Why do I blend a little western into my faerie stories?

Why Westerns?

Why do western themes and styles keep popping up in my stories?

One of the things I learned from Tolkien, and my own upbringing, was to respect my own mythos. England is an old, old land with lots of myths and legends. They have Arthur, Vikings, Robin Hood, and even Tolkien’s work functions as a myth for England.

I’m not British. I have roots there, just like I do in Ireland and Scotland. (Both have wonderful mythologies and legends.) But, what about here in the young, young land of the United States? We have the Revolution. We have exploration, the constant push west. We have the Civil War. We have winning two World Wars. We even have a bit of Vietnam. All of these shape us, our laws, and our culture. They’ve influenced us for generations. But, my favorite (other than WWII) is our cowboy mythology. Yes, most westerns aren’t historically accurate, or they have many inaccuracies. But, they’re part of who and what we are. We are the drifter who is more than what he seems. We are the gunslinger, the card-shark, the cowboy, the cowgirl, the rancher fighting those who would take all he has. We are long wagon trains. We are laying tracks for technology all the way across the country.  We are all of this and more. My favorite element is the man who rides into town, gets drawn into a conflict on the side of the underdog, saves the day, and gets the girl.

When I was a kid, probably around twelve, I read all my Dad’s Louis L’Amour books. Devoured is maybe a better word. I loved every minute of them. I loved the men. I loved the women. I loved the action. The adventure. I loved his fist fights. I loved the Sacketts. Oh, the Sacketts. My first dream as a writer was to be as prolific as Louis L’Amour. I just wanted to write the same story over and over and over, and only change the settings and names. Why? Cause that was what I loved reading.  (I still love reading things like this, just like I enjoy action flicks that are basically the same guy in different settings.)

I also loved True Grit. That book was one of my favorites as a kid. Here was a girl not being anything but a girl, but getting this old guy to help her avenge her father, it was perfect. I loved it. The writing is top notch, and the adventure is one of the best. If you haven’t read it, you need to.

Now, my favorite western is Firefly. Yes, it’s a SciFi show, but really it’s a space western. They’re cowboys in space. It has all the right elements. It has the rough around the edges hero with has his ragtag crew. They’re pushing out from the government to make a life for themselves. They have a code and each other.

Why do I blend a little western into my faerie stories?
Image by B. Iyata, edits by me.

After Firefly, comes The Sackett movie, the Magnificent Seven, Quigley Down Under, and Tombstone. Doc Holiday is a great example of why I love westerns. He’s loyal to a fault. He’s willing to do everything for Wyatt Earp. He may not be safe, but there is something you love about him. The Magnificent Seven is a redemption story. You have seven guys who’ve lived by their guns their whole life, and now they’re called to sacrifice everything for a small town who can’t pay them. They see this as a way to redeem their souls from all the wrong they’ve done. (I know that theologically they can’t earn salvation, but redemption stories, be they ever so humbly human, are still an expression of us knowing we need redemption. It is a great way to start a conversation about the fact that we know what we’ve done will damn us.)  

The Sacketts is a great family movie…meaning it’s about a family who will do everything for each other. When the word goes out that they need help, the Sacketts all come running. They are the kind of guys you would want your sons emulating.

Another beloved one from childhood is Down the Long Hills. What could be better than a story about two kids and their horse? I watched this movie so many times growing up. It combined two of my favorite things: kids shouldering the hardest elements of life and coming out ahead, and horses.

We also watched a lot of John Wayne growing up. I still love to hear his voice and see him walk. As I’ve developed my style over the years, I’ve found westerns popping up all over. My characters keep leaning towards long coats and tied down guns. They keep riding in on bikes to take out the bad guys and get the girl. They use rifles, shotguns, and revolvers. All the years of soaking in L’Amour pours out between my stories of magic, doors, and worlds.

I realized I was writing modern, faerie story westerns.

Instead of turning away from the subtle themes, I decided to embrace it. Westerns may not be super popular right now, but they are special to me, and these are my stories. I embrace the mysterious man who saves the day. I embrace the woman who knows how to shoot. I embrace the kids with guts. I embrace strong friendship themes, land themes, and family themes. I embrace the man who is mistaken for a backwater yokel who is rich with wisdom and insight. I embrace friendship between natives and newcomers in the middle of war. I embrace hunters, wild places, dangerous animals, and range wars. I embrace the lawless and the lawman.

