Doré,_Gustave_-_Paradiso_Canto_31The recent scandal regarding the boy who didn’t go to heaven is just one more reason to be skeptical of the “heavenly tourism” fad. Thankfully, many discerning believers have seen through this long ago, not only criticizing the publishing trend, but the unorthodox biblical messages such experiences often send.

However, in our haste to distance ourselves from the fads and fraudulent claims of “heavenly tourists,” there is the possibility of swinging too far in the opposite direction, becoming dismissive of all spiritual phenomenon, and reinforcing a materialistic worldview.

There are some good reasons to remain open to, at least agnostic about, the possibility that individuals can have genuine near-death (NDEs) and out-of-body (OBEs) experiences.

Scripture contains numerous accounts of individuals who were resuscitated from death (the son of the Shunammite widow, Lazarus, Tabitha, Eutychus and others). Scripture also contains accounts of individuals who glimpsed God or heaven (or something beyond this physical realm) and returned to talk about it. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Phillip, and the apostle John all had something equivalent to heavenly revelations or a “tour” of the spirit realm. Perhaps the most notable is the apostle Paul who writes:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.  And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. — 2 Corinthians 12: 2-4 NIV

Turns out Paul was speaking about himself. What’s interesting about this account is Paul’s inability to articulate his experience, to say whether he was “in the body or out of the body” when he glimpsed the “third heaven.” Whatever the apostle saw, and in whatever proximity his body was to his spirit, the revelations were “inexpressible” (which alone could call into question the current fad of writing in detail about ones experience).

Another reason to remain open to or agnostic about OBEs and NDEs is because of the wealth of evidence for them. In Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality, Christian apologists Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland explore the philosophical, scientific, and theological sides to the question. Interestingly enough, one of the strengths for the case NDE’s is simply the vast number of them. Literally millions of people have reported mystical, out-of-body types of experiences, many of which bare striking similarity. This wealth of reported NDE’s is changing how researchers approach the subject. Though not a religious work and more academic, Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century also appeals to the girth of unexplained phenomenon surrounding NDEs to postulate a less materialistic approach to neuroscience and our understanding of the brain.

Something else to consider is the Bible’s portrayal of a supernatural universe. Weird phenomenon abound in Scripture. Whether it is angelic visitations, exorcisms, prophetic utterances, Peter walking upon water, or Philip being transported from one location to another by the Spirit (Acts 8:38-40), the Bible frames a world of wonder brimming with “mystical” properties and potential. Surely the possibility that someone could expire and glimpse the Other Side (or some dimension in between) is not outside the boundaries of a biblical worldview.

Which brings me to my concern: My fear is that the weird, conflicting, and fraudulent claims made by alleged “travelers” to the Other Side will push us toward a more materialistic view of life or reinforce an already overly-materialistic worldview.

In his book True Spirituality, Francis Schaeffer explained the biblical worldview in terms of two chairs. In one chair sits the materialist who only sees one half of the world, the world of material things, of reason and rationality, of science and natural law. In the second chair sits the believer. The believer sees the material world, but he sees more. He sees the spiritual world, the universe teeming with God’s presence, the holy angels, the devil and his demons, and the Holy Spirit who is constantly at work in and through us. The believer’s world is far bigger than the materialist’s world for he sees both halves of the universe — the natural and the spiritual. But the point of Schaeffer’s analogy is to exhort those Christians who only live in half of the universe. They profess to believe in God’s power and the testimony of biblical history, yet they sit in the materialist’s chair. While Evangelicals profess to believe in the miracles of Scripture and a supernatural world,  most of them live remarkably materialistic lives.

Likewise, some of the criticisms of “heavenly tourism” bespeak a materialistic worldview.  Some categorically deny that any of these “tourists” actually visited heaven but were deceived by demons or, at least, simply experiencing explainable medical phenomenon. Others embrace a Dispensational point of view, seeing visions and miracles as no longer necessary. The result is often a broad-brush condemnation of ALL OBE / NDE claims.

