Teish Knits

Teish Knits -

Call of the Stars

There’s just something about poetry. Unlike prose, the meaning behind the words is not always immediately apparent, but the emotions behind it… The ability of poetry to evoke deep feelings is almost music-like. John Masefield’s poem Sea Fever has been a favorite of mine for many years. His poem in part was my inspiration for this little story…

——————–

Call of the Stars

“What are you looking for that you have to go out there to find it?”

I could never give her an answer when she asked me that question. Dozens of times over the course of many years, Sari had asked me that question. No matter how many times those brown eyes pleaded with me to give her some kind of answer, I never did. Not that I didn’t want to answer, rather, I couldn’t answer. How could I explain something that I couldn’t quite figure out myself?

I ran my fingers through the black hair that I’d recently decided to cut short for a change. She recognized the nearly automatic gesture as the play for time that it was. Growing up with someone acquaints you pretty well with their “tells” and Sari knew that giving me a minute to think would yield better results than pushing for an immediate answer.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” I sighed heavily, “I can’t really explain it any better than to say that I have to go.”

Sari rolled her eyes and blew out a breath in a huff. It was my standard reply to her query, and I couldn’t exactly blame her for being tired of the same answer. But, I reasoned, she couldn’t expect anything different after all of this time. If she didn’t want to hear the spiel then she should let it be. But little sisters didn’t tend to just let anything be… at least mine didn’t.

“It’s just,” the petite woman began and hesitated before continuing on, “It’s just that the last few trips you’ve been gone for so long. I know that you’d never be able to keep your feet on the ground, not for long anyway, but I worry about you.”

I opened my mouth to chide her for her worrying, but she stopped me with a raised hand and continued on, “I worry that I’ll never hear from you again. I worry that something will happen and I’ll never know about it. That you’ll just disappear… like…”

She stared down at the toes of her red shoes peeking out from beneath the hem of her brown dress. I had just teased her about those shoes three days ago, telling her that they couldn’t possibly be practical for a farmer’s wife. She waved off my comments and insisted that wearing red shoes made her smile. It was so like Sari to find joy in small things. Maybe that’s why she gave the impression of being at peace most of the time. That may seem an incongruous thing to say considering her admission of worrying about me. But she had reason to carry that nagging doubt in the back of her mind. I spoke of that reason in a hushed voice.

“Like Dad did.”

“We never found out what happened to him, and I know that we probably never will. It’s just… it’s the not knowing that’s the hardest part,” she admitted. The regret in her eyes was clear, and truth be told, I wrestled with the same feelings about Dad’s disappearance more than 20 years prior.

I tipped my head to look up at the deep purple horizon and the rising twin moons. It had been Dad that had given me my first flying lesson around those very moons. Looking past the two cratered companions I mentally counted off constellations as my eyes roamed the early evening sky. How many times as a child had I stared up into the night sky, dreaming? I could tell her that it was just because of the adventure, the chance to go places and see things that no one else had. I could tell her that I couldn’t help but follow in Dad’s footsteps. Maybe that was part of it… but it wasn’t the real reason.

I had read about archaic sailing ships from centuries past, and how men would brave tremendous dangers when they went to sea. Few ever became wealthy or well-known because of it. They went to sea because standing on the deck of that wooden ship, they knew deep down that it was where they belonged. I suppose it’s sort of a romantic notion, but I understood it in a way that I just couldn’t put into words. An ancient poem that had been written by a man who had lived in an entirely different corner of the galaxy, before anyone had traveled amongst the stars, had said it best. John Masefield spoke of the sea, but the sentiment carried through to the vast ocean of space as well.

“I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…” was the only reply that I could give to my sister.

She shook her head and laughed, “That old poem? It can’t be that simple.”

My gaze wandered back to the ever-darkening sky once again, “Never said it was simple little sister. But ‘the call of the running tide is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied…’”

I looked back at her and smiled before dropping a kiss on her forehead, “I’ll be back before you know it.”

