Friday, August 31, 2007

CFBA Tour: The Dead Whisper On

(One of the books I've been looking forward to is featured this week on the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance tour. Unfortunately, I missed my chance to get a book before the tour so I haven't gotten to read it yet. But I will.)


(Bethany House July 1, 2007)



Tony is the author of the acclaimed Waking Lazarus. He has been an advertising agency owner/principal, a trade amgazine editor, and now a novelist.

He has been a professional writer for more than 15 years with articles appearing in publications as varied as Log Homes, Conservative Theological Journal, and Travel & Leisure. He is also Creative Director at Montana's largest advertising agency.

His long list of past odd jobs includes trimming Christmas trees, sorting seed potatoes, working the graveyard shift at a convenience store, and cleaning cadaver storage rooms.

As a teen he was undefeated in air guitar competitions in which he performed songs by ZZ Top.

He lives in Montana with his wife and daughter.


Would You Run Into A Burning Building?

Candace "Canada Mac" MacHugh lives a ghost of her former life.

Once a proud Butte, Montana, miner who daily risked her life setting explosives, she's now a garbage collector in her dying hometown.

Her beloves father is dead and she doesn't speak to her mom. More than anything, Candace Mac misses her father. He promised to contact her from the "other side" if he could...but it's been eleven long years. And now even her beloved city of Butte, Montana, seems to be dying off.

Candace Mac is alone. Longing for the past. Dreaming of making a difference.

Until one night when her father's voice speaks to her from the shadows. Bud MacHugh's trademark growl. The dead, it seems, have messages they hunger to share with the world...warnings of impending disasters and grave danger. Of cities doomed to burn.

But they need Canada's help.

T.L. Hines' first novel, Waking Lazarus was named one of the Library Journal's Top 25 Genre novels of 2006. Now he's back with a gripping suspense that brings to light our fears and asks us if we still have the courage to fight for those around us, if we have the guts to be one of those who run into burning buildings.

"Chilling!" Publishers Weekly

"...a well-paced suspense populated by dynamic characters." Kirkus Discoveries

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Favorite books

Angie posted today at The Misfits about her favorite books. I'm a sucker for lists, so here's mine:

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula LeGuin
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

There are other books I love and reread, even, but the books listed above all stayed with me in some particular way. They probably have more influence on me as a writer than most other books, too. And they all have some things in common.

To Kill a Mockingbird would probably get my vote for the Great American Novel -- the story, the characters, the imagery all work together to create something memorable. I first read it in high school and have read it several times since -- it's like visiting old friends. (I suppose that's true for all the books above.) I suppose what pulled me into the story is the distinctive voice that holds my attention even with the leisurely pace. It's like Harper Lee invites the reader to sit on the porch with her while she weaves her tale. The events are significant and powerful, but it's the voice and the characters that made me fall in love with the book.

The Left Hand of Darkness is a different kind of book, but I think a lot of what I just said holds true for it, too. Ursula LeGuin is a master storyteller and world builder. She makes Winter a real place, and Genly Ai and Estraven come to life on the pages. I first read this in college, over one weekend -- a weekend that found me so absorbed in the story that when I put it down, I had to remind myself where I was. This book showed me what science fiction could be in the hands of a master stylist. I love how it works on multiple levels -- it's a rousing good adventure story that makes you think about what it really means to believe in something, what price you would be willing to pay for that belief, and the true meaning of friendship and love. And all from a self-described atheist! If you've never read this classic, check it out of your local library and be prepared to lose yourself for a weekend.

The Lord of the Rings is, simply, the greatest fantasy novel ever written. I first read The Hobbit in high school and had never read anything like it before. I was captivated. I started The Lord of the Rings in high school, but didn't read it all the way through until college (I think I got bogged down in the Two Towers the first time). Tolkien makes me want to go to Middle Earth and hang out with the hobbits. Bob and I so loved the book that we named rooms in one of our first apartments after places in Middle Earth. (For example, the bathroom was Mordor, just so we could say "I'm going to Mordor." I've never pretended we weren't weird.) No other epic fantasy has so captured my imagination and I think it's because the characters are so wonderful and vivid.

