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.
I have this group called The Darlington Society. It’s an inner group of readers that I have a kind of special relationship with. I don’t want to take up a lot of space here but you can read all about the Society on its own page, the benefits, the responsibilities, the theory behind it.
I used to accept only a limited number of readers per book release but am now opening the doors for anyone to join.
Here’s a little blurb straight from the page . . .
If you wish to join The Darlington Society I ask you to do only two things. 1) Pray about it. I take the Society seriously and hope you will too. This is a reflection of how seriously I take my writing and my desire is to be partnered with others who also take it seriously. 2) Email me at michael_dellosso(at)yahoo.com and tell me you want to be part of the Darlington Society. It’s really that easy. I’ll add you to the mailing list, invite you to the Facebook group, and email you the “badge” to put on your own blog or website.
Are you in? Just drop me an email saying you’d like to join. FEARLESS releases in May and I’d love for you to be a part of the event.
Oh, and I’ll ask one more thing . . . please share this with your friends and fellow readers and writers and basically anyone with a heartbeat. Thank you!
Back in 1986, as a 14-year-old I read a book called This Present Darkness by some guy named Frank Peretti. I knew nothing of Frank, not much of Christian fiction, and wasn’t really into suspense at the time. As it did most readers, the book captivated my imagination. It was the first contemporary novel I read that I felt I couldn’t put down. Then came Piercing the Darkness, Prophet, The Oath, and The Visitation and I was a sold-out Peretti fan. A few years later came Monster and I wanted to move to the north country of Idaho. Now, after seven years, comes Illusion, another soul-stirring story of love and mystery.
Almost ten years ago, when I decided to dive into the fiction writing pool myself I was given the advice to find an author I admire and who inspires me and read his or her work, not for the enjoyment of it, but to learn from it.
I turned to Frank Peretti.
Now, with six of my own books under my belt, I still look to Frank as the role model I need to press on and strive to improve my storytelling with each book. I’m honored to be able to take part in the “Ask Frank Blog Tour.”
1. Why did you choose to use magic and Illusion as a framework for this book?
I chose magic and illusion for two reasons:
Obviously, magic would be interesting and highly visual, and would also afford plenty of opportunity for mystery.
Secondly, Mandy’s sudden, unexplainable ability to create and perform such mysterious effects works right into the whole interdimensional, time bending element, the“sci-fi bad guy” intrigue of the story.
2. What interests do you have outside of writing?
Music. I have played the 5 string banjo for over 20 years and now I’m seriously studying the guitar. I lead worship at my local church which means I lead a worship band including musicians and singers. That’s a lot of fun, and always a creative challenge. It’s also a marvelous environment for learning how to work with people. I love flying and still have a current pilot’s license, but alas, flying is getting too expensive and I don’t do much of it anymore. I also love motion pictures and I’ve done some video production, but I guess that’s going to remain at the level of a hobby. Well, okay.
3. What is the main idea you want people to take home after they read your books?
I’ll go ahead and sound religious: I would like to create stories that glorify God and the things He has created, in this case, steadfast love, devotion, the joy of having someone. I would like to convey truth, celebrate beauty, warn against evil, admonish and ennoble.
4. What authors do you like to read?
Any author I can learn from. I keep my eyes open for the good stuff that comes along. Francis Schaeffer, Ravi Zacharias, and CS Lewis have been strong influences in my intellectual life. Michael Crichton has been a favorite author of mine because of the way he can put together a technothriller. He’s always been a really great model for structuring a story. Besides these, I like to read other fiction authors to learn from them, to see how they craft their stories, develop their style, and work with words. You never stop learning, growing, getting better at what you do.
5. Which book that you have written has been the most influential for you personally?
Well, I guess I would speak in the present tense and in terms of where my heart is right now and say Illusion. I’m 61 years of age, I was writing this book just as I was turning 60, and at that time I was reflecting on my life and my love relationship of 40 years with Barbara Jean. Like any artist, I was trying to convey something from my heart, trying to paint with words some very deep feelings and reflections. Writing Illusion deepened all the more my love for my wife and illuminated all that our marriage and our love has meant.
Here’s what you can do:
Visit the Ask Frank landing page and check out the other blogs participating. There’s a wide array of bloggers.
