Wednesday, October 31, 2007

CFBA Tour - The Return

We interrupt this on-going series for the latest CFBA blog tour - The Return by Austin Boyd. This book was featured in the Christian Scifi Fantasy blog tour for September. I didn't read it as it was 3rd in a series and I hadn't read any of them. However, I compiled all of the quality posts from the CSFF tour on my 9/19/07 post. Just go to those links and search for Austin Boyd on the individual blog, and you can get a plethora of informative posts regarding this unique series in Christian fiction.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Violence in Christian Fiction - Day 4

Psalm 137: 8-9

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us-
he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

Yesterday I talked about the Bible and violence within Scripture. The main points were that yes, the Bible has violence in it; it is not very graphic; however it is not written as entertainment - the literary purpose is different.

What about the influence of other media? You can use the terms "the world," "secular," or "non-Christian" for this question. What kind of influence does shows like CSI, authors like Stephen King, and movies from Silence of the Lambs to Saw have on authors of Christian fiction.

That question will have to be addressed to specific authors, I'm afraid. TL Hines, author of Waking Lazarus and The Dead Whisper On, admits to being a fan of Stephen King. While Hines writes some intense fiction, even though he looks to King as an influence, his writing does not approach the horror master in terms of graphicness.

The influence of secular media also plays a role in the reader. I've read one Stephen King book, and still wish I hadn't. I recall that he was very good with suspense, but the subject matter was not something I want to partake in anymore. I've read one James Patterson book. Besides my feeling that his writing is shallow and low quality, his cavalier language and treatment of violence left a nasty taste that still regurgitates anytime I see one of his titles.

Someone who is more comfortable reading King or Patterson, or who routinely watches CSI type shows may be more accepting of levels of violence. Perhaps I'm not the best person to address this subject. As others have mentioned in the comments, it does depend on the comfort level of the individual reader. Some people shouldn't read certain types of books.

Yet the discussion here is simply, is there a point of too much in Christian fiction, and if so, what is that point? I think this can be asked by anyone. I also think I've covered the most important variables that relate to this topic. Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Violence in Christian Fiction - Day 3

2 Kings 9:30-37
Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she painted her eyes, arranged her hair and looked out of a window. As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, "Have you come in peace, Zimri, you murderer of your master?"

He looked up at the window and called out, "Who is on my side? Who?" Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. "Throw her down!" Jehu said. So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.

Jehu went in and ate and drank. "Take care of that cursed woman," he said, "and bury her, for she was a king's daughter." But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. They went back and told Jehu, who said, "This is the word of the LORD that he spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel's flesh. Jezebel's body will be like refuse on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, 'This is Jezebel.' "

There have been some great comments so far! I'm enjoying reading them. If you're new to this discussion, make sure to check them out.

I've been starting off these posts with certain Bible stories for a reason. We don't necessarily have a sanitized, violent-free faith. We know life has violence in it, and if fiction is going to accurately depict stories of life, there are going to be moments of danger, episodes of violence, and people getting hurt and killed. The Bible is definitely not immune to it.

Things aren't sugar-coated in the Word. The King James Version would use English euphemisms for sexual issues - "Adam knew Eve." It doesn't shy away from stating that Sisera had a tent peg hammered through his temple, or like the above example with Jezebel getting trampled and most of her body getting gobbled up like Kibbles and Bits.

I referenced a discussion that went on in September 2006 across several blogs. At Faith * in * Fiction, there was passionate dialogue about this issue (I think Nicole was a part of that one too!). Anyway, Mark Andrew Olsen (author of The Watchers, another CBA novel that had significant violence in the beginning) had a strong response discussing a man who was unfairly arrested, tried, and then beat and tormented with flogging, thorns, and was finally nailed to a tree to hang for his alleged crimes (Olsen wrote that up much better BTW).

Our Lord experienced some of the worst violence that mankind could dish out, all on our behalf. It seems that at times his crucifixion gets rushed by or pushed aside at times by the church, when it was an awful, bloody affair. I remember rehearsing a drama in youth group re-enacting the crucifixion, and those playing soldiers were half-heartedly doing their parts. The pastor saw that and came rushing in, incensed that we were not taking the act seriously and really showing what Jesus went through. Obviously it made an impact on me. It may not be as much of an issue after Passion of the Christ, even though that movie had its criticism for its violence.

Then again, the Biblical authors didn't really detail gore or what happened. We don't get descriptions of the blows that drove the tent peg through Sisera's noggin, or Jael's thoughts as she did it. The above passage is about as graphic as it gets.

