By Brock Eastman Article first appeared in Family Fiction Edge in August 2014
Speculative fiction doesn’t exist on its own; instead it burrows itself within genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, and horror like a mutant-slime trying to take over the ‘body’ of the story. All that’s required is a single story component levitating right outside of our reality, then you’ll find yourself reading a tale of speculative fiction. It’s often an unexpected twist of the impossible, a creepy troll, a man with multiple lives, a cat transfiguring into a child. If written well the twist seems quite possible. The story might make you check the shifting shadows under your bed for glowing eyes, hesitate taking a dip in a murky lake because of that bumpy log, or search the night sky for an unworldly flash of light. At the same time the story could take you far outside the realm of the possible with elements so spectacular that you can’t imagine it ever happening, legions of axe wielding dwarves or blood sucking interstellar arachnids invading your very neighborhood or a far off realm.
Take my short story, Wasted Wood, rooted in this unique category. The story focuses on a group of friends who go camping and are subsequently dared to trek through an allegedly ‘haunted’ forest. This in itself just makes it a creepy fiction story, not speculative fiction. Camping near a creepy forest and a dare amongst the characters are both conceivable features to the story, living well in the realm of our reality. It’s what the reader encounters at the end of Wasted Wood that makes the novella speculative fiction. In fact my sister (not a speculative fiction fan) read the book and said, “I really loved it until …” Sorry no spoilers here, you’ll have to read it. I chuckled at her statement, because it proved the twist I’d written into the story was indeed unexpected. The boys’ story appears firmly based in our world until the moment when I flip a switch and take the reader, my sister, out of the comfortable world she is used to
Rebecca LuElla Miller an expert on speculative fiction and contributor to SpeculativeFaith.com agrees with my explanation of the genre. She adds a summarization of Orson Scott Card’s perspective, “The genre can be summed up as the category of stories which violate known reality at some point: stories set in the future; set in the historical past that contradict known facts; set in other worlds; set on earth before recorded history and/or contradicting the known archaeological record; that contradict laws of nature.” Rebecca explains the genre’s fruitful growth, “With the increase in the number of independent publishers and the ease of self-publishing, speculative fiction, and Christian speculative fiction in particular, is available in increasing numbers. From what I’ve read in the past ten years, Christian speculative fiction, which has steadily improved in quality, now has titles that can hold their own against general market speculative stories.” That’s encouraging, because I love reading stories that delve just outside of reality. Visit SpeculativeFaith.com and to find articles and book recommendations to satisfy your growing hunger for speculative fiction, because let’s face it, its scrumptious. It’s like eating your favorite milk chocolate covered alien worm, you just can’t get enough--another example of speculative fiction.
By Brock Eastman Article first appeared on Speculative Faith website in January 2012
The quick and purest answer is God — the Master and Creator of the whole world, the universe for that matter. We know from the very beginning of the Bible that God created a wonderful place for His beloved creation (us) to live within. He thought of everything and as John Hammond in the movie Jurassic Park said of his genetically engineered animal park, “I spared no expenses.” Neither did God.
God created man in His own image, and gave us control over all creatures on land, in the sea, and in the sky. He handcrafted a world with soaring mountains, seemingly bottomless sea trenches, puffy white clouds, rolling liquid rock (lava), animals that run, birds that fly, fish that swim, water as ice, fog, or rain. He gave us emotions that gave our life depth and made it real. God crafted a beating heart tot work within our body; providing life blood to our systems, each of which is also handcrafted — from kidneys that clean, a stomach to digest, a tongue to taste, ears to hear, and eyes to see, to a brain to take it all in and make it all work together. All the above to say, we are His creation, His greatest creation, and He made us in His image. By doing so He made us gifted to be creative like He was. And then He surrounded us with things to inspire our creativity. Wow, what didn’t He think of? The answer nothing.
