April Fools . . . But Not Really


WordpressreblogFor my online April Fools Day joke, I thought I’d announce that after ten years of blogging, I’ve decided to hang it up. But I thought the joke might backfire. What if everyone agreed, that yes, it was time I moved on to some other endeavor. After all, I’ve been repeating myself with some frequency and actually have not said anything new in years.

That would be a problem, because, you see, I actually like to blog. I know some writers struggle to know what to say or where to find the time to write. Some agonize over every post and all their creative energy seeps from them as they write.

I’m a different breed. I really like spouting off voicing my thoughts. 😀

In reality, writing helps me think. Sometimes I know what I want to write about, but I don’t always know what I think about what I want to write about. I realize this might be confusing to others, but writing forces me to say something, to formulate a position, and to express it so others will know what I mean. When I’ve written, then I know what I think.

Honestly, there are times when I’m writing that I think I’m wandering around a topic, that I feel as if I’ve lost direction. I’m the most surprised when I re-read what I wrote and it says something I actually believe. Then I kind of sit back and say, Ah, that’s what I think—I just didn’t know it until now.

So, yes, I love to blog. I learn. Sometimes I have to do research. Sometimes I read other articles to which I respond. Sometimes I write about things I’m learning in Scripture or ways Scripture speaks to the problems in our culture. Sometimes I write about a topic that’s right in front of me . . . like blogging!

No matter the prompt, I come away from blogging with a better understanding, a deeper conviction, a greater appreciation. Blogging, you might say, nourishes my writing soul. And maybe my soul soul, too.

So, no April Fools joke from me today. I wouldn’t want you to think I’m serious about no longer blogging. Because if I stopped blogging, I’d be impoverished in a way I hadn’t realized until I started writing about blogging. 😉

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Published in: on April 1, 2016 at 4:56 pm  Comments (4)  
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Beyond Plateaus


Mountain climbers are familiar with reaching plateaus. You don’t get to one without a lot of serious work. Often when you arrive, you’ll find a scenic view and certainly a good place to rest. But if you have set a goal for yourself, staying on the plateau will defeat you.

Staying on plateaus can be tempting — for mountain climbers, for writers, for Christians. One of the things the long journey of writing novels and waiting to find an agent and publisher has taught me is to keep working. There was a time I thought my work was ready for publication. In fact I confidently read other books and believed my writing equal or better.

Apparently I was the only one. Yes, I got good responses from critique partners and others in mentoring groups. But there is still that elusive “We want you to be our author” phone call. Something, therefore, needs to be better. It pushes me forward to improve.

But what happens when I don’t have that incentive any more?

Lady Gaga (bet you never thought you’d hear me quoting her here, did you 😉 ) said in anticipation of her next performance, she (mentally) takes the awards she’s won off the wall and stuffs them in the closet. In other words, she’s determined not to let past success affect her goal. She’s not going to stay on the plateau.

I think some writers are content with the plateau. Publishing was their dream. Now they have books out and enough sales to get the next contract. Who cares if they improve their writing or become better at plotting their stories? Who cares if their characters are retreads? I mean, those sales show the fans are there.

I think it would be easy to fall into that attitude, but the plateau isn’t the mountain top.

Plateaus can become traps for Christians in our spiritual walk, too. Our friends all believe pretty much the same way we do. We become comfortable with our church. We tithe and attend, and even participate in special work events in the neighborhood.

God is good. He’s forgiven us by His grace and we’re thankful. So very thankful.

And there we stay.

But look at what Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica:

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. (4:1)

What a statement! You’re doing a good job, now go out and do better!

In the next verses, it becomes clear that Paul has in mind, in particular, their sexual purity. But then in verse nine he turns a corner and commends that church for how they love other Christians. And yes, he follows up with the same admonition:

Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more (4:9-10)

A couple things I learn from this. The Christian life isn’t a “let go and let God” proposition. There is a “work out your salvation” aspect, and that doesn’t deposit us on a plateau at some point, where we can sit back and enjoy the view — not, at least, if we’re to take what Paul said seriously. Rather, the Christian life is dynamic.

Excelling still more is a logical goal for those who stand next to perfection. It’s impossible to rest and think I’ve arrived when I look at God. He is the gold standard of purity and love.

Finally, though I’m an active agent in this excelling process, so is God. Look at what Paul said right before his first “excel still more” statement:

and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. 3:12-13

The Thessalonians were to excel still more in the area of loving believers, but Paul prayed that God would cause this. The Thessalonians were to excel still more in the area of sexual purity, but Paul prayed that God would establish their hearts without blame in holiness.