Check out the book on Frank’s site and order a copy today.
To celebrate this latest offering from a true mentor of mine, I’m offering an advanced reader’s copy of Illusion. Just leave a comment on this post about anything Peretti-related or anything at all and you’ll be entered into the drawing. The winner will be announced Thursday morning.
It seems every few months there’s this resurgence of questions and opinions that float around the blogosphere about the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and Christian fiction in general. Unfortunately, much of what I read paints the CBA in what I believe is an unfairly negative light. Misconceptions and stereotypes abound.
If I may, I’d like to point out some of those misconceptions and offer my view on them.
- The CBA requires biblical support for anything written. This just isn’t so. Any reader of Christian fiction can point to numerous books that push the theological envelope and challenge mainstream beliefs. Ted Dekker is notorious for this (good for him) and much of the supernatural and speculative fiction has done more than raise a few eyebrows. CBA publishers are careful but not restrictive.
- Christian characters are mostly portrayed as perfect people who have it all together and villains are almost always portrayed as the emodiment of evil. Maybe it was like that when the CBA was in its infancy, but I think most readers of Christian fiction would agree this is not the case at all. Lead characters are shown with flaws and struggles the rest of us share and villains are often more roundly developed to show the humanity they possess.
- Christian fiction only deals with “safe” subjects. Absolutely false. In recent years (meaning in the past decade or so) Christian fiction has tackled issues like homosexuality, incest, rape, racism, terrorism, bigotry, adultery, you name it. Authors like Lisa Samson, Gina Holmes, Mary DeMuth, Austin Boyd, and so many more have all taken on the “big” issues and dealt with them beautifully.
- Christian fiction only seeks to answer questions, not ask them. Not sure where this one came from but I doubt you’d find a single author of Christian fiction who agrees with this. We ask lots of questions and hope our stories prompt readers to question things as well. BUT–and here’s where we part ways with general fiction–we don’t just ask questions, we can also provide an answer. See, the world is already asking questions, lots of them, and seeking answers, but their blinded to the answer (how will they know unless someone tells them?). Why would we, as Christians writing fiction, be satisfied with only adding to the questions when we have the Answer? I know it sounds trite and maybe too simplistic but it’s true. Jesus is the answer they need. If I’m wrong about that tell me I am, but I don’t think I am. the challenge, of course, is how to pose those questions in a way that leads readers to the Answer and doesn’t push them away from him.
I’m guest blogging today over at Speculative Faith. Check out my article, “The Philosophy of Me.”
Okay, here’s the question: Does Christian supernatural fiction need to be doctrinally sound? Or maybe a better question would be can it be doctrinally sound?
Now, I know there are many flavors of Christians who read my work–Brethren, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Fundamentalists, Baptists, Charismatics, to name a few–and each one has a slightly different twist on Christian doctrine. I’m not here to fight over the gifts of the spirit or pre-trib vs. post-trib. We can leave that for another day.
I want to talk about the doctrine of the supernatural and how it plays into the realm of the natural. One of the things Christian supernatural fiction is taken to task over is that it is not doctrinally sound, that it is unrealistic and contradicts what the Bible teaches. Really? Does it? I guess, like anything else, it depends.
Let’s get one thing clear, just because we don’t understand something or don’t experience it on a regular basis doesn’t make it contradictory to what the Bible teaches.
Humor me for a moment while I tackle an issue I’ve dealt with in my own books. In The Hunted there is a beast, a monster if you will, that is the manifestation of evil. Call it a demon if you like. Then, in Darlington Woods, there are the darklings, demon-like creatures with a thirst for blood and death. They’ve both been called unrealistic and I’ve had to defend them by reminding people it’s fiction, it’s not meant to be real. But are they really that unrealistic?
Here’s my line of thought. Can fallen angels take on the form of humans like the good angels can? Genesis 6 seems to hint at that when it mentions the “sons of God” (if you take that interpretation). Can Satan and his minions take on other forms? Well, in Genesis 1 Satan came to Eve in the form of a serpent so it sure seems like it’s possible. So what’s to prevent them from taking on the form of a lion-like monster or a darkling?
