Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Story Only God Can Write

Welcome 2012! Tuesday I will be talking about something new for Spoiled For The Ordinary. Here's a teaser - a story only God can write!
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Twenty years ago I was part of something that became pretty incredible. It started with listening to God and a hunger for pizza.

I was on a Discipleship Training School (DTS) outreach through Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Montana. We had two different teams, and my group was in Chanthaburi, Thailand during Dec/Jan of '91/'92. It was a great group of people - single men and women, married couples, and families that were all strangers a few months ago, coming together to learn what it means to serve God overseas.

Chanthaburi is a neat city, but it is small enough that it didn't have any Western food outlets at the time (No McDonalds or KFC sadly - or maybe not). We enjoyed the Thai diet of rice, vegetables, fish and chicken, but comfort foods are magnified when a few thousand miles from home.

One day a few of my teammates really had a craving for pizza. We had a few translators with us, and somehow they found out about an Italian restaurant in town. They hailed a taxi and made it there for lunch.

I heard the pizzas were interesting - no tomato sauce, so they improvised with ketchup.

However, the owner spoke English and was intrigued by the foreigners visiting his establishment. Chanthaburi is not a hot spot for tourism, so we did stand out. It turned out he was quite the businessman, and he also owned a disco in another part of the city. It also turned out that we had a group of musicians in our team - some of these guys were sick!

The businessman was excited, and asked if we could play for his disco. No big deal, right?

Our show date was New Year's Eve, 1991.

The musicians in our group enjoyed scouring the markets to see what Thai music tastes were like. At that time they ran towards Credence Clearwater Revival, Phil Collins, and Richard Marx. Interesting.

They put together a set of songs from these artists plus some up-tempo worship choruses. A few of the songs lent themselves to a horn section. We had a really good sax player. Then there was me. I brought my trumpet, but I was more concert-trained. Where was my sheet music? I muddled through, and they humored me and let me play with them! We had three guitarists, but they were so good one switched to drums and another to bass to fill out our band. We were christened - "Lightforce"!

December 31st came, and we drove up in taxis to the disco location.

That's when our leader's chin hit the ground.

He had been on another outreach to Chanthaburi about three years prior. He remembered being on this street - the town's small red-light district. He knew the disco.

Their group had prayed that this disco would be used to glorify God. That His praises would be lifted in this place.

We were there to do exactly that.

We serve an amazing God, who knows what is coming three years down the road when we are praying over a building in a foreign city, that something will happen. He can use even a craving for pizza. Shoot, our leader wasn't originally scheduled to come to Thailand with us. He joined up as a co-leader to help out as our other leaders were first-timers as far as leading an outreach. If he hadn't joined us, we wouldn't know that God was cooking up something.

Something greater than pizza even.

That's me on the left rocking the peg-leg jeans. And I still have hair!
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Good Reads

Are you done with your shopping? Need some last minute Christmas gift ideas? Never fear!

Here at Spoiled for the Ordinary we specialize in randomness, so a shopping guide is perfect.

I've seen a lot of pitches for giving a book this Christmas, to encourage the year-long gift of reading and learning. However, many people end up buying a series with long waiting times in between books. You don't want your loved ones to be frustrated!

That's why I've listed several series that have several books already published. Most are completed, so you can get the whole series, or at least have several books to read before you need another one - giving the author a chance to catch up to you.

Remember, if one book is a good gift, three or four are even better!
+++

If they like historical action with a dash of controversy a la "The DaVinci Code," then consider The Gifted series by Lisa T. Bergren. Set in 1300's Italy, a group called by God with special gifts must navigate the power plays of Catholic leadership and the darkness of Lord Abramo Amidei. I  recently picked up the first book The Begotten for a minute and ended up reading the whole book again. Engrossing - and much better than Dan Brown.

One of the most unique characters in literature right now is The Bug Man, Nick Polchak. He's a forensic entomologist who is brilliant with science and clueless socially. Tim Downs writes this series and his sense of humor, suspenseful stories, and trademark ick factor of a CSI show makes each one a treat. Several can be read stand alone, but he is working them as a series with the last several ones.

How about a little more alternative history? Stephen Lawhead is one of the best mythological writers out there. He loves to tie into old tales and bring them to life in his fiction. In The Raven King series, he does his own take on Robin Hood, taking him from Sherwood Forest in England and settling him into the dark woods of medieval Wales. An excellent series.

A little more modern? Try the series of coming to age tales in the deep South starting in the 1940's, only with a spiritual warfare twist: The Black or White Chronicles by John Aubrey Anderson. The first book, Abiding Darkness, made me laugh and cry on the same bus ride. The next two books were just as engaging. After a publisher change, I have started into book four, The Cool Woman.

Current trends support superhero powers - just look at the hit movies from the summer of 2011! If you're looking for that in book form, you can't beat Robin Parrish and his Dominion Trilogy. When the main character gets Shifted into a new, powerful body with amazing powers, he finds other people wearing similar rings as him, with varied superhuman abilities. He also finds a conspiracy tracing through time, waiting for the moment with he would arrive! Suspenseful to the nth degree, Robin writes a literary comic book that rocks.

Maybe they need a laugh. You can't beat Rene Gutteridge for this, and her Occupational Hazards books will keep you in stitches. The Hazard family grew up homeschooled and helping their parents with a clown business. When the parents die in a tragic hot tub accident, the different siblings look to make their way in the world. Their innocent faith and honest integrity lead them to a news room, an airline spy, and working as an undercover cop with fits and giggles.

If they need a book to challenge their grey matter, then check out the Chronicles of Chaos series by John C. Wright. When the Titans of old are force to live in an English boarding house, they discover burgeoning powers that bend physics and mythology into a strange, wonderful blend. If you like quantum mechanics mixed with your Greek gods, then this is the series for you!

