CFBA – The Dead Whisper On

I’ve posted some teasers about this book previously (Join the Shadows…). I goofed when it came time to request this book for this blog tour, so I haven’t read it yet. This is a “Must Read” on my list, and I encourage you to check it out if you like suspense or Dean Koontz type of books. When I read it I’ll post my personal review. Now for the CFBA promo:

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing THE DEAD WHISPER ON (Bethany House July 1, 2007) by T. L. Hines

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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,

ABOUT THE BOOK:

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

CFBA – The Dead Whisper On

I’ve posted some teasers about this book previously (Join the Shadows…). I goofed when it came time to request this book for this blog tour, so I haven’t read it yet. This is a “Must Read” on my list, and I encourage you to check it out if you like suspense or Dean Koontz type of books. When I read it I’ll post my personal review. Now for the CFBA promo:

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing THE DEAD WHISPER ON (Bethany House July 1, 2007) by T. L. Hines

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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,

ABOUT THE BOOK:

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

Christian Heroes and Miscellany

Gah. Sometimes I am not inspired with a brilliant thought for this here place. Like…oh say the last two days. Like Dory from Finding Nemo‘s trailer – “Nope, nothin’ in my noggin'”. Bleh. Yet here I am, attempting to say something intelligent (this would be a perfect place to link to something regarding Miss Teen South Carolina’s now famous “map answer” and drive traffic to my site…yeah, I’m shameless – here’s a link to the YouTube posting).

Now for something completely different:
Becky Miller is again having an interesting discussion regarding what should make up a Christian hero. It is related to last week’s blog tour over The Legend of the Firefish. Bryan Polivka blogged about the repeated comments that viewed Packer as a potentially weak hero. Several times in the book he steps back and lets things happen according to God’s will, whether it ends up in his death, disaster for all around him, or deliverance. Bryan has a great point to make, and Becky gives her take on it. Make sure to check the comments of Becky’s post for more of the discussion.

My thoughts: I didn’t have a problem with what Packer did, because it is truly a great Christian response – one that I would have a problem duplicating in real life. I would suggest that perhaps the way it was written is more of the contention (which I admitted in my post last week was a minor contention).

The discussion made me think of the book Germ, which is quite a different book than Firefish. In it, the Christian character has regret for past violence, and sacrifices himself in the end to allow others to survive – a very Christian act and imagery for the book. The points being made in Becky’s discussion are very valid, but I think that examples like this are in other places in CBA fiction right now as well.

There’s a lot that could be said, and I don’t have the inspiration to work it out at the moment. I’ve got a heaping plate ahead of me for the next 6 weeks. Mainly my wife and I are in charge of bringing in and promoting Noel Richards for a worship seminar and concert at our church on September 22. Then I have to take a major recertification test for my physican assistant license on October 5, so I have to be studying through this time. Of course, it doesn’t help that I sign up for things like fantasy football.

Don’t worry, I’ll be around. Hopefully I’ll have more to offer in a day or two.

Christian Heroes and Miscellany

Gah. Sometimes I am not inspired with a brilliant thought for this here place. Like…oh say the last two days. Like Dory from Finding Nemo‘s trailer – “Nope, nothin’ in my noggin'”. Bleh. Yet here I am, attempting to say something intelligent (this would be a perfect place to link to something regarding Miss Teen South Carolina’s now famous “map answer” and drive traffic to my site…yeah, I’m shameless – here’s a link to the YouTube posting).

Now for something completely different:
Becky Miller is again having an interesting discussion regarding what should make up a Christian hero. It is related to last week’s blog tour over The Legend of the Firefish. Bryan Polivka blogged about the repeated comments that viewed Packer as a potentially weak hero. Several times in the book he steps back and lets things happen according to God’s will, whether it ends up in his death, disaster for all around him, or deliverance. Bryan has a great point to make, and Becky gives her take on it. Make sure to check the comments of Becky’s post for more of the discussion.

