Category: Lamb among the Stars

A response to your comments and other news

By , 20 March 2009 7:21 pm

Wow! Who would have thought that I had so many friends? First of all, let me thank you all for taking the time to write. In particular, I want to express my gratitude to those of you who contributed quite long and thoughtful comments. I have considered all that you have written with some care and I might pursue some of the practical approaches suggested. No one actually came up with my own preferred strategy of writing a new volume which is a bestseller and then having the old series relaunched on the basis of a new one. This of course is a wonderfully cunning plan that has just has one small catch in it: I need to write a new blockbuster. Well, I am giving it some thought.

What I have concluded from your comments – and please continue to send them in – is that much of my original dramatic instincts were right: it is better to start with the Assembly and let the shadow fall upon it. To bring in Azeras at the start is just too conventional. However I do think that I could probably bring in Brenito and his dream right at the start. Something on the following lines. ‘On a near perfect world a man woke screaming. It was the first such scream for over 10,000 years and it was heard across one thousand worlds.’ Vero too might be brought in slightly earlier with profit and this would also have the benefit of avoiding the slightly excessive ‘info dumping’ (as I gather it is called in the trade) when he talks to Merral. However, that is all some way ahead. For all I know, even as I write, a certain inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington is looking for something substantial to read on Airforce One. (I sense there may be a market for escapist fiction in the White House at the moment.) Anyway pray on and do what you can.

The main news for me this week has been that the storm clouds of the financial crisis that have so far been on the distant horizon have now swept my way. The institution that I teach at (Gorseinon College, Swansea) has been suddenly hammered with a massive budget cut from the Welsh Assembly and so we are now in voluntary redundancy mode which next week shifts to compulsory redundancy mode. By all accounts the science unit to which I am privileged to belong (and I mean privileged: there are some very fine teachers in it) should be secure but who knows? These are odd times and what is often described as rationalisation is often irrationalisation. Nevertheless I am angry about it all; ours is, by any standard of reckoning, a high performing and competent educational establishment in an area where mediocrity (and worse) is the norm. It is also a relatively ‘lean’ institution; there are barely a handful of people about whom I have wondered what they do to justify their existence. The cuts concerned involve a mere £800,000: a little over $1 million. I used to think that was a lot of money but in these days of billions and trillions it is nothing. So next week could be interesting…

Anyway here’s a moral problem for you my fans. If I keep my job, then my financial welfare is more or less secure, at least for the considerable future. If I lose it I will probably have to start writing like crazy. Now do you see the moral dilemma you are placed in? What do you pray for? (The ideal would be a generous offer for film rights to arrive the day before I get given my notice but I suspect such happenings are rarer in reality than fiction.) I would simply suggest that this reminds us of the wisdom of appending to all our prayers that most vital of clauses: ‘Nevertheless, Lord, not my will but yours be done.’

Have a good week.

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

Not an easy blog to write…

By , 27 February 2009 6:59 pm

There’s a lot of things I would like to discuss rather than this but I thought I’d better write what I have to say here for the simple reason I want advice from you, readers. The basic fact is that it has been obvious for some time that the Lamb Among the Stars trilogy has not been selling at all well. You don’t have to be a genius to read the Amazon sales figures, and although the reviews are splendid (thank you all very much), when your book drops down to around 300,000th place on the charts you know that things aren’t good. You also know it when you don’t hear from your publisher from months on end.

Anyway about ten days ago I e-mailed my editor asking basically what was going on and whether they were thinking up any innovative solutions to the sales situation. I will simply say it took a week to get an answer and only then by dint of contacting the author liaison person. (I now know what leprosy feels like.) The answer was not at all encouraging. Hardback sales are bad, science fiction and fantasy worse. Any plans to do the series in paperback (‘softcover’ Americans call it) have been scrapped. In other words, frankly it’s the end of the line.

