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Christian fantasy review: Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams

Orphan's SongBook #1 of The Songkeeper Chronicles is out to acclamation by the readers of her blog. She is a polished, online, social communicator who obviously loves to write and is very good at it. Her debut novel (after a few short stories) is very well written. She has all the pieces, and she’ll probably be quite popular. If you like fantasy, you should buy a copy of this book and read it. However, there are some issues for me.

It’s a depressing book

Book 1 is just one disaster after another. There is momentary relief, but nothing really positive. It’s all angst and no joy. The characters are intriguing and well-developed. I should like some of them. But to be honest, I’m still reeling from all the disasters. Plus, nothing is resolved, at all, in this first book of the Songkeeper Chronicles.

Birdie, believe it or not, is the heroine’s name. She’s an orphan, saved as a baby by a griffin who dropped her from a great height during an attempted rescue. She was picked up (uninjured I think) on an unknown road in a country without a map by a man. He brought her back to the inn run by he and his wife where Birdie is introduced as a very badly treated, very young slave and the book begins. The cover image shows her about as happy as she gets in book one. Here’s the official blurb:

Who Will Keep the Song Alive? 
Every generation has a Songkeeper – one chosen to keep the memory of the Song alive. And in every generation, there are those who seek to destroy the chosen one. 
When Birdie’s song draws the attention of a dangerous Khelari soldier, she is kidnapped and thrust into a world of ancient secrets and betrayals. Rescued by her old friend, traveling peddler Amos McElhenny, Birdie flees the clutches of her enemies in pursuit of the truth behind the Song’s power. 
Ky is a street-wise thief and a member of the Underground—a group of orphans banded together to survive . . . and to fight the Khelari. Haunted by a tragic raid, Ky joins Birdie and Amos in hopes of a new life beyond the reach of the soldiers. But the enemy is closing in, and when Amos’ shadowed past threatens to undo them all, Birdie is forced to face the destiny that awaits her as the Songkeeper of Leira.

Now you know as much as I do, and I just finished the book. I really can’t tell you more without spoiling something. But I actually do not know much more now than I did when I started the book. I still don’t know who the Khelari are except they are nasty and probably evil. Their master is certainly evil, by the end of book one I know little more than that about him. We get a few quick glimpses of some good guys, but their path veers off and we see them no more in book one.

Amos is a good guy, I think, but I’m not sure about that either. He is certainly much more than a peddler. Ky should be a compelling figure, but I don’t really have a handle on him either other than the obvious: he’s yet another orphan thief. Birdie, Amos, and Ky are drawn together against the forces of evil, I think—but that’s not clear either. Actually, they are placed together and struggle to stay together, but there is really no compelling reason for any of them. Amos is the the only person Birdie trusts, but that trust is on real rocky footing. Ky feels like he should, but that’s about as strong as it gets.

Spiritually, there’s nothing real or compelling

Gillian says she’s a Christian and I believe her. In the well-hidden background, there seems to be a god. But there’s no evidence of a savior, so this cannot be considered a Christian book. The songkeeper is overwhelmed by a force of great power from outside her, but we are given no idea where it comes from—other than we can guess that its source is what might be god. But, he’s not talked about at all in book one. His name is only mentioned a few times, and to be honest I can’t even remember what it is. It’s really not relevant to book one.

So, should you get a copy for your children?

Only if you read it first and make sure you get your children involved in a discussion about it. This is a clean read. The cursing is wonderfully inventive, but not foul. There’s a fair amount of physical violence and a lot of emotional damage. There is really no spiritual help for anyone—though there is hope that we’ll see something like that in book two. Book one is a dark book which ends on a vaguely hopeful note. I truly expect to be much more enthusiastic after book two. But that’s really the best I can give you.

Enclave gave me a free review copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Christian fiction review: The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn

PatmosDeception

The official blurb…

An Ancient Island Holds an Ancient Secret . . .