Should we be critical of the “heavenly tourism” trend? Absolutely! However, the Scripture seems to teach a more balanced approach. The apostle Paul wrote:

“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (I Thessalonians 5:19-21 NIV)

Notice, we are to “test everything” — that means we shouldn’t blindly assume that every supposed miracle or experiential claim is an act of God. But in all our testing, we must not “put out the Spirit’s fire.” KJV translates that, “quench not the Holy Spirit.” Test, but don’t quench. Be critical, but not unbelieving.

In their Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli list Twenty-five Positive Arguments for Life After Death. One is the Argument from Near-Death Experiences. After concluding that they have “serious reservations” about validating all such experiences, the authors concede:

“Yes we also seem to have serious data and impressive testimonies, often from otherwise reliable, wise, even holy people, including orthodox Christians. The jury is still out on this one.”

At the least, adopting a jury-is-still-out approach seems wise.

As long as miracles are possible and the universe remains supernatural, plenty of weird, wacky, unexplained phenomenon will be claimed. Frankly, this is what many people don’t like. They want to box God in, apply a checklist to discount and discredit ALL claims of the supernatural. It’s easier to just believe NDEs and OBEs are not real than to sift through all the stupid claims people make. It’s easier to just disassociate myself from those wacky “heavenly tourists” than it is to believe that some of their testimonials may be true.

As a result, we end up sitting in the Materialist’s chair.

The wrong thing to do is to believe ALL supposed NDEs / OBEs because some of them might be true. Equally wrong is to reject ALL such claims because SOME prove fraudulent or unbiblical.

Christians should be both eager to denounce false testimonials of heaven while declaring the power of God, the wonder of our world, the mystery of life, and the hope of life beyond the grave.

Heaven and the afterlife is a realm of mystery. Let’s not completely sanitize it in our attempt to be doctrinally sound. Conversely, let’s not be so gullible as to embrace every testimony as legitimate. In our hurry to debunk fraudulent claims about visits to heaven, let’s not forget that our world is full of wonder, that strange phenomenon occurs beyond the limits of science and explanation, and that life beyond the grave is real.

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meat grinder 1I recently purchased one of those Guide to Indie Publishing type books. It was cheap and a quick read. However, the author’s central point left me a bit bummed. After outlining in detail her fairly prolific sales record, she concludes that the best way for an author to succeed at indie publishing is to crank out books. Lots of books. Of course, there is discussion about professional editing and cover design, as well as tricks and tips for exploiting Amazon’s algorithms. But the bottom line is — Write Faster and Publish Often. This particular writer publishes two novels a year minimum, along with various novellas, anthologies, short stories, and self-help books.

Key to Indie Success: Write Faster and Publish Often

 

One of the debates that’s arisen as a result of this changing landscape is whether e-publishing is shaping the expectations of readers. Does a faster supply line affect readers’ expectations? Do we approach ebooks expecting:

  • Less density
  • Less editorial quality
  • A faster read

Apparently, some think readers DO expect less from ebooks — less craft, less substance, less in-depth characterizations, less detail — than traditional novels. Which is OK for them. What they want is a quick read. Something to hold them over until their next literary snack. Sure, maybe this doesn’t mean readers have less or lower expectations. Perhaps they just expect something “different” from ebooks. I’m not sure. Either way, if indie authors are guided by the aforementioned rule — Write Faster and Publish Often — density and quality will eventually suffer.

I was a fan of Patrick Goldstein’s The Big Picture, a Hollywood insider column, that appeared weekly in the L.A. Times. (Goldstein left the paper in 2012 after a change of management.) His piece (now 7 or 8 years old) on the success of Disney pictures has always stuck with me. In it, Goldstein handed out year-end report cards to the studios. The overall score consisted of three grades: first for box office and profitability, second for film quality, and third for overall success. At the top of the list — Disney with an A-. But what surprised me most about the ’07 tallies was not that Disney was, again, near the top of the pack, but the reason given for their success.

