Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lessons Learned, Day 3

Well, 2010 is 8 days away from being in the history books. Quite an amazing year, went by amazingly fast!

I've been considering things I've learned in the last year. Lesson 1 and lesson 2 are already up. What is the 3rd lesson for the year?


Lesson #3: Love a lot.

A friend of mine recommended I check out "The Peasant Princess" podcast series by Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I'm not turning into a Reformed acolyte any time soon, but there were many good things in that series. I noticed he liked to talk about being a servant and being generous, and that sums up a heart of love. I have tried to show love to my wife more in the last few months, and I think it has made an impact in both our lives.

Once we get past our selfish nature, loving isn't a hard thing to do. We can do a lot of little things to show love around. I was in a Christmas gift exchange game this week, where we traded around DVD's. When it came to my turn, the movie I wanted was "locked" by being traded too many times, and there wasn't really anything else interesting. One woman was stuck with a set of creepy movies, and was bummed about it, because no one would steal hers.

So I did.

She got to pick out another movie, and was happy to get a chick flick. I don't want the creepy flicks, but it seemed simple to let her have another chance to find a good movie. She was really touched by it. Not a big deal to me, but it meant something to her.

It's a good lesson for this time of year: show some more love, people! Find a way to serve someone, to be generous. You'll get a reward just as good back, I bet.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lessons Learned, Day 2

On Tuesday I posted the first of a series of "lessons learned" for 2010. At the end of the post I mentioned that there was a corollary lesson that came from the same event.

Lesson #2 - The Little Things Matter

The things we do day by day matter. Little things can be a blessing to others or come back to bite us. In my first post I talk about a situation that may be overblown, but people are judging harshly. The flip side is that, if the person I know did things a little bit differently, they may not be dragged into this mess at all.

We never know what effect our actions will have. I realized a long time ago that if I act rude to another driver, I could be seeing them the next day in my job, or run into them in a position of needing their help. How would that go over if I acted like a jerk?

When we talk about God as watching everything, that should motivate us to walk in integrity when alone as well as before the crowds. Sadly, it seems we still need motivation. It comes down to our selfishness, doesn't it? We give in to acting without thinking, being petty, joining in with the gossip, the bashing people behind their backs.

Still, I have had experiences where someone commented on something I did that was positive, that touched them, and I don't recall it being a big deal. Little things matter both ways - for good or ill.

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Lord, this reminds me of the importance of walking in Your Spirit daily. If we keep Your word in our hearts, if we keep our ears attuned to the still, small voice, if we put first the the Kingdom of Heaven, what a difference it makes in our lives. It also spills out to the people around us. Help us to learn to live like this more each day!
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lessons Learned, Day 1

Last week was the first time I totally whiffed on a Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy blog tour, featuring The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers. I felt bad about it, but some things were going on that took away any spare attention I had (aside from work and family), and I hadn't read the book. Anyway, I heard good things about it, and should perhaps check it out.

One thing that came out of the events of last week: I learned an important lesson, and it made me think about other lessons I've learned through the year. Sounds like fertile ground for a series of blog posts!

Lesson #1 - We are quick to judge

There is a local case of some young men being charged with some crimes. Normally, I would shake my head and condemn such hooligans, and move on with life. In this case, I knew one of the men well, and was sure that he wouldn't be party to such things. Through the week news started to trickle out that brought a question to many of the charges, especially why the one young man was even included in this event.

The reaction from the community has been ugly. Most people are doing what *I* would have done, namely condemning the men and slandering them with nasty comments. The internet doesn't help things, between people leaving comments on articles from local news sites to Facebook. On one news site I posted a comment regarding people being innocent until proven guilty. That...didn't go over well. I reiterated the point, and another reader wrote, "your position is admirable but not practical in our society."

Is that sad, or what?

In this instance, I believe I have inside information that makes me see the case opposite of many people. I have been disheartened by the responses, but I have to confess I would be making similar judgments if not for my familiarity with one of the accused and the case.

Certainly victims of crimes should be treated with respect and taken seriously. I worry though that our instant culture has produced instant judgment. The due process of our judicial system isn't given a chance to work. No matter what comes out later on in this case, there will be a taint on these men.

It makes me realize that I should slow down, consider both sides, and realize a couple of things:
1. I don't have all the information.

2. I am not the final arbiter. Ultimately God is. He knows the hearts of the accusers, the accused, and me as I judge them all.

There is a corollary to this lesson, and I'll share that in the next blog post.

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Lord, help me to judge not, lest I am judged. We are so quick with our opinion in this internet age, when it is easy to spread it out quickly and often without consequence as we hide behind "screen names." Help me to see with Your perspective when I am presented with a judgment call, to know Your heart above all.
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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Holiness and Leslie Nielsen

"Surely you can't be serious!"

"I am serious. And don't call me Shirley."

The Net was abuzz this week with the sad passing of Leslie Nielsen, the actor who defined the slapstick genre of movies with Airplane!, the Naked Gun series, and numerous other movie spoofs. What a great story. The guy was in the movie machine back in the 50's as a standard handsome leading man, and then was able to find success in his love of comedy after Airplane! took off (groan) in 1980. My mom's name was Shirley, so we always loved that joke and played off of it and the irony for her saying it.

A child of the 80's, I really enjoyed these movies. The slapstick and play on of words were great, but there were lots of things I didn't get watching them initially as a teenager (I was rather naive, thankfully). There's a ton of sexual innuendo, but I didn't understand much of it. I thought they were harmless movies.

In 1991 I went on a Discipleship Training School with YWAM. We had three months of training in Montana, learning about the character and ways of God, the Bible, prayer, evangelism, worship, etc. Then we had a two month practical outreach in Thailand. It was a such an investment for me to make, right out of high school. It really changed so much of my perspective, from learning so much about God and who He is, to seeing the bigger world and all the needs out there. Quite a perspective for this Idaho boy.