Going back the other way, the Bible is written in different literary forms. History, law, epistles, gospels and so forth. No novels are found in it (no matter what some may say about fiction in the Bible). The passages about Jezebel, Jael, and Jesus are not written for entertainment purposes, but as part of a larger narrative. It didn't serve the purpose for the author of Judges to write from Jael's perspective, and they probably wouldn't have known it anyway. Writing fiction has a very different purpose and different requirements.

Where do we go with this? How does it apply to modern Christian fiction?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Violence in Christian Fiction - Day 2

John 19:32-34 (New International Version)

The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

I'm talking about violence in Christian fiction right now, and already there's some lively discussion in the comments section for Day 1. Be sure to check those out.

I reviewed the book Illuminated this week, and it prompted this line of thinking. I want to reiterate that I am not trying to pick on it - just using it as an example. And to be fair today I want to show that there are other examples of violence and gore out there that can easily fall into this dialogue.

Perhaps the author who belongs here more could be Robert Liparulo. His first two books are known for slam bang action and some pretty intense scenes. His first book, Comes a Horseman, had the scene that inspired this post from Publisher's Weekly's religion editor. His next book Germ had a special type of bullet that ripped people apart when shot with it, along with a designer virus that liquefied the victim's internal organs. Had I received his latest book Deadfall before Illuminated, it may have inspired this topic, as the first chapter vividly describes a man getting immolated. And that's only as far as I've gotten currently - there may be more examples lurking!

Ted Dekker is one of the major players in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and has written numerous best-selling novels. I haven't read many of his books, but Showdown has some memorable scenes. When the book starts out with a vision of a man's eye getting poked and pulled out by the antagonist, that will catch your attention!

One of my favorite books from last year was Plague Maker from Tim Downs. Most of the suspense is psychological, but one intense moment has a character disemboweled. Only one small paragraph, but enough to use as another example.

I had a couple other examples in mind yesterday, but my head is full of mucous today, so my thoughts are a little stringy. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of books giving an intensity to their stories with sometimes graphic imagery. If anyone can think of other examples, list it in the comment section. Monday I'll hopefully have a free brain, and can bring out some other thoughts on this subject.

Fire away!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Violence in Christian Fiction - Day 1

Judges 3:20-23
Ehud then approached [the Moabite king] while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, "I have a message from God for you." As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

Yesterday I did a review of the book Illuminated. The book is a suspence/thriller story. These stories should be intense, with palpable danger for the protaganist and those he cares about. However, there were a few scenes in the book that seemed to push the envelope a little in regards to violence. A significant scene had a bad guy torturing another rival bad guy, discussing the difficulty in cutting up the legs (while the rival was still alive). The torture guy had a necklace of eyeteeth from his victims, and cut the bodies up to destroy the evidence with acid. Another plot point dealt with a security system accessed with hand prints and retinal scans - and the subsequent loss of said body parts by a character so the bad guys could enter the vault.

This is not a new discussion, as there were some posts regarding this issue last September that I referenced in my own blog. Reading Illuminated brought this to my mind again, and my pondering inspired me to post some more on violence.

Today's an introduction, and the day for disclaimers. First of all, I respect the author, Matt Bronleewe, and I am not trying to disparage him. I must point out that he does not go into gratuitous detail into the above circumstances. I know of several reviewers that really enjoyed his book and didn't comment on any potential excessive violence or gore.

Confession: I watch violent movies sometimes. I enjoyed Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator, among others. I've read other Christian fiction books with violence in them. I'll probably use them as examples down the road. I am attempting to write a novel, and there is some violence in my plotline.

I've posted previously in a discussion of art and Christianity about the need for artistic freedom, that the author/director/musician should be able to pursue their artistic vision. (See this link to bring up all of the pertinent discussions). Does this make me a hypocrite now, in critiquing this book? Well, I don't think so - I don't believe I said anything about not having art exempt from critique and discussion. I'm also not condemning this book, just using the example as a jumping off point for dialogue. As a side point, I think it is fine for reviewers to point out potential stumbling blocks so readers/viewers know what they're getting into with their money and time.

Having said all this, the question I want to ask is: Is there a point of too much violence in a Christian novel, and if so where should the line be drawn? I'd really like to hear from people and entertain some thoughtful wrangling of this subject.

Tune in tomorrow for the next thought.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CFBA Tour - Illuminated

Illuminated is the first book from Matt Bronleewe. This guy is amazing. He helped found the band Jars of Clay. He currently writes songs and is a very sought-after producer by artists such as such as Michael W. Smith, international pop singer Natalie Imbruglia and Heroes star Hayden Panettiere. To think that he has added a new career in writing is pretty remarkable. And an added bonus: Matt composed a soundtrack for the book that is available for free download at his website. How cool is that?

Illuminated tells the story of book specialist August Adams returning from a successful trip acquiring a rare copy of a Gutenberg Bible. Little does he know that he holds the key to a secret spanning hundreds of years, and there are people dedicated to getting that secret - at any cost. All August holds dear is at stake in this thriller.

I admire Matt a lot, reading his posts on Infuze and seeing the type of culture-impacting work he's done. His new novel has several strengths to it. The plotting is very suspenseful. You can't end a chapter without catching your breath and wondering where he's going next. The plot was intriguing, with nice insights into history. As mentioned in marketing for the book, it can appeal to those who liked The DaVinci Code or the movie National Treasure. It was hard to tell at times who the protaganists could trust, and this kept me constantly guessing. Overall it is an easy read.

There were some weaknesses as well - many of which I think are the mark of a first novel and should clear up down the road. The writing sometimes didn't hold up the circumstances of a scene. Whenever a book tackles a historical topic, it is hard not to have a passage of "info dump", where the narrative slows to catch us up on context. This book is not exempt, although it is not near the problem this was in DaVinci Code. The ending seemed to wrap up quickly with some contrived situations. Finally, sometimes a character does some things that are highly improbable for their situation (an eight year old boy with an incredible amount of fortitude for his age.)

There is one issue in this book that makes me want to discuss it further. It is pertinent to bring it up in a review, and I'm going to spin it off into a discussion on this blog. The issue is violence, specifically the level of violence in Christian fiction. In Illuminated, it is a suspense with secret orders, chases, and narrow escapes. There has to be danger and violence to make it realistic. Yet there is a level of violence and gore in a couple of sections that seem extreme. Body parts are carted around. A rival agent is tortured, killed, and sawed apart to dissolve in acid. Another aspect that made me uncomfortable was violence around Charlie, the 8 year old son of August. He wasn't harmed, but his frequent association with it made me cringe.

Overall, I think Matt Bronleewe has crafted a unique book for the CBA world, a book with some flaws of style that should improve with experience, and some plot choices that may push some boundaries in the Christian fiction field. It wasn't my favorite read this year, but it is not a bad thriller for fans of those books. People with a queasy factor may want to give it a pass.

Like I said, this book made me ponder the issue of violence within Christian fiction. If you're interested, please join me for subsequent posts discussing the topic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

CSFF Tour - Bark of the Bog Owl

This month's CSFF tour features the YA (young adult) novel Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers, first of the Wilderking trilogy. It is geared toward kids from 8-14 from the sounds of things, though I think my boys who are younger ought to like it. I am intrigued by all I've read about it.

I must confess that I didn't do anything for this tour as I had major personal commitments this month. I really enjoy participating in this tour, and haven't been really involved the last two tours. That will change next month.

However, I can participate by highlighting certain blogs that offer something special. At the bottom of this post are all the participants. Sometimes they, like me, don't have time to post much. At least posting helps promote the book. I've gone through all of them and pulled out specific posts to highlight for this week (as of Tuesday afternoon). Also, Mr. Rogers has a great website for his books that offers a little more in-depth into the world he's created out. So check these following folks out:

Leave it to Steve Trower to give a list of top ten "king" songs.

See Deena Peterson's blog for a chance to win a copy!

James Somers has a mini-review and interview with the author. Plus a review of book 2 in the series. And Janey DeMeo has an interview as well.

The best blog post title of any CSFF tour (and a succinct overview) by Eve Nielsen.

A good overview is done at Karen McSpadden's blog.

Mike Lynch gives a man's perspective.

Interesting thoughts and some critique at Andrea's blog. Just ask!

Chris Deanne thinks the book would be good for both Christians and those who aren't so Christian-y.

Finally, see what is on Brandon Barr's mind regarding the book and the possibilities for fantasy and using the Bible as inspiration.

Also see an introduction video of the series by the author.

Brandon Barr Jim Black Justin Boyer Grace Bridges Amy Browning Jackie Castle Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Janey DeMeo Merrie Destefano or Alien Dream Jeff Draper April Erwin Marcus Goodyear Andrea Graham Jill Hart Katie Hart Sherrie Hibbs Christopher Hopper Becca Johnson Karen Dawn King Mike Lynch Rachel Marks Karen McSpadden Melissa Meeks Rebecca LuElla Miller Eve Nielsen John W. Otte Lyn Perry Deena Peterson Rachelle Cheryl Russel Ashley Rutherford Hanna Sandvig Chawna Schroeder James Somers Steve Trower Speculative Faith Donna Swanson Daniel I. Weaver Laura Williams Timothy Wise

Hurdles Crossed

Whoo-hoo. I passed my major recertification test with flying colors.

