CSFF Tour Day 3 – The Telling by Mike Duran

I left off last time on our CSFF tour feature of The Telling by Mike Duran with a teaser. I reviewed the book, but didn’t address the main idea of the book.

That requires a post of its own.

Mike’s main character has a gift he calls “the Telling.” It is basically prophecy – he gets words for people or others. It often comes with a physical sensation that makes him sick.

Prophecy isn’t controversial, is it?

The problem in the book is the ninth gate of hell that happens to be nearby and is threatening to take over the small California town of Endurance.

A gate of hell isn’t controversial, is it?

The demons that infiltrate Endurance make copies of people’s bodies, creepy doppelgangers that know the person’s every thought and desire.

That isn’t controversial, is it?

None of this would be controversial if it weren’t in the Christian fiction arena. The thing that could make it very risky is that there is a clear representation of faith and needing God’s touch in the midst of more unorthodox aspects of the story.

I don’t want to spoil the story, but needless to say Zeph Walker has some issues since he has a huge scar marring his mouth inflicted by a psychotic stepmother. After being hurt, he stopped using the Telling – or it left him. Either way, there’s a theme of finding your way back to faith. The tagline for the book is awesome: A prophet never loses his calling, only his way.

So the theme of coming back is a decidedly Christian one. However, since The Telling mixes God with mythical gates of hell, demons that don’t possess but make really good paper mache copies of people, strange demon fighters, and a blend of science and the occult – is it truly Christian fiction?

I say yes.

I don’t believe a novel has to be orthodox to be Christian fiction. Maybe it comes from too much familiarity with Mike Duran – I know that he loves Jesus and loves the Church and the Word. But we have a huge precedent with C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. Witches and talking horses and all sorts of magic run through the story, yet all but the most conservative of Christians accept it as one of the prime examples of exemplary Christian fiction. Even though J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t claim to be writing Christian fiction with The Lord Of The Rings, it is still considered a more veiled version of Narnia.

I know others will disagree. We had a fine gentleman with good thoughts leave the CSFF because too many stories we featured weren’t orthodox enough for him. So whose orthodoxy will we use? In mine, prophecy is good to go, but other Christians won’t agree to that at all. This will continue to be an issue no matter what we do.

I wish I had been able to visit the other blogs on the tour and see the chatter. Unfortunately between computer glitches and backed-up sewer lines in basements (honey, let’s do a spontaneous renovation of the downstairs) I haven’t seen much of anything. I aim to fix that and check out the opinions, because I’m sure this is going to be an interesting conversation. As always, our stalwart leader Becky Miller keeps up with the latest and greatest posts of the tour.
  

CSFF Tour Day 2 – The Telling by Mike Duran

The CSFF is featuring Mike Duran and his latest book The Telling.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I met Mike at the ACFW Conference this last weekend and we talked a few times. When I mentioned the tour for his book, he told me to be honest with my opinion. Mike has posted about the lack of real critique in Christian fiction circles before, so it didn’t surprise me that he said to go for it.

But first, what is The Telling?

Zeph Walker is a disfigured loner in the town of Endurance, on the edge of Death Valley. Hiding out on his property, his only real contact with people is in his dilapidated Book Swap store. His hideous scar, stretching from his nose across his mouth to his chin, has earned him the name Zipperface.

But Zeph has not always been like this. He used to have The Telling. He would know things about people, situations, events. He turned his back on this gift long ago.

When two law enforcement agents show him a body in the morgue that is a carbon copy of himself, he begins to be drawn in to a mystery that has been brewing underground for years. For Endurance is known for being the location of one of the nine mythical gates of hell.

As Zeph meets new friends that are also finding suspicious things going on in their little town, a choice is presented. Face the threat and face the past, or succumb to the evil lurking in the abandoned mine nearby.

As you can see, Mike Duran does not lack for imagination. When he announced his tagline on his blog: “A disfigured prophet must rise up to close one of the nine mythical gates of hell,” I knew we were in for a ride.

