Category Archives: Christian Fiction
The Bestseller That Never Was
Back in early 2010 I was getting ready to release my third novel, Darlington Woods. I’d released The Hunted in 2008 and it enjoyed some moderate success, enough to land me another contract. Then in 2009 I released Scream and that did even better, almost doubling the sales of The Hunted.
So in preparation for Darlington Woods I planned for a big release that would net big results. I truly felt it was my best writing to date, both in style and storytelling. The plot was engaging and fast-paced, the characters were interesting and unique, the theme was right from the heart and I knew it would touch many lives. It was the first full-length novel I wrote after battling colon cancer and so much of myself, my journey, my emotional roller coaster was poured into every page of the story.
To launch the book, I’d scheduled a handful of book signings in Pennsylvania and Maryland and a fairly comprehensive online book tour I called the “Light the Darkness Tour”. Emotionally I knew, just knew, that this one was going to be big, this was going to be my break-out novel, the one to “put me on the map.” I spent a lot of time in prayer, dedicating the book to the Lord for him to do whatever he wished with it. Then, just a month before the big release Publisher’s Weekly reviewed the book. Here’s an excerpt:
No shortage of vampire books stock bookstore shelves today, but few combine Christian themes with ghoulish vampire villains like this headlong rush of psycho-spiritual suspense . . . Never indulging in long boring tangents or fussy character descriptions, Dellosso’s pacing is perfect and passionate. Even though the choice of setting and parts of the plot mirror the popular novel The Shack, readers familiar with that book will find this new combo of Christian vampire fare a quick and breathless read and will scream for more.
Now, remember, this was when the Twilight saga was at its prime. Vampires were the in thing. And the fact that Publisher’s Weekly not only called it a vampire novel but also compared it to The Shack . . . well, I was sure that would seal the deal. And why wouldn’t it?
The big day came and to make a very long story very short . . . the book flopped. Sales were mediocre but worse than both Scream and The Hunted. I couldn’t understand it. I’d prepared more for this release than either of the other two. The book had gotten more exposure than I even planned for. Publisher’s Weekly had given it a glowing review. And both vampires and The Shack were still very hot. What went wrong?
You know, three years later I’m still asking myself that question. I still think Darlington Woods is my best book. It’s my favorite of all my titles. I look back on that release and the subsequent trip and can’t understand it. I think part of it is the environment of the Christian fiction industry. One, supernatural suspense as a genre was on the downslide in the Christian market (and still hasn’t recovered) and horror was never a hit. And two, maybe vampires were hot in the secular market (and still are) but in the Christian market there was (and is) little interest.
Funny thing is, never once in the book are the creatures referred to as vampires. They’re called darklings and though they act like vampires I didn’t even think of that while writing it. But it seems that Publisher’s Weekly comparison turned out to be at least one stake in the book’s heart.
The other truth I need to face is that it just wasn’t God’s time. I don’t know why and may never know but I have to accept it. So much of this business of writing is skill and talent and marketing ability, but so much more is reliance on God and faith in him to do what he knows is best. It’s a walk of trust every day.
And isn’t that so much like the rest of life?
BIG Announcement and REARVIEW for FREE!
A year ago I teamed up with six other authors to publish a series of seven novellas called 7 Hours. Each novella, written by a different author, featured one constant character, Thomas Constant. And the series posed the question: What would you do if you were given 7 more hours to live? The series was published and released by Tyndale House in e-book form only. And now, Tyndale would like to revisit the series by offering my novella, Rearview, for free this week. Here’s a little about the story . . .
Professor Dan Blakely has it all . . . until a false accusation leaves him in financial ruin with nothing to fall back on and little hope. In a moment of desperation, he decides to do the unthinkable. But when he loses control of his SUV and careens down the side of a mountain, his plans take another turn. Trapped beneath the frame of his mangled vehicle, Dan is visited by a mysterious stranger who offers him three choices. Filled with regret, Dan makes a decision . . . but little does he know that his troubles have only just begun. The clock is ticking. What will you do with the time you have left?