My thoughts: I didn’t have a problem with what Packer did, because it is truly a great Christian response – one that I would have a problem duplicating in real life. I would suggest that perhaps the way it was written is more of the contention (which I admitted in my post last week was a minor contention).

The discussion made me think of the book Germ, which is quite a different book than Firefish. In it, the Christian character has regret for past violence, and sacrifices himself in the end to allow others to survive – a very Christian act and imagery for the book. The points being made in Becky’s discussion are very valid, but I think that examples like this are in other places in CBA fiction right now as well.

There’s a lot that could be said, and I don’t have the inspiration to work it out at the moment. I’ve got a heaping plate ahead of me for the next 6 weeks. Mainly my wife and I are in charge of bringing in and promoting Noel Richards for a worship seminar and concert at our church on September 22. Then I have to take a major recertification test for my physican assistant license on October 5, so I have to be studying through this time. Of course, it doesn’t help that I sign up for things like fantasy football.

Don’t worry, I’ll be around. Hopefully I’ll have more to offer in a day or two.

Doing Something Different

Phew. I’m back in the saddle after a couple of days on the couch. Being in the medical field, I could always see that back pain/spasms weren’t fun. Now I can testify to the fact. Thanks to all those who said a prayer on my behalf – it is working!

In other news, my little church did something a little different yesterday. We had been talking for a while, wondering what would happen if instead of going to church we tried to get out and be the church. We’ve got a good core group that tries to shine light in our every day lives, but what if we did something different and a little bit radical as a body?

So, instead of having a church service, we went out to the local park next to the lake. Despite a “rather blustery day” as Pooh might call it, we set up in the central gazebo. After doing some prayer walking around different parts of the park, we put up signs advertising “Free BBQ” and started cooking for any who would come.

The day turned out really well. We had a steady trickle of folks from 12-4. Nothing overwhelming at one time, but we ran out of food at the end! We had cops, bike riders, families, a guy w/the cardboard sign looking for work, and skaters all stop by for a burger, hot dog, or glass of lemonade. We got to visit with several people. At least two families said they wanted to check out our church after this.

It seemed like a simple thing – go bless people. I have to believe it was more profound than that, both in our hearts and the people who witnessed it. We’ll see what comes of it, but the main thing to us was the idea that “obedience is better than sacrifice.” God is good, and we didn’t get blown north.

Anyone else have stories like this? How did it go?

Doing Something Different

Phew. I’m back in the saddle after a couple of days on the couch. Being in the medical field, I could always see that back pain/spasms weren’t fun. Now I can testify to the fact. Thanks to all those who said a prayer on my behalf – it is working!

In other news, my little church did something a little different yesterday. We had been talking for a while, wondering what would happen if instead of going to church we tried to get out and be the church. We’ve got a good core group that tries to shine light in our every day lives, but what if we did something different and a little bit radical as a body?

So, instead of having a church service, we went out to the local park next to the lake. Despite a “rather blustery day” as Pooh might call it, we set up in the central gazebo. After doing some prayer walking around different parts of the park, we put up signs advertising “Free BBQ” and started cooking for any who would come.

The day turned out really well. We had a steady trickle of folks from 12-4. Nothing overwhelming at one time, but we ran out of food at the end! We had cops, bike riders, families, a guy w/the cardboard sign looking for work, and skaters all stop by for a burger, hot dog, or glass of lemonade. We got to visit with several people. At least two families said they wanted to check out our church after this.

It seemed like a simple thing – go bless people. I have to believe it was more profound than that, both in our hearts and the people who witnessed it. We’ll see what comes of it, but the main thing to us was the idea that “obedience is better than sacrifice.” God is good, and we didn’t get blown north.

Anyone else have stories like this? How did it go?

Firefish Finish

I had wanted to post one last time on Legend of the Firefish last night. Back spasms have kept me from the computer last night and most of today so far (ugh). Just two quick points to wrap up this blog tour.

First, the sequel, The Hand That Bears the Sword, is in the stores already. Becky has a review of it here. Sounds like more swashbuckling action!

Second, the author has a cool contest where you write up a little ditty in pirate speak. Seeing that Talk Like a Pirate Day is just about this blog’s national holiday, how could I not promote that? So get to your keyboards mateys!! Arrrrr!

Now I’ll limp back to my couch…

Firefish Finish

I had wanted to post one last time on Legend of the Firefish last night. Back spasms have kept me from the computer last night and most of today so far (ugh). Just two quick points to wrap up this blog tour.

First, the sequel, The Hand That Bears the Sword, is in the stores already. Becky has a review of it here. Sounds like more swashbuckling action!

Second, the author has a cool contest where you write up a little ditty in pirate speak. Seeing that Talk Like a Pirate Day is just about this blog’s national holiday, how could I not promote that? So get to your keyboards mateys!! Arrrrr!

Now I’ll limp back to my couch…

Legend of the Firefish – The Debate

Yesterday I tried to leave my post on the CSFF Blog Tour book Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka as a cliffhanger to pique interest. I discussed the strengths that I saw in the book and what made it an enjoyable read. Today I’m going to touch three points that dragged the book down for me a little that kept it from being one of my top books of the year (so far).

The first and second points are interrelated. As I mentioned yesterday, the book’s two major characters are unapologetically Christian, and they live consistently in this and it fits the story well. However, some of the story suffers slightly because of one of the character’s reliance on God’s sovereignty and will. This is tricky to discuss, because I believe in the message the author is saying behind it. The problem is that it sometimes hinders the action of the protaganist as he stops and contemplates what he does. There are several instances where Packer wrestles with High Ideals – nothing wrong with that. The trick is when he does it with chaos raging around him. I might use this aspect once or twice, but it happens a few times and slows down several action sequences.

Also, the use of this plot point somtimes stops Packer from acting, since “all is God’s will and he is leaving it in His hands”. It has some important consequences at the end, but again it happens enough that it bumps the flow of the story and the believability of the scene.

These two points aren’t terribly significant, but they were “hiccups” in the story for me. The final point is significant, but is also an interesting point of topic.

A little background: an author has to chose a point-of-view (POV) when writing. Typically the author picks either first or third-person. First person usually sticks with one character throughout the book. Third person can stay with one person, or move around to different characters. However, usually a change of character POV happens at a chapter or a definite point in a chapter.

Polivka just doesn’t “break” this rule, he demolishes it. He takes an omniscient viewpoint, meaning he switches POV whenever he wants, sometimes from paragraph to paragraph.

For me, I did not enjoy this. It has the effect of confusing who is doing the talking/thinking – especially when Packer is with guys or Panna with any ladies. It comes across as “head-hopping.” It really took me a while to get the hang of it, so I read the first part of the book slowly, not really getting into it until later on.

Now, when I approached the tour I knew I would blog about this, but I was just going to chalk it up to something Polivka would have to work on. However, over the last week I’ve read a few things that gave me a different slant on it.

1. From Mike Duran at Decompose:

From Day 1: When one lives under the notion that success means strict adherence to a set of rules — as this published author clearly implies — a type of literary legalism follows. Am I suggesting there aren’t things that tighten a story, make it more readable, more cohesive? Heck no. What I’m wondering is if this idea of “rules” is over-emphasized to new authors. The result is — as it was for me — that a lot of new authors live under the burden of legalism…

From Day 3: The writing rules have their place, but they can also blind one to the destination. After all, the ultimate goal of the storyteller is not to obey all the rules, but to get her readers safely across the street.

2. Then there was Becky Miller’s interview with Nick Harrison, Polivka’s editor from Harvest House:

Bryan’s ability to handle the point of view shifts necessary to pull off this feat [using so many POV’s] is awesome—and unique. Not many authors handle point of view as well as Bryan does. I consider Bryan’s use of point of view a huge asset to the book—even though I know that all the writing books warn against such shifts. I think they do this because few authors can handle those shifts well. Bryan is a master at it, in my opinion.

3. Finally, there’s Bryan Polivka’s own comments in an interview with Valerie Comer:

As for the omniscient point of view, I find that other writers and publishers are very interested in that whole discussion, but I’ve never yet had a pure reader (who is not also a writer) even ask me about it. It seems odd to me that this should be out of style, or out of favor, particularly in a world where movies and television are having great success with omniscience. Lost, Friends, Rent, Oceans Eleven, even Survivor and Real World–I would argue that any ensemble-cast product gets its appeal from going deep into multiple points of view. Fiction writers are, I think, well behind the times in that regard if they hew to a single viewpoint thinking it is somehow better for the audience. I may not have done it well, but I hope that doesn’t put anyone off the approach itself.

And the Christian viewpoint factors in here also. Historically, I believe the omniscient viewpoint went out of favor as secular existentialism took over the mainstream, based on a philosophy that we really can’t know anything outside our own single point of reference. And I think that’s just incorrect. The reason we have imagination, I believe, is for the apprehension of the infinite. God gave His creation this gift that we might know Him. And if we can know God, surely we can know others.

Now, armed with all of this information and opinion, I made an adjustment to my opinion. The thing that especially struck me was Bryan’s contention that basically he’s using an older style and we’re conditioned to accept a status quo that this “shouldn’t be done”. Especially with the discussion Mike Duran has been having at his blog.

I’ve argued before that authors need the freedom to create as they feel called and are inspired. I applaud Polivka for making a challenging artistic stand and sticking with it. Since it was intentional, I can’t fault it.

Nick Harrison thought that Bryan pulled this off well. There I might disagree some. I’ve seen other books that switch through a lot of POV’s and I didn’t get lost. My favorite book of the year so far, Abiding Darkness by John Aubrey Anderson, has some occasional POV hops and doesn’t suffer from it. Interestingly enough, I would say that Anderson’s hops were likely more accidental, while Polivka’s were intentional, and that it is apparent in reading. Again, it didn’t work for me 100%.

SO…is this a big deal? It might not be a big deal at all. I’ve also discussed how trying to write can ruin an easy-to-please reader. If you read this and think it is much ado about nothing, then ignore it and go buy an enjoyable book. Don’t forget that I liked the book overall and recommend it. The POV issue was something that had come up during the tour, and this is my extremely long-winded response to it (best value for 2 cents ever).

I have one more little tidbit about Legend of the Firefish, but it will come a little later. Enjoy the rest of the blog tour!

Legend of the Firefish – The Debate

Yesterday I tried to leave my post on the CSFF Blog Tour book Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka as a cliffhanger to pique interest. I discussed the strengths that I saw in the book and what made it an enjoyable read. Today I’m going to touch three points that dragged the book down for me a little that kept it from being one of my top books of the year (so far).

The first and second points are interrelated. As I mentioned yesterday, the book’s two major characters are unapologetically Christian, and they live consistently in this and it fits the story well. However, some of the story suffers slightly because of one of the character’s reliance on God’s sovereignty and will. This is tricky to discuss, because I believe in the message the author is saying behind it. The problem is that it sometimes hinders the action of the protaganist as he stops and contemplates what he does. There are several instances where Packer wrestles with High Ideals – nothing wrong with that. The trick is when he does it with chaos raging around him. I might use this aspect once or twice, but it happens a few times and slows down several action sequences.

Also, the use of this plot point somtimes stops Packer from acting, since “all is God’s will and he is leaving it in His hands”. It has some important consequences at the end, but again it happens enough that it bumps the flow of the story and the believability of the scene.

These two points aren’t terribly significant, but they were “hiccups” in the story for me. The final point is significant, but is also an interesting point of topic.

A little background: an author has to chose a point-of-view (POV) when writing. Typically the author picks either first or third-person. First person usually sticks with one character throughout the book. Third person can stay with one person, or move around to different characters. However, usually a change of character POV happens at a chapter or a definite point in a chapter.

Polivka just doesn’t “break” this rule, he demolishes it. He takes an omniscient viewpoint, meaning he switches POV whenever he wants, sometimes from paragraph to paragraph.

