So here’s what I’m thinking….

By , 13 March 2009 7:35 pm

Two weeks ago I mentioned to you that the entire Lamb among the Stars sequence was not doing at all well. In fact it has largely disappeared without trace and you have to do a lot of hard work in order to even find any of the books, let alone buy them. I asked you for some bright ideas and got some helpful comments for which I am very grateful. Anyway here’s my current – and still rather tentative – thinking and I’m interested to know any comments you have.

Now I need to say that I remain utterly committed to this sequence; I have spent an extraordinarily long number of hours on it and I’m not lightly going to give it up. If the reviews had been negative or critical I might have shrugged my shoulders and said ‘well there we are’ and walked away. In fact the problem has not been the negative reviews; it has been actually getting the series reviewed at all. But your comments encourage me to live in hope that I may yet see ‘the resurrection of the dead’ as far as these books go.

So what I am tentatively planning is this. I shall wait a few more months and see if everything goes entirely dead. If it does, I will write to Tyndale asking whether I can have the book rights back sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I will start rewriting the series. If you aren’t familiar with the books you will realise that the second and third volumes are slightly different to the first in that they include not just what is happening to Merral D’Avanos but to a handful of other people as well. To use the technical term there are ‘multiple viewpoints’. This does not happen in the first book. The single viewpoint of the first book works in one sense in that we are able to slowly watch evil gradually permeating a fallen world. Nevertheless it poses considerable problems, not least that you have to get at some 150 pages in before there is significant action. This is undeniably a flaw with an unknown author in today’s climate. As the wretched (and now already largely forgotten) Da Vinci Code taught us, you need to have a bizarre murder on the first page and keep the plot moving from then on. So, in the first 30 or so pages I might well bring in Azeras and the crew of the Freeborn ship about to land on Farholme and Vero being posted (much against his will) to Farholme by the Sentinels. I might include something of the Lord Emperor himself, although he is a fundamentally a very uninteresting character. (Most evil people are.) As you may be aware Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings in its entirety and then, when he had finished the last volume and before he submitted it for publication, he rewrote it. The result was a better trilogy (although even here a number of modifications and corrections were made in the next decade or so).

Other than that recasting of some of the material of the first book I do not anticipate any other major changes. One minor change would be to put ‘clear blue water’ between the diaries of the books and the iPhone; when I wrote the first few pages 20 years ago my communication devices were clearly fantastic – they are less so now.

So the idea is with all this rewriting done and the creation of the Lamb among the Stars ‘final version’ /’revised version’/’ultimate version’ I would then either offer the books to a publisher who felt they could handle the science-fiction market or find some other innovative way of getting it out into the general public.

I am open for comments on this. It is a long road but the hope is that it would mean that these books would be available for the future. Of course it would also mean that the first edition versions with Tyndale would be collector’s items :-) Well if you have any comments please let me know.

By the way my wife has started a blog of her own entitled Open My Eyes. Rather than summarise what it’s about let me simply direct you to it.

Have a good week
Chris

22 Responses to “So here’s what I’m thinking….”

  1. Kirsty says:

    Hmmm…

    I’m not sure that bringing in Azeras or other outsiders near the beginning would work.

    The thing is that the Assembly are completely oblivious to the fact that there is anyone else but the Assembly out there, and we learn, along with them, what is going on:

    First there is a mysterious ‘meteor’, then an inexplicable white lie, then a creature (and, at this point, for all we know the creatures are all that is out there). Finally, at the battle of the exploding diary, a vaguely glimpsed figure that may be human. I think the suspense would be lost if we knew there were non-Assembly human bad guys out there all along.

    However, having other viewpoints such as Vero’s could be interesting. Personally I didn’t feel the need for dramatic things to happen near the beginning.

    Anyway, that’s my pennyworth – but it’s your book, so do what you want!

    Btw I’ve just got the set for my church library – so that will make a few more people aware of them.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am not in favor of rewriting the first volume with multiple viewpoints. The first book was my favorite of the series largely for this reason. It’s what makes the series stand out in my opinion.