If you're looking at the young adult set, my first and best recommendation is The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Three children wonder about their place in the world, living under the oppresion of the Fangs of Dang. If only they knew they were the fabled Jewels of Anniera, and that they were destined to rule a fabled land. If they don't get eaten by toothy cows first. Whimsy, lyrical, touching, and just too much fun, these books are worth adult reading as well!

Last but not least, there's a great suspense series set in my own state of Idaho that will keep you up at night. Brandilyn Collins specializes in Seatbelt Suspense (meaning you better hang on!). In her Kanner Lake series, a small Idaho mountain town and its quirky residents must confront evil when murder and mayhem shakes up their idyllic setting. These books defy being put down, and also make lack of sleep a distinct option (from staying up too late reading or being too scared to turn out the lights - both are known to happen).

I hope you've enjoyed this special service. May your Christmas be full of joy and your tree stocked with good reading for 2012!
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christ in Christmas


Some traditions need changed
 It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Perhaps.

To some people.

During the holiday season, we hear accusations of "culture wars" or "Christmas wars." There are various stories of people complaining that some politician is calling the city's decorations a "Holiday Tree" instead of a Christmas tree. Elementary students can't sing traditional Christmas carols like "Angels We Have Heard On High," only songs like "Jingle Bells."

Christians get worked up over the scrubbing of Christ from Christmas. Secular people state that not everyone is celebrating the same thing.

On a similar note, my family enjoyed The Sing Off on NBC. The singers they bring in are so amazing. They had a Christmas special on December 5th, and it brought some of the most popular groups from the 3 seasons to perform. It was a very enjoyable performance, but I realized after a while that all of the songs were focused at the secular side of Christmas. I didn't listen to every performance, so I may have missed something, but even though it was billed as Christmas and inspirational, there were no Christmas hymns. The groups may not be Christians, but some amazing songs come from the Christmas hymn tradition and would be great for acapella groups to tackle.

I am not here to throw another punch for the culture wars. I still enjoyed this special. It is still disappointing to listen to two hours of music without any classic hymns. It is sad to miss out on Christ in Christmas.

Secular people may point to the facts that Christianity superceded other pagan holidays or traditions over time to draw people to Church celebrations. Point taken! Guilty as charged.

I can't change that fact. Still, we have hundreds of years of tradition for Christmas. Even though some traditions are relatively new, there is still background that has changed rapidly in the last several years.

I'm willing to share. I don't care if a Christmas album has "Jingle Bells" or "White Christmas" on it. But I don't want to see "O Holy Night" or "Go Tell It On The Mountain" relegated to church only though. Why can't we all have time in December? How does that sound?
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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

CSFF Tour - Corus the Champion Day 2



The Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy tour is highlighting D. Barkley Briggs  and his book Corus the Champion from the Legends of Karac Tor series. It is the second of five books. The first book is The Book of Names, and the third is also available, The Song of Unmasking. Anyone who leaves a comment through December 9 will have a chance to win Song.

I'm disappointed that I haven't had time to read the books yet. Too much going on lately. However, I bought the first three for my boys, and they are working their way through the series. My oldest is reading Corus right now, while my middle son has started Names.

We featured The Book of Names a couple of years ago. In the meantime issues with the original publisher arose, and the series was put on hiatus until this year, when the first three found release and new life.

I can't comment on the books themselves, but I was willing to buy the first three at once because of what I see of the author, D. Barkley Briggs. I've not met him, but from what I've gathered online from his blog, Twitter feed, and biography, he is a man with a heart to challenge kids toward a great adventure in the Kingdom.

After losing his wife of 16 years, 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 become enmeshed in the crisis of another world and along the way, must find their courage, battle overwhelming odds, face their pain, and never quit searching for home. (From his bio)

My boys and I have a tradition of reading at night before they go to bed. I am so thankful that even my 11 year old wants to continue this. I am looking forward to reading the Legends of Karac Tor to them, and to keep their love of story going, and stoke the fires of seeking God's adventure for their lives in all they do.

I wish I had my own review, but I'm hoping that my oldest will do what he was asked and write up a little plug for Karac Tor. There are many more thoughts from my tourmates below. Becky Miller always collects all of the posts for your perusal, so check those out for more!

Gillian Adams Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Morgan L. Busse CSFF Blog Tour Carol Bruce Collett Theresa Dunlap April Erwin Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Christopher Hopper Julie Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Marzabeth Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Eve Nielsen Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Rachel Starr Thomson Steve Trower Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Nicole White Rachel Wyant
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Monday, December 05, 2011

CSFF Tour - Corus the Champion Day 1


Read me!
Today the CSFF tour invites you to venture into a far away land. Legend tells of a land of names and songs, of a land waiting for a champion to come. The land of Karac Tor.

Haven't you heard of it? If not, there's a guide who can lead you in these hidden lands. Seek out D. Barkley Briggs and he can introduce you to some brave young men who have been to Karac Tor and survived adventures there.

We are focusing on the book Corus the Champion, but the tale begins in The Book of Names. Hadyn and Ewan Barlow are the oldest of four brothers. They are living in rural Missouri, where their father moved them after the death of their mother a year ago.

While clearing out a field of brambles, the brothers stumble upon a portal into a strange land - Karac Tor. They have a story to tell, but that will be for another day.

If you want to learn more, check back on the next two days, or check out my tourmates below.

I have a special opportunity for those interested in this series. The third book is The Song of Unmasking, and if you leave a comment from now until Wednesday, December 7th, you will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of it (U.S. residents only, I'm afraid). So leave a comment, and check back for more!


Gillian Adams Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Morgan L. Busse CSFF Blog Tour Carol Bruce Collett Theresa Dunlap April Erwin Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Christopher Hopper Julie Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Marzabeth Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Eve Nielsen Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Rachel Starr Thomson Steve Trower Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Nicole White Rachel Wyant

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tebow Haters

Here we go again.

I'm a big football fan, but I generally try to keep it off this blog. I'm not willing to turn this into a sports yak place.

Still, I have to comment on the continued hubbub that surrounds the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

Tim Tebow. #15.