These themes push their way into my stories, sometimes without me even noticing. Westerns flavor my work with grit and gunpowder. I’m a Texan reaching deep into my countries own myths and legends.

Do you have a favorite Western? Book or movie? Let me know in the comments!   

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Why Warrior Stories? (Part 2)

Why Warrior Stories_
I’ve loved brotherhood stories my whole life. Most of my favorite books and movies, my favorite stories, have a central brotherhood core. This is the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings, Madmartigan and Willow, the rabbits in Watership Down, the four heroes of Final Fantasy XV, and many more. I love the bond between men who face the world together. I love the women who stand at their sides, or even care for their homes and children while they fight the world. I love HearthKeepers and Huntsman. (Which is actually one of the YA series I’m always working on.)
I believe that both men and women can be warriors, I just think that warrior-ness expresses itself differently. (The world thinks it’s the same, but it’s not. I’m not a man. I’m not going to be the same type of warrior my husband, brothers, and fathers are. I’m going to be a warrior the way my mothers are, my sisters, and my dear friends. I’m going to stand by my husband and guard his back, guard his home, keep things going. I want him free to face the dark world, and protect me. That kind of female warrior-ness takes great courage, sacrifice, and fortitude. And that’s a big rabbit trail.)
As I’ve gotten older, I realized this magical bond, this brotherhood, is most starkly seen in war stories. War exaggerates the bond between men. When I finally sat up and took note of that, I started working through every war movie I could find. My current ‘Top Five Favorite Movies’ are Rambo 4, Fury, Lone Survivor, Gladiator, and Lord of the Rings. I love 13 Hours. And yes, Band of Brothers is my second favorite TV Show right after Firefly. I am slowly but surely collecting all the books written by and about the Band of Brothers. I can’t get enough of brotherhood war movies.
I think that real spiritual warfare is our day-in-day-out, ordinary battle against our own sin, the corruption of the world, and false teaching. This is spiritual warfare. If you were able to look at an ordinary church with TrueSight goggles, you would see a gathering of dirty, broken, bleeding warriors filling the pews. I think images of battles—be it the Somme, or somewhere in the Middle East—are a more accurate representation of our daily lives as saints still in this world, than anything else. And I think our love of our local church members should be as strong as the bond between brothers in combat. We are in the trenches together and we should see it that way.
In Lone Survivor they say, “Never out of the fight.” If that’s not true about you and your battle against your own sin, I don’t know what is.
These are the two reasons I love, love, love warrior stories: brotherhood and spiritual warfare.
I also love the idea of standing up for what you believe and for who you love, with violence.
We live in a world that no longer respects the idea of defending your and yours with strength and a weapon. We have become so acclimated to a tame world, that men who willingly stand up against the darkness, or just stand up to a bully, are labelled a bully themselves. We think violence isn’t our right, but only something uneducated rednecks indulge in, or only the government can be trusted with. We believe violence doesn’t solve anything, but we forget we live in a fallen world.
This world will never be heaven.
This world is broken and God isn’t planning on fixing it. He isn’t here to save the physical world.
You can’t stop someone intent on hurting you or your family or your country with nice words or by calling the government.
All you can do is cock your gun and pull the trigger.
This is reality.
The anti-violence attitude puts all of us not only in a sad state, but a dangerous one. We aren’t teaching our boys to defend others with their strength, but to sit down and act like girls. We aren’t teaching girls to have their man’s back, but to take over. We’re teaching girls that they can be just like a man, that they don’t need him, and that his innate warrior-ness is dangerous. It is dangerous, but it isn’t necessarily evil. You need a man to be dangerous, but you need him to control his danger so it is his servant not his master. Men who are abusive should be taken out by the men who aren’t, immediately. But, you can’t just say all signs of strength are bad. That leaves our homes, and our streets, and our countries undefended and open to attack.
This is another reason I love Warrior Stories. This is why I write warrior stories. The power of brotherhoods, real spiritual warfare, and the need for violence enflame me.