    In fact, my first thought as I read your third paragraph was that you would be eliminating text from the final two volumes to match the style and tone of the first more closely, resulting in a tighter work from start to finish for re-release.

    Good luck with the series.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Kirsty. I couldn’t put the first book down. There are many books that start with big explosions and frenetic pacing that I’ve been bored with halfway through – they’re too predictable. Your books are some of the few that I’ve read cover to cover, without reading the ending so I could be done with the book more quickly. The story drew me along and slowly horrified me as I realized that I compromise hourly more than the entire Assembly had ever, until the coming of the meteorite.

    I just found your blog. Had no idea that there was more to the story than the first two books marketed to teens. I can’t wait to get them and read them. Well done!

  4. Catherine Brislee says:

    I agree with Kirsty. I enjoyed the slow build-up of tension, the increasing sense of menace. Also I loved the idea of a Christian Utopia, and I wanted plenty of time to consider how that might work before too much action started.

    But I know that some readers find the first 150 pages slow. Perhaps there is a way of tightening it up without losing the suspense.

    Good luck!

  5. Bruce IV says:

    A friend introduced me to the Lamb Among the Stars last summer – I read his copy through, then bought my own off of Amazon (one of the places its readily available – though one volume was out of stock and took a while to get in). I have not much talent for writing myself (technically, perhaps, artistically, not so much), so I won’t give any any advice, but I will say what I liked about the series. Some people have said the first book is slow … perhaps – but I really loved the view of the Kingdom of Heaven in something approaching our world – I would love to live in the Assembly, before things started falling apart – that was probably my most lasting idea from the series. Also, Merral seems to me at least to be a somewhat Davidic character – he keeps screwing things up, but somehow works it out with God in the end – that’s a story I can identify with. Anyway, I did really enjoy your story, and this is just my two cents.

  6. Matthew says:

    I’d have to echo what’s been said about keeping the suspense of not knowing what’s going to be found in the north, but also say that I’ve known people for whom more viewpoints might have grabbed them earlier. (Well, one person – and he didn’t get into the Lord of the Rings for the same reason!) I’m all for what’s artistically right rather than popular, if there’s a conflict between the two!

    As to people not reviewing them, what I’ve wondered for a while is finding some well-known Christian bloggers and try to get them to review it – but you’ve probably tried already, I don’t know. Mark and I probably have a couple of contacts between us. And this might just be me overestimating the influence of the blogosphere…

  7. kirsty says:

    Just had another thought when I woke up this morning.

    If you do want multiple viewpoints and drama near the beginning – why not go back in time? Go back to the rebellion (perhaps getting into the mind of a character?). Show what has happened before, therefore contrasting the assembly with what things used to be like.

    It used to be like that, but we can relax now. Everyone follows the Lamb now. Evil is no longer an issue.

    Or is it…? Then carry the story on as at present.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Bit of advice from a long-time public librarian in the US, most libraries do not purchase books when they cannot find reviews somewhere. They prefer to have an sort-of official ‘backup’ for titles they’ve purchased (just in case one of their public challenges the purchase!) Finding a way to get them reviewed is thus a key to the library market. I have a number of blogs I refer to when I’m looking for titles to recommend to our purchasing department. ]Thank goodness I haven’t been challenged to find ‘more traditional’ review sources such as Publisher’s Weekly, etc.]
    I also have a ‘column’ I do for our library website on Christian genre fiction. Of course, I’m only featuring books my library system owns but I’m trying to do my bit!! Here’s the link if you want to see it [and yes, I have featured the Lamb Among the Stars]
    http://www.browardlibrary.org/web/bookletters/christian.htm Perhaps you can find some libraries or book stores/chains that might expand on something similar??
    Kathy-E in Florida

  9. Anonymous says:

    Kathy-E here again. I noticed that the link I put in my post didn’t copy correctly so here’s the correct address. Hope it comes out OK this time.

    http://www.browardlibrary.org/web/bookletters/christian.htm

    It seemed to copy and paste in the address line correctly.