Sari stood on her toes and threw her arms around me, “Be careful. Love you big brother.”

“Love you too,” I said quietly, hoping that she wouldn’t notice the slight catch in my voice. I had to go, but that didn’t mean that I wouldn’t miss her.

I gave her one final hug before striding off in the direction of my ship. I let my fingers glide across her smooth hull as I ran through the pre-flight checklist. After boarding and strapping myself into the pilot’s seat I spared a moment to look again at the night sky. Once again the stars called to me. Maybe someday that call would grow dim enough for me to settle down on the ground for the long haul… but not today.

——————–

In case you have never read Sea Fever:

“I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

 

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

 

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.”

 

By John Masefield (1878-1967)

 

 

Table Talk

Last night at the dinner table, the kids and I took turns coming up with a sentence for a story. My IT staff acted as scribe, but declined to participate in the actual storytelling. This is what we ended up with…

“Once upon a time… there lived a purple turtle. He ate a rock. A shark bit his leg. A doctor came and helped him. The rock he ate was a magic rock. He turned into a Star Wars ship. The ship crashed into a cup. The mechanic fixed the ship. So they flew to Jupiter. A shark chomped them up. Luke Skywalker saved the day.”

–The End

Concerning Babies…

They are like Hobbits.

Short and slightly chubby like Hobbits. Preferring not to wear shoes like Hobbits. (Have you ever tried to keep shoes and socks on a baby?) They love to laugh and make merry like Hobbits. And they love to eat… often.

Hobbits enjoy breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper. Sounds like my Little Guy! He thinks that supper is at 10 PM and breakfast at 3AM. (I’m pretty sure that Hobbits sleep longer than that though.)

Sneak Peek…

Remember the photo shoot a while back? I mentioned a project that I was very excited about. At last I can tell you about it!

I know that I’ve talked about Home Educating Family Magazine and The Well Planned Day planner. The folks at Home Educating Family, who publish both of those fantastic products, have some tremendous projects in the works! Some of it won’t be revealed until next year, but their fabulous new review site is in beta testing right now! Want a sneak peek? You know you do. Take a look here.

This review site is easy to navigate and search! All of the products reviewed have been thoroughly tested by home educating families. These are not “I took a look through the teacher’s manual and it looks pretty good” reviews, but an in-depth look at the product written by someone who has used it! Reviews list both the positives and the negatives of the product, so you get the whole story. These are honest reviews, not just marketing puff pieces.

New reviews will be posted weekly, so this is one website that you will want to bookmark and visit often! There is also a section specifically for products for special needs children. There are so many things that make this site a fresh addition to the online home education community!

I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of their review team!

I hope that you will take a look at the site. If you do, then let me know what you think of it!

Author Interview: Karen Andreola

I recently had the opportunity to interview author Karen Andreola. She’s the author of several homeschooling books and two novels. Karen’s books helped to introduce me to Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. I know that some of my fellow homeschool moms have been looking forward to this interview!

This was originally posted on the Christian Fiction Book Reviews blog.

Interview with author and homeschool mom, Karen Andreola:

Christian Fiction Book Reviews: Prior to writing Pocketful of Pinecones, you had done some non-fiction writing. What led you to write a novel?

Karen Andreola: It’s strange. I’ve never been the sort to tell anyone what I’ve dreamed the night before, or make up stories to tell by the fireside or fill notebooks with stories. I concentrated on non-fiction for a good many years in my efforts to share the educational principles of Miss Charlotte Mason. The thought of fiction crossed my mind because I wanted to convey the wonder of nature study through the experience of a family who took part in it. Realistic fiction seemed a good way to illustrate a “how-to” I had previously written about in my book, A Charlotte Mason Companion.

My first attempt was a disaster. My editor/friend was honest. “This isn’t working,” she gently told me. Months of work were cast aside. I lay on the floor by the wood-stove that gray winter afternoon, heavy with disappointment. But the next day I got up and tried again. I decided to put the story in first person. Months later when my editor/friend received again a first set of chapters, she said, “This works.”

