Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Meme Me

It's time for a little fun. My friend Nicole Petrino-Salter tagged me for a blog meme. Whoo-hoo! It's nice to be recognized and invited to play. So here it goes.

"The Next Big Thing"
1. What is the title of your next book/work?
My next book is my current book - Darkness Under The Moonlight. I've finished the first draft, but it's under revision so it's not quite done and still "next" in my mind. I did just have a cool idea for a sci-fi/medical thriller, but it is definitely in the gestational stage.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book/work?

My sick mind? I'm not sure what I was doing, but I had the picture of a body floating in the ocean, discovered by a fisherman hitting it with his boat. Who was the victim? Why did he die?

3. What genre does your book/work fall under?
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller. I guess there are differences - I'm trying to figure out where it fits exactly. 

Camilla's ready to go.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Jenna Dawson - I need an athletic person for the role. Right now I'm thinking Camilla Luddington or Alex Schlereth.

Derek Stephens - I'm not sure on this one. Perhaps Armie Hammer, just a little less on the leading man looks.

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A medical student travels to Thailand to discover the mystery behind the death of her missionary brother.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'm going to shoot for an agency. If it gets good feedback but the market isn't favorable, I would consider self-publishing.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

*cough*Seven years, next question*cough*

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I'd love to be compared to Davis Bunn's Rare Earth due to the exotic local and human element. If I could approach his level of writing skill, all the better.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I had recently gotten back into the hobby of creative writing and I had the images that were the genesis of the story. I fiddled around with it until I hit on the theme of human trafficking. With that issue at the heart, even though I got discouraged at times, I knew it was something important to finish.  

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I'm trying to blend international intrigue, medical suspense, and a heart-grabbing current issue into something readers will enjoy.

Now I'm tagging John Otte, Emileigh Latham, and Morgan Busse, to play. Okay?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mission Monday Reources

Hey all. Mission Monday has taken a hit the last few weeks due to schedule issues. I've got some resources for people today.

This year has thrown a group of us into a wild adventure with God. A small group of us separated from our previous church and came together to see what the Lord had for us. Through this we started meeting at a local park to reach out to a nearby apartment complex, and thus the Outreach Saga was born.

I've been spending time on the internet looking for resources to help us understand this journey and the new way we feel Jesus is leading us. We've stumbled by accident into a way of doing things that has been called organic church or simple church. We've gained a heart to really see people discipled in Kingdom ways. So here are some resources that I've found to be helpful in our six-month adventure.

Alan Knox is a PhD student in theology who writes very gracious but challenging posts on New Testament practice and how it relates to modern church practice.

Frank Viola is a prolific author. He has written numerous books and keeps up a daily blog. He's written a lot about organic church but has moved to a fuller study of the person of Jesus. His book, Jesus: A Theography is on my Christmas wish list.

A book recommended to me a year ago became very helpful when we started this summer - The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch. It is a thoughtful challenge to the body of Christ and a book that I would highly recommend.

I've followed CMA Resources on Twitter and found many encouraging links and articles posted through their work. They have a whole training setup there for people interested in organic church.

Neil Cole is associated with CMA Resources and is another frequent author passionate about organic church and seeing multiplication of disciples. His book Church 3.0 was another intriguing read with some practical advice for those investigating this way of doing church.

The Verge Network has a subscription required for premium content, which I haven't done yet. Still, there have been free videos released from the likes of Francis Chan and Neil Cole that have been challenging and exhorting for the church to really reach out.

I've begun to pay attention to the blog Church In A Circle. Would it be better for the body to interact in a circle than with one person in front speaking to a bunch of rows? That question and more on organic church is discussed here.

There's a wealth of wisdom and insight above. I hope if any are curious about what we've doing will check some of those out. I believe God can use any church for His purpose, from a traditional style of meeting to one that meets in a park with a free-flowing format. It is up to us to be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us and be willing to take risks for our Lord Jesus. That's my prayer for all of us in the coming year.
Hope this helps!

If you have any feedback on this, please share below!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Definition Of Christian Fiction

Now this is interesting...

There was a very interesting confluence of circumstances in the world of Christian or CBA fiction this week. First of all, I am a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and I subscribe to the main email loop for discussion of issues in Christian fiction. I haven't been following it for a while, but this week I happened to open up my digest and there was an interesting (if not new) discussion.

How "Christian" should our stories be?

Larry Timm started the discussion with this question on his blog and he threw it out to the ACFW loop as well. Both the comments on Larry's post and the answers on the email loop were enlightening.

The answers varied, for sure. Some thought that Christian novels should explicitly glorify Jesus in some way. Being a sweet romance without profanity or sex wasn't enough. Some answers thought there should be some lesson or purpose in the story. Others wondered if their stories could be considered Christian if there wasn't a path to redemption/salvation shown clearly in the text. There was concern that the message may be watered down in the current climate to appeal to wider audiences.

Is it enough if the worldview Christian, if the characters are Christians and live, make mistakes, and learn from their sin, without preaching it to the reader? Is there a place for good, clean fun, or do they all have to change our lives somehow? I liked what Randy Ingermanson said, something to the effect that we're called to be salt, but people like different levels of saltiness in their soup.

The consensus seemed to move toward different stories for different folks. Authors may be called to tell stories with the themes veiled or more subtle, while others may want to specifically deal with a theological/moral topic. People were respectful. It is an old debate in the CBA world, and it will continue to recycle as long as we continue to write.

What made the timing interesting to me was the introduction  this week of...The Hinterlands.

Marcher Lord Press has developed a significant niche in the CBA world as the go-to place for Christian speculative fiction. Other publishers will produce some science fiction or fantasy, but no one sells out for it like MLP.

Now they are ready to push the boundaries - figuratively and literally, it seems.

Hinterlands is the new MLP imprint for mature fantasy and sci-fi. It is designed to reach out to people who love secular fantasy/sci-fi but wouldn't pick up a typical Christian novel. The first book is called A Throne Of Bones by Vox Day, and it is specifically targeted to be for fans of epic fantasy such as George R. R. Martin and his Game Of Thrones series.

According to an article in Christian Retailing, Hinterlands will feature books with content that does not always mesh with traditional CBA fare.
“Just as some Christians have the ability to watch R-rated movies without stumbling and others do not, so it will be with A Throne of Bones and other titles to come in the Hinterlands line,” [Jeff Gerke] said.