What does this have to do with Leslie Nielsen? It's not a cheap attempt to draw search engine traffic here. On the flight back from Thailand the movie was The Naked Gun 2 1/2 (gotta love the 1/2!). I had watched it prior to the DTS and thought it was hilarious. Something was different this time. I saw so much that went against God's standards and ways. It was like I had a different lens to look through, and there was so much junk in it. Maybe it was that my internal lenses were cleaned, and I could see garbage for what it was.

I didn't enjoy it the second time, and I think I ended up not watching the rest of the movie.

Leslie Nielsen was a remarkable comedic actor, with great timing and funny faces galore. Still, those movies too quickly went for lowest common denominator humor. As an immature 17 year old, it was awesome. After spending 5 months pursuing the Lord in a concentrated manner every day, it was repulsive. The show didn't change. I did.

I think of that experience sometimes when I see what goes on in popular culture. I wasn't trying to be holier-than-thou about it, but it was a natural response after getting close to Him. I'm sad to say that I probably am not bothered by a lot of things I watch anymore, because I have to live in "real life" and don't have the time to dedicate to Jesus like I did in those days. When you get to live like that, then your spiritual sensitivity naturally goes up.

I have no excuse for not being there now. I could do a lot better in my relationship with the Lord, even though the DTS was a special time that is hard to replicate in the day to day of living.

So strange as it may seem, when I think of Leslie Nielsen, I think of holiness. I am reminded of such a wonderful time in my life. And I think of Shirley. A laugh, a tear, and a sigh mixed together.

Thanks for the chuckles, Mr. Nielsen, and for the memories. Here's hoping God's grace finds you.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Decent and Edgy?

Hello again. I've been trying to work more on my novel in progress, and have been dealing with a little blogger's block. I've had a few thoughts, but haven't known how to get them out. Time to get back on the horse!

So is it possible to have edgy AND decent fiction?

This has been a run-around topic for CBA fiction for a while. Christian fiction has been evolving over the last several years, perhaps not as fast as some would like, as there continues to be a debate about "edgy" Christian fiction. In fact, the term has become so loaded it is hard to define. For this post consider "edgy" as portraying real life without any filter on it (CBA is known for no cussing and no intimate scenes, not even between spouses).

By the way, I was partially inspired by Mike Duran's blog deCOMPOSE because he offers a lot of thought-provoking content, usually about the state of Christian fiction. A recent post asks, "Am I responsible for what my characters say?" with the question being, "If my character says something mean, racist, sinful, etc., am I responsible or is the character responsible." He also had a well-noticed post about "Christian fiction and the new edgy". That post noted that some people's edgy are other people's obscene.

How can obscene be decent?

Perhaps "decent" is a loaded word too, considered a Puritan standard that isn't realistic in our day and age. Maybe I'm looking at the word wrong, or using the wrong term. I'm thinking of decent as in the motivation one is using when writing something that may be edgy.

Much of our current pop culture fare comes with a shock value intended to gain notice. The edginess is just to catch people's attention. Britney Spears continued a trend from Madonna, then Katy Perry picked up the baton with songs like "I Kissed a Girl," and this was quickly followed by Lady Gaga and her wild antics. The motivation on doing something is, quite frankly, only to gain some kind of attention in our oversaturated world.

All media forms are subject to this, from movies, comics, books, TV...the list goes on. The motivation is caught between catching attention and/or flaunting old standards.

Is it possible to write something challenging, edgy, without leaving behind decency? I'd better use an example. I picture a story involving a rough-edged detective and a prostitute trapped in her circumstances that doesn't pull punches showing the rawness of their lives. The point of the story is not to wallow in dirt, but to show the contrast of redemption against such bleak context. The motivation is good. The details are not used in a gratuitous manner, but to paint an accurate picture. The author keeps a standard of decency in their heart, writing things to serve the story rather than to shock, even if it means some cursing, a closer look into the prostitute's life, or the violence on the streets.

Maybe I'm reaching with this. I don't expect stardard CBA fare to embrace this of course. But is it possible to be honest with where the story needs to go, show just the details that are needed to establish credibility without wallowing in it, and keep a pure heart? I think so. I really believe a lot of what is done in pop culture is for the purpose of vulgarity alone, without adding value to the final product other than saying, "Look at me! I am worse than the last guy!"

I'm not even the guy that would want to read all of this. But as Mike has said before, showing someone violating God's standards can be a powerful tool, even if it is uncomfortable reading about it.

Am I making sense? Am I out there on this one? Hey, your thoughts on this would be most appreciated!
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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

CSFF Tour - The Skin Map Day 3

In Which The Blogger Finally Gets Around To Telling The Reader If The Book Is Any Good.

The CSFF Tour is featuring the latest from acclaimed author Stephen Lawhead, The Skin Map, first book of the Bright Empires series. Yesterday I gave a synopsis of the book, if you missed it. How does it stand up?

I've said here in the past that Stephen Lawhead is one of my favorite authors. For some reason, a couple of his books (usually the second or third in a series) have fallen flat for me. It's almost if he's a little streaky. Does The Skin Map strike hard or does it miss?

Thankfully, I can testify that Lawhead is on target with this first book. There's wit, suspense, intrigue, and the Lawhead tradmark of making a setting come alive. You see some of this with the very first lines of the book:
Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared. At least, he would have brought an umbrella.
(Best opening line I've read since, "The nun hit me in the mouth and said, 'Get out of my house.'")

Lawhead has stated on his website that he's been writing this series in his head for the last 15 years or so, just now he has the skill to handle all of the complexity. I would believe it. He has numerous characters jumping from the Home World to different times and locales, and he brings the unique flavor of each place out. There's enough characters and locations (and times!) that it almost gets confusing, but he keeps things moving forward. Many threads are started, and it may seem a little disconnected in the middle of the book. The beauty is that in the apparent chaos ensuing, it snaps together in the end, leaving the reader going "Whoa." If a reader isn't patient or attentive, they could get lost.

