Friday, November 30, 2007

Any book but the Bible . . .

We've all heard the scenario: If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one book, which would it be? Of course, most people say the Bible.

But let's put a twist on it. If you could only give one novel and one non-fiction book (excluding the Bible - Let's assume they have it.) to someone who's stranded on a deserted island, which would they be and why?

Here's mine:

Non-fiction: The Case for Christ by Lee Stroebel. One of the best books I've ever read. A comprehensive, very readable look at what Christians believe, the evidence for Christ's existence, the evidence for the validity of the Bible, expert and scholarly refutation of Christ's greatest detractors.

sidenote: I had a very similar idea for a book before 'TCFC' was published. I'm glad Lee wrote this one. It's far better than anything I would have done.

Fiction: Demon - A Memoir by Tosca Lee. One of the best novels I've ever read. Demon is not only entertaining, it is the clearest, most cohesive, and understandable telling of "our story" I've seen in novel form.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Adopt a Soldier Part 2 . . .

I just spent some time on This is a great site. Thanks Donna.

When you go there click on the Where to send tab. You can read e-mails from soldiers giving specific needs and request their address to send your package. Don't forget our Female soldiers. And it seems like socks are in definite need.

They also tell you how many people have asked for the address. So take some time and look for those who haven't had many responses.

I already purchased the stuff I'm sending so I browsed until someone needs matched.

There also seems to be an emphasis on personal messages. They love stuff but they also love knowing that we're behind them and we're thinking about them.

Adopt a Soldier for Christmas . . .

To my dismay, the military will not allow you to send a care package to: "Any soldier in need." You have to have a name.

The problem is I don't know anyone in Iraq. The only one I knew personally was: Sgt. Bradley Bergeron, who was killed by a roadside explosive on January 6th 2005.

I'm trying to raise money to send a few care packages during this holiday season. A care package in this case consists of things our soldiers need but normally has to pay for. Such as:

AT&T phone cards
Baby wipes and body wipes
Batteries (AA)
Dental floss
Waterless hand sanitizer
Eye drops
Saline nasal spray
Black sunglasses
Foot powder
Disposable razors
Soap (non-scented because bugs like scented items)
Shampoo (non-scented because bugs like scented items)
Baggies with Zip Lock
Tube Socks
"Gold Bond" type anti-fungal powders
fleece gloves, scarves and blankets
lotion (non-scented because bugs like scented items)
Lidocane 4% cream

I managed to pick up most of these items at a Dollar General for less than 30 bucks. It only costs $8.95 to ship in a flat rate box you can pick up at the post office. $30 to $40 bucks is nothing compared to the price our heroes pay in time away from their families, living in desert conditions, not to mention risking their lives.

Make this a family event. It would be a lot of fun and a great lesson for kids. Let them write a personal letter and maybe send a Christmas card and of course a big "Thank You".

***Post Addendum: Go here for info on how to help: Donna Fleisher's What we can do for them

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Books for Troops . . .

I came across this information on J.A. Konrath's website:

"Remember Doug Hansen, my friend in the military stationed in Iraq?

He's received enough books to open up the first US Library in the Middle East.

Doug thanks everyone for their generosity, as do the hundreds of troops who have gotten books thanks to your efforts.

But, believe it or not, they could still use more books. They could also use things like notebook paper, pens, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, eye drops, sun glasses, sunscreen, etc. Don't send food--it gets thrown away."

Please help bring some entertainment to our troops by sending some of your books to the following address:

Soldiers of C Co / 163 MI Bn
c/o 1SG Hansen
COB Speicher
APO AE 09393

According to J.A. Konrath's site, the postage is considered domestic so the shipping shouldn't be outrageous.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Take a Moment to Relax . . .

404 ft. Hickory Nut Falls. Chimney Rock Park, North Carolina.
Click on the photo for a closer look. To get a better idea of the scale - Look for the walkway at the foot of the falls.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Giving thanks . . .

No, this isn't really about the holidays, but it is about giving thanks to those who have supported you.

After reading Demon - A Memoir by Tosca Lee, I sent her an e-mail telling her how much I loved it. I told her Demon is now tied with Dean Koontz's Watchers as my favorite novel ever. And, to me it is a perfect example of "Christian Fiction". Demon is also the perfect example of what I hope to do with my writing. To take a Christian concept and present it in such a way to make it more understandable or reaffirming, while entertaining at the same time of course. Presenting the gospel with no condescension or patronizing tone.

She responded with a wonderful e-mail thanking me and expressing to me how my words have encouraged her. I'll never delete that e-mail and I'll never forget that she took the time to thank me in such a personal way. (Believe it or not, I have written other CBA authors to praise their work and haven't gotten even a generic response. )

But she has now gone further than that. On her blog, she has taken the time to thank those who have supported and encouraged her.

