Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Donald Miller on Writing

Must be link week here at Spoiled for the Ordinary...

Breakpoint has an excerpt from Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, talking about the process of writing. We may think we need to "live life" to write, but if that's all we do we'll never do the hard business of getting writing done. He also talks about making life uncomfortable for your characters in order to get them to change.

So be sure to check out "How to Make Yourself Write a Better Story" and tell them Jason sent you. They won't know who I am, but tell 'em anyway.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Technology-Induced ADHD

I've wondered for a while if surfing the internet wasn't giving me ADHD.

A new article from Wired Magazine may prove me right.

It suggests the constant attention shift required by the Web "shatters focus" and "rewires the brain." I notice that I have a lot smaller attention span, which isn't a good thing. I also stream music in the background through the day at work, so quiet, focused time isn't something I am used to anymore. Not a good thing for my prayer life I can tell you.

Anyway, I wanted to let you all know of the dangers before I....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CFBA Tour - Maid to Match

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Maid to Match
Bethany House (June 1, 2010)

Deeanne Gist


After a short career in elementary education, Deeanne Gist retired to raise her four children. Over the course of the next fifteen years, she ran a home accessory and antique business, became a member of the press, wrote freelance journalism for national publications such as People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle and Orlando Sentinel, and acted as CFO for her husband’s small engineering firm--all from the comforts of home.

Squeezed betwixt-and-between all this, she read romance novels by the truckload and even wrote a couple of her own. While those unpublished manuscripts rested on the shelf, she founded a publishing corporation for the purpose of developing, producing and marketing products that would reinforce family values, teach children responsibility and provide character building activities.

After a few short months of running her publishing company, Gist quickly discovered being a "corporate executive" was not where her gifts and talents lie. In answer to Gist’s fervent prayers, God sent a mainstream publisher to her door who licensed her parenting I Did It!® product line and committed to publish the next generation of her system, thus freeing Gist to return to her writing.

Eight months later, she sold A Bride Most Begrudging to Bethany House Publishers. Since that debut, her very original, very fun romances have rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere. Add to this two consecutive Christy Awards, two RITA nominations, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

Her 2010 books, Beguiled and Maid To Match are now available for order.

Gist lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-seven years and their two border collies. They have four grown children. Visit her blog to find out the most up-to-the-minute news about Dee.


Falling in love could cost her everything.

From the day she arrived at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled, by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in proper servant etiquette, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid, After all, the one rule of the house is no romance below stairs.

But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangles in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs, their aspirations...their hearts.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Maid to Match, go HERE.

Join this SPECIAL GETAWAY (Click on the Button):

CSFF Tour - Review of Imaginary Jesus

What, pray tell, is Imaginary Jesus?

First of all, you'll have to check out my introductory post from yesterday. It is considered a novel by its publisher. It has a memoir-feel about it, if a memoir can have time travel and a talking donkey, along with a huge supporting cast of fake Jesuses.

I wonder a little bit how the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy blog tour came to review it. It counts as "speculative" due to the bizarre unusual premise and the time travel aspect, I suppose. Suffice to say, it isn't our usual fare of swords, magic, or space travel.

First, the writing. It is hard to discuss characters, as the main character is the author, Matt Mikalatos, and a plethora of Jesuses. Not your traditional novel in this aspect (I sense a theme here...). The writing is funny, quick to read, and generally quite clever. There is a patch toward the end that just gets frentic and confusing, but overall this book moves fast and fun. Again, it is a very non-traditional novel, but you can't call it "creative non-fiction" either.

So, what about the message/theme/theology of a book that starts off with "Jesus" getting punched in the face? The whole premise is that Matt is confronted with the idea that the construct he believes is Jesus is an imaginary Jesus. This Jesus is a mash-up of ideas that makes Matt confortable. He feels chastened mildly by his Jesus, but usually this construct keeps him happy enough.

Matt has a visit by the apostle Peter who exposes this fraud, and the two chase off after the runaway Jesus. Matt is forced to confront this imaingary Jesus before he can meet the real Jesus. He takes a trip to the first century and gets a glipse of the Rabbi from Galilee. He then returns to modern day Portland, where he encounters many fake Jesuses (very creative here: Perpetually Angry Jesus, Testosterone Jesus [the Jesus of men's retreats], and New Age Jesus are among the copies).

Finally, after confronting some tragedy in his own past, Matt pushes through all the distractions and cultural assumptions and meets the Master.

If one is to read this book, you have to realize that it is full of whimsy and satire. As someone else said in the tour, Matt never makes fun of Jesus - he is always highly respectful of the true Jesus. It distinguishes from the other Jesuses running around. It may be a little disconcerting seeing how he plays off of modern American church culture to construct these fakes, but if the reader keeps his eyes open, they should see the critique is on us Christians and how we all can create our own ideas of Jesus.

One could say it is the fun (and more theologically correct) version of The Shack. Sometimes the humor is thick enough to be distracting, but overall the message is potent. Is such humor appropriate to communicate a serious message? Mike Duran discussed this idea this week. I think the humor disarms us to allow the message to get past our defenses.

Final impressions: this is a book that takes chances. Hard to consider it a novel, but it doesn't really fit anything else. It is an entertaining, quick read, especially if one has a sense of humor. There are some good challenges to how comfortable we get with our own Imaginary Jesuses, rather than fully seeking the Holy One of Israel, the King of Kings. George Barna even gets in on the action, having an appearance in the book and discussing our American habit of redefining Jesus.

Don't let the back copy or cover scare you off. If you want a challenge to look at Jesus clearly, this book has a humorous poke at our sacred cows. And if you want other opinions from the CSFF crew, Becky Miller always keeps a running tab.

Special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for supplying me with a review copy of Imaginary Jesus.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Imagine," If You Will... (CSFF Blog Tour)

Prepare yourself. You are about to enter a blog post where anything can happen. Anything you can imagine may pop up.

A talking donkey?


A romp through space and time and Portland, Oregon?


Jesus getting punched in the face?

Say what???

Welcome to the June edition of the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Blog Tour, a lively place to find some people talking passionately about speculative fiction with a Christian bent. I can promise you that this is the most interesting book we have ever talked about.

Imaginary Jesus.

This is the first book from Matt Mikalatos. I've interacted with Matt since the old faith*in*fiction blog days and have followed him off and on at his blog "Burning Hearts Revolution" since. His humor kept it very entertaining, as he talked about his girls' adventures in soccer, traveling for ministry, or off-the-wall observations of life.

The last phrase is a good description of Imaginary Jesus.

It is an unusual novel, as it has a lot of autobiographical elements of Matt's life woven through the book. In fact, he is the main character. The book starts with him hanging out at a Portland coffee shop with who he thinks is Jesus. At least, it is "his" Jesus.

When a burly fisherman type comes in and joins Matt, he is startled when the stranger accuses Jesus of not being real. This is where Jesus gets pounded in the nose.

Matt protests, but the stranger introduces himself as the apostle Peter, and he informs Matt, "I knew Jesus. That is not the real Jesus."

From there the book takes the reader on a wild ride to discover the real Jesus. It involves time travel, talking donkeys, comic book shops, dinner with the President, and a "Houdini Dog."

If that doesn't pique your interest for my review tomorrow, then I may have to ask Matt to send you the Frog of Hate (TM).

If you require a little more instant gratification, check out the book's website or my tour comrades below!

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Valerie Comer
R. L. Copple
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beauty and the Church

No, I'm not quite dead yet.

(May have felt close recently, but that's nothing y'all want to hear about...)

Between being busy, having *ahem* issues, and having the first two items here sap my inspiration, I haven't had the chance to post. Don't give up on me though. There's still some new stuff rattling around my cranium.

For instance, in reading Christianity Today from May 2010, I cam across a little segment they have at the end of the magazine entitled "Who's Next: People You Should Know." This month talked about W. David O. Taylor, an arts pastor in Austin, Texas, who has his first book entitled For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts just released.

Now, I've talked a lot about creativity and the Christian artist, and the importance of encouraging this as a form of worship and expression that the church needs. I've also promoted letting a Christian artist have freedom to produce what they have in mind without expectations. (Here's a selection of posts of mine on the topic). I've usually gone to Francis Schaeffer as an authority on this, and how his book Art and the Bible shows that there is beauty created in the Bible for beauty's sake, not for an evangelistic purpose.