The book follows 20-something Kit Livingstone as he discovers his gift for traveling the mysterious ley lines, his girlfriend Mina as she gets lost in 17th century Prague, the Man Who Is Map forging paths through the dimensions, and the ruthless Lord Burleigh. Each character brings their own weight to their sections. I don't feel like I'm reading one voice for each person - they are individuals. Their interaction with the various settings is thought-provoking, such as the timeline in which Kit's relative Cosimo stops the famous Fire of London in1666 just by waking the baker whose oven started the disaster.

Despite a rather large cast and the varied times, the book is suspenseful and a great page-turner. My only complaint is the book is a major set-up for the whole series. It makes sense that it can't be too self-limiting, and the reader is left with a major cliffhanger at the end. I am ready for book two, like RIGHT NOW.

A couple further thoughts:
As I discussed yesterday, the story's premise hinges on these ley lines acting as corridors to these alternate universes. These are well-known to the pagan and new age movements, considered powerful centers of energy. Lawhead has used many other mythic components in his fiction, such as Atlantis and Merlin in the Pendragon Cycle, and Celtic myths in the Song of Albion trilogy. However, he has taking these seemingly pagan points and turned them into a natual way of speaking of faith and Christ. He makes it an organic part of the story. Christianity isn't proclaimed loudly in The Skin Map, but there are characters who speak and ponder about God and how He may be working through the Omniverse (multiple universes). Speculative, but still informed by faith. Potential authors can learn here from Mr. Lawhead.

Finally, check out his website for a good interview from Lawhead regarding the research he does for his work. It is informative to those curious about how to write a realistic setting, one of his strengths.

 As always, the other fun folk at the CSFF Tour have more to say, and you can find the full list on Becky Miller's blog.
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BTW, the FTC requires a blogger to disclose whether they got a free review copy. I am disclosing that I used my birthday gift card to Barnes and Noble on this book. I am a very satisfied consumer!
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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

CSFF Tour - The Skin Map Day 2

In Which The Blogger Attempts To Understand Why Someone Would Put A Map On Their Skin...

Yesterday I introduced the latest book in the pantheon of great CSFF blog tours: The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead. Just the idea of a map tattooed on someone is intriguing. But wait, there's more!

The book follows Kit Livingstone, a rather boring and average Brit, on his way to his average and boring girlfriend's flat. That is, until he ends up in a little alleyway in London, soaking wet from a fierce storm, confronted by his great-grandfather, seeming to be pretty spry for a dead guy.

His great-grandfather Cosimo explains that people have discovered a way to travel to alternate dimensions or universes via "ley lines." Cosimo and Kit have this unusual ability, and it is up to them to find the Skin Map. The most prolific traveler had the routes tattooed on his abdomen so it would be secure. Or so it would seem.

Kit doesn't know what to think of this crazy old man, but he does know his no-nonesense girlfriend Wilhelmina isn't pleased by his late arrival due to a dimensional detour. When he tries to show her how it works, he loses Mina into an alternate timeline, and the race is on to find Mina and the Skin Map before too much chaos is caused. Unfortunately, the Lord Burleigh and his "Burley Men" are also on the hunt for this map, and they are not reserved in how they pursue it.

So what are these ley lines? It seems that many geographical features built by ancients in Britain follow straight lines and patterns. An enterprising fellow in the 1920's noticed this, and it has become a favorite of New Agers and other kooky types, although there is apparently a strange energy associated with them. The ley lines are certainly good fodder for such a speculative fiction book. Blogging buddy Matt Mikalatos has a more information on them, so why duplicate his good work?

For more information, you can check out the book's website. I'll have my review of the book tomorrow, but if you just can't wait, check out the rest of the inmates for more on The Skin Map.

Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

Monday, November 01, 2010

CSFF Tour - The Skin Map Day 1

How do make sure you will never, EVER lose your way?

A map would be nice. Then again, a map can be lost.

What if you put the map on something you could never lose? What would that be? It would be...a skin map.


The Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour is featuring an intriguing book, the latest from well-known author Stephen Lawhead, The Skin Map.

Lawhead is an author I've been talking about since my first involvement with the CSFF tour. He has carved out a strong niche writing fantasy and historical novels alike. He loves the mythic aspect of stories, and he has played with some of the big ones in his King Arthur epic The Pendragon Cycle and his unique take on Robin Hood in The Raven King Trilogy.

But to hear Lawhead in his own words, nothing may compare to what he has in store with the planned five volume Bright Empires series:

'I have not read or written anything quite like it,’ says Lawhead. ‘It’s been forming in my mind for at least fifteen years. Now I am finally writing it, because I think I can finally do justice to such an intricately woven storyline.


BRIGHT EMPIRES is the most challenging work I’ve ever undertaken, and I’m alternately exhilarated and terrified by it.'

I would be challenged too, by a work of time travel and crossing into alternate dimensions involving skin maps, Burley Men, and good coffee.  

But more on that later.

Until tomorrow, see what clues you can follow in my fellow travelers below:
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A "Little" Word on Good Writing

That was embarrassing.

I had a friend return some chapters of my story this week for a critique. He was kind and thought the overall flow and trajectory of the story was good. He had some comments on point-of-view, sentence structure, and details like that. He also had one comment that was worth its weight in gold for my writing.

"You use the word 'little'" a lot."

He circled several instances where I had done this. Nothing more needed to be said there. I realized that my diplomatic nature was kicking in, and I have a bad habit of pulling back from saying something strongly by adding qualifiers such as seems, little, possibly, etc.

I knew I'd better search my whole project for "little". Ctrl-F is a good friend to a writer.

But this was a "little" ridiculous.

I had four or five instances of "little" on each page, it seemed. Not only that, it usually did nothing but water down my writing by pulling back the force of the words. "She was getting a little more used to the pace." "He couldn't help a little grin."

What does a weak word like "little" add to a novel? NOTHING. I won't pull back here. Certainly it has a place. My main character is the younger sister, so sometimes she is fighting against the "little" sister stereotype.

