New opportunities in Christian fiction

Christian fiction— perhaps it will go down in history as the genre most harshly judged by critics who don’t read the genre. But Christian fiction has a place, and that place is widening.

My earliest memories of Christian fiction were of fiction sold only in specialty Evangelical Christian shops. My impression was that it was mainly designed for members of strict Evangelical groups who taught that Christians don’t read worldly novels— or drink, dance or own a deck of playing cards.

Our family wasn’t that kind of Christian. We were Presbyterians, and went to PCUSA churches— though the church had not fallen away from Christian teaching so badly at that time.  We read ‘normal’ fiction. Though my mom had a novel called ‘The Silver Chalice’ which was VERY Christian in tone and told the story of the Early Church. But that novel was brought out by a mainstream publisher, and later was adapted into a Hollywood movie.

My, how the times have changed! Modern publishers don’t care to retain their Christian readerships. Mainstream novels are full of references to Christians of all sorts as ‘haters’— because the authors think it’s ‘hateful’ to oppose aborting children or oppose calling gay relationships marriage. Publishers not only don’t object to it, they seem to almost require it. And although Christian readers have adapted to this bigoted atmosphere enough to be able to read anti-Christian-biased fiction, it’s often hard to enjoy it. Particularly when authors accuse Christians of all being ignorant, while displaying their own ignorance of the commonest details of the faith they are hating.

Evangelical Christian fiction got noticed when the ‘Left Behind’ series started to hit the best-seller lists. It was helped along by the fact that secular folks got really interested Christian beliefs about the End Times about then, since they believed that the Evangelical End of the World would happen in the year 2000. This was a false belief— the REAL Evangelical End of the World happened in 1988 (40 years— one Biblical generation— after the founding of the State of Israel.) But it sold a lot of exciting books filled with Christian characters to people who might have been in spiritual need of them.

But now in the Internet age, the picture has changed. For one thing, Christian authors are connecting across church/denominational lines. In my Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy FB group we’ve had Evangelicals of many sorts, Protestants, an Episcopalian monk, Catholics, and a Mormon or two. And so we are more aware that sound Christian fiction can come in many ‘flavors’— though we disagree on the authenticity and usefulness of some of the ‘flavors.’

The indie fiction revolution means that Christian fiction writers are no longer out of luck if their denominational background is not accepted by the bigger Evangelical fiction publishers and their own church’s publishing house doesn’t accept fiction. Along with Evangelical fiction, Catholic fiction and LDS (Mormon) fiction, all of which have traditional publishers, the most obscure denominations, like WELS Lutherans, can have fiction tailored to their church background.

Because of indie fiction, individual Christian authors no longer need be restrained by old-fashioned and silly-seeming Christian fiction rules. For example, some of the old Evangelicals wouldn’t allow Christian characters to be shown drinking alcohol, dancing, or playing innocent card games, because some readers would have objected.

The indie freedom has its downside, though. Many Christian writers have read far more secular fiction than Christian. They also often have had very little if any religious education. I know of a number of young Christian girls who see nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage and cohabiting relationships, so long as the partners claim to be engaged. It’s perfectly possible that there are some young indie authoresses out there writing ‘sexy’ romances in which the characters are Christians, and who market their work as Christian romance. It won’t sell to the Christian market, and secular romance fans probably won’t touch it because of the Christian label.

Indie Christian fiction, then, is less ‘safe’ than traditionally published Christian fiction which has been vetted to death for offensive things, even trivial ones. But, as in secular indie fiction, that adds to the excitement of reading and discovering new indie authors. It helps to follow Christian fiction blogs and web sites which review indie and small press books as well as those from the big Christian publishers. They can help you find books which you might enjoy and warn you about any content concerns such as excesses of ‘magick’ in a fantasy novel.

If you are a writer and a Christian, it might be well to consider whether the wider world of today’s Christian fiction might be the right place for your writing. Pitching your book to fellow Christians might be a wiser move than aiming at secularists who might reject your work if they learn about your faith.


