So Tired of the SAME Arguments

Rant warning! 😉

Here we go again. Someone inside the Christian publishing industry, in this case novelist Eric Wilson, is upset with Christian fiction. The issues seem to be the following:

  • content that doesn’t deal with such things as doubts, depression, sexual and financial issues, addiction, and disease
  • placement of Christian fiction in a Christian section
  • influence and parameters have narrowed
  • moneychangers are stepping in and the Spirit is moving out
  • viewed as a “safe” alternative instead of a vibrant, world-changing entity
  • not as “raw” as the Bible

Besides the fact that most of these criticisms are OLD, they also aren’t true. Perhaps they once described Christian fiction. Not any more.

Although Eric says he has reviewed and endorsed hundreds of novels in the last decade, I wonder if he’s read them. I haven’t read hundreds, but I’ve read books with sex outside of marriage, adultery, attempted rape, babies out of wedlock, slavery, drug use, a Wiccan character, a failed seminary student, a depressed and worried Church volunteer, dealing with Alzheimer disease, death of a child, an autistic character, creation scientist working in secular lab, cloning, and more. Raw. Real life.

Rather than “narrowing the parameters,” in the last decade, publishers have clearly expanded them. Granted, because of the economy—and the digital revolution—publishers are understandably cautious and unwilling to take abnormal risks right now. But I don’t see this hiccup as representative of a long term pattern that will reverse the previous nine years of change.

Which brings up the “moneychangers” issue. Last week, Mike Duran addressed the charge of greed among publishers in his article “Should ‘Profit’ Be the Bottom Line for Christian Publishers?” For whatever reason, we seem to have the idea that the book business should operate like a ministry rather than a business. Why? Perhaps because of the Christian content in our books. But the last I checked, many of the Christian imprints are owned by secular companies, so the idea of “ministry” is a foreign concept to the parent responsible for oversight.

I know many Christian editors and others in the firing lines who do look at their work as a calling, as do many novelists. However, we are still involved in a business where enough money needs to be made to keep paying employees and pass along a profit to the investors. Just like every other business.

As to placement of Christian fiction in Christian sections of book stores, or in Christian stores, we’re talking about something out of the control of the book sellers AND something that some of those working in the industry have tried (are trying?) to change. This complaint is going to the wrong people. Write a letter to the Barnes & Noble book buyers instead.

As to the “safe” alternative, instead of vibrant, world-changing entities, why can’t we have both? Why do “raw” books have to drag readers into the gutter to get a point across? Is a book more artistic because it deals with the seamy in a seamy way?

I’ve read some beautifully written fiction, some thought-provoking stories that have PG writing. Why must we conclude that R-rated work is better?

And this final idea, that the Bible is more raw and real than our fiction. No. The Bible gives narrative summary. It never takes the reader into Rahab’s bedroom and shows her selling her body. It tells us she was a prostitute. We know what that means, so the Bible doesn’t need to paint the scene.

One final point that came out in comments to Mike Duran’s post on this issue over at Novel Journey—something new, at last. Eric apparently is looking for support as he leaves Christian publishing and looks to find a general market house.

I’m not quite sure what kind of support he has in mind, but I do think we can come along side writers no matter where they are being published—small press, general market, Christian houses, self-published. We should be praying for each other, mentoring, encouraging, consoling, admonishing, promoting, endorsing, reviewing—whatever is needed, as we are able.

The Christian life is not a solo flight. We are in this together. Maybe it’s worth regurgitating the well-digested topics of yesteryear just to reach that final point.

Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm  Comments (82)  
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82 Comments

  1. Besides the fact that most of these criticisms are OLD, they also aren’t true. Perhaps they once described Christian fiction. Not any more.

    At the risk of sounding wishy-washy: Yes and no. On the one hand, yes, some CBA appears to be tackling other subjects, or tackling them differently. On the other, well, I could tell a few stories of true, unnecessary ‘freak out’ moments myself (although only three have actually been total freak outs over literally nothing).

    Which brings up the “moneychangers” issue. Last week, Mike Duran addressed the charge of greed among publishers in his article “Should ‘Profit’ Be the Bottom Line for Christian Publishers?” For whatever reason, we seem to have the idea that the book business should operate like a ministry rather than a business. Why? Perhaps because of the Christian content in our books. But the last I checked, many of the Christian imprints are owned by secular companies, so the idea of “ministry” is a foreign concept to the parent responsible for oversight.

    Eh. My comments are on Mike’s site (and I can repost them if no one objects and anyone wishes). I don’t think CBA is a “ministry.” I tend to liken this whole CBA/ABA gig to the same distinction in everything else: Some churches are called to ‘in-reach.’ Some to ‘out- reach.’ I guess, in my head, I see CBA as, by nature, more geared for people who are already Christians – largely because I don’t know many non-Christians with an urge to go into a Christian bookstore.

    So, I don’t have a problem with that; but, just like churches geared toward “in-reach,” CBA shouldn’t kid itself into thinking it’s “reaching the world” when it’s not. (I am not knowledgeable enough to say whether it deceives itself or not.)

    But I could probably say that to anyone: If only Christians are going to see it, call it like it is.

    As to non-Christians owning businesses that sell to Christians: Also true.

    Again, as far as Christians making a profit: Scripture has no problem with that. It does, however have a problem with exploitation, theft, and panhandling God.

    As to placement of Christian fiction in Christian sections of book stores, or in Christian stores, we’re talking about something out of the control of the book sellers AND something that some of those working in the industry have tried (are trying?) to change. This complaint is going to the wrong people. Write a letter to the Barnes & Noble book buyers instead.

    I can’t even get B&N to understand that “The Book of God” by Wangeren (sp?) is a novel, not a non-fiction text or Bible, so good luck. Or that Tea with Hezbolla isn’t really a book about Islam (kinda) or an inspirational. So good luck. 0=)

    As to the “safe” alternative, instead of vibrant, world-changing entities, why can’t we have both? Why do “raw” books have to drag readers into the gutter to get a point across? Is a book more artistic because it deals with the seamy in a seamy way?

    I’ve read some beautifully written fiction, some thought-provoking stories that have PG writing. Why must we conclude that R-rated work is better?

    I don’t think that’s necessarily the biggest issue. The issue is when someone freaks out because a character said “dang.” Or “godforsaken.” Or had a couple teenagers holding hands.

    I already have a rant on glorious v. grotesque, so I’ll just again say I agree. I’m actually engaging in a rather fun challenge of dealing with rough subjects in an incredibly gentle way (Lord willing, it’ll work!).

    Anyway. There’s my pennies.

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  2. Becky, being that we’re at odds on many of your observations, I’ll make my points brief… especially since they’re the SAME OLD arguments.;)

    First, I want to make clear to your readers that in my article about profit-making in Christian publishing I do not oppose anyone (including myself!) making money. In fact, to quote from the article, “Christian businesses that DO NOT make money are probably not the best witness.” I am not charging any Christian publisher with being a “moneychanger.” I don’t know that you make this clear in your post.

    Secondly, I think you’re really missing the “heart” of my post at NJ, Eric’s frustrations, and perhaps even mischaracterizing the issues involved. As Eric commented on that post, “The argument isn’t over PG- vs. R-rated material. The issue to me is taking stories beyond our own pews and walls, using our God-given talents to impact and shape culture, not to simply remain ‘safe.'” I know you’ve already stated you think the “safe” argument is bunk. Nevertheless, it is VERY much in play. Either way, the point was not to bash Christian fiction but ask why a veteran of that industry is choosing to leave. Does Christian fiction really need to reach “beyond our own pews” as Eric suggests? Like it or not, many Christian authors and readers think it does.

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  3. Becky, it might be an old argument, and I agree some of Eric’s charges don’t fly 100%. However, next week at Into the Fire I will post at least a couple of days’ worth of responses from those who operate within CBA. Several of the professionals asked to remain anonymous. That’s how serious some of these responses are to this industry and its need for change.

    Personally, I’ve read plenty of very good novels that manage both raw and redemption, but the majority of “safe” novels depict a forgettable picture of Christianity. That’s okay. Everyone should have something they like to read. My complaints lie more in revamping the business end of the industry such as the book returns: ridiculous. And in the mostly ignored niche markets with smaller print runs. The “we’ve always done it this way” is going to bite them in that tender place. Also, the marketing techniques lack imagination and pursuit of specific readers.

    Come by next week, probably starting Wednesday, maybe Thursday. I’m still getting responses to my question.

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  4. I think many of us are just going to have to agree to disagree. Surely we can agree that changes need to be made in CBA. If it were perfect, not so many people would be complaining about it.

    I agree more with Eric than I do anyone. He is not going overboard in his arguments.

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  5. Kaci, thanks for your thoughtful input.

    As to the “freak outs” you’ve experienced, I guess I’m not surprised. There are people who have been in the Christian book business for a long time and are used to the standards that were in place for much of the existence of the industry. That some editors and those who support them have begun to look at fiction in a new way doesn’t mean that ALL are at that place.

    But that’s precisely why I’m dismayed by this same argument. When we ought to be giving publishers props for the expansion of the industry so they know we’re willing to stay with them, we’re instead drudging up the old accusations.

    As I see it, this kind of forces publishers into the arms of those who want to see no change at all. As one industry professional told me, we basically are voting with our pocketbooks. If we want something different from Christian publishers, we need to buy the fiction that is different.

    As to Christian publishers reaching the world—it happens. Not because someone is clever enough to engineer a crossover marketing plan or writes a book edgy enough for the secular reader. It’s God’s doing. I wonder if we are praying for our books to reach the dying world. I know I don’t pray that way, even for the authors I pray for regularly.

    What would change if we would start praying for a greater purpose in our fiction? What if we start praying for publishers to embrace a greater vision?

    That’s a challenge we could all act upon. I can’t do anything about book placement or readers selecting books from publisher X because they are safe. But I can ask God to work powerfully through fiction intended to reach the lost and dying world. How He chooses to answer … well, I’m excited to see.

    Becky

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  6. I agree with you here. I’ve heard these arguments before, too, but I do think Eric Wilson deciding to make a statement by leaving the industry is sad. Why does a person need to make a statement? Just leave. Or write for both. Either way it’s in poor taste. While I do agree that some of CBAs standards are a bit too “clean,” I also think like you that describing what goes on in detail is wrong. Like I said in another post regarding the interview, we can write stories about cheating etc, but we don’t have to hear about their bedroom antics to know they are cheating. Some books out there are practically porn. And if we are still following the Bible (like we’re supposed to) doesn’t it say not to cause our brother to stumble?