Nick Hennessy, a young Texas journalist yearning for his big break, finds himself in Europe–his assignment, to investigate the alarming disappearance of invaluable Grecian antiquities. Nick has the credentials–and cover ID–to unearth the truth. And he knows just the researcher to help him…

Carey Mathers, fresh from her studies in forensic archeology, has accepted a job with the prestigious Athens Institute for Antiquities–a dream come true, really, particularly when the Greek isle of Patmos, where the Apostle John received his vision of the Apocalypse, was a particular focus of her research.

Dimitri Rubinos, for whom the Greek islands represent his life, holds on by his fingernails to the family charter boat business. But his country’s economic chaos isn’t the only thing that has turned his world on its head…

 


 

Here we have a high quality example demonstrating my main concern about traditionally published Christian fiction.

The story is more than competently done. Davis Bunn is one of the true professionals in our industry. He knows all the nuts and bolts using them to craft an excellent story. The problem with the tale is the lack of spiritual power. It’s not a Christian story.

English: The Port (Skala) of Patmos Island, Gr...

English: The Port (Skala) of Patmos Island, Greece (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has all the pieces. It takes place on the Isle of Patmos. The historical explanations as well as the current culture are very interesting. The characters are very well described with depth. The relationships are compelling and intriguing. Some of the characters are obviously believers. But there is nothing of true spiritual power, merely religious emotion. God is not made real, because He is not really part of the story. This is about religion, not relationship.

The tale is told cleanly and up to Christian Bookseller standards. But it is all so boring—because the Lord never shows up and the Holy Spirit never reveals His presence in any way. I guess I need to coin a possibly new phrase. Instead of PC for politically correct, this book is RC for religiously correct–designed to offend no denomination. It reduces the story to pablum and I grew up into a need for meat and substance a long time ago. Baby food no longer satisfies. Solid food is all self-published these days because of RC realities.

As a result, the story is mere entertainment—very well-done entertainment. But by next week, I will have probably forgotten this pretty trifle. Because there’s really nothing here other than momentary diversion. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it could have been so much more.

I was given a review copy by Bethany in exchange for an honest review.

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Jeremy Bullard’s view on his call to write Christian fiction

In moving from the “practical realism” of Gannah to the “intensely magical” Gemworld, we move from a blatant depiction of Christians with a strong impact on an entire society to a world where God is more undercover—as He is often seen in our own world. Yet, the culture given to us by Jeremy has the same “ring of truth” I find in Gannah. Not surprisingly, Jeremy’s response to the basic question posed by this series is in line with God’s reality in his writing.


GemworldWhat has the Lord called you to do with your writing?

I don’t know if you can ask a writer a more difficult question. Considering that writing is little more than giving life to imaginary worlds, one can easily equate this question with another common stumper — “What has the Lord called you to do with your life?”

Now, some people can give you an answer right off the cuff. I’ve never been that guy. I’ve never had that much insight into my own life, let alone the life of the world I’ve created. As relating to God, the only thing I can say with certainty is, “I am whatever the Lord wants me to be at any particular moment.” It’s the same answer for writing as it is for living.

The cool thing is that, while you may not have that level of insight into what God wants out of your writing, you do know that He wants SOMETHING, so you’re able to provide whatever raw materials you have at your disposal with the trust that whatever God plans to build, He plans to involve you in the building.

I’ve never really considered myself a Christian writer, just as I don’t consider myself a Christian security officer or, when I worked at an auto shop, a Christian mechanic. My relationship with Christ colors everything I do, from fixing cars to guarding nuclear plants to writing novels, but I’m not “fixing” Christ, nor am I “guarding” Christ — though, like I said, Christ colors my work, and thus opens opportunities for me to share Him with others. Likewise, when I write, I don’t write with the intentions of “writing” Christ. Instead, I allow ME (the “Christ colored” me) to flow from me, manifesting “me” in whatever I do. Nonbelievers might be resistant to connecting with a Christ that they cannot see, but if I can get them to connect with me, I might be able to connect them with Him who sent me.

