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)
Bruce Hennigan


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 ( as his literary agent and has signed a five book deal with the Realms imprint of Charisma Media for “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel”.


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.
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)

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.

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!


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.

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.

Monday, October 17, 2011

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


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.

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.