The man is polarizing. That much both fans and detractors can admit. I can see the points on both sides as far as his football acumen goes.

His throws are often inaccurate. He runs at the first sign of trouble. The offense generally looks miserable for a good portion of the game. Still, he is 4-1 as the starting quarterback. His late-game heroics against the Jets were amazing. You can't deny the kid's will to win and competitive attitude. And I suggest people compare Tim's stats to those of John Elway in his first starts - interesting to say the least.

If you're picking on him for his unpolished football skills, I say that's fair game. But the people that spew personal venom and attacks at him are boggling my mind. I've seen comments on the internet (by people hiding behind anonymous "screen names" I might add) that hope he is caught with a prostitute or some other compromising situation.

Why is this?

My opinion is that he is not afraid to stand up for what he believes. And some people are not comfortable with that. Jake Plummer, the ex-Broncos QB, complained this week that people get that Tebow loves Jesus, and he shouldn't keep mentioning it. So self-promotion is acceptable, but when someone wants to mention Jesus, that needs to be kept private.

There are many people anymore who think faith is fine for others, if they keep it to themselves. You can believe in Jesus, but don't wave it my face. It has gone from don't talk about religion and politics in polite conversation to not bringing it up at all. Don't witness to me, don't even bring it up.

Then Tebow walks what he talks. I don't blame our culture for being sick of Christians who spout religion and don't actually follow through with it (this could be considered "taking the Lord's name in vain"). But Tim Tebow is a man of faith. He has spent time volunteering in orphanages oversees, he has a foundation that supports numerous worthy causes, and he is never negative when discussing his attackers or those who spew hate toward him. He is a good witness to what he believes.

Personally, I think Tebow brings conviction to people. They are not living the life that they should, and they know it. When you see someone like Tebow come along who is bold in his faith and lives it even bolder, it strikes at their own failings. Instead of listening to the message, they attack the messenger.

I think Tim is strong enough to handle this - not because of his power, but because of the Savior he lives for. I'm tired of seeing it though. People are entitled to their opinions, and if Tim doesn't pan out as an NFL quarterback he will have more to live for than most people who ever don a pro uniform. But be real if you're going to criticize him. If you don't like him because of his faith, why is that? Don't go with the surface answer - that you don't want to hear others' religion. Why do you REALLY dislike it? Is there a deeper reason?

I dare you to be honest. 
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Travelin' Blog

Hey y'all!

I have been expanding my writing repertoire as of late. I am an occasional editorial writer for the Post Register newspaper in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Now I'm expanding out a bit.

Starting with Nashville.

My wife and I had not had an extended getaway from the kids since...ever. We were lucky enough to have help from family to watch the little ones, and we took off to Nashville, TN over Memorial Day Weekend. Once we got there (stupid American Airlines) we had a fantastic time.

Of course, as a writer, I had to take advantage of it. I have been a fan of Lisa T. Bergren's books since we read them for the CSFF Tour a few years ago. She also has the travel bug, and runs a travel blog, The World Is Calling. She writes it for family getaways, and she is willing to take guest posts.

Using time in the airport while trying to get home (stupid American Airlines), I got started, and between Lisa's busyness and mine, we were able to connect. My post on our weekend trip to Nashville is now up and live at her blog. Find thrills, chills, and even a cicada encounter in this harrowing tale.

See you on the road!
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Getting Back On The Horse


"Heading" in the right direction?

Full disclosure - I've never actually fallen off a horse. Not a literal horse. I'm talking about the figurative horse. Of course.

Anyhoo.

Last week the best laid blogging and writing plans were up-ended by crises. Yes, multiple. The different situations are still working themselves out, but some of the consequences are trying to get back to everything.

I'm working on getting regular blog content in here, and missing a week was not in my best-laid plans. Also, I was building up some momentum in my WIP, and it's thrown me just a little (not as bad as this cowboy though!).

What's a writer to do?

Get back in the saddle, of course. It is easier for some to pick up where they left off and keep moving. Others have to ease back in. I've always struggled with getting back into it if I lose momentum. I lost the last idea I had for a blog post. So as a good writer should, I'm turning THAT into something to write about.

I bet the guy in the picture above sure got on another horse (maybe not that one, but still...). It shouldn't stop us either. I had a good excuse from last week, but last week is gone, and I can't use it as an excuse any more. What will get me back in the saddle?

Doing my routine. Get out the cell phone, set the time, and get writing. That turns off the internal editor, and the rules are "NO internet" during this time. It gets me 300-500 words in a 20 minute shot, and that's more than I'll get if I putz around, or sit in the dirt feeling sorry for myself.

Besides, if I stay in the dirt, that darn animal might come back for another crack at me.
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What say you? What has thrown you from your game before, and how do you get back up?
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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Why I'm Not Doing NaNo

Call me Scrooge if you want.

November is the month writers come out of the woodwork, participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to the uninitiated). It is a great time of fellowship with fellow writers, all encouraging one another to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. There are groups that meet all over the country and internationally. It is a big deal in the writing community.

And I've learned I need to sit it out.

I'm not saying NaNo is bad at all. It can help people who have always wanted to attempt a novel to take the plunge and start writing knowing they have company. Experienced writers can use it as a jumpstart to a new project. Technically, it is supposed to be a new project and not a previous work, but I know many people use it as a time to get more writing done.

I've found it doesn't work for me.

I've tried it twice now. One time I participated in a group and made some friends there that I still keep up with on Facebook. It just doesn't help me in my writing. Both times, I've plowed ahead trying to keep to the 1667 daily word pace required to finish in thirty days. Both times, it drove me into a wall with my writing that took me a couple of months to get around.

