Opinions on Christian Fiction

In the past few weeks there has been a healthy discussion about the state of Christian fiction. I talked about whether some CBA authors should seek publication for the general market via the ABA. That was nothing. Novelist Eric Wilson really sparked the discussion with his post “Is It Time for Christian Fiction to Die?” Then I collected several thoughtful posts together in a post last week (I encourage you to at least check this one out – not for my words, but the numerous links).

The conversation has been continuing at other places. I want to highlight a few. If anyone knows of other blogs/authors/etc talking about this, I’d love to read what they have to say.

My friend Nicole Petrino-Salter has written several novels, but is self-published, so she doesn’t necessarily have an “insider’s” view of CBA fiction. However, she is a prolific reader and blogger, and has cultivated relationships with numerous figures within CBA fiction. She reviews a plethora of novels and has an educated opinion about the whole matter.


She has posted her thoughts on her blog. Then, she has had three days (so far, more coming) of opinions from various individuals within the industry, authors and editors alike. Some of those commenting requested anonymity, as they still have to go to work in the morning! She asked them to make up to 5 recommendations for Christian/CBA fiction.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3 (the whole post is by Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press – very intriguing).

Another author posting about this is Robin Parrish, whose novel Nightmare started my own musing about the boundaries of Christian fiction. He wrote his opinion early this week (which I enjoyed), but I actually felt a comment on the article by Dana Timmerman was one of the best opinions I have read on this issue. He speaks of working hard on the business side of writing, to make sure the quality is as high as it can be, and to be broken before the Lord in approaching this ideal.

Finally, Robin in another post references this article wondering why there isn’t more science fiction in the CBA (almost another subject, but relevant to this discussion). Of course I am interested in this idea as a member of the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy blog tour.

The general consensus on the posts from Nicole is that the insiders would like to see a little more risk taking by the powers that be in CBA publishing. They would like readers to be willing to take chances on things a little more. There is acknowledgment that CBA fiction has grown a lot, but quality needs to be a continuing priority. There is mention of mentoring new talent, and grooming new authors to step in when the Karen Kingsburys and Ted Dekkers are done writing.

It seems to me that a consensus is out there, even if it isn’t readily apparent. The people who want grittier fiction  recognize a place for “safe” fiction to read, but ask for a place that allows a Christian imprint to push books toward the mainstream more. I miss the old imprint West Bow, which used to be a label under Thomas Nelson. West Bow was producing the earlier Ted Dekker books, and had a reputation of books that pushed the boundaries.

Ultimately, CBA is a business, and it is run by supply and demand. People who ask for certain types of books (speculative fiction, horror, “realistic”) need to support the books that do come out with their dollars. I could’ve gotten Nightmare for free through a review group, but I chose instead to buy it, as I was familiar with Robin’s work and wanted to support him.

I’ll keep an eye on the conversation as best I can and post updates as they come around. I hope the discussion continues in a productive manner, and I certainly encourage the conversation here!

Opinions on Christian Fiction

In the past few weeks there has been a healthy discussion about the state of Christian fiction. I talked about whether some CBA authors should seek publication for the general market via the ABA. That was nothing. Novelist Eric Wilson really sparked the discussion with his post “Is It Time for Christian Fiction to Die?” Then I collected several thoughtful posts together in a post last week (I encourage you to at least check this one out – not for my words, but the numerous links).

The conversation has been continuing at other places. I want to highlight a few. If anyone knows of other blogs/authors/etc talking about this, I’d love to read what they have to say.

My friend Nicole Petrino-Salter has written several novels, but is self-published, so she doesn’t necessarily have an “insider’s” view of CBA fiction. However, she is a prolific reader and blogger, and has cultivated relationships with numerous figures within CBA fiction. She reviews a plethora of novels and has an educated opinion about the whole matter.