Please, pick up a copy of Rearview. I think you’ll find the story intriguing and gripping and I’d love to hear what you think of the ending. You can get a copy here. And while you’re at it, get a copy of all the stories. They’re all excellent.
Also, if you’re interested, Tyndale has developed a discussion guide to go along with the story for you to use in a small group or book group setting. Some very thought-provoking stuff. You can download the discussion guide here.
Oh, and one more thing. I recently signed a contract with Tyndale to bring you a book tentatively called Centralia. I can’t give you much information on the story just yet but think Jason Bourne meets Shutter Island meets Inception. it’s going to be mind-blowing.
Please, help me spread the word about this news by sharing this post in all your social media outlets. THANK YOU!
Warning: Violence, May be Controversial
I write suspense and therefore my books contain killing. And sometimes, I get scolded by readers for too much killing. Too much violence.
Honestly, this bothers me.
It doesn’t bother me so much that the reader points it out, I’d expect nothing less. It bothers me that they’re offended, because I take great pains to not go overboard in describing murder and death.
It’s a fine line to walk and for Christian authors and often a controversial one.
First, let me explain my view of how I handle violence in fiction and then I want to talk about a couple other views that are out there.
One, all death should serve a purpose. I know that sounds really cold but remember folks, this is fiction. I’m telling a story, setting the stage, developing characters for you to love, hate, empathize with, whatever. Everything should serve a purpose, including the killing.
Two, my opinion is that murder and death should only be described with enough detail that the reader gets the idea and can understand what’s going on. A popular mantra in fiction writing is to “show, don’t tell.” But with violence (like with horror) often times what’s not shown is just as effective, if not more effective, than what is shown. I want to describe the scene enough so the reader understands the gravity of the situation, the brutality, the evil, but not describe it in such detail that it turns off the reader. Violence should never be described in such a way that it detracts from the story as a whole. We’re not out to shock readers, just move them.
Three, I need to be careful when I write scenes with violence. As an author I act out that scene in my head as I’m writing it. That means I’m going places in my mind that make me uncomfortable and are potentially dangerous. I need to practice caution and not dwell too deeply on the evil involved with most violence.
Now, time to get myself in hot water . . .
There are two arguments out there I hear most often in favor of showing violence in all its bloody and gory detail that I’d like to address. But first, a disclaimer: what follows is my opinion and my position. I may be wrong, I may be right. It’s my opinion. I don’t intend to belittle anyone or point any fingers. And I’m ready for comments and positions against my opinion.
The first argument is that readers need to be shown evil in all its ugly glory so they will know the extent to which evil can destroy and maim and disfigure. My response is that people know evil is out there, they saw what happened on 9/11. They’ve seen or at least heard about the terrorist beheadings, serial killers, mothers who drown their children, husbands who beat their wives senseless, the holocaust, the tortures, the experiments, abortion. They’ve seen it in movies, video games, on the news. We’ve been that desensitized as a culture. And besides, if that’s the argument then why stop at murder and such, why not include rape? Incest? Other sexual crimes? Isn’t that showing the reader how depraved evil really is as well?
The next argument is that it’s okay to describe violence in gratuitous detail because the Bible has many acts of violence in it. In my opinion, this argument is bunk. Yes, the Bible contains violence. Murder, dismemberment, rape, warring, looting, and much more. But it doesn’t describe the details. It handles it properly, giving the reader enough information to understand what has transpired but not too much.
For instance, in Judges 4, Jael drives a stake through Sisera’s head while he’s sleeping, nailing his skull to the ground. The Bible describes it this way: But Heber’s wife Jael picked up a tent stake and a hammer. She went quietly over to Sisera. He was lying there, fast asleep. He was very tired. She drove the stake through his head right into the ground. So he died. So what do you think? Is that gratuitous? I don’t think so. There’s no description of the sound of the stake puncturing his skull; no description of blood and brain matter, of the spasms his body no doubt underwent. His last gasp for air. It’s handled very modestly.