CFBR: You chose New England during the depression as a setting for the books, why then and there?

KA: Our family lived in Maine at the time I wrote Pocketful of Pinecones. Therefore, I made the nature we observed month by month to be the same nature that my characters observe. New England is a beautiful region of America and ideal for its four distinct and picturesque seasons. I spent my girlhood a little further south in New Jersey and loved being outdoors. In autumn I’d crunch upon fallen leaves to walk to the school bus stop wearing one of my mother’s hand knit sweaters and the traditional red plaid skirt. Winter had us bundled up and booted for sledding in snow. Spring brought welcomed rays of the sun, red tulips and yellow daffodils, caterpillars and inchworms. Summer gave us a neighborhood of thick green grass to run on top of, noisy birds, orange butterflies, and the rhythmic evening serenade of crickets.

Although chores were constant the 1930s seem to be a time of simplicity. I wanted a story free of television and computer. We had neither in the house when I taught our girls to read in the 1980s. We listened to some audio and music daily. Comparatively my fictional family listens to the radio.

The 1930s were a time when to be a stay-at-home mom (which is what I’ve been) was normal. She dutifully and lovingly contributed to the economy of the home with non-income work from sun up to sun down. This is something I could relate to and I knew my fellow home teachers could, too. My main character, Carol, hasn’t a car but walks to destinations with her children. Sometimes nature observation is accomplished along the way. Her husband Michael takes the family car to work. This is reminiscent to our year in England where I walked daily to the park and green grocer with my children or took the red bus to the library. Today walking to destinations is only doable in the oldest of neighborhoods in America where blocks of houses are connected by sidewalks to Main Street. In the 1930s Main Street filled the needs of the community.

CFBR: Was much of your material drawn from your own experiences as a homeschooling mother?

KA: Yes, very much so, but fact and fiction have a way of intermingling. It would be difficult for me to accurately distinguish between what has its source in pure imagination and what comes closer to fact. The kinds of things I did with my children my character Carol does with hers. When my son read portions the sequel while he was illustrating it he said, “Mom you’ve made the kids too good.”

“But you were pretty well-behaved children for the most part,” I tell them. “And so my fictional children are, too.”

I did use my imagination, for instance, to create a Carol’s brother Bob and her sweet sister-in-law Dora. But I incorporated the qualities of people I’ve known into the domestically enterprising Bob and Dora. I created these book friends for myself as much as for my readers. I know that a kindred spirit can be a rare find in the life of a homemaker/home teacher. We had recently moved from Maine to Pennsylvania, away from our friends. I understand that household relocations mean finding new friends because I’d been in this situation often. But with little time to spare in one’s day this isn’t so easy. Book friends are a consolation.

CFBR: I think it’s pretty common for many of us to fall into thinking that only non-fiction books can be educational. What are your thoughts on this?

KA: Good Fiction engenders in the reader a “moral imagination” which enables you “to put yourself in his place.” It shows cause and affect. It reveals what is in the heart of man and how he responds to conflict. In this way it gloriously brings to our notice intangibles. A bold example is the plays of William Shakespeare. Courage, faithfulness, pity, mercy, self-sacrifice, dedication, hope, patience, truthfulness, perseverance, and their opposites are demonstrated through the lives of characters. We can all do with a dose of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen or Louisa May Alcott. I think it was Queen Victoria who claimed that Dickens did more for social awareness (and consequently social reform) in London than any institution in the 19th century. Jane Austen’s morals and manners are a refreshing oasis in our modern day culture of coarseness and indecency. I am happy that Jane Austen’s stories and the films based on her writings are so popular. It means that someone is giving the message besides the preacher – and in a way that people are open to hearing it.

CFBR: When did you decide to write the sequel Lessons at Blackberry Inn?

KA: Just after our two daughters were married – months apart from each other – and it was the year our son – our last student – graduated from home school, I gathered notes for a sequel. It kept my mind occupied. I missed my girls and was going through a transition in my life.

