The problem with Christian allegory

I’m both a fan/not a fan of Christian allegory. If it’s done well, it can be amazing. The problem with Christian allegory is that many attempts are not done well.

There are classics, of course:

  • Dante’s Divine Comedy (1308-21)
  • Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667)
  • Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)
  • Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (1843)

And more recent classics:

  • Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
  • L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
  • Hurnbard’s Hinds Feet on High Places (1955)

There are modern allegories too, of course. Some are fantastic, and others are, well, not.

Gate to heaven made in 3d software

What distinguishes good allegory?

  1. Complexity – There are many stories today that allegorize salvation. There are allegories for sin, allegories for redemption.

    It’s the stories that use allegory (symbolism?) as a part of a larger story that are better. If the entire book is about the salvation process, well that’s already been done. Several times.

    Morgan Busse’s book Daughter of Light had a splendid redemption scene within the larger context of her story. I remember reading it and thinking, wow, this is well done.
    Daughter of Light

  2. Subtlety– This goes along with #1. If within the first page you realize you are reading a heavy-handed allegory, then as a Christian, why would you read on? I mean, we already know where the story is headed.

    Now, if I’m reading a story that is fresh and it’s not until I get farther into the story that I realize that’s it’s an allegory, well you’ve caught me. Then I’m engrossed in your story world and enjoying the ride.

    Jill Williamson’s newest book, King’s Folly, is a fantastic example of this. It’s an allegory of Old Testament times, but you don’t really figure that out until you’re in the last third of the book. It points towards the erosion that sin causes and the hazards of tolerance. She handles the allegory (symbolism?) with deftness and grace.

    King's Folly

  3. Creativity– An allegory is, by definition, a story that uses symbolism to retell a story. (OK, so that’s MY definition). If you are retelling a story that has already been told, especially a popular one, then you are going to have to add some spice into the mix. Flair can make the difference between good and bad allegory.

    I recently listened to Jim L Rubart’s Rooms as an audiobook. In this one, he inherits a crazy magic house that brings him step by step closer to God. It’s original, and it has parallels with the Christian life in the context of our culture. So while it’s obviously allegorical, it’s creative and you can’t predict how it will end.Rooms

  4. Originality– Finally, if you’re going to tell an allegorical Bible story, choose one that hasn’t been done a million times. Give us something more than the story of salvation (unless the Holy Spirit has put it on your heart that’s the story you should tell).

    One of the most fantastic biblical allegories is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (which is in itself an allegory of Israel’s actions towards God). She’s placed the story of Hosea in the Old West. A man of God told by God to marry a prostitute? Great story. And yes, that happened in the Bible.

    A new book that is out that I haven’t read yet, but really want to, is Valor by R J Larson. This is her reimagining of the story of Jephthah. Not familiar? It is one of those hidden biblical gems that makes you wonder.

    And then, of course, we have our very own Vanessa Morton’s Moonfall. A reimagining of the story of Rahab.

Now, I realize I’m probably mixing up my literary devices a bit in this post. Sometimes when I’m talking about allegory, it might be more correct to refer to symbolism. (I’m sure Tim Akers will correct me.) But you get the idea. 😉

SO WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? DO YOU LIKE ALLEGORICAL FICTION? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITES?

 

 

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The Art of Self-Deception Part II

or…How to Drown in a Teacup

Greetings from the Great (wet) state of Texas. The Trinity River here in Henderson County has been approximately fifteen feet over flood stage—give or take a couple of feet—for several weeks. After nearly four months of rain, we are praying for more sunny days.

Vanessa Morton Trinity River Henderson County

Vanessa Morton
Trinity River Henderson County

The water table in Henderson County is typically high due to numerous lakes and springs, even without the recent heavy rains. Roher Springs, five miles away, is one of three sources of Ozarka bottled water in the southwest. Likewise, my family enjoys sweet well water from an underground spring in our vineyard, a mere 35 feet below the surface.

So . . . what does flooding have in common with Drowning in a Teacup? I’m glad you asked!

After my life-changing health challenges (read Part I), I’m gradually returning to my passion—writing—but this time it’s different. Previously, I agonized over passages, phrases, and dialog while drafting. Thus, my writing—overwhelmed by trivia—sometimes “drowned in a teacup” of my own making.

drowning in a teacup

Help!

