Sunday, August 30, 2009

And the winner is...


Congratulations to Margie Vawter, the winner of my totally random drawing for The Knight. I'll get in touch with her tonight and get that baby in the mail!

Thanks to those who commented. I'd really like to give away more books, but the truth is, I can't afford the postage to give away a book a week like I'd like to. I guess you all will just have to settle for my reviews and other ponderings about writing, God, and whatever else tickles my fancy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How is Music like Fiction?

There has been quite a lot of disagreement in the world of Christian fiction in recent years (and I suppose in Christian music, too) about balancing story and message in Christian (biblical worldview, CBA, or whatever you want to call them) novels. Many readers are tired of the same old story lines with a preachy style and a mandatory character conversion. Other readers denounce more "edgy" books that uphold story and questioning over overt message and giving answers.

I was listening to an old CD of mine this morning, produced in 1994, called "Everything That's On My Mind" by artist, composer and producer Charlie Peacock. On the last track, an interviewer asks him questions about the CD, his life, and his music. Charlie talks about why this album is different than some of his other ones, and why it is so introspective. He also talks about using a live band to record with instead of doing so much of his instrumentation alone on his computer, and why he wanted the music to be simple and consistent. Below is a partial transcript of his answer to one of the questions. I'll tie this in to fiction in a moment.

Interviewer: Why was consistency so important to you?

Charlie: Because I didn't want people to miss the lyrics. When you're all over the map musically, there's gonna be some degree of people that can't enter into the music simply because they don't like the form of it, and I felt by creating a consistent style of music and consistent instrumentation that it would serve the content. I don't think Christians can ignore the degree to which the medium is the message in our culture. Let's try not to do that. More often than not, people need to be able to walk into the music first, and then the lyrics, second. That wouldn't be my first choice of the way I would want it to be, but that is the way it is. And if people can't do that, that is, to walk right into the music and enjoy it and then find their way into the lyrics then the chances of them ever getting to the meat of what the artist is trying to say is pretty slim.

When I heard that I thought, wow, that's the way it is in fiction, too.

The medium is so important to the delivery of the message. In essence, Charlie is saying we have to please, or entertain, the listener (or for my purposes, reader) in order for them to enter into the music and connect with the lyrics (the message of the story). We can't just plop the message out there any old way and expect people in our time and our culture to lap it up just because it's truth. Who are we trying to reach in our music or our fiction? The medium is as important as the message. The message will never be heard if there isn't something for the listener/reader to enjoy and get into first. Only if they're already engaged will they be able to hear the message. So write the novel with the story in mind. Make sure it's great, so the reader can engage. Don't just write to bash them over the head with a message.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baker/Revell Blog Tour for THE KNIGHT, by Steven James

Comment on this post by Friday midnight for your chance to win a FREE copy of THE KNIGHT. And make sure you leave some kind of contact info in case you're the winner--I'll e-mail or PM you to let you know if that's the case. Book will be mailed Monday, August 31st.


Just when I thought James’ thrillers couldn’t get any better, he shatters my erroneous notions. Third in the Bowers Files series, The Knight holds nothing back. The most diabolical killer yet is on the loose, committing some of the strangest murders Denver has ever seen.

Patrick Bowers, an environmental criminologist for the FBI and expert in geospacial investigation is called in when a woman is found dead inside an abandoned mine holding a human heart that’s not her own. Along with fellow agent Cheyenne Warren, Bowers follows the dead bodies and clues until he is close to losing his own life.

While the investigation continues in Denver, Bowers must also travel to Chicago to testify in the trial of a criminal he arrested on one of his previous cases. What happens there will determine the course of both of their lives.

James maintains a fine balance between masterful storytelling and character development. The plot will entertain and hold the reader’s absolute attention with its elements of surprise. Fans of James’ earlier novels will enjoy Tessa’s maturation, as well as her growing relationship with Patrick. Romance brews, marriages are strained, parental secrets are revealed, and additional minor characters add to the complexity of existing character relationships.

I honestly don’t know how James is going to one-up himself next time in The Bishop. Every chapter is exquisite, every word necessary. When it comes to other suspense authors, I’ll admit to skimming through paragraphs sometimes to “get to the good parts,” but not so with James. I actually catch myself re-reading sometimes just to savor the words a second time. It’s surprising that I haven’t read the whole thing again, though I’m planning to soon.

I’ve been torn in regards to whether or not I should add spoilers to my review. Hopefully, people will see the warning and stay away if they haven’t yet read the book. But sometimes accidents happen and I certainly don’t want to ruin the story for anyone. So I’m going to stay away from commenting on the culprit, who for now will have to remain “Giovanni,” and my thoughts on his revelation.

Just one parting thought--I now wish I would have paid more attention in World Literature class. :)

Available August 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Here's the press release for my new favorite book, The Knight. The Baker/Revell blog tour starts Sunday, August 23rd, when I'll be posting my review and GIVING AWAY one FREE copy to a lucky commenter during the week.

Contact: Donna Hausler

Killer is on the Loose with an Ancient Manuscript as His Guide

New thriller from critically acclaimed novelist takes readers on a shocking roller coaster ride to stop this violent killer before it’s too late.

Steven James is one of the nation’s most innovative storytellers—with a Master of Arts in Storytelling degree to prove it. For the past decade, he has been crafting compelling and evocative stories that pull readers into the thick of his brilliant, mind-bending plots, and his latest creative endeavor is no different: The Knight, the third installment in his bestselling series of thrillers, is full of the chilling twists and adrenaline-laced action that readers have come to expect from James.