In This House of Brede isn't a book that usually turns up on people's favorite books lists, but maybe it should. Rumer Godden wrote a number of novels in the mid-20th century and some of them were pretty well known. I first encountered this book as a Reader's Digest Condensed Book at my grandma's house. It's an episodic tale of a woman in England who becomes a nun in her 40s. Most of the story takes place in the late 1950s and early 1960s and depicts a way of life that has probably changed a lot since the book was written. But, again, the characters are so real and captivating that it's a pleasure to spend time in their company. Though I'm not Roman Catholic, I appreciated the way Godden was able to write about faith. Her nuns were human and had their own faults and failings, but the underpinning of faith and service in their lives says a lot to me. It's a story that could have come across as sappy and cliched, but it doesn't. God works, but not always the way you expect. Faith triumphs after tragedy but there's a long process of healing. This is another book worth looking up in your local library or used book store.

Jane Eyre, on the other hand, is a classic on a lot of people's favorites lists. I think of it as the original gothic romance. I first read it when I was about 13, so maybe my youthful romanticism colored my first impressions of it. But Jane and Mr. Rochester are such memorable, complex characters that the story holds up well. And when I reread it after I was a little older I realized that Charlotte Bronte was ahead of her time in how she wrote about women and their place in the world. Jane is not perfect, but she shows real courage and sticks to what she believes is right.

While these books were written in different styles and different eras, they have some things in common that pull me back to them: strong, vivid characters; distinctive voice; a slower pace of storytelling. I don't mind a book that takes a little time to introduce the scene. All of these books give the reader a chance to enter the story without being dragged in by the author. Yes, there are compelling elements to the opening pages, but it's not breakneck storytelling here. I happen to like that approach. The writer's voice is distinct in each, too. Ursula LeGuin and Rumer Godden have very different approaches to storytelling, but both work, both styles fit the story being told, both engage the reader. But even more important are the characters. If I read a book over it's because I like the people in it and want to spend time with them again. (This is why I've been rereading the Harry Potter books this summer, too.)

If I could write books that have these things in common with my favorites -- with strong characters, distinctive voice, and an engaging but not overly hurried pace -- I'd feel like I'd accomplished somethng, whether anyone publishes them or not.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tuesday views

Some good linkage today from Books & Culture:
Alan Jacobs' reflections on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
An assessment of Eugene Peterson's books Eat this Book and The Jesus Way.

My friend Rebecca has been thinking about church.
Jared posted a though-provoking Gospel Rant the other day.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I won't subject you to grainy sonogram pictures, but I have now seen the very first images of my grandson, who is due to arrive in January. It is very cool and exciting and pretty awesome.

I have not been writing much -- I'm not sure where the words have gone, but they haven't been rolling around in my head, that's for sure. I think some of it is stress -- the women's retreat I help plan has hit many, many glitches in the last four weeks, among other things. God is working it out, but I've still been stressed. I also taught a Sunday School in August called Film and Faith (I like to think of it as Watching Movies with Jesus) and that took quite a bit of time. One of my primary resources was Reel Spirituality by Robert K. Johnston. Excellent, excellent book. I've also been rereading the Harry Potter novels. But I was looking at the novel I started last November and thinking about how I might get back into it. Maybe the words will come back. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

CSSF Tour: Legend of the Firefish

This month's Christian science fiction and fantasy book is Legend of the Firefish, by George Bryan Polivka. It's not one I'd requested, but you can check out the book and Bryan's blog.