Mike has a distinct style. He writes supernatural fiction, dealing with the elements of angels, demons, spirits, and the ragged edge of faith. However, he does so with a lyrical style. Mike cares about the language used, and he takes great care to paint the picture of what is going on with metaphor and simile. His words don’t just move the plot along, but they weave a picture. This is one of Mike’s strengths, but it does make his writing a little more dense. The book is not an easy pick-up and read. There’s effort expended in working through the passages.

Like his first book, The Resurrection, he deals with flawed characters with significant weakness. Zeph was horribly scarred by his stepmother. Spunky senior citizen Annie Lane has fought isolation and feeling like she may have been passed by in her destiny. There’s even a lot of empathy for one of the antagonists, Fergus Coyne, who battles in his own decision on how to confront his past. The bottom line is that you care about these characters because they have significant doubts and challenges – things we can relate to as readers.

Now to the plot and the big idea of the book. I’m going to rate the writing to finish today, and tomorrow will tackle the implications of the themes.

Mike said he threw the kitchen sink at this book. Government conspiracy theories, prophecy, demons, body-snatching, and cactus jelly all in one swirl of suspense. This makes it very interesting. To me, it also made it tricky to follow everything that went on. I will admit that I read it in fits and starts due to my schedule, but the back and forth of the varied plot points got confusing – enough that it dampened some of the enjoyment. Between the twists and four different point of view characters, I had to step out of his world to figure out who was doing what and where it fit.

It is a good book. I didn’t feel it was a great read. Fellow writers are notorious to please, because we read books with different eyes than a standard fiction fan. If I had to rate it on a scale, I’d give it 3.5 stars out of 5. There’s a lot to think about in this book, there are interesting characters, and a skillful use of language, tempered by a mildly confusing plot.

I didn’t talk about the themes and big ideas. Check back tomorrow for that – I promise it is the most interesting part.

Also, check out the other posts on The Telling. Becky Miller lists all the posts so far.
 —

CSFF Tour Day 1 – The Telling by Mike Duran

 It’s time to “Tell” you about the September Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour.

This one is a pleasure for me because the CSFF is featuring Mike Duran and his latest novel, The Telling.

Mike Duran is an author and prolific blogger. His blog Decompose is a fertile ground of ideas that make you think. Not only does Mike post provocative thoughts on faith, fiction, and culture, but the community of commenters he has following him often expand the posts into very interesting realms.

Mike is not afraid to ask the hard questions or probe issues regarding Christian fiction and speculative ideas. However, he has a deep love for the Church and regularly pokes at the foibles of atheist and relativistic thinking.

Mike and I chatting it up

The best part about Mike is that he is real and he is interested in people and exploring these issues. I know this because I had the great pleasure of meeting him this last weekend at the ACFW Conference in Dallas.

If this post sounds gushing because I just met the guy and I’m talking him up, you can forget that idea. The web does not allow for really knowing people, no matter how much you think it does. The face-to-face with Mike and bouncing ideas off him and other like thinkers (here’s a shout to fellow CSFF tour member Morgan Busse) over meals was a highlight of the conference to me.

Over the next few days we’ll be talking about Mike and The Telling. I’m sure it will be a tour with a lot of discussion. I invite you to check out my fellow tourmates below for more information.

 Jim Armstrong
Noah Arsenault
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Christine
Theresa Dunlap
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Bruce Hennigan
Julie
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
— 

Favorite Books of 2011

It was a strange year of reading for me.

I know I read a fair amount of books. Some just didn’t stick with me. There were several books that I started and didn’t finish. I’m getting picky. I don’t want to waste my time reading books that don’t grab me. I don’t have as much patience to give a book a chance either. They’d better grab me in a few chapters at most, or I’m moving on.

When it came time to put together my favorites, I had to think a little. A couple of books aren’t my usual cup of tea, but I really enjoyed them. One is considered “pulp fiction.” Shouldn’t a best of list be selective?

