In today's society, it's impossible to ignore social media. It can be minimized, but it's hard to completely eliminate it. If you're an author, you're encouraged to engage certain activities within the social media world. Some writers choose a boatload of sites before they eventually start reducing some of them.
I started this blog years ago because two different people online at sites I visited suggested it. Neither of those people still visit this blog. I do Facebook and Twitter, although basically on Twitter I just post links to this blog. I visit a few other blogs - many less than I used to - and currently I'm content with what I do. I'm privileged to guest post at Novel Rocket once a month. Although I've signed up at Goodreads, I rarely go there.
How important to you is participating in what social media has to offer?
Father, we can overload on so many things and easily be distracted from you and what you have for us to do. Please help me not to do that. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
One current popular phrase used to describe relationships, work situations, and just about anything that makes normal things harder than they should be is, "It's complicated". No kidding. Life is filled with complications. Snags, hardships, busy-ness, illness, failure to communicate. All kinds of circumstances contribute to those elements of confusion and chaos in our lives.
For a fiction writer, those "complications" serve a twofold purpose. Number one, we're charged with identifying and portraying them in realistic ways in entertaining stories. The second "purpose" is the tough one. It's the equalizer - the complication of words refusing to exert themselves and land face up on the page. Writing breaks are normal occurrences, but writing famines are . . . complicated.
Some authors never face the writing drought. Others gaze into the maw of wordlessness in frequent junctions. It's scary. And complicated. Because the solution varies from writer to writer, there's really no "for sure" cure.
Sometimes the results of returning from the abyss of silent words can be exhilarating. Other times, the results are spotty, sparse, and intimidating. Will they return in force or will we be forced into a wordless unwanted retirement?
In life's maze of complications, writer's "block" is small compared to many other difficulties people face daily, but in the midst of it, a writer is faced with trusting whatever or whoever inspires him to return to his craft. For a Christian, we know who gives us what we need for every area of our lives. Heaven help the unbeliever facing the writing complication.
God, we're all desperate for you. Thank you for words and stories. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
We join Gwen Marcey in this second novel post breast cancer and out of work. She's a forensic artist who's suffered a messy and particularly hurtful divorce during her battle with cancer, and job gaps make everything tough. When her dog Winston comes home with a skull and leads her to a nearby deserted homestead in the woods where she finds a tortured young girl on the verge of death, she is suddenly employed once again by her friend and Sheriff Dave. However, an incident with the sheriff's cell phone at the crime scene causes the Missoula sheriff to take over the investigation with a competitor forensic artist who Gwen taught everything he knows. Just as quickly, she's unemployed again.
Gwen is never satisfied to be on the bench during an active investigation especially when the previously murdered girl whose skull Winston found and the recovering young victim (Mattie) in the hospital both look very similar to her daughter Aynslee. However, her efforts to find out who's doing this lands her in a boatload of trouble with Dave.
Adding to the chaos, a group of white supremacists are staging a parade through town, and the sheriff is scrambling to put enough people on patrol. Gwen's best friend Beth, a research guru, provides detailed information on the group and helps Gwen connect some vague dots in the case. When Gwen, Beth, and Aynslee concoct a plan to see Mattie in the hospital, everything that can go wrong does.
Carrie gives us a vulnerable woman in Gwen who fights bitterness over her divorce, works hard to continually prove herself, bravely tackles impossible circumstances to protect and rescue her daughter, and endures humiliation to accomplish hard goals while struggling with her faith. Her life isn't easy and frustration follows her around, but her strong will enables her to persevere and regain those things which are most important in her life.
If you enjoy the mysteries of forensics, out of the ordinary storylines with mysterious villains, you'll certainly enjoy Carrie Stuart Park's two novels A Cry from The Dust and The Bones Will Speak. There's a wealth of unique information in them and building suspense that turns to intense action toward the end.
Father, please continue to provide for Carrie's every need while blessing her body, soul, and spirit. Inspire her, assist her in her storytelling, and may she feel your pleasure as she writes in obedience to you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Five things most people enjoy, but I rarely or never do:
Ice cream- I eat it once in awhile. (Favorite flavors: B&R's Pralines and Cream; Daiquiri Ice)
Popcorn - Rarely eat popcorn.
Pepsi - Never drink Pepsi. I'm a Coca Cola girl.
