Friday, November 30, 2007

CFBA Tour - Auralia's Colors

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Auralia's Colors (WaterBrook Press September 4, 2007) by Jeffrey Overstreet.I am almost done with this book. I will have more to say about it for a later blog tour since I'm not quite to the end yet. What I do want to point out is that this book is the most unique piece of fiction that I have read in my 1 1/2 years of actively reading/reviewing novels.

The description of this book before I received it was that it was a beautifully done literary work, with language that paints a vibrant a picture as Auralia's Colors do in the story. Jeffrey takes time painting with words a very vivid description, full of metaphor and using the power of language in a formidable, haunting tale. In the recent Novel Journey interview with Dean Koontz, the famous author described the importance of using rich figures of speech in such a way - I would suggest that this book is what he had in mind when he talked about it.

The book takes a little more effort to read - it is suspenseful, but not in a way that zings the reader along. It takes a little more effort to mine the riches here. Sometimes the book suffers in the way it changes point of view characters in chapters - I got a little lost at times with the overall "where is this going?" Still, I am highly enjoying this story, and am looking forward to completing this particular thread.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
As a baby, she was found in a footprint.

As a girl, she was raised by thieves in a wilderness where savages lurk.

As a young woman, she will risk her life to save the world with the only secret she knows.


When thieves find an abandoned child lying in a monster’s footprint, they have no idea that their wilderness discovery will change the course of history.

Cloaked in mystery, Auralia grows up among criminals outside the walls of House Abascar, where vicious beastmen lurk in shadow. There, she discovers an unsettling–and forbidden–talent for crafting colors that enchant all who behold them, including Abascar’s hard-hearted king, an exiled wizard, and a prince who keeps dangerous secrets.

Auralia’s gift opens doors from the palace to the dungeons, setting the stage for violent and miraculous change in the great houses of the Expanse.

Auralia’s Colors weaves literary fantasy together with poetic prose, a suspenseful plot, adrenaline-rush action, and unpredictable characters sure to enthrall ambitious imaginations.

Visit the Website especially created for the book,
Auralia's Colors. On the site, you can read the first chapter and listen to Jeffrey's introduction of the book, plus a lot more!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Final Thoughts on Stephen Lawhead

On this tour for Stephen Lawhead, I was thinking that I may have come across as a little hard on his books. I mentioned that he was streaky, and listed a few books that came across as disappointments for me. After thinking about this, that may be a little unfair. I've enjoyed other books of his so much, if others didn't hit that standard, then that's when I felt they didn't measure up.

I was reading Stephen Lawhead before I really understood about "Christian fiction." Getting into the first two books of the Song of Albion series was a wonderful fictive journey. Yes, I didn't find the last book of that trilogy as catchy, but the end of it was such a wonderful payoff. There was a thread he'd woven through the whole series that I would've missed had I not persevered until the end. It still rates up in the two top "Wow!" moments I've had when reading books.

His historical fiction novel Byzantium was another greatly enjoyable book. It was entertaining, but it also illuminated a time in history that I had never known about before. Anyone with a love of Celtic and Middle Age history should pick up that book.

So yes, I still hold that some books of his are better than others. When is this not going to be the case with an author? It may hit Mr. Lawhead because so many times he writes series, so it is more noticeable. I just didn't want the wrong impression. Stephen Lawhead is one of the top craftsmen in Christian fiction (and historical fantasy fiction in general). Don't miss out on his work.

Monday, November 26, 2007

CSFF Tour - Review of Scarlet

Yesterday for the CSFF tour I posted my review of the first book of the Raven King Trilogy, Hood. In it I mentioned that, while I have enjoyed many of Stephen Lawhead's books, I have found him to be a streaky writer. In the Song of Albion series, the first two books were great, while the third one got a little tedious. I enjoyed The Iron Lance of the Celtic Crusades series, but bogged down in The Black Rood. Same with the Pendragon Cycle: loved the first book, lost interest in the second. Does the sophomore curse affect the second book of his new series, Scarlet?

I can answer a resounding NO.