Nah. These are the fiction books I enjoyed the most in 2011.

6.  Pattern Of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand. This is the second book in a series about Roland March, a homicide detective in Houston who almost burned out in the first book. Here he is continuing to deal with doubts about his ability even as he deals with a potential mistake in his past. I don’t read a lot of the hard-boiled detective stories, but if I did, Bertrand would make me very picky, because he gets into the mindset of March so well. The story simmers, and the themes of the book are deftly handled. As I said in my July review – no sophomore slump here.

5. Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren. The first book in the River of Time series. Two teenagers are in Italy with their archeologist mother, far from any social action. When the girls enter an ancient tomb, they are thrust into 14th century times, with knights and castles. Headstrong Gabi is separated from her sister Lia, and she is rescued by Lord Marcello. Bergren has done other novels in this setting, and her research and setting is top notch. It is supposed to be a Teen fiction book, geared toward girls. I don’t care. Good writing is good writing, and I’m a sucker for romance when done right.

4. Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones. After writing this post, I’m going to lose my man card. I picked this book up for my wife to read for a blog tour, but I had heard Jenny was a funny writer. I flipped through the first chapter, curious about her humor. I finished the book in a few days. Lucy needs a sponsor to save her girls’ home. Former QB Alex Sinclair needs an image makeover in his race for Congress. He’ll make sure Lucy’s charity gets funding if she acts as his fiancee through the race. Who knew such a plot would snap me in without nary an explosion? Again, good writing is good writing. And I got a shout out from Ms. Jones, so it was all good.

3. The Resurrection by Mike Duran. OK, so I break the pattern of initials in these authors. I’ve referenced Mike’s blog Decompose for a long time, and was excited to read his debut novel. Reverand Ian Clark is doubting his own faith, even as he struggles leading a California church. When one of his congregants, Ruby, is associated with a resurrection of a boy, he doesn’t know how to take the miraculous. Ruby doesn’t know why God chose her for a miracle, and the sleepy town they live in may not continue to sleep with such supernatural happenings occuring. It is suspenseful, a little creepy, and very thoughtful. Lots more on it, including an interview with Mike, here.

2. Pay Me In Flesh by K. Bennett. I think having a zombie book in here should cancel out the chick books above ;). Mallory Caine is an LA lawyer without a soul. Most people think lawyers don’t have souls, but she really is undead. She doesn’t look the part, but brains are her staple, along with justice for the oppressed. When she discovers a conspriracy that may be leading to Lucifer setting up his new base of operations in LA, will Mallory be able to stand up for the living and undead alike. This book reads amazingly like James Scott Bell’s work, but I’m sure it is just a coincidence…

Finally, my favorite book from 2011 is:

The Monster In The Hollows by Andrew Peterson.
Andrew Peterson is just about the favored all-around creative person of Spoiled For The Ordinary. He is an amazing musician, but his YA series The Wingfeather Saga is a wonderful combination of adventure, whimsy, suspense, and heart. Monster is the third book in the series that features the Igiby children, who were once normal children, until the siblings found out they are the lost heirs of a conquered kingdom and are hunted by the terrible Fangs of Dang and a Nameless Evil (know as Gnag the Nameless). One part Princess Bride, one part lyrical language, and a dash of Lord Of The Rings equals this excellent book and series. If you don’t believe me, my kids will tell you the same.

That’s it for fiction in 2011. There’s one other book that greatly impacted me last year, and I will share about it soon.

What books did you enjoy over the last year?

Favorite Books of 2011

It was a strange year of reading for me.

I know I read a fair amount of books. Some just didn’t stick with me. There were several books that I started and didn’t finish. I’m getting picky. I don’t want to waste my time reading books that don’t grab me. I don’t have as much patience to give a book a chance either. They’d better grab me in a few chapters at most, or I’m moving on.

