my information came from folktales, especially Irish and Scottish fairytales and the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table, though some American Indian mythology also comes into play. I consider such literature mostly harmless, and many fairytales carry good lessons. The Ethics of Elfland from G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, C. S. Lewis’ reflections in On Stories and Other Essays, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories all discuss ways in which the right kinds of fantasy, and fairytales in particular, can be extremely useful as part of a Christian’s literary diet.

(IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: There are wrong kinds of fantasy. I’ve actually known someone whose spiritual life got messed up by reading the wrong books, and I’m pretty picky about what I read myself. Yet–and this is crucial–no two people will react the same way to the same book. I know very godly people in the Harry Potter fandom, over which other very godly people have expressed concerns that I think are valid; I know people who’ve gone astray over The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien himself called “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work” [Letter 142 to Father Robert Murphy, Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien]. In this area, as in all things, each believer needs to exercise prayerful discernment for his or her own walk… and not presume to make his or her needs or preferences an absolute rule for everyone else.)

But the rest, quite literally, is history. Many people know, for example, that Hitler and Himmler were interested in astrology and the occult. What may not be as readily apparent, and what didn’t register for me until I worked on translating The Apostolic Fathers: An Introduction, is the insidious nature of even one of the best-known bits of Nazi propaganda, the concept of the “thousand-year Reich.” Translation has done us English-speakers a disservice here. The term der tausendjährige Reich doesn’t only refer to a hypothetical thousand-year Nazi kingdom; it was and is the theological term usually rendered in English as the Millennial Kingdom or the Millennial Reign, the period prophesied in Revelation 20:2-7 during which Jesus will return, bind Satan, and establish a thousand-year reign of absolute peace on earth. Hitler’s use of the phrase was deliberate blasphemy.
And it gets worse. Here’s one of my sources, a History Channel documentary that argues that the Nazi Party was a full-blown cult:


If you prefer a more scholarly print source, Heather Pringle’s The Master Plan: Hitler’s Scholars and the Holocaust documents in greater detail the SS obsession with the occult and attempts to resurrect ancient German paganism.

In all honesty, I have zero desire to study magic. The danger of genuine magic, as opposed to mere sleight-of-hand trickery, is that it attempts to force reality to bend to a human’s will. There are, of course, perfectly acceptable non-magical ways of getting nature to do what you want it to do; that’s called technology, which is subject to its own questions of ethics and morality. But magic seems, at least on the surface, to fall into one of two formulas:

Do you have problem W? Do X, Y, and Z, and your problem will go away.

or

Do you want D? Do A, B, and C, and you will get exactly what you want.

And from where I stand, what you plug into those blanks makes not a dime’s bit of difference–killing a black cat at 3 a.m. on a starless night of the new moon, washing your hands in a silver basin by moonlight, rearranging your furniture just so and painting your walls a certain color, or (dare I say it?) thinking happy thoughts and telling God what you want and sending $50 to your favorite televangelist. At best, it won’t work, and either you receive something good that would have happened anyway or you get no results at all and end up wondering what you did wrong. At worst, you end up in league with powers beyond your understanding or control, powers that want nothing more than your absolute destruction.
Prayer doesn’t work that way. Prayer submits reality to God’s sovereign control, humbly presenting petitions with full trust in His goodness and seeking to align our will with His will. That’s why “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”–and that’s also why, if you pay close attention, the only ‘spell’ I write out in Look Behind You is actually a prayer. That power is the only power I need… and even when I write fantasy that involves an element of horror, I will always show that prayer trumps magic, because that is the truth.

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Make WAAAAAY!

*skids to a halt and plonks down breathless at computer* “So little to do, so much time… strike that, reverse it.”
I’m really looking forward to April. Maybe by then I’ll have time to actually breathe when I’m not being sidelined with health stuff. o_o

Thanks to everyone who’s read Look Behind You so far! I have only a couple more ducks to get into line before publication, so I do expect to make my planned release date of March 2. Watch this space for more details!
Also, if you’re in the Highland Lakes (Texas) area this week, I’ll be presenting “It All Began with an Airplane: The Lesser-Known History behind Loyal Valley” at Lakeshore Library in Buchanan Dam on Tuesday at 2:30. Copies of Loyal Valley: Assassination will be available for purchase afterward.
And finally, to prove I’m not a total slacker, have a hot-off-the-keyboard excerpt from Loyal Valley: Bystanders:

“Well, if they got this part worked out [asked Bella], why not add some kind of clockwork loading mechanism?”

[Marty replied,] “Blessed if I know. Maybe it wouldn’t fit in the tree; maybe they figured more moving parts meant more that could go wrong. Or maybe this was the only way the gunfighters would go for it.”

“Perhaps this fellow will be able to tell us,” said Mr. Meusebach, coming onto the porch just then with Mike. The two of them were half-carrying the man Mike had shot [in the shoulder], who had regained consciousness and was swearing his head off. Ashley stood in the doorway and growled threateningly.

Mike grabbed one of the porch chairs, shoved the prisoner into it, and cuffed him lightly on the ear. “Don’t talk like that in front of a lady.”

The prisoner looked at Bella and sneered. “That ain’t no lady, that’s a—”

Mike backhanded him hard enough to draw blood.

Bella found herself drawing up to her full height. “If you get blood on my porch, Captain….”

Mike shot her an amused glance. “Understood, ma’am.”

Marty coughed, apparently to keep from laughing. Then he turned his head toward Ashley. “That’s enough, girl.”

