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.