Thanks for praying gang!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Coming Attractions

Nahum 3:3
Charging calvary, flashing swords and glittering spears!
Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number,
People stumbling over the corpses.

I finished a book this week that had a lot of violence in it. A great amount of violence, and the context for it was often quite disturbing. It has started me thinking about the level of violence in Christian fiction. I'm working on some ideas, and plan on writing about them next week. How do we approach this from a Biblical viewpoint? Especially in the light of the above verse. I encourage the thinkers that read this blog to be ready for a discussion about it. Civil of course. We don't want fisticuffs around these parts (that would be ironic,, you get the idea).

Also next week will be the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Blog tour. That is always a good time of dialogue, so don't miss it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Heroes in Storytelling

I've posted about the need for heroes and their popularity in storytelling before. I'm glad I'm in good company. Barbara Nicolosi is a script writer and consultant in Hollywood who is on the forefront of faith and creativity in cinema. She is a strong Christian voice that has some clout in her field.

She gave a lecture to the San Diego Christian Writers Guild at the first of October. She posted the notes from her speech on her blog. She states that it isn't the same as being there for the talk, but the outline is pretty spectacular in its own right. I recommend checking this link out for anyone interested in writing.

One passage that really caught my eye was this:

i) There is a positive side to Holywood's desire to create heroes with a dark side. It is coming from a rejection of melodrama and sentimentalism. SENTIMENTALISM IS THE PROBLEM FOR US CHRISTIANS. We want to show that God is basically in charge of the world so everything is really okay. We want to give God the benefit of the doubt.

j) Facing the Giants is anti-heroic because it costs the hero nothing. The Christianity depicted in the movie is a rejection of the cross and presents a fantasy religion in which believing in Jesus means no suffering. “Give me some of that Jesus stuff!” The truth is Christianity promises that we will suffer without despair...and probably we will suffer more than others!

k) Flannery: “Sentimentalism is the one inexcusable defect for the Christian storyteller because it is an overemphasis on innocence.” We know that there must always be original sin in the story. No human person is perfect and immune from temptation.

Note those points are outline notes. I sure wish I could have heard the further discussion of those points!

Hat tip to Tom Neven via The Point

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CFBA Tour - Crimson Eve

This week the CFBA Tour is highlighting the latest release from Brandilyn Collins, book 3 in the Kanner Lake series entitled Crimson Eve.

The book again focuses on one of the characters that hang out at the Java Joint in fictional Kanner Lake, Idaho. Through the fictional, yet real Scenes and Beans blog, we've come to know the crowd at Java Joint. However, we may not know very much about all of the posters. This time, realator Carla Radling is showing off a high-end house on the lake shore when the prospective buyer levels a gun at her. A mystery from her past has come back to haunt her, and powerful people want her dead.

Crimson Eve is part of a series, yet it is easy to read it on its own without having read the prior books, Violet Dawn and Coral Moon. Brandilyn is known for Seatbelt Suspense™, and this book does not disappoint. She is a master at taking plot twists and spinning the reader around until they have no idea what to expect. Crimson Eve starts in the first chapter by grabbing a hold, and the book doesn't let up until the final chapter - really! There are surprises through to the very end.

Brandilyn continues with her strength of characterization as well. Her characters have believable motivations, and you find yourself torn even on behalf of the bad guy. The audience will be invested not only in what happens in the roller-coster plot, but in caring about what happens to the citizens of Kanner Lake.

There are a couple of plot twists that are a litte unbelievable, but the enjoyment of the read keeps you engaged throughout the book. I recommend this book heartily to fans of well-written books, but especially to those looking for some great suspense.

“Collins tops herself by creating a suspenseful nonstop thrill ride … Truly the best Christian Fiction suspense title so far this year.” – Library Journal, starred review

Also, Brandilyn has a special offer that you can't beat. Check this out!

