Wednesday, December 31, 2008

CSFF Tour - The Lost Genre Guild

Time for one last Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Blog Tour for 2008. (Wow, I'm only caught up to like, May of '08. Do we have to rush into '09 so soon?)

Anyway...

The Lost Genre Guild is a site devoted to promoting speculative fiction that follows a Christian worldview. They have the simplest formula I've seen for describing what speculative fiction is:

Entertainment + scriptural framework

It was started by some of the members of the CSFF tour to raise awareness and respect for Christian spec fic according to their "About" page. These folks haven't just endeavored to write about other works, they are also actively producing their own to try and self-fulfill their mission. The site and group is open for new members to join as well.

Their most ambitious product to date is the self-produced anthology "Light at the Edge of Darkness". Check out more about it at the link.

My only critique is that they don't have reviews or apparant support (that I can find on their site) for spec fic produced by mainstream CBA publishers (such as the Dominion trilogy by Robin Parrish through Bethany House Publishers). I admit that I didn't get to do an exhaustive search of Lost Genre Guild, so maybe I missed something.

It is impressive to find people to see a need and do something about it. I am interested to discover more about their group and works. If you're a fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror and are looking for alternatives, then check out the Lost Genre Guild.

Also see my fellow tourmates below, and we'll see you on the other side (in 2009, if everyone is in such a rush to get there...)

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Valerie Comer
Courtney
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Kait
Carol Keen
Lost Genre Guild
Mike Lynch
Magma
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Mirtika
Hanna Sandvig
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Celebrate the Day

And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could convey
If only I could find the words to say
to let You know how much You've touched my life
Because here is where You're finding me,
in the exact same place as New Year's eve
And from a lack of my persistency
We're less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize
that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

And so this Christmas I'll compare
the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Relient k
I Celebrate the Day

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Short and Long of It

I have a friend who is going through a crisis right now with her baby. My heart breaks for her as she asks for prayer and shares her family's struggle in keeping strong. She has great faith and has been an admirable testimony through it all, and I know that all the prayers people are offering for her, and especially her own cries to the Lord, are offering a deep source of strength for her that she can't fully realize at this time.

It got me thinking about our response to crisis times, and the long term effects of such times. I've had two events in the last 5 years that have been major upheavals in my life. Four years ago my mother succumbed to COPD (basically emphysema). Then two years ago I was laid off from a job when my contract wasn't renewed, under some interesting circumstances (you can read all about it on this blog even...whee).

I know I relied heavily on the Lord for strength during those times. In one sense my mom's death was easier, because she had taught us that death was a natural part of life and she didn't fear it. We knew she didn't want to suffer anymore, and in that way it was a blessing. Still, my father died when I was 5, so she was essentially both parents to me through my life, and it was still hard. God brought a lot of peace into the situation.

When I lost my job, that was a little incredible because there wasn't a really good reason for it. There were lots of circumstances in the background that made it a difficult road, and I didn't get a job right away. It took four months to start my current job from when I finished at the old clinic, and I spent three months at the job I was losing the way my contract was written (90 days notice). It was a real battle to go to work each day to a place I knew didn't want me, but again, God moved in my life during that time, and He proved Himself extremely faithful.

So where is this babbling going?

In the short term, I really turned to Jesus and received strength, grace, whatever you want to call it. I spent time with Him, and I felt like the tree in Psalm 1, with roots planted by streams of water. Especially in the job situation, where I had reason to be very bitter and angry, I can say I had a supernatural enabling to walk in pretty good attitudes (hey - I wasn't perfect).

Today as I was thinking about my friend's trial, I thought about the long-term position I was in regarding my big crises. I was dealing with anger at my mom that she missed out on our new little girl, because she chose to smoke. I still deal with anger and bitterness over my former employers. A couple of people were gossiping about one of the doctors, and part of me didn't want to hear at all, but part of me delighted in hearing about his problems since I left.

What happened to the good responses?

I can testify that it wasn't God's fault how my spirit, my response has darkened. It was fully my lack of endurance in seeking His will in all of these areas. As time passed and the busyness of life took over, I no longer spent time with Jesus regarding these events and attitudes. I focused on what was immediately in front of me, without fully submitting all of my life-past, present, and future-to Him.

I think my point in all this is that the Christian walk is a long-term marathon. I thought that the problems were over just because things had moved on. I stopped actively asking for His Word and light to help in those areas. Therefore a root of bitterness, starting small, was able to take hold. These events are affecting me years down the road. Now, the death of a parent is supposed to do that. The loss of a job is also one of the major life stressors someone can endure. Yet, with the grace that was given me during those times, it seems out of line that I reacted this way.

I don't want to take God's grace for granted anymore. I don't want to let things from my past rule my present. I feel like I enjoyed His grace for a season and left it behind when things turned and started going "my way" again. How terrible to disregard such a gift.

Ugh. I didn't mean to get so maudlin. But it is an important point I want to make: we keep going to the well of the Lord, whether good times or bad. We don't stop when times get good. We turn to Him in the short term and when things go well, we leave Him in the long term.

Thankfully these are heart attitudes that aren't huge. I haven't lost my faith or anything near it. But He deserves better from me, and I'm not happy with where my heart is in these areas.

Here's to the short and the long of it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Alternative Christmas Gifts

Yesterday I mentioned my friend's baby boutique, Lovely Lullabies Boutique, as an online option for Christmas shopping. If you don't have anyone that is in baby mode that you need to shop for, and you're frustrated about what to get them, I have a couple of suggestions.

Many of us in the West don't really NEED anything. We have wish lists of the latest toys and gadgets, styles, or whatever. I am definitely talking about myself in this as well. What if we could give something that was meaningful and made a difference in people's lives?

I have a couple of examples of things that can be done.

There is a new trend with charities that gives a concrete example of what is given, and it is a great opportunity for kids to see what they are doing with their gift. If you've got a family member that has everything, then you can also give something in their name via the charity.

World Vision is one of the best charities when it comes to financial accountability. They have a "gift catalog", where you can give $25 dollars to by chicks for a village, or $250 worth of food for $50. The catalog explains how a $75 goat can be such a windfall for a family providing protein-rich milk, cheese and yogurt as well as the possibility of offspring. For just $30, 5 ducks can be provided, with eggs and extra ducklings to sell for money. It is an awesome opportunity to help those who really need the help, and again it is a concrete way of seeing the money spent, rather just sending a check into the void.

