Monday, September 3, 2012

Emaline's Free Gift

Since Emaline’s Gift is FREE for Amazon Kindle today as a special Labor Day promotion, it seems like a good time to talk about the book for a minute. Emaline’s Gift is the first book in a planned series called The Magi Chronicles. The central character is a thirteen-year-old girl name Emaline. When out running an errand for her Mom one night, she finds herself suddenly in the middle of a battle between two ancient groups with the ability to manipulate reality in surprising ways: the Christ-following magi and the evil obeah. When the obeah kidnap Emaline, the magi rally to mount a rescue.

The idea for the series was born of a love for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Trust me, I’m not trying to say that I think I’m on Jo Rowling’s level as an author. I don’t think the Potter books are flawless, but I really enjoy them and have read them each at least twice: once for me and once at the storytime I do most evenings with my daughters. I’m aware, of course, of the vitriol in certain corners of Christendom toward the series. To each their own and all. I realize that Jo has mined a great deal of mythology for her stories, but, in my opinion, Harry Potter is to actual witchcraft what Lost is to plane crashes: yeah, that’s what it’s about but I doubt the exploits of the Oceanic 815 survivors would be very practical if you found yourself stranded and needed to Crusoe it for a spell. I am, of course, assuming that there is no smoke monster on your particular deserted island. If there is a smoke monster, I suggest the Mr. Eko approach.

In any case, I love the Potter series as a reader and a writer. I think Jo has a marvelous gift for story (and am very interested to see what she does next!) and I’d love to develop more toward her skill. Part of the magic of her books, in my opinion, is the actual magic in her books. I began to wonder how a story about magic might be made for Christian audiences. Magic is a vital part of the Narnia series, of course, but I was thinking more along the lines of magic in a modern context, as much as I love Narnia (and am also a big fan of Stephen Lawhead’s high fantasy novels). Finding magic in the world in which we actually live (more or less) simply has a different feel, and that’s what I was interested in.

(I suppose that the Narnia series actually tends to straddle that line, since the protagonists in most of the books are from the more modern real world, but the books take place almost entirely in the magical high fantasy world of Narnia. Oh, funny story: I actually remember visiting a church library once that literally had one of those Christian Harry Potter attack books sitting right next to one of the Narnia stories. I thought it was funny, anyway.)

I began to think about the supernatural happenings in Scripture. We generally call these miracles. So what’s the difference between miracles and magic? Isn’t the distinction simply found in the source of the power (a bit of an oversimplification, perhaps, because I believe some of the same language used of miracles is also used of the powers of the Beast in Revelation)? Think of the scenes in Exodus, when God performed a miracle through Moses or Aaron, only to sometimes have Pharaoh’s magicians perform a similar feat through what must be demonic power (e.g. Exodus 7:10-12, 22). Even the story of the plagues makes it clear that God’s power trumps that of Satan—I haven’t uttered the “word” duh since 1992, but it seems appropriate here—and the demonic magic cannot perform all the same feats, but I realized that this distinction gave me permission to have a bit of fun with some sort of godly wizards. The good guys would do magic through the power of the Holy Spirit; the bad guys would do theirs through demonic power.

The fact that my mind ended up jumping to the magi of Matthew 2 (NIV) simply proves how simplistic my creative process can be (hey! magi and magic are almost the same word! score!). But, despite this pretty silly connection, I did come up with a thought that really appealed to me. The magi in Scripture came from a far land to present gifts to the baby (or toddler) Jesus. What if, in response to their devotion, God granted the magi a gift in return? A supernatural gift that would rival the powers shown by those performing spectacular feats through the power of demons? (This is, by the way, a story I intend to tell fully in a future book that would be set in the time of Christ.)

I liked the idea. The magi we meet in Emaline’s Gift, then, are the modern members of a two thousand year old order who are, through the power of God and the Holy Spirit, able to perform magic. That classic good-versus-evil battle has been waging this whole time just out of sight of all of us Muggles, um, non-magical folk. Our entry into this world is Emaline, a thirteen-year-old girl who finds her boring existence suddenly interrupted by a dangerous war, and the powerful love of a God who goes to great lengths to redeem fallen mankind. I think it’s an exciting story, and I hope that my readers will agree. More than that, I hope that the story glorifies God, and I like that it gives readers strong, godly role models in the magi, who passionately follow Christ in everything. I won’t be surprised if some come back to complain that the book has the subtlety of an Adam Sandler movie (but, y’know, with Christian themes) and some might call it preachy, and I can’t really argue with either of those criticisms. The book is not terribly subtle in its good-versus-evil mentality (at least not in this first volume), and I realize that might turn some people off.

Who is the book written for? Once again, I tried to take inspiration from the Potter series. I tried to write with a fairly high level teenage audience in mind, but hope the book appeals to readers of all ages (not that there are a lot of authors who are probably keen to intentionally limit their demographic too much, I suppose). There are some themes that might make this iffy for younger readers, but my 7-year-old daughter Madison was one of my first readers and I personally have no qualms about letting her read it. The second book in the series—which I started work on several months ago but shelved temporarily to work on an adult novel that I really felt that the Holy Spirit was leading me toward—already seems a bit more  mature than Emaline’s Gift to me. Its primary protagonists are adults and I think its themes are a bit more complex, but again there is nothing there that I wouldn’t let my (almost 8 now!) oldest daughter read.

So I think that’s a pretty good introduction to the book and the inspiration for it. I’ll happily address questions in the comments, if you have any. Since the Kindle book is free as I write this – on Labor Day, September 3, 2012 – there’s no risk if you want to check it out! After today, it goes back to its regular price. And if you missed the links to Amazon up at the beginning of this post, well here you go:

Emaline's Gift for Kindle

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