Christian Science Fiction

I often wonder, if Travelers ever gets picked up, what genre will it be sold as? It's essentially science fiction, obviously, but there's a fair amount of God and faith themes in the story too, and I honestly don't know how they would come across to a non-Christian reader.

Alex is an atheist. His wife was Christian before she passed away, and their son is kind of caught in between and attending a Christian school. In the future, many of the characters pray to God and believe the prophets are speaking for him. And then towards the end there's a Heaven-like scene and even an ambiguous image of a man, beaten and bleeding, hanging in the air with arms stretched out.

Is it too much Christianity for the secular SF market? I guess only an agent or an editor could tell me for sure. But is it also too secular for the Christian market? This book probably isn't, but other book ideas I have just might be.

Because of that, I'd rather not be categorized as a Christian author. Maybe I've heard wrong, but I understand it's difficult to shift genres, and I don't know if the Christian market is the right place for what I (usually) like to write. I've seen the books on Christian bookstore shelves, and most of them just aren't the kind of thing I enjoy writing.

There's something else too. I don't know how to say it exactly, so here's an example. I was reading a plot summary of The Oath the other day. It's got dragons, conspiracies, murder... everything a good urban fantasy needs. I thought it sounded like a cool story right up until the protagonist is told that he "must have Jesus on his side" to defeat the dragon.

Now this is sad (and worthy of its own blog post): why does the mention of Jesus automatically make the story feel cheesy to me? It says more about me than it does about the story, I know. Travelers borders on this, but I wasn't willing to go all the way and say, "You need Jesus to defeat Arad." I think because I wanted to sell, maybe even speak to, the secular market.

Besides which (and maybe this is why I find it so cheesy), I think a Christian reading Travelers would put two and two together without me ever having to be obvious about it, and I fear being obvious about it would automatically turn off a non-Christian reader. I'm not trying to evangelize with the book. If anything, I want both Christian and non-Christian readers to think - maybe for the first time - that there might be more to this life than we think there is.

I don't know if the story does that, but is it already too late anyway? Is the book already too religious for the secular market? I guess I'll find out, if it sells.

Status Report

For what few readers I have, this is probably what you actually want to know.

Following the excellent advice on Agent Query, I have been sending queries out in batches: no more than 10 agents every 2-3 weeks.

My first batch went out on May 14th. So far I have gotten a form rejection from 4 of these agents.

My second batch went out today. This batch is different in that some of these agents asked for a synopsis and/or as many as 50 sample pages (the most I sent out to an agent in the first batch was 5). I also have a revised query letter that I'm happier with. We'll see if any of that makes any difference.

I'll keep reporting here when there are things to report. In the meantime, I've finished outlining the air pirates story (which has a working title, but for the purposes of this blog I'll continue tagging it as Air Pirates) and am currently at 20,037 words on the draft.

The War of Art, II

From David Mack's Kabuki: The Alchemy. (Read Part I).

Part II of VI:
I come to realize that writing is
like physical exercise. What counts
is how much you can do after you
think you are done.
Then the real challenge begins.
If you push through the barriers
of your comfort zone, you hit
a second wind.

It is mostly just showing up
and doing it that counts.

Sometimes it is painful.
You may want to do something else.
And you can think of infinite
reasons to stop.

I discover "The Power
of Positive Doing".
Positive thinking is great.
It is a nice first step.
But if you don't do the
"Positive Doing",
it only takes you so far.

Read part III.


I'm finding myself going through some of the same motions with this blog as I did when I first began Itsara. The original purpose was because I had a lot to say on religion or writing. For both blogs, there was a second purpose to keep people updated on the progress of moving to Thailand or getting published.

And with both, I wanted people to read it. Not just people I knew, but people I didn't as well - lots of people. So I find myself on other, similar sites, wanting to comment for the link exposure (but knowing enough not to comment just for that), and trying to find people who will link to me.

And both times, I find myself wondering who I'm writing to and why. Who cares about my thoughts on Heaven or blogging?* With this blog it's even worse because a small part of me started this as a place to promote books that I haven't published yet, and may never publish. How presumptuous is that? (Though maybe in a few years I'll look back and claim it was just good planning).

What's the answer? Take a deep breath, I guess, and just write. Like Itsara, I just need to write posts at a steady rate - not too fast and not to slow. If I have nothing to write about, just talk about what's going on. Eventually my writing will stabilize itself and find its own purpose. And maybe when I start my third blog (which will either be a web comic or a bid for the presidency), I'll know what to expect in terms of starting things up.

