So many assume romance novels are trashy, shallow reads. Let's face it: some are. However, I have to wince when the romance novel takes the hit by this description. It's a sweeping generalization based on a specific form of the genre written to appeal to the baser escapist inclinations of certain readers - of which there must be plenty because "trashy romance novels" sell well.
But, romance novels can also be squeaky clean, scrubbed bare of any sexual references or admitted attractions. Or they can be more realistic without graphic instances of sexual encounters and portray spiritual upright storytelling. Those who don't read the genre often assume the worst from them because of the prevalent and infamous covers of those labeled "trashy".
I like to think - and say - I write love stories. The technical aspects of this clarification simply mean they tend to be longer than the typical romance novel with a less rigid formula. This designation isn't a rap against romance novels, it simply implies the lengthier development of characters beginning, pursuing, or involved in love and the relationships that follow. My stories always investigate the spiritual dimensions of characters without judgment and intentionally attempt to make each type of character authentic.
There's a segment of us Christian authors who do not write "squeaky clean" because our task is to bring a different focus to the relationships without bringing "the trash". We occasionally take criticism from the "clean and chaste" crowd for our work, and I'm sure if the readers who prefer the more risqué novels read them, they would criticize them from the other end of the spectrum.
Defending the romance novel doesn't gain a lot of traction, but a good romance novel will give readers a slice of life where love is featured through complex circumstances of human attractions and behaviors. Nothing wrong with exploring relationships in story form. Good romance novels demonstrate the vulnerabilities and emotional responses people feel and face when developing a meaningful relationship.
Unless of course it's a trashy romance novel . . .
Father, you're the author of romance, the definer of love, the administrator of relationship. Help us to dive deep into understanding what you have designed for each of us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Fascinating décor. I love the floor (it resembles ours) and the countertops, the wall surfaces, the high beams and windows, the stone. This kitchen fascinates me. I think perhaps they selected the lighter shade cabinets around the island to lighten up the room. Wow.
Father, all the different materials you provide along with amazing inspiration for the most common things and necessities. You're incredible, Lord. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." [Jesus]
Brad Thor's 2006 novel Takedown is just as potentially accurate today as it was then. A terrifying thriller filled with mayhem, conspiracy, betrayal, perversion, and bona fide evil, Takedown fills the pages with confusion and irrepressible frustration amidst the onslaught of terror in Manhattan and neighboring areas of New York City.
Scot Harvath and his former military buddy Bob Herrington meet to share a night of drinking and talking but before they can get rolling on their evening, all hell breaks loose. Explosions, bridges collapsing, utter chaos in Manhattan. They leave their establishment and realize the fear and panic is spreading as traffic stops in every direction. They don't know about most of what's happening around them, but they intend to find out. Unfortunately, they're getting little information from trusted sources, and their fuses are getting shorter and shorter as they see the devastation happening around them.
Bob has some former military associates at the VA who are ready, willing, and able to take up the cause of getting to the bottom of these attacks and what helps is they also have a credible stash of weapons to take up the call of finding the perpetrators of this highly organized attack.
Consulting with one another and finally getting some information from one of Harvath's friends in the middle of it all, five of them set out to find the terrorists and eliminate them. What they don't know when they begin their search is that much of the destruction is a diversion. The subplots along the way point to high level betrayals with access to insider information. Political excuses and namby-pamby responses are overruled by a president whose daughter has been directly affected by the terror going on in and around Manhattan.
If you get queasy over messy deaths, Takedown might not be the book for you, but if you appreciate the honest portrayals of terror and the utter demonic horde mentality of the people who can pull off these events, then Takedown will give you a clear picture of those behind these evil actions.
As expected, there is tragedy and pain in the pursuit of these killers and only a fleeting justice. Leaving the story with a shocking cliffhanger, Takedown presents a realistic picture of a well-planned terrorist event on a larger scale than the terrifying and tragic 9/11 orchestration - and with a dual purpose. Seeing the vicious level of terrorists and some politicians, the battle for power and the hypocrisy of those involved, all prove to be a huge struggle and a small victory for Scot Harvath in Takedown.