When it came time to put together my favorites, I had to think a little. A couple of books aren’t my usual cup of tea, but I really enjoyed them. One is considered “pulp fiction.” Shouldn’t a best of list be selective?

Nah. These are the fiction books I enjoyed the most in 2011.

6.  Pattern Of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand. This is the second book in a series about Roland March, a homicide detective in Houston who almost burned out in the first book. Here he is continuing to deal with doubts about his ability even as he deals with a potential mistake in his past. I don’t read a lot of the hard-boiled detective stories, but if I did, Bertrand would make me very picky, because he gets into the mindset of March so well. The story simmers, and the themes of the book are deftly handled. As I said in my July review – no sophomore slump here.

5. Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren. The first book in the River of Time series. Two teenagers are in Italy with their archeologist mother, far from any social action. When the girls enter an ancient tomb, they are thrust into 14th century times, with knights and castles. Headstrong Gabi is separated from her sister Lia, and she is rescued by Lord Marcello. Bergren has done other novels in this setting, and her research and setting is top notch. It is supposed to be a Teen fiction book, geared toward girls. I don’t care. Good writing is good writing, and I’m a sucker for romance when done right.

4. Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones. After writing this post, I’m going to lose my man card. I picked this book up for my wife to read for a blog tour, but I had heard Jenny was a funny writer. I flipped through the first chapter, curious about her humor. I finished the book in a few days. Lucy needs a sponsor to save her girls’ home. Former QB Alex Sinclair needs an image makeover in his race for Congress. He’ll make sure Lucy’s charity gets funding if she acts as his fiancee through the race. Who knew such a plot would snap me in without nary an explosion? Again, good writing is good writing. And I got a shout out from Ms. Jones, so it was all good.

3. The Resurrection by Mike Duran. OK, so I break the pattern of initials in these authors. I’ve referenced Mike’s blog Decompose for a long time, and was excited to read his debut novel. Reverand Ian Clark is doubting his own faith, even as he struggles leading a California church. When one of his congregants, Ruby, is associated with a resurrection of a boy, he doesn’t know how to take the miraculous. Ruby doesn’t know why God chose her for a miracle, and the sleepy town they live in may not continue to sleep with such supernatural happenings occuring. It is suspenseful, a little creepy, and very thoughtful. Lots more on it, including an interview with Mike, here.

2. Pay Me In Flesh by K. Bennett. I think having a zombie book in here should cancel out the chick books above ;). Mallory Caine is an LA lawyer without a soul. Most people think lawyers don’t have souls, but she really is undead. She doesn’t look the part, but brains are her staple, along with justice for the oppressed. When she discovers a conspriracy that may be leading to Lucifer setting up his new base of operations in LA, will Mallory be able to stand up for the living and undead alike. This book reads amazingly like James Scott Bell’s work, but I’m sure it is just a coincidence…

Finally, my favorite book from 2011 is:

The Monster In The Hollows by Andrew Peterson.
Andrew Peterson is just about the favored all-around creative person of Spoiled For The Ordinary. He is an amazing musician, but his YA series The Wingfeather Saga is a wonderful combination of adventure, whimsy, suspense, and heart. Monster is the third book in the series that features the Igiby children, who were once normal children, until the siblings found out they are the lost heirs of a conquered kingdom and are hunted by the terrible Fangs of Dang and a Nameless Evil (know as Gnag the Nameless). One part Princess Bride, one part lyrical language, and a dash of Lord Of The Rings equals this excellent book and series. If you don’t believe me, my kids will tell you the same.

That’s it for fiction in 2011. There’s one other book that greatly impacted me last year, and I will share about it soon.

What books did you enjoy over the last year?

A Few Good Posts

Amazing how a holiday throws a person out of sync…

Anyhoo.