* Watch out for that link. It's recursive.

The War of Art, I

A couple of years ago, my brother bought me issue #7 of David Mack's Kabuki: the Alchemy. Among other things, the main character deals with the struggles of writing. I identified with this part so strongly that I printed out excerpts of it and taped it to the walls around my desk. It keeps me going when I'd rather check my e-mail one more time or play Sudoku.

Part I of VI:
I realize that I am in a kind of war
with the worst parts of myself every
time I sit down to write.

Concentration vs. resistance.
An idea, a creative urge, and then a
reactive force that second guesses it.
What words are worthy to exist?

The problem isn't a search for ideas.
It is the struggle, the discipline,
to make myself do it.

I force myself to write it before
I second guess, censor, or edit it
out of existence even before it gets
to the page. I just start.
I decide that I can cut it and edit
it afterwards if I feel the urge to.
Second guess myself after
instead of before.

Read part II.

Travelers: Mini-Synopsis

Only a handful of people actually know what Travelers is about, although a number of people have asked me over the years. I've always had a hard time summarizing it. After I finished it, I discovered that (obviously) you have to summarize it for agents and editors (and sometimes a slightly longer synopsis as well).

As it turns out, I don't know what my own book is about. That is, I had a hard time boiling it down to a single theme or even plot point. There's just so much that happens, and it's all important to me! Some of this is due to inexperience writing query letters, and the rest of it is inexperience writing period. When I wrote Travelers, I just wrote what needed to happen. I didn't have a theme in mind necessarily until I looked back at it and saw what it was about. And even then...

Anyway, here's the mini-synopsis in its current state. I had an idea this morning that I might use to change it, but this is a start for those of you who want to know what I wrote about.

Dr. Alex Gaines considers himself a man of reason – after all, it’s reason that helps him create a time machine – but when he meets an old man claimed as a prophet, has to save his son from a self-appointed dictator, and comes to care for a lonely girl with powers beyond her control, he finds that reason may not have all the answers he needs.

Alex and his son travel more than 100 years into the future, where Southern California has become a wasteland after a devastating war. A small group of survivors live together for protection under the control of a man named Arad, but if the rumors about him are true, Arad is something more than a man; some believe he is the savior prophesied before the war began, others call him the devil. Those who speak against him mysteriously disappear, and now only a small group of rebels remains.

It seems nothing can stop him, until one day a strange girl arrives in the rebel camp in a most frightening way – exploding through a cave wall, unintentionally killing innocent people. The leader of the rebellion wants her dead, but many believe she is their only hope against Arad. As it turns out, Arad has plans for her as well, and while she struggles to understand who she is, Alex discovers that he and his son may be her only hope.

The First Transport is Away!

The real catalyst for beginning to write here is that I recently (just yesterday) sent out the first batch of queries to agents for my novel, Travelers. About five years ago, I decided that if I really wanted to write a novel, then I needed to do it - if only to prove to myself that I could. I had two story ideas at the time: one about air pirates and the other about time travelers. I liked the air pirates idea better, so I figured I'd learn to write with the one I liked less.

Writing is freaking hard. I'm sure that will be its own post later. About a year ago I finished a draft of Travelers, and sent it to a couple of friends to read. A couple of months ago I began revising based on their input and now, though the novel is not perfect (they never are, just as George Lucas), I figured I needed to just start sending it out and seeing what happened.

And hurray! I already have my first two for-real rejection letters! Now, I'm not dumb. I've researched this business as best as I could from my desk, and I know the reality of rejections. What I didn't know is that, no matter how ready you think you are for it, it still bugs. It's like a mosquito bite. I know it's better to ignore it, but I can't stop thinking about them!

But if I don't stop thinking about them, then I'll never be able to get back to work on the air pirates story, which (as anyone will tell you) is the only productive thing to do after sending out queries.

A New Blog

I'm starting here because I wanted a place to write about writing, without having to clog up our other blog, Itsara. After all, not everybody over there cares about ancient dreams and modern struggles that have nothing to do with parenting children in Thailand.

I'm starting at Blogger because I have enough to do - what with parenting six, homeschooling one, providing tech support to many, and trying to write hundreds of thousands of words - that I didn't think it was a good idea to construct a whole new website. Even though I love to do that sort of thing.

I have no idea how often I will write here yet. I have a lot to write about at the moment, but that's normal with new blogs. We'll see what happens in the future.