Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the tag “Bryan Davis”

July Recap: Realm Makers, Questions, and a New Name

Warning: expect many words and a few pictures, with minimal editing done on either. This is going to be a long post. It’s going to get personal. Bear with me. (Or don’t. I’m not going to force you to read my blog post if you don’t want to.)

Sunday, July 22nd, as the clock inched closer to eleven, we pulled back into our driveway in the darkness. My sister Caitlin, my sister Faith, and I had just traveled nearly ten hours back home from St. Louis, back home from Realm Makers. The last hour of the drive, I finally realized that I was, in fact, exhausted. That need for rest expressed itself in shivers and a feeling of frigidity that denied the warmth of the summer night.

In the previous fourteen days, I had changed my social media branding entirely from one name to another. I finally checked off the last piece of writing advice that you’re told so very often: attend a conference. I had met friends who mean the world to me, in spite of their distance from my house, and met an author who was (and still is) one of the most influential people in my writing journey. I traveled farther than ever before; drove farther than ever before; juggled before an audience for the first time (it was the aforementioned friends, but it counts!). I learned I would be published for the first time. And the time finally came for me to address the questions that had been circulating quietly in my head for the last year and a half.



For as long as I’ve been looking for writing advice, I’ve seen the same pieces given over and over again: show don’t tell. Keep reading. Keep writing – just finish the novel! Go to a writers conference.

For years it was implausible at best, though every year I knew people who were going to conferences. First, the Florida Christian Writers Conference; then Realm Makers, a bizarre little niche market conference which was exactly what I wrote. Last year at the end of July, I applied for a job at a local Chick-fil-A, because next time Realm Makers came around, I was going to be there.



When I registered for Realm Makers, I waffled back and forth over whether to use my real name, or the name by which I’m known: Athelas Hale. I’ve been using Athelas since 2011: it’s been a part of my writing identity since the day I began to write publicly, and all of my connections have been made under that pseudonym. To go to Realm Makers, a professional writing setting, would be to set that name in stone. Though it could be changed at a later date, it would be more easier to do it earlier, rather than later.

I decided to stick with it. I set it to be the display name on my name-tag and ordered business cards. They arrived with time to spare. All was well.

July 12th, less than a week before the day we would leave for Realm Makers, I was talking to my friend Jessi and she brought up the very uncomfortable question: “I wonder if the word athelas is copyrighted.”

I had become so comfortable with it as a name that I never thought to look it up.

July 12th, less than a week before the day we would leave, I scrambled to order new business cards because, as it turned out, it was time for me to switch over to my real name. The Tolkien Estate had made the decision for me.

Re-ordering also allowed me to fix some color issues that appeared during printing.

Hi. I’m Kira Thomas. It’s nice to meet you.

Remarkably, my new business cards arrived on time. Vistaprint, y’all – A+ printing and shipping time.

Six o’ clock Wednesday morning rolled around, and we pulled out, raindrops collecting on our windshields, our hearts full of anticipation and nerves.



“Juggler Extraordinaire,” my name tag read. Because, first of all, this is a spec fic writers conference – did they really expect anyone to put a simple “writer” or “editor” in the title section? Anyone there could safely assume that I’m a writer, and juggling is without question one of my more interesting and extraordinary skills.

But both important, and more understated: the last few years have been tough for me when it comes to writing. I’ve had good months and bad months; but mostly bad. Frustration built up, and at one point last year I told a friend, “I feel kind of like I’ve reached the point in my writing journey where I know so much about writing, that I can’t write anymore.”

Eventually, it led back to that old familiar question: am I supposed to be writing at all?

When I put my information into the Realm Makers registration page, I was no longer comfortable calling myself a writer.

Was I at Realm Makers to learn the craft, to meet new people, to see old friends? Yeah.

I was also there to find an answer to this question.

Opening day, they made the statement (and I don’t remember now who was speaking): “You are here for a reason, and you have questions. We can’t answer those questions for you, but we are here to help you find the answers.”