Blessed with the most respected brand in the business, Disney is now less of a film division and more of a family entertainment company. Of the 11 movies it released in 2007, eight were Disney label movies, allowing the company to remain relentlessly focused on its brand. By releasing so few films, Disney was able to make more high-quality films by putting extra time into solving script, production and marketing issues than competitors like Sony and Warner Bros., who roll out more than 20 a year.

“We’re probably in a different business than our brother and sister companies,” says Disney studio chief Dick Cook. “We’ve learned that it’s not how many you do but how good they are. If you only make 11 movies a year, you’re not putting your movies through a meat grinder; you can be very specific about quality. That way, if we do stumble, and I’m sure we will, it will be because we were pushing the envelope instead of not keeping our eye on the ball.” (bold mine)

Disney has obviously maintained its edge, landing 4 films in the 10 highest grossing movies of 2014. It’s hard to argue about the meticulous detail that goes into Disney’s films. But as with any quality product, perfection takes time. And this is exactly what differentiates Disney from its competitors.

“We’re probably in a different business than our brother and sister companies,” said Disney studio chief Dick Cook. “We’ve learned that it’s not how many you do but how good they are.” Unlike other studios, most of whom are cranking out twice as many films a year, Disney has valued quality over quantity.

And it is precisely this value that goes against industry norms.

I can’t help but relate this to the arts in general and the industries that represent them. The film industry, like the book industry, like the music industry, is admittedly more about making money than producing quality craft. It’s what Mr. Cook calls “the meat grinder.” No sooner does a publisher contract an author than they are requesting a second book. (In fact, how many authors are left unsigned because they don’t have a second book?) So what if it took ten years to write the script for an indie hit — you’ve got 16 months for the follow-up. Likewise, indie authors are taught to Write Faster and Publish often. Why niggle over details when you can fire up the assembly line and fast track your books to anxious readers?

Art is being jammed through a “meat grinder.”

Perhaps more indie authors should reconsider Disney’s approach. “[I]t’s not how many you [publish] but how good they are.” Of course, both would be ideal — more books, more often, of high quality. But as long as “success” is being defined in terms of money, why not choose the meat grinder?

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Last week, the popular Christian review site, The Christian Manifesto (TCM), published a book review that generated significant discussion and online chatter. Their fiction editor, Amy Drown, reviewed veteran Christian fiction novelist and Christy award winner Lisa Samson’s latest novel, A Thing of Beauty, concluding that it was worthy of only a half star (out of five). The half star, according to TCM’s own ratings, makes the book a “Waste of Time.” “Swearing and vulgar language” are cited as the primary reason for this downgrade. Amy writes in her review,Lisa-Samson

…as I opened the book and began reading, I instantly liked the author’s spunky, sarcastic writing voice. My hopes were high indeed.

But two pages in, the language began. Talk about jarring. Did a Christian fiction heroine really just say that she would kick someone’s a–??? I brushed it aside and kept reading, trying to get caught up in the story of this grouchy ex-movie star and her OCD hunt for a roommate. But then it happened again—this time someone saying they “didn’t give a d—.” It may have worked for Rhett Butler, but in a contemporary Christian novel?

And sadly, the language continued. I tried to make note in my Goodreads progress updates every time explicit language would jar me out of the story, but in the end, I literally couldn’t keep up with it all. Multiple uses of a–, d—, b—–d, and h—, as well as repeatedly taking the Lord’s name in vain. It reached a point where I seriously questioned whether this book was, in fact, published by Thomas Nelson. Maybe some Harper Collins intern responsible for posting the book on NetGalley and Amazon got the publisher information wrong, and it really is published by a different company in that umbrella organization? (bold mine)

Indeed, “expectations” became the primary theme of Amy’s critique. She concludes,

As a general rule, I hate to post public reviews that are negative. If I can’t honestly endorse a novel and recommend it to my friends, I prefer to say so quietly, directly, to either the publisher or the author. It’s not that I’m a prude or goody-two-shoes. Far from it! I actually enjoy a lot of secular fiction myself, and if this book had been released by a general market publisher to a general market audience, I would be giving it a 3-star review*. The writing was full of sass and attitude perfectly in keeping with its genre and subject matter, and the characters were unusual, if not altogether likable.