That seems to be a running theme in scripture, so I’ll go with it  ;-)

Of all the ways that Christ interacted with the people of His day, my favorites are His parables. I find far too many people, even Christians, writing them off (pardon the pun hehe) as convenient or poetic fictions, but that doesn’t really ring true to me. It seems that if Christ is in fact Emanuel, God With Us, then it stands to reason that He would have a grasp of human history, particularly, those times in human history when “real life” reflected the exact events in Christ’s parables. There were at least 2000 years in the run up from Creation to the Incarnation — plenty of time for there to be ten virgins or a house built upon the sand or even a rich man and Lazarus. These parables are too realistic, and God too omniscient/omnipresent/omnitemporal, for them to not be real. I think this fascination with Christ’s parables is what led me to be a writer. Well, that, and a penchant for “the strange, the bizarre, the unexpected.”

Yes, I used to watch Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! If nothing else, it was proof positive that God is, among other things, infinitely inventive  ;-)

But that’s really what you do as a writer. You take a collection of what-ifs — of your own making, or as provided by the world at large — and connect the dots in unexpected ways, revealing to the world something miraculous that might otherwise seem mundane.

Thing is, when I first started writing (inspired as I was by the Deathgate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman) I never dreamed that my writing would be anything other than internet doodles and disjointed stories. When I finally published, I did so more at the insistence of my online friends — a community of believer who, like me, were writers who just happened to be Christian — than anything else. I hardly expected to sell more than a few copies. I hardly expected ANY return on investment, other than being able to leave my kids a legacy of imagination, and a little proof that their Daddy (who is sure to become an idiot in their eyes, as soon as they hit their teen years) is actually a pretty smart cookie.

I didn’t have any real expectations out of Gemworld, and don’t hold many more expectations for its sequel, Fracture. All I expected was to provide God the raw materials — the raw ME — for Him to use in whatever manner He saw fit.

I still don’t know exactly what God has called me to do with my writing, other than to just be me (the “Christ colored” me) and let Him do the rest. But I do know what He HAS done so far, and I stand amazed and eager to see what comes next!

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World-building: the planet of Gannah and the universe of the future

Gateway To Gannah Series

This is another guest posting by Yvonne Anderson. I asked to her to talk about the world of Gannah. This is a fascinating planet. Vibrantly alive, dangerous, and filled with animals which can communicate with the people of Gannah, plus plants which have amazing properties, Gannah is a world apart. It is stuck in an isolated corner of a galaxy. Its people have a gland which enables communication with each other at a distance and with the animals of the planet. The humans and the animals have forged a treaty of coexistence. I could go on, but this special world is best explained by the author.


David asked me to explain the culture of Gannah and to offer my thoughts as to why believers find it so inviting. I’ll endeavor to answer those questions.

One of the things that’s long confused me about our world: whether you look at marriage, respect for authority, fiscal restraint, environmental responsibility, or any other aspect of human life, honoring God and following His principles makes the world run more smoothly for everyone. Yet mankind tends to think he has a better way. It’s not rational, and it maddens me that humans (I include myself here) seem bent on self-destruction. It’s only by the grace of God that we haven’t succeeded.

As the seed of the Gannah series grew in my mind, I realized I’d have to build a stage upon which the story would play out. I’d never created a world before, and the task was a little intimidating. When God did it, He started with a garden, so that’s what I did:

Gannah is from the Hebrew word for garden.

God’s garden was perfect at the beginning, but I can’t conceive of perfect, let alone create it. Instead, I chose some aspects of our world that made no sense to me and “fixed” them on Gannah. Three things that bug me which I chose to change are:

  1. mankind’s penchant for taking something clean and making it filthy, whether it be an activity (like sex, eating, drinking) or simply caring for our surroundings
  2. our insistence on questioning authority and pushing boundaries, thinking we can outsmart those in charge (even if the One in charge is God)
  3. the way the world revolves around money

Because of the nature I gave them, the people of Gannah work with the planet rather than trying to force it to submit to their desires. They honor their authorities with such sincerity that the concept of rebellion is wholly repugnant. They consider the common good, not individual satisfaction, their highest goal. And on Gannah, there is no such thing as money.

Consequently, the values of Gannah vary in significant ways from ours here on Earth—and some of Gannah’s traditions make our Earthish hair stand on end. Consider, for instance, the fact that early in their history, they eliminated genetic weaknesses by killing the defectives who possessed them. (This is not a reflection of what I think the world should be. Rather, it’s the way these pragmatic people turned out to behave. Surely God is appalled at some of the things His creations come up with as well!)

