I'm savoring the new Raleigh Harmon novel. I've maintained that Sibella Giorello's Raleigh Harmon is one of the finest female characters in contemporary literature. Strong yet vulnerable, she's unique and psychologically deep and wounded. This is an excellent series by a truly gifted writer. You should start with the prequels and read all the way through the Raleigh Harmon Mysteries.
Father, please continue to bless Sibella. She writes emotional pain so well. If she carries it personally, I pray you would make her burdens light as only you can do. Encourage her, strengthen her, and keep her safe from all harm. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
BK Jackson got me thinking with her comment on Friday's post (What is it with sex?). She said in a question, "Maybe people who write don't KNOW how to bridge that gap between vulgar and non-existent or dry?"
Interesting concept. The reason being because some authors/writers appear not to know how to bridge that gap, others definitely want to maintain a wide gap and prefer non-existent sexual intimations in scenes where they would appear natural or authentic while still others want to push every titillating sexual button with their words and descriptions. Between the prudish and the vulgar, there should be an acceptable middle ground, but there is not. And I would venture there never will be. Those who prefer to use zero sexual words or references and those who write explicit sexual scenes have only one thing in common and that is story. How they set out to write the story purposely differs.
Inherently different in their approaches, they're appealing to totally opposite audiences. And any writer who's done any serious contemplation of their desired readers knows what they want from their audience and what their readers will want from them.
I cannot imagine why readers desire to read sexually graphic fiction. The only thing I've been able to come up with is for them to be able to fantasize the experience - to allow the explicit descriptions to virtually turn them on. If you have another reason, I'd love to hear it because apparently there are an abundance of readers who seek secular fiction for this purpose. If that's not the case, then why would they continue to read the enormous amount of literature with those scenes in them?
In the opposite camp are those readers who somehow have concluded that anything sexual or sensuous in literature is sinful and shame on the author who includes any mention of a sexual attraction or action. The market for those novels may not be as large as those who read secular/general market fiction, but they're a powerful lobby in Christian fiction and can find an ample supply of their purist novels.
If you're a reader and/or a writer, I'd love to hear your opinions on this topic.
Father, you created sex and mankind perverted it. You are the author of everything good and perfect, beautiful and trustworthy. And we pervert it all. Please forgive us, Lord, and help each of us who write to seek after beauty, truth, grace, and mercy with our words. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Okay. The title and picture are meant to titillate your interest. Make you feel compelled to read the article. How does it feel to be manipulated by sensationalism? Even though this is a legitimate question, let me quote a verse from the bible. For some readers, they're already rolling their eyes. "OMG, not the bible!" Yet, the OMG stands for Oh My God so why don't we hear what the Creator of sex has to say about it.
For this reason [Genesis 2:23] a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.
The man and the woman were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:24-25 NIV)
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 NIV)
Writing fiction requires authors to make critical decisions about interpersonal relationships in all genres. It doesn't have to be a romance - historical, suspense, or otherwise - for those decisions to contemplate a sexual agenda. How much if at all should sex play a part in the story, in the characters' relationships? Not much in most of Christian Fiction. Of course not graphic/explicit sex but even mentioning serious sexual attraction is often taboo at some publishing houses. In secular, or as the publishing world likes to call it: general market fiction, it's no holds barred resulting in written pornography by some authors. Do secular readers gloss over it, skip those passages, enjoy it?
If the success of the 50 Shades of GreySeries is any indicator, there are an enormous amount of women who enjoy reading about sex and even perversions of what the original act was meant to be. I have no reasonable explanation for this.
What sex was meant to be and what it's become in this world are as estranged as good and evil. This act was meant to be a merging of bodies, souls, and spirits in the purest form of a triad union. Pleasurable, beautiful, pure, and holy. Even Christians fail to remember the holiness factor where sex is concerned. God is not absent from the sexual union. But to see the utter pollution of this dynamic, explosive, and intimate act of two individuals becoming one physically, emotionally, and spiritually is of course a direct consequence of our sinful natures mixed with the destructive influences of the enemy of God's people: the devil himself.
As a Christian reader who spent 30 years in the world before meeting Jesus, I know the ugliness of sexual impurity. I also know the beauty of God's forgiveness. As a writer, I know sexual relationships can't be ignored in authentic fiction, but the portrayals of both kinds of relationships can be done tastefully without acting as if sexual tension or attraction doesn't exist. To write without that evident tension where it would normally appear is basically dishonest, but those stories definitely have their audience.
Preliminary musings . . .
Father, help us all to personally combat the corruption of this holy act of love, to honor, enjoy, and respect what you gave to us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Maybe the secular readers don't mind the excessive cussing and sex scenes or maybe they've just become used to it. Publishers shape readers. If a publisher decides a novel needs more of this and less of that, their editors comply and the novelist must decide how much they're willing to do and/or compromise. Most authors are willing to do whatever it takes to get their books published. Unfortunately, many good stories are cluttered with foul language and salacious sexual scenes. Mr. Hayman's novels fit this category. Very good stories not only cluttered but littered with garbage language and sex. I checked the Amazon reviews and there were only a few one-stars, but each of those complained about the language and sex, discarding the story because of their excesses.
It's said that the excessive use of profanity is a result of lazy writing. I would agree. Profanity is far more explosive when limited and its effects can be suggested with as much power as the actual use of the words. The inclusion of explicit sex scenes are generally unnecessary and create a type of pornographic element to the story.
Having said all that about Mr. Hayman's novels - and I've read three in this series - I think it's a shame that a writer as talented as he is in creating these mysteries with two interesting main characters in McCabe and Savage decides to muddy his stories with ugly language and voyeuristic sex. I really don't want to "hear", visualize, or read about other people's sexual escapades other than understanding they have them. Beyond that, it's just pornography.
Darkness Firstlets us see Maggie Savage up close. Takes us to her hometown, lets us meet her sheriff father, his wife (Maggie's mom passed away), one of her brothers (Harlan) - the black sheep of the family - and allows us to watch her work without McCabe until she finally calls him for assistance. A young woman visits Maggie's best friend Emily who is a doctor. When the woman can't get what she needs from Emily, she leaves but is discovered by the person from whom she's running. There's an horrific scene when he finds her, and when Emily steps outside to see if she can help, she's run down in the street by the same person.
The ongoing investigation in which Maggie can only peripherally assist takes some riveting turns in both the mysterious and the emotional involvements. People keep turning up dead with zero real evidence left behind but made to look like what it's not. Maggie's gut is telling her that all the "evidence" is not what it seems, and as the case progresses, there's a nagging suspicion of who the perpetrator is. When she turns to McCabe for help, he arrives to give her back up and the support she didn't realize she needed.
McCabe and Savage are well-developed characters and strong for each other, loyal partners. Their attraction to each other stays in the background most of the time but can't quite be ignored. Maggie is faced with a lot of emotional challenges on this trip back home besides the brutal murders and the injuries to her friend. McCabe is the strength she needs and counts on maybe too much. He wouldn't have it any other way.
With a satisfactory ending Darkness Firstpresents another good mystery - giving clues a little sooner as to the killer but stretching out how to catch this clever evil one.
Father, you know the hearts of us all. We can hide nothing from you. Please continue to give insights to James and lead him to yourself. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blow Up isn't well known in certain places. Filled with symbolism from start to finish, it's vintage 1960's "art". Rock 'n' roll buffs will recognize the great guitarists (Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck) and the late Keith Relf in the British group The Yardbirds performing in this clip from the movie. Blow Up debuted in 1966. I was crazy about this movie at the time.
Lord, only you know our hearts. Please keep drawing souls to your Son. We're all desperate for you whether we know it or not. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Waiting patiently - sort of - for Mitch Rapp's return. October!
Thank you, Lord, for Vince. And now for Kyle stepping into his writing skin to keep this larger-than-life character on the page. Thank you for inspiring him and giving him the stories to tell. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
A portion of the fifth chapter of my WIP, tentative title: Seeing . . .
They ate in silence, a covert solitude between strangers whose lives had intersected. Micah rarely had a companion traveling with him. In fact, it had been several years since his sister accompanied him on a quick day trip, and his pastor rode with him a couple of times in the last two years on day trips. This was something else entirely, and if he gave the specifics too much thought, they’d no doubt shake his resolve.