And, guess whose name is among them. That's right--Little ole me. I feel a little unworthy, but I am grateful.

Please go to this link and read the following: Toscology. If you're reading this late, you may have to scroll down to the November 18th entry.

On Being a Writer . . .

I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.

- Peter de Vries

Now that's funny.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Bible speaks . . .

Perseverance . . .

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

-James 1:2-4

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love them."

-James 1:12

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Advice for New Writers . . .

Don't worry. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the craft of writing. But I do feel I have something important to convey to those who have never been to a conference.

I have read many a new writer profess extreme anxiety at the thought of meeting with an editor or agent at a writer's conference. I totally understand this fear, but it is completely unnecessary.

I have now sat in six official meetings and a few unofficial ones with E's and A's and I can tell you that they have all - (with one exception) - been polite, easy to talk to, and very respectful. Want names? Okay, here they are in no particular order except for the first:

Becky Nesbitt - (Okay I was a little nervous for this one. How would you feel if your first encounter with a professional in the industry is the Co-Director of Fiction for Tyndale House Publishers.) But she quickly cured my nervousness with her warm personality and infectious smile. She showed genuine interest in my manuscript. We had a great conversation and she (big sigh of relief) asked for a partial.

Steve Barclift - Managing Editor - Kregel
Rod Morris - Senior Fiction Editor - NavPress
David Webb - Executive Editor - B & H
Terry Burns - Agent - Hartline
Katie Sulkowski - Agent Creative Trust
Kelly Mortimer - Agent - Mortimer Literary
Luke Hinrichs - Editor - Bethany House

If you have a meeting with any of the above - do not fear. Remember, they share your passion and they're waiting for you to talk about it.

There was one exception to the above. I sat at this one particular editor's table at a conference. He was snobbish, arrogant, and passively rude. Not to mention that he came across as an elitist. The others seated at the table all agreed on this issue. That's right, we spoke about it afterword because the experience was unusual. Want me to name him? Sorry, I can't do that. The point is: he was the exception, not the rule.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Sin - Your Sin

By Guest Blogger - Todd Dufrene

There are two types of sin in this world. Any one reading this who is a Roman Catholic would say "of course there are two types of sin, mortal sins and venial sins". I don't know about that, I've never been Roman Catholic, and I'm not much on splitting theological hairs. None the less, in my world there are two types of sin, my sins and your SINS.

You see, my sins are cute and cuddly. No big deal really. Sure they are a nuisance occasionally, but God understands. He winks at them and says "come on, you know we need to do something about this, right? Ya knuckle head". Then He sighs and rolls His eyes at me, musses my hair and grins that bemused, knowing, Ward Cleaver, 1970's-TV-sitcom-father grin. Then He goes about His fatherly duties (reading the paper and and commenting on how good dinner smells) confidant that I have learned my lesson.

Then there are your sins. Ugly, hideous, hellish atrocities that, by all rights, should bring down God's immediate wrath. Seriously, there should be a big, smoldering crater where you now stand. How dare you escape unscathed. You should be scathed ... or smote ... or something. In the Old Testament, you probably would have been stoned, or cut off from your people, or at least struck with leprosy or blindness or halitosis, or some other really nasty malady.
And yet, there you stand, apparently unmolested. What was God thinking? Did He let you off on some technicality? Was there a clerical error? Did you put one over on Him? Did His all seeing eye blink?

I can't quite wrap my mind around this one. My understanding of the coexistence of God's justice and God's mercy must not be quite perfect yet. I would love to help you see more clearly just how horrible your sins are, but I seemed to have misplaced my spectacles.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Writing . . .

There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are.
- Somerset Maugham

Thursday, November 8, 2007

My Reflection . . .

I've always admired great poetry. To take a few words and arrange them in such a way that they speak beyond their meanings borders on tangible magic. It is a talent which I do not possess. I find my novel lacking all but a hint of poetic prose. A by-product of my "to the point" personality I guess. I have tried many times to capture a little of that magic and have fallen woefully short. The closest I've ever come is the following. Hope you enjoy.

My Reflection . . .

My reflection is someone I do not know,
my pains and anguish do not outwardly show.
Through stoic looks and smiles of joy,
the face of a man masks a little boy.

Like the hair of Sampson is the essence of I,
cut from the Spirit, my soul may go awry.
So to gather the pieces of my broken life,
I kneel before God, I call upon Christ.

And when I am made together as one,
Then my reflection I will become.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Defending Women . . .

There is a theory floating about that women will vote for Hilary Clinton simply because she is a woman and this will ensure her victory.