I don't know why it makes me crash. I've realized that forcing it won't work for me. I was even tempted to try it again this year, but a good article by my friend Becky Miller helped me identify my problem during NaNo:
...the pace doesn’t allow the new writer to collect himself when the story bogs down, to learn what might be the problem, and to discover how to get out of it.
I will be trying hard in November to keep BIC (butt in chair) and press ahead with my story, especially since I'm in a good place with my plot. I'll be cheering on all my writing buddies doing NaNo as well. I just won't be going for the 50,000 goal with you, but best of luck to you!
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Have you done NaNo before? If so, how did you do? Please share!
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Friday, October 28, 2011

CFBA Tour - The13th Demon

Jason says: I received this book too late to read it for this tour, but I have started it and will be looking to reviewing it soon. In the meantime, here's the CFBA Tour promo for The 13th Demon.




This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The 13th Demon
Realms (October 4, 2011)
by
Bruce Hennigan


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bruce Hennigan was born and raised in the isolated countryside of Shreveport, La., a place full of possibilities for the active mind of a young boy. The fertile imagination he cultivated while playing deep in the Louisiana woods would lead to a lifelong love of creative writing.

In 2006, Hennigan pursued the Certified Apologetic Instructor Certificate from the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has become a frequent speaker at regional and state events on apologetics and his strong point is in making these sometimes hard to understand issues easily approachable for the average Christian. Hennigan’s experience in apologetics inspired him to write his new novel, The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye, a supernatural Christian thriller that combines science and faith. Now, combining his love for apologetics and his love for the art of writing, Hennigan is pursuing a career as the “Michael Crichton” of Christian fiction building powerful, fast paced stories around the truths of Christian apologetics.

Hennigan currently resides in Shreveport with his wife and daughter. He continues to write and to practice radiology at the Willis Knighton Health Care System. He has secured Jeff Jernigan of Hidden Value Group (www.hiddenvaluegroup.com) as his literary agent and has signed a five book deal with the Realms imprint of Charisma Media for “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel”.

ABOUT THE BOOK

When Jonathan Steel wakes up on a beach in a raging thunderstorm, naked, beaten, and bleeding, he has no idea who he is or how he got there. But just as he starts to make progress in his slow journey to recovery, tragedy strikes again, taking everything in his new life that he has come to love and rely on.
Filled with rage and a thirst for revenge, he searches the countryside for the entity responsible—an entity called only the Thirteenth Demon. His quest brings him to Lakeside, Louisiana, and a small country church where evil is in control and strange writing on the walls, blood-soaked floors, and red-eyed spiders have appeared in the sanctuary.

As he faces the final confrontation with an evil presence that has pursued him all of his life, he must choose between helping the people he loves or destroying the thirteenth demon.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The 13th Demon, go HERE.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CSFF Tour - The Bone House, Day 3

In Which The Reviewer Tries To Judge Fairly Without Being A Raving Fanboy...

I think Stephen Lawhead is our most toured author at this point in the CSFF Tour. I was a big fan of his prior to being involved with the CSFF, so I am quite familiar with his writing. Still, as we feature the second book in his Bright Empires series, The Bone House, I have to admire how he continues to grow as an author.

I've led each post of this tour off with the phrase "In Which...", a literary device he uses for each of his chapters. It gives a little tease into what will happen in the chapter, and gives a touch of whimsy at times. A small detail, but it marks this series and helps make it more memorable than the standard chapter titles.

He is writing this series channeling 19th century writing style, like some of the books we're required to read in high school English. He doesn't write directly, with prose that hits its point and moves on. He describes things with a leisurely style and it comes across to this American brain as very British (I would be interested in any Brit opinion here.) It gives a different flow, and just the style of writing adds to the creation of the setting.

Lawhead is well-traveled, and it shows in his great description of the locations and settings of the book. From an Etruscan tomb to the Egyptian desert and even a Stone Age camp, the reader always experiences the places in the book almost as a character in the book does.

The concept of traveling through multiple dimensions via ley leaping is very intriguing, and it offers a lot for a novelist to play with in terms of a "sandbox." Lawhead keeps us jumping around with the various characters, and gives some philosophy to think about while we're being entertained. Becky Miller talks about how he puts Christian ideas into the story very naturally. I think Lawhead is one of the best authors out there in doing this, so much so that it feels in a different league than most of what I read for Christian fiction blog tours. The book doesn't feel "Christian", but it definitely comes through.

Still, I have to admit that The Bone House doesn't work as well for me as The Skin Map. This isn't saying it is bad, because it is an enjoyable read. It is still intriguing, but there's something that it is missing - a solid meal without the secret sauce? Actually, I can identify the aspects that detracted for me.

1. Plot twists - Done right, plot twists keep the reader turning pages. In the second book, Lawhead doubles back and covers some past ground, filling in the history for certain characters. The series is already challenging with the time/dimensional jumps. When he discusses a character who died at the end of book one as living in book two, it threw me. He ties it up in the end, but it still confused me. There's other examples of this, enough to be distracting.

2. Heroic heroes - Kit Livingstone is the main protagonist of the book, although others help carry the story. Still, he is the main one, and is just isn't very...heroic. He is pretty passive, going with the flow of what happens, and is a bit of a dunce. He's lucky to be alive, and as such, he isn't impressive in The Bone House. I saw growth in him in the first book that seemed to evaporate in the second.

Overall, these complaints shouldn't detract from the thought-provoking work Lawhead is doing. He's one of the best writers in the CBA, and he should get attention for the Bright Empires series in the wider market as well. The Bone House came across to me as a satisfying sequel that got to third base, but didn't knock it out of the park. A triple is still good, right? I'll be looking forward to the next book, The Spirit Well, next year to see where/when this goes!

I'm sure there are different opinions from my CSFF tribe. Our intrepid leader Becky Miller keeps track of all of the posts, so go check them out. That's where I'm going. And maybe we'll cross paths on a ley leap sometime/someplace.
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Legal mumbo-jumbo: This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits. (comment boldly borrowed from Fred Warren, cause he wrote it so well)
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CSFF Tour - The Bone House, Day 2

In Which The Blogger Attempts To Explain It All So Far

Stephen Lawhead said last year with the beginning of the 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.’


And an intricately woven storyline it is.