Scarlet is a better book than its predecessor. Not that Hood wasn't very enjoyable, but Scarlet improves some pacing issues and kept me intrigued more. It is the story of Will Scarlet, here a Saxon forester who is displaced from his lands and decides to seek out the infamous King Raven, who is tormenting the Normans (Ffreinc) who have invaded the lands of the Welsh. After joining Rhi Bran y Hud, Scarlet's skill allows him to become a trusted member of Bran's inner circle. As the fugitives work toward eventual freedom for their kingdom, Will becomes captured and is set for the noose (hence the cover of the book).

The book has an interesting structure. It is mainly from Will Scarlet's point of view, first person, as he is in prison awaiting his hanging. He is telling his story to a priest who is acting as a scribe. It is a unique way to tell a story such as this, and it surprisingly works very well. There are some asides from Will to the poor Norman priest throughout, but instead of being distracting, it adds to the understanding of who Will is. The book occasionally shifts to third person when it moves into another character's point of view.

Lawhead's ability to weave an enchanting story from history and legend is unparalleled. His research and knowledge base is always top-notch, it is only a matter if he's created a strong plot to go along with it. This time around he keeps the action near and the suspense palpable. The back and forth between Rhi Bran and the invaders is never fully decided throughout the book. There is also a nice tension with the politics running through the book that leaves us with an imposing cliffhanger that won't be resolved until the third book, Tuck, comes out (which sadly won't be for a while due to the author's recent illness).

The storytelling sequence by Angharad is interesting yet the slowest part of the tale, much like in Hood. Occasionally the POV changes among different antagonists is confusing. However, this is a book with great setting, characters, and plot. I highly recommend the series so far, as it is a very good introduction to Stephen Lawhead.

See Day 1's post for others in the tour, and I'll have some wrap-up tomorrow.

(Another's) Thoughts on "The Golden Compass"

I can't say that I've read any of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials. I'm interested to read them at some point, but all the books... *le sigh*

However, I came across a great article written by Jeffrey Overstreet discussing the movie The Golden Compass in a very intelligent manner. I highly encourage you to check it out.

Hat tip to the illustrious Mir

CSFF Tour - Scarlet, Day 1

This month's CSFF tour is featuring the book Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead. As it is book two in the King Raven Trilogy, I thought it would be nice if somewhere in the tour there was a review of the first book, Hood.

Oh. I just happened to write one last year.

Today you get this review, and tomorrow I will provide my review of Scarlet. At the end of my post is the list of participants - make sure to check them out as well.

From December '06:


Most of the books I review are through the two blogging groups I belong to. I keep busy enough with those books, but I do venture out to the library for other stories. One I read this fall that I enjoyed very much was Hood, by Stephen Lawhead.

He seems to be a streaky writer. He'll have a very strong story followed by one that loses my interest quickly. I was very interested in his new King Raven trilogy, but would it catch my attention and hold it?

Thankfully, yes.

Hood is a re-imaging of the Robin Hood legend. And not of the Kevin Costner variety. I am sure there are many aficionados on this subject out there who might begin to argue with Lawhead's premise, but I think he will quickly short-circuit any criticism. He sets the story in Wales instead of England, during the time when the French (Ffreinc) control England and are encroaching into Welsh territory. As a point of interest, he gives an appendix that discusses his research and choice of scenery.

Bran ap Brychan is a spoiled lout of a prince when his harsh father is cut down by the troops of a Norman count. As a fugitive he is almost killed, but is saved by a withered old woman whose mysteries both repulse and intrigue the young lord. As he is nursed to health, he catches a vision of what he could become.

Meanwhile, political intrigue is stirring in the land, which may include a young woman named Merian. Will Rhi Bran follow his destiny and free his lands and people from their cruel masters? How will he overcome the invading forces of the Ffreinc?

The book will appeal to fans of historical fiction, action tales, and fantasy alike. Lawhead has a gift for tales of British folklore, and Hood is the perfect subject for him to tackle. He catches your attention quickly with tragedy and discovery. You will come across familiar faces set in new ways - and in this prepare to be enchanted! He does a fun turn with some of the famous Robin Hood supporting cast.

The turning of Bran's character is thoughtful and inspiring. The wickedness he is up against is a good foil - you're ready to root against the enemy. But you don't always know who the enemy is either. The book does slow a little in the middle, but it does not disappoint. The ending leaves you hanging and anxious for book 2 (Scarlet).

Trish Anderson
Brandon Barr
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Amy Browning
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becca Johnson
Kait
Karen
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Mike Lynch
Margaret
Karen McSpadden
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Lyn Perry
Deena Peterson
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachelle Sperling
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Jason Waguespac
Daniel I. Weaver
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Review - Dance in the Desert

I promised a review of the book To Dance in the Desert by Kathleen Popa. It was part of the CFBA Tour at the end of July, and my wife gave me her thoughts on it. I don't typically read this type of book, but I'd had contact with Katy through the forum at Faith in Fiction, and wanted to check it out for myself.

Reviewing this book makes me want to pull out all the pretty adjectives I know! The book is sparkling, airy, and heartfelt all at the same time. The writing was a real treat away from the suspense and mayhem I usually read.

Dara is a young woman who has moved to the desert to get away from the world. She thought that no one would interfere in her life, and she could have security. Like her late father always said, "It's not a safe world."

However, her seclusion is shattered when a mysterious older woman named Jane dances out in the desert and shocks Dara out of her cocoon. The two unlikely friends develop a friendship and move to a small town to help revive Jane's brother's struggling restaurant. All this time Dara is fighting against the call to join in with life rather than running away from it.

Ms. Popa's prose truly is sparkling and inventive. She has a way with words to catch beauty in mundane things, and to make the remarkable even more poingnant. She keeps the pace moving along nicely - none of the literary belly-button contemplation that can be found in some books. Smaller points like scrambled eggs and a furry cat become significant in her hands.

The book struggles a little toward the end. It's almost like the author only had so much room to put things in, and the lyrical pace gets hurried with rapid plot developments and resolution. As this is her first book, that this is the only significant complaint actually speaks a lot about her talent. I'm sure that there will be a lot more beauty coming from the pen (or keyboard) of Kathleen Popa, and for those who like contemporary women's fiction will not want to miss out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

An Amazing Gift Idea for Christmas

Last Tuesday the movie Amazing Grace came out on DVD. I saw this movie in the theatres in March. Below I have posted my review of the movie. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone on your Christmas list (Christian or no, it is not preachy to turn off people). It is a very entertaining movie that touches the heart with the plight of the slaves and the performances given by the actors. To me it hearkens to Schindler's List, a movie that is quality art and also moves.

Also see John C. Wright's intelligent (as always) discussion about the DVD.

From March '07:
This weekend I saw the movie Amazing Grace, dealing with the story of William Wilberforce and his fight to end the slave trade in the British Parliment. Because England was the world power, especially on the seas, it could single-handedly end the slave trade from Africa by virtue of its naval might.


It was not a popular cause, because of the economic impact it would have on the country (sugar prices would go up - how would they enjoy tea!). Wilberforce was called a firebrand and even had it insinuated that he was a trator to the throne, due to the political turbulence of the American and French revolutions that affected England's affairs at the time. His health was not good, and he battled his body as well as powerful lords in Parliment.

The story of William Wilberforce is underappreciated in our modern world. Here was a man who lived to the highest Christian standards as well as fighting against the greatest human injustice of his day. His life truly deserves to be told to be an example for us today.

Thankfully, the movie is a highly entertaining vehicle for this! It starts out a little discombobulated, as we catch Wilberforce mid-life, fighting sickness and despair for not prevailing in the battle already. Soon the flashback/modern settings are clear, and it is exciting to see the development of events that lead to the ultimate victory.

Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower, Reed Richards in Fantastic Four) does a masterful job both in Wilberforce's youthful exuberance and his measured responses as he matures and wises to the nature of the battle he is in. He brings a strength to the character, and he is a very admirable hero. Albert Finney gives an emotional performance as John Newton, the former slave ship captain who turned away from that evil and penned the immortal hymn, Amazing Grace (hence the title). I was near tears at one point when Newton and Wilberforce interact.

So? GO and buy the movie! Then, check out The Amazing Change site. This is a great movie that is worth seeing on its cinematic value alone. However, the people behind it have a greater goal: to inspire people to take action themselves. The Amazing Change is one opportunity to follow through in Wilberforce's legacy.

Enjoy the show. Impact the world.

Congratulations Broncos!

Last week was a hard week (evidenced here as a lack of blogging). However, one of the highlights was by my alma mater, Blackfoot High School. After years of futility, the Broncos have delivered a state championship to this little burg. I've heard two different accountings, that this is our first Idaho championship, or that it is our first one since 1932. Either way, it has been a long time in coming.

I admit I jumped on the bandwagon when the JV season ended and my sophomore nephew Anthony Clarke moved up to varsity. The quarter- and semi-final games were the stuff of Friday night lore. On 11/2 we played Minico, the number 1 team in the state at Holt Arena in Pocatello. We scored with around 40 seconds left on the clock to win that game.

The next week we faced Pocatello, the team that knocked us out in the semi-finals the prior two years. The game was held outside at Blackfoot to nullify the home field advantage Poky would have if held where they usually play (much to their chagrin). It was a great night of community as the town poured out in the mild autumn evening to enjoy a tailgate barbeque and support the team. Again, we were treated to a thriller of a game as Pocatello took the lead back with 1:40 on the clock, and the ensuing kickoff was caught with the returner's foot out of bounds at the 10 yard line. Blackfoot took their one time out on the field and marched down to score with 13 seconds left. I've never seen our community celebrate like that night!

The championship game was almost anti-climatic. The Nampa Bulldogs came to Holt Arena without their main QB, as he had broken his foot in the previous game. They tried hard, but the injury was too much to overcome and the team rolled 46-14. Wow.

Congratulations Broncos. You made a city proud!

Friday, November 16, 2007

CFBA Tour - Try Dying

This week's CFBA Tour features the book Try Dying by James Scott Bell. It is the first book of his that I've read. I've always heard glowing things about his writing. He is also a regular contributor to Writer's Digest magazine, so my impression was that he must know his craft.

And how.

Try Dying is a great tale of suspense. Bell's past experience as a lawyer gives this legal thriller the type of authenticity that immerses the reader in the story. The opening chapter fully captures your attention, and the plot rarely gives you time to put the book down for mildly important things, such as sleep, work, and eating.

The story is told in first person view, from the perspective of Ty Buchanan, an up-and-coming lawyer in Los Angeles. The tragic loss of his fiancee in a freak accident sets his world on its edge. Then a startling revelation from a stranger loitering at the graveside service puts his life in a tailspin that will envelope the high-profile case he's working on, a prominent service organization, and the gang scene in Southern California.

The characterization of Buchanan and the people he encounters are tremendous. The motivations and actions make sense and drive the thrilling tale along. There are surprises along the way that have you second-guessing the plot and where it seems to be going the whole time.

This book has moved Bell into an author that I definitely want to check out more. So far Try Dying has moved into position as one of my favorite books of the year.

See Bell's bio and teaser below for more information. Also, Brandilyn Collins had an interview with him recently on her blog, so be sure to check it out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

James Scott Bell is a former trial lawyer who now writes full time. He is also the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University.

His book on writing, Plot and Structure is one of the most popular writing books available today. The national bestselling author of several novels of suspense, he grew up and still lives in Los Angeles, where he is at work on his next Buchanan thriller.




ABOUT THE BOOK:

On a wet Tuesday morning in December, Ernesto Bonilla, twenty-eight, shot his twenty-three-year-old wife, Alejandra, in the backyard of their West 45th Street home in South Los Angeles. As Alejandra lay bleeding to death, Ernesto drove their Ford Explorer to the westbound Century Freeway connector where it crossed over the Harbor Freeway and pulled to a stop on the shoulder.

Bonilla stepped around the back of the SUV, ignoring the rain and the afternoon drivers on their way to LAX and the west side, placed the barrel of his .38 caliber pistol into his mouth, and fired.

His body fell over the shoulder and plunged one hundred feet, hitting the roof of a Toyota Camry heading northbound on the harbor Freeway. The impact crushed the roof of the Camry. The driver, Jacqueline Dwyer, twenty-seven, an elementary schoolteacher from Reseda, died at the scene.

This would have been simply another dark and strange coincidence, the sort of thing that shows up for a two-minute report on the local news--with live remote from the scene--and maybe gets a follow-up the next day. Eventually the story would go away, fading from the city's collective memory.

But this story did not go away. Not for me. Because Jacqueline Dwyer was the woman I was going to marry.

In Try Dying, this fast-paced thriller, lawyer Ty Buchanan must enter a world of evil to uncover the cause of his fiancee's death--even if he has to kill for the truth.
"Bell is one of the best writers out there...he creates characters readers care about...a story worth telling."
~Library Review~

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NaNo - Not a Mork and Mindy Rerun

Okay, so how dated does the title make me?

Anyway, I'm sure most of my writing buddies out there know about NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days must seem like self-flagellation to some people. I don't think I could ever do it.

However, I did, for some strange reason unknown to me now, sign up for it two years ago. Because of that I am still listed as a NaNo participant for Idaho. So before November 1st, I got an email discussing a write-in being held in Idaho Falls. I considered going, and when I mentioned it to my wife that I was thinking about it, she announced, "Great! I can go shopping while you're doing that."

Not quite the response I was anticipating.

I ended up going to the write-in the first Saturday in November at a little coffeeshop called The Villa. Nice place with good atmosphere. When I first arrived there were a couple of ladies in line for coffee with obvious notebook bags. Holding my trusty writing folder, I found that they were there to NaNo. We ordered and adjourned to a separate room to don our quills and write away.

I was the only guy initially, but soon a couple of other brave masculine souls showed up. We had nice introductions. "Hi, I'm Jason, and I write action/suspense. Who are you, and what do you write?" I was the lone computer-less person, although another gal had problems with her connection and had to switch to old-fashioned paper.

We had a good time connecting with other crazy writer-type people. We decided to meet again the following Saturday. There was a little attrition, which should be expected. Gained another guy (yeah guys!) and got some more writing done. I'm not going to vouch for the quality of writing, but there is official ink on paper documented.

I'm not officially trying to do the whole NaNo 50,000 word thing. It has just been nice for a little accountability to sit down and write with like-minded folks. Also, shutting off the internal editor and just doing it is another benefit. I know there's a lot of crap in what I wrote, but it also is helping me plot and see how the scenes should go.

Anyway, that's my writing life the last few weeks. I'm grateful for the camaraderie and accountability. So if any of you haven't been writing lately, close the web browser now, and open up your file and WRITE!

Friday, November 09, 2007

November 11 - Time to Pray











This Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. For those of us in the protected West, we have no excuse not to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who hold up the mantle of our Lord Jesus and those saints gone before who suffered for the gospel. We do not suffer persecution here. Any perceived persecution pales compared to that of Christians in Myanmar/Burma, China, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, North Korea, and numerous other places around the world.

Here are some resources for you to pray knowledgeably and effectively:

The website of Open Doors and their IDOP materials page. Another news page from Open Doors.

The Persecution Blog of the group Voice of the Martyrs.

Operation World has daily prayer guides for the world.

Please make time this weekend to pray for those suffering in Jesus' name. That's the least we can do if we are truly little Christs.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

CFBA Tour - Deadfall

The latest book from Robert Liparulo is Deadfall. If you like intense suspense, then you should probably check this book out. His last book Germ was one of my favorite books last year. I've started reading Deadfall, but wasn't able to finish it in time for this tour. The beginning is classic Liparulo - fast and furious. I'll review it when I finish (which may be a couple weeks with other things in the way), but check out this back cover copy for it.

Also at the end of this post is a special offer from Bob Liparulo - don't miss it!

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Deep in the isolated Northwest Territories, four friends are on the trip of a lifetime. Dropped by helicopter into the Canadian wilderness, Hutch, Terry, Phil, and David are looking to escape the events of a tumultuous year for two weeks of hunting, fishing, and camping.

Armed with only a bow and arrow and the basics for survival, they've chosen a place far from civilization, a retreat from their turbulent lives. But they quickly discover that another group has targeted the remote region and the secluded hamlet of Fiddler Falls for a more menacing purpose: to field test the ultimate weapon.

With more than a week before the helicopter rendezvous and no satellite phone, Hutch, a skilled bow-hunter and outdoor-survivalist must help his friend elude their seemingly inescapable foes, as well as decide whether to run for their lives...or risk everything to help the townspeople who are being held hostage and terrorized.

An intense novel of character forged in the midst of struggle, survival, and sacrifice. Deadfall is highly-acclaimed author Robert Liparulo's latest rivetingly smart thriller.

Get Downloads and EXCERPTS at www.LIPARULO.com


A NOTE from Bob: I’d like to give away five signed copies of Deadfall to readers of CFBA blogs during my tour. All they have to do is sign up for my e-mailing list (they won’t be inundated!) by going to my website (www.robertliparulo.com) and going to the “Mailing List” page. Or email me with “CFBA giveaway” in the subject line.

And a second NOTE from Bob: I wanted to let you know that I’m holding a contest on my site:

**one winner a week till the end of the year for a signed Deadfall
**one winner a week till the end of the year for an unabridged audio MP3-CD of Deadfall
***and on Dec. 31, I’m giving away an iPod Nano, pre-loaded with an unabridged audio recording of Deadfall

Winners are selected from my e-mailing list—sign up at my site. If a winner has already purchased what he/she wins, I will reimburse them for the purchase price (or give them another—whichever they choose), so they don’t need to wait to see if they win before buying Deadfall.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Link to Interview with Dean Koontz

Last week Novel Journey put up a great interview with suspense master Dean Koontz. I really don't know very much about him, to my chagrin, but it was a very good interview. If you didn't catch it, go here and read it. It has especially good comments regarding using metaphors and similies, something my writing can definitely use work on.

I'm going to take a little pause from reviewing books over December so I can catch up on some other books, including reading some Koontz!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Thoughts from the Blogosphere (non-mucous edition)

I tried to shoe-horn these quotes into my discussion on violence, but they didn't really fit. Still, they are thought provoking, which may be dangerous around these parts (watch yourself Mark).


From Mike Duran's interview of Coach Culbetson of Coach's Midnight Diner and Relief:

It seems to me that dedication to things of God is a dedication to reality, regardless of what that reality is. So, our publishing efforts reflect that value. My wife Kimberly and I have walked some tough roads, and we’ve found out that life isn’t always what we thought it was, or should be. So our goal is to allow authors to write with an abandon to reality, either directly in creative nonfiction or symbolically in fiction and poetry. When the authors of the Bible wrote their stuff, they weren’t abashed to talk about anything. Sex, violence, unresolved conflict and issues, tough calls, they’re all in there. We like to skip a lot of that because it’s not pretty, isn’t safe for our 6-year-old, or doesn’t jive with the picket fence world that we’d all prefer. But if it’s good enough for God to let into His book, we figure it’s good enough to let into ours.


This is from an article on Breakpoint discussing Russell Kirk, a Catholic thinker who writes ghostly tales:

“Alarming though (I hope) readers may find these tales,” Kirk writes, “I did not write them to impose meaningless terror upon the innocent . . . what I have attempted, rather, are experiments in the moral imagination. . . . All important literature has some ethical end; and the tale of the preternatural—as written by George Macdonald, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and other masters—can be an instrument for the recovery of moral order.”



Monday, November 05, 2007

Violence in Christian Fiction - Day 6

What to say in the end? I've raised different facets that play into the discussion of how much violence in Christian fiction and is there a line to cross? Honestly there have been several good comments that hit on where I was planning on going with this.

1. I still believe in the idea of the Christian artist having the freedom to write what they feel like they need to in order to make the story what it is supposed to be. That doesn't mean freedom from critical reviewing, because any time someone puts out a creative effort it is open to critique.

2. It depends on the genre and audience the author is writing for. I wouldn't expect graphic violence in a prairie romance, (unless written by Chris Mikesell ;-) ), and it would probably turn off the intended readers. If I pick up a Robert Liparulo novel, I am definitely anticipating it, and that is my choice as a reader and consumer if I make that choice.

Some genres like war or suspense pretty much require some violence, mortal danger, etc. It wouldn't be true to the story if it wasn't included. If it makes sense with the overall story, then it probably is needed. Yet a necessary scene of violence can become gratuitous if overblown. That may well be a point of taste that is impossible to quantitatively determine, but falls under the old adage, "I'll know it when I see it."

3. I am reminded of the quote from Jurassic Park regarding cloning: "Just because we can doesn't mean we should." I will state continuously that Christian artists should creative in freedom and integrity. Just because we can have greater freedom in publishing to write violent scenes doesn't necessarily mean it should be done. I like what Merrie said in a comment, about the toolbox of a writer and using different techniques at the right time. Using all sorts of dramatic settings or plot twists can enhance the story. She mentioned Hitchcock showing just enough to scare without being voyeuristic about things. Sometimes the subtlety is a better way of portraying a scene than hitting the reader with a gross-out hammer.

Sure, tastes have changed since his day, and audiences are supposedly more "sophisticated". Maybe our culture is just dulled from being able to appreciate subtlety and the build-up of suspense over showing the violence.

4. Just tonight I was watching a show on the life and martyrdom of William Tyndale. Here was a godly man who lived in constant fear and danger of being discovered, yet still managing to translate the Bible into English and write books that would change history. Finally he was betrayed by a friend, imprisoned for 500 days, and when brought for execution had the privilege to be garroted so that he was dead when he was burned at the stake. I'm reminded again how our faith is not the sanitized, dressed up in "Sunday go meeting" clothes faith we live in America. Our predecessors suffered terribly for our rights and abilities to serve Jesus, and there are millions today who also are persecuted to the point of death for His name. To ignore this dramatic history and its legacy, to whitewash the blood of the martyrs, it would be a horrible injustice to the strength of our witness.

5. Overall this was a question without any definitive answer. People in the comments hit that right away. I don't have answers that will satisfy. We won't have labels or ratings on books. Reviews may or may not expose issues for sensitive readers. I'll defend an Christian artist's freedom to do something even if I think it may have crossed a line, and I may bring it up as a reviewer. Some books won't be for everyone.

Ultimately as Christians it comes down to us being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His guidance. If we write something that is integral to a great story, yet we realize that it will grieve the Spirit, do we serve the muse or the Lord? (Reminds me of the ending to Stranger Than Fiction) As I try to write, I want to increase my skill and what I can portray with words, but it has to come down to how it works out in my relationship with God. If being true to that means writing books that leave the squeamish behind, so be it. If it means sacrificing a little artistry to being a disciple, then make it so.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Violence in Christian Fiction - Day 5

Philippians 4:7-9
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I've been heading each of these posts with examples from the Bible of violence. In winding down, I thought that this completely different passage was appropriate, but it needs explanation.

I've seen this beautiful Scripture used as a bludgeon on anything that didn't meet one person's view of "whatever is lovely, pure," or etc. I don't think it is meant to be used like that, and it is definitely not my intention in this argument to do that either. I even debated whether to use this verse because of past misuse of it, but I felt that it still had an important consideration.

I've honestly meditated about this, and I've decided you can't use "lovely" or "pure" to the exception of "admirable," "noble," and "right." Some may argue that an author shouldn't use any violence or portray a dangerous situation without blood and gore. I don't agree. The contrast from showing true nobility overcoming true evil is a powerful image in fiction.

This leads to context. Sometimes, even most times will call for an example of the trial the protagonist. A hero escaping mortal danger is inherently more dramatic than our hero escaping from a group of grey-haired grandmas at a potluck accosting him for having a tattoo. It is a potent tool to let us see, hear, feel, smell, or taste the danger.

So the use of violence can clearly fall under the guidance of Phil 4:8. I thought today would be the end, but this topic fleshed out more than I intended, so I'll finish up (likely...) tomorrow.