Smashwords Read an EBook Week

March 4 through 10, Smashwords is promoting their annual “Read an eBook” week. Use Coupon REW50 for 50% off RUNNING BLACK. Hundreds of other authors are offering their work at similar discounts, so if sci fi isn’t your cuppa, wander over and pick up something else. Tell a friend. Thanks.

An Ounce of Prevention

If you’ve hung around forums and websites for Christian fiction writers, you’ve no doubt bumped into a recurring set of discussions:

What are a faith-based writer’s obligations before God?
How theologically-correct does a story have to be? How evangelistic?
How realistic can the depictions of a fallen world and unsaved characters be?
Where exactly is the line for profanity? violence? pornography?
When does it slip into being gratuitous and become a stumbling block?

Vital questions to be sure, and ones each writer must answer for his or herself. However, for someone who’s in the first phase of his writing career, I have to say the wranglings frequently come off as Hydra-headed. Every answer prompts at least two vociferous and adamant counter-points that only serve to exacerbate* the problem.

I believe it was G.K. Chesterton who said an open mind was like an open mouth: it must close on something solid. Now these debates consume a tremendous amount of passion, time, and creativity, and I’d like to think they’re inching towards reasoned, principled solutions. But I fear otherwise…

The aim of this post isn’t to stir the pot but to point out one very credible source of potential answers: Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners.

The book is a collection of her essays precisely on the subject of fiction writing as a Christian. I won’t bore you with a summary or try and distill everything into neat little fortune-cookie pearls of wisdom. I will say I found her insights refreshingly blunt, keenly perceptive, and a sobering challenge. In my opinion, the essays “The Nature and Aim of Fiction”, “The Church and the Fiction Writer”, and “Novelist and Believer” are worth the price of the book all by themselves. What’s so attractive is that Ms. O’Connor deals with exactly the same issues that dog so many Christian writers today, and in a way that not only honors God but elevates the calling and craft of writing.

I think this little book belongs on that small shelf next to every writer’s desk, in between the Thesaurus and the Dictionary. I believe if read with prayer and careful consideration, it will raise the bar, settle your mind, and allow you to disengage from the cyclical debates and get back to actually writing. Which is what writers are supposed to do.

I’ll end with a couple quotes:

The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location. – Flannery O’Connor

When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business. – Flannery O’Connor

*(it means ‘to make things worse.’ – Shaun of the Dead)

Book Review: The Heart and the Fist

Some books entertain, some challenge, humble, inform, outrage… Eric Greitens’ book did all that, and more.

Detailing his education as a university student, Rhodes scholar and humanitarian worker in places like China, Rwanda and Bolivia, The Heart and the Fist recounts Mr. Greitens experiences with some of our world’s most profound needs and the people who labor to meet them. If that wasn’t enough, the author then turns down an academic opportunity at Oxford as well as a lucrative consulting position to enter into Navy SEAL training, with subsequent deployments in Kenya, S.E. Asia, and Iraq.

Direct, sober, tautly written,The Heart and the Fist probably won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. The book is quite different however, distinguished by what I can only describe as an enduring tenor of optimism. There is a resolve, a sense of traction that’s woven through the narrative. This book has – for lack of a better word – ‘spirit’. Mr. Greitens isn’t simply a perceptive spectator or affected soul struggling in an ocean of need; he’s an example of an individual response. The Heart and the Fist is the story of one man not content to be informed or raise awareness, but motivated to make a difference. It was both humbling and refreshing, and left a definite mark on my soul.

Thank you, Mr. Greitens.

Five Stars.

You can get a copy:On Amazon

Pinging another good post from Mike Duran

Been so sick lately I can barely stay on my feet, let alone think, but I wanted to pass on a post regarding the Church’s “Cultural IQ” from Mike Duran. Click here for the link. I genuinely appreciate Mike’s Blog and highly recommend it.

Here’s my own response:

Another good post, Mike. Very near and dear to my heart.

The thought that ignorance somehow equates to sanctification has long plagued the Church, and it breeds a weird, cloistered contempt for the very world we are called to reach. I hate to say it but it’s little wonder we’re dismissed as tedious or irrelevant if we refuse to acquire proper sorting mechanisms and frames of reference to engage people where they’re at. God isn’t scared of knowledge. There’s no question He doesn’t have the answer to, and faux-piety and willful stupidity isn’t attractive or anointed.

Recently though I’ve encountered an equal and the opposite error in some big-name ministries; something I call the TET Offensive: Talent, Emotion and Technology… with a smattering of WWJD. It’s relevance sans substance. I’m certainly not making a case for ignorance, but the pendulum can swing too far the other way. Regardless of our “awareness”, the strongest card we can play will always be our personal knowledge of Jesus and Grace.