I feel pretty unhappy about this. The books had a ropey start with a teen fiction imprint of the publishers that soon went belly up. It didn’t do anything for sales and simply gave them that damning descriptive label ‘youth fiction’. (I know I should have refused the offer when they said ‘it’s our new youth fiction imprint’, but I was anxious to be published). I’m grateful that, when the the youth fiction venture folded, the books were remarketed for adults, but I think by then the damage was done. Significantly, the books have never been reviewed by any formal reviewer and certainly never made it into the substantial fantasy world. Enough said.

Anyway, dear friends, readers and supporters, what do I do? The present trajectory is plain. The books are no longer in shops and presumably I may expect ever diminishing sales until at some point I get some pathetic letter that says that they will no longer be held in the inventory. (I wanted to get some of the extra copies from the States, but the postage is astronomical because US mail services have stopped shipping by sea.) And that is that.

My problem is not, I think, simply personal pride, let alone greed, but irritation and frustration. Some books deserve to fail. I do not think from the reviews that these do. I know there are many people out there who would love to read them but do not even know that they exist. So what do I do about it? Several possibilities are kicking around in my mind but I have no clarity on any of them. Do I try and get the rights back and find someone else who will publish these books? (I could tidy them up into a cheap single-volume massive paperback.) Do I try and get them electronically published? Volume 1 free as an iPhone book?) Do I scream and shout to other contacts in the publishing company that these books have never ever had a chance? Or do I do shrug my shoulders and ‘say so be it’ and let the series die. I do have to say that I am very negative now about Christian publishing and fiction. (And please don’t talk to me about Left Behind, The Shack and This Present Darkness, etc: such books sold in large numbers not because they were stories but because they were believed to be revelations into spiritual reality.)

I really don’t know what to do. I would be grateful for your prayers: you can probably imagine my frustration and dismay. You can always e-mail me with contacts and bright ideas, if you have any.

With every blessing
Chris

A curious communication

By , 27 June 2008 10:08 pm

Well it’s been a quiet week on the book front but I did get one fascinating communication. It was an e-mail from a PhD student in New York, who we will simply call John, saying that he was including a chapter on my series in his doctoral dissertation and asking me some questions.

As far as I can make out John’s thesis is on the attitude of evangelicals writing fiction to technology. He has sent me the chapter, which I have so far merely skimmed over at great speed. My initial response is that he’s got some things about my books right and some things badly wrong but I hope to spend an hour or so putting together some comments. But it’s a strange feeling to have yourself written about. I have read a fair amount of literary criticism and it’s very odd to be involved as the subject rather than as spectator.

I confess to having any slightly jaded view of literary criticism. A formative experience was when in 1982 the American University of Beirut, where I was an assistant professor, had a centennial conference on James Joyce. Having read a fair amount of the old man (I gave up on Finnegan’s Wake but finished Ulysses) I attended. One speaker, becoming extraordinarily esoteric, began to discuss the significance of the coinage that Leopold Bloom had on him when he took the bus journey recounted in Ulysses. We strained to concentrate and as we did, heard no more than a few miles away, the deep boom of artillery fire between East and West Beirut. Somehow, as the air in the room began to gently vibrate and our thoughts drifted to death and destruction, the importance of literary criticism faded away.

Anyway what makes this review particularly interesting is that John is not an evangelical: he says that he is a ‘secularist, though I grew up in the evangelical church and still consider myself at least “culturally” evangelical, if that is possible’. Hmm.

Well I guess I’m flattered. I normally consider this sort of thing to be the prerogative of the dead author but I have checked my pulse and I appear to be alive. It’s nice to be taken seriously.

Have a good week.

Reviews and news

By , 20 June 2008 6:30 pm

The Infinite Day has been out now for best part of three weeks and so I am more or less able to take stock of where things are going. The good news is the reviews (all Amazon, my Facebook site or e-mailed to me) are excellent. Let me share three with you from last week alone.