    I read both secular and Christian books. Frankly, Terri Blackstock and others have written really good books that do address the heart issues of struggling Christians and unbelieving athiests. I think as Christians we have a responsibility when we write. It doesn’t matter if we write for secular or Christianity–what we put in our books can influence and can make a person stumble if the message is mixed or wrong. If you write smut and your website says you are a Christian, what does that say about your testimony?

    Now I enjoy Julie Garwood, Kathleen Woodiwiss and those kind of stories, but I often flip past those “parts” of the story where they ridiciulously go on for pages about “you know what” because it detracts from the plot. It is not needed. So why is it in there? You can create romantic tension without going into detail and sending our brains to the gutter.

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  7. Hi, Mike,

    You said First, I want to make clear to your readers that in my article about profit-making in Christian publishing I do not oppose anyone (including myself!) making money. I’m glad you clarified that. I wasn’t characterizing your views at all, just pointing readers to your excellent article. It’s thought-provoking. The “moneychangers” line was from Eric’s article, and he used it about the music industry, merely asking if the same that happened there might not be happening with fiction.

    You also said Secondly, I think you’re really missing the “heart” of my post at NJ. Again, I wasn’t actually engaging with your article. I created the bullet points in my post by essentially creating an outline of Eric’s post, in most cases using language from his article.

    As to the “safe” argument, I don’t recall ever saying I thought it was bunk. In fact, I’ve written a number of posts decrying the concept of safe fiction. My position simply is that readers should be thinkers and should approach all fiction as if it is unsafe. You yourself made the point that Amish fiction may not be so very safe, as apparently many readers think.

    That being said, I don’t think we should swing the pendulum to the opposite extreme, either, and criticize readers who don’t want to read zombie fiction for staying in the safety zone. Or for not buying fiction about child abuse or pornography. If readers exercise discernment and choose not to read books that deal with seamy issues, are they automatically shallow? That’s too big a leap for me.

    Instead, I choose the “fairy tale” method. “Little Red Riding Hood” was not about wolves and grandmas. It was about children learning not to trust strangers or disobey parents. I think all fiction, not just fantasy, can have that same approach. We don’t need to stick someone’s face in a garbage can to teach about garbage.

    Here’s a paragraph from one of my “safe” fiction articles that clarifies my thoughts, I think:

    If believers are turning to Christian fiction for safety, then Christian fiction is missing the mark. Having said that, I want to add that I personally do not find “preparation to engage the culture” in a story filled with the scenes detailing the culture. Instead, I’m prepared to engage the culture by having my heart and mind filled by who God is and what He has promised to do in the world. I need to be reminded that He is sufficient when I am weak. I need to be reminded of His standard of holiness and righteousness and justice and gentleness and humility. So Christian fiction written for Christians, in my view, won’t be safe, but it’ll be … you know.

    As to Christian fiction reaching beyond our pews, I think I answered that in my response to Kaci. I happen to agree that Christian fiction should go beyond the pew, but I think that’s because I believe the Christian should go beyond the pew. So we as writers should either help prepare people to engage the culture or we should engage the culture. But by saying that, I refer you to the quote above.

    I don’t think we engage the culture by visiting prostitutes or hanging out with drug dealers. People constantly say Jesus did this. No, He did not. He went to a well, and the Samaritan women came to Him. He went to the temple and the Jews brought the adulteress to Him. The sinners He ate with? They came to Him, and they came after Matthew followed Jesus at His invitation. They wanted to hang with Him.

    My point is, I think in our fiction we need to present a Christ who is winsome, not a culture so desperately in need. Don’t people already know they are desperately in need?

    OK, I should have made this today’s post. Sorry for going on and on.

    Becky

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  8. Nicole, I will be looking forward to your posts about this topic.

    I’m not saying that things in the Christian book business shouldn’t change. Horrors, I’ve been trying to induce some change ever since I started blogging. I think readers need to change by becoming more discerning. I think book stores need to change by expanding their market. I think publishing houses need to change by leading the industry not reacting to it. I think writers need to change by writing better books. (Ouch! But there it is. It’s what I honestly think. Too often we blame other factors when in reality we simply aren’t writing well enough to draw readers to our work).

    My point is, I don’t know how productive it is to have this argument over and over and over. All we can control is our own writing. We can’t control finding a publisher or finding our market. We can do our best at promotion and still fail or do very little and have a huge success.

    What will change the industry, I believe, is God, in answer to prayer. Mayhap He will bring it to an end, as Eric suggests. But what is that to me? If God has called me to write, then He will do with my writing what He chooses. It could be that He does indeed want more Christians writing for the general market. Good. I hope many answer the call. I don’t think there is one way for a writer to travel. But so much of this “the sky is falling” rhetoric is devoid of God’s hand in the affairs of the book industry. Shame on us!

    Becky

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  9. “We don’t need to stick someone’s face in a garbage can to teach about garbage.” Here’s the thing, Becky: sometimes we do. Certainly not everyone and not in exactly the same way, but the “safe” issue skirts the garbage, fails to report there really is garbage in the world and in the church–even sometimes moreso in Christians because they fail to address it!

    And this: “My point is, I think in our fiction we need to present a Christ who is winsome, not a culture so desperately in need. Don’t people already know they are desperately in need?” No. They do not. I don’t think any individual writer is going to make them aware of that either. So write “safe”, which I think is terribly unsafe because the stories tend to make things which are not perfect appear as though they are, or write “dirty” or “raw”, because in the end as you pointed out: God saves. God finds a place for the book. God initiates salvation. All we can do is write under His mantle and take that responsibilty however He directs us.

    No offense intended here, so please don’t take it this way. I mean no harm, but . . . Sexual issues grab people at every grocery store, on mannequins giving us the latest peekaboo clothing for young people, in the sports arena, EVERYWHERE. If Christian fiction doesn’t address it in stories honestly and real-ly, the only other place is secular publication. Causing people to stumble is to write to entice. It’s intentional. Writing honest scenes (not graphic) with sexual issues isn’t pornographic even if it’s depicting worldly behaviors. People need to see the contrasts between the world’s views and God’s.

    There are professionals in this industry who are not happy with CBA. They see the need for a fresh vision in the industry of Christian publishing. You can play to the profit-share of Amish fiction right now, but ignoring another vast audience of Christians is cutting your own profit margin when the frenzy wears out.

    It’ll be interesting for a lot of people next week with the responses I’m getting to my question.

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  10. Hi, KC, thanks for your comment. You said Surely we can agree that changes need to be made in CBA. If it were perfect, not so many people would be complaining about it.

    Well, yes, see the second paragraph in my comment to Nicole. But aren’t most industries in need of change? Maybe even most churches? Certainly most people. Why this angst over Christian fiction?

    Becky

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  11. Nikole, you’ve made some very good points. I guess it did bother me that Eric is making this statement on his way out the door, so to speak.

    And actually there are a good number of Christians who have decided to write for general market houses without having chastised the Christian side of the industry in the process.

    In all fairness to Eric, he did say (at Novel Journey—and I think Mike mentioned this in his comment above) that his decision has little to do with the usual issues, namely language and the depiction of sex. He wants Christian fiction to reach people beyond the pews.

    Good. So do I. We may disagree on how that can be done, however. See my earlier comments about pointing to our winsome Savior as opposed to fleshing out our seamy culture.

    But hey, I’m not published and Eric is. Maybe he’ll publish in the general market, be a big success, and see thousands come to Christ as a result of his fiction. I’ll be praising God right along with him if that’s the case. We need writers who are not standing pat. So my prayers go with Eric. I hope God uses him mightily.

    Becky

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  12. Nicole, I’m not offended that you disagree with me. You know me by now—I say a lot of things lots of others disagree with. 😉

    Here’s the thing. I agree we need to address big issues. A perfect example—Kay Marshall Strom wrote a novel about slavery. It was a hard issue and a realistic novel, but it was not “offensive” in its portrayal of the horror. (Slavery is offensive, so it’s hard for me to explain this point).

    You mentioned sexual issues. I agree, but there’s a right way and a wrong way of dealing with them. Unfortunately, I think some of the “wrong way” is getting published (think Stephenie Meyers—lots of lust but no consummation, and it’s passed off as “clean”).

    I just don’t see the point of sticking anyone’s face in the garbage can, I really don’t. My garbage isn’t the same as someone else’s, but I know I have garbage in my life. Why do I need my face slammed in someone else’s pail?

    What I need is to see my way clear of my own garbage. I think we can do that in fiction by portraying characters readers can connect with and putting them on a journey that shows hope or despair, help or failure, acceptance or rejection of the truth within their grasp. There are lots of ways we can write to make a difference. But I don’t think it requires us to show in detail the horror that is a sinful lifestyle.

    Am I saying it’s wrong to do this? No, not at all. I just want to question the prevailing wisdom that seems to believe there is only clean and vacuous on one side, raw and purposeful on the other.

    Becky

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  13. Rebecca, your rebuffs to Eric’s blog post and Mike’s comments were excellent stated. I read CBA fiction. I read ABA fiction. Up until someone in a writing group shared the link to Eric’s rant, I’d never heard of the guy. (No offense intended to Eric, and same applies to Mike.) And, no, I haven’t seen the Fireproof movie or Facing the Giants either, although we do own the latter. I can’t abide bad acting for the sole purpose of supporting a Christian movie. Neither, though, will I endure bad writing for the sole purpose of supporting a Christian author.

    Several years ago John Fischer wrote a book called Fearless Faith. (http://www.amazon.com/Fearless-Faith-Living-Beyond-Christianity/dp/0736907475) Mr. Fischer talks about the basic gist, I think, of Eric’s blog. We do need to step out of our safe-walled Christianity to reach those who are lost.

    But chastising an industry that, as a whole, is doing phenomenal things to minister to believers and unbelievers alike…well, it strike me as the toe is calling the leg worthless. “Dern that leg for selflessly sitting down. I’m called to run a marathon for Jesus. How can I do it when all the leg wants to do is prop itself up?”

    Dina Sleiman had a fabulous blog post recently on the differences between being a Christian writer and a Christian who writes. (http://awesomeinspirationals.blogspot.com/2010/07/what-is-christian-writing-writing-class.html) She shared this:

    Francine Rivers, arguably the most famous Christian fiction author of our day, said this a few months ago on the Seekerville blog. “A Christian who writes can write anything, and not necessarily something that is glorifying to the Lord. They write for a market. A Christian writer centers their work on Jesus Christ. He is central to their story. The purpose of Christian fiction is to whet the appetite of the reader for the real thing: a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and a passion for His Word. It’s not that one writer is better than the other. Each is called to a different purpose. A Christian who writes can still (and often does) weave their ‘world view’ into their stories. Their goal is to entertain. A Christian writer is focused on presenting Christ. And, of course, both want to sell books.”

    Lots of wisdom from Ms. Rivers.

