And here’s the meat, which I’m delighted to share with the readers of Speculative Faith: The Legends of Karac Tor is back! Of course, given my enthusiasm, you might have three questions at this point: 1) Huh? 2) Who are you? and 3) Back from where? Let me explain. In 2008, I began a YA fantasy series called The Legends of Karac Tor. It’s a throwback to epic, world-traveling fantasy in the grand tradition of Lewis, Feist, Donaldson and Kay, a Narnia-esque adventure for older teens that is written to appeal to their adult parents as well. With the release of book one, The Book of Names, the quest of the four Barlow brothers, transported into the perilous world of Karac Tor, garnered universally good reviews. Since you may not have heard of me or my series, allow me to share a quick sampling:
Unfortunately, almost as quickly as you can say “Recession Bites!” my original publisher (Navpress) cancelled all fiction projects during the brutal downturn of 2008-09. Though I had been signed to a three book deal, the entire series ground to a halt a few short months after the first book’s release. The readers I had managed to find loved the series, but we were all left wondering, “What’s next?” I had no answers. That part of the story was beyond my control.
Here the discussion shifts from books to life in general, where much is beyond our control, and all must endure. We know and thrill to the come-from-behind, photo-finish moments. We cheer the underdog. Our lips tremble and we hold back the tears when hope or victory comes in the most unlikely of places, the darkest of times. Persevering heroes inspire us all. But if I grow serious and reflective for a moment, I must ask, what about dead heroes? Jesus on the Cross, in the tomb? Feel for a moment the disciples despair, the collective, confused “Huh?” of that dreadful moment.
Yes, in three days we get our answer. Ultimately, we bask in the glorious triumph. (Cue the roaring crowd). But redemption, as a plotline, is triumphant in precise relationship to its tragedy—the ultimate, unexpected reversal of fortune. But you can’t cheat the process. If you just skip ahead to the resurrection, you actually have nothing to cheer about. It would mean nothing to roll a stone away from an unused tomb. From a pure, storytelling perspective, irrespective of the matter of sin and atonement which the Cross addressed, I am mostly moved by the resurrection because, in fact, Jesus died.
The narrative of redemption thus serves not only as the central truth of Christian doctrine, but as the blueprint for understanding the strange ways of life on planet earth. We are all at various times caught somewhere in the double dichotomy, either in the tearful, perplexing, agony of a cherished person or dream passing away, or on the other end, celebratory and joyful, as the winter graves of our soul yield to some new Springtime wonder.
Scenarios come in all shapes and sizes, measured on a sliding scale, but the maxim goes thus: “If you’re willing to lose, you win. If you want to live, you must die.” The wisdom of the Cross turns the expectations of the world on its ear. Deaths come in a thousand flavors. Literal deaths are the most brutal. But loss of vision, relationships, jobs, or more subtly, loss of reputation, respect, understanding—all are part of the process woven into the sin-stained genetics of our existence. Though infinitely smaller than the Cross, when my series “expired,” I felt a real sense of loss. When something we love and cherish unexpectedly fails, we feel the pain. We rant and rave, point the finger. We accuse. We feel despair. We don’t know what else to do. But there is another way.
I’m almost forty-two years into my journey on this planet. By the grace of God, having failed this process many times in the past, I think I turned a corner this go-round, when my series was cancelled. It wasn’t perfect. I certainly had my low points, mainly because the stories that frame The Legends of Karac Tor are deeply personal, rooted in some very real world challenges my own sons have had to face. I did not relish the thought of losing my work to the void after pouring my heart into every page. I wanted the chance to tell the whole story, not just Book 1. But what could I do? How should I respond? For me, the maxim became, “to gain a series, lose a series.” So I released it, rather than trying to “push it.” I gave it up, rather than trying to make it happen. Emotionally and mentally, I turned off the lights, let it die. Eighteen months passed…
And then, in a single moment, when the time was right, God did what He does. A small sliver of the death and resurrection mystery entered my life, as something new came out of the old. It should come as no surprise that the new deal is even better than the old. AMG’s Living Ink has committed to deliver the entire Legends of Karac Tor series. That means five books total, not three. While the original release with Navpress included three books, I had always planned the series in five parts. AMG wants all of it. They’ve also committed to a bold release strategy. The first three books will all release next year. The Book of Names (re-release) and Corus the Champion will hit the shelves simultaneously in Spring, 2011 (think April-ish), followed by The Song of Unmaking a few months later in the fall. Also, I’ve landed with a great publisher. AMG seems uniquely committed to cultivating a vivid, focused brand and author cache every bit as strong as the heyday of notable secular imprints Del Rey, Tor, and Ace. With regard to fantasy fiction for young adults, they “get it.” I’m honored to be included in their plans to make quality fantasy accessible to the CBA crowd.
In short, I’m thankful and pleased, joyful and content. It wasn’t easy, but it was good. And so it goes. If you choose to take a look at my series (and I hope you do!) maybe this background will add a little something extra to your reading. Maybe not. Either way, I’m glad to say, The Legends of Karac Tor is back. And, thanks to a retrospective bit of writerly spit-and-polish editing, I believe it is better than ever.