Will I review your great new Christian indie novel? Probably not. I am a very slow book reviewer and I have a backlog of books written by friends I must review. Also, I don’t enjoy every possible subgenre within Christian fiction. If you have a great contemporary romance, it probably won’t catch my interest enough to finish it even if you are the best romance writer ever! But, don’t despair. I am hoping to recruit a couple of Christian authors who will do a little guest posting of reviews for this blog. (How do you get your Christian book reviewed in the meantime? Join appropriate Christian author groups, make a few friends there, review THEIR books, and perhaps you will be able to arrange to trade reviews.)


One blog for (Evangelical) Christian fiction writers is Mike Duran’s deCompose. Here is a sample post: The Importance of Implicit (vs. Explicit) Christian Content in Fiction


My FB group for Christian writers of science fiction and/or fantasy:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/366357776755069/

Now, this group, being on FB, does not actually BAR non-Christians from joining. However, since the topic is the problems of CHRISTIAN writers in these genres, non-Christians rarely have much interest in the group.  But all are welcome to join.

Why only 8 minutes to build a daily writing habit?

Lately I have been working on developing a daily writing habit. Main reason: when I take a day or two off from writing, that leads to a writingless week or even more. Which tends to turn current writing projects into ones that aren’t going anywhere.

What inspires me is the idea of doing a daily 8-minute timed writing stint (you are allowed to do more.)  To get more accountability, I post daily on Facebook, tagging a few friends who also are working on their writing habit.

But the question is, why 8 minutes? Wouldn’t it be better to do an hour or two? Or even three or four hours like most professional writers do?

The problem is this: if you are trying to build a writing habit, but you know you have to do an hour or more at each writing session, it’s too easy to decide you just don’t have time for writing today.

But 8 minutes— that’s not so much of a challenge. I once did my 8 minutes just before bedtime when I thought my brain was already asleep. My brain woke up and did its job surprisingly well.

The thing about doing 8 minutes of timed writing it leads to longer writing. If you really get on a roll, are you really going to stop at 8 minutes and not even add a sentence or two? Sometimes I do a few 8 minute sessions and then perhaps do 20 or 25 minutes because I’m really hot.

Monica Leonelle suggests in her book that you can use your 8 minute sessions to increase your writing speed, so that even if you can only fit in 8 minutes, you will get many more words in.

In my experience, timed writing increases my writing speed by eliminating distractions— I don’t look up facts on the internet or pull out one of my name books to name a new character. I skip that bit and do the research later. So I don’t end up spending 6 of my 8 minutes fooling around online.

The accountability partners really help. I feel a little silly when I tag the participants and interested persons on Facebook every day. But they can tell me not to do that if they don’t want to any more. The posting— and the comments and ‘likes’ of the others— motivate me. And it’s great to see other people doing their own daily 8 minute stints.

So— do you have a habit of writing (or blogging) daily? If yes, how did you build the habit? If no, are you doing anything to change it? Perhaps you could try the 8 minute writing method to see if it works for you.

If you want to join me and my friends/followers in the daily 8-minute writing, you can drop by my author page, https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats/  and post your daily 8 minute triumphs there. You can also ask to be on my list of tagged people. I also do it on my personal FB page, https://www.facebook.com/nissa.amas.katoj  Though maybe you should mention on my author page if you are making a friend request?


Marian Elizabeth: The 8-Minute Writing Habit http://www.marian-elizabeth.com/2015/10/the-8-minute-writing-habit.html

Monica Leonelle Will Help You Develop a Consistent Writing Habit http://www.writewithimpact.com/monica-leonelle-will-help-you-develop-a-consistent-writing-habit/

Buy The 8-Minute Writing Habit on Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/8-Minute-Writing-Habit-Consistent-Storytellers-ebook/dp/B013ZVSFFC

Jeff Goins and why you need a tribe

Jeff Goins, writer

You need a tribe. That is, if you are a writer, poet, blogger, musician, artist or other creative person, you need a group of people who can relate to your work, or to you, and who might possibly become your Number One Fan and take you hostage and do bad things to you….. Well, maybe you’d rather skip the hostage situation.