International Justice Mission is another of my favorite charities. They work on behalf of oppressed peoples in slavery and trafficking around the world, whether for sweat shops, forced prostitution, or other instances of injustice. They also have a freedom catalog. Gifts of $25 - $50 can buy a half or whole day of investigative work, which is needed to find the people in need and line up the proper government authorities to enforce the right laws, or aftercare for abused girls. The gifts here are a little more abstract, but still the money is going to a specific activity, which can be much more meaningful.

I hope people can consider these options in their gift-giving plans. I'm sure there are other charities out there that do similar things, these are just two of the charities I have chosen to support because I believe in their mission and trust their accountability. Since we're celebrating the birth of Jesus, let's remember His words about "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me." (paraphrase of Matt 25:40)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Gifts - A Suggestion

I want to put a plug in for a friend of mine. She has started a wonderful baby boutique in St. Louis, Lovely Lullabies Boutique. It features high quality baby furniture, decor, toys, gifts for Mom, special occasion items (like for baptism/christening) and other items you don't see in the typical department store. It is a quality start-up, and it has online shopping available. There are items for the expectant mother before delivery as well.

I don't usually advertise for businesses, but I wanted to see if I could drive a little traffic to her site, as the timing wasn't ideal for a new business considering the economic slowdown. You won't be disappointed. If you want a choice other than Wal-Mart or Carters, then I strongly encourage you to check out Lovely Lullabies Boutique, whether online or in person.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Memories

I want to have traditions for our family, especially around Christmas. However, I didn't intend for our yearly Christmas tree hunt to be traditionally filled with bloopers. Last year we had a memorable experience. I thought this year would be quiet. Yeah...

We decided to go to a local guy who has a small Christmas tree farm to have a fresh tree. My sister-in-law decided to tag along with us and pick up one as well. We made quite an entrance with 7 kids between us all.

She quickly found a tree and her teenager cut it down. I started to pull on my leather work gloves, which I had grabbed from my back porch before leaving. I got the right glove mostly on when I felt a prick in the space between my index and middle finger. Huh. Must have a needle in it or something. Except the sharp pain started getting worse.

I yanked the glove off. A wiggling wasp fell out.

So THAT was the culprit. Darn thing trying to get warm. I hope it froze out there.

Well, if that was our excitement for the day, it wasn't bad (as I write 2 days later with my finger still swollen). I made sure to shake my gloves out, then found our own tree and did my best Paul Bunyan.

The problem was how to get home. I had planned on putting the tree on my van's roof. My sister-in-law had brought her Expedition with a travel case on top. She didn't really want needles in her vehicle. As her teenaged son wondered why they hadn't brought his truck, I confidently said we could put both on top of my Caravan. After fighting bungee cords and pine needles, we were ready.

For trouble.

It is about a 5 mile trip on the highway back into town. I drove slowly, since my boys expressed concern that the trees might fall off. As Dads do, I reassured them that it wouldn't happen...

Hey, was that a couple of Christmas trees that landed in the middle of the road?

Yep, our trees did a nice bounce off the pavement. We both pulled over, and thankfully there wasn't much traffic as my niece and nephew jumped in the road right away. Also, I was impressed as our trees weren't reduced to kindling. They relented and shoved their slippery spruce in the back of the Expedition, as I firmly lashed ours back to the van. We all managed to arrive at home without further excitement.

So far.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

CFBA Tour - Dark Pursuit


I've taken a little time off from reviewing books in order to avoid commitments I can't meet. However, I couldn't pass up this week's book from the CFBA: Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins. This is her first book (a stand alone) since her lauded Kanner Lake series.

Darell Brooke is the King of Suspense, having written 99 books. Since his car accident two years ago, he is a shell of his former imposing self. He needs a cane to get around and he can't concentrate enough to hold a plot. He badly wants to reclaim his glory and write book #100, but he can't push through the mental fog.


When his estranged granddaughter Kaitlan returns to his door, with a tale of a murderous boyfriend after her, he wants to help her. He's a police officer and has hid the evidence, so she can't go to the local police. Can the King of Suspense help save his only family and reclaim his fame with the plot inspiration drawn from the trap?

I admit it was a little different reading this book. I was invested in the lives of the people in her Kanner Lake books, so it was a shift to get into the characters of Dark Pursuit. Brandilyn continues her expert pacing and building of suspense. The book never fails to be a page turner.

The new characters grew on me after a while. Darell Brooke is a prickly old man, bitter about his new circumstances, and it is hard to empathize with him initially. Kaitlan is a sympathetic character, and she's easier to root for, especially when she is in danger.

I also struggled with the apparant direction of the book for a while, because it seemed un-Brandilyn. The reader knew everything up front, and it seemed like I was just following along. I should've known better. I don't want to give away anything more than there's more than meets the eye, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the end. The twists and turns are very satisfying.
I had a little problem with the obsession of the killer, but this comes into focus better at the end. Still, it seemed a little too outrageous to me. There was also some repetition of phrases describing the suspense that caught my eye after a while, distracting me.

Up until the last part of the book, it wasn't my favorite Brandilyn Collins book. It was a worthy enough suspense, but I wasn't savoring it. After finishing it this morning, it really turned it into a very enjoyable, satisfying read. She sucks us in, then pulls a fast one. I shouldn't be surprised. Her fans will find this new book continuing her tradition of Seatbelt Suspense, while new readers should find this a solidly entertaining suspense.

Also, for more behind the story, check out this interview with Brandilyn in the Christian Fiction Online Magazine. You can also read the first chapter of Dark Pursuit, HERE.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Movie Review - Twilight

It's the movie everyone is talking about: Twilight.

So what is it about this movie that has half of the 12-30 year age group of females wildly excited?

Maybe a guy in his 30's isn't the best judge.

Anyway, unless you've been under a rock (considering the economy, it may be more secure than your mortgage), Twilight is based off the first book in the best-selling series by Stephenie Meyer. First, the quick summary to make sure we’re all on the same page. Seventeen year old Bella moves to Forks, WA, to live with her dad in the wettest, cloudiest place in the US. While adjusting to a new school, she meets Edward Cullen, a very handsome boy who at turns shuns her and acts interested in her. Her dogged pursuit reveals his secret: that he is a vampire, part of a “family” of vampires that only drinks the blood of animals so they don’t have to be killers. Edward is drawn to Bella both in love and to the scent of her blood, fighting his natural urges. As Bella and Edward explore their relationship and she is immersed in this strange new world, other forces enter their lives that threaten all they are trying to build.

How’s the movie? It isn’t as good as the book (when is a movie ever?). It stays pretty true to the book, so fans of the series should be pleased overall. The director tries to visually create a mood with filtered shots and lots of dreamy/vexed/glaring looks by the love-struck couple. The movie slows down at times due to this, but doesn’t bog down. There are hints of suspense interspersed enough to move things along.