She has posted her thoughts on her blog. Then, she has had three days (so far, more coming) of opinions from various individuals within the industry, authors and editors alike. Some of those commenting requested anonymity, as they still have to go to work in the morning! She asked them to make up to 5 recommendations for Christian/CBA fiction.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3 (the whole post is by Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press – very intriguing).

Another author posting about this is Robin Parrish, whose novel Nightmare started my own musing about the boundaries of Christian fiction. He wrote his opinion early this week (which I enjoyed), but I actually felt a comment on the article by Dana Timmerman was one of the best opinions I have read on this issue. He speaks of working hard on the business side of writing, to make sure the quality is as high as it can be, and to be broken before the Lord in approaching this ideal.

Finally, Robin in another post references this article wondering why there isn’t more science fiction in the CBA (almost another subject, but relevant to this discussion). Of course I am interested in this idea as a member of the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy blog tour.

The general consensus on the posts from Nicole is that the insiders would like to see a little more risk taking by the powers that be in CBA publishing. They would like readers to be willing to take chances on things a little more. There is acknowledgment that CBA fiction has grown a lot, but quality needs to be a continuing priority. There is mention of mentoring new talent, and grooming new authors to step in when the Karen Kingsburys and Ted Dekkers are done writing.

It seems to me that a consensus is out there, even if it isn’t readily apparent. The people who want grittier fiction  recognize a place for “safe” fiction to read, but ask for a place that allows a Christian imprint to push books toward the mainstream more. I miss the old imprint West Bow, which used to be a label under Thomas Nelson. West Bow was producing the earlier Ted Dekker books, and had a reputation of books that pushed the boundaries.

Ultimately, CBA is a business, and it is run by supply and demand. People who ask for certain types of books (speculative fiction, horror, “realistic”) need to support the books that do come out with their dollars. I could’ve gotten Nightmare for free through a review group, but I chose instead to buy it, as I was familiar with Robin’s work and wanted to support him.

I’ll keep an eye on the conversation as best I can and post updates as they come around. I hope the discussion continues in a productive manner, and I certainly encourage the conversation here!

CSFF Tour – Haunt of Jackals Review

So the payoff day for my part in the blog tour – what did I think of the book Haunt of Jackals by Eric Wilson?

The book starts off with a rush of action in Romania as Gina Lazarescu is fleeing from a battle with some Collectors, the Undead freed from an ancient Jerusalem cemetery. Having struck their leader a fatal blow, she has to survive the wrath of his follower.

The mysterious Cal Nichols and teen orphan Dov Amit are also engaged in a conflict with a Collector who has taken on a bear as a temporary host. Cal has to protect Dov as he is one of the Nistarim, 36 hidden ones who bear the burdens of the world. If he were to fall without someone to take his place, it could usher in the Final Vengeance.

As Gina, Cal, and Dov face their foes, other Collectors are on the move, doing their part to try and bring down the human race, in order to inflict some revenge on the Almighty who banished them into the Separation from physical sense, the reason they take on human hosts.

If Gina survives, will she be able to fulfill her destiny? How will she heal from her years of wounds. Could there really be power in Nazarene blood, as Cal has claimed?

As Cal maneuvers to protect Gina and Dov, what will happen as his greatest adversary seeks to complete his work in bringing about the destruction of the Nistarim?

There are things that Eric Wilson gets right. When the heroes are in conflict, there is real danger. He keeps the suspense high on whether they will survive or fall. Not every sympathetic character makes it. Gina is a strong protagonist with a complex background. She’s not perfect. She is strong but has doubts. She tries to do what is right but struggles. She continues to be the strongest part of the novel. Cal Nichols is also a very good character, and there are interesting insights about him after being so mysterious in the first book, Field of Blood.

Eric does a lot of research for his novels, and his settings are usually rich with detail and vivid description. The deserts of Israel contrast with the wooded wildness of Transylvania and tranquil small-town Oregon. He throws in some intriguing plot points that intersect with history. Some of them pay off, while others are too much of a stretch with the complex interaction of mythology he has created for this series.

