Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Unfortunate Label of "Evangelical Christian"?

I don't hit on Ted Dekker's site very often, but I did today after finishing his latest book Kiss, (a good read - recommended). He had an intriguing link to his blog, which had an even more intriguing title for his latest post: "The Challenge of Being Gay". Thus my own attempt at a provocative post title.

Anyway, I encourage anyone who is interested in the debate about "Christian fiction" to check out the post (and get past the title) to talk about labels and evangelical Christianity relating to fiction.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

CSFF Tour - More on The Book of Names

The tour continues, focusing on D. Barkely Briggs' first book in the Karac Tor series, The Book of Names.

I want to mention first how impressive his website is. Most authors are going to have a site anymore, but I believe his is used exceptionally well to support his work. He obviously has spent a lot of time building an interesting back story creating his alternative realms. There are well done maps, character drawings, and tidbits of legends from Karac Tor. It drew me into his story and intrigued me. This alone made me wish I had been able to read his book for the tour. Thankfully he has a download available for the first three chapters, which I'll discuss below.

One more item on his site. He has a page with numerous links of myth and lore. It is clear he's done a lot of research and is a true fantasy fan. There's plenty here to keep one occupied for a while.

As far as the first three chapters, he sets a credible stage for his story. Yesterday I mentioned how Briggs started this story by telling it to his boys in the tragic loss of his wife/their mother. The book starts with the oldest of four brothers, Hadyn, clearing a bramble field in their new house. He discovers a mysterious rune stone in the brush with his next brother Ewan, while trying to avoid the curious eyes of the 9 year old twins.

Briggs sets up sympathetic characters that are well-rounded, yet distinguished from one another. He introduces the mystery early and keeps a measure of suspense developing. The language is descriptive, for the most part offering quality mental images. Sometimes he adds phrases for clarification that actually seem excessive, but it is a minor point. I'm probably only picking up on this because I am only judging three chapters. It appears to be, from the onset, an interesting YA fantasy fiction that should at least appeal to boys and girls who are fantasy fans. I'm not sure what female characters are ahead that may provide broader female appeal.

I'm glad to highlight this book. It appears that Briggs has taken a tragedy and made something beautiful from it, a work that should entertain and offer hope to others who may have had similar experiences. I will be looking to pick this up at sometime to read more.

Be sure to see Becky Miller's page, as she highlights those who have posted for the tour, to get more insight into The Book of Names.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

CSFF Tour - The Book of Names

What would you do if you were a father of four boys, and you had recently lost your wife of 16 years?

This is the subject of January's Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour. D. Barkley Briggs has written a trilogy of the Legends of Karac Tor, and we are highlighting the first in the series, The Book of Names.

Briggs began the story after the loss of his wife. He writes:

...Briggs decided to tell a tale his four sons could relate to in their own journey through loss. Thus was born The Legends of Karac Tor, a sweeping adventure of four brothers who, while struggling to adjust to life without mom, become enmeshed in the crisis of another world. Along the way they must find their courage, face their pain, and never quit searching for home.

I haven't read the book, but Briggs has developed an impressive website and mythology to his tale. I invite you to take a look for yourself at The Hidden Lands. I will post tomorrow with a discussion of the first three chapters (which are available for free download) plus some other impressions from his site that leave me with a good feeling for this series.

Also, please check out my tourmates listed below:
Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Alice M. Roelke
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Favorite Book from 2008

I posted last week about my favorite books from 2008, but I must confess that it was a list of my favorite fiction from '08. The book I read that meant the most to me was The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite by Dick Staub. It is a mouthful of a title, but it was a powerful book that encouraged and challenged me deeply. I blogged about it before I finished it, and it held true through the end of the book.

I'm very interested in discussing the intersection of faith and culture, as the dearly departed site Infuze Magazine used to put it. I've always tried to be serious about Jesus and His Kingdom, concerned not just about the "sweet by-and-by", but also the "nasty here and now." I learned about understanding life through a Biblical worldview at a fairly early age, so I've tried to view the culture I partake in through that lens. As I've delved into writing as a hobby and hopefully part of my vocation, I've become more focused in this area.

The Culturally Savvy Christian is a book that fully reaches the sweet spot of faith and culture, yet it is very worth reading for its insightful analysis of our current faith circumstances in the West as well as popular culture.

My original post for this started to break the book down, but I realized quickly that the book was too deep to properly address in one post. Check back over the next week or so as I attempt to break down the book a little bit, and hopefully we'll be able to discuss our own opinions on faith and culture.



The service that hosts my images is getting reorganized, so the blog will look plain for a couple of days. It should be back up soon!


Thursday, January 08, 2009


I've come across a few links today that I'd like to share.

Conversant Life is a community that discusses faith and culture. This is right up my alley, and so far I've enjoyed searching through its many offerings. Looks like a new favorite for me. I'm even posting to some indie music they let you sample.

I Am Second. What do Jason Castro, Joe Gibbs, Greg Ellis, and others have in common? I encourage you to check it out. Be curious.

Finally, win 10 bucks!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Top Books of 2008

Yes! It is that self-indulgent time when we all get to post our "Best of the Year" awards. You may ask if I'm so cynical about it, then why do I participate. Well, I don't want to be left out! Actually, I am interested in promoting books I have read this year.

I kept a running list of what I read in '08, as I got tired of forgetting which books I had finished. I'm sure there are more prolific readers out there, but it was an impressive list for me (44 in all).
This is my best of for fiction. There was a non-fiction book that was my definite favorite of the year, but I'll hit that one on its own. It really can't be compared with fiction.

1. Less Than Dead by Tim Downs:
This was my first foray into Tim's "Bug Man" novels and I found a unique protagonist, a humorous yet suspenseful plot that kept me guessing until the end, and high quality writing. Tim Downs should be one of the top authors in the CBA, in my opinion. Why isn't he? Probably because he hasn't written a prairie/Amish romance yet, though if he wrote one, I'd read it!

2. Try Darkness by James Scott Bell:
Bell got me into the genre of legal fiction last year with his very good Try Dying, but the second book in the series was a shifty, funny, poignant, and thrilling ride through Los Angeles. Bell is another author that should have a higher standing in CBA. If you're missing his work, you're plain missing out.

3. Boo by Rene Gutteridge:
Boo is one of her earlier novels, and it kicks off a whole series based on the residents of Skary, Indiana, where the world's most beloved horror writer lives. The trouble is, he finds Jesus, and the man who made Skary scary no longer wants to write horror. What will the town do to survive? I've seen the novelist who can't write his usual stuff written a few different ways, but Gutteridge is such a talented humorist that her quirky characters drive along a great story and bring home some touching themes as well.

4. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson:
This is classified as a young adult (YA) novel, but it was a delight for myself as well as my boys. Peterson is a singer/songwriter who's foray into story-telling is a natural. He crafts a slightly off-beat world with danger, humor, and toothy cows. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it twice, once by myself and again out loud to my boys (which was probably even more enjoyable). Any book that has a Nameless Evil (named Gnag the Nameless) is a winner in my eyes.

5. The Begotten by Lisa T. Bergren:
The Begotten is the opening book for her trilogy of The Gifted. It is a historical speculative fiction set in Italy of the 1300's. A long prophesied group are drawn together to use their spiritual gifts to help the people and draw the Church into renewal. Both politics in the Church and evil forces without threaten the ragtag Gifted. It paints a remarkable picture of historic Italy with a suspenseful plot and sympathetic characters. I enjoyed the whole series, but the first book was probably my favorite.

Other notables:
Adam by Ted Dekker
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Merciless by Robin Parrish

The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley
Whispers by Dean Koontz (an older Koontz-I asked for a recommended book from him, and mistook this book for Watchers- Whispers is grotesque and profane)