From email
This is some more random fan-mail 😉 I’ve just finished reading The Infinite Day, and wanted to say a big thanks to you for writing the Lamb Among the Stars series. It’s been the most enjoyable series of novels I’ve read in the last 10 years. Not only did I enjoy the story and the characters, but their world, faith and technology was well done, intrigued me and kept me hooked.
You’ve managed to write novels where the story revolves entirely around the Christian faith, yet kept subjects of the faith very natural and integrated, and without any of our modern day jargon. As a Christian, I found it quite thought provoking. I felt you did a great job of presenting the essentials of our faith and how it works out and yet without dogmatically presenting a fixed view of the end times etc.
Please keep writing!
Oh, and – good ending to The Infinite Day! Certainly not what I expected by the time I got there.

From Amazon.com

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant finish! June 13, 2008
By E. M. Tennessen (The Windy City)
The Infinite Day is the concluding book in the Lamb Among the Stars series by Chris Walley. The book brilliantly finishes the adventures of Merral D’Avanos and his friends as they battle the return of evil to the universe. Chris Walley is adept at combining science fiction with Christianity. While the Christian worldview is mostly Protestant, as an Eastern Orthodox Christian I found much that resonated with me about how God is and how much He loves us. The Assembly was a wonderful preview of how the Kingdom of God may be acted out. And Jorgio is very much a “fool for Christ.” While the book deals with the evil one and his minions, the story is more about how the characters battle the growing evil and corruption within themselves, how they throw that off, and how they continue to struggle to be like Christ. The ending had definite C.S. Lewis overtones–resembling the ending in The Last Battle (Narnia)–where all is revealed and beyond imagining. It was thrilling and brought tears to my eyes. If you enjoy a good tale about the triumph of good over evil with characters that will touch your soul and heart, this series is for you. And it’s superb science fiction, too! Highly recommended.

Bravo Chris Walley! June 19, 2008
By Patricia Cummings “dogs5” (Maryville, MO USA)
The final book in this series was not only well worth the wait … it shows the author’s growth as a writer throughout the series. The first book was a slow read, but the profound concept of a sinless world once again having to battle evil made it worth the effort. The pacing picks up in the next and the theology deepens. The final book is a masterpiece of Christian fiction. The author balances multiple plot points, a host of believable characters, and never loses the reader’s interest. The battle against evil occurs on many fronts … there’s a real enemy to be fought externally but it must be done in community and within each individual human heart. It’s beautifully done. Add to that mix the dimensionality of heaven and hell and probably the most satisfying ending in modern fiction… wow. Well done, Mr. Walley! May the REAL force be with you!

It’s hard to complain about things like that. I find it particularly satisfying that I am praised for effects I have tried to achieve.

Anyway that’s the good news. What however is less good is that sales figures are not particularly high. The most obvious source of information on how the books are actually doing is Amazon.com. Here I find a slightly worrying phenomenon: while the final book is doing okay-ish, the first two books have shown no pickup in sales. In other words, it seems that people who have started the series are happily reading the conclusion but the final book is not lifting the series as a whole. As you can imagine I find this all rather frustrating; had the series being critically damned I would have shrugged my shoulders and said ‘well I guess I deserve low sales’. But to get praise and low sales seems perverse. But then perhaps the whole point is that the universe is indeed just that; perverse. Short of that rather naive theological reflection has anybody got any bright ideas what we do about sales, promotion and the rest?

Chris

On books, basketball and forgetful authors

By , 23 May 2008 4:35 pm

Dear Reader, if you previously read this blog, read again! This is an updated version.

On Monday a package was awaiting me when I got back from College; my own copy of The Infinite Day. Three quarters of a million words finished! I was tempted to mutter ‘Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace…’, but there’s plenty of other things do yet. Anyway it looks very fine and to those who like to see such things, here are all three together in a complete set.


Frankly, there have been times when I thought we wouldn’t get this far. And we have! Well God is faithful but I am also grateful to you, my fans who have kept the project alive.

I have barely dared open the new book for fear that some horrible spelling error or grammatical infelicity would leap out and assail me. However Alison, my wife, editor and dedicatee, started to read through it again and seems to be enjoying it. However she was extremely irritated about one petty point. On one page Merral and his team are described as playing basketball on the ship.