Warrior Stories are myRight
Do I think it’s weird that I, a woman, love Warrior Stories? Nope. I don’t. I think women are the holders. I think we’re the rememberes. We are the ones who sacrifice sons and husbands to these horrors. We are the ones who have to defend our homes when they’re gone. We’re the raisers of the next generation of warriors. Warrior stories are my right as a women. I want to know what my man faces, be it in the true realities of war, or be it the less dramatic, every day, ordinary strength he has to show. I want to know. I want to hold. I want to remember. I want to raise.
I also think we’re the HearthKeepers. My husband is a pastor. He is a warrior, in my mind. He wages war against false doctrine and false teachers. He stands up to lies for the sake of his church. He also works full time to provide for us. So, he works a full time job, comes home and studies, and then preaches on Sunday. He works and studies, works and studies, and preaches. That means that just like a cop’s wife, or a soldier’s wife, I handle the running of the home. I’m the HearthKeeper. I do everything else so that he can be free to work and study. I get the tires changed (what I’m doing while I write this). I do the accounting, cleaning, cooking, and social planning. I take care of wardrobes and rest. I am the HearthKeeper to my warrior.
So no. I don’t think it’s strange that I love Warrior Stories. I just hope I can inspire you to love them too.
What are your top five favorite movies? Have any war movies had a big impact on you?

Why would a middle aged woman love warrior stories?

Why Warrior Stories? (Part 1)

Why Warrior Stories_

Why warrior stories? I ask myself this question regularly. Why do I love them so much? What is it about them that thrills me far more lastingly than any romance or drama? Why warrior stories? Unfocused and puzzled, I can’t answer the question. I feel weird and out of step with those around me. I think how strange it must be for an almost middle aged women to love Rambo 4, Lone Survivor, Black Hawk Down, Fury, We were Soldiers, and Band of Brothers. How weird am I?

Then Pastor Jarrett preaches on Luke and Eureka! I’ve got it!

I love warrior stories because I’m starving. I’m starving for stories about real men, and more than that, I’m starving for real stories about Christ.

Most movies and books, children’s bible stories, and false beliefs about Jesus center around this vision of him as a quiet, mild-mannered, limp-wristed savior. He’s a long-haired hippie preaching some kum-ba-yah type love.

But, the real Jesus, our real King is drenched in blood. Not his blood, but the blood of his enemies! He is the calmer of storms, the one who faced the Devil and prevailed, the one who faced Legion unflinchingly. He is on his white horse, our captain, and he is riding rough-shod over the Devil. But, he is a true warrior. A real warrior. It is safe at his feet. It is safe to stand in his shadow. He has faced down fallen angles in the 1000s without taking one step back. We can stand safely behind him.

See??? A real warrior is a great danger to those who attack him, and a great good to those he defends. He isn’t safe. A real warrior is never safe, but he is good.

In our female-centric world, we’ve overcompensated. We realized women were under-represented, but instead of balancing things out, we’ve told men to go sit on their hands, women have got this. We’ve neutered men. We’ve turned them into cute, little man-buns that wouldn’t hurt a fly because we were afraid. We’re afraid of strong men. Women try to make everything safe, and have forgotten how to raise warriors. Warriors aren’t safe, but they’re safe to stand behind. A true warrior is good.

Holding onto this idea is hard. The world constantly throws at us the peaceful Jesus with his weak, sad eyes. The world tells us that warriors need to go away, stop fighting. Fighting is dangerous, gross, and barbaric. Also, our battle is a spiritual one. It’s one we can’t see. Between the invisible and the world, holding onto Jesus as our Warrior King can be like grasping at bubbles. They burst in your hands, beautiful but gone.

Why would a middle aged woman love warrior stories?
Picture from Pixaby, edits by me.