Yesterday's post gave a quick overview of the first book in the series, The Skin Map. Today I'll try to get you into The Bone House without any spoilers revealed.

When we last left our intrepid Kit Livingstone, he was barely saved from a gruesome death in an already occupied tomb. His girlfriend Mina, having worked some kinks out of this ley travel business from her base in 17th century Prague, points him in the direction (dimension?) of Dr. Thomas Young, an incredible thinker, to find an artifact in Egypt.

Meanwhile, a gentleman by the name of Douglas Flinders-Petrie is working his way to deciphering another special item he "acquired," posing as an Irish monk in the Middle Ages. His distant relative Arthur Flinders-Petrie is also working to save something precious, this time in ancient Italy.

As traveling along ley lines moves a person through both time and place into different dimensions, the journey hops back and forth, bringing perspective to the villanous Lord Burliegh and the mysterious Lady Fayth.

The various threads, at times seemingly random and unconnected, begin to weave a significant tale as Kit stumbles into the secret of the Bone House.

If this seems somewhat vague, this is in part to protect surprises from the first book. The other part is that this is the story - a mystery with many parts. In order to understand, you will have to dive in. I will tell you about the dive in tomorrow's post.

In the meantime, Becky Miller diligently keeps up with all of the posts for this blog tour, so check out my partners in crime for more on this intriguing series.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

CSFF Tour - The Bone House, Day 1

In Which The Blogger Goes Back In Time Approximately One Year

It is time again for the CSFF Tour, highlighting some of the finest in Christian speculative fiction.

We're dialing up Stephen Lawhead once again, featuring the second book in the Bright Empires series The Bone House.

He seems to have something for body parts and book titles this series. We featured the first book, The Skin Map last year. You can find my posts on it here.

To set up the tour, last time young Kit Livingstone ran into a distant relative. His great-grandfather Cosimo, who should be dead, but appeared quite spry for a corpse. Cosimo explained that Kit needed to help him with a quest that stretched literal dimensions, as he was using a phenomenom termed "ley travel" to hop to different places and times.
 
Kit was uncertain about this new information, being a rather unimaginative fellow. However, after losing his girlfriend Mina in 17th century Prague and being pursued in ancient Egypt by Burley men, he needed less convincing.

All he needs to do now is find Mina, avoid the villanous Lord Burleigh, acquire the missing Skin Map, and discover someone who knows what in the world it means.

There's more to this tale, but check back tomorrow for more on this intriguing tale. If you just can't wait, check out my fellow tourmates below for more insight!

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Escaping The Zombie Life

I've never shared online a sermon that I've given before. However, this Sunday (October 23) I had the opportunity to share at our church with our pastor on vacation. I really struggled putting this one together, even though I have preached many times before. Finally, it started to come together as I worked on a hook, and it actually became the theme for my talk. It is a unique sermon for me, and I had one friend who was interested in hearing it - so I thought I'd share it here.

It makes for a long blog post, but I hope you are blessed by it.

Jason
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Tis the season for horror shows.

I actually can't watch them. My imagination is too active and too sticky - I will retain what I see and it will keep coming back to me. Don't like it, so I don't watch them.

Zombies are such a big deal in pop culture right now. I did try to watch Zombieland earlier this year to be up on things. In the movie the main guy, Columbus, has an attractive neighbor in apartment 406, whom he silently crushes on her. As things start going crazy in the world, he finds her banging on on his door, asking to stay with him. She barely escaped an encounter with the undead, and wanted some company after her trauma.

They dozed on the couch, but Columbus woke up just in time. Miss 406 apparently had a closer call than she let on, because her eyes were sunken, her skin was pale, and she hungered for more than his company.

He jumped away just before he got more than a playful nibble on his ear. I suppose he got away as it was too early in the movie for the hero to die, but I couldn't deal with the suspense and violence of her chasing him around.

This is something I can control - whether to subject myself to something like that movie.

Still, the zombie theme makes me think of the struggles we have in the Christian life.

See, she didn't come in to his apartment intending to munch on him. She was infected by a virus (as most zombies are) and she was driven to fulfill her flesh. Desire for flesh. Whatever.

Have you ever felt like this - not able to control what you want to do? At least we're not alone. We have good company in Paul.

Romans 7:14-24
     We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
    So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

The sin nature in us is powerful. Paul is talking to Christians in this passage. These aren't people who need Jesus - but people who have already found Him. In Romans 1-8 Paul talks about the three stages of Christian life - the full process of salvation.
  1. Justification - The initial entrance into the Kingdom (what most people think of as salvation, when our debt is paid).
  2. Sanctification - Discipleship; growing in Christ. 
  3. Glorification - Eternal life in heaven.
So how do we get out of walking in the sin nature?

Galatians 5:22-25 tells us about the fruit of the Spirit. Beautiful attributes are listed: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. However, as my pastor has said recently, we are not responsible, nor are we able, to live the Christian life.

We can't manufacture the fruit. I have an apple tree. I can talk nice to it. I can encourage it, exhort it, but I can't get a nice red apple unless - there is death.

I'm amazed at my compost pile each spring. The dead leaves and grass make rich soil, helping life come to my garden and fruit trees. So it is in the Christian life. We live by dying.

Francis Shaeffer says in his book The Finished Work of Christ says, "Jesus didn't die on the cross just to die on the cross. Jesus died on the cross in order that we might be redeemed. Likewise, we are not called upon to die daily just in order to be dead;, we are called upon to die daily in order that we might experience the reality of being alive with Christ" (p155).

We will see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives by dying to ourselves.

Romans 8:10-13 says:
    But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
     Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

I've heard this termed the "resurrection life." If we can submit to the Holy Spirit day by day, we can walk in the life intended for us - not the life we struggle through.

Schaeffer says, "It means that, through faith, I am to die to all things both good and bad, but then to take my resurrected body, as though I had already been raised physically from the dead, and step back into this present world, to serve in the power of the indwelling Spirit" (p188).

