So what is it you're afraid to write? I'm not talking about topics - like constructing a spy thriller which might be what you love to read but have no contacts for researching such an expansive project.
I'm asking what do you consider your weakness? What scares you when you place your fingers on the keys and know the upcoming scene is keeping you from depressing any of those letters?
Is it authentic dialogue? Is it enticing character development? Is it an action-heavy scene or pacing the story? What are you afraid of when you know it's coming or perhaps before you begin?
Father, you give us our inspiration, our courage, our hopes, and dreams. You supply the talent and we do our best to orchestrate it. Help us to complete what you have for us to do. Lord, apart from you, we can do nothing. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Death, family, antiquated books, drugs, the love of horses, and empty lives collide in C. J. Darlington's latest novel Ties That Bind, published by Mountainview Books. Picking up with familiar characters from her past novels (Thicker Than Blood, Bound by Guilt), C. J. takes the reader on a search for belonging and redemption, both of which seem an impossible feat for her protagonist Brynn Taylor.
Brynn Taylor's mom's dying request was that she find her father and give him a chance. Her only guide to his possible location is a rare book she inherits with an inscription addressed to her from him. His name is Peter Williams, and in the back of this book is the name Edna Williams with a location in Elk Valley, Colorado. With her meager belongings and a five year stint in jail behind her, she sets out to do what she thought her mother asked. Her bitterness about having no one in her life since her mother ebbed away from cancer when Brynn was 17, knowing her inability to cope with losing her led to a downward spiral, Brynn hopes to renew her life by meeting a dad she's never known. What little faith she had in God plus her passion for painting passed away with her mother.
Through twists and turns in her journey, she meets the Williams' sisters, Christy and May, but getting the nerve to introduce them to her real identity amps up Brynn's old cravings for medicating her angst. Making it to May's ranch, she's readily accepted by the gentle old woman known as Ruth who co-owns the ranch with May and encourages her to trust the two women enough to tell them who she is. Ruth promises not to reveal her secret at Brynn's request. When Ruth hires her, much to May's surprise and annoyance since she can't afford her and doesn't really need her, it doesn't get past Brynn's notice, but her desire to please May weighs even heavier on her fragile shoulders.
The stark realities she learns about her father leave her even more empty and yearning for a real relationship with the Williams' sisters, but as all addicts do, she manages to find a way to secure some drugs and revisit that fake calm they incur until they wear off, realizing they'll just take her where she doesn't want to go.
C. J. weaves an intricate story of loss, addiction, recovery, and redemption through the lives of diverse characters and personalities illustrating how lives become entwined with or without our efforts. Showing hurting lives with and without Jesus, C. J. manages to make a way for her characters to mend not only broken down fences on the ranch but in relationships.
And for anyone who's ever loved a horse and made that once-in-a-lifetime connection with a special equine, there's something especially edifying - and tear-jerking if you're a sap like me - with the inclusion of a particular relationship between a young lady and a flashy mare.
All the different avenues of plot points in Ties That Bind do, in fact, come together and make for a quality story. C. J.'s clean and purposeful writing, some meaningful character sketches and development, combined with some good dialogue, provide a realistic tale of finding redemption, a place to call home, and amplify Brynn's mom's final instructions to her daughter.
Creston Mapes has a new novel out after a lengthy hiatus titled Fear Has A Name, published by David C. Cook, and it's the first in a series called The Crittendon Files.
Jack Crittendon is an investigative reporter in Trenton City, Ohio. He's been given the story about a local missing pastor, Evan McDaniel, who is projected to have left his church to run off with a wealthy widow member or to commit suicide because of his battle with depression. His wife Wendy is convinced her husband would never leave her and their three sons for any valid reason and is working with Jack to fill in every blank she can think of as to where he might've gone and why.
However, interrupting his investigation is the terrifying daylight break-in while his wife Pamela and his two young daughters are home. They manage to escape to the neighbor's house while the burglar gains entrance to the Crittendon's home and the police are called. Pamela and the girls briefly see the intruder before they dash next door.
Precautions are taken, Jack is given leeway at work, and they assume the invasion was a one-time event until further discoveries and occurrences bring back school memories for Pam of who the thief might be.
At the crux of this story are the spiritual conditions of individuals who've experienced different origins and how they've been affected by those experiences. Jack is the model Christian man until his family, particularly his wife, is threatened by someone from her past. The fear that he won't be able to protect his family turns into a rabid hatred with a violent bent. Pamela has always clung to the spiritual strength of her husband until she's forced to put that reliance directly upon God. Evan McDaniel thought he knew God well until he became so overwhelmed by everything he experienced at his church, he's convinced God doesn't care anymore so neither does he. The man who breaks into the Crittendon home is looking for a link to something meaningful in his life but knows he's deluding himself. Having been through horrible parental abuse in a totally unloving home, he only remembers one person in his life who's shown him any concern.
In the midst of extreme weather conditions in the physical, emotional, and spiritual realms, the climactic results of these intertwining lives conclude with a valuable resolution without satisfying all of the characters. The overall story ties in nicely at the end.
Regarding the co-protagonist Jack Crittendon, I like the reporter Jack Crittendon because he's savvy, kind, not overbearing, insightful, and good at getting information. I really don't like Jack Crittendon the Christian/husband. Fear makes him oppressive and hateful, full of vengeance. Now maybe this is a man thing, but clearly Jack needs to tone down his battering ram ego. I get the over-protective thing under the circumstances - totally natural and understandable - but the hatred and turning off the God dial as if He's a radio that can be tuned in or out, I don't like Jack in the flesh. (But, hey, I don't like myself in the flesh either.) And it takes a drastic measure to get Jack off his high horse. We are left in the lurch as to what has given Jack his rage factor but further enlightenment as to his character will no doubt show up in the following segments to this series.
Pamela is a conundrum for me. She's in and out of compassion, fear, wisdom, and lack of common sense. Her journey through her fearful escapade is both admirable and manic. Strong but vulnerable, air-headed but smart, she's a confusing character, and I didn't totally enjoy her.
Evan is the classic example of an individual in the depths of depression mixed with the taunting of the enemy. His battle is well written and well done.
The criminal, Granger Meade, is a mixed-up combo of high school angst, adult rage, self-loathing, and a perpetual victim with no end in sight for his wasted life. Vascillating between lucid kindness and demonic threats of violence, he's on the verge of losing it.
Creston enables the reader to hear all points of view from these characters, observing their reactions to the ever-increasing tests and trials presented to them. Spiritual warfare hides in the shadows of this story but is never directly addressed. It's Christian fiction from start to finish and CBA devotees will enjoy the faith elements in Fear Has A Name.
Father, you know Creston, the talents you've given him, and the direction you have for him. Please lead him in your ways everlasting and bless all of his efforts done to honor you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone - an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." [Paul]
If your characters aren't emotional, what are they? If you write thrillers, there better be some heavy-duty tension going on with those characters. Yes, we've all read of the psychopaths who exhibit serious control and rarely react except possibly in rage when something goes haywire, but if we create static characters short on emotions, well . . . not very interesting scenarios where they're involved.
As you all know, I love Vince Flynn's master CIA operative Mitch Rapp. One of a kind character who, as well trained as he is to handle every possible situation with control, he's a highly emotional man. If you want to get to the core of this character, read Consent to Kill - preferably in sequential order of this series to get the full impact.
I can write emotional scenes. I feel them in my bones. If I have no other writing strengths, I can do emotion. Now emotion won't get you a whole novel. But without emotion, you don't have a novel.
Father, you are the Author of emotion. We see it first in you. You've warned us that our fleshly emotions can't rule us, but you give us our passion. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Traditionally, these are two occupations we associate with manly men. There are multiple other jobs where guys excel at being guys and work to provide for their families. They come in all shapes and sizes, and some are soft-spoken while others are firey. Men being men. Confounding or romancing women. Just guys. Can never have enough of them.
My author friend Brenda Anderson did this post presenting possible gifts for men this Father's Day. Good selection. She and I generally prefer to read novels geared toward men and featuring male protagonists. Guess we just like guys.
God, your men have it tough in today's world. They're persecuted for their faith and values. They need your help everyday to remain who you designed them to be. Bless them for holding true to you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I love Dr. Harry Kraus' writing. I've been a fan of his for a long time. If he were my doctor, I might actually go once in a while. An Open Heart by Harry Kraus, published by David C. Cook, takes advantage of Dr. Kraus' African medical missions and surgical knowledge and plants the reader smack dab at the Kijabe Hospital where his protagonist Dr. Jace Rawlings, a celebrated heart surgeon, and his now deceased sister Janice were raised in Kenya as missionary kids. Jace hopes to start up a heart program for the local people in this place of bittersweet memories, thinking if he returns, he might be able to pay a debt of some kind or find a remedy for his immense guilt.
The problem with Jace is the bitter memories far outweigh the sweet, and they've taken a toll on his spiritual heart leaving it cold, dead, and closed to all the things that gave his twin sister her vibrance and confidence. If ever there were two twins who represented the lost and found, it would be Jace and Janice. And if ever there was a patient who needed spiritual open heart surgery, it's Jace Rawlings.
When Jace operates on the governor of his state and saves his life, the governor's attractive model wife takes a liking to her husband's surgeon. Jace denies the appeal of her attention to him after his wife Heather's objections but struggles with his attraction to her. After a fatal car accident which leaves the governor's wife dead with Jace injured, confused, and the subject of scandal, he begs his wife to go back to Africa with him because of some kind of vision he experienced immediately following the wreck - one he believes is from his dead sister beckoning him back to Africa where she is buried. His memory of the events preceding the accident are missing, and Heather isn't sure she believes him.
When Jace heads to Africa alone, his operating equipment is detained at customs, and his initial experience involves a goat, jail time, and the first evidence of supernatural interference. With politics dictating whether or not he will be able to retrieve his donated equipment, he faces the disdain of the head surgeon at the Kijabe Hospital who lives with the reality of unavailable blood supplies not tainted by AIDS and the lack of skills and finances to perform such surgeries at this hospital.
When political pressure inserts itself into Jace's life, he performs his first Kenyan open-heart surgery on a young woman from a ghetto town after securing two of his best assistants from back home. All goes well until she wakes up to deliver a startling message to Jace which he ignores and attributes to a drug reaction. However, when two other patients come out of surgery with equally disturbing messages, Jace begins to sense the spiritual drama playing out in his life over which he has no control. Fear begins to make a stark entrance into his hardened heart, reminding him of the powers unleashed on the "dark continent". He has no idea how much danger he's in until he has no choice but to see it face to face.
And in looking at that fear, he finally sees himself face to face, who he is, who he was, who he's become.
I've been told by people in the medical community that surgeons are a unique breed. Some aloof, some almost seeming sociopathic in order to make impartial and medically necessary decisions, they can be persistent perfectionists, structured and demanding. Dr. Jace Rawlings is a dedicated surgeon who fails to see the big picture if it doesn't exist outside of himself. He has moments of reflection but mostly he's defiant until humbled by circumstances he created. It's hard to hope for Jace because of his cynicism and consequently his self-absorbed attitude, but somehow Harry manages to keep just a hint of a tender heart visible in the man to keep us turning the pages.
Heather is equally unsympathetic. Taking on the full-dress of a woman scorned, she fluctuates between likability and self-righteousness. While her distrust and suspicions are understandable, she consciously decides to push her husband away before gaining the truth of his accident and his involvement with the governor's wife.
With two characters who stretched my ability to like them, I kept reading this story because of Harry's quality writing, his authentic depiction of Africa, capturing politics both there and here, showing acute spiritual warfare which is more visible there but certainly not any more active than here, the stream of background information supplied to add depth to the two main characters, and for a satisfactory conclusion I knew would eventually arrive. Sometimes you have to open a heart to see the problem, and then you have to fix it.
Another fascinating look into the medical and spiritual fields of endeavor, Harry Kraus creates An Open Heart to demonstrate the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the human heart and how to fix them when they're sick and damaged.
Father, please continue to bless Dr. Kraus as he alternates his practice in the USA and Africa where he serves you with his healing gifts and his writing. Meet the supply to enable him to do as you ask. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Retribution is Book Two in the Degrees of Darkness Series published by Crimson Romance Suspense for Winter Austin, and she cranks up the high-stakes in this outing. In her first release, Relentless, she introduced us to the secretive Cajun Detective Remy LeBeau and the red-headed dynamo barrel racer Cody Lewis. They're back with the angst and stubbornness that neither of them can resist in each other, and once again Cody's and Remy's lives are threatened by circumstances in Remy's past.
Remy's partner (Heath) at the Dallas Police Department is fed up with Remy's secrets as they pertain to the recent murder of an attorney. When the deceased's representative shows up with an envelope for Remy, he tries to smuggle it out of the station to discover what could be in it from a man he's never known. Hints of his past from New Orleans wiggle into his speculations, but he has nothing solid to indicate his presence in Dallas has been discovered by those who might want to kill him. Until he opens the envelope.
Remy's partner is a sleuth in his own right and accuses Remy of withholding evidence in the case, eventually going to the Lieutenant with his concerns. Remy is suspended pending an IA investigation and shortly afterward all hell breaks loose around him, Cody, and Heath.
The romance is hot and heavy in the shadows of the main story, Cody suffers from her episodes originating in the previous novel, and her low-key faith is tested. The climactic ending adds yet another mysterious character to the mix after exposing a few of Remy's secrets.
Winter's writing skills definitely suit this kind of novel and her voice is strong. For me, the romantic drama is a bit over the top with these two characters as they spar and fuss and struggle with internal and external conflict, but the plot is hefty and interesting. We learn more about Remy's past, but he's still hanging on to a few confidences as this story concludes. I'd rather he and his partner find a way to create a true partnership, but Remy still possesses all kinds of trust issues dictated by his past experiences.
As the story weaves in and out of New Orleans and what Remy left behind there, his past continues to break into his present and shows no signs of stopping. Having revealed portions of it to Cody and Heath, he keeps a tight hold on the rest of it, leaving some for the next book in the series which will no doubt usher in more murders from wicked characters. Some profanity and Christianity-lite in this novel.
A very good second effort in the series giving readers another quick, sassy, and entertaining read from Winter Austin keeping the passion alive in Retribution.