I love the image of the sheepdog, but it lacks something. It teaches that there are people who remain blissfully ignorant about the real world, sheep. These are the kind of people that actually think they can create peace if they give up their guns, failing to realize that just makes them defenseless. These sheep would be ravaged by wolves if it weren’t for the sheepdogs. Sheepdogs defend sheep. Sheep don’t like sheepdogs. They make them nervous. But the sheepdog doesn’t really care. He just does his job and keeps the wolves from the sheep. I love this. I love sheepdogs. But, the breakdown comes when the sheepdogs start to become prideful, arrogant, and hateful towards the sheep. They stop seeing their job and they start seeing weak, dumb animals making their job harder. Now the sheep are in danger from both the wolves and the sheepdog. What do we do? How do we stop this?

We need a shepherd.

The shepherd will keep the sheepdogs in line and the sheep in line. We need an outside standard of right and wrong. We need the Word of God. We need to train unsafe, but good warriors.

I think of my husband as a warrior. He’s not in the military. He’s not a cop. But he is a strong man who thinks clearly and sharply through things, and isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right. Now, he’s on his path to being an elder in our church. He’s going to war. He’s moving to the front lines of the spiritual battle. His weapons aren’t metal, but the Word of God. His enemy isn’t a terrorist, but false doctrines and sin threatening his church. He’s become an under-shepherd, a sheepdog. What does that look like? Pretty much the same as it always has. He’s got his boots, jeans, and button downs. He’s got his books. He’s got his beard going grayer every day. He’s not dirty. He’s not bleeding. He’s not wounded. He’s not surrounded physically. None of that is seen, but it’s all there spiritually.

Sibling-saints, we are all this way. We are at war. We are in a fight, a constant fight. See, in the spiritual war, women are mighty warriors just like men are. We are all priests. I couldn’t be a warrior in real life. I’m not strong enough. But, in the spiritual war, I can stand shoulder to shoulder with these my brothers and sisters. We, beloved saints, are bleeding, wounded, broken down warriors in this war. But we have hope!!! Our elder brother goes before us. He is mighty. He did what no man could do in the wilderness. He did what no man could do at sea, and he did what no man could do for us. Jesus is our Warrior King. He touches the sick, befriends the villain, and retrieves the dangerous. He faces legions of fallen angels and doesn’t break. He is our captain and he will see us all safely home.

I love warrior stories because my husband’s battles are largely unseen, the war I’m in is spiritual, and mostly because Jesus is the great Warrior King. Warrior stories help me remember reality.

This is why I love warrior stories. This is what I devour and this is what I write.

What influences your writing?

Emily, over at Living In Heaven’s Shadow, did a post about the top 7 influencers of her writing. I thought this was a great idea and decided to put my own little list together.

As a writer, I have been influenced by:

  1. J. R. R. Tolkien’s world-building, descriptions, and beautiful friendships
  2. Pastor Jarrett Down’s spiritual descriptions used in his sermons
  3. The pain, suffering, and bonding of Band of Brothers
  4. The Viking mythology found in Amon Amarth
  5. The beauty of the warriorhood of Watership Down
  6. The pain of losing someone while you’re talking to them in 3000 Degrees by Sean Flynn
  7. Lone Survivors‘ heartache, brotherhood, and “never out of the fight” mentality

Runners up are:

-Mumford and Sons’ first two albums: I could build stories out of every one of their songs

-Firefly: gotta have a crew

-The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson: stories that feel like coming home

-Mindhunter by John Douglas: creating the best and creepiest villians

-The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin Jr.: there is nothing I don’t love about this book

-Stories of the Seventh Son of the Seventh Son: myths are part of who we are

-Dracula by Bram Stoker: monsters can be hunted by Christians


What are your top 7 influences…and runners up? Comment below, or tag this post so I can see your list.

Why Faerie Stories?

Why Faerie Stories Cover

A new blog should probably explain who and what I am, what I write, what I love. This is why you’re here, right? You’ve either followed me for a while, read my stuff, or just found me. So, who is Abby Jones? Why do I call my stories Faerie Stories?

When Faerie is spelled in the old world way instead of the more modern ‘Fairy’, older myths are invoked. A sense of great mystery is called upon. It’s the unseen world just beyond the corner of your eye. It ties into the idea of getting trapped in the Faerie Realm where you stay forever. Or, you dance away the night, but when you come home a 100 years have passed. It pulls the reader back into a Realm that is draped in shadows. Magical gifts are given to those in need, but at a cost. It is the idea of an older, deeper, more mysterious magic. It invokes elves. Tolkien’s elves. With ‘Faerie’ otherness is summoned. The Fair Isle is called up. The past rises to meet the future, and things we have forgot awaken in our minds.