Here’s another example. In 2 Kings 9 Jezebel is murdered. This one is gruesome even by biblical standards. It’s described this way: When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out the window. As Jehu entered the gate, she said, “Is it well, Zimri, your master’s murderer?” Then he lifted up his face to the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” And two or three officials looked down at him. He said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down, and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall and on the horses, and he trampled her under foot. When he came in, he ate and drank; and he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” They went to bury her, but they found nothing more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. Therefore they returned and told him. And he said, “This is the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the corpse of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the property of Jezreel, so they cannot say, “This is Jezebel.” Here we have some blood, a woman being trampled. But oddly there’s no description of what was left of her other than it being the skull, hands, and feet. No description of her body hitting the ground, her screams, the sound of bones breaking as she is trampled. No description of dogs eating her entrails and so on. It’s all handled very discreetly.
The Bible is known for giving an accurate, unabashed play-by-play of events as they unfolded, but it rarely offers color commentary describing what happened.
So how much description is too much or how little is not enough? Well, that’s the million dollar question isn’t it?
So, there you have it. Let the comments begin. Agree with me, make your own arguments, state your own opinions. I’m not saying I do it right all the time in my own writing. Sometimes I go back and read through one of my books and wish I hadn’t described things or acts or people in certain ways. There’s always regrets and second-guessing. But we learn and hopefully we put what we learn into practice.
My Take On . . . Reader Reviews (with some feistiness)
I’m going to make this short and to the point. Reader reviews are what they are. Writing is art and reading is subjective. That whole beauty in the eye of the beholder thing. That’s what is wonderful about it. There’s something for everyone.
Yes, there are certain rules writers should follow that make for “good” writing but even those rules can be broken and broken with success.
But as for the reviews themselves, I put reviews into four categories: Positive about the story; Positive about the craft; Negative about the craft; Negative about nonsense.
I’m not going to dwell on the positive reviews because everyone enjoys positive reviews. For some readers the story captures their imagination or heart and they just love it. For others, the skill of the author impresses them. Positive reviews are awesome. Simple.
Negative reviews are another kind of bird. There are the negative reviews that actually mean something. They touch on the craft of storytelling or the skill of word weaving. Pacing, character development, plotting, etc. This is called constructive criticism. I take these reviews to heart and seek to learn something from them.
Then there are the moronic reviews. Like this one for my family drama, A Thousand Sleepless Nights (written under a pen name, Michael King): The reviewer gave it 2 stars because “I ordered this book because my brother was recently diagnosed with Colon Cancer, I thought this would be a resource book.” Really? It clearly says “A Novel” right on the cover. My heart goes out to the brother and . . . he could still use it as a resource book.
And then there are comments like this attached to 1-star reviews: “Gives you the impression it’s going to be a horror novel, and ends up pounding religion into the reader.” And this: “This book is all about finding God, how your problems will all be solved and all will be right with the world. What a crock. If I want to find religion, I can do it without being tricked into reading a religious book. Shame.” Uh, did they read the book? Yes, it’s about finding God but all is definitely not right with the world. And these are the folks who accuse Christians of being closed-minded. Shame.
These moronic reviews really don’t bother me. They’re part of being a writer and you take ’em as part of the journey.
But sometimes negative reviews hurt. This one for Frantic still puts an ache in my heart. It’s honest and respectful and I appreciate that. I wrote a post on it before that discusses why it hurt so badly.
Other times I’m just baffled by positive vs. negative reviews. The two following reviews exemplify perfectly how subjective reading is. Both are for my short story The Last Hunt.
The positive one: From the first line of the story, Dellosso’s craftsmanship shows through. The story begins with boyhood memories of hunting trips with his dad, his uncle, and his grandfather. The tale includes anecdotes of how the narrator grew up on these hunting trips and approached manhood. Then the story delves into the fateful night and the hunting trip that was the final one. The story is narrated at just the right pace. It is a masterpiece.