    I say if Eric truly wants to make a difference in the CBA, then he ought do stick around and do what he can to make it better. Then again, if he believes God is calling him to reach out to the lost souls reading ABA books, then all the power to him.

    All for God’s glory, right?

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  14. I think the real problem that caused all this furor is being somewhat masked.

    The CBA, though less narrow and rigid than it used to be, is still narrow and rigid. That is because the ENTIRE publishing industry is. The ABA publishers fewer books each year, FAR fewer new authors, and the fiction is less diverse.

    The Publishing Industry as a whole has been trouble for some time now, since fewer and fewer people buy books. Amazon added a serious crunch to the book and mortar book stores.

    Now, with the addition of cheap, technology-driven Print on Demand (POD)and electronic readers, the Publishing Industry as we know it is on the verge of crisis and radical transformation.

    As most of us do in times of trouble, most publishers have hunkered in their foxholes to try and ride it out, pulling in, rather than seeking new paths.

    It’s up to those of us who write, and readers who care, to begin to forge new paths. I think Eric is on the cusp of that. Maybe he’s there out of frustration, but I still think it’s the right place for him to be.
    (I happen to be there with him, so maybe I’m biased)

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  15. Let me just focus on this one statement, Becky, because I agree with you more than I disagree: “I just don’t see the point of sticking anyone’s face in the garbage can, I really don’t. My garbage isn’t the same as someone else’s, but I know I have garbage in my life. Why do I need my face slammed in someone else’s pail?”

    That’s because the Holy Spirit works in your life. He’s so quenched in other lives and non-existent in the world’s other than when he draws people, offers that hint of conviction. Sometimes a writer can paint such an ugly picture of the garbage that a person becomes reviled at their lifestyle. This isn’t for you. Nor a slew of others. But for those who God will use it to direct them to a Savior, it serves its purpose.

    My point is this: offer more to readers who are Christians. Don’t sit on that pompous “we publish what readers want” when you’re only providing for a particular segment of this vast untapped audience.

    And the whole basis of my writing–what’s been assigned for me to do–is to provide the contrasts.

    You know me, Becky. I’m kind of a CBA champion. I find the growth immense in recent years, but there’s also that staid production which stifles a number of creative endeavors to produce the “same old” forgettable stories, formulaic, risk-free stuff. Fine for those who prefer that. Not so much for a variety of other readers who spend their dollars elsewhere in the general market.

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  16. I’m new, very new, to this world of publishing houses, editors, and agents. But, I’ll say this: I appreciate the spirit of this post. I also believe that Eric made some very valid points in his article. Given that I do not know either of you, I won’t attempt to read between the lines. I am glad, though, that there are opinions being aired and discussions being had.

    I have a completed ms. YA Christian Fiction. It’s an incredibly hard thing to shop around. A glimpse inside your average Christian Bookstore shows either a sad little shelf dedicated to YA–most of it non-fiction–or no shelf at all. Things like this have a tendency to stack up and appear like an impenetrable wall to the frustrated writer, but you make a great point about directing our grievances to the correct place.

    In the spirit of peace-makers everywhere, I’ll say this as well: Change generally comes when we’ve reached a place of complete frustration. When such frustrations are aired, I whip out my binoclars and start looking for change. Who will change? What will change? And just when will change take place?

    I guess we’ll see, won’t we. 🙂

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  17. Here’s what I think: We are a Christian family who believe in a Savior who died for us. I have more respect for an author who makes no waves and quietly takes up writing in another genre showing unity in the Christian family than for one who is frustrated at the walls he is encountering and chooses to create a fuss.

    I have never read his books or even heard of him. Somehow I missed this author. Of course, I know titles more than authors on some things. And I have only been reading Christian books for the past three years.

    A Christian can write secular. If his website has the earmarks of a Christian, the interested reader will find it. What I would like to see more of in the writing world is less articles on how to write and more known authors writing about their daily lives. Whether the author is Ted Dekkar or a secular writer, if the writer is a Christian they should focus their blogs to reach people. Let their books show between the lines Christian beliefs (if secular) or outright (if Christian writing), but let their blogs speak about their lives and show how God is working in their lives.

    While I love to read about the writing market on occasion, I am more interested in reading about the people behind the book. I want to know what GOd is doing in that writer’s life. Yes, I want to hear about their projects, too, but really would like to see God working in thier lives.

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  18. And I realized that I repeated myself. LOL

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  19. My heart is for Jesus and for those He came to save, the sick, the lost, the dying.

    The heart behind my writing is to reach those same people on the fringes of faith.

    The heart of my challenge to the CBA industry is this: have we become more focused on making money by creating a “safe” alternative that is “family friendly,” or can we still have a focus beyond the church walls. Jesus ministered in both. He healed spirits and bodies in both.

    I don’t think it’s a one-or-the-other issue. For those who are called beyond the church walls, where can we find the spiritual, financial, and emotional support to carry out our mission? It’s not a financial or even artistic issue to me, as much as it is a theological and spiritual one. Jesus entered our messy world, instead of telling us to climb the heavens to reach Him. As Christians, I believe we can change our culture, one life at a time, by following Jesus’ example instead of cloistering ourselves in a Christian entertainment bubble.

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  20. All that to say, this is not a “parting shot” at the industry. It is a challenge to readers, writers, and publishers to rethink the way our Christianity brings grace and light into our culture–through our jobs, our art, our lives.

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  21. As far as the Bible goes (sorry if anyone else has commented)there’s a very detailed picture of sex in one of the stories, where it actually says the guy spilled his ‘seed’ aka semen on the floor.

    Either way I’m not sure Eric is saying we need to write completely detailed sexual trysts, or bloody graphicness (Jael and her hammer and nail, Ehud and his shot to the gut), but we do need to realize that God’s Word goes there…and that gives us the right, if not always the reason, to do so as well.

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  22. Nikole,

    I appreciate your practical thought about using a blog as an outreach tool.

    I’m friend of Eric’s, and I assure you, he is not a prima donna just trying to make a splash on his way out the door. We ARE a family, and Eric has been concerned about the family, and would dearly love to see the CBA part of the family rise and step into a more powerful ministry of witness for Jesus.

    Considering what the CBA publishes and how they market it, the CBA’s ministry is much more about providing safe entertainment alternatives. *There’s nothing wrong with that*, but it isn’t what Eric Wilson is called to do. He is sad(and who can blame him?) that the CBA didn’t have more room for folks with his kind of call.I also think it’s a shame, and I agree with his sense that this amounts to opportunities being lost to touch more lives in a more significant way.

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  23. I am a liberal Christian, an author, and a professional editor. I don’t read much Christian fiction, so let me state that up front, and while I’ve commented on Eric’s page before, I otherwise don’t know him from Adam. I also don”t know you, and this is the first post I’ve ever read at your site. I have no horse in this race.

    However, I say all that to say this: I do read secular fiction regularly, and reading Eric’s post a few days ago made me want to buy a copy of his book. Your post, though, made me want to avoid the Christian section, and confirmed some of the stereotype of catty in-fighting that a lot of inward-looking secular folks have of the church as a whole.

    I can agree with a few of your statements, and I agree with most of Eric’s. But one of these posts moves me to action, and the other makes me want to turn off the noise. I think you both mean well, but I find sincerity in Eric’s post and little but contention in this one.

    Like

  24. Who is to say that there aren’t more folks with Eric’s kind of call? Maybe there isn’t. Maybe there are people who feel just like Eric but are eating the elephant one bite at a time.

    A business operates to make money. If it didn’t, it’d be a charity…and even in that, many charities operate well funded. Shoot, many churches have rainy-day accounts.

    Do I fault Lifeway for selling pieces of “Christian” chocolate for 75c each?

    Nope. If some dupe feels more righteous by supporting a Christian business by buying Christian chocolate instead of going to Wal-mart where he could buy an entire candy bar for 50c….oh well.

    What bothers me is how Christian writers can rant about an imperfect industry that does what it can to spread the Gospel and edify/educate the Saints while also making money.

    Eric said: As Christians, I believe we can change our culture, one life at a time, by following Jesus’ example instead of cloistering ourselves in a Christian entertainment bubble.

    True. We can. However I can’t help but think of the time when Jesus was talking to Peter about what Jesus wanted Peter to do, and Peter looked at John and said, “What about him?”

    And Jesus said, “Thanks, Peter, for reminding me about John’s flaws and the things John needs to do better.”

    Whoops. No, Jesus said, “What about him?” In other words, “Dude, you’ve got your focus, while good intended, all wrong. Quit looking at John and what John isn’t doing right. Focus on ME. Focus on what I’ve called you to do and the people I’ve called you to love. I’ll take care of John.”

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  25. Gina, great comments and thanks for the link to Dina’s article.

    I can tell I’m going to need another post to discuss some of these issues, but one thing that’s come out of this discussion for me is the idea that we believers ought not be so fixated on what the other guy is doing. I love your reference to that incident with Peter.

    Becky

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  26. Pastor Tom,

    I’m not saying he is a primadonna.

    I just think his comment about “throwing in the towel” was a bit like a child throwing a temper tantrum and not to mention a bit off putting. I’m not saying he shouldn’t voice his concerns either. But there are better ways to disagree. I was concerned because one commenter on Mike Duran’s blog said after reading Eric’s rant that he might reconsider trying for Christian publishing.

    This is my concern that we may appear fractured to society rather than hitting from the same team. We are of the same family. Publishers are a business and to run a business you have to make money. I don’t begrudge them that at all. Their standards might be strict, but that’s their standards. If someone doesn’t like it, do something else, but don’t make it appear as if the team is fracturing. Do something about it.

    A rant like Eric’s can chase away people from trying to publish in the Christian genre. Getting published is allready difficult. Let’s not discourage people from coming into the market.

    Plus, like I said, people are still buying CBA books. There are some who like their books squeaky clean.

    But then again I also am a bit concerned at how “edgy” or real a book should get. I don’t think we should drag our minds into the gutter just to prove a point. A good story teller can tell the story of honesty without dragging the mind where it shouldn’t wander.

    That’s all I’m saying. I don’t know Eric. Nor have I read his books. I don’t know what kind of person he is, but if all we do is complain and throw in the towel, what does that say about us? Are we quitters?

    I work at a church. Change comes slowly when you have committees and other things that might slow down a really good ministry. Patience and perseverence and caution is required.

    Personally, I hope he doesn’t quit. People need to persevere if they are really serious about a ministry.

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  27. Pastor Tom, I’m not sure what new thing you think Eric is on the cusp of. I titled my post as I did because I’ve been having these same discussions for six years, and to be honest, I’ve taken differing positions from time to time. My point, though, is that this is not new.

