Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

I’ve always been a bookworm but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I seriously began tinkering with fiction writing. Over the course of the next decade I proceeded to co-write a murder mystery novel with my youngest sister and two solo novels in the contemporary Christian fiction genre (which is drama with a subplot of romance).

Then one day, while I’d already started a third solo novel, my other sister asked if I wanted to co-write a fantasy genre novel with her. She had already plotted it and created the characters and setting, so I took a look at what she had and quickly agreed. After that it took us four years of collaborative writing to complete the novel, and we named it The Attic.

While absolutely LOVING the experience of writing fantasy (especially exploring all those secret passageways in the Gothic mansion!) and considering it a marvelous adventure, I didn’t quite feel I was capable of plotting fantasy fiction on my own. So I finished writing my third solo project: another Christian drama/romance.

BUT once that novel was completed I distinctly felt like I’d reached a dead end: or a finish line if you will.

The wind was out of my sails. I felt like I’d said all I ever wanted to say in the contemporary Christian fiction genre. So what to do next? I didn’t want to write drama without romance and I didn’t want to right full-blown romance either. I also didn’t want to write murder mysteries because they require too much knowledge of police and detective work (all that inside legal and procedural stuff, not to mention forensics).

So it was at this point that I began writing short stories in order to play my hand at a variety of genres. And it was here I serendipitously discovered in allegorical fiction a niche in which I could write for a mainstream audience (like we did with The Attic) while still being inclusive of my Christian faith and values.

Then one summer on a whim, I bought a youth fiction novel because the synopsis appealed to me and it had a delightful title: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano. It had simply never occurred to me before that I might enjoy youth fiction, of all things, but the book just popped out at me from the shelf. I went on to read many more novels for middle graders after that first one. But in reading this particular book I felt an awakening, like I’d found something I didn’t even know I’d been looking for!

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The Appendage

An excerpt from “The Attic” by Bekah Ferguson & Rachel Xu.

A mist swirled around the trio and a swamp stretched out ahead of them. Dead trees reached upward from the murk at odd angles, casting spindly shadows over the oily surface. Floating weeds shifted positions as gaseous bubbles rose to the surface and burst around them.

Ian turned toward Varkis, who stood with hairy gray arms crossed over his chest and feet spread wide. “What do you think?” The last thing he wanted to do was enter the swamp, but Kurik had given him no other choice.

“I’m thinking it wasn’t a smart idea to come with you guys after all,” the dog-man replied.

“Come on. Seriously.”

“Who said I wasn’t being serious?”

Lily stood nearby, one hand on her hip as she squinted up at the dusky sky.

Ian ran a hand down his face and took a deep breath, nearly choking on the stench of the water. “Well, . . . let’s get this over with then.” He stepped into the cold goop, weed-muck sucking at his foot. Another step forward and he sunk down, slimy vegetation and dank water swirling about his knees. “Come on guys,” he glanced over his shoulder. “We have to get to the Jubaka Tree and out of this swamp before nightfall or we won’t live to see morning.”

Varkis harrumphed. “This swamp gets deep fast, you do realize. We’re going to have to swim a lot of the way and it’s going to be freezing.”

“I know.” He met eyes with Lily in an apologetic glance. She looked frightened now. “We’ll take breaks as needed and warm up afterwards.”

“Does anything, uh, dangerous, live in this swamp?” she asked.

“Not that I know of.”

It was a lie.

There was something lurking in the swamp; something that had started out quite small but had been growing for many years since.

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The Viking

The Belly of the Whale

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

The midnight sun hovered over the sea horizon like a glowing pumpkin.

Stian anchored his clinker-built sailboat out of sight from the mainland and jumped onto the rocky shore, scrambling up over the outcrop on all fours and keeping cover behind spruce trees and towering pines. It didn’t take long to reach the sleeping village through the forest: a fenced-in cluster of longhouses surrounded by fields, forest, and highlands. Smoke billowed from holes in the thatched roofs and spitz dogs with pointed ears and curled tails roamed about behind the fence, keeping guard. Stian passed the village and went toward the nearest sheep pen where the night watchman lay fast asleep in his covered bed box. A roaming spitz dog served as a second set of eyes and ears.

Keeping cover, Stian pulled a poisoned chunk of whale meat from his tunic and tossed it near the bed box. It didn’t take long for the dog to sniff it out and eat to his demise; he soon lay in a heap in the grass, the hairs on his stilled shoulders twitching in the breeze.

Stian approached the sheep pen with slow steps, careful to avoid any sounds that might alert the shepherd, and took a little lamb from the group; killing it with a seax dagger. In the green shelter of the woods, he gnawed on the lamb’s body enough to make a mess, and pulled a vial from a pocket in his woolen tunic, filling it with blood. Tossing the carcass out into the open, he went back to the fence surrounding the longhouses, and set the dogs to barking. He then retreated to the forest to wait, inhaling the metallic scent of blood on his chin.

The village came to life as men left their homes and gathered together with the dogs, heading for the fields where they soon found the mutilated lamb. Knowing they would suspect a wolf or a bear rather than a man and would search the woods, Stian scaled the fence and went straight for the longhouse he’d scoped out days before.

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