It’s kind of like the really serious mountain climbers who are tethered together as they make their way up a rock face. One moves forward but not without the other. The first enables the second and the second supports and secures the first.

We have an incredible God who thinks and plans far beyond the ways we would choose. One part of that would seem to include our enjoying the plateaus He leads us to, but then we must keep going, thankfully, not alone.

Published in: on August 10, 2015 at 6:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Power Elements Of Character Development


PowerElementsCharacterDevelopment[1000][1]I’m excited to announce that the second volume in my Power Elements Of Fiction series, Power Elements Of Character Development is available as a Kindle ebook. It took me longer than I anticipated to get this book put together and published, so it’s with some sense of relief and joy that I can announce its release.

Here’s the little blurb describing the book:

Power Elements Of Character Development, second in the series Power Elements Of Fiction, offers practical instruction for fiction writers about how to create engaging characters. This manual covers such topics as the character arc, a character’s inner as well as outer goals, qualities that make a character compelling, how character development fits with plot, how setting affects character development, character flaws, character voice, well-developed minor characters, realistic antagonists, and more.

This guide provides helpful reminders to the seasoned author, tips to help the intermediate writer raise the level of his storytelling, and instruction for the beginner. The occasional writing exercises offer writers an opportunity to apply what they are learning to their own works in progress.

Finally, Power Elements Of Character Development includes a list of resources for authors who wish to dig deeper in any given topic.

In total, this manual is a succinct blueprint for fiction writers to create characters that intrigue, entice, and compel readers to follow their story.

If you’d be so inclined to share this post with anyone you know who writes fiction, I’d be ever so grateful.

Integration, Not Segregation


Salisbury_Cathedral,_cloister,_from_top_of_towerMuch has been said by writers about the artificial divide in publishing that has created the Christian arm of the industry. Some accuse Christians of cloistering against the world. It’s an unhealthy divide, they say.

Interestingly my pastor, Mike Erre, has been preaching about a similar topic as he works through the book of Luke. Christians, as opposed to the Pharisees of Jesus’s day, are not about separating ourselves from what is unclean, as the Jewish Law required. Jesus modeled this new paradigm in which relationship matters more than separation.

These concepts sound good, but the conclusions seem to be off.

In the writing world, any number of writers have advocated for grittier or edgier fiction, still with redemptive themes, but no explicit Christianity. After all, stories aren’t propaganda.

In life, the theologians seem to be saying, Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners, so we should go and do likewise.

In other words, in both instances, in order for Christians not to be cloistered, the answer being offered seems to say, mingle with the world. What’s off with that conclusion?

What’s off is that the gospel is offensive—prophets were put to death because they proclaimed God’s word; Jesus was put to death because He was God’s Word; the apostles were put to death because they announced the fulfillment of God’s word.

Therefore, I can only think of two ways a Christian can mingle with the world: (a) if “the world” is interested in the gospel or (b) if the gospel is missing.

In reality, there’s no indication that Jesus “hung out” with anyone. Rather, He invited people to follow Him. One of those He invited was Matthew the tax collector. Scripture says Matthew left everything and followed Jesus. But the very next sentence says Matthew gave a “big reception” for Jesus in his house, to which he invited tax collectors as well as others who the Pharisees labeled sinners.

So yes, at that one meal we know Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners—invited there by one of His followers. But clearly, the gospel was not absent during this reception. In answering the Pharisees about what he was doing, eating with tax collectors and sinners,

Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32, emphasis mine)

Jesus was not burying the lead. He wasn’t holding back. He wasn’t worried about being too explicit. He actually knew the gospel was divisive, and He expected some to take offense

Unlike those writers advocating an approach to fiction that would make a Christian story look no different from a Mormon story or a moralist’s story. Unlike those theologians who advocate Christian gospel-less good works.

But here’s the thing. The gospel should not be an add-on. Writers should not deliver a story with the gospel added in. In all walks of life, Christians should not do life with the gospel added on as a spiritual exercise.

Rather, God should be so important, so pivotal, so foundational, so integrated into our lives that He is who we think about and who we talk about and who we want to introduce others to. When people ask us what we’re reading, part of our answer ought naturally to be something having to do with God. When they ask us where we’re going, part of that answer ought to be something about God’s house. When they meet our friends, some of those people ought to be part of God’s family.