There’s also a lot of spiritual themes weaved into the story that speak poignantly into today’s world. The way anger, bitterness, or lust can intwine us in thorns that bind us may not be literal as in Jackals, but it is a powerful revelation nonetheless. Many people may be taken aback by the idea of “Christian vampires.” One thing Wilson does is not make them sympathetic. The creatures are evil, and he never shows them in a light that plays down their terrible ways. The battle of good and evil is portrayed in vivid terms in the book, but this battle is a good metaphor for the spiritual and emotional battles of life today.

Unfortunately, the book is almost too ambitious to hold up everything he tries. The plot is exciting and driving in the first third or half, but the last section of the book is an underwhelming build-up for the third book, with some minor drama at the end to try and keep the suspense factor continuing. The classic “second act” in a trilogy is The Empire Strikes Back, where there are major obstacles for the heroes to overcome for the third, while being dealt blows that leave them very vunerable. Haunt has the bad guys joining forces in the end and the good guys hiding out. The third book (Valley of Bones, coming in 2010) should have a good climax, but this book was left wanting in the process.

Another drawback is the description being overdone at times. Wilson can paint some visual word images, but he can overdo the narrative. There is too much “thinking” by both good and bad guys that slows things down and makes the book too dense. Sometimes it seems all the research and knowledge he has pours out in excess. The plot becomes uneven at times due to TMI.

Overall, Eric Wilson is attempting an ambitious speculative story tied into Biblical themes and settings. There are strong elements that make the story an interesting read, but other aspects bog it down and keep it from its full potential. As far as the whole premise – I am usually pretty accepting from a theological standpoint with what the author is presenting to see if it can work. I am willing to allow some leeway in how things are interpreted. Some may find the mixing of demons (the Collectors) with a legend of Jewish mysticism being applied to verses in the Gospels too far to go for a story. I think it provides an interesting platform to share some profound truths regarding the battle we all face. I hope Eric can hit the home run with the third book.

Bottom line: Make sure you read Field of Blood first because there was too much established there to step into Haunt of Jackals. I still got lost at times due to reading Blood last year. It is an interesting premise with some definite points of suspense and near-horror that get the blood pumping, with some overly dense plotting and description that slows down other areas. If the premise makes you curious, I recommend it. If you’re not into vampires or are sensitive to some blood and gore, it would be a book to pass one.

The whole idea of vampires and other supernatural archtypes in Christian fiction is an interesting point of discussion. I welcome thought on this book or the subject, and we can keep the dialogue going after the tour. Let me know what you think, and check out the other posts that are listed at Becky Miller’s opening post of the tour.

CSFF Tour – Haunt of Jackals Review

So the payoff day for my part in the blog tour – what did I think of the book Haunt of Jackals by Eric Wilson?

The book starts off with a rush of action in Romania as Gina Lazarescu is fleeing from a battle with some Collectors, the Undead freed from an ancient Jerusalem cemetery. Having struck their leader a fatal blow, she has to survive the wrath of his follower.

The mysterious Cal Nichols and teen orphan Dov Amit are also engaged in a conflict with a Collector who has taken on a bear as a temporary host. Cal has to protect Dov as he is one of the Nistarim, 36 hidden ones who bear the burdens of the world. If he were to fall without someone to take his place, it could usher in the Final Vengeance.

As Gina, Cal, and Dov face their foes, other Collectors are on the move, doing their part to try and bring down the human race, in order to inflict some revenge on the Almighty who banished them into the Separation from physical sense, the reason they take on human hosts.

If Gina survives, will she be able to fulfill her destiny? How will she heal from her years of wounds. Could there really be power in Nazarene blood, as Cal has claimed?

As Cal maneuvers to protect Gina and Dov, what will happen as his greatest adversary seeks to complete his work in bringing about the destruction of the Nistarim?