My advice then is this: look for those words you run to to fill space. We all have our pets. I can't believe how many times I have read over some of these chapters, and "little" has never caught my eye. Also, make sure you use strong words and don't be afraid to say something. It is almost a nervous tic for me to soft-pedal, and I hate it sometimes. So check your writing with an eagle eye. Have someone else read it to help you find those blind spots. And don't go weak on your description. Be bold, use the right word for the right situation, and don't even give in to temptation a little!
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Monday, October 25, 2010

"The Continuum" and Other Tales

Hey all. I haven't gone anywhere. Busy work and trying to finish up things at home can cause blogging deficiencies though, it is a documented condition.

Instead of reading my mea culpa for being somewhat absent, you should be reading where on the scale of Christian fiction you land, if you are a writer. Thanks to Mike Duran's post, we know have an objective scale for measuring just how Christian a particular novel is.

Actually, I'm full of it today. Mike did write an interesting post with a scale borrowed from John Wimber and his book Power Evangelism to describe where people are in their relationship (or lack thereof) with God. It was actually helpful, because it made me think about how realistic my plot progression is in my WIP. I recommend you check it out (and just follow Mike already - I link to him enough here).

In other news, I finished some light reading involving dimension-hopping and time travel. Of course I'm referring to the new novel The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead. I'll be discussing it more next week for a blog tour, so if the premise interests you (and it really should), then check back.

Finally, is there anything people want to discuss here? Seriously, I'm interested in some topics to help feed this fertile imagination. That way, I don't come up with something that stinks...

OK, this post is getting far too silly. I'll be back soon with hopefully more coherent thoughts.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Too Clean?

As the debate rages in Christian fiction about "edgy" fiction, a Mormon author making the following pledge:

Mark the date and save this text. I will never use foul, crude, disgusting language or create explicit images of sex or graphic violence.

This is from Jason F. Wright, an author I am unfamiliar with, but I saw this article linked on Facebook and was curious. There is a subculture of LDS fiction just as there is for the evangelical world in the CBA. I've not read any of these books, but seeing them at the library, I can tell there are similarities (such as making knock-offs of popular general fiction such as DaVinci Code).

He asks the question if anyone has put down a book because it is too clean. Since the source of this article is "Mormon Times," I would expect the answer to be "no". I admire how he knows his place as an author and his determination to stick to his beliefs.

Still, I think people have put down books for being "too clean" if the book was also too unrealistic, uninteresting, or a combination. Can a good book be clean without the issues he labels above? Certainly. His point about older literature succeeding without gory details of sex, violence, or language is a poignant one considering our culture that demands "realism" above all.

Since I've participated in the discussion of edgy Christian fiction, the statement caught my eye. I still believe there is an argument for fiction that glorifies God and speaks to the culture while being grittier than your standard CBA fare, it is good to remember that each author has their own calling, and needs to stay true to that. It would not ring true to have a gritty Amish novel by certain authors, just as Ted Dekker writing a pure, sugary sweet prairie romance would be WAY out of character ;)
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"Sensual" Christian Fiction?

File this post under "unfinished business."

On September 15th I reviewed Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker for the CFBA tour. I made the
comment, "Is this the book that changes what Christian fiction can be about?" I left off a cliffhanger saying I'd discuss it "tomorrow."

Hope you haven't been hanging too long!

Still, I don't want to let this idea go. Immanuel's Veins is a book that deserves some analysis.

The book is a potent mix of visual and emotional imagery. As I said in my review, Dekker spends time developing his two main characters, Toma and Lucine, and otherwise has placeholder characters that allow him to develop the tension and force the plot on its blistering pace. As Toma falls for Lucine, and she is torn between him and a deceptively dashing royal, there is a lot of description of the desire that develops.

Dekker describes it as probably "the most Christian book I've ever written." It certainly is laced with the love Jesus has for His bride, as well as a deep connection to the Song of Solomon (he dedicates the book to King Solomon) and other Biblical imagery such as the two sisters in Ezekiel who end up whoring after other countries and their false gods. To build such a premise, this book couldn't really be tame.

Dekker writes freely of passion and desire in building up the drama. The story wouldn't have worked without it. The sensuality of the followers of van Valerik is contrasted with the nobility of Toma and Lucine. Still, both of them are tempted by the opportunity, and Lucine is seduced by Duke Vlad van Valerik. The horror of what she encounters after she gives herself to him echoes the mistake people make when they go after the schemes of Satan, only to realize they've been snared.

The book is sensual. The story demands it. As I read it, sometimes it was slightly arousing. It is unlike any other Christian (CBA) novel I've read. The book was actually not accepted by Ted's Christian publisher in Holland due to its sensuality (can you say irony?).

I think only someone with Dekker's clout in the CBA industry could get away with writing this book. Violence has long been accepted in Christian fiction, but any kind of sexuality is resisted. Now, I don't think we should be seeing "Christian erotica" anytime soon, and that is not the purpose of Immanuel's Veins. Again I'll say the story required such language.

So this book could be a book that changes Christian fiction. I don't think we'll be seeing smut in the CBA, but if there is a proper place for sexual/sensual language that serves the story and the message, then Immanuel's Veins sets a precedent. It will be resisted by some for sure - on the Amazon page the book is overwhelmingly praised, but there are several 1 star reviews that decry the language and imagery. I see their point, but I feel those reviewers are missing the point of the book by focusing on the trees and missing the forest.

Will this open up Christian fiction to the idea that "the end justifies the means?" I don't think that is the case here. But Dekker really is not forging new ground, not when prophets and wise men in the Bible used such imagery first. Time will tell if it pushes CBA fiction, or if it is an isolated case.

What say you?
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CSFF Tour - Venom and Song Day 2

Continuing the CSFF Tour of Venom and Song, the latest book by the dynamic duo of Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper, one would expect a review of the book, right?

If I had been able to rip it away from my 10 year old long enough to finish it, I would review it.

I guess I can't blame him - he had a Barnes and Noble gift card from his birthday, so really I'm trying to steal his book. But...he knew I had a deadline!

Instead, I am going to attempt a difficult task: interpret a 10 year old boy's thoughts of, "Cool! Awesome!" into a coherent review.