Most importantly, it calls on the magic of the idea of Eucatastrophe.

Eucatastrophe is a word Tolkien invented to capture the turning point of grace in a story. It is the moment the light comes on. It is the sunrise after a dark night. It is Aragon on at Helm’s Deep. It is Christmas Day. (God became man!) Most strongly, most powerfully, the true moment of Eucatastrophe is the Resurrection. Something we had nothing to do with changes the course of our history forever. It is the undeserved rescue. This isn’t deus ex machina, though it might look like that to an outside observer. No. This is the moment when everything has gone horribly wrong for every one and suddenly, unexpectedly, undeservedly, salvation comes. All that was bad is turned right. All that was broken is fixed. God steps into the picture.

This is the deeper, older magic that the White Witch didn’t know about. The turning point when Aslan dies and then comes back to save the world. This is every believer in our salvation. We didn’t deserve to be saved, but God sent his Son to become us, live, and die for us. He paid our cost even though he didn’t owe it. And then! He adopted us all into his family! How mighty a salvation.

This is Belle loving the Beast. He didn’t deserve that.

This is the Huntsman deciding not to kill Snow White even though it cost him his life.

This is the elves helping the shoemaker.

All of these, these Faerie Stories, have moments of Eucatastrophe. They mirror, and exaggerate real life.

 

Moments of Eucatastrophe are the moments the light comes on in our darkness.

We have forgotten in our day and age of self-fulfillment, independence, and the self-made-man/woman how dependent we are on moments of grace. We are finite, failing creatures, and we need something ‘other’ to help us. We need to be reminded that when we face moments of darkness the light isn’t dependent on us.

In real life, we find this in theologically sound, orthodox Christianity. Christianity is filled with epic and ordinary Eucatastrophes. In literature, it is best reflected in true Faerie Stories. This is why I write dark, haunting, “and at the last moment raise the sun” Faerie Stories for children, young and old. I want them to see the wonder of the undeserved rescue. The turning point of grace. The true Eucatastrophe.

The other side of Faerie Stories for me is actual Fairy Tales. These are stories by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. Some of them are super moralistic, and I never want my stories to be “if you’ll just be good, God will save you” stories. We can never be good enough to earn salvation, and to try is to damn our souls. But, there are plenty of good and helpful truths packed into Fairy Tales.

My background of Brothers Grimm might explain to some of you why my stories are so dark, and why I often have villains that not only don’t get rescued, they don’t want to be rescued. I like some undeserved rescues, and I like some damnation. I like mercy mixed with justice. The Brothers Grimm were adept at meeting out punishment to their Evil Queens, Step-Mothers, Witches, and more. I don’t have a problem ending a story with the ending of the villain.

I also don’t often have my readers sympathize with the villain. Sometimes, I will. But most often they will be someone who turns your stomach.

Why?

Because we are the villains. We should turn our stomachs. If you’re a Christian, you should know that Christ didn’t save the heroes. Christ befriended the villains. He rescued the monsters. This is a true Myth. A true Fairy Tale. A True Faerie Story. This is what I write.


What is your favorite Faerie Story/Fairy Tale or Retelling? Comment below and I’ll tell you mine. 

Church and Home

Church and home

Hi! Thanks for stopping by to check out my new blog and other social media links. Many of you know me, and even know me really well, but I wanted to do some introductory posts for the next few months to kick off my new blog. Since I’m only posting once a month, this may take most of this first year. (This should make you happy, because that means I’m actually spending most of my time writing stories.)

You can get a good overview of me and my writing from my About Page, but there are two things I want to highlight today: Church and Home.

