Friday, June 30, 2006

Watch Out Germany!

I thought I could give Germany a chance to see what it is up against!
Here is our outreach team a week before we head out. Yes, that is us taking our 3 boys with us to Germany. We believe God has a special impartation for them there, and are excited to bring them!

Top, L to R
Marsha, Hailie, Angela, Peggy, and Lee.
Bottom, L to R
Nathan, Beccy, Matthew, Caleb, and me (the one in the hat, not the diaper).

Review of Waking Lazarus

Here we are on the third and last day of the Waking Lazarus blog tour, in which I attempt to sound erudite and also like I know something, as I discuss my impressions of TL Hines' debut.

I must put two small caveats up front: I was going through an intensely stressful time while reading this, and one of the characters hit home for me very closely. I don't think it colors anything, but there's the disclaimer.

Actually, I quite enjoyed the book. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was a fun read, rather than a "escape the world quick!" read. The first chapter definitely sucks you in. If the line, "The first time Jude Allman died, he was eight years old," doesn't at least pique your curiosity, then you too may be dead. Be sure to check out the first chapter at

He does a very good job with building the characterization of Jude Allman, a man who has died 3 times and became a reluctant celebrity because of it. He disappears and hides under a false identity in the small town of Red Lodge, Montana, and works quietly as a janitor until he has a strange visitor and bad things start happening around town. We get into Jude's head and his paranoia he deals with due to his prior life, breaking a few literary standards in the process (at least, one doesn't normally see some of the techniques he uses).

The action builds up well and keeps the pages turning. When it seems the bad guy will be foiled too soon, there's a couple of twists and the story keeps going. I felt that he gives away Jude's three near death experiences a little too soon in the story, as these flashbacks seemed to really set my anticipation for what was happening, but it doesn't distract either.

The tone is a little dark. As mentioned in Tony's interview yesterday (see below), the antagonist is the Hunter, and he is a serial kidnapper. This can be a little disconcerting, especially when someone has kids. The very squemish may have a problem here, but any gory details are kept far off-screen (page?). One of his influences is Stephen King, but unlike his books, there is hope at the end.

There's a spiritual theme that weaves in and out of the story, and it feels appropriate to the story and characters. It's not tacked on to make this part of the Christian fiction fold; in fact, it can be enjoyed by anyone and they won't feel preached at or intruded upon. It's a nice touch overall.

I would rate this book highly as a very good debut novel. I look forward to seeing what comes next from the mind of TL Hines. He says part of his inspiration for WL was working cleaning cadaver labs in college, and picturing them sitting up and talking to him. I don't know what other inspirations he has for stories, but if they entertain and cause suspense like WL, then I won't care - I'll just enjoy reading them!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Waking Lazarus, the sequel (sort of)

Welcome to day 2 of the Waking Lazarus blog tour, featuring the new shining light of the literary world, TL Hines. Today I have my first author interview. Hopefully these are some interesting questions. See what Tony has to say about writing, pants, and the Doors!

1. What got you started in writing fiction?

It's been a dream of mine--ever since I discovered "The Shining" byStephen King at age 12 and realized, for the first time, that books were written by people. Before that, I think I'd kind of assumed books were these products that rolled off the assembly line like cans of corn. Probably because most of my reading, to that point, had beenHardy Boys mysteries...which really DID roll off an assembly line. So,I started writing then. I didn't seriously pursue fiction for many years, though, because I was writing all kinds of otherstuff--articles, ads and such. But when C.J. Box, a good friend, had his first book published a few years ago, he inspired/encouraged me to concentrate on fiction again.

2. How long did it take you to write Waking Lazarus? How did you work it in with whatever your "day job" was at the time?

A few weeks of outlining, about two months of writing, and several more months of tweaks and edits. My prime writing time was (and still is) roughly from 5:00 am to 7:00 am each morning. I put on my iPod, open my Powerbook and go to work before I head to my "day job" in advertising. Had I been writing the book full-time, I think I could have turned it out in a few months. Then again, there's something nice about writing for a few hours in the morning, then letting your subconscious mind process the story until the next morning.

3. How do you think the typical CBA reader react to your antagonist?

The Hunter (the antagonist's self-imposed nickname) abducts children, and he's not exactly a well-balanced individual. To tell the truth,I've been worried about reaction to the Hunter; I still picture nice folks at my church moving down a few pews after reading the book. But by and large, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive so far. I purposely avoid graphic descriptions, letting most of the bad stuff happen off-stage--and in the reader's mind. One email I recently received from an advance reader said, "The PUBLISHERS WEEKLY review said it was grisly, but gee, nothing went squish." Bingo; it reallyisn't grisly. Creepy? Yes. I hope so, anyway.