Author Jeff Goins, who is one of the top writing-topic bloggers, is currently giving away a free PDF ebook called “It’s Not Too Late.” I downloaded it this morning and read a bit chunk of it before I remembered I was supposed to write a blog post this morning. In the book (which is FREE) he talks about tribes. He also has some good deals for those who preorder his next non-free book— find the info here: https://goinswriter.com/preorder/

How do you go about building a tribe? First you find ways to connect with people who might appreciate your work. My very first tribe-building was when I had my old blog, The Lina Lamont Fan Club. I met a few people who commented on my posts regularly. One, Amanda Borenstadt, asked me to read her book and gave me a free ebook copy. We connected because we were both Catholics and Doctor Who fans.

For a few years I was part of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour, which was run by Rebecca LuElla Miller. Each month she scored free books for us from Christian publishers, and on three set days of the month we all blogged about it and visited one another’s blogs. Most of the bloggers were Evangelical/Protestant Christians but there were a few Catholics and a Mormon or two. I got to know some potential ‘tribe’ members through the blog tour which, unfortunately, has come to an end.

I was rather shy about posting in Facebook groups— I was afraid if I said anything online, everyone would mock me and ask me to leave the group. So I started my own FB group for writers of Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy. I met some fine people. And one or two not so fine. A few I consider members of my ‘tribe’— or perhaps I’m members of theirs.  If you might be interested in the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy group, it’s here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/366357776755069/

But that’s me. I’m sure many creative people have found ways to connect with those who might appreciate their work. What has worked for you?


Three Important Steps to Building a Killer Tribe: https://goinswriter.com/how-to-build-a-killer-tribe/
Nothing to do with Charles Manson, sadly.

Build Your Platform with Tribe Writers: http://debralbutterfield.com/tribe-writers/

Let’s try mind mapping!

Have you ever tried mind-mapping with your fiction? Or other things? It’s a useful idea. And there is software for it.

Mind mapping is a diagram to illustrate information or ideas— such as plot events that might happen in your novel. You start with a central concept or idea— such is “My novel plot” or “What the heck is this even ABOUT!!!” (Excuse the use of the minced oath ‘heck.’ And two of the three exclamation points.)

You draw a circle around the words and then you think of things that connect— plot ideas, odd thoughts, whatever pops into the brain. Circle those words and draw a line to your original circle.

Then consider each of the ideas, words and concepts you have noted down and connected to your original circle. Find ideas that come from THEM. And put them in circles connected to the circled item to which it relates. Find out more about mind mapping here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map

You can do this on a piece of paper. If you can draw, or at least if you own colored pencils and aren’t afraid to use them, you can do some colorful images as part of the map. But you can also do it using software— some of which is free software.

Yesterday I downloaded one of the free options (because I’m living on a poet’s level income.) Downloading was a horrible ordeal, but in the end I had it on my computer. I clicked on the little butterfly on my desktop, took a look around, and went on the internet to search for a tutorial. I spent some time building up a general ‘brainstorming’ type of mind-map for my current WIP. I thought it was a useful tool.

One big reason it’s useful is that it illustrates your novel ideas in a minimalist way. The way I tend to work is this: In the planning stages I can write long rambling essays about the system of ranks in a space fleet, or how the zombie causative organism can be weaponized. And then before long I have notebooks full of imaginary information and can’t find the important stuff.

I sometimes take my rambling document and rewrite a shorter, more concise version. But, perhaps because I have Asperger Syndrome, it still doesn’t show me the big picture to write shorter documents. A mind map makes it more comprehensible.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I think mind-mapping could be used to generate a working outline for your writing project. You could put your title in the center bubble, and then have ‘daughter’ circles with Act 1, Act 2a, Act 2b, and Act 3 on it. (If you don’t yet know about the 3 act structure, look it up, it’s useful.) For each Act, you can put down your plot ideas. If that big dragon-slaying scene you put in Act 1 really belongs at the beginning of Act 2, you can move it.

It could also be used to generate to-do lists— both for your writing and for your regular life. You can group connected tasks, and the Free Mind software provides little number graphics so you can prioritize your tasks.

Have you tried mind mapping? On paper or with a software tool? How did it work out? Are there things you might try next time to make the experience better or more useful?

Donald Trump and why Young Writers MUST Blog

In the recently completed election cycle, Candidate Donald Trump had the same problem as every other candidate with an “R” after his name: he wasn’t getting a fair shake from the “D” mainstream media.