In other words, the gospel should be as hard to separate from us as oxygen is from water molecules. The essence of water requires oxygen. The essence of a Christian requires the permeation of the gospel in every area of life.

And as such, some people will be offended. After all, we believe all have sinned. We aren’t born good and we aren’t even born blank slates. And that offends some people.

It offends people when Christians say Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life, no one comes to the Father but through Him. People are offended when we say sex should be reserved for a monogamous relationship between a husband and wife. They are offended when we say God gave different roles to a wife than to a husband. They are offended when we say the Bible is an absolute authority.

There’s really no way around it. If Christians integrate the gospel into our lives, we will cause offense at some point.

Not that everyone will be offended. Really, only those who have turned away from the gospel find it offensive.

And of course Christians should not be offensive for things apart from the gospel. Peter says it like this:

If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Peter 4:14-16, emphasis mine.)

I don’t know how comfortable most of us are with the idea of suffering because we are Christians. I suspect the day will come sooner than later if today we decide the gospel is too offensive to put in our stories and too offensive to integrate into our lives.

A Look At What’s Most Important


Baptist_Temple_cornerstoneBusinesses want to make money, or perhaps a better way of stating it is they need to make money to stay in existence. Employees want to do their jobs so they don’t get fired or get demoted. Parents want to keep their kids safe and out of trouble. Husbands and wives want to have a healthy, mutually beneficial marriage. Good citizens want to study issues and research candidates to the best of their ability to vote wisely. Generally all people want to have enough to eat, nice clothes to wear, a safe and comfortable place to call home, and something enjoyable or meaningful to do.

Nothing is wrong with any of those things people want. Of course there are some selfish or inappropriate desires people have which I’m not going to mention. I’m hoping it’s self-evident that desires for sinful, selfish things aren’t in the running for Most Important.

Completely missing from my list is any mention of God. Sadly I think that’s a reflection of many of our views of life. People are important, jobs are important, safety is important, sufficient money is important, even vacation is important. But God? Yes, He’s important too. On Sunday morning, and maybe during a regular Bible study time or prayer time.

Actually, I suspect most Christians understand and believe that God and our relationship to Him really is the Most Important. It’s figuring out how that looks that gives us problems.

If God is most important, but I have a business to run—a business that needs to make money, what does that look like? If God is most important, and I’m an employee showing up to do my job, what does that look like? What does it look like for parents (or for kids), for husbands and wives, for good citizens, for friends, for neighbors, for drivers stuck in traffic, for people waiting in line at the grocery story, for people sitting down to write their bills . . . for all of us, all the time?

I tend to think there’s not such a great difference in how each of those situations would look. The Bible calls Christ a choice stone, a precious cornerstone—that’s the key foundational piece upon which a building rests. It’s laid first, and it supports the rest of the structure. It’s the Most Important stone.

If God is to be Most Important, then, it seems to me He needs to be first in our thoughts and primary in our “buildings.” For me as a writer, that means I don’t make God my editor or my critique partner. Rather, He’s the one who brainstorms with me. In other words, He’s not my last resort. I don’t come to Him to clean up my mess or even to help me out of tight spots. Instead, I come to Him to begin with. I look to Him for inspiration and for “perspiration”—the strength to start out and to keep going and to get it right.

The great thing about God is that when I don’t start with Him as my cornerstone, He still holds my hand, still passes through the flood with me. He doesn’t fail me or forsake me, though I can’t say the same thing in return. But when I fail, He sets me right and gives me the opportunity to lay the cornerstone of Christ all over again, because He forgives sin.

But there’s more to making God the Most Important. Again, looking at this question from my perspective as a writer, I see He should not merely be first, but He should be the focal point in some way or another, in my stories.

In my personal life, God is the focal point if I love Him more than any other. In Isaiah the prophet says to his nation

Get yourself up on a high mountain
O Zion, bearer of good news
Lift up your voice mightily
O Jerusalem, bearer of good news
Lift it up, do not fear
Say to the cities of Judah
Here is your God. (40:9-10)

In many respects those lines are no different from the “Great Commission” with which Jesus left His followers: Go, give the good news to those near and far.

Giving the good news, however, doesn’t look the same for every single person. Some are preachers, some serve. Some prepare the soil, some plant, some water. All parts of the process are necessary for a harvest. But one thing is true—wheat doesn’t come up by accident.