Father, you know the reality of evil better than all of us. You know the hearts of every one of us on planet earth. I pray you would continue to bless the writing of Brad Thor and provide what he needs to continue to give clear pictures of the reality of evil outside of you. Please keep him safe from all harm as he dares to expose real evil. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Available for pre-order, I'm anxious to read Kyle Mills'second effort at continuing the Mitch Rapp/Vince Flynnlegacy. Truly a great legacy of stories and a one-in-a-million character. So realistic and indicative of today's espionage and political environments and the dangers included in both.
Lord, you enlighten people and give insights to all - even when they fail to recognize you're the author of inspiration and the giver of every good and perfect gift. Anything good in this life is from you and because of you. Thank you for it all. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I'm re-running this review because I think everyone should read this novel. It's poignant, possible, and particularly pressing for people to be aware of their surroundings, who is near them, what they look like, what they're wearing. Not to accentuate the fear factor but rather to emphasize the more you see around you, the more you're aware of the plots and plans of our enemies, the better able you are to make a difference in this wicked world. Either you save yourself and others or you perish in crisis situations. Joseph Courtemanche knows what he's talking about. And with the recent San Bernardino and Orlando massacres, we need to be smart and aware. The Lord will give us insights and direction so we can do our part while we're here.
Valuable to reading this novel, it's important to note the information preceding the story. Knowing who Joseph Courtemanche really was and is will bring even more life to this bona fide thriller. Assault on St. Agnes is a very good novel from an author who's been there, done that. What takes place in this book has been a topic of much discussion in recent times from all counterterrorist groups in the USA. Joseph doesn't pull any punches in this story. We all know who the majority of terrorists are and we get a harsh and realistic picture of them in Assault on St. Agnes.
Bobby Kurtz "happened to be" visiting a Catholic church when all hell broke loose. He was messily extracted from the scene and plunged into something he didn't expect. Coerced into assuming a task that used his linguist skills and called on for his previous covert understanding, there's something going down during this snowy Christmas season in Minneapolis, and it can't be good.
Time pressures his new bosses and co-workers to stress Bobby's preparation. They realize terrorists are plotting something big, and they desperately need a lead. Bobby uses his past battle-worthy contacts and brings them in to help zero in on what it is all their overload of information is failing to capture. An off-hand comment from one of them about an in-law gives them that coveted hope for a break.
This thriller allows the reader to observe the vile and psychopathic makeup of terrorists motivated by demonic hatred and perversion while staying patient to make sure they can execute their grand plans of destruction upon the United States of America and its infidel inhabitants. The intense scrutiny of information studied and re-studied by those who secretly disseminate huge volumes of data in various languages reminds us how daunting it is to keep America safe.
Assault on St. Agnesgives us a unique hero with a brilliant brain, an obnoxious personality, a tender heart, but a savvy outlook on the natures of terrorists. High-intensity action, sharp dialogue, and tragic occurrences combine to make this thriller both realistic and meaningful. Highly recommend Joseph Courtemanche'sAssault on St. Agnes.
Father, I pray you would continue to bless Joseph as he constructs more life-like tales. Give him what he needs to write those stories you have just for him to tell. Bless his work as he gives all the glory to you. Keep him and his family safe from all harm. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
A cabin kitchen in the country, I'd say. Cute. Not big enough outside of a cabin. Love the cabinets (look a lot like mine) and island top. The countertops look very similar to mine too. Interesting touch and color of the painted wood (shabby chic?) on the island drawers and cupboards.
Lord, you give designs and imagination, dispense beauty and hope. Thank you for your beauty in the land of the living. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
He [Jesus] also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
The world has gone mad. But it isn't just lately. It started at The Fall of Man. Okay, you say, I don't buy it - that Adam and Eve thing. Okay. Then if this grand cosmic experiment, that Big Bang, the ooze of amoebas, have failed to produce human beings who don't hate, don't practice violence, don't seem to be evolving into those robotic, enlightened perfect human beings even after the convenience of millions or billions of years of conjecture, I'd say those theories are a disastrous bust in explaining human life. And apes remain!
Silence is a misused commodity. We keep quiet when we shouldn't and make silent noise instead. Silence can be "golden", but it can also be cowardly and lazy and unjust.
There is sin in this world. Rampant, on the increase, and leading to a gruesome conclusion on planet earth. And it certainly won't be due to climate change by mankind. The Lord God Almighty is going to be the only One heating up the earth into a raging display of destruction.