With greater self-clarity, I now realize my perfectionism was only another form of self-deception. For example, while I tweaked, polished, and re-tied plot threads, I avoided the big issue: What if no one liked my books? Unpublished, my stories were still my babies with infinite potential. Once they left the nest, however, I’d have to face the reality that not everyone would find them superbly brilliant or vastly entertaining.

Now I write for myself instead of an audience, and I resist editorial backtracking until after the end of the rough draft.

Having a health crisis is strangely freeing, yet somehow poignant. I mourn the fact I wasted time, not only on my writing habits, but also on the mundane. Being unable to do some tasks—such as housework—released my inner perfectionist. Despite my initial misgivings, I found the world did not stop spinning when I failed to dust the house for a month.

The creator made each of us unique, and I believe your stories are different than mine and we can learn from each other. Would you share the techniques that help you meet your goals while maintaining balance?

 

Christa Kinde’s Alter Ego Tells All . . . and a chance to win an autographed, beautifully-illustrated book and an e-book as well!

Today, we have a very special guest, Christa Kinde (KIN-dee), prolific author of fairy tales, epic adventures, comic misadventures, light and sweet romance, clever allegories, whimsical fantasies, far-flung journeys, knotty mysteries, and more.

Christa, thanks for posting in The Scriblerians ‘visiting author’ slam book:

Nicknames: Marmee, CJ, codename “Sugar Daddy” (my husband is “Nacho Mama”)
Genre: Fantasy & Christian Speculative Fiction
Personal Philosophy: “Be brave and do your best.”
Fave Scripture: “Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.” –Micah 6:8
Fave Quote: “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” –C. S. Lewis
In high school, I was a… voracious bookworm with lamentable social skills and a formidable vocabulary.

 
Christa we’re delighted you joined us today to talk about the Galleries of Stone series. After publishing so many successful books, why did you write this trilogy under the nom deplume C. J. Milbrandt?

The books I’ve written as Christa Kinde—both fiction and nonfiction—belong solidly in the Christian market. When I approached my publisher about doing a fantasy series, they advised me to abandon the plan. It didn’t fit my author brand. So I shelved a short stack of magic-laced manuscripts and focused on the angels and demons in my Threshold Series.

But I began quietly investigating my indie options. Maybe it’s because I’m a “from scratch” kind of gal, but I love managing the creative process from start to finish. So my family-friendly fantasy is published under my maiden name—C. J. Milbrandt.

c-j-milbrandt
And all of us are very glad you made the decision to follow your dream! I recently read Rakefang, the riveting third book of the Galleries of Stone, and I found it very hard to put down each night. What is your inspiration for such diverse stories?

Story ideas aren’t hard to come by. It’s near impossible to avoid the pesky things. Their ambushes throw my imagination into a tizzy and make me wish I could type faster.

However, Galleries of Stone trilogy is a special case. The story began as a personal challenge. For one year, I used an online dictionary’s “word of the day” as inspiration for my daily installment. On January 1, all I knew for sure was that the Keeper of the Gray Mountain was a banished Pred—a sheep in wolf’s clothing. And that Tupper Meadowsweet, his new Flox servant, was either brave, dense, or brilliant.

With each day’s addition, new complexities unfolded. I built the world to suit the story’s needs, making new discoveries right along with Tupper. By December 31, I had 366 chapters (2012 was a leap year) and more than 300,000 words. After some minor edits and a few additions, I released Galleries of Stone as a trilogy: Book One: Meadowsweet (2013), Book Two: Harrow (2014) and Book Three: Rakefang (2015).

Your target audience is tweens/teens, yet I’m also drawn to the delicately entwined layers of allegory and symbolism. What do you hope readers—of all ages—will take away from your books? 

I’ve often wished that books could be rated “E for Everyone.” I write what I enjoy reading—adventures with action, a surprising turn of events, a hint of mystery, and a smidgen of romance. If only “heart-warming” was a genre.

Takeaways? Hmm. The three highest compliments my stories have received are laughter, tears, and a warmly-expressed intention to re-read. I want folks to come away from a book feeling that they know the characters. Let’s add joy over the journey they’ve just taken. Satisfaction in its resolution. Anticipation for what’s to come. And with each successive title, a deepening trust in the storyteller.