  10. Terry says:

    Wow…

    How do you balance the desire for sales with the desire to keep the story as authentic as possible?

    I agree with many here, that the slow build-up and recognition of evil in the first book is one of the things that sets the story apart. I think it emphasizes the Assembly’s “galaxyview” – that slow, methodical, deliberated change is best. The now infamous first 150 pages or so put the reader into that pace, and provide, as I’m sure you intended, Chris, a well-rounded picture of Assembly life and the mindset (or ‘heartset’) that preserves it.

    With that said, I do think that the story can be rewritten to provide glimpses into the possibility that Farholme isn’t in Kansas anymore. Or at least that it’s not like it used to be.

    As you mentioned, Chris, the point is to get the story out there, where the main themes can influence readers. If it needs some zip to do it, maybe that’s not so bad. If it does get re-published, and succeeds, I will also be quite tickled to have a set of those rare, priceless first-edition collectors’ items!

    I also agree with you and others that the story is very well worth pursuing. There really is nothing else like it out there, and I’d hate to see it die without some kind of last stand. Now if Chris gets this rewritten, and we could just get a strong wind off the ocean…

    May God guide you in your decisions, here. I, for one, surely hope to see the Lamb Among the Stars flourish.

    Take care,

    Terry

  11. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    I’m not enthusiastic about rewriting the books to try and get people to like it.

    I like the books the way they are (though I had not realized you had a message in them. Sorry). I’m fairly sure I would not be interested in re-purchasing the same story just to get the rewritten form.

    Think about how much Lucas has been criticized for “rewriting” the original Star Wars triology.

  12. Random Ruthie says:

    I agree with the others who have commented. The slow build of the first book shows just how subtle evil comes in and personally, I thought it was powerful especially in context with the rest of the series.
    The Lamb Among the Stars is without a doubt one of my favorite series. I have recommended them to others and I will definitely be reading them again.
    What I’d like to see is the history before this series started. Another commenter mentioned going back to the rebellion time. That sounds like a great idea!
    Well, whatever the ultimate decision is, I still like your books.

  13. Danno A. says:

    Hello.

    First, I’d like to start off by saying that I’m a teenager (16, can ya believe it?) who read and enjoyed these books. While i do agree that the first 150 pages could be just a tad bit faster, I wouldn’t change too much about them. The subtle creeping way of evil is perfect to offset the worldview of the Assembly, that which it has held for so long.

    The very thought of evil to these people is repulsive, just as the creatures disgusted me in the description. There are a few suggestions I would like to add, seeing as how I like to write myself.

    Bring Verofaza in sooner. Have him stationed, and the friendship between Merral and our Sentinel grow. Perhaps give Jorgio a different view of the end of the Assembly, or a different view of the test. And most definitely, tell a little bit more of the story through Anya, Perena, and Vero.

    it would help to move the story along a little bit faster, and also to build the suspense quicker, all to have it stopped by the end of the book after the diary explosion. This would cause more suspense, etc. And if you happen to be looking for a publisher, then may I suggest the publisher of Ted Dekker’s wildly popular books? His Circle Trilogy and Lost Books series, which are a mix of sci-fi and fantasy, sell quite well. His publisher is Thomas Nelson, located in Nashville, Tennessee.

    Regardless of what you decide to do, i enjoyed the books, and definitely look forward to a rewrite, should you decide to make one.

    Thanks, and have a blessed day!

    ~Danno A.

  14. David W says:

    One of the things I love about reading this genre of literature is the revelation of information about the constructed world. So the first chapters of the Dark Foundations for me were incredible, as suddenly you are introduced to a whole new world which you didn’t know existed, and you find out so much which you can link in with what you knew already. Then some of my favourite chapters where when we meet Azeras and hear his side of the story – it’s really exciting to find out exactly what happened from the perspective of those on the ship which we had encountered as a completely alien vessel before.