Do you know someone who’s never read a Brandilyn Collins novel? Surely no such person exists. However, should you scrounge up such a friend—someone who enjoys suspense—here’s a special offer from Brandilyn. Be among the first 50 people between now and October 21, 2007 to e-mail her assistant at with the person’s name, e-mail address and street address. (Due to exorbitant overseas mailing costs, United States residents only, please).
A signed copy of Crimson Eve will be sent to your friend—free—along with an e-mail from Brandilyn announcing the book is on its way, courtesy of you. (Don’t worry. Brandilyn won’t spam these email addresses. She just wants your friend to know who to thank.) No worries that this story is third in the Kanner Lake series. Each book stands alone. Brandilyn is convinced your friend will so love Crimson Eve, he/she will surely reciprocate with expensive chocolate.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I got past one big hurdle today. I took my recertification test for my physician assistant license today. I suppose it is good that we have to test every six years to prove our competency. I just wish the test was written in a way that could be answered. The questions are so concise that it often seems to lack necessary information to make an educated answer. In the real world, I'd ask more questions, get more labs, or do more investigation. Oh well. That's the price to pay.

Five hours sitting at a computer, and it is done. Phew. I just don't know if I passed for a couple weeks.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Halo" Church Growth

There has been an interesting discussion going on in the blogosphere due to this article from the New York Times, Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church. It concerns churches/youth leaders using the video game Halo 3 to reach out to kids.

Now's the time for full disclosure - I play video games. I usually don't like the first-person shooters (FPS) games, but I do like the Halo series, more for the multiplayer aspect with friends than the main story of the game.

Also, our youth leader does use Halo as one of diverse elements (a la the Spanish Inquisition) to reach out to the kids, it is only a small part of what he does. It is only a tool, but his desire is to pull kids into further discussion on real issues that matter, and disciple them.

I have said my piece already on the comments of these following links. This is an invitation to check out the dialogue and add your thoughts.

Mike Duran tackles it in a post today. He also links to an article entitled "How to Witness Using Halo 2."

Dick Staub, author of The Culturally Savvy Christian, has perhaps a surprising take on this issue.

The Point, the blog of Breakpoint Ministries, has a plethora of links to explore concerning this. Some veer off into the ideas of masculinity and the church as well. You can find yours truly among the commenters opening my big mouth as usual.

Original post at The Point.
Point 1.
Point 2. (Wherein I quote Optimus Prime)
Point 3.
Point 4.
Point 5.
Point 6.

I've got my opinions out there, but I thought I'd collect some places that are discussing it for reference in this discussion.

Updated 10/12/07

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New Resource for Speculative Fiction

There is a new resource for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction from a Christian perspective. Marcher Lord Press is the brainchild of Jeff Gerke of Where the Map Ends fame. He's a former acquisitions editor who saw a big gap when it came to Christian speculative fiction.

Even though there is a slowly growing publication of spec fic novels in the CBA, Jeff realized that the main audience of Christian fiction was not really interested in fantastical stories.

Thus Marcher Lord Press was born.

The target date for releasing books through MLP isn't until 10/1/2008, but you may be a client for writing one of their books - there is a submission form for interested writers on the site. However, you can sign up now for updates from Jeff here. You can be eligible for prizes, (and if you mention me as a referrer, I can be entered as well!)

Check out the site to learn more about it. One of the cool things is the story for what a marcher lord is.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dialogue for a Needed Conversation

Two people I admire very much in blogdom and Christian fiction circles are J. Mark Bertrand and Becky Miller. It is a quality week when the two of them get together to discuss the realities wrestled by those of us attempting to write great Christian fiction.

Check out the great discussion in the posts over 2 days. Don't forget to check out the comments, where further good dialogue continues, (yes, some of the comments are from me).

Day 1

Day 2

Friday, October 05, 2007

CFBA Tour - The Trophy Wives Club

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing The Trophy Wives Club by Kristin Billerbeck.

My wife and her good friend Cindy Lemon read this book, and this was what they had to say after discussing the book:
"The Trophy Wives Club is a spin on being a trophy wife. Actually, it becomes a comparison of what we settle for in life, when in reality we are meant to be the bride of Christ. The book continues Kristin's skill for humor. She truly has her own voice and doesn't parallel other writers. She's good at description and lets the reader truly know her characters' thoughts. The style of writing is fresh, different, and unique."

You can read more about this new book below.


Kristin Billerbeck was born in Redwood City, California. She went to San Jose State University and majored in Advertising, then worked at the Fairmont Hotel in PR, a small ad agency as an account exec, and then, she was thrust into the exciting world of shopping mall marketing. She got married, had four kids, and started writing romance novels until she found her passion: Chick Lit. She is a CBA bestselling author and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year. Featured in the New York Times and USA Today, Kristin has appeared on the Today Show for her pioneering role in Christian chick lit. Her last three books were:

Split Ends: Sometimes the End is Really the Beginning (April 17, 2007)

She's Out of Control (Ashley Stockingdale Series #1) (Nov 13, 2007)

Calm, Cool & Adjusted (Spa Girls Series #3) (Oct 1, 2006)


Haley Cutler is the consummate trophy wife. Perhaps "was" is the more accurate term. Haley married Prince Charming when she was only twenty years old – back in the day when highlights came from an afternoon at the beach, not three hours in the salon.