CFBR: What are some favorite books that you recommend to parents for reading with their children?

KA: Perhaps giving you sampling of the books I know our children have enjoyed will be of interest – some of these they have read again after graduating from home school. I place them in order for young readers to mature readers.

Frog and Toad (series) by Arnold Lobel

My Father’s Dragon (series) by Ruth S. Gannett

The Adventures of Tintin (series) by Herge

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Gentle Ben, but especially Walt Morey’s other stories.

Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (series) by C. S. Lewis

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (trilogy) by J. R. R. Tolkien

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The stories by James Herriot

Son of Tarzan (and series) by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Sherlock Holmes (short stories) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My son enjoyed biographies of scientists. I un-ostentatiously curtailed my girls’ reading of modern romance novels by keeping an array of good books on hand. All my children are reading adults and to this day their taste is varied.

CFBR: Do you have any upcoming books projects?

KA: It encourages me to receive letters from my readers requesting that my stories continue. It is heartwarming to hear that they are ministering and soothing to home teachers, that they are valued for their practical ideas on home education. But because paper books have become a more risky investment these days it is debatable whether I will write another. While my supportive husband Dean, who is my publisher, is weighing things out I need to rebuild our websites. I’d like to take advantage of the help of our web-designer son while still lives with us. It’s my writing of the text “just so” that is holding up the works.

CFBR: When you write, do you prefer to have music playing or quiet?

KA: Generally I like absolute quiet. I can’t have any music playing. When my children were little I was used to writing while hearing the sounds of their playing in the background. This didn’t distract me at all. I only wrote an hour a day. Much more recently, I didn’t mind the tweeting of a pair of cardinals, which kept me company daily while I wrote Lessons at Blackberry Inn. They were comforting companions – sort of like little children playing in the background – now that I think of it.

CFBR: Do you have any particular words of wisdom for homeschooling moms?

KA: Yes. I think I have something important to say as an “older woman.”

The home teachers I’ve meet over the years are exceptionally dedicated. They are self-sacrificing and conscientious to a T. I admire them for it. The love a home teacher has for her children is expressed in the day-to-day activities of chores and lessons. She needs to be aware, however, of her enemies. Fatigue is one. It will drag her down. All work and no play is another. It can cause her to become disheartened, disinterested or after an extended period – depressed. Here is my remedy:

Mix some of what you “have” to teach with some of what you “like” to teach, each day.

Mix the business of bringing up children with pleasure. This helps to retain needed enthusiasm for the work required. This “enthusiasm” is why I invite the home teacher to take part in what I call, “Mother Culture,” for moments of recreation and refreshment. Perhaps she desires to knit that red yarn that had been pushed to the back of a closet. She may wish to listen to “Mommy’s music” for a change, or read a book just for Mommy so she can explore her own avenue of stimulating thought. I found that taking a solitary walk after my husband came home was a good time for me to pray, reflect or sometimes to toss pent up emotion to the wind. The important thing to remember is that the homeschool mom is a person. Her small moments taken for Mother Culture are necessary for her to not stop growing into the person God is creating her to be. The advantages of growing and of being refreshed with a little Mother Culture will fill her cup. And her cup will runneth
over into the family circle – which includes her husband. So you see, this is not a selfish thing to do.

CFBR: It’s been lovely talking to you Karen! Thank you!

KA: Thank you for inviting me for a chat. I hope that I’ve shared not just bits about myself but some hopeful and curious ideas for readers to ponder.

Visit Karen Andreola’s blog Moments With Mother Culture!

For more author interviews and fiction book reviews, be sure to visit Christian Fiction Book Reviews!

Photographs

Yes, there were photographs taken yesterday.

Aaron took photos…

Joyce took photos…

There were black flies…

And the finished product!