My writing should be no different from any other aspect of my life. I ought not compartmentalize. God should be Most Important in every aspect of my life—my work as well as my relationships.

The thing is, I make God Most Important by loving Him and obeying His commandments—by keeping Him as God alone, having no idols, treating others the way He wants me to treat them. And in my writing? I keep God alone as God; I have no idols; I treat others the way He wants me to treat them.

But not every writer will put those principles into practice in the same way. Some may say, my writing is a tool by which I can say to the “cities of Judah,” here is your God. Others will say, my writing is a tool by which I can earn money to share with the crisis pregnancy center our church runs. Who’s to say one is better than the other? If both writers are making God Most Important, then who cares whether the two write the same kinds of stories? Neither should judge the other.

And neither should make their stories or their style of writing Most Important—a sure sign God no longer occupies that place.

Published in: on June 9, 2014 at 6:35 pm  Comments (3)  
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Books You’d Like To See In Print One Day


woman using computerMost writers beyond the beginning stage understand the value of feedback, especially informed feedback. That’s why they join critique groups and snag writing partners and look for beta readers.

Occasionally there are contests such as the one Spec Faith held some time ago in which writers could post their first 250 words and receive feedback from visitors. All these methods of receiving feedback are valuable, but what all writers crave is constructive criticism from an industry professional–a published author or better still, an agent or an editor.

Once upon a time there was a secret industry insider who called herself Miss Snark who gave selected writers a beatdown helpful insights about their work. She was pretty blunt and yet incredibly helpful.

When she hung up her snark hat, the writer who first received her biting assessment took up the mantle and began a site called Miss Snark’s First Victim. She’s expanded the purpose of the site to include contests that can put winners in touch with agents and editors.

Starting today she is running her 2013 Bakers Dozen Agent Auction. She held a submissions period during which she selected 60 entries, 35 YA or middle grade stories and 25 adult. For the next few days anyone can read the blurbs and openings of these stories and offer their critique, but two published authors and two agents or editors are guaranteed to critique. As many others as wish to join in may do so.

Then Tuesday, December 3 the actual auction begins. The cool thing is, the agents’ bids are the number of pages they would like to read, up to the entire manuscript (which is obviously the highest bid–and I’m assuming the first agent to make that bid “wins” that manuscript).

Anyway, I thought that would be a fun thing for readers to take part in. I’ve already looked over a handful of the entries and I’m impressed with the quality. One or two, I wish I could read more.

Here’s the link if you’d like to join in the fun: WELCOME TO THE 2013 BAKER’S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION! By the way, you might consider starting with the entry #1 which appears last since it seems most people start at the top with #60. And of course you get to pick and choose which you want to read and which, if any, you want to critique.

Just for fun, make note of the number of fantasy entries. It’s still the hottest genre going, it would seem. 😉

Published in: on November 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm  Comments Off on Books You’d Like To See In Print One Day  
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Art and the Christian


1411705_mary_joseph_jesusThree different online venues have discussed the topic of art and the Christian, in one way or another. The first one, the Gospel Coalition, presented an article entitled “How to Discourage Artists in the Church” by Philip G. Ryken, the president of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. In addressing the topic, however, Dr. Ryken left writers off the list of artists. I pointed out to him how discouraging that was. 😉

The next one was an article to which one of the commenters to Dr. Ryken’s article linked: “The Cruciform Heart of the Arts” by Toby Sumpter, one of the pastors at Trinity Reformed Church, Moscow, Idaho. This is the one I wish I had written. It is filled with gems.

The third was a Facebook conversation started by Mike Duran about the Christian writing/reading community. The question was this: “Am I the only one who feels that the Christian fiction writing/reading community is drifting further out of touch with culture?”

Put it all together, and I’m mulling the whole topic of Art, Christians, the Church, and culture.

I grew up in the era of the liberal arts education–school was intended to help you become a better person as much as it was to teach you facts and figures. Whether or not it led to a job after you graduated was almost an after-thought. My college was weak in the sciences and math. The business department was almost non-existent. Foreign languages were thin. But music, literature, history, Bible–those were the flourishing majors.

Clearly things have changed. Today most students go to college to get the prerequisites they need for the career they want. The last I checked, business is the largest department at my Alma Mater.

The point of this being, there’s been a shift in Western culture away from art. We are more concerned now with pop culture, defined as commercial “art” based on what is popular (the “pop” part of the equation).