    Having all this information at the start I think would ruin that effect – since you know the information from before you’ve built up a proper picture of the world and so are really interested in it, it is not nearly so exciting.

    For me it would be like having a murder mystery when you already know the murderer from the start – you miss all the excitement of the “dénouement” moments.

  15. Andrew Detwiler says:

    Hey,
    The names Andrew. I’m a 17 year old freshman up at UNC. I first read these books pretty much when they came out, years ago. I was significantly younger then, obviously, but I enjoyed them just the same. Since then, my perspective has changed, with my understanding of the world. Now, what is unique about this series when compared to other books (and believe me, I read a lot…not just some, but about a book a day, so a considerable amount) and this series has caught my imagination in a way not only comparable but above and beyond such works as LOTR and Star Wars.

    I enjoyed this series immensely, and actually just today sought the books out this morning to read again. While I haven’t finished the entire series yet, I did finish the Shadow at Evening, and I have to say, I encourage you not to rewrite it.

    Looking at the book, I would say the lack of sales could easily be attributed to things other than content. First, the beginning, while fascinating in a theoretical, how could the future be, manner, lacks in the action and intrigue that many people my age and younger look for. However, this could be solved in ways other than rewriting it; perhaps inserting an interesting snippet with the prologue, something to draw the readers, an appetizer to get them through to the action later on in the book. Another way to do this without changing things overmuch would be by possibly developing on the dream sequence near the beginning a little more, rewording it to catch the reader a little more effectively.

    Another reason that it is doing not as well as you might like might have something to do with the presentation. I’ll admit, I was skeptical about reading it based on the cover; to me, the title was somewhat cliche, the picture boring and not indicative of the great story inside. Nevertheless, I gave the book a try, and am glad I did. that being said, perhaps a simple redo over the cover and perhaps coming up with new titles would be better than rewriting it entirely, and would result in higher sales.

    The last reason is that people simply don’t hear about it. I would say, get out there and make it available, not just through the publishers. Your book has a good message, one not only different but genuinely, especially when compared to the mainstream popular books of today. So, maybe contacting churches, having ‘meet the author days’ at big churches around the country, things of that nature, would get people talking about it. Another way to do it would be to get out there in the medium in which today’s youth reside…the internet. Get a facebook, make a group, go to myspace, etc. And encourage people to join. Perhaps put a paragraph of your favorite part of the book on your page and let people read it, get people interested in it.

    Well, sorry for leaving such a long comment, but I wanted to one, encourage you to keep writing because it really is excellent, and two, find a way to boost sales without rewriting a very well written series.

    Thanks and God bless,
    Andrew

  16. Christian Artists Ministry says:

    The first book was excellent and my favorite. My father thought he enjoyed the last book the best. Echoing the thoughts represented throughout, I too very much enjoyed the slow build. It’s been a long time since a book pulled me in with the mystery of what was happening – which would likely be dramatically changed by a swift reveal. Watching this peaceful world slowly infiltrated by a creeping dread was fascinating as well. My thoughts are to try a new series set in this universe. I’d very much like to see a set of stories dealing with the Rebellion, or with the Freeborn a hundred years before the events in LATS. Ironically, perhaps audiences would find a decaying, technological, twisted galaxy more identifiable with our own, and give hope to us in our own fight against sin.

  17. Terry says:

    Chris,

    One more thought, to echo Andrew’s ideas on promotion. I realize that your eyebrow may lift at this comparison, but I recall reading a bit about the promotional process of Arnold Schwartzenegger’s first workout book. Referring to the promotional tour, the publisher said something like, “We’ll promote the book in as many cities as it takes to make it a bestseller.”

    I remember then being a little surprised that the formula for a bestseller could be that cookbookish – that all one had to do was get enough exposure.

    I realize that Big Arnie already had a rather high profile by then (he had, I think, two or three movies out), and there are other obvious differences, but perhaps the idea has some merit.