    I think it’s wrong of me to think that others don’t now need to think these issues through, and I’m sorry for the title and the tone of the article, at least in places.

    And you are absolutely right about what I called the digital revolution adding pressure to the current book publishing situation—secular or Christian.

    Becky

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  28. Great post, Gina. Totally agree. It’s what I’ve been saying, but apparently, not many agree with me on shereads.org. I hate seeing Christians fight. It all began with a rant from Eric.

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  29. There is one tiny bit of concern I have, too.

    1) How far should a Christian book go?
    2) Are we causing our brothers or sisters to stumble with our content?
    3) Would our work please God?

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  30. Tracy, thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to comment. Because I proclaimed this article a rant, I’m not surprised you found it contentious. However, while I disagree with Eric’s method and many of his observations, I don’t disagree with his intentions or goals or purpose or motivation. He and I have a great deal in common and I meant what I said in the last two paragraphs. I also meant what I said in one of the earlier comments:

    Maybe he’ll publish in the general market, be a big success, and see thousands come to Christ as a result of his fiction. I’ll be praising God right along with him if that’s the case. We need writers who are not standing pat. So my prayers go with Eric. I hope God uses him mightily.

    Hope that helps to put the discussion into perspective.

    Becky

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  31. Good response, Becky.

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  32. Gina, I love your point from John 21. I think that is exactly what this is all about.

    Eric Wilson is pursuing the call of Jesus on his life, and the CBA has been telling him, “You can’t do it this way. Not on our turf.” He has been a good boy, and played it their way for 10 novels, including a Christian-culture friendly, NY times best-seller (Fireproof).

    All the flexibility and working with them on his part, has not led to flexibility and “working with” him on THEIR part.

    In some ways it really is a case of idealism meets reality. The CBA is not likely change. Becky’s point that these discussions have gone on for six years is powerful evidence of that. I think the CBA will ultimately be poorer, both spiritually and financially, for its rigidity. Eric wants to write significant literature that matters. The CBA wants stories that are safe.

    On the other hand, maybe the call of Jesus to the CBA is to simply be “safe entertainment for Christians.” If so, they’d be wrong to compromise by seeking wider cultural influence.

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  33. Eric, you said the following in one of your comments:

    The heart of my challenge to the CBA industry is this: have we become more focused on making money by creating a “safe” alternative that is “family friendly,” or can we still have a focus beyond the church walls. Jesus ministered in both. He healed spirits and bodies in both.

    The problem I have with your challenge, Eric, is that there is no “CBA industry.” There is a Christian bookstore association, there is an evangelical Christian publishers association, there are Christian acquisition editors, Christian writers, Christian agents, Christian public relations professionals,and there are readers. But this industry does not work as one smooth body as if all parts are in agreement.

    Part of my article was designed to inform those who might not realize some of this, specifically that the publishers aren’t responsible for putting their books on the “Christian Fiction” shelves in B&N or Borders—as if they really want to keep their market narrow.

    Others perhaps don’t realize that distribution has been the greatest cause for the “narrow” content in Christian fiction—it is not accidental that books addressing “raw” issues have begun to flourish since places like K-Mart and Target started selling Christian fiction. Up to that point, Christian book stores—a separate part of the industry from the publishers—had a stranglehold on distribution. Consequently, publishers could only print books that the bookstores said they could sell.

    Now there are greater avenues for sales. Except, some industry experts have reported unhappy results—a lot tied with the policy of returns. Apparently some companies have taken quite a hit as a result. And this in an economic climate that is already making book people hold their breath.

    Add in the digital revolution, and these businesses are checking their bank balances and wondering how long they can keep their doors open. Yes, they’ve pulled in, aiming to publish only the Sure Thing, which apparently is what those core customers at the Christian bookstores are expected to buy.

    Meanwhile, published authors like you and pre-published writers like me want nothing more than to fulfill our calling.

    How can we best accomplish this?

    I’m not convinced that issuing a challenge to an undefined group (and essentially vilifying a large number of people associated with it) is a positive move, but Gina in her comment above reminds me, this isn’t my call for someone else. All I can do is pay attention to what God wants for me.

    My belief is that Christians can publish with general market houses or distinctly Christian houses or the Christian imprint of a general market house or a small press or self-publish—all avenues are open. God can use books that come out of any one of these and others we probably haven’t yet conceived of.

    May He be glorified through it all.

    Becky

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  34. Let’s put Eric’s response in another way:

    Man and boss disagree with each other. Man decides he’s going to quit. Man goes online and gives his notice in an open letter that puts down his boss hoping that an open letter online would change his boss’s mind and therefore, change the entire company from CEO to the mail room clerk.

    Now in that frame of mind, do you think it was the right thing to do?

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  35. Nikole, in comment #29, you asked some probing questions. I have a group of posts I’ve written and filed under the category of Safe Fiction discussing much of what you brought up.

    I’d recommend for starters Seeing Worldviews Behind the Art—Should Fiction Be Safe?

    Becky

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  36. Nikole, the only problem with identifying Eric’s letter in this way is that we don’t know his motives any more than he does those who are part of the “CBA industry.” What if God sent him, Jonah like, to shout in the streets of CBA?

    My aim is to focus on the what of his message and let the why rest between him and God.

    Becky

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  37. Pastor Tom, you said The CBA is not likely change. Becky’s point that these discussions have gone on for six years is powerful evidence of that.

    I think that’s missing the point. We had these discussions at the time when no house would touch John Olson’s Shade, long before the Jerusalem Undead series came into being.

    But now there are stories like these and yet we are still making the same arguments.

    And here’s why I think this is a big deal. This kind of conversation creates “buzz.” People will read what we’re saying and may well conclude that Christian fiction has nothing for them, without ever discovering Tom Pawlik’s Vanish or Jeffrey Overstreet’s Auralia’s Thread series or Katy Popa’s To Dance in the Desert or countless other worthy novels that aim for excellence and truth and are not your sweet and simple story written as safe escapism.

    There are good books on those Christian fiction shelves and I’d like to let people know this rather than give the impression that, yep, it’s all pretty vapid and serves no purpose.

    But that’s me, my mission, I suppose. My calling.

    I said in one thread elsewhere, maybe Eric and I are unintentionally playing good cop/bad cop. 😉

    Becky

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  38. Becky, I don’t want to clutter up this post, but after following the comments I think I am arriving at a very important conclusion. What I consider “edgy” fiction is not what many CBA readers consider “edgy” fiction. I’m wondering if this isn’t a wedge in this discussion. While some people are arguing that Christian fiction must leave its “safe” parameters behind to reach more general market readers, others are arguing that Christian fiction HAS already done that. Anyway, I’m beginning to think, once again, that two views of what Christian fiction should include are at work here. Thus, the impasse. What do you think?

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  39. I think sweet and simple does have its place as do the on-the-edge-of-your-seat Christian books like Jerry Jenkins “Though No One Goes With Me.” Very good. Very thought provoking and honest. My mother-in-law loves Debbie MacComber books. She doesn’t want anything dark in her stories or too raw. She reads to escape.

    Escape isn’t so bad. It can be useful to with a christian message designed to encourage. I guess it just depends upon the literature tastes of some people.

    According to Mike Duran, he’s not trying to be a primadonna (to use Pastor Tom’s word), but trying to change things, but its the attack method I don’t like and titles such as, “Should Christian Fiction die.”

    I’ve got to say…Eric’s rant got my blood pumping today. I can’t believe how upset I’m getting over it. I guess I’m an idealist as they say because I think it’s wrong the way he did it. Especially when one of Mike Duran’s commenters thought to reconsider trying the Christian market. Without good writers, Christian fiction will die. Good writing is why I read Christian fiction.

    If he is the Jonah shouting in the streets, why can’t he avoid the “throwing in the towel” thus not creating a buzz, but instead constructive conversation?

    Oh well. I suppose I can discuss this and rant on it myself until I’m blue in the face. What happened has happened. And as you say, it’s nothing new.

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  40. Keep up the good work, Becky. It’s certainly been an interesting blogging day. LOL

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  41. Thank you, Becky for the posts to read. I will look it up.

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  42. I understand frustration with what seems like a rant. To put it into context that some of you may not know:

    Eric has been in thick of Christian fiction for some time now. At times, he has helped to put out Christian mainstream, “safe” stuff, novelizing “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof.”

    He has shared his concerns with editors, agents and other writers. He has worked for change within. He’s kept at it for ten novels. He knows the business and he’s worked within it. I think he’s earned the right to say something to the Christian market at large.

    I think one of his basic aims was to spur discussion. As I post comment number 42 (on just one of several blogs discussing this) I think he has achieved that, and I think the discussions, by and large, have been productive.

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  43. Here’s what I have done. I haven’t avidly pursued the Christian market, and yet I’ve had difficulty finding an agent for the general market. I went POD. This way I can pursue what the Lord has laid on my heart, without worrying too much about stuff like that.

    See what you think:
    http://tiny.cc/jrcvw or
    http://stores.lulu.com/revth
    I’m on kindle also.

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  44. Mike, you’re asking about “edgy,” a term I don’t think Eric used. Here’s what I’ve been addressing—this from his original article:

    Does this mean, though, that we should censor all the raw elements? Isn’t the Bible itself filled with depictions of violence, sexual misconduct, deceit, and bigotry? Some of its stories have happy endings. Some are dark cautionary tales. Few, if presented as modern fiction, would make it past the industry’s “gatekeepers.”

    It seems to me that most “religious” storytelling has taken the place of relational, incarnational works of literature. I know there are authors who desire to write more than scrubbed-clean, rose-scented fiction. Must all Christian novels be “inspirational,” or can’t some be challenging, daring, even ironic and unresolved?

    If by “edgy” you mean we can include phrases like some mentioned in the Novel Journey comments, well, no, I’m not talking about that. I don’t think it’s raw or edgy to include cuss words or coarse conversation or gratuitous sex or violence.

    In the post I linked to in my comment to Nikole, I referenced screenwriter Brian Godawa in a recent book about worldview:

    For example, Schindler’s List, a movie about the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, is filled with man’s inhumanity to man. And so is Friday the 13th. The point and purpose of depicting violence in the two, however, couldn’t be more different.

    From my perspective, Schindler’s List is raw. Should Christian fiction include books along that line? Well, Christian publishers printed Corrie ten Boom’s real life account of the same horror. (Can someone fictionalize it better?)

    And what about some of the other books I’ve listed? Have you read them and determined that their approach to slavery or child abuse or the drug culture is not “edgy” enough?

    Maybe I need to reverse the question. What constitutes “edgy” to you, Mike?

    Becky

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  45. Rant tends to say things like, “Throw in the towel,” and, “Is Christian Fiction Dying” and allows frustration into his words. As you get to the bottom of Eric’s letter, you see he is calming down some.