MLP's owner and publisher Jeff Gerke went on to say,
“It’s not going to be erotica, and the characters aren’t going to be dropping f-bombs left and right,” he said. “But these books will still have more mature content than other Christian novels. Having these books in their own imprint will allow our fans to find the Marcher Lord Press books they’re interested in and avoid the ones they would rather avoid.”
“Hinterlands books may contain vulgarity, profanity, nudity and/or sexual content, but never for gratuitous purposes. Hinterlands allows us to pursue crossover publishing that will put the word of the gospel before people who would never otherwise pick up a Christian novel. It also allows us to examine mature themes in a realistic manner that some Christians will appreciate. We know that not everyone will want to read these books, so we have set them apart into the Hinterlands imprint.”

So we have two separate streams in the CBA realm that may be flowing in parallel, or depending on your viewpoint, moving far away from each other.

One side sees Christian fiction as standing apart from the world. Generally this group sees Christian fiction through the lens of Philippians 4:8, wants to see a clear story of redemption or salvation, and hews to an evangelical Christian framework.

Hinterlands is new ground that is trying to engage the world in realistic ways. This imprint could be the publishing home for stories from the Bible like Judges, Genesis 34 or 38, or be a realistic portrayal of life of King David. It sounds like they will take great care to avoid gratiutous use of profanity, violence, or sexual situations, but they won't avoid it wholesale if the story seems to require it.

I am very interested in seeing how this plays out. Can MLP succeed in this bold initiative with Hinterlands? Is there room for Christians producing this type of literature? At least, is there room in the CBA world? With the new world of the internet and social media, perhaps the old forms of marketing and distribution aren't needed anymore, and a niche like Hinterlands can succeed and reach people.

Can we reach people with gritty stories? This question has been debated in the CBA for a while now. I guess we'll be finding out with Hinterlands.
What do you think? I've got my opinions for a later post, but I want to hear from authors and readers of Christian fiction and speculative fiction. What is Christian fiction, and is there room for Hinterlands-type books in it?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Review - Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland

What happens when you dream?

This question has made men wonder for millenia. Leave it to a woman to answer it for us all.

Author K.M. Weiland of the popular Wordplay blog for writers has taken this idea and weaved it into her latest fantasy book Dreamlander.

Chris Redston is a down on his luck writer who has always dreamt of  far away lands and amazing battles. Lately he's having a dream that scares him: a beautiful woman rides up to him on a horse, pulls out a firearm, and warns him not to come - right before shooting him between the eyes.

If that didn't make him paranoid, he's being called by a strange man who knows Chris is having weird dreams. When Chris is finally able to confront his stalker, the man is shot. Chris is knocked out and awakens to meet a psychologist who promises to help Chris get rid of the dreams. All he needs to do is sleep, do what he's told in the dream, and it will break the cycle.

Allara is a princess of Lael and is also the Searcher - the one person tasked with finding the Gifted and guiding them through their world. The Gifted is the one person who can remember both lives on Earth and Lael. Everyone else thinks they are dreaming. Allara was a young girl when a Gifted came to Lael and betrayed everyone for the treacherous Mactalde. Even though that Gifted and Mactalde were killed, the prophecy that Mactalde would return has her on edge. Especially now that a new Gifted is about to cross over, which shouldn't happen again in her lifetime as most Searchers only ever have one Gifted a generation. She tries to warn him away, but he keeps appearing closer and closer to fulling coming over.

Chris didn't realize that the psychologist was Mactalde still living on Earth. Chris unwittingly brings Mactalde back over, sparking a war between Lael and Mactalde's army. Even worse, by bringing someone across the boundary, both worlds are stretched to the breaking point by unusual storms wreaking havoc on both sides.

As Chris and Allara are thrown together, they must overcome her mistrust and his cluelessness about their world to find Mactalde and end the chaos before two worlds crash down. But the shifting alliances and strange ways of Lael may prove too much for even the Gifted to handle.
An epic fantasy needs a strong plot, a deep world, and compelling characters. Dreamlander has all three aspects in full force here. The fish-out-of-water part of the story with Chris trying to survive and deal with a fantasy realm is not new, but it is handled deftly in the author's hands. The tension builds steadily on both sides of the dream as Chris tries to avoid death on Earth and trains in Lael. There is no dull moment as every part of the steps taken pull the reader deeper into a grand conflict.

Chris and Allara are appealing characters that battle internal demons along with the dangers that Mactalde's invasion brings. They both grow and develop throughout the story and anchor the story well. The secondary characters are also well done. Instead of being cardboard place holders, they are all 3-D figures that occupy their own space in the story and add to the mix.

The fantasy world of Lael is an intriguing one, as it isn't all swords and horses. Those elements are there of course, but this world has some mechanical, almost steampunk type elements. There are tram cars enabling quick travel across lands and fantastical firearms that operate with a special energy. These are cool factors that make Dreamlander stand apart from a typical fantasy.

I've enjoyed following K.M. Weiland's blog posts for writerly advice and videos. Now reading Dreamlander I know she has the skill and talent to back up her training. She doesn't just teach - she can ply the craft as well. I really enjoyed Dreamlander as one of the best fantasy books I've read in a while, and I can highly recommend it for a great Christmas gift for a loved one - or even a treat for yourself.

Full disclosure - I did receive an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review - and I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't really like it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

E-reader Questions

A quick post here for Writing Wednesday. I've got a question for any of you that use some sort of e-reader (Kindle, Nook, iPad, or other).

Have you found many formatting problems? If so, do they affect your enjoyment in reading?

I'm reading a book originally published in 2006 on my Nook. There are a lot of little formatting errors that have started to really distract me. Some of the goofs affect the gap that comes up when the author changes POV characters. It has left me going back on occasion to see which character is speaking, because I missed the change.

I'm wondering if the problem stems from a book from this author's catalog being quickly converted to be purchased on an e-reader. I haven't noticed such a problem on recently released books.

Any Kindle readers out there - have you noticed a similar problem?

Just trying to get a handle on whether this is a common issue or not, and people's feelings on it. If this were a frequent problem, I wouldn't keep buying e-books. So far this book is the worst I've experienced, but I've seen other problems before.

Any other thoughts on e-readers? Please share. We can complain together.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Things Work Out

Oh. Hello again.

Seems to be an annual thing - a monkey wrench in the blogging plans for posting every week. Well, at least this time I'm pretty sure I have a good reason. There's a little story involved so pull up a chair if you're so inclined. Otherwise, we'll be back to regularly scheduled mayhem next week.

It's supposed to be Writing Wednesday here. To tie it in, I'll say now that I'm glad I didn't try to do NaNoWriMo. But the story starts before this decision.