Other questions: Can Satan control people? Sure he can. Judas Iscariot is a sad example. Can Satan control the weather? Yes. Job can attest to that. Can people receive visions and messages in their dreams? The Bible is full of such examples. Can God work through people in the form of miracles and supernatural power? Again, examples in Scripture are abundant.
Now, I know there are arguments on both sides about miracles and visions and such today and I respect the views of both sides. But what I deal with in my books is possibility. Is it possible that a demon can take on the form of a darkling or some other monster? Is it possible for a comatose boy to transmit messages from God? Is it possible for a man to be so controlled by Satan it’s as if he’s one with the prince of darkness?
I believe the answer to each of these questions is yes, it is possible. And I doubt that exploring these topics, these possibilities in fiction is doctrinally unsound. Trust me, the last thing I want to write is anything that could be called heresy or blasphemy. If I ever challenge the deity of Christ or the way of salvation in my books please, please call me on it. If I ever exalt man above God, take me to task. If I ever portray God as anything but the Father of Light and source of all goodness, give me a tongue-lashing. And if I ever fail to point my stories to God, to show the power of His words, the comfort of His touch, and the possibilities of His children, take my computer away and never let me write another book.
We’ve talked about this before, that the Bible is full of the supernatural, of miracles and wonderful strangeness, of evil in its cruelest and most vile forms. Can it still happen today? Is it possible? What do you think?
Lately, there’s been a lot of chatter on blogs and social media sites about the state of Christian fiction, the placement of Christian fiction in bookstores, the guidelines imposed on authors, how authors can better use their writing to reach that “other” segment of the world that doesn’t peruse the Christian fiction aisle at Borders or walk through the door of a Christian bookstore, and other spin-off topics.
Interesting thoughts offered all around. It seems what set the thing off was a heartfelt article written by Eric Wilson. Facebook users got involved and the conversation really took off. Recently, Mike Duran and Tim George both offered viewpoints and opinions. Becky Miller offered a different one.
For the past few days I’ve thought about this topic (actually, I’ve been thinking about it for the past few years) and wanting to comment but not wanting to jump the gun. I didn’t want to comment for the sake of making myself heard.
Fact is, I know these discussions are important. I KNOW they are. But honestly, I’m weary of them. Sorry if that offends anyone, I really am, but that’s my honest-to-goodness feeling.
Maybe I’m being pessimistic, maybe not, but I’m at the point where I want to stop hollering for change and questioning “the establishment” and just write, do what God has called me to do. (I understand, God has called some to holler for change . . . I don’t think that someone is me).
Here are my thoughts, my writing manifesto, if you will:
I’m tired of worrying about the placement of my books in bookstores. Do I like it that the Christan fiction section is on the opposite side of the store as the other fiction aisles? No! Can I change that? I don’t think so.
I’m tired of worrying about the sales numbers of my books. Am I envious when these Amish fiction books sell 3, 4, 5 times more than mine? Honestly, sometimes. Can I do anything about it? Yes. Write great books that reach readers and do my best to spread the word (that’s ALL I can do).
I’m tired of wishing the CBA was something it isn’t. I chose to write in the CBA because I felt that’s where God was calling me . . . and still do. It was and is my choice.
I’ve felt this way for a long time and still do . . . I don’t think it’s the author’s job to reach lost people and share Christ with them. How can we? Our only contact with them is words on a page? Yes, stories are powerful and can be thought-provoking and challenging and uplifting. That’s what I go for in my own stories. They can even protray Christians in a positive light and point the spotlight at God. But how will they hear unless someone tells them? If our books plainly preach Christ and him crucified, risen, and coming again they won’t make it into the general market where the lost people are, heck, they probably won’t even make it into the CBA. Rather, I feel it is the author’s job to give Christians a tool so they can then take that tool and reach the lost around them with it. To me, that’s evangelistic writing. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe you disagree, that’s fine, but that’s where I am.
I feel for my fellow authors who are discouraged and frustrated. They have a calling and they feel the CBA is not the place to fulfill that calling or that the CBA isn’t doing enough to come along side them in that calling. To them I say press on. Go where God leads you with no regrets. Follow him and see where the journey takes you. And don’t look back.