Remember that this is book two, following last year's Curse of the Spider King (see the tour here, there, and here too). We read that together as a family out loud over a couple months at bedtime. The timing worked out that we finished Curse right before Venom came out, so he launched right into it. Both boys enjoyed the action, characters, and suspense of the first book. (A favorite line was when an Elf was asked if she knew what the other Elves were up to due to telepathy. The answer: "A cell phone.")

All boy

As Nathan read through it, he proclaimed last weekend it was "his favorite book." That endorsement from a 10 year old should be enough. I hope so, because I tried to ask why it was his favorite. Turns out 10 year old boys aren't very good at explaining their feelings! He thought it was "cool" and "awesome."

I pressed him for more. He like the action, the characters, and the suspense (had to define "suspense" for him). His favorite character was the teenage elven lord Jett, due to his power of super-strength and his past history of being a star football player. He didn't care for Kat or Kiri Lee, two other lords, because they didn't have "cool powers" (telepathy and air-walking). I wondered if it was the fact they were girls, but he didn't include Autumn, who has super speed, so the power thing must be it.

I also asked him about a theme. As a 10 year old boy, his response was, "Uhhhhhhh." Finally, he said he saw the importance of teamwork from the book. I don't think I'd do any better as a 10 year old, so I'll take it!

So, if you want to know what a typical 10 year old boy thinks of Venom and Song, it is "cool."

Nuff said!

Oh, and for stuffy grown-up opinions ;) you can check out Becky Miller's blog, where she keeps a tab on all posts here.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

CSFF Tour - Venom and Song Day 1

The Prophecies continue!

This month the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour is featuring Venom and Song, book 2 in the series The Berinfell Prophecies by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper.

The CSFF Tour featured book one, Curse of the Spider King, last year. It continues the story of the Seven Lords of Berinfell, elven children kidnapped from their kingdom and stranded in our world and left to grow up around the world. The first book details the dramatic adventures in finding the lords as their special powers manifest as teenagers, and their escape into Berinfell.

In Venom and Song, the lords find themselves in their rightful world, which is still a strange place to them. As they undergo training at the distant Whitehall Castle, the Spider King is working a plan to defeat the Elves once and for all.
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My thoughts for today relate more to an opportunity books like this offer, rather than the book itself. I like to do these tours featuring Young Adult (YA) speculative fiction because I have 4 kids, including 3 imaginative boys. The older ones, 10 and 8, are at an age where they eat up heroics such as Star Wars/Clone Wars, Narnia, G.I. Joe, and the like.

Thankfully, they are also still at an age where they like reading a book together. It sometimes is difficult to find time, but we really look forward to our reading time at night. I remember my mom reading to me as a kid, so to pass this on to my boys is a joy.

For those who have kids, I highly encourage you to read to your children. It helps them understand how to read something out loud, which is a different skill than reading silently. It also reinforces the love of reading to them.

And if you're going to read to your kids, then the Berinfell Prophecies is a great place to start! Maybe I'm too much of a ham, but I enjoy reading these books because there are a lot of characters to give variety. Sometimes there's a little too much, but overall it makes the reading variable. There's a Scottish character, so I get to give my best Highlands accent. From the gruff warrior general Grimwarden to cook Mumthers (I'm thinking Mrs. Doubtfire here) and the different lords (confident Jett, thoughtful Kiri Lee) I get to really stretch my acting chops. Actually, I noticed at the end of Curse of the Spider King that my wife was making it a point to sit down to hear the exciting story as well!

The books are certainly enjoyable as silent reads, but to read them aloud is another treat altogether.

In other news, see my fellow tourmates below for more Spider-y goodness:

Angela
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Leighton
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
James Somers
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CFBA Tour - Immanuel's Veins

Read on below, to find out about a free giveaway contest!

This week, the CFBA Tour is featuring the latest thriller from Ted Dekker:


Is this the book that changes what Christian fiction can be about? First, the concept:

It is set in Eastern Europe in 1772, a time of war between the Russian and Turkish empires. The small principality of Moldova, neighbor to Transylvania, is wedged between these two powers, and is a strategic interest.

The empress Catherine the Great sends one of her best soldiers, Toma Nicolescu, to guard over the Cantemir estate. This noble family holds the key to politics in this critical area. It is ruled over by the matriarch Kesia Cantemir, and her twin daughters Natasha and Lucine.

Toma enters this world just as a neighboring duke begins to make his presence known to the Cantemirs. The dashing Vlad van Valerik has his sights on one of the Cantemir twins. But Toma has been smitten by one of the beauties as well.

As passions intertwine, a torrid love story bursts forth. Evil seduces. Death will be known. Love will bloom. And as the back copy says, "Blood will flow."
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Ted Dekker is one of the most imaginative writers in CBA fiction today. He writes taut suspense that seldom fails to grip the reader until the last page. He takes chances, and Immanuel's Veins is a bold thrust against some of the prevailing themes in popular fiction right now.

Dekker will not win over the literati with this novel. This book has a strong idea, and it pushes that idea relentlessly. The two main characters are noble but flawed, and their choices have consequences. Other characters serve the plot, and are not fully fleshed out. In other books, this would bother me. In Immanuel's Veins, this almost seems necessary, as it is a love affair between two people, in the best sense of the phrase.

It certainly is a sensual book. Dekker dedicates it to King Solomon, he who is often thought to be the author of the Biblical Song of Solomon. He doesn't hold back in driving home the emotion. He doesn't titillate, but some may not be able to handle the force he uses to write this book.

Some are saying this is Ted Dekker's version of a vampire story. I suppose you could say that. Perhaps you should check it out for yourself.

The end point: I am a fan of Dekker's, but not every book of his is a home run. Immanuel's Veins is unique in his bibliography, and it is a significant contribution to what fiction can do. I enjoyed it, and I ponder it still. It certainly gets the blood pumping, and it may just be my favorite Dekker book.

He asks the question "what is sacrificial love?" It is a novel written to address that one idea. In conjuction with it, I wrote about it yesterday.