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth - God and Magog - to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.(Revelation 20:7-10 NIV)
So I'm just going to say it: Jesus died for you. Yes, you. And me. And every single human being born throughout the history of mankind. He did it because when given perfection, our ancestors couldn't stand prosperity and were deceived by the devil who'd tried to best God and of course failed miserably. Nevertheless, God had given him free will just as he did those humans he created, just as we now have. So the devil succeeded in his deception of Eve and Adam threw her under the bus but in reality blamed God for not only her ability to be deceived but for his inability to stop her, instead joining her in the sin. Sound familiar to the human race? Does to me.
So anyway, Jesus came to earth because God is Love (1 John 4:16) and that "love" word goes way beyond what humans think love is. Jesus is supernaturally God and died a brutal death, crucified, sin-less, the only sacrifice holy enough to redeem humans. When He was resurrected from that death, anyone, yes, anyone, can accept that His sacrifice paid for their sins and they can decide to follow the Lord through this life all the way to heaven with the Holy Spirit's help. Yeah, it sounds cray-cray to some of you. It's not. And if you dare to choose Jesus, talk to Him, investigate His reality, you will find this amazing account is true. You will be glad to repent. You will be saved. You will be better, not perfect like He was and is, but you will be a better human being because of Him helping you see the differences between good and evil.
I lived in the world and heard a lot of its garbage for 30 years, participated in what it offered, even believed some of it. Boy. Was it ever a crock of you-know-what. And still is. There is One who loves deep, will save us from ourselves and sinful ways, and reward us with an eternity in the perfection we've never known and can't have without Him.
But, it's our choice, our decision. I'm not staying silent here. This blog is worthless without the Lord and His blessings. So, take it or leave it. Take Him or leave Him. But know this:
Jesus answered, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me."(John 14:6)
Father, if even one person reads this and ponders your Son . . . well, you know the outcome. You save us. We certainly can't save ourselves. We're desperate for you as the ugly destruction spreads. We plead for your mercy. Just a while longer, Lord. Let us see your beauty in the land of the living. Help us to not be silent when you ask us to speak. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I loved this group and this song. America produced some wonderful, albeit typical, early 70's tunes. This was one of my favorites. Thanks to Ken Kuehne, my Facebook friend for posting it. A few years after this song, one of their singers met Jesus. Hope he's still walking with the Lord.
Father, thank you for the talent you give. The beauty of all that you do is evident in so many things and people. Thank you, Lord. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
So. Who is the audience for Christian Fiction? Not an easy answer for this question precisely because of the problems we've discussed in Part One and Two. The obvious answer is Christians. But that's not complete enough because oddly it doesn't include many Christians who've abandoned the overall genre due to the restrictive choices of some publishing houses.
Some of those Christians who've abandoned Christian fiction have been gone for a significant time which means they haven't known some of the more current exquisite authors (i.e. Robert Liparulo, Steven James, Tosca Lee, Sibella Giorello, just to name a few who don't write in the romance or women's fiction genres). Some of these readers have said the writing in Christian Fiction is inferior to that in the general market, but that depends on who you read in both markets. Those listed here match up to anyone writing in their specific genres. Their prose and storytelling is indisputably well done.
Other Christians who've abandoned CF have done so because of the formulaic stories and inauthentic versions touching difficult subjects. Reality often dictates a harsh, stark, jarring account of situations and characters. In the "clean and chaste" versions of CF those types and that kind of depiction are noticeably absent. It's not that the difficult subject matter isn't in evidence but instead of the grit and edge that those topics sometimes demand, there are often high-drama emotional responses without any misfit language or terms, or there is the calm, Christian-ese response by someone in authority (i.e. a pastor or priest).
Recognizing I've made a generalization here, there is one constant in the clean and chaste novels and that is predictability which can often give way to formulaic story writing. If writing in the romance genre, there is a specific formula. However, if following that formula in turn presents predictability in the third chapter leaving the reader with 31 more to go, that creates boredom. And boredom is the reason some Christians have deserted CF, often missing out on good authors in the indie realm of publishing.
Let me tell you why I read mostly and write exclusively Christian Fiction. I spent 30 years of my life without Jesus Christ. I believed in God but didn't know how to find His Son. I experienced the secular philosophy, worldview, and lifestyle. It's ugly. I want no part of it. I understand it better than most Christians who've had the privilege to be raised in the church. It gives me both a measure of compassion and the same measure of contempt for those who languish in secularism or stay comfy in the church life. I write about it from both sides because I've lived it, felt it, known it, understood it, until the Savior of the world rescued me. That is why I write the way I do. Because the reality of the world is sometimes ignored by those in the church. Shunned, misunderstood, all under the guise of wanting to see souls saved without getting their hands dirty. Of course not all churched Christians are like this, but when you read the legalistic one-star reviews and hear the condemnation from those readers, you see why there are complete misunderstandings about who Jesus is.