There are things that Eric Wilson gets right. When the heroes are in conflict, there is real danger. He keeps the suspense high on whether they will survive or fall. Not every sympathetic character makes it. Gina is a strong protagonist with a complex background. She’s not perfect. She is strong but has doubts. She tries to do what is right but struggles. She continues to be the strongest part of the novel. Cal Nichols is also a very good character, and there are interesting insights about him after being so mysterious in the first book, Field of Blood.

Eric does a lot of research for his novels, and his settings are usually rich with detail and vivid description. The deserts of Israel contrast with the wooded wildness of Transylvania and tranquil small-town Oregon. He throws in some intriguing plot points that intersect with history. Some of them pay off, while others are too much of a stretch with the complex interaction of mythology he has created for this series.

There’s also a lot of spiritual themes weaved into the story that speak poignantly into today’s world. The way anger, bitterness, or lust can intwine us in thorns that bind us may not be literal as in Jackals, but it is a powerful revelation nonetheless. Many people may be taken aback by the idea of “Christian vampires.” One thing Wilson does is not make them sympathetic. The creatures are evil, and he never shows them in a light that plays down their terrible ways. The battle of good and evil is portrayed in vivid terms in the book, but this battle is a good metaphor for the spiritual and emotional battles of life today.

Unfortunately, the book is almost too ambitious to hold up everything he tries. The plot is exciting and driving in the first third or half, but the last section of the book is an underwhelming build-up for the third book, with some minor drama at the end to try and keep the suspense factor continuing. The classic “second act” in a trilogy is The Empire Strikes Back, where there are major obstacles for the heroes to overcome for the third, while being dealt blows that leave them very vunerable. Haunt has the bad guys joining forces in the end and the good guys hiding out. The third book (Valley of Bones, coming in 2010) should have a good climax, but this book was left wanting in the process.

Another drawback is the description being overdone at times. Wilson can paint some visual word images, but he can overdo the narrative. There is too much “thinking” by both good and bad guys that slows things down and makes the book too dense. Sometimes it seems all the research and knowledge he has pours out in excess. The plot becomes uneven at times due to TMI.

Overall, Eric Wilson is attempting an ambitious speculative story tied into Biblical themes and settings. There are strong elements that make the story an interesting read, but other aspects bog it down and keep it from its full potential. As far as the whole premise – I am usually pretty accepting from a theological standpoint with what the author is presenting to see if it can work. I am willing to allow some leeway in how things are interpreted. Some may find the mixing of demons (the Collectors) with a legend of Jewish mysticism being applied to verses in the Gospels too far to go for a story. I think it provides an interesting platform to share some profound truths regarding the battle we all face. I hope Eric can hit the home run with the third book.

Bottom line: Make sure you read Field of Blood first because there was too much established there to step into Haunt of Jackals. I still got lost at times due to reading Blood last year. It is an interesting premise with some definite points of suspense and near-horror that get the blood pumping, with some overly dense plotting and description that slows down other areas. If the premise makes you curious, I recommend it. If you’re not into vampires or are sensitive to some blood and gore, it would be a book to pass one.

The whole idea of vampires and other supernatural archtypes in Christian fiction is an interesting point of discussion. I welcome thought on this book or the subject, and we can keep the dialogue going after the tour. Let me know what you think, and check out the other posts that are listed at Becky Miller’s opening post of the tour.

CSFF Tour – Haunt of Jackals Day 2

Yesterday’s post gave a background to Eric Wilson’s Jerusalem Undead series, Field of Blood and Haunt of Jackals. Today I want to highlight what people are saying about Wilson’s books in particular and vampires in Christian fiction in general.

I’ve posted a couple of times on the topic of vampires in Christian fiction (by this term I mean fiction produced by the CBA, which focuses on the evangelical Christian market for the most part). There was some good discussion in the comments, so don’t miss those.