Well, I for one am hooked because I’ve already started re-reading them. One of the things I like is that Galleries of Stone and your other series immerse readers into the heart of a rich story world, where customs, culture, and relationships unfold in a natural way (and I’d be remiss to not mention that the covers and chapter headings are like works of art). Can you tell us more about how you develop such detailed, fantasy worlds?

Over the course of the trilogy, I invented multiple cultures. Pred are vicious conquerors with an elitist mindset. Grif add a showman’s flourish to all they do. Drom are cantankerous plodders with a passion for spice and melons. Clow honor their tribal ancestry. Fwan are gentle lovers of beauty, but brutally superstitious. It’s a vast and varied world.

By contrast, Tupper’s whole life is bound up in one small village. He didn’t know there were other races of men. He’d never heard of magic. He had no concept of an ocean, let alone distant continents. But when confronted with a wider world, Tupper rolls up his sleeves and chips away at racial barriers. He adapts and adopts new ways of thinking, seeing, and doing. Frey’s “lambkin” makes a big difference in small ways.

Yes, he does. Tupper is one of my favorite characters.  In the Galleries of Stone series, which character is most like you and why? 

There’s a little bit of me sprinkled throughout the trilogy—attitudes, insights, bits of advice, turns of phrase. The strongest resemblances would likely be Carden’s love of family, Freydolf’s restlessness to create, and Aurelius’s formidable vocabulary. 

If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which one would it be and what would you do together?

I wish I had the courage to say Aurelius, but he scares me. So Freydolf. And since the Keeper can’t stray far from his mountain, I’d ask for a tour of the Statuary.

I, too, would like a tour of the statuary and the magical figures the Keeper carefully reveals within the stone! The mountain is a place that came alive for me through your writing!

Christa, thank you for coming on The Scriblerians to talk to our readers! I’ve listed her contact info below. Her websites and blogs are a wonderful world of sample chapters, beautiful artwork, and behind the scenes info on your favorite stories. Check it out!

Continue reading below for a sample chapter from the first book of the Galleries of Stone Trilogy and a chance to win an autographed, beautifully-illustrated book and an e-book as well!

Christa Kinde
Website/Bloghttps://christakinde.wordpress.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ChristaKinde
Twitter – @ChristaKinde
GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/642522.Christa_Kinde

C.J. Milbrandt
Website/Bloghttp://cjmilbrandt.com/
Galleries of Stone on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Galleries-of-Stone/1480104452254159
Byways on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Byways/840562655975459
Twitter – @Elymnifoquent
GoodReadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7465580.C_J_Milbrandt

Christa’s books are available here:
Christa Kinde on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Christa-Kinde/e/B007O45N7A C. J. Milbrandt on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/C.-J.-Milbrandt/e/B00H1D6PLW

Galleries of Stone Trilogy

Galleries of Stone Trilogy

 

 

Excerpt from Galleries of Stone, Book 1: Meadowsweet

With a flurry of silk and sulk, Aurelius burst into the workshop and demanded, “Have you seen the sprat?”

Freydolf glanced over the top of the golden stone he was marking and inquired, “Recently?”

“Since breakfast,” his brother-in-law clarified.

“I’ve been a little distracted.”

“And I’m being driven to distraction! Do you know how much work is waiting?”

“Yes and no,” Freydolf replied vaguely. “I usually leave such things to you.”

Aurelius rolled his eyes. “Very trusting of you, but I thought we’d agreed that you’d be entrusting your pet to me for the duration.”

“Aye.”

“So you haven’t seen him?” Aurelius prodded.

“Maybe he’s hiding from you.” Giving the other man a stern look, he added, “You could have been more polite at breakfast.”

“I was!” he insisted. “For me.”

Freydolf snorted and said, “If you don’t bridle your tongue, you’ll never win the lad over.”

“I’ll bridle my tongue when you collar your pet,” Aurelius muttered. “He’d be easier to find if you kept him on a leash.”

“Have you tried behind the rimbles in the upper loggia?”

The other Pred blinked. “The what in the where?”

“In the upper loggia,” Freydolf patiently repeated. After offering a convoluted set of directions to the tucked-away spot, he remarked, “It’s pleasant there, especially in summertime.”

Aurelius stared dubiously at his brother-in-law. “Do you really expect me to believe that I’ll find him way up there?”