It has been a year for strange occurrences. From meeting in a traditional church setting to spending Sunday nights in a park, to my first writer's conference, 2012 has been a different beast.

The good news is, the Lord is in control and He guides His people.

We'll pick up in the summer when my wife and I are trying to plan for a trip to Disneyland we've been wanting to do for a while. As a homeschooling family, we have freedom to do it at alternate times when the crowds aren't as big. We considered the second week of September, after Labor Day and the final big push for the summer crowd. I sat at the computer to look for places and crunch numbers, but nothing ever seemed right. In Christian circles we'd say I didn't have peace about it.

We decided to postpone Disney until the spring. It would probably be too much since I was going to Dallas later in the month for the conference anyway.

It didn't hurt that we hadn't spent that money when our sewer backed up in the basement while I was gone.

That was fun to come home to, a dug up front lawn and displaced basement. My wife was a real trooper dealing with it while I was hanging out with writers. Not fun, but it would have been much worse if we'd spent a few thousand dollars a couple of weeks prior. It worked out.

Now we're heading toward November. One of our family's favorite artists is TobyMac. Even my four year old loves him. And the Winter Jam tour was bringing him and several other acts to Boise. Sounds like a good time for a weekend road trip. I got the time off from work and everything.

Then my wife and I talked about the details. It was going to conflict with some other events. We could do it, but it would be tough. The concert didn't require tickets purchased ahead of time, so we scrapped the plans. Again, it wasn't only the schedule - we didn't have peace about it. It wasn't what we were supposed to do.

I also thought about participating in NaNo this year. I haven't had good luck with it before, but on October 30th I wondered if it would be a good idea to get something out there. I did a trial on Halloween, writing 600 words of gutter trash and realizing (hopefully for good) that NaNo just doesn't work for me. Anyway - I decided against that too.

Both of these lost opportunities turned out to be a good thing.

You know how there are always contests where people win trips and crazy things. Do you ever hear of anyone winning those? Not me...

Until November 1st.

When I got a call at lunch while at work, I didn't expect the following:

"Do you remember the Facebook contest you entered to win tickets to the Boise State/Hawaii game on Oahu? Because you won. You and a guest will be going to Honolulu next week. What do you have to say?"

My response: I guess I need a babysitter!

We actually won a trip to Hawaii! It does happen. (Now everyone is flocking to Facebook to like every contest they can find. Who knows, it could happen to you?)

These are little things in the scheme of life - not going to a concert or postponing a vacation. Why would God be speaking to us about such things?

He cares about His people. He cares about the little things. He speaks to His children today. He knows the future.

I'm thankful that we didn't go to Disneyland. I want the experience with my family, but September would have been a disaster. It was bad enough as it was, but we had the money cushion to deal with it.

I'm thankful we didn't go to Winter Jam. A bunch of our friends went and had a blast. I'm sorry my kids missed out. But...I think I'll take a once in a lifetime trip to Hawaii over that.

I know there are people out there still recovering from Superstorm Sandy or going through other horrible things in life. Why is God doing these little things for me when others have such huge issues in front of them?

I don't fully know. We all have our storms in life. I've had mine. So has my wife. There are seasons to everything. I know Jesus weeps with those who have lost much and wants them to turn to Him. He brings blessings to the believer and the non-believer. Storms can hit the righteous and the wicked.

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I'm thankful that my God is holy, wise, and loves me enough to give me a nudge in the right direction when I can't see the pothole or pot of gold just around the bend.

Mahalo Lord.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Spirit And Sloppy Joes

Sloppy joes bring people together
There's something we've missed out on in modern church culture.

We don't eat together very often.

I've always gone to small churches. It is easy to eat together. For a long time it was a once a month ritual. Then some people got tired of it and we backed off, but then I realized it made a difference in our fellowship. I don't know how a mega-church could consider doing it - probably isn't feasible.

Which is too bad, considering the Bible assumes food and fellowship as part of the regular meeting of the saints, if you read Acts, Galatians, and 1st Corinthians. I'll come back to this point in a minute.

Having said that, we had another interesting night for our Church in the Park (that is now indoors for the season).

I was responsible for sharing and I was having trouble. I couldn't zero in on anything in particular to talk about. I've wanted to talk about what it means to be a disciple, but that didn't stick. I looked at some other verses to discuss and couldn't really get a sense of what I should share. Finally I went ready to talk about three different passages of Scripture. And if all else failed, we'd pray for the election.

Well, one of our regulars asked if there was something in the Bible that could help him with some conflict in relationships.

Okay then. Scrap my other three plans. I guess we're talking about turning the other cheek and walking in the opposite spirit!

We had a good discussion. I shared a couple of pertinent passages out of Matthew 5 and Romans 12. The group shared their thoughts and from their experiences. There was no clear answer but we were able to address a need and pray for it among each other. I was very blessed that my lack of direction helped me stay open to what the Spirit needed to do. That isn't easy to do in a regular church service. Thankfully, our situation allows for a more organic response. It was special to see our little group be the body to each other.

Oh, so back to the sloppy joes. One of the guys mentioned as a joke that a lot of conflict can be resolved if there were only sloppy joes involved. I couldn't help but laugh at that. I think there's truth though. I wonder if eating together drops our defenses a little bit. It is one thing to mingle in the foyer and make small talk. When we dine and share our food together, it is more inviting to open up to your brother or sister.

Let's be open to what the Spirit wants us to do. Having sloppy joes couldn't hurt.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Moving In With The Outreach

We held out as long as we could.
This is truth
We challenged our foe. We braved conditions, kept persevering, and kept fighting. In the end we had to capitulate.

Idaho weather won.

Our Outreach Saga has managed to meet in the park since we started the first weekend in June. Every Sunday we showed up at the park. Those of you who know Idaho's climate realize this is a minor miracle. Since it has snowed in Idaho in June before (not just the mountains either), I am fairly shocked and pleasantly surprised! We had a couple of windy days, the occasional cold day, but we never had to move our cancel for the weather.

Until now.

This weekend we finally moved indoors. Ironically the weather wasn't too bad and we could have stayed out one more time. Daylight Savings ends next week though, so it seemed time to pack it inside.

This will change our dynamics. We have had people come and go with the freedom of the open park. We always eat together and then spend some time in worship, Bible study, and discussion. A majority ate and left. That was okay. We never wanted to hold them hostage to something in order to get a meal.  I've been of the mindset that they will stay when they are ready to hear what we have to say.