But this book wasn’t released in the general market. It is the product of a Christian publisher selling Christian fiction to Christian fans. And as such, knowing how many other Christian fiction fans trust this publisher’s name and reputation and may be tempted to pick up this intriguing-sounding story just as I was, I felt compelled to post a review to warn them as I wish someone had warned me. (bold mine)

Audience expectations are a legitimate thing. Contemporary Christian fiction audiences expect a certain product. This is true of any market. Amy is not wrong for acknowledging this and cautioning her audience. Nevertheless, expectations are where Amy, I, and many of her readers part ways.

I’ve come to believe that some of the expectations that drive and shape the Christian fiction industry are unhealthy, unbiblical, and very un-Christian. In fact, I see the exchange that occurred at TCM and the subsequent response of many authors, readers, and bloggers, as indicative of this growing divide in the Christian fiction reading community and a recognition that the standard we’ve come to judge Christian fiction by is skewed.

After following the discussions on the TCM website, my Facebook page, and several other places, two major questions surfaced about the review:

  1. Did the use of profanity deserve such a severe downgrade of the novel?
  2. Did characters actually say the phrase “God damn”?

In some readers’ minds, the use of profanity in a Christian novel does indeed significantly downgrade a novel.

Commenter Sarah wrote,

“…finding all of that language in a ‘Christian’ novel would definitely be a disappointment for me.”

Then there’s commenter Florence who wrote,

“Thank you for this balanced and honest review! I’ve long believed in the mission of TCM, that you don’t insulate yourselves so that we readers of Christian fiction will be safe from reading books will all that filthy language. You’ve reaffirmed my belief that my own expectations are what determine whether a work has beauty or merit, and I’m so grateful you warned me to stay away from this phony work of supposed Christian fiction. May God bless you for your stand and for your important public service!” (bold mine)

Lynda concluded,

“Some expectations should be a given for the Christian fiction market, and a novel free of language should be one we don’t have to question.”

The concern about including profanity in a book marketed to Christians is legitimate. It’s a debate worth having. But does the inclusion of profanity in a novel marketed to Christians immediately make it a “phony work of supposed Christian fiction”? This type of rhetoric does indeed reveal how central, how essential, the absence of profanity is to contemporary Christian fiction. It was a similar outrage that caused Lifeway to ban “The Blind Side” from their shelves. Even though the movie had a positive depiction of Christians and a redemptive conclusion, some language and a racial slur forced it to be deemed un-Christian. From my perspective, this type of reaction is kneejerk, insufficiently grounded in biblical precedent, and reveals an appalling lack of discernment, nuance, cultural savvy, and wisdom from evangelical consumers.

But that’s my opinion and, as I said, the profanity discussion in Christian fiction is indeed worth having.

The second question turned into the stickiest, and ultimately the reason why I chose to publish this post.

Amy cited the novel as “repeatedly taking the Lord’s name in vain.” So I asked for clarity — “Did characters actually say G-D often?” to which she replied, “Yes, they did. Repeatedly.” However, the author, Lisa Samson, specifically responded to this charge on my FB page saying, “There are unequivocally, absolutely no G-Ds in this book.” So I asked the reviewer again, this time: “Does the phrase “God d–n” appear in this book?” Here’s that exchange, my third comment on the TCM blog, and Amy’s response:

 

TCM

Needless to say, Amy’s response was very disappointing. After pressing the issue, her answer was, basically, that she couldn’t remember and that I should read the novel myself. So after going into detail about the amount of profanity in the book, referencing specific curse words, and emphasizing that by noting that the characters “repeatedly” used the Lord’s name in vain, the reviewer basically says she doesn’t exactly remember.