It seems that Christian publishers stepped backward when the now-constant recession hit the economy. They began producing "safer" literature they knew they could sell. Unfortunately for the more authentic-seeking readers and writers, "safe" produced a vanilla grouping which pleased a select bunch that apparently keeps the publishers afloat, although several of the Christian publishing houses have sold their businesses to larger secular conglomerates who promised to keep the CF lines open. In publishing the "safer" fiction they alienated many Christian readers who looked elsewhere for their material, seeking authenticity and variety. As I said before, some of them left early and missed out on tremendous talent in the CF ranks, but others left later, disappointed in not finding what they hoped to read with a Christian worldview.
Most businesses are always seeking ways to improve their product, reach more customers, and to keep growing. I would have to say the publishers in Christian Fiction proved to be just the opposite and have settled for the smaller numbers that keep the presses printing but add few new readers because of their rigid standards - which many of them don't adhere to in their private reading.
Father, you are the One we need to follow and please. It's all about you. Not us. Please help each one of us to be true to you in everything we do. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." [Jesus]
So. How did Christian publishing become what it is today? All we really have from authors like myself are opinions. Lots of them. When I was introduced to Christian Fiction, it might've started before Frank Peretti'sThis Present Darkness, but that's what started Christian Fiction for me. His blockbuster duo of TPD and Piercing the Darkness hooked me to his work but also to exploring what Christian bookstores were offering instead of the typical general market fare which offered little hope, morality, or conscience.
Those two Peretti novels, bold and brash for their time, turned out to be a huge success for both author and publisher. Believers and unbelievers alike were challenged and awed by these stories and depiction of spiritual warfare. Few novels of those days made such a crossover impact without even trying. Powerful in their storytelling and definitely Christian in their theology without apology, Peretti ignited and set the stage for Christian Fiction.
Although we've "come a long way, baby" in years of Christian writing with many successful and talented authors published by various Christian houses (successful and talented not necessarily synonymous), I can't help but wonder if the evolution has been as good as it could've, maybe should've, been. What does it say about CF when many of its editors and other professionals primarily read general market material? And knowing that, why are the restrictions and requirements of some Christian publishers so rigid?
The answer to that seems simplistic. There are some very loud and proud Christian readers who demand their versions of "clean" stories and threaten with ultimatums to "never read another book from so and so" if they don't quit publishing such objectionable material in their fiction. It's a catch-22. The publishers have created this mode of story-telling and the readership they've generated who keep the coffers full demand they kowtow to their expectations. If they deviate from the expected norms, they hear about it. I'm not casting blame on any publisher who wants to make the maximum profit from their businesses. However, what they've ushered into the domain of Christian Fiction are inflexible readers with unvarying tastes who aren't afraid to voice their displeasure in somewhat mean-spirited one-star reviews on Amazon or elsewhere.
Some areas of Christian Fiction remain stagnant. Predictable, formulaic, routine. Certainly not all of it. There are some fabulous writers of Christian novels in all genres. Talent galore. Some have had to go the independent route to write in the genres of their choices (i.e. sci-fi, fantasy), and others, like me, have had to choose self-publishing in order to write the way they prefer.
Some exceedingly talented Christian authors have been dropped from mainstream Christian publishers after a few books, leaving many of us wondering why. These were exceptional writers with excellent stories. Good reviews. It was hinted that their stories might've been a bit too edgy. Considering the depth and value of their writing, it was impossible to accept that reasoning.
There's more to this. Part Three will follow.
Father, we're all desperate for you. We need to obey you above all else. We need to use the talent/gifts you've given each one of us for your glory. Help us all to do that. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Over the years of doing this blog I've written and conducted many discussions on Christian publishing. Several years ago, I asked professionals in publishing, authors - published and unpublished - and some editors to describe their opinions of Christian Fiction. We've talked about the requirements and rules for getting published in this market, the dissent and rebellion to those demands, and then we've commented on the overall product both past and present.