Soon after we got our schedules, I circled all of the classes I would be taking. The M&Ms were just there for decoration.

Thursday evening, we sat in on the Flash Critique Session. Weeks earlier, I had submitted a 300-word short story as part of the competition. Each of the ten submitted stories were read aloud by Scott Minor (except the first, which was read by a plucky volunteer because no one could find Scott), and then a panel of judges gave their critiques, both the good and the bad.

Seven stories were read and critiqued. I agreed with some of the critiques; I disagreed with some. I recognized the names of many of the authors, and appreciated many of their stories in various ways.

Eight stories were read, and I began to wonder if they were going to read mine. Was it not chosen as one of the ten? Did they hate it? Did it stray too far from their theme?

Nine stories were read. The night was growing late.

“The Dragon in the Wood,” Scott Minor said, in that Alfred Wilberwale voice of his, “by Athelas Hale.”

“You broke all the rules,” the first gentleman on the panel said when my story was read, “but you did it really well.”

I went to bed exhausted and happy that night, ready for the next day.

I attended Sharon Hinck’s continuing session class: “Faith-Infused and Faith-Fueled Writing.” The first morning, she told us that she would share some of her personal story, but not yet. We are writers, and we know better than to dump a lot of backstory at the beginning. The backstory would come on Saturday, after her two sessions on Friday.

She taught on what our reasons behind writing should be; how we ought to write; who we write for, and whether our writing matters (hint: it does). She spoke on tools of the trade, and how to effectively communicate a message without turning our novels into poorly-done sermons. For the first time, I heard an instructor tell us to double- and triple-check our theology when writing, because it’s never only fiction. When it was applicable, she told us miniature stories of her experience, and how other people have reacted to her books, until her foreshadowing and hints turned into a full-blown origin story during the last session.

But the last session happened on Saturday, and we’re not there yet.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, and lead rapidly into one of the conference moments I was most anticipating: meeting Bryan Davis. I’ve told before how he’s influenced me as a writer, so I won’t add more words to this already wordy post to rehash that. Suffice to say, after ten years, I was ready to meet him in person.

We walked in, and nearly strolled right past his table because we expected him to be somewhere else. Not my proudest moment.

Introductions happened. We shook hands. I had nothing to say, so I awkwardly hovered around the table, and about twenty minutes later, everyone moved into another room to hear him speak.

I’ve been following him for ten years, so I know nearly all the stories he tells when he speaks. So it was with this speech, but I listened because, even though I know all the stories, sometimes it’s good to hear them again.

He spoke about his own writing journey, from the first book he tried to write, to the rejection notices, to his marketing efforts in the early days of his writing career. Then he told his Autarkeia story, and about some of the responses he’s received from his books. In his story, you can clearly see how God took care of Mr. Davis when he followed the call to write.

And he talked about how speculative fiction matters.

Soon after he left was the final session of Sharon Hinck’s class, where her origin story unfolded. She told us the story of how God called her to write to begin with, how God called her to write after medical issues got in the way, and how God is using her now. “Good theology includes you being valuable, even when you don’t produce,” she told us.

You are building on the foundation of the authors who have come before you, she said, and directed us to think of the most influential books in our lives. The ones that teach us things; the ones that change our direction, or solidify a truth that we needed to know.  

Even though I was listening to her story, my notes from that session don’t cover what she spoke on. Instead, they ramble about what I already knew: that stories are valuable, and speculative fiction can and has changed lives. I’ve known it for so long, and been so familiar with the stories of the authors who have experienced miracles and promptings, that I’ve begun to take it for granted.

From then on, the conference wound down quickly with one presentation after another until it was time for the closing keynote. Mary Weber stood before us all and told a room full of writers: “Writing is not your calling.”

Your calling is to love God, love your family, and love others. 

Sometimes the two intersect, but you weren’t made to write stories and die.

You were made to love people – and if you love people through the writing of your stories, that’s okay, too.

And then she reminded us that our heritage, created in the image of a Creative God, born again as His adopted children, is to be unstoppable creators.