I came across a few interesting posts last week I wanted to share. Food for thought. I don’t necessarily agree 100% with everything, but I’m always up for seeing people think about issues!
I recently found an old internet pal (old being relative on the net…) was blogging regularly about writing. I’d like to introduce you to Athena Grayson, and she has a great post on evaluating your beliefs as a writer, and trying to understand the opposite perception. We all have messages to share in our fiction, and we don’t want them to be preachy. If we can see other views a little more, we can work more realistic and rounded characters into our stories. Good stuff – especially since it references The Schwartz!
Mike Duran, the ever-linkable blogger and author, has done it again. Out of his post “Did Flannery O’Connor Write Christian Fiction?” came another provocative post, “On Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain.” I encourage everyone to check out the second post especially, but both are instructive and the O’Connor post led to the second one.

Finally, I saw that Novel Journey was announcing some major changes. It seems they are rebranding somewhat to be bigger and better, and are now known as Novel Rocket! It seems the journey gets a boost here – so check out the new swag!
There’s always good stuff out there for the writing world (since if we’re not writing books, we’re writing blogs. Or tweets. Or cereal boxes…) I’ll try to keep the best ones coming to your attention.

A Few Good Posts

Amazing how a holiday throws a person out of sync…

Anyhoo.

I came across a few interesting posts last week I wanted to share. Food for thought. I don’t necessarily agree 100% with everything, but I’m always up for seeing people think about issues!
I recently found an old internet pal (old being relative on the net…) was blogging regularly about writing. I’d like to introduce you to Athena Grayson, and she has a great post on evaluating your beliefs as a writer, and trying to understand the opposite perception. We all have messages to share in our fiction, and we don’t want them to be preachy. If we can see other views a little more, we can work more realistic and rounded characters into our stories. Good stuff – especially since it references The Schwartz!
Mike Duran, the ever-linkable blogger and author, has done it again. Out of his post “Did Flannery O’Connor Write Christian Fiction?” came another provocative post, “On Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain.” I encourage everyone to check out the second post especially, but both are instructive and the O’Connor post led to the second one.

Finally, I saw that Novel Journey was announcing some major changes. It seems they are rebranding somewhat to be bigger and better, and are now known as Novel Rocket! It seems the journey gets a boost here – so check out the new swag!
There’s always good stuff out there for the writing world (since if we’re not writing books, we’re writing blogs. Or tweets. Or cereal boxes…) I’ll try to keep the best ones coming to your attention.

CSFF Tour – The Resurrection: The Wrap Up

I told you it would be interesting!

The CSFF Tour is wrapping up its feature of The Resurrection, the debut novel by Mike Duran. There’s a lot of interesting opinions out there. The book was well-received by most, but there were a few who thought it didn’t meet its potential. Becky Miller keeps track of all the posts, and Mike has highlighted a few posts that stood out to him. You can find my interview with Mike under part 1 and part 2. Thanks Mike for taking your time with me and my questions! Although…I never did see an answer to question 8…

I reviewed the book a couple weeks ago, getting ahead of myself. Still, I wanted to comment on some things that came out from the tour.

 1. It’s not horror.
For those who can’t handle Stephen King and Dean Koontz, don’t fear. The Resurrection is a very suspenseful novel. You may be on the edge of your seat. But it doesn’t cross over into the horror category IMO. But be warned, Mike’s next book may be treading into that territory, from what I’ve heard.

2. There’s a lot to ponder.
I think a book that stands out not only entertains, but makes the reader think. Several people on the tour have noted this about The Resurrection. The part that has amazed me is the variety of themes and ideas people have gotten from it. I saw the themes of faith, modern philosophy vs. the gospel, and the real continuing battle between good and evil in the book. A lot of other thoughts were pulled from it as well. For this Mike, you should be proud.

3. People are interested by something other than a “standard” literary evangelical Christianity.
In CBA there seems to be a general feel for a church. A church in these books may be modern or traditional, but seem pretty middle of the road. Actually, Canyon Springs Community Church in this book is as well. The fact that there’s a resurrection, a miracle, sets the book apart. There is an interesting discussion at Becky’s blog regarding the gifts of the Spirit that is encouraging to me. It would be nice to see a little more of the wide variety of Christian expression in CBA novels. If the church is made of “every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” (Rev 7:9), then we should see God’s vast character highlighted in Christian fiction, right?