Ashley sat down in the doorway and stopped growling audibly, but her ruff was still raised and her ears back.

“Who sent you out here?” Mike demanded of the prisoner.

The prisoner snorted. “I ain’t talkin’ to no—”

Ashley cut him off with a flurry of furious barks until Marty called her down again. Then Mr. Meusebach stepped around in front of the prisoner, and as Mike stepped aside to give him room, Bella was astonished at the change that came over their dear friend and neighbor. Gone was the affable gentleman farmer; in his place stood the nobleman who’d so impressed the Comanches that they’d nicknamed him after a god.

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear,” said Baron von Meusebach in a steady, dangerous voice. “You have three choices. You will talk to us; you will talk to the sheriff; or you will talk to the State Police.”

For the first time, the prisoner looked slightly nervous. “I don’t gotta talk to nobody. I got rights.”

“Oh, yes, you have rights. But we have evidence—enough evidence that the sheriff will most assuredly charge you with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. I would think that you are wanted for other crimes, also, perhaps even actual murder.”

The prisoner looked more nervous.

Mr. Meusebach raised an eyebrow. “Ach, so, you are a murderer, and you know that you will hang for that. There is, however, the possibility….” He paused—deliberately, Bella suspected.

And the prisoner took the bait. “Of what? P-possibility of what?”

“Well, I cannot speak for Gov. Davis, but there may be a chance of clemency if you will tell us all you know.”

The prisoner started shaking, though Bella wasn’t sure if it was from fear or blood loss. “Don’t I get a lawyer or nothin’?”

Mr. Meusebach shrugged. “It may take several days, perhaps even weeks, for one to be found who is willing to travel this far from Austin.”

“Weeks?! But I ain’t got—” The prisoner caught himself.

“You don’t have weeks,” Mike rumbled. “Because your gang expects to finish off Mrs. Hancock and Mr. Donovan in a matter of days, and if they come back from Lost Creek to find you’ve been captured before you could kill us….”

The prisoner was definitely afraid now. “You don’t know nothin’.”

Or do they? Stay tuned….

(Post title inspired by the catchphrase for the Horrible Histories movie, BILL, which just started filming last week!)

Looking back, looking forward

Well, I didn’t quite make my goal of posting every day of the twelve days of Christmas. But that’s okay–I got close and wrote some things I hadn’t planned, and I pray some of it blessed people.
What it did teach me, though, is that I’m not cut out to be a blogger who posts every day. Even when I’ve got a clear idea of what I want to post, which I didn’t always for this series, blogging takes up energy that I need to expend on writing other things. And again, that’s okay. I didn’t set out to become a big-name blogger. It just means this isn’t going to be that sort of blog, and I’ll figure out the sort of blog it is going to be as we go along.

That said:

Starting Monday, I’ll be trying something completely different by posting the first book in my second series, Look Behind You, here before I release the ebook and paperback versions on March 2. I’ll be posting one chapter each on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the rest of this month. I also plan to post a PayPal button where you can preorder autographed hard copies as well as autographed copies of Loyal Valley: Assassination–and I hope you will, because I’ll be working on Loyal Valley: Bystanders at the same time with a goal of releasing it later in March, and any income I can get from writing means less time I need to spend making money from other projects.
And if you can’t buy anything right now… just pray for me.

News and Comments

Congratulations to the winners of my first Firstreads giveaway! Your books went in the mail yesterday. 🙂 I plan to have another (now that I know what I’m doing!) in advance of the release of Loyal Valley: Bystanders–probably in February, but I can’t promise yet.

Just updated the retailer list for Loyal Valley: Assassination: it’s now also available from Books on Main in Fredericksburg, TX! More to come, I hope–but of course, there’s also a long list of online retailers where you can order the paperback or purchase the ebook.

And speaking of ebooks, I regret that it looks like I will not be serializing The Order of the Silver Star with Liberty Island after all. All is not lost, however; Smashwords and CreateSpace are a very good Plan B, and depending on how things go in the next couple of weeks, I may serialize the first book, Look Behind You, here before releasing the full versions to retailers. (There might even be a blog-exclusive timestamp coming for that one, if I can get the plotbunny to cooperate….)

Here’s my current list of upcoming events for next year:

  • February 18: Author Talk, Lakeshore Library, Tow, TX, 2:30 p.m. Copies of Loyal Valley: Assassination will be available for sale afterward.
  • March 21-22: West Texas Heritage Days, Fort McKavett, TX. I still need to find out whether I’ll be able to sell books as well as calligraphy pieces, but even if I’m not doing author stuff, I’ll definitely be there demonstrating calligraphy.
  • April 5: Calligraphy class, Harker Heights Library, Harker Heights, TX, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. More details coming when I get them nailed down.
  • September 23: Author Talk to Friends of the Library, Kingsland Library, Kingsland, TX, 2 p.m. I don’t know whether this meeting is open to the public.
  • October 11: Fort Croghan Day, Burnet, TX. More details when I have them.
  • October 18: Llano Heritage Festival, Llano, TX. Again, more details when I have them.

And somewhere in there I’ll be releasing Look Behind You and Bystanders and working on the next book in each series… it’s gonna be a busy year. 😀 I am available for more speaking/signing events, though; email me (egwolfephd at outlook) if you’re interested.

And finally (in more ways than one), the issue of Christianity and Literature with my article is finally wending its way through the USPS to subscribers! If you’re interested but don’t subscribe, check with your local library; Christianity and Literature is available online through a number of databases like Academic Search Complete and Humanities Full Text.