The conclusion from the critique session came in: guys, I’m going to be published in Havok, January of 2019.

And the conference proper ended that night, with only the post-conference workshop to follow.


My cosplay was Masayi Sairu, from Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s “Golden Daughter“.

To provide a dramatic pause for the continuing narrative, now is the time to insert everything else that happened in the conference before we get around to The Answer.

We walked into the hotel, checked in, and began to look for the stairs to find our room. Before we were a minute into our search, familiar faces came around the corner, and we all but ran into some of my favorite people, headed by the fabulous Katie Grace. There was squealing. There was hugging. There was sentiment.

Then we had to hurry to find our rooms.

The conference was full of faces that are dear to me. My Camp Cabin and my people: Jessi Roberts, Jaye L. Knight, Kara Swanson, Jeneca Zody, Stephanie Warner, Rosalie Valentine, Tricia Mingerink, Savannah Grace, Ashley Townsend. There were some people who I’ve been acquainted with for years, and even a reader of this blog (it was fantastic to see you! I know we only said a few words to each other, but I’m glad you were there!).

I met new people, and accidentally ran into people I’ve followed on Pinterest for years (Meaghan Ward, and Elizabeth Lewis). I met and discussed story ideas with Captain America during the costume banquet (I kid you not: when my sister and I went to stand in line for desert, we found Captain America… at the end of the line). Upon seeing some promo material for this book, I tried to track down the author all day. We finally ran into each other, and I found myself the happy owner of a new book to take home to my little sisters. We discussed aspects of salvation with a friend, and I’m scheduled to duel Lisa Mangum any time now because she hates the ending of the Lord of the Rings.

Carla Hoch’s classes were exactly as fantastic as I expected them to be. I came home from Sharon Hinck’s class with a whole list of all the obstacles we as a class could come up with, and at least three possible solutions for every one of them.

One night, my sister looked at me and quietly observed: “You look happy.”

And I was.



I realized how exhausted I was when, the day after we got home, I started sobbing over something definitely not-sob-worthy, and for the next week, I was tired and cold on most days. I’m still tired.

I came home with my question still swirling in my head, and fully prepared for it to swirl for a good long while. But I also came home with the assurance of something I had known so well, I had all but forgotten: there is value in stories, and – more importantly – God Himself places value in the stories that His people tell.

That assurance makes me feel a whole lot better.

For years, I’ve been of the belief that God calls us to act in love and to serve him wherever we go, however it seems reasonable to us, as we are educated by the Bible. We’ll probably make mistakes and errors in judgement, but in the end, God has this all worked out. We don’t see a lot of prayer and fasting before action with the disciples: we see them say, “God said to preach the word, how about we head twenty miles south to that town over yonder?” They lived what they knew of God’s character.

Maybe God didn’t call me to be a writer. The question will probably stick around for a good long while. Maybe I don’t have to be called to be an author… to be a person who writes.

But for now, I’ve made the decision that I’m going to operate as though He has, under the knowledge that it is good to create stories that give hope to people and glorify his name. When He’s ready for me to stop, He’ll let me know.

For whatever reason, the first year that we were able to make it, the theme of the conference was this: love God, love people, and be honest in your writing. For whatever reason, what I gained from this conference was not new information. It was a constant, steady call to remember what I’ve learned in the past– to call to my attention the personal stories where God has taken writers, picked them up from whatever they were doing before and told them to write. 


I started this blog because, as a young girl, I was very confident in my abilities as a writer. I still am: I know how to identify good writing when I see it, so I can usually self-diagnose whether a piece is good or bad.

But I started this blog to teach others what I know and, right now I feel all taught-out. I know both too much, and too little, to continue teaching.

As of tonight, I don’t know what this blog is going to be. I guess we’ll see together, if you’re interested.



Dear critique panelist:

I have eight semicolons in this blog post. You are absolutely right. I need to use them less.

Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World Blog Tour


Eddie Hertz is smart, real smart. He has to be. What other twelve-year- old patrols the streets of Nirvana alone, hoping to foil the schemes of the evil Mephisto? Since Eddie is small for his age, he trusts in his Batman-style gadgets belt and acrobatic skills as well as lots of experience, like knowing how to swing across dark alleys without being seen.

Eddie has a dream, to become like Damocles, Nirvana’s great superhero. To make that dream come true, Eddie invented a device that is supposed to give him superpowers, but using it on himself is dangerous, maybe even fatal. He doesn’t have the nerve to try it.

When Mephisto unleashes an earthquake machine on the city, Eddie gets a surprising teammate — his quirky eight-year- old sister, Samantha, who comes up with an unexpected way to help Eddie in the frantic battle to prevent the biggest earthquake of all.

Since Damocles has lost his ability to help in physical form, Eddie and Samantha are the only hope for Nirvana and the world.

Amazon Goodreads 

The only way I know to track when I first read a Bryan Davis book is to measure from the time I first started writing. Therefore, I must have been seven years old when I first picked up Raising Dragons.

The only way I know to mark time this way is because, as a Very Young Person, my very first story was a shameless rip-off of the Dragons in Our Midst series. Sure, it was set in a different era; it had different characters; but the gist of it was 100% plagiarized from the pages of Bryan Davis (with probably a healthy dose of whatever else I was reading those days, but none of it was strong enough that I can identify it now).

It wasn’t because I sat down and decided, “I want to write this same story.”

It was because it was the best story that I knew at the time.

Though I’ve never yet met Bryan Davis in person, I grew up with him as a large part of my household. I and all my brothers and sisters read his books as they came out. I was a part of his fan forum while it was still around (I met some of my best friends in the world there). We watched his Youtube videos and articles, learning from his writing instruction. I can’t write “he dropped his eyes”, “he caught her just before she hit the ground,” or “he stepped in, opening the door” anymore. It’s been years since most of his writing pet peeves even crossed my pen.

There have been many people instrumental in making me the writer I am today. Out of all the authors I follow, Bryan Davis has had the largest part in that.

That is why I am here, writing this blog post, supporting this new Middle Grade book about a twelve-year-old superhero. I know this author. I know his stories, his themes, even his weak points. His stories are worth reading. I’m not unbiased, because I’ve come by this knowledge from years of growing up with them, learning from them, and being inspired by them.

By all means, take my endorsement with a grain of salt; you’d be right to do so. The book might not live up to your expectations. It might not be your genre, or your age group.

But I certainly would encourage you to find out.



In celebration of the release, Bryan Davis is offering 2 major giveaways: a simple, user-familiar Rafflecopter giveaway, and a Grand Prize.

You can enter the first giveaway hereEnter to win a copy of your choice of any Bryan Davis book, plus a Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World T-Shirt and bookmark.

The grand prize giveaway will require a little bit of extra participation from you guys. Scattered throughout every post on this blog tour, there is a number. This is a secret number, which you must hunt for, capture, and add up. Most will probably be indicated in some way – bold, or colored differently than the rest of the text. The sum of all the numbers is the Grand Prize key. Add up all the numbers and insert them into the Rafflecopter giveaway here. You can win all the prizes from the first giveaway, plus a complete Bryan Davis series of your choice, OR a $50 Amazon gift card. 

Please note that the giveaway key must be correct for you to enter. You can’t find the complete sum of all the numbers until Saturday, but the giveaway will be open for long enough. Don’t worry. Just be patient.

Happy hunting, kids.

About the Author

Bryan Davis is the author of several bestselling series, including Dragons in Our Midst and the Reapers Trilogy, speculative fiction for youth and adults. Bryan and his wife, Susie, work together as an author/editor team to create his imaginative tales.

Website Book Purchase SiteFacebook PageBlog

Visit the other blogs on the tour!

Wednesday, September 20th

Tour Kickoff @ The Author’s Chair
Book Spotlight @ Backing Books
Book review and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ Zerina Blossom’s Books
Book Spotlight and Review @ The Spooky Bookshelf
Book Spotlight and Author Interview @ Scattered Scribblings
Book Review and Character Interview @ Light and Shadows

Thursday, September 21st

Book Spotlight and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ Red Lettering (You are here!)
Spotlight and Author Interview @
The Reader Addict
Spotlight and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ target verified
Book Review and Character Interview @ Hidden Doorways
Book Review @ Ashley Bogner
Book Review @ The Page Dreamer

Friday, September 22nd

Book Spotlight and Character Interview @ Story of Fire
Book Review @ Inkwell
Book Spotlight and Character Interview @ Liv K. Fisher
Book Review @ writinganyone
Spotlight and YOU WRITE: About Superheroes @ Dreams and Dragons
Author Interview and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ March to a Different Drum
Book Spotlight @ Author Jaye L. Knight

Saturday, September 23rd

Author Interview @ Jessi L. Roberts, author
Book Spotlight and Character Interview @ Book Lovers Life
Book Review and Character Interview @ Verbosity Reviews
Book Spotlight, Author Interview and YOU WRITE: Superheroes @ Creature of Graphite
Character Interview @ Wanderer’s Pen
Book Spotlight and Author Interview @ Adventure Awaits


Author Interview: Bryan Davis

Ladies and Gentlemen, Authors and Authoresses. Lend me your ear (or in this case your eye) for today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you Bryan Davis, author of Speculative Fiction books that have collected recognition in the world of Christian Fantasy. In 2007, Eye of the Oracle was number one on the Young Adult CBA best-seller list, and The Bones of Makaidos won the 2010 Clive Staples Award. I have been a fan of his books (particularly the Echoes from the EdgeDragons in Our Midst, and Oracles of Fire series’) for many years, and it is a great honor to have him on my blog today. 

Hello, Bryan Davis! Welcome to Red Lettering. Could you introduce yourself to my readers?

Bryan Davis: Hello, everyone. I am the author of seven fiction series, 23 novels so far, nearly all of them involving some sort of speculative fiction—fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, etc. I have been married to Susie for 33 years, and we have seven offspring, ranging from 16 to 31 years old. I live in western Tennessee with my wife and two of those offspring, as well as one dog, four cats, and about 40 chickens.

What first made you start writing?

Bryan Davis: I began writing as a way of trying to get my kids interested in writing. We wrote a story together, and when I saw how the storytelling motivated my kids toward courage, sacrifice, and other virtues we put into the story, the process created a passion in me to write. I hoped that I could do the same for other readers and make an impact on the world. The journey was longer and harder than I expected. It took ten years to get published, and I received more than 200 rejections along the way. Now I am glad of those rejections, because they motivated me to learn the craft and get much better at writing.

Do you ever get “writer’s block”? How do you deal with it if you do? If you don’t, how do you think people might avoid it?

Bryan Davis: I don’t get the common form of writer’s block, that is, a lack of ideas. I get too many ideas and sometimes have trouble choosing one. I have found that going back and editing a previous scene helps a lot. Also, if you stop writing for the day in the middle of a scene, it is much easier to pick it up again. Emotive music is another good way to get the creative juices flowing.

What is the worst piece of writing advice that you’ve ever heard?

Bryan Davis: Just about any advice that includes “always” or “never.” Always use “said” as a speaker tag. Never use adverbs. Always use show, don’t tell. Never use “was.” Such absolutes are misleading. There is a time and place for just about anything in writing … except for missing motivations. That’s my only “always” rule. Your point-of-view character must always have a perceivable motivation for any action that he or she does. Otherwise, you reader will lose intimacy with the character.

Since random questions are always fun, have you ever stood on your hands while doing jumping jacks and eating peanut butter? If the answer is no (which I suspect it will be), which do you prefer, coffee, or tea? (If the answer is yes… What on earth were you thinking?)

Bryan Davis: No, I haven’t done that, but I do eat a lot of peanut butter, so I am an expert in that activity. I don’t drink coffee, and I rarely drink tea, so I suppose I have to choose tea. Can I add Pepsi Throwback to the options?

Outside of your books, which fictional work is your favorite?

Bryan Davis: To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite novel. Harper Lee’s ability to see through a young girl’s eyes and still present complex themes was extraordinary. Her writing was superb, and her portrayal of a widowed father as a heroic figure who stood against the prevailing opinions of the culture moved me deeply.

Which of your books was the hardest for you to write?

Bryan Davis: Eye of the Oracle was the most difficult. I told a story that spanned 5000 years, and I wanted to tie it together with a thread that provided a feeling of a continuum. It took six months to write, which is a long time for me, since I am a full-time author. Also, the emotions in the story stretched me in a dozen ways. When I finished, I felt like a wrung-out dishcloth.

I’ve heard that you’ve done some interesting research for your novels in the past. What would you consider the most exciting bit of research you’ve ever done?

Bryan Davis: I went to England to do research for Circles of Seven. Before I left, I purchased a book about Glastonbury and the secrets of Avalon—a look at the legends of King Arthur and some connections with the mysticism in Glastonbury. When I visited one of the tourist sites in Glastonbury, I entered the site’s bookstore and saw the author’s sequel to the book I had bought. I mentioned this coincidence to the shopkeeper, and she asked if I wanted to meet the author. She directed me to his house around the corner, and the author was there. He gave me many more insights than were in the book, and I was able to include some of the cool stuff in the story.

Do you have a verse, or a group of verses, that you would consider your writing anthem?

Bryan Davis: And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:5)   God makes all things new. God also makes us new creatures,  freed from bondage to sin and resurrected to new life. This transformation a major theme in my stories. Since God says to write about these things, I try to faithfully obey that command.

You’re in the park, and you meet a character from the novel you’re currently working on. Who is it, and what would you say to him or her?

Bryan Davis: I meet Phoenix from Reapers and tell him to trust Singapore. No matter how treacherous she might appear to be, she has a good reason for her actions. She just can’t tell you yet. You can and should trust her.

What is an important piece of writing advice that you don’t hear often?

Bryan Davis: Your entire story should be tied together in a series of motivation/reaction units. The action of the point-of-view (POV) character in a paragraph should have an apparent motivation that can be found in a previous paragraph, preferably in the one immediately previous. Even the actions of the non-POV characters should have apparent motivations in nearly all instances. Some motivations for non-POV characters can be hidden at times, but you should have good reason to withhold that information.

What novel are you currently working on? Give us a reason to want to read it.

Bryan Davis: I just finished and published Reapers. It is a dystopian tale with a supernatural twist. Taking place in a futuristic, urban setting, this first book in a planned trilogy will appeal to readers of The Hunger Games and similar fast-paced stories for young adults. Along with a blend of real life and imagination, it delivers action, danger, and suspense through the adventures of three teenagers—Phoenix, Singapore, and Shanghai—Reapers who collect the souls of the dying or already dead and transport them to the Gateway where they will travel to their final destination … or so they are told. Here is a link to the first chapter –

Thank you so much for being here, Mr. Davis. I am looking forward to being able to read Reapers with more than a little bit of anxiousness. I  know that your books have touched the hearts of many, and led people to Christ, and I am honored that you would take the time to allow yourself to be interviewed on my blog.

      Bryan Davis is the author of the following young adult fantasy series: Dragons in our Midst, Oracles of Fire, Echoes from the Edge, and Dragons of Starlight. He also wrote I Know Why the Angels dance, a contemporary novel for adults. After laboring as a computer geek for 20 years, Bryan followed a dream to become an author. He began by writing a story to motivate his seven children to gain some excitement about writing, and that story grew into a novel. After spending the next eight years learning the craft and enduring more than 200 rejections from publishers and agents, he broke through with his best-selling series Dragons in our Midst. He is now a full-time author and lives with his wife, Susie, and their children in western Tennessee. Bryan’s novels have been readily accepted in schools worldwide, whether public, Christian (Protestant or Catholic), Jewish, or otherwise. Such is their wide appeal. For more information, see his website –

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