One of the most notable differences between Earthish humans and the people of Gannah is that bit about their respect for authority.

Because this is so important to them, their culture developed complex and rigid hierarchies that are revered like life itself. Why would they want to question them? The system works perfectly, and trying to change it would be the height of foolishness.

A woman from our world might be horrified at the way a man is obligated to control his wife. An Earthish man, however, would be even more appalled to see that a Gannahan mother has authority over her son for as long as they both live. That means she can tell him how to treat his wife. If she likes her daughter-in-law, this is nice. But if she doesn’t? Well, I can think of some interesting story lines that might arise from that. The protagonist of Book #3, Ransom in the Rock, has good reason for saying she’ll only marry a man who has no mother.

Despite the liberated Earthish woman’s disgust with Gannah’s marriage laws, she would approve of one of this planet’s traditions: when a girl reaches the age of majority, she is freed from all parental control. After that, she can do however she pleases within the bounds of the law – and there is no law that compels her to marry. Therefore, a single woman on Gannah has more freedom than a man, whose mother has control over him forever.

Did I mention these social orders are complex?

They are. There’s a lot more I could tell you about them, but I don’t want your eyes to glaze over. [David’s comment: I recommend reading the books ;-)]

One thing Gannahan society lacked at first was religion. If they ever had a concept of God, they’d long since forgotten it by the time they were introduced to Earthish Christianity. In our eighteenth century, a Gannahan space traveler named Hoseh visited Earth, heard powerful preaching, and the Holy Spirit penetrated the darkness of his mind. Recognizing Ultimate Authority when he saw it, Hoseh submitted himself to the Savior.

He took the gospel back to Gannah, and it spread like a fire fanned by the wind. When faced with the truth, how could these people not repent of their sins? How could they not obey their Redeemer’s every word with joy? It was their nature to do so.

As they embraced their new faith, they retained many of their cultural traditions, for few of their laws contradicted their Creator’s. The aspects that did were permanently abolished.

One problem: I have a hard time wrapping my Earthbound mind around all this. In writing a story about a people whose culture and mindset is so far removed from mine, it’s hard to keep things consistent. That’s why, tragically, I had to kill them off in a global plague (Book #1, The Story in the Stars) and start over with a bunch of settlers from Earth (the other three titles in the series).

The majority of these settlers are Christ-followers, but all are sworn to uphold the laws and traditions of Gannah. So what we have in this series is a bunch of people like you and me who want to do right—but sometimes, it’s just stinkin’ hard.

I believe that’s why Christians who visit Gannah find the culture so inviting. On Gannah, we can give God our humble obedience without being made to feel foolish. In fact, peer pressure leads us to be more faithful and sincere in our devotion. Without the allure of wealth, our highest goal is to see God honored and the people of Gannah thrive. Because Christ is the true King, when problems arise (as they inevitably will), prayer is the first resort, not the last.

Gannah isn’t perfect. But in some ways, it’s a picture of the way we wish our world could be.

 

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Christian book review: Paryn’s Gold, Chadash Chronicles Book 3 by David G. Johnson

Paryn's GoldI’m sad. I’ve read all the books I was anticipating. I saved Paryn’s Gold to the last, and it was worth it. This is yet another great book on Chadash.

But now I’ve got nothing on my iPad which I am excited about. That’s not a good thing.

Is this the best of the four so far?

That’s very hard to say. To prepare for book three I reread the first three: Saga of the Everking (a lil’bitty thing), Fool’s Errand #1, and Mystic’s Mayhem #2. They were as good as I remember. In fact, they were even better the second time through. However, they made Paryn’s Gold seem a little sparse. I’d still have to give Fool’s Errand the nod as the best so far. By the way, don’t let my slight gritching about Paryn’s Gold put you off. This is a wonderful book.