A woman living in his house. With him. How did this happen? So quickly. Didn’t matter. He had no real qualms about it, sensing this is what God had wanted of him. Strange as it might seem to others, Micah had given up on viewing occurrences as strange. His life reeked of strangeness. In order to handle it, he accepted the unusual, rarely questioning the oddities in his life.
“Why are you doing this?” Her voice was timid and sounded more like an echo bringing him out of his meditation.
“Because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Do you always do ‘the right thing’, Micah Jones?” There was a hint of a smile in her voice.
“Hardly,” he answered, glancing over at her.
Quiet filled the cab again. A voice barked over the CB, and Micah reached up to turn it down. The trucker was letting him know there was a “plain wrapper” up ahead. Micah checked his speed and thanked the other trucker.
“You’re a God person?”
Micah couldn’t stifle a laugh. “A what?”
“You know, like a Christian?”
“Oh. Yeah.” He smiled over at her. “Yeah, I’m a Christian—a God person.”
Her swollen lips formed a brief smile in the glow of the dash lights. “So you think I had this coming then? Like because of my many sins?” Her voice took a sarcastic turn.
“Of course not. Why would you say that?”
A long silence filled the cab.
“Isn’t there a saying like ‘You reap what you sow’ or somethin’ like that?”
“Yes there is, but it doesn’t mean that a guy gets to beat up on a girl. Rest assured he’ll get his.”
“You really believe he will?”
“I know he will. We might not get to see it or even know what happens, but there will be justice. Eventually.”
“Even if I hit him first?” Her voice was soft, and he sensed regret.
“I’m sure you had your reasons. Doesn’t matter anyway. He’s twice your size, and he’s a guy for cryin’ out loud. Anyone who justifies what he did to you belongs in jail right beside him.”
The miles led them on until Micah saw a motel sign in a town not too far from where he had to go to get his backhaul. He took the exit and pulled into the back lot where there were two other semis parked.
“I’ll get you a room for the night. I’m well out of hours and my eyes are burnin’. I’ll stay in here, but if you don’t mind, I’ll wash up in your room tomorrow morning.”
“You don’t have to pay for a room, Micah. I can sleep here in this seat.”
“Uh, no. I don’t mind, and you need to rest. Stay here, and I’ll go get a key.”
Father, thank you for every word. Every inspiration, idea, thought process, result. If anything I do is good, it comes from you. Apart from you, I can do nothing. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I decided to give Mr. Hayman a second chance because The Cuttingwas a good story - and would've been better minus an abundance of f-bombs and explicit sex scenes. So I purchased The Chill of Night and began reading. There were in fact less f-words, although certainly not a shortage of them, and not so many graphic sex scenes. It's important to note certain language and sexual references can be tolerated (by me) if the context presents no other alternative. I can't say this is the case with Mr. Hayman's first two books in this series. It seems that much of both is overdone and actually takes away from the good storylines leaving the reader feeling more like a voyeur rather than a participant in the search for the killer.
A frozen female corpse is found on the pier in her new BMW's trunk in January in Portland, Maine. When she's identified, PPD Detectives McCabe and Savage begin the search for her murderer. Is it her lover, one of the senior partners at the law firm where she works, the gay former priest who runs a halfway house for homeless teens, or perhaps her creepy landlord? Or is it someone else? How does the young woman suffering from schizophrenia fit into solving this crime? The extreme cold and snow of the Maine winter chills to the bone and seems to make everything that much harder for everyone.
Michael McCabe and Maggie Savage are great characters. McCabe drinks too much to cope with everything, is half in love with Maggie but is fully in love with his girlfriend Kyra while nearly hating his manipulative ex-wife for walking out on him for a rich man but more for abandoning their daughter in the process. McCabe has nightmares about his ex, often involving violence toward her. Maggie knows McCabe too well, appreciates him as a man, as a top detective, and especially as her partner. She's not afraid to expose his tendencies and face their conflicts straight up. The best parts of this series happen between McCabe and Maggie, their interaction and reactions, and listening in on McCabe's thought processes. Although we know more about McCabe than Maggie, Hayman gives us bits and pieces of her makeup and insights.
The Chill of Night depicts a bold killer who supposes he can get away with murder without being discovered but when he learns the police have actual clues as to his identity, he needs to dispose of the one providing those clues. The search, the cold, the confusion, and no shortage of suspects keep the guessing game going until close to the end. Again a good mystery which would be even better without the repeated f-bombs and unnecessary explicit sex.
Father, thank you for the abundance of talent and creativity you dispense so generously. Please lead those who use the gifts you've given them to yourself. Nothing is better than knowing you. Please bless James with a personal relationship with you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Most young ladies remember their first love. Good or bad, the memory lives. Some of those females end up with their first loves. Others discover that although the love held a treasure so rare and individual as to never be duplicated, it passed with time, events, and growth. Faded like a radiant sunset mesmerizing a gaze until there's simply nothing left to see but darkness.
Passion released, unguarded emotion, declarations of never ending love. All heartfelt. Intense. Romantic. Laughter and tears become the staples of surviving it. Words gush and fall into silence. Communication makes awkward attempts to explain feelings so confused and unexplainable.
It sometimes ends without closure. Hidden in secret memories. Rarely surfacing except when an aroma, a song, an expression sends those recollections bombarding a present with little room for the past.
First love no less real than the last love with its own memorial in the hearts of lovers.
Father, you are Love. We can only attempt love because of you, who you are. We fail at its perfection, trying to capture a glimpse of its purity but realizing we are stained by sin and incapable of the glory inherent in how you intended it. Forgive us for our impurity and selfishness. Thank you for the redemption you offer, the eternal Love that covers us in Jesus. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
As summer slides into its off-season, this lovely shot of a Weeping Willow sends my thoughts to the name of this beautiful tree. Its leaves and branches curve downward after sprawling up and outward. Like tears falling to the ground, someone captured the imagery in naming this tree.
With another year of marking the tragedy and terror of 9/11, there was much weeping on the 15 year anniversary of the attack against America. Great loss, great sacrifice, great sorrow accompany the date and remind a nation how quickly lives can be changed.
Little can be said that hasn't been said. Anger is not displaced. Sorrow dominates. Weeping continues.
Without God hearts will see only death and peril in this treacherous world and in spite of different speeches extoling hope and promise, the only One able to provide those is our One True God in His Son Jesus Christ. People can scoff at this assertion, even laugh it off, argue the conclusion, or insult the faith of us who believe. Those feelings and attitudes won't erase or even affect the Truth. God is. He cannot be mocked. Evil has its day, but those who follow after it will not have the eternity they seek - if they seek eternity. There is one truth. Not many. It's not man's truth - because without God all man has are lies, falsehoods, theories, and philosophies.
One of my favorite scriptures, so poignant for today, is Colossians 2:8. I always include it when I sign a book I've written.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (NIV)
Monday morning musings . . .
Father, only you can save souls. Only you can inspire us to pray for souls. Only you can draw those souls. Please, Holy Spirit, draw the lost to you. So many perish - not your heart's desire. Help them to see who you truly are. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."
ONE NATION UNDER GOD WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL . . . This is what the flag stands for. This is the country of the National Anthem. Imperfect in its population but not in its standards. Blessed by God because it was built on God's principles. To disrespect the flag is to disrespect all this country has strived to be. Yes, people have failed to live up to the standards on which this nation was built, but that doesn't weaken the principles. It shows the weakness in people who fail to base their lives on God's standards.
Father, forgive us. We've ruined so much of what you made beautiful. Please restore beauty from ashes. Please have mercy on our nation once again. We ask in the Name, Authority, and Blood of Jesus, Amen.
The lyrics are quite clever and seemed appropriate somehow. Hope you enjoy it. For the most part, I'm not a fan of 80's music, but this song is cool. Hope you like it.
Father, humanity fails to understand the majesty of who's really in charge. Thank you for rescuing me from myself. I love you, Lord. Help each one to realize who you truly are. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Let me give the disclaimer right from the start of this review. There's some graphic sex in The Cutting by James Hayman and too many f-bombs. There's also a reason I decided to order it for my Kindle, but I can't remember why. I'm fairly sure it was because of a Twitter reference and not anticipating the overkill (no pun intended) of sex and language (probably stupid on my part), I invested in the story. Nevertheless, for those who can ignore bad language and explicit sexual depictions, there is a real thriller here which definitely on the merits of writing and story could have survived without the graphics and superfluous ugly language. But, because of the language and sex, I can't in good conscience recommend it to most of you who follow this blog.
The story begins with a young boy committing an atrocity. We don't know who this child is, but we know he's not going to turn out well. (I almost quit reading after it.) Skip ahead to an ugly murder and mutilation of a young female in Portland, Maine. Sergeant Detective Michael McCabe and his partner Maggie Savage take the lead on the case, but the entire PPD is needed to search for the sadistic killer. Very quickly another similar victim disappears while doing her routine run before work. Is there a connection to the victim and the missing woman? When details of the murder surface from the Medical Examiner, McCabe finds there has been another case in Florida from some time ago. The skills of the mutilation imply this isn't just any killer.
Although this is much like a police procedural once the first victim is discovered and the second woman goes missing, there are peripheral interrelationships. McCabe is a divorced father of a 14 year old girl and has an artist girlfriend he's serious about; Maggie is single, playing the field, and a loyal partner to McCabe. The character development is very well done, the writing is good (with the exceptions of overdone graphics in sexual conduct and language). There is perpetual conflict, innuendo and twists, and more murders before the truth is discovered while time is running out for the missing woman.
The Cuttingby James Hayman is a solid thriller with a psycho villain partially hidden while McCabe and Savage try to figure out who, where, and why this killer is able to seize his victims and if they are somehow connected to each other. A very good story - just wish it could have eliminated the explicit sex and foul language.
Father, I pray you would remind James of who you are, that he would know you as you want to be known, that he would realize his gifts and talents are from you, generously given to him. Please bless him with your insights. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."
When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
The disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they cannot believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for awhile, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."
There are certain things you can expect in a Travis Thrasher novel. Music and film references, melancholy, sarcasm and snark, terrific authentic writing, twists, and truly good dialogue. Those are a given.
In 40 the protagonist Tyler Harrison is a music producer. His memories are structured around songs that document the time and place, the scents and sensual, the emotional responses to different events in his life. He's been given an ear for sound, a need to draw the maximum from the singers, and he pursues lofty goals in a business that affords few the opportunities to realize them.
Tyler experiences a supernatural encounter while at a Lollapalooza concert where he's surveying talent and hoping to find a unique gem of a band to produce. He's there with his studio co-workers and friends, wandering off to find a friend of a friend but instead encounters someone else.
This begins the journey of Tyler's life leading up to his turning 40. The story covers the period from the concert to his 40th birthday which takes place over about a year's time. There is excessive folly, stark remembrances of his father's hellfire preaching, a deep-seated rebellion which he acts out in the accepted norms of his career choice, regret he refuses to address, and a stubborn ill-advised series of reactions to spiritual knowledge imparted to him.
It makes for excruciating reading because you just want him to come to his senses so badly, but . . . There's an expression people often use referring to some having to hit bottom before they want change. Tyler Harrison cruises like a bottom-feeder across a vast ocean of disappointment and depravity, neglecting everything of value and importance while reflecting on how he's screwed up everything of value and importance. Life's a struggle carried on in his favorite music, recorded on his i-pod, somehow providing him temporary solace.
The supernatural occurrences are fascinating reminders to this reader of both This Present Darkness and Prophet by Frank Perettibut set apart from those novels with Travis Thrasher's own voice, settings, and interpretations.
I highly recommend Travis Thrasher novels to readers who appreciate good writing and the atypical approach to Christian fiction. He captures good and evil and in between in his characters enticing the reader to get involved with them, often establishing a love/hate relationship with many of them. In 40 Tyler Harrison's journey leads him away from himself to find where he was meant to go. 40will linger both during the breaks from reading it and after the final page.
Father, I pray you would continue to bless Travis' writing and the insights you inspire. Keep him and his family safe from all harm and watch over him as he writes to honor you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.