And what did I mean by "Is this the book that changes what Christian fiction can be about?"

Well it seems I'm out of time for today ;). Check back tomorrow for that thought.

And I promised a giveaway! One person who comments on this post will be chosen at random to win a special t-shirt designed by Dekker's publisher to help share the message "spread the love". It is a cool T, and I think you'll like it! Leave a comment, and I'll choose a winner by Monday, Sept 20.
If you'd like to read the first chapter of Immanuel's Veins, go HERE.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What Is Sacrificial Love?

I was asked to consider this question recently:

What is sacrificial love?

A deep question. How does one respond?

Do I love my wife with a sacrificial love? If I think hard about it, probably not for the most part. I'm selfish. I do things to my advantage a lot of times. I'm not saying I don't love her. I love her dearly, deeply, almost desperately. I would like to think I do. But often I am not at the level of true sacrifice. I do things for her that I would otherwise not do, but I don't know how much of a "sacrifice" they are.

My kids? I would sacrifice myself for them if there was a choice of them living or me living. I would throw myself in front of a car to save them. But here also, I often do things for myself, and not for the best of my children. I could make a deeper choice. Instead of taking Thursday nights to relax for myself, I could spend quality time with them, but that is not my habit.

As a Christian, the highest ideal is sacrificial love. Jesus gave His life, His very blood for us. It drained out of His body, stained the ground beneath the cross, all to wash away my sins. Your sins.

I find it is a very hard thing to live up to that example.

What say you? What thoughts do you have about what sacrificial love is? I really would like your input on this.
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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

CBA Following CCM?

And in other news, ABC hates CBS and NBC.

Aside from abbreviation proliferation, I've been thinking about the continuing (continuous?) debate in CBA fiction circles about how to expand the "boundaries" of Christian fiction. On one side there are people defending the industry, pointing to its growth in the publishing world over the last several years, and the greater variety of genres/books being published. Another camp feels stifled by the unspoken limits of what is acceptable, and wonders how CBA/Christian fiction can reach unbelievers in its current status.

(Realize that the "industry" is a disparate group of authors, editors, agents, publishers, marketers, and booksellers, each with their own agenda. People speak of the CBA as some monolithic organization, which it certainly is not.)

Doncha dig the font
 and hairdos?
I've considered another industry that has had similar growing pains. CCM stands for Contemporary Christian Music, and it is another nebulous designation to speak of a variety of interests in music.

CCM started in the late 60's/early 70's with the revolution of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. As the hippie movement took full swing, there was a counter-revolution of young people getting saved, but retaining the new tastes in music and culture of their peers (without the sex and drugs part). As they naturally wrote music in the rock and folk genres, the initial music was often picked up by general market labels. Artists like Keith Green and Randy Stonehill were pioneers in these areas. Soon there was enough interest that labels were started to give further outlet to these musicians.

Since the people involved wanted to glorify the Lord as well as sell music, they became Christian publishers. This had the effect of sucking most of the blatantly Christian artists into a niche area, creating a music "ghetto" for lack of a better term. There were those like Bob Dylan with his Christian phase albums in the general market, but most artists producing specific Christian music (religious lyrics/subjects) were isolated from the general market airwaves. Christian music was on the outside looking in with the advent of MTV.

Slowly Christian artists tested the waters of "crossing over" to the general market, even as the Christian music ghetto flourished. Stryper was a famous Christian glam-metal band that got MTV airplay but was sold in (many, not all) Christian bookstores. Amy Grant was the first big crossover with her song "Baby Baby," a syrupy-yet-catchy pop song that wasn't specifically religious.

A debate raged at the time (early 90's) whether these artists were "selling out" by writing lyrics that were ambiguous enough to be sung as a love song to the Lord or to a girlfriend. Michael W. Smith had a couple of hits on top 40 radio with such songs. In the mid-90's Jars of Clay burst onto the scene when an early single, "Flood", made waves in both markets. U2 remained a conundrum as they had spiritually insightful lyrics, but refused to be labeled a "Christian" band. Those darn Irish rockers wouldn't let themselves be squeezed into the little CCM box!

Slowly, things have changed in the last 10 years in Christian music. Movies and TV shows started pulling songs from various Christian artists to play during the program. Switchfoot became a band that garnered a lot of respect in the general market, but were still considered "one of ours." Relient k participated in the Vans Warped Tour with other general artists. P.O.D. broke through to both markets. Songs by The Afters, The Fray, and others got noticed. Skillet's "Hero" was the major song for Sunday Night Football last year. The band Paramore is not considered a Christian band per se, but they have songs such as "Hallelujah" on their records.

Most of this has happened organically, without a lot of organization that I can tell. Perhaps there was behind the scenes maneuvering, but suddenly it was okay for bands to talk about spirituality without being black-listed to the CCM ghetto, and the CCM folks didn't fuss about "selling out" nearly as much. This isn't perfect: the band MuteMath sued their Christian distributor for being called a "Christian band", as they felt it hurt their image since "Christian music" wasn't considered the same quality as general market music. You don't find songs blatantly speaking of Jesus on mainstream airwaves.

Could this be the model that CBA fiction follows? There are parallels - Ted Dekker is successfully publishing in both ABA/general market as well as Christian fiction. The CCM flow right now seems to leave room for the overtly Christian tunes, such as Chris Tomlin's praise music along with the bands such as Superchick that have had some crossover appeal.

I can see this happening. I don't know much about marketing and how books get out to the Barnes and Noble of the world, but it would be nice if relationships could be built with publishers and booksellers, getting more CBA books into areas of greater visibility. Hopefully the Ted Dekkers of the world will help pave a way for the Eric Wilsons and Robin Parrishs of the world for greater exposure.
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Discussions on "Edgy" Christian Fiction

Some are getting seriously tired of the label "edgy" when discussing Christian fiction. I can understand. Without an objective definition, one person's edgy is another person's milquetoast.

That being said, there have been a couple of interesting posts on the subject of edgy last week.