Anytime you want a lively discussion on issues in Christian fiction, don’t forget to look to Mike Duran, who caused a little stir with his Novel Journey post, “What’s More Dangerous, Amish Heroines or Christian Vampires?” Again, don’t miss out on a stirring debate in the comments. Don’t forget about his classic “The Good Vampire” post either. He considers the possibility of “Stoker’s Dracula as Christian Fiction.” Finally, he discusses his take on “Christian Horror,” which would certainly involve vampires (and it mentions Mr. Wilson).

For a different perspective, I ran across the site VampChix, where apparently they are fans of shortening and misspelling words. Or perhaps they are females who like vampires. In any case, they interview Eric Wilson himself, which is interesting to see him explain his series to a “non-Christian” audience.

There’s many other posts I could find if I had the time. I know there’s a few other books with a Christian outlook to hit this subject, such as Never Ceese or Shade. I hope I’ve provided some food for thought here. I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts on the issue of Christian fiction and vampires, or if you know of other links worth investigating. Tomorrow I plan my review of Haunt of Jackals. See you there.

CSFF Tour – Haunt of Jackals Day 2

Yesterday’s post gave a background to Eric Wilson’s Jerusalem Undead series, Field of Blood and Haunt of Jackals. Today I want to highlight what people are saying about Wilson’s books in particular and vampires in Christian fiction in general.

I’ve posted a couple of times on the topic of vampires in Christian fiction (by this term I mean fiction produced by the CBA, which focuses on the evangelical Christian market for the most part). There was some good discussion in the comments, so don’t miss those.

Anytime you want a lively discussion on issues in Christian fiction, don’t forget to look to Mike Duran, who caused a little stir with his Novel Journey post, “What’s More Dangerous, Amish Heroines or Christian Vampires?” Again, don’t miss out on a stirring debate in the comments. Don’t forget about his classic “The Good Vampire” post either. He considers the possibility of “Stoker’s Dracula as Christian Fiction.” Finally, he discusses his take on “Christian Horror,” which would certainly involve vampires (and it mentions Mr. Wilson).

For a different perspective, I ran across the site VampChix, where apparently they are fans of shortening and misspelling words. Or perhaps they are females who like vampires. In any case, they interview Eric Wilson himself, which is interesting to see him explain his series to a “non-Christian” audience.

There’s many other posts I could find if I had the time. I know there’s a few other books with a Christian outlook to hit this subject, such as Never Ceese or Shade. I hope I’ve provided some food for thought here. I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts on the issue of Christian fiction and vampires, or if you know of other links worth investigating. Tomorrow I plan my review of Haunt of Jackals. See you there.

CSFF Tour – Haunt of Jackals


The Undead are here.

At the CSFF blog tour, at least. The book of the month for the CSFF is Haunt of Jackals, by Eric Wilson. The Jerusalem Undead trilogy and its first book, Field of Blood, is a far cry from another Wilson book-the novelization of the movie Fireproof. Suspense and the battle between heaven and hell is an Eric Wilson trademark, and that’s what a reader will find in this series.

Since we’re starting in the middle of a series here, there’s bound to be some confusion. Wilson builds an elaborate background for this tale, with a lot of characters and a lot of theology mixed with speculation. Today’s post will explain some of the setting for the books.

The Jerusalem Undead series has been referred to as a “Christian vampire” tale. It doesn’t deal in classic vampires, and they certainly won’t sparkle in the sunlight.

Collectors: These are spirits who had rebelled. Separated from physical senses and pleasure, they can only interact with this world if they are in hosts, whether human or other forms. A special cluster of Collectors forms when the blood of Judas Iscariot (“the man from Kerioth”) soaks a field outside of Jerusalem, the Akeldama or “Field of Blood”, and seeps into a family’s ossuary cavern.

The remains of two human families, the house of Ariston and the house of Eros, are reaminated when these spirits are able to access the remains. Due to the special evil of Judas, they are more powerful than other Collectors. They feed on human blood, but they won’t die if they don’t get it. They can also grow literal thorns in humans that can be harvested, keeping their victims in bondage and using them as pawns. Since “the life is in the blood,” memories can be found in drinking it.