    A discussion avoids words like “Throw in the towel” and the tone is more conversational.

    I’m not questioning Eric’s character or his passion. I enjoyed the movie, Fireproof and the messege behind it. Fireproof managed to snag the interest of believers and non-believers.

    So if Christian Fiction is so neutralized why is it still selling books? Why are clean movies like Fireproof selling and so popular?

    Okay…I did promise to stop. :o) I am. I’m stopping. LOL.

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  46. “What constitutes “edgy” to you, Mike?”

    An edgy Christian book, for starters, would be one that simply allows curse words. Sorry, Becky. And I don’t mean “poop.” If Schindler’s List was adapted into a book (sex scenes, language, and violence included) it would be edgy. It also wouldn’t be published in the CBA. Flannery O’Connor’s demented preacher, Hazel Motes in “Wise Blood”, has sex with a prostitute and blinds himself as punishment. Edgy. A Christian vampire would be edgy. A Christian homosexual (?) would be edgy. A psychic or clairvoyant who receives real visions from God would be edgy. A Christian book with a good atheist — who does not repent — would be edgy. A prostitute who is a conflicted Christian would be edgy (especially if shown during “business hours”).” A hard-drinking, womanizing preacher who genuinely saves souls (think Robert Duvall’s “The Apostle”), would be edgy. A story about a ghost who leads a Christian to safety would be edgy. Especially if the ghost was a suicide victim. And I can go on.

    Really, if you go down the list of industry taboos — cursing, drinking, smoking, sex — an edgy Christian book would employ some of them. And then there’s areas of theology that also come into play. And, just to be clear, I do not encourage or endorse — or really even write — any of the aforementioned acts or scenarios. Nevertheless, they could be fodder for Christian tales.

    Okay, that’s all I’m commenting. I promise. Thanks for the post, Becky!

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  47. I must repeat. As Christian writers we need to ask ourselves these questions:

    1) Why are we writing?
    2) Is it going to cause our sisters and brothers to stumble?
    3) Would it please God (based on the Bible)?

    Or are we writing some of these “edgy” fiction pieces because of some subtle temptation to write like the secular novels do?

    Mike, thanks for the explanation and I’m glad to see you don’t endorse it. I think I had a nicer idea of edgy. LOL.

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  48. And just to be clear..I like raw, honest stories. I like rose-scented stories. I like adventure stories. I don’t need to know the gory details to understand a character’s actions. I think that’s the crux of the matter. How far should a Christian go to write a story?

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  49. OK, I wasn’t going to comment any more today, but your list, Mike, is too easy to address, so it won’t take up much time.

    Brandilyn Collins’s first suspense series had a protagonist who was a Christian who receives real visions from God. Ted Dekker’s first, Heaven’s Wages had a key character who received real visions from God, though the reader doesn’t know this until towards the end. Those books came out in, what, 2002?

    My point about Shindler’s List is it’s already in print, published by a Christian publisher, but it’s a true story called The Hiding Place. Because Corrie ten Boom put God front and center, some might think it isn’t as dark as SL. They’re right. God handles the darkness.

    The “real” stories that don’t show that aren’t truthful.

    I’m quite sure that the Wiccan in Katy Popa’s book (not an atheist, sorry) doesn’t repent. I know Mark Bertrand’s main character doesn’t.

    A ghost who leads a Christian to safety (how about away from safety?)-Robin Parrish’s Offworld, and Vanish (and the second in the series, but I don’t remember the title) by Tom Pawlik is similar. Seems like T. L. Hines’s Waking Lazarus might fit with your ghost/visions category, too.

    That’s, what, about half of your list, just from the few books I’ve read. (Come to think of it, Eric Wilson’s Jerusalem Undead series might qualify as Christian vampire).

    Anyway, I think too many people who think Christian fiction is One Thing just haven’t read many books by Christian publishers. (And I’ll go on record as saying I don’t necessarily like or endorse all of these. To me, the issue is truth. I’d rather read Sharon Souza’s Raisin’ Rain about life marked by the “free love” culture shift of the 70s. Now that’s real, sometimes raw, and true.)

    Becky

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  50. Wow, that WAS easy. I guess Christian fiction really IS edgy. Now, let me get back to removing all those cuss words from my next book. 😉

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  51. Okay, so let’s say CBA publishers decided “OMG, Mike and Eric are sooo right. It’s time started publishing books with Christian homosexual heroes and (see list Mike presented).” So they scoop up every well written and some not so well written but utterly edgy manuscript. Print 30k of each just in the first run because they’re so thrilled to have these edgy stories that readers, supposedly, are clammoring to read.

    They send representatives to the CBA booksellers.

    “What do ya have for me to choose from today,” the bookselller asks.

    “Bloodletter’s Daughter, a cross (no pun intended) between Twilight and and Julie Lessman’s A Passion Most Pure. Vampire hero must choose between human heroine and her vampire sister. We expect this to be a bestseller. How many copies woudl you like?”

    Bookseller: “Our clients won’t read that. We dealt with enough returns over old ladies taking offense to Ms. Lessman’s kissing scenes. What else do you have for me?”

    “The Hunt for the Dead Sea Scrolls. Think National Treasure meets The Da Vinci Code. Athiest hero seeks to find the stolen Dead Sea Scrolls to prove his family’s innocence of the crime.”

    “Interesting. How preachy is the salvation scene?”

    “Oh, no salvation scene. We like the realism of the hero not getting saved even though he hears the gospel repeatedly in various forms.”

    “Not sure our readers would buy that either. Anything else?”

    “*@&%#, y’all are all so #*&#% narrow-minded. This #*$#* is the real world. Christians want to read this stuff. They’re sick of the sugar-coated escapism you sell.”

    “Since you’re so gung-ho about these books, then you sell them. Try e-publishing. I’m not about to buy copies for them to collect dust on my shelves or that their very presnence in my stores will lead to protests and boycotts. Sorry. You’ve been great to work with in the past. Bring us somethign that we know we can sell, and then you have a deal.”

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  52. From Nikole:

    1) Why are we writing?
    2) Is it going to cause our sisters and brothers to stumble?
    3) Would it please God (based on the Bible)?

    I wasn’t going to comment further either, but . . .

    Nikole, do you honestly think today’s Christian authors aren’t asking themselves these questions? Do you think those who write the “edgy” (I’m getting so I hate this word in this application) stories don’t consider their audience? If I wear slacks and someone thinks I should be wearing a long skirt, am I responsible for their disapproval, gossiping, judgmental attitude, and/or their decision that maybe slacks would be more practical which would be considered sinful by people in their community? Do you think it’s right for you or any other believer to decide and determine what is pleasing to God when a devoted believer has penned a story for His glory?

    God judges a man’s heart. I think he’s far more capable of judging the answers to your questions than any of us are. Our decisions to write what we write and seek His ways to produce our work remain between Him and us. If a believer decides to respectfully criticize or express his/her frustration with something they’ve worked with or for or toward, the onus of that decision and what it generates rests on him. He/she can do this. He has that freedom.

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  53. You call that ‘respectful’ Nicole? See my comment about the difference between a rant and a discussion.

    We’re not talking about clothing. I don’t care if you wear a skirt or slacks. Neither would anyone else. However, would it be appropriate as a believer to wear extremely revealing clothing that is barely decent?

    If edgy is defined by what Mike Duran said, I am VERY concerned. And any Christian should be concerned. How far should Christian fiction go?

    Again, I repeat, every writer should ask themselves the above questions in my comment. I’m not judging edgy. I am cautious towards edgy now as anyone should be when wanting to save souls. I would love my writing to reach a lost soul, but I’m not going to drag their mind through the gutter to get them there.

    Good story telling doesn’t require explicit detail to be MY idea of edgy. If your idea of edgy is simply having a story about a recovering alcoholic, an ex-prostitute’s story of redemption that doesn’t get into her “business” details, then you and I are on the same page. But if edgy is crossing the lines of morality, then we do need to ask ourselves the above questions.
    Also, cussing simply turns me off from a story. It’s distracting and counter productive to the story line. Oh, and uncreative, too.

    Eric was wrong in the way he ranted in my opinion. Not only does it discourage people, it does not represent all of Christian publishing. If you want the Christian market to grow, a best selling author saying he’s throwing in the towel is in my opinion discouraging as reflected by a commenter on Mike Duran’s site. I’m glad that Mike replied to encourage more writers in the field. Not to mention, Eric’s open letter was divisive. It may not have been intended that way, but it came off that way.

    It’s like we’re attacking the people in our own Christian family. My first impression would be is, “Aren’t we all on the same team?”

    I’m not judging. I love when people use that term. I call it distraction tactics. Everyone uses that, even non-believers, to evade an issue. EVERY Christian needs to be reminded and needs to ask themselves the above questions. It’s NOT a judgement thing. It’s called accountability. It would be easy to wander far from the right path as we talk ourselves into things that might not be the healthiest choice for ourselves or others. This is why I am cautious of edgy now after hearing Mike’s definition. I can’t be the only one who thinks this way.

    And by the way, I do agree that a person’s motivation is between them and God. However, the Bible does encourage accountability. We are responsible for our actions and its consequences good or bad. Good councilors are great to surround yourself with because they help you see things in perspective.

    My questions were a reminder. Are we seeking to please the world or to please God with “edgy”? And is a person’s definition of “edgy” individual? Or is Mike’s definition universal?

    In every genre, there are going to be good and bad fiction and fiction that borders on porn or fiction that might be squeaky clean. Some fiction are littered with cuss words. Yet some writers write well without the use of cuss words. Is using cuss words edgy or a way to please the world?

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  54. Good reply, Gina.

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  55. And come on…the publishers are being accused of being money driven. Is that fair? They are a BUSINESS. Not a NON-PROFIT. They have to balance making money and touting the plan of Salvation, too. Not to mention,if everyone agreed with Eric’s rant (the readers) why are the Christian publishers still selling books?

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  56. Hum. My inbox has been going nuts with the comment updates. A few extra thoughts.

    1. I like something another writer friend of mine said to me once, “It’s really about presentation, I’ve noticed.”

    2. “Edgy” is about to be added to my personal ban list. Just thought I’d toss that in. 0=)

    3. I’m going to assume, for the remainder of this discussion, that as fellow adult Christians, everyone present is aware of the distinction between what is ultimately glorious, and what is grotesque; between what is redemptive and what is, ultimately, darkness for darkness’ sake. I may not have read everything Eric Wilson’s read, but I hardly think he’s going to hop into the grotesque category. And I’ve been reading Becky’s blog for awhile, and I hardly think she’s suggesting we all read happy-go-lucky, emotionally frivolous “conversion tales.”