For me, I did not enjoy this. It has the effect of confusing who is doing the talking/thinking – especially when Packer is with guys or Panna with any ladies. It comes across as “head-hopping.” It really took me a while to get the hang of it, so I read the first part of the book slowly, not really getting into it until later on.

Now, when I approached the tour I knew I would blog about this, but I was just going to chalk it up to something Polivka would have to work on. However, over the last week I’ve read a few things that gave me a different slant on it.

1. From Mike Duran at Decompose:

From Day 1: When one lives under the notion that success means strict adherence to a set of rules — as this published author clearly implies — a type of literary legalism follows. Am I suggesting there aren’t things that tighten a story, make it more readable, more cohesive? Heck no. What I’m wondering is if this idea of “rules” is over-emphasized to new authors. The result is — as it was for me — that a lot of new authors live under the burden of legalism…

From Day 3: The writing rules have their place, but they can also blind one to the destination. After all, the ultimate goal of the storyteller is not to obey all the rules, but to get her readers safely across the street.

2. Then there was Becky Miller’s interview with Nick Harrison, Polivka’s editor from Harvest House:

Bryan’s ability to handle the point of view shifts necessary to pull off this feat [using so many POV’s] is awesome—and unique. Not many authors handle point of view as well as Bryan does. I consider Bryan’s use of point of view a huge asset to the book—even though I know that all the writing books warn against such shifts. I think they do this because few authors can handle those shifts well. Bryan is a master at it, in my opinion.

3. Finally, there’s Bryan Polivka’s own comments in an interview with Valerie Comer:

As for the omniscient point of view, I find that other writers and publishers are very interested in that whole discussion, but I’ve never yet had a pure reader (who is not also a writer) even ask me about it. It seems odd to me that this should be out of style, or out of favor, particularly in a world where movies and television are having great success with omniscience. Lost, Friends, Rent, Oceans Eleven, even Survivor and Real World–I would argue that any ensemble-cast product gets its appeal from going deep into multiple points of view. Fiction writers are, I think, well behind the times in that regard if they hew to a single viewpoint thinking it is somehow better for the audience. I may not have done it well, but I hope that doesn’t put anyone off the approach itself.

And the Christian viewpoint factors in here also. Historically, I believe the omniscient viewpoint went out of favor as secular existentialism took over the mainstream, based on a philosophy that we really can’t know anything outside our own single point of reference. And I think that’s just incorrect. The reason we have imagination, I believe, is for the apprehension of the infinite. God gave His creation this gift that we might know Him. And if we can know God, surely we can know others.

Now, armed with all of this information and opinion, I made an adjustment to my opinion. The thing that especially struck me was Bryan’s contention that basically he’s using an older style and we’re conditioned to accept a status quo that this “shouldn’t be done”. Especially with the discussion Mike Duran has been having at his blog.

I’ve argued before that authors need the freedom to create as they feel called and are inspired. I applaud Polivka for making a challenging artistic stand and sticking with it. Since it was intentional, I can’t fault it.

Nick Harrison thought that Bryan pulled this off well. There I might disagree some. I’ve seen other books that switch through a lot of POV’s and I didn’t get lost. My favorite book of the year so far, Abiding Darkness by John Aubrey Anderson, has some occasional POV hops and doesn’t suffer from it. Interestingly enough, I would say that Anderson’s hops were likely more accidental, while Polivka’s were intentional, and that it is apparent in reading. Again, it didn’t work for me 100%.

SO…is this a big deal? It might not be a big deal at all. I’ve also discussed how trying to write can ruin an easy-to-please reader. If you read this and think it is much ado about nothing, then ignore it and go buy an enjoyable book. Don’t forget that I liked the book overall and recommend it. The POV issue was something that had come up during the tour, and this is my extremely long-winded response to it (best value for 2 cents ever).

I have one more little tidbit about Legend of the Firefish, but it will come a little later. Enjoy the rest of the blog tour!