Some decry pop culture as a shabby imitation of real art, and to some degree, those folks might be right. When we stopped teaching music and art and when we started worrying more about politically correct themes and multiculturalism in literature, we forgot what true art looked like; we forgot that it is universal and transcends differences.

I think another turning point came in our culture with Stephen King. As shocking as it may be, I haven’t read any of his novels or even any of his writing books, but I’ve heard any number of authors talk about his ability–as a storyteller and as a wordsmith. In other words, he wrote stories that sold to the everyday person, which put his books on best-seller lists, but were made of timeless ingredients.

Christians, it would seem, have been slower to come around to the idea that we can write stories with true quality and with saleability. Instead, the first Christian fiction of the contemporary era was more inclined toward establishing an alternative to the culture—stories that were wholesome and had happy endings. They were the long version of Hallmark cards. Of course, Frank Peretti offered a different type of story–a truly Christian story, with a Christian explanation of the way the world worked.

As the demand for fiction grew, so did the demand for stories of substance. The problem was, Christian fiction became the exclusive property of a handful of evangelical publishers beholden to a large number of Christian bookstores which had the power to prevent books from ever seeing a customer. Consequently, Christian fiction took the shape the booksellers wished it to take.

Times have changed. First the big bookstore chains and box stores like Wal-Mart began to include Christian fiction. Then Amazon took over, and lately there’s been an explosion of small print-on-demand presses, ebooks, and self-publishing.

The traditional Christian publishers have not been untouched by these changes. Some of the most prominent have been bought by general market presses, though they retain their Christian imprint. Others have narrowed their sights with the intention of fulfilling their mission statement. In those cases, it seems they desire to sell primarily to the market carved out in earlier days by the booksellers. Still others are making money putting out the books that they’re putting out, though they’ve begun, slowly, to expand in order to widen their audience.

Still, these are businesses, and the bottom line is, they will only continue to operate if they make money.

Where did art go in this discussion?

The same place it went when it fled the Christian liberal arts colleges, I guess.

So, is it important to bring it back? Should we worry about encouraging the artists in our churches? Does it matter if our books are artistic as well as truthful?

I think art is important for one particular reason—by it we show God. I’m not one who thinks all good writing glorifies God. There are some well-written stories that defame God’s name. But how we as believers write, matters. If I say, I am a Christian, then knowingly do a poor job at work or clock out early day after day or complain all the time, I don’t think God is glorified. In the same way, a novelist who doesn’t do his homework, who puts in half an effort, or any number of other “less than best” actions, isn’t glorifying God–though He may still use their work for His kingdom.

That’s the amazing thing about God–He uses His people but is not limited by our weaknesses.

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t rest on the fact that God will fix our messes. We should be diligent because we love Him and want to serve Him as good stewards of His manifold grace, and aim for excellence in our art.

Which looks like what?

Not like a re-working of the latest popular general market story. No more “Christian Harry Potter’s” or “Christian Twilight’s.”

Not like another in the line of other general market successes–the next Hunger Games or the next Scorpio Races.

Christian art must take on the culture, not sanitize it nor excuse it. But the culture doesn’t need to shape up. Rather, people who make up the society that creates culture need to be redeemed. Christian art, then, should be stories of redemption, one person at a time. But those stories may look different from conversion stories. And conversion stories may look different from happily-ever-after stories.

In short, Christians who want their fiction to be artistic must write the hard truth and the divine end–death and resurrection, suffering and glory, the cross and the throne.

CSFF Blog Tour – Broken Wings by Shannon Dittemore, Day 2


brokenwings-coverToo often I hear negative comments about Christian fiction–still. Begrudgingly, serious critics have begun to concede that the quality of writing has improved, and yet those who loudly proclaim, “I don’t read Christian fiction,” often justify their stand with the accusation of poor quality.

In reality, no genre, no publisher, no author, no market is producing perfect books, or even great ones, all the time, every time. Mixed in with the best of the best are those that are good, OK, and sometimes, pretty bad. The key, then, no matter where readers are turning for their books, is to find those that are truly worthy of reading.

Enter reviews and blog tours like CSFF.

Shannon Dittemore writes worthy books, and her newest release, the CSFF Blog Tour’s April feature, Broken Wings, is a case in point.

I’ll take a closer look at the story itself tomorrow when I do my review, but today I wanted to highlight the beautiful language Shannon uses. Note that each word also is useful in some other capacity. Shannon hasn’t brought her story to a stop to deliver a bit of prosaic poetry. Rather, the beauty of the language supports the action or character revelation or thread of backstory.