    Hey, I’m just saying, regardless of which side of the line anyone happens to fall: Give the writer the benefit of the doubt occasionally. Otherwise, yeah – we’re all sitting on the beach asking Jesus “What about that guy?”

    Anyway, much love.

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  57. Sigh. Insert typo here. That’s supposed to be “Eric’s written,” not “Eric’s read.” I probably haven’t read half of what he has. Apologies for the typo.

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  58. Here’s a conversation I’ve had with Eric also. “Edgy” can become its own industry “requirement.” I’ve read many good books by stellar non-Christian writers, who spoiled the books by inserting sex and swearing *where it served no purpose for plot or character development.* In other words, it was in there because either author or publisher or both felt that readers expected and wanted it.

    Edginess for its own sake is as much a trap as “clean-ness” for its own sake.

    I think what we’re after here is neither one of those, but rather “real-ness.” Frankly, in my real world, I don’t swear — but I know people who do. I know people who are unfaithful to their spouses — but I am not unfaithful to mine.

    If a book is written by a Christian, from a faith-based worldview, it may be edgy, it may not be. But we should be able to tell that it is real, and that it comes from the heart of a person of faith.

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  59. Okay, since Eric thinks the Christian publishers are too money-driven, then I say Eric starts a trend where he writes books for free. After all, didn’t he make money off his books? Does that make him greedy and self-serving?

    I don’t think so. A man should be paid a fair wage for an honest day’s work. That’s scriptural.

    So the problem Eric seems to have is that publishers care MORE about publishing books they KNOW they can sell than about publishing books that, supposedly, readers WANT to read. So why are we accepting his premise that readers want all this edgy realism that he and Mike are touting?

    Readers want great stories. Some want more realistic than escapist ficiton. That’s okay. The devoted Heartson reader isn’t gonna be the same reader devoted to Dekker novels. That’s okay.

    The great thing with the explosive growth in digital publishing and with small presses is that there are many avenues for authors of such “edgy” books as Mike defines. And readers interested in those books can find them…and generally for a cheaper price than a print copy. So where’s the problem?

    Seems to me this entire discourse comes down to Eric blogging “What about that guy?”

    So the fitting question to ask is WHY did he choose to cast stones instead of walking away quietly and following the call God place on his heart?

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  60. Pastor Tom, I totally agree with your comments! (Especially now that I’m viewed as a perv by Becky’s readers.) Having pastored for over a decade myself, I can testify to encountering so many disgusting, ugly, perverted things — many among professing Christians! — that the average church-goer just doesn’t want to hear. It’s the worst kind of make-believe. Which is one reason I cringe when Christian fiction is defined as being a “safe” alternative.

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  61. So that would make this blog, what, “What about that guy who said ‘what about that guy?'” and nothing more?

    We’re sitting here talking about someone else, too! 🙂

    Blogs are good places for rants and discussions. I have enjoyed reading all the comments in both places

    Why turn that into a bad thing? Aren’t we supposed to come together to try to understand? That’s all I think both Eric and Rebecca have done, and I’m not going to sit here and try to pretend I know both of their respective motives.

    I took Eric’s post to be nothing more than writing out a personal thought process, not crafting vindictive hate-mail to the CBA.

    Doesn’t matter. All the points from there to here are worth considering, and even the statements I would strongly object to (which have been very few, actually) are valid statements.

    And yes, I do personally know twenty people who are deeply offended by women wearing pants. I’m not one of them, and I didn’t make that point… but the point stands. It happens.

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  62. So that would make this blog, what, “What about that guy who said ‘what about that guy?’” and nothing more?

    We’re sitting here talking about someone else, too!

    Well, you know. I flipped the coin to decide if I was Pot or Kettle, and then decided I wanted to be purple. 😉

    And yes, I do personally know twenty people who are deeply offended by women wearing pants. I’m not one of them, and I didn’t make that point… but the point stands. It happens.

    I suppose that makes my shorts and t-shirt scandalous. 😉

    Hehe. Hey, couldn’t resist. Twas a good post. 0=)

    Now, the real question is, what did John say in response that wasn’t recorded. Bwahaha. 0=)

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  63. I’m going to assume, for the remainder of this discussion, that as fellow adult Christians, everyone present is aware of the distinction between what is ultimately glorious, and what is grotesque; between what is redemptive and what is, ultimately, darkness for darkness’ sake. I may not have read everything Eric Wilson’s read, but I hardly think he’s going to hop into the grotesque category. And I’ve been reading Becky’s blog for awhile, and I hardly think she’s suggesting we all read happy-go-lucky, emotionally frivolous “conversion tales.” – Kaci

    Love that comment and agree. Fireproof impacted secular and believer in a big way. I never read the book, but I did see the movie. I wouldn’t define it by my definition as ‘edgy’, but I it impacted and it was clean.

    Mike, I don’t think you’re a perv. LOL.

    So the fitting question to ask is WHY did he choose to cast stones instead of walking away quietly and following the call God place on his heart? – Gina

    Yes, please. There are better ways to begin discussions than to throw in the towel.

    And yes, I do personally know twenty people who are deeply offended by women wearing pants. I’m not one of them, and I didn’t make that point… but the point stands. It happens. – Traci

    There’s a church in another town not far from us where the women all dress like that Duggar woman and not a single woman there wears slacks. It’s a small minority though and not typical. LOL

    Now are we done with this subject? I was going to write a blog about this whole thing and then I realized Becky has 62 and counting comments just on this subject alone. I think this subject has gotten all the attention it didn’t deserve. I’m waiting for her to post a new subject and I chose not to blog about Eric’s ‘throwing in the towel.’ :o)

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  64. Having pastored for over a decade myself, I can testify to encountering so many disgusting, ugly, perverted things — many among professing Christians! — that the average church-goer just doesn’t want to hear. – Mike Duran

    Some also don’t want to hear the stories of redemption from those cases like you discuss. Some don’t even want accountability in their church–come, worship, enjoy the program, and then go back to sinning freely.

    Our pastor is not a typical pastor that way. He keeps the congregation accountable as much as he is able without becoming one of those legalistic people.

    Christianity Today had an article about this same subject. How many people have great testimonies, but are too afraid to break from the perfect mask they put on every Sunday. They are afraid their testimonies would bring judgement instead of showing what Christ did in their lives to bring them from the gutter.

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  65. I came from the gutter. And Christ is still doing a work in my life.

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  66. I’m a disabled woman author who, before her disability prohibited work outside the home, worked in a support role for a company who does a LOT of business in the CBA.

    My frustration–and I think perhaps Eric’s as well–is the Same Old Thing. It’s the Same Old Thing that Christians have been fighting over since the morning of Pentecost. But it’s still worthy of discussion, I think.

    The issues for me are:
    1. The CBA’s Business Model
    I find much of the CBA publishing tricks to be dirty pool. As a reader, that is. Because I cannot stand when a book that would be one large paperback in the ABA meets a CBA publisher it invariably becomes diluted into a series of mediocre, filler-stuffed, large-print trade paperbacks that together cost 15 times the price of the same story in the ABA. I have nothing against someone making a decent profit. I do have a big issue with a barkeep watering down the wine as it were. And the CBA over the last 30 years has made a big habit of that. It’s a form of price gouging and I don’t believe it to be an honest business practice.

    2. The CBA’s Unwritten Codes Of Homogeneity
    Thanks to the glut of free CBA loss-leader backlist titles on my Kindle last year I’ve read a lot of newer CBA fiction I would have avoided otherwise. So I’m well aware that we’re now writing a bunch of oh-so-fun (?!?) stories about alcoholism, abuse, adultery, serial killers, etc. But like it or not, there’s still a huge dividing line between the types of books that are okay and the types that are not. Even the Edgier stuff deals with it behind the CBA’s Scrim Of Safety. In other words, all the edgy stories must resemble a Lifetime Movie of the week (Miniseries, once CBA Issue #1 comes into play) where Jesus makes everything okay.

    Anything dealing with mysticism of any kind is strictly verboten. Even though we are practitioners of one of the most mystic faiths in history. If your story has vampires (eric’s issue), witches–as opposed to Wiccans who find Jesus–werewolves or any other sort of magical element it will.not.find.a.well.accepting.home.in.CBA. Period.

    Unfortunately one glance at the New In Fiction section in any bookstore will tell you that’s what people are buying now.

    A lot of Christians want to write for the CBA and have their books be marketed as Outreach. I personally think that CBA publishing houses should develop mainstream imprints which release the types of work Eric and others write into the ABA as general fiction. As it stands now you cannot write general market work and be published by a CBA house.

    That strikes a lot of us writers as a bit backward. It would be like if the Church in general decided it would fully support missions–as long as all the missionaries only went to Utah.

    Some folks like me are just content to write for the ABA and not bother with the CBA at all. Other folks would like to continue having a publishing home within the CBA while still writing for the non-Christian market.

    Given the fact that most ABA publishers have Inspirational imprints it doesn’t seem like the stupidest idea ever for us to indulge in a bit of turnabout.

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  67. Totally agree with number one on your list, Katherine. Can’t quite fully embrace number two due to a few authors who’ve circumvented the Jesus/conversion/problems solved issues altogether in their stories.

    Nikole, I do appreciate your passion. But, yes, I do think Eric was being respectful. I think he was opening up his emotional turmoil and spilling it out. Whether or not you think he was right or wrong or even wise to do so or in explaining his opinions, honestly, I think your tone is more divisive than his was. I don’t blame you for your opinion nor would I want you to express yourself any differently. I’m telling you the truth. And you missed my point using the clothing example–my fault for making it unclear.

    Your opinions, whether or not you’ve intended them to be, come across as The Judge of what’s right in CBA and what qualifies as acceptable. Accountablility and self-judgment/assessment are a must for a Christian. Eric isn’t a juvenile. He’s a veteran. And if he offended you and/or others, I’m sure that wasn’t his intent. Like you, he’s a passionate guy with strong beliefs, an evangelical heart for the lost. If emotional gut-level expression on an issue upset you, sometimes it happens in the outpouring of one’s heartfelt concerns.

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  68. Pastor Tom, I totally agree with your comments! (Especially now that I’m viewed as a perv by Becky’s readers.)

    No one here said you, Mike, were a perv.

    We’re all adults here. No need to call names…even if you’re calling them against yourself.

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  69. About Katherine’s points….

    I cannot stand when a book that would be one large paperback in the ABA meets a CBA publisher it invariably becomes diluted into a series of mediocre, filler-stuffed, large-print trade paperbacks that together cost 15 times the price of the same story in the ABA.

    Am I missing something? Please give me at least 5, oh heck, 1 will do, example of where a CBA publisher took a large book and diluted it into a series of traide paperbacks that cost 15 times more than the same story in ABA.

