Get a Free Copy of my New Fantasy Novella!

I’ve had a few people ask me what I’ve been up to these past couple of years. If you’re a regular here, you’ve likely noticed that the steady stream of poetry and creative nonfiction slowed to a trickle in 2020, and hasn’t picked up since. This wasn’t by accident; I decided to devote two full years to the act of writing prose. Toward that end, I’m self-publishing five separate books that I’ve written over the course of these two years. The first is a middle-grade/young adult fantasy, and the next four are all part of a sci-fi/speculative fiction series.

On June 30th, The Last Sage of Selvus will hit Amazon’s (proverbial) shelves. I wrote this slim little fantasy novella a couple of years back as a prose version to The Sylphid and the Sage.

This version tells the same story as its immersive, novel-length poem companion, which is written in heroic quatrain.

So what’s this novella all about? Check out the blurb below:

Matteo isn’t strong or fast or tough.
He isn’t particularly popular among his peers.
His grades are middling, at best.

In fact, the only thing he’s very good at is idling.

Out of all the 12-year-olds he knows, he’s memorized the most nursery rhymes, childhood superstitions, and fairy tales.
‘Til now, that skill has never won him favor in life.

But when a mysterious, fairy-like stranger appears, he finally sees a chance to make good on all his latent talents.

Her name is Vera.
She offers a gift: sugar cubes of a magical variety.
Vera promises that if the citizens of Matteo’s hometown eat them, all evil and malfeasance will be gone for good.

But are her intentions for the city good or evil?
And even if he did know, can a little boy convince his town of the truth?


To jumpstart my foray into the world of prose, I’ve decided to give out free electronic versions of this first book to anyone willing to keep up with my journey as an author. All you have to do is tell me where to send it! Click this link to check it out. I appreciate your support!

J.R.R. Tolkien vs. Flannery O’Connor- Escapism in Fiction (Craft)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

Suppose you were to take out a notebook and a pen and list off the best Christ-following authors you could think of from the 20th Century. 
Chances are, the names “J.R.R. Tolkien” and “Flannery O’Connor” would both be listed on Page One.

But despite their larger-than-life status as novelists and forerunners of Christian thought, both authors had a decidedly different take on the creative life. Consider, for example, the following two quotations, which represent almost diametrically opposed truths about writing:

Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” -J.R.R. Tolkien


I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” -Flannery O’Connor

So what gives? How is it that Tolkien advocates for escapism in writing and O’Connor denounces it? Which is correct, artistically speaking? Which is the right mindset, spiritually?

The answer, of course, is nuanced. 

Let’s start with the artistry aspect. It helps to look at the distinction in writing styles between Tolkien and O’Connor. It’s hard to imagine two writers so entirely unalike: Tolkien, the Oxford-educated, high-fantasy-obsessed polyglot, was famous for his epic and elaborate tomes. O’Connor, on the other hand, was Southern Gothic through and through, and her most famous works were short stories that explored the grisly reality of human nature.

Is at any wonder that their fiction reflected their views on craft? 

Since both writers contrast so drastically, it’s a more useful question to ask whether they succeeded in their particular aims. Luckily, the answer to this question is much easier to answer: it is a resounding yes. Both J.R.R. Tolkien and Flannery O’Connor have received much critical acclaim and popularity. Their works have stood the test of time, and serve as insightful literature that speaks to the human condition. Undoubtedly, both were–and are, successful. 

The two took drastically different artistic approaches, but both shared common themes: unexpected grace, (compare Tolkien’s concept of the “eucatastrophe” and the character “Bevel” in “The River,) the duality of humankind (consider Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings and Julian in “Everything That Rises Must Converge,”) redemption of a deeply flawed individual (think of “Boromir” and “Gollum” in The Lord of the Rings and “the Grandmother” and “the Misfit” in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”)

These shared themes that run throughout the corpus of work these two literary heavyweights are not a happy accident. They can be traced back to the same source: they were both profoundly impacted by their love for Christ and their Catholic faith. So while they took two contradictory approaches to the creative life, the similarities that bound them were significant enough and elucidated well enough to make them both correct.

Perhaps a final quotation can best illustrate this point. C.S. Lewis, who famously disliked T.S. Eliot’s poetry, acknowledged that the two served the same God. As such, he said about Eliot: “I agree with him about matters of such moment that all literary questions are, in comparison, trivial.” 

May we all take such a mature view.