If you ask me what is most important in my life, I will tell you it’s my local church. I’m a member of Heritage Baptist Church, a confessional, associational church in Texas. I’ve been a member of HBC since Feb 1995. Even though I grew up in this church, I didn’t really understand the importance of church, and my church membership, until I was much older.  God, in His kind providence, had to take me down a few notches. Before then I was a member, but found our church pretty uncool, boring, and filled with annoying people. I loved some people, but spent too much of my Sundays seeking to be shocking. (I’m so appalled at my behavior as a young person. Thank you HBC for loving me anyway.) For a time, my husband and I even left HBC. We were going through a very sinful stagr, but thankfully God is good and brought us back.

After we came back—humbled, repentant, needy—I began to see my church as it really was. I saw the importance of meekly listening to the preaching of the Word. I saw the love of the saints. I saw men and women fighting every day to beat back sin. I saw faithful attendance as the beautiful thing it was. I saw the joy of the confession and the association we were part of. It took leaving my church to help me see what I almost lost.

I’m so thankful for my church.

I believe that serving our church is our greatest and highest calling as believers. This is the real work that we do. These fellow saints are the ones we work for. Why? Because we love Christ. We love the one who died for us. And what does He love? He loves the Church. He serves the Church. So that’s what we do. We love and serve the church.

Church and Home Quote

 

So, what does that look like for me? Well, the closest church member that I have the privilege of serving every day is my husband. He lives with me. He’s a fellow saint I can serve all the time. And, by serving him, I can serve my whole church. It is good for my church, and for me, to be submissive to him. It serves my church to take care of things for him. And, doubly so, because my husband is a gifted brother in our church with a hope for the pastorate. Every meal I cook, every cup of tea I take to him, each receipt I record, each bathroom I clean, is serving a fellow saint and serving my church.

All of that bleeds into seeing my home as my career. Writing is something I love with all my heart. It is something that makes me feel unbelievable happy. It is something that feels ‘really me’. It is something I’ll do the rest of my life even if I never get published. I love to tell stories, even if I’m only telling them to myself and a small group of fans. But, for all that love and passion, my home is my career. When I got married, I took on this career. I became a homemaker when I said “I Do”. For years, I thought of homemaking as an innate ability, much like having gray or green eyes. I’ve since come to realize that I need to view it as much as a career as a doctor does: study, practice, learn, and grow.

This is what is on my mind, in my thoughts, in my prayers. This is my labor.

Balancing between my love of writing and my career is a work in progress for me right now. I don’t think writing, seeking to get published, or any of that is wrong. I just have to work to keep it in the right spot. It isn’t my heart’s focus. My home and keeping it is my heart’s focus.  This is harder than you’d think. There are so many more glamourous things I could be doing. I could start my own Style Consulting business. I could use my energy to serve my church where that service could be seen by others. I could push and push and push for a writing career. All of that would earn me the praise of those around me. (Except for my husband who would be living and dealing with a dirty house and a proud, praised wife.) All that would be glorious. But, what I’ve been called to as a married woman is to keep my home and help my husband. And my husband needs me to manage all the things so he can work and study. Be content, oh heart, be content.

Whenever I’m struggling with this career, when I see fellow sisters getting to do things I want to do, or be involved with things I want to be involved with, I have to have a little talk with myself. My life isn’t their life. What I see isn’t always what is. This is where God has put me, right now. This is the husband he has given me to help. This is the saint I’m called to serve day in and day out. He’s the one I want to love, not myself.

I believe God gave me a love of writing. I want to use that writing to serve my church. I want to write things that encourage those in the trenches. I also want to serve my home with my writing abilities. Yes, that means working towards bringing in a small income with my writing. But, it also means keeping my writing within certain boundaries. It means writing Children’s and YA stories. And it means not taking too much time out of my day to work on my writing.

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So, when you read articles here on my blog, or see FB posts, Tweets, or Instagram pictures, know that it comes from the heart of a woman who loves her church first, then loves her home, loves being a HearthKeeper, and then loves to tell a good story of light overcoming darkness.


What is your career? How do you balance between your passions and your responsibilities? Do you make those responsibilities your passions? Do you have a church you love? Comment below and tell me about you. 


If you’re interested in supporting my writing, and getting to be a character or characters in my stories, fly on over to my Patreon Page and check out the different options. 🙂

A huge shout out and big hug to my Patrons:

Emily S.

Rachel A.

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Thank you so muc for paying me to write!