And the negative one: I really enjoy Mr. Dellosso’s books, so I thought I would try this short story. It was very disappointing and definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it. The story was rushed and the conclusion just left me confused. Questions were not answered and storylines weren’t finished. I think this would make a good full-length book so that more things could be fleshed out. As a short story, however, it fell way short of the mark.
Did they read the same story? Obviously they did. But you see how the same story can affect people in two totally different ways. For a writer, this is frustrating.
Now, the negative one here would fall into the “Negative about the craft” category and is worth learning from. Except one thing that, I’m sorry, just irks me: “definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it.” I wish this reviewer would have used his real name because I’d gladly track him down and refund his dollar. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Okay, that was a little more than short and sweet. Sorry.
Hey, if you haven’t read my newest thriller, Fearless, yet I’d suggest getting a copy and leaving a review when you’re done. And I’ll thank you ahead of time for any positive or thoughtful negative reviews. But please, if your review is going to be moronic, save your time and skip it. Or don’t use your real name.
Issues Writers Deal With, a Series
Over the next several weeks I’m going to periodically discuss different issues I deal with as a writer. Issues like:
- The pressure of sales numbers
- Dealing with negative reviews
- Writing about the supernatural
- Time management/fitting writing into a busy schedule
- The issue of faith and fiction
- Violence in fiction
- Creating villains without becoming one
- Romance and the element of love
- Balancing fiction and real life
- The ethics of using real people to create characters
If you’re a writer or want to become a writer or do any kind of writing I’m sure you’ll find these upcoming posts interesting.
If you’re not a writer, never were, and don’t want to be I really do think you’ll still enjoy these posts. It’ll give you an inside view into some of what writers deal with, what goes through our mind, and some of the decisions we make while writing. It’s actually pretty interesting.
Check in on these posts too as I’ll also feature some killer deals on books and occasional giveaways too.
Here’s a couple now:
Get my novel FRANTIC for only $1.99!
Enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win FEARLESS.
And if you haven’t done so yet, check out my newest thriller, FEARLESS. Here’s my challenge: Go to the Amazon page and click on the “Look Inside” feature. Read the first several pages. I bet you’ll be hooked. If you’re not, I want to hear about it.
Final WINNERS of FEARLESS Giveaways!
Wow, I can’t believe the week is over already! What a whirlwind. I truly had a blast reading all the comments. Here’s a quick rundown on how things played out for the week.
Books given away: 29
Pretty awesome! THANK YOU!!
Okay, here are the winners of yesterday’s giveaway . . .
MIRROR IMAGE: Dennis Morris
THE LAST HUNT: Kevin Hill
THE HUNTED: Shana Montgomery
FEARLESS: Troy Tennard
Congrats to all the winners!
And again, a big THANK YOU to everyone who participated this week. Keep spreading the word about FEARLESS!
And HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!
LAST DAY to Win a Copy of FEARLESS (and Other Books)!!
Wow, I can’t believe this week has already come to an end. THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the giveaways, especially yesterday’s. It was so interesting to see who those favorite villains were. I think Darth Vader and Marsuvees Black were the most popular. Lots of Star Wars and Ted Dekker fans out there, huh?
Okay, here are the winners from yesterday’s giveaways:
MIRROR IMAGE: Judy More
THE LAST HUNT: Sarah Hallam
REARVIEW: JoAnn Armstrong
FEARLESS: Vicki H.
Congratulations to all the winners!
And now for today’s giveaway . . . Simply leave a comment to this post. That’s it, nice and simple. Anything you want to say. Books on the table are MIRROR IMAGE, THE LAST HUNT, REARVIEW, THE HUNTED, and 2 copies of FEARLESS.
And if you’re a mother may I just say HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Thank you for all you do!
Two More Days of Giveaways! Be FEARLESS and Enter.
Only two more days of giveaways! Thank you to all who have participated and congratulations to all who have won books.