Yesterday actually went well. None of us had any idea of what to expect. We are blessed to be meeting at a counseling center less than two blocks from the park, but we didn't know if people would trudge down a little farther, if convenience was a big issue.

We had a good turnout. Some kids came and were fed and had a safe place to hang out for two hours. Many adults came for a meal. We didn't have many stay for our Bible discussion, but we got to minister specifically to those who did.

This adventure has been mind-blowing for all of us involved. At the start of the year I would have never imagined doing an outreach like it. Now I can't imagine what I would be doing otherwise.

If you've been following this, please pray for us as we transition into the winter and being indoors. We will have more of a challenge engaging the kids/keeping them busy. Our sense is that winter will allow some more in-reach, whereas the summer in the park lent itself to outreach and a wider net.

Who knows? This has been an unpredictable journey so far. Why start predicting now?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

CSFF Tour Day 3 - The Spirit Well

In Which The End Game Becomes Visible, If Only For A Moment.

The CSFF Tour is wrapping up our feature of The Spirit Well, the third book in the Bright Empires series by Stephen Lawhead.

This mind-bending series is a fascinating mash-up of quantum physics, historical mystery, and pre-Starbucks coffee culture with an Indiana Jones twist. Lawhead is a gifted writer and this ambitious five book set challenges his readers with a forth and back approach as the characters wind through multiple dimensions stretching from Macau to ancient Egypt to modern day London and even the Stone Age.

This is all well and good, but if this is the Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy tour, where is the Christian part?

There have been praying monks and characters who mention God, but there is also a mysterious well with resurrection-like power and the pesky dimension-hopping that seems to contradict things we know. Why is this series published by a Christian publishing house?

The Spirit Well gives us our first substantial insight into the spiritual underpinnings of the series on pages 304-305. Cassandra Clarke is a young paleontologist who was swept up by this dimensional traveling to 1930's Damascus and has met up with two strange people from the Zetetic Society. She is being asked to join this group in their quest to encourage the "transformation of the universe." The society members are afraid that reaching a special landmark called the Omega Point will be thwarted by the enemies of good unless the Society can succeed.

The skeptical scientist points out a fallacy at this:
"So," concluded Cass, "Almighty God is not strong enough alone to bring about His purpose for the universe. He needs you and your society to make it happen; otherwise it has all been for nothing. Is that what you're saying?"
That isn't the end of it. Cassandra voices a reasonable doubt at what she's being told. Still, her experience of traveling through time and space has changed her paradigm already. The beauty of what has happened so far in the Bright Empires series is brought out by the elderly Mrs. Peelstick in response:
"...God has always worked through the small, the insignificant, the powerless - it seems to be sewn into the very fabric of the universe...
...Over and over again, we see that when anyone willingly gives whatever resources they have to Him - whether it is nothing more than five smooth stones gathered from a dry streambed or five little loaves of bread and two dried sprats - then God's greater purpose can proceed...
...And one poor, wandering country preacher - homeless, penniless, friendless, and despised by all but a handful of no-account fishermen and a few women - gave himself so fully to God that the combined might of the two most powerful forces in his world - the Roman empire and the religious authorities - could not stop him."
One simple speech, expertly seated in the mid-point of the series, anchors this tale in the ways of the Almighty God. Stephen Lawhead has been writing at a high level for many years. He didn't reveal the spiritual underpinnings right away. The wait made it more poignant when it finally came. Patience is a powerful weapon for the author.

We may want to rush to make it known that our work points to Jesus. I think it is better when it is placed in the proper context. After 2.75 of the series, we finally see the glow of the Light of the world. It is not dwelled upon. The characters move on. But the wait is worth it. The impact left me with a highly satisfied feeling, seeing an image in the tapestry pop out after it was just out of view the whole time.

Sure, the dimensional aspect is not in our usual understanding - but this is speculative fiction after all.

There's something to perseverance, both in writing and in reading. Lawhead stated he's waited 15 years to write this book, and just now feels he can do it justice. I'm thankful that an enjoyable yarn has such a careful craftsman at the helm.

Does this book sound interesting to you? Leave your thoughts below. Be sure to check out the other blogs posting. Becky Miller keeps a list of the posts for you.

We'll see you next month. Unless one of us stumbles upon an active ley line first...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CSFF Tour Day 2 - The Spirit Well

In Which The Blogger Brings It All Home In Style.

Welcome back to the CSFF Tour of Stephen Lawhead's latest book in his Bright Empires series, The Spirit Well.

Yesterday I did a quick overview of the first two books in the series, but if I was really walking in the spirit of this series, I might well do things out of order.

Why is that?

The whole series focuses on the idea of the multiverse (called in the books the Omniverse) - an infinite number of alternate dimensions out there. Imagine a world where the Nazis invaded North America, or one where the wheel wasn't invented. The characters in this series don't go in the past per se, they jump to different dimensions. In the first book a ley traveler stops the Great London Fire in the 1600s by waking the baker who inadvertantly started it.

With that as a background, shall we begin?

A detailed synopsis is impossible without giving away fun things from the first two books. The main protagonist Kit is stranded in Stone Age times, which doesn't seem to bother him all that much. His girlfriend Mina is busy mastering ley traveling and avoiding the machinations of the ruthless Lord Burleigh. A new character, paleontologist Cassandra Clarke, goes from a modern-day dig in the Arizona desert to 1930's Damascus and becomes a popular woman with a group that looks to play an important role in the rest of the series.

The centerpiece of the books are the Skin Map, the tattooed skin of one Arthur Flinders-Petrie. This gentleman was the leading expert in ley travel and kept a unique code on his chest to help him navagate the complicated waters. The Spirit Well delves into the unpleasant business of how Arthur became separated from his map, while other characters both fair and foul seek the Skin Map for their own purposes.

Lawhead has attempted a complicated story, a tale only a master at his craft could accomplish. Thankfully, the author is such a master. The book gives a handy list of important characters followed by a short recap of the events so far. He then introduces the new character Cassandra to be his launch point into book 3.

One must pay attention and hang on tight, as the book does not proceed in a truly linear fashion. If you're dealing with the multiverse, why should you? It weaves back and forth through many characters and locales in pushing the plot forward (for the most part). For readers of the series, there are points that explain questions from the first two books, which just whets the appetite for more.

There is action and excitement at times, but other moments are chances to admire Lawhead's gift for bringing the reader into the varied settings. He is a world traveler and excellent researcher, so the details are expressive and inviting. I want to visit Damascus after reading the book (though perhaps not right now).