The actors who play Bella and Edward have some chemistry, but it wasn’t enough to convince me of their resolve to press forward into such an unorthodox relationship. Kristin Stewart (Bella) portrays teenage awkwardness well and anchors the movie, although she is asked to pose gaping way too often. Robert Pattinson (Edward) is charismatic enough, but he isn’t always an imposing, remarkable figure. I don’t know whether to blame the screenwriters or the actors. Other characters like Alice are under-utilized, but I’m sure it’s hard to compress a long novel into two hours.

There’s been some controversy about the novel and movie, both in regular reviews and specifically Christian reviews. One general complaint is that Edward has stalker tendencies, since he watches Bella as she sleeps and always seems to be around. This is shown in the movie somewhat, but it doesn’t come across as creepy. My 12 year old niece picked right up on it and recognized that’s not a good trait for a boyfriend. The couple only kisses passionately a couple of times, but there is a lot of restraint, even though once they talk late into the night and she ends up sleeping and cuddling up to him (no nudity or intercourse).

Spiritually, there are obvious concerns about the whole concept of a vampire and drinking blood to sustain life. I’ve read blogs that point out the perversion this idea makes of Christ’s sacrifice for us and the sacrament of wine specifically. Personally, if I can accept the idea of an impersonal Force in Star Wars and random mutation and evolution in the X-men series as acceptable platforms for story-telling, then I don’t have a problem with vampires. I understand the above criticism, but it doesn’t strike me as blasphemous.

With the specific story, there are positives. Edward’s family is “vegetarian”, meaning they have learned to survive on animals. They hold to their promises to the local Native American tribe, and they back each other up. They work hard to protect Bella when danger arises, and Bella is willing to sacrifice herself to save a loved one.

Overall the movie was enjoyable, and it was fun to see it in the theatre (although it exposed some weak special effects). I’ve seen other reviews that state the movie will appeal to fans of the book and not bring in the uninitiated. Since I’d read the books, I can’t judge very well. They may not have created enough magic as the book’s author, Stephenie Meyer, did. My niece hadn’t read them and enjoyed it, even not being one for romance (tomboy has her picture next to it in the dictionary). There’s probably not enough explosions to draw a hard-core male audience, but it is a good introduction into a new world (ready for the already announced sequel). Using discernment is always needed, as writers and directors always have some form of agenda, but it is not a scandalous movie that need be feared and shunned. If you have a pre-teen or teen who is prone to becoming too emotionally involved with something, then Twilight is a bad choice. If they have some judgment, then it can create some interesting discussion.

Stars? If I had 'em, probably a 3 1/2 out of 5.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Must Read

I haven't had much to say recently, but I am reading a book that is so impressive I have to give it a shout out right now. I've mentioned Dick Staub and his book The Culturally Savvy Christian before. I didn't report the subtitle: "A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite." So far it truly is a manifesto, and I am highly impressed with it.

I heartily encourage anyone interested in the Christian walk to get it. It is a book about modern culture as well, but Staub is doing a great job in sharing what is needed - transformation from God individually, so we can go positively affect culture. Put it on your Christmas list, go to Amazon, or call your library, it is worth it.

I hope to discuss it more when I am finished.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bad Day at the Office

You know the game (and season) isn't going your way when this happens. I wonder what the injury report will read...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CSFF Tour - Shade

Hey there. I'm still here, just doing a little more juggling. It's time for the monthly CSFF tour, which is featuring John Olson's latest book, Shade.

This book is set in San Francisco and involves a graduate student possibly getting involved with a mythical underground world, or possibly dealing with paranoid schizophrenia. The question becomes whether the weird things happening to her reality or her own warped imagination.

I was intrigued by the book, but I (wisely) didn't sign up for it, figuring I wouldn't have much time with our new baby to commit. Still, I want to promote this book, as the buzz I'm hearing about it is significant and interesting.

Becky Miller, our tour ringleader, referred in her first tour posting to a post of mine regarding vampires in Christian fiction in which Shade was mentioned. It was actually mentioned by someone else in the comment section, but that's where I first got wind of it.

I've tried to read most of my tourmates posts regarding Shade, and I wanted to highlight a few that were the most interesting.

John W. Otte has three posts, giving a good review, explaining how he came by the book, and how ambiguity can be a good thing.

Nissa discusses the use of "real" vampires in Christian fiction in a few posts (make sure to scroll down for more).

Pam Morrisson gives her review and a good overview of the book.

Chawna Schroeder gives a review, an intro to John Olson, and an excerpt from the prologue.

There's also an interview with John over at Title Trakk that discusses an older book of his as well as Shade, and an interesting story from Randy Ingermanson (scroll most the way down to read it; hat tip to Val Comer) that aren't officially part of the CSFF tour.

I'm interested in getting this book after all this. Check out other tourmates below for more on Shade. Especially Steve Trower for vampire-inspired music!



John Olson’s Web site – http://www.litany.com/

*Participants’ Links:
Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Kait
Magma
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Steve Rice
Mirtika or Mir's Here
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Friday, November 14, 2008

Facebook Follies

I had a few friends working on getting me onto Facebook this year. I finally took the plunge last month. I have a MySpace page, but it is so juvenile and unwieldy that I never go there. I didn't have high hopes for Facebook. It was a little scary when it ransacked my email when I signed up. Creepy!

However, it has been moderately addicting. I liked seeing who would turn up on finding friends. It has put me in touch with people I went to Thailand with in 1991, as well as high school classmates and other people around the globe. It is fun to see what people are up to, and having an immediate way to comment on their posts.

The down side is that it is basically a HUGE TIME SUCK! Holy cow. It is not the best thing for someone with IADD (internet attention deficit disorder). I can see how the connectivity is a great benefit, and I'm hoping to use it for some research purposes, but I really need to get this beast under control.

As soon as I go check my Facebook wall to see if I have any new friends!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Baby Daze

I've been able to take several days off for the new baby. It has been great to be able to just spend time with the family, hold my little girl, and enjoy our time. She is such a little doll, and I could stare at her for hours. It's amazing though, how much time slips away when you're not on a deadline or anything.

We're sleeping pretty good overall, although last night was hard. Still, it is easy to sleep in with baby and get going slowly in the day. Since my wife homeschools the boys, we're not on a school deadline either. Spanish and math has a variable start time!