We won't be these physical bodies that are shuffling around waiting for the grave. Salvation is not waiting to get into heaven. Like I said, that is the third aspect of salvation. As Schaeffer said, we can live as if we're already in that state. It becomes a battle to submit or yield everyday.

Romans 6:12-14
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

"You and I have the possibility every moment of our lives to hand ourselves to the Lord, to be that out of which He will bring forth all that is wonderful. 'Yield yourselves' (the phrase from Romans 6:13 in the King James for 'offer') is an 'active passivity.' People are naturally afraid of that which is only passive, but we should be afraid of that which is only active as well. Our calling is to active passivity. God will bring about our sanctification, but we are called to be active partners in the process as we yield ourselves to Him" (Schaeffer, p172). 

This is a major challenge to us as modern Americans. We like our individuality and our own initiative to carry us. I wake up most every morning with an agenda, whether it is to work hard, play hard, or even veg. If we can learn to submit day by day to the Spirit's leading, we won't be mindlessly shuffling along in our lives, but we can truly walk in the glorious adventure God has for us. Even if we have to do something - work, care for family, etc. - if we give it up each day. He can make something new with it.

Our fruit will grow as we let the Spirit lead. The fruit will come in season, and provide what we need at that time. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)

I didn't intend to follow a zombie metaphor through my whole sermon. I was going for a hook, but it certainly is one that can be used to speak Kingdom truth. Not that I'd recommend any zombie movies as spiritual guidance.
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Monday, October 17, 2011



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Love on the Line
Bethany House (October 1, 2011)
by
Deeanne Gist


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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, three RITA nominations, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

Her latest releases, Beguiled, Maid To Match, and Love on the Line are now available.

Gist lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-eight years and their border collie. They have four grown children. Click here to find out the most up-to-the-minute news about Dee.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Rural switchboard operator Georgie Gail is proud of her independence in a man's world ... which makes it twice as vexing when the telephone company sends a man to look over her shoulder.

Dashing Luke Palmer is more than he appears though. He's a Texas Ranger working undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers. Repairing telephones and tangling with this tempestuous woman is the last thing he wants to do. But when his stakeout puts Georgie in peril, he realizes more than his job is on the line.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love on the Line, go HERE.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Role Playing

As a parent, I am amazed by the imagination my kids have. They can invent a game with sticks and rocks. The other day they used colored counters for homeschooling to do a rudimentary role-playing game. They had armies with weapons and they were rolling dice to determine if someone was hit or not.

I was impressed by their set-up. I hadn't really explained role-playing games to them, and to see them coming up with one on their own was cool. I had thought about doing a Star Wars RPG with them when they were older, but they may well be ready.

As I write, my history of role-playing as a teenager has been a real benefit in creating my characters. I read writing books that talked about writing up a history for my characters, including a description and abilities. No problem! I almost wanted to pull out a character sheet and go to town.

The imagination used in role-playing is not too far from writing. The trick is that in a RPG game, there is a "gamemaster", someone who knows the scenario and what should happen at certain times and places. As the players advance their characters into a dungeon, they may find a treasure chest filled with gold or booby-trapped with a spell that turns them into owls (Why owls? Why not?).

As a writer, I have an outline on paper or a basic plan of where I'm going with the plot and characters. However, I am acting as gamemaster and player. Sometimes I know where I'm going, and other times I surprise myself. One of my secondary characters is a missionary, and one day I stumbled onto the fact that he and his wife have some tension because he struggles with a "wandering eye." Not a good thing for a missionary to have, but it makes him a deeper person with battles, not just a saint who never sins.

I'm not suggesting writers pick up Dungeons and Dragons to work on their writing (I'm not a fan of D&D myself - had some bad episodes playing). However, if we can think in a role-playing way, I think we'll find more to our characters or plot than if we make them do what we want. Take away the outline for a minute, set a character in a circumstance, and then act as they would. If they come across the locked chest, are they going to run to it and bash the lock open without another thought, or are they going to give it a once-over before proceeding?

I wouldn't recommend rolling dice for every plot twist, but I think you get the idea. Any other thoughts on this?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

New "Post"-ings

As if I didn't have enough to do in life, I am now a guest columnist for the Post Register in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

They put out a call for local columnists a few weeks ago, so I threw my hat into the ring. Time went by and I almost forgot about it, but I finally got an email saying I had been chosen among seven others from a group of thirty-five. I was impressed that we had so many people wanting to try this out, and was pleasantly surprised to make the cut.

I found that writing a column for the newspaper is different from writing fiction and even blogging. The fiction bit is obvious, but blogging is still about my opinion on things. Since the audience is different, I do need to change things to catch their attention. My only guidelines were to try and focus on local items and "not get [the newspaper] sued." That should be doable.

It is exciting and a little scary. Most of you in the blogosphere are far away. The people who read this paper are in my neighborhood. What will be the fallout from what I have to say?

My first column will be in print tomorrow [Actually moved to Sat, 10/8]. Unfortunately, it requires a subscription to view online, but for those who are suckers for punishment motivated, contact me for a work around.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reading Critically

It is always a good idea to read critically, even if what you read is something very well researched.

Like the Bible.

This is a little different from my usual topics, but I wanted to share something I saw today. I was reading in Proverbs today in the New International Version (NIV) on Bible Gateway. This is what Proverbs 10:22 says:
The blessing of the LORD brings wealth,
   without painful toil for it.


I did a double take at that. That sounded like a prosperity gospel verse. I had never noticed it before, but I wondered about the translation of it.

I checked some other translations at Bible Gateway (very easy to do, that's why I recommend it), and this is what I got:
It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich,
And He adds no sorrow to it. (NASB)


The blessing of the LORD makes one rich,
      And He adds no sorrow with it. (NKJV)


The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich,
      and he adds no sorrow with it. (NLT)



The blessing of the LORD makes rich,
   and he adds no sorrow with it. (ESV - adds a note that an alternate reading is "
and toil adds nothing to it")

I think the other readings matching up suggests that the NIV isn't the best reading in this instance.

