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Monday, November 30, 2009

Saint's Roost by Terry Burns

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Saint's Roost
(Sundowners, September 20, 2009) by Terry Burns.

About the Author

Terry has over 30 books in print, including work in a dozen short story collections and four non-fiction books plus numerous articles and short stories.

His last book Beyond the Smoke is a 2009 winner of the Will Rogers Medallion for best youth fiction and a nominee for the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. He has a three book Mysterious Ways series out from David C Cook, and Trails of the Dime Novel from Echelon Press.

A graduate of West Texas State he did post graduate work at Southern Methodist University. Terry plans to continue writing inspirational fiction as well as working as an agent for Hartline Literary Agency. Terry is a native Texan Living in Amarillo, Texas with his lovely wife Saundra.

About the Book

Terry Burns has written a novel rich in Texan drawl and old western authenticity.

Saint’s Roost opens with a determined couple leaving a wagon train to set off on their own, only to be set upon by savages. Patrick, an eager evangelizing preacher, steps out to share the Good Book with the savages and meets an untimely demise, leaving his wife, Janie, alone on a trail to nowhere with no one to help her survive.

She makes her way across the frontier determined to follow her husband’s calling, but she doesn’t know where to begin, or even how to take care of herself. When her travels bring her into the lives of two cowhands, an ex-prostitute, a young boy and his drunken grandfather, and towns filled with cowboys waiting to be saved, she discovers there’s more than one way to spread God’s word.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Saint's Roost, go HERE

My Review

I was delighted to receive a review copy of this novel. I hadn't read a good ol' Western in quite some time, and this was a wonderful change of pace for me after a summer of suspense reading. Only a few chapters into the story, it was obvious that the tale was more like a tranquil Mitford novel (just a different motif) than the latest pulse-pounder from Dekker, but that was just fine by me. This homespun tale is a nice sit-back-in-my-comfy-chair read rather than a sit-on-the-edge-of-my-seat offering. Instead of car chases and bumps in the night, readers are treated to a whimsical look at life in another era, colorful characters who practically leap off the page, and a rich serving of God's grace that triumphs over the failings each of us struggle with on this path we call life. At the same time, the story, though not strong on plot, picks up momentum toward the end and offers a nice action-packed climax.

Character-driven, leisurely Saint's Roost is all about adjustments and family. I say "adjustments" because Janie Benedict immediately finds herself out West with a naive brother determined to win the Indians to Christ. Though a worthy calling, it turns out to be one short on common sense. Finding herself alone in a strange land, Janie realizes that good intentions are never quite good enough. To make a true difference for the cause of Christ, she must seek to understand the people and culture in her new surroundings.

Immediately Janie begins to adjust to God's plan for her now that her brother is gone. What she discovers at each new step are opportunities to create her own family out of the broken lives of those around her. She meets Sharon, a former prostitute, determined to repent of her ways and start a new life. Preston needs a good home, and his grandfather, Cornelius Johnson, needs to stay away from the bottle. Shine, an Indian woman who tends to her baby, Fawn, needs a helping hand. And of course there's also Frank, Janie's love interest, and his faith-rejecting sidekick, Ruben. Janie quickly learns that her baked pies can do more than fill a hungry stomach; they can minister grace to others and open the door to share the love of Christ in surprising, new ways. What happens next is an impressive story rich in relationships and in how God works His will in spite of the well-meaning but often flawed ways of man.

One quality I loved best about Saint's Roost was the author's boldness in weaving in clear faith messages and the most important one of all: the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a market full of offerings that sadly seem to be trending away from an overt spiritual message, I found Saint's Roost to be refreshing and unapologetic in connecting real life challenges to clear faith values. I always look for that quality in a good Christian novel, and Saint's Roost didn't disappoint. In fact, it reminded me of some of the best Christian fiction of twenty years ago. For that and other reasons, I wholeheartedly recommend this casual, whimsical, and often humorous tale that adroitly weaves realistic story threads into a clear pattern of God's grace. My only nitpick is that the final printing was sorely lacking a good proofread. (Let me know, Terry, if you need help on your next offering. Editing is my day job, and I'd be honored to help.) All flaws aside, Saint's Roost is a worthy, engaging read you don't want to miss.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Loss of Carrier by Russ White

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Loss Of Carrier (BookSurge Publishing, October 27, 2009) by Russ White.


Bright yellow cables against a blue shirt? Carl never would have approved of that color combination. Why was his face so white? His eyes should be closed, not open. Why hadn’t one of the security guards seen this and reported it to the police? The lights were off, the cameras were useless in the dark.

Of course, the cables wrapped around Carl’s neck explained why the server wasn’t working. Loss of carrier.

Jess Wirth lives a dreary life. He spends most of his time crammed inside a cubicle, toiling as a network engineer and stewing over the details of his ugly divorce. But when he finds his co-worker dead in the basement of their office, Jess’s life takes a surprising—and unpleasant—turn.