So the candidate found another way to get the news coverage he needed. He turned to Twitter. And the same mainstream media that didn’t want to cover him other than writing hit pieces in the ‘failing’ New York Times picked up his tweets and read them out to the world.

He got that attention in part because his tweets contained things that got attention. Like giving rude nicknames to his competition— remember ‘Lyin’ Ted’ for Ted Cruz?

 

Young Writers have their own problem in getting the attention they need. In particular, they find it hard to get someone to look at their writing and give them feedback. Sometimes people just won’t look at your writing at all. And in writing classes or critique groups, people may have their own agenda with what they say about your work. Your writing teacher may praise you because you are the best of a bad bunch— or say your work is no good because you don’t care to write ‘literary fiction.’ Some critique group members give the same vague praise to everyone because they want to be nice. Others say negative but untrue things about the work of their writing rivals.

Starting a blog can be a way you can write things and get some people to react to them. It’s going to be slow at first— you may need to write a little something every day for six months before you get as much as a comment saying ‘nice post.’

But if what you are writing is reasonably well written, and your blog has an interesting topic, you will start to get some reactions, both positive and negative. You can increase your number of reactions by doing one little thing— something that Donald Trump did. Write something a bit shocking.

Now, I don’t mean that you should go around calling random people mother-effers or telling them their cats are ugly. Just be less mealy-mouthed. Say things that not everyone will agree with. For example, I might well say that government schools (public schools) in the USA should be disbanded and be replaced with independent church and community schools. Or that “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” are not great literature or even good literature.

If you say things that some people will like and other people won’t, you blog will get more readers and more comments. Maybe even a stalker or two. And you will get lessons into how to write things to which people respond.

Once you get a few people who regularly read your blog, you will start to get a little feedback on your writing. If you misspell important words, people who agree with you may in time point that out. People who disagree— assuming they can spell— will point it out a lot quicker.

There is no other substitute than a blog for getting regular audience reaction. And that reaction will help you build up some skills that you can use throughout your writing career.

Over the long term, the blog you start today can morph into an Official Author Blog and Website. It can be a part of your author platform. And it’s fun. Why not try it?

Young Writers series, post 1


Celebrate!

This week I’m celebrating a revival of my blog. I HAD thought of deleting the whole thing and starting from scratch. But instead I bought a book on blogging and started making plans to make my blog better.

I started blogging very early on— that was many blogs ago. But I’ve made some internet friends through my blog and that’s a good thing.  I started a Facebook account mainly to promote my blog. Now it’s the best way to contact my brother and my aunt and cousins from Arizona.

I’m not sure what this blog is going to be a week from now or a month from now. I haven’t decided on the themes I will use or what the major focus will be. I don’t even know if any of my current blog readers will keep on reading. But that’s the fun of it.

 

This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. Learn more at: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

Celebrating “Forbidden Thoughts”

forbidden-thoughtsIn my vast and disorganized collection of science fiction & fantasy books, I have a lot of stuff from the ‘good old days’ when speculative fiction was exciting, including one volume of early Hugo award winners. Some of the more current SF & fantasy books just seem dull and predictable, and the politically correct propaganda it contains is so inferior to Nazi and Soviet propaganda that even it doesn’t arouse my interest.

And then comes Forbidden Thoughts, edited by Jason Rennie and Ben Zwycky, forward by Milo Yiannopolos (flamboyantly Gay conservative activist— or maybe he’s more libertarian. But all the right (Left) people are rioting to keep him from speaking in public). On the back cover it says ‘You are not allowed to read this book. Don’t even think about reading this book. In fact, just forget about thinking all together.’  And it delivers on its promise to skew the Sacred Cows of our day in the many short stories, one poem, and a few non-fiction essays in the book.

My favorite is the short story ‘World Ablaze’ by Jane Lebak, about a nun trying to live her vows in a world where that, and Christianity in general, seem to be illegal.  Other stories come from Sarah A. Hoyt, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Vox Day, John C. Wright, Chrome Oxide, Brad R. Torgersen, and Nick Cole. The poem at the beginning is by Ben Zwycky— I have a book of his poetry and like it.

