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Jonathan Rogers: Southerner/Fantasy Author/Eye Doctor


Today is the official release of the new edition of Jonathan Rogers’s The Wilderking Trilogy. I wanted to write a few words to commemorate not just one of the best writers around, but a good friend.

Come with me, if you will, to Belmont University in the year 2005. Belmont hosted a
C. S. Lewis conference called Past Watchful Dragons, which I attended for a number of reasons, none of which yielded anything nearly as impacting as my chance introduction to the Good Doctor Rogers. I had just released my fifth album, The Far Country, and because of the Lewis/Tolkien influence on those songs, I thought the conference might be a good opportunity to sneak my CDs into the gift bags of the attendees. (That album was released independently, so any crazy marketing ideas were carried out by yours truly.)

Towards the end of the conference Douglas Gresham (Lewis’s stepson) was signing autographs and I decided to wait in line and give him a copy of the record. After that extremely awkward interaction I saw another dude standing around. He leaned against the wall in a way that made me think he was much more smarter than I be. As I recall, he had under one arm a box of leftover Wilderking books which his publisher had also included in the gift bags; I was carrying a box of leftover CDs, expecting at any moment to be ejected from the premises. I remembered seeing The Bark of the Bog Owl on a display at the local Walmart, so when I saw his name tag I introduced myself and told him so. He was doubtful that the books had ever had such prestigious placement. What I didn’t tell Jonathan was that when I first saw his books I was a little jealous that he had beaten me to the punch. At the time I had been working on The Wingfeather Saga for a few years and had yet to find a publisher. Here was another Christian writing fantasy aimed at children—so I decided to finagle my way into his inner circle and thwart him. (It hasn’t worked. He just keeps writing awesome books.)

A Prayer for the New Year

From John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer, day one, morning. I removed the “thees” and “thous” as a matter of preference, and adjusted a few words to recast this as a prayer for the whole year. If you’re not familiar with Baillie’s book, I recommend it. I also heartily recommend a listen to Ben Shive’s song “New Year” and Eric Peters’s Birds of Relocation for more helpful meditations on the great mercy of starting fresh. Happy New Year, Rabbit Room friends.

Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought be of you, let my first impulse be to worship you, let my first speech be your name, let my first action be to kneel before you in prayer.

For your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness;
For the love wherewith you love mankind;
For the love wherewith you love me;
For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life;
For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart;
For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit;
I praise and worship you.

Yet let me not, when this prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend this year in forgetfulness of you. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the days of the year,

Keeping me chaste in thought;
Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech;
Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work;
Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself;
Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others;
Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past;
Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of yours.

O God, who have been the refuge of my fathers through many generations, be my refuge this year in every time and circumstance of need. Be my guide through all that is dark and doubtful. Be my guard against all that threatens my spirit’s welfare. Be my strength in time of testing. Gladden my heart with your peace, through Jesus Christ my Lord.

Amen.

Now Kickstarting the Conclusion of Wingfeather Saga!


Almost ten years ago I put my three kids to bed, told Jamie for the millionth time about my desire to write a novel, and with her blessing dug out my sketch pad to draw the first map of Aerwiar. I turned off the television (this is key) and sat in the recliner with my high school art supplies, eager to tell a story. As with any adventure, had I known how much work and time it would have taken, I might not have had the guts to start. I drew the coastline of Skree on the left, then for some reason on the right I drew another coastline and named the continent Dang. The expanse between was named the Dark Sea of Darkness. I grinned like the geek I was, sharpened my pencil, and began the work of filling in the details. Eventually, Glipwood sprang out of the map, and the Wingfeather children sprang out of Glipwood. But who were they? And why did their story need to be told?

It took a few years of “research,” which when it comes to fantasy novels means “making stuff up.” Orson Scott Card’s book How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy was a tremendous help, mainly because it reminded me that, because I was inventing a world from the ground up, I had to answer a zillion questions about the history of the world, the political situation, the currency used, the presence (or absence) of magic, the presence (or absence) of religion, and what the flora, fauna, and fangishness of this new world might be. At some point in the writing of the history of Aerwiar, a nameless evil (named Gnag the Nameless) demanded my attention, and soon I had the beginnings of the Wingfeather Saga. After a laborious first draft, then a second, third, and fourth draft, I managed to fool the good people at Random House/Waterbrook into giving a singer/songwriter a shot at publication. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness was published in 2008. North! Or Be Eaten came in 2009, and with the help of Rabbit Room Press The Monster in the Hollows arrived in 2011.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s 2013. That means it’s time to finish the story. Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli are weary and homesick, and I need to bring them home (in one way or another). And you can help them. As of the writing of this post, I’m at 124,758 words. According to my Word document, that’s 417 double-spaced pages. I’m on chapter 79. There are quite a few chapters remaining, but not too many. Things are winding down, slowly but surely, and it won’t be long before I know how this whole thing ends. Since this book (and the previous one) were published by Rabbit Room Press and not a major publishing company, there’s a great deal of freedom. That’s a good thing. It means I can choose my editors, I’m intimately involved in the look and feel of the book, and I get to work with the illustrators. But there’s another side to the coin, and that’s this: there’s no big, fat monetary advance, and we need you, dear readers, to help us make this book happen.



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March 13, 2014

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