Coffee - Never drink coffee. Love the smell, hate the taste. (And I come from a long line of coffee drinkers.)
Bread - It's not like I don't ever eat bread. I do, but I'm not big on sandwiches or eating bread with a meal. My dad had and my husband has bread with his meals. And I only eat certain kinds of bread (i.e. sourdough, French, Dave's Killer Bread Good Seeds).
Father, you love variety. You gave us our individuality and a plethora of wonderful things to choose from. Thank you for it all. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The first time he looked over the half-empty pitchers of beer on the rectangular rough-hewn table and past the cheeky smiles and loud laughs of the men seated there, he caught a glimpse of her pulling the tap lever while smiling across the counter at a kid he’d swear was under 21. Immediately his mind drove straight to the recollection of how long since he’d been with a woman and parked there.
Not much of a drinker anymore he’d agreed to accompany his coworkers on this Friday night macho session simply because he knew the drill. His construction buddies wanted to christen the new guy with the camaraderie of drunken manhood, share a few more crude jokes, flirt with the barflies, and assert their praiseworthy abilities to hold their liquor. Only one of the group was married, but it didn’t slow the guy down in the beer chugging or flirtations, though he didn’t seem serious with the teasing and the girls didn’t take it so.
He felt the beer gaining momentum along with the usual accompanying bravado, one of the primary reasons he’d decided to leave drinking behind for the most part. The crazy stuff was far back in the past, but the tendency to strut, which he buried when sober, always seemed to display itself like some posing peacock if the alcohol gained any authority in his bloodstream. As his eyes locked onto her, that rebel urge surfaced in full peacock hue. He grabbed a couple of the near empty pitchers and sauntered up to the bar placing them on the counter beside the youngster’s barely touched glass of dark brew.
“Refills, please.” He kept his voice level in spite of the noise, not wanting to appear as shouting his instructions. She hadn’t seen him until then, and the feathers felt full and mighty fine when she looked into his eyes because he caught the fleeting surprise in hers which he was sure ended in a blush concealed by the low lights of the bar.
“Yes, sir.” She emphasized the “sir” and gave him a sideways smile, fully recovering from her emotional lapse at what he assumed—or rather—hoped was a pleasant view for her. She filled the two pitchers, and he paid for them with a $20 tip. She started to protest, but with a slight tilt of his head he stared her into submission. She pushed it into her black jeans’ pocket, a bit flustered.
“Thank you,” he said and walked back to the table full of raucous high-fiving guys beginning to feel their beer. After he sat down to a couple of good-natured shoulder shoves, he looked back to catch her watching him. It felt good to be a man at that moment. He gave her a subtle smile before she turned away.
Father, thank you for inspiration and words. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Okay, is anyone else dissatisfied with the ridiculous turn of events in the series this fall? I could roll with it if it was a three-part story, but to carry on like it's a mere separation without attending to the supposed reason for initiating it leaves me baffled and disappointed. If the writers have run out of ideas since marrying them, if the thrill is gone, then shut it down and say farewell. I don't get it.
Father, may they know your Son. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
For Vince Flynn fans, The Survivor couldn't get here soon enough - but then there was also that underlying sense of dread. No one could be Vince Flynn. Would Mitch be Mitch? Irene, Irene? Stan Hurley? You get the idea. So it is with both some reservation and glee that I admit Kyle Mills took on a huge task in contracting to continue Vince's epic tales of Mitch Rapp, counterterrorism, the CIA, and killing bad guys, and, while not actually duplicating Vince's writing and voice, Kyle Mills came very close. Close enough to make the interminable wait for the next installment seem way too long - just like it did when Vince would release his latest Mitch Rapp novel.
The Survivor picks up where Vince's final book The Last Man left off. A rogue operative Joe Rickman, who Director Irene Kennedy describes as brilliant but troubled, is trying to destroy the CIA and Irene Kennedy from the grave. And Pakistan's new ISI director wants the information Rickman is dispatching from an encrypted email service via a law firm in Switzerland and will send his assistant anywhere he must to get it.
The storyline, complex, historical, loaded with information, reminds me of a few of Vince's 14 novels where it was necessary to do fill-in facts to accentuate why certain actions were required. Other characters, good and evil, are allowed to develop their misguided plans for the reader's purview. Although this is a method Vince used and Kyle does it well, the obvious strength and attraction in these thrillers is Mitch Rapp so when the story veers away from him for any length of time, occasionally it drags. Not badly and not for long.