When Jay first turned his eye to Haley, she was putty in his slender, graceful hands. No one ever treated her like she was important, and on the arm of Jay Cutler, she became someone people listened to and admired. Unfortunately, after seven years of marriage, her Prince Charming seems to belong to the Henry the XIII line of royalty. When Haley loses Jay, she not only loses her husband, she loses her identity.

With her first independent decision, Haley leaves LA and moves home to Northern California. Feeling freedom just within her grasp, Haley learns that her settlement payments must go through one of Jay's financial advisors, Hamilton Lowe. Haley believes he's nothing more than a spy. And the feelings of distrust are mutual. Yet somehow, Hamilton finds himself handing over the monthly checks in person, and Haley can't deny that there's a kind of tenderness and protectiveness in Hamilton that she's never experienced in a man before.

But before Haley can even consider another relationship, she must learn to accept her inherent worth, and what it is to be loved for who she is, not what's on the outside.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Real Christians Don't Get Pissed Off...

Real Christians don't get "pissed off," they have "righteous anger." Or perhaps disconcerted, infuriated, or provoked might be better.

I was checking out the new design for the Relief Journal (cool new digs gang!), when I read a post from the editor. He talks about a little controversy regarding Reconstructing Natalie, by Laura Jensen Walker. Apparantly a site called The Timothy Report is run by a pastor/webmaster/Christian book store employee. He had the book by Ms. Walker brought to him by a distraught customer, because the main character is battling breast cancer and gets "pissed" at some point, or says she's "pissed off." So this gentleman is posting a notice on his site to complain to Thomas Nelson, the publisher, if other people are tired of such lines being crossed in Christian fiction. The charge is that this book is lower standards for the CBA.

This reminds me of the discussion I had concerning the "Christian Marketplace." Now this person is responsible for this book not being available at his bookstore and making it sound like it is some horrible tome, corrupting people as they read it. It is frustrating to see a book about a subject that really is ripe for use in Christian fiction, yet it is torn down for a choice of one word.

*Cough* Excuse me, I think I just choked on a gnat...

I haven't read Reconstructing Natalie, so I don't know if it is any good as fiction, as a work of art. I do know that I wouldn't condemn a book on the choice of one word like in this situation. What I did do is write the editor listed on the Timothy Report and supported her for producing fiction willing to tackle difficult subjects.

/end rant

You can see the letter in question at the Timothy Report here.

You can find the original post at Relief here (look for the second part of the post):

UnChristian Christians
Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression - Thursday, 04 October 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Blog Tour - My Life Unscripted

I don't have teenagers yet. I don't have girls. So why am I blogging about Tricia Goyer's new book, My Life, Unscripted?

Maybe it is because she's a great fiction writer, and I am in the business of supporting Christian writers? Maybe I'm impressed with the project? Maybe it's because she lives in Kalispell Montana, one of the greatest places on Earth?


Without further ado, here's info on her book for teen girls, and an interview with Tricia as well.

my life, unscripted

Drawing on Biblical prinicples, My Life, Unscripted guides girls through the tumultous teen years by teaching them to have a plan of attack before temptation or hardship come.

Tricia's Script:

Looking back at my drama-filled teen years I now wonder ... What was I thinking?

The truth? I wasn't. I lived from day to day on every wave of emotion. Some days excitement and passion partnered up, pattering wildly within my heart.

Other days, depression and anxiety were my silent friends. I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart.

I lived my life completely unscripted ... and, well, it didn't go well for me. Teen pregnancy and a broken heart were only two consequences. Yet my prayer is that when teen girls are asked Who's Writing Your Life? their answer will be ME ... with the guidance of God, My Director.

An interview with Tricia Goyer!

Q: Tell me about My Life, Unscripted

Sure! With real-life scripts, screenwriting terms, and timely topics, My Life, Unscripted helps teen girls explore their own inner struggles and outward relationships. It's my hope they'll learn the importance of "scripting" their own responses BEFORE challenging life-situations arise.

By contrasting real-life with TV/movies, it's my hope that teen girls will understand they don't have to get caught up in the drama. They don't have to face situations as they arise, but rather they can think about, pray about, and consider how to face these situations before they hit the big screen of their lives.

Q: Is it true that much of YOUR story shows up in these pages?

Gulp. Yes, I'm afraid so. In fact, I shared parts of my story that I SWORE I'd never tell a soul.