I don't know Hebrew, but I wish I did so I could go to the original text. When we rely on translation, there is some interpretation involved by those doing the work. Every version is going to have verses where it the translation is skewed a little.

This doesn't put doubt on the Bible. It is an issue of trying to convey thoughts in English (or whatever language) from Hebrew. What it tells us is that we need to read critically and realize that we shouldn't rely on one translation when we study the Bible. The NIV version of 10:22 reads a lot differently to me than the others, and it didn't match up with other parts of the Bible that speak of working hard. We don't shut off our brains when we read anything, especially God's Word. Yes, I believe in inspiration and the leading of the Holy Spirit, but He also gave us minds for a reason.

If you are looking for a good book on Bible study, my favorite is How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CSFF Tour Day 3 - The Monster In The Hollows

Today is the last day of our feature of Andrew Peterson's wonderful series The Wingfeather Saga and the latest book, The Monster In The Hollows.

What do I know though? I'm almost a greybeard.

How about we ask some of the intended audience?

Two thumbs up!
I have been reading this series to my boys Nathan (11) and Matthew (9 1/2) for three years (Caleb is starting to get into it, but he has the attention span of Kalmar on a bad day). They have eaten up the antics and adventures of the Florid Sword, Peet the Sock Man, Oskar N. Reteep,the Durgan Patrol and even Sara Cobbler (a girl!).



Nathan has recently read the first two books again, so he wrote up a summary of the series.
On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness:
"I like how they think they're normal kids with a normal life, until everything changes in a few days. Then they find out Tink (Kalmar) is a king, Janner is a Throne Warden, and Leeli is a Song Maiden."


 
North! Or Be Eaten
  "From the Glipwood Forest to the Stranders, Dugtown, the Fork Factory, and the Ice Prairies there are challenges wherever the Wingfeathers go, and with all that excitement, why can't you love this book!" (Why indeed?)

The Monster In The Hollows:
"The Wingfeathers think they can be safe in the Green Hollows but they immediately run into problems. When they seem to have a normal life, Janner finds out that his little brother is stealing animals and the Hollowsfolk aren't happy. As they're about to be hanged (as my brother and I go crazy), the surprise is actually the [removed for spoiler purposes!]"

Matthew focused on Monster.
"The Monster In The Hollows is really exciting. It has a lot of mystery, which I really like about it, and is one of the reasons it's my favorite book in the Wingfeather Saga. I really like how it has a lot of cliffhangers, because my brother and I went coo-coo on a lot of the cliffhangers. I really also like the part where Janner found out that Kalmar was gone in the middle of the night and went and tracked him in the snow!

But my favorite part of all was when they figured out [a major spoiler]. I was really surprised because we thought he was [spoiler], so I was really shocked. I did also like the chapter "Artham and the Deeps of Throg". So I am looking forward to another book."

Ok, I had to provide a little redacting to not blow some great surprises. I hope the words of some true boys who enjoy good books will encourage you to pick this up, especially if you have kids. Even if you don't, it is a great series to read for kids of any age!

See what else the inmates are saying for the CSFF Tour at Becky's blog.
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CSFF Tour Day 2- The Monster In The Hollows

I'm a little behind in my touring, but for my second post for the September CSFF Tour featuring Andrew Peterson and his most recent book in the Wingfeather Saga, The Monster In The Hollows, I wanted to offer my review of the book. For my third post, I will have some different perspectives...

I can't help but emphasize how neat a guy Andrew Peterson is. He wrote personal letters to my boys when they wrote to him about his last book. As Mharvi Reads shows in a note from Andrew, he takes his responsibility as a storyteller seriously (you really need to read that note!).

The care he takes shows once again in Monster. He touches the heart, excites with suspense, brings humor with sneakery and spitting contests, and keeps drawing the Wingfeather children closer to their destiny. He puts in small details that makes the fantasy world of Aerwiar complete.

The book, as its companions  On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten, is entertaining for adults and children. I love the deeper meanings that Andrew layers in, and my boys are on the edge of the sofa, taking in all the suspense and reacting to each cliffhanger chapter ending with "Noooooo!"

I don't know how many people read to their children anymore, but this is a great series to read to your kids. I like doing voices, and there are many options for me to ham it up. For the Guildmadam Olumphia Groundwich, I felt her voice should really be done in a Monty Python "Spam" sketch type voice:



Any book that give you an excuse to use a Monty Python voice is a winner in my book.

The rest of the CSFF clan's posts can be found in one location on Becky Miller's blog. Check them out. My next post will have a special guest feature, so please stop by.
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Monday, September 19, 2011

CSFF Tour Day 1 - The Monster In The Hollows

This is a great convergence.

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day (the favored holiday of this blog).

And today, the CSFF Tour features The Monster In The Hollows, which features a peg-legged ex-pirate who uses his old leg bone as a weapon!

Andrew Peterson has recently come out with the third book in the Wingfeather Saga. It started with On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness and followed with North! Or Be Eaten. Both books have delighted youth and adults with the whimsical, lyrical tales of the Igiby children.

Imagine if you will:

Twelve year old Janner, his younger and impulsive brother Kalmar, and his sweet but crippled sister Leeli. They are ordinary kids, loved by their mother Nia and their peg-legged ex-pirate grandpa Podo. Life for these kids is pretty normal.

Except for being chased from their home by the lizard-like Fangs of Dang. And except for surviving a harrowing journey across the land of Skree (toothy cows, bomnubbles, and the Fork Factory. Woe!) along with a daring escape across the Dark Sea of Darkness (and the dragons!).

But since they made it to the Green Hollows everything is dandy. Except the little episode Kalmar had. The one where he grew a tail. Grey fur. A muzzle and sharp teeth. And pointy little ears. It seems the Hollowfolk think Kalmar is a monster, and everyone hates them.

Oh, and Gnag the Nameless is still looking for some kids that he thinks are the Jewels of Anniera.