I’m often asked about the villains I write. When writing villains I try to keep in mind that they are real people too. There is a reason they turned to evil; at some moment in their life there was a decision made, a turning point happened. That’s what I try to explore. I want to dive deeper into the psyche of the villain, show the reader that under the exterior there is a hurting person there. And if the reader feels some sympathy for the villain, then I’ve done my job.
In FEARLESS, Mitch Albright is one such villain. Wounded, he has chosen the path of destruction and is desperate to get what he craves the most.
Enough of that, now on to the winners from yesterday’s drawing:
MIRROR IMAGE: Jason Sessions
THE LAST HUNT: Nancy (@ciclodiva)
DARKNESS FOLLOWS: Annie VZ
FEARLESS: esdluquillo (Betsy)
FEARLESS: Brian Stansell
FEARLESS: Cathy Groover
Now, for today’s giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment stating your favorite villain of all time. I don’t care who it is or where he’s from. Favorite villain of all time. Let’s have it. Mine? Max Cady, Robert De Niro’s character in Cape Fear. That guy seriously creeped me out.
Books up for grabs are MIRROR IMAGE, THE LAST HUNT, REARVIEW, FRANTIC, and 2 copies of FEARLESS.
Celebrating the Release of FEARLESS with More Giveaways!
First, I want to thank everyone who has taken part in this giveaway week by entering the contests and helping to promote them. You make this possible. Really.
One of the characters in FEARLESS, Louisa, is a child with a very special gift. If you’ve been reading my books you may have noticed I’m on a kick with including children in my stories. This is for a couple reasons. One, I enjoy writing children. They provide a unique canvas for creating very colorful, interesting characters. And two, the innocence of a child offers the perfect contrast for evil. Louisa’s character is rich with both of these aspects.
Now, down to business. The winners of yesterday’s giveaway are . . .
MIRROR IMAGE: Ann Carawan
THE LAST HUNT: Whitney Woodmansee
REARVIEW: Gary Hough
A THOUSAND SLEEPLESS NIGHTS: Reggie Greanleaf
FEARLESS: Tom Farr
FEARLESS: Anna Urquhart
FEARLESS: Patrick Cox
Whew! Congratulations to all the winners.
Okay, more giveaways on the way. Today, I’d like you to go to my Facebook fan page and “LIKE” it. Then leave a comment below this post stating you did so. If you’ve already liked it, that counts. Just leave a comment saying you’ve liked it already. That simple.
You may win a copy of FEARLESS (I’m giving away 2 copies), MIRROR IMAGE, THE LAST HUNT, or DARKNESS FOLLOWS.
Please share this giveaway with your friends and followers via all your favorite social media sites. If we get to 1,000 likes on the Facebook page I’ll throw in another copy of FEARLESS and increase your chances to win!
FEARLESS: The Release is Here (With Lots of Giveaways)!
Today is the official release day for FEARLESS and we have a lot to cover so let’s get started . . .
Yesterday’s winners. Below are the winners from yesterday’s giveaways. Congrats to all!
THE LAST HUNT: Greg Sutis
MIRROR IMAGE: Pal Davenport
FRANTIC: Lois Hudson
FEARLESS: Cindy Snider
Want to help promote FEARLESS? Wow, thank you! Below are some links you may find interesting. Just copy and past them in your Facebook status or Twitter feed.
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Fearless-A-novel-Mike-Dellosso/dp/1621362418/
Fan video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha04CiaDJxA
Fan Pinterest page: http://pinterest.com/jojosutis/fearless-by-mike-dellosso/
Okay, here’s how to win more books! See the “Share this:” section directly below this post? Just share this post on one of those sites and then leave a comment saying you did so and you’ll be entered to win one of 3 copies of FEARLESS, a copy of MIRROR IMAGE, THE LAST HUNT, REARVIEW, or A THOUSAND SLEEPLESS NIGHTS.
You have until midnight. Winners will be announced tomorrow.
Please share this!