Fool’s Errand is a masterful entry into a new world built by Mr. Johnson. The descriptions are rich and lush—depicting this extremely complex world in all its glory. It well may be that Paryn’s Gold is just the extension of the tale moving through a world in which I’m already comfortable. As a result, many of the gadgets have already been described in earlier books. Having just reread the earlier books a couple weeks ago, this book seems a bit lacking in description. I suspect this might even be a problem if you read the first two more than a year ago.  On the other hand, I remember feeling the same way about The Fellowship of the Ring. Two Towers was a let down for me. I suspect that the real issue is that I really love being introduced to a completely new world: culture, political structure, religion, spirituality, economics, clothing, tools, and so on. Once that excitement has passed, the rest of the books are slightly dull in comparison. That is almost certainly what is happening here on Chadash also.

The characters keep getting better

Several new characters are introduced in this book. The good guys and gals are as marvelous as the original heroes, and very well developed. This is where David really shines (although as a world-builder he is also exceptional). As in all the books, the evil characters are lacking a bit—probably because of an attempt to avoid offending the sensibilities of traditional Christian readers. That’s a little sad—sad that so many Christians demand insulation from reality. On the other hand, immersion in sin is certainly not edifying. It’s a fine balance and David has handled it masterfully—erring (if at all) on the side of caution.

Those of you who know me realize I dislike romances. However, I like them as they grow in a book like this. Book #1 seems pregnant with possibilities. Book #3 didn’t fulfill any of them, though at least three relationships have hints tossed out. The book left many things hanging, even though the basic story of the three books is satisfactorily concluded. I can easily see three or four more trilogies coming from Chadash. I hope that happens. It’s a wonderful place in which to escape.

Spiritually, fully evangelical

David’s roots as a missionary shine through well. The Holy Spirit is definitely missing from the action so it’s not Full Gospel at all. However, the working of the Lord is strongly present‚ much more than in most evangelical books. It’s wonderful to read a book like this about believers and how they relate within the real world. It is really well done and still very rare in publishing—especially in fantasy and science fiction.

The Chadash Chronicles

I was given a free pre-release version for review purposes in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

 

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Christian book review: The Pacific Rim Collection by Don Brown

Pacific Rim CollectionA three-book Kindle collection: a traditionally published, CBA-style (Christian Booksellers Ass.) ebook set by Zondervan.

I reviewed Thunder in the Morning Calm a while back. This is certainly not a technothriller from Dale Brown, but it’s a nice book. It’s more of a ministry advert for North Korean Christian rescue. We have little idea how bad it is over there.

Fire of the Raging Dragon I read just before I started reviewing. In fact, it was one of the reasons I started. I was so appalled with traditionally published Christian books and their lack of spiritual content. I enjoyed the story a whole lot more this time around. China starts a war with Taiwan beginning with an attack on one of the multitudinous tiny Spratly Islands (claimed by both) in the vast, often shallow sea surrounded by Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines, dragging the USA into it. Toss in crimes against humanity, the president’s daughter, and we have a tale to be told.

Storming of the Black Ice was new to me. It was fun and the most Christian of the three. There were three romantic relationships of the action/military kind. One was more pure lust, but we are left with the belief that marriage is in the works. Vast oil fields are discovered under Antarctica. Britain/Chile battle Argentina/Venezuela over the right to drill for it.

The military portions of these books are exciting and believable. Fire and Storming both have compelling war startups. The action is fierce, but not too graphic. Lieutenant Commander Brown knows the Navy.

The people are interesting, both good guys and bad. They are nice stories. Not as bad as Minnesota nice which is a synonym for bland, non-adventuresome, and publicly politically correct. But there’s no real tenseness. All threes are pretty predictable.

Spiritual level: mainline with evidence of true regeneration

The spiritual level surprised me. Usually traditionally published Christian books are a real dud. This is better than that. It’s well done, realistic, no preaching. Some questionable stuff, but nothing seriously out of place.

Nevertheless, they are good reads, entertaining. You can do far worse than these three books.

 

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What has God called me to do with my writing by Yvonne Anderson

When I asked Yvonne Anderson (as we were discussing her latest release in the Gateway to Gannah series), what God had called her to do with her writing, her interest led me to ask her to write a guest post on the topic. When I received this yesterday, I was excited to read it. I hope you enjoy it as I have. Being convinced for most of my life that I couldn’t write, this is an interesting tale for me. Maybe it more closely matches your call. The path upon which the Lord leads each of  us varies widely. But the core is always the same. Following the Lord’s lead on your personal strait & narrow path.