4. Spiritual warfare = Frank Peretti.
I didn’t think The Resurrection aped Mr. Peretti too much, but a lot of people made that connection. His Darkness novels are still standouts in my mind for Christian fiction, but just because a novel touches on spiritual warfare themes, it doesn’t make it a Peretti knock-off. Not knocking those who see that. Not knocking at all really…moving along….

5. Readership for CBA novels is evolving.
I thought there would be a little MORE controversy over The Resurrection, since it features miracles, ghosts with catchy monikers, and the spiritual warfare angle. Mike likes to provoke thought at his blog Decompose, so I teased about controversy with this tour. However, the participants didn’t fuss over this book at all. There were honest critiques and discussion over whether plot points (like the ghost) worked. But no one quit the CSFF over a lack of doctrinal purity (this has happened before, I’m not kidding). We have a lot of new folks lately and I really love CSFF Tour time because of the thoughtful exploration of the books we feature.

6. You need to buy The Resurrection.
Enough of sitting in front of your computer and reading this! Go here, order the book, and you’ll have a great way to pass the time when (if, in Idaho) spring arrives. Thanks for stopping by!

CSFF Tour – The Resurrection: The Wrap Up

I told you it would be interesting!

The CSFF Tour is wrapping up its feature of The Resurrection, the debut novel by Mike Duran. There’s a lot of interesting opinions out there. The book was well-received by most, but there were a few who thought it didn’t meet its potential. Becky Miller keeps track of all the posts, and Mike has highlighted a few posts that stood out to him. You can find my interview with Mike under part 1 and part 2. Thanks Mike for taking your time with me and my questions! Although…I never did see an answer to question 8…

I reviewed the book a couple weeks ago, getting ahead of myself. Still, I wanted to comment on some things that came out from the tour.

 1. It’s not horror.
For those who can’t handle Stephen King and Dean Koontz, don’t fear. The Resurrection is a very suspenseful novel. You may be on the edge of your seat. But it doesn’t cross over into the horror category IMO. But be warned, Mike’s next book may be treading into that territory, from what I’ve heard.

2. There’s a lot to ponder.
I think a book that stands out not only entertains, but makes the reader think. Several people on the tour have noted this about The Resurrection. The part that has amazed me is the variety of themes and ideas people have gotten from it. I saw the themes of faith, modern philosophy vs. the gospel, and the real continuing battle between good and evil in the book. A lot of other thoughts were pulled from it as well. For this Mike, you should be proud.

3. People are interested by something other than a “standard” literary evangelical Christianity.
In CBA there seems to be a general feel for a church. A church in these books may be modern or traditional, but seem pretty middle of the road. Actually, Canyon Springs Community Church in this book is as well. The fact that there’s a resurrection, a miracle, sets the book apart. There is an interesting discussion at Becky’s blog regarding the gifts of the Spirit that is encouraging to me. It would be nice to see a little more of the wide variety of Christian expression in CBA novels. If the church is made of “every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” (Rev 7:9), then we should see God’s vast character highlighted in Christian fiction, right?

4. Spiritual warfare = Frank Peretti.
I didn’t think The Resurrection aped Mr. Peretti too much, but a lot of people made that connection. His Darkness novels are still standouts in my mind for Christian fiction, but just because a novel touches on spiritual warfare themes, it doesn’t make it a Peretti knock-off. Not knocking those who see that. Not knocking at all really…moving along….

5. Readership for CBA novels is evolving.
I thought there would be a little MORE controversy over The Resurrection, since it features miracles, ghosts with catchy monikers, and the spiritual warfare angle. Mike likes to provoke thought at his blog Decompose, so I teased about controversy with this tour. However, the participants didn’t fuss over this book at all. There were honest critiques and discussion over whether plot points (like the ghost) worked. But no one quit the CSFF over a lack of doctrinal purity (this has happened before, I’m not kidding). We have a lot of new folks lately and I really love CSFF Tour time because of the thoughtful exploration of the books we feature.