What's interesting in today's marketplace is the new avenue foisted upon the publishing world by the e-readers headed by Amazon's Kindle versions. These devices opened up the publishing realm to a rush of indie (independent) authors/publishers who specialized in creating the formats for the various e-readers. Those indie publishers often consisting of authors who simply do it all themselves with their tech-savvy skills, hire a cover designer or are creative enough to design one themselves, do all the little extras that must be accomplished before making their work available as an e-book and eventually, if they choose, a POD (print on demand) volume. Reputable "self-publishing" houses have offered to produce novels for e-readers and/or print, some offering a higher percentage of revenue to the author than traditional publishing houses.
That way a writer can include previously taboo words (i.e. hell, damn, breast, etc.) without having to eliminate them because they are "offensive" to a publisher's Christian audience. Note that I'm not talking about the commonality of four-letter words found in much of secular/general market publishing. I'm talking about the words that contribute to a character's definition, description, and demeanor. Real words that inhabit the conversations or exclamations of real people.
So how did Christian Fiction become what it is? I don't have the answer(s) to that, but tomorrow we'll talk about it.
Father, you love us all in spite of us. You give us purpose and direction if we will only follow you. It's not easy for us, but we need to do what you desire of us because it's the best - even if we can't see it that way. Thank you for loving us anyway. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Johnny Depp has been in the news of late accused by his wife of 15 months (girlfriend and fiancée for a few years) of drug/alcohol addiction and emotional and physical abuse. As ugly as divorce can be, this one has become one of "those". It's no secret to my friends that Johnny Depp is my all-time favorite actor, but it's been evident in recent times (actually since he and the mother of his two children split up) that he has regressed in his choices for films, excluding this one. There is usually some truth to accusations by combatting couples, but often they are exaggerated or stretch the truth. Whether or not the ones made by Amber Heard are in fact real, Johnny needs help. If these are fabricated, Amber needs help. The sad part is these two proclaim to be atheists. That would explain some of this unhappy situation.
Lord, you've heard my prayers. I pray they were enough. Only you save souls. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
This is a similar floor plan to another kitchen most of us liked. I love this floor and the way it blends with the wood - or vice versa. White countertops could present problems over the long term, but it does look nice with this floor and wood. I do wish we could see the rest of the kitchen, but for a narrower (not small) kitchen, this looks like a nice layout.
Father, thank you for skills, imagination, inspiration, and the beauty you share. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners', expecting to be repaid in full. Bu love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
Here ya go, rustic kitchen lovers. Is this gorgeous or what? I could do without the pot rack or whatever it is hanging up there, but other than that, this is beautiful. Love the window frames, and the wood cabinets are similar to ours.
Father, thank you again and again for the surviving beauty in creation. You are behind all of it. Thank you, Lord. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Grace in the Flames by Michelle Massaro is the novel of this author's heart, perfected over a period of several years before its publication. The story reflects the three main characters in tragic, trying, and troubling situations and tracks their reactions to each of the trials in their lives.
John Douglas faces unmitigated and sudden tragedy in his life and spirals downward, blaming God and refusing to turn to Him for any kind of comfort.
April Johanson has never had it easy, not even once. Striving to find something stable in her life after running from trouble, she doesn't see any help in her world and never considers God.
Jenni Dupont carries a burden for the deaf and ministers to children with hearing deficits. She signs and sings with the worship team at her church. Her youthful experiences left literal scars, but a friend showed her how Jesus could help. She's been walking with Him ever since. Her mom does not embrace the Lord and pressures Jenni to find a guy and settle down.
Grace in the Flames intersects three lives creating turmoil for each of them. Recovering, regrouping, rejuvenating, and responding to the relationships and circumstances God orchestrates produce an outcome none of them could have anticipated. There is some melodrama, some over-the-top emotional reactions, but each character rises above their unique and difficult challenges in due time. To fill in the blanks of the trauma the three characters face would reveal too much of the story.
Michelle Massaro's novel presents three different perspectives for facing dilemmas that require forgiveness, acceptance, and sacrifice. She captures the difficulty of accomplishing the full measure of what God asks us to do when we least expect drastic changes in our lives. Grace in the Flames is a story of three individuals who somehow manage to set aside their plans for their lives to accommodate what God has designed just for them.
Father, please continue to bless Michelle's life and career, helping her to write the stories you have just for her to tell. Encourage her and keep her and her family safe from all harm. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.