So what inspiration do you draw from? I’m blessed to live in Colorado where mountains abound and our weather varies hourly. In the winter we get snow in the morning and it melts by the afternoon with wonderful warm sunshine. We might have a sunny morning where light rainstorms pass over in the afternoon cooling us off in the summer. The mountains are just a fifteen minute drive away, and I can be lost in pine forests and soaring peaks after pulling off the asphalt and walking a short ways into the wilderness. Animals abound, and while I hope to see a bear someday (at a distance of course), I’ve seen elk, antelopes, fox, eagles, owls, mountain goats, deer, and a lot of other wildlife. God surrounds us with beauty, and it’s easy to draw inspiration from something so majestically created. Some might say, “Well that’s Colorado! I live in ___(Fill in the blank)___.”
Well, I grew up in Illinois, where my writing all started. Illinois — flat cornfields, muggy summers, frigid winters — but God laid His beautiful handiwork there as well. There is nothing like the spring rain that drizzles for hours against your window and the ominous thunder and lightning that accompany each storm. The summer, while humid, brings along warmth to swim in wooded lakes and evenings where I can roast marshmallows over campfires at night. The autumn harvest and the orange, red, and yellow leaves that cloak the trees make fall in Illinois my favorite season. Seeing the bright orange pumpkins lying in wait amongst the black earthy fields or running through huge corn mazes with friends is all part of the fall. And although the winters are cold, cold, oh so cold, those first snows are wonderful and glistening as I would walk at night with large fluffy snowflakes flittering down, while holding my wife’s hand.
Those are some of the scenes and memories that float through my mind as I write, but inspiration comes from more than just the nature around us. God has gifted others with a talent I do not possess. Music! I like to listen to soundtracks while I write. Some of my favorites are from movies like, The Village, How to Train Your Dragon, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Patriot, Jurassic Park, and Last of the Mohicans. While I’m in no way musically inclined, I did win a blue ribbon for a church talent competition singing a duet of “Awesome God.” (Okay, I admit, as I recall everyone won blue ribbons.) The talent to create imagery and invoke emotion through sound is clearly a gift from God. These composers create the music that sets the mood for my writing while not distracting me with lyrics.
Often I’ll be pecking away on my keyboard and find myself flying down a path I don’t expect my characters to take, then I reflect on what tracks I’ve just listened to, and lo and behold, the tempo or theme of the scene matches the music. Sometimes it’s comedic or dark, fast paced, or a relaxing conversation. But it seems the stories always fit together well, and for that I must thank God. So again, where do you draw your inspiration from? Ultimately you’re drawing it from God, but what medium has He used to get it to you? The whole Earth is His canvas. It’s wonderful to serve such an awesome and inspiring God. He so often is there when we don’t take the time to notice.
A directly indirect approach to teaching your kids character through fiction.
By Brock Eastman Article first appeared in Family Magazine in August 2015
Stories are powerful tools that can awaken a reader’s imagination and inspire them. Have your kids ever pretended to be a character from a book you’ve just read; acting out the scenes, dressing in costumes? Maybe your kids wrote their own story or shared ideas of what came next in the book. Reading fiction to your children is a great way for indirect teaching and opens a world of possibilities for inspiration.
With four kids six years old and under, my wife and I look for great books that teach our kiddos lessons. Sometimes this is simply through the themes of the stories or bright illustrations. For our preschool-aged children, a lot of the books are directly teaching something: ABCs, 123s, Potty Training, Sharing, Being Kind, Colors. At their age, our kids accept this teaching and results are relatively immediate. As kids get older, they see through this sort of direct teaching, and it’s time to change tactics to help guide them along on life’s journey.
Your pre-teen or teen probably rolls her eyes when you hand her that nonfiction book about dating or having strong moral character. (Of course, you may have those perfect kids who never do anything of this sort.) When I was a teen and my parents tried suggesting what I should do with my spare time, I generally went the other direction whether they knew it or not.