If you like pirate stories, this sounds like something you might be interested in. Publisher's Weekly certainly has good things to say:
Swashbuckling is the best way to describe Book One of the Trophy Chase Trilogy. Without wasting time, Polivka's first novel drops readers into a fantasy world filled with action, where chivalry is alive and well, and sword fights are frequent. Packer Throme—a failed seminarian turned master swordsman—sets out on a great quest, but not in search of fame. He hopes to honor God by stowing away on (former) pirate Scatter Wilkins's ship Trophy Chase, convincing its captain and crew to seek the legendary firefish—a feat that could raise Packer's fishing village from poverty and win the heart of his longtime love, the beautiful Panna Seline. Happily, Polivka gives this heroine a backbone, not to mention a mighty right hook and her own part to play in this adventure. "It was wrong to have let her, and thousands of young women just like her, believe they had no power, no strength, and therefore could have no place or position," Panna reflects angrily about the plight of women. Though the Packer-Panna romance finds considerable ink, this is a tale almost entirely of pirates, warriors, stormy seas and battles with monsters. The Christian message is palpable, and Polivka's characters relatively complex. With the nonstop action that cuts between multiple story lines, readers will be flipping pages eagerly.
Harvest House, the book's publisher, lets you in on the seafaring fun with a "Talk Like a Pirate" contest. So check out the book, talk like a pirate and visit some of the fine blogs listed below for more fun.

Trish Anderson
Brandon Barr
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Amy Browning
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
Lisa Cromwell
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Merrie Destefano
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Russell Griffith
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Terri Main
Rachel Marks
Karen McSpadden
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Robin Parrish
Lyn Perry
Deena Peterson
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Daniel I. Weaver

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm a dreamer

At least, that's what this personality type test says. I've done these before and I usually come up INFP, so this was no surprise. I didn't think I'd show up this introverted, though. I think sometimes I'm not so much that way. (Thanks to Randall for the link.) I suspect a lot of bloggers fall somewhere in the introverted range -- we want to express ourselves, but not to any actual people.

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Friday, August 10, 2007

E.G.G., F.R.O.G., A.R.G. ...

Years ago my husband started a game that would provide hours of amusement through my six pregnancies -- making up funny names whose initials would spell words. Since our last name starts with a 'G' it was pretty easy. Of course, when we actually named our children, we tried to avoid spelling anything at all with their initials (unlike one of our kids' classmates, a girl whose initials spelled A.L.F. -- I kid you not).

Now, 29 years later, we are going to have a grandson -- we just found out this week that the upcoming grandchild is a boy. But Julia and Mike are being a bit coy about the name they've picked out and Bob told me I'm not to make suggestions. But that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun ... Julia and Mike's last name also starts with a 'G' so the possibilities are endless:
Edward Gilbert G.
Frodo Robert Oliver G.
Albert Ricardo G.
Play along -- make up your own fun combinations and leave them in the comments. (By the way, I'm sure they've picked out a lovely name and it won't spell anything weird.)

I think being an expectant grandmother is even more fun than being pregnant!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Coach's Midnight Diner appeals to ...

Goths? Apparently so. One of the things Coach Culbertson (the editor and publisher, and also the sysadmin for the Relief Writer's Network and Relief Journal) told us recently was that he's been invited to sign copies of the Diner at Chicago's Gothicfest in October. And now he's gotten a review of the Diner from one Nickolaus Pacione, who edits horror and goth oriented anthologies himself. He's enthusiastic about it, to say the least. He loves the edginess of it even with the God stuff. I quote:
They have a strong faith in God but they are total badasses about it. Christian or Non-Christian -- you'll enjoy this if you like Speculative Fiction.
I've never been described that way before, but I'm OK with it. I think.

Lest I scare you away with all this goth-talk, I think any fans of speculative fiction will find something to like in the Diner. And it sounds like it'll get reviews from some more traditional kinds of places, like Infuze. So don't hesitate to order now.

Monday, August 06, 2007

He gets it

I've long been a fan of The Thinklings, even when I disagree. If you want to think and laugh at the same time, it's always a good place to visit. Now Jared, one of the founding Thinklings, has a new blog that will definitely be a regular visit for me: The Gospel-Driven Church. The longer I'm a Christian the more clear it becomes to me that the whole point of it all is the answer that was always correct in Sunday School -- Jesus. And that's pretty much the whole point of Jared's new blog. Good stuff. He already has several posts up, all worth reading.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The iMonk rocks

Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk) has an absolutely awesome post about the tendency of Christians to put causes or issues above (or in place of) the Gospel. He says things I've been thinking about so much better than I can, so go read it. I would also strongly recommend his podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes or get directly from He always has good stuff to say that will make you think.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

FIRST: Bad Idea, a novel (with coyotes)

Bad Idea by Todd and Jedd Hafer

It is AUGUST 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author(s) are:

and their book:

BAD IDEA a novel (with coyotes)

(NavPress TH1NK Books, August 22, 2006)


Todd and Jedd Hafer previously teamed up to write Snickers from the Front Pew: Confessions of Two Preacher's Kids, which has now sold more than fifty thousand units.