Gateway To Gannah Series

What has God called me to do with my writing

When we receive Christ by faith, the Spirit gives us certain gifts for the purpose of ministering to and edifying the church (Romans 12: 6-8 and all of I Corinthians 12).

By virtue of our humanness, we have innate talents—sometimes also called gifts—given to us with no strings attached. We neither chose nor earned any of these gifts, so they’re nothing to brag about. But neither should we hide them under a bushel. Surely God wouldn’t have given us these abilities if He didn’t want us to use them.

The first time you sit down at the piano, though, you don’t play a Chopin sonata. A sculptor’s first work won’t be Venus De Milo, and a ballerina doesn’t get to be prima until she’s been at it a long while. From the time I was in third or fourth grade, I knew I could write. But I never took my ability seriously—that is, I never made any effort to use it—until middle age. That was when I learned I had a lot to learn! Having the gift is only a start.

Developing it into something useful is a lifelong journey.

For a Christian, that would be “developing it into something the Lord can use.”

You might say it’s a matter of give and take. God gives you the gift; you take it (i.e., you don’t bury it) and give it back to Him as you work at developing it. You sit at the feet of masters of the craft and take the teaching they offer. Then, using what you learn, you share your gift with others around you—all the while giving it to God. In other words, you serve as both a receptacle and a dispenser, receiving what God gives you only to pour it back to Him.

The question was posed: What has God called me to do with my writing, and what are His purposes for Christian writers today?

This two-fold question has a single answer: Whatever He wants.

God tells mankind what He wants of us: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). To love Him with all that is within us, and to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). To keep His commandments (John 14:15). For a writer, this boils down to reverencing God in our work, portraying His attributes accurately, and allowing our writing to show our love for Him and others.

“Yeah, I get that,” you may say. “But those are general things. What specifically am I to do with the writing talent He’s given me?”

That’s where Psalm 119:105 comes in: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. This points out two things: first, we can’t know where we’re going unless we keep hold of God’s word and allow its light to illuminate our way. Secondly, it’s a lamp, not a floodlight; we’re not going to see very far ahead.

We can’t know where the next step is until we take the first one.

If you’re like me, you’d like some concrete examples of this. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful to see some of the steps God has led me through on my writing journey:

When our four kids were old enough that they weren’t always under foot, I took it into my silly head to try writing a novel. On a typewriter – we didn’t have a computer at the time. I didn’t know why I was doing it. Perhaps just to see if I could, though I don’t recall ever entertaining any thought of doing it before. Whatever my motive, I finished it, and it was so much fun that I wrote another one. I never tried to market either of them. It seemed a colossal waste of time, so I gave it up, presumably for good.

Four or five years later, we got a computer. The older kids were grown and gone and the younger ones were in high school. My hours at work were cut to 12 hours a week, leaving me with a good bit of time to do whatever I wanted. One morning in February of 2002 as I cleaned up after breakfast, I pondered what I should do that day, thinking it a wondrous thing to have time to myself. That’s when a thought whapped me upside the head. You need to write a book. Been there, done that, ain’t doin’ it again. You need to write a book. Oh, come on, are You serious? You have a computer. You have the time. You need to write a book. About what? Just get started. It’ll come.

So, after some serious prayer (“Please, Lord, I don’t want to do this if it’s really not what You want!” You need to write a book. “Okay, I’ll do it, but only until You tell me to stop. And I hope that will be soon.”), I sat down at the computer and stared at the blank screen for a while. After a very short time, I knew what I wanted to write. Once I started, I hardly came up for air for the next nine months, at the end of which I’d hammered out a 200,000-word disaster.

Then I said, “Okay, what now?”

I remembered having heard of something called an online writers’ critique group. I was new to computers, but I did know what Google was, so I did a search for that phrase. The first thing that caught my eye was a group for Christian writers. Which I joined, and through which I got an intense – and intensely painful – education. And met some fellow students with whom I’m still friends, through whom I’ve made even more contacts and learned even more things about the writing craft as well as the writing industry – all the while daily praying, “As soon as You want me to quit, let me know, and I will,” and then after a couple of years, “Please, may I stop now?” But, whenever I came to a crossroad, the light was green, so I kept going.