The story winds its journey like a lazy river. There are moments of rapids and white water, other times with beautiful scenery to enjoy, and occasions where it seems to wind back on itself. Still, the tale flows toward an ending that looks to be a revelation.

I really enjoyed the first book, but felt the second book had a slight letdown. The Spirit Well wins deeper affection from me. I am frustrated that I'll be waiting another two years for the final resolution, but the Bright Empires journey is quite worth it.

So this is one man's opinion. Becky Miller keeps a list of all of the tour participants, and there is more information there. Jim Armstrong picked up the book fresh without reading the others, and shares his thoughts on a complicated book viewed with new eyes.

I'll be talking more about the faith element of the book tomorrow - this is a Christian tour after all. How can a book of multiple dimensions be considered Christian fiction?

Oh, I did receive a free copy in exchange for a fair review - nothing else.

Monday, October 22, 2012

CSFF Tour Day 1 - The Spirit Well

In Which We Jump Back To Move Ahead.

Welcome to the October 2012 CSFF Tour, featuring the best Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy reads available.

This month is a treat because we get to feature one of the greatest speculative fiction writers out there: Stephen Lawhead. His prolific work has been published and re-released and he keeps on stretching his boundaries and using new concepts to fuel his latest work, the Bright Empires series and the third in the five volume tale, The Spirit Well.

The enjoyable part of following a series on the tour is getting to read each one and not losing track of them. The difficulty becomes remembering all that happens and writing about it coherently, but I shall persevere and attept to set the record straight.

In the first book, The Skin Map, a rather ordinary Brit named Kit Livingstone got an unexpected visit from an older chap - who happened to be his great-grandfather. The man was quite spry for someone who should be dead.

It turns out that Kit's family has the ability to travel via ley lines, special energy forces that were marked by primitive populations through mounds, lines, and other features that have long baffled modern research. These portals open to alternate dimensions, into the very Omniverse. Pretty handy overall.

The Skin Map introduces the quest for, you guessed it, the skin map, a series of tattoos on the skin of the most prolific ley traveler that could show the way to the fabled Spirit Well. Kit chases it and his girlfriend Mina (whom he accidentally lost while ley leaping, but ended up landing on her feet anyway). As any good quest should, he has a villian after him in the form of the evil Lord Burleigh, who has a group of thugs called Burley men trailing the hapless Kit.

In the second book The Bone House the adventure continues as Kit escapes death thanks to his resourceful Mina, the man behind the Skin Map (literally) plots the rescue of his beloved wife, and more is revealed about the origin of Lord Burleigh. Through twists and turns in time and space, we end up with Kit at the very edge of the mysterious Spirit Well.

Thus begins book three, which continues the tale. And this blog will continue to discuss tomorrow. If you're waiting for more, please check out my fellow travelers below as we explore the labyrinthine Skin Map and see if we can do better than Kit. Or you can check out my prior posts on The Skin Map and The Bone House to get more in-depth on the previous books.

Jim Armstrong
 Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Karri Compton
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Jeremy Harder

Monday, October 15, 2012

Kings & Queens

For today's Mission Monday, I have brain cramps from a long weekend. However, music is powerful and this video and the lyrics explain the heart of the Father and a missional outlook better than I can.

Courtesy of the newly reformed Audio Adrenaline with the spectacular Kevin Max on vocals, this song instantly became my new favorite of the year. Please check it out. I love the purple and the association with royalty as a thread through the video.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

To Blog Or Not To Blog

I love a rollicking dialogue on the web.

Last week Rachelle Garnder posted about the need  for authors to have a platform, the hot topic of 2012. The first commenter was none other than James Scott Bell, author and writing teacher and a man on the forefront of the churning waters of the changing publishing seas.

He opined that writers should focus on writing to build their quality, publishing short stories and books. He suggested that blogging was the biggest time-suck for authors, especially unpublished ones. The return on blogging was perhaps there in 2007, but not in 2012.

Another well-known writing blogger, Jody Hedlund, answered with a post on this issue. She took a more measured approach to blogging, relating side benefits that can come from blogging: networking with other writers, finding a voice, and learning about the industry. She couldn't point to her blog being a major reason behind her success, but felt it did play a role.

The irony of this discussion being played out on blogs is not lost on me.

Bell answered back on Jody's blog, conceding that there are ancillary reasons for keeping up a blog. He held to his main point about a blog being a poor option in creaing a platform. He noted that Rachelle and Jody have created strong platforms through their blogs, but that is a rare position to create a new blog that really puts someone's name out there.

I'd have to agree with Jim. I've been blogging since 2006. The advice at the time was to start blogging and build a base that would end up following you into publishing.

Well, I've been pretty consistent through the years. I wish I could say I've created a large tribe that would spread my message hither and yon. Alas, that's not the case. I did have Anne Rice comment on a blog post once. Whoo-hoo!

So if I was only doing this to build a platform, it hasn't played out very well.

The thing is, I also agree with Jody. Blogging has done a lot for me even if it isn't counted by numbers.

Through blogging I've been introduced to several people online that have continued to encourage and challenge me in my writing life. It has kept me disciplined in writing regularly, even when my fiction writing sat idle for a couple of months at a time. I've reviewed a lot of books through here, so it has fed my reading habit. I would suggest it helped open some other doors, like writing a column for the local paper.

I've seen some friends develop a platform through their blogs. Mike Duran started around the same time. He's managed to build a healthy community of commenters that make it an intelligent site to follow. Becky Miller is a go-to person in the realm of Christian speculative fiction since she works tirelessly to promote it. Jordyn Redwood found a niche by answering medical questions on her blog, which plays into her primary job as an ER nurse and her medical suspense. These folks have managed to build something special.

But the common thread here is that I've interacted with each of them through the years because I have a blog.

If I were talking to a brand new writer, I probably would point them to Jim's advice about putting their effort into fiction that they can start to get out there. I've been doing this too long to quit, although I've tried to do a two posts a week schedule this year to stay consistant but not as pressured as when I tried to do 3-4 a week.

Most of my opinions are similar to the comment threads of the blog posts by Rachelle and Jody. If you're interested in the discussion, check those out.

As someone who has done the blogging thing for a while, I couldn't resist throwing out my experience. If I had to do it over again, I wish I had spent a little less time blogging and more time on writing, but I don't think I'd say I wouldn't blog at all.

What say you? What value does blogging have for a fiction author over other writers or professionals? Do you lean toward Jim or Jody?

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Just Church

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.  

The words of the prophet Micah are spoken in churches all over the world. Believers love this simple declarations of what Jesus asks of His people.  