The police quickly declare the death a suicide, but Jess isn’t so sure. Not long after he begins digging into the victim’s work, another co-worker turns up dead, convincing him once and for all that something sinister is brewing behind the cubicle walls.

His investigation leads him to a mysterious woman name Leah, who pushes him to entrust her with the information he’s collected about his dead colleagues. Wary of Leah’s motives yet inexorably drawn to her, Jess keeps her at arm’s length...until an attempt is made on both their lives. Realizing they are close on the trail of a dangerous criminal, the pair race to expose a data theft ring before they become the killer’s next victims.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Loss Of Carrier, go HERE.

My Review

Loss of Carrier is in my TBR (To Be Read) pile, and I plan to get to it soon. It looks interesting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Inevitable Battle—Standards in Christian Novels

In case you missed it, an interesting discussion has been going on in the CBA lately. Namely, what word and content choices are acceptable in Christian fiction. This debate began when author Ted Dekker published an article at his Web site criticizing Steeple Hill's "terms that cannot be used in a Steeple Hill novel." Later, Christian literary agent Chip MacGregor sounded off, taking Ted to task.

It's an interesting debate and one Christians everywhere need to take seriously, in my opinion. In a society that tends to be constantly drifting toward more unwholesome content in entertainment choices, where are believers supposed to stand? Follow the links, think the issue through, and decide where you stand. What do you think?

While I agree that some of the items on the Steeple Hill list seem a little extreme, I for one believe Christians should be pursuing wholesome speech and seeking to raise the bar on what's acceptable. For that reason, I applaud Steeple Hill for taking the high road in content choices. God gives us clear standards for wholesome speech. Where's the mandate to compromise those for the sake of realism in storytelling?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Copyediting Podcasts

Enjoy these FREE instructional audio podcasts on a host of grammar and language-use topics, brought to you by Copyediting newsletter. New podcasts are added weekly!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Organizing: Three Big Chunks by Randy Ingermanson

The biggest problem many writers face is the clock. No matter who you are, no matter how important you are, no matter how smart you are, your day still has only 24 hours in it. You and Bill Gates both have exactly the same amount of time in each day.

The crucial difference is that Bill has enough money socked away so he can do what he wants. Most writers don't have that luxury. We've got day jobs. Families. Hobbies, sports, and entertainment. Church or synagogue or PTA or the Moose Club. We're also supposed to sleep, exercise, eat right, enjoy a bit of fun once in a while, and floss.

Somewhere in all that chaos, we also need to write.

Some writers find a way to make it work; others don't. What makes the difference between those who do and those who don't?

I have a theory on that. It's only a theory, but it's based on watching working writers work. It's based on watching myself work. It's based on twenty years of watching.

Here's my theory. If writing is one of the three big chunks in your life, then you have a good chance of successfully writing fiction. If not, then you don't.

What's a "big chunk?" That's easy to define. It's where your time goes. Look at the things you do, other than sleeping and eating. How much time do you spend on each one? The things you spend the most time on are your "big chunks."

If you work a day job eight hours a day, plus a one-hour commute each way, then your day job is taking up ten hours per day, and that's your biggest chunk.

If you're a stay-at-home-mom and you're spending twelve hours a day taking care of three kids, then that's your biggest chunk.

Those are the two most common big chunks I've seen in writer's lives. There are any number of others that aren't quite so big, but which combine to fill up your life. Take an inventory of your own life. How many hours per week do you spend on each of these:

* Job
* Family duties
* House, yard, or garden
* Church, synagogue, or other group activities
* TV, video games, or other electronic entertainment
* Exercise
* Reading
* Writing
* ________ (fill in that pesky blank)

Now let's be clear about one thing. Most of these are Good Things. Some of them, in fact, are Great Things. A few of them are Mediocre Things or possibly even Useless Things. It really doesn't matter.

What matters for you, as a fiction writer, is that your chances of success in publishing go way up if writing is one of your three biggest chunks.

Is it remotely possible that you can get published if writing is #4 or #5 on your list? Yeah, sure, it's possible. It's possible you could run a marathon on a training base of only 10 miles a week. But you wouldn't do nearly as well as you would if you were putting in 40 or 50 miles every week. There aren't very many certainties in life, so it makes sense to tilt the odds in your favor.

So my rule of thumb for success in fiction is to make writing one of the three biggest chunks in your life. I've got nothing against any of those other things. But the fact is that most writers who sell their first novel are writing at least 10 hours per week, and many are writing 20.

Let me clarify one thing. Very few writers start out writing 10 or 20 hours per week. Most writers start the way I did, doing an hour here and an hour there. Most writers work up to the 10 hour level over a year or two or five. But they rarely get published until they reach
that level.

Your life only has room for so many big chunks. So here are some questions I'll leave for you to ponder:

* Is writing one of the three biggest chunks in your life?

* What changes would you have to make in your life to make writing one of your Big Three?

* If you can't make those changes instantly, can you shift things gradually over the next six months?

* Would it damage your life to make those changes?