I thought I'd be able to blog a little more and get other things like some actual *gasp* writing done. Not yet, but I will be working on this the next few days. I don't intend on turning this into a purely family or baby oriented blog. However, a writer will write about what is on their mind.

So I'll see y'all around. I'm still here. Just enjoying our blessings, like the picture below:













Isn't she a doll?
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Our New Baby Girl!

Words fail me.

I am so stunned by the grace of God and the goodness He shows to us. How can such a tiny little thing, I've known for only a day, totally steal my heart so?

Beccy and I are proud to announce the birth of our daughter, Micaiah Mae, on 10/29/2008 at 12:30 pm. We're still working on how to spell "Micaiah", but we know we'll call her Micah.

She weighed 8 lbs. 7 oz. and was 20.5 inches long. As you can see, she has a head full of dark hair. The nurses yesterday in the nursery would look at me, look at her, and ask if I was sure if I really was her daddy. She is doing wonderfully. Everyone is in love with her already.

Beccy is doing well, just recovering from the C-section. Things have gone really well, actually the best we've ever had for a C-section, so thank you for your prayers!

Our boys are enamored with their new baby sister, and can't wait to get back to see her.
















"What a rude awakening!"
















Micah, her big brothers, and Nana.
















What a doll!
















Goodnight, I'm worn out.


Wow. What a little miracle. Bless all of you out there, and thanks again for your thoughts and prayers. What an answer!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"All I Want for Christmas..."

Our son Matthew was working on two loose teeth, the "front teeth" from the son, and was getting really excited as they started wiggling. Friday morning his patience was rewarded when the first one popped out in the morning.

But that wasn't enough for him. The second one was pretty loose, so he kept working on it through the day. He was standing on the vanity for an hour, looking in the mirror working in back and forth during the afternoon.

He wanted to go with me to the store, so we went grocery shopping around 4-5 pm. In the second store he showed me how loose the second one was. I told him he'd better wait until we got home so he didn't lose it. (An employee asked me if I needed help and I inquired about tooth containers. He seemed stumped by that one, so we moved along.)

Matt also made the executive decision that we should order pizza, so we called it in and picked it up. When we got home the rest of the family was watching some Disney Channel, so I whipped out a blanket so they could picnic and watch at the same time.

After a few bites, Matt glanced my way while happily munching on his requested pizza. I noted a change in his prior status:

"Matt, where's your tooth?"

He stopped chewing, holding mushy pizza in his mouth while panicking as possibilities ran through his quick little mind. He said he didn't feel anything crunchy. I got him a plate so he could examine his mastication content. Alas, no missing dentition could be found.

He swallowed a tooth.

He didn't find this as amusing as his parents did, and he wept crocodile tears as we comforted him. We reassured him that the tooth fairy knows when little kids lose a tooth, regardless if it is under the pillow or not. This must not have soothed him, since he asked for big rubber gloves to do some, ahem, "checking" for the tooth the next day.

Thankfully, the tooth fairy didn't let him down. He got a special little Lego set he wanted. And he didn't have to call Joe the Plumber to help him with his lost tooth.


Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 27, 2008

Politics and Economics, "Spoiled" Style

The (un)official statement from Spoiled for the Ordinary on the current political and economic circumstances, best expressed by Switchfoot's "American Dream" from Oh! Gravity!

When success is equated with excess
The ambition for excess wrecks us
As top of the mind becomes the bottom line
When success is equated with excess

If you're time ain't be nothing for money
I start to feel really bad for you honey
Maybe honey put you're money where your mouth's been running
If you're time ain't be nothing but money

I want out of this machine
It doesn't feel like freedom

(chorus)
This ain't my American dream
I want to live and die for bigger things
I'm tired of fighting for just me
This ain't my American dream

When success is equated with excess
When we're fighting for the beamer, the lexus
As the heart and soul breathing the company goals
Where success is equated with excess

I want out of this machine
It doesn't feel like freedom

(chorus)

Cause baby's always talkin 'bout a ring
And talk has always been the cheapest thing
Is it true would you do what I want you to
If I show up with the right amount of bling?

Like a puppet on a monetary string
Maybe we've been caught singing
Red, white, blue, and green
But that ain't my America,
That ain't my American dream

(chorus)

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Take on the Mortgage and Housing Problems

My thoughts on the mortgage/housing problem - best expressed by Rich Mullins' song "You Did Not Have a Home," from The Jesus Record.

Oh, You did not have a home
There were places You visited frequently
You took off Your shoes and scratched Your feet
'Cause you knew that the whole world belongs to the meek
But You did not have a home
No, You did not have a home

And You did not take a wife
There were pretty maids all in a row
Who lined up to touch the hem of Your robe
But You had no place to take them, so You did not take a wife
No, You did not take a wife

Birds have nests, foxes have dens
But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man
You had the shoulders of a homeless man
No, You did not have a home

Well you had no stones to throw
You came without an ax to grind
You did not tow the party line
No wonder sight came to the blind
You had no stones to throw
You had no stones to throw

And You rode and ass' foal
They spread their coats and cut down palms
For You and Your donkey to walk upon
But the world won't find what it thinks it wants
On the back of an ass' foal
So I guess You had to get sold
'Cause the world can't stand what it can't own
And it can't own You
'Cause You did not have a home

Birds have nests, foxes have dens
But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man
You had the shoulders of a homeless man
No, You did not have a

Birds have nests, foxes have dens
But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man
You had the shoulders of a homeless man

And the world can't stand what it can't own
And it can't own You
'Cause You did not have a home

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Prayer Request

Hey there friends! I don't make personal appeals here, but I would appreciate prayer for the next couple of weeks. As I've posted, my wife is pregnant and her C-section date is set for 10/29. We are very excited to be adding a little girl to our family! Of course we want Baby to be healthy, and the C-section always makes things more complicated.

Beccy needs strength to finish out well. She's been fighting an inner ear infection and vertigo the last couple of weeks. She's ready to have this baby!

Thanks to all of you. I am planning to have pictures up by 10/30, so please check back then! Bless you guys!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Review - Less Than Dead


A clever, suspenseful tale that will keep even the best bloodhound following his tail a few times.

This week's feature book for the CFBA Tour is Less Than Dead by Tim Downs.

Tim Downs is know for his "Bug Man" novels, featuring Nick Polchak as a forensic entomologist (that's a guy who studies the insects that are found with dead bodies, very CSI-ish). When a field owned by a U.S. Senator who is a candidate for president is excavated and a couple of old bodies are found, the FBI has an explosive situation on their hands. Agent Nathan Donovan, famous since he stopped the "Plague Maker" in New York City, is sent to oversee the investigation. He calls Nick to the small Virginia town of Endor to help him identify how long the bodies have been there.

After a mysterious discovery, Nick calls for a cadaver dog to be brought in to search for other possible graves. When the purebred FBI dog fails, he follows up on the rumor of the "Witch of Endor", a woman who lives alone and supposedly talks to animals, to see if her mongrel can aid in the investigation.

Unfortunately, there are people who want buried secrets to stay buried, and soon Nick is trying to figure out these secrets before he becomes one himself.

I mentioned Less Than Dead a couple of weeks ago in my post about the benefit of blog tours. I had read Tim Down's Plague Maker a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, but had not gotten around to reading any more of his work. When I saw Less Than Dead on the blog tour list for October, I knew it would be the only book I'd request this month.

I'm so glad I did.

I've read a lot of books this year, and I keep finding books that I think, "Wow, this is the best book so far this year." Well, Less Than Dead has left them all behind. I really enjoyed Plague Maker but Less is from top to bottom a tightly woven suspense, keeping my head twisting around until I about got whiplash. There were a few times that he had me totally thrown by what he was doing - in a good way! The surprises were great and kept me on my toes and invested in the stellar plot. I thought that having a politically-themed book was a little disingenuous during an election year, but this book is not thinly written like other election-related books I've read.

Nick Polchak is a great character, fully comfortable in his own awkward skin. The bonus is that every other character stands on their own as well, with none of them acting as "filling". It was great to have Nathan Donovan from Plague Maker make an appearance here, as Nick did in that book. Very good touch, and it even gives a little epilogue to Plague that I appreciated greatly.

The other thing that stands out is the humor of the book. Many books have a sarcastic hero, but Nick carries it off very well with his idiosyncrasies. I was laughing out loud at many spots in the book, and it added to the richness of the book every time.

I'll have a "best of" list at the end of the year, and so far, against very stiff competition, Less Than Dead is the leader of the pack. Don't miss this book if you enjoy suspense, clever writing, or forensics-type shows/books. Actually, just don't miss it!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Less Than Dead, go HERE.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book Review - Beyond the Reflection's Edge

Jason Blue and Jason Red enjoyed the book; Jason Yellow isn't old enough to read yet.

---

This month's featured book for the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy blog tour is Beyond the Reflection’s Edge by Bryan Davis.

Beyond is a contemporary sci-fi, fantastic story geared toward the young adult/teen crowd. That appealed to me just fine, as my wife claims I'm a big kid. Nathan Shepherd is a 16 year old child prodigy on the violin, who travels the world with his investigator dad and virtuoso mom, homeschooled by a plucky tutor named Clara. The story pulls no punches with the opening, and by the end of the first chapter Nathan's parents have been murdered and he is running for his life.

Nathan is taken to a safe haven in the Midwest with a friend of his parents', Tony Clark. He meets Tony's teenage daughter Kelly, who is a lot different than Nathan's Christian background. Together they start searching for clues to his parents' deaths, with a mirror that shows thoughts, a camera that takes pictures of things that aren't there, and a violin that speaks to Kelly. Soon they are drawn into a vast conspiracy involving the company Interfinity, which may be trying to use different dimensions to conquer all of them.

The book has an intriguing premise and a suspenseful plot. Davis uses a love of classical music to move key plot points along, which I really enjoyed exposing readers to the beauty involved there. Nathan and Kelly are rounded, interesting characters, and their evolving interaction helps the book along as well. Other characters seem to have less holistic appeal, appearing when needed to achieve a certain function for the plot. There are aspects of most characters that strain credulity: Nathan whips out martial arts, a friend of Kelly is a computer genius, just for a couple of examples. The Shepherds are a super-couple, and the mystery of their deaths is at the heart of the story, but the dad's role is especially confusing for a while.

The story does involve different dimensions, (labeled Red, Blue, and Yellow-thus the intro to this post), and it provides for good suspense, keeping the reader guessing what is reality and what is not. It can get confusing at times though, keeping Nathan Red and company separate from his other-colored versions. It also offers up an opportunity for some moral choices, and I felt there was a major point that was too glossed over, without exploring the consequences of the choices.

Overall, Davis has offered up an enjoyable conspiracy-tinged speculative fiction suspense. It has some flaws, but I am glad I bought it for this tour, and I plan on continuing with the series and passing it on to my teenage nephew.

If you are interested in more information, check out Bryan Davis' website, and his blog. The second book in the series, Eternity's Edge, is in stores now as well.

Finally, see my other blog tourmates for more on Beyond the Reflection's Edge:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Courtney
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Kait
Mike Lynch
Magma
Terri Main
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
Greg Slade
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Fall"-ing into Grace

Yesterday my wife had her baby shower (wow...so much pink...), so the boys and I decided it was a good time to get out of Dodge. We went shopping for baby ourselves so the boys could get an outfit for her (wow...so much pink...). After that, we hit Tautphaus Park in Idaho Falls.

We found an area where there was some playground equipment ringed with trees. I thought they'd want to hit the jungle gym, but the preferred activity at first was tossing the football around. There was a good blanket of fallen leaves, and the boys happily crunched through them diving for balls (I admit I led them sometimes to make them fall in the leaves, heh-heh-heh). Then Dad had to start a leaf fight. I shouldn't have let them in on the secret of "downwind" though. Finally we finished up with a rousing soccer match.

The day was one of those times where I was struck by God's grace and wonder in His creation and His love for us. The crisp autumn air, the crunch of the leaves underfoot, the laughter of children, wrestling and rolling through the leaves; all these things are a joy that wasn't necessary, but still given to us by the God of all comfort.

Thank you Father, for your incomparable gifts!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Looking at Christianity and Culture

I've wanted to blog more about this topic, but I haven't had the time to sit down and come up with a coherent post discussing Christianity and Culture. However, there have been some recent articles and books out on this topic, and I want to at least bring them to your attention.

The Point blog discusses Christian art and movies like Facing the Giants.

Christianity Today has a cover article discussing "The New Culture Makers". There is an excerpt from Andy Crouch's new book Culture Making. There is also a review of the book Christ and Culture Revisited.

I've recently purchased Culture Making and another book on the subject, Dick Staub's The Culturally Savvy Christian. I've started Staub, and it already is quite thought-provoking.

If you're so inclined, check out some of these resources. Hopefully I can get my head around some ideas (head not so stretchy this month, it seems...) and discuss them with a little more depth soon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Benefit of Blog Tours

I've been a member of two blog tours, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour, for over two years now. I've had the privilege to review many good books and enter into some great discussion with others out there in the blogosphere.

Even though this has benefited me, what about the authors? Do the writers who have offered up their work for review get a measurable boost from the coordinated focus of a blog tour.

So far I'd have to say there's no direct benefit to a blog tour.

I come to this conclusion from from two sources. Brandilyn Collins has been involved with the CFBA tour since its inception, and I recall her blogging that she hasn't seen specific movement of more books associated with a blog tour. However, with her marketing experience, she knows the value of getting her name and books out there with visibility.

Also, I was involved with a tour for Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture by Mary DeMuth, and Mark Goodyear tracked measurable stats regarding the tour. They tracked how many books were sold directly through Mary's site. His conclusion was that there wasn't a large increase in sales from the well-organized tour.

However, does this mean blog tours aren't worthwhile?

I would say that there are benefits to blog tours that aren't easily measurable, at least not directly. Maybe people don't rush out and buy the book from Amazon right away, giving noticeable statistics.

My argument is that it is worthwhile for authors to do blog tours in order to get their book out there and find some people that could turn into influencers. I suggest this can be a big benefit for authors.

I can think of several authors whose books I would not have read if not for getting their book for review: Rene Gutteridge, Lisa Bergren, John Aubrey Anderson, and Tom Morrisey to name a few. All of these authors have won me over with the quality of their writing and their interesting stories. What has happened is I have become their advocate. I continue to think of them as I refer people to good authors.

Not only that, but I support them more than I would have earlier. Even though through the blog tours I generally receive the books from the publisher to review, I have purchased books from the writers above. Either I've purchased other books in their catalog, or I buy the books I've already read to give away to others. I also lend out books so others can given them a try and hopefully get interested enough to purchase other books in the future.

Of course this can happen randomly. Maybe I would have picked up one of these books in Barnes and Noble (I have no local Christian bookstore). I do recall looking at Anderson's first book, Abiding Darkness, at B&N. But I never bought it. I don't think I would've walked out with any books from the others I listed there. But I've purchased all of Anderson's work since to give away. I just bought an older book of Gutteridge's, outside of the series I've been enjoying so much. I reviewed Bergren's first book for a tour, and made sure I bought the others so I could finish the series. Early this year I purchased Robin Parrish's Merciless because I couldn't wait an extra month for the blog tour to get it.

Just last week I read a new book from Tim Downs, Less Than Dead. I had read his book Plague Maker on my own and really enjoyed it, but had forgotten about Downs until reading his latest for the tour. I was so delighted to "rediscover" him that I fully plan on completing my collection of his books.

Maybe I'm strange (no comments Mark...), but I can't help but think this type of situation happens with others for blog tours. My conclusion is that an author won't know what type of people they will reach with a blog tour. If they get the right person, they will have an influencer who will carry on promotion that goes beyond the investment the author made by sending some books out for a blog tour.

If anyone reading this has been influenced by any of my posts, I'd love to hear from you on this topic. If you have any thoughts on blog tours, I'd also encourage you to speak up. Coolness.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Gift of the Marcher Lord

Yesterday I tried to end with the best possible cliff-hanger: GREED. As our blog tour continues to discuss the new independent publisher for Christian speculative fiction, Marcher Lord Press, there is more in it for you than just a good read.

How about prizes?

There are numerous prizes collected for the launch date of October 1st. The grand prize is a trip for two to ComicCON San Diego 2009. If that isn't worth going to the prize list and signing up, I don't know what is.


(Shameless Self-Promotion Disclaimer: If you list me as your referred, I get another entry into the contest. Just so you know...)

There are oodles of other prizes available, so it is quite worth your while to check it out.

But what are the initial offerings from MLP, other than a really generous guy in Jeff Gerke, making a splash?

I'm glad you asked! There are three books in the launch for Marcher Lord Press. And I mentioned Oct. 1st before. If you make an order on that day, there are bonus FREE goodies awaiting you. (It just gets better and better)


The first offering is Hero, Second Class. This book turns fantasy convention on its head. All the great points are skewed: Heroes, Villians, Kings, Magic, and So On.

If you like fantasy but are a little weary of the standard plot points that flow in the story like a checklist, then this witty skewing will bring a refreshing perspective as Cyrus, the wannabe Hero, embarks through the Hero Guild on his Grand Quest.






The next book is The Personifid Invasion. This is a stand-alone sequel to a previously released novel, The Personifid Project. In the future, bodies are able to be cloned in order to allow people to live forever by having their consciousness transfered into new bodies.



Death may no longer be an issue, but what about the soul? Are these altered creations more succeptible to outside influence, such as interterrestrials? A brother and sister race to find another sibling, trying to navigate the dangers between them.



Finally, the last introductory book is Summa Elvetica. This fantasy book is set in a world of human and non-human races: orcs, trolls, and elves as examples. The Church sends a priest to determine if these non-human races have souls, and as such, deserve a focus for evagelization.

Of course, how could such a story take place without romance and war? What will the cleric discover, and what will the ecclesiastia decide?




As you can see, MLP has a few intriguing options covering science fiction, fantasy, and a fantasy spoof. Even if these books are not to your liking, you ought to register to win a chance at the bounty of prizes, and you may well find a later title catching your interest.

I plan on an order on October 1st, and I will watch Marcher Lord Press with anticipation. If you are a fan of Christian speculative fiction, you would do well to support MLP to show that there is a demand for quality spec fic wiith a Christian world view.

If you have any interaction w/MLP, I would be interested in your comments next week!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Stand of the Marcher Lord


The Marcher Lords of England were knights given land at the edge of the kingdom. These brave, devoted warriors were set as the first line of defense against menace from raiding tribes in Scotland and Wales. They were placed in the frontier, without an easy life of a regular noble, charged with clearing the way and establishing their hold on new land.

This is according to Jeff Gerke's website, Marcher Lord Press, a new Christian publisher for speculative fiction. This is the stand that Jeff is taking in his love for exciting stories that aren't your typical Christian worldview title.

From the site:
What is Christian speculative fiction, you ask? It's the "weird" stuff: fantasy, science fiction, time travel, spiritual warfare, alternate history, chillers, superhero fiction, near-future technothrillers, and supernatural thrillers. All the Christian stories that are off the edge of the map.
This is a unique, daring venture his part. Marcher Lord Press is purposely smaller in order to have a lower overhead to be able to support the speculative fiction genre that is often short-changed in Christian book stores. It is a print on demand publisher, meaning that it will be printed when you order it. It is not a vanity press (the type of publisher that an author PAYS in order to see their book in print). The authors are truly solicited and paid.

Jeff Gerke is a visionary and a risk-taker. He sees the great potential in well-crafted stories that dare to go into realms that don't include prairie and Amish romances. I am hopeful to see more speculative fiction (such as Robin Parrish, Jeff Overstreet, and George Bryan Polivka) picked up in the regular CBA/Christian fiction market. However, I am very excited to see someone like Jeff stand up and make a way for some intriguing tales to find readers who like something a little outside of the ordinary. I am convinced that the realms of sci-fi and fantasy offer great opportunity to share powerful spiritual truth in a way that flows from the story, not forced upon it. I hope you will take some time to check out Marcher Lord.

Tomorrow, I'll share about the launch books for Marcher Lord Press, why you need to mark October 1st on your calendar, and the joy of PRIZES!!! Don't miss out!

Also, see my fellow tourmates for more.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Marcher Lord Approaches

In the 2+ years I've been blogging, I've read a lot of fiction. A good chunk of that has been speculative (an encompassing term for science fiction and fantasy). I didn't realize how much I enjoyed this genre, and I've become a real fan. Unfortunately, the CBA market of Christian fiction doesn't yet supply a lot of choice in this area. Sure, there's more than 15 years ago. But if you look at a section of Christian fiction, it is still dominated by romance and historical fiction.

Becky Miller continues to argue for a larger potential audience for Christian speculative fiction based on properties such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia. On the other side, publishers cite low sales for speculative titles. In a free market system, demand will drive supply. So where does that leave fans of spec fic?

Somtimes an enterprising person sees an opportunity and runs with it, meeting a niche that is currently under-supported. That person, the focus of this month's CSFF tour, is Jeff Gerke.

Marcher Lord Press is an independent publisher for Christian speculative fiction. Jeff's goal is to provide an outlet for authors and readers of this genre. He has the credentials to pull it off. He is a published author, under the name Jefferson Scott. He has also been a fiction acquisition editor (meaning he has an eye for what works). He also founded the site WheretheMapEnds, a good creative resource for aspiring writers.

I encourage you to look into Marcher Lord Press today, and check back over the next two days for more about this new outlet. Also check out my fellow tourmates, listed below.

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Courtney
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Kait
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Greg Slade
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise
Tina Kulesa
Jason Waguespac

Friday, September 19, 2008

This Here Be a Pirate Blog!

ARRRR! This year's Talk Like a Pirate Day is brought to you today by Black-Eye Nate. If ye be darin' the edge o'his cutlass, then enter.

Black-Eye Nate commandeered our backyard playhouse, and I barely survived walkin' the plank. All be well now. All kinds of booty ere accepted, but plastic pirate men be exceptional treasure!



Yer pirate resources for 2008:


Gráinne Ní Mháille, better known as Grace O'Malley, a famous female pirate in the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

This be an excellent pirate game fer the Xbox!

Shiver yer timbers with this pirate radio show.

A reason to plunder an iPhone, finally. Yarr!

Lego Relient K, starring in the video for The Pirates who Don't Do Anything.

Piracy in the Bible? The evidence be here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CFBA Review - Isolation

Don't turn the lights off with this one...

This week's featured book for the CFBA tour is Isolation by Travis Thrasher.

The Millers need a retreat after being burnt out by bad experiences as missionaries in Papau New Guinea. Jim struggles with doubts about his faith. Stephanie is sleepwalking and having visions of blood and death.

Jim takes Steph and their kids Zachary and Ashley to an isolated house up on a beautiful hill in North Carolina as a getaway to reconnect with God and each other. The mysterious mansion, built by an eccentric millionaire, strikes them all as eerie as soon as they arrive and meet up with Stephanie's brother Paul.

Before they can leave, a winter storm traps them in the house, as it slowly reveals its dark secrets. Will they survive with their faith, or will they survive at all?

The idea of a Christian horror novel may seem counter-intuitive, but it really is a genre that is ripe for the exploration of good and evil. The concept of spiritual warfare lends itself well to a very suspenseful book.

Thrasher's novel keeps the suspense level high from the start, with an attention-grabbing opening chapter to the deadly finale. He notes Stephen King as an influence, and though I've only managed to read one of King's books, Isolation does cause white knuckles and short, gasping breaths in abundance.

The main characters are fleshed out rather well, but secondary characters don't come across as interesting or more than placeholders. There's some backstory that isn't explored enough for my taste, leaving me wondering too much.

It is an easy read, and the tension is intense. I didn't want to be interrupted during the last quarter of the book. He makes good use of the characters' thoughts to add to the mystery and creates a strong feel of turmoil and confusion.

The book is not for the faint of heart (or big honkin' chickens either). I found it a little disturbing, only in that kids are threatened, and I'm not a fan of that. Still, the spiritual themes are powerfully presented throughout the book.

Overall it was a good read and should be considered by fans of intense suspense or horror. The squeamish would want to give it to their non-squeamish friends!


If you would like to read the first chapter of Isolation, go HERE

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Upcoming Events

It's been hard to get to the ol' Blogger for a few days, but I have some things coming up this week, so keep your eyes peeled:

- A review of the new thriller Isolation by Travis Thrasher

- Some links and hopefully a discussion of creating culture by Christians

- And ye have been warned, the favorite silly holiday of Spoiled for the Ordinary is approaching on Friday

- Finally, I'm really excited for the next Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour in a little while featuring Marcher Lord Press.

Check back for a little of everything!

Friday, September 12, 2008

CFBA Tour - In the Shadow of Lions


This week the book from the CFBA tour that I am reviewing is In the Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett.

It is a familiar tale, or is it?

In the 1500's, history was exploding in unexpected ways in Europe. King Henry VIII sat on the throne in England, desperate for a male heir from his wife, Queen Catherine. The religious climate of the continent was in turmoil due to the works of Martin Luther and other so-called "reformers", and in the Isles Sir Thomas More put his considerable strength into protecting England from such devilish influences.

Into this background, we meet Anne Boleyn.

Is Anne the seductress history has portrayed, a woman who beguiled the king and stole the throne? Or could she be a key player in the Reformation, helping to introduce the English Bible to the people, and her religious motivations being the real reason to abstain from Henry's advances until she was made queen?

These are the questions raised in Garrett's new book. It is actually an intriguing premise focusing on three women - a modern day editor on her death bed, visited by the Scribe, an angel with a story to tell; Anne Boleyn and her journey to the throne and the guillotine, and another woman named Rose who is a street girl brought into Thomas More's household as an act of charity.

I was interested in reading this book because her previous books, Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, and Dark Hour, had premises that had me quite curious to read. I also recently did some study on William Tyndale, the English reformer and Bible translator who figures prominently in Ginger's new book.