But here's the other thing: I don't know if there's a typical CBA reader anymore. There's so much variety now--a very good thing--that we're seeing successful niches develop. It's not just "ChristianFiction" or "Religious Fiction" now; there's suspense, historical, speculative, you name it. It's a pretty exciting time in CBA fiction, I think.

4.What is the weirdest thing that happened to you while writing Waking Lazarus? (Hopefully you don't say "coming back from the dead!")

Hmm, this is the first time I've been asked something like this. Nope,I didn't come back from the dead, but I did fall through the ice and almost drown when I was very young--much like Jude Allman does in thefirst chapter of WAKING LAZARUS. When I wrote WAKING LAZARUS, I was going through an incredibly stressful time with my company; my wife and I were merging our advertising agency with another agency, and I think a lot of that stress and angst helped fuel the story. Don't know if a company merger counts as "weird," but it was definitely the major life event happening at that time. Maybe some good fodder for Freudian psychoanalysis.

5. Where do you see Christian fiction going?

As I said before, I think this is an exciting time in Christian fiction--it's healthy and growing, and pulling in more genres. It's even making some great multicultural strides, I think, which is wonderful to see. You know, people see Christian fiction as some kind of backwater to ABA fiction, but I don't buy into that at all. I have friends who have published ABA novels, and my publisher, Bethany House, has far and away done more for me than the NY houses do for their debut authors. I think I can unequivocally say I received a better deal all around with Bethany House than I would have with any ABA house. And that's great news for people writing faith-based stories. The market is growing, and CBA houses are looking for material.

6. Where did the idea for your unique marketing campaign, The Other Side, come from? (other than a Doors song ;))

You know, I thought I was ultra-clever by making the address for the Other Side project My nod to Jim Morrison. But I think you're the first person to comment on the Doors connection; maybe no one likes the Doors anymore. Anyway, the Other Side was partly inspired by the Open Source software movement, where software designers and engineers offer their base code to a community of other developers and then fold the efforts of those developers back into the core product. It's a true community effort. I wanted to capture something of that for my novel, so I created the Other Side as a project for people willing to sign up as Volunteer Publicists. In return for telling others about the book, Volunteer Publicists get inside information--including more than 100 background notes about the book's creation--as well as the chance to win prizes such as an iPod Nano, a share of my first royalty statement, or a role in my next novel.

7. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Ah, the age-old debate. And I can be a true politician by saying: I'm both. I've outlined novels, and found the outlining really helped me stay focused and on task. I've gone SOTP for others, and ended uptaking about twice as much time--but ended up with what I feel are better, more unpredictable stories. So I see strengths of both approaches, which is how I developed my own method. First, I write every story as a screenplay, which comes in at roughly 100 pages and gives me key dialogue and scenes. Then, I use that screenplay as my novel outline, adding meat to the structure. This lets me "discover" the story as I write the screenplay, but also gives me focus and direction for the first draft of the novel.

8. Who are your literary influences?

I already mentioned Stephen King, who has probably been my main influence. I tend to gravitate toward crime fiction and slipstream fiction--anything set in the "real" world, but incorporating some fantastic element. Crime fiction novelists I admire include C.J. Box, Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos and James Lee Burke. Anyone who writes supernatural stuff in the CBA realm owes a debt of gratitude to Peretti and Dekker, of course. Slipstream novelists include Bradbury, NeilGaiman, James Blaylock, and William Hjortsberg.

9. Any advice for aspiring writers?

It's old, and it's tired, but the best advice is: write. Just write,and let the other things fall into place. Don't make publication the be-all and end-all goal of what you do. I made that mistake, and oddly enough, didn't receive a contract until I'd given up that overwhelming desire to be published. I don't think that was any coincidence.

10. Can you give us any hints about your next project?

Sure. I'm working on book #2 for Bethany House right now, which will release next summer. It's tentatively called VALLEY OF SHADOW, and it's about a young woman who hears the voice of her dead father speaking to her from the shadows. He tells her the spirits of the dead occupy the shadows of our world, and convinces her to join a secret government network that communicates with the shadow operatives. But all is not as it seems. Soon, she discovers the true nature of the shadows--and the true nature of what they want.

Check back tomorrow for my review. I'll see if I can be an impartial reviewer, and not a slobbering fanboy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Blog Tour - TL Hines

I am excited to be a full participant in this month's Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. This is a group that once a month highlights a particular work of Christian fiction to get the word out by talking about the book, and also raise its profile in the blogosphere.

This month's book is Waking Lazarus by TL Hines. I've "met" him through the blog and associated discussion site Faith*in*fiction. He is an insightful and thoughtful author who happens to be the brainchild of this blog tour. Many fine books have been featured in this tour, but now it is TL's turn to step up to the plate.