“Not really,” Freydolf admitted, turning his attention back to the stone and making a sweeping chalk line along its side. With a growl, Aurelius exited the workshop, and Freydolf looked down at the boy sitting on the floor between his feet and winked broadly.

Tupper’s eyes shone with gratitude, admiration, and the rare delight of a shared secret. He was quite sure that his Pred was bigger and better than any other.

–End of excerpt–

Dear readers, we would love to hear from you. Tell us which book of the Galleries of Stone you’d like to win, or ask Christa a burning question you’ve always wanted to know about the fantastic realms she creates, or simply leave your thoughts on today’s post!  

One lucky commenter will win The Blue Door from Christa’s Threshold series and another lucky commenter will win an e-book of choice from the Galleries of Stone trilogy.

(if you have technical problems leaving a comment, scroll up and click on the blog title; the comment form will then appear at the bottom!)

 

A rose by any other name . . .

Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Or would it?

Objects have different meanings to different people. This is a photo from my daughter’s recent wedding.

Wedding Photo

What do you think could be happening in this photo and why?

I would love to hear your thoughts . . .  in as few words as possible, write a story about this picture and paste it into your comment below.

Ready. Set. Go!

“Exodus: Gods and Kings” Biblical History or Entertainment?

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

Last week I watched Sir Ridley Scott’s new movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings. A cast led by Christian Bale and Ben Kingsley, epic cinematography, a sure formula for success. Right?

 

Colossal statues at Abu Simbel 1

Colossal Ramses Statues 20th Century Fox – Exodus Gods and Kings

 Colossal statues of Abu Simbel by torchlight in their original glory, detailed sets of Pharaoh’s palace, and intriguing portrayals of pyramid-building made my inner archaeologist turn cartwheels.

 

Several character-driven scenes establish the conflict as sibling rivalry (Moses and Ramses) which deepens to a war of of cultures when both men learn Moses was born of the slave cast.

 

Moses and Zipporah.  20th Century Fox - Exodus: Gods and Kings

Moses and Zipporah. 20th Century Fox – Exodus: Gods and Kings

So far so good. Then Moses—exiled and married to a Midianite—attempts to retrieve three sheep from what his wife refers to as the Mountain of God. He stumbles and is partially buried in a rockslide. When the burning bush appears, Moses is lying in the rubble with a broken leg. No voice admonished Moses to remove his sandals while standing on holy ground (perhaps because Scott had Bale lying flat on his back?). Instead, a boy with a British accent cryptically encourages Moses to help his people. Meh.

 

bow training EntertainmentWeekly

Moses showing Hebrews low-intensity-warfare Entertainment Weekly

Back in Pi-Ramses, a most-unhumble Moses returns to train Hebrew men the skill of low-intensity warfare—attacking high value targets and quickly withdrawing. This turn of events surprised me, but I can’t say it’s impossible, given that human nature first strives to solve our problems without supernatural assistance. I’m still pondering that one.

 

Plague of Hail.  20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

Plague of Hail. 20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

And then the first plague begins. Instead of Aaron jabbing his staff into the Nile and turning the waters to blood, a cadre of giant crocodiles kills several fishermen and animals, enough to turn the entire Nile and all the canals red with blood. In fact, Aaron was largely absent the entire movie. Odd, given that he was the designated spokesman for a stuttering Moses.

After the brutal ‘crocodile’ plague, the rest follow, each shown as a natural consequence of the previous . . . except the Passover. In the evening, a dense dark shadow steals across the city, swallowing up the light one street at a time and stealing the breath of each firstborn who did not have the blood of the Passover lamb in the door. It had the kind of supernatural shock and awe that gives me the shivers.

 

pharaoh chariots

Near the end of the movie, hemmed in between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, Moses despairs of leading the Hebrews to freedom. Frustrated, he throws his gold Egyptian sword into the water. Immediately, the entire sea retracts southward until completely out of sight … huh? Even Disney’s Prince of Egypt got that part right. Are we to believe the sword was imbued with magical Egyptian power?

At the conclusion, the Hebrews were depressed, not joyous as depicted in Miriam’s song, even after the Pharaoh’s demise. And speaking of Ramses … I don’t have enough space here to explain all my objections to Ramses being depicted as the Pharaoh of the exodus. An excellent analysis of the Exodus within the historical context is postulated in the Associates for Biblical Research by Dr. Bryant Wood http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/09/Debunking-The-Exodus-Decoded.aspx. The site contains many other valuable resources about the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan.