Irene and Mitch must put significant pressure on their world-class hacker Marcus Dumond to find how, who, and from where the information is surfacing. The Pakistani's gained a head start under the new direction of the ISI, a man who's fooled most everyone, including the president of Pakistan, by his deferential act, but he's a ruthless killer who wants to bring down America and rule the world with Sharia Law.
Readers will mourn the loss of a favorite character, will follow Mitch and his team (Scott Coleman and friends) to Switzerland, Rome, Russia, and Pakistan in between brief stops at Langley. The pressure to obtain this list Rickman is exposing name by name, forces difficult operations with less planning than is satisfactory to both Rapp and Irene.
In The Survivor Mitch does some serious soul-searching, trying to evaluate his life at 44. He's tired of living in the past, in that sense of mourning, believing he can't revive the kind of life he experienced with his deceased wife Anna but wanting to somehow move forward. To exactly where he's unsure. He always has an exit strategy, but he's not even sure of it. The way Kyle captures Rapp's mental state rings true.
In The Survivor he's still the same Mitch Rapp, a little older, a little more impatient when patience was never his strong suit anyway. There's action, a familiar hated nemesis, despicable politicians, always a new enemy, and a lot of globetrotting.
Vince Flynn created the larger than life character of Mitch Rapp and put him in epic circumstances with authentic writing. No one did it better than Vince. He is missed.
KyleMills took on the gargantuan challenge and survived it! He captured the Rapp we've loved and continued the amazing portrait of Irene Kennedy. He's to be commended for his work on The Survivor. I look forward to his next effort to continue the legacy of Vince Flynn and to share in his grand telling of the CIA's deadliest operative Mitch Rapp.
Father, please continue to bless the writing of Kyle Mills, and please give Vince a hug from all of us who are devoted to the work he did. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
As we become adults, we choose who we are. Will we mirror others or will we strive to be the one we discover is the real us? Are we an original or are we a copycat? Peer pressure can push us at early ages and beyond if we allow it. It always helps to have someone urging us to be honest, to express ourselves and our passions but with courtesy and consideration. Guidelines set a tone for how we conduct our lives.
For believers, we must study our Savior and attempt to emulate his character - although ours will always fall short and remain flawed. Nevertheless, we continue to purge ourselves of our innate selfishness, bad habits, particular faults, and we understand how difficult it is and will remain. We also grab hold of the fact we were designed to be our best us. This Creator had supernatural attributes in mind when he "knit us together" in our mother's wombs. We're no accidents. Even if and when we feel like we are.
Acknowledging that we are individuals, unique in many ways, we are also humankind and prone to similar behaviors in many circumstances. We exhibit gene traits from those who contributed to our DNA. Brothers and sisters often favor one parent or the other and can also be a near-perfect blend of both. Some identical twins possess an uncanny ability to feel each other's pains and thoughts and sense each other's distress when in separate locations. The amazing but stained human race enduring life on planet earth.
As a writer, I work for authenticity. I desire to capture the nuances of behaviors and underlying needs present in people. I hope my characters portray life in the most real sense of living it. Since I primarily author love stories, I want the reading experience to be visceral, to capture the inherent need for love, and the ingrained struggle with sin. If the story is too tidy, it won't be real to me. Life is not neat and clean. Even for those who embrace Christianity. Even for those who want so desperately to be like Jesus. Failures of all kinds can reflect on our faith and increase our despair. Life is tough. People hurt. They get angry. They blame God. They want to quit. All of these situations are pertinent to story, to relationships.
As a person, I try to be an example of "what you see is what you get". In other words I'm not trying to deceive you. I may be quiet or boisterous depending on my surroundings and the company I'm keeping. I don't trust easily and am suspicious by nature. I will give my loyalty when someone's earned it, and I won't pull it back. I care and feel deeply. I am who God made me. He didn't create the flaws - I was born with them. They haunt me sometimes by the minute. Like my tagline states: Passionate, right or wrong. That's me. Grateful for the Lord's rescue. Grateful for each of you, my friends. Grateful. Period.
So. This is my Friday meandering.
Father, bless those who seek after you and desire to be the one you designed them to be. Help those who've fallen back through broken dreams and ugly circumstances. Encourage as only you can and demonstrate your everlasting love for them. Prosper our spirits, Lord. We're all desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I’ve been reading Christian fiction (defined by me as fiction marketed toward a Christian audience) nearing forty years now. For the majority of those forty years of reading, I’ve had multiple choices to pick from. My to-read list once was pages long, but now, it’s dwindled down to half a dozen books.
Unlike many long-time readers of Christian fiction (CF), I wasn’t introduced to CF with Christy by Catherine Marshall, but rather with a little-known series by John Benton. Benton’s young-adult books, published in the 70’s and early 80’s were centered around the rough sides of life: teen runaways, prostitution, mental illness, etc. I loved seeing God working miracles in those broken lives.
Today, my reading habits haven’t changed much. Give me stories about broken, messy lives, and I’ll read about God at work. Love it! The problem is, finding those stories is getting tougher. Ginny Yttrup writes them, but after her publisher closed their fiction line, she went indie. Kellie Coates Gilbert’sMother of Pearl was very gritty, and her Texas Gold series isn’t your typical Christian fiction. But finding other authors like Ytrrup and Gilbert is tough.
It’s no secret that the genre choices for Christian fiction has narrowed dramatically in the last few years. With a few exceptions, the stories are romance-centered and don’t deal with harsh realities. There’s nothing wrong with those stories—the problem lies with finding little to choose from beyond light romance. Gifted authors such as Athol Dickson, Lisa Samson, Tim Downs, and J. Mark Bertrand are no longer putting out novels, and that’s a shame. And I could name a dozen additional authors who no longer write.
A big reason for this shift has been monetary, and that does make sense. Publishers are in a for-profit business, and when your audience is buying historical romance and Amish, that’s what you put out. The problem is, that’s all that was put out. Okay, maybe saying “all” is stretching a bit as there are rare exceptions, but if you go to your local Christian bookstore—if you have one around anymore—the majority of the shelf space is taken up by light reading. A quick glance at what’s coming up on the Family Fiction website (http://www.familyfiction.com/books/) shows we’re still going to be treated to a glut of Amish, historical romance, and light romance, with a few romantic-suspense thrown in for taste. On Relz Reviews (http://relzreviewz.com/), do a search for publishers by name to see what’s ahead for spring of 2016. You won’t be surprised by what you find.
Enclave Publishing is striving to change the view of Christian fiction with their Christian fantasy and science fiction line, especially as science fiction and fantasy is huge in the general market, but it’s been a struggle getting their target market to notice them.
What the narrow focus has accomplished is turning off readers who look for something different.
Will this trend continue? I’m not an analyst, so I can’t give a scientific answer, but as a Christian fiction reader who seldom shops at Christian bookstores anymore, I think if the trend does eventually shift to a wider focus, by then the readers will be long gone.
So, what’s a reader to do who enjoys Christian or clean fiction, but wants something different than what’s offered? I see a couple of options: general market fiction or independently-published fiction. Both options involve a lot of digging.
In the general market, a couple of crossover authors come to mind: Charles Martin and Steven James. Both authors write captivating stories without compromising their beliefs, yet they’ve been successful. This year I’ve seen a couple Christian fiction authors try their hand at writing for the general market, and both have succeeded at turning off some of their previous readers with claims of not being Christian enough. Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen (published by Berkley instead of her usual Bethany House) has been met with a lot of hostility from Christian readers saying it’s too worldly, that there’s a scene that reveals way too much. Well, I read Lady Maybe and found it quite innocent. Then there’s Ginny Yttrups’ Flames, an excellent indie book written for the general market. Flames has also met with resistance because it isn’t boldly Christian, rather it’s more of a parable—people tend to forget that Jesus told parables.
Beyond James, Martin, Klassen, and Yttrup, I’ve discovered few authors in the general market that deliver *clean* fiction. Not to say those authors aren’t out there, I just haven’t found them yet.