And why did the typically camera-shy writer consent to posing for photographs? Because I needed a photo for my bio. Not for a book, not yet anyway, but for something exciting nonetheless. Alas, further details will have to wait another month or so…

Author Interview: John Michael Hileman

I recently reviewed Messages by John Michael Hileman. He also agreed to an interview! Both the review and interview were first published on www.christianfictionbookreview.com. Be sure to visit the website for even more reviews and author interviews!

Christian Fiction Book Reviews: You’ve written two novels that have been published so far. Was the writing process pretty much the same for both books, or did you find it different the second time?

John Michael Hileman: Most of VRIN took place in a Fantasy world of my own creation. It’s pretty easy to write about a world that doesn’t exist. No one can say, “Hey! There aren’t any stairs in front of the Blah Blah Blah museum!” When you’re writing about a man hunting for a dirty bomb in the streets of Boston, you need to have a working knowledge of Boston and the surrounding area. Since part of my childhood was in the suburbs of Boston, I have a good idea of how things work. The internet filled in the blanks.

CFBR: What drew you to the speculative fiction genre as a writer?

JMH: I like being able to create scenes no one has ever created before. Speculative fiction offers a canvas for that kind of out of the box thinking. Plus, alternate realities allow you to examine the principles and precepts of God from another perspective.

CFBR: What has the publishing process been like for you?

JMH: Lots and lots of waiting. Writing a book is merely the beginning of a vast journey. If you set foot on the road, prepare your heart to enjoy the walk, because there aren’t’ many rest stops on the way.

CFBR: What’s been the most difficult part of the writing/publishing process for you?

JMH: Overcoming doubt. When I started as a writer, I wanted success, and I feared failure. God has shown me that success is not in the quantity of people who love you, but in the quality of people who love you. It is fair to say, my readers have given me more than I could ever give them. I no longer wonder if I was meant to write, because I have a stack of e-mails from dear friends, who remind me how important what I do is.

Just last night I got a letter from a concerned mother who asked whether or not my latest novel would transform the heart of her Atheist son. I shared this insight. A stonecutter was once asked, “which strike of the hammer broke the stone?” The stonecutter replied, “The first. The last. And every one in between.” I don’t know if my book will be the strike that breaks her sons hard heart, but knowing that I am partnering with someone of such great character, gives value to the work I put in to writing it.

CFBR: There has been the suggestion that Christian authors should not write any sort of fantasy/science fiction type novels. What are your thoughts on the topic?

JMH: I don’t think most Christian outright object to fantasy and science fiction. It is more of a cautious apprehension–at least towards science fiction. As Christians we must guard our minds against the enemy of our souls. He is continually pleading his case through all forms of media. He wants to sow seeds of doubt in our minds, and turn us away from the truth. Since truth is so important, most Christians stick to stories that are grounded in reality. Most science fiction starts with a premise that is a lie, like: in thousands of years mankind will take to the stars and meet other life forms. This premise is silly and fanciful as Gene Roddenberry wrote it. But Christian authors tend to put Biblical truths into everything they write. As soon as you turn Star Trek into an Allegory, you’ve lost your Christian readers. They cannot take the story as pure fiction, because you’ve injected the real God into it.

As for Fantasy, that is more of a witchcraft/magic issue. God tells us to avoid such things. And yet, most fantasy stories have some form of it mentioned.

I believe science fiction and fantasy are like firearms. They are only as dangerous as the person wielding them. I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful police carry firearms.

CFBR: What are your favorite books? The ones you read over and over.

JMH: I did most of my heavy reading before I was right with the Lord. The only books I read over and over–lately– are mine.

CFBR: When you write, do you prefer background music or quiet?

JMH: I like it quiet. I’m easily distracted.

CFBR: Any words of wisdom for aspiring speculative fiction authors?

JMH: Tread carefully. You will be accountable for your actions.

CFBR: Do you have any other novels on the horizon that we should be watching for?

JMH: Yes I do. But I can’t tell you about it. It’s super duper top level secret stuff. All I can say is, I’ve been working on it for the past eight years, and it has one overriding theme: the holiness of God.

CFBR: We will be looking forward to it! Thanks for the interview John!

Both Messages and VRIN: ten mortal gods are available through amazon in Kindle and paperback format.

 

Book Review: Messages

David chance sees messages. They tell him what will happen. One of the messages saved his life, but now they are directing him to take action that could end up costing him his life. Are these messages from the dead? Is it some genetic mutation? Or, could it possibly be God speaking to him? David is just an ordinary guy with a family, but these messages have landed him in the middle of a conspiracy. Will David follow them regardless of the cost?

I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give the story away! If you enjoy supernatural thrillers, drama, intrigue and action then Messages is right up your alley.

In the very first chapter, David begins seeing messages in the words around him. The story takes off from there and continues its fast pace through to the end. There are enough clues to give us a hint of what’s really going on, but enough twists to still keep us guessing. I stayed up late two nights because I was so intrigued by the story that I couldn’t put it down!

The main character is the type of “average-Joe” that most of us can identify with. David is not a believer, but the messages that have embroiled him in extraordinary circumstances also lead him to search for answers. The book is as much about his spiritual journey as it is about his quest to unravel a terrorist plot.

Messages fits into the “speculative fiction” genre, as does John’s first novel, VRIN: ten mortal gods. Even so, it will appeal to those who enjoy dramatic thrillers as well. Messages is a solid second novel for John, and we’ll definitely be watching for his third!

If you missed John’s first book, VRIN: ten mortal gods, then you can read my review here.

Both of his novels are available through Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. Click on the book titles to go the Kindle edition pages and start reading immediately! To keep up with what John is writing, visit his blog.

This review was initially published at Christian Fiction Book Reviews. For more book reviews and author interviews visit www.christianfictionbookreviews.com.

Because He Holds My Hand

As a teenager, I said many times that I would never get married. I had some deeply personal reasons for saying that. I truly meant it. But God had different plans. God gave me a wonderful husband. Why does my husband rock? Because he holds my hand.

There was still snow on the ground, and a snow bank between me and a better view of the fireworks. I was trying to climb over that bank when he offered me his hand. It was the first time that he held my hand. It was before we were anything more than simply friends, but it showed me that he was a gentleman.

Months later, we went to my cousin’s Bible school graduation for our first “date”. On the drive home late that afternoon he told me, “There’s something that I’ve wanted to do all day.” And then he held out his hand to me. I slipped my hand into his as I would do again so many times in the years to come.

Whenever we pray together, he holds my hand.

On our wedding day, shortly before the ceremony, I stood there in my white dress dealing with an attack of nerves. Not because I was about to marry this incredible man, but because I’d have to stand in front of a crowd of people to say those vows. He was so very handsome in his navy blue tux as he took both of my hands in his. His firm, yet gentle grip reassured me more than words ever could have.

When I have the occasional meltdown, he again takes both of my hands in his and gently tells me that I need to calm down. He does this with such love, that my frayed nerves can’t help but be soothed.

He held my hand the night that my Mom died unexpectedly. On the way to the hospital, he held my hand as he drove and I prayed. Then on the way home, when there weren’t any words that could take away the ache, he simply held my hand. And that comforted me more than words.

I can’t begin to guess how many miles we have walked together in the past twelve years, but whenever we take a walk together he holds my hand.

He has held my hand through three miscarriages. He was there at the doctor’s appointments and hospital visits each time. And through all of it he held my hand. And I felt safe with him there beside me.

I’ve held onto his hands with a painful grip during the births of each of our children. He never once complained! And when our fourth planned homebirth became a trip to the hospital he held my hand. I looked at him with tears in my eyes and whispered, “I’m just so scared.” He squeezed my hand back and said, “I know,” before wrapping his arms around me. I knew that whatever we were facing, he would be with me to hold my hand.

Every time he raises my hand to his lips and tenderly kisses it, I feel like a princess.

At night when all four kids are tucked in and our heads finally rest on our pillows, he reaches out his hand to hold mine. And I sleep easier knowing that he is there beside me.

His hands… Those are the hands that I’ve watched move across piano keys with precision and grace. The hands that work countless hours to provide for us. The hands that have held each newborn child with such care. The hands that guide our children as they grow. The hands that have held so many books, but the Bible more than any other because he knows that wisdom starts with God’s Word. The hands that help out when I’ve gotten myself in over my head once again. The hands that set an example of service to others. Those are the hands that hold mine.

Holding my hand might sound like such a small thing. But when his hand catches mine, there are years of memories in that simple touch. Because he holds my hand, I know that a good man loves me.


 

Author Interview: Kathy Tyers

I recently interviewed Kathy Tyers, who is the author of several science fiction books, for Christian Fiction Book Reviews. Her Firebird trilogy is being re-released as a one-volume special annotated edition by Marcher Lord Press in April.

CFBR: Have you always been a fan of speculative fiction?

Kathy Tyers: I first read SF as a fifth grader, browsing the junior high section of the Dana Branch Public Library in Long Beach, California. I read Ben Bova’s The Star Conquerors and was hooked! And one of my friends gave me a copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time that summer. I didn’t know exactly what that book was—I didn’t think it was science fiction, since there weren’t any rocket ships—but I loved that too.

CFBR: You have a degree in microbiology. So what led you to write fiction?

Kathy Tyers: I’ve always been a reader. To me, getting carried away reading a good book was the finest of pleasures. I even wrote some little books as a young child, stapled them together along the left side and drew my own cover art. When my son was two years old and I wanted to do something “just for Kathy” during his naptimes, I started writing a Star Wars fanfiction novel … just for fun … and found myself hooked again by writing.

CFBR: When you wrote Firebird, did you always intend for it to be part of a series?

Kathy Tyers: I think I always knew she wasn’t the kind of person to peacefully “live happily ever after.” I liked her—and Brennen—well enough to want to know what adventure came next.

CFBR: You have a new edition of the Firebird trilogy coming out with Marcher Lord Press this year. For those of us who own the one published through Bethany House, what will be different about this new edition?

Kathy Tyers: The new edition will include beautiful maps, adapted by the gifted Jamie Upschulte from my hand-drawn originals. It also features annotation notes throughout: comments on word origins, bits of music that inspired me while drafting certain passages—and lots of writing-craft remarks, since I’m also a teacher (I mentor apprentices through the Christian Writers Guild). It’s second nature, for example, to point out my own struggles with the process of “how much information to reveal at what part of the story.” Crown of Fire also got a significant copy-edit. It was originally written and published almost simultaneously with my second Star Wars novel, and with two deadlines looming I simply ran out of time to give Crown a loving, careful last look. I’ve learned a bit about dancing in the last year, too—so there are some slight but satisfying changes in the choreography of Esme’s ball. Oh – and the cover art is (IMO) spectacular.

CFBR: Can you tell us a little bit about the two new novels that you will have published over the next two years?

Kathy Tyers: Wind and Shadow was written in partial fulfillment of my Master’s degree in Christianity and the Arts at Regent College in Vancouver BC. It’s more theological than the first three novels, since I was a theology student when I wrote it! WS skips ahead to the saga’s next generation, and it introduces a new cast of characters. For those who have wanted to know what Kiel and Kinnor would be like as they reach adulthood—here it is! The final Firebird novel—Daystar—will finish the series by introducing one more generation. Our Heroes have starring roles, though! I enjoy writing “older” characters, showing that the adventures in life don’t end when we hit thirty. Or even fifty.

CFBR: Marcher Lord Press is a rather unique publisher. How has it been different working with them as opposed to working with the more “traditional” publishing houses?

Kathy Tyers: I’ve enjoyed both experiences. Since MLP is an independent house, the feeling is particularly close and friendly—not just with editor/publisher Jeff Gerke, but also with other MLP authors.