This was important, in my mind, because Amy’s main charge is the book’s language, capped off by the “repeated” taking of the Lord’s name in vain. As a Christian, the taking of the Lord’s name in vain would indeed be problematic, even shocking, for a Christian publisher to allow… especially regarding a book aimed at Christian audiences. Which makes the seeming obfuscation on Amy’s part concerning. For a reviewer representing a mainstream Christian magazine to claim this, while the author flatly denies it, is troublesome. If Ms. Samson’s novel “repeatedly takes the Lord’s name in vain,” I would share Amy Drown’s concern. But her inability to cite specifics and back up her central claims leads me to wonder if she was intentionally inflating charges and misrepresenting the book (the author and the publisher) to justify her denunciation of the novel.

After the three exchanges with the reviewer on the website, I finally contacted The Christian Manifesto with my concerns. That was Saturday, the 10th. I emailed their site and Messaged them on Facebook. I have not (as of today, the 16th) received any acknowledgement of my letter, my concerns, or return correspondence.

Very disappointing.

Since that dust-up, it has been encouraging to see so many other readers and writers step up to counter the TCM review. Like author Susie Finkbeiner who writes in her post Reading Lisa Samson:

Here’s the thing about this book: it’s very different from what one might expect from the “Christian” publishing world.

The characters in A Thing of Beauty are very human. A few of them are broken and in possession of quite a bit of baggage (literally and figuratively). There is no salvation message. No explicit mention of Christ or Christianity. People, there are CUSS WORDS in this book.

But you know what was there? Redemption. Community. People living selflessly to prop up somebody else. Love (all 4 kinds…if you’re a C.S. Lewis nut like me, you’ll know what they are). There’s a story of healing and forgiveness and reconciliation.

This book really is beautiful.

However, if you read “Christian” fiction as a means of isolating from the world…this isn’t your book. If you’re offended by hard words…move along, little doggy. If you want something fluffy (which is totally fine!)…pick another novel.

In her last paragraph, Susie hits the nail on its head and brings us back to the issue of expectations.

  • If you read Christian fiction as a means of isolating from the world… this isn’t your book.
  • If you’re offended by hard words…move along.
  • If you want something fluffy (which is totally fine!)…pick another novel.

But what you shouldn’t do is distribute ad hoc half-star reviews and inflate charges of profanity in order to make your case. Especially when your Mission statement promises blunt objectivity and cultural savvy tempered by a biblical worldview.

Of course, reading is a subjective experience. People will have wildly different opinions about the same book. Also, bad reviews are par for the course. My guess is that this isn’t the first half-star review Lisa Samson has received. And yes, maybe Thomas Nelson erred in not issuing some disclaimer. That’s a possibility. But even if they did, what won’t go away is the opinion of many Christian readers that the inclusion of profanity in a novel marketed to Christians immediately makes it a “phony work of supposed Christian fiction” and deems it a “Waste of Time.” This, my friends, is a perspective we would do well to continue to challenge.

*In Drown’s original post, she noted that if the book were published in the general market she would give it a “4-star review,” which was later edited (without mention) to “3-star review” after online response began.
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One Fallen Sparrow

by Mike Duran · 7 comments

Joey-and-Chris

Joey and Chris

Joey had been a part of the Youth Group I led. He was about the same age as my son, Christopher, and they went on to develop a neat friendship. Joey’s head was slightly indented on one side, a circular scar evident in his hairline where the doctors had opened up his skull and removed a portion of his brain. His family attended my first church. Joey’s mother was always quick to remind me that Joey was a miracle. And, indeed, it was hard to dispute that. When he was younger, Joey had fallen from a tree into the street and crushed his skull. For several days, his life hung in the balance.

