World-Building Wonders – The Significance of Holidays

Welcome to another installment of World-Building Wonders! Find a Friday escape into an author’s awesome world — and worldview! Today’s featured author is Josh Hardt.


One of the most important aspects of any culture is how – and what – they celebrate. From Independence Day to Passover, these holidays are often attached to a certain date or event of religious significance. There are even some that are celebrated the world over, Christmas being the obvious example.

These events are not limited to Earth. In the Forgotten Realms we have Shieldmeet; a day of festivals taking place once every 3-4 years. We have Lithe as a Midsummers holiday in the Shire – a time of feasts and flowing drink, I’m sure!

All of these have a great deal of meaning to those who celebrate. Real-world holidays affect every aspect of a culture –food, rituals, ornamentation, and so much more. And we don’t even need hobbits to enjoy them!

In a spurt of world-building around Christmas I realized that I had the start of something. I was pondering New Years and how I despise resolutions. But I am a big fan of new beginnings. One of the faiths in my story world – that of Elne – is all about such things. Out of that was borne New Hope’s Dawn.

All those who adhere to Elne believe that dawn is a holy time. It is the death of darkness and rebirth of the light. The last day of the last month of the year is especially important. All of the ills of the previous year die at the next dawn. For some it is a somber time. One to focus on an escape from their past. Many others look to what they will do with their new futures. For all it is a time of joy despite their circumstances. As mentioned, special raiment is involved. That varies from race to race, of course.

Not every holiday in fiction is as involved as I’ve made New Hope’s Dawn. But all add flavor and significance. Just like here on Earth.


Josh Hardt is an avid reader, ecumenical nerd, and lover of puns. He lives in Minnesota with his wife and two high-energy children. He helps out – and cracks wise – at the men’s group at his church. When not living in worlds of others’ devising, Josh enjoys nighttime walks and board games. He’s currently hard at work on his first novel.​

World-Building Wonders – Principles as Religion

Welcome to another installment of World-Building Wonders! Find a Friday escape into an author’s awesome world — and worldview! Today’s featured author is Lelia Rose Foreman.

I’m a tree-hugger. As such, I have a ringside seat to watching people who don’t have the balance of Christianity take up the cause of trees and the world. Also, I was a home-schooler and under threat of arrest when we lived in Texas. For years I could not fathom why other people noticed or cared that I home-schooled, let alone wanted to arrest me. What I learned about world views through the decades has informed much of my writing.

I am working on a YA science fiction series with my oldest son Josh Foreman. The premise of Tales of Talifar is that an ancient machine buried in the crust of the planet Talifar has pulled down and crashed three human ark ships two and a half thousand years before the present stories. We further posited that the surviving humans in the remains of the ships genetically modified their children in a myriad of ways, each faction having a different idea of what sort of human would survive best on the alien planet.

One faction wanted their descendants to live in harmony with nature, to live lightly on the land. To that end, they shrunk the size of their descendants to a meter tall. They reasoned that smaller bodies would use fewer resources and would be less likely to cause the ecological disasters Earth had suffered.

As the centuries passed, the Littles’ desire for balance in nature became a religion where Nature was worshiped.

Instead of pastors or bishops, the Littles have interpreters. These high-ranked people interpret Nature, decide what plants and animals are abundant enough to harvest for food, and teach the children respect for the web of life. The interpreters expound the principles of ecology.

The greatest sin is the overuse of a resource. Any child born with a severe handicap, or any adult who becomes disabled is gently executed after a pre-funeral feast. The traditional Littles do not heat their homes and eat most food raw. They strive to create no pollution and create nothing that cannot decay or be recycled.

They do not expect mercy or kindness from Nature.

Many Littles rebel against the austere life the interpreters require of them. The rebels leave their villages and flee to the softer life in cities populated by Bigs. Even in massive cities filled with many types of humans and varieties of aliens, the Littles still tend to revere Nature.


Lelia Rose Foreman has raised and released five children, some of whom like science-fiction. She considers herself to be a boring person who tries to write exciting stories. After bouncing around in the Air Force, she and her husband make their home in Vancouver (not BC) Washington (not DC), across the river from Keep Portland Weird. Check out her blog and her Facebook page for more information!

Cover Reveal: “Darkened Hope” by J. L. Mbewe

This week, instead of a book review, we have a cover reveal! J. L. Mbewe is currently in process with the second book in her fantasy trilogy, and I’m always happy to pass along a pretty cover, so here it is!