I'm happy to offer three full days of WL coverage. Yes, that's right. Three whole days of TL Hines. (Try to contain your glee Tony)

Today you get the introductory offer, pointing out the tour and some of the great blogs associated with it, such as:
The Curmudgeon's Rant
Bonnie Writes
Musings from the Windowsill
Tags and Other Forms of Mischief
Kittens Come From Eggs
It's Real Life
Mike Duran at Decompose
A Christian Worldview of Fiction

Thursday you get my very first author interview. TL was kind enough to answer a few questions, and we'll pick his brain together a little bit.

Friday will be my review of Waking Lazarus, and why it is important not to spend too much time around cadavers!

Don't forget, next week will be the launch of Brandilyn Collins' new marketing campaign, as well as my posts from Germany! Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare to go. I'm leading a team of 10 over there, and some of us are dealing with some health issues. Thanks gang. See you on the Other Side...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Coming Attractions

I will be having several things going on at this blog the next few weeks, assuming I get decent internet access!

1. Next week I will be part of a blog tour focusing on Waking Lazarus by TL Hines. You don't want to miss it!

2. Then I have an inside scoop on an exciting and innovating marketing project for an upcoming Brandilyn Collins book. July 5th is the launch date for something I think people will find very intriguing and entertaining!

3. Finally, our Germany adventure begins on July 2nd, as we fly out of Salt Lake City to Munich, Germany! I hope to post pictures and updates for our churches back home and my internet friends. I don't know how often I'll get net access over there, but I hope for some quality updates for you. We'll be back in the States on July 18th.

One other thing: check out this list posted by Mark Bertrand. This list is "an informal top twenty list of favorite blogs by members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)". If you're interested in Christian fiction, then this list is a must-see. I have been to several of these sites before, and intend on sampling the rest soon!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Moving Right Along

Yup. That's right. That's what the USA will be doing after yesterday's game. Time for our football players to go home. Sigh. I knew we had a hard road in the World Cup, but I thought we had a chance. Especially after seeing the game against Italy. Yeah, we got a little luck when that poor Italian defender knocked the ball in for us (seeing how we couldn't do it). But they held Italy down a man for half a game. I haven't seen the US soccer team pull off that before. But it was not meant to be.

My secondary teams I'm rooting for now:
Germany (I'm going there in a week, I'd better cheer for them)
Australia (How can you not like a team called the "Socceroos")

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Odds and Ends

I haven't had internet access at home lately, so I apologize for not being around. Life's been hectic as well. Has anyone ever wondered what a bench that is being stripped down for repainting feels like? Well, I may have some perspective on that! I just hope I get a snazzier paint job when I'm all through ;).

A few things today:

Check out this review for Superman Returns. I wasn't interested in the movie initially, but now I am!


I was chosen for Brandilyn Collins Scenes and Beans blog marketing project. I will be portraying Pastor Hank along with Bob Edwards. Check out this link to see what I'm talking about, and I'll have more info later.


USA! USA! We tied Italy, and have a chance to make it to the knockout round if we beat Ghana and Italy beats the Czech Republic. Whoa. If we could only find an offense, we can make it to...Brazil.



Check out the 2nd part of the Christian Fantasy/Sci-Fi blog tour. I didn't have time to participate this time, but check out Mirathon and Becky Miller's blog to see all the participants!

Friday, June 16, 2006

World Cup Blues

Ok, I sure hope the US can improve their game. Their 3-0 thrashing by Czech Republic wasn't even funny. They play Italy tomorrow, and they are such a perennial powerhouse. Here's hoping for a miracle, or they will be gone from Germany before the party really gets started.

And no, when I'm in Germany I won't get to see any of the games. It would be exciting, but I don't want to get set on fire by hooligans either.

Oh, I've had internet problems at home all week, so that's why I haven't posted anything.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Whenever I lack the words to express something, I can usually turn to the esteemable Rich Mullins.

Lord, it's hard to turn the other cheek
Hard to bless when others curse you
Oh Lord, it's hard to be a man of peace
Lord, it's hard, oh it's hard,
You know it's hard to be like Jesus

I know that I wasn't "cursed" last week. God is sovereign and in control. Yet, it is human nature to want to know what happened. Why? It's the toughest question to answer so often.

I don't really have any more answers on why than I did last week. It isn't easy to swallow my pride and walk in the doors of my job each morning, knowing that they don't want me in 3 months. My heart is to be a witness in how I leave. If I can walk this out in grace and peace, I think that will speak something.

But as dear brother Rich says: It is HARD. It ain't easy! It was hard last week, and it remains hard this week. I'm sure it will ease some, but it won't be the same until I pack my last box out.

It is also hard to walk like Jesus. It is the narrow way for a good reason - it takes a lot of effort. Yet God has been very faithful to me to bring encouragement time and time again.