    Are we talking a book like Gone with the Wind that’s been divided into four books? So instead of one big book sellign for $20, we now have a four-part series selling $10–no, wait, 15×20=300/4 books = $75 each. Where has this happened?

    Also consider that most CBA publishers are now OWNED by ABA publishers. Who’s making the business decisions?

    I have nothing against someone making a decent profit. I do have a big issue with a barkeep watering down the wine as it were. And the CBA over the last 30 years has made a big habit of that. It’s a form of price gouging and I don’t believe it to be an honest business practice.

    So I say, Katherine, if you’re gonna make an accusation like this, please give factual evidence to support your claim. If not, you’re slanderizing an industry. And since you say this has been occuring for the last 30 years, please list an example of this dating back to 1980 and examples for every five years following.

    In other words, all the edgy stories must resemble a Lifetime Movie of the week (Miniseries, once CBA Issue #1 comes into play) where Jesus makes everything okay.

    Life is depressing enough at times. Who wants to read a story where there isn’t a HEA? That housewife who deals day in an out with an abusive husband and has a family/friends/church that tells her divorce is wrong…well, she’s not gonna want to read a story that ends as suckily as her life. Give her HOPE.

    If you look at the stories Jesus told, did they end depressingly and realisitic? Look at the story God’s written about humankind. Does it end depressingly? For those who reject Him, yes. For those who have faith in Him, God’s story provides HOPE and JOY knowing one day we’ll have an ultimate HEA.

    Does that say there isn’t a place for depressing-ending books? Certainly. Nicholas Sparks has proven readers will flock to books that don’t always end happily.

    If your story has vampires (eric’s issue), witches–as opposed to Wiccans who find Jesus–werewolves or any other sort of magical element it will.not.find.a.well.accepting.home.in.CBA. Period.

    I think Becky gave an excellent list of examples that contradict this statement. Last spring a publisher bought an Amish Vampire book from a Christian author who writes for the CBA.

    And who is to say that CBA publishers wouldn’t publish more vampire books if they knew they had a market for them. We can’t conclude that the resistance to buying vampire (or see Mike’s edgy list) is because of the narrowmindedness of CBA publishers.

    It’s far too easy to blame CBA publishers for being closed to “edgy” fiction. But they’re not. YEars ago I remember when our local Christian bookstore REFUSED to sell copies of Peretti’s newest release becuase the UNSAVED hero said damn and was having sex with his girlfriend. Yet the publisher took a chance even though they knew soem booksellers would revolt.

    Deeanne Gist’s first novel, A Bride Most Begrudging, had some of the most realistic sexual tension and description of kissing in any CBA novel. Now we have authors like Julie Lessman who balance passion with honorable sexual behavior in Christians. Does that mean her non-believer characters are chaste. Nope. She only doesn’t describe their sinful acts. There’s no need. The reader is intelligent enough to figure what goes where.

    I can’t read Dekker. Becuase I don’t enjoy books that scare me. I want joy when I’m reading.

    I’ve heard rave reveiws of Tosca Lee’s work. B&H is reprinting her first book, Demon: A Memoir.

    At some point Christian writers need to stop blaming the industry and consider…

    1) maybe the quality of my writing just sucks

    2) maybe my story just sucks

    3) maybe I’m so determined to tell my story my way and not how God wants it that God puts up road-blocks to stop my non-God-honoring book from being published

    4) maybe I should consider e-publishing

    I personally think that CBA publishing houses should develop mainstream imprints which release the types of work Eric and others write into the ABA as general fiction. As it stands now you cannot write general market work and be published by a CBA house.

    Linda Goodnight (under same name) writes ABA romances for Harlequin and inspirational romances for Steeple Hill.

    Judy Duarte (under same name) writes ABA romances for Harlequin and inspirational women’s fiction with romantic elements for Kensington, yes, erotica-obesssed Kensington.

    Shelley Shepard Gray writes inspy Amish fiction for Avon Inspire/Harper-Collins, and writes as Shelley Galloway for Harlequin and Avalon.

    John Grisham is a perfect example of a Christian man blancing his faith and his writing and doing in in the ABA market. In his book, The Testament, has one of the finest written presentations of the gospel and of a man coming to faith in Christ. Many of his other books have vile, perverted, and profane elements. He’s stories are, sometimes, depressing and too realistic for me. The Appeal…so not a HEA.

    So I say, making blanket statements like Katherine is unfair to the industry AND unnecessarily enflames the discussion.

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  70. If Dekker scares you, Gina, by all means do not read Steven James. You may wet yourself. (Go, Steven, go!)

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  71. I’m coming in quite late to this, but the discussion of ‘edgy’ got me thinking. Mike gave some good examples of potential edgy characters. If those were real people (which there are many many troubled people in this world caught up in destructive, what we would term distasteful, behaviors), would Jesus have shied away from them? (No.) Would he have invited them to lunch, ate with them, revealed his truth to them? (Yes.) Would he have blushed when they confessed the sins they’ve committed? (Nope, he’s already seen it all.) Would he have written them off as ‘unsaveable’? (Of course not.)

    Back to Jesus NOT blushing… He was/is sensitive, pure, blameless, sinless. When he looks at people who are sinning, he doesn’t become defiled. Sin does not “rub off” on him. He’s able to look straight into sin, call it what it is, offer forgiveness, and say “Sin no more.”

    We aren’t Jesus, but we reflect Him. Could it be (as often evidenced by Christian art) we are a little too fearful of being “tarnished”. Of the sin “rubbing off”? Maybe we are afraid to roll up our sleeves and eat with the lost…after all, they’re bad behavior might influence us…

    Maybe we need to grow some thicker skin?

    A person can absolutely be saved by reading a work of fiction. Maybe one Christian writer’s edgy story is the precise God-designed remedy for one lost soul. If that writer leads one lost soul to God, that’s priceless.

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  72. Am I missing something? Please give me at least 5, oh heck, 1 will do, example of where a CBA publisher took a large book and diluted it into a series of traide paperbacks that cost 15 times more than the same story in ABA.

    The Left Behind Series

    There’s also another series–one of the earliest Amish ones–that I read 15 years ago and which name I cannot remember. One halfway good book that would have been one decent papaerback from Avon or Mira (had Mira existed back then) became 3 shoddy CBA Tradepapers.

    That Daisychain series should also have been one book.

    Going back 30 years?

    Not sure how far back it goes but the Janette Oke Love… series is a good example. A multigenerational story like that would have been under one cover in the ABA. Some like examples: The locale books by Edward Rutherfurd; The Thorn Birds; Red, White & Blue by Susan Isaacs; Evergreen by Belva Plain.

    For that matter I would also say that many of the Brock & Bodie Thoene stories were far too diluted.

    A reverse example I would use would be Pillars of the Earth. Had that book been marketed in the CBA it would have been sold as 5 seperate books. There’s the miniseries conveniently airing as I write this–airing in 8 parts. I’m being generous when I say the CBA would make that a 5 book series. They might just go for broke and make it 8 parts.

    Gone with the Wind would be a three parter–at least.

    The CBA really has something against Epics, and has had for some time. There was a pretty good CBA title written many many years ago. It was old when I was young. Through Golden Meadows it was called. That was a good story in one book, but had it come out now it would be trilogised.

    Of course I could have just stopped with “The Left Behind Series” because EVERYONE knows I’m right. Those books were PURPOSELY strung out when the publishers realised their potential draw.

    And no. I’m not taking some quiz in your class. This isn’t a blue book exam and you needn’t talk down to me simply because we disagree. I will not “list an example for every 5 years following”.

    Life is depressing enough at times. Who wants to read a story where there isn’t a HEA?

    I advocate happy endings. Everything I write has a happy ending. But my characters are CHARACTERS. Some of them swear, because some people in the world swear. Some of them keep a bottle of Vodka in the ice maker so that they can have chilled mudslides on Friday evening, because there are people in the world who do that. Some of them cheat on their husbands–because that happens. Some of them are gay. Some of them practice Wicca. Again, though, I say over and over that I am NOT called to write for the CBA or in the CBA. My books are for a different audience entirely. Christians are welcome to read them, of course. But I can’t have the worlds I build dictated by an arbitrary set of standards with which I don’t always personally agree.

    And who is to say that CBA publishers wouldn’t publish more vampire books if they knew they had a market for them.

    I would. Because I have been in meetings where this type of thing was openly discussed. And there is constant worry about pleasing the Prayer Of Max Lucado crowd. Constant worry. Sure, some may buy those Vampire books–but the publishers live in fear of losing their bread and butter: Conservative Christian females ages 35-70 with a household income of $40K or higher. I’ve seen the letters that have been written to certain publishers about different titles that stray even a narrow margin from the accepted style, and I’ve time and again seen those letters acquiesced to. And of course, who are you more likely to want to please if you have a business? The person with a higher disposable income who is a regular customer or the younger person in their teens-early30s who have less money and are the more likely customers for the stuff we’re lumping under the cover of “Edgy”?

    At some point Christian writers need to stop blaming the industry and consider…

    1) maybe the quality of my writing just sucks

    2) maybe my story just sucks

    I left this issue out of my first list because I didn’t feel it was germaine. But I will say that MUCH of what I read from the CBA market does indeed suck. Out loud. The mediocrity of CBA fiction really bothers me. It says over and over again that this is what we will settle for because this is what sells. The entire CBA market is allowing itself to be dictated to by one market segment of the reading population. And that’s symptomatic, really , of the wider issue that I think we’re saying and not saying.

    Is the CBA a one-genre publisher or a multi-genre alternative publisher? Some writers (I believe Eric may be one of those) would love for it to be the latter. They’d love to see CBA houses put out a wider range of books with a wider range of themes and levels of handling those themes. And over the past 10 years as more of the CBA houses have been acquired by larger secular houses it has been moving in that direction in fits and starts. There’s a 3stepsforward, 2stepsback sort of attempt to make that happen. I say it won’t truly happen for another 15 years–we’ve got to wait for the culture within the CBA buyers to change, and it will as the generations move.

    As to your last point–> I know full well that Christian authors are writing for ABA houses. You left one out. J.K. Rowling wrote a series of books with strong Christian themes for Bloomsbury. You also left out people like Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Brenda White.

    I will one day be one of those Christians who writes for the ABA. God has called me to that and that will be what happens.

    But that was never MY point. My point was that some Christians (NOT me) would rather write ABA-style works and have them put out by a CBA house. Because they want the guidance and support of Christian editors and marketers but they want to reach a different audience. That is the essence of the trouble, and the sourness of the grapes. Or–Outreach vs. Inreach.