    Just a thought. But by all means, if you have the will to persevere, “Let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old forsook the Shadow and the Ring.” (Can anyone give me chapter and verse on that? Just a little test for the LOTRites.)

    Take care,

    Terry

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well I’m late as usual…but I never refuse an opportunity to give out my 2 cents.

    I loved the contrast of the books, the slow build-up in the first one ( I read them in their 4 book format)intrigued me…and such things as the sighting of the bug, the dead dog, and the white lie…I was genuinely frightened…part of the suspense was that you had no idea what was going on…absolutely none.

    and than they go on a journey, and its like the horror movie where your like DON”T GO THROUGH THAT DOOR! because you know something is out there, but you don’t know WHAT. it was scary…all the more so because of the utopia at the beginning.

    I know I’m repeating myself but I think the scariest part of the first book was the white lie. It worked.

    Now the first book helped contrast the second, with them trying to get together a military, and genuinely not knowing HOW to do it. They don’t know how to make weapons, organize training and command structures…their confused.

    And then the Third book, where you here at the beginning that the cockroaches and apes, the foes of the first book, are mere FOOD for the mechinations of the shadow empire…and that the krallen, that almost killed them…come in the numbers of the hundreds of thousands.

    Than the race against time and odds, as they figure out how to destroy these new menaces…its…epic. But it wouldn’t be without the contrast of the first book. The Dark Foundations worked so well, because the first book was so slow and creepy…

    I don’t know if I’ve told you anything you didn’t know, and with an excess of periods 😉 plus I’m a week late but I hope I might have given some encouragement.

    and as for the original topic, others have said it, I said it. You have to get the book out. You’ve written a good series…publicize it. Get reviews, go to schools, go to churches. Get it out.
    Thanks for reading,
    Anonymous Prodigy.

  19. Anonymous says:

    What the “wretched” Da Vinci Code taught me is that to gain massive book sales you need massive publicity, not a well-written book.

    I see the “kiss of death” as marketing this series as teenage fiction. At least my local Cristian bookshop put it in the adult fiction section, otherwise I would never have found it. Whoever you find to republish it, I hope it is a well-known publisher because self-publishing, or publish on demand is merely an attempt to stave off the awful day when the books go out-of-print.

    That awful day is not yet upon us. The last book I purchased from amazon (a commentary) was rated somewhere about 690,000 in the best sellers, but by buying a copy it leapt upwards about 500,000 places! There’s still hope, even when you are ranked at 300,000.

    James

  20. Anonymous says:

    Not often an author gives you the chance to suggest how to change their books after they’re written!

    First of all I’d say what good books they are, and how they throughly deserve a wider audience than they’ve had. The mix of tight plotlines, apocalyptic good v evil battles and enlightening spiritual insights is an excellent one.

    That said, the pace of the first 2 books (or first volume as it appeared in the US) is probably too slow for it to get mass appeal, and if you have chance for a re-write, it would be a good move. It could be done without compromising integrity.

    I think that Kirsty’s idea of going back to the Rebellion is very good – you could properly introduce characters such as Adlen, Jannafy and Ringell without them just being historical footnotes, and it would start the series with the bang it deserves. You could hook reviewers and the public in!

    I also felt your writing of dialogue and prose went from decent to very good as the books went on – from that point of view a re-write would be no bad thing. I felt that some condensing of the revelations about the growing evil
    would have made it flow better too.

    Mind you, if Tolkein had just made the same blog post about his trilogy, I’d be saying similar stuff to him… They are really very good books and they stand as a real achievement. It just deserves to be read by more people.

  21. Phillip K says:

    Hello Chris,

    I have read the first two books and I liked them. I live in Kenya and since 2006 or so we have been looking for the third book but it hasn’t arrived. As you work on getting your book rights from Tyndale would you be able to get your book sent here in any way? Are there plans for a fourth book? It is good writing. All the best and God Bless you.

  22. Chris says:

    Hi Philip K.

    Send me an email and tell me what you do in Africa!

    Chris

    cwalley@gmail.com

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