Go read the lyrics to Rich's song (course, it is always better to go listen to it!), and see if you can't relate to how the Christian life is "hard". There can be a comfort there in knowing that I'm willing to tackle the hard road, but I know it is only by His grace and power I'm able to walk at all.

I don't want this to be sob posting every time, but I wanted to share about the struggle we all deal with from time to time.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For

It's always interesting how God uses times in our lives for His purposes. He seems to especially delight in seeing what we say, and then checking back with us to see if we REALLY MEAN IT. You post one day on your blog about living life "spoiled for the ordinary," seeing how God can lead us on His adventure. You might have the opportunity to speak at church, and talk about riding the rapids with Jesus. How in the river of God, the best place to be is in the middle of the river where it is deep riding His currents, rather than wading in the shallow water and getting caught up in debris on the sides of the shore. Even if you go over the waterfall and have some turbulence. You might even get called in to a meeting at work and be told that your contract is not being renewed.


What did you say?

Is that a snicker I hear?

Yes, God does have a sense of humor. And yes, that would be yours truly, who had an eventful week, to say the least. Seems I've been spouting off lately about really trusting in God and going wherever the Spirit takes you. I would caution people that if you want to do that type of thing, be ready to have Him take you up on it! Because there is a very good chance that He will.

The rest of the story is, my employers decided to exercise a "no cause" clause in my contract, stating that even though they liked me as a person, and couldn't really fault my work, they didn't think I was a fit with what they wanted to do. Interesting. Thus I get to live up to my bold talk, or eat my words. Let me tell you, I'm not really up to second helpings. It's been a hard week (with that and Blogger, I haven't been able to post), but I'm determined to say, "Okay Jesus, You are in control, even when I can't see it".

Oh, and the writer in me has already pondered how to use the emotion and experience of this week in my writing! Powerful stuff...

Stay tuned as the adventure unfolds.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Lost in Germany

(Best read while listening to King's X)

In less than a month, I will be posting in southern Germany! I am leading a team from my church to the Calling All Nations event in Berlin on July 15. It is a worldwide worship event, with a call to missions. We'll spend the first several days in southern Germany, in the Bavarian Alps. We'll spend a night in Salzburg, Austria, before heading to Berlin for the last part of our trip. We will participate in worship and intercession prior to the main event.

We've been planning this for over a year, and I can't believe it is almost here. I know that is always the case when something major is coming. We're taking our three boys, and I know that promises to be an adventure. We are believing that it will be a great adventure with them. There's three more women, one of whom is taking her teenage daughter, and another man joining us. We all feel called to go, even if we're not fully sure what we will be getting into!

If any of you out there think about it, we'd appreciate your prayers. I'll give a couple updates as we prepare to go, and hopefully I'll be able to post from Germany, including pictures! And no, I won't make any of the World Cup football games, although I'd love that! And if anyone out there happens to be going, we DO happen to have an extra ticket...

Friday, June 02, 2006

In Praise of Lawn Mowing

One of my summer duties is mowing the lawn. Seems like a guy thing to do, not trying to be biased or anything. I always grumble about having to do it, like it is some kind of punishment. But so far this spring/summer, my wife has done most of the mowing! I was wondering if I was being replaced. True, my schedule is a little different this year, but I was a little worried.

Then I found out the truth:
"If I mow the lawn you have time for other projects."

A-HA. Now I knew. I have new responsibilities waiting for me.

Turns out that I have missed mowing the lawn. I'm walking around, getting the blood pumping a little. The loud motor insures that I have peace in my mind even if the boys are running around like banshees behind me. During this time I can let my characters from stories talk to me, tell me what THEY think should happen. I mentally set up scenes and see where it will take me. It really is relaxing and enjoyable when it comes down to it. Now I just need to get my old job back, and pencil in some writing time afterwards!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Salvation - more than you know

I mentioned that I am studying Romans and teaching it for our adult Sunday School class. I was reading about Romans 1:16-17, where it says "it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes".

One of the books I'm using is The Finished Work of Christ by Francis Schaeffer. Excellent book! In it he discusses that we tend to think of salvation in terms of being born again: "Hey sister, when did you get saved?" He explains that what we mean is really "when did you get justified?"

Now we're getting into some of those heavier theological terms. Salvation actually describes the whole experience of God's saving work. It speaks of justification, our being made right in God's eyes due to Jesus' sacrifice. It speaks of sanctification, the work of the Holy Spirit to make us righteous and walk with Him in the present life. It speaks of glorification, being raised up with Christ when we go to heaven.

Salvation deals with our past, present, and future. It's not just getting our sins forgiven and punching our heavenly ticket. It's not just doing good things in this life. It is the whole package. When we follow Jesus, he cleanses us, but He also wants us to walk with Him and persevere until we are reunited with Him, whether by passing through to the other side or meeting Him in the air.

Don't sell yourself short by thinking getting "saved" is it. It means so much more.