My teenage script (portrayed in the book as Trish Valley) wasn't one I'd suggest my daughter, nor my readers to copy.

Q: Tell me about these scripts.

The introductory script of Trish Valley shows a scene where Trish urges her mom to follow Trish's boyfriend into the McDonald's parking lot so she can "spill her news." The other girl in the car and her boyfriend's response to Trish's pregnancy are unfortunately not fiction. I wrote out the scenes as they would appear in an actual script. I even use all the correct terms and layout.

Q: In addition to teen pregnancy, what are some of the other "scripts"?

Do I have to tell? Well, I guess it's in print now! Let me see: fists fights with a rival, sneaking out of my parents' house, getting caught by my boyfriend kissing his best friend--does that give you an idea? Do I have to go on?

Q: No, you can stop there. But WHY? Why did you decide to share these stories?

First, because I want girls to understand the heartache of unwise decisions. I want to them to be able to relate to me, rather than feeling preached at. Also, I wanted to share my stories because many young women have faced the same type of situations, or they know friends who have. And finally because they are great object lessons for the importance of following biblical truth. That is something I did learn!

Q: What does your teenage daughter think about this book?

Leslie thinks it's great I'm able to connect with other teens. She's heard these stories for a while! She was 11-years-old when we first started volunteering together at a support group for teenage mothers together. As I taught the young moms things like nutrition and potty training, Leslie assisted adults in babysitting the toddlers. And while we loved giving and serving, it was the ride home that soon became the most meaningful part. As Leslie sat in the passenger's seat, I could see her mind considering my life as a teen mom, and she started asking questions.

Although it was hard to talk about my past mistakes, I knew this was an ideal opportunity to share real-life truths with my daughter. Each person walking this earth has regrets. Our talks showed me that instead of hiding my past troubles (and hoping my kids didn't find out) sharing my mistakes could actually give my daughter a better understanding to why values and wise decision-making skills are important.

Q: So now you're "having a heart-to-heart" with other teens through this book?

I sure hope that's how they see it! Those first talks with my daughter brought us closer, but I knew not every girl has had someone to offer advice such as: "build a supporting cast of people you can trust" or "consider the character qualities you'd like for a leading man."

Q: Okay, so your book is for teens, but what about the moms out there who feel they have past mistakes they don't want to share?

Well, they could each write a book about their teen years! Ha- just kidding!

But for those moms out there, maybe your teen years were not as drama-filled as mine. Or, if they were, maybe you are fearful of sharing them with your teen. The truth is, teens learn best not with information and knowledge, but rather by hearing life examples and understanding how decisions can affect all parts of our lives. So, time to get brave, Mom. Open your heart and share what worked and what didn't. It just might help your daughter write a better script for herself.

Oh, yes, and consider buying your daughter My Life, Unscripted! Hopefully every teen girl can get some take-away to scripting a bright future!

Tricia Goyer has published over 300 articles for national publications such as Today's Christian Woman, Guideposts for Kids, and Focus on the Family, and is the co-author of Meal Time Moments (Focus on the Family). She has led numerous Bible Studies, and her study notes appear in the Women of Faith Study Bible (Zondervan).

She has written seven novels for Moody Publishing: From Dust and Ashes (2003); Night Song (2004), Dawn of a Thousand Nights (2005); Arms of Deliverance (2006); A Valley of Betrayal (2007); A Shadow of Treason (Fall 2007); and A Whisper of Freedom (Spring 2008). Night Song was awarded American Christian Fiction Writer's 2005 Book of the Year for Best Long Historical. Dawn of a Thousand Nights won the same award in 2006.

Tricia has also written Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Mom (Zondervan, 2004), 10 Minutes to Showtime (Thomas Nelson, 2004), and Generation NeXt Parenting (Multnomah, 2006). Life Interrupted was a 2005 Gold Medallion finalist in the Youth Category. Also, coming out in the next year are: My Life, Unscripted (Thomas Nelson, 2007), Generation NeXt Marriage (Multnomah, Spring 2008), and 3:16-the teen version of the a book by Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson, Spring 2008).

Tricia and her husband John live with their three children in Kalispell, Montana. Tricia's grandmother also lives with them, and Tricia volunteers mentoring teen moms and leading children's church. Although Tricia doesn't live on a farm, she can hit one with a rock by standing on her back porch and giving it a good throw.