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  73. I’m feeling decidedly uncomfortable with the tone this discussion has taken. I don’t think there’s any need for us to speak disrespectfully to each other because we disagree.

    I’m passionate about what I believe and I know sometimes I express my opinion in a strong way. I’m sorry if that’s offended anyone. I truly apologize.

    Katherine, I don’t know a lot of the books you mentioned. I didn’t read much Christian fiction after a couple of Jeannette Oke prairie romances and a fantasy by John White—until Peretti. As more Christian fiction became available, I read more.

    Since then, I’ve seen the industry take large strides forward. I have no doubt that when you were working in whatever Christian publisher that employed you, you sat in pub meetings in which decisions were made based on what the typical buyer who shopped at a Christian bookstore would choose. That isn’t some sort of nefarious scheme. It’s a sound business practice. But the industry is changing.

    While you suggest the change is a result of general market ownership of a number of Christian imprints, I argue that the tipping point is the change in distribution. No longer does Christian fiction rely exclusively on Christian stores (this is the only “CBA”—Christian Booksellers Association—and is separate from the publishers’ organization).

    The next hurtle is the “separate but equal” status of Christian fiction in general market stores. Editors have been trying, and I can only suppose, will continue to try, to induce bookstores to change this, but the answer may lie in creating a different imprint.

    But I’m getting sidetracked, and I promised myself I’d stay on topic and make this quick.

    The idea that Christian publishers intentionally cheat readers through the practices you describe is a serious accusation, Katherine. I don’t think it’s sustainable.

    For this to be true, the Left Behind series (your first example) would have to have been written in its entirety and then the publishers decided to break it into the smallest possible units to sell the most they could.

    Anyone who knows writing can see immediately that this idea is contrary to the way an author works. Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye probably sold the initial Left Behind books from a proposal, not from a finished manuscript.

    I recently heard Jenkins in a radio interview, and I believe he said they intended an 8-book series (I could be wrong on the actual number). Because the series sold so well, they were contracted to do more.

    This also is not a nefarious scheme, and it isn’t something that Christian publishers do that general market houses don’t do. Take Terry Brooks, for example and his Shannara books. This is a series that has spanned, what, three decades?

    The point is, if readers keep buying, publishers keep contracting and writers keep writing. Does that mean these books are all good? No.

    And when readers realize this, they stop buying. Some die-hard fans take a while before they come to their senses. But when they do, the contracts dry up. This happens with the general market publishers and with Christian.

    I think it’s a shame that we saturate the market with product and sequels (think of the Rocky films) that make what could have been a unique reading (or viewing) experience into a joke. But publishers do like what they believe is a sure thing since this industry is so risky, and what has been selling well understandably would have a strong pull.

    Me, I wish publishers would take greater risks. I wish bookstores would work to widen their market. I wish writers would craft better stories. I wish readers would read with discernment. In other words, I wish the industry were perfect. 😉

    Becky

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  74. Becky, you did a good job with this blog. I’ve said my piece and so I am done with this argument. I don’t think we’re going to change anyone’s minds. I just stopped in to say hi.

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  75. Becky, my heart grieves over how I contributed to the degradation of this discussion. How easily the tone of anything sours when we respond with snark and edgy word choices.

    You’ve done a great job pointing out the flip side to Eric’s original post. While I can’t remember which of my writing friends mentioned your blog to me, I’m glad she did. You have much wisdom to share.

    Nikole, it’s nice having met you. 🙂

    KC, I’ve never heard of Stephen James. My reading tends to be more of the Brian Tome/Frank Viola/John Ethredge/Julie Lessman/Karen Witemeyer variety. Oh, and I do enjoy Douglas Adams, even though his work wasn’t Christian. However, regardless of what Steven James writes, my decision to or not to read his work…okay, any author’s work has very little to do with the weakness of my bladder (LOL, after having had 5 kids, trust me, it’s weak) and all the much to do with what images and feelings I choose not to put in my mind.

    I’d wanted to watch the new Spartacus show on Stars. But I read enough reviews by non-Christians who described it as “soft-porn” that I elected not to watch it.

    I even learned to fast-forward through a few episodes of my beloved Battlestar Galatica because I didn’t want those images in my mind or in my husbands.

    Protection isn’t, necessarily, a form of weakness.

    However, thank you for mentioning Steven James. My BIL is an avid fan of Dekker so he’d probably be interested in Mr. James’s work…if he hasn’t discovered him already.

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  76. This issue has been analyzed from all sorts of angles, but many of the comments had to do with my “throwing in the towel” and “ranting” before leaving it all behind.

    There is nowhere in my article that I say I was throwing in the towel and leaving it behind, and I challenge anyone to find a personal tone of bitterness in any aspect of what I actually wrote–as opposed to the things taken out of context here and other places. If that were my objective, I could’ve named authors, genres, editors, publishers, and so on. Instead, I intentionally gave this article a positive tone about the good things and great writers that have come from this market.

    My article was never meant to be dissected into an argument solely about PG vs R-rated elements or the money elements–although those have influenced its direction, for good and for bad.

    My goal from the start, my goal in my last decade in this industry, has been to not only entertain and challenge believers within the church, but to find ways to reach out to those beyond our church walls, to use the creative arts to impact and shape our culture rather than secluding ourselves from it. I don’t expect all authors to have that calling. I do, however, think it should be a vital part of the church, being sure that we don’t forget to care about the lost, the sick, and the dying outside our church doors.

    I can only ask that we all work together, instead of against each other, that we use our gifts and different functions as one body, the Body of Christ. In considering the words of others, please take them all into context instead of building arguments based on snippets or on things never even said but assumed. If we do this, we can focus our efforts on positive change together.

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  77. Amen, Eric.

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  78. You, too. Gina. Enjoyed reading your comments.

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  79. Gina, do you have a blog?

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  80. IS IT TIME FOR CHRISTIAN FICTION TO DIE? Shereads.org

    http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/2010/07/eric-wilsons-open-letter-to-readers.html

    “After nine books and well-over a decade as an author in the Christian Fiction industry, Eric Wilson is throwing in the towel.”

    I apologise, Eric, but as you can see, I was deeply offended by these headlines. I’m not the only one who read your letter that way. Plus, I think you misrepresented the Christian Fiction market and generalized it. I’ve read many Christian books that are very real and very good stories. You didn’t write “throw in the towel.” I saw those headlines and saw red.

    For the sake of NOT beginning another 77 comments over this same old argument, I stand by my past comments.

    But again, I do apologise for taking the “throwing in the towel” as something you said. It sounded as if it were inferred.

    From your letter:
    “Why, as Christian novelists, have we removed ourselves from a place of influence in the “marketplace” of the everyday reader?”

    We haven’t. Everything I have read has been influential from the squeaky clean to the ones with murder and suspense.

    “If our own writings fail to also wrestle honestly with life’s difficulties, it seems to me that we gloss over the bloody, earth-shaking war that Jesus fought on the cross—and we undermine the triumph of His resurrection.”

    Again, I disagree. The authors I’ve read have wrestled honestly with life’s difficulties.

    “The Christian-fiction market, if it remains myopic, could very well die.”

    It’s not going to die. This boils down to what readers enjoy reading. People I know don’t care to read books that drag them through the blackness of humanity, even for a story of redemption. They have enough reality in thier lives that they like good light hearted stories. As far as I know CBA publishers are still selling those books. Personally, my tastes run wider. I like variety.

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  81. Eric, I find it interesting that you felt it important to correct the perception of you “throwing in the towel” here but not at Novel Journey where the phrase was originally used.

    Your comment #76 illustrates part of the problem I had with your article. Here’s the part I’m referring to:

    I challenge anyone to find a personal tone of bitterness in any aspect of what I actually wrote–as opposed to the things taken out of context here and other places.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    Since you didn’t approach me personally but named “here” as a place where you apparently detected “a tone of bitterness” and “things taken out of context,” I’m left to assume that you are including my original statements and/or comments.

    I’m not going to issue you a counter challenge—I find that counter-productive ( 😉 )—but I will say, I think you’ve painted me unfairly with your broad brush of generalization, the very thing I think you did in your original article to a number of Christian publishers and writers. You made sweeping statements such as Must all Christian novels be “inspirational,” or can’t some be challenging, daring, even ironic and unresolved? In essence, whether you intended it or not, you’re telling the public there is nothing of substance in Christian fiction. I don’t find that to be true, but I don’t think disagreeing with you means I am bitter. (What would I have to be bitter about? 😕 )

    And what did I take out of context? I actually spent considerable time trying to outline the points you made in your article. I purposefully used your language to be sure I didn’t misrepresent your views. In what way did I give a false impression of what you are saying?

    On the other hand, if you weren’t referring to my original post, why did I get caught up in your sweeping statement? I don’t find these generalizations to be accurate or helpful.

    Perhaps you missed my comment #30 in which I said, in part while I disagree with Eric’s method and many of his observations, I don’t disagree with his intentions or goals or purpose or motivation. He and I have a great deal in common and I meant what I said in the last two paragraphs. I also meant what I said in one of the earlier comments:

    Maybe he’ll publish in the general market, be a big success, and see thousands come to Christ as a result of his fiction. I’ll be praising God right along with him if that’s the case. We need writers who are not standing pat. So my prayers go with Eric. I hope God uses him mightily.

    I stand by that statement, Eric, and it saddens me to think you haven’t seen past the criticism to my effort to give you some of the support you seem to want.

    Becky

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  82. Hi, Nikole! I have a personal blog but it’s been greatly ignored this year becasue I’ve been focusing on a joint blog (http://www.inkwellinspirations.blogspot.com/), coordinating and judging contests, and working on improving my craft. Well, then there are the five kids and pastor-husband. Gotta love them, though,for they’re awfully cute.

    I used to consider myself an “edgy” writer. These last few weeks, not so much. (Starting to hate the word “edgy.”) I’ve begun asking myself, “Is my reason for pushing this boundary because I have an ax to grind or a personal agenda? Is this my will or God’s will? Is this about bringing attention/glory to myself or is this something God has revealed to do to bring glory to Him? Is this about my rights or about my submission? Does this challenge people to make them think outside their comfort zone or am I being controversial for the sake of controversy?”

    Consequently I removed a few things from the manuscript proposal I’m working on because I didn’t like my answers. LOL.

    On a side note, today I empathize much with how Becky’s was feeling in the days following her initial post on this thread. There’s a unspoken rule that I didn’t realize fully until now: “Thou shalt not criticize the work of a Christian author in public.”

    Funny thing is the rule following that rule is “Thou shalt not criticize the Christian publishing market.”

    There has to be a balance between speaking up to equip and exhort and speaking up to admonish and rebuke. We seem to either do all truth and no grace or all grace and no truth.

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