Our church came together in impassioned prayer for Joey after that accident. I visited him in the ICU and prayed for a miraculous recovery. His father vowed that if Joey lived, he would begin attending church. People make such promises when their sons are lying in hospital beds on life support. This particular father would keep his promise and went on to attend my church until its dissolution.

Because Joey returned to us.

He was always a simple boy. After the accident, he was slow, and self-conscious about his slowness. God had spared him, but not from the consequences of climbing into a rotted Ash and landing head first on the crumbling asphalt. Joey became close to our family. He went with us to Mexico once on vacation and dropped by impromptu for many a dinner. Chris kept a picture of him and Joey on his dresser, his arms draped over Joe in goofy abandon (the picture above). Joey also went on a mission to Fiji and returned wearing a Polynesian type skirt. Some of the kids in the Youth Group made fun of him, but Joey didn’t seem much to mind.

He always felt like God had some big plans for him, something that wasn’t yet realized. He believed he could make a difference in people’s lives and wanted to give his testimony and be a witness of God’s power. Joey was big into having a testimony. One day Joey visited our house, sat in the chair next to my desk, and asked me if I could help him write out his testimony so that he could begin going to churches and sharing his story with others. Joey was not cut out for public speaking, but he had a great heart, and I agreed that I would help him sometime. He sat under a lithograph of a sparrow. I have two such lithographs, both of which I’m very fond of. Sparrows hold a special place in my heart, as apparently they do in God’s who feeds them and knows when a single one falls to the ground.

That would be the last time I’d see Joey alive. Like a sparrow, he too would fall to the ground. Intentionally.

One afternoon, his mother called, frantic, saying that Joey had gotten into a fight with his father and stormed out of the house. From there, Joey drove to a local freeway overpass, parked his car, scaled the fence, and climbed out on the ledge of the overpass. From there, he made several phone calls. One of them was to my son, Chris.

By the time I received his mother’s call, Joey had jumped from the overpass onto the freeway. He was being airlifted to a nearby hospital. By the time I arrived there, Joey was pronounced dead.
When I got home from the hospital that evening, Christopher appeared bleary-eyed in the kitchen. We sat up late into the night, talking about us and Joey and why God allows stuff like that to happen. I’ve learned that in times of tragedy, the best thing to do is to not force answers. That was another case of not really having one.

Chris later removed the picture of him and Joey and threw it under his bed. Which I thought was fitting. If suicide victims could only see the grief and anguish they cause friends and loved ones, perhaps they would reconsider.

Chris and I stood side by side at Joey’s funeral and spoke to the mourners. Chris shared something and then I read a short piece I’d entitled “Your Testimony.” This is what I read:

I’m not sure when your testimony began. Was it the day your mother first told you about Jesus and something stirred in your heart? Was it the day I baptized you and your brother in a swimming pool before many witnesses? Was it the day that tree limb gave way? Was it the day you walked out of the hospital, a living, breathing miracle? Is that scar on your head part of your testimony? Is that tattoo on your arm part of your testimony? And what about that funny limp of yours?

I’m not sure when your testimony began – but I know that you had one.

I know you had a testimony because you lived through things that most of us will never know. I know you had a testimony because, even in the midst of your personal struggle, you still served and worshiped God and loved others. I know you had a testimony because you went halfway around the world to share the Gospel with people you’d never met. I know you had a testimony because you were eager for the things of God – whether it was a discussion, a study, a conference or a concert – if it pertained to Jesus, you were interested. I know you had a testimony because you shared Christ with anyone, anywhere, any time you had a chance. And, mostly, I know you had a testimony because people were changed, for the better, because of you.

But you fell, again, and this time it was not an accident. The first time you were broken; but this time, we have been crushed.

You’ve left us with questions, regrets and emotions that we can’t yet name. But while we feel your decision was wrong, short-sighted and selfish, dear Joe, we understand. We understand that you were in pain; that your burdens were heavy and you were weak. We understand that you needed help and support and encouragement, and we did not always give it. We understand that you were slow, and that that bothered you. We understand that you yearned so much for the world to be right, and it was not. We understand . . .