Now let me switch gears and point out the opposite hazard. What would happen if you sold a novel for so much money that you could quit your day job and spend all your time writing? Wouldn't that be GREAT?

Well . . . maybe. The thing is that fiction writing is about real life, or something pretty similar to real life. You always need something to write about, and for most writers, that comes from their own life.

What that means is that if you were to spend all your time writing, you'd probably run out of things to write about. Most of the working fiction writers I know have something else going on in their life. Writing may be their day job, but it's not the only thing they do.

My theory is that even when you reach nirvana and writing is your #1 big chunk, you still need to have a couple of other major things going on in your life that feed your imagination. Writers need to get out, do things, interact with the Muggles.

Not too many other things. Three big chunks seems to be about right.

That's my theory. It's only a theory. It's based on plenty of experience, but it's still at best only a
rule of thumb. Now the final question for you is whether this theory suggests an action plan you could make right now. If so, then go to it. Nothing ever happens until you take action.


Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 17,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Wayback by Sam Batterman


by Sam Batterman (VMI Publishers, May 1, 2009)

The Story

A mysterious Nazi super weapon, hidden for more than 60 years, has been discovered by members of a reclusive, private think tank and perfected using modern technology. This fully realized and reliable device is so powerful, so provocative, that the basic beliefs of science, history and religion could be overturned in an instant. After a cataclysmic system failure kills an expedition attempting to return to the year 100,000 B.C., a team of skeptical scientists and adventurers is dispatched to the Antediluvian world, a world that no one anticipated full of wonder, danger and advanced civilizations that will rock the accepted theories of science and history to their core. However, the team is unaware of another plan that is unfolding; there are people who will kill to use this remarkable machine to further their own plans for our past and future.

My Review

I was delighted to read this new novel by author friend and fellow BJU alumnus Sam Batterman. I have always been fond of time travel stories and was especially interested to see how Sam would treat this classic but somewhat worn plot device. (From H.G. Wells to Michael Crichton, we've seen a wide spectrum of time travel sagas, not to mention numerous movies and TV shows.)

What I discovered was a novel that is really a carefuly executed balancing act between suspenseful plotting, scientific research, and biblical truth. This technique is risky. Does the scientific information weigh down the plot? Are the biblical ramifications of what the story's characters experience lost in the plot? I thought Sam did a good job of stiking the right balance, and he certainly put some hard work into this project. The list of sources Sam consulted for his bibliograpy is nothing short of amazing. This guy did his homework, and it shows!

Beyond the obvious creationism message, I was especially intrigued by scenes that describe the garden of Eden and Noah's ark. I've often wondered what the inside of Noah's ark looked like; Sam does a good job of giving readers an inside look. The main storyline of researchers sent back in time to the time of Noah's flood gains further complexity by a group of terrorists who plan to alter history in an unexpected way. I won't give away the subplot or their diaboological plans; you'll need to read the novel for yourself. The ramifications of their plans and how Sam probed the possible outcome of choices unique to two time periods definitely gave a new spin to the time travel concept that I hadn't thought of before. What a fascinating, thought-provoking read! With just enough hooks to keep the story moving forward while taking readers down a path of new possibilities and into a world we've read about in the Bible but only imagined, Wayback is definitely a worthy, suspenseful, and educational read. Definitely check it out!

For more information about Sam and his writings, check out his Web site and his blog. For information about purchasing a copy, check out his novel at

Monday, November 2, 2009

Church Libraries Gives Fatal Illusions Positive Review


A Slow Burn by Mary DeMuth

My Review

I had the wonderful privilege of meeting Mary at the Write-to-Publish Conference at Wheaton College last June. I was thrilled to hear her message about writing redemptive fiction. I had begun reading Daisy Chain but hadn't finished it. But then knowing the author a little bit prompted me to keep going. I must confess that I'm a suspense reader and writer, so contemporary fiction isn't typically at the top of my list. But Mary's lyrically writing and rich charactertizations made me eager to finish this novel, especially now that I better understood the engine driving her writing.

I'm glad I kept reading Daisy Chain, which is an enjoyable though sometimes difficult read due to the harsh realities the characters must face. By the time I finished the tale, I had to know what was going to happen next. Mary cleverly left several critical story line elements unresolved. What exactly happened to Daisy and why? Will Jed ever let go of his bitterness and turn to God for spiritual healing? Will Hap turn from his abusive ways and become the pastor, father, and husband God desires Him to be? I'm still longing to see some hope and repentance emerge in the lives of these broken, devastated people.

So far I'm up to chapter six in A Slow Burn and loving Mary's poetic, lyrical style. After traveling through Daisy Chain in Jed's skin, I was a little disappointed, to be honest, not to see his point of view emerge at the beginning. But Mary must have her reasons. Now I'm seeing Emory's struggles and mistakes. I continue to hope that God's light will shine on these struggling lives. With that aim, I will keep reading and offer a full review here when I'm finished.

Watch the video:

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Slow Burn, go HERE.