Nistarim: Jewish tradition says there are 36 righteous ones who, in humility and anonymity, carry the burdens of the world while staying God’s hand. In the Christian Bible, we are told that saints came up out of the tombs after Jesus’ death and resurrection. What happened to these people? Could they still be among us, hidden and immortal? Could they, in fact, be the Nistarim, “the Concealed Ones”? These stand against evil such as the Collectors, but if the Nistarim can be destroyed, will it usher in the Judgment?

Gina Lazarescu: We meet this Romanian girl as she is about to turn 12, the age of adulthood according to Judaism. She is central to the story as there are connections between her and both groups. As she grows, will she learn to take her place in this epic struggle, or fall under the weight of the burdens she carries?

Cal Nichols: This man is a mystery, with an unknown connection to Gina and the Nistarim. Is he there to watch over her, or will he be her undoing?

The story veers from Israel to Romania and the United States and back. It is a dense story packed with intrigue and mystery. Check back tomorrow for more on the idea of “Christian vampire” stories, and see my fellow tourmates below for their take on Eric Wilson and his books.

Brandon Barr
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Nissa
John W. Otte
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher

CSFF Tour – Haunt of Jackals


The Undead are here.

At the CSFF blog tour, at least. The book of the month for the CSFF is Haunt of Jackals, by Eric Wilson. The Jerusalem Undead trilogy and its first book, Field of Blood, is a far cry from another Wilson book-the novelization of the movie Fireproof. Suspense and the battle between heaven and hell is an Eric Wilson trademark, and that’s what a reader will find in this series.

Since we’re starting in the middle of a series here, there’s bound to be some confusion. Wilson builds an elaborate background for this tale, with a lot of characters and a lot of theology mixed with speculation. Today’s post will explain some of the setting for the books.

The Jerusalem Undead series has been referred to as a “Christian vampire” tale. It doesn’t deal in classic vampires, and they certainly won’t sparkle in the sunlight.

Collectors: These are spirits who had rebelled. Separated from physical senses and pleasure, they can only interact with this world if they are in hosts, whether human or other forms. A special cluster of Collectors forms when the blood of Judas Iscariot (“the man from Kerioth”) soaks a field outside of Jerusalem, the Akeldama or “Field of Blood”, and seeps into a family’s ossuary cavern.

The remains of two human families, the house of Ariston and the house of Eros, are reaminated when these spirits are able to access the remains. Due to the special evil of Judas, they are more powerful than other Collectors. They feed on human blood, but they won’t die if they don’t get it. They can also grow literal thorns in humans that can be harvested, keeping their victims in bondage and using them as pawns. Since “the life is in the blood,” memories can be found in drinking it.

Nistarim: Jewish tradition says there are 36 righteous ones who, in humility and anonymity, carry the burdens of the world while staying God’s hand. In the Christian Bible, we are told that saints came up out of the tombs after Jesus’ death and resurrection. What happened to these people? Could they still be among us, hidden and immortal? Could they, in fact, be the Nistarim, “the Concealed Ones”? These stand against evil such as the Collectors, but if the Nistarim can be destroyed, will it usher in the Judgment?

Gina Lazarescu: We meet this Romanian girl as she is about to turn 12, the age of adulthood according to Judaism. She is central to the story as there are connections between her and both groups. As she grows, will she learn to take her place in this epic struggle, or fall under the weight of the burdens she carries?

Cal Nichols: This man is a mystery, with an unknown connection to Gina and the Nistarim. Is he there to watch over her, or will he be her undoing?

The story veers from Israel to Romania and the United States and back. It is a dense story packed with intrigue and mystery. Check back tomorrow for more on the idea of “Christian vampire” stories, and see my fellow tourmates below for their take on Eric Wilson and his books.

Brandon Barr
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Nissa
John W. Otte
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher