Decent and Edgy?

Hello again. I’ve been trying to work more on my novel in progress, and have been dealing with a little blogger’s block. I’ve had a few thoughts, but haven’t known how to get them out. Time to get back on the horse!

So is it possible to have edgy AND decent fiction?

This has been a run-around topic for CBA fiction for a while. Christian fiction has been evolving over the last several years, perhaps not as fast as some would like, as there continues to be a debate about “edgy” Christian fiction. In fact, the term has become so loaded it is hard to define. For this post consider “edgy” as portraying real life without any filter on it (CBA is known for no cussing and no intimate scenes, not even between spouses).

By the way, I was partially inspired by Mike Duran’s blog deCOMPOSE because he offers a lot of thought-provoking content, usually about the state of Christian fiction. A recent post asks, “Am I responsible for what my characters say?” with the question being, “If my character says something mean, racist, sinful, etc., am I responsible or is the character responsible.” He also had a well-noticed post about “Christian fiction and the new edgy”. That post noted that some people’s edgy are other people’s obscene.

How can obscene be decent?

Perhaps “decent” is a loaded word too, considered a Puritan standard that isn’t realistic in our day and age. Maybe I’m looking at the word wrong, or using the wrong term. I’m thinking of decent as in the motivation one is using when writing something that may be edgy.

Much of our current pop culture fare comes with a shock value intended to gain notice. The edginess is just to catch people’s attention. Britney Spears continued a trend from Madonna, then Katy Perry picked up the baton with songs like “I Kissed a Girl,” and this was quickly followed by Lady Gaga and her wild antics. The motivation on doing something is, quite frankly, only to gain some kind of attention in our oversaturated world.

All media forms are subject to this, from movies, comics, books, TV…the list goes on. The motivation is caught between catching attention and/or flaunting old standards.

Is it possible to write something challenging, edgy, without leaving behind decency? I’d better use an example. I picture a story involving a rough-edged detective and a prostitute trapped in her circumstances that doesn’t pull punches showing the rawness of their lives. The point of the story is not to wallow in dirt, but to show the contrast of redemption against such bleak context. The motivation is good. The details are not used in a gratuitous manner, but to paint an accurate picture. The author keeps a standard of decency in their heart, writing things to serve the story rather than to shock, even if it means some cursing, a closer look into the prostitute’s life, or the violence on the streets.

Maybe I’m reaching with this. I don’t expect stardard CBA fare to embrace this of course. But is it possible to be honest with where the story needs to go, show just the details that are needed to establish credibility without wallowing in it, and keep a pure heart? I think so. I really believe a lot of what is done in pop culture is for the purpose of vulgarity alone, without adding value to the final product other than saying, “Look at me! I am worse than the last guy!”

I’m not even the guy that would want to read all of this. But as Mike has said before, showing someone violating God’s standards can be a powerful tool, even if it is uncomfortable reading about it.

Am I making sense? Am I out there on this one? Hey, your thoughts on this would be most appreciated!

Decent and Edgy?

Hello again. I’ve been trying to work more on my novel in progress, and have been dealing with a little blogger’s block. I’ve had a few thoughts, but haven’t known how to get them out. Time to get back on the horse!

So is it possible to have edgy AND decent fiction?

This has been a run-around topic for CBA fiction for a while. Christian fiction has been evolving over the last several years, perhaps not as fast as some would like, as there continues to be a debate about “edgy” Christian fiction. In fact, the term has become so loaded it is hard to define. For this post consider “edgy” as portraying real life without any filter on it (CBA is known for no cussing and no intimate scenes, not even between spouses).

By the way, I was partially inspired by Mike Duran’s blog deCOMPOSE because he offers a lot of thought-provoking content, usually about the state of Christian fiction. A recent post asks, “Am I responsible for what my characters say?” with the question being, “If my character says something mean, racist, sinful, etc., am I responsible or is the character responsible.” He also had a well-noticed post about “Christian fiction and the new edgy”. That post noted that some people’s edgy are other people’s obscene.

How can obscene be decent?

Perhaps “decent” is a loaded word too, considered a Puritan standard that isn’t realistic in our day and age. Maybe I’m looking at the word wrong, or using the wrong term. I’m thinking of decent as in the motivation one is using when writing something that may be edgy.

Much of our current pop culture fare comes with a shock value intended to gain notice. The edginess is just to catch people’s attention. Britney Spears continued a trend from Madonna, then Katy Perry picked up the baton with songs like “I Kissed a Girl,” and this was quickly followed by Lady Gaga and her wild antics. The motivation on doing something is, quite frankly, only to gain some kind of attention in our oversaturated world.

All media forms are subject to this, from movies, comics, books, TV…the list goes on. The motivation is caught between catching attention and/or flaunting old standards.

Is it possible to write something challenging, edgy, without leaving behind decency? I’d better use an example. I picture a story involving a rough-edged detective and a prostitute trapped in her circumstances that doesn’t pull punches showing the rawness of their lives. The point of the story is not to wallow in dirt, but to show the contrast of redemption against such bleak context. The motivation is good. The details are not used in a gratuitous manner, but to paint an accurate picture. The author keeps a standard of decency in their heart, writing things to serve the story rather than to shock, even if it means some cursing, a closer look into the prostitute’s life, or the violence on the streets.

Maybe I’m reaching with this. I don’t expect stardard CBA fare to embrace this of course. But is it possible to be honest with where the story needs to go, show just the details that are needed to establish credibility without wallowing in it, and keep a pure heart? I think so. I really believe a lot of what is done in pop culture is for the purpose of vulgarity alone, without adding value to the final product other than saying, “Look at me! I am worse than the last guy!”

I’m not even the guy that would want to read all of this. But as Mike has said before, showing someone violating God’s standards can be a powerful tool, even if it is uncomfortable reading about it.

Am I making sense? Am I out there on this one? Hey, your thoughts on this would be most appreciated!

CSFF Tour – The Skin Map Day 3

In Which The Blogger Finally Gets Around To Telling The Reader If The Book Is Any Good.

The CSFF Tour is featuring the latest from acclaimed author Stephen Lawhead, The Skin Map, first book of the Bright Empires series. Yesterday I gave a synopsis of the book, if you missed it. How does it stand up?

I’ve said here in the past that Stephen Lawhead is one of my favorite authors. For some reason, a couple of his books (usually the second or third in a series) have fallen flat for me. It’s almost if he’s a little streaky. Does The Skin Map strike hard or does it miss?

Thankfully, I can testify that Lawhead is on target with this first book. There’s wit, suspense, intrigue, and the Lawhead tradmark of making a setting come alive. You see some of this with the very first lines of the book:

Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared. At least, he would have brought an umbrella.

(Best opening line I’ve read since, “The nun hit me in the mouth and said, ‘Get out of my house.'”)

Lawhead has stated on his website that he’s been writing this series in his head for the last 15 years or so, just now he has the skill to handle all of the complexity. I would believe it. He has numerous characters jumping from the Home World to different times and locales, and he brings the unique flavor of each place out. There’s enough characters and locations (and times!) that it almost gets confusing, but he keeps things moving forward. Many threads are started, and it may seem a little disconnected in the middle of the book. The beauty is that in the apparent chaos ensuing, it snaps together in the end, leaving the reader going “Whoa.” If a reader isn’t patient or attentive, they could get lost.

The book follows 20-something Kit Livingstone as he discovers his gift for traveling the mysterious ley lines, his girlfriend Mina as she gets lost in 17th century Prague, the Man Who Is Map forging paths through the dimensions, and the ruthless Lord Burleigh. Each character brings their own weight to their sections. I don’t feel like I’m reading one voice for each person – they are individuals. Their interaction with the various settings is thought-provoking, such as the timeline in which Kit’s relative Cosimo stops the famous Fire of London in1666 just by waking the baker whose oven started the disaster.

Despite a rather large cast and the varied times, the book is suspenseful and a great page-turner. My only complaint is the book is a major set-up for the whole series. It makes sense that it can’t be too self-limiting, and the reader is left with a major cliffhanger at the end. I am ready for book two, like RIGHT NOW.

A couple further thoughts:
As I discussed yesterday, the story’s premise hinges on these ley lines acting as corridors to these alternate universes. These are well-known to the pagan and new age movements, considered powerful centers of energy. Lawhead has used many other mythic components in his fiction, such as Atlantis and Merlin in the Pendragon Cycle, and Celtic myths in the Song of Albion trilogy. However, he has taking these seemingly pagan points and turned them into a natual way of speaking of faith and Christ. He makes it an organic part of the story. Christianity isn’t proclaimed loudly in The Skin Map, but there are characters who speak and ponder about God and how He may be working through the Omniverse (multiple universes). Speculative, but still informed by faith. Potential authors can learn here from Mr. Lawhead.

Finally, check out his website for a good interview from Lawhead regarding the research he does for his work. It is informative to those curious about how to write a realistic setting, one of his strengths.

 As always, the other fun folk at the CSFF Tour have more to say, and you can find the full list on Becky Miller’s blog.

BTW, the FTC requires a blogger to disclose whether they got a free review copy. I am disclosing that I used my birthday gift card to Barnes and Noble on this book. I am a very satisfied consumer!

CSFF Tour – The Skin Map Day 3

In Which The Blogger Finally Gets Around To Telling The Reader If The Book Is Any Good.

The CSFF Tour is featuring the latest from acclaimed author Stephen Lawhead, The Skin Map, first book of the Bright Empires series. Yesterday I gave a synopsis of the book, if you missed it. How does it stand up?

I’ve said here in the past that Stephen Lawhead is one of my favorite authors. For some reason, a couple of his books (usually the second or third in a series) have fallen flat for me. It’s almost if he’s a little streaky. Does The Skin Map strike hard or does it miss?

Thankfully, I can testify that Lawhead is on target with this first book. There’s wit, suspense, intrigue, and the Lawhead tradmark of making a setting come alive. You see some of this with the very first lines of the book:

Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared. At least, he would have brought an umbrella.

(Best opening line I’ve read since, “The nun hit me in the mouth and said, ‘Get out of my house.'”)

Lawhead has stated on his website that he’s been writing this series in his head for the last 15 years or so, just now he has the skill to handle all of the complexity. I would believe it. He has numerous characters jumping from the Home World to different times and locales, and he brings the unique flavor of each place out. There’s enough characters and locations (and times!) that it almost gets confusing, but he keeps things moving forward. Many threads are started, and it may seem a little disconnected in the middle of the book. The beauty is that in the apparent chaos ensuing, it snaps together in the end, leaving the reader going “Whoa.” If a reader isn’t patient or attentive, they could get lost.

The book follows 20-something Kit Livingstone as he discovers his gift for traveling the mysterious ley lines, his girlfriend Mina as she gets lost in 17th century Prague, the Man Who Is Map forging paths through the dimensions, and the ruthless Lord Burleigh. Each character brings their own weight to their sections. I don’t feel like I’m reading one voice for each person – they are individuals. Their interaction with the various settings is thought-provoking, such as the timeline in which Kit’s relative Cosimo stops the famous Fire of London in1666 just by waking the baker whose oven started the disaster.

Despite a rather large cast and the varied times, the book is suspenseful and a great page-turner. My only complaint is the book is a major set-up for the whole series. It makes sense that it can’t be too self-limiting, and the reader is left with a major cliffhanger at the end. I am ready for book two, like RIGHT NOW.

A couple further thoughts:
As I discussed yesterday, the story’s premise hinges on these ley lines acting as corridors to these alternate universes. These are well-known to the pagan and new age movements, considered powerful centers of energy. Lawhead has used many other mythic components in his fiction, such as Atlantis and Merlin in the Pendragon Cycle, and Celtic myths in the Song of Albion trilogy. However, he has taking these seemingly pagan points and turned them into a natual way of speaking of faith and Christ. He makes it an organic part of the story. Christianity isn’t proclaimed loudly in The Skin Map, but there are characters who speak and ponder about God and how He may be working through the Omniverse (multiple universes). Speculative, but still informed by faith. Potential authors can learn here from Mr. Lawhead.

Finally, check out his website for a good interview from Lawhead regarding the research he does for his work. It is informative to those curious about how to write a realistic setting, one of his strengths.

 As always, the other fun folk at the CSFF Tour have more to say, and you can find the full list on Becky Miller’s blog.

BTW, the FTC requires a blogger to disclose whether they got a free review copy. I am disclosing that I used my birthday gift card to Barnes and Noble on this book. I am a very satisfied consumer!

CSFF Tour – The Skin Map Day 2

In Which The Blogger Attempts To Understand Why Someone Would Put A Map On Their Skin…

Yesterday I introduced the latest book in the pantheon of great CSFF blog tours: The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead. Just the idea of a map tattooed on someone is intriguing. But wait, there’s more!

The book follows Kit Livingstone, a rather boring and average Brit, on his way to his average and boring girlfriend’s flat. That is, until he ends up in a little alleyway in London, soaking wet from a fierce storm, confronted by his great-grandfather, seeming to be pretty spry for a dead guy.

His great-grandfather Cosimo explains that people have discovered a way to travel to alternate dimensions or universes via “ley lines.” Cosimo and Kit have this unusual ability, and it is up to them to find the Skin Map. The most prolific traveler had the routes tattooed on his abdomen so it would be secure. Or so it would seem.

Kit doesn’t know what to think of this crazy old man, but he does know his no-nonesense girlfriend Wilhelmina isn’t pleased by his late arrival due to a dimensional detour. When he tries to show her how it works, he loses Mina into an alternate timeline, and the race is on to find Mina and the Skin Map before too much chaos is caused. Unfortunately, the Lord Burleigh and his “Burley Men” are also on the hunt for this map, and they are not reserved in how they pursue it.

So what are these ley lines? It seems that many geographical features built by ancients in Britain follow straight lines and patterns. An enterprising fellow in the 1920’s noticed this, and it has become a favorite of New Agers and other kooky types, although there is apparently a strange energy associated with them. The ley lines are certainly good fodder for such a speculative fiction book. Blogging buddy Matt Mikalatos has a more information on them, so why duplicate his good work?

For more information, you can check out the book’s website. I’ll have my review of the book tomorrow, but if you just can’t wait, check out the rest of the inmates for more on The Skin Map.

Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

CSFF Tour – The Skin Map Day 2

In Which The Blogger Attempts To Understand Why Someone Would Put A Map On Their Skin…

Yesterday I introduced the latest book in the pantheon of great CSFF blog tours: The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead. Just the idea of a map tattooed on someone is intriguing. But wait, there’s more!

The book follows Kit Livingstone, a rather boring and average Brit, on his way to his average and boring girlfriend’s flat. That is, until he ends up in a little alleyway in London, soaking wet from a fierce storm, confronted by his great-grandfather, seeming to be pretty spry for a dead guy.

His great-grandfather Cosimo explains that people have discovered a way to travel to alternate dimensions or universes via “ley lines.” Cosimo and Kit have this unusual ability, and it is up to them to find the Skin Map. The most prolific traveler had the routes tattooed on his abdomen so it would be secure. Or so it would seem.

Kit doesn’t know what to think of this crazy old man, but he does know his no-nonesense girlfriend Wilhelmina isn’t pleased by his late arrival due to a dimensional detour. When he tries to show her how it works, he loses Mina into an alternate timeline, and the race is on to find Mina and the Skin Map before too much chaos is caused. Unfortunately, the Lord Burleigh and his “Burley Men” are also on the hunt for this map, and they are not reserved in how they pursue it.

So what are these ley lines? It seems that many geographical features built by ancients in Britain follow straight lines and patterns. An enterprising fellow in the 1920’s noticed this, and it has become a favorite of New Agers and other kooky types, although there is apparently a strange energy associated with them. The ley lines are certainly good fodder for such a speculative fiction book. Blogging buddy Matt Mikalatos has a more information on them, so why duplicate his good work?

For more information, you can check out the book’s website. I’ll have my review of the book tomorrow, but if you just can’t wait, check out the rest of the inmates for more on The Skin Map.

Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

CSFF Tour – The Skin Map Day 1

How do make sure you will never, EVER lose your way?

A map would be nice. Then again, a map can be lost.

What if you put the map on something you could never lose? What would that be? It would be…a skin map.

The Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour is featuring an intriguing book, the latest from well-known author Stephen Lawhead, The Skin Map.

Lawhead is an author I’ve been talking about since my first involvement with the CSFF tour. He has carved out a strong niche writing fantasy and historical novels alike. He loves the mythic aspect of stories, and he has played with some of the big ones in his King Arthur epic The Pendragon Cycle and his unique take on Robin Hood in The Raven King Trilogy.

But to hear Lawhead in his own words, nothing may compare to what he has in store with the planned five volume Bright Empires series:

‘I have not read or written anything quite like it,’ says Lawhead. ‘It’s been forming in my mind for at least fifteen years. Now I am finally writing it, because I think I can finally do justice to such an intricately woven storyline.


BRIGHT EMPIRES is the most challenging work I’ve ever undertaken, and I’m alternately exhilarated and terrified by it.’

I would be challenged too, by a work of time travel and crossing into alternate dimensions involving skin maps, Burley Men, and good coffee.  

But more on that later.

Until tomorrow, see what clues you can follow in my fellow travelers below:
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

CSFF Tour – The Skin Map Day 1

How do make sure you will never, EVER lose your way?

A map would be nice. Then again, a map can be lost.

What if you put the map on something you could never lose? What would that be? It would be…a skin map.

The Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour is featuring an intriguing book, the latest from well-known author Stephen Lawhead, The Skin Map.

Lawhead is an author I’ve been talking about since my first involvement with the CSFF tour. He has carved out a strong niche writing fantasy and historical novels alike. He loves the mythic aspect of stories, and he has played with some of the big ones in his King Arthur epic The Pendragon Cycle and his unique take on Robin Hood in The Raven King Trilogy.

But to hear Lawhead in his own words, nothing may compare to what he has in store with the planned five volume Bright Empires series:

‘I have not read or written anything quite like it,’ says Lawhead. ‘It’s been forming in my mind for at least fifteen years. Now I am finally writing it, because I think I can finally do justice to such an intricately woven storyline.


BRIGHT EMPIRES is the most challenging work I’ve ever undertaken, and I’m alternately exhilarated and terrified by it.’

I would be challenged too, by a work of time travel and crossing into alternate dimensions involving skin maps, Burley Men, and good coffee.  

But more on that later.

Until tomorrow, see what clues you can follow in my fellow travelers below:
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson