Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Christian Fiction Paradox

I've noticed a paradox in some Christian fiction books recently. It manifested in The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka and The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley. It presents an interesting conundrum for those who pursue writing Christian fiction. It really strikes at the heart of how to write effective, engaging fiction, and it has the potential to create a couple of theoretical camps in this realm of fiction.

Now that I've been melodramatic, what does crazy Jason have in mind? Well, I'm not ready to say. But any good product finds a way to create some buzz. I'm hoping that dropping a little teaser will have people wonder what those two books have in common that may portend what I'm talking about.

If anyone has any thoughts, feel free to post comments and I'll be back in a couple days to open up what I want to discuss.

See you then...

Friday, February 22, 2008

CFBA Tour: Adam

Ted Dekker doesn't need much introduction in the realm of Christian fiction. If any readers here think that a book from Christian fiction authors aren't worth checking out, then his new book Adam is very likely to change your mind.

I've enjoyed the other books of his that I've read (Blink, Thr3e, and Showdown). I have been busy enough with reading that I've haven't managed to read every one of his books. He has a powerful imagination and loves to explore the tension between good and evil.

Adam is the latest book to examine this theme. From the back cover:

FBI behavioral psychologist Daniel Clark has become famous for his well-articulated arguments that religion is one of society’s greatest antagonists. What Daniel doesn’t know is that his obsessive pursuit of a serial killer known only as “Eve” is about to end abruptly with an unexpected death-his own.

Twenty minutes later Daniel is resuscitated, only to be haunted by the loss of memory of the events immediately preceding his death.

Daniel becomes convinced that the only way to stop Eve is to recover those missing minutes during which he alone saw the killer’s face. And the only way to access them is to trigger his brain’s memory dump that occurs at the time of death by simulating his death again…and again. So begins a carefully researched psychological thriller which delves deep into the haunting realities of near-death experiences, demon possession, and the human psyche.

I'm not a person who reads a book in one sitting, but I really wish I could have with Adam. He knows how to capture an audience and hold them to their seats, knuckles white from gripping the book. The main characters all suffer from some obsession, and the individual reactions to the scenario are intriguing. As they work together to hunt down the serial killer "Eve", the tension ratchets up to a surprising turn of events that throws the book from being a taut thriller about tracking a murderer to something much more haunting and personal.

Dekker's writing is fast-paced, and there is not a lot of flowery exposition - he hits the action hard and keeps the plot moving. He uses an interesting technique in this book. There is a fictional Crime Today magazine serial of 9 articles discussing how a serial murderer comes to be. Basically he gives away who the bad guy is from the get go, but is still able to keep the suspense at high levels in tracking the path throughout the serial articles and the narrative. Very challenging to pull off, yet he does it very well.

My only critiques lie with the medical aspects, which play into the plot prominently. He has done his research well, and it is all written well and believably. My problem is that I am a physician assistant, so I can see a few minor inaccuracies. Aren't I picky? I'm sure that it won't be a problem for any other readers.

Overall, this book has reminded me of why Ted Dekker is the premier Christian suspense author today. He deftly handles issues of darkness and light and is a master of drawing his reader into the the battle that ensues. I highly recommend this book, and I've got a new itch to read more of Dekker's work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thoughts on The Shadow and Night

I had to chime in a little more on the blog tour for The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley. I confessed on Sunday that I had only read about 125 pages, so I couldn't give an accurate review of the whole book. I wanted to see what people were saying about the book before I opened my mouth and filled it with shoe leather (doesn't sound filling this week).

I'm glad that I did. It seems a lot of people really enjoyed the book. One of the major things from other blog posts and the comments to my first post is that, yes the book may start slow, but around page 150 it really picked up. So I've determined to read a little farther to see if I can get into it.

In my last post I listed all of my CSFF colleagues for your linkage pleasure. Today there are three that I'd like to highlight.

Author Christopher Hopper had a thoughtful review that discussed both positive and negative aspects, without total gushing or bashing. Also check out the comments to this link, as he's kind enough to answer a question of mine about catching a reader quick versus a slow burn.

John Otte gave a great primer on end times and millennialism, as this is a major foundation for the plot. A good quick overview even for those just curious about the various types of end times views out there. In other posts he discusses his review and ideas about sin brought up by the book. Well worth reading.

CSFF's other John, John Ottinger (what are the odds?), gives a very positive review of the book and makes a case in support of the book's slower start.

I wish I could've participated more, both in having read the book as well as having time to check out other blogs. Like I said, I'm going to give the book a little more time to see if I can get into it. I will say that I'm not enamored by his writing style, but perhaps when the conflict really takes off I will see the intensity of the trouble for main characters Merral and Vero, which seems to be a really big part of what others like. Perhaps I can add a follow up post later on.

My one other comment has also been repeated elsewhere in the tour. The book is listed as "A Fantasy in the Tradition of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien." I found this quite misleading and presumptuous, as 1. it is not a fantasy, and 2. I don't think it is fair or accurate to suggest this book is to the level of Lewis or Tolkien. Not a turn off for me, but hopefully the marketers will be a little more thoughtful in this aspect in the future.

If you're curious, please go to my last post and check out others' posts on this book!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour - The Shadow and Night

This month's CSFF blog tour is focusing on Chris Walley's book from a few years ago entitled The Shadow and Night. I actually bought a version that includes books 1 and 2 (The Power of Night) of the Lamb Among the Stars trilogy, although this tour is focusing on just the first book.

I am reluctant to fully dive into discussing the book. I've only gotten to about page 125 out of 296, so I don't feel like I can fully comment on it. However, I have had a particularly hard time getting into the book, and I've got some major reservations so far on what I have read. I know that I've read other books that took a while to get into, but this one is different so far. I would encourage you to check out my fellow tourmates listed below, as I will be doing this week. I may post more detail about why I've had a hard time reading this book depending on my time and what I see on the tour.

You can also check out Chris Walley's site and blog for more information.

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Jackie Castle
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Marcus Goodyear
Rebecca Grabill
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Heather R. Hunt
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Pamela Morrisson
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Deena Peterson
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachelle Sperling
Donna Swanson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Friday, February 15, 2008

CFBA Tour - My Name Is Russell Fink

I'm excited this week to discuss the new book My Name Is Russell Fink by Michael Snyder for the CFBA book tour.

I spent time from 2005 - 2006 hanging out at faith*in*fiction, a blog and forum established by Bethany House editor Dave Long. There was great discussion on the issues affecting Christian fiction. One of the clever folks that were there was Mr. Mike Snyder. We heard a little of the development of his book at that time. I'm glad to say that the fruition of his initial effort is well-worth the read.

The book follows the titular Russell Fink through some mis adventures as we see life through his eyes. He is dealing with a job he detests, a severe bout of hypochondria (stemming from his twin dying of cancer as a child and his fear of sneaky cancer cells), a clingy fiancee, and his televangelist father trying to overcome past scandal. Along the way he finds a way to move out of his parents' house, investigates the apparent murder of his beloved dog Sonny, and meets an old flame who stirs some passion into this drifter.

The strength of this book is the writing. As I mentioned the clever folks from f*i*f before, Snyder was one of the tops in that category. His writing sparkles with wit and whimsy. You never know where he is going to turn next, from whiskey-soaked dog biscuits to microwaving oranges and breaking into zoos (see, you'll just have to read it to figure out what all that means). At first Russell is a hard character to like, since he is so passive and basically irresponsible in all of his conflicts. However, as he slowly grows into accepting some responsibility and starts to make a change in his life, you start pulling for him. All the time, the writing keeps you on your toes and with a grin on your face.

The plot suffers a little confusion at the end, and I couldn't always follow where certain threads came or went, or if all of the major plot points were resolved. There is one point I want to write the author to ask him about, it was such a dangling string. Still, I can recommend this book because, even if isn't fully sure of where it is going, the journey there is a lot of fun by the enjoyable writing. I look forward to seeing where Michael Snyder goes from here, having his first book under his collar...I mean belt.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ten Easy Steps

Thanks to Maureen Johnson, a YA (young adult) science fiction of some repute, for the following highly informative post:


Finally! After all this time, the answer has been revealed! We can all stop working so hard now and follow this tested* methods for becoming a writer. I am good on Step Three at least. Seven and Eight are coming along.

Hat tip to John C. Wright.

*I haven't personally tested this, and cannot vouch for the methodology used.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

CFBA Tour - Sisters, Ink

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Sisters, Ink
Broadman & Holman Books (February 1, 2008)
Rebeca Seitz

This book was right up my wife's alley, as she loves to scrapbook. (I say she loves to buy scrapbooking stuff and look at it without using it, but this usually gets me in some sort of trouble...) Anyway, here is my special guest review from my beautiful bride Beccy!

Sisters, Ink is the start of a series about 4 adopted daughters who still get together to scrapbook as a way to connect their busy lives. This is the first in the series, and it follows Tandy, living a busy high-placed life of an attorney in a big city, while her family lives in a small town in Tennessee. Her life consists of a dog and many hours of work.

She hasn't been "home" for 3 years. When she arrives it brings back the joy of being home again: scrapbooking with her sisters, being with her dad, and reacquainting herself with her high school boyfriend.

As her two week visit changes life, she has to decide whether to go back to the big city or find her niche in a sleepy town.

This book had strong characters. The four sisters are distinct, and it was great to see the way this worked out. Even though they were all different, they still bonded as a family. The plot had a great romantic story along with the various family dynamics. I enjoyed the book from the viewpoint of a scrapbook fan, and I understood the lingo and the desire to get together socially and scrap. A weakness of the book was the beginning - it was very flowery with its description and ended up being distracting with its wordiness. Still, I enjoyed the book a lot, and would recommend it to my friends whether they scrapbook or not.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Made for Beauty" Post at Breakpoint

Breakpoint is a favorite internet place of mine - I get daily emails from Chuck Colson's radio broadcast. This last week there was one called "Made for Beauty." It speaks of Francis Schaeffer's book Art and the Bible, which I've spoken about before here.

Here's the opening:

The neighbors watched the new church building go up in just one month—and what a sight it was! The church was a squat, square building made of unrelieved concrete. On the inside was garish red carpeting. A massive parking lot surrounded the church.

Nothing could possibly have been uglier—and the fact that so many Christians build church structures like this reveals how far Christians have strayed from the place beauty and art are meant to have in our lives.

As the late Francis Schaeffer notes in his book, Art and the Bible, we evangelicals tend to relegate art to the fringes of life. Despite our talk about the lordship of God in every aspect of life, we have narrowed its scope to a very small part of reality. But the arts are also supposed to be under the lordship of Christ, Schaeffer reminds us. Christians ought to use the arts “as things of beauty to the praise of God.”

I've talked about what is in the rest of the article before, but it is nice to see the same message getting out. Check out the article here.