In reading the short interview with David Taylor, I realized a bit of corrective needed to be applied to my argument. He makes this profound statement:
We shouldn't stop with classical ideas about beauty; we also need to think about beauty Christologically. The moment we sever beauty from the death and resurrection of Christ, we risk sliding toward idealism or petty-ism.
I thought that was very important, and a point I have not made well enough in the past. Now, I still believe that art can be made for art's sake, for beauty's sake. But for the Christian artist, if we are truly walking in a redeemed mindset and a new life, then Christ needs to inform our work. The work of the cross affects what we do. I still don't believe it has to be blantantly Christian, but a Christian is not free to do "whatever." Not if we're true to the One who gave us our gift and redeems it.

So add Mr. Taylor's great statement to my previous positions about Christianity and the arts.

Friday, June 04, 2010

CFBA Tour - Deceit

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Zondervan (June 18, 2010)


Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is an award-winning and best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e..."® Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). She is now working on her 20th book.

In addition, Brandilyn’s other latest release is Final Touch, third in The Rayne Tour series—young adult suspense co-written with her daughter, Amberly. The Rayne Tour series features Shaley O’Connor, daughter of a rock star, who just may have it all—until murder crashes her world.


Skip Tracer Joanne Weeks knows Baxter Jackson killed his second wife---and Joanne's best friend---seven years ago. But Jackson, a church elder and beloved member of the town, walks the streets a free man.

The police tell Joanne to leave well enough alone, but Joanne is determined to bring Jackson down. Using her skip tracing skills, she sets out to locate Melissa Harkoff, now twenty-two, who lived in the Jackson home at the time of Linda Jackson's disappearance.

As Joanne drives home on a rainy winter night, a hooded figure darts in front of her car. In her headlight beams she glimpses the half-concealed face of a man, a rivulet of blood jagging down his cheek. She squeals to a stop but clips him with her right fender. Shaking, she gets out of her car in the pouring rain. The man will not let her see his face. Before he limps off into the night he warns her not to talk to police.

As Joanne tries to find Melissa, someone seems to be after her. Who was the man she hit on the road. Is Baxter Jackson out to silence her? Or is some other skip she's traced in the past now out for revenge?

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

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Review - Broken

I barely missed finishing Travis Thrasher's latest book, Broken, in time for the CFBA Tour for last week. Here's my take on the book.

Laila Torres is a beautiful woman on the outside, by anyone's standards. Inside she is tormented by choices she has made in the past, and she keeps everyone outside of a shell she has constructed as she tries to run from her past. Holed up in Greenville, South Carolina, working in an inconspicuous job, she is found by a stranger who knows things about her past.

As this stalker haunts her, leaving threatening messages, she starts seeing visions of a dead man. And something more, buried even deeper in the wasteland of her history. Even as a co-worker tries to peel back some of her layers, and her brother tries to track down his long-lost sister, the risks may be too deep for any of them to overcome.

Nebulous. From Merrian-Webster Online: "lacking clarity of feature or sharpness of outline." That is the one word that describes Broken the best. Thrasher is staking a claim to the suspense/horror side of Christian fiction. I know other writers that really enjoy his work. As for me, not as much.

There is plenty of building of tension in Broken, and there are some intriguing twists along the way. Laila has a complicated past, so Travis pulls back the layers ever so slowly. This leads to the problem of being nebulous - the book takes too long to develop. By the time I found out certain things that drove along Laila and even other characters, I was reading the book more for obligation than for enjoyment. In trying to keep the mystery hidden, it ends up obscured.

There is some touching resolution towards the end, and I did enjoy that. Some of the circumstances Laila faced did catch my interest to see how she escaped. Still, too much was veiled and strung along by "something in her past is spooking her" throughout the book.

I haven't really connected with Travis Thrasher's books in the past, so I think I'll stop trying. For another point of view, check out my friend Nicole's take on Broken at her blog, Into the Fire.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I’d like to thank Faith Words Publishers for providing me this Book free as part of the CFBA book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”