I recently received some happy news. My fantasy/adventure novel, Freedom Cry, has found a publisher--Capstone Fiction. Though I very much enjoyed writing the story (and thought that it was a quality piece of work), I wasn't really expecting much in the way of finding publication for it. Fantasy is just about the smallest genre in the Christian book market, despite the sterling defense of the genre by such pioneers as C.S. Lewis (On Other Worlds) and J.R.R. Tolkien ("On Fairy-Stories"). Freedom Cry is not explicitly Christian as such, but it certainly carries those overtones. I did try to contact some secular publishers, but to no avail. It's probably just as well to have a Christian publisher, since the next two novels in the series employ some clearer Christian parallels.
I began writing the novel in 2004 while in North Africa, where I discovered that I had some free time in the evenings. But, without any research resources for my normal field of historical fiction, I decided to expand on an old fantasy-story I had made up in the sixth grade. So I started writing it, just for fun, and was surprised by how well it came together. Since then I've written a second novel in the same series, The Conqueror's Song, and am currently nearing completion on a third. I also did a full re-write of Freedom Cry last year, aided by the keen review of my brother Josh.
I seldom hold out great hopes for the publication of my novels. Most of them are written for the sheer joy of writing, and it seems to me that publication (as well as sales) is a step in the process that's largely out of my hands. I do make the attempt, and make it as well as I can, but I'm no stranger to rejection. Part of the reason, I'm sure, is that when it comes to published authors, my skills are, at best, somewhat middle-of-the-road. It's also a difficult market for starting authors, especially in Christian fiction. I've learned to be content living as a writer in an age that produces more books for people than ever before, while most people are watching more TV than ever before.
In any case, I did make the attempt, and was able to have Freedom Cry re-accepted to the Writer's Edge, an editorial board that serves a number of prominent Christian publishing houses. (In actual fact, they didn't want to post the manuscript on their list this time because fantasy is such a dud in the Christian market, but since they accepted a previous draft of the novel a couple years ago, they were obligated by policy to put it back on their list). I didn't hear anything for the first few months, which is usually a good sign that no offers will be forthcoming. And that was fine with me. I was starting to consider submitting it to my old publisher (which actually boasts on its website that it has astoundingly low acceptance standards), and was excited by the thought of having it in print. And then, last Friday, I received an email from Capstone Fiction, one of the publishers connected to the Writer's Edge, saying that they wanted to publish Freedom Cry. I did a little checking, and it turns out that Capstone Fiction is a very new, relatively small publisher that focuses on online marketing of new Christian fiction. Like my old publisher, it uses print-on-demand technology, which is really the only method that makes small publishers economically viable (print-on-demand means that they only print copies as requests come in, rather than traditional offset printing, which publishes initial runs of thousands of copies at a time). Anyone familiar with the publishing world knows that POD publishers are generally regarded as a step below the traditional offset-printing houses (but, in the case of royalty-paying POD publishers like both of mine, a step above "vanity" or "subsidy" publishing). However, I consider Capstone Fiction (which in its first year published about 50 books) a significant step up from my old publisher (which, thanks to its famously low standards, represents over 30,000 authors since its inception in the 1990s). The prices for Capstone books are also somewhat lower than the hefty charges for my old publisher's paperbacks, which is nice. Also, Capstone actually has an editorial board that reviews the manuscripts, and it engages in some marketing (neither of which my old publisher did). That's not to say I'm not grateful to my first publisher--having my books in print was a tremendous encouragement to keep writing, and I would recommend it to anyone who has a book written but can't find a name-brand publisher for it.
All that to say, I'm very excited about this, and I feel tremendously blessed. I signed a contract with Capstone and am working on preparing a final draft to send to their editors. I haven't seen a timetable yet for when the printing and distribution might happen, but I'll try to post an update as soon as I know. Since Capstone markets its books largely on Internet retailers like Amazon.com, it's unlikely that Freedom Cry will be distributed to retail bookstores unless it does very well online. Even so, it'll be fun to have it in print and available for family and friends to buy. And if it's on the market, there's always the chance that someone out there will pick it up and be impacted by a tale of heroic virtue. Story can be a powerful vehicle for truth. So I'm excited about the possibilities, and happy that I can share this work that has been such a delight to create. There's something very satisfying in being able to share the joy of a good story with someone else.
So there's a quick update on my life. And my apologies for not blogging more often--I hope to be a little more consistent now that summer's here.
Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.