Christians try hard to walk humbly with the Lord. We strive to show mercy to people. However, we often ignore or struggle with the clause of "acting justly." Especially for Western Christians, the command for justice is flat-out missed or simply misunderstood.  

There is a new move of the Spirit, awakening His people to the need to provide justice for those who cannot speak up for themselves, to proclaim freedom to the captives, to minister to the widow and orphan. It is a slow burn, but it is exciting to see the embers leaping into flame in various places of the body.

 A new spark is being provided by the new book The Just Church by Jim Martin of the organization International Justice Mission (IJM).

IJM has been fighting for justice for many years now and is one of the leading organizations battling injustices like forced labor, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of women and children, and modern-day slavery in all its forms.  

Jim Martin has been working with them after transitioning out of the pastoral role in his church, becoming a church liason with IJM. This experience made him especially qualified to write The Just Church.  

This book is a challenge to the body of Christ to reclaim the lost aspect of Micah 6:8 and to actively act justly in the world. There are other books that try to awaken Christians to the need of justice and to expose the problems of modern slavery and other forms of bondage towards vulnerable peoples that is easy to overlook in our daily lives. The Just Church is a book that takes the church on journey to forming a viable justice ministry to compliment evangelism and mercy ministry.  

The book is laid out in three sections. The first section establishes a theory that faith doesn't really grow without significant risk and suggests that justice ministry is a needed part of the church and can help develop a healthier discipleship in His people. The second section takes the reader through a practical journey on establishing a justice ministry in the local church. It isn't a step by step approach, allowing for the individual characteristics of any body guide the process. The last part of the book is a series of appendices with Scriptures on justice, resources for following through, and study materials. Each chapter ends with a QR code that can be scanned by a smart phone or tablet, leading to a video with Jim summarizing each chapter's main point.  

It is well-written with an easy conversational style. Jim lays out the challenges inherit in this type of ministry and doesn't sugar-coat it. It won't be easy. But he recognizes the hope that is out there for people if Christians will rise up and stand in this gap, so the book is infused with this balance of challenge and hope.  

Any critiques are minor. The videos are a very nice multimedia touch in this day and age - but I'm a fast reader so I'd rather not slow down and watch a movie. Those who like this feature will be pleased. Also, sometimes the book seems too much like a selling tool for IJM. I realize Jim works with them and is most familiar with their work, but there are other fine organizations out there doing similar work as well. This isn't a big issue, and I support IJM financially myself.  

Overall I am thrilled to have had a chance to read this book and see the new horizons coming in the fight against injustice. The need is starting to become known in the western Church. The Just Church takes the movement to the next step and provides a practical tool to those churches looking into how they can join in the justice ministry sphere. It isn't for special groups like IJM or others listed on my links on my blog. The Bible speaks very clearly about God's love of justice and it is every Christian's responsibility to see the threefold thrust of Micah 6:8 walked out in the world today.  

I'm thankful to Jim Martin and IJM for their work. I did receive a preview copy for promotional purposes, without any expectation of a positive review. My endorsement is heartfelt. The Just Church is a powerful tool in the battle against modern injustice. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Ol' Conference Round-Up

Back to real life.

That's the reality as I sit at my computer and type out another blog post. But during four days in September, reality seemed different - like an alternate dimension. It was a place where one could discuss romance, murder, angels, dragons, superheroes, slaves, plucky Amish girls, and the occasional odd character.

That was the 2012 American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Dallas.

It was my first conference. With 700 attendees it seemed daunting at times to this new author with a baby-fresh manuscript clutched in his trembling hands (it was more a leg that trembled, but that's for another time). Facebook makes it seem we're all friends, but even though I recognized many people thanks to social media, I didn't really know anyone there.

Thankfully that changed.

The great thing about this conference is that it is rooted in the Christian part of its name. There are worship times, devotions, a prayer room, and most importantly there are Christians. It seems obvious, but the people there demonstrated Christ-like behavior in welcoming everyone. From the first-timers orientation to sitting at a meal with total strangers and leaving as friends at the end, people usually gave a lot of grace to each other. There was always an easy way to do introductions if you were stuck: Where are you from and what do you write?

The emcee, Brandilyn Collins, did a great job making people feel engaged in the meals and main sessions. She let us all know that it was okay to argue with your characters because we had the whole hotel floor to ourselves, without any Normals around to wonder what is wrong with you. We were advised to not plot murders in the elevator or main lobby, but otherwise you were with people who got you. People who understood your imagination, your fascination with stories, and the need to go hide as an introvert every so often.

I've seen other conference attendees post their take-away points from Dallas, and writers are nothing if not imitators. What are things that struck me?

1. There are a lot of people with similar dreams. Seven hundred might not seem like a lot, but to gather that many like-minded folks to focus on writing was way cool. As a writer I'm not alone in my aspirations. Many others are walking a similar path, treading behind people who are ahead in the journey but are willing to give back. One great point is all the effort made by volunteers to staff workshops, mentoring visits, and just giving to the newbie writers walking around awestruck.

2. There are lot of different people in the ACFW... but there could be a lot more diversity too. There is a wide variety of writers there, but the majority wrote women's fiction, Amish or historical fiction, or romance. Nothing wrong with that - I'll read any of those if they're well written (disclaimer: I haven't read an Amish novel, not because I haven't found a well-written one, I just haven't looked). There's obviously a huge market for those books. The ACFW started as the American Christian Romance Writers after all.

The guys were outnumbered 80% to 20% probably, but men who had been in the past said this was a huge difference to prior conferences when the males could fill 1-2 tables. We held our own though ;). There were even fewer minorities. The speculative fiction writers would glom on to each other for support. Horror? Yeah, I didn't meet anyone who wrote that (maybe Mike Duran counts).

I'm not saying this to criticize the ACFW. It is an organization representative of its market - the people who frequent Christian bookstores. In other words, white middle-class evangelicals. The larger problem is that those churches don't always reach out of their demographic, but that's a much larger issue. I hope the ACFW can be a champion for diversity in the stories they tell to nudge the evangelical camp toward a larger acceptance.

3. I really need to write speculative fiction. Not for great sales numbers, but for the cool company. My book is suspense. I felt more kinship with the spec fic crowd. Everything I love to read or watch is led by spec fic, so I am surprised I don't have inspiration to write it. Maybe someday.