Now if you read the first version of this blog, you will note that we presumed an editor or proof-reader had changed this from the original teamball. But no, after writing the blog I received a very gracious message from my editor. She pointed out, which I had completely forgotten, that the author himself decided to ‘revive basketball’ because there was not enough room for teamball on the ship. I apologise profusely to my very careful editors, another of whom queried what I’d done on the grounds that in the other books the game was always teamball.

Actually, the invention of teamball (which is never properly described in the books) is significant in a deeply profound way. How so? The fact is, almost all sports have national overtones: Brits play football, Americans play baseball, the Welsh like to think they lead the world at rugby, and so on. And basketball is, largely speaking, American. Now this is important because in the Assembly we are envisaging some sort of millennial society and I was trying to do my best to avoid it sounding no more than ‘Yanks in Space’ or the ‘Return of the British Empire’. (Incidentally one of several unwritten rules in this household is that if ever anyone wants to make the films, one condition will be that the emblem of The Lamb Among The Stars must bear no resemblance whatsoever to any current national emblem, whether it bear stars or not.) But let us allow the Assembly to play any game they like, without our nationalist overtones. (I will let you spot a reference to another widely-played game for yourselves when you get the book.)

Teamball or basketball is a minor point. The Infinite Day is a super production and I want to publicly thank Tyndale for all their hard work.

Have a good week

Chris

The End is Nigh

By , 16 May 2008 5:20 pm

1) We have a publication date for the Infinite Day, 1 June in the States. I suspect the UK release will be about a week later. Please nag your booksellers to get a copy and use all means to promote the book. Above all try to get it removed from the subcategory Futuristic of the subcategory Fiction of the category Religious.


Possible lines to persuade people to read the series include:
1. He names the Antichrist.
2. Tim Lahaye is going to burn it.
3. It’s intelligent.
4. It terrified the life out of the kids.
5. Hollywood are looking at the film rights.
6. It’s by this really cool Welsh author that nobody knows anything about.
7. It’s actually translated from Serbo-Croat.
8. The author has been arrested by the Israelis for terrorism.
9. There’s a really good joke about Swansea right at the end.
10. He’s very damning about topology.

Almost all the above are false, irrelevant or unlikely to be effective. Eight is more accurately expressed as ‘arrested by the Norwegians (on the orders of the Israelis) on suspicion of terrorism’. And it was a mistake: it was Mount Hermon, they should have marked the border and a geological hammer isn’t a weapon And I still say the helicopter gunships were quite unnecessary. Nine is true but unlikely to sell many copies.

2) I did an article for the very helpful High Calling website on leadership. I was rather astonished to be asked because I feel ‘I don’t do leadership’. Anyway I like the result and hope you do.

3) I am probably going to launch a no-holds barred article on the Speculative Faith website in the next 48 hours on why Christians ought to write about nuclear conflict aka the ‘end of civilisation as we know it’.

Anyway have a good week and pencil in some reading time early in June.

Chris

Villains and covers

By , 16 November 2007 7:51 pm

This is one of those Friday evenings when I am not going to cover anything momentous. I have just posted an article on Speculative Faith about villains in Christian fiction and that has drained a few of the creative juices.

Actually, it’s been a tiring week. I was back teaching on Monday morning, still full of cold, and kept going well into our open evening where we recruited for next year. I left at five to nine in the evening, after what amounted to 12 hours of solid bouncing around and trying to be enthusiastic. Anyway, thank you those who showed concern, the cold is now more or less gone.

On the book front, there have been some little bits of news. I popped over to the Lamb Among the Stars wall on Facebook and was delighted to find that it is alive and well and that there are some very interesting comments. I also perused Amazon.com to find that The Shadow and Night has managed to now accumulate 10 reviews, every single one of which is five stars. It’s just a pity that the sales rank is so low. The main news though was that I received the covers for The Infinite Day – you’ll find the picture on my website.

I have to say I like it. Those desperate to know what is about to happen will I’m afraid derive little enlightenment from it as it was deliberately chosen not to give anything away. I still do not have a publication date, but presume will get one very soon.

Have a good week.

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