This went on for a few agonizing years until the Lord mercifully allowed me to pull over at a rest stop. I was in the throes of such frustration and discouragement that I said, “I’m done. I’m never writing fiction again.” I sensed an indulgent Go ahead and take a break. And so I did

During that hiatus, I ran across an interesting little piece of nonfiction called The Gospel in the Stars by Joseph A. Seiss, a reprint of a book written in 1882. It put forth the theory that when God created the heavens and the earth, He portrayed the gospel message in the constellations for early man to “read.” The idea captured my imagination, and I decided to write – just for fun, mind you; no one would ever read it – a story in which the characters discovered this “story in the stars.” And so the Gateway to Gannah series was conceived. (It had a long gestation period.)

If you knew me before, you’d find this amusing. Why? Because, for one thing, I viewed Christian fiction with a certain amount of disdain. It was almost always romance, and romance novels have always made me roll my eyes and groan. Besides that, every Christian novel I’d ever read (which, at that point, only amounted to three or four titles) was poorly written. Moreover, I didn’t care for science fiction, thinking it either too technical, or too dark and depressing. (Again, I hadn’t read much because it didn’t appeal to me.) So for God to put me to work writing Christian science fiction was pretty surprising. Laughable, really. Proof that God has a marvelous sense of humor.

And proof that none of this was my idea. I merely heard the Spirit whisper and followed where He led—and, as often happens, He led me places I never expected to go. But once I started on the journey, I realized it was where I belonged.

That was in about 2006. I published the fourth and last book in the Gannah series in October of 2014. People ask me what’s next, but I don’t have a ready answer. It’s not that I have no ideas, because I have a number of them. But nothing’s showing up in the lamplight on the path. For now, apparently, I’m at a rest stop again.

God gives each of us abilities for a purpose, just as He gives us life for a purpose. The purpose for both is for His pleasure (Revelation 4:11). For His pleasure. Not ours.

Funny thing, though: when we live for His pleasure, we find deep satisfaction that the unbelieving world might wish for but can never achieve.

God not only gives us abilities, but He gives us experiences. He teaches us through His word, through human teachers, through the unique set of difficulties and triumphs and heartaches of our day-to-day lives. He gives us all these things so that we can pour it back out to Him in worship.

What should I write? What should you write? Fiction or nonfiction? What genre? Full-length book or article? For what audience, and on what topic? How do I sell what I write? Can I earn a living at it? What expert advice should I follow to further my career? Only God has the answers to these and a myriad of related questions—and the answers might not be anywhere close to what we expect.

But when we consider our lives to be His for His pleasure, not ours—when we’re willing to follow the light of His word one step at a time—we can be certain He’ll lead us to pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). And that will be far sweeter than any “success” we could possibly dream of.

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Christian book review: Seek And Hide by Amanda G. Stevens

Seek And HideOfficial blurb: Six years ago, the government took control of the church. Only re-translated Bibles are legal, and a specialized agency called the Constabulary enforces this and other regulations. Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment–including risk his own freedom to gain the trust of a government agent.

Aubrey Weston recanted her faith when the Constabulary threatened her baby. Now released, she just wants to provide for her son and avoid government notice. But she’s targeted again, and this time, her baby is taken into custody. If only she’d never denied Him, maybe God would hear her pleas for help.

When Aubrey and Marcus’s lives collide, they are forced to confront the lies they believe about themselves. And God is about to grab hold of Marcus’s life in a way he’d never expect, turning a loner into a leader.

I really tried to like it

But it was so painful! All the self-inflicted agony really got to me. Amanda really gets into the characters. They are well developed. But I just wanted to smack them upside the head. They so badly needed good teaching and the power of the Holy Spirit. This is obviously supposed to be a Christian book, but the Lord in this book has no real power. The characters are so determined to be in pain. Of course, they succeed. The Lord will never override your will.