4. There's a lot to learn. I've been in intense programs before. A physician assistant program is like drinking from a fire hose. The writing program isn't that overwhelming. Still, applying technical information in an artistic way is crossing the left brain with the right brain. That creates eddies in brain waves. I want to take what I gleaned and polish my novel up as much as I can. It all can't go into it though. There was too much to use it all. I have to make choices.

I don't like these kind of choices.

5. ACFW is working very hard. The conference was a huge success. I can't imagine pulling together all of the logistics for this. There were leaders and there were a ton of volunteers helping things come off. There were a couple of little snafus. Probably more behind the scenes got missed than most people would see but on the outside it came off great. I know the timing was right for me to go this year. I wish I had gone earlier though.

I met online friends such as John Otte and Mike Duran and enjoyed getting to know them personally. I made new friends like Morgan Busse and Joe Courtemanche that made the weekend enjoyable and thought-provoking. And I got double-crossed in a mean game of Fiasco.

I'm ready for next year in Indianapolis.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Justice Awareness

Computer problems are not conducive to blogging.

With that out of the way, I wanted to quickly point out a couple of resources for people interested in justice issues and fighting things like human trafficking.

Half The Sky is a two part documentary on the plight of women worldwide, as there are so many instances of oppression on women throughout the world. The documentary shows things like rescuing girls from brothels, providing learning opportunities, and exposing the issues that affect so many women in the world. It is airing on PBS tonight and tomorrow night. It looks to be a powerful way to show the needs of fighting for women without rights or opportunity. Like the title implies, half of the population is treated less than human and is discriminated against in too many ways, especially in the Two-Thirds World.

Next week is the launch of the book The Just Church written by Jim Martin of International Justice Mission. I'm reading it to help promote the launch and it is challenging so far. I'm planning to have a review of it next week.

Two quick items to let people know about. These are major things in the world today. I believe they are very close to God's heart, even if Half The Sky is a "secular" production.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CSFF Tour Day 3 - The Telling by Mike Duran

I left off last time on our CSFF tour feature of The Telling by Mike Duran with a teaser. I reviewed the book, but didn't address the main idea of the book.

That requires a post of its own.

Mike's main character has a gift he calls "the Telling." It is basically prophecy - he gets words for people or others. It often comes with a physical sensation that makes him sick.

Prophecy isn't controversial, is it?

The problem in the book is the ninth gate of hell that happens to be nearby and is threatening to take over the small California town of Endurance.

A gate of hell isn't controversial, is it?

The demons that infiltrate Endurance make copies of people's bodies, creepy doppelgangers that know the person's every thought and desire.

That isn't controversial, is it?

None of this would be controversial if it weren't in the Christian fiction arena. The thing that could make it very risky is that there is a clear representation of faith and needing God's touch in the midst of more unorthodox aspects of the story.

I don't want to spoil the story, but needless to say Zeph Walker has some issues since he has a huge scar marring his mouth inflicted by a psychotic stepmother. After being hurt, he stopped using the Telling - or it left him. Either way, there's a theme of finding your way back to faith. The tagline for the book is awesome: A prophet never loses his calling, only his way.

So the theme of coming back is a decidedly Christian one. However, since The Telling mixes God with mythical gates of hell, demons that don't possess but make really good paper mache copies of people, strange demon fighters, and a blend of science and the occult - is it truly Christian fiction?

I say yes.

I don't believe a novel has to be orthodox to be Christian fiction. Maybe it comes from too much familiarity with Mike Duran - I know that he loves Jesus and loves the Church and the Word. But we have a huge precedent with C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. Witches and talking horses and all sorts of magic run through the story, yet all but the most conservative of Christians accept it as one of the prime examples of exemplary Christian fiction. Even though J.R.R. Tolkien didn't claim to be writing Christian fiction with The Lord Of The Rings, it is still considered a more veiled version of Narnia.

I know others will disagree. We had a fine gentleman with good thoughts leave the CSFF because too many stories we featured weren't orthodox enough for him. So whose orthodoxy will we use? In mine, prophecy is good to go, but other Christians won't agree to that at all. This will continue to be an issue no matter what we do.

I wish I had been able to visit the other blogs on the tour and see the chatter. Unfortunately between computer glitches and backed-up sewer lines in basements (honey, let's do a spontaneous renovation of the downstairs) I haven't seen much of anything. I aim to fix that and check out the opinions, because I'm sure this is going to be an interesting conversation. As always, our stalwart leader Becky Miller keeps up with the latest and greatest posts of the tour.

CSFF Tour Day 2 - The Telling by Mike Duran

The CSFF is featuring Mike Duran and his latest book The Telling.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I met Mike at the ACFW Conference this last weekend and we talked a few times. When I mentioned the tour for his book, he told me to be honest with my opinion. Mike has posted about the lack of real critique in Christian fiction circles before, so it didn't surprise me that he said to go for it.

But first, what is The Telling?

Zeph Walker is a disfigured loner in the town of Endurance, on the edge of Death Valley. Hiding out on his property, his only real contact with people is in his dilapidated Book Swap store. His hideous scar, stretching from his nose across his mouth to his chin, has earned him the name Zipperface.

But Zeph has not always been like this. He used to have The Telling. He would know things about people, situations, events. He turned his back on this gift long ago.

When two law enforcement agents show him a body in the morgue that is a carbon copy of himself, he begins to be drawn in to a mystery that has been brewing underground for years. For Endurance is known for being the location of one of the nine mythical gates of hell.

As Zeph meets new friends that are also finding suspicious things going on in their little town, a choice is presented. Face the threat and face the past, or succumb to the evil lurking in the abandoned mine nearby.


As you can see, Mike Duran does not lack for imagination. When he announced his tagline on his blog: "A disfigured prophet must rise up to close one of the nine mythical gates of hell," I knew we were in for a ride.

Mike has a distinct style. He writes supernatural fiction, dealing with the elements of angels, demons, spirits, and the ragged edge of faith. However, he does so with a lyrical style. Mike cares about the language used, and he takes great care to paint the picture of what is going on with metaphor and simile. His words don't just move the plot along, but they weave a picture. This is one of Mike's strengths, but it does make his writing a little more dense. The book is not an easy pick-up and read. There's effort expended in working through the passages.

Like his first book, The Resurrection, he deals with flawed characters with significant weakness. Zeph was horribly scarred by his stepmother. Spunky senior citizen Annie Lane has fought isolation and feeling like she may have been passed by in her destiny. There's even a lot of empathy for one of the antagonists, Fergus Coyne, who battles in his own decision on how to confront his past. The bottom line is that you care about these characters because they have significant doubts and challenges - things we can relate to as readers.