Todd is editorial director for the inspirational book division at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri.

Jedd is director at The Children's Ark in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a home for troubled teens, and travels the country as a standup comedian.

Visit them at their website.


Chapter 1

“We should totally drive!” Rhonda said, wagging a limp french fry for emphasis.

I clenched my teeth. I hate it when adults try to talk like teenagers. Rhonda does it all the time. Her efforts are particularly grating to me because she does, in fact, employ the teen vernacular, but always, always at least one season too late.

Thus, my father’s 28-year-old fiancĂ©e didn’t say “Congratulations!” when I was inducted into Quill & Scroll (the National Honor Society for high school journalists) early in my senior year. She said, “Big ups to you, G!” And when I was named Honorable Mention All-Area in track and field (small-school division), she didn’t say “Way to go!” She said, “Big respect, G-Man! You got the mad wheels, homey!”

If she says, “I’m feelin’ you, dawg,” during one more of our Dad-initiated dinnertime theological discussions, I’m going to puke on her shoes.

Fortunately for Rhonda, and all of the people at the Big Bear Diner on the night the road trip was conceived, I didn’t barf when she said, “We should totally drive!” I raised my eyes to the ceiling and said, “I don’t think we should totally drive. I don’t even think we should partially drive.”

I looked across the booth to my dad to accept the disapproving glare I knew he would be offering. I smiled at him. It was my infuriating, smug smile. I practice it in the bathroom mirror. It’s so irritating that when I see my reflection doing it, I want to punch myself in the face.

My dad didn’t hit me. That wasn’t his style. He just nibbled his bottom lip for a while before saying calmly, “I think we should give the idea due consideration rather than reject it out of hand.”

“Okay,” I said, sipping my bitter iced tea, “let’s hear why we should cram ourselves into a car and drive for, what, three or four days to Southern California, stomping on each other’s raw nerves all along the way and probably breaking down somewhere near the Kansas-Colorado border. Or maybe getting in a wreck.”

Rhonda looked at my dad, giving him her Wounded Face, all droopy eyes and puckered chin and poofed-out lower lip. You know the look.

He looked at her, then at me. “Griffin, please . . .”

“Okay, okay, okay—you’re right, you guys. Yeah, you know, now that I consider The Rhonda Eccles-Someday-To-Be-Smith Plan carefully, it’s sounding better. I mean, why would I want to enjoy a quick, economical, and stress-free flight when we could all cram into a tired old vehicle and drive? Let’s go with the option that means more time, more money, more risks, more headaches.”

Rhonda tried to smile, but she couldn’t get the corners of her tiny heart-shaped mouth to curl upward. “Well,” she said quietly, “I just thought it would be bomb to make a road trip of it. See the country. Stop at mom-and-pop diners, like the Big Bear here. Maybe spend a day in Denver—hit an amusement park or catch a Rockies game. Griff, please be more open-minded. Think of the time it would give us to kick it.”

“We talk now,” I observed.

“Yessss,” she said, drawing the word out as though it had sprung a slow leak. She wrapped her long, slender fingers around her coffee mug and took a sip. “But in the car, you wouldn’t be able to run away from the convo whenever it got too intense for you.”

I pushed my chair back from the table and popped up like a piece of toast. I was ready to wad my napkin and spike it like a football on the table before marching out of the Big Bear. Then, only a half second before the Great Napkin Spike, I realized that would be proving her point.

Rhonda was studying me. I scrolled my mind for options on saving face, because since she had unofficially joined our family, I had lost more face than Michael Jackson. But I scrolled in vain. My brain was nothing but blank screen. ....

(Want more? Read here)