CFBR: One of the challenges of writing science fiction is coming up with and keeping track of various worlds, technologies, ships, etc. How do you deal with this?

Kathy Tyers: I have a fat looseleaf notebook full of notes on topics ranging from “Sentinel Families and history” to “word derivations.” I drew on that notebook for many of the annotations, maps, and charts that will appear in The Annotated Firebird.

CFBR: Are you more of a plot-driven writer, or a character-driven writer?

Kathy Tyers: I consider myself character-driven, since I believe that strong Point of View creates a story that’s satisfying for both the writer and the reader. I plot thoroughly, though, before I write anything. The exception was Wind and Shadow. I simply sat down and started writing that at the beginning. About 1/3 of the way through, with all three main characters (Kiel, Kinnor, and a love interest for one of them [enough spoilers for now!])in mortal danger, I stopped and outlined a possible plot for the rest of the novel. Working with three main characters made it a more complex novel—and I wasn’t sure which, if any, of the three would survive.

CFBR: Do you have a specific “message” in mind for each book, or does it develop during the writing process?

Kathy Tyers: I find purely message-driven fiction (in my hands, anyway) too sermonic. My job is to tell a good story. After finishing the first draft, a book’s main theme often becomes clear. During the second draft (and successive drafts—I take much longer to self-edit a book than to write it) I make a fairly conscious effort to bring the theme forward. Never at the expense of the story, though.

CFBR: It’s been suggested that speculative fiction (fantasy, s/f, etc.) are not appropriate genres for Christians to write. What is your response?

Kathy Tyers: My studies at Regent College pretty much put that suggestion to rest. Let me recommend the fine books on the topic of Christianity and the Imagination by Dorothy L. Sayers, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Maxine Hancock, Jeremy Begbie, Madeleine L’Engle, James L. Sire and others –these people say it better than I could. Roughly quoting Sayers, my standard answer is that we are created in the image of a creative God, and so we are never more truly ourselves—nor more truly living in His image—than when we are engaged in creativity. I strongly believe that includes the big what-if questions of speculative fiction. Paraphrasing again—C.S. Lewis, this time—what we are will come through in our writing whether or not we consciously try to put it there. Lewis wrote extensively about sehnsucht, the longing for an unseen world that God put in our hearts. The true fulfillment of that longing will only happen in God’s presence—but we can explore aspects of that longing, along with other deep hopes and fears, in speculative fiction.

CFBR: What are some of the speculative fiction titles that you have enjoyed enough to read over and over?

Kathy Tyers: Lord of the Rings, of course. More times than I care to confess. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan novels. C.S. Lewis’s deep space trilogy and Narnia Chronicles. Karen Hancock’s Guardian King series and Zenna Henderson’s stories of the People.

CFBR: What advice would you give to Christian authors who want to write science fiction?

Kathy Tyers: Respect your readers. Everything else is part of that, including good research. For example, if you’re going to write about an evolutionary biologist, then find out what they really believe, how they talk, what they do during the day, and what their personal (and research) goals truly are. Never write a character who’s a two-dimensional doof, but be fair to all viewpoints. Read as widely as you can within your field. Yes, it’s impossible to keep up with what’s being published these days—but do read some of the books your readers will be familiar with. It’ll refresh your mind, suggest new ideas, and give you something to talk about when you get together with your own readers. Finally, just as with any profession, keep your writing in perspective. Your relationships with God and your family come first.

CFBR: Do you prefer to write with music playing, or with only quiet?

Kathy Tyers: Since I’m a musician, music has a deep effect on me. The right music can help propel me through the difficult process of writing a rough draft by setting just the right mood. I need quiet when I edit, though, to make sure the emotions I’m feeling come from what’s on the page—not the background music.

CFBR: Thank-you for the interview Kathy! I’m looking forward to reading the annotated edition of the trilogy as well as the next two novels in the series!

For more information about the release of Kathy’s books visit her website or Marcher Lord Press. For more author interviews, book reviews and giveaways, visit the CFBR website.