Now to the plot and the big idea of the book. I'm going to rate the writing to finish today, and tomorrow will tackle the implications of the themes.

Mike said he threw the kitchen sink at this book. Government conspiracy theories, prophecy, demons, body-snatching, and cactus jelly all in one swirl of suspense. This makes it very interesting. To me, it also made it tricky to follow everything that went on. I will admit that I read it in fits and starts due to my schedule, but the back and forth of the varied plot points got confusing - enough that it dampened some of the enjoyment. Between the twists and four different point of view characters, I had to step out of his world to figure out who was doing what and where it fit.

It is a good book. I didn't feel it was a great read. Fellow writers are notorious to please, because we read books with different eyes than a standard fiction fan. If I had to rate it on a scale, I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5. There's a lot to think about in this book, there are interesting characters, and a skillful use of language, tempered by a mildly confusing plot.

I didn't talk about the themes and big ideas. Check back tomorrow for that - I promise it is the most interesting part.

Also, check out the other posts on The Telling. Becky Miller lists all the posts so far.

Monday, September 24, 2012

CSFF Tour Day 1 - The Telling by Mike Duran

 It's time to "Tell" you about the September Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour.

This one is a pleasure for me because the CSFF is featuring Mike Duran and his latest novel, The Telling.

Mike Duran is an author and prolific blogger. His blog Decompose is a fertile ground of ideas that make you think. Not only does Mike post provocative thoughts on faith, fiction, and culture, but the community of commenters he has following him often expand the posts into very interesting realms.

Mike is not afraid to ask the hard questions or probe issues regarding Christian fiction and speculative ideas. However, he has a deep love for the Church and regularly pokes at the foibles of atheist and relativistic thinking.

Mike and I chatting it up
The best part about Mike is that he is real and he is interested in people and exploring these issues. I know this because I had the great pleasure of meeting him this last weekend at the ACFW Conference in Dallas.

If this post sounds gushing because I just met the guy and I'm talking him up, you can forget that idea. The web does not allow for really knowing people, no matter how much you think it does. The face-to-face with Mike and bouncing ideas off him and other like thinkers (here's a shout to fellow CSFF tour member Morgan Busse) over meals was a highlight of the conference to me.

Over the next few days we'll be talking about Mike and The Telling. I'm sure it will be a tour with a lot of discussion. I invite you to check out my fellow tourmates below for more information.

 Jim Armstrong
Noah Arsenault
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Theresa Dunlap
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Bruce Hennigan
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The New Top 5 Ways To Pass Time In An Airport

I posted a handy guide to passing time in an airport last year. But after so much time has passed, the old list may be passe.

The internet needs a NEW list of things to do in an airport.

Without further ado:

5. Jockey for the best place to park. The ideal spot? Comfy chairs, plug-ins for your laptops and other electronic necessities, and a TV playing something better than CNN Financial. I'm parked in front of a football game, in a black lounge chair, with multiple plug-ins. I win.

4. See if you can find someone watching a movie on their laptop and find a way to get close enough for the free entertainment. Disclaimer: if you get in trouble with people for peeping - you didn't have to take my advice.

3. Get your exercise. Power walk up and down the concourse. You may want to find deodorant for this option.

2. Bonus points for this one - get your fellow passengers to join you in doing the Gangnam Style dance. Seriously, if you post a video link here doing it, I'll send you a pack of gum or something.

1. Write a blog post. You can give people hints on how the pass the time… (Recycled from last year, but classics never go out of style)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Taking The Next Step

Here we go.

I've been on this writing adventure for a long time now. I started back into it as an adult writing fan fiction (shout out to KFF, yo!). I had forgotten how much I liked telling the stories that popped into my head.

I came up with an idea for a novel. My writing friend Athena Grayson helpfully shot the sick goose dead before it got very far off the ground.

Then I had another idea. This one had some promise.

I started writing.

That was...a while ago.

We won't go into detail how long ago *cough*2005*cough*.

I followed writers, read blogs, hung out at writing forums, and started writing about writing myself. I read a lot of books. Read books on craft. Read suspense, mystery, crime, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, YA, and even a romance or two.

Very slowly, I wrote.

I kept waiting for the muse to hit to really write. I learned the muse sucks.

Then something changed. I learned to write no matter what. I set my mind to it and plugged away at it. In the last year I wrote twice as much as I had the previous six years.

Suddenly I had a first draft of a novel done.

Well shoot, now what do I do with it?

So here I sit in the airport terminal. Ready to fly off to Dallas to meet with a few other writers (about 700 or so, not many). I've made the commitment. I'm not doing this lightly. It is time to go for it.

Here I go. And if I have any advice to give, it would be this: go for it.

See you on the other side.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Arrrr Ye Ready?

Welcome aboard mateys, as this blog's flagship holiday approaches.

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

As this intrepid explorer will be working and flying off to Dallas (a shame, as there are no oceans nearby), it seemed prudent to offer up the traditional pirate resources. Although piracy is not usually associated with prudence.

Every pirate needs a good source of navigation. How else do they find rum?

The age old question: pirates or ninjas. This landlubber writer makes his choice, and he'll be paying Davy Jones a visit real soon.

Or, ye can settle the dispute yerself. Heave ho with the dodgeballs!

If ye are not proficient in yer pirate lingo, here be a handy translator.

There even be some food merchants who are forthcoming with plunder if ye speak to them winsomely.

Here some photographic evidence of piracy and plunder be revealing the buccaneer among ye.

Cutlass versus rum...cake

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pre-Conference Jitters

In one week I'll be at the airport.

It's time for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Dallas. This is my first writing conference, and I've already shared some resources I've found while preparing.

One would think that with all the advice on the web that there wouldn't be nerves. Ah, who am I fooling? We're human, and anytime we do something wildly different it will create anxiety. I've been working on a novel for a long time. It's finally to a point where I feel comfortable going and seeing what happens.

So, if you're like me and worried about what to expect for your first conference, here's a few more posts I've found circulating the net while procrastinating preparing for take-off.

Mike Duran says chuck the check list but pack the deodorant.

Agent Karen Ball gives her two B's for the conference. Scroll to the bottom of her post, and you'll find several other helpful links. One of them I'll link specifically, from Tamela Hancock Murray for the ACFW 2011 Conference with the helpful title of Conquering Conference Jitters. So you can read that post, or jitter away. The choice is yours.

Maybe I'll see you at the conference. If we're lucky, we won't end up like the unfortunate gentleman below.

True picture of a n00b at the ACFW conference last year