Here’s an example from early in the book which serves in part to remind the reader what happened in the first book of the trilogy.

I’m alone.

The room is full of people, but I don’t see them. Not clearly. They’re a blur of summer colors and shadowed faces as my legs push me across the stage. My arms bow and curve, matching my inhales and exhales. Flutes, clarinets, and instruments I can’t even name trill from the speakers, the music telling a story. The dance sharing a journey.

My journey.

Getting back to the stage was not an easy path, and my mind is full of the circumstances and the players that brought me here. I rise to my toes and I think of Ali, my closest friend. I think of the life that was taken from her. I think of her boyfriend, Marco, and the case built against him: smoke and mirrors to hide what really happened.

But truth is stronger than lies, and as the music slows, my black skirt whispers against my knees and I remember the first time I saw the Celestial. Light and life everywhere, and on every surface colors that never stop moving.

This passage accomplishes so much. For example, it establishes the time frame of the setting in the poetic phrase “They’re a blur of summer colors.” It highlights one of the main character’s particular qualities–not being a singer but a dancer–with the statement “instruments I can’t even name.” She isn’t enamored with creating music but with performing the dance which the music evokes.

Shannon’s language also paints the picture of the dance with a few short sentences: “. . . my legs push me across the stage. My arms bow and curve, matching my inhales and exhales . . . , the music telling a story. The dance sharing a journey.”

Then too, it brings back key story elements–the main character has returned to dance, her best friend had died, the boyfriend had been falsely accused of her murder, and the main character has the ability to see into the heavenly realm–the Celestial.

With all this going on, there is still beauty in the expression. My favorite is “as the music slows, my black skirt whispers against my knees.” It’s visual (black skirt), audio (music slows, skirt whispers), and tactile (against my knees) all in one, which gives it the power to evoke a strong image.

Among my favorite passages are those describing worship. Here’s one:

The Sabres [a type of angel] open their mouths and lift up a song, and tears pour down my face at the sound. I sniff, trying to keep another round at bay, and that’s when the fragrance catches my nose.

It’s the smell of worship.

Sweet like honey and smoky like a campfire. Deep and thick like the ocean’s waters and fresh like their spray all in one inhalation.

I could get lost finding those kinds of passages in Broken Wings. Suffice it to say, it’s a beautiful story (well, part of one–the Angel Eyes Trilogy together is one grand story), told beautifully.

Please take time to see what others on the CSFF Blog tour are saying about Broken Wings (participants’ list posted at the end of the Day 1 post), then come back tomorrow for my review.

Writers I Read


Some writers have a knack for making me read their work. There’s one science fiction writer, for example, who’s blog I follow. Understand, I’m not a fan of science fiction, but I read this author’s blog, word for word. I don’t skim.

Others I want to read. I’ll follow someone’s blog because I read a post once that I thought was interesting, or because I like their novel, or we had a meaningful exchange of ideas on Facebook or in the comments section of another blog. I respect them. I just don’t always find myself reading what they write.

Others, I skim. I know the experts tell us to do it, and they do–adding bold font or bullet points. But that allows me to skim, encourages me to skim, so I skim. And nothing in what I’m skimming compels me to go back and read more carefully.

So what is it that those writers have whose posts grab me and hold me even when they’re writing about a movie I don’t want to see, will never see, or about microbes in the human gut, or about growing up in Kansas, or whatever it might be?

Of course there are those post with content in which I’m interested. It might be writing or fantasy or a significant spiritual truth. It might be a topic I like discussing, like creation or politics or sports. Content driven articles, I understand.

What I don’t understand is that intangible. I’ve stopped reading articles about speculative fiction or the publishing industry or God–topics I love to read about and discuss–all because … well, I lost interest. I’ve subscribed to blogs by famous writers because I thought it would help me stay current with my genre–only to find that I have no idea with that person is saying on a day-to-day basis.

On the other hand, I’ve received newsletters by novelists whose books I’ve never read, and yet I devour the articles down to the last word. Why?

I’d love to know because I’d love to replicate those writers’ ability … although, as I write that, I wonder, can ability be replicated? Probably not, but technique might be learned.

One thing some of those writers have is humor. Notice, I didn’t say, a sense of humor. I have a sense of humor. In fact I love to laugh. Love, love, love to laugh. I just don’t use humor much in my writing. I admire authors who do. Andrew Peterson, Matt Mikalatos, Jonathan Robers–I love their books and appreciate their use of humor. I just haven’t got a clue how to use it in my own writing.

A time or two I tried to use humor here on my blog–a little exaggeration, perhaps, a bit of irony or sarcasm. As I recall, those posts have inevitably garnered criticism because someone didn’t recognize the humor. I don’t blame them. Unless you can see the twinkle in my eye or the upturned eyebrow or the suppressed smile, how do you know I meant those lines to be funny?

Writers that write humor can do it. I, on the other hand, am at a loss.

Humor isn’t the only thing that makes writing interesting. When Brandilyn Collins used to blog, I often said she could write the phone book, and I’d find it interesting. I never did quite figure how why, though. She often told stories, and told them well, so perhaps that was her secret ingredient.

Maybe there isn’t one way, either. Some writers are engaging because their content is controversial (Mike Duran), some because they bring a quality of professionalism and expertise, some because they are entertaining.

And the borin ones in which I lose interest? I’m still trying to figure that out. 😉

You can help. Tell me what makes you read a blog post from start to finish or what makes you start to skim or to stop altogether. After all, with all your input, these posts here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction are bound to get a whole lot better!!

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm  Comments (10)  
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Unity And Disagreement


Apparently I entered the Christian fiction wars again last week with my Thursday post, “The Misconception About Weaker Brothers.” The irony is, I actually intended to remove some of the shrapnel the combatants so often use to snipe at each other. But according to Fred Warren at Spec Faith, Sally Apokedak at Facebook, and Mike Duran in the comments to the above post, I apparently initiated an incursion. Not my intention.

The truth is, Christians aren’t supposed to be warring with each other. Paul said to the church in Philippi

make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Later in the book he scolded two women who weren’t living in harmony with each other, and earlier he pointed out there were some believers preaching Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives. About the latter, he said, So what? Just as long as Christ is being preached, that’s all that matters.

Which brings me to the fiction wars. The issue in question is whether or not Christian writers should use profanity and cussing in fiction. (Sometimes references to sex get thrown into the mix as well, but of late the topic has centered on “certain” words).

Both sides have their reasons and their verses–one of the more popular being Romans 14, which I addressed in my “Misconception” post and even more so in “Weaker Brothers, Legalists, And Christian Fiction”, believing as I do that so many of us are ignoring clear passages of Scripture in order to make this a treatise on how to handle “gray areas.”

In all honesty, I don’t see why Christians can’t look at each other’s writing and conclude, So what? Just as long as Christ is being preached. OK, I could hear it from the abstainers before I’d finished typing the sentence: But they’re not preaching Christ. They admit it. They don’t even think they have to have good theology in their books. They’re sacrificing truth at the altar of art.

I submit that this position isn’t tenable. No one knows what God can or will use in someone else’s life or for what purpose. For example a story with some of “those words” may well bring a reader to the author’s Facebook page or blog where he will hear the gospel or at least interact with Christians.

At the same time, I can hear the accommodaters saying, YIKES! Preaching in fiction? That’s been the whole problem with Christian fiction and the very thing we’re crusading against!!!! (OK, maybe only two exclamation points. 😉 )

So what, I say. There are Christian brothers and sisters who have a different vision of fiction than you do. But aren’t we to be serving the same Lord? Aren’t we to have one purpose?

Not the same methods, mind you. It’s the whole feet-hands-ears-and-eyes argument showing that even the small and apparently offensive parts of the body are important and necessary. So why can’t abstainer writers simply look at the accommodater writers and say, there go those smelly old feet. I’m sure glad they’re trudging the mean streets for me. Or why can’t the accommodater writers say, there are those Bible-thumping hands. I’m sure glad they’re out there contending for the faith, even in stories.

The fact is, there are no winners in the Christian fiction writer wars. No winners. None. When we judge each other or treat each other with contempt, the Church loses. We are to love each other as a demonstration of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When we fail to demonstrate love for one another, we give the world the opportunity to discredit God’s name.

This does not mean we need to wave the white flag of surrender or that we need to find a position with which we can all agree. I suspect we won’t. This does not mean we should stop stating what we believe. Most of us have that right and freedom–thank God.

It does mean, however, that we refuse to fight with each other, that we respect those who disagree with us, that we stop treating them, even in subtle ways, as incompetent or inferior, either spiritually or artistically. It means that we make a decision to value our witness over our ideas about writing.

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