Janner is charged with watching over his brother, who by the way is the next High King of Anniera. As the Throne Warden, he has a duty to his country and his family. Who can blame him if he wants a different life?

I'll have more to say about the book tomorrow, but here are some other fine folk who have more about this intriguing book:

Gillian Adams Red Bissell Jennifer Bogart Thomas Clayton Booher Beckie Burnham CSFF Blog Tour D. G. D. Davidson Cynthia Dyer Amber French Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Timothy Hicks Julie Carol Keen Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Mirriam Neal  Eve Nielsen Joan Nienhuis Donita K. Paul Sarah Sawyer Chawna Schroeder Tammy Shelnut Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Rachel Starr Thomson Robert Treskillard Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler Nicole White Rachel Wyant
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Here Ye Go Again...Arrr!

 Ye be warned!

Ye have entered the waters of The Iron Maiden Micaiah. She 'ere not fierce with steel or powder, but with her big brown eyes and winsome smile. She'll plunder yer booty with cuteness she will. Preferably pink booty.

As yer (almost) yearly source for all things pirate-y for International Talk Like A Pirate Day, here be some linkage to anchor yer ship to:

Some lubbers try to denounce true pirate behavior.

What do history say about pirates? Who cares, if ye can't read!

Some clever scalawag shows how this here pirate jig is done, and there be links o'treasure aplenty on this page.

This here be treason!

Finally, a drinkin' song fit fer a pirate lord! Arr!





Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pay Me In Flesh - A Zombie Legal Thriller

Hungry for something different in fiction?

Ready to sink your teeth into some tasty reading?

Or perhaps you prefer brains...

Pay Me In Flesh is the brainchild of one K. Bennett, a fertile mind who came up with a simple premise: what could be done that's fresh in the zombie genre. Well, try this teaser on for size.
In L.A., practicing law can be hell. Especially if you’re dead.

In an increasingly hellacious L.A., zombie lawyer Mallory Caine defends a vampire hooker accused of the crime Mallory herself committed, even as a zombie-killer closes in and the love of her former life comes back as the Deputy DA she must oppose. And as Lucifer himself begins setting up L.A. as his headquarters for a new attack on heaven and earth, Mallory slowly discovers she may be the one who has to stop him. 

This mass paperback book is packed with witty dialog, unforgettable characters, and an attorney with a bite. Mallory Caine is trying to find out who killed her and see if she can recover her soul. She hates to eat brains, but she's doing what she must to survive. She's not the normal lumbering, witless undead. Sure, she needs a little moisturizer and prefers educated brains (Harvard and Stanford go down much nicer than your drop-out), but she still sees a need for the innocent to get justice.

It is a fresh take on both the legal thriller and the zombie novel. The pace of the books keeps the reader lurching forward, and the city of Los Angeles becomes a character in the mood and setting of the novel.

I don't want to give too much away. Suffice it to say, I think you won't find a more original novel premise this year, and Pay Me In Flesh is a read that will have you laughing, drawn in, and hungry for more.

You may hear a rumor that K. Bennett shares a startling resemblance to James Scott Bell, but that's a common point of confusion. Pay it no mind...
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Christian Artist Who Isn't

I'd like to introduce you to a lovely young woman from New Zealand.

Brooke Fraser.

You may not be familiar with her. She's a singer/songwriter who is gaining an international reputation for her thoughtful, creative music. Hopefully you will become acquainted with her, because her songs are quite beautiful, with a unique sound and a touch of whimsy.

So why am I talking about a kiwi musician on a writing blog?

I follow the publishing industry in general, but the Christian fiction (CBA) arm specifically. The discussion of what is a Christian artist/writer/book is a never ending cycle of back and forth.

As for Brooke, she seems to have two distinct careers. She has released three albums for the mainstream, each progressively doing better first in New Zealand, then internationally. However, you may have heard her music on Sunday mornings as well. Her songs "Hosanna" and "Desert Song" are known worldwide in contemporary worship services, and she has done worship with Hillsongs United in Australia (sometimes as Brooke Ligertwood, her married name).

The interesting part is this dichotomy, where she is a successful artist to a mainstream audience, and can write and sing for a Christian audience without losing her other identity. When asked about "tension" with these two different worlds, she replies in an interview on an Australian website for Christian music:
You can't put what God is doing on this earth into a box... it can't be summarised into tidy categories. Whatever God is doing through my life, it's not just about me. There's a stirring happening in God's Church, through the creative arts, creative ministries and other things too... and as time moves on we get closer and closer to Jesus coming back. God has a plan for the whole earth and it involves everyone one of us doing our part -- it's not necessarily going to look like something we can easily understand on the natural. I write worship songs that are for the building up of God's people in the Church, and I love that because I'm able to express really clearly, and declare uncompromisingly my love for Jesus. But at the same time I recognise the importance of my other songs as being like parables... taking Church to people who would never walk into a church...


She says in the article that she doesn't consider herself a CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artist and actually resists it strongly because of concerns about "merchandising the gospel." I know other artists won't identify with CCM because of concerns of being pigeonholed and possibly reducing their audience, but I've never found a major artist who refuses identification with CCM due to such a conviction.

I like the part where she recognizes some of her songs can be directly worshipful, and others are like parables. One of my favorite bands is Switchfoot, and I think many of their songs work in this way.

Songwriting is a different skill than writing fiction, but I believe the ideas brought out by Brooke in her interview and career offer insight to those pursuing writing fiction and wondering where their work fits. I think a fiction example would be Ted Dekker, who is writing best-sellers in the thriller market, while still pursuing stories that speak more directly to a Christian aspect. His books certainly fit a parable.

I know there is a lot to discuss as far as marketing, reaching audiences, and message, but I think having the concept of parable versus being a direct expression of faith in fiction is one to consider.

For my writer friends - where do your stories fit? Parable or more directly speaking to issues of God and faith? What are books that have done both well?
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Oh, and go check out Brooke's website for some refreshing music!
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