Tricia has two books that will be out soon ...A Shadow of Treason (Moody Publishing), Fall 2007Generation NeXt Marriage (Multnomah), January 2008

Modern Art - by Tuesday Morning Quarterback

One of my internet highlight of the week is Tuesday Morning Quarterback, the ESPN football column by Gregg Easterbrook, who is a Brookings Institute scholar, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and an astute football fan who writes an entertaining pigskin screed that changed the way I watch the game. My buddy Mark has quoted TMQ before on his blog. I don't blog about football much (how bout them Cowboys, Nicole?), but this aside he wrote was very pertinent regarding art now and 50 years ago:

In world news, there's a harmonic convergence of golden anniversaries in progress. The upcoming 50th anniversary of Sputnik joins the 50th anniversaries of the Edsel, "West Side Story" and the publication of "Doctor Zhivago." As the Sputnik anniversary arrives, bear in mind what a bucket of bolts the first artificial satellite was -- little more than a radio transmitter, it looked like something a 16-year-old made in metal shop for a school play. America's Explorer I, which followed Sputnik I into orbit a few months later, was also a bucket of bolts. Although even with its rudimentary instruments and vacuum tubes -- remember, humanity landed on the moon before the invention of the pocket calculator -- Explorer I discovered the Van Allen belts. And of course the Edsel was a bucket of bolts, an odd snoot being the least of its problems.

Although the great technical achievement of 1957 -- the artificial satellite -- and the main consumer-industrial product of that year -- the Edsel -- seem crude in retrospect, great artistic achievements of that same year, such as "West Side Story" and "Doctor Zhivago," seem magnificent in retrospect. You have to know the history of Broadway musicals to understand what an original and significant work Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story" was, although you need not know that history to appreciate the music, lyrics and dialogue. "Doctor Zhivago" numbers among the greatest books ever written, and that's even if you can't grasp how much better the poetry sounds in Russian, as Russian speakers assure us. Boris Pasternak summed up all his experiences in the dashed hopes of the Russian Revolution in the tragic story of a poet who loses his muse-love. Pasternak then declined the Nobel Prize for literature because, being a critic of the Kremlin, he knew he would never be allowed back into the Soviet Union if he went to Sweden to accept the prize. And, like Zhivago, he died too soon, passing away just two years after the book was published. "Doctor Zhivago" became an international bestseller -- When was the last time the top-selling book of the year was great literature? -- and was made into one of the last really good Hollywood movies, three hours long and actually faithful to the book! (On buying a book, Hollywood's first move today is to alter everything except the title; Mel Gibson even altered the gospels and invented composite characters for his Jesus movie, Gibson figuring he had a better sense of story than God.)

Now think what has happened in technical and artistic trends in the 50 years since 1957. Scientific endeavors have made fantastic strides in quality, complexity and significance. Consumer product quality has increased dramatically -- new cars are packed with features unknown in 1957 yet are far safer and more reliable, and the cell phone in your pocket and the computer you're reading this on, to say nothing of the Internet it's transmitted over, would have been viewed as supernatural by the engineers who built Explorer I. At the same time, the quality of art has plummeted. There hasn't been a musical of artistic merit to open on Broadway in many moons -- right now, it's all vapid dreck. (In fact, I think the show "Vapid Dreck," based on a remake of a remake, opens at the Brooks Atkinson soon.) And although good books are still written, what truly great novel has been produced in the past decade or two? Fifty years ago, technical stuff was buckets of bolts and art was splendid; now, the technical stuff is splendid and the art is in poor repair. This tells us something -- I just wish I knew what.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Brain Doesn't Play Fair

I've been taking a little break from writing over the last several weeks. There were two big events that were drawing my attention: the worship weekend with Noel and Tricia Richards, and I have a major certifying exam for my work that I take in 2 weeks.

I still think about my projects and issues in general, but I've definitely been distracted from my usual level of pondering. However, some aspects of creating are not as easy to turn off.

I'm trying to use this time as a step back from what I've been working on and seeing what weaknesses I can work on and what strengths to play up. This is happening to a degree, but my brain is not necessarily cooperating. It's not something I want to turn off anyway.

I've been coming up with MORE ideas.

Jeez, brain. Aren't I having enough trouble tackling the mess you've already conjured up for me? No, you like being in a frazzle, so why not choose this particular time to inspire me with projects that could be as worthy of attention as what I've been spending the last 2+ years on. Man o' live!

My wife said something earlier this year that has stuck with me since regarding our kids: write the stories they would want to read. I know my current WIP doesn't qualify, so I've considered some other ideas, one of which seems to be gelling a little. Then Sunday I had inspiration for a possible non-fiction project. Great.

Actually, I'm not complaining. It is good to have ideas to play around with inside my noggin. There's just too many temptations - which to choose?