And we know that God understands.

Somehow, that autumn night, you fell – not to earth – but into the hands of God. Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without His knowledge. So you, worth more than many sparrows, fell from this thorny nest, into the infinite embrace of your Heavenly Father. And there you will remain, forever loved, forever safe, forever whole.

But your testimony does not end there – your witness goes on.

It’s here still, in this place, in these hearts. For we are your testimony. You have inspired us. You have served us. You have brought us together. Your innocence – your simplicity – has humbled us. Your zeal, sometimes, put us to shame. Your sense of humor and playfulness brightened us. And your faith pointed us toward home. No, your testimony isn’t over: We are your testimony.

But our story’s incomplete. We still have people to love, tasks to finish, and miles to grow. Save my family a spot next to you in heaven – just like our family always had a spot for you at our dinner table (and you were always the last one at it) – for our next meal together will be quite grand. Please give Jesus a hug for me. And until we meet again, thank you, Joey, for your testimony.

Chris and I stood in front of the mourners and wept.

A single sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the Father knowing. I can’t say for sure, but I believe that applies to young men with brain damage who throw themselves off of overpasses in a fit of despair. Now over a decade removed from the tragedy, I think of Joey with a smile on my face. And remember the sparrows.

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Is Christian Fiction a way to share the message with seekers and unbelievers? Or is it mainly a vehicle to inspire and entertain existing Christians? I’d love to know your thoughts. Please select what you consider the top two goals Christian Fiction should accomplish. If there’s an answer you think should be included, feel free to add that to the list. (NOTE: “All of the above” misses the point of this poll, which is to isolate the MAIN OBJECTIVE readers give of Christian Fiction.)

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Goodreads Giveaway

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This week I’ll be giving away three autographed copies of The Ghost Box at Goodreads. Enter HERE for a chance to win. Goodreads Book Giveaway The Ghost Box by Mike Duran Giveaway ends January 12, 2015. See the giveaway details at Goodreads. Enter to win Share this post! Tweet

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My 2014 Reading List

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Sadly, one of the things I sacrifice when writing, is reading. Ironic, huh? By the paltry size of these lists, you can see I’m not a prolific reader. Or maybe I was just writing a lot. Either way, I still managed to settle down long enough to consume the following fare. For whatever reason, when […]

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The Changing “Voice” of Christian Fiction

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I recently used my monthly post at Novel Rocket to blurb next year’s Realm Makers (RM) Conference. Here’s how I framed that post: Realm Makers is a conference designed for “people of faith who love science fiction and fantasy.” The Christian fiction market is notoriously thin when it comes to the representation of speculative fiction […]

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Kindle Countdown Deal for “The Ghost Box”

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I’ve been getting some great reviews for The Ghost Box since its release last month. Grace Bridges said the novel is “Funny as heck… with some awesome surprise twists.” Mike Roop described it as “a good metaphysical action romp… Think Harry Dresden meets The Librarian meets The Lone Gunmen from X-Files.” And Lelia Rose Foreman […]

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Finding Truth in “Pagan” Art

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Film critic Jeffrey Overstreet, in his book Through a Screen Darkly, talks about the backlash he received from concerned parents after his favorable review of the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. One parent wrote, “If you think anything meaningful can be conveyed by pagan mythology, you’ve just opened up Pandora’s Box.” Overstreet […]

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Faster for the Master — Author Edition

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A Christian speed metal band used to emblazon their logo with the words, Faster for the Master. As if musical MPH was virtuous. The successful  Amazon Kindle author could probably adopt that saying for their own. Only, in their case, the Master is the market and the faster they write, the more the market is […]

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How Autonomous Are Your Fictional Characters?

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In his book On Writing, Stephen King uses a unique illustration to describe the relationship of the author to her story. Novelists, suggests King, are less creators than they are discoverers. He writes, “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox […]

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