If you like emotionally devastated people struggling without much hope, this book is for you

The characters are well done. You get into their heads. They could be likable and sometimes succeed. Most of the reviews are five star with comments like, the characters are so real! I’d agree with that assessment, but they are a non-biblically justified mess. Most of the time I just wanted to grab them, shake them, and tell them to get a grip. The rest of the time, I wanted to tell them how simple it would be to find peace. Salvation and healing is available to them, but it never arrives. I still haven’t recovered from this one, even though I finished it three days ago. It’s a lot of pain, realistic, but unnecessary. Not entertaining.

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Christian book review: The Omega Objective by Wesley Hankins the West Meadow Crow

The Omega ObjectiveThe official blurb: In possession of elitist information, Roger Converse—a key player in special ops intelligence—begins to struggle with the claims of Christianity, while a tangled web of coincidence usually reserved only for conspiracy theory becomes rational policy. His life depends on where he places his trust as he sees a darker side to the proposed utopian peace about to be introduced to the world.

It’s hardly “rational” policy, but be that as it may

This is Christian Brad Thor or Vince Flynn—a no-holds-barred black ops fight by a loner hero against a massive global conspiracy. There’s not much more than a few endtimes hints, but the book ends with a lot of the story still untold. The spiritual side of things is only hinted at. But Roger Converse makes an excellent black ops hero. There’s even a bit of romance.

This is a very enjoyable book. My only quibble is at the spiritual level. It’s somewhere between mainline and evangelical. The believers don’t have any regular communication with the Lord and the Spirit’s works are far too well hidden. The Bible is virtually a magic book in that it has power, when we know that the power which backs up the book is from the Holy Spirit. I know the heathen don’t see the working of the Holy Spirit, but the believers should be able to. AND the Lord talks with His people on a normal and continual basis. But those are minor quibbles.

This is a fun read

I recommend it on a purely entertainment level. It’s good, clean fun.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Christian book review: The Last Toqeph, Book 4 in The Gateway to Gannah series by Yvonne Anderson

The Last ToqephYvonne believes this is the best book she’s written so far. I’m not sure I agree. But that’s probably because of two reasons—strictly personal. First, I loved the first three books. Second, I really want to read book five, which she says is not coming. I pray the Lord changes her mind.

This planet will challenge you

This series depicts a society on a distant planet which is focused on the Lord with strict discipline and radical obedience. Those two concepts are nearly anathema to modern day Americans. Is it completely Biblical? No, it’s fiction. Several of the interactions go far beyond what my wife and I practice in our marriage.

But then that’s true for many issues because my wife is called to be a pastor and I’m not. I’m head of the household. She’s head of the church. No problem, right? Well you cannot imagine the problems with the reactions of many so-called Christians. On my better days, I simply tell them to read Galatians 3:28 and move on.

This series will challenge more than that—in a good way. Yes, Yvonne takes headship/submission and the rearing of children to its limit. But she doesn’t cross the line into the anti-Biblical or non-Christian. The love and spiritual truth of the relationships cannot be avoided. It’s a compelling book. Not so much as a guide to how we should live, but as  reminder of how creative the Lord is and can be with His people and their relationships. If this society existed on Earth, I’d move there in a heartbeat. But it couldn’t exist here.

It’s uniquely Gannahan, and that’s a good thing. It needs the remoteness of a backwater planet in almost complete isolation. And then there’s the fact that this planet can kill you in a heartbeat with plants and animals which are a delight, though often very dangerous. The animals can communicate with humans and have entered a covenant with them. But only Gannahans have the gland which enables that—and distant communication with each other.

The people are wonderful

These are people I wish I knew. Actually, because I feel like I do know them, this book four is quite sad for me. People move on, move out, finish their work, and bring this Gateway series to a close. But there are so many hints of the future, potential conflicts, budding romances, galactic evangelism, growth, excitement, joy, and I want more. The principle characters are men, and women of wisdom, compassion, and love. They have compelling children. The secondary people are just as intriguing. We simply do not get the opportunity to know them so well. The enemies are evil, yet often come to salvation. You really need to read this whole series.

I certainly do not want to spoil it for you. But READ IT!