Note: I haven’t actually read Secrets Kept or A Princess No More. When I do, I’ll be sure to put up a review. However, Mbewe is offering some great deals on her books, so why not give them a look?

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Coming in May 2016

Ayianna is a cursed half-elf betrothed to Desmond, but her heart belongs to another. After discovering the cure for the Sorceress’s curse, she and her companions embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the ingredients.

When dragons descend upon their party, Ayianna realizes the Sorceress is searching not just for the corrupted dagger, but a human sacrifice that will open a portal to the underworld. Battling deadly creatures and natural disasters, Ayianna is forced more and more to confront her insecurities and conflicted heart.

Now she must decide whether to be true to her family or true to herself. As the nations rally for war, betrayal threatens to destroy them all, and it’s a race against time to return before the curse devastates the plains people.

Book 1 – Secrets Kept is going for 99 cents, and there’s also a freebie story available!

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Writing as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with a wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril. She has two short stories published in The Clockwork Dragon anthology, and four short stories set in the world of Nälu. Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award, and its sequel, Darkened Hope is coming May 2016.


Stay up-to-date with all things Nälu and her journey as a writer mama at Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest.

World-Building Wonders – Magic, Science, and Faith

Welcome to another installment of World-Building Wonders! Find a Friday escape into an author’s awesome world — and worldview! Today’s featured author is Kat Heckenbach.


“There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class.” ~ Professor Snape, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I love Snape. And I adore the Harry Potter books. But when I decided to write a young adult fantasy series, I wanted my magic based not on wand-waving or incantations, but on taking science beyond the physical. Treating magic as an ability, something that uses the laws of physics, but comes from outside those laws.

In other words, magic and science go together.

You know, kinda like the way spirituality and science go together.

I grew up in a Christian home, but pulled away from my faith during my teen years. Then, when I was in college working toward a degree in Biology, I felt a real struggle between the remnants of my faith and the evolutionary science I was bombarded with. That bombardment ultimately pushed me back toward my faith—I simply couldn’t see how such a complex world had come into existence by chance. I began to research creation science on my own, and soon discovered Lee Strobel’s books The Case for a Creator, The Case for Faith, and The Case for Christ.

Time passed, and one day I was hit with the unavoidable realization that I could not escape my desire to write a novel. Young adult fantasy was my natural choice, as it’s my favorite genre to read. When I sat down to write, I knew there would be magic—but there had to be science, and magic and science had to be interactive. Actually, that became the entire premise of my first novel, Finding Angel.

Angel cover Nook

In Finding Angel, magic is a gift, and it can’t be reduced to a genetic code, just as human consciousness or souls can’t be. Science is real, and valid, but it’s not the limit of our experiences. There’s more than just the physical world…there’s magic. My protagonist, Angel, knows this to be true, but there is someone out there who believes magic is something merely genetic and can be spliced into his DNA. He sees Angel as nothing more than a vehicle for a DNA segment he wants for himself, and is willing to do anything to get that genetic splice.

Before I even finished Finding Angel, a new inspiration hit. I’d already based one novel on science and magic together vs science alone, much like The Case for a Creator contrasts science within the worldview of Christianity vs science alone.


I moved forward with book two of my series, Seeking Unseen, and, following the pattern set by Strobel’s books, I let its focus be more of a faith journey. A friend of Angel’s must let go of her fears and doubts about not being worthy of magic.

Book three is still in editing, and untitled, but it parallels Strobel’s series in that like his third book, The Case for Christ, it brings the focus around to Christ—or, rather, an allegory of Him. Strobel’s book centers on historical evidence for Christ, and my third novel takes a dive into the history of my story world (through magic and time travel) and introduces the person without whom magic—or science— would not be possible.


Angel cover Nook

Angel doesn’t remember her magical heritage…but it remembers her.

Start with a struggle revolving around the source of magic. Is it genetic–or is it part of your soul? What if someone was using his powers to run experiments based on a complete misconception of the source of magic?

Author Photo - Kat Heckenbach

Kat Heckenbach is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom–everything from Art to Algebra II—and now home-schools her two children. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over fifty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name. Her YA fantasy series includes Finding Angel and Seeing Unseen and is available in print and ebook. Enter her world at and