For now, my place is in the CBA. I know I’ll never strike it rich here. Compared to the whole reading market, the Christian fiction share is rather small and the segment of that readership who like what I write (supernatural suspense) is miniscule. And that’s okay (I need to remind myself every day that it’s okay). I’m where I believe God wants me, writing what I believe he wants me to write. If and when that changes, I’ll go somewhere else and do something else.
Bottom line: The fact that I can write books that people will read is astounding to me, more than I ever dreamed of. The face that I have a publisher who supports me and wants to keep publishing my books just floors me every day. The fact that I’m alive today after battling cancer humbles me. I’ve been given a great gift . . . the opportunity to write books that are getting published and distributed to the masses . . . and I don’t want for one second to take that for granted. I want each book I write to come from my heart, to come from my experiences, to be infused by my faith, and to impact readers in a unique way. The only way that will happen is to follow God’s leading and write the stories he’s given me. I want to work hard to spread the word about my stories so more people will read them and hopefully pass them on to someone else, someone who needs to read them. Above all, I want to honor God with my writing.
That’s me. That’s where I am.
Here’s an excellent article by Eric Wilson titled “Is It Time for Christian Fiction to Die?”
I’ve discussed the issue of “Christian fiction” from various angles on this blog before but this article is very well-written, very thought-provoking and from a writer who has established himself in this market and is now questioning it. A good thing!
When we stop questioning and challenging we grow stale and impotent.
Read the article.
Recently, on some blogs around the blogosphere, the topic of Christian fiction has come up again (see this post and this post). Anyone who follows my thoughts regularly knows this is a hot topic for me and these recent posts got me thinking about some things and re-evaluating some of my own thoughts.
Here’s a question: Should the word Christian be used as anything else than a noun?
A Christian is a person, right? The word means “like Christ” and in the New Testament it’s only used as a noun . . . a person who is a follower of Christ and “like Christ.” In recent history, though, the word Christian has been used more and more as an adjective. We have Christian bookstores, Christian fiction, Christian music, Christian movies, Christian-wear, Christian colleges, etc.
Really? What makes them Christian? What makes them “like Christ?”
Are we watering down the word Christian? Tagging it onto anything and everything to increase it’s marketability? Has the word become too ambiguous? I mean, what exactly is Christian fiction? Is it evangelical, is it Catholic, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox . . . Mormon? Is it “like Christ,” or is just wholesome, or rather, not unwholesome? Or is it more the intent behind the fiction (or music or t-shirt or school)? These are some of my questions.
There’s a lot of philosophical arguments here and I don’t want to spend too much time on that but I’m becoming more and more convinced that Christian should not be used as an adjective. And therefore, we should do away with the whole Christian fiction label.
What makes a book Christian fiction anyway? Herein lies the topic of so many discussions. If we take the word for what it means, “like Christ,” it really narrows the field, maybe eliminates it. There are writers who see their craft as more ministry than art and others who see it as more art than ministry. Both may claim they write “Christian” fiction (or at least their publishers claim they write it) but do they really or is that just a label thrown on there for easier categorization in the bookstore? Do we want the term Christian used that loosely, that casually? Really?
I mean, if a book is called “Christian” fiction but has nothing to do with Christ or Christians or biblical thinking, what’s so “like Christ” about it? And do I then call myself a Christian by those same standards?
Do you see the problem I’m having with the term Christian fiction now?
We need to come up with something else to call it. Something more ambiguous because that’s what the genre is. Maybe Positive Fiction or Inspirational Fiction or Faith Fiction. Whatever. Just please oh please let’s stop calling it Christian Fiction.
Now I know I’ve probably upset some and stepped on the toes of others but that’s my opinion. Changing the label should have no affect at all on the content or the art or the ministry of writing fiction with a biblical worldview or faith message or whatever you want to call it. But it may affect the perception of the genre and maybe free writers to explore the art of writing a little more without feeling like they’re defaming the name of Christ because, after all, they write “Christian” fiction.
Note: I know this is a big paradigm shift for many and for me as well. I’ve always called myself a Christian writer writing Christian fiction. But it’s good now and then to revisit a topic, put some thought into it, and maybe change your mind. It’s okay to change your mind. Change is good.
What do you think? Should we do away with the label, Christian fiction? Should we stop using “Christian” as an adjective?