Bible and Spade Magazine

Bible and Spade Magazine

 

I can enjoy a Biblical movie even if it omits minor details due to production time constraints, but to turn the actual events on their heads and remove the Lord from the equation is another story. I struggled with my final opinion of the movie, due to the well-researched historical settings, but in the end, I remembered John Calvin, who said, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

If you’ve seen Exodus: Gods and Kings, what did you like/not like about it? Do you think it’s permissible for movie adaptations to take creative license with the Bible?.

The Art of Self-Deception – Part I

I don’t know exactly when it started. Years ago, maybe, when the volume of commitments almost equaled my available time. What was I doing? Nothing extraordinary.

  • Full-time job and daily commute. Check.
  • Caring for my parents. Another check.
  • Evenings with my husband and children, followed by writing several pages on my WIP. Double checks.
  • Weekends for congregation & worship, errands, keeping house, and helping my family grow a vineyard. Quadruple checks.

Raise your hand if these sound like you.

Launching my first novel was a thrilling experience last year, but it edged me into a time deficit. Did I care? Not really. It simply proved that the harder I worked, the more successful I could be. I still believed everything on my schedule was necessary and could only be done by me… a deception that took root in the void of No Free Time.

My smartphone came to the rescue—calendars, lists, online shopping, alarm reminders, apps for reading the Scriptures, email and social media—and enabled me to become uber efficient. Addicted to my smartphone’s super hero qualities, I became the puppet, and it became the master.

In the spring of 2013, a health crisis brought my Figure Eight laps to a screeching halt. Curled up in bed in a fog of pain, I couldn’t tolerate lights or sounds—even conversations, and I had difficulty pulling my thoughts together and formulating words. My computer and phone lay idle for the first time in years.

pulse-traceAn unpleasant surprise greeted me after I emerged from my cocoon, not as a colorful butterfly, but as a wounded moth. No longer able to breeze through complex tasks, any small thing now required effort, time, and multiple re-do’s. In 2014, following another hospitalization, a team of doctors diagnosed me with an incurable, debilitating disease. Forced to cut back on work, my Type A personality rebelled, believing that non-productivity was tantamount to failure.

During the holiday season, I finally admitted I was not improving. When I reluctantly asked my family for assistance around the house, they blew away another dangerous deception. They gave me unconditional love even though I couldn’t do everything I’d done before, and they happily—yes, happily—stepped in to help. To my amazement, they expressed gratitude that I would allow them to come along side. When I confided to my friends I discovered they didn’t shun my weakness either, but rallied around me.

Self-reflecting in this new year of 2015, I’ve found the courage to ask questions.

Why was I doing all these things? Love-certainly, but did a deeper need for validation drive me even harder?

Was it the perfectionist in me or because I feared a loss of love or respect if I wasn’t Superwoman 24/7?

Did I hope to earn the Lord’s approval by being a good person?

Examining my heart for the truth will be a challenging hike over mountain terrain, but I believe the answers will come, along with breathtaking views.
hiker on mountain
Are you too busy to reflect on your inner self instead of how you are fulfilling expectations? What tasks are you doing that could be borne by others?

Twins: Terrific or Terrifying

new moonfall cover

 

 

 

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have an identical twin.

Twins I’ve seen in real life or in photographs look like some of the happiest people on earth. To have someone at your side from birth who understands you better than anyone else must be a fantastic feeling.

However, the idea of having a twin of my own scares me a little. Would I see one or more character flaws I didn’t know I possessed reflected in my twin?

Movies and television have certainly portrayed the evil twin. But rather than a truly evil one, a sibling who starts out with the same genetic material as our own and then is influenced by its environment makes more sense. Twins don’t necessarily want the same things or go about getting them in the same way.

Vanessa Morton

Vanessa Morton

In Vanessa Morton’s Moonfall, the characters Rachav and Zaron are identical twin teenage girls living during the time of the fall of Yericho (Jericho). Each thinks the other should desire the same kind of life she does. Each sees the difference in her twin as a flaw. I think it scares them both. But the love is still there.

Moonfall will transport you to a time and place that is richly textured and historically fascinating.  And you will find that girls will be girls, and twins will be twins, even in 1406 B.C.

Have you ever wished for a twin? Are you one?