6. You need to buy The Resurrection.
Enough of sitting in front of your computer and reading this! Go here, order the book, and you’ll have a great way to pass the time when (if, in Idaho) spring arrives. Thanks for stopping by!

CSFF Tour – The Resurrection Day 3

Day 3 dawns on the CSFF Tour, leading into Part 2 of my interview with Mike Duran, our feature author for March. Yesterday he talked about his debut novel, The Resurrection, and today he shares writing lessons learns and the one big change he would do if he were in charge of the CBA for a day.
Yes, I set him up.
See what the others in our CSFF crew are saying on Becky’s blog, where she tracks all the posts. I’ll post once more with thoughts about the tour and The Resurrection.

5. Your blog draws a lot of interest when you discuss the CBA and the issues around it. Many people on the tour are aspiring authors, obviously with a love for speculative fiction. What advice would you have for them in this journey?

MIKE: I believe that Christians should be the most wildly creative community on the planet! Our craft should be impeccable, our ideas lavish, our wit sharp, our humility great, and our perseverance unwavering. (How’s that for rallying the troops?)

I am not convinced that speculative fiction and the Christian market are a great mix. That said, there is so much great craft and market advice out there. With a little research, the aspiring author can have a lot of great info at their fingertips. My advice would probably revolve around three things.

First, resolve your calling. The devil will always attack us at the level of our calling. If we are unsure whether God has “called” us to write, we will be vulnerable to depression, defeat, and doubt. That would be my first suggestion: Are you writing as a hobby or for publication? Do you believe God wants you to really dig in – as in “career” digging in – or are you doing this recreationally? That perspective is important to your approach.

Second, develop a thin skin. That’s right – a THIN skin. Too many writers are too defensive. We hedge against critique, rejection, and advice. We develop chips on our shoulders and spout about artistic liberty and subjectivity. Of course there is a time to ignore the critics and press on. But sometimes, especially when interest in our material is waning, we need to ask, “What am I missing? What do I need to work on?” A thin skin will help us learn from our mistakes, readjust, grow, and heed the advice of others.

Thirdly, find a good critique group. I can’t stress this enough. Other writers who can review your material and provide tough critique are THE MOST IMPORTANT factor in your growth. We cannot be so beholden to praise that we do not allow others to dislike our writing. Finding a good critique group, those who will critically evaluate your stuff, will take time. Nevertheless, it is one of the most aspects of growing as a writer.

6. You are king of CBA for the day, and you are allowed to make ONE change to the industry. What would that be? (Pushing you out on a limb here…)

MIKE: I would start over.

7. Can you tell us about your next novel? How is the process different than writing the first one?

I was thrilled to learn that my publisher included the first chapter of my next book in The Resurrection. It is tentatively entitled The Telling. It’s about a disfigured modern-day prophet who must overcome his own despair in time to seal one of nine mythical gates of hell. The story includes a llama ranch, a black cherub, a roadside attraction, a haunted mine, and cactus jelly. Not necessarily in that order.

Writing the second book has been hugely different than the first. Most notably… I now have a deadline. I would encourage all aspiring authors to ponder this word and what it means: DEADLINE. This deadline has produced consternation and self-doubts. Am I a fluke? Am I a one-hit wonder? Can I do this again? About half way through the second novel, I had a meltdown of sorts. Between blogging, working full-time, family, and the next novel, I hit a wall. When I finally peeled myself off, I realized I had a good thing going.

All that to say, time management has become awfully important for me. I no longer have the luxury of perusing blogs and lounging on the sundeck like I once did (okay, the sundeck thing isn’t true). Things have become really busy, really stressful, and kind of exciting.