Mike Duran had an interesting post over at Decompose, and he disputes whether Christian fiction is really delving into the edgy or not. With 40+ comments this week, the dialogue has been interesting to say the least. If you're interested in this conversation, be sure to check it out.

Ted Dekker has had a first: his latest novel Immanuel's Veins has been banned in Holland. Strange, I know. It is only banned because the Christian publisher that produces his books there feels it is too "sensual" for their audience. Ted is not afraid to state a point, so he has a thought-provoking reply on his Facebook page.

For now I don't have anything new to say in regards to these issues. Rather than rehashing them here, go check them out. Go on, off with ya now...
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Merrie DeStefano's "Afterlife"

Merrie DeStefano is a buddy of Spoiled for the Ordinary, and she has a debut novel coming out later this year: Afterlife. It is urban fantasy, and it looks intriguing. Check out the blog Supernatural Underground for more info from Merrie, as well as her blog.

I'll be looking forward to this one.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stephen Lawhead on Writing

Stephen Lawhead is one of the best speculative fiction authors out there currently, and even though he is a Christian who writes, he has had success crossing over into the general market. 

He recently did an interview with C.J. Darlington over at TitleTrakk.com (a great resource on fiction, movies, and music that I too often overlook) that had an excellent discussion on his approach to writing. Below is the extended quote, but I encourage you to check out the whole interview, buy Stephen's new book, and bookmark TitleTrakk for frequent viewing! The highlighted areas are by me:

"CJ: You are a Christian, but you don't necessarily write what people call “Christian fiction”. The Skin Map touches on some greater themes without the bad language and violence. Is that purposeful on your part?


SL: I write for the widest possible readership, and I always have, even at Campus Life magazine. This whole thing about earning the right to be heard is important. I always enjoyed the classic, golden age of the novel, back in the 1880's and 1890's. It's amazing how many men of faith were involved in that, and yet the books they produced are not labeled Christian fiction; they just wrote books for people like themselves who liked to read. That's what I've tried to do. Sometimes I would like to have a little freer hand with the language, but I know that can also be a barrier. I've learned that most people in books when they use off color language, that is usually a failure of imagination, if nothing else. It's also a moral failure. It's so easy to put a graphic word or a swear word for shock value. But when I use a word I want it to mean what it means and have the value that I put on it. There are rare times when an artist needs to even have black on his pallette. You have to draw the line somewhere, and where I choose to draw it may be over the line for some people and others sail right by it. I don't willfully try to offend, but sometimes you reach for a word and there are only one or two that will do. In The Skin Map we use the word “bastard” a couple times in the way it is intended to be used, but I'm sure some people will not appreciate that.

A fiction story is meant to present a dream, a sort of waking dream for the reader. You want to create a world where they can enter in and participate. You try everything you can to keep that dream alive in a continuous, seamless, whole. Any jolts that wake the reader up from the dream have to go, whether it's a clunky scene or a sentence that isn't quite right. You try to minimize shocks that will wake up the reader that you are trying to lull into a dream. Language can do that. Sex scenes are quite overdone these days, so I try to write scenes that aren't dependent on that. I got in trouble with that with Patrick, because he's a 17 year old young guy whose attracted to all the young ladies. To make it true to his life as a saint who has to battle these demons there was a scene or two that was illustrative of this point. Some people don't understand why that has to be there, especially for good ol' Saint Patrick, but even the best saints struggle. That is part of the human condition."
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The CSFF Greatest Hits - Number 1

What??
Ah, this is it!

The CSFF Tour for August has the loose theme of "favorites." Some bloggers have talked about their all-time favorite books. My take was to go over all the tours I've been a part of and pull out my favorite books and tours. Which books inspired me?

Honorable mention goes to Robin Parrish and his book Fearless. A wildly suspenseful read, and it inspired my most-visited post, "Why Do We Need Heroes?"

BUT...out of over 40 Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog Tours, the book (and tour) that came out on top..

I give you number
Blaggard's Moon by George Bryan Polivka.


This book is special.

Bryan writes with a descriptive touch that "sets the reader on the high seas feeling the salt air, or ducking the musket balls and choking on the gunpowder." He writes characters that each leap off the page, with individual voices that make them seem real (sometimes too real).

This book was written after his Trophy Chase trilogy of pirate books, but is actually a prequel. It sets up the trilogy in a marvelous way, but stands on its own with a heartfelt tale of revenge, love, and loss.

Make it so, number one
The book has a unique structure, with pirate Smith Delaney waiting for a certain, gruesome death recalling a story told by master pirate storyteller Ham Drumbone. The back and forth between two different storytellers and the story is a little confusing at first, but is well worth the effort.
The book follows pirate king Conch Imbry, pirate hunter Damrick Fellows and mysterious lady Jenta Smithmiller as intrigue, battle, and death weaves throughout. The reader is left guessing how this all ties together, which it does very nicely at the end. Will Damrick succeed in clearing piracy from the waters, or will the wily Conch outwit the determined vigilante? And how does beautiful Jenta affect both men's plans?

That's right! #1!
I have to say that I had fun with the tour as well because I had a special visitor for this blog tour. One of the scurvy scoundrels from the book, Spinner Sleeve, stopped by to, uh, "oversee" what I had to say. Having a pirate at your back and a cutlass at your throat makes for an interesting blogging experience.

For the rest of my posts on Blaggard's Moon and the rest of Polivka's Trophy Chase trilogy, see these posts.

This tour has a lot of interesting posts featuring a variety of speculative fiction. Get the updated list here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The CSFF Greatest Hits - Number 2

Greetings, wayward travelers. You have come upon the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Tour for August. This month you are treated to a "free-for-all", as we had no specific book or website to promote. Instead, you will find a wide variety of books discussed, from all-time favorites such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, to newer books by contemporary authors.

Here at Spoiled for the Ordinary, I am focusing on books from the 4 years I've been doing the tour (o_O). My how time flies...

Coming in at number
The two books of the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten.

I can't think of a better series (other than Narnia) to recommend for kids other than the Wingfeather Saga. Andrew Peterson has created a fun fantasy series with peril, adventures, and toothy cows. Who can ask for more than that?

Peterson is an accomplished singer/songwriter, so his prose, as I've mentioned before, has a lyrical quality to it. He keeps a great pace, leaving my kids dying whenever we hit a cliffhanger as I read to them (which is pretty much every chapter!) It is probably most reminscent of The Princess Bride, with whimsy and suspense. I mean, how great is it to have a bad guy who is a Nameless Evil, (named Gnag the Nameless, natch). This leader of the Fangs of Dang (dang Fangs!) is after the Lost Jewels of Anniera. He thinks the Igiby children have them in the first book, only to find out (spoilers) that the three kids ARE the lost jewels.

The world Peterson has created is a magical place, with a great literary history (Peterson often quotes from these imaginary works, the footnotes are worth reading in this book). There is a thoughfulness about this work, and the deep themes within it, that continue to resonate in me after several readings.

I have to also give a personal story. For a homeschool English assignment, I thought it would be a good exercise for my two older boys to write a letter to Peterson. They asked their own questions and offered their favorite parts of the book, as well as offering their artistic interpretations of key scenes (they each drew him a picture). My boys called me a couple weeks later at work so excited, because Andrew had written them each a personal handwritten letter, refering to their letters specifically, and commenting on their art. What a class act!

So for number 2 in CSFF Tours, I have to give a shout out to a good man, a great musician, and a thoughtful writer, Andrew Peterson! If you have missed these books, you have missed a treat. And bomnubbles. Don't forget the bomnubbles.


See what else is going on for the CSFF Tour this month with the latest at Becky's blog (the mother ship as we like to say...)

Oh, and a note from Becky: "Before I forget, we have just a little over a week left in the voting for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction – Readers’ Choice. I hope you’re planning to vote."

I voted for North! Or Be Eaten. What's your vote?
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Monday, August 23, 2010

The CSFF Greatests Hits - Number 3

Hearken back to May of 2006. Do you remember what was happening back then? Do you even remember what you had for breakfast yesterday?

Anyway, I recall (thanks to the power of the web) that it was the first time I participated in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy tour! Amazing how time flies. There have been a lot of good books that we've covered, and for this special August 2010 edition of the CSFF Tour, I give you Spoiled for the Ordinary's best of:

Coming in at number...
is The Gifted series by Lisa T. Bergren, from April 2009. The CSFF Tour featured the first book of the series, The Begotten for this tour. The story continues in The Betrayed and The Blessed.

This series was set in Italy of the 1300's, a dynamic time with rival popes competing for leadership of the Church and the continued mixing of cultures across the Mediterranean Sea. The premise rests on the Lost Corinthian Correspondence of St. Paul, letters lost at the compilation of the Bible.

Fragments of the letters are being hunted by Father Pietro and Lady Daria, as it foretells the gathering of a group called The Gifted that will walk in the gifts of the Holy Spirit to bring light and healing to a dark time. The group is pursued by a lord willing to walk in very evil ways in order to bring the Gifted to ruin.

This series was considered borderline "speculative" as it is set in a historical period and wasn't fully science fiction or fantasy. Still, the premise and supernatural aspect of the story brought it to the attention of the CSFF Tour, and it became one of my favorite series we have featured. Bergren did a lot of research and brought this intriguing pre-Renaissance period to life. The characters were rich and the suspense thick. I had two books in mind for this tour, and needing a third to feature. After skimming through all of my CSFF posts, I had almost forgotten about The Gifted. I'm tempted to pull them out and re-read them after refreshing my mind - if you missed this series and enjoy a historical tale, make sure to check this out. 

Read my review and other thoughts on The Begotten at these links. Check back Tuesday and Wednesday for my 2nd and 1st favorite tour books.

In the meantime, I'm sure these folks will have some interesting posts as well - my fellow CSFF tourmates!
Brandon Barr
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
George Duncan
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Mike Lynch
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Jason Waguespac
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Does "Nightmare" Belong in the CBA?

On Friday I reviewed Nightmare by Robin Parrish. As a paranormal suspense novel, close to a horror novel, this book has received some interesting reviews. None of the reviews I've seen have said that it is a bad story. They all acknowledge Robin as a good suspense author.

However, a few reviews I've seen (on Christianbook.com, a couple during the CFBA tour) turn negative when they talk about the spiritual aspects of the book. Obviously Nightmare takes on a topic that may seem to go against some people's theology. To this I say, make sure you read the book all the way through, and read it carefully. It is a work of speculative fiction - as in "speculate." He is not saying a definitive position on the topic, he came up with a suspenseful story idea and worked on it. If you expect a treatise on spiritual warfare you'll be disappointed.

Spoilers Ahead!


Robin never denies or totally affirms the paranormal in the book. He writes an author note at the back of the book saying he believes closer to a Christian character in the book, and warns people that he does not believe dabbling in the paranormal is a good idea at all. The plot hinges around a machine that is able to remove a person's soul from their body. There is a large McGuffin plot device that pops up at this time to explain this. The people are able to be reconnected soul to body at the end.

End Spoilers

I've had some bad experience with things like Dungeons and Dragons in the past. I believe that Christians shouldn't dabble in every possible form of evil or paranormal. This is a whole different ball game to me. I don't believe he is trying to glamorize anything, but to use a plot point to tell a story. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Robin makes sure at the end to remind people it is just a story to make people think - not to sermonize on ghosts or glorify any kind of evil. At least in my opinion.

So is there a place in CBA fiction for a book like Nightmare? The answer is: it depends who you ask!

Nightmare is going to trip up some people who think that CBA fiction means uplifting, theologically correct books that are squeaky clean in the orthodoxy department. Thus the negative reviews. There is another segment of readers who are more open to fiction that has a little more ambiguity, without things fully nailed to a theological premise. People who read science fiction or fantasy should have no problem in general. I would like to see a CBA industry that has room for authors like Robin Parrish or Eric Wilson. However, in my opinion there is enough resistance to writers like them at this time that they may need to pursue other options in publishing.

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