If you really want variety, take a chance on indie-published books, but like the general market, you have to wade through a sea of inferior product to find the gems. I know of a few Christian fiction authors who have found success in the indie world by putting out a quality product. Heather Day Gilbert has done very well with her Murder in the Mountains series and with God’s Daughter, a Viking saga. Sally Bradley’s Kept has become a fixture in the Top 20 in several Amazon categories, even a year after its release. Don and Stephanie Prichard’s Stranded has accumulated nearly 700 reviews in just eleven months! I recently discovered Tom Hilpert’s Lake Superior Mysteries, which I loved. And, of course, Nicole Petrino-Salter’s books are far from your typical CF fare!
The fact is, whether you’re looking for clean fiction in the general market, or quality fiction in the indie market, you have to do a lot of digging to find it. But both venues provide the variety readers are hungry for.
So, is Christian fiction dying? Maybe not, but it certainly needs to be resuscitated, and that will only happen by becoming more diverse. Judging by what I’ve seen for 2016, we’re going to be treated to more of the same ol’ thing.
Father, Brenda's your daughter who you love deeply. Please let her know how her efforts in the kingdom are pleasing to you. Please meet her every need and continue to give her hope and determination to do as you ask. Bless and encourage her as only you can do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Richard and Sheila Brooks continue their quest to procreate as they prepare to welcome Richard's son Matthew and Sheila's father into their beautiful new home built exquisitely by Richard's brother Marcus.
When Sheila is offered a dream-come-true promotion, she can't help but wonder what Richard's and her future looks like. Their perspectives quickly change when Sheila takes an ill-advised shortcut and gets her purse stolen. Richard finds her on the ground in an alley in the bitter cold with a sprained ankle. The police catch the homeless kid who lies about "finding" the purse. When a young girl appears to identify the purse snatcher, Sheila refuses to press charges and Richard reluctantly agrees, giving the young man some money and his card.
With Matthew and Sheila's father as their guests, life takes some unusual turns. Christmas is fast approaching and tree-hunting proves to be more of an adventure than Richard hoped.
Sheila's father reveals that her mother is dying of cancer, and, although Sheila's "relationship" with her mother really isn't one, Sheila knows she's got to give it one more chance before her mother's gone.
There is more than one heartbreak in this well-told story of a family that is growing in unforeseen ways. I don't want to ruin each character's contribution to the final curtain of the Coming Home Series which is why this review is rather vague. Although it ends well with the epilogue leaving the reader hopeful for all the major decisions Richard and Sheila executed as their changing lives dictated, it feels bittersweet. Like real life.
I think the overall story in this series transcends the "women's fiction" label. Rather it's a tale of a family, their failings and successes, their heartbreaks and joys, their surprises and expectations. Faith weaves its imperative direction through it all and takes the edge off the hurt, pain, and sorrow.
As I've stated in prior reviews of the books in this series, Sheila annoys me, but in Memory Box Secretsand often in Hungry for Home, I admired her perseverance and courage in dealing with a stone cold mother, the decisions regarding her job, and her acceptances of their unique family situations. Her faith grew and held her steady throughout each story, and in the end she did many of the "right" things. Richard is a great character and has far more patience with his wife than I did for her character, but then he knew she was a Type A and that's apparently what he wanted. He's a good man and a loving father who wasn't about to sacrifice a relationship with his young son. God suggested and Richard obeyed.
Hungry for Home puts a satisfying conclusion to the page of the lives of Richard and Sheila Brooks and several more of their family members.
Father, I pray your abundant blessings upon my friend Brenda. She's a generous person and a committed writer. Please keep the supply coming for those stories you have just for Brenda to tell. Thank you for her friendship and kindness to me. Thank you for bringing her into my life. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Thoughtful can mean you go out of your way to be kind to others and do unexpected things for people. It can also mean you listen to others and carefully assess what they've said before giving a reply. Thoughtful also refers to the process of thinking. Whether it's contemplating a decision or the in general focus on life issues. It's both descriptive and active. Passive and aggressive.
When writing characters, an author must choose to demonstrate types of personalities by their actions, decisions, inactions, or indecisions. A male character can be an action guy but thoughtful in the process. Or he can be all brawn and thoughtless. A female character might be more thoughtful but unable to make difficult decisions. Or she might be a determined girl of action who gives little thought to who she must move to get what she wants. And, of course, all the variables in between.
What kind of character(s) do you prefer? Do you like your men thoughtful? Your women tough? What are your favorite types of characters?
Father, inspire us to write what you would have us write. You give the talent. Use us, Lord. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.