There is a solution to getting these often direct lessons in a nonfiction book into the minds of your kids through the power of fiction. Generally perceived as entertainment, fiction books can provide the exact same values and lessons you wish your adolescents to pick up on. The genres and stories run the gamut, from what authentic love looks like to Biblical allegories, powerful character traits, epic tales that shine light on deep friendship, heroic feats that teach kids to stand up for what they know is right even in the face of adversity, or telling the truth no matter the consequences.
As an author, I not only look at the theme of my entire series and each individual book when I write, but I also try to provide examples within the details of the characters starring in my stories. Take Oliver for instance: he’s got great leadership skills, he’s strong, he’s confident, and he’s courageous—he’s everything a young man wants to be. But he’s also at times arrogant, quick to anger, impatient to listen, and not willing to work as a team. Oliver needs to be relatable to his readers, but he also has to grow right alongside them. We watch his character develop, and in the end, the readers see traits they wish to embody.
If you think back to the books you loved most growing up—or even now—you’ll probably find in some way you relate to a character, whether through their past, their journey, or who they become. Maybe it’s not that you’re just like them, but they embrace the traits you aspire to have. They may give you the courage to make a change in your life or conquer a fear. What characters in stories have done for you, they can also do for your kids.
When shown through the characters of an exciting adventure or emotional journey, character traits can connect with a reader without making them feel the lesson is being forced upon them. Your kids will find themselves relating their own lives and their own journeys to the characters of the story. Even vast epics like the Lord of the Rings teach character traits your kid will relate to such as you can accomplish things greater than yourself, being wealthy is not the most important thing in life, be honest with others and yourself, be courageous, and size doesn’t matter, having “heart” does.
And if your kids still resist a fiction book handed to them by you, enlist the help of a cool aunt or uncle, or perhaps an older cousin. Personal recommendations for books go a long way in engaging a reader. Often if someone likeminded has invested in reading a book or series, your kid is more likely to see the investment as worth their own time.
I need your help in creating more fiction. I've launched Crimson Pulse Media LLC, a media company focused on creating engaging adventure filled fiction for your family. We've got brand new series planned. Take a look at our release schedule HERE>>>
Publishing takes time and costs money. That's where I need you to step up and come along side me and the amazing authors and editors that Crimson Pulse Media is working with. Would you consider a small monthly donation of $3? You'll get some cool new rewards, which include an e-copy of every Crimson Pulse Release. Plus if you upgrade to $8 a month, you'll get one Crimson Pulse paperback of your choice every Christmas!
These titles already came out in 2017 & so far in 2018. You'll get e-books of each of title FREE when you become a patron.
Crimson Pulse Media is already off and running, but we need you to keep going. Your support will fuel us to keep producing awesome new stories for years to come.
It's official. I am now on Patreon and hoping you'll come along with me on the next great adventure. Many of you have been asking for the next book in a certain series, or wondering how you might support me as an author. Well, here is a great way to do so.
You may be wondering what Patreon is? Patreon allows content creators to develop patrons (in my case readers) to partner with them and create great new content.
What I need you to do, is headed over to my Patreon account and find a pledge amount that works for you. Depending on which level of pledge you choose, you'll receive certain rewards in return. mostly you'll get a copy of each new Crimson Pulse Media book release.
Why should I support you through Patreon? Patreon will allow me to create new books more quickly. By having patrons pledged to a project I can estimate my budget for each new title I release.
Creating books together has never been easier with the many amazing self-publishing tools out there. And while I will still release titles with traditional publishers (The Quest for Truth, Crimson Sparrow, Imagination Station, Nova,) I will also be able to release books like Wasted Wood, Sages of Darkness books, and sub-stories from The Quest for Truth.
I get asked a lot about my writing process and what tools or tricks I use to create a great story. This post focuses on the tools I use to polish my writing.
Here are the two tools I use to help me along my writing journey. I have purchased both and use them regularly. If you're preparing a manuscript for a proposal or writing an article for your blog or a magazine, you'll want to check it with one of these tools first.
Test a sample of your writing with Grammarly
Click the graphic to test out the second tool for FREE