The book has strengths and weaknesses. The set-up is an original one in my mind. She does a good job showing the setting and putting the reader into 16th century England. Unfortunately, the plot suffers quite a bit throughout the book. I felt the book was too mysterious in how it set up situations - trying to be suspenseful and having the reader wonder what was happening next, but not fully explaining what was occurring or giving enough information. I was often left confused, unsure of what happened. Many times a character did something with little motivation or cause introduced to make it believable. I mainly enjoyed the brief parts with the modern editor and the angel, although I got confused in those sections as well.

Overall this is a book that has potential as a suspenseful historical novel, but falls short in its execution of plot cohesion and character motivation. It is a wonderful time frame that has lots of drama, and it still is an insightful story in ways as far as introducing a new theory on Anne Boleyn, but I was generally disappointed in reading it. This is supposed to be a series of books - hopefully subsequent books will be weaved together in a tighter pattern.


If you would like to read an excerpt from In The Shadow Of Lions, go HERE

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

CFBA Tour - Back to Life


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Back To Life

Avon Inspire (September 16, 2008)

by

Kristin Billerbeck



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kristin Billerbeck was born in Redwood City, California. She went to San Jose State University and gained a bachelor's degree 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 for What A Girl Wants in 2004, and again in 2006 for With this Ring. Featured in the New York Times, USA Today, World Magazine, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Kristin has appeared on the Today Show. She is credited with jump-starting the inspirational chick-lit phenomenon. Most recently she has been names as a finalist for the Christy Award in the Lits category for The Trophy Wives Club.

Her other recent books include: She's All That.


ABOUT THE BOOK


Lindsey realized when she married Ron, a man 17 years her senior, that the odds were he’d see heaven before her, but she never expected to be a widow at 35. There’s too much of life left for her to just sit around in mourning. But she can’t seem to kick start the rest of her life.

That is until she gets some help from Ron’s first wife, Jane, who shows up unexpectedly at her door one day as the executor of her husband’s estate. Jane is everything Lindsey’s not… independent, stubborn… and a lot older. Plus she has one surprise after another… including a son named Ron Jr. (she insists he’s not “really” Ron’s son). But an unlikely friendship develops as each woman begins to reevaluate what is really important, and owns up to the mistakes they’ve made in the past.

Told in the alternating voices of Jane and Lindsey, and with the return of many of the witty characters of The Trophy Wives Club, this book is a lighthearted, relatable read for when life goes in a direction you never planned. With faith and friends, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

If you would like to read an excerpt of chapter 1 of Back To Life, go HERE

Monday, September 01, 2008

Parenting Tip #27

"Put us to bed Daddy!" my four year old gleefully announced prior to their bedtime.

You may be asking, "How in the world can I get MY kids to accept bedtime so eagerly?" I will share my experience with you, absolutely free. Nowhere else, but this blog, will you get such amazing advice.

Get bunk beds.

Since we're expecting Baby in October, we needed to compress space. My wife is an avid garage sale shopper, and she found a perfect solution for us, a bunk bed with a twin on top and a full on bottom, thus allowing for three boys in one room. My two older boys already shared a room and a full bed, but the youngest was very excited to join his brothers, and the novelty of the bunk beds fueled the older ones' interest. Tonight was the first night they get to experience this, and I about fell over when the above statement was shared with us!

Of course, I have no delusions about this blissful state lasting. And note, I didn't offer this excitement for bedtime as a permanent solution. But it should make bedtime for a few nights an anticipation, rather than trepidation...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thoughts on Broken Angel

This book has an intriguing premise. At some point in the future America has split, with a fundamentalist Christian state called Appalachia formed inside its borders. The rest of America is a land with computer chip implants, virtual memories, and genetic tampering. These things are absent in Appalachia, replace instead by a theocracy that monitors everyone and drugs people with their communion meal to keep them from questioning things.

The main character in the book, Caitlyn, has a secret hidden from her by her father. This secret has a genetic component, and a tracker chases her to "harvest" this mystery.

However, there are people in Appalachia called the "Clan" who reject the oversight of the church. They try to practice a simple faith (in contrast to the official religion in the land), helping those in need and helping those wanted by the theocracy escape to freedom.

Theocracy. Control. Faith. Surveillance and safety. The future of bioengineering. Genetic manipulation. These are all potent themes for any book to address individually, much less in one book. It is a very ambitious task.

Unfortunately, it's a risk that falls short of what it could've been. My impression is that the project was limited in its length compared with the scope. The author shared on another blog that he was constrained by the fact that the story only takes place over a few days, mostly as one long chase. He's right that it isn't necessarily the best setting to wrestle with so many weighty issues. I wonder if the book was cut too short, compressed too much.

The book is a taut thriller with breakneck pacing that has interesting, fleshed-out characters. It is worth a read for a suspenseful tale. It just seems to overshoot its constraints.

I also read yesterday that the author is writing the sequel. This may allow him to investigate the potential inherent in his bold themes further. I'm hopeful to see what comes next from Mr. Brouwer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

CFBA Tour - Twice Loved



This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Twice Loved

Avon Inspire (July 22, 2008)

by

Lori Copeland



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband Lance. Lance and Lori have three sons, two daughter-in-laws, and five wonderful grandchildren. They are very involved in their church, and active in supporting mission work in Mali, West Africa.

Lori began her writing career in 1982, writing for the secular book market. In 1995 after many years of writing, Lori sensed that God was calling her to use her gift of writing to honor Him. It was at that time that Lori began writing for the Christian book market. To date, she has more than 95 books published including Now And Always
and Bluebonnet Belle.

ABOUT THE BOOK



Texas, 1865 Willow Madison and her friends, Copper and Audrey taught school in neighboring Texas communities until the Yankees rode into the area and burned them out. In the midst of fear and chaos, survivors banded together to fight for what remained of their homes. Then word reached the people that the terrible war was over.

Now penniless but still hopeful, Willow vows she will take care of her friends, Copper and Audrey, and her ailing uncle, in Thunder Ridge, Texas, even if it means having to marry wealthy Silas Sterling, a man thirty years her senior. But standing in her way is handsome sawmill owner Tucker Gray, with his enticing eyes and infuriating headstrong manner—the man Willow cannot get out of her head . . . or her heart. Even though her friends beg her not to give up her dream of happiness, Willow is determined to do the right thing for those who are dearest to her. But which path does God want Willow to take: a life of duty and commitment . . . or a life of everlasting love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Twice Loved, go HERE