Now, I found out about many of the authors in the book through a Facebook group, Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance. And since I myself am a conservative with libertarian tendencies, you might assume that all the ‘forbidden’ stories in the book line up with my own personal beliefs. But a wide variety of ‘forbidden thoughts’ are included in the book, some of which I strongly disagree with— though that seems to be the point. But I was able to enjoy the book as a whole since even the stories that bother me are daring and exciting, and make me wish I could write like these authors do.

So this book is the main thing I am celebrating today— along with the idea that there is still room in SF and fantasy for exciting, idea-driving fiction.


Worldbuilding series

storyworld-first1

Recently I read a book (Ebook) called ‘Storyworld First, by Jill Williamson. It’s about creating science fiction and fantasy worlds and I think it’s quite useful. Jill Williamson is a Christian author writing for the Evangelical fiction market and I really loved her dystopian series ‘The Safe Lands.’

Now, I have been considering for some time writing a series of articles on this blog about aspects of worldbuilding, and this book inspired me to take the idea more seriously. The first article I have in mind is about storybuilding as you go along, as happens in long-running open-ended series such as Darkover, Pern, Valdemar and others. Others will follow, especially if the series of article proves to be of interest to readers.


Chicken #221 Update

0303171014My frostbitten-feet chicken #221 continues to survive, though he’s lost one foot to frostbite and the remaining foot looks dead and useless. I’m not so sure why I’m so set on keeping him alive, since he’s an older male Araucana and my only other Araucana chicken is a hen just as old as he is, who isn’t a very good egg layer. Though she’s very good at escaping the pen she lives in. I rather doubt that #221 is going to be able to breed the hen in his condition, and I’m not so sure I want to keep on with the breed at this point. But as long as #221 seems happy enough, I suppose I will keep tending him. He really enjoys it when I put mealworms on top of the chicken food in his dish. And he gets around his little cage pretty well. I may even give him a name before long.


This has been a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

Celebrate blog hop

Let your light so shine/Via lumo lumu antaŭ homoj

Every Sunday Catholics and many Protestants hear the same set of Bible readings, all over the world.  This is from the readings for today, in two languages. (Don’t worry, the second one is in English.)

Esperanto,

13  Vi estas la salo de la tero; sed se la salo sengustiĝis, per kio ĝi estos salita? ĝi jam taŭgas por nenio, krom por esti elĵetita kaj piedpremita de homoj.

14  Vi estas la lumo de la mondo. Urbo starigita sur monto ne povas esti kaŝita.

15  Kiam oni bruligas lampon, oni metas ĝin ne sub grenmezurilon, sed sur la lampingon; kaj ĝi lumas sur ĉiujn, kiuj estas en la domo.

16  Tiel same via lumo lumu antaŭ homoj, por ke ili vidu viajn bonajn farojn, kaj gloru vian Patron, kiu estas en la ĉielo.

English, King James Version

13  Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14  Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.


The King James translation is one of the greatest works in the English language. It contains the full text of the Bible, not just an abbreviated version of the Old Testament like many modern Protestant translations have. I have read that if all the copies of the King James Bible vanished, it could be reconstructed almost completely from the Bible quotations in other English works.

Many proverbial expressions that are well used in the English language originated in the King James Bible.  There are three of them in this passage alone: Salt of the earth, light of the world, let your light so shine before men. As writers, it is well to know the origin of these common phrases.

In the phrase “Let your light so shine before men,” the word ‘men’ is used in its meaning of “men and women.” In 1611 when the KJV Bible was published, modern feminist jargon had yet to be invented, and so the translators were free to use “men” instead of the ugly and less effective feminist jargon alternatives like “personkind” or “humankind.” (In English, words of one or two syllables pack more of a punch than words of three or more syllables.)

The best writers in the world ‘let their light so shine before men.’  That is, they don’t hide their ‘light’— their knowledge, both spiritual and secular, and their very selves— in order to seek popularity by being just like all the other writers. Hiding your ‘light’ makes your writing seem bland and boring and just like every other second-rate writer. The writer who shares his ‘light’ and his self with readers is going to be a one-of-a-kind writer and can stand out from the crowd.