This is ridiculous and insulting. This implies that women don't think. This implies that women are an oppressed minority which they are not. This implies that women are not capable of being individuals, but rather they are part of a group-think, Borg-like hive waiting to blindly follow their queen. This implies that men and women are so different that they don't share the same values and ideologies.

Fact is: Women are the majority. If the group-think theory was true, Elizabeth Dole would be the most recent of a long line of women presidents. But America hasn't found its Margaret Thatcher yet. America will have a woman president when a viable candidate emerges-not because she's a she.

Something I've noticed: Most of the women I've spoken with actually prefer to have a male president. Now, this is purely anecdotal at this point, but it is an interesting dichotomy. I'd love to see a poll on the issue.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Defending the innocent . . .

I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.
~Ronald Reagan,
quoted in New York Times, 22 September 1980

Only half the patients who go into an abortion clinic come out alive.
~Author Unknown

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Talented Shall Overcome . . .

Writing a Christian novel is hard. In fact, it is the most difficult thing I've ever done. Writing a Christian worldview (or secular) novel is a lot easier, but still hard.

We are imaginative beings. Just because I'm Christian does not mean that my thoughts are infallible. I could easily write a novel full of curse words, graphic sex, and gratuitous violence all from a neutral or even anti-Christian worldview. I have an Imagination and the human mind is capable of great deprivation. I have several novels in me, but I'm not sure how many Christian novels I have in me. They are extremely difficult and require a greater talent. Time will tell if I have that greater talent.

Purposefully writing a novel that entertains or touches while carrying a Christian message while not crossing certain lines of indecency is extremely difficult. But if you intend to write Christian novels for the CBA, you are accepting the role of a ministry by default. The Bible says those who choose this path are held to a higher standard. The CBA publishers are not just publishers. They have mission statements. They view themselves as a instrument of the Gospel. As a result, they have standards. A pastor has to live and conduct himself in a manner becoming of his chosen path. He is held to a higher standard than his flock. If he fails he will be held accountable to that higher standard.

There are Christian writers who spend most of their time lamenting this fact. "The CBA are too stringent. They're not REAL enough."

I take offense to the idea that my novel isn't REAL, because I don't have the characters cursing or taking their clothes off in every scene. My novel contains implied child molestation, abuse, and murder. But I don't have to go into explicit detail to make these situations REAL. The reader will get it.

In comparison: Ellen DeGeneres is, in my opinion, the most talented comedian ever. Why? Because she is the funniest and she does it clean. No cheap jokes. But, clean does not detract from her realness. Bill Cosby is another example. He holds himself to a higher moral standard. Yes, it's harder to write clean material. Most comics probably wouldn't be as funny if they used his standards. That's because they are not as talented as he is.

And the Talented Shall Overcome . . .

Thursday, November 1, 2007

To Halloween or Not . . .

Actually, I'm not going to enter this debate. It's been done to death and both sides have legitimate points.

By the way, you think this argument is bad, here in South Louisiana, we have the "To Mardi Gras or Not" debate. The comparisons are uncanny. My opinion fits both situations. The kids have the answer. The kid's parades, which run during the day, feature cartoon characters and tailgating. The adult parades feature fights, rampant underage drinking, and lewd conduct.

As a child, I enjoyed Mardi Gras. After age 13, I hated it. Still do.

Same for Halloween. For a few years, after our accident, (age 4-8) my family lived with my uncle on basically a small farm. Every Halloween, my uncle would make a huge bonfire and rig up the tractor for hay rides. We roasted marshmallows and hot dogs, bobbed for apples (which I now realize is disgusting. It's bad enough that everyone is sticking their head in the same washtub with their mouths open. Talk about worse than double dipping. But, who knows what that tub was used for the rest of the year. We had animals.). It was a lot of fun. So much so in fact, that I usually skipped trick or treating. I wanted to stay where the action was. Besides, the fire was warm, there was plenty of candy, and I hated wearing costumes.

I guess my point is: I would like to do the same for my future kids. Of course, I don't have to wait till Halloween to do it.

If you're looking for a way to 'Christian up' Halloween next year, check out what novelist Eric Wilson's family did:

The best Halloween we ever had as a family, we set up our lawn as a graveyard. Each tombstone had one of the seven deadly sins named on it. Trick-or-treater's came up the path, through "The Graveyard of Sin," then entered the open garage where we'd made a happy, cheery place for gathering goodies. We had the VeggieTales' "God is Bigger than the Boogie-Man" playing in there. We never said anything beyond that. And the neighborhood flocked to our house the next year to see what else we might come up with.--Eric Wilson (Nashville, TN)