The Knight picks up in The Bowers Files series, starring FBI criminologist Patrick Bowers, who is assigned to tracking the country’s most dangerous killers. But when he is called to his most disturbing crime scene yet, Bowers begins to realize that this criminal mastermind has actually been tracking him.

To get to the bottom of this cold-blooded case, Bowers uses his cutting-edge investigative techniques to decipher the evidence and discovers that the murderer has been using an ancient manuscript as a blueprint for his crimes. This sends Bowers on a race against time to stop the killer before he takes his next victim in another grisly crime.

But even as he is working to crack the clues of this bloody trail, Bowers finds himself stumped by another matter: An old murder case haunts him, causing him to question himself and wonder which is more important—truth or justice. The answer might set a killer free or change Bowers into a criminal himself.

Keeping readers guessing until the very end, James has earned rave reviews from the likes of Publishers Weekly, which called his thrillers “a wild ride with a shocking conclusion.” The Knight offers readers more of the same, as the satisfying follow-up to his previous bestselling psychological thrillers in The Bowers Files series, The Pawn and The Rook.

“Heart-pounding excitement…
Once the last page is turned, you’ll be tempted to flip back to the beginning to see where you missed vital clues. Top-notch suspense!”
— Romantic Times review of The Knight

Praise for The Pawn

“Riveting.” —Publishers Weekly
“An exhilarating thriller.” —Mysterious Reviews
“Brilliant.” —Ann Tatlock, Christy-award-winning author
“There is nothing not to like.” —The Suspense Zone
“An exceptional psychological thriller.”—Bookshelf Review
“Seriously intense.” —Pop Culture Tuesday

Praise for The Rook

“It’s a wild ride with a shocking conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Readers will be on the edge of their seats.” —Romantic Times top pick
“Steven James has mastered the thriller.” —The Suspense Zone
“Suspense thriller writing at its highest level.” —
“Steven James hooked me with his debut, The Pawn. Now in his explosive
sequel he has absolutely blown me away.” —The Christian Manifesto

Praise from real-life investigators

"Steven James's ability to use modern, up-to-date investigative techniques to solve his criminal mysteries places him at the forefront of current mystery writers."
— E. Cleon Glaze, retired FBI agent, Alaska

"Steven James combines 21st-century high-tech law enforcement techniques with 18th-century Sherlockian deduction to craft an exciting, suspense-filled story."
— Dr. Kim Rossmo,
Center for Geospatial Intelligence and Investigation, Texas State University

Available August 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, August 17, 2009

CSFF August Tour: Offworld, by Robin Parrish

Book artwork courtesy of Bethany House Publishers.


As someone who respects Robin’s work and yet wasn’t entirely thrilled with his superhero-ish trilogy, I hoped against hope that Offworld would sweep me out of my reading chair into a science fictional whirlwind. Thank God my hope was not misplaced.

When astronauts Christopher Burke and his team Terry, Owen, and Trisha return from a long mission to Mars, they discover the welcome wagon has left the building. Or the planet. In their quest to find signs of life and a reason behind the disappearances, they meet a young lady named Mae, presumably the only person alive besides them.

Finally connecting their seemingly hopeless situation to an anomaly on Mars, they get closer to the truth and cataclysmic danger. They’ll have to outwit the culprits if they want to come out alive.

Other authors have done the oh-my-gosh-everyone-on-earth-has-vanished plot routine. Parrish’s take on this, however, is all but routine. I loved the explanation behind the removal of earth’s populace--very high tech and cool. And excellent character development makes the reader stay engaged throughout the story. I definitely liked Offworld the best of anything Parrish has written.

Click here to go to Robin's website.

Amazon Book Link

Man, do we ever have a lot of participants! Make time to visit 5 or more of these sites for reviews and more:

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Gina Burgess
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen (posting later in the week)
John W. Otte
Lyn Perry
Steve Rice
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Elizabeth Williams

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Condemnation

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." - Romans 8:1

If you're perfect, have no problems, never make mistakes or never beat yourself up about mistakes, DO NOT read this.


Many of us give ourselves a hard time when we've messed up. Even if we are Christ followers, we somehow don't believe that God really forgives us every time we sin, that we are still in a relationship with him, that he still loves us just as much as the day we first chose him. Sure, when we disobey or rebel against God, we suffer a loss of fellowship, consequences, and conviction. But after repentance there is no reason to keep rehashing our guilt. Because it's gone. Washed away.

How do I know this? Because I've dealt with it my whole life. I call it beating myself up. Not just about sin, but about imperfection, not getting it just right, etc. This is not a happy way to live. And I've come to realize it's because I don't trust God. What? You heard me. My insecurity is because I don't trust what God has told me about who He is and what He's going to do. I forget about my place, which, in God's view, is this:

Ephesians 1:11 - chosen
Ephesians 1:13 - marked with a seal, the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 2:6 - seated with Christ in the heavenly realms
1 Peter 2:5 - living stone being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood
1 Peter 2:9 - a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation
Jeremiah 31:3 - loved with an everlasting love
Romans 5:1 - at peace with God, have access by faith to his grace in which I stand
Colossians 1:13 - rescued from the dominion of darkness, brought into the Son's kingdom, redeemed, forgiven

More next time.